A Wolf in the Moonli.. - The Fam by fjzhangxiaoquan

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									2. A Wolf in the Moonlight by Kerichi
                                 Chapter 1- Moonlight and Roses
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This would happen on the day Remus was meeting my parents.
Chasing after the middle-aged wizard who had grabbed his Dark object off the mantelpiece and
run, I was too cheesed off to appreciate the irony. Most cases I was sent to investigate turned out
to be false reports from lonely old jossers or nutters when I longed for real action. Today, since
I‟d arranged to leave early, it was just my luck that the accusation was substantiated.
Earlier, I‟d been happy that my supervisor had assigned me to assist Arthur Weasley in Muggle
Artefacts. I‟d thought the witch was doing me a favour. I should‟ve known better. Obviously, the
Auror and toady the rest of us called „Harriet the spy‟ had tattled that Nymphadora Tonks had
dared to morph into Gulch and vamp Santa Baby down at the pub last night.
“Halt!” I yelled, inwardly cursing my superior‟s lack of humour while sending an impediment
jinx at the fleeing wizard. He dodged it, the jammy git, bolting through the kitchen and out the
back door.
“I‟ll go round the alley!” I heard Arthur shout, while I continued my pursuit.
The December wind felt good against my heated face. Almost tripping on an exposed tree root, I
regained my balance and told the man trying to climb the back fence, “Drop to the ground and
put your hands on your head!”
The dishevelled, red-faced wizard did as instructed, pleading, “You don‟t understand, this is
merely a good luck charm, a keepsake given to me by my late wife.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “Mr. Wallace, that‟s not just a shrivelled up monkey‟s paw. It‟s
been enchanted with a Black Fate Spell. Anyone who attempts to use it to make a wish will be
destroyed by it, for tempting fate. It has to be incinerated. I‟m sorry.”
“I‟m sorry too.” The man closed his eyes and clenched his fist. My stomach dropped. Before I
could put a body-binding hex on the bloke, he yelped and dropped the desiccated paw onto the
ground. It jumped around.
I acted without hesitation. “Incendio!” The paw made a weird, shuddering movement and then
burst into flames. The wizard gasped and fell to his knees, making a desperate grab for the grisly
object. I raised my wand and repelled him away from the blue flames.
Reeling back against the garden fence, Wallace‟s gaze travelled past my shoulder. The man‟s
face contorted in horror and grief. “Igraine, no, not like this!”
Whirling around, I stared in revulsion at the rotting corpse shuffling our way. Her pink suit and
hat were still presentable, but the decomposing flesh and brittle hair ruined the garden party
image. I hollered, “Arthur!”
From the other side of the garden fence, I heard, “Are you in urgent need of assistance?”
“Erm…yeah, Mrs. Wallace has just come through the back gate, and I don‟t have any experience
with the walking dead!”
“A monkey‟s paw reanimation, is it? I‟ve always wanted to see one. Slow her down and I‟ll
levitate right over.”
“Impedimentia!” I cried, wryly wishing I hadn‟t viewed all those late night horror films on telly
whilst staying with my Muggle Gran. The zombie paused briefly before dragging forward once
more. I refused to whimper, but if she croaked „brains‟, I was going to scream bloody murder. I
tried again. “Incarcerous!” The ropes that bound the reanimated woman halted her approach for
a minute- until she broke the bonds.
Landing beside me after the zombie had shrugged off a Petrificus Totalus, Mr. Weasley observed
brightly, “How interesting! While still human, the body of the living dead appears to have
strength beyond mortal limits.” His pleasant, freckled face glowed in a way that reminded me of
Charlie‟s when he used to talk about dragons. It was endearing…and irritating.
“Uh huh, interesting is one way to put it. What are you going to do?” I didn‟t hesitate to shift the
monkey from my back to his, so to speak. Before Arthur could do more than smile at me like I
was one of his kids, Mr. Wallace rushed forward.
“Igraine!”
