Harry's Order friends start to piece together his disappearance.
Voldemort was reclining on his throne, eyes partially closed and covered by a nictitating membrane. Anyone looking on the Dark Lord in his repose would know in an instant that he was not human. The incoming sound of aportkey drew him from his torpor. LeStrange appeared on the floor in front of his dais thrashing in obvious pain. His breathing was labored and quick.
Voldemort stepped down to the man. With a casual flick of the wand, LeStrange was flipped on his back. The Dark Lord's eyes slit in anger as he crouched down to look into the man's face.
"Rabastan... What has happened?"
LeStrange's eyes barely focused through the pain. His lips were showing a cyanotic blue as his cardiovascular system collapsed due to the ravaging snake venom. He drew a shaky breath and spoke.
"My Lord.... We were ambushed! Please... a potion to stop the poison! Anything!"
Voldemort looked at the writhing man with disgust. "Why would I save someone who had so obviously failed me? No. I think I shall just take what I need and let you die in pain. Legilimens!"
It was never a good idea to be in mind contact with a dying person. The pain was transferred to you and if you could not occlude it enough, would drag you with it until the person expired. People had been driven mad by less. He quickly ripped through Rabastan's memories of the night, and stopped on the vision of the man who had defeated him. One look was all he needed. Potter!
The sound of another incoming portkey broke his attention just as the poisoned death eater was gasping his last few weak breaths. Two more bodies appeared next to the dead LeStrange. One was quite obviously dead, if the charred hole in its chest was anything to judge by, but the one underneath it was feebly struggling and squealing to be freed.
Voldemort stood and went to his throne. He seated himself and waited patiently for Wormtail to push the dead body off. As Peter stood, Voldemort stood.
The red crackle of energy licked over Peter's body. In an instant he was screaming his lungs out. Writhing on the floor and kicking in convulsions, Peter had been caught unawares. The pain from the spell was magnified a hundred fold due to the surprise. His voice cracked as his vocal cords were injured by the soul wrenching cries.
The Dark Lord lounged back as he released the man from his suffering. Peter lay on the floor for a few minutes whimpering as the waves of pain slowly left his body. He sluggishly rolled over and pushed himself to akneeling position in front of his master.
"My lord... I'm sorry. We were attacked! They knew we were coming!"
Voldemort sat regarding the man in front of him. Why he kept him alive was almost beyond him. Aside from his unwavering loyalty he was almost useless. Sadly, the man was also one of the few people the Dark Lord could trust not to stab him in the back. He leaped from the throne and in aflurry of robes was snarling inches from Wormtail's face.
"It was Potter! He was there! You were supposed to bring him to me... But failed!"
Wormtail began to shake in fear. He could see LeStrange was dead. And if the look and color of his face was any indication, it was a very painful one.
"I'm sorry, Master! He cut through us like nothing I've seen before!"
Voldemort went back to his throne. He stood in contemplation for a few seconds. "Potter's mind is closed to me again. He couldn't have shielded again. He must be unconscious. Maybe you didn't do as badly as I had thought. Still... You disappoint me. Come here, Worm!"
Wormtail staggered over to the Dark Lord and kneeled. Voldemort grabbed his flesh arm and pressed his wand to the Dark Mark there. Liquid fire roiled though Peter's veins as Voldemort summoned another of his minions.
Several minutes later, Lucius Malfoy entered the room. He swirled his cape over his shoulder as he bowed in front of the Dark Lord. "I come as you summoned, My Lord. What can this servant do for you?"
The next words struck an ice cold fear into Lucius' heart.
"Potter has surfaced again. Use your authority and issue awarrant for his arrest. Make it something suitably vile so the general public will be against him and provide it to our agent in the Daily Prophet as well. Once he is sent to Azkaban, I can deal with him at my leisure. Now go!"
Malfoy bowed again. "At once, my lord!" He turned and strode out of the room.
Thoughts were rushing through Lucius Malfoy's head.
How had Potter escaped his hunting teams? He was a wreck of a man when he had been released from Azkaban a few months ago, and now... If The Dark Lord manages to capture him, I will be undone! He MUST be killed!
