Lupin was back in the woods, walking quickly next to Dumbledore. He recognized the scene immediately. How many times had he run around in those woods as a child? Lupin looked critically at his former Headmaster. There were a few flecks of red poking through his white beard as he strode along, his beard and cloak swaying in the breeze.

He approached a small cottage in the woods and rapped sharply on the door. It swung open, revealing a woman with shoulder length, dark brown hair, and light hazel eyes. Lupin bit back a gasp. His mother looked so…young. He felt a sharp pain, looking at her. Here she was but—not alive. Not real. She was just a shadow. He mentally scolded himself for his reaction. He had lost so many people in his life—he had a tendency just to block everything out, push it away…

"Professor Dumbledore," she said, looking surprised but delighted. Something akin to hope ignited in her eyes. "Please come in." She extended her hand in a welcoming manner. Dumbledore thanked her politely and entered the house.

A tall man strode in from another room. He looked to be in about his late-thirties, with light brown hair and grayish-blue eyes. He was wearing a set of black wizarding robes. Lupin noticed he was limping slightly—leaning heavily on his left leg—but hid it well. His father had been badly scarred, trying to take him back from Greyback the night he was bitten. He sighed inwardly. His father had just enough pride to hide his injuries. His mother had scolded Remus for the same tendencies more times than he could count. Greyback and his father apparently had something of a history, though Remus hadn't been informed of this until much later in his adolescence.

"Professor," he said jovially, racing forward and shaking his hand heartily. "Or shall I say Headmaster, now? Please accept our sincere congratulations."

"Thank you, Damian," said Dumbledore graciously.

"Please make yourself at home," said Damian Lupin. "Come, sit down."

They moved into another room and gathered around a table. The couple moved swiftly, the airs about them cast in a kind of muted excitement. No one spoke for a few moments, until they were all seated comfortably, drinking tea.

"Professor." The woman licked her lips nervously. "It's wonderful to see you, but I…I was just wondering…"

"What I am doing here?" finished Dumbledore, smiling broadly. "As you know, in early August, the acceptance letters to Hogwarts school are sent out…"

"We know," said Damian uneasily. "Remus—didn't receive one."

"I am aware of that…" said Dumbledore evenly. "Headmaster Dippet and I have had—conflicting views over this subject in the past."

"I've talked to Dippet," said the woman quickly. "He was rather…adamant…about Remus's admittance." The look on her face suggested she had just swallowed something extremely unpleasant. "As in an emphatic refusal."

"Though that certainly did not stop you from trying," said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling good-naturedly. "Most admirable. I do recall one specific occasion when Dippet hid under his desk just so he would not have to argue with you…quite undignified."

The woman blushed. "Well—I—"

"My dear lady, I understand completely," he smiled. "If all parents were so adamant about their children's education, my job would be far simpler. However, as times change, so do opportunities, and new doors open to us." He reached into the pocket of his robes. The couple at the table leaned in slightly, as if he were about to reveal a particularly juicy secret. "Now then…I have brought something that may interest you…"

He set down a small, parchment envelope on the table. The Lupins looked at the envelope in stunned silence, as if it were precious gold.

"I am most regretful that it could not be delivered by owl at the proper time, but this is an important point. Though we will attempt to make his education as normal as possible, certain precautions will have to be taken when Remus attends school. I—"

Mrs. Lupin made a little squeaking noise with her throat. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice trembling. "But could you repeat that last part?"

"Certain precautions, regrettable though necessary—"

"No," she shook her head, "the part after that."

Dumbledore looked slightly bemused. "When Remus attends school…?" Mrs. Lupin squeaked again.

"Yes, that part," she said, her eyes brimming with emotion. "I just wanted to hear that again." She looked at her husband, and he squeezed her hand. Lupin leaned forward so he could stare right at his mother, his nose inches from hers. She wanted him to attend school so badly; it was all she talked about for a long time. She wanted him to have as normal of a life as possible. He wished he had another chance to tell her how much that meant to him…

"Is young Remus here this afternoon?" inquired Dumbledore politely.

