Chapter 20- Heart of the Moon
I'd strolled into Auror Headquarters with every shade of hair known to man and my imagination. Not once had any of my wildest hairstyles garnered one quarter the attention my newest 'look' did. From the moment the double doors parted, heads had turned. Senior staff arched eyebrows. Kingsley stuck his head out of his office to ask, "Are you on surveillance today?"
Without stopping my trek toward the back of beyond and my own tiny cubicle, I said over my shoulder, "Do I look like I should be on surveillance?"
"Yes," he said bluntly, dark gaze flickering over my wan features and limp, mousey brown hair.
I shrugged and trudged onward. Harriet 'the spy' questioned as I passed, "Is that your new style?"
I deadpanned, "Gulch digs it." When she fingered her own shoulder-length mousey locks thoughtfully, I rolled my eyes and moved on.
"Ruddy hell, what's with the change, Tonks?" Connolly, of the sloppy desk and Gryffindor bold tongue, leaned over his cubicle wall to demand incredulously.
The Auror with the looks and eagerness of a Wizard Scout received a sneer that a Slytherin would envy. "I got tired of being treated like a sex object."
Inexplicably, he flushed beet red and mumbled, "Gods, I'm sorry, okay?" before ducking out of sight.
A chuckle sounded. I turned to see Tom leaning against his cubicle doorway. Closing the distance between us, I asked, "How can you do that without collapsing every wall like a ruddy house of cards?"
"It's a gift," he said with a smirk, following me into my own space that was now tidier than his. Expression changing from amused to grim and then upset; he looked from Gulch's memo praising my organisation currently pinned to the miniature dartboard on the wall to my hair. Fenton thundered like the Nordic god he resembled, "I'm about to do an intervention on your arse!"
"Why? Has it gone to hell with the rest of my life?"
Pale blond brows drew together. He shook his head at my tone, caught sight of Julia, and gritted, "She's your best mate- do something for Merlin's sake!"
Covering her mouth with her hands like the heroine in a horror film, Jul wailed, "Good gods, your hair!" She moved forward, tears in her eyes and voice, "You must really feel like shite, mate. I'm sorry I didn't say something before now. I'm not used to being the one giving romantic advice."
Sitting behind my desk, I picked up a file and said, "I'm not up for a pep talk, Julia."
Tom snatched it out of my hands. "You're not up for anything. You're in complete denial, and it's got to stop!"
Jul placed a calming hand on his arm. "What Tom is trying to say, is that you don't seem to understand…"
"Er…I just got assigned a case…with Tonks…marked urgent." Connolley' boyish, freckled face looked uncomfortable with interrupting, but I leapt at the opportunity to escape.
"Let's go…Jerry, right? I'll see you two later." I brushed past my friends and pulled my new partner by the sleeve to get him to walk faster. He cleared his throat as we left the office. "Erm…If I apologise again for the…you know…objectification…would you please change your hair?"
I said wryly as we waited for a Floo to become available, "I can't morph right now, so we're both stuck, Connolly."
He filled me in on the particulars of our case and smiled hesitantly. Feeling eons older, if not wiser than him, I patted Jerry on the shoulder and inclined my head. "Floo's open."
Stepping out of the public Floo at Knockturn Alley, I flashed my badge at a grimy warlock giving us the evil eye and said to the man beside me, "Ever been to this area before?"
His eyes were darting around nervously. "No, I've, uh, mostly been assigned to assist the law offices in jury selection, to avoid jurors with Dark auras and prevent Dark objects from entering the courtroom."
I shrugged. "That's okay. I've been called out to this address on a previous occasion. Let me do the talking." My partner nodded amiably and followed as I led the way to a block of flats that had an air of genteel poverty- much like the people who lived there.
"Weren't you the one who came before? Your hair is more suitable now." Mrs. Underhill, wearing a thick cardigan over her wool dress, noticed my partner and smoothed her wispy hair. Inviting us inside, she said with a pleased smile, "I'll go fetch the tea."
Jerry sat on the Victorian settee a bit too precipitously and slid off. His stifled expletive made me smile while I caught his arm and hauled him back up to sit on the Scotch guard charmed furniture. I waited until the dithery woman was handing my partner his tea before saying, "I fail to see why the report was filed, much less coded urgent, Mrs. Underhill. In your statement, you admit that there have been no suspicious noises or other evidence of Dark magic. What cause do you have to accuse your neighbour this time?"
