"If you like," Minerva had said at dinner in the Great Hall, "bring your essays down to the staffroom tonight." She had smiled—no, grinned—at him. "On Thursday nights, most of us mark papers together, over tea and biscuits and a bit of gossip. It's an old Hogwarts tradition."
That explained a lot, actually. Walking along a draughty corridor with his O.W.L. classes' essays under one arm, Remus thought of four boys, up in Gryffindor Tower, piled onto Peter's bed so they could all see the Map.
The tiny dots labelled Professor began to congregate in the staffroom. James, who was uncannily quick to notice patterns in days and weeks (and months, as Remus knew from firsthand experience) sat bolt upright. "It's Thursday again. I think the teachers do this every Thursday." So then they spent the rest of the evening spinning ever wilder tales about their teachers' Thursday night exploits, each of them trying to outdo the others, and the Map lay forgotten on Peter's pillow.
Not so very long ago, Remus would have stopped a memory like that before it had a chance to start. But now that he was back at Hogwarts, rubbing shoulders with the echoes of his past, he let himself remember sometimes—the way he might touch a bruise to see how much it hurt. And most of the memories turned out not to be so painful after all. He even sniggered a little now, thinking of Sirius, who had assumed an earnest expression and declared with unshakeable solemnity that the teachers spent Thursday evenings sitting around the staffroom playing Exploding Snap. In the nude.
It was all right to snigger at that Sirius, the one who was just a boy, one of his best friends. Remus only felt sick to his stomach when he thought of the other Sirius, the one who—
Anyway, now he knew what the teachers really did on Thursday nights.
. * . * .
Remus climbed another staircase and made his way down one last corridor. And there, under his hand, was the rough iron handle of the staffroom door.
He'd been a teacher for almost a week already, but he hadn't really been in there yet, except when he brought the third-year Gryffindors to face the boggart. Old habits die hard; to students, the staffroom was forbidden, by tradition if not actually by rule, and Remus still felt a bit odd about just walking in.
Not that he hadn't been in the staffroom as a student. In fact, he had been the one to come up with a particularly memorable prank involving Dr. Filibuster's Fireworks, placed strategically under the cushions of each armchair one Thursday afternoon in his sixth year. The Roman candles and Catherine wheels were spell-timed to go off precisely at eight that evening, when, as the Map had shown, most of the staff would be there. Marking papers, Remus thought now, unable to suppress a chuckle at the thought of stacks of parchment going flying when the fireworks show began. And gossiping over tea.
Gossiping. What did they talk about in there?
A muffled giggle made Remus turn around. Three first-year Hufflepuff girls were filing past, grinning shyly at him. One of them waved. "Hi, Professor Lupin!"
Remus smiled and waved back. But if students were watching, he could hardly stand out here dithering. Besides, the gargoyles that guarded the entrance were starting to give him funny looks. He gritted his teeth and pushed the door open.
. * . * .
The staffroom was warm and cosy, with a crackling fire in the grate and tea things laid out on a low table along one wall. A dozen teachers, buried in essays, had settled into the faded but nicely squashy armchairs. Faces looked up when he came in, and he was happy to see that most of them were friendly.
One, however, was not. With an ugly scowl, Severus Snape stood, elbowed roughly past Remus and slammed the door behind him.
"Must have been quite the boggart," Pomona Sprout remarked, regarding Remus somewhat shrewdly. She was curled up with her stocking feet tucked under her and a pair of muddy boots beneath her chair.
Remus responded with a sheepish grin. His primary motive had been to bolster Neville's confidence, not to humiliate Snape, and he wasn't at all sure what the other staff members thought about the whole episode. "I just didn't feel it was right for a third-year student to have the thing he feared most of all be a teacher."
Pomona's chin rose. "I quite agree with you." She sighed. "If even half my students wrote their Herbology essays as well as Neville Longbottom does—well, I'd have been done marking these by now!"
"Indeed. Transfiguration has never been Mr. Longbottom's best subject, I'm afraid, but at least his homework is readable." Minerva gave the piece of parchment she was holding an irritable shake. "Mr. Macmillan seems to believe that the more large words he uses, the better—never mind that half of them are used incorrectly and I have no idea what he's trying to say."
Remus looked around the room for a place to sit. Somehow, he didn't relish taking the seat that Snape had just vacated. Minerva beckoned to him, shifting a stack of books and papers from a comfortable-looking chair next to hers. "Come and sit here, Remus—it's a prime spot, close to the biscuits."
"Thank you..." Remus felt his face grow warm. "Minerva."
He glanced around to see if anyone had heard the silent "Professor McGonagall" that he'd barely been able to bite back. But no one seemed to be paying him any particular attention, so he settled into the chair and got to work on his marking.
. * . * .
Roger Davies seemed to have confused the manticore with the chimera. Remus stopped, quill poised in midair, and frowned. Maybe he hadn't taught that lesson clearly enough. He thumbed through the pile of papers, checking a few others at random. Cedric Diggory had kept the two straight, and so had Angelina Johnson. All right, maybe it was Roger's mistake and not his. He relaxed a bit and wrote a few crimson comments in the margin.
The staffroom door opened again, and Filius Flitwick came bouncing in. "I've got the first Charms assignment from the fifth-years," he announced breathlessly. "Let's see what those boys came up with over the summer!"
