Authors: dramaturgy and thinkatory
Rating: Heavy PG-13, R (for violence)
Word count: 8,914
Era: The First War Against Voldemort (1970-1981)
Characters: Remus Lupin, MWPP/L, Fenrir Greyback, many, many others
Chapter Summary: The embrace was one of the simplest feelings of comfort Remus had had in a long time. “We’ve come this far, we’re not about to die now, I should think,” he said calmly. The universe couldn’t be that cruel – then again, had the universe shown them any mercy yet?
Author's Note: Please drop us a line if you like it, or you can add the comm for automatic updates to your flist! P.S. Please forgive Liz for any errors to this chapter because she is posting it slightly toasted after a family Christmas party.
Fathers and Sons
Chapter 24: Vexed to Nightmare by a Rocking Cradle
It's easy to look back and say, 'In those days,' because anything awful we experience now pales in comparison to the daily terror of never knowing when or how you could be killed, or one of your loved ones disappearing. They are past, and they are gone. But when we were there and then, we felt for sure that the only way things would end was in our death and ruin. Stewart Cauldwell, A Shadow Cast By Green Light: A Wartime Memoir, 1984.
Newt Scamander rode the lift to Magical Law Enforcement with what looked to be his characteristic dignity. No one who knew him would have called him 'calm,' precisely, but as he stared ahead at his reflection in the impeccably cleaned doors to the lift, he kept a placid look on his face. The only thing that ruined the facade was the cricket bat with the end resting on the ground and his hand on the handle, as one might hold a walking stick.
The lift announced his arrival at Magical Law Enforcement as the doors slid open, revealing the activity of the department to him. He stepped out and glanced around for a moment before approaching the main desk. When the secretary didn't look up right away, or after he cleared his throat, he rapped the desktop with the cricket bat. "I'm looking for Barty Crouch," he told the stunned secretary. "Where is he?"
Her eyes glanced at the bat. "I -- er, that is... he's, um..."
"Oh forget it, I'll find him myself," Newt cut her off before she stuttered any more. The offices were down the one corridor, he knew, and so strode in that direction, taking a tight grip on the bat. "BARTY. BARTY CROUCH."
The shout managed to even ruffle MLE employees, so for a moment the head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures went unanswered before Rufus Scrimgeour stepped forward. "Mr Scamander," he answered, trying to look as unflappable as he could manage, "I'll show you to Mr Crouch's office, it's just this way."
"Good, at least someone's got their head on straight in this Department," he said, striding after Scrimgeour. He noted with a little amusement that some edged out of the way, but kept his focus.
"That's an interesting walking stick, sir," Scrimgeour said as they walked, straight-faced.
"It gets the job done," Newt replied in a similar tone.
"What job is that, if I might ask?"
"It assures undivided attention."
"Emily, Mr Scamander is here to see Mr Crouch," Scrimgeour told Crouch's personal secretary as they approached her desk. "You might want to go in and inform him. Mention the cricket bat," he added, sotto voce. As she hurried to the door, Scrimgeour turned to Newt. "I heard about the new werewolf initiative and I should say it's an honour to be working with your Department."
"You should, but you might want to hold on to those words. Crouch seems to like to announce these sorts of things before I even hear about it," Newt said patiently.
"Scrimgeour, thank you for taking care of Mr Scamander, you're dismissed," Barty started, with the stern tone of a Department head, which quickly melted to professional courtesy as he looked to Newt Scamander. "Newt, it's a pleasure. A surprise, of course, but a pleasure."
Fine. Newt could play nice for a little while longer. "Speaking of surprises, I hear our Departments are going to be working together on werewolves. From..." Newt retrieved the newspaper from the pocket of his robes. "Mary Brookstanton of The Daily Prophet, no less."
Ah. Barty had been expecting this. "Would you like to speak in my office?" he asked, still cordial and quite calm.
"Oh. Would I ever," Newt said, striding into Barty's office without waiting for further invitation.
"Move my next appointment forward," Barty told the secretary before following Scamander inside and closing the door. "The Auror office has been discussing the details of the werewolf initiative with the Werewolf Registry, I was certain you would have heard."
"You would think," he said dryly. "But considering Twiddle only does things to keep himself from being fired, Umbridge is as press-happy as you, and the other members are... young, it seems as though one very important link in your chain is missing. Furthermore, whenever you announce two departments will be working together, it might be a good idea to make sure that said department is actually interested in working with you."
"... I trust we are in agreement, sir, that whatever this Ministry can do to end the atrocities of this war, it will?"
"Oh, we're in agreement there, make no mistake." Newt began to pace the area in front of Barty's desk, idly swinging the cricket bat at his side. "What I am concerned with is this rigamarole about werewolves you keep spouting. I'm not at all certain a new set of atrocities would not spring from your placatory desire to get the monkey screeching about catching Death Eaters off your back. The two are not synonymous. Sir," he added in a plainly mocking fashion.
Barty sent a pointed stare at the madman on the other side of the desk and said simply, "I must respectfully say that I think that I know more about the Death Eaters and the dangers threatening this country than you do, and that someone must do something about the werewolf menace, and it might as well be my Department -- as overextended and overworked as we might be, we will do anything to protect this country, even doing your job for you."
