Now that the Weasleys knew they were being “tracked”, it went without saying that probably everyone else who worked in the Ministry who also worked for the Order was probably being tracked too, which Bill notwithstanding (and perhaps Percy too, if he had indeed by now figured out what was really going on and was possibly just lying low for the sake of his and his family’s sake—a touching thought, not to mention one that would redeem his character of late), then Kingsley and Denise were probably also being tracked.
And Nymphadora too.
That was no surprise though, since Bellatrix Lestrange would stop at nothing to see her niece dead.
Nymphadora came down that following morning to find her husband staring out of the kitchen window, at where the woods far off across the field of lupines, (where Bellatrix might even then be lurking, if Voldemort didn’t have her on assignment elsewhere)…woods much like where Harry, Ron, and Hermione might be hiding out now.
She handed him a cup of tea.
“Thank you,” he said, putting his arm around her as she sidled next to him, her own cup clutched in her hands.
“She out there, do you reckon?” she asked him.
“Perhaps.” He took a sip of tea and swallowed the strong brewed black tea. “Kingsley thinks he’s already picked up news of the Cattermoles: the real Reg of course, and his wife made it out of the country with their children.”
Nymphadora took another small quaff of tea.
Remus turned away from the window and set his sights on something sweeter, watching Nymphadora as tenderly as he had earlier that morning, while she was still sleeping close beside him. He moved his hand at her back up to her hair and stroked a few pink locks.
“How are you this morning, my love?” he asked.
She looked sidelong at him and smiled, though rather despondently. “A bit sad to see you leave for patrol again after breakfast.”
He joined her in her rueful smile with one of his own and kissed her temple.
She rested her head against his shoulder, nuzzling into his neck.
“I won’t leave until your mother comes round,” he told her.
“I know you’re scared, sweet. I’m scared too. But I know how strong you are.”
“Well…I try.” Nymphadora hesitated, and then said: “If something does happen…I want you to know…I’ll keep my head high. I mean you won’t need to worry about me and the baby…we’ll be alright.”
Remus’ hand fell to the small of her back again and he hugged her closer against him, his arm locked firm around her waist.
He wished he could think of something to say, but if he told her everything would be all right, he would be fine, promised her, he couldn’t be sure—that was the terrible thing about it: today could be the day something goes horribly wrong on patrol, and why not? After the events at the Ministry, surely more drastic steps would be taken to not only find Harry—Undesirable No. 1 and—his (thus far, “suspected”) accomplices—Ron and Hermione, but also possibly to draw them out with excessive force on innocents.
Voldemort knew Harry had a bit of a hero complex to him, which certainly the young man wasn’t arrogant about, but all the same, it did manage to get him into trouble, though of course at the same it did also manage to save lives (barring of course the unfortunate circumstances of Sirius’ death). If he and the other two were indeed in the deepest of hiding after the unavoidably accidental fiasco of their exit from their penetration of the Ministry, they were probably quite cut off from most communication with the “outside”, and then it might prevent Harry from learning of some drastic incident that would compel him to act (as he did to an extent in the Ministry in setting all those other Muggle-borns to be questioned free while escaping himself) in a heroic manner, and lure him into a trap.
However—that was the problem, the terrible “however”, the “yet”—there was always a way news could conceivably reach even the remotest of ears.
And if things got ugly enough, then even in just one moment, Nymphadora could become a widow, their child fatherless.
But he didn’t want to bring this up either! True as it was, there had to be hope, or what was the point? Wasn’t that the reason they were bringing this child into the world, aside from the fact that it was, in its way, a bit of a funny accident? Everything this little being represented was a beacon of hope for them all, yet another reason they needed to keep fighting, so that perchance it would open its eyes for the first time to a world at peace, and not torn by war and terror and death.
“Oh dear.” Nymphadora managed a laugh as she observed him. “I seem to have made you fall into your deepest thoughts. Have I lost you for good this time?”
Remus blinked, coming back to himself. For the duration of his contemplation, his unfocused gaze had settled on the little vase of wildflowers on the kitchen table, which Nymphadora had picked yesterday when they had some time to themselves to take another precious walk together to their meadow.
He answered her chuckle with one of his own. “Forgive me. I wanted…to cheer you up somehow. I couldn’t think what to say…considering circumstances….”
Nymphadora drained her cup of tea and set it on the table thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s best you don’t say a thing at all. Why waste words?”
“Oh I see.” Remus drained his cup too and set it beside his wife’s. “So you say there are better things I could do with my mouth?”
