Chapter 10: Moony, the Marauder King

It didn't take long for Remus' embarrassment over his dancing abilities—or lack thereof—to be replaced by far more pleasing feelings. The atmosphere of wild abandon on the dance floor was contagious, and he could feel the effects of the adrenaline and testosterone surging through his blood. The adrenaline was a natural consequence of the excitement of the occasion, and the testosterone was a natural consequence of his close proximity to Nymphadora.

For once, he didn't mind being closed in by the crowd. With everyone else smashing up against one another, he didn't feel at all self-conscious about the way she maneuvered to maintain almost constant physical contact with him while they danced. It was a very stimulating experience.

He soon lost track of time as the chaotic revelry continued to swirl around him. He occasionally caught glimpses of his other friends, with their smiling faces and flushed skin bearing testimony of their own elation. But the only truly solid and real thing for him in the swirling sea of exuberant humanity was Nymphadora—the light in her eyes, the broad smile on her face, and the extraordinary feeling of her body moving against his.

It was almost a shock to his system as the wild swirl of the dancing crowd abruptly slowed to an eddy when the band transitioned into a slow love-ballad. It took just a second to shake the disorientation from his mind, and realize what he needed to do next.

He wrapped one arm around Nymphadora's waist, and used his free arm to take her small hand in his, pulling her into a slow-dance. The look on her face confirmed his suspicion that there was no need to ask her permission first.

They swayed gently to the music, staring raptly into each other's eyes. This is really going to happen, Remus thought in amazed delight. She and I are really going to to be something! I don't know quite what yet—but definitely something more than what we have been. The thought both thrilled and terrified him. This was a step he hadn't dared to take in the ten long years since he and Shari had parted ways. He still wasn't certain that he was ready, but as he looked down into Nymphadora's eyes, and felt her arm wrapping tightly around his shoulder, he knew that this was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

They didn't speak a single word during the dance. There was nothing that needed to be said aloud—the feeling of their bodies swaying in gentle unison was all that they needed. Remus gradually lowered his head to rest his cheek lightly on the top of her head, where he could breathe deeply of her scent. After a moment she leaned her own head forward to rest against his chest, and pulled her hand free of his to wrap it loosely around his neck. He wrapped his free arm around her back, and slid his hand upward to lightly caress the back of her neck, and to run his fingers through her hair. Remus normally frowned on that sort of public affection, but he was finding that it seemed much less offensive when he was one of the parties engaged in the affection, instead of one of the ones forced to watch.

He was almost resentful when the song ended and they had to pull apart to join in the applause. It was a huge relief when the band launched into another ballad. But just as Remus was moving to resume his extremely comfortable slow-dance position, golden-haired Sirius was suddenly at his side, grabbing Nymphadora's hand and crying, "My turn!"

Remus stifled a cry of indignation as his friend spun Nymphadora away from him. He tried not to feel too upset—after all, he should be grateful that Sirius was staying nearby where they could keep a closer eye on him. And Nymphadora didn't seem to mind—she was laughing and smiling as Sirius pulled her into a dance. Remus couldn't really let himself be jealous—they were cousins, after all. And Sirius deserved his share of the fun on his birthday outing.

With a sigh, Remus reluctantly joined the other singles dotting the crowd of couples, rocking back and forth in time with the music and waiting eagerly for the song to end. But he kept his eyes firmly locked on Nymphadora.

Bill and Fleur were also dancing nearby, and Sirius gradually led Nymphadora in their direction. Once they were close enough to knock elbows, Sirius cried, "Partner swap!" and pulled Fleur away from Bill, pushing Nymphadora into her place. Everyone involved laughed amiably, and they turned the maneuver into a game, managing to swap partners back and forth three more times before the end of the lengthy song.

When the band transitioned into yet another ballad, Remus stepped hastily forward to reclaim Nymphadora for himself. Bill held on to Fleur, and Sirius was able to solicit a dance from a more-than-willing young lady who had been standing partnerless nearby. With Nymphadora back in his arms, and with her bright smile and shining eyes once more directed at him alone, Remus began to feel almost perfectly happy.

"Thank you," he said softly, "for coercing me into coming tonight. I'm very glad that I did."

"You're very welcome," she replied. "And thank you, for convincing me to stay after our little mishap, in spite of my better judgment."

