:this is a sequel to 'Snape's Inner Charm'. Snape is absent in this one though, but never fear, he will appear in more one-shots! This is set a while after the events of S.I.C, it's during HBP...and oh yeah, it christmas!!!:

It doesn't have to be like this

Molly had seen it start to happen months before. It was the day when Sirius had rounded up the 'old crowd' and the 'new crowd' together. They had all gathered in Remus' rather miniscule flat in the suburbs of London, waiting for the signal to tell them where the Order of the Phoenix Headquarters was. Sirius had already pretty much confirmed it was going to be his old childhood home but, as ever, they all wanted to get the final word from Dumbledore.

Molly had seen the connection immediately and, as she prepared food for the Christmas festivities tomorrow, her mind remembered every detail of that first meeting.

"Hello Molly, hello Arthur," Remus greeted them with his friendly smile. "It's been a while."

"I only wish it was in better circumstances." Arthur said grimly, shaking his hand.

"You two are the first one's to arrive." Remus told them, leading them into his tiny living room. He flushed as he quickly removed the messy remains of a muggle takeaway from his coffee table.

"Sirius had made a long journey," Remus quickly explained. "Didn't you?" He turned to a dark corner of the room, where a large looking, black dog was in hiding. The dog immediately transformed into a tall, shabby man with long, dark hair. His tired, gaunt face broke into a cheerful smile.

"How are you both?"

Molly gave him a thin smile. She still had great misgivings that Dumbledore and Lupin were back in contact with this man, no matter if he was innocent or not. She still remembered Sirius Black to be a conceited young man who thought it still fine to play the fool rather than act responsibly.

"I'm fine." She answered shortly.

A loud crash and muffled curse broke the awkward silence. Molly saw Sirius try to hide a grin. He obviously knew who the next visitor was.

"Don't worry," he told Remus now, who looked alarmed, "it's only my cousin."

"Ugh, I will never see the sense in apparating in the dark." A woman's voice grumbled from the other side of the front door. "Is anyone here?"

Sirius groaned. "So much for 'lying low'." He muttered. "Come on Moony…let her in before she wakes the whole neighbourhood!"

Remus grinned nervously and opened the door to a dishevelled looking witch, with her robes twisted around her body and pieces of leaves and twigs stuck in her bright pink hair.

"Hi there, Nymphadora Tonks, reporting for duty!" she announced, sticking out a hand for Remus to shake.

Molly hid a smile at the sight of Remus' face. It wore a look of confusion and shyness as he addressed Tonks in a manner that Molly had never heard before.

"Hello..um…er, I'm Remus." Remus shook Tonks' hand awkwardly.

"Ahh, I have finally found the right house, thank god!" Tonks breathed a huge sigh of relief as she walked inside. "I am useless apparating in the dark. You wouldn't believe the journey I've had tonight. I was in Wales half an hour ago!"

Remus' lips twitched. "That's a little far from here." He uttered. "Maybe you should have taken a train?"

"I took the Knight Bus to the Leaky Couldran in the end, and apparated from there." Tonks rattled on to him. Molly exchanged a little grin with Arthur and Sirius. Tonks and Remus had appeared to have forgotten the other people in the room.

"I've only been on that once. It was enough for me." Remus chuckled, taking Tonks' bags.

"Enough for me too!" Tonks exclaimed, grinning. "I met a most eccentric young wizard. Stan Shunpike." She stopped to giggle. "He is just…

"Strange? Idolises gossip? The Daily Phrophet's biggest fan?" Remus finished for her.

"Yes! And I don't think he's had a bath in a while either." Tonks wrinkled her nose, which caused her hair to turn green.

"Definitely take the train next time, or at least apparate in the day." Remus advised.

Tonks looked at him thoughtfully. "I see you're going to be the sensible one of the group."

"You obviously haven't heard about my obsession with chocolate." Remus deadpanned.

Tonks laughed. "I'm sure I will soon. Hello Sirius!" she greeted her cousin.

Sirius embraced her into a bear-hug. "God, I never thought I would see you grown-up." He mumbled tearfully.

"Oh don't be soft." Tonks joked, wiping a few tears out of her own eyes, "or else I will set the werewolf on you." She winked at Remus.

