This is it for The Most Beautiful Mendacity! Thank you so much to everyone for reading, reviewing, favoriting, and alerting! Your support means so much to me, thank you! xD As for the sequel to this, I will title it The Phoenix Rising and will have it up soon I hope. I am also beginning to work on a story entirely my own while writing The Phoenix Rising so the updates might be a bit slower. I hope you don't mind. As for now, I hope you enjoy this epilogue and also the last of summer. Oh my god...It's August, oh why can't summer last longer?
Chapter 36 – Epilogue: Dreary Grim Old Place
The sound of the train whistle was blaring through her eardrums. Steam and foggy vapors began to envelope the platform as the Hogwarts Express approached, coming to a gentle stop. Its whistle was still blaring, and in the mixture of sound and fumes, Tonks was momentarily reminded of the train rides many years ago when she herself would be leaving the train, searching for her own parents. She inhaled deeply; lingering in the memory for just a little longer before abandoning the space she took and went searching for him.
"Excuse me, pardon me, move aside please," said Tonks as cordially as she could.
As students exited through the doors of the train, parents and family crowded up to greet them. Tonks was having great difficulty making her way through the dense crowd and for several seconds found herself unable to move as she was squashed between a rather wide woman and a portly man searching for their equally cow-like son only several feet away. Rolling her eyes, Tonks lunged through the crowd and finally reached a small clearing where she'd tripped over someone else's feet and went flailing out of the crowd.
"Bloody hell!" Her scream however, was muffled by the noise of the crowd.
Much to her surprise, a set of warm, protecting arms were suddenly wrapped around her waist. His hold dropped down for a moment to break her fall and in one graceful motion, he pulled her back up to her feet again. Now she stood beside him, a man grown taciturn with the news of impending war. Tonks let out a sigh and stared through the mass of students and parents just like he was.
"Have you seen Harry yet?" she asked.
Remus shook his head. He was pallid, his face haggard and drawn, and his clothes hung off his bony frame as if he was a hat stand, nothing more. Looking at him, Tonks sighed. She quietly slipped her hand into his and held on firmly. For a long moment, they did not speak. They simply stood there for what felt like an eternity in what they'd describe as comfortable silence. Finally, Tonks only loosened her grip when she sensed movement within his warm hands. He shifted to the side and before she could really process it, they were walking. With Remus, she was making her way rather gracefully through the dense crowd.
"What did you promise me?" she asked him.
"That I wouldn't push others away," he said softly.
"And what are you doing right now?"
Again, Remus was quiet. He was thinking, she knew. He let out a sigh, stopped their footsteps, and turned to her. He held her by her arms, holding her tenderly but tightly. "I'm not going to lie," he said. "It's gotten so much harder to smile and joke around now that we know Voldemort is out there."
"Then we must try even harder to smile," she said. If Remus was going to make her promise to never stop smiling, she wasn't going to be the only one with a promise she cannot break. He had to go through it with her as well.
He nodded, licked his lips, looked down at his feet, and then up again. He smiled.
"Better," said Tonks, showing him a kind grin of her own.
She couldn't deny that when Remus smiled, his looked younger than ever before. His eyes lit up, his weariness gone, and his age deceiving. She held his face, placed a gentle kiss upon his lips, then spun on her heel and took his hand. They were walking again.
Remus and Tonks were passing through several familiar people, friends of Harry she'd seen from school. "Reckon Molly and the others have finished greeting Harry yet?" she asked.
"Reckon so," Remus answered. He stood on his tiptoes for a moment. "I see Sirius has found his godson, at last."
"Took him long enough," Tonks replied.
They were passing Fred and George Weasley now—Tonks could see their brilliant grins brightening up their faces. She could finally tell them apart, but only for that one time. Fred was with a girl named Angelina Johnson—Tonks saw the girl's father once or twice at work. And George…was happily conversing with Alexis. Alexis was holding Marrick's hand but she let him go temporarily to give George a tight goodbye hug and a fleeting, friendly kiss upon his forehead. She did the same for his twin when Fred came by but Tonks saw that George's reaction to her friendly nature was much more…tinted. He was blushing scarlet.