Nymphadora looked up at him with a gleam in her indigo eyes. “Maaaaaaaaybe.”
She giggled as Remus leaned in and kissed her, and rose up on tiptoe, her arms twined around his neck, pressing close as he drowned her in the arduous meeting of their lips.
“That says it all, yes?” he whispered in her ear when they broke apart to catch their breaths.
“Yes indeed,” Nymphadora tittered.
And holding onto that feeling that they were both just teenagers falling in love for the first time, they kissed again.
As it happened, that day things were definitely different—hordes of dementors following unsuspecting Muggles around for one, bombarding them with amplifications of their own gloomy ruminations. But it was nothing Remus couldn’t handle on a patrol of the county, though he had to take even greater pains to be covert. As long as the dementors didn’t feel threatened by a Patronus-weilding wizard, they left the Muggles more or less alone, aside from draining their hope and happiness.
Thoughts of Nymphadora and the possibility of him living to see their child born was what kept his Patronus going (settled back to a wolf now that he was no longer pining for a love he could not have, just as his wife’s had settled back to a ring-tailed lemur), protecting the Muggles from further thoughts of despair. Though the great silver wolf was spotted many times, Remus the conjurer was never found out. He’d spent too much of his marauding boyhood with James and Sirius not to not know how to go about doing things unseen. Sometimes he used this as the best reassurance to Nymphadora that he had every capability of coming home each day from patrol alive and unscathed.
Meanwhile, Fred and George called a meeting at their flat that night, so Remus had a message passed on to Nymphadora and her mother at Lupin Cottage that he would be a bit late. When he arrived, he saw that Kingsley had also shown up, and of all people, another one of Remus’ former students, Lee Jordan, a good friend of the twins if he recalled correctly.
“Hello, Professor!” he greeted, giving a kind of casual salute. “Long time, no see, eh?”
“Indeed, Lee,” said Remus. “And feel free to call me Remus, as I’m no longer your professor,” he added with a grin. “So what’s all this then?” he asked the room at large.
“Fred and George thought we might have a preliminary meeting to the launch of our new wireless program,” said Kingsley with a twinkle of amusement. “Naturally their friend Lee here’s been roped in—willingly I might add—as host, given his excellent vocal skills used during his days as an announcer for Quidditch games at Hogwarts. Or so I’ve heard.”
“Oh stop, Kingsley, you’ll make me blush,” said Lee with mock-modesty.
“Denise wanted to come,” Kingsley went on in an private undertone to Remus, “but she’s at home with a bad oyster, unfortunately. Though to be honest, I’d prefer if she stay out of this. We know she’s likely being watched too, and it’s probably best if the two of us aren’t both involved.”
Though Remus recognized the natural signs of a man in love wanting to protect his beloved, he made no comment other than, “I see,” wisely opting not to tease the man into confessing something profound.
“But don’t worry, this’ll be fun,” Lee was saying, hunching over a sheaf of parchment with a quill and ink as he shared the sofa with the twins, who both nodded enthusiastically.
“Definitely,” said George, his chin resting on his interlaced fingers.
“See, we’re coming up with code names, good stuff like that,” said Fred with a conspiratorial gleam, rubbing his hands together.
“We’re still stuck on the program name though,” said Lee with a frown.
“Where are your parents in all of this?” Remus asked as he took a seat in a chair opposite the one Kingsley occupied and selecting a biscuit from the tray that had been brought out.
“Well Mum’s too nervous now to let Dad do much of anything except keep his head down,” said Fred.
“What he means is Dad thinks it would be best if he kept his head down,” George corrected, though Remus felt the former was probably truer. “He’s got no problem with feeding us anything he picks up though, it’s just he doesn’t feel it’d be best for his voice to be heard. Mum’s having enough kittens as it is with us to being at the forefront of it all. And as for Bill—he and Fleur are having…issues.” He pronounced the last word as if it was something rotting in the sun that he’d rather avoid touching if at all possible.
“Issues?” Remus asked.
Fred shook his head. “Don’t bother, we can’t get it out of Bill, so we’ve no idea. You can try though. Sounds like a marriage thing, so you being a married man, you might be able to figure it out.”
Yes, I think I will, Remus thought, and resolved to see if he and Nymphadora mightn’t be able to pay the Order’s other happy newlywed couple a visit—or perhaps not-so-happy, as the case might be.
“Right then,” said Lee, “so anyone got any good ideas for program names?”
