Remus had, of course, seen a few Howlers before, and had witnessed the terror they could inspire with just a few shrieked words; but this was the first Howler he had ever personally received. So how could he know that it was one of the loudest, shrillest, and lengthiest Howlers a person could get? He stood clutching the back of a chair as he gawked at the flimsy parchment screeching at him from the center of the kitchen table.
"HOW DARE YOU NOT TELL ME THAT YOU WERE CHECKING ON ME FOR DUMBLEDORE! THAT WAS A VERY SNEAKY AND UNDERHANDED THING TO DO TO SOMEONE! AND WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE ORDER, OR THAT YOU WERE PART OF IT?! I KNEW THAT STORY I WRUNG OUT OF YOU ABOUT WORKING AT A BOOK SHOP WAS A LOAD OF BOLLOCKS!
"AND MAKING ME FALL FOR YOU AT THE SAME BLOODY TIME YOU WERE SPYING ON ME WAS COMPLETELY UNCALLED FOR! FIVE MONTHS OF SUBTERFUGE! FIVE MONTHS OF LONG-DISTANCE WOOING AND DATING AND WHATNOT – ESPECIALLY THE WHATNOT – AND ALL THE WHILE YOU AND MOODY AND DUMBLEDORE WERE PLOTTING TO POP THIS ON ME THE INSTANT I PASSED THE AUROR EXAMS! I OUGHT TO HEX YOU INTO NEXT WEEK FOR THAT! BUT I WON'T BECAUSE YOU'RE SUCH A BLOODY GOOD KISSER!"
Remus laughed. And as though the Howler had anticipated this, it went on:
"DON'T YOU DARE LAUGH, THIS IS SERIOUS!!!!!
"AND SPEAKING OF SIRIUS AND HIS METHODS OF DISTRACTION, DON'T YOU EVER TRY TO DISTRACT ME WITH KISSES EVER AGAIN BECAUSE I CAN PROMISE YOU THAT NEXT TIME, REMUS LUPIN, IT WON'T WORK! BECAUSE I AM AN AUROR NOW, AND AN AUROR WITH A SPECIAL UNDERCOVER JOB, TOO, MISTER SMARTY-PANTS, AND YOU CAN'T FOOL ME! NO SECRET IS SAFE! SO YOU'D BETTER BE SUFFICIENTLY CONTRITE WHEN I SEE YOU AGAIN! THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING!"
The Howler lowered its voice for a moment.
"AS MAD AS I AM, I SUPOSE I SHOULD THANK YOU FOR PUTTING IN A GOOD WORD WITH DUMBLEDORE FOR ME."
But then it began shrieking again.
"ALTHOUGH I HOPE IT WASN'T JUST SO YOU'D GET ME INTO BED, BECAUSE TRUST ME, THAT WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN NECESSARY!"
It lowered its voice again.
"OH. I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE TOLD YOU TO OPEN THIS WHEN YOU WERE ALONE."
It screeched once more.
"NEVERTHELESS! YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THE ENDS DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS, EVEN IF THE ENDS ARE COMPLETELY FABULOUS!
"WAIT, YOU ARE GETTING ME OFF THE SUBJECT! DON'T DISTRACT ME! GRRRR!!"
Remus snorted as the Howler actually growled at him and ruffled its edges threateningly like the fringe of a Chinese Fireball. But of course it went on:
"I'M REALLY MAD AT YOU! AND DAMN IT ALL, I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU TONIGHT!!!!!"
The Howler then folded itself into a mouth and kissed Remus full-on, making him stagger backward in shock. The paper tasted salty, as salty as Tonks' lips at the seashore, as salty as a long afternoon in bed together. He blinked, licking his lips, and watched the Howler tear itself into a hundred little pieces and toss itself over his head like confetti. It was wet like sea spray and smelled of waves and sand.
