A/N: This One shot fic was supposed to be for the second half of the Lovers Moon fic jumble at metamorphicmoon for the prompts grow-your-own-warts-kit, Ginny, collide, humour/angst but due to an attack of the lurgi, I was unable to complete it inside of the allotted time. It makes it doubly bad that I was sort of writing it for someone else – a long time ago I promised Celtmama that I'd try and write a sort of follow up to the end of my epic fic Imperius showing Remus and Tonks living together at Winter Hollow and the trials and tribulations therein and when I finally got a set of prompts I felt fitted, I got ill! But here it is all the same – a few post Imperius R/T interludes. :) I've posted it on it's own rather than in A Million Times with the rest of my one shots because being a kind of follow up, I felt it had earned it. :)When Worlds Collide by Jess Pallas
It felt like such an inadequate description. But what more could she say? How else could she express her feelings on seeing this place except with those two simple words?
And it was. Perfect.
Winter Hollow. Snuggled within the cradle of a small, hidden valley deep within the Welsh mountains, it was a charming cottage; two storeys of stone walls, topped by a head of thatch and book-ended by twin stone chimneys. The meadow in which it lay blazed with wildflowers, accompanied by the gentle tinkle of the brook that tumbled down the mountainside out of the rich green forests that hemmed the little valley in.
Remus had been born here. Raised here. Bitten here. Half his life lay within the shadow of these hills.
And now it was theirs.
She had hardly been able to believe it when Remus had told her. His father was moving out to live with his brother in Derbyshire. The cottage deserved more life than he could give it now, Reynard Lupin had said, that it should be a place of life and love, not the hermitage of an old man who'd never quite been able to let go of his lost wife. And then he'd offered it to his son.
To his son and to her.
And Remus had asked her. He asked her to move in with him, move into his family home. After all they'd been through, all they'd risked, all they'd suffered, after all her battles to make the idiot realise that they were meant to be…
He'd asked her to live here. For Remus Lupin, it was a proposal in all but name.
Her response had been almost embarrassingly enthusiastic. Remus' neck had still yet to fully recover from the consequences of her leaping embrace…
But he hadn't seemed to mind.
She could feel his arm around her as she leaned into his shoulder, hand upon the creaky gate. She could feel his smile.
"Remus," she said softly. "We're home, aren't we?"
His grip tightened. His voice, when it came was soft. "Yes, we are," he replied. "We are indeed."
"A grow-your-own-warts kit?"Ah. So she's reached the school mementos corner…
Remus had to admit that he had seriously underestimated just how much clutter he had accumulated over the years. And he had completely failed to anticipate that his father would actually develop a wide enough streak of sentimentality to keep everything from his first toy broomstick to what appeared to be very ancient slices of his birthday cakes stored away in Winter Hollow's loft space. Somehow he'd never thought that Tonks' innocent question about whether she could use his attic to store some of her old school things would lead to an afternoon trawling through dusty boxes by the light of a wavering lumos.
"A birthday gift, in my second year," he stated, brushing cobwebs from his robes as straightened as far as the low beams would allow. By the glow of his wand, he could see Tonks' appropriately luminous yellow hair glinting as she angled the ancient box towards his light in search of an inscription. "Care to guess who from?"
Light and shadows flitted across her features as she dropped into an exaggerated expression of mock thought. "Hmmmm…. Now that's a tricky one… Professor McGonagall?"
Remus was impressed with the level nature of his own returning look. "Not a bad guess but I think she'd prefer we transfigured the warts for ourselves."
Tonks' features writhed with faux disappointment. "Really? Well, how about Hagrid?"
"Rock cakes. I can show the dents in my teeth."
"We hadn't even reached blushing terms then, let alone managed an exchange of birthday gifts."
"Getting closer but not quite there…"
Tonks tapped the kit thoughtfully against her hand. "Well, that narrows it down but the only person left is Sirius and I know it's so unlikely he'd ever give you anything that childish…."