"Oh yes, because suddenly treating our country's marginalized werewolf population with all the force of the MLE when we can't even find half of the ones we have on record will solve the problem," Newt replied shortly. "I don't actually hold you personally responsible for the whole debacle, it's ingrained on how we're socialised to treat them, but Merlin's sodding undershirt, man, you can't just treat them with wizarding law when you want to punish them and pretend they don't exist any other day. Stick with Death Eaters, Barty. We will help where we can, because god knows you bloody well need it, but I'm not going to let you take this blame from an isolated population of... of renegades to the entirety of them. Trust me, the public does that plenty without you helping them along."
Barty began to go quite red and barely kept his tone civil. "We will take your criticisms into consideration, Mr Scamander, and I look forward to working out a more agreeable arrangement with you in the future. Now, however, those of us without bleeding hearts must answer for the crimes of the werewolves, and I will deliver Fenrir Greyback and his kind, with or without your permission."
"You just keep to the law, and make sure it's the law you're keeping to." More for effect than anything else, Newt raised the cricket bat and brought it down on the edge of Barty's desk, making stacks of parchment, files, and an inkwell jump before he turned to leave.
Barty watched Scamander stalk out of his office with cricket bat in hand. He fixed his desk with shaking hands before slamming his fist against the desk in one rare show of genuine anger, before taking a deep breath and returning to his seat of authority once more.
The wizards' war was certainly heating up, Jeremy could tell that much from the newspapers he managed to read, and this might have meant that the Death Eaters would be too short-staffed for Alecto Carrow to rally the troops and take down Hati's pack. Still, the thought nagged at him, the idea that the Death Eaters would rally behind Fenrir and the unified pack would win the war without question. He had underestimated Fenrir once, and another mistake like that could cost them the whole damn war.
No. Jeremy wasn't going to underestimate Fenrir Greyback again. He couldn't afford to lose their advantage and therefore the fight. There was nothing more important than this fight.
He accepted Melinda's quick, friendly hug and asked her just a bit too quickly, "Do you know if Julia's here? I need to talk to her. Actually talk to her. Not -- never mind, do you know where she is?"
Melinda couldn't help but smile at him, even though he was obviously completely frazzled by the situation he was in. "She's right behind you," she whispered, and pointed.
"Hi," Julia spoke with a measure of humour, as much as she could manage. Most of it disappeared again when she actually looked at him, weighed down as ever.
Jeremy turned around to see her, and released a sigh that sounded more tired than he actually felt. "Hi." He glanced back at Melinda, who was already gone, then gave Julia a sheepish smile. "You look... better. Than the last time I was here."
"I feel better," she said honestly. As much as she thought she could, all things considered, at any rate. "You look. You know."
"How do I look? I haven't looked in a mirror in a long time, but that probably answers my question," he figured, and took her hands in his. "We ... should talk."
This sounded like the beginning to a conversation that she wasn't going to like. But she nodded. "All right," she said, twining her fingers with his.
He tried a smile, not sure why his nerves flared up at initiating this conversation, but Julia seemed strangely delicate, and now he was nervous. He led her upstairs and released her hand, starting to pace, unable to break that annoying habit. "They're going to bring Death Eaters."
The colour that was left in Julia's cheeks drained away. Where Jeremy couldn't seem to stop moving, she wasn't sure she could have made herself do so. "How many?" she asked, knowing they had seven.
Jeremy pulled at his hair, hopeless, still pacing. "I don't know. I want to think four or five, that's how many they've had at previous fights, but it's possible it could be less because the Death Eaters are fighting their own war now, but I don't want to underestimate them. If I underestimate them, if they bring six or seven Death Eaters, we're going to be in trouble."
She leaned against the wall, not knowing what to say. If they'd done all this work and come all this way to lose... he was never this visibly distressed, and it made her anxious. "Jeremy," she said as she tried to stop him, a hand on his arm and then holding him at arm's length from both shoulders. "So there can't -- there can't be any way of knowing."
He felt like he was quivering, as though he was moving though she had him completely still. "If we'd let her come to the pack itself, found out her plans, but that way she could possibly figure us out. We had to tell her to just come when we were prepared for war," he explained, not quite looking at her. "To get the information would be to hurt ourselves, because she could figure us out. Julia, I need more wands."
Her fingers involuntarily gripped his shirt; if he was saying -- no, she knew what he was saying. "I don't -- Jeremy, I don't know that -- " The words tripped over her tongue as they came out, she couldn't think in a straight line.
He shook his head at her. "You can, you can duel, you're faster with a wand than I was -- I've been practising -- you had seven years at Hogwarts, you can do it."
She shook her head in return the entire time he spoke. She didn't want to tell him if she didn’t have to, not right now, it would make things immeasurably worse and that wasn't worth it. "No, Jeremy. I can't," she replied emphatically, pleading for him to just understand.
He looked at her, took in her panic and her desperation, and sucked in a breath to calm himself down. He exhaled and looked at her, moving his arms around her waist. "What is it?" he asked.
All the sudden her resolve broke cleanly in half, and she collapsed into him as she burst into tears. She clung to him tightly as she sobbed into his chest, too hard to speak. After a moment, she forced herself to be calm enough to talk to him. "I didn't want to tell you like this, but it wasn't because I wanted to keep it from you. Don't be mad, please -- " She hiccupped painfully, and winced. "I'm pregnant."
