"How was your lesson, Harry?"
"Fine," Harry mumbled shortly. Feeling beyond exhausted and more than a bit cranky, he dropped his book-bag haphazardly on the ground and flopped onto the couch next to Ron and Hermione. Leaning his head back against the sofa, he stared at the ceiling and let out a long-suffering sigh.
He saw his friends exchange a look out of the corner of his eye. "Er, you sure you're alright, mate?" Ron was the first to speak. "You seem... tired."
Harry shrugged and burrowed further into the couch. Yes, he was tired, but that hardly accounted for his bad mood. That had more to do with the horrifying fact that Snape had seen such an embarrassing memory during their Occlumency attempt tonight. That the professor had witnessed Uncle Vernon in all his raging, insufferable glory. You disgusting freak! Just as unnatural as your ruddy parents. Should have left you to freeze on the doorstep as a baby. I'll teach you to cower from me, boy!
The tips of Harry's ears began to burn at the memory. Merlin, just the thought of it was mortifying. Even his best friends didn't know how horrible the Dursleys really were. He knew Ron suspected some of it. He and his brothers had been the ones to rescue Harry that summer when his relatives locked him in his bedroom. But he didn't know the worst of it, and that was the way Harry wanted to keep it. He didn't want his friends knowing about that sort of stuff, let alone Snape of all people.
Harry shuddered involuntarily. The thing was, he hadn't lied to Snape about not recalling that particular memory. Uncle Vernon had made it an unfortunate habit to scream and belittle Harry on a regular basis. What transpired in that memory wasn't an uncommon occurrence, and honestly, the thought of it didn't phase Harry too much. The memory wasn't distressing, or whatever else Snape had implied. He wasn't traumatized or anything; he just didn't want Snape knowing about all that ugly stuff.
Really, it wasn't like he had any truly distressing memories to hide. His relatives never beat him or anything like that. But even so... no one needed to know about all that other shameful stuff. About the name-calling and the screaming and the chores and the cupboard. No. Harry could deal with that by himself.
Realizing he'd been daydreaming, Harry came back to reality with a start. Hermione sat watching him with a terribly concerned expression plastered on her face.
"Are you feeling alright? You look pale."
Shaking himself from his stupor, Harry forced himself to crack a smile. "Yeah, I'm fine," he insisted in what he hoped was a reassuring voice. "It was just a long lesson. Occlumency is harder than I expected."
Hermione frowned deeply but did not comment further.
Ron seemed to take his explanation at face value. "That's rough, mate," he said, voice sympathetic. "Snape treating you alright though? Not being too big a git, is he?"
Harry shook his head. "No, nothing like that. Snape's been decent, lately. And you know, he's actually not that bad of a teacher when he puts his mind to it."
Ron looked horrified at the mere suggestion. "You're mental, mate."
Shrugging, Harry tucked his feet up underneath his legs and nestled his head into the corner of the couch. Staring at the flickering flames of the fireplace across the common room, he felt as though he could drift to sleep right there on the couch.
Mind foggy, he half listened as Ron and Hermione began to bicker about Snape and his teaching merits, or lack thereof. All at once, their conversation jogged something in Harry's memory.
"Oh yeah. Forgot to mention. Snape said he'll be teaching Defense the rest of the year."
Well. That certainly caught their attention. Whipping his head around, Ron's mouth literally dropped open. He looked as though his birthday and Christmas had been canceled all at once.
"Uh- I don't mean for the entire year," Harry corrected himself hurriedly. "Just every so often. He said he's taking over for Lupin once a month, or something like that."
"Well, that's nearly as bad! Every bloody month? I'm going to fail. I'm going to fail Potions and Defense and my mum is going to kill me," Ron moaned, looking very near tears.
Harry glanced over. Hermione had gone suddenly and unnaturally stiff.
"Um, yeah. That's what Snape said. He's taking over Defense classes for one week every month."
All at once, Hermione stood bolt upright from the couch, eyes growing wide. "Every month."
"Yes," Harry repeated slowly, brow furrowing in confusion.
