AN: This story is rated PG-13 for violence and a wee bitski of innuendo at the end of a passionate snogfest. So please enjoy! D
Lost in a Good Book
The wind was cold.
She could feel it on her skin and she shivered, wrapping her cloak tightly around her shoulders. She grasped her wand – oak and dragon heartstring, 10 ½ inches – tightly in her hands, her fingertips numb but her palm coated in a thick layer of sweat.
She heard a howl and felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, like her own miniature army snapping to attention to encourage her to do the same.
"Tonks, he's transformed." She heard a voice at her side and turned to see Gerry Buzzard whispering fervently behind her. He was a small man, his hair had gone white early, but his face was still true to his youth. He was only 34 years old, but life as an auror was often shorter than usual.
Buzzard had keen grey eyes and a shrewd face, but his voice often squeaked when he spoke and it made him seem very excitable. He didn't always inspire vigilance or admiration in the aurors he was leading, but he got the job done and he was a good wizard nevertheless. He'd been working for the ministry for over ten years and he was one of the best in the field.
"I can hear that, Buzz." Tonks muttered dryly. She pressed her back up against the wall of the large house they'd used for a hiding spot. They'd tracked the werewolf to a suburb community nestled just south of Chichester; the residents huddled inside their warm homes, sleeping beneath their blankets of ignorance and completely unaware of what was unravelling on their streets. Tonks peered around the corner, her eyes scanning the quiet street.
The lights had been extinguished with the Put-outer in her pocket, and only moonlight poking through the clouds and bouncing off the wet pavement provided any illumination.
Something moved. Instantly, Tonks lurched back, slamming herself against the wall and keeping out of sight. She heard shuffling from down the street and prayed that her colleagues were keeping quiet. Buzzard nodded and stepped forward, poking his head around the corner. After a brief glance he withdrew back to her side, taking a small tin can out from his robes and grabbing at the bottom of it. His fingertips found what they were looking for, and with a quick tug a long, silvery thread fell from the end and snapped tight. The thread extended from the bottom of his can and seemed to go straight through both Buzz and the muggle house behind him.
"Get into position. Don't go without my order." He whispered into the mouth of the can. There was silence, before a tiny voice echoed back at him.
"We've got a problem. Dodger's wand broke on the trip in. He fell over one of those muggle lawn gnomes." It was Laurence from down the street.
Buzzard cast Tonks a foreboding glance. She knew better than anyone how one clumsy mistake could screw up an entire operation. She was just glad it wasn't her fault this time. To prevent minimal damage, Dodger and Laurence were supposed to knock out their target from behind, cutting off his escape. Werewolves were reckless and dangerous. It wouldn't be worth risking getting bitten just to get the job done.
Buzzard sighed, scratching his neck.
"Right, change of plans, then. I'm going to do my best to distract him and hit him from the front. Laurence, you get him from behind in case I fail. Tonks will stay hidden and cover me." His eyes met Tonks's and she nodded grimly. There was another silence from the can, then: "Roger."
"All right." Buzzard's voice was gritty and he gripped the cup tightly. "On three." He stared Tonks in the eyes. "One..."
There was a noise from her right. The werewolf was coming closer; she could hear its paws on the ground.
She gestured for Buzzard to be quiet and withheld from glancing around the house. If they were spotted …
"Three!" Tonks shouted, her own wand raised. The werewolf had heard them, bounding around the bend in the street. Buzzard and Tonks were spotted instantly and it approached, its teeth barred in the moonlight. Tonks heard curses from down the street as Laurence ran to their aid. Buzzard didn't even hesitate, raising his wand.
"Stupefy!" He shouted, a stream of angry red light shooting out of the tip of his wand and hitting the werewolf between the eyes. It blinked, shaking its head and growling loudly as spit flew from its jaws and it snapped at the air.
"Stupefy!" Laurence shouted from behind. The werewolf yelped and turned on Laurence, leaping.
"Impedimenta!" Tonks thrust her wand in the werewolf's direction, forcing it down to the ground. It bounced once, its head slapping against the curb, then lay on the pavement, blinking sleepily. It gave a weak growl then slowly shut its eyes.
