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Chapter 24 : Punishment
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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.
Alastor Moody pointed his wand at Sirius. “Ennervate,” he muttered impatiently.
The chaos was beginning to subside now. Many of the Ministry’s officials had arrived for another day at work; many from the Auror department were now standing around, getting things under control. Captured wizards were being led away for questioning. The werewolves left behind, whether by injury or by not escaping quickly enough, were treated even worse. They were blindfolded so they couldn’t see their surroundings, couldn’t lash out at the crowds. Their arms were tied behind their backs and chains were conjured about their feet.
Sirius’s eyes fluttered open. He seemed momentarily confused by his surroundings. His hand drifted up to his face, fingers touching his aching jaw. It seemed as if the entire situation rushed back to him all at once suddenly. He sat up very quickly and then got to his feet.
“Forgive me, Black,” said Alastor gruffly. “I lost control of my temper.”
“No shit,” snarled Sirius, storming away without listening to an explanation.
This seemed to anger Moody once more, for the grizzled man lifted his finger at Sirius’s retreating back. “I don’t need rescuing from the likes of you, Black!”
Sirius only ignored him and scanned the crowds for James, Lily and Peter.
Lily’s eyes widened when she saw him. “Are you all right, Sirius? What’s happened to you!”
Sirius shrugged. “Nothing,” he said. But this clearly wasn’t good enough for Lily, who scowled at his lie. So he added, in as nonchalant a tone as he could muster, “Moody punched me.”
“What?” said James mutinously.
“It doesn’t matter,” muttered Sirius. He was embarrassed of it; he didn’t want to start a scene over it. He was afraid that, if the news got out, Alastor would bring up the fact that Sirius had let Regulus get away. That was the last thing he wanted. He quickly ploughed on, to occupy James’s mind and change the subject.
“Listen, have you seen Moony at all?”
James’s angry hazel eyes stopped scanning the crowd for a moment in search of Moody and they came to settle upon Sirius. “No,” he said finally. “No, I haven’t. I was looking, too, and I think Dumbledore was watching out for him as well. I don’t think he was a part of this, really, Padfoot.”
Sirius seemed to sag in relief at the news. “I hope not,” he said. James continued to survey him, and Sirius wondered exactly how horrible he must look. He turned away.
“You look rather beat up, yourself,” he muttered under his breath, glaring at the crowd. He was in a bad mood after seeing Regulus, and disappointed in himself for being so weak.
James only grinned. “Battle scars,” he said cheerfully. “To impress the ladies.”
“James, no amount of scarring could ever…” started Peter cheekily.
“Yes, I rather agree with Wormy,” said Lily sceptically.
“Wormy?” said James instantly, wrinkling his nose.
Peter gave his friend a smug smile. “She likes me best,” he said.
Lily blushed furiously. “Well, I always hear you lot calling each other those silly names,” she said in self defence. “I can’t help it that I’ve started to think of you with those names as well. And sometimes those names get shortened in my mind…”
She turned to Peter, looking apologetic. “I’m sorry, Peter, I know its about the most un-manly thing…”
But Peter only chuckled and shrugged it off. “I like it,” he said. “A bit endearing, really.” Endearing was good. It made him feel involved. He smiled warmly at the red head and Lily sighed happily, relieved to have not offended him with her nickname.
By now, reporters from The Daily Prophet were beginning to swarm around the Atrium, asking witnesses to give their accounts on what happened. Lily immediately turned and tried to hide her face.
“Bugger,” she half-whispered, burying her face in James’s shoulder. “Can we go now, please,” she demanded, hoping nobody would recognise her. It had been months since she’d fled the paper, and part of her was filled with shame at the thought of it; a much larger part of her was filled with fear and dread whenever she even thought about it.
“Yes, let’s,” agreed Peter, wringing his hands and eyeing everyone. “I think we’re quite done here, aren’t we? Anyway, I’m dead tired.”
“We’ve got to return to the Hog’s Head first,” said James. “Just like always, so we can make sure everyone’s all right.”
