On a hunch last night I slept with the dream pillow Remus gave me last Christmas. It's a good thing that I did, because he'd had the same idea. He drifted out of the black backdrop of my unconsciousness right on cue, like an actor stepping on stage. His dream self was dressed just as he'd been earlier when I'd seen him and his smile was rueful and sad.

"Yes?" I asked, expectantly.

"I'm being incredibly ridiculous, you know, " he said casually.

"Yes," I agreed.

There was no answering humor in his eyes as he said, "I told you that you were free to date other men if you liked, so I had no business feeling what I felt when I walked in and found you with that...him."

It was very serious, but for some reason, I wanted to laugh. "I'm not going out with him and I'm getting tired of people accusing me of it," I told him.

Remus raised an eyebrow.

"You know how the girls around this place are," I reminded him. I swept my hand at the blackness around us, changing the setting. We were standing on the Hogwarts grounds, on the hill overlooking Hagrid's cabin. Every detail was perfect, down to the grass under our feet.

"He's just absolutely ideal for you," said Remus bitterly, sitting down on the ground as we often used to sit back when he worked at the school. "You'd have to go a long way to find someone good enough for you and I can see that he is. He's young and good looking and healthy. Not a premature gray hair in sight. He's a medical student. Who doesn't want their daughter to grow up and marry a healer? He'll be able to afford a nice house in a nice neighborhood. You wouldn't have to worry about your children being born with four legs and furry ---"

"Remus!" I scolded, dropping to his side.

"He's absolutely ideal," Remus repeated, sounding thoroughly disgusted by the fact. "I liked to think that if you found someone like that, I'd have the decency to be happy about it. The fact is that I could just kick myself for encouraging you to look for someone else. I dislike him for absolutely no reason at all. It's completely ridiculous."

Again I had to resist the urge to laugh. "Remus," I said, throwing my arms around him in a hug that he did not return. "I prefer you even with the premature gray hair and not having a high paying job and all of that. Can't you get it through your head that I love you? I like Roland but I love you."

"I know. But you have so much potential and I don't like to get in the way of that." he answered, putting a reluctant arm around me. "You're a genius --- you do know that, don't you?"

I rolled my eyes. I don't like talking about that.

"It doesn't matter which parent you inherited it from. Brains like you have will enable to  do anything you want in life. On the other hand, being mixed up with werewolves will close doors for you. If you had someone like Roland ----"

"Give it a rest. I'm already doing exactly what I want to do with my life -- teaching at Hogwarts and doing potion research. There aren't any doors left to close. Dumbledore doesn't care if I'm mixed up with werewolves and he's my boss. His opinion is the only one that matters."

"He won't be around forever," Remus pointed out.

"Once I pay off my debt to the school, it won't matter. I could quit teaching and work on my research full time. And we're about to start arguing in circles again, aren't we?" I asked in frustration. I knew from experience that talking wouldn't get us anywhere so I gave up and kissed him instead. Hard.

For a wonder, he kissed me back with equal ardor --- maybe I should make him jealous more often. We haven't kissed like that since our disagreement at the end of the last school year, almost like those months of cool indifference never happened.

"Can't we please just start over again?" I gasped.

"To what end? You know ---"

"I don't care about the end. Maybe I focused too much on that in the first place. I tried to hurry things along, force things to happen. Let's just take it one day at a time and enjoy what we have right now."

"That seems very irre---" Remus began

"Good. I don't care about being responsible either," I interrupted, anticipating what he was going to say. "And quit being noble and logical all the time. It's driving me nuts."

For a moment he looked like he might laugh, but instead he went back to kissing me again. Of course I wasn't about to argue so we left off conversation there.

Are things back on track again? Maybe. It felt like it at least. The question is whether that feeling will spill over from our dreams into real life. I'm looking forward to seeing him again soon.

Had a funny little adventure here at school today. Hagrid's blast ended screwts escaped. He was teaching a class and had no clue that the things were on a rampage. Lucky me, I was the one to encounter them first, and right in the middle of a class with my Hufflepuff sixth years.

We were having class just on the other side of the hill that goes to Hagrid's cabin and I was teaching them to shoe hippogriffs. (Which reminds me that I need to shoe Buckbeak when I see Sirius Black again later this week). I was in the middle of teaching when the screwts made their dramatic arrival, sailing over the crest of the hill and raining down around us.

