AN: Y'arrr, there be WAFF off the port side! I be seein' some mighty fine plunderin' of WAFF ahead, y'arrr. Shiver me timbers!Silver Lining
Lupin blinked wearily at the piece of parchment before him. It was two days until the next full moon and he felt like his insides had turned into flobberworms. Ingoring his discomfort, he forced his eyes to scourge the paper for words which might give him hope. Finding none, he lifted a hand to his weary eyes, rubbing out the sleep that tried to overcome them.
"Good mail?" Sirius asked, lying on the couch with a copy of the Daily Prophet in his hands. Lupin's flat was as disheveled as his robes, but Sirius had claimed the beaten up old couch as his territory until they received word from Dumbledore.
"Oh yes, quite lovely. You know: 'hello,' 'how are you?' 'lovely weather in Devon' and, of course, 'we have assessed your application and we regret to inform you that we have no position available for a wizard with your … talents.'" Lupin read the last word with disgust, crinkling the parchment up in his hand and lobbing it sideways towards a wastebasket where it missed by a few feet, landing instead on a pile of wayward rejections.
"What?" Sirius asked, having the decency to sound surprised. "No room for a werewolf? Nutty buggers." He shook his head. "Speaking of nothing of the sort, what's an ten-letter word for 'useless'?"
"Lycanthrope, apparently." Lupin looked around the flat in dsigust and rose from his chair, placing all the paper balls into the waste basket.
"Hrm," Sirius grunted, chewing pensively on a quill, "no, no, that's 11. Oh, wait. I got it. Dumbledore. Hah. How clever." The newspaper found its place in the trash with Lupin's letters soon after that.
"When's he bringing the Order back?" Sirius growled, his eyes glaring at the newspaper in accusation.
"When we move into Headquarters." Lupin said absently. Sirius had only been staying for two weeks – it was early July – but he'd asked the same question every day. Lupin had to admit that he was anxious, as well. Voldemort was back, and unless Dumbledore was willing to let more people die needlessly, they had to get their act in gear. He'd lost two best friends last time around. Almost three.
Lupin gave Sirius a sideways glance.
"Dumbledore's been very organized. We'll start moving in tomorrow, remember." He sighed, patting Sirius on the back.
"Right, debugging the Black house." Sirius grumbled. "It's that time of the month soon, why not just set you loose inside and let you have your way with things?" He suggested.
"Mmm, Boggart love." Lupin frowned, stiffling a yawn. "Well, I need sleep. I'm going upstairs to rest for a bit." He gave Sirius a vague wave before disappearing into his bedroom.
Lupin awoke early the next morning and dressed himself in his shabbiest robes. He gave his face a splash of cold water, gazing at his worn out appearance in the mirror.
"Pathetic." He mumbled to himself, patting his face dry with a towel.
"Now, now, cheer up!" His reflection called to him as he turned away. He entered the sitting room to find Sirius dressed and sitting calmly by the door. When their eyes met, Lupin understood. As eager as he was to get the Order of the Phoenix back in motion, Sirius was not looking forward to returning to his mother's house. He was pale and his hands gripped his knees tightly.
"Let's go." His voice was gruff and Lupin nodded, silent.
Sirius managed to recover from the shock of being back in his childhood house of horrors rather quickly. As soon as the members of the Order began showing up, he even started to enjoy himself. He'd been without human contact – other than Lupin – for so long that meeting more people who didn't want him dead was a rather welcome change. Lupin smiled weakly at the wizards and witches who silently came and went, bringing the odd device to make the house more comfortable. The house elf, Kneacher, seemed horrified at their presence and they learned early on that they would have to keep quiet in the hall.
"HALF-BLOODS! FILTH! DREGS OF MAGIC, BE GONE!" Lupin and Sirius had hastily covered the painting of Sirius's mother, leaving them both rather pale. Sirius caught Lupin's eye and suppressed a shudder.
"Hello?" Called a voice from the landing, causing Lupin and Sirius to both jump. They turned down the stairs.
