Remus jerked awake. Although freed from magical bonds, he remained pinned by the warm softness of his mate. Her cheek pressed against his back, her arm lay across his chest, her leg draped over his thigh.
"Mmmm . . . ."
Through his shirt, Remus felt Nymphadora's kiss. Her hand caressed his chest.
He said, "The sleeping potion didn't work."
Her roaming fingers halted. "What do you remember?"
He fixed his gaze on a beam of sunshine across the room. Dust motes whirled in the golden spotlight. "The wolf changed the season."
Nymphadora's arm tightened around him. "Nothing happened. I leapt into the circle. Wolfie wasn't happy, but he got over it. We made up." An unspoken question laced her tone. Would they do the same?
Remus couldn't answer.
She climbed over his body to kneel and look into his face. "Silence is scary, baby. Talk to me. I didn't expect him to open his eyes. It was a shock to me, too, that he remembered the faery ring and that it was supposed to be snowing, but I guess I shouldn't have been, because he's you—"
"No, he isn't." Remus sat up and rubbed a hand across his face. "I'm not an animal and I don't ever want you to call me Wolfie." He looked at Nymphadora and clenched his jaw. "Your hair."
She smiled uncertainly. "You like it? I told Mrs. McFee I wanted to match the colour of your eyes."
"Mine are light brown. It's the wolf who has amber eyes." He could still picture that burning gaze staring him down. Remus shook his head. "This has to stop."
He thought Nymphadora might faint she turned so pale.
"No. I love you," she whispered.
"And I love you." He cupped her cheek. "If I was less selfish, I would have discovered a way to free you from the wolf." Regardless of what Severus said, there had to be a way to weaken the bond if it couldn't be broken.
"I don't want to be free." She hurled herself into his arms, hugging him tight. "I love every part of you."
Including the wolf. Remus closed his eyes to savour the bittersweet joy of holding her. He breathed in the scent of her skin and another, muskier odour.
Wolfie wasn't happy, but he got over it. We made up.
She had petted the wolf, cuddled next to him.
"I don't have to leave right away," she said. "I'm on afternoon patrol." Nymphadora feathered kisses along his jaw line. "I've missed you so much."
Remus couldn't make love with the wolf's scent on her skin. "I need a shower."
She kissed his mouth in a way that made his body not give a damn who or what she smelled like. "I'll scrub your back," she said, playfully nipping his chin.
Like a wolf—Merlin, he had to stop thinking about it. Remus helped Nymphadora to her feet.
Things got so heated in the shower Remus didn't notice the water had run cold until he slumped against Nymphadora and heard her teeth chatter. Only then did it register that the spray pelting his back was icy. He used a charm to shut off the water and reached for a towel. He dried his love's hair, guiltily pleased the colour had faded to brown.
He frowned at pink marks on creamy skin. "These towels shouldn't be rough, old as they are," he said. He kissed the curve of her shoulder. "I wish I knew a softening spell."
"Hey, exfoliation is a crucial step to healthy skin." She paused drying his chest to kiss him. "I prefer snogging to exfoliate lips, though."
Remus had to smile. "Me too."
He heard her stomach rumble and suggested they go out for breakfast. If they stayed at Grimmauld Nymphadora might offer to serve it in bed, and Remus would have to explain why he camped out in the library instead of sleeping upstairs: it was the only place in the house not haunted by memories.
She agreed so easily he wondered if she too felt the weight of the past bearing down. Remus cast an Appearance Charm.
Nymphadora eyes widened. After they left the house, she held his hand and asked, "How does that spell work? Do you think of specific facial characteristics?"
"General ones, I suppose. I've never looked in a mirror. Why?"
"Just asking." She swung their hands back and forth like a schoolgirl. "I'm ravenous. Where should we eat? Someplace Muggle? I brought money."
"All right," he said, shooting a covert glance at the nearest window. His reflection was hazy, yet he was able to tell the illusion gave him short brown hair. Nymphadora preferred his hair longer.
A few city blocks further, she tugged him over to a small restaurant with a coffeepot painted on the front glass. "Ooh, I like this place. Lemon and mint aren't flavours I'd put together, but as colours, they're fab. And all the coffeepots on shelves. Who needs border paper when you've got a collection like that to decorate with?"
The wooden chairs and yellow Formica-topped tables appeared clean—at least from a distance. Remus was willing to eat anywhere she liked. "Shall we give it a try?"
"Yes, we shall," she said, in an impishly aristocratic tone. "Do you suppose they have smoked haddock with poached egg and mustard sauce, dahling?"
"No, but they're guaranteed to serve fried eggs with grilled bacon and tomato."
"Lovely." She used her cloak to bob a curtsey when he opened the door. "Ta, Thanks."
The server placed them at a table for two next to a booth occupied by four young women dressed in a manner that reminded Remus of Nymphadora when they first met. They had a casual, yet edgy style. A bit punk. One of the girls had pink streaks in her blonde hair.
During breakfast, he couldn't help but compare the young women to the one who sat across from him. Nymphadora wasn't much older than they were. Last year, she had talked as boisterously and laughed with as little restraint. Her spiky hair had rivalled the brightest colours in nature. Now her hair was mousey, her laughter rare, and her captivating heart-shaped face thin from worry.
Guilt dug in with razor-sharp claws. He reached for Nymphadora's hand.
"Aw, look at the oldies. Still in love," said one of the young women.
"Shut up, they'll hear you," said another.
"Nah, their hearing's probably gone. Anyway, who cares? We're leaving."
Nymphadora squeezed his fingers and said once the girls filed past, "Remember when you thought everyone over twenty was ancient? Then that birthday came and you realised you weren't old, everyone who was younger was just young?"
"I've always been an old man," Remus said. "I had my first grey hair when I was sixteen."
"That's heredity, or your condition interfering with the production of melanin. It has nothing to do with age. You're not old." She leaned across the table to whisper, "Could an old werewolf take the kind of shower you did and then go out to breakfast instead of taking a nap?"
"No." And Remus would not have been able to do it, either, before she bonded to the wolf. Nymphadora seemed to have forgotten how weak he'd once been after transformations.
His memory wasn't so selective.
Still hoping to avoid confessing he slept in the library, Remus opted for a walk instead of a "nap" after they finished the meal. He asked if she would like to visit any friends or relatives.
"No. I sent Christmas cards telling everyone about my boring assignment in Scotland. I don't want to have to explain why I'm here and not there." She slid her arm around his waist. "Besides, I want you all to myself."
He felt the same way.
Remus intended to store up as many memories as possible until he had to let her go. So many times, he'd taken for granted the touch of her hand, the sparkle that lit her eyes when she noticed something of interest or amusement.
When they reached the Floo Station, the shine in her eyes came from tears. She twined her arms around his neck and whispered, "I feel like crying and I feel like dragging you into the family toilet and re-enacting what we did earlier. Does that make sense?"
