…Erm…Well…Ok…I'm finally posting…Thank Merlin…:)

So, I'll just stop with the babbling, and start with CHAPTER 8!

…Yes, I still haven't broken in my first ten chapters yet…Isn't that sad?

Oh well…

CHAPTER EIGHT

::YET ANOTHER HUMUNGOUSLY LONG FLASHBACK::

Remus woke up to the sound of his alarm clock clanging its merry tune (BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP…) at 6 AM. He promptly rolled over, smashed the Muggle contraption with his fist, and turned over again, muttering, "I thought I killed you yesterday…"

Of course, as he rolled over to go back to sleep, he promptly gave a manly yelp. While grabbing his wand from underneath his pillow. Why? Because there was a strange man with brightly colored hair standing by the other side of his bed. He quickly rolled off his bed, and muttered a quick spell to clothe himself: jeans and a white t-shirt. Crouching by the other side of the bed, he pointed his wand straight at the stranger that was only a few feet away, and was halfway through uttering the trusty, "Petrificus Totalus!" hex. All of this took place within the span of a second.

But, the spell was cut short when he realized it was the werewolf from the night before. Said werewolf was also staring at him with the oddest look. It was almost like…sympathy?

The young man must have seen the confusion plastered all over his face, because he immediately said, "You don't know, do you?"

Naturally, Remus was even more perplexed.

The man must have seen this too, for he gave the smallest of smiles. For some reason, Remus was not the least bit surprised that he had a Mona Lisa-esque smile. 'Stoic this man is,' Remus' inner Yoda said. 'But suits him, it does.'

This man must have been a mind reader, for he said, "Smiling makes my face hurt."

Remus arched an eyebrow. "I should introduce you to Severus one of these days. I think the three of us could tie for 'Stoic Face of the Year'". He paused. "Then again, he's still prejudiced against werewolves, so maybe it's a bad idea…Although, I think he just hates me…Hmm…"

The man arched an eyebrow. "Yet you don't seem to hate him…I'll assume you still talk to him?"

Remus grinned. "Of course. Annoying Severus is one of my only pastimes during the school year. There's nothing else to do for fun, after all…"

"Ah, so you're a teacher, then?"

"The Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, as a matter of fact…I mean, I used to be. I quit five years ago, but I reapplied for the job yesterday, and I was accepted last night. Merlin knows why Albus said yes, but he has always been such a good man…You see, he accepted me into the school when I was a boy, and while the atmosphere was still very…anti-werewolf…He didn't have to do it, but he did anyway, and I'll always be indebted to him…Great man, Dumbledore…Did I answer your question?" Remus was breathless.

The man looked amused, but slightly puzzled. Though, Merlin knew how Remus could tell. "Hogwarts is the name of the school?"

Remus smirked. "The founders had a quirky sense of humor. But, I think 'Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry' has a nice ring to it."

For once, the man's face showed what he was feeling, for his eyes almost bulged out. "They have schools for witches?!"

"And wizards. Can't leave them out."

"Wow," the man muttered. "I wonder if Willow knows about this…"

"Pardon?"

"Nothing. Oh, I'm being rude. I'm Daniel Osbourne, by the way. You can call me Oz, if you want. Everyone does."

"Ah, nice to finally put a name to a fellow werewolf."

Oz's eyes bulged out even more. "…So, you ARE Remus Lupin, then."

Remus' eyes narrowed. "Yes. I am he. How on earth did you—"

"Your scent. I remember last night you had the scent of a werewolf, yet you weren't one." At this, Oz stared at him with that same strange look of pity. And Remus STILL did not know why. Merlin knew why, considering Oz practically spelled it out for him in that trademark, backwards way he always did it in.

"For crying out loud, Daniel! Stop looking at me like that! You were the one that shifted so violently last night! I should be the one concerned about you, not the other way around…It looked like it was your first time shifting, and that had to hurt…I remember that feeling, so don't you look at me like that!" etc. etc.

Now, Remus most likely could have ranted on much longer, had he not heard Oz's quiet reply of, "But now, you will too," in the middle of his tirade.

But he did hear it. It took awhile for it to fully dawn on Remus, but even then, he didn't want to believe it.

Oz's eyes only grew sadder. "Your arm, sir. Look in the mirror."

