Author's Notes: Again, much thanks to my proof-reader, Logical Quirk.
This chapter contains violence and torture—nothing is graphic or explicit, but if those subjects make you squeamish you probably ought to avoid this story.
Choices: Part II
"I've got to go back, haven't I?"
"That is up to you."
"I've got a choice?"
"Oh yes…I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to…let's say…board a train."
"And where would it take me?"
-Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Remus Apparates to the first safe place he can think of—Alastor Moody's abandoned home. For years, when Remus had no other place to stay, or no other place to transform, Alastor had taken him in. Now, once again, Remus seeks the solace of his old sanctuary.
His heart is still pounding, and he feels a dull ache growing in his head. The past few minutes feel more like a dark nightmare than reality. He can't have hexed Harry like that, can he? He clutches his cloak tightly around him, and stumbles through the night toward the dark house.
He makes his way through the layers of protection surrounding the home, and lets himself inside. As soon as he closes the door behind him, he feels a wand pressed to his throat.
"Identify yourself!" a voice hisses in the darkness. It must be another member of the Order—they are the only ones with the means to breach the security around the house.
"It is I, Remus Lupin, a werewolf…" A monster… An outcast…
"…married to Nymphadora Tonks…" He ran away from her. It wasn't to help Harry—not really. The responsibility was too much. He wasn't strong enough. He left her…
A few candles sputter to life, casting a dim yellow glow across the face of Kingsley Shacklebolt. "And the last words Albus Dumbledore spoke to us?" he says.
"Harryis the best hope we have. Trust him." It is painful to Remus to speak the words that he has so clearly ignored. He didn't trust Harry. He treated him like a child who needed an adult to solve his problems for him. And in return, Harry has treated him like a man—an equal—and spoken to him just as James would have done. He told him the truth. But instead of listening, he'd blasted Harry into a wall. Harry was right. He really is a coward.
Kingsley lowers his wand, and a few more candles come alight behind him as he offers a few more tokens of his own identity. Remus hardly hears him—Harry's words of reproof continue to ring in his ears.
When Kingsley asks what brings him here, he mutters that Death Eaters were chasing him and he needed a safe place to hide. Kingsley chuckles, and says that great minds think alike: when he refused to abandon his post with the Muggle Minister, Thicknesse ordered some of the Death Eater goons to arrest him.
"So it seems that Dora isn't the only Auror out of a job," he says, smiling, his white teeth flashing brightly in the dim light.
Remus nods, forcing a weak smile onto his face. He turns away from Kingsley's shining smile, and sits down on a well-worn chair in a dark corner. Kingsley might make light of losing his job, but he doesn't have a wife, or a child. Oh, God, a child…. He puts his face in his hands, and slumps forward, caught up in his torrential thoughts.
"Remus—is Dora all right?" Kingsley's voice is full of concern.
Remus lifts his head back up, and quietly reassures him that Dora is safe with her parents. He tries to imbue his words with a tone of finality, and it seems to work because Kingsley drops the subject, and asks why he's on the run.
Remus briefly tells him of his search for Harry, and how he finally located him at Grimmauld Place.
"And he's safe?"
Remus closes his eyes tight again. "He was. He and Ron and Hermione seem to have a good handle on things. At least, they did until I showed up." He shakes his head. "I failed him. The square was under surveillance. I was careless. I let myself be seen. Now the Death Eaters will redouble their efforts to get in. They'll probably bring Snape along—he'll find a way to let them in."
Kingsley paces back and forth in the dim and dusty living room. Finally, he stops and faces Remus. He declares that Harry is going to be safe at Grimmauld Place, because the Death Eaters will think that he's fled elsewhere.
He goes on to tell Remus of the discovery that he made just before fleeing the Ministry: You-Know-Who has charmed his name, so that anyone who speaks it will be instantly traceable. They will use this as a tool to lay a false trail for the Death Eaters, to lure them away from Grimmauld Place.
Remus feels his guts clenching. How can he do this? After what Harry said to him—how can he put himself at risk like this? He should go back. He should go home to Dora. He takes some deep breaths, trying to clear his head, and stands, moving to a window to peer through the curtains at the overgrown garden shrouded in darkness. Even in the black of the night Remus can see that it has been neglected for so long, it is little more than a lonely tangle of weeds and briers. Nothing but a jumble of dark, twisted shapes crossing over each other. No order. No beauty.
"I understand if you don't want to come on this mission," says Kingsley. "You've a wife at home to worry about." He begins to muse over the possibility of getting Dedalus or Hestia to join him on his wild goose chase.
Remus's mind turns over and over. What if their enemies find Harry because of him? What if his one moment of thoughtless rage has cost them their victory? What kind of world will be left for his son to grow up in?
He takes in a startled hissing breath as he realizes, for the first time, that he truly wants his son to be born. He wants his child to have the chance to grow up—the chance to live a happier life than the one he has known.
But none of that will be possible if Harry is killed. And he'll be damned if he lets his own foolish outburst lead to Harry's downfall.
"You don't need to contact Dedalus or Hestia," he says, turning to face Kingsley, the dancing candlelight glowing brightly in front of him. "I promised Dora I'd come home when Harry was safe. He's not safe yet."
Kingsley nods. "All right, then. Lets get to work."