Jeremy held her close until she finished speaking, and then his grip weakened as her last two words hit him with full force, leaving him light-headed and stunned. He felt her weight against him, breathed in at some point, and gently put a hand to her stomach. "You're pregnant," he repeated, voice low.
There was a nod, she was unable to speak again. She didn't dare pull back any, she could feel that she was dizzy from all the oxygen she was getting. "Nine weeks," she said, taking a ragged breath and letting it go.
He realised, as his brain started to slowly work again. "You weren't sick," he said. "You were... you were pregnant. Sick. I sent you to Hati's and you were pregnant." He felt himself paling. "I didn't know. I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"It's fine, someone had to go." She moved one hand, to wipe her nose on the edge of her sleeve with a rather indelicate sniffle. "It's why I didn't say anything. You don't need something else to worry about."
"I -- I want to know." It was true, it was more to worry about, more reason not to die, but that wasn't the point. "I want to know. Because once this is over, it'll be the three of us, Julia." He kissed her cheek.
She cried again, this time out of relief. It was a lot more to worry about, but she felt considerably lighter than she had for awhile. "Yeah," she exhaled. "It will be."
He hated when she cried, because he felt useless, and of all the things Jeremy Curenton strived to be, the last of them was useless. "I'm sorry. Fuck, I'm sorry that I can't help, I'm sorry, if I could..."
"I can't help," she said, lifting her head, but avoiding looking up at him. Instead she traced a finger over the chain around his neck he had his ring on - invisible, but still there. She could feel it. "I'd go if I could, they're my... I would fight. But I can't. Or, well, shouldn't."
"No. Stay safe. You should even not be here, I don't know how safe the Den will be if we lose, or even if we win -- they might go after the Den." He touched her cheek, and lifted her face to his. "Go home, take care of yourself. Take care of both of you."
She looked at him then. "I'm not going while you're here. Especially if -- " If this is the last time I see you. She wasn't going to say it out loud, as though not saying it would make it less likely to happen. "I ate cereal. I hate cereal. But I was hungry for it. I think the baby was hungry for it." The change in subject from the morbid to the mundane edged on absurd, but it was the only way she could carry on the conversation.
The absurdity caught on him, though, because the whole situation was surreal enough as it was. He gave her a brief kiss and a slightly amused look. "I'm sorry. No more cereal for you. How has it been?" He tried to keep it light, like they weren't both terrified he'd die and leave her behind.
"... Different," she decided. "The morning sickness is dreadful, sometimes it stays with me all day. That's what -- well. That's what that was when you were back last."
Jeremy looked at her now, and it was so obvious. He'd been so focused on wars and sabotage that he hadn't noticed his own wife and best friend pregnant right in front of him. "Who else knows?"
"Well." She contemplated how to answer that. "I didn't tell anyone. I thought you should be the first one to know. If your mum or dad think anything, they haven't said it to me. But when I went to Hati... she knew. She knew and she said it, I guess people heard it... it was weird."
"Well." He sent her a thin smile. "Look what we've done so far. Parenting should be nothing." He took a moment to really consider it. "A kid. We're really having a kid."
"Yeah," she said, and her heart really began pounding at that. Jeremy knew and that only made it more real. "Timing could be a lot better, though."
"I wasn't sure we could. Some books say we can't, some say we can," he said, slipping back into the much more comfortable position of know-it-all. "Females can't, but -- well, obviously I can." He paused, having never quite considered the really important question. "Did you -- did you want kids?"
"Obviously you can. I think we need to have words with these supposed authors," she said dryly. She considered it before she answered. "I... didn't really think much about it," she admitted, "not before now, anyway, but I think you'll be a good dad. So, yeah. But..."
You think I'd be a good dad? he wanted to ask, because it was surprising, but he ignored it. "But?" he prompted.
"I don't know." She pushed her hair off her forehead. "I guess I just didn't figure it'd be right away."
"That's the way of it," Jeremy said wryly. "But no worries. We'll have a baby in peacetime. I know it." He kissed her forehead and added, "My parents should know, in case."
She kept a calm face up, although the idea of telling someone else today fairly terrified her. "If they suspected, I'm going to feel silly," she said.
"Not today," he told her, reassuring. "I'll be back soon, we can tell them then, when they'll probably have already guessed."
"And I'll still feel silly," she said and gave a small, derisive laugh, putting her hands to her cheeks. Then she added, so quietly he could ignore it if he wished (and why shouldn't he, she'd only said it so many times), "You better be back."
Jeremy grinned at her. "I'll be back. We'll have won the war, we'll have a baby, all the happy news at once." He was even planning now.
Something inside her always jumped when she saw him grin like that, but it went deeper this time. She went with it, pushing everything else back; she could start the self-doubt later. "Yeah. All that good stuff."
"Yeah," he teased her, and kissed her again, speaking without hesitation when he pulled away. "Julia. I love you."
She then laughed, caught up in the moment . "I love you," she answered, toying with the hair at the back of his neck. "I guess it's kind of late to ask... but did you? Want kids, I mean."
"Yeah, I guess," he said, then amended quickly, "I wasn't actively thinking about it, but... you'll be a great mum if you take care of a kid like you take care of me." He smiled. "And I want to have it all with you. So... why not kids? I'm sure we can take 'em."
"A great mum," she repeated contemplatively, but she smiled.
Jeremy nodded firmly. "A great mum. Even better wife. Even though her husband has to leave soon because he has to teach Fenrir's assassin how to duel."
