Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel or registered trademarks of either show. Nor do I own Harry Potter or the characters featured in any of these series’.
No real warnings, gen-fic, though there might be slight slashy implications in one of the later chapters which can be ignored if you want. Minimal swearing and violence. Written pre-HBP and set post S7 BtVS, S5 AtS and OotP.
Depths of Hell
The sunlight pierced the horizon of dark green foliage and the sky began to darken into a deep red. Below, a man rushed through the forest, crouched low to avoid hanging branches and dodging swiftly around trees and bushes. Shouts from behind him let him know how far away his pursuers were. He didn’t dare turn his head; he had to get as much distance between them as possible.
Pain shot through his side. But, he’d only received an injury to his shoulder. Looking up in horror, he saw the sky and ran faster, hand clutching at his side, his stride slower and more awkward now. He huffed and cried out once before tumbling down. He could hear cries of excitement as the others drew near. He wanted to call to them to stay away, but his voice was caught up in screaming out his agony, hands clawing at the tree he’d come to rest against.
Finally realising something was amiss, the small mob approached cautiously as the screams cut off. They could hear snuffling and grunts low to the ground. A deep ferocious growl that could not possibly have come from a human throat clued them into the appearance of true danger.
Without warning, a misshapen canine form pounced, huge jaws closing over the arm of one of the pursuers. Screams filled the air as the sun finally set and a large round moon crested the horizon.
Something hit him and his mouth opened to let loose a yelp of pain, releasing his captive as he did so. The man scrambled back towards his companions and before the creature could pounce on them again in his rage, they had disappeared with a crack. The creature let out a howl of anger before loping away in search of more prey.
Many hours passed in the forest before he caught the scent of something alluring. Staying low to the ground, he followed the faint traces to the edge of the forest. Wary of attack, he approached the clearing cautiously, the small stone cottage always in his sight. Humans were tricky prey, though they were all that could sate him in this state, but this was different somehow. He hadn’t smelled this before.
A creak of rusted metal had the creature alert and backing away, the spilling light from an open doorway not helping his state of mind. Just what was that heavy, seductive pull? It seemed human, but it was so much more powerful.
Unconsciously, he padded forward, eyes lidded. The humanoid creature at the doorway watched him, unconcerned, hand held out in welcome. He moved right up to the creature and rubbed against its hand, taking in the delicious scent. It was so strong, powerful and so similar to his. But why was it human?
“Hey there.” The soft whisper had his ears perked. Golden eyes looked up to take in the odd creature framed by the doorway. “How about you stay the night? Wouldn’t want to hurt anyone now, would you?”
The sounds were strange to his ears, but soothing. In some dark part of his mind he knew he should be hunting and feeding, but it was so warm here. He wanted to stay with the creature beside him. He enjoyed the way it smelled and the feel of its hands in his fur. The only other creatures he had allowed to touch his fur were his Padfoot and his Prongs – though Prongs could not often reach the right places to scratch. His Wormtail could, but it felt strange to have the rat crawling over him.
He missed having his fur touched. He missed his pack more.
“I know how you feel.” The words meant nothing to him, but the sympathetic tone was appreciated. He would stay here, with the odd creature that smelled of wolf but was not like him; they would share warmth and sleep and perhaps the sorrow would fade by the sun’s reappearance.
Remus felt the familiar sensation of dried tears against his cheeks when he woke the next morning. Too many nights of his life had been spent in grief. He opened his eyes slowly, sensing unfamiliar, but not hostile, surroundings.
The sight of a homely cottage room welcomed him. Worn stone walls and floor filled most of his vision, cut in with the faded red of the large rug and a few paintings on the wall. Opposite him a window was open, fresh summer air filling the room with flowery scents, the front door closed next to it. A cold fireplace stood on one side of the room and a comfortable-appearing armchair sat opposite, a wide opening to the dining area behind that. He looked down. He was naked, covered by a thick cream-coloured blanket, lying on a couch. Reasons why he hadn’t realised and pondered upon this fact when he had immediately woken eluded him.
He pulled the blanket closer to his scarred body as he sat up and took a closer surveillance of his surroundings. By the sunlight he assumed it was still around mid-morning, perhaps even as early as eight. He scrubbed at his cheeks and turned toward the kitchen where could smell breakfast cooking – bacon and eggs – and could sense at least one other person in the house. Glancing around, he noticed a short hallway behind the couch, leading probably to the bathroom, laundry and bedroom.
The movement in the kitchen area just beyond the dining area stopped and he heard footsteps just before the other occupant appeared from around the corner of the dining area. Seeing his guest awake, the young dusty-redhead smiled and stepped forward into the living room.
“Hi there,” he said in an American accent. “Nice to see you’re awake. You feeling all right?”
Remus shook the morning daze from his mind and returned the smile. “Quite, thank you. Uh,” he coughed, a faint flush darkening his cheeks. “Not to appear rude, but what exactly am I doing here?”
