Originally written for the Livejournal metamorficmoon All Hallows' Moon Jumble with the prompts; Day of Risk, Augurey, Action/Adventure, Picture of a woodland path.
Summary: A deceptively simple mission for the Order allows hidden feelings to be expressed.
Author's Notes: Only my second ever public fic and the first time I've ever written Action/Adventure, hopefully it's Action/Adventure-y enough. Also, apparently Augureys nest in bramble, but I put them up a tall tree for dramatic purposes!
A Walk in the Woods
It was a one street kind of town, typical of the Irish countryside but what made this town special were the magical and muggle worlds existing in harmony with each other. The muggles didn't realise this, of course, seeing only closed down shops and boarded up houses. In fact the muggle population thought Ballindine a sad deserted sort of town, one where the local youth moved away as soon as they could. However to the magical population, although not quite thriving, it certainly had a wealth of activity. All the locals, magical and muggle, knew each other and drank together in the local pub. Therefore the appearance of two strangers from London was sure to cause a stir. Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks were play acting the part of a couple on a few days break in the Irish countryside, emphasising their love of long walks whenever anyone asked them why on earth a young couple like themselves would visit a run down town like Ballindine. The truth, however, was that they were on a mission for the Order of the Phoenix of which they were both members.
Playing the part of Tonks' lover came easily to Remus, his real feelings for the young Auror allowing for his acting to have the hint of the truth to it. From the moment he had met her, he had been drawn to the vibrancy and energy of the young woman. However he was careful not to allow anyone, including Tonks herself and especially Sirius, to suspect his partiality for the young woman. Whilst he could appreciate her beauty and enjoyed her company, he could not let anyone suspect that he had feelings further than friendship. His condition had always meant keeping a control on his emotions and love was no exception. It was not that he had never had relationships, he had, but he had always been careful to keep his feelings contained, never staying with anyone long enough to allow serious feelings to develop. But Tonks had changed that, within a few weeks of their acquaintance he had realised that he wanted more than friendship from the young witch and it had been many weeks now that he felt something far deeper. He knew now that a few dates would not relieve his affection for her. For the first time, in perhaps forever, he wanted a future with a woman. And he hadn't even kissed her yet. She might not even feel the same way. The strength of his emotions towards her scared him, more than a little, but he could not resist the pull of her presence. To spend time with her, talk to her, tease her; these were the things he lived for.
They had spent the previous couple of days searching the countryside for the purpose of their mission without much success. However new information had been received that morning from Dumbledore that left them confident that they would complete their mission successfully that day. As they left the pub Tonks placed her small hand in Remus' larger one. He started in surprise and turned to look at her. She was grinning up at him mischievously.
"What's the matter darling? Don't you want to hold my hand?"
In truth Remus very much wanted to hold her hand and the spark he'd felt when her skin had touched his had thrilled him to the core. He wondered whether she'd felt it too. He felt a tug on his hand as she pulled him away from the doorstep and out of his private musings.
They walked silently down the road hand in hand and for a moment Remus let himself believe that this was real, that she was his girlfriend and they were away on a romantic break together. He glanced sideways at her and smiled to himself. She was so adorable, with her ever changing hair and eyes, but retaining that inner sense of self. She was utterly guileless, dressing in her eccentric way when she could look like a goddess. Today she was dressed simply in jeans, boots and a bright red coat. She had chosen a deep chocolate brown colour for her hair and eyes, which suited her well and didn't draw too much attention from the locals but he found he missed her usual more colourful appearance.
"So Remus, tell me again what we're doing here."
Tonks' voice pulled Remus out of his thoughts as they turned off the road and onto the woodland path.
"You know Tonks", he answered.
"I know what we're doing here, I just don't understand why. "
"Well….", Remus began, adopting his Professor tone as they trudged through the leaf strune path.
"Dumbledore's worried, there have been various reports of Augrey eggs going missing."
"So he's concerned about the wildlife now?"
"No, well yes, of course he is, but it's more than that. Augrey eggs have many uses, particularly in the Dark Arts. Dumbledore just doesn't want Death Eaters getting their hands on any more."