Within the hour their plans are set. Before leaving the house Remus slips into the spare bedroom he so often used for his transformations. He closes his eyes and focuses on his memories of Dora on their wedding day—so radiant—so happy—so full of life. He points his wand into the darkness, and conjures his Patronus. The bright powerful lion bursts forth from his wand, casting a silver glow throughout the room. With a low whisper, Remus imparts his message: "I am helping Kingsley to draw the Death Eaters off of Harry's trail. Don't try to find me or contact me—it's too dangerous. I'll be home as soon as he is safe. Stay with your parents—protect yourself. I love you."
With a last flick of his wand, he sends his Patronus out into the darkness, and watches it fly until its slivery glow is swallowed by the night.
At each place Remus and Kingsley visit, they scatter items intended to look like the detritus of three teenagers passing through in a panic. Then, they speak Voldemort's name before hastily Apparating away.
On the eighth day their would-be captors appear so soon after they say Voldemort's name that they are drawn into a pitched battle with four assailants. They manage to escape only after disabling two of their attackers.
They face a second battle the next day when they find a gang of five Death Eaters waiting for them at the next stop along their intended false trail. Remus is blasted hard into a wall before they escape, leaving him battered and bruised.
They return to Alastor's home that evening to recover, and as Remus lays in the darkness, struggling to sleep in spite of the aches and pains left from the blast, he can't help but wonder if this was how Harry felt the night after he left him. Had he been this bruised? Did he feel this lonely?
Not an hour passes when he doesn't think of Dora, and wonder if he is doing the right thing.
When he chose to come on this mission with Kingsley, he wanted to turn his lies into truth, and do something that would help both Harry, and his own family. He wonders when he started thinking of them as a family.
Persistent nagging doubts linger in the back of his mind at all times. Is he really doing this for his them, or is he still just running away? Is he, as Harry put it, abandoning his family to "go on an adventure"?
He replays Harry's words in his mind again and again. There are times when he guiltily believes that Harry spoke nothing but the truth. Then, at other moments, he wonders if he is letting his affection for Harry cloud his judgment. Harry has no real idea of the prejudices that Remus faces each and every day—of the vile hatred that surrounds him wherever he goes. That same dark, bleak, hopeless existence is all that Dora and their child have to look forward to if he goes back to them. Even if Harry wins—how much will really change?
He rolls over to his side, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in.
He tries to ignore the fear that the men who chased him across the Grimmauld square recognized him. He tries to pretend that Dora will be safe without him—that they will never come to question her—that they will never hurt her.
He can't help but think, once again, that she would have been far better off if he had never married her at all.
He lies in the darkness, doing his best to convince himself of the correctness of his choices, until at last he drifts off to sleep.
Every few days Kingsley gets word from Arthur that there are still no signs or rumors at the Ministry that Harry's been captured, and every few days Remus sends another glowing lion charging across the country to his wife, to reassure her that he is still safe.
He tries not to think of her loneliness or her fear. She is the strongest person he's ever met; she'll get through this. He knows she will.
Thirteen nights after the beginning of their mission of distraction, Remus and Kingsley finally venture back to Grimmauld Place. They each approach the square from different sides, Disillusioned and under the cover of darkness. After five minutes, they return to their rendezvous, and confirm what they've seen: Death Eaters are still standing watch.
It can mean only one thing: they haven't yet breached the defenses around Number Twelve. They haven't forced their way in.
The campaign of misdirection has worked. Harry is safe and free. The enemy hasn't found him.
With a smile and a sigh of relief, Kingsley pats him on the back, celebrating their success. "We did it, mate. We did it."
Remus feels his heart growing lighter. His mistake wasn't so disastrous, after all.
Kingsley pats him on the back yet again. "I'll keep up the false trail for another week, just to be sure. But I think you've done enough. You can go back to your wife."
Remus smiles, and thanks his friend, but his heart is pounding rapidly in his chest.
Back…He can go back…
After a few more words of congratulation and farewell, Kingsley Disapparates.
Remus stands by himself in the darkness of the alley, breathing heavily. What sort of welcome can he expect when he returns?
Neither Ted nor Andromeda was supportive of his decision to follow Harry. Somehow, they could see the duplicity in him that was always invisible to Dora. Have they been working to turn her against him in his absence? Could they have persuaded her not to take him back? What kind of home will he be walking back into?
Should he even go back at all?
He shakes his head. This is foolishness. Dora has proven her loyalty to him time and time again. He shouldn't let himself start doubting now. And no matter how much he still regrets his impulsive decision to marry her, he needs to face the consequences of the choice he has made. He needs to take care of his family.
He takes a final deep breath, and Apparates one street away from the Tonks' home. He Disillusions himself and carefully makes his way there, dodging the splashes of light coming from the widely-spaced lampposts, and creeping through the shadows. He doesn't want to take any chances.
He pauses three houses away from the Tonks', and slowly surveys the scene. At first, it appears that the coast is clear. Then, suddenly, his eyes detect a small movement from the garden across the street. He stares at the spot intently for several minutes before he realizes what he is looking at: it is a cloaked and hooded wizard sitting restlessly on a bench, almost invisible under his own Disillusionment spell.
The house is being watched. There's no going home tonight.
