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Chapter 3 : A Poison Tree
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I gave him a discerning stare and saw genuine concern in his eyes. “Padfoot,” I started, putting a hand on his shoulder. “This won’t be my first transformation… it’s definitely not my first one alone.” I let a cold, short laugh then tried to form a caring expression. “I’ll be fine on my own, trust me.” I left a few minutes after that, wanting to be nestled in before the moon rose in the sky.
I remembered to strip my clothes before the moon was at its zenith. One reason I preferred solitude during the full moon was that being around people meant remaining dressed and ripping my clothing which was something I couldn't quite afford.
The moon’s effects began to take hold as my hair stood on end. My body tensed up in the same way a person seizes up when they’re caught red-handed and knows their punishment is imminent. In all my years of painful transformations, I hadn’t found a comfortable posture for my change. I’ve tried lying down, standing, stretching out, curling up, doing yoga - but no matter what I chose as my pre-transformation action, my skin tightened, my muscles spasmed and the wolf devoured my body in the same excruciating, bestial way each month.
With wolfsbane, I could concentrate and cling to my sanity. The potion helped calm the beast but it did not make him go away. If I submitted to the wolf, my bite would not inflict other people with the curse I faced at each full moon. Part of me liked bearing the burden alone - it sharpened me and made me face my own demons. I never imagined enjoying my transformations as I had in school. Then again, I never dreamed someone would care enough to stay with me those long and often wearisome nights.
It wasn’t care or concern that brought Tonks to my place that night. I didn’t detect it right away as I was trying to scare her into leaving with my teeth bared as I growled at her advancing figure. By the time her voice hit my ears and I could smell the fear and panic she tracked in, I realized there was something wrong. Tonks’ voice trembled as she spoke and pleaded to stay.
Even with the wolf surging in my head, I could feel a swell of concern for her safety and well-being overpowering the animal that dominated most of my thoughts. I took a bit of her robes into my mouth and led her into my sitting room. If it hadn’t been for the wolf, I would have been mortified at the prospect of having Tonks in my ragged home.
For someone who had come to me drenched in fear and anger, Tonks’ demeanor changed quickly. The smell of fear ebbed away as she told me what happened. She had been attacked by Dawlish, an Auror in her office. It sounded as if he took it upon himself to investigate her claims of having a significant other. Even though her words were making my blood boil, the sound of her voice had a soothing effect that overpowered the part of my brain that was a wolf.
Listening to Tonks that night gave me a chance to take in subtle details that I usually wouldn’t catch when I had to worry about articulating a response. The line of Tonks’ jaw and the slope of her neck had a beautiful curve. Her lips seemed a richer red than the ripest apple. Seeing them form words and make her facial gestures was quite an experience for me, even as a wolf. The actual words she said floated through my head like little seeds of a dandelion caught in the wind. Some phrases and discourses stood out more than others, but I was able to follow her speech with interest. I rested my head in her lap, deviously enjoying the close contact. Tonks petted me absentmindedly as she talked occasionally ruffling my fir.
Tonks got up and stretched after a few hours of talking to me. I watched her, my eyes lingering on her figure longer than I would have if I weren’t battling with the beast. When she said something about sleeping on the couch, I ran to the bed and barked at her.
Generally, I disliked barking, but I didn’t have any other way to tell her that I wanted her to sleep in there. I wish I could say this was merely out of consideration for her fear of sleeping alone, but a lot of it had to do with the moon’s effect on my brain. I did have enough control to look away as Tonks stripped herself of clothing to change. The parts of her I saw before I hid my face gave me thoughts I had been trying to avoid. I despised myself for being so lustful for a woman who came to me in a time of need.
I couldn’t figure out why she wanted to turn to me during that time of the month. Had it been any of the other days in the lunar cycle, I would have understood. We were not bosom-buddies, but she seemed to trust me and I couldn’t help but place a bit of trust in her. She must have gone to Grimmauld Place after her attack, but what brought her to my house? Surely, Sirius would have said some words of comfort and he would have been entertaining.
