A/N: So here is the chapter that will reveal the truth behind the Bathroom Incident. I'm sorry if it's not as interesting as the hype! ;)
The room was small and cosy, the wooden panelled walls and highly polished four-poster bed gleaming by the light of the flickering fire. Long green curtains concealed the night sky beyond the window and the embroidered quilt was looked soft and cheerful in contrast to the two small, plain grey bags dumped at its foot and the expression on the face of its occupant.
Felisha was shaken. That much was immediately obvious to Remus as he stepped inside the chamber and watched her pale face flickering by the firelight as she twisted her hands and paced almost unconsciously across the floorboards. He glanced back at Tonks as she pulled the door closed behind them to find that her expression was grim- she too was well aware that there was something seriously wrong here. Just what had occurred at the Institute that had put Felisha into such a state?
But even as Remus half-stepped forward to offer what comfort he could, the researcher span abruptly on her heel and turned to face them. "Remus, you won't believe…" But her voice trailed off instantly, her eyes focussing sharply on the pink-haired form of Tonks beside the door. Her expression froze.
"Who are you?" she exclaimed with undisguised alarm. Her eyes flicked to Remus. "Who is she?" she repeated sharply. "Where's Undine?"
It was so easy to forget that not everyone was aware of Tonks and her thousand faces. But how on earth to explain?
Luckily, Tonks saved him the trouble. "Wotcher Felisha," she greeted with a wry smile. "I guess I should have brought the clipboard and the glasses. But at least I don't look like such a bubble-brain."
Felisha's eyes widened. "Undine?"
The Auror visibly winced as she stepped forward to stand beside Remus. "Actually, the name's Tonks," she introduced herself with a shrug. "And this is the real me – well, mostly." She touched a finger to her bubble-gum hair with a smile. A moment later, the smile had turned wicked. "Just think of me as Remus' bodyguard."
Remus graced her with a long, hard stare. "How many times, I don't…"
"…need protecting," Tonks finished with a distinct smirk. "Of course you don't, you big, strong incarnation of testosterone, you. I'm just here because I can't resist your manly wiles."
Anxious as she was, even Felisha smiled at that. "Well, it was quite some disguise," she offered sincerely. "I'd never have guessed."
"Disguise is my speciality," Tonks replied without a trace of modesty. "Just don't ask me to sneak up on anyone."
Pleasant as it was to see Felisha looking less like death warmed up, Remus forced himself to focus back on business. Moving forward gently, he took a soft hold on Felisha's arm and guided her to the foot of the four poster bed, dropping down to sit beside her. Hooking her foot around a nearby stool, Tonks also took a seat beside the fire.
"Leish," he said softly, wrapping his hands around hers – her eyes met his at the use of the old nickname he had heard Lily and her other friends call her whilst at school. "Tell me what's wrong."
She took a deep breath. "Remus," she said, her voice a tremble. "There's a Dementor in the Institute."
Everything went cold. Faces flashed before his eyes; Dolph, Censermealia, Daniel, even Thor Wilding and the Pack, all there, all trapped, all far too convenient. How many of them had already lost their souls? How many were already in the thrall of the minions of Voldemort?
"How long?" Tonks' voice cut sharply into his horrified introspection, her tone implying that her thoughts reflected his. "How long has it been there?"
Felisha's hands flexed within Remus' comforting grasp. "A couple of hours at the most. I don't think I was supposed to know about it but my friend in security told me that he had to perform a high alert escort duty this evening and it just so happened that they were bringing it inside as I went downstairs to come here…" She trailed off, breathing deeply. "I thought it would just be another feral," she admitted in a hushed tone. "A part of me even wondered if it might be you, Remus. But it wasn't. It definitely wasn't." She shook her head slowly. "I've encountered a Dementor before. But it was nothing like this. Oh yes, I felt cold, I found myself remembered my father's death and Lily's funeral and every bad thing in my world… But there was more too. There was something violent, something potent about this Dementor. There were more than just bad memories here – every brutality, every fight, every nasty death I have seen in my work with werewolves came to the forefront of my mind. It was as though it was calling on those memories specifically. And when it had passed, I had never felt so sick, so naked, so violated in all my life." Her eyes drilled into his. "Remus, I have never known anything so evil as that thing I saw today. And it's in the Institute."
Fighting down the raging ice that was running the length of his spine, Remus gently wrapped his arms around her shaking back as the dark, curly head of his old school mate accepted the comfort of his embrace and dropped against his shoulder. The warmth of her skin against his robe and the tickle of her hair against his neck provided a bastion against the chills. Her soft sigh implied that she was feeling much the same.
