keep on, as the unspeaking accuser tells us, by
whose sense, like hounds after a bleeding fawn, we trail
our quarry by the splash and drip of blood.
--Aeschylus, the Eumenides
No one called it crazy that Remus went after her alone.
They were never really sure who set it up, but Remus got arrested on charges of obstructing the Ministry, aiding wanted criminals, and attacking an innocent wizard. The first two they they thought probably valid, though in line with what the Order was trying to accomplish. The third was only valid if you defined 'innocent' broadly. The wizard in question had the possibility of dark connections, but Remus didn't have incontroversal proof the man was a spy. Finding him with the unconscious wizard, signs of a much larger duel, were enough for an arrest. They threw him in silver chains and let him sweat all night up at the jail.
Harry, in fifth year, had asked Sirius whether breaking the rules to learn how to protect himself was really a good idea. He still remembered the conversation, remembered Sirius advising him to learn how to protect himself even above staying at Hogwarts. At the time, he didn't want to be thrown out of school, didn't want to break the rules too badly - but did it anyway.
"What can we do to get him out?" Harry asked Dumbledore that night. Remus was going to be handed over to the prison in two days, after his hearing. They needed to spring him before that.
"I am afraid, Harry," he got as answer, "that I have been trying to convince the Minister that Remus Lupin is innocent, without success."
"Fucking Fudge," and Harry pushed his hair out of his face. "He didn't even put up a struggle when Dawlish sent someone after him, too. They made sure to send an Auror, just in case, because of 'previous suspicions', and he just put his tea cup down and came with a little smile."
Harry had got a glimpse of them leading Remus into a Ministry interrogation room, and had got increasingly nervous the longer he was in there, especially because none of the trustworthy Law Enforcement officials were the ones going in and out of his room. Dumbledore was already getting ready to leave. "Perhaps we may be able to use this to our advantage," Dumbledore said quietly. "If Remus must be imprisoned," and Dumbledore stopped, stroked his beard. "Do you have access to prisoners?"
Harry nodded, knowing that whatever Dumbledore was planning, it wasn't going to be pretty.
Molly rarely even came to the meetings anymore.
"and despite my best efforts," Dumbledore finished, "there was no way I could convince the tribunal to reduce his sentence. Remus Lupin was remanded to Azkaban prison for a period of eight months."
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table across from Neville; Ginny was still in the field. They'd got an owl from her last week, saying she hadn't seen hide nor hair of Tonks but that one of the Rosier second cousins, and two Dementors, had just about knocked her off her broom coming back across the Channel. It was risky, flying in the open like that even with an Invisibility Cloak, but Ginny had another lead, this time in Scotland, had judged the risk worth it.
"And that's it?" Neville asked. "Remus is gone?"
Neville seemed quite distraught over the whole thing; Harry suspected it was because, of all the Order, only Remus, Harry and Ginny stayed in the house when they were in London. Bill dropped by, but tended to take a room at the Three Broomsticks. Dung visited once a month, or less. The house was getting emptier and emptier - parts of it were being reclaimed by the dust already, despite the relentless cleaning Molly did.
"He'll be let out in eight months, if he's shown signs of improving," Harry told him. "That's the drill with minor offences. As a whole, Remus got off light."
Mundungus slipped into the kitchen, smelling like the docks. " 'e coulda got a life sentence, were someone to 'ave managed it." Pulled his pipe out. " 'e tried to kill that Bella woman. Don't know who could 'ave stepped up in 'er defense."
"So it was a set-up." Bill, standing in the corner, looked disgusted. "Did he at least get Bellatrix Lestrange, too?"
"she got away," Dung told them, packing his pipe. "I been following 'er, but she lost me. 'agrid maybe knows where she got to."
"Then it is settled," Dumbledore said eventually. "We cannot help Remus, perhaps we can use his imprisonment to our own advantage. Harry, how well guarded are Avery and the rest of the Dark Wizards that have been caught?"
He hadn't been up to the prison in at least a month; they hadn't caught anyone else since then. "Probably still airtight. I know a few of the guards. Remus could probably get to him easily enough." Harry looked at the table; until his arrest, Remus had been one of his closest friends. Certainly someone Harry trusted, and someone Harry understood. Remus didn't cry. "As long as the potion was clear, he could probably slip it into his water - Avery's only allowed water and crackers once a day. Or we send a house elf to do it."
A few faces had surprise written on them; Bill seemed uncomfortable, and asked, "isn't there any way we could break him out?"