Everyone put down their own marking and sat up straighter, to get a better look at the two pieces of homework that Filius laid gently on the floor.
Puzzled, Remus glanced over at Minerva. She seemed to be suppressing a smile. "Misters Fred and George Weasley are in the habit of spelling their Charms homework to do something interesting when Filius touches it with his quill," she explained. "He usually brings their papers down here to mark so we can all enjoy the performance."
Ah. Remus was already acquainted with the Weasley twins. He had a strong suspicion that those two deserved the title of Marauder, if any of the current students did. He chuckled and clapped along with the rest of the teachers when one piece of parchment folded itself up into a hawk and began to chase after the other, which seemed to have become a pigeon. The paper birds sped around the room, swerving to avoid teapots and teachers' heads, until Filius finally stopped them with a graceful Finite.
But the merriment quickly faded when Minerva spoke again. "Speaking of Weasleys, I won't have the second-year Gryffindors until tomorrow. Has anyone seen how Miss Weasley is doing in lessons this term?"
"Fine so far, I'd say," said Pomona. Filius nodded.
Minerva sighed. "I've spoken to her privately as her Head of House, of course. But we should all keep an eye on her this year and make sure she's talking to her classmates." She shook her head sharply. "I thought it was because she was the youngest, and the only girl. I should have known that no Weasley could possibly be that quiet by nature."
Remus understood what Minerva was getting at—Dumbledore had quietly filled him in on what had happened with the diary the year before. "The second-year Gryffindors had double Defence with Ravenclaw this morning," he offered. "I had them practising Impedimenta and Expelliarmus. Ginny was managing some exceptionally quick spellwork."
Minerva nodded thoughtfully. "Last year's experience may have made her very eager to master Defence."
Thinking about that morning's second-year lesson made Remus remember something else. "Luna Lovegood is, erm, rather unique, isn't she?"
Filius laughed his squeaky laugh. "Her father is the editor of The Quibbler, you know."
Understanding dawned. "I see."
"Going on about Crumple-horned Snorkacks, was she?" Filius asked conspiratorially.
"No, those didn't come up." Remus remembered Luna raising her hand to speak, her large eyes somehow intense and unfocused at the same time. "She wanted to warn everyone about Dofnuppies before I started them practising with the Impediment Jinx."
"Dofnuppies?" said Pomona. "That's a new one. What do they do?"
"Apparently," said Remus, not even trying to keep the amusement out of his voice, "if someone casts Impedimenta on you and there are Dofnuppies nearby, they take advantage of your impeded state to run up your robes and take up residence in your ears. And once you have Dofnuppies in your ears, you become unable to hear names, dates, and times correctly, so you'll never be able to keep an appointment again until you have a specialist remove them for you." He grinned. "Unfortunately, Luna didn't explain how you would manage to make an appointment with the specialist if you already have Dofnuppies."
There was appreciative laughter, which gave Remus a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach. This was actually going to work; he really could teach at Hogwarts. The students mostly seemed to listen to what he had to say, except for some of the Slytherins. (And, apparently, Roger Davies, although that evidently stemmed from interest in girls rather than insolence toward a shabby, untested professor.) Even the staff seemed to view him as just another teacher, not an impostor or an interloper. And no one at all—other than Severus Snape, of course—seemed to be dwelling on the fact that he was a werewolf.
Remus smiled into his cup of tea and picked up his stack of essays again.
. * . * .
"What are you grinning about over there, Remus?"
He looked up to see Pomona peering at him in a friendly sort of way.
"It's just—" He couldn't say, I never thought I'd be able to sit in a room with this many people all knowing what I am and no one fleeing or screaming. "I used to wonder what the teachers did in here, but I never imagined they were talking about the students!"
"It's not all gossip, you know," said Pomona briskly, but then she giggled. "Sometimes we play games. You can always find someone to play chess with—or Exploding Snap."
Remus had to blink, hard, but he managed to keep the guffaw from escaping. If only he could tell Sirius—
—if only he could tell James and Peter that they'd been halfway right after all.
. * . * .
For a few minutes, all was quiet except for the scratching of quills on parchment.
Then the ancient wall clock chimed eight.
A single Filibuster's went off, right under the cushion on the armchair where Remus was sitting, enveloping him in showers of red and gold sparks. Caught completely by surprise, he gave a small yelp, and his carefully sorted stack of parchments landed in a jumble on the floor.
The whole staffroom erupted. Pomona had to wipe her eyes on her sleeve. Filius laughed hard enough to slide off his chair, scattering his own essays in all directions, and the Weasley pigeon-parchment took off around the room again. "Been wanting—to see that—for years," he choked out.
Remus was laughing just as hard as anyone. He'd been well and truly pranked. But who was the perpetrator? He scanned the room, looking for telltale signs of triumph or excessive glee. Someone who'd been here when he was a student...
Suddenly, there in the centre of his own personal Catherine wheel, he froze. Red and gold sparks?
A prime spot, close to the biscuits, indeed.
He turned slowly to his right. Sure enough, Minerva looked inordinately proud of herself.
"Some of us, Professor Lupin, have very long memories."
. * fin * .
Author's note: Many thanks to Lady Bracknell for the inspiration, and to Arya andJadzialove for being such helpful and supportive beta-readers.