"Sorry to be a bother … the door was open." Lupin caught sight of a blue head poking around between the railings, and jumped when Sirius snorted. At the noise, sizzling green eyes looked up at them from a heart-shaped face, adorned with a button nose and plump lips that quickly spread into a wide smile, and Lupin hastily returned the gesture.
When it came to women, he usually preferred the subtle kind of beauty. But there was no sense in denying it, that witch was definetely an eye-catcher.
"Wotcher, Sirius." She winked, wiggling her nose. "Good to see you aren't a nutter after all." Lupin and Sirius descended the staircase as Sirius spread his arms to take the young woman into a friendly embrace.
"Should've known Dumbledore would get you in on it." Sirius barked, messing with the shorter woman's hair. "Blue? You can do better, can't you?"
At first, Lupin thought that the witch was going to hit him. She'd scrunched up her face in concentration – or anger, Lupin wasn't sure – but Sirius made no move to defend himself. Lupin was just about to ask if she was all right when suddenly her hair went bright yellow. Another scrunch of her face and it was down to her hips. A blink and her eyes were blue.
"Better?" The witch fluttered her eyelashes in Lupin's direction.
"A metamorphmagus?" He arched his eyebrows in surprise, "Most impressive." Her scrunched look was back again and she shook her head, her hair retreating back into her scalp and turning bubble-gum pink. Her eyes were brown when she looked back at Lupin with a toothy grin.
"Thanks," she offered her hand, "The name's-"
"Nymphadora." Sirius interrupted, giving Lupin a meaningful look, "my cousin." He laughed as she elbowed him in the ribs, casting him an exasperated glare.
"Please," she stressed, "call me Tonks." Lupin nodded at the request, taking her hand in his own.
"Remus Lupin. Sirius never mentioned that he had any relatives who actually liked him." Lupin stated, ignoring Sirius's offended expression. Tonks cocked her head, shrugging.
"Oh, you know. My mum was a bad egg. She married a muggle-born." She explained, her grin slightly devilish. Lupin raised an eyebrow.
"I was referring to anyone who could put up with his big head."
Sirius and Lupin showed Tonks around the house, introducing her to the few members of the Order who loitered. They moved aside to make room for a wizard who'd just come out of the sitting room, clutching his hand to his chest.
"Doxy infestation in there," he grimaced, "I'll get the antidote."
It was clear from the start that it would take months of cleaning to make the Black house right as rain, but the short-term goal was just to get it cleaned for meetings and Sirius's living needs. The Weasleys had offered to come and keep him company, and he'd agreed instantly. The task for the day was to clear out two bedrooms and the kitchen – as much as possible for the living arrangements.
They left the Doxy infestation and found the house-elf hiding upstairs, muttering curses under his breath and scampering away as soon as they approached.
"Kneacher," said Sirius in a sour voice, "I'd hoped he'd be dead by now."
"Well, this place is certainly quite the fixer-upper." Tonks said, shaking out an old rug. A large bundle of fur fell out and hit the ground with a thud. As she looked at it, it bolted up and ran from the room, calling her an "ugly old haggy git." Tonks watched it flee, her mouth open.
"There's a jarvey in here. This is disgusting."
As they worked their way through the bedroom, Lupin soon learned that Tonks was almost dangerously clumsy.
"Lost major marks for it in auror training," she admitted, laughing apologetically after she dropped an old cauldron on the hems of Lupin's robes. He helped her carry it downstairs where they put it on a pile of things to be thrown away.
"Being a metamorphmagus must've really helped, though." He said, "I've always wondered, can you even turn into an animal?" He asked, intrigued. He'd never met a metamorphamagus before, and the talent fascinated him. She hesitated, cringing.
"Well, yes. Changing bone-structure can be a bit uncomfortable, but it's not that bad when you still stay as a human. Changing into an animal can really hurt. I have to rearrange and shrink my organs, and it's not a very enjoyable task." She admitted, slowly. "I have done it before, though I'd only do it in emergencies."
