Tonks kept pictures of Remus in her desk. She felt like a fifth year hoarding a photo of her boyfriend in a schoolbag, but she didn't want her colleagues to know how badly she missed her lover. If word got round that she stared at a strip of wizard photobooth pictures every day before getting to work, she'd never hear the end of it. Mooning over Remus was exactly what she was doing, yet she didn't want to see herself portrayed that way in an interoffice cartoon. Her hair was already causing a stir. Aurors she barely exchanged greetings with felt free to ask if the hairstyle was for an undercover mission, for surveillance, or due to a lost bet.
The attention became irritating at times. No one asked Harriet—the brown nose called The Spy—if her mousey locks were the result of a Magical Bug. Tonks' main reaction, however, was a smile.
She couldn't mourn Sirius and Emmeline openly. Neither could she express concern over Remus' "relocation" to Salford. Too many questions would be raised. Her hair was the outward manifestation of an inward sadness, and when her dull hair made people uncomfortable, she smiled.
Her friends and family were the exceptions. She didn't feel any satisfaction over worrying them. Although her parents were aware that it was a combination of factors affecting her Metamorphosing, no one else did. The others thought she was depressed over Remus. From her best mate Julia to Cousin Rita, the unexpressed-yet-clear belief was that he had moved to put emotional and physical distance between them.
They thought she was in denial about it.
What could she say? No one accused her outright. It showed in an exchange of looks between Julia and her husband Tom when Tonks answered that no, Remus didn't owl. The thought was in Rita's eyes at a family barbeque, when her cousin asked when she was going to see Remus—and was told that she didn't know.
Tonks couldn't say that Remus was on a mission, that they had communication mirrors and talked every night. She could only state that they were still together.
Even her Auror partner believed she was holding onto a failing romance. Jerry Connelly had listened to her moan that she was out of shape without Remus to run with and volunteered to go running with her. Earnestly, he'd said that he'd always wanted to learn a Muggle sport, but Tonks knew better. He was an overgrown wizard scout, doing a good deed daily.
She took Jerry up on his offer, and by the second week of July was feeling fit, even though the continued separation from Remus was getting her down. He was new to the pack. He had to abide by their rules, and wait to be allowed leave to visit her, or granted permission for her to visit him.
Tonks kept up her spirits when they talked, but at other times felt so low it was hard to remember to eat properly. For someone who loved food, craved chocolate, and sneered over romance heroines that pined away, the situation was frustrating.
Her temper boiled over when she entered her cubicle on a Wednesday and found an Interdepartmental Memo on her desk. She snatched up the violet-coloured airplane and hurled it toward the mini dartboard on a sidewall. The nose hit dead centre before the paper plane spiralled down to land on the carpet.
Feeling slightly more cheerful, Tonks bent down to pick up the memo. When she read the contents, she was tempted to use an Incendio to burn the paper to ash.
In order to properly secure the village before student arrival, the transfer date has been adjusted to July twelfth. Make arrangements accordingly.
Two days! She had two days to clear her caseload and pack...and for what reason? Was there an upcoming spread in the Daily Prophet that Scrimgeour wanted to look extra ministerial in? Impress the public with how proactive the Ministry was when it came to public safety?
She crumpled the paper into a ball and stalked out of the cubicle to Jerry's equally miniscule office. He wasn't in yet...and there was no violet airplane on his desk. That meant funding for a fifth Auror to be assigned to Hogsmeade had not yet been authorised. Ballocks. She wouldn't even have a friend to play darts or go running with.
Back in her cubicle, another Interdepartmental Memo waited on the desk beside the crumpled paper. It could have been her imagination, but the wings seemed to quiver in fear. "You should be afraid," she muttered darkly. "If you bring bad news, I'm going to rip you to shreds—slowly."
The memo the airplane unfolded to reveal made her grin. Arthur Weasley had requested her assistance today! She dropped the paper and headed back down the narrow, winding corridor toward the double doors of the Auror Offices. Roger the caseload. Jerry could get a rookie to fill in as temporary partner. Arthur was one of the dearest, kindest men on the planet, and she looked forward to helping him confiscate whatever Muggle artefact some misguided wizard or witch had enchanted.
"Wotcher, Mr. Weasley!" she said, entering the office cluttered with former "evidence" of misused artefacts. He was alone, sipping a cup of coffee, scanning a file.
