Moony (x_remus_lupin_x) wrote in beyond_hogwarts,
Moony
x_remus_lupin_x
beyond_hogwarts

Acceptance

When: 19 January 1999 to 20 January 1999
Who: Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, Selena D'Ardennes
Where: Snape Manor; Vosges Mountains, France
Status: Complete
Summary: Severus asks Remus to go to France, and two werewolves meet



Severus sighed, scowling into the cauldron that he was standing in front of. He could feel Remus standing a few feet away, could hear the steady thump of the knife as the smaller wizard cut up the various ingredients to the specifications he'd given him earlier. Normally, the sound was a soothing one for the Potions Master. Just a small noise to reassure him that his instructions were being followed and everything was going smoothly in his laboratory. However, that wasn't the case today. No, right now Severus was fighting a battle within himself. It was coming up on the week before the full moon and he still hadn't taken Remus to see Selena. Or even mentioned her, for that matter.

Currently, his mind was telling him to let it go. That he was risking exposure for the Obliviate he'd done on the werewolf if they went to see the woman. His emotions, though, were whispering that he couldn't allow his own selfishness stand in the way of a possible help for Remus. And, as it stood, his emotions were winning. This is utterly ridiculous, he thought, giving himself a firm mental shake. It is not my concern. If he wants assistance, he can find it himself.


He knew that wasn't going to happen, though. Remus had made it perfectly clear that he was focused solely on helping to find the cure for Cruciatus. And Severus was fairly certain that nothing was going to keep him from his task.



Sighing, the man knew what he had to do. So, turning from the cauldron, he locked his gaze on the werewolf and quietly said, "Remus, there is something I wish to discuss with you."


Glancing up, Remus raised on eyebrow at the Potions Master in surprised inquiry. The last time he said that, Remus thought wryly, it wasn't good...

Shaking his head at the direction of his thoughts, Remus laid the knife he was using aside, and turned to face the other man, giving him his full attention. "Yes, Severus?" he asked softly. "And what would that be?"

Severus swallowed, his face remaining impassive while his thoughts scrambled for something to say. Somehow, he didn't think 'I want you to come with me to meet a werewolf who may be able to help you' would work very well. However, he knew that he would have to say something to get Remus to agree to follow him to France. Finally, he stated, "There is some … business that I must attend to in France. I would appreciate it if you would come with me." Do not ask me what it is, he silently pleaded. I do not want to have to lie. That thought alone shocked him. Since when had he cared about lying when it really mattered? Not the time! his mind screamed. Focus!

"France?" the werewolf asked, vaguely surprised. Then he smiled. He wants my help. How convenient to be asked to come along, when if I had found out he was going to be going away, I would have insisted upon accompanying him. Probably business for the Order...

"Of course, Severus. I'd be more than happy to go with you," he replied, nodding. "When did you want to leave, and how long will we be gone? I assume it's Order business..." Remus' voice trailed off. "Scratch that. You don't have to answer, of course."

The Potions Master gave a mental sigh. Thank Merlin for small favors… Out loud, he replied, "I wish to leave as soon as possible. Tomorrow, in fact. And, while I cannot say for certain how long it will take, I would not imagine more than a day. Provided that there aren't any unforeseen complications, of course." He deliberately didn't deny or confirm that it was Order business. Let him believe what he wishes.



As an almost afterthought, he added a soft, "Thank you." Then, he turned his attention back to the softly simmering cauldron, not wanting to stare into Remus' trusting amber eyes anymore than he absolutely had to.

"Tomorrow? Certainly, Severus," came the quick agreement. "And you're welcome, of course. Being invited saves me having to annoy you in order to be included." The werewolf's voice held a trace of laughter. "I would enjoy seeing France again. I haven't been back since..." His voice trailed off, the laughter fading.

"I haven't been there for a number of years," he finished softly.

Severus paused in his stirring, but only for the briefest of seconds. He didn't know how to reply to Remus' statement, and certainly wasn't the type to attempt to raise anyone's spirits, either.



However, he did find himself not wanting to leave the conversation with that, so he absently replied, "Yes, well, I'm not entirely certain how much of France we will actually view. The location we are going to is in the Vosges Mountains, and we will apparate to the small town very near there."



Glancing back at Remus, he stated in a softer tone, "I'm certain w … you will find the time to return to France again. Perhaps once Lucius and the others are taken care of."

It had taken everything he had to say 'you' instead of 'we', and quickly turned his attention back to the potion he was brewing lest he make a similar mix up.

