A/N: Surprise! Another chapter in less than two weeks!
The full crowd moved to places near the roaring bonfire. Even though they were towards the back of the crowd, the werewolves parted without a word to allow Harry and Remus to pass to the front. They watched as the two Marauders passed and then closed ranks behind them.
On reaching the front, Harry saw five men and four women standing there in a slightly curved arc with their backs to the fire. From the left, Harry recognized Dyfed and Marisol. Next to them was Ian with an attractive strawberry blonde woman Harry hadn't met. He assumed she was the Alpha female of his pack and probably Colleen's mother. However, unlike the teen she-wolf this woman had a very placid, almost regal, expression. Next were two pairs of couples that it was safe to say were the Pack leaders of two of the remaining Packs.
One couple wore biker leathers that bore a patch indicated they were members of the "Brotherhood". Remus had mentioned the core of the biker club consisted entirely of Muggles and Muggleborn werewolves and maintained close ties with both the mundane and magical criminal worlds in the London area. The only way to typically enter their Pack was to be a normal member of the club and impress them with your loyalty, ruthlessness, and commitment to the club. When an opening in the Pack occurred, the Pack would invite their top candidates out for a moonlit ride. The survivor joined the Pack. Occasionally, a werewolf with valuable skills to the Pack would be admitted, but that was rare. The Brotherhood was often competitors in the criminal world to the Greybacks but also allies against the moderate beliefs of Ian and Dyfed. The male was known as 'Mac' with little else known about him before joining the club. The woman (who was actually scarier looking in her leathers, tattoos, and piercings) was called Queenie but Remus said she was really Shelia Brown and had been an Auror before being turned during the war. As a former Auror, she was one of the few ever admitted directly into the Pack without having to prove themselves in the club first.
The final couple reminded Harry something of the Malfoys. Both Alphas wore high-end clothing that stood out in this crowd. And they looked like a matched set of models escaped from one of those Lands End catalogues Petunia used to receive in the post. Both were fairly tall, about 6 feet tall, with blonde hair, perfect skin, and brilliantly white teeth. One would almost think they were the stereotypical Veela if not for the predatory ruthless aura Harry could feel from here. Oliver and Claire Westen were in fact siblings born and raised as werewolves. Their Pack, called Alba by outsiders but simply the Westens by the Pack themselves, operated a 'retreat and conference centre near The Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands that catered to corporations and political events. While not involved in the criminal world like the Greybacks or the Brotherhood, the Westens consisted mostly of 'born' werewolves and tended to look down on the "ungifted" humans – be they Muggle or Wizard – as prey. In short they were the werewolf version of Pureblood Death Eaters. Fake bookings left the area clear of their paying customers so prevent their becoming their prey during full moons. Rumour was they would occasionally invite some 'prize winners' to stay at the retreat at those times for the Pack to hunt.
Finally there was the sole man standing alone – Fenrir Greyback. A big, man with matted grey hair and whiskers, his wild yellowed eyes, pointed teeth, and unkempt appearance gave him the air of a fanatic. He wore an old set of robes that seemed too tight for his size. Idly, Harry wondered if the werewolf simply stole the robes from the body of a victim. Fenrir stood alone because he refused to allow anyone to stand near him in power in his Pack. According to Remus, the Greybacks consisted almost entirely of male werewolves of magical origin. A few females were kept in subjected roles mostly to cater to the whims of Fenrir. The Greyback Pack members were the only werewolves at the Gathering exclusively wearing wizarding robes. Widely seen as the strongest werewolf, it was fortunate that the Packs would not follow a single Alpha or Magical Britain would have faced the full onslaught of the Wolves of Albion in the last war and not just the Greybacks and the occasional Alba or Brotherhood Pack member.
So, these were the Alphas that led the werewolves of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland: two seemingly decent blokes, a criminal, a 'specie-ist', and a psychopath.
Harry stepped out from the crowd to directly face the Pack Alphas. Remus stood at his back but Harry was fully aware the pair would probably not make it out if it came to a fight. The entire area had wards, including anti-traveling, intended to protect the Gathering from magical attacks or interference. But the wards were just as effective at preventing their escape via portkey or apparition as well.
"I am Harry Potter. You requested my attendance here tonight." This simple statement caused some murmured discussion by the werewolves. By not waiting to be addressed and the word 'requested', Harry had put all on notice here that he did not accept the Pack as having authority over him.