Perching on her chair, ankles crossed demurely, the old biddy peeped, "Because I learnt down at the senior centre that Mr. Dunne…he's a…a werewolf." When Jerry said 'really', she shared, "Oh yes, and I'm most concerned. The Quibbler ran an article that said the disease could be spread by a sneeze, or a handshake, for all we know, and the Ministry is keeping that knowledge secret because they're afraid werewolves, who are deep into the Dark Arts, will go on a rampage if not placated."
Connolly was the boy-next-door type, but his neighbourhood was one of normal witches and wizards. He threw me a sideways glance, unsure how to respond to Mrs. Underhill's claims. I pointed to the birdcage on a side table. "See that? Lining the bottom is what the Quibbler is good for if you're reading it for facts, not entertainment, ma'am." Standing, I withdrew a pad and started writing. Handing the woman a citation, I smiled tightly. "That's a warning, for false report. You make another one, and you'll be selling your parlour set to pay the fine. Do you understand?"
"But…but…" she protested. I said sternly, "Unless you are bitten by a werewolf, you cannot become one, and for you to believe otherwise contradicts the saying that age brings wisdom. Good day."
Once in the corridor, I marched over to the next flat and knocked on the door. After a few minutes, Dunne opened it and looked from me to my partner before saying, "I liked your other look better. Come in." Inside the flat, David asked, "What can I do for you Auror Tonks, Auror…"
"Connolly." Jerry held out his hand. David shook it with raised eyebrows.
I rushed into speech, "Mrs. Underhill found out that you're a werewolf and made a complaint. I gave her a warning for false report and the fine's pretty stiff if she makes another one, so hopefully she'll either move or find something else to fixate on."
"She seems pretty keen on Bingo," Jerry said. I looked at him. He explained, "She had a stack of about a dozen cards on the side table." Observant of him- I was impressed and it showed. His smile was wide and proud.
David said, "Good for her. Did you drop by just to tell me that?"
Taking a deep breath, I pulled out the card Remus had given me with the address of the rare bookshop on Charing Cross road. "Here. I heard the owner is about to advertise for part time help."
"This Remus J. Lupin, he the owner?"
I said gruffly, "No, he's a friend of the owner, and a werewolf."
David looked hopeful. "Thanks."
I was already headed for the door. "Don't mention it. Say hello to Jenny for me, alright?"
"She'd like it better if you did it in person. Misses girl talk, she says."
Pausing at the door, I asked where she worked and what time she got off. David smiled. "I'll tell her that you'll be stopping by."
Once we left the building, I caught Jerry looking at me out of the corner of my eye and asked, "Are you still shocked by my hair, or is it starting to grow on you?"
He grinned boyishly. "It's awful. Back there, though, that was cool, and I thought maybe you'd like to know, it's not just your metamorphosing that makes you sexy."
"Gee, Thanks." Returning his smile, I punched him in the arm, hard.
Avoiding Tom and Julia for the rest of the day, my new pal Connolly and I went out twice more. I told him to take lead both times and sat blending into the upholstery while he did a good job leading witnesses through the standard questions. Neither of the alleged Dark wizards were any such thing, but Jerry was chuffed with himself for handling the cases in a professional manner. I told him to feel free to take charge of writing up the final reports as well. Back at the Ministry, I gave him robes to throw over my chair- to make it look as though I was still in the building- and waved him through the double doors while heading for the stairs.
On the Atrium floor, I opened the stairwell door and scanned for anyone who might throw a spanner into my plan to skive off. The coast was clear, so I darted for the nearest Floo. A dignified member of the Wizengamot huffed indignantly when I cut in front of him, "Well I never…!"
Grabbing a handful of Floo powder, I replied cheekily, "Try a personal ad in the Prophet."
I snickered softly to myself while exiting the central Floo station. A few passer-bys threw alarmed looks my way, but that was preferable to pitying glances at my hair. Taking a moment to get oriented, I strode toward Jenny Dunne's place of employment.
The Notting Hill coffee shop was a surprise. It was Muggle. I wondered what the pound/galleon exchange rate at Gringotts was these days. Hoping for the Dunnes' sake that the pound was still sound, I opened the door and looked curiously around the bright, modern café. Business was brisk, but most customers were just dashing in for take away. I sat down in a comfy chair in the small area arranged for that purpose and waited for Jenny to get off work.