"Sirius and James were very often able to get me to act against my better judgment, back in our Marauders' days at Hogwarts. It's something I haven't done much in the intervening years, and I'd forgotten what an immensely satisfying and worthwhile experience it can be."

Nymphadora laughed. "Well, is there anything else against your better judgment that you feel like doing tonight? You may as well keep it up—you're on quite a roll."

"Hmmmm. There may yet be. The night isn't over yet. I'll let you know if I think of anything."

"Yes, please do."

Nymphadora once more leaned against his chest, and he finished the dance in blissful silence. His brief pang of disappointment when the band launched into an upbeat tune soon vanished when they were rejoined by Sirius, Bill and Fleur. The five of them spent the rest of the concert dancing together, as a group, just as friends should.

At the conclusion of the concert the ovations were so uproarious that the Weird Sisters played two encores before finally leaving the stage. "Let's go for one more round at the bar while the crowd thins!" called Sirius over the din of all the club patrons making their way for the exits.

Their whole party readily agreed and followed him to the bar, crowded with other partiers getting one last drink for the road. To Remus' dismay, Sirius ordered up another round of potent Firewhiskey. His mind was addled enough as it was. But he chose not to complain—the night was winding to a close, after all.

"Before you all drink, I think I need to say a few words," said Sirius, once they had their glasses in hand. Remus stood next to the bar, his free arm wrapped casually around Nymphadora's waist. She leaned against him, lightly resting the back of her head against his chest. It was amazing how natural and comfortable their intimate posture felt.

"I have to admit that I made a terrible mistake tonight," Sirius continued, "and I need to apologize."

Remus wondered where Sirius was going with this one—was he making a serious apology, or was this just another one of his posturing speeches?

He was quite surprised when Sirius continued. "Moony, old friend," said Sirius, turning to him, "I said some pretty nasty things to you tonight. I even accused you of no longer being worthy of being called a Marauder. And I was wrong. You proved yourself every inch a Marauder when you saved my ass tonight—and in some of your subsequent actions." With those last words, Sirius gave Remus and Nymphadora a smug look.

Remus shifted uncomfortably at the unlooked-for attention, but he couldn't help but smile, and tighten his embrace around Nymphadora's waist.

"Moony," said Sirius, "not only are you as much a Marauder as ever, but I think you might be the best Marauder of us all. I never could have pulled off that crazy spur-of-the-moment plan the way you did. I am truly, truly humbled by your marauding skills. So I propose that we all raise our glasses to Moony, the Marauder King!"

Remus laughed at the unexpected accolade, and watched in amusement as all of his friends raised their glasses and repeated Sirius' toast. "To Moony, the Marauder King!" They took a drink of their Firewhiskey, and Remus looked down at the woman in his arms to see her looking back up at him with a glowing expression. This had been a very good night.

"I 'ave just one question," said Fleur, addressing the group. "What is a Marauder?"

They all exchanged glances, and Sirius finally said, "I think you should answer this one, Moony. Tell Miss Delacour here what a Marauder is."

"Well," said Remus, "a Marauder is one of a group of friends who like to have fun, and sometimes get caught up in some very creative mischief-making. In other words, the Marauders are—us!"

"I couldn't have put it better myself," said Sirius.

"I think I have one final toast to finish the night," said Remus, raising his glass. Everyone else followed suit, and Remus spoke his toast. "To the Marauders," he said.

Bill, Sirius, Fleur and Nymphadora all stared at him with smiles on their faces. "To the Marauders!" they said together, and finished their drinks.

Bill and Fleur soon departed via Apparation. Bill claimed he was merely "escorting Fleur home," but the look on his face every time he glanced at his lovely young girlfriend made Remus think that he had a great deal more in mind than just "escorting" her. The club had nearly emptied by the time Remus and Nymphadora convinced Sirius to Floo home—none of them were in any condition to Apparate.

One by one they tumbled out of the dusty fireplace back into the parlor of number 12 Grimmauld Place. Nymphadora was the last to arrive, and Remus carefully positioned himself to catch her in his arms as she tripped out of the fire. He was finding that the more time she spent in his arms, the more reluctant he was to ever let her leave them.

"Blimey, I'm exhausted," said Nymphadora. "I feel like I've been up for two days straight."