"I'm not very familiar with that area," Remus replied, frowning thoughtfully. "Rather remote, I take it? And as far as going back..." He paused, shrugging. "I'm not much one for travelling alone. Memories aren't much good without someone to share them with, I've found."

He had caught the hesitation in the other man's voice. He's thinking negatively again... I'm not going to have that! Leaving his area, he walked up behind Severus. "Perhaps after Lucius and the others are taken care of, I can show you the areas of France that I know. I learned to fight with a sword there, as well as some other interesting pursuits." Severus was welcome to scowl and refuse the invitation, but Remus wanted it made clear to the other wizard that his survival was not something that Remus doubted.

Had he been anyone else, he might have gasped at the offer. As it was, though, he was Severus Snape, a man who had spent many years of his life hiding his true emotions until he could sort them out himself.



And this was no exception.



Continuing to stir the mixture in the cauldron, he paused for a moment as though considering the idea. Then, he merely nodded. Glancing quickly at the werewolf, he replied, "That is certainly a possibility. I haven't traveled very much, due to … other things."



He didn't specify and knew he wouldn't have to. Remus, of all people, would know he was referring to his time as a Death Eater, then Professor, then spy. That was one of the good things with talking to the werewolf, he had recently realized.

He didn't have to explain himself as often as he did with other people. Remus just seemed to know.

"Of course," Remus agreed easily. "There are some exceptionally beautiful areas in the country I would love to show you, where I spent some time as I was learning the rapier. And..."

He paused, stepping back, raising one eyebrow consideringly before giving a slight smile as an idea occurred to him. His eyes travelled down the other wizards body assessingly. "You know, I believe you would make a fine swordsman, Severus. You have the body build for rapier, and the reflexes and grace to pull it off with elegance. I could even give you lessons myself, although I'm not as good with a blade as Blaise is. You might find it an interesting pursuit, as well as one that is useful if you find yourself needing to defend yourself without a wand. As the new leader of the Order... well, such things could only be beneficial, could they not?"

Severus snorted, raising an eyebrow and giving Remus a look that clearly stated he was not at all interested. "I think not," he replied simply. "I have neither the time nor the patience to learn to be a swordsman."



Looking back at the cauldron, he casually added, "And let us not forget the fact that I can scarcely walk at times. I hardly think giving me a weapon and telling me to 'have at it' is a wise decision."



His voice sounded almost hollow by the time he'd finished talking. The simple fact was, he hated reminding anyone, especially himself, of his own limitations. However, he wasn't going to allow Remus a chance to create grandiose plans when he could easily not be alive in another month.

Remus drew a sharp breath at the pain in the other man's tone. He didn't even think as he put a hand on Severus' shoulder, pressing into it to cause the other wizard to turn around. "We put a sword in Neville's hands and let him come at us," Remus said, raising a humorously challenging brow as he determined to break the Potions Master's melancholy mood. "Surely Severus Snape is up to anything that a Longbottom can do?"

The Potions Master gave another snort. "Very well," he finally conceded. "As long as you never attempt to compare me to Longbottom again, I will agree."



Shaking his head, he turned back to the cauldron and flicked his wand to lower the flame. Once he was certain the mixture was at the right temperature, he looked back at Remus. "Whenever you feel like finishing cutting up the ingredients, the potion is ready for them," he said with just a touch of sarcasm.

Pleased at the lightening of the other man's mood, Remus gave him a impudent grin. "Yes, Severus, of course, Severus," Remus said with false humility. Then he reached out almost absently to brush a strand of black hair away from Severus' cheek, tucking it neatly behind one ear without even seeming to realize what he was doing.

Severus blinked, nearly leaning into the touch before realizing what he was doing. Gripping the edge of the table, he forced himself to take a calming breath before returning his attention to the cauldron. I do not believe… Quickly, he forced his thoughts away from what had just happened. Not now. If you react, he will become uncomfortable and will not go with you tomorrow. Remain calm. Clearing his throat slightly, he managed a quiet, "Very well. Then it is decided. Tomorrow we leave for France. Upon our return, and when able to find the time, I will attempt to learn how to become a swordsman." His voice sounded strained and he could only hope that Remus didn't notice. However, it was taking everything he had not to react to the simple touch. Merlin help me.

If Remus noticed the strain, he didn't comment on it, only giving the Potions Master a smiling nod. "Agreed, Severus," he replied, before turning back to continue with his task as he had been instructed, hiding the glint of victorious amusement that he knew must be in his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

January 20, 1999 - Vosges Mountains, France

"Are you certain you know where we are going?" Remus asked, looking around doubtfully at the trees they were passing. "I can't believe anyone would remove themselves so far from civilization."