Remus spends the rest of the night quietly approaching the homes of each and every other Order member to check for surveillance. And with each new house that he comes to, the knot in his stomach grows tighter.
The Tonks house is the only one being watched. There are no signs of surveillance at any of the other homes.
Between his wild dash into the Grimmauld Place square and his two battles with Death Eaters, he must have been recognized. They know that he's been leading them away from Harry, so they assume that he knows where Harry is. If he dares go back to the Tonks' home the Death Eaters will swoop down on them all within minutes, and take him away for questioning to see if they can pry Harry's location out of him.
Who knows what they might do to Dora, or what might happen to the baby?
He can't let that happen.
Remus Apparates to an alley in Muggle London just as the first rays of sunlight begin to pierce the dawn sky. He wearily trudges down the street until he finds a café that opens early for breakfast. He slumps down into a seat in a dim corner.
Once again, he made the wrong decision.
He tried to convince himself that by protecting Harry, he was protecting his family. But he was mistaken. Perhaps he had even willfully fooled himself. All he did was put his family in more danger than before.
He orders tea from a bleary-eyed waitress who looks like a wraith under the harsh florescent lights, and then leans forward, putting his face in his hands.
He's a horrible person.
Everyone who allows him into their lives inevitably ends up hurt—or worse.
Why did he ever let Dora convince him that he was worthwhile? Why did he let her give him hope?
He should have gotten out of her life the instant he could tell that he was falling in love with her. He never, ever, should have given in to his feelings after Dumbledore's death—when he went to her, pleading for her to give him another chance.
For once in his life he had decided to ignore his judgment and to act on his instincts. And now those damnable instincts are going to destroy her, and to destroy their child along with her.
His malady is reason enough to stay out of her life, but now he is beginning to see that his own poor judgment and weakness of character are even stronger reasons to stay away.
In his moments of greater clarity since that first panicked day after learning of the pregnancy, Remus has accepted the fact the chances of his son inheriting his malady are virtually non-existent. In all his time among the werewolves, he never once met one that had been born that way, and never once heard a tale of it actually happening. It was merely a rumor—a threat—a horror story that old ones would tell to the young. But it wasn't true. It couldn't be true. Remus won't let himself believe it.
His son will be normal. Once the Death Eaters give up looking for him, they'll leave Dora alone. Her mother's pureblood status should protect them. Dora will be safe. She can build a new life for herself and for her son—a life that will be far better without Remus than with him.
He has nearly made his decision to vanish, when Harry's words once more echo in his mind.
He wishes he could Obliviate himself to wipe the memory of that night from his mind.
It's not cowardice that drives him away from his wife. He only wants to protect her. He wants her to be happy…
An image of her beautiful sparkling eyes floods his mind. He sees them shining as she looks up at him, with her expression full of hope and love. He sees her hair shimmering in the sunlight, and her teeth sparkling as she laughs. He sees the glowing silver form of her werewolf Patronus bounding toward him, its mouth open in a grin.
He made her laugh. He made her smile. Somehow, astonishingly, he became her symbol of strength and happiness.
Since leaving Hogwarts as a young man he never once imagined that he would ever be so fortunate as to love someone as wonderful as Dora. And never in his wildest dreams would he have guessed that she would love him back.
Is it selfish to want to go home to that? Is it short-sighted to want to enjoy that love for as long as he can?
Is it more cowardly to run away from that life of love and happiness in an attempt to protect it, or to go back to it in the hopes that through some miracle he won't destroy the very happiness that he seeks?
The second option brings with it the greatest reward—but also the greatest risk. Is that what hr is really afraid of? Alone, he has nothing to lose. But if he goes back, he just might lose everything he's ever wanted.
He drinks his tea in a few scalding gulps, then leaves a few Muggle coins on the table and heads back out onto the street, now fully bathed in the early morning light.
One way or another, he can't go back yet—no matter how much he wants to. Not until his family is safe.
After finding an abandoned alley to hide in, he crouches behind the rubbish bins, and once more conjures his Patronus. Its silvery glow looks weak and dim in the morning light. Softly, he imparts his message: "The house is being watched—they must know I can lead them to Harry. I'm so sorry, Dora. I can't come home."
The fog swirls densely through the streets, and the sky is dark with clouds overhead. Even here in the city the pernicious melancholy of the breeding dementors lies thick in the air.
Remus finds himself walking the same dim streets and haunting the same shadowy alleys that he frequented during his days with Greyback's pack. He feels a strange sort of comfort in the familiarity of the surroundings. It helps him forget the hopelessness of his plight.
His mind swirls with thoughts as thick and dark as the fog.
Dozens of times a day he convinces himself that Dora is better off without him, and dozens of times a day he longs to go home.
Four days after parting ways with Kingsley he makes another attempt to approach the Tonks' home, and once more he trudges away into the darkness after spotting a Death Eater sentry still standing watch.
That night he curls uncomfortably on the ground in the scant shelter in between a row of bushes and a brick wall. A nearby streetlamp casts an eerie, spectral pattern of light and dark across the blank wall above him. He stares at the pattern for nearly and hour, tracing its broken lines with his eyes, trying to ignore the lonely neediness welling up inside of him. Finally, he sleeps.
