A presence stirs the air; a fleeting feeling, or a nervous glance over a shoulder. It is the sense of something creeping up from behind. A sensation familiar to all who have felt the hair stand up on the back of their necks; the very same feeling that stirs a deer to glance up from its peaceful grazing, transported from its everyday dream into the fear of it's worst nightmare.
Oftentimes, however, its fear was never more than a passing fancy; a rabbit scurrying through the underbrush, or a curious child begging to reach out to the wild. If were to stand still, frozen in time, perhaps the sensation would pass just as innocently as these. All it takes is calm, patience, and determination, and the thought of danger is easily avoided; but such defenses are fragile. One moment of wavering from such defiance is all it takes; a jump, a sharp turn, but first and foremost, an extreme flight in the opposite direction is most certainly leading it into danger, each wild, frantic step further into the unknown for fear of what the known could become, is one step closer to a stumble, a fall, a death.
Summer is a time when such fearful fancies are long banished in the hearts of most. Cold, soggy springs replaced with bright, warm, fresh glades; harsh winter winds banished by the sun. The world is relaxed, even the humans begin to slow their hurried paces to stop and enjoy the warmth.
There are many instincts that come naturally to humans; understanding that they are in the presence of a predator is one of them. When a wolf knocks on the door, a human knows not to answer, as easily as the deer knows. The disparity between the two stops there; as no matter how the wolf cries, the deer will never listen, never trust, never falter. Humans, contrary to every instinct, are curious creatures; they cannot help but listen, they must know if they were wrong. They are never content with the simple explanation, they must discover it themselves.
In truth, all a wolf needs to gain the world is a silver tongue.
A small village in France felt the tension of a predator prowling its streets. A quietness had settled there, but it was not the silence of a comfortable summer afternoon, as it should have been. There was a tension about the wooded area. It was subtle; likely the inhabitants barely noticed a change in the winds at all. If they were to look closer, perhaps they might listen to the instincts that screamed at them to run, to hide, before whatever was out there finally snatched them up.
Fenrir Greyback attempted not to roll his eyes as another person gave him another worried glance. As amusing as it was to see the humans' obvious discomfort with him, it was ever more humorous to know that they would never truly know why he had that effect on him. No one would know just by looking at the werewolf. He was an imposing figure, it was true, but nothing that truly demanded the distance he was pleasantly receiving in the quaint town. Perhaps these muggles were a superstitious lot; he would never know. His curiosity tended to be limited to his own species, which was why he was in France in the first place.
The werewolf had heard more than a few rumors about the packs in France moving to more wild territories; as the wizards encroached on their territory, it became more and more dangerous to be near the cities. Fewer packs meant more strays. Fenrir was not foolish enough to pick up stragglers who had deserted their own pack; that always spelt trouble, and he had enough of that. Where there were stragglers, however, there were always new wolves. A wolf without a pack would do everything the humans feared, and Fenrir was more than happy to pick up a frightened new cub and continue to grow his pack. The wizarding world may have been at peace for eleven years, but his pack size was still suffering. New wolves were often scared and alone; packless loners never even remembered biting them. In six months, France would become a roaming pack of feral werewolves once a month, and those would start the hunts gain once more. Fenrir felt a growl rumble in his throat at the thought.
Town was the place to look for the new wolves; they would stick to what they knew, many would barely remember changing, it was there neighbors and friends that noticed the sudden shift in behavior. As he walked, he kept his ears just as open as his nose, waiting for the tell-tale signs of a new wolf. He had already located two new cubs so far, and sent them to his pack. The werewolf was not certain he would find any more on his trip; nor was he particularly expecting to. Still, he kept on. Something was driving him to push further, and he could not explain it.
