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In My Time of Dying by Stag Night
Chapter 20 : Gillyweed and Werewolves
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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In My Time of Dying
Disclaimer:
The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.



C H A P T E R . T W E N T Y
Gillyweed and Werewolves




Caradoc and Dorcas shot out of their chairs, hurrying towards the door. Gideon and Fabian were right on their tails, and it was obvious where everyone was going. They were going to leave the building, head out to the alley so they could Disapparate to the McKinnons’.


Impedimenta!” snarled Alastor Moody. Instantly, the four slowed.


“Oi!” barked Fabian, twisting around.


“Nobody’s going anywhere just yet,” said Moody gruffly.


“But Marlene!” argued Caradoc in desperation. He swung his arms wildly, trying to surge forward against the spell. When he failed, his hand reached for his own wand. It immediately flew from his pocket and landed in Moody’s hand. Caradoc howled in anger. “Damn it, Alastor!”


Alastor stared at him for a long moment, clearly debating how to respond as he tucked Caradoc’s wand into the front pocket of his robes. He slowly pulled his cap off of his head and Sirius could swear he saw a rare look of sorrow pass across the man’s scarred face. But at last Moody thumped his wooden leg into the ground and his face took on a hardened look. “As far as I can tell from that Patronus, Marlene is already dead.”


“And we could catch the sodding bastards that did it to her!” growled Dorcas, still fighting against the slowing spell to reach the door. Sounds of desperate fury escaped her as she struggled to move faster.


Everyone else in the room watched the scene unfold with pale faces. Caradoc Dearborn looked as if he might burst into tears. Sirius knew that all of them - Dorcas, the Prewett brothers and Caradoc, and Marlene - all of them had gone to Hogwarts together. Their time was just before his own. They were close, possibly as close as he was to his fellow Marauders.


His brow sank low over his eyes as he tried to think about what it must be like to know a part of you has just died, and he swallowed loudly.


Frank and Alice were sitting nearby, eyeing the four near the door with wide eyes. Alice looked shaken and Frank had an arm around her shoulder, absently rubbing her arm. And Moody twisted his cap in his hands. Nobody wanted to believe that, for the first time, one of them was dead.


The first member of the Order of the Phoenix had fallen.


“Don’t you see?” asked Moody gruffly, breaking the absolute silence in the room. “It was a setup. They must have been staking out the McKinnon place for days. That battle we just fought in Ottery St. Catchpole… It was all a ruse to distract us, to keep us busy. And we fell for it.”


Frank’s head instantly snapped towards Moody. “Staking out the McKinnon place?” he blurted. “What?”


“You heard me, boy.”


Everyone looked to Frank now. Frank Longbottom was still an Auror for the Ministry most of the time. He worked with Moody every day, and perhaps he had picked up a few of Alastor’s qualities. His way of thinking and figuring things out, perhaps. Now Frank seemed to have deduced something in his mentor’s words that nobody else picked up on.


“They wouldn’t stake out the McKinnon place unless it was important,” said Frank under his breath. “The McKinnons have never been really prominent or anything. And they’re all purebloods…”


“That they are,” agreed Moody. “And Voldemort’s Death Eaters have been trying to avoid harming any purebloods whether they are blood traitors or not. They don’t want to shed that valuable blood - they’d make every effort to save it all. Probably to breed more wizards further down the line…”


“That’s sick,” said Peter, his voice shaking. Lily reached over and grasped his hand, but neither of them looked comforted by her gesture.


“Never mind that,” said Frank impatiently. “What I’m concerned about is why the McKinnons were targeted. And I’ll bet it’s because they know she’s in the Order, fighting against them. They lured us to battle when they saw she was home tonight. I think they know about us. I think they‘re going to be trying to pick us off.”


Alastor looked grim. “Very good, boy. I believe so, too.”


“It doesn’t matter,” said Gideon, sounding very impatient through gritted teeth. “The McKinnon’s are dead, and we need to go to them. We need to find the ones that did this, before they get the rest of us.”


Moody scowled at the handsome red head. “We need to wait for Dumbledore,” he countered.


