A/N: This is my headcanon for how the relationship between Remus and Tonks may have transpired in the summer leading up to Order of the Phoenix. By the time they're picking up Harry as part of the advanced guard both parties seemed pretty familiar with each other and I always wondered about a backstory to that (also I like the idea of the Weasley twins causing havoc in the headquarters). It veers from canon because we all know that canon was sad and angsty and these two deserved so much more happiness and instead died (I also don't think I mentioned Harry once, which wasn't intentional I swear). So be warned, fluff and happiness and teasing and longing glances abound, like a soothing balm . . . slight character study and a teeny bit of plot if you squint. Really just my way of figuring out how their like turned to love. (And a little a lot of ooc Remus because noble prat Lupin does not exist in this story to the same extent because . . . ugh . . . so much wasted time together and it kills me!)

Day One:

Remus Lupin has always counted time. It's one of the burdens of being a werewolf. He's always counting down the days to the next moon cycle. The time he has left before he has to start drinking the Wolfsbane potion again. The next time he'll have to buy clothes because the wolf has destroyed his.

Yes, time is always escaping his hour glass, and judging by the streaks of grey he counts in his hair, his time seems to be slipping faster than others.

Until the day it freezes altogether and shatters the hourglass.

That's the day he meets her.

It's also the first time he starts counting up, not down, collecting his spilled grains of time to replace his hourglass, because there's something about Nymphadora Tonks that he just can't place. So he starts a mental log to keep track of her, curious to see the effects she has on his hourglass, the one that now fills with time instead of empties.

And he's astounded for the first time in his life because in one day this woman has managed to flip his entire existence upside down and he doesn't know what to do with himself. So he sits back and watches her. Watches as she befriends the Order and makes them laugh with her young face and fresh jokes.

Watches as she smiles and shakes hands.

But mostly he watches the twinkle in those dark chocolate eyes; until they look abruptly across the table at him and turn a sudden icy blue, the same exact shade as his own eyes. And then his world freezes all over again as he meets Nymphadora Tonks, the Metamorphagus.

Day Five:

It's almost been a week and Remus can say without a doubt that there's nothing subtle about her.

Not the fuchsia pink mop of hair that cascades to her shoulders.

Or the vibrant brown eyes that sparkle beneath defined brows.

Not the clumsy way she stomps down the hall and pauses to right the umbrella stand she's knocked over for the second time, apologizing profusely for the sake of apologizing because Mrs. Black's screams are nothing new.

Not even the way she promptly throws herself down in a chair beside Moody, rolling her eyes in time with his magical sight as his electric blue gaze falls upon his star pupil.

No. There's nothing subtle about Nymphadora Tonks at all, Remus notes.

Not even the way she takes his breath away.

He smiles over his tea cup at her—well, not at her really, because she's still engrossed in ignoring Moody's heavy, knowing stare—but because of her, just as the rest of the table does, because Tonks, in all of her unassuming glory, has become the one rare bright spot of humor and reason to smile in the dreary Grimmauld Place headquarters. And now, if ever, is a time when they could all use a laugh.

Moody finishes his appraisal and harrumphs. "You made it then?"

"Of course I did," she says, "Think I'd forget the address already?"

"I did have to remind you thirteen times today," Moody grumps, taking a long sip of his Butterbeer. "Thought you were gunna pass right out when Scrimageor started rambling about grindylows in the sewers."

"I got clocked on the head, Alastor. I didn't have a permanent memory charm addle my brain."

And Remus sees it then. Not irritating frustration on Moody's part. It's concern for his protégée.

"Dumbledore says we ought to double up from now on. No use any of us running in to trouble when we have the resources. So the schedule will be posted. Stakeouts require partners. Watch duty is still a solo operation. Dumbledore's drawing up the first draft list tonight."

"It was a freak accident," Tonks says. "He doesn't have to go through all the trouble."

"No, no," Arthur Weasley says as he settles next to Remus. "Should have been like this from the beginning. Foolish mistake on our part. You are okay then, Tonks? Do you want to have Molly look at it? She's good with minor injuries."

"It's fine."

"Perhaps . . ." Remus begins at the same time Moody growls Nymphadora, but they are both cut off by Sirius who pours a generous glass of fire whiskey and drops it in front of his cousin.

"She's fine. Have a drink."

"I don't think—"

"—with a head injury—"

"—clumsy enough—"

But she's already downing the drink, eyes crushed against the burning flames scorching her throat, proving to them all that she's a lot tougher than she looks, except to maybe Sirius, who christened her a Black the first moment he laid eyes on her and the fuchsia pink hairdo, and who's already topping off her glass and clinking his own against it.

Nymphadora Tonks is a force to be reckoned with. And as Remus looks from Sirius to her, he thinks he should have expected nothing less from a rebellious Black.

Day Eight:

He's never met a woman quite like her, he decides. A woman who tackles the hidden monstrosity's of Grimmauld Place as they work to prepare it for habitation this summer with vigor and a smile. Even when she's attacked by a rather unpleasant hive of blue pixies, she laughs and grins at her handiwork when they all lay in a heap on the carpet right by her boots.

She's got a fast hand and wicked good aim.

He should have expected nothing less from an Auror. That is until they unearth a colony of white mice from a closet and she's backing into him, her warm weight suddenly on his feet in her attempt to get away.

"Not fond of mice, are we?" he whispers and the sound trails down her neck.

She looks up at him and the smile has left her face.

Ginny and Hermione have taken her place and sit in a mess of baby mice, cooing and awing at their tiny features, and the look of utter repulsion on Tonk's face is enough to make his stomach roll.

They excuse themselves now that the relatively harmless rodents are in good hands. And what better hands than that of a teenage girls?

They sit on the top step of the landing, close enough to be able to hear if anything sinister escapes from the closet and tries to strangle either of the girls, but far enough away that they share the tray of sandwiches Molly has left them in private.

"Do you think I should tell the girls that Sirius is going to feed them all to Buckbeak?" she asks, pulling the crust off her sandwich.

"Would that make you feel better?"

"Marginally."

He laughs. "Tell me, Nymphadora, why a phobia of mice?"

"What? Can't a girl have one little fear with it becoming a big deal? And don't call me Nymphadora."

"Yes, yes, fears are all and well, you just don't seem like the type to shimmy away at the sight of a hairy little mouse. Spiders, maybe. Or other creepy crawly things, yes. But mice? I sense a story there."

"Not as much of a story as a memory that's scarred me for life."

"Now this I have to hear."

Tonks rolls her eyes but concedes, swallowing the bite of her sandwich. "When I was at Hogwarts I played on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team. Charlie Weasley was the Gryffindor seeker and took it upon himself to prank members of the opposing teams before big games."

"So Fred and George come by it quite honestly then?"

"Oh, yes. So the day before our final match I find a mouse in my shoe, you know. It gives me a fright, but I know Charlie, so I vanish it and summon the thing into his pocket during Charms. He throws such a fit when he can't see whatever's running around in his trousers that he knocks poor Flitwick off his stack of books and ends up in detention and he's right pissed because he misses the final practice."

Remus chuckles and takes another bite of sandwich.

"The next morning we're eating breakfast and the thing turns up in my porridge and I mean upside down . . . dead. I hadn't noticed until Eloise Hammle started screaming so I was eating out of a bowl with a dead mouse in it."

"That is a story," Remus admits, staring longingly at his sandwich before dropping it back on his plate. "Did you ever get him back?"

"I stole the beaters bat during the game and clocked him one good one out on the pitch. His nose is still a little bit crooked." There's a fondness as she smiles at the memory.

"Did you win the game at least?"

"Don't remember. Was hit with a bludger shortly after and blacked out for a week and the whole time I dreamed about stupid mice. Evil little buggers."

Remus is torn by the sympathetic urge to pat her leg, which bobs dangerously close to his own, and the desire to chuckle under his breath.

But before he can decide which is more appropriate the air is suddenly full of the blood curdling shrieks that can only escape teenage girls and Tonks and Remus are on their feet, barging back into the room, wands raised in time to see that the harmless little mice have transformed into something closer to a bat, their little bodies now sporting leathery wings with claws, and sharp needle like teeth.

"See," Tonks says as she blasts the closest mouse-bat which happens to be hovering over Ginny's head. "I told you! Evil."

Remus laughs as he sends a series of white sparks out the tip of his wand and a handful of mice vanish into thin air. "Now come, Nymphadora, this is a freak accident."

"Don't call me Nymphadora," she grits out, hitting a dozen mice with stunners that send them catapulting against the wall and behind the sofa.

When the rodent bats are gone Ginny and Hermione attach themselves to Tonk's side, shuddering. She sends them off with kind words and tells them there's tea in the kitchen because it looks like they could both use a drink.

She could use one too and decides to unearth Sirius' secret stash which happens to be in Buckbeak's room.

So she and Remus drink away the afternoon, swapping stories of their time at Hogwarts and to Tonk's deep pleasure, feed the little mouse-bats to Buckbeak, who is indifferent to the wings and just grateful for the company.

. . .

And when a lone mouse skitters across the dinner table that night, four wands hit it with different spells and the poor thing evaporates in a puff of purple and yellow smoke.

Remus catches Tonk's eye and they both burst into a fit of laughter to match the high giggles of Ginny and Hermione.

Sirius looks on quite amused until he pulls the wriggling mouse tail from his soup and Tonk's falls off her chair, unable to breathe from laughing so hard.

Day Thirteen:

"Rainbow lollies," George says, dropping his voice as the kitchen door swings open. It's only Sirius so he continues. "Go on. Try one. You'll be able to spit in seventeen different colours after."

"Boys!" their mother cries, appearing in the kitchen with her hands glued to her hips, watching with fierce displeasure as the twins begin stuffing the candies back into their pockets. "What have I told you about those wretched things?"

George darts out of the kitchen first, his mother's screams and flailing finger following him.

Tonks slips one of the lollies surreptitiously into her pocket while Molly's back is turned, mostly to the delight of the Fred. "One for the road then," she whispers, looking up to catch Remus's quizzical stare.

She shrugs then. "Scrimageor's got a meeting planned first thing. At least this'll keep me entertained."

