The first interruption came directly after Sunday lunch, just when Dumbledore was settling down to attempt the Spot the Difference on the Daily Prophet's puzzle page.
Someone had given the correct password at the outer door of Dumbledore's office.
"Professor Remus Lupin," announced the stone hippogriff that stood on a cabinet in the corner.
This was followed by the sound of footsteps on the stairs, and then a polite knock at the half-open inner door. Dumbledore waved Lupin in.
"Chocolate digestive?" he said, holding out the packet.
Lupin took one and sat down.
"I'm terribly sorry to disturb you on a Sunday afternoon, Albus," he began. "But there are a few things I need to check with you. I'm afraid I've fallen a bit behind in my lesson plans this week."
He was carrying an enormous roll of parchment, which he began to spread out on the table.
Dumbledore picked up his mug of tea and watched Lupin discreetly over the top of it. The dark shadows under Lupin's eyes were even more pronounced than usual, and his skin had a distinctly unhealthy pallor. Dumbledore knew he'd had a rather difficult transformation this month -- so bad, in fact, that he'd missed half a week of classes.
"It's good to see you back on your feet again, Remus."
"Oh yes, I'm feeling much better, thank you," Lupin said, not entirely convincingly.
He finished off his chocolate digestive, and Dumbledore immediately pressed another one on him.
"Now, these lesson plans," Lupin said around a mouthful of crumbs. "The first years are ready to encounter their first Dark Creature, I think. One of the more harmless ones, of course. Madam Hooch has been kind enough to let me use the Quidditch pitches for their lessons over the next few weeks, since learning to neutralise Stinking Skunk attacks could be somewhat unpleasant in a confined space."
"Indeed," Dumbledore said dryly. "Though I believe there's a rather important Quidditch match next week, don't forget. The students won't thank you if there are any lingering aftereffects."
"One of Madam Hooch's conditions was that I should give the pitch and stands a thorough cleaning afterwards, with the help of Filius and Pomona."
A very clever piece of negotiation on Rolanda Hooch's part, Dumbledore thought.
Lupin ran his finger down the parchment to the next item on his list.
"About the Hinkypunks I'd been using -- I've sent them back to Moldova, and now I would like to bring a colony of Kappas into the school for the third years."
[Grindelwald's voice] "Don't you think the little brats would much prefer a live demonstration of a werewolf in action?"
Dumbledore winced, even though he knew he was the only person in the room who could hear the voice.
He shot a glance at the far corner of the office, where an unobtrusive little scrap of paper was pinned to the wall, half covered by a Gobstones tournament programme and his collection of Chocolate Frogs cards. It was Gellert Grindelwald's self-portrait.
The picture was a simple quill-and-ink sketch, sent a few years earlier from the prison Gellert had himself built for his enemies. The prison where he'd spent the last fifty years in solitary confinement.
"As for the sixth years," Lupin was saying. "I'm rather concerned about Isadora Mulciber. She's clearly exposed to a worrying amount of Dark Magic at home. We're practicing defense against various scorching spells, but she's clearly already mastered the Conflagratius Curse itself."
"Ignorant prejudice," Gellert said loudly. "A very useful spell in the right hands."
Dumbledore had put the self-portrait through a whole battery of tests when he first received it. But he still didn't know how Gellert, wandless and isolated, had performed the enchantment. More worryingly, he wasn't quite sure how much of the real Gellert Grindelwald was in the portrait. It would certainly have been wiser to burn it, and yet he'd kept it. Out of nostalgia, probably, and sentimentality. Gellert himself would have said sentimentality was only for the weak-minded. But then, Gellert had always known how to take advantage of Albus' own sentiments.
Perhaps he kept the portrait because it served as a reminder of his own weakness: of the temptations of power.
Lupin had moved on to an account of how the different years were progressing.
"I'm afraid most of the classes have fallen behind a little while I was ill," he said, sounding just as guilty as Dumbledore would have expected. "Though Severus was kind enough to take over my lessons."
Gellert perked up his ears at that.
"Your pet Death Eater is teaching the Dark Arts? I thought I'd heard a rumour to that effect..."
"I expect he was rather pleased to do so," Dumbledore said, answering Lupin and not Gellert.
"Well, I was very grateful to him," Lupin said.
He did indeed sound genuinely grateful. Dumbledore had heard which topic Snape had chosen for most of the classes. Lupin didn't mention it, though, and neither did Dumbledore.
