Oblivious by Pallas

Disclaimer: This is the house that JKR built. I am merely squatting. I do however claim squatters rights over anything not canon.

Summary: What if there was more to Remus Lupin's bite than a badly timed stroll in the woods? Secrets emerge when a feral comes to town...

Part One: The Feral

1: The Howling

The noise was unbelievable.

Remus Lupin forced down a wince at the blast of hot air and hard sound that rushed to greet him as he pulled open the grimy wooden door at the foot of the basement steps that plunged down from a half-lit street in the depths of Camden Town. In selecting such a location, the proprietors of this bar had chosen well – in this part of London well known for it's gothic inhabitants, a place where out of place was the norm, a few oddly dressed arrivals would not even be glanced at. There was no way to tell the dark secret that dwelled within those who opened this door.

For this was The Howling.

The place where the werewolves came to let their hair down.

Remus hated it. But he had no choice. This mission was vital to the Order and no one but a werewolf or one invited by a werewolf could enter. He wasn't certain how the distinction was made, but it was not a risk they could willingly take. This was too important.

The music – although Remus used the term euphemistically for he could think of no other purpose this blaring screech of rampant white noise and howling voices that filled the room was meant to serve – was deafening, all but shaking the rafters. Bodies writhed in every direction, some dancing and gyrating to the sounds that filled the low ceiling-ed room, others slumped against the bar, others still in dark corners talking, fighting and – well... Engaging in practices best left at home. Remus would never have described himself as a prude, but some things really should be done in private.

He would never understand the people who came to this place. It advertised itself as a place where werewolves could be themselves – play the good puppy by day and the bad dog by night. Places such as this, Remus was sure, had existed for centuries, but the Umbridge legislation and the institutionalised oppression of his kind she supported had driven custom to a new high. It was a kind of rebellion, almost a twisted resistance, a shove into the underworld as the world above clamped down. But Remus feared for the direction it was taking. There were better ways to resist, he felt, than acting to the very stereotype that created such attitudes in the first place.

Biting back a sigh, Remus shifted his shoulders, trying not to show his discomfort with the somewhat unusual wardrobe he had adopted for the purposes of keeping his cover. It had felt almost ghoulish at first, borrowing the leather duster coat and assorted other items of clothing he had found lurking in the back of Sirius' closet, well worn, aged and probably not touched since his friend's motorbike phase at nineteen. But there was simply no avoiding the fact that Sirius was not coming back for them, nor that he could certainly not afford to go shopping for an outfit himself. All the same, he couldn't help the small smile that had touched his lips at the thought of what his friends would have said to see him dressed in such a way. Padfoot and Prongs would have laughed themselves stupid.

And he chose to remember them laughing. To wallow in his loneliness would have served no purpose – indeed, in spite of his own efforts to abate it, he had seen what it had done to Sirius, trapped in Grimmauld Place for so long. He did his friends no favours by losing his mind with grief – a lesson he had learned the hard way in 1981. He missed them and he would always miss them but he honoured their memory far better by moving on with his life.

All the same, it was a tribute to his upbringing and his friends that he was not a mindless wreck in the corner of this bar, quaffing firewhiskey and playing the monster to escape his tragic life as those around him did. Given all he had endured, it was astonishing that he had not outright turned feral.

He reminded himself to thank his father the next time he went to visit. He silently thanked his mother and his friends.

Moving carefully, and casting his gaze in search of any familiar faces, Remus made his way towards the bar. This was his third visit now to The Howling, the first two, earlier in the week, proving futile, and he was rapidly losing confidence that this meeting that Snape had alleged would occur here in the few days before the next full moon was actually going to take place. He had wondered briefly, on seeing the Potions Master's undeniable smirk at the sight of his outfit, if this was not simply a ruse on Snape's part to make him look ridiculous, half imagining the Slytherin would whip out a wizarding camera and post a picture in the kitchen at headquarters for everyone to laugh at. But no, Snape's information had been, if not necessarily yet proved genuine, at least offered in sincerity. Making Remus look an idiot was merely a glorious bonus.

Tonks had said it suited him. But fond as he was of Tonks, he wasn't sure he trusted her fashion sense. Oh well.

