Remus is held in place by rough hands on his shoulders, kneeling in an elegant hall lit brightly by hundreds of candles. All around him, Death Eaters are whispering to each other, waiting, like him, for their master’s arrival.
“You’ll speak when spoken to, and no insolence towards the Dark Lord, or you’ll regret it. Understood?”
It wasn’t hard to get into the country with the information he had on the wards. What was hard was getting close enough to Voldemort’s residence without being caught, and in the end, a patrol had discovered him fifty miles from his destination. They must have become suspicious because he doesn’t have the Tracking Charm on him that was placed on all witches and wizards in England three years ago. It’s only thanks to his insistence that their Lord would never forgive them if he found out about them not alerting him to the presence of an exiled member of the Order of the Phoenix wishing to join his side and bring him valuable information that he wasn’t killed as an intruder right away.
Right now, in the heart of danger and with no means to know if his plan will work, he can’t help but wonder if he shouldn’t have given over the intruder he’d found in his home some days ago to death – or its equivalent – instead of believing him, instead of letting him talk him into coming here and risking his life.
The clatter of a wand on wooden floor, a yelp, then another hex.
The dark shadow in the door falls with a groan of pain, and Remus heaves a sigh of relief. It’s not the first time that someone has tried to attack him at home – him or any of the few Order members and allies who managed to flee an England ruled by Voldemort. But each time, it’s a new shock, and a reminder that even here in France, they aren’t as safe as they might want to believe.
He sensed the presence behind him just soon enough to react before he himself could be hexed, but some haven’t been as lucky. Poor Kingsley was murdered by a Death Eater Assassin only months ago, as was Susan. Others managed to overwhelm their attackers, like he now, and there are quite a few Englishmen in Fortresse Hélène, the French Wizarding prison. Now their number will grow once more.
With a muttered incantation, he lights the candles in the living room, but the sight that presents itself to him almost makes him lose his grip on his wand. The man who is lying in the doorway between the corridor and the living room, robes crumpled and dirty, his face pale in the light of the flickering candles, is none other than --
A motion goes to the crowd; for a moment, the hushed whispers grow louder, then stop abruptly. There is the sound of boots on polished marble floor, and then a shadow settles in front of Remus, who still is unable to look up and face its owner. It’s not necessary, though – the shuffling sounds of feet and robes, and the heads suddenly vanishing from the periphery of his vision as their owners kneel as well tell him all he needs to know.
“You may rise.”
Cool and bored, the voice gives nothing away. For some moments, there are only the noises of everyone getting up again, before Voldemort turns his attention to the little group before the antique chair he took his place on – the only piece of furniture in the entire hall.
“Who is this, and why did you bring him?”
Even like this, Remus can feel his guards wince at being addressed – he can tell what they’re thinking: what if they displeased their master by bringing him, what if he is not what he pretended to be? What if all they did by deciding to believe Remus’s story is steal their master’s time?
“We caught him fifty miles south from here, my Lord. He doesn’t have a Tracker on him.”
“An intruder, then? Or someone who managed to hide until now? Quite impressive, if the latter were the case; I thought we had found the last ones three years ago. Still —” now there’s no question that Voldemort is irritated, “—why didn’t you kill him? Why bother me with trivialities? I would have thought that you knew better. Haven’t you been given clear instructions?”
“Yes, my Lord,” the guard hastens to say. “But please, let me explain.” The fear in his voice is palpable.
He isn’t a Death Eater, Remus knows, but one of the Peacekeepers, as Voldemort ironically named the army he assembled in order to keep the general public in check. According to the information those living in exile received from their secret contact, the Peacekeepers are given their orders by Death Eaters and hardly ever get to see their Lord.
“He said that his name is Remus Lupin, and that he’s a member of the Order of the Phoenix. He said he came to England to join your forces, and that you’d at least want to see him, even if you had no use for him. He might have information.”
“Lupin...” Voldemort seems surprised. “The werewolf?”
Remus decides that it’s time to speak. “Yes, my Lord.”
The guard who’s been silent until now slaps him in the face, but it doesn’t appear to please Voldemort.
“Stop that and release him!”
The hands disappear from his head and shoulders, but Remus doesn’t move, he knows better than that.
“I’m impressed,” Voldemort says, although his voice doesn’t sound like it, “impressed that you got through the wards and even this far before you were discovered. I’m sure you’re a powerful wizard. But tell me, why would I be interested in you? What is there that you could offer me that would make me forget that you came to my country like a thief in the night?”
“I’m a werewolf, you said it yourself, and that alone makes me valuable.” Self-confidence is everything here – Remus has to be convincing, has to seem sure of himself and his abilities to serve Voldemort. “I know you’re keeping a special force of werewolves, but there aren’t enough – you could use me.”
He can sense that Voldemort isn’t convinced yet.
