Thanks for the reviews of the last chapter, I'm glad you guys enjoyed it. Here's the next one!
Chapter 62: Ghosts
The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, or number twelve, Grimmauld Place, was in need of a major clean. The job had already been started, but it was plain to see that it would take a long time to clean out the filth that was infesting the place. A reluctant Sirius, along with Moody, Remus, Tonks, Kingsley, Hestia Jones, Emmeline Vance, and even Dumbledore himself at times, took turns to rid it of its ghosts.
It was almost the end of January now, and on this particular day, Sirius, Remus, and Tonks had volunteered to clean. Sirius woke up in a foul mood, not at all looking forward to going back to the house where he relived so many bitter memories of the past. But, he thought to himself, even if I'm far from happy, there's something I need to do for Remus today.
So when they arrived at the house, he put on a falsely cheerful smile and said, "I'm going to go up and look at my room. Why don't you two clean the drawing room?"
Remus turned to Sirius, a look clearly in his eyes that said, why are you setting me up, Padfoot? Truth was, he and Tonks had rarely been alone together, and he knew his friend was trying to make it so they got to know each other better. But why? he wondered again. He knew the other man was trying to prove to him that he could have happiness, but Remus knew that once Tonks found out what he was, she'd want nothing to do with him. He was too lucky, in his opinion, to have the people he did in his life.
When Remus gave Sirius that stare, though, Sirius just shook his head at him and started to head upstairs to his room. Sighing exasperatedly, Remus eventually turned to Tonks. "I ... I guess we should do as Sirius says, then," he said slowly.
Tonks gave him a bright smile, either oblivious to his mood or ignoring it. "Okay," she said cheerfully, her bubble-gum pink hair seeming to shine. She was very pretty, Remus noticed as the two made their way to the drawing room.
They worked in silence for a while, and Tonks sighed mentally. She'd not been oblivious to Remus's mood at all. On the contrary, she knew the man was very closed off, and he was hiding a lot of ghosts. And Tonks knew about ghosts. Her mother got the same brooding look whenever she remembered her family. What was Remus hiding? Why did he look so guarded? Deciding she'd try and break him out of his shell, she started a conversation.
"So," she said, smiling softly. "How is young Harry doing?"
Remus turned to her, a smile of his own coming to his face. "He is a wonderful young man," he said, his voice sincere. "Honestly, I don't know how he is coping with everything."
"Because you and Sirius are helping him, that's why," Tonks said, her smile widening. "I haven't seen him in a while, as you know. But I am glad he is doing well. I hope to see him again soon."
"I'm sure you will," Remus said.
Silence descended on the couple again, and Tonks knew she had to keep this conversation going. "I hear you were a real mischief-maker in school," she said. "I was, too. I used to love making myself look like the teachers, and then be out past curfew without drawing attention."
A grin stole onto Remus's face. "Being a Metamorphmagus must be so useful," he said, laughing slightly. "Having James's invisibility cloak was a help in my schooldays too. Really helped us with our pranks."
Tonks giggled. "What were some of them?" she asked curiously.
"Well," said Remus slowly, reminiscing once again on those days. "There was the time we sneaked into Filch's office and put a Dungbomb in there. Then there was the Polyjuice Potion prank, where all four of us pretended to be each other for an hour each."
Tonks gasped in delight. "What a great idea!" she exclaimed. "I never even thought of doing anything like that! You were so creative!"
Remus, beginning to feel slightly more comfortable, smiled at her. "It was James who thought of it," he said. "He was the most creative out of the four of us."
"But you helped," said Tonks. "That ..."
Suddenly, her speech stopped. A rattling sound was coming from one of the drawers of a desk in the far corner of the room. Remus immediately went over to it, knowing what it was. Tonks joined him, also aware of what was inside.
"Let me take care of it, Nymphadora," Remus said softly, knowing that when the boggart revealed itself, he could immediately banish it. He knew in all likelihood that Tonks wouldn't even see its shape. And he definitely didn't want Tonks to have to face her worst fear.
"Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus!" Tonks said exasperatedly as the rattling continued. "Are you sure? I can do it if you like."
"No, it's okay," replied Remus, amused that the young woman before him hated her given name so much. He thought, himself, that it was beautiful. "Let me."
"Okay." Tonks said softly, secretly relieved but also feeling guilty. She did not want Remus to have to face his fear, but she didn't want to face her Aunt Bellatrix either. Her wild, cackling face, the manic gleam in her eyes ... the look of her on the cover of the newspapers filled her heart with dread.
Remus went over to the drawer, and slowly opened it. He raised his wand, his happy memory already in his mind, the memory of the conversation he'd had with his friends when they'd found out what he was and didn't care. He also knew he should make it funny, to banish the boggart, so he imagined the full moon turning into a crystal ball and speaking with Professor Trelawney's voice.
But what slithered out of the drawer was not the glowing full moon. Staring in horror at the figure growing before him, Remus's wand lowered without him realizing it.