“Yes, yes,” said Lily impatiently. “Anywhere, James.”
Peter stepped forward and turned on the spot. There was a pop of Disapparition, and then a moment later he was on the floor, holding his head.
“Wormtail, what the hell are you doing,” said James in amusement.
“I was trying to…”
“Disapparate? You can’t here. They’ve restricted it for security reasons. Only certain people can Apparate or Disapparate here, and they’re all Ministry officials. I hear they have to apply for a permit to be granted the ability.”
Peter scowled at him from the floor. “Well then how did the Death Eaters get all those werewolves in here?”
James’s brow furrowed. “Now that’s a good question. How indeed?”
“Maybe they broke the security spells,” Peter suggested.
James shook his head. “Then you’d have been able to just now, wouldn’t you,” he said. “I think there’s a Death Eater working for the Ministry. I think he must have snuck into the Apparition Department and done something to give his friends permission...”
There was silence at that. Finally, Sirius shrugged.
“We can think on it later, Prongs, or bring it up to Dumbledore. Let’s just go home.”
And so they went, exiting through a lift out to the streets of London before Disapparating to the magical village of Hogsmeade. Hogwarts, terrible, achingly familiar, loomed in the distance in the snowy scene. Sirius sighed as he caught sight of it.
Gideon, Fabian and Benjy were already in the basement of the Hog’s head. Benjy had the leg of his trousers rolled up, revealing what looked to be a bloody, mangled mess. Gideon sat on the ground before him, carefully wrapped a conjured bandage around the wound.
“That’ll hold her until you get to St. Mungo’s, mate,” he said.
Benjy quickly rolled down the trouser leg again when he saw the Marauders enter.
“What happened to you?” asked Peter.
“One of the werewolves got me,” said Benjy.
“You didn’t get bit, did you?”
“No. Just his claws. He pounced and nearly missed as I was running away. He only just got me.” Benjy yawned, and then Gideon did, and before they knew it, it had gone around all of them.
“So who actually slept last night?” asked Gideon with a smile.
Nobody responded; of course nobody could sleep knowing that the attack loomed ahead.
Instead Lily said, “I wonder what’s taking everyone so long to get back. Where are they?”
A worried silence filled the room. It was not for long, however, for a few moments later, the rest of the group walked in, Dumbledore in the lead. Their faces were downcast and grim, and Sirius’s heart immediately leapt into his throat. He allowed his eyes to flit over everyone entering - they were all there, nobody had been killed. None of them appeared seriously injured, for they could all walk on their own.
And then his mind wandered and his heart plummeted. He didn’t want to think that, perhaps, they had discovered Remus among the dead, seriously injured, or captured. That would certainly be reason for the long faces. Sirius quickly turned to look at James, who’s face betrayed no fear, but Sirius could see the same worries in his friend’s hazel eyes.
Dumbledore’s voice was weary.
“Please, everyone, have a seat,” he said with a gesture.
When the room was quiet and the members settled, Dumbledore spoke.
“You fought incredibly,” he said. “I’m pleased to say that, with our efforts combined with those of the community walking in on the scene, we have successfully stopped the werewolves from infiltrating the Ministry of Magic. They were killed in the Atrium, and all magical citizens remain alive and well, though a few with minor injuries.
“The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for the werewolf community.”
Sirius’s throat was so tight, his stomach clenching terribly with nerves, that he thought he might be ill. Why was Dumbledore speaking of the werewolves with such regret? Something terrible must have happened to Remus to make the old man speak this way; he clenched his teeth and his hands curled into hard fists.
But a moment later, Dumbledore continued on, and nothing more of the werewolves were mentioned at all.
“As you may have noticed,” said Dumbledore now. “While we were fighting the werewolves in the Atrium, the Death Eaters were nowhere to be seen. They, of course, returned to the Atrium at sunrise to take the werewolves home again. Clearly, they had been wandering throughout the Ministry all night long.