Lupin cocked a brow as they went back into one of the bedrooms and found Sirius struggling with a window curtain. His wand was lying on the floor as the violet clothe struggled to wrap itself around his neck. Lupin and Tonks both ripped their wands out from their sides.
Lupin's spell hit the curtain and blasted it clear of both Sirius and the window. It fell to the ground, limp. Tonks's spell shone blue until it disappeared into Sirius's body, making him gasp for breath while his legs beat a rhythm on the wooden floor boards.
"Tonks!" He growled as she dropped her wand, taking her time in retrieving it and performing the counter-jinx.
"Oops," she said, giving Lupin a wink, "I missed." Sirius grumbled and rubbed at his legs as she turned to whisper in Lupin's ear.
"Actually, I meant to do that. He'd spilled some nasty green stuff on my shirt." She pointed to the front of her white Weird Sisters T-shirt, where a large green blotch covered her right shoulder.
A few hours later, the cleaning was done. Well, for the day. Lupin was feeling more exhausted than he'd been in ages, but it was canceled out by this overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. He checked his watch and nodded to Sirius.
"We best get going." He raised his eyebrows and Sirius nodded.
"Could you wait up for me? I can let myself in." The dog animagi had been having a heated conversation with a pretty young witch and Lupin was beginning to think he'd be going home with someone else. Lupin swallowed, pulling Sirius aside.
"Excuse us a moment." He told the witch, then lowered his voice.
"You know I ruined the potion this week. I need your help getting ready for tonight." He explained apologetically. Sirius's face fell noticeably and Lupin sighed.
"I can give you an hour. I can put the shackles on myself, but its your company I'm really counting on." Sirius nodded, giving him a grateful pat.
"See you later, then!" He called as Lupin grabbed his things. He waved and headed out the door, stepping down the front steps of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. He was just admiring the late afternoon sunshine and was about to apparate to his home near Ipswitch when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned, his eyes meeting Tonks's.
"Eager to get rid of Sirius, are we?" She said, falling into place next to him. He didn't want to be rude and kept walking, out onto the next street. He nodded.
"Yes. He looked great in the shop windows, but you bring him home and he wets himself all over the place." Lupin frowned, "And he chewed on my best dragonhide." Tonks snorted, an action reminiscent of Sirius.
"I was wondering …" She trailed off for a moment as Lupin's breath caught in his throat. Of course. He allowed himself a weak smile.
"Would you like to grab a drink?" Tonks asked, and Lupin's smile faltered for a moment. She wasn't asking him on a date in the future. She was asking him for drinks that night, which is really just a tentative half-date. If he said no, she'd take it the wrong way. He checked his watch. He really did have to be home within the hour, just to be safe. The evening sun was already starting to blush red.
"Tonks, I'm afraid to say that I can't" He explained, and she nodded, sighing. What, had she expected him to reject her? Surely she didn't suffer from low self-esteem? Not from what he knew of her?
"I knew it. I mean, I'm surprised at Sirius, but from what you two were saying …" she trailed off. "I never knew that Sirius was gay, to tell you the truth. So please don't tell him I-"
"Wait. Stop. No." Lupin spoke words in a staccatto rhythm, speaking them before he even had a chance to process what she'd said. He gave her a smile.
"No," he said, again. "Tonks, I'm honestly just busy tonight. Sirius and I are not …. together."
Her face scrunched up again and he thought she was going to change her appearance, but she smiled instead and stuck out her tongue.
"I know, I was just teasing." She laughed, and Lupin gave her another smile, rubbing his head.
"How about next weekend, then?" Lupin asked, meeting her gaze. "Assuming you'll let me take you out for dinner, too." He added, and was rewarded with another toothy grin.
"Sounds perfect. All right! Sirius can tell you my address when you see him, so, pick me up at seven next Friday!" She waved, turning on her heel and trotting back to Grimmauld Place. Lupin watched her go, then cast a nervous glance at the sky as he quickly apparated to his home.
He felt ill. Extremely satisfied, but ill none the less. He was really horrid at making the potions, but Dumbledore had promised that the Order could be trusted, and someone would make a potion for him on a regular basis.
