For everyone who has read, reviewed, cajoled, encouraged, supported, and otherwise rocked my world xxx
Tonks stood outside the windmill. It was another lovely day, clouds chasing across sky and sun streaking the grass between the shadows, but she couldn't properly enjoy it with apprehension twisting her stomach into a knot. In all the times she'd been here she'd never been nervous before, because she'd always known – or suspected – what would happen: she would try and Remus would give her his excuses, but today....
Today was different. A new day, a new them. Or at least that's what Remus had said. Tonks wasn't entirely sure she trusted it. Hope flickered in her veins, but she wasn't sure that wouldn't be extinguished the second he opened the door. He'd had hours to think, to talk himself out of them, to rationalise, and she couldn't tell which Remus would be there when she knocked.
She'd seen it before. Battle, nearly dying, losing a friend, it made people think they felt things that they didn't, made people rash, impulsive, impetuous, and sometimes those things dwindled by the morning.
She almost wanted to put off the moment because a flicker of hope was better than nothing, but the curtains twitched, the shadow of Remus' frame outlined beyond, and she knew he was there, just waiting for her to knock. Taking a deep breath she rapped lightly on the muted wood, and the door opened so quickly she was sure he must have already had his hand on the doorknob.
Remus stood back, gestured to the lounge. That was certainly new, different, and she stepped over the threshold into the small, circular room.
"How was your day?" he said, and Tonks rolled her eyes.
"The Ministry are doing their best to make a bad thing worse. Predictable but tiresome."
Remus smiled and Tonks looked around, taking in the shabby furniture and the threadbare carpet. The place seemed different, lighter, although as soon as the thought formed she wondered if that wasn't just Remus' demeanour, that instead of slumping and slouching he seemed brighter, as if something inside him had remembered how to be.
"Would you like some tea? Or there's Firewhiskey if it's been more one of those days."
"Either," she said, tucking her hair – which she'd managed to make a pale mauve – behind her ear.
She watched as Remus went into the kitchen, reached into a cupboard above a blackened stove, and he returned with two squat glasses half-filled with amber liquid. She wondered if she should read something into that being the drink he'd chosen, if they were both going to need some kind of liquid fortification, but she dismissed the thought as paranoid when he smiled and gestured to the small table next to the window.
It was strewn with papers, and from what she could tell, maps of Scotland, the Lake District and the Cotswolds. Remus flicked his wand in their general direction and they arranged themselves into a neatish pile, and settled next to a jam jar stuffed with purple hyacinths.
Purple hyacinths. His mother had said something about them – something about them being for apologies. Did he know? Was that why –
Remus noticed her noticing them, and gestured to a seat.
"Those are for you," he said, and Tonks sank down, tucking her feet under the chair.
"Oh," she said. "Thank you, but you didn't have to – "
"They're Conjured so they won't last, but – "
Remus sat down opposite her, smiling a little, curling his fingers around his glass.
"I'm glad you came."
When he met her eye his expression was equal parts sheepish and mischievous, and abruptly any lingering awkwardness disappeared as Tonks realised that she didn't really care exactly what happened next, that for now it was enough just to be on this side of the door. It was nice just to be with him again, to have a conversation – however inconsequential – that didn't involve deep thought and justifications.
"So what's the plan?" she said, lifting her glass to her lips. "Should I do one of my speeches, or – "
"Actually I was going to ask if you wanted to marry me."
The mouthful of Firewhiskey Tonks had been halfway through swallowing halted in her throat, and then made a startled retreat back into her mouth, making her cough into her glass.
She stared at him as if confirmation of what she thought he'd just said might be written on his face, spluttered another cough, and Remus took out his wand, Summoned something from the kitchen and caught it smartly. He set it down on the table, and when Tonks looked up from her choking fit, on the table between them was a small brown box, its corners tattered, its sides decked with a pattern of faded white polka dots.
Remus smiled, and slowly pushed the box towards her across the table with the tips of his fingers. "If you'll have me," he said, "I would very much like to be had."
Tonks blinked at him.
"Yesterday we weren't even really together and today you want to get married?"
"You've seen me fire Twiglets up a grown man's nose, eat fish finger, pea and ketchup sandwiches and picnic in the middle of winter, and it's only now that you're questioning my sanity?" he said. One of his eyebrows inched up, and she felt a smile burgeoning in her stomach and slowly making its way to her face. "Besides, I thought perhaps the kind of girl who was crazy enough to put up with me this year might go for it."
"Oh you did."
"Yes," he said. "Apologies if I've misjudged you."
He gave the box another small nudge, and Tonks looked from him to it and back again. It was insane – completely insane – and incongruous beyond the telling – that after everything that had happened he was – of all things – proposing.
And yet at the same time, it was all so very Remus she wondered why she'd ever expected anything else.
Remus leant forward slightly, unwrapped her fingers from their clenched position around her glass. His gaze softened but turned slightly more serious as he linked their fingers together, and Tonks dragged in a breath.
"What I said when I left," he said. "I meant it. I love you very greatly – more greatly than I ever thought I'd love anyone. That you return the feeling – " He paused, searched for the words, smiling a little as he went on. " – is something so far beyond what I ever had the audacity to hope for it may well take me forever to get used to it. But – if you'd like to, then – well, I'd like for that forever to start sooner rather than later. Nowish, in fact. Will you marry me?"
Tonks stared at him. She'd never really thought about getting married. She'd thought about forever, being with Remus for the rest of her life, but she'd never really thought that anyone – Remus included – would want to marry her. But the thought was desperately enticing.
"I don't know what to say."
"A yes or no would be traditional," he said. "Although if you'd rather throw something at me and run away screaming, I would completely understand."
Tonks looked at him. His eyes were hopeful, expectant, boyishly curious, perhaps, but not at all concerned or worried. It took her a second to realise why that made her skin tingle, and then it was obvious.
For the first time, Remus was certain. Certain of her, certain of himself, certain of them.
Always, in the past – when he'd kissed her at Grimmauld Place, when he'd asked if she'd like to go out, when they'd been to the party at Steph's and decided to take things further – he'd been uncertain, in some way afraid. And now that was gone. He was certain that he loved her, and more importantly, certain that she loved him. It wasn't just a box on the table, and it wasn't a gesture of love on its own and for its own sake, it was that. Certainty, in polka dots.
"You really want to do this?"
"Me too, then. Yes."
