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Chapter 146: After the Insurrection
Chapter One Hundred Forty-Six
After the Insurrection
For a moment, everything stood on a quavering knife-edge. Remus looked wildly at Nymphadora, his heart thudding in his chest as Kingsley’s words took on clearer meaning.
Nymphadora seemed to be coming to the same conclusion, her eyes rounding out and growing wide. She reached over and gripped his arm, while her other hand whipped out her wand as Remus did the same with his.
Meanwhile other people were still just noticing Kingsley’s lynx, which had already vanished, and then everything happened at once: someone screamed, masked hooded figures appeared out of nowhere—
“The defenses around the Burrow—” Remus gasped.
“—they’ve been broken!” Nymphadora stood, and Remus stood with her, and both of them aimed their wands and exclaimed, “Protego!”* and they heard others in the Order take up the same cry, and great Shield Charms bloomed to defend everyone from the initial attack while the civilian guests zigzagged like ants whose hill had been flooded with a deluge of rainwater.
Only it was Death Eaters instead.
Most had the good sense to Disapparate, and the pops of their exits in that fashion echoed throughout the tent, but others were too frightened to act sensibly.
“Daddy!” Luna had dropped her normally calm, ethereal demeanor as she rushed into Xenophilius Lovegood’s outstretched arms and with a pop he Disapparated them both just as a bright flash of green struck the very spot they had occupied a moment before.
Out of the corner of his eye, Remus spotted Harry—whose Polyjuice Potion was wearing off and the roots of his red hair were returning to jet-black—on his feet with Hermione, both their wands drawn, shoving their way against the current of running, panicking guests, while Hermione screamed Ron’s name.
Halfway across the dance floor, Remus and Harry’s eyes met—Harry’s had turned green like his mother’s again—and both men looked at each other with wide-eyed fear—
And then Ron appeared out of the blur of faces and grasped Hermione’s flailing hand, and Hermione Disapparated, and she, Ron, and Harry all vanished with a faint pop!
“Remus!” Nymphadora grabbed Remus’ arm and tugged him out of harm’s way as a sinister spell streaked their way and tore through the supporting pole behind them. With a snap the pole broke in two and collapsed, dragging part of the tent roof down with it.
Fred and George and their two veela partners were ducking out of the way, and each twin whipped out a wand and began firing curses into the wall of advancing Death Eaters on the dance floor. They shouted at the French cousins to Disapparate and the two cousins did so in a flash.
Most of the other guests had Disapparated well out of the way by now, but all that was left were members of the Order and the immediate family of the Weasleys, in addition to some terrified stragglers whom the Death Eaters had a mind to pick off one by one for fun as they shot jets of red and green at them, sending them squealing like piglets.
Remus and Nymphadora both countered these brutal attacks with spells of their own, as did Arthur, Molly, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, the twins, and indeed Ginny too—a true spitfire who packed a punch—and even Luc and Apolline ran to defend what was left of the guests as well as the others in their outrage. Especially when one Death Eater aimed a curse at little Gabrielle and Luc struck the Death Eater a fearsome blow before the damage could be done.
“All of you, out of here, NOW!” shouted Arthur at the stragglers as he and the rest of the Order and Luc and Apolline did their best to hold off the assailing Death Eaters.
One other Death Eater whipped off its mask to reveal Bellatrix Lestrange’s face as she tried to at least kill off the very last straggler, but Remus stopped her with a blast from his own wand, sending her off-balance, and giving this last remaining guest her chance to escape, until none remained but the Order members and the Delacours.
Bellatrix snarled at having been thwarted, but when she saw that it was Remus who had done so, her snarl turned into a leer. In her cold eyes he could see her formulating some perverted method of torture, and he instinctively reached out and drew Nymphadora close to his side, though she protested how painfully hard he was squeezing her.
But they like the others held their ground as the Death Eaters pushed in, and it soon became clear that while they had managed to save the wedding guests, there was little chance they could save themselves, seeing as how they were grossly outnumbered.
“I wish Kingsley could have come himself,” Nymphadora whispered, but after that message, she and Remus both knew that wherever Kingsley was, he likely had his hands tied at a Ministry that had fallen into the clutches of Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
And that’s when the true futility of their situation dawned on them: it wasn’t that they were outnumbered, for they realized that not all of these black-robed figures surrounding them were Death Eaters, but public Ministry officials with no masks at all.
The Ministry and the Death Eaters were practically one and the same.
So it was that those who were Death Eaters in masks removed said masks quite nonchalantly, with sniggers even, as a few Ministry lackeys stepped out from the ranks with wickedly placid smiles on their faces.
“If you could all please dispense with the dramatics and put away your wands,” the official at the head—a willowy, dark-haired man with an elegant goatee—ordered them very calmly, very pleasantly in fact. “If you don’t, we shall have to take them from you by force, and we want to avoid a mess if at all possible.”