Ron took a brief break from pouting to glance over at Hermione. "What's wrong?"
Seemingly realizing they were still sitting there, Hermione turned to stare at the boys for a fleeting second. "Every month," she repeated the words for a third time, sounding more than a bit dazed. "I... I'll be right back." Abruptly, she turned and all but sprinted toward the common room portrait hole.
"Hermione!" Ron shouted after her, standing up from the couch as well. "Where the bloody hell are you going? Curfew is in less than ten minutes!"
Hermione ignored him, the threat of missed curfew not even enough to deter her. "I won't be long!" she called without looking back. "I just need to check the lunar charts in the library!"
With that, the portrait hole swung shut behind her. Harry glanced down at the ground, belatedly realizing that Hermione had left both her wand and her discarded shoes lying on the floor in her hurry.
Ron sat back down on the couch, shaking his head slowly back and forth. "Mental, that one," he commented offhandedly to Harry. "Absolutely mental. Honestly, lunar charts? She doesn't make any bloody sense half the time."
Feeling dazed, Harry merely nodded, staring at the portrait hole that Hermione had just fled from. "Yeah," he agreed quietly. Inside his head, however, his thoughts raced frantically.
Lunar charts. Every month. Lupin missing class. Every month. Lupin looking horribly ill. Every month. Lunar charts.
Harry wasn't half as clever as Hermione on his best day, but he was good at Defense. And he had good intuitions. And suddenly, everything seemed to click into place and he was certain he knew exactly what Hermione was suspecting.
Hermione's frantic trip to the library confirmed their suspicions. Lupin's recent illness coincided perfectly with the full moon.
"It all makes so much sense!" she insisted to the boys later that evening, sounding far too excited over the prospect that their Defense professor might be a werewolf. The trio sat huddled in a corner of the common room, talking in hushed voices so as not to be overheard. "The chronic, progressive fatigue! The unexplained absences! His-"
"But Hermione," Ron interrupted hurriedly. "A werewolf? Yeah, it's all a bit suspicious, but-"
"His affinity toward defending other misunderstood Dark creatures! The scars! And that first day in Defense class," Hermione continued, undeterred. "Professor Lupin's boggart was a full moon!"
Across the table, Ron was slowly turning a sickly shade of puce with each subsequent revelation. "A werewolf," he whimpered suddenly, sounding nearly faint. "Our Defense professor is a bloody werewolf."
Harry sunk back in his seat, feeling a bit dazed himself. Lupin was a werewolf.
Hermione nodded excitedly, eyes bright with unrestrained enthusiasm.
"Merlin's beard," Ron moaned, still looking rather ill. "Why does this stuff always happen with the Defense professors? First Quirrell, with You-Know-Who stuck on the back of his head. Then Lockhart with his fan club and his ruddy memory charms. And now Lupin's a werewolf? It's like some sort of awful joke!"
"Shhh!" Hermione hissed, glancing hurriedly around the common room. "Hush, Ron! We don't need the entirety of Gryffindor knowing!"
Ron clamped his mouth shut. "Fine," he mumbled, crossing his arms over his chest with a huff. "Merlin. I can't believe Dumbledore would hire a werewolf as a professor. Bloody mental, he is. Not fit to be Headmaster if he's hiring werewolves to work at Hogwarts. And Lupin should be sacked as well."
Harry frowned deeply. "Hey, I like Lupin well enough. He's the best Defense professor we've ever had."
"But werewolves are monsters." Ron stared at Harry as though he had two heads. "Mindless, blood-thirsty, murdering monsters!"
"Oh, don't you go feeding Harry that sort of rubbish," Hermione snapped, glaring daggers at Ron. "Of all the narrow-minded, prejudiced things to say. Really."
Ron shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Well, they are," he insisted stubbornly. "You guys don't come from magic families. My brothers told me all about werewolves. About how they worked for You-Know-Who during the war. How they go around and bite children in their sleep-"
"If you would bother to crack open a book for once in your life, you'd realize that all that talk is ignorant, fearmongering nonsense," Hermione interrupted briskly, sounding about as indignant as Harry had ever heard her.
