"Ours be your patience then, and yours our parts; Your gentle hands lend us, and take our hearts," Remus finished softly, with a small smile on his face, closing the large volume of Shakespeare in his lap. Nymphadora smiled up at him from her cozy seat, snuggled at his side on the cushy sofa in the parlor of number 12 Grimmauld Place. Their eyes locked for a brief moment, before he turned away to look back down at the book.
"I didn't like it as much as the last one we read," she said. "It was funny, but I just can't forgive Helena for loving a man so deeply undeserving as Bertram."
"I don't think we were supposed to forgive her," replied Remus. "I think we were supposed to laugh at her."
"Well, we did that, I suppose," she said. Nymphadora looked down from his face, and gradually scooted out of the close proximity that had been necessary for them to share the book. The vanilla-spice scent of her perfume still filled his nose, and he found himself oddly wishing that the feeling of her body leaning against his could have continued for just a little longer.
Nymphadora cleared her throat, and looked up at him to say, "We need to talk, Remus."
That didn't sound good. "All right," he said, trying to sound chipper. "What is it?"
She looked at him seriously for a moment more, before answering, "What would you say if I told you that I knew someone who was interested in you?"
"Interested in me?" he answered blankly.
"Romantically," she said, rolling her eyes. "You really are hopeless, you know."
Remus, in the meantime, had started staring off into space before him, tapping his foot restively. This was not what he had expected at all. "This isn't a hypothetical question, is it?"
She shook her head. "No, I really do know someone who's interested in you." Her wide, silly grin made him extremely nervous.
Remus shifted uncomfortably, glancing frantically around the room. He wasn't sure quite what he was looking for, but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to look at Nymphadora. "Well," he said, "I think maybe you should talk to your—acquaintance—for me. You should tell her that I can't get involved with anyone right now. I just … don't have room in my life for that."
"So you can fit in wizard chess tournaments with Bill and Sirius, and long evenings reading Shakespeare with me, but not romance?" Nymphadora asked, folding her arms crossly.
He hated this topic, but Nymphadora seemed determined to talk it through. And he knew better by now than to try to stop her when she was determined to do something. He could feel a headache coming on. "Because…" he fumbled for an adequate response, "Just because! It's just not something that fits in my life right now."
"So when was the last time you made room in your life for romance, Remus?" she asked.
"Why are you so interested?"
"Just answer the question."
He sat still, thinking. "More than ten years, now," he answered sheepishly.
"Would you care to explain why?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at him.
Remus slumped back in resignation. She was going to ferret it out of him, one way or another, so he might as well just tell her the truth. "I tried having romantic relationships when I was younger. But I found that—that those sorts of things just don't work out for people with my condition."
Nymphadora scowled at him. Tonight's short curly blonde hair and full cheeks made her look like a child pouting when her parents wouldn't buy her the toy she wanted. Remus couldn't help but smile a little at the image.
"You're blaming the lycanthropy, are you?" she asked.
"Yes—yes I am."
"So werewolves aren't allowed to have romantic relationships?" she asked.
"Of course we're allowed to try," he began, "they just don't usually work out."
"I thought you were an intelligent woman, Nymphadora. Why do you think they don't work out?" He was growing a bit irritated with this line of questioning.
She rolled her eyes at him, and shook her head. "I know what you would say, but I'm not sure I'd agree with you."
"Let's find out, shall we?" he said. "Do you agree that werewolves are more likely than other wizards to suffer unemployment and poverty?"
"And do you agree that werewolves are more likely than average wizards to suffer frequent injuries, requiring the copious use of healing potions and salves which further drain their already meager financial resources?"
"Well then, do you agree that werewolves pose a significant danger to their loved ones, like spouses and children?"
"No, I don't."
"Finally, we find our source of disagreement," he said. "So, what makes you think the loved ones of a werewolf would be safe from the threat of attack?"
"Wolfsbane Potion, for one," she said.
"Another significant drain on already strained finances. Do you have any idea how much properly brewed Wolfsbane Potion costs?" he asked.
"I've never looked into it," she admitted.
"More than I can afford," he stated flatly. "Didn't you ever wonder why I don't use it?"
"I have wondered. I suppose I thought there must be some side effect you didn't like, or something," she said.
"The only side effect I don't like is the way it drains my bank vault every month. Once Umbridge pushed through her anti-werewolf legislation, I discovered that I could no longer find any work that would pay enough to justify the expense of the potion, so I gave it up." He rubbed his head. His headache was getting worse. How had a pleasant evening with a friend turned into this depressing interrogation?
"Do you really transform in a cage every month?" she asked in a small, sad voice.
"Yes," he said. "My parents had it installed in the basement of our house when I was a boy. It was the only way to keep them safe. Which is exactly the point I was trying to make—what woman would want to be with a man she has to lock in a cage once a month, in order to keep him from attacking her?"
A sly smile spread across her face. "I don't know—it sounds like fun to me."
He glared at her.
She started to laugh.
He shook his head in exasperation. "Really, Nymphadora. You should tell your friend I'm not interested."
"So what were your reasons again?" she asked, still laughing.
"Shall I summarize them for you?" he asked, smiling back. The sound of her laughter always cheered him up.
He started ticking them off on his fingers. "One, poverty—never an attractive quality in a mate. Two, danger to the lives and limbs of the people I care about. Three, I'm too damn old and tired to keep fighting a losing battle."
"I still think, if you really cared about someone and she really cared about you back, that you could find a way to make it work," she said seriously.
"Thank you for the vote of confidence, but I'm afraid I will have to respectfully disagree," he said.
Nymphadora rolled her eyes at him. "Don't you even want to know who it is?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I think I have a pretty good idea—and that's the fourth reason I can't get involved right now. I'm not interested in her."
"Is that so?" answered Nymphadora, coldly.
"Yes, it is," said Remus. "Ginny was trying to set me up with Hestia all summer, and I just couldn't convince her that I wasn't interested."
"You think I'm talking about Hestia?" asked Nymphadora incredulously.
Remus looked at her, baffled. "Well, yes," he said. "You aren't?"
"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not," she said, smugly lifting her chin in the air.
"Then who are you talking about?" he asked.
She smirked at him. "So you want to know after all, do you?"
"Yes…maybe. Not that it would change my opinion on the matter. But now you've gone and piqued my curiosity."
She grinned wickedly at him. "Well, too bad," she said. "I don't feel like telling you anymore."
"Nymphadora! Really …"
"No," she said, standing up. "Not going to tell you. You'll have to figure it out on your own." She stalked toward the door.
"You won't even give me a hint?" he called after her.
She turned back to glare at him. "Hopeless," she said mournfully, shaking her head. "Absolutely hopeless." And then she was gone—only the lingering scent of vanilla and spice remained.
Remus sank back into the couch with a sigh. He shouldn't waste his time thinking about it. It wasn't worth the effort. She was probably just teasing him. And even if she wasn't, it was probably someone he didn't even like. But maybe …
Just in case, he began mentally reviewing the list of all unattached women whom both he and Nymphadora knew well. The list wasn't very long. And he couldn't fathom which of the possible candidates might be harboring a secret passion for him. He sat there for a long time, staring into the fire, pondering the possibilities.