Standing before him was a woman, mutilated and torn apart beyond anything he had ever seen. But even under all the blood, shattered bone, and splintered muscle, he knew what he was looking at. The look on her face and the color of her eyes gave it away at once. "Julia," he whispered hoarsely, his entire body going numb.
"You have no right to say my name, werewolf," boggart-Julia spat, blood dripping from her extremeties. "I know what you're doing, and I am more disgusted with you than I have ever been before. You are attempting to have the beautiful young woman you are conversing with fall into the same trap you had me fall into. You are nothing but a monster. You don't deserve to live, let alone talk to anyone."
"Julia ..." Remus whispered again, collapsing to his knees with grief. "Please, Julia, I ..."
"Do you know what my last mortal thought was?" the boggart snarled, her face red with rage, more blood spilling from every part of her. "I knew it was you, Remus. I knew it was you, seeking revenge for me leaving you. You killed me, you monster, and you plan to do the same thing to Tonks, don't you?"
A shocked, furious voice suddenly made itself heard, and the boggart screeched. The mangled, bloody body of the only woman Remus had ever loved suddenly turned into a blob of Jell-O. Tonks let out a tiny giggle, and the boggart vanished.
Remus was still on his knees, breathing hard, tears trickling their way down his cheeks. And Tonks, staring at him, finally knew the secret Remus had been hiding. The man, collapsed in grief and horror on the floor, was a werewolf. Sympathy and sadness washed over her as she saw him reduced to the state he was in. The man's guardedness, his unwillingness to talk to those he didn't know, his closed-off attitude ... she understood everything now.
She fell to her knees beside him, taking his hand in her own. "Remus," she said softly. "Remus, please look at me."
Slowly, the man lifted his head and looked at Tonks, his face streaked with tears. "Tonks ..." he whispered. "Tonks, I'm so sorry. I know you probably want nothing to do with me now."
"That is nonsense, Remus," Tonks said firmly but softly. "It's not about what you are. It's about who you are. I see how Sirius and Harry act around you; they know and they don't care. And I feel the same way. My mum always told me not to judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes."
Remus looked stunned as he looked Tonks directly in the eyes. "I'm a monster, Nymphadora," he said in a barely controlled voice. "Didn't you see who that boggart was?"
"Who was she?" Tonks said quietly, not even reprimanding him for calling her by that dreaded name. "Was she a girlfriend?"
"Yes," Remus whispered, his head bowing again in shame. "We dated for a long time. Two years. When she found out what I was, she ... she ..."
"She left you," Tonks said, anger bubbling in her stomach. "Didn't she?"
"Yes," Remus replied, his voice barely audible. "And the next day, she was found dead. Killed by a werewolf. Not me," he added quickly, "but isn't it ironic? She finds out she's dating a werewolf one day, and that night she's killed by one. Of course she would have thought it was me. I was even afraid it was, too, but I was safe in my house all along, biting and scratching at myself." The last few words were said with such a deep pain that Tonks felt her heart clench.
"Oh, Remus," she said, putting her arms around the distraught man. She felt tears spring to her own eyes as she realized the magnitude of Remus's ghosts. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I never knew anything about what happened to Julia."
"It still tortures me," Remus admitted, reluctantly returning Tonks's embrace. "Sirius still has to convince me sometimes that it wasn't me who killed her."
"Remus," Tonks said, suddenly realizing something as the puzzle pieces started to fit together. "Is Sirius an Animagus because of you? I always wondered why he became one. I always thought it was for the adventure, but ... the way he acts around you ..."
"Yes." Remus knew he couldn't lie to her, the look in her eyes was so earnest. "When the rest of the Marauders found out what I was, they promised to help me. They became Animagi for me. They could have gotten themselves into so much trouble ..."
"True friendship," Tonks said, smiling softly. "I always knew they were attached to you in a special way. Remus, I need you to understand, none of this is your fault. You can't help what you are. You are one of the kindest, most sincere people I've ever met. I feel the same way as Sirius and Harry - Remus, I don't care that you're a werewolf. You're not a monster. You are a human being, loving and kind."
Remus looked into her heart-shaped face, seeing the truth in her eyes. Her hair had morphed into a sad brown as she expressed her emotions. Wiping his tears away, he managed a smile for her. "You don't know what that means to me," he said softly.
"Well, it's true," said Tonks, squeezing his shoulder in comfort. "And I should have been the one to face that boggart. I'm sorry you had to. I feel awful."
"It's okay," Remus said softly. "I ... I wasn't expecting that to happen. I thought the boggart would take the shape of the full moon. It usually does."
"Oh," Tonks said in understanding. "I get it." Helping Remus to his feet, her smile widened as she said, "How about we go and check on Sirius? He's been in his room for a long time."
"Okay," said Remus, smiling genuinely. With the beautiful woman by his side, yet another person who didn't care about his lycanthropy, he followed her out of the drawing room, away from the ghosts of his past. He felt emotionally drained, yet could still smile. Tonks's hair changed back to bubble-gum pink as they went up the stairs to Sirius's room.
Tonks didn't think he was a monster. Tonks didn't care about what he was, she only cared about who he was.
And that, Remus thought, bathed his soul in happiness.