(Expecto Patronum)

on three! one.

Tonks is not stupid. She knows enough about Patronuses to know they represent protection, and she knows that the silvery-sparkling bear that erupts from her wand is, in essence, her father. She has always been a bit of a daddy's girl.

She also knows that the great growling dog that comes to deliver a message from Remus means more than "man's best friend". When Sirius dies and she thinks of him sitting on the settee looking into the fire in a house he cannot escape, Tonks dreads seeing that white-furred dog race in through the window because it causes a great big knot to swell up in the back of her throat and her eyes prickle with tears. (She has loved those who have loved before her, but this time it pains her heart so much more.)

When they talk and Remus glances up into her eyes and looks away, pink colouring his pale cheeks, she has to restrain herself from leaning up and kissing him and one day she can't and their lips meet and for a moment they sit in blissful oblivion as Molly Weasley peeks in through the door and tiptoes away.

It is not long after this that what he thinks is reality hits him and he leaves to do work for Dumbledore with not a glance behind him and only leaving her with six words that make her hands shake and her eyes brim with tears again

(too old)

(too poor)

(too dangerous)

and he can't seem to hear her as she calls after him

(I don't care!)

--

two.

She has said those words so many times she can't count and he knows she means every one of them, every one of those eight letters that make him colour and look away. Tonks knows she can't expect him to feel the same way, though she hopes against all hopes those words can, one day, come from his lips.

He takes her on a picnic in June three days after Dumbledore's funeral and she lets her pink hair flop in front of her eyes as she tilts her head up to kiss him and when she least expects it he says those three words that make her pull away and gape and he hangs his head and blushes

(I love you, Nymphadora)

and all she can do is bite her lip

(don't call me Nymphadora)

and she lifts her wand and casts her Patronus and a great silvery wolf gallops tight circles around their picnic basket and he smiles faintly.

She still dreads the sight of his Patronus, barking soundlessly as it speeds towards her with a message from the man she loves most, silver fur dappled in the shadows of her flat. He tells her he loves her now and Tonks has no doubt about it but when she sees that dog she chokes back a sob, and even after he explains it

(I was young and innocent, and when he went to Azkaban...)

again and again

(I felt like it was unfathomable -)

she can't help but look at her hands and

(he came back so different -)

the butterflies in her stomach push up and try to fly out of her mouth but her teeth are clenched too tightly to let them out.

--

three.

All she cares is that she loves him with every fibre of her being and when he insists she stay at her parents' she does so for him. She spends the lonely nights when he is gone with her Patronus and hopes he is alright and wishes she did not shout those things she shouted at him and wishes to every shooting star she sees please let Remus be alright, please please please. She waits by the windows of the house for the days or weeks or even months (time has loosened from her grasp and she cannot concentrate on the hands of the clock while he is gone) and whispers to her baby, hand splayed out on the barely curved surface of her stomach.

When he comes back, her father cannot help but yell and her mother shrieks at him and she stares at him silently, hoping this is real and not another dream she has come up with. He takes the raised voices in and stands there looking at his shoes like a child being reprimanded and she walks up to him and looks into his eyes and at that moment there is nothing, nothing else in the world except for them and in one smooth movement she flings her arms around him and he holds her just as tightly, tears dampening the top of her head and the front of his robes. I love you. I love you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I love you. He tells her what happened and is shamefaced when he tells of Grimmauld Place

(I yelled at Harry, Tonks)

and she only tightens her grip around his shoulders and asks

(do you love me?)

and he looks at her earnestly and presses his lips to her temple and whispers

(I love you. I love you.)

--

expecto patronum!

He comes to his feet and grips her hand and takes her outside and, for the first time in days, she laughs at his chivalry when he takes off his cloak and drapes it around her shoulders (so the baby won't catch cold, he tells her) and takes out his wand. Tonks notices Remus is shaking and his smile is wide and he explains all she already knows about Patronuses

(a great emotional upheaval)

and she knows he is right because Remus knows these things, he is an expert on Patronuses, he is her husband

(I yelled at Harry, Tonks)

and he almost whispers the spell as he waves his wand and his greying hair ruffles in the wind

(expecto patronum!)

and she feels the knot rising in her throat in her anticipation for that huge silvery hound but instead she sees a scaled head, a curled tail, two large reptilian eyes and the knot in her throat disappears as she stares at the lizard that has just emerged from the tip of his wand

(it's a chameleon.)

and all she can feel is that he has wrapped his arms around her and is lifting her off the ground as he spins her in a circle. I love you. I love you. She feels tears prickling at her eyes and she kisses him hard and the chameleon Patronus leaps into the air, its scaly mouth curling infintely upwards at the sides.