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The Light of Mankind
The Teeth of Wolves
Part 01: Remus
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Lily had decided years ago, when Severus had nervously led their family into the London magical district the first time, that the wizarding world was full of idiots. Having met their leader now, that impression had just cemented. She had had tactile rashes less irritating than Albus Dumbledore.
She had had years to set up plans, had years of listening to Severus whisper things he had learned from his mother’s books as he had spent hours hidden in the attic with them. The need to plan things, to strategize like her mother did before going before a council or committee, weighed heavily on her sometimes. There was more than once in the last three years that she had wished that she could have been a normal kid, one that didn’t have to deal with weird instincts or funky senses or random bursts of magic doing the improbable.
But those moments always passed when she caught sight of Severus.
God only knows what would have happened to Severus if she hadn’t been able to save him. Maybe they would have still gone to Hogwarts (didn’t seem like they had ever had a choice in that) but ended up drifting apart from each other, too unprepared for the world that waited for them. She could see how Severus could have changed if he hadn’t been reassured by their pack bond, cemented in combat and strengthened by blood exchange, that she was never going to abandon him. Severus was a survivor; he was always willing to do whatever it took to do it. She could see how some people would have taken advantage of that—Dumbledore was at the very top of that list, now that she had met the man.
Lily was already on edge when they slipped into the shopping district two weeks after Dumbledore had made it so abundantly clear that attendance at Hogwarts was mandatory until either he said otherwise or graduation. She hated the district on principle. It was too wrong with its dimensions that didn’t match the greater city around it and the odd bubble of space where sight or sound warped only to burst suddenly when the privacy ward was dismissed. There was also a distinct lack of territorial markers, even temporary ones, as if something was blocking the natural inclination of Sentinels to exchange scent messages in public areas. The wrongness of that thought, in conjunction with the knowledge that there were plenty of sentient creatures with similar instincts in the magical world, tended to set her teeth on edge at the best of times.
Having only one of her people to protect helped. That it was Severus helped even more. Even without the advantages of being a Sensitive (of any sort), Severus was scrappy and quick. He may not like fighting, and Lily would never force the issue unless she absolutely had to, but her coming online had meant that most of her sparring partners were no longer able to do so safely. The few who could were the latent Sensitives, which meant that sparring had risks other than imbalance of physical capabilities. Severus had been willing to fill that gap, to step into that role just as he did for so many other tasks. Lily knew that it had probably started as a way to secure a place—Severus was a survivor, after all—but it felt right to have him beside her if there was potentially a fight. It felt right to know that he could protect himself if need be, that he could help defend their family.
Instincts were weird.
Lily had expected to draw a lot of attention as they shopped for their supplies, what few things they didn’t already have thanks to Severus’ careful planning. Surprisingly, no one seemed overly worried that two eleven-year-olds were in a crowded area without any kind of adult minding them. Lily was certain it was that they didn’t look lost as they weaved through the crowd to reach the few locations they were being forced to spend their hard-earned funds. Apparently, the spellwork required for the fancy and impractical robes meant that students must purchase new customized clothing every time. Of course, there was only one authorized vendor for them.
They already had most of their supplies. Severus was excellent at planning for multiple possibilities, and they had been stocking up on various necessaries for the last year or so. It had also been Severus who had realized what could be done with the knowledge of the wizarding currency being pure metal, which has paid off nicely. Economics were just another thing that wizards sucked at, but even with the stipend from the Center because Lily’s online status and the one from the county for Severus, having another venue of income helped. It made Mum sad to hear the two of them going over things like the shell-shocked soldiers that taught the strategy and tactics lessons at the Center, but that was an acceptable price to Lily for the means of protecting her small pack, of providing for them.
They had almost made it to the seamstress shop when a too-familiar tang yanked her attention from Severus’ back. She was turning towards the source of the blood scent before she had even registered the feral growl leaving her throat. She could hear Severus giving a vehement curse that would have their mother washing out his mouth if she had been there to hear him, but it sounded much farther away than the few feet she knew he had to be from her. Instead her gaze had focused on a tawny-haired boy leaving the bookshop with his nose already stuck in a thick book.
The man following him placed a hand on his shoulder, probably to guide him through the crowd.
Something in Lily snapped.
