Chapter 147 : Three Days
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Remus, just as he had always done in life, skirted the edges of the masses. Though today it was a grey day in Diagon Alley, slick with rainwater, and not too many people were out and about. And most people that were out were packs of Death Eaters prowling the drippy, cobblestone streets as happily as wolves invited to have their pick of a herd of free-range cattle.
And while Remus actually was a wolf, he stuck to the sidelines as he slipped over to Fred and George’s joke shop.
Once he verified his identity and gained entry, George led him to the sitting room where he and Fred were in the middle of taking notes from the conversations to which they were privy thanks to the bugs still operating on Nott and Travers.
“Dad told us he’s already heard a rumor at work today that the Death Eaters tried to torture the whereabouts of Harry out of Scrimgeour before they killed him,” Fred informed Remus. “Which means, since they couldn’t find Harry, Rufus Scrimgeour did what he could to protect him in his final moments.”
Remus blinked, stymied. “Really?”
“Yeah. Guess old Scrimgeour was a fairly decent fellow in the end, eh?” George nudged his twin to scoot over on the sofa so that he could sit in a particular groove in the cushions.
Remus swallowed as the news sunk in, the revelation that for all of Scrimgeour playing the hard-arse purely interested in maintaining the Ministry’s image, even unto spoon-feeding pleasant lies to the wizarding community in The Prophet, he had maintained integrity in his death.
And then he asked, “Arthur’s at work?” almost stupidly. But he couldn’t help it: it seemed inconceivable that after the events of last night, people would go right back to the Ministry for work like before.
George shrugged. “Apparently so.”
“It’s part of the plan though, innit?” Fred said in a playfully conspiratorial voice as he continued to jot down notes with his quill on parchment from the staticky babble on the transmitter. “Make it seem like everything’s okay, when it really isn’t, just so no one’s got the guts to say anything.”
“How’re Tonks’ parents?” George asked.
“Oh, fine,” Remus said absently. He didn’t want to touch the subject of Nymphadora or her parents. Though it was only a matter of time before the Weasleys and the rest of the Order learned what he had done that morning.
“Well at least we know how they managed to get through all those protective charms,” Fred muttered. “Now they’ve got control of the Ministry…it’s a free-for-all for them.”
The transmitter buzzed and crackled, and then the conversation continued mundanely between Nott, Travers, and the Carrow siblings about their glee over their respective tales of torture and power over weaker beings.
Then the owl with that morning’s Daily Prophet arrived, and Remus retrieved it from the kitchenette window and paid the owl (which took a moment to shake off water droplets from the drizzle outside out of its feathers all over the counter) with the money out of an owl-shaped dish.
When he saw the headline, his stomach turned over.
“Well, that Ministry man with the goatee was right about this coming up in the paper,” he said to the twins grimly, and he showed them the paper, bearing the call for Harry Potter to be questioned about Albus’ death.
The photo from the wanted poster the Ministry officials had showed them last night was used again with the article.
George tutted with disgust and pushed the paper away. Fred snorted.
“So what have you found out so far?” Remus asked.
“Well, it sounds like this Pius Thicknesse who’s replaced Scrimgeour is actually under the Imperius Curse,” said Fred, reading from his scribbled notes which he was making in preparation for the Order meeting later that day. “They were talking about it earlier, about maintaining as unsuspicous an air about him as possible now that he’s Minister.”
“You mean now that You-Know-Who’s Minister,” George pointed out. “More or less.”
“You’re right, Fred, this is exactly what Voldemort wants,” said Remus as he sank into an armchair and opened the newspaper, ignoring the way the twins shivered at the mention of Voldemort’s name. “Confused whispers…uncertainty…. Divide and conquer, as they say. Or almost. And the worst part of it is that they can use it to turn the wizarding community against Harry, by making him out to be the one everyone should fear. Who knows who might turn him in now if he were found out?”
Fred and George exchanged ominous, perturbed looks.
Remus cleared his throat and turned the page. He wondered why it was that they hadn’t asked him about his turning up at their flat so unexpectedly. In truth, he had come merely for information. He didn’t want to plunge into the wide world of turmoil without knowing the bare facts of what he would be facing. But before he could decide if perhaps his showing up wasn’t something to be suspected after all, that it was perfectly logical that Remus would seek out information, his eyes found a heading that shot his heart up into his throat.
“Dear God…” he breathed.
“What?” asked Fred and George together.
