Apology note: I went back (days after posting, sigh) and added a note to ch 19 to remind that 20 is the last chapter of this story, but another fic will follow- claps palm to forehead- D'oh! (remember, dear readers, to forgive is divine!)
Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed the poem Fanning the Flames. I really appreciate it!
Special Thanks to WriterMerrin for being a Fantabulous beta!
Chapter 20- A Spring Bouquet
Waiting for Remus to respond, it felt like my future hung upon his answer. Was I too bold, asking for a honeymoon without a wedding?
"When do you want to leave?" he said with a smile.
I sagged against him in relief and immediately caught my breath. The friction of our skin caused my 'Black streak' to flare and a seductive thought to slither into mind.
Loads of couples have the wedding night before the honeymoon.
Remus' jaw clenched when I licked my lips, his eyes flashing with a heated emotion that threatened my self-control. I sucked in a breath and glanced down. It was a mistake. The juxtaposition of our bodies was too provocative. I hurriedly lifted my eyes. "Now?"
Remus' mouth took mine in a long, slow kiss. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait."
I felt my lower lip start to pout, even though I hadn't truly expected him to say 'all right, let's go.' I wasn't able to leave without notice, either. I had paperwork to file before I could go on holiday. With a deep sigh, I asked, "How long?"
A corner of his mouth tugged upward. "Ambika's last class is June eighteenth."
The day before Lora's wedding. I said, "I can wait two weeks."
He ran a fingertip along the inside of my bottom lip. "You don't sound certain."
I tried to smile. It felt lopsided. "Frustration never killed anyone, right?"
Remus' eyes gleamed with wry humour. "I'm living proof."
I laughed. Remus inhaled sharply and refastened the ties to my halter. I should have moved away, but I didn't. I said, "Where will we go on our h-holiday?"
I had almost said 'honeymoon', and the smile on Remus' face told me he knew it. He kissed my brow. "Andrew mentioned a place once…I'll owl and make arrangements."
His tone of voice was a cue to step back, say goodnight, Floo home and collapse into bed…alone. That wasn't what I wanted. I tried a beseeching look. "Remus?"
I whispered, "Do I really have to go home?"
The air around us charged with tension. "My bed is small," he said.
"We could sleep like spoons."
Remus' gaze became heavy-lidded and mesmerising. "Do you want to sleep skin against skin?" he asked, trailing a finger down my bare back.
I nodded dazedly, imagining the warmth of his chest behind me, his arm draped over my side, his hand cupping…
I blinked and said dreamily, "MmHmm."
Remus pulled me into his arms for a kiss so filled with desire, it left me gasping and shifting my hips instinctively. He took a ragged breath, breaking the kiss to brush his lips across my hair while his hands stroked my arms and back lightly, soothingly.
After several moments, he said, "I meant only to tease a little, before offering you a shirt to sleep in." He half smiled. "The best laid plans go awry."
"I'll take your MegaMaggot tee, if you're not going to wear it," I said hopefully, even though Remus was shaking his head.
His smile was apologetic. "I thought I could sleep innocently in a bed with you, but I can't." Remus gently put space between us.
I sighed. "I have to go home?"
"Yes, love, you have to go home."
That night, a Morpheus Charm enabled me to sleep. The next morning, I paid for dreamless slumber with the cold shower needed to fully wake. Remus and I had plans for a mid-morning run followed by Sunday brunch. I wasn't about to cancel.
When he stepped out of the Floo, my heart thudded crazily. He was so handsome and sexy and…tired-looking. I reached out and traced the shadows beneath his eyes with a fingertip.
"I should have had you teach me that sleep charm," said Remus.
"We don't have to go running," I said. "We could drink coffee and read the paper until it's time to go to Mum and Dad's."
His gaze flickered to the sofa and back. "I need the run."
On second thought, it was too easy to imagine the things I'd like to do on that sofa. "Me too," I said, pecking him on the lips before hurrying to the door.
After a short jog, we stopped to stretch. I always enjoyed watching the smooth, fluid motions of Remus' body, but today, I kept my eyes averted. At the end of my routine, I asked, "Can we take a longer, harder route than usual?"
"I'm up for it," Remus answered.
