Chapter 11 : Turn, Don't Turn Away
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. The idea belongs to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, Scholastic Books, The WB, etcetera. No copyright infringement intended. Title inspired by the song ‘Turn, Don’t Turn Away’, from Art Garfunkel’s latest album, ‘Everything Waits To Be Noticed’. Part of Remus’s letter is an Oscar Wilde quote.
Last chapter, people!
We knew it would rain, for the poplars showed
The white of their leaves, the amber grain
Shrunk in the wind,--and the lightning now
Is tangled in tremulous skeins of rain.
- Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Emilie blinked. “Magic?”
“Yes,” Remus nodded, his face void of any sign, any indication at all, that he was joking. “That’s why the book tried to attack you. It’s the Monster Book of Monsters. We used it in my third year.”
She tried very hard not to smile – honestly – but the solemn look on his face made it impossible for her to stifle her laughter. “You seriously mean to tell me that you’re a wizard?”
“Yes,” he said again, a frown creasing his forehead. “Yes, I am.” His eyebrows were drawn into a tight line, and not even the slightest smile tugged at the corners of his lips. He was a better actor than she had believed him to be.
“All right,” she said, smiling curiously. “And your school…?”
“…is a school for witchcraft and wizardry,” Remus answered, nodding enthusiastically. “It’s the best place in the world, really.”
A small smile played around his lips as he talked about his school, and Emilie suddenly realized that Remus wasn’t pretending; he was being dead serious. “You’re… you’re not kidding, are you?”
Remus frowned, confused. “Kidding? No, not at all. This book,” he said, picking up the monstrous thing, “is a magical book. What else could it be?”
Warily eying the now-harmless book, Emilie tilted her head. “Some kind of trick? Remus, I’m serious… if this is some kind of joke, or a practical prank, then now would be the time to break out in laughter.”
“It’s not a joke,” he said, his voice rising. His blue eyes narrowed dangerously. “It’s the truth, Emilie. I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now, but we’re not allowed to tell Muggles about our world.”
“Muggles?” Emilie echoed dumbly. She felt lost and confused and hurt. Nothing was making sense anymore.
“Non-magical people.” He crossed his legs and took her hands in his. “Trust me, Emilie, I’m not lying.”
His eyes looked deeply into hers, his gaze open and undeceiving, and she wanted to believe him – she did – but what he was telling her was too absurd for words. “Magic doesn’t exist, Remus. And I’ll have you know that I don’t find this funny at all.”
“It’s not supposed to be funny,” Remus said, letting go of her hands in frustration. “I’m telling you the truth. Here,” he said, fishing something out of the pocket of his jeans. “You wondered why I carried this around – well, I can tell you the truth now. It’s my wand.”
He handed her the stick, and she took it, her eyebrows raised in disbelief. “Your wand?”
“Yes,” he said, and he placed his hand on hers, wrapping her fingers around the wand in one gentle movement. “We need it to perform magic. Only exceptionally great wizards are capable of wandless magic.”
“Remus…” she shook her head, “You’re taking this too far. Honestly. I’m… I’m going home now, all right?”
She was about to slide off his bed, but he placed his hand on her lower arm, halting her. “No, Emilie. Please,” he said, “I really am a wizard – I swear.”
Pushing his wand back into his hands, she levelled him with a challenging look and said, “Then prove it. Prove me wrong.”
“What? You mean to say the book wasn’t enough?” he asked disbelievingly.
She cast a sideward glance at the motionless book, and shook her head, confused and more frightened than she wanted to admit. “Prove to me that you’re a wizard, Remus.”
He looked down at his wand. “I… I can’t,” he finally admitted, his eyes meeting hers after a short moment of hesitation. “We’re not allowed to use magic outside of school.”
Her bottom lip trembled. “How convenient,” she whispered. She abruptly stood up and ran a hand through her hair.
She wasn’t sure what she had expected him to do, but she found that his answer had hurt her more than anything; it had, in fact, been more proof than she had asked for - more proof than she needed to know that he was lying. It was like being lied to all over again, she thought. What was even worse, was that Remus actually seemed to believe the utter nonsense he was telling her.
“Em--” he started, but she cut him short.
“I’ve… I’ve heard enough, Remus.”
He shook his head, frustrated. “Emilie, please, I can –-”
Fighting back her tears, she shook her head and hooked her hair behind her ear. “No, please, just — just no more, all right? No more. I’m going home.”
He jumped up from the bed and followed her down the stairs. “Emilie, I would prove it to you if I could. I have… I have pictures, magical pictures — I can show them to you! Or a broom — my broom, remember? We use brooms to fly!”