"Perfect." He kissed her tenderly when instinct made him want to kiss her with a passion inappropriate for a public display of affection.
"I'm glad your lips feel the same even though they look different," Nymphadora said. "Will you come see me?"
Remus walked home with a heart that grew heavier as he crouched beside the library fireplace and cast a spell. Green flames danced in the grate.
Dumbledore's face appeared in the fire, his expression mildly inquiring.
"I've catalogued the library," Remus said. "I need a new mission."
"Yes, I see. What did you have in mind?"
That was the tricky part. He didn't have it worked out yet. "I'm finalising details," he said. "May I visit tomorrow?"
"Ten o'clock. My office. No appearance charms necessary."
"Thank you, sir, and my apologies," Remus said. "I forgot about that."
On impulse, he went to the nearest loo after saying goodbye and peered into the mirror. Short hair, hazel eyes, and pleasant, freckled features: the reflection staring back was gut-twistingly familiar.
He looked like Jerry Connelly.
Tonks hoped Remus would contact her via Two-Way Mirror. Instead, he sent a note by owl. It arrived with the morning post.
I have a meeting with Dumbledore at ten today. I'll come to your room afterwards.
She gulped down coffee and thrust the note in a cloak pocket, determined to finish the morning patrol in record time. Happily, her old Comet sped with extra zip as she flew the perimeter of the forest. Rays of sunlight penetrated gloomy clouds and warmed the pine-scented air, further brightening her mood. Tonks let her imagination run wild. Remus had finished cataloguing the library and was going to announce he wanted to help patrol the school. Merlin knew she'd griped the number of Aurors in the village gave only a show of protection often enough. Remus must have realised she was hinting that he go to Dumbledore and volunteer.
Whether she lived with him up at the castle or they found a cottage to let didn't matter. They would be together.
Dawlish raised a brow when she handed him her report with a cheery, "Good morning, sir!"
The barman narrowed his eyes when she asked for two bottles of his finest Butterbeer.
"I'm really thirsty today," Tonks said.
She grinned all the way upstairs. Thought she planned to entertain in her room, did he? How right the suspicious old git was.
The smile slid off her face when confronted by an unmade bed and shoes and clothing strewn across the floor. What a mess! She sniffed. The place needed a fresh air charm and a scented candle. Tonks got to work. Her householdy spells were far better than they used to be. Clean socks rolled up with a flick of her wand, bed linens righted in a swish. Her boots still dragged across the floor, though, and the trunk lid closed with a bang instead of a click.
Tonks was sprawled in a chair about to twist the cap off a Butterbeer when Remus appeared in the centre of the room. She jumped up to hug him and plant an enthusiastic kiss on his lips. "You're just in time to drink to my tidiness," she said. "Here. Have this one. Watch for the fizz, I might have shaken it."
"That's all right. I'm not thirsty."
His tone set off warning bells in the back of her mind. Tonks ignored them and set the bottle on the trunk. She slid her arms around his waist. "I'm so happy you're here."
"I can't stay long."
The way he looked at her, touched her hair and cheek brought tears to her eyes. Tonks blinked them away. She was not going to assume the worst. "You told Dumbledore the library's catalogued? You have to pack your things?"
Why didn't he sound glad? Fear almost kept her from asking, "And you're moving to Hogsmeade?"
"No. I have a new mission."
She heard what he said, but couldn't accept it. "What about Harry and all the other children? They need you to help protect them. I need you." To love me, sleep beside me. Haven't we been separated long enough?
Remus seemed to look everywhere but in her eyes. "Across Britain there are werewolves being raised like Will," he said, "If I show parents the value of teaching their children wandless magic, think of the difference it would make in so many lives."
Tonks took a deep breath. "You're right . . . and I want to help."
She felt his body still like a wary animal.
"I'll take a leave of absence," she said, using her knuckles to rub away the wetness blurring her vision. "Dawlish will send for Jerry and I'll go with you."
"I'm very persuasive," she said, "and even if I'm only there to show that werewolves can have normal lives, a partner—"
"I've taken too much from you already," Remus said firmly. "I won't take your career. This is something I have to do alone."
Nothing would change his mind.
Tonks buried her head against Remus' chest so he wouldn't see her cry. "Will you bring your mirror?"
"In case of emergencies."
She had to bite her lip to keep from sobbing. Why was he still trying to put emotional distance between them? It was hard to speak around the lump in her throat. "Will you write me sometime?"
"If I have the chance." His lips grazed her brow. "I'd better go."
It was as if his resignation flipped a switch in her brain. Tonks pushed out of the circle of his arms. "You do that," she said. "Go. Don't use your mirror. Don't write me. I'll still think about you every day."
"You can't stop me." She lifted her chin, not bothering to wipe the moisture streaking her face. "You know what else? I'm going to dream about you every night."
Remus looked stunned. His lips barely moved as he said, "We agreed—"
"No. I took the sleeping potions for you. Now I won't, for us. And if you don't want Wolfie with me beneath the stars, let your human spirit out to play."
For an instant, Remus' eyes blazed hotter than any wolf's. Then he Disapparated.
Tonks strode to the trunk and picked up the unwanted bottle. Viciously, she twisted the cap. Foam shot into the air and dripped over her fingers. She took a sip. So he was angry. At least Remus would be thinking about her. She retrieved the second bottle and left the room. Annis Black liked Butterbeer, and Tonks planned to borrow every crystal and stone possible to intensify dreaming and astral travel.
Annis gave her enough stones to start a rock collection, yet hard as she tried, Tonks didn't dream about Remus. Days passed and February's icy rain melted January snow, but the only contact she had with her love was on the astral plane, when her spirit hovered above his body.
He never responded to her presence. Whatever Remus took to sleep drugged his human spirit as well. Only Wolfie fought his way out to meet her.
She kept busy, volunteering to take extra duty until Dawlish began to smile a little whenever he saw her. Nights she didn't have patrol were spent trying to dream. Whenever she couldn't sleep, Tonks relaxed her body and mind in order to shift consciousness and be with Remus on the astral plane. Every night, it became harder to drift into natural sleep.
By Valentine's Day, the growing shadows beneath her eyes darkened to the point where even Dawlish noticed.
"Get some sleep before it affects your work performance," he said, coming up to the bar where she poured herself a jumbo cup of coffee.
She saw the mug in his hand and held up the carafe in a silent offer.
He put his mug on the bar. "I'm taking you off the roster for today. Go buy a potion or something."
"That isn't—yes, sir," she said, bending beneath his steely gaze.
"And eat breakfast first." He nodded curtly and left.
From a nearby table, Savage called out, "You do look like shite, Tonks."
"Ta, thanks," she muttered, reluctantly picking a chocolate chip muffin out of a spell-warmed basket to take to her room. She wasn't hungry. The smell of food made her nauseous.
She froze. When was the last time she'd taken a contraceptive potion? Could she be pregnant? Tonks put the muffin back.
