Disclaimer: I own nothing. Although this is completely AU and canon-inconsistent, all concepts are owned by JKR and Chuck Palahniuk. A/N: whenever I see a Remus/Tonks hurt/comfort fic, it's usually with CompetentAsSheet!ManicPixieDreamGirl!Tonks and BarelyFunctional!Remus. I think he deserves a little more credit than that, and I suspect she's not all as sane and happy as she appears. Anyway, enjoy, review, and it's good to be back!

There was one thing me and Moody always clashed on: our respective life creeds. He swore by iconstant vigilance,/i and it annoyed the skrewts out of him every time I retorted, ilive on your feet; die on your knees./i It's weird that I should even come by such a motto. I'm not some reckless idiot with a death wish. I'm a proud Hufflepuff, for Merlin's sake. But I guess this Byronic schizmaticism runs in my family, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Maybe it all started when I pretended I had cancer.

It sounds worse than it is.

Growing up a Metamorphmagus, I had some of the worst self-image issues you can imagine. It wasn't 'I'm so beautiful it's a curse and I wish guys would stop staring at my tits and really look at ime/i.' It was, 'who the hell is ime/i anyway?' It was not knowing what to say when a guy called me pretty, because yeah, I was pretty, because I did it on purpose. I had no help from God whatsoever. I looked like whatever the hell I wanted to look like, so of course I was pretty, dipshit, but I wasn't real.

The first thing I did in first year, on the train ride to Hogwarts, was make friends with this nihilistic Muggleborn girl named Karin Barrientez. I showed off for her through most of the train ride, changing my appearance in the blink of an eye, and she was amused at first, but then she asked me, "So, what do you really look like?"

And I couldn't give her a straight answer and I wanted to cry but somehow I held it in. She seemed to pick up on it, though, and gave me this strained hug before we left the compartment, but I couldn't feel it much. I knew she was only seeing me through a screen.

And so was I.

It was like those alcoholics that live so frivolously they forget who they are, except my booze ran through my veins and there wasn't a support group in the world that could get me clean.

***

By seventh year, Karin, now a Slytherin, was really on my case about the whole self-pity thing. "Look," she said, "if you want my pity, get a disease people can see. Get a disease that could kill you. Maybe then you'll be justified in your misery."

That wasn't why I was miserable anymore, but I didn't tell Karin that.

By that point, I was over the who-the-hell-am-I drama and onto bigger and better problems. My new problem wasn't as bad, because at least I could count on the solidarity of my generation, but still, thinking about it made me dismal.

I'm part of a lost generation. Always have been. I was eight when the Dark Lord fell the first time, and at seventeen, I had seen and fought in no great wars. It was depressing, hearing the grown-ups talk shop about dueling, about facing off with Death Eaters, and looking around at a giant bubble suburb of a world where the most action I could hope to see was in bed.

How much could I know about myself if I'd never fought for anything?

How much could I know about myself if I didn't even know what I looked like?

But Karin, ever the canny one, figured me out anyway, and one day at five in the morning, she dragged me out of bed and forced me to sneak out of the castle.

"What are we doing?" I hissed, barely conscious. "Where are we going?"

"Mungo's," she said. "You want to see death? You want to see suffering? You want to see gripping, gritty reality, eh? Well, hold onto your seat belt, missy."

"My what?"

"It's going to be a bumpy ride."

And that it was.

A little while after we arrived, I wandered off, and before I knew it, I'd tripped down a staircase and didn't even know which floor I was on. I meandered through halls for a while until I found an open door, behind which I found a group of people sitting in a circle. Before I could ask them where the hell I was, they asked if I was there for the brain cancer support group.

And I said, "Sure."

***

I didn't talk about my real problems with these people. I talked about their problems. I talked about my fake problems. I talked about cancer.

