Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
AN: This idea just sort of came to me while I was laying in bed this morning. Hope you enjoy it! It's a oneshot. :)
Recognition, Chapter One
"Do you think we should wake him up?" Ron asked awkwardly, looking sideways at the sleeping man. His face was turned away from them, breath fogging the glass and obscuring any possible reflection of his face. Hermione approached the seemingly comatose man.
"Er - professor? Excuse me, professor -" He didn't budge. The trolley witch shook her head and clucked sympathetically, as if she knew something they didn't.
"Don't worry, dears," she said. "If he's hungry when he wakes up, I'll be up front." And with that, she slid the compartment door shut, and continued on her way, pushing the clattering trolley in front of her. Ron looked rather worried for the man.
"He is asleep," He asked uncertainly, seeming to refrain from poking him. "I mean - he's not dead, right?" Harry and Hermione sorted simultaneously, but it was Hermione who spoke first, correcting Ron.
"Don't be silly, Ronald." She said rather imperiously. "Can't you see he's breathing?" She nodded towards the fogged glass. Ron colored, and bent his head over a Cauldron Cake Harry had passed him. He broke off a large piece, and shoved it into his mouth without ceremony. Harry rolled his eyes at his friends' antics, and unwrapped his cake.
They had almost forgotten the sleeping wizard in the compartment until, about thirty minutes after they had bought their sweets, Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle turned up. They sneering at them as they slid open the glass door, Malfoy holding his wand aloft - pointed in their general direction.
"Well." He said. "If it isn't the Potty, the Weasel, and a Mudblood. No wonder this car stinks." Ron stood up immediately, forgetting that his wand was somewhere buried in a pocket of his trunk. Harry stood too, though he managed to contain his anger.
Malfoy, though, didn't seem to see the signs of their anger, and continued to speak condescendingly. "So. Weasel. I heard your family finally got their filthy, peasant hands on some gold earlier this summer. Did your mother die of shock?" Malfoy mimed a dramatic rendition of a heart attack, Crabbe and Goyle chucking trollishly behind him. Ron had turned a shade of deep magenta which clashed horribly with his bright red hair.
"Shut up, Malfoy." Harry said cooly, raising a hand and grabbing Ron's arm - which he had raised to hit the three boys. Malfoy narrowed his eyes, and looked around their car. For the first time, he noticed Professor R. J. Lupin, who still sleeping heavily in the corner. Malfoy started, but still managed to look disdainful.
"Who's that?" He asked rudely, pointing one spidery finger at the greying professor. Sensing that he had found a weapon, Harry answered,
"New teacher. Now, what were you saying, Malfoy?" The Slytherin took a small step back, tightening his fists. But no matter how little he showed it, even he was not stupid enough to start a fight in front of a teacher. Crabbe and Goyle seemed to think the same.
As his beefy face scrunched with indecision, Goyle scratched his head - increasing his already substantial likeness to an unusually ugly gorilla. Goyle, it seemed, had managed to grow a thin mustache over the summer, and it covered his upper lip like a malformed leech. It seemed to wriggle as his face contorted.
"C'mon," Malfoy said, and he stepped out of sight, the two other boys trailing after him. Harry and Ron sat down again, Ron attempting (unsuccessfully) to crack his knuckles with menace.
"I swear," he began, "I'm not going to take any crap from Malfoy this year! And I mean it this time! If he makes fun of my family one more time-" Ron mimed a punch angrily. Hermione, though she looked amused at Ron's threat, whispered:
"Ron! Be careful!" She gestured at the (still sleeping) professor with her head. As if he knew they were speaking about him, he gave a small snort and rolled slightly over to the side so he was facing the backrest of the chairs. Ron didn't look convinced, clearly having lost his fear that he would awaken at the precise moment when he was saying something incriminating.
"He's sleeping, isn't he?" Hermione stiffened, and sighed long-sufferingly.
"Yes, he is, but that doesn't mean he'll stay that way!"
"Hermione, he's been dead asleep for a good three hours! I doubt he's going to wake from me talking." Hermione retorted vehemently, but Harry had managed to drown out their bickering. He was, depressingly, used to it by now. He stared meditatively out the window towards the dimming countryside. The sun was setting on the other side of the car, but it was obvious that it would be barely a minute or two until the scenery was enveloped in darkness.