And he wonders where exactly she'll be spitting until they all turn up for dinner that night and Moody's unknowingly got a rainbow of colour splattered along the back of his robes.

Molly looks at the boys and they look at Tonks and she grins her Cheshire grin and all Remus really wants to know is how she got away with it when Moody's got his magical eye spinning on them all the time.

And she intrigues him all the more because he senses a bit of a Marauder in her.

Days Fifteen - Seventeen:

She has a penchant for breaking fine china, he realizes one day, and the Black house is chalked full of it: in cupboards, on shelves, in secret crannies built into the walls.

The first time isn't exactly her fault as she's passing the table with her tea in hand and Kreacher makes a sudden appearance from one of the disillusioned elf doors. She screams and flails, getting good distance with the cup and saucer as she grabs for her chest to slow the beat of her heart.

It crashes down somewhere behind Remus' head, scaring Crookshanks off the tattered sofa.

It's Arthur Weasley who catches her back and holds her steady, keeping her upright with a curious eye trained on the elf as it mutters derogatory remarks under its breath.

And it's no wonder they all sleep more soundly with their doors locked at night.

The next time is when they are prepping for dinner and Tonks offers to help. She catches her toe on the side of the china hutch and somehow manages to send a row of plates bearing a snarling hippogriff off the shelf and across the kitchen floor. It takes her and Remus the better part of an hour to put them back together as the pieces have scattered and mixed, leaving their Reparo spells rather useless when they keep putting hippogriffs back together with two heads and four sets of wings.

Finally they force the plates together, some against their will, and Tonks deposits them on the table where she can't do anymore damage. It is after Sirius, with his voracious appetite, has cleared the pasta from his that he holds up the plate at an arm's length, staring perplexedly at the image of a hippogriff with two heads, one battered wing and a fluffy tail protruding from its chest. He twists his lips and takes a long sip of Butterbeer, perhaps finding he prefers the wretched Black china better this way.

He shrugs and drops his plate to deposit another helping of Molly's spaghetti, only to look across the table and find his cousin and Remus snickering into their plates like school children with a secret.

It's been a long time since Remus has had secrets like this to keep and as he chuckles, breaking down at Tonk's attempt to keep a straight face, he finds the warm heat pooling in his chest to be a welcomed feeling.

Indeed dinner at headquarters has never been this much fun. And he's never seen Tonks look more stunning than she does right now, with her cheeks flamed a pretty pink.

The sight makes the heat in his chest all the more pleasant.

The next time he finds himself at the mercy of her china breaking is not by some clumsy accident but really because of Sirius' mother.

"Dirty blood traitor and her freak of an offspring!"

She's shrieking her head off and as Remus goes to investigate he sees Tonks hurl her cup over the banister and it shatters with a menacing crash against the portrait. He doesn't know if it's her blatant rebellion or the fact that no one has ever answered Walburga Black's howls quite like that, but the portrait silences long enough for Arthur to run by on his way up the stairs and close the curtains, doing a dance on the landing to avoid the broken china.

Remus regards Tonks in her long trench coat, her shoulders heaving, her white fists clenched against her thighs, and if he doesn't know any better, the tips of her hair have flamed from fuchsia to brilliant, fiery red. Oh, yes, she's angry.

He walks up behind her and puts his hands on her shoulders, feeling the tension as she freezes and then relaxes into his touch.

"Wotcher Remus," she says, flustered.

"She's been long dead, Nymphadora. Just try to ignore her."

"Well that's very well but perhaps I can poke her eyes out with my wand so she can't see anymore. And don't call me Nymphadora."

He chuckles and she feels it as he turns her away from the door and steers her down the hall, his chest against her back. "Come, Molly's made tea."

"Well that's all very well too, but I've broken my cup you see and can't quite find it in myself to fix it just yet."

"It was a mighty good throw," Remus says and is pleased when he tips his head past her shoulder and sees that she is smiling at least. "It's a good thing I have a penchant for not breaking things then. You can share mine."

Day Twenty:

She's attentive in ways that other's miss; and highly adept at reading people. It's in the way her eyes scan and survey, picking up little details that others dismiss.

He catches her sometimes, watching from across the room, her head tilted at a strange angle like she's trying to see if he changes under the light.

He wonders what she sees there, if it scares her, or leaves her with questions, but as he's pondering his own thoughts she sticks her tongue out and leaves him breathlessly shocked at the childness of it. Still, despite himself, he can't quite control the laugh that bubbles out of his throat.

And the look between them is no longer serious, but playful and he finds he doesn't mind catching her staring anymore.

Day Twenty-Two:

"They're good, huh?" George says offering her another sweet.

She pushes his hand away and her cheeks pucker. "As sweet as toe fungus, maybe."

"Well we're on the subject," Fred says, taking a seat next to her. "You ever run into any trolls in your line of work . . . we need to get a hold of some troll toe jam for some . . . business prospects?"

And just when Remus thinks she's about to shake her head and tell them off, she laughs. "What kind? Cave troll, mountain troll, marsh—"

The three co-conspirators turn suddenly, locking their eyes on the unassuming man in the corner of the library. Remus simply turns the page of his book and goes on pretending to ignore them.

He is delighted when they turn around and continue talking, discovering that Tonks has in fact been privy to her fair share of trolls. It is surprising for him to learn how many dark wizards take up refuge in the mountains.

And it's these little tidbits of knowledge that make her all the more intriguing. She's quite witty when she wants to be and interesting, and he knows interesting. In his lifetime he's been subjected to some rather dull conversations but any time she's near he finds that boredom does not exist in his vocabulary, though he also finds he'd be quite content just to stare at her if she had preferred not to talk with him at all.

It's only when the twins leave that she finally turns and acknowledges him. "I know you were listening."

"Hmm," Remus mutters, "was I?"

"Good answer," she says, getting to her feet. "Care for some tea?"

"Only if there's no talk of trolls or their toes."

"Ha, you were listening!" Tonks says as he pulls up beside her, book tucked under his arm.

"Hmm." Remus quirks his lips, "Was I?"

Day Twenty-Three:

He's coming down the hall one day, moving from the library to the kitchen where he smells the fresh batch of rolls Molly has just pulled from the oven, when he happens upon Nymphadora, mid-catastrophe. Without thinking, he catches her around the waist as she trips and to his surprise, finds that his fingers have taken root in the seams of her trench coat, embedding and weaving, closer and closer, until she is very much flush against him.

He holds her there, steady and firm, against his better judgement, his will to touch her overpowering the rational thoughts of modesty. But right now, with her wide, brown eyes, and pink cheeks flaming to the fuchsia tips of her hair, he wants nothing more than to look upon her, the real her, who is not an Auror or hardened witch, but the young and vulnerable woman, unsure of herself sometimes and if his senses are correct, jittering with nervous energy at the thought of being held by him.

It is a good energy. One he echoes in the pit of his own stomach.

"Oh, sorry Remus," she says, sounding flustered and altogether annoyed with her inability to walk the hall to the kitchen without upending the furniture or herself. "It's just that stupid umbrella stand."

He chuckles, moving his hands up her waist to help her right herself. Her hands are still wrapped around his forearms, the first things she managed to grab as she flailed helplessly.

"Perhaps," Remus suggests with that wise, all-knowing twinkle in his eye, "we should do the sensible thing and simply move the stand out of your way?"

Her blush becomes playful then. "Yes, well, I wouldn't get your hopes up. If it's meant to be tripped over, I'll find it."

Remus releases her then, a small shuffle of his hands. He brings them up to her shoulders. He is a good foot taller than her and he likes it very much when she cranes her neck to look at him, her pale pink lips parting slightly. He settles his wrists on either side of her head and adjusts her coat, brushing his hands down her front in gentle sweeps, just enough to feel the curve of her chest. "Like it never happened," he says, the words breathy even to his own ears.

"Suppose this will be our secret then, yes?"

"Of course."

Tonks smiles a secret little smile, thanks him and then, with delicate steps, slips by him and up the stairs. Without meaning to, Remus follows her with his gaze. There's something altogether fairy-like about her, he decides. It's the way she walks, lithe and bouncing. The bright colours of her hair. The pleasant cheerfulness she seems to exude.

He's drawn to it. Intrigued by it. And, though he cares not to admit it to himself or any other, completely smitten by her.

With a terrible crash, Remus breaks from his trance in time to see Tonks sprawling onto the landing in a mess of limbs. Fred and George are tangled up with her and seem to be levitating a tray of sandwiches about them.

"Sorry, Tonks!" they exclaim in turn. "Didn't see yah there."

"Apparated onto the landing. Though we'd save us the time, yeah."

"S'alright," Tonks says, smirking up at them just as the bellowing Mrs. Weasley escapes from the kitchen to see the mess Remus is staring at.

"And to think I only asked you to clear off the table! Lord knows your brothers didn't cause this much havoc when they were of age."

"But, Mum . . ."

"No buts! I'm so sorry Nymphadora, dear."

"It's Tonks, Mum!" George says, climbing out of the limb pile and navigating the tray up the stairs.

"What did I just say about magic?" Mrs. Weasley finishes just as Mrs. Black's portrait awakens.

"Oh, bollocks," Tonks says, crawling towards the ratty old curtains and prodding them with her wand.

Remus is by her side in an instant, heaving with all his might to drown out the wretched, foul-mouthed ranting of a long dead woman. Sirius doesn't even bother anymore.

"I don't suppose we can keep this quiet as well?" she says and Remus laughs. A genuine, deep belly laugh.

He looks upon her flushed face and winks. "There's not much about you that's quiet, is there?"

. . .

"Guess I shouldn't be surprised," Sirius says as the pair enter the kitchen, chuckling quietly to each other.

Tonks sobers at that and stares her cousin down. "That wasn't my fault," she defends, though it is half-hearted because Remus is just behind her, still chuckling, and his breath is ghosting across her neck, creating tingling swishes of sensation that travel across her shoulders and down her fingertips. It is a strange type of magic that buzzes there, she is sure, though what it is or how to get it to stop, she doesn't know, but she senses it has something to do with the warm presence of the man behind her.

