"RUN!" Snape screamed, his lungs burning and his feet flying across the grass as fast as they could. "Don't you dare, Draco! Don't you dare stop!"
It was beyond Snape's comprehension that the boy still hadn't grasped the severity of their situation, racing across the Hogwarts grounds to the safety of Hogsmeade and Apparition as Dumbledore's broken body landed in a heap at the bottom of the Astronomy Tower. The boy was slowing, one hand clenched in his robes where the knot in his side was presumably blossoming into a knife stroke of pain after the distance they had already covered under such stressful conditions.
But stressful conditions were Snape's forte; he never ran at any other time.
"Get off" Draco panted, shaking off Snape's arm and stumbling in the grass. "Fuck"
There would be time later to throw the boy up against a wall and watch him bleed from the eyeballs from the curses Snape would hit him with; time enough to punish him for every single mistake he had made in the past nine months, and as Snape had lost count as to how many that was, exactly, he relished the thought of making Malfoy's ignorant, arrogant brat pay for the things he'd done. That image alone kept Snape going, a grimace bordering on a smile tugging at his lips as his own stomach began to knot from the effort of sprinting so far, and in such a short time.
"Here get" He grabbed the boy's arm again and shoved him through the gate, not releasing his hold even when Draco fell to his knees and was dragged a few paces before he could right himself.
"Get the hell off me!" shouted Draco, yanking his arm free and pushing Snape away. "What are you"
"Silencio," muttered Snape, his breath coming in quick gulps as he narrowed his eyes at Draco and concentrated on the wandless hex. "Shut up," he added as Draco glared at him with wide eyes and continued flapping his silenced mouth. "Just shut up."
He swallowed and breathed deeply to steady himself, his eyes glancing back to the school for only a split second before he grabbed Draco's arm again, digging his fingers in harder than was strictly necessary, and closed his eyes. The world flashed by in colour blacks and greens and knots of silver exploding behind his eyes as the air closed in around him and he focused on their destination.
With any luck, this whole mess would not be quite as big a fuck-up as he imagined. With any luck, everything would already be prepared for them when they arrived.
His stomach clenched against splinching and he gripped Draco even harder, and in another second they emerged from the colour and the stagnant air with a loud pop. Draco immediately collapsed to the floor and Snape let him, releasing his hold and lifting his hand away in a single gesture of annoyance with the boy. As an afterthought, he waved his hand again and lifted the Silencing spell.
As Draco began to cough, Snape wiped a hand across his mouth, cocked his head to the side, and took a good, long look around the room in which they had landed. Greying carpet stretched too thin and peeled back in the corners; two nearly broken wooden chairs lined one wall; a loaf of bread and a kettle sat alone on the grubby counter of a kitchenette.
And on a sofa of indiscernible colour sat a man, greying himself and stretched too thin, nearly broken but still looking better off than that loaf of bread.
Draco knelt on the floor and gaped, his eyes darting between Snape and the sofa. Snape ignored him.
"Nice place," Snape quipped, arching an eyebrow at the man.
The man shrugged. "Short notice," he shot back. "You expected the Ritz, I suppose?"
"I expected a bed, at the very least."
"Ah. Yes, well." The man gestured around the room. "I'm sure the carpet will suffice until we can move you."
The man paused, sparing a glance at Draco before presumably deciding how much to say. "Me? I was expected at the hospital wing with a family of redheads, oh, about three minutes ago." His mouth twisted in a slow, sugared grin. "And I'd best get back to my new girlfriend, hadn't I?"
Snape stared at him a moment before dropping his head, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "Christ," he muttered. "Please tell me you're joking."
"I've a funeral to attend and a woman to console," the man said, rising from the sofa and walking up to Snape. He reached out to straighten Snape's robes, brushing dirt and leaves from his shoulders and smoothing down the front. He held Snape's gaze and his voice turned hard. "The Dark Lord doesn't want to hear a peep from either of you for the next forty-eight hours. Is that clear?"
Snape looked into the blue-grey eyes and licked his lips, suppressing a smile at the man's tone. "Crystal," he murmured.
The man leaned in close, his hands still flat against Snape's chest, and inhaled deeply. He closed his eyes and smiled before stepping away.
"Draco," he said sharply to the boy on the floor, who was still staring between the two men with wide eyes.
The boy did not respond, but moved his lips as though he meant to.
"Can we trust you not to disclose to anyone that you have seen me here tonight?"
Draco blinked rapidly a few times before nodding. "Yes," he muttered.
Draco blinked again. "Yes Professor Lupin."
Lupin turned to Snape, amused. "'Sir' would have sufficed, but I can't deny it's nice to be called 'Professor' once again."
Snape rolled his eyes. "You are much too easy to please."
"Oh, I don't know about that." He headed towards the door. "Forty-eight hours," he repeated. "If I hear anything from you before then, I'll kill you myself."
The door clicked shut behind him and Snape glanced down at Draco.
"Sleep," he ordered the boy, waving his hand at the empty floor. "Tomorrow, we'll talk."
"Is he talking yet?"
"Nope. Just sitting there like he's got all the time in the world, like he's been sniffing wormwood."
"He does look a bit out of it."
"Well, if he's smart which he is he'll have a million thoughts running through his head right now, trying to figure out a way to escape."
"But you've ensured he can't, right?"
"Fuck off. What am I now, an amateur, Shacklebolt? Drink your latte."
"Sure I can't get you one?"
"God. If I have any more caffeine my head'll explode. Been watching this fucker all night. And stop laughing."
Shacklebolt's grin faltered and he raised an eyebrow. "You didn't bring him in till five a.m., Tonks. You want to tell me what you were"
He gave her a pointed look, and she let out a slow breath, squaring her shoulders and looking him straight in the eye.
"Fine. I captured him in bed. All right? Now fuck off about it."
"You ah." He paused. "Handcuffs?"
She swatted his arm. "Oh, yeah. Handcuffs. Because that would have worked. Look, I know what I'm doing with this one, and he's here, isn't he? So back off."
He pointed a finger at her. "Go home and get some sleep, Tonks, and quit the queen bitch attitude, okay? I know he took you for a ride, but we've got him now, and he'll pay. If he hasn't started talking by four o'clock, we'll take active measures. He'll be in Azkaban by dinner."
She ran a hand through her short hair and stared through the one-way mirror shielding them from the prisoner. "You know what? You're going to have to be careful. I'm not sure we want him talking."
She glanced back at Shacklebolt over her shoulder. "I got him bound by midnight, chief," she offered, her voice less certain than it had been before, "and damned if he nearly talked me out of it. All night I sat there, my finger just itching at my wand. He just about convinced me to let him go. He's got I don't know. I never saw it before, but it all makes sense now."
