A/N: Well, this is it. The final part and my first serious attempt to write something romantic in a fair while. Remarks, reviews and critiques would be much appreciated. :)
Part Three - Warmth
"Really, you don't need to fuss. It was just a bit of cold."
Ignoring the protest with steely resolution, Remus deposited the bundle of blankets he had gathered from the chest at the foot of his bed in a heap on the floor beside the fire and regarded his unexpected guest from beneath raised eyebrows.
"While I'm well used to your interesting collection of hair colours," he commented dryly. "I'm fairly certain your myriad talents as a metamorphmagus don't include turning your own lips blue. Now sit yourself down and get warmed up before I change my mind and send you down to Madam Pomfrey after all."
Tonks' eyes flared with alarm at the prospect of incarceration in the Hospital Wing – Remus was well aware that due to her tendency towards clumsiness, she had spent nearly as much time as he had in the company of the School Matron during her school days and had absolutely no wish for more.
"I'm fine!" she insisted for what seemed the hundredth time. "Honestly, Remus!"
Remus gave a wry smile. "I'll believe that when your teeth stop chattering. Now come on, sit down and let's see if we can get you back to the kind of colour you should be."
"Yes, professor." With a slightly resentful sigh, Tonks pulled her borrowed robe tighter around her shivering frame and shuffled with reluctant obedience to deposit herself in one corner of the settee that Remus had insistently dragged closer the fireplace just a few moments before. She accepted his insistence upon swaddling her in blankets with rather better grace, smiling slightly as he wrapped her up tightly in the soft wool and leaned her head back gently but firmly against a carefully positioned cushion. A moment later, a flourish of his wand enlivened the fireplace into a mass of dancing flames, filling the parlour with a swath of heat and light.
Tonks glanced around the suddenly illuminated room with a slightly chattery smile. "You know," she remarked suddenly. "My mates and I always used to wonder what it was like in the mysterious, off limits world of the Staff Wing of Hogwarts castle. We used to joke about palatial ballrooms, vaulted living rooms painted with dancing murals and gilt gold beds with mother of pearl inlay, soft fluffy eiderdowns and engravings that sang you to sleep. What can I say, we were a poetic lot." She grinned slightly as her eyes roamed across the dark panelled parlour with its heavy, cluttered desk, the cosy green trimmed sofa and matching armchair and bookshelf crammed with reference material, warm fire crackling beneath a picture lined mantle; to her right was the entrance to the small but neat and orderly bathroom and through the door beyond the fireplace to the bedroom with its sturdy old furniture and reasonable sized four poster bed. "Either you got a raw deal here or we might have been mistaken."
Remus shared her infectious smile. "Well, I understand that Severus Snape has a Jacuzzi…"
"Oh don't, please!" Tonks' mock wince caused Remus to laugh outright. "Professor Snape in swimming trunks is not an image I need running round in my head!"
Remus struggled for a moment before submitting to a bout of sheer wickedness. "Try him in a green dress with a vulture topped hat and a red handbag, if that helps."
Tonks blinked twice. "You know, you're damned lucky I'd heard about that from Hermione and Ron," she informed him frankly. "Otherwise I'd be backing for the door right now on my way to warn Professor Dumbledore that his Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher is a very strange man."
Remus grinned as he reached forward to carefully stoke the fire. "I think he knows. By the way, speaking of clothes…"
"Not funny, Remus."
"Speaking of clothes," Remus continued doggedly, heedless of the interruption. "Where did you leave your things when you changed?"
"In your bathtub." Tonks snuggled down more comfortably in her cocoon of blankets. "They were sopping wet anyway. I can do a drying charm on them in a bit."
Remus nodded thoughtfully. "How's the robe I lent you?" he inquired. "I know it's a bit tatty…"
"It's fine." Tonks smiled slightly as she fingered one frayed sleeve with a vaguely absent expression. "A bit big on me but one advantage of being a metamorphmagus is that if the clothes don't fit I can just change my body."
"I wouldn't morph too much until you're warmer." Remus replaced the poker carefully beside his coalscuttle as he turned to survey the room. "Now, provided I can find my kettle, would you like a cup of tea?"
Tonks gave a grateful nod. "That'd be good, thanks."
