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Fic: The Snow Wolf

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Jan. 17th, 2017 | 08:02 pm
posted by: starfishstar in rt_morelove

Author: starfishstar
Title: The Snow Wolf
Rating & Warnings: PG
Word Count: ca. 12,500 so far, with 5 out of 7 sections written
Prompt: #18: ”Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
Summary:
     While on his undercover mission to the werewolves, Remus disappears. Tonks is determined to find him, no matter what the cost.
Notes:
     A fusion with “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen.
     This is an AU, but it should work as more or less canon compliant, as long as you mentally subtract those occasional bits when Harry crossed paths with Tonks around Hogwarts during HBP – she’s on a different adventure here. (Also, ignore Pottermore; in my mind, Remus and Tonks had begun at least the tentative unfurling of a romance by the end of OotP.)
     You don’t need to know The Snow Queen to read this – though if you do know the original, I hope you’ll enjoy the nods and parallels throughout!
Also:
     With apologies, this is a work-in-progress... I really appreciate rt_morelove for giving me the impetus to write a fairly involved, multi-chapter AU/fusion fic I would never have ended up writing otherwise, but I didn't quite get it all done by the deadline, simply because there's so much to cover from the original story! The Snow Queen has seven sections; so far I've written five of them. So here's a partial draft, and soon I'll finish the rest and post it at my own LJ and AO3, if anyone wants to come catch up with the rest of the story after rt_morelove has ended.



THE SNOW WOLF


I. Remus with the Werewolf Pack

One moment, all was calm in the werewolves’ pack; the autumn wind was chill, and Remus leaned closer to the fire at the centre of the pack’s moorland camp, grateful for its warmth. A moment later, all was chaos.

He heard screaming all around him, too many different voices to distinguish. Everyone was running, scattering, young and old of the pack alike fleeing in panic, trying in vain to conceal themselves somewhere in the great, pitiless openness of the moor under the evening sky.

Someone’s flailing elbow or shoulder knocked into Remus, as another pack member rushed heedlessly past, and he landed hard on the bare ground with the wind knocked out of him.

Remus felt the presence of the predator even before he opened his smarting eyes to see it: standing over him, massive forelegs braced on either side of Remus’ chest, was a great, white wolf, surely twice the size of any wolf Remus had ever seen.

This was a werewolf, Remus saw that immediately. Even though that shouldn’t be possible, because it was far from the full moon and no werewolf could transform at will when the moon wasn’t full, that was only the stuff of legends, so how

The wolf growled, low and fierce from the depths of its throat, its canny yellow eyes never leaving Remus’ face. At the sound of that growl, accustomed though he was to the presence of wolves, Remus felt every hair on his body stand on end. This wolf was the very essence of predation coalesced into animal form. Remus froze, willing his muscles to perfect stillness. He knew he didn’t stand a chance in a fight against this beast. All he could hope was to make himself uninteresting prey. What would a werewolf want with a man who was already a werewolf?

Gently, almost gracefully, the wolf lifted its right foreleg until its paw dangled in the air above Remus. Then it lowered its paw until one long, fearsome claw just barely grazed Remus’ chest, hovering precisely at the location of his heart. The wolf pressed down with its claw, so gently, penetrating through the fabric of Remus’ shirt until it broke through and pricked his skin.

The piercing claw barely broke the surface of his skin, and yet Remus felt as if a dagger of ice had stabbed straight into his heart. Despite his determination to stay still, he gasped.

At that sound, the wolf looked into his face and seemed almost to smile.

Then it opened its jaws and blew a gust of breath into Remus’ face – not hot, but icy cold, and so strong that Remus had to close his eyes against the battering force of it. Ice seemed to be seeping through his body from the cold claw at his heart and the cold wind at his face, a chill so intense he couldn’t summon the energy even to shiver. He struggled to fight against it, willing all his determination to the task of imagining himself warm, trying to draw together what power was left in his muscles just long enough for one desperate surge of motion up and away from this beast. But his body was losing strength with every second, faster than Remus was able to summon it back.

Remus gasped in one last gulp of breath-taking cold and the world went black.


