Written for Toujours Padfoot's Gift-It Challenge and dedicated to Rosie (Perelandra/Remus) and her awesome story His Pack of Four.
As always, that which you recognize from the books belongs to the inimitable JK Rowling.
ďI donít get it, Molly. I know heís still all broken up over Siriusís death. Why wonít he just come down off of his bloody high horse and talk to me about it?Ē
Somewhere along the way, I started spending a lot of time in Molly Weasleyís kitchen. Iím not really sure how it happened, to be honest. I visited a few times when Charlie and I were together, but honestly I avoided her back then. I always had this strange feeling like she could look right into my head and see all of the very unladylike things I was dying to do to her son. With her son. It sounds better that way, somehow, doesnít it? I still sort of feel like she can see into my head, but itís more convenient now than embarrassing. Iím rubbish with words.
ďI think weíre all still struggling to come to terms with his death, dear.Ē Her words are pointed, but in a kind way. And sheís right, of course. Sheís always right. I can still bring myself to tears in about three seconds if I start thinking about Sirius. So I just donít think about him. Iím rubbish with words, but compared to the way I deal with my feelings, Iím William Bloody Shakespeare. She waits a moment for her point to sink in, then she goes on.
ďRemus took it much harder than the rest of us, though. Sirius was the last of his old friends, with James gone and Peter...Ē A dark scowl settles over Mollyís features, one that doesnít belong on such a kind, motherly face. I make a mental note to never get on the wrong side of Molly Weasley. But once again, sheís right. Sheís always right.
I like to think I got pretty close to Sirius in the couple of years I knew him. I was drawn to the guy from the moment I met him. Most people are, but my reasons were a little different. He was special to me because I finally met somebody from my motherís family who wasnít a raving pureblood nutter. And he understood my sense of humor. I used to turn my hair greasy black and make my nose huge while Snape was talking during Order meetings and he would almost piss himself. Then he told me the story of how Harryís dad once hung Snape upside down in front of half the school and I really did pee myself. Good old non-verbal Tergeo spell, a girlís best friend.
Remus didnít think it was so funny, though. He never seemed to think that Sirius was as charming, funny and clever as the rest of us. But that was just the way they were. Bill and the twins used to call them an old, married couple. They were pretty much inseparable. Sirius couldnít leave Grimmauld Place without changing into Padfoot and Remus, well, he didnít really have anywhere to go. Since Snivelpuss outed him as a werewolf to the whole bloody world, he couldnít get any sort of job. They were stuck with one another, but they didnít seem to mind. They had a lot of years to make up for.
Molly warms up my tea as her expression gradually returns to the pleasant smile Iím used to. I still want to tell her sheís wrong, even though I know she isnít. ďHe has other friends, though. What about Dumbledore and Mad-Eye and Bill?Ē And me? What about me? How many hours did I spend playing Exploding Snap and Gobstones with the two of them, trying to cheer them up? I lost count of how many nights I took Sirius for a walk and came back with Indian or Chinese take-away. Remus didnít need to know that the money came from unsuspecting muggles who bet me that my dog couldnít pick out the Page Three Girls by name. The point is that we would sit up for hours, picking at it and laughing over old stories.
She smiles knowingly at me. This is what confuses me about Molly Weasley. If my mum was giving me the sort of indulgent, ďyou poor childĒ smile that Iím getting from Molly right now, it would annoy the hell out of me. Instead, I feel kind of warm and comfortable, like somebody just threw a soft blanket around my shoulders. It must be genetic. She doesnít even bother rebutting my last statement because I guess it sounded just that stupid.
ďRemus is a man, dear.Ē She says that as though it explains everything. Come to think of it, it does explain a thing or two, but they donít have anything to do with his emotions. ďYou have to give him time. Just stay close to him. Be his friend. When heís ready, heíll open up.Ē
Sheís right, of course. Sheís always right. Even Charlie used to take fifteen or twenty minutes to spill to me if something was really eating at him. But the impatient seven-year-old inside me doesnít want to hear it. I want Remus to open up and cry on my shoulder now, Now, NOW!
Molly squeezes my hand for a moment where it rests on the side of my mug, offering that extra bit of reassurance. The woman honestly makes me wish Iíd tried a lot harder to convince Charlie to stay. I could really get used to being part of this family. But that owl left the roost years ago. Even though Iíd still shag his brains out, as soon as we finished Iíd be staring my best friend in the face, feeling all weird about him seeing my boobs.
Iím sort of lost in thought when she stands up to take a peek into the oven at some sort of meat pie that smells absolutely divine. She turns back to me and gives me another one of those knowing smiles. ďHas Remus asked you out at all? He seems rather taken with you.Ē
Sheís right, of course. Sheís always- Wait, what the fuck did she just say? Why would she think Remus is interested in me? Does she know that for sure? Did he say something to her? Has that oven been on the whole time, because itís really warm in this... kitchen. All I can do in response is make a noise that probably sounds like a twelve-year-old girl squealing at a concert while her best friend tries to choke her to death. Not that I know what that sounds like or anything.
