When Remus Lupin opened the door to Albus Dumbledore, his first thought was that perhaps Sirius Black had been found. His second, fearful thought, was that he was suspected of harbouring him, and Dumbledore had come to interrogate him, or arrest him, or, possibly even worse, simply ask him in a gentle, kind manner.
‘Ah, Remus,’ said Professor Dumbledore cheerfully. ‘How are you?’
‘Professor,’ said Remus, surprised. ‘Er… come in…’
The house Remus was currently close to being evicted from was an ugly, pebble-dashed house on the very edge of a rundown estate, mostly ex-council houses, that had been built an appropriate (far) distance from the nearest town, backing onto coarse scrubland that had long been wrecked by quarrying. It was quite bizarre to see Professor Dumbledore standing there, in all his fine robes, smiling genially.
He stood aside as Dumbledore said ‘thank you,’ and stepped into the tiny, grubby kitchen. Remus hurried over to put the kettle on, wishing that he had more comfortable surroundings to host in, but he doubted the living room, with it’s hard sofa and utter lack of decor, would be any better.
Thankfully, Dumbledore did not seem concerned, and he made himself quite at home at Remus’s kitchen table, happily accepting the tea Remus placed before him.
‘How can I help you?’ asked Remus, trying not to show his very real fear that he would be suspected of helping Sirius Black.
‘I would like to offer you the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts professor,’ said Dumbledore kindly. He then took a sip of tea, as though he had merely commented on the weather.
Remus paused, his hands still cupped around his tea. ‘Me?’
‘Quite - I remember you having a knack for the subject at school, and your service in the Order was exemplary. I think you will be a fine teacher.’
‘I really don’t think-’
‘Yes, you would, Remus,’ said Dumbledore firmly. ‘You have a great many qualities desirable in a teacher, and I do not make such decisions lightly. You are patient, empathetic, skilled and uniquely interested in the subject, mild mannered and with good humour. You would be a tremendous asset to the school.’
‘That’s… very kind, Professor,’ said Remus steadily, ‘but I think… practically… you may be better off with someone else.’
‘We accommodated you before, Remus, we can do so again,’ said Professor Dumbledore, still with that kindly smile. ‘Not to mention, though the salary is not spectacular - some four thousand per year, I believe - it includes room and board, not to mention a career I believe you are most suited to and would very much enjoy.’
Remus closed his eyes for a moment - four thousand per year did sound spectacular to him, for he was starting to push it with confunding the muggle manager of the supermarket he was working in to stop him realising how much time he was taking off, and he was certain that he was about to face yet another bout of unemployment. He blinked at Dumbledore, and tried to control the amazed, foolish eagerness he felt to take a job that was certainly too good to be true.
‘I doubt very much that others would be happy at my appointment. The parents especially so.’
‘As I say,’ said Dumbledore patiently, ‘we accommodated you before, and shall do so again. Any complaints can come directly to me to be dealt with.’
Remus took a large gulp of his tea, trying to steady himself, trying to restrain himself. It sounded like a dream, and if he were any other person, if he were the person he had been so many years ago, he would have leapt at the chance, would have been astounded to have such a wonderful opportunity fall so easily into his lap. But after so many years of being let down, of bitter rejection and shame and jobs falling through, he knew better than to let himself grow excited for things he knew were not possible.
Dumbledore, however, seemed determined to not let him ruminate for too long. ‘And, forgive me for bringing up what I am sure is a painful subject, my concern is - given recent events - that you may be in danger.’
Remus swallowed, and looked down at his tea. ‘You speak, I presume…’
‘Of Sirius Black, yes. Given what happened to James, Lily, and then Peter, I must confess, Remus, that I have concerns over your safety.’
The thought had crossed Remus’s mind. Quite frankly, if he came across Sirius, he would quite like to kill him. At times he had almost wished for Sirius to track him down, to try and finish the job of obliterating them all. If Remus were a normal person, he could probably do so and be regarded as a hero, but somehow he thought that no matter who it was, no matter how strong the motivation or claims of self defence, the word of a werewolf would not count for much, and he would find himself in prison.
‘Should you stay at Hogwarts, you will be under far more protection while he is on the loose,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Not to mention you will be spared intimidating knocks on the door by aurors as they grow increasingly desperate to find him.’
Remus stared at him, stunned and oddly touched that Dumbledore had suspected his fear. He felt a surge of guilt, and a strong urge to tell him that they had been animagi, but to tell him that he had betrayed him in such a way, to admit that he had put his friends in such danger… the job offer would surely be rescinded immediately, and he could not stand to see the disappointment or anger on his old Headmaster’s face.
‘I… Professor, I am truly, really, very flattered, but I cannot possibly-’
‘Our potions master will also be able to provide you with wolfsbane, every month. It will not come out of your salary package, but will be considered as a benefit.’
