Disclaimer: The characters and the world they inhabit all belong to J.K. Rowling.
Cave CanemChapter Eleven: Moonset
Lily apparated to the front door of Greystone and used her wand to release the charm that kept the front door locked as long as the full moon ruled the sky. Moonset was only ten minutes away, so Lily hurried through the decaying corridors. It was at moments like this that she became irritated with the anti-apparition wards that protected so many locations in these difficult times.
Halfway to the stairs, she heard the keening, lonely howl of a wolf, a wolf calling for his pack. She stopped dead in her tracks. Somewhere in the depths of the building, at least two others answered the call. Lily had heard howling every time she had come to Greystone, but for the first time it awoke some primal fear inherited from an ancient ancestor. A silencing charm surrounded the floor where the werewolves were confined. Either the charm was down, or the wolves were not locked in. "Charlotte and Simon!" Lily took one involuntary step forward before looking around and retreating toward the door outside.
At the last corridor intersection she needed to pass, she saw two small lights at the end of a corridor, her own wandlight reflected in the eyes of a wolf. Lily broke into a run. She neither needed to see her pursuer nor hear his running paws to know that the wolf had as well. She could hear Remus's voice in her mind. "When I'm transformed, stunning spells and weaker curses and hexes will not affect me. Don't even try, Lily. If you have to protect yourself, kill me, please." Lily didn't want to kill anyone, but she had to protect her baby, and she knew the wolf had to be gaining on her in the debris strewn corridor.
"Debris!" Lily blew apart the base of a wall as she ran past and again on the other side. She heard the walls collapse behind her but didn't look back as she sprinted to the door. "Outside!" She slammed the door shut behind herself and reset the locking charm. Only then did she look through the reinforced window of the door to see what had happened.
A cloud of grey dust hung in the air and slowly settled over the debris newly choking the corridor. "Please be all right," Lily begged as she looked for the werewolf. Although chalky grey dust obscured the difference between grey fur and broken fragments of wall, Lily quickly spotted the still form amidst the rubble. "I'm so sorry. I just wanted to slow you down. Please be all right." But the wolf did not move.
"James or Sirius could go in," she thought as she looked at her watch, "but the moon might set before I can get back here with one of them. Would it be faster if I just waited for moonset and went in? No, the werewolves might be all over the building. I'm going to need help." Lily focused her mind on Remus's home and disapparated.
* * * * *
It had been a long night for the two animagi. The wolf had been restless and confused by his confinement. He associated the presence of his packmates with running free under the moon and stars and could not fully understand why he was trapped if they were with him. Padfoot had spent much of the night with his snout pressed between the bars of the small window, calling to his packmate with sharp barks and whimpers, trying to keep Moony focused on his presence rather than on the walls confining him. Moony would leap up and greet him with licks, but then drop to the floor again and begin pacing until he became anxious enough to ram his shoulder against the walls or scratch at them until his paws bled. Whenever Padfoot could no longer bear the ache in his back from standing upon his hind legs, he would drop to the ground with a sad whimper and allow Prongs to take his place at the window. The window was the perfect height for the stag, and he could easily have stood there all night. However, his presence did not seem to comfort the wolf as well as the dog's. And so, when Moony began to throw himself against the walls in frenzy again, Padfoot would nudge the stag out of the way and try to regain the attention of his fellow canine.
The moon had already disappeared behind the trees west of the Lupin cottage when Padfoot dropped to four paws for what he believed would be the last time of the evening. True moonset was fast approaching. He lay down on the blanket in which he planned to wrap Remus as soon as it was safe to enter the shed. "Wrap him up, bring him inside, heal his poor bloody paws—he isn't putting any weight on his right forepaw anymore—heal another dislocated shoulder, and then we can all sleep."
He heard a soft "pop," a slight displacement of air, and lifted his head from its place between his forepaws to look behind him. Lily stood near the backdoor of the cottage, pale and frightened. He trotted over to her without delay but was beaten there by Prongs. James was human the moment he reached her side, but Padfoot remained canine, ready to run back to the shed should the wolf realize humans were near and go into a rage. He raised his nose into the air and was pleased that they were downwind of the shed.
"What's wrong?" James asked as he put one arm around her shoulders and placed the other hand on the gentle curve of her belly.
