Werewolves, Wizards, and Magical Girls of London
Written for the Sailor Moon Monthly Fanfiction Challenge
October 2008 Challenge - Monster Mash
by Kihin Ranno
The moon, let it guide you, when Selene comes, we'll all know how to fight.
Dear Fenrir, my saviour, come and eat the ones, we know who taste the best.
I know just where you've been boy, I've watched you by the stream.
And don't be afraid of the dark
'cos the darkness is simply a womb for the lonely.
The moon, let it guide you and I shall find you a home in our heartland,
a heart in our homeland.
Until the moon is down, until the moon is down.
"Wolf Song" by Patrick Wolf
"There is a magical girl in London."
Remus prided himself on being able to unravel Dumbledore's sometimes purposefully mystical phrases; he might have bragged about it to his friends if he had any real friends to brag to. However, those friends would have then shared quite the chuckle at his expense knowing that Remus now had absolutely no clue what the Headmaster was on about. He stared at the old man from across the pleasantly cluttered desk, blinking. "Er, what's that, sir?"
"Magical girl," Dumbledore repeated, staring down at Remus through his spectacles. If Remus hadn't known better, he might have thought the man was disappointed. "Surely you've heard of them?"
"I… can't say that I have, sir."
Dumbledore tutted, stroking his long white beard as if searching for a stray chocolate frog. Remus rather hoped he found one just to break this tension, real or imagined. "Well, I suppose they are a little outside of your area. You don't get to Japan much, do you?"
If by "much," the old man meant "not at all because you are depressingly poor," Remus would have to agree. "Unfortunately not."
Dumbledore rose to his feet and began to stride over to Fawkes. He waved pleasantly to the few former portraits that deemed this conversation worthy of notice and then continued his thoughts. "A magical girl is a phenomenon not often seen outside of the Asian continents. In fact, I am at a loss to recall ever hearing of one. The Western world has… something of a different vein, shall we say." He paused to wrack his depthless memory for such a case, reaching through the bars of Fawkes's cage to stroke his head gently. Remus could see that the phoenix was getting on; he would wager it only had a year or so left before the cycle began anew.
"At any rate," Dumbledore continued, "one of them has shown up in London." He waved his hand, and several papers sprang off his desk and floated in front of Remus's face.
Instantly, Remus saw that Dumbledore had not been exaggerating about the "girl" part of magical girl. She couldn't have been much older than thirteen, if that (though what a thirteen-year-old girl was doing wearing a skirt quite that short escaped him entirely). From what little he could see in the blurry muggle newspaper photographs, she had blonde hair that was impractically long and a propensity for the dramatic. How else could he explain the strange, affected poses she struck for the benefit of the camera? He also had to admit that she was made for the press; her smile was nothing short of dazzling. He wondered if in another life she might have made an excellent child star.
"What's she doing there?"
Dumbledore shrugged. "No idea. As far as Kingsley can tell, she appeared right around the time that certain… monsters began cropping up on London."
Remus, who had been living in the country for longer than he could remember, had heard nothing of this. "Dark creatures in the city? That's odd. They usually don't venture into metropolitan areas. Aside from the Ministry control, they don't care for the smog."
"Yes, well," Dumbledore muttered, "I am certainly no expert in these matters, but as far as I can tell, these are not the sort of dark creatures we are accustomed to."
Ever the academic, Remus found his interest sufficiently piqued. "Really?"
Another wave of the hand, and Remus was treated to another array of muggle stills. His eyes very nearly bugged out of his head. Dumbledore's assessment had been quite correct; these were not dark creatures that occurred in nature. They were disturbingly humanoid, but not in the matter of a vampire or even a werewolf. They were covered in scales more often than not. Remus spotted various appendages and physical features for which he could see no biological purpose. Several of them even sported clothing that appeared to be made out of other animal hides, though he was willing to venture a guess that he would not have been familiar with any of these either. Most unsettling of all, they all carried some sort of weaponry and in some cases, they had knives for hands.
"Curious," Remus murmured, too disturbed to continue.
"Indeed," Dumbledore concurred, his voice grave. "For obvious reasons, the Ministry of Magic finds this exceptionally worrisome and has been investigating the matter to the best of its ability."
There was something in his tone that wasn't right. "Sir?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "Apparently you are not intimately familiar with what the Ministry considers to be the best of its ability."
Remus tried to laugh as well, but he wasn't altogether successful. Given the restrictions on werewolf laws recently enacted, Remus tried very hard not to give the Ministry much thought at all.
"Kingsley is doing his best, of course, but the Ministry's experts on dark creatures are, shall we say, reluctant to rule one way or the other," Dumbledore explained. "They continually claim that these are simply undiscovered species or some sort of mutation."
Remus leaned back in his chair, feeling the distant hints of migraine beginning to appear. "I take it you and Kingsley differ in your opinions."
Dumbledore hesitated, and that was more than enough to set Remus's teeth on edge. "We are beginning to suspect some sort of… experimentation."
Remus tried his best not to take this supposition personally, but he could not. Childhood nightmares of being strapped to a table and having bits of skin sliced away filled his brain to an uncomfortable degree. He smelled blood that wasn't there and swallowed the screams of a little boy not yet familiar with his two bodies. He folded his hands in his lap to cease their trembling. "The manufacturing of dark creatures," Remus concluded.
Remus exhaled, long and hard, the migraine now upon him with a vengeance, throbbing beneath his clammy skin. "And you want me to go to London because I could smell it."
Dumbledore had the grace to give him a sheepish smile. "I wasn't going to be so blunt."
"Because you know you needn't be," Remus murmured. He dragged a hand down his cold wet face, longing for some good strong tea. And possibly bourbon. "With all due respect, Headmaster, I'm not sure if my going into the city is all that great an idea. The full moon is only two weeks away, and—"
"Severus has already agreed to make the wolfsbane potion for you."
Remus choked on absolutely nothing and indulged in a brief coughing fit before replying, "Has he?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "I'll not say he's thrilled about it, but yes, he did agree."
"Well, that sounds a bit more like it."
Dumbledore's expression softened ever so slightly. It was the same sort of face he wore when he told Remus things that were liable to hurt him. It was the face he'd worn when Remus had been told about Snape knowing his secret back in school, the face he'd worn offering condolences for James and for Lily, the face he'd worn when he'd found out Sirius had wanted to speak to him in Azkaban. All in all, it wasn't a very effective expression. It never made him feel better, and it certainly hadn't given him any reason to visit a murderer in prison.
"I realize this is a lot to ask of you," Dumbledore said. "I know the transformations must be getting more difficult, and it's certainly more uncomfortable in a small apartment compared to what you're used to. The Order is no longer active, so you're certainly welcome to refuse. This is a request, not an order."
Remus nodded and rose to his feet. "I know. But I owe you too much to refuse, Headmaster. After everything you've done—"
Dumbledore held up one hand. He'd never enjoyed being thanked for such things. What he saw as common courtesy, others rightfully considered to be sweeping gestures.
Remus attempted another smile. "In any event, if Severus has agreed to provide the potion, I see no reason to refuse."
"Excellent!" Dumbledore exclaimed, closing the distance between them and offering a firm handshake. "Kingsley has already gone to the trouble of arranging living quarters for you. You're to meet him at the guest entrance of the Ministry at nine tomorrow."
"It's all settled then," Remus said. "I'd best be off."
Remus began to go about collecting his things when Dumbledore interrupted him once again.
Remus's stomach lurched as if attempting to flee his body altogether. All of the ailments that had arisen with Dumbledore's request intensified threefold, and worse still, his heart joined in on the symphony of pain. Too many memories threatened to overwhelm him, each one of them happy and each one of them hurting more than any transformation ever could.
"Oh," was all he could see.
"He was sorted into Gryffindor, you know," Dumbledore offered, knowing full well that Remus knew no such thing. "Seemed to take a minute. He'd already made friends with the Weasley boy his age, and I suspect the expectation of where he would go had some sort of influence. He also happens to have a certain aptitude for flying; Professor McGonagall pulled quite a few strings to get him on the Quidditch team."
Remus closed his eyes and swallowed, the distant roar of a crowd from decades earlier cheering as James scored the winning goal. "Chaser?" he asked, hating himself.
"Seeker. Youngest in a century."
Entirely too much silence passed between them then, giving Remus's memories too much opportunity to wrap around him like a smothering blanket. Dumbledore's voice sounded very far away when he finally spoke again.
"It would do him good to meet you."
That was too much.
"I really think I'd better be going." He threw himself entirely into the task of gathering his briefcase and his umbrella, collecting the various clippings as well.
Dumbledore exhaled, and now Remus knew he was disappointed. "Fine, fine. Good luck, Remus."
Remus left so quickly that he forgot to even say good-bye.-----
"GOODBYE, DEMON SCUM!"
Sailor V performed an unnecessarily complicated flip, hair and skirt whirling through the wind as she twisted and arched. When she landed on the ground, she crouched and raised her right hand. Out of her outstretched finger came a searing jet of golden light. Her flesh tingled, and the power briefly stung as it flew out for her target. The monster barely had a chance to scream before the light beam slammed into its chest, tearing a hole through its scales where its heart might have been. It fell to the ground, dead and mercifully quiet before Sailor V's hair even settled back into place.
She grinned and popped back to her feet, brushing imaginary dust off her shoulder. "Mission accomplished!" she proclaimed in heavily accented English.
"You could have done without the theatrics, of course, but then I say that every time, and you never bother. Job well done then."
Sailor V spun and stuck her tongue out at her older sister. She would have liked to pull her eyelid down as well as Katarina couldn't stand eyeballs, but the mask made that more trouble than it was worth. "But it's more fun that way," she insisted.
"So you say," Katarina drawled, readjusting her Interpol uniform. "You know, one day you're going to be performing some atrociously complex maneuver, and you'll wind up stabbed through the leg. Then you'll come to me, crying and bleeding all over the carpet, and expect me to make it all better. And do you know what I'll have to say?"
"I told you so?" Sailor V ventured, doing the best impression of Katarina she could manage. The lack of r's or l's made it more or less successful.
Katarina scowled. "Something like that, yes."
The blonde stretched, ignoring Katarina's muttering about bared midrifts and inappropriate skirt lengths. "You going to call in the clean-up crew now?"
"Such impatience," Katarina teased, reaching for her radio.
Sailor V felt a rose-pink blush creep onto her cheeks and was grateful for the darkness. She and Katarina shared nearly everything, but for some reason, there was one subject she preferred not to discuss with her older sister. Perhaps she was afraid of being treated like the little girl she didn't like to admit she still was.
"It's just we said we'd meet Alan after," she said.
"I suppose we did," Katarina agreed, smiling. "I'll tell them to step on it. Don't want to keep him waiting."
Sailor V nodded in agreement and continued stretching out her muscles while Katarina completed the call.
Neither one of them felt the disillusioned eyes watching their backs.-----
Remus arrived at the bright red phone booth that served as the Ministry's guest entrance promptly at nine o'clock. He was rather surprised to find Kingsley waiting for him. The Auror had never struck Remus as the sort who showed up early for things, but the man was clearly anxious about something. Remus opened his mouth to exchange the required pleasantries, but he never got the chance and found out that with Kingsley, such requirements were not in place.
"We have a body," Kingsley informed him.