He was uncertain of quite how long they sat together before the voice of Tonks, sharpened by an unexpected edge, intruded upon them.
"Did anyone offer any kind of explanation?" The Auror asked abruptly. "Did you ask why they were bringing a Dementor into a Feral Institute?"
Felisha's head lifted – with a slight, unspoken reluctance, she pulled out of Remus' arms and sat up straight once more.
"I managed a quick word with Avin – my friend in security," she replied, her cheeks still slightly flushed. "He told me that he had heard Alexander Aylward talking with the man at the Ministry when they went to collect it, saying that under the circumstances it would be better off with us." She frowned. "From what he heard, he thinks it might be the Dementor that Kissed Abraham Kane."
Remus' head snapped up instantly. "What?"
Both Tonks and Felisha stared at him. "The Dementor that Kissed Kane," Felisha repeated slowly. "Why, does that matter?"
"It might." Remus' mind was racing towards an alarming possibility. "Felisha, has Rebekah ever told you her theory about the werewolf soul?"
The researcher was regarding him uncertainly. "A little," she answered cautiously. "But Rebekah's become very precious about her research lately. Why?"
Remus ignored the question. "How much do you know about Dementors?"
Felisha blinked. "Pretty much what was covered in NEWT Defence," she admitted. "I specialised in werewolves quite early on in my magi-zoology apprenticeship and so I never really got much further with anything else."
Remus sighed. "Have you ever heard of Mortimer Caldwell?"
"Are you going to answer any questions or just keep asking them?" The slightly frustrated intervention came from Tonks. After a quick glance in her direction however, Felisha did reply.
"He researched Dementors, which isn't a job I'd volunteer for. But I've never read his theories."
Sighing once more, Remus leaned back against the twisted support of the four-poster and gazed up into the canopy. "Caldwell hypothesised and later proved why it is that Dementors prefer human souls and emotions to that of any other prey," he said, his voice quiet and weary. "The reason they have no interest in animals is because an animal's emotion range and soul is less rich and diverse than that of a human, hence they do not make very good meals. A human feels greater happiness and suffers stronger woes, more complicated emotions and a deeper soul – it is like comparing a full five-course banquet with living off stale bread or gruel. A Dementor with nothing else to feed upon but animals would eventually weaken, sicken and possibly even die."
Tonks was frowning. "That's interesting enough, Professor. But I'm not sure I see the relevance here."
Remus smiled at her, a gesture she returned. "I'm getting to that. You see, Caldwell also theorised, although was unable to prove, that it could also work another way. Because there might also be a good reason that Dementors don't usually consume the souls of magical or dark creatures." His smile spread as he watched the young Auror. "What would happen if you ate the entire contents of Honeydukes in one sitting?" he asked suddenly.
"I'd be the size of an elephant with spots like dinner plates," Tonks replied promptly. Felisha smiled too as Remus chuckled.
"Apart from that," he said.
Tonks pondered for a moment. "I'd probably be sick," she said frankly. "Not to mention I'd be bouncing off the walls from the…oh." Her eyes lit up with realisation. "That's it, isn't it? That's what's happened to the Dementor that drank Kane! It's got a sugar rush."
"Exactly." Remus was really rather proud of his analogy. "The souls of magical creatures are far, far potent than those of an ordinary human. Caldwell believed that consuming a magical soul would intoxicate a Dementor, damage it permanently, drive it wild. Consuming more than one would probably poison it fatally."
Tonks nodded. "Just like an overdose of sugar or salt."
"And that Dementor consumed a feral werewolf," Felisha injected suddenly. "Which would explain why my thoughts seemed to focus so much on brutality and violence as it passed me. Those are the thoughts that would most dominate a feral mind." She took a deep breath. "That's why it's been transferred to the Institute. We have a feral Dementor on our hands."
There was a long moment of silence. It was not a pretty prospect.
Remus eventually broke it. "The question is – what do we do about it?"
Tonks frowned once more. "What can we do? We're banned from the Institute. Reb… Whoever's playing games in there can do as they chose."
"I may have a way for you to get in." Two heads swung instantly in Felisha's direction. She shrugged slightly. "In an emergency at least. But you may have to bear with me. It'll take a little time to arrange."
"Anything you can do…"
"As soon as you could would be…" Tonks and Remus spoke almost simultaneously, breaking off to glance at each other. Felisha smiled.
"I'm working on it," she reassured them. "Whenever I get the chance. The only problem would be letting you know when I've done it. Oh!" She slapped one hand against her knee. "That reminds me, did you get my letter all right?"