"The werewolves are loose at Greystone—" James stiffened. "—inside, at least I think they're all still inside, but loose inside the building, and they might be all over the building. I hurt one very badly, and I may have killed him, and I don't know. And I don't know if Simon and Charlotte are safe, and—"
"Come as soon as you can leave Remus," James said to Padfoot, and he disapparated. Lily took one shuddering gasp and disapparated as well.
Sirius wondered for a moment if he should have gone with James and left Lily here to take care of Remus. Moonset was imminent, and she was now as experienced as he in tending to a werewolf's injuries. However, since moonrise was imminent, his animagus ability would not be needed at Greystone for very long. Lily knew the building better than he, and she knew the people there.
He trotted back to the shed and leapt up, catching hold of the window with his claws and peering in. Moony was finally exhausted and had curled up into a ball to sleep. Only his eyes and ears were still alert, and his eyes reflected the starlight as he looked at his friend. "Sorry, Moony, you can't sleep yet," Sirius thought sadly, for he knew what was about to happen even if the wolf did not. The grey fur rippled as the first shudder ran through the wolf's body. The wolf whimpered in fear or in pain as the change came upon him. Padfoot dropped to the ground, not because he could not bear to watch—he would bear anything if it would help— but because he knew that Remus preferred that he did not watch.
* * * * *
James shifted back into a stag as Lily released the charm locking the door. "I didn't mean to hurt him," she explained. "I was running for the door, and I hoped the wall coming down would slow him down." Her fear of having killed another manifested itself as a barely controlled note of panic in her voice. "Just look back at me if he's still alive—so I'll know—and then you can go on deeper into the building." She opened the door a crack but paused before opening it wide enough to admit her husband, "Please be careful, James. I know Remus never attacks you, but—" He nuzzled her cheek with his velvety nose in order to reassure her that he would be careful.
Lily pulled the door open, and he stepped inside. His nose was instantly assaulted by many scents, but foremost amongst them were the chalky scent of the dust still hanging in the air and the sharp tang of blood. The wolf lay very still, and for a moment, James feared that he would not be able to look back at Lily and reassure her that she had not taken a life. He lowered his head to the still form and heard the sound of labored and unsteady breathing. He looked back at Lily and saw her smile in relief. Even if James were human at that moment, he would not have smiled back. The werewolf's breathing sounded labored and wet. He was alive, but James was not sure he would survive the combination of his internal injuries and the metamorphosis that was imminent.
There were others he needed to check on. He could do nothing to help the werewolves until moonset, so he headed for the stairs to see if by some miracle, Charlotte and Simon had survived the night. At the first major intersection of corridors, he came face to face with two wolves. The larger one, in the lead, had white and cinnamon brown fur; his companion was more grey. Both growled deep in their throats. Although only human prey drove werewolves into an enraged frenzy, they could, and would, attack prey animals if hungry enough. As the two wolves split apart and tried to flank him, James knew that they were finding the idea of venison for breakfast very appealing. He backed away from them, pawing the ground with a sharp hoof and lowering his antlers menacingly. "I can hurt you; I'm not worth it," he tried to convey. The smaller wolf suddenly whimpered, and a moment later, the larger one shuddered. James realized that he would not need to put his fighting experience to the test. Moonset.
* * * * *
Peter had not slept well. The knowledge of what he might need to do in Hogsmeade kept him worried and restless. He didn't want to kill anyone, and he didn't want to get caught killing anyone. He also knew it was necessary. If one or more of the werewolves were captured, they would undoubtedly implicate the wizards who had brought them to Hogsmeade. The fact that they did not know his name was not enough; they knew his face.
He dressed quietly and let himself out the backdoor of his house. He did not want to wake his mother and destroy his alibi. He checked his watch again. Local moonset had just passed, but Hogsmeade was slightly farther west. He waited another minute and a half for Hogsmeade's moonset and disapparated.
Something soft squished underfoot, and Peter jumped back in alarm, afraid that he had apparated atop some small helpless animal, but it was just one of the robes discarded by the werewolves. He looked about and saw the broomstick, the portkey, where it had been left the evening before. "So far, so good," Peter thought. "Now let's just hope all of the werewolves make it back before it activates."
