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Chapter 158: Fideliused
Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Eight
Remus and Nymphadora laid low for the time being. They received reports from Kingsley, Arthur, Bill, and Denise that as of now not only was the Taboo used to round up and kill supporters of Dumbledore and the Order, but also snatch up people for questioning about the whereabouts of Harry Potter, not to mention what he was doing when he broke into the Ministry with Ron and Hermione. Dolohov in fact had been defying orders from Voldemort by keeping Remus and Nymphadora to himself: he ought to have brought them straight to Malfoy Manor for questioning. As it was, Dolohov was getting a rough punishment from his lord and master.
“Good,” Nymphadora said, on behalf of everything Dolohov had done to Remus, murdering his parents, seeing Ramirus abducted by Greyback, making it his goal to see Remus dead too.
Remus was glad she could say it, but he couldn’t. For all the pain Antonin Dolohov had caused him, for all Remus wanted to do to him to avenge the deaths of his mother and father, he had become too accustomed to keeping ugly, violent thoughts to himself, after a life of repression born of wishing to prove people wrong about the myth of the inherent violent impetuosity of werewolves.
So for the time being, Remus and Nymphadora stayed as tucked away from the world as James and Lily had done with Harry weeks prior to their deaths. In fact, it was highly recommended that they put Lupin Cottage under the protection of the Fidelius Charm, and Remus quite agreed, and volunteered as Secret-Keeper.
But Kingsley put a hand on his shoulder. “Let me do it, Remus,” his dark eyes keenly saying, You’ve much more to lose than I do.
Remus hesitated. He knew he could trust Kingsley with his life, but he hated putting his friend in danger like this. And besides, Bill and Fleur, and Arthur and Molly were planning to go into hiding under the Fidelius Charm as well, with Bill and Arthur acting as respective Secret-Keepers for their own houses.
Not wanting to be a coward and hide behind someone else, Remus assured him that it would be all right if he were Secret-Keeper.
“Besides, you can trust me not to give into cabin fever and go wandering about heedlessly.”
Some time in though, against his will, Remus began to wish he’d done otherwise.
Nymphadora and Andromeda received sparing news here and there about Ted, and the most they could glean from it was that he was alive and traveling, but nothing more than that.
Remus meanwhile, was forced to give up patrol duty for a while and give his hours over to Kingsley and Denise and other members of the Order who were by no means any less valuable to the Death Eaters as far as targets went, but weren’t forced to go under the Fidelius Charm because of the familiar ties with Harry that Remus and the Weasleys had.
“What about the Grangers?” Nymphadora wondered one evening as they were discussing the current restrictions to Lupin Cottage. “Hermione’s parents?”
“Apparently before she left to stay at the Burrow over the summer,” Remus told her, “she modified her parents’ memories and created a new life for them as childless Muggle dentists in Australia, so there’s no chance of the Death Eaters tracking them down.” He gave a proud kind of chuckle and knocked back the rest of his tea. “That Hermione’s a clever one, make no mistake.”
Like James did according to Lily’s last letter, and like Sirius in the time he spent cooped up in 12 Grimmauld Place, Remus grew restless, though he knew the risk he would bring upon not just himself but his family too if he left the protection of the Fidelius Charm on Lupin Cottage. Kingsley and Denise brought food around for the duration of their confinement, and Remus felt more and more like he was under house arrest than anything else. Nymphadora tried to reassure him that this was just until, “You-Know-Who’s Operation Cleansweep” (as it was dubbed) was over with and he quit trying to hunt down and torture the whereabouts of Harry out of people. At least until Harry turned up in the news again.
But Remus got tired of this and flicked her comforting hand away.
“If I could just have some air,” he grumbled.
“Argh, not channeling Sirius’ spirit again, are we?” she retorted after him, and he snapped the back door shut behind him as he went outside to putter in his mother’s garden, which was growing sleepy for the coming autumn.
Other things about Nymphaodra began to drive him to distraction, like the way she’d leave a cabinet or drawer open or that smacking sound she’d make sucking olive juice off of her fingers after going through a jar of them. So again he’d escape to the garden, sometimes after snapping at her. But Nymphadora was patient with him, though she too had her moments of irritability, like the way he hogged “The Daily Sod-It” (not for real news just because The Prophet gave a perspective of what the outside world was being told and the truth could be inferred from there) or the meticulous way he cooked dinner as if he were intentionally insulting her inferior domestic skills, which wasn’t a bad thing but she took it as a bad thing because it clearly validated the idea that she would be a terrible mother and with that she would slam the bedroom door in his face when nothing he said would make it any better—in addition this all somehow was all wrapped up in an ill-omen that something terrible would happen to her father, as if she didn’t have enough to worry about already.