The hint of a smile in his voice brought a rush of heat to my cheeks. Stars and Stones, I needed to run off some…energy...! Not daring to peek at the expression on his face, I took off running.
By the time I met Remus on my parents' front step, I felt almost as composed as I hoped I looked in my bright floral sundress.
"Behold the goddess of spring," Remus said with a smile.
I grinned and rapped the doorknocker. "I can't wait to visit the Underworld."
Dad opened the door with a frown on his face. "Andie, the doormat's not chiming!" he called, before welcoming us with a smiling 'come in, come in!'
Inside, I gave Dad a hug and turned to Mum. Her lips curved in an enigmatic smile. "Too bad about the mat," I said with a smirk.
"Yes, isn't it?" she murmured, before kissing my cheek.
We ate in the back garden. I let the others carry the conversation, content to be with the ones I loved. Somewhere nearby, children played, their laughter spilling like sunlight through the back fence. Remus smiled at something Dad said, and all at once, I could envision another Sunday, in the future.
I watched my husband wipe our son's chubby, sticky fingers and said, "Sorry about the mess. I guess he thought Daddy wasn't feeding him fast enough, so he helped himself to the pudding."
Beneath a shock of black hair, dark blue eyes sparkled with glee. "Mum!" the toddler cried, recklessly hurling his body off his father's lap. I scooped him up, uncaring that the pudding on rosy cheeks was rubbed onto mine.
"Headstrong, like his mother," said Remus, chuckling.
"Bold, like his father," I said. When Remus nodded slightly, I added, "I wonder if his sister will be as strong-willed."
My parents' faces lit up. "Nymphadora!" Mum said, clasping her hands together.
"Nymphadora!" my mother said impatiently. "Do you, or do you not care for a slice of cake?"
A blush stole up my throat at being caught daydreaming. I said quickly, "Yes, I do," and took the plate she offered. A glance at Remus made me realise our 'son' had his smile.
Sunday became a pattern for the week. We ran every morning and spent our evenings going out with friends. It wasn't that Remus and I didn't want to be alone together- just the opposite. We wanted it too much. Sunday afternoon, a kiss goodbye became a snogging session that heated almost out of control. Since then, we'd agreed to avoid temptation and all sofas.
Monday night, after dinner on the roof with Morty and Lisa, Remus and I stayed to look at the stars, and ended up snogging on the double lounger. If I hadn't accidentally rolled us off, I would've done more than grope.
Tuesday afternoon, I stopped by Chocolat and asked Jan if she and Alan wanted to go listen to some jazz later that evening. We had a great time, but after our friends Disapparated, I kissed Remus so ardently outside the club, a passer-by said, "Get a room!"
Wednesday, I received an owl from Evan requesting that I stop sending Howlers- painting would not be completed for a few more weeks, but the lifts and lighting in the Iron Mountain building were fixed.
Remus and I went out for Chinese before stopping by to see the improvements for ourselves. We rode up in a lift, and when it descended again to the first floor, we were startled out of our embrace by what sounded like an avalanche. It was Rock trolls, laughing.
Thursday, Remus spent the evening playing chess with Andrew while Cami and I went to a Muggle theatre. We saw a film that had mostly women in the audience, with actors who dressed in period costumes and spoke without contractions.
Afterwards, we stopped into a coffee shop.
"How do you do it? Wait so patiently between visits to Scotland?" I asked bluntly.
"Who said I'm patient?" Cami laughed.
"You always look serene," I said.
"Looks are deceiving, my friend."
I took a sip of coffee and glanced around. No one was sitting in earshot, so I leaned forward. "When you know you're going to be with Sirius in…two weeks, let's say…does time seem to slow?"
Cami's straight brown hair swung when she nodded. "Days go by normally, but nights last forever."
They did for me too without a Morpheus Charm. I said, "Do you mark off the days in X's so thick, people ask why you don't just colour in the box?"
My friend lifted an eyebrow. "No, do you?"
"Yes," I said, before realising she'd turned the conversation from talking about her to me.
"What are you marking off days for?" she asked with a huge smile.
"Remus and I are going on holiday," I said, grinning like the lovesick fool I was.
"That's wonderful! Where?" asked Cami.
