The 'It's Open To Interpretation' Competition – 'Sound the Bugle' by Bryan Adams from the soundtrack to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Disney Character Competition – Simba, write about Remus

Book Thief Challenge – "They'd been standing like that for thirty seconds of forever."

Page 394 Quote Challenge – "The words were forced from him."

Sound the Bugle.

Remus was weary, wearier than anyone should be. He eased himself down into the solitary armchair in the room, a piece of furniture that looked so old and battered it seemed unfeasible that it could support even Remus's slight frame. Nevertheless it did and he sagged back into it, groaning as his myriad of injuries flared up and reminded him of their presence.

The full moon was always brutal but last night seemed worse for some reason. His gaze fell on yesterday's Daily Prophet that was still out on the slightly lopsided table and the unnaturally blank gaze of Sirius Black stared back at him

Oh no he knew exactly why last night had been quite so hard. The news of Sirius's escape from Azkaban had stirred up all sorts of unwelcome thoughts and emotions, not just in Remus himself but also in Moony. Of course he was hit all over again by the grief of losing James, Lily and Peter, and the sense of horror that Sirius could do such a thing. And then there was the anger that he was out. A lifetime in Azkaban was supposed to be his punishment for the despicable acts that he'd done, not that anything could really be punishment enough for that, and yet somehow he'd managed to do the unthinkable and escape.

But that wasn't all. Remus was plagued by another emotion that he was loath to admit, even to himself. Longing. He'd been alone for so long, having to hide his condition from everyone, moving along every time someone got suspicious, and forced to endure the torture of the transformations alone every month. So knowing that Sirius was out of Azkaban was almost too much to bear. Remus didn't want him hiding away from the world in some hovel somewhere. He wanted him right there helping him through everything and being the same headstrong, bullish idiot with a heart of gold that he'd been at Hogwarts. He wanted his friend back. But that wasn't going to happen. Those days were gone.

Shifting slightly in his chair Remus winced at the pain. The potion he'd taken for the pain had managed to lessen it slightly but even that was more than he'd expected from it. He was under no illusions about the quality, or rather lack of, of it but it had been all he could afford.

What was the point of it all anymore? He couldn't help but wonder this as he looked about the dilapidated cottage in disgust. His was a poor excuse for a life, if it could even be called a life. No real home, no friends or family, no hope for the future. It would be so easy to simply end it all and no-one would care or be any the wiser. He gradually became aware that he'd pulled his wand out of his pocket and was twirling it slowly between his fingers. So very, very easy.

Three sharp knocks on the front door rang out loudly in the silent cottage and, startled, Remus's wand fell to the floor. Nobody had ever come to his door before. Nobody knew who he was or that anybody even lived there.

He waited, expecting them to leave, but the knock came again and then again. Remus dragged himself out of the chair, picking up his wand as he did so. As he reached the door the knock sounded yet again. Whoever they were they were persistent.

He opened the door slightly, his wand clasped tightly in his hand, and stared out into the face of Albus Dumbledore.

"Ah Remus my boy," said Dumbledore. "I must say you're a hard man to track down."

Remus's hold on the door went slack and it swung open confirming that he wasn't seeing things. Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts and head of the Order of the Phoenix, whom Remus hadn't seen for over ten years, was standing at his door.

There was silence as the two men stared at each other. They simply stood there for what could have only been about thirty seconds but for Remus each one felt like an eternity as he scrambled for something to say.

Then Dumbledore spoke.

"Ah yes, we can't be too careful, even in this time of peace."

Remus stared back confused but not entirely surprised that Dumbledore was as cryptic as ever before realising that his wand was still pointed directly at the man. He quickly lowered his wand and stepped backwards.

"Sorry sir," he said, feeling like he had reverted back to a schoolboy. "Please come in."

His blue eyes twinkling merrily Dumbledore stepped inside. Remus had grown used to the sparsely furnished, rundown cottage that was his current home but as he looked around the living room again and imagined how Dumbledore must be seeing it he felt the shame burning his cheeks. He didn't even have a second chair.

"It's, well I know it's not much…" he began but Dumbledore cut him off with a wave of his hand and a gentle smile.

"Not to worry Remus."

With an intricate wave of his wand Remus's shabby chair and table vanished and in their place were two incredibly comfy looking chairs with a table in between them. The table was topped with a tray of tea things and an array of plates of sandwiches, biscuits and cakes, far too many things for just the two of them.

"Courtesy of the Hogwarts House Elves, one of the perks of being headmaster. Shall we sit down?"

Dumbledore's tone was light but Remus didn't miss the concern in his gaze. Then again he was aware of just how terrible he must look right now and given that he was beginning to shake from the effort of standing for so long he sunk gratefully into one of the chairs, relishing the soft comfort of it.

Dumbledore eyed the table of food in between them.

"Ah it seems the elves were a bit overzealous with the food. They do find themselves at a bit of a loss during the summer holidays and jump to even the simplest of requests with all the enthusiasm of a Niffler searching for gold. I suppose there are only so many times an empty castle needs to be cleaned. Well shall we eat?"

And with that Dumbledore began assembling a plate of food for himself. Remus watched him blankly for a few moments before regaining some of his wits. He knew the kitchen cupboards were verging on empty so he wasn't going to say no to the food in front of him.

"I don't mean to be rude sir," he said, as he picked up a beef and mustard sandwich. "But why are you here? You implied you've been searching for me."

