Chapter Six: Orsus
It was already late in the morning by the time Remus stepped into the quiet house. He hadn't thought his spirits could be lowered any further, but when the dank and gloomy darkness of the front hall encased him as he closed the door, he found that he had been mistaken. He took several lethargic, silent steps forward, his back hunched over as if a heavy burden lay on his shoulders.
I could have hurt her. I could have turned her into a werewolf. Hell, I could have killed her! He mused dejectedly, blinking back the annoying, burning sensation in his eyes. I'm more of a liability to the Order than an asset, really. Dumbledore should never have put his trust in me. I should just pack up and leave now.
That was the story of his life. Always packing up and leaving because of who he was. He tried so hard to keep running away, but in actuality, he could not run away from himself. The undeniable truth was glaringly obvious: he would run all his life, but he could never escape the horrors that came with being a werewolf. That would follow him everywhere, ruining his chances at a career, pushing away friends, bringing unbearable pain to people that he cared deeply for…
He let out a long, slow sigh, trying to drain the pessimistic feelings from his lungs. But it was impossible. He could almost see Alex packing right now, preparing to never look into his miserable, lying face ever again. And if she ever did, he knew that all she would see would be a terrible beast. With everything that had happened, how could she ever look at him again and see something other than a werewolf?
And that was the glaringly obvious, undeniable truth.
Remus walked as quietly as he could toward the kitchen and poked his head in. There was nobody in there. Breakfast was long over. Footsteps from behind him caused him to give a start and whirl around to see who was hurrying over.
Molly was red in the face; her hair was frizzy and wild as if she had been too busy fretting to bother with a comb; her eyes were shooting daggers at him, and her hands were up in the air to try and gesture along with her furious words. "Where in Merlin's name have you been? When Severus told us you hadn't taken your potion- well, needless to say, we searched everywhere for you. But- no sign of you anywhere! You are a grown man, Remus, and I do not expect to have to check up on you to make sure that you take your potion. Terrible things could have happened!"
"You mean, I could have hurt someone," Remus stated bluntly, glowering at the floor. As good as her intentions were, Molly had absolutely no idea what it was like. But how could she?
"Well- I- I mean, yes, of course- but it's a good thing you're all right," Molly fumbled, seeming to realize that she had made it seem like she cared more about what damage Remus could have done than his own well being. Remus suspected that this was the truth, but he knew Molly would never admit it. "As long as you're well, I suppose- nothing did happen, did it?" she added, cautious not to candidly accuse him of hurting someone.
"No, Molly. Nothing happened," Remus murmured wearily, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Now if you don't mind, I would like to get some rest." His body was exhausted and aching from the transformation, and he felt entirely drained, as if every last bit of energy had been squeezed out of him. He willed himself to drag his feet up the stairs, willed himself not to succumb to the burning in his eyes, willed himself to stumble into the room he slept in and over to the bed… and when he did so, he stopped caring, stopped willing himself to do anything, for his body would not obey. He collapsed on the bed, face buried in his pillow, and in no time drifted into a deep sleep to the silence of his own soundless tears.
There were whispers all around him. Oh, he wished they would stop! The annoying, distant voices caused the dull pounding in his head to increase, and eventually Remus rolled over and groaned, pressing his pillow over his head. At last he blinked his eyes open and was surprised to find warm, golden light spilling into his room. He had slept on and off the day before, allowing the after-effects of the transformation to wear down. He had gotten back to sleep around midnight, and after looking at the clock nearby, discovered he had slept soundly for ten straight hours.
One of the voices spoke above the rest, but it was very muffled. He was sure that everyone in number 12 Grimmauld Place was on the main level, from the faraway sound of their slightly hushed voices. Though he still felt a bit sore, he discovered that he was much more rested and full of energy than before, and thus chose to slide out of bed, stretch, throw on fresh clothes, and amble down the stairs. When he got to the staircase, the voices were loud enough for him to make out snippets of conversation.
"-been standing there for almost two hours now!"
"-of course, but maybe she's a spy and found out the address-"
"-could go out there and test our new product on her-"
Remus couldn't help but smile wanly. That last voice had been either Fred or George. Both of them had been living in Grimmauld Place since they had flown out of Hogwarts the previous year, and ever since then, they had become quite intent on improving their joke shop.
"I think we should all stop jumping to conclusions." Remus's smile dropped. Severus was there, too. "If she were a Death Eater, I would recognize her. Seeing as I have never seen her before in my life, I believe it is safe to say that she is no threat to us."
"That may be, but it is suspicious… she seems to know right where she is."