“I was hoping you could tell me,” the young man replied. “I can understand the forgetfulness though; I used to get like that all the time.” He pointed his thumb back in the direction of the kitchen. “Breakfast?”
“Yes, thank you. And a set of clothes if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“Not at all.” He headed into one of the rooms down the hallway and reappeared a minute later with an outfit for Remus. “These should fit. Bathroom’s the first door to the left.”
“Thank you.” Remus got up once he’d disappeared into the kitchen again and moved to the bathroom. The situation was getting stranger by the minute, he thought as he washed and dressed. He was fairly certain it had been a full moon last night, but what was he doing here? And who was the young man in the house with him?
Though he should have been more worried considering the current climate of the Wizarding World, Remus couldn’t help feeling at ease in the man’s presence. It was almost as though he should know him from somewhere.
Once dressed in the slacks and buttoned shirt, Remus made his way to the kitchen just as his companion was serving their plates.
“Not always.” Remus sat.
He shrugged. “It happens. Eat up; you’ll need your strength after last night.”
Remus tensed in his seat. “Last night?”
“Your transformation.” The other man had shrugged it off like it was nothing. “Must have been draining. Plus, you looked like you’d been in a fight.”
His curiosity over the man’s blasé response to his condition was pushed to the side as faint memories returned to him. Running, pain, shouting, hunting … then peace. Remus paled.
“You should eat,” the man said pointedly.
Remus ignored him. “How could you have come near me once transformed?”
“I’m hardly at risk. I’m a werewolf myself.” He took a bite of his food, not taking notice of Remus’ stunned expression. He frowned, though, when he saw Remus’ food untouched. “Eat, seriously. It’s good … well, it’s food at least, and you need the sugars and protein.”
Remus shook his head and picked up his fork. The situation was even more bizarre than he had first believed. The food was good though and he mentioned as much, trying to keep his mind from overloading from the weirdness that was this morning.
The other simply smiled at the compliment and continued eating. He certainly was an enigma – Remus just hoped he’d be able to unravel even a fraction of his mystery before he went insane from curiosity.
They were washing the dishes together when Remus decided to try and get some answers, his head finally in order. Once he had sorted himself out, he realised one very important thing he’d forgotten.
“I apologise for not introducing myself earlier, I’m Remus Lupin.” He looked a little embarrassed.
“Daniel Osborne, but everyone calls me Oz – I usually respond to it.”
“My friends used to call me Moony.”
Oz’s lips quirked a bit at that. “Appropriate.”
Remus returned the small smile. “I know. So, what brings you out here? I assume from your accent you’re American.”
“Yeah. I’ve been travelling the world for almost five years now. A friend of mine owns this place. I thought it might be nice to settle down for a little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve stopped.” Oz finished with the dishes and let the water drain out while Remus wiped the last dish.
“Well, it’s quite a lovely place around here. I think I live a few miles from here. I got a bit turned around in the forest, so I’m not exactly sure.” He let Oz put the dishes away, knowing he’d just be a hindrance, not knowing where they went.
“What were you doing in the forest anyway? It’s a little dangerous to have a werewolf running free like that.”
Remus frowned, thinking back over his fuzzy memories of the previous day. He cursed when he finally realised what had happened. “I was attacked,” he growled. “Normally I would have taken my potion and I’d be harmless but my house was broken into and the vial was smashed as I ran away.”
Remus froze, suddenly realising what he’d let slip. He looked around the kitchen. It wasn’t at all magical. He hadn’t seen Oz use a wand at any time and he was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt. Yet … he claimed to be a werewolf. Surely he had to know something about the Wolfsbane potion – the Ministry sought out any unfortunate Muggles bitten in order to keep a proper eye on them and administer the potion. But Oz was American …
“Oh, no.” Remus groaned, and covered his eyes with his hands. “As if my life couldn’t get any worse, I’ve broken the Stature for Secrecy.”
Oz watched his guest curiously. “Guess your life is just as complicated as mine. But I guess that’s what life is: complications.”
Remus laughed, and removed his hand. “I suppose it is.”
“How about we make a deal then? You tell me what had you so freaked last night, and I won’t tell anyone that you told me. I have some experience with weird stuff and secrets aren’t much of an issue with me.”
Remus stared at him. He was so easy to trust and Remus wanted to trust him, but he also needed more assurance. He’d spent far too long fighting a war and being betrayed and left to suffer to let someone into his life so easily.
“If I agree,” he began, “Will you explain just what exactly you are?”
Oz nodded. “Sure. You deserve to know.”
A crease appeared on the older man’s brow. He wasn’t sure he deserved to know the other man’s secrets, per se, but perhaps there was something more to Oz’s story than he’d first assumed.
“All right,” he sighed. “Why don’t we move into the living room? This may get complicated.” They moved out of the warm kitchen and seated themselves on the plush couch. “I was bitten when I was young, before I went to high school even. Back then, the society I lived among shunned werewolves. Being so young I should have been doomed to a terrible life, but I was given a chance.”
