(AN: I have spent endless hours fixing this fic up so that all mistakes are gone. I owe a HUGE debt of thanks to Rage Point, who is still working on the final beta read for me. And I also need to thank my mom! Being a Harry Potter fan herself she offered to look the story over and tell me her own thought. But the biggest thanks goes out to Durayan and Thing1 who have inspired me from the start. You guys ROX and I would never have gotten this far without you. Now, on with the show!)
The sun shone brightly as Remus Lupin made his way downstairs that morning. It was certain to be a good day as Katie would be over that afternoon for lunch and another lesson out in the garden. He smiled, thinking about her arrival, and opened the front door to retrieve the Daily Prophet from his doorstep. Carrying the newspaper inside and closing the door behind him, Remus casually flipped open the paper and glanced at the headline.
He froze in place and a gasp escaped his throat as he read the headline again, just to make sure he wasn't seeing things.
Quickly coming back to his senses, he went to his office and grabbed up his quill. It took a moment to find a clean piece of parchment as he fumbled through the drawers. Why can you never find what you need when it is urgent, he thought. When he found what he wanted, he rapidly scribbled out a response to the question that had been weighing on his mind for days now.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
I accept your offer to serve in the position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for the next school year. I saw today's headline and understand now why you need me there. I will arrive after the full moon, on the first day of term.
He sent the letter off right away. It all suddenly made sense to him.
Later that day, Remus sat at his desk, ran his hand over the Daily Prophet's front page again, thinking about everything that had happened in the last few days. The headline, while shocking to most people, brought an understanding to Remus that others didn't have. This was why his new employer had sought him out so diligently. This was why he was needed at Hogwarts.
Sirius Black on the Loose from Azkaban
No wonder Dumbledore, who had probably been one of the first informed about Sirius' escape, had pressed the issue of Remus joining the staff. Truly concerned for his students, Dumbledore had sought out the one person who might be able to understand the mind of Sirius Black. But Remus didn't really understand Sirius. He used to, but that was before Sirius had shown his true loyalties to Voldemort.
Remus shook his head and leaned over the desk, resting his head in his hands. Why, Sirius, he thought. Why? He looked over at the photograph of the four of them he still had placed on the mantle. They were so happy, so young, and so unaware of how fleeting happiness was. Remus had kept the picture, not to torture himself, but to serve as a reminder that you can never be too careful about whom you can trust.
He heard Katie in the kitchen rummaging through pans. She was once again being so kind as to prepare lunch for him. Lunch? Where has the morning gone? Time is moving very oddly today, he thought. Should he tell Katie about Sirius? Remus and his friends had made a promise years ago never to reveal their secret of being Animagi to anyone. Lily had been told, naturally, after they all agreed that it would be impossible to keep it from her forever. But then Lily was romantically involved with James, whereas Katie was just a friend.
The truth was eating at his conscience. He should have told Dumbledore years ago rather than continuing to misuse the trust of such a dear friend. To tell him now would disclose a twenty-year secret that could prove to unravel their relationship. Remus had had the chance to tell him when he came about the job offer. Why hadn't he told Dumbledore then? Every passing day made it harder to justify the deception.
Remus opened the door wide, shocked at the appearance of Albus Dumbledore on his front step. "Professor Dumbledore?"
"Oh heavens, Remus. I think you can start calling me Albus." The tall, thin wizard smiled from under a thick mass of white beard. His eyes twinkled from behind his half moon spectacles.
"Oh…yes." Suddenly remembering his manners, Remus stammered, "C…come in." He gestured for Dumbledore to enter. "Please, have a seat." Remus wasn't used to visitors. Katie would come over to help with the garden and would even stay for a meal every now and again, and occasionally Mrs. Noyes would visit with her. But other than that, it was very unusual for him to have visitors in his home.
"Thank you. It's so good to see you again. How have things been?"
Remus poured a cup of tea for his visitor, knowing that it wouldn't be refused, and joined him in polite conversation. "Things have been just fine. I've been enjoying my stay here very much."
"And what are you doing with yourself these days? It's been so long since I've seen you." Dumbledore sipped at his tea.
Remus felt very awkward about lying to him. Times were hard, but he certainly didn't want Dumbledore pitying him. "Well, I've traveled quite a bit. That's what comes from trying your hand at different jobs…you never stay in one place too long."
Dumbledore leaned forward on his chair and looked over his spectacles at Remus. "Come now, Remus. You can be truthful with me."
Truthful! Wasn't that just part of the problem I have been wrestling with recently? thought Remus. Then, sighing deeply, Remus gave in and explained, "Well, to be honest, things haven't been so good."
"Oh, dear, I'm sorry to hear that. But I had a suspicion that things may have been difficult at times."