Fields of crops, lakes, and the occasional summer cottage flew by as the Hogwarts Express sped towards it's destination with impossible speed. Hermione had fallen asleep, her head resting on an unhappy-looking Ron, who was apparently debating whether or not to wake her up. Harry was tired, but couldn't seem to be able to fall asleep. He gave an annoyed look at the barely snoring professor opposite him, wishing he had the man's apparent gift of deep sleep. He had the all-too-familiar feeling that he was missing something. Or perhaps it was anticipation for some unforeseen event.
For the first time since he'd finished his explanation to Ron and Hermione, he allowed his thoughts to rest of Sirius Black. Sirius Black. He knew it shouldn't, but somehow, the name seemed to resonate nicely - even familiarly - in his head. But he couldn't think that. The man was trying to kill him!
But why me? He snorted to himself. That was a stupid question. When was it not me?
Sometimes, he felt as if he had been chosen to be a game of fates. First he was a wizard, then a wizard famous for something he didn't even remember. Then he prevented an evil wizard from rising (via use of a stone, of all things) and proceeded to kill a basilisk. Was it really too much of a surprise that someone was trying to kill him? Again?
As Harry continued on that unhappy train of thought, he watched his surroundings get darker, and darker. He frowned. It seemed like that had happened awfully fast. Was it supposed to go from light, to pitch black in just two minutes? He didn't think so. But then again, he'd never really had time to watch the sunset at the Dursleys.
He only knew something was wrong for certain when the train screeched to a halt in unusual haste. Hermione had woken up, and was looking rather embarrassed and annoyed with her choice of headrest.
"Are we there already?" She asked, smoothing her robes. Doubt it, Harry thought.
"No," Ron said, frowning. "You haven't been asleep that long. We should still have a little more than an hour..." he trailed off, not needing to continue. In a sudden flash, all the train's lights went out, somehow simultaneously managing to envelope the train in icy cold.
"W-What's going on?" Hermione asked in a shaky voice. She knocked against Harry's side as she attempted to reach the compartment door and tripped over her luggage.
"Harry! Hermione!" Ron said worriedly. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine..." They head the grinding sound of the opening slide door. Harry, though nervous, spoke first.
"Who's there?" He asked, and a familiar male voice responded.
"It's me - Neville." There was a sudden 'oof!' as Neville apparently tried to sit down on a seat where Hermione had stationed herself. "Sorry, Hermione," he said apologetically. Harry felt his way back to his seat, and sat down. He turned towards the window next to him, and his hand squeaked against the icy glass as he wiped it off, looking out. Outside, there were several moving figures; tall and dark.
"There's somebody, or something, getting on the train - a few of them," Harry reported in a hushed voice. The other occupants of the car quieted, shifting uncomfortably.
"Who do you think it is, more students?"
"No, there's never been more stops before, they would have warned us..."
"Hey guys, what's going on?"
"Hey! That's my foot, be careful!"
"Geez, just move your foot, Ron!"
"Why should I-"
"Quiet!" A rasping voice interrupted the bickering of Ginny, Ron and Hermione. Harry turned around just in time to see a bright flame appear in the - now awoken and standing - professor's hand. This was the first time he had really seen the man's face in full.
Lupin had gray-flecked brown hair, golden-amber eyes, and multiple scars of varying age on his forearms and face. Harry could tell that he was younger than he looked. His face was lined, but unlike Dumbledore or McGonagall it was lined with stress. He could detect a few old smile lines at the corners of his mouth, but it was obvious they were old.
Harry was about to forget it, and continue his thought process back to the problem at hand (the blackout) when R. J. Lupin did something curious, though to anyone else it would seem unnoticeable. He turned his head slightly to the left, cracking it with a tiny 'pop!'. Then, he reached his right (and flame-less) hand up to the stretched part of his neck, and pushed against the skin rather roughly.
Harry blinked. That motion... But what was he thinking. He had never seen this man before. He was just imagining things. To affirm his thoughts, he looked up at Lupin's face again - this time more closely. Mentally, he erased many years of stress, toil, and poverty. What remained was... Harry's eyes widened monumentally, his throat closing - his heart expanding in his chest. He gulped, which reopened his throat, but refused to still his heavily beating heart.
