The fireplace that flickered with ruby red flames crackled softly in the deserted lounge, sending shadows dancing across the room. Outside of the room, people rushed by with luggage carts, in a race to find where their train was stationed. However; if you looked closely enough, you might have seen a gaggle of teenagers push their trolleys filled with trunks and cages straight through a brick divider, with the plaques Platform 9 and Platform 10.
The commuters did not, too engrossed in their own business to notice anything unusual.
Suddenly, the silence in the barren lounge was broken by an odd rushing noise. If you had happened to be peering into the windows at that moment, you might of noticed how the red flames flared into vivid green jets, sending a blinding light out over the room. Even more strange, you might have seen an oddly dressed man clamber out of the flames, unharmed.
Remus Lupin stepped out of the fireplace, brushing the ash off of his worn and shabby robes. Behind him, the emerald flames died down, fading back into the signature ruby red. Shaking his head, which tossed his brown-and-grey streaked hair back, he strode briskly to the door, his trunk in hand.
Remus was not your usual person; in fact, he was considered odd for two different reasons. One, he happened to be a wizard, and two, he was a werewolf.
Werewolves are more common than some people might think; the offenders just learn how to hide their condition well. Remus Lupin was a special case. He, instead of hating humans and attacking them for blood every full moon, tried to maintain a normal lifestyle that protected those around him.
Glancing around, Remus pulled his peeling trunk over to the barrier that divided Platforms 9 & 10. Without further ado, he walked straight through, emerging onto Platform 9 & ¾.
Through the smoky air, he could hear the excited babble of returning students greeting each other after a summer apart, and new students making friends. As he approached a gleaming, bright-red steam engine, he could hear parents saying goodbye, and telling their children their last minute reminders.
Ah, this brings back good memories, Remus thought with a slight grin as he pushed through the crowds of witches and wizards to board the train. With a flick of his wand, Remus sent his trunk flying up onto the luggage rack in the first available seating room, shutting the door behind him.
As students began to board the train, he leaned against the seat closest to the window, pulling his traveling cloak all but over his face and eyes, shutting them but not allowing himself to sleep.
Sometime later, he heard the train's whistle blow, and the train began to chug off, gently rocking him. To his surprise, his compartment door opened, but he feigned sleep.
As three people sat down around him, they began to converse.
"Who d'you reckon he is?" the hiss was definitely male.
"Professor R. J. Lupin." whispered another, this one a girl.
"How'd you know that?" the boy said incredulously.
"It's on his case," she replied. Remus had to stifle a laugh at her know-it-all manner.
"Wonder what he teaches?" said the boy.
"That's obvious," whispered the girl again. "There's only one vacancy, isn't there? Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"Well, I hope he's up to it. He looks like one good hex would finish him off, doesn't he? Anyway…what were you going to tell us?"
A new voice spoke, this one seemingly familiar.
In that moment, he knew that the boy was Harry Potter.
Harry explained all about Mr. and Mrs. Wesley's argument and the warning Mr. Weasley had just given him. Afterwards, there was a long stretch of uncomfortable silence that made Remus want to squirm.
"You two took it worse than I did," said Harry amusedly after a time.
"Of course I took it badly!" said the girl shrilly. "You'd just told me that there was a murderer after you!"
'Hermione, there's been a murderer after me for my whole life,' said Harry gently. 'I'm quite used to it.'
That didn't seem to help calm her down.
She finally lowered them to say, "Sirius Black escaped to come after you? Oh, Harry… you'll have to be really, really careful. Don't go looking for trouble, Harry…"
'Oh, that's just insulting,' said Harry. "I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."
Remus fought not to smile again..
"How thick would Harry have to be, to go looking for a nutter who wants to kill him?" said the other boy shakily. "No one knows how he got out of Azkaban. No one's ever done it before. And he was a top-security prisoner too."
Oh, how Remus wanted the answer to that very question as well… or to find his dear old friend….