She held Shacklebolt's eyes. "Remus Lupin could sell fire to a dragon, chief. If he starts talking, just be careful."
He rolled his eyes. "Get some sleep. I'll see you back here this afternoon."
ii. a traitor among us
Snape tried to wait as patiently as he could which, at the end of the day, was not patiently at all. Patience was a virtue of the weak, after all. There were things to be done; actions to be taken; plans to nail down. He couldn't very well wait around here forever.
Except no, that wasn't quite right. He could wait forever, and he probably would, considering who he was waiting for. Call it patience; call it weakness. It was there, and he couldn't do much about it. Lupin made him patient.
Lupin made him weak.
At the sound of a crack behind him, he turned and glared. Loud as a shotgun, as usual. It was a small miracle the man hadn't been captured yet. He waited a moment, glancing around. "Were you followed?" he asked at last, and Lupin made a face as he headed towards him.
"Probably," he snapped. "Left the Ministry a map on my way past."
"No need to get testy."
"I'm tired of flying around after old socks," he muttered, tossing the used Portkey over his shoulder and wiping his hands on his trousers. "You really can't think of a better way to meet?"
"My suite at the Ritz is being redecorated," said Snape dryly. Lupin smiled, and there it was again, that damn weakness. He stepped forward, ignoring the bicycle traffic on the cobblestones around them and leaning in close to Lupin, bending his head and inhaling.
"Not here," said Lupin softly, his lips barely moving, and Snape paused. He took one more deep breath, almost letting his nose brush Lupin's jaw.
"Then where?" he murmured.
"Monday night," breathed Lupin, "Headquarters. There's that room in the basement."
"That Lucius used for his whores," muttered Snape, lifting his head again with a scowl.
Lupin smiled. "Well, then, we'll just have to play the Lucius and his whore game. I get to be Lucius." He glanced over his shoulder. "I don't have much time," he added, his tone hardening. "What did you want?"
"Draco's dead," said Snape, and Lupin pursed his lips.
"That's not really worthy of a press conference, is it? He had it coming." Lupin paused. "You?"
"I wish. It was Bella."
Lupin winced. "Oh, ouch. Poor kid. But Albus has been dead six months why'd she wait so long?"
"Hoping the Dark Lord wouldn't notice, I imagine."
"So it's up to me to tell him?"
Snape nodded. "If you don't mind."
"Christ." Lupin folded his arms over his chest and dropped his eyes to the street. "You need anything?" he added, glancing up again.
Snape gave him a pointed look, and Lupin grinned.
"I told you Monday night. Can you get there?"
Snape rolled his eyes. "Where are you right now, by the way?" he asked, and Lupin puffed out a breath, raising his eyes to the sky.
"At the market with Molly," he said. "Apparently I'm buying potatoes as we speak."
"Such a gripping life you do lead."
"Well, so far she's told me Bill's security code at Gringott's, the patrol schedule Arthur's on at the Ministry next week including, I might add, the tidbit that there's an emergency shaft out of Shacklebolt's office that leads straight to the train station and all about the deal Charlie just brokered with an estate up in Wales for two litres of Horntail blood every Thursday."
Snape raised his eyebrows. "Who?"
"Don't know yet."
"What do they need it for?"
"Don't know yet, but if you let me get back to my potato purchasing, I just might find out."
Snape waved a hand. "Fine, fine. Monday," he added, holding Lupin's eyes.
Lupin smiled, fishing the return Portkey out of his pocket. "Monday," he assured him.
"He still won't talk?"
"Nope. I don't know what's going on in his head, either."
Tonks sighed, setting down her coffee and placing both hands on her hips. "Fuck."
"I hate to do it, but I don't think we have a choice."
She eyed the small phial on the table and closed her eyes, fearing what might actually come out of Remus Lupin's mouth if he was given Veritaserum. No scratch that. She didn't fear what he would say, only her own ability to hear it. "All right," she huffed after a pause. "All right."
"I'll talk," a calm voice came suddenly from behind the one-way mirror, as though he had heard them debating his fate, "but only to one person."
Tonks and Shacklebolt both stared through the shield. Shacklebolt recovered first, tapping his wand to the mirror to switch on the audio from their adjacent room. "Who?" he called.
Lupin fidgeted for a moment before glancing up at them again. "Hermione Granger," he said quietly.
Tonks glanced at her boss, raised an eyebrow, and then turned back to Lupin. "Why, exactly? She's not an Auror, Remus. She's not anything, really. She's a random eighteen-year-old girl. Or, wait." She let out a short, bitter laugh. "Is that what you're about now? Shall I tell her to wear lace?"
Both Lupin and Shacklebolt winced.
"Tonks, please," said Lupin. "That's not fair." He paused, but when no more comments came from the Auror room, he continued. "I owe her an explanation for some things. It has to do with Harry," he added. "She's the only one who'd know what I'm talking about."
"Is Harry in danger, Lupin?" said Shacklebolt, his voice rumbling through the audio shield. "We know you're not really a bad man. You don't want to do anything that would hurt James and Lily's son." He glanced up at Tonks, who smirked. The chief always knew how to get under a suspect's skin.
"Harry's fine," said Lupin wearily, "but he won't be for long, unless I get to talk to Hermione."
"We'll get a message to her," Tonks called. "How about that? Go on and tell us what you need to say to her."
He looked up at the sheer one-way mirror, nothing but a reflection to him, and was quiet for several seconds. "Tonks," he said at last. "Please."
She paced the small room, hands still on her hips and her mind whirring. "Fuck," she said again, shaking her head. She took a deep breath and turned back to Shacklebolt. "Can we get her?"
He shrugged. "You know where she is?"
"Not really, but I know a few ways to find out."
He paused, glancing back at the prisoner. "All right," he said at last. "Get her in here."
iii. soliloquy to the dead
Not many people knew where James and Lily were buried, or that they were even buried anywhere at all, but Remus Lupin was one of the few who possessed that information.
He should have. He was the one who buried them, after all.
The lawn sloped gently, the grass was thick and damp, and the stone tablets rose from it with menace and a touch of judgement. Lupin Apparated to the gates on October 29 of the year Harry set off in search of the last Horcruxes and pushed the creaking iron back with a weary sigh. It was a Muggle place, at the insistence of Lily's parents. Formidable people they were, and James's parents had been so sick of the war at that point and so crippled by their grief that they had welcomed the chance to lay him to rest away from the world that had killed him.
As far as it was possible to welcome the chance to lay a strong, healthy, twenty-one-year-old husband and father to rest anywhere at all, of course.