Ron stiffened in his chair, face flushing nearly as red as his hair. "It's not nonsense," he growled, hands balling into fists at his side. "It's the truth!"
"It's a gross exaggeration and an unfortunate generalization of an entire group of individuals. The actions of a few defining a group as a whole. It's a stigma, and it's blatant prejudice. And if you believe anything otherwise, Ronald Weasley, you are a fool."
Ron stood up from the table so quickly that he nearly knocked his chair to the floor. His teeth were bared and he looked nearly too angry to speak. "You! I- you-" he stammered unintelligibly. Hermione stared impassively and raised a single eyebrow.
Ron let out a choked sort of noise. Turning on heel, he fled from the common room toward the boys dormitory without another word.
"I... what just happened?" Harry asked dazedly after a moment of uncomfortable silence.
Across the table, Hermione visibly deflated now that Ron had left. "He'll come around," she sighed, rubbing a hand across her face with a grimace. "He always does."
"...But those things he said about werewolves. Are they true?"
"No," Hermione murmured, looking all at once exhausted. "No. The vast majority of werewolves are ordinary people who were dealt a hard lot in life. Werewolves aren't inherently evil, but because they're categorized as Dark creatures, wizarding society has a sort of stigma against them. But if proper precautions are taken, they're no more dangerous during the full moon than you or me."
Harry frowned, struggling to process this onslaught of new information. "So... Lupin..."
"He isn't blood-thirsty, or dangerous, or whatever other nonsense Ron might prattle on about. He's just an ordinary man who has to deal with a terrible affliction once a month. And I'm certain he takes the proper precautions so he's not dangerous during transformations. Dumbledore would never allow him to teach here otherwise."
"Right," Harry breathed, still feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything. "Right, then."
Hermione sighed. "You shouldn't let this change your opinion of Professor Lupin. Society ostracizes werewolves enough as is. He hardly needs his students turning against him too."
Harry's stomach clenched at the thought. He truly liked Lupin. The professor had been nothing but kind to him since they first met. He had saved Harry from the dementor on the Hogwarts Express. He had helped arrange his Patronus lessons. He taught his classes with enthusiasm and was a patient, fair professor. And he seemed to genuinely care about Harry and his wellbeing, strangely enough. So what if he was a werewolf? If it was like Hermione said and he wasn't dangerous during full moons, then what did it really matter?
"Yeah," Harry said decisively after a long moment of contemplation. "You're right. Lupin's a decent bloke, werewolf or not. It doesn't make any difference to me."
Hermione smiled at him, though it didn't quite reach her eyes. "We can't tell anyone about this. If word got out around the school, Lupin would probably get sacked, even if he doesn't deserve it. Most people born in the wizarding world have the same sort of opinion of werewolves as Ron does."
Harry frowned. "You're probably right," he agreed. "But what about Ron? Do you think he'll tell anyone?"
"No." Hermione shook her head. "No, I really don't think he will."
Harry bit his lip, not entirely convinced. Ron was his best mate, but decorum definitely wasn't one of his strong suits.
Hermione seemed to sense his unease. "I think Ron's just afraid," she spoke quietly. "He was raised in a wizarding family. He's probably been taught that werewolves are dangerous since birth. He just needs time, but I'm sure he'll come around in the end."
"Alright," Harry agreed with a hesitant nod. "If you're sure."
"I am," Hermione insisted, though Harry noted she didn't sound very convinced of this.
The weekend passed in a blur. Ron pointedly ignored Harry and Hermione for the whole of Saturday, opting instead to shoot them dirty looks from afar. When they did try and speak with him, he turned his back and acted as though he were deaf to their remarks. And when Harry had sat down next to the boy at dinnertime, determined to make amends, Ron grabbed his plate and slid down the bench to sit with Ginny and the second-years instead.
Ron's childish behavior came to an abrupt halt on Sunday afternoon, after he raised a hand and shot Hermione a particularly vulgar gesture when they made coincidental eye contact from across the common room.