“You’ve been with the Order of the Phoenix from the beginning. Why join me now, after so many years? It doesn’t make sense. Unless you’re hiding something. Maybe you’re a spy? Maybe you want to infiltrate us?”
Remus shakes his head, still looking down. “It would be stupid to try, my Lord. I know that you could find out the truth easily if you used Legilimency on me. I do want to serve you. I’d be respected here for what I am; I know England is the most progressive country when it comes to rights for werewolves and other Dark Creatures, thanks to you. In most other European countries, we have to be registered, or can’t even live in freedom.”
The worst thing is that it’s not even a lie – werewolves are forced by law to register in France and most other countries, so that the government can keep track of them. They’re prevented from certain professions – teaching and healing for example – and there has been talk of reservations.
“I’m tired of being looked at with suspicion, as if being a werewolf alone made me a traitor. If I am now, they have nobody to blame but themselves. And there’s another reason.” Taking a deep breath, Remus forces himself to go on, praying that when he says the name, his voice won’t be shaking. “Severus Snape. I heard that he’s betrayed you and is bound to die. I’ve come to ask you to let me kill him.”
It takes some moments before Peter starts blinking, then he opens his eyes, trying to move and failing due to the ropes Remus bound him with while he was unconscious.
Remus doesn’t know why he hasn’t called the French version of Aurors, the Agents du Ministère, yet; if it were anyone but Peter, he supposes he would have done it immediately after stunning the intruder. But this – he can’t help being curious: why would Voldemort send Peter, of all people? Surely, he has more skilled and more reckless killers at his disposal.
Then again, maybe right now, he hasn’t. There have been riots in England during the last months, their secret contact informed them of it. More and more people are daring to speak out against the Death Eater regime, so it might be possible that Voldemort needs his most valuable forces by his side. And sending someone to get rid of a few more of those living in exile before they can try to use the situation to their advantage and intervene seems like a logical step to take.
Harry will have to be warned, as will the others – maybe there are more killers on their way to them.
Peter is lying still again, his gaze now settling on Remus. For a second, Remus means to see something like fear flicker over his face, but it fades away quickly, leaving him to look amazingly calm considering the circumstances.
Remus doesn’t know what to say.
“I haven’t come to kill you, if that’s what you think.”
How can he sound so collected, so confident, when he must know what inevitably awaits him, now that he has been captured? The Wizarding governments of France and most other European countries have declared Death Eaters criminals and will arrest them immediately if they find them on their soil – too many times, Voldemort has sent his servants to the continent to kill, or steal valuable magical items.
“What do you want, then? What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to betray the Dark Lord.”
It’s said quietly, with a kind of dignity – despite the situation – that Remus can’t associate with Peter. Not with the boy he’d been, and certainly not with the pathetic wretch he saw whining at Harry’s feet in the Shrieking Shack twelve years ago.
Could it be Polyjuice Potion? But who could it be? And why would he want to look like Peter? Nothing of this is making sense.
“I don’t believe one word you’re saying,” he tells Peter, or whoever it is.
“I know. But I’m sure you have Veritaserum, don’t you?”
Of course Remus does. It’s expensive and hard to get, but usually, all of them manage to keep at least one vial stocked most of the time. If nothing else helps, Hermione has learnt to brew it acceptably.
“Why would I waste it on you? I should just call the French Aurors and let them deal with you. There’s nothing that I need to know from you.”
But Peter only shakes his head.
“It’s about Severus,” he says, as if that made it all clearer, as if that alone could change Remus’s mind.
He is right.
Silence fills the hall after Remus’s request, and he already fears that he went too far.
“Look at me!”
He obeys, his heart racing.
“Why, Lupin? You’re right, he is a traitor, he was on your side. Why are you asking me for this?”
“It’s no longer my side, and even so, it doesn’t matter. I’ve long been waiting for the chance to kill him without retributions. He made my life miserable ever since he knew what I am. Nobody but my parents, teachers, and closest friends knew that I was a werewolf until he decided to snoop around. I could have made something out of my life if it hadn’t been for him, but when I’d finally managed to get a teaching job, he had to ruin it and make his knowledge public.” Remus is trying his best to sound vengeful and bitter. He was, once, but in exile, it hardly matters what Severus did years ago. “I haven’t had a chance to work since then. Do you know the humiliation of having to live on charity?”
Voldemort stays silent, unmoving. His eyes seem to become even more crimson, though, and did Remus imagine the frown and clenched fists only seconds ago?
Was he convincing enough? Remus can’t tell. Suddenly, there is a sensation at the back of his mind that makes his skin creep – like cold, thin tentacles that touch him there, that invade his most private space without him being able to prevent it.
He does know some Occlumency – they all learnt it to various degrees in the course of the war – but not enough to block out the attacker completely. So he tries to shield, hide his true intentions, instead pushing things to the surface that will make Voldemort believe him: anger and frustration at how werewolves are being treated, the long grudge he and Severus used to bear, the incident at the Shrieking Shack, all his hate and despair when he’d learnt who had murdered Dumbledore, and the fervent wish that Voldemort might believe him, that he will let him enter his service.