Remus pointed out what he had found on page two, and saw both of their faces blanche.
“Muggle-born Registration Commission….”
“It’s beginning already…they’re hunting down Muggle-borns…rounding them up….” George began to shake, and so did Fred, but he dropped his quill as his hands formed into white-knuckled fists.
George swallowed as Fred stood and began to pace the room restlessly. “Let me see that.”
Remus handed him the paper as he leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking numbly of Nymphadora’s father…of Hermione—
His eyes flew open and he lifted his head. “I should get this information to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.”
Fred stopped pacing and looked at him; so did George.
“How?” they both asked him.
“They’re at Number Twelve in Grimmauld Place, right?”
“Yeah, but they’ve got to be watching that place,” Fred pointed out, and George nodded, agreeing whole-heartedly.
“True, but I think you’ll find I’m quite adept at sneaking around.” Remus gave the twins a rather mischievous smile that certainly would have done James and Sirius proud—which was what a lot of this was all about, right? In fact, James would probably be more than supportive of his idea to find his son and….
That’s what I can do.
Remus rose to his feet. “Mind if I keep this?” He held up the newspaper.
“Take it,” said Fred, shooting the newsprint a look of pure loathing.
“We’re getting the real story right here,” said George, tapping the crackling bronze transmitter.
“Oh, but Remus? On your way back?” Fred called, and Remus stopped dead at the door.
“Yes?” he prompted, determined not to betray anything.
“Tell Tonks congratulations from us,” said George happily. “And to you too of course! You know? About the baby?”
Remus looked at the twins over his shoulder one last time and managed a smile, and hoped that for all its falsity it still appeared true.
“Of course. And thank you. Thank you so much. Tonks will be just delighted.”
Back in the street below, it was still drizzling and grey out. Remus stepped back onto the cobblestones and lifted up the hood of his cloak over his head to hide his face. But as he did so he noticed a knot of sinister-looking fellows across the road, and they in turn took notice of him leaving the shop.
One of those wolves broke away from the pack, and it was none other than the last person he really wanted to run into today, not now that he had given himself some kind of purpose to be getting on with.
He had always known it was inevitable that Antonin Dolohov would not rest until he had avenged the crippling of his father Michel at the hands of John Lupin, regardless of what Michel Dolohov had been about to do Joanne, Remus’ mother. Did it even matter that Antonin even actually loved his father?
It was the principle of the thing (though it was a bit oxymoronic for a Death Eater to have principles), and Antonin was always eager for a reason to torture and kill, though he certainly never needed one per se.
Remus did his best to disappear back into a crowd of several families traveling in packs as a method of keeping each other safe while achieving the day’s shopping,
But Antonin had caught the scent, and was following.
The hunt was on.
It was no easy business to shake off a Death Eater, and especially so it was no easy business shaking off a Death Eater with such a tenacity as that which Antonin Dolohov possessed. Perhaps the only Death Eater who exceeded him in tenacity was the unyielding Bellatrix Lestrange.
But Remus could be just as tenacious, and Antonin was about to discover was it wasn’t enough to be clever and cunning: Remus had to reach Harry, for it was with a nobility that Antonin would never understand, even for all of his talk of avenging his father. As reflected upon earlier, it little mattered if Antonin truly loved his father, except that it produced a desire for revenge that lacked any heart at all, and only the best revenge begins with a human heart.
No, Antonin had no real reason to want him dead. And for what? A death for a crippling? That hardly evened the scales. Antonin was purely a sadist, and that was the bottom line. While the line between revenge and justice might be fuzzy at times, there was a definite difference between revenge and a simple, insatiable hunger to kill and cause pain. In some ways, Antonin was more of a wolf than Remus was. And just imagining what it would be like for someone like Antonin to be a werewolf, to have that kind of power, gave him chills.
It would be just like Fenrir.
Once a sadist, always a sadist. Even if Fenrir hadn’t been turned, he’d have still developed a reputation for depravity and violence in the wizarding world. The wolf did not make the man.
The only reason Remus was running from it was because he was trapped by so many other people’s inability to see it. But James, Sirius, and Lily had all taught him that he was who he was on the inside, who he chose to be, not the wolf.
And Nymphadora had reminded him….
Down a darkened alley Antonin pursued him, and in the shadows, Remus sensed him revving up for a spell, and dodged the curse from behind where it created a crater in the brickwork instead.
