Author's Notes: This short fic was originally written for maeglinyedi’s “Your Worst Nightmare Challenge”.  Thanks to Cass for the wonderful beta and the great encouragements!

How You Remind Me

By Orion


His heavy foot steps echoed in the dark street.  His breaths: a low whistle after a long chase.  The cold had surrounded him, leaving only one escape, and he had fled.  He wouldn’t remember; he couldn’t lose himself now that he was so close.  He needed to see someone before hiding though and it was a risk he was ready to take.  It had been a surprise to feel the cruel chill and see the disappearance of light that always preceded their appearance.  Never in his wildest dreams – or perhaps those were nightmares? – had he imagined he could be tracked so quickly.

He paused, listening to his surroundings, knowing he needed to be all the more careful around Muggles.  The posh neighborhood was thankfully silent.  Bless them for being so closed minded and tucked in this early like the oblivious little children they are, he silently mocked. 

The street along which he was walking seemed to be a dead end; he headed for a darker one on his left, flinching inwardly at the harsh scraping of his boots against the pavement.  It had been a close miss this time, too close.  Without a wand he was helpless, he knew that, but he had a duty to attend to and if -- no, when – when he reached his hiding place, he wouldn’t need his wand.  One more foolhardy than he might try to acquire one, but it would be suicidal to make contact with any other wizard, even as his animagus self. 

Sirius forced his thoughts back to his actions.  His intake of air was still labored and he strained it until it was slow and quiet.  This made him slightly dizzy, but he would need to hear anyone or anything approaching.

The high moon cast light all around him.  He felt suddenly uneasy being out of the darkness of his cell.  It had been so long.  Later, he contemplated, he could enjoy all the fresh air he wanted and maybe even a midnight stroll with a friend, like in the old days.  For now he had no illusions as to his precarious situation: one Dementor might be easily escaped, but the things usually stuck together and he had no chance against a dozen of them.

Concentrating on the image of a large black dog, he tried for a second time that night to transform.  And, yet again, he failed.  Sirius cursed himself for being so careless, but in a way, it was comforting to know that twelve years in prison hadn’t altered his personality all that much.  Earlier that day and after almost a week of relative liberty --if one could call it liberty – he had decided to allow himself a moment, as a human, to refresh himself in a lake.  It was the perfect opportunity: he hadn’t notice a Muggle or a wizarding house for hours now and the forest surrounding him would provide the secrecy he needed. 

When he climbed out of the water he noticed his neck was prickling, but, at the time, didn’t pay it much attention:  Dementors had little if any chance of discovering the true nature of an animagus.  He had quickly dressed, knowing that he would dry all the faster as a great black dog and then, as he tried with all his might to modify his appearance, discovered that he was trapped as a human.

After recovering from the initial shock this caused him, he tried to look as carefree as he could, now plainly conscious of being observed and not wanting to show he had noticed.  Sirius decided to resume his journey: it might be a mistake, for he knew the only explanation for his losing this capacity was a simple spell.  But, simple as it might be, very few had access to it.  The Marauders acquired a copy back in their fourth year in case anything went awry during their transformations.  It would allow them back into their human body when they got stuck and could force someone to maintain their present form as long as the caster pleased.  This brought another problem: Dementors didn’t use spells and only certain Ministry officials and animagi knew about this well guarded trick.  The idea of being followed by the Ministry’s little puppets was soon dismissed.  Fudge might be brainless, but he wouldn’t employ his officials to chasing a know murderer.  It was still unlikely that Dementors were the cause of his plight; the creatures wouldn’t bother to pursue him, they would simply get him back to prison…unless they were under specific orders.  In that case he was leading them directly to what they wanted.  Unfortunately, he had no choice.  A promise had been made and he had to attend to it.

There was another promise as well.

No, it would take him months to find him and he would endanger himself by doing so.  After all, a grown man could take care of himself.  This thought did little to reassure Sirius, but it was all he could hang to right now.

