Lupin was awake before Tonks. He’d slept better than he had slept in weeks. It was something about being in the open air and listening to the night sounds that had relaxed him. When Tonks awoke, he was already dressed and had gotten a little fire going under the kettle.
“Tea?” he said when she emerged.
“What time is it?” She was still groggy with sleep.
“I’ve no idea,” answered Lupin, “but you’d better wake up quickly because I’m ready to hike back into the village and see what they have to say.” He smiled as only Lupin could. He looked kind, generous but at the same time, a little sad.
Tonks took her tea and slapped her own face lightly to wake it up. “Gor, you wake up early. How do you know that they’ll be there at the crack of dawn?”
Lupin laughed. “Tonks, it’s hardly early. The sun’s been up for two hours already.”
They made their way to the village hiking again along the road. It seemed a busy morning for traffic and there were many muggle cars that passed them by. When they entered the village, they saw why. The street was filled with the cars that had passed and there were many people milling around the few buildings of the village. Lupin was sure that they had all come to see he and Tonks.
David Gray, along with some fifty others, was waiting for them inside the tearoom. Lupin nodded to them in greeting.
He was feeling an exhilaration that he’d never felt before. It was as if he’d come home. He was in a room filled with his own kind and he recognized them all by scent and feel. They looked normal enough, as did he, and yet he saw each one’s secret beast. Lupin relished in the knowledge that he was not in the minority within the room.
“Welcome, Remus Lupin and Tonks!” called out Mr. Gray in a friendly way. He beckoned them to sit in two empty seats near him. All the other seats were taken and many of the people in the room stood around the edges. All looked at Remus with curiosity.
David Gray stood when they had seated themselves and spoke to all in the room. “These two wizards have come to us for help. The so-called Dark Lord has raised his ugly mug again, as you know.” There was a murmur of acknowledgement and grunting around the room. “And, as before, he will like as not come searching us out to join his ranks, telling us that he will reward us whilst all the while he’ll be planning to be rid of our kind. We know his lies of old. We will not be swayed.”
A cheer went up through the crowd. Remus could see that they’d opened the windows at the front of the shop and even more people were cheering out in the street. There was camaraderie and a joy to fight about this village of people that was infectious and Remus felt a renewed vigor in his purpose to defeat Voldemort, as well.
David turned to look at Remus. “I think that’s a yes,” he said winking at him. Tonks snickered beside him. She was also feeling the amity of the crowd.
David turned back to the room. “We’ve said yes, to these good folks, then?” Another cheer went up.
Outside on the street, however could be heard a low growl. Those inside the room instantly recognized the danger and were silenced and listening. Tonks, looked around surprised, but Remus, perhaps because he had felt already as if he belonged amongst them, reached for his wand in alarm. Surprisingly, ten or so others, including David Gray did the same. All were holding their wands at the ready.
The crowd at the door parted to let a lone-cloaked wizard enter. Lucius Malfoy stood before them scowling, his chin held high. He was barely able to stand the stench of being surrounded by the filth in the room. The trying things he did in the name of the Dark Lord was without end.
Remus stood alongside David, both men pointing wands at the intruder.
“Lucius Malfoy,” said David Gray with contempt. “As I live and breath, how did you ever escape Azkaban?”
“Funny, wolf-man,” said Lucius sneering. “How did you?” They appraised each other. They were enemies of old.
“Still messing in parts that you shouldn’t, I see,” said David not taking his eyes from Malfoy, who walked further into the room. “Still doing the dirty Lord’s bidding, as well, would be my guess.”
Lucius could barely contain his anger at this half-breed wanna-be wizard daring to ridicule his lord. “You are making a mistake, David. Allying your…people…” he said the word with such distain that many in the room were very tempted to attack him. “…With Dumbledore and his weakling followers will be your doom.” He glared directly at Remus.
“It is my understanding that your so-called Lord is merely a shell of what he once was,” said David unfazed.
Remus was impressed. Dumbledore had given him no indication that there might be other werewolves in such numbers or that some of them might be wizards. This leader of the werewolves obviously knew Lucius Malfoy and considered him an enemy but was showing no sign that he felt the other his superior in any way.
“I can see that there is no talking with you at this time,” said Lucius loftily. “It is a pity that your kind show a stubbornness above your station.” He lifted a withering eyebrow to show his scorn of them all. “The Dark Lord will not be pleased with your rudeness toward his emissary.”
Tonks had been standing with her wand out just as the others. She started laughing at Lucius Malfoy. She changed herself into her pink haired youthful reality and stuck her tongue out at him. “Ah, Uncle Lucy, you always were such a killjoy at a party,” she said defiantly.
