Author's Note: Just a short, sweet finale to this story. Hope no one chokes on a fluff ball ;).
Gash or Gold
"So we're okay,
Baby, I'm here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
I'm stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
Look at them together then we'll take them apart
Adding up the total of a love that's true
Multiply life by the power of two."
From "The Power of Two" – Indigo Girls
For Sirius' 37th birthday, Remus secretly worked an hour or two every day for three months to conjure an impenetrus screen - an invisible barrier to cordon off property and make it impossible to detect or penetrate with dark magic. Or even light magic, for that matter. His final choice of grounds was a fifty-acre patch of land in the countryside covered in old-growth trees, green grass, and a beautiful crystal clear spring-fed lake with an admirable tree swing.
One-thousand four hundred and seventeen spells put in place over three months and working together for only ten hours before the screen would collapse, taking another three months to secure. What a birthday present! But when Sirius kept saying in awe that it had been too much work, Remus just said, "It's twelve years of birthday presents, all wrapped into one, Padfoot."
Sirius didn't want to think about what would happen in seven more hours. He just wanted to enjoy hour number three to the fullest. He smiled contentedly as he stretched out on the large blanket spread amidst the soft green grass. He had shucked off his shirt and basked on the edge of sleep, sunlight falling on his starved skin.
All around him, happy chatter, mirthful yelling and splashing water abound.
Harry ran over from the lake and flicked dripping wet arms on his sleeping godfather.
"Sirius! You're missing out. Get up and come play Dragonball with us." He pushed him with a wet foot and Sirius laughed without opening his eyes.
"Give me an hour to soak this up. Do you know how long its been since I've felt the sunlight?"
Harry flopped down on the blanket and looked up at mild blue sky then over to the lake where the Weasley twins were chasing Hermoine Granger with enormous Muggle squirt guns. Most of The Order had come (except Snape, who was notably absent) and flitted about here and there, all having a wonderful time.
And on the far edge away from everyone and obviously trying to hide, he saw Remus and Tonks under the tree.
Harry's eyes went wide with shock and anticipation.
Remus rested a hand on the bark above her and leaned in when Tonks hooked a hand loosely onto the top of his long shorts and drew him in for a kiss. And when their bodies met, Harry laughed, surprised to almost find tears in his eyes. They were finally together! It was perfect. At this moment, everything was perfect.
He leaned over Sirius to whisper in his ear but practically yelled, "Tonks and Remus! They're…they're finally…uhm…seeing each other!"
Sirius cracked opened his eyes a bit to give him a sly grin then nodded.
"I sort of thought Remus would want to tell you. I don't think he's told anyone but me so far, though. It's only been a few weeks."
"I just knew it would work out!" Harry looked back at the couple. "They're perfect together."
Sirius sat up with a grunt and rested forearms on his knees, smiling. "They are, aren't they?"
After a few more kisses, Tonks' hands had trailed low down the werewolf's back, when she suddenly saw the two eyeing them. She whispered to Remus, who turned and looked then put his arm around Tonks as they began to walk in Sirius and Harry's direction.
"Uh oh, I think we got caught looking. Act casual." Sirius leaned back on the blanket and Harry stifled a snicker.
"I think it's too late for that," he murmured with a smile as the couple reached the blanket and sat down. Harry thought it hilarious that Remus could look both embarrassed and blissful at the same time.
"I'm sorry I hadn't told you, Harry. I just hadn't found the right time."
"It's okay. I sorta like the way I found out," Harry said with a devilish grin and pushed at his former professor's knee playfully. "Come down to the lake! We're getting ready to play Dragonball in a bit, and you can be on our team." He had already jumped up and started towards the water when he turned around to add, "We're skins though, so leave your shirt."
Then a second after he said it, Harry froze and blushed crimson, recalling the scene in the kitchen not a month ago when Remus professed that he wore long shirts to hide his scars. He shifted on his feet and gestured lamely.
"Or…uh…you could be on Fred and George's team. Or maybe they'd switch and let us be shirts…I…you don't have to play if you don't want.."
But Harry beamed from ear to ear when Remus gave Tonks a smile, peeled off his long sleeved oxford and dropped it on the grass by her side then leaned forward to give her a gentle kiss before getting up to follow Harry.