"Knocked its head." Laurence muttered, nodding. "Well done, Tonks. Hopefully this closes the Flora case. We've suspected he was a werewolf since the beginning, the whole thing seemed like a vengeance deal." Tonks nodded, cocking her head to the side. Her eyes narrowed and the wind blew over her bare scalp – she'd gotten rid of her hair for the job – but she ignored the cold.
She hated fighting werewolves. Usually there was a separate team for that - the Werewolf Capture Unit in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. They specialized in hunting them down and apprehending them without causing any harm, as most werewolves were just innocent (but unlucky) wizards and witches. But the task force Tonks was working with had been tracking a wizard who was going around jinxing apothecary workers and biting people in the streets. It seemed like someone taking revenge for a bad medical predicament.
Werewolf bites are only contagious when the biter in question is transformed, but the jinxes bordered on the unforgivable, so they'd been forced into action. They'd tracked the wizard to a Muggle convenience store and got there just in time to see a werewolf bound down the street. Back-up was nowhere in sight and there'd been Muggles all over the place, so they'd left behind two of their team to cover until the Obliviators came. They'd tracked Flora to the large, upper-class residential area, and they'd dealt with him. They'd been force to hurt the werewolf.
Tonks frowned, noticing a dark stain on the werewolf's side. She knelt, her fingers finding the stain and feeling the moist, matted fur on her fingertips.
"Careful, there." Buzzard warned. Tonks ignored him.
"He's injured, Buzz. I'm checking for anything lodged in the wound."
Buzzard sighed and grabbed some ropes from his side. They were anti-apparating bindings, enchanted never to break and to come lose only at the word of the captor. Tonks winced, her fingers finding a sharp piece of glass embedded in the werewolf's flesh. She placed her hand on the creature's side, mumbling softly, before slowly pulled the shard out.
"Get Dodger on the line." Tonks grimaced, showing Laurence the shard. He blanched and nodded quickly, pulling out his own tin cup.
"Dodger, it's over. Get over here. You can borrow my wand. We might have some internal bleeding here." He replaced the cup into his robes as Buzzard knelt down next to Tonks.
"Okay, I'll get his paws. You two lift him up so I can wrap around before muzzling him." He nodded towards the wolf and Laurence moved to help. They'd just lifted the front part of the beast off the ground when Buzzard was forced to jump back, the werewolf's teeth snapping shut inches from his hand. He shouted, stumbling slightly and grabbing for his wand. The beast leapt, forcing Buzzard to the ground and baring his teeth in a feverish howl.
For a second, Tonks was frozen in place…. Then her brain registered the silver glint of the moonlight of the razor-like teeth, the saliva dripping from the mouth as it prepared to go for Buzzard's throat. She lunged, forcing the werewolf off of her superior and, without thinking, without realizing, lashing out in defence.
The shard pierced the furred flesh, embedded into the werewolf's chest. It yelped loudly, falling onto the pavement once more with a sickening thud. Dodgers and Laurence ran forward, helping Buzzard to his feet just as Tonks saw the thick red liquid spill out from around the glass shard. She fell to her knees, pulling off her cloak to bandage the wound. Her breathing grew shallow and she felt her heart thudding in her chest.
"Dodger!" She shouted, her voice raspy. Dodger was running his hand around Buzzard, checking for bite marks. Tonks started wrapping her cloak around the werewolf's barrel chest. The blood continued to spill, though Tonks left the shard in the wound. She choked, struggling to tie her cloak and fit it around the massive form.
"Dodger!" She called again. She could smell the potency of the blood and she blinked back tears.
And finally, the cloak fit. Tonks allowed herself a brief sigh of relief before biting back a yell.
The wolf was shrinking, losing size. The fur was steadily retracting into the werewolf's body. Tonks glanced up, quickly, and saw that the moon was still hanging in the sky. She slapped a hand to her mouth, pulling it away instantly when she felt the blood on her hand.
"Dodger!" She shrieked. Dodger's face was pale.
"Tonks, it's too late." He whispered, placing a hand on her arm. Tonks closed her eyes. The werewolf's transformation back to its human form … when the moon was still full, up in the sky like a scar in the night ...
