Author's Notes: Originally written for the MetamorficMoon Beatles and the Bard Timeless Moon Ball. My prompts were the lyrics: I was alone, I took a ride/I didn't know what I would find there/Another road where maybe I/Could see another kind of mind there. 'Got To Get You Into My Life' - The Beatles. My other prompt was the word 'Want'. I didn't pick a very imaginative title for this, lol, but that is such a great word to be given to use for an R/T story spanning OotP and HBP...
She's touched by the small gifts (especially the knitted magenta waistcoat from Molly, which will be just the thing for that silver brooch), and literally touched by the hugs and kisses that accompany them. Some are like being embraced by that elderly whiskery aunt with seemingly too much saliva going spare, who you feigned colds or toothache to avoid as a child. Others, like Mad-Eye's, are brief and bone-crushing round the ribs, and make him cough harshly afterwards so that he doesn't say anything too sentimental to go along with it. She hugs him again before he can move away, and laughs when it's only after she's done it that he tells her to stop all that fussing about over nothing she goes in for.
By devious means that show all the extra studying at Stealth over the years has finally paid off, she saves Remus till the very last. Or has he saved her?
A moment's hesitation on both sides as she waits and his eyes flicker sideways, carefully checking everyone else has gone. He smiles slightly, looking as if he's nerving himself to do this – God, what if he doesn't want to? – and then his arms slip round her and all at once the embrace is both comforting and reassuring. Bringing with it a sense of belonging, of coming home. His arms tighten, drawing her closer, and the feel of him against her makes her heart pound so much she can't tell if his is doing the same in return.
"Happy birthday, Tonks." The words a whisper against her ear. His breath stirs her hair as he moves to kiss her cheek.
She turns her head at the same time before she has chance to think this through again. Her lips meet his. Decisively. For a second he's taken aback, for another it's solely her kissing him and then, as she starts to pull away in mortified embarrassment, those soft lips move under hers so that she can taste the warmth of his mouth and he kisses her back with a gentle but insistent pressure.
For the longest moment, nothing else matters. Not even clutching a handful of his shirt in her fist for balance as she's all but overwhelmed by something which can only be longing for this man.
They separate and she opens her eyes very slowly and looks at him. An utterly unhandsome face of lines and tiredness which is unremarkable except for eyes that might be blue or grey, or both, and a smile that is full of kind, slightly wicked humour. Not that tall but thin, very thin, and it's the thinness of a man who has known too much pain and sorrow far too young. There isn't simply age but a lifetime of experiences between them, and a totally different way of viewing the world as something that can hurt you and those you care for very badly indeed.
It makes no difference. Her heart still pounds like a mad thing.
"Tonks…" His expression is grave and she looks at him and swallows, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks. At the same time getting ready to ask what the hell he thinks he's been playing at, then, these last few weeks, because her way is always to meet things head on, and she's beginning to wonder as those weeks have gone by if his is to avoid them.
"We need to talk," he says, rather thickly, and she waits, imagining the polite brush-off. As in You're a very nice girl, Nymphadora, and I'm delighted you feel so, erm, friendly towards me. But how on earth could you ever imagine that I lie awake at night and think about the same things you do? About us. Wondering what we'd be like together. Because it would be laughable if it wasn't so very sad, wouldn't it?
"I thought perhaps we could go out somewhere," Remus says, and the lips that have covered hers curve slowly now into an easier, more assured smile. "Alone."
He finally tells Sirius, partly because it's a reminder of the past when his first thought would have been to share most things (as opposed to now, when his first is to do nothing of the sort), and partly because he has a strange need to say it out loud. It's obviously true that lovers have a compulsion to shout their happiness from the nearest available rooftop, and conveniently ignore the fact that in this case Grimmauld's is more than likely a broken-tiled death trap.
He reminds himself sternly that they aren't lovers, he shouldn't be dreaming of or considering this as an option, and ignores the voice inside his head that persists in whispering yet.
"Yeah, I guessed something was going on from the furtive and fevered glances." Sirius looks up briefly from the photograph album he's sorting through with a face which seems fixed in a permanent scowl. Dumbledore's given him a list of objects and people to see if he can find but it appears peace of mind isn't amongst them. The frown eases for a moment, though, as he adds, "And going well as you've got round to officially telling me?"
