Author's Notes: This story was written for the December 2007 hpholidaygen genfic exchange at Live Journal.
Detention with Professor Longbottom
Neville checked the latch on the trunk one last time. It was secure and sound. He left the trunk alone in the tool closet of greenhouse three, closing it tightly behind him. The trunk rattled with frustration.
Neville turned his attention to the plants he'd be tending with his young helper for the evening—a helper who ought to be arriving any moment. Normally, Neville chose drearier, more unpleasant tasks for students in detention. But this was a special case, and it called for a special task. He only hoped it would work out like he planned.
Teddy Lupin trudged sullenly toward the greenhouses. Though it was already late November, this was his first detention of the year. He'd been determined to be detention-free all the way until the Christmas holiday as a present for his Gran. Unfortunately, things didn't work out quite as he had planned.
Teddy paused in front of the door to greenhouse three, and sighed. He'd never served detention with Professor Longbottom before, and he was somewhat embarrassed to be doing so now. After all, he'd known Professor Longbottom for as long as he could remember. For some reason it felt worse being punished by someone he knew personally than it did being punished by someone he only knew as a teacher.
With one last deep breath, he opened the greenhouse door and stepped inside.
"Hello Mr. Lupin," said Professor Longbottom, looking up from a table covered in potting supplies. "You're right on time."
"Yes, Sir," muttered Teddy, shuffling forward. He scanned the supplies with relief—it looked like a simple re-potting. Good. It should be an easy detention.
Neville explained the re-potting task to his young pupil, and Teddy set to work straight-away. Neville hung back, puttering around the far end of the greenhouse, pondering how to begin his planned discussion with the boy. Teddy's head of house, Professor Vector, had told him all about the teasing that provoked Teddy into attacking his housemates. That teasing was precisely the reason Neville had requested to take over this detention from Professor Vector.
He wouldn't normally intrude on what should be an intra-house matter, but Neville had had a fair amount of experience coping with that sort of teasing in his own boyhood, and he had a great deal of experience with the sorts of insecurities Teddy was feeling. He knew that if he could only find the right words, he would be able to help. The trick was that words still didn't come easily for him in situations like these, even after more than four years as a teacher. But he had to do his best.
The trunk in the closet rattled impatiently.
Teddy was just beginning to think that he could finish his task in less than an hour when Professor Longbottom shuffled back over to him with a weak smile on his face. He looked over Teddy's work, and said, "Good job so far, Mr. Lupin. Keep it up."
"Thank you." Teddy continued to work, all too aware that Professor Longbottom was still staring at him. He was beginning to feel very uncomfortable under the scrutiny when Professor Longbottom cleared his throat. Teddy looked up.
"How is your grandmother doing?" asked Professor Longbottom.
"She's well, last I heard," replied Teddy, looking doggedly down at his dirt-covered hands. It didn't matter how long he'd known Professor Longbottom—having a personal conversation with his teacher still felt weird.
"Good. Good." He paused. "Did you know I was raised by my gran, as well?"
Teddy crammed one of the seedlings into a pot, loosely packing soil around it. "No. I didn't know that, Sir."
"Wonderful woman, my gran. But she was hard on me sometimes. And it was never easy growing up without my parents. I lost them in the First Voldemort War, when I was just a baby."
Teddy looked up at Professor Longbottom, blinking in surprise. The older man had always seemed so confident…so jolly. Teddy never would have imagined that they had something so difficult in common.
Finding himself at a loss for words, Teddy looked back down at his hands and began working on another seedling. "I never knew that," he said quietly.
"It wasn't easy for me," said Professor Longbottom softly, "coming to Hogwarts, surrounded by children who came from happy whole families. I didn't dare tell them about my parents. I didn't want them to pity me. I didn't want to seem weak."
Teddy felt himself flushing. All of the teachers knew about his parents, and so did a few of the other students who knew him before Hogwarts—like Victoire Weasley and Thomas Jordan. But they were both younger than he was. None of the kids in his class—or his House—knew about his parents. His mates knew that he lived with his gran, but none of them had pried into why.