Remus smiled genuinely. "The letter was excellent. I was very glad to learn you weren't fired."
Felisha returned the smile. "I'm not sure I was. But Rebekah surprised me. She didn't blame me in the slightest but found it very easy to think the worst of you. She did warn me to be less trusting of werewolves in the future, though."
"Charming," Tonks drawled. "But like Remus said, the letter was great. You disguised your purpose well for any unwelcome eyes."
Felisha beamed. "Good, I was worried about sending it. I can't prove anything, but I think someone has been reading my post. Certainly the letter I got from my mother last week had been opened and re-sealed." She pulled a face. "But therein lies the problem. I don't think us continuing to write is going to be possible without severe suspicion. But I don't see how else we can co-ordinate anything or even arrange to meet…"
"I've already thought of that." Remus dug into the pocket of his robe and pulled out the three silver sickles he had obtained from Hermione earlier. "We'll use these."
Tonks' cheeks creased. "Scotland to Yorkshire is a bit far to chuck a coin at someone, Remus."
Remus gave her a long, deliberate look. "They're Protean charmed," he stated slowly as she grinned at him cheekily. "If we need to meet, we simply charm a time and date to meet here into our own coin and the other two will grow hot and show the same. If one of us can't make it, we send an X followed by an alternative. We can even send short messages. What do you think?"
"I like it," Felisha took her coin at once. "However did you think of it?"
Remus smiled ruefully. "I didn't. It was a… project by one of my pupils. A very clever young lady."
Tonks flipped her coin into the air before snatching it and pocketing it. "This positively reeks of Hermione Granger," she said with a grin.
Remus grinned too. "Who else?"
"It's a relief to know we can stay in touch," Felisha slipped the coin into her robes. "It's so isolated in the Institute these days. If something does happen, it's nice to know I've a secure link to the outside."
Remus looked over at her in concern. "Are things that bad?"
Felisha sighed deeply as she absently brushed her long dark curls out of her face. "Apart from that Dementor, things are no worse than they've been for the last few months," she admitted wearily. "I told you most of what you needed to know at the Institute and in the letter. It's hard to explain." She sighed again. "It's Rebekah mostly. I mean, she's never been the most sociable woman in the world, but when I started at the Institute, she was at least approachable. But recently, she's been like ice. She was always reasonably… not sympathetic, but responsible about her charges too but now – it's like she's just stopped caring. And it all started when Kane arrived." She met his eyes once more. "She hates him, Remus," she said softly. "Even more than she hates you. And that hate has filled her completely."
Remus felt an uncomfortable prickle at this news. "What about the others?"
Felisha snorted. "Croll is Croll. And Aylward is Aylward. They never change. Neither does Zelia, really – she just drifts through life on the crest of her own private wave of positive energy. Dolph's been more cheerful lately, mostly because he's allowed out of the Resident's Level now and away from the others. And Cymone – well, she moans more than she used to but that could just be because her boss has turned so foul tempered. She's been left to do almost all the paperwork alone."
"That'd annoy me too," Tonks wrinkled her nose. "Felisha, who has access to Kane?"
Felisha raised an eyebrow. "Alone? Only Rebekah, Aylward and Croll have Alpha Clearance. I have Beta Clearance, which means I can go to Level Six unaccompanied but I can't get into Kane's observation chamber. That's Alpha only." She shrugged slightly. "But those three can take anyone they want in with them. I used to be able to go to the Resident's Level alone too but after the incident with you, Rebekah's boosted that to Alpha Clearance too. Specifically, her Alpha Clearance. No one but her goes in alone."
"What about the Dementor?" Remus leaned forward, resting his palms against his thighs. "Do you know where it was taken?"
"Level Six," Felisha replied promptly. "I asked Avin. I wanted to know where to avoid." She shuddered.
Level Six… That's good. Certainly the further away from the non-feral Residents the Dementor was the better. And if the Death Eater tried to feed it a feral – well… They'd probably have a dead Dementor on their hands. Rather grimly, Remus almost found himself hoping that they'd try it.
They talked for a few minutes more, discussing the staff and residents of the Institute and its operations before lapsing finally into a slow and awkward silence. From below, the raucous laughter of drinkers at Rosmerta's bar drifted up through the floorboards.
Felisha glanced over her shoulder, taking in the clock on the bedside table. "You'd probably better be going soon," she remarked uncertainly. "But before you do – Remus, could I have a word with you?" She shot an uncomfortable look at Tonks. "A private word?"
Remus couldn't help but notice that Tonks looked a little put out – but to her credit, she rose immediately to her feet, glancing at Remus with a wan and oddly subdued smile. "I'll…umm… be downstairs then," she said, jerking her thumb in the direction of the door. "When you want me."
