Characters: Neville, Oz, Remus
Summary: This is the garden.
Length: 750 words
Disclaimer: ME & JKR are not me.
Notes: Title & summary from Cummings's poem. "Missing scene" from dorrie6's exquisite Trust the morning. Happiest of happy birthdays, sweetheart. I'm very lucky to know you and send you all the love I have.
Oz went to Scotland seeking peace, but, in the way of things, found war instead. Just as in Sunnydale, love accompanied the fight and made an admixture neither wholly violent nor perfectly tender.
This, however, happened before all that.
This moment finds Oz travelling north, heading for the Holy Isle, while Remus criss-crosses southern Scotland in search of unaligned lycanthropes.
Remus is willing to give credence to the belief that an unaligned lycanthrope is as mythical a species as any other.
Just before moonrise, he stops, footsore and roadweary, in the outskirts of Camilty Forest. He has had nothing to eat since York, and the hiking shoes, Muggle-made, pressed on him by Hermione, let in wind and muck as easily as breathing.
Across the clearing, the underbrush gives off a familiar, though unwelcome, whisper and rattle. Having stripped off his jumper, Weasley-knit and thus shapeless, if very warm, Remus straightens his back, skin prickling.
The wolf who steps into the clearing is nothing like Padfoot. Not in manner or species, and Padfoot is long gone, yet Remus's breath catches at the resemblance. It is the gleam painting the wolf's gaze, something knowing and restless, nearly *human*. Very different from the red, fervent hunger in Greyback's zealots *and* the diffident doubt suffusing the gazes of those few wolves who had yet to choose a side.
The ginger's growl is interrogative.
Heavy-bellied rainclouds sway off to the west, exposing the moon.
And Remus's change slides through his body, as painful and sudden as always, a wrench that will not let up, a howl tearing from strong jaws.
Throughout it all, the other wolf - no longer ginger but a silvery mass, young and strangely serene - watches Remus, head cocked, one ear twitching.
He barks again when the change is finished.
Older, possibly wiser, and all too *tired*, Remus cannot drop his head, nor lower his body to his front paws.
Instead, he answers with a consoling whine.
Grumbling, the ginger turns back to the underbrush.
When he returns, it is as a man.
A boy, really, in stature if not age, pulling a ratty jumper over his head with one hand. The other holds a small satchel, even dirtier and more banged-around than Remus's own.
There was no howl, no grating clamor, nothing associated with the change. Moreover, the moon still hangs, full and luminous.
Head back, mouth open to the moon and teeth closing around it, Remus barks.
The boy drops to one knee and tilts his head, offering Remus his palm.
The oily mass of what passes for the wolf's mind clamors discordantly: Eat, it urges, and run and then, finally, ...brother.
Violence abates. Desire -- does not.
The boy's palm smells of travel old sweat and older calluses, cheap astringent soap and sharp, salty ejaculate. Remus whuffles the skin and pants, tongue lolling.
The boy's body is a patchwork of scents, cartographically so, memories drawn from masses of green growths, dusty journeys, moonlight caught from forbidding peaks.
The night is cold, the boy bony. When he shivers hard as the wind through a birch, Remus nudges him down to the ground. He wraps himself around the child's body as best he can, tail thumping against the narrow chest.
At dawn, when the moon has slipped away, Remus screams himself awake. His body shatters through the change.
Small hands soothe his haunches as clumps of fur yank free from his pores, as his howl becomes a hoarse shriek and, finally, a breathless gasp, as his bones break and shrink and knit together again.
When Remus finally lifts his round human head and blinks as his vision snaps back to color, the boy smiles at him with just his eyes.
"Where we headed?" the boy asks, voice American and soft, hoarse and sweet.
"London," Remus replies with cracked lips and thick tongue.
"Sounds like a plan." The boy nods, just once, and taps his satchel with lacquered fingernails. "Need a sandwich? Sweater?"
Technically, Remus brought Oz back with him. Clearly, however, it was the other way 'round.
Oz goes where he goes, leads the life he must lead, and Remus's path only met his briefly, one night in the trees.
Neville has always been still as a tree, stalwart and true, and Remus smiles at the two of them outside, kneeling next to each other, spading slowly, the light playing down their backs.
The best a teacher can do is give to the next generation.
Remus lets the curtain sway closed and turns to go. This time, it is enough to give them their privacy.