Disclaimer: The characters and the settings belong to JK Rowling (many thanks). The plot belongs to me. This was originally posted under another pen name.
Prologue: A Terrible Destiny
The sandy-haired boy was lying on the grass in the back yard of his parents' house, lazily watching the clouds as they hurried past the setting sun. The days were getting longer and he was able to stay outside a little later than he had in the spring. He loved to be outside. He felt free. He felt alive. He did not have to deal with an exacting father, a submissive mother and the ghost of an older brother who had been perfect in every way…every way he was not.
His brother had been tall and athletic. He was somewhat shorter and not nearly as strong. His brother was very intelligent and picked new things up very quickly. He had to study very hard. His brother had been very attractive. He, although not bad-looking, looked too pensive and delicate.
"Why did you have to die?" he thought to himself.
His brother, a full eight years older than himself, had been his hero…his idol and his parents' darling. The extra attention had never been a particular concern…he always found a way to make his little brother feel special. It was only after his untimely death that he felt jealous, resentful and alone. He was not angry with his brother. He was angry with his parents.
"I should have died instead," his young eyes began to water at the very thought of it. He was only eight years old, far too young for such misery.
He wiped his tears on his sleeve and stood up, shaking the grass off of his clothes. He thought he should start heading inside and helping his mother with the nightly chores before his nightly lessons with his father. He shivered slightly even though the early summer air was warm. His father expected nothing less than perfection. He pounced on every little mistake he made. It had gotten so bad that he had become shy and somewhat withdrawn around others. He never felt good enough. He never felt that he mattered as much as his brother did.
Sighing, he headed towards the house, towards the prison which, on the outside, looked so pleasant and friendly to the casual observer. He knew better.
With a final glance at the darkening sky, he opened the door and smiled at his mother as she finished cleaning the dishes from supper. His father was sitting in his accustomed chair, smoking his accustomed pipe and gave him the same look he gave him every night. The look which asked him why he was not more like his older brother.
"I have an errand for you tonight, boy," he said suddenly.
The young boy turned to him with wary eyes.
"I need you to bring a message to Arabella Figg, tonight. It is very important."
"But, tonight of all nights? Can it not wait until tomorrow night? It is already dark," his mother protested.
The older man gave her a stern look and she silenced immediately.
"I cannot go as my joints have swollen up again and young Pomfrey cannot come until tomorrow morning. This is urgent. Do you think you can manage it without making a fool of yourself?"
The young boy fought back tears at the derisive tone in his father's voice.
"Yes, I'll go. I know the way. It won't take long," he said in as neutral a tone as he could.
"Good. Be sure you don't take a long time. There be things in the forest just waiting to have a foolish lad like yourself for supper."
The father held out the letter and his son took it with shaking hands. His mother handed him a light robe and kissed him.
"You don't need to coddle the boy so much, woman, you'll be seeing him soon enough," the man said gruffly.
"Don't mind him…his legs are bothering him badly tonight. Be sure to hurry back…don't let Mrs. Figg go on about her cats or else you'll be there till morning," she managed a wan smile but the boy could see the worry in her face.
He kissed her pale cheek.
"I'll be back as quick as I can," he promised.
He opened the front door and hurried off. Night had fallen and the soft hooting of far-off owls could be heard.
"The quickest way would be through the forest. That should be no trouble…there's enough moonlight to find my way," he thought to himself.
For one so young, he maneuvered his way through the forest with an ease that was somehow more than human. He barely made any sound as his shoes trod over the lush undergrowth of the forest.
"If Mrs. Figg starts talking about her cats one more time I think I will scream or howl or something like that," he thought to himself and then immediately repented. The poor lady had no relatives that he knew of and she always was so happy to see him…happier, indeed, than his father ever had been.
For a moment, he thought he heard rustling near him but, when he stopped to listen more carefully, there was no sound at all.
"I must have imagined it," he thought, shaking his head.
Then he heard a sound that made him freeze. It was a low growl rumbling from somewhere behind him. He turned around slowly and the sight that greeted him paralyzed him with fear.
It stood about seven feet tall and was completely covered in matted silvery-white fur. It vaguely resembled a human being in that it stood upright but it was a ferocious animal as well. Muscles rippled menacingly under its skin and its eyes, full of evil, rooted him to the ground. It slowly approached him, sniffing.
"Maybe…maybe if I…I don't move…it will go away," he prayed fervently. He could not move if he wanted to. He probably would not have been able to outrun the monster even if he had.
The monster stopped sniffing him and started snarling, a large tongue licking its misshapen teeth as if hungry. It suddenly growled at him very loudly, startling the boy and sending him running in blind terror.
"Got..to…get…home," his panicked thoughts were only focussed on getting home, "Got…to…get…to…mother."
Suddenly he felt excruciating pain in his shoulder and realized that the monster had clamped his jaws around…
"Father…Mother…" were his thoughts as he fell to the ground with a thud. The last thing he heard, before plunging into the darkness that beckoned him, was a loud cracking sound…
His eyes closed.
