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Have a Biscuit, Lupin by ad astra
Chapter 1: Have a Biscuit, Lupin
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“Have a biscuit, Lupin.”
It was not the first time Minerva McGonagall had spoken those words to him, and nor, he suspected, would it be the last. She pushed a tin of shortbread across her desk towards him, and suddenly he was sixteen again, hauled before his Head of House to answer for James and Sirius’s crimes and unexpectedly offered baking.
He took a biscuit.
“It was a full moon last night,” McGonagall said, oddly conversational.
“Yes,” Remus responded afer a pause. “Yes, it was.”
“I trust the Wolfsbane offered some relief?”
“It did.” Succumbing to his sweet tooth, Remus nibbled at the shortbread before adding, “Severus is very…skilled.”
A small smile tugged at McGonagall’s lips. “I never thought you would have anything positive to say about Severus Snape.”
“It pained me greatly, Professor.” He realised, belatedly, what he’d said and felt the tips of his ears reddening. “Er, I mean – ”
“You can call me Minerva if you wish,” she interrupted him, “Though I find the habits of past students are difficult ones to break. You needn’t sit so stiffly,” she added. “I’m not about to give you detention.”
“I have spent an inordinate amount of time in this office in a great deal of trouble. My subconscious remembers.” He shifted anyway, though he felt far from comfortable.
“How are your classes?” McGonagall continued.
“I think they’re going well?” Remus couldn’t help the uncertainty creeping into his voice. “I took my third years through Boggarts, and my fifth-years are a bit behind for OWLs thanks to Gilderoy Lockhart – they’re not too happy having to cover fourth-year material, perhaps I shouldn’t have told them it was – ”
“They’re going very well,” McGonagall told him. “I haven’t known the student body to warm so quickly to a member of staff in all my time here.”
“Oh.” Remus was momentarily lost for words. “Oh. Well – that’s good.”
“I daresay it is.”
The silence stretched out between them, each as uncomfortably aware as the other that it had been fifteen years since they’d last spoken, and those fifteen years had not been kind to Remus. He wondered how he’d feel if one of his students, fifteen years later, sat in his office worn by grief and loss and hardship, threadbare clothes announcing their poverty for the world to see, and the very thought made him feel strangely ill.
“Take another biscuit,” McGonagall said eventually, and Remus did.
It was a box of Honeydukes’ best custard creams that awaited him the next time he entered his colleague’s office.
“You don’t need to give me biscuits after every full moon, Professor.” He had given up the idea of ever calling her Minerva about two weeks into term, and she’d never pressed the point.
“I may not need to, but I will continue anyway,” she replied briskly. “I thought you might want to talk. You’ve had a rough couple of days.”
“The Wolfsbane – ”
“I’m not just talking about the moon,” she interrupted, holding up a hand and pointedly moving the box closer to him. He took one, mainly to appease her, as she continued. “Sirius Black was in the castle.”
“I know,” Remus said wryly. “I helped search for him.”
She searched him now, with the piercing gaze Sirius had always described as omniscient – omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, the goddess Minerva – and Remus fidgeted uncomfortably at the clarity of the memory sixteen years later.
“He was your friend,” McGonagall said. “He was James’s friend. He remains Harry’s godfather. I would expect you to be upset at his betrayal.”
“Of course I’m bloody upset!” Remus snapped, on his feet before he even realised, “He betrayed us all, he killed James and Lily, he murdered Peter – you think I’m not upset? You think this hasn’t been eating away at me for twelve years? I could have stopped him, I should have realised, I should have been their Secret Keeper – ”
“Sit down, Lupin,” she said firmly, and because she was Professor McGonagall and he was, apparently, still a sixteen year old boy at heart, he did. “Has it ever crossed your mind that you are not responsible for what Sirius Black does?”
He fidgeted in his seat, took the biscuit she was thrusting at him, and said nothing.
“I thought so,” was all she said, and the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner of the room seemed even louder than usual.
It was Remus who sought McGonagall out the next time, making a beeline straight for her office the moment he finished Harry’s lesson. He was passed by Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor Quidditch captain, who was looking thoroughly upset about something, and knocked on McGonagall’s ajar office door.
“Wood, my decision is final – oh,” she said, cutting herself off when Remus opened the door. “Good evening, Lupin.”
“What was that about?” Remus asked.
McGonagall sighed heavily. “Wood is under the impression that I should return Potter’s new Firebolt, regardless of whether it has been cursed by Dark magic. I want the Cup as much as any Gryffindor in this school – ” she inclined her head briefly to Remus, “But I will not jeopardise Potter’s safety for it. Why I seem to be the only one who thinks that way – ”
“You’re certainly not.”
“Have a biscuit, Lupin,” she said, and pushed a festive tartan tin across her desk towards him. He no longer felt awkward accepting the offer, and helped himself to a handful of shortbread.
“I’ve been teaching Harry the Patronus Charm,” he told her.
She frowned, steepling her fingers. “That is very advanced magic for a thirteen-year-old. Potter is gifted, but – ”
“But the Dementors affect him far worse than any other student in the school,” Remus finished. “I’ll not have him suffering all year if there’s even the slightest chance he can master the spell. The things they make him remember – ” He trailed off, unable to finish his sentence. “He heard James,” he said eventually, and his voice sounded strange to his ears, cracked and wavering. “He tried to buy them time, Lily and Harry – they told me he was unarmed – ”
“He was,” McGonagall said, and when he looked up he saw the glimmer of a tear in her stern eyes. Without another word she stood, walked around her desk, and hugged him.
He was too stunned to respond, to think anything other than that Professor McGonagall was hugging him, and he wondered what James and Sirius would have said – well, you were always her favourite, Moony – and a wave of grief unlike anything he’d felt in twelve years rushed over him. He hugged her back, succumbing at last to the tears that had threatened since his lesson with Harry.
In his mind, McGonagall had always been a giant, her austerity and severity somehow making her tower above Remus, even though he’d always been tall for his age – but he towered over her now, and her fragility startled him. It seemed that, for the first time, he was not alone in his grief.
He stopped by her office on the way back from Dumbledore’s.
“I heard about Sirius," she said.
“And Severus.” She said the last name distastefully, as if holding it at arms length, and a smile tugged at Remus’s lips.
“It was bound to come out eventually.”
“It should have come out on your terms,” she said, somewhat waspishly. “Not to mention we’ll have to hire an inevitably substandard Defence teacher in your stead, and the students will now know the difference.”
“You ought to just hire Harry,” he told her. “A corporeal Patronus, I heard.”
“Naturally,” he murmured.
A brief silence fell between them, one marked by understanding rather than discomfort. As Remus turned to leave, she spoke.
“Have a biscuit, Remus.”
He smiled outright then, and she pushed a large tin of shortbread firmly into his arms. Nodding his thanks, he stepped towards the door.
“Until next time, Minerva.”