She watched in horror as the creature's form continued to diminish. Its long mane retracted to a shaggy cut, the black-grey hair darkening slightly, and her blood froze in her veins. She could see him lying there, his chest still, his form slumped lifelessly on the pavement. His bed-raggled appearance, a week's stubble still on his chin.
"Oh, God, Remus…" She mumbled under her breath, tears brimming beneath her eyes. Behind her, Laurence helped Buzzard to his feet and they peered over her shoulder.
"That's Flora, all right." Buzzard grumbled. "Revenge spree." He spat, trying to hide the slightly anxious squeak in his voice.
Tonks blinked, a single drop tracing down the curve of her cheek and falling from her pointed chin. Her eyes focused in on the fallen wizard's face; his hair was black, not the early grays of a brown mop she'd expected. His open eyes were dark, not grey, and his skin a chocolaty red, not pale.
It wasn't Lupin. It was Manveer Flora, the wizard they'd been after. It wasn't an innocent victim; it was the one they'd been trying to send to Azkaban.
Tonks bit back a sob, standing quickly and running her hands hastily across her eyes. Her three companions waited in silence until she turned back to the body, her expression grim.
"Dreadful. All right, call in the clean-up crew. And make sure the Obliviators make the rounds in the morning to be sure we had no unwanted observers." She winced the last part out, even the shadows of tears disappearing from her face instantly. It was just another job. Laurence nodded, tapping his cup with his wand. The silver string went loose then taught again as it snapped through a house on the other end of the street.
Dodgers leaned down, closing the wizard's eyes and Tonks turned her gaze away. How embarrassing. Of course it hadn't been Lupin. How could it be? She knew that he was locked in his room back at the Order's headquarters, probably lying around the fireplace with a big, black, dog-type Sirius for company.
She felt her insides boil at how easily she'd allowed herself to panic.
She'd walked in on Lupin as a werewolf, once. She'd been asked to gather some information on Macnair, a Death Eater working for the Ministry, and she'd forgotten her orders at Headquarters. While she knew that Lupin and Sirius were inside, she thought that they'd probably be asleep. She knew as well as the others that between Snape's steady supply of potions and Sirius's animal company, Lupin posed no real threat, but there was always the possibility…
Suffice to say, the Black House was evacuated every full moon.
But that one time, she'd entered the room, creeping silently towards the kitchen. She knew she was clumsy as sin, and it wasn't long before she bumped into a chair and cursed under her breath. She'd grabbed the parchment from the counter, heading back towards the front hall through the sitting room.
And caught a glint. A flash of light reflected back at her from a pair of wide, lunar eyes. Their gazes locked. Tonks felt her blood go cold. And then he sniffed, placing his snout back on his paws, content by the fireplace. Tonks, for a brief moment, felt the urge to go and scratch him behind the ears, but she knew better. She'd nodded and left.
But it had been a sharp reminder of a fact that a lot of witches and wizards – she and the other aurors included – liked to forget. Werewolves are innocent people. They can't control what they do in werewolf form, and yet they suffer for it. And that's why, even when she knew that he'd been bordering on the dark arts, she felt her heart wrench for Manveer Flora. His actions as a wizard deserved imprisonment. His actions as a werewolf earned him death.
She sighed as a group of grim-faced witches and wizards apparated a few yards from where she stood. They approached, one of them carrying a pack of parchment and a quill.
"Wotcher, Tertulli?" Tonks nodded to the witch wearing grey. She had drab curls held up atop her head and a plump nose on what should've been a jolly face. She grimaced.
"I really hate these cases. Sometimes the family didn't even know they were criminals. To have to break the news of a death on top of it…" She sighed, shaking her head. "You four best head back to the Ministry and make your report. We'll handle things from here."
Tonks nodded, grateful to be away from the scene.
Tonks came into the office the next morning worn out and exhausted. She'd refused to shed tears, but discomfort had kept her up all night, regardless. She nodded gravely to a young wizard in blue robes before taking a seat at her desk. She calmly conjured up a cup of coffee, rubbing at her temples beneath her hair. She'd worn it long and black.
The wizard – a young man named Bellerophon Bradley – knocked on her door and poked his head into her office.
"Message for you. Came in the post seconds before you walked in." He handed her a small, plain white envelope with "N. Tonks" scribbled hastily across its front, accented by a blot of ink. She recognized the writing immediately.