"What do you mean you can't come over often this summer?" one of the twins demanded. Tonks still couldn't tell their voices apart.
"I will be busy with something else!" Alexis replied, laughing. "Marrick is too!"
"Honest, we're not lying," said Marrick in his deep but amiable voice.
"So I guess this is goodbye then?" another twin asked rather softly.
Alexis nodded with an apologetic look on her face. "Sadly," she said. "Owls, we'll keep in touch by owls. Otherwise, I won't see you as often…"
Tonks and Remus had walked past them. She figured it'd be wise to give her cousin space to say goodbye to her own friends. Tonks knew exactly the reason why Alexis may not be able to see Fred and George as often that summer. Voldemort was back. They had joined Dumbledore's re-established Order of the Phoenix. No doubt they would be busy by various tasks and covert missions. There seemed to be no more time for fun and games when the most evil wizard of all time was back and kicking somewhere out there.
"There's Sirius," said Remus.
She looked up. He was still smiling, his smile more genuine now. "Wonderful."
Sirius was giving Harry yet another hug, followed quickly by Silvia. Molly and Arthur Weasley passed by Remus and Tonks with a kind smile and a pat on the shoulder. When Tonks could finally reach her cousin, his pregnant wife, and his godson, she found that there was longing in all of their eyes. Standing beside Remus, she was looking at a family, a proper family, as Sirius likes to call it. It was sad to say that soon, Harry would have to leave—very soon.
"Write, tell me everything that's going on," Harry insisted. He looked better than when Tonks had last seen him, unconscious in a hospital bed marred by cuts and bruises with tear streaks still new running down his pallid face.
Silvia was chuckling. "Usually, we're the one telling you to write."
"I will," he promised. "Every week." Harry smiled, seeming less burdened than before but he only seemed…. He then turned to Remus and Tonks, his shockingly green eyes lit up with delight. "Remus! Tonks!"
Instinctively, Tonks pulled him in for a tight hug and Remus clapped Harry on the shoulder, a soft chuckle escaping his throat. For Tonks, she'd grown to see Harry as a sort of nephew of hers while Remus saw him like a nephew as well. It was strange. Tonks thought Alexis and Marrick always treated Harry more like a little brother. When they put everything together, Sirius and Silvia being godparents, Remus and Tonks being aunt and uncle, and Alexis and Marrick treating him like a sibling, it just goes to show how messed up even their non-blood-related family was.
"What's on your mind?" Remus asked. He was hiding a smirk and Tonks knew he was teasing the strange look she had on her face.
She shook her head. "Nothing." To make him smile, she stuck her tongue out. His grin brightened and she turned back to Harry. "Sorry you have to go back to the Dursleys."
Harry shrugged. "If Dumbledore says I have to, I can't refuse."
"Maybe you can rebel a little, you know?" Sirius chimed in and he was nudging Remus along. "You know, you don't have to rely on them for food anymore."
Catching on quickly, Remus said, "We'll send you food by Hedwig or one of our owls."
"Give them chaos," Sirius ebbed. "They need a little disorder in their miserable lives."
"But I'm not allowed to use magic," Harry was grinning now, looking much more like his dad. Tonks watched with Silvia and they both quietly marveled how the Marauders looked so complete with Harry, Sirius, and Remus together.
"Your father didn't need magic to spark chaos at that muggle gas station," Remus smiled.
"He looks so much like James," Silvia whispered to Tonks. "With Lily's eyes of course."
Sirius was laughing, patting Harry's back. "He nearly burned the whole place down!"
"Not burn down, he would have exploded it," Remus corrected, chuckling.