She rounds the table then, throwing Sirius a mock scowl as she makes to sit across him, and is pleased to find that Remus follows her, sits next to her, and proceeds to pour them both a cup of tea.

"So it wasn't you who just tripped on the landing and awoke my mother, then?"

"We'll it was, but only because Fred and George decided to Apparate on top of me."

"Quite literally," Remus agrees. "I was witness to the entire thing."

"Ah, to be young again," Sirius says wistfully. "Remember when we passed our apparition tests, Remus?"

"Yes." His smile turns sly, a look Tonks is sad to say she has never seen grace his lips before, not that she spends a lot of time looking at his lips, just some of the time, and . . . oh, bollocks, she's dropped her tea.

Repairing the cup and summoning it back to her hands she looks across to Sirius. "Took me two times to pass my test," she informs him.

"Oh?"

"First time I ended up in the lake."

Remus and Sirius share a laugh.

"Was focusing so hard on not ending up in the lake that I accidently Apparated over top of it. You know, the giant squid's rather nice when you aren't landing on its head."

"Did the squid toss you out?"

"That's what I was told. Gave myself such a fright I just blacked out."

Day Twenty-Seven:

Remus Lupin was always good at chess. He could strategize and theorize and outwit most opponents, save for Ron, but never once in all his life had his pieces betrayed him for a pretty girl.

It had started innocently enough, the challenge laid out, the task of teaching the game to someone whose never played.

But Tonks, ever the clumsy opponent, kept knocking her pieces over, apologizing profusely by picking them up and dusting them off.

Remus would chuckle at the way she bit her lip when she was concentrating, until her sweet smile and ignorance earned her quick alliance with her pieces.

She would ask them for advice and heed their warnings, which was all well and good, but when his own pieces started to give their own bits of solid advice and shuck their uniforms for her colours and stalk onto different squares Remus knew he had a mutiny on his hands.

And still he could do nothing but stare and laugh and gaze in wonder at the curious witch across from him who now controlled the entire board and still had no idea what to do with it.

Day Thirty Two:

She listens to the Weird Sisters. He discovers this one afternoon while she's got the wireless going in the library. She's perusing a Quidditch magazine and humming under her breath, exceptionally in tune, which he finds odd in a way, especially when her body does everything it can to reject the natural order of things. But yes, her voice is quite lovely.

When the station switches, thanks to some quick handiwork and his wand, she looks up, finding his figure in the doorway.

And he walks right towards her because he's had an errant thought that he seems to need an answer to. He wonders if it's the music that rights her so. If she can dance as well as she can sing and if so, then she really is just one big contradiction.

She listens to rock but they dance to classical.

"I don't dance well," she warns after accepting his hand and stepping into his space. It exhilarating and strange to be this close to him again, touching but not touching, sharing the same small spot of air. "But I do know how."

"Then that answers my theory," Remus says, rather fond of the current position. "Though I do fear for my toes."

Her boots are the first thing to go so she can stand upon his feet as he guides them in a boxed sway because she really is a terrible dancer when left to her own devices. With the right partner, however, there's definite promise.

"See, easy," Remus says as they spin.

"Yes," she agrees, resting her head on his shoulder.

And it really is in that moment just so easy, and for a minute he pretends that he doesn't have to let her go when the music ends.

Day Thirty-Six:

He's over at her flat for the first time ever, uninvited of course, because Kingsley hasn't seen her for a day and Moody hasn't received an owl as to her whereabouts and she's missed Molly's dinner and Sirius misses his drinking partner, and being the most exuberant character in the Order there's the dreaded sense that someone sinister has paid a little too much attention to her comings or goings and though no one wants to admit it, the fear is that something has happened to her. So Remus has offered to check her flat so none of the order members from the Ministry have to draw attention to the fact that no one has seen Nymphadora Tonks for over a day.

He knocks twice, a sharp, abrupt thrust of knuckle on wood. He barely lets the sound disappear before he has his wand out and is whispering Alohamora against the lock and pushing inside, praying to Merlin that what he finds won't be the cause of a lifetime of nightmares.

There's a shriek and a crash as he enters the hall, pulling his hood off and backing away from the lit end of Nymphadora's wand.

"Bloody hell, Remus! I just about cursed your nose off!" She's dropping then, a whirlwind of colour crashing to the floor, hands on her knees, chest heaving like she's run a marathon and not the length of her flat. Her forehead is creased and there are lines around her eyes: red, puffy lines that she hasn't managed to morph away, or maybe she just hasn't been bothered.

"My apologies, Nymphadora," he assures her, sliding down himself. Of everything he prepared himself for coming here, this was not exactly it. "I didn't mean to intrude. The Order was worried and when we didn't hear from you . . ." He trails off because she looks absolutely exhausted, though she is trying intently to follow his words.

"M'sorry," she mumbles, shaking her head to clear the fog that seems to have settled there in the quiet aftermath of their almost mid-hall duel. "It's my dad. He's had a heart attack. Was out in the city and ended up at the damned muggle hospital and I've had a hell of a time getting everything straightened out because he's never been registered and according to the government, well not our government, but you know, the muggles, he doesn't exist, which is all well and good, but while they give me that load of codswallop, he's lying there hooked up to these awful tubes that those muggle doctors have got shoved down his nose when really all he needs is ten minutes with a healer and he'd be all fixed up." She takes a mighty breath then. "And it's taken me a lot longer than I thought to sort it out, so I didn't go to work or to headquarters. And I'm only now realizing why that might have been a problem."

Remus smiles at her then from his position, slumped against the other wall. Their feet have gotten beautifully tangled in a mess of shoes and limbs, but neither cares for the moment.

"So you're the rescue party, then?" Tonks says.

Remus smirks. It's a half kind of smile that lights up his face in a way that Tonks finds mysterious and charming and the thoughts make her stomach swirl in a way she doesn't quite understand yet.

He stows his wand in his jacket. "Not very impressive I take it?"

"No, no," she assures. "You're certainly the most handsome knight to ever come to my rescue." She stands then, extricating herself from his long legs. "And, Remus . . ."

"Yes?"

"Don't think because you're my knight in shining armour you can get away with calling me Nymphadora."

"Certainly, Tonks." He emphasizes her surname, which he finds doesn't suit her at all, calling no attention to the exquisite creature she is, and as he thinks it, it hits him how this may in fact be the point of it all. Not calling attention to her herself any more than she already does being a Metamorphagus. And what better name to use than one as plain as Tonks. "Though I don't know about shining," he says, gesturing aimlessly to the threadbare jeans and patched jumper he dons.

She gives him an exasperated sigh as she twirls on the spot, drawing attention to the Weird Sisters tee that hugs her torso and the loose cotton shorts that catch her above mid-thigh. The sight of her diminutive frame towering above him in nothing but what he assumes are her pajamas, drives him to swallow more often than necessary. There's an awful lot of leg there.

"Tea?" she asks, sauntering over to the kitchen with a walk he tries far too hard not to follow, because well, from this angle on the floor his gaze falls to her rear end, and that isn't exactly what his aim was when he came here. In fact the whole ordeal has taken a rather odd twist.

"Thank you," he says, getting to his feet and righting his line of sight, focusing on the back of her head instead of her, well . . . yes, that. Because those are thoughts he will save for his dreams, which as it turns out, will be rather pleasant tonight.

Day Forty Two:

There's always something to talk about at headquarters, but Molly loves nothing more than a good bout of innocent gossip and Remus thinks that finding Tonks perched on his lap at the kitchen table first thing in the morning has just made the poor woman's day, though really, if she knew the whole story, she'd probably flame with anger and both twins would be locked away without their wands.

The Wheezes, as Fred and George call them, have been accidently popping up in frequently used places, and as is the luck that Tonks seems to possess, she has, on more than one occasion, been at the butt of the so called joke.

Today, however, it is he that flames with embarrassment as Tonks hastily moves to get off his lap, tripping in her haste to reach the chair next to his, leaving Remus to do the noble thing and catch her again, sending them both to the ground, him pinned beneath her heaving chest. And while he can't exactly say he's pleased about the arrangement, mainly because Molly's here, he isn't displeased in the way Tonks has her chest pressed against his, round and firm, or the way his hands have landed on that expanse of skin at her lower back where her jumper has ridden up just slightly, or the wiggle of her hips against his, though the attention there isn't something he wishes to continue for obvious reasons and he shifts minutely, leaving his thigh between her legs instead. He is quite intrigued to see the way her eyes darken at this and the silent swallow that passes her ivory neck.

Yes, they have made quite the mess of themselves and judging by the shrill gasp and flash of red hair and half tossed apology as Molly escapes the scene, they will both be the butt of dinner tonight.

And oh dear, just wait until Sirius gets a hold of this. The twins owe them big.

It is only after Molly's footsteps have receded and Tonks notices the warmth of Remus' hands against her spine that she rolls off him, apologizing profusely, while he reassures her that there's no harm done. Far from it, minus their reputations, that is.

To think it all started yesterday morning when he asked Tonks if she wanted a spot of tea.

He had poured her cup, she had filled it with milk, and after the first swallow, promptly transfigured into a kitten, hopped upon the table, and sat dutifully in front of him, gazing up at his wordless expression.

"Ah! Did we leave that lying around," Fred cried, scooping up the pitcher of what they had thought was ordinary milk. "Sorry about that, Tonks."

She made a rather cute kitten, Remus noted. White like fresh snow, with pink tips lining her ears and big chocolate brown eyes beseeching him. It wasn't until she dug her claws into the back of his hand that he realized how very Tonks-like the kitten actually was.

Remus hissed and pulled his hand away.

"What is that?" he asked, turning his bemused expression from kitten-Tonks to the twins.

"Kitten cream. Good for a laugh. Turns the user into a kitten. Temporarily of course."

"Well, how do we undo it?"

"Uh, hiccup I think, right George? Or was it a burp?"

"You mean you don't know?"

"Of course we do. It's just we made so many prototypes . . . but it was always something that would happen naturally of course. We'll just have to wait and see."