Nodding gratefully to Bradley as he backed out of her office, her fingers found the wax seal on the letter and, plucking it off and removing the letter from the envelope, began to read.
I didn't mean to pry, but Sirius left it open last night and you know how I can't resist a good read. Send me an owl if you want to talk about it.
A furious blush attacked her cheeks and she stuffed the letter back in the envelope as if horrified that someone might see it.
No! Not possible! Why would Sirius…? Of course, she knew why. But Lupin, surely he wouldn't have… but he did, and he wanted to talk about it! Of all the times to read…
In the Black House, on the lower level in a room just off the front hall, was a library. The library was filled with row upon row of old, leather-bound, dusty books. It had taken them a while to gather up the nerve to flip through them. A dark witch's library is not always regarded as the friendliest reading material. And so, expecting the worst, they bothered to browse through the titles and found, to their great astonishment, that the books all seemed to chronicle moments of distress for every member of the family. A brief joy had coursed through them; with the escape of Bellatrix Lestrange, surely they could use her journal to find out where she was and what she was doing. But the theory died when the pages were turned. It seemed the only use was to chronicle the personal thoughts of that person in moments of emotional exertion, and dear Bellatrix was never quite in the right state of mind to ever have lucid thoughts that could reveal any useful information.
They did, however, find a row of dust-covered spines, untouched. A short search unearthed both Sirius and Tonks's own books. Why they'd been in the Black library, they did not know – perhaps for a bit of light reading – but they'd both admitted that the contents of the books could prove useful. It was an unpleasant thought, but if Tonks was ever spying, and found important information but was caught before she could relay it to the Order, she could still communicate the information in a moment of distress if she thought about it anyway. The same could be said for calling for help and giving your location and status.
Sirius, however, liked to abuse her privacy and read up on her auror work for amusement. He did it under the guise of being concerned for her, and while Tonks was touched to know that this was partly true, she knew there were other reasons, as well. Kingsley had probably mentioned she'd gone off on the Flora chase, and now Lupin …
She yelled in frustration, picking up a copy of A Witch's Guide to Grace and chucking it across the room. She was going to kill Sirius. That much was certain. And Lupin read it! Usually he'd demonstrate a greater respect for one's privacy. No, she knew better. She knew that Sirius had probably had to use the toilet or something equally as stupid and asked Lupin to keep an eye on her as the danger unfolded. By mentioning a werewolf, even Lupin would get curious …
She rose from her chair, furious with everything.
Blast! BLAST! Double blast and a half!
The fact was that it wouldn't upset her half as badly if she didn't know Lupin was a special case. If she'd had to fight and accidentally kill a black dog animagus, she wouldn't have thought it was Sirius. She'd have kept her wits. And before she met Lupin, she'd been scared stiff of werewolves, and probably would've felt quite satisfied about killing one. She admitted this to her great shame, shaking her head. Because of meeting Lupin, she knew better.
A boggart she'd found as a child had turned into a werewolf, once, and the end result was a young Tonks curled in the corner of her bedroom, crying until her mother came to her aid. She hadn't seen a boggart for a couple of years, but she suspected that if she did, it would still be a werewolf. Her mind shifted to the sight of Lupin lying dead on the ground, and she knew it was for different reasons.
No, it wouldn't upset her so much…. If she didn't suspect that in her panic – her state of sheer panic where she'd only been concerned for Lupin's life, if only for a moment – she might've thought something dangerous. Something small, no doubt. Something barely noticeable to anyone but someone who held her every thought in a book.
Something like 'My Remus' or equally condemning.
Remus Lupin shut the book with a snap as he hastily thought of any way he could pretend that he hadn't read it. His cheeks flushed with shame even as he admitted that what he'd read was stuck for good. He hadn't meant to read it. He really knew that he shouldn't have. But as he'd sat waiting for a response to his letter, he'd grown more and more nervous. Why had she been so upset? For him, no less? It'd been touching, flattering, even; but it was none of his business. Sirius had made him read it, it wasn't his fault.
