DISCLAIMER: Everything you recognise from the book, is J.K. Rowling's, everything else (including strange grammar and odd spelling) is mine.

AN: Now this is part 3 of the Whole again - saga, and the main focus is on Remus and Serene. But other characters will show up once in a while, I promise. I am not really sure if anybody can understand what is going on without reading part 1 and 2 first. That would be "Whole again - Severus" and "Whole again - Sirius".

Since this became an issue with the Sirius-story - you may have noticed that I hardly ever reply to reviews on the board. That is because I believe that the review-boards is for ... ah, reviews. And critique. And hints or demands. But not my comments.

I value your reviews highly, and am proud of every one of them. If you got questions and expect answers or just like to chat - drop me an e-mail and I will answer it.

1. WAITING

Serene Kennedy paced her room at Hogwarts, from the door to the window and back again. She felt as if she'd been marching the five meters all night long, which was not too far off the truth since she'd not found any sleep and had resorted to pacing very early in the morning. Every once in a while she stopped, trying to breath calmly, as Dumbledore had thought her. Finally, when the ghostly bell in the hall announced that breakfast was over and the students would soon clear the hallways, she went down on her knees and dug a small wooden box from under her bed.

To avoid any teachers who were late for class, she took the narrow staircase that led to a sunny court-yard. The October sun was still warm enough and the sky clear and lavender-blue, so Serene put her cloak onto the stairs and sat down to ponder what had gone so dreadfully wrong.

Her life had never been calm or easy. Growing up in a faceless suburb, she had always been aware of her special powers, and none of the numerous medical experts her desperate parents took her to, could convince her otherwise. She'd known she was a witch - even when all the world assured her she was mental. Looking up at the glittering turrets that crowned the walls, she laughed mirthlessly. Oh, the relief to learn about Hogwarts!

Eventually she had made it to school, but far too late, far too late. She'd learned a tremendous lot within the last three years, and Dumbledore let her even teach as Sybill Trelawney's assistant. But she still felt like an outsider in this world, just as she'd been an outsider in the Muggle world. She had not made many friends in these three years, she sighed. They could easily be counted off the fingers of one hand. There was Laurel, who'd come to Hogwarts for the same adult students course as she. But while Serene had been overjoyed to be accepted, Laurel had fought the diagnosis of being a witch every step of the way. Still, they'd formed some kind of friendship - and that was some achievement, Serene had to admit. After all she'd almost killed the other woman.

Severus Snape, Laurel's lover, Potions master at the school, would never forgive her that, she was sure. Although she still admired him for his skills, she kept away from him as far as she could. Really, she obviously had no hand for male friends. Take Sirius Black for instance, famous escapee from Azkaban, only recently taken back there under the name of White - and again escaped a few days ago. Now he was on the run, and Serene could not honestly be sorry about that, because it seemed she was not able to exchange more than two sentences with him without getting into a fight. But she liked Claire, his wife. She liked her a lot. And Claire, being a squib, knew what it meant to be an outsider. What was more - she believed in Serene's visions without Laurel's reluctance or the men's open ridicule.

Dumbledore, she counted a third finger, Albus Dumbledore, scary as his all- knowing gaze might be, was her friend, and she considered this friendship a precious gift. Although busy with managing a school like Hogwarts with its hundreds of students and - well, eccentric staff - he spared an hour every week to just talk to her. Of course she knew counselling when she saw it, but he was the first counsellor she truly respected, even if she could not tell him the full truth. For that would surely mean to lose his friendship,

Three friends in as many years, she winced.

Minerva McGonagall did not trust her, she knew that, and Sybill … Sybill envied her because of her "gift", as she liked to call it. "Ha, gift!", Serene muttered under her breath. "Curse, rather."

But while Sybill had all her life craved for the visions Serene suffered, she knew not how hard it was to see the future - if nobody believed you … And she knew not how difficult it was to interpret the glimpses of future events. Serene's visions of Snape killing Dumbledore had caused her to poison Laurel, to kidnap her and hold her prison - only to find she'd completely misjudged the situation. But on the other hand - hadn't she seen the outcome of the Triwizard Tournament and Cecil Diggory's death? And she'd known that Sirius would return to Azkaban, and this had enabled Claire to save the situation and in the end save the life of the wizard she loved so much.

