Werewolf and Metamorph

SUMMARY: A "what-if" story about Lupin and Tonks that takes place before and during Harry's fifth year. Rated R for language, violence, sexuality and adult themes.

DISCLAIMER: J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros., Scholastic, etc. own Harry Potter et. al.

Chapter One: The Advance Guard

Remus Lupin entered Number 12 Grimmauld Place on the afternoon of 31 July feeling rather more tired than he would have liked. Tonight was the night he was going to fetch Harry Potter from his Muggle relatives and bring him back here, to headquarters, where at last Harry might understand just what had been happening for the past several weeks.

Lupin's fatigue could not be helped, however. He was always tired after a transformation, always drained. The potion he took-liberally but grudgingly supplied by Severus Snape-helped, but it could not cure him. Nothing could cure him. All the potion could do was make him less dangerous, to himself, to others.

Not that this fact had helped him much in the past two years. Since leaving Hogwarts School, after resigning the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, he'd had trouble finding employment. Word of his condition had leaked out, and nobody seemed to keen to hire him, even if he was a very capable wizard. Lupin's lack of a job meant that he was having to rely on the kindness of his closest friends and allies. He was grateful but he hated it, hated having to sponge off others when he was fit in body-well, mostly-as well as in mind.

One wouldn't know that Lupin was healthy to look at him, however. He had the look of someone who was constantly underfed; at 37 his face still retained the vestiges of youth; his blue-grey eyes were bright and when he smiled-which was rarely-there was rather a look of boyishness in his features. But his sandy hair was heavily streaked with grey, and his skintone ran to the ashen. Side effects of his condition. As a boy he'd been the picture of health and vitality. Now...

"Remus!" A voice called to him in a kind of loud whisper.

Lupin turned at the sound of the voice. Sirius Black crossed over to him and shook his hand vigorously.

"Good to see you, friend," said Lupin, smiling one of his rare smiles. "You're looking well, under the circumstances."

Sirius smiled; he was looking better, all things considered. A year ago he'd been hiding in a cave, living off rats and wearing rags. Now his hair was trimmed and clean; his clothes were old but freshly laundered. Traces of the masculine beauty he'd had in such abundance as a teenager could still be seen beneath the lines around his eyes and mouth, and the dark circles and gaunt appearance that had been his for over a decade were mostly gone.

"You look like hell," said Sirius, grinning. "But I suppose that's not surprising."

Lupin nodded; Sirius was, of course, perfectly aware of Lupin's condition; he had known about it since they became friends, all those years ago.

"Wish I could go with you," said Sirius, his eyes going dark with bitterness.

"You know why-"

"Yeah, yeah," said Sirius impatiently, waving a hand.

There was a moment of silence; Sirius looked at the floor. Lupin knew how Sirius must be feeling right then. Harry was Sirius's godson; James's son.

"I just don't understand," said Sirius slowly, "why Dumbledore would send him back to those people. After what happened. The poor kid...he's...what's he feeling right now? After seeing Cedric Diggory die?"

"He hasn't mentioned it in his letters?" Lupin asked.

"You know Harry," said Sirius, rolling his eyes, but there was only affection in his voice. "Damn kid's just like his father. Thinks if he shows any kind of vulnerability he'll look weak. Stupid, isn't it?"

"Stupid, but human," said Lupin, remembering how upset Harry had been in his third year, when the Dementors had plagued him so badly.

"And dammit," said Sirius, his voice hardening, but still staying quite low, "now we find out two Dementors went after Harry and that cousin of his? And I STILL have to sit here and wait for him while you go fetch him."

Lupin said nothing, but put a hand on his friend's shoulder. He understood only too well the depth of Sirius's feelings for Harry, the sense of responsibility he felt toward his godson. All those years in Azkaban; Harry hadn't even known about Sirius until he'd broken out of the prison and sought him out. And Lupin knew the one thing Sirius wanted more than anything was for Harry to come live with him. But Dumbledore insisted Harry could not. For some reason-unbeknownst to everyone else-Harry was required to go back to those horrible Muggle relatives. The only thing Lupin knew about why Harry had to endure this was that Dumbledore had said once, and only once, that it was "safe."