ďMmm hm.Ē The quick, satisfied smile crosses Mollyís lips and then she just lets the entire topic go. Damn, sheís good. Sheís gotten more out of me in five minutes than my mother usually gets in an entire weekend of prodding and prying. Granted, she has some inside information. At least I hope she does. I think I hope she does. Holy shite, I thought I was confused when I walked in here...
I know Iím giving away far too much, but I canít help myself. How many chances am I going to get to ask the woman who seems to know everything? ďSo when you said Ďbe his friendí, what do you think I should do? Iíve only ever had one real male friend, and Remus isnít much like Charlie.Ē
If Molly was exuding a motherly glow before, sheís positively beaming now. Itís actually kind of hard to look at her without feeling like I should be wearing pigtails and knee socks. Actually, I still wear knee socks sometimes.
ďJust be yourself, dear, and let him do the same. Itís going to be difficult at times. Youíll have those moments where Sirius would have said something or reacted in a certain way and itís going to feel terribly empty and sad. Donít try to hide your feelings from him. Let him see that you want to work through this together.Ē
It all makes perfect sense when she says it. Except for that part about being myself. Iím not really sure who I am sometimes. Am I the intensely motivated girl who lived in the Hogwarts library for a year to get the N.E.W.T.s I needed, or the goofy girl who makes animal faces to amuse Ginny and Hermione? Am I the brave woman who fought my Aunt Bellatrix or the pitiful little girl who cried herself to sleep every night at St. Mungoís because I couldnít beat her and it cost Sirius his life? Do I really want to settle down with a mature, grounded man like Remus or am I still not over Charlie and his militant refusal to grow up? Maybe being able to change your appearance at will screws with your sense of self worse than people realize.
My head is so filled with conflicting ideas that itís going to take days to sort them all out. I check my watch and slowly rise to my feet. ďThanks, Molly. I have to get back to the Ministry for a briefing and then Iím walking the boundaries at Hogwarts tonight.Ē
ďNo trouble, dear. The house is so quiet with Ron and Ginny off at school and Arthur working such long hours. I appreciate the company.Ē
We exchange a quick hug and then Iím out the door. As I walk down the path toward the edge of the wards, a germ of a thought pops into my head. Remus misses Sirius. We both do, but he lost so much more. Sirius was his last friend from their school days. The last one who knew all of his secrets and understood all of his troubles. Remus lost the last person who could keep him company when...
The idea clicks in my head as I reach the old gate by the road. I snap my fingers and a small smile settles onto my lips. Then I turn and disapparate.
I feel the shiver run down my spine as the door of the Three Broomsticks thumps closed behind me, but it isnít really because of the bite in the November air. Still, I pull my cloak tighter around myself. Cold air tends to make me feel sober, which would totally defeat the point of the ten Sickles I spent on shots of firewhiskey. I take a quick look around and then start down the overgrown, moonlit path that leads to the Shrieking Shack. Nobody at the bar is going to remember me. I completely changed my appearance and then just to be on the safe side I gently obliviated the only two people who seemed to pay any attention to me.
Iím not really here tonight, you see. I told Mad-Eye that I was having dinner with my parents. I told my parents that I was working surveillance. I told the guy at the desk next to mine that I was going to Bible Study because I donít like the creepy way he stares at me and maybe if he thinks Iím some kind of prude, heíll leave me the hell alone. Iím anywhere but Hogsmeade Village, listening to the blood-curdling noises coming from the dilapidated building that looms against the inky blackness of the Dark Forest.
I stop for a moment and recheck the contents of the satchel hanging over my shoulder. Iím a planner by nature, you see. And I feel better as soon as my fingers locate the blankets, spare clothes and several large potion vials tucked away in the bag. Because the sounds coming from the old shack are truly frightening. No wonder the locals think the place is haunted. Why the hell am I even here? Right, because Remus is here. And he smells good, like sandalwood and shaving soap. And heís quiet and gentle. And he has those eyes. And I love his moustache, I bet it tickles. Just the thought of it makes me giggle. Damn, McCormacks is good firewhiskey. I need to buy a bottle of that stuff.
And just like that, Iím standing in front of the weather-beaten old door that leads inside. Wow, that walk was shorter than it looked. Or maybe Iím drunker than I thought. I have to be drunk, because Iím not even flinching and those awfuls howls are now accompanied by loud banging noises and something that sounds like somebody dragging a garden rake over the floorboards of this dump. I take a deep breath. This is your last chance to bail, Tonks. If this doesnít work out, people will think youíre the biggest idiot in history. Theyíll probably even write that on your tombstone. I open the door and step inside.