"I don't know," I said, "and it doesn't matter, as long as I'm with Remus."
"I feel that way about Sirius," said Cami.
I broke the silence by saying, "Let's go grab something chocolate."
Friday night, I was snapping, "This is ridiculous," to Remus, as we stood in Tom's kitchen, waiting for everyone to arrive. Midnight, the witching hour, was the time appointed by the blackmailer to drop off the packet containing 'galleons paid to bearer' certificates. Our group was meeting an hour earlier to go over the plan before heading to the warehouse. We were a few minutes early.
"Morning is such a better time," I said, "from a practical standpoint. Gringotts' is open, there's better visibility to see if you've been double-crossed, and people around to blend into or use as shields if you have to make a getaway…"
"What a brilliant criminal you would have made," said Remus, kissing my cheek.
Tom, pouring coffee, handed us mugs with a smile. "She plays Dark wizard in training better than anyone," he told Remus.
"I don't like to brag, but I have evaded capture more than any Auror on record." I blew on the backs of my fingers and rubbed them against my chest.
Remus and Tom chuckled. My 'modest' smile faded when I saw Evan standing just inside the kitchen, eyebrows raised. "Doesn't it worry your superiors, how good you are at being Dark?" he asked. "Aren't they afraid you'll turn, like your cousin?"
Tom frowned. "No one questions Tonks' integrity."
"Sirius didn't turn and you know it," I said levelly.
Evan inclined his head, conceding, "Perhaps not."
Julia rushed into the kitchen. "Sorry if I'm late," she said. "I fell asleep." Accepting a cup of coffee from Tom, she said in an undertone, "Thanks for setting my alarm."
"My pleasure," he said.
I sidled next to Remus and whispered, "I'll be setting your alarm."
He huffed in amusement.
The noise Evan made was merely huffy. "I'd like coffee too."
"Sorry, mate…black, no sugar?" asked Tom.
"One," Evan and I corrected at the same time.
I wanted to bite my tongue as I slanted a glance at Remus. His lips curved in an understanding smile. I blew him a kiss.
It didn't take long to go over our plan. It was simple. Slip into the warehouse using Disillusionment Charms, wait for Maris and 'Teddy' to show, and confront them. Our troll would counter their troll, and the blackmail would end.
After our group met Sendak at the back of the building next to the drop off point, I said, "I always wondered, do trolls have magical abilities, or do wizards cast the concealment spells that keep Muggles from noticing them?"
Sendak faded from sight and then 'reappeared.'
I said, "Cool," before a not-so-cool thought struck. "Can River trolls do that too?"
He shook his head. Everyone looked relieved.
"Since you're such good mates, why don't you be the one to wait with Sendak outside the warehouse until needed?" Evan suggested.
I shrugged. "Fine with me." Remus, Tom, and Julia nodded their agreement and engaged the charms to blend into the shadows. When the sound of footsteps faded, I looked up at Sendak. "How will I know where you are if I can't see you?"
He held out a hand.
I felt like a little girl clasping her father's hand, my arm lifted high because he was so much taller. Not that I could hold Sendak's hand- it was much too big- my hand only wrapped around his pointer finger. His skin was appropriately rock-like, cool and hard. I hoped he didn't think mine unpleasantly warm and soft.
When we reached the side door of the warehouse, there was nothing to do but wait. The downside of Disillusionment hit me then. I couldn't check the time, reassure myself that time actually was moving forward, suspended as it seemed while waiting for the action to start.
I unconsciously swung Sendak's finger back and forth, counting off the seconds, until a quiet rumbling noise caught my attention and I stopped. Next, I tried to listen for sounds and heard nothing. Restlessly, I scanned the darkness and then looked up at the waxing moon. In another couple of days, it would be full.
The silvery shape of a Patronus bounded out of the wall in front of us. It was a wolf- Remus! I let go of Sendak's finger and broke the charm. "There's our cue!"
He was donning a gauntlet when he became visible. The studded metal protecting from wrist to knuckles reminded me of a character in one of my favourite books, Ogre, Ogre. "Smash!" I exclaimed, referring to the Ogre in the novel.
Sendak took me literally, and used a gauntleted fist to smash the door open. I followed in his wake, wand held ready.