"Oh, well that's… I'm sorry, what?"
"Those creatures you're here to investigate?" Kingsley said, raising his voice ever so slightly. "We have a body."
Remus arched an eyebrow, impressed enough to shove aside his irritation. "Really. How did you manage that?" he asked, squeezing himself into the phone booth at Kingsley's behest.
"The… magical girl," Kingsley began, about as comfortable with the turn of phrase as Remus was with her outfit. "She killed one last night. Put on quite a show."
"Were you privy to said show?"
"Oh, yes," Kingsley confirmed. "Impressive. No wands, but lots of flashing lights. Very physical. Bit of a show-off, but effective." He reached up and rubbed his bald head as if scratching an itch. If Remus had been more familiar, he might have made some sort of crack about buffing it to shine. "At any rate, I followed Interpol after they retrieved the body."
"Interpol?" Remus asked, impressed.
Kingsley nodded an affirmative. "Interpol."
"Then I took it."
"Lovely," Remus muttered.
"Not really. Seepage all over my robes. Green blood. Gonna be a bitch to get out."
"I'm crap at domestic charms."
"So'm I, I'm afraid."
They continued on the rest of the way in silence. Remus attempted on no less than three occasions to jumpstart the conversation again, but apparently, when Kingsley was through talking, there was no changing his mind. Eventually, Remus gave in to what he supposed was inevitable and made a mental grocery list in his head. He had a craving for chips.
Finally, Kingsley strode into the Auror's office with Remus trailing behind. He hadn't been in this wing of the Ministry for over a decade. Not surprisingly, things hadn't changed very much at all. They did have peppermints lying about now. He helped himself to one, smiling at the satisfying crunch it made between his teeth.
Kingsley nodded in greeting to a few other Aurors Remus did not recognize. In the old days, a large number of Aurors had been in the Order, but they were all buried now. Either that or St. Mungo's, but he preferred not to consider them too much.
After countless twists and turns where the number of people in the halls decreased considerably (even the memos didn't come down here it seemed), Remus found himself standing in front of the autopsy facilities. Remus's eyes bulged considerably when they stepped inside. The room itself was a perfectly conventional autopsy room – sterile and sickly green. It was empty other than the monstrous corpse laid out on the operating table. And that was all it could be called. A monster.
"I've never believed in demons like this…" Remus murmured. "Can you imagine? Wizards not believing."
"These are not meant to exist," Kingsley answered gravely.
Remus found that he had to concur. Although the creature had been dead for several hours, he could still smell something wafting off its flesh. It was not anything that occurred in nature, not even the nature muggles remained blissfully unaware of. This was a creation, and it seemed it was up to him to find out who created it.
He took a tentative step forward, brushing his shaggy, graying hair out of his eyes. In the manufactured culture the monster came from, it might have been beautiful, but to him, it was nothing short of grotesque. Skin the color of dust stretched over its bones, which were sharper than a skeleton was meant to be. He wondered how they hadn't pierced the flesh when it moved. It wore a dark blue frock, material unidentifiable, ripped and torn almost artfully along the hemline. Its fingers and its nose ended in points that could have very easily drawn blood. Its eyes, black as space and bulbous, gazed up at him in perpetual terror and hate, the feeling so strong that it seemed to have fused itself to the gelatinous material in the sockets.
"The nails are retractable," he observed, pressing down on one of the hands. He had to lean away quickly before he earned a hole in his solar plexus. "Over two feet."
"It also spat fire," Kingsley informed him. "The magical girl was not amused."
Remus leaned forward to examine the rather impressive hole in the demon's chest, the scorched skin and mottled bone, the flecks of green blood congealing on the table beneath the wound. "You keep calling her 'the magical girl.'"
Kingsley did not respond, but Remus could feel his disapproval traveling up his spine like stabbing fingers searching for the bone.
"Does she have a name?" he asked, turning.
Kingsley looked as though he were truly uncomfortable with the answer.
"Sailor V." It seemed this admission had been almost physically painful.
Remus raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Unfortunately," Kingsley grumbled. "Feel like I'm in a bloody cartoon."
"Sorry," Remus said, shrugging. He pulled his wand from his pocket and began running it along the monster's pencil-thin limbs. In an instant, it began to glow, but definitely not the color he was expecting. He stared at it and shook it to see if perhaps the old thing was beginning to give out. He said, "Lumos," and then "Nox," and found that to be in working order. Yet, when he reached for the monster again, the shine reappeared. Frowning, he conducted his examination - over the knee, over the ribs, over the chest, over each arm, and around the head. In the end, the light never wavered, and he detected nothing else.
"Have you found it?" Kingsley asked. "Traces of magic?"
"Yes," Remus confessed, well and truly puzzled. "But not ours."
He turned one final time to show Kingsley the results of his findings. Impossibly, the spark at the end of the wand glowed a deep, pulsing black. Dark light.
"I've never seen that before," Kingsley breathed, finally showing an expression other than stoic confidence.
"Pity," Remus sighed, almost scowling. "Neither have I."-----
Alan looked at her skeptically from the other side of the couch. She loved it when he looked at her skeptically. Of course, if she were perfectly honest, she loved it when he looked at her full stop, but she wasn't one to analyze. She loved what she loved, and right now she loved the way he was looking at her almost as much as she loved him.
"I really don't think you'd like it."
Minako smiled brilliantly. She knew it was brilliant because she'd practiced. "You never know. I might surprise you."
Alan laughed. "Yes, well, you are full of surprises."
Minako couldn't think of a witty reply, so she just tossed her hair and fluttered her eyelashes.
"Something in your eye?"
She frowned. "Bit of dust. Gone now." She rubbed at the kink she'd just put in her neck and said, "But really, tell me about it. If you're interested in it, I'm interested."
Alan sighed, pushing his long black hair out of his eyes. "All right. So there's this Doctor, and that's all he's called is the Doctor, and he basically travels around time and space in a phone box. It's bigger on the inside, obviously. Anyway, he always travels around with this companion – don't give me that look; it's not sexual. And there's a robot dog as well called K-9. It's a bloody brilliant show."
Minako simply raised an eyebrow.
Alan chuckled, his eyes sliding away. "And now you think I'm a dork."
"Oh, I already thought that, darling," Minako said, patting his head.
"I wish I knew why you call me by my last name sometimes."
Minako shrugged, her smile straining against her teeth. "Force of habit."
Alan gestured to London just outside the apartment window. "Well, apparently." He reached forward to finish off his tea. Minako knew she'd made it too weak for him, but she was happy he was willing to grin and bear it anyway.
"So, when's Katarina meant to get back?"
Minako would have perfectly happy to answer with some very clever innuendo that he might have actually noticed for once, but instead, Katarina chose that precise moment to come home. Minako moved two feet away from Alan and turned to her older sister, smiling. It faded the instant she saw Katarina's face. "What's wrong?"
"Someone stole the body."
Alan choked on his tea. Minako thumped him on the back, which for some reason, Alan didn't seem to appreciate that much. "What body?" he asked, wheezing.
"Not the demon I annihilated last night," Minako whined, wincing at the sound of her own voice.
Alan raised an eyebrow. "Annihilated?"
Minako stuck her tongue out. "I'm trying to expand my vocabulary, thank you very much, and besides, it's… trapt?"
"Apt is the word you're looking for, but no, it's not apt," Katarina corrected, looking positively twitchy. "I just can't understand it. There's absolutely no sign of a break in, nothing on the security cameras, no fingerprints… And who would want to steal the body of a monster anyway?"
"The government?" Alan supplied.
Katarina put her hands on her hips. "We already had it."
"I meant another branch," Alan elaborated. "Or maybe the Americans. You know how they are."
"You're up on them today," Minako commented.
"Down," Katarina and Alan corrected absently.
Minako glared and feigned zipping her mouth shut, crossing her arms in mock petulance.
Alan frowned. "Now don't be like that. We're not down on you."
"You know who we should all be down on? Whoever stole the body!" Katarina threw her hands up, looking as if she really wouldn't have minded pummeling something. "Damn it. We don't get many of those intact. Our research department was really hoping to find something about these creatures so that we could fight against them more effectively."
Minako frowned. "Maybe that was the point."
Katarina paused. "You think whoever sent it took it back?" She raised her eyebrows. "That's good. That's very good."
"Don't sound so impressed," Minako teased, tossing a pillow in Katarina's direction. "Sounds like we'd better go back to that alley tonight."
"Why?" Alan and Katarina asked, their voices strangely high.
Minako shrugged. "I don't have any better ideas. I only get one brilliant thought a day, you know. Might as well start somewhere."
"Well…" Katarina started, "you don't really need me for recon, do you? It's not as if you're likely to run into anything tonight. They never attack one day after the next."
Minako considered it for a moment. "I suppose not. Why? Are you busy?"
"Yes," Katarina said, barely allowing time for Minako to finish her sentence.
Minako waited for her to elaborate. Katarina simply gave her a look that very clearly told her it was none of her business. Minako raised her hands in surrender. "Fine, fine. If you don't want to tell me about your inappropriate hobbies, that's fine… Just try not to brain yourself spinning around the pole. "
Alan broke out in the most glorious laughter Minako had ever heard. She turned to grin at him, to join in his joy. It was so rare when they really could see things perfectly eye to eye. He was older than her after all, and their interests did often differ. She cherished moments like these. It almost felt like they were really together.
This was why she did notice the pillow flying in her direction until it hit her in the head.
Unfortunately, Alan found that funny as well.-----
Remus let out a very long sigh, stretching his back to the best of his ability. However, it was very difficult to do that hidden behind a dumpster in a criminally narrow alley.
He wished to Merlin that he'd never suggested returning to the proverbial scene of the crime to Kingsley. Silly tutor that he was, Remus had assumed that Kingsley would puff out his chest in that heroic way Aurors often had about them and offer to do it himself. Instead, Kingsley had simply dryly informed Remus that he approved of the plan and hoped Remus didn't get too bored on the stake out. Kingsley hadn't volunteered what he was busy with; Remus did not fancy the bruises that might have occurred had he asked.
Well, that was exaggerating, but of course it would have been awkward. Remus tried to avoid awkward situations as if they might actually maim him, so he decided to simply go with the hyperbole.
But the point of it all was that Remus was hiding in an alleyway that had seen absolutely no activity other than the occasional vagrant relieving himself. It had almost served as the spot for a young couple to do quite a bit more than hold hands, but Remus had felt obligated to announce his presence at that point. Needless to say, the teenagers had been less than thrilled with him. This feeling had increased when he'd suggested that if they really felt they must, they ought to do so somewhere cleaner.
"Never know what sort of diseases they could have gotten," Remus muttered, brushing some unidentified muck off his shoulder.
The one productive thing he had done was to scan the alleyway for magic in the same way he had scanned the monster's corpse earlier that day. He hadn't been the least bit surprised to find that the walls were practically splattered with it, as well as another unidentified signature. This he assumed to be Sailor V's. He had been surprised to find that they were similar in nature, but not entirely the same. However, he found he was just as unfamiliar with Sailor V's as with the creature's, which he hoped meant that these rogue demons were unconnected to his wizarding world. If that were the case, he could go home sooner than expected.