The staircase leading to the upper floor doesnít look like it will hold my weight, but he made it up there somehow and he has at least thirty pounds on me. I shake my head as I climb, restoring my face to its normal appearance. After giving it some thought, I decide to turn my hair purple. I remember catching him staring at me once when it was this shade. At the top of the stairs, thereís a single closed door. I shed my cloak and leave the satchel on the floor beside it. Just to be on the safe side, I disillusion them. Iíd hate for them to go missing, although nobody in their right mind would come into this place. Except for me.
I hear growling and scratching behind the door, but it seems to be on the other side of the room. Given the ferocity of the sounds, I imagine he would be tearing the door off its hinges if he could get to it. He must have restrained himself somehow before transforming. According to Sirius, he was always very particular about full moon nights. He would leave something for the wolf to eat, take his clothes off so the wolf wouldnít tear them to shreds and stash them somewhere safe with his wand. One more way the two of us are similar. It brings a little smile to my lips, in spite of my nerves. There doesnít seem to be anything else I can do to prepare. I take a deep breath and ease the door open.
The room is lit only by the full moon shining through the filthy, old windows. The feral growl becomes deeper and more threatening as I step inside. I can make out his outline, crouched on the remains of what used to be a mattress in the opposite corner. His yellow eyes glow slightly in the pale, reflected moonlight. I donít think thereís really any proper etiquette for a moment like this.
The wolf launches himself at me. Everything happens so fast that it takes me a few seconds to process it all. Bared, yellow fangs are rushing toward me and suddenly thereís a loud yelp and a pair of clawed feet are flailing in the air before the great, hairy body lands on the floor with a thud. I take a couple of tentative steps closer, letting my eyes adjust. The wolf retreats to his corner, snarling and snorting. On one of his arms, I can make out a golden cuff, cutting severely into the furry flesh below. I scan the wall behind him and spot its mate, a golden plate with a single loop of chain, attached with a sticking charm. The two are obviously charmed together, limiting his movement. I feel badly for him.
ďRemus, itís me, Tonks.Ē I try hard to keep my voice gentle and even. ďYou remember me, right? Sirius told me that you could remember people if you tried.Ē
The pitch of the wolfís growls changes slightly. The hair on the back of his neck is still standing up, but his eyes seem to be studying me. He sniffs the air experimentally.
ďThatís right, itís me. You know me. You know I wonít try to hurt you. I... I want to help you.Ē
I take another tentative step forward. The wolf snarls and bares his teeth, but he doesnít sound as frightened. More like he just wants me to keep my distance. I come to a stop.
ďI know how lonely you are, Remus. How much you need somebody to talk to.Ē
The wolf settles onto his haunches. Low vibrations still emanate from deep within his chest, and his glare remains suspicious. I guess heís made his peace with the fact that heís stuck with my company. Unless I take three steps closer, in which case heíll probably tear me limb from limb. I wish Iíd thought to bring something for him to eat. Everybody feels less hostile when their bellyís full. Come to think of it, I meant to get dinner at the Three Broomsticks but I was so nervous that all I did was drink. No wonder it hit me so hard. Come on, Tonks, keep the conversation going.
ďI know how much you miss Sirius. I miss him, too. I didnít know him for as long as you did, but he was family. The only family I had besides my Mum and Dad who didnít hate me. And now heís gone.Ē I stare at the wolf, whoís regarding me through suspicious eyes. The growl has moved to the back of his throat. He shifts his weight slightly on the rusty mattress springs and lets out a soft howl. It almost sounds mournful. I suppress a strong urge to run over and pat him on the head.
ďWe canít get him back, Remus. But we have each other. Please donít shut me out.Ē The wolf tilts his head slightly, like heís sizing me up. The growls and snarls are mostly gone at this point. Iím not quite sure what to do next. I donít feel brave enough to get any closer, but I didnít just come here to talk. Letís see how much he really understands.
ďSirius told me about how the four of you used to run in the forest at night. He said that you were a pack. I know itís not the same, but I want to be part of your pack. I want you to have that again. I donít want you to be alone.Ē
I start to ease forward again. I can smell his breath and his fur. He smells sort of like a dog, but a clean dog with vague hints of shaving soap. He isnít growling or retreating, just staring. Whatever is going on inside his head, heís plainly decided that Iím not a threat. He sniffs the air again and his muscles relax visibly. His entire demeanor is changing. I meet his gaze and the look in his eyes is almost welcoming. For a few seconds, I see a trace of humanity.
It all changes in an instant. Suddenly the hackles rise on his back and he launches himself at me again, snarling and growling fiercely. I scramble backward, even though I was never within his reach. Whatever it was that I saw in his eyes, thereís nothing now but raw, primal aggression.
ďRemus, whatís wrong? Did I say something? Whatever it is, Iím sorry!Ē
But the wolfís ferocious display continues. Heís once again straining against his magical bonds, digging that golden cuff deeper and deeper into an arm that must already be painfully bruised. His rear claws tear at the tattered remains of the old bed, and the mattress springs make horrible noises as theyíre torqued and twisted beneath his paws. I can see blood where the broken metal ends are jabbing him, but still he continues to try to attack. It doesnít make any sense for him to be hurting himself like this. Then in an instant, it does.