Remus stood in shock for a full five seconds. Then he chuckled, feeling rather pleased with his own sneakiness and, as usual, more than a little impressed by Tonks' creativity. They'd talked about wanting to go back to that beach south of Dublin after the Selkies were taken home; but between his busy schedule and hers, they'd never had the chance. And here she'd sent him a little bit of that place … in a Howler, no less.
Sirius sauntered sleepily into the kitchen, carrying glasses from last night's brief Order meeting in the library. He set the tray on the counter next to the sink. "What was all the ruckus in here?" he muttered.
Suddenly Remus laughed, a deep belly laugh that cheered him as thoroughly as if Tonks were standing here next to him pulling a face or making one of her wry little jokes. He Vanished the bits of paper out of his hair and off his shoulders, chortling contentedly. Sirius glanced at him with a raised eyebrow as he began casting Cleansing Charms on the glasses.
"It seems that our Tonks received Dumbledore's owl," grinned Remus at last. "She's pleased as punch, but very put out with me for not telling her myself."
"I told you, you're too much of a secretive bastard for your own good," said Sirius, turning back to the dirty dishes. "It's a wonder she doesn't finish with you once and for all."
"Yes," said Remus. "It's a wonder, isn't it?" But his grin widened
"It'll be nice having her around more often," murmured Sirius, and Remus saw a tiny smile tug the corner of his friend's lips.
"Hmm," agreed Remus as he gathered bread, eggs, and tomatoes to prepare a breakfast.
Sirius started the coffee and settled, yawning and stretching, into a chair, from whence he watched his friend work, as his own chore this week was washing the dishes. He would get bored with that job by Wednesday, most likely, and Remus would agree to exchange it for some other household task.
As Remus hummed and cooked, no more was said about Tonks joining the Order. But both their hearts seemed lighter this morning. Even the kitchen itself, with its mold growing from underneath the cabinets, seemed a bit less gloomy.
After breakfast, Remus Summoned some parchment and a quill to the table.
"Who are you writing?" asked Sirius as he leaned back on the rear legs of his chair and wiped his mouth with a napkin.
"Well, I can't let Tonks have the last word with that Howler, now, can I?"
Remus began scribbling figures and casting spells on the parchment while Sirius watched. Grinning to himself, Remus wouldn't say any more about it, despite Sirius' dogged questions. He remained silent when his friend caught him consulting several books in the library upstairs, and even when he reported that he was going out for "a spot of Muggle shopping."
"Secretive bastard," said Sirius, finally giving up and going upstairs to talk to Buckbeak.
That evening Remus took extra care dressing – so much so that he caught Kingsley eyeing him curiously over the kitchen table. Remus squirmed nervously. Fortunately, there were too many others in the kitchen already for him to have to endure probing questions about wardrobe. Remus didn't think Tonks' first meeting at the Order was the time for everyone to find out about their relationship; so, in the meantime, he supposed he'd have to endure a raised eyebrow or two over his best shirt and jumper.
Right on schedule, they heard a string of colorful language followed by Moody's booming voice from the hallway telling Walburga to "shut up before I turn you into a stick figure!" Sirius winked at Remus and pushed his chair back to head upstairs.
Remus' heart leapt. Tonks would be in tow, after her first day of orientation at the Ministry, followed, per Dumbledore's request, by a dinner meeting with Mad-Eye for Order orientation.
He heard Tonks squeal as she no doubt captured Sirius in a bear hug. Then all was silent for a few moments. Remus tried to bring his attention back to the conversation at the table; but he quickly noticed that, for some reason, Kingsley was staring at him again.
"That must be Nymphadora Tonks," Remus said as neutrally as he could.
Kinglsey nodded, his face as deadpan as a codfish.
The two men stared at each other for a few seconds, during which time Remus realized he probably couldn't be more transparent if he tried.
He decided to excuse himself.
Perhaps he'd better go upstairs to meet her after all, because on second thought he didn't think he could be trusted not to allow himself a kiss on the cheek – or more – and that wouldn't exactly help Tonks make a good first impression here. She'd been asked into the Order on her own merits, after all, not because of her boyfriend.