II. Tonks Goes North

Tonks was in the basement kitchen at Grimmauld Place, finishing up a meeting with Mad-Eye Moody and in a foul mood, because she hated being back in this place. She’d thought Grimmauld Place dour when Sirius lived here, but being in the house now with Sirius gone, remembering how torturously unhappy he’d been while confined within its walls, made her angry all over again on his behalf. Sirius shouldn’t have been forced to live trapped here, when all he wanted was to fight and protect Harry. He shouldn’t have had to die before he ever got to be free.

So when Dumbledore’s head poked unexpectedly round the doorframe, with his flowing white beard and his twinkly eyes, perhaps she was already spoiling for a fight.

“Ah, Alastor, Nymphadora, I’m glad to catch you here,” Dumbledore said, coming fully into the kitchen. He sailed across the flagstone floor with his midnight blue robes fluttering behind him and settled into a chair across the table from Tonks. “I bring grave news.”

Tonks tensed. Was it news of Remus? She always thought first of Remus, now, when anyone in the Order said they had news. It was only a few weeks since he’d left on his clandestine mission to join a werewolf pack, but it felt to Tonks like she’d been holding her breath with worry ever since.

“It concerns Remus,” Dumbledore said, looking directly at Tonks.

All along, she’d thought she would explode in mad panic when this moment came; instead, she felt herself go very, very calm. She heard how her voice came out capable and cool, as she asked Dumbledore, “What is it? What’s happened?”

“He failed to appear for one of our regularly scheduled rendezvous,” Dumbledore said. There was none of the usual twinkle in his eye now. “That struck me as very unlike him.”

Mad-Eye, silent until now, grunted his agreement.

“What happened? Did you find him?” Tonks demanded, her calm already beginning to desert her as panic rose inside her chest.

Dumbledore, not to be rushed, went on. “I enquired, as discreetly as possible, with one or two members of the werewolf pack with which Remus has been living – particular individuals Remus had indicated he considered less likely to react with volatility to being approached a stranger. No one would tell me anything – frankly, they seemed traumatised by some recent event, too frightened to be willing to say anything about it. All I could ascertain for certain is that Remus is no longer there.”

Tonks burst up out of her seat before she knew she was doing it. “And that’s it?” she shouted. “You found out he’s missing and that’s all the investigation you can be bothered to do?”

Dumbledore rose, too, so they were once again looking at each other eye to eye across the wide expanse of the kitchen table. “No, Nymphadora,” he said, with a gentleness that only served to ratchet her anger higher. “You misunderstand me. I am not abandoning Remus. But the direct approach has not proved fruitful. We may need to bide our time and pursue more subtle lines of enquiry.”

Her head shaking wildly back and forth, Tonks pressed her hands down against the surface of the table and said, “No. Tell me where the pack lives. I’ll go there. I’ll get someone there to talk to me. I’ll find him.”

“Lass –” Moody began, also getting to his feet, his wooden leg clunking against the floor.

No,” Tonks repeated. “I’m going to find him.” She swung around to glare at Dumbledore again. “Everything about Remus’ mission has been so secretive, but you obviously know where this werewolf pack lives, so tell me. I’ll find it one way or another, but we’ll save a lot of time if you tell me now.”

Dumbledore studied her for a long time over those half-moon glasses. Finally he said, his voice low and even, “The pack make their winter encampment in the southern reaches of a stretch of moorland in Scotland. I can give you a description detailed enough to allow you to Apparate there. You must be careful, Nymphadora. Don’t forget, please, that you shall be a lone human among werewolves who have been given no reasons to think upon humans as their friends.”

Tonks nodded tightly, trying to be grateful, instead of just panicked and angry and so afraid over all the unknowns of where Remus might be. “Fine,” she said. “Tell me now. Because I’m going there right away.”

She left 12 Grimmauld Place shortly afterwards, supplied with nothing more than her wand and the light autumn cloak she wore. It was morning still, a weekend morning, but she was able to find a small side street where no one was about and concentrated hard on the description Dumbledore had given her, the exact sights and sounds and scents of the particular bit of moor where Remus had last been seen, living with the werewolf pack. Then she closed her eyes, raised her wand, and spun.

She knew she’d been successful first by her sense of smell. The wind was fresher and there was a chill nip to the air. Tonks opened her eyes, but kept her wand aloft.