In the next instant, before she'd even really formed the word, they were both out of their chairs and his arms were around her. He clutched her tightly to his chest, lifted her slightly off the ground, and at once everything that had kept them from each other disappeared. Her throat constricted against a barrage of emotions – joy that he finally knew, had realised what she'd been trying to say and accepted that he deserved it, and something that went beyond that, some soaring feeling that now, whatever happened, everything was going to be all right.
He held her close as if she were precious, some noise that was either the start of a laugh or a sob catching in his throat as he pressed his face to her shoulder.
"You really are the most wonderful girl."
When he found them his words were a murmur against her neck, and they turned into a steady stream of quick, hot kisses. She took his face in her hands. "I'm not, I just – "
Whatever word she'd been about to utter got swallowed by a kiss, and a second later she'd forgotten that she intended to speak. His kiss was exhilarating, and she tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling him closer. She'd wondered if she'd ever get this back, if what they'd had hadn't been irreparably damaged by the last year, but his kiss was as perfect and intense and inside-jigging as it ever had been, making her tingle all the way from her scalp to toes that were still a little way off the ground.
She took a ragged breath against his mouth, almost as if she was breathing in the entirety of him. His crisp, clean Remus smell filled her lungs, and Merlin how she'd missed that, and the feel of his body against hers. It was apparently mutual. His lips moved against hers with unfettered glee, his fingers apparently trying to map every inch. Her fingers started untucking his shirt entirely of their own accord, crawled into the pocket of warmth between him and the fabric. His stomach contracted under her touch, and she felt suddenly light-headed, either in response to him pulling at her clothes, or the thought that they'd both just agreed to forever.
"I think you might actually be making me weak at the knees, here," Remus said, laughing against her buttons, and in amongst the heat and the sensation, that was the sexiest thing of all.
"There's a really easy solution to that," she murmured, and they crumpled to the floor.
They spent the rest of the evening in a tangle of clothes, but eventually hunger called, and Tonks curled up on the sofa in one of Remus' v necks while he made them something to eat. Tonks couldn't quite believe she wasn't dreaming, but it all felt real enough, the warmth of his soft, worn jumper and the smell of whatever he was apparently burning in the kitchen. This, she thought, was everything she'd ever wanted, and she wondered if she should be grateful for the last year, if only because it had taught her the depth and breadth of her love, something she probably wouldn't have realised if she'd always had Remus right there with her.
Remus sank down beside her, offering her a plate on which nestled a sinister-looking sandwich. "Special occasion special," he said.
"Do I even want to know..?"
"Just take a bite."
She did as she was told, assailed immediately by warm cheese, mustard and sausage.
"This should be disgusting," she said.
Remus tucked into his own sandwich, and she watched him with relish, because she'd missed just the little details of him, the way he sat, the way he moved, the way his eyes darted to hers, wondering what she was thinking. Every time she looked at him she felt a little more in love with him. And now he was hers, eternally. She grinned into her sandwich.
"Nothing, just – can I say yes again?"
Remus smiled, his eyes twinkling in a way she'd thought they'd probably forgotten, and desire curled in her stomach, desire and something softer to do with being the person who'd made the twinkle reappear. It seemed impossible that she – with all her impetuous flaws and graceless faults – could do that. Maybe that was the thing it would take her forever to get used to.
Remus set his plate down, wiped his fingers, and took out his wand. "You know, it occurs to me that you haven't even seen the ring yet," he said.
"You didn't have to get a ring."
"Don't begrudge me a little tradition."
Remus Summoned the box and caught it deftly, holding it out to her on the palm of his hand. Tonks pressed her lips together and took it, her mind flitting through all the possibilities of what might be inside, what he might have chosen. She opened the box, and delicately caught between two wedges of velvet was a thin gold band with small but unmistakeable diamonds set flush against it.
"Remus it's beautiful, but – "
"Try it on."
"Remus – "
His voice was playfully stern, and he met her eye with a gaze that was every inch the steely professor. She laughed, obligingly slipped the ring out of the box and onto her finger. She'd never really been the kind of girl who dreamt of engagement rings or longed for jewellery – something which had been compounded every time she'd tried on some of her mother's vast collection and got sapphires and rubies caught on the curtains and brought the rail down – but it looked very at home on her hand. More at home, in truth, than she'd thought it would.
"Do you like it? If you don't we can – "
"I love it, but – "
"If you're about to launch into some touching show of concern about the state of my finances, you needn't. I didn't buy it."
"So you've finally turned to a life of crime, then?"
"Bound to happen, sooner or later," Remus said. He shrugged and then shifted closer, his eyes flickering to where the ring sat on her finger. He lifted her hand a little, considered it, then kissed the back of her hand. "Actually it's a gift. From my mother. It was her engagement ring and she gave it to me the day she met you, just in case."
"You've had it since – " Remus nodded, the corners of his mouth just inching up into a smile. "Did you want to marry me, way back then?"
"Before that, actually."
Tonks' mouth dropped open and Remus looked away, a little sheepish.
"So when exactly did you decide?"
"When we met and you told me what I was mattered less than who, when you kissed me in the kitchen, when we sat on the wall at the Poplars, when we talked about my condition, when Sirius died – I decided over and over. I just never felt it was fair to ask."
"Honestly?" he said, and met her eye as she nodded. He shifted closer, his fingers fluttering up to her face, tracing patterns on her cheek. "It was a lot of things, but I think the biggest factor was your hair."
"Your hair," he said. His fingers separated a strand, and he looked at it for a second, rapt. "It's intrinsic magic – I remember you saying when you were younger you couldn't control it, that sometimes what you felt was just there. When it started to change, just because of a maybe – I'd have liked to have been able to believe your words, but – "
"Magic speaks louder?"
Tonks smiled, shifted into his lap, nestling her knee between his hip and the arm of the sofa. His hands were warm on her thighs, and she rested her palm against his shirt, adjusting to the sight of the ring – her engagement ring – against it.
"I love you, you know."
She pushed her fingers into his hair and kissed him, savouring the warmth of his mouth and the long, slow pace of his kiss, then drew away again. "I think you'll find the correct response is, I love you too, Tonks."
"Is that right."
He grabbed her waist, and before she could protest, her back was against the sofa, Remus settling on top of her, his old infinite mischief glinting in his eyes. "I love you too, Tonks," he said. He kissed her far too briefly, and then deliberately studied the wall. "Although, if we're going to get married, I wonder if I can really keep calling you that."