“This has raised much concern, for there are many departments within the Ministry that deal with confidential things. Areas such as the Department of Mysteries may have been under attack or penetrated in the night. Aurors are, as we speak, searching and checking this areas for traps or hidden Death Eaters.”
There was another long pause. Sirius felt relief that Remus was not mentioned at all. There was still no word on whether or not he was safe or well, but there was not, at least, word that they had found his corpse in the Ministry.
“Unfortunately,” continued Dumbledore. “Something terrible has happened last night. I fear it is my own fault that we waited too long to attack. Perhaps it would have been smarter to attack early in the night, rather than first thing in the morning. It was my own weakness, I am afraid. I knew we would be outnumbered, and wanted only to attack when others would be around to join in and help.
“I was afraid of getting you all killed, and so I allowed us to hesitate. I allowed us to wait for back up. And that, in turn, has allowed for something terrible to happen.”
Dumbledore hung his head.
Frank cleared his throat. “Professor,” he said evenly. “I don’t think there would have been anything else we could do. We were outnumbered. Even if we had been at the Ministry, hiding and waiting for the Death Eaters to first appear with the werewolves, we still would have been outnumbered. Even if the werewolves weren’t transformed yet, they could still cause harm. They are ruthless monsters, sometimes. Voldemort’s Death Eaters are incredible witches and wizards who’s numbers are much higher than ours. It would be all we could do just to survive them alone.
“Sir, if we had gone at any other time, I, too, think we all would be dead right now. And then what? There would be nobody left to fight back, except for the Ministry Aurors, who, in general, are not nearly as quick as we are. If we would have gone sooner, Professor, I think we could have lost this war.”
Frank sat down again and took a deep breath. “Sir, I think we went about it the right way. It was incredible to see the citizens join in on the fight. I think many of them have forgotten what we are fighting for; it is almost easier just to give in.”
James looked baffled. “Professor,” he said. “You said something terrible happened.”
Dumbledore’s blue eyes met James’s. “Yes,” he said, in a tone of regret. “We were not quick enough to move through and check the rest of the Ministry. The Death Eaters, in the night, penetrated the Minister‘s office. The Minister of Magic is the only one in the Ministry who currently has a fireplace connected to the Floo network - for his safety, a direct connection strictly to his home. He flooed in this morning just as he’d always done, but the Death Eaters were waiting in his office. The Minister of Magic has been taken.”
Moody entered the meeting late. He, being one of the best Aurors in the Ministry, had decided it was his duty to stay behind when the rest of the Order left. It was his duty to explore the Department of Mysteries and make sure all was well. It was his responsibility to find out as much as he could about the Minister’s disappearance and attempt to locate the man’s whereabouts.
He feared that hidden Dark arts supporters might try to elect one of their own to fill the Minister’s absence. That would be the worst thing possible, he thought. He scrutinised all of the higher ups with narrowed eyes; a simple look from the likes of Alastor Moody was enough to send most wizards into shivers. They all knew who he was and what he was capable of.
He had ordered guards be positioned outside of the Minister’s empty office at all times.
“Sir, we simply must have a Minister! Somebody is going to have to fill the position!”
And Moody’s gruff reply had been, “Until we know that our current Minister is dead, we still have one. Spread the word that the Minister of Magic is on an emergency holiday. I, personally, will do my best to locate and rescue him quickly.”
Now he walked into the Hog’s Head to meet with the rest of the Order.
Immediately, his eyes fell upon Sirius, who scowled at him and then looked away. Moody growled. “Stupid, daft boy,” as he entered the room in a huff.
“Excuse me?” demanded James, turning in his seat and narrowing his eyes. It didn’t matter that he had always idolised Moody nearly as much as his own father. He knew now how temperamental the man could be. He hadn’t forgotten the prejudiced ways in which Moody had always dealt with Sirius.