All to which he would growl and escape to the garden.
It went on like this for about a fortnight.
And then Remus had a revelation while he was outside after another snark-match, reflectively using his wand to water the roses he’d quit pruning around the end of the August in order to prepare them for winter. His present state of mind led him to recall what James had said at their last parting that had ended so awfully:
“There’ll be no living with her, after this.”
He found himself considering these words, how James had said them jokingly and Remus had taken it as an offense against Lily, like he was taking her for granted or something.
Peering into the open window into the sitting room, Remus found Nymphadora had come out of the bedroom and with the intention of taking up a magazine, had gradually given in to her fatigue symptoms and fallen asleep (though later she’d likely try to reboost her energy with a snack of cheese and whole-wheat crackers with olives from Kingsley and Denise’s most recent basket of goodies). As he softened, appreciating her sleeping form, he realized that what James had meant in jest had been a humorous expression of affection—that he knew that he and Lily would probably drive each other a bit crazy being confined under the Fidelius Charm, but because of his love for her and Harry, it would be all worth it, that he wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world, that he would love his wife more for it. In fact it almost seemed so fitting since the foundation of their relationship had been so feisty to begin with.
While Remus certainly wouldn’t say the same for him and Nymphadora, there was indeed something between them that made all the annoyances nothing more than anecdotes that in the grand scheme of things were like nothing more than the crawling ants going about in their tiny little world with no concept of the great universe beyond and all of its great and powerful doings.
And that was what made it all so amusing, in the end. Not to mention all the more precious to him.
Once he finished watering the rose bushes, he stowed his wand away and went inside. He stopped at the sofa in the sitting room and reached down to touch his wife’s lovely cheek.
Nymphadora stirred from her slumber and blinked bleary-eyed up at him. “Remus?” She frowned. “What’re you—?”
“I’m sorry I’ve been a bit cross lately, but you should know that it has nothing to do with how I feel about you.”
“Argh, you know I was in the middle of a very good dream where I could lay in a field of flowers forever and not worry about a thing.”
“Was I there?” Remus asked with a cheeky grin.
Nymphadora holds her glare on him a minute before answering, “Yes.”
“I’ll take that as an invitation,” and he leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I love you, you know.”
“Mmmm,” she grumbled, but this time there was a playfulness underneath. “Wait a minute then, is that all I get?” and she hooked him by his necktie and pulled him back down against her mouth, a move to which he responded with his own lips with very gratifying enthusiasm.
Went they pulled apart, there was that lingering sweet twilight in Nymphadora’s eyes that Remus loved so much. But searching his face she frowned—though instead of in annoyance, it was in concern.
She touched his face. “Sweet, I feel like there’s something else that’s bothering you.”
Remus sighed and kissed her palm. “Is there any point in forcing you to drag it out of me?” he mumbled against her skin.
“No, because either way, I’ll win.”
Remus moved around to the front of the sofa and Nymphadora sat up and made room for him to sit.
“Well, it’s nothing too big,” he began as he slid his arm around her shoulders, “it’s just—the other night, when we got…back, and I was looking at my scars in the bath and…I was just imagining explaining them to our child one day—assuming again that I survive this war to have that happen to me.”
“Remus, you’re still not afraid our child will be ashamed of you, are you?”
“No, no…not really. I’m just—I don’t want our child to feel like it has to feel sorry for me.”
“Well…I didn’t feel sorry for you.”
Remus looked at her. “Oh?”
Nymphadora went slightly pink. “Let me rephrase that: I did, but that wasn’t the only reason I liked you.” She chewed her lip a moment.
“No, I mean that I liked you first, and because I liked you, I felt bad when I saw and heard how you got treated, and I just wanted to help. Guess it didn’t help that at the same time I was falling in love with you.”
“Oh, is that it?” Before Nymphadora could stop him, he lunged forward and started necking her mercilessly to the point of sending her into a fit of breathless, uncontrollable giggles.
“Remus!” she shrieked with laughter.
But then he stopped because as his wandering hand slid over her belly as he tried to tug her closer, he felt something he wasn’t sure was there before.
“Love, what is it?” Nymphadora asked, catching her breath, still beaming and flushed. “You were just getting started, weren’t you?”
“I was but…I just noticed something about your belly.” He ran his hand over it again. “There’s a bit of a bump there, you think?”