Yet, he still could not completely shake the discomfort he felt around that energy. He had never seen a black glow before. He doubted even Voldemort could have conjured ebony like that. Sailor V's was… different. Comforting but still painful. Like the sun if he stared at it for too long.
Even though he suspected that their magic was outside of his world, it disturbed him that he didn't know where its origins lay. There wasn't much Remus didn't know about dark creatures, but then of course, they'd already established that this was well outside his expertise. Still, it filled him with disquiet and a sense of foreboding. He didn't like not knowing things, but he liked being unable to learn things even less. And he wasn't learning anything by standing around this alley waiting for something to happen.
"Right then," Remus decided. "Time to go."
He emerged from his hiding place, rolling his shoulders and fully intending to head back to his tiny but clean apartment and curl up with as many books as he'd been able to bring with him. However, this was an intention he was not destined to follow through with.
Several feet in front of him, a shadow opened up in midair, like a window into the depths of starless space. The air rippled like heat coming off the tarmac and all space around the hole seemed to twist inwards. A moment later, a creature similar to the one he had examined emerged from the hole. It differed in height and common, but they certainly had a few things in build. Namely, claws, fangs, and a distinct lack of clothing.
Sailor V had been perfectly content holding a stake out at the alley. She couldn't stand being cooped up inside the apartment at night. Ever since a little white cat had told her that she was meant to be a superhero, she had been understandably restless. When she wasn't out fighting, she made up excuses to go patrolling, either with Katarina or herself. Saturday nights she usually reserved to spend time with Katarina and Alan, but they'd both had plans. It made her almost wish she'd been able to bring the cat with her for a little company, and she couldn't stand it when a cat of all things decided to lecture her.
So, there was little else to do but watch an alley with no real purpose in mind.
Of course, then she discovered that this was no ordinary alley. She found that out right after a man she hadn't seen before popped out of the shadows and a door had opened up. Out came something that may as well have been the other demon's cousin.
"Shimatta," Sailor V swore, reverting back to her native Japanese.
She promptly swung herself off the roof, speeding down for the brick below. She landed gracefully in front of the would-be victim, heels clacking against the ground and skirt flying up just enough to entice (although Katarina would have disagreed - loudly). She struck her usual pose.
"Hold it right there, youma!" Sailor V shouted. "As much as I appreciate you showing me a way in and out of your hellhole, I'm afraid I have no tolerance for your presence in London-town. I am the champion of Love and Beauty, code name Sailor V, and in the name of everything not completely gross in the world, I will punish you!"
"…Is that really necessary?"
Sailor V choked.
Ignoring the monster for the time being, she turned her head to give the man she was saving a very hard look. He was much older than her, and he looked a little worn around the edges, but she could tell he'd been a looker when he was younger. Not in a dangerous sexy way or in the confident jock way. He was cute in the same way that Alan was cute – intellectual and a bit of a bookworm, but still physically attractive.
Why men wasted their looks in libraries was completely beyond her.
This one had the added benefit of a few vicious scars on his face. That added to the mystique and probably meant he was tougher than he looked. And that although he was not sexy in that dangerous, biker sort of way, he could still be dangerous. And a biker for that matter.
If he wasn't being so irritating, she might have decided to have a crush on him.
"Do I go to your job and tell you how to do it? Do I? Hmm?" she cocked her head to the side. "Didn't think so. Now, if you'll just excuse me, I'm going to go save your life now."
She turned just in time to see the fireball racing for her head.
She yelped and leapt upwards, pleased to see that the mysterious-scarred-and-deplorably-ungrateful-civilian had moved out of the way as well. She had to admit, he moved pretty smoothly for a guy who had to be in his mid-forties at least. Of course, he didn't have her energy, but Katarina always told her that even toddlers were envious of her stamina. And then Minako always made a dirty comment about stamina that often got her smacked.
Sailor V flipped in the air and landed on a windowsill with perfect ease. She scowled and said to the youma, "Excuse me, oh rude one, but I was in the middle of a conversation."
"Die!" it snarled, spitting another ball of fire in her direction.
Sailor V rolled her eyes. "Just once I'd like to find a monster who had thoughts beyond 'die.'" She jumped off the ledge just before the attack hit. It scorched the brick thoroughly and gave Sailor V an unpleasant impression of what could have happened to her face.
She soared to the other end of the alley and ran against the wall for a few steps. Then she pushed off hard, spun around, and aimed her heel directly at the monster's chin. "Sailor V Kick!" The attack hit home, and the demon careened away from her, allowing her the space to land and cartwheel backwards to gain her footing.
She was very surprised to find the victim still there. So much so that she actually did a double take.
"Um, hello," Sailor V said. "In case you haven't noticed, you were almost attacked by a creature of the night. I am the superheroine here to save the day. Generally, this means that your part in the story is over. You can go home to the wife and kiddies." She noticed he was holding something in his hand and frowned. "Also, I really doubt a stick is going to help."
He smirked – actually smirked at her. "You'd be surprised."
She groaned. "I hate the crazy ones." She heard a growl and saw that the demon was coming back around. "Here I go again."
She ran forward and did a handspring, propelling both of her feet into the monster's chest. It went down immediately, and Sailor V set herself up to deliver the killing blow. Unfortunately, this one was quick. It threw another ball of fire at her, and Sailor V had barely enough time to dive away before she lost about a foot of hair. Even more unfortunately, she wasn't able to regain her footing before the monster threw itself at her, slamming her back into the wall. Sailor V swore brilliantly in Japanese, wondering exactly how purple that bruise was going to be in the morning.
"Would you mind moving away from it?" the man shouted at her.
Sailor V grunted and did her best to keep her opponent from ripping her throat out with its teeth. Then she landed another kick directly in its jaw, which sent it reeling away. "What are you going to do? Shove that in its eye?"
He frowned, and she couldn't believe his cheek. It was like she was inconveniencing him, trying to save his life. "Just trust me."
"Sure," Sailor V yelled, still grappling with the monster. "Trust the crazy guy with the stick. That's likely."
Of course, she didn't have much choice. The demon pulled its hand back, and Sailor V was lucky to realize what it was starting to do. She dropped down to the ground, more than a little pleased to hear the monster's howl of pain as its nails slammed into the wall. She somersaulted away before it could launch another attack. She had been intending to get rid of it once and for all with a well-placed Crescent Beam, but the mysterious stranger had other plans.
A ripple of raw power shot out of the stick the older man was holding. It surged through the air and impacted the monster. To Sailor V's shock and horror, it promptly exploded, flames shooting up several feet above its head. It screamed for half a second and then cut off all too quickly. The spell dissipated in a matter of seconds; there wasn't even ash left behind.
Sailor V's eyes widened, her mouth hanging open.
"Damn," the stranger muttered. "It occurs to me that I probably should have tried to preserve this one as well. Impedimenta may have kept it incapacitated for awhile. I confess I got a bit carried away in the moment. Unlike me, but there you are."
Sailor V just stared.
He had the decency to look embarrassed. "Sorry. I'm, err… Well, I'm a wizard. With a wand, not a stick."
"Uh-huh," she murmured.
"I must have given you a bit of a shock," he apologized. "It must be jarring to realize you're not the only one with magic."
Sailor V laughed. "Right. Bit of a shock."
"You're Sailor V, a magical girl from Japan, correct?"
"Yes… How do you know I'm from—"
"That was Japanese you were speaking, wasn't it?"
"Oh. Yeah. Guess it was."
"What do you mean 'preserve this one as well?'" she asked suspiciously.
He laughed sheepishly. "Shouldn't have said that. A… an associate of mine stole the body yesterday. The other one you killed."
She narrowed her eyes. "Why did he do that?"
He ran a hand through his hair. "I'm something of an expert on dark creatures in the wizarding world, but I haven't seen anything like this before. A few of us were concerned that someone was manufacturing these things illegally – creating a new breed."
She stared at him some more.
"Well, you must admit, they aren't natural."
"I… No, no they're not."
He shifted his weight. "Well, if that's all, I suppose I'll leave you to it."
"Yeah. Leave me to it."
She watched as he turned on his heel and began to walk off in another direction. A thousand and one questions were flying through Sailor V's head. Did he have anything to do with the Dark Kingdom? Did they know of him? Was the wizarding world – God, there was a wizarding world – somehow connected? In the end, she only managed the most rudimentary of them all, and she would undoubtedly kick herself for it later.
"What's your name?" she called out after him.
He stopped and looked over his shoulder. "My name's Remus. Remus Lupin."
And then he twisted and disappeared into thin air with a loud pop.-----
Remus stumbled a bit when he landed in his apartment. To begin with, he'd apparated with only having been to the place once, which was always a bit of an issue with him. Of course this issue was both minor and secondary to what he'd just seen.
Kingsley's descriptions had not done her justice. He'd only seen her fight for a few moments, but it was more than enough for him. He'd been caught so off guard that he hadn't even wanted to stay behind and see what, if anything, she knew. He hadn't been able to imagine that kind of power and capability. Her immature outfit and the title "magical girl" had made her seem like a harmless novelty. It hadn't occurred to him that she could be deadly. He hadn't expected to find her there, an avenging angel that destroyed with her dance. The way she had moved through the air, spun and kicked, it was inhuman. It hadn't seemed real, and yet he knew from his racing adrenaline and the wand still clutched in his hand, thrumming with the spell, that it had happened.
To think, all of that power stored up inside the body of a little girl. A little girl fighting against monsters and lecturing him like he was a school boy. She'd been positively glib with the – what had she called it – the youma, but when faced with a wizard, she'd been completely floored. He had feigned sympathy for this aspect of her plight, but in reality, it baffled him. How could she joke in the face of death and then have the blood drain from her face when help appeared?
None of it made sense, and absolutely none of it sat well with him.
He quickly strode over to the fire. Kingsley wasn't going to be pleased that there was no body to retrieve, but both the Auror and the Headmaster needed to hear about this development. Besides, the more Remus explained it, the more real it would seem.
And perhaps, the less it would bother him.-----
Sailor V swung into the window of the apartment she and Katarina shared. She let her transformation fall away in a shower of ribbons and flying crescents. Then she sat down on the floor as if there were weights in her knees.
She couldn't believe it. She simply couldn't believe it. Talking cats was one thing. Monsters were another. The idea of her being a superhero had been hard to swallow, but she'd done it. She'd even gotten to the point where it was practically normal.
But wizards and wands crossed a line.
Minako buried her face in her hands. It was worse that he'd been the one to kill the youma. She could have done it, but no, he'd had to step in where he wasn't wanted – where he shouldn't even be – and muck it all up. She was supposed to be London's savior. What did they need him for?
Minako groaned. "Oh, shut up. You're acting three." She frowned. "Then again, I liked being three. Three was a good age. Maybe I should act three."
But then what three-year-old shot lasers out of her hands?
Minako pressed the heels of her hands into her forehead. "Okay, Minako. Think. Might not be your strong suit, but Katarina-onee-sama's out, and you need answers. So think."
That guy – Remus – said he'd been skulking around because he thought the monsters had some connection to him and the other… wizards. He said they'd stolen a body, which must have been incredibly disgusting, and that they'd examined it. He hadn't said what they'd found. He hadn't said they'd found a connection, just that he thought there might be one.