Moody seemed to be angry at James’s sudden intrusion on the situation. He quickly crossed the room, flinging an empty chair aside, and thrust his wand into the back of Sirius’s neck. Sirius quickly went stiff, his back erect as the point of the wand drove into his neck. James’s eyes went wide.
“He sat back and watched as Regulus Black escaped with a werewolf!” spat Moody. “He sat back and let him leave without even trying. He lowered his wand. He let a Death Eater get away with the Alpha wolf.”
James swallowed and his eyes flickered towards Sirius’s. Sirius had the decency to look ashamed of himself. His own eyes were dark and shadowed. His mouth was twisted in a frown. He met James’s look, half embarrassed, half pleading.
“That was his brother,” said James at last.
“I don’t care who it was!” growled Moody, thrusting the wand slightly so that Sirius winced. “That Death Eater could go on to kill hundreds of people! That Death Eater could be the one to help Voldemort secure the office of the Minister should we ever fail! That one Death Eater could help lead this country, and then the rest of the world, to ruin!”
James glanced at Sirius again, but he could think of nothing more to say.
“We all have personal issues, Black,” said Frank at last.
James started. He had almost forgotten, in the sudden commotion, that they were in the middle of a meeting. He had almost forgotten how many others were in the room; he hadn’t been aware that all conversation had halted at Moody’s entrance and James’s loud question in defence of his friend. He glanced around to find that everyone, including Dumbledore, was staring apprehensively.
“Shut up, Longbottom!” snarled James. Instinctively, his hand flew to his wand. He clutched it tightly.
Frank shrugged, looking rather haughty, James thought. As if he was better than them, better than Sirius. The look on his old friend’s face sickened him, for he’d have never thought Frank could look like that. “We all do,” he repeated, ignoring James. “It can not interfere.”
James’s eyes flashed. “It’s not-”
Moody interrupted. “Don’t you think it gets to all of us?” he snarled, glaring at James. He waved his free hand in Dorcas’s direction. “Don’t you think it bothers Dorcas whenever she sees the Death Eater suspected of murdering her father? Do you know what would happen if she went after him and him alone, and ignored everything else in her vengeance? Do you understand what can happen if you make your decisions based on passion?”
James’s mouth fell open to respond, but Moody impatiently continued.
“Don’t you think that we all get angry when we think of what happened to the McKinnons?” He jabbed his wand a little harder into Sirius’s neck. “Don’t you think,” he snarled. “That perhaps your brother might have been involved in their murders?”
Sirius swallowed and set his jaw, glaring ahead at the floor.
“And don’t you think,” continued the grizzly man, leaning forward and lowering his voice to Sirius’s ear. “That your wonderful brother could responsible for the deaths of your friends? Or how about your cousin, Black? You grew up with Bellatrix, haven’t you?”
Moody’s wand suddenly flew out of his hand. Angrily, he turned. It was Peter who caught the wand, Peter who had his own aimed at Moody’s back.
Peter’s face was set, angry and unforgiving. “You make mistakes yourself, Moody,” he said in a low voice.
“That is quite enough,” said Dumbledore, finally putting a halt to it all. “We all make mistakes. If we start to turn against our own, then we might as well stop fighting this war right now. What is there to fight for, if not the love and rights of our friends and family? Perhaps Sirius acted out of passion, but it is not such a terrible thing. Even if young Regulus doesn’t end up doing the things you say, Alastor, somebody else will.”
“Acting out of passion can get us all killed,” snarled Alastor, snatching his wand from Peter’s hand.
“Acting out of passion is the very reason why we fight at all,” responded Dumbledore wisely, and in quite a pleasant voice as he smiled at Sirius. It didn't change the fact that they were all right, that such a thing could cause the death of him or others. It was just Dumbledore taking pity on him, and that infuriated him more than anything.
Sirius, free from the wand poking into the back of his neck, stood up suddenly. He kicked his chair out of his way and strode from the room.
Remus was left pacing around frantically in the dark tunnels, being watched warily by the werewolf women. They had never seen a man behave as he did.