"I swear, Remus, if you think this is some excuse to come up with a ridiculous pet name, I'll turn your balls into strawberries right now."
Remus sniggered his way into another kiss, one that was rather more substantial, and she wound her arms around his neck thinking that it was nice to have him back. Forever.
"Get out of bed, you lazy – "
Tonks whacked her alarm before it could get into the full flow of one of its tirades, and groaned her way into consciousness. Sunlight was shining inconsiderately into the room, and she blinked at the window and then smiled.
In place of the tatty tapestry that had hung there previously, her rainbow-striped efforts framed the pane. Remus must have hung them while she was at work last night, and she had to admit that they looked pretty good in Remus' window.
Or their window, as it was now. They'd debated what to do about their living arrangements, that it seemed silly to have their stuff strewn across half the country, divided between her flat, her room at the Hog's Head and here. It had been an easy decision to choose here, since it was devoid of the goat smell that dogged the Hog's Head and bigger and far prettier than her flat. It had taken less than two hours for her to pack all her things, a little longer to make it all fit, and when she'd left for work there had been over-stuffed carpet bags where the lounge should be and an explosion of socks and underwear on the staircase. Apparently Remus had taken it upon himself to find a place for everything, though, and she got out of bed, threw on some clothes and went downstairs to find him.
Remus was in the kitchen, and he smiled as he heard her approaching, turned and handed her her favourite I Hate Work mug filled with tea. She didn't need to taste it to know it'd have just the right ratio of sugar to milk, and had been brewed for the appropriate 47 seconds.
"Morning," he said. "I didn't hear you come in last night."
"I was stealthy. I'm improving. Or maybe you were just really knackered from all this interior decorating."
She gestured at the shelves, where her books were neatly piled with his, her snow globe taking pride of place on the mantelpiece alongside a picture of Remus and his friends. In some ways it was surprising how well they – and their stuff – just fitted together, and in other ways she thought it wasn't surprising at all, because they always had.
"What do you want for breakfast?" he said. "I could make you toast, or – "
"Fine with the tea for now," she said, obligingly lifting her mug to her lips and taking a sip. As she suspected, it was exactly how she liked it, and she smirked into it.
"Mad-Eye just Flooed. He wants us there early tomorrow to go over the wards before the funeral."
"You're kidding. He knows that's what I spent all of yesterday – and the day before – and the day before that – doing?"
"He said it's not that he doesn't trust you, more that Death Eaters are sneaky bastards with no respect for occasion, and it doesn't hurt to quadruple check. Apparently we'll thank him when the chairs don't turn into flaming pigs, as he claims to have seen somewhere once between hymns."
Tonks rolled her eyes, inched closer, reaching for Remus' hand. "Will you be all right?" she said. "At the funeral?"
"I'll be fine."
"It's just – when we heard – "
"I know." He laced their fingers together, shot her a thankful smile, then sighed. "It was just the shock, I think. I never expected Dumbledore to be fallible."
"I think everyone's in shock. Everyone except Scrimgeour. He's making all the right noises about how sad it is but secretly I think he thinks this is his chance."
"His chance to..?"
"Who knows. I heard him muttering something about Harry. Probably best we get there early anyway, in case Harry needs us. The last thing he needs is someone trying to play politics with him."
Remus murmured his agreement, and Tonks sipped at her tea. "What did you mean by fallible, anyway?"
"Just – when I was at the camp, one of the things that I kept thinking, one of the things that kept me there was that I might think it was a losing battle, but if Dumbledore didn't – well he was always so much cleverer than anyone. I just assumed he could see something I couldn't."
"Are you certain it was a losing battle? You don't think you made any headway at all?"
"Maybe some with the children," Remus said, sighing. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that."
He gestured to the table, drew her to it, and shoved aside the copy of The Daily Prophet that was open across it.
"I'm going back."
"To the camp?" Tonks' eyes widened in horror. "Remus you can't. Greyback knows – he'll kill you."
"I wasn't going to waltz past his cave announcing my presence with a song and dance number."
"It's too dangerous."
"It's not. I can be very sneaky."
He looked up at her, briefly mischievous, then went back to shuffling papers until he found what he was apparently looking for. It was a dirty, ragged Muggle map, but magically altered. All the various boundary spells were clearly marked as if they'd been darned with shimmering gold thread, and as Tonks leant closer, she could see movement. "What are – "
Tonks peered at the map, and there, between stains of indeterminate origin and patches of green denoting the forest she could see them. They were tiny, moving, but definitely names.
"Where the hell did you learn – how the hell did you do that?"
"It's not as detailed as I'd like," he said, peering at her somewhat apologetically through his fringe, "but I've been using it to keep tabs on the camp – the movement of the different groups. I can pin point the exact location of those sympathetic to our cause, as well as those whose loyalties are Greyback's."
"You made this while you were there?"
"Took me a couple of months," he said.
"Well there's not exactly a lot to do there, entertainment-wise. The nights were long. The days were longer. If nothing else it was something to focus on. It took me a couple of attempts – I'd forgotten a couple of the golden rules, and the terrain – "
"You've done this before?"
"Never alone," Remus said, and his eyes darted to the picture on the mantelpiece, where four boyish faces grinned out from above Gryffindor scarves. "That was one of the problems, covering the ground without people who could change form and avoid suspicion. Of course the other was that Sirius and James were always far more adept at this kind of charm work, but – "
"You've been keeping an eye on the camp all this time?"
"I didn't abandon my mission simply because I could no longer stand to be there in person. I told Isaiah I'd look out for him – you don't break promises like that."
Tonks stared at him, a little shocked by his casual brilliance and the depth of his caring. She wasn't sure how he could ever have doubted himself, but that he had was what made him Remus. She set her mug down, crossed her arms, trying to batten down her smile.
"What's your cunning plan, then?" she said.
"Nothing fancy. It's only moderately heroic."
"Cause a distraction to get Greyback and his cronies' attention, then use whatever limited time that buys to get the children – and whoever else has had enough – out of there."
"Just your basic balls of steel plan, then?"
"I should have turned them into strawberries when I had the chance."
Remus grinned at her. "So in your professional opinion, will it work?"
"Probably. Greyback's a creature of arrogance, thinks fear is enough to keep people in their place. He'll fall for a distraction, never thinking you'd have the guts to be up to something."
"That's what I thought."
"But what are you going to do with the children? Isaiah told me if they had somewhere else to go they'd be there already."