Maybe she wanted to see me.
I pushed that thought away as she climbed into bed. I rested my head on her chest—more wolf influence – and drifted off to sleep with my mind buzzing with conflicting thoughts about her intentions.
It was the cold air that woke me up in the morning. I got mostly under the blanket after transforming back to my human self, but I was in too much of a stupor to call it being awake. The cold air on my backside was a shock against my skin once time and recovery permitted me to be more aware of my surroundings. She started to stroke my head, much in the same way she had the night before.
“I’m not a wolf anymore,” I said dryly. My mind caught up with my senses and I realized that I was starkers. Jumping out of bed, I took the covers with me. Tonks looked away as I put some pants on. I told myself that she was repulsed by my body even though I had a slight inclination she was merely being respectful. Thinking that I repulsed her made it easier for me to also believe she did not think of me in that way. When Tonks chanced a glance at me, her eyes were taking in the details of my body. She got out of bed and came towards me apprehensively.
I could see her eyes raking over the fresh abrasions on my exposed flesh, causing her to ask if I would be all right. I answered with a nod - that transformation wasn’t nearly as hard for me as her night must have been. Without considering that we were both in our night things, I pulled Tonks into a hug.
“I’m so sorry about that Dawlish. There has to be something we can do about him,” I paused for a moment as my mind forced out the question plaguing me since the previous evening. “Why did you come here last night?” My voice was harsher than I meant it to be and Tonks’ eyes fill with tears.
I pulled away slightly so I could look her in the eyes as she explained. “I went to Grimmauld Place, but you weren’t there and Sirius told me you transformed…” She paused biting her lip before continuing. “I didn’t think you should be here, alone on the full moon. Well, I wanted to be here for you, for support.”
My mind went to work on her explanation.
But you weren’t there.
Had she gone to Grimmauld Place specifically for me? My thoughts were whirring to dig at the meaning and meaning behind words. The gurgling of Tonks’ stomach brought my attention back to the realm of reality.
Tonks muttered something about breakfast and went off into the kitchen. I poked my head around the corner slightly worried that part of my home might blow up. I sat at the table listening intently for an indication of Tonks’ progress in the kitchen. I didn’t think I had much to eat in the house, but she came around the corner with two bowls of hot oatmeal and a cup of tea for me. I smirked and commented about the house not being in pieces. She took my jibe in stride, sort of. Tonks’ comeback was a bit odd and involved allusions to making me explode. It was a horrible retort, but I found it to be endearing.
Kingsley came by while we were eating. Our eyes met for a moment and I knew he was wondering what the blazes I was doing in little more than my undergarments. I dashed off to dress myself listening to Kingsley and Tonks talk. When I came out of the room as she was pondering Dawlish’s behavior.
“I don’t think he’s a Death Eater,” I said quietly. Tonks hadn’t said that’s what she was thinking, but the thought was forming on her face. I went on to explain that he was most likely jealous of her having a boyfriend, which Kingsley agreed with. As Tonks ran off to get dressed, Kingsley shot me an inquisitive look.
“Are you two…dating?” he asked in a low voice and I shook my head in response. “So, nothing happened between the two of you?”
I let out a harsh, “No, nothing happened. Young women like Tonks don’t go for men like me.” I was telling myself that more than Kingsley.
He gave me a sharp look upon hearing my words and said, “I’m only asking because she’s attracted to you.”
The words shocked me and I blinked as if I could bat away his words with my eyelashes. Then I responded in a low voice, “No - she doesn’t.” Kingsley opened his mouth to whisper a rebuttal when Tonks wandered out of the bedroom. We dropped the conversation.
Sirius was upset with me when I made my way to Grimmauld Place that evening. He was in a sour mood when which Harry though was due to his verdict. I assured Harry that Sirius’ moping was due to a larger problem, one that had little to do with Harry’s hearing. When Harry gave me a quizzical look I said, “Thick-headedness.” I smirked and so did Harry but I didn’t think he bought my explanation - I didn’t buy it either. I didn’t have to wait too long to figure out what was bothering Sirius.
