Originally written for the October 2006 Half Moon Rising Fic Jumble at MetamorFic Moon, this story follows the Transfigured Hearts series and is set during the summer following Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (Written before Deathly Hallows, so not canon-compliant after HBP.) Many thanks to Godricgal, the best beta reader in the universe.
"Thank Merlin you're here!"
Molly's shrill voice pierced Remus' ears as he stepped out of the fireplace into the Burrow's sitting room. He swept his sooty fringe out of his eyes and peered into the kitchen just as she dropped a wooden spoon mid-stir and bustled toward him.
"We've just had an owl from Harry!" she said frantically, drawing a crumpled parchment from her apron pocket.
Remus' heart jumped and lodged painfully into his throat. "What's happened to Harry?"
Tonks, having heard him as she emerged from the Floo, clutched at his arm; his own fingers seemed likely to pinch the handle of their suitcase in half.
"Nothing's happened," said Arthur steadily as he rose from the lumpy, well-used sofa, and laid his Evening Prophet on the coffee table.
Before Remus' heart could return to its natural state, or Tonks' grip on his arm could relax, Molly pinned Arthur with a scowl and said, "Nothing's happened except Harry's gone mad."
"Don't be ridiculous, Mum," said Ginny, from the kitchen table. The surface was strewn with pink ribbon, tulle, and heart-shaped sweets. "Harry just wants to Apparate by himself on his birthday." She aggressively tied a pink bow around a small favour bag. "He'll be seventeen, in case you forgot."
"Ginny," Arthur chided. "But she's right, Molly. Harry's a perfectly normal young man coming of age."
Rolling her eyes, Ginny got up from the table and stretched her limbs. As her gaze settled on Tonks' hand on Remus' arm, the teenager's stroppy expression vanished, replaced with a bright grin. Remus felt transported back to his own youth, when he'd dared to hold hands with a girlfriend in the Common Room, and others' awareness of his attached status brought a pleasant mixture of self-consciousness and pride.
"Hello Professor Lupin," Ginny said. "Hi, Tonks."
"Hello, Ginny." Remus set the suitcase on the floor so he could shake Arthur's hand. "You needn't call me Professor."
"Wotcher, Ginny!" Tonks swiped more soot off Remus' shoulder as she tripped over the suitcase en route to hug Ginny. "Ooh, wedding favours?"
When she drew apart from Ginny, Tonks scrunched up her face; like a struck match, the pink spikes suddenly flickered flame red, lengthening to fall in gleaming waves past her shoulders. Molly beamed as Tonks turned to hug her, but the worry lines returned to her round face as Remus gently prised Harry's letter from her hand.
"He can't do this, can he, Remus?" Molly asked, expression begging him to take her side.
This, Remus discovered as he perused the note, was Harry's brief thanks for Molly's invitation to the Burrow for his birthday and the wedding, and the announcement that he'd Apparate there after lunch tomorrow.
"I don't see why not," Remus replied, "if he's got his license."
Molly's mouth dropped open, and her wide eyes blinked at Remus in disbelief for a moment before she pulled herself together and cried, "He can't take the test till he's of age!"
"I bet he's planning to be at the Ministry first thing to take it," Tonks said reassuringly, one arm still around Molly, squeezing her shoulder. With a reminiscent smile, she added, "It was the only thing I could think of for weeks before my seventeenth birthday."
Remus grinned back at her, but his face fell as Molly appraised him warily.
"Have you sorted this with Harry already?" she asked. "Are you taking him to the Ministry?"
"This is the first I've heard of it," Remus replied slowly, concern dawning as he considered the possibility of Harry placing himself in the open to fly to the Ministry. Surely an Apparition license was not worth that risk. Though, he did have James' Invisibility Cloak…
"Scrimgeour's sending an examiner to Harry's aunt and uncle's house," said Ginny, plopping into her chair at the table again. Pulling an expression of disgust, she added in a tone that matched, "Probably a bribe to get Harry on team."
Tonks snorted as she took a seat across from Ginny. "And of course Harry'll jump at the chance to get his license, then stick two fingers at the Ministry for what they did to him in '95."
Remus couldn't help but chuckle. "Sirius would no doubt approve."
"You see, Molly?" Arthur said, patting her shoulder. "Harry's a bright boy. It's fine."
"It's not fine!" Molly retorted, glancing sharply back at him. Arthur's hand fell to his side. "Harry's--"
"--coming of age tomorrow," Remus broke in quietly.