"Wotcher—I mean—good morning, Tonks!"
She laughed at his sheepish look. "I don't own the expression. You can say 'wotcher' if you like."
"No, no, the children tease me something awful if I use it." He smiled boyishly. "I do believe they think the expression too c—colourful." Blue eyes fixed on her hair while he stumbled over the last word.
"At least something about me has stayed colourful," said Tonks, trying to put him at ease. "I doubt Mum is proud that it's my language, though."
Arthur nodded solemnly with a twinkle in his eye. "Yes, mothers tend to be sticklers about such matters."
"Bet Molly's heard loads of colourful language from the twins."
"She assured them in no uncertain terms that not all of Merlin's body parts were suitable for swearing by." He gave a short burst of laughter. "Especially not in Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour while sitting next to Mrs. Fudge!" He lifted the file in his hand. "Now then, we have several interesting cases on my last day." He saw her look of surprise and said, "Hadn't you heard? I've been promoted."
"Thank you. Molly and the children are quite excited."
Tonks enjoyed working with Arthur. Always cheerful, he listened patiently to a sleepy-eyed mediwitch explain that she worked the night shift and only gave her a warning for illegally bespelling a doormat to shock unwanted callers.
"That was nice of you," Tonks said when they were leaving.
Her temporary boss was staring down at the doormat in his hands. "I wonder if the boys would be interested in making a legal version of this mat for sale in their shop," he said musingly. "I could invite them to the office and place this outside the door, to give them a first-hand experience of its effect." He glanced up and reddened. "It was just an idea."
"A fabulous prank, too. Let me know what happens."
His resemblance to the twins when he smiled mischievously was remarkable. "I will."
After lunch, they visited the Mungo Bonham Senior Centre, located conveniently near St. Mungo's hospital. Inside, they were directed to the activities room. The recreation director, Mr. Nigel Taylor, greeted them calmly. "It's about the disco ball, isn't it?" He pointed to the mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling.
Arthur nodded sombrely. "It is illegal to use the ball to cast a Compulsion Charm. Especially one impervious to counter-spells. No senior should be forced to dance. What if someone had broken their hip?" His jaw tightened. "We're here to take you and the...evidence...into custody."
"But you haven't seen it work," the director said smoothly.
The lights dimmed. Above, a spotlight turned on. The disco ball began to spin.
"Incarcerous!" Tonks yelled.
Taylor stood bound with cords, a smirk on his mild-mannered face. "I hope you feel like dancing. When I saw a young Auror strolling up the walk, I switched the musical selection. To dance the hustle, beginners aren't limited to disco. The only requirement is a song with the appropriate beats per minute."
The distinctive, opening sounds of the Duran Duran song Rio spilled into the room. Tonks' mouth fell open. She fought the impulse to move.
Arthur said, "Will the Compulsion Charm fade at the end of the song?"
"Yes," said Taylor.
"Then Silencio!" Arthur turned to Tonks after casting the spell. "I was quite enthralled with Muggle music and dancing in my youth. I even persuaded Molly to visit a discothèque." He tugged her into place beside him. "Let me know if you need instruction."
She couldn't hold out against the Charm any longer. "Fine. We'll boogie, and then we'll arrest him." Dazzling beams of light flashed over the room. As if someone had yelled Do the Hustle, they began to dance.
Tonks didn't need to think about the steps or count and one, two, three. Instinctively, she fell into the rhythm of beats and half-beats, alternating two forward and two backward steps.
It was surprising that Arthur lead her into a fast-moving pattern with turns. She wondered if he was influenced by the jazzy swing to the verses, or the churning rhythm section and fluid bass lines. The saxophone solo loosened up her inhibitions, so when Arthur said over the music, "Disco points?" she started laughing and stopped moving her feet.
Moving her hips left to right, she brought her right arm straight up, and on the half-beat brought it down while crossing her left arm over at the elbow. It was hilarious to see Arthur repeat the motion with her. They faced each other, rolling their arms around each other, moving their hips to the beat.
At the end of the song, Arthur clicked his heels together. Tonks watched him flap his arms like a bird and resisted the compulsion with all her might, sighing with relief when the last note faded, breaking the spell.
She saw a movement out of the corner of her eye and yelled, "Stupefy!"