Boyfriend. Even now, Remus still hardly dared believe it.
Climbing the stairs, the first thing he saw was the back of Tonks' pink hair; she'd made it longer tonight, which inexplicably caused Remus' heart to rumble with pleasure. As he reached the landing he saw her new Auror robes, and a sudden pride filled him. It was a good thing he'd decided to come upstairs, because he couldn't stop a huge smile from plastering itself across his face.
There was a lull in the conversation as Tonks stepped back from Sirius, still clutching his elbow.
"Hello," said Remus.
At the sound of his quiet greeting Tonks turned, and her black eyes immediately shifted to blue-green, as quick as a bolt of lightning, or the flash of a camera; the transition was so swift and startling that Remus felt his breath catch in his throat.
"Wotcher, Remus," breathed Tonks. Her smile was as broad as his certainly must be.
He felt his heart swell.
To provide a distraction to Moody during what must be such an obvious reunion – after all, they hadn't seen each other in the past three weeks, during her last Auror tasks and exams, peppered with a series of grueling interviews at the Ministry – Remus pulled out the parchment he had charmed earlier and handed it to Tonks.
She eyed him cheekily and blushed, then made to open it. She'd barely peeled back the edge a sliver when the sound of a bow being drawn across violin strings cut the air. Quickly Remus pinched the letter closed again to silence it.
"After," he said, trying to nip his grin in the bud.
"Strange sound for a Howler to be making," said Tonks, cocking her head and appraising him sidelong.
Oh, how he loved that look.
"Come on," he managed, allowing a greedy hand to settle on the small of her back. "Everyone wants to meet you."
He thought he heard a muffled "harrumph" from Mad-Eye and a chuckle from Sirius as the four of them descended the stairs.
Never before had Remus wished for a meeting to end the way he wished this one would.
And never had he had such difficulty controlling his own face.
Now that Tonks was here, he wanted to smile and never stop; but that would look rather odd, he reasoned, as he didn't think he'd ever actually quite truly smiled – smiled in the giddy way he wanted to smile now – during an Order meeting before tonight … which, of course, made it all the more difficult to keep from grinning like a lovesick fool.
Everything Tonks said during tonight's lengthy introductions made Remus feel ridiculously puffed up with pride. She'd done her homework, smart girl, and was prepared to ask questions or make comments about each and every Order member's experiences, skills, and ambitions. He could tell that the group was taking an instant liking to her, and he thought his heart would burst. Twice Remus caught Dumbledore chuckling beneath his long, silvery beard, and Remus was gratified that the older wizard seemed duly impressed and delighted by Tonks' presence. How could anyone not be bowled over by this woman, after all?
How could anyone help but love her?
Finally, at long last, the meeting concluded. Partners planned to meet for their next assignments. Some people reiterated and memorized instructions, and some charmed maps to look like inconsequential memos or letters and tucked them away discreetly into pockets of robes. Eventually, one by one, they murmured their goodnights as they ascended the stairs to the front hallway, quietly, so as not to disturb Mrs. Black. Arthur Weasley pulled Dumbledore aside for a word, and Tonks found herself cornered by Molly and Kingsley for several minutes.
As Remus busied himself helping Sirius clear the glasses and papers from the table, he spotted Tonks shooting him a glance. Tonks' smile was followed by a shrewd stare at him by Molly. Drat all women and their sixth senses for these things, thought Remus with a smirk. Even Kingsley gave Remus a jovial nod before he left, his dark eyes landing fleetingly on Tonks again before he exited the kitchen.
This relationship wouldn't remain a secret for very long.
Well, for once Remus had a secret he didn't mind sharing – a secret of which he was, he had to admit, rather proud indeed. Undoubtedly he would have to endure advice from Molly and a certain amount of ribbing from Mundungus, perhaps from Kinglsey, as well; but the rest of the Order would likely remain close-lipped about it. Nevertheless, he felt himself smiling.
Next to him at the sink, Sirius hummed under his breath. Remus' grin broadened.