Love … Serene let her head sink hopelessly onto her knees. Love. She had acquired three friends at Hogwarts. And then there was Remus Lupin. Sweet, gentle, handsome Remus Lupin, who taught Defence against the Dark Arts, and claimed to be in love with her. She'd never encouraged him, although at times she'd wished for nothing else than his embrace and his assurance that everything would be okay.

And now the stupid bastard had gone and let himself be locked away in a cell in Azkaban of all places, to save his best friend. Lupin was like this, she sighed, never thinking about his own safety. She remembered only too well how he and Severus burst through the door of the vanishing chamber where she'd kept Laurel prisoner. How Severus rose his wand and the force of the curse slammed her into the wall. Remus had not hesitated a moment but leaped between her and the furious Potions master. The impact of the curse broke his arms and a few rips. He had saved her life that day, because Snape would certainly have killed her without a second thought.

And now Remus had left without telling her he might not return ...

She clenched her fists. So much for trust … Everybody at Hogwarts had known about that foolish plan, everybody but her! Suddenly she seethed with anger and kicked the small wooden box violently. The lid sprang open and the content spilled over the lawn.

"Oh, damn," Serene muttered and went down on her knees to gather the small things she'd kept in the box.

"Need help?"

She looked up and shielded her eyes against the sun. Laurel smiled down at her, the little boy Severus had brought home a month ago, sitting on her hip and waving a toy-broom excitedly.

"I just …" Serene blushed and tried to cover her collection with the hem of her robe.

Laurel sat the child down onto the grass and told him to play. Then she kneeled next to Serene, ignoring her friend's secrecy. In Laurel's opinion some people built a wall around their heart so nobody would hurt them, but somehow found themselves a prisoner within that very wall. It had been like that with Severus, and it was the same with Serene. Laurel'd long ago decided to just not accept either one's rudeness and concentrate on their respective virtues. Serene and she were so different. Where Serene was fire, Laurel was earth. Where Serene was impulsive, Laurel was calm. Their difference could have made them determined enemies, but Laurel was glad they'd succeeded in becoming friends.

She picked up a set of beautifully crafted Tarot cards with pictures of the sun and moon. "I remember these," she said softly. "Remus asked me to give them to you, when I met him in Provence two years ago."

Serene snatched the cards from her and put them back into the box.

"You did not want them then," Laurel would not cease her probing. "And I doubt you ever thanked him for any of these beautiful things." She picked up a glass marble that contained a miniature solar system and held it against the sun. When a ray of light flashed off the glass, the little boy clapped his hands in joy.

"I never asked him for anything," Serene replied defiantly.

Laurel laughed and put the marble into the box, together with a dried flower. "Are you sure you and Severus are not related?" she asked eventually. "That's the nature of gifts, Serene. You needn't ask for it." Her smile got warmer when she thought about Snape, and how hard it had come to him to accept gifts. "It is also the nature of love."

"Cut it out, Laurel." This was a talk they had every other week, but today Serene felt too weary to endure it. "I am not in the mood."

"As you wish," Laurel shrugged and let a thin silver bracelet tangle from her finger. "Just one more question. Did he get you that one, too?"

Wordlessly Serene grabbed the bracelet and locked it away in its box. Laurel shook her head and sighed. "It is silver, Serene."

"I know. I told him it was too expensive. But he knew I had admired it at that small jewellery store in Hogsmeade. He insisted I'd take it as a birthday present."

"It is silver." Laurel pointed out again.

"I already said I knew that. And I am aware that he can't afford presents like that."

"Remus is a werewolf. Did you ever see what silver does to his skin? It causes burns like a white hot iron." Laurel stared at her in disbelieve.

Serene swallowed. "I never thought about that," she admitted softly. Then, before the tears could wash away her last pretence of strength, she begged "Please, Laurel. Cut me some slack today. It is hard enough to know he's out there, with the Ministry, the Aurors and the Death Eaters hunting him."

