A/N: I haven't written for the Potter fandom in quite a long time, but it seems to be the place I always return to in the end. I was rereading the books the other day, and got to thinking about Remus' time as a Professor, and the ways he might have interacted with some of the other students. This is the result of that speculation. Hope you enjoy!
Remus Lupin sighed. He ached all over, battered and bruised from a difficult transformation the night before. Nearly a year of the luxury of the Wolfsbane Potion had allowed him to forget just how sore he could be in the mornings. You're getting old, Moony old man, he thought ruefully in Sirius' inimitable tones. For the first time in years, that mental voice didn't cause him pain. A slight smile crossed his face as Remus bent to retrieve his battered suitcase from beneath his desk, letting his fingers drift over the peeling gold letters. James and Sirius had given it to him as a graduation gift, pressed it on him with bright laughter.
"Professor R.J. Lupin!" James had crowed, shoving his glasses up with an absent hand. "Come on, Moony, you know you're going to need it!"
His smile faded as he opened the case and cast the expansion charm on the inside. He'd carried the case for more than fifteen years, often as the only repose of his meager possessions. He'd been a Professor for precisely one. And now he was packing again, ready to move on once more.
Remus suppressed another sigh – no time for regrets now. He had tendered his resignation an hour before, and Dumbledore had accepted it with regret, but without real surprise. Now the castle was emptier than he could remember, and his footsteps had echoed dully in the bare corridors as he dragged himself back to his office to make his escape. The older students were almost all paying a final visit to Hogsmeade, and the younger children had taken to the grounds and the shore of the lake to escape the stifling heat which permeated the castle.
He turned to the bookshelf behind him and started pulling off the volumes that belonged to him, stacking them neatly in the suitcase. Pack first, that was the key; pack, get out of the castle, and then he'd have time to sit down and figure out what on earth he was going to do next. For all that Sirius was free, he was still a wanted convict, and not likely to be a source of good company for a while. No – Remus would need a new job, and with the new legislation that some ministry official had just shoved through, it would be harder than ever to find employment in magical circles. Perhaps it would be back to temporary minimum-wage Muggle jobs for him. He'd saved what he could from his Hogwarts salary. It would be enough to be getting on with.
A hesitant knock on the office door startled Remus into dropping a whole stack of papers, which tumbled into the depths of the suitcase. He had expected this interruption, and tried to compose himself as best he could. "Come in," he called, voice purposefully light, and waited for Harry to push the door open.
It wasn't Harry. The boy who poked his head around the door frame was far more hesitant, and Remus blinked in surprise as he realized Neville Longbottom had beaten all of his classmates to the punch.
"Ah, Neville, what a pleasant surprise! No trip to Hogsmeade for you today?" Remus watched the boy carefully, wondering what his reaction would be. Snape's revelation of his lycanthropy to the Slytherins would surely have spread through the whole student body by now – part of the reason he hoped to be long gone by the time his ex-students returned to the castle. He didn't feel up to dealing with pleading or recriminations, not when his head pounded and his body felt like he'd been dragged through the Forbidden Forest backward. Neville blinked at him, eyes shuttered.
"Professor McGonagall says I'm banned forever," he said bluntly, and Remus winced at the memory of the boy's punishment. Perhaps he could drop McGonagall a quick note asking her to reconsider. Neville looked at him steadily, and Remus wondered at the lack of fear the boy exhibited. He had been very pleased by the progress Neville had made in Defense, but the anxiety that kept the child permenantly tense and wary should surely have been in evidence if he knew he was in the presence of a Dark Creature.
"Right. That's unfortunate," Remus said sympathetically. He used his wand to levitate a collection of parchment rolls from the top of a high cabinet, floating them gently into his suitcase as he waited for Neville to make a move.
"I – I ran into Professor Dumbledore," Neville said after a moment. "He told me you were leaving."
Remus put his wand down, surprised. Dumbledore did not simply run into students by accident. If he had told Neville about Remus' departure, he must have had a reason. A stab of anger flashed through him momentarily. Dumbledore knew he wished to leave without a fuss, without the prolonged agony of farewells. He was already unsure how he would find the courage to step out of the castle, even without the added burden of answering students' questions.
With a flick of his wand, he drew up a chair, and motioned for Neville to take a seat. There was no time for tea. "I am," he said quietly. "I assume you know why?"
"Professor Snape said-" Neville paused, clearly unsure whether repeating hearsay was wise.
"Professor Snape told you the truth," Remus assured him gently. "I am, in fact, a werewolf." He watched Neville grow a little paler and swallow hard, but he was impressed by the subtlety of his reaction. "So you understand why I must leave?"
Neville nodded slowly. "It's parents, isn't it?" he asked sadly. Remus frowned. He hadn't expected to hear such regret. "People don't like what's different. We know you're a brilliant teacher, but they won't let you stay."
"As always, Neville, you manage to surprise me," Remus said with a little laugh. He hoped it didn't sound too bitter. "You're right, of course. The board of governors would never allow me to stay on now that word of my condition has got out." He sank into his own chair heavily, taking the weight off his strained muscles. A few minutes' delay wouldn't matter now.
"I wish you didn't have to go," Neville muttered. It was an unusually sullen statement from the generally sweet child, and Remus felt a little thrill of happiness. Neville Longbottom, the boy who was terrified of his Potions teacher and all of Trelawney's predictions – Neville didn't want his werewolf Defense professor to leave.