"SILENCE!" Fenrir thundered. "You are here to answer charges of being an aberration! An affront to the gift all others here share! Such a thing cannot be allowed to exist!" Murmurs of agreement could be heard behind Harry. For his part, Harry merely shrugged.
"So, does every animagus get such an invitation?" Harry asked "Or are we really here on some other agenda – as someone's lapdog?"
"Whelp!" Greyback howled. "I will still your hide and wear it as a trophy when you are dead!"
"Fenrir, get a hold of yourself!" Oliver Westen snapped. "We are in the Gathering Council. No violence may be offered until the Council's conclusion. You know the rules!" Fenrir visibly pulled himself back and glared at Harry with his yellowed, pointed teeth bared in a silent snarl.
Surprisingly, it was the Alpha Female known as Queenie that spoke next. "Mr Potter, it was decided earlier that I would be the primary speaker for this inquisition into your status. Would that be acceptable to you?"
"Well, madam, I did not expect an inquisition but I have no problem talking with you." Harry was somewhat proud he got that out straight-faced.
Queenie smiled back (an intimidating sight) and almost purred, "Well, I'm not Spanish but almost no one ever expects me." Harry smirked but didn't doubt the woman's words at all.
"The Council has heard the testimony that you presented earlier to the Wizengamot and seen the memories of your transformation." Here the biker wolf actually smiled. "May I say your handling of Umbitch was particularly delightful? She was always a little piece of shite even back in school." Harry couldn't help the grin in response.
"Enough with the pleasantries," Greyback growled. Queenie nodded in response.
"Having seen your form, do you, Harry Potter, claim to simply be an animagus?" she asked.
"I've never claimed to be simply anything," Harry responded. "However, why should I answer your questions? Voldemort is back and one of his servants sits amongst you. Granted he's not marked (too low ranked for that) but he still came like a puppy when his Master called him. So why would I tell you anything that would help my prey?"
That scored some points with the listening Packs. Greyback looked furious and ready to pounce. "Potter only speaks lies. Give him Veritaserum and make him tell us the truth!" There were murmurs of agreement and not just in Greyback's Pack.
"I think that both their points are fair," Ian commented in a thoughtful voice. "Fenrir is right he says we need the truth. But so is Mr Potter. When stalking a dear only a puppy howls in excitement." Apparently that was some type of werewolf common wisdom from the few comments and chuckles Harry heard.
Oliver Weston seemed to agree. "If Mr Potter will give an Oath to be honest on this matter, I would suggest sealing today's Council under an Oath to Loki."
Even Harry looked a bit surprised at that, especially coming from the "pureblood" Pack leader. Loki, the shape-changing Norse god of mischief, fire, and ice and father of the Wolf Fenrir, was seen as the patron god of many Lycanthropes. According to Pack legend the mythological Fenrir was the first werewolf having inherited the gift from his father Loki. Fenrir then passed the 'gift' onto those he deemed worthy. The Oath was magically binding on the magical werewolves but only ethically binding on the mundanes. However, the magical wolves were bound to slay any that broke the Oath or encouraged it.
"I agree," Dyfed said.
"As do I," Ian added.
After a moment, Mac said, "I agree as well. The Packs need the truth."
"I am willing," Harry said.
"It is not what you are willing, boy," Mac snarled back. "If we decide it, you will go along with it or I'll hand Fenrir the gutting knife myself!" For a moment the urge to release the Beast was almost overwhelming but Harry reined it in.
The Council seemed to watch Harry as he pulled in the Beast. Then when it was obvious that he'd succeeded, Oliver spoke, "With four of the Packs saying 'Aye', I declare this meeting sealed under the Oath to Loki. Mr Potter, you will now give use your oath to answer Queenie's questions honestly." Fenrir looked furious but couldn't do anything with four Pack Alphas voting against him.
Very carefully, Harry drew his wand. "On my life and magic, I, Harry James Potter, accept the Oath to Loki in swearing to answer the questions given to me by Queenie, Alpha Bitch of the Brotherhood Pack, related to my shape-changing for the next hour." A pulse of light from the end of his wand showed the oath was sealed.
"Very well," Queenie accepted the oath. Harry knew the former Auror turned werewolf criminal would have caught the limits he'd placed.