I guess that they were coming up the other side of the hill and blasted off as a quick way to get down. They seem to have all done it at exactly the same time. All of a sudden we were surrounded by mutant, locust- looking creatures the size of small dogs.

Spooked, our hippogriff ran off. A few of the girls went with it. Almost everyone screamed and I have to admit that I was one of them, naturally being startled by the odd phenomena. Who wouldn't be?

After recovering from my surprise I sent one of the girls to tell Hagrid what had happened and organized the remaining students to help catch the things. I haven't interacted with the screwts at all but I guessed that capturing them would be similar to capturing fire crabs. "All right everyone," I said determinedly. "Change in plans. Today we're going to learn the safest and most reliable method of catching firecrabs --- because the screwts are firecrab hybrids. Ten points to Hufflepuff for each one that you catch."

I think that I adapted to the situation beautifully. In working with animals and children you must be prepared to change your plans at a moment's notice. The Hufflepuffs good-naturedly set to work rounding up the screwts and we had most of them caught by the time Hagrid arrived.

"Don' hurt 'im!" he said in dismay as Cedric got one of the chains I'd conjured around the screwt's....I guess you could call it a 'neck.'

"It's fine," Cedric answered breathlessly, waving his hand vigorously to cool a burn he'd gotten from the screwt.

By this time the hour was over so I sent the students all up to the castle while Hagrid and I moved the screwts back to his cabin. We found that they'd managed to burn a hole through the side of their pen and decided to reinforce it with mesh. As this would take a while and we both had classes to teach, we shoved the screwts into the cabin as a quick way to keep them contained.

"They can't burn down your cabin, can they?" I asked doubtfully.

"Nah, not strong enough. They're still jus' babies yet. Aren' they cute?"

'Cute' was not the word I'd have used but I murmured vague assent anyway, figuring that was just the best way to respond.

Before dinner we reinforced the pen and then relocated all the screwts again. By then I was pretty much done for the day but I knew I still had tutoring to do. I ate dinner quickly and then went to the werewolf commune where my heart skipped a beat when I found Remus sitting on the front steps, waiting for me.

"Hi," I said, a bit nervously. I hadn't seen him physically since our shared dream.

"You look tired," he commented, standing up.

"Busy day."

He kissed me 'hello' much more warmly than he has in all the time that I've been back since summer, so I guessed that things were finally resolved. I'd worried that the balance we'd found in our dream might not exist in the real world and was glad to see that I was wrong. "I have a new wand," he informed me, pulling it out. "Mulberry and unicorn. Not very different from my old one."

"Because you haven't changed much since you bought the old one. Fifty years from now, if you buy a new wand, the core will still be unicorn."

"Do you think yours would be different?"

"I don't know." I said thoughtfully as we started inside. "I don't think phoenix would suit me. Dragon might."

"I want to ask you something before we enter the fray," said Remus, glancing cautiously up the stairs, "Are you going to go to that lecture?"

"I know you don't want to come."

"No. I don't want to snore through a potion lecture. But I wanted to encourage you to go."

"But you don't like Roland," I pointed out.

"Which is completely irrational. Go if you want to. I think that you should. No doubt you'd enjoy and benefit from it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," answered Remus, both expression and voice perfectly calm.

I still looked at him with distrust.

"I have no reason at all to be jealous. I'm ashamed of myself for it and I really am going to try to squelch it," he explained.

"We'll get together with Roland sometime -- not at a potion lecture --- and you can get to know him. He's really very nice."

"Of course he is," answered Remus, with just a touch of sarcasm.

I glared at him slightly.

"I'm sorry. I really will try to do better. One good thing has come of this though. It woke me up to the threat of actually losing you."

"Maybe I should make you jealous more often," I suggested.

"I wouldn't go that far." he disagreed, but without rancor.

So it seems that things really are back to normal again. I'm not going to start letting hope creep in that we might get married one day. I'm going to keep those sort of ambitions out of it. Like I said before in our dream, I think we need to take it one day at a time and see where things go naturally. I won't make the same mistake twice.

I have just come home from one of the weirdest excursions ever, including the one where I had to extract a werewolf from a toilet seat. I think Snape has been confunded or imperiused. He's definitely acting out of character. I'm dying to know what he's up to.