Sputtering, Molly glanced at Tonks, as though for support; but Tonks' gaze was fixed on Remus.
"The Order," Molly said, looking at Remus again, pleadingly. "We've been protecting--"
"A boy," said Remus. "Harry's a man now, Molly."
"It's actually safer this way," Tonks added. "He'll attract far less attention on his own. Virtually none, really."
Molly pinched her lips together indignantly, but then the colour drained from her face as her shoulders sagged with a deep sigh. She moved closer to Remus, then glanced back at Ginny; the latter had resumed making favour bags, but her attention was rapt on her mother and former professor.
Leaning close, Molly reached for Remus' hand and half-whispered, "I've heard the children talking. Harry's not planning to go back to school."
"Mum!" Ginny cried. "Have you been using Extendable Ears?"
Molly's eyes darted to the floor, and she swallowed guiltily. Remus was hard-pressed not to laugh as she said, "Don't eavesdrop, Ginevra."
"Molly, you haven't..." Arthur began, but let the thought trail away..
Snipping a length of ribbon, Ginny muttered to Merlin about nosy, overprotective mothers.
Remus' urge to laugh became more difficult to resist when he stupidly glanced at Tonks and saw her biting at twitching lips to keep from doing so herself. He forced himself to take this as seriously as Molly was, or she'd stay wound up till Harry arrived safe and sound tomorrow, and get everyone else wound up as well. And wrench his hand off. Remus covered hers with his other hand, a comforting gesture he hoped would disguise the fact that he was trying to pull away. But Molly clutched at him.
Arthur let out a sigh of frustration -- or resignation. "I don't want to argue with you about this again." He turned and strode toward the front door. "I'll be out in my worksh--"
He paused at the broom cupboard as though he'd heard something within, but then shook his head and went outside.
The instant the door shut, Molly implored, "You'll talk with Harry about it, won't you, Remus?" Her eyes brimmed. "Ron and Hermione -- Hermione, of all people! -- are talking about not going back, either."
She drew a deep breath, but the tears pooled in spite of her valiant efforts to compose herself. Turning away, she began to tidy her knitting implements, which were already arranged neatly in a basket beside an armchair.
Tonks, eyes wide with compassion, rose quickly from her chair, upsetting it in the process.
"Those twins!" Molly cried miserably. "Their recklessness has given everyone ideas…They're too young to own businesses, get married, fight in wars…"
In her pause, Remus noticed that the snick of Ginny's scissors had ceased; in his periphery, he saw her watching her mother with an expression that was equally guilty and troubled.
"They're my children…"
Overcome, Molly sank into the armchair and sobbed into what appeared to be half of a lilac jumper. Tonks rescued it from her as Remus drew a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it into her hands. He stood to the side and rubbed Molly's back, a bit shaken himself as he recalled the harrowing and heartbreaking image of Molly's boggart shifting into dead Bill…dead Charlie…dead twins…dead Ron…dead Ginny…dead Harry.
"This is going to be a lovely jumper," Tonks said, looking over the work-in-progress.
Remus was about to give her another look of gratitude for distracting Molly, but he stopped as this somehow increased her woes.
"It's for…F-F-Fleur…" Molly dabbed her red eyes with the crumpled hanky. "D-do you think she'll…" She sniffled. "…l-like it?"
"Of course she'll like it," Tonks said sincerely. "It's soft as Fairy Floss, and the colour will look beautiful with her complexion and eyes."
Molly smiled weakly, but it didn't fill her eyes. "I didn't knit her one for Christmas. Simply horrible of me. When I remember the look on her face when everyone had a present to open but her…"
A strangled wail lodged in her throat, and for another moment her face was hidden behind the soggy hanky.
"Don't look back, Molly," said Tonks, touching Molly's arm. "Fleur's forgiven you."
"Yeah," said Ginny, moving to stand behind Molly's chair. Leaning over the back, she slipped her arms loosely around her mother's neck. "You more than made up for the jumper by letting her wear Great Auntie Muriel's tiara for the wedding."
Pulling the handkerchief away, Molly looked up at Ginny and pressed her hand. "Fleur's a lovely girl, inside and out. Just like you, dear." She smiled at Tonks. "And you. Would you like to see it? Ginny, run and fetch the tiara to show Tonks."