"Oh, yes…" said Mr. Lupin, looking towards the ceiling. "Remus, could you come in here, please?" he said, in a moderately loud voice. Mr. Lupin smiled apologetically at Dumbledore. "Excellent hearing. We actually have to charm the walls sometimes, he hears everything…"

There was a thumping noise from the staircase in the other room, and then suddenly a small boy appeared in the doorway. Lupin looked at his younger self, allowing a small smile to cross his features. He looked from his parents to the white-bearded stranger in his dining room with wide-eyed curiosity.

"Sit down, dear," said his mother, motioning him towards a chair. Remus moved quickly forward and climbed up on the chair next to her. "This is Professor Dumbledore, Remus," she said. "He's the new Headmaster at Hogwarts."

"Hello, sir," said Remus's younger self. He extended a tentative, tiny hand forward and shook Dumbledore's wrinkled old hand.

"Your parents and I have been discussing your formal education, Remus," revealed Dumbledore. Young Remus looked extremely excited. Adult Lupin didn't recall this incident with terrible vividness, but it was rather a significant moment for him. Imagine…education! At Hogwarts, which his mother absolutely gushed about, (though not as much when she saw the look on Remus's face.) No more lessons with his father. (Those tended to end with his father sighing and saying, "Now I really am not sure how to explain this properly…" and Remus becoming appropriately confused with the instructions.)

"Now you have technically been removed from the enrollment books since your accident…" Lupin recalled, apparently accurately, that he had had no idea what Dumbledore was talking about but had been very excited the whole time. "But I believe we can get around that with a special pardon from myself and a certain amount of discretion." Remus nodded, as if that made sense to him.

"Very good," finished Dumbledore, smiling. Young Remus smiled as well, though he was still rather confused. "Now, from what I have discerned from previous correspondence with your parents, I understand that you have already had some instruction in magic?" Dumbledore looked almost eager, thought Lupin curiously.

"Er—yes, I have, sir," said Remus. "I…I know some spells…"

"Would you be able to give me a demonstration?" asked Dumbledore.

"I—" Young Remus looked tentatively at his parents, but then back to Dumbledore. "I don't have a wand, sir."

"We tried to get him one," his father offered, a tinge of irritation creeping into his voice. "But he wasn't allowed to have one—something about the Code for Restrictions and Regulations on Non or Partial—" He clenched his jaw in frustration. "On some stupid bylaw."

"Yes," said Dumbledore evenly. "Decree 427. Another very sanctimonious piece of Ministry nonsense, if you don't mind my saying so."

"Not at all," said his mother emphatically.

Dumbledore smiled. "Of course, there are certain...shall we say—loopholes? In the law, enough for me to guarantee that with proper documentation, there is nothing to prevent a legally certified school student from owning a wand." He pulled his own wand from his pocket and handed it slowly to Remus. Lupin watched his younger self accept the wand, almost reverently—which Lupin decided was extremely appropriate.

"Go on, dear," encouraged his mother. "Show him something."

Remus did not look pleased about being put on the spot so, but he resolutely raised the wand and pointed it at a Knut lying on the table.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" said Remus, nervously but resolutely. For a moment nothing happened. He furrowed his brow and repeated the incantation. The Knut gave a little shudder, then laid still.

"Swish and flick," said his father very calmly, as his son grew more and more flustered. Remus nodded.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" he said insistently. The Knut rose gently off the table and soared gracefully sideways. Lupin's face broke into the same sort of ecstatic grin that his parents were wearing. His younger self looked extremely relieved. Dumbledore opened his palm, and the enchanted coin flew over and dropped gently into it. He smiled, closing his fist and falling silent for a moment. Remus's parents were silent as well, staring hopefully at Dumbledore.

"Yes," said Dumbledore, his bright eyes twinkling. "Yes, I think that will do." He looked at Remus. "Excellent, truly excellent. You have quite a lot of potential, my boy." Remus beamed at him, as did his parents.

"So, that means…?" asked his mother slowly.