Roland and I went to London tonight to the Belby lecture, leaving right after dinner. I just had time to leave my last class, change into clean, decent looking clothing and fix my hair before meeting Roland in the Entrance Hall.

He was already waiting, standing at the bottom of the stairs and leaning casually against the banister with a comfortable, un-ruffled air. He looked handsome in black robes that strained snugly over his chest. Quite a few girls on their way down to dinner nearly broke their necks turning to admire him. For a moment I saw him through new eyes and understood Remus's dislike.

Well, I admit that I find him attractive. Who doesn't?

"Ready to go?" he asked, straightening out of his casual posture.

Before I could answer, Lavender Brown and a couple other Gryffindor girls passed by with knowing smirks. "Have a good time," she giggled.

Hermione Granger, a few paces behind them didn't spare us a glance, but something of her expression told me what she was thinking.

"What?" I heard Ron ask as he trailed along behind.

Roland shot me an amused smile.

"Let's get out of here," I suggested, pulling up the hood of my cloak.

Outside it was clear and cool. I was hungry after my active workday and thought regretfully of the nice, warm Great Hall we were leaving behind, with all of it's wonderful food.

"I read in the paper this morning about a werewolf attack," said Roland conversationally as we started across the courtyard.

"I know. Everyone...well all the werewolves I know...think they know who's responsible for the rash of attacks. The part that worries me is that it seems to be moving in this general direction. His daughter is in hiding from him and her cover was blown a while back."

"You think he's looking for her?"

"It's more that I worry he might be," I clarified. "I don't think he cares about her but he doesn't like people getting the better of him. I helped her escape so he might have a grudge against me too. Also, he's the one that infected Remus, so that makes it even more personal."

"Sounds like a nice guy," said Roland sarcastically. "It's a shame Remus couldn't come tonight."

"With the full moon so close he really would fall asleep and snore through the whole thing."

"He's...quite a bit older than you, isn't he?" asked Roland with some reluctance.

"Twelve years. He's not as old as he looks. He started going gray in his twenties, but you know how that goes. I guess it's typical for werewolves. Out of curiosity....what is the average expected lifespan?" I asked with equal reluctance.

"Anywhere from forty to sixty."

I tried not to look as though this bothered me. "Well that's good news. Fenrir Grayback should drop dead of old age any time now."

But forty? Remus is in his thirties now.

We apparated to London where we went to St. Mungo's, a place I am not especially fond of. I spent a night there once after being kicked by a thestral. Snape had come and stayed with me all night, back before he started hating me, of course.

While Snape was on my mind I ought to have taken a more thorough look around the lobby, but I didn't. A sign there gave directions to the location of the lecture which was on the ground floor. More signs set at intervals along the way continued to direct us along the labyrinth of halls that passed by imposing looking locked doors that mostly belonged to high ranking healers and administrators.

"That's the medical library," said Roland, pointing out a pair of large double doors that stood out from the rest. "It's six stories high. Incredible place."

"I suppose you'll have an office here someday?"

"Maybe. It's only the senior healers who get to have one of the posh ones. What about you? Do you have your eye on the headmaster's office?"

Before I could answer, a familiar voice said, "Oh, I daresay she has the potential."

If anyone was ever in danger of literally jumping out of their skin, it was me in that moment. I halted in my tracks and swiveled to behold Snape, walking just slightly behind us, his steps muffled by the thick carpet.

"What are you doing here?" I blurted in a tone of mingled surprise and hostility.

"Professor Snape," said Roland cheerfully. "Glad to see that you could make it."

"You invited him?" I asked, incredulous.

"It was I who told him about this lecture in the first place," Snape quietly corrected. "I knew his interest in the field of healing potions."

I stared at him suspiciously. That was probably the first time in over a year that he'd spoken to me directly without being rude.

There was just a touch of humor in his eyes as he gestured toward the end of the hall. "Shall we?"

He fell into step on Roland's other side. I glared at him across Roland, wondering what he was up to. What the hell?

"You startled me," I said experimentally.

"I apologize for that," came his stunning answer. "I saw you in the lobby but couldn't attract your attention. I only just managed to catch up."

Both his face and voice were calm, perfectly friendly and innocent of ill will. I couldn't imagine what he was thinking but I guessed that it was nothing good.

