Most cases I investigated were false reports from lonely old jossers when I longed for real action. Today, since I'd arranged to leave early, it was just my luck that the accusation was substantiated, and the middle-aged wizard had grabbed his Dark object off the mantelpiece and run.

I'd been happy that my supervisor had assigned me to assist Arthur Weasley in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts department. I thought the wicked witch was doing me a favour. I should've known better. Obviously, the Auror and toady the rest of us called "Harriet the spy" had tattled that Nymphadora Tonks dared to morph into Gulch and vamp Santa Baby down at the pub last night.

"Halt!" I yelled, inwardly cursing my superior's lack of humour while sending an Impediment Jinx at the fleeing wizard. He dodged it, the jammy git, bolting through the kitchen and out the back door.

"I'll go round the alley!" I heard Arthur shout while I continued my pursuit.

The December wind felt good against my heated face. Almost tripping on an exposed tree root, I regained my balance and told the man trying to climb the back fence, "Drop to the ground and place your hands on your head!"

The dishevelled, red-faced wizard did as instructed, pleading, "You don't understand, this is merely a good luck charm. A gift from my late wife."

I stared in disbelief. "Mr. Wallace, that's not just a shrivelled up monkey's paw. It's been enchanted with a Black Fate Spell. Anyone who attempts to use it to make a wish will be destroyed by it for tempting fate. I'm sorry, but you can't keep it." Arthur and I would bag it, tag it, and after the Auror forensics and potions division finished examining it, the paw would be destroyed.

"I'm sorry too." The man closed his eyes and clenched his fist. My stomach dropped. Before I could put a Body Freezing Spell on the bloke, he yelped and dropped the desiccated paw onto the ground. It jumped around.

Bagging it was out of the question now. I went straight to destruction. "Incendio!" The paw made a weird, shuddering movement and then burst into flames. The wizard gasped and fell to his knees, making a desperate grab for the grisly object. I raised my wand and repelled him away from the blue flames.

Wallace's gaze travelled past my shoulder. The man's face contorted in horror and grief. "Igraine, no, not like this!"

I whirled around to gape at the rotting corpse shuffling our way. Her pink suit and hat were still presentable, but the decomposing flesh and brittle hair ruined the garden party image.

From the other side of the fence, I heard, "Are you in urgent need of assistance?"

"Erm…yeah, Arthur. Mrs. Wallace just came through the back gate, and I don't have any experience with the walking dead!"

"A monkey's paw reanimation, is it? I've always wanted to see one. Slow her down and I'll levitate right over."

"Impedimentia!" I wished I hadn't viewed all those late night horror films on telly while staying with my Muggle Gran. The Igraine zombie paused for a moment before dragging forward once more. I refused to whimper, but if she croaked, "brains" I was going to scream bloody murder. I tried again. "Incarcerous!" The ropes that bound the reanimated woman halted her approach for a few seconds until she broke the bonds.

Arthur landed beside me after the zombie had shrugged off a Petrificus Totalus. He said, "How interesting! While still human, the body of the living dead appears to have strength beyond mortal limits." His pleasant, freckled face glowed in a way that reminded me of Charlie's when he used to talk about dragons. It was endearing and irritating at the same time.

"Uh huh, interesting is one way to put it. What are you going to do?" I didn't hesitate to shift the monkey from my back to his, so to speak. Before Arthur could do more than smile at me like I was one of his kids, Mr. Wallace rushed forward.

"Igraine!"

Usually, when couples embrace, it's a touching moment. This was downright creepy. Bits of decomposing flesh dropped onto the wizard's robes when rotting arms encircled him. My stomach lurched. Mr. Weasley lifted his wand. I mouthed the charm, Non Sentire, determined to never forget it. In the instant before zombie wife returned to being a corpse bride, we heard an ominous cracking sound. Mr. Wallace cried out before they fell together to the ground. I rushed over and dropped to my knees.

"Rennervate!" I tried again and again to restart the wizard's heart, but it was no use.

Arthur patted my shoulder as silent tears streaked down my face. It was bloody sad, the loss of life and love. "It was his wish, my dear, to be reunited with his wife. Mr. Wallace chose his fate." After a few minutes I nodded and blew my nose with the handkerchief he offered and insisted I keep. Arthur sighed. "I'll go into the house and inform the Ministry." Waving his wand in an intricate pattern, he handed me the thick file that materialised out of thin air. "You can start on the paperwork."

.

Hours later, I sent the completed forms off to Gulch's inbox, hoping the weight would topple it to the floor. Rushing down the stairs, I darted around two little old crones with canes and strode out of the Ministry. While finger combing short, spiky hair, I bit my lips to compensate for the lack of makeup. Once I Apparated to my parents' home, I saw the wizard standing on the front step and called, "Wotcher, Remus!"

He smiled and caught me when I stumbled over my feet in eagerness. "Hello, love."