He rounded the corner back into Muggle London. If he could only take a minute to Apparate. He had to get to Grimmauld Place, safely, somehow, in this blasted city, without endangering human life. He had to get rid of Antonin.
Unfortunately that was easier said than done now that he’d had to sprint out of the alleyway with an undoubtedly disheveled, possibly even wild look. He certainly caused a few Muggle passersby to jump and exclaim in alarm.
He straightened his cloak and his jacket underneath and smoothed back his greying brown hair. Clearing his throat, he picked his way down the sidewalk, and a glance at the street sign told him that he was on Tottenham Court Road.
At a brisk pace he passed by the window of a Muggle—what was that word again? Electronics shop, and decorating the window was something like a hummingbird, only it was far more cartoony. No, not cartoony, just…different from real life.
Remus stared at it for a moment, and then the hummingbird decal opened its beak and whispered, “Behind you.”
Then the hairs on the back of Remus’ neck stood on end, and he spotted Antonin coming out of the alleyway, looking about, sniffing the air for him. Remus ducked into the shop, and barely acknowledged how insecure he might otherwise feel surrounded by all of these foreign Muggle electronics his mother would tell him about, not to mention the staring eyes of so many other Muggles.
Just so long as they didn’t draw attention to him.
Remus hid behind a tangle of—what were those? Wires? They were suspended from a long black box, and were connected to several things, including a rectangle that had moving pictures, just like photographs and the paintings at Hogwarts.
Peering between the tangle of wires, with his hood up, Remus watched as Antonin paused in front of the shop, and then passed it by. Perhaps the—what was it? Oh yes, the “electricity” had masked Remus’ presence? He hoped so, because the tangle of wires themselves was hardly much of a physical concealment.
Now the only problem was that at some point Remus would have to leave the shop, and Antonin could very well remain out there…waiting.
Remus sank down at the foot of a row of shelves displaying a bunch of other black boxes, as well as grey ones, some shiny, some not, all of them with glowing lights and twisty knobs, and drew his legs up to his chest, thinking of Nymphadora, longing to feel the reassuring touch of her skin against his, and it wounded him even more because he knew he could never have that even just once more.
“’Scuse me, sir, are you quite alright?”
Remus looked up and saw a very young, stringy man who clearly worked at the Muggle shop peering at him owlishly out of thick glasses. He managed a smile.
“Erm, just resting my feet a bit, been walking all day,” said Remus, tugging at the toes of his shabby shoes. “I’ll be out of your way in a minute.”
The Muggle shopkeep cocked an eyebrow, but turned away shaking his head, muttering, “Nutter…” under his breath.
Remus let out a sigh of relief. So much for inconspicuousness.
The second Remus had slipped out of the shop five minutes later, he knew Antonin had had the sense to hang around, and he sensed his eyes on him the moment the soles of his shoes had hit the sidewalk pavement.
He’d have liked to have stayed in the shop all day, but that in and of itself was drawing too much attention to himself, with all of the stares he was getting. It wasn’t exactly the best place to duck out anyway, in an effort to shake Antonin off.
And again, he would turn and fight, he would, if he weren’t concerned for endangering the Muggles. And he still had the goal of Grimmauld Place burning in his mind. It was the only thing giving his life purpose, that, and the larger thing beyond it, the safety of the wife and child he left behind in order to protect them.
So he made his way further up the road, towards the end of the street and the garish lights advertising a theater’s showing of a Muggle musical, and he’d have liked to have ducked out in the dark of such a place, but he’d never gain access without the tickets that the other Muggles waiting in line were either purchasing or handing to the usher.
If there was only a way he could disappear for good into a crowd…but that was easier said than done when he was dressed the way he was. He supposed he could try and switch out for some Muggle clothing, but where was he going to get it without stealing? And getting the Muggle police involved was yet another disaster he wished to avoid at all costs.
There was nothing for it. He would just have to find another safe place from which to Disapparate. He was determined not to head for Grimmauld Place until he was sure he had shaken Dolohov off. He didn’t want to give him any more reason than need be to go there and put Harry, Ron, and Hermione in danger.
He crossed the road perpendicular to Tottenham Court, closer in proximity to the theater, but then he slid into another alleyway just as twisted-face Dolohov was closing in.
Then he Disapparated with a pop! before Dolohov had a chance to reach the selfsame alleyway, leaving Dolohov satisfactorily bemused for a moment when he did reach it, only to find it empty.