"Here, on the house."
I looked up from the Muggle equivalent of the Intruder- my, film stars were naughty- to protest, "No, coffee here costs a mint, I can conjure…I mean buy my own."
Jenny, who'd changed from the uniform other servers were wearing, placed the over-sized mug on the table beside me and sat down in an adjoining chair. "I don't drink coffee, so I pass on my gratis cups to David, or in this case, you."
"Well, if I'm not dipping into your wages." I smiled, taking an appreciative sip before asking in an undertone, "What's a nice witch like you doing in a Muggle shop like this?"
"The pay and the fact that they can't do a Ministry background check and turn me down because my husband's a werewolf."
I looked around. Nobody was nearby, thankfully. In a low voice, I asked, "People really do that? Discriminate against spouses, too?"
The other woman nodded. "Unfortunately…" With determined cheer, she said, "David told me about the possibility of a job. Thank you." When I shrugged it off, Jenny inquired, "The wizard's card that you gave him, Remus J. Lupin, I recognised the name from editorials in the paper. Is he your partner?"
All at once, my eyes filled with tears. "I dunno." Unlike some, who would've excused themselves and retreated from an emotional scene, Jenny told me quietly that if I wanted to share, she'd be happy to listen. Words poured out of me in a painful gush. I felt rejected, and confused, like everyone knew something I didn't and it made me shirty and miserable at the same time.
"After the attack, David offered me a divorce."
Whatever I'd expected her to say, that wasn't it. Jenny gave me a look that I'd probably given Connolly when his naiveté showed. "He didn't think it was fair for me to have to live with his condition, to support us and risk being harmed every full moon."
"What changed his mind?"
Her smile was reminiscent. "I gave him the only reason that counted. I loved him, for better or for worse." Laughing softly, Jenny said, "Although we're on the poorer end of the scale, with David in my life I feel rich in love, which makes the struggle worth it."
The front door burst open while I sat feeling as though a Muggle bomb had been tossed into the shop, blowing me away. My new friend jumped up when she heard, "I got the job, Jenny love, I got the job!"
They embraced while the staff smiled and customers stepped around them, unperturbed. Blinking madly, I asked hoarsely, "Did you just come from the bookshop?"
"Yeah." David grinned. "Lupin and the owner were in the back, and I got hired on the spot." He announced proudly, "I start work tomorrow."
"Is Remus still there, do you know?" Looking curiously from me to his wife, the wizard stated, "No, he was going to take his dog for a walk in the park…" He broke off when I rushed past him with a hasty thanks and goodbye, shaking his head and smiling. "Oh, no…thank you…goodbye…"
The askance looks I'd received snickering to myself were nothing compared to the ones my silent tears engendered. Hurrying around the back of the building, I made sure no Muggles were in the vicinity before Disapparating.
Cami and Snuffles were playing tag on the green when I began walking toward Remus. He looked up from his book when the dog barked. Catching sight of me, he tossed it aside and stood. Meeting me halfway across the common, his gaze flickered over my face and hair. He didn't look so good either, but I drank the sight of him in. A half smile curved his lips while he waited for me to speak.
Brushing off my cheeks with the backs of my fingers, I took a shuddery breath and said, "The reason why I lied, and kept things from you, why I couldn't bear the thought of you being hurt, and why I was willing to sleep with you to prove that I care…"
"Yes?" He prompted gently, when I had a hard time continuing due to the ache in my throat, and the fear that I was setting myself up for a rejection that I would never recover from.
The look in his eyes gave me the courage to say, "I love you, with all my heart, and without you my world, like my hair, is colourless…crap."
He smiled, cupping my face. "I love you, with a heart that's yearned to hear you say those words for so long, a part of me wants to howl for joy."
Remus kissed me instead. A sweet, tender kiss that deepened into an embrace that made me want to laugh and cry and even howl for joy from the rush of love given and received that washed over me.
Snuffles began barking when Cami laughed. I opened heavy eyelids. Remus grinned. "Your hair…it's pink." His fingertips brushed my face. "Like your cheeks." His gaze and head lowered. "And your lips." I kissed the mouth brushing mine with all the pent-up passion I could display in public, sinking my fingers into his hair and straining to get closer to the man I'd missed, and loved so much.