"Dawlish told you to eat," Savage said.
She was already halfway to the door. "Later."
The apothecary shop wouldn't open for another hour. Tonks went to the castle.
Madam Pomfrey was changing bed linens when Tonks rushed in. She lowered her wand, causing a pillow and its case to drop from the air to land next to each other on a matching white coverlet. "What's wrong?" The colour drained out of the woman's rosy face. "Is it Severus?"
"No, he's fine." Probably. "It's me," she said, double-checking to make sure the infirmary was empty of patients. "I need a pregnancy test."
"P—pregnancy?" Pomfrey asked in a high, thin voice.
The woman thought the daddy was Snape. "Yeah, you keep a few in the cupboard for, uh, staff, right?" Tonks asked, not about to mention students. There had to be a couple of female teachers who were occasionally sexually active and potentially fertile. She couldn't name any offhand, but didn't care if the bottle had a layer of dust on it. As long as it hadn't expired, she'd use it.
"I—I may have something." Pomfrey moved like a sleepwalker, returning with a blue flagon. "Don't ask me the whys and wherefores, but after I place a drop of blood into the solution, vapours arise in a way that indicates expectancy." Briskly, she used a lancet spell on Tonks' finger. She said, "If the shape of a rabbit forms and hops around, there is no pregnancy, but if the rabbit manifests, and then dissipates. . . "
Tonks held her breath while vapours rose and twisted into form. As the "rabbit" leapt into the air, the room spun so dizzyingly she closed her eyes.
When she came to her senses, Tonks was lying on a bed with a cool flannel draped across her brow. She pushed it off and sat up, immediately recognising the silver wall sconces and the man who came to the doorway when she groaned. "What happened?" she asked. "Why am I here instead of the hospital wing?"
Snape arched a brow the exact way he had in class when the answer was obvious. "You fainted. Poppy came to me when you responded to her effort to restore consciousness with audible distress."
"I cried?" She didn't remember that.
"Poppy was concerned students might overhear and gossip. She administered a Draught of Peace, yet you continued to babble."
"What did I say?"
"You wanted a baby."
The dispassionate words acted like a Legilimency spell.
She curled up on the mattress, hugging her arms tight to her body, mourning the loss of hope. "I wanted our baby," she whispered. "I wanted our baby."
Aw, hell, once again she'd given the wrong impression. "I'm sorry."
"You have slept fourteen hours," Snape said. "I will go to the kitchen and procure a meal." He swooped out of the room before she could tell him she wasn't hungry.
Tonks rose on unsteady legs and gingerly made her way to the toilet. She washed her hands and face, relieved that there was no mirror to show her how awful she looked.
The table was set for one when she entered the outer chamber. She drew in the aroma of leeks and other vegetables, not surprised to hear her stomach gurgle. House-elves made the best Scotch broth. "Thank you," she said, taking a seat.
Snape ignored thanks in the same manner as apologies. "Poppy assured me she told no one you were . . . indisposed."
"Nice of her," Tonks said between spoonfuls. Keeping quiet was self-serving too.
When she was finished, Snape handed her an envelope. "An owl delivered it shortly after I transferred you to my quarters."
Could it be a valentine from Remus? Her heart skipped a beat. "Thank you."
She pushed to her feet. "I mean for everything . . . every thing . . . you've done." Her throat got tight. "I can't tell you how much—"
"Do not try."
Was that a warning? Get emotional and I hex? "Okay. Bye."
She hurried back to her room above the Hog's Head, trembling with eagerness to open her card. Tonks made a little ceremony of it, lighting candles and taking off her boots to sit cross-legged on her bed. Inside the white envelope, she found a handmade card cut out of red paper in the shape of a heart. The front had Happy Valentine's Day written in a child's handwriting. Inside was a message from Remus.
My new friend Lucy wanted to help send you a card. It's her artwork on the back.
Tonks turned the card over to examine a drawing of two stick figures holding hands, one with brown robes and the other with long pink hair to match her triangular-shaped dress. Lucy had labelled the figures Remuz and Nym.
A teardrop splashed onto the card. Tonks blotted it on her shirt and blew to dry the paper. What a sweet little girl. She could envision Remus smiling as he praised the artist. He had a gift for teaching and encouraging children.
All at once, the painful yearning she'd experienced in the hospital wing returned with a vengeance. Tonks wrapped her arms around her middle and rocked back and forth, trying to find comfort. He thought about her, talked about her. Remus sent the card. He would get in touch again.
A week passed.
Tonks limited her astral travel and got enough sleep each night to keep Savage from commenting on her looks. On the night of the full moon, she clutched a piece of jade in her hand and kept one thought in mind as she drifted into sleep: I want to be with Remus.
The night wind blew fresh air into the cave. The she-wolf lifted her muzzle and breathed in the scent of growing things. Her mate chuffed. He, too, had detected no threat to their pack.
A squeak brought her gaze to the newborn kept warm between his parents' bodies. The pup rooted against her side until he latched onto a nipple and began to suckle. The she-wolf leaned over to nuzzle her mate's fur and then bent to groom the pup, licking him until he was clean and dry.
Her mate stayed by her side, leaving only to hunt and carry back food. The pup grew and when the wind brought the scent of blooming things, he opened his eyes for the first time.
Tonks woke to the sound of Remus calling her name. She jack-knifed upright. Where was the communication mirror? She checked her cloak and found the mirror in a pocket. "Wotcher, love."
"Tell me I had a nightmare," he said hoarsely. "That it didn't really happen."
She shivered from an icy draft yet couldn't move.
His expression was pleading. "Tell me I was the only one who dreamt of a werepup."
Tiny. Helpless. Beautiful. "He's a wolf pup, not a werepup." Tonks said. "And it was an incredible experience, not a nightmare."
"You've gone too far."
Horizontal rain thrummed against the window. It echoed her pulse. "Me? It takes two to make a baby, even a dream one."
He flinched. "What are you saying? The wolves mated and I don't remember?"
"No." She took a deep breath. "I'm saying I want to have your baby, and I think you want it as much as I do. That's why we shared that dream, why Wolfie was so tender with the cub—because you are a natural father."
Remus stared at her with red-rimmed eyes. "I'm a werewolf. A danger to every human."
"Not to me, and there are safeguards."
"I can't take the risk," he said. "I won't have children."
Her hands tightened around the mirror. "Then we'll just have one."
Remus exhaled heavily. "Nymphadora."
He said her name like a despairing prayer. Adrenaline ripped through her body. Whatever he planned to say, she didn't want to hear it. He wasn't thinking clearly. He needed time to get his head around it all. "I have duty," she said. "Morning patrol. I have to go. I love you, keep safe." She broke the magical connection.
Outside, the wind had subsided. Rain trickled down the windowpane like giants' tears. Tonks set her jaw. If Remus thought she was stubborn before, that was nothing. She would wait, and hope, and dream, and in the end her love would realise they belonged together always.