Did that mean that her enemy, the so-called Dark Kingdom, were actually wizards? Did that mean Kunzite…
She paused, shuddering at the thought of his name. No, she'd never seen Kunzite with a wand. She assumed wizards needed wands or else maybe they wouldn't be wizards anymore. They'd be something else. They'd be little girls in skirts and heels kicking demons in the face on a Saturday night.
Minako banged her head against the wall with minimal force. "Shimatta," she repeated, closing her eyes. "Forget it. Just forget it. I'm going to bed."
After all, Katarina could wait until the morning. A good night's sleep was hard to get.-----
It had been nearly two weeks since Remus had seen the mysterious Sailor V.
As Remus had predicted, Kingsley had been extremely annoyed that Remus had not preserved the specimen. Kingsley hadn't exactly intimated this to him directly, but there had been a great deal of scowling and sighing. Ever since then, they had both been spending a fair amount of their time at that same alley with no results to speak of. There had been no sign of monsters, or magical girls, either in that part of town or anywhere else. It almost seemed to Remus that the meeting of two separate magical worlds had brought them both to a halt.
This, sadly, had not done much to support his hope that these creatures had nothing to do with the world of wizardry.
The autopsy of the original corpse had been more or less inconclusive. There were some features that were unlike anything Remus had seen before – green blood for example – but there were certain aspects of the creature's physiology that seemed to be an amalgamation of several dark creatures from his world. The esophagus and throat had greatly resembled that of a dragon, albeit smaller and with some modifications. And that was just the first on a very long list of similarities. He could have chalked it up to coincidence, but Kingsley, Remus, and Dumbledore all agreed that this was a time to err on the side of caution.
They all pretended like it had nothing to do with the Potters' son. Remus guessed it was for his sake. He was somewhat grateful, though he would never say.
Now it was the afternoon before the full moon and Remus was waiting for his final owl delivery of wolfsbane. He was amazed that Severus would entrust such a delicate potion to birds he had kindly referred to as "badgers with wings" in school (although to be honest, he had never been able to decide if that was a slur against owls or Hufflepuffs). He didn't dare to hope that Severus had mellowed over the past decade.
Remus chuckled. "That would have been a miracle the likes of which could impress Christ himself."
There was a pop and Remus froze, already reaching for his wand.
"Indulging in Christianity, Lupin? Funny, I would have thought you might combust stepping onto hallowed ground."
Remus turned, torn between the need to act pleasantly surprised and the way his teeth ground together. Wolfsbane or not, the moon always had an adverse effect on his temper, and this visitor knew that full well. Then again, he was probably counting on it. "Severus," Remus said as brightly as he could manage. "What a… pleasant surprise. Would you like some tea?"
As Remus had guessed, Severus Snape was little more than an aged version of the adolescent James and Sirius had taken such a dislike towards on their very first day at Hogwarts. His hair was still black and slick, perhaps not with grease anymore but cheap hair gel. His large nose hooked over an omnipresent sneer. He had lines now, especially around his frowning mouth and between his eyes. That was the price of too much reading and research, Remus knew from experience. And Severus still rolled his eyes in exactly the same way; it still looked just as petty.
"Please attempt not to suffocate me with your feigned pleasantries, Lupin. I am here to deliver your last dose of wolfsbane, not catch up on the good old days."
Remus carefully took the outstretched package. He did his best to keep smiling. "Why did you come yourself? Not that I mind, but—"
"The Weasley twins thought it would be funny to charm all of the owls in Hogwarts to tap dance on the ceiling," Severus supplied, his voice nearly dripping with acid. "The Owlry was in such a state that I decided this would be faster."
"Thank you," Remus said. He paused, wondering if he should bother, and then deciding he may as well. "I really am grateful, Severus. I know that… Well, I realize that there is a history, and I'm very thankful that you were able to put it aside and help me."
Severus's face did not seem to change at all, but his black eyes darkened like the gathering storm. "I did not do it for you. I did it because Albus Dumbledore asked me to."
Remus did his best to ignore the disappointment that lodged in his breast. "Right. Of course you did." He turned, expecting that to be the end of the conversation.
"I expected you would think that way," Severus hissed at his back. "You always did try to be so likeable. Little werewolf, so desperate for friends… Always trying to be so nice and grateful for everything given to him. Well, I don't like you, Lupin, and I never will, so don't bother—"
"All right," Remus interrupted sharply, more sharply than he would have sounded normally. "All right. I'm the big bad wolf, and you're… you. I haven't forgotten."
"But you've tried, haven't you? You've tried to forget that night."
Remus's flesh clenched over his muscles. It felt like there was howling come from his blood, echoing through his bones, and threatening to leap out his mouth. The wolf's presence was always there, but it was so much stronger the week before the transformation. Remus cracked his jaw, wishing that could release some of his growing tension.
"I haven't," Remus said softly. "I haven't forgotten, nor have I tried. There are some things that shouldn't be forgotten."
"Yes. There are."
Remus was beginning to feel as though he were being poisoned just by having Snape next to him. Normally, he might try, but between monsters, magical girls, and the wolf, he wasn't up to it. "I think perhaps you'd better go."
"He's there, you know," he whispered, slick and sinister. "Their son."
Remus's fingers dug into his palms. "Severus—"
"He looks just like his father," he spat. "Acts like him too. Breaking rules because he thinks he has the right, strutting about the castle as if he owned it, thinking he's so wonderful just because of his name."
The flesh of Remus's hands began to bruise.
"Arrogant," he barked. "Just like James Potter. And just like Black."
Finally, Remus turned around. He knew just how dangerous he was, and that he could look that way when he tried. Right now, he was trying very hard. "Do not say his name. Either of them."
"You think I don't have the right to say Potter's name," Severus said. "I remember. But why should Black's bother you so much?"
His fists shook. "Severus. Leave. Now."
"Do you still love him after all this time?"
No one lost his temper like Remus. James had rarely ever really been angry; most of his outbursts had just been for show. Sirius had always been angry, especially towards the end. They had all learned how to navigate his moods, how to ride out the storms and survive the darkness. Peter had always turned his anger inward, occasionally lashing out at innocent people he didn't know, whispering awful things behind their backs.
Remus's anger was pure animal – rage untempered by humanity because when Remus got angry, it wasn't really Remus anymore.
His nails slashed at his palms, splitting them open from end to end and spilling blood on to the berber carpets. He advanced on Severus, trying to yell and hurl as many insults as he could, but all he could manage was an inhuman growl. It rose from the depths of stomach and flew out through his gnashing teeth. He felt his body start to react, to subtly change with the flow of adrenaline. The moon wasn't out yet, but it was close, and these chemicals triggered a reaction it was familiar with. Remus did not doubt that he scarcely looked human anymore.
He backed Severus into a wall, and the potions professor gave no resistance. The sallow man somehow grew paler, so much so that he almost looked dead. His eyes widened so that Remus could see a ring of white around his eyes. But most of all, he could smell it. He could smell terror, and it filled his imagination with images of tearing Severus's skin with his teeth. He could almost taste it, like a sweet wine.
He hated it, but the wolf loved it. And the wolf was him, and he was the wolf.
He pushed his face into Severus's and raised one hand to the wall. He drug his nails – they may have been claws now – down the wall, carving out a death sentence next to the potion master's ear. "When I tell you to get out," Remus said, struggling to maintain a tenuous grip on his humanity, "get out."
Severus nodded, looking all the world like he had when Sirius used to shove him up against walls. And just like Sirius, Remus backed off, leaving Severus just enough room to squeeze past so that he could make his retreat. He inhaled one last time, taking in the scent of horror and fear and tender flesh. It did not go unnoticed.
"Monster," Severus spat from behind him, his voice shaking as if suppressing a sob.
Another pop, and the Slytherin was gone.
Remus hung his head and looked down at his hands. He watched as the tips flattened and rounded out, watched as the hair receded back into the skin. Watched as the wolf retreated into the man for just a few more hours.
"V is the loneliest Senshi that you'll ever meet…"
Sailor V let out what could only be described as an epic sigh. She leaned back on her palms, crossed and recrossed her legs on the edge of the building, and sighed again. She knew it was tedious and childish, but she couldn't help it. She was bored beyond her limits, and that made her practically insufferable. Or so her mother said.
It would have been fine if Katarina had come out with her that night like she'd promised. But, once again, she was called in to the office at the last minute for some top secret non-Sailor V related stuff she couldn't tell Minako about. It had happened almost every night since the night Minako had met the strange man with the stick.
Lupin. Remus Lupin. And he wasn't a strange man with a stick, but a wizard with a wand. The strange still seemed appropriate, though.
When Katarina had finally gotten home that night, Minako had told her about the encounter, and Katarina had been disturbed. She had promised to investigate the matter thoroughly with Interpol. If she had actually done so, Minako hadn't heard about it. Whenever Minako asked, she was on her way out the door or "too busy to talk about it at the moment, luv, I'll call you back." Some nights, Katarina was so busy she didn't even come home.
It would have been bearable if Alan hadn't been equally preoccupied. Actually, it would have been more than bearable; it would have been fantastic. It was so difficult to get one-on-one flirt time with the boy, but now he was too busy with school and family and a slew of other obligations and excuses Minako hadn't bothered to pay attention to. It all added up to one thing: her only friends in London were too busy to hang out with her or help her with what she considered to be pretty dire issues.
So she simply decided there was nothing better to do than go out on patrol. Every night. And though she was in pretty good shape, her legs weren't used to that much activity. They were currently so sore that she was considering just announcing her presence and signing a few autographs. At least the fanworship and adoration from the good people of London might have mimicked a real relationship.
Alan would have wanted to psychoanalyze her to death about that thought. Sailor V simply readjusted her mask.
"Maybe if he were around, I'd actually let him," she muttered, pouting. Then she grinned, giggling. "I'd let him do a few other things while he was at it."
She heard someone move behind her, and then felt someone touch her back. At first, when Sailor V felt the pressure on her back that followed that statement, she thought that Katarina had snuck up on her and was punishing her for being vulgar. However, when the pressure turned into a kick and she found herself plummeting several stories to the ground below, she quickly reevaluated that assumption.
She let out a very unheroic yell and turned end over end in the air almost three times before she managed to get her bearings. She straightened out one leg and threw her arms out to slow her fall. She landed with her usual grace, but her legs screeched in pain. She'd definitely overdone it, and now whoever had kicked her was going to make her pay for it.
When she saw who it was, she realized she was going to pay very, very dearly.
Remus wasn't always great with faces, but he knew sounds, and he knew smells. So when he heard the girlish scream on his block, he didn't for a second question the identity of the girl. He simply finished downing his potion and grabbed his wand. He didn't bother to check to the time or the horizon to see when the moon would rise. He knew he didn't have very long.
He flew open the window and almost choked on the stench. He smelled her, her adrenaline, and her fear. He knew the exact moment when it spiked far beyond what he had expected of her – perhaps even more than Snape facing down his doom in the shape of a very perturbed werewolf. But he also smelled something else. He actually paused before going out his window because it stunned him so much. He couldn't properly articulate it in the moment, and that infuriated him, but he couldn't deny his nose.
Something out there smelled like that dark light had felt.
