FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,
FernWithy
fernwithy

Shifts, Chapter 24: Escape, pt 2

Ack, so much for the most useful insomnia ever. I came home from work and took a four hour nap! Well, it's probably healthier, anyway. They say better sleep helps with weight problems (we'll see). Last night was another of those miserable leave at night, come in in the morning things--when I'm not dead tired, I tend to be keyed up after work, so...

Well, that's TMI stuff.

Anyway, I left Remus in his office trying to dream up something to distract him from what he considers an absurd reaction to Dora. Let it never be said that Voldemort doesn't serve a legitimate function in society. ;)

(Change in earlier chapter--I was re-reading while getting things in order: It wouldn't make sense for Remus to be the first one to hear Molly crying if he were all the way up on the third floor, so he bedroom has moved to the second floor, near the stairs.)

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Remus stayed up late, putting up with Sirius needling him at every opportunity because he thought that if he went to bed completely exhausted, he would be less likely to dream, or at least to remember his dreams upon waking. As a result, he had only begun to drift into a light slumber when the door crashed open downstairs.

"REMUS! SIRIUS!"

Remus was awake immediately. "Dora?" he called.

"REMUS--DOWNSTAIRS!"

Mrs. Black's portrait began to scream, and as Remus pulled his clothes back on, he heard Dora storm across the hall, stomping her feet. "SHUT UP!" she yelled.

He came out. Sirius was coming down from his third floor room, wearing a striped robe and bedroom slippers.

Dora was standing at the bottom of the stairs, her wand leveled (uselessly) at the portrait, the fingers of her other hand tight on the banister. She was unmorphed again, her black hair free about her shoulders, her eyes dark. "Help me shut her up," she said, glancing at the portrait.

Remus and Sirius slipped around her and grabbed the curtains, pulling them shut. Dora grabbed the middle, as though to keep it from opening again, then leaned her forehead onto the velvet. "We've lost Azkaban," she said.

Sirius took a step back.

"Kingsley made up an errand for me so I could come back here and tell you," Dora said, looking at Remus. "And the Order."

"What happened?"

"Ten of them. Ten prisoners escaped."

Remus caught himself ready to say, Only ten? That's not really the whole prison, but then he realized the absurdity of the notion--Sirius was the only prisoner who had ever escaped. If ten had left at once, Dora was right: In a fundamental way, they had lost control of Azkaban. "I'll call the Order. Now."

She nodded. "Kingsley and I won't be able to come--not tonight. We hope they haven't gotten far, and we're going to try everything to find them. But Mad-Eye's been skulking about. Kingsley can send him home, since he's meant to be retired. And he can come and tell you everything that's happened."

"Who?" Sirius asked.

Dora closed her eyes. "The worst of them," she said.

"Bellatrix?"

She nodded, not looking up from the curtains. "And others. But, yes, Aunt Bella. Of course. It wouldn't be a party without Aunt Bella." Her hair begain to pull back into her head, losing its length and taking on a florid shade of pink. "I have to go," she said. "Call the meeting. Mad-Eye will be here as soon as he can."

"Be careful," Remus said.

She nodded and left.

Remus didn't hesitate. He sent a summons to all the members of the Order, including the Hogwarts contingent and the far-flung members like Charlie Weasley. They wouldn't all be able to arrive, but they would all need to know that something important had happened. They would check in as soon as they could.

An hour later, the kitchen of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, was filled shoulder-to-shoulder. Arthur and Molly arrived first, looking frazzled (but not, Remus noticed, especially sleepy), followed by Elphias Doge. Dung brought Arabella Figg, then Bill Weasley appeared, dressed as though he'd been out and about. Hestia Jones, Daedelus Diggle, and Emmeline Vance came in quick succession, and--somewhat to Remus's surprise--Olympe Maxime bent at the waist to duck under the kitchen door frame and took a seat on a chopping block. Fleur Delacour embraced her when she arrived, and they spoke in rapid French. Remus caught enough of it to know that they were both confused by the summons. He waited only until Alastor Moody arrived before calling the meeting to order.

"I'm sorry to disturb you all in the middle of the night," he said, looking at several puffy faces sitting around the room. "But something has happened tonight, and we can't afford to wait to respond to it. Alastor?"

Moody nodded and stood up. "Just after midnight," he said, "ten Death Eaters escaped from Azkaban."

Shocked silence.

Then the explosion.

"Only ten... but... TEN?"