Severus nodded slightly, tipping his head in the direction they were walking. "It is just a bit further," he answered, fighting to keep the nervousness out of his tone. What if she mentions I am his mate? He will demand an explanation. Then what will I tell him?

Forcing himself not to begin panicking just yet, he slowed down as they finally reached the clearing that held the log cabin. "Ah, here we are."

Remus sighed, relieved that this hadn't been some sort of wild goose chase. He was worried enough about Severus being this far from Snape Manor, and about both of them being absent from the work on the potion... Not to mention I can tell he's in pain, and while I would have no trouble carrying him, no doubt he would never let me hear the end of it.

Amber eyes took in the cabin, before glancing sideways at the Potions Master, one brow quirked slightly with wry humor. "Well, lead on, MacDuff. This was your idea."

Not acknowledging Remus' comment, Severus continued to the cabin and onto the porch. Ignoring the pain that was coursing through his body, he glanced briefly to make sure Remus was still there before knocking on the door.

An instant later the door opened and Selena peered out, her dark eyes flashing slightly at Severus. "So," she stated. "I see you have returned." Then, she stiffened, turning her gaze toward Remus. "And you have brought your friend with you."

Oh, thank Merlin. Severus nodded. "Yes, I have. His name is Remus Lupin. Remus, this is Selena d'Ardennes," he introduced.

Selena raised an eyebrow, a slow smirk spreading across her face. "Remus, is it?" she asked. "A pleasure."

Remus had followed Severus closely, worried at the spike he had sensed in his friend's pain level as he had mounted the small steps onto the porch. He was, therefore, standing close beside the other man... close enough to grab him, should that become necessary.

When the door opened, he turned to look at the face which was silhouetted in the minimum possible space. Dark hair, dark eyes... Werewolf, he sensed immediately, drawing in a hissing breath of surprise. A female werewolf, no less - and unless his senses were mistaken, an Alpha as well.

"Miss d'Ardennes," he heard himself replying automatically to the pleasantry, before he tore his gaze away to look at Severus, eyes narrowed. Why in Merlin's name did he bring me here? If this is some kind of joke, or... Remus shook his head. He knows what I am. I shouldn't leap to conclusions. A fine sentiment, but as he looked back at the woman framed in the door, reading the smirk on her face, he was shocked to feel the burning tingle begin on his skin as the wolf within him stirred.

Severus stiffened, something washing over him as he watched the interaction between Selena and Remus. It was almost as if he could feel the wolf, straining to break free beneath the calm façade of his mate. That is impossible … isn't it?

Selena, meanwhile, appeared simply intrigued. Raising an eyebrow, she glanced briefly at the Potions Master. "You were not lying," she said simply. Then, she stepped aside. "Both of you, come in."

For some reason he couldn't quite name - or at least didn't care to think about - Remus moved inside first, keeping himself between Severus and the woman. He watched her carefully, unaccountably wary, his guard well and truly up. Clenching his jaw slightly, he willed the wolf to go away. I do not need to be losing control here. If I do, I can't protect Severus... So caught up was he in watching while fighting that inner battle, that he didn't even have time to wonder why he felt it necessary to protect Severus from her, when the Potions Master was certainly quite capable of drawing his wand and hexing both werewolves into unconsciousness.

The Potions Master raised an eyebrow as Remus made certain to go inside before he did. Deciding not to question it, for now, he instead kept his gaze on Selena. She was definitely acting differently than she had with just him. Although he wasn't certain he liked this version of her any better.

The woman smirked slightly as she trained her gaze on Remus. She noticed how he instinctively moved to keep her from his mate and she couldn't help but want to rise to the silent challenge he was issuing.

"Very well. I suppose we should all have a seat. Perhaps get a bit more comfortable before we begin talking?" she asked, motioning not to the wooden chairs she and Severus had sat at on his previous visit, but instead to the armchair and couch.

Glancing back at Severus, Remus inclined his head toward the sofa, waiting until the dark-haired wizard sat down before sitting down next to him - still keeping himself between Severus and the other werewolf. He kept quiet, although the look he gave the Potions Master suddenly burned with unspoken questions, and the itch on his skin increased as the female werewolf drew nearer. What in Merlin's name is wrong with me? he thought distantly.

Severus was beginning to seriously question his decision to bring Remus to see this woman. Not only was it obvious that Remus was now fighting his wolf more than ever, the Potions Master was so uncomfortable that he felt like simply standing up and dashing from the room.