Remus couldn't restrain his grin and Tonks was quick to join him. "He would, wouldn't he?" she chuckled wryly. "Did he explain why he got you something so flattering?"
Remus felt his grin slip, fading into a smile that whispered with fondness, nostalgia and old, distant pain. "It was the first birthday I celebrated after James, Sirius and Peter found out about my condition," he said with soft absence. "Sirius bought me that kit because he said if I was going to lurk around being an incognito dark creature, the least I could do was grow some warts to look the part. He reckoned I was far too harmless looking and I should be ashamed of myself. " He let out a gentle chuckle. "It was the first time I realised that my condition was something that could actually be laughed about. But Sirius, James and Peter made sure that it wasn't the last."
There was an echoing crack. Remus' head shot up, expecting disaster, a tumble of colliding boxes, light streaming through a freshly made Tonks-shaped hole in the floor but all he found was darkness and the sudden feel of Tonks' hands slipping around his waist as her forehead pressed softly against his back. The kit, now pressed against his stomach, was still gripped in her hands.
"Sirius may have been a prat sometimes," Tonks said, her voice muffled against his back. "But he had his moments."
Remus sighed, leaning back into her embrace with relief. "That he did. Whether he meant to or not."
Quietly, he relaxed, allowing his eyes to roam across the myriad of jumbled boxes, low level obstacles and jutting beams that made up the Winter's Hollow attic. He felt Tonks' arms tighten…
"Tonks," he remarked dryly. "Did you just apparate over here?"
He felt her chin press into his shoulder. "Well it was that or take my life in my hands with a perilous clutter crossing," she replied cheerfully. "And I don't know that scraping my dust and old-birthday-cake splattered remains off our bedroom floor after I collide with all and sundry and plunge through the ceiling is exactly the evening either of us had in mind…"
With a slow smile, Remus rested one hand against hers, enclosing her fingers within his palm. "And what did you have in mind?" he asked with faux casualness. "I was just imagining we'd settle down by the fire with a cup of tea and listen to the Wireless. Or maybe we could finish cleaning the kitchen cupboards out…"
Her grasp tightened. "Or maybe…"
For the second time, there was a loud and echoing crack. But Remus found that this method of ending up in the bedroom below didn't worry him a bit.
The stairs were narrow, uneven and wrought from stone and each footstep seemed to echo dully against the air as she moved onwards, down, down, down. Light filtered uncertainly from above through the slender doorway, illuminating the rusty iron bolts that stained the sturdy door that she approached, dull, brown, threatening somehow, in spite of the hint of too distant summer sun.
The first bolt gave with a crunchy clang. The second stuck firmly, screaming in protest as she levered it agonisingly back until it too gave in with a suddenness that slung her back against the wall with its momentum. The third bolt, plumbed into the stone floor took extensive rattling before it too gave up the ghost and yielded to her grasp.
The key shone as she inserted it into the lock, a contrast to its tarnished bed. It turned slowly and then clicked.
Now only the ring that served as a door handle stood between her and…
She grabbed the ring. Twisted. Pushed.
Light slipped and whispered its way through a rather misty cellar window set high up out of reach. But it was enough to show the old gouges that tore up the stone paving slabs, the scratches that crisscrossed the walls, the old iron rings sealed deep into the floor stones, the chains that snaked out from them.
And the cage, battered, broken, that lay in a heap of twisted metal in the corner. The brown stains that smeared the bars had little to do with rust.
A hand, soft and gentle, rested on her shoulder. A figure blotted out the light from the kitchen above.
A voice. His voice.
"I asked you not to come down here, Tonks. I knew it would upset you…"
"You spent your childhood down here?" The words had escaped almost before she could stop them. "Like this?"
His grip tightened. "Believe it or not, it wasn't so bad. My father knew exactly how to tie the chains to keep me from hurting myself too badly. It would have been worse if I'd been free, especially with my parents just upstairs."
