Chapter 12: A Corridor in Hogwarts Castle

The sun is setting.

It's pretty tonight. Gold beams shine dimly from behind the pink clouds which line an almost entirely orange sky. It's a contrast, at least, to the sunsets we've been getting lately.

The weather has been clouded, rainy and unseasonably chilled. Tonight however, feels warm, enjoyable.

Ironic really, because the mood could not be more strained.

You are walking next to me, straight backed and rigid. You look sideways every so often as though afraid that I have a trap ready to spring for you at any moment. It's rather amusing how awkward you are.

I've never seen you this nervous with anyone. Even when you were put through that horrible ministry interrogation a little over a year ago, you remained cool, calm…even polite. You never once rose to their bait.

I've always seen you that way; as though all of your personal feelings have been shoved aside, thrown to the background in favor of this neutral, calm, polite, façade.

It still amazes me that I am the one to bring all of your previously repressed emotions into the foreground. I suppose it's a victory and I should revel in it.

But I don't feel much like reveling at the moment.

We haven't spoken since Dumbledore called you and Bill to help guard the school. I'm not exactly sure why.

'Perhaps we should split up. Cover more ground,' you break the silence abruptly.

I know you hate awkward silences as much as I do. Still, it's not my fault you're being a stubborn bastard. Besides…

'Dumbledore wanted us to stick together, said it was safer that way.'

You look torn at this. I can tell that you're of two minds: On the one hand you are the master of running from conflict, on the other; you would rather die than disobey a direct order from Dumbledore.

It seems that he's the only person you'll listen to these days. I know you would've gone back to Greyback if he hadn't told you to stay put. I should be grateful for that and I am.

I'm glad, very glad that you won't have to face that monster again.

But, having you so close…knowing that I could see you, talk to you if I wanted to, and still having to wait for you is much more difficult than it was when I didn't know where you were.

Dumbledore told us that you had returned permanently and would be living in Grimmauld Place. I've known that you were home and safe for three months. I suppose I could have gone to see you. God knows I wanted to.

But every time I set out, that small, clear voice entered the back of my mind and told me to wait.

I was supposed to wait for you to do something. Three months and nothing has happened until tonight.

And Dumbledore forcing you to see me, to speak with me, does not really count. Besides, this is far from a personal matter. It's for the Order.

But why exactly is it for the Order? Why did Dumbledore request extra protection tonight of all nights?

I keep trying to work out possible reasons, but it's no use. I need someone to talk these kinds of things out with. As you're the only one available at the moment, I suppose you'll have to do.

'Why did he send you here? You and Bill I mean.'

'Hogwarts required extra protection tonight.'

'But why tonight? I mean, Dumbledore's left the school plenty of times this year. One Auror at the castle gate, along with the extra enchantments has always been enough. And I've worked the night shift alone before.'

I try not to sound too bitter as I say this. Even if I do feel a tad bit smothered, especially when Dumbledore allowed Bill to set off on his own.

'Tonight is different. Harry is with him.'

I stop walking. This new information confuses me.

'Harry? How do you-'

'Dumbledore called me and Kingsley into his office this afternoon.'

You stop walking a little ahead. Your back is turned towards me.

I don't understand why Dumbledore saw fit to tell you and Kingsley about this plan and not me. I am, after all, the only member of the Order of the Phoenix officially authorized to provide the castle's security. Apparently you're not the only one who underestimates me.

'I don't suppose he's told you where he goes when he leaves the school?'

'No, he hasn't.'

We walk a bit further along the outer corridor. You lead, with your wand held aloft and ready, I follow faithfully in your wake.

I still don't quite understand. I'll have to ask again.

'That still doesn't explain-'

'Dumbledore assumes, or rather, he strongly suspects that something might happen tonight. Naturally, he did not want you to have to face a full scale attack on your own.'

'But why does he suspect…? '

'He's received intelligence, that's all he would tell us.'

'I still don't understand.'