Remus felt like he was a boy at Hogwarts again, and he and his friends were creating the Marauder’s Map, coming up with their nicknames and everything, their aliases for all of their marauding monkeyshines and whatnot. For the time being he forgot that they were doing this for a war effort and not purely for fun, and simply had fun.
“Well I think the name should definitely figure Harry in somehow,” said Remus, “that way it’s clear that he is in fact a rallying point we support, and more than that, but a rallying point people can believe in. To remind people that he was the one who came back from that graveyard all those years ago with the truth, and he’s still the one with the truth today. More or less. Sorry, am I waxing a little too lyrical?”
“No, no, I agree,” said George. “And it’s also got to evoke vigilance of the truth. Know what I mean?”
“Like watching?” said Fred.
“So, Harry’s Watch?” said Lee.
“No, that suggests that Harry’s actually here physically,” said Kingsley after some thought. “And while that’s not true, that won’t stop some Death Eaters from drawing that conclusion, including Voldemort himself.” (Kingsley had begun the brave act of calling Voldemort by name when he took some time to reflect on it in the wake of Albus’ death, though it was a long time coming for him.)
“So…Harry Watch?” Lee tweaked lamely.
“Harry Watch? Hairy watch!” George laughed. “You know, that’s not a bad idea for the joke shop, actually: a hairy watch….”
“Focus, focus,” said Remus, though he too couldn’t keep a smile at the thought of a watch made of hair.
“Right, not Harry Watch,” said Fred while Lee scratched the idea out with some embarrassment.
“Why not use his surname instead?” Remus suggested. “Potter? After all, so many wizards are…marked by their surnames. It could almost be a stroke of irony.”
A slow smile spread across Kingsley’s face as he latched onto the witticism. “Of course. That’s what part of this is about after all: that your surname determines your worthiness to live: if you’ve the name of a pureblood wizard, you’re as good as gold, but if you’ve got some Muggle’s name—on both sides—”
Fred mimed blasting someone with a Killing Curse. “Sayonara,” he said pithily.
“So, Potter…Potter Watch?” said Lee, looking around at the others for approval.
“Yes, I think that’ll do,” said Remus.
“Only, make it one word,” said Kingsley, after Lee wrote it out for them. “That way it’s more unified. You know, a monism with a single goal.”
“And yea we christen our new program, Potterwatch,” George announced in a deep and theatrical voice, making an arbitrary sign in the air over the coffee table like a prophet making a proclamation.
Fred and Lee sniggered as Lee underlined their program name beneath all the discards.
“Now for our codenames,” he said.
“It should be something that hints at a particular…aspect of ourselves,” said Remus, drawing from how he and his friends came to get their nicknames, all of which reflected the forms they took at full moon when they went marauding by night. Thus he also added, “And should have a unifying pattern of some sort.”
“Well I’ve got a good one for you, Remus,” said Fred. “Though I won’t say you’ll be the first to have it.”
Remus raised his eyebrows. “Oh? And what might that be?”
Fred glanced at his twin, and George said, “How about ‘Moony’?”
Remus seized this opportunity to exhibit a bit of mischief, remembering learning from Harry at some point that he had in fact obtained the old Marauder’s Map from Fred and George. “Oh, but you see, my fellow phoenixes, I’m not sure that’ll work at all. You see I’ve not been known by that name in some years, though Sirius and I resurrected it briefly.”
The grins slid of the twins’ faces as they furrowed their brows in confusion.
“What do you mean?” George asked, absently scratching around the hole where his ear used to be.
“Well, you see, because that was my friends’ nickname for me at school.” Remus’ mischievous grin widened. “Sirius’ was Padfoot. And it might interest you to know that Harry’s dad James got Prongs….”
Fred and George gaped at him, and then at each other, and then back at Remus.
“You mean…?” breathed Fred.
“You’re…Mr. Moony?” finished George.
“The one and only, at your service.” Remus shamelessly inclined his head. “Harry told me he got the map from you…after a fashion.”
“And you…and his dad…and Sirius….”
Fred and George were acting like they were meeting a celebrity, like their beloved Filibuster of Filibuster’s Fireworks perhaps. Only better.
“I trust before Harry had it, you found my and my friends’ little tool useful?” Remus adopted an absolutely roguish expression, and crossed his legs in a princely manner, feeling as arrogant as James almost—and letting himself enjoy it. There were few times he could feel such excessive pride, and he was going to relish in it. James and Sirius would have much appreciated that.
Fred and George both swallowed, lost for words, their expressions dreamy like floating on tufts of cloud.
Lee cleared his throat, a little annoyed, and the twins came back to reality.