Against his better judgement, Lupin came here every year on the same day, not as a commemoration, per se, but as a warning. And to avoid the crowds, naturally.
"So," he began softly, as he did every year, crouching beside the twin headstones, "Happy Anniversary. You're looking well," he added with a smile. "Alert, energetic. You'll be happy to know that Harry has once again managed to live another year, against all odds. Quite resilient, that boy. Or just lucky. Or, perhaps most likely, he's just too stupid to recognise it when he's truly in danger, so he doesn't have time to become a sitting target, paralysed by fear. Pity, really." He rose again, knees groaning, and stared down at the tombs. He shoved his hands in his pockets.
"Don't get me wrong I don't want the boy dead. I'm not a complete monster." He paused a moment before forcing a laugh. "Or, no, wait I am, aren't I? At least, you always thought so. As if I couldn't hear you whispering. As if I really didn't know what you said to each other in the dark, and to Sirius the next morning, about me and my monsters. As if a friendship can ever recover from that. So you died hating me. Wasn't that a waste of energy? I never did anything to you, not then. Not really. It was Peter, you know. I might have told you, but if you wouldn't listen to me about Sirius, you sure weren't going to listen to me about Peter, were you?
"That's the problem with Gryffindors, really always trying to play both sides. Noble and courageous and loyal to a fault, sure, except on Tuesdays, when they can turn on their best friends for no reason at all. Did I turn on you? Maybe. But not really, not any more than you deserved for turning on me first."
He began to pace, circling the tombstones with slow, careful steps and not taking his eyes off them as he spoke. "Don't tell me you've already forgotten the details! I remember as though it were yesterday. But then, I'm a bit obsessive like that, aren't I? You always said so, Prongs. I like all my things kept in their place, and I only trust those who trust me back. Not so complicated, is it? I asked for very little from Gryffindors, but in the end, every one of them let me down." He paused. "Can you hear me, James? Would you roll over right now if I told you that the Sorting Hat was wrong? That I begged it to put me in Gryffindor against its better judgement? That even at eleven years old I figured no one would suspect a werewolf among the heroic Gryffindors. I was clever, you know.
"And would you roll over again, old friend, if I told you that the only person who has trusted me in my whole life, without wavering, including my parents and my supposed best friends was a Slytherin? You always put so much stock in House loyalty, so there's one for you to ponder. I hear you have some time on your hands down there, so go ahead and try to figure that one out."
He paused for breath, and a voice near the gate called out to him. "Lupin, honestly. Now you're just being maudlin and melodramatic and embarrassing yourself."
He turned, scowling. "No one asked you to come."
"Don't be ridiculous. You'll get yourself killed by Aurors coming out here alone at this time of year."
"They never start patrolling till the morning of the thirty-first, and anyway, I know my way around Aurors."
Snape made a face and a strangled noise. "Please. We have a meeting with the Dark Lord later; I'd rather not have sick on my robes. You'll be killing her soon, I hope?"
"She knows about as much about anything as Molly Weasley. Will you be shagging her as well?" Snape grumbled.
"I might. There's quite a bit I'm willing to do for the cause, you'll notice."
"The cause." Snape smirked. "Yes. How loyal you are. You turned on them with barely a second thought, if I remember correctly," he added, nodding at the tombstones. He paused. "How do I know you won't do the same to me?"
Lupin smiled, putting his hands in his pockets and strolling towards the gate. He slowed as he passed Snape, letting their shoulders press together and leaning in to brush his lips over Snape's jaw line. When he lifted his head, he cast one last look at the graves, silently promising to return the following year if he was alive, before turning back to Snape. "You don't," he said simply.
"All right, here she is." Tonks led Hermione into the interrogation room and pointed her wand at Lupin for good measure, even though he was already bound by just about every spell at the Ministry's disposal. "You've got till sunrise to explain yourself to her."
He looked up. "What happens at sunrise?" he asked. "Unless I've been in here so long I've lost track of the lunar cycle."
"Hilarious." She glared at him. "At sunrise, we move you to Azkaban as a hostile combatant."
"You've got no evidence that I am anything of the sort," he said calmly, his eyes on Hermione. "It's against my rights as a citizen of Wizarding Britain to be sent to prison without trial."
"No," said Hermione slowly, glancing between Tonks and Lupin with a nervous expression. "There's no such right, actually. Wizards in Britain are regularly detained without trial or evidence. You know that," she added, "after what happened to Sirius."
"Oh, God," he muttered, dropping his eyes. "You're right."
"Sunrise," Tonks barked. "If you want to spend the next twelve hours debating the Wizarding justice system, be my guest."
"Sunrise," he repeated. "And do I have your word on that?"
"That we won't be interrupted before then, no matter what may happen in here?"
She stared at him a moment before suddenly striding forward, slamming her hands down on the table and leaning over at him. "Just what do you plan to do in here, then?"
"Just want to talk to her, Tonks. It's not a crime."
"You haven't exactly got the right definitions of what's a crime and what's not lately. And I know how you talk, Remus. Like the devil himself controls the words coming out of your mouth." She glanced at Hermione. "You're here to take his statement, got it? Don't let him talk you into anything else."
She nodded, her brow creased, and Tonks headed to the door, grabbing the edge of it and making to swing it closed behind her. She paused just before she did. "Oh, and Remus?" she said, her voice a jagged edge.
He looked up.
He dropped his eyes again and nodded as she slammed the door. With a sigh and a shy smile, he glanced at Hermione. "I deserved that," he said apologetically, "although, not for the reasons you may think."
"I don't think anything," she said, pulling out a chair and sitting down across from him. "But please tell me this is a mistake. You're not really supposed to be in here."
He sighed. "No, I am."
He nodded. "I mean, I'd rather not be in here, of course, and if you don't mind not telling them that I confessed to you in the first twenty seconds, although ah, yes, of course, they'll be listening." He paused to raise his eyes, glancing around the room. "Well, at any rate, there you have it. I do in fact deserve to be here."
"What she said is true?" Her eyes widened. "You're a traitor!"
He frowned. "I suppose that's one way to look at it, but it's not how I think of myself."
"How can you think of it any other way!"
"What did you just tell me, Hermione? About Sirius? You know exactly what they'll do to me at sunrise, whether I'm guilty of anything or not." He leaned forward, holding her eyes. "The system we live under isn't right, and you know it. I'm just fighting to change it."
Her mouth fell open a bit and she stared at him. Too easy, he thought to himself, suppressing a satisfied grin. This was going to be much too easy.
iv. the prince
Meeting with the Dark Lord was never a pleasant experience.