As if on cue, the old man strolled into the room looking rather pleased. “Ah,” he said upon his arrival. “Thank you for waiting for me. The Ministry Aurors have been filled in and dealt with, and we have taken into custody more than thirty supporters and suspected Death Eaters. All in all, it went remarkably well…”


Dumbledore trailed off when he saw the looks on everyone’s faces. Silence came over the room.


“Professor,” said Frank gravely. “Marlene’s Patronus just turned up…”


“Oh?” smiled Dumbledore. “And how is her little one doing?”


Frank’s face paled. “Professor… the Patronus collapsed.” The smile instantly slipped from Dumbledore’s wrinkled face, which seemed to sag wearily all of the sudden. “It… it died,” finished Frank.


Dumbledore stared at Frank for a moment and then glanced around the room, taking in everyone’s gaunt appearances. He saw the four standing by the door, clearly on their way out before they’d been stopped. The old man looked suddenly heartbroken.


“Oh dear,” Dumbledore worried after a few seconds of silence. He paced for a quick moment and then looked up at the group. His voice was very grave when he spoke, and he seemed only to address the Prewetts and Dorcas and Caradoc. “Are we ready for a visit to the McKinnon cottage?”


“Yes,” snarled Dorcas from where she stood by the door, and her eyes were now watery with unshed tears.






II.

The scene that unfolded in front of them after they appeared in the McKinnon neighbourhood was serene and peaceful. It was almost hard to imagine that such a terrible thing had happened. Unlike the battle they had just been engaged in, there was no fire or chaos, no tortured Muggles or screaming.


They had Apparated around the corner, in a nearby deserted park so as not to be seen by any Muggles. And now as they walked towards the McKinnon home, Sirius saw frightened faces peeking out of windows. All of them looked towards the sky, and he followed their gaze. And there it was, the third, fourth and fifth marks he’d seen that night. Glowing bright and green against a starry backdrop, the skulls looked down at the house. A snake seemed to curl about in an excited manner within each skull, all looking ready to strike again at any moment.


He repressed a shudder. The marks had been an ominous sight up until now, but they’d never been able to reach out and grab him. They’d never hovered over the home of somebody he knew personally before, and the way he saw them now was remarkably different than in the past month. They seemed to tease and laugh, reach into his very soul and jeer, “Look what I’ve done. Look what I have taken away from you.”


It was like a living nightmare. Like he was drowning, or like he'd been punched in the face. It was a blur of terror, and disbelief at what was happening.


Beside him, James heaved a sigh as he looked upon the marks for himself. His bespectacled friend had been oddly silent since the appearance of the Patronus and Sirius didn’t try to push him to say anything now. James always had a fierce determination to fight against Dark magic. Sirius could practically feel the hatred radiating from his best friend as they looked upon what had been done.


As one, the Order marched up to the front door of the McKinnon cottage with varied feelings of dread. Sirius didn’t want to go inside and see their bodies. He felt he had seen far too much death and injury lately. Starting with Remus’s father and finishing with the McKinnons, it had seemed to never end.


He had half a mind to close his eyes as he walked through the door, but instead he kept them open. For some reason, he felt that Marlene deserved to be seen and looked upon and not avoided in disgust. It was sheer respect and fear that made him look upon her broken body with an overwhelming sympathy.


She was on the floor by the couch. Her face looked peaceful, although she looked as if she had been tortured before her death. Burn marks covered her hands. Sirius wondered how much it had taken for her to be able to conjure her Patronus just before she died. Perhaps that - the happy memory she must have dredged up to make it appear - was what left her with a small smile upon her face as took her last breath.


Dorcas Meadows was at her side instantly, crying. Alice was sobbing but keeping her distance, pacing in a corner and not daring to look. Alice had been in the Order for over a year now. She, perhaps, had a friendship with Marlene that Sirius had yet to experience. He glanced around, noted the gashes and holes in the walls, in the ceiling. There had been a fight. She'd gone down swinging. The might Marlene. His heart hammered against his chest and he swallowed loudly.


Alastor, Frank, Fabian and Benjy immediately disappeared down hallways and into bedrooms, searching for the Death Eaters that may have done this. Nobody expected the killers to remain in the house, but to be certain they checked regardless.