What is wrong with me? He wondered, unknowingly echoing Remus' thoughts. I was not this uncomfortable when I was speaking with her before… Before he could analyze it, though, Selena had begun speaking.

Sitting in the armchair, her focus almost solely on the werewolf, the young woman stated, "When I was fifteen, I was bitten by a werewolf." Her voice took on an almost whispery quality as she continued, her dark gaze locked on Remus.

"Not nearly as young as some, true. But I was bitten just the same. Shortly thereafter, my parents disowned me as an abomination and I was exiled from my hometown, forbidden to ever return. For two years I was alone, until one day I stumbled upon a man with the same curse as I. We instantly connected, becoming friends and, at times, lovers. He became part of my pack. Not quite a mate, because I refuse to be burdened with such a thing, but he was family. I would have died for him. Instead, I killed for him."

Suddenly, her voice changed. Hardness and sorrow were woven together to form her tone. "There was a woman that he had been involved with for a while. Apparently, when he left her, she did not take it so well. She immediately began searching for him; seeking vengeance for the heartache he had caused her. Eventually, she found him … and murdered him. When I returned to our home to find him slaughtered, I lost control. I went in search of the woman who was responsible, and when I found her I ripped her limb from limb."

Taking a moment to allow the words to sink in, she finally continued. "Shortly after that, my wolf began acting far more aggressive than ever before. It would attempt to gain control over me in stressful situations. At times, it succeeded. I take it from what your … friend has told me, you are going through something similar, yes?"

Remus went pale, his heartbeat thudding in his ears as she spoke. She knows, he thought wildly. She can... sense it. Sense that my control is weak.

Tearing his eyes from the penetrating gaze of the woman, and fighting the pull of the wolf, he looked at Severus again. Caught somewhere between wonder that Severus had obviously tried to help him and a searing pain as the beast within him surged in empathy for the words she spoke, his eyes burned briefly before he looked away again, staring at the floor. Then he took a deep, shuddering breath, clenching his hands into fists on his knees. "Yes," he replied.

He paused for a moment, and when he spoke his voice was completely dead, as though he didn't even realize he was speaking, so caught up was he in the past. "I killed a member of my pack. He was responsible for the deaths of all the others. I... slaughtered him. I tore him to pieces with my bare hands and teeth and... I... was glad to do it."

And, as though the admission had released something, Remus felt the wolf retreat slightly in pain, and he dropped his head into his hands.

Severus had remained impassive throughout Selena's tale, unwilling to allow his emotions to cloud his judgment of what she might be actually saying. However, when Remus began speaking, telling of what the Potions Master knew was Wormtail's death, he felt as though his heart were shattering.

Blinking, he tried to analyze the feeling. Rarely did he feel sympathy for someone, especially someone he'd spent the majority of his life hating. He hadn't felt one iota of upset when he had learned of James Potter's death, nor when he'd discovered that Sirius Black had been wrongly accused of the same crime. Why, then, did he care about the pain that Remus was going through?

Because he is my mate.

The answer came so quickly that it nearly made Severus gasp in realization. Looking at the man that was sitting beside him, obviously in an overwhelming amount of anguish, he suddenly knew it to be true. Just as Selena had insisted before, just as he had believed since that day in the potion's lab, he know knew with startling clarity that he belonged with Remus Lupin.

Without thinking, instead reacting on a bond that he couldn't begin to truly comprehend, he found himself reaching out and touching the man on the shoulder. He said nothing, knowing there were no words that could be spoken to ease the other wizard's guilt. Instead, he tried to latch onto the link he could feel with the wolf and send it as much compassion as a former Death Eater possibly could.

Selena watched the entire exchange with open awe. She had never seen a wolf and its mate up close before, never observed the interaction that took place between them. If they are like this when the bond is weak, I can only imagine…

Shaking her head, she forced her mind back into focus. She was supposed to be helping them, not studying them.

"It took me quite a while to learn control. And, as far as I am aware, I am the only one who has mastered it. Most others, once they give in to the pull of the wolf, never return. Oftentimes they go mad, or simply feral."

She paused, considering what she was about to offer. Did she really want to willingly give up her secrets? Did she want to tell this werewolf and his mate how she fought her way back from the brink of insanity? Seeing the obvious pain that was radiating from the pair, she knew she truly had no choice.

Finally, she said, "if you would like, I could tell you what worked for me. Although there are no guarantees it will help you, it may give you a place to start."