Arthur hurried over to the man who had been trying to escape. A camera dangled from stunned fingers. He pointed his wand at the director.
A counter-charm enabled Taylor to say, "I was going to use the photographs to persuade you to drop the charges."
Tonks winced. Photographs? Bloody hell!
Arthur flushed, but stood dignified. He said without any hesitation. "You miscalculated, and these photographs are now evidence."
Two hours later, after turning Taylor and his accomplice over to magical law enforcement, giving their statements and filling out the requisite paperwork, Tonks waited until she and her boss left the department to say, "Couldn't we have ruined the film somehow? You know that evidence will be leaked to every office in the Ministry." She groaned. "If I become an article in The Quibbler, I vow by Helga Hufflepuff—"
"Don't assume the worst," said Arthur.
"Charlie used to say that."
"Good to know he listened to his father."
"Right before I got Detention." Tonks smiled a little at the chagrin on Arthur's face.
He said, "You could always come to dinner. We could—erm—explain what happened to Molly. Give her a chuckle." His expression was hopeful.
She was a sucker for a friend in need. "Sure. What time?"
At seven o'clock, Tonks found herself in the Weasley kitchen, warily eyeing the chef knife in Molly's hand while Arthur related what had happened earlier. Before more than "Hmmm," was given in reaction, a vision in white glided into the room.
"Bonjour!" cried the Frenchwoman Tonks recognised as Fleur Delacour. Graceful, pale fingers clasped together. "Eet ees tres bon to 'ave a visitor! I 'ave been so lonely while Bill ees at work, wiz no one to talk to."
"What about me and Hermione?" Ginny Weasley entered the room with a sour look on her face. "What are we, attic ghouls?" She ignored Fleur's breathless assurance that of course Bill's dear 'leetle sister' was 'vairy important' to say, "Tonks, come up and see the Weird Sisters tee I found at a second-hand shop. I can't decide if it's a black-market copy or the real thing."
Tonks nodded briskly. "I'd better have a look."
"Ow exciting! I shall come too!" Fleur tossed back her hair in a gesture that made Mr. Weasley blink and Mrs. Weasley narrow her eyes.
"Oh, but I need your," Molly swallowed hard and seemed to force out, "help, dear. Tell me how your mother makes pasta sauce." Her eyes met Tonks'. "Mrs. Delacour must be a marvellous cook, to hear Fleur sing her praises at every given opportunity."
"I'm sure," said Tonks, making her escape.
On the stairs, Ginny paused on the first floor landing to turn and hug her friend. "I lied about the t-shirt. I just wanted to rescue you from Phlegm and say that I was so sorry to hear about Sirius." The girl's concerned look flickered over mousey hair. "You didn't choose that colour, did you?"
Tonks' throat felt tight. She tried to smile, but it was a lopsided effort. "No, but it matches the way I feel." Her smile became more natural. "Phlegm, huh?"
"Yeah." Brown eyes flashed. "Always prancing around, turning on the charm for every male, especially my idiot oldest brother, who asked her to marry him." Ginny's lips twisted. "Sometimes, I want to spit in her face."
"Wait until you're feeling lurgy." Tonks grinned at the blank look she received. "That way you'll have phlegm for Phlegm."
"Fight Phlegm with phlegm? I like it!" Ginny hugged Tonks again. "I like you."
Tonks bumped Ginny's shoulder with her own as they continued up the stairs. "I like you too, and now our owls won't have far to fly. I'm being transferred to Hogsmeade."
Ginny's face lit up. "Yes!"
Two days later, Tonks glanced around a room above the Three Broomsticks and felt her spirits plummet. "No," she said in response to her new landlady's question. "I'm afraid it won't do." Her face felt hot. "I need a bigger bed, and there's not enough space in here to transfigure the single."
Rosmerta shrugged. "Sorry. I use my da's old room for pub storage, and mine's the only other—wait a minute." She snapped her fingers. "There's a room in the attic. It's big enough for a double bed, and the window at the back of the pub would give you your own private entrance," she said with a wink.
Remus could visit without alerting half the village. Tonks smiled. "I'll take it."
It was the first clear morning after days of rain. Remus stood at the window, looking out across rows of red brick terraces, lips curving at the absurdity of a run-down council estate with the twee name of Chimney Fields. Although not bleak as those in concrete high rises, the flat he currently inhabited was a far cry from the comfort of the home he'd shared with Nymphadora.