"I'm actually here to ask a favour of you," Dumbledore began. His gaze fell on the Daily Prophet which had fallen to the floor during the table change and his expression grew solemn. "So you've seen it?"

Remus followed Dumbledore's gaze and the sandwich stuck in his throat. He nodded.

"An extraordinary business," Dumbledore said, staring intently at the photograph.

Remus nodded again. Dumbledore looked back up and Remus found himself caught in the older man's gaze, unable to look away. He was suddenly struck with the disconcerting feeling that Dumbledore knew how low he had fallen, what he'd been feeling this afternoon, what he'd almost done. And yet there was no judgement or scorn in his eyes just compassion.

"But that's not why I'm here," said Dumbledore, taking a sip of his tea. "As I said I must ask a favour of you. Hogwarts is in need of a new Defence Against the Arts professor and I was rather hoping you would take the job."

Once again Remus was astounded. Of all the things Dumbledore could have asked he'd never have imagined that as a possibility. Go back to Hogwarts? As a professor? His friends had always joked that he'd make an excellent professor one day, although he'd never actually been sure whether they meant that as a compliment or an insult. But he'd always thought the very idea that a head teacher would even want him to be a teacher at their school was laughable. Then again when he was a child he'd thought the idea that a head teacher would want him as a student at their school was laughable but then Dumbledore had come along and changed all that.

Suddenly every fibre in his being was on edge with a longing to return to Hogwarts. But no! He mentally shook himself before that dream could take root. Going back to Hogwarts wouldn't change what had happened, he'd be returning to the location of those happy teenage years but not the circumstances. And even if Dumbledore was happy to have him there no parent would want their child taught by a werewolf. It could never happen. He had to follow his head not his heart.

"I'm very grateful that you asked," he said slowly, the words were forced from him and it was almost painful to say them. "But I can't accept. I'm sorry."

Dumbledore smiled, which was not the reaction Remus was expecting, and put his teacup back down onto its' saucer.

"I must admit," he began, "I rather expected you to say no initially but I want to assure you I've thought this through."

Remus had no doubt that he had but he almost didn't want to hear Dumbledore's reasoning. He was only hanging onto his refusal by the barest of threads as it was and it wouldn't take much for it to slip through his fingers completely even though he knew full well that no good could come of him accepting a job like that. A lifetime of heartache and moving on every few months had taught him that. Head not heart.

Nevertheless Dumbledore continued to talk.

"You've heard of the Wolfsbane Potion of course? Well our Potions Master would be only too happy to keep you supplied with the potion allowing you to spend Full Moon safely in your office posing no danger to anybody in the castle. Then there is also the fact that I strongly believe that you have the wisdom, patience and understanding to make you an outstanding professor and all your old professors who remain at Hogwarts share my opinion."

Remus couldn't help the hope that began to bubble up inside him, in fact he welcomed it. It warmed him and strengthened him in a way he'd not felt for a long time. And then, as if he'd been saving it until the end, Dumbledore said the one thing that truly made his resolve crumble.

"You'd get to see and teach Harry."

Harry.

Remus had done his utmost not to think about Harry over the last decade or so after his attempts to find him after James and Lily's death were quickly shut down by the Ministry. That's not to say he hadn't ever thought of him, Harry had often found his way into Remus' thoughts but he was always accompanied by a sense of shame and guilt at letting both him and his parents down in more ways than one.

"He'll be entering his third year."

Remus didn't realise he had spoken that out loud until Dumbledore replied.

"Yes. A most remarkable young man with an exceptional aptitude for Quidditch and attracting trouble," he said. "He's already dealt with experiences many grown wizards could not have coped with and yet he's faced it with courage and wisdom."

Dumbledore's voice dropped as if he was simply saying his thoughts aloud by accident. "And I fear there may be worse things ahead of him that none of us could even imagine."

"What?" Remus was startled at the ominous turn the conversation had taken.

Dumbledore sighed and Remus was struck with the inexorable fact that he was an old man. It was easy to forget that most of the time as there was something so eternal and tireless about Dumbledore but suddenly that had slipped away.

"Forgive me Remus, I didn't mean to worry you. Just a feeling of mine that's begun to grow. The Wizarding World as a whole is on the cusp of something, the repercussions of which will be felt for a long time and I fear Harry will find himself in the centre of it. But as for what we are on the cusp of, alas that seems to be hidden until time itself decides to reveal it to us all."

The pair were silent for a few moments, Dumbledore seemingly lost in thought and Remus simply shocked into speechlessness. Eventually Dumbledore drew himself from his reverie and the sense of age and fragility fell from him.

"So will you take the job Remus?"

Remus took a deep breath. "I will."

"Excellent." Dumbledore stood up. "I'm sure you remember that term starts on the first of September but you are welcome to arrive at Hogwarts at any time before then. It might do the House Elves some good to have somebody to fuss over."

As Remus followed him to the door he became aware that he was walking like a new man, he could hardly feel his injuries, and the deep despondence he'd felt just a short while ago was barely even a memory anymore.

At the doorway they paused.

"Thank you," said Remus.

Dumbledore chuckled. "Perhaps you should save your thanks and see if you still feel that way at the end of your first week. You of all people should know how much trouble students can make. However I have no doubt you'll rise to the challenge."

And with that he walked down the path and Disapparated.

Remus closed the door with a weak laugh and saw that the table full of food was still sat in his living room. His stomach rumbled. Well it would be a shame to let good food go to waste.