Looking into the handsome face that the imminent full moon had drained of colour and creased with care lines, I decided not to add to his stress with complaints about work. My ex, spiteful git that he was, had started werewolf/Dark arts rumours that led to my love's current state of unemployment. I said, "I need a snog." Twining my arms around his neck and sinking my fingers into grey-streaked brown hair, I made a contented, "Mmm" when Remus brushed my lips with his.

Three months ago, I'd picked up the wrong wizard in a pub and fallen head over heels for a man who should've been all wrong for me but instead turned out to be just right. My Uncle Morty, who'd accepted a dodgy client's no-names stipulation for double the Galleons, still acted as though I owed him one for sending me on the enquiry that literally changed my life. I did, but knew better than to admit it. I already owed an old friend a favour. I didn't trust Orion Mortimer Black not to use my gratitude to manoeuvre me into an even dicier situation.

Happily immersed in Remus's kiss, I didn't hear the front door open.

"Come inside, Nymphadora, and introduce us properly." My mother's cool tone implied "and stop giving our neighbours something to gossip about." I glanced across the street and saw a lace curtain fall back into place. Mum led the way to the lounge.

Remus's gaze flickered between Mum and me, noting the similarities and differences. There's a definite family resemblance of heart shaped faces and porcelain skin. Andromeda's nose is a bit longer and more aristocratic, and her eyes are very "Black," pun intended. She's also ace at domestic spells, and my childhood home had a shiny, spring-clean air to it that my flat sorely lacked. The man who had passed to me his dark blue eyes and active curiosity looked up from his paper and smiled as he stood and extended his hand. "Ted Tonks. I'd begun to think you a figment of Dora's imagination, Mr. Lupin."

"Please, call me Remus, Mr. Tonks." My guy shook the proffered hand firmly.

Dad gave me an approving look before saying, "We're Ted and Andromeda."

Remus sat beside me on the sofa while Mum served tea. He thanked her for the hospitality while looking appreciatively at the extensive array of food on the low table in front of us. I grinned. Mum was quietly competitive. Knowing we'd previously had tea at Gran's, she couldn't help wanting to out-do her mother-in-law. Hungrily, I piled a plate. "Mum, you're the best."

She looked modestly pleased, which made Dad snicker. "I think she's been preparing for this day for weeks."

A delicate eyebrow rose. "I've looked forward to our daughter overcoming past disappointments and moving on with her life for a lot longer than that."

OK, maybe I had taken over a year to recover from the hurt and betrayal that ended my engagement to Evan Rosier II, Slytherin alumni and secret collaborator of Death Eaters. I said, "I met Remus and I'm happy. Can't you just be content with that, Mum?"

She handed me a cup of tea and then patted my cheek before returning to her chair. "Of course I'm happy for you, dear." She looked at Remus. "Were you aware that before his arrest, my cousin Sirius considered this house his second home?"

The fingers entwined with mine jerked in reaction. "Yes," he replied.

She continued in a manner that was crisper than the salad on the tea sandwiches, "Before he was falsely accused, Sirius confided in me that he was uneasy with a decision he'd made." Receiving no response, Mum continued. "He said that one of his friends was suspected of being a spy for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, so he was forced to trust another with an important secret." Leaning forward, she said, "Sirius stopped mentioning his friends after seventh year, so I didn't realise at first why your name sounded so familiar." Her tone turned steely. "Were you a spy for the most evil wizard who has ever existed, Mr. Lupin?"

"No," he said with quiet dignity. "Peter Pettigrew poisoned Sirius against me, using my condition, the belief that werewolves are naturally drawn to the Dark, to persuade my friends that I was not to be trusted."

Dad rose and went to stand behind his wife, resting his hands on her shoulders. "Dromeda, you always believed that Sirius was innocent of Pettigrew's death."

Remus said, "Peter didn't die. He killed those bystanders to frame Sirius and has been in hiding ever since."

"You've seen Sirius, talked to him, since his escape?" Mum asked.

"Yes."

Eyes shining with tears and determination, she said, "If he ever needs help, money, anything, I want you to tell him I'll…" Glancing up, she amended, "We'll help in any way we can."

"He won't ask," Remus said. "It's too dangerous, but I'm sure the offer will raise his spirits."

Mum nodded, and then looked searchingly at me. Smiling faintly, she didn't ask whether I'd seen or talked with Sirius since his escape.

It felt surreal to resume our tea. Dad cleared his throat and changed the subject. "Are you ever going to return my enchanted record player, Dora?"

I said, "I'll drop everything off tomorrow." I hadn't shared with my parents that this would be the third full moon I would spend with Remus in the secret chamber behind the bedroom in his flat. Somehow, I didn't think they'd understand how unique and special it was to be with him in that way. So far, they hadn't been overprotective on the entire werewolf issue, but I didn't want to push the matter. Gazing over at the corner that had been cleared in preparation for a tree, I asked, "Are you still having the tree-trimming party Christmas Eve?"

"Yes. I hope you'll bring Remus to meet the family." Mum gave him her Mona Lisa smile. "Cousin Lora, especially, is looking forward to making your acquaintance."

I groaned. "Merlin save me from having to look at Bridal mags and bridesmaid dresses. Oh, the horror."

