'I'm very sorry you're leaving, Remus,' Pomona said.

Remus looked up to see the plump little Herbology professor standing in the doorway, watching him pack. He gave her a rueful half-smile and straightened up. 'Well. So am I.' He shrugged. 'But that's how it is, I suppose.'

'It was cruel, what Severus did this morning.' The look on Pomona's round face was as fierce as it was possible for it to be.

Remus shrugged again, because really, what else was there to do? 'There's a lot of – well, shall we say history, between myself and Severus. I suppose it's not that surprising that it had to spill over, sooner or later.'

'Yes, Minerva told me about it.' Catching the grimace that crossed Remus' scarred face. she added quickly, 'Not details, mind. Just that when you were students Severus found out about your condition -'

'In the worst possible way.' Remus sighed and sat down on his trunk, patting the lid in invitation. Pomona settled herself next to him; she smelled of comfort and earth. 'But he's right, Pomona; I'm a risk to everyone around me. No, I can't stay here. It's too dangerous.'

'Dangerous, pfft.' Pomona snorted. 'You've managed this far. It's all in the handling, isn't it? The right environment, the right equipment and potions.' She patted his hand, criss-crossed with pale silver lines of scar tissue. with her own warm dirt-stained one.

'Pomona,' Remus said, with a tinge of incredulity to his voice, 'just to clarify, I'm a werewolf – not a half-grown mandrake in a pot.'

She made a dismissive gesture. 'It's the same principle,' she answered firmly; and her expression was still so warmly, loyally indignant, and the comparison was so ludicrous yet simultaneously so apt, and it had been such a fraught, painful twenty-four hours that Remus couldn't help himself. He began to chuckle, and soon both he and Pomona were wiping tears of laughter from their eyes as their shoulders – thin, stooped; rounded, chubby – shook, until Pomona's patched hat fell off.

'Accio hat.' He handed it to her with a small flourish and smiled as she settled it on her flyaway grey hair. 'You're a good, kind witch, Pomona,' he said, and bent down to kiss her on the cheek. 'The world could use more people like you.'

'A few more of you wouldn't hurt either,' she said. 'Especially here; especially now. Are you absolutely certain you can't stay?

Remus found he needed suddenly to swallow a lump in his throat; with what he hoped was an appearance of brisk decisiveness he turned back to his packing. 'Certain, yes.'

After a moment Pomona nodded; taking his hands once more with a gentle squeeze, she said. 'All the very best to you, Remus, wherever you go.'

He watched the little dot labelled 'Pomona Sprout' on the Marauders' Map until it had wound its way to the greenhouses; and then with a sigh began once more to direct his belongings into their places in his trunk.