Remus could tell that Bellatrix in particular was eager to burst out into peals of evil giggles as she stood beside her comrades (though none of the Malfoys were among them). He also spotted Travers and Nott, and he remembered the “bugs” he had planted on them and hoped with all of his might that they were still recording everything and feeding information to the twins’ device in their flat.
He glanced at the others: Luc and Apolline were clutching each other and Gabrielle, while the twins and Charlie stood fast, Bill and Fleur side by side, and Ginny stood close to Molly and Arthur who were arm in arm. Remus and Arthur’s eyes met as his and Harry’s had done a moment before Harry disappeared with Ron and Hermione, and the two men nodded before they both pocketed their wands. The others followed suit, admitting defeat.
“Remus,” Nymphadora urged him, and it was only then that Remus realized his arm was now constricting his wife like a boa.
“Sorry,” he muttered as he withdrew his arm.
“’S okay.” Nymphadora attempted a smile as she too withdrew her wand and slid it inside the small wrist clutch she had brought with her.
The moment her hand was free, he slid his in hers, determined not to let her go. Perhaps they would die now, and the only good thing about it would be that in so doing they could remain together, that he wouldn’t have to tell her that he was planning to leave and break her heart again. When she looked up at him, she could read this fear of death in his eyes, and saw that she too would at least be at peace with it in the knowledge that they may very well be going down that dark path together.
The Ministry man with the goatee meanwhile took a scroll from one of his Ministry lickspittles standing attentively beside him, and unrolled it. He cleared his throat and read:
“‘First and foremost, we must announce the unfortunate resignation of the most venerable Rufus Scrimgeour, whose service to the Ministry of Magic cannot be underrated—’”
“Wanna bet?” Nymphadora grumbled under her breath, unable to help herself, but diminished at a warning look from Mr. Goatee.
Remus let go of her hand and slid his arm around her again, though more gently, but still just as protectively. “Hush….”
“Smart one, your husband, is he not?” Bellatrix taunted.
Nymphadora stiffened but said nothing. Meanwhile, Mr. Goatee and the others ignored Bellatrix’s slight as Mr. Goatee continued to read from the scroll as if there had been no interruption.
“‘We are glad to report that a successor to Scrimgeour has been swiftly chosen by the Wizengamot in a very speedy election. Now begins the term of our new Minister for Magic, Pius Thicknesse.’”
An uncomfortable frisson rippled through the Order members, and Remus caught Arthur’s eye again, and could see that he and Molly were just as disturbed as he and Nymphadora and the others were at this news. On the other hand, it wasn’t that much of a shock really, given that it appeared that a lightning-bolt takeover had taken place seemingly in the space of a sneeze, with the rest of the world being none the wiser.
Mr. Goatee continued:
“‘And in light of these events, and more importantly of evidence linking to the unfortunate death of former Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Minister Thicknesse has issued a new Ministry decree in the quest for this great wizard’s killer to be brought to justice.’”
Another one of Mr. Goatee’s lickspittles withdrew another sheaf of parchment and unfurled it for everyone to see.
And it wasn’t quite what everyone had expected, but again, it made some sense, given some of the unfortunate hints that Skeeter woman had managed to unwittingly drop in that article she’d given to The Prophet about her new biography on Albus:
It was a picture of Harry, on a wanted poster much like the ones on which Sirius had been featured when he’d first escaped Azkaban. Above the poster bore the legend, “Undesirable No. 1”, and below that was a ten thousand galleon reward for anyone who captured him and brought him to the authority of the Ministry.
“‘Mr. Harry James Potter,’” Mr. Goatee declared, reading again from his own parchment, “‘wanted for questioning concerning the death of Albus Dumbledore, and charged with strong suspicions to have been directly involved in said death’. And rest assured, notice will be posted in tomorrow’s printing of The Daily Prophet, but you lucky people get to be the first to know.” He smiled widely to show all of his tombstone teeth. “Now, that being said,” he went on, cheerily rolling up his parchment while the lickspittle with the wanted poster rolled up the poster, “the Minister noted through records that Mr. Potter often frequents this location, so in the interest of a speedy capture, we thought we would do a thorough search of this place first, if you don’t mind?”
Of course they minded, but that wasn’t going to stop them, and the absurdity of it nearly made Remus laugh.
Until Mr. Goatee clicked his fingers.
More Ministry lackeys seemed to appear like wasps from their hive as each and every Order member, or family member of an Order member, standing there present and at attention, was grabbed from behind. A spark of chaos ensued as Molly cried out while she and Arthur were grabbed and pried apart, just as Luc, Apolline, and a shrieking Gabrielle were, as were Bill and Fleur—
“Arthur! Arthur, do something!”
“Molly, it’ll be fine! Just don’t—!”
“Luc! Luc! Arrête-les!—Luc! Luc! Stop them!”
“Apolline! Gabrielle!—Lâchez-moi, espèce de démons!—Apolline! Gabrielle!—Let go of me, you fiends!”
“Maman! Papa!—Mum! Dad!”
“Bill, do not let zem—!”
“Fleur! Fleur!—Oy! Get off her, you savages!”