The touch of Severus' hand on his shoulder was like a spot of light in the overwhelming darkness of his pain. For the briefest of moments he thought of fighting it, of letting the blackness of his guilt and horror at his own actions consume him. Blood... there was so much blood... and I reveled in it. I felt savage joy at his pain and horror and fear... I wanted it to go on forever... But the light from that simple touch increased, and it was... understanding. Compassionate - and it would not let him fall prey to himself, to the savagery in his soul.

Remus didn't understand it, he couldn't have described it even if he tried - but the wolf responded to it. And while Remus Lupin the man might not be able to share his torment with the man who had been his enemy for almost his whole life, the wolf within him had no problem reaching out to his mate... even if he didn't fully realize what was happening.

After a long moment, he drew a shuddering breath, and looked up, seeing sympathy in the dark eyes of the woman. Live... or do not, the thought came from no where, as though he were being offered a choice. And feeling the hand of the man who had once hated him touching him with sympathy, Remus made his decision.

"I... yes... if... you can help, I would... be grateful."

Selena nodded, seeming to relax a fraction now that Remus wasn't quite in so much inner turmoil. "Very well," she said in a no nonsense tone. Then she hesitated, glancing briefly at Severus. Part of her was loathe to say anything in front of him, even if he was Remus' mate. Too many years of humans, wizards in particular, treating her with contempt had caused her heart to harden. So it was nearly impossible for her to openly share information that was meant solely for one of her own kind with any outsiders.

However, she also knew that he needed, no deserved, to know what was to be expected. He had a right to be aware of the obstacles that were laid out before his mate. And, who knew? Perhaps the dark haired wizard could find some way to assist his friend in regaining control.

Still, she wasn't sure she could go against everything she believed in simply for two men that she barely knew.

Severus watched as her eyes darted from him to Remus, a look of indecision shining in their dark depths. Suddenly, panic began to well within him as he came to the only logical conclusion. She isn't going to tell him. I am here and she isn't going to tell him because of me…

Remus nodded at her words. "What do I do?" he asked simply. "Tell me, please?"

It was the please that helped her make up her mind.

"The first thing is to recognize what has caused your wolf to break free," she began, her voice completely lacking the hostility it had held thus far. "Obviously, you have already done so. Now, you must come to terms with it. You must realize that you didn't want to kill just anyone, but rather you wanted specific vengeance. Once you accept that, you will find a sense of peace that will help you with the other obstacles you must overcome."

Sitting up a bit straighter, her tone took on a bit more life as she continued, "Secondly, you must figure out what is continuing to cause your wolf to struggle within you. If at all possible, avoid the situations until you have more control. If that is not possible, then you must find a way to regain control … without denying the wolf." Locking eyes with Remus, her voice took on a sense of urgency.

"This is very important. You cannot continue to deny the wolf. It is a part of you always. And, while you may feel that you have already accepted that, the simple fact is that you clearly have not. Had you done so, you would not be struggling with control now."

Raising an eyebrow, she asked, "Do you understand so far? Are there any questions? If so, ask them now, before I explain the final part. It is the most important and therefore there is no room for error."

Listening intently, Remus nodded at her words, mulling them over in his mind. Yes, I know what caused it, he thought. Peter. It was about Peter... and James and Lily and Sirius and Harry and... making it right. I couldn't fix it, but... I evened the score. It hurt, but... it was all I could do for them.

Drawing a breath, Remus thought about the second problem. What was causing the wolf to struggle? "I... every time I... think I'm losing someone," he said. "I have so little left, so few people who... matter to me. When I think I'm going to lose someone again, he... it... I can't stop him," he whispered. "It's... death. That's what it is, that's what makes me... lose control of him."

Then Remus shook his head. "Deny him? How can I accept him? He's there, but... he isn't me," he said. "How can he be? How can it be me? I'm not... I'm not that way! I don't kill!" he said, turning desperate eyes to Severus. "I'm not a killer... am I?"

Severus' eyes widened as Remus turned his questioning to him. Instantly, he wanted to respond with 'no, of course not'. But, then he thought about it, truly thought about it, and he knew he couldn't lie.

"You have killed before. That alone makes you a killer. But, there is a far cry from someone who kills in the name of justifiable vengeance, and someone who kills merely for the pleasure of it." His eyes flashed with sorrow for a brief second as he thought about the fact that he had once been someone who killed for pleasure. Then he shook it off and re-focused his attention on his mate.

Selena resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Not a killer, are a killer, what does it matter?" she snapped. Giving Remus a stern look, she said, "You are a werewolf, are you not? Were you not bitten by a wolf? Do you not carry the scar to this day? Can you not feel the animal inside of you, itching to break free? And, when it does, do you not feel a sense of completion until your supposed common sense returns and the guilt along with it?"