Soon Dumbledore called his goodnights to Remus and Sirius. Then Arthur tugged his wife away from Tonks, reminding her that they had boys at home who were probably already into some sort of trouble that might take until midnight to sort out. Reluctantly, Molly bid Tonks farewell and trudged upstairs, whispering with her husband.
When all was silent, Tonks sighed, facing Sirius and Remus across the kitchen. "Thank Merlin that's over," she said with a happy grimace. "I tend to be bollocks at introductions, so I thought I'd better try extra hard not to put my foot in it."
"You were wonderful," said Remus, and Sirius nodded.
Suddenly Tonks raced across the kitchen and captured Remus and Sirius round their necks, planting a kiss on Sirius' cheek and one on Remus' mouth.
"Welcome, welcome, little Nymph!" laughed Sirius, still hugging her.
"It's Tonks, you antiquated git," she replied swiftly, grinning back at him.
"I'm glad you're here," said Remus, keeping an arm wrapped snugly around her waist.
Tonks socked him on the shoulder. Her voice was a growl, but her eyes revealed her delight. "I can't believe you didn't tell me! All that time, and you didn't breathe a word!"
"Our Moony is nothing if not a secretive bastard," quipped Sirius, turning to finish up the glasses.
As soon as Sirius' back was turned, Tonks threw her arms around Remus' neck and kissed him soundly.
"I can hear that, you know," said Sirius in a sing-song voice.
Remus and Tonks finished their kiss, unable to keep from snickering silently into each other's mouths.
"All right, I'm turning around now," said Sirius from his position at the sink. "Pull your knickers back up, Remus."
Tonks swatted Sirius, and the three of them settled down at the table again. Soon a bottle of firewhiskey sat between them and idle conversation passed their smiling lips. An hour and then two ticked slowly by as Sirius filled Tonks in on some of the juicier bits of gossip about a few Order members, paying special attention to Snape; and Remus finally confessed the true history of his life since leaving Hogwarts. Tonks told them how nervous she'd been tonight, and later she described the flat she'd secured for herself in town; but her eyes darted mischievously towards Remus as she spoke. Clearly, she hadn't planned on sleeping in her own bed tonight, which was fine by Remus. He felt a grin sliding up one side of his face at the thought.
With that, Sirius yawned and stretched in such an exaggerated way that Tonks actually snorted. "Well, kids, I'm going to bed." He stood and shuffled to the kitchen door. "What do you want for breakfast, Nym – erm, Tonks?"
Tonks looked at Remus and smiled. "Pancakes."
"Your wish is my command," said Sirius. "As long as Remus helps me make them." And with a rakish grin at the two of them, he was gone.
Immediately he reappeared in the doorway. "You know, it's not too late for that threesome – "
Remus threw a dish towel at him and Sirius vanished again, chuckling on his way upstairs. Tonks giggled.
Remus and Tonks grinned at each other and listened until Sirius' footsteps disappeared. Finally the kitchen was as quiet as a chapel.
"'Lo," said Remus, his eyes darting happily over her welcome features.
"Hi," Tonks beamed.
They regarded each other silently, smiling, for a while. Remus almost couldn't believe she was finally here.
"Thank you, Remus." Tonks' voice was quiet, her expression shy.
"For putting in a good word for me."
Remus shook his head. "It was as much Moody as it was me. He thinks you're brilliant, too."
"Really? He does?"
Remus nodded. "And he wouldn't even have asked you to shag him senseless every weekend during your last five months of Auror training – "
Tonks kicked his foot under the table, snickering. "Well, he was right about one thing about me, at least."
"A pre-mission shag goes a long way towards calming the nerves."
Remus and Tonks burst into laughter. They giggled a good, long while, watching each other and wiping tears of mirth from their eyes.
Tonks finally lowered her gaze to her glass, her fingers tracing the edge. "I, erm, didn't exactly ask if I could spend the – "
"You know I wasn't about to let you leave tonight," said Remus. Tonks raised her eyes to his again and smiled, more broadly this time. "Besides," he went on, "if you left now, Sirius would have no one but me to make fun of in the morning."