When Ginny had gone, Molly rose from her chair and resumed her compulsive tidying.
"I'm sorry." She cast a cleaning charm on Remus' handkerchief, which also crisply starched it. "I always get so silly about these things…"
"You are not being silly," said Remus. "You're a mother."
Molly smiled sadly. "But I'm an Order member, too. And obviously I haven't got my pri--"
At the sound of voices in the hall and feet thumping on the stairs, Molly fell silent and hastily tucked Fleur's jumper into her knitting basket beside the chair.
Bill rounded the corner of the stairwell, one hand in his trouser pocket, the other twined with Fleur's. Remus thought the younger wizard's casually confident stride seemed strangely juxtaposed with his disfigured face. The wounds made it physically impossible for Bill to grin as widely as he had used to, but somehow it had not lost its brightness. Returning Bill's firm handshake, listening to his jocular talk about the fast-approaching wedding, Remus saw a man who refused to hide from the world, who allowed the woman he loved to restore what had been so cruelly taken from him, and was ashamed that he had allowed patched robes and greying hair and fear to come between him and the remarkable young woman who could have carried him through his dark year underground.
But when Ginny bounded downstairs with a silk-lined velvet box and carefully withdrew an intricately wrought, jewel-encrusted tiara, Tonks' small, warm hand found its way into his. The simple, affectionate gesture dispelled Remus' guilt and made it impossible for him not to hold his shoulders erect. He released her hand and slipped a bold arm around her waist.
"Eet eez ze perfect 'eadpiece for me, no?" said Fleur, snatching the tiara from Ginny and settling it on her silvery-blonde head. "I seemply could not find one in ze shops zat did me justice. Eet eez very lucky this was in Bill's family."
Over Fleur's shoulder, Ginny rolled her eyes and again appealed to Merlin through clenched teeth. Molly's pursed lips twitched in the unmistakable look of trying not to show her annoyance. Tonks turned slightly into Remus, her slim frame quivering against his side as she laughed silently.
"It's too beautiful not to be shared," said Molly. "Tonks, you could borrow it when…"
She -- and Ginny, looking remarkably like her -- looked at Tonks as if to ask if there were wedding plans in the works. Remus glanced down at her, and saw her cheeks tinged with pink. His fingers lightly stroked her waist.
"Try it on, Tonks!" Ginny urged.
Oddly, Tonks' body went rigid, and she held herself away from Remus. "Oh no, I couldn't--"
"Do!" said Molly. "You'll look lovely."
Fleur's lips pressed together in a tight smile as she slowly raised her hands and reluctantly removed the tiara; her brows arched dubiously as she held it out to Tonks.
As Tonks' uncharacteristic blush deepened, Remus' first thought was that she was embarrassed to have assumptions made about her love life -- but immediately an inner voice told him this was his way of thinking. The old way of thinking. Which had to stop. Tonks was embarrassed because she thought this talk of weddings was making him uncomfortable. And while Remus had always valued his privacy, everyone here was wise to the very worst of his personal life. Why should he be embarrassed for them to see his intention for his relationship with Tonks to be permanent? Tonks needed his public affirmation as much as his private reassurances.
Maybe even more.
Squeezing her hip, Remus drew her against him again. Tonks looked up at him, and when he smiled, her face bloomed with happiness.
As Molly settled the tiara on Tonks' head, and Ginny arranged her hair, Remus found himself mesmerised by Tonks' unusual shyness. She was completely feminine and happy, obviously unused to this sort of attention, but clearly enjoying it. He could easily imagine her in this prettily flustered state, dressing for her wedding.
Her wedding to him.
The hand not around her slipped inside his trouser pocket, and Remus closed his fingers around a cool, metallic band.
"How do I look?" Tonks asked.
She was so beautiful that Remus, to his chagrin, had no words. Thankfully, the Weasley women accessed every synonym, and Tonks, whose confidence in her appearance had faltered during her year of not being able to morph, looked delighted -- if a little askance -- when Fleur whipped a hand mirror from her pocket and showed her reflection.
Remus' heart gave a little lurch, however, when Tonks' forehead dimpled suddenly, and she said, "Not quite right."
To his relief, all Tonks meant was her hair; she scrunched up her nose, and the straight locks cascading her back coiled tightly as autumnal red budded into a rosy hue. Tonks' familiar, wide grin of satisfaction completed the look as she studied her pink ringlets in the mirror.
