Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

A/N: Serious angst ahead. You've been warned.

Chapter Seventeen: Aftermath

Remus Lupin staggered into Number Twelve Grimmauld Place late the following morning. He vaguely remembered to quiet his movements so as not to wake the sleeping portraits behind the velvet curtain, and shut the door carefully behind him.

The house was quiet. Still. Dark. Like a grave...

Lupin closed his eyes and swallowed. He opened his eyes and started slowly up the stairs, the weight of all that had happened the night before bearing down on him like the world itself. He was filthy. His hair matted, his clothes torn. His arm was bleeding. His face was bruised. His robes were stained with blood; he tasted it on his tongue. He opened the door to his bedroom and walked, trance-like, to his bed, not caring that he was covered in blood and dirt, not caring that by collapsing onto the bed, he'd soil the freshly laundered sheets.

He wanted only to sleep. To drown himself in the pillows on the bed, to blot out any and all memories of what had happened only hours ago. He rolled over onto his back, feeling the weight of the very air pressing on his chest, and he sighed out loud, squeezing his eyes shut against the burning behind them. He gritted his teeth against the ringing in his ears, the voices in his head. He clenched his fists, ignoring the stretching skin on his knuckles that split open again and began to bleed. He felt sleep steal over him like a seductive embrace. He surrendered. He felt nothing.


"TONKS!" Her name ripped from his throat like the tearing of a rag. He watched her as she fell, down, down, her body like a rag doll on the cold, hard surface of the stone seats. He ran toward her but then a Death Eater was upon him, hurling spells at him, and he was forced to fight back, to defend himself, to tear his eyes away from her limp form, that lay still, unmoving, on the floor.


Lupin stirred in his sleep, tossed over onto his side, pulled a pillow over his head. He wouldn't think about Tonks, wouldn't dream about her. He squeezed his eyes shut again, and let sleep come to him once more.


"Sirius! SIRIUS!"

"There's nothing you can do, Harry!"

"Get him, save him, he's only just gone through!"

"It's too late, Harry--"

"We can still reach him--"

"There's nothing you can do, Harry...nothing...He's gone."

"He's not gone! SIRIUS! SIRIUS!"

"He can't come back, Harry! He can't come back because he's d--"

"He is NOT DEAD!"

He is not dead...He is...


Don't let Harry go, Lupin thought. Hold onto Harry. He'll go after Sirius through the veil if you let him go. Don't let Harry hear that it's killing you inside...


Lupin sat up sharply in bed, a hoarse cry bursting from his throat. He looked round the room. Sunlight was peering through the curtains. It was well into the afternoon now. The room was tidy and organized, but for the bed on which he'd slept, which was now stained with the blood from his clothes, the sheets covered in sweat.

The nightmares had come after all. He should have taken a Dreamless Sleep Draught. He would remember to do so tonight.

Lupin dragged himself from the bed and walked slowly to the window, drawing the curtains open. The bright June sunlight flooded the room, blinding him for a moment. Mocking him. Utterly belying the darkness of everything. The blackness, the bleakness that filled his heart.

He felt his eyes burn and he blinked hard. Some part of him told him to take a shower. To wash the night's events from his clothes, his body. To shave, to brush his teeth, to go and visit Tonks at St. Mungo's, where the healer who'd been assigned to attend her assured him that she would make a full recovery.

But his legs were lead. He was frozen. Staring out the window at a dingy street, at dingy houses whose shabby appearance the sun's light did nothing to improve. A soft chiming came to his ears.

He bit back a harsh laugh. Potion time again, he thought. Well, some things certainly never change.

He dragged himself to his chest of drawers and pulled open the left hand drawer, took out a flask. His supply was running low again. He would need to ask Severus for more.

He uncorked the flask, drank the liquid inside, grimaced against the foul taste, coughed. He stared at the other flasks in the drawer, the temptation to down all of them, to drive out the pain suffocating his chest with an overdose of wolfsbane...it was tempting. He opened the right hand drawer, put the empty flask inside, and shut both drawers together.