Before long, Platform 9 ¾ had become less crowded. With great hesitation, Sirius finally let Harry go, waving to him as he crossed the barrier onto King's Cross station to leave with his muggle aunt and uncle. Tonks saw sadness in Sirius' eyes as he waved to the empty wall but didn't have time to dwell upon it as he suddenly turned back to them, grinning.
"Now where is dear Alexis?" he questioned, looking around. "We have places to go."
"Where are we going?" Tonks asked, raising an eyebrow.
Remus turned to her, took her hand and raised his index finger up to his lips. "Bad place to discuss," he whispered and she nodded, understanding why.
With Remus being slightly taller than Sirius, he was the first to spot Alexis and Marrick walking back. Tonks stood on her tiptoes and followed Remus' gaze, looking for her raven-haired cousin whom she hoped had already said bye to Harry before traipsing off into the crowd. When Tonks' eyes found Alexis, she was suddenly distracted by the sight of another person, another woman from the House of Black.
"Narcissa," Tonks breathed and Sirius noticed as well.
Between the clearing smoke and small crowd, a path had been opened for them. Tonks, Sirius and the others were now looking past Alexis to where Narcissa Malfoy stood with her son Draco, both quietly waiting to get out of the crowd. Their blonde hair was identical and so was their haughty faces, however Draco looked more like his father and held less of the Black family looks that somehow Tonks had not escaped.
Once Alexis reached them, both Tonks and Sirius locked eyes with Narcissa. Looking at her, Tonks found the striking resemblance between the woman and her mother. She no longer felt disgusted by it but she did feel a sense of pity. Narcissa Malfoy could have been so different if only she'd made decisions a little differently. It wasn't in her place to worry however and so Tonks quickly shoved the though aside. Before she turned away, she could have sworn she saw Narcissa's lips twitch to what looked like a ghost of a smile. The aristocratic woman inclined her head and Tonks felt the need to do the same. She stood and watched, a small smile playing upon her lips, making Narcissa do a double take before the woman finally turned and left with her son.
"Weird," said Sirius beside her.
Tonks turned to him. "We never said we were normal."
"Touché," he replied in a low voice.
"Where are we going, Sirius?" Tonks turned and asked him.
Sirius held up a finger and rolled his eyes at Remus who only smiled. "Hold on," Sirius said. "He should be here soon."
Before Tonks could finish her question, there was suddenly a loud crack and someone screamed, "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"
Oddly, it wasn't Tonks who had screamed. Tonks stood with her wand out, pointed right at Mad-Eye Moody's nose (or what's left of it) while Alexis stood to the side, her eyes wide and she was gasping for breath while patting her chest. Remus was chuckling reservedly while Sirius was outright laughing—his laughter was more of a loud bark. Silvia and Marrick, two aurors who had known Mad-Eye for a long time, had their wands out but were simply smiling.
"I see I trained you well," Moody laughed.
"You. Giant. Dolt!" Alexis was swatting at Moody with his own staff which only made him chuckle. Tonks had to admit, although Alexis screamed, she had guts. Even Tonks never dared touch his walking stick.
"Ready to go then?" he asked.
It was Tonks' turn to panic. She had no idea what they were doing. "Go where?"
"Hadn't Remus told you?" Moody asked.
Tonks turned to Remus and narrowed her eyes while he smiled apologetically and rubbed the nape of his neck. "I didn't have the chance, sorry," he apologized. "There were too many people around and before I could tell you, well, Alastor showed up."
"We're going to headquarters," Moody smiled and whispered to her.
"What exactly are we doing there anyways?" Silvia asked.
"We need to clean it up," said Moody. "I've talked to Sirius about it."
"When Dumbledore, Mad-Eye and me went to see it, the whole place was like a house of horror! We need to clean it up to make it safe for our use. The protection spells placed on it make it as safe as Hogwarts but the inside is a completely different story," Sirius explained.