She cast him a pitying look over her shoulder, her vision clouded by tears. “Brooms? Honestly, Remus…”
“Emilie…” he pleaded. His voice hoarse, and she had to force herself not to look at him; one look into his eyes, she knew, and she would be tempted to take him into her arms and forgive him.
“Don’t, Remus,” she said, her throat dry. “Just don’t.” She felt as though she was choking and tried to swallow, but the lump in her throat would not budge. “I’ve had enough.”
He captured her hand and wrapped his fingers around her wrist. “I’m - I’m not lying. Trust me, please, I swear to you that…” He trailed off when she shook her head and looked up at him with tear-filled eyes.
“I… I can’t,” he drew a deep, shuddering breath, “I can’t let you go, Emilie. I can’t let you go.”
Freeing her hand from his firm grip, she stepped away from him and shook her head once more. “And I can’t stay. I can’t - I can’t believe what…” her eyes darted hesitantly from his face to her father’s house and back again. “I’m sorry.”
He swallowed and ran a shaky hand through his hair. The setting sun shone straight into his eyes, and for a second she swore she saw the faint glistening of tears. A suffocating weight pressed down on her chest, growing heavier with every second that passed. She quickly turned and marched away from his house, too scared to look back. He didn’t follow her.
Emilie woke up to a strange, unfamiliar sound. She slid out of her bed, disoriented, and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. There it was again – the sharp, staccato sound of a beak striking the glass of her window. Cautiously, she opened the curtains. Behind them sat the owl that had soared through Remus’s window not too long ago, its dark feathers flickering in the light of the rising sun. Its intelligent eyes stared right at her.
For a second, she considered closing the curtains and slipping back into bed – go back to sleep and pretend she’d never seen the owl – but she was unable to tear her eyes away. A scrolled note that had been tied to the owl’s leg as she opened the window. A letter from Remus, she thought, fresh pain bubbling up inside of her. The bird lazily pecked at its feathers - ruffling them before smoothing them down. The sound of its claws scratching over the tiled windowsill send shivers down Emilie’s spine.
“Come here,” she said as calmly as she could, ignoring the tremor in her voice. “Come on, boy. Easy now.”
The owl cocked its head to the side and stared at her, almost as if trying to read her thoughts. After deciding that she was trustworthy, it lifted its right leg and allowed her to untie the note. “Good boy,” she said soothingly, carefully stroking its feathers. The owl let out a low-pitched hoot and closed its eyes in satisfaction.
With eager fingers, Emilie peeled at the ribbon. Her name had been written on the outside of the scroll, the handwriting looped and elegant. She quickly unrolled the note and, sitting down on her bed, started to read.
Emilie, the heading said, To speak the truth is a painful thing. To be forced to tell lies is much worse. I shouldn’t have burdened you with my truths - I apologize. Emilie’s breath hitched when she read how he had signed the note. Yours in all ways and always, R.J. Lupin
Brushing the curtains further apart, she stared down into the garden. A pale-faced Remus stood in the middle of the lawn, his hair unkempt and messy, his clothes wrinkled. Her heart skipped a beat when she looked straight into Remus’s eyes. She waged an internal war; she was more confused than she’d ever been. Part of her wanted nothing more than to believe Remus. The owl, the strange sickness, his peculiar friends, the monstrous book, his wand… it would all make more sense if she would only believe him.
On the other hand, there was the unfaltering fear that he was playing a spiteful prank on her – after all, everybody knew that magic didn’t exist. It seemed uncharacteristic of Remus to be this cruel, though. In fact, it went against everything she’d learned about him in the past couple of weeks. She had thought him to be kind and gentle – almost to a fault – and very much in love with her.
Remus looked up at her, his expression uncertain. Her heart broke a little.
Her fingers lingered on the curtain, but she eventually let go of the flowered fabric. The curtain fell back in place, obscuring Remus from her view. She’d been hurt enough already, she decided reluctantly, and she placed his letter on her nightstand. Fumbling around in the drawers of her nightstand, she found what she’d been looking for: one of the pictures she’d taken of Remus and herself. Remus’s face was serious, hers was split by a grin that stretched from ear to ear. She grabbed a pen and scribbled on the back of the picture, I thought that what we had was REAL. Yours, Emilie.
“Here, Sedgewick,” she cooed, slowly approaching the resting owl. The bird turned its head and looked her in the eye, mildly irritated. “Take this to Remus for me, will you?” The owl took the letter in its beak and nodded - nodded! - before it spread its wings and took off. It circled her room several times, then flew towards the window and dove through the billowing curtains.