Remus felt much the same, but he wasn't ready to turn in quite yet. That would mean letting Nymphadora go home, and he wasn't eager for that moment to come. I wonder if we can convince her to spend the night in one of the guest rooms? Then at least we'd still be under the same roof.

"Now don't you two even think about falling asleep on me yet!" said Sirius. "It's my birthday party, and there is one last thing I want to do before it's over."

"Oh really? And what might that be?" asked Remus.

"It's a surprise," said Sirius. "I just have to run and get something."

"It better be good," said Nymphadora. "You're cutting into my beauty sleep."

Sirius raised an eyebrow, and with a smile said, "I don't think Moony will mind you losing a little more sleep over us tonight—will you Moony?"

Remus just smiled sheepishly. Between the alcohol and the sleepiness he had lost all ability for witty retorts.

"I'll be back in a jiffy," said Sirius, leaving the room.

As Sirius disappeared down the hall, Nymphadora slowly detached herself from Remus, stretching and yawning. She tossed her jacket and purse on a side table, and idly made her way to the large mirror over the mantel. The fire had died down to nothing more than a last few flickering strands of orange desperately searching for sustenance in the smoldering pile of ash and ember. Just a handful of the many candles dotting the walls of the room had been lit. The dim, dancing light of the scattered flames swathed her in a complicated fabric of shadow and shimmer. She looked entrancing.

As she studied her face pensively in the mirror, Remus slowly ambled toward her. Her deep blue hair had maintained its spiky configuration in spite of the several hours worth of dancing and drinking that would surely have disheveled the coiffure of any lesser woman.

Remus paused about a foot behind her, and joined her in the silent contemplation of her reflection. He wondered what complex and mysterious thoughts were swirling in that fascinating mind of hers. It didn't take him long to find out.

"Guck!" she expelled in a guttural tone, sticking her tongue out at herself. "Has my skin looked this green all night?"

Remus opened his mouth for a few seconds, trying to think of a rational reply to her unexpected question. When none came to mind, he surrendered to the absurdity of the moment and burst into laughter.

She turned and grinned up at him. "What? Stop laughing!" she insisted, though she was struggling to hold back her own chuckles. "What's wrong with me wondering if I've been walking around looking ill all night? I'm beginning to think that blue isn't my color after all."

Remus took a deep breath to stifle his laughter, and grinned down at her sweet heart-shaped face. "You looked fantastic tonight, and you know it. And nothing is wrong with the blue."

"Why thank-you." She looked smugly up at him. "So maybe I did know it—but it's nice to have objective confirmation.

She turned back to the mirror, and they both resumed their contemplation of her image. "So," she said, "the midnight blue has your stamp of approval. What other colors do you like?"

"Nearly all of them," he answered without hesitation.

"Don't you have a favorite?"

"Not really. They're all you—that's what matters to me."

Her smile grew brighter and broader. "Surely you have a favorite. Everyone has a favorite. Molly likes the red, because it makes her feel like I'm another daughter. Kingsley likes the blonde—you'd understand that one if you'd ever seen the women he goes out with. Sirius prefers the various shades of blue. Bill told me he likes that light purple I do from time to time. The twins always like it when I wear my hair two-tone. Naturally, Moody likes it black, because he says it actually makes me look like a proper Auror. And Dumbledore once told me that he prefers the pink—my own personal favorite. At least for now," she said, squinting in concentration at her reflection as her hair lengthened and lightened into a short pink bob that danced alluringly around her jaw.

She turned back to him, and once more looked up into his eyes. He felt weak and wobbly from drink and exhaustion—and from that tantalizing expression on her face.

"Nymphadora," he said softly, reaching up one hand to brush the hair back from her sparkling eyes and leaning in closer to her face. "I truly don't have a favorite. I don't care what hair you're wearing, or what eye-color you've chosen for the day, or whether you're in one of your battered old tee-shirts or in fancy dress robes. No matter what you look like, you are always beautiful to me."

Her grin softened into something sweeter, and more sincere. He continued to rest his hand against the side of her face, holding back her hair. She echoed his gesture by reaching up with one of her hands to gently caress his cheek. They stood there like that for a few endless moments, touching each other softly, their faces mere inches apart.

Remus felt content to simply drink in the luminous beauty of her face, and to savor the warmth of her touch. Nymphadora, however, was not so content.