“Well, my jeans did feel a bit tighter ‘round there….” Nymphadora reached down and felt too, and her hand touched Remus’.
They looked at each other like this was something they were both waiting for. The pregnancy test had indeed confirmed it, but with a bump forming there, it mean that there was physical evidence now that there really was a baby growing inside her, evidence they could feel for themselves with their hands.
“Do you know…maybe I’m being silly about all of this,” Remus finally said with a sheepish smile as he withdrew his hand from hers and made to get up and start on cooking them some dinner.
But he paused at the edge of the seat, tracing his finger along the grain in the wood of the coffee table. He felt Nymphadora’s hand run up and down the length of his back the way his mother’s hand would do to soothe him when he was ill or upset as a boy.
“I think you are too,” said Nymphadora gently. “But I think I can see why you’d feel that way. And it’s hard…explaining something like this to a child. Something so violent.”
“Well, Molly says our child’s uncommonly strong.” Remus grinned hopefully over his shoulder at her. “I think that counts for something.”
“We’ll be sure not to underestimate it then.” Nymphadora returned his grin and they sealed their agreement with another kiss before Remus got up at last and went into the kitchen.
Ted was surprised to find he had tears in his eyes, and he wiped them away hastily.
They were a mix of pain and pride. Pride that he had showed such strength, it seemed, even before he was born, which gave him courage and belief that he just might do his parents proud, whatever he ultimately did with the rest of his life before him. But pain because in spite of this agreement, there were things people in his life—people who cared about him—had kept in the dark about him, in particular pertaining to his father’s lycanthropy.
But…that was over and done with. All water under the bridge.
There was a creak on the stair then, and Ted looked up and saw his grandmother reentering the kitchen to give her potted peace lily some water. “Ted? Everything all right?” Her indigo eyes showed concern, and after all these years, they were still as beautiful as they were years and years ago, when she was young. As beautiful as her daughter’s.
Ted put on a smile for her, face dry. “Yeah, Nan,” he answered truthfully. “Everything’s fine.”
Andromeda smiled. “That’s my Teddy.”
But as Ted went on reading, the water running and the sound of his grandmother’s humming in the background, he tried not to think about what he would have to face when one day…he would lose her.
Autumn came upon them like a whisper, and the leaves on the deciduous trees started to turn.
A rumor spread around that Voldemort himself in fact was currently abroad, leaving the Death Eaters and his puppet Minister Pius Thicknesse in charge, and Remus, allowed to leave home again as before (now that some of the pressure to hunt down those connected intimately with Harry was lifted) to go out on patrol and participate in subsequent broadcastings of Potterwatch, joined in warning all who were listening not to be lulled into a false sense of security: regardless of whether the “Chief Death Eater” (as they dubbed him in lieu of You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as the Taboo remained strongly in effect) really was out of the country, his Death Eaters and those working for his Ministry were still running rampant, and the danger they posed was not at all to be taken lightly. In fact, it was to be feared even more with their lord and master abroad, the same way youths who are rowdy and uncouth should be feared when they are left home alone by their parents.
It was the middle of October, and Remus felt the need to don a thicker cloak, in addition to a scarf around his neck. Soon he’d be needing his gloves—the ones Nymphadora had given him for Christmas, still holding up with love and care.
“Just promise me you’ll do your best to come home safe to me, you hear?” Nymphadora told him as she always did before he left, knotting his scarf around his neck as they stood at the front door (Andromeda had arrived and was in the kitchen busily making tea for her and Nymphadora, staying out of the way).
Remus didn’t want to say anything like, “I know, I know,” or “I can’t exactly promise that, because I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen out there”, because she always said this but it was more of a comfort to her to ask it of him, and hear him say, “I promise,” than anything else. She was well aware that there were certain things beyond her husband’s control, out there on the field.
He took both her hands in his and pressed them. “I promise I’ll be careful, darling.” He leaned in and kissed her. “I love you.”
“I love you.”
They hugged, minding the new little bump, and then he went out into the gathering chill and disappeared after the front door closed behind him.
When he returned home much later that evening, windswept and a little wet from the sprinkle of rain outside, not to mention shivering, the hair on the back of his neck prickled, and he quickly concealed himself in the trees at the edge of the field of lupines. No sooner had he done so than the shape of a cloaked figure emerged on the other side, crossing into the field with some hesitancy—for now with Lupin Cottage under the Fidelius Charm, it seemed to have virtually disappeared off the face of the earth to all those outside of its circumference, and still to those who had not been granted the secret. Remus couldn’t see it because he was beyond it’s boundaries, but this figure here, couldn’t see it at all, because when they lowered their hood, he saw it was none other than Bellatrix Lestrange.