Days became weeks and still there was no word from Remus. Sometimes Tonks wondered if she'd be a crone by the time he gave in, too old to do anything in the shower except bathe. Several times, she abruptly returned to her body during astral travel when she'd tried to physically touch him. Once, she took out the mirror and started to call his name before having second thoughts.
Waiting was hell.
The March full moon was only a week away when Tonks swallowed her pride to ask Dumbledore if Remus had contacted him lately. She'd heard a rumour someone had been attacked by Greyback. Not knowing if Remus was safe tore at her peace of mind.
She arrived to find Dumbledore was away from the castle. Without thought, she walked toward the Room of Requirement. It was her place of solace. If she couldn't be with Remus, at least she could "visit" the flat they'd shared in London. Magic produced an exact replica, down to the bottle of Firecrab nail varnish on the coffee table.
Her plan changed when she found Harry Potter sprawled on the corridor floor. The flush on his cheeks and sharp inhale when he stood revealed he'd tripped over his feet and was embarrassed about it. She sympathised and didn't ask him the question he'd asked her. Tonks figured the boy was there for much the same reason she was.
They had a brief, awkward chat. He hadn't heard from anyone in the Order. Although logically she shouldn't have expected Remus to write, her eyes filled with tears. Tonks said she'd see Harry around and left.
On the night of the full moon, she dreamt of wolves.
The pup was older, able to stand, walk, and growl. He sniffed the meat his father provided, watched her eat and gnawed a small piece. He romped at the mouth of the cave, pouncing on his parents' legs and tails.
His teeth grew sharp. She growled when he nipped her. Was he ready to wean? The pup whimpered and continued nursing.
Watching them, her mate gave a snort of amusement. He edged closer and nuzzled her face. She licked his mouth. Between them, the pup gradually went from suckling to sleep.
Tonks awoke with breasts that felt tender to the point of pain. A sign of ovulation. She reached for the mirror, hoping to see Remus' face. Two hours later, she accepted that he wasn't going to contact her yet.
The waiting continued. She stopped using astral travel and became a fixture in the Hog's Head, playing poker with regulars like the veiled "lady" Tonks called Auntie Mung. If she occasionally drank a few beers, she kept count and didn't drink too many. Work was the only thing going right in her life. Dawlish and the others included her as part of the "team," and she wasn't going to screw that up.
On the night of the April full moon, Tonks dreamt that the pup had grown. His feet were adorably large and clumsy. His high-pitched howls were stronger. Play fighting was his favourite activity. It wasn't until she woke that Tonks realised what else had been different about the pup aside from the developmental changes. His fur had been turquoise blue.
She immediately swept a hand beneath the pillowcase. Remus must be upset. Be mad, but call me.
Thirty minutes later, she put the mirror in the drawer of her bedside table. If Remus wanted to talk, he could send his Patronus. She wasn't going to carry around any extra baggage that day.
Her resolve didn't keep her from thinking about him constantly, and that night, the mirror was back in her cloak pocket.
As the buds of April became the blooms of May with blue skies and warmer temperatures, Tonks picked up two unsettling habits. She patted her pocket regularly to make sure she hadn't lost her mirror, and almost as often looked back over her shoulder to see if someone was following. She tried to stop the compulsive behaviour and couldn't. The mirror was her only link to Remus, and the watched feeling was impossible to shake. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.
By the time the moon was almost full, Tonks didn't care anymore whether Dawlish would think she was paranoid. She marched into his office and asked if he had an extra Sneakoscope she could borrow.
He opened a desk drawer. "Constant Vigilance isn't the byword of Aurors the way it used to be," he said. "I'm pleased to see it is with you."
She should have done this weeks ago. "Yes, sir." The yellow disk inside the red sphere he gave her wasn't spinning and letting off a whistle. How nice. They were both trustworthy. "Thank you, sir."
"Wait." Dawlish reached into the drawer and pulled out a thin, flexible-looking piece of metal. "The Secrecy Sensor isn't as effective—true evil can be disguised by magic—but you may find it of use." His gaze held a trace of humour. "Argus Filch swears by his."
She could imagine the nasty git waving it at students. "Ta, thanks. I'll remember not to put it in my back pocket."
Dawlish smiled so briefly Tonks thought she might be hallucinating. "You do that."
The security devices never activated. She wasn't reassured; she still felt watched. On the day before the full moon, Tonks went to the castle to see Snape. He came to the door but didn't invite her in.
She spilled her problem in a gush of words.
"Did it never occur to you," he said, "that your . . . stalker . . . might not be adversarial?"
No, it hadn't. "Who could it be?"
"Who has reason to trail your steps?"
"No one, except—" She swallowed to ease the tightness in her throat. "Remus is on a mission."
Yes, they did. "Have you seen him?" she whispered.
"If he was here, he'd come to see me."
"Or he already has."
Her hand went to the pocket holding the mirror.
Snape caught the gesture. "Contact Lupin. Ask him directly."
"I can't." It wasn't an emergency.
"Then find another way."
She walked back to the village in a daze. Remus in the village. Could it be true? Why would he follow her and not come to her room? She had to find out.
It had been weeks since Tonks used astral travel, but she had no trouble drifting into the altered state of consciousness. Her spirit glided through the roof of the Hog's Head and hovered on the night breeze. The stars bathed her in radiance. Buoyed with dreamy wonder, she turned her gaze from the heavens to Hogsmeade below. Remus was there. His spirit called to her. She floated down to a derelict house set apart from the rest of the village.
Remus slept on a pallet on the floor. Her emotions were only shadows of those felt while awake, and yet a pang ripped through her to see empty apothecary bottles lining the sill of the boarded-up window. The connection to the astral plane started to dissolve.
A ghostly wolf leapt out of Remus' body.
She accompanied him into the moonlight, and the next day slept until jolted awake by the sound of a fist banging against wood. "Tonks! You're late for patrol!" It was Savage. "Open up!"
Tonks dragged herself out of bed and cracked open the door. "Check the bloody roster. I'm scheduled for the afternoon."
"It is the afternoon."
She covered a yawn. "Go prank Dawlish."
"It's two o'clock. Don't believe me, check your watch." When she lifted her bare wrist, he said, "Check mine." His brows knit together when she gaped in disbelief. "Hey, if you're sick, I'll take your patrol."
"I don't know what I am, or how I feel, but it wouldn't be fair—"
"Bullshit. You've taken extra duty and never complained. I can do this for you. Go back to bed."
Mr. look-out-for-number-one was offering to do her a favour. She said, "I must really look like shite."
"Not that bad." Savage grinned. "I'd still go there."
Her lips twitched. "Flattering as that isn't, I appreciate the offer—to take my patrol. I'll be downstairs in a few minutes."
"I can make you some coffee."
His eager tone reminded her uncomfortably of Jerry. "No, thanks. I'll live." She'd grab a cappuccino chocolate bar out of her trunk and eat as she dressed.