"Well, yes, they have been. Since most employers don't think it a wise decision to have a werewolf on their staff, it's been a while since I've held a traditional job. When I returned here about two years ago and took up the work my mother used to do of supplying the local apothecary with herbs from the garden, I thought it would be enough to keep me occupied. At first I found it quite peaceful out here, shut off from the world. But now I think I need something a bit more challenging."
"A situation which I intend to remedy." The old wizard smiled again. "Supplying herbs is indeed important. But you're too intelligent a wizard to simply waste the other talents you have been given."
Remus was taken aback by his statement, and felt the need to correct him. "You mean, I'm too intelligent a werewolf."
"Poppycock! What difference does it make?" He sipped his tea nonchalantly.
"Unfortunately, it makes a great difference to employers," Remus said.
"It doesn't make a difference to me, and I am an employer." Dumbledore looked Remus meaningfully in the eyes.
Smiling, Remus added, "Yes, but you aren't my employer."
"Another situation I intend to remedy."
Remus' smile faded. Had he understood Dumbledore correctly? "I beg your pardon?"
Dumbledore sat forward in his chair. "Remus, we are in great need of a qualified and able Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and I feel that you are just the person for the job." Remus started to object, but Dumbledore stopped him before he had the chance. "And I know what you're thinking…and it isn't true. The position is in no way jinxed. We've just had… a run of bad luck, you might say."
Remus was stunned. "Actually, that wasn't what I was thinking."
"Oh good. I thought you were going to turn me down." Dumbledore chuckled and took another sip of his tea.
Remus studied him a moment before saying, "Headmaster, you realize, of course, that my…condition…does in fact limit…."
"It does no such thing, Remus. I know that you are much more than that. You were in the top of your class, a fine student, and managed to hand in all papers on time, 'condition' or no." His tone became mischievous. "I remember you having an extremely agile and creative intellect, especially when it came to helping your friends out of sticky situations."
Remus also remembered getting his friends into some sticky situations. Not wanting to think about his friends, Remus asked, "But won't the parents object? They certainly never would have approved of a werewolf attending the school. Why would they now approve of one teaching at the school?"
"Because just as they didn't know then, they won't know now. It simply is not their concern, and they are all satisfied, for the most part, that I have nothing but the best interests of their children in mind. With the possible exception of some of the Slytherin households, of course, so there you are."
Remus shook his head. "Not telling them puts the students in danger. They don't know that they need to protect themselves from me. I've endangered others before and I can't bear the idea of doing it again."
Dumbledore sat down his teacup. "In the seven years that you attended Hogwarts, I can think of only one incident where someone was in danger because you were a werewolf, and that had nothing to do with your own behavior. Why ever should this bother you now?"
Remus sighed heavily. Dumbledore of course had no idea that there were more dangerous times than Remus cared to admit. Even more frightening was the fact that he had laughed about some of them afterwards. No one got hurt, but there had been so many chances that it still bothered him to think about it. It was youthful recklessness and a desire to fit in that ruled him then. He was not about to make the same mistakes again.
Thinking that it would be impossible to keep the wolf a secret, he added, "I'll miss classes every month. Someone's bound to notice and figure it out." Remus spoke from experience. After all, that was how Sirius figured it out. He wiped the memory aside and looked at Dumbledore.
"Yes, but by then you will have proven yourself an excellent teacher, and the students will enjoy your classes so much that no one will want you to leave," Dumbledore said jovially.
Remus knew all the arguments. Heaven knows he had heard them all dozens of times. He had spent his whole life convincing himself that it was impossible for him to lead a normal life. There were many problems to consider and he pointed out another one in the hope that Dumbledore would soon give up on him and accept that having a werewolf as a teacher was indeed a bad idea. "But my transformations…I could be a danger to the students. I've been taking the Wolfsbane Potion for quite some time now, but it's very difficult to make. So difficult, in fact, that I, myself, am unable to prepare it."
"Oh, I'm sure Severus could whip up something to help with that."
"Yes, he is our potions master, and an excellent one at that."
That was a complication that Remus hadn't foreseen and an even better reason for Remus not to be at Hogwarts. "I don't think that Severus will help me. After all, we didn't get along too well when we were younger." And he was certain they wouldn't get along as adults.
"He will make the necessary potion if I ask him to," Dumbledore said matter-of-factly.
Dumbledore had an answer for everything. Could this really be possible? Remus went over it in his mind a few times, barely allowing himself to hope that it would work. He wanted it badly. It would mean so much to him to be working side by side with some of his old teachers, even if Snape was one of them, now. He thought how wonderful it would be to see Hogwarts, and all that came with it, again.
But it would be difficult, too. There would be unavoidable memories lurking around every corner. The faces of his old friends flashed in his mind. He would see them everywhere he went…he was sure of it. He could see the Great Hall filled with lilies as James gave his graduation address. He remembered Peter falling down the stairs and landing on top of Portia Pratling, a girl who was twice his size. The suit of armor that once served as Sirius' pretend girlfriend….