* * * * *
He felt as if he were floating. Somewhere. Up in a cloud. He could not see anything. It was far too foggy. He could hear noises. Voices. But they were foggy too. He did not want to move. It was nice just to listen to the inarticulate voices and look at the indiscriminate fog. The voices slowly became clearer and the fog began to life. He still could not open his eyes or move around but he was reasonably sure that he was still alive.
Sometime later, it was so hard to tell how long, he felt a hand hold his gently. It was soft and it also caressed his face. It felt nice. At other times, he felt a rougher hand patting his head and speaking softly and sadly. Tears had splashed his face. Someone had wiped them dry. He also felt someone touching his shoulder. It felt odd…rather disjointed…as if it no longer belonged to him.
He felt that he was close to the surface now. He could try to open his eyes. And he did. It was early morning and he was in his own bed. That was not surprising. What was surprising was that his mother and father were sleeping on a small cot in his room. They looked exhausted. He tried to move but he felt pain in his shoulder and moaned slightly.
His mother woke up immediately and rushed over to him.
"You're awake. You're finally awake. Thank the stars you finally came back to us," she was crying and holding his hand as if she were scared to ever let it go again.
His father stirred and, realizing that his son was now conscious, approached the bed cautiously. He had such a sorrowful expression on his face that it made the boy uncomfortable.
"I'm all right. Really. It's just my shoulder that hurts," he tried to reassure his parents.
His mother looked as if she was about to burst into tears again. She patted his head affectionately.
"Of course. You will be fine," he thought she sent a warning glance to his father but then thought he had probably imagined that.
"I'm so sorry…son…I should not have…I could have waited…" his father looked as if he was having difficulty breathing.
"It's okay. I just need some time to get better. It wasn't your fault that I was attacked by that…that thing. I'm just glad that I am still here."
His mother and father exchanged a worried glance, which puzzled the young boy.
"Is something wrong?"
"No," his mother answered, "Nothing is wrong. I am going to call young Pomfrey immediately to tell her that you have regained consciousness. We have to see if we can…if we can heal your shoulder."
* * * * *
The young man was looking at the box that had just arrived at their house. It was huge.
"What's that?" he asked his father.
"It's a cage," his father answered in a tone that did not allow for further questioning. The boy would have shrugged but it hurt too much. For some reason, his shoulder was not healing well. Young Pomfrey, the local mediwitch, was always over, trying all sorts of potions and poultices and spells to try to get the wound to heal but it did not seem to be responding to anything.
"Well, it could have been worse," he thought, "at least no one sees it when I am wearing my robes."
* * * * *
"What do you mean you want me to test this cage out?" the young boy asked in shock.
His father sighed and had a pained expression on his face. They were in the basement of their house and the older man was holding the door to the cage open for his son.
"This is a magical cage. It is specially designed to be escape-proof. I am conducting tests on it for the Ministry of Magic."
"If it is escape-proof, why do you need me in there?"
"Because you have always had a…talent for escaping from your room, your classes and even from your parents for as long as I can remember. If you can't escape from it, I have no doubt that the greatest wizarding criminals will have no chance."
The boy still frowned.
"Humour me. I promise I will let you out as soon as possible," the father said, with a nervous glance out the window.
"All right," the boy muttered as he stalked inside with a sulking face.
The father quickly bolted the door and muttered a quiet spell which caused the bars of the cage to glow with a strange amber light.
"Do you feel anything?" the father asked in a small voice.
"What do you mean, do I feel anything? I feel trapped. Wouldn't you? I'm in a cage"
"I mean, how do you feel, physically?'
"Father, this isn't really a good time to be talking about that."
"Okay. Fine. I have been tired the past few days. Mother keeps trying to get me to eat but I'm not that hungry. I almost feel like that time I had the flu last winter. Can I come out now?"
"Just a few more minutes and then I'll know for sure."
There was something in his father's tone which frightened him.
"What will you know?"
His father looked at him with pity and it seemed to the boy that the moonlight streaming through the window put him in relief so that he could only see his outline.
Then there was pain. The boy started writhing in agony as he felt a pain so intense he thought he would die. It felt as if his skin was ripping apart.
"Father! What is happening to me?! Make it stop!! Please!! Make it stop!!" he screamed over and over again.
His father watched in horror and looked as if he was going to throw up or faint or both.
The boy grabbed the bars of his cage and began to bang his head against them. He threw his head back to scream…but only a unearthly howl escaped his lips. Startled, he looked back down at his hands and cried out as he saw them painfully changing…growing larger…bristling hair, light brown in colour, was sprouting all over his hands and arms. The nails were quickly becoming claws which gleamed cruelly in the moonlight. He tried to say something but could only snarl. He felt as if he was losing consciousness. He felt as if he was losing himself. He felt as if he was somehow becoming something…inhuman.
"Father…" was his last conscious thought…
His father looked at the creature that his son had become and wept openly as it thrashed in its cage and started biting and clawing at itself in frustration.
"Oh, Remus," he cried, "I am so sorry."