Remus smiled at her. "I'll be along soon. But you don't have to wait if you don't want to."
Inexplicably, Tonks almost seemed to wince. "No, no," she said with almost deliberate casualness. "Bodyguard, remember? I have to see you safely back to Hogwarts or I'm not doing my job."
Remus gave her a mock scowl at the mention of protection. "If you must, then. But I can look after myself."
Tonks chuckled slightly. "Yeah, yeah, you're a big boy and all that. But I'm still going to walk you home. That's what friends do, isn't it?"
And then, with a flash of a half-hearted smile, she stepped outside and was gone.
Felisha was gazing at the closed door with an oddly thoughtful expression. "Is she all right?"
Remus followed her stare. "I think she's a bit annoyed with me. I rather put my foot in it just before we arrived." He shook himself. "But anyway – what did you want to talk to me about?"
Felisha sighed, gazing down at the quilt as though it was the most fascinating thing in the world. "The Prefect's Bathroom," she said softly.
Remus could feel the heat rising to his cheeks. "Oh."
Felisha smiled wanly. "I really hoped if we shook hands and started over that it wouldn't matter anymore. But I keep finding myself wanting to explain to you that I wasn't avoiding you because of that… what I saw… well, I mean I was but…" She raised her hands to her flustered face. "Oh dear. I am making a mess of this. This is why I didn't want to talk about it."
Remus gently shook his head. "It's all right. I guessed that you guessed and it wasn't unexpected. I know you're a good person, Leish, and that's why you avoided me by acting embarrassed instead of disgusted but…"
"It wasn't an act!" Felisha flushed violently. "And that wasn't why…I mean…" Furiously, she crumpled her robes between her hands. "You know what? I'm just going to start at the beginning. I knew you were a werewolf, Remus, long before it ever made the papers. I've known since school. Since that night when I saw…"
"My scar." Remus closed his eyes. "My bite." He'd known, deep down, that she'd seen, that she'd understood, that she'd put the scars and his absences together in her head – she was too much a Ravenclaw not to. That they had been teenagers – shy teenagers who had very much liked one another – had made it easier to pretend it was all about something physical but he'd known and she'd known and neither had wanted to face the other knowing. And so they'd blushed and run away until it became a habit that neither could break…
"I knew you'd seen it," he said softly. "I saw the look on your face when you saw me. You were embarrassed because I was…" He flushed slightly. "But there was more there too. For days, I was terrified that you were going to say something."
Felisha's head shot up indignantly. "I'd never have said anything!" she exclaimed hotly. "What do you think I am? I liked you Remus, I still like you, a lot, and I'd never have done something like that." She sighed deeply. "It was just…"
Remus nodded quietly. "I understand."
"I'm not sure you do." Gently, Felisha reached forwards and took his hand in hers. "I did a lot of research in those few weeks, found out a lot of things about what it was to be a werewolf – in fact it was that investigation that got me interested in researching werewolves for a living. But knowing so much about how awful it was – I didn't know what to say to you, Remus. I knew you were a good person – I certainly wasn't going to let some foolish illness change my opinion on that – but I knew you were proud too. You wouldn't want my sympathy and I just couldn't find a way to broach the subject that didn't sound like I pitied you somehow. And so it just seemed easier to…" She blushed prettily once more, "…to focus more thoughts on the other aspect of what I'd seen and that way I'd just keep being embarrassed and not offend you at all. If you see what I mean."
The warmth of Remus' returning blush was filled with understanding. "I do. Unfortunately."
Felisha chuckled more easily as the rosy hue of her cheeks faded down. "Good. I'm glad that's finally said. After all, it isn't as though I have any reason to feel awkward anymore." She beamed as she rose to her feet, her hand still gripping his. "So you needn't worry," she declared heartily. "I'm determined to get over it. From now on, I certainly won't look at you and picture you naked."
And then Felisha froze. Following her gaze, Remus stared in horror.
There was a deathly silence.
For the door to Felisha's room was now open. And standing framed within the corridor beyond stood Nymphadora Tonks, Madam Rosmerta and a young couple that Remus recognised as two of his seventh year Ravenclaws.
And in that instant, he knew with a sinking heart that every single one of them had heard Felisha's last sentence.
The students were staring at their teacher with a kind of stunned glee. Rosmerta was smirking. Tonks blinked for a moment, but on catching sight of the look of horror that Remus was very certain was splashed across his face, he saw her chin start to tremble with desperately suppressed laughter.