Usually, when couples embrace, it‟s a touching moment. This was downright creepy. Bits of
decomposing flesh dropped onto the wizard‟s robes when rotting arms encircled him, causing my
stomach to lurch. Mr. Weasley lifted his wand. I mouthed the charm, Non Sentire, determined to
never forget it. In the instant before zombie wife returned to being a corpse bride, we heard an
ominous cracking sound. Mr. Wallace cried out before they fell together to the ground. I rushed
over and dropped to my knees.
“Rennervate!” I tried again and again to restart the wizard‟s heart, but it was no use.
Arthur patted my shoulder consolingly as silent tears streaked down my face. It was bloody sad,
the loss of life and love. “It was his wish, my dear, to be reunited with his wife. Mr. Wallace
chose his fate.” After a few minutes, I nodded and blew my nose with the handkerchief he
offered and insisted I keep. Shaking his head, Arthur sighed, “I‟ll go into the house and inform
the Ministry." Waving his wand in an intricate pattern, he handed me the thick file that
materialised out of thin air. “You can start on the paperwork.”
Hours later, I sent the completed forms off to Gulch‟s inbox, hoping the weight would topple it
to the floor. Rushing down the stairs, I darted around two little old crones with canes and strode
out of the Ministry. While finger combing short, spiky hair, I bit my lips to compensate for the
lack of makeup. Apparating to my parents‟ home, I saw the wizard standing on the front step and
called, “Wotcher, Remus!”
He smiled and caught me when I stumbled over my feet in eagerness and fell forward. “Hello,
love.”
Looking into the handsome face that the imminent full moon had drained of colour and creased
with care lines, I decided not to add to his stress with complaints about work. My ex, spiteful git
that he was, had started werewolf/Dark arts rumours that led to my love‟s current state of
unemployment. Instead, I said, “I need a snog.” Twining my arms around his neck and sinking
my fingers into grey-streaked brown hair, I made a contented „Mmm‟ when Remus brushed my
lips softly with his.
Three months ago, I‟d picked up the wrong wizard in a pub and fallen head-over-heels for a man
who should‟ve been all wrong for me but instead turned out to be just right. My Uncle Morty,
who‟d accepted a dodgy client‟s „no names‟ stipulation for double the galleons, still acted as
though I owed him one for sending me on the enquiry that literally changed my life. I did, but
knew better than to admit it. I already owed an old friend a favour. I didn‟t trust Orion Mortimer
Black not to use my gratitude to manoeuvre me into an even dicier situation.
Happily immersed in Remus‟ kiss, I didn‟t hear the front door open. “Come inside, Nymphadora,
and introduce us properly.” My mother‟s cool tone implied „and stop giving our neighbours
something to gossip about‟. Glancing across the street, I saw a lace curtain fall back into place.
As I had so many times over the years, I smiled apologetically. Unbending enough to curve her
lips slightly, Mum led the way to the lounge.
Remus‟ gaze flickered between Mum and me, noting the similarities and differences. There‟s a
definite family resemblance of heart shaped faces and porcelain skin. Andromeda‟s nose is a bit
longer and more aristocratic and her eyes are very „Black‟, pun intended. She‟s also ace at
domestic spells, and my childhood home had a shiny, spring-clean air to it that my flat sorely
lacked. The man who had passed to me his dark blue eyes and active curiosity looked up from
his paper and smiled as he stood and extended his hand. “Ted Tonks. I‟d begun to think you a
figment of Nym‟s imagination, Mr. Lupin.”
“Please, call me Remus, Mr. Tonks.” My guy shook the proffered hand firmly.
Dad gave me an approving look before saying, “We‟re Ted and Andie, Remus.”
Nodding with a smile, Remus sat beside me on the sofa while Mum served tea. He thanked her
for the hospitality while looking appreciatively at the extensive array of food on the low table in
front of us. I grinned. Mother was quietly competitive. Knowing we‟d previously had tea at
Gran‟s, she couldn‟t help wanting to out-do her mother-in-law. Hungrily, I piled a plate and
praised, “Mum, you‟re the best.”
