I wandered lonely as a cloud.
Remus stared up at the sky, transfixed by the moon shining through a thin grey veil of altostratus clouds. Although the theme of William Wordsworth's lyric poem was nature's beauty uplifting the human spirit, the words usually came to mind when he was feeling low.
He lay on the dock, the dwindling heat of sun-kissed boards warming his back while the October breeze swept across the loch to chill his face. He'd left Hogwarts three months ago, joining Greyback's pack to spy for the Order. So far, he'd learned "domesticated" wolves like him were mistrusted, and he missed his friends, but nothing of value. He hadn't even discovered why the pack had roamed to a deserted cottage in Perth until Greyback returned that morning with a new packmate—a ten-year-old girl named Jane.
"What are you doing?"
Remus recognised the young, feminine voice. He said, "I'm watching the clouds, Jane."
He heard the creak of aging wood. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of brown hair and black cloak as she sat down next to him, smelling of peat smoke.
"I like the fluffy ones," Jane said, "The kind that make shapes."
Sirius and James had laughed at Peter for never seeing anything but whipped cream. Remus said, "Those are cumulus clouds."
As if his stomach reacted to thoughts of whipped cream, it growled.
Jane said, "My tummy's making noises, too, but the stew won't be ready for another hour so I came outside. Rumblies get worse if you smell something good and can't eat it."
Was her pragmatism the result of deprivation? Children were neglected and abused even when they weren't werewolves. He sat up. "It also helps to think of other things. Do you know how to recognise clouds?"
Jane pushed tangled hair away from her freckled, heart-shaped face. "Cumulus clouds make shapes."
"Very good! The ones we're gazing at are altostratus. They look like sheets hanging at middle altitude. If you see a flat cloud at lower altitude, it's a stratus cloud, and if it touches the ground—"
"Which is also a stratus cloud."
Remus found Jane to be a bright girl, eager to learn. If the world was a different place, she would be invited to Hogwarts to learn magic and make friends who saw beyond her "furry little problem." And when she sat her N.E.W.T.s and left, she would find a job because Ministry law would require equal employment opportunities, and educational programs would dispel the public's ignorance and increase tolerance. He would find a teaching position.
He startled when she touched his arm and asked, "Are you all right?"
"Yes, of course. Beg pardon. My attention wandered." Into the realm of fantasy. "Like a cloud," he said, glancing up. The airy masses had lowered and darkened into nimbostratus clouds. Rain was imminent. "It's time to go in."
"And eat stew!" Jane scrambled to her feet and ran back toward the cottage.
Remus slowly followed.
A/N: Special thanks to Siriusmunchkin for giving me the idea for this story when she wrote in her review of See Jane Run "Now if only Remus could rescue her." I couldn't see Remus taking Jane out of the pack, but there are different ways to rescue someone, and teaching is one of them. The prompt I had for this was Angst, which made me happy, because few characters do angst better than Remus, and I got the chance to introduce him to Jane. What happens next? I'll have to see where the next prompt leads. ;)