"Are you an animagus?" she started.
"Sort of," Harry allowed. "To make this easier I will tell you a short story. Then you can ask your questions."
"Will all of the story you tell us by true?" Queenie asked. Harry knew that was for the Oath.
"Yes, to the best of my knowledge." After Queenie nodded, Harry started his story.
"One night I was out late when something attacked me. I was just shy of nine years-old. But one moment I am sitting quietly on a swing and the next I was injured and in a panic. I never really saw just what attacked me, based on what I know now; I reckon it was a werewolf. It got me by the ankle. In my panic, I accidently Apparated to my school. I could feel something cold moving through my body until it reached my head. That's when I felt something fight back. I was in agony. When it was done, I could change my form. Magical tests show I am not fully an animagus nor, as was shown today, do I test fully as a werewolf. I can change shape at will like an animagus but my clothes would stay behind without charms on them." Harry was proud of that statement. He'd worked the idea with Sirius and Remus. It never mentioned his scar, the black tar, or his circumstances growing up, but every word was true.
The werewolves looked a bit surprised at Harry's story.
"And you were able to change immediately?" asked Claire of the Alba Pack speaking for the first time. Harry shrugged.
"The first couple days were a blur. My first solid memory was waking up next to some dead rabbits. Then I walked home. I knew my other form was there and could call at will." Harry noticed the two pureblood exchanged glances at his answer.
"And what of your testimony today to the Wizengamot?" Queenie asked. Harry shrugged.
"Everything I said was true from a legal point of view. The law Umbridge wrote specifically stated what colour a werewolf would return from the detection charm. I don't turn that colour therefore by their legal definition, I am not a werewolf. I didn't bring it up there but, as I mentioned earlier, I have a similar result with the Animagus Detection Charm."
Ian laughed. "So, it was all true from 'A certain point of view'?" Harry caught the Star Wars reference. He smiled back at the Alpha.
"Well, I was following Dumbledore's advice but it was another old man in robes with a long white beard so who knows."
"Aren't you concerned about the Wizengamot hearing about this new information after what you told them just today?" Queenie asked.
"But we are here under an Oath to Loki," Harry answered with a small smile. "If this does get out then we will know someone here is an Oath-breaker." The surrounding wolves caught the implication of that statement. By their own most sacred law everything Potter told them here today had to be kept just within the Packs. Predators such as wolves appreciated cunning and somehow it had ended up that nothing Potter said here today could be used to hurt him with the Ministry.
"Ask'em about the poison," Greyback growled to Queenie while continuing to glare at Harry. Queenie merely nodded and asked the question.
Harry started to answer but then seemed to pause. After a moment, he said, "That has nothing to do with my shape-shifting ability. The Oath does compel me to say it is an ability I have when transformed but it was not something I gained initially." Neither Harry nor the werewolves seemed fully pleased by that answer.
"What was this poison?" Dyfed asked Greyback.
"Not important now," Greyback snarled back.
"I disagree," Ian said. "You felt it was important enough to have the question asked by Queenie so it was an honest one he had to answer." The Irish Pack leader paused and seemed to consider. "Yes, I think we need that answer, Fenrir."
Seeing the other Alphas agree, Greyback had no choice. "When Potter fought the Dark Lord's forces many of them were poisoned where Potter got'em with his claws. Caused paralysis and death if enough was there. Healer said it was some kind of snake venom."
Ian turned to Harry with an eyebrow raised. "Venom?" Harry shrugged.
"There were more than twenty Death Eaters in that graveyard including Voldemort and Greyback over there. I fought with everything I had." Harry paused before a small grin crossed his lips. "And by most any measure, I won."
"You won nothing, boy!" Greyback raged. "The Dark Lord has returned and will take Britain under his rule!"
"A fourteen year old boy faced Voldemort and his closest followers unaided and not only survives but manages to kill or wound at least half of them and escape to provide evidence making his secret resurrection not so secret?" Harry responded sardonically. "A fraction of an inch and I would have ripped Tommy-boy's throat out." Greyback looked furious and his eyes were glowing dangerously. While he couldn't fully transform until the full moon, it was easy to see the wolf lurking just below the skin.