"Oh. Really." She thought about it for a moment. "Well. They all had him on his back in the foyer at Hati's, so that'll make things interesting at the very least."
"I wish you hadn't been anywhere near him," Jeremy said, a touch bitter. "Bastard's nearly killed me twice."
"He didn't see me," she said, touching his cheek.
He looked directly at her. "Please, be safe. Go somewhere safe, just until it's over."
She hesitated. "I'll take care of us. I promise."
"Promise me that you'll stay safe. No kid deserves two parents who're suicidally stupid," he half-joked, taking her free hand.
"I promise," she said, with a meaningful look.
He sent her a grin in return for the look. "I will, I know, I'm not stupid."
"I sometimes wonder," she said, but softened the words with a kiss.
He kissed her for longer than might have been wise, and finally forced himself to withdraw. "You're all right?" he checked.
Until you go. She nodded. "I'm fine. As I can be, you know."
"Soon enough I'll be back and ranting about the Ministry every day, and you'll want me gone," he informed her. "You'll wonder what you ever saw in me and pity your poor child."
"I won't," she told him, one side of her mouth lifting in a wry half-smile. "Pity the child... maybe."
He laughed and squeezed her hand before stepping back, his hand drifting to the doorknob. "I'm going to go before I -- well, decide not to go."
Julia nodded and crossed her arms in front of her. Not touching him while she did it made saying goodbye easier. It made it possible. "Yeah. Okay. I'll see you." She made herself stay put and smile reassuringly.
It was easier to leave her before, but now Jeremy was looking at her, and he couldn't find a single justification for how she could handle this herself without even an inkling of help from him so he could go save the world. He couldn't fool himself into that. He wasn't just leaving behind Julia, his best friend and wife; he was leaving behind his child. But it was all for the best for everyone, not just him.
After a long moment of silence, the slight smile fell from Jeremy's face and he opened the door. "I'll see you," he echoed, as a firm, genuine promise, before he closed the door and made a straight shot back to the unified pack.
Night was falling and Peter Pettigrew couldn't get the Prewetts out of his mind. Gideon and Fabian had died three days earlier by the hands of five Death Eaters, since attacks by two, three and four hadn't been enough to take down the brothers. If they'd just given in, they might've been alive, and he wouldn't have had to watch Molly Weasley crying into a handkerchief at the double funeral today.
Sirius had taken them all aside, though, and told them to meet in Godric's Hollow later that night, and Peter was really worried. Unnecessarily, of course, but worry and paranoia were the basic two emotions any spy felt if he wasn't a complete idiot. And Peter was most certainly not a complete idiot.
Either way, he waited a few minutes at the Potters' door for Sirius to arrive before knocking.
Sirius felt as though his brain were going to break into pieces, as he Apparated to Godric's Hollow. When James and Lily had made the decision to go into hiding and asked him to be Secret Keeper, there had been no question in his mind. It didn't require any consideration, because he would have done anything to keep the three of them safe. Still, he had been thinking. Normally it would be joked that this would herald trouble, but he had a good idea this time, and he knew it.
He nodded hello to Peter, and without preamble knocked on the door. "Some are living and some are dead," he gave the password when he heard footsteps approach from inside, not bothering to wait for it to be requested.
James opened the door, giving a wry smile at the two that only dropped a little when he realised it was only the two of them. Again. Remus might never come again, after the last run-in. "Come in," he said, opening the door. He was still in black; it was hard to get out of that mood.
"Hey," Sirius greeted him somberly, clapping him on the shoulder.
"I need a drink," James said to Sirius, and ushered them in. He closed the door behind Peter, who was lagging behind. "Anyone else want a drink?"
"Please," Peter said, undoubtedly gloomy.
"Sure," Sirius agreed, following James into the sitting room.
Lily came back down the stairs, after putting her boy down in the nursery. Bless his heart, he could sleep through anything. She knew children were smarter than anyone ever really gave them credit for (and, if you listened to James, Harry more than any), but she wondered how much he could really know and understand. She entered the sitting room, giving the best smile she could manage. "Boys," she greeted.
"Lily," Peter answered in a half-whisper. "Is he asleep?"
"Fast asleep," she said.
"Good," Sirius said with a nod. "At least one of us should be getting some rest, yeah?"
"Don't know when I'll be getting any sleep next," Peter commented, accepting a drink from James, who was considering the bottle. Apparently Peter wasn't the only restless one.
"Well, the boy is a champion sleeper if nothing else," Lily admitted.
Sirius could hardly stand it. "We have to talk, all of us," he said seriously, accepting the drink James handed him and downing most of it in one go.
This isn't all of us, James wanted to impulsively say, but held his tongue and drank before he spoke. "Why not get right to it, all right," he agreed.
Sirius nodded and drank the rest of whatever was in his glass. "You two asked me to be your Secret Keeper and believe me, there is nothing I wouldn't do for you, and Harry." He hesitated, watching their faces change from serious to slightly confused, and he glanced at Peter. "But... I think I have a better idea. If you'll agree to it."
Peter tensed and looked away from Sirius to the floor. This couldn't be going where he was starting to think it was, and maybe if he was lucky Sirius was going to come up with something completely harebrained. It wouldn't be the first time.
"Shut up, Padfoot." James refilled his glass and gave Sirius a look of disbelief. "You're our Secret Keeper and that's the end of it, we trust you."