She looked modestly pleased, which made Dad snicker. “I think she‟s been preparing for this day
for weeks.”
A delicate eyebrow rose. “I‟ve looked forward to our daughter overcoming past disappointments
and moving on with her life for a lot longer than that.”
Okay, maybe I had taken over a year to recover from the hurt and betrayal that ended my
engagement to Evan Rosier II, Slytherin alumni and secret collaborator of Death Eaters. Giving
her a „shut it‟ look, I said levelly, “I met Remus, and I‟m happy. Can‟t you just be content with
that, Mum?”
She handed me a cup of tea and then patted my cheek before returning to her chair. “Of course
I‟m happy for you dear.” Looking at the wizard holding my hand, she asked, “Were you aware
that before his arrest, my cousin Sirius considered this house his second home, Mr. Lupin?”
The fingers entwined with mine jerked in reaction. “Yes,” he replied calmly.
She continued in a manner that was crisper than the salad on the tea sandwiches, “Before he was
falsely accused, Sirius confided in me that he was uneasy with a decision he‟d made.” Receiving
no response, Mum continued, “He said that one of his friends was suspected of being a spy for
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, so he was forced to trust another with an important secret.”
Leaning forward, she stated levelly, “Sirius stopped mentioning his friends after seventh year, so
I didn‟t realise at first why your name sounded so familiar.” Her tone turned steely. “Were you a
spy for the most evil wizard who has ever existed, Mr. Lupin?”
He didn‟t flinch at her use of Sirius‟ oft used epithet. “No,” he assured with quiet dignity, “Peter
Pettigrew poisoned Sirius against me, using my condition, the belief that werewolves are
naturally drawn to the Dark, to persuade my friends that I was not to be trusted.”
Dad rose and went to stand behind his wife, resting his hands on her shoulders. “Andie, you
always believed that Sirius was innocent of Pettigrew‟s death.”
“Peter didn‟t die. He killed those bystanders to frame Sirius and has been in hiding ever since.”
Closing her eyes briefly upon hearing Remus‟ assertion, my mother said in a whisper, “You‟ve
seen Sirius, talked to him, since his escape?”
“Yes.”
Eyes shining with tears and determination, she said, “If he ever needs help, money, anything, I
want you to tell him I‟ll…” Glancing up, she amended, “We‟ll help in any way we can.”
“He won‟t ask. It‟s too dangerous, but I‟m sure the offer will raise his spirits.”
Mum nodded, and then looked searchingly at me. Smiling faintly, she didn‟t ask whether I‟d
seen or talked with Sirius since his escape.
It felt surreal to resume our tea. Dad cleared his throat and changed the subject. “Are you ever
going to return my enchanted record player, Nym?”
Lifting my head, I promised, “After I listen to the records tonight, I‟ll drop everything off
tomorrow.”
I hadn‟t shared with my parents that this would be the third full moon I would spend with Remus
in the secret chamber behind the bedroom in his flat. Somehow, I didn‟t think they‟d understand
how unique and special it was to be with him in that way. So far, they hadn‟t been overprotective
on the entire werewolf issue, but I didn‟t want to push the matter. Gazing over at the corner that
had been cleared in preparation for a tree, I asked, “Are you still having the tree-trimming party
Christmas Eve?”
“Yes. I hope you will join us, Remus, and meet the family.” Mum gave her Mona Lisa smile.
“Cousin Lora, especially, is looking forward to making your acquaintance.”
I groaned. “Merlin, save me from having to look at Bridal Mags and bridesmaid dresses. Oh, the
horror...”
“Don‟t you want to get married someday?” Remus smilingly inquired.
Unaccountably, I felt shy. “Yes, but I‟d want a small ceremony, a private exchange of vows.”
His eyes always looked more amber the day of the full moon. They gleamed. “I feel the same
way.” As if realising that he‟d been smiling into my eyes for a long time in plain view of my
parents, Remus said dryly, “Are you sure that you don‟t want to force your friends into the sort
of bridesmaids‟ gowns your cousin favours?”