The landscape that rolled out before her was stark yet quietly lovely, an endless stretch of muted brown-gold made up of grasses and low, scrubby plants under the scudding clouds of a moody sky. A good place for quiet contemplation, or a long walk in the bracing air. But all Tonks could think was that Remus was supposed to be here, he was supposed to be safe, and now he wasn’t.

Look for the small stand of trees, Dumbledore had said. The pack currently made their makeshift home where a cluster of birches offered some protection from the elements. Tonks could see those trees in the distance, but she also knew better than to approach the pack’s encampment directly. They would perceive her as a threat, and rightly so.

What, then? Scout around the area, try to find one or two werewolves out on their own, separate from the rest of the pack? What little Remus had related about werewolf packs told her that at the moment most of the pack were likely out hunting small game and scavenging food – perhaps she’d be lucky enough to find one person, out scavenging on their own, that she might be able to approach and talk to. Of course, that was assuming they didn’t smell her coming a mile off, a human intruder, and find a way to conceal themselves. She knew so little of werewolf magic.

Tonks clutched her cloak around her against the chill wind and set out across the moor.

It took until well into the afternoon, but Tonks did, almost completely to her surprise, manage to find a werewolf.

The werewolf she found was a young woman, perhaps only eighteen or nineteen, perhaps not yet as skilled as she ought to be at evading the non-werewolves of the world. The woman was bent down, gathering sticks of firewood from a patch of ground where a few evergreen trees clustered on the slope of a low hill, and she looked up in terror at Tonks’ approach.

“Don’t be frightened,” Tonks pleaded, holding out her hands to show they were empty. She’d stowed her wand well out of sight before beginning to search the moors. It was another of the things she knew from Remus: most werewolves didn’t carry wands, since they’d never had the opportunity to learn wand magic, and consequently they were mistrustful of those who did.

The young woman dropped low to the ground in a protective crouch, staring up at Tonks with wide, dark eyes.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Tonks said urgently. “I don’t want anything from you. I just want to ask you one question. Is that okay? Can I ask you a question?”

Very slowly, never breaking eye contact, the woman nodded.

“My friend –” Tonks began, her voice almost breaking on that word. Remus was so much more than a friend to her, of that she was absolutely certain, though they’d barely had time to begin finding out what they could be to each other before he’d been sent away on this mission. “My friend, Remus. You might know him by a different name, a werewolf name, but I think you’ll know who I mean. He came to live with your pack, just last full moon. And now he’s – disappeared.” She swallowed hard. Best to ask the worst first. “Is he dead?”

The young woman’s eyes had widened and widened in fear as Tonks spoke. By the time Tonks asked her question, the woman looked as though she might keel over from fright. She stared in silence so long, Tonks thought she would never answer, she might just go on staring until the end of the world fell down around them.

But Tonks could stay silent too. She gazed back at the woman crouched on the ground in front of her, hoping her eyes were showing compassion, but also a determination that she wasn’t going to leave this place. Not until she found an answer.

Finally the woman spoke, her voice soft and quavering with terrified emotion. “He is not dead,” she whispered.

Tonks felt a wave of relief crash through her chest, so warm and powerful that she stumbled a step forward. “Where is he?” she burst out, momentarily unmindful of the woman to whom she was speaking.

The woman flinched, cowering lower to the ground, then shook her head vehemently. “I can’t –” she gasped, ”It’s too terrible – I can’t.”

Tonks was more than ready to demand an answer, to stand there and argue for as long as it took – but then she looked at the young woman in front of her and saw she meant what she said, she really couldn’t. She was trembling bodily with fear, shaking like a withered autumn leaf in a gale. Then Tonks looked at herself, towering over this young frightened thing, and was ashamed of herself.

Slowly, making no sudden movements, she lowered herself to the ground as well, holding out her hands all the time to show that they were still empty and no threat. She came to rest somewhat awkwardly on her haunches, but at least now she and the woman were at the same eye level.

“I’m sorry,” Tonks said. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I see that you can’t tell me what happened. It’s all right. But maybe you can tell me which way I need to go, to look for my friend? I’ve got to find him. I just – I have to find him, that’s all.”