"Who are they--"

"How did they--"

"What will they--"

"Was it You-Know--"

"What is the Ministry--"

"Is this what they were--"

Remus held up his hand, and slowly the babble subsided. He nodded to Moody.

Moddy nodded back solemnly. "Voldemort has made his move. The one we've been expecting for a month. And we were nowhere near it."

Olympe Maxime looked confused. "But I was lead to believe... Ze giants..."

Remus sighed. "And I was led to werewolves, and all of us to Harry, or possibly a threat against the returning students. But it wasn't giants, it wasn't werewolves, and it wasn't Harry or Hogwarts. Voldemort--"

"--and bloody Wormtail--" Sirius put in.

"--led the whole Order on a snorkack hunt. Or a series of them. This is what he was planning. This is what the activity we've been seeing was about. And we didn't see it coming at all."

No one said anything.

Molly Weasley, unusually pale, was grasping Arthur's hand. Finally, she looked up at Moody. "Was Dolohov one of them?"

Moody nodded and Molly closed her eyes. Antonin Dolohov had led the team that had killed her two younger brothers, Gideon and Fabian Prewett. Arthur drew her her to him and put his arm tightly around her shoulders. After a moment, he crossed his other arm in front of her and held her fully. She finally opened her eyes.

"How could this have happened?" Arthur asked.

"It couldn't have," Sirius said dully. "It couldn't have happened as things were. Getting by the Dementors isn't easy work. They have to recognize one's authority. And even that can be chancy. I escaped them by making myself mentally invisible to them. Ten people at once? It would never work. This can't have happened... unless the Dementors of Azkaban are answering to a new master."

"We should have allies now," Hestia said. "The Ministry won't be able to--"

Moody snarled. "The Ministry is already coming up with its own theories. Just before I left, Dawlish told everyone who'd listen that he knows who's behind it all. Got into quite a fight with Kingsley, since he didn't manage to catch Black here before he could pull this off."

"Right," Sirius said. "Because I've missed Bella and her slave of a husband so very much."

"No one who knows them could seriously believe that," Remus said, then shook his head. "Of course. Yes, of course. Naturally. Why not?"

Moody gritted his teeth. "That's what they'll take, too."

"What are we going to do?" Bill asked.

"You're going to keep doing what you're doing," Remus said. "Watch the money. It's going somewhere. They're buying something. Most likely a headquarters as protected as this one, but we should see what we can find."

"Allies or not," Moody said, "the Ministry will at least have its eyes open for these ten. It might be as well for Aurors to capture them. Any of you might be accused of collaborating with them if you bring them in."

There was an burst of outrage at this, but no one could argue with the possibility, and it settled into a disgruntled sourness.

Remus spoke into it. "We should search. Do what we can. Anything we find can make its way to the Aurors through Dora and Kingsley."

He noticed Fleur lean over to Bill and heard her whisper, "Dora?" to which Bill muttered in reply, "Tonks." Fleur nodded.

Remus decided that he had to remember that, at least in meetings.

"What about the rest of us?" Emmeline asked.

"This needs to be a priority," Remus said, thinking with some pain of leaving Smeltings. "We should seriously consider--"

The door at the top of the stairs opened. "You're to stay where you are," Minerva McGonagall said. She came down into the kitchen. "I've been speaking to Albus. I was able to slip away. He doesn't want to leave Hogwarts unprotected tonight himself. And of course Hagrid is under constant watch." She grimaced. "I suppose you realize that the Ministry will be looking for them?"

They all nodded.

Minerva sat down in a spot that Bill Weasley vacated for her. "What they won't do is take seriously what the escape means. The people who will need to be protected. And"--she looked at Remus--"Mr. Dursley is certainly high on a list of probable targets. Not as a way to reach Mr. Potter anymore, but as a way to strike at him."

There were some puzzled looks; most of the people gathered didn't know what Remus's assignment was, or have any clear idea who Dudley was.

"That horrid cousin of his?" Bill asked. "Surely, they don't think Harry would grieve too deeply for him?"

"Dudley's his cousin," Molly said.

Remus agreed. "Dudley wouldn't be a target if it weren't for his relationship to Harry, and he is, for all intents and purposes, helpless against a magical attack. How do you think Harry would feel about it?"

Arabella Figg, wrinkling her nose, said, "That's true. He practically carried the Dursley boy home--without magic--after they were attacked this summer, and Dudley's a lot bigger than he is."