Everything went hazy in a way that she had not experienced in years. The world narrowed to the need to protect an innocent. Even Severus’ tight grip didn’t stop her charge towards the pair. As she maneuvered the boy into a sheltering alcove that she could defend, she was vaguely aware of Severus talking quickly and low to someone. His tone turned sharp as someone moved too close and she snapped at them. Eventually, Severus slipped under her guard to join the boy who had gone frighteningly still at her back even as his heart raced.
“So, I’m Severus,” he whispered in that even tone he used when he thought she was being ridiculous about something. It also served to edge the haze back. Severus was calm; he wouldn’t be if there was a real threat in the area. “That’s my sister Lily. The man you were with called you Remus. Now that we all know each other, did you hear what I said to the collective of dunderheads out there?” The boy must have nodded because Severus continued. “How much did you understand?”
“Mama’s a Guide,” the boy replied, obviously trying to match Severus’ calmness. She heard the dull rusp of skin brushing against skin, and the boy’s frantic heartbeat steadied just a bit. “Barely even on the scale, but enough that she helps at the locum with the Sentinels sometimes. She’s a muggle, though. I don’t know if she can help a magical Sentinel.”
“Lily’s already coming out of it,” Severus said, and she was surprised to find that he was right. The drive to protect the boy was still pounding at her, but the haze that signified a feral episode was breaking apart. “She might even have words back in a few more minutes. Your mother works for a clinic? Do I need to be boring and actually ask, or will you just tell me?”
“Are you her Guide?”
“I am her baseline partner,” Severus corrected, with a touch of acid to his tone. He never did like it when people doubted the important role he played in their little pack, but the law was clear about pretending to be a Sensitive. “I am still entitled to the same information. Since we’re being boring—” Somehow he made the word seem like the most vile insult on Earth. “—what are your injuries?”
“If you were fine, then we wouldn’t be in this cozy nook because of a Sentinel sent into Blessed Protector mode and I wouldn’t be doing something as dull as repeating myself. What are your injuries?”
“You’re kind of a git, aren’t you?”
“I’ve been called worse by far scarier people than bratty shrimps. Now answer the question so that I can salvage at least some of this trip before reporting the incident.”
A woman followed the cry through the crowd, wiggling between people when they didn’t step aside for her. Despite never seeing her before, Lily recognized that she must be the boy’s mother. Not only did she carry the warm feel of a Guide, the boy carried her scent, as if she had deliberately marked him. The man from before reached out as if to grab her as she went to dart past only to freeze when Lily growled a warning at him. The Guide hesitated a moment before slipping behind Lily’s tiny frame on the side opposite of Severus, so that the pair now boxed the boy into the furthest reaches of the cubby. Lily listened to the small sounds of the trio shifting around as comfort demanded.
“Madam Guide,” Severus said with careful politeness, “I am Sentinel Evans’ baseline partner. Your son has sustained an injury at some point, something significant enough that Sentinel Evans slipped into a protective feral episode. Your son has so far refused to answer inquiries to the extent of his injuries.”
“Oh, aren’t you adorable,” the woman cooed, like she couldn’t help herself. “So very formal and for one so young, too. You can’t be much older than Remy, but that was nearly perfect protocol. Great job!”
“Call me Hope,” she interrupted. Lily could hear Severus’ teeth grind as he struggled to contain his frustration. “With a protocol perfect delivery like that you probably have enough training to know that once a Sentinel goes BP over someone, they rarely go their separate ways. I’m so happy that my Remy will have friends at Hogwarts! I was so worried.”
“That being what it may, I have an obligation—”
“Oh, you wouldn’t know about Remy’s condition, would you? Of course, your Sentinel would have picked up on it. Though a feral incident is a bit extreme, even in a child, over the scent of blood.”
The question was clear in the Guide’s tone, and the challenge in it was sharp enough that Lily wanted to snap like she did to the stupid meatheads at the Center. Severus tapped the vials of his bandoleer, reminding her to let him handle it. She settled for glaring at the annoying man who paced just out of what she had deemed threat-range.
“Lily has negative precedent for it,” Severus answered without inflection. Lily didn’t hold back her snort at the euphemism. Judging by how the pacing abruptly stopped, she knew that the coded phrase had been understood. Hope’s scent spiked along with the edges of her aura, strong enough that the man flinched back at the same time the pack bond twisted with echoed pain. Severus snapped out his next words without taking the care to moderate his tone like he had been taught at the Center. “Safe, Guide Hope. We are all safe. Dear god in heaven above, what did I do to deserve being saddled with idiotic Sensitives? Dunderheads, the lot of you.”