Remus focussed on Severus' words, trying to draw comfort from them... and feeling a stab of regret for the pain he saw in the black eyes of the Potions Master. He reached up briefly, placing an apologetic hand on the pale fingers that still rested on his shoulder. But the words of Selena caused his eyes to widen suddenly, and his head whipped around, amber eyes gazing at her in shock.

His stomach sank, and he turned back to look at Severus. I kissed him... and... she's right. I wanted... the wolf wanted to do it. I'm the one who felt guilty, not the wolf.

"Yes," he said, swallowing painfully and dropping his eyes. "When he... breaks free... I... I think I... like what he's doing..." he admitted with difficulty, before looking back at the woman. "But he doesn't have to live with the consequences... I do! And there are things that just... aren't right. Things that he wants, I think, that... I don't know how to deal with."

Selena nodded along with his words, an almost impatient look on her face. When he finished, she raised an eyebrow. "You are still considering the wolf as separate from you." Leaning forward, she locked eyes with him and said simply, "It isn't."

Severus tensed at this, his mind pulling up images of the potions laboratory, the snarl that had issued from Remus' mouth before claiming him in a kiss that had stolen his breath away. It can't be possible. Remus would never … Yet, he knew it was also true.

It was Remus who became angry when I attempted to push him away. It was Remus who didn't want to hear how I was dying. It was Remus … Severus sat up straighter and his eyes widened as it all fell into place for him.

The werewolf's words from that day at the laboratory, after the wolf had already retreated, came rushing back to Severus. "I've claimed you... you're MINE. My... mate."

"Bloody hell," the Potions Master whispered, his stomach dropping sharply. "She's right…"

Remus sprang to his feet, eyes full of agony. "How can that be? I didn't ask for it! I... he's dark, he's violent and brutal and... How can he be me?" He looked at Severus again, eyes pleading. "Am I really a monster? An abomination?" he asked, voice thick with pain.

Severus paled as his own thoughts on the werewolf, of just werewolves in general, were tossed back in his face in the form of a question. Looking into Remus' amber eyes, he found himself honestly and instantly replying, "No."

After a second's pause, he quietly added, "But you have shown the same tendencies as those which you claim the wolf possesses."

He couldn't believe how much pain it caused him to say those words. Words which, had it been a mere six months earlier, he probably would have said with glee.

Selena continued to stare impassively at Remus, appearing unmoved by his exclamations. "Who do you know who did ask for this?" she asked quietly. "I certainly didn't. I was always a kind girl. A nice, normal, kind girl with a bright future. Then I was bitten."

Rising to her feet, she met his gaze evenly. "The wolf is dark, yes. But, so are humans. We react to instinct. The need to protect those that we love. Humans commit genocide, wiping out entire groups for no reason other than the whims of a diluted leader. The world's history, both Magical and Muggle, is full of tales of human killing human. They are no better than we are, and it is the fact that you have spent your entire life listening to them tell you otherwise that you do not realize that!"

Remus flinched as though he had been struck when Severus had followed up his initial denial with the soft-voiced qualifier. His face went pale, as Selena's words went past him. He heard them, and some tiny portion of his brain - the part that had been a professor, and had once upon a time been a Gryffindor prefect - acknowledged the logic of them. After all, he had had the same intellectual thoughts from time to time, hadn't he? At some point when the wolf in him had been safely relegated to its one-night-a-month in his life and hadn't suddenly decided to try to burst forth at other times.

It hurts, he thought, drawing in a sharp breath, eyes locked on the Potions Master. And this time, when the dreaded prickling sensation began across his skin, he didn't care. Let it come, he thought. At least when the wolf is there I don't... hurt.

Selena fell silent as she watched the changes Remus was going through. Sitting back down, she simply observed, knowing that she had done all she could do. The rest was up to him.

The pull of the wolf slammed into Severus with enough force that, had he been standing, would have sent him to his knees. Oh Merlin… Eyes widening, the Potions Master swallowed. He knew he should say something to pull the smaller wizard back from the brink. However, his mind was only forming one coherent thought.

Yours.

MINE, the thought burst through Remus victoriously, as his eyes darkened to the color of molten gold. His surroundings faded to insignificance as he stepped towards Severus, concerned now only with what he wanted... what he, Remus Lupin, wanted.

He wanted Severus.

His hands reached out towards the man who gazed up at him from the couch, their gazes locked... and that was when the realization spread over him, before the last vestiges of his reasoning ability were wiped away.

I am the wolf.

