A/N: This chapter is the first of a two parter that will (finally) conclude the events of the longest night ever at the Feral Insititute. Oh and the title, taken from Mozart's Requiem, means "Day of Wrath". ;)
43: Dies Irae: Part One
New sirens blared, tearing the air with their klaxon horns as they heralded the retreat of the moon and the releasing of the Lockdown. For an instant, Tonks froze in her tracks a mere step into the Institute's entrance corridor, jerked up short in shocked surprise by the sudden rush of fresh noise. But then the distant clanking, the freeing of bolts and seals echoed down to her and a slow smile crossed her features as she glanced over her shoulder to where a distinctly dusty Harry, Ron and Hermione lurked just behind, the light of realisation dawning in their eyes.
We made it. Dear Merlin, we made it to morning!
It had taken great care and much agonisingly cautious spell work to free Tonks and Hermione from the unstable mass of rubble in which they had been accidentally buried and even longer to form a safe passage out of the crumbled remains of three walls and the ceiling that had descended so abruptly upon them. Tonks had struggled to maintain her composure, chaffing frantically at the delay – Pettigrew was out there, free and on the move and Remus too was all alone, hunting down Dolph without any kind of back up to assist him. If they were to cross paths…
But finally, after what seemed a good couple of eternities, they managed to dig a path, find an escape route and out they had crawled, wands gripped firmly as they battled injury and exhaustion and launched themselves once more on the hunt for roaming rats.
But now the Lockdown was over. Help would be on the way…
As long as the help was for them and not for the Death Eaters.
No. They'll have found my note by now. And Kingsley's knows that something's up and he's good, he's reliable. He and old Mad Eye won't let us down…
I really hope.
But for now…
"Any sign of Wormtail?" Harry's voice was loud, his words distinctly mouthed over the blaring of the siren.
Tonks shook her head. "He doesn't matter now!" she bellowed back. "We have to find Remus!"
Find Remus, find Remus, find Remus…
The words echoed in the sudden silence as the siren abruptly cut out, leaving Tonks' shout to hang alone in suddenly still air. Outside, beyond the sturdy main doors to her right, she could hear the distant buzz of spell-fire.
Please let that be our cavalry…
Harry's expression had darkened. "But Wormtail is…"
"More of a danger to Remus right now than to us." Tonks slapped the rest of his words away sharply. "That siren means the moon has set and the werewolves have changed back. And that means Remus is out there somewhere, unarmed, naked and exhausted. If Pettigrew finds him before we do…"
Harry's eyes hardened. "If that rat lays so much as a finger on Professor Lupin, I'll…"
But sudden noise cut him off. Footsteps echoed, hammering closer and closer, a rampage, a hoard of feet. Voices buzzed, shouting orders, echoing and shuddering into an unintelligible cacophonic mess and shadows danced against the walls as cloaked figures rushed into view…
Tonks and the three teenagers snatched out their wands defensively even as the leading figures did the same.
There was a moment of silence. Six sets of eyes blinked.
Then Kingsley Shacklebolt broke into a broad smile, dropping his wand as he strode forwards. "Tonks," he greeted, relief evident in his voice. "You gave us a start there! We saw white faces and we assumed…"
Tonks wiped a rueful finger down the coating of whitish plaster dust that still covered her features. "Small accident involving a ceiling," she replied with a smile of her own, as relief swept through her in a torrent also. "We got a bit buried for a while."
Kingsley chuckled deeply. "You broke a ceiling? Even for you, that's impressive."
With an uneven clump, Mad-Eye Moody had stomped his way over to their side, his electric blue eyeball whizzing madly as it scanned over the suddenly apprehensive faces of Harry, Ron and Hermione. His frown was glacial.
"Potter!" he barked sharply. "Hell's teeth, Potter, Dumbledore's been taking Hogwarts apart piece by piece looking for you! And now you turn up here?" His whirling eye swung accusingly towards Tonks. "Lass, it's daft enough for you to have stormed in here after Lupin but…"
But Tonks immediately raised her hands in protest. "Don't look at me. They stowed away on my Portkey. I bloody well didn't invite them!" At the flash of hurt that crossed three sets of features at her statement, she clarified herself a little. "But give them their due, they've been a great help…"
"I don't care if they've donned tutus and tap-danced two dozen Death Eaters into submission," Moody growled darkly. "They're still for the mincer when Dumbledore and McGonagall find out…"
Kingsley's deep voice cut the disgruntled tirade off. "Never mind that now, Mad-Eye. Tonks, brief us. What's been going on?" His tone dropped apprehensively. "Did you find Remus?" he added uncertainly.