The chamber was invariably dark, deliberately cast in shadow both to satisfy his peculiar red-tinged vision, and to sufficiently alarm his visitors. Nagini was always close by, slithering between legs and curling around feet, hissing at anyone she didn't like. And there was always a muted sense of pure power in the chamber, like a stream of electric current clamped off with bolt cutters. It hovered just beneath the surface of the conversation but could be let loose at any time.
Lupin and Snape pushed the door open carefully.
"My Lord," they both said at once, dropping to one knee before him and bowing their heads low. He bade them rise again with a pass of his hand, the magic burrowing under their chests and chins and lifting them forward. When they were face-to-face with him, he began his routine investigation.
"Yes, yes," he murmured to himself as he held Snape's gaze. "Nothing but sexual congress in there, as always." He turned to Lupin. "I assume these are not merely fantasies on Severus's part? You are an active and consenting participant?"
Lupin kept his breathing even. "Yes, my Lord."
The Dark Lord allowed himself a tiny smirk, as he always did. "I am still of two minds on the pair of you," he began, his voice sharp and cold. "On the one hand, sex in wartime is most unadvised, as you surely know. It causes lapses in judgement. Poor decisions. Heroic ventures to rescue one at the expense of the other, and so forth." He made a bored gesture with his hand in front of his face. "And yet on the other hand, it is a dream come true for me, is it not? It gives me tremendous power over both of you."
They both remained silent.
"Tell me, Remus," he said softly, "if I were to capture Severus and send him to the dungeons, perhaps hang him from the ceiling, could I trust that you would come to his rescue?"
"No, my Lord," he answered without hesitation. "You could not."
The Dark Lord paused. "Interesting," he said at last, before turning to Snape. "And Severus? In the reverse situation ?"
"No, my Lord," he echoed. "The werewolf is a convenience to me, nothing more."
"Ah." The Dark Lord settled back in his ornate chair. "If only that were true." He turned to Lupin. "And what is in your mind today, Remus?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
Their gazes locked for nearly a full minute before the Dark Lord averted his eyes and Lupin closed his, pulling in a sharp breath.
He glanced back at Snape. "Fucking," he drawled, swinging his eyes back to Lupin, "and reading. What a pair. Tell me, Remus, what is this interest of yours in the work of long-dead Muggles and their ideas?"
"They motivate me to serve you, my Lord."
"And why do you need motivation to serve me?"
"I must understand the principles behind a cause before I can support it, my Lord."
"Ah. What are the principles of my cause, then?"
"You are a classic Prince, my Lord. You are able to separate authority from morality and in doing so, establish total rule that relies on individual power not weakened by benevolence."
The Dark Lord smiled, sticky lips turning up as he looked at Lupin. "I see," he said. "You are aware, of course, that Machiavelli most likely wrote those things only to gain favour with a despotic ruler desperate to stay in power."
"Perhaps, my Lord, but the text remains brilliant. Rulers who worry about being loved by the people are destined to fall. Moral men do not make strong leaders. This was Dumbledore's major mistake," said Lupin.
"Are you calling me immoral?"
"Yes, my Lord. As a compliment."
The Dark Lord glanced at Snape. "This is the man you're fucking, Severus? Does he ever stop spouting such rubbish?"
"No, my Lord."
"I thought not," mused the Dark Lord. He moved his eyes over Lupin again. "You may have your unorthodox opinions and motivations, Remus, but I would be happier if you put them to better use."
"I have very good reasons not to trust either of you." He paused. "But as you also know, Machiavelli's Prince needs neither aides nor allies. He acts alone, as do I. One might even go so far as to say that your allegiance is irrelevant to either side."
Lupin bowed his head. "I couldn't have said it better myself, my Lord."
"Tell me what Greyback is plotting," said the Dark Lord, leaning forward in his chair, "and then, when you are dismissed, bring me more philosophers like yourself. The learned of the world are dangerous in the hands of the enemy. We use logic and reason, and when that fails fear."
"I prefer to use only logic and reason, my Lord."
The Dark Lord glanced again at Snape. "Get him out of here," he ordered. "He annoys me, and his position is precarious. Has he learned anything from the Auror yet?"
"Yes, my Lord," answered Snape. "She has been useful in providing Ministry security information."
"She will find him out shortly. I want someone else in place when she does."
Lupin narrowed his eyes. "She will not find me out, my Lord."
The Dark Lord glared back. "You underestimate her," he snapped.
"With all due respect, my Lord," said Lupin, "you underestimate me."
The chamber throbbed with loaded silence.
"Do I?" the Dark Lord said softly after a long pause. "Go ahead, then. Prove me wrong."
"Change the system." Hermione's voice was slow and even. "What exactly does that mean?"
"You're a smart girl, Hermione," said Lupin softly. "You're well-read, and you've studied Muggles enough to know a thing or two about the way they generally run things, isn't that right?"
She nodded, her brow still creased.
"Then you know that a system that imprisons its own citizens without trial, and uses torture in its prisons, and has no Constitution to speak of well. It's not a system worth defending, is it?"
She watched him carefully. "And You-Know-Who has a better system?"
"I didn't say that, although think about what you know of him."
"I know that he's vile and evil and cruel," she spat without pause, her face reddening.
"You know only what those on your side have told you. You don't actually know anything about how he would run a government."
"He's prejudiced!" she insisted, glaring at him. "He would wipe Muggles and Muggle-borns from the earth!"
"And our Ministry wouldn't? You know a thing or two about the plight of the house-elves, don't you, Hermione? And I don't need to tell you that your side is not so friendly to werewolves."
"That's very self-serving of you," she said coldly. "Here I thought you were the sort of man who would help others above yourself, but you're not. You're just looking to join the side that best suits your personal interests!"
Lupin paused, cocking his head to the side. "Listen to yourself," he said with a smile. "You just said that you, a Muggle-born witch, oppose the Dark Lord because of what you fear he would do to your kind. Yet I, as a werewolf, cannot oppose the Ministry because I fear what they would do to mine? Or, I should say, what they already do?"
Hermione opened her mouth to respond and then shut it again, glaring at him.
"You learn to look out for yourself when there isn't anyone else around to do it for you," he said, watching the way her eyes flickered as she processed what she was hearing. "Besides," he added casually, "don't you remember the first thing you assumed about me when you discovered I was a werewolf?" He held her eyes.
"I" Her mouth fell open a little. "I assumed you'd betrayed us," she murmured, dropping her gaze to the table. She paused for a second before raising her head again. "But you had," she added.
"In what way? Have I ever harmed you, or your friends? I made some mistakes that night, it's true, but were they because I am evil by nature and should be slaughtered?"
