A/N: Written as a pinch-hit for the hp_fivethings challenge on LiveJournal. The recipient was kellychambliss. Thanks to Ginge for beta-reading and talking me through the difficult parts of writing this.
Four Letters that Got Delivered (and One that Didn't)
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Regarding: the admission of Remus Lupin to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
When Minerva received the letter from Albus, she was in Aberdeen for the wedding of her eldest niece. When she read it through for the first time, she wondered if it was the Headmaster's strange idea of humour. But the more she read, the harder she looked, the more certain she became that there was no subtle nudge or wink hinting at a joke. This was perfectly serious.
Albus had admitted a werewolf to Hogwarts for the fall term.
Fawkes waited patiently for her reply -- another sign that she ought to give up hope that this was supposed to be somehow funny. Fawkes had a great affection for Albus, but he was a phoenix, with all the dignity and pride that implied, and could hardly be bothered to fly about the countryside like a common owl with common errands.
Her response stopped just short of declaring her intention to resign if this sort of madness were allowed to continue. The second and last letter she received from Albus before leaving Aberdeen for Hogsmeade told her how much he valued her as Deputy Headmistress. How much he respected her opinions and valued her input. How important it was to have a deputy willing to disagree, speak her mind, and help him see errors in his judgement.
And when she returned to the castle, he informed her that she needed to treat the boy like any another student because, for his own safety, only a few select staff members would be informed of his condition.
"He's very much an ordinary boy."
She'd thought Albus had taken her objections into consideration. Perhaps he had. Considered and then dismissed. "He's not an ordinary boy, Albus. He's a werewolf."
"We've discussed the arrangements -- you know he'll be away from other students at the full moon." He saw Minerva getting ready to object again and before she could speak, he said, "His parents say he's a very clever boy."
"They're his parents," she said. "Of course they say he's clever."
"He's a voracious reader, "Albus went on, "fiction, science, magical theory, history. He's been doing small magics since he was five years old. For his age, he has a mature understanding of his affliction. I have every reason to believe that he could handle his unique situation with discretion were he permitted to attend Hogwarts. Indeed," Albus added with a smile, "he may be better prepared, academically, than many of his peers."
Minerva sighed. "Albus, you don't want my opinion, you want to persuade me to see your side of things." He watched her, elbows resting on his desk and fingers steepled under his chin. "What about the special medical attention he would require," she said, "the number of absences that would have to be overlooked or explained away? Those are both considerable concerns. And if word got out, it could damage the reputation of the school."
"Certainly, there are any number of reasons to turn him away," Albus conceded. "But no boy should be condemned at the age of eleven to live the life that awaits an uneducated werewolf." Minerva tightened her jaw a little. Albus knew far too well how to play upon her Gryffindor sense of righteous justice.
When the boy arrived at school on September first, Minerva wondered if she hadn't overreacted. She'd never seen a more harmless looking child -- of average height for an eleven year old boy, but very thin, with one of those haircuts that looked as though someone had put a large bowl over his head and then trimmed away all the hair that stuck out from beneath it. He walked with his head down, just barely glancing up at her through his heavy fringe as he approached the Sorting Hat.
With only a short pause, the Hat called him for Gryffindor, and Minerva's heart twisted in her chest. Merlin knew, the boy would need to have courage with the sort of future that awaited him.
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to Mr Remus Lupin, Regarding: The appointment of Fifth Year Gryffindor Prefects
Minerva was preparing her syllabus in the staff room when Pomona sat down beside her and said, "I'd like your opinions on Michael Fetgatter and Declan O'Toole."
Minerva set down her quill. "Is this about next year's Fifth Year prefects?"
"It's that time of year, isn't it?" Pomona set down a sheaf of papers which, upon first glance, appeared to be the boys' records. "I've looked at their grades, their disciplinary records -- but on paper, they're both excellent candidates. I thought speaking with their other professors might help me come to a decision, but Filius was no help at all. He made excellent arguments for both boys and I think I came away from that conversation more uncertain than ever. And Horace..."