"But she does look a bit lost. See how she's looking around like she's waiting for something?" That sounded like Bill.
"Or someone," Tonks's voice piped up.
Remus began to trot down the stairs, his curiosity becoming overwhelming. Who on earth were they all talking about? When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw the whole group- Arthur, Molly, Fred, George, Bill, Severus, Kingsley, Tonks- huddled in front of the window, peeking out onto the street like peeping toms. Had he been in a better mood, Remus would have laughed his head off at the sight. As he stepped into the room, Remus cleared his throat and announced his presence with, "I suppose I wasn't invited to the party?"
At the sound, everyone jumped and spun around, looking startled. They glanced around uncomfortably for a moment before Severus greeted him with a smirk. "Well, well, well; if it isn't Sleeping Beauty."
Remus could tell that Severus wanted very badly to add, "Or should I say Beast?" But he didn't have to. His cold, black eyes said it for him. Carefully averting his gaze from where Severus stood, hovering in the corner and clad all in black, Remus took a few more strides forward and tried unsuccessfully to see what they were looking at out the window. "Can I ask what you're all crowded around?" he questioned at last, the peculiarity of this situation causing his eyebrows to rise.
It was Fred who answered. "There's some woman standing on the side of the street. She's been hanging around for about an hour and forty-five minutes, and it looks like she's standing right outside this house, even though she can't possibly see it," he informed Remus, who smiled briefly with gratitude at having an answer before pushing past the crowd and peering out the window himself.
She did look a bit lost and anxious, something a bit uncharacteristic for her bony cheeks and eyes that sparkled tauntingly. Her loose ringlets of brown hair fell over her shoulders haphazardly, landing on the baggy blue sweatshirt that hung down over a pair of fraying jeans. Remus would have recognized her anywhere.
Without wasting a second, he turned and hurried off through the group again in the direction of the front hall. The rest of them eyed him curiously and turned their attention back to the window when they heard the door creak open and then slam shut as Remus hustled out into the warm sunlight. "Guess he knows her," Bill broke the silence with an amused smile. The redheaded twins agreed.
"That, or he's really desperate."
Remus blinked away the shock of sunlight and watched as Alex turned around at the sound of footsteps and all at once looked startled, relieved, frightened, and ecstatic. The string of emotions played across her face like a movie and finally landed on mildly awkward with her hands shoved deep into her back pockets as he watched him approach. When they were about three feet apart, Remus stopped, swallowing as he tried not to look at her while trying to look at her at the same time, not sure of what exactly he wanted to do. After a long moment of silence, he blurted out, "Er- hi."
The silence was deafening.
"Alex, I… I'm so sorry. I should have told you to begin with…" he began, but the latter shook her head vigorously and cut in.
"No, no, you had all the right not to tell me. And I should be the one apologizing. It's just that… I'd become so accustomed to what I do that I'd forgotten that it was actual people that I was… well, you know." She sighed and looked up at him, tears glistening in her eyes.
"No, I… well, how about neither of us apologizes?" Remus suggested, fumbling over his words.
"That sounds good."
They stood there for another moment. All at once Remus wanted to shout for joy that Alex hadn't run away, and yet he was terrified of making the wrong move and making her disappear for good. "So… why are you here?"
Alex stared at him breathlessly for a moment, tugging at her sweatshirt. "Well, the last time I was here, a valiant and debonair man came along and saved my life. I was hoping I might get lucky a second time around."
"Is this your way of telling me that you're giving up your nomadic ways?" Remus asked her quietly.
"I think I found someone who can domesticate me."
Remus couldn't help but grin. "You know, you're very talented. I'm sure if I talk to Dumbledore, he would see that you could be a great asset to the Order."
"Take my word for it."
Alex found the corners of her lips twitching up into a smile. "I'd like that."
The two of them had each taken a step closer, and before they knew it, they had leaned forward into a kiss. When they pulled away, Alex smirked up at him and muttered, "You animal."
"You should see me when there's a full moon."
Alex gave a pained sort of grimace.
"Too early for jokes?" Remus questioned.
Alex nodded and replied, "Crack that one again in about a month, and I swear you'll get big laughs."
Remus couldn't help but grin stupidly at her. He also could have sworn he heard cheering coming from the house behind him, and he wouldn't have been surprised to see a Weasley's Wizard Wheezes firework shoot out above them into the clear blue sky.
Alex knew that her memories would come back to haunt her yet, but for now she was at peace with herself. And despite the frigid air that surrounded the world between fall and winter, she had never felt warmer. She could have stood there for all eternity, clinging to the beast she hated… and the man she loved.