He shook his head. No, that was the same attitude he'd had at Hogwarts, and he knew it wasn't true. It was his fault he'd done as Sirius said, even though he knew it was wrong. Tonks's thoughts were her own, and nothing – including the devilish glint behind the horrifyingly concerned look on Sirius's face – should've been enough to make him read. In his defence, however, he had been worried about her. But he knew, also, that if Sirius had really been concerned and not just leading him on, then he would've been on his feet and out the door without bothering to breath a word of explanation in Lupin's direction.
But even if his first read of the Book of Tonks was excused, the second one most certainly wasn't. Sirius had watched him squirm in his chair as he waited for Tonks to respond. Unable to bare it a moment longer, he'd excused himself to dishonestly read through her thoughts once more.
And now, he stared at the green leather of the book, the gold ink of her name curving across the front.
She hadn't thought « My Remus » last night. She'd been horrified, concerned – Lupin's chest swelled with warmth – but she hadn't said anything of the sort. He certainly knew she might've thought it, though. He knew … that Tonks … that she …
He began to pace the library, running a hand through the greying brown strands of his hair that hung in his eyes. What should he do? He had no idea. In school he'd always looked a bit too peaky to attract female attention. Not like James or Sirius, who were both prime examples of strapping young men, ripe for relationships and probably devils in the bedroom. He'd been quiet, brainy, sickly Remus. Even if he had been approached, he'd always had the insane fear that there could be no girl at school he could trust with his secret. And now, well, if one thought finding a job was difficult as a werewolf, finding a girlfriend was certainly out of the question.
He was 37 years old, but he'd just never had the time for women. He had no idea what to do, no clue at all. But… but Sirius … He debated with himself for a moment. He wasn't too keen to go and confess that he'd violated Tonks's privacy. Then he remembered the glint in Sirius's eye the previous night, the slight smirk as he watched Lupin struggle with himself. The bastard knew! He knew! How long had he known?
Lupin's feet slapped back down the stairs and into the living room to find Sirius sitting in the armchair, an expectant look on his face. Lupin had prepared a flurry of reprimands on the way down the stairs, but they disappeared instantly when he saw his best friend's face.
"I … umm … how long?" Was all he could manage. He took deep breaths and tried to hide the fact that he was, in fact, quite flustered and didn't know what to do with himself. Sirius held his gaze for a moment, his eyes practically screaming with amusement. Lupin straightened his robes – they were dishevelled and blue – and took a seat in the other chair, hoping he looked calm. Sirius, though, looked like he was about to explode.
"How long what?" He asked, holding back one of his barking laughs. Lupin gripped the arm of his chair in annoyance, causing Sirius to smirk even more.
"How long has she fancied you, or how long have I known?" The blush raced to Lupin's cheeks once more and he silently cursed himself for acting like such a schoolboy. Of course, he though, bitterly, Harry had probably gotten further with a girl than he ever had. He sighed.
"Four and two months, respectively." Sirius answered matter-of-factly.
"So," Lupin breathed, awkwardly, "Er-"
"You want advice?" Sirius was unable to hide the laughter in his voice. Lupin didn't even feel the need to flatter him with the slightest of nods. Sirius looked like he was about to sit back and wait for more of an eager request, but Lupin gave him a glare that silenced the dog animagus's ambitions. Leaning in, his voice was a hushed whisper.
"First, you go to the Ministry while she's at work, because after you wrote her that stupid letter she'll avoid you for as long as possible." Lupin couldn't decide whether that fact relieved or upset him.
"Then," Sirius continued, "you go down to her level, walk through very matter-of-factly, don't let anyone stop you. If they do, jinx them." Lupin arched his brow, opening his mouth to interrupt what must've been Sirius's idea of a joke, but Sirius continued on, oblivious to Lupin's objections.
"And when you find her, if she's busy or talking to someone, even better! Whatever she's doing, it doesn't matter. You grab her, whip her towards you and lay one on her with that furry muzzle of yours." Sirius nodded, looking very smug and obviously expecting Lupin to jump up and sing his praises. The werewolf, however, simply stared for a moment before speaking slowly.
"That's the worst advice I've ever heard." He said as Sirius's expression fell into one of stung annoyance.
"What? Why? Witches love that sort of thing!" Sirius insisted. Lupin waved a hand in his friend's direction.