On the far side of the warehouse, Remus and Boles were alternately shooting and ducking each other's spells while Tom, Julia, and Evan held off the River troll. Protego charms kept Glenelg lumbering toward his foes, although slowly.
Sendak tromped inside, striking one gauntlet against the other to gain his opponent's attention. The clang of steel stopped Glenelg in his tracks, but I kept running. When I drew near enough, I morphed my features into Maris' and called, "Teddy-bear!"
Boles turned instantly. "Sweetness! You're supposed to…" The wizard looked down in shock when ropes wound around him tightly, not even trying to fight the bonds with which Remus had incarcerated him. "Wait…" he finished numbly.
I walked over. "Wait where?"
He pointed. "Over…"
"Here," Maris said, stepping out of the shadows in the back. She held her wand pointed at Remus. "Free him."
"No," said Remus.
"Even if he wasn't protected by a Protego charm," I bluffed, "you couldn't hit him from there, so put down the wand."
"I can hit him!" she cried, jerking her wand toward Evan.
I laughed. "Where were you two years ago?"
Maris shrieked, "Do you want to see him dead?"
Before I could finish saying 'no,' her eyes rolled to the back of her head and Maris crumpled to the floor.
Evan, pocketing his wand, strolled over to pick up the one on the floor. "She forgot the Slytherin creed- self preservation at all costs." He looked from Maris' prone body to Boles and Glenelg, who was lying knocked out cold, to a bloody-knuckled Sendak and said, "Now what do we do?"
Remus asked Boles, "What were your plans?"
"Run away, to someplace we could be together," the man said forlornly.
The five of us drew together to talk. "I can't bring charges without revealing the contents of the blackmail," said Tom.
"Exactly what Maris was counting on," Julia fumed.
Evan said, "Why don't we help them on their way?"
"Help them how?" Remus said sharply.
"I've heard the Baltic is lovely this time of year," said Evan. "I booked a cruise for two to St. Petersburg, leaving early tomorrow morning. All I need is a deserving couple to take it."
Remus' gaze flickered from Tom and Julia to Maris. "Is it round trip?"
Tom said, "I'm going to inform my father about the blackmail, tell him to cut me out of the business- the family too if he doesn't accept my job and Julia. He'll tell Warrington, so if Maris returns; she'll be taking her life in her hands."
Remus said, "I'm not sure Maris planned on going anywhere. How will we get her on board?"
Evan smirked at me. "Sweetness here can do it."
"Is your first name Ted?" I asked Boles, after boarding the Norwegian cruise ship and ordering the porters to stack my numerous trunks to the side of the bedroom in the luxurious suite. He had tipped the staff, 'unpacked' Maris and laid her on the bed. I was about to leave.
"Well, I can't say it was nice meeting you, Theodore, but good luck."
"Thank you Tonks…and I'm Teddy."
I shook my head. "Maris can call you that, not me, Theodore." I made to go.
"I hope she's not mad at me when she wakes up," I heard him say.
My hand slipped into a pocket and fingered a tiny vial. After directing me back to Maris' house and whispering names of servants for me to address, Evan had given me the vial, saying, "If Maris drinks this, she'll be so infatuated with Boles, she won't dare return, for his sake even more than hers." When I looked at him doubtfully, he said, "Do what you think best. Not Lupin. Not me. You."
Abruptly, I turned. "Do you love Maris?"
"Does she love you?"
"She said she did…once…after…" he ducked his head, turning red in the face.
In three strides, I was at the bedside and pouring the contents of the vial down Maris' throat.
"What's that for?"
I made myself smile. "To make her feel better."
I left Theodore sitting on the bed, holding Maris' hand.
It took me a couple of days to tell Remus what I had done. We were sitting together on the futon mattress in the safe room in his flat, spending time talking before the pull of the moon forced him to change. The story came pouring out of me.
"I knew there was something omitted, when you filled us in later, but I didn't know what," he said. "Do you regret it?"
It was hard to explain. "Yes and no."
He smiled. "I've felt that way."
"I'm not lily-white," I said, remembering Evan's words.