She arched an eyebrow at him, and asked, "So, are you going to kiss me, or what?"
Remus' eyes widened in nervous excitement. Did she really want him to? Right now? Should he?

Unfortunately Remus had no time to fully process her request in his alcohol muddled brain, for at just that moment Sirius came bounding into the room wildly brandishing a bottle of wine.

"I found it!" he declared. "The last of the good stuff!"

Remus hastily dropped his hand and stepped back from Nymphadora, at which she let out a frustrated huff.

"Oh—am I interrupting something?" asked Sirius with an expression of mock innocence.

"Apparently not," said Nymphadora, pointedly staring at Remus.

Remus couldn't help but feel that somehow he had once again managed to muck things up.

Fortunately, Nymphadora turned her ire on Sirius instead of himself. "More bloody booze?" she exclaimed. "Haven't you got us pissed enough for one night?"

Sirius glared at her. "This, little cousin, is the second to last bottle of grandfather's private collection. This is the really, really good stuff. The stuff that would cost more than three-hundred galleons if you were to buy it at a shop."

"Then maybe you should save it for a time when we can all appreciate it a bit more?" Nymphadora suggested.

"No!" insisted Sirius. "It's my bloody birthday party, and if I want to end it by drinking the good wine, then that's how we're going to bloody well end it!" He was beginning to sound like an eight year old throwing a tantrum.

Remus stepped forward, ready to play the peacemaker. "Maybe just one glass, Sirius, and we'll save the rest for tomorrow?"

Sirius calmed down, somewhat. "Yes. Moony understands. I just want to share one more glass of wine with my two dearest friends before we all turn in. Is that too much to ask?"

Nymphadora sighed. "Fine. Just one glass." She walked over to her favorite sofa, and slumped down into its soft cushions.

Sirius, grinning once more, went over to the liquor cabinet in the corner to pull out some wine glasses.

Remus followed Nymphadora to the sofa, and hesitantly sat down beside her. He hoped she wouldn't still be upset with him. Much to his relief, as soon as he was beside her, she slid over to close the gap between them, and leaned her head on his shoulder. All Remus could do was smile mutely at this clear sign of her affection for him. Soon, Sirius had poured each of them a glass of wine, which he handed round before taking a seat in the nearest armchair. Remus raised his glass and took a sip. It really was very good—but paying three-hundred galleons for it would be a crime.

He and Nymphadora sat in peaceful silence, slowly sipping their wine while Sirius began to regale them with familiar tales of the old Marauders' exploits back at Hogwarts. As they finished their wine, Remus carefully placed the glasses on the end table, and shifted himself deeper into the sofa's corner where he could partially recline. Nymphadora followed suit, curling her legs up underneath her, and laying her head across his chest as he wrapped his arm around her.

Sirius appeared to have refilled his own glass, and was now droning on about his adventures as a stray dog living on Majorca during his time on the run. Remus wasn't paying much attention—although his hazy brain did take a moment to wonder why so much of the story seemed to revolve around "a pretty little bitch" in heat, but perhaps he was better off not knowing. His main focus, however, was on the amazing woman falling asleep in his arms. He watched as her eyes slowly closed, and listened carefully as the pace of her breathing got slower and deeper. It was the most peaceful and comfortable sensation that he had felt in a very long time. And soon, he began to drift off to sleep himself.

"Wat out fer the damn Bludger," Nymphadora slurred semi-coherently, shifting suddenly and waking Remus from his sleep. He blinked his blurry eyes at the sunlight filtering through the tattered old curtains, and tried to get his bearings. He was still slumped in the corner of the comfy sofa in the parlor, with Nymphadora stretched out along the length of the sofa, her head resting in his lap. Despite her mutterings, she appeared to be in a deep state of sleep, dreaming. Her hair had changed to a shade of light brown, and was tumbled over her face. He lightly brushed it back, and tucked it behind her ear as she mumbled, "The Snitch… Snitch…idiot… ermmm." She rolled slightly so that her face was now turned up to him. He smiled. She looked so young and innocent while she was asleep.

A loud, grunting snore diverted his attention across the room. Sirius lay on the floor, curled up on the rug in front of the fire. Remus allowed a small laugh to escape his lips. He'd seen Snuffles in that exact position many a time, but had never seen Sirius attempt it in his human form. That's what you get for drinking too much of the "good stuff," old friend.