“Very well.” Voldemort nods, and the presence in Remus’s mind vanishes quickly, leaving him to feel slightly disoriented for a few seconds.
“It seems that you’re telling the truth. Of course, you’ll have to prove yourself.” With a wave of his hand, Voldemort turns to two Death Eaters.
Remus has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep himself from making any sound when the two Death Eaters return with Severus. Blood is caked on one of Severus’s cheeks and one ear, disappearing into the ragged, dirty robes he is wearing. One eye is swollen shut, and he looks starved and haggard, stumbling along as he’s dragged forward with no consideration of his weakened state.
The only thought Remus is capable of, for some seconds, is to get up, run and grab Severus, and Apparate them into safety. It’s impossible, though, and he clenches his fists, suppressing the urge.
“If you want the privilege of killing him, then you should show me just how serious you are,” Voldemort tells Remus. “He’s already promised to Fenrir Greyback for the next full moon, and Fenrir wouldn’t take it lightly if I gave him to you instead.”
Somehow, Remus finds the strength to nod. “It will be my pleasure. I’ll need my wand – my guards have it.”
Voldemort waves him to stand.
“Give him the wand!”
The Peacekeeper who’s been keeping Remus’s things until now takes it out and hands it back to him.
“He also carried this, my Lord.” A small vial is handed to Voldemort.
“Wolfsbane Potion, my Lord,” Remus explains. “I don’t want to be a mindless beast when I kill him. I want to be aware and be able to remember. I want to be able to enjoy it.”
Severus has been listening in silence, trying to look unmoved, but Remus isn’t imagining the look of despair on his face as he realises what Remus is talking about. He wishes he could tell him the truth, but he might not be able to until the very end.
Voldemort points his own wand at the vial, and it begins glowing in a dark orange light. Remus can barely breathe; everything could go terribly wrong if—
“Wolfsbane indeed. I understand – it’s a quite commendable attitude. Here, you may take it.”
Relief floods through him, and he has to force himself to not snatch the potion away from Voldemort, but appear composed, nearly indifferent, as he takes it. This is a good sign, because if Voldemort meant to have him killed, he surely wouldn’t have bothered checking the potion, would he?
“Now, on to your task. You may cause him pain, but not enough to damage him too greatly, or drive him insane. I want him to be as aware as you wish to be should the two of you meet at the night of his execution.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Remus raises his wand, looking Severus straight in the eyes. He needs to focus, needs to see him to remember what he is doing this for, or else the curse might not work. You need to want to cast an Unforgivable, and only if he thinks of wanting to free Severus can he want to curse him – to make Voldemort believe him, to make escape possible for them both.
Severus falls, screaming, and Remus almost doubts that Severus is feeling more pain than he himself. What could hurt more than torturing the man you love? The man who, as you only recently realised, has been putting his life on the line for your side for years, secretly, while you despised him for being a traitor.
“What is your full name?”
Peter’s pupils are huge, his gaze slightly dazed as he sits on the couch, facing Remus.
So it truly is him.
“Why are you here?”
“To betray the Dark Lord and help you.”
It’s impossible! Could the Veritaserum be ineffective? It’s one of Hermione’s homebrews. But a vial of the same brewing worked perfectly several months ago – there’s no indication that anything is wrong with it. Inconceivable as it is, Peter must be telling the truth.
“Then what about Severus? What about him is so important that it would make you come to me?”
Without him noticing, Remus’s hands have curled into fists; he feels tense and angry, as always when he thinks about Severus. He should have resigned himself to the inevitable a long time ago: Severus is a loyal Death Eater, their enemy, which he proved once and for all when he murdered Dumbledore. But it’s not that easy, and he can’t be indifferent.
“He’s a spy for your side.”
Remus stares at Peter for some moments without any coherent thought, then he shakes his head.
“It’s true. He’s been spying for you for years – he smuggled information out of the country whenever he could with the help of untraceable Portkeys. He was caught doing it, and now he’ll be executed at the next full moon.”
Portkeys? All of a sudden, Remus feels dizzy and nauseous, and when the world stops swaying, he finds himself sitting in the armchair next to the couch, his head supported by his hands, looking down at the floor.
Those in exile don’t know who their secret informant is; there has never been any indication. He must be a Death Eater, they know that much, for only a Death Eater could be privy to the kind of information he delivers at irregular intervals: information on the wards surrounding the country, rough outlines of the plans Voldemort is making, and almost every time, a short note about the general situation, the mood of the people, any changes that seem worthwhile mentioning. It’s always a stack of papers full of what proved to be a spell-generated handwriting, and it’s always delivered by Portkey.
For a while, Remus can’t seem to find the words to ask another question; his tongue seems paralysed in his mouth.