"… Yes." Remus says it warily, not wanting Sirius to be offended at not being told straight off. He catches a glimpse of the pages which he's stared at himself lately, struck by the familiar aristocratic lines and slenderness of the Black family females. He's recognised Tonks' high cheekbones, even the delicately arched brows, but the vibrancy, humour and complete lack of arrogance seem very much her own.
Sirius, it seems, has taken no offence and, typically, comes up with the most unlikely of responses to go with it. "She's exactly your type at last."
"She…" Remus splutters into his tea and puts the mug down hurriedly. "I wasn't aware I had a type and, if I had, I can't think of anyone less likely—"
"No." Sirius flicks a page of the album over dismissively and Remus recognises pictures of his parents from the brief glimpse. "Those girls you went for at school – all very nice in their way, all very smart. Rule abiding. And that suited you fine because you were all for fitting in back then. Till they bored you stupid, and you didn't like to say that, so you tied yourself up in knots over the werewolf thing because you knew they'd never handle it and you had a good excuse to break things off before they got too heavy." He rubs his forehead as though it aches and looks down at the page in front of him. "You know my dear father always stood a step behind Mother in all these pictures. Certainly knew his place."
Remus is so taken aback by the accuracy of the observations in both cases – and from a man who never bothered to analyse relationships, or anything very much – that he needs a moment to think of a reply.
Sirius shoots him a grin, with a flash of the old charm and conceit in equal measure. "Don't look so surprised, Moony. I had to think about something in Azkaban that didn't involve disembowelling Peter."
He finds his voice to resume the light-hearted, cynical tone they both seem most comfortable with now. "I thought you might take up knitting rather than turn into a deep-thinking philosopher."
"Merlin forbid," Sirius says feelingly, and they both laugh. But he adds, "You must be in pretty deep to have gone for this. Tonks is going to rattle your cage all right."
The choice of words hits Remus and he's still thinking about them hours later as he walks Tonks home from their drink out which turned into three or four he can ill afford. If anyone's in a cage, it's Sirius, and his is one of four mouldy, forbidding walls full of painful memories, while Remus' is merely one of legislation, reputation and fear that's increased over the years.
A slender hand touches his purposefully. His fingers catch and entwine with hers and her smooth palm slides comfortably against his like it belongs there.
"Tonks," he starts, though not letting go till he has to.
"Now we've had this conversation once already. If not a hundred times." She grins irrepressibly up at him, very close to his shoulder, the dark eyes vivid against the pale blur of her face in the half-dark. "In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if you're as deaf as a post and desperately trying to hide it from me."
"You know I'm concerned about people seeing—"
"Ashamed to be with me, is that it?" There's an attempt at a rueful shrug which is ruined by the bubble of laughter in her voice. "I did say sorry for looking like a giant ink blot when I tried out the navy blue hair, but I can't really blame you, I suppose."
"Tonks." He stops dead and she turns round to face him, still smiling and now far too close. Which is a mistake, as is repeating her name like an endearment, and he can smell her scent as he's been doing all night and he wants nothing so much as to pull her into his arms right there and then. Middle of the street be damned. "You know it's not that. You know how – how much it means that you want to hold hands with me in public. But it's not a good idea. Not for you. I'm fairly well known now, and for all the wrong reasons, and it's not wise for you to be associated with—"
"Mmn." She's looking down at their clasped hands and, bloody hell, clearly not listening to a single word he's said. "But I always thought that when two people go out together, and are proud to be seen together, they like to show the world how happy they are." The dark eyes rise up to his, challengingly. "Unless you're not happy, of course?"
He swallows at the lump in his throat which formed when she, this lovely, generous girl, actually said she was proud to be seen with him. That she wants to make a public statement about them when he won't even let her tell Molly (who will be overly excited), Mad-Eye (possibly for purposes of self-preservation) or the other Order members yet.
She'll rattle your cage all right. What Sirius didn't know was how much he'd revel in it as well as be terrified about the consequences of it for her.
"If I tell you how happy I am, it would embarrass both of us," he says, giving in, because it's much easier to do what he really wants, and raises her hand so that he can feel the fragile bones of her fingers against his lips.
It's hard to tell in this half-light, half-dark, but he'd swear she's blushing.
"I can take a lot of embarrassment. I've had to over the many years of falling down holes and causing inanimate objects to self-destruct."
"Yes, but that will be nothing compared to this. It's a good job there's no one about to see you." He smiles back at her like a besotted idiot with her hand still tight in his, when a voice in the gloom from a figure scurrying by makes them both jump.