"Don't you want to get married someday?" Remus asked with a smile.

Unaccountably, I felt shy. "Yes, but I'd want a small ceremony, a private exchange of vows."

His eyes always looked more amber the day of the full moon. "I feel the same way." As if realising that he'd been smiling into my eyes for a long time in plain view of my parents, Remus asked, "Are you sure that you don't want to force your friends into the sort of bridesmaid gowns your cousin favours?"

Metamorphosing my skin colour to a shade of virulent green, I shifted back to normal when my mother chided me and scoffed, "Frilly pink affronts to fashion?" I pretended to think about it, tapping my lips with a finger before smirking. "Depends on what presents they plan to give me."

Dad and Remus laughed while Mum pretended to disapprove, even while the corners of her mouth turned up. I looked at the mantel clock and thanked my parents for tea with hugs and kisses on the cheeks before bidding them a cheerful farewell. Remus shook hands and conveyed his gratitude with a conviction that had my folks inviting him back for dinner the following Sunday.

"Remus?" We both startled when my mother called him by first name. I almost dropped the Floo powder in my hand when she said, "Tell Sirius…if you see him…that I still wish we'd been able to convince our parents to trade children. His mother would've been much happier with Bellatrix and Narcissa, and my brother and I would've loved to claim him in return."

I dropped the Floo powder when she kissed his cheek. "Mum!"

"Give him that for me as well." Smiling wickedly at Remus's discomfort, she raised a brow at me and murmured, "Feel free to find a pretty girl to do it." Serenely, she cleared the mess off the rug with a wave of her wand while I grabbed another handful of powder and stepped into the fireplace.

.

Flooing first to my flat to pick up the rucksack with Dad's enchanted record player and 45's and then to Remus's place, we entered the room concealed by an invisibility spell before the sun set. The door had no interior handle and was charmed to remain closed from sunset to sunrise. When Remus had spent the hours alone, the room had been bare, with only the moonlight seeping in through the cracks in boarded up window for illumination. I'd transfigured a futon, not being fond of sleeping on the floor. Last month, Remus had added another decoration—a single red rose. I smiled to see a new rose gracing the vase placed beside the mattress.

As we entered the sound-proof chamber, I engaged an illumination orb to glow softly and set up the record player. I put on our song, Blue Moon. His eyes seemed to shine, hearing the music. As naturally as breathing, I moved into his arms. Remus's scent was warm and male and sexy. Our slow dance soon became an embrace. I loved the way his mouth tasted and his body felt against mine. Sweet moments intensified. Kisses became deeper. "I love you," I whispered, after a final caress.

"I love you," he said tenderly.

We'd agreed to not to rush intimacy, but it was still hard to leave his arms. Moving to the mattress and wrapping my arms around my knees, I watched Remus stand beneath the boarded over window, far below the small patch of moonlight. Months ago, Remus had explained that taking Wolfsbane Potion enabled him to transform much like an Animagus would. He shifted into a wolf while retaining his human mind. I'd been entranced, watching the process that was very like my metamorphosing. It was magic, not the gruesome special effects of Muggle films. I was still captivated, watching every bit as raptly as that first time I saw him become a grey wolf.

After his customary routine of social and territorial howls, the wolf padded over to rub his cheek and muzzle against my face. I began petting his sides, on top of his head, behind his ears, and all the places that made his tail wag. Eventually rolling onto his back to allow me to slide my palms up his chest in the way I'd seen my friend Cami demonstrate on a dog named Snuffles, my canis lupus made happy, scratchy throat noises.

Petting any animal was soothing, and petting a wolf who was really my partner was even more so. My eyes grew heavy. I yawned. "Time for sleep, Wolfie."

He growled half-heartedly. I giggled. "How furry you are." Dropping my voice, I answered for him, "The better to be your pillow, my dear." We lay down together on the mattress, my head resting on the soft fur of his side. Listening to his rapid, soothing heartbeat, I murmured, "Night, Remus."

The next morning, I awoke to gentle fingers stroking my hair, currently the colour of silver tinsel. Secure in the knowledge that we'd both used Morning After strength Brushing/Flossing mints last night, I kissed Remus good morning. I made sure it was a very good morning. When the door to the secret room unlocked, I took my rose with me. Placing the vase on the table in the area that served a dual purpose as a reading/dining nook, I looked up in alarm when someone began pounding on the front door. Sirius would've let himself in. Remus picked up his wand and went to open the door.

Uncle Morty, running an agitated hand through his salt and pepper spiky hair, looked past my partner to tell me, "There's a brawny Muggle by the name of Jimmy Durbin down at the Blue Moon. Seems your Gran gave him the direction, and Mr. Durbin won't leave until he talks to you."

"What does he want?" Remus asked, slipping an arm around my waist.

Swallowing hard, I answered, "Rory's calling in his favour."

.


'

This story can stand alone, but I think readers will enjoy it even more if they read the first chapter fic in the series, Once in a Blue Moon. This fic is also set during GoF and features an Animagus named Sirius along with a cast of characters both canon and original, written in the hopes of entertaining readers.