I stop backing up and take a couple of steps forward. The wolf seems surprised. He continues to snarl and posture, but the loudest parts of his behavior stop. I take advantage of the momentary quiet. ďStop it Remus. I know what youíre doing.Ē
The wolf launches into another furious display, throwing his body against the cuff and bounding off of the walls. I stand my ground and let him wear himself out. Soon, heís crouched on the broken mattress once again, growling in his throat.
ďStop pushing me away, Remus. Thatís what this is about, isnít it? Trying to scare me away so I canít get close to you? Iím too poor. Iím too old. Iím too dangerous. What a load of crap. You wanna know what I think? I think youíre just a bloody coward. Youíre hurting so badly that youíre terrified to let somebody get close to you again. Well youíre not the only one whoís hurting, Remus. Iím hurting, too. And your furry alter-ego here? I think heís hurting. The difference between you and him was that he was almost brave enough to give me a chance. Are you?Ē
The wolf is panting softly now. His stubby, little tail is hanging low and the fight has gone out of his eyes. I take another step toward him and he growls at me, but itís listless and his heart isnít in it. ďIím going to come over there and heal those cuts on your feet, Remus. If you decide to bite me, well, thatís your choice.Ē
I take another step. He could totally disembowel me with his hind claws now. I lower my voice because somehow if I talk quietly, it feels like Iím talking to the wolf and Remus canít hear. ďLet me see your feet. Iíll help you.Ē
The wolf stares back. He looks unsure of how to respond. I take a slow breath and then take another step. I hold my empty left hand out, palm up, to show him that Iím not holding anything that can hurt him. Slowly, inch by inch, he comes closer. I can feel his searing breath on the palm of my hand as he sniffs at it. I hold perfectly still, letting him make his own decision.
Without ever taking his eyes off of me, he lowers himself onto his haunches and raises one of his hind legs. His fur is soaked with blood from a multitude of small puncture wounds and several deeper gashes. Gradually, without breaking eye contact, I lower myself to one knee and ease my wand hand forward. He initially starts at the sight of it, but I make soft shushing noises that seem to settle him. I cast the healing charm nonverbally, doing everything I can not to upset him. It takes three tries, but the wounds finally seal themselves.
The wolf takes his eyes off of me for long enough to inspect his newly healed paw. He presses it against the floor and seems satisfied with the results, then he offers me the other one. I canít help myself. I reach out and gently touch his foot before I heal the wounds. His fur is softer than I expected, thick and warm. He trembles slightly at my touch, but he doesnít pull away. It seems that weíve come to an understanding of sorts.
I finish healing his wounds and rise to my feet. Truthfully, Iím loving everything about this. Here I am, inches away from one of the most dangerous creatures in the world. Iíve never felt so alive. Every nerve in my body is tingling. With great effort, I manage to slowly raise my empty palm toward him again. He sniffs it and this time he nuzzles against it. I slowly turn my hand so that I can stroke his furry muzzle. I feel his whiskers poking against the palm of my hand as my fingertips sink into the soft hair on his face. Remusís moustache is probably scratchier. Part of me seriously wants to keep him as a pet.
Am I really going to go through with the rest of my brilliant plan? I guess so. Itís worked so far, ignoring a couple of little issues with Remus being a twat. I take a step back. The wolf looks kind of hurt, at least thatís how I interpret it. But I try to show him that Iím not leaving him. ďIím going to do something now. Please donít panic. If this works, we can run together. Youíd like that, wouldnít you?Ē
Is he happy? Eager? Iíd like to think so, but thereís just no way to be sure. This is going to be weird as hell, but Iím in for a Sickle, in for a Galleon, I suppose. I start to strip off my clothes. The first time I let Charlie undress me on our third date didnít feel anywhere near this strange. Itís a little like getting naked in front of your dog and a little like the way a take-away burger must feel when itís being unwrapped. Soon enough, Iím completely starkers. I set my clothes on the invisible pile outside the door and turn around to face him.
ďGet a good look, you fuzzy pervert...Ē You know, I almost think he looks a little bit embarrassed. Or maybe Iím just vastly overestimating my ability to read him. It doesnít matter. This is completely exhilarating. Thereís no other word for it. Iím actually doing this. Itís a bigger rush than riding a broom for the first time.
I study him. Really, really study the smallest details of his form. This is going to require more concentration than Iíve ever put into changing my appearance. I have to change everything about myself, right down to the bone. I honestly donít even know whether I can. Thereís no class at Hogwarts on how to be a metamorph. No books to read. The Ministry doesnít send you a pamphlet or anything. Supposedly there are only a handful of us in all of Britain and we just have to figure things out as we go. Dammit. Iím not good at this sort of thing.