"Oh, that's it," Hermione growled, standing suddenly upright from her place next to Harry on the couch.
Harry watched with horrified fascination as Hermione stalked over to Ron and literally dragged him by his ear to the far corner of the common room. Ron hollered the whole way there, scrambling frantically to try and free himself from Hermione's firm grasp to no avail. Shoving Ron into an armchair, Hermione placed her hands on her hips and hunched forward, hissing a long stream of words into the boy's face.
Harry couldn't hear what she was saying from across the room, but her quiet tirade lasted for several minutes. He could see Ron growing steadily redder and redder with embarrassment as Hermione continued to berate him. Slowly, the boy slid down in the armchair until his shoulders were hunched up round his ears, as though he could somehow escape from Hermione's wrath that way.
At long last, Hermione grabbed Ron by his shirtfront and muttered one last thing directly in his face. With that, she spun around and stalked back across the common room with an expression of unbridled fury plastered on her face. A pack of first-years scrambled out of her path, looking wholly terrified of the girl.
"Er... what did you say to him?" Harry asked hesitantly as Hermione sat back down beside him on the couch.
She smoothed her robes and huffed, still looking positively furious. "Never you mind."
Harry shrunk back in his seat. Merlin, Hermione was scary when she got like this.
Hermione glanced over and her stony expression seemed to soften a bit. "Oh, I'm sorry," she sighed heavily. "It's not you. Ron just gets me so angry sometimes!"
Harry glanced over at Ron. The boy still sat hunched in his armchair, red-faced, looking thoroughly humiliated.
"Um..." Harry breathed, still curious but not wanting to further provoke Hermione's wrath. "What did you..."
"Oh, I just told him in no uncertain terms how much of an idiot he's being," Hermione spat. "And how he'd better get his head out of his arse if he doesn't want to lose all his friends!"
Merlin. Harry could count the number of times he'd heard Hermione swear on one hand. She must be really upset to use that sort of language.
"Think he'll listen to you?" he asked quietly, daring to sneak another glance over at Ron's huddled form.
"He'd better," Hermione muttered dangerously. "If he knows what's good for him."
As it turned out, Hermione could be fairly convincing when she put her mind to it. That next morning, Ron slunk down to the Great Hall and sank into his normal seat at the Gryffindor table across from Harry and Hermione.
"Sorry," he mumbled quietly after Hermione shot him a pointed look.
"What are you sorry for?"
Ron swallowed thickly. "Sorry for ignoring you guys. And for... for being an arse-hole pillock, like Hermione said."
Harry nearly choked on his pumpkin juice. Hermione gave a curt nod. "Apology accepted," she replied mildly. "Harry?"
"Er-" Harry stammered, glancing up at his friend. "Um, yeah mate. It's all good."
Ron sighed, looking thoroughly relieved. "Thank Merlin," he murmured, beginning to spoon himself a heaping plate of eggs and bacon. "Couldn't sleep a wink last night."
Hermione cleared her throat. "And regarding Professor Lupin? You'll keep quiet?"
Ron grimaced at his plate. "Yeah, alright," he agreed reluctantly. "I won't tell anyone. I promise. It's just a lot to take in, you know?"
Harry nodded sympathetically. He was just glad Ron was speaking with him again.
Hermione hummed and tucked into her bowl of porridge. "Good." She nodded briskly. "Just remember, Ronald. Only the three of us know about this. And if word gets out, I'll know exactly who couldn't keep their fat mouth shut."
Later that morning, as the trio made their way out of the Great Hall, Ron trailed behind and whispered a frantic warning to Harry.
"Never get on that girl's bad side. She's bloody terrifying when she wants to be."
Harry smiled involuntarily. "She really is," he agreed with Ron, though he wasn't all too put out by the thought.
It was more than a little strange having Snape teach their Defense classes that week. Seeing the professor in a well-lit classroom with tidy rows of desks instead of steaming cauldrons- the sight just seemed wrong, somehow.