Laurel put her hand over hers, and the strange thing Serene could not explain happened again - the other woman's warmth flowed into her and made her calm and strong.

"Thank you," she muttered, avoiding the pity in Laurel's eyes.

Her friend gave her a last worried look, then she determinedly put a cheery tone into her voice and turned to the little boy. "Now who's got a great fast broom, ha?"

Serene watched how the child played happily with the toy-broom Professor Hooch had given him. It was only one yard long and would not really fly but hover a few inches over the ground but the child took great pleasure from making the broom rise and land.

She smiled faintly. "He seems very happy with you and Snape."

Laurel patted the child on the head indulgently. "He is so good-natured. I mean, I don't know anything about children of his age. But he has great patience with me."

"You still haven't given him a name?"

A dark shadow passed over Laurel's face. "Severus won't allow it, and he is right. If I give the child a name, I open my heart to him even more. And when his parents come to get him and take him away …" she stifled a sob, "It is going to hurt even more than it will already."

Serene nodded and took the cuddly dragon Severus had shot at the Hogsmeade Fair for Laurel. Three months, she sighed silently when she looked at the toy sadly. At the morning of the fair Remus had asked her to marry him - and she had turned him down, naturally. She'd never forget the hurt in his eyes … But she had to remind herself that all this would prevent a pain much worse than that of rejection. Snape was right in this - sometimes a small pain in the present could shield the heart against the pains of the future.

Accompanied by the excited giggles of the little boy she sat the dragon onto the broomstick and made the toy fly higher than it was supposed to. Laurel took out her wand and made the dragon nod his head while he soared over them. Suddenly the child let broom be broom and beamed in the direction of the entrance door with such a look of utter adoration on his chubby face, Serene turned in surprise.

Severus Snape stood in the door arch, dressed in his usual habit of darkest black, the scowl on his face prominent enough to let all pupils give him a wide berth. But the boy tapped towards him, little arms outstretched, gurgling in happiness.

Serene watched the tall wizard closely, as he noticed the child. Carefully stepping aside, he avoided any contact and came down the stairs with billowing robes, the boy trying to hold to him in vain.

Laurel had seen him keeping his distance to the child as well, but said nothing. The child nuzzled his face disappointedly against her shoulder, when she picked him up.

Serene stood up when Severus bowed his head curtly. Skipping any polite phrases, she asked anxiously: "Any news about Remus Lupin?"

The Potions master shrugged. "No. The full moon was only last night, and the Ministry will try to keep his escape under covers as long as possible."

"If he could escape …"

He looked at her, an unreadable expression in his eyes. "Lupin is intelligent and quite capable," he said, kinder than usually.

"I keep telling her that it's a long way from the coast to Hogwarts, even for a werewolf," added Laurel. "He'll probably rest for a while and arrive sometime tomorrow."

Serene took up chewing her fingernails again, until Laurel sharply tapped her hand. "Stop it!"

"What?" She stared at her friend. "Stop what?"

"Biting off your nails in despair." Laurel shook her head in gentle reprimand. "Remus will make it back safely. But when you see him again, you should come clear about your feelings for him!"

"Don't go all motherly on me, Laurel Hunter!" snapped Serene and pushed her hand away. "Just because you can tell this little bugger what to do doesn't mean you can tell me as well!" She scooped up the wooden box and brushed a kiss on the little boy's forehead. "I've got a class to teach." And off she stormed in a flourish of emerald robes.

"Let her bite her nails before she bites your head off," Snape suggested dryly.

"She is afraid for Remus." Laurel bit her lips, a habit that told him she was worried as well.

"I have no doubt he could successfully escape from Azkaban," mused Snape and sat down on the stairs. Laurel put the boy back onto the lawn and gave him his broom to keep him occupied.

"But?" she asked softly.

"We must not forget that Lupin in his werewolf form is not as reasonable as he is as a wizard. That's why he puts up with the side effects of the Wolfsbane potion every month. Without the potion the beast in him takes over - and I assure you it is not a cuddly little wolf-cub."