"Restrain yourself, Fenrir!" Oliver barked again. "This is your second warning!" The glare Greyback levelled at the other Alpha screamed he was ready to rip the Scottish Pack leader's throat out but then he nodded and took a small step back – not of submission but restrain all the same.
"May we see it?" the woman with Ian asked suddenly. Her voice had a musical lilt to it and Harry had a stay thought that she was probably a marvellous singer. "May we see for ourselves your wolf-form?"
Catching the looks of interest on the face of all of the Alphas, male and female, Harry responded with a nod. Then he let free the Beast.
Where a nearly fifteen year-old boy once stood, now stood the Beast. He'd grown since the last time Remus had seen the Beast. The Beast now stood well over two metres tall with thick, black fur. The Beast's powerful arms were proportionally longer than on a human and ended with long, wicked looking claws. The rest of the body looked equally powerful. In fact, he looked more like a Hollywood version of a werewolf that what the magical world saw. Most werewolves looked like humans with wolf-like characteristics forced onto them. The Beast looked like a wolf with human-like characteristics forced onto him. It was, in one word Remus admitted, impressive.
The surrounding werewolves reacted with excitement at the Beast's appearance. Where the witches and wizards of the Wizengamot reacted in fear, most of the Packs' members looked almost joyful. Remus noticed that Greyback however looked furious but he also detected a slight hint of fear in those yellow eyes. Remus didn't really blame him. Unlike the rest of the werewolves, Greyback had faced the Beast in a fight.
Harry glanced back at Remus and the older werewolf stepped forward.
"Harry is unable to speak in his wolf form," Remus said. "Is there anything you would like him to do before changing back?"
"Magnificent," Oliver Westen said absently whilst gazing up at the Beast. Remus didn't think the Alpha even heard him.
"Can we see you move, Harry?" Marisol asked.
The Beast nodded and set off at an easy, ground-eating lope. Suddenly he turned and shot off towards the tree line. He dove under a picnic bench only to shot out the other side without disturbing the food on top of it in an impressive display of agility. Then the Beast was up and with a great bound cleared a fair sized tent that was set up for the cooks and food storage. Despite having seen the Beast in action before, Remus found it impressive.
The Beast was now out of sight and the crowd started to murmur about where he could be. Remus knew the Marauder was going to try something to impress the werewolves. And he was right.
A sudden growl was all the warning they had before the Beast appeared coming directly over the roaring bonfire. He landed on all fours directly between the fires and the shocked Alphas. The Beast now rose up on to his hind legs and released a chilling howl that the night air carried for miles around. The werewolves responded with a roar of approval at the display. An instant later, Harry Potter stood in the Beast's place.
"Was that sufficient?" he asked the stunned crowd.
The Gathering broke up as the Alphas moved off to deliberate. Remus led Harry over towards a nearby refreshment table. It was difficult moving through the crowd as many of the werewolves came up to talk with Harry. Remus was a bit surprised how many also approached him. He was even more surprised when one of them was Charisa.
Harry was talking to a young male werewolf that looked only slightly older than Harry himself. Based on his Queen t-shirt, jeans, and trainers, the boy was probably a Muggle or Muggle-born – most likely a mundane werewolf. The two boys were talking but a fair sized crowd surrounded them listening to the animated conversation. Remus was watching out for Harry so he never noticed her approaching him.
"The boy has a presence, " Charisa acknowledged. "I felt it in the Alley too but he handled them well tonight."
"He is unique," Remus replied with a smile. "He absorbs things like a sponge. If he sees someone he likes as a role model he adopts it to his own toolset. Not as a follower but simply to improve himself. I still see James in him but now I also see Sirius, Albus, and even myself in there too. James was a great wizard but with Harry I see something even more."
Charisa shrugged. "He is an Alpha. I felt as much in our brief encounter in the Alley. I told that to Dyfed and Marisol when I returned to the Pack. And you … you are a true Beta now." Remus broke off watching Harry to glance at his old friend. He noticed she was smiling approvingly at him. It was a change from the scowl he usually got from her.
"It is good to see you in your proper place," she said. When Remus started to talk she waved away his protests.
"Remus, when I approached you in the Alley you defended him but as soon as he stepped in, you – the elder werewolf – immediately backed down and let him speak. And tonight you've played the perfect Pack Second." She paused a moment and a slight blush came to her cheeks.