"And if we did?" Dumbledore didn't let his face look anything but sad - but Harry knew he'd already taken steps to procure a truth potion. Harry figured he was hoping to get Tonks' location. "Were we to carry out such a plan successfully, Remus would be of no use to us - he would be wanted by the Ministry." Dumbledore paused. "Better he serve his eight months and then be able to continue work."
Neville spoke up. "How will he let us know what he's found out? even if we can do this?"
"Perhaps he could send word with Harry, here," Dumbledore answered calmly. "Or one of the other people who have easy access to prisoners up at Azkaban. Visits for certain offenders are allowed."
It was Dung, chewing on his pipe end, that sealed it. "Lupin wouldn'ta been caught if 'e didn't want to be."
Snape contacted him by Floo grate. Harry resisted the urge to slap him. "I must speak with you," he said, nose wrinkled and eyes tight. "Tomorrow at midnight, if you could deign to make sure you have access to a fire. I'll be in my office."
"Shouldn't you tell Dumbledore?"
Snape ducked out of the flames. "Who says I haven't?"
Harry nearly skipped the meeting, he wanted to make it up to the jail before Avery got fed, but in the end Dawlish assigned him another case - watching Amelia Bones - so there wasn't time anyway. He'd have to sneak it next night. He broke into the Ministry, locked himself in Dawlish's own office, and threw the Floo powder in the grate.
"Obviously, I don't have a lot of time," Snape started. Harry kept himself quiet through sheer force of will. Whatever Snape had to say, it better be good. It was a huge risk, contacting Harry directly, especially since they didn't have the slim barrier of Hogwarts' to hide behind anymore. Snape said, "you might want to check your associate Bert in Law Enforcement. He may know something about the whereabouts of Draco Malfoy."
Harry opened his mouth, and Snape held his hand up, railroading right over whatever Harry might have to say. "He'll probably tell you where to find him willingly."
Snape disappeared again, and Harry put the fire in the grate out. Someone was wandering around outside. He ducked behind the desk, counted out heartbeats. It used to be frightening, the Ministry at night, especially with the way things were going. He counted out twenty four heartbeats, and the footsteps shuffled off. He peered through the glass to see one of the witches from the third floor just leaving. Harry made a mental note of it, and collected his things to leave.
He should have probably followed her wherever she was going, but an Auror who wanted to make it farther than training didn't go into somewhere without a better idea of what was going on than he had. Harry ducked out the side door, and then slipped his Invisibility Cloak on, standing on the chilly sidewalk to wait for her to emerge. Only the Aurors used the side entrance - likely she'd come out the front.
He was ready, and stunned her when she did. It was a good thing, too - she carried files on Remus, her eyes glassy, staring right through him when he tried to snap the curse. Harry left her in the foyer, just out of sight, hoping the control would wane in time. He didn't return the files.
"At the Ministry?" Ginny sighed. "Looks like the playing field has changed yet again. And I liked having an office, too. Could fool mum into thinking we had respectable jobs."
The Muggle coffee shop outside the visitor's entrance to the Ministry was full of wizards and Muggles alike. Harry recognised half of them as wizards from lesser departments on their coffee breaks. He and Ginny had been up all night, watching the visitors' entrance. "I don't think she's coming out this way."
"Could be she Apparated." Ginny crunched toast between her teeth. "Best find that chap our greasy friend mentioned."
They never used Snape's name in public - Harry tended not to use his name ever, not even when he was speaking to the man. "Something about that bothers me," Harry started. "I think that something's up with it."
Ginny was already standing, checking her mobile phone for the time. "Maybe he set you up."
He hadn't liked to voice the idea out loud, not half-formed as it was, but Harry nodded. It was the logical conclusion. "Why else would he tell me how to find someone we aren't even concerned about?" Harry said. It was mostly a rhetorical question - he and Ginny both had come to the same idea at the same time. Harry's hatred for Snape hardly even entered into it. He would have been suspicious if Hermione bothered telling him where Draco Malfoy is. In the grand scheme of things, Draco Malfoy's whereabouts were important only to his father. Of course, they could perhaps use that to their advantage.
It wasn't a surprise, when he thought long and hard about it, that Sirius died a wanted man. "Time?" Harry said.
Ginny held up three fingers; three minutes. "We get him, I've got the vial."
Harry had been working for the Ministry for ages, it felt, and it always seemed as if the Ministry was two steps behind both sides of the law. They always declared a wizard in league with Voldemort after he was caught, no sooner. "We'll get him."