"Fine evening, Mr Lupin! Miss Tonks!"
Randolph Aird, from Obscurus Books. A nice man. He's found some wonderful second, or even third hand bargains for Remus over the years.
They both call out a greeting to his rapidly retreating back, watch his hand fly up and wave in acknowledgment, and laugh the minute he's out of earshot.
"You arranged that deliberately to show me up," Remus says, trying to sound accusing, and only succeeding in shaking his head in amusement at the perfect timing of it all.
"Oh, don't blame me! Poor Randolph's probably been waiting hours round the corner for the right moment to show you that not everyone's blinkered, prejudiced, or a complete arse."
"I've noted your 'nevertheless', Remus. How about trying ever-the-more instead? Now is this going to be one of those relationships where I have to kiss you first every time? As it's not going to be very good for my ego if that is the case."
"I don't think your ego need worry much." He squeezes her hand to let her know she's won this round for now. Even if it feels like he has as well.
He still gently pulls her forward, waiting until they're safely hidden in the dark, comforting shadows of her doorway before covering her face in kisses as he's longed to do all night.
It's been nearly three months now. Three months of laughing at jokes only they get and sometimes arguing over subjects only they get (though he's infuriating to argue with as he simply gets cooler and calmer and more logical, while she gets hotter and wilder and more emotional). Sharing their days, their fears, their frustrations, and the thoughts they share with no one else. Knowing someone is there if they want to send an owl at a ridiculous time and have a ridiculous conversation. Three months of tender and passionate kisses, of increasingly bold fumbling with each other's clothing and bodies, and the feeling that they are on the verge of so much more. Being unable to remember quite what life felt like before this.
Three months meaning three more transformations for him.
She's learnt the routine now. How he starts to withdraw into himself a couple of days beforehand, cutting the physical contact between them down to a bare minimum, although she can tell he wants the reassurance of it even more. How Sirius becomes more organising and dominant, pleased to have a purpose again. It makes her feel as though it's nothing to do with her when Sirius is the one discussing the new potion for easing muscle pain (the details of which she found), and it's Sirius who is discussing arrangements for the cellar in Grimmauld's basement, which Remus is using again now the kids are back at school.
It's when she hears what those arrangements are that she feels even more ashamed and could weep for what he must bear alone.
Then there's the difficulty of what to say to a man about to face the horror of having his body ripped open and his skeleton reformed, the last time having been a case in point. "See you Monday evening," Remus had said calmly, and she'd wavered idiotically between saying in return, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do" or "Take care." Before blurting out, "I'll be waiting for you." At which the set line of his mouth had softened and she'd kissed him fiercely, tasting the ghastly, bitter Wolfsbane, and then kissed him even harder to show she didn't care. Till he gently whispered, "Please go now, Tonks" against her lips, and she wasn't at all sure from the momentary despair in his eyes if she'd just made things even worse.
It's difficult as well to know what to do with herself while her boyfriend is … indisposed. She's learnt to sit with Sirius at the end, but not the beginning as it hurt when he strode back and forth downstairs, coming back eventually to tell her that everything was fine. She took on as many extra shifts as there were going at work, and once, finding herself stood uselessly and aimlessly outside Grimmauld, decided to make an overdue visit to see her parents.
Which was another mistake. With that unerring instinct parents have for getting up your nose from the best of intentions, they managed to say all the wrong things in remarkably quick time. All of which had culminated in her mother remarking, with bright, hopeful eyes, that she'd seen Bill Weasley in town the other day. What a pleasant young man he'd turned into, with such a good career ahead of him in the bank, and he mentioned he'd seen Nymphadora from time to time? Tonks made her excuses soon after and left, knowing she couldn't bear to see them trying to hide worry as well as disappointment if she told them anything about the pleasant older man, with no career prospects whatsoever, she actually was seeing. And thereby proving him right in everything he said on the matter.
This month she's vowed not to do any of that and so she sits at a chess board in her Auror robes, opposite a slightly uneasy Sirius, who keeps finding reasons to yell at Kreacher, and does what she finds most difficult. She waits.
"He'll be all right, you know. I'll go see him in a minute and give him a drink. You should have got some sleep last night instead of coming over so early." Sirius gives her a reassuring pat on the hand, which irritates her like mad, and directs his knight to take another of her pawns.