'He only wants us to be on our guard. Nothing may happen at all.'

'If nothing may happen at all, then why didn't he want me on my own? I'm trained for these sorts of things. I've been in tight spots with the Auror's before and managed fine. Doesn't he know that?'

'I'm sure he does. It has nothing to do with you or your abilities.'

'You really think so? Maybe he still remembers Bellatrix Lestrange and the ministry battle. Maybe he doesn't think I'm up for much after that.'

'You know that's not true.'

'Then what other explanation is there?'

'I don't know Tonks!'

You've raised your voice again, the way you only do with me. You look, as you always do: bewildered by your own daring. You shift your eyes downward as though you are struggling to pull yourself together.

'Just...stay close behind me. Keep your wand at the ready in case we need to contact Bill.'

Your voice is sharp and uncharacteristically harsh. Still, I can not mistake the note of desperate protection in your words: "stay close behind me".

It's enough to make me feel adored and smothered at the same time.

We walk along in silence. The air feels thicker than it did before.

'Tonks,' you finally speak with a sigh.

'Tonks, I- I'm sorry. You don't deserve to be spoken to like that. I just…'

'It's all right Remus, I know.'

I attempt to smile at you, though I know that I don't quite manage it, your expression is much too understanding. It's the type of face I've seen you wear with Harry.

'I must say you're taking this very well.'

'What am I taking very well?'

I'm surprised. You're usually the one who likes to pretend that this…whatever this is between us does not exist. It's odd to hear you acknowledge it.

'I-well, this…' you stutter and stumble, which is exceptionally rare for you.

'Nothing. Forget I mentioned it.'

Apparently our sudden shift in roles has wrong footed you. Another private victory I should revel in.

And though I still do not feel much like reveling, I can not help the small smile that appears on my lips.

We walk further along the corridor; the silence is still awkward, though no longer unbearably so. It's not long before we pass one of the large windows along the bridge.

The sun has nearly set over the mountains in the distance and a dark blue blanket is beginning to cover the sky.

'Nice tonight, isn't it?'

'Lovely,' you say quietly; though, you do not turn to look out the window. I crane my neck, trying to read the expression on your face.

You catch me in this attempt and throw me another smile I recognize. This is the one you use when you've just spoken a truth you had not meant to voice.

We continue to walk. Not knowing what else to do, I talk:

'It hasn't been lately. Nice at this time of the evening, I mean. Strange really. It's been warm and sunny during the day but once the sun starts to set the clouds roll in. We've had three thunderstorms in the past week, did you know that?'

'No I didn't,' to my surprise, you seem to be fighting back a laugh.

'What're you laughing about?'

I ask, desperate to keep conversation going as easily as possible.

'Nothing,' you snigger slightly. Something, I know. 'I was just remembering our first assignment together.'

I know that you really mean our first argument, though, in the present climate, you'd rather not say that. For some reason, the fact that you can laugh about that now simply makes me more irritable.

'I did not ruin that operation with my "relentless nattering" no matter what you say.'

I feel the old need to defend myself return with full force. Far from appearing angry, as you had in the distant past, you are chuckling openly.

Though I don't really see what you've got to chuckle about. That whole debacle could have been avoided if you had been keeping an eye on Malfoy instead of telling me to be quiet. And aside from that…

'It was my first mission for the Order, I'd had very little sleep and, well…even if it was just slightly, my fault, there was no reason to snap at me the way you did.'

It was the first time I heard you raise your voice.

'You do realize you could have been killed, don't you?', you asked me sharply.

Malfoy had scampered off without us being able to hear so much of a hint as to what he was planning. After we gave our report of the failed stake out to Dumbledore, you asked to speak to me alone and then proceeded to lecture me about the importance of maintaining silence durring top secret missions.

'He could easily have decided to throw a killing curse in our direction for good measure! I can not force to be more careful when on missions. It is your life. But in the future kindly remember that there are others who care, very much for what happens to you!'