Fred and George put up an excellent fight each, as did Charlie, but they were all of them subdued with extreme binding force, and though Ginny kicked and screamed and bit, one smack to her cheek and Molly’s shrill cry tempered the youngest Weasley to take this one lying down, little as she liked the idea of it.
Remus and Nymphadora too were apprehended and wrested from their hold on each other.
“Dora, don’t fight them, please, for—!”
But Nymphadora didn’t listen and stamped on her apprehender’s foot behind her, which earned her a swift blow to the stomach from that same apprehender’s knee.
For a second Remus’ heart stopped and the air was sucked from his lungs at the sight, the idea that, even for all of his plans to leave her, for all of his fears that the child inside her would be born a werewolf, he would no more see it harmed than he would his wife so long as he could help it.
Even after Nymphadora’s grunt of pain as she doubled over, and the cries of Molly and Fleur and Ginny and Apolline, the lackey that had her by her wrists seemed a particularly cruel one, and he drew back his knee to deliver another blow—
“STOP!” The word ripped out of Remus’ throat, and in desperation he lunged against the arm-lock of his own captor holding him back. “DON’T, PLEASE!” and for a split-second he stood on the edge of losing the last shred of his self-control.
“That’s enough now,” purred the hated voice of Bellatrix, stepping forward and standing before her niece.
As Nymphadora looked up at her, Remus could see a desire to spit in her aunt’s face burning in her indigo eyes.
Bellatrix reached down and tucked a strand of golden hair out of Nymphadora’s face. “We don’t want to ruin that freakish face any more than it already is, now do we?”
Get your claws off of her you bitch, Remus growled in his head, but he knew if he uttered these words aloud it could cost Nymphadora her life.
Bellatrix went on, luxuriating in the terror and the hatred she was inspiring. “Anyway, we want to savor this, don’t we?” she said to Nymphadora’s captor.
The captor grunted and nodded, and allowed Nymphadora to straighten up, though kept a firm hold on her nonetheless.
Bellatrix’s leer widened in temporary satisfaction (she wouldn’t be truly satisfied until she finally had the chance to extract some blood and pain), and she tapped Nymphadora on the nose with the tip of her finger the way a favorite auntie might do before she chuckled wickedly and glided away to rejoin her Death Eater fellows.
Remus could see the restraint his wife exercised to keep herself from biting that finger. But he hated even more to think of what those words had meant: “Anyway, we want to savor this, don’t we?” It could only possibly mean that Bellatrix had every intention of making her niece suffer more than ever for having escaped her in her first attempts to kill her the night Mad-Eye died.
And certainly she wouldn’t mind making Remus suffer too.
For the present though, Ministry business was what ruled the decision-making for those in charge. The apprehending lackeys held everyone off to the side as though they were about to be marched off to Azkaban—and perhaps they were. Fleur had silver tears sliding down her cheeks, and her lovely wedding gown was torn, but she held her chin high as she watched the Death Eaters and the other accompanying Ministry officials ransack her wedding, upending tables, ripping off tablecloths, tossing glasses, goblets, and flutes about, defacing the instruments left behind by the escaping golden-jacketed band, tossing around the trays left by the Disapparated white-robed waiters, kicking over the beautiful wedding arbor.
What made Remus clench his fists in ire about this most was the fact that a lot of what they were doing was unnecessary in a search: they were simply reveling in the power and fear they were able to exude behind their mask of official authority in the name of “security” against the “very dangerous” Harry Potter.
Once they had picked the tent clean, Mr. Goatee heaved a sigh and made a slitting motion across his throat with his finger to Travers.
“Right, into the house!” Travers barked, and now Remus really hoped that he and Nott were still well-bugged as he and the others were marched into the house.
The Ministry lackeys and the Death Eaters pushed everyone into the sitting room, turning it into a sort of holding chamber. Remus kept a solicitous watch on Nymphadora a few steps ahead of him, and when their captors forced them to drop to their knees, he was close enough to her that he could very discreetly reach over and touch her knee. At the brush of his fingers, he felt her shiver, and then her hand slid into his and their fingers intertwined.
Now as they held them all in the sitting room, the Weasleys were forced to watch as their home was torn apart from the inside out, from top to bottom as they put the same efforts they did outside in the tent into practice, combing every nook and cranny for Harry.
For a moment Remus feared they would find something—a pair of jeans, anything—but then it slowly dawned on him, as the Death Eaters and the Ministry lackeys continually came up with nothing at every turn, that either Harry—or perhaps Hermione in fact—had already prepared for something like this and had somehow packed up everything ahead of time, leaving no trace of any of them.
This gave Remus some relief.
Up in the attic, they found a ghoul—the Weasleys’ resident ghoul—dressed in Ron’s pajamas and made to look like Ron with a little red hair on his head. Remus could see Arthur relax visibly when they fell for the ruse that it was in fact really their youngest son, just bedridden with spattergroit. Molly might be angry with Arthur later for keeping this from her, but for now, she too could be nothing but relieved.