She didn't answer right away, and Lupin carefully pressed his advantage.
"Hermione," he began gently, "have you ever read a philosopher named Niccolo Machiavelli?"
"I mean, it's not precisely brain science, is it? Why don't more people understand what we're doing?"
Snape rolled over onto his stomach and pushed his hair out of his face, casting an annoyed and bleary-eyed glance at Lupin. "I'm not discussing this at six a.m.," he grumbled.
"But I'm awake," said Lupin petulantly, smiling at him and trailing a hand down his back.
"How can you possibly be awake after last night?" said Snape, his voice low and sticky.
"After last night, meaning the murder and mayhem, or the drinking?"
"After last night meaning, the fucking," said Snape.
"Ah." Lupin smiled, dipping his head down to bite at Snape's shoulder as his hand moved lower down Snape's back under the sheets. "The fucking," he murmured into Snape's skin, feeling the muscles of his shoulder and back twitch under his mouth. "Yes, you poor thing," he added, "you must be exhausted."
"Bloody werewolf stamina," growled Snape, closing his eyes and moaning quietly as Lupin continued biting a light trail across his back.
"I mean it, though," said Lupin as he paused, his breath hot on Snape's skin. "I'm all for debate and dialogue, but at the end of the day, we're right, aren't we? It doesn't quite make sense that otherwise rational people can't see that."
Snape sighed. "Despite all the manipulative and really rather evil things you've done over the years, Lupin," he said, "you're still an idealistic Gryffindor at heart, aren't you? Still believing the best in people."
"I don't believe the best in people; I believe the best in us. Different. And how can anyone defend and fight for a government that does the things the Ministry does?"
Snape sighed, closing his eyes again and feigning a light snore. Lupin shoved him.
"I'm serious," he muttered, rolling onto his back and listing off the wrongs he perceived. "Institutionalised slavery and employment discrimination; arrest and imprisonment without trial based on whatever evidence they want; authoritarian transfers of power without democratic consultation"
"You're extremely unsexy when you talk politics," said Snape, still feigning sleep.
"It's your fault, isn't it?" said Lupin, turning his head on the pillow to glance at Snape, whose lips turned up at the corners even before he opened his eyes again.
"I'll take the blame for your dreadful preoccupation with Jeremy Bentham in your teen years, but Machiavelli you discovered entirely on your own."
"Ah, yes. The Prince does not answer to anyone, is that it?" Lupin smiled as Snape's face flushed.
"Funny," he shot back. "Who's your next victim, then? If you're talking about Hobbes and Burke again, you must be preparing to woo another convert to the cause with your dazzling array of political philosophy."
"It works, doesn't it?" He turned his head back to stare up at the ceiling. "It worked on me."
"It works on bookworms, that is all. Admit it, Lupin: you got so excited you almost came in your pants when I first told you that the state of nature is the war of every man against every man."
Lupin sucked in a breath. "Leviathan," he breathed, running his tongue over his bottom lip. "You're right, I did. And I might again just now if you keep talking like that."
Snape smirked, pushing himself up on his elbows and leaning over Lupin to nip at his chest. "Human volition is nothing but the determination of the will by the strongest present desire," he continued, his voice low, and Lupin arched his back, pushing a nipple between Snape's teeth. "All men act in their own self-interest," he continued, his teeth grazing Lupin's skin, "a continual state of war in disregard of all other men. A way of life that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." He punctuated each word by tugging at Lupin's nipple, teeth clamping down until Lupin groaned and pulled away, his skin hot and damp.
He turned to Snape with his lips parted and eyes hooded. "I've got someone in mind," he said, holding Snape's gaze. "She's bright, but malleable. And if I can convince her she's in the perfect position to convince Harry after that."
"Oh, God. Don't tell me you want to discuss morality and the human condition with Ms Granger."
"Think about it: Harry doesn't do anything without her input. She's perfect."
"The problem, of course, is getting to her. I don't even know where she is, and I'd need more than one conversation before I could even hope that she'd come around."
"Problem?" Snape raised an eyebrow. "Really, Lupin, don't tell me you're getting that sloppy? The answer is obvious."
Lupin stared at him.
"Who's the one person who could find her if need be? A person with all manner of tracking devices at their disposal, not to mention an already existing kindly attitude toward the girl?"
A slow smile spread over Lupin's face. "An Auror," he murmured.
"An Auror," confirmed Snape.
Lupin thought it over. "It would require getting captured, of course, although that wouldn't be difficult. She's already a bit suspicious, I think, since Shacklebolt told her he saw you and me together."
"Fine, get yourself captured," said Snape in a bored voice. "We'd both be useless to the Dark Lord then."
"Not if we presented him with Harry Potter's most trusted confidante," said Lupin with a grin, sliding his fingers up Snape's back again.
"You have immense confidence in your abilities to persuade."
Snape sighed. "Very well. I can get you out of a Ministry cell, but if you get yourself sent to Azkaban before then, you're on your own."
They watched each other for a long, silent moment before Lupin spoke again. "Would you run with me?" asked Lupin, one hand moving up Snape's bare shoulder as he shifted closer. "If we had to, I mean."
"Depends which side we were running from," said Snape, closing his eyes at the touch.
"The one with the legally sanctioned law enforcement officers and one hell of a prison at their disposal, I expect. Running from Voldemort seems pointless, really."
"Mm," Snape agreed. "Quick and painless death would be better than Azkaban, I suppose."
"It would." Lupin paused, watching Snape's relaxed expression grow increasingly tense. He almost feared the answer to his question now. "But really," he pressed. "Would you?"
Snape turned his head at last, his hair stark against the pillow and his brows drawing together. He searched Lupin's face for a moment before leaning in to brush a kiss across his lips. "Love and war don't mix, you know."
"Don't change the subject."
"Love is a bond of obligation which these miserable creatures known as men break whenever it suits them to do so; but fear holds them fast by a dread of punishment that never passes."
"Don't quote that bullshit back to me," Lupin warned. "You're taking it out of context."
"Well, then, Machiavelli aside, it's not a good idea to promise each other anything. You know that."
"Don't," said Lupin, pushing himself up into a sitting position and shaking his head. "Don't you dare."
"You ran last time, and left me behind," said Snape, his tone dry and curt.
Lupin stared at him. "Last time" His mouth fell open. "I had no choice! Albus took you to Hogwarts and I had nowhere to go. They'd locked Sirius up, and it wasn't unreasonable to assume they'd do the same to me. And don't get me started on the Death Eaters who thought I'd betrayed them."
Snape turned his head away and put a hand up. "All right, all right, don't get so shrill. I get it; you're terribly devoted. But I'm merely being practical. You should neither trust me nor rely on me. I am a physical convenience to you, nothing more."
