Chapter 1 : Rusty Sweeping Skills
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I spent a good deal of my life avoiding love. I’ve always been a very romantically minded person but it didn’t seem practical for a werewolf to bother with love. There was too much risk involved. I don’t mean the usual pangs of heartbreak or rejection. I mean death. There’s always death involved when a werewolf falls in love. I didn’t know any other werewolves from whom I could extract this assumption. It was and has been my gut feeling on the matter since, well, since I started thinking about women.
Being the idiot that I can be, I went against my gut. I fell for a woman and it cost her more than she ever thought it would. I fooled myself into believing a lie - that we could make thing work… that we’d be happy. I hope to get to that part later on though. Sifting through my memories of her has made it painfully clear that, although I did not raise a hand her, my wolfishness killed her. I alone bear the fault in her death.
When I met her… It’s still hard to say her name. When I first met Nymphadora, or Tonks as she preferred to be called, I knew quite a bit about her. I was best friends with her mother’s cousin, Sirius Black. It was Sirius’ idea that we probe her out as a member of the Order. He thought she would make a great addition to our ranks. Dumbledore agreed and asked Kingsley and Arthur Weasley to stage a conversation about our meeting in front of her. Dumbledore said she was quite clever and nosey. She’d ask about their whispering. Sirius mentioned she was a metamorphmagus, which was a rare skill indeed. I was interested to meet her.
I wish I could say that I was debonair and swept her off her feet, which most men claim when they describe themselves in a romantic sense. However, I’m not most men and my sweeping skills were quite rusty. My initial impression of her was similar to breathing fresh air for the first time in many years. She wasn’t very refined and came across as being a bit daft, but she did have spunk to her. Her pink hair stood out like confetti at a funeral, well, except for the whole ‘inappropriate’ aspect. Her bright and vibrant hair was perfect for her personality.
She was just as inquisitive and Dumbledore said she would be. She asked questions when she was unsure of a plan and she was bright. Tonks managed to come up with a brilliant idea to get Harry’s aunt and uncle out of their house. She came up with it in a moment’s notice too. Her youthful exuberance was a delight, though, I was reluctant to pay her too much attention. I didn’t want to seem imprudent. I wasn’t thinking of her as a potential romantic partner - she was just unique and I felt like a moth exposed to a bright light.
Despite my awed feelings, I didn’t talk to her very much that night. In my few brief exchanges with her that night, I managed to commit a faux pas. I introduced her as Nymphadora to Fred and George. Her voice was slightly sharp as she corrected me. I quite liked the sound of Nymphadora so I decided to use it in spite of her preference. It reminded me of the name of a goddess from a play I read in my youth.
I hate to sound doltish or cliché, but my infatuation with Tonks began the night I met her although I tried to ignore it. I am an observer by nature. I saw her as a new puzzle to piece together, a new work of art to analyze. After the others went to bed and she was alone with Sirius and me, I saw some intriguing flairs to her personality as she and Sirius caught up on family news.
“How’s Andromeda?” Sirius’ eyes fixed to a point above Tonks’ shoulder. He always avoided eye contact when he spoke of something painful or important. The first time he did it was after his broomstick was snapped in two by his mother.
“She’s doing ‘right. Always worried though. She nags me about having a dangerous job.” Tonks laughed airily. Her face glowed with affection for her mother. I could tell that, no matter how much she complained, she wouldn’t want her mother any other way. “How’s life on the outside?” she asked with a vivacious smile.
“Oh it’s bloody wonderful.” Sirius’ words rang with sarcasm. “I’ve always wanted to watch others running around fighting evil while I sit back and clean house.” I thought his harshness would cause Tonks to recoil, but she didn’t.
“So you like being a voyeur?” she asked impishly. Sirius formed a grudging smile. “You know I’m part of the ‘Catch Sirius Black’ team? I could take you in if you’d prefer life in Azkaban.” Tonks looked pensive for a moment then said, “I could use the prize money too. I’ve had my eye on a new broom.” Sirius voiced his relief that a broom was more important to her than his liberty. “Just thought I’d put it in perspective.” she answered with a wink.