“Yes, er…right, so ‘Moony’ won’t do, not at all, not all….”
Kingsley chuckled deeply. “What about Romulus, hm?”
“Romulus?” said Remus, still lost in his amusement at Fred and George’s discovery that one of their heroes in mischief-making was in fact sitting right there with them in the sitting room of their flat, and not only that, but also that one of them had been Harry’s father, the other their gloomy host of 12 Grimmauld Place.
“Yes, Romulus,” Kingsley went on, still amused at the twins’ awe. “You know, the twin of Remus, co-founder of Rome? Suckled with his twin by a she-wolf as a baby?”
“Is that who he was?” Remus said off-handedly. It should be noted that he often avoided dwelling on the unfortunate coincidence of his namesake, which had innocently been given to him for a relative on his father’s side—just like Ramirus’—but in the end it only served to fit so well with his eventual circumstances of being a lycanthrope, the whole “suckled by a she-wolf” thing.
“It’s the perfect kind of alias,” said Lee, making idle doodles with his quill around the name Potterwatch. “A twin.”
“Alright then,” said Remus, conceding. “Romulus it is.” It was rather clever after all, and he knew Nymphadora would thrill whenever she would hear it over the sound waves on the radio. He could just imagine it.
And maybe…if Harry did get access to the program—he might hear it too...so he resolved in that moment that every time they did go on, he would find some way to get a message to him…that he was sorry, that Harry had been right, all along.
As for the others, the pattern that unified them ended up being the letter R, since after coming up with Romulus, they just ran with it from there, giving Kingsley the name “Royal” (because of his name containing “King”), “River” to Lee (in reference to the river that shared his last name), and then “Rapier” to Fred (because it was dashing) and “Rodent” to George (because it wasn’t (well, actually because it was sneaky—nevertheless, the two had a bit of a dispute about it)).
On the night of their premiere broadcast, Remus and Nymphadora had dinner at Andromeda’s before Remus left for their first agreed-upon location (they figured it was best if they never broadcast in the same place twice). It wasn’t as tense a meal as Remus thought it would be, and perhaps because Andromeda felt that maybe as a broadcasting informant, Remus might in some way pick up news about Ted that would reassure her and her daughter.
Remus hoped for that too, among other things.
Before Remus left, Nymphadora kissed him after she fondly pinned his traveling cloak around his shoulders. “Break a leg,” she said. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he told her, and kissed her again. “Password is, ‘phoenix’.”
“Oh, and the time again?” Nymphadora asked as he opened the front door into the night.
“Eight o’clock sharp,” and he winked.
“That’s when I’ll tap in then,” she said, waggling her wand.
He laughed, and kissed her hand one last time, and then after that, he was gone.
Tucked away in a barn on a secluded hill in the countryside, out of the way of the sleepy cows, sitting amongst the hay, Remus, Kingsley, the twins, and Lee Jordan gathered around the broadcasting device.
Fred tapped it with his wand and a red transmitter light came on blinking. “That means it’s trying to hack into the wireless signals,” he explained. “Once it steadies, it means we’re in.”
For a few tense moments, the red light blinked and blinked as it endeavored to connect to the signal—
Then it was steady.
Lee leaned towards the main mike, licked his lips, and began: “Good evening, witches and wizards, that is, those of you that got the handouts—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—and welcome to our first broadcast of Potterwatch! I’m your host, River, and I’m here with Rapier, Rodent, Romulus, and Royal and we are—drumroll—the Five Amigos! Ha, ha, just kidding. But do be prepared to sit tight for the truth of what’s really going on, and being that this program’s been named in honor of our fighting friend, Mr. Harry Potter, we’d like to start with clearing up a little matter. Royal, if you would?”
Kingsley cleared his throat. “In the first place, I would like to send a message to the pretender that sits in the office of the late Albus Dumbledore: we know it was you, Severus Snape, who killed him. Harry Potter witnessed this, and any one of you who believes that hogwash in The Daily Prophet that he’s the one who committed the crime, know that you are being spoon-fed a lie by Voldemort himself. That’s right, I said his name.”
“Ooh, gives me the collywobbles, Royal,” shivered Lee. “But he does have a point folks.”
“Indeed, River,” said Kingsley. “Pius Thicknesse might be in the Minister’s seat, but I’m afraid he’s just a puppet. Your suspicions were correct: Voldemort sits in the seat of power in our government. Not a pretty picture.”