Remus falls so easily into his old pattern of vagrancy and scavenging that he wonders if this really is the lifestyle his kind are best suited for.
The gnawing hunger in his belly helps distract him from the growing ache of desolation in his heart.
He trudges through the shadows and the fog, not knowing or caring where his feet will carry him. All he knows is that he has to keep moving. If he stops moving—if he settles down long enough to think—the pain of his separation from Dora will grow too strong. He can't give in to the temptation to go back her. He can't put her at risk of capture, or torture, or worse. So he keeps moving. It's the only way to make it through the days—and the only way to wear himself out enough to sleep through the nights.
Remus stares down at the date on the discarded newspaper beneath his feet. Has he really been on the streets for so long? How did he lose track of the days?
He should have known it—should have recognized it from the restless anger and nervous energy that has been troubling him since yesterday. Tonight is the full moon.
He continues to wander the streets until dusk, and then Apparates to Moody's house. He hasn't dared return until now for fear that the Death Eaters would have breached the home's security. Tonight his need is too great to let his fear stand in the way of a safe shelter for his transformation.
He hastily removes all of the furniture from the spare room, as was his habit from many transformations in the past. It doesn't matter that Moody is dead—Remus won't destroy his belongings like they are nothing but cast-off trash.
He transfigures the window into a sheet of metal, blocking off the outside light, and shrouding the room in darkness. After removing his dirt and sweat-stained clothing he folds it neatly and places it in a tidy pile in the hall. He closes and seals the door, then casts charms on all the walls and the door to strengthen them against attack. Finally, he locks the door with a timed charm, set to expire at sunrise, and slides his wand out of the room through the crack under the door. The dim, dancing orange flame of a single candle in the center of the room does little to break the oppressive darkness in the small box of a room. Remus sits beside the candle, and waits.
It is midmorning when the transfigured window returns to its original state, allowing the sunlight into the room. Remus stirs slowly and blinks painfully. Naturally, the dementors' fog has dissipated enough to bath him in nearly blinding light the morning after a difficult transformation.
It's been months since he had to go without the potion, and he is feeling very much worse for the wear. After a few more minutes he gathers his strength to stand, and hobbles to the door. He bypasses his wand and clothes to stumble down the hall to the bathroom, where he sinks into the tub and lets the warm water of the shower run over him until it begins to turn cold.
He hauls himself out of the tub and dries on a musty old towel. He rummages through the medicine cabinet, and finds some healing salves for his bruises and abrasions. Finally he makes his way back into the hall, retrieves his wand, and uses it to perform a few quick cleaning spells on his clothes before dressing.
He sinks gratefully onto the large settee in the living room, and reclines comfortably, once again closing his eyes.
He naps for several hours, finally waking in the late afternoon.
The sun filters softly through the gauzy floral curtains, and he smiles peacefully while examining their feminine pattern. He remembers being shocked more than six years ago when the curtains first appeared in Alastor's house. When he asked about them, Alastor had gruffly stated that they were a birthday gift from one of the new Auror trainees, who seemed to think that his home was too cold and impersonal. It wasn't until four years later that Remus had learned it was Dora who gave Alastor the curtains.
The longer he stares at the curtains, the more intense the empty ache in his chest grows. He needs to see her. Being without her like this—fearing for her life, worrying about her well-being and the progress of the pregnancy—it's killing him.
He no longer cares if it's selfish and risky: he has to find a way to be with her.
As if by some magic deeper and older than he's even known, the very instant he makes up his mind the large silvery form of her werewolf Patronus bursts through the wall, dancing on air and wagging its tail when it sees him. Its mouth opens, and Dora's voice issues forth: "I need you, Remus. Please tell me where to find you, so we can be together. I need you. Please…"
Though the Patronus continues to wag happily, the loneliness and anguish in Dora's voice rips at his heart. Has something happened? He has to go to her. Now.
He leaps to his feet, revitalized by a surge of adrenaline, pulls on his shoes, and determinedly marches out the door into the garden.
Four black-robed wizards are standing lazily in front of the house, one of them leaning against the garden fence.
They are on him in an instant. His wand is blasted out of his hand as soon as he raises it, and thick cords wrap tightly around his body as he falls heavily to the ground.
The men laugh and congratulate each other on the ease of his capture. One of them, whom Remus now recognizes as Dawlish, jovially says, "I told you it would be worth our while to come take a look around Mad-Eye's old place, didn't I? Thompson—send word to Yaxley. We've finally got the man he's been looking for."
Yaxley and Lucius Malfoy argue for several minutes about what room to keep Remus in. Finally, Yaxley wins out. He insists that Remus be kept apart from the "other prisoners," and orders that a pantry adjoining the ballroom be cleared out and converted into a makeshift cell. Lucius storms off in a huff to carry out the preparations. All the while Remus, still bound, stands between two hulking thugs marveling that these are the masterminds behind the overthrow of the Ministry.
After several more minutes his cell is ready, and the thugs throw him roughly inside, leaving him alone in the dark.
Remus fumes at himself. He was such a fool to go charging out into the garden like that, without even checking. Especially now, when Dora is in so much distress.
Once again, he's failed her.
Remus finds that he can bear the pain of torture quite well. He's experienced a great deal of pain over the course of his life, so he's had plenty of opportunities to learn how to endure it stoically.