“But...how?” he finally croaks. His mouth feels dry like sandpaper. “If he were on our side, why would he kill Dumbledore? It doesn’t make any sense!”
Peter tells him, then, tells him everything that Voldemort found out when he broke into Severus’s mind after his betrayal was discovered. About Draco Malfoy’s task and the threat to his family, about the curse that was bound to kill Dumbledore within a year’s time, no matter what. About the Unbreakable Vow Severus made to Draco’s mother, and the promise he made to Dumbledore. About how he lived among them, day by day, month by month, year by year, alone with his task, never stopping collecting and sending information, always at the brink of discovery, at the brink of death.
Then Peter is done, and Remus leaves the room without a word. It’s dark and raining outside, but he doesn’t truly notice – he needs to calm down, needs to take a walk and try to process everything he heard. When he comes back, he’s made a decision.
“You may stop now.”
Remus lowers his wand, bowing to Voldemort. Behind him, Severus is lying on the ground, blood smeared over his bitten lips, his body still shaking and jerking from the slowly abating force of multiple curses.
“You did well; I’m pleased with you. You shall have your wish granted. At the full moon in a week’s time, he’ll be yours.”
It’s as if a rock had rolled off Remus’s chest, and he has to do his best to not give in to the weakness spreading through his legs and fall.
“Thank you, my Lord.”
Voldemort smiles coldly – an unsettling sight – and, rising from his chair, points at the spot to his feet.
“You may join my service. Kneel and receive the Dark Mark.”
Remus spins around just soon enough to see a man go down in a green flash right behind him. At the end of the corridor, there is a blond, long-haired man, his wand still pointed in Remus’s direction.
“You should watch your back,” he says, and now Remus realises that it’s Lucius Malfoy.
Lucius lowers his wand and comes closer, then turns the corpse on the floor with his foot so that Remus can see his face.
“The Dark Lord told you that he would be furious, and you saw him rant and rave yesterday when he learnt that he wouldn’t be the one to kill Severus. You should have taken him more seriously.”
“I wouldn’t have thought he’d dare...that he’d disobey the Dark Lord’s orders so blatantly.” Remus stares down at the dead man and the vicious-looking dagger he’s still holding in a clenched fist, then looks up at Lucius. “I’d be dead if it weren’t for you. Thank you.”
Lucius nods, leaning forward. “We need you more than him,” he murmurs, then abruptly steps back and walks away.
What was that all about, Remus wonders.
Two days before the full moon, Remus is lying on his bed in the mansion that serves as Voldemort’s headquarters, trying to have an afternoon nap. There’ll be a raid of a village in the evening, and Voldemort made it clear that he will be accompanying them to once more prove his loyalty. A nest of malcontents has been discovered there, malcontents who don’t only talk, but seem to be planning to actively oppose the country’s leader.
Remus doesn’t want to think of it, doesn’t want to think of what he will have to do. Torture, for sure, maybe even kill. And all that to save a man who might very well go on hating him once they’ll have escaped. Is that worth it?
With a sigh, Remus turns from his side to his back. Deep down, he believes that it is worth it, no matter what Severus might think of him later. He’s been living with the other man hating him for years; he will be able to survive for some more.
It would be ridiculous to hope for Severus to return his feelings, especially now that he knows just how strong the feelings are which he still harbours for Lily. Over time, Remus had always hoped, they might fade, and especially when they’d both been teaching at Hogwarts, he had been thinking about a way to get closer, become friends, or even more, if he dared. It doesn’t matter all that much, he realises now – if only Severus makes it out of here alive.
Soft knocking at the door interrupts his thoughts, and when he sits up and calls for his visitor to enter, he is presented with the sight of Lucius Malfoy, who quickly slides into the room and closes the door again.
“You can see him, if you wish to,” he says in a hushed voice. “The Dark Lord is away, and Draco is guarding the cell right now. He can give you some time alone with him, to tell him why you're truly here.”
Remus frowns in confusion. Can this be a test, designed by Voldemort to see if he truly is loyal? If he agrees now, everything might be over. Moreover, how would the Malfoys know why he came, and why would they help him? He has no reason to trust the offer.
“I don’t know what you mean,” he says calmly. “I’ve been able to torture Severus every day for a bit; we shouldn’t overdo it, or else he won’t be any fun the day after tomorrow.”
“You don’t understand!” Lucius approaches and sits down next to Remus. “Peter told us before he left; we know his plan! My family and I have long been discontent with how things are being handled. There is too much killing, too much restriction of our personal lives, too much control in the hands of a single man. We wanted a country with wizards who no longer have to hide. Now we’re out in the open, and the Muggles fear us, but we all live in fear of the Dark Lord. We have to hide again, only in different ways from before, and it’s even worse.”
Remus doesn’t know what to think – could he really be this lucky? To find allies here is beyond anything he’d hoped for. But how else would Lucius know about Peter’s plan to come to Remus and convince him to save Severus?
