A/N: I felt a bit bad about giving a character of Kane's significance an off-screen death so I wrote the paragraph beneath to give him a better send-off. I felt he'd earned it.
19: The Final Weakness
"He's dying, Aylward. Call Professor Goldstein back to the Institute immediately."
"Yes, Doctor Croll."
Voices. The voices that came to him within that cell that had become his everything, that gave him liquids of cool calmness and sometimes one would send his mind to gentle, obedient bliss with a whispered Imperio, Imperio... Two of the voices were back again. The third would not be far.
Weak, weak, weak, so weak…Not weak, can't be weak, must not be weak…but yet…
Weak. So weak.
His stomach churned. The world, what he could see of it, the world, all the world, with its four walls and bed and blankets – it swirled, it span, it revolved, fading in and out of view as darkness touched its edges and gobbled it away. Faces danced in and out of his world, voices curled and whispered, the woman with her odd, odd gaze, the dark man and his liquids, shining, shining in glassy bright bottles and the tall one who stood and stared alone. They came and they went, staring, muttering, watching, the dark man with lip half curled and then again the woman, whose eyes burned at him like fire in acid, always, always staring.
It made no sense. Nothing made sense anymore.
He was aware, vaguely, that once things had made sense, that once he had been strong and weak was wrong, wrong, wrong but he remembered nothing of it but that distracted feel of something lost, dragged away to never be returned. There had been another and he had known, always known how to be strong.
But now there was only him. Alone and weak.
Chaos. Nothing made sense, he could not think alone but no one would think for him and although he waited and waited for that lost voice to come and make him strong again, it never did. Flashes of things before the voice were all he had, an unshaven man with eyes that flashed gold as he soaked himself in drink and then dangled from a rope, faces in robes who smiled but shrank in fear behind their eyes and him, his uncle, who left him with the ones that feared, left him for the voice to come but now the voice was gone and he was weak, weak, weak, weak, weak…
Where was the ball? The ball made sense, back and forth, back and forth, no thinking, no weakness, no need for a voice, just back and forth and back and forth, quiet mind, so quiet. But now all in his world lurched back and forth and shadows rose and somehow they seemed to whisper – here is the quiet. Here is the rest. You do not need the voice with us.
But I should not be weak. The shadows are weak, the shadows are weak…
The shadows are quiet.
I want the quiet.
Was being weak so bad? For what had he ever got from being strong except a sense of loss?
The dark man was watching again. The stare hurt him.
But not like the woman's did. He feared the woman's eyes.
He wanted to be alone. He wanted the shadow.
He wanted to be weak. For in weakness, there was peace.
His stomach burned. His heart pounded.
And then stopped.
The shadows surged. They swallowed him whole.
And Abel Isaacs let them.
He'd known. Not consciously, not openly, but the ache of his scar, the sickness, the strange absence, the odd sense of peace – some part of him had known that what remained of his cousin, of the werewolf that had plagued his life, had fallen to his final weakness. On some level, he had known that Kane was dead.
Intellectually however, it came as a bit of a shock.
He was not upset, precisely. Nor was he glad. He was simply…
Numb. He was numb. And he had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to feel.
He became aware of Tonks' fingers, her gentle touch against his wrist.
"Kane is dead," she repeated softly in answer to his accidental question. "He died earlier this afternoon – and don't worry, I've already told the Order. Officially, it was some kind of stomach infection that finished him off. Unofficially..." She pulled a face. "Let's just say that Felisha doesn't find it very likely that he could have caught such an infection in a sterile environment like Level Six. She doesn't know what really happened, but she doesn't believe for a minute that he died of natural causes."
Remus struggled to focus. "That doesn't make sense," he said softly. "Why would they kill their only test subject?"
Tonks' grip tightened. "Maybe he knew something. Or maybe he was no more use to them. They have a Dementor, Remus. They can make all the test subjects they want."
"But what would be the point?" Remus was already shaking his head. "Even if he did know something, his testimony is – would have been – useless. He was insane. If it wasn't natural, there's just no point to it. Unless…"
His voice trailed off. Rebekah Goldstein's face danced before his eyes.
I really don't think that's going to be a problem much longer…
And more than ever before, Remus knew she had a motive.
She knew. She knew before the letter came…
He wheeled on Tonks. "When did all this happen? When did Kane fall ill?"
Tonks blinked but answered promptly. "Felisha said that to judge by the chaos and fuss, he fell ill sometime early this morning. She said Rebekah even delayed going to some family party because of it but when he seemed to be on the mend, she left. But once she'd gone, he got considerably worse and died not long after. Only Croll and Aylward were there."