Slowly, carefully, Severus rose up to stand beside the smaller wizard. Making certain not to give the impression that he was challenging the wolf, but instead more than willing to meet it, he softly murmured, "Remus, listen to me. You are not an abomination. There is nothing wrong with having a bit of darkness in you. No one, not even Albus Dumbledore, was completely pure. If acceptance is the only way to truly face what is happening then, for the love of Merlin, do it."

His tone was almost pleading now, but he didn't care. He was terrified that Remus would either hide behind the wolf, or lose the battle for control once and for all. And he wasn't going to allow that to happen if he could help it.

Then, he felt it. Peace and acceptance came rushing upon him through the link with the wolf and the Potions Master relaxed.

Selena could sense it as well. She knew the instant that the wolf and man became one, the moment that her words reached a part of Remus that couldn't deny their truth. Softly, in a tone that wouldn't anger the other alpha, she said, "When you are ready to hear the final part, I will tell you."

Ignoring the female for the moment, Remus took a deep breath, and reached out to cup his palms around Severus' cheeks. Hands framing the other wizard's face, he craned up, pressing his lips against those of the taller man, eyes sliding closed. The caress was meant to be gentle, expressing the gratitude Remus felt for... everything. For the understanding. For the acceptance the other man had shown, for the... healing. A expression of his thankfulness for Severus being... Severus.

I am the wolf... and Severus is mine.

Shivering, Remus deepened the kiss, almost overcome by the need to press against the other wizard, to somehow impart to the other man what he was feeling. He drew back, however, and looked deeply into the black eyes he knew so well. "Thank you." Had I not sworn to never take a mate, I would be sorely tempted to ask him.... Not that he would accept, of course.

Severus blinked, shock rendering him speechless. He could feel the man's gratitude, as well as the wolf's claim, and it was almost too much for him. Nodding mutely, he waited for Remus to step away before lowering himself back onto the couch. Once he was certain that his knees weren't going to buckle on him, he looked back at Selena, trying to ignore the pleasure that the kiss had wrought in his pain-ridden body and tortured soul.

That was not a claim of ownership. That was … acceptance. Gratitude. It was touching and not something I am at all prepared to deal with at the moment…

Selena glanced at Remus, waiting for his okay to continue. Truth be told, she wasn't certain she could quite order her thoughts enough to speak at the moment. What she had just witnessed had her in complete awe, and thoroughly questioning her belief that mates were nothing but a hindrance.

Drawing a deep breath, Remus turned, and sank down next to Severus on the sofa, placing himself close enough to the other man that their shoulders touched, so that he could feel the reassurance of the dark-haired wizards's warmth. He didn't question his need to be in contact with the Potions Master, and he didn't care what Selena thought of it, either. She can think we're lovers, for all I care, he thought, before a tiny smile - the first smile that had touched his lips since entering the other werewolf's home - curved his mouth. Who knows, perhaps we will be, someday... and wouldn't Severus be shocked to know I'm thinking that.

Looking up at the woman, Remus nodded finally. "I think... I'm ready," he said. "And, as painful as that was... thank you," he continued, voice full of genuine gratitude.

Severus was surprised at the comfort that he felt at the closeness of the other man. Who would have ever believed the day would come when I would willingly sit shoulder to shoulder with Remus Lupin…

Selena smiled faintly at Remus' gratitude. "You are more than welcome, although I certainly didn't do anything more than tell you what you already knew to be true." Continuing on before he could object, she added, "And, for the final step…"

Scooting to the end of her chair, she simply said, "Stop using the Wolfsbane Potion every month."

Stunned, Remus gazed at her, mouth opening in shock, before he closed it, and cleared his throat. "But... when I don't I..." He paused, swallowing uncomfortably. "When I transform without the Wolfsbane, and I have no one - no animagi - with me, I... injure myself." He flushed slightly, not looking at Severus. He's seen the scars... now he knows where they come from.

Severus' breath hitched in his throat as Remus' admission. Of course, he'd always known on an intellectual level that the wolf had hurt itself when alone. After all, that was how legend of the Shrieking Shack as being haunted had been created. But, to hear it from Remus' own mouth, in his own words, was almost too much for him to bear.

There has to be another way. There simply has to be… Instantly, he began trying to put his knowledge of lycanthropy and potions together to find someway to help the other man.

Selena, however, seemed less than concerned with the statement that had been made. "Pfft," she said, waving her hand as though waving away his concerns. "You hurt yourself when trapped and alone. And, when you fight the wolf, you hurt others when not under the thrall of the Wolfsbane. However, with acceptance comes control. Every month, I transform right here in these woods. The next morning, I have complete memory of everything I have done. And I haven't once injured or killed someone. Animals, perhaps. But not humans. I am secluded, and have enough awareness not to venture near populated areas."