"We will welcome you into Hogwarts School in two weeks, Remus," said the Headmaster. "I realize this is short notice, but from what I am to understand, your mother has already purchased everything that was legally permissible for you to own, so—"

"Really?" blurted out Remus, his face lighting up. "I can really go?"

Dumbledore smiled gently. "Really."

"Congratulations, son," said his father, whose face bore an almost identical grin.

"All that remains is the logistics coordination, which we will discuss at a later date…"

"Why don't you wait in the other room, dear?" suggested his mother.

"OK," said Remus immediately. He jumped up and scampered out of the room, taking Dumbledore's wand with him.

"Oh—" said his mother, smiling apologetically. "Sorry about that." She moved to stand up. "I'll—"

"Oh, no, please," said Dumbledore, moving quickly to his feet for one so old looking. But, Lupin knew very well, appearances can be deceiving. "I'll go. It's no trouble."

Dumbledore moved into the living room, and adult Lupin followed. He found his younger self sitting on a large armchair, legs swinging to and fro, not touching the floor. He was looking nervously at the door.

"Sir!" he cried frantically, racing forward to meet Dumbledore. "Sir! I'm sorry I took your wand! It was an accident! But then I wasn't sure if I was allowed to go back in because I'm supposed to be in here—"

"Dear me," said Dumbledore, looking a little taken aback by Remus's nervous stream of babble. Lupin felt vaguely embarrassed, though he was quite sure it didn't mean much now. "It's quite alright, you know."

Remus thrust the wand at him. "Here! I'm sorry! I can still come to school, can't I?" His eyes widened anxiously.

Dumbledore chuckled. "Goodness, of course you can!" He knelt down in front of Remus and accepted the wand, placing it in his pocket. "I think you put a little too much stock in the rules, my boy. Sometimes a little mischief is necessary. Perhaps you'll discover that, amongst other children your own age." He stood up, patting Remus on the shoulder. "Yes, yes, I think that would be just the thing for you…" he said more, to himself that to Remus.

Lupin could help but smile. He always wondered if Dumbledore was pleased or mortified with his choice of friends. He had a feeling that he was rather happy about where Lupin ended up, even though it was with the most unruly pair of students in the entire school.

Dumbledore turned to leave. Remus started to say something, then stopped.

"Yes, Remus?"

"I…I don't know about the other kids…I mean, I don't have that many…" Remus turned slightly pink. "I used to have them—friends, I mean, and—people don't really want to be around me anymore, I—"

"Remus," said Dumbledore reassuringly. "You will make friends at school, I promise. And besides, your…condition will be our little secret, OK?"

Remus looked as though Christmas had come early. "You mean it? I don't have to tell anyone?"

"Not if you don't want to," said Dumbledore. "But—if you so desire—you may tell your close friends, when you feel comfortable."

"Oh," said Remus. He sat down on the couch and hugged his legs to his chest. Dumbledore sat down next to him. "I don't think I'll be telling anyone," said Remus, shaking his head. "I don't think anyone would like me if they found out."

"Well, that depends on the person," said Dumbledore. "It's important that we have close confidants, whom we can trust."

Remus looked at Dumbledore uncertainly, then looked away. "I don't know if it's a good idea for me to go to school."

"Don't you want to go?"

"Yes!" said Remus, snapping his head up to meet Dumbledore. "I do." He looked away again. "Only…I'm not so sure that I really belong there—my parents are, but…I'm—I'm not really like the other kids, sir."

"Being different isn't necessarily bad, Remus," said Dumbledore. "Never think that."

Remus looked at the floor. "It is bad. I—I get sick a lot. I'm not very strong. I don't know if I can learn everything. I don't think I'll make a good wizard."

"Remus," said Dumbledore, refusing to continue until Remus looked him in the eye. "You are very strong. Stronger than most people could ever comprehend. You have to be stronger everyday than most people ever have to be in their lives, and you are as yet still a child. Just because you are physically weak sometimes does not mean you aren't exceptionally strong inside. Real strength—comes from right here, not anywhere else." He pointed a wizened finger over Remus's heart. "Do you understand what I am saying?" Young Remus nodded.