She could not tear her eyes from the deep vein of scratches in the floor. "What about the cage?"
"I used it when I was a child – a cub if you will." She sensed rather than saw the ironic smile that flittered over his lips. "As you can see I grew out of it."
"But…" Somehow she could not find the words. The reality of his childhood, of what those youthful full moons must have been like hammered home like thunder.
His hands were on her elbows then, turning her, guiding her step by step back up until they stood once more in the narrow, sun-washed kitchen. As she blinked against the daylight, his lips touched the crown of her head.
"It's not like that anymore," he whispered softly. "It's okay. We're okay."
She groped back until she caught his hand in hers. "I know," she replied. "I know."
Reaching out with her free hand, she firmly pulled the cellar door shut and looked up to meet his eyes with a desperately forced smile.
"Maybe we could redecorate?"
-------------------How does he ever find anything?
Tonks was not a tidy person. She was woman enough to admit that. She paired her socks by the tried and tested "shouldn't-look-that-bad-together" method. She arranged her filing at work from most-to-least likely to get her yelled at if not done soon but she always knew exactly how to find each piece of paper. Her clothes either lived in the wardrobe (not worn yet this wash cycle), hurled over a convenient chair (worn once or twice but still wearable if not in mixed company) or in a heap in the corner (best not touched without assistance of tongs). It was simple. Straightforward. And it worked for her.
She'd wondered quite how Remus would cope when they'd moved in together. Would her techniques drive him barmy? Would he go mad and mix her clothing piles beyond repair? After all, surely a professor at Hogwarts was going to be one of those tidy, organised types who never misplaced as much as a paperclip.
But as per usual, Remus Lupin refused to conform to expectations.
He'd not only approved of her system of clothes, he'd started to use it himself. And as for his study….
"Second pile to the left, under the grindylow skull…Aha! Here you are, Ginny. The Art of Combat Magic by Ruari Lawless. There are better duelling texts out there, but this one has an excellent chapter on how to anticipate your opponent's actions…"
Tonks had to admit that even the chaotic paperwork consuming hell-mouth known within the Auror Department as the desk of Hector Williamson couldn't rival the study of Remus Lupin. Piles of books towered in haphazard piles across the floor and desk; papers and essays sat clipped together neatly in apparently random groupings across most available furniture. A small space had been cleared at the desk just large enough for a book, a pen and quill and a small mug of whatever beverage its owner happened to deem appropriate.
"Thanks, Professor Lupin." Ginny hefted the red leather tome he had passed her with a smile on her face. "And if you don't mind…"
"Don't tell your mother you're borrowing advanced textbooks on duelling for your summer reading?"
Ginny nodded with fervent gratitude. "That'd be cool. And enjoy the casserole!"
Remus laughed. "We will. Thank Molly for us, will you?"
The youngest Weasley laughed. "Mum wanted to bring it round herself but I talked her out of it. Now all I have to do is sneak this book upstairs before she sees it."
It was Tonks' turn to laugh. "She didn't suspect an ulterior motive?"
Ginny gave her a long, slow look. "Of course she did. So I let her overhear me telling Dad that I needed to talk to you about boys." She glanced at the clock, just visible over a tower of dark creature texts. "I'd better go or I'll never sneak out of the Floo before mum gets back from shopping. Thanks again, professor."
"That's all right, Ginny. Good luck!"
With a final wave, the redhead darted out of the room. A few moments later, the roar of the lounge fire pronounced that she was on her way.
Tonks was barely aware that her eyes had begun to roam once more across the mountains of paperwork before she sensed a steady gaze upon her. Glancing up, she met Remus' stare.
"What?" she exclaimed.
"I was about to ask you that." Remus folded his arms slowly. "Every time you come in this room, you get that look on your face. Why?"
She considered denial but quickly discarded it as an option. She considered subtlety but found it equally difficult to muster. In the end, that just left honesty.
