AN: I've been warned to stay indoors in order to avoid getting frostbite and/or driving into a ditch. That's alright, since it gave me a chance to finish this chapter. I'm really excited about this one, and I hope you are too! Thanks to the readers, followers, and favorites. We've officially hit 1,200 reviews, so a heartfelt thank you goes out to MuggleCreator, ILoveGeorgeEads, Ari989, Kairan1979, Wonderbee31, Majerus, Lady Sabine of Macayhill, Tellur, ReadPaxJoy, MariusDarkwolf, Jmw, ultima-owner, magitech, serialkeller, Fibinaci, Poetheather1, BesideMoonlight, and LadyKnightofCelestia.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter franchise.
Mission #1: Scope out the Competition
"Hi, Professor Burbage! I just wanted to ask for some advice about…boys," Katie whispered, glancing around the empty corridor. This could either be a total flop, or a complete success. There's no opportunity for in between.
"Oh." Burbage blinked owlishly. "I suppose—please, come in." Burbage ushered her in, no doubt wondering what on earth was going on.
"Thanks. I wanted to ask someone older, y'know, someone with a lot of experience." Katie purposely kept things vague, remembering some crucial advice. Don't trip up on the details. "I hope this isn't a bad time."
"Oh, no, of course not. I always have time for you guys, you know that. Here, sit down." Burbage carefully cleared off her coffee table. All sorts of gears and screws lay scattered about, and Katie struggled not to stare. "Um, what specifically did you need help with?"
"I guess just making my move. He's really shy, see, so I need to initiate it. I was thinking Valentine's Day would be a good time," Katie mentioned casually. "You know, it's only a week away. Actually, no, only five days away. Wow, I really need to figure something out!"
Burbage nodded seriously. "Alright, well, it would probably help if I knew who it was. That way we could make it more personal," She suggested lightly.
"Oh," Katie said blankly. "Oh." She hadn't thought about that. This was bad—bad, bad, bad. Her mind scrambled furiously, trying to find someone that would make sense. "Uh…"
"I understand," Burbage said kindly, patting her gently on the shoulder. "If you're too embarrassed to tell me, I get it. We'll just have to figure something else out."
"No, no, it's, uh, Cormac! Yeah, it's Cormac," Katie told her, bobbing her head. She really hoped he never found out about this. He had a big enough ego as it was.
"Cormac?" Burbage furrowed her brow. "He's not very shy, though…."
"Well, not around most people," Katie lied hastily. "It's just around me lately. I think he just doesn't want to make the first move, y'know. Anyway, Valentine's Day. There's a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, so I was thinking maybe that would work, but I just don't know how to ask him."
"You and Cormac are friends, I'm sure it won't be too difficult," Burbage assured her. "Besides, he's a nice person, I'm sure everything will turn out right."
"Yeah." Katie scratched her arm absentmindedly. The twins said an opportunity would present itself to segue into her real purpose, but she couldn't find one. Time to wing it. "Professor, have you ever asked a boy out?"
"Me? Oh, no, I haven't. It's always been very intimidating." Burbage cleared her throat and moved around in her seat.
Katie nodded. "Well, what happened when boys asked you out? How did they do it?"
Burbage blushed and avoided her eyes. "Oh, well, I haven't been out on very many dates. Back in school, the girls would set me up every so often, but I wouldn't actually be asked. And then I got really wrapped up in my work, and I just didn't have much time for dating."
Katie frowned. "So you've never had a boyfriend?"
"No, I have. He was very nice. But he'd normally just tell me to meet him at a certain place at a certain time, and then that would be our date." Burbage twisted her hair self-consciously.
Katie scrunched up her face. "You're not still dating him, are you?"
Burbage shook her head. "I broke it off—hmm, right after I got the Head position. I was just too busy to deal with it."
Katie gasped. "Oh, Professor, we didn't ruin your relationship, did we?"
Burbage's eyes shot up to stare at her. "Of course you didn't. Things weren't going all that well, anyway. I knew he wouldn't be able to deal with all the extra effort I put in with you, and that's not your fault, it's his. He wouldn't have been able to put up with me talking about all of you."
"You talk about us?" Katie asked.
"I can't help it. I'm just so proud of all of you!" She gushed, smiling widely.
Katie grinned back. "That means you need a boyfriend who wants to hear about us, then. That shouldn't be too hard to find."
Burbage let out a small laugh. "Katie, I think you need some more experience before making that kind of assumption."
Katie shrugged and stood. "You never know. It could happen. Thanks for the advice, Professor. I think I know how to ask him now. And Professor Burbage? Can we just keep this between us?"
Burbage stood as well, beaming at her. "Of course. My lips are sealed."
Katie seriously hoped Cormac never found out about this.