He can even bear the humiliation—though not as easily as the pain. Being chained to the floor like an animal by a collar around his neck is an indignity above and beyond any of the many other indignities he's had to endure over the course of his life. But it's nothing that would break him.
What hurts him the most is watching his wand snapped before his eyes. It is the same wand his father bought for him on their first trip to Diagon Alley, as part of their celebration after learning that he would be permitted to attend Hogwarts. Ever since that day, the wand has been his most prized possession. Now, it is nothing but splintered wood, tossed aside like rubbish.
All the while unending thoughts of Dora course through his mind. Is she safe? Or have they taken her captive as well? And even if she is safe, what must she be thinking when she hasn't heard from him yet—nearly half-a-day after sending him her Patronus message?
What will happen to her when they kill him?
He wishes he had a chance to say goodbye.
When the torture fails to break Remus, Yaxley turns to a new tactic: Legilimency.
Two of Yaxley's thugs force Remus upright, and Yaxley freezes Remus's eyes open with a spell in order to establish a long, deep gaze.
Remus discovers that his incessant thoughts of Dora have an unexpected benefit: by focusing on those thoughts—especially by dwelling on his happy memories of their time together—he is able to deflect Yaxley's inexpert probe of his mind, and keep Harry's last-known whereabouts safely to himself.
After less than an hour Yaxley gives up in disgust. The thugs throw Remus roughly to the floor and storm out, once more locking him up alone in the dark.
This time, instead of obsessing over his worries about what might possibly be happening to Dora, he clings desperately to his most precious memories of her. He replays their happiest, most joyful, and most passionate moments together over and over in his mind. As he does, the darkness and pain and humiliation seem to melt away, leaving behind nothing but a sense of bittersweet regret.
It quickly becomes apparent that Bellatrix is a far more adept torturer than Yaxley. She intersperses her Crucios with Stinging Hexes and Flogging Spells, expertly aimed to inflict the maximum pain. It is a potent combination of spells, and, unlike Yaxley, Bellatrix has no interest in extracting information from Remus. Her only desire is to revel in the pleasure of punishing the filthy werewolf who tried to rise above his station by sullying the blood of her ancient and noble family.
After the first hour Remus barely notices her maniacal laughter and biting insults anymore.
For the first time in his life, he is grateful to be a werewolf. Well over a decade ago he learned that the best way to minimize the pain of his transformations was to surrender his mind completely to the wolf—hiding his humanity deep inside. He finds himself using the same technique today.
It is not his screams and howls that fill the tiny prison chamber—it is the wolf's. It is the wolf, not the man, whose body writhes on the ground.
Remus is not there at all. He is floating far away in the midst of a bright, sunlit cloud. Dora is with him, holding him close, and the cries of anguish are little more than faint echoes in their ears.
Remus doesn't know how long he's lain on the foul-smelling damp floor of his cell, alone in the darkness. He has been drifting in and out of sleep, trying desperately to cling to his dreams of Dora—dancing with her…making love to her…laughing with her…holding their son in his arms…
When the door opens again, casting a faint light across him, he grits his teeth and tries to prepare himself for another bout of torture.
Instead, he is surprised when a small bowl of water is shoved in front of his face, and an all-too familiar voice says, "Drink this."
Remus's draws in a painful, raspy breath as he slowly raises his head to stare at the crouching figure of Peter Pettigrew.
For years he has longed for a chance to face Peter again. He has dreamed of finally performing the task that Harry forbade him to do that night so long ago in the Shrieking Shack. But now, to face his betrayer like this, chained and weakened and starving, is almost unbearable.
"I could end it right now," whispers Peter. "I could tell them all I found you dead—that your heart must have given out during the night. They would believe me."
Remus can hardly believe what he is hearing. Is that pity he sees in Peter's eyes?
Peter continues, "Bellatrix will be back later. And she's not the only one. Greyback wants a turn with you, too. You don't want to face that, Remus. Let me finish it now."
For a moment, Remus finds himself tempted by the offer. All the suffering—all the pain—it could be over. He could be free…
He closes his eyes, and his mind turns to Dora, and to their son. He shakes his head as a cold, hard rage wells in his heart. His lips curl downward into a fierce frown. "I want no charity from you, traitor!" he barks out in a low, harsh voice that he barely recognizes as his own.
"Please, Remus?" says Peter in a high-pitched, pleading whine.
"Get out!" roars Remus.
Peter scrambles to his feel and scampers hastily out of the room, sealing the door tight behind him.
Several more hours pass before Remus hears the sound of angry voices approaching. One of them is unmistakably Bellatrix, but it takes several moments to recognize the other as belonging to Greyback.
They seem to be standing just outside of his cell.
"Our Lord commanded me to cleanse my family of this cancer! It is my right! You won't take it from me!" says Bellatrix.
"To hell with you and your family!" snarls Greyback. "This nasty little spy cost me the chance to earn my Mark! I want him, and I'll have him!"
"The Dark Lord would never have granted you the privilege of wearing his Mark, whether or not you had succeeded at marshalling your pathetic little werewolf army," retorts Bellatrix.
"Ultimately, your petty bickering is utterly beside the point," interjects a third voice: the cold, hard tones of Severus Snape. "As I have already told you, our Master has given me Lupin's life as a boon, and I am free to dispose of him however I see fit."