They had waited all day for something to happen, and when the house started to fill up, Tonks migrated to the deep pocket of Remus' jumper. They had promised the twins that they wouldn't say anything to their mother—well Remus had, Tonks sort of meowed—which meant keeping Tonks out of the way to avoid the obvious question: when had Sirius gotten a kitten?

Moody growled about not seeing her at all and Remus had assured him that she was at headquarters that morning checking in. This did not exactly appease her mentor but it settled his questioning and once dinner had finished and everyone retired to their respective places for the night, Tonks emerged from Remus' pocket, and sat licking the edge of his plate where he placed small pieces of buttered toast.

They both slept in the kitchen that night. Remus was afraid to leave her alone, wandering where both Kreacher and Crookshanks could get at her, and inviting her to stay with him in his room seemed highly inappropriate when she couldn't really respond for herself.

So together they passed the night and early morning, Remus carrying on a one sided conversation about anything and nothing and Tonks attempting to swat at the stray strings on his jumper.

By sunrise she was pacing a small trail across the table. He could tell she was getting agitated. She paused by the rim of Remus' mug, topped off with a fresh cup of tea, took a deep sniff, and promptly sneezed into his drink. He might have had time to care if she hadn't transformed then, a fully grown Tonks appearing in a flash and toppling off the table into his lap.

"Wotcher Remus," she said, hands wrapped behind his neck.

"Good morning," he laughed, relived and elated and a little shaken by their current position.

It was at that point that Molly had barged in and at that point that their fate was sealed, the two of them now lying on the kitchen floor, awkwardly staring at each other.

"Well, guess I've learned my lesson," Tonks mutters.

"Oh. And what's that?" Remus asks, offering his hands to pull Tonks to her feet. "Never trust a Weasley?"

She shakes her head and he is pleased to see a smile there. "From now on I'm bringing my own milk."

. . .

That night there is very little small talk but several awkward silences that do not comprise of Order business and instead consist of meaningful glances and inquisitive stares. Remus meets them head on, finding, in his experience, that it is best not to act the innocent in a situation like this. If people think there is nothing to gossip about the rumor tends to die rather quickly, though poor Tonks has not lifted her head from her bowl all night, and her hair is a sickly kind of green colour.

Remus looks over to find Moody staring at him, quite incensed as he twists his cane.

Now he wonders what exactly transpired between mentor and pupil during the twenty minute conversation Nymphadora was pulled away for earlier in the evening. She looks nothing short of mortified and Moody appears to be ready to string Remus up by his ears.

Excusing himself on the pretense of getting more stew, Remus makes his way to the other end of the kitchen.

"Sneezing," he whispers under his breath as he passes the twins and they both share a relieved sort of remembrance. "Now do something to distract this lot, before Tonks melts into her chair."

That is when they get their first glimpse of the new Whiz Bang Fireworks Fred and George have been working on, and under a cloud of smoldering blue flames Tonks shoots Remus a dazzling smile and for the rest of the night he can think of nothing else but how much he likes the look of her hair as it melts back to pink.

Day Forty-Five:

And then there's the day when he's followed a rather malodorous smell up the stairs and down the hall expecting to find a pint-sized perpetrator, but to his surprise it's not one of the red-headed Weasley children he finds pelting dung bombs off the landing. It's Tonks.

She stuffs her arms behind her back and with a shy grin, looks at her feet. And he sees why the boys like her. She's up for anything. Always good for a laugh. Or rather, encouraging certain behaviour that most of the adults in the house would frown upon, though Remus can't fault her, because it is so Marauder-esque and quite Sirius-like that he finds he appreciates her stealth and cunning, but can't quite stop his teasing look of mock disapproval.

"Nymphadora," he cautions. "Molly's on the war path."

She wanders up to him in a slow, teasing waltz that sends his heart skipping. "Our secret then?" she whispers, leaning up on her toes to reach his ear. Her breath tickles the fine hairs on the side of his face as she pulls away, but not before pressing a quick kiss of gratitude to the side of his cheek. Her eyes are unreadable as she pulls away, but her lips curl. "And don't call me Nymphadora."

She leaves him there, at the center of the action, as Molly bursts in to find him standing in the room, dumbfounded and holding his face, with a neat stack of dung bombs piled on the bed next to him.

But he hears nothing of what Molly says. His face burns where lips touched skin and his heart sings in his chest and he thinks dung bombs might just be the best thing ever invented.

Day Forty-Six:

Considering she's an Auror, Tonks thinks she should be more prepared when strange things happen at headquarters, but the day she gets caught up in a net and strung above the second floor landing, she isn't at all ready or prepared and thanks the heavens that this isn't some sort of test (Or is it?), because she stares clumsily through the triangular holes in the net to the floor below, feeling her stomach do a series of backflips.

What in the name of Merlin?

And then Ginny's there, staring at her like an upside down bug, but really Tonks is the one upside down, right? It's rather discombobulating and she's still trying to get her bearings as Ginny brushes by her.

"I'll get mum to cut you down," she says, rushing off down the stairs.

Tonks turns against the net and hears something clatter against the floor. She watches her wand roll into sight. Oh, bugger! And as she's cursing and thrashing and hoping the rope will give way, it is not Molly that shows up to cut her loose, but instead Remus, with his hair pushed gently back and that charming smile he wears like he knows a secret that he's not about to share.

"Well this is a sight."

"Har, har, Remus. I'm an absolute laugh. Now cut me down."

Remus makes a full circle around her, his hand on his chin. He's scruffy around his beard and Tonks is rather entranced by the look and he mistakes her silence for frustration so he offers her a generous grin. "It's a rather ingenious trap."

She shakes her head, coming back to reality. "Well this is not the way to get a girl in my books."

"I do believe the twins were trying to catch Kreacher because, and I quote 'the slimy git's gone and stolen all of our extendable ears'."

She snorts at that, of all things, and wiggles around enough to face him. "Remus, please get me down."

It's the sudden addition of that one little word that he finds so unbearable and it's entirely worrisome for he fears he'd bend to any whim of hers should it only end in the word please.

And so he does; with a swift cutting motion of his wand, the net falls and Tonks squeals, covering her head and bracing herself for the sure impact against the ground. But it never happens and when she opens her eyes she's been immobilized an inch from the floor.

Remus reaches out to take hold of the front of her jumper just as the spell breaks and in the same instant she feels herself falling she is swept back onto her feet.

He looks her over, glowering incredulously at her tone of surprise. "You didn't really think I'd let you fall, did you?"

"I, er . . . well," she mutters.

"Never," he says, brushing the hair away from her face and Tonks is struck dumb to everything but the sensation of his hands—rough and calloused and so warm—on her skin.

It is a red-faced Ginny, huffing and puffing, that turns up to break them apart. "Oh, you got her down. Good! Mum's throwing a fit on the twins, wouldn't go in the kitchen right now if I were you. Tonks, are you alright? Your face is all red."

"Quite," she says, but the words are barely a whisper and Remus is still playing with the ends of her hair. And she knows then that this is retaliation for yesterday with the dung bombs but she can't be mad, not when her insides are spinning so.

Remus beams at her then, thanking the heavens he lives in a house with the most irritating pranksters in London.

Day Fifty-One:

The next time he is in her flat he has been invited. It's really more of a mission because she's lost the papers she managed to swipe from Hudson's desk concerning the new Decree on Ministry Involvement at Hogwarts that Dumbledore wants a heads up on, though she's assured everyone at the meeting that the papers are in her flat because that's the first place she Apparated to once she had them.

"I know they're here somewhere," she calls over her shoulder as she barges into her own place and promptly begins flinging sofa cushions across the room. Remus catches one with a smirk, laying it down by his feet as he disappears to begin his hunt in the kitchen.

Upon closer inspection, he notices that her flat is very much her and not as disorderly as he might have guessed. She's an organized chaos type of person, which he assumes fits the job. Auror's aren't exactly known for their nine to five schedules.

He wanders through the kitchen, gingerly shifting through her belongings. There's a sense of intimacy that he's not used to, going through her things like this, but she doesn't seem to mind his nose being in her business, she just keeps knocking things off shelves and upending furniture. He's pleased to find that she has quite the colourful vocabulary, a trait she shares with dear Sirius.

He finds her kitchen table, stacked with files, none of which is the one they are searching for, and stops to inspect a large glass bottle with a half constructed vessel inside. He's intrigued by the ship she's building. A muggle pastime he's seen before in the hobby shops his father used to take him to.

She stops by his side on her way back from the bedroom. "It's a practice in patience and fine motor dexterity," she says, lifting the bottle and holding it up for him to have a closer look. "I've tried willing the clumsiness away, but as you can tell it hasn't worked yet, so back to the tested and true method. Practice. I used to do these with my dad when I was little. Well, he would do them and I would mostly watch, but he'd set me on his lap and tell me stories and let me hold the pieces."

"It's beautiful, Nymphadora."

It speaks more of her character. She's so much more than the bright-headed Auror, Remus decides. Yes, indeed a delirious arrangement of puzzle pieces he is intrigued to fit together. And he tucks away each new piece of information he learns about her, locking it up in some new vault that has appeared in his mind since their first meeting. He doesn't know why he does it; he just knows it's important. These things he knows about her. They're important.

"Aha!" she cries then, having opened the cupboard under the sink. She pulls out the file and cradles it to her chest. "Thank you, Merlin. I knew it was here somewhere."

She stops then, having realized that she's been swinging the glass bottle around and her half constructed ship is now lying in pieces at the bottom.

"Well," she sighs, staring through the bottle at him. Her brown eyes are wide and doe-like, rather becoming but for their magnified appearance. She lowers the bottle and a crooked smile appears on her face. "I did say it was a practice in patience."

Yes, Remus thinks. She did. And as he tucks that little piece away, he locks in the fact that Nymphadora Tonks does not give up. On anything.

"And Remus, don't call me Nymphadora!"

Not anything.

Day Fifty-Three:

He meets her at her flat again two days later because there are papers that she needs to read urgently according to Kinsley, but he's afraid to send the information by owl with the new Ministry standard checks.

So Remus runs the errand and as Tonks peels through the tedious handwriting, grimacing and scratching out things, Remus sips his tea and has free run of the shelves in her sitting room.