Tonks found herself groaning into Remus' shirt as she followed them. Not knowing where she was going, Tonks held tightly onto Remus' arm as he used side-along apparition. She hated the process but there really wasn't anything she could do about it. A sound of wind rushed through her ear and she felt as if she was being forced through a very small tube. Being squeezed in all direction was not fun at all, Tonks thought; especially if you're a woman.
Her feet finally touched ground again and Tonks let out a sigh of relief. She took a moment to stable herself and was happy to find that Remus was holding onto her, his hand around her waist and the only stability she needed was from him.
"Thank you," she smiled.
Remus made a face. "I seemed to not have enough deliberation when apparating here," he said placidly as he stroked her eyebrow.
Panic struck her and she hit her own face while trying to feel whether her eyebrow was still there. "Bloody hell Remus," she said just as Sirius and Silvia appeared beside them, bemused as to why Tonks was freaking out. "Sirius, wait no, you're untrustworthy." Ignoring an indignant "Hey!" from Sirius, Tonks turned to Silvia. "Are my eyebrows intact?" she asked.
Silvia was more confused than ever. "What are you talking about Tonks? They're fine."
Growling as she turned back to Remus and jumping, Tonks swat him on the side of the arm. "Remus! You're so mean!"
He was laughing and he hugged her to prevent her hitting him any further. She couldn't deny that she was happy he was laughing again but she didn't really enjoy the cost of the laughter being a heart attack on her.
Luckily, by the time Mad-Eye and Alexis and Marrick arrived, Tonks was calm again. Remus and Sirius were still beside her, bullying her. Sirius was stroking his eyebrow and snickering while Remus whistled innocently at the sky. Tonks grumbled—for the sake of laughter, she was being bullied.
"Here, look at this piece of paper and pass it on to the others," Moody grunted as he led them out onto the pavement facing a small stretch of houses.
There was a pungent smell of rotting rubbish attack her nose but that smell vanished quickly once they reach the midpoint between house number eleven and house number thirteen. The piece of paper Moody handed them were passed down from Alexis to Marrick to Silvia to Remus and finally to Tonks.
The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.
"What the hell?" Tonks mumbled.
Moody hushed her and rolling her eyes, she memorized what was on the parchment scrawled in Moody's narrow handwriting. Following what he'd taught her, Tonks muttered an incoherent spell and set the piece of paper on fire. For a short moment she watched as the flames engulfed the parchment and it floated down to the ground in a charred piece of ash.
Not long after Tonks began wondering about what was written on the parchment had a door suddenly emerge, by magic of course, between houses eleven and thirteen. Quickly following the door, dirty walls and grimy windows came into view. Tonks openly gaped at it. An entire house was squeezing its way in between number eleven and number thirteen. The final touch to the house was a wrought iron gate, wonky in its stance, appearing right out of the ground with a loud clang.
Tonks looked around. No muggles were around them and the windows of the other houses were all dark—they must either be out or at work.
"Quickly, in," said Moody and Tonks followed with no further questions.
They crossed the gate and being an auror, Tonks was able to sense the magical premise she'd just entered. They made their way up to the worn stone steps before the newly materialized door, its black paint shabby and scratched. Her eyes looked down and at the same time as Alexis, Tonks had noticed that the gleaming silver doorknob was in the form of a twisted serpent. Mirroring her raven-haired cousin, Tonks gagged at the Slytherin pride.
Sirius took out his wand and tapped the door once. Tonks heard a series of clicking and chains clinking and gears shifting. The door creaked open and a musky smell of abandonment shook their senses. Tonks followed, walking behind Sirius and Silvia with Remus at her side. They were all squeezing into a long, narrow hall with many doors lining it all the way down to the set of stairs at the end and another half-open door that showed sight of what looked like a kitchen. Tonks wanted to gag but she was afraid a spider would perch itself on her tongue if she opened her mouth. The house had a thick layer of dust upon it and cobwebs lined the place like doilies for decorations. Spiders, rats, and all sorts of bugs yet unknown to humans made themselves at home in the old place.