"But he won't remain a werewolf once the moon wanes, will he?" Laurel asked, not for the first time wondering if it had really been such a good idea to leave Remus instead of Sirius in Azkaban.

"He'll transform, yes. But we can only hope he does not run havoc on the way back." Absently Severus reached down to brush away something that tickled his leg, and froze in mid-motion.

The little boy giggled when the tall wizard stared at him. "Woom!" he said and giggled again, as if he'd just made a great joke.

"Did you hear that?" Laurel beamed at Severus. "He said 'Broom'!"

"No, my dear, he said 'Woom'."

"Believe me, Severus, he meant broom. He says that often when he sees you."

Snape scowled and rose from the stairs. "Are you insinuating I bear resemblance to a broom?"

She laughed wholeheartedly and his heart made a silly leap.

"No, but I wonder if he remembers the broom-ride to Hogwarts after you saved him that evening."

He looked down at the child who swung the toy dragon around by its tail. "He was asleep all the time. I doubt he remembers anything." Raking a hand through his black straight hair, he added. "Albus asked for us to join him at tea time."

"Dumbledore? Do you think they found the child's parents?" Suddenly Laurel could understand Serene so much better. Maybe you had to experience the fear of losing somebody before you could really cherish them?

Taking in her suddenly pale face, Severus bent down and brushed her lips with his. "Whatever it is, Laurel, we'll go through it together."

* * *

„Now I want you to study the newspaper cut-outs I gave you, and write an essay about fraud involving prophecy and fortune-telling." Serene looked at the sixth years expectantly. "Nothing short of 1000 words will be accepted. Unless of course you decide to do your essay about the Muggle stock exchange." She frowned at Hermione Granger, who already scribbled away, underlining whole passages in her cut-out. "Then it was to be 1500 words at least, because it is so much easier. But it will earn you additional credits for Muggle studies."

Silently she prayed for the hour to be over soon. Her patience clung by its nails, and the Slytherins and Gryffindors she had to teach were especially annoying this morning.

She jumped up and with two quick strides stood over Draco Malfoy, forcing him to hand over his wand.

"Now that is enough, Mr Malfoy," she tried very hard to remain calm, when she saw that he had hexed Ron Weasley's book bag. "This is not funny, it is childish. If you have to play pranks, make them worth my while, for Merlin's sake!" Her hair had slipped the tight bun she kept it in for teaching, and she pushed it behind her ears impatiently.

"I see you tonight at eight in the Astronomy classroom for detention, Malfoy. And you, Potter, stop grinning or you and Malfoy will spend the evening together." It bugged her not so much that Harry seemed to enjoy the punishment the other boy received, but that he had assured her at the beginning of the class, that Remus would be back soon.

Eventually the bell rung and both class and teacher let out a deep breath of relief. While the students quietly filed out, Serene packed her books and papers and stuffed them into her bag. When she heard somebody nervously clear their throat, she turned with an impatient groan, expecting to find Miss Granger with yet another question. But it was only a wide-eyed house- elf, who, sensing her rising temper, kept a security distance of five feet.

Serene's face fell. Great, now even the elves hated her!

"I am sorry," she said earnestly. "I did not mean to snap at you. I just got a hot head."

"You is wanting a glass of lemonade?" the elf chirped hopefully. Usually the red-haired witch treated the elves very nicely, even if it had taken her some time to accept how they liked to be treated. In return the Hogwarts elves took great care to iron her sheets, because she enjoyed ironed sheets. Not that they did not iron everybody else's sheets as well … "You is wanting a nice lemonade? With ice cubes?" he tempted.

She sighed. "No, but thank you. Hot head, you know? A fit of temper?"

The elf scrutinised her face doubtfully. "You is making a joke, Professor?"

"A joke, yes. What can I do for you?"

The elf paled visibly under his green skin. "No, you is getting it wrong again! It is we who does the things for you! You does nothing!"

"Right." Serene had to smile against her will at the obvious panic in the elf's eyes. "Now, what can you do for me?"