The jolt of warm contentment that had filled him moments before sizzled out as his insides turned cold. It wouldn't be long before Tonks herself found out. Charming, lovely Tonks. Then whatever interest she'd had in him would vanish without a trace and it would be strictly business. He sighed, getting ready to chain himself down for the evening, when he heard a knock at the front door.
"Brilliant timing, Sirius." He muttered, dropping the chains to the floor with a loud clang. He went to the door, vaguely recalling that Sirius said he would let himself in, and opened it. His insides twisted into a knot and all the warmth drained from his face.
"Wotcher, Remus?" Tonks winked at him. His mouth was agape and he quickly shut it, backing away.
"What are you doing here?" He demanded, anxiously glaring at his window. Tonks gave him a mock-sour look.
"Lovely welcome. I told Sirius to go have fun. I'd keep you company." She said, calmly pushing past him and into his flat. He dumbly shut the door, stricken.
"What?" He asked, "No, Tonks, you don't understand, I'm-"
"A werewolf, I know." She said, looking around the flat with a fond expression on her face. "I love your place by the way. Really cozy. My mum keeps everything too neat."
Lupin was speechless. He said nothing, simply staring at her, as she went about examining the place.
"And I have to say, I'm really sorry about earlier. I completely forgot it was a full moon tonight. Am I tactful or what?" She wandered into the sitting room, picking up a cushion and fluffing it in her hands. Lupin followed her, his eyes glued to her back.
"You know?" He repeated.
"Of course, Dumbledore told everyone in the Order. He also said, very politely, that if we didn't like it, we could stuff it up our arses. Well, not exactly that, but you get the idea." She spoke absent-mindendly, still playing with the cushion.
"Anyway, poor Sirius has just been pent up with you for too long, I do have to look out for my cousin, after all. So he told me how it works and I told him I'd keep you company." She was chattering away quite contentedly, not at all like someone who was half an hour away from being trapped in a flat with a werewolf.
"But you said-"
"I can manage." Tonks interrupted him, giving him a look that told him if he dared ask again, she'd have his head. He shifted a bit uncomfortably.
"And, even though you know, you still want to …" He trailed off and Tonks rolled her eyes in response.
"You act like you aren't human the rest of the month." She shrugged. "Now, how about that drink?" She gave him a quirky grin, pulling a small flask out from her pocket.
"The witch Sirius was talking to had been asked to bring this for you. She just got … distracted." She unscrewed the cap and smoke poured out from the top. She passed him the flask and he took it, dumbstruck, his eyes never leaving her face.
"Well, go on!" She gestured, "I don't mind keeping you company, but I don't know if I can fool other animals. Let's minimilize my risks, shall we?" She waved her wand and a wooden box appeared by the fire, and she bent over it, distracted. Lupin took a quick swig from the flask, draining its contents and shuddering at the taste. By the time he'd finished, the sun was setting and Tonks had set up a game of some sort.
"Wanted to bring Wizard's chess, but I don't think either of us could tell them were to go." She muttered, clearly unsatisfied, "But this is a muggle game my dad and I used to play. Arrange letters on a board to make words and get points, see?"
It suddenly struck Lupin as being very surreal. He was in his house, moments from turning into a beast of horrifying proportions, and there was a beautiful young woman dsicussing muggle board games they would play to keep themselves entertained. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the red of the setting sun.
"Tonks," he said, warningly, and she stopped mid-explanation to glance out the window. He caught her taking in a shaky breath.
"Right," she said, a bit too cheerfully. Lupin reached forward, grabbing her arm and causing her to look up in surprise.
"Please go." He insisted, suddenly. "The potion is all I need. Well, that and knowing that you still want to go out with me despite the fact that I'm a werewolf. I'm infinetely grateful. Really. You have no idea how much your offer means to me, but something could still go wrong and I could never forgive myself if I hurt you." He meant it kindly. He really did like the company while he was transformed, but if she was going to be more than a bit uncomfortable, then he didn't want her to stay at all.
Tonks smiled, taking his hand off of her arm and holding it.