The fact that he did not seem able to bring himself to leave the tiny town was starting to infuriate him. The werewolf had scoured the town six times; there was nothing there! So why couldn't he leave? He growled under his breath, ignoring the startled look from a small girl across the street. He stalked in the opposite direction, not in the mood for dealing with humans. He had walked nearly to the other side of town when he caught a scent. It was not what he had been looking for, it was not a werewolf, but it was different than anything he had smelled before. He followed it; it had been a long time since he met a scent he could not identify. As he followed the new scent, he ended up wandering across the street, and meandering through the small shops nearby. It has come in and out of several, and trailed further on through town. So it was human, or had the appearance of being human, perhaps. The scent was sweet, but it left a slight twinge in his nose he couldn't quite shake; it wasn't unpleasant, but it felt like a warning, and Fenrir was never one to ignore his nose. With slightly more caution, he followed the scent through a door it had not yet returned from.
The werewolf entered the small bookstore, mildly confused by his own nose. He knew whoever was giving off that scent was in the room, but the scent was so jumbled with everything else that he could not immediately tell where it came from. The scent was everywhere; it was as though whoever it belonged to had perused the store's entire inventory. The werewolf turned the corner to where the scent was strongest and was hit in the chest by a small head full of bushy hair.
Suddenly overwhelmed by the scent he had been following, he froze to the spot, able to do nothing but stare at the girl as she muttered profuse apologies in French. She was a child; no more than twelve. The moment she plowed into him, his werewolf instincts began to scream at him. He had wanted to find her; he had needed to find her, but this new sensation topped any prior feeling he had. It took most of his strength just to stand still, clenching his fist so hard he was certain he was drawing blood. His head was raging; letting her walk away and out the door after paying for her books, very politely, he noted absently.
Mine. Mine. Mine. Fenrir had never had such a drive to turn someone as he did in that moment. The happy scent she left in her wake dazed him once more. He shook his head, trying to clear it. He couldn't leave the shop; he had no reason to follow the child. Leaving with her still in eyesight would probably drive him to do something rash. He took a deep breath, the girl's scent already beginning to fade from his nostrils. That girl had set off instincts he had never felt so strongly for; first and foremost, the need to protect. He was still sorting through these new feelings when the store clerk laughed at him, mumbling something in French.
Fenrir glanced up, not understanding more than a word or two. Brushing his hair out of his face, the werewolf walked up to the counter. "What?"
"English!" the man said suddenly, then apparently repeated himself. "Don't mind her, sit. She comes in every year. That girl and her parents are regular campers nearby. She's always got her head buried in a book.
Still trying to force down the urge to chase after the girl, he nodded at the man. "I did not realize people did much camping in this part of France," he said blandly.
"It's true, most like to keep to the south, but for those who don't mind the cool weather, this forest is beautiful."
"That it is," Fenrir mumbled without thought, rubbing his itching nose. Who was that girl? Why by Merlin did she set him off? What on earth had possessed him to follow her scent so faithfully? Was it her presence that had kept him here? That was ridiculous. He didn't care for humans any more than they cared for him. There was something else about her, there had to be.
The store clerk was still babbling about the nearby camping spots, and Fenrir was only half-listening, his thoughts completely absorbed by the strange encounter with the girl. Why was he suddenly conflicted about her? He had no qualms biting anyone in the past? Biting her would hurt her, but not for long, he knew that; so why, after dogging her, could he now not follow her further? It hadn't been a problem before, and it wasn't going to start becoming one now. Nodding briefly at the store clerk, Fenrir left the shop.
The werewolf, irritated with his own hesitations and the situation in general, followed the girl's scent until it disappeared at a curbside. He wrinkled his nose, he was not going to find her today. A sense of determination filled him; he once again had a goal. He wracked his brain to think back to what the shop owner had said about the camping nearby. She would be in one of those places; and there were only so many places they could drive to in the forest nearby. Once they were on foot, he would have no trouble catching up. First he just had to find her.
With the full moon mere days away, there was a mild urgency in his steps that he had not felt before. He had to find her before then; he felt it as certainly as he had been unable to leave. If he had reluctance leaving before, there was certainly no going back now.
Fenrir had expected to boost his pack numbers. He had expected things to be simple: routine. He had not anticipated things to become so complicated so quickly or for everything to change so completely. Suddenly, a small bushy-haired girl was becoming his world, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. That summer changed the werewolf's life.
A/N: Another day, another tale. This one is going to be a bit fluffier than Instincts, as Hermione is still very small. There will be romance, but not until the much later chapters.