"That strength is going to make you an equally exceptional wizard, Remus. Sometimes our greatest weaknesses can also prove to be our greatest strengths. I believe you will grow up to do great things. When the time comes, I will be honored to have you fighting by my side. That's why I am here today."

Lupin watched his younger self staring up at Dumbledore in awe. He couldn't help but feel the same. Was he really that 'exceptional'? Lupin had always believed he was a bit of a burden on those around him. Dumbledore risked his neck to educate him as a kindness—charity—a good deed from a good man. He was fairly certain that the fact that he had stayed alive for this long was more a function of luck than anything else…

"So what do you say, Remus? Would you like to come to school?"

"Yes," said Remus, after a moment's careful consideration. "Yes, I think I would."

"Good," said Dumbledore, smiling. "Then it's a deal. OK?"

"OK." He extended his hand, and they shook.

OK. That's that. Keep fighting. He did have a job to do, he scolded himself. Find Harry. He turned away from the scene, and it slowly melted away into oblivion. He frowned inwardly. It was very easy to get distracted in here.

000

Harry was still snickering over the image of Uncle Vernon in a bridesmaid dress, though the scene was long gone. Merlin, no wonder the man was so terrified of magic…heh heh…not that he didn't deserve it…

He was in the dungeons, in Hogwarts to be specific. Not exactly one of his favorite places—but at least it was familiar. He looked around, his eyes falling immediately on a hooked nose and a crop of greasy black hair. Ugh. Snape. His heart lightened when he noticed the pair in front of him—unruly black hair next a shimmering sheet of red—his parents. This was the first time he had actually seen them together in school. Well—sort of.

The class was busily working away, pouring over texts and simmering cauldrons. Harry had materialized next to Snape—well—not next to him so much as at a certain angle to everything else—but it was enough for him to ascertain that this was Snape's memory. He was actually starting to get pretty good at this whole memory hopping thing. You know. Except for the part where he had any control over it whatsoever.

Another unfamiliar face stood at the front of the classroom—idly pacing around the desks and observing everyone's progress. The teacher was a large, older man who's frame sort of reminded Harry of Uncle Vernon—minus the dress, of course. Heh heh…He almost looked like a bearded, balding walrus.

"Come on now," announced the walrus man loudly. "First one to successfully complete the potion gets the prize…I want to see progress!"

Snape was hunched over the table, greasy nose buried in a battered looking potions text, scribbling little notes in the margin. He paused to look up, glare irately at the back of James's head, and resume his furious scribbling all over his textbook.

Deciding to ignore Snape, Harry strode over to his parents. He looked around and spotted Sirius partnered with some random girl. Sirius's gaze went back and forth from some rather inappropriate areas of the girl, to his cauldron, to the ceiling and back again. He looked supremely bored, and had yet to actually touch the book or any of the ingredients on the table.

Lupin and Pettigrew were noticeably absent—but that wasn't too odd, Harry decided. This looked like a NEWT level class, and Lupin had never hesitated to profess his inadequacy in potion brewing. And Pettigrew—well—was Pettigrew. Git.

He gazed over his mother's shoulder. She was carefully reading her text with one hand and slicing her roots with the other. James attempted to place something into the cauldron. Her hand shot out and grasped his wrist, effectively stopping him without actually looking up from the book.

"No powdered moonstone, yet—it'll ruin the entire thing. geez, I thought you wanted to win, Potter. Where's your competitive edge?" She grinned playfully and looked up.

James fingered the shiny Head Boy badge on his chest and grumbled intelligibly under his breath. "We're supposed to be working alone on these, you know," he pointed out.

"Oh, I know," she said cheerfully. "It's just that I'm not terribly worried about you beating me at potions." She smiled sweetly.

James tried to scowl, but he grinned instead. "You're incorrigible, Miss Evans."

Snape stared at the two of them, looking quite resentful. Harry rolled his eyes. What the hell was his problem now? James looked at his cauldron and frowned.

"It's not the right color, is it?" he said with a frustrated sigh. Lily leaned over and looked at it.