When people think you're dying, they talk about anything with you. They want to listen to you. WE COULD BOTH BE DEAD TOMORROW, so they want to make the most of it. It didn't matter how rich or poor you were or where you stood on the blood status debate. It didn't matter what kind of broomstick you rode to work in the morning or what you looked like. It didn't matter who you were. It only mattered that you were alive, FOR NOW.

I had found my new drug.

Over the next few months, I stepped into various support groups for parasites, curse-induced expiration dates, Crucio-induced PTSD, and other diseases I didn't have, stealing these people's time and attention until I had my fill, then leaving forever and letting them assume I'd died. It was selfish and self-serving, but considering some of the shit that went down during the First War, it's not the worst I could have done with my spare time, and it's really not as bad as it sounds.

***

I was a fresh Hogwarts graduate headed off to the Healer's academy after the summer at my mom's insistence, hanging out at Mungo's because it was where I just enjoyed being. Mum wanted me to be a Healer for the job security, and at the time when I switched ambitions, I blamed Remus Lupin for it, but I guess I'd never really wanted to be a Healer anyway,because what good was fixing other people when I didn't know the first thing about fixing myself?

The support groups helped. The support groups completed me for about an hour at a time.

But I was faking diseases I didn't have, and that was messed up.

The sign on the door said iLYCANTHROPY/i.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but it sure as hell wasn't the stares. It wasn't the coldness.

For a good fifteen minutes, nobody talked to me.

Then across the room, one man whispered to another, and the second walked up to me. My eyes took in the state of him, his deplorable state of dress, the sleepless insomniac circles around his bloodshot eyes, the stark contrast of jagged scars across his face, his slumped posture, the defeatedness/i of him.

I wanted time to stop.

iThis is reality and this is beautiful and this is what I've been looking for all my life and this is hitting me right in the face and oh Merlin please stop time./i

It wasn't love at first sight. It was completion. They're not the same thing.

He gave a wry smile. "Wow," he said. "Wow. I must be really out of tune with my canine side. It's not the most fun thing to be in tune with. Better to block it out, but istill./i I would've thought I'd notice."

"What?"

"I wouldn't have known unless someone pointed it out to me, but now it seems obvious."

"iWhat?/i" I demanded.

So much for freezing time.

"You're a faker."

The jig was up. He'd called me out.

Only he didn't seem offended or about to publicly eject me from the group.

Amused, if anything.

"So why are you here?" he wondered aloud.

I shrugged. "Why are you here?"

"Why else? Solidarity."

"The same."

He pulled up a chair for me and introduced himself as Remus Lupin.

"Fitting," I snickered. "Tonks."

"Got a last name to go with that?"

"That is my last name, genius."

"Oh. Well then, have you got a first name?"

I smirked. "No."

"Nice hair."

***

I kept going back after that and nobody said a word. Remus and I didn't talk about his lycanthropy or my fake-lycanthropy. We talked about the war and about my real problems. We talked about You Know Who and the Boy Who Lived. We talked about family. We talked about my screwup aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, and his best friend's screwup cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. We found out we actually had a lot in common.

We talked about how Karin died.

Four months ago, my mother brought up over dinner that iNymphadora's little friend is apparently dating some Rockbaur. Pureblood fanatics, I don't even know how it happened. Better she'd have stayed with her own kind; not everyone is as accepting as I am, and mark my words, that Rockbaur boy is going to break her poor heart./i

Four weeks ago, she said how Karin was pregnant and she and the Rockbaur boy were rushing into a shotgun wedding.

"And four days ago..." My eyes were moist as I said this. "Four days ago, she broke down under all the guilt, 'cause all of Slytherin house was calling her a blood-taint and a traitor, and she went to this abandoned factory building and they found her dead, and she'd shot herself with a-it's like this metal thing..."

"A gun?" Remus supplied.

"That's it. Twice in the stomach and once in the head."

There was silence. He told me about Lily and James Potter and how they all used to be best friends before they died. Dead friends isn't the most uplifting topic, so there was more silence. Then he tried to lighten the mood.

