Definition Of A Wolf

Part Eleven (yeah, I know, I've messed the numbers up . . . )

Disclaimer: I'm making no money from using these characters, but I am having one hell of a good time. So sue me.

Dedication: To the foreseeable end of exam season.

A/N: Flames welcome because I've not had any and it's getting chilly over here.

***

Remus felt rotten. He kept slipping in and out of consciousness, there was a throbbing pain in his side, and his head hurt. He was, however, aware of someone leaning over his bed (well, he assumed he was in bed, he could feel what were probably sheets).

"Sirius?" He gasped.

The figure shook its head. "Sorry to disappoint you, Remus."

Remus' eyes shot open. If it wasn't Sirius, then -

"Julian?"

"Nope." The figure laughed horribly. "Not him either." And the shadow melted into the familiar (horrible, yes, but familiar) face, and eventually body too, of Severus Snape.

"Oh," said Remus, relaxing slightly. "You."

"Yes, me. I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, Lupin. Dumbledore was going to do the honours, but he's otherwise occupied."

"What news?" Remus asked, trying to prop himself up with a pillow.

"About your little friend. Your . . . lover."

Remus froze. "Sirius? What's wrong with-"

Snape laughed again. "No, not him. The other one. Julian. He's . . . not with us any more."

Remus let himself slump back. A strange mixture of grief and relief swept over him. It was over, then. The murderer of his family was gone, he was free again.

"How?" he asked.

Snape snorted. "It runs in the family."

"What?"

"They've all got a killing streak."

"Who?"

"The Blacks, of course. He claimed he was under some kind of spell, but whether the Ministry will fall for that -"

Remus sighed. Thuban's work, then. He was fully willing to believe Julian had him under some kind of spell, but it didn't matter right now.

"Where's Sirius?" he asked.

"He's around. Madame Pomfrey wouldn't let him in to see you. She didn't want you stressed or exited. " Snape's expression softened slightly. "You nearly died, you know, Lupin."

Remus chuckled. He'd always known Snape wasn't as mean and heartless as he came across.

"I'm in the Hospital wing, then?" he asked. His long vision slowly came back to him, and he nodded to himself. Then, suddenly, the door burst open and Sirius came bounding in.

"Moony!" he yelped, shoving Snape roughly out of the way and bouncing happily up and down at the end of the bed. "Moony, you're alright!"

Remus laughed. "I'm fine, Sirius, just fine." He winced as his side flooded once more with pain. "Well, nearly fine."

Sirius grinned. Then he looked at Snape. "Shove off, grease ball," he said bluntly, then turned back to Remus. "I heard about Julian," he said. "Sad?"

"I don't know," said Remus, who truly didn't. "But I do know one thing, Sirius. You've got every right to hate me now."

Sirius' face fell. "Why?" he asked.

"Now you know what I'm like -"

"Don't be stupid," said Sirius. "I know exactly why you did everything you did while I was in Azkaban."

"Oh, yes?"

"Padfoot withdrawal," said Sirius happily. "But that's all cured now, mister Lupin," he added, pretending to look at Remus' non-existent patient card over his non-existent glasses. "I think you're free to leave now."

Remus grinned. "Thank you, doctor," he said, as Sirius leaned in close to him. "In fact, I've never felt better . . ."

He knew this was a lie the second he'd said it, because he knew what was going to happen next. Sirius placed a soft kiss onto his lips, tentatively at first, almost chastely. It didn't last long, though, because before either of them knew it, they were wrapped in each other's arms, catching up on a lifetime's worth of kissing, and *then* Remus knew he'd never felt better. He could have drowned in Sirius' scent and warmth and love, and died a happy man. He suddenly didn't care about not being normal. Who would want normality when they could be with the person they love?

Suddenly he became aware of some sound out there in the useless part of the Universe which didn't contain Sirius. It sounded like applause.

They broke apart, had to fight to tear their gazes away from each other, and both grinned at their audience, which consisted of most of the school crammed into the doorway and the corridor outside. Dumbledore was inside the Hospital, a closed expression on his face, McGonagal beside him looking embarrassed. Sirius and Remus went red.

"Um," said Remus, while trying to think of something more useful to say. "Headmaster, we -"

"Yes, yes, Remus, we all saw." said Dumbledore, smiling slightly. "I believe someone in the corridor caught sight of you and decided to tell the whole school. No matter." He waved a hand at the crowd. "Back to lessons, please! Go on, all of you! That includes you too, mister Potter, no gawping in the corridors, please. Move along, move along!"

When they had all gone, and Sirius and Remus had moved apart somewhat, Professor Dumbledore gave them a big smile. "I suppose you can put the past behind you now, Remus?"

"Yes, headmaster," said Remus quietly. "Um. . . I still have a job, don't I? After last night?"

Dumbledore laughed. "Yes, of course you do. Professor McGonagal wanted to expel you, but I pointed out that you're a bit old for that. Don't worry, Remus." He looked at Sirius. "As for your brother, he was quite clearly under some kind of charm or curse. I'm sure the Ministry will look kindly on him."

Sirius nodded. "Thank you, headmaster."

Dumbledore looked once more to Remus. "I think you should stay here for the next couple of days. Sirius will cover your lessons, won't you Sirius?"