"Nope," she said lightly. She was stirring her potion, which was starting to turn a dark, purpley color. "Hmm…" she frowned, staring at it. "I think I need more sopophorus beans…" She stood up and moved to the spread of ingredients on the teacher's desk, perusing them slowly. Snape, who had been watching her like a hawk, sprang up and idly strolled over to the table beside her. James, who was busy frowning at his book and wildly flipping through the pages of his text as though it would suddenly jump up and scream the answer at him, didn't seem to notice.

Snape seemed like he was trying to appear casual, but in reality looked like he was having an epileptic fit. He lifted a few jars and stared blankly at the labels, standing next to Lily but not looking at her.

"Hmm…" said Lily. "Aha! Sopophorus beans…" She plucked a few out of the jar and frowned.

"What is it?" blurted out Snape quickly. He looked at her quickly, then looked away in terror.

Lily cocked her head slightly, perhaps confused, but continued, "Oh, well—I really think I could get more juice out of these things if a had a silver dagger—but mine's just made out of—"

Before she could finish talking, he darted back to his seat, snatched a silver knife from his supplies, and thrust it into her hands without meeting her eyes.

"Er—thanks, Severus…" she said. She smiled at him. He flushed slightly.

"If you—crush it with the flat edge of the knife—" he began quietly, his voice sounding strained.

"You'll get more juice out?" finished Lily brightly, as she examined the knife. "I thought so…"

Snape looked at her, almost dumbstuck. Harry felt rather similar. What the hell…?

"You—you figured that out by yourself?" he said incredulously.

Lily rolled her eyes. "Yes," she said, with biting sarcastically. "But it did hurt my little Muggle-born brain so!"

Snape look unsure of how to react, but after a moment, he looked down and smiled—actually smiled—a little bit. "Well—keep it up," he said, his sallow face coloring slightly. "You're my only real competition in this class."

Lily looked a little surprised, but she eventually smiled warmly at him. "Then count on some competition," she said boldly.

"Lily…" whined James from her seat. "How do you ruddy—bugger all!"

Lily turned, as if to say goodbye to Snape, but his face darkened and he darted back to his seat without speaking. No—he slithered. He slithered because he was a slimy, stupid snake, though Harry ruefully.

Lily returned to her seat. "No—counterclockwise, James," she instructed. "Yes—I know what the book says—I did so read it—of course I can read, you git! Do you want my help or not?" she scolded him.

"TWO MINUTES!" called the teacher. He focused his attention on Lily. "Now, Miss Evans," he said, wagging a stubby finger at her and smiling, "this is an individual project, isn't it? Are you going to let the Head Boy take all your glory? Where's your ambition?"

"Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy," she quipped. "And besides, I've already finished." She folded her arms. "When ambition ends, happiness begins."

The teacher chuckled. "Cheeky as usual, my girl. Ah, if only you were in my House—Slytherin, you know, is quite the place to be…"

"Why I'd be flattered, sir," she said sweetly. "If I wanted to be in a House full of great smarmy gits…" She threw him an innocent smile.

Harry coughed loudly. And he thought his dad had been misbehaved…he had it coming from all sides, didn't he?

James looked immensely pleased, and placed his arm around Lily's waist. The teacher chuckled good naturedly.

"Well—you are one of my brightest students, Miss Evans," he said. "But I'm afraid Severus here has bested everyone yet again!" The teacher strolled over and clapped Snape heartily on the shoulder. Snape remained impassive. He stole a quick glance at Lily, who smiled kindly, and quickly looked away. James looked angry. From the back of the room, Sirius coughed loudly several times, and in doing so, instructed Snape to do something very inappropriate and anatomically improbable. A few people sniggered.

Harry grinned, but he felt a little perplexed. Why was Snape acting so…weird? It could be—but—no—because—ew—and—Merlin…

When was he going to get out of here?

000

AN: Never! Mwa ha ha ha! I mean—soon. Mmm…tastes like HBP canon compatibility…I guess I will be writing a few more chapters…heh heh…Sorry for the delay. I got distracted by other projects… Xx