Remus glanced over at the clock hanging on the wall. His eyes widened in surprise at the time. Surely he couldn't have slept that late, could he? His stomach let out a gurgling rumble, and Nymphadora shifted restlessly again. He decided it was time to rouse her, and make some breakfast.

"Nymphadora… Nymphadora…" he said softly, stroking her cheek.

Her whole body jolted stiffly as she took in a sharp breath. "What? What?" she said, blinking and shaking her head. At last, her confused gaze rested on Remus' face. "Remus? What are you…? Where are we?" she asked.

"We fell asleep in the parlor, remember?" he prompted with a reassuring smile.

"Oh… yeah. Sirius and his damned bottle of wine." She struggled to sit up. "Oh God, my head!" she said, covering her eyes with one hand, and bracing herself up with the other. "I am never going drinking with Sirius again!"

"How about I go down to the kitchen and make us a pot of strong black coffee?" suggested Remus.

"Yes, please."

He stood to go, and she asked, "What time is it, anyway?"

"It's about half-past eleven," he replied.

She took in a sharp gasp of air. "No! You're kidding me!"

"The clock's right there," he said, gesturing nonchalantly. He wondered what the trouble was—she didn't have work today, or any assignments from the Order, as far as he knew.

"Oh no, no, no, no, noooo!" she moaned, her face in her hands.

"What is it? Have you missed something important?" he asked.

"Not yet," she said. "But I almost wish I had. I've got a twelve-thirty lunch appointment with my mum. She wants to take me shopping in Diagon Alley. If I'd slept through it I'd just have to apologize, but since I'm already awake, I feel obliged to rush and actually get there on time. Uhhg!"

This wasn't at all what Remus had expected. He'd been hoping to share a leisurely breakfast with her, and maybe even spend the rest of the day with her. "Can't you just skip it, and tell her later that you slept through it?"

She shook her head violently. "Oh no. I can't lie to my mum—ever. She can always tell. It's this awful sixth sense she has."

"But you must lie to her all the time about the Order."

"No. I've told her enough of the truth to keep her satisfied. But I think she's beginning to have her suspicions about Sirius being involved—she just hasn't confronted me about it yet. Sometimes she'll let me get away with holding back part of the truth—but I can never get away with an outright lie. Never. Ooof!" she huffed as she hauled herself to her feet. "I really have to get going."

"Are you sure you don't want to stay long enough for me to make some coffee?" asked Remus, as Nymphadora pulled her jacket on and collected her bag from the table where she'd dropped it the night before.

"Can't spare the time. My mum's always been very strict about punctuality, and the last thing I need today is one of her lectures. Which means I have about…" she glanced at the clock again, "fifty minutes to shower and primp and get to Diagon Alley for our lunch together." She stepped over Sirius' still prone and snoring figure on the floor.

"It'll only take five minutes—I promise. You really look like you need some caffeine." Remus didn't know what he could accomplish in another five minutes with her, but he felt desperate to keep her from leaving so soon.

"Do I really look that hungover?" she asked, pausing to glance in the nearby mirror. With a sharp gasp of surprise she raised a hand to touch the limp tendrils of mousey-brown hair flopping shapelessly against her neck.

"My God!" she uttered. "I really must have been drunk to let it go back to this!"

As he studied her expression of dismay, Remus had a sudden flash of insight. "Nymphadora?" he asked. "Is this … how should I put this? Is this your… original hair? The hair you were born with?"

"Unfortunately, yes," she replied with a heavy sigh as she turned away from the mirror. "Is it any wonder that I avoid going brunette, when this," she pointed at the brown hair, "is what I have to look at every time I'm exhausted, or sick, or drunk? It's hideous."

"It's not hideous," said Remus, thinking that with a wash and a good brushing the brown hair would look perfectly lovely.

"Yes, it is!" said Nymphadora adamantly, before turning to stride out of the room. "If Mum sees me like this she'll know for sure that I was up to no good last night. I really, really need that shower."

Remus quickly followed her. He couldn't let their adventure end this way—not after all that had happened last night. He couldn't just let her disappear without doing something more. He had to somehow reassure himself that the feelings he'd seen in her eyes were real.

She reached the front door and began unlatching it with Remus right behind her. As she opened the door to step outside, she said over her shoulder, "See ya later, Remus."

"Wait," he said urgently, grabbing one of her wrists.