He snarled and threw himself out the window and onto the fire escape. Just a week before, his joints might not have cooperated. But now he was more wolf than man, and frankly, the wolf was in much better shape. He flew down the metal steps as if he were simply falling through the air or zipping around on the latest model of broom. As soon as he was close enough to the street, he jumped and hit the ground running. One twitch of his nose let him know where the action was, and he didn't have any time to waste. Although, in hindsight, perhaps he could have spared a moment to alert Kingsley to the fact that the magical girl was abroad, but there was nothing to be done about that now.
He rounded the corner and skidded to a stop when he saw the situation. As he had expected, Sailor V was there, standing on the ground. Her stance spoke of defiance and confidence, but he knew that the truth hung beneath the surface. She was as terrified as a thirteen-year-old girl ought to be – perhaps more so considering that she knew who or what she faced.
That man literally hung in the air, standing upon it as if there were solid ground beneath his feet. From Remus's vantage point, the man seemed to be impossible tall, certainly over six feet by at least three inches. He also seemed to have been born out of grey – his uniform (for it could not be called an outfit or a costume) was grey, his eyes were grey, even his hair was grey. Although, when he turned his head, it glittered in the sunset, which made Remus tentatively amend that to silver. He was brimming with the assuredness Sailor V tried so hard to project, and his was genuine. When Remus smelled him, he could smell the arrogance, the rage, the complete lack of fear. Remus felt that if mercilessness had a scent, this man would reek of it.
Perhaps he already did. The wolf, so drenched in its bloodlust, knew a fellow killer when it saw one. This man had killed before, many times before. And if Remus was right, he excelled at it so much that it had become pleasure, like hunting for sport.
"Not like you to do the sneak attack, Kunzite," Sailor V taunted, her English getting a bit awkward in her distress. "Trying to get rid of me before you actually have to fight me?"
Remus expected the man to throw his head back and laugh, maniacal and overblown. But Kunzite, as he appeared to be called, proved to dislike the stereotype. He simply smiled down at his quarry with a kind of cold amusement that made Remus-the-man shiver and Remus-the-wolf howl with envy.
"Do not overestimate yourself, little girl," Kunzite spoke in a voice that sounded like midnight and the sharpening of a blade. Remus was surprised to find that he had an accent as well. He suspected there was something Asian in there, and he was affecting a British accent with his English, but there was something else that Remus couldn't identify. He wondered if there were any nations known for turning out impossibly pale killing machines.
"I'm not," she snapped, her jawline sharpening, "but you're underestimating me."
He chuckled quietly, and in Remus's opinion, that was far worse than the expected cackle. "If that were true, you would have heard me coming."
Something imperceptible to most people changed in Sailor V's stance. That particular jibe had hit home. And while most people couldn't see it, Remus could. And he knew Kunzite had as well.
"Maybe you're just not worth it to me anymore," she snapped, her tone about as convincing as Cornelius Fudge in the midst of a crisis.
Kunzite disappeared for a moment, which took Remus aback. He was used to apparating, but that wasn't what this man – if in fact he was a man – had just done. He had simply vanished, possibly in a flicker of the same dark light that had been plaguing this mission from the beginning. At first, he had thought it was a trick of his eyesight, but when he saw Kunzite promptly reappear mere inches away from Sailor V's face just seconds later, he was reassured. Remus knew for certain now that he had seen it, and that confirmed the suspicion lingering in his mind that this warrior (who surely must have been a commander) was connected to the monsters that had been appearing throughout London. Perhaps he was even the one who sent them to begin with.
To her credit, Sailor V did not reel back the moment the man who seemed equal parts myth and mountain appeared before her. She held her ground, muscles tightening and preparing to fight or to fly. Tension rose so thickly in the air that Remus felt it couldn't be cut even with a knife – he would have needed a stronger, sturdier, and boiling hot blade to slice through this hatred.
"I assure you, little girl," he hissed, his tone coming dangerously close to Voldemort's parseltongue, "I matter to you very much."
Remus swore that he saw Sailor V's cheeks color, but he scarcely had time to be certain before she flew into action. Quicker than he thought possible, her left leg swung around, her heel driving with intense force towards Kunzite's neck. Kunzite barely seemed to flinch before he caught it in his hand. Sailor V did not waste a moment, jumping up and propelling her right leg up between their bodies. This time it connected, her foot catching Kunzite in the chin. He reeled back, pushing her left leg away and allowing her to complete a perfect, graceful arc in the air. She landed without stumbling, blonde hair fanning out like rays from a saint's head in Christian devotion.
Kunzite wiped at his bloody chin, grey eyes almost twinkling. Remus couldn't be sure for the distance and his having only just seen the man, but he would have sworn that there was some pride in the enemy's eyes. For half a second, the relationship between them seemed more like pupil and teacher than hateful opponents. "Impressive. You're improving."
Sailor V grinned, her teeth glinting like a dagger in the dusk. "Just enough to kill you." She pushed her right arm through the air and shouted out a phrase he couldn't catch through her accent. A moment later, the golden light he had seen once before came shouting out of her outstretched finger. It moved to her adversary with alarming speed. Remus wondered if his spells could fly that fast.
Of course, he knew the answer to that. He couldn't, but James and Sirius had done.
Fast as it was, Kunzite was faster. He spun out of the way, and somehow he was good enough to even spare his cape from singeing. As he rotated out, he let loose a kind of boomerang of purple light, and once he righted himself fully, he threw two more.
Sailor V twirled out of the way of the first, but the second two seemed to follow her movements. She swore in her native tongue and leapt upwards. One sailed right by her, but the other sliced into her calf. It left behind a wound both bleeding and scorched, black smoke rising off the mottled flesh. She twisted in the air, clumsily for the first time and sank to the ground as if gravity had pulled her with extra force. She stumbled and crouched, covering the cut protectively, wincing in pain.
After that, Remus found he couldn't simply observe.-----
Following Kunzite's hit, Sailor V found herself distracted by the burning, bleeding pain coming off her leg. That was why she didn't notice the movement out of her peripheral vision and the flash of light. She only felt that something was wrong when the terribly obvious Latin shout cut through the air. Next thing she knew, Kunzite was reeling back, clutching his arm in pain.
Sailor V turned her neck, gaping when she saw the same dangerous librarian with the stick. "You!" she shouted, doubting she could pronounce his name with any accuracy.
He ignored her, glaring at Kunzite with surprising intensity. He held the wand perfectly steady in his outstretched hand, and for a moment, she believed he could do almost anything. "Does all your lot get off on torturing little girls, or is it just you?"
Grateful as she was for the assistance, she couldn't help but feel indignant. However, the feeling didn't last long. Kunzite turned to her and snarled, "I thought you preferred honorable combat."
She couldn't help but roll her eyes. "I prefer not dying."
He scowled, and as always, there was something in his eyes that made her more terrified than she thought possible. She could face down monsters with a wink and smile, but when it came to Kunzite, who wasn't really a man but who sure looked like one, she found her knees knocking. He was the one she had nightmares of. He was the one she couldn't kill.
"Then I see no reason to fight honorably," Kunzite hissed. He grasped the end of his cape with one hand and pulled it around himself with a quick flick of the wrist. He vanished into twisting shadow, but his exit left a dark pit hanging in the air, as if all matter were falling into darkness. She backed away from it, limping.
"What did he mean by that?" Remus asked, his voice alarmingly steady for having been so close to her deepest fear.
Sailor V sighed. "Look, I'm grateful for the rescue and all because I was not prepared to deal with him today, but you've just made things a lot worse."
"Odd. Didn't sound like a thank you."
"You don't understand," she groaned. "For a bad guy, he's got... this honor complex. I don't know, Onee-sama could explain it, but the point is, as long as he thought I was fighting his way, I survived. Now he knows I'm not willing to do that anymore. Which means he's not going to hold back."
Remus furrowed his brow. "You make it sound like he's more of a mentor than an enemy."
"He's mental," she clarified. "And I was just trying to stay alive." She paused, hearing chittering and rumbling coming out from the hole. She swallowed and moved even farther away. "If you leave me—"
"I won't," he promised, moving to stand beside her.
She nodded, staring into the void. "Good."
Then they came.-----
In his fury, Kunzite had sent a small battalion after them – ten monsters of varying shapes and sizes crawling, slithering, flying, leaping out of the hole and all of them clawing for her throat. Some could move rock and toss asphalt like tennis balls. Others could redirect water from the pipes to pummel and bruise. Others had arms like vines that choked. Still more had weapons the likes of which Remus had ever seen.
None of them smelled real.
His wolfish senses heightened, he could sense this now more than ever. There was a synthetic foulness about them that made his skin crawl and his jaws crack. They didn't belong. They weren't right. They had to be put down.
Both he and Sailor V fought back with ferocity that undoubtedly frightened any onlookers. She continued her dance with her deadly kicks and her flashes of light, while he stuck mostly to shouting various curses and hexes at his foes. The beast within him raged, lustful for blood and desiring to rip and tear. But Remus was still a man if only for a short while. He would not indulge his animal tendencies for as long as he could manage.
Some went down, but others kept coming. She tore them apart with crescent-shaped boomerangs sharp as knives; he blasted them apart and drowned them on dry land. They fought tirelessly, endlessly – but still, they would not fall.
And then, with just one left standing, Remus's stomach lurched.
He cried out, muscles jerking and bones beginning to strain. He couldn't maintain a grip on his wand anymore, much less remain standing. Agony raced through him, and all the while he had to be thankful just because it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
Although, he didn't doubt that Severus had skimped on the ingredients that helped dampen the pain.
"Remus!" Sailor V shouted, her accent mangling the syllables.
But that was a mistake he could live with. The mistake that might have killed him was the fact that the very last creature, that had focused its attention on her, now turned to him, sensing weakness. Its lipless mouth twisted into a cruel smile, and it began to advance. Remus flung out his arm, desperately grabbing for his wand. But just then, more pain shot through his joints, and he could not move.
In the blink of an eye, she was in front of him. He didn't know how she had moved that fast, nor could he guess as to how she was standing. Her style of fighting was physically exhausting, and she had been hit several times following Kunzite's attack. She flung out her arms in protection. He wondered if she didn't attack because she didn't have anything left.
"I am the protector of this city," she panted, exhausted, "and I will not let you hurt anyone else."
Its grin widened, baring teeth Remus felt looked far too much like his own soon would. "Then I will hurt you."
It pulled its arm back, flattening its hand rather than curling it into a fist. Remus gaped, knowing that the combined force of the blow and the sharp claws would easily drive its entire arm through her chest. And there she stood, completely ignorant and unafraid.
And all for him.
Remus growled. No longer feeling entirely human, he threw himself to his feet and leapt over her head. Ignoring her gasp, Remus grabbed the monster's wrist and twisted. The wolf's heart sang with the satisfying snap.
"You're not hurting her either," Remus said, his voice partially lost in a mixture of barks and snaps. Then he reached forward, took the creature's head between his hands, and snapped the neck clean.
With his first kill, he howled, loud and long. Severus may have made him a potion to dampen the hunger for the wolf, but apparently it wasn't perfect. In battle, the monster within would always hunger for blood under a pale moon.-----
She stared at the carnage in horror, knowing it was impossible. He couldn't possibly be that strong. She'd have put money on herself if she decided to arm wrestle with him, and her upper body strength was absolute rubbish. But she'd seen it, hadn't she? She'd seen him break bones with his bare hands.