At the end of the hall was a small auditorium. I hoped that we'd lose Snape there but he pointed out three empty seats with polite expectancy, like all of this was just perfectly normal.

What the hell?

The two men let me go first. Thankfully Roland came next, preventing me from being stuck next to Snape.

"Did you know that Marcus Belby is Damocles Belby's nephew?" Snape asked, leaning slightly across Roland to address me.

I stared at him in blank confusion for a few moments. "No," I answered stiffly.

"He's a Ravenclaw," Snape explained to Roland.

"I don't believe I've met him. I would have remembered a name like Belby."

"Well, he isn't really the type to get into scrapes."

I kept staring across Roland at Snape, trying to figure out what was going on. Had he suddenly decided to forgive me? I doubted it. Then what?

There were a lot of questions I wanted to ask, but the lecture was not the place to do it. The last thing we needed to do was get tossed out for having a disruptive argument. I settled back into my chair and into a defensive silence, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe he was going to jump up in the middle of the lecture and shout, "This person dates werewolves ! She's a disgrace to her family and her position at the school!"

The lecture began on time, eliminating a need to make small talk. Belby looked just like a super- genius is supposed to look and much like his nephew. He was skinny with wispy hair and overlarge glasses --- the cliched egghead type. Despite looking as if he'd be about as fun to listen to as Professor Binns, he proved to be a surprisingly interesting speaker.

While listening to him, I couldn't quite keep the thought out of my head --- Professor Cerridwyn Howard, inventor of the lycanthropy cure. I could give lectures at St. Mungos. And when Remus was healed, maybe then Snape would approve of him.

My eyes drifted toward Snape's hawklike profile. He seemed completely oblivious to me, riveted on Belby's talk. I wondered what his real agenda was. There had to be a reason for him to be so nice to me and I was sure that it was in no one's interest but his own.

Immediately after the lecture, Roland wandered off to speak to someone on the other side of the room that he was acquainted with. While he was doing that, I snubbed Snape, pushing past him to get into the line to speak to Belby. Without a word, he brushed past me and disappeared into the crowd.

I wasn't altogether sure that I liked having Snape out of sight. It was sort of like being in water with an invisible shark lurking below. While waiting in line and continuing to obsess over what his motives might be, I finally spotted him again as the crowd ahead of me thinned. He was standing next to Belby, talking familiarly in to his ear.

What the hell?

First he shows up out of the blue. Then he behaves almost like a normal person, treating me as if he actually likes me. Then he sticks around like gum on my shoe, sitting with us during the lecture and now showing up next to Belby, right in the place where he knew I was going. What on earth is going on with him?

I considered getting out of line, saying goodnight to Roland, and going home. Then I decided that I didn't want to give Snape the satisfaction. I watched him curiously as the line continued to thin. He didn't seem aware of me at all. He just kept standing there, occasionally speaking to Belby in a familiar way that suggested they knew each other.
What a jerk.

Eventually he looked up and caught my gaze, which was probably not a very nice one. With a carefully neutral expression, he crooked a finger at me, urging me to join him.

I considered ignoring him but then gave in, the opportunity being too good to pass up. Leaving the line and butting ahead of some irritated people, I went to Snape's side.
He offered me his arm and confused and distrustful, I accepted.

"Damocles, this is my youngest colleague, Professor Cerridwyn Howard," he introduced smoothly, turning to Belby. "She's trying to expand upon your work."

"Oh really?" Belby inquired, offering his hand to shake.

"Yes. I want to find a cure for lycanthropy," I informed him.

"I wish you luck," he answered politely. I could tell that he didn't take my ambition seriously.

Snape laughed, "You'll be reading about her in the papers and the potion journals one day. She is perfectly serious in her aim and I don't doubt that she'll succeed at it one day. I've see her work and it's quite impressive. You should come and see for yourself."

"Perhaps I will do that," Belby agreed with a little more interest. "I can check on my nephew while I'm there. You know him?"

"He's a fine young man," said Snape.

I shot him a surprised glare. I've never heard him praise a single student in all the time I've known him. He was really laying it on thick. "He's one of my Ravenclaw students," I recalled.

"It's a pity he isn't old enough to enter the tournament," said Belby.

Privately, the thought of mousy little Marcus Belby entering the Tri-Wizard Tournament gave me reason to shudder.