“Have fun last night?” Sirius asked peevishly after the others went to bed. His eyes communicated jealously, a feeling that I thought was foreign to the man. My response was to raise an eyebrow at him. Of course I didn’t have fun. Who has fun when their body is ripped apart to unleash something truly animal? Sirius was crossing his arms now. He reminded me of an overbearing girlfriend who caught her bloke studying with a girl in the library late at night.
“Padfoot, I’m not sure we’re on the same page.” My tone was delicate, this was a new emotional side to Sirius. In our youth, he would have been coldly indifferent to time spent with someone else and any complaints would be said with a laugh. “I didn’t invite her over,” I reminded him calmly.
Sirius cut me off with an angry, “You didn’t kick her out either.” This was getting quite ridiculous.
“She came to me distraught,” My voice was slightly raised. “Did you want me to kick her to the curb?” Sirius huffed loudly. “Sirius, you can’t go on moping about this. You can be mad at me for not kicking someone out because she was desperate for a friend, but you could try to smile once and a while around Harry. He thinks you’re upset about him returning to school.”
I paused waiting for Sirius to tell me that, of all the things causing him to run around like Moaning Myrtle, Harry’s return to school was not one of them. I was thoroughly disappointed when no such words came. I stood up to better glare at the prat. “You should really rethink your attitude and how it affects people you love.” I stole to my room making sure to lock the door as Sirius tended to barge in after fights like that.
Tension between Sirius and I settled down over the next few days. I came to the realization that our relationship was comparable to that of an old married couple, which we could have been if our relationship hadn’t taken a nosedive. It was almost as if we carried forward the closeness without the romance we once knew.
Tonks stopped by in a panic a few days later. She had been dining with her parents and they asked about her boyfriend. Ted, Tonk’s dad, worked for the Ministry and had worked with Scrimgeour at one point. It would be a stretch to call them friends, but they were friendly enough for it to be within Scrimgeour to ask about Tonks’ dating situation. Given her track record of being an excellent liar in times of need, I was intrigued to hear what she said to her parents.
When she said, “I told them I was dating Remus,” in a quiet, shy voice, I felt my face stiffen. Tonks’ face was pleading - last hope type of pleading. She needed help to get of a bind and there was no real desire to date. On that pretense, I said I could help her out and go along with her deception.
Molly and Arthur were somewhat dumbfounded by her choice of fake-boyfriends, as were Sirius and I. All of this seemed that this turn of events confirmed something to Sirius, judging by the looks he was giving for the rest of the evening.
Dumbledore came by unexpectedly that night. He wanted to cross paths with Tonks since her run-in with Dawlish. Dumbledore stayed with the larger group as we discussed Dawlish and Scrimgeour. I felt slightly embarrassed that Dumbledore noticed that my gaze fell onto Tonks much more than it did anyone else in the room. His eyes were twinkling after the third time he caught me unable to look away from her face. When Tonks left, Dumbledore left with her. I imagined that he wanted to have a word about security.
After they were out of sight, Molly turned to me and said, “Looks like the cats out of the bag now, eh, Remus?” She was grinning in a knowing way.
Sirius was smirking too. “I told you guys.” I sat up a bit straighter than usual trying to appear as composed as I could. They all exchanged looks that made my neck burn red.
I stood up slowly. “I don’t know what you mean. We’re just friends. She knows I’m ill-suited for a relationship,” I said evenly. “I should get to bed - I have to work in the morning.” I was thankful for the darkness and silence of my room, feeling slightly betrayed by Sirius.
It stung to know that he had openly gossiped about me. My thoughts were not given the chance to mesh out very well that night as it was only a matter of minutes until Sirius came charging into the room barking. I let out a shout of fright and Sirius transformed into himself laughing.
“Sod off, Padfoot,” I said pulling my covers up to my chin. This felt like our school days but worse because we were older and in theory more mature.