The first two back, the Muggle woman and the fairest-haired man, kept Peter waiting only a few minutes. They were disheveled and muddy, but not bloody or injured. Judging by their appearance, Peter would not have been surprised to see them come out of the Forbidden Forest rather than Hogsmeade. They reminded him of the way Remus and Sirius looked after a night of play-fighting. They pulled on their robes and sat on the ground beside the broomstick, holding on tightly even though Peter assured them that they still had time until it activated.
Another agonizing six minutes passed before another returned—the werewolf who had tried to intimidate Peter the night before. He headed for a robe, but Peter picked it up and threw it at him. "The portkey is about to activate. Go touch it. You can dress after you get back." The Muggle glared at Peter but did as he was told. One side of his face and throat were bloody from a cut over his eye. As he sat on the ground, holding the broomstick with one hand and holding the robe in his lap with the other, Peter noted that the werewolf's hands and feet were bloody as well. Suddenly Peter wasn't sure that all of the blood on his face and throat was his own. Then the werewolves were gone. Two Muggle werewolves were still in Hogsmeade.
* * * * *
"Are you O.K. to walk, Moony?" Sirius asked as he draped the soft blanket around the shoulders of his friend.
Remus nodded wearily and allowed Sirius to slip a hand under the elbow of his uninjured arm. Sirius helped Remus to his feet and stepped back to allow Remus to leave the shed first. He fell into step beside him again, and they walked in companionable silence to the cottage.
"I think you dislocated your shoulder again," Sirius said as they entered the downstairs bedroom. Remus nodded again and sat on the edge of the bed. Sirius handed him a potion that would lessen the pain. "You'd better hold onto the headboard," Sirius instructed. The headboard was a wooden panel flanked on either side by turned posts. Without James there to hold onto Remus and provide resistance, Remus would need to hold a post and keep himself still while Sirius popped the shoulder back into place.
"Where's James?" Remus asked in a hoarse voice, noticing for the first time that they were alone.
"With Lily," Sirius said lightly. "He left just a few minutes ago."
"What's wrong? Is the baby alright?"
"The baby's fine. Lily's fine. She just needed his help with something, that's all." Sirius didn't want to tell Remus about Greystone until he had more information, and he preferred to tell Remus after he got some sleep. Worrying about the people he knew at Greystone would not be conducive to rest. "Go hold onto the post and let's get your shoulder back where it should be."
If there was a charm to accomplish what Sirius now had to do manually, he did not know it. Remus seemed content that Sirius knew how to do this the Muggle way, and that he knew the healing charm that would strengthen and repair the injured tendons of shoulder afterward. Sirius concentrated on pulling and twisting Remus's arm and tried to ignore the fact that Remus was undoubtedly in great pain as he did it. Remus uttered not a sound; he merely clenched his teeth and closed his eyes. When it was done, a slight sigh of relief and the sheen of sweat on his brow were the only hints that he had been in pain.
"I'll get some water and clean up your hands," Sirius said. "One of these days you'll learn that when it comes to claws versus steel, steel wins."
"No, I won't," Remus said quietly.
* * * * *
Multiple sets of bloody pawprints led down the stairs. James ran up the stairs two at a time. He was afraid not only for Charlotte and Simon, but for the werewolves who would be blamed. He threw open the double doors and almost collided with Charlotte on her way out.
"James! What are—is Lily alright? Simon and I were so worried about her this morning, but we couldn't think of a way to warn her away." As she spoke, James's gaze had fallen upon the remains of a mangled corpse on the floor. Very little remained; the wolves had done a thorough job of devouring him. James had feared that it was Simon, but at Charlotte's mention of her assistant's name, James looked up and saw him at the end of the corridor unlocking cells to check on the occupants.
"Lily's fine," James assured Charlotte, and he glanced at the corpse again. "Who was that?"
"His name was Leslie Ellard. He's the one who set some of our clients loose last night, quite against their wills, and you see the result. They were furious with him; he didn't stand a chance. He transformed back when he died and—as you see."
The words "transformed back" registered in James's mind even through the shock of seeing the remains of the bloody feast. "He was a werewolf, then," he said more to himself than to Charlotte. It would make all the difference in the eyes of the law; it was not a crime to kill a werewolf during the full moon. The same law that often caused the deaths of werewolves would now excuse them for committing this act. "Lily'll be protected by that law too." James recalled his priorities at that thought. "We have an emergency downstairs, Charlotte. Lily came in before moonset, and she injured one of the werewolves quite badly while getting away from him."