It wasn't until she strolled through the village that the implication of Remus living in the Shrieking Shack truly sank in. Her stomach churned. He was keeping her at a distance, trying to weaken the bond between them.
She refused to let that happen.
Tonks didn't feel unseen eyes watching her that day. She figured Remus was holed up in the shack, counting down the hours until the full moon. She was too.
Dawlish and the others readily believed she was turning in early due to her "illness." Instead, Tonks Apparated to the Shrieking Shack and entered through the Marauders' secret entrance behind a clump of shrub roses. The Muffliato spell Remus had cast made the squeaks of floorboards the only noises heard. She almost believed she'd imagined floating through the walls and seeing her love. Almost.
The pounding of Tonks' heart told her what she would find in the first floor bedroom. She walked in and saw the wolf, but not until her fingers touched his fur did the moment become real.
The pup was weaned and eager to hunt. His feet were still large for his body; the tips of his ears flopped instead of standing alert. It would be many moons before he was ready to leave the pack.
The she-wolf was content to follow her mate and pup from the cave to the forest. Excited by every rustle and new scent, the pup whipped his head from side to side. Several times, he rambled off the path to investigate and returned, tail wagging, when the Alpha called him with a short bark.
After the sunlight began to fade, the Alpha led his pack to a familiar grassy clearing. The she-wolf looked at her mate. Why had he brought them there?
The pup, intrigued by winged creatures that fluttered among scented growing things in the centre of the clearing, darted forward. Instinct made the she-wolf run after him. The two instantly changed form.
Tonks sat on flower-strewn grass watching a toddler with silky brown hair ending in curls reach toward a butterfly. Her heart ached with an equal measure of joy and sorrow. "Teddy," she said, tasting salt.
"Mum!" he cried, dimpled fingers grasping air. "Up!" He wanted her to lift him to catch the butterfly that flitted out of reach.
"No, baby, you'd hurt its wings."
A low growl brought her gaze to the wolf standing on the other side of the fairy ring. "This is who we are," Tonks said through tears. "We haven't really changed." She held out her arms. "Come to us, we love you."
The wolf took a step forward, and then another, until he was in the circle. Tonks hugged his neck, laughing and crying.
"Doggie!" said Teddy, who now stood next to her.
She took his hand and showed him how to pat the fur. "He's not a doggie, precious. He's a wolf."
"Woof!" Teddy laughed and his hair turned blue.
Tonks awoke with tears clogging her nose and throat. She didn't want to think about what crying had done to her skin. Gods, what she'd give to morph. She sat up and looked at Remus. His face was pale and hollow-cheeked.
"These fantasies," he said, "They've crossed the line."
"What line? There aren't any boundaries in dreams."
His lips turned downward. "You believe a werewolf isn't a monster. You dream he'd accept you and our child when he would kill you and any other human foolish enough to trust him."
"No, we're his pack. He's you, he understands." Why did Remus continually deny it?
He stood and helped her to her feet. "It's time to face reality," he said heavily. "We can never be more than lovers."
"Yes, we can."
He put his hands gently on her shoulders. "Nymphadora, stop. We can never be a family." Remus' face twisted as though he were fighting not to cry. "There will never be a Teddy Lupin."
"Petrificus Totalus!" She edged away from his rigid stare. "You're wrong. You don't want to believe it because you don't believe in yourself, much less us or the future." The Full Body Bind didn't affect vision or hearing. He could hear what she needed to say. "I love you. I'm going to make you happy and I'm going to have your baby one day." Her hands clenched into fists. "If you can't accept that, you're the one who's out of touch with reality."
Tonks slipped between his outstretched arms to give Remus a hard, swift kiss. "When you're ready to talk, you know where to find me." She backed out of the room, countered the spell, and ran.
Remus didn't chase after her.
But he couldn't stay away.
In the days that followed, every time she patrolled the village Tonks would shiver as though an unseen finger traced her spine. Remus always loved to kiss his way down her back—and across every other part of her body. The feeling was both oddly sexy and comforting.
She made a point of never looking over her shoulder or giving any indication that she was aware of a watchful presence. She didn't want him to shy away. As the number of days multiplied, however, Tonks decided on a new tactic. She gave Remus something to look at.
Halter tops. Figure hugging t-shirts. Low-rise denims. Dawlish appeared sceptical when she asked to ditch the Auror robes to blend in with the villagers like a plain-clothes M.L.E. agent, but he gave his permission.
Savage, eyeing one of her crop tops, said, "You look like a model."
She bit her tongue to keep from asking, "What's that mean? Anorexic?" He'd meant it as a compliment. She only hoped Remus liked what he saw too.
Tonks wore her robes when she patrolled the castle, and put them on to attend the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. She wasn't on duty. Looking official got her into the Gryffindor changing room before the match.
Ginny gave her a huge grin and a squeezing hug. "Tonks! I meant to owl so many times. I'm the worst pen friend."
"You'll have to share the title with me," Tonks said. "We can catch up some other time, but I came by to let you know I'll be rooting for you to score a record-breaking number of goals and win the Championship."
Ginny's brown eyes widened. "I'm Seeker today. Didn't somebody tell you? Snape gave Harry Saturday detention for the rest of the year!"
"That's not fair," Tonks said.
"No it isn't. Malfoy was trying to use an Unforgiveable Curse. Harry only defended himself." Ginny's low tone hardened. "I'm going to catch the Snitch for him and nobody's going to stop me."
"That's the spirit." It was all Tonks could do not to betray her shock. She was a member of the Order—an Auror. Why hadn't she been informed?
Regretfully, she couldn't barge into the staff box and insist on an answer from Dumbledore. She would have to wait.
Never had Quidditch seemed to last so long. She glared at her timepiece. Had Savage jinxed it to go half as fast? When Ginny caught the Snitch, Tonks cheered with extra enthusiasm. The match was over!
Pulled along with the unruly crowd swarming to the Great Hall, Tonks craned her neck to try to catch a glimpse of Dumbledore. He was nowhere in sight. In the entry, her eyes strayed toward the corridor leading to the dungeons. She could question someone else. Someone who would tell her exactly what Harry did to deserve harsh punishment.
"Lupin's been carrying tales, has he?" Snape asked before she did more than open her mouth. He looked into her eyes and "saw" her conversation with Ginny. Curtly, he gestured for her to enter his quarters.
"I want to know why I wasn't informed that Malfoy attempted an Unforgiveable Curse," she said. Two chairs flanked the centre table, but Tonks remained standing. "And I want to know why Harry got detention for stopping it. Every wizard has the right to defend himself."
"Does Potter have the right to murder?" he asked grimly. "His spell nearly cut Draco Malfoy in two. If I had not intervened, Malfoy would be dead and Potter would be in Azkaban for the rest of his life." He sneered. "Detention is a slap on the wrist. He deserves expulsion."