The woman still stared at Tonks, but she blinked, slowly. Tonks wondered if it was the first time she’d even allowed herself to blink in Tonks’ presence.

“North,” the woman whispered.

Tonks looked at her, baffled. “North…what?”

“Go north to find him.”

“Just…go straight north? How far north?”

“The wind will show you the way. Follow the wind to the north.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand.”

The woman blinked once more, this time seemingly in frustration. “No,” she said softly, perhaps speaking only to herself. “You are not a werewolf. You do not know our magicks.” She tilted her head almost imperceptibly, appearing to think. “Do you bear a wand?”

No point in not admitting it now. “Yes,” Tonks said.

“Can you do a spell that will show you the way the wind is blowing, and allow you always to follow the wind?”

Still baffled, Tonks said, “I guess I could figure out something like that, yes.”

The woman nodded sharply, the first decisive movement she had made in their whole encounter. “Then do that, now. Go.”

Tonks knew a dismissal when she heard one. And she knew she’d learned all she was going to learn from this woman – more, really, than she could have dared to hope. She stood, feeling again the chill wind that gusted past her along the hillside. Surprisingly chill, in fact, for only early autumn.

Follow the wind. Right, well, it was the only clue she had, and she would take it.

“Thank you,” she said quietly to the young woman crouched on the ground with her meagre bundle of firewood sticks. “You’ve helped me a lot, when you didn’t have to. I appreciate it.”

The woman nodded slowly, but said nothing more. So Tonks stepped quietly away from her and started walking in the direction she judged to be north.


III. A Fearsome Wind and a Charming Garden

Tonks waited to use her wand until she was out of sight of the young woman, not wanting to cause her unnecessary alarm. But once she stood alone on the open moor, Tonks withdrew her wand from the folds of her cloak and raised it in front of her. The wind was whipping around her now, snapping the fabric of her cloak against her legs.

She’d had time to think over possible spells, while walking away from the frightened young werewolf, and she’d decided that a combination of a standard directional spell and an advanced summoning charm might approximate what the woman had described. There wasn’t any standard incantation that would incorporate both, but somehow a nonverbal spell seemed best for this anyway. Fascinating to think that apparently werewolves could do this sort of thing as standard practice – and without the aid of wands. So much about werewolf magic was unknown to anyone but themselves.

Tonks lifted her wand higher, raised her eyes to the billowing soft underbelly of the cloudy sky, and focused hard on her two chosen spells. All the while she was thinking, too, of Remus and her desperate need to find him. She pulled that into her spellwork, her awareness of him and the danger he might be in, which thrummed like a steady pulse beneath everything she did.

She knew the spell had worked because she felt the wind gust against her back with a force that nearly knocked her off her feet, and at the same time she felt a great urge to run in the direction it blew. She didn’t hesitate even a moment. She stowed her wand away and took off running, the wind at her back urging her on.

She ran, never stopping, feeling as if she were flying. Though her feet never left the ground, the wind seemed almost to carry her, rushing her forward on its current like a great invisible river. Evening came, dusk fell, then dark, and still Tonks ran on, up and down great hills and fells, exhausted but exhilarated, her mind clearer now that she knew she was going in the right direction, towards her goal.

She’d left London so precipitously. Dumbledore had brought the terrible news that Remus was missing, and everything inside Tonks had seized up in terror. This was just what she’d been dreading, every moment since Remus had left on his mission: that his noble propensity for endangering himself for the sake of the Order would put him in true peril.

She should have thought her plan through, of course. Should have packed supplies, should have taken the time to consult with some advisor beyond merely accepting Moody’s terse admonition to be watchful and keep her wits about her. She didn’t even know where she was going, aside from “north,” or what had happened to the werewolf pack to frighten the young werewolf woman so badly she couldn’t even speak of it.

All Tonks knew was that if Remus needed her help, she was going to give it.

It felt as if she ran for days, though surely that couldn’t be true. The sky was beginning to lighten into a grey dawn when all at once Tonks stopped abruptly, discovering that she’d come to the edge of the land. Behind her was the same expanse of grass, but in front of her the ground tumbled down for a few feet as rocky scree, then dropped into the sea.