His eyes were exhausted, burning, scratchy. He blinked again and turned back to his bed, shuffled over to it, sat down on it heavily. His burning, itchy eyes wandered to his night table, and his hand, of its own accord, strayed to the drawer, opened it, extracted the photograph within.

He stared at the moving image in the small silver frame in his hands. Four boys. Young, energetic, full of life. The boy on the far left, small, skinny, with an upturned nose and a pinched face and a kind of sycophantic look in his eyes. The boy next to him, rangy but not too tall, with messy black hair, hazel eyes, wire-frame glasses, a slightly cocky but warm grin on his face. Next to the bespectacled boy, another dark-haired youth, impossibly handsome, with a laconic air of one who is supremely confident. And on the far right, a boy with sandy, light brown hair, already showing the first few strands of grey. Thin, pale, with blue-grey eyes that are full of happiness despite that ever-present haunted look behind them.

He felt an aching smile touch his lips. What young idiots they had all been. So full of themselves.

Lupin turned the photograph over and on the back of the frame was written eight words:



He turned the photo back over and stared at the two men in the middle. The lanky boy with the messy black hair and glasses, and the dark haired, handsome young man next to him. The boy with the glasses made a face, and the handsome boy reached round and pulled the bespectacled boy into a headlock and relentlessly mussed his hair, as the two boys on the outside of them laughed.

On the outside. As Lupin had always been. Just a little.

All of them were seventeen years old when the photo had been taken.

He ran his thumb lightly over the image of the handsome boy and felt a lump form in his throat. A lump so painful it became difficult to breathe. His throat worked against it, his eyes blinked, fighting it. But he couldn't stop looking at the photograph. Even as the weight of looking at it crushed his heart, he couldn't tear his eyes from it.

Even as the sob broke from his throat and the tears poured down his face, he stared at the photograph. He cried for all that was lost, for all that would never come again.


Lupin sat quietly next to Tonks's bed in the hospital, lightly stroking her hand. She was sleeping peacefully; her dark hair was in its natural state again, curling softly round her face. She was still pale, but the ugly bruises on her cheeks had faded. She looked like an angel. Fragile. Pure. Beautiful. He reached out and brushed a curl from her cheek.

She sighed and stirred, and her eyes, her beautiful, fathomless dark eyes opened. She turned to him and smiled.

"Hi," she whispered. Her voice was raspy, a side effect of the potions she had been given to cure her many injuries. Her leg was still wrapped in thick bandages. It had broken in several places and would not heal fully for another three days.

"Hi," he said, his voice feeling strangled.

"How long have you been here?" she asked sleepily, leaning against his hand as it caressed her cheek.

"Since yesterday," he said.

"I don't remember," she said sheepishly.

"You were rather out of it," he said, but he couldn't smile.

"Remus," she asked, looking at him with tired, searching eyes. "I know. About Sirius."

Lupin swallowed hard and pursed his lips. He nodded.

Tears filled her eyes then. "He...he always was my favorite cousin," she whispered.

Lupin felt his eyes burn. He couldn't speak. He couldn't bear to say his name. He couldn't bear to think of him. The only thing he could do right now was take her in his arms and cling to her, so he did. He held her against him as she cried softly into his shoulder, stroked her hair, held her like a lifeline. A tear fell down Lupin's face and into her hair. They stayed like that for a long time.


Tonks left St. Mungo's three days later, fully healed. She returned to Grimmauld Place with Lupin, who was growing more and more tired as the full moon approached. They hardly talked, seeming to find comfort only in silence.

The house itself was as funereal as it could possibly be. Lupin hadn't seen a trace of Kreacher since that night. Perhaps the house elf had finally escaped this place for good, and taken up with the Malfoys.

Tonks, meanwhile, seemed to find renewed energy by tackling the portraits behind the velvet curtain. She managed to destroy all but the portrait of Mrs. Black.

"I think there's an Indestructible Charm on it," Tonks quipped, yanking the drapes shut in resignation.