"But if Harry's life was in danger—"
"—from a Cruciatus Curse?" A thin black eyebrow lifted at her reaction. "Miss Weasley left out that pertinent detail."
"Yes, she did." Tonks didn't want to think of Harry as someone who would use magic to kill. It had to have been accidental. She said, "Draco—he's okay?" The boy was a spoiled, malicious git, but he was still her cousin.
"He will bear a permanent scar."
Her gaze dropped to the faint silvery marks on her left wrist. Everyone lived with reminders of their mistakes. "Why wasn't I told?" she asked.
"Dumbledore thought it best."
"And he took for granted that everyone would follow his directions." Anger churned like acid in Tonks' gut. "I can't be trusted to do what he wants so I'm out of the loop?" She laughed shortly. "If that's the way he feels I'm surprised I even rate guard duty."
"Your dedication has never been questioned."
Just her judgment. "Right. See you."
The next day, a letter came in the owl post.
I finally have something to tell you that's worth writing about. Harry and I are going together!
Ginny's letter was short and bubbly. Tonks sent back a note that she was happy for her friend and heard female students who participated in snogging sessions with boyfriends before revising attained higher marks on wizarding exams.
Thrilled as she was for Ginny, Tonks couldn't help but be jealous. Once upon a time, she'd been equally giddy about Remus. His kisses had melted her insides and curled her toes. He'd even curled her hair a few times when she'd morphed in knee-jerk reaction.
It hurt to remember the past. Each day she hoped Remus would give in to the need to talk to her, touch her. When he didn't, she was left to ride out waves of sadness and anger. Something had to change.
On the morning of the May full moon, she went by Owl Post Office and sent a note to Auntie Mung. That afternoon, she stopped in at the apothecary and bought a potion. In the Hog's Head later, she kissed Mung's stubbly cheek through the ever-present veil and took a seat across from a warlock whose bushy eyebrows put the grizzled barman's to shame.
"Sure you can handle all-night poker, little girl?" the warlock asked.
Another player sniggered. "Yeh'll be staying up past yer bedtime."
The Macbeth potion Tonks had taken with food and milk to ensure she wouldn't have an upset stomach was guaranteed to "murder sleep" for twelve hours. She smiled and ordered a beer.
Dawn found her thirty galleons richer than she'd been the night before. Aside from the monetary winnings, she'd heard numerous tall tales, learned several risqué limericks, and a drinking song she'd never be able to sing in polite—or even semi-polite—company.
She stacked coins on the bar. "Thank you, kind sir, for your hospitality."
The barman, who apparently didn't mind losing sleep for paying customers, said, "You only had four beers."
"Really? I feel so mellow."
"You'll be crashing any minute if you took a potion."
"Oh. Then the rest of the gold is for my wake up call. Half past one please. I have afternoon patrol. Bang on the door, spin a Celestina Warbeck orb, whatever it takes."
"I'll play the bagpipes."
Was he taking the mickey? "Cool," she said, almost hoping he would.
He did, but not in the Muggle way. The bagpipes were enchanted. Tonks peered through the gap in the doorway at the floating bag whose music woke her from the depths of sleep and thought the music sounded better when a player breathed into the blowpipe.
"Great song," She said, and meant it. The noise could have awakened the dead.
"Scots Wha Hae."
Tonks nodded as though she recognised the tune and dashed to the toilet.
She didn't feel any shivers down her back during her patrol. It was three days before the feeling of Remus watching returned. She changed her route, strolling away from the village to the Shrieking Shack. Her shoulder blades prickled. "Did you miss me?" she asked loudly.
"Yes," she heard. The voice sounded metres away.
She continued to focus on the shack. "How was the full moon without me?"
"The wolf didn't dream," Remus said directly behind her. "He fought the chains and howled."
"You were satisfied, then."
"Sure you were," she said. "You want him to suffer. It doesn't matter that Greyback is the one who bit you, the one who caused all the pain. It's the wolf you hate." Tonks didn't turn around. He wouldn't like the look on her face.
"Hate is a useless emotion." Now Remus' voice came from beside her. "I cannot hate an animal."
"Can you forgive him for existing?" she asked. "Can you let go of anger and resentment? It's not doing you any good. It's tearing you up inside—tearing us apart." Tonks dug her nails into her palms to hold onto composure. "You have to accept that he's part of you or you'll never move on. Never heal. Never be whole." She pressed her hands against her stomach. "And neither will I."
"Don't say that. You're young."
"I'm old enough to know I'll never love any man but you for the rest of my life." Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. "I'll say it a million times if I have to."
He exhaled raggedly. "And I'll tell you a million times I can't—"
"—you mean you won't." They'd always joked it was a good thing she was hard headed so it wouldn't hurt when they occasionally differed in opinion and "butted heads." She pressed the heels of her palms to her temples. They'd been wrong.
"Nymphadora, are you all right?"
Remus had broken the Disillusionment Charm, yet to see him and not hold him was more painful than Tonks could stand. She Apparated to her room and cried until she had no more tears.
The days of June slid by in a sunny haze. She patrolled several times a day and went to bed earlier than she had before she started her first year at Hogwarts. The Morpheus Charm Tonks cast didn't always give her dreamless slumber, but it had less side-effects than a sleeping potion and wasn't habit forming.
If Remus still trailed her at times, he maintained a greater distance. She never felt his eyes on her.
Mid-month, when she was called up to the castle, Tonks went eagerly. The stars were so dazzling she could almost believe the night sky was an omen that light would shine all the more brightly in dark times.
She found a mixed group of Professors and Order members in the Entrance Hall. According to Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore informed her, Flitwick, and Slughorn that he would be leaving the school for a few hours and they—along with Bill Weasley, Remus, and Tonks—should patrol the school "just in case."
After briskly asserting that there was safety in numbers, Professor McGonagall led the way down the main corridor. Remus fell into step with Professor Slughorn in the middle of the group. Tonks dropped back to walk with Bill. His face didn't appeal to her—he was a little too smoothly handsome—but she liked his dragon hide jacket. If she got the chance, she'd ask where he bought it. "Lovely night for a stroll," she said, weaving an intricate pattern with her wand. If she approached any trace of Dark Magic, red sparks would crackle in the air.
Bill chuckled. "We're inside."
"Doesn't change the facts," she said, watching Remus tap his wand against the door of an unused classroom. It didn't glow. There was no one hidden within.
The group made a slow, methodical search. All the entrances and windows were protected by enchantments, the secret passages guarded. The security measures in place were formidable. No intruder could fly or Apparate onto the grounds or into the castle. The air of quietude was also reassuring. All the children were tucked away in their dorm rooms, the elves were wherever they hung out after hours.
They had almost finished patrolling the third floor when red sparks flared to life above Tonks' wand. Rapid footsteps echoed in the corridor. Three students burst into view. Ginny, Ron, and Neville stared at the adults aiming wands in their direction and then began talking all at the same time.
