"Rough night last night?" I passed him a cup of hot tea.
"Been worse." He muttered.
"I'll take your word on that." I poured some tea for myself and sat down. "My God, Remus, you look like hell."
Indeed he did. He was quite pale, with dark purple shadows under his eyes. He looked tired, worn. On days like this, he looked so much older than mid-thirties. Not so much physically older, but spiritually older. I was sitting across from an old, tired man.
"Feel it, too. Y'know, after all these years, you'd think I'd get used to the full moon. Remembering to take my potion, settling down in my room for the monthly transformation, feeling like I've got a nasty hangover the next day…" He sighed and looked into the distance. "It just reminds me of how different I am. Less than human. Lonely."
"Maybe you should start a support group. Werewolves Anonymous." I quipped.
He just stared forlornly into his cup. Damn, and I was trying to be funny.
I tried another tactic. "I don't know what you're so worked up over. Really, you're not the only one who turns into a full-fledged monster on a lunar cycle."
His brow furrowed. "Look, I don't think I'm in the mood for any sort of 'Let's cheer up Lupin' attempt…"
I waved him off. "No, seriously, Remus. You don't have any sisters, do you?"
He shook his head.
"Steady, long-term girlfriends?"
"Ah, you lucky bastard. You have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. So let me educate you." Oh, this should be amusing. Men just love this little speech.
"Okay. Now I know you've been through Madam Pomfrey's absolutely embarrassing discussion on the birds and the bees. Unless you were sick that day?"
He chuckled. "No, unfortunately I was not. Certainly wished I was at the time, though."
"Didn't we all. Now, dear sweet Poppy might have informed us on the more, shall I say, technical workings of the body, but there is no way in hell to warn a woman of the more dramatic chaos she'll be dealing with for the next thirty or so years of her life."
I think I got his attention. He was looking at me with a rather curious expression. His head was tilted to one side and his eyes were no longer morose. They were… interested? I wasn't really used to this reaction from a guy. Usually they were falling all over themselves to exit the conversation. Then again, most of the guys I knew were barely out of adolescence.
I took a deep breath. "It starts with the mood swings. One minute you're ecstatic, feeling fine. The next minute you're angry, and any little thing sets you off. Or you're depressed and find yourself at the bottom of the ice cream carton. Lather, rinse, repeat. That's when the monster awakens. More tea?"
"Uh, yes, please," he said, passing me his cup. "Better yet, do we have any coffee around here? I think I could use something stronger this morning." Chuckling, I started the coffee.
"But that's not even the beginning of it," I continued as the pot percolated. "Then come the pheromones. You can literally smell men a mile away, and they smell good. You find yourself thinking of and hoping for things no civilized woman would ever admit to. That's when I know I'm in trouble—usually I lock myself away for a bit, try to sleep it off. Last thing I need to do is someone I'll really regret in the morning, know what I mean?"
That definitely got a laugh. "Not personally, thank Merlin. But I've heard a few good stories."
"I bet. There are some aspects of Sirius' life that I don't want to be privy to. Milk? Sugar?" I raised my eyebrows and rattled the sugar shaker playfully.
"After the night I've just had? Hell no, I want it black." He smiled appreciatively as I poured the coffee. "I love the smell of black, sludgy, cheap coffee in the morning." Deep inhale. "It's the smell of victory."
I laughed out loud. "Unfortunately, it's downhill from there. Bloating, achiness, cramps, blah, blah, blah." Another dismissive wave. "Almost like your body's disappointed for what you didn't do and punishing you for it." I went to pour some sugar in my coffee and dropped the damn shaker. "Oh, and I almost forgot. You lose all sense of motor control and get more clumsy."
Remus raised an eyebrow. "Is that even possible for you?"
"Ha, ha," I muttered sarcastically. "Reparo!" The shards flew back together. Handy charm, if I do say so myself. "Yeah, usually lasts a week, week and a half. Then it's another couple weeks of peace until the cycle starts again." I paused for emphasis. "And that, Remus John Lupin, are the facts of life," I said in mock seriousness. "Does that make you feel any better?"
He smiled. "Not really, but educational and amusing just the same. Thank you, Tonks."
"Oh please, call me Nymphadora."
Laughter. "No thanks, I think I like living too much to try that."
I looked down at my watch. "Bloody hell! I'm running late!" I stood up so quickly the chair I was sitting in fell over and I bumped the table, knocking everything over. "Damn!"
Remus stood up and began cleaning up my mess. "Don't worry about it," he said, standing and pushing my hands away from the spilled cups. "I'll take care of it. You just get to work."
"Oh, thank you so much." I sighed.