Remus almost laughed out loud. "And so I become her alibi," he said softly. "He dies and she's miles away, chatting in a meadow with me."
A line creased across Tonks' forehead. "Remus, what are you talking about?"
His eyes flashed up. "Rebekah Goldstein. My cousin Rebekah. Kane's cousin Rebekah."
"Your what?" Tonks' green spiked head thrust into his field of view. "Remus, have you been drinking or something? Because the pretty pink hippogriffs are not your friend."
Remus' eyes burrowed into hers, grasping against the strength of her presence to force the numbness away. This was serious. He needed to concentrate. He could work out what he was supposed to be feeling later.
"I mean it," he said softly, though his words rang like steel. "Rebekah's family party was my family party. She is my father's brother's daughter. My cousin. And Kane's cousin too."
Tonks' dark eyes widened with shock. "Bloody hell," she said with feeling. "Bloody, bloody, bloody hell. Oh Remus. And I thought my relatives were bad."
Remus gave a twisted smile. "There's something we have in common. We both have family who'd gladly dance on our graves."
"The Malfoys are too dignified to dance. They'd probably kind of strut instead. But Bellatrix would probably tango." Tonks flashed a grin for an instant then abruptly became serious. "I think it's pretty clear that you had no idea about Rebekah. But was it as much of a shock to her?"
"No." Remus pulled a face. "She's known all along. That's why she never even gave me a chance. Kane killed her mother and brother and she can't quite forgive me for living when they did not."
Tonks stared. "Wait, wait, back up. Kane killed her mother?" At Remus' nod, her eyes darkened. "And now, suddenly, Kane dies in her care under mysterious circumstances."
"I think she knew." Whether she was a Death Eater or not, of this fact Remus was almost certain. "I think she knew he was going to die before the letter came. She all but told me so."
"That doesn't surprise me." Tonks frowned deeply. "There are ways enough to kill at a distance, especially with an apparent stomach infection. A slow acting poison would probably do it – and she'd have known that she'd be miles away from the blame when it happened because she would be at dinner with you. But Kane, as a former feral, would have a strong constitution. Say she dosed him in the morning but found he was starting to shake it off by early afternoon. So she dosed him again, more powerfully and left him to die in her absence."
It made an alarming amount of sense. Shaking his head slowly, Remus sighed. "But why now?" he asked softly, almost to himself. "If she wanted him dead, why didn't she do it the moment he entered her custody?"
Tonks regarded him with narrow eyes. "She needed him for her experiments. The Imperius curse and all that."
"And she doesn't need him now?" Remus gazed into the darkening sky. "Which can only mean…"
"She's finished." Tonks completed the sentence, her heart-shaped features suddenly pale. "She didn't need him anymore. She'd found what she was looking for. And she's ready to start…" Her fingers tightened sharply around Remus' wrist. "We're getting you back to Hogwarts. Now."
Remus winced as her fingernails dug against his skin. "Tonks…"
"No arguments, Remus." Tonks' eyes were fierce. "We know for a fact that you're well up on Rebekah's hit-list and if she's ready to start Kissing and cursing her residents, she may well decide it's time to invite you to a different kind of party. And I'd rather you were somewhere more secure than here if she does."
"I can look after myself." Remus was painfully aware of just how much he was repeating himself on that score – did he really look so vulnerable and helpless to those around him?
Tonks' eyes raked pointedly across the fading scar tissue that poked just above the collar of his robes. "Of course you can," she said with a slightly ironic nod. "I'd just rather you didn't have to prove it. Besides, Dumbledore's called an Order meeting about this for later tonight and we probably shouldn't be late. Now come on. Apparate to the gates on the count of three…"
Dutifully, Remus joined her count. "One, two, three…"
The world squeezed, contracted and then abruptly the glow of Hogsmeade was gone, replaced by dark and towering trees and a long stretch of empty road. To his left the twin pillars and iron gate that marked the boundary of Hogwarts School reared above them, the sparkling lights of the castle gleaming against the fading twilight. In the distance, small figures darted through the air over a floodlit Quidditch pitch. A lantern burned brightly in Hagrid's hut, silhouetting a large figure within.
Tonks shook out her robes just in front of him and glanced up, her features etched in the glow of the waxing moon above.
