Insert standard disclaimer about me not being JK Rowling and anything you
recognise being hers: here.
A/N: Apologies to anyone waiting for updates. Have hit a spot of RL turbulence, the details of which I won't bore you with, and have had zero writing time the past few weeks. Actually, I've had nearly zero sleeping and eating time, too, but those are the details I said I wouldn't bore you with ;). Anyway, wrote this ages ago. It's a four parter, and I hope it'll tide you over until I can get back to regularly scheduled programming.
The smell of damp concrete mingled with crisp, night air and swirled up to meet him as Remus appeared in the middle of a deserted industrial estate. All around were concrete blocks of buildings, square and largely unidentifiable, save for their rusty signs. The car parks that dotted the place were abandoned, and the light from the lamppost in front of him flickered, the bulb on its last legs.
His feet slapped a warning of his approach on the wet tarmac as he hurried, and at his side he heard Tonks stumble and swear under her breath. Instinctively he put out an arm to steady her, and she smiled up at him, tension mingling with gratitude.
The war had taken its toll on them. He loved her, still, more than ever, and he knew she returned the feeling, but they hadn't had a night off together in weeks, a chance to talk, to just be still as the world span out of control around them. They'd both missed it.
That's what tonight was supposed to be – their first chance in ages to not talk strategy and planning and worry, but to be them – just them – and Remus couldn't believe that ten minutes ago he'd been in Tonks' kitchen joking about how much pasta she was making, if she'd invited the whole Order and not told him, before that damn Patronus appeared and they were summoned away.
He just hoped that when all this was over, there'd be enough left of what they had been, once, that they could claw their way back, because what else were they fighting for if not the chance at a normal, happy life?
They made their way to the building they'd been summoned to. A broken sign hung above the door, jauntily declaring that Maude Sport was open for business at a lopsided and rather dangerous-looking angle, and it creaked apologetically in the wind from a rust-bitten awning.
In the entrance way, in front of a red door that had probably looked jovial and inviting before the paint started to flake, Bill Weasley lurked in the shadows, the light from his wand illuminating the twisted scars on his face, a serious expression etched deep into every line and his eyes.
"Bill," Remus said, watching Tonks out of the corner of his eye turn, scan the perimeter. "What happened?"
Bill swallowed. "Moody's waiting for you inside," he said, stepping aside to let them through the door.
Remus stepped over the threshold, taking in their surroundings, and behind him he heard Tonks seal the door with a squelch.
The warehouse was no more inviting on the inside than it looked from without. It still bore all the hallmarks of what it had been before – rows of steel shelves stood to attention in neat ranks, piled with boxes which Remus thought were probably responsible for the musty, mouldy smell that assailed his nostrils, and behind them a cube of painted white concrete stood, bathed in a faint golden glow. He supposed at one point it would have been the foreman or manager's office, although he doubted it had ever had the faint glow of a dozen different barrier spells cast on it before.
That must be where they'd put him.
Moody, Kingsley, Arthur, Hestia and Elphias stood together underneath a netball post, chattering in rambunctious whispers. Hestia and Elphias' eyes were alive, while Moody's magical one was fixed, with steely and determined resolve, on the white concrete cube of an office behind them.
As Remus approached, the group hushed; it was something he hadn't entirely got used to. He'd spent his whole life waiting to be spoken to before speaking – never speaking out of turn and sometimes not at all, and yet now, people looked to him to be the one to do the talking, and in some ways, the thinking for all of them.
"Alastor?" he said.
"Knew we'd get him sooner or later," Moody said, his good eye darting back towards the make-shift office prison.
Hestia leant forward on her toes, evidently trying not to smile, and behind her, Elphias attempted a grin that was spectacularly out of place with their dingy surroundings.
"Jones and Doge were on patrol near Snape's old hideout," Moody said gruffly. "Hadn't been seen there for months, but I still keep an eye on the place and damn good job too. They'd barely Apparated when he appeared right in front of them. Always knew his arrrogance'd be his undoing. Filthy traitor," he spat.
Remus turned to Hestia and Elphias, trying not to let his mounting concern that things couldn't be how they appeared show on his face. He fixed his features into a mask of interest, in the hope of hiding the fact that his stomach was full of ice, and he was grimly glad of having not eaten. "You captured him?" he said, and they both nodded eagerly. Remus swallowed. "Did he put up much of a fight?"
"No," Hestia said, drawing herself up to her full height, the smile that had been threatening finally erupting. "I think we took him by surprise. I got him with a stunner, then Elphias got him in a bind. He didn't even have time to reach for his wand."
Hestia's face glowed with pride, but Remus couldn't share the sentiment.