Remus looked at him, denial clearly on his face. He walked slowly to the mirror, which was by the foot of his bed, and stared at himself.

His left arm sleeve was torn, and blood had crusted up on the sleeve's ripped edges. He hadn't even seen it until now. He drew back the sleeve, wincing when he saw the cut.

It was small, but a glaring red against his pale skin. The telltale sign of a true lycanthrope infection. And, irony of ironies, it had slashed across his old werewolf identification number. It had faded to a faint grey outline, but with the small slash across it, the numbers stood out once again. Gee, he had almost been to the point of completely forgetting about it…

Remus sat down on his bed, looked up at Oz, and smiled faintly, sadly. "Well, I guess you really are my fellow werewolf, huh?"

Oz's face looked like it was about to shatter. It was an amazing sight. It almost looked painful on that once statue-like face. Remus felt sorry for the boy. "Mr. Lupin, please hear me out…I am so incredibly sorry for what I've done to you…I came here to ask for your help in controlling my inner wolf, ya know? 'Cause you are basically—well, I mean, you were—the only fully cured werewolf on the planet, ya know? And, I brought it all back because Wolf-Oz decided to get all territorial and…wolfy…And, did I mention that I deserve whatever you want to do to me? Because I do, and you're free to do as you wish, ya know…And I think I'm going to hyperventilate…I'm sure you realize that I'm not much of a talker, and this has never happened to me before, because I always took the fullest precautions around humans, but last night was just a total nightmare, and do you have a paper bag?!" All of this was said in one breath, of course.

Remus, who was ready to fall into the trusty pit of despair, had to laugh at Oz. It was funny! Who would expect such a serious-looking man to babble so well? He took his wand out of his jean pocket, and transfigured his old hairbrush into a brown paper bag. While Oz went over to the dresser to grab the bag, he smiled and said, "Daniel…Oz…Please, don't blame yourself like this…And breathe slowly…In…Out…There you go…Anyway," he watched as Oz slowly breathed into the bag, "I'm not angry at you…I'm just in shock is all…"

Oz put down the bag after a minute. "I'll be leaving in a few minutes, by the way. I just wanted to…I just didn't want to leave without saying something."

"Oz, please stay…It'd be nice to have someone around who can…understand…I need to sit down."

"Mr. Lupin, you are sitting down."

"Oh…That's nice…And call me Remus, please…"

Oz walked over to sit down next to the lost man. Side-by-side, they stared at their images in the mirror. Despite their obvious age difference, they had the exact same look on their faces: one of sadness. Resignation. Lostness, if that's even a word…

But determination burned in the depths of their eyes. One set was amber, the other emerald, but it didn't matter. They would move on. It was just another day in the life of a werewolf.

Only this time, there were two.

Later that morning, around ten o'clock, they sat around Remus' kitchen table, nursing cups of coffee.

("I thought British people always drank tea." "Oh…shut up.")

They had reached an understanding, of sorts. Remus swore to Oz that he didn't blame him in any way whatsoever. There would be no dead werewolf by nightfall. No siree. How could he, when the young man reminded him so much of himself at that age?

In turn, Oz promised Remus that he would stay with him for a few more months. At least, until he had learned full control over his beast. That would require dual sessions of Wolfsbane Potion, as well as some chains…Also, he would learn to accept himself, wolf and man alike. Naturally, Remus would learn right along with him.

("It's about time. I'm thinking you have years of repression in you." "…Quit being the bloody psychiatrist!" "Whatever you say, Remus.")

And now, they were just enjoying the comfortable silence between them. The kind that you get when you're with someone you identify with. The kind you get between friends on a weekday morning, who have nothing better to do—

"BLOODY HELL! WE'RE LATE!"

Oz merely smirked, an eyebrow arched, as his new friend and mentor began running around the kitchen, throwing his mug in the sink, whipping out his wand from his pocket, muttering a spell that caused the dishes to wash themselves, and scrambling back into the bedroom.

"Remus, am I missing something?"

"I'm late for a meeting with the Headmaster of Hogwarts!" yelled a muffled voice.

"Oh, you mean that Albus guy?"

Remus, hair and graying, patched robes in disarray, walked into the kitchen, a toothbrush in his mouth.

"Yrsh, I ws sposhd tbe der tn menitz 'go."