She likes that his mum was a muggle, it makes him understanding her dads strange eccentricities that much easier and she likes not having to explain the assortment of muggle bobbles that have accumulated on said shelves.

She notices that he's fond of the bright red, wooden yo-yo her muggle grandfather gave her one year as a child. It doesn't get much use anymore but the string is taught and the wood well balanced and Remus takes it up with a boyish yearning in his stare, watching the red ball unwind in his hand.

"You know, I bet Fred and George would get a kick out of this."

"They'll probably charm it to tie the person's hands together or something equally as annoying," Tonks says as she stuffs half the paperwork back into the envelop.

"Now there's an idea," he says. "Fancy going into business? We could give them a run for their money." When he looks up she is grim faced and still staring at the papers.

"What is it?" he asks, walking up next to her.

"Nothing," she says, masking whatever was there before. "I just have an assignment."

"Oh?"

"With Mundungus, of all people."

"Yes, well, if you like we can give this to Fred and George today and you can string Mundungus up with it if he gets out of hand."

"Now there's an idea," Tonks says, standing and squeezing his hand as she crosses into the kitchen.

"Molly's making lasagna," Remus offers, not ready to leave her side for the night. "Come to headquarters?"

"That would require me putting on real clothes."

"There's nothing wrong with your pajamas," he snickers, though he thinks there'd be an awful lot to look at, especially for the horde of teenage boys that now share the house.

"Moody might say otherwise. And you know, I don't need to give him extra reasons to lecture me."

"How about a game then and winner decides." Remus unearths the very ancient looking muggle chess board from one of her shelves and blows dust from the top.

"Winner decides?" she echoes. "Whether or not I have to put on real clothes?"

"Indeed and there will be no foul play this time."

"Bollocks," she says. "I'll just go change now then." And she does, but they also have one game and Remus laughs and pokes her sides when he catches her charming her pieces to slide across the board.

"This isn't Quidditch, Nymphadora; there are real rules to abide by."

She squirms as his fingers tease her sides, laughing the kind of laugh that makes chess pale in comparison to tickling.

"Oh, Quidditch rules are real rules. In fact there are over seven hundred for committing fouls alone." She catches his hand in hers, stopping the assault. "And don't call me Nymphadora."

They depart for headquarters shortly thereafter and to Remus' delight she chooses to sit next to him opposed to in her usual spot next to Moody and later finds that it's only so she can prod him in the ribs with her wand, making him jump in his seat as he tries to eat his soup.

And though very little soup makes it into his mouth by the end of the meal and she is in stitches the entire time, he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Day Fifty-Five:

She's late getting back from the assignment and Sirius jokes that she's probably stopped to ring Mundungus' neck, after spending the last four hours with the pesky bug, and bids Remus a hearty goodnight.

Still, unable to sleep with the full moon only two days away, Remus stays in the kitchen and stews, wrapping his long fingers around the mug of now cold tea. He hasn't found it in himself to drink it, but putting it down would require too much effort, especially when his entire being is thrumming with the desire to go running out into the street after her.

It's well past midnight when he hears the door creak open, and though he knows it's her by the smell—yes, vanilla wafers and orange blossoms (the wolf senses are much more active at this time of the month)—there is something else there too, something distinctly iron-like as it slithers along his tongue. Iron and warm and the saliva pools in his mouth. He recognizes it.

Blood.

He puts the mug down then, the clink barely registering as he listens, his ears tuning into the sounds in the hall. She's moving slow, shuffling against the wall, and her breathing is ragged. It almost has him out of his chair, and it would have, except for the fact that she's reached the kitchen, and with a flick of her wand lights the lamp above the sink.

She blinks twice at the dim light before seeing him sitting there, her expression mildly perplexed and he sees now that sitting in the dark seems rather odd, but for the moment can't be concerned with her confusion because he has questions of his own that start with What the hell happened? and Are you okay? None of those make it out over the audible gasp he hears fall from his lips as he rises from his chair.

Tonks turns from him quickly, her face morphing back and her hair shortening to her shoulders. It doesn't flare bright pink though, staying a warm kind of brown, and he senses that she just doesn't have the energy at the moment, not even to mimic that little bit of positivity and that fact clenches his stomach in tight knots.

"Wotcher Remus," she whispers. "Didn't think you'd still be awake." She goes to the sink and swallows a handful of water from the tap.

Remus moves to her side and watches as the water runs red as she spits it back into the sink.

"Nymphadora," he whispers, his hands gently wrapping around her shoulder, but he does not mean to comfort her, but turns her to face him, head on, in the light.

There is a line of bruising along the side of her face, like she's been punched roundhouse. It's yellow in places and Remus suspects that she's trying to morph it away even now as his fingers run over her bruised skin. But she doesn't morph and it might have something to do with the fact that she's shaking.

The blood is coming from a gash across her head and a split in her lip. Both are angry and red and throbbing and she winces as his fingers run too close to the wounds. "I'm sorry," he whispers and she feels the apology rush across her face, adding a strange tingling sensation to the pain she feels radiating from there.

She manages a small, teasing smile. Very small, considering the natural grin that usually splits her face. "It was a rough night." The words come out hoarse and broken and the smile falls away.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" he asks, holding her at arm's length as his eyes rush down her figure, jumping along the curves of her black dress. "Did they—"

"Oh, no. Merlin, Remus . . ." she swallows thickly. "No, they didn't."

"Nympha—"

"Don't call me Nymphadora." Her attempt at their usual banter stirs him enough to know that he can't just rush into the night and kill the blokes that have hurt her, and he also can't pull her into his arms and simply wish away the night, for neither is what she needs right now.

She's still holding her shoes in one hand, the leggy black heels that she left in earlier. He takes them from her and drops them on the counter.

"Come," he instructs, leading her to the table where he sits her down, crouching before her as he summons a wash cloth from one of the many bathrooms.

A bottle of some sweet smelling oil appears from one of the cupboards and as he dabs it against her face some of the pain ebbs away. The feeling of his ministrations relaxes her and suddenly she wants nothing more than to sleep.

"Nymphadora," he says, though his voice seems very distant, pleasantly deep and gravely, but far, far away, like moonlight. "Don't pass out on me just yet." He's worried about letting her sleep. He doesn't know how bad she's hurt. If she hit her head? If she needs a trip to St. Mungo's?

"Tell me what happened," he says, prompting her back to reality. "Did you find your contact?"

She shakes her head. "Wasn't there. Don't call me that."

"When'd you run into trouble?"

"Just s-some rowdy drunks." She yawns.

"Why didn't you or Dung just hex them?"

"M-muggle place. C-couldn't very well start something in the middle of the pub with all those p-people watching. The Ministry would have m-my head and Dumbledore . . . well, there would have been a lot of questions to s-sort through. Plus didn't want to blow our c-cover."

Always on the job, even when she's in danger. She was dedicated, he'd give her that much. "And what happened to Mundungus?"

"Disapparated."

"Filthy little—" He cuts off when Tonks pitches forward, clutching her head.

"M'alright," she says as Remus catches her, his arms tight around her lower back, holding her on the chair. She clutches the front of his jumper, her face buried there, and the way her head tilts on its axis, limp, has him worried that she's far from alright.

"How'd you get away?" he asks, his lips buried in her hair.

"Waited for them to drag me out back. Tossed me around a little and then I pulled my wand on them. Tried to Apparate back but didn't make it all the way. That's what took me s-s-so l-long."

And then she's out, dead weight against his chest. He pulls her into his arms and carries her to the couch against the far wall, laying her down and pulling a blanket over her tiny form. It surprises him how small she really is, how the weight of her in his arms, feeling so right, hadn't bothered him at all. And he could chalk it up to the wolf, but it also might just be the fact that when you took away everything that made Tonks loud, everything that made her larger than life—the hair, the clunky boots, the optimism—she wasn't all that intimidating. In fact, she was delicate in a whole new way that he was quickly coming to appreciate. Delightfully feminine and lithe and soft in a way that her hardened Auror exterior didn't let show when she was on point.

He brushes a length of brown hair away from her face and lets his hand linger there for too many minutes. He indulges while there is no one around to care, then he stands and moves back to the table. He watches her well into the morning, afraid if he pulls his eyes away that she'll stop breathing or something else utterly ridiculous, but the fear is there now, lodged in his mind, and its taunting him and he can't do anything but watch her chest rise and fall beneath the blanket, sipping his tea and praying for her to be alright.

Sirius is the first to join him, fresh-faced and rested and Remus can tell that Sirius is about to comment on his own lack of beauty sleep when his eyes dart from Tonks on the couch to the bloody cloth on the counter that Remus has yet to deal with.

He stumbles in place and turns direction suddenly, walking towards her, surveying the damage.

"She just fell asleep a couple hours ago," Remus warns as Sirius' hand brushes across her forehead, careful to miss the gash just above her left eye.

Sirius raises an eyebrow. It's a silent question that Remus explains, filling in the gap of time from when Tonks left to her stumbling back to headquarters in the middle of the night.

"Bloody prat," Sirius says, leaning back in his chair and taking a swig of fire whiskey. It's early but he feels it's earned after that story and he knows he's right when Remus tops up his own mug with the hard drink.

"Mundungus," Remus growls into his cup. His eyes are hard and fierce as his gaze falls upon Tonks once again.

There's a promise there, one that makes Sirius grimace, his mouth turning down in a tight little line because he knows how close to the full moon it is and he's been on the end of a pre-transformation assault before, being the dashing, charming shit disturber he is. Of course this was back in their school days and it would often take both him and James to restrain the enraged Remus, but he senses that this quiet, self-assuming man is no different, not really. Beneath the shabby, worn overcoat is the Remus of old. The quick-tongued, witty Marauder. The one who could put up a fight.

And this worries Sirius because he knows the wolf can be territorial and it's obvious that Remus feels something for his dear cousin. What exactly it is he will not even try to understand yet, but it's there and so are the instincts.

Instincts that may very well cause trouble the closer they get to the moon.

He just hopes Mundungus has half a mind to steer clear of headquarters until after Remus' transformation.