Producing a piece of parchment, the elf relaxed a bit. "Miss Claire of Winterstorm Manor asks you for tea tomorrow," he read proudly. Most of the house-elves at Hogwarts could read and write, which was not common in the elf-population. Many wizards felt that their elves had no need for higher learning, and why in the world would they need to know how to write their name, if they never left the kitchen anyway? But Dumbledore had encouraged the elves to study, and one of them had even written a book about their very own kind of magic, which enabled them to run such a big household as Hogwarts.

"Is she not feeling well?" Serene worried. After all Claire was expecting a baby, and the last weeks had been quiet upsetting for her, with her husband in Azkaban and her close escape from being recruited as a Death Eater.

"She be having a baby, so she is very very well!" beamed the elf. The Winterstorm elves and the Hogwarts elves kept close contact, and gossip flowed freely in both directions. So it was no secret to both houses how happy Claire was about the baby, even now that Sirius Black was on the run again and there was no chance of him returning in the near future, Serene thought.

"You wants to send an answer?" The elf hopped up and down to attract her attention. "You is not listening at all!"

"I am sorry," sighed Serene. Why did she feel she had to apologise to everybody she met today? "What did you say?"

"You is not to worry," the little creature flapped his ears to underline his words. "Professor Lupin, he come back soon."

Groaning in annoyance, Serene tug at her hair. "Stop it! I don't want to hear a word about Lupin anymore," she cried out.

"Azkaban be a bad bad place," the elf went on, unimpressed by her outburst. "But Professor Lupin, he be a big bad wolf if he wants. He gets home soon." Carefully folding the letter, he bowed and skipped out of the classroom, leaving Serene thunderstruck. So even the elves had known about the plan. Even those tennis ball-eyed, grassy-haired little creatures had known …

* * *

„Laurel, Severus." The Headmaster smiled absently and kept searching something in the pile of parchments on his desk. "Sit down, sit down," he mumbled without looking at them. Eventually he sighed exasperatedly and drew his wand. "Accio!"

A scroll slithered out from under the pile and placed itself obediently in the old wizard's hand. "Ah, there it is."

He faced the Potions master and Laurel, who sat by the roaring fire, both watching him anxiously. Snipping his fingers he conjured a steaming teapot and a plate heaped with ginger snaps. When both of his guests politely refused, he shrugged. "It is getting colder fast this year. Ginger and a fire, that's what a wizard wants right now."

Stretching his hands towards the flames, he relaxed for a moment, and as often during the last months, looked utterly exhausted. But when he opened his eyes he seemed refreshed and alert.

"Well, well. You want not sweets, you want no tea." Pushing his glasses on top of his head, he smiled at them. "What else can I offer you? How about a little boy?"

Laurel frowned. "What are you talking about, Albus?"

He took her hand, but kept a close watch at Severus. "It has come to my knowledge, that our little guest's parents are dead."

Laurel gasped in shock.

Dumbledore nodded sympathetically. "Both of them, and there are no close relatives we know of."

The Potions master sat very straight and avoided Laurel's gaze, when he inquired. "How did they die? A Death Eaters attack?"

"His parents were killed very much in the fashion of the Godric's Hollow murders." Dumbledore's bushy brows twitched when he studied the parchment. "This report says that somebody - and we may assume it was not Voldemort but Pettigrew or one of the other higher ranks - one of them entered the house, killed Elias Kramer, then went into the nursery, where Mrs Kramer was just putting the baby to sleep. They found her dead over the bed, and assume she died trying to protect the child. The Aurors found no trace of little Jonah."

"Is that his name? Jonah?" Laurel sat in her chair, very pale, her hands clasped in her lap.

"Jonah Kramer. Yes." Dumbledore nodded. "You know about the infiltration of the Ministry, how they report to Voldemort. We must not let them know that the little boy is alive. They took great care to re-stage the Potters' death, and I keep asking myself, why?"

"First there was the blood," Severus rose from his chair and stepped closer to the fire, glad about the opportunity to hide his mixed feelings at Dumbledore's revelations about the boy. "Malfoy said it was extremely expensive, and from my analysis I know they tried to get as close to Potter's blood as possible. But apparently this did not suffice, and so they had to try something else. Recreate a new Potter, another boy who lived."