Sirius had almost finished his journey now.  His feet seemed to direct him of their own accord.  He knew he should make it quick; he had no time to stop and talk even though he knew the temptation would be great when he finally saw the man he was looking for.  The sensation at the base of his neck pressed even more on him since he had arrived at the little town shortly after dawn.  Just a glimpse, only to make sure he’s all right, Sirius promised himself.  How he longed to know if the boy looked like his father, if he still had the brilliant green eyes of his mother.  At his birth, they had compared James’ baby pictures with the infant; the resemblance had been stunning.

Sirius was roughly brought back to the present when every source of light surrounding him died at once.  No, not now that I’m so close!  He was being played with, allowed hope when they had planned this all along.  The familiar and unwelcome cold crept around him.  It clung to the air, seeping through his clothes, mercilessly attacking his entire body.  Sirius’ head spun with apprehension as he blindly made a sharp turn to his right, falling in the space between a garage and a fence.  If he only could make his way to the other side…

Trapped.  A high stone wall blocked his way out. 

The cold was now so intense Sirius thought he could see his breath.  He turned to face his attacker, summoning the best memory he could.  There was only one person he could turn to: Moony.

The familiar visage appeared in his mind’s eye.  The brilliant champagne-tinted orbs twinkling with laughter, a mischievous veil covering them when the subject of their next nighttime excursion arose.  He remembered his astonishment when he discovered their lips fitted so perfectly together, the taste of Butterbeer, suspiciously, always present on those lips even years after they had left Hogwarts. 

Then, as the rasping of a vile breath was heard at the other end of the alley, his memories shifted.  The full moon barely visible as it disappeared in the morning’s comforting light.  The howls of pains that escaped the body beside his as it shifted slowly back to the form of a man.  The soft wind caressing his face -- No, not this one.  Please anything but that memory -- as he stood, his back pressed against the trunk of a tree, away from prying eyes.  A whispered promise before his first kiss.  Always be there, he had said, always protect and take care as friends, as lovers do.

Sirius’ eyes snapped open.  A sole Dementor stood before him, blocking his only escape.  It seemed to observe him for a long moment, extending its torture to the fugitive.  Sirius tried to keep his mind clear, but failed.  He looked desperately around him, his survival instincts refusing to give up so easily.  The full moon shone above him, a distant part of him tried to say that he shouldn’t see it; there never was any light around a Dementor, much less a full moon.  It was comforting though.   Painful, yes, but anything familiar was welcome at this particular moment.

The creature began to advance on him, only there was clearly something wrong with it.  Sirius felt numb and his brain took too much time to process the information, but he finally saw what didn’t fit.  Instead of the grey decayed skin Dementors usually had, this one had brown-furred claws and its advance was predatory.  It didn’t hover over the ground the way they normally did.  Sirius couldn’t bring himself to find all this strange; he was more interested in the hot wetness that drifted along his cheeks.

The Dementor stopped, a mere inch in front of Sirius.  It arrogantly tilted its head to the side and, had the pounding of Sirius’ heart not been so loud in his ears, he would have heard it chuckle.  Bringing a vicious looking claw to the hem of its hood, the beast pulled it down, revealing its face.

Sirius fumbled with his own feet and tried to run, his head colliding with the stones behind him in the process.  He pressed his body against the wall, his breaths once more harsh and, was that a sob?  He closed his eyes, willing the vision away, telling himself he would wake up in his bed at school in just a few moments.  All a dream, all a nightmare.  It has to be.

Claws grabbed his face and pried his eyes open.  Sirius gazed at the spot in the face where he knew he should have found champagne eyes.  Instead, he found etched grey skin, a sick substitute to what had once been Remus’ golden skin.  The lips, though, were still there, smiling at him.  Temptation and revulsion mixed in Sirius’ mind as he wondered if they still tasted of Butterbeer. 

He could not, would not believe what he saw.  Remus was alive, not soul-less.  He was safe even though his lover hadn’t fulfilled his promise, but he would as soon as he was cleared.  He would take care of Remus and make up for twelve years of absence.

“Moony,” Sirius whispered desperately. 

His former lover smiled broadly at this and grasped almost-willing arms, lowering his head to give the other man a final kiss.

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