When at last the Ministry lackeys and the Death Eaters had to concede that Harry Potter was nowhere in the house, Remus had a faint hope that they might finally let them go—except for the niggling fear that Bellatrix would take a killing shot at Nymphadora.
But of course hoping was all for naught.
Deep in his heart, Remus knew that things were going to be different now on, that it was more than obvious to all of them how the Ministry had pretty much rolled over without much of a fight against the onslaught of Voldemort’s forces. Had they simply waltzed into the Ministry and openly declared their political control as if it were on a whim, and everyone else had cowered and obeyed?
No, people like Kingsley working late there must have fought back. And if so, what had been their fate? Was Kingsley dead? Had his suspected assistant Denise exercised more betrayal and led the wolves right to him? Was sending them that warning in the form of his lynx-Patronus his very last act on earth?
Mr. Goatee approached them with the calm façade of zero-tolerance, self-righteous authority. “In the matter of security, we need to explore every avenue in order to uncover Mr. Potter’s whereabouts. We must concede that he was not here, but we have evidence of other places he has occupied in the past month.”
Remus felt Nymphadora stiffen as she thought of her parents’ house in Buckhurst Hill.
Mr. Goatee continued: “Hence the new Leniency Policy our new Minister has already extended to the use of Unforgivable Curses. So, one might say they are now…forgivable.” He chuckled, but the sound sent an icy chill crawling up Remus’ spine.
And rightly so as Mr. Goatee went on, “The thing is, since we have found no physical evidence, we shall have to rely on information you yourselves must possess, you all being so close to Mr. Potter. We have it on record. So, I think the best next course of action would be a little interrogation. And rest assured, as I have said that now the use of an Unforgivable Curse is no longer a punishable offense, we may be forced to use any means necessary to extract such information…if any of you prove to be…uncooperative.”
Remus glanced at Bellatrix and could tell by the way she trembled, the fire in her eyes, that she itched with every fiber of her being to exercise her new privilege to cause as much pain as she desired.
And he felt Nymphadora’s hand shaking in his, and he sent her a reassuring squeeze.
“Let’s start with the smallest one,” Bellatrix suggested, eyeing Gabrielle hungrily.
“No, don’t, she wouldn’t know anything!” Bill protested at once, outraged. “In fact, you should let her and Monsieur and Madame Delacour go at once: they’ve never even met Harry, since he wasn’t here. They just came for the wedding, none of them know anything!”
“Quiet!” rasped his Ministry captor, giving him a kick in the back, causing Bill to lurch forward with a grunt of pain.
Molly’s lips quivered though she made no sound, nor did Ginny, but Bill’s outrage was reflected in his brothers’ and his father’s eyes, and Fleur’s expression was a mixture of loving gratitude and solicitous pain, as were those of her family.
Then Mr. Goatee clicked his fingers again and the captor who had Gabrielle tugged her to her feet and pushed her out of the sitting room. Gabrielle started crying for her mother and father, and Luc and Apolline were left helpless, spouting reassurances almost like inane babble.
One of the Death Eater’s followed Gabrielle and her apprehender into the kitchen, and after a few seconds they heard her squealing. Apolline completely lost it in a torrent of sobbing, and Luc and Fleur could only murmur empty words of comfort in French.
After what seemed like a terribly long few minutes, the kitchen door opened and the Death Eater and the Ministry lackey shoved Gabrielle back out on trembling legs and restored her to her parents.
But then of course it was Apolline’s turn, and then Luc’s, and then Ginny…then the twins, one each…followed by Charlie….
It went on for hours. Remus’ legs were getting stiff from being on his knees like this for so long, and the only thing really sustaining him and helping to maintain his stoicism in the face of all of this pain was Nymphadora’s hand locked in his, as yet undiscovered by their captors.
When it came to Bill and Fleur though, Remus was reminded of what he was secretly dreading, what he was slowly realizing with the pattern of how the order of their victims was being conducted, that this must be what Bellatrix had meant by “savoring” it….
Nymphadora’s grip was tighter than ever at the sound of Fleur’s and Bill’s shouts from inside the kitchen, and Molly meanwhile was on the verge of dissolving in helpless sorrow by this point while Arthur struggled to maintain a stiff upper lip—all of this after having to listen to the screams of nearly all of their children—
Save for Ron, who got away with Harry, was a fugitive now if a secret one…and of course…Percy….
What would he think, if he knew his family was being tortured like this? Could he really be so gung-ho about the Ministry, so loyal to it? Indeed it was true that he had found it hard to come back into the Weasley fold and admit he was wrong a year ago, but now? Surely he wouldn’t turn a blind eye to this…if he knew….
After Bill and Fleur it was Arthur and Molly’s turn. Like with everyone else, there were cries of protest, and like Bill had done for Fleur Arthur asked (even though they all knew it was futile) if they couldn’t just interrogate him and leave Molly out of it.
Remus’ mouth grew dry as what he knew was coming settled on him, his heart hammering harder in his chest as though dying to break free. And now he was the one squeezing Nymphadora’s hand out of fear.