"Cut them off at the source you mean."
"Yes, plus the fact that this is one of the last known Augrey colonies in Ireland. If these eggs are stolen, that makes the species pretty much extinct."
"So we're to collect the Augureys and their eggs, get them to the Sanctuary near Dublin, thereby both saving the world from Death Eaters and the Augureys from extinction?"
"That's pretty much it, yes."
"Augureys are Irish Phoenixes aren't they?"
"Yes, they are sometimes called that, yes"
"Hmmmm….", Tonks looked thoughtful.
"I was just thinking it'd be kind of symbolic wouldn't it? For Voldemort to get an Augurey, with Dumbledore having Fawkes, I mean. Particularly with Augureys being supposed to be able to predict death."
"I suppose it would… and you know that's not true don't you? About them predicting death?"
"Yes! I'm not completely stupid you know! But other people do believe it. I just thought, the symbolism…."
Remus stopped and dropped her hand as he checked their location on the map.
"It's through here", he indicated as he bent over and pushed a branch back to allow them access off the main path and deeper into the wood. He turned and gestured for her hand. As she placed her hand in his, she said in a teasing voice.
"Professor Lupin, are you leading me off the into the woods to have your way with me?"
His breath caught in his throat and he stumbled over his reply.
"What? What! No of course not!"
"Shame" she said still with that teasing quality in her voice as she gripped his hand tighter, "could have been fun".
His breath caught in his throat again and his heartbeat sped up. He turned slightly to look at her. She was smiling up at him in that impish way of hers with her eyes shining and her tongue just pointing out of her mouth. Immediately his mind provided visions of him doing just that; pulling her close to him, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her fiercely. Shaking his head slightly to relieve the visions, he walked on determinedly.
"Come on, it's nearly sunset, no time to lose"
He winced slightly at the sharp tone in his voice. They trudged on in silence for a while, still hand in hand.
"Remus, I'm sorry if I was inappropriate, I jus…."
"Sssh" he said quietly, "we're nearly there."
The day was fine and sunny, though cold for October and so there was no chance of hearing the Augureys' cries to determine their location. They only cried in stormy weather. Therefore Remus and Tonks needed to determine their position before dark, so that they could plan the most appropriate way of capturing them. As they approached a clearing Remus could see a large tree in the far left corner with what looked like a large nest in its higher branches. After consulting his map and the information provided by Dumbledore's sources, Remus could only conclude that this was the Augurey's nest. Remus breathed a sigh of relief; they had found it without too much trouble. However, it also appeared that they were not alone.
From the other side of the clearing appeared two figures dressed in black; that they were Death Eaters was not hard to discern.
"Oh bugger", commented Tonks looking over at the two men, "do we know who that is?"
Remus edged closer, peering at the two men trying to ascertain their identities. Tonks beside him did the same.
"I think one of them is Macnair", she said thoughtfully "he works at the Ministry in the Control of Magical Creatures Department, Executioner" she said wrinkling her nose up at the thought.
"I think the other's Goyle" he answered in a whisper "which makes sense. Goyle Manor isn't that far from here. That's where they'll probably take the eggs for transport back to England".
"Both more brawn than brains. I think we can take them," Tonks whispered back.
"We're not doing anything too risky Tonks. We're just going to try to get to the birds before they do" he whispered urgently.
"Oh come on Remus, where's your sense of adventure" She teased, "look, you disillusion yourself and try to distract them and I'll try and get up that tree. I'll get the birds and try to get them down to you. If all else fails see you back at the pub."
She went to move away but then turned on her heel, placed a kiss on his cheek whispered "Good Luck" and then dashed off into the wood. Remus stroked his cheek as he stared at the space she had disappeared into. That girl mesmerised him, with her teasing and affectionate behaviour she was sending his head into a spin that he was sure was most inappropriate in a 36-year-old Werewolf. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and concentrate on the job in hand.
