A/N: This fic is an imaged scenario of mine, following a particularly harsh transformation while Remus is underground with the other werewolves. There's a good deal of blood, so watch out. Unfortunately, there's a chance that this will be my last fic for a while... I do hope you enjoy. Contains spoilers for HBP.
He didn't know where he was when he awoke, tentative rays of sunlight breaking through the night and caressing his naked body. He didn't know where he was, but he knew what had happened; he knew what he had done. The thought made his stomach churn fiercely.
The bile choked him, but the pain that followed wiped his mind blank. Every inch of his skin was set aflame, each muscle tense and raw and aching below the surface. The pain hadn't been this bad when he was young and his bones were much more eager to heal. A lot of life hadn't been as painful when he was young.
It never hurt this much when he took the Wolfsbane Potion. That's why he couldn't. He knew, when he'd agreed to this covert mission, that authenticity is the most important disguise of all when you are under cover. Keeping your head straight, your goals in mind, and your morals in tact only come second to the quality of the job. If you don't keep up your disguise, you die, and then all your struggles and sacrifices would have happened in vain.
Remus Lupin had given up his life and his love for this mission. He was most decidedly not going to muddle it up, despite the pain of his wounds and the chills that overwhelmed his lean frame as the fever hit.
Your head, Lupin, he commanded himself. Keep your head. As if to enforce this, Remus lifted a shaking hand to his forehead and brushed the grimy fringe from his raw skin. Pain seared through him, sharp as a knife, from his head down to the very tips of his toes, and he let out a great shudder that only served to aggravate the wounds further.
He didn't know where he was, but he knew what had happened and what would happen if he didn't find shelter before daybreak. A werewolf, freshly returned to its human form without even so much as a trace of a chain restraining him, was susceptible to punishment by law. And he couldn't get caught; not now, not when he had lost so much already.
With the very last of his strength, Remus closed his eyes and, knowing how dangerous it was, knowing that there was a great chance he would find himself in that familiar graveyard, staring at the bleak graves of his friends, he concentrated on one feeling – comfort – and then Disapparated.
Tonks was startled out of a light slumber by a crack, followed closely by a muffled thump. Heart pounding, she grabbed her wand from the bedside table, inched her way through the short corridor of her flat, and found herself in the living room, staring at a wholly unexpected sight.
She had seen a lot of gruesome things in her life, but the sight of Remus Lupin, bloody and hardly conscious on her living floor, made her gasp and recoil slightly.
For a moment, she thought that he might have been dying, and she forgot how to breathe.
"Remus," she whispered, diving to the floor beside him, ignoring the burn of the carpet against her exposed knees.
When she studied him, she noticed his current state of undress and forced herself not to blush. She had never seen this highly private man with even a single button of his robes undone, and now – well, it certainly hadn't happened as it did in her dreams. Those dreams were filled with hungry gazes, warm caresses, sweet words she had been dying to hear dripping from his lips like honey, not Tonks kneeling beside her love as he lay bloody and sickly on the coarse living room floor.
She was jolted back to the horrible reality as Remus attempted to shift and hissed and winced instead, before falling back against the floor. He seemed to have noticed her staring at his naked body, and was trying to cover himself from view as best as possible. Tonks grabbed an orange quilt off her bright prink sofa and covered him as fast as she could.
"I'm all right," he assured her in a voice even raspier than usual. The very words seemed to bring him pain. "Don't know… how I ended up here… though."
"We have to get you to St. Mungo's immediately. I'll floo for assistance and – "
"No," he protested in a startlingly firm manner. "No one else can be involved."
"But you're hurt – "
"They'll suspect… if I return with healed wounds. It's not… natural."
"Return?" she asked, baffled. Her mind was reeling. "You're not telling me that you plan to go back there after - " Remus shook his head slightly, as if to stop her protests, and she took a deep, steadying breath. You're a bloody Auror, after all, she reminded herself. "I'll tend to your wounds. I know enough healing spells to get you patched up and then - "
"No. No spells."
"But - "
"Too suspicious," he rasped, his breathing labored.
"But you're hurt," she whispered, ashamed of the tears prickling at the corner of her eyes.
"Tonks," he gasped, "please."
She nodded, not trusting her voice, and summoned a wet cloth. She held it over him, studying the lines of gashes – claw marks, bite marks – lined thickly with dirt. She looked into his eyes and they only revealed a hint of pain as she tentatively touched the cloth against the first gash. She then dabbed at the many wounds until the rag was stained an impossibly dark crimson.
While attending to a particularly deep gash, one that ran from his shoulder down to his abdomen, she watched his eyes drift shut, his face showing the amount of self-restraint he was practicing and the pain that had escaped its clutches, as well. "Who did this to you?"
His honey-brown eyes opened slowly and caught hers in the weak dawn light. "Isn't it obvious? I did. I did this… to myself." Tonks hid her surprise, but either Remus could see through her or he had just expected it because he smiled wryly as his eyes closed again. "Look what I did to myself; I would do worse to you…"
She paused in her movement to glare at him, even though his eyes were shut. "Not you, Remus. The wolf."