"You didn't." She looks at the board, trying to think of a way out of the mess she's got herself into.
"No, well…" Sirius makes a dismissive gesture, which could mean he doesn't sleep anyway (Remus, when pushed, has told her a few horrifying facts about the effects of long-term exposure to Dementors), but there's almost a smugness about it which makes her feel as if he's saying she shouldn't worry her pretty little head.
She orders her castle forward with a degree of force that makes it take off at speed. "I'm a bloody Auror," she says, and it comes out as more of a growl. "And that is Remus in there and I don't need protecting from what's happening to him. I need to understand, and never mind if it scares the shit out of me, or I think I can't bear it, because if he can then I certainly can."
"Okay." There's deep, furrowed lines on his forehead as Sirius stares down at the board and there's grey in his hair near the crown. "Did you ever wonder how he coped with transformations after all of us were lost to him in one way or another? No Wolfsbane back in those days."
"When he had to transform near people, when he wasn't sure if it was safe…. He used to break bones in his hand or his foot beforehand."
"Break…" Her voice falters and she stops.
"Yeah." Sirius pauses and gives his rook a shove towards her queen. He looks at her, the grey eyes hard. "Because the wolf—"
"Won't hunt if it's injured. It lays down and rests till it can run again." She looks steadily back. "Yes, I've read the books."
"Good." There's definite challenge in his eyes now. "But I bet it doesn't say in the books what he doesn't tell you. What he doesn't want you seeing. How humiliating it would be for any man to have the girl he worships walking in on him when he can barely move. Is as helpless as a tiny child. Having to clean up after him. The wolf isn't house trained, you know. He can control things to an extent, but it still craps if it really wants to."
She swallows. "You all helped him. When you were boys. He let you."
"We were idiots." Sirius grimaces. "It was an adventure to us."
She gets to her feet and walks over to the grimy window, feeling her face burn as she leans against the frame. Remembering last week when she'd found the body of one Winston Chadwick, who'd been tortured by Death-Eaters on the off-chance that, as his brother had fled from them days earlier, he might know something about the matter. She'd seen the naked body lying beneath the tree as she and Remus searched. Seen the abrasions on the wrists and ankles where he'd been tied, flecks of white, dead skin contrasting against the red and inflamed, and the battered leg which stuck out at an unnatural angle. The burn marks on the tender flesh of the inner arm and thighs, and then even higher…
Winston Chadwick had talked very quickly but they'd taken their time killing him for the sheer enjoyment of it.
It was her first body and she'd held herself together while Remus had gone to alert Dumbledore. She'd sat not far away picking at the grass, till the Aurors arrived and she gave her report. It was hours later, back in her own flat, that she was forced to suddenly run to the sink and retch until she was empty, her stomach heaving and her breath coming in great gasps.
It was Remus who wiped her chin with his strong, warm fingers. Remus who said, "It's all right, Tonks," and held her while she stared into his eyes and saw the strength of him. Felt it flow into her.
She draws a deep breath and thinks.
Sirius is still bent over the chess board, his fingers playing idly with an unhappy pawn. He looks up as she moves towards him.
"You might have been unfeeling idiots," she says, "but it took you three years to learn how to be Animagi and that's real dedication for a simple adventure. I don't think it's me who has any romantic notions about this, but you and Remus. If it was me who was ill, if it was my body letting me down each month, then I don't think Remus would even think twice. He'd be there for me."
Sirius draws his thick black brows together. Very slowly he smiles. "What are you going to do about it then?"
"I'm going to stop listening to you two and all your good advice." She looks at the board and pushes her queen right up next to his rook. On the attack. "Downstairs, isn't it?"
"Third door from the end." Sirius tells her the precautions, the spells, fetches the steaming goblet from the kitchen, and she nods solemnly and he nods back. In different circumstances, this might all be quite funny. Especially as she's just committed suicide at chess so it's no wonder he's grinning at her. The Blacks all like to win; her mother is an absolute terror at Exploding Snap.
It's probably the thickest door she's ever seen. But it opens smoothly with a faint click and she peers in cautiously, wand ready, giving herself time to adjust to the gloom and listen as she's been trained to do. She whispers "Lumos" at the lantern fixed high up in the corner of the room, and a dim glow casts a faint beam of light across the floor. Illuminating a man's bare foot.
Her eyes travel slowly up. He's awake because the blanket is wrapped round his middle and she can see the trembling hands clutch at it, pulling it higher as he realises who it is.