Remus plucked a red rosebud from the vase on the floor beside the mattress. "You're a vibrant rose, and I wouldn't have you any other way," he said, stroking my cheek with the petals.
I threw my arms around Remus and toppled him onto his back to kiss him. On this occasion, when we eventually rolled off, we didn't have far to fall, and only knocked over the vase.
I awoke the next morning with my love at my side, in his human form once more. Transformation had left him looking tired and hung-over. I kissed him softly. "I'll be right back with potions, baby."
He was drinking the last one when the wards on the front door chimed.
"This is why we need to go someplace our friends can't find us," I said with a laugh.
We walked through the bedroom to the lounge. I don't think either of us was surprised to see Tom and Julia on the doorstep.
"We come bearing coffee," said Tom, lifting a take away carrier.
"And pastries," Julia added, holding out a bag.
"Come in," said Remus.
I ducked into his bedroom to retrieve folding chairs. Once everyone took a seat around the table and all that remained of my pastry were crumbs, I asked, "What brings you two over so early?"
Julia looked at Tom, who nodded slightly. She said, "You're going on holiday next Saturday, right?"
"Right," I said.
"We want to go too. Not for the week, just the weekend," Julia said in a rush. She saw the look on my face and added, "We don't want to intrude on your holiday, we…we…"
"We want to elope, and have you stand with us at our joining ceremony," said Tom, lifting Julia's left hand to his lips.
I gaped at the emerald ring on her finger. "Jul…are you sure?"
Her smile was misty. "I wanted to elope seventh year during the Yule ball."
Tom said, "I tried to talk with my father last night. He's delusional…already discussing a betrothal with the Carrows and won't listen to reason. The only way to protect Julia and my mother is to take the decision out of his hands, once and for all."
My eyes flew to Remus. He said, "Andrew was married in…the place we're going. I'm sure they still perform ceremonies." Remus told Tom and Julia, "I'll write down the information, and you can owl an enquiry right away."
I watched, open mouthed, while Remus went into the kitchen and took a quill and pad of parchment out of the junk drawer I had made for him and began to write. I said, "You're going to tell them where we're going, but you won't tell me?"
Remus continued to scratch on the pad. "Yes, that's right."
"That's not fair," I muttered, breaking off a corner of Remus' pastry and popping it into my mouth.
"I think its romantic," Julia stated firmly.
"Romantic?" I said questioningly, gazing at Remus.
He glanced up with a wolfish smile. "Very romantic."
I snagged another piece of his pastry. "That's all right, then."
My accepting attitude didn't last the day. Consumed with curiosity, I began asking for hints. Remus said 'no' and kissed my sulky lips, distracting me from the subject.
Tuesday night, after Tom and Julia took us to dinner in celebration of finalising their plans, I kissed Remus in the stairwell of the Blue Moon and whispered, "Couldn't you give me a teeny tiny hint?"
Remus nipped my earlobe with his teeth. "I could, but I won't."
He chuckled when I stomped upstairs.
By Friday night, I had stopped trying to ask or guess where we were going, much to Remus' amusement. "Aren't you going to write 'where are we going' on my leg with your fingertip?" he whispered, during the dinner after the wedding rehearsal.
I leaned close. "If you wanted my hand on your thigh, all you had to do was ask." I stroked my way down to his knee and raked my fingernails against fabric on the way back up.
I jumped and banged my wrist on the underside of the table when Rita asked me to pass the salt.
Remus grinned and rubbed the sore spot with his thumb.
Saturday morning, I burnt the toast, spilt milk and coffee, and sent the contents of my jewellery box scattering across the bedroom floor while looking for a particular pair of earrings.
The first thing I said to Lora when I arrived at Our Lady, Catholic Church in North London was, "You gave me your jitters."
She thought I was joking, but I was serious. "You gave me your jitters. I've been a nervous wreck all morning, while you stand here looking like an angel, smiling." I held out my hands. "See, they're trembling!"
"Good heavens, they are!" Cousin Amy exclaimed, bustling over. She told her sister, "Hold out your hands, love."
"They're not shaking a bit," Meg said, walking over to look at her younger sister's hands. She smiled at me. "Wish I could've given you my morning sickness."
Across the room, Liz was using a Muggle device to curl wisps of hair framing her face. She snickered. "I'll happily give you my cramps each month, cuz."