"First, I know you've been out of the loop a bit, but Ministry wizards don't look kindly upon werewolves barging in and jinxing their aurors with the intent of 'laying one on' another auror. Fudge would probably make it out that I wanted to bite her." He explained. Sirius opened his mouth to speak but closed it quickly, an obliging look on his face when he realized Lupin was most likely right. "Second, you're assuming I want to pursue a relationship with Tonks." Lupin pointed out. Sirius's brow furrowed and his expression grew dark.
"You don't?" His voice was stiff. Lupin blinked.
"She's a talented young witch who can change her appearance at will, and she fancies you even though you have an urge to pee on things every full moon." Sirius rose from hi seat and Lupin shifted nervously in his chair.
"Well, I am very flatter-"
"Are you a man or not!" Sirius roared. Lupin refrained from jumping in his chair. He was too used to Sirius to actually be intimidated by him, but he did hesitate for a moment. He knew what Sirius was getting at, but he refused to court Tonks just because she was female. He had far too much respect for her for that. She was a strong, warm, funny woman and she deserved someone who liked her the way she was. He was about to inform Sirius of that fact when he suddenly had a vision of her heart-shaped face inches away from his, preparing for a kiss. He choked on air.
"Oh dear." He mumbled. Sirius gave Lupin a triumphant look.
"Aha! The boy has a libido after all." He said, satisfied. Lupin was too distracted to even care as a dozen other fantasies involving him and Tonks swarmed into his mind, flooding out every dark and negative thought. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks like a meter. He'd suppressed primal instincts for so long, they were coming like a flood. He managed to stop himself halfway through a vision of Tonks using her tongue in very intriguing ways to remind himself of his respect for her. Curious, he tried the same fantasies with one of the professors he'd met at Hogwarts – a dark, very pretty woman named Sinistra.
He put her in place of Tonks and his enjoyment of said visions dropped noticeably. This thought pleased him, but wasn't all together strong enough. He completely brushed aside all the fantasies that had crowded his mind moments before, and instead just thought of … Tonks. Just her. Her smile, her eyes – two features which always stayed the same in her day-to-day look, and he felt a warmth bubble inside of him. When he looked up at Sirius, he was grinning.
"I believe that I'd like to have a relationship with Tonks." He said, calmly. Sirius feigned shock.
"Really." Lupin said, quite seriously, and rose from his chair. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a seduction to plan." Sirius opened his mouth to speak but Lupin dismissed him with a light-hearted wave of his had. "And I require no help from you, thank you." He grinned to himself as he walked away.
It would start with a letter.
"Tonks," Kingsley's voice brought her out of her stupor. She'd been pretending to look over some paperwork left over from the Flora case, but her eyes had just been reading the same like over and over again. Suffice to say, she was glad for the distraction Kingsley provided.
"I need you to work late tonight. Can you?" He asked, wincing apologetically. Tonks gave him an exasperated look.
"Two of mine have gone on holiday," he explained, hastily, "and I'm spilling over for paperwork. I'm requesting that you switch to the case but in the meantime, I just need some paperwork done." He pleaded loudly, and Tonks knit her brow in confusion. Spies or not, they wanted to delay the Black case at whatever cost. Kingsley had even insisted that his two agents go on the vacation he was now complaining about. Kingsley gave her the smallest nods, raising his eyebrows. Instantly her expression slapped back to one of mild annoyance.
"All right, Shacklebolt, but you owe me. » She insisted, and he nodded, giving her a grateful smile. He put the paperwork on her desk and she nearly fainted at the sight of it.
"How many scrolls is this? " She sputtered, picking up one and rolling out the parchment.
"Oh, err … a dozen or so, I should say … about ten feet each. " He shrugged dismissively and hastily walked away, ignoring the look on Tonks's face as she glared after him. She buried her face in her palms, her long black hair falling around her.
"I hate my job. "
The lights of the surrounding offices had long gone out and her fingers scratched away at parchment by the light of her candles. Her hands were stained with ink and her eyes were red and tired, but she stifled a yawn, finishing a scroll and rolling up the parchment to put it on the pile of finished work.
"Three down, nine to go." She mumbled, closing her eyes and gently resting her head on her desk. She'd only intended to rest her eyes for a moment, but when she saw the moon falling around her she knew she was dreaming. She knew, also, that she wanted to wake up. She knew before she saw the werewolf's grey eyes before it turned and trotted towards her.