"There are Death Eaters in Hogwarts!"
"Malfoy let them in!"
"They used Instant Darkness Powder to get away!"
Tonks waved her wand. Sparks raced like a comet down an adjacent corridor. She called out, "They're headed for the Astronomy Tower!"
McGonagall put her hand on Flitwick's arm. "Go tell Severus what's happened. We need his help!"
Flitwick bolted for the stairway leading down to the Entrance Hall. The rest of the group took off running after the Death Eaters.
"How many are we up against?" Bill asked Ron.
"Dunno. We saw Malfoy and then he threw the powder."
Ginny said, "I heard at least four people go by me.
"I—I counted seven," said Neville.
Remus clapped the boy on the shoulder. "Excellent. Now we know what we're up against."
"We can take them one by one," Bill said eagerly. His long legs outpaced everyone but Ron.
McGonagall sounded a little out of breath. "And then Severus and Filius will add to our numbers."
A new flash of red sparks shot like an arrow around a curve. "They're in the next corridor," Tonks said, her eyes on Remus.
"Be careful," he said, addressing everyone while holding her gaze. "Move around, don't give them an easy target, and fire spells constantly. Our aim is to stun or bind, but Death Eaters kill."
Ron said, "Don't worry, Professor. We've been practicing."
Bill slung an arm around Ron's shoulder. "Then I'll give you a chance to show off." He jerked his head toward the bend in the corridor. "When I cast a Protego, you hurl a second one. We'll cover the others in case we're heading into an ambush." He bared his teeth in a fierce, compelling smile. "Let's go."
The Death Eaters scattered when they saw their pursuers. The dim torch lighting gave them the appearance of wraiths disappearing into shadow.
"One by one!" Bill yelled, sprinting ahead.
Tonks froze in horror when the Death Eater Bill chased stepped into a muted pool of light. "Remus!" she screamed. "It's Greyback!"
A push by Ginny saved Tonks from a brawny Death Eater's Killing Curse. Her knees burned from striking the floor, but Tonks was used to ignoring pain earned by clumsiness. She straightened and returned fire. "Petrificus Totalus!"
The Death Eater evaded the body-bind and cast spells with a velocity that required full concentration to defend. Despite her training and experience, Tonks found it hard to do more than counter with an occasional stunning spell. She was too occupied dodging rapid-fire curses and jinxes that ricocheted off the walls like bolts of lightning.
The explosion of spells against stone didn't drown out Bill's anguished scream or Greyback's roar of triumph.
The Death Eater holding Tonks and Ginny at bay laughed his head off over the havoc he created, even when a curse brought down one of his own. "You should have followed orders, Gibbons!" He continued to fire off jinxes at a manic pace. No one could touch him. He blocked attacks with contemptuous ease.
Neville shouted, "Malfoy's gone up to the tower!"
Tonks dove to avoid a hex, hissing through her teeth at the sharp sting of her elbows scraping stone. Blood trickled down her arms. She heard Neville cry out and then the big Death Eater's voice rose over the din.
"I'll hold our position. Follow the boy!"
He started deliberately aiming jinxes at the ceilings and walls to cause stones to shatter into deadly projectiles. Tonks cast another stun spell and then caught a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye. Snape was running toward them. A surge of adrenaline erased her fatigue and worry. If anybody could turn the tide against Death Eaters, it was Severus Snape. "Hurry!" she said, pointing to the staircase.
The remaining Death Eater distracted Tonks with a jinx that struck the wall next to her head. Her ears rang from the blast. She didn't see if anyone—Remus—followed to help Snape. She was too busy protecting herself against falling debris. Minutes later, the entire corridor shook from a hex that sent half the ceiling crashing to the floor.
Tonks covered her nose and mouth to keep from choking on the billowing dust. Like the others, she ran forward, only to suddenly halt. Snape and Malfoy had stepped out of the wreckage.
Her hand dropped limply to her side. What was going on? Death Eaters were clambering down the staircase, whooping and hollering.
The laughing Death Eater returned to his nasty tricks, firing off hexes. He aimed his wand at Malfoy's back. "Run!" Tonks cried, stepping into the path of the hex and using a Shield Charm. Over the clamour of renewed fighting, she thought she heard Snape's voice, and then the big Death Eater howled in pain and ran and Remus was holding her, telling her, "The battle's over. You're safe."
Remus drew away to join the people gathered around a body at the foot of the stairs. It was Bill. His face wasn't smoothly handsome anymore. Tonks watched as he was transported to the hospital wing. Numbly, she followed with the others.
Hermione and Luna joined the silent vigil around Bill's hospital bed. All eyes went to Harry when he entered with Ginny. He told them he was fine and asked about Bill. The relief on every face when Remus said Bill wouldn't be a true werewolf jarred Tonks out of her detached state. It wasn't the end of the world to be a werewolf!
When Ron said Dumbledore should know something to heal Bill's wounds, that he owed him, the expression on Ginny's face told Tonks what she was going to say, even before her lips formed the words.
Dumbledore was dead.
Tonks asked how he died, how it happened, but in her heart, she knew. Snape killed him. And she had told him to hurry.
She tried to make sense of it, but couldn't. Dumbledore swore Snape was on their side. She'd never doubted it, except when Snape and Malfoy ran down the tower steps with exultant Death Eaters in their wake.
"We just let them pass," Tonks said in a hollow voice. I let them pass.
Molly, Arthur, and Fleur arrived. Molly wailed her anguish. Fleur gazed down at her fiancé in silence until she heard Molly say that Bill was going to be married, as though the wedding was off.
"It would take more zan a werewolf to stop Bill loving me!" Fleur cried.
Bitterness grew in Tonks until she let smouldering anger become a cleansing fire. She glared at Remus. "You see! She still wants to marry him, even though he's been bitten! She doesn't care!"
"It's different," he said tensely. "Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely—"
"But I don't care either, I don't care!" She grabbed his robes in her fists, wishing she could shake sense into him. "I've told you a million times . . . "
Remus averted his eyes. "And I've told you a million times that I am too old for you, too poor . . . too dangerous . . ."
Molly, Arthur—even McGonagall—gave their opinion on his "ridiculous line," but Tonks was the one who felt ridiculous for wearing her heart on her sleeve for everyone to see.
Hagrid lumbered in. Shaking with grief, he announced that he'd moved Dumbledore's body, Flitwick was recovering in his quarters, Sprout had sent students back to bed, and Slughorn had contacted the Ministry. McGonagall thanked him and asked to speak privately with Harry. After the three left, Tonks hugged Molly and Ginny and walked out. What could she say to the others: sorry for the meltdown?
Dawlish would expect her to report to him immediately and give her statement. He was going to have to wait.
The door to Snape's quarters opened at first touch. Tonks had half-expected a security ward to zap her. In the centre of the library room, the table stood by itself. Snape's chair was gone. She did a quick scan of the shelves. Books were missing. She strolled over to the drinks cabinet. Empty.