Lily’s heart seemed to break over the scene. She barely knew the McKinnons herself, but it was the knowledge of the utter fear they all must have experienced prior to death that overtook her. The body of their young daughter lay beside Marlene’s, and Lily knew Marlene died trying to protect her. The little girl appeared to be nothing more than a bonus kill, her life tossed aside carelessly, with little effort, no mercy.


The corpse of Marlene’s husband was in a hallway. The man looked as if he had been tortured even more than Marlene had been.


“Oh, Keith,” sighed Caradoc sympathetically when they found the man. Of course Keith McKinnon had been in school with them as well. Just because he wasn’t in the Order hadn’t meant that he wasn’t just as important to them, just as missed. His death was no less tragic than Marlene's, and a strangled sound escaped Caradoc as he realised that they were gone forever.


Without a word, James wrapped his arms around Lily and planted a kiss on the side of her head as they listened and witnessed the heartbreak. He pressed his lips into her hair while his hazel eyes flitted uncomfortably around the scene before them.


Several loud pops sounded suddenly outside. Sirius’s heart hammered in his throat and he, along with every other member of the Order, instantly drew their wands at the sounds of Apparition. It was Bartemius Crouch, however, who led the way through the front door.


“Dumbledore,” Crouch barked upon seeing the old man there. “We have only just spoken in Ottery St. Catchpole, and now you are here as well.” He looked suspicious as he took in the Order. His eyes rested momentarily on Sirius and James and he scowled.


“Forgive me, Barty,” said Dumbledore. “Shortly after I left you only moments ago, I received word that friends of the McKinnons received her Patronus in distress. Understandably concerned, they approached me with this news, and we have merely come to check on the family.”


Crouch didn’t look very believing as he took in the Order. “What is this?” he demanded. “Have you a secret army going, Dumbledore?”


“No, no,” said Dumbledore pleasantly, despite the terrible scene surrounding them. “I assure you, Barty, these are Marlene McKinnon’s closest friends, here only out of concern for her safety. Alas, I fear we are too late.”


Crouch caught sight of the teary eyed females in the group; even some of the males looked rather upset. It was this alone that seemed to convince him that Dumbledore told the truth, that these were not secret Aurors working behind the Ministry’s back but instead merely friends.


He lowered his wand. “Alastor,” he nodded to Moody, recognizing the Aurors who worked in his own department. “I didn’t know you were friendly with the McKinnons. Longbottom,” he greeted Frank.


Moody grumbled and said nothing. Frank shifted nervously on his feet.


Crouch took a deep breath and addressed Dumbledore again. “Concerned citizens of the neighbourhood have alerted the Muggle Prime Minister after seeing the Dark Marks in the sky. In turn, I was notified of this attack. I have a group of well-trained Aurors to assist me in assessing the situation. So, if you please, Dumbledore,” he said, seeming nervous at addressing the old man in this way. He nodded to the rest of the Order. “Friends of the McKinnons,” he acknowledged before continuing, “I appreciate your concern but must insist you be on our way, lest you inhibit our investigation.”


“Certainly,” agreed Dumbledore with a bow. “We shall continue our mourning elsewhere.”


They shuffled out of the cottage as the Aurors made their way in. Moody growled at them, his co-workers, as they passed each other. “If I find that these bodies have not been treated with respect,” he snarled at them. “You shall regret the day you ever met me.”


All of them seemed to take that threat quite seriously.







III.

It was late, very late, when they returned to Sirius’s flat. All four of them trooped wearily up the narrow stairs. Nobody had spoken to each other; nobody had said a word. Nobody knew what to say. The fact that one of the Order was gone forever weighed heavily on each of their minds.


The flat was cold when Sirius opened the door. He wordlessly pointed his wand at the fireplace - a ball of fire shot from the tip of it and exploded against the bricks at the back of the chimney. The fire crackled instantly as it set logs ablaze. It seemed fierce, as fierce as Sirius was feeling at the moment. Without a word to any of his friends, he stormed to his bedroom and slammed the door shut behind him.