Lupin stared for a moment, letting his eyes wander over Snape's face as the man closed his own, blocking out Lupin's gaze. After a long moment, he began to smile. "And I to you, I expect?" he said lightly.
"You'll do nicely," said Snape, his eyes still closed. "For now."
"I see." Lupin paused another minute, watching the way the sheets gathered around the small of Snape's back. "It's been twenty years, Snape. You're not weary of me yet?"
"I didn't say I wasn't weary of you. I said you'll do. But I reserve the right to rethink that conclusion at any time."
"So noted." He slid a hand over Snape's back again, watching the shiver that erupted under his touch. "Hey," he added softly.
"I'm still awake, you know."
Snape opened an eye. "And I'm still exhausted from all the fucking. Sod off." He turned his head away and burrowed further into the pillow, his back still rising and falling under Lupin's hand.
Pulling his bottom lip under his teeth and smirking to himself, Lupin shifted the sheets and his body, climbing on top of Snape and straddling his hips. He bent down to place a series of kisses across his shoulder blades, letting his hair brush over the back of Snape's neck and his breath warm his skin. His lips moved close to Snape's ear and he began to whisper, just a few words at first but then a series of things, desires he wanted fulfilled and fantasies he had of the two of them, his body pressing down and his chest flush against Snape's back. When Snape finally unravelled, groaning and pushing his hips back, Lupin fell apart a little bit, just as he always did, consumed by energy and passion and the sense of both helplessness and power that always came from being with a man like Severus Snape.
They laid together quietly afterwards with the heat fading as the sun rose, twin beams of yellow slanting into the dark room and such inconveniences as war and death and lies set aside somewhere, miles away. With a deep rumble that startled Lupin, at last Snape spoke.
"Of course I would, you daft git."
"Would what?" asked Lupin sleepily, one arm draped across Snape's chest.
"Run with you."
Hermione was staring at him again.
"That's rubbish," she said at last. "You can't separate morality from political action. No just society would tolerate it."
"Are you still pretending we live in a just society?" asked Lupin. "You have to admit the idea intrigues you," he added.
"No, I don't."
"You're thinking it over right now," he pressed. "It engages your mind, Hermione, and that's okay. You shouldn't be afraid to think through ideas you find shocking or distasteful. Have you always agreed with every book you've read?" he asked.
"No, of course not, but"
"It's the same principle. A witch as bright as you should not limit herself to only the ideas she agrees with. Your mind will weep from understimulation." He pressed her further. "Machiavelli writes of a Prince," he said softly, "with full powers to govern and make decisions in the best interests of the people."
"People should be able to make their own decisions," she said in objection. "There are elections for governments, and"
"Elections!" Lupin laughed. "What are you on about? There's never been an election in the entire history of the Wizarding world."
Her mouth clamped shut and she glared at him.
"Hermione," he began again, "think carefully. You already live under a Machiavellian system. You are assuming a link between political power and moral righteousness, based on well, I don't even know what you're basing it on, since there is nothing in your own system to encourage you to support such a position. Take morals out of the equation," he insisted. "The only real concern of any political ruler is the acquisition and maintenance of power. You've seen Fudge and Scrimgeour," he added. "They fit the model perfectly, don't they? Putting Dementors at Hogwarts, letting Death Eaters run amok at sporting events they don't have a moral bone in their bodies."
"No," she whispered, fiddling with the hem of her jumper. "You're mixing it up. You've killed people! How can you say morality doesn't factor into that?"
Lupin shook his head. "There's been killing on both sides, Hermione. That's just not a good enough argument. I'm no more of a murderer than you are."
"You are working for an evil man. That's the bottom line."
"He's not evil in and of itself," said Lupin, as calmly as he could. "That's impossible. You just fear him because he's threatened your friends. I used to fear him too, for the same reason, until I realised it wasn't the Dark Lord that was a threat to me; it was the very friends I'd been worried about. The Dark Lord was there to support me when my friends were not. You might remember that."
She narrowed her eyes. "They told me you might try this," she muttered. "You won't turn me against my friends."
Lupin shrugged. "No, I don't suppose I will, nor do I intend to."
"But, if he wins," she continued, "he'll clamp down on all our freedoms. He could strike at any time, persecute us or kill us! How can you support that?"
Lupin leaned forward, his jaw clenched. "It's frightening, isn't it, from where you stand," he said quietly. "Hard to imagine a world where you can't have exactly what you want, anytime you want it? A world in which your family is taken away, and your friends, and you have no job, no money, and no legal recourse to protest any of it? Yes, I imagine that's very frightening for you, Hermione, but excuse me if I don't rush to defend the system that protects your liberty."
She stared at him.
"You used to fight for the underdog, didn't you? That's all I'm doing. Fighting against a system that doesn't let me have a voice. This system may work for you, but it does not work for me, and it does not work for Dobby, and it does not work for Hagrid, and even Harry when he didn't say and think exactly what they wanted him to, they abandoned him, didn't they? The system you're fighting for doesn't even work for Harry. So I'm fighting for change. That's all."
"Then you replace one flawed system with another," she said, her face drawn.
"Don't we always?" said Lupin. "That's the nature of government, Hermione. What did you think you were fighting for a utopia according to you? Then I'm afraid you have your head in the clouds, not something I would expect from someone as rational and logical as you."
"Then power is an illusion," she muttered.
"No," he corrected her, "but power is transient, and the powerful can rise and fall."
"And those hindered by moral concerns are the ones who fall." She ran a hand over her face. "If you don't have the moral compass to decide what is good and what is evil, then what's your motivation for serving either?"
"We all serve ourselves," he replied. "Social obligation puts the individual in peril, and this is war, Hermione. You've got to save yourself first."
She watched him carefully, her face unreadable. "Maybe," she murmured.
"Dumbledore spoke only of the power of love," he said quietly, "over and over again. Love, forgiveness, benevolence. And look where it got him."
"The ruthless shall inherit the earth, then?"
"Not necessarily, but power does go to those who fight for it."
She held his eyes. "How did you do it?" she said at last, her voice even. "How did you stand there all that time and pretend to be a friend, and a member of the Order? How?"
"Well." Lupin dropped his eyes, pretending to think over the question. When he raised them again, he looked Hermione squarely in the eye. "It was easy, really. I lied."
vi. the beauty of lies
The bedroom was bathed in cool light, the half-moon outside hovering near enough to the window to make Remus nervous. He sat in a stiff chair, shirt on the floor and trousers unfastened around his hips, bare feet pressed against the rough wooden planks. He'd have to see about carpet, if he ever got out of here; it was embarrassing, a man of his position, to constantly get splinters from his own bedroom floor. He glanced down at his immobilised body before levelling a steely glare at the woman across from him.