I guess the easiest place to start with with the muzzle. Iím good with noses. You can do this, Tonks. Just concentrate. The sensation of changing my face always feels like Iím scrunching up my nose. Donít ask me why. Maybe the reason would be in that Ministry pamphlet somewhere if it existed. But I get that sensation along with a very itchy feeling and suddenly my nose and mouth are sticking out several inches from my face and covered with hair. I donít like that shade. Too brown. Brown is boring. I mess with it a little and suddenly itís an auburn sort of color. I feel a tiny bit guilty, but if Charlie doesnít find out, it wonít hurt him.
Next stop is my ears. I close my eyes and imagine them higher up and longer, covered with that same short, reddish hair. I open my eyes and, well, shite. I guess it would have been a good idea to bring a mirror. I wonder whether one werewolf has ever attacked another because she had stupid-looking ears? No time to worry about it now. I stare at the rest of his head, getting a really good mental picture of the bone structure and the way his short fur lays. I shake my head and I can feel my hair getting shorter while downy fluff sprouts all over my face. This will really come in handy if I ever decide to leave the magical world behind and run off to join the circus.
From his vantage point in the corner, the wolf looks mesmerized. Mesmerized and confused. While Iím trying to figure out how to make my arms longer and change my fingers into claws, I start to wonder just how badly Iím messing with the poor guyís head. Have you ever had that daydream where you start to wonder whether everyone around you is an actor and your whole life is the subject of some really bizarre movie or possibly some sort of muggle psychiatric experiment? Maybe he thinks that heís the only real werewolf and all the others are just normal people whoíve transfigured themselves. OK, Tonks, that was really stupid. Plus your claws just turned hot pink. Concentrate, dammit!
Now weíre getting to the hard stuff. I concentrate on the way his spine curves, then I close my eyes and sort of throw my shoulders forward- Ouch! Fuck, that hurt! It takes me a few seconds to figure out my balance with my posture so screwed up, but the pain is taking its sweet time going away. Is this what itís like for him when he transforms every month? Because my back seriously feels like somebody ripped my vertebrae apart and stuck them back together the wrong way. The pain is more bearable now, but I still have a lot of work to do. For the umpteenth time, I wonder whether I really want to go through with this.
Reshaping my legs to match his turns out to be even more excruciating. My first attempt at lengthening the bones of my feet feels like somebody is hanging me by my toes. I canít believe how much it hurts and when I force my tear-filled eyes open, theyíre only about half as long as they need to be. After I finally get them right, I force my hips to rotate forward and it feels like I just shattered the base of my spine. Even growing a tail hurt. That should be easy, right? Simple human transfiguration. Weíve all done it to somebody else as a joke. Well you know that feeling you get when you fall really hard on your tailbone? Imagine that, only the pressure is in the other direction and it hurts about ten times as bad.
When Iím finally done, I let out my own howl, but it comes out sort of like, Owwwwwwoooh. I look myself over, which is a lot easier because my neck seems to twist a lot farther now, and I have to say that it isnít half bad. I bounce tentatively on my hind legs and Iím really surprised by the raw power in them. I could literally jump across the room in one leap. For somebody as clumsy as me, this might not be a good thing. I study my fur and fill in a couple of bare spots. Thereís something so bizarre and unnatural about willing more hair to grow on your body. One of the great things about being a metamorph is that I never have to shave. If unwanted hair pops up somewhere on my body, I just make it disappear. So to say that this is counterintuitive is the understatement of the decade. I seriously just want to sit down on my haunches and scratch myself all over right now.
I did not just think that. Holy shite, this transformation is really getting inside my head. The next thing you know, Iím going to be crawling over there on all fours, sniffing his bum. Oh, crap. What if he really does sniff my bum? I have no idea how werewolves greet one another. Will he think Iím being rude if I donít sniff his bum in return? Iím starting to freak out here. I really should have done more research. Alright, Tonks, calm down. Youíre doing this for Remus. Donít forget that this is all for Remus. Whatever he does, just play along. You can do this.
Now that Iím satisfied with my appearance, itís time to face the next huge gut-check of the night. Because Remus canít go anywhere if heís bound to the wall. Iíve lost track of the number of times Iíve wondered whether I had the courage to keep pushing my luck. Come on, Tonks, be brave. Show him that youíre not scared. Show him that heís not too dangerous for you.
I manage to sort of wedge my wand between the claws on two of my front toes. It feels really strange. Thankfully this is a really simple spell, because thereís no way I could do anything complicated right now. I take a couple of steps closer to make sure that I donít miss and I aim at the golden cuff on his arm. Please, Remus, just stay still. Relashio.
The cuff falls away from his arm for for a moment the wolf doesnít do anything. Iím really surprised. I thought heíd freak out or go tearing around the room or rip my throat out or something. Instead, he moves very slowly off of the mattress, staying along the far wall and keeping his distance. It takes me a moment to figure out why heís being so tentative. Iím still holding my wand. Why is it that every point of no return is followed by another point of no return?