He had reached the bar. Settling himself on a stool at the corner of the counter, a position offering a fine vantage point of the rest of the room, he caught the eye of the grizzled, stocky barman known as Friedrek with his grubby robes and expanding bald spot. Whether it was his real name or not, Remus was uncertain. No one used their real names in The Howling. It was all part of the escape.

He'd lost count of the number of "Wolfgangs" he'd encountered. It seemed originality was not a strong suit amongst the patrons of this place.

"You again?" The barman grinned toothlessly as he approached, wiping a filthy glass with a filthier cloth. "Third time this week you've been in."

Remus gave a half-smile. "Must be getting fond of the place," he offered casually. "It's certainly different."

The barman's grin widened. "That's the aim of The Howling. Let yourself go after a hard day's pretence. Be what you are and release your true nature."

"It does bring out something in people," Remus commented, biting his tongue in regards to saying exactly what.

Friedrek grinned again, missing the hidden slight on his establishment. "Drink?"

"Firewhiskey, double, no ice."

"On it's way."

Friedrek moved off and Remus watched him go, his words playing against his mind. Release your true nature, he said. But that was hardly what seemed to happen here. This was the place where werewolves came to behave how they thought werewolves should behave. The true nature of the wolf was not to cavort in semi-darkness, listening to non-music and dressing like creatures of the night from bad muggle horror films. The true nature of the werewolf was the feral. The would-bes of The Howling had no idea.

Feral werewolves. The only kind of werewolf it was worth being afraid of. The reason he was sitting in this dark, noisy, godforsaken hole, praying that he didn't look as much of a prat as he felt.

There was a feral in town. And Voldemort was eager to recruit him.

It was Snape who had discovered the intention, a half overheard conversation between contacts best left to his knowledge alone. A vicious feral, exiled from Britain for many years, had returned to his old territory at Voldemort's invitation; they said he was more wolf than man, that he had a gift for chaos and a talent for vindictiveness and with Voldemort's senior ranks so depleted by the events in the Department of Mysteries, he was exactly the kind of ally the Death Eaters could use. And this was where he had chosen to meet with Voldemort's representative, on one night in the week before the full moon. Who he would meet and when, Snape had been unable to decipher. He could not even glean a name. That was where Remus came in.

He didn't even necessarily have to overhear the meeting. He just had to be there. The rest they could sort out later.

Friedrek returned with his firewhiskey. Fingering the amethyst ring on his right hand that was warded to dilute the effects of alcohol, Remus knocked back the shot and ordered another. Playing the empty glass in his hands, he glanced along the bar at the other half-drunk figures, at the shadowy shapes of the dancers, the swinging of the door as people came and went, settling at tables to talk together or moving onto the dance floor. He watched the dim light play against the empty glass as the firewhiskey warmed his throat as it moved downwards.

And then it started.

A strange feeling seemed to well up, a tingle that ran like chilled fingers along his spine and whispered in his blood. His head suddenly seemed to pound as his heartbeat echoed against his skull and sent a staccato shiver through his limbs. A sharp tang of pain shot through the left side of his torso, tracing the line of the vicious crescent scar that meant he was welcome in The Howling.

Remus shook his head sharply. What in Merlin's name was in that firewhiskey?

He had no time to dwell on it. Abruptly a young man dropped into the seat next to him, grinning almost manically, his hair slicked back and dyed jet black, his clothing making Remus feel rather more conservatively dressed, his eyes...

His eyes golden.

Remus' gaze snapped to the young man's hands, clutching at the counter. But the second tell-tale sign of the feral was not there. And as the young man met his stare, he realised.

Of course. Yellow contacts.

Must be muggle or muggle-born.

"Hey!" The young man's greeting was breathless, his movements jerky, but Remus did not miss the desperateness of his gaze. "Great place, huh?"

"Great," Remus agreed, accepting but not yet drinking his second shot from Friedrek as the barman took the young man's order. He still could not shake the strange chilling sensation that the last shot had given him.

"Never knew there were places like this until recently." The young man was bouncing on his stool, almost shouting to make himself heard over the blare of music. "Places where we can be ourselves, you know? Places where we can fit in. Nobody pretends here."