"It's not fair!" says Bellatrix.
"Feel free to take it up with our Master. Perhaps you can convince him of the error of his decision?"
There is a long pause. Snape speaks again. "Good. I'm glad both of you are starting to see reason. I may decide to give you a turn with him before he's through, but in the meantime, he and I have some old scores to settle; and I fully intend to settle them in private."
"I'm not going anywhere, Snape!" says Greyback.
"I'll be sure to mention your attentiveness and cooperation to my Master the next time I speak with him," drawls Snape.
Greyback emits a wordless growl, and Remus hears the sound of heavy footsteps walking away.
"And you, Bellatrix?"
"You haven't heard the last of this, Snape!"
"No, I would expect not."
Remus hears a second set of footfalls moving away from his cell.
Finally, after several moments of silence, the door opens. He looks up to see a thin, dark figure silhouetted in the doorway. It is the man who betrayed them all—the man who made this nightmarish world a reality.
Snape raises his wand, and lights the small lantern dangling from the ceiling, before stepping in and closing the door behind him. He circles the small room, casting spells to seal the room tightly, and to prevent any sound from escaping. All the while, Remus feels his anger and frustration building.
Finally, he conjures himself a chair, and sits stiffly, staring down at Remus.
They stare at each other in silence for several minutes. From the look on Snape's face, Remus almost expects another offer of mercy, like the one Peter extended to him earlier that day. Perhaps Snape has some lingering respect for his former colleague, after all? But Remus has no intention of accepting such an offer from Snape any more than he did from Peter. He'll give Snape no such satisfaction.
"There's no need for this foolishness," says Snape at last, releasing the collar from Remus's neck with a flick of his wand. It falls to the ground with a dull clank, and Remus slowly rises to his knees.
Another few moments of silence pass before Snape flicks his wand again, and the cords binding Remus's wrists and ankles vanish. Remus's eyes widen in astonishment. What is Snape doing?
Snape tells him that he feels the conversation will be more productive if both of them are comfortable, and proceeds to conjure a second chair. "But I warn you," he adds, "if you misbehave, there will be consequences."
Remus's eyes dart warily back and forth between Snape and chair. What harm could it do? It might even present him with an opportunity to attack. He weakly rises to his feet, pain shooting through him at every movement, and stumbles to the chair, finally collapsing into it. It is only a plain wooden chair, but after the past several days, it feels heavenly.
The small lantern sways slightly overhead, as if moved by some slight, undetectable breeze. Its dim yellow glow shifts strangely over Snape's pale mask of a face.
"It was thoughtless of you to go carelessly traipsing around Alastor's property like that. Whatever would your wife say if she knew how little value you place on a life she holds so dear?"
Remus's anger rises, and his mouth hangs open. But before he can respond, Snape launches into a speech about how he has no more desire to see the Dark Lord rule England than Remus does, and how he wants nothing more than to help Harry succeed in whatever task Albus left for him. "If you tell me where to find Harry, I can provide him with the tools and protection that he needs to vanquish the Dark Lord once and for all."
Remus's astonished anger grows with every passing moment. "You can't really expect me to believe all this, can you?"
Snape sighs. "No. But it would make my life my simpler if you did."
"I'll never give Harry up to you. Never!"
"Just like you promised Tonks you would never leave her again?"
Remus gives in to the tidal wave of rage coursing through him and launches himself at Snape with an inhuman snarl.
He is knocked to ground by a curse, and Snape rises to his feet, standing over Remus, still pointing his wand.
Remus heaves a deep breath. "I'll never break. If Bellatrix couldn't break me, you don't stand a chance. So you might as well give up now, before you waste any more time. Either send me home to my wife, or put an end to it. Right now!"
"End it now? And give you the coward's way out? I don't think so. Get back in the chair." Snape gestures with his wand.
Remus stays on the ground.
"Get in the chair!" Snape advances threateningly.
With a huff of frustration and pain, Remus hauls himself back into the chair. Instantly, thick cords wrap around his arms, legs, and chest, binding him tight to the chair. Again, he grits his teeth, waiting for the torture to come. Again, he is surprised when it doesn't.
Without a sound, and without even making eye contact, Snape penetrates Remus's mind. Remus gasps in surprise as his memories of Harry begin to dance thought his thoughts, and he hastily pulls his memories of Dora to the forefront of his mind just as he did with Yaxley.
The corners of Snape's lips turn up in a mocking smile. "Nice evasion. But you'll find that my mastery of the art of Legilimency far exceeds that of my colleagues."
Over the next hour Snape delves into Remus's mind again and again. He winnows through countless recollections, and burrows deep into his memories, seeking out any and all glimpses of Harry. Remus continues to focus intently on his memories of Dora, doing all in his power to block out anything else.
Suddenly, Snape's tactics change. Instead of trying to break through the memories of Dora, he begins to study them, examining them intently. Remus's mind swirls in confusion and exhaustion as he strives to push away the more private memories that he doesn't want Snape to see. But it grows harder and harder as time goes on. Snape dwells on memories of their laughing conversations over coffee, lingers over the recollections of their first kiss, and begins to pry into the memory of their bodies joining as one for the first time….