"Hey!" she exclaimed, turning to glare at him with annoyance. "What is wrong with you this morning?"

Remus blinked, not knowing what to say. "It's just … I just…" He just needed to shut up. More often than not talking only got him into trouble. Now was not the time for more talk—now was the time for action. It was time to be a Marauder.

In that instant he forgot all about his sweat and wine stained clothes, his not-so-fresh morning breath, and even the thirteen year gulf that separated them. All he knew was that there was one last thing he needed to do before he let her walk out that door.

Without a second thought, he reached forward to take her face in his hand, and kissed her.

As his lips met hers she let out a small squeak, and her whole body went stiff. He was about to pull back, thinking she was upset, when she suddenly leaned into him, grabbing his neck for support and pressing her mouth eagerly against his, while the rest of her body seemed to go limp.

As excited as he was about her sudden enthusiasm, her erratic wobbling was making it difficult to kiss her properly. And his neck was getting a little sore with her hanging off it. In fact, he was afraid she was going to fall down. He released her wrist to wrap his arm around her waist, pulling her back upright from her slumped posture. Once he had succeeded in steadying her, he allowed himself to savor several lingering caresses of his lips against hers, and reveled in her sensuous response. Great Merlin, this feels fantastic! At last he pulled back to look down into her face.

Her eyes were wide and staring, and her face flushed. She still felt as if she was about to collapse.

"Are you all right?" he asked, trying once again to hold her upright.

A small, crooked smile played across her face, and a silly nervous giggle escaped her lips. "Yeah," she said dreamily.

"Are you sure you're well enough to Apparate?"

"Apparate? Why would I want to App… Oh shit!" she exclaimed, trying to regain her footing. "Lunch with Mum! I can't believe I still have to go to lunch with Mum. And now I'm going to be late for certain!"

A look of sweet, childish dismay had swept across her face, and Remus began to grin with the certainty that she was not upset that he had made her late, but that she had to leave at all. The way she continued to cling to him was a pretty fair confirmation that he had assessed the situation correctly.

"It's all right, Nymphadora. Just take your time. A little lecture on punctuality never killed anyone. Just go and try to relax, and have a good afternoon with your mother."

She nodded slowly, releasing her grip on his shoulder. "When can I … when should I… can I come back tonight?" she asked.

Yes! Yes! Yes! He wanted to shout. But after taking a deep breath, he reconsidered. What they needed now was some mature, rational conversation. Not another hung-over, exhausted, semi-coherent encounter.

"Tonight," he said, "we should probably both get to sleep early. I think we both need it."

Her look of extreme disappointment sent a small thrill of excited happiness through his body, prompting him to hastily add, "But, I am very much looking forward to seeing you tomorrow."

"Tomorrow," she said with a brightening countenance. "Yes. Tomorrow. Tomorrow night! I can't make it over until tomorrow night. If that's okay with you?"

"Tomorrow night sounds excellent. I'll be waiting for you."

"Waiting." She wore another crooked smile, and released another nervous giggle. "Waiting for me. Lovely."

"I'll see you then," he said, slowly stepping back and carefully releasing her from his supportive embrace.

"See you—whoa!" As she stepped back from him she missed the step down from the door. He leapt forward and caught her shoulders before she hit the pavement.

"Clumsy oaf!" she exclaimed. "Me… not you!" she added, forcing herself back to her feet.

He once again released her, and asked, "Do you need me to walk you to the Apparation point?"

She was blushing fiercely, and shook her head. "No! No—really. I'm fine. Just wasn't watching, that's all. I'm fine. I'll see you tomorrow night. Bye!" She flicked him a short wave, and turned to stride purposefully toward the nearby alley used by the Order for discreet Apparation. As she neared it, she managed to catch her foot on an invisible obstacle and careen into the brick side of a neighboring house.

After catching herself with her hands, she turned back with another wave to call, "I'm fine! Really. I'm fine. I'm just… going. Now." At which point she hastily disappeared into the alley.

Remus couldn't help but laugh. For the first time in his life, his kiss had literally made a woman weak in the knees.

He wasn't quite sure what he'd just gotten himself into—but he knew that after all these years, he was finally ready. Whatever happened, he could handle it. After all, he was the Marauder King.

With a smile on his face, and a bounce in his step, he began humming a jaunty tune, and went back inside. It was time to start the new day.