The fireplace flared with an incoming floo traveler. Remus glanced up from the Prophet in his hands to see Tonks step out of the green flames. His face softened as he watched her brush off the soot gathered while spinning through the floos.
Tonks finished casting her cleansing spells. She turned to see Remus watching her past his paper. The years had been hard on her lover. His monthly changes had always taken their toll, but losing Sirius and then Harry within weeks of each other had almost broken him. When Harry had first disappeared, Remus was focused on finding him to the point of excluding everything else. He finally came to his senses when Tonks had put herself in danger trying to get him into a locked room as his transformation overcame him.
The next morning, Remus had been so devastated at his lapse that he had dropped into a deep depression. It had been a close thing when the next full moon had come around. Remus had honestly considered allowing the Aurors to take him down with the Silver Dart spell. Tonks had tied him down and forced the wolvesbane potion down his throat. It was only through her support and hard love that he had come out of the funk to get some treatment from Poppy Pomfrey.
"Hi, Tonks. How was your day?" Tonks plopped down onto the loveseat next to him. She drew a breath and let it out slowly as she stared at the floor. Remus' brow furrowed in concern. He knew there was something on her mind that was bothering her. "What's up?"
Without looking up she spoke. "I saw Harry today."
The sound of the tea cup breaking was all that broke the silence. Tonk's looked up to see the tears rolling down his ashen face.
In almost a whisper, Remus finally spoke. "Where has he been?"
"He's been away. He was..." Her throat caught and a coughing spell interrupted her. Remus handed her a hastily poured cup of tea to help clear her throat. "Thanks. He's been in.." A sudden wave of nausea had her swallowing her gorge several times to prevent from spewing on the floor. She got herself under control and shook her head.
"I can't. The Ministry Oath won't let me!"
Remus' face screwed up into confusion. "Why would your oath prevent you from telling me where he's been? What's going on, Tonks!"
Tonks explained as much as she could over the next ten minutes. First the call to St. Mungo's and the subsequent investigation into what had happened, leading right up to finding Harry covering for Snape. "And to top it all off, Moody ran interference for him to get away before I could do anything else. I know where he's been, and it's a doozy... but I can't say anything!"
Remus sat back in his chair, deep in thought. He finally shook his head as he spoke. "We have an order meeting tonight. I'll confront Moody and find out what in Merlin's name is going on! I swore that if I ever found Harry again I would do anything to help him, and so help me I shall!"
The fireplace in The Burrow flared into life and a familiar voice drew Molly from her kitchen.
"Hello? Any Weasley's home?" Remus Lupin's face and head were framed in the green flame of the floo.
"Remus! It's been a while! What do we owe the pleasure of the call? Oh! Where are my manners. Come through. I'll put some tea on."
Lupin stepped through the fireplace and into The Burrow. He casually used his wand to clean the shabby clothes he wore and then followed Molly into the kitchen.
Over the years, the kitchen in The Burrow had hosted all kinds of people. Whether it was the Minister of Magic or the Supreme Mugwump, Molly Weasley always had something appropriate in her larder. She had fed her family daily for years, and still liked to have all of them get together for a true meal, spouses and all.
Remus took a seat at the table. The chair's wood was worn so smooth that it was almost slippery to the touch. Molly smiled as she poured the tea and performed the duties of "mother".
"What do we owe the visit to? Not that you have to have areason to come by, Remus!"
Moony had a sip of the tea and took a moment to gather his thoughts. He decided to come right out with it.
"Harry has been found." He watched Molly's face. Her "son from another mother" had been close to her heart and Harry's disappearance had hurt her badly. He saw a moment's hesitation before she spoke.
"I know. He was here for Bill's birthday supper. Oh, Remus!I wanted to tell you and Albus, but we swore to keep it quiet. Harry was so terribly broken. He has been to hell and back, and looks like a man who has survived the trip, just barely."
"But he's ok? He's healthy?"
Molly surmised the man in front of her. She could see it was genuine concern for Harry that drove him. His poise was of a relief being lifted from his shoulders as she spoke.
"He looks strong and well fed. He said he has a job that he enjoys, and has been working through the demons that pursued him in the past. He has some more things that he wanted to set straight before returning to the world fully, but he's on his way. We have a letter drop for him. Would you like to send one?"