Sirius nodded again.

"I'll leave you alone now. Sirius, you've got Sixth years after lunch."

***

It was a good Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. They hadn't had Professor Lupin for almost a week, and Sirius was nervous of damaging his lesson plans, so he let them do their homework in class. Harry, however, couldn't concentrate. The rest of the class had merely given Sirius faintly suggestive grins or thumbs up, but Harry simply could not believe this new revelation about his Godfather. Nevertheless, he stayed behind after the lesson to talk to him.

"Are you okay, Harry?" Sirius asked cheerfully.

Harry nodded mutely. Then he opened his mouth to speak, but Sirius got there first.

"I want to say something," said Sirius firmly. "I know you aren't entirely comfortable with Remus and I, and I understand that. As for Remus, well, he's used to prejudice." Sirius paused pointedly, noting Harry's blush, then continued. "I still want you to come and live with me when I have a place of my own. It's your choice, but I want you to know the offer's open." Harry remained silent, so Sirius continued once more. "Remus doesn't have to live with us, he can look after himself. But it's totally up to you, of course. Harry?"

Harry nodded again. "I'd much rather live with you and Remus than the Dursleys," he blurted suddenly.

Sirius smiled at him. "I thought that. Give it proper consideration, though. Summer's a good few months away."

"I will," said Harry. He walked towards the door, opened it, then looked back. "Are you happy, Sirius?"

His Godfather gave him a huge, wolfish grin. "Never felt happier, Harry."

Harry's face broke into a smile. He shut the door, walked swiftly across the classroom, and hugged Sirius. "In that case, congratulations," he muttered.

"Thank you, Harry," said Sirius, as he was released. "That means a lot to me."

Harry left the classroom, and Sirius sat down heavily in a chair. He shuddered slightly. For a moment there, he had almost believed Harry was James. The boy was so tall now, so like Sirius' dead best friend. Harry even hugged like his father.

Sirius wished, however futile it was, that James could be here now, to see him this happy. He knew Remus would be thinking more or less the same thing. The three of them had shared everything with each other, to the extent that Remus and Sirius had been just as exited as James on his wedding day. It was strange being here in Hogwarts without James and Lily, but Remus' presence made him feel more comfortable. He was going to have to keep a tight reign on his werewolf, though. If he ever lost Remus he didn't know what he would do. He wouldn't be able to live. He'd be totally lost . . .

He shook himself. That was not how he should be thinking. He had Remus, he was happy. And this was how things would be from now on.

***

Remus lay back in his hospital bed and stared at the ceiling. The wolf was dormant within him. It was grieving, he could sense that. He felt nothing at the loss of Julian himself, he had no grief or pain left to spare, but the wolf would mourn the loss of its mate. Then it would want another one. That was how it worked in the wild: the mate-for-life thing was very romantic to the outsider, but Mother Nature was heartless and scoffed at romance. The only thing any wild creature really cared about was itself. If seeming to care for another was helpful, then so be it. A mate would look out for you, share their food with you. A mate was a lifeline in the face of the harsh reality of the world. And his mate had been Julian. His mate, not his lover, because he could never have loved anyone other than Sirius. A mate could be replaced. And he would be.

Remus shifted his weight. The pain in his side was fading, with the help of various foul potions and remedies. He would survive once more.

And maybe, he thought, that was the definition of a wolf. A survivor. You looked out for yourself. You advanced the species. You triumphed over every little obstacle, you kept on living, you fought against the odds, and you *survived*. A wolf was a creature of grace and mercy and power too. Yes, that was true. But these were human words, and if you tried to define them to a wolf it would laugh at you, if it knew how. Wolves don't need words. They live for smell and sound and meaning. A wolf with words was a dog, and dogs were an entirely different matter. A wolf was pure spirit and pure wilderness, coupled with a great intelligence. Being a wolf was noble. But, ultimately, being a wolf was being cold and emotionless. Sentiment didn't last five seconds in the wild.

Being human meant you were stupid and clumsy and arrogant and loud and destructive. . . The list was endless. But, Remus Lupin told himself, if being human meant you could love and be loved in return, he would rather have that, thank you very much. On the other hand, he reflected, it was often quite nice to see things from both ends of the spectrum.

Yes. Being a werewolf had its ups. And one of them was the prospect of having Sirius Black for a mate.

Remus shut his eyes, and eventually he fell asleep to the soft sound of the wolf purring inside him as he conjured images in his mind of the life he and Sirius would live from now on. And he dreamed of Sirius, and as he dreamed, he smiled.

End.

***

Okay. . . Thank you so much everyone who has reviewed this story, especially those who have been here since the beginning - Padfootwolfboy, Eva Yasha, Lady Midnight, Dace: Check out their work, I've said it before, it rocks! Dace has just joined the ranks of Authors here under the pen-name Novek Dace. And she rules more than . . . Something which rules muchly! Black Goddess - thanks for your advice. It was a long while ago, but thanks all the same.

Hugs and kisses to you all, my spiffy readers and reviewers! May you all have a fantastic 2003.

~Queen Smithy~ W.I.F. wolves can purr if I say they can purr! I thank you.