Severus shook his head minutely.

"I know. You want it to be a Slytherin," Belby chuckled, noticing the movement. He paused to eye the line of irritated looking people. "Some other time, perhaps. I may come to Hogwarts to see that potion project. If Severus is praising it, then it must be impressive. It was nice meeting you, Professor." he said, shaking my hand again. "Severus."

Snape inclined his head, smirked at the line of waiting people, and began steering me away as though we were a lord and lady at a ball.

"What are you up to?" I asked quietly.

"Up to?" he repeated.

"I know you're up to no good. Either that or your brain has been snatched by one of Luna Lovegood's Brain Snatching Labradoodles."

"That girl," Snape sighed, "could do with a sizeable dose of wit sharpening potion."

"I'm still dating Remus," I told him.

"I didn't accuse you of needing wit sharpening potion, although if ---" he took a deep breath, seemed to think better of what he was going to say, and pressed his lips together.

"What are you up to?" I hissed.

But Roland was approaching and I watched with amazement as Snape reached out to give him a friendly clap on the shoulder, keeping his other hand on my arm as if he suspected I was about to try to escape and he wanted to prevent it. "It's much to early to call it a night. I know that I'm not ready to go back to the castle, at least. Since we had to miss dinner to be here, why don't you join me for something to eat?"

"What?" I asked, my voice somewhat shrill. "What are y---"

"I'm game," Roland answered cheerfully.

The two men looked at me, waiting for my answer.

I took a deep breath. "I don't have any ----"

"I see you've forgotten your purse," Snape swiftly interjected in an air that was clearly supposed to be gallant. "Not to worry. I'll take care of the bill and you can pay me back some other time."

Yes, the brain snatching labradoodle theory was looking more plausible by the moment. Again, the two men were waiting for an answer. I didn't want to be beholden to Snape for the price of a dinner, but I was so curious to figure out what he was up to that I agreed to go.

I soon found myself sitting with Snape and Roland in a restaurant on Diagon Alley, still trying to figure out what was going on. I'd never been inside this particular place before, whose interior was like a cross between a castle and a hunting lodge, one of those upscale kind of places that are meant to look cozy and rustic. It was lit and heated by large fireplaces with unicorn horns mounted over them. The wooden table and chairs were of the overlarge, heavy type, as were the knives and forks.

I remained thoughtful and cautious, unable to relax and let down my guard with Snape there. Roland, always cheerful and charismatic, chatted comfortably with Snape, completely at his ease. Snape, on his best behavior, was almost....charming.

What the hell?

An unexpected reprieve came when the waiter approached before our food had even arrived and whispered something in a low voice to Snape. "I have to leave," he announced to Roland and I.

"Is something wrong?" Roland asked.

"Nothing that need worry you, and please don't let this ruin your evening. I apologize for leaving so early. Have a good night." With no more warning than that, Snape rose and left.

Roland and I exchanged surprised glances. Finally he asked, "So what was going on here tonight?"

"What do you mean?"

"You seem...frazzled."

"Snape and I don't usually get along." I admitted. "He doesn't like me much. I've been trying to figure out why he's being so friendly."

"Really? He always speaks very highly of you."

"What? When? Why?"

Roland laughed, "I talk to him a lot. He's very interested in your potion project. I never got the impression that he didn't like you. If anything, he seems very impressed by you."

"He's impressed by what I'm capable of accomplishing, but he doesn't like me personally."

"Why do you think so?"

"We fought all last year because he wanted Remus's job." I gave him the short answer.

"Oh that's right. He's the one that told everyone about Remus, isn't he? I've heard that story --- from Septima, of course. Well, maybe he wants to make up."

Now it was my turn to laugh. "You clearly don't know Snape very well."

The food arrived then and whatever Roland was about to say was lost. I was just as glad to put Snape out of my mind for the time being and tried not to wonder what Remus would think if he could see me having dinner with Roland. I doubted it would be conducive to his determination to stop feeling jealous.

I did have a nice time once Snape was gone and I was able to relax. We saw neither hide nor greasy hair of him when we returned to the castle, which was just fine with me. I'm still at a complete loss as to what he was up to. Will this goodwill continue tomorrow or will he be back to normal? And what was the motivation for this little charade? With Snape, there's no telling.


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