"Well, in that case, I'd be delighted to stay."
"Just looking out for you."
Their hands reached across the table and clasped each other. Another comfortable silence stretched between them as they watched one another and smiled. "I'm really glad you're here," said Remus again, feeling serenity settle over him like a warm quilt.
"I know," said Tonks, her eyes shining. "Me, too."
"At last," he said, his eyes fixed on hers.
Remus' thumb stroked the top of Tonks' hand, and with that simple motion the silence between them changed, and the very air around them seemed to shimmer with yearning. Tonks slid her empty glass to the center of the table and stood up. Remus pushed his chair back as she climbed onto his lap, and at once they became a tangle of arms and lips and heat, murmuring words of longing into each other's mouths as they clung together. Three weeks had been too long to be apart, and they both felt it acutely.
"Remus," whispered Tonks as she tugged his jumper over his head and tossed it onto the kitchen table, "I can't wait. Let's go to your room – "
"Yes," he agreed, pulling at the clasps on her new Auror's robes.
They both noticed the parchment that fell out of her right-hand pocket as her cloak landed on the floor.
"Oh," said Tonks with a snigger. "Your Howler."
"Better open it quick, before it explodes on its own." Remus covered her neck in a wet kiss as she bent to retrieve the letter from the floor.
Still seated snugly on his lap, Tonks slid a finger underneath the seal. Immediately the same strain of romantic music as before began to play – violins – a slow, sweeping, old-fashioned melody. Gleefully, Tonks smiled – Remus' most favorite raw and unguarded smile. He quickly cast a wordless Darkness Charm, and the room became completely black for a moment. But soon the spells from his parchment took effect, and other sources of illumination began to light her features once more. Remus watched her eyes widen in delight.
The parchment lifted itself out of Tonks' hands and began to unfold itself and multiply, until the entire kitchen was covered in paper – floor, walls, and ceiling. It wadded, crumpled, refolded, and tore itself into shapes, coloring itself as if with an invisible crayon into shades of blue, green, gold, brown, silver, and white. On the floor it became microscopic bits of glittering sand. Near the sink it undulated repeatedly as wave after papery blue-green wave advanced toward and retreated from the kitchen table where they still sat. Above them, a harmless white origami paper moon and silvery paper stars twinkled within a black parchment sky. Sea "spray" splattered their faces as little bits of charmed wet paper flung themselves at them, sent from the waves on the far side of the kitchen. Tonks looked above her in wonder.
"Show-off," she whispered happily, eyes bright.
Remus squeezed her waist and buried his face in her neck. "I had inspiration."
All around them, the violins swelled with each papery crash of the waves against the kitchen floor. And then a woman's voice began to sing:
At last … my love has come along
Tonks smiled, looking as though she didn't know whether she should laugh or cry.
She settled for kissing.
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
Remus gently pushed against Tonks' hips, and they stood. He took her right hand in his left, wrapping his right arm around her waist.
At last … skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up in clover
The night I looked at you
Tonks leaned her head on Remus' shoulder, and they swayed, so slowly that anyone watching might not have noticed that they were dancing at all.
I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill that I have never known
Tonks raised her face to Remus' and they hesitated, watching each other, their faces mirrored in each other's eyes, matching blue-green eyes, and the longing in them was as unstoppable as the papery blue-green waves crashing and crumpling behind them.
And you smiled … you smiled
Oh and then the spell was cast
And here we are in heaven
For you are mine … at last
In the end, kisses replaced dancing, and their bodies decided the matter for them. By their kitchen seaside they would remain tonight, until the charms Remus had placed on the parchment wore off, until the birds of summer started twittering outside, reminding them to put their clothes back on and sweep the remains of the sea and the starlight into the fireplace.