"I – I have to apologize to you, Remus."
"Whatever for?" Charisa's discomfort seemed to increase.
"When I was first turned, I was angry. I wanted to be an Alpha to make the magicals pay for how I was treated. I thought you should have that same anger and want to be an Alpha too. Since you didn't join a Pack I thought you were a rogue. But that wasn't it was it?" Now she looked directly at Remus with an expression the older wolf couldn't read. Was that awe? Surprise?
"You were simply waiting on the right Alpha. And you have him now." Remus was shocked at Charisa's comment. It was fairly close to his own comment to Padfoot.
"I've realized that I am not really Alpha material either," Charisa continued oblivious to Remus's reaction. "Working as Second to Marisol has been an education. She walks into a room and commands it. I might still get some respect but it is nothing like she gets. Sara and Queenie are the same way. Even that brat of Sara's, Colleen, can do it. I am a Beta and I should never have held it against you for being one too."
Remus was stunned speechless. He'd always liked Charisa but they'd fought over her insistence that he join a Pack and become an Alpha. He was still trying to get something intelligent out when a new voice interrupted.
"On behalf of Mr Moony – who seems to be a something of a loss right now – I, Mr Jack, accept your gracious apology. I believe the only correct response for such a kind gesture would be for Mr Moony to take you out for dinner one night soon. My treat, I insist. But for now, I must steal Mr Moony away from you, dear lady. The Alphas have returned and it would be most rude to keep them waiting. I am sure Mr Moony shall owl you within the week. Ta-ta for now!"
With that, Harry dragged his stunned honorary uncle and fellow Marauder away from the crimson glowing werewolf bitch. As he was dragged away, Remus looked over at his teenage Alpha. Then he groaned. By the wide grin splitting Harry's face, Sirius was going to hear all about it and the two of them would never let it go.
This was going to suck.
The Alphas had returned to their place by the bonfire. The scowl on Fenrir's face was a positive sign to Harry. Harry was still grinning after overhearing the last part of Remus's conversation with his new 'girlfriend'. Harry couldn't resist his grin widening as his eyes met Greyback's.
What Harry didn't notice was the way many of the watching werewolves shrank back at the sheer amount of teeth Harry was displaying. They weren't used to feeling like prey.
"Mr Potter, would you please step forward?" Queenie asked. It wasn't really a question. Harry stepped forward until he was three strides from the female Alpha. Once Harry stopped, Ian started speaking.
"Mr Potter, while the nature of your transformation is … unorthodox, the fact remains you were given the gift via a member of the Packs when you were eight. The fact your transformation is different than most may be no different than the same unknown means by which you famously survived a Killing Curse at eighteen months old. It is the final decision of this Council that you are a Child of Loki and accepted into the Packs as a full member. Choice of Pack membership is left to the pack member's choice."
Harry nodded politely to the Alphas. "I thank you for this decision. I swear that I shall uphold the Packs and the Pack Law as a Child of Loki." Then Harry nodded again before stepping back one pace towards the crowd. That caused a small intake from the crowd as Harry skipped the traditional petition to a particular male Alpha for admission into a particular Pack. Not doing so all but declared his rogue status. However, none of the Alphas looked a bit surprised.
Now Fenrir stepped forward.
"This puppy has taken enough of this Gathering's time. Now we must discuss matters of importance to the Pack as a whole."
"Speak, Alpha Fenrir," Ian said in a formal tone.
"The greatest Dark Lord in history has returned to our shores! The Dark Lord plans to drive the weak, corrupt Wizengamot and Ministry from power and replace it with a government for the strong! With the Packs' combined might, we can assist in this great effort! In return the Dark Lord has sworn to offer us the choicest 'recruits' for the Packs! Further, he promises to set aside a great reserve for each Pack to rule and hunt as their own! The bloody Ministry laws that keep us down will be struck down! Any werewolf would be equal to any pureblood wizard!
"All the Dark Lord asks is that we support him in this campaign. We would strike at remote villages – take the strongest for the Packs and destroy the rest. The Ministry will waste their strength trying to protect everyone while we gain strength with each raid. Then once Dumbledore and the Ministry is humbled we would help control the population until the prey is settled to their new yoke.