Oh Dear Gods. I'm definitely going to get a reputation out of this. And that's the last thing I need…
Rosmerta recovered most quickly and blessedly decided to show a little tact. "This way, dears," she said firmly to the two open mouthed eighteen year olds. "Your room's a little further down."
Reluctantly, the couple allowed themselves to be ushered away. Tonks, however, leaned casually against the doorframe and met the stare of her red-faced friend with a carefully raised eyebrow.
"Naked?" she queried with frank wickedness.
Remus fixed her with the steeliest glare he could muster. "Did you want something?" he retorted irritably. "Or did you just come up here for the pleasure of humiliating me?"
Tonks waved a dismissive hand. "Oh, the humiliation was just a bonus." Her expression dropped abruptly into one that was rather more serious. "But mate, we really need to go."
Something was wrong – that much Remus could instantly tell. Setting his shoulders, he turned to the red-faced Felisha and managed a wan smile.
"Well – good luck," he said bracingly.
"You too," she returned in a high-pitched voice with an awkward little nod.
Remus sighed. Just when they'd sorted things out…
But Tonks was tapping her foot in an anxious manner. With a final, slightly rueful smile, Remus turned and left Felisha alone in her room.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Tonks took a firm grasp on the sleeve of Remus' robe and turned him hurriedly away down the passageway.
"Why did you burst in like that?" Remus tried his very best to keep the irritation out of his voice. A moment later, he glanced around and realised he was being ushered towards the back end of the inn. "And why are we going in the opposite direction to the stairs?"
"Because we can't go back through the bar." Tapping her wand against a wooden panel, Tonks revealed a narrow, winding staircase that dropped away towards the Three Broomsticks yard. "Age before beauty," she gestured towards the hidden stairs. "Or at least, if you go first, I get a soft landing when the inevitable trip-up happens."
Embarrassed, confused and annoyed, Remus folded his arms and turned on the Auror instead. "And why are we sneaking out the back?" he asked with a calm of which he was quite proud.
Tonks regarded him slowly. "Because Falconer, that security guard we met on our first visit to the Institute, is sitting at the counter downstairs," she told him levelly. "And my suspicious mind refuses to accept that is a coincidence. So come on."
Remus obeyed. He was suddenly too tired to argue that even security guards were allowed out to have a drink.
"So." There was a strange note to Tonks' light-hearted tone. "Tell me all about being naked in front of Felisha Hathaway. Would this be the infamous bathroom incident?"
Remus sniffed carefully. "None of your business," he replied stiffly.
"No," Tonks' voice was oddly quiet as she stumbled slightly on the step behind him, one small hand pressing suddenly against his back. "I don't suppose it is."
A/N: I apologise for the magi-babble - I didn't mean it to get so technical in this chapter but I just got involved in the analogy! I hope I haven't bored you all too much and I promise the action will kick off in not too many chapters time... ;)
As per usual I would like to offer many, many thanks to this weeks lovely reviewers – Hiron Otsuki, Fred, Thee-Unknown-Factor, Lexi-Jade, merlinssister12, Howling-wolf, Kailin, Lucathia Rykatu, elka78, Adre, FireChildSlytherin5, sylthian, mercutio-rane, wcoastgril, Rel Fexive, Pickledishkiller, Author Gal, felixgirl, Gilpin, The Great RC, Mandalen and emmaD. You are all nice, nice people. :)
I am quite heartlessly short of time at the moment so I'm afraid my responses shall be even more brief than usual. Apologies…
A Few Responses:
Howling-wolf – The rumour train is an evil beast indeed…;)
Kailin – I do imagine Remus as being a lovely, sensitive man, but I strongly suspect he would be quite oblivious to any woman who made "I like you" noises in his direction because he would assume that he was probably misreading any signals because no woman could possibly be seriously interested in him ;). Plus, as he said, Tonks is his friend…;)
Adre - -cuddles plushie and muches chocolate- Bless you:)
sylthian – I've always imagined Rosmerta as quite playful and possibly a bit of a stirrer. Bless her. ;)
wcoast girl – I'm saying nothing –whistles- ;)
Rel Fexive – That line was a personal favourite…;)
felixgirl – Thank you! As a bit of a Hermione myself at school, I always like to give her a moment or two. :) And the family dinner is next chapter and as for the Bathroom Incident – I hope that worked okay for you and sorry if it was a bit of an anti-climax…;)
Gilpin – Indeed they do. Double Chocolate Velvet and Midnight Chocolate are on my list to try…;)
emmaD – I'm incorporating HBP elements when I can but I'm not going out of my way. I'm sticking to the story as intended. :)
Thanks to you all again and see you this time next week. :)