I could see that she and Sirius would be good friends. They both liked to match wits and jest. I realized that I was not making the effort to chat that I usually made with people. I felt rude for not being social so I offered to walk Tonks to the door when she left. I said that she might run into Kreacher, which is always a bit of a shock. We made it up to the umbrella stand and Tonks managed to trip over it. I wondered if she was a magnet for large bulky items as they always seemed to get in her way.
Tonks fell into my arms looking quite surprised to be there. I felt momentarily stunned. It felt like years since I last felt another person that close to me. Tonks smiled sheepishly as I helped her to her feet. Sirius came up the stairs to investigate the ruckus. His eyes narrowed as they saw my arm was still securely around Tonks’ waist. Unaware that I was still holding onto her, I let go like a person lets go of a hot pan. Her eyes twinkled as she walked towards the door waving goodbye. I listened for a moment after the door shut, expecting to hear the trash cans topple over.
Sirius was smiling in his perverse way. “Making a move already, Moony?” He was joking, I could tell, but I still blushed. When I didn’t answer he rolled his eyes. “You’re always touchy about the F-factor.” I didn’t have to ask what the F-factor was. It held one of two meanings. Female was the one he usually meant, but sometimes it meant Farah. Farah was a woman I was once foolish enough to love, but she’s another story not meant for today. “What did you think of her?” Sirius asked me watching my face carefully. It took him the better part of 20 years but he learned how to read me but he had it down to an art.
“She’ll be a good addition,” I said vaguely. “To the Order,” I added. Sirius raised his eyebrows telling me he found my answer inadequate. “Well, she’s smart and funny. I wonder though… do you think she uses her metamorphagus abilities to change her daily appearance?”
Sirius laughed. “You’re such a dog, Remus.” I gave him a stern look. I didn’t mean it like that. “She looks a lot like her parents - apart from the hair. So, no, I don’t think she’s prancing around looking much different than she would if she wasn’t a metamorphmagus.” Sirius was trying to read my face. I was determined not to blush. I found her attractive, but I wouldn’t dream of pursuing her. “I think the two of you would be a good match.” Sirius didn’t have a joking undertone.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure she’d love to be with a werewolf who’s almost twice her age,” I said with an unusual bite of sarcasm. “I don’t know where you got your brain, but I hope you kept the receipt.” Sirius smirked at me as he always did when he pushed a button. Not sure why his comment hit a nerve like it did, I went to bed before he goaded me into saying anything else rash.
The next day, I had every intention of making it clear to Sirius that I did not fancy Tonks. I found her to be an intriguing person… but the thought of actively seeking anything more than friendship with her at odds with my ‘werewolves do not date’ ideals. I was mulling that over when I heard a crash near the entryway.
Tonks was flat on her back with the umbrella stand clenched to her chest. I walked over to her and looked down at her. She had a scrunched look on her face as if she was trying to will her situation to be less awkward. When she opened her eyes, I said that she could keep the umbrella stand if she liked it so much. I picked the stand up off Tonks and extended a hand to help her up. Tonks’ cheeks flushed and she scurried downstairs.
I was quite surprised while we all were making dinner. The kitchen didn’t explode. Molly had the foresight to give Tonks a thoroughly non-volatile and non-mobile job. She did manage to soak us all in butterbeer. Well, by ‘us all’ I mean my shoe and a large area of the floor. I felt slightly responsible for the mess. My gaze focused on Tonks while she poured the drinks. Her hands shook slightly. She looked nervous which struck me as odd - the woman had a job where she could face some of the most evil and vile wizards, but pouring drinks made her nervous. She caught me looking at her and I focused on my task. Her eyes must have lingered on me for too long because the next sound we heard was the clang of goblets and the loud expletive that left Tonk’s lips. I dashed towards the table in an attempt to do…something but I only manage to get a shoe-full of liquid.
The meeting that night was quite crowded. I was shunted into a corner next to Tonks, not that I minded. She had been changing her nose during dinner, evidentially enjoyed the reaction it got out of people. Her last nose was similar to that of Alastor Moody. His eye kept drifting to Tonks. It wasn’t like him to notice anyone, but I imagined that the combination of Tonks’ vibrant personality and her copy of his nose captured his gaze as it would any man. She seemed puzzled by his glances. I leaned close to her putting my hand on her knee to get her attention and said, “Your nose.” Tonks’ eyes grew in dismay as she dropped her quill and resurfaced with her usual nose.