Bert had, indeed, coughed up a location on Draco Malfoy. Ginny and Harry told Dumbledore; they went in anyway, knowing it was most likely a trap. They just had to Apparate to a portkey destination, and then Floo it out to Cornwall. Hopefully only a few of them could follow. They had Portkeys set up all over the country in pre-designated locations, columns of set times and destinations. Ginny usually knew the time; Harry never forgot locations.
It was more important, really, to flush Draco out into the open and get away, catch someone and not them all tonight. Harry was sacrificing the chance to maybe catch Rodolphus in order to protect Snape and get up to see Remus before the full moon in four days.
Molly would have said that Sirius was reckless, even hastened his own death along. If she'd said it at the time it happened, Harry would have probably screamed at her. If she said it now, he would have simply pointed out that it was her idea to stay in the Burrow.
People had tried. "Please, Molly," Remus said. "You don't--"
"I will not," she had told him, "be scared out of my home. We have precautions."
"Of course you do, but--" he murmured, quiet. Harry and Hermione had been sitting on the stairs of Grimmauld Place, listening in, while the rest of the Weasleys were still at home. "You know how to contact me, when--" Remus had started, quietly, and Molly shook her head, violent.
Harry didn't know which was worse, understanding Molly's ignorance or Remus's caution. He and Hermione held onto the banister and tried to block out the sound of Mrs. Black's shrieking. Even if her son was gone, she still found plenty of fault with his kin.
Remus continued to plead with Molly, to move the family away from such an obvious location, such an obvious target was what he didn't say. Arthur was abroad for a few days, or perhaps the conversation might have gone differently. "What do you think?" Harry had asked Hermione, voice low - so low he hoped even the twins' Extendable Ears couldn't hear.
Hermione had frowned, unhappy, and not answered. They both had a room at Grimmauld Place - they heard Molly yell, "I won't! You, or Dumbledore, or You-Know-Who - none of you can make--" and then the argument cut off, abruptly, as someone quieted the kitchen from everyone else's ears.
Ron was just coming down the stairs, a dark look on his face. "Guess we're staying," he said, arms crossed over his chest. Later, Harry would not forget that moment; he would point to that very moment as the day the Weasleys - individually, or collectively as a unit - chose to die.
Draco was a disappointment. He was wearing his mask, and a gold broach on his robes, but all Ginny had to do was look at him funny and he dropped his wand.
"You're saying," Harry said, pacing back and forth, "that the whole thing was a set up from the beginning?"
Draco nodded, lip curled a little. The magical restraints around his wrists and feet were solid, they knew he wouldn't be getting away any time soon, but still he continued to wriggle his limbs about as if he might. "People are less than sure of old Snape's devotion to the cause, for sure. I was supposed to get caught, win your trust, and then find out how Snape was reporting to Dumbledore."
"And they trusted you to do this?"
He rolled his eyes, and Harry fought the urge to just slap him. The little cellar smelled faintly like beets, beets and parsnips and earth. It was an original cellar, too, complete with dirt floor. At least the house was well hidden enough that no one would think to look for them here. Surely by now Lucius Malfoy was wondering where they'd stashed his son.
"My father," and here Draco's words became flat, "knew no one would think I'd really be able to put up a fight. the Dark Lord agreed."
Harry and Ginny looked at each other. Ginny sighed, then crouched down beside Draco. Her face softened, just a little bit, and her voice was somewhat gentler. "All right, now, Malfoy. One more question. Where is Nymphadora Tonks?"
Draco's eyes rolled into the back of his head. "I, I don't--" he started.
Ginny held his chin in her strong grip. "Where is Nymphadora Tonks?" she repeated.
Ginny winced, and stood up. Draco's eyes focused on the ceiling, stared straight up. He was laying on the dirt, on his back, wrists and ankles bound, limbs splayed. "We're going to have to do something else," she muttered to Harry. Harry nodded, and tried not to feel anything in his stomach.
She poked Draco's side with her boot; he didn't move. The truth serum they'd just fed him obviously had rendered his higher functions all but useless by now. His head was lurching back and forth, and second by second he seemed less aware of his surroundings. He wasn't sure if there was enough serum left in the bottle to feed to Avery by morning. Harry had to work fast.