"No, but -- okay, trust me," he said, holding up his hands. "Listen. It's not that I'm going to talk, or anything, but I might not even need to. They say Voldemort can reach right into your brain and just take the information he wants, he doesn't even need to ask questions. Giving you up without meaning to is worse than... anything. I'd sooner die myself."
"Sirius," Lily said harshly, not out of any anger towards him, but after the McKinnon and Bones families being massacred, Benjy Fenwick, and most recently the Prewetts, she could hardly stand it.
"You know the chances, Lily," he answered.
"Then what are you suggesting?" she asked.
Sirius looked at Peter. "We fake them out."
Peter didn't have to fake his shock. "Me?" he practically squeaked, his voice rising high in nerves. No, it was too perfect. Unnervingly so. "Are you serious?"
James looked between Sirius and Peter, then looked to Peter and said, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but good idea, Sirius."
Sirius nodded. "Right it is."
"Sirius," Lily started, and looked at James. "I don't -- why? That's not really how the Fidelius Charm works anyway, I mean, not so far as they know -- "
"Okay," Sirius cut her off before she started in on something that would waste a lot of time and probably be not very interesting to listen to. "But if it did... I mean, think of it this way. Everyone is going to expect me to be the Secret Keeper, which means once they can't find you and they figure that out, they'll come after me. And honestly, fine. But if they're coming after me, then they're not going to be going after Wormtail. And then you stay safe. Harry stays safe."
James nodded to himself and put his arm around his wife as he considered it. "Lily?" he asked her, after a moment.
She hesitated, crossing her arms in front of her. "I don't..." She looked at Peter, and at Sirius. "Whatever you think," she told James.
"Really?" James sent her a wry little smile, looked to Sirius and said it. "I say we do it." I still trust you, I think you could do it. But let's do it. He nodded to their new Secret Keeper, who was conspicuously silent. "Peter?"
It was like they knew, but they couldn't have known. He was too careful, and if Sirius doubted himself and everyone doubted the ever-absent Remus, Peter had to be in the clear. It was just too perfect, too clean. He stood and wore a worried smile. "You trust me with this?" he asked.
"Seriously, no one will even think twice about it. It's perfect," Sirius said, almost dismissive.
Of course not. He was just Wormtail, he'd almost forgotten. "Right," Peter said uncertainly, then rallied. "Okay. I'll do it." He smiled. "Thanks, James, Lily." No guilt. There was no time for guilt. This was his only chance to survive.
Lily smiled, albeit wanly. “We trust you, Peter,” she said.
Peter flashed an anxious smile. "I'm... glad to help," he said, with some cheer. "I'll be here tomorrow, right for lunch."
"Of course, only food can get him here," James said dryly to Sirius.
Sirius half-laughed. "It'll work out," he assured Lily, seeing her still worried look.
Lily nodded. "I'm sure," she nodded.
"Well. I have to go," Peter said, hesitantly. "Order work -- I'm meeting with Caradoc." Half-true, which was just enough. "I was just going to stop in, really."
"Go on, Wormtail. Thanks," James called, as Peter grabbed his cloak to go out into the chilly October air.
"Good night, Peter," Lily said after him. The door closed before she felt like she could move, and then she collapsed into the windowseat.
"It'll work, it'll be okay," Sirius said. "It's foolproof."
"And we're just the fools to prove it," James concluded. "Come on, I'm hungry. Let's eat." He abruptly left the room. If there was one thing he didn't want to talk about, this was it.
Sirius nodded, and looked back to Lily. "Coming?" he asked.
"Go ahead. I'll come in a minute. Just don't burn down my kitchen," she said.
"No burning down the kitchen, I promise," he said, backing out of the front room and following James into the kitchen.
Lily willed her heart to stop racing. She leaned her head against the chilly window pane, and watched the wind blow the leaves to and fro. She knew she was supposed to be a Gryffindor, but all she could think was about how scared she was. Things are okay, she told herself, and leaned back against the wall. Okay.
Newt had made a resolution. It wasn’t the new year, it wasn’t even close, but he needed to make a resolution to take back his department. He’d turned his back, and Barty Crouch had appropriated the werewolves – inasmuch as they could be appropriated. There was only one werewolf in the United Kingdom that Barty Crouch was looking for, as far as they knew, and all of the others were going to get stepped on along the way.
He wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to prevent this, especially with a Registry that was run as it was, and only a raucous minority behind him. But he would sooner die in his office than see this happen.
The Department’s press room had been filled to capacity, and there were people standing outside the doors, to listen. It wasn’t often that Newt Scamander had directly addressed the press, and not in his own Department. He wondered if Mary Brookstanton was present – he hoped so. She needed to hear this.
The second he strode onto the platform, there was a flash of photography and the murmur of voices started. He blinked, the image of the flash permanently imprinted on his retina. So much for seeing if anyone was there. His press secretary, Katie, motioned to the podium, giving him the floor. Newt nodded his thanks to her, and stepped up, cricket bat in hand. It was mostly a crutch for him, he acknowledged, but that didn’t mean he was above waving it around if the occasion called for it. The second he stopped, hands shot into the air. He held up one hand and a hush fell – he loved being head of a department sometimes. “This is how it’s going to work,” he started. “This is not question and answer time. I’m going to give my speech, you are going to listen and write down the parts that interest you, take it back to wherever you come from, and make it news. And Katie here’s not going to answer any of your questions once I leave, either, so just throw them away,” he said, motioning behind him at the secretary.
