Author's Note: Un-beta'd, so any mistakes are my own.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. – Ambrose Redmoon
Minerva sets out an extra cup of tea when she settles into the chair at her desk, awaiting her 1 o’clock appointment. Spooning a few lumps of sugar into her cup, she stirs the liquid idly, and wonders how to broach the subject of this meeting. It shouldn’t be difficult, she’s done it before, but each new recruit reminds her how close to home this war really is.
The knock echoes in her spacious office and she calls for the student to enter as she pushes a bowl of sugar towards the other cup. She smiles fondly as the young man walks into her office, his face alight with delight every time he glances at the shelves of books that line the room.
“Tea, Mr Lupin?” She gestures with her head the extra cup, and Remus grins as he slides gracefully into the chair before her with practised ease. Despite the easy smile, there are dark shadows beneath his eyes and he looks tired, on edge. A quick glance at her calendar reveals the source of his anxiety – the full moon is due in two days. Her lip twitches in slight amusement as he dumps a large quantity of sugar into his tea and he looks at her with eager curiosity as he sips the sugary liquid.
“I won’t keep you long. There is a serious matter I must discuss with you. But first, you must understand that discretion is of the utmost importance here.”
It has always amazed Minerva at how serious Remus can look; how easy it is for his smile to slip into a frown. Someone so young should not look like the weight of the world rests upon his shoulders. The lithe muscles beneath his robe tense and she can see the minute tightening of his fingers around her delicate china. It is his nature to always assume the worst. She saw it in his eyes two years ago, unbridled fear that nearly crippled him, when he started stammering about packing his bags and leaving the grounds following that unpleasant incident with Mr Snape.
Today, she is quick to put his fears to rest. “You are not in trouble, Remus.” Her voice is soft, like a mother soothing a crying child, but he is still rigid in his seat. “You must promise me what we discuss today does not leave this office. Can you do that?”
His eyes are wide, but he always maintains contact with hers, and she knows that he speaks the truth when he mutters, “Yes, of course.”
She has an enormous amount of faith in her students, but she requires a verbal confirmation to avow their silence, an affirmation that Dumbledore made no mistakes when choosing their future. She never doubts Remus Lupin; he owes too much to risk throwing it all away, forever in debt to Dumbledore and the school that gave him greater opportunities than he could have ever imagined.
“What are your plans for after graduation?”
Remus blinks in surprise at the question. “Pardon?”
“You graduate shortly, Remus. Surely you have plans for the time that follows.”
“You know my choices are limited. Not many places are willing to hire a werewolf,” he says bitterly, the lycanthropy like poison on his tongue.
Minerva nods, expecting this. Dumbledore went out on a limb to accept this extraordinary boy into their school and she knows that he made the right decision then; she can only hope he’s making the right decision now.
“Professor Dumbledore and I have a proposition for you, then. We can’t pay much, but it will be a job.”
“I’ll do anything!”
“You don’t know what I’m asking of you, Remus,” she says, and there’s sadness in her voice. “I offer this to you under strict instruction that you not jump into this too hastily. Don’t be so willing to throw your life away.”
“What life? My days revolve around the cycle of the moon and no one can look me in the eye without seeing me for what I really am - a monster. If I can do anything, be anything besides a werewolf, I’ll do it. Please, Professor McGonagall.”
She’ll never admit publicly that she has a soft spot for the four Gryffindor boys that frequent her office for detentions and cost her house more points than any other student, but she can’t deny Remus’s soft plea, the desperation that is evident upon his face.
“Professor Dumbledore is enlisting the help of several wizards and witches, including students, to aid him in a fight against You-Know-Who.”
Remus nearly chokes on his tea, and Minerva pauses in her explanation as he coughs and sputters into the sleeve of his robe. “That is not what I expected,” he admits, once he’s breathing normally again. “Dumbledore is building an army?”
“What can I do?”
It’s the most important question he can ask, and Minerva struggles to ask this of him, knowing the danger she will put him in. She looks at him, the thin, sickly-looking boy she’s watched grow up, become more comfortable in skin that is not quite his own, and her eyes are drawn to the faint white scars that mar his otherwise unblemished face. Her heart stutters in her chest as she’s overcome with grief. “We need you to find other werewolves,” she finally says, watching Remus’s face as he begins to understand what is being asked of him.
“To recruit them.” There is no question, just quiet acceptance.
“Yes, before You-Know-Who does.”
“You believe I can do this? I’m only a boy, Professor. Who’s to say they’ll listen to me just because I’m one of them?”
“You’re the best of us, Remus. If anyone can do it, you can.”
He smiles at her praise, sweet and child-like, and Minerva struggles to maintain her composure; the closer they are to leaving the protection this school offers them, the harder it is for her to want to let them go. Remus doesn’t accept the proposal right away and Minerva can only be thankful for small favours that he’s actually thinking before jumping headfirst into this dangerous mission. In that way, he is so unlike the two boys he considers brothers that she’s already recruited.
“I’ll do it,” he says finally, after a lengthy silence.
She sighs, knowing deep down that he would have accepted the job regardless of the risk. “Very well. I will send word to you with the time and date of the next meeting. Come see me before you leave, and I will tell you where to go.”
She slides open her drawer and pulls out the wooden box, murmuring the incantation to unlock it. There is a small pile of golden pins inside, each one meant for one of her students, and she counts them like a roll-call, memorizing every face that belongs to each pin. As she hands Remus the small phoenix, she wants to remember him, to remember all of them, this way forever, with their youthful enthusiasm and easy smiles. She has seen what war can do to people and she worries that the last image she’ll have of them is one of broken down soldiers whose faces appear in the Daily Prophet’s obituaries.
He rises from the chair, placing his cup gently back onto its matching saucer. “Thank you, Professor. For everything.”
“Thank you, Remus. We can’t do this without you.”
He ducks his head in embarrassment and then with a final glance back at her, he exits her office. She wishes there wasn’t truth to her statement, but she knows that without Remus, they have no hope of reaching the werewolves before Lord Voldemort seduces them with promises he will never keep. It makes her chest ache, such a strange, unfamiliar feeling, when she thinks of Remus as nothing more than a pawn in this war, waiting for his next command.