"Horace would suggest O'Toole simply because his father is a member of the Wizengamot," Minerva finished. She was well aware of Professor Slughorn's brand of favouritism, and it left a foul taste in her mouth.
Pomona just smiled a bit and said, "Horace is not the one to ask for an objective opinion."
"Well, I'm afraid I won't be much help either," Minerva said as she picked up her quill again. "They're both excellent, responsible students. You know them better than I do, but I'd say either boy would do a fine job."
"Oh, but that's the trouble!" Pomona sighed. "How do I choose between two equally qualified candidates?"
A small smile pulled at Minerva's lips. "Go with your gut."
Pomona raised an eyebrow. "What a very Gryffindor way to decide on Hufflepuff prefects."
"Gryffindors trust their instincts because instincts are usually right," Minerva said.
Pomona opened her mouth as though she were going to say something, then closed it again.
"No hesitation, Pomona. Just pick."
"He'll make an excellent prefect." Minerva looked down at her syllabus and took a deep breath. "Now it's time to use a bit of my own advice. I've not picked prefects for Gryffindor yet."
"You've your job cut out for you with the girls," Pomona said as she gathered her papers up again and stood. "But at least the boys should be easy enough."
"Actually, I think I've decided on Lily Evans for the girls," Minerva said slowly. "It's the boys that are giving me trouble."
Pomona a long, studying look, as though realising for the first time that something strange was going on, but it passed quickly. "I'm not sure what's making you hesitate -- and it's your house, after all. They're all four good enough boys in their own ways. But if it were my decision to make -- well, there's only one I see that's level-headed enough to handle the responsibilities and privileges that come with being a prefect."
Pomona started to leave, but then paused just before she reached the doorway and turned to look back. "You're the Gryffindor, Minerva," she said. "What does your gut tell you?"
It wasn't without hesitation that Minerva submitted Remus Lupin's name along with Lily Evans's. He had quite enough to handle without extra responsibilities. It would be difficult to schedule his prefect duties around the full moons without telling the Head Boy and Girl why he could not patrol on certain nights. She was concerned that this might over-complicate an already complicated life, feared that the extra attention would allow for his secret to be exposed.
And as she sealed the envelope with his prefect badge enclosed, her instincts told her that he would likely continue to sneak about the castle at night, and not do nearly enough to keep his friends out of mischief -- but that he would want very much to do a good job. He would make an effort, which was more than could be said for any of his three friends.
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to Mr John Lupin, Regarding: Events occurring during the night of the full moon, 4 February, 1977
Poppy Pomfrey looked up from tending to Remus Lupin's injuries. "Minerva," she said, nodding. "I've given him a potion. He's asleep right now."
"How is he?"
"Physically, fine." Poppy sighed. "He tore himself up a bit worse than usual, but he'll be fine."
"And Severus Snape?"
Poppy nodded toward the curtains pulled around one of the other beds. "Upset. I gave him several calming potions and a Dreamless Sleep potion. He was unsettled, to say the least, and shaking like a leaf until he'd had several doses of Calming Draught. You'll not get the full story from either of them right now. They both need rest."
Minerva nodded and went to sit by Remus's bed. "Has Horace been here?"
"Just after Mr Snape was brought up by Mr Potter. He's with Albus now."
Minerva nodded again and looked down at the sleeping boy. This was just what she'd feared when Albus had admitted him to the school -- that his secret would be discovered, that he'd be a danger to the other students. However, looking at him now, she couldn't help feeling a deep affection for the boy who looked so very young and innocent covered in bandages and sleeping soundly.
"I wrote to his father," she said after a moment. "He should be coming shortly to ... discuss how best to handle the situation. If he wants to see his son..."
"It shouldn't be a problem. He's welcome to come by."
