Chapter 21: Home
Wizards and witches, goblins and ghouls poured into Hogwarts in the days preceding Dumbledore's funeral. Remus apparated into Hogsmeade daily. He saw Bill at the infirmary, checked on Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny, and finally made his way to Tonks's tiny flat. They spent several melancholy evenings at the Three Broomsticks, staring into their pints of butterbeer.
"Are you taking charge of the Order now?" she asked.
"I suppose. Dumbledore said—he gave me instructions. Almost as if he knew." Remus drummed his fingers on his still full mug of butterbeer. "I didn't quite realize that Dumbledore could die. At least—not so suddenly."
"You loved him." It was a statement, not a question.
"I did. He gave me a chance. He was the only reason why I got to go to Hogwarts as a student, and the only reason why I got to go back as a teacher. When I was a boy, he was the only adult I knew—other than my parents—who thought werewolves could be mainstreamed." Remus paused. "He didn't even see me as a werewolf. He saw me as a smart kid, rather sickly, rather shy, who needed encouragement. He made me a prefect. He got me my first teaching job. He brought me into the Order. When James and Sirius thought I was passing information to the Death Eaters, Dumbledore trusted me." Remus winked a tear out of his eye. "Though I think he suspected Sirius."
Tonks put her hand on Remus's. "You're missing him too."
"So are you."
"I'm too new at this—losing people. I don't understand how you've lived through two wars."
"I hope it's only two, and not a war every fifteen years for the rest of our lives. As long as Dumbledore was alive, I didn't doubt we would win. I knew it would be costly, and I feared it would be long, but I was absolutely certain we could bring down Voldemort in the end. Without him—and without Severus—I don't know."
"We've got Harry."
Remus nodded sadly. "Harry is a mysterious and wonderful boy—man. But Harry is also mortal."
Another silence opened between them. Tonks sipped her butterbeer. Then suddenly she said, "Remus." He looked up. "What changed? I mean, so that you are now maybe possibly considering the wisdom of marrying me. Was it Bill, or was it Dumbledore's death?"
"It was Molly and Arthur. If Molly and Arthur and Minerva and," he smiled wryly, "Fleur all think that werewolves can marry, and they still think that after what happened to Bill, then maybe they're right. Dumbledore thought werewolves should be mainstreamed. Sometimes I thought he trusted me too much. But Dumbledore was right about most things, so maybe he was right about this." Remus paused. "All of a sudden, it feels like a whole new world. Not a world I wanted—but if Dumbledore can be murdered, just like that, in a wave of a wand, all sorts of other strange things might be possible. Even you and me."
"Are you still afraid of hurting me?"
"Yes. All the time. I've seen far too graphic depictions of my own capacity for violence, in the Shrieking Shack and in my dreams. But when I was underground this year, I started to realize that what you kept telling me contained a measure of truth. I'm not like most werewolves. It's not because I'm nice and tame and safe, but at least I haven't deliberately honed my taste for violence. I'm bitter, but mostly towards Fenrir Greyback and his gang, not towards the wizarding community. I've made choices that make me different." Remus smiled wryly. "Another thing that Dumbledore used to say."
After the burial Remus turned to Tonks. "What are your plans tonight?"
"A blank. Yours?"
"Are you going back to the werewolves?"
"Tomorrow. Briefly. I need to see Jonathan Longsnout again. I'll set up a reporting mechanism if he's willing."
"Fenrir Greyback is on to you."
"Yes," acknowledged Remus. "But he has been for a while. Since, say, October."
"I suppose you need to go."
"I'm not sure that I really do need to go. I'm doing it mostly for Dumbledore. I'm going to finish following directions before I start giving directions. When I come back we'll have to start from scratch. I never imagined fighting Voldemort without Dumbledore." He paused. "But you can have this evening," he offered gently.
"Come back to Hogsmeade, then."
Tonks uncharmed the door of her flat and went into the kitchen. "Are you hungry? I could whip up some soup, curry, scrambled eggs."
Remus, who was by now quite familiar with Tonks's cooking, shook his head. "I had a sandwich at the funeral." He went to the sofa and sat down. "Tonks—will you let me hold you? I think it might make me feel better."
She snuggled into him, and he held her like a great teddy bear. He thought about his childhood, in and out of St. Mungo's, locked in padded rooms, the teddy bears he had hugged and loved and torn to pieces in his monthly madness. He held her a little tighter.
"Remus?" He looked into the heart-shaped, still very young face beneath the pink hair. "Stay the night."
"Oh, Tonks, I can't do that. I'll marry you properly. All in good time."
She removed his arm from her waist and sat up. Remus sat up too, with a schoolboy sensation of being called to order.
"Thank you, Remus. But you know, we could both be dead next week."
"The middle of a war—"
"—is the right time to live your life." She hesitated. "This spring, when I heard that someone had been savaged by Greyback, I was afraid it was you. I went to Dumbledore. He told me that you had said you cared more about my happiness than my safety. He said—we were both fighters."
Remus smiled faintly. He was enough of a fighter to know when he was beaten. He was enough of a soldier to know the voice of authority when he heard it. With fluttering heart and shaking hands, he caressed her cheek. He unbuttoned her shirt. He unfastened her trousers.
Tonks threw her arms around him, pushing him back on the sofa cushions with a shriek of joy. For a moment she looked like the girlish, impetuous Tonks he had met two years before.
Remus woke to streaming sunlight. On the pillow beside him, Tonks's eyes were still shut tight in the familiar heart-shaped face. He drew the covers back gently and gazed at her, her perfect, uninjured, unsavaged body. He reached out and touched her shoulder, her cheek, her flamingo-colored hair.
She blinked and propped herself up on an elbow. "I just had the most marvelous dream."
"I think my dream actually happened."
Her smile sparkled. "So," she asked with interest, "when's the wedding?"
"I—well, er—next week, if I can get back. And if you're willing."
"I'm willing. I don't need much finery."
"I would take you in your shift. Or your Weird Sisters t-shirt."
"I know," she said happily, tracing his scarified arm. "I know. How soon am I going to lose you again?"
"Almost immediately, I'm afraid. Say an hour. Are you hungry?"
He laughed. "I'll make breakfast."
Remus was charming a batch of scones into the oven (with the thought that it would be wise to leave Tonks some prepared leftovers if he didn't want her to starve before he got back) when he heard a loud crack! behind him. Horrified, he gripped his wand and whirled around to face—
"What are you doing here? What happened?"
"Unconfirmed reports of Death Eater activity in central London. A cement mixer exploded in front of Euston Station. Maybe just Muggle-baiting, but the Muggles have summoned three amulences. Robards wants Tonks at the Ministry, and I need to see her first. Is she here?"
"She's in the shower. Scone?"
"Just coffee." Arthur put his wand in his pocket and picked up the coffee cup. "Sixteen hours ago we were at the funeral—thank goodness nothing happened there. Now it's back to the trenches. You look healthy this morning, Remus. Positively blooming."
"I'm still in shock," said Remus.
"So am I," said Arthur. "So are we all. But I'm glad to see you looking alive." He leaned over and whispered, "Let her take very good care of you, Remus."
"Don't tell Molly I was here," replied Remus, as softly.
Arthur chuckled. "I won't."
Author note: This is where I get to say thank you to all the reviewers. Your enthusiasm and encouragement has meant a lot to me. I haven't posted a long story before, and you made it a very enjoyable experience.
If you simply cannot get enough of Remus and Tonks and you want some glimpses of them living happily ever after, take a look at "A Romance, with Dragons." Tonks reciprocates for Molly and Arthur's matchmaking by playing matchmaker for their son . . .