"Who in their right mind would use this place as headquarters?" Remus asked softly.
Tonks turned to her right to see Sirius chuckling. "I didn't expect it to look so terrible."
"Brilliant one you've got there," Alexis whispered to Silvia, her eyes gesturing to Sirius and Silvia merely giggled and shook her head.
"It's so dreary here," said Marrick, cautiously approaching what Tonks thought was a shrunken elf head and poking at it with his wand. "Bloody hell, is that…"
"It's an elf!" Alexis gasped, horrified. "Oh what fresh hell is this?"
"Clean it up," said Moody. "The first meeting is coming up soon."
"And to think, I'd lived here for sixteen years," Sirius sighed, looking around.
Moody was suddenly laughing and by the sound of his laughter, Tonks could tell she needed to be ready for something. "Guess you'll get used to it quickly then," Moody grunted.
"What do you mean?" Tonks questioned.
"You're living here!" Moody was enjoying himself. He had to be enjoying himself.
"WHAT?" they all yelled.
"Oh yes," Moody laughed. "Dumbledore wants this place looked after twenty-four-seven. We can't leave important information of the Order lying around unwatched! And of course, it's a whole lot safer here than any of your places will ever be—it's for your own safety as well."
"B-but…I have a flat!" Alexis replied.
"What if someone comes in and murder you in your bed?" Moody growled.
Tonks scoffed. "Like that will ever happen. They'll be killed by one of her trinkets first."
"Alastor is right," Remus sighed, looking around at the dismal place. "In the last war, plenty of Order members were murdered right in their own house." He exchanged dark glances with Sirius but only briefly. "It's safer if we stay here."
"At least have someone here over the night," said Moody. "For instance, Marrick can go to his home if he wants."
Tonks ignored Marrick's and even Alexis' quiet "Yes!" with a feeling of envy. She relied on Alexis to provide a home for her and if Alexis leaves the flat in London, it meant Tonks would be trapped there, in that dismal hell of a house.
"Clean this place up, pack your bags, move in as fast as you can. I'll send word on when the first meeting is after we sort it out with everybody," Moody told them, taking backwards steps towards the black front door.
"And what will you be doing?" Silvia asked, stepping towards him.
"Helping Dumbledore," Moody smiled. "It's your job to clean this place up and make it livable, not mine." With another grunt and laugh and a final wave, Moody disappeared out the door, closing it with a click behind him.
"Sirius Orion Black, what have you done?" Silvia groaned.
"Bloody hell," Tonks sighed, burying her face into Remus' shirt again as if hoping she could just escape the world with him.
"It…can't be that bad…." Even Remus seemed wary of the place.
"Come on, come on!" Sirius urged, patting everyone's shoulder. "Have a look around! It can't be that bad, can it?" He was trying too hard to be cheerful. Even Sirius looked absolutely horrified finding out that he had to live in that place again, the very place he'd run away from. It must be horrible, the feeling he felt, but he did a good job of hiding it. After all, who'd want to return to the very place you want to run so far away from?
"I don't think anywhere is safe," said Marrick apprehensively. He walked with Alexis, his wand drawn and ready as they entered what appears to be the main living room, looking around. It truly was a strange place. "There's an undetectable expansion charm placed on the house, there has to be," said Marrick.
Rolling her eyes, Tonks could care less how big the place was.
"I've thought about it," said Sirius. "We could use the kitchen as a place for the meetings. Right now, it's the safest place and it has a massive table in there where everyone could sit."
"Sirius, don't you think we should wait a little before walking around?" Remus asked, looking at the strange elf-heads lining the walls.
"What do you mean, wait?" Sirius asked.
"It's unsafe," Silvia simplified.
"I hate it. When do we move?" Tonks asked and Remus shook his head, rubbing her arms and moving behind her.
"I'm going to check upstairs," he said, making his way towards the staircase.
"Kitchen then," Tonks replied.