I remember snapping something back about how you always insisted on treating me like a child and were behaving like a condecsending prat. But what you said stayed with me, even after I stormed out of the room and slammed the door in my wake.

You had told me, in your own way, that you cared about me.

You are still smiling as we continue down the corridor and I think about how odd it feels to see you happy again.

'I did apologize for raising my voice.'

'But not for what you said. It wasn't entirely my fault. I mean I can't help it if I tend to talk my head off when I'm uncomfortable.'

'A habit I've since grown used to.'

'What d'you mean a habit you've grown…?'

The look you give me stops me in mid sentence.

'I'm doing it again aren't I?'

'Just a bit. Though tonight, I find a break in the silence quite enjoyable.'

'So then, my feeling uncomfortable is a good thing?'

'That's not what I meant.'

'Then what did you mean?'

You hesitate. For a moment I'm afraid that I've said the wrong thing again. I prepare myself to answer my own question or to make some kind of joke to lighten the mood. Then, after several moments, I see you turn to me and smile with a twinkle of mischief in your eye.

'I only meant that for this mission, your relentless nattering is more of a help than a hindrance.'

You're teasing me. You haven't done that since you stopped saying my name. It feels strange to hear you do it again, though not at all unpleasant.

'At least this mission doesn't require you to keep a constant look out. Now you can tell me to shut up when ever you like without fear of frightening off the person you're supposed to be tailing.'

You laugh and it's amazing how exhilarating it is to hear the sound again.

'I suppose I was a bit responsible for that. Is it too late to ask your forgiveness?'

''S never too late. You know that.'

'Then let me take the opportunity to say that I was, as you put it, a "condescending prat", and I'm sorry.'

'Apology accepted,' I say as refined as I possibly can. We've stopped against a wall in the castle's west wing and you are staring at me wearing a wistful half smile. It makes me uncomfortable. So, true to form, I continue to talk:

'And, I apologize for calling you a condescending prat. You did have a point I suppose even if it was-'

I do not get a chance to finish the sentence because you are kissing me. It's far from your average friendly peck, nor is it the soft gentle kiss we shared in December. You've pinned me against the wall and forcefully, passionately, push your lips against mine.

I'm all at once flying and falling and feeling sensations I never thought were possible. I throw my arms around your neck so that I will have something to hold onto. Your hands seem to be everywhere at once, on my waist, caressing my back, tangling in my hair, you end by placing one hand on my hip, pushing aside the fabric where my robe parts and-

You pull away and the kiss ends as abruptly as it began. You are gasping as though you had nearly drowned.

'I'm sorry,' you say quietly. Those two small words have never sounded so horribly wrong. You move your eyes back to the floor and stumble away from me. 'I…we shouldn't have…'

You sink down against the wall across from me and move one hand over your face.

'I didn't know that we did anything,' I say, glaring darkly at you.

I shouldn't be so harsh; I can tell that you are punishing yourself far worse than I ever could. Still, I can not understand why you continue to deny yourself this basic right.

'I don't know what….I've no idea what I was…we should go back. We're loosing time here.'

You move your hand against the wall and push yourself up. You begin to walk again and, even though I want to talk, to scream, to accuse you of pushing me past my breaking point, I know that it's no use.

I steel myself to follow silently in your wake when…

'Tonks, Remus! Come quickly!'

I turn sharply as do you, at the sound of the small shaking voice. Hermione Granger is running towards us down the corridor, a blonde girl I recognize as having been at the department of Mysteries is walking at a brisk pace along side her.

'Hermione, Luna, what is it? What's happened?'

'Death eaters! In the castle!' Hermione exclaims, her face very pale. 'They came in through the room of requirement. We think they're headed to Dumbledore's office!'

You only have to look sideways at me once before we're both following the girls' lead as quickly as we can.

In the span of a moment, our private war has been suspended in favor of the larger task at hand.

As Always, appologies for the delay in updating. Only two more chapters left, and reviews really would be most helpful!