Remus smiled back as he set out to survey his room for the battered old kettle that he knew resided somewhere here about. His slightly less patched and dented kettle was currently living rather out of reach down in his office but he was certain he had another somewhere in his chamber. If not, a nifty bit of transfiguration might be required.
"You should stay close to the fire," he called back towards his chilled guest. "Although not too close – those blankets are flammable and there's such a thing as being too warm."
"Toasty." Tonks was regarding the glimmering flames before her with a twist of her lip. "You know, you might as well toss my broomstick on the fire too," she commented ruefully, glancing to where the rather battered shaft of wood had been propped up against a nearby wall. "I reckon it's a bit buggered, to be honest."
Remus paused from where he had been rooting around in a large trunk in search of his elusive kettle. "I don't know," he replied, glancing back over his shoulder to his friend's nest on the sofa. "I've seen worse than that fly again. James Potter flew his Nimbus 1001 into the side of Gryffindor Tower once and it lived to fly another day – even if it did tend to pull a little to the left when he lost concentration."
A green head, hair once more shortened to soft spikes, peered with interest over the back of the settee. "Into the side of Gryffindor Tower?" she repeated incredulously. "I thought Harry's dad was a good flyer. How did he manage that?"
Remus chuckled softly as the memory overtook him. "We'd just won the Quidditch Cup," he said, a smile of fond reminiscence slipping across his face. "James wanted to make a grand entrance by flying in through the window of the common room after the game and he asked Sirius to go ahead to open the window for him. Unfortunately Sirius got a little…distracted." The distraction's name had been Antigone West, the tall and long legged Ravenclaw Keeper and she had rather effectively ensured that her congratulations to one of her Gryffindor rivals had kept him decisively occupied for the crucial minute it had taken for James' little accident to occur. Remus was quietly convinced to that day that it had been a deliberate act of retribution. Antigone had never been one of James' biggest fans.
Tonks was grinning. "Let me guess. He never made it."
Remus nodded with a wry smile. "And James was so busy waving to the crowds still on the ground that by the time he noticed the window was still closed, no braking charm in the world could have saved him. He was lucky that Peter and I managed to get the window open so quickly after it happened or it could have been quite nasty. As it was, the only damage was to his broomstick and his pride."
Tonks laughed. "That sounds like one of my tricks. At least I can blame the fact I flew into your window on the weather." Her eyes shifted to the roaring storm that was rattling the chamber windows. "I don't fancy my chances of getting to Hogsmeade now. Unless you have any great objections, it looks like I'll be borrowing your settee for the night, mate."
Remus followed her glance over to the parlour window where the snow was splattering against the glass with forceful abandon. The wind's howl had risen to a persistent scream that shook the panes within their frames. What had started as a chilly irritation had evolved into a full-blown blizzard.
He smiled slightly. "Well, I'm hardly going to send you out in this after going to all this trouble to warm you up. But don't get too settled in on the sofa, Tonks. You can have my bed."
He could see at once that she intended to demur. "Remus, you haven't been well. I can't toss a sick man out of his own bedroom…"
"I'm much better." Remus' interruption was gentle but firm. "And I'm not the one who got caught in a blizzard tonight. I'll be fine on the settee, honestly I will. Take the bed, Tonks. No arguments."
He could see the protests shimmering on the edges of her lips but something about his gaze seemed to quell them. Instead she gave a sigh and then smiled.
"You're a nice man, Remus Lupin," she said softly. "Too nice for your own good really."
Remus smiled back warmly. "You're probably right. Perhaps I should cultivate a ruthless streak and make you sleep on the hearth rug."
Tonks' smile was as bright as the rising sun. "Don't you dare! I like your obsessive niceness. It's tragically rare these days." Her eyes glistened sincerely, her face silhouetted by the fire that burned halo like in the hearth behind her as she stared at him. "I wouldn't change you for the world."
Remus met her eyes. He felt himself starting to smile…
A particularly violent gush of wind shook the glass of the window with shocking force, causing both Remus and Tonks to start. Snow battered resentfully against the barrier in an unending stream as the weather screeched out the unrelenting arrival of winter. Swirling whiteness had even obscured the night sky.
Remus shook his head as he stared out into the storm. It was amazing that Tonks had emerged from such conditions with no more than a chill and blue lips. That she had managed to maintain control and a sense of location well enough to find her way to safety was a miracle.How did she even find her way back to me in this mess?