Sirius sank onto his bed as if in a daze. He could hear Lily crying through the walls of the flat. He could hear the floor creaking as somebody paced around, and he guessed it must have been Peter, for James would most certainly be sitting and trying to comfort Lily.


Sirius ran his hands through his hair, pushing it back off of his forehead. He wondered what kind of torture the McKinnons had suffered through tonight. He could remember how terrible it had felt to find the body of Remus’s father. John Lupin’s corpse had been the first Sirius had ever seen, at least of somebody he knew personally. Prior to that, he’d only seen the dressed up bodies of a recently passed on aunt or uncle during a funeral viewing. That, or the bodies of the beheaded house elves.


(He could still remember the first time Aunt Elladora beheaded an elf. It was the first time he had ever in his life seen death. He was eight.)


Sirius could remember the terrible feeling of loss that followed the death of Mr Lupin. The rage he’d felt when killing the vampire that took his life. And now, he realized, Lupin must have had an easy death. No torture. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to get the images of the burns on Marlene’s hands out of his mind.


He hadn’t even looked at the little girl; he didn’t think he could bear to see a child’s suffering.


Sirius laid back on his bed and thought about after Lupin’s funeral, when Marlene approached him after noticing his silence. She’d tried to comfort him after his reaction to having killed somebody. He had been rotten to her.


It was unclear how long he had been laying there before his thoughts finally drifted to Marlene’s friends. They had reacted so strongly to the news of her death. Fighting to get to her, and Moody having to restrain them. Dorcas, who’d been so tough before, had actually cried. He wondered what they were all doing now that Dumbledore had sent them home.


Perhaps they were sitting together at a bar, drinking away their sorrows. Or perhaps, like him, they’d shut themselves up in their bedrooms and weren’t in the mood to see anybody.


Sirius sighed and sat up. He could no longer hear Lily crying. She must have cried herself to sleep. Cautiously, Sirius crossed the room to his wardrobe. He dug around in his clothes until he found what he was looking for. A ball of Gillyweed.


He and Peter had snuck down and stolen it months earlier when they were still in Hogwarts. They’d gotten the mess of rubbery plant from the Potions cupboard. And while James was off snogging Lily somewhere and Remus was patrolling a corridor, he and Peter had smoked it in the bathroom.


But not all of it. Sirius had saved some, pocketed it when Peter wasn’t looking. Sirius pulled one of the vines away from the ball now, ran it underneath his nose and inhaled deeply. He only wanted to forget the images of burned hands and bodies out of his mind for the night.


Quickly, feeling almost guilty, he shoved the ball back into its hiding place. He twisted the one vine he’d pulled out until it resembled a cigarette. And then he pulled out his wand and lit it.


The first drag relaxed him instantly. He took a second.


A quick knock sounded on the door, and then James walked in, carrying one of the potions Lily had made for the full moons. It was pink, in a small vial.


“Pads,” said James, shutting the door behind him and approaching the bed. “Lily’s asleep. I carried her to Remus’s bedroom. You forgot to take… Sirius, what are you doing?”


Sirius, who had quickly attempted to hide the gillyweed, coughed slightly and waved his hand to clear the smoky air. His eyes watered slightly.


“Nothing,” he answered, a little too fast, and James’s eyes narrowed.


“What have you got?”


“Nothing, James.”


“You know better than to lie to me, Sirius.”


Sirius swallowed. He knew that was right; James could read him like a book. Slowly, he pulled the gillyweed from behind him and held it out.


James, who looked highly amused, set the potion on the bedside table. Hesitantly, he took the magical plant and examined it. He sat on the bed beside Sirius and then cautiously put it to his lips.


“Sirius, this is very bad,” he said as he exhaled a greenish smoke. He handed it back to Sirius.


“I know,” said Sirius. “I don’t care. I’ll fall apart, Prongs, if I don’t have this - just for tonight.”


“Just for tonight, then.”


They shared it, while Lily slept in the next room and Peter tried to settle on the couch in the living room, not wanting to go back to his empty, lonely cottage. It was all right, thought Sirius to himself. They were only human. Human beings. Humans being. He smiled and relaxed a little.


“Where did you get it?” asked James when they were done.