But all things considered, Snape actually wasn't too terrible a Defense professor. Sure, he was his usual curt and abrupt self with the students, but he was certainly adept at the subject. No one could deny that. He was able to demonstrate every spell he taught his students and then some. And though he carried his no-nonsense attitude over into Defense classes, he lectured and taught with a great deal more fervor than he ever demonstrated in Potions. And to Ron's immense relief, their Defense exam that Monday was perfectly straightforward, and seemed to have been written by Professor Lupin himself.
Harry would have felt a great deal more relief over all this had he not been trying so hard to avoid Snape. It was a small blessing that the professor had canceled their Occlumency lessons that week, but the downside of it was that Harry had to see Snape twice as often in class now. And after their last Occlumency lesson, he wanted to stay as far away from Snape as humanly possible. The professor had asked far too many nosy questions after seeing that memory, and though Harry had feigned nonchalance over the whole situation, he knew in his gut that Snape hadn't bought it. The last thing he wanted to do was to catch Snape's attention again, in any sort of way.
And so, Harry remained silent and withdrawn during both Defense and Potions class that week, only speaking when spoken to and never looking Snape directly in the face. The back of his neck prickled uncomfortably during class sometimes, and Harry was certain that Snape must be staring at him when this occurred, but he dared not look to confirm his suspicions.
Harry was beyond relieved when he showed up to Defense that Thursday and saw Lupin sitting at his desk in the front of the classroom.
"Professor, we missed you!"
"Snape was just awful! He assigned us way too much homework!"
"Are you feeling alright, Professor?"
"Why were you gone for so long?"
Students bombarded Lupin with comments and questions as they entered the Defense classroom. At the front of the room, Lupin regarded them with an embarrassed sort of grin, looking entirely unused to all the attention.
"Please, take your seats," he addressed his students, standing upright from his desk. As the professor made his way to the head of the classroom, Harry noted that the man was walking with a slight limp.
"I found myself a bit under the weather this past week," Lupin addressed his class once all the students were seated. "Professor Snape was kind enough to take over classes for me. To answer a few of your questions- yes, topics covered by Professor Snape will be on your next exam. And I expect any assignments the professor gave you to be handed in by their proper deadlines."
A collective moan sounded throughout the room. Lupin grinned wryly. "However," he continued. "Professor Snape informed me that he had intended to give a pop quiz today. As I am not entirely up to date on what you've been studying this past week, I find it prudent to postpone said quiz indefinitely."
The students instantly brightened at this news. A smattering of cheers sounded throughout the room. Harry gave a small grin and was reminded exactly why he was so fond of Lupin.
The professor made his way back to his desk and sunk down in his chair with a slight grimace. "As I find myself still feeling a bit peaky, I do believe I'll stick solely to lecturing for this lesson," Lupin informed the class matter of factly. "Though I will reserve time for you to practice your Knock-back Jinxes at the end of class, as I'm told you've made excellent progress on them while I've been away."
As the class progressed, Harry couldn't help but notice that Lupin still looked entirely worse for wear. Even just sitting at his desk, the professor seemed unnaturally fatigued, and quite frankly, looked as though a strong gust of wind might knock him over. Harry wasn't sure what was considered a normal recovery from a werewolf transformation, but he sincerely hoped that Lupin was alright, because he certainly didn't look it.
At the end of the hour, Lupin dismissed his class with a weary wave of his hand and a pained sort of smile. As the class packed up their bags, Harry turned toward Ron and Hermione.
"You guys go on to lunch. I want to stay behind a minute and ask Lupin a few questions about my assignment."
Ron, who had been eyeing Lupin nervously throughout the entire class, looked at Harry as though he were mental. "Er, you sure that's a good idea, mate?" he mumbled, sneaking a surreptitious glance over at Lupin. "Being alone with him, I mean?"
Hermione rolled her eyes at Ron's misguided concern. "Harry will be fine," she insisted confidently. "And he's only going to ask about his assignment. Nothing else. Right, Harry?" She turned her piercing gaze toward him, looking suddenly serious and wholly terrifying.