Putting her hands on her hips and panting to catch her breath, Tonks looked from side to side for the first time after what must have been hours of staring only straight ahead as she ran. What she found to her left was a little cottage, bordered by a tidy garden and a trim little fence, perched there at the very edge of the land.

Now that she’d stopped moving, Tonks was suddenly aware all at once that she was so tired she was nearly swaying on her feet, and that she hadn’t eaten anything since…she wasn’t sure when she’d last eaten, actually. Sometime in London, before she’d left. The sky to the east was tinged the subtlest, most delicate shade of pink, as the not yet risen sun made its approach known from beneath the horizon. A new day was about to begin. Had she truly left London only yesterday?

Tonks stood there, aware now how chilled her body felt in the cool pre-dawn air, deliberating whether to approach the cottage to ask for some food, perhaps, as well as further directions northwards now that she’d run out of land to continue on. She’d only paused a moment, though, before the cottage’s little door swung open.

The woman who stepped out of the cottage reminded Tonks a little of her own mother, if Andromeda were about forty years older and had silver hair instead of brown. This woman had the same erect bearing, but with kindness and sadness both mingling in her eyes. She called to Tonks across the small distance of her garden, “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” Tonks called back. She felt her teeth beginning to chatter with the cold and with exhaustion, and she wrapped her arms around herself for warmth.

“My, but you’ve been travelling a hard journey with the wind at your back!” the woman cried, coming down her garden path to observe Tonks more closely. She walked with the aid of a stick, so each of her steps was punctuated with the gentle thud of the wood against the flagstones of the path. “Won’t you come inside for a rest and a bite to eat?”

Tonks was a witch, a trained Auror, and she’d read all her fairy tales growing up, both the wizarding ones from her mum and the Muggle ones from her dad. She knew, when pursuing a quest, to be wary of accepting gifts from strangers. It could be the leap of trust on which everything else depended – or it could be very dangerous indeed.

But she also knew that she was weary to the bone, and so hungry her stomach felt hollow inside her, and that she would be of little use in finding Remus in this state.

She stepped closer to the garden fence. “Yes, thank you. I would appreciate that very much.”

The woman led Tonks inside the house and gave her food to eat, a hearty stew and good brown bread and a bowl of fresh red cherries. After that there was a soft, downy bed to sleep in. Tonks fell into it gratefully and had no idea how many hours she slept.

When she woke, there was sunlight streaming in through the little window and white curtains dancing gently to and fro in a mild breeze. Tonks stretched her arms, enjoying the softness of the bed and the warmth of the morning. She let herself come awake slowly, luxuriously, enjoying having to do nothing in a rush. Then she got up and strolled to the little window to look out on the garden.

The flowers that clustered beneath her window were surely the loveliest Tonks had ever seen. Snowdrops, buttercups, hyacinths, trumpet flowers, narcissus, all of them in the brightest and purest hues, like someone had set out to create the most perfect exemplar of each type of flower, and succeeded admirably.

It did seem slightly strange, somehow, to be looking at springtime flowers, though Tonks couldn’t have said why. And the flowers were so beautiful that she easily dismissed that thought.

She looked for her clothes to get dressed, but saw nothing she recognised as her own. Instead, her hostess had laid out a dress for her, a rather old-fashioned little blue pinafore. Tonks laughed at the sight of it, but she was eager to go out and enjoy the beautiful garden, so she put it on without complaint. With a quick mental effort she turned her hair short, spiky and purple for the day, then she went outside.

When she got out to the garden, the woman was already there, tending her flowers. Again, she reminded Tonks of someone, although she couldn’t have said who.

“Good morning, my dear!” the woman cried. “I hope you slept well?”

“Very well, thank you,” Tonks said, grinning. She really did feel extremely well rested.

Well rested from…what? It seemed she remembered some sense of urgency from before, something she was supposed to be doing, but she couldn’t think what. That sensation of missing something she was meant to be doing niggled at her. She didn’t like feeling that she’d forgotten something.

“Come and see my garden!” the woman exclaimed, coming up to lay a hand on Tonks’ arm. “Wouldn’t you like to have a look at all the beautiful flowers?”

