Disclaimer: As much as I covet all things Harry Potter, I must give credit to the great mind behind the story, names, and characters: J.K. Rowling. Also, to avoid litigation problems, credit is also due to the distributors Scholastic, Inc. and Warner Brothers. If anyone else takes credit for Harry Potter, then I very politely suggest they shove it.

Five

Prologue

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 empty space 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.

Finally, reluctantly, Remus accepted his fate. There was nothing he could do.

After realizing this depressing but undeniable fact, Remus had a clarity of mind that he'd never reached before. He thought over everything in his life, not because he saw it flashing before his eyes, but because he wanted to find reassurance that his twenty years on this earth was well spent.

He considered his parents.

Mary and John Lupin were good people, even if they feared and perhaps despised what their son became come full moon. He could appreciate them, the efforts they undertook to give him the best existence at Hogwarts they could hope to offer. Of course, he wished that they'd loved him a bit more, had more concern for his safety mixed in with their apprehension over his lycanthropic condition. He wished he was good enough for them.

Remus thought next of his friends, especially the three that, with him, formed the secular group of the Marauders. Never before had people cared for him the way Sirius, James, and Peter did. Four years ago (and countless full moons) they had transformed themselves into Animagi, to be with him and help him through the wretched transformations.

There was Lily, the girl he'd sort of fancied in fourth year, and whom James was now married to - which Remus had never considered possible while they were in school. Mary Macdonald, the plucky sidekick to the feisty redhead. Forrest Hancock, his contemplative flat mate. Kingsley Shacklebolt (Shack), the Auror in training he'd first gotten to know during corridor checks in Remus' sixth year and Shack's fifth. Benjy Fenwick, his partner in the Order of the Phoenix.

And there was Dorcas Meadowes, the intrepid Auror he'd nearly dated and, at the last moment, chickened out. She was lovely and smart, and Remus regretted not manning up.

That was certainly his regret. Not Dorcas specifically, but never taking a chance on love because he was so afraid. Truly, this was his one failing.

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.

Yes, the lack of love was his only regret.

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 rays, 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 with abandon. But they weren't shining when he was there last.

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. And not just Zonko's.

Remus got to his feet, brushing dust from his tattered and bloody robes. He looked one way, and then 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.

The path was familiar, and Remus set off towards the castle with a single-minded determination.


I apologize for the shortness of the prologue; the actual chapters are much longer.

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