Disclaimer: No rights, just the privilege of writing a story. This ficlet is set GoF, and can stand alone, but if you read Once in a Blue Moon, dear reader, I think you'll enjoy it. :D
Touch of the Moon
Remus dreaded the full moon the way men in classical literature feared love. Bending over a fragment of Euripides' Hippolytus, he translated a portion of the chorus while waiting for his spell to reveal if the Latin copy of a Greek Tragedy was authentic.
Love distils desire upon the eyes,
Love brings bewitching grace unto the heart
Of those he would destroy.
He agreed with the first two assertions, but not the last. If Sirius were there, he would argue otherwise, using himself as an example of a life destroyed by misplaced friendship and loss.
If James were still with them, he would have vigorously debated his old friend, citing Lily's saving love. Padfoot and Prongs had enjoyed arguing over anything and everything. Perhaps it was because they'd been secure in their friendships, and never feared losing them.
The whistling of an enchanted kettle reminded that it was time for tea. When he became engrossed in his work, Remus tended to lose track of mundane concerns like proper meals. Reluctantly setting his client's parchment aside, he placed a protection spell over the worktable and rose from his stool.
Walking the few metres from the lounge-turned-workroom to his diminutive kitchen, Remus thought whimsically that he had the shortest commute to work of any man he knew. While he assembled an enormous, rare roast beef sandwich, his eyes wandered from the crowded bookshelves and tables to the alcove that held reading chairs with a table between instead of a dining set.
Settling in his favourite chair, Remus took a bite of reddish beef and huffed in amusement. At least he was sure Nymphadora wasn't interested in him for his posh flat.
Thinking of the vibrant young woman who had swept into his life, his lips curved. Every time he dropped into a pub to get a pint, he remembered the way she had picked him up the night they'd met. She had mistaken him for the subject of her marital enquiry case, but she'd been powerfully attracted all the same. He still felt a bit smug about that, and how even when she tried to deny their chemistry, Nymphadora couldn't stop from kissing him.
Finishing his sandwich, Remus cleared the few dishes and padded through the bedroom to the lavatory. Washing his hands, he evaluated his reflection in the mirror.
Not bad. Hair's a bit too long, and more grey than I'd like, but Nymphadora says it looks good on me, and at least it's not receding.
He gave a bark of laughter. Lack of hair had never been his problem. Light brown eyes considered lines the imminent full moon had carved into his face. Compared to his partner's former boyfriends, he was old, poor, and plain.
Why don't you add 'dangerous' to the list and go play the violin?
Turning away from the mirror and self pity, Remus focused on the all the things Nymphadora had said she liked about him. His smile, his sense of humour, his distinguished good looks, his sexy professor voice….
Looking down, he grinned and continued the mental inventory. His hands, the way he used those hands, his lips…his kisses….
Cheered, he returned to work. Thinking of all the things he admired about his colourful partner--her smile, her outgoing personality, her mouth, and the way she kissed him like he was more delicious than chocolate--Remus began to whistle.
Mid-afternoon, he placed the parchment in a case and pulled on his least shabby wizard robes. After warding the flat, he descended the stairs and stepped outside. The October breeze was crisp and cool. It even smelt like fall, earthy, with a hint of smoke.
His landlord, Mr. Patil, rushed out of the corner shop located beneath the flat. He shook a paper, Indian accent pronounced as he asked excitedly, "Do you think this could be true, Mr. Lupin? How thrilling for my nieces, if so!"
Looking down at the front page Quibbler article, Remus suppressed a laugh as he read aloud, "Triwizard Tournament or Twister Championship? Ministry denies rumours of Hogwarts happenings. Reliable sources indicate that a momentous event will take place after the Hallowe'en Feast. Fudge refuses to comment." Smiling at the good-hearted, if gullible, fellow, Remus nodded. "There is a definite possibility, Mr. Patil. Dumbledore is an avid Twister aficionado."
White teeth gleamed in a round, dark face as the man burst into laughter. "I meant the Tournament, Mr. Lupin." Grinning, Patil joked as he backed toward his shop, "I must owl the Quibbler about the Twister, since I have such a reliable source!"
Remus' smile faded as a thought struck. Patil was having him on…wasn't he? Shrugging, he decided that since he never read the Quibbler, it didn't matter if any facetious comments to his landlord ended up as articles. 'Sirius Black, Singing Sensation' would be frame-worthy, though.
Apparating to Charing Cross Road, he strolled into the rare bookshop and greeted the owner, Mr. Hopkins. Glancing up from the package he was assembling at the counter, the silver-haired wizard returned, "Good morning, Remus. From the jauntiness of your stride, I take it that the Hippolytus is authentic?"
"Yes, my client should be pleased."