At first Remus had toyed with the idea of appearing at the werewolf haven in Woolwych and hiding out with his brother, but he was not at all interested in the censure he would receive there, naturally. It was worse because logically Ramirus should have been able to understand his predicament, but again, seventeen years his junior, with more of a werewolf upbringing than Remus ever had, his brother was impossibly naïve to a T on this matter, which was why he would receive so much censure from him. He’d received it from the get-go, and every time he thought about going to his brother now, he could only think what useless time they would spend arguing over Remus’ reasons for leaving Nymphadora and their unborn child in the unanticipated care of his in-laws.
And to think, they too weren’t very far…just beyond the city out into the quiet streets of the outlying Buckhurst Hill….
How he missed them, missed them so much already it pained him, his wife and his unborn child both, in spite of his misgivings. And this intensity of longing was not just a product of merely being away from them, but also in being in the knowledge that he would never, ever see them again as long as he lived.
But where did that leave him to go to next?
Not Woolwych, and no risking Grimmauld Place yet either, not until he shook Dolohov off of the trail, even if Grimmauld Place was being watch like Fred had supposed, which in all likelihood, it probably was.
However, he still didn’t care much for Antonin’s tracking him down. He still had a reason to keep on going, to keep fighting, and he certainly wasn’t going to let that journey cease with his death in allowing Antonin to have his petty revenge.
And again, there was the whole preference to avoid endangering the lives of Muggles by openly confronting Antonin with magic, not to mention the new Ministry would love to get its claws on him on a charge of using magic in view of Muggles.
So the real question was, where to lead Antonin so as to be rid of him?
That’s part of how he came to the decision to Apparate to and hide out in the place that he chose: the other part was that he had the odd idea of treating Antonin as if he were incapable of treading upon hallowed ground.
His new haven? Westminster Abbey.
A sad drizzle misted over the greying stone of Westminster Abbey, and from where Remus concealed himself, discreetly and furtively levitating himself up to the space between a flying buttress near the rose window over the front entrance to the abbey, he watched as people visiting the abbey forwent the option of relaxing on the green below and went directly into the church.
Remus was less than comfortable wedged where he was, but he was out of sight of Antonin for the moment, and that was what counted. He hunched down beneath the shelter of the flying buttress, and for a moment he recalled Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and how he and Lianne Géroux had shared their first kiss on its lookout, though it was nothing compared to what he had shared with Nymphadora when they first decided together to become a couple—
“You…love me…too…?” he breathed.
“… and…I just wondered if you’d—if you’d still have me?” She peered up at him, both apprehensive and excited.
“For a girlfriend. What do you say? Can I be your sweetheart?”
Remus thought he might collapse he was so overwhelmed with fireworks of pure joy that began leaping about in his stomach at her words. “My sweetheart? I…oh Tonks….” He smiled. “Yes,” he murmured. “Yes. Please.”
And the very fireworks that were going off inside of him were reflected in her eyes as she beamed. Possessed by wild abandon in her own euphoria, she let go of him and took his face in her hands, whereupon she leaned up and pressed her lips to his.
It was as wonderful as he remembered, better in fact now because there was clear mutual attraction and affection between them. He tasted traces of flour and cocoa, but all the sweeter was the taste of her, that starlight taste, that explosive glister.
And he relished in the triumph that he never thought he would know: she was his.
—The memory ached inside of him more terribly than he thought it would when his mind touched it within its deep recesses that he found he could barely breathe. He felt the same crushing sensation that he did when he found out that James and Lily had died, or when he had watched Sirius fall to his death through the Veil.
And then something called to him from within the interior of the abbey. A kind of illumination seemed to have grown from the light of the candles within—perhaps as a result of the darkening sky from the rain.
Drawn in such a vulnerable state, Remus slipped down from the flying buttress to the front steps, and just across the road, he caught sight of the cloaked figure of Antonin. Panicking, he ducked into the front hall of the church.
The door closed behind him, the sound of the rain outside was drowned at once by the venerable stone. Perhaps because of the reverence the structure demanded, none of the people within—tourists or otherwise—were speaking above a whisper, nor were they doing anything more than quietly walking about the vaulted interior and admiring the treasures within.
One such treasure was a monument to a Muggle scientist named Sir Isaac Newton. Whoever he was, he must have done something extraordinary to earn such an elaborately carved shrine, the globe surrounded by a choir of cherubs….