Shite. Of course Hermione would see right through his ruse. Harry hadn't intended to talk with Lupin about his homework at all. "Of course," he lied confidently. "I'm just confused about some of the stuff Snape told us about Banshees."
Hermione regarded him doubtfully, but Harry tried his best to keep his expression relaxed and neutral. "Well, alright then," Hermione agreed slowly. "We'll save you a plate, I suppose."
"Thanks!" Harry said, still trying to feign innocence.
Ron and Hermione departed from the classroom. Harry sat there at his desk pretending to correct his notes until the rest of the students left. Only then did he hurriedly gather his things and make his way to the front of the classroom.
Lupin jerked his head up from his desk. "Oh!" he exclaimed upon seeing Harry standing there. "Harry! You startled me. Forgive me, but I find my nerves are a bit frayed today."
"I'm sorry," Harry apologized automatically.
"No matter. Now, what can I do for you?" Lupin asked brightly. Now that Harry was closer, he noticed how truly terrible the man looked. Dark circles lined the professor's dull eyes, his skin was terribly ashen, and though he hid it well, Harry noted that Lupin's hands were trembling slightly.
"Um," Harry mumbled, entirely uncertain of how to broach the topic he wanted to discuss. "Uh, are you sure you're alright, Professor?"
Lupin smiled tightly. "Perfectly fine. Just recovering from a bad bout of wizarding flu. Nothing a few nights of good sleep won't fix."
Wizarding flu. Right. Harry shuffled uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Um..."
Lupin's smile fell. "Harry? What's the matter?"
Harry's chest clenched and he began to think better of his initial plan. "Um, nothing," he insisted hurriedly. Stupid. It wasn't like he could just go and outright ask Lupin if he was a werewolf. What if he wasn't? Merlin, how awkward would that conversation be? Or, worse, what if he was, and Lupin took offense to his question?
Harry bit his lip. It wasn't like he wanted to confirm his suspicions for any malicious reason. If Lupin was a werewolf, Harry wanted nothing more than to assure the professor he had Harry's complete and total support. But how in Merlin's name was he suppose to ask such a delicate sort of question?
His internal conflict must have been obvious, because all at once, Lupin looked horribly alarmed. "What's wrong?" the professor asked again, his voice tight with worry. "Are you alright, Harry?"
"I'm fine," Harry replied, trying hard to keep his voice steady. He exhaled shakily, trying unsuccessfully to calm his nerves. "Um, Professor? Can I ask you a question? And can you... can you promise not to get upset about it?"
Lupin's amber colored eyes went wide with open concern. "Of course, Harry," he insisted reassuringly, gesturing for him to take a seat in the chair across from his desk. "I've told you before. You can talk to me about anything. Now, for Merlin's sake, sit down and tell me what's got you so bothered."
Harry sunk down in the offered chair and swallowed thickly. "Um... well," he began hesitantly, glancing up at the professor's concerned face and then back down at his lap again. "Well... I was just wondering about something. You can tell me to bugger off if I'm wrong about it, but..."
"Yes?" Lupin pressed insistently when Harry failed to continue.
"Well... it's just... this past week. You were out sick over the full moon." Harry spat out the words before he could think better of them. "And last month... when term first started. You were gone at that Defense conference for a few days. And that was over the full moon too. And I... was just wondering if maybe... you were... a..." Harry allowed his voice to trail off, not wanting to voice the accusation aloud. He snuck a quick peek at Lupin's face to gage his reaction. His stomach instantly sank at the sight.
The professor sat motionless at his desk, face horribly pale and mouth pressed in a thin, tense line. He was staring at Harry unblinkingly and looked absolutely, singularly horrified. Harry had never seen the man look so unnerved. He couldn't help but flinch as Lupin suddenly raised and flicked his wand, spelling the classroom door shut wordlessly.
Harry felt his heart begin to race as a tendril of primal, raw fear buried itself in his chest. This had been a terrible idea. "Please don't hurt me," he blurted out involuntarily as Lupin made to stand up from his desk, wand still in hand, with that same look of horrible upset plastered on his face.