(Granted, they had never seen a man like Remus at all - most of them were used to buff, strapping werewolf men, and Remus was embarrassingly thin and gangly, having not spent all of his life living in the wild. Even some of the women were stronger than he was, something that occasionally brought upon him bouts of shame.)
Remus was frantic with worry, chewing his nails, scuffing his feet in the dirt floors of the cave, prodding the bonfire with a stick.
“Remus,” scolded one of the women in a thick accent. She looked upon him as if he should be ashamed of himself. “What is the matter with you,” she muttered. The werewolves rarely showed such emotion or fear. Perhaps, to this woman, his display betrayed his bravery and manhood. Perhaps his actions were offensive to a pack who had always shown such pride.
Remus spared her a glance and resisted getting up and walking away.
He was worried about the battle. It was dawn now; light was outside. He’d awoken from his own transformation in a daze, and then, like a ton of bricks, the awareness of what was to have gone down overnight hit him. He prayed that his friends were all right, that none had been injured or killed or bitten in the battle. He prayed that they had been able to stop it, that the Ministry hadn’t fallen.
And in a strange twist, he also found himself worrying about his newest friend, Ulfric. Part of the enemy itself, one of the vicious werewolf attackers, but Remus didn’t want to see the man injured or killed. He wondered if it might have been best if he hadn't informed Dumbledore of the attack - then, both groups would be spared from hurting each other. Would it really matter if a few strangers died in the Ministry, so long as his friends - all of them - returned safely?
His cheeks suddenly flushed with shame. Maybe he was weak. How much would he be willing to sacrifice, just to avoid suffering personal loss? Growing up as a werewolf, he had never taken his Hogwarts friends for granted. He tried too hard, sometimes, to be liked; let them get away with murder. Would he really allow innocents to suffer just to spare them their lives so they couldn't fight back?
He felt ill as he stared around at the wild women, who were incredibly strong and brave. None of them betrayed their worry. A few of them nursed infant cubs. A few slept with the pack of children after enduring the long night of being a beast. Many were tending to the garden, or were checking the traps in the absence of their men.
One woman sat near the fire kneading a ball of dough. Another chatted happily with her, sewing an animal skin onto somebody’s tunic.
It was incredible, the way they lived and adapted in the wild. Remus liked them. He hated to admit it, his condition had always brought him shame, and he’d always thought of people like him as monsters. But he liked them, and he enjoyed their simple way of life. A young boy came in proudly showing off a fish he’d caught in the nearby river.
And Remus continued to worry.
It was at least fifteen minutes later when the first pop of Apparition was heard. Remus rushed outside to greet those returning, forgetting that he is a prisoner, that he is merely a spy for Dumbledore and not a part of them.
The Death Eaters unceremoniously shoved the injured to the ground, clearly disgusted with having to support and touch the monsters.
“You have failed the Dark Lord,” they said scathingly at the men. “He will be displeased.”
And they were gone without so much as an attempt to heal the injuries or any word on what had happened. Only about six of the men returned. One of them was, to Remus’s relief, Ulfric. Ulfric limped terribly and he’d lost an arm at the shoulder. It was nothing more than a bloody stump now; the cut looked clean, and Remus knew it had been caused by magic.
The look of anguish on Ulfric’s face was almost too much to bear, and for a moment Remus found it odd the way they could endure the pain of transformation so well, and still found other injuries to be so torturous.
It wasn’t as if they had never had joints disconnected from their sockets before, or bones breaking and splintering and reforming, or muscles stretching and tearing, or claws slicing through their own skin.
He hurried forward and helped Ulfric to the ground, took off his patched old cloak and pressed it tightly to the wound. Ulfric glared at him and tried not to cry out in pain at the pressure.
“Is that all, then?” asked Remus, his throat terribly try and his tongue feeling much too large for his mouth. He felt he might choke on it with every panicked word. “Is there nobody else coming back?”
Ulfric grunted. “Most of us did not survive or were captured.” He clenched his fist angrily. “I am going to kill Fenrir for this! I knew it was a bad idea!”