He thought he recognized the Muggle’s name from his mother, but he couldn’t recall. So many memories of his parents, of James and Lily, of Sirius, they were all fading day by day like water through his fingers. He had contemplated this sobering fact before, but it didn’t make it any less sobering.
Maybe he still tried too hard to cling to the past.
Much like Sirius did.
Aware of everyone else in the abbey, Remus slid back into the shadows, feeling unwelcome, but unable to risk going outside with Antonin waiting.
When evening fell, it was still raining, but Remus had to leave with everyone else when it came time to close the abbey for the night. Like before, he discreetly and furtively made his way up to the buttress over the front of the abbey, and from there he kept a weather eye out for Antonin.
He spotted him marching back and forth across the walk on the other side of the road.
Why doesn’t he cross? Remus wondered, and for a moment he had the unbelievably amusing thought that maybe Antonin really couldn’t tread onto hallowed ground.
The second day was easier than the first to play this cat-and-mouse game with Antonin. Easier in the sense that Remus had a better idea of how it was that Antonin managed to figure out where Remus would Apparate to moments after he would Apparate there.
It was quite simple really.
For all intents and purposes, it mattered little if Wormtail was caught outdoors by anyone in the Wizarding community now who thought him dead, or recognized him in his illegal Animagus form, because he had the might of the Ministry on his side.
Just the way you like it, Wormy, Remus thought bitterly, but he grinned as he cornered the rat-Animagus in the alleyway as he tried to send a message and tell Antonin where Remus would Apparate to next. He had shaken the dirty traitor out of a hidden pocket in his robes when he discovered him asleep in it that morning, the rat.
But before Remus could curse him, the rat high-tailed it, and Antonin was left to his own devices.
This didn’t mean yet that Remus had completely shaken him off. Antonin could still follow his Disapparition, with his other useful tool, which Remus managed to find out from Wormtail before Wormtail skedaddled: the Ministry’s ability to track people Disapparating. But without Wormtail hiding out in Remus’ pocket (the nerve of him!) and sending reports, Antonin had to exercise more use of the tracking.
So now it was a matter…of tricking the tracking.
Which meant Remus quit Disapparating.
Short of turning London into a battleground for a savage duel, now that Remus had one less evasion option, he had to replace it with a more retaliatory tactic while keeping himself unarrested and most importantly, alive.
The last place he Disapparated to was a small street off of the main square in the market in Covent Garden. Antonin eventually tracked him down inside the roofed venue, packed with shoppers ducking out of the rain, even as the hopeful sun tried to peek through the insistent cloud cover.
The moment their eyes met, Remus had only one option: run for it.
And run for it he did, turning heads as he dashed out of the market and back out into the square, and across the square down the main street towards the Muggle “tube station”. Taking a deep breath, he risked plunging into the unknown world of the underground train system. Arthur had accompanied Harry on this system when he’d escorted him to the Ministry for his disciplinary hearing right before the boy’s fifth year, and his mother had used it regularly when she had worked at the shop in London before she met his father.
Surely it couldn’t be that hard.
Indeed he had no Muggle money to pay for a ticket, but a simple Confundus Charm that sneaked beneath the microscope of the Ministry saw to his accessing the forbidden zone beyond the turn style.
When he reached the platform, the last train was just leaving, packed with passengers, so that left the platform overall quite clear of other people, save for a few stragglers and loiterers.
Which was good, because Remus had no intention of taking the train.
He stepped right inside the space that warned people to “mind the gap” as he leapt off the edge and dropped down onto the tracks below…several people cried out—anyone who jumped down there was either stupid or suicidal surely—and just as Antonin’s pale, twisted face appeared out of the crowd of shouting and pointing onlookers below, Remus dashed into the dark mouth of the tunnel in the wake of the previous train.
He followed those tracks in the pitch black, Antonin’s footsteps echoing after him, and for the most dangerous, most climactic moment of this game, Antonin came the closest to capturing him and relishing in his vengeance against him. Sparks of red spat at Remus’ heels like the snaps in Exploding Snap, lighting up the tunnel in brief flashes like lightning, and likewise, Remus expertly tossed hex after jinx after curse over his shoulder at Antonin behind him, each one casting brilliant flashes of light, several times managing to cause Antonin to trip up over the rail tracks.
But then came the roar of an approaching train from behind.
And of course, there was certainly no survivable space between the walls of the tunnel and the train itself, which left out the option of pressing oneself against the edge.