Remus suspected that Dumbledore had saved this for last, precisely because he knew Remus would find it almost impossible to refuse. He stared at the old man for a few moments, the temptation to shout his acceptance on the edge of his tongue, held back only by the fact that he knew it would be quite impossible, quite irresponsible…
‘I understand the price recently rose to thirty galleons per month,’ said Dumbledore seriously. ‘Quite infuriating that it is not available through St Mungos.’
‘It was suggested,’ said Remus hoarsely, ‘but it was considered politically unpopular.’
‘Yes, I remember,’ said Dumbledore gravely. ‘Naturally I disagreed - which is why it is provided to my staff for free, should they require it.’
Remus imagined it, the security of knowing he’d be able to get it every month, to not have to worry, to not have to decide to forgo meals or heating to make sure he had enough, to not have to endure the shame of asking for it at the counter, seeing the revulsion on the face of the apothecary staff. He gripped his tea harder to stop his hands from trembling, and felt the ceramic burn against his skin.
Slowly, he nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said, and his voice was so hoarse he cleared it quickly before continuing. ‘Yes - please. I’d be delighted to accept.’
‘Wonderful,’ said Dumbledore, clapping his hands together. ‘That’s certainly a weight off my mind, Remus. Now, the practicalities - naturally you will need to create some basic curriculums - I can send you some suggestions, if you wish - and I would recommend creating lesson plans for the first two or three weeks in advance; one less thing to think about as you adjust to your new role.’
‘Right,’ said Remus, blinking rapidly. He suddenly found himself smiling - the thought of it was incredible, it was suddenly real, the idea of him being back there, teaching things he was passionate about…
‘And I have a somewhat unusual request of you this year; would you mind awfully taking the train, rather than apparating to Hogsmeade?’
‘The - the train? The Hogwarts Express?’
‘It’s a dreadful nuisance. Unless Black is caught this summer, which unfortunately I doubt, the Ministry has plans for the train to be stopped and circled by Dementors, in case he has somehow smuggled himself onboard.’
Remus felt a lurch in his stomach, and wondered if anyone would question the presence of a dog on the the train… surely they would? Dogs weren’t allowed at Hogwarts. Surely that would cause a tremendous fuss…
‘My suspicion is that the Dementors will not be able to resist boarding, not when there are so many happy, excited souls there. I would appreciate it if you could be there to chase them off, if necessary, and perhaps patrol now and then to keep some order.’
‘Of course,’ said Remus, who didn’t consider it a nuisance at all. He never imagined that he would once again board that gleaming scarlet engine, the place of so many happy memories. What was more, he realised, quickly calculating in his head, he would be recovering from the full moon that day anyway, so might not have even been much up to apparating anyway. ‘I assume it’s the same time and place as always?’
‘It is,’ said Dumbledore warmly. ‘I’ll send along your ticket within the next few days.’ He rose, his chair scraping against Remus’s cracked tile floor, and bowed his head at him as Remus rose too. ‘I am so pleased that you have accepted my offer, Remus. I have every faith that you will be an excellent teacher.’
Remus was still worried, but now that he had accepted it, his mind was racing with a sudden flurry of ideas, of lessons he had enjoyed as a child himself, or ones that he had hated and thought could have been better, of his favourite teachers and what he had liked about them, of the warm fires and ancient stone walls of Hogwarts school…
Dumbledore turned as though to leave, but then turned back, raising his hand as though he had almost forgotten something. ‘I’m sure you’re aware,’ he said carefully, ‘that the reason there are concerns that Black will try to enter the school is that Harry Potter is a current pupil.’
Remus’s mouth opened slightly, as though to say something, but he found himself simply staring at the professor. Of course he must be… it had been… how many years now?
‘In his third year.’
‘I see,’ said Remus. He paused, collected himself, and then said, ‘you don’t need to worry… I’ll stay professional.’
Professor Dumbledore fixed him with an intense sort of look, and then said, in a quiet but meaningful voice, ‘you should be prepared… he looks extraordinarily like his father.’
Remus swallowed. ‘He does?’ he asked calmly.
‘Indeed,’ said Professor Dumbledore quietly. ‘Almost a mirror image. You will recognise him immediately.’
Remus gave one slow nod. ‘Thank you for… warning me,’ he said, and then he gave a small, wry smile. ‘After I’ve accepted the position.’
‘Naturally,’ said Dumbledore cheerfully, ‘no need to give you silly reasons to turn me down.’
Remus almost laughed darkly, but he escorted the professor to the door, and bade him goodbye.
‘I will see you at the start of term feast, Remus,’ said Professor Dumbledore, clasping his hands. ‘To welcome you home.’
Remus smiled at him, felt the back of his hand being patted, then watched as Dumbledore took a few steps out into the wide, bleak landscape and vanished with the faintest of pops.