It's not that he was ashamed or embarrassed—not really. In fact, he knew that most kids would think it was pretty cool to have war heroes for parents—even if they were dead. It just wasn't something he wanted to talk about much. Especially not about his father.
Neville was silent for a long time, waiting for Teddy to respond. He was afraid that he'd started this whole conversation off on the wrong foot. Finally, Teddy glanced back up at him.
"I don't really like to talk about my parents," he said quietly.
Neville nodded. "I understand."
There was another long silence while Teddy continued to work sullenly on his task. Neville sighed. He might be sticking his foot in his mouth, but he simply couldn't let this drop. He needed to have things out with Teddy while he had him alone.
"Professor Vector told me that Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Jacobs were teasing you about your Boggart, and that's why you hexed them. And Professor Jones told me what form your Boggart took."
Teddy looked back up with a frown on his face. His previously blond hair was beginning to turn vivid red.
"I know I shouldn't have hexed them, Professor. But I wasn't the only one who couldn't get rid of my Boggart on the first try. Brian Wilkes didn't get his on the first try either."
Neville nodded slowly. It was understandable for the boy to feel defensive—he certainly would have, were their positions reversed. "But it wasn't just your inability to get rid of the Boggart that they were teasing you about, was it? They also teased you about the form your Boggart assumed."
A bright flush spread across Teddy's face, echoing the red of his hair.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Neville said softly.
Teddy shook his head with tight lips. "Everyone thinks I'm a baby. No one's scared of werewolves anymore now that they all get Wolfsbane Potion from the Ministry. It's stupid."
Neville took a long, deep breath. This was exactly what he expected. Now he just needed to find the right words to make the boy feel better.
"Your classmates are right that most people aren't scared of werewolves anymore," said Neville. "But sometimes the things we're most afraid of don't make much sense. We just can't help but be scared, whether anyone else is scared or not."
Teddy looked down, and shook his head.
"Do you want to know what my Boggart turned into the first time I saw one?" asked Neville.
Teddy raised his eyebrows. He couldn't fathom what Professor Longbottom's Boggart might have been. In fact, he grown up thinking that men who'd had the courage to face down Voldemort himself, like Professor Longbottom and his godfather Harry, weren't afraid of anything. "What?" he asked.
Professor Longbottom smiled. "It turned into my Potions teacher."
Teddy's eyes widened in disbelief. "You were afraid of your Potions teacher?"
The Professor nodded. "More than anything in the world. It seems silly now—after all, the worst thing he could have done to me was give me poor marks or give me a detention. He never would have actually hurt me. But I couldn't help myself. I was terrified of him. I even had nightmares about him." He chuckled at the memory, and Teddy laughed nervously along with him.
"So being afraid of werewolves doesn't seem nearly so embarrassing now, does it?" he continued. "After all, if one of them refused to take their potion, they really could hurt you. Or even kill you."
Teddy nodded quietly.
Neville studied the boy's guarded expression. "You have a deeper reason to be afraid of werewolves, though, don't you? I know all about your father."
Teddy looked down at his hands again, feeling ashamed of himself. "Gran and Harry and Aunt Molly have all spent hours and hours telling me about what a great man my father was. But whenever I ask them questions about what it was like for him as a werewolf, they just tell me not to worry about it. That it was hard for him to stand up to the prejudice against him, but that he showed how strong he was by not letting it bother him."
Neville nodded. "My gran was the same way. She would go on and on about how great my father was, and all the wonderful things he accomplished. But she never once told me whether or not he liked onions. Or what kinds of books he read. Or which Quidditch team he supported. I know those aren't as serious as the things you want to know about, but you need to know that your family and Harry are only trying to remember the good things about your father. They want you to respect and love him the same way they do, and they want to protect you from being hurt or frightened."
"But it's not working!" said Teddy, balling his fists. "If they would just tell me what it was really like for him to turn into a werewolf, than maybe…"
"Maybe you wouldn't be so afraid?" asked Neville.