Snape was far too clever, far too talented and sneaky – far too good a wizard, in short, to have been captured by Hestia and Elphias. Given that evidence, there only seemed one conclusion to be drawn: Snape had known they were there; he had allowed himself to be caught.
Remus' icy stomach flipped over.
Snape allowing himself to be captured could not be considered good news, however he looked at it, and he tried to rein in his thoughts as they threatened to race out of control. But ideas, theories, strategies, came to him in a torrent, and the more he tried to discern some element of sense in all of them to sort through the muddle, the more muddled things seemed.
A couple of ideas emerged from the quagmire, though.
Snape must have known there was a chance whichever member of the Order caught him would kill him on sight – his Death Eater friends would hardly be impressed that he'd been so easily captured – and Remus could only think of two reasons he'd take such a risk. Either he was on a mission for Voldemort to expose the Order and Harry – using himself as bait to lead the Death Eaters right to the heart of the Order – or he was still on a mission for Dumbledore and had something of vital importance to share.
He wasn't sure which was the most terrifying thought.
Remus was suddenly aware that all eyes except for Moody's magical one were on him. "Then you brought him here?" he said, keeping his voice measured. He couldn't afford to risk everyone else panicking at the thought that they may have lead Voldemort straight to them.
"Blindfolded, of course," Elphias said dismissively. "We messaged Moody immediately, and he met us here with everyone else."
Remus hummed in thought for a moment. If the Death Eaters had followed, they probably would have waited until back-up was contacted, picked off Hestia and Elphias, and then hidden in wait for the rest.
He turned to Kingsley and Mad-Eye. "You swept him for tracing and tracking spells?" he said, jerking his head at the office, and Kingsley and Moody nodded.
"He's clean," Kingsley said. "And secure."
"Right," Remus said.
He thought fast, heart pounding a warning in his blood that one wrong move here…. He tired to push the sinking feeling in his chest aside, to focus, to be rational, and reasonable, because after all, that was why Dumbledore had chosen him as his replacement in the first place.
Think, Lupin, think. Don't panic, just let it come.
He tried to take one thought at a time.
Snape could have used himself as bait, but he trusted Moody and Kingsley to have done a thorough job with the security sweep and bait was no good without a hook. Furthermore, if the Death Eaters were planning an attack, he wasn't sure this was how they'd go about it –
Which left the other idea, that Snape was on some mission for Dumbledore.
Remus' heart twinged a little as he thought of that night, when Harry had broken the news, of everything that had happened: Molly and Fleur, fraught over Bill, the children, ashen faced and far too old before their time, facing up to burdens many fully-grown wizards would have shirked, and Tonks. The look of desperate longing in her eyes –
He swallowed at the thought, but it was no time to dwell on past hurts.
He'd hated Snape, that night; loathed him for taking Dumbledore – but more than that, for leaving him as a second-rate replacement in his stead. He still wasn't entirely comfortable with his role, with the thought that he held the lives of so many in his hands.
Was it really possible that Snape wasn't a traitor at all?
The question bit at him, refusing to let go, gnawing quietly on his conscience as he thought.
He'd need to speak to Snape.
He frowned as another thought occurred – so frightening a one that he had to fight to keep the horror from his features, from leeching out for all to see. Of course – he should have seen it sooner. There was a chance this was a trap, but not for them – for Harry, directing their efforts in one direction so they'd take their eye off Harry.
Remus didn't wait for contradictory thoughts to rear their ugly heads – something was going on, and he didn't know quite what, but Harry's position could be in danger, and any scintilla of doubt that he was safe was enough to justify action.
He fished in the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out the two-way mirror he'd been using to communicate with Harry since his departure. He raised it to his lips and whispered, "Harry?"
There was a moment of tense silence, and then Ron's face swam into view in the small, dirty mirror. "Hello?" he said, peering into the mirror and looking rather perplexed.
"Is Harry there?"
frowned for a moment as if he thought it rude Remus wasn't making
small talk, and then said, "Yeah – shall I get him?"
"If you wouldn't mind, Ron," Remus said. Fleetingly he met Arthur's eye, and offered him a nod to say that Ron looked fine. Arthur smiled briefly in relief, and then his expression turned back to one of guarded concern, which Remus had barely seen waiver in the last few months.
Remus watched as the reflection of Ron in the palm of his hand span, revealing flashes of a dark, dingy, grey stone cottage, and sleeping bags on the floor. A second later, there was a brief, muffled exchange, and Harry's bespectacled face appeared on the surface of the mirror. "Hello Harry," Remus said.
"Professor," Harry said, smiling.
"Are you all alright?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Y'know, all things considered."
"Good. Listen, Harry, something's happened – and I can't tell you quite what at the minute, but I'd like you all to Disillusion immediately – as a precaution."