"…I didn't know wizards used toothbrushes. Isn't that a…Muggle thing?"

Remus walked over to the kitchen sink—which was now empty, since the clean dishes had put themselves away—and spit into it. "Actually, pureblood wizards don't own them. There's this nifty spell that cleans your teeth…Really saves…time…" Seeing where Oz was going with this, he muttered, "Oh…shut up."

Oz grinned. Bugging Remus seemed to be his new favorite pastime.

"Now then, we should Apparate into Hogsmeade, and then take one of the school's boats from there. If we take the fastest boat, we'll be at the castle in less than fifteen minutes." Remus glanced at Oz's clothes. "Don't worry about wearing robes. This is just a formality for a teacher. Technically, it isn't even necessary, since Albus has been known to wear Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts in the summer…But, it makes a good impression, I think…" He paused when he noticed that the blue-haired man was trying not to laugh. "What? Do I have something in my teeth?"

Oz snorted and shook his head. "Do you babble often, Remus?"

"No, actually. It only happens when I'm excited in some way. Why?"

"Oh, nothing…I'll just have to introduce you to a certain friend of mine…I'm sure you two would have the most interesting conversations…" He trailed off as images of a certain red-haired witch filled his brain.

"Oz? You there?"

Oz shook himself. "Yes, I'm fine…I just…miss her…I haven't seen her in years…" He trailed off again as the memories took over.

Remus smiled wistfully, sadly. "Ah, I know what you mean…" Both became lost in memories of their past loves, to the point where they didn't even notice a small "POP!" behind them.

However, Remus did notice someone tapping his shoulder. A quick yelp and he whipped around, wand raised. A disarming spell died on his lips when he saw who it was.

Oz, who was also shaken from his stupor, commented in his trademark bland way, "Nice robes."

"Thank you, Mr. Osbourne," said the elderly man, who looked down at his canary yellow robes—with orange suns blazing throughout them—and smiled. "I must say that your hair is the loveliest shade of blue. Cornflower? Blueberry?"

Oz patted his hair fondly, and smiled back. "Electric, actually. It was Flamin' Engine Red last week."

Remus, who had been watching this exchange silently, while slowly recovering from the Headmaster's heart attack-inducing appearance, finally spoke. "Albus, I truly apologize for missing our appointment. We were just leaving—"

"Oh, nonsense," scoffed the Headmaster, "You should have told me Mr. Osbourne was staying with you."

Remus looked puzzled as he turned to Oz. "Oz, I didn't know you knew Albus Dumbledore."

"I've never seen the man in my life, Remus."

Remus arched an eyebrow. "Then, Albus, how did you know—" He paused when he saw the twinkle behind Albus' eyes. "Let me guess: another show of your omnipotent omniscience?"

Dumbledore smiled widely. "But of course."

Remus rolled his eyes. "Anyway, Headmaster, is the meeting still scheduled?"

"Why, of course, Remus, I just came here to check on you, and then take you back to Hogwarts myself. Have you already packed?"

Remus was shocked. "So soon, Albus?"

"Why not? The house elves can take care of it for you, if you want. I'd like my favorite DADA Professor to be back where he belongs."

"Even if he's a werewolf again, Albus?"

For the first time in years, Remus finally saw a look of shock enter his mentor's face. While this may have amused Remus at another time, this was a serious moment. 'Now what? Will he even take me in, now? Why should he? He's already done it three times, why even do it again? Isn't that bad luck somewhere in Pago Pago?' the poor wolf thought, as he looked down at his feet.

But then, looking up, he saw the Headmaster smiling at him. That certainly threw him for a loop. What nearly caused him to fall over was when Albus walked over to him and hugged him, enfolding him in his bright yellow robes. If Remus could cry at this explicit display of affection, he would. As it was, it was hard enough trying to hold back the floodgates. But, naturally, Gryffindor pride took over, and he gritted his teeth against the tears.

That didn't keep him from sniffling and hiccupping, though he definitely tried hard not to do either one. "…A-Al-Albus?"

"Remus, you know you're always welcome at Hogwarts, whether human, werewolf, or jello. We treat everyone equally, you know that."

"Well, thank God you're not prejudiced against jello. That would suck," said Oz, butting in.