"Let me go, Tonks."
She pretended to think about it for a moment. "Um no," she said at last, her voice firm. "I've got a few questions for you, and once I get my answers, I'm taking you to headquarters and making sure you get thrown in Azkaban, you piece of"
"Yes, we've been over that." He nodded his head. "I'm quite aware of what you think I am. But if you've already decided to bring me in, that I'm already guilty, then your questions are rather irrelevant, aren't they?"
She leaned forward, wand trained on him. "My questions are for me, Remus, not for them. I want some answers for me."
He sighed. "Very well." He waited for her to begin, but having the floor seemed to suddenly make her shy. She faltered.
"Did you no, this sounds stupid, but I have to know." Her lips pressed together in a thin line. "Did you ever love me? Or was this was it all a ruse from the beginning, just needed an Auror on your side to give you information for You-Know-Who?"
"Oh, God, no no no." He schooled his face into a practiced look of anguish and concern. If he'd been free to lean forward and take her hand, he would have. He made sure the look on his face told her that he would have. "Of course I love you, and no, it's not the past tense. Tonks, listen to me," he continued, his voice soft. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, but God, this war! You know how hard it is. I've got to say and do things for Greyback's sake you know that. And I'm so close now, he trusts me finally. It's taken two years, but he's finally giving me information." He sighed, giving her another pleading look. "I know I've frightened you with the things I've done, but you must believe me: we're very close to ending this war, and I can help do that. But you have to let me go."
"We saw you with Snape," she said, her eyes narrowed. "Kingsley's having everyone tailed, and the first thing you did was go to Snape and you didn't bring him in. Remus." She leaned forward again, elbows on her knees and confusion on her face. "He killed Dumbledore in cold blood, he hid Draco from the Ministry, he directed You-Know-Who to seize Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, he's been implicated in all those tainted sleeping draughts from the shops in Diagon, and no one's been able to track him down. But you met with him like it was regular Sunday morning tea and biscuits, and you didn't fucking bring him in?"
He closed his eyes briefly. "I know how it looks," he said quietly, "and I was sick that night, physically sick, when Greyback told me I had to meet with him. He's a monster, Tonks, you're right about that. We all thought we knew him, and he fooled everyone. He's an absolute monster. But I couldn't risk my cover with Greyback! You have to understand that. I was simply a messenger, passing along a meeting time to You-Know-Who. We've already had one spy turn on us, love. You need me in there you know you do. It's not pretty, and I have to do some terrible things." He paused to close his eyes again, painting as much emotion and regret over his face as he could. "But we're going to win this, I promise you. We're almost there."
She hesitated, her wand faltering between her fingers, and he watched her carefully from under lowered lids.
"I love you," he murmured, his voice a quiet breath. "I just want this war to end, so we can be together. Really together, the way we both want."
She closed her eyes, pressing her lips together.
"Please, love. Let me go. I've always loved you, you know. And I always will. You're the one I'm fighting for, so we can have a normal life together."
She opened her eyes. Her face moved slowly from sorrow to confusion to yes, there it was, the light clicked on. She really was cleverer than he'd given her credit for. He'd have to remember that. "What did you say?" she asked slowly, rising from her chair and holding her wand tightly in one fist.
He blinked. "Which part?"
"You haven't always loved me," she said coldly, before raising her eyes to the ceiling and barking a short laugh. "You're good, I'll give you that," she bit out, shaking her head. "You almost had me."
"What? Listen to me, I"
"Cut the bullshit, Remus," she said. "Your lies are beautiful, aren't they? I guess you've got a lot of practice at them, then? No." She cut him off when he tried to speak again. "We're done here. I'm taking you in; let the chief deal with you."
He closed his mouth and sighed as she performed a few complex but predictable spells to further secure his magical bonds and prepare him for transport. Escape was tempting, but too easy. Besides, the Dark Lord required supporters, and where better to find them than inside the Ministry. Oh yes, this would work out just fine.
"Let me get this straight," said Hermione, leaning forward. "Dumbledore had us locked in a mutually beneficial social contract system with the Ministry as the all-powerful Leviathan"
"Thomas Hobbes, yes," said Lupin.
"Whereas Voldemort argues that the legitimacy of law rests entirely on the threat of coercive force, not community cooperation."
"Machiavelli." Lupin grinned. "I think you've got it."
"Both are authoritarian, aren't they?" she mused.
"In a way," he agreed, "but with the first you are deceived into thinking the social contract gives you a say in matters of rule, whereas with the second, you know exactly where you stand."
She glanced sideways at him. "One can say this in general of men: they are ungrateful, disloyal, insincere and deceitful, timid of danger and avid of profit," she recited quietly, and Lupin's mouth fell open.
"You have read The Prince," he said accusingly.
She nodded, shrugging her shoulders. "It didn't make much sense at the time, but it's starting to."
"Hermione," he said softly, eyes trained on her, "when I get out of here may I take you to meet someone?"
She paused, watching him carefully. "The Prince," she said at last, and he nodded. "Maybe," she said, dropping her voice, "but first, let's work on getting you out of here."
vii. traitors and allies
Shacklebolt set the two cups of coffee down on the table, sloshing hot liquid over the edge as he barked at a snoozing Tonks. "Hey!"
She jumped in her chair, arms and legs flailing for a moment before she wiped her eyes and got her bearings.
"Sunrise," he told her. "Did he confess?"
She yawned, still running a hand over her face. "Sort of. I think."
"There was a lot of bullshit flying in there, chief; I couldn't follow it all. They got into fucking fate and free will, or some sort of philosophy. Stupid bastard. If he wants to spend his last night as a relatively free man teaching Hermione the finer points from the book of Who Gives a Shit, he can go right ahead."
Shacklebolt glared at her. "You sure it wasn't something important? You said yourself that he twists words, can convince you of anything. Maybe it was a code."
Tonks sat up, her brow creased. "No," she said slowly. "It was just God, I can't even reproduce it; it made no sense. Rule of law and legitimate authority, or I don't even know. It couldn't have meant anything."
"Are you kidding me?" shouted Shacklebolt. "Why do you think he asked to see her? He's up to something, and if he's just spent all night indoctrinating her about legitimate authority or something? You don't think he's got a reason for that?"
Tonks ran a hand over her face. "Fuck," she muttered. "Look, we'll just replay the audio and try to figure it out, all right? Get someone in here who can understand that shit, because I have no fucking clue what they were talking about. No one told me I had to read the fucking edicts of Balagast the Benevolent for this job, okay? So just back off and let me"
She stopped. "What?"