"I've thought of that, and I have an idea. It's not perfect but it's better. Or at least I think it is."
Remus pulled another map out of the pile of papers. This one was bigger, covered the whole table, and had several areas marked. One seemed to be in the Highlands, one near Lake Windermere, one in the Cotswolds and one down in Devon.
"These are safe locations. They're not ideal, but I've been looking at them all and – " Remus tapped the map. "This one seems the most promising. There's an abandoned barn that with a little magical assistance could be made liveable and secured, maybe enough room for a family group of ten." He pointed to another spot on the map, an inch or so away. "Here there's an old crofter's cottage suitable for maybe half a dozen. It used to belong to a witch named Rose de Vere, so it's already on the Floo network, and here, there's a collection of buildings that have been dormant since the nineteenth century. It's big enough for a couple more rooms and maybe a large meeting place of some kind, say a school, or – "
Tonks grinned at him. She should have known he had something like this planned, that all the days he'd been here, hiding from her, that wasn't all he was doing. It suddenly seemed obvious that Dumbledore hadn't been fallible, at least not when it came to this. Dumbledore's faith in Remus had never been misplaced, and maybe the big picture Dumbledore had been seeing was Remus himself, his talent for carrying on being kind and wonderful to others, even as the worst of things happened to him. Dumbledore must have known that Remus' enduring quality was his resilience, his refusal to give in, that much as he thought himself a coward who'd never be good enough, his actions shouted in the contrary.
"What?" he said, catching her grinning.
"This is all off the cuff, is it?"
Remus rubbed at his forehead, unable to quite hide his smile. "Well not exactly."
"I take it when you say could be made liveable. You've already done it?"
"And you've sorted something for the full moon?"
"I might have set up a periphery boundary spell, like the one around Hogwarts, that'll keep any Muggle locals away and laid a couple of my own charmed lines that werewolves can't cross."
"What else might you have done? You said a school? Been brushing up on your Professor skills?"
Remus looked away, fiddled with the edge of the map as if he were almost embarrassed. "That's the best thing, actually," he said. "While I was there investigating I met someone, a wizard by the name of Archibald Screech. He used to teach at the local school but just retired – he's offered to help." Remus paused, looked up at her. "He's very keen, says he's missed the inventiveness of young minds – he wants to learn how to make Wolfsbane too – apparently teaching Muggle chemistry has given him some insight into the potioner's art. And as you said, I can always offer my services."
"You've got it all figured out, then."
"It's not a permanent or perfect solution – they'll still essentially be homeless and living on the fringes but they're away from Greyback. That gives them a chance, at least, and in time maybe it'll just be a stepping-stone before people can move out on their own and find a real life."
He met her eye slowly, cautiously, silently asking what she thought, and she could see in his gaze how much it, and her approval, meant to him.
"I'm glad you think so," he said, his lips twitching into a smile that she knew was the briefest hint of what he actually felt, "because it's far more than a one man job. Moody and Arthur are in and willing to be the distraction, but I'm still going to need someone to help actually get them out."
"What's your thinking?"
"Side-along would be ideal, but a lot of them have no experience of magic beyond the Death Eaters and I fear it'd take too long anyway. So I was thinking we sneak into the camp, commandeer Greyback's Floo connection, move everyone together and Floo from there."
"You already know I have a penchant for that."
"When were you planning to put this into action?"
"After the funeral?" he said. "I thought it might be a nice tribute. I was planning to go to the camp later, find Isaiah so he can spread the word and get everyone who wants to leave in one place."
"Do I need to tell you to be careful?"
Remus moved around the table and swept her to him, his arms fastening around her waist. "No," he said, smiling down at her and then leaning in until they were nose to nose. "Moderate heroism only. But I am glad to have you here to not say it."
On the evening of Dumbledore's funeral, long after Molly had finished foisting sandwiches on members of the Order and sniffing into her sleeve, Tonks and Remus Apparated to Moody's designated point outside the werewolf camp. Tonks' knees protested at the impact on the hard ground, and compulsively she checked the tree line, waiting for Moody's security measures to materialise. The faint red mist curled around her ankles, around Remus', and Remus murmured, 'Remus Lupin, moderately heroic werewolf and Nymphadora Tonks, willing accomplice', making the mist fade and then disappear entirely.
The place was deserted, the cluster of trees and the rolling hills as absent of human habitation as they always had been, and above them stars pricked the sky. "Nice night for it," Remus said, and Tonks shifted a little nervously.
There were two pops, and Arthur and Moody appeared in the chilled air, wands drawn. "Alastor Moody, former Auror and scourge of dark wizards everywhere," Moody stated, treating the mist at his feet as if it were a real official with a quill and a form to fill in. He looked pointedly at Arthur. "If you don't say something it can verify, it'll have your feet off."
Arthur blanched, shifted his weight and cleared his throat. "And Arthur Weasley. Er – husband to Molly and father of six."
He stared down as if fully expecting his ankles to turn to bloodied stumps, and when the mist dissipated he breathed a sigh of audible relief.
"Wotcher," Tonks said, and Moody's magical eye swung, surveying the horizon behind them. "We weren't followed."
"Never hurts to check. Complacency is – "
" – a rallying call to the other side to come and kick your arse, I know."
Moody grumbled but eyed Tonks approvingly. "Plan changed, Lupin?"
"No. Everything's in place."
"How was your insider?"
"Pleased to see me."
"And you can be sure he's trustworthy? Death Eaters won't have turned him?"
"He's thirteen, Mad-Eye."
"Still – "
"Everyone clear on what they're supposed to be doing?" Remus said, interrupting Moody before he could launch into another lecture, the kind they'd been hearing on the sly all day.
"Mad-Eye and I'll go and find Greyback on the pretence of arresting him for his involvement in the Hogwarts attack," Arthur said, "then when he's occupied we'll send up sparks so you know the coast's clear."
"Looking forward to a scrap," Moody said. "We'll keep him away from the Floo, even if we have to die to do it."
"Steady on, Mad-Eye. Molly'll go ballistic when she finds out where I've been as it is."
Remus unfurled the map he had tucked in the inside pocket of his jacket and squinted at it, his nose almost on the paper. "Greyback's at his cave. All his cronies are there too – probably a meeting and they tend to drag. Tonks and I'll make for this spot here – Isaiah's been assembling the children all day and it looks like they're all waiting. The other group I mentioned, the ones who don't need our assistance as such – they'll be to the north and will identify themselves if needs be by using the word hobgoblin."