“Wormtail and I stole it from the Potions cupboards,” said Sirius easily. He laid back on the bed and stretched luxuriously.


“Hey, Padfoot, don’t tell Lily we smoked that.”


“Of course not, Prongs, I’m not daft.”







IV.

Lily almost couldn’t remember where she was when she woke up. She felt the side of the bed dip down as James sat on the end of it. Her green eyes opened and she took in her surroundings. It must have been the spare bedroom - Remus’s room - in Sirius’s flat.


James didn’t have a shirt on and his hair was wet as if he’d just showered.


(And indeed, he had, not wanting Lily to smell the gillyweed on him.)


And then the memory of the McKinnons’ murders flitted across her mind. She sat up quickly with a gasp. She must have been asleep only an hour or two.


James turned at her sudden movement. “All right?” he whispered, stroking her hair.


She looked at him, then, and tried not to cry. He looked so careless in the soft lamplight. She couldn’t help but wonder which of the Order members would be the next to die. Maybe it would be James. She didn’t think she could stand it if it was James. Without a word, she flung herself at him, her arms wrapping around his neck.


She kissed him, her lips tracing his jaw line and feeling the roughness from where he’d shaved that morning. James shuddered in her arms at the sensation and turned his head so that their lips met.


“Lily,” he started to object after a moment. He hardly thought that this was the right time for them to begin a relentless snogging session. He was tired and not fully in his right mind; she had been crying all night.


“Please, James,” she whispered. “We could all die tomorrow.” She sighed and sank against his chest, and he absently traces his finger down her arm.


He felt the smooth curve of her shoulder, traced her firm upper arm down to her elbow. He ran his finger over her wrist and down her fingertips. A small smile played around Lily’s lips at the mild tickling sensation, although James never saw it as her face was against his chest.


He heaved a sigh and she reached up to brush her fingers through his damp hair. “We’re not going to die tomorrow, Lily,” he said softly. “We’re going to live long enough, at least, to end this war.”


“You can’t know that,” she said. “How many close calls already, James. The Daily Prophet. The riots. Sirius was hit with that spell, and I saw him hand Dumbledore Fawkes tonight after we left the McKin…” her voice caught in her throat. “The McKinnon’s. James, the bird was just a baby. It had died…”


James only closed his eyes.


“It took a Killing Curse, I heard Sirius say so. It took it for him. And now Marlene’s family. All of them.”


James’s arm was wrapped around her as they sat, and now he absently and unhappily fingered the waist of her trousers. He didn’t say a word; he only frowned as he listened to her worries.


“And now Frank thinks they know about the Order! They’ll try to pick us off one by one! Oh, James!”


“Lily,” he sighed patiently, trying to think of something to say. There was nothing, nothing that could end the worry. Nothing but being vigilant could stop the same fate of the McKinnons’ from happening to all of them. His fingers slipped between the waist of her knickers and lightly ran across the skin of her hip. He felt the goose bumps of pleasure form beneath his fingertips at the touch.


He kissed her then. His earlier thought about it not being a good time for snogging went right out the window; Lily, who had tried kissing him first moments before, responded enthusiastically. Her fingers toyed with the waistband of his pyjama bottoms.


“Let’s make love,” she suggested breathlessly, while surfacing for air. She watched him expectantly, a sparkle in her eye at her suggestion.


James inhaled sharply. “Lils,” he started to say, gently. “Lily, you know… You don’t want to do this.” She didn’t. He’d give anything for it, but he knew she’d been waiting for marriage. He wasn’t going to ruin that for her in one night just because she was grieving. He put his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her away.


Lily wrapped her arms around his neck and locked her fingers together so that he could push her no farther. “Yes, I do,” she said quietly. “We could die tomorrow, James.”


“We won’t.”


“We could.”


“Lily…”


“I want this, James. I want to give it to you. Will you ruin it by saying no? I know you want it, too.” She fixed him with an earnest gaze.


James rolled his eyes and tried not to smile. “You’re going to make me feel guilty if I do, and guilty if I don’t, aren’t you?”