And she stepped right up to the edge of the wards, as far as she could go in any case, but this time finding nothing more within the confines of the wards but more lupines and wild grasses. She kicked at the dirt furiously, roaring oaths to the indifferent sky. After her stomping hissy-fit, she looked about, breathing hard, switching tactics. She examined the area around her, crouched down and felt around the ground, and then popped up again and scanned the surrounding tree line. For a moment her eyes passed over where Remus lay hidden, and he thought about striking her down right then and there.
Yes, he could easily do it, and then Nymphadora would be free of her.
But could he risk it? Not just his own soul, even in protection of one he loved, but also the possibility that by killing her here, it would in fact prove another method of revealing the secret of the Fidelius Charm. Would him killing her here give away the secret to the other Death Eaters?
It was a possibility he couldn’t afford to overlook. The curse, while an Unforgivable one that was more or less legal since Voldemort’s takeover of the Ministry, would be traced to here, and since he held the power of the Secret, his traceable action could cause it to be passed on to anyone who did the tracing.
Or at the very least, raise suspicions that would bring more Death Eater activity into this area, the same way Death Eaters loitered outside of 12 Grimmauld Place in case Harry might be hiding there (which he had been at the time) but couldn’t actually do anything about it, like access the house or attack it, because of the Fidelius on it (diluted as it was by Dumbledore’s death).
That was why even though Bellatrix knew this place was here, had laid eyes on it dozens of times, now that the Fidelius Charm was on it, she had to be retold its location by Remus, the Secret-Keeper, in order to see it as before. The same had applied to 12 Grimmauld Place (though at the time of course she and the other Death Eaters hadn’t known that that was where the Second Order of the Phoenix had initially set up headquarters).
Still…the prospect was tempting….
But vengeance would have to take a backseat once again.
With great patience he watched and waited as she finally came to the conclusion that there would be no getting to Lupin Cottage now, though he could bet that she was going to suspect a Fidelius Charm and hunt down a Secret-Keeper as soon as she was able. In which case he had a small hope that she might track him down to some dark alley…
…and then she better beware the fangs of the wolf.
“Whatever it takes, Bellatrix,” he murmured after her retreating back as she melted back into the woods and Disapparated with a crack. “For Sirius’ sake, and for that of Frank and Alice Longbottom, and countless others, I want you to get your comeuppance, and the sooner the better.”
The coast clear, he rose up from the bushes and moved out into the open field. He Disapparated and then Apparated within his wards (being granted the ability to do so as the caster and permitter of others of his choosing to do the same). In this way, he could make so that anyone else who might be watching wouldn’t think that he was actually just disappearing into a Fideliused house, and merely using the field as a Apparation/Disapparation checkpoint, so the same went for when he left—he would Disapparate to beyond the wards and then reappear somewhere else, so it would seem he could have in fact appeared from anywhere. And of course each time he would be sure to lift and then reinstate the Anti-Apparation Shield as part of the wards—the only one he couldn’t get through no matter if he was the caster or not.
Another tactic for drawing off unwanted watchers like Bellatrix.
After the house and garden appeared to him within the confines of the Fidelius, he exchanged security questions at the front door with Andromeda before he was admitted to the house.
“Tell her goodnight for me, I don’t want to wake her,” Andromeda whispered to him after she kissed her sleeping daughter on the brow; it seemed Nymphadora had fallen asleep while reading a magazine that contained knitting patterns with the intention of perhaps knitting a blanket for the baby.
“I will,” Remus promised her as he hung up his cloak on the hook in the front hall.
Andromeda donned her shawl and gave him a quick nod in answer, then left.
After he caught the distant crack of her Disapparition, Remus sat down beside his sleeping wife on the sofa, but no sooner had he done so than she stirred, as if she sensed his presence even within the depths of her dreams.
“Right here, darling.” Remus smoothed the pink fringe out of her eyes as she blinked up at him.
“Mum already gone?” she asked with a yawn.
“Yeah, but she told me to tell you goodnight,” he told her, drawing back as she sat up and stretched.
“Mmmm, well I expect she was in a hurry to see if she got any news from Dad.”
Remus smiled at Nymphadora’s efforts to make him feel that Andromeda’s hurried exits had nothing to do with him.
“Sorry I fell asleep,” she went on, running a hand through her thick, soft pink spikes.
“Well, it is a bit late.” Remus got up and turned on the wireless as they usually did just to hear the news reports from the Death Eater’s version of the WWN, for the same reason they kept up with The Daily Prophet. “Wish we had a Potterwatch broadcast tonight,” he mused as he twisted the dial to get a clearer signal.