I back up slowly, feeling the claws on my hind legs scratch against the old wooden floor. Then I gently set my wand next to my clothes. Stepping away from my last chance to protect myself if this all goes horribly wrong, I try to think what I should do next. Sirius told me that Remus was always the dominant member of their pack, the alpha. How did Barkley used to act when Mum caught him digging through the rubbish bin? I lower my chin to the floor, letting my tail sag between my legs. I make what I hope sound like pathetic whimpering noises. My voice is the one thing I canít change.
He approaches me warily. Iím sure he hasnít figured out what to make of the situation. After a couple of tentative sniffs, he gets a little more bold. I guess I still smell like the person who healed the cuts on his feet. Heís getting more inquisitive, poking his nose into all sorts of places that make me want to giggle. I try to reciprocate just a bit, sniffing around his chest and the back of his neck while passing on the opportunity to explore his, er, more private areas. The wolfís scent is stronger now that heís closer and sweatier. He smells muskier than a dog, wilder and more primal. But thereís still just enough of Remusís scent to get my heart beating a little faster. Did I just think that out loud?
The wolf seems to be satisfied that Iím safe enough to turn his back on, because he does exactly that. Staring at the full moon through the grimy window, he bays loudly, arching his back and raising his nose toward the ceiling. With a single kick of his powerful hind legs, he launches his body at the window. It shatters into a thousand sparkling pieces as he disappears into the night. Oh, shite. This was not what I expected to happen. I hurry over and look down, but thereís no sign of him. Heís already disappeared into the fringe of the forest. I try to gauge how far up I am, which is mostly a waste of time. Itís too damn high, thatís all that matters. But he made it somehow, so I take half a step back and follow suit. This night is going to be the death of me.
Iím pleased to discover that my legs are strong enough to absorb most of the impact when I land. That means my chin barely suffers a scratch when I tumble and fall on my face. I lift myself up onto all fours and hear a muffled snort coming from the underbrush lining the edge of the Dark Forest. Itís him. I can see the yellow reflection of the moonlight in his eyes. He was waiting for me! My heart seriously just skipped a beat. He was actually waiting for me! He likes me! He snorts again, only this time the impatience is unmistakable. Alright, alright, Iím coming.
I decide to push it a bit and find out what my limbs are really capable of. I sort of launch myself into the forest, covering close to ten feet in a single leap. Heís crouching in the darkness, next to the spot where I land, so I jump into the air again, pawing playfully at his back as I fly over the top of him. Whee! This is fun. He seems to think so as well. He leaps at me and I manage to roll out of the way just in time to elude him. He tries again and I jump away, staying just out of his reach. He rares forward on his front paws, pressing his hind legs against the base of a tree and launching himself at me. I throw myself to the side at the last instant, evading his outstretched paws... and flying headfirst into a tree. Smooth, Tonks, very smooth.
Heís on top of me in a second, but heís not trying to wrestle or rough-house. He carefully sniffs the top of my head, then nuzzles it softly and licks it with his tongue. I really appreciate it, not least because it lets me make sure that my skull isnít fractured without accidentally slicing my scalp open with these stupid claws. As I climb uneasily onto my feet, heís right there beside me, snorting softly and nuzzling my back and shoulders. I really wish my Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher -- pick any one of the seven -- could see this. This creature isnít savage and bloodthirsty. He isnít a mindless killer. Heís worried about an injured member of his pack, gently making sure that Iím alright.
I shake off the cobwebs and kind of grunt at him. I hope he takes this as my confirmation that Iím alright. He stares at me for a second longer, then starts to move away. I sort of watch him for a second, then he turns and looks at me. It seems pretty obvious that he wants me to follow, so I do. Heís covering a lot of ground, but I donít really have any problem keeping up. Something about being lower to the ground makes my clumsiness a little easier to manage somehow. Iím marveling at my newfound coordination just as I get my hind paw caught on a tree root and end up flat on my face with a big mouthful of dry leaves and pine cones.
The wolf stops and turns to look at me. I know he only has two or three facial expressions, but I swear I can see laughter in his eyes. Dick. I pick myself up off of the ground and spit out a disgusting mass of dirt and decaying plant matter. Heís still staring at me, trembling slightly. Letís see how funny you think this is, Remus. I launch myself at him, and I think it really catches him off guard. We tumble over one another a few times, both of us slapping at one another with our paws and struggling to find our footing on the loose debris. I can smell his hot breath mixing with the scents of the cool forest night. Something about this form is really making my sense of smell better. Either that or Iím sobering up.
As luck would have it, I end up on top of him when we finally come to rest. He snarls playfully at me. I snarl back. Wow, that actually sounded halfway convincing! I love the acoustics of this nose. Iíll have to remember it the next time I want to scare the pants off of Fred and George in the basement of Grimmauld Place. The wolf manages to get one of his hind legs into my midsection and he flips me off of him. I land on my back, but I still manage to roll out of the way before heís able to pounce. This is where my Auror training comes in handy. As soon as I get my paws under me, I leap back into the air. Before he knows whatís happening, Iím on his back with all four of my limbs wrapped around his torso. This should be fun. Canít be any harder than staying on a broom, right?