Molly really did have to stifle a laugh this time as she saw Remus' jaw drop. She supposed that not many beautiful witches like Tonks made jokes about Remus' 'condition'. They often ran away at the thought of it. She hugged Tonks in greeting.

As the evening wore on, more Order members turned up at Remus' flat. Some old members, like Dedalus Diggle, and some new ones, like Hestia Jones and Kingsley Shacklebolt. None of them, however, interacted in quite the same way as Tonks and Remus did that night. For one thing, it was discovered that whenever Sirius dared to call Tonks by her first name, she hexed his nose bright orange. When Remus teased her though, she threatened to do things to him and then would just shoot back some kind of verbal retort about his flaws instead i.e. the regrettable revelation about the chocolate obsession. Their conversation was all tongue-in-cheek – in a way, it reminded Molly of Lily and James Potter.

A bang on the door of the Burrow brought Molly back to the present with a jump.

She grabbed her clock and rushed to the bolted door nervously.

"Who is it?" she demanded. She chewed her lip nervously. Arthur, Bill, Remus, Fleur, Harry, Ron, Ginny, George and Fred had all gone to the local Inn for a 'quick' Christmas drink. She didn't expect them back for another couple of hours.

"Hi Molly," a young woman's voice called timidly, "It's Tonks."

Molly breathed a huge sigh of relief. Every time the door banged, she always dreaded it was going to be an Ministry Auror bringing news of the death of a loved-one.

"Oh thank goodness." She muttered. "Hello Tonks, I'm really sorry to do this, but I need to ask you a question before I can let you in.

She sensed Tonks grinning on the other side. "Of course Molly. Fire away."

"Umm…" what could she ask Tonks that would confirm her identity? Then it hit her.

"What is Remus' favourite kind of chocolate?" She blurted out. Maybe it wasn't the best question to ask Tonks at this time, but only friends of Remus knew the answer to this question.

"Dark…with toffee in the centre," Tonks replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

Molly opened the door and was astonished to see the barely recognisable Nymphadora Tonks standing in front of her. Her hair looked mousier than the last time they had met to talk. Her face was gaunt and miserable. There were bags under her eyes, indicating that there hadn't been much sleeping going on.

Molly sighed. "Come on in my dear," she offered kindly.

Tonks stayed where she was, peering slightly over Molly's shoulder.

"Is…is there anybody else here?" she asked quietly.

"No. They've all gone to have drinks. Although I hope Arthur has the sense to remember that Ron and Harry are under-age…and that Ginny had better stick to orange." She looked agitated for a second, before rolling her eyes in despair.

"That's good." Tonks walked into the homely kitchen and sat down nervously at the dinner table. "How are you keeping?" she asked, smiling sadly up at Molly.

"We're doing ok." Molly paused, her lips trembling. "Percy still isn't talking to us."

"He'll see sense in the end." Tonks assured her. "Most men do swallow their pride…" she trailed off and stared down at the table.

"Only most men?" Molly asked carefully, sitting opposite her.

"Well, the others tend to never swallow their pride because they seem to think they know best!" Tonks exclaimed, her face looking pained.

"Remus will come round dear," Molly stated, smiling sympathetically at her.

"I just don't understand why he thinks he's right about all this." Tonks complained; "why does he think it matters that he's a werewolf?"

"He doesn't want to hurt you."

"He won't hurt me. Believe me, I won't let him." Tonks smiled wryly at Molly, who chuckled slightly at this.

"I know he loves me," she continued, "I just know it. He can't think I haven't noticed the way he looks at me."

"I know." Molly nodded and clasped Tonks' hands.

"When we look at each other Molly, time just…stops. I can't breathe or think straight. It can't just be me!" Tonks sighed in frustration. "That's what gets me mad. He loves me, I love him, we both know it…and we can't be together because of his insecurities about his condition! I don't care that Remus is a werewolf, I don't care that every full moon he will have to go away and prowl around in a room for a night…and he might not even have to do that! I can learn how to do Wolfsbane Potion! I passed my N.E.W.T in Potions!"

"You really love him, don't you?" Molly smiled proudly at this young witch who was willing to see past such a dark side in a man.

"I'm head over heels," Tonks confessed. "I cannot let Remus slip through my fingers. Life isn't complete without him."