"But … do you really think that the power Lily Potter evoked then, can be reproduced by anybody?" Laurel asked confused. Slowly the consequences of Dumbledore's words began to sink in and a warm feeling of overwhelming joy spread from her heart all over her body.

"Severus is right I am afraid," said Dumbledore and took another cookie. "Voldemort is still weak, and keeping him alive is costly. Harry told us about the ritual Pettigrew used to bring his master back to life, and from Claire and Sirius we know that the repeat the ritual, for lack of Harry's blood with something that comes as close as possible. They won't stop now that this child is out of their reach, they'll try to get a replacement for Jonah."

"But that will need time," Laurel interrupted. „Jonah is safe, and if you think we may keep him, we will be overjoyed." Taking Severus' hand, she beamed up at him. "Won't we, Severus?"

Snape closed his eyes wearily for a moment, and blew out a deep breath. "You know what this means, don't you, Laurel?"

She nodded eagerly. "He'll be our child."

"Yes, he'll be our child. But what if at some point in the future a relative shows up and claims him? Will you be able to give him up?"

"No." She looked down at the floor, and he felt her pain just as if it were his own. Helplessly he reached for her hand.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "If that occurs - and it is not very probable, 'Ill put all my weight in your favour, Severus. I promise that."

"A former Death Eater. A Muggle-raised stray witch who has only lately learned to keep her own devastating powers in control. No court would let us have Jonah, if the other side is only half-respectable."

"Do not hold yourself so low, Severus," reprimanded the Headmaster gently. "The two of you will make good parents, to this little boy or any other child that will be given to you."

* * *

"You are a real pain lately, Mr. Malfoy," Serene remarked when the blond Slytherin showed up at the circular classroom on top of the Astronomy tower for his detention.

Draco pulled his shoulders up defiantly and gave her one of the cold stares he was famous for. She could see why half of the girls in his year had a crush on him - and why the other half wanted to kill him ...

"Now this is your third detention within four weeks. Do you plan to make my life miserable?`" she asked, closing her notebook. "Don't think that I haven't got better things to do than watch you do Professor Trelawney's tea- cups."

Again she got no answer but an unsettling stare from grey eyes. She shrugged. Usually she got along just fine with most of the older students, that was why Sybill left her the older classes to teach, while she basked in the adoration of the younger, more easily to impress students.

In the past year Draco Malfoy had never caused any trouble, but this had obviously changed, as she'd heard from other teachers and knew from own experience. Dumbledore had even made this a point at the weekly staff meeting, stressing the fact that since Severus Snape had been uncovered as a spy for the light, Draco could naturally not confide in his Head of house anymore. When she took in the boys stiff posture, she felt sorry for him. It had not been easy to be a clairvoyant teenager, but it couldn't be easy to be a son to Voldemort's third in command, either. She doubted that Lucius Malfoy would give his son the opportunity to choose whether he wanted to join the Death Eaters or not.

"No, not with your wand," she remarked casually. "You know how Professor Trelawne values her china. It needs liquid soap, warm water and a gentle hand."

He scowled and picked up a cup with two fingers to drop it into the water.

"Oh, come on," exclaimed Serene, suddenly exasperated with his sulking. "It is not as if I'd demanded you wash Snape's cauldrons!"

Draco visibly relaxed at her sharp voice. Serene frowned. "Stop toying with the cups, and sit down," she commanded. When he'd dried his hands and sat in Sybill's armchair, Serene crossed her arms over her chest and studied his face carefully.

"What is going on, Malfoy?"

He sneered. "Just glad you can't keep up the sweet talking."

"The what?"

"Why am I suddenly being treated like a raw egg?" He rose and clenched his fists, red patches showing on the pale skin. "I know quite well that most teachers in this school despise me for what my father is ..." he coughed, "I mean, what he was."

"That's simply not true." Serene shook her head.

"Oh please, Professor! I am not a child anymore, I can take the truth. I am a Malfoy, I am a Slytherin. But lately everybody tries to humour me, no matter how bad my behaviour gets." He kept his eyes on his shoes as if he'd never seen them before. "Even you."