"And they have a plan of their own, do they?" Arthur said.
"Isaiah has been careful with the details of course, but yes. A group of older werewolves will be waiting for your distraction and making a break for it on their own. Hopefully that will draw attention even further away from us."
"Right," Tonks said. "Piece of cake, this."
"Good luck," Remus said.
He shot Moody and Arthur a grateful glance, getting a nod and a tight-lipped, understanding smile in return before they headed for the trees. With Arthur's long strides and Moody's urgent limp, they disappeared in no time between the pines and silver birches, leaving silence, thick and taut, in their wake.
"Down to me and you now, then," Tonks said, and Remus met her eye, lifting his eyebrows slowly.
Remus nodded towards the trees, and together they made their way across the grass to the edge of the forest. Arthur and Moody were going to approach the camp from the south, the way Tonks had done on all her previous visits, arriving right in front of Greyback's cave. They didn't have to worry about stealth – in fact, the more attention they could draw the better, and Tonks suspected that was one of the things Moody was most looking forward to, the opportunity to try out some of the spells he never normally got to use because they were too showy.
She and Remus were heading east to where the camp broke up a little and isolated groups tried to hide from Greyback's attention. If everything went to plan, Isaiah would be waiting there with all the children Remus had been able to reach, and they'd mobilise as quickly as they could. The bracken was thick and clawed at Tonks' ankles, and she drew in a breath of cold, musty air, telling herself that it really was going to be a piece of cake. As a plan it had all the trademarks of success – simplicity, good wizards in place, a clear idea of what they were doing – but she couldn't resist the twist of apprehension in her stomach at the thought of going back to the camp, potentially facing Greyback again. She could still taste her own disgust at what had happened to Thomas Montgomery, could still see Greyback's sneer as he loomed over Bill's torn body, and the place was as disquieting as ever.
Remus deftly picked his way through the brambles and the long, snaking web of ferns that criss-crossed the forest floor, and Tonks swore as she got her jeans caught, paused to detach it while Remus waited next to a huge, sprawling oak. "Ok?" he said, and she nodded, even though the apprehension in her stomach was expanding.
So much rested on tonight. She'd been trying not to think about it, but since Dumbledore's funeral she hadn't been able to banish the thought of how impossibly high the stakes were. If something went wrong, Remus would be crushed, and she knew that if they were discovered Greyback would punish insurrection viciously and without mercy. She, Remus, Moody and Arthur could Apparate away but most of the children and other werewolves could not, and a mistake of any kind would probably cost them their lives.
Moody's familiar voice growled in her head: when the stakes are high, girl, you've just got to not lose. Never think of the consequences of failing until they're close enough to smell.
They pressed on through the trees, tightly-packed pines shooting up at the sky, and eventually they thinned and then petered out entirely. Remus waited for her to catch up, then leant in. "That's the place," he said, gesturing to an impromptu shelter made from pallets and torn sheets. "Do you think we'll see the sparks from here?"
"Moody's an expert."
Remus nodded, dragged the map out again, pointed his wand at it until it glowed as if lit from within, peered at the tiny text moving across it.
"What's happening? Are they all right?"
She leant in, and could make herself and Remus out on the map, two lone names in the middle of the forest, a cluster so jumbled she couldn't read them in the near distance. At least Isaiah's part had gone all right, she thought. She searched for Moody and Arthur, for Greyback, but Remus found them first.
"They're there. I think they're probably about to – oh, they've got Greyback cornered – "
He paused, concentrating fiercely, and then his question about the sparks was answered as a torrent of them flew into the sky and exploded, raining down over the tree tops.
"That's the signal. Ready?"
She nodded, and Remus tucked the map back inside his jacket and gestured to the camp.
The boundary line flickered as Tonks cast a detection spell at it, and they stepped over it and made straight for the shelter, Remus casting nervous glances at the path. It was eerily quiet, though, and Tonks wondered how many werewolves were currently heading north, making their own break for freedom.
The shelter was impossibly ramshackle, gaping holes in the wood offering a window onto the scene inside, ragged forms huddled together, scared, others pressed to the gaps, alert and wary as they approached.
Isaiah was on guard outside, standing squarely, his jeans hanging low on his hips, as ever kept up only by willpower. He looked at once older than he had before and more hopeful than Tonks ever imagined he might, peering out into the darkness, inquisitiveness held behind a mask of hardened, well-learned cynicism. He glanced at her, frowned at her hair, and then his attention was on Remus.
"Evening," Remus said, and Isaiah smiled.
"Thought you'd changed your mind."
"Of course – " Whatever he was about to say was cut off as, in the distance, the air was punctured by a bang and a shout. "And I believe that's our cue to leave."
The shelter was abruptly frantic activity. The children scrambled to their feet, and Remus darted to the doorway, helping them gather their belongings, offering words of encouragement, trying to get them all outside as quickly as possible. Tonks turned, scanning their surroundings for anyone approaching, and Isaiah was at her side in an instant, scanning alongside her, his hands balled into fists. "Is everyone ready?" she said.
"Yeah," he said. "But getting werewolves to do what you want when you want ain't exactly easy."
"Tell me about it. How many?"
"Twenty four. Counted them in myself."
"They know what to do?"
"We had a briefing an hour ago. Keep quiet, move fast, ask for help if you need it."
Tonks nodded, and by the time she looked back Remus had gathered all the occupants of the shelter, drawn more out from behind, and they stood in a rough gaggle, eyes wide and glassy inside their hollow faces. Fear picked at their foreheads as they clutched at what passed for their belongings, the odd scrap of fabric that was probably once a blanket or tattered plastic bag. They ranged from five to fifteen for the most part, a couple of older girls and a young couple clinging to each other and looking all the more scared for knowing how dangerous escaping could be, and Tonks listened for another bang, the sound of footsteps or the battle getting closer, thought she could hear someone approaching. "We better move," she said.
Remus drew out the map, gave it what was intended to look like a cursory glance, and then nodded, meeting her eye with cautious reassurance. "Everybody follow me," he said. "Tonks and Isaiah will stand guard until we've cleared the boundary line."
Remus set off for the cover of the trees at a brisk pace. A couple of the younger children stumbled in an effort to keep up, the older ones grabbing their elbows to hurry them along, then scooping them up and carrying them as best they could. Tonks watched as Remus cajoled and hurried them, his eyes passing over every face as he hushed and offered words of encouragement.