So safe, thought Lupin wryly, that two Dementors showed up and attacked him.

"Hello, Lupin, Black." A gruff voice caused both Lupin and Sirius to come out of their own reveries. Alastor Moody-who was known to everyone as Mad- Eye, stood between them, his jaw set.

Moody was perhaps one of the oldest Aurors left at the Ministry. A legendary Dark Wizard catcher, Moody was a walking, talking example of the concept of battle scars. Where one of his legs ought to be there was a heavy wooden peg. A large chunk of his nose had been gouged out. And then there was the reason for his nick-name. While one of his eyes, dark and glittering, was a normal human eye, the other was a magical eye, blue and piercing and made of glass that allowed Moody to literally see out of the back of his head. Beyond this, the eye allowed him to see through disguises, surfaces, concealments and Invisibility Cloaks.

"Hello, Alastor," said Lupin, shaking Moody's hand.

"I hear you'll be leading the Guard tonight," said Moody, "to pick up the Potter boy."

"Yes," said Lupin. "I take it you've volunteered."

"Course I have," said Moody. "Somebody's got to make sure procedures are followed. Can't count on it with some of these other folks. They're all too bloody star-struck at the thought of meeting the kid."

"I can't imagine why," said Sirius dryly. Harry had only been famous since he was a year old, and his fame had only increased now that he'd managed to successfully defeat or escape Voldemort four times.

"Yes, well," said Moody, "we don't need these folks fawning on him. This is a serious operation, and dangerous to boot. Can't have people losin' their heads."

"I'm sure everyone will do their duties just fine, Alastor," said Lupin reassuringly. Moody's response to this was to snort and hobble away.

"Lot of volunteers tonight," said Sirius, and Lupin turned his attention to the crowd of wizards and witches slowly filing in through the front door of Grimmauld Place.

"Hmm," said Lupin thoughtfully. "Safety in numbers, I suppose. But we can't have too many or it'll be chaos."

"Moody won't allow that," said Sirius, grinning. "You ask me, he should be the one leading this operation, not you."

"Are you impugning my leadership abilities?" Lupin said, amused. "Besides, if we let Alastor take over we'd spend twelve hours just circling round Surrey."

"Paranoid, he is," said Sirius. "But then, I suppose we all should be a bit paranoid these days."

There was another pause; the hum of soft voices was permeating the room now. Nobody was talking out loud, for very good reason. Many of the portraits hanging in the house had a tendency to shriek when their subjects were awakened, as Lupin had learned the first time he came here.

"Well," said Sirius, "I guess I'm no use here. I'll head back down to the kitchen, see if Arthur or Bill need my input on anything." He nodded to Lupin and started toward the stairs leading down to the huge basement-level kitchen.

"Sirius," said Lupin. "Harry'll be here soon. We won't let anything happen to him."

Sirius nodded; his throat seemed to be working a bit hard at swallowing. He turned and started down the stairs.

Lupin watched him go for a moment, then turned his attention to the wizards and witches gathered in the foyer. He recognized most of them, and with the noted exception of Mundungus Fletcher, all of them had to be Ministry employees. Mundungus had a reputation as a shady sort of character; in Muggle parlance he'd have been known as a con artist. But Mundungus had his uses; his acquaintance with the criminal elements in London and the surrounding environs meant he had an "in" with certain wizards and witches that honest Ministry employees could never hope to gain.

Lupin's eyes traveled to the others in the crowd. He spotted Kingsley Shacklebolt at once. Kingsley was a very tall, broad, muscular black wizard, with a shaved head and a gold hoop earring; even in plain black wizard robes there was an air of an African chieftain about him. Lupin recognized Emmeline Vance, a tall, regal looking witch who wore a green shawl. There was Deadulus Diggle, a slight, squeaky-voiced wizard; Elphias Doge, ancient but spry; Sturgis Podmore, a blocky, square-jawed wizard with straw-colored hair; and Hestia Jones, a plump, pink-faced witch with black hair.