She was walking—at least that was what she thought she'd been doing. Tonks suddenly tripped over something, something large and kind of squishy but still hard at the same time. The next thing she knew, she'd tumbled onto her face, rolled forward, and skid to a landing against a wooden chair inside the kitchen, causing a loud crash to follow her.
"BLOODY HELL!" she shrieked at the pain. She'd never fallen that hard before and her shock was intensified when she suddenly found two things in front of her. One was a massive, ugly umbrella stand that looked suspiciously like the severed leg of a troll. Two, there was a grumpy hold house-elf standing before her, his (she hoped it was a he) back was hunched and his skin hung off of him loosely—he must be very old. He was examining her in a condescending sort of way. She wondered how house-elves can even hold condescending looks.
Immediately following her fall, somebody began screaming. It wasn't anyone's voice she recognized or at least right away. "MUDBLOODS! SCUMS! WHAT SORT OF DEMONS HAVE YOU LET INTO MY HOUSE? WEREWOLVES?" the voice shrieked at the top of its lungs. It was a woman's voice no doubt. "THERE'S A WEREWOLF IN THE NOBLE AND MOST ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK! SIRIUS BLACK! YOU BLOOD TRAITOR! WHAT HAVE YOU LET INTO MY HOUSE?"
"Bloody hell," Tonks gasped. She was becoming uncomfortable under the house-elves' stare. She didn't like him, which was strange because she'd been rather fond of all the other house-elves she'd ever met, the ones in Hogwarts' kitchen, one named Dobby, Alexis' elf Loony, and even drunk and weeping Winky. But this one, this one in front of her, Tonks didn't like at all.
"SHUT UP!" Sirius bellowed and his face appeared in the kitchen with a tired and apologetic smile. "You fell, didn't you?" he asked, helping her up.
Tonks nodded and Remus showed up behind Sirius immediately, both Marauders helping her up to her feet. "What just happened?" Tonks asked.
"Did someone start another war?" Alexis questioned, rushing into the kitchen with a stunned look on her face. Marrick was hovering protectively behind her and helped Silvia make her way in carefully.
"Sirius, what's going on?" Silvia asked.
"That's my mother," Sirius sighed, shaking his head. "Dumbledore, Moody and I tried getting her portrait off the wall but she seemed to have put a Permanent Sticking Charm on it. It's as if the woman wants to haunt me even after she's dead!"
"Master Sirius," the elf said in an old but crooning voice. It was kind of creepy in a way. "My poor mistress is right. What you let in her house—"
"Kreacher!" Sirius growled. "Away with you! Go!"
The elf followed orders immediately and Tonks turned back to Sirius with a questioning look. That was the house elf that served the house of Black and his name was Kreacher. She shivered. Instantly, Tonks knew that she and the house elf weren't going to get along.
"And I'm guessing that was Kreacher?" Remus asked.
Sirius sighed and continued to shake his head. "He's the elf here. He's supposed to listen to me since my mother died and it's my house now. I think he'll listen to Alexis too since she's a Black and Silvia since she's my wife. The rest of you," Sirius looked down at Tonks. "I'm sorry, I don't know if he'll listen."
"I wouldn't bother him," said Tonks sighing and taking a seat in the chair she'd fallen against earlier. "So we're living here?"
Remus nodded and again, Sirius sighed. "We're living here," they said.
Tonks turned to Remus as if pleading for an escape. The others left the kitchen, continuing their exploration while Tonks told Remus, "I just tripped over a troll legged umbrella stand. The portrait of Sirius' dead mother screamed insults at us. And that creepy elf is already scaring me. I don't want to be here."
There really was nothing he could do so Remus only shrugged and patted her hand. "We'll just have to deal with it," he sighed.
Defeated, Tonks dropped her head onto his shoulder as he was kneeling right in front of her. Remus wrapped his warm arms around her and held her tightly. She groaned, "Bloody hell."