Right before they graduated, Ron and Draco Malfoy had got into a duel at school. It was over something stupid, some inane reference probably to Mudbloods and purebloods, typical of their association. It was one thing too many, and completely insane on both their parts - bringing such a volatile fight into the open at one of the only places people thought the violence couldn't touch. Hermione called it reckless; McGonagall called it fool-hardy. "But I just had to," Ron had said, rubbing his split lip. "I couldn't help myself." Harry had just nodded.
Harry could still remember Dumbledore, calling he and Ron into his office, with a grave look. "Boys," he had said, "never forget what it is we try to work for, all right?" Ron had looked confused. "By antagonizing, or allowing yourself to be antagonized by Lucius Malfoy's son, you allow yourself vulnerability. He finds out a little more about you each time Draco goads you to anger."
Harry could remember clearly not really even being angry with Draco, even back then; oh sure, he was angry, but more and more, the closer he got to graduation, when he found himself angry, all he'd do is pull up a mental picture of Bellatrix Lestrange, and feel a lot better.
He and Remus only spoke about her once, and it was at one of the wakes, Harry couldn't ever remember which one. It was Remus, slowly spinning the bottle of Firewhiskey, around, that said, "her hair." He kept spinning the bottle; voice tight. "I would cut off all her hair."
Harry had blinked, slowly, watching the bottle twirl in the candlelight. Firewhiskey had a certain gold sheen, when firelight was reflected off it, and he watched it a long time before he said, "maybe, I'd - I'd like to know that she," he murmured, slow and languid, "could never, ever, say another word."
Remus nodded, and then tucked his chin to his chest. "That would be pleasant," he had replied.
Harry often felt the same urge when it came to Draco Malfoy - to the entire Malfoy clan - but he knew, even in school, what a danger it was to do things without thinking them through. He knew Remus would never cut off Bella's hair, just like he would never cut out her tongue. They needed her information, badly.
"Is anything going to work?" Ginny asked, frustrated. The tension in the cellar was palpable, Harry could feel it in the prickling at the back of his neck.
Absently, he rubbed his forehead. Draco was still laying on the floor. His face was bruised. "We have to push."
"Then I'll do it," Ginny said immediately.
Harry felt nauseous. "Ginny, you don't--"
"Don't," Ginny said, eyes dark, "tell me I don't have to. There are lines that you can't cross, and that's why we're paired up, whether you'll admit it or not."
Though Harry didn't want to admit it, it was true; Aurors worked in teams to augment each other's failings and lacks. When Harry could not do something, Ginny was always right behind him. It was the reason he and Remus couldn't work together anymore. "Okay," he said.
Ginny picked up her wand.
They got the information around dawn, and used the rest of the serum. Draco coughed up, "she's attached to Rabastan, he's with her everywhere - his brother owls him weekly," and then a lot of blood.
Harry stunned him, knocked him out; Ginny was already pulling her wand out. She gestured, and when Harry stepped out of the way, muttered, "obliviate."
The last time Harry took the Hogwarts' express home, he was a seventh year student, and then he wasn't a seventh year student any longer. Moody and Shacklebolt met the whole lot of them at King's Cross, two Ministry cars and Tonks following behind on her own motorbike.
It was the motorbike that did Harry in. He managed to keep himself steady until Grimmauld Place, but once he and Ron were upstairs, Harry buried his face in his pillow, mumbling, "can you just, let me be for a bit, yeah?" and Ron had crept downstairs.
Later, someone came in. Harry had assumed it was Hermione, but Remus's gentle voice just said, "no one ever understood that family's attachment to two wheeled things with motors." But the only reason Harry even knew Sirius ever owned a bike was because Remus had told him.
They didn't let him go down to the Department of Mysteries, even now, as a full fledged Auror.
Dawlish was thrilled; they clapped Draco Malfoy in permanent metaphorical irons and placed him in one of the cells beside Avery. Harry said, "while I'm here, I'd like to speak with a Remus Lupin."
"I have some questions for him," Harry said, coolly, and forced his spine to stay lax; intimidating Dawlish would do nothing.
They let him in. Remus didn't look up but for a second, his eyes flickered to Harry's face and then back to the floor. Harry stood in the doorway, and asked, "Do you know the location of Nymphadora Tonks?"
Remus looked at Harry; back away. Miles were crossed, simply by seeing Remus for himself. His eyes were quite clear, quite obviously determined. Harry knew he'd placed himself where he was on purpose.
Remus shook his head; no.
"Do you know Rabastan Lestrange?" he asked, face carefully blank.