"Wake up," she mumbled to herself, "wake up, wake up, wake up Tonks." She repeated the phrase as the werewolf came towards her, its eyes revealing nothing. It approached and the blood froze in her veins.
Then it spoke.
"Wake up, Tonks."
She started, blinking sleepily and pulling herself up from her desk. The candles around her slid into focus, flickering silently, and she sat up, her gaze falling on a pair of grey eyes staring at her.
"Remus," she placed a hand to her chest, breathing deeply, "what are you doing here?" She asked, nervously. Please don't say you want to talk about last night.
He said nothing for a moment, though he looked like he very much did want to say something, but simply couldn't find the words. Tonks felt her heart settle in her chest, silently berating herself for allowing an old friend to give her such a start.
"Black doesn't become you." He said, finally, in a soft voice that sent shivers down her spine. Why was he looking at her like that? She placed a hand on her hair, the strands so much longer and darker than usual. She regarded him for a moment before she scrunched her face up and allowed it to go back to her favourite – short and pink.
"Well, what can I help you with?" She asked. His presence was making her breathless and she wondered if he could hear her heart beating in her chest. Okay, maybe it wasn't the fact that he'd startled her that set her pulse off. He smiled at her, reaching into his robes and pulling out a green, leather-bound book. Her blood ran cold in her veins as he placed it on the next before her with a dull thud.
"Let's talk." His voice was still gentle and Tonks wanted to, well, to do something.
"You've been reading it," she accused, "without my permission." She tried to make her voice sound angry, though at that moment anger was background emotion for her. If knew, what would he do? Laugh at her? Ignore her? Or, worst of all, pity her?
She was beginning to find it difficult to meet his gaze.
"I have work to do." She snapped, hoping it would convince him that what he'd read was wrong. She really didn't think of him that way. Honest. She turned back to the parchment and screwed up her eyes, forcing her to read. Lupin's hands appeared in her field of view and removed the scroll from her grasp.
"No, you don't." He said, calmly. "There are fake. I sent Kingsley an owl to get you to stay here late tonight." He gathered up the scrolls and put them in the waste bin by her desk, his eyes still on hers and a smile on his lips. "So we could … talk."
Tonks felt like half of her body was bubbling with even more annoyance – she'd done all that work for nothing?! – but the other half was filling with something entirely different. She felt like if she opened her mouth she'd either burst out laughing, or be sick. She wasn't quite sure.
"About what?" she managed, her face flushed. She felt like a little girl, stupid and foolish and – lord help her – in love with Lupin. She didn't want to meet his gaze, sure that he could read her mind, but … the book that let him read her mind, and she was certainly distressed enough for it, sat right on her desk, within an arm's reach of his possession. The book couldn't tell him everything, of course. It couldn't tell him about how she'd adored him since she was young, how she'd had a bit of a stupid crush on James, once, but that had gone away as she'd gotten older. How she'd always really admired him and been quite clever to keep it from Sirius. It was only four months ago that her cousin had found out, anyway.
"Why," Lupin asked, pulling her from her thoughts, "would you be so concerned for my safety? I know your upset, though I promise you don't have to be. Please, I'd much rather hear it from you than have to read it from a book." His voice was light, mildly teasing, and Tonks bit her lip. The anger side of her was winning.
"You wouldn't do that, Remus. You know that's my private space. You may have read it once or twice by accident, but you wouldn't do that now with me here to watch you. You wouldn't," her voice was almost pleading, and Remus sighed.
"I wouldn't, Tonks, but this is really unfair regardless." Now it was his turn to plea, his eyes gazing at her almost desperately. Tonks felt her heart stop.
"Please, just tell me. Just so I can be sure."
But Tonks didn't want to. She had to admit she would've thought herself capable of doing anything for Lupin, for Remus, but as she looked into his eyes she simply couldn't tell him. He'd always been several years older than her, and she'd never had the courage to try and make a move. He was Remus, fantastic Remus, clever Remus, her Remus.
Lupin gave a forlorn sigh.
"Oh-!" Tonks rose from her seat, grabbing the book and finding the right page, then shoving it in his face. "Because I love you, you stupid hairy mutt!" She shouted, feeling frustrated and helpless all at the same time.