He surveyed Macnair and Goyle. Goyle was a short squat sort of man and Remus knew that, though he was strong, he had no imagination and his duels tended to be rather predictable. Macnair, was another matter, tall and broad he could easily overpower Remus, but again his tactics verged on the predictable. Though thin and wiry, Remus' intelligence and magical ability could give him the edge to outfox these two. Therefore Remus decided that his best bet would be to rely on his wits rather than to try and match them in strength.
A flash of red by the Augureys' tree drew his attention; Tonks was in position. Now he just had to distract the Death Eaters and hope that Tonks would be able to get to the birds. After assessing the area, Remus apparated to the right hand side, directly opposite where Tonks was attempting to climb the tree. As expected the loud crack of apparition had drawn the attention of the two men, who turned towards Remus' hiding place with their wands drawn. Remus heard the crunch of leaves as they made their way cautiously over.
"Who's there?" asked the gruff Northern Irish accented voice of Goyle.
Quickly Remus apparated back to his starting position; the sound again drawing the men away from the tree. They were now in the opposite corner to the tree with their backs to it. Now all Remus needed to do was keep them there to give Tonks enough time to collect the birds and get back down.
As the men drew closer to his current hiding place, Remus quickly apparated back to the previous one. The suspicions of the men had clearly been raised now and they started hurling hexes into the bushes. Remus apparated quickly and constantly between the two spaces, hexes missing him by inches. The constant apparating was starting to give him a headache and so Remus dashed around the back of the bushes and threw a couple of hexes back at the two men. Open warfare now began, with Remus jumping and ducking out of the way of the Death Eaters hexes before hurling back ones of his own. Remus had the advantage of still being disillusioned and so while the men's hexes were headed in the right direction they generally missed Remus himself. However he knew that the disillusionment would not last long if the men looked directly at him and so the more advantage he could gain whilst it was still in action the better. He leaped out from behind the bush and shot a stunner directly at Macnair. At the same moment a red streak coming from the tree indicated that Tonks had done the same. The large man fell to the ground and Remus sent an incarcerous at him to ensure he stayed there. Goyle looked on alarmed and then quickly apparated away as Remus turned his attention to him.
A shriek from the tree made Remus turn in that direction. His heart stopped as Tonks lost her footing on the tree and plunged to the ground, leaping forward he cushioned her fall with his body.
"Oh Merlin Remus, I'm so sorry. Stupid clumsy me!"
"It's ok", he replied as they sat up, "are you sure you're ok?"
"I'm fine, a little bruised probably, but fine."
Remus engulfed her in a tight hug, thanking Merlin that she was ok. Taking huge breaths he attempted to steady his heartbeat, the image of her falling playing over and over in his mind.
"Errrr Remus, you're suffocating me."
Remus pulled away embarrassed, but meeting her eye as he did so and they sat looking at each other in silence for a moment. As he gazed into her eyes, Remus felt the urge to lean over and kiss her and had the strangest feeling that she wouldn't mind if he did. But he couldn't quite pluck up the courage to take that leap. Her friendship meant so much to him that he couldn't bear the thought of jeopardising it, because she couldn't possibly feel the same way about him. If he kissed her it would make things awkward and then they wouldn't be able to spend time together. And that would take away what had become the brightest part of his life. Pulling his eyes away from hers, he stood up and dusted himself off; Tonks did the same with a strange look on her face as she regarded him.
He deliberately turned away, towards the tree and the job in hand.
"Goyle will have gone for reinforcements. We really should get this done before they get back."
"Well I've got…" Tonks reached into her coat pocket, "…the eggs!"
She held out her hand containing three Augurey eggs, fully whole, not cracked or damaged in any way.
"How did you…?", he asked.
"I cast an unbreakable charm on them before I put them in my pocket!" she answered with a triumphant tone to her voice, "Well, knowing me, I couldn't be too careful!"
"That's brilliant Tonks! Now we just have get the birds themselves."
The pair of them stood looking up at the tree, trying to decide on the best way to tackle the problem, aware that at any moment a whole crowd of Death Eaters could be descending on them. The squawking coming from the Augurey nest indicated that the mother Augurey had discovered that her eggs were missing. Remus knew that the Augurey could be vicious; therefore they would need to be careful to capture it without getting too close.
