"Tough times never last, but tough people do." - Robert H Schuller
The morning I was released from St. Mungo's was the beginning of my new life. It was so odd to be escorted through the doors of the ward, carrying a bag full of the few possessions I owned. In my right hand, I carried my diploma, which James and Sirius had brought to me the day after graduation. With my left, I carried the bag, which was too heavy to be carried by my injured arm yet. Aaron had repeatedly suggested that he carry it for me, but I ignored him, for it was typical of my stubborn ways.
I had been in the hospital for three weeks. It turns out, although werewolves' claws don't carry the poison that causes lycanthropy, they do carry some other kind of poison that leaves irreversible scars. So, long story short, I was going to bear the arm-length slash marks the rest of my life. The healers kept me for so long because they wanted to make sure I wouldn't react to the poison in any way. It turns out I didn't, but they couldn't have been too careful with such an odd case.
Sasha holds open the car door for me, letting me settle myself before slamming it closed behind me. The car was stifling with heat from the high, mid-July sun. I immediately roll down the window as my brothers take the front seats, Sasha on the driver's side.
"Alright, Dora?" he asks, checking on me in the rearview mirror. I nod, making eye contact with him as the engine starts with a low rumble. We drive in awkward silence for ten minutes, my brothers both outwardly upset with me for 'being so foolish to associate with a werewolf.' Sasha keeps glancing down at his watch, for he was late to lunch with his fiancé, Alice.
"How's your arm today?" he asks, trying to diffuse the silent tension.
"Better," I say, gazing out the window at the city of London flying by.
"Or are you just saying that?" Aaron interjects rudely. Aaron was the one who took the news the worst, blaming himself for not taking better care of me. Sasha glances over at him as if saying 'really?'
"It's fine," I mutter, although maybe I was just saying that. For the past few days, my whole family has been arguing whether or not I was going to be well enough to take part in further testing this fall to begin my Auror training. My father and I argued that I would be fine by September, but my mother and brothers argued that I should take a year off to get well. There was no way I was going to put my life on hold for a year.
No one responds. We drive the rest of the way home in silence.
The rest of the summer was mostly spent in my room, where I would lay in my bed for hours on end, doing absolutely nothing. This served two purposes. One, I was 'resting up' so my mother would allow me to take the Character and Aptitude Tests required to become an Auror, and two, I did it just for the simple fact that I couldn't bring myself to get out of bed and participate in life. The only time I left the house was to go grocery shopping, or when my family dragged me out to do something 'fun', like eating out at a restaurant. James and Sirius visited me once or twice, bringing me news of the outside world, although we never touched the subject of Remus. I enjoyed their short little visits, proof that they still cared.
One hot afternoon in early August, just days after I was cleared to go through life without a huge wad of gauze down my arm, I received my first bit of mail since the incident. Being foolish, my heart leapt and thought it had to be Remus. I furiously tore open the letter, only to be disappointed. It was from James.
Sirius and I would love to have you out to lunch tomorrow. We know you're free because you don't do anything anymore, so you have no reason to say no. We know you're feeling lonely and scared, and we just thought reconnecting with the outside world is just what you need. Meet us at The Olde Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet Street in London tomorrow at one o'clock. We'll be waiting.
I sigh, dreading leaving the comfort and security of my home and family for the big city. I throw the letter on my desk and bury my head even deeper into my pillow.
The next day, at precisely one o'clock, I let myself in the front door of the pub, scanning the dimly-lit room for my friends. I notice them in the opposite corner, already sipping what I assumed to be alcoholic drinks. The room is musky and seems have a haze all about it. I feel like I need to cover my mouth and nose, but decide against it in case it would offend anyone. As I approach the table, Sirius notices me.
"Chickadee!" he exclaims, standing and wrapping me in a strong embrace. I suddenly feel safe again, as if I wasn't living a nightmare, and that I wasn't truly alone. I feel my throat close up and tears form in my eyes, but I push them away, swallowing hard.
"How're you?" I ask, pulling away and looking up into his kind, dark, twinkling eyes.
"Handsome as ever," he jokes as I turn to James. I receive the same, comforting hug from him before we take our seats, both boys sitting across from me.
"I suppose the real question is," James says, pulling his drink across the table to his new seat. "How are you?"
I take a moment to consider my answer, tracing the patterns in the wood table with my finger. Suddenly, the waitress comes over and asks if I want anything to drink. I order a glass of water, and James and Sirius snicker.
"Better," I finally answer, ignoring them. "It still twinges a bit sometimes, but I think I'll be ready when it comes time for the tests next month."
This makes both boys cringe and avert their eyes, nonchalantly sipping their drinks.
"What?" I say, noticing their behavior.
"What?" Sirius answers, nervously looking back at me.
"Don't answer a question with a question," I say, thanking the waitress when she brings my water. "You both became uncomfortable when I mentioned the tests. Why?"