Lupin didn't care much. He focused on cleaning out the remaining vestiges of the Black family from the house; it was the one thing that allowed him to vent his anger at that whole horrible family for the cruelties they had visited on the world, on Sirius, whose only crime had been to be a good man.

At night, Lupin found solace in Tonks's arms. They made love frantically, as though it was the one thing keeping them alive.

The morning of the full moon came. Lupin drank his potion as scheduled. Tonks went about the house cleaning, leaving Lupin alone. Molly, Arthur and Bill Weasley showed up that morning; Molly cooked a lavish breakfast that Lupin could hardly stand to eat. Molly, Arthur, Bill and Tonks tackled the house with renewed vengeance, leaving Lupin alone in his room to rest, to prepare for the night to come. Tonks seemed almost to be avoiding him.

The afternoon came; Lupin didn't bother to go down for lunch. Tonks brought him a tray, kissed him softly on the cheek, and left again. She was under the mistaken impression that he wanted to be alone. But he could not find the energy to ask her to stay with him.

The Weasleys left at dusk. Lupin didn't bother to say goodbye, but he had a feeling they would not take offense. Instead he entered his room. He placed the bowl of water in the corner by the fireplace, next to the platter of raw meat. He slowly began to peel off his clothes. He stripped naked, fetched a flask from the drawer, and crawled into bed, exhaling softly as the cool sheets brushed against his skin. He closed his eyes, feeling sleep already steal over him, when a soft knock sounded outside the door.


"Come in," he called weakly.

Tonks came in and started toward the bed; she stumbled slightly, grinned sheepishly, and for the first time in days, Lupin smiled.

"I'm glad my clumsiness is good for something," she said. She crossed tentatively to the bed.

"It's nearly time," he said softly. The had disappeared over the horizon. The last traces of day were vanishing. All that remained was for the moon to rise. A soft chime sounded. Lupin drank the contents of the flask.

"I know," said Tonks.

He set the flask down on the night table and looked at her.

"Stay with me," he whispered, taking her hand.

She swallowed. "Are you sure? You're not afraid you might...you might hurt me?"

"I am," he said. "But...I'm more afraid of being alone. I haven't been left alone...during a transformation...since I was a boy. Sirius used to--"

She put a finger to his lips. "I'll stay," she said softly. "I'll always stay."

He felt, rather than saw, the sky begin to change.

"You should...stand back..." he whispered, feeling the familiar tightening in his chest.

She nodded, and climbed off the bed, her eyes wide and slightly fearful.

"Don't...make any sudden movements," he said, his voice struggling. "Try not...to be afraid...I'll smell it on you..."

"Okay," she said, nodding.

"Have your wand...ready..." he choked. "Just in case..."

"Remus..." Her voice was distant now, far away, as moonlight streamed into the bedroom, beautiful and cold.

"Nymphadora," he rasped. It was the last thing he said.


The wolf blinked and rose from the bed, sniffing the air. Something was different tonight. Something was off. His eyes scanned the room. Empty. Where was the black dog? The black dog had always been here before, to play with him, to keep him company.

The wolf leapt off the bed and shook, then sniffed the air again. The smell of meat was near. He was hungry. He ambled over to the platter of meat, the bowl of water. He began to eat, but it wasn't quite right. The black dog had always watched him. The black dog had never taken his meat, but he'd always been there to watch him.

The wolf finished eating, licked the blood from his lips, and let his eyes wander the room again. Nothing. He trotted over to the window and let his eyes move to the big bright ball outside, above his head. He threw back his head and howled, then whipped his head back to the black dog, who was sitting by the fireplace.

Except that the black dog was not there. The wolf barked, but the dog didn't bark back. The dog wasn't there.

For some reason this bothered the wolf. He threw back his head and howled again, and again. Why wouldn't the black dog come?

A noise startled the wolf and he whirled around. His eyes fell on something. Someone.

Not the black dog. Not a dog at all. A human.

