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Howling


The beginning always left him wondering how much longer he could do this. How much longer could his muscles tear and rip as they realigned to fit the new configuration of bone? How much longer could bone grind against bone, reshaping joints, splitting and reattaching in inhuman shapes before they protested and were unable to change back?

There had been a time, between the war and now, in which he had no longer cared. He had thought if he were found dead, half wolf, half man, his blood spilled out, his life spent and wasted in some forgotten wood, that no one would bother to bury him, leaving him instead for the scavenges that cleansed the forest floor. Remus tipped his head up to the darkening sky as he always did, feeling the pull of the moon but wanting to see the first evening star before it called.

When he was young, he and his mother had played a game on clear star filled nights such as this. Sitting on the steps, he would point to the stars and she would give him its name, or lacking that the constellation to which it belonged. He would grin and try again to find one she did not know. He felt her presence now, as he spied Sirius, and thought he could see the dim outline of the mighty hunter, before the pain took his breath away and his transformation began again.

The wolf within became aware, his ears picked up the sound of the others, walking on padded feet over the dried ground. The wolf raised his snout and sniffed the air, unable to smell the pack's leader. Remus felt its mouth fall open and its tongue loll out, panting, tasting the air. As it came to its feet, he thought of his assignment and knew he must concentrate if he planned to survive the night and not give up to the wolf.

It was becoming easier for him to fall under the spell of the night's freedom and harder to return each morning. At first, he had blamed it on inferior potions and stale ingredients. Now, he second-guessed even his own assumptions and wondered what was in man's inherent nature that pushed him toward the darkness and fascination with animalistic behaviours.

When he'd had full access to the Hogwarts library, he had become enthralled with ancient man's ideas of werewolves. He had found that a bite of a werewolf transferring the condition had been a recent discovery. Wizarding scholars had worked since then to find a cure, not understanding the true extent of the change, and the desire that became stronger with each moon to not return. With the foolishness of a teenager, he had experimented with oils and lotions, said by the ancient Greeks to bring on the condition, and to cure it just as easily.

A low growl started at the base of the wolf's massive chest, growing until it forced its way up, into the salivating mouth and out to the unseen danger lurking at the edge of its vision. Remus fought for control, knowing that he should see what threatened him before allowing the wolf to strike. The wolf lay down in the shadows, its head resting on its paws waiting for the new comer to make a mistake. They lay together, the wolf and the man, unblinking, unmoving, with a patience born from years of waiting in the shadows, of lurking in the darkness, or stalking its prey.

Remus had often been surprised to find that the wolf knew at once what to do, leaving him, the human trapped inside, unsure and afraid. Whereas the wolf would instinctively know when to hide, when to attack , when to become submissive and roll to the ground in front of an alpha male, Remus was unsure, hesitant, stopping to think how a wolf would react.

Now they watched together, smelling a musky scent when the other walked into view. The wolf instinctively whimpered, recognising it as superior and acknowledging its own servitude.

Remus commanded the wolf to rise up on its feet and to lower its heard. The wolf obeyed, snarling and bristling its fur the length of its spine. Together in one body, they forced the newcomer to acknowledge them and see them as a potential threat. Too late the man turned wolf became aware that the one that stood in front of him was the same as he. They both retained a human mind, but unlike he, the other no longer remembered to rely on calm reason instead of his more natural animalistic reaction.

Remus circled, watching the eyes of the other, waiting for the eyes to show him where the first attack would land, leaving the wolf to bare its teeth and snap at the perceived threat.

In a flash of swirling fur and dust the alpha male dropped and shot forward, the wolf and man skittered to the side, planted its feet firmly as its body contorted in a sideways roll, clamping its jaws on the other's haunch, ripping at the flesh. In an instant, the pseudo alpha realized his error, for he had attacked one just like himself, only stronger, older, and with a determination that he had not seen before. With a yelp of pain he backed off, lay down and looked up at the wolf that he had heard ran the woods but had until now thought only a rumour. He lay down his head and waited, waited t see if he would be accepted or once again left on his own.

Remus sat on his haunches, lifted his head to the sky and let the wolf that he was howl into the night, announcing to Greyback that he was here.

In the next valley an old scared wolf stood up and began to pace. He had long ago learned to clear his mind and to separate himself from the confinements the moon put on him. Now, he heard the howl and knew that another had leaned to do the same. Tipping up his head, he answered the lonely howl with his own, accepting the challenge, then turned and ran under the moon lit sky.