Emilie carefully wandered over to the window. Through the gap between the curtains, she saw how Remus stuck out his arm for Sedgewick to land on. She bit on her bottom lip and softly closed the window, careful not to make a sound.
She noticed how Remus looked up one last time, his hand above his eyes to block the sunlight shining into his eyes, and then walked away, his shoulders slumped.
He had given up.
Balancing a large suitcase and several books in her arms, Emilie stumbled down the stairs. The room she had stayed in over the summer was completely empty now - it was almost as if she’d never been there to begin with.
Her father was waiting for her at the foot of the stairs, his shirt stained and his short, dark curls disorganized. “Need some help with that?”
Emilie smiled weakly. “No, I think I’ve got it, dad.”
She hadn’t set foot outside her father’s house for the past four days, deliberately ignorant of the sound of Sedgewick’s beak hitting the window and the ringing of the doorbell. The pebbles that would strike her window in after sunset would keep her up late, and more than once she had ended up crying herself to sleep. She was infinitely grateful that her mother had decided to return to London early; she wasn’t sure if she could stand to stay in Little Angleton one more day.
“Let’s get this into the taxi, then,” her father said, taking the suitcase out of Emilie’s hands, even though she had said she could carry it herself. “Did you take everything out of your room?”
She bit on her lip, thinking of the pictures she’d left in the nightstand’s drawers. “Yes,” she lied, “I think I have everything now.”
“Good,” her father smiled, placing her suitcase in the taxi’s trunk. “Well, I think we’re all set, then.” He scratched his eyebrow and pulled her into a tight hug. “I’ll miss you, sweetheart.”
She hugged him back. “I’ll miss you, too, dad,” she murmured, taking in the musky fragrance of his aftershave. “Come visit me and mum some time soon.”
“I will,” he said, pulling back. He ruffled her hair and kissed her on her cheek. “Don’t grow up too fast.”
She smiled through her tears. “I’ll do my best.”
He hugged her one last time. “Well then,” he said eventually, “give your mum my regards.”
She nodded and opened the taxi’s door. “I will.”
There was a loud shout and, as Emilie turned around, she noticed Remus sprinting across his front garden. She was tempted to close the taxi door, but the pleading look on his face kept her from doing so.
“Emilie,” he said when he reached them, out of breath.
Emilie’s father exchanged a surprised glance with the taxi driver, who - although intrigued - seemed slightly annoyed by the delay.
Remus leant forward into the taxi. “I’m so sorry,” he said, his eyes meeting hers without hesitation. “I’m sorry, Emilie. I… I’d ask you for forgiveness, but perhaps it’s better this way.”
“Better?” Emilie felt as though he’d ripped out her heart a second time and stomped on it all over again. She pursed her lips together and looked away.
“Yes,” he said, nodding fervently. There was a wild look in his eyes. “Safer. We were doomed from the beginning. I could’ve hurt you.”
Wide-eyed, she shook her head and said, somewhat bitterly, “Can’t you see, Remus? You have. You have hurt me.”
Her words seemed to slow his frantic actions, and he took a moment to catch his breath. “And for that,” he said, looking her in the eye, “I’m truly sorry. I really do care for you, Emilie.”
She didn’t understand. She just couldn’t. He contradicted himself with every other sentence, and yet, it all seemed to make perfect sense to him. “Then why… why did you lie to me?”
“I didn’t,” he said simply, his eyes gentle. “I didn’t lie, Emilie. I promised you, no more lies. I’ve stayed true to that.” He moved his hand behind his back and took something out of his pocket. “Take this,” he said, handing her a rose. “It’s enchanted. It will turn red whenever I think about you.”
She shook her head and said slowly - as though speaking to a little child - “It’s a red rose, Remus.”
A small smile played upon his lips. “Just keep it,” he said mysteriously. “Take good care of it for me.”
They both fell silent, and the taxi driver seized this moment of silence to scrape his throat, reminding the two of his presence.
“Don’t tell anyone what I told you,” Remus said, squeezing her hand lightly. “I love you, Emilie Applewhite.” And with those words, he pulled away from her and closed the car door. “Be safe.”
Baffled into silence, she kept her eyes on Remus as the taxi pulled away. She watched his figure grow smaller and smaller until the taxi took a turn and he disappeared behind the house on the corner of the street. Only then did she look down at the rose in her hands. It was a lovely rose - its smell sweet and subtle - without any thorns.
“Enchanted,” she whispered to herself, turning it in her hands. She smiled and shook her head, mystified. One thing was sure, she thought silently: her summer in Little Angleton was one that she would never forget.
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