Dumbledore interrupted his thoughts. "I can see you're still trying to make up your mind. So, allow me to give you one more reason why you should come: Harry Potter."
Remus blinked. Harry? James and Lily's Harry? Of course that's what Dumbledore meant. What other Harry Potter was there? "I'll have Harry in class?"
"Most certainly. He's a third year currently…and into just as much mischief as his father was."
Remus looked away and said, smiling, "James would be proud."
"Come to Hogwarts." Dumbledore was serious. His eyes fixed on Remus and wouldn't budge. "Come prove to all those who are prejudiced against werewolves that you are very capable of this position. Come and teach your friend's son, and all of his friends, what you know about defending themselves against the Dark Arts."
A fire began to burn in Remus' belly. His mind raced towards all the possibilities the job offered. A chance to prove himself, to enjoy his work, and to shake off the loneliness was staring him in the face. He would be foolish to refuse.
Dumbledore looked him in the eyes with a thoughtful grin. "There is nothing to worry about. You know I trust you implicitly."
Remus darted his eyes away from the old man at that statement. This was an unseen situation for Remus. He had almost forgotten about the trust Dumbledore had placed in him in his youth. It was something Remus treasured. But it was also something Remus had betrayed when he allowed his friends to do what they had done for him.
"Headmaster…" He had wanted to tell the secret for so many years but put it off not wanting to get his friends in trouble. However, two of them were dead now and the other had committed far worse crimes than this. The only one left to get in trouble was Remus himself. "There is something I feel I should tell you."
Dumbledore looked back at him with those sparkling eyes, full of hope. How could he tell his mentor what they had done?
"I want you to know," he said, realizing that it was now or never, "that I…need some time to think about this."
Katie's voice brought him back to reality and into the present.
"Remus? May I come in?"
Remus quickly put the newspaper in a desk drawer where she wouldn't be able to see it. He had never told Katie about Sirius. It was all too painful to admit. "Yes, please come in," he said in what he thought was a cheerful tone.
"Lunch is ready, if you're hungry."
"I am." He stood up and rubbed his hands together. "It sounds like just the thing! Thank you." He hoped she would fall for his fake happiness.
Katie frowned at him. "Are you all right?"
Remus sighed. The more time he spent with Katie, the better she was at reading his emotions. Obviously, he wasn't doing a very good job of hiding them right this moment.
"I'm fine, really. Just thinking about Hogwarts." It wasn't really a lie, but it wasn't the full truth either.
"Oh, then you've come to a decision?" She smiled at him, but it wasn't the happy smile that Katie normally had on her face.
"I have. I'm going to accept." He watched her intensely, hoping to find some sign of her feelings about this. But she just smiled. "In fact, I've already sent Dumbledore my acceptance letter."
She nodded, turned, and led him out towards the kitchen. "Well, it's about time you gave that tattered old briefcase some good use." It was very like Katie to try and change the mood with a joke.
Remus laughed at this. "You know, I've been thinking about my classes and what I learned while I was at school."
"You actually found time for learning in between your mischief-making?" Katie came around the counter and brought the food to the table.
With a smirk, Remus said, "I should never have told you about that. But yes, we did learn much in Defense Against the Dark Arts." He took a breath and added quietly, "We even had a lesson on werewolves."
Katie stood still at the table across from Remus, staring at him for a moment. She blinked and sat down. Remus felt instantly guilty. Even though she had known for quite some time about the wolf, it was still hard for her to imagine, and Remus knew that. He joined her at the table and said, "It was an interesting lesson. Not 100% truthful, but interesting." It was also the lesson that gave James the idea on how to help Remus by becoming Animagi, but Remus couldn't say a word about that to Katie. "I'll have to teach about werewolves."
Helping herself to some salad, Katie smiled lightly at him. "Well then, look on the bright side. At least your students will all learn the truth."
He looked at her with quiet understanding. She was right, but then she was usually right. She was always able to focus positively when he was being too negative. Her company had meant the world to him this last year.
"What?" she asked, noticing him staring at her.
Dishing out some potatoes for himself, Remus said, "Oh, just thinking about how much I'm going to miss…" Remus caught himself, and hesitated a moment before quickly focusing on his plate and saying, "our lessons together. "
There was a long pause where neither of them said a word. What could they say? His leaving, although hard on both of them, would be a good thing, he knew it. Remus had often thought that Katie spent too much time with him. He enjoyed her visits, but what could come of them? She couldn't stay here forever. She needed to find the right place where she belonged, and where she could build herself a better life. He set his face and looked back up at her.
Very quietly, her voice shaking, Katie said, "I'll miss the lessons, too." Looking carefully at him, she added, "You write if there is ever anything I can do."
Remus simply nodded and went back to his lunch. Oh, yes, he would indeed miss her.