"I can't believe you've never heard of a gun before."

"I've heard of it, just never really learned the details," I shot back. "I never took Muggle Studies. You don't need it to be a Healer."

"Healer, eh?" More silence.

"What?"

"Nothing, it's just I always imagined you a little further toward the frontlines. Live on your feet, die on your knees...you seemed like the type to be, oh, I don't know, perhaps an Auror."

I burst out laughing. "Me? I'd probably trip over my own feet in the middle of a battle. Although...ilive on your feet, die on your knees,/i I've got to admit, that is damn beautiful."

Mid-summer after my graduation, I came home at dinnertime with my hair bright yellow with excitement and what I imagine must have been a triumphant smile on my face. "Hey Mum, I just got into the Auror's Academy!"

"Aurors?" she repeated. "Whatever happened to Healer school?"

"Yeah, I scrapped that plan." I let myself into the kitchen and dug through the drawers. "I'm having some company over to celebrate. Mind if we use the bad china?"

"What?"

I wasn't sure whether that whole thing about silver and werewolves was true. I should have paid more attention in the support group meetings. We had some cheap metal or, knowing dad, even plastic wares lying around, but it was hard looking for them with my mother nagging.

"Now, who'd get it in your head to drop out of the Healer's academy, huh?"

"Nobody, Mum, in fact I waited until the Auror's academy had accepted me to drop out."

"Don't tell me it was some boy."

"I-"

"Now who's this company coming over?"

"No one, Mum, and he didn't i get it in my head/i, he just gave me some encouragement."

"Who, then?"

"Just somebody I met at the hospital."

"What were you doing at the hospital? Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Mum, it was a support group."

She gasped. "What for? You don't have an STD, do you?"

"No, no! Merlin! Nothing like that. It's a lycanthropy group."

I should have thought before saying that, because Mum looked like she was going to faint. She was turning blue, and the last I checked I'm the only member of this family who's supposed to do that. "My daughter's a werewolf? When did this happen? Dora, why didn't you tell me?" Her eyes filled with tears.

"No, Mum, I-"

"And you!" She turned on my father. "This is your fault! I asked you to help me keep her in line! Keep her safe!"

"Mum, I'm not a werewolf!" I shouted over the commotion.

"You're what?"

"She's not a werewolf," my dad chuckled. "She's just playing Marla Singer."

"Who?" Mum and I asked in unison.

To be a child of two worlds...

When Remus came over for dinner, nobody talked, and, mortified, I turned myself transparent. From the gravy boat to the wallpaper, nobody saw a thing.

The conversation between me and Remus the next morning on the bridge over breakfast:

"What was that last night?"

"My mother's a little freaked out is all. She thinks it's her responsibility to keep me safe from all the world's perils, werewolves included."

Silence.

Eyeroll on my part. "Her heart's in the right place. She's only so overprotective and doting because she's afraid to screw me up like Gram screwed up Aunt Bella and Aunt Cissy, but honestly, she takes it way too far. Dad likes you alright, though. After you left-"

"You mean after she ran me off."

"-he said he'd like to go fishing with you sometime."

Laughter from both of us.

"I'll make it up to you. We'll have a nice celebratory dinner, we can use your place...are you doing anything tomorrow?"

Disappointment. "Full moon."

"Oh. The next day, then?"

"I'll be recovering. You wouldn't want to see me like-"

"Oh, come i on!/i Don't you think a bit of in-my-face reality would do me good?"

"If that's how you feel..."

"If that's how I feel what?"

"Dumbledore says he reckons You Know Who isn't finished."

"And?"

"And if that's the case...we'd love to have you with the Order of the Phoenix."

"Order of the...? Is that like a promotion? Not even an Auror yet and I'm already up for a promotion?"

"Call it what you like, but either way, you're still working under Mad-Eye."

"Mad-Eye?"

Curiosity.