Many in the room gasped at her change. It was, perhaps not the most strategic thing to do at that moment. Remus, for one, was tempted to kick her in the shins. But Tonks knew what she was doing. She hadn’t grown up the tainted blooded Black/Malfoy cousin for nothing. She knew how to push the Malfoy buttons. She smirked at the berk.
Lucius had been surprised. It was something he hated. “Nymphadora Tonks,” he hissed. “A sight from the family garbage pit, as always, I see.” There was nothing more he would accomplish with this group. He would have to endure the Dark Lord’s wrath but an alliance with this mangy crowd was not to be had. They would have to return in greater numbers and with more deadly force than he was willing to do. He growled at Remus and David and disapparated from the room without another word.
David was the first to speak. “Now that was a neat trick, missy,” he said to Tonks with a grin. “So how’d you do that so quickly?”
Tonks felt suddenly shy. “I’m a Metamorphmagus, sir,” she said respectfully. “I am able to change at will into anyone.”
“Well, it’s a bleeding brilliant trick, my dear,” said David with a laugh. The others in the room laughed with him.
A young girl of about sixteen that had been standing next to them reached out to touch Tonks, which made her blush with embarrassment.
“Perhaps, I shouldn’t have done it just then, but that man just gets my goat, sometimes,” she said.
“It certainly surprised him, Tonks,” said Remus, forgiving her. “It was getting a little tense there for a minute. I thought we were going to have to do him in.”
David grimaced. “Probably should have,” he said under his breath.
“Okay, folks,” he announced loudly to the crowd. “I think we’re all of one mind on this. Everyone go back to your homes and prepare. We’ll have not have seen the last of that grubby gannet. We’ll meet up at the house for the full moon. Come early, the missus will expect you all this moon, my friends.” He was jovial. The crowd clapped their hands enthusiastically in relief that it was over and began to disperse.
David’s sons came up to tell their father that they’d see him back at the house the next morning and then everyone had left except for the young girl, the old lady behind the counter and them.
“This is my youngest daughter, Kate,” said David pointing proudly to the suddenly shy girl. She had short dark hair to her shoulders and wore a wild display of colors in her muggle clothing. She looked down as she went to shake Remus’ and Tonks hands. Her hand was a limp rag.
“She’ll not talk to you at first,” said David slyly. “She’ll be pretending that she’s shy but don’t be fooled. She’d talk the tail off a donkey given the chance.”
Kate glared at her father in embarrassment.
“So, you’ll be coming up to the house with me, Mr. Lupin, Tonks,” continued David. “The wife is all fired to meet you. She went to that same school that your Albus Dumbledore is Headmaster of and she made me swear to bring you.”
“Your wife went to Hogwarts?” asked Lupin amazed. “Is she…?”
“A werewolf?” David laughed at him. “She’ll be having my guts for garters if I tell you her story before she’s seen you both.” His large handsome eyes were twinkling with amusement. “She’s a stubborn woman. You’ll see!”
He led them all out to an old-fashioned muggle car that had to be thirty years old but in perfect condition from the looks of it. Neither Tonks nor Remus had been in too many muggle vehicles and they approached the interior with caution. Tonks bumped up and down on the seat. Though her father was muggle born, she didn’t have too much contact with his family after her younger years. A muggle car was a treat and she smiled at her young companion, Kate sitting with her in the back seat, as if she thought of their short journey as an adventure.
They drove past their camp under the oak tree and around a bending road for several kilometers moving farther and farther from any hint of civilization until finally they came to a large stone gate that David Gray opened with a swish of his wand.
“I find it interesting that you’re a wizard, sir,” Lupin finally had the wherewithal to ask his host. “I’ll admit that I’m surprised.”
“I’m surprised that you’re surprised,” answered Gray with amusement. “That leader of yours doesn’t prepare you much, does he?”
Tonks snorted from the back seat.
“We have a few wizards in our midst and even a small school for witchcraft and wizardry that’s ages old. We have a few born with the magic every so often, probably the same average as in the general population. It weren’t always acceptable to be a wizard and a werewolf as I’m sure you know. Kate here goes to our school. She does right well at charms, our Kate does, and she’s bloody good at broomstick flying, as well. We’ve our own Quidditch team, though we only have two other teams to play.”
Kate was blushing and silent in the back seat. She snuck a peek at Tonks who gave her the thumbs up and whispered, “You’ll have to show me some of your tricks.”
The young girl nodded.
They came up to a large stone house built right into the hill. It was a magnificent manor house set at the pinnacle of a seemingly endless expanse of wilderness. A woman in form fitted dress robes stood to greet them in the doorway.
She was tall and thin with gray hair held back in a bun at the nape of her neck. She seemed pleased as punch to welcome them to her house.