I had a moment of panic. I had touched her in a far too intimate manner. She didn’t seem fazed at all. Rather, it was as casual as a poke in the arm. For a man who had not as much as hugged a woman in a matter of years, it felt akin to groping her in front of a large group. I caught a smell of something that threw my mind through a curve. Pheromones - she had been aroused. Being a werewolf had more downsides than I could possibly list, but one of the few advantages were the advanced senses. It wasn’t anything super-wizard, but they were refined. I could smell fear, anger…and arousal among other things. I told myself that her arousal was purely reactionary, much like hitting two rocks together and getting a spark.
Tonks watched the meeting like a cat watches mice run around a kitchen. She didn’t speak often, but she was alert during the entire meeting. Instead of lingering, she left with Moody. He was chatting with her. The Moody I knew didn’t chat, but Moody didn’t know many Aurors like her either. I highly doubted that Tonks realized she was so captivating. She had a very raw charm about her. I forced her to the back of my mind that night. The more I thought about her smile, her lips the more I felt guilt and self-disgust. I couldn’t shake her smile from my mind’s eye.
I was slightly anxious before the next meeting. Sirius noticed and goaded me for it. “Lupin, it doesn’t matter how many times you check your reflection, you’ll still see your face in the mirror. Sorry.” He grinned roguishly and started twirling his wand in his hands.
Turning away from the mirror, feeling embarrassed that he caught me, I said, “I just can’t get over how old I look.”
Sirius laughed without really looking at me. He was distracting himself with a deck of cards. “Lucky for you some women go for the ‘older man’ look. Especially once you add ‘professor’ to your name. I’m surprised you didn’t have any students chasing you at Hogwarts.” Sirius smirked, his eyes flitting towards me.
“You are a dog,” I said rolling my eyes. Sirius hadn’t been with a woman in who knows how long and that kind of depravation was torture for him. He got off on smut, but it wasn’t near the same for him as being with a person.
We stopped our conversation when we heard the doorbell ring. The twits always used the doorbell despite the havoc it caused inside. Moody ran the meeting again and belabored the details of extracting Harry from Privet Drive. From the way Moody described the mission, it was likely we’d experience one, if not several fatalities. Moody was on the verge of extreme paranoia before Barty Crouch Jr. kidnapped and incarcerated him for nearly a year. The old Moody seemed almost carefree compared to the man leading us now.
After the meeting Tonks hung back again. She asked us questions about Harry in the same way a person asks for notes right before an exam. Tonks’ questions weren’t the usual questions people asked about Harry. She didn’t bother inquiring if he really had a scar like most people did; that would be too obvious of a question for her to ask. She asked what his favorite color was, how he did in school, and our favorite memory of Harry.
We didn’t know what his favorite color was; he wasn’t exactly fashion savvy, but I could answer about his best subject in school. “Harry excels at Defense against the Dark Arts,” I said feeling proud at the thought. “I taught him to do a patronus charm a couple of years back.” Tonks eyes lit up in surprise. She let out a low ‘wow.’ “He worked at it relentlessly. The dementors were a threat and he near passed out when he was near them.” I was about to explain why he reacted to them as he did, but Tonks’ face showed every sign of understanding.
“Saved my life actually,” Sirius added. “Same night he attacked me actually.” Tonks looked perplexed, I couldn’t blame her. Most gossip columns had more linear stories than we were presenting. “I was trying to kill Peter Pettigrew - a traitor former friend who was living as a rat that belonged to Ron.” He gestured towards the ceiling to indicate the Ron who was upstairs. “I was running around as a dog—”
“You guys are animagi? No wonder we couldn’t find you.” Tonks laughed. “Good thing we don’t know though,” she added smiling mischievously.
“The three of us, James, Peter and I did it,” he said shortly. Sirius was eager to tell her his story. “I saw Ron carrying Pettigrew and I had to get him. Harry and Hermione were running after them, the idiots were headed towards the Whomping Willow. I grabbed Ron and with him Peter. Drug them to a tunnel under the tree.”
“There’s something under it?” Tonks asked incredulously. “That thing nearly took my left ear off in my fourth year. How’d you get close to it?”
“There’s a knot that freezes the tree,” I explained. “We used it quite often at school during our rule-breaking days.”