As briefly as she was able, Tonks sketched in the situation in the Institute. "So we need to find Remus before Pettigrew does," she rounded up briskly. "And Dolph – Adolphus – is out there somewhere too. We were just going to track them down when…"
The shrill echoed its way down the corridor. The tousled and slightly muddy face of Hestia Jones appeared abruptly around the heavy wooden door that led into the chamber of the lift shafts. "Kingsley, Mad-Eye, you'd better come down here!" she called, her voice laden with apprehension. "Professor Goldstein's found something."
"Rebekah?" Tonks was already moving, falling in beside her fellow Auror almost instinctively. "Rebekah's here?"
Kingsley nodded. "She led us back down that emergency tunnel. That friend of yours, Felisha, wanted to do it, but we didn't want to bring any more civilians than we could help. It's just Goldstein and a couple of members of Institute security, Falconer and Aylward. They're guiding Bill Weasley's team in a search upstairs. Hestia, what have you found?"
"Blood." Hestia's grim exclamation sent an icy shiver down Tonks' spine. "Quite a lot of it. Come and see for yourselves." The dark haired witch turned and led them quickly over to where the rather dishevelled Rebekah Goldstein was crouched, brow furrowed, at the foot of the lift shaft leading up to the Residents Level. The metal grate that had covered the entrance had been torn from its hinges and discarded nearby.
Rebekah glanced up as Tonks and her companions approached, smiling wanly at the dusty Auror as she arrived. When she spoke, she got straight to the point.
"It's not human," she said softly, rising to her feet, her noise wrinkled and face pale. "That's werewolf blood. Spilled under the full moon."
Tonks went cold. She felt her stomach plummet, felt her heart begin to pound, faster, faster, faster. The others were caged, trapped, locked away. If Rebekah was right, only one of two werewolves could have spilled it…
It was as though she had stepped into winter. The air seemed to turn to a bitter chill; sudden fears washed through her body like a shower of snow – Remus, where was he? Why had he not shown himself? Did the blood belong to him? Images of him tortured her mind; his agonised face as the transformation took him, the pain etched on his features, the horror in his eyes and then fresh imaginings, Remus lying, still transformed, with blood pouring from terrible wounds…
Stop it! Concentrate! You're no use to Remus if you're getting hysterical…
At Tonks' side, Hestia Jones' was wearing a sceptical expression. "I'm a Healer at St Mungos," she stated brusquely. "I've seen my share of blood and that just looks like human blood to me. How can you possibly tell it belongs to a werewolf?"
Rebekah pulled a face as she grasped her cloak slightly tighter around her shoulders, suppressing a slight shiver. "The smell," she responded grimly. "The blood of a werewolf at full moon smells very different to that of a human, even a human werewolf. It's rancid, bitter and has a much stronger odour – probably something to do with the curse. I've been comparing the two in labs for years. Trust me. I can tell."
"Over here! There's more!" Hermione's voice was an urgent summons – the young woman was crouching beside Ron next to the vast wooden door through which they had just passed.
"Here, on the wood! And the door handle!" she asserted as Rebekah, Tonks and Kingsley hurried over to join her. "And Ron found some specks on the floor."
Rebekah leaned forwards at once. "It is blood," she confirmed darkly. "And…" carefully, she leant forward, sniffing carefully. "Yes. The same blood. Werewolf blood." She straightened. "My guess is that somehow a werewolf fell down that lift shaft. And then, whether it survived or not, someone came along and carried it away, brushing this door with it as they passed."
"I think you're right." Kingsley's brow was furrowed, his eyes grim. "I only hope it was Adolphus and not…"
He did not finish the sentence. He did not need to.
Tonks' chill deepened. She shivered.
Remus, where are you? Why haven't you found me yet?
Remus unconscious. Remus being dragged away by an enemy, tortured, murdered…
"Shacklebolt. Tonks." Moody's low summons was a welcome distraction. As Tonks turned, she saw the old Auror's glowing eye was drilling almost visibly into a nearby wall. Harry was standing, tight-lipped at his side. "I think I've found something."
Please let be Remus, please let it be Remus…
Moody's dark real eye swung to meet his fellow Order members as they came to his side once more. "Notice how chilly it feels?" he growled grimly. "And how easy it is to think the worst? Well, Potter just told me the reason why. There's a room full of Dementors just through this wall."
Of course. Tonks closed her eyes. Bloody Dementors, she had almost forgotten…
"How many?" Hermione's voice was low.
"Hard to say." Moody's tone was clinical but his fingers were twitching and flexing uncomfortably. "Maybe a dozen or so. With a pack of Dementors, it's hard to tell where one ends and the next begins."