What do you say to a man after he's faced the horror of having his body ripped open and his skeleton reformed?
"Wotcher, Remus." She steps forward calmly, business-like, and kneels down next to the old mattress he's lying on. "Long time no see."
"… Tonks." The voice is hoarser than usual and very faint. Disbelieving too, but there's a note in there which isn't entirely discouraging.
"Here." She gently props his head against her arm, pushes his hair away from his sweat-ridden brow and tips the goblet to his lips, praying she doesn't spill it down him.
He drinks deeply for a long moment, draining every drop, and then wipes his mouth with the back of that shaky hand. "Tonks?"
"Brain not working at top speed yet, I see?" She grins at his haggard, parchment white face, and leans forward to kiss him.
"Tonks!" He tries to turn his head away.
"Oh God." She gives a mock sigh, thinking please, please, please. "Do I still have to chase after you? How am I supposed to retain any ladylike modesty around here when I have to do all the work?"
He stares at her, blinking painfully with watery eyes, as if unable to believe she's there.
"Tonks," he says again, and coughs. He swallows hard and a ghost of a smile flutters across his lips. "D-delighted as I am t-to see you here, I'm not really dressed for receiving visitors. Especially lovely young w-women."
"True." She stands up and quickly does a Scourgify spell, even though from what she can see the room is surprisingly neat and tidy. Like Remus always is. She tries not to look at the long, thick rope of chain hanging from the wall. "What can I do for you?"
"You being here is – is very nice." A better smile this time, but she can make out the colour rising in his face. "But I do need to sleep for a bit. Very tired."
"Okay. Would it help if I stayed next to you?"
"I … couldn't ask that of you." But she's seen the expression in his eyes before he masked it. "Besides," a flash of mischief, "I m-may have mentioned we're not on equal footing as regards dress at the moment."
"You're right. We're not and that blanket does look warm." Her hand moves to the clasp of her robes. Upstairs she'd been thinking of some way to reach him, to show him that embarrassment with her was the last thing he should feel, and now she's working on instinct alone.
"Shut up and close your eyes. I didn't really plan on taking my clothes off in front of you for the first time like this, but as you insist." She releases the clasp, watches his eyes widen to a degree that makes her want to laugh before they shut tight like an obedient child. The robes slither down her in a heap, and she shivers in the chilly air while tugging her underwear off. She hops frantically for a moment on one leg, struggling to disentangle herself from it all, thinking it would be just typical if she fell flat on her face right now, before lifting the edge of the blanket to slide underneath.
She hesitates and then moves cautiously next to him, inch by inch. Skin touches skin and she thinks oh dear God, and then he lifts his arm so that her head falls quite naturally onto his shoulder, and suddenly it seems as though there's a perfect place for her against his warm side, her arm tentatively resting across his middle and his wrapped round her holding her close.
"All right?" he asks, sounding far more composed than she feels. She's stark naked with Remus Lupin in a cold, damp cellar, and she never in a million years imagined it would be like this. She still doesn't know quite where to put her hands, or anything else for that matter, but she's happy.
On another occasion, she thinks she'd like to slide her leg across his, explore those hairs that are lightly tickling her thigh and cheek…
"Mmn." His voice drops and his lips touch her temple softly. "Sleep now."
"Yes." She's got at least three hours before work and she hopes it's going to be thirty-three because she thinks she could lie like this for the rest of her life.
"You're so beautiful w-without your clothes on."
A heartbeat. "What? You looked!"
A chuckle from deep in his chest which reverberates against her hand. "I'm only human. As you keep reminding me."
"I'd make a good best man, you know."
Even Sirius, it seems, is dropping hints these days, but Remus is glad of the change of subject because ever since Harry's head appeared in the fire that night, asking them about Snape's memories, Sirius has alternated between periods of anguish and anger and for the last hour or so achieved both at once.
"I'm not sure I'd make a good husband." He says it lightly but it's true.
Sometimes he wonders how it's possible to so happy, and then something will happen to remind him of the currently dormant fear that always sits waiting on his shoulder. It seems everyone's waiting for him to make a decision, although no one's actually saying it to his face. And for someone whose resolve up till now has been acceptance, to live with the fact that life isn't always fair, and he's grateful for what he's got considering what he is… Well, now he's starting to realise how he's deluded himself over the years.
He wants more than that. He wants her. And, glory be, she wants him in return.