Remus shuddered. Out of all of them that had left, only six had returned, gravely injured and not guaranteed to survive. He swallowed thickly and reached down to Ulfric’s good arm, attempted to drag the man to his feet.
“Come on, then, let me help you to the fire,” he said, trying not to let his voice shake.
They were interrupted by another pop. Remus looked up, almost fearful of seeing yet another Death Eater, yet another injured man. But it was Regulus, wide eyed and looking pale. His arms were clutched around Rolff’s chest, the much smaller boy struggling to hold the Alpha up.
“Rolff!” growled Ulfric, immediately shoving Remus off and finding the strength to go to his old friend.
Remus hurried forward too, grabbing one of Rolff’s arms.
“What has happened to him!” he barked at Regulus. Regulus looked rather timid, backing away and twisting his wand in his hands.
“I… I don’t know,” he said, taking another step back. His familiar grey eyes met Remus’s and he suddenly lifted his chin a bit, regaining some composure. “I don’t know,” he said again, more firmly this time. “I couldn’t Disapparate right away,” he said. “I Flooed with him back to my home just to get away.”
“Did anything happen to him there?” asked Remus quickly.
Regulus smirked back. “No,” he said haughtily. “Nobody in my family attacked him for being a half-breed monster, if that is what you mean,” he added. “However much my mother may have wanted to.”
Ulfric snarled at Regulus. “Us monsters are doing the work of the Dark Lord, same as you,” he barked angrily.
Regulus only smirked and took another step back. “Not very well,” he said. “And you’re only being used, anyway. The Dark Lord doesn’t really value your help. He obviously didn’t care if you perished in this battle, did he?”
Ulfric lunged. Regulus was quicker, and with a pop he disappeared just before Ulfric reached him. The latter threw his head back in a rage and let loose a roar, a terrible sound that chilled Remus to the bone, that cut like glass.
But he knew what Ulfric did not. Regulus spoke the truth. The Dark Lord would never value beasts like them. They were merely pawns in this war, although he didn’t have the heart to tell Ulfric this. Instead he struggled to hold the elderly, dying Rolff upright in his arms.
They all sat around the body of their Alpha. Bundles of soft grass, animal skins, cloth had been piled together to make the most comfortable bed possible. The women hummed a beautiful tune and rocked infants in their arms. The children were remarkably subdued for once. The men were solemn.
They were waiting for him to die.
Rolff’s breath was laboured, his tanned, leathery face shining with sweat. He was feverish, his cheeks were tinged pink and his lips were horrible pale and chapped.
Ulfric was kneeling beside the man; Remus knew now that Rolff was like a father to Ulfric. Rolff had been the one who infected him. Rolff had allowed him to tag along until both were banished together to the wild. He supposed there was a bond there, between the monster and the prey. It was the same bond that had caused Greyback to step in, way back when Remus first arrived in the pack, and stop him from being killed. Perhaps Greyback didn’t care about him the same way that Rolff cared about Ulfric, but it had been there.
Ulfric shakily held up the flask - a hallowed out animal horn - and tipped a few more drops of water into Rolff’s parched mouth with his only remaining arm. The sound of Rolff swallowing was thick, and the man’s breathing sounded painful, laced with his own moans, as he tried to will his throat to swallow the liquid.
One of the women, an herbalist, apparently, leaned forward and crushed a leaf in her palm, causing a single drop of liquid to fall into his mouth. She then smeared a thick, greyish paste across Rolff’s forehead.
“To stop the fever,” she said, in response to Remus’s questioning look.
Ulfric groaned suddenly and bent forward, resting his forehead on Rolff’s burning chest. It was too much now, and his entire frame shook with wracking sobs. He was despairing; he had lost so many members of the pack in this battle. He had lost a part of himself, even. “Oh God,” he moaned. “He can’t die.”
“If he dies, Ulfric, you are next in line to be Alpha,” said one of the strong women, trying to soothe him.