Neville sighed. "In this instance, I don't think you can count on the people you love to give you what you need. Sometimes you need to rely on yourself."
"That's what I'm afraid of," said Teddy softly.
He looked down at his feet. He could feel moisture welling in his eyes, but he was determined not to cry. His secret was on the tip of his tongue—the secret that he had never dared to tell to anyone, not even Gran.
He hesitated another moment, and then spoke. "Professor…I know that all the books and all the Healers say that you can't be born a werewolf. But what if they're wrong? I can feel myself changing every single month, on the night of the full moon. It's like I turn into a different person. I can't concentrate, and I can't sit still—plus I get angry over nothing. What if it gets worse? What if I really am a werewolf?"
Neville took a deep breath, and rubbed his chin. So, it wasn't the werewolf in his past that haunted him—it was the werewolf inside himself. "The books and Healers aren't wrong Teddy. But that doesn't mean that they're entirely right."
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean," he replied, "is that you will never be a true werewolf. But it's very likely that you inherited some sensitivity to the lunar cycle from your father."
Teddy furrowed his brow. "Does that make me part werewolf?"
Neville chuckled. "No. It makes you human. Everyone on earth has their quirks—and your quirk is getting a little testy around the full moon. In fact, wasn't it a full moon the day you hexed your housemates?"
Teddy nodded sheepishly.
"Didn't your Gran ever notice your mood swings on the full moon?"
Teddy shrugged. "She never said anything. Besides, it got lots worse after I came to Hogwarts."
"Hmm. Do your symptoms seem to get better again when you're home for the summer?"
Teddy had never thought about this before, and the answer surprised him. "They do!"
"Ahh. Does your gran treat you differently on the day of the full moon?"
Teddy thought back for several long moments. "You know—I think she does."
Neville raised his eyebrows and smiled. "Now we're getting somewhere. Tell me…what does your gran do?"
"Well…I never realized it was always on the day of the full moon, but for as long as I can remember, once a month she would give me a Teddy day."
"A Teddy day?"
He nodded. "I get to choose an outing for us to do together in the morning. And then we have hamburgers for lunch. And for dinner we have steaks and mashed potatoes and chocolate gelato."
"That sounds like a good day."
"It is. I really miss it when I'm at school."
"Well, Mr. Lupin, I think I might have a solution to your full moon problem."
"What?" Teddy asked. He'd been terrified for more than two years that one month he would start turning into a monster. Now, after a five minute conversation, Professor Longbottom thought he had an answer? It couldn't be true.
"You need to start having Teddy days here at school."
Teddy raised his eyebrow in skepticism. It couldn't possibly be that easy, could it? "Teddy days…here?"
"Certainly! Your gran figured out years ago the sorts of things that would calm your temper and cheer you up on full moon days. It's time we learned from her example. Of course we can't replicate the whole experience," he said. "But we can certainly try. For starters, I will put in a special order to the House Elves in the kitchen. Every full moon day, they will serve you a hamburger for lunch, and a steak, mashed potatoes, and chocolate gelato for dinner. How does that sound?"
Teddy couldn't help but grin. "It sounds pretty wicked."
"How do you like your steak?"
Neville burst out laughing. "I should have guessed. Rare it is!"
Teddy still wasn't sure this was a real answer to his problem, but it was certainly worth a try.
"Now, I have a few other suggestions," said Neville. "For starters, I'll send you a list of reliable reference books in the school library that will give you some good factual information on werewolves. And you can try writing the Office of Werewolf Support Services. I understand that they have a number of wonderfully informative pamphlets that they could send you."
Now this was more what Teddy had in mind. He'd always been embarrassed about looking at books on werewolves in the library, because he hadn't wanted his friends to guess his secret. But now he could tell them it was a special assignment from Professor Longbottom. He nodded. "That sounds great."