Mission #2: Coming up with a Battle Plan
The abandoned classroom (AKA, the second Gryffindor Common Room) was once again filled to the brim. On the chalkboard, dozens of complicated diagrams were scribbled, crossed out, and labeled. At the center of it all was one Lavender Brown. This was her battle. Scratch that, this was her war. She was going to win, or die trying.
"No, that'll never work." She leaned over and marked a large X over one of the plans.
"Why not?" The twins chorused.
"One—Burbage hates flashy. Two—Lupin hates flashy. Three—that thing right there is completely unrealistic!"
"No, it's not."
"It just hasn't been invented yet!"
Lavender scoffed. "And I bet you're going to invent that by Monday, huh? No, it's too risky. We need something foolproof. It can't have any holes in it. C'mon, keep brainstorming. And remember, every viable option also needs a back-up plan, so if you think you've got yours figured out, make sure to account for any and everything that could possibly go wrong."
In scattered groups around the room, the Gryffindors sat plotting. Each team carefully wrote a plan on parchment, making small adjustments as needed. When they were satisfied, they went up to the front and put it on the board, waiting until Lavender came and checked it out. So far, there were three possible candidates.
They were all decent plans, but Lavender wasn't looking for decent. She wanted perfect. This was like a love story from her childhood. This was better than Cinderella, better than Snow White, better than Sleeping Beauty. This was real life—and even after nearly three years of the magical world, Lavender still had trouble believing it.
"How about this one?" Seamus presented his with a flourish and a wry smile. He clearly wasn't expecting it to measure up to her standards. She almost snapped at him for it (if he wasn't going to put in his full effort, then why was he even there?) but held herself back at the last second. She allowed her eyes to rove over the plan.
"Check…and there's that…uh-huh," She muttered, inspecting it closely. "But what about—oh, I see. Huh…"
"Well?" He asked testily.
"This—this is perfect, Seamus! How did you even come up with this?"
He shrugged modestly. "I just followed the checklist." He gestured to a long list on the board, written in Lavender's long, loopy cursive. "Honestly, it wasn't that hard."
Lavender's jaw fell open. "Wasn't that hard? Seamus, this is genius. Oh, I can see it working out just perfectly, too. Alright, so we'll have Burbage…and then Lupin can…right!" She squealed loudly and threw her arms around him. "Thank you so much, Seamus. First things first, we need a group to get everything all set up. They should do it later in the week though. Oooh, maybe when we're all gone for the Hogsmeade weekend!"
"Leave it to us!" The twins chimed.
Lee did a double take. "No way. You two hate doing stuff like that," He proclaimed.
"Who said we're going to be the ones doing it?" Fred challenged, grinning.
"Who—no, I don't wanna know," Alicia decided, shaking her head.
"That's settled. Now, we need a group to convince Lupin to take action. I'll go, and Seamus should come too. Any other volunteers?"
Hands shot up into the air around her.
"I should get to go, seeing as how I'm the oldest." Oliver puffed out his chest.
"I'm older than you are," Percy retorted, adjusting his glasses.
"I'll go," Harry offered. "I know Lupin pretty well."
"I'll go too. I was just talking with Burbage this morning, and I want to make sure that everything goes well." Katie's eyes dared anyone to disagree with her.
"Is there anyone who doesn't want to go?" Lavender asked loudly. "No? I guess everyone's going to convince Lupin, then. Gosh, are we all going to fit in his office?"
"We'll make it work," Parvati told her.
She nodded, crossing her arms. "I guess we should get going then. Remember, try not to give him the answers, but guide him to the proper conclusion. He needs to figure out on his own how to ask Burbage out, even if we are doing most of the work for him."
Mission #3: Preparing for Battle
Remus was tired. He was so, so tired. It was barely mid-afternoon, and all he wanted was to find a good comfy chair to fall asleep in. He also wanted to finish that fascinating book on dark creatures, and he might as well get some reading in before his nap. He swung by his office in order to pick it up. He'd left it right on his desk, so it wasn't like he'd have to search for it. And then he could head to his quarters and have a nice cup of tea. He'd finish the book and—
"Hi, Professor Lupin!" He was not expecting the Weasley twins to be standing right in front of his door. Nor was he expecting several other Gryffindors, including Harry, to be lounging around his office, looking decidedly bored. Remus nearly stumbled in shock.
"Hello." He took a moment to catch his breath, and to count. Eighteen Gryffindors were crammed into his office, pressed up against each other. Some of them were even sitting on his desk! "You're not sitting on top of my stuff, are you?"
"No, we cleared it off," Percy assured him, pointing to a small pile of things resting atop his bookcase.
