Remus hadn’t spoken a word since leaving Harry with the Dursleys. The other members of the Order had tried to talk to him repeatedly, to draw him out, but he would not respond in any way. He simply drifted from place to place in the dark house that he knew had damaged Sirius every bit as much as Azkaban.
By the fourth day, a fog of silence seemed to follow Remus around, since everyone else stopped talking whenever he entered a room. Remus didn’t seem to mind, or even to notice, and as he drifted out of the kitchen without eating anything as usual, Tonks finally slammed down her mug, sloshing tea onto the table.
“Dammit, he’s killing himself!” she shouted. “Why won’t anybody do something?!”
“There’s nothing to do, dear,” Molly sighed, laying a hand on her shoulder, but she pushed it off angrily.
“Somebody’s got to do something,” Tonks snarled, and went after Remus.
She heard the soft swish of robes out in the corridor and trailed him up the stairs. She spotted Remus shuffling down the hallways as she reached the top of the stairway, but as she sped up to catch him, she kicked the umbrella stand again and got her robes all tangled up in the umbrellas sticking up pointily.
Remus was right in front of Sirius’ mother’s portrait when she began screaming.
“HALF-BREED! HOW DARE YOU DEFILE MY HOUSE!”
Tonks swore softly and tried to shake herself loose quickly, but she was hopelessly snagged. She could do nothing but watch as Remus turned slowly to face the portrait.
Remus studied the portrait like he’d never seen it before as she screamed, just standing in front of it calmly, staring back at it. This seemed to enrage Sirius’ mother even more.
“VILE CREATURE! PERVERTING MY SON WITH YOUR UNNATURAL SEXUAL PRACTICES!”
Remus looked like he’d been slapped and Tonk’s hands flew up to cover her mouth. She’d known about Remus and Sirius, it was hard not to live in the same house as them and not know, but to hear Mrs. Black scream at Remus like that, barely days after Sirius’ death…
“Stop,” Remus said weakly, voice brittle from disuse. Tonks didn’t know whether to cheer or burst into tears, and she remained frozen at the top of the stairs.
“Please stop,” Remus pleaded, starting to shake. “Please don’t…”
“MY WORTHLESS SON ENDING THE HOUSE OF BLACK IN DISGRACE! WHORE TO A WEREWOLF!”
“Stop it!” Remus’ voice was getting stronger with each of his pleas, more and more frantic until he finally began shouting almost as continually as the portrait. “No! STOP IT!”
“I WISH I’D NEVER BOURNE THAT WHELP! SIRIUS DESERVED TO BE YOUR WHORE!”
“STOP IT!” Remus roared, shaking head to toe with rage and pain. Tears had started to slide down Tonk’s face, but the look on Remus’ face was so terrible she couldn’t move.
“HE DESERVED TO DIE!”
Moving so fast that Tonks couldn’t even be sure that she had seen it, Remus ripped his wand out from his robes and pointed it at the painting with a suddenly steady hand.
A flash of green blinded Tonks, leaving purple spots in its wake. As she rubbed her eyes furiously, she heard the soft clink of Remus’ wand falling to the floor and the harder thump of Remus following it to the ground. She gave a desperate yank and heard her robe tear off the damn umbrellas finally, then she rushed to kneel down by Remus’ side.
Remus was curled tightly in on himself, sobbing as though he would never stop. Tonks pulled him close as best she could and rubbed his back, still crying herself. When Remus finally took a breath, she realized abruptly that the hallway was silent.
A piece of paper brushed her hand. She looked down to see a strip of canvas laying next to her, then up to see the painting peeling off the wall in large pieces and falling silently to the ground.
“What’s going on?!” Molly appeared at the top of the stairs and rushed over to Tonks and Remus. “Is everyone all right? I thought I heard someone cast…”
Molly cut herself off as she took in Remus’ condition on the floor. Tonks looked from Molly to Remus to the shredding painting, then back to Molly and shrugged helplessly, Remus still convulsing in her arms. Molly finally noticed the remains of the portrait and turned pale.
“Well, I must admit,” she finally said, voice shaking, “that was one solution we never tried.”