Remus smiled and pulled an already inked parchment, folded and sealed with the marauder seal. "Please, Molly.... And if you would send for me as soon as there is a reply? Your news fills this old wolf's heart with hope."
Later that night at Gimmauld Place, Tonks and Remus sat in the kitchen. He was relaxed back on the kitchen chair with a cup of tea. His eyes scanned across the various people who were settling in. The kitchen door slammed open as Snape strode in from the front hall. His cloak swirled around him as he came to a stop. He glanced at Remus and sneered before settling at the other end of the table. Remus noticed that Mad Eye was not at the meeting.
Dumbledore and Minerva flashed into existence as Fawkes brought them from Hogwarts. With a gentle smile for Molly's offering of tea, he sat at the head of the table.
"Ah! Severus! I'm glad you are here. Perhaps you could start by telling us what happened at St. Mungo's?"
Snape cleared his throat and stood. "The Dark Lord was trying to sew some chaos, and destabilize the current ministry to the point of paralysis by striking at the hospital. By attacking a previously untouched place that had been perceived as 'safe' by the public, he could move attention away from his other objective. An objective, of which I have not been informed."
Snape's lip curled in distaste as he continued to speak. "I was attempting to put everyone into a torpor to prevent as much death as Icould when the door to the potions lab burst. Some vigilante had decided to try to fight. He used some kind of attack spell I have not experienced before that rendered me unconscious. I am still trying to sort out my memories of the incident."
Albus nodded. He looked to Tonks. "Do you have anything to add? From what I understand you were one of the responding officers."
"That's right. We arrived within a few minutes of the panic alarm being set off. Upon arrival we found several people had already been killed. I was called by a rookie auror when he came across a situation he was not sure how to handle. When I arrived... I found a man claiming to be James Black."
The room was silent as people tried to puzzle out her story. McGonagall's face went pale and she gasped. Dumbledore stroked his beard and looked at the ceiling in contemplation.
"James Black? I know of no Black's that were named that way."
Snape burst out of his chair. "Potter! It was that mal-adjusted little snot-nosed bastard... Wasn't it!"
Tonks tried to keep from laughing at the apoplectic rage that Snape was building. Remus spoke quietly. "Sit down and behave, Snivelus. He bested you and you are just being petulant now."
Albus Dumbledore roared, "Enough! We gain nothing by infighting!"
The room was quiet as Dumbledore looked at each person. Taking a moment to regain his composure, he sat back down. "Were you able to find out where Harry has been all this time, Nymphadora?"
"I'm sorry, Headmaster. I'm unable to speak about it. Amagical oath prevents me from divulging any information."
Dumbledore stroked his beard and finally sighed. "We need to find Mr. Potter and bring him to headquarters. He is in great danger. Voldemort has increased his attacks and the ministry has become too corrupt to fight him effectively now. If anyone sees or hears of Harry, please contact me immediately!"
The meeting broke up shortly after. Dumbledore was lost in thought. He didn't even notice when Remus and Tonks left.
The Leaky Cauldron was louder than had been usual. With the recent thwarted attack in Diagon Alley, people who had heard about it were celebrating. You-Know-Who was not as all powerful as people had thought. They could relax... For now, at least.
Remus glanced around for a free seat. Only a few at the bar were available. He eased himself between two other bodies at the packed bar. Aquick wave and smile were all that it took for Tom to come over.
"What would you like? If it's supper, you'll have to sit here at the bar. I have no booths open, as you can see."
Remus placed a ten galleon coin on the bar and slid it over to Tom.
"I need some information, Tom. I know you see everything that happens in this pub. Between you and Alastor, you have one of the best spy networks I know of. Have you seen Harry Potter?"
Tom glanced nervously at the raucous patrons all around and back at Lupin. He leaned in to make himself heard without yelling.
"I haven't seen anyone who looks like him. The boy-who-lived is gone. Everyone knows that!"
Remus' eyes narrowed as he caught the scent of fear rolling off the man. He snatched the barkeep's shirt in his hand and pulled him closer to his face, and a snarl ripped from his lips.
"Lie! I swear I will do anything to find him. Now spill!"