“No,” said Lily, tugging at his pyjama bottoms and trying to get them off. James grabbed her hand to stop her, and she met his eye with a mischievous grin. “You won’t feel guilty if you do,” she said.


“You’re certain?”


“Positive.”


James leaned back against the headboard and closed his eyes, trying to clear his mind. Lily kissed him while his eyes were shut, and he didn’t resist it; he shared her breath, let her hair tickle his face and breathed in the smell of her. She smelled like fear and everything bad that had happened tonight. She smelled like fire and battle. When he kissed her neck and forehead, it tasted salty with sweat.


He pulled her closer to him and his hands ran up her back. Her skin was warm, but his hands were warmer; he savoured every curve - the small of her back, her lean shoulders. There was nothing, he decided then, that could compare to a woman. Nothing softer, or gentler, nothing so delicate and so strong all at once. The heat, the texture, the smell; the sheer femininity that radiated from the smallest bit of exposed skin.


James nuzzled his lips into the dip where her neck curved gracefully, scooping into her shoulder. He longed to lay with her, wrap his arms around her and feel the way her body curved and snuggled into his.


Her eyes fluttered closed at his touch.


And James, who, perhaps, had flirted and kissed and snogged and loved several girls at Hogwarts, had never felt this way about a woman before.







V.

The pack was restless tonight, Remus noted.


He sat at the end of his tunnel, prisoner once more. Ulfric, being punished yet again on Remus's behalf - this time for letting him escape - sat as his guard. But 'guard' was just a fancy word - Ulfric was just as much a prisoner as Remus was, confined to that small, dead end tunnel. Remus sometimes wondered if Ulfric was angry about it.


It didn't matter; personally, Remus didn't mind being back to doing nothing. Prisoner was nothing when he grieved the loss of his father, the man who had given so much to ensure a normal life for Remus. Sometimes he was startled to find himself humming an old tune his father used to play on the guitar. Realising where he was, he would quickly glance at Ulfric, feeling embarrassed, and sometimes he could see a far off look in Ulfric's eyes, too.


No, being a prisoner again was nothing compared to the heartache of losing his father. Most days passed Remus by without a care; he hardly reacted to anything now.


Tonight, though, Remus could hear voices and sense excitement. Grieving or not, it spiked his curiostiy, for he had never heard anything like this happening within the caves. He lifted his head and listened intently.


“What is going on?” he asked Ulfric.


“Greyback’s back,” said Ulfric absently, carving a stick into a sharp point with a handmade knife made out of bone.


“He left?”


“Yes, Remus. He left while you were away. He’s earned the favour of the Dark Lord. He’s turned many children into werewolves. I think the Dark Lord regards him rather as a pet, almost. Greyback goes to him often.”


Remus furrowed his brow. “Greyback is a Death Eater?”


Ulfric tilted his head back and laughed. “Of course not,” he said, and he sounded almost bitter. “Do you really think the Dark Lord would employ a beast? A werewolf? We're blights on the wizarding world, Remus. We're talking about a man who wants only Purebloods to be involved in this world. No, he wouldn't give Greyback the privilege of being named one of his minions...”


“But Greyback works for Voldemort?”


“We don’t speak his name, Remus, show a little respect,” said Ulfric irritably. Ulfric was Remus’s closest friend in the pack, but ever since Remus had left the group to go home, they hadn’t been on the best of terms.


“I’m sorry; the Dark Lord,” Remus corrected himself, trying to sound more humble.


(He hated himself for saying 'the Dark Lord.' He hated referring to such an evil man in such a worshipping way. His heart screamed in protest, and his mind thought of Dumbledore and everyone fighting against the Dark wizard.)


“We all work for the Dark Lord. Greyback is just the messenger, however much he wishes he were more than that. Still - you could say he’s more involved than the rest of us. He’s been gone for weeks to pay the Dark Lord a visit and discuss plans. Now he is home; he will be sharing those plans with us so that we can act on them. Tonight there will be a banquet to welcome one of our greatest warriors home, and then we will have the gathering.”


“Ah,” said Remus, feeling slightly nervous. Here it was. After all this time - months - and the plans were finally coming out. It was finally his chance to do what he’d first been sent to do back in October.