“No, no, no,” cried Ulfric in desperation, his tears running from his cheeks and soaking into Rolff’s animal furs.
Remus swallowed thickly. He could fix Rolff. He knew he could; he was a wizard, after all. What could he do? He was here on duty, to spy, to inform Dumbledore of what Voldemort might have planned. He felt sick as he watched Ulfric’s entire frame wrack with sobs; his eyes fell on the man’s shoulder, where an arm should have been but instead was only a bloody cloth now.
He doubted that the werewolves would do anything for Voldemort again. As it was, Greyback was sitting in the corner, looking deadly and furious. He knew that Greyback had been dismissed from Voldemort’s service, and he was taking it as a personal insult.
Greyback, up until now, had done nothing but brag of how important he was to the Dark side, and how he was the only werewolf privileged enough to be allowed in the presence of the Dark Lord. And now he sat abandoned, the pretty young werewolf females ignoring him to hang on Ulfric instead, and pray to the spirits for Rolff’s recovery.
No, Remus didn’t think there was anything else to stay here for. He rather felt that his time here was done now. There was no other service he could offer Dumbledore if the wolves were no longer a part of the war. And they couldn’t be now that half their pack - nearly all of their warriors - were gone.
He swallowed and wondered what would happen if he pulled out his wand. He shut his eyes tightly and forced it from his mind.
“I can fix him,” he said in a hoarse voice.
The herb woman looked at him in disgust, clearly affronted that he found himself better at healing than she. She stopped shaking her clenched fist, which rattled with the bracelet of animal bones she wore around her wrist, over Rolff’s heaving body.
Ulfric lifted his head tiredly, his eyes puffy. Impatiently, he swept his only arm across his rugged face and allowed his brown eyes to meet Remus’s. “What do you mean by that, Remus? I’m not in the mood for your jokes…”
Remus swallowed nervously. “What I mean is… is I can fix him. I… I have a wand,” he finally choked out.
Several eyes widened in alarm. Ulfric suddenly looked angry; he looked away from Remus quickly and stared down at Rolff instead.
“Why do you have a wand, Remus,” he said in a straight tone.
Remus bit his lip. “Well, I… I did grow up in the wizarding community, after all, my parents got one for me…” he uttered miserably.
Greyback suddenly rose to his feet and charged forward. “It was him! It was him what told the wizards of our attack! He is responsible for the death of our brothers!” he snarled, lunging for Remus.
Ulfric, faster than lightning, threw his good shoulder towards the charging man. They collided and Greyback was knocked off balance, rolling across the dirt floor of the cave with a snarl.
“He couldn’t have done!” said Ulfric in a low voice. “He was under guard the entire time he has been here. He didn’t even know of our plans until the Death Eaters showed up to take us! It was only the Elders in the cave with us, Fenrir! It was one of those damn Death Eaters that turned! It was one of Voldemort’s own men who gave us away!”
Remus’s heart was in his throat at the prospect of nearly being attacked. He felt a flush rise to his cheeks as Ulfric wrongfully defended him. He had, in fact, been guilty of the things Fenrir accused him of, but he couldn’t let any of them know it. He felt ready to crawl out of his skin as he met Fenrir’s evil yellow eyes glaring at him.
“You dare to speak his name,” snarled Fenrir in a terrible voice. He positively foamed at the mouth as he circled around Ulfric.
Ulfric’s eyes narrowed. “I do,” he growled back in an even voice. “He cares nothing for us, Fenrir, nothing! There is a traitor working for him. Or perhaps not traitorous at all - you saw how his men treated us, Fenrir! Disgusted to be near us! They dislike us as much as they dislike the Mudbloods they fight to eliminate. Perhaps this was their way of trying to kill two birds with one stone and wipe us all out, eh?”
Fenrir stood panting in the corner, crouching as if to lunge again. He was furious, so feral looking that Remus took a step back in fear and actually pulled his wand out to ward off attack. But this time the stick drew no fear from the others crouched around Rolff. This time they all eyed Fenrir in fear, and Remus felt that if he used the wand to defend them against one of their own, they wouldn’t mind it one bit.