He growled and felt his hackles raised. Humans didn't come near him; he didn't trust humans. Humans had hurt him before, in the past. And this human--female, by her scent--she was afraid. He could smell that on her, too. She opened her mouth and made a sound.


The wolf growled again. She looked into his eyes. She had a stick in her right hand.

"Easy," she said. The wolf sat back on his haunches. This human was afraid but she was moving slowly. Her hand was out, her palm up. He sniffed again. The fear was still there. He growled just a little. To let her know. He was the alpha. She would submit.

"Easy," she said again. Her voice sounded soothing, somehow, even if it shook a little. She came closer, her palm still up, her eyes still locked with his. The growl died in his throat. She was not dangerous. She put the stick on the ground. He thought briefly of picking it up in his teeth and chewing it, but he was more interested in the human.

She reached him and knelt down, left herself be submissive to his attack, if he chose to do so. But he didn't. He sniffed her outstretched palm. Human flesh--he knew the smell. Female, he knew that, too. The smell of fear was diminishing. He licked the palm of her hand. Female taste. Somehow, he knew that as well.

Very slowly she reached up and scratched him behind the ears. He pulled back for a moment--nobody had done that before--but she reached out further and scratched him there again, and he leaned into her hand. It felt very good, this scratching. He felt his front paws slide out toward the woman and he sank to the floor, his belly on the cool tile. The woman sat down next to him and stroked the top of his head.

The wolf began to feel very sleepy. Something was not right about tonight, with the black dog gone. Normally he would have played a little, frolicked some. But he was too tired. And he didn't know if this human would want to play. And it felt very nice, the way she was stroking the top of his head.

"You're not so bad," he heard her whisper in a friendly kind of voice. He lowered his chin to the floor and closed his eyes, letting the human female stroke the top of his head as he fell asleep.


Morning sun slanted into the bedroom and warmed Lupin's face. He wasn't ready to wake up. It was too comfortable, too soft...

He blinked and opened his eyes. He was naked, under a pile of blankets, but he was in bed, not on the floor. He turned on his side to find Tonks there, lying beside him, fully clothed, her wand clutched in her hand. She was sleeping heavily, her mouth slightly open.

He smiled and felt a wave of relief. He had made it through the night with her next to him. He hadn't hurt her.

He brushed a strand of dark hair from her face, wishing she would always leave her hair soft and dark and curly like that, and she murmured in her sleep, then opened her eyes slowly.

"Good morning," she whispered, smiling sleepily.

"Yes, it is," he whispered, wrapping an arm round her. "I usually wake up on the floor after the full moon."

"I levitated you here," she said. "How do you feel?"

"Exhausted," he said truthfully. "Wrung out. Like my best friend just died. Like the most incredible woman in the world stayed with me through my darkest hour and helped me survive."

She bit her lip. "That's...so sweet, Remus," she said, blushing.

"What makes you think I was talking about you?" said Lupin, grinning broadly.

"Wha--Remus!" She grabbed and pillow and swatted him on the head with it.

"Ouch!" he said, laughing. He couldn't believe he was laughing, but somehow it seemed like the only thing to do right then.

"Serves you right," she said, pretending to pout.

He pulled her closer to him.

"Remus," she murmured. "What will happen...to this place?"

Lupin stopped stroking her hair for a moment and considered.

"I don't know," he answered. "I suppose we could still use it as a Headquarters."

"What about you?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Will you...stay here?" she asked. "I mean...continue...to live here?"

"I hadn't thought about it," he said, feeling the sadness come over him, not sure he wanted to contemplate the future, having to spend more time in this house. Even with her there, the memories couldn't be erased...

"Do you think..." she said slowly, "...you might like...to come and live with me?"

He pushed back from her just slightly to look at her face.

"Live with you?"