"I hope you've got a key," she said with a slight smile, gesturing to the gate's heavy padlock. "Because I…"
There was no time to think. There was barely time to act. A glimpse of a wand, a white mask washed in moonlight and emerald - Remus slammed himself hard into Tonks, hurling them both down onto the road with a crunch as a whine of green light skimmed through the night and split the air where the Auror had stood a mere half second before. Even as he gasped for breath, staring into Tonks' shocked eyes, the darkness around them seemed to boil and come alive, the gaps between the trees abruptly awash with unnatural white faces and flying dark robes, everywhere, all around, more, far more than the mere two they faced. Remus snatched his wand from his belt as he dragged himself to his feet; he heard Tonks mutter a heartfelt "Shit!" before she too bolted upright, and, almost as one, they span on the spot to apparate.
Anti-apparition wards. They must have activated them after we appeared. Damn!
Remus shot a glance at Tonks. Her eyes were wide and horrified as she too reached the same conclusion. But there was no choice left. Brandishing her wand, she swung with him to face their attackers.
The instant's hesitation was enough. A second spell hurtled into the ground between them, gouging a crater out of the skin of the road in an explosion of hard shrapnel. Remus dived to the side, protecting himself from the hail of stones and earth with a hurriedly thought Protego – he saw a wand glint against the moonlight and twisted sharply aside, barely in time, as a beam of red light narrowly skimmed past his ear, screeching as it tore the air to shreds in ominous passing. Wheeling, heart racing and pounding against his chest, he turned on the first white mask he saw and barked out "Iacto!" barely pausing to watch as the Death Eater was lifted from his feet and flung dramatically back into the forest with shatter of twigs and leaves and a roar of anger. A screech of "Stupefy!" sounded behind him but another swift Protego negated it – Protego, protego, must keep up protego – casting blind he flung a swift "Supino!" over his shoulder, heard the grunt as his spell struck home and hurled his attacker prostrate onto his back and then he was rushing past the supine figure for better cover, stamping with a crack against his victim's outstretched wand before he dived behind a tree, narrowly escaping a cutting spell that slashed against the bark with a flurry of sawdust mere inches from his head. A quick reassuring glance told him that Tonks was more than holding her own – two Death Eaters lay stupefied by the road side, another battled against vicious ropes and as he watched, a fourth was hurled backwards, lifted from his feet by her powerful cry of "Sterno Aquila!" left to struggle, moments later, pinned and spread eagled against the trunk of a nearby tree.
But there was no more time to hesitate. Green light sliced sickening past his shoulder from a new direction; darting to one side with a snap of twigs, he heard a voice bellowing "No, you fool! We need the werewolf alive!" and then three more masked faces were surging from the darkness towards him, wands waving and there was no more time to listen either.
The lead figure was already stretching out his wand. "Expell…"
Long spells. No time for long spells. Why were all the best- known combat spells so long?
The Death Eater gasped and then yelped as his black robes whipped around him, dragging him into a spin as he revolved madly on the spot like a top, faster, faster, faster, dust flying as his feet dug circles in the grass His two companions paused in shock.
It was a mistake.
His nearest assailment screeched in horror and abruptly fled as a swarm of bees engulfed him like a wave, vicious and determined to pepper every inch of skin with their stings. His companion did not move – instead, his jaw drooped as he hunched, heavy, dull and vacant eyed on the spot, not even flinching as his whirling companion's wand was ripped away by centrifugal force to twang against his nose. Each nostril sprouted a daisy.
Remus almost grinned. When would the rest of the world learn that if you knew effective enough short spells, you didn't need to wrap your tongue around Expelliarmus or Impedimenta. Roto was a personal favourite.
The whine of a passing spell narrowly missed him as he flung himself to one side – he caught a glimpse of Tonks' furious face and then a scratched and twig-covered Death Eater tumbled backwards, head over heel before slamming face first into the nearby pillar. He did not move again.
Remus slapped himself mentally. Combat situation, Lupin. No time for self-congratulation!
An enormous brute of a figure was charging towards him with a roar, waving his unusually long wand like a cudgel. His thick lips, jutting from beneath his mask, were already moving.
Oh, for goodness sake…
The man's eyes glazed behind his mask and then suddenly he was racing, rushing past in a helter-skelter, out of control double speed that carried him face first into the nearby brick wall. Hands waving uncontrollably, legs still pumping, he continued to head-butt the solid brick as though to ram it from his path.
Remus wheeled, his breath a rasp, his blood racing just in time to see three more Death Eaters rush from the trees. They turned sharply towards him.
Dear Gods! How many are there?
