Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything related to that world; it's all property of J.K. Rowling. I'm not making any profit off of this, so please don't sue me.
Author's Note: This was the result of wondering what happened when Remus was bitten as a child. I'm entertaining a very intriguing idea for an alternate-universe sort of story, but at this point I'm not sure how it will work out. This chapter, at least, can be read as a one-shot, until I figure out the rest of the story (if I ever do). Please enjoy.
Remus Lupin, a picture book propped up against the weather-beaten wood in front of him, sat in his sandbox. He was trying to build a castle like the ones in the stories his mother read to him, but the sand was damp and soggy after the weeks of rain they had been getting, and it wanted to collapse into heaps rather than stick together in tall walls. When the north-facing wall collapsed for the ten-billionth time, Remus gave up and resigned himself to instead making a large indistinct pile.
On one side, he dug out a small vaguely circular shape. "Door," he said. He poked his fingers into the sticky sand in long straight lines along each side, a few levels worth. "Windows," he said. He leaned back to admire his handiwork. It didn't look particularly like the picture of the castle in front of him, but if he squinted his eyes in just the right way and tilted his head, he could see a resemblance.
He sighed; he couldn't even lie to himself. "It looks horrible." His shoulders crumpled forward under the immense weight of his ineptitude. He let himself fall limply backwards into the sand. The clouds scudded ominously low in the sky, their dark bellies threatening to tear on the tall trees that surrounded the Lupin family home.
Something was poking him in the back. Remus shifted and thrust a hand under his soggy jumper. There was a loud snap, and he pulled out two halves of a thin twig. He sat up to stare at where the stick had been buried, and something in his picture book caught his eye.
Of course! He was forgetting the flag! All mediaeval castles had flags.
He jumped up, brushing the irritating sand from the backs of his knees and trying to shake it out of the back of his pants and shirt. A glob of it had somehow gotten into his ear, and it caked his already sand-brown hair with a fine layer like mist.
Hopeful that he could make up for the poor architecture of his castle with the minute details, Remus trotted happily toward the thicket of trees that bounded the back of his home. The trees were dark without bright rays of sunlight to penetrate the thick foliage. The forest beyond was even darker.
He paused at the edge of the trees and waited, listening. His parent wouldn't want him to go into the forest alone. His mum had lectured him once about transisants – or something like that. She told him in her most serious voice that, if he wandered off on his own, bad people would come out and take him away forever. But I'm not going very far in. I won't ever lose sight of the house. How dangerous could it be, really?
Throwing caution to the wind, he took his first few steps into the trees. Nothing. No dark figure with a large sack for kidnapping children behind a bush. Not even a sound. Comforted, he started his search for the perfect twig for his flag. He wanted one with a leaf on the tip, sticking out to the side, and, with so many bushes, it wasn't very hard to find one. The stick was on a low bush at the base of a tall tree that Remus couldn't identify. Victorious, he plucked it off and removed the extra leaves as he walked back to his sandbox.
Remus stopped. He hadn't made that sound, had he? It sounded like it was behind him, to the side. The silence roared in his ears so loud that he didn't think he would be able to hear whatever it was even if it was right next to him. Slowly, he turned his head to look over his shoulder.
There was only dark forest.
All the same, he walked faster than normal out of the forest, only daring to look behind him again when he was safe in the square of his sandbox. There was still nothing there. To make himself feel better, Remus pretended that there were protective shields that shot up out of the rotting wood. Nothing would dare hurt him in his fortress.
He placed the twig on top of the mound. It looked a little bit better; now it was like those big graves of ancient kings his parents had taken him to. Remus decided that that's what he would tell his parents when they came home after their Meeting. It's a king's grave with a tree growing out of the top of it, he told himself firmly. He just wouldn't show them the picture book he had been looking at for reference, and they would never know.
The light was fading fast, so Remus grabbed the picture book and was wiping his shoes on the grass next to the sandbox when he looked up again.
There were eyes, looking at him. He could hardly make them out, glinting in the light that was on in their kitchen. His eyes adjusted slowly, but he could see there was a shape. All his muscles froze. His jaw clenched, and he stood very, very still and stared back at the eyes.
His mum was right: he was going to be abducted by a bad person and then they would take him back to their forest encampment and cook him alive and eat him while he could still feel their teeth in his flesh. Remus started trembling. He should have done what his parents said, he should have stayed inside and read that book his dad had given him. He should have taken a nap. He should have heated up his dinner and eaten it alone at the table. He should not have gone outside and played in his sandbox.
The eyes disappeared for a moment, and Remus exhaled in relief until he saw something shifting in the pale lamplight. Whatever it was, it was closer this time. Remus didn't move and pretended he was invisible.