A/N: Well, that's it, folks! A heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has left such generous and kind feedback. Thank you, too, for your patience when real life got in the way of this fic more times than I care to count. Your reviews have been most encouraging. :)
For the music geeks among you, or for anyone who is remotely curious about some of the inspiration for this story, here is a list of the songs which directly and indirectly inspired each chapter of the fic:
Chapter 1: Rocket in the Sky
"Rocket in the Sky" is an electronica dance song by The Benassi Brothers (and yes, I stole their name for the brothers in Chapter 3 who kidnapped the Selkies). It's the song Remus and Tonks twirled to in the dance club the night they met.
Hey boy / Hey boy / You came over to me and said, "Tell me / If you're alone tonight can I be by your side?" / Hey baby, ain't we having fun tonight/ Little rocket in the sky / Little rocket in the sky
Chapter 2: Lion's Mane
This folk song is by Iron and Wine, and it's the song to which Sirius performed his yoga-like exercises the morning after the club, while Tonks and Remus made the pancakes. The title was the inspiration for the story about Tonks' morphing a lion's mane onto herself as a child. And I always think of Canon!R/T when I listen to the lyrics:
And love is the scene I render when you catch me wide awake / And love's a dream you enter though I shake and shake and shake you
Chapter 3: Bug Powder Dust
This electronica rap song is by Bomb the Bass, and the version I have is the Kruder and Dorfmeister one. It's the song Remus spies Tonks dancing to when he Floos to her Dublin flat. The title inspired their "Bugger-All" pest control disguise for retrieving the Selkie skins from Great Aunt Mabel's attic. The lyrics also made me think of Remus and Tonks trying in vain to keep their mutual attraction "under cover."
Bug powder dust and mugwump jism / And the wild boys runnin' 'round Interzone trippin' / Letter to control about the Big Brother / Try like hard to not blow my cover
Chapter 4: Pink Moon
This folk song is by Nick Drake. It's the song Remus and Tonks are listening to on the Wireless after he walks her home and she confesses that she knows he's a werewolf. This song could be a Remus/Tonks anthem!
I saw it written and I saw it say / Pink moon is on its way / None of you stand so tall / Pink moon gonna get you all / It's a pink moon, yeah, a pink moon / Pink, pink, pink, pink … pink moon
Chapter 5: The Merry Harriers
This Irish tune is traditional, and I like the version performed by my favorite Irish band, Altan. It's the tune that's playing on the Wireless when Remus teaches Tonks how to contra dance (the same night Tonks tells Remus she knows he's a werewolf).
(No lyrics because it's instrumental!)
Chapter 6: The Speed of Gravity
And it's faster, love, than you and me / Faster than the speed of gravity
That's a line from a Neko Case song called "Widow's Toast," and I used it as the title for this chapter because I wanted this to be the chapter in which Remus falls in love with Tonks – the moment when he sees her smiling through her tears as she waves goodbye to the Selkie. That visual image of Tonks, and of Remus falling for her at that precise moment, burst into my head long ago … and actually inspired this entire fic.
However, the music Remus hears coming from the nearby beach house when the Selkies return to the sea, and when he finally kisses Tonks, is actually a song called "À Chloris" by Reynaldo Hahn (I didn't want to use that title or any of the lyrics as a chapter title). I love the version sung by the fabulous Susan Graham; it's simple, quiet, and romantic. Plus there's so much in this fic about Tonks' eyes that I thought these lines seemed appropriate:
Tout ce qu'on dit de l'ambroisie / Ne touche point ma fantaisie / Au prix des grâces de tes yeux
Translation of the French:Say what you will about ambrosia / It can hardly compare to the magic / Of your eyes bestowing their gaze on me
Chapter 7: At Last
This was recorded by the incomparable Etta James. It's a song that many people have used as the first bride-and-groom dance for a wedding, and it seemed appropriate for the beginning of a deepening of Remus' and Tonks' relationship. Besides, I couldn't resist letting them have one more dance in this fic. The full lyrics are above in Chapter 7.
... Thanks again, everyone, for reading! As a final review bribe, I offer a slow dance with Remus Lupin in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. Paper sand is optional, paper stars and moonlight are recommended.