Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling, despite my best attempts.

Mr. Lupin

He was watching again.

Harry shivered slightly, and pulled on the strap of his schoolbag, hitching it up his back.

The strange man was back. Dressed in strange, worn clothing, he'd been popping up at different places.

Staring. Always staring hungrily.

Something in Harry always stirred when he saw that man. Like he was a shadow of a half-remembered dream, like a part of his soul was calling out to him.

He quickened his pace, trying to get back to Number 4 as fast as possible. He heard the slightest of whispers behind him, and when he turned his head jerkily, the man was gone.

Harry looked around wildly, expecting him to pop up and grab him any second. He broke into a half-run, a bead of sweat running down his forehead.

He had not, however, counted upon running into Dudley and his group of friends. And he didn't like the way Dudley was smirking at him, either...

Later, all he would remember of that particular part of the day was pain, lots and lots of it.

He opened his eyes groggily. It was already evening; Dudley must have really gone overboard this time.

Sitting up painfully as his body ached in protest; he rubbed his eyes, trying his best not to break out in tears.

A hand stretched out in front of him, holding the largest slab of chocolate he'd ever seen.

Instinctively knowing who it was, he looked up with some trepidation.

There it was, the face of the man who'd been following him, his eyes boring into Harry's.

"Eat up," said the man, his voice a bit rusty from disuse. Something about the voice, though, sounded familiar to him. "It'll do you some good."

"It won't bite, you know," said the man, looking down at him. He seemed to find his words enormously funny.

Despite Aunt Petunia's shrill warnings to keep away from mysterious strangers, he couldn't help reaching out (it did look enticing) and start nibbling on it.

The man smiled, obviously pleased, and Harry was pleased as well to find a measure of warmth and healing flow through his entire body, right down to his curling toes.

"Eat up," encouraged the stranger, "and let me tell you a story."

Fifteen minutes later, the chocolate lay forgotten in Harry's hands.

He was stunned. He was a wizard, and this man was Remus Lupin, a friend of his parents!

Timidly, Harry asked, "How come you never visited me before?"

Harry recoiled when a flash of something sinister passed over the man's eyes, but it was gone so fast he was sure he'd imagined it.

"I lost all of my friends that night, Harry," said Remus sadly. "I was left alone, to fend for myself, until I found myself again with the help of someone who'd remained loyal through me throughout."

"But I do care about you, Harry," he continued, reaching out to trace Harry's scar almost wonderingly. "You are very valuable to me..."

The strangest sensation ran through him, but he ignored it. His heart soared instead, he was valuable to somebody?

Harry felt buoyant, but he decided to keep calm so that he didn't scare the man off. He didn't need to drive away this man and end up alone again.

"Why do you look so different, Mr. Lupin?" he asked instead, curiously. "Do all wizards look like that?"

Remus was taken aback, he could tell, but he recovered quickly enough.

"I am – I'm a werewolf, Harry," he said hesitantly.

Harry was shocked. This nice man was a terrible, murderous creature?

The man's face remained impassive. Harry thought over it for some time, and he was so starved for love that he soon decided that anyone who cared enough about him to give him chocolate after he'd been beaten up simply couldn't be bad.

"That's all right, Mr. Lupin," he said. "I'm sure you can't help it."

Remus' face remained wooden for a second more, before his eyes sparkled, and he gave the tiniest of grins.

As he watched the lipless mouth curve into a crooked smile, Harry was struck by Mr. Lupin's eyes.

Those red eyes certainly did look like how he'd imagine a wolf's eyes to look like.