He glanced over at Tonks, safety snuggled down within warm blankets as she smiled at him once more over the back of the settee and felt a chill that had nothing to do with the roaring cold.
It's lethal out there. She could have been killed.
And it would have been his fault. Because she wanted to help him. A young life lost for no greater crime than trying to cheer up a friend.
More than just a young life. Tonks' young life.
She would be dead. Gone forever. She could have been killed.
And that would have killed me too.
His sudden realisation must have been betrayed by his expression for the smile on Tonks' face abruptly wilted into a curious frown of concern.
"Remus?" Her voice cut into his horrified introspection, jerking him back from cold desolation into the warmth of the parlour all at once. "What's the matter?"
"I…" Abruptly Remus found himself at a loss to speak, the words faltering under the power of her dark eyed gaze. He shook his head as much to clear it as in dismissal. "Nothing. It's nothing."
The frown deepened. "That's not a nothing face. What were we talking about just an hour or two ago?"
Remus sighed deeply, staring across the room at the vibrant young woman who had stormed so emphatically into such a significant place in his life. She was right. He had promised her. No more hiding.
But how could he possibly articulate a feeling he could barely understand himself?
He settled instead for focussing on simple mechanics. "It's just – the weather out there is appalling."
Remus was not sure he had ever crossed paths before which such an expression of desert dry sarcasm.
"No," she drawled mordantly. "You know what with the howling wind and freezing snow, I hadn't noticed."
Remus returned the look with kind. "Very funny. But it just made me wonder – how did you find your way back to my window? It's not a big target and the weather out there is hardly conducive to carefully aiming."
Tonks' expression twisted slightly as she gazed thoughtfully up at the ceiling, her own mind clearly mulling over the closeness of her shave in much the same way as Remus himself had just a few moments before. She sighed.
"Luck," she stated bluntly. "And the fact that you lied to me."
The words took a moment to sink in. Remus blinked in sudden shock.
Tonks' expression softened gently into a hint of a smile. "You lied to me," she repeated gently. "Don't think I didn't notice you'd repaired that vase you broke after you told me that were going to leave it until morning."
Remus frowned slightly. "But what does that possibly have to do with…?"
"It kept you awake." Tonks' smile into one of genuine fondness. "And while you were fussing around instead of going to sleep, your bedroom light stayed on. And that light was the only reference point I had. I couldn't see Hogsmeade, the forest, even Hogwarts castle was gone for goodness sake! All I could see was snow and wind battering my broomstick and occasional glimpses of the lake below me. I couldn't land, I couldn't find my way and I thought I was going to freeze to death right there in mid air. But then…" Her eyes gleamed. "I saw a light. Your light. And I knew if I could just get myself over to you, everything would be okay."
Her eyes met his and held. Neither spoke.
The howling of the wind, the crackling of the fire, seemed to fade into nothingness as the world filled with only the other. And suddenly, subtly, utterly unexpected and yet strangely awaited, the very fabric of their lives seemed to shift.
The silence was eternal.
And then she laughed, deliberately, almost forcefully and the moment broke sharply into shards and tumbled into nothingness. "That must be the first time someone tidying up has saved my life," she exclaimed with awkward heartiness. "Me, grateful to domesticity. Who would have thought?"
Remus forced himself to smile in return, desperately fighting to hide the sudden pounding of his heart, the roaring in his ears as his blood flowed screaming through his veins that he could barely believe was not audible to the entire of Hogwarts castle. He knew what he was feeling. There was no hiding anymore, no running away, no desperate denial of emotion. One simple moment without a single word and all of his careful illusions had come crashing down.
Just a friend?
Feelings he had either been loath to acknowledge or had simply managed to ignore were swelling within him with alarming inescapability. Unable to meet her gaze with suitable neutrality, he turned and busied himself frantically in his briefly postponed search for a kettle.
"I can't say I've ever saved anyone's life by cleaning up before," he remarked as casually as he could manage. The words sounded ridiculously forced to his ears but since Tonks made no comment he could only assume he had mastered his suddenly raging emotions rather better than he had believed. "Remus Lupin, domestic saviour. Rescues damsels from raging storms and then sweeps out their fireplaces. Somehow I doubt it'll catch on."
He could feel her eyes burning against his skin as he turned to root around absently in a nearby sideboard.