But Remus innately knew that this was where he hoped things would boil down to. Though he had resolved to quit Disapparating, he was going to risk it one last time if it meant he could finally get Antonin off of his trail.
As Antonin groaned and picked himself up again, he saw Remus had stopped and was simply standing there. He pointed his wand just as the headlights of a fast-approaching train lit up the dark behind him, casting him in a nightmarish silhouette. The screech of the train however alerted him to the danger to his own life, and before he could either curse Remus or better yet, escape, Remus Disapparated and was gone.
In fact, Remus had done nothing more than cleverly Apparate to the next tube station platform, and anyone who might have seen him appear out of nowhere would have shaken it off as simply seeing things what with so much pressure at work, etc. Meanwhile, an alert was buzzing while some announcer was crackling over a loudspeaker about the possibility of an accident on the train.
Had Antonin met his end in tons of screaming steel and electric wires?
He highly doubted it. It was likely that he had only been briefly seen by the headlights and any other Muggle sensory devices before he too had Disapparated.
That was why he took the precaution of hightailing it from the platform as soon as possible, up the stairs to the exit. He walked anxiously down the street, imagining that he must look beyond exhausted to the average passerby, and kept up his pace until he reached a small park, where he ducked out until he was certain that Antonin was nowhere near him.
Pleased, Remus spent the night in the park, underneath a bench, as so many others do in a city, who have nowhere else to go.
Quite apart from the discomfort of the ground, Remus suffered a bad night as once again, the memory of Nymphadora’s screams as Bellatrix tortured her resonated in his nightmares.
The following morning, Remus risked reentering the hub of the wizarding community in Diagon Alley, when he still saw no sign of Antonin. There he discovered a discarded copy of that morning’s Daily Prophet on a table in the Leaky Cauldron, where he read an announcement that a new policy for Hogwarts was being enacted:
Attendance was now compulsory, a revision to the more liberal policy which allowed parents the choice of home-schooling their children or sending them abroad for their education.
In addition, each new student was to be given “blood status” before entry. Which meant that any eleven-year-old Muggleborns would be weeded out from an early age. The newspaper shook in Remus’ hands as a horrifying image bloomed in his mind’s eye of Muggle-born would-be first-years mysteriously partitioned off in a separate car on the Hogwarts Express, from which they watched the other students disembark onto the platform in Hogsmeade Station, while they were all kept back, and, confused, they looked up with their small, young faces to see they were surrounded by the Death Eaters waiting in the shadows, their cries muffled, the train carrying them to someplace perhaps where they would never see the light of day again—maybe never any day again—
Remus abandoned his original plan to rent out a room in the Leaky Cauldron where he could lay low and clean up, as easily as he abandoned that day’s copy of the newspaper.
And good thing too, because not long after he left the Leaky Cauldron to get to Grimmauld Place at long last, he spotted Antonin Dolohov, disheveled but alive, stomping around across the street, looking especially ill-tempered.
Luckily he didn’t see Remus spot him, and Remus took advantage and disappeared into the shelter of a nearby bookstore. From the little window, peering out between the protective shelving of books, Remus watched him cross the street and pass by without being any wiser that Remus was there.
Remus waited him out in the bookstore for about two hours, and he was glad that this time he had found a Muggle shop he could adapt to, easily browsing through the books as if he were in Flourish and Blotts. Then he risked poking his head out to see if Antonin was about, and from what he could see, Antonin had probably headed straight for the Leaky Cauldron for a commiserative drink, and was now asleep over the bar with several empty tankards of mead nearby.
Still, Remus felt he was traveling on the edge of a knife: no Disapparating for fear of being tracked again (he was sure Antonin would still be keeping himself posted, even if he was presently quite sauced with alcohol), so he had to hoof it all the way to Grimmauld Place around the Islington area from where the Leaky Cauldron was situated near Charing Cross Road.
It was twilight by the time he reached it, and from where he came around the corner, he saw that in the green across from the row of townhouses, two Death Eaters stood watch—and one of them was Antonin.
Remus slid back behind the wall of the building corner, took a deep breath, and risked Disapparating one last time. He had to get it precisely.
On the other side, he landed on the top step. For a moment, he thought he would waver and a part of him might break past the protection over Number Twelve and give away his position—
But to his relief, no such thing happened, and Remus, even as he stood quite plainly before the front door, Antonin and his fellow Death Eater across the street could not see him.
