Table of Contents and Summary So Far
The rest of the week seemed to take an eternity. Time flowed as sluggishly as Polyjuice Potion, sometimes seeming to stop altogether, then finally taking a sudden and violent lurch forward. Dora was short-tempered and nervous, and when Savage tried to renege on an agreement to trade shifts with her so she could have the afternoon before the full moon off and be ready to move, she burst into frustrated, angry tears in the kitchen of the Shrieking Shack.
Remus stayed with her, sitting awkwardly across the kitchen table, strangely irritated with her, but feeling that, after this year, he owed her at the very least a moment's patience with her own minor breakdowns.
"I'm sorry," she said, shaking her head at her teacup. "I'll just go back and tell Savage it needs to be the way we agreed. I can't just rearrange my schedule every time they ask."
"I feel awful about it. It's some family thing, and I'm in the way of it. I usually volunteer to cover things of that sort, since I'm not attached. Only this time, I am."
"I didn't mean it that way. God, Remus. You know better. I'm not the one wishing not to be attached."
"Can we not do this, Dora?"
Her eyes softened, and she nodded. "I don't want to do this, either."
He started to take her hand, but the moon was riding high in the sky, and between his irritation with her and other feelings that always seemed to be there, he was deathly afraid to start touching her. He went to the window. The moon was as big as he ever saw it.
Vivian's visit seemed a year ago, but he felt suddenly rushed, like a Death Curse was rushing toward him and he didn't have time to move out of the way.
"I do have to go," Dora said. "It was tonight I traded for tomorrow."
He turned. "You'll sleep in the morning, won't you? You need to alert..."
"I'll sleep. I have a potion if I have trouble. If I'm not here by noon, though, come after me."
She stopped at the door on her way out and turned to him. "I want this to be over," she said. Then her eyes widened. "The pups, I mean. The moon. I want to be on the other side of it."
"I know what you mean."
She nodded and slipped out into the night. He watched from an upper window for an hour, until he saw her drift by on her night patrol. She looked up to the window, but from where she was, she would still see only the illusion of boarding. She went on down the road.
He went to the Hog's Head at noon when she failed to appear, and found her more lively than she'd been last night, if not in particularly better spirits. She'd pulled on old jeans and an oversized T-shirt, and was digging under her bed when he leaned into the room. She'd lost quite a lot of weight this year, and her elbows and hips looked sharp and bony. She needed to eat, to rest, and to get rid of all the baggage (particularly one tatty piece of it) that was dragging her down.
"Dora?" he said.
"Overslept," she said, glancing up briefly. "But I'm up. I can't find my other trainer. I want to be able to run if necessary."
"Good thinking. Though I don't want you off your broom if you can help it." He took a deep breath. "How are you feeling, Dora?"
She found her shoe and sat down on her bed to put it on. "Do you remember how Sirius used to go in the room with Buckbeak, and just drink and talk to him?"
"I was wondering if Buckbeak would like a visitor at Hogwarts. Because that sounds very appealing just now."
Remus rolled his eyes. "That was useless when Sirius did it, and I can't imagine it would be much more helpful if you were to take up the habit."
"I don't have time for it anyway," she said, and pulled her trainer laces tight. The shoes were mismatched, one bright blue and the other bright green, with yellow laces that had purple dots on them. They were so incongruous with her this year, so much a part of the old Dora--the flighty, pink-haired, laughing girl she had been before he'd dragged her into his world--that it hit Remus with almost physical force, pressing against his chest and making it hard to breathe.
He shook it off. "We'd best get back to my place," he said. "The others will be there soon."
She nodded and followed him back to the Shrieking Shack, neither of them saying anything. Remus made a large afternoon meal for the team, while Dora sat at the table, turning her teacup in circles. "I'm actually frightened," she said after a while.
"Did you expect not to be?"
"I'm usually not. Not on this sort of thing. But I'm terrified."
"Just stay high up," Remus said. "We won't be able to reach you if you stay high."
She looked down. "I'll see you change."
He stopped. He'd known it in an abstract way, but he hadn't really thought about it. "I can't think of a good way around it. I need to be there to help get the children together, and it's not safe for you to be on the ground with them. Maybe it's for the best that you see it. Then you'll know everything." He turned away from her and began to chop parsley. "Dora... I know I don't need to remind you about this... not in an intellectual sense, at any rate. But when I've changed, you mustn't think, even for a moment, that you can get any closer to me than you can to the others."
"Why should the full moon be any different?" she asked bitterly.
There was a moment of stilted silence, and Remus contemplated the wisdom of apologizing to her (he suspected that she was contemplating the same in reverse), then there was a sharp rap on the trapdoor heralding the arrival of Minerva McGonagall. By the time Remus had helped her up into the entrance hall, Dora was opening the back door to let the five Weasleys (and Fleur) in. Lunch was a cluttered, somewhat chaotic affair that reminded Remus rather of Greyback's pre-transformation feasts, which he supposed was rather appropriate, given the circumstance. Greyback himself would be preparing for whatever journey he intended to go on, the pups would be stuffing themselves on barely cooked rabbits, and Mina and the women would be glowering. They would be the most difficult of the obstacles without Mag to help, but he hoped they would simply go to their cave and not realize anything was wrong until it was too late to stop. Without Greyback there, Mina would have little reason to be roaming, and the others never did.
The guards who would be in the Forbidden Forest reviewed their plan, which was as simple as it was possible to be--each would step up to the gate in turn and take responsibility for the werewolf coming through, and once they were all through, they would form a kind of living trap circle. Dora gave each of them a vial of Enlivening Elixir, if they needed it to keep their eyes open overnight.