The rustling of wings broke the silence. Remus' gaze dropped to the owl shifting in its cage. He reached through the bars to stroke tawny feathers. "We've something in common, Strix," he said. "Both of us long to leave the confines of this place."
There was a thud against the windowpane. A small owl perched on the sill, blinking as though dizzy. Remus chuckled as he raised the window. "Greetings, Thialfi."
The little owl used communally by the pack had never been given a personal name. In a moment of whimsy, Remus had named the owl for the messenger of the Norse gods. It may have been a coincidence, but the fluffy-feathered tiny raptor had seemed to preen.
Thialfi twittered for attention. From his cage, Strix hissed, his large eyes squinting aggressively. Remus gave him an owl treat before feeding one to their visitor. "Don't be jealous," he murmured, retrieving the message. "Using your genus as a name was appropriate, but a manly fellow like Thialfi would be embarrassed to be called Athene." He glanced at the cage. Strix's plumage was no longer pulled in tightly to his body. Instead, he was putting on a show of indifference, combing his head with his claws.
Remus smiled to see Thialfi bobbing and weaving his head in order to better watch the larger owl. "Wait here while I see if Will has a return message," he said, "and for your own sake, don't stick your beak into the cage."
On the way downstairs, the wizard reflected that it was a sad state of affairs when a man talked more to owls than to human beings. When he reached the lounge that doubled as his flatmate's bedroom, he was reminded why that was the case.
William Hughes wasn't just a werewolf. He was a teenager.
The nineteen-year-old lay sprawled face down upon a black futon, fully dressed and snoring. The floor beside the bed was littered with lager bottles and an open bag of cheese and onion crisps spilling onto the floor.
His jaw tightened as Remus bent to pick up the bag and twist it closed. Will didn't have the money to be wasting food. Neither of them did. He set the crisps down, reaching out to shake the boy's shoulder. "Wake up. An owl arrived for you. He's waiting to see if you have a reply."
"Let the bloody bird wait," was the muffled reply. "I'm tired."
Remus kept his tone level. "It's almost noon, and if the message is from Skoll, I doubt he'll appreciate your attitude."
The mention of Greyback's second-in-command made Will roll over and sit up. He dragged a hand over shaggy blond hair, squinting much like his owl. "Give me the message."
Remus stood unmoving.
Will heaved a long, aggrieved sigh. "Gods, you're worse than my Mum. Fine. I'll be polite. Would you please give me the message, if it's not too much trouble, Professor?"
Remus silently handed over the roll of parchment before walking the few metres into the miniscule kitchen. He put on the kettle and opened the lid on the tea tin. There was only enough for a few cups. He would add tea to the list of items needed at the market. After clearing the mess his flatmate had created while making a late-night snack, he took out what remained of the bread and checked the coolant cabinet. The roast beef was gone. So was the ham. Only four eggs remained.
Eggy Soldiers it would be.
While he made three-minute eggs and grilled bread to make rectangular "soldiers" to dunk into the yolks, the clanging of pipes announced that Will had gone upstairs to take a shower.
"I smell food." Will stood in the doorway, the ends of wet hair dripping onto his shirt.
Had hunger caused the boy to take a three minute shower? Remus smiled as he handed over a mug of tea and a bowl containing two soft boiled eggs and slices of toast. "Such as it is."
"Merlin, I haven't had Eggy Soldiers in years. Mum was always nervous that I'd splatter the yolk all over myself and her tablecloth." The tone was wistful.
Remus knew the feeling. Since experience had taught that sympathy would not be appreciated, he merely placed a teaspoon into his own bowl and followed Will into the lounge. The flat was the sort that combined the dining and living area. Whoever decorated the flat had decided that two black futon sofas and side tables made better use of the space than a table and chairs.
Once Remus set down his bowl and mug, Will nodded toward the unmade bed. "Be a mate and use a spell on that." He watched the mattress fold back into a sofa with a look of envy. "If wizards weren't so damned prejudiced, I could've gone to school and learned to do that myself." Pale green eyes flashed with resentment. "Too bad I wasn't lucky like you, Professor."