Shacklebolt had stopped pacing and was staring through the mirror behind her, his mouth open. "Where is he?"
Lupin was gone.
"What the fuck?" she said slowly, her eyes darting around the room. She jumped up from her chair and plastered herself against the mirror, scanning every inch of the room. Nothing. She flung the door open and charged down the corridor.
"Tonks!" she heard Shacklebolt holler after her, but she didn't stop. "I'm sounding the alert," he added, his voice far away as she rounded a corner.
Think, she told herself. He can't Apparate out of here, he was bound by every spell she knew How did he do it?
She stopped in mid-stride, nearly tripping over her own feet as it hit her. Snape. Fucker knew more magic than anyone in the Ministry, that had to be it. She started to run, wand out and eyes flying madly back and forth and she bypassed the lift and took the stairs two at a time from the holding cells. "Where are you?" she muttered under her breath. "Where would you go?"
She ran through the lobby, pushing a couple of muddled-looking witches out of her way as she crossed to the back staircase. She'd been through the lower floors and the lobby, and there was no trace of them. They couldn't get out without digging a fucking tunnel, so what the hell were they
She stopped dead, her jaw dropping open. The emergency shaft.
Her legs fought to keep up with her body as she raced up the back staircase to Shacklebolt's office in Auror Headquarters. It was still only six a.m.; no one was at work yet. She tore past the rows of cubicles and saw the door to the office open at the other end of the floor. "Remus!" she screamed, gripping her wand and closing in on them. "Don't you fucking dare. Don't you even think about"
Snape and Lupin both turned to stare at her, the wall behind them glowing a bright yellow where they had been spelling the shaft to open for them.
"Tonks, you're going to get yourself hurt," said Lupin calmly. "Go back downstairs."
"Expelliarmus!" she hollered, but Snape waved his wand easily and deflected the spell, a bored look on his face.
"Tonks, really," pleaded Lupin. "You shouldn't be up here without back-up. I don't want to hurt you, but"
"Then you shouldn't have tried this little stunt," she shot back.
"Put your wand down, woman," barked Snape. "You're not going to win this one, so just let us get out of here, and go back downstairs and tell them you couldn't get us in time."
"Fuck you!" she cried. "You're cornered in an Auror office, you dumb fucks, you're not going to just"
"Put your wand down, Tonks," a new voice said quietly, and she felt the sharp jab of a wand at her back. She turned slowly, her mouth falling open and her eyes widening, to see Hermione Granger behind her. The wand twisted further between her ribs. "Now."
They all heard shouting from the lift and the corridor beyond Auror Headquarters, and Snape and Lupin exchanged an exasperated look.
"We don't have time for this, Tonks," said Lupin. His eyes narrowed. "Walk away. Right now."
It was pride that made her do it, or else stupidity, but she couldn't let them win, not after everything he'd put her through. Not if he'd brainwashed Hermione and was serving the Dark Lord, and Snape was willing to fight his battles for him. No, she couldn't let them go. She raised her wand again, clenching her jaw and spitting out the first binding spell she thought of, following it with a side block of Snape's retaliation. Thick cords snaked around Lupin's body and pinned him against the wall, and she managed to freeze Snape's wand hand for a moment.
"They told you to put your wand down, Tonks," Hermione repeated behind her, and she turned quickly, watching Hermione's eyes flicker to the door, where the voices of Shacklebolt's back-up team were growing louder.
"Or what?" she snapped. She didn't stop to wonder why Snape wasn't attacking, but she should have. She should have stopped to wonder about a lot of things. "You know how to use that thing?" she added, eyeing Hermione's wand and snorting back a laugh. She turned back to Lupin. "I don't know what you told her in that room, Remus, but it must have been a hell of a story. You've got her to do your bidding now, is that it? You've got her to turn bad?"
Lupin shook his head, his arms still immobilised by the bonds. "There's no good or bad, is there, Hermione?" he said quietly. "Just those with power, and those without."
Hermione nodded. "The state of nature is the war of every man against every man," she murmured. "Or woman, as the case may be." The voices outside the door were growing louder, and Hermione glanced up at Lupin. "One more chance, Tonks," she said. "Let them go."
"You're all fucking lunatics, you know that." She turned back to Snape and raised her wand. "You're all going to rot in Azkaban as fucking traitors, and I'm"
The door to the outer office of Auror Headquarters crashed open and they heard the shouts of the Aurors that were hurtling up the corridor towards Shacklebolt's office. In the commotion and confusion of Snape watching passively while Lupin shouted at Hermione and the Aurors hollered out to see if she was there, Tonks almost didn't hear the two words that slipped out of Hermione's mouth as the wand dug deeper into her ribs.
Snape released Lupin's bonds with a pass of his hand and set to work on the wall again, tracing the spell over the yellow lines and shoving the brick portal aside three seconds later. The tunnel was lined in black stone, flat for as far as the eye could see, but presumably angling upward later on. It was large enough for the pair of them to enter nearly upright, and Snape hauled Lupin forward by the arm.
"Go," Hermione pleaded, her face white. "I'll tell them you two did it, that I got here too late."
"Hermione," said Lupin, his eyes fixed on her. "Are you sure?"
"Your cover's blown," she argued, bending to check Tonks's absent pulse and swallowing hard. "Mine isn't."
Clutching Lupin's arm in a death grip, Snape stared at Hermione. When he glanced back at Lupin, his face was incredulous. "You weren't joking. You are very persuasive, aren't you?"
Lupin shrugged. "I am a teacher, you may recall."
Snape shook his head in wonder. 'Unbelievable."
"Wait," said Lupin urgently, "Priori Incantatem."
"Fuck," Snape muttered under his breath. He grabbed Hermione's wand and whispered furiously until it glowed with a blue tinge, then thrust it back at her. "There. The last spell you performed was a binding hex."
She nodded, clutching the wand.
"Hermione," said Lupin, "can we contact you again, when it's safe?"
She paused, standing over Tonks's body. "I'm still not sure I trust either of you, you know," she said, her chest rising and falling rapidly and her eyes darting between them.
Lupin nodded. "That's quite all right," he said. "We barely trust each other." Out of the corner of his eye he saw Snape turn and glare at him, rolling his eyes.
"Go," insisted Hermione, glancing back over her shoulder, and neither Lupin nor Snape wasted any time on gratitude or goodbyes. They would see her again, after all; if all went well, it might even be sooner than later, when they could present her to the Dark Lord as their newest recruit.
Lupin glanced at Snape as they entered the tunnel, taking a deep breath and nodding his head.