"Humour you? My dear Mr. Malfoy, the day I'll humour you will be the day the giant squib gets the position as a DADA teacher at this school."

His face lit up. "So you are not trying to be nice to me?"

Serene had troubles at keeping her face blank, when she replied gravely: "No, I won't be nice."

Sighing, Draco sat down again, and Serene perched on the edge of one of the round tables. "It's all her fault!" he muttered, staring into the cold fireplace.

Serene raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Who's fault?"

"Professor Hunter's." Draco's eyes shot flashes of unveiled anger. "She is so ... mushy. And Professor Snape ... I mean, he is supposed to be an intelligent wizard! How can he buy that? It is her fault he broke with all his friends, even with my father!"

"Mushy ..." Serene cleared her throat. "I assure you, Draco, Professor Hunter may appear mushy at times, but she is the most honest person I know. And she loves Snape." She raised her hands in a gesture of disbelieve. "Don't ask me why."

"But ..."

A knock at the ajar door interrupted them.

"Professor Kennedy. A moment of your time, please."

Draco saw with interest how his Divination teacher's face drained of every drop of blood.

"Detention is over, Mr. Malfoy," she managed, suddenly breathless.

When he scrambled to his feet, he got a glimpse of the wizard in the door. Lupin's robes were shabbier than ever - if that was possible. And he looked as if he'd just been drawn and quartered - nothing new a day after the full moon. Draco remembered how his father had blown up when the secret of their Professor's lycanthropy had been uncovered. Draco himself had been secretly disappointed. Who'd have thought that werewolves were so ... well, boring?

"Evening, Professors," he mumbled and climbed down the spiral staircase, not without overhearing Serene's first words. He chuckled and made haste to get to the Slytherin common room, to think over what he'd just heard and seen.

"You. Stupid. Bastard."

Serene's voice almost choked with anger and relief at the same time. Her mind raced. Oh, he looked terrible, a long scratch prominent on his jaw, deep shadows under his eyes, and his hair standing up in spikes. She felt the overwhelming urge to hide in his embrace, to kiss every inch of his face, to beg him never to push her into that dark pit of fear again - but instead of all that she slapped him across the face so hard his head jerked back.

Time stood still. Remus felt numb all over. She'd hit him. He'd thought about nothing but her for the last three days, her image being his guiding star back to Hogwarts, the only steady thought in a mind gone wild - and she'd hit him.

He had not taken time for a shower, nor for fresh robes or something to eat. With all his weariness, his exhaustion from the permanent fight against the beast that threatened to take over his being - he had longed for nothing but her. And she'd hit him. She'd never understand what it meant to him. That he had no choice, could not just give up his feelings, choose another woman, softer, gentler, kinder ...

Before she could strike a second time, Remus caught her wrist in mid-air. His eyes flamed up.

"Don't ever do that again," he said very softly, through gritted teeth.

"You could have told me!" she cried out and drummed her fists against his chest. "Damn you, damn you, damn you!"

With a sound that resembled a growl more than a moan he threw her into his arms.

The kiss was violent at first, almost brutal. Remus was surprisingly strong, and held her without mercy. All the pent up anger, the frustration of three years went into that kiss, and while Serene fought him at first, she ceased as soon as she understood what was going on.

She'd hit him! She'd hit the only man who'd never hurt her, had never given her a hard word. The only man she ... No, she called herself to order. It could not be, for his sake and hers, and the world they both lived in. What meant the happiness of two people compared to the lives of so many?

She'd long ago decided she would have to live without Remus' love. But how was she supposed to go on if he hated her? She had to do something, give him something to make up for the strike, and so she answered every hard assault of his lips with softness, until the kiss became what it was supposed to be - not a punishment but a caress.

The look he gave her, when he suddenly let go, was ripe with exhaustion and weariness, and something that went even deeper.

"Would it have made a difference? If I'd told you?"

When she said nothing, he shrugged and left, and let Serene stand in the middle of the room, unbidden tears streaking her face.

* * *