Harry's eyes widened. "Is anyone – you know – er, dead?" he said, rather sheepishly, and Remus saw him jolt, briefly, as Hermione in the background whispered 'oh Harry really', just out of his view.
At the thought of the look on her face as she elbowed him in the ribs and scowled at him for his tactlessness, Remus allowed himself a small smile. "No," he said. "No-one's dead, or injured."
Harry offered him a small smile, and Remus continued. "Once you've Disillusioned, I want you to go somewhere and wait for me. I want you to go to the place where you used to see Snuffles, ok? Do you understand?" Harry nodded. "Straight away, Harry – regardless of what you're doing. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important."
Harry nodded again, and then Hermione did elbow him out of the way and snatched the mirror out of his hands. "We'll be there soon," she said. "And I'll cover our tracks here."
Remus smiled. He could always rely on Hermione to do the thinking for all of them. "I'll try and be as quick as I can," he said. "See you soon, you three. Take care."
Hermione offered him a nervous smile, and then disappeared. Remus tucked the mirror back into his pocket. "Was that really necessary?" Arthur said. "Not that's it's not nice to know they're all right but – I'm not sure you should have worried them – I mean it's got nothing to do with them, really, has it?"
"As I said," Remus said, in a hopefully reassuring tone, "it's just a precaution."
Arthur nodded faintly, and Remus turned back to the rest of the group. "No-one has talked to Severus yet, I take it?"
"No," Kingsley said.
"Wouldn't have wanted to waste my breath," Moody said, grinding his teeth.
"Good. I'll take it from here," Remus said. "What did you do with his wand?"
"It's secure. I have it here," Kingsley said, tapping the front of his robes. Remus held out his hand for it, and Kingsley frowned, but didn't question the request as he handed it over.
"Thank you," Remus said, tucking Snape's wand into the inside pocket of his jacket. "I'd like you to split into pairs and patrol the perimeter. I don't expect the Death Eaters to come looking for him, but you never know when they'll show a surprise flash of loyalty."
Arthur nodded and turned to leave, but Mad-Eye stared at Remus warily, and Tonks' eyes found his immediately. "You can't be serious," she said, regarding him with one hand on her hip, as she had so many times when they'd argued last year.
"She's right, Lupin," Mad-Eye said. "He's a sly fella and a traitor – I should have killed him when I had the chance, the filthy – "
"I'm perfectly serious, I'm afraid."
"Remus?" Tonks said, laying a hand on his arm. "What are you going to do?"
Remus thought about it for a moment, but really, he didn't need to, because he'd always known what he'd do in a situation like this. "What Dumbledore would have done," he said quietly.
Tonks' eyebrows leapt on her forehead in surprise. "You're not going to hear him out – you're not actually going to give him a chance to explain?" she said.
Remus didn't answer. That hadn't really been what he meant, but he knew there wasn't enough time for explanations and argument. "We're not leaving you alone with him," she said, folding her arms and looking to Moody and Kingsley for support.
"Yes you are," Remus said quietly.
He met her eye, hoping that she'd see in his something to make her trust that he knew what he was doing, that he wasn't pulling rank for the sake of it.
Tonks looked from him, to Kingsley, to Moody, and then back again, and Remus regarded them all steadily, not prepared to tolerate any argument. He was beginning to have an inkling of how all this could fit together, and if he was right, he knew what he'd have to do, and he knew they couldn't be part of it.
The room bristled with dissent for a moment before dissipating as they acquiesced to his will, as he knew they would eventually. Tonks raised a questioning eyebrow at him – one last chance to back out – and when he offered her the slightest of nods, the tiniest movement at the corner of her mouth told him that she wouldn't protest any further.
"Well you heard him," Tonks said. "Patrol the perimeter."
She shot him a concerned look as she left, giving orders to Hestia and Elphias about which direction they should patrol in, while Mad-Eye told Arthur to join Bill, and said that he and Kingsley would get in the air and circle – to send up sparks if they were needed.
As the last of their footsteps retreated, the warehouse fell silent, apart from the slow drip from a leak in the corrugated ceiling that Remus hadn't noticed before.
Perhaps it had been drowned out by the beating of his heart, but now he was alone he felt steadier, somehow, and his heart stilled its pace a little.
He'd made a great many assumptions in formulating a plan about what to do, and he hoped that the old adage about it making an ass of him – or worse – wouldn't hold true.
Remus took a deep breath of stale, metallic air, focusing on what he had to do. He went over to the fortified office where Snape was being held, and opened the door, stepping through the barrier spell Moody had cast, and feeling the tell-tale tingle on his skin as he was allowed access.
A/N: Reviewers get a dangerous and intense mission, with a Harry Potter character of their choice to cling to ;).