There was another bang, and Isaiah tensed at her side, but it seemed further away. Moody was always good for his word, and she trusted him to keep Greyback occupied or – she winced at the thought – die in the attempt. "Don't worry," she said. "S'just Moody showing off, more than likely. You say 'diversion' he thinks you really mean 'hey Mad-Eye, start a war'."
"A friend. Someone who's helping us help you lot. There are two of them, actually. They'll do whatever it takes."
"For Remus," Tonks said, and then reconsidered her answer.
It was true enough that Remus was the motivation – they both liked and respected him, and that had driven the idea forward, but there were other factors too. Moody had offered to help because he didn't really trust anyone to do as good job in a fight as he would himself, but Arthur had volunteered for more esoteric reasons. Maybe it was Bill, not revenge exactly, but a strike back, proof that in amongst it all there were still people who didn't hate for the sake of it, didn't fall into prejudice even when they perhaps had reason to.
"People like Greyback," she said, "they'll have you believe everyone's out for themselves and to be anyone you have to have power and fear. But not everyone's like that. Some people, they do the right thing just because it needs doing."
Isaiah considered her for a moment as if the idea was strange, alien, but enticing, and then nodded, his eyes abruptly back on the trees.
"You look better than you did before."
"Ta. It'll be my bridely-glow or something."
"You're getting – " Isaiah looked up, almost aghast, and then his gaze turned cold. "Does Remus know?"
"Of course. Who'd you think was stupid enough to ask me to marry them?"
"You're marrying him?" Isaiah said, his eyes widening. "Even though he's a werewolf?"
"Especially because he's a werewolf, actually," Tonks said quietly. "Being a werewolf is – well, I think it's being a werewolf that makes him such a wonderful man."
Tonks smiled at him, nodded, then looked towards the trees where two dozen werewolves were making their escape, Remus' head visible at the front of the pack.
"I think we're clear. Come on or they'll leave without us."
They trudged through the forest in almost complete silence, only Remus' words of reassurance drifting towards Tonks as she and Isaiah followed. The bracken was heavy going at the pace Remus set, snagging on ankles and biting at wrists, and every couple of metres someone had to stop to disentangle themselves. Tonks hoped Remus had brushed up on his darning spells, because when they got to the crofter's cottage, everyone's clothes were going to be even more tattered than they already were. She kept one ear pricked for sounds of encroaching footsteps, any sign that they'd been spotted, that Greyback had somehow signalled for help, but the trees were still and the air behind them undisturbed. Tonks reasoned that even if Greyback had signalled for help it was unlikely to come, because Death Eaters were no more inclined to a favourable view of werewolves than the general population. They'd use them, of course, but help them? She didn't think so.
She pulled her sleeve away from a bramble, cursing the tiny rip she made, and her thoughts drifted to Moody and Arthur. She hoped they were all right. Even when they stopped the map would only tell them so much, but she reasoned that Moody had years of experience, and a bunch of non-magical werewolves – however fierce and cruel – probably wouldn't trouble him.
They pressed on through the pines, and eventually were afforded a glimpse of their destination. Set against a break in the trees was a small, grey stone cottage – or at least, what remained of it. In an attempt to stop Greyback murdering Thomas Montgomery Remus had reduced two of the walls to little more than stacks of rubble, but against one of the others the fireplace still stood, a testament to one of the Death Eater's spell-casting prowess.
"In here everyone," Remus said, and some of the children looked up at him with large, bewildered eyes as they picked through the debris, since this was barely better than where they'd come from. "The place we're taking you is a way away I'm afraid, and the method of transportation will be a little – unfamiliar to some of you. Has anyone travelled by Floo before?"
Ten or so raised their hands, amongst them the older girls, one of the couple, and a boy with straw-like hair. Tonks tried not to imagine their stories, how they'd been wrenched out of their lives and thrust into new ones dictated by Greyback's cruel whims, clinging instead to the thought that they were ten minutes or so away from starting entirely new ones.
In the distance there was a shout, indistinct and carried on the breeze, but enough to turn Remus' smile forced. "Right, it's very simple," he said quickly. His aura of calm was impressive as he knelt in front of the fireplace and Conjured a fire, then reached into his pocket and drew out a jar of Floo powder. He took a handful and held it out so they could see. "This is Floo powder and we're going to use it to travel."
Remus threw the powder into the flames, and as they blazed green a couple of people gasped. Remus waved his hand through them. "They don't hurt – not at all – you simply need to step in and state your destination – in this case Lavender Cottage – quite clearly."
"And then what?" Isaiah said.
"And then you will be there, at Lavender Cottage."
A bang in the distance echoed through the trees, and Tonks' heart leapt with a new sense of urgency. "Remus'll go first to show you how it's done," she said, and Remus glanced at where the noise had come from and frowned. "Isaiah and I'll make sure you're all safe while you Floo."
She met Remus' eye pointedly, daring him to argue, and he rolled his eyes and then tossed her the map. He stepped into the fireplace and a couple of people murmured that his clothes weren't catching light. Remus' gaze lingered on hers for a second, and then there was another bang – closer – and he nodded. "So I simply say Lavender Cottage and then – "
With a whoosh he was gone, and a couple of children leant in to look up the chimney, startling when Remus' head appeared again in the flames. "And here I am at Lavender Cottage. Nothing to it. Who wants to go next?"
A couple of people eagerly volunteered, and one by one, with various degrees of nervousness, they stepped into the fireplace and disappeared.
Tonks kept one eye on them, one on the forest behind them, her wand trained on the darkness between the trees in case Greyback appeared. She hadn't quite decided what she'd do if she saw him, had a clear shot. She'd talked about it with Moody, whether or not there were some people it wasn't worth trying to capture, and while she had no doubt that if Greyback didn't exist their world would be a safer place, she still wasn't sure she had it in her to kill him. She peered at the trees, sensing some movement, hoping it was just a deer or rabbit, turned back to the fireplace, where Isaiah was nervously fingering the Floo powder but trying to pass it off as curiosity as it slipped through his fingers.
"It's fun," she said.
"I wouldn't lie to you."
Isaiah nodded, then dropped the Floo powder with a rather endearingly uncertain look on his face. "Lavender Cottage?" he said, and as the flames whooshed him away, he looked immensely surprised that it had worked.
Tonks let out a breath. Remus had done it. She allowed herself a moment to grin at the thought that she was marrying someone so brave and ingenious, and then checked the map.