The thing stopped and lifted its head.
It was a dog. A very large, grey dog, but a dog all the same.
Remus let out a shaky, relieved breath, almost a laugh. He took a few steps forward, his hand out for the dog to sniff. He liked dogs. He had vague memories of a dog they had had when he was much younger. He didn't remember much about it except that it was also grey and that it really liked to give Remus saliva-baths.
"Here, doggy. Do you want to be scratched? Do you want some food?"
The dog tossed its head violently and let out a loud snort. The hair on its neck stood up, and it suddenly looked about twice as big as before. There was a low rumble, then a harsh growl. It bared its long white teeth and growled at Remus.
The boy stopped, suddenly remembering that sometimes dogs were dangerous, too. The dog in his memory had bitten him once; he still had a scar from it on the flesh of his palm. The grey dog slunk low to the ground and circled Remus very slowly, always growling, always snapping its too-long teeth.
When the dog was behind him, his instincts told him RUN! and Remus had always been one to listen to his instincts. He sprinted desperately for front door, his heart beating loud in his ears and his muscles spasming randomly.
His head hit the ground hard, and his side felt like he had been on the beach all day without sunscreen, and now he had got a sunburn, except this was a thousand times more painful than a sunburn. His hands shook as he tried to drag himself up, and suddenly the world tipped to one side and he fell to the sunburned side of his body.
Something was pulling at him. He hoped it was his mum, and he had really fallen asleep on the living room floor with his head cradled in a thick book. A rock sliced his forehead and his weak arms were out straight in front of him, bumping over the uneven ground. He was being pulled backwards. One leg of his pants ripped, and he came to a sudden halt, face digging into the dirt.
It was quiet again. Remus lay still for a long time, trying to process what had just happened. There was a dog, an unfriendly dog. But after that, everything started to jumble together, and all he knew was that he was on the ground now. He propped himself up on his forearms again and had to pause while his head righted itself and while his side burned angrily.
He drew in a hitching breath and looked up – right into the eyes of the animal.
Remus could feel its breath on his face as it drew back its dark lips again and snarled at him. The eyes were wide and golden, the pupils dilated. He scooted back a few centimetres, and the dog leaned towards him. The lips drawn back formed a cruel, grotesque smile.
He scrabbled backwards on the ground, not trusting his legs to hold him.
The dog jumped on him. Remus let out one high, thin scream before he felt the teeth in his throat, and then he couldn't even breathe. He struggled desperately, hitting the giant dog on the head and in the eyes with his tiny fists. The dog shook his head so that Remus's head snapped back and forth.
And that was when he felt his artery burst.
He didn't realize what the sudden warm wetness at his neck was, of course. But suddenly there was a cascade of this wet stuff and it felt sticky in his hair and tasted like metal in his mouth, and suddenly the dark night was a bit darker. He struggled to breathe with the jaw around his throat, making large gasping motions with his mouth.
He didn't want to struggle any more. It felt nice, actually. He was warm. He couldn't feel the sand in uncomfortable tender places under his clothes. He couldn't feel the cold dirt and grass against his bare leg, or the rocks that were poking him in his sunburned side. He especially couldn't feel the teeth stuck in his throat. It was all just slight pressure. And without warning, he felt completely weightless, like paper. Like if a gust blew by him he would have no choice but to comply to its lifting fingers and then he would be in the air and floating around like a bird, except he wouldn't have flap his arms to fly. He would just float.
The dog growled again, but it sounded more like thunder on the other side of the ocean to Remus. A thunderstorm in France. The pressure left his throat, so that he felt all the weight again. Now he felt like a rock that someone had thrown into a deep pond, and he was sinking slowly, slowly into deeper and colder waters.
But without the pressure, he could also feel the pain. There was a strange whistling noise coming from somewhere; with effort, Remus realized that he was making that noise. There was something sticking in his throat, and he was having trouble breathing.
He tried to sit up.
Explosive, blinding pain bloomed in his neck and spread out to the rest of his body. His fingertips felt numb, and the whole lower half of his body had disappeared. He felt for his legs blindly and his hand banged against something soft and fell limp to the ground.
His focus wavered. He could still see the shadow of the dog standing above him, but he couldn't bring himself to care enough to try to run away.
He gasped desperately for breath and tried to suppress the urge when he realized that his gasping was what was making his throat hurt so badly. There was a loud thumping in his ears – his heart, he realized foggily – that was gradually growing slower and fainter.
The last thing Remus thought before he let the warmth envelop him was, Mum will be mad when she sees my ripped pants.