“Can I ask why we are working for the Dark Lord? He wants us to do his dirty work, but can't name us among his loyal followers?”


For a moment, Ulfric glared at him as if he had come from another planet. Remus was beginning to regret what he'd asked when Ulfric finally sighed. “He offers us feeding grounds and villages of our own when this is over,” Ulfric murmured. “And that's more than the Ministry's done, isn't it?”


Remus could only swallow and nod reluctantly.


Ulfric's eyes seemed glazed over, but he quickly shook his head and his face regained his irritated expression. “And when I say ‘we’ will have the banquet and gathering, that doesn’t include you, Remus. I’m sorry, but you’re a prisoner. You’re going to have to stay in here.”


Bugger. Remus sighed and shifted his weight; the hard cold ground was uncomfortable to sit on. “Are you going?” he asked innocently.


Ulfric nodded. “I’m rather important in the pack, Remus, even if I’m being punished. Seems like all I’ve done lately is earn punishment ever since you showed up.”


“I’m sorry,” said Remus.


Ulfric shrugged. “I was the first that Rolff bit,” he said absently. “I am the son of the Alpha. While I am at the banquet, somebody else will be guarding you tonight so you can’t escape again. You won’t try, will you?” asked Ulfric, turning to look at Remus. His voice held a hint of pleading, his eye a look of warning.


“Of course not,” lied Remus.


It was only a few hours later that Ulfric got up and left him and another man came in, although his new guard was much less a man and much more of a boy. Ulfric gave the boy the stick he had carved into a sharp point.


“If he tried anything funny, Fillin, stick him with this a few times,” growled Ulfric, and he gave Remus a warning look. Young Fillin looked grimly at Remus as well, and Remus rather thought he looked as if he might wish to try a few prods just for sport. He offered what he hoped was an endearing smile.


It pained him to see how little Ulfric trusted him now. Remus said nothing as Ulfric left. Fillin stared at him harshly. The boy looked ready to pounce at the slightest movement.


“Er… Hullo,” said Remus kindly. Fillin’s lip curled into a sneer. “Very nice to meet you,” muttered Remus under his breath.


There was, however, one thing that was very fortunate about an adolescent being left to guard him. The chanting music, the delicious smell of cooking meat wafting down the tunnel, the food brought to feed Fillin by one of the women. The boy ate hungrily and sat against the wall, and it wasn’t long at all before he was fast asleep.


Remus chuckled to himself and pulled out James’s invisibility cloak.


It was easy to step around Fillin. And it was dark, so he wasn’t overly worried about anyone discovering his absence. He snuck down the long tunnels towards the sounds and smells of the banquet. The closer he got, the clearer the sounds were. He heard laughter, drumming. Torches were lit, bonfires causing flickering light against the tunnel walls. There was fire both outside of the caves and within. Remus know how much work went into gathering the firewood. It was then that he realized that such a celebration among the werewolves was a pretty big deal.


The smell of the food was more powerful here than it had been back in his little prison. Remus’s stomach rumbled so loudly that he feared the sound might give him away. As he came upon the banquet, Remus pressed himself up against a wall and tried to make himself as small as possible beneath the cloak.


The females were dressed in brightly coloured clothing. Scraps of cloth, worn dresses - the types of things, Remus realized, that may have been brought back to the caves as a sort of trophy after attacking a Muggle household. He’d never seen the attire before, and he knew it must have been brought out only for special occasions.


The children ran around gleefully, wrestling roughly. The older ones looked like normal children. The younger ones were surprisingly furry. And the youngest looked like wolf pups. Remus’s eyes lingered on them for a long while as he waited for the celebration to end and the talk to begin.


Several young women hovered around Greyback. The wolfish man looked as if he sincerely enjoyed this - it must have been a status thing, Remus realized. Greyback was important; he had met with Voldemort himself personally. In a dwelling such as this one, to have Greyback’s child would be a blessing. Remus felt disgusted as he watched it all unfold, and he wondered vaguely how many of the cubs running around now were the spawn of Greyback.


Remus wasn’t sure how many hours had passed in which he sat hidden away against a wall, watching. He hoped the banquet would end soon; he hoped it wouldn’t go on all night. If that was the case, somebody was sure to discover him missing sooner or later.