"Now this Gathering must decide to support the Dark Lord in his endeavour! Failure to do so will risk the Packs destruction! The Dark Lord does not forget his friends and his enemies do not live long enough to be forgotten! DECIDE NOW!"
Greyback continued with his rant. Ian and Dyfed seemed to favour a neutral position – keep the Packs out of magical society matters. Mac seemed somewhat supportive of Greyback but Harry reckoned he saw more in the potential profit when the LEO's – magical and mundane – were too busy fighting Death Eaters and dealing with the aftermath of their attacks to bother with 'honest' criminals. (And he was probably right, Harry mused.) Oliver had not spoken a word in either case.
Finally, the Gryffindor in Harry won out. In other words he just stepped forward and dove in. He interrupted another of Greyback's rants.
"Do you honestly think that Voldemort and his Pureblood arse-kissers have any intention aside from using the Packs as cannon-fodder? Tommy-boy will send the Packs out on the missions not worth risking his Purebloods. And then if he is successful in winning the war, you think he will honour his promises?" Harry's sudden inclusion caught the Alphas by surprise and they were all watching him.
"You all know Umbridge wrote the worst of the bloody damn laws that destroy many of your chances at having a normal life. But do you know who sponsored the law in the Wizengamot? I've read the law twenty times in the last two days preparing for that hearing. I looked it up. It was sponsored by Alvin Nott – the man that sacrificed himself and his whole family to return Tom to his body! And it was seconded by none other than Lucius Malfoy – Tom's number two man on the political front!
"Tom just wants to use you as his hunting dogs to drive his prey before him and then put you down when you no longer have any value to him! Don't fall for the poisoned meat his cur throws in front of you!"
"SILENCE, BOY! YOU HAVE NO SAY HERE!" Greyback roared and advanced towards Harry.
"I speak where I will, dog," Harry returned in a low growl.
Greyback swung a clawed hand at Harry. The advanced state of his lycanthropy and magic made the nails and hair grow even two weeks before the full moon. The hand slashed down at the much smaller Harry Potter.
The slash was blocked by the thick black furred arm of the Beast; an arm that followed through with a backhand that knocked the human-ish Greyback almost into the fire. Greyback was almost instantly and charged forward with a roar.
"HOLD YOUR GROUND!"
Harry was surprised at the roared order but Greyback didn't hear or care. He continued his charge. But he was suddenly knocked hard to the ground by blindsided tackle. Harry was surprised to see the furred humanoid figure pinning Fenrir to the ground.
"I said hold damn you!" the same voice roared again. Harry realized it was Mac yelling the order. It was then that Harry (still in his Beast form) realized the partially transformed werewolf in front of him was Oliver Westen.
Westen's appearance shocked Harry. The man almost looked like Lon Chaney Jr in one of the old Wolfman movies. A man but with thick black hair-like fur covering his body, long claws, and fangs in his mouth. Westen stood with his boot on Fenrir's throat pinning him to the ground.
With Greyback on the ground, Mac stepped forward. "Fenrir, you have violated the code of the Gathering. This debate is suspended until the next time the Alpha Council meets." Then the biker Alpha turned to Harry.
"Harry Potter, you asserted yourself into the talks of this Council as though you had that right. Your arrogance as a new cub is too much. If you want to act an Alpha and challenge an Alpha then so be it. At the next full moon, the Packs will gather again. There you shall face Fenrir of the Greyback Pack in combat to establish who is the true Alpha. I should just save us all the trouble and gut you both right here and now. You both disgust me. These talks are done."
Mac looked into the crowd and spotted two Greybacks. "You two, take this one and go. I do not expect any more breaches tonight. Am I clear?" At their agreement, Mac said, "Alright Oliver, let him up."
Westen removed his boot from Fenrir's throat. And the Death Eater scrambled to his feet. Before he could lung forward towards Harry, Westen stepped forward again.
"Enough, Fenrir," Mac growled. "You will get this puppy in two weeks under the full moon. Save your wrath until then." With that Greyback allowed himself to be led away. The crowd started to dissipate now.
Harry returned to human form and turned to look for Moony to find out what just happened. The older werewolf made a motion for them to leave. Harry was happy to comply when he was stopped by a slim figure stepping in front of him. It was Colleen Davies.
"My, trying to go from an Omega to an Alpha in a single day. That is impressive. Stupid, but impressive. You might be entertaining to keep around." Then patted him on the cheek and gave Harry a little smile before wandering away.
