Remus Lupin awoke, disoriented and sweating, at once trying desperately to recall the dream, and cursing himself for having it at all.
God damn you for a traitor, Sirius Black! He could still feel the bastard's touch on his skin -- hear his voice echoing in the darkness.
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 break soon, and he knew that, with it, the memories would recede to manageable proportions once more.
In the darkness, he was at the mercy of his past. The dreams came to him less frequently than they once had, but they were still unsettling when they came, and they left him feeling guilty and uneasy until he slept again.
Twelve years loomed between him and that dreadful day. Betrayal, murder, heartbreak, devastation. He often felt that they had all died that day; not just Lily, James, and Peter. The bonds of their friendship had been shattered by an act as shocking as it was brutal. Sirius, in Azkaban for life -- Not that he doesn't deserve it, he thought savagely -- and he himself exiled to this living death of loneliness and pain.
He tried unsuccessfully to shake off the memories of Sirius Black that prowled the room.
Remus was the only one left of that great friendship, and the loneliness of that knowledge had held him captive for a dozen years. He had drifted, living hand to mouth, existing for nothing and no one. He had learnt to hide his lycanthropy well enough, but his immense sadness made people uncomfortable, and he never managed to hold a job for long.
But just last week, there had been a letter: Albus Dumbledore had written, inviting him to take the vacant Defence Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore had mentioned that Harry Potter was now a student at the school. It had been a cordial if formal letter, but Remus had read between the lines. Dumbledore knew the broken life Remus lived, and was offering him a chance at something else; to have something and perhaps someone to live for again.
Harry was the one bit of goodness that remained of his poisoned past. And Dumbledore had chosen Remus to help guide Harry, who also came from a place of loneliness, without family and perhaps even without friends to care for him.
It was the timing of the offer that troubled him. It had been the reason for the dream, as well. The arrival of Dumbledore's letter had coincided with the appearance of the story and the photo in the Daily Prophet.
Remus shivered. He had almost turned past the story when it had first appeared, not recognising the face in the picture. But then the name had jumped out at him from the stark, bold of the headline -- a name that still haunted his dreams and conflicted his soul: Sirius Black.
A dozen years in Azkaban had changed the man he had once loved. The face he had known better than his own was now gaunt and pale with shadowed eyes, the hair a long, greasy tangle. He certainly looked the part of the mad, vicious killer now, even as he had not before. He seemed barely human.
He had escaped from the Wizarding prison, much to the bafflement of the Ministry of Magic. It had never been done before. Remus had an inkling of how Sirius might have accomplished it. But why now? Why come for Harry after all this time?
Remus sighed, rubbing his hand through his disheveled, graying hair. Whatever the reason, he had a job to do now, and he would do it. He would protect Harry from this madman who had destroyed all that was good in both their lives. And if that meant destroying the man he had loved, or dying himself? Well, he'd just have to cross that bridge when he came to it.