Harry opened his mouth, but it was too dry to speak. As the man turned towards him, looking haunted, Harry began to have a flashback which he had tried so hard to forget...
A four-year-old Harry sobbed noiselessly, his cries silenced by a thin, worn blanket pressed to his mouth - muffling his voice. He knew all too well that, despite their own roaring snores, the Dursleys were surprisingly light sleepers when it came to noises outside their room. Uncle Vernon wouldn't be happy if Harry woke him up. Harry shivered in terror at the thought of his glaring uncle looking down into his cupboard at him.
No, he wouldn't be happy at all.
Why do I have to have these dreams? He wondered blankly, once his crying had finally ceased. It's not fair. Dudley has uncle and auntie, and I barely have dream-people. Harry shook away those thoughts. Though he wished fervently that his dream-family could be real, but he knew it could never be true. Plus, they were all too strange to be real. Who had names like "Padfoot," or "Moony," and carried sticks that could shoot beams everywhere?
Besides, he admitted to himself, It's not really a normal family at all. Harry had always wanted a big family - a mother, father, cousins, even aunts and uncles - if they weren't Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, that is. In his dreams, he always had a mother with red hair and pretty green eyes, and a tall father with unruly (whatever that meant - he had heard Aunt Petunia call his hair that many times, and liked to imagine that his father's hair would be the same) black hair, and a wide, mischievous smile.
But I can't forget my uncles, the small boy thought, smiling weakly. All three of them! His smile grew ever-so-slightly larger. In his dreams, there was rarely a time when Uncle Padfoot, Uncle Moony, and his third uncle weren't around. His smile wilted a bit. He always felt bad for the third uncle - he always seemed so busy, having to be away all the time, and he could never remember his name. Harry hoped he had a strange name like Uncle Padfoot and Uncle Moony.
But Harry did have to admit to himself that he liked Paddy and Moony better than the third dream-man; the third man was never as nice, and he rarely even smiled at Harry.
But even if he was unsure about the third uncle, he definitely loved Padfoot and Moony. Padfoot was most like his father of the two. He was tall, tanned, and had long black hair. Harry's dreams often starred his father and Padfoot doing something funny (often for the amusement of Harry himself) and getting half-heartedly scolded by his mother.
Moony, however, may have been his favorite of his three uncles - not that he'd admit that even to himself. He loved Padfoot (as much as you could love an imaginary person) very much, but it was always Moony who was patient enough to read to him, to carry him outdoors to watch as his mum, dad, and Padfoot flew through the air on strange sticks, throwing balls to each other. It was always Moony who was a light enough sleeper to wake when he cried even a little bit at night; not Padfoot, or even his parents, all of whom he assumed to be deep sleepers.
The four-year-old allowed his thoughts to wander back to his parents. Like the third uncle (as Harry liked to think of him as) he could never remember their names - though he longed to know them many times more.
Harry lay back on the thin, lumpy mattress in the cupboard under the stairs with a smile on his face; thinking of them. His father would be wild, and mischievous - but loyal and kind. His mother, as he knew (from books) all good mothers were, would be loving and kind - though occasionally strict.
He wondered idly what Aunt Petunia would say if he told her about his dream-parents. He had always been too afraid to ask about his real ones, beyond a short explanation by his uncle. He recalled rather unhappily what Vernon had told him:
"They were unemployed! Worthless, uneducated drunks that went and got themselves killed by their own stupidity! Now don't ask questions, idiot brat!"
He blinked quickly, trying not to start crying again. He didn't really know what 'drunk' or 'uneducated' meant, but he'd heard his uncle call people (usually homeless people, and door-to-door salesmen) these words before, and he knew they weren't good.
He knew, also, deep in his heart, that they were right. The parents of a freak like him wouldn't be so nice as his dream-parents were. Harry swallowed thickly. His throat felt swollen with the effort to remain silent.
It wouldn't help anything to keep fantasizing like this. The three things his guardians hated the most were Harry, unnatural things, and questions. Harry didn't doubt that this subject - encompassing all three categories - would bring forth their wrath.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut, but a loud, wet sob had left his lips before he'd had time to cover it with his blanket - now bunched around his feet. The high, prepubescent sob seemed to echo loudly in the house.