"Go! Have fun." She squeezed his leg and pushed him toward the water.
Remus moved gracefully for such a tall man, his long navy swim trunks clinging nicely to his frame, the sunlight gleaming on his sandy hair and pale shoulders. Tonks felt herself warm just watching him walk while wearing so little, knowing how wonderful that body felt pressed to her, the feel of his soft skin and the underlying lithe muscles emanating heat into her trailing hands. They'd already made love twice that day, but she could barely wait to get him back to her flat and peel off those trunks.
Remus Lupin, you are so gorgeous…you have nothing to be ashamed of.
"Tonks!" Awestruck, Sirius watched Remus run the final few feet to the water with Harry and dive into the lake. "You're a miracle worker. Seriously. Did you know that Remus hasn't taken off his shirt in public since he was six-years-old?"
But Tonks didn't even hear him. She was still eyeing Remus hungrily as he waded through the waist deep water and dove under then came back up and ran a hand slowly over his water-plastered hair.
"You minx," he drawled, leaning back to gauge her with a sly grin. "You were watching him like a starving man eyes a lasagna."
"Oh, I'd take Remus over lasagna any day, even if I were starving."
"Mmhmm, SO! How's your sex life, cousin? Do I even need to ask, with a comment like that?"
Tonks didn't look even slightly scandalized. "Sirius, my sex life is unbelievably fantastic."
"I figured it was," he smiled. "Amelia Bones is an honest woman."
"I'd rather you didn't tell that story to anyone else. I don't plan on relinquishing him during my lifetime. Ever. We…complete each other, Sirius. In a way I thought I'd never experience. I love him."
Sirius sat up and studied her carefully then squeezed her hand, a broad smile erupting across his face.
"So, Mr. Black! You'll have to find something else to occupy your time, now that your grand experiment to get us together is over!"
"What grand experiment?"
Tonks broke into a very good round of Sirius Black impersonations.
"'Toooonks, Remus won't be back 'til the morning! Take his bed for the night!'"
"'Tonks, take this potion up to Remus!. He's reading in the chair!'"
"PLUS, Remus told me about the magic settee. And the love potion you ended up taking by accident. AND the hallway clock with the cupid spell!"
Sirius shrugged noncommittally. "I don't take any credit for you two. You made it happen."
"But we're giving you credit whether you want it or not. Thank you, cousin." Tonks said affectionately then leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek.
"You're welcome," he replied, looking more peaceful than Tonks had seen him since his return. He glanced over to the lake for a moment then decisively got up from the blanket and stretched.
"Well, I'm going to go dunk a werewolf until he cries for mercy. I haven't done that in…oh..fourteen years!"
Tonks lay back on the blanket and smiled to hear, not too long after Sirius' departure, jovial screams and yelling from the lake.
"Do you give?"
She sat up on her elbows just in time to see the entire Weasley brood and Harry jumping to pull Sirius off Lupin and giving him a taste of his own medicine.
"I'm being attacked! Molly! Call your army off me!"
"Good job, boys!" Molly called from the makeshift veranda.
It was a small seized moment of frivolity and happiness in the midst of war. And they had all needed it badly.
Most of The Order stayed in the lake until the last sliver of sun touched the water. And right before serving a large picnic dinner, Molly took some quick photos. Her favorite was the triumphant Dragonball team (three to two, their favor) standing on the bank, disheveled and a bit sunburned, arms around bare shoulders -- Remus, Sirius, Ron and Harry, looking so much like James the image through the viewfinder gave her chills.
And in the final, waning hour of the impenetrus screen's efficacy, Remus eyed the tree house balcony on the property edge. Kids had played in it all day, but he had made furtive and personal plans to view the night sky from the top before they left. Remus climbed it easily then rubbed his bark-scratched hands together and looked up at the night sky, wistfully drinking in the cupped crescent of the waning moon, its faint light showering the cool night air.
I have to find Tonks, have to ask her tonight. Here…in this beautiful place.
For once in his life, Remus felt like he was the one who had something to impart, no longer feeling the desperate need to protect his own emotions from the walloping he was always so sure they would suffer. He felt open, amassed in a love he had yet to adequately return. And it was time to let her know how he felt.