Remus struggled not to ask how they'd gotten in, for he was nearly certain that the twins had something to do with it. Furthermore, he knew that whatever it was, he probably wouldn't like it. "I see. You all seem very uncomfortable in here, perhaps we should move to a larger area?"
"No, this is fine," Oliver said quickly, moving to stand closer. It almost looked like he was trying to be threatening, but that was ridiculous. Why would Oliver feel the need to intimidate him?
"Alright," Remus said cautiously. He took a few tentative steps forward, unnerved by their prying eyes.
"We left your chair open for you, Professor," Hermione Granger piped up.
He nodded slowly. "Thank you, Hermione." He carefully sank into his chair and backed it away from his desk. His back was now against the wall, ensuring that he could keep every single one in sight. "Now, obviously this is about something important. Is there some sort of problem?"
"There might be," Leann began tersely.
His eyebrows lifted in surprise. Leann rarely spoke in class, and he'd never seen her look so upset. "Okay. Explain the situation to me." He laced his fingers together and placed his hands in his lap, trying to appear patient.
"Here's the thing. We know your secret." Lee gazed at him stolidly.
Remus felt his stomach drop. They knew…but how? "I—What?" He croaked, suddenly short of breath.
"Oh, honestly, Lee, that's not how you go about it," Angelina snapped. "Professor Lupin, we don't care. We swear, we won't tell anyone."
"Wait, what?" Lee turned to look at her.
"He thinks you're talking about his lycanthropy, you dolt," Percy admonished.
"Oh. Yeah, Angie's right, we don't care about that," He said enthusiastically.
Remus stared at them. "I don't understand," He said finally. "You—how did you find out?"
"Well, I noticed it when Professor Snape assigned that essay on werewolves. Once I did the proper research, it was just a matter of putting the pieces together." Hermione pushed her hair back from her face and smiled at him. "Although it's kind of telling when your boggart is a full moon."
Remus felt overwhelmed. It was a lot to take in when three tiny boys presented their findings to him when he was twelve, but he was old enough to be some of these kids' parents! He noted dimly that his hands were shaking, and he desperately tried to quell them. "You know. You…know. And you haven't told anyone else?"
"Penelope Clearwater knows too. She wanted to be here, but she couldn't make it," Percy explained. "She won't tell anyone either, though."
Remus swallowed his fear and stood. He wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing, after all. "And—none of you are frightened? Because you have every right to be scared. I completely understand, werewolves are dangerous creatures—"
"Come on, Professor. It'll take more than that to scare us away!" Seamus declared cheerfully.
Once again, Remus had to stop and marvel at this. Nineteen students knew his secret. He was beginning to feel incredibly light-headed, and quickly sat back down. This was insane. This was absolute madness. What was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to respond? "What did you mean earlier? Which secret were you talking about?" He asked Lee.
"It's so romantic, Professor!" Lavender spoke up, smiling dreamily into space.
"What is?" Remus asked, pulling himself up and surveying the others with a close eye.
"Does Professor Burbage know that you're a werewolf?" Neville asked shyly.
"I, er, no, she doesn't," Remus confessed.
"That…could be a problem," Oliver admitted.
"What do you mean?" Remus asked. What was it about these kids that managed to dumbfound him so frequently? He hadn't been so surprised in years.
"You have to tell her," Alicia pleaded, eyes widening.
"I don't know if I can." Remus shifted in his chair.
Ron scowled. "Why not?"
"It's complicated. How am I supposed to tell her? What if she takes it badly?" There were so many things that could go wrong. She could hate him forever if he told her. He couldn't bear it if she decided to stay away from him. Even worse, what if she became afraid of him?
"She wouldn't do that," Katie disagreed. "Professor Burbage is a nice person. She really likes you!"
"As in, really likes you." Fred and George waggled their eyebrows at him.
Remus shook his head, gaping at their ability to joke at a time like this. "Uh-huh. Very funny, you two."
"No, we're serious," Dean insisted.
"The idea of a romantic relationship between me and Charity is absolutely absurd. It would never happen!" Remus exclaimed.
"For starters, I'm a werewolf." He stopped talking, believing that this simple fact spoke for itself.
"So?" Cormac shrugged. "Just because for two or three days out of every month you're not exactly yourself doesn't mean you can't have a girlfriend."
Remus shook his head. This was getting too strange—and too familiar—for comfort. He was almost certain that he'd had a very similar conversation when he was still in school. "We work together. It would be incredibly inappropriate."
At this, Parvati actually rolled her eyes at him. "Half the staff already thinks you're together anyway."
Remus recoiled. "What?"
"It's true." Neville nodded emphatically from beside her. "My Gran thinks that you guys are trying to keep it a secret because you don't want to get fired."