"Remus, what are you doing?" Her voice drifted curiously across the parlour, innocent words that inspired an alarming amount of reaction. Remus glanced up briefly, caught sight of her eyes gazing at him from over the back of his sofa and immediately shifted his stare back to the remarkably unfascinating but emotionally comprehensible cupboard. "Kettle," he replied rather inarticulately. "You said you wanted a cup of tea earlier."
He caught Tonks waving a dismissive hand out of the corner of his eye. "If I'd have known it would be this much trouble, I wouldn't have bothered. Forget the kettle, Remus and come and sit down. If you were tired before, you must be almost on your last legs by now."
It was true. The exhaustion, a mixture of simple tiredness and post-transformation illness was bone-deep and heavy against his frame but right at the moment, there were few things in life that scared Remus more than the prospect of crossing the room and settling down beside Nymphadora Tonks in front of the fire. It was not the idea did not appeal to him. What frightened him was just how much it did.
I… can't. She wouldn't even consider… Librarian and a Weird Sister, remember? And she laughed, she broke the moment, she didn't want to see what I was seeing, feel what I was feeling. And why would she? I'm a friend to her; it'd ruin our friendship if a word was said and I couldn't bear… I couldn't bear…
I couldn't bear to lose her completely.
It's just because it's been so long, so long since I've had a good friend, so long since I've had... more. I'm making too much of this. It'll pass. It has to pass. Everything will go back to normal.
It has to.
His silence must have lingered.
He jumped violently, bashing his head sharply against the top of the cupboard as he did so. Pain blossomed sharply, a fine distraction from his thoughts – wincing, he withdrew his head with a sigh, rubbing his scalp gingerly as he waited for the sudden pin-sharp ache to subside.
"Are you turning into me or something?"
The proximity of her voice startled him sharply for the second time in a minute. The cool touch of small hands against his tender head sent shockwaves of response the length of his body. He glanced up into the grinning face of a blanket shrouded Tonks.
"Honestly," she tutted playfully. "I thought I was supposed to be the clumsy one." Her hands whispered through his hair, her fingertips brushing the skin of his scalp with tantalising gentleness as she examined his head for damage. "Nothing serious, but I need a better look. Come on."
"What?" Before he could even pause to frame a response, Remus found himself being dragged to his feet and hauled by the hand across the parlour before being unceremoniously deposited on the sofa. The light of the fireplace danced shadows and flames across the upholstery.
A moment later his head had been caught once more in the grasp on small, determined hands. Tonks smiled as she tucked her feet beneath herself and wriggled closer to inspect the damage.
"It doesn't look too bad." Her lips were pursed thoughtfully, her breath soft against his forehead as she surveyed the bump with careful eyes. "Slightly red and swelling a bit but nothing more than your average moment-of-clumsiness injury. Believe me, I should know." A grin leaked across her face. "Good thing it wasn't anywhere important you bashed, hmmm?"
Almost in spite of himself, Remus found that he was grinning back. "Now you sound like my mother."
A pair of raised eyebrows gave him pause. "Your mother?"
Remus felt suddenly awkward. "Well, that's the kind of thing she always used to say when she was patching me up," he remarked with deliberate lightness. "She still does, as a matter of fact. After every full moon she owls me a bottle of home brewed soothing potion and a silly note. I'm convinced she still pictures me in her mind as about six years old." He laughed gently. "You just reminded me for a moment, that's all." He allowed himself to risk a smile. "That's a good thing."
Tonks' lips quirked into a sideways smile in return. "That's very sweet Remus, but I'm not sure I want to remind you of your mother. And trust me, I certainly don't think of you as being six years old."
Remus was utterly powerless to prevent the flush that stained his cheeks. He silently cursed himself.
She's just being friendly!
There was a wicked edge to Tonks' smile now. With a sudden glint gleaming in her eyes, she leaned forward and planted a large, wet kiss on the top of his head.
Remus blinked, desperately fighting a raging storm within himself. "What was that?" he managed at length.
Tonks beamed, her face seeming almost to glow in the flickering firelight, her eyes twinkling merrily as the scarlet that flushed his cheeks deepened noticeably. Her smile was pure innocence.
"I was kissing it better," she replied. "Did it help?"
"I…" Remus abruptly halted the sentence, not trusting himself to speak. The single word expelled had been alarmingly high pitched. The burn against his cheeks intensified.