She waved one hand across the chaos before her. "I just don't see how you can ever find anything in here!"
Remus grinned. "As it happens, I know exactly where everything is. It's all filed"
Tonks took the opportunity to snort. "Filed? How? By age of mould growth?"
Remus' tolerant smile was starting to get on her nerves. "Trust me. I can find any book or paper in this room in less than fifteen seconds. That pile…" He waved in the direction of the grindylow skull that was acting as paperweight, "…contains all my books and research on duelling. This one…" He patted a teetering tower that leaned against his desk, "…is information on dark objects. My dark creature studies are heaped by the back wall over there and separated by species. My background investigations of various Death Eaters are just behind the door. My friends' old research on animagi…"
Tonks held up her hands. "All right, I get the picture. But Remus, you know it wouldn't take a minute to put an interior engorging charm on a filing cabinet and put all this away. Why haven't you?"
Remus' grin was boyish. "The system works, Tonks. Why change the habits of a lifetime?"
And in that moment, Tonks had to admit that much as she loved this man and as well as she knew him, she still had an awful lot to learn…
Remus loved Tonks with all his heart. Intellectually he knew this. Instinctively he knew this. Emotionally he knew this.
He loved Tonks. He loved her. He did.
So why, he pondered as he stared up at the dark ceiling of the bedroom they now shared, was he was currently finding that so difficult to believe?
Perhaps it was the lack of sheets. Admittedly, it was summer. It was warm. His need for the warmth of bed sheets was, in truth, minimal. But Remus was not a man accustomed to sleeping without some manner of covering and the fact that every sheet that they supposedly shared were wrapped cocoon-like around the woman lying next to him was therefore a source of mild frustration.
Well. Lying next to him was a bit deceptive. Lying diagonally across the bed so as to leave him with no more than a few inches along the right hand side was probably a little more accurate. For a brief instant, he considered prodding the Tonksian caterpillar that had taken control of his place of repose, but he knew within his heart that the result would be no different to any other night. He would receive one entirely sleepy and subconscious Glare of Death and then a further few inches of bed would be annexed for his trouble. That was the way it worked.
And perhaps he could have coped. Perhaps he could have gotten used to this strange sleeping arrangement in time.
If, that was, he had been allowed to sleep.
Yes, he loved Tonks. He really did. But he didn't love her snoring.
With a long suffering sigh, Remus rolled carefully onto his side and allowed himself to snuggle up as close as he dared to the warm body of the woman beside him.
No covers, no space, no sleep, he thought ruefully to himself. And yet I can actually live with it.
Oh yes. This is love all right…
Curled within the warm embrace of his arms deep within the folds of the sofa, it took Tonks a moment to tear her eyes away from the hypnotic dance of the fireplace to glance up at Remus' suddenly solemn eyes.
"Do you ever wonder if this is too good to last?"
She felt herself smile in spite of the grim nature of the question. "Every day. Every day I wonder if this is the morning that the Death Eaters will burst through the door or if this evening is the last we might spend together. But that…"
"…Is why we need to savour every moment." His arms tightened as he completed her sentence. "I think these last few months here have finally taught me that lesson. I love you, Tonks."
The warmth that filled her body had little to do with the blazing hearth. "I love you too, Remus. Now and forever."
"Are you sure?" For an instant, she felt a shiver of cold but the humorous quirk of his lips drove it hurriedly away. "In spite of my eclectic filing system and the grow-your-own-warts kit in the attic?"
She snuggled more deeply into his embrace. "I think I can live with them."
"Well." His tone was wickedly offhand. "In that case, I suppose I can live with the snoring and the midnight glare of death…Ow! No, no, no, no…"
But there was no more time for words as a small body tackled him fiercely, driving him to the ground with the force of the collision. A moment later there was nothing but tickling hands and mutual, frantic laughter by the light of a glowing fire.