She checked the shower. Shampoo and conditioner flagons perched on the ledge with a bar of soap. In the bedroom, she headed straight for the wardrobe. Four robes where there used to be dozens. His student robes were among those removed. Tonks crouched down to peer beneath the robes.
"What are you doing?" Remus stood in the doorway.
Tonks lost her balance and cursed when her knees hit the floor. "I was checking for shoes and now I'm bleeding." She limped to the bathroom.
She took off her robes and let them drop to the mosaic tiles depicting a sea snake before reaching for the button on her jeans. "I'm wearing my favourite red panties," she said. "Don't look or you might forget you're too old." She pulled her jeans down and winced when the blood-soaked denim stuck to her abraded skin.
"Your elbows," Remus said.
He broke her heart and worried about scrapes. She bent her forearms to give him a better view. "Matches the knees, just like the time my cousin took me roller skating."
"Which cousin? Rita?" he asked, taking a flannel off a shelf and wetting it in the marble sink. He knelt and dabbed at the blood on her right knee.
He rinsed out the cloth and attended to her other knee. "Why were you checking for shoes?"
"To confirm something."
Remus stood to rinse out the flannel again. "What?" he said, gingerly daubing at the scrape on her left elbow.
She forced her eyes away from the intent, concerned expression on his face. "Everything Snape valued, his chair, favourite books, Firewhiskey, and most of his posh wardrobe, is gone, including his expensive shoes." She studied a flying snake carved on a wall tile. "He was ready to leave and yet prepared to stay—that's why there are robes but no shoes. He knew people might notice if he wore the same robes every day, but nobody would notice if he wore the same shoes."
"What does that have—"
"Listen, McGonagall said herself Snape didn't know Death Eaters were in the castle until Flitwick told him. It was Malfoy who let them in. He led the way to the tower, he was the one who was supposed to kill Dumbledore!" Tonks squeezed her eyes shut to hold back tears. "I came here to prove I wasn't the biggest fool in the world to trust Snape. He was trying to help . . . just . . . not the way I thought."
The sorrow in Remus' voice cracked the defences she'd erected to hold back guilt and pain. "But I am a fool," she whispered. "I never learn from my mistakes. Sirius died because I didn't take out Bellatrix. Dumbledore died—" She couldn't finish. Sobs wracked her body.
Remus gathered her close. "You did your best. It's not your fault."
"It is, and I'll never forgive myself." She was choking on loss.
He hugged her tightly and then Tonks felt his hands, warm and gentle, cradle her face. "You have to," he said, "or it will blight your life the way it's blighted mine, pushing me away from everyone I've ever held dear." He exhaled shakily. "All my life I've feared change, run from it, until you."
She lifted her eyes to search his.
Remus said, "When you walked out, I couldn't let you go. My age, the wolf, the future. Nothing else matters except being with you." He swallowed hard. "If you can forgive me—"
"I did that the second I heard your voice." Her lips curved. "By necessity I'm brilliant at first-aid spells, remember? I didn't need the help."
A tinge of red stained Remus' cheekbones. "I wasn't thinking," he said. "I just wanted to take care of you."
"Because you love me?"
"Always." He kissed her with a tenderness that made her sigh, and then kissed her with a passion that tingled like magic. Tonks felt complete. She slid her arms around his neck, giving herself over to the kiss, smiling against Remus' mouth as she morphed her hair pink.
A/N: The end—of the canon series, at least. There's no way I can write a Deathly Hallows story. I can't kill them off. (Other stories I've written in which their deaths are mentioned don't count because they weren't Remus and Tonks stories, contrariwise as that may seem.) Anyway, death cannot stop true love, to quote a dread pirate named Westley. The most it can do is make a writer go AU. When I get finished with a few other projects, I have an alternate-ending story planned. Until then, I feel blessed to leave my favourite HP couple alive and together. (And maybe I'll finally get Staind's All I Want out of my head. The song's been running like a theme song in the back of my mind for weeks—yes, it took that long to write the last chapter.)
The restaurant Remus and Tonks had breakfast in was based on The Koffi Pot in Welling, Kent, where Mike Leigh shot a few scenes of the film All or Nothing starring Timothy Spall, aka the guy who plays Peter Pettigrew in the HP films. I started humming "It's a Small World" when I found the description of the "vintage caff," looked up the film out of curiosity, and discovered that bit of trivia.
Pomfrey's explanation of the pregnancy test was borrowed from one of my earlier fan fics, Don't Call Me Daddy. I couldn't resist. In the other story, the daddy actually was Snape. :D
The dream Teddy is the same one from Moonlight and Shadow (written pre-DH, thank you, heh). Scots Wha Hae (Scots, What Have) was the unofficial national anthem for a long time, and has lyrics by Robert Burns in the form of a speech by Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn/battle for independence in 1314. One particular stanza matched what many people (of little faith, heh) thought of Snape after the battle in HBP. (I'll quote the English lyrics.)
Who will be a traitor knave?
Who will fill a coward's grave?
Who's so base as be a slave?
Let him turn, and flee!
My version of the battle came from the different accounts in the book, especially what Tonks said during the hospital scene and how she said it. Tonks said, "we were in trouble, we were losing," in a low voice, and "And then Snape was there, and then he wasn't" about him running to the staircase. Ginny didn't see exactly what happened, she was ducking a jinx. Remus only saw Snape run through the barrier. The way Tonks "whispered" that Dumbledore swore Snape could be trusted, said she'd "love to know what Snape told [Dumbledore] to convince him," and then, "We just let them pass" in a hollow voice, all contributed to my belief that she put her trust in Snape unreservedly—felt she owed it to him for everything he'd done—and that she let him pass not just once, but twice.
I used quotes from ch 29 (The Phoenix Lament) because it's a pivotal scene, and to skip it or summarise it completely would cheat readers, and I couldn't do that. I could, however, write a 10K chapter and top it off with an epic author note. Because I care. :P
I'm thankful to every reader who has enjoyed this story and the trivia-sprinkled (okay, this one is like Homer Simpson putting a Snickers bar on a donut and trying to pass it off as a sprinkle) author notes, and especially grateful to MollyCoddles for being a great beta. She gave brilliant feedback when I sent her scenes and found the wolf facts to confirm they can see blue and yellow. Even though werewolves have human vision, Tonks is a "wolf" in her dreams. Details matter.
The readers whose reviews last chapter mattered, and who made writing this one harder—in a sweet sorrow kind of way—were...40/16, , alix33, Calenmarwen, Camillia Vincent, Carnivalgirl, ChristinaAngel, ElspethBates, Her My Own EE, ishandtwofourths, Kates Master, KELLY, Lady Adrienne Wolfe Gentry, mitu83, MollyCoddles, Moontime, Rose of the West, Slipknot-3113, sunny9847, tambrathegreat, Vivi, and Ziroana.