"Yeah," she said, and then she was talking very fast. "I mean, I don't have a very big place and I'm kind of a messy person and I know you're really neat and organized but I was sort of thinking maybe you'd do better outside of this place. I mean it is really depressing here, even if...even if we've had some nice times here. Maybe you'd like it better, you know away from here. And...and you know, my flat's in a pretty decent neighborhood and all and...I'm really busy at work these days...well, you know that...but it's not like I'd be in your hair all the time and--"

"Tonks," he said, interrupting her nervous chatter as a smile crept over his face. "I'd love that."

"You--you would?"

"Yes," he said. "Getting out of this house...sounds like a dream come true."

She smiled shyly at him. "You're the dream come true," she whispered, then she laughed and blushed. "God, that sounded corny, didn't it?"

"No, it sounded rather sweet, actually," he said. "Nymphadora."

"Don't call me that," said Tonks.

"I think I might," he said. "I really like that name. Nymphadora."

"Don't, Remus," she warned.

"Nymphadora," he said again, grinning.

"I'm warning you," she said, grabbing for another pillow. But then Lupin rolled over onto her and pinned her to the mattress, holding her wrists with his hands.

"I love you, Nymphadora," he said softly. His eyes became soft and serious.

She blinked and bit her lip again. "Well, when you...when you say it like that...I guess...Nymphadora doesn't sound...THAT bad."

He responded by kissing her slowly. He was indeed exhausted, wrung out, but as he felt her tongue press against his and her hands tangle in his hair, he felt only the sensations of that very moment.

He kissed her harder, and she shifted beneath him, giving him access to the buttons of her blouse. He slowly started to undo them, then looked at her face. She reached up and brushed a lock of hair from his eyes.

"I love you, Remus," she whispered. He kissed her again, hands working at the buttons.


They made love one last time in his bedroom; afterward, Tonks jokingly referred to it as their "farewell fuck."

"Such a lady you are," said Lupin. "I thought calling you Nymphadora might clean up that mouth of yours."

"You like my dirty mouth," said Tonks suggestively, as they climbed down the stairs, "and you know it."

"Guilty as charged," he said, taking her hand and kissing it.

They walked quietly down the stairs, Lupin carrying his small, beat-up suitcase in his hand, the other clutching Tonks's hand. They came to the front door and opened it. Sunshine poured into the foyer, and for a brief moment, the gloom of the house lifted. Lupin closed his eyes and let the sun hit his face.

"Ready to go fetch Harry?" she asked, shielding her eyes from the sun.

"Ready," he said. They walked outside and Lupin heard the door behind them shut. They started away from the house and Lupin turned back long enough to see it shrink into nothing.


They met Harry at King's Cross. Lupin bit back the lump in his throat. Harry looked thinner; he couldn't have eaten much of anything in the past week. His green eyes were haunted; they would be haunted for some time.

But they brightened, a little, to see everyone there, standing with him, on his side. They showed the smallest glimmer of hope when Lupin, Tonks and Moody approached the Dursleys and warned them to treat Harry with respect. They even crinkled just slightly with humor when Moody revealed to Vernon Dursley his sinister-looking magical eye and Dursley yelped in fear.

As Lupin watched Harry move off with his relatives, he remembered the last words Sirius had spoken to him, just outside the doors to the Death Chamber.

"I will, mate," Lupin whispered. "I promise." Lupin watched Harry as he stepped onto the escalator; Harry turned round once more to look at his friends, and waved. Lupin felt renewed prickling behind his eyes as Harry's eyes fell on him and waved, smiling sadly all the while.


Tonks was there, her voice soft in his ear. The Weasleys the Grangers were already heading up the escalators, saying their goodbyes at the top, going their separate ways. Until next term.

He turned to Tonks and took her hand. Moody coughed and moved away from them discreetly.

"Shall we go home, then?" she said.

He looked at her for a moment, and the memories of the past week came rushing into him like a flood. All the pain, all the loss. All the hope. Tonks embodied that hope. He knew, in the end, he would be okay. He pulled her close to him and whispered into her now bubble-gum pink hair.

"I am home."


A/N: Thanks to all who read and especially to those who reviewed. Writing that last chapter was just a bit hellish, so once I've recovered I think I'll write another fluffy thing.