"What?" Lupin asked, forehead creasing in confusion. All at once, the professor seemed to realize that he was still holding his wand stretched outright. "Oh, Harry, no," the man breathed suddenly, sinking back in his chair and practically throwing his wand on the desk. Harry flinched again at the sudden movement. "Merlin, no. I'm not going to hurt you," Lupin insisted, raising his empty hands to chest level in a show of good faith. "I would never. I swear it."
Harry eyed the professor warily. Swallowing against his suddenly dry mouth, he gave a shaky nod.
Slowly, Lupin lowered his hands so they lay flat on his desk, palms facing upward. "I sincerely apologize. I didn't mean to frighten you," the professor spoke carefully, eyes never leaving Harry's face. "I just didn't want anyone overhearing our conversation."
Oh. Harry supposed that made sense. "Alright," he agreed slowly, shifting nervously in his seat, heart still beating just a bit too fast. "So... um... are you..."
Lupin grimaced. "You may as well go ahead and say it aloud, Harry."
Well, he was fairly convinced that his suspicions were correct now, but Harry gathered his Gryffindor courage and asked the question all the same. "Are you a werewolf?" he spat out in one hurried breath.
Lupin leaned back in his chair, hands never leaving the tabletop. The pair sat in uncomfortable silence for a long moment before the professor gave a small nod of assertion. "Yes, Harry. I am."
Oh. Harry didn't know exactly what he'd been expecting. Some sort of grand revelation, he supposed. But Lupin seemed so matter of fact and resigned about the admission that Harry found himself at a loss for words. "Alright, then," he finally replied when Lupin made no further attempt to speak.
"Was it just the lunar cycles that cued you onto it?"
"Um, actually, Hermione was the first to realize that," Harry admitted tentatively. "But that was mostly it. And a comment that Snape made about taking over your classes. And Hermione noticed that your boggart's a full moon, so that kind of made us suspicious too."
Lupin winced, looking more fatigued than upset now. "Miss Granger is too clever for her own good."
"Yeah, she really is," Harry agreed cautiously.
"Does anyone else know?"
"Um, no. Just Hermione. And Ron," Harry admitted. "But no one else."
Lupin let out a long exhale and raised a hand to rub his forehead. "I was afraid someone would catch on," he admitted quietly, almost to himself. "But I did hope I'd be able to make it through at least one semester of classes without detection. But I suppose two months as a professor is better than nothing."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I hardly think I'll be able to stay on as a professor now. Once the student body finds out about my… affliction, news will soon spread to the parents and there will be demand for my upheaval. In fact, it's probably best I resign now before allowing that to happen."
Harry stomach twisted at the thought. "But, Professor," he argued hurriedly. "I'm not going to tell anyone! And neither will Ron or Hermione. They promised." Harry decided it would be prudent not to mention that Ron had been somewhat coerced into his silence. "So there's no reason you can't stay on as Defense professor!"
Lupin glanced up at Harry's words, eyes going wide with surprise. "You... what?"
"I won't tell anyone," Harry promised again, utterly sincere. "I swear. It doesn't matter that you're a werewolf. You're a bloody good professor, and I don't want you to quit!"
If possible, Lupin looked nearly as astonished as he had a minute prior when Harry first accused him of being a werewolf. He opened his mouth as though to speak, then clamped it shut again, swallowing thickly. "I... that's very valiant of you, Harry," he spoke after a long moment. "But you hardly need to lie for my sake. I-"
"I'm not lying about anything," Harry interrupted vehemently. "Really! Hermione told me all about that shite- I mean, stuff- some wizards think about werewolves. About how they're bad and Dark and evil, but most of them really aren't! I like you, Professor, and I don't care that you're a werewolf!"
Harry's voice had nearly risen to a yell by the end of his rant. He found himself belatedly thinking that it was a good thing Lupin had spelled the door closed. Across the desk, much to Harry's dismay, the professor looked very near tears.
"I... Harry," Lupin breathed, voice shaky and thick with restrained emotion. "I... I don't know what to say."