"I'm sorry, what was that? I couldn't hear you, I was too busy being stubborn." She responded. "You're very sweet, Remus. I hope I get to keep you, honestly." She stood on her toes, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Now excuse me while I go get furry."
Lupin blinked at her before she disappeared into the kitchen. He barely had time to organize all his thoughts before the kitchen door creaked open, a small, four-legged creature padding into the room.
"Well, you're certainly quite a fox." He mumbled, examining her grey coat. She cocked her head, obviously hoping to give him a pained expression, and he smiled before heading upstairs to his own bedroom to wait out the transformation. He did not want her to see it. Not yet, at least.
When he returned to the living room, his claws clicked on the wood flooring and his ears picked up every sound. The fires of the usual werewolf rage were buried deep within him, smothered by the potion and the lack of humans. He considered staying in his bedroom all night, afraid that Tonks's physical transformation would not be enough to please the werewolf senses, but he'd developped a reckless nature from too many full-moons with ol' Prongs and Padfoot. He wanted company. He wanted to play her silly game.
But more than all that, he wanted to believe that there was someone – well, a woman – who wanted to spend time with him, werewolf or not.
He stuck his snout through the crack in the hall door, forcing it open and silently creeping into the room. The small grey fox sat waiting fo rhim, her white paws dabbing at the ground nervously. He knew what she was thinking, and he paused in the doorway, ready to bolt back through if her presence bothered him.
He paused, sniffing the air. She didn't smell human. But she didn't smell animal, either. He wondered how she'd managed that. Her brown fox eyes blinked at him expectantly, and he shifted his paws before giving a slight nod. Her tiny fox shoulders relaxed and she fell back near the fireplace, starring at the letters on the board beside her.
Lupin sat opposite of her and stared at the small blocks. He was in for a long night.
He awoke just before dawn, which was lucky because he'd left his clothes in his bedroom. Tonks was curled up on the couch, growling softly in her sleep. He slowly rose, shaking wayward letter pieces from his fur. He'd spilled them on himself when he'd gotten his snout stuck in the bag trying to pick more letters. The game had slowly gone downhill from there, which was a bit of a disappointment. He'd been getting rather good.
They'd read for a while from books he'd left on his floor just for that purpose, and he suspected that if he went to his pantry he'd find fox-sized bites in a few biscuits. All in all, though, it wasn't the activities, but the presence of another being that made it worthwhile. It was what he missed the most from his schooldays and what had tormented him in the years before he'd discovered Sirius's innocence. He felt he knew the very essence of loneliness better than anyone else in the world.
But he had Sirius back. And Tonks.
The idea of people he could trust to be there for him was a highly pleasant one. He vowed to take her to a very good restaurant the following weekend. He arched his back, stiffling a yawn, and slowly made his way through the hall and into his bedroom, where he waited for the transformation to claim him.
When the last of the grey hair retreated into his back, he dressed and returned to the sitting room. He knelt down, smiling as he scratched Tonks behind the ears. She opened a bleary, brown eye, yawning and revealing her canines.
"It's all right. You can change back now." He said, and she slowly stretched and trotted into the other room. He took a seat on the chesterfield, yawning, and a few minutes later was joined by Tonks.
"Impressive, no?" She asked, a biscuit in her hand. "Had to research fox anatomy to get it all right. You know, make the insides fit and all." She beamed, obviously very proud of herself, and leaned into him. He nodded, yawning again, and put an arm around her.
"Are you all right?" She asked, bringing a hand up to brush a strand of brown hair from his forehead. He nodded, his eyes half-closed.
"I will be, yes." A weak smile, "It's nice to have a change of company." He added. Tonks met his gaze and smiled.
"Do you have to be anywhere?" She asked, her fingers still playing with the stray fringe. He shook his head sleepily.
Her answer was to lean further into him and he adjusted himself to lie on the couch. Before he could ask if she was comfortable, he heard her lightly snoring into his chest.
He smirked, one hand behind his head, the other on her shoulder. Talk about a silver lining.