Finally, with a snarl, Greyback turned and stalked out of the cave.
Ulfric gently checked to make sure the wrap was still on his injured, bloody shoulder, and then turned to look back at the group staring at him. He sucked in a sharp breath when he noticed that Remus had drawn his wand.
“You’re a wizard then,” he said quite calmly. All of the women looked from Ulfric to Remus.
Remus nodded hesitantly. Ulfric nodded as well, more slowly, as if coming to understand and accept this.
“You can do magic.”
And again, Remus nodded.
Ulfric glanced at Rolff, and then back at Remus. Finally, he took a deep breath. “Remus, as the Beta of this pack, I command you to try to heal Rolff, our Alpha.”
Remus nodded solemnly and turned to the task, kneeling over the struggling old man.
He was not the greatest healer in the world, but he had spent enough time around Madame Pomphrey during his school years to have picked up a few things. He could mend bones and he could heal cuts and lacerations. He could brew a blood replenishing potion with the herbs that their healer woman had. He could show them how; one didn’t have to be magic to brew a potion, after all, although it was only the magical people who were educated enough to do it.
And so it began. He took it slow, wanting to be certain of what he was doing and not make things worse. He leaned forward, resting his ear against Rolff’s chest to hear just how bad his breathing was. He pressed his fingers into the old man’s throat to feel for injury. He pinched Rolff’s wrists and experimentally moved his head back and forth, all while the rest of the pack looked on.
He brewed a potion right over the bonfire, explaining to the herb woman everything he did as he worked so that she could understand and create her own. He invited her to help, to chop up the ingredients on her own or throw them in or stir it. He conjured a cauldron with his wand, and allowed the pack to keep it.
It was two days before he was able to get Rolff to open his eyes, and even then the old man was terribly weak. But every day brought a new development. Every day he was stronger and louder and more talkative. Although he never talked to Remus. He refused to talk to Remus, once he became aware of what was going on.
And finally, when it appeared certain that Rolff was going to make a full recovery, Ulfric turned to Remus with a stubborn look upon his face.
“As a part of this pack,” he said solemnly. “You must be punished once again for the lies you have led us to believe. I don’t think I have ever come across anyone I have had to punish as often as you.”
Remus tried to keep his face solemn. He was a Marauder, after all; punishment was like second nature. He sighed and nodded, ready to accept his punishment. He was only glad they weren’t going to kill him, and that they didn’t think it was he who had betrayed them. And anyway, he decided, he intended to return to London soon, so none of it would matter in the end. There was little reason to stay after healing Rolff - he was fairly certain the wolves would not fight any battles for Voldemort again.
Ulfric still looked grim as he stood tall and spoke. “Your punishment, Remus. You must leave at once and return to wherever you came from.”
Remus balked. “I beg your pardon?”
“Do you want to return home?” asked Ulfric plainly.
Remus shook his head no. Of course he desperately wanted to go home, but he couldn’t let them know. He had to say no; he was still living a lie, even when he was certain Ulfric now knew the truth. And he knew Ulfric knew the truth, for he could see the shine of mischief in the man's blue eyes that he so often recognised in James.
They didn't think it was he who'd betrayed them, and they didn't know he was sent only to spy. He was still one of them, wizard or not. He still had to pretend, lest they wonder why he came here.
“Then that is your punishment. You will go home. We banish you.” Ulfric couldn’t help it after that. The smile cracked his face, warm and familiar as Remus gaped at him. “I hope you are utterly miserable,” he added with a wink.
Remus tried not to laugh and only nodded, trying not to look as dumbfounded as he felt. “If that is what you wish,” he said meekly. It was an odd feeling, to be a wizard banished by the werewolves.
“It is my wish, and what is best for my... our people. And for you.” Ulfric’s expression suddenly turned serious. “Remus… Don’t come back.”
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