"No!" cries Remus. Not that. He'll never share that.
"This evasion and distraction can't go on forever, Lupin. You're mind is too riddled with emotion to ever be truly impervious to intrusion."
In an instant Snape is back inside Remus's mind, peering at the memory of Remus's conversation with Harry at the Burrow after their wild flight away from the Dursley's. Too close—he's coming too close.
Remus focuses on his memories of the morning before his wedding, trying to dwell on his nervous anticipation and the anxiety he felt every time Ted caught his eye. But then he feels Snape rushing him through the memory, skipping him past the wedding to the dinner with friends and family, and then on to the first night of their short honeymoon. No! That is another memory that Remus will never share.
He wrenches his mind away from that day to more recent memories of Dora: her strength and defiance in the face of the insulting interrogation following Bill's wedding, and the way she so expertly comforted her parents after their bout of torture. Again, he feels Snape seizing control of his thoughts, forcing his way on to the discovery of Dora's pregnancy and through to Remus's departure the following morning. Remus's heart begins to race—once again, Snape is drawing far too close to the information he seeks….
Abruptly, Snape withdraws from his mind, and Remus sits taking deep gasping breaths in exhaustion from the strain of the battle within his mind. He looks up at Snape's face, and is shocked by what he sees there.
Snape's face is livid and pale. "She's pregnant?" he asks in a low, dangerous tone. "And you still chose to leave her behind, risking yourself on a fool's errand? Typical. So eager to demonstrate your Gryffindor courage when there's glory to won—but not when it comes to facing the realities of your life. I always knew you were a coward."
The rebuke, so hauntingly similar to the one leveled by Harry just weeks earlier, elicits the same primal rage. How dare Snape accuse him of being a coward?
Snape sneers at him. "Did you even give her a second thought when you exposed yourself to capture?"
Now Snape dares to take the moral high ground, after all he's done? "Why the sudden concern for my wife?" Remus snaps. "Oh, I remember now—you used to think of her as a friend, didn't you? Did you ever give a second thought to that friendship before you betrayed her and everyone she cared about? Of course you didn't—just like with Lily."
Snape darts to his feet, his face a terrifying mask of rage and revulsion. He points his wand at Remus's chest, and utters a single word: "Crucio."
The pain is more intense than anything Yaxley or even Bellatrix had produced, but in an instant, it is over.
After the haze of pain clears from his eyes, Remus looks up to see Snape standing, facing the door, his shoulders heaving as he takes deep breaths.
"Next time we meet," says Snape in a slow, measured tone, "take more care with what you say to me."
He opens the door, extinguishing the lantern with a flick of his wand over his shoulder as he stalks out, slamming the door behind him.
Remus has no idea how long he is left alone in the dark.
At some point, one of his captors moves him from the chair and back into his collar on the ground, but he is barely conscious at the time.
His hunger and thirst have become ravenous animals, eating him alive, and leaving him wasted and devoid of energy. He drifts slowly in and out of consciousness. Whether sleeping or awake, visions of Dora dance before his eyes. He wonders if she'll ever forgive him for leaving her like this.
He has no idea how many days have passed when the door of his cell is finally opened again. His eyes blink painfully against the light from the corridor.
Snape and Bellatrix stand above him, while Peter crouches at his side, lifting his head and tipping water into his mouth. He coughs and splutters on the first few sips, but is finally able to drink. Yet the water seems only to intensify the pain in his abdomen.
Bellatrix is once again begging permission to finish him. "He's useless to us now that Potter has fled from my Aunt's house. Let me do it."
Snape denies her request, despite her angry pleading, saying that he has other plans for the werewolf. He wants to keep him alive and functioning until the next full moon.
When Bellatrix demands to know why, he says, "Because I'm sure we can think of someplace amusing to release him for his transformation."
Bellatrix's cackling laugh is a sure sign that she approves of the plan.
Snape and Bellatrix leave, and Peter scrambles after them, once more leaving Remus alone in the dark.
Though his mother raised him as a Christian, Remus has never been certain of the existence of a God. But now, during his moments of lucidity in the midst of the darkness and pain, he begins to pray. He begs whoever may be listening that they will protect his wife and unborn child. He begs for the chance to see Dora again—for the chance to see his son come into the world. But if it is not to be, he pleads that his life will end before his enemies have the chance to use him as a tool to hurt and maim the innocent.
He wakes from a long, deep sleep, and instantly knows that something has changed. But what?
It takes him a few moments of subtly shifting his weight to realize that his hands and legs are free of their bonds. And somehow, the pain and bone-deep weariness seen less than they were before his slumber. Whoever conjured the cords had done a very poor job, for them to dissolve so soon.
Could this be part of a new plan? Some twisted new tactic for breaking him?
Or is it a miracle? Is this his path to freedom?
Whatever the case, he needs to take advantage of the opportunity offered to him. This may be his one and only chance to ever see Dora again.
He feels his way around the room on his hands and knees, wincing at the pain of movement, but enduring it by once again focusing all his thoughts on Dora. He inches his way around in a circle, testing the length and weight of the chain affixed to his neck.
He must formulate a plan for escape. He can't let this chance pass him by.