Suddenly, soft gentle hands wrapped around his middle, and Tonks' cheek rested in the small of his back, hands running lightly across his stomach.
"Sickle for your thoughts," she said softly.
"How'd you get up here!" he chirped.
"Same way you did, monkey boy. Although I don't think I got up here with as much grace by a long shot."
"I'm glad the impenetrus is still up. I was so lost in thought…if you were a Deatheater, I'd be toast."
He turned and leaned on one of the tree's sturdy limbs and she rested her head on his shoulder, looking up at the night sky with him. They stood in quiet companionship for several minutes, breeze blowing gently across them as Tonks closed her eyes in contentment.
"Maybe these moments, between duty shifts and attacks and meetings are all we'll ever have, Tonks," he murmured quietly, chin resting on her head.
"Remus, there's never a right time to fall in love. There's only the moment it happens. Nothing more."
In the still quiet of the night, with nothing but a gentle rush of leaves brushing together high above in the trees and the low, throaty call of frogs in the nearby lake, Remus knew the time was right – to say the things he felt, to open himself completely to this woman who had given him so much love, so much hope.
"You know…I truly love you…like I've never loved anyone before. Or ever will….."
"I feel the same way."
Remus picked up his head to look at her carefully.
Tonks heard the need for reassurance in his quiet voice and gave him a slightly chastising look.
"Absolutely. How could I not?" She reached up on her toes to kiss the tip of his nose, trying to lighten the moment then snuggled once again into his damp shirt. "I've never been a patient person, but you were well worth the wait."
When he laughed, he felt her grin into the fabric and looked down at her.
"Worth the wait, was I?"
"….I'm sorry I kept you waiting. It was….silly of me….stupid of me to be afraid."
"We made it happen on our own terms, Remus. In our own time. Because we loved each other for…"
"For much longer than we were willing to admit?"
"Mmhmm," she murmured, so happy to have him close, to be with him in this lovely place.
"Tonks…" Remus took a huge breath and steeled himself. "Would…..would you ever consider marrying me? I mean…just as a possibility…when all this madness has ended?"
He tentatively reached out a long, slender hand to find hers and she readily took it, fighting back immediate tears of joy as she looked up at him and whispered, "A million times over."
"HEY! Are there two lovebirds nesting in this tree?" They both peeked through the branches below to see Sirius calling them and The Order breaking camp to leave in the background.
"We're coming down!" Tonks called, tears running down her face as she gave him "the look" and kissed him passionately. Remus found it amazing that in a few short weeks of physical intimacy, he had already identified "the look" that meant she wanted him naked and in her bed as soon as possible. He had grown to truly adore and anticipate "The Look." He had actually been waiting for it all day long.
As they climbed down from the tree, Tonks said giddily, "I'm going to go tell Molly!"
It was then he realized that she meant it. She actually meant it. Having a woman's unconditional love was going to be hard to get used to. And even harder to accept, he realized.
Today is making up for a very shitty decade, he thought with sardonic bliss.
Tonks jumped the final two feet from the tree and hugged Sirius until he screeched then let him go and ran to camp, tripping halfway there and falling before she got up and continued.
Sirius watched her with a laugh.
"What were you two talking about up there, Moony? Not the finer points of Dragonball!"
Remus chuckled and threw an arm around Sirius as they walked, pulled him closer and planted a kiss above his ear.
"Thank me? For what?"
"Sirius, what do you think about being my best man?"
Author's Note: Well, that was it guys! Thank you SO much for going on this journey with me. This was my first fanfiction endeavor. It was great fun to write it and even more fun to share.
A very very special thanks to everyone who reviewed this story (and to any future reviewers, as well!) In the end, reviews are what inspire me to keep writing, even more so than my muse, who has a tendency to be capricious and lazy ;).
I might write a rated M sequel that follows the new relationship between Remus and Tonks, wolfsbane-related changes in Lupin's Lycanthropy, and also contains a subplot involving the return of Voldemort's mutant Muggles. It would also deal with what it's like for two people in love to both hold dangerous jobs.
Peace to all.