Staring at him, the corners of Tonks' lips curled ever so slowly further upwards. It was clear that she was desperately stifling a fit of the giggles.
"You have got to be," she remarked, her voice shaky with suppressed laughter, "Without a doubt, the most easy to embarrass man I have ever shared a sofa with. Honestly, nothing more than one chaste kiss and the mildest of innuendos and you're redder than a Chinese Fireball!"
Remus found himself sharing her near laughter almost desperately. "Well, that's my dreadful secret out. And there, people go and blame my being single on my lycanthropy."
Tonks gave in to the laughter that had been threatening to burst free as she leaned forwards on the settee and extended one hand towards her companion. "When of course, it can be blamed entirely upon a faulty set of cheeks."
Her fingertips brushed, ever so lightly, against the flushed crimson of Remus' cheek.
Remus froze. His laughter died.
So did hers.
Their eyes met once more.
And this time, Tonks did not laugh.
The space between them seemed to close as though it had never been. Her face – her lips - were a mere breath from his.
All thought, all doubt fled from his mind in an instant. His eyes closing, his actions fuelled by instincts he no longer felt able to repel, Remus felt himself lean forwards to seal the distance closed…
And felt as a hand grasped with desperate force upon his arm, heard a sudden squeal of shock and flailed out suddenly as he felt himself tumbling with jarring painfulness onto the hardness of the floor. A half-moment later, something soft, warm and woolly impacted with breath stealing force against his chest.
Remus opened his eyes. A mass of dark green hair and two dark eyes stared apologetically at him from their position an inch or two above. He could feel a pair of small hands resting against his chest as he stared up into a face washed over by flickering firelight.
"Ummm…" Tonks' lip twisted slightly. "I lost my balance…"
Remus blinked. "I noticed."
"It's a thin sofa."
"It is a bit."
"I really couldn't help it."
"I didn't mean to pull you down too."
"Of course not."
"You were the closest thing to grab."
"But possibly not the most stable."
"I didn't have much time to think."
"I can see that."
He could feel her weight slumped over him. She made no effort to move. Her eyes remained fixed upon his, burrowing deeply.
"I'm sorry." Her voice was no more than a whisper now.
"No need." His reply was equally as soft. "It could have been worse."
"Much worse." Her breath was a breeze against his lips. "You really are a very nice man, Remus."
Remus found his own breath hitching. "So you've said."
She smiled slightly, so close now that he was barely even aware of the motion. "Well, I meant it. Very… very…nice…"
And then tentatively, tenderly, she pressed her lips against his.
The kiss lasted barely a second. They stared at one another, eyes searching, questioning, asking, faces less than an inch apart. For a moment, everything was still.
And then her lips touched his once more.
And the rest of the world disappeared.
All Remus knew, all he wanted to know, was the feel of her lips against his, the stroke of her hands against his chest, sliding along his neck before creeping into his hair and the warm sensations that were racing the length of his body and forcing him briefly to wonder why on earth he had been so afraid. After a moment, the kiss deepened and at that point, rational thought became utterly impossible.
He had no idea how long he was lost to the kiss. Frankly he didn't much care.
But softly, slowly, inevitably, he felt her pulling back. An instant later the kiss was broken.
The silence was long and echoing.
Tonks stared at Remus.
Remus stared at Tonks.
And then Tonks blinked and all at once the world seemed to resume its lazy spin. Her lip twitched slightly as she gazed down at the man still trapped beneath her, her green hair mussed, her blanket shroud dishevelled and her eyes rather dazed. She nonetheless seemed rather quicker to compose herself than her companion.
"Are you going to say anything or am I going to have to?" she asked with an ease that was frankly shocking.
Remus, who was still struggling to gather his thoughts following this seismic shift in the shape of his existence, managed an apologetic glance. "I think it's going to have to be you. Sorry."
She shrugged, propping her chin against her palm as she settled one elbow against his chest to support it. "Well then. I suppose the relevant matter at hand is; did that mean a thing to you or is the fact that I've accidentally pinned you to the floor all that's keeping you from running for your life?"
Her matter of fact delivery threw him more than a little. Somehow it wasn't quite the kind of conversation he'd ever expected to have after sharing a deep and passionate kiss with a young, attractive woman against the floorboards of his parlour.