“If it were true,” he says slowly, “and I’m not saying that it is, then what do you want from me?”
Lucius sighs and takes out his wand, offering it to Remus, who takes it after a moment of surprise. Without his wand, the other man is completely at his mercy. Remus could kill him right now, either for being disloyal to Voldemort, or to ensure that nobody will learn of his plan to free Severus. More and more, he’s inclined to believe what he is being told.
“Take my son and wife with you when the two of you leave, if that’s possible at all.”
It’s the last thing Remus expected to hear, and his surprise must have shown, for Lucius hastens to explain.
“I fear for them, both of them. Draco had to learn to kill, and he succeeded, but it’s changing him. He’s not the person he used to be; I can watch him being eaten up by guilt, no matter how much he’s trying to hide it. And Narcissa...” He sighs, and Remus can’t help but feel sympathy. If anything convinces him, it’s the worry for his family that is obvious in the other man’s looks and voice.
“She was forced to receive the dark Mark as well, but she’s constantly failing when it’s her turn to mete out punishment. She could hide her feelings when it was about watching torture, but she can’t do it herself. The Dark Lord is growing impatient with her, and I don’t know how long I can appease him.”
“I believe you.”
If Remus still had any doubts, they’re washed away by the expression of overwhelming relief on Lucius’s face.
“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convince you. It could have been a trap.”
Remus shakes his head. “You wouldn’t have known about Peter, then. Everyone else here thinks that he’s dead – you saw the fake corpse he left behind, didn’t you?”
“Yes. It was a good plan. The Dark Lord would have become suspicious otherwise, having you turn up so shortly after his disappearance.”
Remus hands Lucius his wand back. “Here. I don’t believe I’ll need it any more. And now listen, I think I know a possibility. But you’ll come with us as well, not only your family. And it’s dangerous – we could very well fail...”
The cell in the dungeons of the mansion is damp and dark, and in the beginning, Remus has difficulties seeing anything, despite the weak light of the flickering candle. Until now, he’s never been here – he had to hex Severus every day, but always under the watchful eyes of Voldemort, probably as a kind of continuous test.
There’s a sound and a movement in the corner that is furthest away from the door, and Remus has to pull himself together in order to not rush over immediately. He might scare Severus, who must surely think that he came to torture him yet again. Instead, he slowly crosses the small room and kneels next to the other man, but not near enough to touch him.
For a while, the only answer is silence. The dark shadow that is Severus moves away a little until it is backed against the wall.
“What do you want?” It’s no more than a croak, Severus’s voice being hoarse after too much screaming. “Have you come for a more private torture session, is that it?”
“No.” Remus shakes his head. “It’s not like you think. I came here to get you out. I have a plan.”
There is a rough, barking sound that might be laughter, but it soon turns into a coughing fit.
“Tell my one reason why I should believe you.”
“I can give you one.” Like Lucius before, Remus holds out his wand. “Here, take it. Perform Legilimency on me; you’ll see I’m telling the truth.”
After a moment of hesitation, the wand is grabbed, cold fingers brushing over Remus’s.
“You’re a fool, Lupin! I could kill you now and lose nothing. I’m going to die anyway.”
“You won’t! Please, look for yourself!”
Vaguely, Remus can see that Severus raises the wand, and for a few seconds, all he can think is that the other man won’t believe him, that he’ll die, here and now.
This time, there is no need to hide anything, and after only a short while, Severus lowers the wand, drawing a sharp breath.
“It’s...it’s true! You really...” He trails off, and all that Remus can hear is the sound of heavy breathing.
He takes the candle he’d placed on the floor and scoots closer to the other man until he’s right next to him. Severus is staring down at the ground, still clutching Remus’s wand in one hand. He’s looking even worse than when Remus saw him first several days ago, and Remus hates the thought that he is responsible for it.
“I’m sorry I had to put you through this, but I had to be convincing. I had to make him believe me.”
He gets no answer, and after a while, Remus reaches out and carefully touches Severus’s arm. Severus winces, tensing, but then slowly relaxes. He’s shaking with cold, and once more, Remus wishes he could simply vanish with him now. But Apparition out of the country is impossible because of the wards, and Severus is in no condition to run. They’ll have to stick to the plan.
“We’re going to get out of here, you’ll see.”
“You’re an idiot,” Severus finally whispers. “That plan of yours, it isn’t a plan; it was a suicide mission from the start! What if you’d been executed right after they found you? What if the Dark Lord had found out the truth? What if he’d kept the potion? It’s sheer dumb luck that you ever got this far!”
“How could the others let you do this? They must have known how small the chances were that you’d make it back!”
“I didn’t give them a choice. I’d have come no matter what they thought.”
Abruptly, Severus raises his head. “Why, Lupin? Why would you do something this stupid? I’m of no more use to you now, even if we make it!”