First Molly…then Arthur….
You’d think by now they’d give up….
But no. They wanted to be thorough.
The hours had stretched on like years. And now everything began to rush towards a terrible point of destruction. But the fear fueled a fire, a steely determination: they wouldn’t touch a hair on Nymphadora’s head, not so long as he could give every last bit of strength inside of him to fight them off, even Bellatrix, especially Bellatrix.
As terrified as he was to see Nymphadora kicked the way that she had been, with the baby growing inside her—even if at this point it was only a cluster of dividing cells, as Nymphadora had forced him to read about recently in a new pregnancy book she’d bought and taken to reading—it terrified him ten-fold to think what could happen to not only her but the developing blastocyst as well to be subjected to something like the Cruciatus.
And as Nymphadora’s captor prepared to drag her off, their linked hands prized apart against their wills, no matter how tightly they pled and hung on, Bellatrix stepping forward (this was what she had been waiting for, her “savoring” it) to accompany them into the kitchen, Remus’ pounding heart roared like a lion, the pounding of fear turned to the pounding of a charging wolf’s paws upon the earth—
He lurched forward and broke free of his own captor’s hold on him, and in that moment of freedom, he drew back his fist and punched Nymphadora’s captor smack in the jaw, though this earned him a kick in the stomach too back from his captor.
Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Fred, and George shouted, and Molly, Fleur, and Ginny cried out. Luc, Apolline, and Gabrielle shivered uncontrollably.
The air sucked from his lungs again, Remus fell back to all fours with a grunt—well, actually, all threes since one hand clutched the point at which his captor’s knee had connected with his stomach so violently.
Through his watery eyes and his gasps for breath he heard Nymphadora shout his name. He looked up and another lackey had taken the place of her former captor, whom he’d managed to knock out cold with his blow. He was pulling her to her feet even as she was trying to reach for him.
“NO!” he shouted, rising up again, but his captor held him back. “No, you can’t!” He struggled to break free just as Nymphadora was doing.
“Please, you can’t! You can’t! You can’t!”
“And why can’t we?” Mr. Goatee demanded, folding his arms across his sunken chest.
Bellatrix glared at him and her nostrils flared as she chomped at the bit.
“Because—because—!” Desperate, Remus choked out: “Because she’s pregnant!”
The stillness that followed rang palpably and heavily, and Remus wanted nothing more than to let himself crumple under the weight of everything.
Bellatrix was the first to reanimate, and Remus did not at all like the way her leer returned. “Indeed? My dirty-blooded niece carrying the spawn of a dirty beast? I shall have to really nip this one in the bud, shan’t I?” She licked her lips obscenely as she contemplated Nymphadora.
Some of Remus’ strength returned as the desire to attack Sirius’ murderer burned within him again.
“I am sorry, Mr…ah…?” Mr. Goatee raised his eyebrows.
“Lupin,” Remus growled.
“Lupin, yes…I am sorry, but we can’t make exceptions, never mind your wife’s condition. In the name of security.”
“NO! NO!” Remus struggled again but it was of no use: his captor kicked him in the shin, and no matter how much Nymphadora called back for him not to worry, that she would be fine, it pained him beyond anything to watch helplessly as the kitchen door shut behind her and Bellatrix, who gave him one last wicked smile.
Remus sank back to his knees, trying to empty himself of everything he felt so that he would not be stung by every screech he would surely hear from the next room.
After a moment, Molly, unable to help herself—and perhaps in her own desperation to make something out of what she certainly perceived as happy news just as Nymphadora and everyone else in the room must—she asked, very quietly, “Is it true, Remus? Is it true Tonks is pregnant? She’s going to have a baby?”
Remus looked around dismally at the others, did not care that their overseers were watching them suspiciously now that they’d struck up a conversation. At last, he nodded, numbly. “Yes. Yes, she’s going to have a baby.”
And though one of the lackeys hissed at them to be silent, Molly’s little question had done the trick. Their horrible situation suddenly didn’t seem so horrible to them anymore, the idea that he and Nymphadora were going to be parents. They too must have believed as well as most that werewolves were sterile, but now that that seemed not to be true, and more importantly, that Nymphadora’s pregnancy confirmed it, it was as if they were all warmed by the golden thought that there was a promise of new life because of a couple that loved each other so much.
Nymphadora let out a screech that cut through Remus’ heart like a knife. But he refused to let himself break any more than he already had: he didn’t want to give any of them the satisfaction, Bellatrix in particular.
Still, her shrieks escalated, and at breaking point Remus realized that Bellatrix was exercising especial enjoyment in every inch of it, until, mercifully, they heard the Ministry overseer snap: “That’s enough, Bellatrix! We need her alive.”
“Alive? Alive? What do you need her alive for? She says she knows nothing!” Bellatrix’s voice roared back.
“No deaths, that was Thicknesse’s orders!”
“Thicknesse’s? Thick—? Argh! Idiots! Very well!”