A dark mist swirled from his wand, wrapping itself around the trio of assailants and engulfing them in heavy cloud. Guided by their shouts of fury, he fired off "Stupefy!" once, twice, three times. Three thuds told him he had struck his targets.
All around him, spells peppered the air. Although they had taken down a good dozen Death Eaters between them, he and Tonks were still outnumbered three to one.
And he was tiring. Fast.
Take the werewolf alive. All this for me? How badly must they want me?
And then he heard a sound that made his heart stop.
And Tonks screamed.
He half-turned. And that was all he had time for.
A green haired figure slammed into his side, hurling him back against one of the pillars with a sickening thud. Tonks' dark eyes flashed into his.
And then her eyelids flickered and she slumped into his arms.
It was then that Remus realised that her robes – and now his – were stained with blood.
Too much blood.
"Drop the girl, werewolf."
The voice was low, rough and cold, the same voice that had ordered him taken alive. He looked up.
Six dark robed Death Eaters stood in an untidy semi-circle, wands extended towards him. He was trapped.
In the centre, icy eyes glittered behind the mask of a tall figure. A smirk touched the edge of his lips.
"Drop the girl," he repeated coolly. "There's no way out. You're coming with us, Professor Lupin."
Remus drew himself up, his arms tightening around Tonks' limp form instinctively.
"And her?" he asked softly. "What are you going to do with my friend if I let her go?"
The smirk curled. "Why, I would have thought that was obvious. And I thought you were supposed to be an intelligent… man." The Death Eater sneered over the word, his eyes burned with malice. "Because you see, when we leave here, Professor, there'll be one less Auror in the world."
A/N: I apologise for the likely utter inaccuracy of the above Latin – I simply typed some words that I thought might produce the spell results I want into an online Latin dictionary and picked the words that were short and sounded good. ;)
Many thanks to sylthian, elka78, The Great RC, Hawkgal, Smeagolita, emmaD, Aylah, thee-unknown-factor-incognito, Camilinha, le petit chou, Ruby, TonksIsMyHero, PickledishKiller, Howling-Wolf, Kailin, InsaneMonkeePirate, Silver Mo0n 19, Zeyazo, Analia's Broom, xMissxUnderstoodx, Rel Fexive, Gilpin, PaulaS, felixgirl, Cartoon-Protector, Mandalen, Thing1, Liv Naravul, Godricgal and Mouseykins for your lovely reviews. I'm sorry I can't reply to all of you individually but I'm afraid I just don't have enough lunch hour. Goodness, there are so many of you now, it's quite scary! Though in a good way. :)
A Few Responses:
sylthian – I'm sorry. But Kane as he was has been technically dead since he was Kissed – this way was really kinder. Trust me. ;)
elka78 – The feeling Remus has was Kane's death. It seemed logical that he would be aware of it.
The Great RC - -slaps typoing self- Doh! ;)
Hawkgal – I hope this chapter has answered your question. Nobody's really upset about Kane's death but it does have unpleasant implications…
emmaD – Very perceptive. ;) And Remus will return to the Institute but I'm not saying in what capacity…;)
Camilinha – Just bear with me and all will be revealed – eventually…;)
TonksIsMyHero – It's a fantasy novel but as I said, it's a bit bogged down at the moment. It's finished but needs shortening because –ahem- as usual with me, it's a bit too long…;)
Howling-wolf – Good guess…;)
Kailin – Actually, I meant my chapter total will probably be about forty. So about 20 more to go, depending on how much I over write by…;)
Ruby – Welcome aboard! Updates are every Wednesday. :)
xMissxUnderstoodx – Watch out for my ego. When it's overfed it goes on mad rampages and stomps on cities. Not of course, that I mean it shouldn't be fed…;)
Gilpin – Maybe. Maybe not…;)
felixgirl – I'm not sure I'd have ever called Kane "sweet" you know…;)
Thing1 – Thank you very much! That is praise indeed coming from one of my favourite authors. :) My updates are regular if possible – I try and post every Wednesday so it's kind of like a serial…;)
Liv Naravul – You wanted to marry him? –checks Liv's temperature- Would you like to see a doctor? ;) And nope – he's definitely a goner. Sorry…;) And sorry too on your Trelawney turn – you'll just have to wait and see! ;)
Godricgal & Cartoon-Protector – Welcome aboard! That's a big slog of reading – well done! I'm glad you both like it:)
Thank you all again very much. My ego is already growing and eyeing up a few neighbouring cities to rampage through screaming "FEED ME!" That is –ahem- please review….;)