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Remus felt the ground shake beneath his feet, and then it split, and he fell through a chasm of earth and time. He reached for something that could stay his landing a little longer but there was only emptiness around him.
Still he flailed, hoping to grasp a ledge or a handhold of some sort, because he was far too young to die. There was so much he had to do-he was only twenty, and already he was doomed to die in a magical duel. His hands touched a vacuum with no air, and he was alone in a darkness so thick it stole the breath from his lungs.
If only he could find something...but there was nothing. Only nothingness.
Finally, reluctantly, Remus accepted his fate.
There was nothing left for him to do.
After realizing this, a peaceful clarity of mind came over him. It was soothing, somehow, and he thought over everything his life had contained until this moment. He wouldn't say his life flashed before his eyes, but rather he searched his memories, looking for assurance that he'd at least done something worthy with the twenty years he'd been given.
He considered his parents.
Hope and Lyall Lupin were good people, even with the fear that permeated through his childhood. Each month as the full moon approached the lines on their faces drew deeper and he learned to fear himself. But they'd loved him, and he could be grateful for that, even though he wished he'd been the son they wanted. He'd have liked to be good enough for them.
Remus thought next of his friends-especially the three that had stuck so close to him he'd lost sight of where he ended and they began. The Marauders, a secret name they passed amongst each other with secret names and secret traditions. And the greatest secret of all, their gift to him: four years and seven months ago (fifty five full moons ago) when the three of them became Animagi and never let him transform alone again.
There was Lily, the girl he'd fancied in fourth year, the one James had married. She'd given birth to a baby boy this last summer and the new family had gone into hiding, and he regretted not saying goodbye to them. He'd have liked to see little Harry grow up into the kind of man his parents could be proud of.
Mary MacDonald, the plucky sidekick to Lily's fiesty self in school. Kingsley Shacklebolt, or Shack as he'd gone by, the prefect he'd made friends with during corridor checks in Hogwarts. Shack was an Auror-in-training now... Then there was Forrest Hancock, his contemplative flatmate. Benjy Fenwick, his partner in the Order of the Phoenix. His apologies to Benjy for leaving him alone in this battle.
Oh...and Dorcas Meadowes. That was right. The intrepid Order member and Auror he'd nearly dated before chickening out. She was lovely and smart and he should have gone for it. Perhaps he'd have fallen in love with her in time, if he wasn't so afraid.
That was certainly his regret. For every person he'd let into his life, Remus had pushed three more away. Especially when it came to letting himself be happy. James always said the right girl wouldn't care if Remus was a werewolf or not but he'd never, ever listened, not really. If he had, if he'd taken the chance before falling through this nothingness, would he regret ending things this way more or less?
In all other things, Remus thought contentedly (at least, as content as a free-falling, dying man could be), he had done a fair job at life. He'd joined up for a noble cause, he'd had some of the best friends he could have hoped for, and…he hadn't killed anyone as a werewolf.
Well, as far as regrets went, it was a small matter. If there was someone out there who could love him, she-or he, possibly-would find someone else far more worthy than Remus Lupin.
It was alright.
Then, quite suddenly, he wasn't falling anymore. Remus was on his back, and the sun shone in his eyes.
He threw up a hand to block the brightness and glanced around.
Strange...he was in exactly the spot he'd been in before when the chasm had opened. More specifically, he was right in front of Zonko's Joke Shop in Hogsmeade, the store windows shining happily in the sunlight. But they weren't shining before he fell.
In fact, Hogsmeade was a completely different place. For one, there were no scores of Death Eaters and Aurors (with Order members mixed in), fighting furiously in the snow-covered streets and destroying everything sacred in the little town. The sky was early morning blue, not overcast with dark magic. The windows weren't boarded up and out of business, they were proudly displaying merchandise. He hadn't seen Hogsmeade like this in...well, he never had. The war had started before he'd ever visited the town as a third year.
Remus got to his feet, brushing dust from his tattered and bloody robes. He looked one way and the other. He glanced all around him, wand firmly in hand as it had been all that long fall. There were no people about but the air was welcoming and warm. Remus, his cuts from the duel still bleeding and his ribs crying out, did not belong here.
"Breathe," he instructed himself firmly. "Focus, Lupin."
Slowly, much slower than he'd like, his mind sorted through all the things he should do.
First, and foremost, he should find Dumbledore. Unless he was in a parallel world (and even then, he suspected nothing could shake Dumbledore), the old and powerful wizard would elect to remain at Hogwarts, defending the students and the world's future as he always did. Whatever was going on, Albus Dumbledore would solve it.
The path was familiar, and Remus set off towards the castle with a single-minded determination.
7/9/14 -minor revisions to the story! Since I'm planning to release the third chapter in October, I want the writing style here to match the growth I've achieved in the past four years. Chapters one and two will also go through revisions.
Many thanks to everyone who's kept up an interest in "Five" despite the long wait! Your enthusiasm has maintained my interest in this behemoth of a project.