Remus groaned and slumped forward in his chair. His colleagues thought he and Charity were a couple? Merlin, he didn't realize that the gossip in Hogwarts carried over into the staff! Did she know about the rumors? Did she care about the rumors? He was getting carried away, letting the kids influence him. It was no use hoping that he and Charity had a future together. The whole idea was ridiculous.
Lavender frowned at him. "Let's cut to the chase already. You like Charity, and you really hope that she likes you too. You're too scared to actually ask her though. That's easy enough to fix. Tell her that you're a werewolf. She's not going to run away, and she's not going to freak out on you. After you've told her that, you're going to invite her to a friendly meal, just the two of you. Then, you're going to kiss her. Voila! You're happy, she's happy, and we're happy. Got it?"
Inwardly, Remus wondered over the fact that Lavender Brown, with her pink lip gloss and tiny hair bows, was more intimidating to him than anyone else in the room. She could be quite terrifying when she wanted to be. "I just don't think—" He was cut off sharply.
"Do you like her?" Lavender enunciated clearly.
"Yes," He answered uneasily.
"And you want to tell her you're a werewolf?"
"And if you could, you'd like to be in a relationship with her, right?"
"Well, yes, but—"
"Okay, then. What are you waiting for? Just go for it. We've already done most of the hard work for you. All you have to do is tell her, ask her, and kiss her. T-A-K. Only three simple steps."
Yes, simple, Remus thought dully. Just completely turn my life around and hope for the best. Perhaps she would still be friends with him after she rejected him. That was the best he could hope for, anyway. He knew that the kids thought some sort of magical happy ending was waiting for him, but he knew better. Charity was pretty and kind, not to mention intelligent. She probably had thousands of options out there, and she definitely wouldn't choose a poor werewolf over anyone else.
"Professor, it could work," Harry said earnestly.
Remus tried not to look at him, but it was no use. Just one glance into those emerald eyes and any fight leaked right out of him. He heaved a sigh. "So, I tell her. And then, if she doesn't hate me, I invite her to lunch."
"No, dinner," Lee told him. "Dinner Friday night. Or Saturday night, whichever."
Remus frowned. "That sounds too much like a date. It's just a simple lunch between friends, right? I need something that sounds more unassuming. Something plain and boring."
"How about lunch on Monday?" Lavender asked innocently.
"That's better," He decided. "Lunch on Monday. And then what? I just…kiss her?"
"You'll figure it out," Angelina reassured him. "We should leave you to plan, though. You need to tell her either today or tomorrow, okay? Good luck, Professor Lupin!"
"Oh, and Professor? If you hurt her, we will come for you, werewolf or not," Oliver threatened.
Remus blinked and leaned away. All of a sudden, their faces seemed less welcoming. It couldn't have been his imagination, the way the Weasley twins suddenly began smiling at him and Percy gave him a cold nod. Charity certainly had good bodyguards.
Mission #4: The Set Up Crew
"You owe us, Ginny!"
"After everything we've done for you?"
"What have you done for me?" Ginny scoffed, inspecting her nails. "Honestly, I don't have time for this. I won't do it unless you tell me why." Fred and George had dragged her away from the HHPC, who had just followed after her.
"Not even for your favorite brothers?"
Ginny glared at them. "Neither of you are my favorite. Bill is my favorite!" She declared, turning her back on them.
"Harsh," George grumbled.
"Why Ginny, just a few weeks ago we pulled that prank on those Ravenclaw girls for you!" Fred reminded her.
Ginny stiffened. She didn't like remembering what was now being referred to as "The Incident" within the HHPC. Luna still refused to talk about it, and Ginny didn't want to push her. "That was a one-time deal. If I had known you were going to hold that over my head, I would've found someone else."
"Who else would've done it for free?" George questioned her.
"Obviously you didn't do it for free if you're making me do something in return," She snapped. "Now leave me alone. If you won't tell me, then I'm not doing it. I'm not your slave just because I'm your little sister."
"Fine," Fred sighed. "I guess we'll just have—"
"—to tell Harry you weren't interested."
Ginny's ears perked up. "Harry?"
"Well, yeah. He was gonna supervise."
"Not like he can go to Hogsmeade with everyone."
Ginny's willpower was weakening. If Harry was going to be there…"You swear that this isn't one of your stupid schemes? Nobody's going to get in trouble for doing it?"
"Everyone involved will not only stay out of trouble—"
"—but they will be thanked profusely!"
Ginny chewed on her lower lip. This was seriously going against her better judgment. "Well…it's not like we have anything planned for this weekend…"
"It needs to be done by Monday, though."
Ginny frowned. "Monday's Valentine's Day, isn't it?"
The two nodded. "Get all your friends to help out!"
Ginny scrunched up her face. Something told her she was going to seriously regret this.