"Perfect!" said Ginny over Fleur's disapproving sniff.
Underneath her wide smile, Molly's expression was closer to Fleur's than to Ginny's. "You wouldn't really do pink for your wedding, would you?"
"I was thinking about this, too," Tonks said -- and her cute nose enlarged and became more upturned than normal…
A pig snout.
Bill's and Ginny's faces went red as their hair as they roared. For a moment Molly's and Fleur's expressions matched -- but then even they couldn't deny Tonks' comedic genius.
Remus, however, kept a straight face when Tonks fluttered her lashes at him and asked what he thought. Gallantly, he bent and pecked the tip of the snout without the slightest grimace -- an action that would surely earn him a luxury of points. "You've a truly alluring flair for style, Nymphadora."
Her dark eyebrows slanted sharply as one hand flew to her hip, and the index finger of the other poked him in the nose. "Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus, or you'll be wearing a snout, too. And you won't be able to morph it away."
So much for points.
Bill howled with laughter, but Remus noted how Ginny's eyes had stopped dancing and she watched his interaction with Tonks; there was a look of hunger much like the one Tonks had worn all year.
"It's so good to have you back to yourself, dear," said Molly, reaching out to stroke Tonks' pink curls in a very maternal way, and casting Remus an approving look.
Suddenly, she looked toward the door. "I should go speak with Arthur. Ginny, will you put a pot on to boil, and clear off the kitchen table? I've got to get dinner started."
Ginny cast a baleful eye at the table. "Fleur, will you help me put away your wedding favours?"
Without any acknowledgment of Ginny, Fleur gestured for Tonks to remove the tiara. "I will put ze tiara away, eef you please."
Ginny let out an exaggerated hmph of exasperation, but Bill pressed his finger to his lips as he moved to help his little sister clear the wedding paraphernalia off the table.
Fleur's eyes were wide and -- Remus thought -- unduly terrified for a Triwizard Champion as she watched Tonks try to remove the headpiece, only to get it tangled in her ringlets. When Remus freed it and carefully nestled it into the velvet box, Fleur said judiciously to Tonks, "Eet looks very pretty on you. Not as elegant as on me, but zen we do not all have veela for Grandmozzers. I think you should wear eet for your wed--"
"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!"
All heads snapped around to see Molly stumbling backward, red-faced, from the open broom cupboard door, as Ron and Hermione -- dishevelled and flushed, with swollen, red lips -- emerged. Remus thought a human face had never been a more bewildered expression. Except perhaps his own, when he'd had a crash course in human mating rituals when he'd caught Sirius in a very compromising position with a girl in a Hogwarts broom cupboard.
"WHERE ON EARTH DID YOU LEARN THIS SORT OF BEHAVIOR?"
"Not from five older brothers," Bill murmured, "or from parents who go at it like a pair of rabbits."
Tonks gave a little shriek of laughter, but Fleur whacked her fiancé on the arm. "Do not be crass, Bill!"
Molly caught Ron by the shoulder and turned him to face the lounge full of gawping company. "NOW ACT LIKE A CIVILISED WIZARD AND CARRY REMUS' AND TONKS' SUITCASE UP TO THEIR ROOM!"
As Ron saw Remus for the first time, his blue eyes widened -- whether with awe or alarm, Remus could not guess. Possibly some mixture of the two, Remus gauged from Ron's contemplative look as he toted the shared luggage up to the guest room.
Without a word or eye contact with anyone, Hermione blustered to the kitchen to help Ginny. Remus just caught a snatch of her whisper: "I don't know, we just suddenly…" before Molly's voice broke in, "Remus, please will you talk to them?"
His mouth went dry. He swallowed, but his Adam's apple seemed to stick in his dry throat. "T-talk to them?" he croaked.
Ron was of age. Surely Arthur had talked to him…Or surely Ron didn't need it, having five older brothers, as Bill had so astutely observed.
Rolling her eyes, Molly let out a puff that Remus thought might have been laughter. . "I mean about finishing school!"
Somehow the subject was no less daunting than the birds and the bees.
"I'll do what I can."
A/N: I continue to be amazed and delighted with my readers' response to the Transfigured Hearts series, and I hope you like my first follow-up to those stories. Those who let me know what you think will get a visit from Remus via the Floo Network. Whether he comes through with soot in his fringe is up to you, but I highly recommend the untidy version – he's so fun to clean up. ;)