The Beast of Exmoor
A Harry Potter story by Helen
Disclaimer: Any characters etc. you recognise from
Harry Potter are not my own, but the creation of JK Rowling, to whose genius I
am eternally grateful.
Cert PG for some
Chapter 1 The
Beast Roams Again
Even before he had opened
his eyes, Remus Lupin had formed in his mind a vivid picture of his
surroundings - birdsong in a piercing forte, and filling his nostrils, the powerful,
musty aroma of damp earth beneath the sharp scent of pine needles and leafy greenness.
His senses drew him to one reliable conclusion: a wood – somewhere. Where exactly? How far had the wolf travelled
rolled onto his back with an involuntary groan and forced his eyes open. Above
him, the branches of a lofty beech tree filtered the morning sunlight. He swallowed; his mouth felt parched, his throat raw.
His stomach gave a loud growl and he became conscious of the hollow
cavity in his belly. A good sign, he thought wryly. Dragging himself up into a sitting position,
he draped his arms over his knees and, still blinking the sleep from his eyes,
surveyed the little glade in which the wolf had made his bed last night.
looked familiar. To his left, the woodland seemed to slope steadily down into a
valley. To his right, the trees seemed to thin out just a short distance away
and through them he could see a glimpse of grassy scrub – he must be on the
edge of the moor. That way was the way
head felt muzzy. Rubbing his temple with
his fingertips, he tried to recall the last night’s events. He shouldn’t be here – he should be at home, curled
up on the hearth. He hadn’t missed any doses of his Wolfsbane Potion this month
- but supposing there had been something wrong
with the potion? He hadn’t noticed anything different; it had
tasted quite as dreadful as it usually did. There was no question that he
trusted Snape with the Wolfsbane; any reservations he had felt in the past had
long ago been discarded. But the Wolfsbane Potion was notoriously difficult to
brew accurately and it was safe to assume that, from time to time, there would
be mistakes, even with Snape’s expertise.
He remembered returning to the cottage yesterday afternoon, as he had
done every full moon for the last few months since Sirius’s death. He couldn’t face enduring the transformation
at Grimmauld Place, not without Padfoot to keep the wolf company during the
long night; there, with Sirius’s scent all around, the wolf pined for its
absent pack mate, its simple, primal emotions forcing his own feelings of grief
and loss to the surface again and making the morning after an even more
wretched experience than it usually was.
And so he had removed himself to this place again: his parents’ isolated
old cottage on Exmoor, the wolf’s lonely refuge. He had locked himself in last night, casting
Unbreakable charms on all the windows, Sealing all the
doors – so what had he overlooked? How –
why – had the wolf escaped the
cottage? What was he doing here, so far from home?
shakily to his feet, Remus brushed off the dead leaves and clumps of soil that
clung to his bare skin and started to pick his way gingerly towards the
moor. His legs felt stiff and unsteady,
the bones and muscles still adjusting to their reconfiguration in his human
form. Every part of him felt tender and he winced with every awkward step. He had not gone far before a forceful wave of
nausea overcame him and he dropped to his knees, retching violently. Wiping the acrid bile from his chin, he
pulled himself upright again and staggered onwards.
he approached the edge of the wood, the prospect of leaving the relative cover
of the trees and exposing his nakedness to the open moor made him hesitate and
draw back. No wand and no clothes…what would happen
if he encountered anyone out there? It
was daylight but still very early….surely the chances of meeting any Muggles
out walking on the moor were pretty slim?
then, the stillness of the woodland air was disrupted by the sound of a dog’s
bark. Quick as a flash, he dived behind
the nearest bush and, from his hiding place, scanned the trees for a sign of
the intruder – he’d give someone a mighty fright if they came across him like
this. From some way off, deeper within the wood, he heard a shout and the dog’s
answering barks as it crashed through the bracken. Well, there was nothing for it, then – the moor it was. Crouching
low, he edged his way out onto the moor.
straightened up. The soft, mossy grass beneath his bare feet was a welcome
relief and he felt a renewed vigour as he padded his way out onto the moor,
stepping along the well-worn sheep tracks through the expanse of purple
heather. He needed to reach the crest of the moor – from there he’d be able to
scan the panorama and orientate himself.
The nausea had subsided now, the throbbing pain within his joints having
begun to dissipate, and as his body gradually eased itself back into his human
skin again, he felt his spirits lift and his speed pick up. He ploughed on through the heather, skipping
to dodge the little piles of sheep-turds which littered the tracks, rejoicing
in the pure, vast emptiness of the landscape stretching ahead of him in all
directions, not even a sheep or a pony in sight, just the occasional skylark
flitting from its nest, trilling its distinctive liquid warble. Along the horizon, the cloudless September
sky was still tinged with yellow and Remus paused for a moment to inhale the
crisp, dew-laden air and allow himself to absorb the beauty of it all.
a shout rent the air.
spun round just in time to register a massive dog launching itself at him, its
ferocious jaws gaping. His eyes widened
in shock as he raised his arm to shield himself from its teeth. The dog’s paws landed on his chest and sent
him reeling, winded. Before he could
recover sufficiently to clamber to his feet, the dog leapt at him again,
knocking him back down and pinning him to the ground. It gave two loud,
triumphant barks and then, fixing him with wild, excitable eyes -- set about
licking his face enthusiastically.