Shrugging, she continued. "You do not have to stop taking the Wolfsbane altogether. However, you must then find another way to allow the wolf time to be free. If you do not, everything you have worked for will be lost."

Her voice softened as she tried to pass onto him the hardest lesson she'd ever had to learn. "The wolf is not an animal meant to be caged, Remus. If restrained for too long, it will break free. And disaster will follow in its wake."

Remus sat quietly, contemplating her words. The only time I've had that amount of freedom was with the Marauders, he thought with a pang. But... maybe she is right. I know that in those days, I barely felt the wolf anytime other than the full moon. I'll just have to find... a place. Finally, he nodded. "I'll have to find... someplace to be alone and not be... trapped. There are places in Scotland, like the Forbidden Forest. Perhaps that will do."

"That won't be necessary."

The words had left his mouth before he even realized it, and suddenly both pairs of eyes were on Severus. Shifting a bit uncomfortably, he forced himself to continue.

"Snape Manor also comes with quite a large amount of land … much more than the Forbidden Forest could ever hope to offer. And, while it isn't completely free of wildlife, no human would dare step foot on the property." Looking directly at Remus, he gently added, "If you wish to use it, it is at your disposal."

Remus turned to Severus, eyes wide with stunned surprise. "But Severus... you hate the..." he began, before stopping abruptly and closing his mouth. I almost said that he hates the wolf... but after all this, that would be the same as saying that he hates me... and I know that he doesn't. Not anymore. He sighed. "That's very generous of you - and I appreciate it. But... I don't want to make you uncomfortable." Looking at the Potions Master, he drew a deep breath, and spoke of the subject that they very carefully never referenced directly. "I almost killed you once. I don't want to be near you at that time and have you lying in your bed, having nightmares of me attacking you again."

Selena blinked, her voice full of confusion. "But, you wouldn't…"

Quickly, Severus gave the woman a look that he'd perfected over the years. It was one he'd always given to his students whenever he wanted them to stop talking immediately.

He was pleased to see that it still worked.

Turning to Remus, the Potions Master calmly replied, "Remus, I am a grown man. I am more than capable of recognizing how far my level of comfort can be stretched. And, rest assured, with the wards that are normally kept around the Manor in place, you would not be able to get inside unless I wished for you to."

For some reason, he couldn't bring himself to admit that the thought of the wolf didn't terrify him nearly as much as it used to. Most likely because that would require an explanation which I am not prepared to give.

Looking at the other man searchingly, Remus felt the sincerity behind the words. "Thank you," he replied, nodding. "We can try it, I suppose. But only if you promise to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable. I really don't think I could bear it if you started resenting me... or worse, went back to hating me again."

"I could nev-" Stopping just short of making a total fool of himself, Severus merely nodded. "Very well."

Selena, who had been watching the entire exchange with avid interest, was utterly speechless with shock. He does not know his wolf has claimed a mate!

Part of her wanted to say something. After all, the bond between two mates was strong. It was something that should be entered into carefully … by two willing parties.

However, she also knew that it was none of her business. It would eventually work itself out, as all things did with time. So, rising to her feet, she merely said, "And, unless you had any more questions for me, that is all for our meeting."

Rising smoothly to his feet, Remus drew a breath, before stepping towards Selena and holding out his hand. "I'm not certain why you helped me... but, please be assured that I am extremely grateful to you. I owe you a debt. I hope that if there is ever anything I can do for you, that you will call upon me." He gave her a lopsided smile then, eyes crinkled in wry amusement. At least, after all that, I can still laugh at myself, he thought with a bit of relief.

Serena shook his hand, glancing at Severus and back at Remus. "Do not thank me," she stated honestly. "Thank your … friend. Were it not for his assistance that I speak with you, we would never have met."

Letting go of his hand, she turned to Severus and, after a second's pause, offered her hand to him. "You aren't so bad … for a wizard," she said, winking.

Severus hid his shock, shaking her hand briefly before smirking slightly at her words. "I thank you, as well," he murmured, tipping his head toward her.

Looking from one man to the other, she finally clapped her hands together and smiled brightly. "All right, that will be all, yes?" Walking to the door, she opened it. "I wish you both luck in your life. Good bye."

Once they had exited, she shut the door and leaned against it for a moment. Merlin, help them. They will certainly need it. Then, pushing away from the door, Selena d'Ardennes made her way across her living room and back into her life of solitude.
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