Remus laughed, then turned around to get a drink of water. His throat was dry. Not that he was crying or anything. Of course not. As he was doing this, his mind was having a field day. After five excruciatingly long years, he was finally going home. His heart was threatening to burst out of his chest.

He came out of his thoughts to hear Oz and Albus talking randomness.

"Headmaster, what is this whole Apparating business?"

"Well, Mr. Osbourne, it makes wizards and witches appear out of nowhere to scare the living daylights out of somebody."

"Ah…And here I was, thinking it was something Star Trek-ish."

Albus chuckled. "Actually, you're pretty close. It's just without those pesky beaming things."

As they chatted away about wizard travel, and its comparisons to other science fiction, Remus merely shook his head.

"Headmaster? A question."

"Call me Albus, Oz, and fire away."

"Didn't you say Apparating was impossible on school grounds?"

"Didn't you hear Remus say I was omnipotent?"

"Touché." Oz pondered something. "Where exactly are we?"

"Deep in the heart of Scotland."

"Ah…So that whole 'Beam me up, Scotty' was a strange coincidence?"

"…I've never thought of that…"

All three men were standing on the steps leading to the castle doors. Oz had been impressed at the fact that he was actually about to enter a real, honest-to-god castle. A castle-in-a-school. 'Wait, that's school-in-a-castle', Oz thought.

But, upon being asked what he thought about it, Oz simply replied, "It's cool."

Never let it be said that Oz had changed completely.

Albus turned to face Remus and Oz, his back facing the doors. "Now then, gentlemen, shall we go inside?"

"Yes," both werewolves said in unison.

"Honestly, Albus, what took you so long?"
All three men looked to the source of the new voice.

"Why, Minerva, you haven't aged a day."

"Oh, can the flattery, Remus. Save it for later," the woman said, blushing. She looked over to the man on Albus' left, and her eyes widened slightly. "Please tell me, young man, that that isn't your natural hair color."

Oz smiled. "Beats me. There've been rumors that I was born a natural red head, but I always thought I was more of a brunette."

Minerva's lips actually twitched in amusement. "And you are…?"
"Daniel Osbourne, ma'am. You can call me Oz, since everyone does. And I'm a werewolf."

Remus smirked. "Oz, this isn't one of those Muggle AA meetings."

"Yes, but they're right with that whole 'It helps relieve stress' thing, in my opinion."

Minerva couldn't help but chuckle. "Well, Mr. Osbourne, welcome to Hogwarts. I am Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall. I teach the Transfiguration course here."

"Ah…Does that mean you turn people into rats?"

"And other things." She smirked.

"Cool."

"Well then, why don't we all go inside? I believe the birds are confused at my choice of attire."

"Yes, of course, Albus," said the Professor as she ushered them in. "Though, I'm surprised you aren't in your shorts yet."

"What makes you think I'm not, Minerva?" At that, he took out his wand from under his voluminous sleeve, and with a flick, his yellow robes vanished. In their place were khaki shorts and a fluorescent orange polo shirt.

Oz's eyes widened, and he whistled. "Looks…nice, Headmaster."

McGonagall shook her head. "I'm getting rather old for this…I think I've finally gone blind," she muttered.

"Nonsense, dear Professor. If you were blind, you would've hexed me by now," the Headmaster said cheerfully.

"Patience, Albus, I've still got time."

Oz smiled at Minerva, then started to look around.

"Do you like what you see, Oz?" Remus asked.

Oz turned to look at them, and Remus had to smile. The blue-haired man had the happiest child-like look on his face. It brightened his entire demeanor, erasing the stoic façade for the briefest of moments. He no longer looked older than his years. And Remus was glad. Hogwarts may very well do some good.

The look on Oz's face disappeared, however, as he dead-panned, "Eh. It beats a Tibetan monastery."

Remus, who was already learning to translate Oz-speak, stage-whispered to the others, "I think that means he'll like it here."

Everyone smiled. It was the beginning of an interesting summer.

Eh, I guess I did decide to finally work on this baby, huh? Will wonders never cease…Or is it wonders ever cease? I've always been confused by that…

::shrug:: Oh well. Just another random thought.

REVIEW! I think I'm finally done with the flashbacks. Now, there'll be more Willowy-ness!

…I think. :)