"And if you get restless after classes on the full moon days, Hagrid would be glad to have your help with the animals. You like working with animals, don't you?"
Teddy nodded. "I do. That might be fun."
"Good. And there's one other thing you could do," added Longbottom. "Over the Christmas holiday you could try to find time for a conversation with Victoire Weasley's father, Bill. You know Bill, don't you?"
"Yeah. I always see him at Aunt Molly's Christmas party. You're usually there, too."
Neville chuckled at the somewhat exasperated tone in Teddy's voice. "Perfect. I'll write Bill and ask him to plan on giving you a half-hour of private conversation at the party. You know, the wounds on his face came from being bitten by a non-transformed werewolf."
Teddy nodded. "I know. That's one of the things that's always scared me. I've always wondered if I could do that sort of thing."
Neville frowned, and spoke in a stern tone. "That's the kind of thinking that will do no one any good. You need to drop it—now! The man that did that Bill Weasley was a vicious creature who had turned his back on humanity, and was a loyal servant of Lord Voldemort. You are nothing…NOTHING…like him. And neither was your father. Is that clear?"
Teddy rarely heard Professor Longbottom speak in that tone, and he was taken aback. "Yes, Sir," he said weakly.
Neville nodded sharply. "If you read up in the books I recommend, you'll see just how different you are from creatures like that. The sooner you hit the library, the better."
"Yes. You're right, Sir. But…"
Neville raised an eyebrow. "But what?"
"But…my temper gets so bad on full moon days. I'm really worried I might lose control and hurt someone." Teddy had never admitted this dark secret before, but he felt it every month. That's why he'd hexed his friends for nothing more than a little teasing. He was ashamed of himself for letting his temper get the best of him, but he didn't know how to control it. Hopefully his new "Teddy days" would help with that. It was certainly worth a try.
"It's all a matter of desire, Mr. Lupin. You have the power to control your actions. Nothing that you don't want to happen will happen. If you don't desire to hurt others, then you won't hurt them." Before Teddy could respond, Neville continued, "I know that's an oversimplification. But as you learn to understand your mood swings more, and learn more about what sorts of things agitate your temper, you'll better be able to control them. Pay attention to the lunar cycle. Keep a diary tracking your thoughts and feelings as the cycle of the moon passes for a few months. You might start to see patterns emerge. And once you are more aware of those patterns, you can work on controlling them."
"Okay. I'll try that." Professor Longbottom was full of great ideas tonight. Teddy was already beginning to feel better about things. However, he still had some lingering doubts. He was pretty sure he would never turn into a full werewolf, but the way his moods fluctuated with the moon still worried him. What if he couldn't control himself? What if whatever he'd inherited from his father really did have power over him?
Neville could see the guarded anxiety in Teddy's eyes. It was an expression he'd seen all too often on his own face in the past.
"If you ever get frightened about your werewolf heritage again, I want you to think of these plants," said Neville, holding up one of the re-potted seedlings.
Neville smiled gently. "Do you know the name of these plants, Mr. Lupin?"
Teddy shrugged. "No."
"They're called monkshood. Also known as aconite…or wolfsbane."
Teddy jumped slightly in his seat, instinctively pulling his hands back from the plant he'd been touching. He frowned up at Professor Longbottom. How could he have chosen such a dangerous plant for him to work with without even warning him?
"Don't worry; if they were going to hurt you it would have happened already," said Neville. "I chose these plants on purpose, because I wanted to give you solid proof that you have nothing to fear from your heritage. Repotting those seedlings would have put a werewolf in the hospital for weeks, but you weren't harmed at all. Think about that next time you worry about what you are, and what you might become. You're free, Mr. Lupin. Free in a way that your poor father never was. And I'm certain that nothing would have made him happier than to see you embrace that freedom, and leave your fear in the past. I'll help you do it. We'll start with your Teddy days, and your reading list, and your diary. And if that isn't enough, we'll find something more to help. I promise that I'll help you overcome this. We'll do it together."