The kitchen door banged open, and the lackey shoved Nymphadora out. Remus could hardly brace himself for the look of her, how pale, how much she shook, how ragged her now limp yellow dress seemed around her.
He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and hold her, but his captor forced him onto his feet and pushed him towards the kitchen—the last to be questioned.
“Oh, please don’t…” Nymphadora moaned, and Remus saw in her eyes as they passed each other that she’d been reduced to silent weeping. “Remus…” she whimpered.
“Dora—” was all he had time to say before the kitchen door was shut in his face.
His captor shoved him against the ransacked cabinets and pinned him against them magically, forcing him to look at Bellatrix, his tormenter. Indeed she wanted to take some pleasure out of hurting him too, not only because he was her niece’s husband, but also because he had been Sirius’ last best friend.
She eyed him like a spider contemplating a fly. “Now then…the werewolf…making matters for my family tree worse by plaguing it with your werecub scum.” She spat on the floor in disgust.
Even she was convinced the child would be born a lycanthrope, though he didn’t care much for her opinion.
He looked her straight in the eye, and hoped against hope that it was so steely she would shrink, even just a little. Indeed, upon closer inspection of his gaze trained on hers, she seemed somewhat taken aback, though she stood her ground.
“Well, too bad Thicknesse says no deaths,” she went on, “though lucky for you, I suppose. So…do you know where Potter went? Come, come, you must know: you were my dear cousin’s best friend in life, and moreover, you are like a dear uncle to that disgraceful half-blood. Surely, he divulged to you something?”
It was then that Remus was glad that he and Arthur had been unable to get Ron and Hermione to tell them what they and Harry were planning to do, because now he could truthfully say that he did not know, and he was safe in his ignorance, as was Nymphadora and the others. No matter what they did to him, they couldn’t draw water from an empty well.
“Sorry, can’t say that I do,” he told her, and it gave him grim satisfaction to see her face twist into a snarl.
She smacked him across the face, and though he recoiled from the blow, he hadn’t flinched, and he recovered quickly enough to give her a much-desired kick in the shin before she could dodge him, and she staggered back against the sink opposite them.
“That’s for my wife,” he growled at her. “And it won’t stop there so long as there’s still breath in me.”
“Indeed.” Bellatrix’s leer returned. “You still seek to avenge the death of beloved Sirius. Don’t deny it, I can see it in your eyes.”
“So what if I do? It’s no more than you’d deserve.”
Remus remained still as Bellatrix raised her wand and struck with the Cruciatus, and though it was painful, as Antonin Dolohov had discovered all of those years ago to his annoyance, the pain of his monthly transformations far super-ceded this curse, perhaps because it was so much more a part of him. Nevertheless, he was more than grimly pleased to see how angry Bellatrix became with how little the Cruciatus Curse was affecting him.
All it did was make his whole body ached as if the sinews of his muscles were being torn at the seams bit by bit. It made him dizzy, and he came short of breath for a moment or two, and only the spell pinning him to the cabinets kept him totally upright, but otherwise, he was hardly fazed.
Bellatrix, in her frustration, smacked him again and again, shouting at him to give her something, anything. But he had nothing to give, and with a final tetchy cry she heeled him underneath his ribs and then turned away as he nearly collapsed to the floor from the blow. She ordered him to be taken away.
As he was unpinned from the cabinets and tugged back to the door, she looked over her shoulder at him one last time, and her leer returned:
“Rest assured, Lupin, she won’t get off this easy. I’ll have her dead the very second I get the chance, and you…I’ll enjoy watching you suffer from your pathetic grief. Oh—and tell your friends not to get any funny ideas about keeping in touch with Potter: we’re watching you.”
And then the door closed, and Bellatrix was gone.
When at last the Ministry officials and the Death Eaters saw fit to release them, there was a palpable sigh of relief from everyone after such an ordeal.
Arthur sent off his weasel-Patronus to deliver a message to wherever Harry, Ron, and Hermione had disappeared to that the family was safe and not to attempt to contact them because they were being watched. The trace of the trail showed them though that the Patronus found the kids at Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Remus couldn’t help smiling at the idea that they had found refuge in Sirius’ old house.
Fred and Geroge meanwhile went home at once and relayed to them within hours other reports of wanton acts of violence all in the name of hunting down Harry Potter, the Undesirable No. 1: Dedalus Diggle’s house had been burned down, but of course he wasn’t there, and while Kingsley was safe and sound along with Denise (who had aided in defending the Ministry in the revolt before being forced to flee), Nymphadora’s parents indeed had been tracked down and tortured for information.
Remus thought it almost cowardly and despicable that Bellatrix had had no problem torturing her niece, but would rather leave it to someone else to torture her sister.
Nymphadora meanwhile, despite her obvious fatigue, was too anxious about her parents not to go over and check on them, and Remus went with her without argument, and they showed up on his in-laws’ doorstep in Buckhurst Hill in their bedraggled clothes from the wedding.
And they stood hand-in-hand: the second Remus had been restored to Nymphadora, she hadn’t let go of him.