“Love you, too, Sev,” Lily said, finally calm enough to relax her protective stance. The episode wasn’t gone enough that she could turn her back to the slowly dispersing crowd and especially the former pacer. She was able to move backwards to lean against Severus who obligingly laid his hand on her arm. Being Severus, he then proceeded to silently scold her through their finger-language. She relaxed further; Severus wouldn’t waste time scolding her if there was an immediate threat. “Yer doin’ tha’ grumpy ol’ man thing again. Gonna give Tuney a run for her money on Sourpuss Supreme.”
“Shush, you infernal harpy,” Severus grumbled. “You still sound drunk. Take another five minutes before attempting to engage in witless chatter.” She let her head rest on his shoulder, even though the position forced her to close her eyes or be blinded by the cloud-covered sun. Severus heaved a great sigh. “We do need to pop into Malkin’s, Lils, at the very least. We can probably manage another trip before the first, but the robes will take the longest to create.”
“Not tired,” she mumbled. Severus made a noise of disbelief before using his fingers to promise tea if she would push through the visit to the seamstress. She whined, and practically heard Severus roll his eyes before adding a stop for ice cream before they headed to the Astoria Center for the night. “Oh, Mum’s not gonna like tha’, Sev.”
“Mum would like me forcing you to take the train in this state more, Lils. This is part of why the Centers exist, and you bloody well know it. So I order you to look on the bright side.”
“I dread asking this, but what bright side, O bossy one?”
“No one ended up in the hospital this time,” Severus answered drily. Lily groaned at the reminder even as Remus sputtered a question. Hope just laughed before adding her own prompts to continue shopping. The dedicated pacer gave a put-upon sigh that would have just as natural coming from Severus.
It was not until an hour later, when Lily forgot herself and touched Remus’ bare wrist the same way she would have Severus’, that she recognized the humming other feeling as new links in the pack bond. It overwhelmed her for a moment, but eventually she managed to sort them into some semblance of enough organization to get her to the quietness of an isolation room. The strand leading to Remus echoed strangely, whipping up occasionally before snapping back to unnatural stillness, growling desperately before cutting to silence.
Something was wrong.
“Don’t you dare zone,” Severus commanded as she yanked Remus close enough to scent properly. He followed it with a muttered curse when Remus tilted his head to the side to offer his neck to her, instinctively pliant in a way he shouldn’t be without any kind of latency. Lily focused on digging into the bond rather than the rapid whispers Severus was now exchanging with Lyall and Hope. She found the wild edge of it just as Severus flooded their bond with horrified resignation. Lily pulled back, eliciting a whine from Remus, to check on him. Severus only shook his head before speaking in the even tone he got when he didn’t want to worry her. “When you tell Mum about your new stray, be sure to mention that it is completely your fault.”
“Completely your fault and I had nothing to do with it.”
Severus looked paler than normal, too much like the boy she had woken up with in that hospital room. She held a hand out to him, an offer of contact opposed to her normal way of just taking. She knew her Severus, knew that Tobias sometimes invaded his thoughts. He had been hers for three years, but Tobias would always be a ghost in his head. Severus snorted before taking her hand, moving easily into the huddle with Remus. He tensed when Remus rubbed his shoulder with his cheek, but he didn’t move away. She felt like purring in happiness, despite the newness of the expansion of her pack and the uncertainty that she could protect them.
“No one could ever replace you, Sev,” Lily whispered, repeating it with her fingers against his arm. “And no one will ever send you away. You’re mine. Where you go, I go, until the day we die.”
“Where you lead, I follow,” Severus replied, finishing their vow, “until the day we die.”
Remus whined again before stilling completely with his cheek pressed against Severus’ shoulder. Another burst of satisfaction went through Lily when she noticed that he was positioned perfectly for scent-marking from both of them, accepting a place in her pack and of her place as its Alpha. She rubbed her cheek against his, breathing in the honeysuckle and moss scent that she already recognized as uniquely his and the softer scent of Hope’s heather scent overlaid on it.
The blend of scents eased Lily’s discontent with being surrounded by the foolish wizards and blunted the edge of her rage at being forced to attend a school that she didn’t want to, simply because of her heritage. Adding another member to her pack complicated their plan for getting out, but she knew she would not abandon Remus any more than she would Severus.
For a moment, she let herself bask in the simple joy of being surrounded by pack.
For a moment, that was enough.
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To be continued
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