But, to his relief, it lasted only a few hours. Eventually the women disappeared, taking the children with them off to bed. The men stuck around, but without the presence of the females and children, much of the excitement of the party quickly wore off.


The Elders, as Remus had come to know them - those of importance in the pack - stood and disappeared down a tunnel. Remus was quick to follow them underneath the Invisibility Cloak.


They went into a room, a room apparently carved into the earth. Tree trunks sat in a circle and acted as chairs. There were five elders, including Greyback, Ulfric and Rolff. There was another man that Remus recognized - the man who had stepped forward months ago and examined Remus for scars upon his arrival.


“What news does the Dark Lord have, Greyback?” asked Rolff after they were all settled.


“The Dark Lord wishes us to attack the Ministry of Magic,” said Fenrir lazily. He seemed to savour being the center of attention, and Remus hated him more than ever. Fenrir loved being so important, enjoyed holding the information he had above the Alpha’s head, practically forcing the old man to beg for it. Ulfric might have been next in line to be Alpha by right, but, Remus thought, if Rolff ever died, Greyback would most certainly take the throne.


“And how is this to happen? I will not attack if it means we will be killed,” said Rolff wisely.


Remus had never liked the Alpha of the pack before. The man had been bitter, grumpy. But now he suddenly found a certain respect for Rolff, and he hoped the old man wouldn’t allow the attack to proceed.


“It will happen during a full moon, obviously,” sneered Greyback. “Death Eaters will arrive early on the day of the attack, while we are still human. They will take us to London through Apparition. We will lie in wait until the moon rises, and we will be guided into the Ministry.”


Remus closed his eyes. That sounded like a terrible plan.


Greyback continued, his voice sounding excited as he told of the plan. “The Ministry of Magic is generally deserted at night. This means we'll find very little resistance, if any at all. We'll kill all who oppose us, and we'll lie in wait until morning. And when employees show up...” He trailed away and grinned maliciously.


“At which point,” said Ulfric, daring to finish the sentence, and he received a harsh glare from both Rolff and Greyback. “We will turn human once again, and find ourselves surrounded by Aurors and other magical people.”


“No,” snarled Greyback, sitting forward suddenly. He looked furious at being interrupted. “The attack'll happen soon - the next full moon. He plans carefully, Ulfric. It's still winter - the nights are still long. And the full moon will be up at least until nine o’clock. Imagine the terror we can cause…”


“It doesn’t matter,” said Ulfric through gritted teeth. He spoke slowly, as if Greyback were stupid. “At some point, the moon will go down again, and we will find ourselves human and surrounded.”


“The Death Eaters will be standing by to help us,” said Greyback carelessly, leaning back again. “They'll bring us back here immediately upon transformation.” He shot a piercing gaze towards Ulfric, his yellow eyes almost glowing. “These are the Dark Lord’s Orders, Ulfric. Dare you resist?”


Ulfric glared back and seemed to fume for a moment, but he didn’t respond. He didn’t say anything at all.


“We do not resist,” said Rolff after a moment, his voice low and husky. He raised his clenched fist in the air. “For the Dark Lord.”


“For the Dark Lord,” echoed Greyback with a smile. There was silence for a few moments and Remus made to leave. He had gotten the information he wanted. He didn’t want to be caught out of his cave, however.


But then Greyback spoke once more. He couldn’t resist showing off.


“O' course, that's nothin' compared to some o' the other plans.”


Remus turned back to see Greyback smiling greasily. Ulfric eyed Greyback with a frown.


“Eh?” grunted Rolff.


“The Dark Lord has all sorts of things in mind. Tomorrow, for instance. An attack on the tube underneath London. Wot, maybe nine o'clock...” Greyback tilted his head back and let loose a laugh. “All of those Muggles on their way to work. KABOOM!”


Remus’s eyes widened in horror as he backed out of the room. His heart hammered so loudly as he slipped back down the tunnels that he thought it might wake the entire pack. And Sirius’s two way mirror banged against his leg as he ran back to his dead-end prison beneath James's cloak.


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