Harry flushed. He hadn't meant to make the professor cry, for Merlin's sake. "Er, it's alright, Professor," Harry tried to console the man, who had begun to sniffle disconcertingly.
"Oh, Harry," Lupin addressed him again, voice heavy with gratitude. "Thank you."
"Sure," Harry replied mildly, feeling more than a bit uncomfortable now. "Yeah, no problem."
Lupin regarded him with watery eyes. "You truly are your father's son," the man spoke quietly, almost reverently.
Your father's son. "You knew my father?" Harry asked, instantly latching onto the professor's words.
"Yes," Lupin replied, favoring Harry with a soft smile. "I did. We were close during our time at Hogwarts. Myself, your father, and several other Gryffindor boys. We were the very best of friends."
Merlin. First Snape and his mother. Now Lupin and his father. How many other Hogwarts professors had secretly been friends with his parents?
"What was my dad like?" Harry asked the professor tentatively. "I don't know anything about him."
Lupin looked pained by Harry's admission. "He was a wonderful friend. Brave. Charismatic. Loyal. Fiercely protective of those he loved. In fact, he had a very similar reaction as you did when he found out I was a werewolf. Didn't phase him one bit. He and the others actually-" Lupin's voice cut off abruptly before he could finish his sentence.
Harry frowned. "He what, Professor?"
Lupin regarded him cautiously. "...He and the others became Animagi to help me with my transformations."
Animagi... Harry vaguely recalled learning about the term in Transfiguration earlier that year. "So, they could transform into animals?"
"Yes," Lupin replied, smiling fondly at the memory. "When I was a child, there was no way to control my transformations. Nowadays, I take a potion. It leaves my mind and sanity intact during transformations, though my body is still a bit worse for wear afterwards. Back then, there was no way to control the beast except to chain me down and lock me away during every full moon."
"So, my dad..."
"Your father and the others became Animagi. As animals, they were able to safely keep me company when I transformed. They helped me keep my sanity intact. Even though becoming an Animagus is horrendously difficult- not to mention illegal, if you're not registered, which they definitely were not. But James was willing to do whatever it took to make my transformations a bit more bearable."
"Wow," Harry breathed, absolutely floored by this revelation. He had discovered more about his father in the past five minutes than he had during his first thirteen years of life. "What was my father's animagus form, Professor?"
"A stag." Lupin smiled gently. "It was fitting, for him."
The duo sat in companionable silence for a long minute. Finally, Lupin was the first to speak.
"You remind me so much of him, sometimes. Of James and your mother both. You look just like him. Though, as I'm sure you've heard on more than one occasion, you have your mother's eyes."
Harry blinked rapidly, feeling a bit choked up by Lupin's words. "Could... do you think you could tell me more about my parents some time, Professor? I hardly know anything about them at all."
"Of course," Lupin agreed without hesitation. "Of course I can. I feel a bit silly for not offering sooner."
Harry's heart glowed warm in his chest. Yeah. He really liked Lupin. Werewolf or not, he was a good guy. Even his father had thought so. Right then and there, Harry vowed to himself that he would guard Lupin's secret at all costs. He was his father's son, after all. "Thanks, Professor." Harry smiled shyly at the man.
"No. Thank you, Harry," Lupin replied, sounding utterly sincere with his gratitude. "Truly."
A/N: WOW! Thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to review/favorite/follow this story! I have officially passed 400 reviews and nearly have 150,000 hits on this story, which absolutely blows my mind! You are all so wonderful :) If you take the time to review especially, THANK YOU! I read and cherish each and every one of them!
I hope everyone enjoyed this (extra-long) chapter! I considered splitting it into two, but thought it worked better in one long chunk. And I hope no one minds that it was a light on the Snape ;) It can't be all Snape and Harry all the time, and Lupin and Harry having a good mentoring relationship is another one of my favorite things to read/write about. Plus, some plot points in this chapter needed to be set up now to come into play later in the story ;) I've always wondered what would happen if Hermione had shared her werewolf revelation with Ron and Harry earlier in POA, and I'm so excited to get to explore this aspect of the story!