The weekend after the rest of London celebrates Bonfire Night, the new Lord Mayor puts on a show to celebrate the start of the mayoral year. It's been called 'the most dangerous and amazing' of all. Crowds wrapped up against the chilly weather thronged the riverside. I thought that the men who were willing to board explosive laden barges to let off fireworks on the Thames between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridge were either brilliant or mental. Standing with Remus' arms around me in the public gallery on the eighth floor of the Oxo Tower, I exulted, "We've got the best view on the river."
Remus chuckled, while to his right Tom said, "Last year, we had a good vantage point at the Embankment." Julia agreed with a smile.
On my mate's other side, Jenny Dunne volunteered, "We watched them from Gabriel's Wharf, and had an excellent view, didn't we David?"
"Yes, and luckily this show is before the full moon." The wizard seemed to be gauging the others' reaction. When no one acted as though the remark was anything out of the ordinary, he relaxed.
"I wonder if I had the letters of my name made out of glass for the shop window, the Ministry would consider them 'elemental geometric forms' the way Muggles did." Alan Rocher mused on Remus' left.
"Instead of a clever ruse to bypass the advertising ban…? I think not, Môn Coeur." Jan chuckled, affectionately squeezing her husband's arm.
David said, "I've heard some dogs get upset hearing fireworks go off. Is someone watching Snuffles, Remus?"
In the low light, Remus' eyes gleamed amber when he looked at me. Wryly, he answered, "Yes, our friend Cami volunteered to keep him tonight. She spoils him terribly, which he enjoys." In a voice that was deceptively light, he said, "When he eventually goes…back to his true owner, I hope the separation won't be too painful for them."
My heart sank, knowing that Remus' words came too late. Sirius had told me outright that if he wasn't convinced Harry might soon need his support; he'd tell Cami the truth. My friend had been teary when we'd left them earlier; petting Snuffles lovingly and vowing to take such good care of him that his absentee master would see that he belonged with her always. I didn't see how that situation could be resolved happily, but romantic sap that I was, I hoped that it would be, somehow.
Surrounded by old friends and new, I leaned back against Remus and turned my head to look up at his face. The imminent full moon made his features appear care-worn and tired, but he was breathtakingly handsome to me. I whispered, "I love you."
His arms tightened around me. A strand of Remus' hair brushed my cheek as he leaned down for a kiss. He said with a certainty that dazzled me more than the burst of colour lighting the London skyline, "I love you too."
A/N: "Pan…you're pink." is the quote from Peter Pan after Wendy gives him a 'thimble', which of course is really a kiss. I thought it appropriate for Remus' love and kiss to put the colour back into Tonks' world…and hair.
Special Note: I'm taking a bit of a holiday, so next Friday I'll post Remus' pov one shot, Everything and the Moon, to tide beloved readers over until the week following, when we start out the new year with A Wolf in the Moonlight. Here's the summary: When her old pal Rory calls in a favour, Tonks searches for a missing girl with the help of her new love Remus and his 'dog' Snuffles. I hope you look forward to it like an after Christmas/Boxing Day sale!
Special thanks to GingerGurl for being a brilliant beta, and to the fabulous readers whose encouragement and comments meant so much. I hope Father Christmas fills everyone's stocking to overflowing, and peace on whatever part of the earth you're on is felt along with goodwill toward men, and your writer, for the ending of this story. The generous people who gave the gift of a review last chapter and made my holidays happy were♥ 40/16 ♥ alix33 ♥ Bright Moonlight ♥ black-shadow ♥ Camillia Vincent ♥ Candy Cane Jones♥ Carnivalgirl ♥ cat ♥cupcakeswirl♥ DeSilva♥ die Loreley♥ distempered ♥ DramaQueen04 ♥ eleen ♥ ElspethBates ♥ Embellished ♥ Emmeline Black ♥ FNP ♥ GraceRichie ♥ HollyWriter ♥ i'mnotjkr ♥ ishandahalf ♥ Jedi Knight Padme ♥ Kates Master's Sister♥ krumfan♥ Machiavelli Jr ♥ MamaLisa♥ NazgulGirl ♥ Newbie GK ♥ Neurotica ♥ plzkthx101♥ Quicksilver Foxx ♥ RahNee ♥ screwtheperfectlife ♥ Shannan♥ Slipknot- 3113 ♥ Slytherin Love Goddess ♥ sugerplumfairy ♥ sunny9847 ♥ Super Kawaii Lamb♥ The Demonic Duo ♥ and WriterMerrin ♥