He lets out a yowl as he launches both of us into the air. Alright, maybe this is a harder than a broom. When he lands, my chest slams into his thickly muscled back and it knocks the wind out of me. Before I can even think about letting go, he leaps forward. We fly through the air and Iím more wrapped around his waist than his body. But heís obviously not done having fun with this, because he leans forward as he lands and I slide back up his torso. I want off this ride! Mummy!
I desperately tighten my grip on his body as he begins to charge forward. We tear through the underbrush of the Dark Forest at breakneck speed. Everything around me is a blur. Seriously, Remus, you can let me off any time now. Bushes and low-hanging tree branches keep hitting me in the face. Iím pretty sure the arsehole is doing it on purpose, too. Iím running out of options, so I dig my claws into his ribs. He lets out this crazed sort of yowl and starts to run even faster. Wouldnít you know it, I have to pick the one werewolf in Britain whoís into masochism. Actually, thinking about Remus, that isnít much of a surprise.
Suddenly we burst through a thicket and into a clearing. I open my eyes and realize that weíre running out of ground. Literally, twenty feet in front of us, the ground ceases to exist. Heís barreling headlong toward a cliff. I can sort of make out this ledge on the other side of the chasm, but the gap has to be at least fifteen feet. Heís kidding, right? Heís going to skid to a halt and probably change back to his human form and have a good laugh about this, isnít he? Wait, heís not slowing down. Slow down! STOP! Remus John Lupin, you crazy son of a bitch, Iím going to kill you, I swear it!
When I open my eyes, weíre both standing on a rocky ledge on the far side of a chasm that must go down at least two hundred feet. Well, heís standing. Iím still clinging to his back like my life depends on it. Which it did, quite literally. I gradually let myself down. My limbs are so sore from the death grip Iíve had on his torso that I can hardly walk, but the feeling of terra firma under my paws is probably the most amazing sensation Iíve ever had with my clothes on. Well, technically I have no clothes on, but Iím gonna say that fur counts.
I want to slug him. I really do. But the view up here is amazing. The ledge looks out over the Dark Forest as it stretches down to the shores of the Black Lake. The treetops seem to ripple and shimmer under the light of the full moon and the stars reflect off of the water like a second sky. Itís breathtaking. I look over at the wolf and heís staring at it, too. Or perhaps itís Remus. Maybe both. I donít think it matters to me. I press my body against him and slide my muzzle under his chin. Iím surprised when he lifts one of his front legs and sort of pulls me toward him. It isnít really a canine gesture, but thereís so much complicated shite going on here that Iíve really lost track of where the man ends and the wolf begins. All I know is that Iím staring at an unimaginably beautiful night, cuddling with the most amazing creature Iíve ever met, regardless of what species he happens to be at the moment. I donít ever want it to end.
I wake up as the first light of morning begins to stream through the shattered window of the Shrieking Shack. Itís absolutely freezing in here, but thereís a blanket covering me and something very warm is pressed against my back. I go through the previous dayís events in my mind, putting it all together. I left work. I went to the Three Broomsticks. I got drunk. I ran through the Dark Forest at night with a werewolf. Yep, thereís the explanation. Which means that the warm body pressed against my bare backside would be Remus. Yikes. This is going to be awkward.
I slide my free hand experimentally up the front of my body. Naked as a jaybird, but thereís no more fur. I must have changed back to my normal self while I was sleeping, because Remus was still transformed when we got back here and curled up under the blanket. You know whatís funnier than a werewolf with long, sharp claws trying to spread a blanket out on the floor? Two werewolves trying to spread a blanket out on the floor. Itís a miracle neither one of us lost an eye. I feel relieved, though. I was guessing that changing back was going to be the same kind of painful ordeal.
I hear Remus snort a little and he snuggles closer to me. Iíd really love to let him sleep a while longer. God knows I could use the rest, myself. But weíre lying on a blanket on a bare wooden floor with no pillows and I think Iím getting frostbite on my face. I roll onto my back so that I can turn my head and see him. Remus looks none the worse for wear, at least not his face. I purse my lips and gently blow air across his moustache. The peaceful look on his face gradually changes to annoyance and then confusion. He opens a single eye and stares at me.
ďGood morning, Remus. Sleep well?Ē
He closes his eye, then opens both of them. Yep, Iím still here. Itís me, Tonks, not the warm blanket fairy. He closes his eyes again and screws up his face in concentration.