Come here, Snuffles! What are you -? Oh!” The woman’s call to her dog had ended
in a startled little gasp as she clocked the naked man struggling beneath her
“Snuffles!” Her voice sounded shrill and tense now. “Snuffles, get here! Heel, boy! Get here! Here!”
on the ground as he was, with his view somewhat obscured by the great, hairy
dog which straddled him, Remus could make out very little of the young woman
who was shouting frantically a few feet from him. Right then, he was still occupied with the
dog, wrestling with it to try and shove its head away from his and resist its
eager affection. Snuffles? Somewhere
in his mind, he realised that this
name was familiar but he couldn’t remember why….Finally, the dog decided to
give up on its new plaything and stop ignoring its mistress’s commands, drawing
back with a light bound.
God, this is embarrassing. Remus felt
a deep blush suffuse his cheeks as turned his head to look up into the pale,
frightened face of the young woman whose dog had just assaulted him. Muggle, he thought, judging by her clothes,
and the fact that she hadn’t drawn a wand and hexed him already. Fumbling urgently with her dog’s leash, she
was attempting to back away from him and to drag her unruly dog with her. He sat up, instinctively reaching to cover
his genital area, and hunching his shoulders over in a futile bid to hide his
naked body from her horrified gaze.
– er – Look, it’s not what it looks like--” he stammered hoarsely. He tried to offer a placatory palm, but this
only seemed to increase her anxiety and so he hastily replaced it.
– well - what is it, then?” she
managed in between shallow, panicked breaths.
As she tugged at her dog’s leash again, Remus noticed that her whole
body was trembling. He winced guiltily.
She had stopped edging backwards from him now and, in an effort to rally
her defences, she squared her body to face his, drawing the dog in front of
her. The enormous, bear-like Alsatian
fairly dwarfed her slight frame. “Wh -
Where are your clothes?” she demanded, glaring determinedly at him. “Or do you
often wander around the moor, naked, hoping to surprise women innocently taking
their dogs for walks?! You – you pervert!”
She spat the last words, her voice rising in pitch. Her initial shock was quickly giving way to
not-- not a-- I’m just….” He sighed gloomily. “Just lost…trying to find my way
home….” He appealed to her with his eyes, but her face appeared hardened
against him, her eyes narrowed, her jaw tight.
She gripped the dog’s leash firmly with one hand, the other balled into
an angry little fist. He felt his own indignation rise as he remembered that it
had been her dog which had attacked him.
where are your clothes, then, Lady Godiva?” she hissed, her lips twisting
viciously at the corners.
was sneering at him now. Just to
increase the humiliation. But it
wouldn’t do to admit he’d left his clothes at home, in a neat pile at the end
of his bed. “I don’t know where my clothes are,” he sighed. “And your dog attacked me,” he added, a little
hardly attacked you,” she scoffed.
“He just licked your face--” She
broke off, clearly changing her mind about admitting that her one line of
defence against the naked pervert was an over-sized puppy. “But he could attack you, y’know, if I gave him
the command--” she attempted, with what she must have hoped was a confident
flick of her head, tilting her chin towards him insolently.
regarded the dog now – Snuffles. He realised, looking at it from this angle,
that its long, shaggy black and brown coat gave the illusion that it was much
larger than in fact it was. Its tongue
lolled stupidly from its panting mouth and its eyes stared at him with playful
innocence. He was not afraid of the dog now, now that he had seen the worst it
could do. He turned his face to hers
again and raised his eyebrows sceptically.
I’m just trying to find my way home….I’m tired, it’s been a long night, and I
can do without this, so why don’t we just agree to go our separate ways and we
can both forget this ….encounter?”
seemed to relax a little at these words, loosening her hold on the dog’s leash
and leaning back on her heels. She glared at him through narrow, measuring
eyes. “You didn’t spend the night out
here, did you?”
Remus answered slowly, eyeing her warily.
– is this some kind of weird hippy shit?
Communing with nature and all that?” She regarded him suspiciously. “You’re not from that ‘organic community’ up
at Fogshill Farm, are you?”
stared back at her blankly. Too many
Muggle references – he didn’t know what she was talking about. But it was clear that a ‘yes’ to any of these
questions would be unwelcome. “Um, no? No, nothing like that,” he answered
uncertainly, watching her face closely for her response: the little furrow in
her brow, just above the bridge of her nose, relaxed a little. Think fast, Remus, he told himself, think fast. “Just, um – well, I remember
leaving the pub….” Yes, alcohol - always
a good excuse. Alcohol and memory loss.
one?” she asked quickly, giving him a shrewd look.
Best stick to what you know, Remus. “ Er, The Green Man in Nettleton,” he replied,
recalling the Muggle pub in the village a mile from his parents’ cottage, where
he and his fellow Marauders had spent several long, drunken evenings that
summer after they had left Hogwarts.
frowned and swiped at a loose strand of hair, puzzling on this information.
“Nettleton? That’s got to be over ten
miles from here.”