"So, you got her all patched up," he says, his tone riding between affection and thanks. He also hopes to distract Remus from his current plotting.

"Well enough. Molly should be here this afternoon and can see to her better. With that horde of boys, Merlin knows she's got basic healing under her belt."

"I think you did a fair job, Moony."

"It's nothing pretty." And that's the gist of it really. Tonks is young and whole and doesn't deserve to bear the scars of this war and she won't, not if he can help it. And he will.

. . .

It's a desperate howl that has Sirius out of his chair at dinner, vaulting the table to cross the kitchen before people have even looked up from their pie. He didn't see Remus leave, the sneaky bastard, but there's no mistaking the sound of his friend about to turn murderer.

Sirius finds them on the stairs, Remus with his hand around Dung's throat, holding him up off the ground, his wand digging into his chest.

"HELP!" Dung wails and Sirius springs, turning into the big black dog mid-way up the stairs, pouncing as soon as he's transformed. His paws collide with Remus, enough to knock him off balance and he drops Mundungus.

Sirius transforms back into a man and takes hold of his friend, locking his arms behind his back.

"Sirius! Let me go . . . I'll kill him!" Remus cries.

"I know you will," Sirius grunts, straining to keep hold of his friend who shakes with terrifying power. He goes slack against Remus, using his dead weight to control him, but the angrier Remus gets the harder Sirius has to fight. Then they are joined on the stairs by Kingsley who takes control of one of Remus's reaching arms and together they are able to wrestle the werewolf against the banister.

And it's an immobilization charm set off by Moody that captures both parties. Remus and Mundungus float there between Sirius and Kingsley, predator and prey.

Moody clunks down the hall and up the stairs, his gnarled face pulled back in disgust as he seizes the front of Mundungus' robes.

"Remus, I'm about to let you go. I want you to take a walk. Get some air. I'll deal with this one."

The charm lifts and Remus storms down the stairs and through the crowd of onlookers, right through the front door. He slams it behind him, not caring about the blood curdling screams as Sirius' mother awakens in the night.

. . .

They don't talk about it. They don't.

But Tonks squeezes her hand around Remus' shoulder the next morning as she passes and he takes care to sit next to her that night at dinner instead of across the table, for though he enjoys being able to look up and see her there, it is much more comforting to feel her thigh pressed against his with how close they have to sit to accommodate both the Order and the Weasley horde.

Neither of them mind, though. It's just nice.

Day Fifty-Eight:

And they get to the werewolf thing eventually, because it happens, as it always does, once a month and there's a period of three days where he is locked up in his room and Sirius pads in front of the door on watch.

The first morning he is well enough to venture out of the room he finds her there, in the kitchen, sipping her tea and nibbling on the bit of toast that Molly has left on the table for the house guests.

They are alone for the moment and he sits parallel her, his eyes hidden beneath his lids. He's afraid of what he'll see when he looks up.

But it's not a look that happens first, but a touch. A quick brush of a leg against his.

And he relaxes then, his fears melting away. He's been on the receiving end of these interactions where people are suddenly afraid to touch him. Look at him. Be in the same room as him, and though he expects the same here, there is the wolf inside him, whooping at the fact her foot seems to be playing with his, slipping out of her boot to run her sock against his.

"And here you let me believe that I was the most interesting one in the Order."

"There aren't many that would consider my condition interesting," he replies. He isn't short with her, just honest.

She gives it a minute to let his comment sink in. "Did you know Metamorphagus' are considered bad luck by a lot of wizards?"

Remus sips his tea. "I thought that was an old superstition."

"It is . . . dying out somewhat with the new generations. The kids were always great at school, but I wasn't a very popular dinner guest growing up. Parents tended to spit their drinks across the table when my hair changed colours. Needless to say I never made repeat visits for dinner."

There's silence and then . . .

"I've never met another one, you know. Not ever. No one that could understand what it's like to not have control of your body sometimes. To sometimes shift your shape without consent from your mind."

He looks up at her then and meets her eyes: warm and rich like chocolate and full of a sadness he can recognize and feel deep in his soul and the connection there is immediate, twining them together in a way he hasn't felt with anyone. Ever. He has met other werewolves, of course, though he hasn't found many that he likes and never one with whom he could share feelings that Tonk's seems to have picked up on without prodding.

"It's not the same, though," she says, accepting in a way as she plays with her toast. "Not really."

But it's enough for him because for once in his life he doesn't have to explain or make excuses or watch as a budding friendship suddenly dissolves with news of what he is. This magic that resides inside them: his cursed. Hers innate. Of course it's not the same, but the struggles are. Understanding a changing body. Learning control. How to cope. Dealing with prejudice, isolation . . . rejection.

And the realization hits him hard. He doesn't have to pretend with her. He can just be.

"You are still the most interesting person in the Order, Nymphadora. A shabby grey wolf is nothing compared to duck bills and pig snouts."

She blushes into her mug. "You saw that, did you?"

"Very becoming," Remus teases, pouring himself a cup of tea from the tray between them.

"Yes, well, we all need a good party trick."

"Hmm, shame that mine only goes off without a hitch once a month."

She chuckles and he finds himself laughing along with the sound and it's an ease that settles over him because he hasn't ever been able to joke about his condition with anyone other than James or Sirius and it's delightful to find that connection again with someone as interesting, and well . . . pretty as Nymphadora Tonks.

"And Remus," she says.

"Hmm?"

"Don't call me Nymphadora."

Day Sixty-Three:

The first time he's in her room in her flat he hasn't exactly been invited, more like ordered there by Molly Weasley, with chicken soup in tow and well wishes from the Order.

Remus has been elected as the carrier of the soup, for one because he offered, and secondly because the wolf keeps him fit against things like the common wizard's flu. It's already making its rounds through the Order, first Sirius and then Kingsley and Severus, and oh, boy, Sirius and the sniffling Snivellus jokes are getting out of hand, but in short, they're trying to stop the spread before half the order is wiped out on account of a bad bout of flu, never mind the Death Eaters.

He sits, waiting for her to rouse, first on the window ledge, admiring the rows upon rows of tipsy shelving that have been stuck lazily upon the walls with some kind of charm well enough to hold a multitude of books.

He's quite astounded because this is something he never would have guessed, but another tidbit he locks away. And perhaps it makes sense now why she's never teased him as all the others do when they find him in various places in Grimmauld place, tucked away with a good book.

It's always good natured fun: Professor Lupin, care to share what you're reading with the rest of the class? I've finished my homework, I swear, Professor. Or when Sirius is involved: Reading again, Moony? You know we graduated, right? You don't have to learn anymore.

And as it is such a common occurrence it has become a standard with all members of the Order, except Tonks, who always regards him with mild interest, tips her head to read the title on the spine and then wanders off about her business, oblivious to Remus' lingering stare on her back.

Yes, now it makes sense.

She's got her own secret infatuation with the literary world.

She gives a little humph, quiet and muffled and secretly adorable, and Remus thinks she might be waking. He stands, scanning the books as he draws nearer to her bed where he sits in the arm chair next to it, placing the thermos of soup gently on the dresser.

"Nymphadora," he whispers, taking notice of the gentle twists in her hair. The tips curl over her shoulders and around her face, framing the dark circles under her eyes, the only blemish on her otherwise pale and unmarred face. Though her lashes, long and dark and thick, cast shadows across her cheekbones.

He's been on the other side of those fluttering lashes, accompanied by a wistful brown-eyed gaze, and he knows how easy it is to fall under her spell when she bats them just so. Innocently. Does she even know she does it?

The same way she does now as he calls her name again, pulling her from the haunted sleep of sickness.

"Nymphadora," he calls and she startles awake then, blinking, lashes fluttering, chest heaving in a way that is far too enticing for his own good, so he averts his eyes back to hers.

She looks at him for a long minute before speaking. Her voice is thick and deep, almost sultry with sleep and that doesn't help him in any way. "Don't call me Nymphadora," she croaks. She moves her head against the pillow, eyes crushed again against some unseen pain and Remus wishes he could take it from her, seasoned as he is against pain, he would take it all, if only she wouldn't have to feel it.

"What are you doing here?" she asks, forcing one eye open. She focuses hard on him and then she bolts upright, both eyes open, gasping against the exertion. "What are you doing here? In my bedroom! I'm a mess, Remus Lupin, a complete and utter mess . . ." She wobbles a little, her elbow giving way and she lands with a tired puff on the mattress. "I can't believe you're seeing me like this. How did you get in? I put . . ." She yawns. ". . . charms on the door."

"Yes, well, I can't reveal all my secrets, but I was NEWT charms student."

She huffs. He thinks it might have been a laugh but he's not sure.

"I took potions NEWT. Charm was so-so . . ."

"Oh, you and Severus should get on splendidly then."

This time she really laughs, but it costs her, and she falls into a coughing fit that has her curled up into a ball. Remus rubs her shoulder, waiting for her to finish.

"Molly sent soup," he offers and her face pales faster than a ghoul in the sunlight.

"No food," she groans and then she shivers, hard and fast, trembling from her shoulders right down to her toes.

Because she's frozen, she says when he asks, and it might be the barely there tank top and shorts she's sporting, though the shade of blue really picks up the soft lily colour of her skin, but when he touches her she's like fire, the heat radiating off her in plentiful waves, enough to warm a small house.

Still she's shivering again, reaching up to keep his hand against her face because he's so warm, as she puts it. She tugs on him insistently and he's trying to be a gentlemen, really he is, because this is her bedroom and her bed, but he can't look at her in good conscience, with her eyes wide, tired saucers and her fingers trembling so, and deny her the contact, so he climbs in next to her and she settles against him, her arm falling across his stomach, her head buried against his chest.

Her eyes flutter, but he knows she's not asleep because she tells him this much, perhaps afraid he'll make a daring escape while she's not looking, though he's planning nothing of the sort. He tells her this and still she insists that she's just resting her eyes.

At one point her fingers dig into the soft wool of his jumper, threading between the stiches, securing him to her, and her leg winds over his, tucking between his knees. And he's happy she's stopped shivering and he recognizes the breaths getting longer and she's on the precipice of sleep.