Teddy felt a little embarrassed by the Professor's intensity, but he also felt grateful that he finally had someone to share this with—someone to help him.
"You're welcome. Now, I think you've done enough with the monkshood for the night. Go wash up, and then I've got one more task for you before you leave."
Teddy nodded and made his way to the hand basin at the far end of the greenhouse. When he returned to the worktables, he found that Professor Longbottom had cleared a space on the floor, and place a battered old trunk in the center of it.
"You know your father was my Defense teacher for one year, don't you?"
Teddy nodded. "Yeah. Harry told me all about it."
Neville smiled. "Well, something he wouldn't have known to tell you is that even though he was only our teacher for a year, he was my favorite teacher at Hogwarts. He believed in me long before I learned to believe in myself, and he encouraged me to have more confidence, and a better sense of humor about my weaknesses. I still treasure those lessons he taught me. And I thought I'd return the favor by teaching his son something that he once taught me." He paused, and his eyes twinkled with excitement. "I'm going to teach you how to banish your Boggart."
Teddy's eye's widened, and he took a step back from the trunk. "It's in there?"
Neville nodded. "It is. But you have nothing to worry about—I assure you. You remember the Riddikulus charm from Professor Jones's class?"
Teddy nodded. He'd learned the charm along with the rest of his class. But he was the only one who had failed to perform it successfully. He could already feel his cheeks beginning to flush with embarrassment at the memory.
"So," continued Neville, "you remember that you need to picture something truly funny in your mind to replace your fear. What did you picture when you were practicing the charm in class?"
"I was picturing the wolf as a floppy stuffed toy," said Teddy, shuffling his feet. It hadn't worked in class, and he could see no reason why it would work any better now.
"Ohhh," said Neville. "That's not nearly silly enough. How about you try thinking of the wolf wearing a bonnet and nappy, and sucking on a dummy?"
A snort of laughter burst out of Teddy's lips. "That's a good one, Professor."
Neville beamed. "I rather thought so myself. Now keep that picture in your mind, and practice your charm a few times."
Teddy pulled out his wand and focused on the silly image in his mind. He couldn't help but grin as he flourished his wand and practiced the charm.
After a minute Neville said, "Do you think you're ready to try the real thing?"
Teddy gritted his teeth. He was as ready as he'd ever be. "Let's do it."
Neville opened the latch on the trunk. The lid burst open, and a snarling werewolf clambered out, foaming at the mouth.
Teddy could feel himself freezing in fear, but he thought back on his long talk with Professor Longbottom, and knew that he wouldn't let it beat him this time. He focused on the image in his mind, pointed his wand, and uttered the charm: "Riddikulus!"
With a silly popping sound, the wolf sank to its nappy-covered haunches, sucking desperately on its dummy from beneath a large pink bonnet.
Teddy burst into laughter, and Professor Longbottom laughing along with him. The Boggart dissolved into a puff of smoke and retreated to the trunk, which the Professor shut soundly after it.
"Well done, Mr. Lupin. Well done." Neville clapped the boy on his back.
"Thanks, Professor. It wasn't so hard after all."
"Good. Just as it should be. So, your detention is done for today. I'll get you that reading list sometime tomorrow, and you should get started on it right away… and get started on a diary tracking your moods according to the lunar cycle. All right?"
"Excellent. Let's meet again a few days before the next full moon to be sure everything is working out, shall we?"
"That would be great, Sir."
Neville nodded. "And you promise not to hex your friends again before then?"
Teddy smiled. "I promise."
"Very good. Run along, then."
"Good night, Professor," said Teddy, leaving the greenhouse.
"And a very good night to you, too," replied Neville.
Once Teddy was gone, Neville returned the trunk to the storage closet. He'd turn it over to Professor Jones for disposal tomorrow.
Now it was time to head home to his wife. As he prepared to leave, he wondered if she'd mind going with him to the cemetery to visit their mums and his gran on the weekend. It had been too long.
Humming quietly to himself, he turned of the lights of the greenhouse, and locked the door.