Needless to say, inside Number Twelve, he found three barely-of-age teenagers—young adults—whose pale faces suggested they hadn’t managed to eat very well since all of that lovely fare at the wedding. Nor did they bear any signs of having been at a wedding, but more like they expected danger at every turn, and clearly Hermione really had been prepared and packed for the escape they’d been forced to make, all of them out of their wedding garb and into jeans, t-shirts, and jumpers.
And of course, after he got through the Tongue-Tying Hex that Mad-Eye had put up for Severus, he was met with the three of them pointing their wands directly into his face.
When he told them who he was, while Hermione lowered her defenses along with Ron in order to shut up the portrait of Sirius’ screaming mother, Harry was the only one who didn’t lower his wand, and demanded extra proof that Remus was who he claimed to be, and Remus gave it to him gladly.
Only then did Harry believe him, and also lower his wand. Remus commended him on the extra precaution he had taken, and gently chastised Ron and Hermione for not following Harry’s example.
All in all though, the three of them were clearly pleased to see him—to see that he was okay (a touching thought), and glad to have contact with the outside world after being shut up in hiding.
Someone who could give them news, and of course, Remus was there to deliver.
He suggested to them that they continue their discussion in the basement kitchen. As he descended with them and followed them to that room, a flood of memories hit him, and for a split-second, he half-expected to find Sirius sitting hung over at the kitchen table, trying to force himself to down a cup of coffee. When he came to his senses, he remembered the panic attack he’d had back upstairs in the hallway, shortly after Sirius’ death. Though it wasn’t as if it had been eons since he’d last been inside of this place, any more than anyone else before they decided to abandon it in light of the circumstances of Albus’ death, the impression that the place was more like a tomb pressed upon him more strongly than ever, and he was grateful for the presence of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and the crackling fire Hermione conjured for them in the fireplace as they sat down.
From beneath the folds of his cloak, he produced four butterbeers he had purchased from the Leaky Cauldron shortly before leaving it that morning, and before he updated them on everything that had happened since the wedding, he asked them what had happened after they had Disapparated, if they had come straight to Grimmauld Place after the wedding.
Harry told him that no, they had only come here after they had had an eventful run-in with a couple of Death Eaters back on Tottenham Court Road.
Remus half-choked on his butterbeer and gasped. He really shouldn’t have been so shocked, but on the other hand, he hadn’t expected the Death Eaters to catch up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione that quickly.
“We were just hiding out in the café,” Harry explained, “and then I noticed the three workmen move, and I knew what they really were, what they were going to do, and without thinking I countered the curse one of them tried to throw at us.”
“It was like they came out of nowhere,” added Ron, shuddering over his bottle of butterbeer.
“Like they were expecting us there certainly,” said Hermione, her brow furrowed. “It wasn’t like they came in and spotted us, they knew to look for us in there.”
Remus could scarcely express how worrying that was, and he could see that the three young adults felt just the same. Hermione wondered if perhaps Harry still had the Trace on him, but Remus immediately debunked that possibility. The Trace came off a wizard automatically, the moment they came of age.
Harry meanwhile was quite keen to hear news of what had transpired after they had escaped the wedding. Remus filled him, Ron, and Hermione in, and from there the events that had taken place that night—the fall of the Ministry, the new free-reign of the Death Eaters and their combined might of the “new Ministry”, as well as Scrimgeour’s replacement and the cock and bull story about his “resignation” and the speedy “election” of the Imperiused Pius Thicknesse—unfurled for them (though he glossed over the grueling interrogation after the wedding, the torment his heart had gone through at the sounds of Nymphadora’s squeals of pain through that kitchen door).
He was saddened to deliver the news to Harry that he was a wanted man, though Harry seemed little concerned with it, or at the very least he took the news very stoically, pushing away across the table the copy of The Daily Prophet Remus had brought from Fred and George’s the day he—the day he left.
Voldemort was ingeniously vilifying Harry to turn everyone else against him and leave him friendless—much the way things had been going for him in his fifth year, when no one believed Harry (except for his closest friends and the Order) that Voldemort had returned, and Voldemort had used that to his advantage.
Only now it was more than just all of Hogwarts, it was all of the wizarding community in Britain and Ireland, more or less.
Still, Harry seemed to think it was nothing he couldn’t handle, nothing he wasn’t used to handling. Remus was strongly reminded of Sirius and how unconcerned he often reacted to news about his own state of being a wanted man.