After taking a glance over his shoulder to check that Macnair was still incarcerated, Remus began to climb the tree. Tonks shot him an annoyed look but thankfully did not press the issue, time being of the essence. As he approached the nest, the squawking of the female Augurey became loader and more insistent. She began snapping her beak and raising her claws at him as he attempted to grab her. He ended up with quite a few cuts on his arms as he tried to defend himself from the angry bird.
"Incarcerous", came the shout from Tonks below.
Remus removed his arms from his face and looked over at the bird. It was tied up in a rope, keeping it's claws, beak and wings firmly out of harms way. Remus lent over the branch and smiled down at Tonks.
"Thanks" he called.
"Honestly Remus" she huffed, "I don't know why you didn't think of that!".
Still smiling he levitated the bird down to Tonks, who was waiting with the open cage. Remus climbed back down the tree to where Tonks stood and released the caged bird from the incarcerous spell, then giving it the pellet of sleep potion that Snape had prepared from them. The Augurey safely locked up, they grinned at each other.
"Now we just need the male", stated Remus, surveying the locked up bird with pleasure. As soon as those words had left his mouth, a large bird swooped across the top of their heads and headed into the tree.
The high-pitched shriek that went up into the air indicated that the male had discovered his empty nest. Then suddenly the large bird swooped down at them, its claws narrowly missing Tonks as she ducked. The bird swept back up to the sky and as it turned back down again, Remus immobilised it. The bird hung motionless in the air and Tonks hit it with an incarcerous. Remus then relieved the freezing charm and levitated the bird into the waiting cage. As he had done with its mate, he released the incarcerous and fed it the sleep pellet.
"Looks like we did it then!"
Remus smiled at Tonks.
"I guess we did!" he agreed.
Just as they were beginning to bask in the feeling of a job well done, they heard the sounds of apparition in the far trees.
"Death Eaters" hissed Tonks, grabbing the cage containing the female bird and dashing off into the cover of the nearest trees.
Remus quickly grabbed the cage containing the male bird and with a glance over at the far trees where images of figures in dark cloaks were starting to appear, he followed her. He had just made it to the cover of a large bush when the sounds of hexes being thrown could be heard from the clearing. Throwing a couple of hexes of his own out at the fast approaching figures, Remus dashed further into the wood to where he could just see the red of Tonks' coat.
"We should get out of here", he said breathlessly as they hid behind a group of trees.
"Apparate back to just before the woodland path meets the high street" whispered Tonks, "we can meet there, disillusion the birds and walk back up to the pub as if we're just returning from our walk".
As they walked back up the high street hand in hand with the disillusioned birds in their other hand, Remus reflected on that moment between them in the wood. Had he imagined it, or had she wanted to kiss him too. Remus could have kicked himself for not taking the opportunity; he was supposed to be a Gryffindor for Merlin's sake. Now he may never get another chance to be so close to her. He shot a glance sideways at her; she had a happy smile on her face. She was obviously happy with how the mission had gone or could she possibly be as happy about walking down the street holding hands as he was.
They reached the pub and, suddenly feeling brave, Remus summoned all his Gryffindor courage, stopped, put down the birdcage, took the other one out of her hand and placed it on the floor. He drew her into his arms and smiled down at her. When she smiled back, he lent down, closing the gap between them and kissed her softly. As he pulled away, to check her reaction, she wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him back down to her and kissing him fiercely. When they finally came up for air a few minutes later, she said breathlessly with a smirk on her face.
"I wondered when you'd get around to doing that!"
Author's Note 2: Ballindine is a real small village in the West of Ireland, I holidayed there last year and wondered if some of the closed down houses disguised magical dwellings I gave Goyle Snr an Northern Irish accent and home due to The HP Lexicon essay "Secrets of the Classlist" identifying Goyle as one of the Irish students.
Please review, and if you do, maybe Remus will take you on a woodland walk and hold your hand :)