Gellert, however, had no such compunctions.
"Didn't your Death Eater give all the little brats a class on werewolves?" he said. "Or so I hear. Hmm, I wonder why that might be?"
"I tried to offer to do something for him in return," Lupin added. "But he wouldn't hear of it."
That set off Gellert's dirtiest laugh.
"Oh, I know just what you'd like to do for him, my dear Professor Lupin."
Dumbledore had been keeping an eye on Remus Lupin and Severus Snape this year. He had noted Lupin's first tentative overtures of friendship, taking a seat beside Snape at the breakfast table or in staff meetings. He'd also seen Snape's immediate, instinctive rebuffs.
Dumbledore sometimes considered simply saying to Lupin, "I know you're in love with Severus Snape, and I don't imagine you've ever told anyone about it in your life. So if you want to talk about it..."
He never did, however. Dispensing advice and words of wisdom was something of a specialty of his, but when it came to matters of the heart he felt suddenly and uncomfortably unqualified. His own record in the field was fairly dismal, after all.
[Grindelwald's voice again] "The ever-obliging Professor Snape has already got what he wanted. But your poor werewolf here is too blind to see it. I always said love was a weakness, didn't I, Albus?"
Dumbledore thought back to Severus and Remus as they had been when they were students together. At first, as far as he could tell at the time, it had been a case of young Severus sneaking glances from afar at an oblivious Remus, drawn to the Gryffindor despite himself.
But something had happened in their final year, something to make them go around the castle looking wary and ecstatic by turns.
When they left school Dumbledore had kept a closer eye on Severus than on most of his former students, having identified him as one of those at risk of being drawn to Tom Riddle -- or Voldemort, as he had already started to call himself. He knew that Severus and Remus were living in London, still in the orbit of each other's lives.
The next time he saw them together, however, was the first day of term this year.
He didn't know what had gone wrong between them. Perhaps just the obvious: the dark, indelible brand on Severus' forearm. Perhaps something much more complex, the shadow of Remus' nature and Severus' fear. Or the shadow of other loves, of Lily Evans, of Sirius Black.
Dumbledore cleared his throat.
"I'm sure Severus hasn't hidden from you the fact that he was opposed to your appointment this year, Remus," he said. "But I hope you still manage to have a decent working relationship with him."
"Thanks for your concern, Albus," Lupin said with a small smile. "But we work together just fine."
Dumbledore knew Lupin trusted him. He also knew Lupin hated to discuss anything even remotely personal, and had always preferred to present a calm, pleasant mask to the outside world. Indeed he'd always been very skilled at it, ever since he was a student. Dumbledore decided this was not the time to push him.
Lupin, it seemed, had come to the end of his list.
"That's everything, I think," he said, rolling up his parchment. "Thank you, Albus. And I do apologise for disturbing your Sunday afternoon."
Lupin took his duties as an educator very seriously indeed, and came to consult Dumbledore more often than any other teacher except Hagrid. Dumbledore often wished some of the older and more experienced staff would follow their example.
"Any time," he reassured him. "Don't hesitate to drop by."
The office was silent after Lupin left, except for the sound of [maybe you'd like to add something here, depending on which sounds you can or would like to do: maybe the instruments whirring and emitting puffs of smoke, or the newspaper talking?]
Dumbledore looked across the room, but Gellert Grindelwald had disappeared into the frame so that only the tip of his hat was showing.
Dumbledore allowed himself the indulgence of a long, exasperated sigh.
He and Gellert corresponded, occasionally. Or rather, Dumbledore sent polite, carefully neutral enquiries after Gellert's health once per year, in a Christmas card.
Gellert sent him an irregularly spaced, mixed sequence of vitriolic attacks, witty intellectual exercises and passionate reminiscences bordering on erotica. He also seemed to have taken up art, insofar as he could with limited supplies, and Dumbledore had received some rather good sketches of the view from Gellert's prison window.
The first few years, Gellert had concentrated on a tiny sapling on the facing hillside. Over the years, the sketches had grown more pensive, and somber to the point of sinister. The tiny sapling was now a giant oak tree.
The self-portrait had arrived some ten years ago. Dumbledore hadn't seen Grindelwald in person for decades, and he had no idea if it was an accurate reflection of how he looked now. He had always been rather vain about his looks, but here, he had drawn himself with sunken cheeks and tired, hollow eyes.