Hands fell out of the air at that, and he took a breath. “Several weeks ago, Barty Crouch told our esteemed friends at the Daily Prophet that the MLE would be working closely with my Department in the matter of the werewolves of Great Britain and Ireland. The fact is that first, I am appalled and dismayed that the first I’d heard of it was reading the paper over breakfast. Second, I am shocked that Barty Crouch would presume to reach where he has no jurisdiction. Last, I am not sure how precisely he plans for this… collaboration to take place. He doesn’t really have the manpower to spare, and I do not have the funding.
“But I have to thank Barty Crouch as well,” he added. “He has opened my eyes to things that are being hidden in my own Department… things about the people working under me. Werewolves have become a concern in this country, and we have not been able to do our part for one reason or another. The reason itself doesn’t matter, but our inability to do this job has repeatedly led to tragedy. People have died, children have gone missing, and families have suffered enormously.
“Since the 1960s, what was once the Werewolf Registry has deteriorated considerably. Werewolf Support Services was established when the Registry was moved from the Being to the Beast division the first time, and is now run by a group of volunteers who donate their time and considerable efforts. The Werewolf Capture Unit, older than the Registry even, ironically enough came about when an erstwhile head of Magical Law Enforcement said it wasn’t their job to capture and manage dangerous Beasts – ‘you don’t send Hit Wizards after a manticore’ were his exact words, I believe. All of these units, in both the Beast and Being division, are running on a combined quarterly and yearly budget that could generously be described as meager. They say money cannot buy happiness, but it will buy you considerable ability to do good.
“Detractors of the Registry and other divisions have been nothing but derisive, saying no one has been helped – that no one uses them. The Registry was never meant to be a quick fix, or a catch-all, or sadly as dehumanizing as it has become. It was once hoped that it could become the link that bridged the gap between werewolves and wizards. Instead, the Ministry has seen fit to do none other than continue to legislate, demonise, and unfailingly fight against them, allowing old prejudices to stand in the way of helping people who are their citizens, leaving the business of helping them to private citizens.
“I do not deny that werewolves are dangerous in transformation, or that the law does not have the right to punish those who willfully break it. The law does not have the right to punish people who have done no wrong and it does not have the right to punish a crime that has not yet been committed. So I stand here before you today with a promise: I intend to see that these units have the funding, leadership, and therefore ability to work towards their goals. I will personally work closely with division heads to ensure that goals are met and results are seen. As for Barty Crouch, he now has the Quaffle, and we are going to play some real political Quidditch now. Thank you.”
He stepped down, and even though he’d said there wouldn’t be any questions, hands shot into the air some people cried, “Mr. Scamander!” in an attempt to get his attention. In the back of the room, some people laughed. Katie stepped to the podium and began to thank them, saying she would return soon to deliver the rest of the morning’s news. Newt stepped out of the room and into the hallway, away from the voices of the press.
Katie stepped out behind him and closed the door. “Impressive address, sir,” she said.
“Thank you, Katie. Do you suppose it’s going to penetrate any skulls?”
Katie gave a bemused smile in return. “Well, if it doesn’t, we can just blame it on the bland rhetoric.”
Newt chortled. “I like you. Don’t ever let an employer try to break you of that sarcasm.”
“My armor of misanthropy and barbed tongue of righteousness? Never.”
“Good. Higher ups say they hate it, buy I promise you that they appreciate the honesty.”
“Does that mean you’re going to employ me forever?” she asked in a deadpan.
“Go do your job,” he said, heading back to his office. Katie saluted his retreating form and opened the door to reenter the press room.
The wolf had gone numb to Remus, ignoring him and biding its time until it could take over. Remus and his double consciousness had come to a sort of agreement: if it didn’t interfere in matters concerning the plan to bring Fenrir’s rule to an end and he avoided the wizards he knew too well, then it could have its one night a month. Being at odds with himself was a familiar feeling but it was almost worse than ever, and Remus was more frightened of himself than of Fenrir or anyone else at this point. Bodily harm was, upon reflection, a small price to pay for achievement. The only difference was that he was the one inflicting the harm on his body instead of Wesley kicking his arse.
He tried not to care about it, dismissing it as a noble sacrifice. But the day after the full moon when he still laid out, his head aching and having scant memory of the previous night, he just kind of wanted to be dead, or at least unconscious. And tomorrow, they would be fighting Hati’s pack. Everything they had done was coming to a culmination tomorrow. To avoid dreading it, he avoided thinking about it at all.
Instead, he tried to conjure a memory of his mother’s hands on his face after a bad full moon in his childhood, or the characteristic, impish grin when she would give him a Muggle band-aid on a cut small enough to merit one. All he could come up with was his father magically healing his larger wounds in silent penance for his hasty words. I’ve won, the wolf crowed, and he pushed back at it, irritated. It was difficult to integrate with something that was so unlike him.
At least by this time tomorrow it would be over, he reflected wryly.
The door creaked open, and he lifted his head to look. Briony slid in through the crack, and shut the door behind her. She regarded him for a moment, and he returned the look. “You sounded like you had a hellish night,” she said, as though it were the explanation for her presence.
