I don't want to post the whole story all at once, of course, since it's over 72,000 words, so I'll just do a couple chapters at a time (after I have done my own edit one them), if that works for everyone. Thank you all so much in advance for your help!
And now, the prerequisite headers:
Title: Survivor's Guilt: Moony's Tale (Prologue and Chapter One)
Section Rating: PG
Summary: This story is a re-telling of Prisoner of Azkaban from Remus Lupin's point of view. Chapter One: Remus returns to Hogwarts as a teacher.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Don't sue me.
He awoke, disoriented and sweating, at once trying to recall the dream and cursing himself for having it at all. Damn him! He could still feel the bastard's touch on his skin!
It was hot and stuffy in the small, bare room, and he went to open the window. The cool air of the late summer night felt good against his skin, and the moon was a reassuring sliver, low in the sky. He breathed in deeply, willing his heart to slow. Dawn would be breaking soon, and he knew that, with it, the memories would recede to manageable proportions once again.
But in the darkness, he was still very much at their mercy. The dreams came less frequently than they once had, but they were still unsettling when they came, and left him feeling guilty and uneasy until he slept again.
Twelve years it had been. Twelve years since that dreadful day. Betrayal, murder, loss. He had often reflected that they had all died that day; not just Lily, James and Peter. That bond of friendship, shattered by an act as shocking as it was unexpected. Sirius in Azkaban for life -- not that he doesn't deserve it, he thought savagely -- and himself exiled to this living death. Remus Lupin shook his head to clear it.
He was the only one left of that great friendship, and the knowledge of that loneliness had held him captive a dozen years. He had drifted, living hand to mouth, living for nothing and no one. He had learned to hide his true nature well enough, but he never managed to keep a job for long. His immense sadness made people uneasy.
Then, just last week, there had been a letter. Albus Dumbledore had written, inviting him to take the vacant Defense Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts. Dumbledore had mentioned that young Harry was now a student at the school. It had been a friendly, formal letter, but Remus had seen between the lines. Dumbledore, great man that he was, knew the broken life he lived, and was offering him a chance at something else -- to have something to live for again.
Harry. That one remaining bit of goodness to come out of his tainted memory of the Marauders. Dumbledore had chosen him to come help and guide Harry, who had also come from a place of being alone in the world, without family -- and at one time, without friends -- to care for him.
But the reason for the offer. It had been the reason for the dream as well, he knew. The story and the picture in the Daily Prophet had coincided with Dumbledore's letter. Remus shivered. He had almost turned past the story when it had first appeared, not recognising the wizard in the picture. But then a name had jumped out at him from the text of the article -- a name that still haunted his dreams and conflicted his soul: Sirius Black.
A dozen year in Azkaban had changed the man he had once loved. The face he had known better than his own was gaunt and pale with shadowed eyes, the hair a long, greasy tangle. He certainly looked the part of the mad, vicious killer now, as much as he had not before. He seemed barely human.
And now he had escaped. How? It had never been done before. Remus actually had a vague inkling about how it might have been done. But why now? Why come after Harry after all this time?
He sighed. Whatever the reason, he now had a job to do, and he would do it. He would protect Harry from this madman who had destroyed all either of them had held dear. Even if it meant killing the man he had loved, or dying himself, he would do it.
BACK TO HOGWARTS
A month later found Remus Lupin boarding the Hogwarts Express from platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, as he had not done since he was a boy. He had known it would be difficult. The memories he had been trying to evade for years had come flooding back over the past few days. The previous night he had been unable to sleep because of them. Now, exhausted, he had arrived early, in the hope that he might secure an empty compartment. He did not feel in the mood for company, and everywhere he looked seemed to be full of memories.
Here, the compartment where James and Sirius had set off a load of dung bombs under a sleeping Severus's seat. Here, the compartment where they had played Strip Exploding Snap for the first time, and had been caught and reprimanded by the witch with the food trolly. Here, the compartment where he had walked in on James and Lily's first kiss. And here .... Here, the compartment where he had met Sirius Black for the first time, over twenty-five years ago. He hurried past that one, and at last found a memory-free, and mercifully also student-free compartment near the front of the train. There, he pulled his cloak up over his head and went to sleep.
He awoke, disoriented this time not because of disturbing dreams, but because it was very dark and very cold. The train had stopped and the lights were out, but he could hear children's voices calling to one another, nervously asking what was happening. There were children in his own compartment from the sound of it. Two boys and a girl, he guessed. Two more children entered, tripping over the others, and exchanging hurried apologies.
"Quiet!" he told them, quickly making a light, "stay where you are." He was just about to move towards the door when it opened. Standing in the corridor was the very thing he had known it must be, but had hoped it wouldn't. A Dementor.
The temperature dropped even further in the compartment as the tall, black clad creature inhaled, as if sucking all the warmth from its surroundings. By the dim light, Remus saw one of the boys drop into a dead faint. The other children were clearly terrified. Remus was not sure he felt much braver than they did, but he knew that, not only as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, but as the only adult present, he must do something.
He bravely took a step over the prostrate form of the boy, looked the Dementor squarely in what he supposed must be its face, and said, "none of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go." He felt his heart skip as he said the name he had not voluntarily uttered in twelve years.