Sirius laid on top of my covers making a sad face. “Come on Moony, they were bound to put the twigs together and see you have a broomstick.” I didn’t answer, I was trying to work out his analogy. I figured that bad analogy skills ran in the family. “You two have been making eyes at each other since you met.” he said in simpler terms. “We haven’t been ferreting around talking about it either,” Sirius said successfully guessing my next thought. “Arthur mentioned something about you two the other night after the kids were in bed. Molly and I both thought you two were chummy…”
Whatever Sirius said to the contrary it did sound like they were comparing notes when Tonks and I weren’t around. “If you’re kipping in here, get your own blanket,” I said without acknowledging his explanation. I rolled over so my back was to my best friend. “Good night, Sirius.”
I didn’t mean for my voice to be so cold. I didn’t like half of the Order being privy to my personal life, especially when they were whispering about things that weren’t true. Sirius got up and left after saying a dejected good night.
Some people might say I was being pig-headed, thick, stubborn, what have you, but I was guarding myself and Tonks from what was bound to be a disaster if we were given a chance. I couldn’t be sure she even fancied me. Sure, she had kissed me - once. Well… more than once, but kisses on the cheek are friendly, as was the good-luck kiss. I couldn’t deny that I harbored feelings for her but I refused to let myself go down that road again.
Molly had Tonks over for dinner midweek. I didn’t mind spending more time with her; we had to go over our story for her parents. It turned out that Andromeda lost her temper when Tonks said she was dating me and I couldn’t blame her as I was a horrible partner for anyone. In an attempt to bring peace, Ted said they’d have the two of us over for dinner, which I knew when I agreed to be her decoy man. I followed Tonks’ lead and didn’t mention our ‘date’ for Friday. It was, after all, Order business.
Sirius was in another sulky mood that day, sauntering in for dinner about twenty minutes into it. Tonks was being her usual loquacious self - her liveliness made my insides squirm in ways that they hadn’t squirmed since I took the N.E.W.T.s. After dinner, everyone made their way up to bed until it was just the adults downstairs. I made tea and offered a cup to Tonks as I sat down next to her. Molly and Arthur went upstairs looking rather lasciviously at one another. Sirius smirked as they left. I, however, had other things on my mind than Arthur and Molly’s love life.
“I think we should go over our story,” I said quickly not quite meeting her eyes. I pointed my wand at a drawer and summoned some parchment and quills. “Do you have any ideas?”
Tonks nodded. “I’ve been thinking about it since m’Dad invited us over,” she said labeling the parchment ‘Remus & Tonks’ with a heart around our names. I glanced up at Sirius who was watching us interestedly. “I ran into you at the Ministry. I was researching about motorcycles and you were looking up something on…” she paused meeting my eyes. “Suggestions?”
I laughed quietly and leaned closer to her to see her notes. “Hmm.” I was trying to think of the layout of books in the Hall of Knowledge, wanting to be realistic. “Manticores,” I decided. “It would be close by.” Tonks nodded jotting down my answer. “So we were just looking at books and started dating?” I asked with a glance at Tonks’ heart shaped face. She had been the one contemplating this for a few days - I was expecting some embellishment.
Tonks shot me a stern look. “Don’t be a dolt - I’ll think Sirius is rubbing off on you.” Sirius shrugged indifferently to her jibe. “I tripped and our books and papers got mixed up,” she said grinning. “We had to spend hours separating the books.”
“More like your limbs,” Sirius interjected with a boyish grin.
Tonks continued, ignoring his comment. “Then you offered to take me out for drinks. We’ve been seeing each other since then.” Tonks looked somewhat apprehensive. I could tell she didn’t spend a lot of time romanticizing. “How does it sound?”
“Sounds like you’ve had your nose in too many trashy novels during your Duty,” Sirius said laughing. “How exactly did you manage to charm him so in one afternoon? Why didn’t it annoy him to pieces that you put such a dent in his schedule?” I could tell that Sirius was enjoying goading us, but it was getting in the way.