James and Sirius cast dark looks at each other, as if deciding how they were going to answer me using telepathy. James suddenly sighs and turns back to me.
"We're not going straight into Auror training, Tonks."
"What?" I say, incredulous, my stomach filling with dread. "Why?!"
"We've committed to… other… endeavors," Sirius explains, obviously choosing his words carefully.
"Other endeavors?" I repeat, still not believing what I was hearing. "And what are these other endeavors?"
"Sadly, we cannot disclose that information to you," James says, suddenly becoming very interested in his mug. "You'll find out about it soon enough."
I don't respond, staring at both of them in shock. The waitress then interrupts again to take our lunch orders. After she stalks away, Sirius speaks.
"Tonks, we would tell you if we could," he explains. "Unfortunately, we're sworn to secrecy."
"By who?" I demand.
"This wasn't the point of bringing you out to lunch," James mutters in a rush.
"You're right, Prongs," Sirius says. "We have much more important things to discuss."
"Like?" I reply, annoyed with them.
"I'm getting married," James spits out. "To Lily, of course."
This sudden news causes me to momentarily forget that I was mad at them.
"What?!" I exclaim, excitement rising in me. "Really? When did this happen?!"
"Last week," he explains. "I proposed to her while we were walking along the River Thames at sunset. I couldn't wait any longer with… what's going on."
I nod, understanding his position and suddenly realizing I was… jealous. That should've been me and Remus announcing our engagement. We should be the ones getting married. Yet…
"The wedding is in September," he says, sighing deeply. "It's really a last-minute thing."
"I would say so," I say drearily, itching at my scar.
"But that isn't the only thing we need to discuss," James continues, looking serious.
"What else is there?" I reply, obviously knowing the answer, yet not willing to say it.
"Come on, chickadee," Sirius says. "It's what's been on your mind since you walked in."
I stay silent for a moment, feeling my heart drop into my stomach.
"Yes," James says sullenly.
"Have you guys… talked to him?" I ask, almost hesitant to speak.
"Yes," James continues. "A few times actually. He came over to the house once or twice."
"Really?" I reply, trying to hide my utter disappointment with my brash outer layer. "Wow, you must all be really good friends."
"Tonks, don't act that way," Sirius scoffs, reprimanding me like a father would his child. "You don't understand what kind of emotional torture he's going through."
"Right," I say, becoming angrier. "Because I have none of that myself."
"Okay, both of you, stop it," James says, bringing his hand in between us. "Tonks, we get what you're going through, but we have to listen to both sides, and we expect you to, too."
"And what's his sob story?" I say sarcastically. "What's his excuse for leaving me?"
"He thinks you hate him, Tonks," James says very seriously. "He doesn't think he deserves to see you anymore… after what he's done."
"What?" I ask quietly, my anger faltering. "I don't… I don't understand."
"He's too ashamed to see you," Sirius says, his anger gone as well. "He thinks you're too good for him, and that you deserve a better life than what he gave you."
"But that's not true," I say, adamant. "I loved every second of the life he gave me."
"We tried to tell him that," James says. "We've been arguing about this since graduation, but he won't budge. You can't imagine the kind of self-inflicted torture he's enduring."
"He doesn't leave the house for anything but coming over to James's," Sirius continues. "He barely eats. He stopped reading. He writes a lot though, all his feelings. He told us about it, how it helps him cope. He just wants out of the life he's living. I can't blame him. I don't know what I would do if I hurt Marlene."
"But I'm okay!" I argue. "You have to tell him that!"
"We have," James sighs. "If you ask my opinion, he's being a big coward."
I take a deep breath and bury my face in my hands as the waitress comes over with our food. I look down at the fish and chips I ordered before pushing it away.
"I can't believe that he thinks that," I mutter, watching as James and Sirius, who usually stop at nothing to eat, leave their food untouched.
"Me either," James agrees. "I think it's just the way it's going to be for a while. Give him time, Tonks. He'll come around."
"What makes you say that?"
"I know him," James says. "Maybe not better than you, but I do. I lived with him for seven years, through the best and through the worst. He just needs time to come to grips with what happened. When he does, I'm sure you'll be the first person he sees."
"I hope you're right," I say, half-heartedly picking at my fish. "I miss him."
"We miss him, too," Sirius says, finally digging into his lunch. "He's not the same."
"None of us are," I point out, chuckling in disbelief. Oh, what a different life I had planned for myself.
Things were good for that short moment in time. Sitting and eating with James and Sirius almost made me forget about the giant aching hole in my chest that Remus left. It almost felt like old times, laughing and joking around. But as we decided it was time to leave, and I had to go off on my own again, reality crashed in all around me, and I found myself clinging to the only source of comfort I had: a small, circular pendant around my neck.
Hi guys! That was a pretty fast update for me! LOL J
I don't have much to say except that I didn't miss school! Just started again this Thursday, and I already had homework, like wtf. Anyways, I hope you all are well!
Please leave a review! :D