Just before three o'clock, Remus watched them all (except Hagrid) disappear into the tunnel. Hagrid, who didn't fit, made a great show of getting a pint of mead and heading back up the road, like he'd just been in the village to run a quick errand.
"This is it, then," Dora said.
Beside her, Remus nodded. He held out his arm. "I'll take you there," he said. "No sense being seen following Hagrid down the road."
She grabbed hold of his forearm and squeezed tightly with one hand, holding her broom between them with the other. Remus thought of a quiet glade, far from the gathering place, near the ruins of his shack. Hogsmeade disappeared and he pulled them into Greyback's forest.
He panicked for a moment that they weren't alone, but he realized quickly that the cracking and splitting sounds around them were just branches swollen with cold early spring water, cracking under the weight after a long winter.
He let go of Dora and stepped away. "Come on," he said. "I know where they'll be. We'll need to stay quiet."
She nodded and followed him along the path to the glade by the waterfall. He stopped at the edge of the clearing, and they crouched behind an evergreen bush. The river was swollen and raging, drowning out most of the conversations, but even a cursory glance was enough to show that Greyback and the men had already gone. The pups were cleaning up from the feast while Mina and the other women were gathering the girls to go back to the cave.
At first, Remus didn't see Alderman and panicked that he'd been dragged along on Greyback's scheme, but then the boy appeared from upriver, scrambling down the rocks. He looked directly at Remus and Dora, but didn't acknowledge them. Instead, he grabbed Evvie by the shoulder and spun her around, tossing one of her hair ribbons toward the trees.
"Leave it!" Mina said.
"It's my favorite, and will get all sodden," Evvie complained, and stalked over, Alderman shadowing her subtly. She froze when she saw Remus, but Dora gave her a smile and raised her eyebrows.
Alderman sauntered over.
"Sorry, Ev," he said loudly. "Couldn't help myself." He picked up the ribbon and tied it into her hair, speaking quietly with his back turned toward Mina. "Tell them how you'll get away from Mina," he said, and Remus blessed him a thousand times for thinking to go over it with her.
"We'll go into the cave with all of them, but--Alderman, you're tugging!--they always ignore us at first. We can get out Sweet's way. The way she did the night she got out."
"You saw this in a dream?" Remus asked.
"No, I followed her." Evvie crossed her eyes at him.
Alderman had dawdled as long over the ribbon as he dared. "There you are. A right little film princess."
She stuck her tongue out at him and kicked him in the shins for good measure, then ran back to Mina, who had the other girls huddled near the cave.
Slowly, they filed out.
As soon as they were gone, Alderman made a motion with his hands, and the boys gathered around him. Remus was shocked at the look of Blondin, who'd lost his rabbit skull necklace and apparently used his knife to hack off his hair. His always volatile temper seemed to be in slow-burn. Hamilton narrowed his eyes suspiciously. None of the others looked like they were expecting a normal transformation. Aldmeran's inquiries had not, apparently, been as subtle as he thought.
"Lupin's here," Alderman announced. "And he's going to get us all out. Anyone who doesn't want to go, speak up now."
No one spoke.
Alderman made a quick gesture, and Remus led Dora out of hiding. To his complete shock, Blondin flew at him and hugged him fiercely. "You really did come back," he said.
"He does that sometimes," Dora said.
"We need to get to the girls' area," Remus said, patting Blondin's head and pushing him gently away. "That's where we can get out and get somewhere safe."
There was no argument.
It was going smoothly.
It was unnerving.
They were careful as they picked their way down to the clearing with the gate, where most of the boys had never set foot (though Hamilton looked suspiciously familiar with it). Evvie had got the girls out already, and they were waiting.
She smiled shyly. "Did I do it right?"
"You were just fine," Dora said. "Mina and the others are in there?" she asked, pointing at the cave.
Dora raised her wand and pointed it at the cave entrance, doing what Remus guessed was a simple Repulsor spell.
"All right," she said, then looked around and seemed to realize that she was in a clearing with a dozen werewolves less than five minutes before moonrise. Remus could feel the moon moving inside of him, and he could see the children shifting around restlessly. Dora swallowed hard. "I'm going up on my broom," she said. "I'm going to make it impossible to get out of this clearing. In the morning, you'll find yourselves somewhere else. And you'll be safe, even if you don't know the people you see."
"Where are we going?" one of the girls asked.
"You'll see when you get there," Evvie told her, then looked to Dora for approval.
Dora gave it. "Where is Greyback? I'd just like to be safe."
"Off with his political friends, I suppose," Hamilton piped up. "He wouldn't tell. He just dragged off all the men."
"Well, hopefully that means he's Peter and Bella's problem," Remus said.
Alderman grinned. "Wow. After all the build-up, this is almost easy. All we have to do is run about!"
"Yes, it's working well," Dora said, moving her broomstick around herself to prepare for flight.
"I thought for sure Greyback would pull a sneak-back," Alderman went on. "I thought he'd caught me up at Montgomery's."
"Well, we had Montgomery accuse you of stealing."
"I don't reckon Greyback cares much about that." Alderman stripped his shirt off, noticed Dora, and frowned at his trousers in a confounded sort of way. She turned to let him take them off. "It's just after that other fellow was by, I thought everyone in the forest knew something was going on, what with all the shouting."
"Other fellow?" Tonks asked.
"Yeah. Montgomery's brother. He was up here screaming his brains out about"--he dropped into a modest crouch--"how Montgomery didn't understand what he was doing with a bunch of werewolves. Greyback wanted to know why a Muggle priest knew about... Lupin? What is it?"
Remus felt something cold and black steal over his mind.
Montgomery's brother had tripped suspicion.
There had been family photos stolen.
He looked at Dora, now feeling the sky itself pulling at him. "I know where Greyback is," he said.