ďSo it wasnít just a dream. You really were here last night and you really did take him out for an adventure in the forest?Ē
So he does remember. I subconsciously pull the blanket a little tighter around my chest. Like it matters now. I canít help but giggle a little. ďWhat do you mean, Ďhimí? You were obviously there, too.Ē
He lets out a long, slow breath. ďItís complicated. We share the same body, but his thoughts are distinct from my own. We donít often agree.Ē He pauses for a moment, staring at the ceiling. ďHow did you know?Ē
ďSirius told me how the four of you used to run together during the full moon.Ē
Remus doesnít look pleased. ďI might have known that he was responsible for this.Ē
There he goes again. Merlin, he brasses me off. ďWhat do you mean, responsible? Iím a grown woman, Remus. I make my own decisions. And last night I decided that weíve both suffered alone for long enough.Ē
He just stares at me for a moment. I canít decide whether heís taking me seriously or not. Heís probably thinking that he can change the subject somehow. He has no idea. I am just getting started. Rawr!
ďDora... Did we... you know, last night?Ē
ďNo. We were both exhausted by the time we made it back here. And where, exactly, did you get the idea that youíre allowed to call me Dora? Who are you, my dad?Ē
ďIím old enough to be.Ē
Oh, no you donít, Remus Lupin. Not today. ďMy dadís a gentleman. He would never wake up next to a girl he doesnít care about.Ē
Alright, I admit it, that was hitting below the belt. I feel a little bad about it, but when he tries to roll over and look away, I get mad all over again. I am so far from finished. ďI meant what I said last night, Remus. Every word of it. Since you seem to remember everything else, Iíll assume you remember that, as well.Ē
He sighs loudly before rolling back over to face me. ďItís not a load of crap, Dora. I am too old for you, and too poor and far too dangerous. Last night was...Ē He looks wistful and his voice loses that Hogwarts professor tone. ďLast night was incredible. He was truly happy. And whenís heís happy, Iím happy, not least of all because he doesnít spend all night chewing on my arms and legs.Ē As if to demonstrate, he pulls his arm out from under the blanket. Itís free of the fresh, horrible-looking scars that he always seems to be hiding for a week after every full moon. ďBut can you truly say that youíd want to do that every month? I remember the tears in your eyes and the way you were gritting your teeth in pain during the transformation. I couldnít ask you to put yourself through that, even if I knew I could keep you completely safe.Ē
He reaches out and touches my cheek. I nuzzle against his fingers, and it isnít just because they feel warm on my poor, frozen face. What the hell is the matter with him, anyway? This is not the right way to convince me that I donít want to be with you. ďYou deserve so much better than me. Youíre so young and so lovely. You deserve a husband who has as many good years in front of him as you do. Somebody you can have children with.Ē
ďThis isnít about what I deserve, Remus. Itís about what I want. And what I want is to make you happy. Because you make me happy, at least when youíre not being a prat. Thatís what we both deserve, to be happy.Ē
He stares at me for a while. I can see the turmoil in his eyes. I know how much he wants this, but he canít convince himself to just let it happen. Maybe weíve made enough progress for one day. Thereís always tomorrow.
I rip the blanket off of him and wrap it around myself, causing him to yelp from embarrassment and the cold. ďSo where did you hide your clothes?Ē
He tries to cover up, but not before I catch a glimpse. I think heís got Charlie beat in more than just age and height. I wish I could keep the devilish little grin off of my face. No I donít.
ďHole in the wall near the ceiling at the top of the stairs. You?Ē
ďDisillusionment charm outside the door.Ē
I take my time walking out of the room, which is funny because heís sort of hopping in place behind me, trying to keep himself covered and stay warm at the same time. I remove the charm that hides my stuff and pull my knickers on underneath the blanket. Remus is reaching up to retrieve his clothes and I canít help but admire his bum as he stands on his toes. He may be a little banged up for his age, but heís got it where it counts.
Iím mostly done getting dressed when he clears his throat behind me. I finish pulling the jumper down over my undershirt and turn to find a slightly worried look on his face.
ďYouíre certain that nothing happened last night, right? I mean, the difficulties if you wound up getting, you know...Ē
I canít help but laugh. What kind of amateur does he think heís dealing with here? OK, truthfully I hope he thinks Iím more of an amateur than I really am. ďRelax, Remus. Nothing happened, not that I would have objected too much once we both changed back. And I take, you know, precautions. I mean, youíre a werewolf and Iím me. Can you imagine? Theyíd put the kid in detention the minute he stepped off the Hogwarts Express.Ē
He grins. I giggle. He chuckles. I snort. He laughs. Honest to goodness laughs. The sound is music to my ears. In that one moment, all my doubts are erased. Everything was worth it. This is what I want. Itís what I deserve.
Now I just have to convince him of that and weíre golden.
Alright, I†suppose I†should say this right up front. There is nothing in canon that says that a metamorph can change into an animal. There's nothing in canon that says they can't. The majority opinion in "fanon" seems to be that they can't, but until JKR†clarifies it one way or the other, I'll choose to believe it's possible.
Thank you to my beta reader sophie_hatter for once again saving me from a potentially tragic plot decision and thanks to Rosie for letting me be part of the awesome story that inspired this one. If you haven't read His Pack of Four, it's well worth your time.
All comments welcome! You know where.
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