So he picks up the book on her nightstand, the one marked half-way through with a chocolate frog card and opens it to the page she's finished on and begins to read. She likes the classics judging by the pile next to the bed, or at least, she's working her way through them and he's very pleased to find they share a love of all literature, both muggle and magic alike.

The sound of his voice booming through his chest in warm, friendly tones drags her into the abyss of sleep. It is a pleasant darkness this time. One she finds needed peace in.

A while later, while he's deeply involved in the affairs of Mr. Darcy she prods him in the ribs. He looks down, finding her half awake, eyes still closed, but a smile on her face. "You stopped reading," she says through a yawn.

He chuckles, flipping back several chapters and begins to read aloud again.

Day Sixty-Seven:

After seeing Tonks change her face so many times over the last couple months he begins to see that it's a front, these masks she wears. Yes, she's a bubbly, positive ray of pure sunlight and he feeds off her, this perpetual happiness a balm for the weariness that so often weighs him down, but there are other things there, for no one is simply light or dark. There is an uneasy uncertainty when it comes to her morphing, when it's not done for fun that is.

"Do you often take requests?" he asks her one day while she is engrossed in an article in the Prophet.

"For fun? Well Hermione and Ginny get a kick out of it and request their favourites."

"I mean besides the girls."

She shrugs. "Mostly just for work, when I'm undercover and such, trying to weasel information out of people."

"They make you do that?"

"That's what it's good for. Men ask for things. It always starts harmless, but, well, I guess they can't help themselves sometimes, you know, and they all have something they want in a woman, and being able to look a certain way can be awfully persuasive."

"Surely there are other ways."

"A good kick in the pants works, but it usually wrecks my shoes." She teases, but the tone is light and empty in a way. She's forcing it and he can sense this is the one dark part of herself and her job that she dislikes. Being used as an object. Being used because she can be something she is not. Being wanted for being something she is not.

And he vows then, to never ask her to change her appearance for him. Not that he wants her to, because he's become very partial to this face she wears, the real face she's comfortable in, which, as she tells him, is as close to her normal face as she'll ever get. It's what she settles into as she sleeps, and the few times he's seen her fall asleep at the table in Grimmauld place, it is the face she looks most peaceful in.

Day Seventy - Seventy-Five:

Remus Lupin never took notice of pockets until the day Nymphadora Tonks started roaming his in search of his secret stash of Honeydukes.

The first time she finds it is easy because the wrapper's been sticking out of his jumper pocket for the better part of the afternoon. The bar is new so it doesn't quite fit.

"Why do you always carry chocolate?" she asks, breaking off a piece before handing the bar back to him.

He shrugs with his hands, enjoying his own piece of chocolate. He tucks it between his teeth and cheek before he responds. "It's like carrying around a little piece of happiness. And you never know when that'll come in handy."

She seems to like his answer and goes on pouring them their tea.

The next time it's dark chocolate and he likes the way she wrinkles her nose as she bites off the corner. Still she eats her piece, rolling it around her mouth, taking her time to savour the flavour, though he can tell she's not a huge fan, licking her lips just enough that he wants to lean over and kiss them, knowing he'll taste the chocolate on her.

He's so focused on her lips that he notices the smirk curl upwards.

She's watching him, intrigued by his attentiveness.

And they both smile, aware of the silent game that's just begun.

He lures her in with chocolate, tempting her palate with any flavour Honeydukes can come up with and she entices him in return, captivating him in her slow appreciation of each bar that she finds hidden away in one of his pockets.

On the third day the chocolate is tucked inside his inner jacket pocket. She runs her hand along his chest as she moves to retrieve the bar. The sensation of her hand pressed against him makes his skin prickle pleasantly. It's milk chocolate today with almond pieces and the crunch adds something new. Something that makes him appreciate the way her mouth moves even more, especially when she calls his name to inform him that he is indeed staring at her.

By the fourth day his slacks are in the wash and he's wearing his jeans so he feels everything as she slips past him in the hall, her hand dipping into the back pocket of his pants to retrieve the chocolate.

Perhaps that was his intent all along. Perhaps he was merely curious to see if she would check those pockets as well, and he should have expected as much, for Nymphadora has proven herself fearless thus far.

She heads to the kitchen; her head dipped low to read the wrapper: fudge filled with caramel. He follows her inside, ignoring Sirius when he grumbles about Remus never sharing his chocolate with him.

And he's impressed that she always gets it on the first try. She always seems to know which pocket he's hidden the chocolate in and so on day five, when she's pulled it out of the breast pocket of the shirt tucked beneath his vest, he asks her about it and she smiles, her head bent, her cheeks flushing.

"I ask Alastor to check. He tells me."

Of course, Remus thinks. The little minx.

"You know I feel rather violated knowing Moody is staring at my bottom."

"Would you prefer if I was the one doing the staring?"

"Well at least it would make me feel like less of lecherous old man for staring at you."

And Tonks grins devilishly at that, playing off her blush and fluttering her eyes in the way she knows makes his mouth go dry because he starts to swallow convulsively. "You know, I never said I wasn't," she whispers. Then she tucks the white toffee filled chocolate into her mouth and stands, throwing him a wink as she Disapparates for work, leaving him with an uncomfortable feeling in his trousers.

The next day she stares at him quizzically across the table and he chuckles under his breath. He doesn't have chocolate on him, Moody's told her this much, and for a moment he can see that she's disappointed that their little game of teasing fun is over.

Then he says: "Have you checked your pockets today, Nymphadora?"

She grins then, reaching into her jumper pocket where he's just charmed the bar to appear. She tugs it out and reads the wrapper: rich chocolate dipped in honey, perhaps the most delectable of all the flavours in Honeydukes.

She unwraps it with careful precision, breaks off the corner and slips it into her mouth, humming her approval.

And she doesn't give it back to him, but tucks the bar into her back pocket, licking her lips and saying, "Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus."

"Are you not going to share?" he asks.

She stands and walks around the table. "Of course I am," she says, slipping up onto the table in front of him so her legs dangle on either side of his chair. She reaches out and pulls him by the collar of his shirt, meeting his unsuspecting lips half-way with her own and the connection is pure bliss.

It's warmth and fire and sweetness and desire.

She kisses him with abandon, like their first kiss will be their last and like there is no one within one hundred miles of where they sit, surrounded by a house full of Order members.

She flicks her tongue over his lips and tips her head to press them closer together. Her nose brushes his, her eyelashes dust against his cheeks, and all the while he fights the urge to jump from the chair and lay her down upon the table and kiss her into fierce abandon because she's been teasing him for days and he's wanted to do this for so long. And she tastes so incredibly sweet thanks to the chocolate.

But he doesn't move anything accept for his lips and eventually allows his hands to settle on her knees while hers explore the feathery lightness of his hair, running up and down his neck, over his shoulders, anywhere that pulls him closer to her.

When she finally pulls away he is breathless and her lips are kiss swollen, red and puckered and his fingers curl against her knees fighting the desire to take her face in his hands and never let her go.

But he does let her go and she slips off the table, drawing his chin up with the tip of her finger.

"When you want more, you'll know where to find it." And she walks away from him, looking over her shoulder to cast a sultry wink in his direction. He watches her hips sway, the chocolate teasing him from the pocket that rests flush against her backside.

He can still taste the chocolate on his lips when she's gone.

And he finds the taste much sweeter now that he has someone to share it with.

Day Ninety-Nine:

He wonders sometimes if they're moving too quickly. If he should ask her out, take her to dinner, offer to show her around the finer muggle establishments in town, but she's not the type for fancy dinners and moonlit walks because she's told him as much. And he's asked her if she feels like they're moving too fast and she says no, that they're moving just right.

And he thinks this is perfect, because sometimes things are just exactly right.

And he doesn't want to slow down.

No, he wants to freefall with her, into her, because of her.

If this is falling, he never wants it to stop.

Day One Hundred Eleven:

He never calls her Tonks to her face. It's always Nymphadora, even though she tells him off, so the day he calls her Tonks, she knows he's mad. Really mad. It also might be the fact that he's shouting at her, his hands balled up in fists by his head.

"Why didn't you send a Patronus?!"

She had, once the fight was over and she'd come to. By then the two Death Eaters were gone.

"I couldn't very well send it out with them standing there. They'd know exactly where I was."

It was the invisibility cloak that had saved her. She'd managed to subdue the first Death Eater and the second started firing curses so fast he alerted the guards and it was their misplaced stunning spells that caught her.

She should have shielded herself, but she couldn't in case the spells bounced off her charm so she'd taken the stunners to the chest.

She'd argue back if she could, something about the job and the Order and this being the kind of stuff she faces every day and he can't worry about every little thing but she's taken two stunners to the chest and doesn't have the energy to fight. Not when he's dragging up Arthur's attack and how bad this could have ended.

She hadn't even wanted to tell him, but Moody gave the report before she arrived at the meeting and by then she knew it was too late.

Eventually he runs out of breath and collapses on the sofa next to her, his eyes pained and creased because the moon is tonight and she's on guard duty again because Dawlish hasn't shown up and there's fear that he's been Imperiused and Remus can't go with her because it's the stupid moon and he's never hated it so much in all his life except for right now, and the one person her trusts to go with her isn't allowed out of the house. Though Sirius paces the door to the library, listening to the fight, making sure Remus doesn't do something stupid in his rage because the moon is so close and his emotions are strung out, but he'd never hurt her like that. Never.

He never wants to hurt her at all and then realizes he has, because she's only doing what the Order needs and he's not making it any easier on her. He crawls up beside her and takes her hand in his, kissing her knuckles by way of apology. "Please be safe tonight."

"Always, Remus. Don't worry about me. Not tonight."

He leans forward, resting his head against hers. "I'll see you after the moon and then you and I will do guard duty together, Nymphadora."

He runs his finger along her cheek and it draws a watery smile from her. She's so happy to hear him say it that she doesn't chastise him for the use of her first name. She just lays her head back on the sofa and lets him draw patterns along her collar bones with his fingers, massaging away the tight pinch from the stunners.