"Oh, the poor dears." Charlotte opened the large lower drawer of her desk and removed her basket of bandages and potions. "Where?"
"Near the front door." James planned to go with her, but Simon and the people with him caught his attention. Simon was supporting a man about thirty years old, bloody and limping, as he made his way to the body. Other men and women, in varied states of undress and with various injuries, all clustered around them. They each reached out and touched the man with Simon, silently offering comfort. James felt like an intruder and hurried after Charlotte.
* * * * *
Peter pulled up the hood of his tweed cloak before heading into the village. The fewer people who caught a glimpse of his face this morning, the better. He felt momentary panic when he realized that he had never taken a good look at the two werewolves who were now missing. "What did they look like?" he wondered, but then realized, "Don't be an idiot, Peter. They'll be naked and probably bloody. You won't be able to miss them. Now you just have to find them before someone else does. Damn them for not making it back to the portkey! I don't want to have hurt anyone. Maybe I can hide them in the forest and make another portkey."
He made his way quickly through the outskirts of the village and toward the raised voices in the vicinity of the main street. A handful of people stood clustered around something on the ground. Peter kept to the narrow space between two buildings as he moved in for a closer look. A body, naked and bloody, lay at their feet. "There's one," Peter thought. "Dead or unconscious?"
"Don't we need to cremate him or something, Professor?" a man in the crowd asked.
"No, that's vampires." The man who spoke had his back to Peter, but his voice was that of Professor Grianan, Hogwart's Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. "Don't worry, he's quite dead. You can cremate him if it'll make you feel better, but you'd better wait until Werewolf Control identifies him."
"Here's another!" someone shouted. Two people came into view, pulling a rope tied to the ankles of a body they dragged behind them. The helpless way his arms dragged behind him and the way his head bounced around on the bumpy dirt road demonstrated that he too was quite dead. Peter felt sick. He apparated home.
* * * * *
"Sleep well, Moony," Sirius said as he pulled the bedroom door closed. He had decided against telling Remus that he was leaving. To do so would only lead to questions that he did not want to answer. With any luck, he could be back before Remus even woke up. He hurried into the kitchen and grabbed a pear out of a bowl on the counter before going outside to apparate. Being awake all night had left him quite hungry, but he was in a hurry and this would have to suffice for breakfast.
Lily had taught him where Greystone was, but this morning was the first time that he had actually had a reason to go there. His apparition point was near the building, but not near a door. He ran beside the outer wall searching for a way in. He was too close to the building to get a good look at it as a whole, but the rough grey granite walls and the contrasting smooth white limestone around the windows indicated that this building had been built to impress. At least it was meant to impress those outside. The moment he stepped inside, Sirius felt sick at heart. He remembered that Remus said the Ministry started using this building for werewolves when, "It was no longer fit for human habitation."
"This place is a ruddy maze. 'Upstairs,' Lily said, but where are the stairs?" "HELLO! Can anyone hear me?" Sirius wandered for a few minutes before hearing voices and following the sound to the stairs. He climbed up to the first floor where he saw people in ones and twos, the less injured assisting those more injured, making their way from the first floor up to the second. They looked at Sirius warily, and he blessed whatever gods were listening that he had worn Muggle clothing to Remus's home. "Excuse me, but I need to see Lily or Charlotte," he said to the group at large. "Do you know where they are?"
"Charlotte's in there," one man said as he gestured behind himself at the double doors of the first floor.
"I haven't seen Lily this morning," another said.
"Thank you," Sirius said as he went in search of Charlotte. A blanket lay over an irregular shape on the floor, and bloody pawprints were all around the blanket. Sirius found Charlotte in one of the cells tending to a woman with severely bitten legs. "Charlotte, what can I do to help?"
She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Oh, Sirius. Um—for now, just help me get everyone upstairs. Then I'll fill you in on what happened."
"Of course. Could I just ask, where are Lily and James?"
"One of our clients was badly injured and had to go hospital. Lily wanted to go with him because—" She allowed her voice to trail off, perhaps not wishing to say in front of one werewolf that Lily had injured another.