“People know about werewolves here?”
Remus looked away. “Not exactly. The society I live among is very secretive, though larger than you could imagine. Those that have found out have referred to us as a cult, but that’s quite incorrect.”
“So when you say society, you mean like a government based society, not a secret underground society that’s trying to take over the world?”
Remus winced at the wording. “Yes, we have a government. I do believe the British Prime Minister is aware of our existence.” Oz nodded. “In any case, I was allowed to attend school, though my condition was kept secret. Three of my friends found out, however. They kept my secret and helped me to deal with the situation. Many young werewolves never lived to see the age of fifteen. You must have noticed my scars; most are self-inflicted.”
“No offence, but that’s a pretty crummy society you guys have.”
“It’s better than some of the alternatives. Of course, up until three years ago werewolf relations were quite high. A professor at the school I attended has been supplying me with the Wolfsbane potion – a very recent breakthrough in researching the cure for the werewolf condition. It is ingested each night for the week prior to the full moon and for the nights of transformation you turn into a harmless, normal wolf. Your bite is not toxic to humans; in fact, you no longer even have any desire to seek humans out. Actually, a major side effect is that in the complete canine state, you are quite exhausted and sleep the night away.”
“That’s pretty cool.”
“Yes, though it is obviously not a complete cure. Also, the potion must be ingested each night, or the only effects will be that the werewolf’s reaction time is slowed and the desire to hunt is diminished slightly.”
“Still, that’s pretty impressive. So what was with the guys attacking you then?”
“Death Eaters.” Seeing Oz’s curious expression, Remus quickly explained, “They’re a fanatical group in our society that believes in the purity of blood. They have very old-fashioned and aristocratic views on appropriate ‘class-structure’ I suppose you could call it. I don’t know why they attacked me or even how they knew I was here. I’ve been away from home for so long – it was only by chance that I was there. I have to inform my superiors of this.”
“I don’t think Giles had a phone installed here.”
Remus smiled. “Once I get home I have other methods of communicating with them.” He turned his attention to Oz. “Now. I do believe it is your turn.”
Oz shrugged. “Sure. About four years ago I learned how to completely control my transformations.” Remus swore, staring at the other man in shock. “I’m not the first. I was taught by an old monk how to completely control the impulses. Well, to be fair, I sometimes have … problems.”
“That could be dangerous.”
“It is. It almost got my ex-girlfriend’s new lover killed.”
Remus winced. “I’m assuming it has a lot to do with emotional control.”
“Something like that, yes. Unfortunately, I don’t think that too many werewolves are capable of doing the same thing I am. I was only just capable.” Remus looked curious, so Oz explained. “The basic drift is that you have to completely accept the fact that you and the wolf are the same – you are the wolf, there is no line in between. It’s … scary. I used to have nightmares about my teacher saying that. Still do sometimes.”
Remus leaned back, the words echoing in his mind. “Complete acceptance,” he repeated. “No, I can see how this sort of cure would not be widely accepted among us. The very fact that we consider ‘the werewolf condition’ as some sort of disease for innocents to be cured of does not bode well for that sort of mind frame.”
“On top of that, it’s pretty difficult. With that potion of yours around, I don’t see many willing to take the chance. But, what about you?” Remus looked up, surprised, and Oz pressed on. “Would you consider trying?”
Remus thought about it. “I don’t know. I was bitten very young, so I’ve grown accustomed to my life.”
“It might be easier that way.”
Remus looked over at his young companion, at once realising that he was fairly young, in his early twenties. “When were you bitten?”
“Eighteen. I managed to get control by the time I was twenty-one.”
That was surprising, though from what Remus had been able to see of Oz, it wasn’t as surprising as it could have been. He may have appeared nonchalant and apathetic to most, but there was steel within him. “Perhaps I might try,” Remus smiled. “Once I’m free to do so. Right now, I have to get word to my superiors about the attack, and there are far too many nefarious explanations for it. That’s not even including rabid anti-werewolf sentiments.”
Remus turned to his host as he was getting up. “Pardon?”
“If you want me to, I’ll help.”
“That isn’t necessary.”
“I might be of use. I’ve been around the block a few times, I know more than I probably should and I’ve learned how to fight the bad stuff. There’s not much you can show me that I’ll be surprised by.”
“How can you trust me so easily? I could be evil.”
Oz just raised an eyebrow. “I think I’ll be safe. Besides, I’m a werewolf too, and I know not all of us are as evil as they claim.”
Remus stood before him, considering his options. He owed Oz, and it seemed a poor way to repay his courtesy by getting him involved with something that could get him killed; yet he believed Oz when he said he could handle himself. His eyes were older than they should be – they reminded him of Harry’s, far too knowledgeable. Plus, he seemed almost eager, and Remus couldn’t say the Order didn’t need all the help it could get.
“We’ll have to get back to my place first and see if we can contact anyone, and then I’ll have to wait for orders.”
A half-smile crossed the young man’s face. “I’ll drive.”