Moody and Arthur were to their north, moving at a pace, Greyback and the names Vallins and Godge apparently sprinting away from them. Further along the boundary line there was a dense cluster of names moving steadily, and Tonks smiled to herself as she imagined the werewolves there who were leaving the camp, and would never return.
Satisfied that no-one needed her help, Tonks tucked the map into her pocket, gave their surroundings one last look. She'd be happy if she never saw the place again. As she stepped into the flames she thought that the last time someone had used the fireplace it had been for evil, and that what they'd done had somewhat restored the balance. Dumbledore would have approved of that at least, she thought.
Tonks emerged in a wide room with a broad hearth that was now covered in soot, sooty foot prints and embers. Isaiah was staggering a little to one side, and Remus was waiting for her on the rug, his face crumpled with concern. She barely had time to adjust to her new location before he pulled her into a hug, relief evident in his quick, shallow breaths, and the urgent, grateful grasp of his fingers. "What'd I say?" she said, murmuring into his shoulder as he held her tight. "Piece of cake."
"Nope. I'm just going to let Moody know we're safe and he can call off his attack."
Tonks gave him a squeeze, stepped back, Conjured her patronus, and as it shimmered into being she saw Isaiah's eyes widen. "That looks like – "
"Yeah, it's him."
"So she's seen you all – " Isaiah looked up at Remus, raised his hands like paws and growled.
"And she still wants to marry you?"
"Apparently. She's a strange girl."
Remus met her eye, smiled in a way that made her insides tingle, and she ducked down, whispered in the werewolf's ear that they were fine, mission accomplished, sent it racing out of the cottage's door.
Tonks straightened up, then almost lost her footing as someone bumped into her elbow. She expected it to be one of the children who hadn't Flooed before, but instead it was a fully-gown wizard. He was tall, dressed in tartan robes, a long, grey beard dangling from his chin and small, round glasses perched askew on his nose. "Oh, beg pardon," he said, stumbling a little under the weight of a plate piled high with toast as he tried to avoid crashing into a small girl and dropping the lot.
"Tonks, Isaiah, this is Archie Screech. He'll be looking after things when I'm not around."
"I thought tea and toast might be the place to start," he said. "This is the plain – jammed to come, tea's on the way – yes, it's all in hand."
He smiled as if trying to convince himself, and the plate wobbled a little as he offered it to Isaiah. Isaiah took a piece of toast a little warily, then nodded in thanks, holding it as if he wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Archie turned away, offering slices to the girl who'd nearly tripped him, then the boy with the straw-like hair, and they both watched Isaiah for a cue.
"What do you think?" Remus said, gesturing to the room.
The crofter's cottage was small, seemed even more so now it was packed with ragged clothed and occasionally soot-covered children, but the place was more than habitable. It was cosy. The furniture had seen better days – she recognised the sofa from Remus' windmill – but somehow the shabby furniture created a sense of warmth, and in fact, it looked a bit like a common room at Hogwarts.
"S'alright," Isaiah said. "And he can't find us here? Greyback? He can't do the Flooing thing we did and get in?"
"He has no idea where you are. We've been very careful, and the best witches and wizards have performed spells to keep him and his cronies away, even if he does find out. You're perfectly safe here."
"I checked everything myself. Twice," Tonks said.
Isaiah looked up at Remus uncertainly, and Remus leant in conspiratorially. "And don't be fooled by the pink hair," he mock-whispered. "She's extremely brilliant. If she says you're safe, you can trust her. You're safe. So eat your toast before it gets cold."
Tonks let out a soft breath of amusement as Isaiah did as he was told, pulling off the crust first and shovelling it into his mouth. The other children followed suit, and Remus grinned at her.
They were an odd pair, she thought, the mild-mannered yet moderately heroic werewolf and the pink-haired witch who'd devoted her life to fending off dark magic, and it was easy to see why Isaiah was wary. They were unlikely saviours however she looked at it, but maybe that was the point.
The Order, their lives, were chaos at the moment, everyone waiting for everyone else to tell them what to do, but even in amongst the confusion and the sadness, Remus had done something. Rather than being dwarfed by the idea of what they could be facing, he'd looked at one problem and just fixed it, in his own quiet way, finding help from people who were just as unlikely, a paranoid warrior, a wizard with a penchant for toast and tartan, a stoic father, and a boy in desperate need of a belt. The thought made hope stir in Tonks' veins. Darkness could encroach all it liked, but while there were still people with faith in each other, people prepared to try, it would never truly triumph, would it?
"Right then," Archie said. "Who wants some more toast? And can I have a show of hands for hot chocolate rather than tea?"
Tonks watched him bustle about the room handing out food and drink, asking everyone's name, introducing himself and explaining that everyone would stay here tonight in sleeping bags, and then in the morning they'd sort out something more permanent. She'd thought that maybe this would be the hard part, that the werewolves would have lost their ability to trust, be too wary, maybe, to settle, but inch by inch she could see them warming to Archie, and she knew Remus had sown the seeds for that.
She looked at him, watched his smile grow as the children made themselves at home, accepted hot chocolate in chipped mugs and chewed on toast as if they'd never had a better dinner. Pride burned beneath her skin, that even though Remus had thought his efforts fruitless and shallow, he'd done this. He'd proved that he could be trusted, that not everyone was like Greyback. He'd shown them there was another way, a quieter way that was no less fraught with occasional hardships, but that they didn't need to be defined by what they were, could make a life if they chose to. Maybe he'd finally learned that too, that him being a werewolf didn't mean he couldn't have the life, and the person, he wanted.
Tonks looked around the room and groups were already forming, Isaiah shifting on the floor next to a pretty girl with long, dark hair, telling her that here they'd be able to learn about things, and that they'd be safe, others clustering together and imagining Greyback's reaction, laughing about the speeches he'd make to his empty cave next week. She watched them all, thinking that what Remus had really done was give them the gift that had meant the most to him: the chance to make friends, the chance to have those friends change their lives for the better.
"I think they're going to be Ok," she said, and Remus reached for her hand.
"I hope so."
"Where did you find Archie?"
"He lives in the forest. I was checking out alternative buildings and practically Apparated on top of him. His sister was killed by a werewolf fifty years ago, and when I told him what I was planning he volunteered."
"Hmm. I suppose some people respond with fear, and some people – like Archie and Arthur and Sirius and James – respond with sympathy and kindness."