Sirius laughed. “You make it sound like we stopped breaking rules at some point. We ended up in detention so often that Filch didn’t have to do half his cleaning jobs, the lot of us end up in detention and do them instead.” I coughed slightly. Sirius made it sound like I also landed myself in detention. “Remus here was our voice of reason; not that we listened.”
“You’re sidetracked,” I said nudging Sirius. He snapped back into story-telling mode. Everything was fine until we got to the part where Harry and Hermione traveled back in time to save Sirius from the dementors.
“You’re pulling me leg,” she said grinning. Tonks wasn’t one to be easily swayed to believe our tale. We spent the better part of fifteen minutes explaining why they had a time turner. “So, you’re both either incredible liars or telling me the truth. Now if it was just you, Sirius, I’d say you were taking the mickey, but I trust Remus a bit more than I trust you.” She smiled at Sirius’ indignant look.
“I see how far blood gets me,” he grinned as he spoke. “Back to the story. The used the time turner and saved themselves and me - twice actually. Then I rode off on Buckbeak.”
Tonks laughed and yawned at the same time. It was quite late. “I think I’m going home. I have to get out of bed in the morning.” Sirius, in all of his subtlety, made to kick me under the table. Holding in a grimace at the thud Sirius made, I offered to walk Tonks upstairs in fear that Sirius might say something ridiculously inappropriate. Tonks smiled brightly and agreed to have my company.
We made it past the umbrella stand without incident. I was going to congratulate Tonks on her achievement, but Hermione’s cat came out of nowhere and collided with her feet. “I guess some things never change,” she said as we both chuckled. I stopped when we got to the door and opened my mouth to say goodnight when she asked me to walk with her a bit more. I agreed and pulled a sweater from the closet; it was a bit chilly out that night. “Make that one yourself?” she asked with a grin. I looked at my sweater in mock concern and asked if the sleeves were off, pausing a moment before saying that I did make it. I was quite proud of it too. When Sirius had found out I could knit, he said I’d make someone a good wife one day.
I glanced at Tonks as she mentioned special training in the field of ‘hand-made sweaters and their Dark counterparts.’ She laughed loudly and I smiled. “Dark sweaters? Like the ones you see at Christmas?” She snorted and let out a loud ‘yes!’ My stomach squirmed. She was flirting with me. Then I squashed that idea; she was just being nice. We walked in silence for a few moments, my stomach still doing flips.
“D’you think it’ll really be dangerous tomorrow?” she asked coming to a stop. I stopped too and looked off into the distance, not sure how to answer. There was always the possibility of something going wrong. My gaze returned to Tonks. Her hair was very pretty under the glow of the streetlights. I said that with luck, we’d get through everything. She laughed fidgeting slightly. “All that planning and we’re relying on luck?” She raised an eyebrow.
I tore my gaze away from her face; my stomach was doing back flips. “Well, luck and some highly trained witches and wizards.” I glanced around, hoping that I’d find something to focus on other than her bright eyes. She let out a ‘hmm’ and muttered something I didn’t catch. I did notice that she was very close to me and before I could register what she was doing, Tonks kissed me sensually. My lips did the thinking for me; they responded to her kiss with the same vigor. My hand was a bit slow on the uptake. It eventually found its way to her waist and stayed there.
Tonks took her time pulling out of the kiss saying, “That should take care of the luck part.” She looked dreamy as she backed away a few feet and disapparated. I stood there much like a hippogriff caught in headlights. My cheeks were flushed from her kiss. My lips felt cold without her mouth pressed against them. A breeze hit my face and I could feel the sharp contrast between where her tongue brushed against me and where it had not. I didn’t go right back to Grimmauld Place after that. Instead, I sat on a swing set at the park we used for apparition trying to purge my mind of the thoughts her kiss instilled in my head. She was being friendly. Closing my eyes, I told myself to forget the aroma of arousal she emitted before she left. It was just a friendly gesture, much like a handshake. That’s what I kept telling myself. I doubted that she was obsessing over the kiss nearly as much I was. With that thought, I headed back to Grimmauld Place trying to think of an excuse for my prolonged absence.
A/N: Any questions regarding "so...who *did* die" won't be answered :P I'm fickle like that. Thanks for reading. I hope it wasn't disappointing.