“Mum!” Nymphadora’s voice was still hoarse from screeching, but her mother was more than glad to see that her daughter was still in one piece when she opened the door to find them there.
Andromeda, who looked much the worse for wear from when they had last seen them, threw her arms around Nymphadora and clutched her close as they crossed the threshold.
“Dora….” Ted too looked so white, and Remus could see him shake as he hugged Nymphadora to him.
“Daddy…” Nymphadora croaked into his shoulder.
When Ted pulled away, he and Andromeda looked Remus over.
“Are you okay as well…Remus?” Ted asked, and Remus didn’t miss the genuine concern in his voice.
“Remus didn’t even shout,” said Nymphadora, and for the first time since the Death Eaters and the Ministry crashed the wedding she managed a smile—a smile of admiration.
But it was nothing to be admired.
Remus shook his head. “I go through worse at the full moon. It doesn’t mean anything, I’m just so used to that kind of pain.” As he said this he felt another twinge in the way his stomach and the spot underneath his sternum ached after receiving so many blows to them.
“Well…is—is the baby okay?” Andromeda asked tentatively.
“I think so…Remus is there a way we can check?” Nymphadora asked.
“I’d think that since the Cruciatus was directed at you, and you alone, the baby wouldn’t be affected because it’s an entirely different person,” Ted suggested.
“Yes, but there’s a connection between mother and baby when the baby’s in the womb,” Remus pointed out. “Even though at this point we’re dealing with a knot of dividing cells, all the same…. I believe there’s a spell we can use. James learned it in case...well in case something bad happened to Lily while she was pregnant with Harry and they wanted to make sure he was okay too….”
Remus moved towards his wife and recalled the spell, whereupon he waved his wand over her belly—there was a flash of gold underneath her chiffony dress.
“The baby’s fine,” he said at everyone else’s inquiring looks, and he was glad that they didn’t seem to notice the flatness of his voice.
Now he knew more than ever that he needed to leave. If he left Nymphadora in the protection of her parents…Bellatrix wouldn’t touch her. The damn wench showed her true cowardice when couldn’t even find it in her black soul to torture her sister while in the meantime she cavorted in torturing her sister’s daughter. With Andromeda’s protection, Nymphadora and the baby would stay safe, and make Bellatrix’s threats empty.
Nymphadora and her parents meanwhile could only heave sighs of relief—there seemed to be an inordinate amount of need for that tonight.
Then Nymphadora’s hand flew to her mouth, while the other flew to her stomach. “Mmmm…’scuse me…just a sec….” And she managed to dash to the bathroom in time to catch the toilet into which she proceeded to vomit from another bout of pregnancy-induced nausea.
And it was no wonder after the ordeal they had undergone that night: the baby might be fine, but the blastocyst had to be under some sort of stress.
After Nymphadora chucked up as much as she could, she and her parents commiserated a little while longer while Remus stood emptily at the front window looking out listlessly into the night, and then he and she went home at last at around twelve in the morning.
Together for the last time.
As Nymphadora shucked off her dress to use the shower first, Remus noticed how careful she was being, and he crossed over to her and ran his fingers gently over where it seemed to hurt. And then he looked up at her.
“I’m fine, Remus,” Nymphadora assured him, trying to smile. She smoothed the lapels of his jacket “And you? You’re okay?”
“Yes, yes, I’m okay,” Remus told her numbly. Still he watched her on her way to the shower, and bit his lip at the extra care she was taking.
After she had cleaned up, he did the same, and in spite of his plans, he was willing to indulge them both a little longer and he slipped into bed beside her and held her gratefully in his arms. But though she drifted off to sleep, whispering faintly against him how glad she was that they had made it out of that alive, Remus became restless in his heart with his anxiety mounting on what he knew he had to do when the sun rose.
Not long after Nymphadora was completely dead to the world, he gingerly slid out of her arms and slipped out of bed. Not only was he having trouble sleeping, but he almost felt suffocated, so he went downstairs and opened up the kitchen window, whereupon he swallowed a few gulps of pre-dawn air before he felt well enough to withdraw back into the house. As he shut the window and relocked it, he contemplated the distant line of trees and imagined with dread that Bellatrix was already standing there, watching—for he felt certain now that she must have been doing something like that for a while now.
Dawn light began to seep through the curtains in the windows now, and Remus hadn’t slept a wink, though he knew that as tired as he was, he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he finally left. As he trudged up the stairs, each step seemed heavier and heavier, like his feet were made of lead.
Quietly he pushed open the door and crossed over to the bed, where Nymphadora still lay curled up in a deep sleep. He sat down on the edge and reached over to tuck back her hair, which she had turned back to short, soft locks of pink.
No matter how many times he had to say goodbye forever, no matter in what way, it never got any easier.
Nymphadora murmured incoherently and then gave a little sort of yawning sigh before she turned towards the feel of Remus brushing the curve of her cheek with his knuckles. “Remus? What’re you—what’s wrong?” She turned onto her back and reached up to touch his face.