The Dementor did not move. Well, if it doesn't understand words, I know one thing it will understand. "Expecto Patronum," he muttered softly, pointing his wand at the thing in the doorway. There was a blinding flash of silver light, and the Dementor turned and quickly retreated down the corridor, taking some of the cold with it.
There was silence in the compartment for a moment. He could feel all their eyes on him. Then the train shuddered back to life. The lights came back on and they began to move again.
"Harry!" cried one of the girls suddenly, crouching beside the prone form on the floor. "Harry! Are you all right? Wake up!" The other children also crowded around the unconscious boy.
Harry. So this is the boy I am living for. And now that he had a good view of him, there was no mistaking who he was. Even without the telltale mark on his forehead, he looked so like James that Remus felt mildly dizzy.
Harry was coming around. The other children all began asking him if he was all right. He looked very pale. No one was paying any attention to the man standing near the door, which gave him a chance to collect himself. Harry was asking about someone screaming. Remus couldn't remember anyone having screamed. He shook himself. Chocolate. That is what is called for in situations like this.
He took a large slab of the stuff from his bag and broke off a big piece for Harry. "Here," he said hoarsely. "Eat it. It will help." Everyone was looking at him now. He began handing out smaller bits of chocolate to the other children as he explained to them what they had just seen. "I need to speak to the driver," he lied, and left the compartment quickly.
What he really needed was time alone to collect himself. No, there had been no mistaking James's son, nor Lily's either, once he had opened those eyes. It was as if their ghosts had walked into that compartment and spoken to Remus. Well, perhaps they were. He had a duty to them. He must protect their son.
Remus's reintroduction to Hogwarts continued to be both disorienting and bewildering. In a way, it felt like coming home. Not only was he amidst familiar surroundings, but he was properly back in the wizarding world for the first time in more than a decade. He had lived for so long as an outsider -- almost a ghost -- that just hearing so many voices and being surrounded by so many people felt strange.
The children looked at him with either speculation or outright mistrust. They surely all knew which post he had come to fill, and he had heard their previous experience of Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers had been less than confidence-inspiring. It was understandable that they should view a newcomer with suspicion.
In a way, coming back to this place made him feel more like a ghost than ever. He was still an outsider. When last time he had walked these halls, they had been filled with friendly or at least familiar faces. These children were strangers to him. Some of the professors he knew -- some he would rather he didn't -- but all in all, coming back was a very lonely feeling.
He drifted into the great hall, and found his place at the head table among the other professors. There was Professor Dumbledore, looking very much as he had in Remus's days as a student -- a cheerful man with twinkling eyes, and of an indeterminate but decidedly great age.
And there was Severus. It had been many years since Remus had seen him, but he looked just as Remus would have expected him to look by now; bitter, sour, unwashed, and beginning to age ungracefully. A pity, he reflected, as he had often done before. Severus could have been a very attractive man, but for his personality and grooming habits. The black haired professor met his eyes, and they both looked away quickly in dislike.
Remus's feeling of otherness was not to last long, however. At least, his isolation from his surroundings cracked and crumbled a little when Dumbledore -- old, familiar, warm, funny Albus Dumbledore -- rose to make the start-of-term announcements. Of course, these started with the bad news about the presence of the Dementors and their search for Sirius, but those thoughts were never far from Remus's mind, so they caused him no undue discomfort.
But when Dumbledore announced his own arrival, the halfhearted applause of the students was broken by enthusiastic cheers and clapping from the middle of the Gryffindor table. Remus looked more closely, and saw young Harry and his friends beaming down the table at him. At once the whole feel of the place changed for him. It felt somehow warmer, more inviting. More like home. These children -- and especially that child -- were glad he had come to Hogwarts, and suddenly, so was he.
The feeling of tentative optimism was nearly lost to him in the hours following the banquet. He had been prowling the corridors in a much better frame of mind than when he had arrived, remembering the happy and innocent moments of his early days at Hogwarts, helped along in these thoughts by the clusters of first years, discovering the wonders of the castle for the first time.
Then he had turned down a corridor, deserted but for one person. Severus Snape.
"Lupin," Snape acknowledged stiffly, nodding, though a twitch of his lip betrayed his barely-concealed dislike.
Remus sighed. He knew this could go one of two ways. Either they could spend the rest of the year pretending not to know one another and avoiding all contact, or they could acknowledge the long-standing animosity and deal with it like adults.
"Severus," he said at last. "The years have not been kind to you."
"Nor to you, I think," replied the potions master. His eyes flicked over Remus, taking in his shabby, dusty appearance, the lines of hardship and old grief on his face and the premature graying of his hair.
But Snape cut him off. "Never forget, Remus; I know what you are. I know what you've done. And yes, I know who you've loved as well. Dumbledore may trust you, but the old man can be a sentimental fool. I know you. Make no mistake, I saw enough during our school days, and heard enough after to know that you're a man to be watched, now that the name of Sirius Black is being whispered again. I'll make your damnable potion, because someone has to for the sake of this school, but know this: I shall have my eye on you." And with that, he turned on his heel and strode away down the darkened corridor, robes billowing in his wake.
Remus closed his eyes and sighed. Apparently schoolboy grudges were not to be forgotten, at least while the two of them were still within the walls of Hogwarts. It was going to be a long year.