And now she was listening to one of the most chilling sounds she'd ever heard. She trembled and she felt a cold seep deep into her marrow. She wondered if now she was going to have nightmares about this man, the one who had promised not to leave her when anyone else would have fled.
Suddenly, the howl cut off abruptly and Remus sank to his knees. Instinctively, she moved forward to catch his elbow, but she wasn't strong enough to hold him up. He looked at her briefly, and she swore there was something wrong with his eyes, but he looked away just as quickly. His head hung low.
"I'm sorry. The adrenaline… It makes it a bit crazy."
She swallowed, so very unsure of everything. "Makes what crazy exactly?"
He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. Listen, it's best if you just leave."
She wanted to. She couldn't deny that. He'd terrified her completely, and her legs had been twitching to run for a while now. But at the same time, he had helped her. He had saved her. She couldn't leave him like this.
"Do you live nearby?" she asked, hating herself a little.
With some difficulty, she helped Remus back to his apartment. They had to stop every few paces for him to double over in pain, and once, his nails – which were surprisingly sharp – sliced at her forearm and drew blood. They stumbled and they tripped, but eventually they made it. He fell into the apartment, hitting the floor with a desperately loud thump. Without thinking, she felt around for the light switch.
"No!" he barked, making her jump. He swallowed with some difficulty. "No. Really. You ought to leave."
She threw her hands out. "How can I when you're like this? Shouldn't you be in hospital?"
He shook his head. "No. It's fine."
"You have a very odd definition of fine," she mumbled, wrapping her hand around the doorknob.
"I just mean that I'm… used to it," he let out a shaking sigh. "Listen, this is progressing very quickly. It's part of who I am, and really, I don't need you to stay. I'd prefer it if you didn't."
She bit her lip. He said he didn't want her there. He said she ought to go. He seemed like the sort of man who was right more often than not, so she really ought to listen to him.
But then she wasn't the sort of girl who tended to listen.
She shut the door quietly. "You said you wouldn't leave me. So… I don't think I can leave you either."
He didn't say anything for a while. Occasionally, she heard some noises that she couldn't identify. She felt sick listening to them, and it took all of her willpower to keep her feet planted on the ground. She didn't want to hear them, but she wanted Remus away from them even more. It didn't seem right. And he'd said he was just used to it, which meant this was a common occurrence. She felt sorry for him, and she was glad for the dark that hid her pity.
Finally, he spoke again. "Don't turn on the light."
The noise continued for a few minutes more. Large snaps like knuckles cracking, only louder. Pulling and stretching and occasionally ripping. Tiny gasps of pain and occasionally shouts. Something horrible was happening out there in the dark. For the first time since she'd been a child, she felt afraid of it.
At long last, mercifully, the sounds stopped. She breathed a sigh of relief and slumped against the door. "Good. Feeling better then?"
Her mouth went dry. "Remus?" Nothing. "Remus, are you still with me? Remus?"
She felt something soft rub against her knee. She gave a yelp and leapt to the right, crashing into a lamp. In her haste to right herself, she wound up flipping the light. And that's when she saw it.
At first, she reasoned that it had to be a dog. A very big dog, but a dog nonetheless. But it didn't have a face like a dog. The snout was too pointed, and the paws didn't seem right. It was also the largest animal she had ever seen. It was nearly up to her shoulders, and although she was on the short side, she still found that alarming. Once the light clicked on, the animal whined and turned his head away, hiding his face with his paw.
She gasped when she saw a gash there, just where Remus had gotten one. Then she saw other wounds in the same places. Then she remembered the noises and the way his nails had barely grazed at her, yet she bled.
"It can't be…" she whispered. She moved forward slowly, holding her hand out as she would to approach a strange dog. The animal whined again, backing away. She shushed it gently. "Don't worry. It's all right. I promise. I won't run."
A few moments later, she rested her gloved hand on top of the animal's head. She scratched its ear a bit, and then gently turned its head. She gasped quietly when she saw its face, because although she had not known him for long, she could not mistake those eyes.
"Oh my… you're a henge. A shapeshifter." She shook her head. "I hadn't thought they were real…. Isn't that silly? Me not believing." She knelt down, slightly nervous that the animal towered over her, and yet confident that he wouldn't attack her. After all, he could have done that already. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She smiled at him sadly. "It's funny, I hadn't thought… But you're just like me aren't you?" She swallowed. "You're something you don't want to be."
He whined again and pushed his wet nose onto her shoulder. She supposed it was meant to be comforting.
"Don't worry," she said again. "I won't leave you."
He couldn't smile at her of course, but he wagged his tail. That was answer enough for her.-----
The next morning, Remus woke up sprawled awkwardly on the floor. He was naked, cold, and achey. He was also rather embarrassed to find Kingsley standing over him.
Remus moaned and fumbled for a blanket, modest to the core in spite of his school friend's efforts. "Shacklebolt, what are you doing here?"
Kingsley continued giving him that look Remus was becoming sure was permanently stapled to his face. That was the only explanation for the man's complete lack of expression. "I came here because I thought it would be the good and decent thing to do. Check up on a man after he's gone all beasty. I brought tea and scones. I brought soup. I even brought chocolate because Dumbledore told me you have a thing about it."
Remus stared up at him, utterly bemused as he wrapped the blanket around his middle. "Well… thank you, Kingsley, but that doesn't explain—"
"I am giving you this shameful look because there is a thirteen-year-old girl on your couch, Remus Lupin, and I do not approve."
In spite of the usual sore throat, Remus actually squawked and spun around. He was shocked to find that, yes, there actually was a girl on his couch. She was curled up in the fetal position on the couch underneath another blanket. Her voluminous blonde hair served as a pillow, and her pale lashes spread out over her cheek like mini-golden rays of sunshine. She was the sort of girl older men pretended not to look at askance on the tube and the sort of girl men panicked to find sleeping in their apartments, particularly when those panicked men were naked.
"Kingsley, I swear to you—"
"I do not approve," Kingsley reiterated.
Remus ran one hand through his hair, desperately clinging to the blanket with his other. "But I don't even know who she is! The only person who was here was—" He stopped abruptly, turning to the girl again. Blonde hair with a red bow and covered in bruises from head to foot. It had to be. "Sailor V."
"What about her?"
"That's her!" Remus insisted.
Kingsley continued glaring. "Remus Lupin, I also do not approve of you doing things with the magical girl."
"I did nothing," Remus maintained, feeling that this exercise was draining him even more than his usual post-morning did. "Look, this is what happened."
He spent the better part of the next hour explaining the whole mess to Kingsley. He had to keep stopping as the other man admonished him for not calling for back up, again, and for not even alerting him to the fact that there were bodies to be retrieved. Remus attempted to point out that he had been in the middle of a transformation at the time, but Kingsley did not seem to consider this a valid excuse. Finally, they got to the end of it, and if Remus was not mistaken, there was a tiny softening around his eyes.
"So that's the little girl who started this whole mess," Kingsley muttered darkly. He shook his head. "She's a child."
"We knew she was young."
Kingsley sniffed. "'S different seeing it."
Remus simply nodded. It wasn't a subject he cared to dwell on.
"I'm surprised she stayed with you," Kingsley remarked. "I've seen a transformation or two in my time at the Aurors – Fenrir's old lot. Not pleasant. I wouldn't have been able to handle it at her age."
"She tore one of those monsters into tiny pieces yesterday," Remus murmured grimly. "I suspect there's very little she can't handle."
"Your naked arse," Kingsley informed him. "Put something on before she wakes up."
Kingsley glanced down at the girl's prone form. His mouth twitched. "I don't care if she is a superhero. Thirteen-year-old girls are still thirteen-year-old girls. And they are annoying as hell." He waved and turned to go. "Good day, Lupin."
Remus tried to wave back, but Kingsley was already gone by the time he raised his arm.-----
Minako woke up to the smell of tea. She wasn't really a tea person – at least not the way the British took it. She much preferred jasmine or green to black and Earl Grey. But she did appreciate that tiny bridge between their cultures, and she cherished it despite the differences.
She sat up slowly, working the kinks out of her back. She felt confused by her surroundings for a brief moment, but she remembered soon enough when her fingertips brushed against her many bruises. Kunzite. The battle. Remus. The shapeshifter. And the fact that she'd spent the night at a man's apartment.
"Not exactly what I had in mind," she muttered, rotating her shoulder.
"You're up then, I see," a voice called out.
Minako hopped to her feet and turned to see Remus standing in what she thought was a cute if frightfully small kitchen. However, she quickly lost interest in the scenery when she saw him. He looked much older than he had just hours before. The lines on his face looked more pronounced and his flesh had a grey tinge to it. Dark circles hung under his eyes like bruises.
"You look awful," she said tactlessly.
He smiled, but she wished he hadn't. It seemed to take a great deal of effort to even do that much. "Direct and to the point."
Minako combed through her hair, feeling self conscious. She began to move forward, wincing, still finding it odd that she didn't have to take off her shoes indoors. She felt ridiculously awkward and out of place. She had no way of knowing how to begin.
Thankfully, Remus pushed right through the tension and carried on in a way that made him seem endlessly British. "Right then. I'm sorry if I... scared you last night. I know it's not pleasant."
"Not really, no," Minako admitted quietly. "I'm glad you told me to keep the lights off. I don't think I would have wanted to see that."
Remus nodded in agreement. "I guarantee that you wouldn't."
Minako continued moving forward, smoothing out the wrinkles in her clothes as she went. "So have you always been a henge or is there some sort of curse that someone… like you put on you? Or is everyone from your world like that?" He gave her a look that suggested she'd said something wrong. That's usually what happened when people gave her any sort of look after she asked a question. "Not that you have to answer—"
"No, it's all right," he insisted. "It's just most people prefer not to know from where I come from. It's too dark. They don't like looking in the shadows." He continued rifling through tea boxes and said, "You keep calling me henge. Is that what you call werewolves were you come from?"
Minako raised her eyebrows. "Not exactly…. It's sort of a generic term for shapeshifter. I don't think I've ever heard of a person becoming a wolf. A fox, yes, but not a wolf."
"Then I must have been a shock," Remus sighed. "Anyway, no, I wasn't born like this. There was a… man, I suppose you could call him. His name is Fenrir. He's known for purposefully turning people into werewolves – the disease is transmitted through the bite. He especially likes turning children. That's how he got me."
"That does rather sum it up," Remus concurred. "Now then, this isn't much of a fun subject, so I'll change it to something slightly less depressing. We seem to run into each other quite a bit, don't we?"
"Yeah," Minako muttered, straightening her bow. "We do."
"It seems to me," Remus said, waving his wand in the general direction of the teapot, "that we ought to focus on helping each other rather than acting independently. Don't you agree?"
She might have agreed with him if she hadn't been so distracted by the fact that the tea was pouring itself.
Remus followed her gaze and then sighed. "I'm sorry. I know this is very… stressful for you. I've grown up with this. You've only just been introduced."
She shook her head, awed. "It's absolutely amazing. To think, all this time, there's been another society living amongst us, and we never even knew it."
"That was my approximate reaction to learning about magical girls."
She wrinkled her nose. "I'm not fond of that term."
"Can't imagine why," Remus joked. "My point is, I don't think we're helping each other very much by running about hoping we'll meet one another eventually. Or at any rate, with me hoping I'll run into you."