The job of tending to the injured was greatly alleviated by the presence of five Muggle assistants. Sirius would later learn that these were the werewolves who had spent the night running free in the building. The unaccustomed freedom had agreed with them, and none of the five had self-inflicted injuries. Once they realized that Sirius was, despite his clothing, a wizard, he was called upon to perform various healing charms. His experience in tending to Remus's injuries proved very useful..It was only when the job of tending to the injured was accomplished that Charlotte beckoned Sirius to follow her back down the stairs. She paused beside a man sitting alone beside a window. "Gavin, you'd better come with us too."
They went down two flights and Charlotte led the way to a room filled with tables and chairs. The table nearest the window was a bit less dusty than the others, probably because Charlotte used it periodically, and Charlotte led the two men to it. Gavin kept his eyes downcast.
"Sirius, this is Gavin Ellard. Gavin's brother, Leslie, is the man who died upstairs."
"Oh, I'm so sorry Mr. Ellard."
Gavin merely nodded.
"Gavin is a werewolf, as was his brother, and they are from a wizard family." Sirius would have guessed as much from Gavin's clothing, but Charlotte seemed to want to give Sirius all the necessary background information. "Gavin, Sirius has a friend who is a werewolf, and he's very fair. He's also an auror." At this, Gavin closed his eyes, dropped his head lower, and hunched his shoulders as if trying to disappear into himself. "Please tell Sirius what happened."
Gavin took a shaky breath and opened his eyes. "Leslie did it. He started setting us free just before moonset. I knew he was going to, but—I should have warned you, Charlotte. I'm so sorry."
"Why didn't you?" she asked calmly.
"I'm a coward."
"You were afraid of Leslie?" she asked.
"Of his new friends, and of Leslie too." He looked up at Sirius. "I can't prove it, but I believe Leslie's new friends are Death Eaters. Leslie said that I wasn't of much use to them, being a squib, and that my only possible value to them was when I was a wolf. He said that being able to identify them and being 'of no value' was a fatal combination."
"You can identify them?" Sirius asked.
He nodded. "I never heard any names, but I got a good look at the faces of two of them. One of them, I see his picture in the society section of The Daily Prophet sometimes, David Sidle."
"You'll need to come down to our offices and give a more detailed statement. I won't lie to you, Mr. Ellard. You may face some charges as an accomplice. You did know what your brother planned, and you did not try to prevent it. Non-action is not a crime," —"although I'd like it to be"— "but we both know that the law isn't always applied equally to werewolves."
"Simon and I will give statements as well and testify that you did NOT assist Leslie in any way," Charlotte assured Gavin.
"But the greater danger will be from the Death Eaters," Sirius continued. "They won't want you to tell what you know. The sooner we get you in protected custody, the better."
* * * * *
"Sirius?" Remus leaned against the bedroom doorframe and yawned. "Siri? Are you here?" No answer. "Either he's sound asleep in my old room upstairs, or he had to go to work." Remus reached up to scratch his scalp as he headed for the kitchen, but the bandages on some of his fingers interfered. "Idiot," he scolded himself. He hoped that Sirius was asleep upstairs. He knew that Sirius had planned to stay today and had taken the day off from work. But when one was an auror, one was always "on call." If Sirius wasn't here, the most probable reason was, "Nothing good."
Remus didn't quite feel up to even the most basic of magic this morning. He lit the stove with a match and filled the kettle to brew tea. The breadbox yielded a treasure of three rolls leftover from dinner. He ate one as he went outside to look for the latest issue of The Daily Prophet. Remus had made due without a subscription for his first month of living alone—why buy it when he could always find copies left lying around in places like the Leaky Cauldron?—but one of his friends, he didn't know which, had paid for a subscription. "Probably James. Got sick of me reading his when I'd come over for dinner." Today's lay just beneath the kitchen window; the owl must have dropped it there when he couldn't get in the window.
The paper was rolled tightly and tied with a string to facilitate delivery by owl. Oversize type was trying to scream the lead headline. Remus pawed at the string, trying to pull it off and cursing at his bandaged fingers. One last tug and "WEREWOLVES TERRORIZE HOGSMEADE AND HOGWARTS: Courageous Citizens Fight Off Bloodthirsty Beasts."
Author's Note to my fellow Americans: I've identified the floors of Greystone U.K. style, i.e. the floor above the ground floor is called the first floor. (In the U.S.A., first floor and ground floor are synonymous.)