Less than an hour passes before the door opens again. Remus lies on the ground, his neck right next to the point where the chain is fixed to the floor, the entire length of his leash coiled at his side. His body curls up tightly to hide the absence of his bonds. Through half-open eyes he sees the skinny form of a glassy-eyed Stan Shunpike carrying a bowl of water in one hand, and a bowl of gruel in the other.
Stan wobbles as he walks, splashing water over his hand, which induces soft giggling. From his staggering gait, Remus can't help but wonder if the boy is drunk. Yet another miracle.
Stan crouches in front of him, placing the bowls on the ground. It's time.
In one swift burst Remus tackles Stan to the ground, grasps his hair, and pounds his head against the floor again and again until the boy goes limp.
With shaking hands, Remus searches the unconscious body, easily finding his wand in the back pocket of Stan's trousers. He uses it to unlatch the collar at his throat, breathing deeply as he removes the damnable thing, and re-latches it around Stan's neck, locking it with a spell.
Remus pauses long enough to slurp down the water and gruel—he'll need the energy to complete his escape.
He Disillusions himself, checks that the corridor is clear, and makes his way out of his cell, past the ballroom, and down the corridor.
The miracles continue—in less than a minute he reaches a door leading out of the house, and a quick survey through the nearby window shows him that no one is in the garden. He slips outside, and stumbles quickly across the lawn, heedless of any shadows his Disillusioned-form may cast. Speed is more essential than stealth at a time like this.
He throws himself behind a clump of hedges, blocking the view of the house, and silently prays for the final miracle that there are no anti-Apparition spells on the grounds.
He focuses intently on the first place he can think of where he might meet Dora in safety—the small beach cottage owned by her Muggle uncle, where they spent the two short nights of their honeymoon.
He takes a deep breath, gathering in all of his remaining strength, and Disapparates.
For hours Remus lies where he collapsed on the rug in the living room of the small cottage.
His energy is spent. He drifts in and out of sleep, reveling in the glorious sunlight pouring through the open blinds, and savoring the clean scent of freedom.
He will see Dora again. They can be together. To hell with the risk. He's ready to live. Some unknown agent has given him a second chance at life, and he's going to take it.
Finally, when the light through the windows begins to fade with the setting sun, he musters enough strength to conjure his Patronus. It is time to call his wife.
He stares in astonishment as the silvery form emerges from his stolen wand. Where is his lion? In its place stand a large, majestic boar, rearing its head and stamping its feet impatiently.
The last time he saw this Patronus was more than a year ago, when it emerged from Dora's wand. It was once her Patronus. Now, somehow, it is his.
In wondering awe, he whispers his message: "I need you, Dora. I am at the honeymoon cottage. Come to me. I love you."
She looks like an angel, her warm face shining in the faint light of dusk as she kneels beside him, weeping over his wounds and stroking his hair while gently tipping water into his mouth.
"Don't cry, sweetheart," he whispers hoarsely. "I'll be all right, now that we're together."
She hushes him, forcing him to drink some more, before moving on to casting various healing spells on his battered body.
He smiles up at her. "I'm so sorry, Dora. I shouldn't have stayed away so long. I thought I was protecting you…"
"You didn't have to come back to my parents' house, you know." Her pain breaks through the veneer of tenderness. "You could have called me. I'd have come to you anywhere, anytime. We could have found a new safe house together."
His smile grows even broader, and a weak chuckle escapes his parched lips. In all his time on the run, that simple solution never once occurred to him. "I'm afraid that my reputation for intelligence and practicality is vastly overstated," he whispers, coughing lightly, before chuckling again.
A few more tears course down her cheeks, but now she is smiling, too, and he's never seen a more welcome sight.
She chuckles back at him. "I could have told you that ages ago."
He catches her hand lightly in his own. "What I wanted to say…" he coughs again, "…what I need to say…is that all this time I thought I was protecting you, when really, all along it was you..."
"You don't have to say it," she interrupts, her glistening eyes meeting his, and her voice wavering. "I saw the Patronus. I know."
As her hand squeezes his, he knows that they will never have to be apart again.
The sun has already set outside, but Remus feels as if he stands in the warmest most radiant spot on earth as he takes his son in his arms for the first time.
The baby is so tiny, delicate, and light, that Remus is half afraid of hurting him merely by jostling him too hard. He runs his rough finger over the thin fuzz of black hair covering the little round head, and the baby grimaces, stretching his neck and cooing softly.
Remus grins in thrilled astonishment as the thin hair suddenly takes on a reddish tone. He moves to sit next to his wife on the bed. Her flushed and sweaty face glows with a new, extraordinary, beauty.
"Look what we have here," he says softly, once more stroking his son's scalp, and watching in delight as the red tone deepens.
"Oh, Lord no!" exclaims Dora, laughing. "Mum! Come have a look!"
Andromeda joins them, to stare wide-eyed at her grandson. "Oh, my gracious. It's just like the day you were born, Nymphadora. Your hair started changing colors straightaway."
Soon, they are all laughing at the amazing, squirming little man in Remus's arms.
Sitting there, surrounded by his family, Remus knows without a doubt that he is right where he belongs. He is home.
Author's Notes: Thanks so much for reading this whole angst-fest. This was very much a therapy fic for me, to help me fit my own fic-universe into the new canon in a way that made sense. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a review.