“It’s not about you being useful!” Remus is appalled. “How can you even think that?”
“Then what is it about?”
Remus doesn’t know what to say; this is neither the time nor the place for the truth. But his body is quicker than his mind, and when no words will come, he leans forward without thinking, gently placing his lips on Severus’s. Severus doesn’t respond, but doesn’t pull away either; he only stays still until Remus draws back.
The silence between them is heavy until Severus breaks it.
“You’re an idiot,” he repeats, holding out the wand for Remus to take it back. It stings, but Remus doesn’t let it show; he only takes the wand and gets up.
“Maybe. But it can’t be changed any more. Two days, and we’ll be out of here.”
He quickly makes his way towards the door – he truly did behave like an idiot.
Although the light of the candle doesn’t reach Severus any more, Remus turns around.
“Don’t beat yourself up over the torture. It’s a small price to pay.”
It’s ridiculous how relieved he feels, hearing it from Severus, especially after all the time that he’s been telling himself the same.
“We’re going to make it,” he assures once more, then leaves the cell – there’s still much to plan.
Again, a large group of Death Eaters is assembled in the hall of the mansion, but this time, it’s not Remus who is held in place by guards. Instead, it’s the Malfoys. All three of them look tense and pale, and they have every reason to be frightened. If their plan goes wrong, they might die instead of being free of their master.
Voldemort is sitting in his chair, long fingers clenched tightly around the armrests, anger clearly written on his face.
“It seems that there are even more traitors in our midst than I thought.” He looks around, letting his eyes slowly wander over everyone present. “Is there anyone else who would like to object to how I’m leading my country? Anyone else who might want to try and free my prisoners to escape with them?”
Dead silence is the answer, and many look away, unable to take the piercing gaze from red eyes, which, after a while, settle on Remus.
“Once again, I’m impressed with you, Lupin. If it weren’t for you, they and Severus might have got away.”
Remus bows his head. “Anyone else would have done the same, my Lord.”
“Apparently not, as we hard to learn.” For a short moment, Voldemort closes his eyes, collecting himself. Remus has never seen him this upset during the last days, although there had been various reports about difficulties with dissenters all over the country.
“Very well.” Calmer again, Voldemort nods into Remus’s direction. “As a sign of my appreciation for discovering them, and since they intended to deprive you of your amusement for tomorrow night, I’m asking you if you have any suggestions concerning their punishment.”
Hearing the words, Remus has to hide his excitement – things are going better than he dared to hope for. He had imagined that he would have to raise the topic and maybe thereby displease him.
“Yes, my Lord. Let me kill them together with Severus. They wanted to help him escape – why not let them share in his punishment?”
Voldemort seems to think for a while, then he nods. “It’s only appropriate.”
Once again, he lets his gaze roam the hall. When he speaks, the tone of his voice sends a shiver down Remus’s spine.
“Let this be a warning for all of you who think of betraying me. There will be no mercy. Try and your lives will be forfeited, like theirs.”
When the three prisoners are led away, Remus resists the urge to exchange a quick glance with them. They can’t afford doing anything that could raise suspicion, now that their plan worked and they’re one step closer to freedom.
Remus is pacing impatiently. He drank the Wolfsbane potion he brought with him, then he was escorted here into this cell to wait for his victims. Outside, Voldemort and other high-ranking Death Eaters are waiting for the spectacle.
There are only a few minutes left until his transformation, and then everything will depend on Hermione’s brewing skills. The potion has never been tested – there was no time for it left – and they can only hope and pray that it indeed does work as it should in theory.
Only a few times before has a liquid Portkey been created, and it was always a potion brewed for this purpose only – it’s never been integrated in a potion that is supposed to do something else as well. And this is no ordinary Portkey either: it’s been designed specifically to break through the heavy wards around the country, and to be untraceable in case the potion is examined. What if it won’t work? Or worse: what if its magic disabled the part of the potion that is supposed to control the wolf?
Clenching his fists, Remus tries to calm down. There is nothing he can do now. There is no going back.
There is a commotion on the other side of the iron bars, and when he looks, he sees Severus and the Malfoys being dragged into his direction. They all look exhausted and shaky on their feet, bearing the marks of previous torture. Earlier this day, Narcissa’s deranged sister had her way with them. They’re shoved into the cell, the door falling shut behind them with a loud clatter. Narcissa stumbles and has to be caught by her husband and son so that she won’t fall, then the four huddle in a corner, away from Remus, all of them clinging to each other tightly. It’s necessary, because the magic in the Portkey will be activated once Remus will touch anyone in his wolf shape.
Remus barely registers the murmurs of the Death Eaters outside the cell – he’s too nervous, too afraid for himself and the people here inside with him. Then, with a sharp, blinding pain, the transformation begins, and for a while, all he can focus on are his shifting bones, growing hair, and the urge to kill that is getting stronger with each second, almost making him panic. But when the transformation is over, the urge subsides – the Wolfsbane part of the potion is working!