She flashed him a smile she usually reserved for Alan and leaned forward on the counter. "Really?" She fluttered her lashes, deciding that she would poke a bruise if he made a comment about having something in her eye.
He stared at her for a moment and muttered something about a king with shackles. If she'd known him better, she would have some comment about being kinky, but the early morning and her pain were doing a good job of censoring her. Apparently, Katarina's threats to beat her when she mouthed off were sound after all.
"Because you know what's going on," he clarified. "Or at least better than I do."
"Oh," she pouted. "Sure that's all?"
"Yes," he said firmly.
She rolled her eyes and tossed her hair over her shoulder. She reached for the proffered tea and then began dumping sugar in it to her taste. "Well, all right then." After the fifth scoop, she was satisfied and began to stir, ignoring his quirked eyebrow. "What do you want to know?"
He paused. "You mean, you'll help me? Just like that?"
She shrugged. "I don't see why not. I mean, sure you're a wizard who carries a stick around and turns into a big fuzzy werewolf, but you've saved my butt a couple times now. Seems like I owe you." She took a sip and then practically choked when she had an absolutely fantastic idea. "Fuzz Butt!"
"I was trying to think of a nickname for you. Your name's really hard to say with all the r's and l's, and Fuzz Butt is perfect! 'Cause you get all fuzzy."
Remus looked as though he were in pain again. "Why do I constantly associate with people who insist on nicknaming me?"
"What's the matter, Fuzz Butt?"
He looked up at her through his lashes. "You know, while you're off nicknaming me, I don't even know your proper name. It doesn't feel right calling you Sailor V without the mask."
Minako reached up and touched her face, surprised to find that it wasn't there. She'd known she wasn't transformed anymore, but lately she'd felt as though she could sense the weight of the mask even in its absence.
"Minako," she said, pushing her hair behind her ear. "Aino Minako."
Remus nodded. "All right then." He took a very long sip of his tea. "Couldn't you just call me Moony?"
"I really prefer Fuzz Butt."
For the next several weeks, Minako and Remus did far more than run into one another on occasion – they practically lived together.
Remus did not mention this to Kingsley.
Upon witnessing Remus's transformation, Minako had felt a sort of kindred spirit with him. As such, she'd begun hanging around his apartment on a daily basis. They discussed business as he thought of it plenty, and it was surprising to see how sharp she could be in those moments. She told him all she knew of the Dark Kingdom, and he related what information about his world he felt he could. He tended to stick with instructing her about dark creatures, deciding it would be relevant to her without divulging too much to an outsider.
However, there were plenty of occasions when she did not talk about business at all. He now knew far more about fashion, Japanese idols, and the injustices of the Muggle school system than he had ever wanted to know. And unfortunately, he also had to hear about boys.
"Fuzz Butt," she began, ignoring the face he made whenever she used the nickname. "Would you be terribly jealous if I were to talk to you about Alan?"
Remus counted to ten before answering. "I can assure you that there is no need to worry about that."
"…Not even a little bit?" She sounded disappointed.
She sighed but pressed on valiantly. "Well, he's this boy I met when I first got to London. I was friends with his sister at first actually, but she turned out to be the biggest brat in the history of brats, so we don't talk anymore. Anyway, he's always been really nice to me. He would walk me home when I stayed over too late and he talks to me about poetry and your very strange British television shoes about doctors without names and I like it. I even don't mind the fact that he knows about the whole Sailor V thing. We were out one night, you see, and I had to transform and save us or else get skewered. Literally skewered – that thing had these really thin metal arms. It was completely disturbing.
"Anyway, I reallyreallyreallyreallyREALLYreally like him, but he's perfectly oblivious. I don't see how because I have pulled out every trick in the book – do not make that face, Fuzzy, I'm warning you – but he still doesn't notice. And lately I haven't even gotten a chance to work on him because both he and Katarina have been out all the time."
Remus paused. "Really?"
"Yeah," she sighed, swinging her feet off the end of the couch. She was just a few inches too short for it, long as her legs already were. "They keep saying they're busy. Katarina has to work, Alan has a study group, Katarina's got to do extra paperwork, Alan has to write a paper, blah blah bloody blah…. It's endlessly frustrating. They're the only real family I've got here, you know." She paused, flushing. "What I mean is, aside from you. Katarina's my older sister, Alan is my future husband, and you're… like the not-quite uncle that I can flirt with because we're not actually related."
Remus rubbed his temples. "Minako, has it ever occurred to you that they might be out together?"
She blinked. "Well, that's silly. Why wouldn't they invite me?"
Remus supposed he could have told her. It might have been the right thing to do, but in all likelihood, it would upset her. It didn't matter who she was upset with – him, Alan, or Katarina. The point was she'd be angry and she'd leave. He hated to admit it, but he did enjoy her company. She reminded him of what it was like to be young and happy. She reminded him of James with her optimism, Lily with her determination, and Peter with her vulnerability.
She reminded him of Sirius a little bit too, but he tried not to think about that. He didn't want to sour things with thoughts of a traitor.
"Why don't you talk to them about it?" Remus asked. "Since I don't exactly know them, I can't really judge."
She sighed, "I suppose you're right." She paused and said, "Didn't you tell me about some sort of creature with metal arms the other day?"
He smiled, feeling a little bit like a proud not- uncle. "Yes. Yes, I did."-----
She didn't see Remus for several days after that conversation. She'd gone home and confronted Katarina like he'd suggested. Her big sister had been sorry for everything – even a bit guilty, though Minako couldn't see why. She'd immediately suggested an outing with Alan. They went to a little carnival near their apartment where they'd ridden the carousel and the Ferris wheel, and Alan had won her an obnoxiously-colored stuffed animal they assumed was a platypus. She slept with it every night after that.
She had intended to go back and see him the day after that. After all, he still wasn't feeling well, and she didn't like the idea of him being by himself. She had been about to go out when Katarina stopped her.
"Minako, we've just got a break on that smuggler we've been tracking," Katarina informed her, breezing out of her apartment in her Interpol blues. "Unfortunately, everyone else on the case has gotten spread around to other things and they can't come with me. Mind tagging along?"
Alan made a face from the couch. "That's not really her thing, is it?"
Minako shrugged. "I don't mind."
"See? She doesn't mind," Katarina said, pinning the hat to her head. "Besides, the girl faces down demons every other day. And there was that wizard a few weeks ago, right, Minako?"
Her cheeks turned pink. After the initial sighting, Minako hadn't bothered to tell them any more about Remus. She supposed it wasn't exactly the right thing to do, but it certainly felt right. Remus felt so alien to everything else in Alan and Katarina's world. It didn't seem as though he had a place in it. Introducing the three of them didn't seem normal to her.
Not to mention, she didn't think she had the energy to flirt with two men at once.
"Yeah," Minako muttered, reaching in her pocket for her transformation compact. "Anyway, it's all right, Alan. No need to worry about me. I shoot lasers out of my hands for heaven's sake. What could happen?"
Alan sighed. "I suppose you're right." He turned to Katarina. "Where is he supposed to be anyway?"
"The warehouse district."-----
It was a stroke of luck that Remus had been watching the telly that night. Luckily, it hadn't mattered what channel. The story of the warehouse that went up in flames had been everywhere. At first, he'd been perplexed as to why.
Then he'd heard her name.
He apparated to the location immediately, nearly splinching himself in his haste to get to her in time. He inhaled smoke and ash, nearly choking on the fumes. Still, he concentrated for long enough to smell the other traces under the smoke. Blood, flesh, burnt hair.
Someone had died this night.
His joints and muscles did not want to cooperate with what he had to do, but he didn't care. He ran around the buildings, eyes darting at every corner and alley. He searched for the shock of blonde hair or the blue skirt. He searched for any sign of her, desperate to find her.
He couldn't lose someone again. Not now. Not like this.
Finally, he saw the sign he'd been looking for. A red mask fluttering in the breeze just outside an alley he hadn't checked. He scooped it up and ran forward, nearly bursting with relief when he saw her, crumbled against the wall. She was wounded and badly, but she was crying and very much alive.
Propriety and all other worries aside, Remus fell to his knees beside her and gathered her into his arms. "Oh, thank God," he whispered. "Thank God you're all right."
She simply sobbed into his chest, clinging to him like a baby scared by a nightmare. In a way, he supposed she was, only she couldn't afford to be a baby, and this was a nightmare she couldn't wake from. He held on to her tighter, wishing he had been there always so that he could have protected her from this.
"You're safe now," he told her fiercely. "You're all right."
She whimpered something he didn't understand.
"What's that?" he asked, pushing her away just enough so that he could see her face.
Her pale skin was covered in a thick layer of soot and ash. Blood trickled down from a wound on her scalp, and her lip had split open. A massive bruise bloomed on her cheek. Her hair was singed at the ends. She'd almost died, but this is what she told him when he asked.
"He doesn't love me," she sobbed. "Alan, he… He doesn't love me."
Remus would have throttled her if he wasn't so grateful she was alive. He stroked her hair and said, "I know, Minako. I know, and I'm sorry. I really am sorry."
For so long she'd seemed strong, and it shocked him to see her crumble over this. And it reminded him just how young she really was.
The whole thing made him sick.
"Come on," he murmured, hooking his arm under her knees and lifting her up as gently as possible. "I'll heal you just like I did before. It'll be all right."
But it wouldn't, not really. He half-expected her to ask, but thankfully she was crying too much to speak anymore. The fact of the matter was that though he could heal every one of her wounds, he couldn't fix a broken heart.-----
Minako had absolutely no concept of how long she slept. She was vaguely aware of being woken up periodically by Remus muttering spells over her or Remus tipping soup and water into her mouth. Occasionally, she thought she saw another man there – a darker man lurking in the corners, looking stern, but he never came near. She wondered if he was even really there. She wondered if maybe he was Death. Or perhaps there was a god for unrequited love she didn't know about.
Any time she thought about Alan, she let out a sob and fell into dreaming again. When she dreamed, she could pretend nothing had happened. It was better that way.
Finally though, Minako found she couldn't sleep anymore. She forced herself to sit up one day and found Remus sitting beside her, his chin cupped in his hands.
"I'm sorry," was the first thing she said. Her voice sounded gravelly from the fire, but she didn't think it hurt very much. "I must have worried you."
Remus shut his eyes and murmured, "What were you even doing there?"
Minako pulled her knees to her chest, hugging them to her. "Katarina asked me, so I went. Nothing was supposed to happen." She shut her eyes, pain filling her chest like air in her lungs. "You must think I'm the biggest idiot."
"No," Remus said, his voice sharp. "No, but I'm not too fond of Katarina at the moment. You had no business being there."
Minako sighed. "That doesn't matter. Besides, I've been in worse—"
"Yes, and you've been in those situations because you had no choice!" Remus shouted, startling her. She didn't think she could have possibly been asleep long enough for it to be close to the full moon again, and that could mean only one thing. Remus was genuinely angry. She found that frightening. "She asked you to go with her. She forced you to make a choice, and it nearly killed you!"
"Don't do that," Minako murmured, her voice beginning to shake. "Don't talk about me like I'm a little girl."
"But you are one," he insisted. "You're only—"
"Thirteen?" she asked, choking back a sob. "Thirteen? How is that even possible? How could I be that young? I don't feel that young, Remus. I feel older than anyone I've ever met."