He should have expected to see her. She looked tired, but definitely none the worse for the wear. “I feel like I’ve taken a bludger to the head,” he said, laying back down.
“What’s a bludger?” she asked, coming in further. She reached to his wolf as she did so, and braced herself for it to latch on. It did so, as it always did, and she frowned. It was hurt, how could Remus not see that?
“In Quidditch. Two bludgers fly ‘round the pitch, and some players hit them at the opposing team and try to knock them off their brooms,” he rattled off, as always super-conscious of how the wolf reacted to Briony’s. He attempted to rein it in, but it didn’t want to be held.
“Oh, right, those."
"Oddly familiar with the term, are you?"
"No one can spend two months with Jeremy Curenton and expect to walk away without knowing anything about Quidditch. Play a game with rules like that, and wizards still call us the barbarians,” she said dryly, and touched his arm to stop him. “It’s okay, let it,” she added, and nudged him to make room.
He obliged her, no longer bewildered by her unique idea of personal space. She rested easily on her side in the small bit of the narrow bed that he’d left vacant. “You would say that,” he said, almost joking.
“I did just say that,” she said simply, missing the dryness of his tone.
Hand, the wolf demanded. She understood and wordlessly lifted her free hand. He was too tired to put up a fight and set his hand against hers, palm to palm. Though he wouldn’t have said it (not that he needed to) it was a pleasant relief. “Yes, obviously,” he said. His thumb stroked along the inner curve of hers, towards her hand. “So I guess I was pretty bad last night.”
“You sounded lonely. And angry,” she added, interlocking their fingers together. She let the feeling of pack wash over her too and reveled in the relaxed state, a refuge from her own thoughts, nervous and scared at the impending battle to come.
“Well. I suppose,” he allowed. “I guess having me for a first is a bit like having a terminally ill heir to the throne.”
Briony didn’t know that ill was the word that she would have used. “Geoff didn’t have very good control, either,” she offered. “But he still would have made a good Father to the pack.” Of course, Geoffrey had been what Remus was not in matters of temperament, likely to have found Remus insufferable if he had lived. She suddenly missed her brother terribly, again; it always struck her when she didn’t think it was going to. It made her sick, and she swallowed the wave of nausea that swept over her. Even if Wesley hadn’t killed Geoffrey on that particular night, she wasn’t at all sure that he would have survived this far in the unified pack.
“It doesn’t matter,” Remus said, echoing her final thought, voice dropping to a whisper. “I don’t want to take over the pack, and that’s going to be what everyone thinks when they see me side against him.”
“You don’t want the pack? Ever?”
“No,” he answered immediately. “I said as much when I came here, but…” He shook his head, indicating he didn’t have anything else he wanted to say about it. Briony had very clear ideas about pack, and she’d been with Conor since she was a young girl. It was very ingrained in her sensibility. “I’m not fit for it.”
There was little else to be said, then. “If you don’t want it, then your heart wouldn’t be in it.” His heart, or his head. Remus would be sure to be an unorthodox pack leader, and while in most packs it might not be so prove so terrible, for a pack that was the cradle of radical orthodoxy, it would certainly show problems. “What did you mean when you said I would say that?”
He hesitated. “I just meant that I probably shouldn’t have been surprised to hear it, given your… shall we say, hate for wizards and witches at large.”
Remus’s discomfort was growing, she could sense that, but she remained calm and comfortable. “I don’t hate wizards and witches, they hate me,” she replied, tracing some of the lines on his palm. “They hate me because they don’t understand.”
“They don’t understand,” he repeated blankly.
“You’re telling me you’ve always had complete understanding?” The words could have been accusatory, but they weren’t. She wasn’t even paying that much attention on the immediate level, more concentrated on his wolf taking refuge in hers. It was much more comfortable than thinking about what laid ahead of them. She supposed non-werewolves weren’t the only ones who lacked understanding, sometimes.
He concentrated heavily on her touch, allowing the wolf to do as it would. “I used to,” he said finally. James’s words still troubled him deeply, he didn’t dare try back to see Lily if his words had reached her or if he’d been written off completely. It hurt to think of, and he was sure that it was no less than he deserved.
Briony couldn’t help but wonder if he was being purposely clueless, or if he was just like that. “They’re wizards, Remus,” she said quietly. “They can’t understand, they can’t know – “
“There’s more to understanding than knowing, Briony. Understanding isn’t just about firsthand knowledge. Sometimes it’s about knowing the limits of that knowledge and being okay with that and able to sympathise all the same. Just because something isn’t or hasn’t happened to you doesn’t make it… it doesn’t make it unreal, or crazy – “
“Shh,” she cut in firmly. He could feel the exhalation on his neck, and he closed his eyes against her stare, but not against her thoughts. She frowned again. He was upset, his face said that clearly enough, and the wolf… it wasn’t happy, exactly, but it was… healing? It was the only word she could come up with to describe it. It was lodged contentedly in the forefront of his consciousness, touching hers, drawing it out of her as though it were pulling a length of string out of a box. Whatever she had been planning to say remained on her tongue.
He lost his own uncertainty in the moment and impulsively reached to touch her forehead but stopped. There wasn’t going to be anything there except skin, a stray spring of her blonde curls, and a furrow as she glanced back at him. There was a moment, a rare moment, when he and the wolf were in perfect tandem. He balked at it, pulling out, and the man and wolf were at odds once again.