"But they'll catch him, won't they?" said the girl earnestly. "I mean, they've got all the Muggles looking out for him too…"
"What's that noise?" said the unnamed boy suddenly.
A faint, tinny sort of whistle was coming from somewhere. Remus heard them shifting in their seats, trying to find the source of the sound.
"It's coming from your trunk, Harry," said the boy
"Is that a Sneakoscope?" said the girl interestedly.
"Yeah… mind you, it's a very cheap one," he said. "It went haywire just as I was tying it to Errol's leg to send it to Harry."
"Were you doing anything untrustworthy at the time?"
"No! Well… I wasn't supposed to be using Errol. You know he's not really up to long journeys…. but how else was I supposed to get Harry's present to him?"
"Stick it back in the trunk," Harry advised as the Sneakoscope whistled piercingly, "or it'll wake him up."
Remus smirked to himself.
The sound was suddenly distinguished.
"We could get it checked in Hogsmeade," said the boy, sitting back down with a muffled plop. "They sell that sort of thing in Dervish and Banges, magical instruments and stuff. Fred and George told me."
"Do you know much about Hogsmeade?" asked the girl keenly. "I've read it's the only entirely non-Muggle settlement in Britain —"
"Yeah, I think it is," said the boy in an offhand sort of way. "but that's not why I want to go. I just want to get inside Honeydukes!"
Remus nearly gave himself away by shaking with laughter.
"What's that?" said the girl.
"It's this sweetshop," said the boy, a dreamy look coming over his face, "where they've got everything… Pepper Imps — they make you smoke at the mouth — and great fat Chocoballs full of strawberry mousse and clotted cream, and really excellent sugar quills, which you can suck in class and just look like you're thinking what to write next–"
"But Hogsmeade's a very interesting place, isn't it?" the girl pressed on eagerly. "In Sites of Historical Sorceryit says the inn was the headquarters for the 1612 goblin rebellion, and the Shrieking Shack's supposed to be the most severely haunted building in Britain —"
Remus chuckled darkly. Sure, the most severely haunted building in Britain… he was surprised that they still believed that.
"– and massive sherbet balls that make you levitate a few inches off the ground while you're sucking them," said the boy, who was plainly not listening to a word that the well-read girl was saying.
"Won't it be nice to get out of school for a bit and explore Hogsmeade?"
" 'Spect it will," said Harry heavily. "You'll have to tell me when you've found out."
"What d'you mean?" said the other boy, a note a confusion in his voice.
Remus was also surprised; why couldn't Harry go?
"I can't go. The Dursleys didn't sign my permission form, and Fudge wouldn't either."
"You're not allowed to come? But — no way — McGonagall or someone will give you permission —"
Harry gave a hollow laugh, and Remus was hard-pressed to remain still.
Professor McGonagall, head of Gryffindor house, was very strict.
"– or we can ask Fred and George, they know every secret passage out of the castle —"
"Ron!" said the girl sharply. "I don't think Harry should be sneaking out of the school with Black on the loose —"
"Yeah, I expect that's what McGonagall will say when I ask of permission," said Harry bitterly.
"But if we'rewith him," said Ron spiritedly to the girl. "Black wouldn't dare —"
"Oh, Ron, don't talk rubbish," snapped the girl
"Black's already murdered a whole bunch of people in the middle of a crowded street, do you really think he's going to worry about attacking Harry just because we'rethere?"
She was fumbling with something as she spoke.
"Don't let that thing out!" Ron said, but too late; Remus heard a soft thump and a soft purr as something popped into sight.
"Get out of here!"
"Ron, don't!" said Hermione angrily.
Ron was about to answer back when Remus, who had had enough of this bickering, decided to stir to scare them.
There was silence, but Remus simply turned his head the other way, mouth slightly open, and pretended to sleep on.
The Hogwarts Express moved steadily north and the scenery outside the window became wilder and darker while the clouds overhead thickened overhead. Remus heard people chasing backwards and forwards past the door of their compartment.
At one o'clock the plump witch with the food cart arrived at the compartment door.