“I was so excited to hear that you’d come from Albus Dumbledore, Sir,” she said to Lupin as she shook his hand. “And you, my dear,” she said kindly to Tonks, “you look much too young to be in the Order of the Phoenix!” Tonks had not bothered to return to her disguise.
Neither Tonks nor Remus had mentioned the Order, as yet so they were surprised that she knew of it. “We’re surprised that you know of the Order, Mrs. Gray,” said Tonks.
“Call me, Agatha. I insist!” she said ignoring their comment. She herded them into a large drawing room adjacent to the entry.
It was a large and spacious room that felt very warm and inviting. Even though a storm of gray clouds threatened to drop buckets of cold rain down outside the door, the room with the pleasant large hearth and lavishly red walls seemed to be awash with heat.
“What a lovely room,” said Tonks impressed.
“Yes, dear,” said Agatha pleased. “My husband’s family goes back centuries in the Lake District. This room has always been my favorite in this great big drafty old house, as well.”
A house elf appeared out of nowhere and Agatha ordered tea and sandwiches.
“That’s Sunny, by the way,” she said. “If you need anything while you stay with us, don’t hesitate to ask for her by name.”
She indicated seats for each of them. Her husband was smiling mischievously and sat quietly in a great ancient easy chair by the fire. Their daughter hovered by the door.
“I hadn’t actually asked them to stay, as yet, Agatha, dear,” said Mr. Gray with amusement. “I suspect that they’re a little overwhelmed by their welcome. Lucius Malfoy showed up at the meeting this morning.”
Agatha visibly paled. “So it has really begun,” she said sadly. “I do so wish that Malfoy had gone to prison with the rest of them.”
“So you knew Malfoy in the first war?” asked Remus. “I must admit that I know nothing of your village. I was much younger, then. I was nearly Tonk’s age in the first war and I am guessing that I must not have been privy to much of what went on.”
Sunny, the elf appeared with tea and sandwiches and disappeared just as fast.
“Dumbledore was sworn to secrecy about us until very near the end of the war,” said Gray. Remus couldn’t read his expression but he sensed that the man was grinding his teeth.
“It’s true,” said Agatha pouring tea like a muggle and handing out cups and saucers. “We almost made it through the war without that horrid monster He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named breathing down our necks.” She sighed sadly. “So many of us died when he discovered us.”
“Dumbledore did not tell Remus Lupin about us then or until now, my dear,” said David. It was as if he were just fueling her to chatter on and give out information that he might not have been as forthcoming with. She was obviously the talker in the family, while he was the more silent charismatic type. Certainly, he was a man of fewer words.
Remus couldn’t feel but envious of the older couple. They were both werewolves, living in a wonderful, warm and friendly house, with elves to serve them and children and most likely grandchildren to brighten their days. He had never thought such a thing was possible. These people seemed untouched by the prejudices of the outside world or the danger of what they were.
Agatha was scrutinizing him. “So you’re a lone wolf, then?” she asked him bluntly.
“I hadn’t, until this moment, thought that there was much of a choice,” said Lupin at a loss.
She looked over at her husband sadly. “Professor Dumbledore should have sent him to us right away after the first war,” she said firmly. “No wolf should be alone.”
Tonks sat fascinated by all their talk. “So, how’s it work, then, Agatha? How do you all live as werewolves in the open?”
“We have a pleasant life, here on our hill, Miss Tonks. I wasn’t always a werewolf as my dear husband was, you know.
I understand how it is for those alone.” She looked pointedly at Lupin.
“I didn’t tell them your story, Agatha,” said Gray looking at Remus and rolling his eyes.
Agatha pierced her lips. She was pleased as punch. “Well, let me tell you that I went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as I presume both of you did,” she said proudly. “I was in Ravenclaw House. My mother was a witch that married a muggle and in our family both my brother and I had the gift and went to Hogwarts. He was a few years younger than I and in Gryffindor. Professor Dumbledore was my Transfiguration professor.” She sipped her tea and looked into the air remembering her time at Hogwarts fondly. “I was a young intern at St. Mungo’s when I left school and expected to go into the healing profession when I had an accident.” She bit her lip in memory. “It was entirely my fault. When I was your age, my dear,” she said to Tonks, “I was a little bit accident prone. You can’t imagine what it’s like to find yourself tripping over everything all the time, but there you are, I was a klutz.”
Remus was trying mightily not to laugh out loud. Tonks just looked stunned. She was imagining herself in later years and wondering if Agatha was what she’d be like.