Minerva stood. "Let me know when he's awake," she said. She started for the door
"Minerva?" Minerva turned to look at Poppy, whose face was lined with worry. "Will his father be taking him home?"
"I don't know," she replied. It was a precarious situation, but surely, after all the boy had been through, the answer wouldn't be to pull him out of school now.
Minerva McGonagall to Remus Lupin, personal letter dated 24 November, 1981
Still two months shy of his twenty-second birthday, Severus Snape was by far the youngest professor at Hogwarts, and Minerva could tell that he felt every year that separated him from the other professors. He fared little better in his interactions with the students, particularly the upper years who remembered him well as the particularly surly, stern prefect he'd been not so long ago.
Forcing students to adapt to his strict, disciplined approach to potion-making didn't make him a popular teacher, but he was better suited to the job than Minerva had expected -- and she didn't necessarily disagree when he complained that Horace's approach had lacked focus, that a number of the students lacked focus as well. He might never grow to be a beloved teacher, but given a few years, he would be a very good one.
Still, Minerva worried about how well he was adjusting. During the last days of the war, he'd seemed stretched thin. Now he just seemed lost, once-sharp eyes empty as he settled into the rhythm of life after the war.
Watching Severus over the staff table at dinner every evening, seeing the way he carried himself, as though resigned to lingering on long past his natural end, made her think for the first time just how complete the devastation to his generation had been. Of those who had been involved in the war on either side, only a very few of the young remained, isolated individuals piecing together new lives from the ruins left of their youth.
And she wondered what had become of Remus Lupin. She wrote him a letter, acknowledging as delicately as she could how difficult things must be for him right now, asking after his health.
A week later, her owl returned. Her letter was still tied to his leg. Remus Lupin was nowhere to be found.
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to Professor Remus Lupin, Regarding: The position of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry -- immediate response requested
Minerva knew that almost twelve years had passed since she had last seen Remus Lupin, but she was not expecting the dramatic change in his appearance. She herself had changed little since they'd last met. The same could not be said for him.
She almost didn't recognise him when he walked into the Leaky Cauldron. The last vestiges of boyhood that had still clung to him at twenty-one had now faded entirely. His shoulders were broader, his face leaner and darkened by the shadowy suggestion of a beard. She could see her letter clutched in his hand. His eyes darted around the pub before settling on her, and he slowly approached.
"Professor McGonagall," he said, extending his hand.
"You're old enough to call me Minerva now," she said with a faint smile as she took his hand and shook. "Have a seat, Remus." With him much closer now, she could see grey starting to streak through his hair. "Do you intend to accept the offer?"
He nodded. "I'm not in much of a position to turn down work right now," he said, voice deeper and hoarser than she remembered.
"It will be good for the students to have a real teacher that knows his subject," she said. And then, the image of Lockhart flashing through her mind, she added, "Or simply someone with more sense and intelligence than the average bubotuber plant."
When a smile broke across his face, he finally looked again like the young boy she'd once known. "How is Gilderoy?"
"Perfectly ridiculous, much the way he was before he lost his memory."
Remus laughed softly and shook his head. He ran his hand over a knot in the wood of the table and then looked at Minerva with a more sober expression. He cast a muffling charm with a subtle twist of his fingers, and Minerva felt a small surge of pride seeing a former student perform rather difficult magic with such ease. "I still have a few reservations about accepting the position," he said.
"What sort of reservations?"
He took a deep breath and asked her, "Was I offered the position because of Sirius?" She could see the look of doubt
Of course, the answer was, in part, yes. Few people could understand Black the way Remus did. Few people had known him as well. And Remus had a unique motivation to help prevent Sirius from getting anywhere near Harry Potter. Obviously, it had been a consideration. But her answer was simply, "You were offered the position because of that impressive little bit of wandless magic I just saw. Because you were in the top of your class. Because you have practical experience. Because Albus trusts you. We all do."
"Not just because of Sirius, then," he said.
He always was very astute. "No," she said. "Not just."