Lupin didn't even bother to read the book. He took it gently from her grip, shutting it and placing it back on the desk. His gaze never left hers, but Tonks was suddenly very, very afraid. Had she gone too far? What if she'd offended him? Now he would certainly never want to talk to her again. She felt her stomach boil when he stepped away from the desk, heading back towards the door. She thought she felt tears welling in her eyes, but she held them back, remaining cool even as he walked out on her.
But he didn't. He turned around the desk and came up next to her, his mouth quirked in a smile.
"That's the most beautiful thing anyone's ever told me." He admitted, almost guiltily. Tonks stared at him blankly for a good thirty seconds before she allowed herself to laugh – a high, barking laugh, almost like Sirius's. He took another step towards her, taking her hands. It was only then that he noticed she was shaking, but her smile never faltered.
"Would you believe me if I told you Sirius wanted me to run in here, jinx a bunch of aurors, then sweep you into my arms and kiss you?" He asked. Tonks laughed again, shaking her head.
"My way was better. I got to call you a hairy mutt." She smiled, reaching up to curl her fingers into the hair at the back of his neck. He breathed in deeply, his grey eyes piercing her brown ones as she wrapped her other arm around his shoulders, bringing her face only inches away from his.
"Ready?" She asked, her breath tickling his lips. Lupin swallowed in response, placing his hands around her waist and, to Tonks's surprise, burying his face against her shoulder. Tonks almost laughed, but returned the gesture, one hand still playing with his hair.
"Okay, now maybe I like Sirius's idea better. When do I get a kiss?" She teased, and Lupin squeezed her tightly.
"Patience." His voice was muffled against her shoulder, his breath whisping across her neck. Tonks closed her eyes, shivering lightly as she felt his lips brush against her jaw.
Lupin was feeling more nervous than he'd ever felt in his entire life. He knew it was pathetic, being almost 40 and not knowing how to kiss, but he really couldn't help it. It wasn't like he had much of a choice. But he wanted it to be perfect. It already was – for him, at least. The way she trembled beneath his touch, her hands in his hair, her voice in his ear. It was a level of intimacy he'd never experienced before and he wanted to relish it. He could feel her warmth and he was sure it was going to be taken away from him at any second. He felt that if he took it any further it would simply get too wonderful and she'd vanished.
But he pressed onward, kissing her jaw and mumbling her name against her cheek before finally bringing his lips to hers. She smiled against him, capturing his lower lip in her mouth and standing on the tips of her toes to bring herself closer to him.
Lupin felt fireworks. He'd heard about them, but he hadn't known that all the stories were actually true. The colours and lights burst in his mind and a feeling of intense euphoria swamped his senses. He didn't hesitate when her tongue slipped into his mouth and prodded his own into action. He'd never been closer to a person and when they finally broke apart, he buried his head in the crook of her neck once more.
"Remus?" Tonks's voice broke the silence; the sweetest sound ever made.
"Mm-hmm?" Lupin felt too content to worry about anything she could say to him.
"That better be your wand in your pocket."
Lupin opened the door of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, silently poking his head through the door. The house was quiet, and he spotted Kneacher casting him a nasty glare before retreating into an open doorway. Lupin entered the house, shutting the door silently behind him and creeping into the sitting room. Despite all his best efforts, he was still forced to wince at the sight of Sirius Black sitting in the same armchair he'd been left in the previous night.
"You're wearing the same robes." Sirius commented almost immediately, and leapt to his feet. Lupin mumbled something about a lack of clean laundry and began searching around the room while Sirius bombarded him with questions.
"Well, are you that much closer to being related to me? Were you a gentleman? Did you treat my dearest cousin with the respect and care that she deserves?" Sirius asked in exasperation after the tired Lupin refused to give him anything but a sleep smile.
"Sirius, please. I'm tired. I forgot something here and I just want to pick it up and then go home and sleep." His tone was finalizing and Sirius was forced to accept defeat. He lifted a cushion on his chair, glancing in the cracks.
"Well, what is it you forgot, then?" He asked, clearly grumpy. Lupin paused for a moment as he bent over to glance beneath the chesterfield.