“It makes me feel better when I know I’ve managed to arm people with the truth for another day.”
“Mmmm, you old freedom-fighter you.” Nymphadora rose up off the sofa and came up to him for a kiss, slipping her arms around his waist.
Remus met her lips gladly, hugging her close in turn, with one hand still twisting the dial.
As he did so the needle landed on the WWN news station, but his fingers turned it one too far and landed on a music station playing a sweet and swinging love song.
“Baby I was wrong to think that this could never work between us
When your lips are on my lips everything comes together in bliss
And when I hold you close in my arms so tight
No matter the hardship the two of us can make this right
No magic spell can keep us together than what we’ve got between us
And no curse in this world could have the power to divide us….”
“Remus, what are you doing?” Nymphadora giggled coquettishly as he started moving them both to the beat.
“I’m dancing,” he replied. “Care to join me?” he added as he leaned her back in a sudden dip.
“Okay but this sounds like one of Mum’s ancient bands—Whoa!” Nymphadora shrieked with laughter as her husband coaxed her into a wild spin. “And shouldn’t you be taking it easy?” she went on as Remus drew her against him again and led her in a kind of foxtrot, careful to mind the furniture. “You’ve got full moon in a couple of days.”
“To be honest, I don’t feel a bit tired,” Remus told her truthfully. “At least not any more than I’d normally be at this hour after a day of patrolling. But no, there’s none of that PTTE—pre-transformation tension and exhaustion.”
“You feel easy?”
He spun her around a second time, and when they were once again cheek-to-cheek, he whispered in her ear, “Maybe it’s you.”
“Of course it’s me, love,” she said as he tilted her back into another dip. “It’s always been me.”
And he held her this way for a moment, falling into the beautiful twilight of her indigo eyes the way he had so many times before, from that night at The Three Broomsticks when they both got a bit tipsy and he had, for the first time in his life, thought about kissing her, to when she tripped after dinner in 12 Grimmauld Place and he’d managed to catch her just so, to this moment now. And everything wonderful, beautiful, painful, and tender in between that bound them ever closer each and every day.
He pulled her upright and drew her into a deep kiss that was well received for her part. They remained holding each other close long after the song had ended and moved onto a flash bulletin, listing names of Ministry workers who had committed treason by defecting and attempting to flee the country—and that any of these people (descriptions following) should not be approached, and instead the Ministry authorities should be at once contacted, and in exchange those leading to their capture would be richly rewarded with the 10,000-galleon prices nailed upon their heads.
Nymphadora moved to shut it off, but Remus murmured, “Don’t touch it.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” she moaned, her voice muffled by his threadbare sweater.
“Just hold onto me. Just hold on.”
And Nymphadora did. They both did.
Around two in the morning, the couple’s dreams were broken by the sounds of whizzes and bangs outside in the woods, some miles off. Remus heard it more keenly than his wife, with his preternatural hearing, but they both heard it just the same. Not speaking or moving, they both held each other close, the darkness outside pierced once or twice by a blood-curdling scream.
Remus moved to leave the bed, and Nymphadora followed him to the window, but by then, everything had quieted down.
“I know that look,” said Nymphadora, and though she smiled it was pensive.
Remus returned the look in kind.
After checking the coast was clear for a few miles out, Remus donned his cloak and set off outside, Disapparating and reappearing beyond the Fidelius Charm and the wards (being sure of course to remove and then replace the Anti-Apparation Shield).
Ducking into the tall grasses, Remus did another quick Hominum Revelio at closer range, and only tracked three small life forms now, lurking just on the edge of the field. But he knew in his heart that this wasn’t an attacker—the presence wasn’t malicious, anymore, just weak and in pain.
Someone in need of help, which was why he’d gone outside in the first place. Otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered.
Parting the grass, he gasped at the sight before him on the ground, and drew back.
Curled on the ground protectively around the huddled form of two small children was a young witch, who seemed to have opted to just stay down and play dead.
“Don’t be frightened,” he told her calmly, “I’m not here to hurt you, I’ve come to help you, if I can.”
The witch’s eye flew open, perhaps at the sincerity in his voice. “Have you?” she asked, shivering as much as her children were. “Then please…help us.”
And in the light of the waxing gibbous, her face was thrown into relief. Remus sucked in his breath at the sight of it, and he could see that she did the same. So she recognized him too, even with her own poorer, full human eyesight.
It was the mother from the market.