A while later Tonks left, leaving Molly to brood silently again in the kitchen. It wasn't long before the rowdy members of her family arrived back home.

"Oh dearest," Arthur drawled through the door. "Do let us come in."

Molly raised an eyebrow. "Arthur, you promised me you would stop after two firewhiskies."

"I did…" Arthur argued lamely, "but then the barman decided to give us a bottle of Elf-made wine on the house and…well…"

"Isn't she going to let us in?" Bill's voice asked impatiently, "it's bloody freezing out here."

"Lauguage Bill," Fleur scolded, "eet iz so un-English!"

"Mum," Ron whined, "it's starting to snow, and Lupin is about to test his 'balancing on the wall' thing."

"Which is?" Molly asked worriedly.

"Well, its obvious isn't it? Can you really stand on a wall when you're drunk?" Ron replied, chuckling.

"Come on Mum. If it helps – George and I were the ones who bewitched your muggle kettle to fly, ok? If we weren't your sons, how would we know that?" Fred demanded.

"Fred, I thought we were never going to reveal that and continue to blame Ginny!"

"What? You two did it? I wasn't allowed to ride on my broomstick for weeks after that stunt!" Ginny exclaimed angrily.

"Oh very well, I can see you're not Death Eaters." Molly said crossly, unbolting the door. She was met by a flurry of red-heads, with a bemused Harry, an uncertain looking Fleur and incoherent Remus bringing up the rear.

"How much has he drank?" Molly asked worriedly, staring as Remus collapsed on a kitchen chair.

"At the last count – five firewhiskies, the barman's own special cocktail, and four glasses of wine." Harry counted on his fingers.

"We knew he was getting inebriated when he started mumbling about Tonks," Bill put in helpfully, smirking drunkenly.

Molly sighed heavily. "Arthur, I told you to keep an eye on him," she growled.

Arthur blinked at her in confusion. "What?"

"Right! That's it! Bed, the lot of you!" Molly shouted.

"Hang on Mum, you can't order me about!" Bill argued, glancing at Fleur in embarrassment.

"Oh – yes – I – can." Molly said in a slow, deadly voice.

Bill gulped, took Fleur by the arm and led her out of the room.

Ron yawned. "Maybe I should send Hermione a letter. What do you think Harry? I could tell her I'm much better looking than that Krum and his stupid Bulgarian gang."

Harry, Ginny, Fred and George guided Ron up the stairs. "I think you should stick to Butterbeer in future," Harry advised.

"Stupid Bulgaria. Why did they have to have him on the team in the World Cup?" Ron muttered.

"I thought he idolised Krum," Fred whispered.

"Not anymore," Harry said, grinning knowingly.

"Right," Molly turned to Arthur in disgust. "You can sleep down here tonight."

"Oh Molly," Arthur said passionately, wrapping his arms around her. "And there I was thinking we could have a little…snuggle."

Molly flushed, trying not to smile. "You really are ridiculous when you're drunk." She told him, giving him a little peck on the lips.

"I'll be waiting for you upstairs," Arthur called, wobbling out of the room.

"Sorry about this," Remus muttered, waving his wand at himself wearily.

Molly stared at him, impressed. "You can charm yourself sober?"

Remus nodded. "Handy little trick I learned from James."

Molly smiled wryly. She'd heard the rumours about the Marauders' late-night habits during their later years at Hogwarts.

"I am such a mess." Remus said now, staring down at the table.

"It doesn't have to be like this." Molly reminded him gently.

Remus smiled at her sadly as he settled himself on the Weasley's sofa for the night. "Yes it does." He muttered.

"But you do love Tonks, don't you?" Molly pressed.

"Yes, and that's exactly why nothing can happen," Remus told her firmly, "It will be too hard for either of us to end things if my transformations get ugly."

"Tonks said she can learn how to brew wolfsbane." Molly told him gently.

Remus' eyes widened. "She did?" He whispered, a small smile lurking in the corner of his mouth.

Molly squeezed his hand. "Yes."

Remus looked down at the floor. "It still doesn't change anything." He mumbled gruffly, closing his eyes to sleep.

Molly sighed and shook her head. "It doesn't have to be like this." She whispered.

The End