Day One Hundred Fourteen:

Guard duty is much more difficult having to squeeze two people under the invisibility cloak and Tonks thinks that if it were anyone other than Remus that she was stuck with it might have been awkward, but this, this forced closeness, it's nice.

Their knees are pressed together as are their arms and she lays her head on his shoulder and he plays with her hands, tracing the patterns and life lines and murmuring things about palm reading into her ear. It sounds like bollocks to her, but the things he says are nice and make her insides tingle so she lets him continue.

And it's nice to just be the two of them, not having to tip-toe around the Order and the house and people from Hogwarts. It's nice to have the time alone, even if it means sitting around the damp, grungy hallway, waiting for Death Eaters to turn up.

"Maybe we'll have to do guard duty together every night," he says, checking his watch. The morning has come without warning and Tonks is saddened to feel him shift, pulling himself to his feet.

She yawns, allowing him to guide her up but before she can step away his hands have closed around her back and his lips press against hers in a lingering but chaste kiss. "Come back to headquarters," he says against her lips. "Molly will have breakfast."

The offer is tempting because she's starving and the only thing in her flat is a box of stale donuts, but her bed is there and it's warm and despite doing nothing much at all, she's exhausted from the night. Sensing her indecision Remus pulls her closer. "I have a warm bed if that sways you at all."

"Oh, really," she says because she's been in his room before. Of course. But she's never stayed. Never wanted to wear out her welcome, though he doubts she ever could and he'd be more than happy to share his bed with her whenever she wanted, but has been slow to ask because he doesn't want her to feel like he's pushing her.

And he isn't. Truly he's only offered it up for her to sleep because he knows how exhausting it is for her to go back and forth from the Ministry to her flat to headquarters and back again. And maybe it's a little bit about him too because he can't bear to let her go yet and he could blame it on the moon though it's still three weeks away and though the wolf feels giddy at her closeness the longing to be close to her is entirely his own.

Still, being close is enough. He wants nothing more from her. Not until she is ready. And he will wait, for he is patient and this is new. And all good things come in time.

She looks up at him, her hand resting on his chest. She taps it lightly, rubbing her finger tips along his jaw bone. "It's a very tempting offer, Remus."

"But—"

"My bed is bigger," she whispers, dragging her nails down his front. "Big enough for two."

They Apparate back to her flat, still tangled up in the invisibility cloak.

And the donuts are stale, but the company is good and he likes her in the tiny shorts she wears as pajamas, especially when she climbs into his lap to kiss him goodnight, which is really good morning, but neither of them can tell because the world could be spinning off its axis and it wouldn't matter. The only thing he notices is the warmth of her and the way his hands automatically fall to the small of her back and lower and lower as she leans into him, her chest against his, her breath in his, and it's heaven and divine and over entirely too soon.

She pulls away looking slightly dizzy. Deliciously delirious with her hair slightly mussed and her lips swollen pink.

"I promised you sleep," she says, pushing on his shoulders to get him to lie down.

"Yes, you did," he hums, deep and throaty because he's still thrumming with feeling. She lies down beside him and runs her fingers along his sternum through his shirt. The sensation is calming and he's almost asleep when he feels her head tuck against his shoulder and the sigh of her breath on his arm.

"Night Remus."

"Goodnight Nymphadora."

"Don't call me . . ." But she never finishes the sentence and Remus is entirely okay with that.

Day One Hundred Forty Six:

They sit together in the library, alone now that Sirius has retired to bed after one too many shots of fire whiskey.

The moon is high in the sky beyond the windows, only a sliver though, and its light spills into the room, basking them both in a gentle glow, one that mimics the playful hum of their mixed laughter. The night had started out innocently enough, with Remus reading to her in that deep voice she found so alluring, but somewhere along the way he abandoned the book and took up a far better distraction.

"Stop," Tonks giggles, low and breathy against his ear.

There's a spot just under her ribs that makes her squirm and she laughs against his chest and grabs at his arms to push him away and it's only when he's agreed to stop that she pulls him back, settling his weight along her body once more.

"My apologies, Nymphadora, but it was you who kissed me first. I was entirely content to read."

"Were you?" she says with a teasing tilt to her brow.

"Yes. You are the cause of all this. Must be that short attention span of yours."

She shrugs beneath him, breaking their entwined hands to reach for the book that has gotten lost somewhere between the cushions. "Shall we pick up where we left off then?" she asks once she's secured the book, holding it up for him to see.

He knocks it from her hand and it lands on the carpet with a soft thud as he lowers his face to hers. "We shall," he says and kisses her jaw. "I think I was somewhere about here when we stopped." He kisses the side of her mouth. "And here." His lips skim hers. "Here," he whispers and it's a ghost across her face.

His lips travel further, down her neck, pausing at the base of her throat, his tongue darting out to taste her and he smiles against her when he hears the sharp intake of breath.

"Remus," she says on the end of a breath.

He lifts his head to look at her.

Her tongue darts out to moisten her lips and then she says, in a voice that's almost impossible to hear, "Take me to bed."

And he does, without moving her, Apparates them both, not to his bedroom, which is just upstairs, but to her flat because he knows she'll be more comfortable there and in truth the bed is bigger and there's no chance of Sirius walking in on them.

But they land on the couch and her lips find his and her hands are on his throat in gentle strokes. Then his hands find hers and pin them up, her chest heaving into his and he lets himself revel in the feel of her against him, imagining and dreaming about what he so often supresses when he's around her because he's been trying to be a gentleman. To be everything she deserves.

"Bed, Remus," she says, rolling her hips against his and he drags his senses away from the feel of her chest beneath his.

"Working on it," he manages between the parting of their lips and tongues. She's making it almost impossible for him to think.

Another loud pop and they land in the middle of her bed, which has shed its usual patchwork quilt and been replaced with a real comforter, blue by the looks of things and soft, so soft, like her skin, and mountains of downy pillows.

She's been thinking about this, all day judging by her reaction now, and it makes him even hungrier for her taste, her touch. He wants her. Needs her.

She arches against him, her hand reaching to find the button on her jeans. Her hips on his drive him wild and he's kissing her again, down her neck, across her chest until he reaches the collar of her jumper and then his hands are riding up beneath it, trailing pillow soft skin.

They lose their clothes in a tumble of shifting limbs and lingering fingers.

"Beautiful," he murmurs against the newly revealed parts of her, taking time to anoint each one with a kiss, ones that have her rocking beneath him.

Her hands roam over the planes of his stomach and he feels muscles tighten, lengthen, and she feels it too, shifting to welcome his weight between her legs.

Her fingers trace his scars, the ones that mar his chest in raised crosses, but he doesn't cower in shame the way he once thought he would because he knows she doesn't care, because if she did they wouldn't be here, or maybe that's the thing and she truly does care. She cares enough to see him, as he is, beyond everything else. Beneath it.

She's fallen for the man despite the beast and she doesn't run from the monster's marks. She kisses them.

And then he finds her face again, his hands pulling her lips to his because he wants to taste her on his tongue, feel her shiver at his touch, whimper at his absence. He wants it all . . . he wants—

"Remus, please," she pants when she can't take it anymore, her legs riding up around his hips, anchoring her, driving him on. She rolls her hips, desperate for him, yearning and with agonizingly slow movements he fills her, sinking into the feeling, letting her melt beneath him in a series of hot gasps as they finally come together.

It is her that makes the first movement, a hard bucking twist of her hips, driving him that much deeper.

"Nymphadora," he growls, his head pressed into the pillow next to hers as her hips slam up to meet his in a tantalizing and pleasurable dance. And she says nothing about it, him saying her name, just utters his name over and over again, her back arching, her fingers digging into his skin. And they come together, with rhythm, without, but it's wonderful and good and everything he expects, though she makes it so much more, and she's sighing and moaning and his ears sing to her music as she reaches that peak and he follows, forever chasing her. His happiness.

Day One Hundred Eighty One:

He's never found anyone he likes to just be with the way he likes to be with Sirius and before with James. That is until Nymphadora.

He waits up for her when she's on assignment without him and greets her early before work.

He enjoys her company even when it's silent and she's too groggy to put coherent sentences together, though somehow she and Sirius have come up with a sort of early morning grunting system that they can apparently understand, and Remus chalks it up to being a Black thing because for the life of him he cannot even begin to understand what they mean. But he likes it anyway.

And he likes when she's curious and asks him questions, whether they be about himself or the world in general, but mostly they're about him and it makes him unbelievably happy in a way he is still trying to figure out, because she wants to know things about him, things and things and more things. Sometimes they're silly things and sometimes they're not, but even when they're not he's always honest with her, which is frightening, but there's intensity in those chocolate brown eyes that is alluring and calming and he trusts her.

Yes, he does. And he likes that he trusts her so.

He likes that she comes to him when she is upset, which isn't very often because she radiates happiness, but when she can't she always finds him and he makes her smile again.

He likes that they can have entire conversations with their eyes only.

He likes that she whispers his name in her sleep and in the throes of passion.

He likes that he is the only one who can call her Nymphadora now without having something chucked at his head, though he prefers the shorter, Dora, especially when they are alone, and she has yet to protest it, which means it is theirs alone and she is okay with it.

He likes how fiery she can get because it reminds him to seize each moment and he does, surprising her in ways they have only begun to explore.

And he likes her laughs. The elegant teasing lilt, the deep belly boom, and the snickering chuckle that they share. He likes them all.

He likes that she can be silly. Entirely free and completely classless and then in the next moment, like the changing of a tide, she carries the weight of the world and the burden of the Order and is more determined than anyone he's ever met.

He likes that she doesn't fear the wolf and that she doesn't try to separate him from it, because the wolf is as much a part of him as her many faces are of her.

Yes, he likes her very, very much. So much in fact that he thinks it might be love.

Yes, he is in love with Nymphadora Tonks, and if he was a betting man, which he isn't, he might just wager that she is in fact in love with him.

. . .

It's two days later, when he wakes her from a particularly frightening dream that she tells him so, whispering the words against his chest like a promise and he says it back and he promises never to stop saying it for as long as he lives and then some.

A/N: Thanks a bunch for reading. I know it was a long one. If you're up to it I'd love to hear what you thought :)