Harry didn't have time to figure out what that all meant when another woman's voice spoke up.
"Mr Potter, a moment of your time?" Harry turned to see Claire Westen, the Alpha Bitch of the Scottish pack approaching.
"My brother and I would like to talk with you briefly. Can you give us a few minutes?" Harry nodded.
"May I speak to Remus first?" Claire smiled in understanding and nodded.
"Of course. We have a tent over near the treeline. We shall wait for you there."
Once she was gone, Remus and Harry moved away a bit to get some privacy.
"Remus, what the hell just happened?" Harry demanded.
"Didn't you listen to me?" Remus demanded in a scared and frustrated tone. "During the Gatherings the Alphas meet to talk. Their decisions stand on all werewolves no matter the Pack. If a werewolf has a suggestion or comment, they have to ask one of their Alphas for permission first. As a rogue, we have no Pack and no voice in the meeting. You were supposed to declare a Pack when they accepted you as a wolf. I'm sure they expected you to and then ask permission to speak against Greyback. But when you just stepped in, you marked yourself as declaring as an Alpha. If you beat Greyback in two weeks, they will see you as an Alpha. If you don't, he'll kill you.
"And no matter what Oaths were taken, eventually the Ministry will learn you are now an Alpha of the Packs."
"Oh bloody hell."
Harry and Remus entered the magical tent set up by the Westens. Much like the tent used at the Quidditch World Cup, except this one was set up like an executive conference room. It was as posh as the Gathering was rustic.
Thick carpets covered the floor while a large fireplace dominated one wall. Opposite the fireplace was what looked like a transplant from a small, high-end pub. A large wooden conference table dominated the middle of the room and matched the wood of the bar perfectly. Harry didn't know much about furniture but he'd bet the dark, burnished table was worth a significant number of Galleons. Very comfortable – and expensive – looking chairs surrounded the table.
Seeing Harry's curiosity, Oliver answered the unspoken question. "Our conference centre often hosts magical as well a normal clients. This tent is typically used for our more secretive clients that need meetings hidden from view. I felt it would be a good place for us to talk today. Now, please be seated or feel free to help yourself to refreshment. We don't have any staff with us today so I am afraid you'll have to help yourself." Harry moved to a chair that allowed him to see anyone entering the tent. A second later Remus sat in the seat next to him.
It was a short wait until Claire Westen joined her brother. The sibling Alphas easily sat in the seats opposite Harry and Remus. Surprisingly it was Claire that started to speak.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with us, Harry," she said. "Before we get started, can you tell me roughly what your Second has told you about the Alba Pack?"
Harry considered a moment and couldn't see any harm in it. "You are based in Scotland and consist almost exclusively of 'born' werewolves. Alba is the oldest continuous Pack with leadership passing within the Westen family for several generations. You see yourselves as above the 'made' werewolves – magical or mundane, but have significant dealings with the mundane world."
"A fair assessment," Claire allowed. "Harry do you know where werewolves came from?" Harry blinked at the apparent nonsequitur.
"No, I guess I assumed it came about from a curse."
"That was actually the second step," Claire answered. "Centuries ago a special group of people appeared in Scandinavia amongst the Norse Clans. Their name in ancient Norse literally translated in to 'Shape-Changers'. I know that isn't too original a name but the Norse were rather straightforward in their thinking and speech. But then lycanthrope came from Greek and means 'wolf man' so who are we to judge?" Harry snickered at amused expression on Claire's face.
"Now among these Shape-Changers were not just wolves, but bears and big cats too," Claire continued. "It was seen as a gift from the gods to chosen warriors; father to son, mother to daughter. The wolves were from Loki and served as raiders or as fast troops; the bears were of Tyr and the heavy assault fighters; and the cats of Heimdall were the lone scouts or spies. Muggles still remember them today as berserkers but take the turning into animals as mere allegory.