Rita strolled into the room set aside for the Bridal party, her dress in a bag over her arm. "What are you lot laughing about?"
"Tonks has my bridal jitters," Lora said with a smile.
"Sure they're not your own, cousin?" asked Rita. "Gran told me you're going on holiday after the reception."
All eyes focused on me. I stammered, "S-so?"
"So…you haven't been on holiday," Rita stressed meaningfully, "in a long time."
Amy patted my arm. "It's only natural to be nervous, love."
"Don't be. Remus is crazy about you," said Meg.
"Emphasis on crazy, because any bloke who goes for Tonks must be mental," Liz added with a cheeky grin.
Lora hugged me. "I'm a little nervous, myself, becoming a wife, committing to a lifelong, sacred journey, but I love Gerald so much- I won't let that hold me back."
I said, "He's lucky to have you. You're the most beautiful person, and the most beautiful bride I've ever seen." I stepped away, saying, "I'd kiss your cheek, but your mum would kill me if I ruined your makeup."
"Ruined makeup? What's this about ruined makeup!" my aunt shrilled, entering the room with the wedding planner hard on her heels.
Johanna Fuss announced grandly, "There will be no smudging of makeup, no soiling of satin, nothing to spoil Lora Josephine's big day."
Rita hooked her arm through mine. "Help me change before I tell the witch where to go and ruin the big day." When I laughed, she hugged my arm and said, "Lucky Lora won the pool, by the way."
I hoped my cousin enjoyed her day at the spa when she came back from her honeymoon, and while on the beach toasted her mental yet loving family with a tropical drink.
At eleven o'clock in the morning, light was streaming through the stained glass windows of the church, forming a natural spotlight on the aisle leading up to the priest, groom, and best man waiting at the altar. Grateful I was being escorted up the aisle by a school chum of Gerald's and not walking by myself, I tried to smile naturally as the prelude music became processional, and we began our stately march.
Halfway down the aisle, I saw Remus sitting at the end of a pew. His expression, taking in the flowers in my hair and my long, strapless, petal-pink dress, made me feel beautiful.
In my place at the front, I stood holding my bouquet, watching my fellow bridesmaids and then the Bride come down the aisle, overwhelmed by happiness. When Lora spoke her vows to Gerald, my eyes fixed on Remus. In my mind, I spoke words to him.
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
He smiled at me with a love I vowed never to take for granted. I smiled back, with tears of joy in my eyes.
A/N: I never cry at real weddings, but fictional ones have me all misty! It is always sweet sorrow, finishing a story...and yet...the series is far from over, and a new adventure is about to begin. Before that happens, Remus has a pov one shot that posted along with this chapter- Butterfly Summer. I hope readers will want to 'see' where Remus and Tonks go on their 'honeymoon'! Next Friday, there will be a transition one shot, to bridge the time between the end of this story and the beginning of the next fic, which starts in the OotP timeline. Sirius, Remus, and Tonks all have povs in Three for the Road. The readers whose reviews encouraged and made the last week of writing this story sweet, and not sorrow, were...♥ 40/16 ♥ amattsonperdue ♥ Audrey ♥ barbie-girl ♥ Bardlover ♥ cupcakeswirl ♥ die Loreley ♥ Dolphindreamer ♥ eleen ♥ ElspethBates ♥ Embellished ♥ Enorance ♥ Fauzia ♥ FNP ♥ Freja Lercke-Falkenborg ♥ GraceRichie ♥ ishandtwofourths ♥ Kates Master ♥ n1264 (katieweasley) ♥ Kileaiya ♥ ladyofthebookworms ♥ L-Ae-D ♥ lainey3600 ♥ LaneTechFreshie ♥ Leena7 ♥ Lerie ♥ Lizet M ♥ Mii-chan1 ♥ MollyCoddles ♥ mon-ami-runa ♥ Moontime (Moonlight) ♥ Nethiel Nessime ♥ petiteloupegarou ♥ rillie ♥ siriuslycoco ♥ Sivaroobini Lupin-Black ♥ Slipknot-3113 ♥ Sophia Loren ♥ and ♥ sunny9847 ♥