This was very useful. Nice one, Remus. “Er, is it? I came a long way, then!” he laughed
nervously. She had glossy brown hair, he
noticed, the colour of milk chocolate; it had been drawn into a thick, untidy
knot at the nape of her neck, a few stray pieces framing her face. Late twenties, he guessed.
her arms, she raised a scornful eyebrow at him. “So you left the pub in
Nettleton. Doesn’t explain how you came
to be here, so far away.”
How would a Muggle travel so far? “Er, well… I remember getting in the back of
James’s car …” - James had always wanted
a car, something to rival Sirius’s motorbike - “…And then I guess I must
have passed out. Then I woke up here.” He shrugged apologetically. Lame, but not unlikely. “Er - without my-- er-- clothes,” he
added, with another bashful attempt to shrink himself up smaller.
made a tutting noise and muttered something under her breath which Remus did
not catch. “So, what - is this some kind of stag-night prank, or something?”
Stag-night? The blood drained from his face. He stared at her, desperately trying to
compose his features as his mind whirred furiously – what
did she know about him?...his nights with the stag…The Marauders….the wolf….? She
looked like a Muggle – jeans,
trainers, some kind of light, zip-up jacket with bright stripes down the
you the unfortunate groom, then?” she asked when he didn’t reply.
Groom? The cogs in his brain began to clunk into place.
“Oh! No! – no!” he spluttered, warm
relief washing over his face as he realised the foolishness of his
mistake. This girl was nothing more than
a harmless Muggle. Moody was making him paranoid. He couldn’t help releasing a short laugh at
his own stupidity.
alright. No need to worry. I’m not going
to tell anyone – least of all your fiancée.”
Her eyes glinted mischievously, the corners of her mouth twitching.
paused to consider – should he put her straight? Or maybe it’d be easier to
just go along with her misunderstanding? He looked at her now, taking in her
appearance properly for the first time.
Now that her anger had cooled, he realised that she was really quite
pretty, with large, round eyes and a very appealing mouth…Despite her tough
stance with him, there was a rather child-like fragility about her features,
that having now revealed itself to him, he found quite fascinating. Perhaps agreeing to having a fiancée would be
too big a lie to carry off – he knew very well that the best liars never
stretched their stories too far.
no, there’s really no fiancée,” he admitted with a sigh and a rueful smile.
“Just some rather high-spirited mates, who clearly thought it’d be great fun to
abandon me out here last night, minus my clothes.” Now that was a lie he could sustain with ease – pranks of that sort
were familiar territory for one of The Marauders. He gave a little chuckle and shook his head
indulgently as the memory of one such incident came back to him.
mates you have, leaving you out here to freeze to death.”
shrugged. “They don’t mean any
harm.” For a brief moment, it was almost
real to him. He blinked to break the spell and turned to look at her
again. She was giving him a strange,
inscrutable look. His discomfort with
the situation returned with a new acuity.
“Um…well, I need to be getting home now, so…” he trailed off, hoping she
might just take his hint without him having to ask her outright to go on her
remained silent, staring at him, her brows knitted pensively. The moment seemed to stretch to an age; then
she appeared to come to some sort of decision, as she placed her hands on her
hips, exhaled once and took a purposeful stride towards him. “Do you know your
way home from here? I mean – have you got a long way to go?”
He regarded her apprehensively. Where was
you’re not going to get very far like that.” She wrinkled her nose. “With no
shoes.” She made a mischievous moue.
you offering me a pair?” he asked, slightly confused.
think I can do better than that. Here--”
She peeled off her zip-up jacket and flung it down to him. “Have that to
restore your modesty, for starters. And
then, if you like, my ex left a few items of clothing back at mine – you can
take what you want, I’ve no use for them.”
choked in astonishment, gratefully grabbing the jacket and hurriedly arranging
it to cover his private parts. She was helping him?
Holly, by the way. Holly Leonard. I have the old Mill House, in the
offered him a friendly smile and he returned it with a sheepish grin as he tied
the sleeves of her jacket behind his back.
Lupin. Remus Lupin,” he answered, climbing to his feet. He was wearing her jacket like a pinny. Modesty restored perhaps, but not dignity; he
her lip, she flashed him eyes brimming with amusement. “Well, Remus Lupin, c’mon. Before you catch your death.”
turned to her dog and took his big, wolf-like head in her hands, rubbing it
affectionately, locking his eyes with hers.
“Come on, boy – we’re going home!”
She released his head with a flourish and, encouraged by her ebullience,
he tore off, bounding exuberantly through the heather in the direction of the
woodland Remus had come from earlier.
over this way!” she called to Remus as she strode off in her dog’s wake. “I
might even make you a cup of tea!”
he was suddenly blind-sided by the bright, ingenuous smile she shot back at him
over her shoulder. He felt his stomach constrict as his breath caught in his
throat. He blinked and swallowed.
Then he started after her. Well – what else
was there to do?
A/N To those of you to
whom the title of this story means nothing, it will be explained in the next
Grateful thanks to my beta, Silver Phoenix, to Seren, for her reliable honesty, and to Angela, who really ought bite the bullet and publish that novel of