Everybody pretends here. They just all pretend together. Pretending to be human by day, pretending to be wolf by night and no middle ground to be had. Remus swallowed the urge to speak his thoughts sharply; the middle of The Howling was not the place to discuss its hypocrisy.

"I'm Fenris." The young man spoke abruptly. "Yeah, that's me. Fenris. A proper name for a werewolf."

Oh no, you're not pretending at all. Well, Fenris at least was a little better than Wolfgang, if just as predictable. It occurred to Remus, rather ironically, that if he were to give his name here, likely no one would believe it.

Friedrek arrived with Fenris' drink. The young man knocked it back in one swig, choking slightly but hiding it as best he could with a cough.

"This place is the best," he declared, dropping his glass back to the counter. "I wish I could just stay here, you know? Live here forever. Be free. No bloody Umbridge, no more stares. Just being what I am." The manic grin returned. The desperate eyes had never left. "I'm going to dance."

And then he was gone as swiftly as he had appeared.

Remus was uncertain if his disconcerted feeling was a residual of the firewhiskey or the talk. The sentiment he could relate to. But the solution...

Life for Fenris must have been desperate indeed when this was the more pleasurable alternative.

He really disliked The Howling. False hope wrapped in a noisy, dirty package that would lead every person in this room down the path to oblivion. And there was almost nothing he could do to help them.

Please let the feral come tonight. He didn't want to come back here again.

He fingered his drink. The strange tingle of his spine had not subsided. His bite scar had begun to ache.

He glanced around once more in the hope of a face even vaguely familiar. Although the capture of so many leading Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries had been quite a coup, it had left the Order of the Phoenix at a peculiar disadvantage. The faces they knew, the names they recognised had now mostly been accounted for. Now, many of the Death Eaters doing Voldemort's work were unknowns, anonymous and therefore much harder to spot.

But then, a figure caught his eye, a face vaguely familiar from Moody's incessant briefings on identified Death Eaters. This was a face from the first war, albeit a low ranker, a minion of Wilkes back then as he recalled, Oldburn, or Oldstaff or somesuch other name. He was standing near the doorway having just risen from a table, whispering in hushed tones with a burly figure cast in shadows. Yellow eyes glinted against the flickering lights.

The feral.

Ignoring the shiver of his bones and the pain of his side, Remus started to rise.

He was too slow. In one swift motion, the feral rose and swept out of the alcove towards the door, his eyes sweeping the room. For a chilling instant, Remus could have sworn that the golden gaze had lingered a moment too long upon him.

But then the feral was gone.

Oldstaff or whatever glanced around a moment longer, his face filled with distaste and a hint of fear. The feral must have invited him inside. With the feral gone, the Death Eater was alone in a den of werewolves and he certainly knew it. As a few gazes turned in his direction, he gathered his robes and fled as well.

Remus took a breath and downed his second firewhiskey. Oddly, it seemed to settle the tingling feeling left by the first.

He had missed the meeting, it seemed. But it didn't matter. It had taken place close enough and that meant that there were other ways to gain the information.

He just hoped that Dumbledore's pensieve was still at headquarters.

Ducking his head against the heaving atmosphere, Remus slipped rapidly towards the exit and made his escape into the night.

A/N: Though I've written several fics for a Sci-fi show called Farscape, this is my first venture into the world of Harry Potter fanfic, although I have been reading it a great deal of late. What it has taught me is that writing fics for books is a lot harder than writing fics for TV shows, probably because in TV you know that everyone has the same imagery for the settings and the characters and you are an equal level in that you don't know what any of the characters are thinking; it's all interpretation. With a book, you can't be sure if the readers are seeing and hearing the same things as you, so you have to be more careful. And characterising the thoughts of a character that you have only seen represented by the thoughts of another character is always interesting. It's a fun challenge though. I hope I'm doing okay. :)

I have no idea how long this fic is going to be; one of my other fics that was supposed to be quick two-parter to be done in a few months, ended up 80,000 words long, taking a year to complete. I'm hoping it won't be too long since I don't have a huge amount of time to write. I'm not sure how often I will be updating but hopefully not too infrequently: I don't like to leave people hanging so I am trying to stay a couple of chapters ahead. Oh and if you are worried about the grim start, though this will have a fair dollop of angst-drama and action, I am trying to insert a few lighter moments too. Please don't despair. ;)