"The Shape-Changers could change at will and remained in control of their animal form. Man and animal-spirit worked as one in harmony. The legends grew from the viciousness and ruthlessness of the Shape-Changers in battle. Then came the arrival of the White God's followers and their missionaries they sent amongst us. There were many battles but the courage and ruthlessness of the Norse held off their greater numbers. The Shape-Changers played a major role in these battles
"Unfortunately, their importance was also noted by the White God's followers who saw the changing of shape as being the work of their Satan. We don't know who or exactly how it was done but some magic was worked to contain the Shape-Changers' powers. I believe they merely wanted to prevent their transformation by severing the link between man and beast. However, what they did was change the blessing to a curse. At first it was simply that the Shape-Changers could no longer summon their animal forms. But the true impact of the curse did not occur until the next full moon. No one took any special note that they lost their ability on the night of a full moon. Some people hadn't changed in days or weeks so they weren't sure just when the curse took effect. The next full moon, all the Shape-Changers changed. They changed into mindless creatures that were parodies of their old forms. They killed their own families, friends, and kinsman in a brutal night of slaughter. The Shape-Changers woke the next morning to find mostly the dead. The injured survivors of that night became infected too. Most of the Shape-Changers were hunted down by the very warriors that once venerated them. Others left the Norse holds and went amongst the very people responsible for the change.
"The Bears and Cats were always the loners of the Shape-Changers. We've heard rumours of Bears in the Americas, and Asia, but we know of only a few Cats in Africa and South America. The Wolves fared better because of our Pack instincts." Claire paused now in her story to look at Harry and Remus. Both men looked stunned at the history they'd never heard before.
"That is very interesting, Claire," Harry managed.
Remus looked intrigued. "I am sure I will have several questions once this has had time to sink in but right now the ramifications are too unsettled in my mind." Harry couldn't help smirking at his favourite professor.
Now Oliver started to talk. "Our Pack has dedicated itself to finding a way to reverse the curse and return us to true Shape-Changers. We fund a small research group, magical and non, that work towards that goal. We have made some progress as you saw with me tonight. 'Born' werewolves have a much greater control over their wolf aspect. Not quite the same level as with the Wolfsbane Potion but also not mindless killers either. However it does seem to be cumulative by generations. It doesn't allow us to change at any time like you Harry; just gives us control and reduces the pain and stress of the transformations. Claire and I are 4th generation 'born' werewolves on both sides. I could walk through Hogwarts during a full moon and pose no danger to the students. Ian's daughter, young Colleen, is a mix. Ian is a 'made' wolf while her mother is our cousin and 4th generation 'born' like we are. Sara was on an experimental potion when she was pregnant with Colleen and we hope she and two others will be our next step forward. Greyback also participated in one of our experiments as a 'made' wolf. He is near a 3rd generation of our experiment but that is much better than any of our other subjects. I have to wonder if he too would have been a wolf animagus if he hadn't been bitten so young."
Claire and Oliver spent the next hour giving Harry and Remus the details of their efforts. Pregnant werewolves had to be handled carefully to prevent the baby from killing their mother during transformations. The mothers were given a specially formulated Draught of Living Death two days before the full moon. Mother and child slept through the next three days with no transformations. Mundane IV's provided water and nutrients to the sleeping pair. Also, their research had led to the Wolfsbane Potion. They had hidden their input and given credit to a friendly Potions Master. Now they were working on a potion to allow the transfiguration to occur without the full moon.
Overall, Harry was impressed with what he'd heard – provided it was all on the level. It was a bit elaborate for a con job but it was still possible.
"This is all wonderful," Harry finally said. "But what are you looking for?"
Oliver immediately said, "We want an alliance."
"Your Beast form is almost a perfect match for what the old texts describe the Wolf Shape-Changers as being," Claire added. "Work with us. Let us study what happened to you so we can free the rest of us from the curse and allow it to be the blessing it once was."
Oliver picked up the offer. "In return, I will promise you the Alba Pack's full support against the Greybacks and Voldemort. From Ian and Dyfed's responses, I have no doubt Mic tíre na hÉireann and Glyndwr are ready to support you. The Brotherhood … well, Mac will probably go for neutrality."
"Maybe," Claire interjected. "But Queenie liked young Harry here. You impressed her I think. I expect she also knew your father when she was an Auror and his relationship and support of Remus here puts the Potter name in a positive light." Oliver nodded seemingly accepting his sister's interpretation. Then he resumed speaking.
"In return, Harry, we will support you to the fullest extent. Including the recognition of what was obvious to all of us tonight: the fact you are an Alpha with the new sixth Pack of Albion. I believe you call yourselves the Marauders."