Not that he'd ever pictured that he would have shared a deep and passionate kiss with a young and attractive woman against the floorboards of his parlour in the first place. Was it any wonder he was having such difficulty engaging his brain?
In spite of her frank tone, Remus realised that a flicker of uncertainty had crept its way into Tonks' ever changing eyes at the sound of his silence. He hurried at once to reassure her.
"I've no intention of running anywhere," he exclaimed hurriedly. "I…well… we…it was…I liked it. I really did…"
The flicker had not dissipated. "I sense a but coming."
Remus sighed. "It's not a but precisely. I just wanted… I need to know… Are you really sure about this? I'm not exactly Witch Weekly's eligible bachelor of the month and I'm…I'm not an easy proposition, especially for someone who still has so much life and so many prospects ahead of them…"
She cut him off short with a raise of an eyebrow. "I know exactly what you are, Remus," she informed him, her voice softly stern. "And I am not the kind of girl who will snog a bloke like that unless I'm pretty damn sure it's what I want. I care about you, I admire you, I enjoy every moment of the time I spend with you and I like you a hell of a lot. There's even another L word I'd consider using, if not now, then in the near future, if I didn't think that after only one kiss it would probably blow your mind. So yes, Remus. I'm sure. I'm ready. I just didn't know until now if you were." For an instant doubt clouded her eyes. "You are sure, aren't you?"
Remus smiled. "I'm not the kind of bloke to kiss a girl like that unless I'm sure it's what I want, you know."
Her features lit up. "Really?"
"Really." There was brief pause that allowed for a small affirmation by lip contact. "One thing though."
She beamed down at him. "Yeah?"
"Do you think you could get off my chest now?"
The kettle was eventually found hiding behind a pile of textbooks in the corner. Remus was fairly certain that his tea had never tasted so sweet.
He couldn't help but wonder if the memory of the kiss he had shared with the slowly breathing mass of green locks snuggled comfortably against his shoulder might have somehow sweetened his taste buds. Not to mention the several refreshers that had more recently followed.
Tonks had fervently denied that she was tired enough to go to bed, insisting instead that she wanted to sit with him and "enjoy the moment" for a while longer, in spite of the lateness of the hour. So it was with secret amusement that Remus had watched her eyelids flutter as they fought their losing battle against the pull of gravity, felt her head droop against him, and had quietly but prudently removed the mug from her hands before the inevitable deafening smash and need for a reparo. Settled quietly, tea in hand, watching the dancing flames and listening to the ongoing roar of the gale to which he ironically owed so much, Remus smiled to himself, enjoying the feel of the warm, blanket-wrapped body that was kneading itself a cosy niche against his side.
She looked so peaceful, such a contrast to the frazzle of energy and chatter that usually accompanied her presence, her face serene and lips curled slightly upwards in the smallest of smiles. Gently so as not to wake her, Remus indulged himself for a moment, stroking a finger feather-light down the smooth softness of her cheek, fighting down the slightest flicker of guilt at such an action by reminding himself, with a certain sense of wonder, that this was something he was allowed to do. She had kissed him. She wanted to be with him. And though he did not precisely understand why of all the choices that such a wonderful young woman must have he had somehow emerged so fortunate, he was certainly not going to reject it. After a life so long devoid of such moments, Remus had no intention of wasting this miracle that had somehow tumbled into his life. If there was one thing that the tragedies of his life had taught him, it was not to waste the time he had.
The time they had.
Perhaps he was taking too much on trust. Perhaps come the morning she would have changed her mind.
But somehow, he knew that she wouldn't.
He smiled to himself.
Fate had not been kind to Remus Lupin over the years. Perhaps the time had finally come for a rebate on his luck.
It was only when he felt the drag against his own eyelids that Remus realised it might be prudent to deal with any necessary relocation while he still had sufficient consciousness left. With as much care and gentleness as he could muster at such an obscene hour of the night, Remus manoeuvred his arms delicately around the sleeping form curled against his side and lifted her up from the sofa.
He was about halfway to the bedroom when he started to regret it.
Although distinctly on the slender side, Remus was no weakling. And Tonks was certainly not especially heavy. But the combination of extreme fatigue and his recent poor health both seemed determined to conspire against his affectionate gesture. It seemed rather disrespectful to hurry but his arms were insisting upon speed quite firmly; praying that no piece of detritus from the wind's earlier assault would cross his path, Remus rapidly increased his pace.
