Jane leaned toward the window, drinking in the scent of autumn leaves and pine. The woods of Anagach smelled so much lovelier than the stuffy air inside Grandmother's cottage—Jane's prison now that Mum and Dad were gone.
Werewolves were a danger. That's why Jane had to stay in the house or in the back garden, and why she wouldn't receive a letter from Hogwarts when she turned eleven next May. She wasn't the same girl who went on a family camping trip and woke up in hospital, alone and scarred. She was a monster, Grandmother said.
A cursed soul.
Jane closed her eyes and listened to the tchrring of a red squirrel. She didn't feel cursed. Her eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell were keener, and except for the day after the full moon, her body felt stronger. She could do chores all day and not grow tired. Grandmother could jab and strike her with a metal-tipped cane, and she wouldn't cry.
The doorbell's ring sent a thrill down her spine. Jane shouted, "I'll answer it!" as she raced downstairs. If she hurried, perhaps she could chat with the visitor for a minute or two.
"Hello," she said to the brown-robed wizard on the step.
A grin creased the man's broad face. "What a pretty smile you have. The better to greet your guests, my dear?"
Jane stared. He had pointed teeth!
"Who's there?" Grandmother shuffled into the entry, the rap of her cane as sharp as her tone.
"Agent Grey, Werewolf Support Services, ma'am," the wizard said. "I have a few questions."
The hard tip of Grandmother's cane dug into Jane's back.
"Let him in before the neighbours hear, stupid girl!"
Jane moved aside, face burning.
Grandmother said, "Ask your questions and leave. I have to get this one down to the cellar."
"Of course you do." Agent Grey turned to Jane. "According to our records, you've spent three full moons chained up like a dog. Looking forward to another one?"
He was so tall it made her neck ache to hold his gaze. His eyes were yellow like those of an animal. "No," she said, mesmerised into honesty.
"Hateful child," Grandmother spat.
Jane's legs buckled from the clout. She gasped when, in a blur of motion, Agent Grey steadied her, grabbed the cane, and struck her grandmother down with a single blow to the neck.
"What a mean old witch." He tossed the cane onto the crumpled body. "My name is Fenrir Greyback, and you have a decision to make," he said. "Stay here—and whether Granny lives or dies you'll be locked away for the rest of your life. Or come with me."
Jane knew she should scream. Cry for help. She bit her lip. "Where?"
"To a place that welcomes our kind."
Our kind. "Boys and girls too?" She missed having friends.
"Yes. I like kids." Fenrir took Jane's hand, and she allowed him to lead her out the back door, to the edge of the woods beyond the garden fence. "The moon's calling." He grinned and ruffled her hair. "Time to run." He headed into the woods.
Jane followed, running until her side ached and her lungs burned. She ran until she fell to the mossy ground, writhing and screaming.
Transformed, she rose, joyously free.
Into the woods, it's time to go . . . . Originally, this story was inspired by the drabble prompt "See Jane Run" and the idea that not all grannies deserve a basket of goodies, and that Fenrir might actually have liked kids in a non-pedo way. After I saw the film Into the Woods, Red Riding Hood's lyrics fit this story: Into the woods, it's time and so, I must begin my journey.