Not a bad bunch, thought Lupin, as he started toward them. It would be time to leave soon and he wanted to address them beforehand. He was halfway to the crowd when he heard a muffled sort of squeak and something fell toward him. Or rather, someone.

Instinctively Lupin reached out, catching the witch before she fell into him and knocked them both over.

"Sorry," said the witch, righting herself and taking a small step back from him.

"It's all right," said Lupin, looking at the witch who'd nearly bowled him over. She was young-no older than twenty-two, perhaps. Her youth set her apart from the rest of the crowd, along with her very pretty heart-shaped face and sparkling, dark brown eyes. Then there was the fact that she wasn't wearing robes but had them draped over her arm. She instead had on jeans--which Lupin couldn't help but notice fit her very nicely-a pale grey jumper, a black leather jacket, and motorcycle boots. But perhaps the most striking thing about her was her hair: it was short, spiky and rather vividly purple.

"I don't believe we've met," said Lupin, extending his hand. "Remus Lupin."

"Yeah, I know," she said. "I've heard about you from Kingsley. Sorry about nearly mowing you down. I'm a right klutz most of the time."

She was talking a bit fast and looking a bit nervous; she smiled shyly up at him and her cheeks went pink.

"Anyway," she went on, "my name's Tonks."

"Tonks," Lupin repeated. "An unusual name. But it sounds familiar."

"My mum's Andromeda Tonks," said Tonks. "Sirius's cousin, actually."

"Ah," said Lupin. "I've never met your mother, I'm afraid. But...surely you have a first name."

"Yeah, unfortunately," said Tonks, rolling her eyes. "But I don't use it because it's bloody ridiculous."

"It can't be any worse than Remus," said Lupin.

"Oh, it can," said Tonks fervently.

"I'm afraid you've piqued my curiosity," said Lupin, rather enjoying talking to this young witch. "I'm going to have to ask you-"

"It's Nymphadora," she said quickly, lowering her voice so much that he almost didn't hear her. She was looking at him with a defiant expression. "Okay? But as far as you or anyone else is concerned, I'm called Tonks. I haven't been called by my first name in years and I prefer to keep it that way."

"I don't see why," said Lupin. "Nymphadora is a very...colorful name. Rather like you." He nodded toward her purple hair.

"Yeah, well, I hate it," she said. "The name, not the hair. So, if you don't mind-"

"Tonks it is," said Lupin, holding up his hands. "I take it you're working at the Ministry," he added, noting the plain black robes that were draped over her arm.

"Yeah," she said, grinning. "I'm an Auror. Year out of my training. It's a cool bit of work, even if top brass at the Ministry are behaving like prats at the moment. What about you? What's your line of work?"

Lupin grimaced. "I'm-between jobs," he said stiffly, not wanting to talk about his rather desperate financial circumstances, and suddenly hating that his robes were so shabby, that he looked so damn poor.

"Right," said Tonks, having the grace not to push this subject. "So, I guess we should-"

"Right," said Lupin, coming back to himself. He smiled at Tonks and then turned to the crowd.

"All right, then," he said, his voice in as loud a whisper as he dared. Amazingly, everyone in the foyer heard him and stopped talking at once. "You all know why you're here. We're going to head out the back door and await the single to head off. It's a bit of a long journey to Surrey, I'm afraid."

"What about the Muggles?" Moody asked gruffly. "We can't very well show up at their doorstep while they're at home."

Lupin opened his mouth to answer and then stopped. He had completely forgotten about that part of things. How could he have let something so important slip his mind?

It's my bloody condition, he thought bitterly. After every transformation my memory feels like it's been wiped out.

"Taken care of," said a female voice. It was Tonks. "I put in a call to their house, told them they won a lawn competition. People like that, they ate it up. They'll be gone for hours."

"You know how to use a felly-tone?" wheezed Elphias Doge.