He bent down again and held her by her shoulders. "But you're not, Minako. And you shouldn't have—"
"That doesn't matter," she interrupted, fully crying now. Tears were coming down her cheeks and her nose ran sloppily, but she didn't care. This was the way little girls were supposed to cry, and if that's what he really wanted her to be, that's what he was getting. "I think you're really as old as you feel. And I feel… ancient. I feel like everything I've ever killed has added on ten years to my life.
"I'm a murderer, Remus. Little girls don't do that. Little girls don't have magic. They don't know where to aim for the fastest kill. They've never seen something decapitated or dismembered. They don't know what it's like to hear someone's neck snapped, but I do. If I know all these things, then how can I still be a girl? How?"
She shook her head, shoulders hitching painfully. "I want to be that age again. I really do. Maybe if I were normal like… like Katarina… maybe then he'd—"
"Minako," he whispered. "Please don't do this to yourself. Believe me, I've… I've been there, and there's no point in it."
"No. No, it's not the same."
He looked at her for a long time before he spoke. She didn't like him not talking, because then all she had to listen to was the sound of herself crying. She desperately longed for a distraction, and all he could do was stare.
"I have loved twice in my life," he murmured. "The first was a girl named Lily. She was… amazing. She was full of energy, and she always ran about telling everyone what to do. Bossy, they called her, but I thought she was just trying to help people in her own way. She had the fiercest temper of any woman I've ever known, but she was always so righteous. And so right. And she was kind too. It sounds silly and insincere, but it's true. She was a kind person, and a wonderful friend. And I loved her.
"But I had another friend, James, who loved her first. I think maybe from the first time he saw her. He always liked playing tricks on people, but he paid her more attention than the other girls from the start. At first I thought it would never happen, but one day, Lily turned around and she loved him too. They got married and they had a son." He paused, swallowing. "His name is Harry."
Minako hated looking at his face in those moments. He'd always been guarded with her, feigning pleasantness and putting up with her ridiculous monologues. But now he was sharing his pain with her. It was a small comfort, knowing she was not alone. "Didn't they care about you?"
"They didn't know," Remus said with a soft smile. "I never told James. I was afraid he'd make fun of me, and Lily… Well, I suspect she saw me more as a brother. We were very good friends. That's all."
"Do you see them now?" Minako asked, sniffling.
Remus's face seemed to collapse. "No. They died."
Minako looked away from him, feeling his pain as though it were somehow physically shared. "I'm sorry." Hoping to distract him, she said, "What about the other one? You said you loved twice."
"That's the irony of it all," Remus said in an odd tone. "He killed them."
Minako's hand flew to her mouth. "Remus, I… Now I know you think I'm an idiot." She buried her face in her hands, wanting to fold up until he couldn't see her anymore. "I wish there was something I could say, but… I really am so sorry, and I know I can't compare, but it just hurts so much. Not just because he loves her instead of me. I want them to be happy more than anything else, but I…."
She didn't want to, but she started crying again. She hadn't cried since she'd moved in with Katarina, and now she couldn't seem to stop. "I want to be normal so badly. I thought when I first got these powers, it would be so glamorous, but it's not. There's always blood and violence and I go to bed every night wondering what's going to try and kill me the next day, and I don't think I can take it. I just want to be a girl who can have a boyfriend and talk about music and clothes, and it isn't fair! It isn't fair!"
She started to dig her nails into her forehead, but Remus quickly pried them away. Then he folded her in his arms again and whispered, "I know it isn't fair. I know."
Minako cried for hours in his arms, hating the world for what it had done to her. She hated the world for taking Alan away from her. She hated the world for making her special so that she couldn't have him. And she hated the world for making Remus understand.-----
It took a long time for Minako to recover, both physically and emotionally. Remus had learned healing spells to help Peter, James, and Sirius years before, but he had not had to use them since then. After all, he always healed himself much faster than most people and pain did not bother him. His skill at healing her physical wounds was rudimentary at best. As for the emotional pain, there was little he could do but listen and let her cry.
One morning, he caught her hanging up the phone. However, the most important aspect of this discovery was that she was dressed, showered, and out of bed. He took it to mean progress had been made.
"You look almost like you're ready to return to the living," he remarked.
"I don't feel it yet," she confessed. She turned, her hands splayed out across her bare knees. "I don't think I ever really thanked you. If you hadn't found me, I don't know what would have happened. I mean, I guess someone else would have, but I'm glad it was you."
He smiled warmly. "You never have to thank me for that, Minako."
"But I want to," she said. She licked her lips and said, "This might sound odd, but… I assume you haven't told Alan and Katarina about me."
He shook his head, feeling a bit guilty. "No, I didn't. At first, I was too busy with you, and then I didn't know how to go about it once you'd been declared dead. I thought it might be better coming from you, especially since you weren't up to seeing them."
Minako nodded. "I'm glad you did that."
"I thought it was best."
"I'm leaving for Japan this afternoon."
Remus felt his stomach drop out beneath him. That announcement was surprising enough, but she'd given him no warning. He felt a little hurt, but he quickly stashed it away. It would be silly to burden her with his childish needs right now. "I see."
"I was contacted by my… partner," Minako explained. "He says the monster sightings have moved. They aren't in London anymore. They're back in Japan. Tokyo."
Remus furrowed his brow. "But why would they do that?"
Minako sighed and shrugged. "No idea. Our best guess is that there are other girls like me and that their energy is attracting them. Or maybe there's something else in Tokyo they need. Of course, then that leaves us puzzled as to why they came here, because I didn't come until after they showed up." She stopped, shaking her head. "I'm rambling. The point is I'm not needed here anymore. I'm needed there." She paused. "And I can't stay where Alan and Katarina are."
Remus frowned. "They'll want answers."
"Not if they think I'm dead," she said gravely.
That was the limit of what he could take. "Minako, no. You can't do that to them. I know you're upset with them, but that's not right."
"I'm not angry with them," she said lightly. "Really, I'm not. I just think it would be easier for everyone if I went away."
"Easier for you."
Minako sighed and plastered on a hideously fake smile. "It's my birthday in a few days."
The way she changed topics made him violently dizzy. "What has that got to do with anything?"
"Just give me this one thing," Minako asked, still smiling. "Don't tell them. With the monsters gone, you have no reason to stay in London and no reason to ever find them. If you don't see them, you won't feel guilty."
"How nice of you to reason it all out for me," he remarked.
Minako folded her hands together, rising from her seat. "Remus, I knew you wouldn't agree. I knew you'd think it was running away. But I have spent the past year of my life fighting. Going up against Alan and Katarina would be just the same. It's better if I'm not around. I want them to be happy, I really do, and if I'm here… even if I don't mean do, I'll do something that will ruin it. Do you understand?"
His shoulders drooped. "I… I'm not really in a position to lecture you on this. I haven't stood my ground in a number of years. So I'll stop lecturing you, but I will say this: I regret running."
Minako paused and then nodded. "Maybe I'll regret it some day too. But right now, I… couldn't bear it."
Remus nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I'm going to miss you. You do realize that?"
Minako nodded in turn, biting her lip. "I'm going to miss you too."
Remus paused and then said, "There's something I've always wanted to ask you."
"The moon you wear on your forehead. What does it mean?"
Minako wrinkled her brow, mulling over the question. Then she shrugged and said, "I don't know. I suppose it has something to do with whatever waits for me in Tokyo." She grinned mischievously and added, "Maybe it was all for your benefit. Maybe the moon just wanted you to stop hating her."
Remus chuckled and said, "Maybe so."
Minako quickly ran forward, throwing her arms around his waist. The wind was knocked out of him so thoroughly that it took him a moment to force his arms to work properly and hug her back. She felt so very small there.
"I'll never forget you," she said, her voice shaking.
Remus felt his eyes begin to burn, but he swallowed and pressed on. "I don't think I'd forget you if they lobotomized me."
She laughed even though he doubted she was able to translate all that. She gave him an extra squeeze and said, "You know, I can't decide if I'd rather you were my father or my boyfriend. Obviously not both at the same time, but—"
"Let's stick with the uncle that's not really an uncle."
She pulled away, smiling through tears. "All right." She moved away from him, heading for the door. She had entered his life in a whirlwind and now she was going to flow out of it like the tides. He almost wanted to stop her, ask her to stay in touch, but he sensed that it wouldn't be possible. She was going to be busy saving the world. He was going to be busy trying not to starve. Perhaps their paths would cross again, but he was sure they would never meet the same way again.
"See ya later, Fuzz Butt!" she called out before slamming the door.
He stood there, dumbfounded for a few seconds and then laughed, full-bodied and long.
"Maybe I will," he whispered in her wake. "Little Moon Girl."-----
The crowd at Quidditch games were always uproarious to say the least, but Remus couldn't remember them ever being so insane in his boyhood. Then again, he'd spent most of Quidditch games reading, only looking up when Peter (or Sirius, when he wasn't suspended) had elbowed him or shouted about something amazing he simply had to see.
Now Remus watched the game with his full attention on one key player, circling high above the arena. It was, for the most part, the least exciting aspect of the game. But it was all he cared for.
"I didn't think I would see you here today, Remus," a voice mused cheerily from behind him. Remus turned to see Dumbledore standing there, blue eyes twinkling in that omniscient way he had. "Kingsley did tell me that you left rather abruptly, but I hadn't thought you'd come here. You didn't need to report to me in person."
"I know, Headmaster. I just… Well, I wanted—"
"To see the grounds no doubt," Dumbledore interrupted smoothly. "I don't blame you. Lovely autumn we're having. I'll be sad to see it gone come winter."
Remus smiled, relieved. "As will I."
Dumbledore came to stand beside him, hands clasped behind his back. "Kingsley told me about what happened with… dear me, what was her name… Minako, wasn't it? Yes, he said she went back to Tokyo and that she assured you that the monsters were gone."
Remus nodded. "Yes. None appeared after her supposed death, and none have been back since."
"Remarkable," Dumbledore commented. "A pity we didn't find out more about those creatures. But then I suppose they aren't in our jurisdiction, are they?"
"No, not really."
"Japanese government is having something of a headache now though," Dumbledore confided. "They haven't had any sightings in awhile, but they're on the edge of their seats, waiting."
Dumbledore rocked back and forth on his heels and then said, "Well, I'll let you get back to looking at the scenery in peace. Wouldn't want a doddering old fool like me to spoil the view."
"Not at all, Headmaster," Remus said, smiling.
Dumbledore returned a whiskery grin. "You're very kind." He glanced up. "Lovely cloud formations too."
"Yes," Remus agreed, casting his eyes upwards. He found Harry immediately, circling in crimson and gold. "Yes, they are."
Dumbledore left him then, allowing him to watch in unobserved silence. His eyes never left Harry throughout the rest of the game, and he watched the boy with pride and affection. He thought of how James and Lily had doted on Harry as a child. He thought of how Peter had been scared to hold Harry for fear of breaking the tiny bones. He even thought of Sirius and how good of a godfather the man had been until that fateful October night. Most of all, he thought of Harry, who didn't remember him, but who seemed like some sort of not-quite nephew.
"To go with my not-quite niece of course," he chuckled, leaning against the support beam of the stands as Harry dove for the snitch.