Remus laid his hand over hers, his thumb stroking along the line of her index finger. “Dora…if I could make you understand—I hope I can make you understand….”
“What’re you talking about? Are you finally going to tell me what’s been bothering you, is that it?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, what is it?”
Remus took hold of her hand on his cheek and brought her knuckles to his lips. “First of all…” he murmured, his cheek pressed to the back of her fingers, “I want you to know that I will always love you. You are…everything to me, and I would do whatever it took to protect you, even if it meant….”
His voice broke.
“Even if it meant what?” Nymphadora prompted him, but he could see in her eyes that she was afraid of what he was going to tell her.
She sat up, her hand slipping from his. “Remus, what’re you trying to say?”
He kept his gaze steady with hers, even as his heart broke inside of him. “As much as we love each other…I…only cause problems…and the only solution…is for me to remove myself from the picture.” He could see how his sadness pierced her like an arrow. “I don’t deserve any of this…and you deserve better.”
Nymphadora let out a little moan and closed her eyes, looking away from him. “I told you not to let Mum’s words get to you.”
“But she’s right. In all likelihood, the child will be a werewolf, and I’m saving you the heartache of watching our family be torn apart from the inside out of the hatred the child will bear for me for passing on my condition.”
“By tearing yourself away?”
“You and the child will be safer. If you go to your parents’, your mother’s pure blood will protect you from Bellatrix—”
“Oh God, now you’re worried about Bellatrix?” Nymphadora’s eyes flew open and she shot him a glare.
Remus met her glare with a steely look of his own, justifiably defiant. “She’s threatened your life more than once, and she wants to see our child dead too. I can hardly believe that you’re taking something like this that lightly—Good God, I don’t think I’ll ever get the sound of your screams through that kitchen door out of my head for as long as I live—And you know as well as I do that when Bellatrix means to kill someone she gets it done.”
“Remus, I’m an Auror, I deal with threats all the time—”
“This is different!”
“No, it’s not—”
“Dora, on top of everything else, it’s clear your parents don’t want me with you, they never have. They’re disgusted by our marriage, and I’m causing your family to fall apart as much I’ve already condemned this one.” Remus rose to his feet. “I should never have tried to delude myself into thinking that any such happiness as a wife and a family could ever be mine.”
“Remus!” Nymphadora growled, but Remus turned away from her and opened the wardrobe, whereupon he stripped off his pajamas and began to dress in shabby trousers, a collared shirt, sweater, and jacket.
As he was pulling on his socks, she threw off the covers and stood up, hands on her hips. “Fine then! Go! Leave! You’re so practiced at it anyway!”
She shoved past him and tore open a drawer, ripping out clothes and tossing them into her empty suitcase from the hall closet along with several books, and some of her makeup and jewelry.
Remus sighed heavily as he slid his feet into his shabby shoes. Once he had laced them up, Nymphadora slammed her suitcase shut. Remus turned to look at her, and saw her standing there dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, shimmying her feet into a pair of trainers.
When she met his gaze, her eyes narrowed, and she picked up her wand from her vanity, hitched up her suitcase, and stomped from the room.
Remus ran a hand through his greying brown hair and followed her, grabbing his wand from the bedside table. He met her in the front hall, where she was pulling on her cloak. Beside her, he plucked off his own cloak and pulled it on in the same fashion.
“You realize I’m only going along with this because I know you’ll be back,” Nymphadora told him quietly.
Remus stared at her; she was giving him an impossible smirk. “What?”
“I know you’ll be back,” she repeated.
He gaped at her.
She rolled her eyes. “Come on.” She opened the front door and stepped out, lifting the wards.
Remus followed her, uncertain of what to think.
Together they Apparated to her parents’ house in Buckhurst Hill. Before the front gate, she set down his suitcase on the ground, and with both hands free she reached up and clutched the lapels of his jacket the same way she had done in the Hogwarts Hospital Wing when she had openly challenged him about the fact that Fleur and Bill were still together even though Bill had been bitten (more or less).
“I know you’re coming back,” she told him, her indigo eyes bright. “I have faith in you. You’ve said that you loved me so much you were willing to keep away from me to shield me, but I know that you love me too much to stay away forever. And deep down, no matter what outcome, you want this baby as much as I do. In fact, I think that deep down you know it’s going to be fine, and you’re still too afraid to let yourself be happy.
“But again…I have faith in how much you love me…and the little one and I will be here…waiting for you.”
She leaned up to kiss his cheek, but he pulled away from her.
“No, Tonks. I’m not coming back this time.” He made sure to put emphasis on his referring to her by her maiden surname, rather than tender Dora.
She took a step toward him, her gaze hard and unyielding—as stubborn as Sirius.
“I have faith in you Remus, faith that you’ll come back.”
“Then you’re just being foolish,” he told her despairingly, shaking his head.
And before she could say another word, he turned away and Disapparated, leaving her standing alone and irresolute in front of her parents’ house.
*pg 160 of the US version of HP and the DH