"Love, I am the wolf. It would serve you well to except that now."
"So young…" he whispered as he watched her through hooded eyes. She tossed the hopelessly bloody cloth aside and conjured another.
Remus' eyes drifted shut and he stopped flinching and talking as the rag brushed against his raw wounds, and she assumed that he had lost consciousness. The only indication that he was alive at all was the erratic rise and fall of his chest as he struggled against bruised ribs to breathe. He called me love, she thought, a hint of happiness breaking through the anxiety as she watched his relaxed face.
Tonks ran a finger across the apple of his left cheek – one of the few areas devoid of cuts and bruises – and was shocked to feel his skin on fire beneath hers. Wide-eyed, she retracted, as if burned. He was even more hurt than he had let on. It was serious, possibly fatal. She wouldn't let him die. She couldn't. No matter what he said.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered as she lifted her wand over his body.
When he awoke again, the first thing he saw was Tonks' face hovering over his, a determined look in her deep ocean eyes. She hadn't noticed that he had regained consciousness and he watched for a few moments as she muttered healing spells over the wounds that littered his body. But then it registered – the harm her healing would do to the mission – and, with the little strength he could muster, he gasped, "Stop."
Shocked, Tonks dropped the rag. She then returned his cautious gaze with one of pure, unabashed resolve and went back to work, ignoring him.
"Please stop. I'll… be fine."
The carpet – once white, but now dirtied from spills and shoes – had turned crimson beneath his body. But she had closed most of the serious wounds now and, a few minutes ago, had forced blood-replenishing potion down his throat. He would be all right, even if he wasn't happy about it.
She shook her head. "I'm not letting you die. Not here, not now, not when I can save you!" He was about to protest, but she cut him off. "And don't tell me about the bloody mission and the greater good, Remus. I've put myself on the line countless times for the cause and I've earned the right to be selfish one in a while and that time is now." Her voice cracked. "I want you alive so I'm keeping you alive, and you have no say in the matter!"
He attempted some sort of nod and his eyes drifted shut. She thought he might have been slipping away again, but then a weak hand reached up and tangled itself in her mousy brown locks before stealing a short, chaste kiss.
Although he wasn't strong then, her shock had left her immobile and Remus was able to pull Tonks down easily for a deep kiss – desperate, lingering, passionate. She could taste the blood of an open wound on his lower lip and she felt scared and sorry and repulsed and aroused all at the same time. It didn't seem possible, but Remus flooded her senses until the bitter, metallic taste mingled with his spicy sweetness and all she could feel was Remus and his hands as they softly caressed her through the thin fabric of her nightdress.
She knew he wouldn't remember this in a few hours, but she had been waiting far too long to be touched and held and treasured by him again to stop it from happening. This would be her memory, hers alone, and although it wasn't that perfect world she had dreamt of in between worrying nightmares, it was all she would get now and she really couldn't expect more than that. Not when it was a time of war, and she was in love with Remus Lupin.
"I lied before," he admitted breathlessly. "I know why I ended up here. I wanted you. You're the only one I want. Always."
Remus' candid words made her feel warm and giddy, despite the situation. His hand gripped hers as she leaned over and kissed him again, his response bringing chills curling up and down her spine in waves.
"Dora, Dora…" he repeated over and over again, slipping in and out of consciousness. "I love you." She'd returned his words just as fervently, but he didn't seem to notice. "Please, Dora," he choked, "know that I love you."
And then he was out again and she finally allowed her tears to flow freely.
When he awoke the third time that day, he was laying on a soft bed with a bright green and pink quilt wrapped around him. Groggily, he stretched and, despite himself, was pleased to find that Tonks' healing had left him with only a lingering dull ache from the previous night's events.
It was past noon and he knew he was in Tonks' bed wearing nothing at all and yet he wasn't surprised. He knew exactly where he was, but couldn't remember what had happened. He couldn't recall what he wanted to know – how much she had seen, what he had admitted to her in his fever-induced haze, her startled eyes as she witnessed the true brutal nature of himself. Instead, all he could remember was what he didn't want to think about – the feel of her soft touch against his burning skin, the concerned and fiercely loving look in her eyes, the soft sweetness of her lips… How could he ever get over her now?
Grimacing at the stiffness of his joints, Remus turned toward the bedside table, and found a steaming hot cup of tea and a small bottle of pain-relieving potion wrapped in a note. He uncurled the parchment and, in her careless scrawl that she seemed to have put just a little more care into, it said:
The tea and potion are for you; drink up. I had to go into work – you know how it goes. Tried waking you, but you wouldn't budge. I've also left you new robes in the closet – don't worry, I bought secondhand and attempted some mending spells. Needless to say, they look worse than ever, so I suppose they'll do. You're welcome to stay as long as you need.
Remus gulped down the tea, reveling in the feel of the warm liquid as it somewhat regenerated him. He then dressed in the tattered robes Tonks had left him and, after a stop in the loo and a half-hearted attempt at re-opening closed wounds, he Disapparated.
When Tonks came home that night, she found an empty cup of tea, an untouched bottle of potion, and an immaculately made bed. She smiled slightly; the note she'd left him was gone.