In fact, Harry was far more sickened and angry when it came to the news not only about the newly instated Muggle-born Registration Commission (at which Ron had a moment of panic and insisted that he teach Hermione his family tree so he could pass her off as his cousin, to which Hermione had gratefully declined, seeing as how she was running with the wanted Harry Potter, and besides which had no plans to return to school at the moment), but also about the mandatory attendance of Hogwarts students and the way Voldemort was now weeding out Muggle-borns with the requirement of new student blood status.
And Remus couldn’t blame him, and he and Harry shared a look of grim understanding as to how much the world had managed to turn so dark and so bleak in a matter of days, of hours even.
In the brief silence that followed, Remus realized that an opportunity had unwittingly presented itself, an opportunity to reveal his intention and offer to be of use to Harry, Ron, and Hermione—Harry in particular—on this mission Albus had given him, and in a very hesitating manner he asked if Harry could in fact confirm that such a mission had been given.
Harry hesitated too, looking at Ron and Hermione, and then admitted that yes indeed, Albus had given him a mission, and Ron and Hermione were involved in helping him.
Of course Remus had already known this from Ron and Hermione, and from Arthur beforehand and his own instincts, but he thought he might get the details out of the one to whom the mission had been originally entrusted:
But Harry was as steadfast as the others, and though he seemed uncomfortable admitting it (as Remus sort of expected), he didn’t think he could tell Remus the details any more than Ron and Hermione could—this mission was for his, Ron, and Hermione’s knowledge and undertaking alone (and Remus sort of expected that too).
Remus was still determined to be of some help, that’s what he had come for, after all. Not just to deliver information, but to be there for Harry, for James’ son, and to do his part in bringing down Voldemort, as far away as possible from the wife and unborn child he was endangering, even as he conveniently determined to leave out that little detail.
To his dismay, Hermione touched the subject of his wife, and Remus avoided it with all of the cold dismissal of a man who had never once in his life cared in the least for Nymphadora Tonks, as he informed them all that she was safe at her parents’ house.
Unfortunately, this only caused the three young adults to look at each other again, further perplexed, and it increased their concern. Hermione timidly asked if everything was okay, to which Remus very shortly assured her that everything was fine.
Liar, hissed a small voice inside of him, the same one that would tell him when he was being a fool to let a stupid thing like his own lycanthropy keep him from being happy.
And he felt guilty at once when he saw how pink Hermione turned, the way she shrank back into her shoulders at his rebuke. With a heavy sigh he finally admitted to them, as quickly as he could, that Nymphadora was pregnant. His stomach turned at the sight of their faces lighting up to hear this news, this news that certainly was not at all happy from where he was sat.
None of them could ever understand, so there was no need to go into detail. After giving them a false smile, he pressed on with his offer to join them on their mission for Albus, even if it meant they couldn’t exactly tell him the details.
He saw no reason why they shouldn’t accept his assistance, after all: Molly was right about one thing, they were barely of age, and who knew what untested skills they would be forced to call forth in the dark of the unknown…?
And if they should fail because Remus hadn’t been there to help them…?
If Harry should fail…?
Predictably it was Harry who had the final word. Ron and Hermione seemed uncertain, but they looked to him.
He was looking at Remus, one eyebrow raised, and more critically than Remus would have liked. “Just—just to be clear. You want to leave Tonks at her parents’ house and come away with us?”*
Remus told him again that Nymphadora would be perfectly safe and well-looked-after at Ted and Andromeda’s.
Harry was still skeptical.
Remus regarded him with his avuncular affection. “Harry, I’m sure James would have wanted me to stick with you.”**
Very slowly, in that way James would often speak when he was doing his best to control his temper, Harry gripped the edge of the table in a kind of relaxed readiness, smoothing his fingers across the wood, and then he fixed Remus sternly with his mother’s green eyes and said:
“Well, I’m not. I’m pretty sure my father would have wanted to know why you aren’t sticking with your own kid, actually.”***
Had Remus expected this response? He supposed he ought to have done. But the most wounding thing of all?
Harry was absolutely right.
On the other hand, Harry indeed had his father’s temper, and if he didn’t quit, he was going to learn just what happened when one backed a wounded wolf into a corner.
*pg 212 of the US version of HP and the DH
**pg 212 of the US version of HP and the DH
***pg 212 of the US version of HP and the DH
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