It didn't take much to set the volatile youth off on a rant. Remus preferred a meal without indigestion. "Yes, it is unfortunate." He took a seat and reached for the bowl. The eggs lay on their sides, stirring a memory. "Have you read Gulliver's Travels?" he said.
Across the room, Will was smashing in the top of an egg. "Was it required reading for Muggle Studies? Sounds vaguely familiar." He peeled away eggshell and attacked the egg white with his spoon.
Remus held up an egg. "In Mr. Swift's book, the isle of Lilliput warred against its neighbour over the correct way to break into a boiled egg."
Will snorted. "Big end, of course."
"The Blefuscudians agreed. The Lilliputians, however, by royal edict, were required to break their eggs at the pointed, 'little end.'"
"If they fought over something so stupid, I hope they killed each other off." Will plunged his "soldier" into the yolk and got egg on his shirt. He swore and then laughed.
Remus said, "No, but both sides were so closed-minded and selfish; each suffered losses over something that should have never been an issue."
"Right. Who gives a toss what end of the egg you break?"
Will didn't seem to grasp the deeper political and societal meaning. Remus felt the way he had in class, when a bright student failed to comprehend a lesson—disappointed and yet hopeful that upon further reflection, he would.
By the time Remus was on his second egg, Will had devoured his food and was finishing off the bag of crisps. "Bit stale," he said around a mouthful.
"Next time close the bag properly."
"Yes, Dad." Will smirked. "Don't you want to know what the message was about?"
Remus sipped his tea. "If you'd like to share."
"They finally gave you permission to visit your mate." Will's grin was impudent. "Got the weekend to get a leg over."
In the same manner he'd treated students who tried to get a rise with a cheeky comment, Remus pretended the words had never been spoken. "When may I leave?"
"Midnight. Be back by two o'clock Sunday, though. There's a meeting."
Remus nodded. He would need to tell Dumbledore. A flick of his wand sent dirty dishes floating toward the kitchen. Only twelve hours until he was free to go to Nymphadora. He shifted restively, determined to give Strix another treat when he went upstairs.
At the stroke of midnight, Remus Apparated to a local wizard-run pub on the Floo Network and Flooed to The Hog's Head tavern. Will had sniggered over his hooded cloak, but it was a necessary precaution. The clientele of Hogsmeade's shadiest establishment would not hesitate to sell information about their fellow patrons if the opportunity arose.
He waited at a table in the back corner, using an Aversion Charm to keep others from taking the nearby tables. At half-past twelve, a man shrouded in a black cloak entered and walked toward the bar. A few moments later, the looming figure approached the back table with a bottle of Firewhisky in hand.
"Tempus fugit," said Remus.
"Non autem memoria," said Dumbledore, taking a seat and placing two glasses on the scratched wooden tabletop. He poured them both a shot. "Time flies, but not memory. How true that is."
Remus picked up the glass, but did not drink. "Are these...?"
"Brought with me from the castle," Dumbledore said in a quiet voice filled with amusement. "Otherwise I would have purchased bottled ale, I assure you."
"Thank you." The Firewhisky burned a path down Remus' throat. He thought of all the times Sirius had thrown back whisky as though it were butterbeer and shook his head slightly.
"You have something to tell me?" Dumbledore said in a hushed tone.
Beneath the concealing folds of his hood, Remus glanced around before replying, "There will be a meeting Sunday."
"Excellent. Have Nymphadora owl me afterwards with any information of note."
It was strange how he disliked any other man calling his lover by her first name. Territorial animal, aren't you? Remus thought. He nodded his agreement to both statements.
"About Nymphadora..." Dumbledore refilled his glass. "She was at The Burrow when I delivered Harry there a short while ago. Although an Order meeting at the weekend was planned in the hope that you would be permitted to attend, she refused Molly's offer to return for dinner and would not meet my eyes when she left."
Without visual cues, there was only voice inflection to go by. Dumbledore sounded gravely concerned. Remus said, "I'm on my way to see her. I'll ask what was wrong." He rose to his feet.
Dumbledore poured himself another round of Firewhisky. "Good. Good."
The lights of the Three Broomsticks were visible from the end of the street, although Privacy Charms muted the noise. Remus kept to the shadows as he circled around to the back of the pub. He had never been in the attic, so he couldn't Apparate there yet.
He would have to levitate.
