Iruka wandered through the halls, eyes wide. It was truly an impressive castle, grander than any he had been in. He shrugged his shoulders—he still wasn't used to the heavier robes.

A door was open just down the hall, and peeking in he saw what could only be the Defense Against the Dark Arts room. He stepped inside, gazing in appreciation at the giant skeleton, the tank with a growling grindylow, and the cage of pixies. He must really know his stuff, keeping all these dark creatures.

"Hello? May I help you?"

Jumping in surprise, Iruka whirled around to find himself facing a tall, pale man in the doorway. "Oh, I'm sorry," he stammered, smiling faintly. "I was just admiring the classroom."

The man approached with a faint smile. "No need to apologize. I'm Remus Lupin, Defense professor." He offered a hand as he approached.

Iruka quickly moved to meet him, shaking his hand eagerly. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Iruka."

"The new professor?"

He nodded. "Yes. I'm going to be taking over Transfiguration with the first through third years, give Prof. McGonagall a little break to better concentrate on the older students." Iruka paused, realizing he was rambling.

Lupin didn't seem to notice, only smiling and nodding. "A good idea. Especially with the younger crowd."

Relieved, Iruka relaxed somewhat. "Yes. I really love teaching."

Lupin nodded. "I was about to have some tea. Will you join me?"

Pleased, Iruka easily followed him to his office. "I would love to."

---

As the winter break wore down, Iruka found himself visiting Lupin almost every after noon. It was a one of Lupin's good days, and neither wanted to waste it indoors. They wandered down to the frozen lake, bundled against the cold as they talked about their students.

"So he's really starting to master the Patronus charm?" Iruka asked, impressed.

Lupin nodded. "It's incredible, his rate of progress." He chuckled. "He'll probably surpass most of us by the time he gets out of here."

Iruka shook his head in disbelief. It really is amazing, the things these kids are able to do now. "Good thing I'm only teaching the little ones—they'd probably start learning faster than I could—ah!"

They had gotten close to the lake, though with the snow it was impossible to tell where the land ended and the ice began. Iruka slipped on a hidden patch and was sent reeling. Lupin grabbed at his robes, but the sudden shift of weight caused him to slip as well, and the pair went tumbling down into the snow.

Iruka couldn't help laughing as they tried to untangle themselves, but the heavy robes made it almost impossible. They finally settled for simply flopping side by side in the snow bank, chuckling.

After a few moments they quieted, content to stare at the silver-toned sky. "Iruka," Lupin suddenly said, tone low. "I want to thank you."

"Hmm?" The younger teacher glanced over. "Why?"

Lupin continued to watch the slowly moving clouds. "Not many of the staff have been as...accepting as you."

Iruka smiled faintly, reaching out briefly to pat the elder's shoulder. "It's all right. I've known my share of 'special cases,' believe me. I prefer to believe it is our deeds that determine our merit, not those things that are beyond our control."

Lupin chuckled. "I'm not sure I follow that logic, but I'm still grateful." He relaxed further, glad to have that out in the open. "I did hear you had an interesting student. Someone to rival my own, hmm?"

Nodding, Iruka stretched his arms, finally folding them beneath his head. "Yeah. Great kid, misunderstood. He's got one of those difficult pasts that he's...judged for."

Lupin snorted quietly. "Sounds familiar."

"Yeah. But he's a great kid, really determined. It's really too bad he's too old for me to teach anymore." He sighed heavily. "I wish I could see him more often, though. Just to know he was doing all right."

The elder teacher nodded, understanding just what his companion was saying. "You've taught longer than I have," he admitted. "This is really my first year. I...really can't imagine never seeing some of these kids again. Especially certain ones."

Iruka chucked. "Those ones, you will see them after. They have a way of popping up, or you keep in touch with them." His eyes narrowed as a bit of sunlight crept through the clouds, momentarily brightening the snow around them. He turned towards the other with a knowing smile. "You're thinking about your little prodigy, right?"

Lupin nodded, not bothering to deny it. "Yes. We...have something of a history. I've been glad to know him, now that he's older. I hope that will continue."

Of course it will, Iruka thought. Something tells me...we'll all be looking after him, eventually. "I'm sure you two will remain in touch. We have to stick together these days."

Sighing, Lupin closed his eyes to the piercing sun. "Yes. Yes we do."

---