"D'you think we should wake him up?" Ron asked awkwardly. "He looks like he could do with some food."
Remus hid him smile under his traveling cloak.
Hermione approached Remus cautiously.
"Er — Professor?" she said. "Excuse me — Professor?"
He didn't move, keeping up his ruse.
"Don't worry, dear," said the witch. "If he's hungry when he wakes, I'll be up front with the driver."
"I suppose he isasleep?" said Ron quietly, as the witch slid the compartment door closed. "I mean — he hasn't died, has he?"
"No, no, he's breathing," whispered the girl.
Mid-afternoon, Remus snapped out of his bored stupor as the door slid open once more, ready to fight.
"Well, look who it is," said a boys drawling voice. "Potty and the Weasel."
"I heard your father finally got his hands on some gold this summer, Weasley," continued the boy. "Did your mother die of shock?"
Ron stood up so quickly he knocked the cat's basket to the floor. Remus gave a snort of laughter.
"Who's that?" said the boy, a tint of apprehension in his voice
"New teacher," said Harry, who got to his feet, too. "What were you saying, Malfoy?"
"C'mon," he muttered resentfully, and the boys disappeared.
Harry and Ron sat down again, Ron massaging his knuckles.
"I'm not going to take any crap from Malfoy this year," he said angrily. "I mean it. If he makes one more crack about my family, I'm going to get hold of his head and —".
"Ron," hissed Hermione, pointing at Remus, and he was quick to shut his eyes from their hiding place under the cloak. "be careful…"
But Remus pretended to be still fast asleep.
The rain thickened as the train sped yet farther north; the windows were now a solid, shimmering gray, which gradually darkened until lanterns flickered into life all along the corridors and over the luggage racks.
"We must be nearly there," said Ron, leaning forward to look past Remus at the now completely black window. He felt the boy brush his robes as he did so.
The words had hardly left him when the train started to slow down.
"Great," said Ron, getting up and walking carefully to try and see outside. "I'm starving. I want to get to the feast…"
"We can't be there yet," said Hermione, worried.
"So why're we stopping?"
The train was getting slower and slower. As the noise of the pistons fell away, the wind and rain sounded louder than ever against the windows.
Harry, who was nearest the door, got up to look into the corridor.
The train came to a stop with a jolt, and distant thuds and bangs told them that luggage had fallen out of the racks. Then, without warning, all the lamps went out and they were plunged into total darkness. Remus's eyes snapped open, his hand gripping his wand from beneath his robes.
"What's going on?" said Ron's voice.
"Ouch!" gasped Hermione. "Ron, that was my foot!"
"D'you think we've broken down?" came Harry's voice.
There was a squeaking sound, and Remus saw the dim black outline of Ron, wiping a patch clean on the window and peering out.
"There's something moving out there," Ron said. "I think people are coming aboard…"
The compartment door suddenly opened and someone fell inside. Remus took a deep breath, ready to fight.
"Sorry! D'you know what's going on? Ouch! Sorry —"
"Hullo, Neville," said Harry, pulling Neville up by his cloak.
"Harry? Is that you? What's happening?"
"No idea! Sit down —"
There was a loud hissing and a yelp of pain; Neville had tried to sit on the cat.
"I'm going to go and ask the driver what's going on," came Hermione's voice.
She passed him, then a thud came with two loud squeals of pain.
"What are you doing?"
"I was looking for Ron —"
"Come in and sit down —"
"Not here!" said Harry hurriedly. "I'm here!"
Remus was at the end of his temper.
"Ouch!" said Neville.
"Quiet!" Remus was mad now.
There was a soft, crackling noise, and he muttered a simple spell, one for creating fire, and soon a shivering light filled the compartment.
Remus held the handful of flames.
"Stay where you are," he said in the same hoarse voice, and he got slowly to his feet with his handful of fire held out in front of him.
But the door slid slowly open before Remus could reach it.
Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Remus's hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling.
It was what Remus had feared as soon as he recognized the signs; a dementor.