Tonks murmured her agreement, and beyond the window she saw Arthur and Moody appear in the trees. They strode towards the cottage, Arthur and his long, amiable gait, Moody limping along beside, trying to keep up. Arthur rapped on the door, then opened it when Remus gestured for him to, sticking his head around the frame.
"Come in, come in," Archie said. "Archie Screech. Would you like some toast?"
"Delighted to meet you. Arthur Weasley and Mad-Eye Moody," Arthur said. "And yes, if there's any going spare. Worked up quite an appetite."
Archie bustled towards the kitchen, and Moody eyed the doorway with suspicion and then decided it was up to standard and stepped into the lounge. "All right?" Tonks said.
"All went to plan," Arthur said, resting on the mantelpiece. "Think we've given Greyback quite a mess to sort out. Something of a rebellion even, maybe, amongst those who remain."
"Really?" Remus said, leaning forwards.
"Chased him through most of the camp so everyone's seen what a great bloody coward he is at heart," Moody growled. "Think he thought they'd all leap up to help."
"Indeed. He did seem surprised when his rank and file deserted him. Group heading north appeared to have made it too."
"We had to lay down a bit of cover – "
"I still think setting fire to his shoes was unnecessary – "
"No less than the bugger deserved. Had half a mind to rip off his – "
"There are children present," Tonks said, and Moody rolled his good eye but kept quiet.
"Well – thank you," Remus said. "Thank you both."
Moody nodded and Arthur shrugged, as if he hadn't just risked his life and Molly's wrath. He accepted a plate of toast from Archie, then asked him if he knew the origins of tartan and if the pattern was anything to do with Muggle camouflage.
They spent most of the night at the cottage, but soon enough sleeping bags needed Conjuring and the children started to drift off into dreams, the older escapees talking to Archie about plans over more hot chocolate laced with Firewhiskey in the kitchen.
Remus suggested they all go home, and Tonks agreed, bidding everyone a goodnight. On their way out, she caught Remus winking at Isaiah as he looked up from a thick, turquoise sleeping bag, and as they closed the door quietly behind them, her lingering impression was of the first genuine smile she'd ever seen pulling on the corners of Isaiah's mouth.
They Apparated to the grounds of the windmill, the familiar hill in the distance, the faint, twinkling lights of the Poplars just visible. She'd been officially living here for less than a week, but it already felt like home to Tonks. They had so many memories dotted around the place, their first official date, the picnic in February, certainty in polka dots, and she wondered what the new ones they'd make would look like.
"Tired?" Remus said.
"In that case...."
Remus halted on the grass, shifting his fingers between hers until they fitted perfectly. He flicked his wand at the door, opening it, switching on the lights, and from within the WWN stirred into life, some soft ballad with a lilting, hopeful melody.
"Would you like to dance?"
His expression was quietly cheeky, and he looked more alive and content than she thought she'd ever seen him before.
"You know when we did that at Grimmauld it didn't go so well."
"It went perfectly."
Remus lifted her hand and placed it on his shoulder, taking the other one in his and pulling her close. Tonks laughed as she stumbled on the grass and into him, but he steadied her and they managed to take a step almost in time with the music, and then another.
"See?" Remus said. "Perfect."
They moved in a wide slow circle along with the track, and Tonks looked up at him, taking in every detail of his face in the glow from the windmill's lights, filtered through her rainbow curtains. A new wonderful memory already, she thought.
"You look happy."
"I spent the evening doing something moderately heroic, the stars are out, there's a fabulous record playing and a beautiful girl who I love beyond the word agreed to marry me. What else does a man need to make him happy?"
"Easy as that?"
"Easy as that," he murmured.
They both knew it hadn't been easy at all, she thought, but that was how they knew what they had was worth having, and that it was strong, and resilient, and there was nothing they wouldn't be able to face.
Remus tucked her hair behind her ear, then drew her into a kiss, his lips soft and languid as they moved over hers, making her feel like the stars had fallen and ignited her insides. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and when Remus pulled away he was smiling, but softly.
"Isaiah told me what you said, that you love me especially because I'm a werewolf."
"Did you mean it?"
"Of course I – "
"I thought you might have said it to make him feel better."
"If it made him feel better I'm glad but – really it's very simple, Remus. Being a werewolf is what makes you you. And I love you, for you, for all of that, so – "
Remus' face lit up with a grin, and he span them round, faster and faster until the trees and the windmill were nothing but a blur. She clung to him, laughing as she tried to keep up, and when they halted she was dizzy and breathless, collapsing against him. Remus' breath tickled at her ear, and after a second he rested his chin against her temple.
"Let's get married."
"Didn't we do this already? You had a ring and hyacinths – it was very nicely done."
"No, I mean tomorrow. Let's get married tomorrow."
"Are you serious?"
"Why not? If we can organise a mass werewolf breakout in less than a week a wedding in twelve hours should be no trouble."
"My mum'll do her nut. She hasn't picked a hat yet."
"Mine too. They can compare irritation over dinner."
Tonks looked up at him, trying to ascertain if he was really serious, and he raised his eyebrows at her, his eyes keen and hopeful. Irresistibly so. She grinned.
"Ok, then. Tomorrow."
Tonks nestled on Remus' chest, listening to the steady thump of his heart as it accompanied the endless, swirling melody tripping out of the front door. She tightened her grip, remembering the first time she'd danced with him, a ball of cautious excitement while Sirius snored in his party food. It had been a different world, almost, one that sadly no longer existed, but they were still here, still dancing, a constant.
She thought about tomorrow, and all the tomorrows they were going to have, how eagerly she'd greet them because Remus would be in each and every one. She couldn't picture what the days themselves would look like, what they'd contain or how they'd feel, whether the war would be won or lost, their days filled with sorrow or happiness beyond even this. But they'd be together, and whatever happened, she could think of no greater privilege than to walk through life with Remus.
And so, in the light from a shabby windmill with multi-coloured curtains at the window, stars above them and their arms around each other, Remus and Tonks danced into the night, and waited for their tomorrows to start.
A/N: So that is it. The final chapter. My heartfelt, endless thanks to you for reading, especially those of you who have (unbelievably) been with me since the beginning. Writing this and sharing it with you has honestly been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life – I've found such kindness, inspiration, and even friendship here over the last four years that saying goodbye is going to be a real wrench. So instead I'll say everyone gets a happy ending with a werewolf of their own choosing, and a large, stiff drink on me.
Farewell Werewolf party on my LJ, to which you are all cordially invited (link in my profile) xxx.