"Not a problem," he replied as I double checked to make sure I had everything. Wand? Check. Identification? Check. Hair? Pink and spiky. Check.
I started walking towards the door. "Oh, Tonks?" He called after me. I paused and turned around. He had a playful smirk on his face. "And what stage of the cycle are you at now?"
I grinned. "Well, let's just say that you're starting to look really good, Remus." As if to prove my point, I lifted my head and inhaled deeply, gave him a wink, and turning towards the door, laughed as I left for work.
Here I was, pulling a double. Around a quarter after nine, I found myself drumming my fingers on the desk in a fit of immense boredom. I had no idea why my boss thought I still needed to be here. He probably just wanted to get home to his family, and since Tonks is single, Tonks can stay late. Bastard. Maybe Tonks wanted to go out and party and get un-single. Did he think of that? No. There was absolutely nothing going on today. In fact, there hasn't been anything going on for a long time. After all, it's impossible to be a Dark Wizard catcher when the Ministry doesn't even want to admit that certain Dark Wizards are back in action. I desperately wanted to go visit with Kingsley, also working the evening shift, but I knew that would be too suspicious. We had to keep it on the down low that we knew each other any better than random co-workers, for the sake of the Order. I laughed every time I thought about Kingsley's job; he came in every day on the hunt for Sirius Black, and every evening he stopped by Grimmauld Place and ate dinner with the Ministry's Most Wanted. Fortunately, I had the greatest excuse in the world to bow out of that particular charade. I simply told them that I might be biased in searching for my mother's cousin. After all, I may be able to change my appearance at the drop of a hat, but sometimes I'm a horrible actress.
I leaned back in my chair and threw my feet up on my desk. Come to think of it, the Order was about the only thing going on in my life. I was one of the youngest members, only the Weasley brothers being younger, and I was still trying to get used to referring to people on a first-name basis. Especially the stern Minerva McGonnagal, who I never even considered to have any other name but "Professor." And despite the dark and dreary headquarters, hanging around ol' Number Twelve was quite fun. Afterall, the Weasleys were there, slaving away under the watchful eye of Ma Weasley, and wherever those kids go adventure is sure to follow. Then there was Sirius, the staple of my childhood. Man, I hero-worshipped him growing up. I'm sure he got quite tired of having a bratty cousin either trying to tag along or corner him into a tea party whenever he came by.
Speaking of tea parties, I wondered how Remus was feeling. Since he spends about as much time at headquarters as I do, I've run into him a lot. He's sharp as a tack and got a very quiet, yet very wicked sense of humour. Like this morning…
I felt myself falling backwards as the legs of my chair tried to give way underneath me. I must have been nodding off. Well, I might as well make good use of my lack of activity. I stood up, intent on visiting the break room for another round of coffee. And maybe a doughnut. I laughed at myself as I remembered my father telling me about Muggle policemen and their stereotypical love of doughnuts and coffee. I have now become the Wizarding equivalent to the lazy cop. I just hoped I didn't develop the gut.
I stepped out of the elevator and headed down the hall. As I passed the Improper Use of Magic office, I overheard a very important name: Harry Potter. My blood ran cold. All of us in the Order have been keeping tabs on Harry all summer so far. Although Dumbledore was confident in the protection he had established for Harry since he was an infant, he wanted extra caution now that Voldemort was back.
"That's right, improper use of a Patronus charm by an underage wizard in the presence of a Muggle. Second offence against the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery. Mafalda, please send notice to him. Inform him of his expulsion from school and that we'll be by to confiscate his wand."
Expulsion? Confiscate wand? Damn. I needed to get to Dumbledore, but how? He's not the most popular of people around here at the moment. The floo network usually isn't watched at this time of the night. Probably my best bet. I sprinted back to the lift and jammed at the buttons. Damned old piece of junk anyway. It rattled violently as it took me to the main entrance to the Ministry. I was out of the doors as soon as they opened and grabbed the floo powder at the nearest fireplace. Throwing it into the grate, I barely waited for the green flames before I threw my head inside and yelled, "Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place!" It was Arthur Weasley who noticed me first.
I cut him off. "It's an emergency, Arthur. I need Dumbledore here at the ministry and I need him now. It's about Harry."
Arthur's eyes widened in alarm. "I'll contact him immediately. He may already know what's going on. Dung is trailing Harry tonight."
"Well, from the way this sounds, Dung wasn't doing a good job of it." Mundungus Fletcher wasn't always known for being responsible. "If you do get him first, tell him to find me. I'll see what I can do on this end until he gets here."
I jerked my head out of the fire. In the lift, I scrambled to figure out something to do to delay the Ministry enforcement that was about to leave at any minute. And I thought today was going to be boring.