Tom's eyes never left Lupin's gaze. A small smile flickered across his mouth as Remus felt the familiar burn of a sliver blade poking him in the back just over his kidney. Without turning his head, he glanced over his shoulder to see a familiar crazy blue eye spinning in its socket.
"Let him go slowly and relax back onto the stool. Do we have an understanding?" Moody hissed.
Remus relaxed his grip and settled back to the stool. Tom lifted the coin from the bar and slapped down a key for one of the rooms above the pub. Moody swiped the key off the bar. The silver knife disappeared from Remus'back.
"Room 2. Five minutes. Knock twice and come in." Moody turned away and melted into the crowd. Lupin sat on the stool for the five minutes and calmed his racing heart. That was the closest he had come to silver in a long time. All it would have taken was a quick slice and the metal would have poisoned his blood for days. To actually be stabbed... would have been a slow death sentence.
He gathered himself and pushed away from the bar. The patrons in his way seemed to melt away, almost as if they could sense that he was a man not to be trifled with. Lupin stepped up the stairs, and pulled his wand from its wrist holster. He stopped and listened intently at the door with the large black iron "2" on its face. Even with his enhanced hearing, he couldn't hear anything out of the ordinary over the noise coming from the main tap room.
Remus rapped the door twice, pulled it open and stepped in and to the right quickly. His wand was up and he scanned the room. Before he could react a flurry of ropes snared his arms and legs to his sides. He had been caught in an incarcerous spell.
Movement caught his eye and Moody dispelled the disillusion charm that he had been using. He kept his wand pointed at Lupin the entire time.
"Prove your who you say you are or I will end you right here." Moody's voice was gravelly and low, with just the right amount of threat in it to make Remus believe that if he answered wrong he would be seeing James, Sirius and Lilly again.
"If you look at that photo of the original Order that you carry around, I am standing in the back left side, just behind James and Lilly."
Moody flicked his wand and the ropes holding Lupin in place disintegrated. He gestured for him to come further into the room.
"You took an awful chance looking for me, Lupin. In these dark days I tend to hex first and not care what happens to the body."
Remus grimaced at how sloppy he had been. The overwhelming urge to help Harry had made him careless. He had sworn on his magic to do whatever it took to find him and keep him safe. The oath had pushed him into some untenable situations in the past few years, but nothing as bad as what had almost happened here.
"Moody, you know where Harry is. You are in regular contact with him. I need to see him! You, of all people, should know about the bond the Mauraders shared. He's James' and Lilly's son. I'm his sworn protector. It's not just an emotional response!"
Moody snorted. "I always thought that Lilly Potter was a bit loopy with all those rituals and magic bonding she was doing... at least until it made that spell backfire and vaporize Riddle when Harry was a lad. What did she call you? The 'Custos'?"
"Yes. The ritual had specific requirements. I was chosen to be the force, or guardian, due to my lycanthropy. Ever wondered how I managed to make it this long without burning out like most werewolves do? It's because the ritual fuels the healing between the changes. Sirius was the Guide, thus his status as Godfather. Of course, James and Lilly were Pater and Mater. Father and Mother."
"And what, pray tell, was Wormtail? How does he fit in to this? I find it hard to believe that lump of filth has any redeeming qualities!"
Lupin wiped his hand across his face and sighed. "The Ritual required five. He was the power foundation of the whole thing. While he may not be the best wizard in the world, he is not a squib. Lilly used him as a power tap. She truly was the smartest of us all."
"Now, Alastor, where is Harry?"
Moody was absently scratching his chin. "When was the last time you got a wand polishing kit? Your wand is looking a bit... 'black'. Go and get one from Ollivander's."
With a wink of his good eye, he strode over to Lupin. "Make sure you go tomorrow." With a crack, he disapparated.
A thousand pardons for letting this story go for so long without an update! I had a few upset reviews that made me realize how long it really had been! /Hopefully/, I can get out updates about once a month from now until it is finished. I need to flesh out my plot notes for the rest of the story, and consider how I want to handle any ship that may blossom.
I had to re-write this chapter a few times to get it to the point that I felt it wasn't too OOC and disrupt the atmosphere I had built with the rest of the story. I hope I didn't screw it up too badly!