Everyone else seems to think it's a good idea too, that it's feasible that this could actually work. No one seems to even consider the things that haunt him. Molly was so thrilled when he finally told her they were together that she went through two of his handkerchiefs in about five minutes. Dumbledore – who, as far as he was aware, nobody told – took him aside one night and rendered him speechless by saying with a twinkle in his eye that he believed some time off for two Order members together could be arranged, should it prove necessary. While Mad-Eye spent a few days looking as if he wanted to castrate him (which at least gave him hope that one day meeting Ted might not be half as bad), before gruffly admitting that Tonks could have done a lot worse as Lupin is a good man in a tight corner. A statement which Sirius is still making Remus pay for at every opportunity.
Even Snape, who was very deliberately uninformed, was recently heard to remark that he found the whole thing quite sickening and Nymphadora must be Confunded as the only rational explanation. Remus repeats this to Sirius, hoping it might amuse him, though as soon as he says it he wonders why in Merlin's name he thought that? Is he seeing everything through a haze of happiness now?
"The bastard's jealous," Sirius says morosely into his goblet, staring at the Firewhiskey as if its surface is going to ripple and form into a face.
"Severus jealous of me?" Remus laughs, trying to make it into a joke. But he'd had the same conversation with Tonks only the other night when she'd been asking him about his time at Hogwarts as both pupil and teacher, and it had been surprisingly easy to tell her things he'd never told another soul.
"I had friends, you see," he'd said to her, as if that explained everything and, in a way, it did.
"But didn't he?"
"Yes, but they weren't friends you could trust. They were friends for a cause they had in common, not because they had any liking for each other." He looked down at her, lying half across his lap, playing with his frayed shirt cuff, rolling it up because she said she liked his bare arms. He certainly liked hers. "Of course, I had a friend I shouldn't have trusted, either. Nor should any of us."
That thought brings him abruptly back to Sirius and the present, just as Sirius says bitterly, "Why did it have to be that memory Harry saw? Why not any of the good things James did?"
"James wasn't perfect." Remus pauses to pick his words carefully. "It's going to be a bit of a shock for Harry to realise that, but he's probably going to be glad of it in time."
"He saw me as well."
"And he saw me doing nothing. Knowing Harry, that's going to be the hardest for him to understand."
"You'd have been a much better choice of godfather than me." The Firewhiskey is swirled round in the goblet again.
"No, I wouldn't." Remus speaks firmly, knowing he has to stop this before it gets going. "James and Lily wouldn't even have considered anyone other than you. Harry doesn't need me, but he needs you. And when he comes home again, you can tell him about all those other things James did."
Sirius turns his head away; pushing a hand back through his hair to let it fall forward, the way he always does to hide emotion. "You're so bloody sensible, Moony," he says at last, and if his voice cracks a little they both pretend not to notice.
"I'm good in a tight corner." Remus smiles.
"Yeah, aren't you just?" With that lightening change of mood which is all too familiar lately, Sirius sits bolt upright and stares at him. "Why are you still here?"
"Oddly enough, I'm listening to you rabbit on—"
"No! Why aren't you with Tonks? You're never here at this time. Unless…" The grey eyes narrow suspiciously. "What have you done? More to the point, what haven't you done?"
"Thinking?" Sirius says it as though it's the most bizarre word he's ever heard. "Oh, God. You're dithering about marrying the poor girl, aren't you? I've tested her out, you know. Like I did Lily. Her heart's in the right place."
"Yes, about a quarter of the way down on the left hand side. It's amazing." Remus blinks. "You tested her out? I'm lucky she's still speaking to me."
"She won't be doing anything to you if you don't get your sorry arse over there." Sirius frowns. "She's crazy about you and it's quite obvious to those of us who see beyond the give-nothing-away demeanour you like to cultivate that you're crazy about her. Most people get married for reasons that aren't half as good. You need to take a risk, and jump into the void and live a bit."
"I—" Remus stops. There's so much he could say and so much he can't. There's a whole host of things unspoken, unsaid between him and Sirius, and he thinks both of them are frightened to start.
Of course, he's always frightened. Frightened of rejection. So he does nothing; allows events to take their course without him. Chooses by not choosing. Exactly what he's doing now with Tonks.
"What?" Sirius is watching him closely.
For a moment Remus nearly asks him if he ever thinks about how James felt at the end. Facing Voldemort. Knowing his wife and child were almost certainly about to die and he was powerless to stop it.