"'Should' is the operative word. Your client, who arrived early, struck me as albae gallinae filius."
Remus studied steely blue eyes and deduced that the man wasn't using the Roman expression for a lucky devil in the usual manner. He was saying the client was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and yet claimed credit for his fortune. How odd. The wizard he remembered had been unassuming.
With a half smile, he reminded his father's old friend, "Fronti nulla fides."
"It's hard not to judge a book by its cover when it depicts an enormous serpent-tongued skull wreathed in green smoke."
"Morsmordre?" uttered Remus in disbelief.
Hopkins said judiciously, "If that man does not bear a Dark Mark, I should be very much surprised." He urged, "Tread carefully, my friend."
Nodding his thanks, Remus walked slowly toward the back office. Just outside the open door, his confusion over the difference between his initial impression of the client and his friend's assessment dissipated. The arrogantly handsome wizard leafing through a volume of Catullus' poetry wasn't Mr. Crowley. It was Evan Rosier, son of an infamous Death Eater, and Nymphadora's ex-fiancé.
Trying to consider the man objectively was hard. He despised Rosier with an intensity heightened by territorial instincts. Even though he felt like growling, Remus grudgingly understood what had drawn Nymphadora to the Slytherin. Like her, he'd once been a half-blood flattered by the offer of friendship from popular, charismatic purebloods.
Unlike Evan, James and Sirius, although far from perfect, had been true friends. They had never been ashamed of him, or betrayed his trust. At least not deliberately, in the callous manner Rosier had deceived his fiancée.
Catching sight of the him in the doorway, the blond wizard drawled, "I find Catullus amusing, don't you?"
"Are you referring to something in particular?" Moving to sit behind the desk, he introduced himself tersely. "Remus Lupin. Are you Mr. Crowley's representative?"
Blue eyes narrowed--was Rosier aware that he hadn't been extended a hand in greeting as a deliberate slight? Did he know who Remus was? Had he come here to meet the wizard who had replaced him in Nymphadora's affections?
"Evan Rosier. No, Crowley is my representative, and this is what amused me." Carelessly tossing the text onto the desk, he quoted the poetry in Latin.
Remus spoke the verses in English. "But now, what riles me is that your disgusting spittle has piddled on a pure girl's pure kisses." Controlling his tone and expression with effort, he inquired levelly, "You find that amusing?"
"Extremely." Leaning forward slightly, the younger man's voice conveyed mocking amusement. "Such righteous indignation, as though the man had despoiled a Vestal Virgin." His eyes never left Remus' as he said with not-so-hidden meaning, "Even if she'd been a Vestal, she was more than willing." Relaxing back into his chair, Rosier smirked. "Hypocrisy is so humorous, isn't it?"
"Almost as much as the following verses..." After quoting rapidly in Latin, Remus translated slowly, "You'll pay for that, though. Every century shall know you and Fame in old age tell what sort you are."
Patrician hands clenched into fists before releasing. Evan's tight smile ill-concealed anger, although his voice was smooth as he said, "How droll Catullus was, when in the end, he lost his best friend, and his lady love as well." He made no further comment, to allow the double meaning to sink in.
Remus' expression remained inscrutable. If Rosier thought to goad him with insinuations and unsubtle allusions, he had failed. The Slytherin was the one without real friends or a real love.
Handing Evan the sealed packet, he said, "I told Crowley upon first examination that I thought there was a good chance the copy was authentic, and from the eleventh century. Testing has proven that hypothesis correct. As requested, the report and the card of a collector interested in purchasing the scroll are included as well. Good day."
They stood facing each other for a tense moment, until Rosier shook his head dismissively and left. Seated once more behind the desk, a quill was picked up and instantly set aside. Remus was afraid that in his present frame of mind, he'd snap it in half.
"I thought you could use a cup of tea."
"Thank you, Mr. Hopkins." Accepting the mug, Remus smiled when the other man sat in the chair across from him.
"I've invited you to call me Andrew on numerous occasions."
Sheepishly, he admitted, "I didn't want to seem disrespectful."
Hopkins offered mildly, "You may call me 'Mr. Andrew' as you did when I visited your father, if you'd prefer." Lips twitching, he added, "As long as you refrain from showing me your 'big boy knickers' again."
They shared a quiet laugh over the memory. Grateful that he hadn't run bare arsed through the flat when his parents had guests, Remus said, "Not to worry, Andrew."
Pointing to a framed cross-stitch on the wall, the older wizard shared, "Your mother claimed to have given the equivalent of a blood sacrifice to create that. Anne wagered that she couldn't do it the Muggle way."