"Telephone," corrected Tonks. "My dad's a Muggle, so yeah. But we're all set with Harry's Muggles, so don't sweat it." She said this last to Lupin and smiled.

Lupin smiled back at her, and the guilt and bitterness that had begun to nag him upon realizing his error receded just a bit.

"Right then," said Lupin, feeling his confidence return a bit. "Let's get our brooms and head outside."

The lot of them followed Lupin through the ground floor parlor and back through a laundry room, then out the door to the back yard. Along the way they It was a rather huge space, considering the house itself was right in London. But then, Lupin knew Muggles wouldn't be able to see this yard at all, just as they wouldn't be able to see the house.

The late afternoon sun was slowly sinking away, but the heat of the day lingered. Lupin immediately felt his robes become heavy, but he resisted the urge to take them off. Once airborne the temperature would drop considerably.

The group of them gathered round in a kind of circle, holding their brooms but saying nothing. There was a frisson of anticipation in the air now; very soon they would get a signal letting them know it was time to fly, that it would be safe to do so, that no Muggles would notice eight people flying in the air on broomsticks.

Nobody spoke for several minutes; there seemed to be nothing else to say. The mission was simple-pick up Harry Potter at Number Four Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey, and bring him back to headquarters. But the simplicity of the mission belied its importance. Of the eight wizards and witches standing in the yard, waiting to fly off and retrieve Harry from his relatives, only Lupin was fully aware of just how important delivering him safely really was. Naturally, everyone knew Harry was famous, that he was important, but only Lupin really knew the whole truth at that moment.

The truth was that the very future of the magical world depended on Harry Potter staying safe, staying alive. The truth was that if Harry were lost, they were all lost. None of the others knew this right then; Dumbledore had not wanted to share everything with so many people so quickly-the Order was still in a relative state of infancy; new recruits were appearing daily, but with every new recruit brought the risk of exposure, the risk of chaos. The Order needed as many people as it could get, but the more people it brought in, the greater the chance it might fall apart. As such, Dumbledore was keeping a strict hold on information until things could become more organized, more settled. Until the newer members of the Order of the Phoenix could be proven trustworthy.

Almost unconsciously Lupin let his eyes wander to the young witch, Tonks. Her eyes met his and she smiled. It was a warm, friendly, open kind of smile. The compelling kind of smile that inspired trust.

Lupin smiled briefly at her and looked away, not liking where his mind was wandering. On the one hand he felt inexplicably drawn to this young witch, with her sparkling brown eyes and her bright purple hair. He closed his eyes and shook his head slightly, already recognizing his prejudice. He wanted to trust her because she was pretty, because she was young, because she didn't look as though life's cruelties had quite touched her yet. Somebody so lovely couldn't be anything but good, could she?

"You're wondering about Tonks, aren't you?"

Lupin blinked and his head shot round to the gruff voice in his ear. It was Moody. Damn him and his magic eye!

"Well," said Lupin slowly, looking at the ground and horrified to feel heat creeping up his neck, "yes. She's not part of the old crowd, is she? Any new members..."

"She's trustworthy," said Moody. "I'd bet my own life on it. And she's a damn good Auror, too, when she's not tripping over her own two feet. So don't you go worryin' about her. She's the last person to betray what we're doin'."

"If you're vouching for her," said Lupin, relieved that the heat in his neck was receding, "that has to mean she can be trusted."

Moody grunted, nodded, and hobbled off. Lupin let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding.

At that moment it happened. Red light filled the sky; Lupin's eyes traveled to the source and saw distant sparks.

"That's the signal, everyone," he said quickly. "Mount up." He mounted his broom. The others followed suit. Lupin saw Tonks fling a leg carelessly over her broom, stumble, and right herself. He wondered vaguely how she could be a good Auror if she was so clumsy, then figured she must have some hidden talents that he couldn't discern.

Green light filled the sky just then, and Lupin hissed, "Let's go." He kicked off from the ground and floated into the air, sensing the others behind him, and then he and his companions zoomed off south, toward Little Whinging, to rescue the Boy Who Lived.