“Anyway, I was in the werewolf unit at St. Mungo’s one evening, doing the rounds with my mentor teacher. They chained the poor dear’s to the bed in those days during the full moon, you know. The wizarding world can be so archaic, really.” She hardly took a breath in telling the story but truly both Remus and Tonks were riveted to what she said. “Well, one full moon night I tripped over Merlin knows what chain and fell right into bed with a werewolf in full form. I was a mess, let me tell you!”
“Best thing that ever happened to you,” inserted Mr. Gray.
“Yes, well,” said Agatha giving him the evil eye for interrupting her. “I didn’t know it then, now did I?”
“So how did you come to be here?” asked Remus fascinated and envious at the same time.
“Well, it just so happened that, dear David’s parents ran a little halfway house for young werewolves finding their way in those day.” Both David and Agatha smiled with delight at each other, probably remembering the day that they’d met. Remus’ heart tugged with jealousy. “They were in need of a teacher in the wizard’s arts at their small school and though the Grays were completely unregistered werewolves at the time, the elder Mr. Gray had gone to St. Mungo’s
in search of a recruitment. He chose me.” It was obviously a moment she was proud of. “And here I am, now, lady of this fine house and the mother of five children, all of who bare the gift of witchcraft. It is a glorious life that we lead.”
“As long as Voldemort is dead and buried, my love,” said Mr. Gray.
“I don’t understand,” said Remus. “How is it possible that the Ministry would allow such a school for magic?”
Agatha laughed. “You mean because of their prejudices toward werewolves or how do we hide the magic from them?”
“Both.” He was intrigued and just for a moment, imagined himself again as a teacher. It had been something he had thoroughly enjoyed and heartily missed.
“Our school has charms and protections just as Hogwarts does, young man,” she said proudly. “Our school has existed for almost four hundred years and all that time in secret from the wizarding community at large. Our entire community is secret and we fiercely protect it.” She smiled at him with a glint of hardness. “We have fought hard for our freedom from the Ministry and to keep our way of life as it has always been.”
“We are at peace with the world, here,” added David.
“And your children, are they wolves, as well?”
“Of course, dear,” said Agatha smiling. “It’s in the blood and if the mother is wolf then so is the child.” She smiled indulgently, as if he were a child learning the facts of life.
Remus was overwhelmed. They seemed so matter-of-fact about something that he had spent his whole life trying to come to terms with. “So what of the changing at the full moon?” asked Remus now excited to know such happy werewolves. “
Do you take the wolfsbane potion?”
“Merlin no!” said Agatha with disgust. “I know they meant well in creating that potion. I worked on its development myself, but it isn’t a cure for lycanthropy and frankly running at full moon with the clan is so much more healthful.”
“Mr. Lupin would not know about that, Agatha,” said Mr. Gray with a tone of warning in his voice.
She looked sadly at Lupin. “You must return to us before a full moon, Mr. Lupin to experience what it is like to run with the pack. You would enjoy the feasting for the change. It is a glorious time and you should treat yourself to knowing who you really are.”
Even though, Agatha Gray meant well by telling him, Remus was saddened by her invitation. He had always assumed that he was to lead a hard life of loneliness and separateness from others due to his condition. That this was not necessarily so for all those like him filled him with even more loneliness. How had such a possible life been kept from him, and why? Dumbledore had surely known that these good people existed before.
“You must stay with us for a few days and get to know us,” said Agatha sensing Remus’ discomfort and remorse for what may have been. “The clan would welcome you, certainly.”
He looked fondly on the kind woman, and then to David Gray who nodded silently in agreement with her. He looked to Tonks who was looking at him near tears in sympathy. She too sensed his remorse. “It is a very kind invitation, m’am,” said Remus slowly. “But we must return to the Order and report to them of both Malfoy’s presence and that your clan is willing to join us in our fight.” He and David exchanged deep heartfelt eye contact. “I’d like to return, if I may, when I’m able to, in order to experience the full moon with you, however.” He looked toward the fire and then rose. “Meeting you both has been a significant experience in my life, I think.”
David Gray rose and held out his hand to Remus. “It is the way of the wolf, my friend,” he said. “We do nothing halfway and we are always better together. You must return and experience it for yourself. You’ll not be sorry.”
“I will come back if I possibly can,” Lupin almost whispered, he was feeling so many emotions at once.
He and Tonks took their leave of the kind people and disapparated to their camp, where they packed up quickly. Neither said a word to the other. Both were lost in their thoughts. Before leaving camp for Grimmauld Place, however, Tonks couldn’t leave without breaking the silence.
“Promise me, Remus,” she said. “No matter how hard this war gets, that you’ll come back here for what little happiness that they’ve just offered you.”
Remus smiled his generous, sad and kind grin. No one could smile with all those emotions sandwiched in together as
Remus Lupin could. “I promise, luv,” he said.
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