Bittersweet smiles crossed both faces, thinking of the women who had been close friends. Remus studied the words Domus et placens uxor and mused, "Home and a satisfying wife…men like Rosier will never understand that's all a man needs to be happy."
"My wife complained that Horace never told what a woman needs to be happy too."
Remus grinned, before sobering and sharing his unease over Evan's visit.
Andrew nodded. "His sort delegates, they don't arbitrarily decide to pick up a package. He came to take your measure." Chuckling, he said, "From the stony look on his face when he left, Rosier found you weightier than he'd expected." A clock chimed. "As Persius the poet would say, fugit hora, the hour flies."
Shaking Andrew's hand, Remus thanked him for the use of the office, and the counsel, before returning to his flat. He reflected it seemed that more than the hour was flying by. His relationship with Nymphadora had developed so quickly, from that initial rush of attraction, to weeks of thinking about her, the first date, and then spending all their free time together…until today.
He had told her that he would be out of town, in order to hide his 'furry little problem' as James had called it. It had been hard to lie, which was ironic, considering that he'd been lying by omission the entire time he'd known her. She was so sweet, worrying about his health. He had been close to confessing a couple of nights ago, but the memory of another woman's reaction had stilled his tongue.
Straightening his worktable, Remus tried to recall Dorcas Meadowes' face. Reddish hair, greenish eyes, pale skin that had lost all colour when she'd brought up sharing a flat, and he'd replied….
"I'm afraid that's not possible, Dorcas."
Tears began welling. It seemed he always made her cry. "Don't you love me, Remus? We've been going together for ages. James and Lily are married. My friends wonder why you won't commit…"
He tried to smile. "I've been faithful since you asked me to Hogsmeade seventh year. Isn't that commitment enough? Tell your friends to mind their own business and let's go try that new Thai place…."
"It's not enough anymore, Remus." she interrupted. "I need a better reason than that."
"I'm a werewolf." The words spilled out, washing the sadness off his partner's face, replacing it with slowly dawning horror.
"No, you're kind, gentle…not a…a…."
She backed away, shaking her head. "A monster."
That memory was faded, muted by time into a recollection that caused no real pain. Poor Dorcas had died during a mission for the Order, at the hands of worse monsters than he would ever be. Her rejection had made him wary, and hesitant to tell a prospective partner about his incurable affliction. Remus had been mostly content with the few, shallow relationships he'd had in the years since Dorcas.
Nymphadora had changed that. He felt as he had that time Sirius pushed him into the deep end of a swimming pool, and he'd learnt to swim. He'd been scared at first, but then exhilaration took over, and he'd loved it, the way he loved….
His internal clock interrupted his thoughts. It was time. Walking through his bedroom, Remus turned the invisible handle at the far end and stepped into the soundproof room. He felt the touch of the moon, although the lone window high on the back wall was boarded over.
Wolfsbane potion allowed him to put off transformation, so he sat down and leaned against the side wall, thinking of the woman who allowed him to call her Nymphadora when all others were asked to call her Tonks. He could think of her while in wolf form. The potion enabled him to keep his mind, but last month when he'd done that, he'd ended up howling for hours. He'd rather forgo the hoarseness that resulted.
Nymphadora…I wonder if her mother named her after Nymphidia, the Queen of the Faeries in Drayton's poem. Maybe, after I scrape up the courage to tell the whole truth, she'll accept me and her folks will invite me over for tea, so I can ask. If her father doesn't punch me, or her mother hex me first.
Remus' black humour changed to electric awareness. Someone was entering the room.
He lifted his head to see Nymphadora, looking unsure, but determined. He almost smiled, but instead growled for her to get out. She did no such thing, his contrary sweetheart. After she shut the door, wide-eyed but defiant, he explained that she wasn't going anywhere because the sun had just set and the panel wouldn't open until the sunrise.
She looked up at the window. "How do you know? It's boarded over. You can't see that."
He rose to his feet. "I don't have to see the sunset; I can feel it, like I feel the moon rising, waiting…calling me."
What big eyes she had. Remus felt like the big, bad wolf stalking Little Red as he padded toward her. Nymphadora had learnt somehow that he was a werewolf, and yet she'd come to him. He started to reach for her.
She slapped him so hard his head rocked to the side. "How dare you lie to me about who you are?"
Of all the reactions he had imagined, this was the one that gladdened his heart and put a wolfish smile on his face. She didn't care what he was. Nymphadora only wanted the truth...and wanted him.
The man who prided himself on his intellect surrendered to sensation--her fingers tugging his hair, the wet heat of her mouth, the softness of her body. The scent of her skin and the sound of her breath hitching in excitement were satisfying on a primal level he'd never felt before.
Before he gave up thinking about anything other than the woman in his arms, Remus wondered if wolves felt this way when they found a mate.