Since she couldn’t remember what it was that she couldn’t remember, Tonks dismissed her concerns for the time being in favour of politeness to her host, and let the woman give her a tour around the lovingly tended little garden.

A warm breeze blew as Tonks and the woman strolled side by side amongst the flowers, the starchy folds of Tonks’ funny little pinafore sticking out crisply to her sides. Again, Tonks could only marvel at the perfection of each flower she saw. The little snowdrops were the most delicate white, the luminous buttercups the warmest shade of yellow. The pink and purple hyacinths were like bright bursts of joy springing up out of the ground.

All the while as they strolled, the woman was chattering away cheerfully, though her eyes belied something more melancholy than her tone would seem to suggest. “It is so lovely to have a visitor!” she exclaimed, linking her arm through Tonks’. “It does get lonely here. How good that the wind has brought you to my door!” She glanced over, then rested her walking stick against her hip for a moment so she could reach her hand up to pat Tonks’ spiky hair. “But your hair, my dear, is it always like that? I sense such magical ability for transformation in you, and you are such a sweet girl, too. I’m sure you could make your hair something sweet to match – long and golden, perhaps? How darling that would be, with your lovely young face.”

Tonks frowned. It was an odd request, but perhaps there was no harm in it. The woman only seemed to want company, and maybe she was a bit out of practice, when it came to how to have a normal conversation.

“I suppose –” Tonks began, but she got no further, because just then her eye was caught by a different flower in a far corner of the garden. “What is that?” she exclaimed, urgent now. She pulled her arm from the woman’s and rushed to the corner of the garden to take a closer look.

The plant bore stalks of delicate, deep purple flowers, each blossom of a shape that to a fanciful mind might resemble a miniature friar’s cowl: this plant was monkshood.

Aconite.

Wolfsbane.

How many times had Tonks pored over herbology texts and references, wishing a novice potion maker like herself could somehow learn to safely produce the Wolfsbane Potion and save Remus so much suffering? She’d read enough to know, to her great frustration, that only a master potioneer should attempt the difficult work of brewing that particular potion. She’d also read enough that she would recognise the wolfsbane plant instantly, anywhere.

And with the sight of it, all the rest came rushing back: Remus, the terrifying news that he’d gone missing, her mad dash into the world to find him, and simply the memory of Remus himself, because she could never forget Remus.

She could never forget –

Tonks spun around to stare at her host, who’d come quietly up behind her, this kindly old woman who had taken her in and given her a bed to sleep in.

“What did you do to me?” Tonks demanded. “Did you put something in the food? Did you cast a spell while I was asleep? You know what, I don’t even care which it was. Just give me back my own clothes, because I’m leaving. I’ve wasted too much time here already.”

Of all things, tears had begun to glisten at the corners of the woman’s eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her face contorting wretchedly. “It was wrong of me to do magic on you. I get so lonely, and I long so much for a little girl to come and stay and be like a daughter to me.”

“I’m not a little girl,” Tonks snapped. She tugged at the waist of the pinafore, trying to find the buttons that would unfasten it.

“I see that,” the woman gasped, twisting her hands together. “It was wrong of me to trick you, child, I know, but I’ll make it up to you!”

Tonks glared at her. “I don’t want your help. You think I would trust you now?”

The woman’s hands stilled in front of her, and suddenly she looked far more serious, and far more powerful, than she had done at any point before. “I can see you are searching for something, and it was wrong of me to keep you from your search. No, you have no reason to trust me,” she said. “But I’m going to help you all the same.”


(continues with parts IV and V in a second post...)


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Comments {2}

huldrejenta

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from: huldrejenta
date: Feb. 2nd, 2017 10:11 am (UTC)
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Ooh, you had me from the start with the wolf breathing the cold at Remus... On to the next part!

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starfishstar

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from: starfishstar
date: Feb. 2nd, 2017 01:58 pm (UTC)
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​Yay, so glad to hear the opening was engaging! (I wasn't quite sure if that first bit was too short/too little...)



With some chagrin, I have to admit that what's posted here is definitely proving itself to be something of a first draft - I'm still working on this story, and in addition to writing the later sections that weren't finished in time for the deadline, section II has expanded some, and section III is probably going to change entirely... So for better or worse, there's still more to come, even in this part!

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