Bill closed his eyes. "Right. I imagine like I'd feel if it were--"

Arthur shook his head slightly and Bill didn't finish the sentence. Molly seemed to understand what he was saying though. Her mouth formed the word "Percy," and she turned her face against Arthur's robes.

"We have to assume from their recent behavior that they have a good idea of at least some of our identities," Remus said. "Most of us were here the first time around. We'll need to find a way to guard the people not in our direct circle."

"That's Dumbledore's advice," Minerva said. "He brought up Mrs. Longbottom, in particular, as well as Frank and Alice Longbottom, who are relatively helpless at St. Mungo's."

"And Percy," Arthur insisted. Remus was surprised; he'd expected it from Molly first.

"I think we should keep a close eye on him if we can," Minerva agreed.

They spent an hour, perhaps longer, discussing the escaped Death Eaters and any likely targets who weren't well-protected. Sirius campaigned for Molly and Arthur to move back to Grimmauld Place, but they both flatly refused, and in the end, he settled for finding some of the hiding Charms that had been used here to help protect the Burrow. Remus would talk to Andromeda, Ted, and Mehadi Patil about the St. Mungo's issue, and Molly volunteered to go to Mrs. Longbottom, who she assumed would tacitly want some support at a time like this anyway. Emmeline Vance was deeply entrenched in Muggle-born political circles, and suggested that all Muggle-borns would need to be on the alert. She would call a meeting of that organization. Even if they were Ministry loyalists, they would have to understand that a free Bellatrix Lestrange posed a danger to them.

"Which brings me to a point that I want to discuss with you privately," Minerva said to Remus.

Mundungus Fletcher insisted on an increase in security at Arabella's home, campaigning for Fidelius (he would be the Secret Keeper, he said, and would bloody well not tell anyone), but she opted against it, as she had too much business to conduct for people not to be able to find her. Hermione Granger's parents, already under a modicum of Order protection, would have to be made aware of the situation and protected. Arthur, who had established some kind of rapport with them, agreed to go to them. Even at a moment like this, he couldn't quite disguise his glee at having a mission in the Muggle world.

It was nearly dawn when the meeting broke up, and Minerva drew Remus aside. She pulled a small scroll from the air and handed it to him. It was sealed. "This is from Albus Dumbledore," she said. "For Ted and Andromeda Tonks. They are in great danger from Bellatrix. She's targeted them before and certainly will again. She's never had any tolerance for her sister's marriage. No matter how much they're watched, they may need a place to escape to. A place under Fidelius."

Remus took the scroll and nodded.

"Use your judgment about giving it to them. I know young Miss Tonks would approve immediately, but Albus wants it thought through carefully. Andromeda is still one of the Black sisters, just as young Dudley Dursley is still Harry's cousin."

"I'll talk to them," Remus said. "And don't underestimate Dora Tonks."

Minerva raised an eyebrow, the closest she'd ever come to expressing personal curiosity, then shook her head. "I don't. She was my student and is a clever young woman. But she thinks with her feelings as often as she thinks with her mind, and we need a mind on this. She's too close to her parents to see them with any degree of clarity. Which is as it should be."

Remus didn't address this. "I feel that I should be spending more time on Order work, and less at Smeltings, especially now."

"No. That's an absolute directive from Dumbledore. Not only would an attack on the Dursley boy distress Harry, it would also perhaps be the only thing that would cause Petunia Dursley to go back on her word. And Harry still needs the protection of his mother's blood."

"He's asked me to teach him to defend himself against magical attacks."

Minerva looked at him, shocked. "You haven't--"

"I used my judgment."

She blinked. "That's on your head, Remus. Be careful. Then again, you do know what you're doing." She sighed. "If Dolores Umbridge fails to leave the school at the end of the year, I'm going to leave Hogwarts," she said out of nowhere.

"What? No, Minerva, you're a fine teacher, and you're needed."

"I didn't say I'd stop teaching." She looked over her shoulder. "If she's still there, I'll start a new school. I'd want you in it."

"No," Remus said.

"Why in heaven's name not? You'd be teaching, and you wouldn't have to surround yourself with lies."

Remus smiled. "Because I don't want a reason to hope that Dolores Umbridge will stay at Hogwarts."

Minerva gave one of her sharp smiles, the only sign of amusement anyone generally got from her. "As you like. With our recent history, there's a good chance we'll see the end of Umbridge at any rate. I'd certainly rather see Hogwarts shut of her than leave it to her."

With that, she left, and the house was silent again.
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