It wasn't the worst sensation in the world. There were others far more unpleasant. Remus was willing to experience slight queasiness and dizziness to join his love. He only wished his conjuring was to the level James' had been. Then he could conjure a ladder and climb up to the opened window.
Instead, he floated, jerkily at times, with a couple of drops that made his stomach lurch. The only thing he was more grateful to see than the inside of the attic was Nymphadora.
She stopped pacing the floor to run into his arms. He held her tightly as possible. He had missed this the most during their time apart—the physical closeness that completed their emotional bond. He closed his eyes, whispering her name as he drew in the scent of her skin and the soft warmth of her body. Long moments passed. Eventually, his hold loosened. Remus brushed a kiss across her hair.
The face Nymphadora lifted was achingly vulnerable. This was what her determined cheerfulness and humour had masked during their nightly conversations. It was sadness that hollowed her cheeks and darkened midnight blue eyes to pools of black.
He ran his fingers through mousey hair worn like a badge of mourning. Everyone knew when she was feeling low. His physical change was strands of grey that made him seem older. Only Nymphadora knew when he was down. Others saw him as a down-and-out werewolf, or a man who had left his lover at the worst time.
Remus trailed his fingers down the sides of his love's face, cupping her cheeks with his palms as he bent to rub her lips softly with his. He kissed her lightly, then lingeringly, but was hesitant to deepen the embrace. He was afraid of moving too quickly.
Her mouth moved persuasively against his.
He groaned when the tip of her tongue traced the seam of his lips. "Nymphadora..."
When his mouth parted, her tongue slipped inside with a boldness any Gryffindor would envy. It took a few minutes to remember what he had intended to say. "I want to hold you, not rush you into—"
"I want you to hold me without clothes on," she said, feathering kisses across his jaw line. She reached up on tiptoes, playfully nipping his earlobe. "If that makes the first time rushed, we can try for slow the second time." Her laugh was low and sexy. "Besides," she said, drawing away to gesture to her shirt. "I feel so bad about stealing your tee. I have to give it back this instant."
Her smile was irresistible as ever. Remus felt a smile spread across his face and hoped it wasn't too wolfish. "Please do."
Later, when the early morning breeze wafted in from the opened window, cooling heated skin, he looked at the woman sharing his pillow and said, "I have to ask. Why did you turn down Molly's invitation and avoid Dumbledore's gaze?"
Nymphadora scooted closer, until she stared directly into his eyes. "I can't be in a room with you and pretend we're just friends anymore. I want to sit beside you, hold your hand, and not worry that impressionable children will figure out that we're lovers."
He kissed her tenderly. "I want the same things."
"And I didn't look at Dumbledore because I didn't want him mucking about in my head."
Remus stiffened. "What?"
Her tone was carefully expressionless, but Nymphadora's eyes showed her distress. "I know what it feels like when someone's trying to use Legilimency against me. If Dumbledore wants information, he can ask me."
"He means well," Remus said automatically, before he suppressed his peacemaker's instinct and spoke from the heart, "but he was wrong, and if anyone—Dumbledore included—tries that again, I hope you'll shut them out in a way that ensures he or she never will again."
She kissed him soundly. "I love it when you get a growl in your voice."
"I meant it."
"That's what made it sexy." Nymphadora rolled forward, pressing him back against the mattress.
Remus said between kisses, "If you're trying to make up for all the kisses we've missed out on, we won't sleep until the sunrise."
She smiled bewitchingly and bent to kiss him again.
A/N: From owl behaviour to non-disco music you can hustle to, I had a lot of fun doing the research for this chapter, and hope readers enjoyed having Tonks and Remus' povs together in one story. This follows the chapter fics Once in a Blue Moon, A Wolf in the Moonlight, Promise of a Spring Moon, Moonlight and Shadow, and From the Battered Journal of Remus J Lupin, but can be read alone, although I'd love for anyone who hasn't read the other stories (and numerous one shots, lol) to find the time to do so. :D. For anyone wondering, yes, Nigel John Taylor is the 'real' name of a Duran Duran bandmember. I don't think he'd mind a character given the name he dropped, heh. Special thanks to MollyCoddles for bouncing my ideas for the story back at me and to every reader who took time to R&R the transition-to-HBP story Wish Upon a Dog Star.