"I wish the same," Remus told him honestly. Neville looked up from where he'd been twisting his fingers together unhappily in his lap. "This place, this job – you have no idea what they have meant to me. I would stay forever, if the choice were mine." He let his eyes stray to the window, looking out over the grounds of Hogwarts to the mountains beyond.
"You like it here that much?"
Remus shut his eyes briefly against a surge of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. Like it? Hogwarts was the first place he had ever truly felt at home. It had been the location of the happiest times of his life, the place where he had gained friends of his own, the one spot where people had treated him like he might have some kind of future. Returning to Hogwarts after more than a decade, teaching Defense had been the greatest and most fulfilling work he had ever done. "I love it," he said simply.
Neville was silent. The moment stretched out, silence becoming awkward in the half-emptied room. Remus cleared his throat, and Neville started, eyes focusing again, returning from whatever thoughts had occupied him.
"I wanted-" he began awkwardly, "I wanted to say thank you. Because you were a really great teacher this year, and I learned loads from you. Even Gran was happy when I told her about the things I could do." He looked up, and a smile burst across his round face like the sun from behind a cloud. "I can fight a Boggart!"
"Indeed you can!" Remus said with a laugh. "And I dare say that your particular Boggart-fighting skills will remain a legend in Gryffindor house for many years." Neville blushed crimson at that, something like satisfaction creeping over his features.
"I never thought I'd be able to do that," Neville said in wonder. "And Grindylows and Hinkypunks and all the rest. I'm rubbish at – well, magic, and remembering, and everything. But I learned!"
"You did," Remus agreed warmly. Neville was one of his favorite students – secretly, of course, as they were not meant to have favorites – and he had thoroughly enjoyed watching his confidence and skills grow over the course of the year. "Neville, you are far from rubbish. You have a great deal of power in you. It may not be as flashy or easy to see as that of some of your friends, but you have so much potential. If you continue as you have done this year, your grandmother and everyone else will see that talent, just as I have."
Neville looked up at him, and the hope in his eyes was breathtaking. Remus knew, better than most, what it might mean to this particular student to hear encouragement from a trusted authority figure. He knew what it was to be a lonely and secretive child. He was well aware that Neville's parents' condition was not common knowledge in the school, and the weight of a secret that large and devastating resonated with him. Remus had been that child himself once, before James and Sirius and Peter. Neville carried a burden that few of his classmates could even comprehend. Harry might, but he had his own troubles – and Neville Longbottom was clearly in no hurry to go seeking pity from even his friends. But to have a trusted teacher offer the promise that he could succeed and show everyone that he was more than the sum of his flaws – well, that might well be the best thing Remus could offer him.
"Thank you, Professor Lupin," Neville said awkwardly, face still crimson, but eyes shining with sincerity. "And – I wanted to say good luck. Gran shouts about it sometimes, how badly we treat some kinds of people, so I know it's not always easy out there for you."
Remus gave a tired laugh. "Right again, Neville. Full marks for a concise summary."
Neville grinned back at him with an unusual playfulness. "Maybe the only time I'll ever get full marks," he said impishly.
Remus resisted the unprofessional urge to reach out and ruffle his hair. He wondered sadly if there was anyone else this child felt comfortable joking with. He had been feeling guilty for abandoning Harry, but now he was seized with an even greater regret that he had to leave Neville as well. He didn't give his trust easily, or to many people – but Remus had clearly somehow become one of his trustworthy people. And now he was leaving. He stood reluctantly, covering up a wince as his legs protested the movement, and Neville followed suit, struggling not to let his feet become mixed up as he stepped forward to the edge of the desk that separated them. Neville put out his hand.
"Thank you, Neville," Remus said quietly, voice a little raspy from exhaustion or emotion, he wasn't sure which. "Remember what I've told you, won't you? And if there's ever anything I can do to assist you, an owl will find me easily." He clasped Neville's hand firmly, and watched as the line of the boy's shoulders became firmer, his back straighter. For an instant, Remus saw his old friends in their son, Frank's determination and Alice's kindness playing across his features. Neville bobbed his head awkwardly, and did not make eye contact; Remus saw him swallow heavily.
Neville broke away after a moment, and had slipped back around the corner of the door in an instant, pausing only to whisper a quick "bye, Professor," as he left. Remus smiled sadly, identifying far too greatly with the desire to leave without a protracted farewell. He shook the stiffness out of his shoulders, going back to his packing.
When his packing brought him to the worn parchment of the Marauder's Map, Remus didn't hesitate before activating it. He felt the familiar surge of excitement on seeing the ink blossom across the page, words taking shape in his own boyish handwriting and that of his best friends. His eyes roved over the page, taking in the familiar rooms and names for what he knew might well be the last time.
Hogwarts had been his home, and the place of his greatest triumphs and joys. He had been an excellent student and a contented instructor. He watched the trail of Neville's footprints across the page as his departed student made his way toward the main entrance, and thought about the children. Remus knew he had made a difference this year. He had taught a solid Defense curriculum to all seven years, and formed relationships with many of his students, but none more than Harry and Neville. In both cases, he took great pride in realizing that he had truly helped them – Harry, against the Dementors and his troubled past; Neville, against his own lack of self-confidence and his peers' impressions of him. If he had another year, or two, or ten, he wasn't sure he could do much better.
"A brilliant teacher, was I?" he murmured quietly, and smiled ruefully as he saw another familiar name heading towards his office. Another goodbye to say, to a student who likely wouldn't respond quite so calmly to the news of his departure. He turned away from his desk, gazing out once more toward the Whomping Willow, the site of so many memories. A few more farewells, and he would be gone. "Well, I guess that's not too bad for a crotchety old werewolf."