Remus could have been worse. He stayed sitting on the floor, but had the energy and strength to answer quite calmly, "Not personally, not since school. Of course, I know who he is."
"Do you know where he is at this moment?"
Dimly, Remus smiled, and wiped his mouth with a slightly dirty hand. "Rabastan, eh? It fits. Love that family." He shook his head, and muttered, "he always was a cruel one. I'll look into it."
Harry turned around. Remus called out, "say hello to the gang for me!" and then, "I sure do miss them. James especially," and Harry faltered, once, in his steps. Taking the Dementors out of Azkaban just gave people a chance to invent new ways to imprison and otherwise punish wayward wizards.
"Did you find out anything?" Dawlish said, trotting after Harry's heels. Harry ignored him. He had to find a truth serum strong enough to use on Avery, and send Dobby to feed it to him before Remus came in contact with him next. "Harry," and Dawlish made him stop, "what are you doing here?"
Harry turned to face him. He hadn't slept in three days; he said, "I'm making sure the job gets done."
It was the Dementors in Privet Drive that pushed Harry straight from 'child' to 'adult' with no break in between. While things changed around him so much more slowly, and while he failed to recognise it for so long, that was really the place he knew that things were going to get worse before they got better, except he was still waiting for the better and that road had no curve in sight.
Ron's eyes, that night on the stairs, said that he knew it too; he knew it, and yet he didn't argue with his mother. Hermione was learning all over again.
"Ginny," Harry said, climbing the stairs to the little area aboveground for prison employees, "we've got to get more--"
and she held out a little clear bottle. "Dumbledore expected this," she said. "It was waiting for us, just in case."
Not for the first time, Harry wondered how they planned for every bad eventuality - like filling in the dam with sand bags, and when you ran out of those, deciding how many fingers you need to fill the gulf, and how to cut them off.
Whether they got the information out of Avery on Rabastan's location or not, it didn't really matter. Remus still had another six months at best of a prison sentence to serve; six months in which he was virtually unprotected from any and all attempts on his life while walled up in stone. They could do nothing for him, and would do nothing for him.
At their graduation, Draco Malfoy had said, "One day, Potter, you're going to understand what it's like to lose, utterly and totally." Harry hadn't replied; he didn't have anything to say. At the time, he was so focused on what was going to happen he could barely feel the present. Later, he simply couldn't devote any time to hating Draco.
That was possibly it, but it went deeper and further than that, too - Harry often wondered what his life and world would have been like with Sirius, with so many other people, still in it.
"I'm going to hit Bert's location before sundown," Ginny said, "if you're going to stick around and talk to Remus again."
Someone had to be here to hear what Remus found out - not because it was more urgent than the two dozen other battles raging, but because tomorrow Remus might not be alive to report. Harry nodded. "I might as well stay here. Dawlish trusts me."
"As well he should," Ginny replied. She pushed a piece of hair behind her ear that the North Sea wind had got hold of; her hair whipped around her face as the breeze picked up, despite her efforts. Azkaban was on one of the loneliest rocks imaginable. "Listen," she started, "I know you aren't comfortable with what we had to do--"
and Harry said, "no, I understand."
Ginny looked at him, eyes narrowed. "Are you lying to me?"
Harry sighed. "no." He wasn't, either; just because he had problems doing some of the things his job entailed, that didn't mean he didn't know the difference between not wanting to do something, and knowing you had to do it. Their world was a fundamentally different place than the world Molly, or Katie Bell, or even Hermione, were living in. It was the reason Remus got himself caught on purpose. It was the reason for everything.
That was the secret, and that was why Harry still missed Sirius - it was more important to guard the present than think about the future. When the Order was first called back together, the new members didn't seem to realize that, didn't seem to see the urgency by which Sirius's world had changed. Molly had screamed at him, called him deranged, Hermione questioned his judgement, but crazy and desperate were two things they couldn't differentiate between. Not back then.
Ginny leaned up, and kissed his cold cheek. "Give Remus my love," she said, and mounted her broom. Harry didn't bother watching her disappear into the sky, and he knew Ginny would never assume she would - the two of them had cracked the facade behind the Order, and knew it for what it was.
Draco had promised they would lose, and Harry figured he was probably right. It was something that the rest of the world, even the new Order, would maybe never understand. Harry and Ginny's behavior was as unfathomable to them as Sirius was back in the beginning. Of course, Sirius and Remus and Dumbledore and McGonagall had all seen this happen before.