His supposed victims are staring at him wide-eyed; he can hear their ragged breathing and racing heartbeats, smell the fear that is rolling off them in waves. They have no means to know if they’ll be saved or maimed now.
With a loud, dangerous growl, he rushes over to them and jumps. Narcissa shrieks, from outside the cell, he can vaguely hear raised voices, then he collides with Severus, hitting him straight in the chest. There is a strong pulling sensation, and to his endless relief, the cell around them vanishes, being replaced by the familiar surroundings of his own living room.
They made it. They’re safe. Nothing else matters.
When Remus wakes up in the late morning after the night of the full moon, he quickly senses that he isn’t alone.
Blinking tiredly, Remus turns his head to find Severus sitting next to his bed. The other man looks awful, thinner and paler than usual, one side of his face glowing in various shades of purple, yellow and green. But he’s alive, and that is the only important thing.
“Listen...” Severus seems nervous, although he tries to hide it behind a calm facade. “I...about what happened when you visited me in the cell –”
“Please,” Remus interrupts him. “It was a stupid mistake. I shouldn’t have. I’m not expecting anything of you. Just that you’re here and alive...it’s more than I hoped for.”
“Lupin.” A frown appears on Severus’s forehead. “This is awkward enough already. Would you be so kind as to letting me finish what I was going to say?”
Remus nods; it’s not like Severus hadn’t already told him what he thinks of what happened when he called him an idiot for it. Hearing it once more won’t kill him.
“Thank you. Now, about what happened...am I correct in assuming that you’re harbouring some kind of romantic feelings for me?”
Has Severus always talked in such a stilted manner? Remus sighs. “Yes, you’re right.”
“Long enough. Years. Even before we were teaching together.”
Severus seems surprised, but doesn’t comment on it.
“And that is the reason why you decided to embark on the mission to save me, with that ridiculous plan of yours that could have gone wrong a dozen times? The plan that could have got you killed if the luck that only favours the most idiotic persons hadn’t been on your side?”
“Yes. But as I said, I don’t expect –”
“Will you shut up and let me try to say what I want to!” His hands clenched into fists, Severus leans forward. Is Remus imagining things, or are his cheeks flushed almost imperceptibly?
“I’m sorry, Severus, I just...I don’t want you to feel pressured, like you were in my debt. You helped us so much over the years, risking your life all the time...”
“I’m not feeling pressured, and I’m not feeling like I were indebted to you. I’m trying to tell you something, and you’re not making it any easier for me! Stop apologising all the time!”
“I’m sorry.” Remus can’t help it, and he looks away from the other man. This is almost as bad as he feared, and he calls himself a fool for ever hoping.
“Lupin, look at me!”
A cool hand closes around his, squeezing none too gently. Surprised, Remus does as he is told.
“I’d never thought about you in that way. I’d never thought about you as a friend, even. But if I’m important enough to you to risk your life for me in such a manner...” He draws a deep breath, like he were gathering courage for what he’s going to say. “I’ll always love Lily, make no mistake. I did all that I could for her and her son, and I’ll go on doing so. But...she’s dead, and I’m not. I never wanted to face that; I lived as if I’d died with her. Maybe that was a mistake.” Again, he squeezes Remus’s hand tightly. “I can’t promise you that it will work, but I’d be a fool if I rejected what you’re offering me.”
Stunned, Remus can only stare at him in silence.
“Friendship, Lupin,” Severus clarifies. “Getting to know each other. At least for now. If it goes well, I’m willing to consider more, with time.”
Still, Remus doesn’t find the appropriate words, but Severus puts him out of his misery.
“Just this once,” he says, then slowly leans forward for a short, close-mouthed kiss. When he pulls away again, Remus is sure that he’s not imagining the hint of a smile.
The heavily warded room in Harry’s house is dark, lit only by a few small candles on the bedside table. Peter sits up when Remus enters, and when he recognises him, he closes his eyes in relief.
“You made it!”
Remus approaches the bed, sitting down on it heavily. Only one day after the full moon, his hip is still giving him problems.
“I made it, and Severus as well. And we brought the Malfoys, too. Everything went well.”
Just seconds after arriving, the Malfoys Apparated away again - they had no desire to be captured as Death Eaters on French soil, and Remus can't even blame them.
Peter nods. “I’m glad, then. It’s what I hoped for when I came to you.”
“Peter, I can’t prevent –”
“No.” The other man looks up, shaking his head. “Just...don’t talk about it. I knew what would happen, you know that. Harry told me already that they’d come for me tomorrow. I’ll fall asleep tonight and know that I did at least something right. It has to be enough.”
Remus nods, knowing that Peter is right. It’s so strange to hear these words from him, and he’d never have expected it before that night a little over a week ago.
“What I don’t understand is why you’re doing this,” Remus tells Peter later, after he’s come back from his walk. “You must have known that you’d likely be caught, and what would happen to you then.”