He thought of the first time he met Gellert, at his aunt's house. They had spent the entire evening talking to each other to the exclusion of all other company, hardly able to credit that they'd each found a kindred soul.
The he thought of the last time he saw Gellert, lying broken and beaten at his feet, waiting to be killed by a curse from the Elder Wand.
Dumbledore took a deep breath, and poured himself another cup of tea.
No point raking over the past, he told himself firmly.
He settled down more comfortably in his armchair, and moved on from Spot the Difference to the Whizzing Wordsearch.
[Quill scratching. Newspaper falling. Silence. Snoring.]
[Same chiming noise as before.]
"Professor Severus Snape," the stone hippogriff announced.
Dumbledore came to with a start. He just had time to straighten his hat and brush a few biscuit crumbs from his beard before Snape arrived at the top of the stairs.
"I'd like a word, headmaster," he said abruptly.
He refused the offer of a chocolate digestive, and launched immediately into the reason for his visit.
"I believe Lupin should be locked up somewhere secure during his transformations. The dungeons, for example."
"Remus locks his own office door," Dumbledore pointed out.
"The Wolfsbane potion was clearly less effective this month. Lupin was incapacitated for several days, and reported symptoms of increased pain and lingering aches."
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows.
"If I understood correctly, however, there was no lessening in the potion's primary effect, which is to allow him to keep his own mind during the transformation."
Snape rode straight over that.
"The potion is a very recent invention, and we know very little about it. It may in fact become less effective over time, if taken regularly."
Dumbledore sat back, put his fingertips together, and considered things for a moment.
This year had been a difficult one for Snape, with Lupin at Hogwarts and Sirius Black on the loose -- the man who was responsible for the death of Lily Evans. It pained Dumbledore to think of Sirius, who had been one of the bright lights of his generation at Hogwarts. He knew, however, that Severus Snape had always harboured very different feelings towards the man. To complicate matters further, Dumbledore knew Snape was quite convinced Lupin was secretly helping Black from inside the school.
Ironically enough, there were other teachers who had insinuated that Black's man on the inside at Hogwarts must surely be Snape, the known Death Eater. Dumbledore had been having a complicated year of it.
He looked up at Snape, who was waiting impatiently for his answer.
"Remus may be having a more difficult time of it physically," Dumbledore said finally, "but as long as he keeps his own mind during transformations, he's no danger to others. And there's no evidence that the potion's effect on his mind is decreasing, is there?"
"No," Snape said reluctantly. "But we can't be sure... I fail to see why the whole school should be put at risk, just to avoid hurting Lupin's feelings."
"Have you spoken to Remus about this?"
"Of course. You know I interrogate him each month on his symptoms, as part of my research."
"No, I meant, have you asked him whether he feels he should be locked up in the dungeons?"
Snape blanched. It was clear he felt he'd been caught in a moment of cowardice, going over Lupin's head to Dumbledore. Dumbledore knew he avoided speaking to Lupin about anything outside the necessary.
However, Dumbledore had no intention of mentioning the idea to Lupin, the ever guilty and self-sacrificing, who would certainly agree.
"In any case, it's my decision that things should remain as they are now," he said. "Remus will stay in his office each full moon. All right?"
Snape's lip twisted, almost imperceptibly, but he nodded in acknowledgement.
"And Severus? If you have to teach Remus' classes again some time, I would prefer you chose a different topic."
Snape's mouth narrowed into a thinner line than before, but he said nothing, just nodded tightly again.
"You ask a lot of that boy," Gellert said. "Always pushing him. Someday he'll crack."
Dumbledore didn't think so, though he sometimes felt Snape's loyalty to him was entirely undeserved.
And he would draw on that bottomless well again soon, he knew. It was only a matter of time before Tom Riddle managed to return, and then he would be asking Snape to risk his life again in Voldemort's ranks.
"Will that be all, headmaster?" Snape said tightly.
Dumbledore gave him a sad smile.
"That will be all, Severus."
They were still so young, Remus and Severus, Dumbledore thought once he was alone again. How much time did they have ahead of them? He and Gellert had spent almost a century at odds, and for them there would be no reconciliation.
It wasn't quite Christmas yet, but Dumbledore pulled out a sheet of parchment, and began to write his yearly letter.