Briony felt the joining, and she felt the separation again. It made her inexplicably angry, and she pushed back at him mentally. “You know, when I said that wizards don’t understand, I didn’t just mean non-werewolves,” she snapped, lifting herself up on one elbow.
He looked back sharply. “I understand, Bri.”
“Oh Remus.” She looked at him sadly. “You think you understand, but you don’t. You just had your wolf, why did you let it go again? It doesn’t want to hurt you, or be treated like it’s something that’s wrong with you. Don’t you know how hurt it is?” She leaned over him as her intensity mounted. “I can feel it every time it touches mine, why can’t you?”
This was a far cry from Briony’s usual serious tone or her dry humour, and Remus paid attention. She pressed back at him on every level, demanding an answer. “I – I suppose that…” You don’t understand, the wolf told him, in a tone that he supposed would have been interpreted as flat if it had been given voice. “I suppose I don’t understand. On some level.”
The look on her face softened again. There was a long silence in the room, broken only by a muted tap tap tap against the glass pane in the window. She looked up. It was raining. The room had gotten darker when clouds covered the waning moon. “I suppose I don’t understand, either,” she mused. “Why it’s so difficult, anyway.”
“It’s difficult for both of us, then,” he said, and then cleared his throat. Strands of her hair fell down and brushed his cheek, her proximity combined with the nearly total mind meld of the wolves was practically intoxicating, without meaning it to.
Her leg was sneaking over his, and even though she was moving slowly, it didn’t feel like slow motion. It felt way too fast. What are you doing?
Trust me. “You know, some werewolves say that their wolves were always a part of them… and when they were bitten, they were awakened. It almost makes us the higher life form.”
His hand lifted again, to go to her hip this time and just as last time, he hesitated. But it didn’t seem to matter, because she wasn’t paying attention. “You know why it’s not odd or unusual for a werewolf to choose one of their own to be intimate with?” she continued on with what he presumed was a rhetorical question. “Especially a named. There’s already that… connection. The tie. There’s trust, and love. In the best of situations, anyway.”
“Are you telling me the sex is better because there are two different levels?” It was a deflective, flippant question, because he was very aware of where her legs were (situated on either side of him, her bony hips straddling his), where her hands were (clenching onto his shirt), and of the look on her face (terribly honest and open and unreadable all the same, he dared not push her with the wolf to find out).
“I wouldn’t know,” she said in a tone so low it was almost lost in the sound of the rain. “But I know it doesn’t work without those two things, so does everyone else. It’s why we could trick Fenrir into killing Laurel, it’s why Geoff and Mel worked, it’s why everyone thinks Conor screws me.”
A remote part of Remus’s brain noted that she used the present tense, perhaps not unintentionally. “And why does everyone think I screw you?” he asked.
“Because they think you’re the heir to the pack taking your privilege. Because I don’t want to die. I couldn’t refuse you,” she said, swallowing hard. She reached out to him with the wolf. I want you. It sounded fake, even in her own head; she flinched and couldn’t stand to see the look that crossed his face.
No you don’t, he responded quickly, discouraging. This time his hands went right where they wanted to, holding on to her arms. Look at me. Something changed in her eyes, and there was no wolf, only the girl, pleading. “Bri,” he said. She couldn’t want this. “Bri,” he repeated, a little more severely.
She looked away again and he could feel her retreat into the back corners of her head. “I don’t,” she said tremulously. “I don’t, I shouldn’t have said anything, I’m sorry…” she trailed off, words failing her. She hid her face in his neck, going rigid with the effort of keeping herself together; she was determined to remain calm and not let the extreme stress on them all get the better of her.
Remus touched her back, lightly, but she tightened her hold and so did he. “We’re all scared for what’s to come,” he said. That much he understood. “It’ll be over tomorrow.”
She tried to laugh, but it came out strained. “One way or another, yeah, it will be,” she agreed. It wasn’t much of a comfort.
The embrace was one of the simplest feelings of comfort he’d had in a long time. “We’ve come this far, we’re not about to die now, I should think,” he said calmly. The universe couldn’t be that cruel – then again, had the universe shown them any mercy yet?
“I don’t think anyone thinks they’re about to die before something like this,” she replied restrainedly, and cleared her throat. She felt a little bit better, but there was still an overwhelming sense of dread. “If the witch is coming back tomorrow and she brings all of her friends with her… then we’re in trouble.”
Remus hesitated. For this final stage of the plan they were counting heavily on Alecto bringing no one to fight Fenrir’s side – or almost no one. They had seven. The four of Hati’s family were all formidable duelists, and Jane was easily of the same caliber, so Remus had been told. Jeremy had learned fast, mastering everything Remus had been able to teach him with startling ease. Remus himself didn’t want to overestimate his power, but he was no slouch. But Alecto’s friends, Death Eaters all, were nothing if not aggressive; they fought dirty and used magic that you didn’t find outside of the Restricted Section. If they all answered Alecto’s call, they would be in trouble, and if they lost… “Yeah, if she does, then we are,” he admitted.
Briony didn’t answer for a long time, curled up against Remus’s side. The only sound in the room was the rain. “That’s what I figured,” she said with a note of finality. “Can I stay for a bit?”
“Stay as long as you want,” he answered, and she settled. They listened to the rain and tried not to worry about tomorrow. It was, for the most part, no longer in their hands.