“Yes, I know. They have Dementors here as well, and they use them on Death Eaters.” Peter’s voice is shaking slightly, but he still appears calm, as if he were at peace with that fact.
“Then why?” It’s making no sense – from what he knows about Peter, the man is a coward and would never do something like this if he had a choice.
Peter shrugs uncomfortably. “I don’t know how to explain. When I learnt what Severus had been doing all these years...I think I realised that I had to make some kind of choice. You see, he did what I never dared to do.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well...when I joined the Death Eaters, I told myself that although I’d betrayed James and Lily, I could still help in some way. I could be a spy, smuggle out information. I didn’t join because I was convinced of their cause.” Peter smiles sadly. “I did it because I was a coward. But then I didn’t even dare to do that much, and then the Dark Lord was destroyed. When he was back, I told myself that although I’d helped him rise to power again, I could still right the wrong at least in some small way, I could still spy on him. But again, I didn’t.”
Remus is listening silently. In a way, he doesn’t want to hear this – Peter betrayed them all, betrayed their friendship, and he deserves everything that he’ll get. On the other hand, Remus can’t help but feel pity.
“And then, when Severus was exposed as a spy...” Peter shakes his head. “Here I was, telling myself all this time that I still had a chance, still could do what was right, but never acting on it. And meanwhile, he did what I was too afraid to do. He’d been risking his life for years, while I had done nothing. I think...I think I realised that if I ever wanted to do something, I had to do it now. Knowing that he’d done it as well kind of...gave me hope. Hope that I might be able to do better, like him, even if it meant dying. I deserve it much more than him. And I didn’t want to live like that any longer.”
“Peter,” Remus begins again, pressing on when the other man raises his head to interrupt him once more. “Listen to me. I can’t prevent you from being punished, and if I’m completely honest, I don’t even want to. I can’t forget what you did so easily, only because of this.”
Peter nods. “I wouldn’t have expected it.”
“But,” Remus goes on, taking a small vial from one of his pockets, “I can give you this to spare you the Dementors. Severus brewed it for you last night.”
Peter stares at the clear liquid in surprise, his eyes growing wide. “Is it...it’s...”
“Yes. It will make you sleep; you won’t notice anything. And it’s not traceable – they’ll think you died of a heart attack in your sleep.”
For a long while, there is silence, Peter’s gaze never leaving the vial. In the end, he reaches out with a shaking hand, and Remus gives it to him.
“Thank you, Remus.”
“Don’t.” It’s a horrible feeling to have Peter thank him for bringing him poison to kill himself. He doesn’t want to stay any longer, and so he makes a move to get up.
Peter grabs is wrist, and he has to pull himself together in order to not shake his hand off violently. It only takes Peter seconds to realise the mistake, and he lets go immediately.
“Please, I know I have no right to ask you, but...will you stay? I don’t want to...not alone. Please, Remus.”
He doesn’t want to – anything but this. But he can’t say no, not after what Peter did for him. For them.
Peter attempts a smile, but fails, and to his own surprise, now it is Remus who reaches out for the other man’s hand. Peter’s fingers close around his so tightly that it hurts, his knuckles turning white. With the other hand, he uncorks the vial and, after some hesitation, slowly raises it to his lips. Again, his hand is trembling, and a few drops get spilt. Then, with a deep breath, he tips it and drinks the contents, the vial falling to the floor afterwards.
It takes no longer than a minute until his eyes begin closing, and then he slumps against Remus, who helps him lie down on the bed, never letting go of his hand.
The other man doesn’t hear him any more; he has stopped breathing. Remus isn’t quite sure why he feels something wet on his cheeks.
Ten years later:
The small graveyard is empty except for the two of them, most graves are old, the tombstones weathered and mossy with age. Remus is walking slowly, leaning heavily on the wooden cane he uses on the days after the full moon. His free arm is linked with Severus’s and he can hear him mutter faintly under his breath.
“...wouldn’t have hurt to wait another day or two,” Severus grumbles. “Bloody stubborn werewolf. It’s not like a grave would run away.”
“No, it won’t,” Remus agrees softly. “But we’ve come here on this day for four years now, and it won’t kill me to be up and about for half an hour on the day after the full moon.”
There is some more grumbling from Severus, but it fades as they reach their destination and halt in front of a newer-looking grave.
“Without him, we wouldn’t be here today, and maybe none of the others either,” Remus says. “I don’t have to remind you how vital your help was in ending the war and getting England back, do I?”
Severus shakes his head, then gently kisses Remus’s cheek. “I know that you’re right. And you know that I’m right about getting up – you’re not twenty or thirty any more. Once we’re home again, you’ll lie down. That’s an order.”
Remus nods, smiling, and for the next few minutes, they keep looking at the tombstone in silence, before Severus Apparates them away again.
1959 – 2006
Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)