He successfully avoided an upturned book and a random shoe. He was less fortunate when it came to the rug beside his bed.
There was a certain charm to the expression of sleepy surprise on Tonks' face when she awoke rather abruptly to find herself buried into the softness of the mattress by the weight of a distinctly embarrassed professor but frankly it was something Remus could have lived without.
"This seems familiar," she remarked with a yawn.
Remus flushed again. "I was carrying you to the bed and I tripped."
"Damn. Swept off my feet and I slept through it entirely." Tonks grinned sleepily. "Good grief. Together less than an hour and we're already turning into each other. Give us another day or two and you'll be clattering into that bloody troll's foot at Grimmauld Place and I'll start being nice."
"I happen to think you're nice already."
"Shows what you know." A small hand snaked around the base of his neck, fingertips teasing the edges of his hair as she drew his face towards hers. The kiss was lengthy and deeply indulgent.
But finally, regretfully Remus forced himself to withdraw from her lips, lifting his body gently away from hers to leave her mockingly pouting against the covers.
"Come on, " he rallied wearily. "Let's get you comfy. I still need to go and make up the settee and I haven't much energy left after that."
Tonks blinked at him as she allowed herself to be manoeuvred beneath the covers. "Make up the settee? What for?"
Remus smiled at her playfully as he reached over to adjust the pillows. "Well as nostalgic as I feel about that spot by the hearth, I don't really want to sleep there."
Tonks caught his hand sharply, her eyes abruptly searching. "No, I mean… Why do you need the settee? Why not just stay here?" With her free hand, she gently patted the covers. "With me," she added softly.
Remus could feel his heartbeat pounding triple time against his eardrums. He fought desperately not to blush.
"Well," he breathed shakily. "It's not that the idea doesn't appeal but… Tonks, I'm still not well, you're still half frozen and we're both exhausted. Not to mention it's a little soon to be thinking about…"
Tonks' dawning smile dried up his words. "I know," she said with a certain ruefulness. "It's not really the right time, is it? But you know, Remus, sharing a bed doesn't mean we have to do anything." Her eyes seemed to gleam in the dull light of the glowing bedside lamp. "As you said, I nearly froze to death earlier. I could really use the warmth."
The freezing gale rattled violently against the windowpane. Snow splattered across the glass.
"Just let me put out the lights," he said.
He could feel her soft hair as she snuggled down against his chest, arms wrapped gently around his body as she gave a sleepy little sigh of contentment.
"Remus?" Her voice was a breath against his neck.
"Just so that you know… I'd like to try out that stronger L word when you're ready for it." He could feel her smile against his skin. "And when you're not knackered and I'm not frozen… I'm looking forward to finding that right time."
He pulled her closer, his embrace around her now warm body gentle and glorious all at once.
"So am I, Tonks," he whispered back. "So am I."
The chill wind continued to howl against the walls of Hogwarts castle, the battering surge of the cold outside. But warm and snug in each other's arms, Remus and Tonks no longer heard its roar.
A/N: Thank you all very much indeed. I hope that wasn't too bad for you. :)
Jenulus – I try hard to get my characterisations right so thank you very much:)
AlyceLJ, BaskervilleBeauty, starnat, mrscribble, Augusta – Thank you very much! Glad you like it. :)
Kittylace – Hello. :) I decided not to put a romance in Oblivious in spite of the chemistry that sprang up but that decision is the reason I wrote this. Thank you:)
RahNee – I'm not sure if it's a word or not but I know what you mean. :) Characterisation is something I work hard to get right so I'm glad you feel it's right. Thank you very much:)
aurelie1 – Well, without descending into either angst or even greater levels of PWP I haven't much more than three chapters worth to say! As I said, I'm not a romance writer by nature, but this was crying out to be done. :)
Catchy Pen Name – Glad you are enjoying it! Well, with an ever changing name, you'll never get bored:)
superpan – Hello! As you can see – smoochies indeed. :) And this was indeed the branch out from Oblivious. I felt I ought to have a go at writing something romantic after about six years of avoiding it, partly because I wanted Remus to have a nice happy fic experience and partly because if I ever seriously want to get my non-fic story published, I need to be able to do a good relationship. Thank you very much. :)
Queriusole – That broomstick scene just wrote itself. So much fun. :)