"Nothing." He smiles and stands up. "You going to be all right?"
"Yes." Sirius raises his goblet. "Not that sober, but all right. I'm going to think of things to tell Harry about his father that that bastard Snivellus doesn't even know. You go and make it up to the pink-haired one. Keep women happy, that's what I always say, and the most direct way to do it always made me happy too."
Remus hopes the give-nothing-away demeanour is still working because he's dithered over that as well. Though this hasn't been his fault as lately they've either been exhausted, or interrupted, or it just hasn't been the time or the place for something he desperately wants to make right for her. If he can, and that's been another thing to worry about. Though as she opens the door and smiles at him, and he sees she's got the black, sparkly top he likes so much on, it only takes one fairly chaste kiss of greeting to make him think he really has been out of his mind.
"You're late," she says, but the immediacy of her response to him suggests she's not annoyed as he decides to make up for any momentary chasteness. One kiss quickly becomes several which grow in length and intensity.
"Remus," she says, leaning back against the wall as he smoothes her hair aside to kiss her neck and very gently bites down on the softest part where it joins the shoulder. "Ah… do - do you plan on having anything to eat?"
He stops and looks at her. Remembering their usual routine which he seems to be rewriting to his own insistent desires. Normally this is the last part and doesn't take place in the hallway. "No. Do you?"
"No. I—" She stops as well, her slender hand resting lightly on his face. The dark eyes are puzzled but shining with trust. Believing in him. He can believe in himself when she looks like that. "Are you all right? You seem … different." She blushes. "Not that I don't like this new Remus who takes one step in my doorway and starts kissing me madly. You've no idea how much I want—"
She stops. Bites her lip. Waits.
He looks at her and marvels how he could have come to love her so very much and yet not give her what she needs. Instead he'd just taken everything from her that she'd given him so willingly, while she'd been waiting patiently for when he was ready.
So much time wasted. Jump into the void and live.
"Come on." He takes her hand gently and leads her over to the sofa, with its ridiculous purple and pink pattern and pile of cushions. He chucks some of them aside, and then a few more, so they finally have room to sit. He reaches down and takes off her oversized fluffy slippers. He touches her hair and strokes some of the pink silken strands, letting them slide for a moment through his fingers. And all the time her dark eyes are watching him and watching him.
"I love you, Dora."
He feels her tremble slightly. He sees her throat work. He feels his heart open and it's all because of her.
"You're everything to me," he says huskily, and he's not sure who moves first, but she's in his arms, in his lap, her fingers tangled in his hair, and he's kissing her. Her lips open underneath his as she makes a faint sound that is so naked and vulnerable it hurts him, and then, as he feels the soft pressure of her breasts against his chest, every part of his body lights on fire for her.
She whispers his name against his mouth. No one's ever said it like she does. He wants to taste her, to touch her, to know her completely, and he starts to do all those things as she tugs at him, pulling him downwards and he realises they're half kneeling, then lying, on the floor. He puts an arm out to protect her head, but she pushes it away almost impatiently and helps him lift the black top off, sending it spinning into the far corner of the room, followed by her jeans which clang noisily into the fireplace. While her hands are eagerly untucking his shirt, fumbling with his belt and, oh God, sliding up his back making him shiver wherever they touch.
They kiss, they touch, they kiss again. And again. The bra comes off eventually and he thinks she's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. More fumbling with his belt and then his trousers are ludicrously twisted round one leg, threatening to cut off all circulation before he kicks them away. His one hand is on her breast, teasing and caressing, hearing her sigh of pleasure, feeling the muscles in her stomach contract as he lets the other stroke its way slowly down to her thigh. Desire builds in him as the length of her body creates a sweet agony of pressure against his.
One more heart-pounding kiss and he forces himself to raise his head. Looking down at her. Trying to keep his hands still, though they persist in stroking her sides, and not close his eyes at the sensation of lying here like this. With her. On her. Feeling her rising up to meet him and the heat surrounding them both.
"You're sure?" he whispers.
Her hands cup his face, pulling him fiercely down to her lips. Dark eyes blaze into his and take his breath away.
"Love me, Remus," she says. "Don't you dare stop."
Thank you for reading - I hope you enjoyed it. The concluding part will be along next week, but in the meantime reviewers get to discuss just how good Remus is in a tight corner with him personally...