Harry froze, sitting stock still and upright on his bed. For a second, it seemed nothing had happened. No noise was in the house. Harry began to relax. Then:
"BOY!" Came a loud, masculine voice from above him. Harry scooted back into the corner of his cupboard, terrified out of his mind. The slow, but stair-shaking footsteps of his uncle began descending the staircase above his head, causing sawdust to fall down onto Harry's hunched form.
It was only a second before the door was wrenched open, revealing his uncle's piggy face, small eyes, and thick (and sleep-mussed, strangely) mustache. A gigantic - by Harry's point of view - beefy hand grabbed him by his upper arm. His uncles fingers easily wrapped around his arm, squeezing it tightly until Harry felt something break. He whimpered, curling up into a ball.
The last thing he saw was the red-rimmed eyes and descending hand of his uncle before his whole world returned to black.
It wasn't possible. This... man in front of him simply didn't exist. He was a character of Harry's dreams as a child. Not a defense professor at a school of magic. The man looked at Harry for a long moment, drinking him in like a dehydrated man would a bottle of cool, fresh spring water.
It was almost against Harry's own will that he spoke; his voice barely above a whisper.
"M-Moony?" His voice should have been too low to hear. Even Neville, who was sitting directly next to him didn't hear - and Moony... no. The professor was a good eight feet from him.
But, nonetheless, the reaction was instantaneous. The man's eyes widened into unprecedented size, and mouth hanging open in shock. The flame went out in his hand, once again enveloping the car in darkness. Ron, who had finally returned to his senses, lit his wand (which he had retrieved from his trunk) with a startled, Lumos charm.
Hermione gave a small 'yip!' surprise as the man collapsed right next to her; almost onto her lap; sitting bonelessly - barely conscious from shock. He stared at Harry as if seeing a ghost (though Harry doubted this was the right expression - most of the wizarding population had seem a ghost at some time or other) and Harry didn't look much different. Wide-eyed, weak-kneed, and utterly astonished.
"B-But," the man stuttered helplessly. "You were only o-one year old..." Besides the graying professor (Not Moony! Harry reminded himself) and the practically incapacitated Harry, no one else in their compartment breathed a word, not understanding what was going on. Hell, nobody understood what was going on.
"How?" asked the Boy Who Lived, still staring at R. J. Lupin's now familiar golden-amber eyes. Moony's eyes. "You're... you're only... only a dream. Y-you're not real... only a dream..." The shocked professor had no response to this, still staring at Harry. After almost a minute of silence, (none of Harry's friends dared end the silence, despite their curiosity of the two males' apparent connection, and fear of the newest occupants of the train) Harry straightened up, attempting to compose himself.
"I'm sorry, professor. I thought... you..." he trailed off uncertainly, then cleared his throat and started a different way. "You... resemble someone I knew from a childhood dream." He looked down at his feet rather bitterly, this time speaking under his breath, talking more to himself than anyone else. "You can't be my uncle Moony."
But once again, somehow, the professor seemed to have heard him. He slumped further into his seat, still staring unseeingly at Harry, his eyes widening even more.
Then, Lupin spoke directly to Harry for the first time, "It's... it's fine, Har-" he broke off. "Mr. Potter." It looked as if saying those two words pained him, and his eyes clouded for a second. But at those two words - if 'Mr.' was a word - Harry felt himself break inside.
He would know that voice anywhere. How he had failed to recognize it when the professor first spoke, he didn't know. Harry had dreamed of being read to by that exact voice countless times. Maybe even hundreds. It was impossible for him not to recognize it. Harry collapsed, to his friend's great alarm. They bunched around him, checking to see if he was alright.
Harry felt energy-less, as if someone had sucked all the strength out of him in the space of a few seconds. His eyes looked unseeingly at the legs of the comfortable train-chairs, which were now at his eye level.
It's him. Harry thought in a burst of certainty. I don't know how, and I don't know why, but this is really my uncle Moony, invented character or not.
Harry barely noticed when a cold, dark feeling washed over him, he was so astounded. Even as he fell, almost unconscious, a small smile crept over his features.
A/N: Hey guys! So... how'd you like it? Depending on your reaction (positive or negative) I may or may not make this more than just a oneshot. So, if you do want me to continue - review/message me saying so.