Next to Remus, George jabbed his finger at the indicator on the transmitter that measured how many radios were tapped into their wireless connection, which was capable of gleaning how many listeners were attached to each radio within a listening radius. Arthur and Kingsley had passed the word around very discreetly at the Ministry (the “handouts” Lee had referenced), just a select few, to be careful, and that number had been a measley five.
Now the number had risen to thirty-two, though most of that was Order members. Yet somehow in the first few minutes of their first news bulletin, the word had been passed on to others to tap their radios with their wands using the password “phoenix” if they knew what was good for them.
Lee was plowing onward: “…and yes that was Harry Potter you saw at the Ministry, and he meant business! Those people he freed? Unfortunately they can’t speak for themselves, because their voices have been stolen by the powers at be, forced them into hiding, but we shall speak for them and say: ‘yes, we were being questioned based simply on the fact that we had Muggles for parents, but our magical blood is true and most assuredly our own’. Romulus, care to comment?”
“Certainly, River,” said Remus, clearing his own throat as he leaned towards his mike. “In the first place I would like to say that those claims in The Prophet, stating that Muggle-borns steal their magical powers, is an absolute lie. This is just the beginning of the atrocity Voldemort and his Death Eaters plan to bring down on us, the atrocity of ‘purifying’ the wizarding community. Let me enlighten you on what that truly means: death. Death for every man, woman, and child—yes, you heard me, child—who is a witch or wizard who was born to Muggle parents. Voldemort plans to steep our history in blood, blood he feels is unfit to go on living. Would you, ladies and gentleman, stand idly by the death of a husband? A mother? A child?”
A chilling crackle of silence followed his speech.
The audience meter rose from thirty-three to thirty-five, forty, forty-eight….
“No,” Remus concluded solemnly. “I certainly hope not. And anyone who thinks Harry Potter’s ‘abandoned’ us, think again. He’s out there, doing what he can to bring a madman like Voldemort down, and at any rate, his escapade at the Ministry is proof that he means to do his bit, and that’s why here at Potterwatch, we do what we can to see him through to the end, whatever that may be.” He hesitated a moment, then added, as if Harry himself might hear, “He’s got a good head on his shoulders, that young man.”
After another reverent silence, Lee said, “Thank you, Romulus. And to that, I segue into the detail of the matter he brings to light: we have here, a list of people already quote unquote ‘tried’ and bound for Azkaban, and with the dementors on You-Know-Who’s side, Azkaban no longer merely means a life sentence of despair, but certain soul-sucking and death, man, woman, and child alike. These names are confirmed….”
And with each name read out, Remus got a flash of an imagined face of some sort, indistinct, but real, and now swallowed forever by the maw of Azkaban, or the executionary green light of the Killing Curse. He felt each like a small blow.
Luckily though, their ratings were further boosted by Fred and George as Rapier and Rodent, who added a fair bit of lighthearted playfulness to their list of survival tips.
“And we’ll be coming out with even more delightful tips on how to stay alive under the ruthless claw of the badarse bald man come next broadcast,” Fred raved.
“But in the meantime, abide by our number one rule that applies to all situations: don’t be thick people!” George reiterated.
By the time Lee bid their listeners goodnight, and gave them the next broadcast time, date, and password (“resistance”) the meter had hit the sixty mark.
“Not too bad,” he said, congratulatorily as he and the twins packed up the equipment. “Not too bad at all.”
“Well it’s a start,” said Remus, catching Kingsley’s eye.
Back at Andromeda’s, where Remus went to collect Nymphadora, he was surprised to find his wife and mother-in-law in a mood to celebrate the success of his first broadcast. Remus was more than eager to join them for a little cake and wine (non-alcoholic for Nymphadora).
Just as they were finishing up, Remus cozily reclined on the sofa with Nymphadora wrapped happily in his arms, nodding off even against his chest, Andromeda idly chattering about one Christmas when Ted did the cooking and burnt the special ordered goose, there came a sharp rap on the door.
Nymphadora’s head popped up, looking around at once, all alertness. So was Remus now, his arms wrapping a little tighter around her. Andromeda gained her feet, all drowsiness gone.
“Wait here,” she said.
Unlike Remus and Nymphadora, her pureblood protected her enough that she didn’t need an extra dome of protective wards and spells enclosing her home (except of course the night Harry was here to take a portkey to the Burrow after fleeing Privet Drive), which meant anyone—Death Eaters included—could come calling.
At the front door, she demanded to know the identity of the person on the other side.
The wicked voice on the other side answered silkily, “Why your dear big sister, Bellatrix Lestrange.”