“I think it sounds perfectly feasible,” I said to cut off his barrage of questions. “We could add that I was captivated by your smile, just to add something in there to distinguish this from all of the other trashy novels being written about us.” Tonks smiled the very same captivating smile I was thinking of moments before and Sirius rolled his eyes. “And we could say that we talked about our common interests while out for drinks.”
Tonks had a pensive expression on her face. “Common interests?” She was jotting down the highlights of our conversation. “Quidditch?” I nodded. “Who’s your team?” I said it was Braga Broomfleet, causing Tonks to make a face. “I’m for the Appleby Arrows.” I chuckled - that team hasn’t won in their league as far back as I could remember. “How about Defense against the Dark Arts?” I raised my brow. “Well, you were a D.A.D.A. prof and I’m an Auror. That’s enough to make a connection.” I agreed feeling that this conversation would get me into a few uncomfortable moments.
We continued to piece together our pseudo-relationship until we had most of the finer details hammered out. We decided that our first date would be a homemade dinner, made by me of course. Our first fight, in case they asked, was about Quidditch. Everything was taking shape until Sirius finally interjected and pointed out a gaping hole in our story.
“What about physical stuff?” Sirius laughed derisively at the blank stares on our faces. “Birthmarks for one. And you should know he has a giant—” I kicked Sirius from under the table. I didn’t know what he was going to say, but I certainly didn’t have a giant anything that warranted the smirk he had on his face. “Then snogging and whatnot. They’ll at least expect you to hold hands.”
I felt my cheeks go red. “We’re not snogging in their living room.”
Laughing, Sirius stood up. “Best of luck, love birds. I am turning in.”
My eyes followed Sirius out of the room, waiting until he was out of sight to return my gaze to our parchment. It was nearly full of facts we had invented. Tonks scooted her chair closer to mine squinting at the parchment. Our bodies were close together in the same way people are pressed together while hiding in a broom shed.
“I agree with you about the snogging,” she said in a low voice. Tonks’ eyes met mine as she said, “Thanks for doing this, by the way.” I wanted to take Tonks into my arms and confess that I’d do anything for her when Molly bustled downstairs looking quite pleased.
It was Molly’s gasp that caused Tonks and me to start. “I didn’t think anyone was down here,” she said taking in a sharp breath. Molly grabbed a book and headed upstairs quickly. We both returned our attention to the parchment rereading it for flaws or gaps in our façade.
I cleared my throat slightly before saying in a business-like tone, “Some kissing, though nothing drastic would be expected.” I glanced at Tonks again before saying, “You don’t have to thank me - I’m happy I can help.”
Tonks smiled at me, and, being taken over by the usually dormant romantic in me, I held her hand rubbing it gently with my thumb. Tonks shuddered imperceptibly, letting out a distinct hint of arousal and need.
“Do you want to come back to my place tonight?” she said into my ear. Her warm breath tickled my neck causing the hairs to perk up with excitement.
When our eyes met, I could see that she was burning up with passion and lust in the same way I was. Our lips started in a slow sensual kiss that quickly turned lecherous. Thoughts of kissing her in the most intimate places and holding her all through the night ran through my mind like a stampede. I wanted her, I needed her, I loved—that’s when I pulled away. It was wrong.
“I—we can’t do this,” I forced myself to say. “It’s fine that we’re ‘dating’.” Much to my embarrassment, I used air-quotes to emphasize my point. “But it’s not a good idea to really date. I’m—” I was going to say that I was too dangerous, but Tonks beat me to the punch-line.
“You’re what? Too old? A werewolf? That doesn’t matter to me, Remus.” Tonks was breathing heavily. I half expected her to punch me. She regained some composure and stood up. “I should go,” she said quietly. Tapping the parchment with wand, she made a copy of it for herself and left. I remained alone at the table thinking that my attitude on love would ruin anything I had with Tonks. After a while in solitude, I traipsed upstairs sometime later full of self-loathing.
A/N: The chapter title and summary are from A Poison Tree by William Blake. Please review!
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