As the vile creature sucked in a hoarse, rattling breath, everybody in the compartment stiffened, Remus included. However; he was trained to fight dementors, so he was able to push the sounds of Greyback savaging him into the back of his mind. He was about to tell the dementor to go away when a sudden movement snatched his gaze.
Harry had started to shake, his eyes unfocusing. As Remus watched, paralyzed by horror, Harry slid down off of his seat and onto the floor, where he began to shake, groaning.
Remus didn't know what Harry was remembering, but he had a funny feeling that it had something to do with his parents.
Stepping over Harry's convulsing form, he faced the dementor, his eyes cold and empty.
"None of us are hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go," when the dementor didn't move, Remus swiftly raised his wand, murmuring, "Expecto Patronum,".
As the silvery jets burst out his wand, the dementor turned around, leaving before his patronus could fully form. Remus let it disappear, turning his attention to the others.
"Harry! Harry!" Hermione was kneeling next to Harry, slapping his face while Ron shook his best mate's shoulders roughly. "Are you alright?"
With a groan, Harry's eye snapped open, at the same moment that the lights flared back into existence.
"Are you okay?" Ron asked nervously.
"Yeah," said Harry, looking quickly toward the door. "What happened? Where's that - that thing? Who screamed?"
"No one screamed," said Ron.
Harry looked around the bright compartment. The others looked back at him, pale.
"But I heard screaming -"
Remus broke apart a huge bar of chocolate, causing them to all whirl around on him.
"Here," he said to Harry, handing him a particularly large piece. "Eat it. It'll help."
Harry took the chocolate but didn't eat it.
"What was that thing?" he asked.
"A dementor," said Remus, who was now giving chocolate to everyone else. "One of the dementors of Azkaban."
Everyone stared at him. He crumpled up the empty chocolate wrapper and put it in his pocket.
"Eat," he repeated. "It'll help. I need to speak to the driver, excuse me...
He strolled past Harry and disappeared into the corridor, heading for the conductor. Upon reaching his quarters, he requested that he alert the staff at Hogwarts that Harry had been taken ill on the train by a dementor. He then left, heading back to the students.
"But didn't any of you - fall off your seats?" said Harry awkwardly.
"No," said Ron, looking anxiously at Harry again. "Ginny was shaking like mad, though..."
Remus watched Harry with concern. The boy was chalk white, covered in a cold sweat, and he was trembling violently. He paused as he entered, looked around, and said, with a small smile, "I haven't poisoned that chocolate, you know..."
Remus was pleased when Harry ate his, seeing a little color come back into the boy's deathly pale face.
"We'll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes," said Remus, still peering at Harry in concern. "Are you all right, Harry?"
Harry blushed slightly. "Fine,"
Remus was not convinced, but he let it lie.
They rode in silence, until they reached the station, where there was a sudden rush to get onto the platform.
It was freezing on the tiny platform; rain was driving down in icy sheets.
"Firs' years this way!" called a familiar voice. Remus saw, with delight, his old pal Hagrid. He watched as Harry, Ron, and Hermione beamed at the giant, waving happily.
Remus, remembering what Dumbledore had said, did not take the carriages with the rest, but rather he charmed a broom to appear. Mounting the broom, he sped off, beating the rest of the school to the castle by a long shot.
He walked through the huge doors, smiling hugely as happy childhood memories came back to him. His smile only widened as he heard a familiar voice.
"Remus! Remus, my boy! How splendid to see you!" Dumbledore shook hands with Remus, patting his fondly on the back. "So glad that you agreed to take the DADA professor this year!"
Remus grinned. "Nice to see you too, headmaster." He gazed around, overcome by the place he had once called home. "I look forward to it greatly."
Dumbledore chuckled, guiding Remus to the nearly deserted Hall, which only the teachers occupied.
He stiffened as he saw the familiar hook-nosed, greasy haired man with his billowing black robes glaring at him.
Ah, Severus. My life just got harder.
A/N: So….. what do you think? Let me know in a review!