Kingsley's grip on his wand tightened instinctively. "I'll call the Ministry, get a containment team down here at…"
"Jones, you do that. Go back to the tunnel and send Elphias Doge. Then come back. We may need a healer. " Hestia looked slightly affronted at Moody's brusque commands but at his swift addition of "Well? Get going!" she turned and headed out of the room in search of help.
Kingsley was looking slightly nonplussed. "If we'll need a healer, why didn't you let me go? Or why not send Harry or…"
"Because I've seen Jones' Patronus. It's pathetic. You couldn't swat a fly with it." Moody, it seemed, was in as fine a humour as the rest of them. "Whereas Potter's Patronus is Order legend." He smiled crookedly. "Beside, I feel the lad has a right to be along."
Tonks stared at the old Auror, an uncomfortable feeling welling in her stomach. "Along where? Mad-Eye, when were you planning to start talking sense?"
Moody chose to ignore the latter. "Along to the corridor on the far side of that room," he informed them abruptly. "I can't see properly through Dementors – they make my eye go damnably hazy – but I did see enough to know that Peter Pettigrew is over there, pacing that passage outside their room like a scalded cat." His real eye gleamed darkly. "So? Would you folks care to join me in a spot of rat catching?"
It took somewhat less than half a minute for the three Aurors, three teenagers and the Institute Professor to reach the door to the relevant passageway. Motivation was a powerful tool.
The corridor was icy cold. With a dozen Dementors just a few yards away, it was hard to imagine it would be anything else.
Remus lying in a pool of his own blood in a Hogsmeade alley, his throat ripped open by Kane… The chill, sick, despairing horror she had felt as she sat in her hospital bed, listening to Remus' wooden account of the death of Sirius… Bellatrix's cruel laughter as she hurled spell after spell at her niece…
The kiss… Remus' lips on hers… Remus finally bloody well admitting that he loved her...
Happy thoughts. Think. Happy. Thoughts.
At her side, a deathly pale Hermione was clinging to Ron's shaking hand like it was a lifeline. Harry's eyes were wide, his chin jutting almost defiantly against his own flow of terrible memories. Rebekah's lips vibrated as she closed her eyes and dropped her head. Kingsley was breathing heavily as he eyed the heavy door that sealed the entrance to the passageway. Only Moody's craggy face gave away nothing of his distress, although his real eye was deep sunk and shadowed as he carefully wove his wand in the air in front of them, muttering slowly in Latin.
I hate Dementors. I just hate them.
"That door's been riddled with charms," Moody's low growl broke the icy quiet. "He really doesn't want company."
"Is he alone?" Kingsley's voice was clipped and terse.
Moody shook his head. "Two… no, three others. But I think they're all unconscious. Damned Dementors!" He took a moment to swear with passionate fluency. "I can't see properly!"
Tonks froze. At her side, Harry's eyes flared with fury.
There was no mistaking that squeaking tone.
"Who's there?" The demand was repeated, more frantically. "Who is it?"
"We're from the Order, Pettigrew." It was Kingsley who replied, stern and business-like. "It's over, this place is surrounded. Give yourself up now and we won't hurt you."
"On the other hand..." Moody's menacing tone was rather less objective. "If you don't give yourself up, I'll blast my way passed your flimsy charm-work and find out if there really is more than one way to skin a rat. And Hell's teeth, lad, I'll enjoy it!"
"You can't come in here!" Pettigrew's voice had jumped a couple of octaves upwards. "Stay away from me!"
Slapping Peter Pettigrew across the chops. Now there was a happy thought…
"That's not up to you!" Tonks stepped forward to join her two colleagues. "Come on, Cymone, give it up. There's no way you can…"
"I have Remus Lupin!"
It was like a blow, a vicious backlash on the slap she had intended to deliver. Her stomach plunged into a sickening well, the chill of the air surging into her veins until her body was all but frozen. No. No, please, he couldn't…
"I have Remus!" Pettigrew's voice was shrill. "I have him right here next to me! He's my prisoner!" He giggled, a sickening, bitter, wretched little sound. "And if one person sets foot inside this door, I'll kill him! Do you hear me?" His tone was irrational, hysterical, rife with utter desperation. "If you take one step beyond this door, Remus Lupin is dead!"
A/N: Many thanks to my lovely reviewers this week: RC, silvanelf, Lady Bracknell, Rel Fexive, krumfan, Bardlover, Lupin123, Jazzed Up, Gyllenalv, Kailin, phoenixtear19, moo, Angry Mavis, snowfall, anonymous, Bluer Sky, RubyLinkle, felixgirl, Mollycoddles, Libeku Taganashi, eris86, SilverHowler, aurelie1, Mandalen, Leonew, Gilpin and Lupinlover:) Bless you all. :)
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