Metamorphosing my skin colour to the shade of „about to vomit‟ green, I shifted back to normal
when my mother chided me, and scoffed, “Frilly pink affronts to fashion?” I pretended to think
about it, tapping my lips with a finger before smirking. “Depends on what presents they plan to
give me.”
Dad and Remus laughed while my mother pretended to disapprove, even while the corners of her
mouth turned up. I looked at the mantel clock, thanked my parents for tea with hugs and kisses
on the cheeks before bidding them a cheerful farewell. Remus shook hands and conveyed his
gratitude with a conviction that had my folks inviting him back for dinner the following Sunday.
“Remus?” We both startled when my mother called him by first name. I almost dropped the Floo
powder in my hand when she said, “Tell Sirius…if you see him…that I still wish we‟d been able
to convince our parents to trade children. His mother would‟ve been much happier with Bellatrix
and Narcissa, and my brother and I would‟ve loved to claim him in return.”
I dropped the Floo powder when she kissed his cheek. “Mum!”
“Give him that for me as well.” Smiling wickedly at Remus‟ discomfort, she raised a brow at me
and murmured, “Feel free to find a pretty girl to do it.” Serenely, she cleared the mess off the rug
with a wave of her wand while I grabbed another handful of powder and stepped into the
fireplace.
Flooing first to my flat to pick up the rucksack with Dad‟s enchanted record player and 45‟s and
then to Remus‟, we entered the room concealed by an invisibility spell before the sun set. The
door had no interior handle and was charmed to remain closed from sunset to sunrise. When
Remus had spent the hours alone, the room had been bare, with only the faint moonlight seeping
in through the cracks in a boarded up window for illumination. I‟d transfigured a futon, not being
fond of sleeping on the floor. Last month, Remus had added another decoration- a single red
rose. I smiled to see a new rose gracing the vase placed beside the mattress.
Entering the sound-proof chamber, I engaged an illumination orb to glow softly, to enable me to
see when the light faded. I set up the record player and put on our song, Blue Moon. His eyes
seemed to shine, hearing the music. As naturally as breathing, I moved into his arms. Remus‟
scent was warm and male and sexy. Our slow dance soon became an embrace. I loved the way
his mouth tasted and his body felt against mine. Sweet moments intensified. Kisses became
deeper. I could feel his heart pounding along with mine. “I love you,” I whispered, after a final
caress.
“I love you,” he returned tenderly.
We‟d agreed to not to rush intimacy, but it was still hard to leave his arms. Moving to the
mattress and wrapping my arms around my knees, I watched Remus stand beneath the boarded
over window, far below the small patch of moonlight. His smile became faint, and far away.
Months ago, Remus had explained that ingesting Wolfsbane Potion enabled him to transform
much like an Animagus would. He shifted into a wolf while retaining his human mind. I‟d been
entranced, watching the process that was very like my metamorphosing. It was magic, not the
gruesome special effects of Muggle films. I was still captivated, watching every bit as raptly as
that first time I saw him become a grey wolf.
After his customary routine of social and territorial howls, the wolf padded over to rub his cheek
and muzzle against my face. I began petting his sides, on top of his head, behind his ears, and all
the places that made his tail wag. Eventually rolling onto his back to allow me to slide my palms
up his chest in the way I‟d seen my friend Cami demonstrate on a dog named Snuffles, my Canis
lupus made happy, scratchy throat noises.
Petting any animal is soothing, and petting a wolf who was really my partner was even more so.
My eyes grew heavy. I yawned widely. “Time for sleep, Wolfie.”
He growled half-heartedly. I giggled. “How furry you are.” Dropping my voice, I answered for
him, “The better to be your pillow, my dear.” We lay down together on the mattress, my head
resting on the soft fur of his side. Listening to his rapid, soothing heartbeat, I murmured, “Night,
Remus.”
The next morning, I awoke to gentle fingers stroking my hair, currently the colour of silver
tinsel. Secure in the knowledge that we‟d both used Morning After strength Brushing/Flossing
mints last night, I kissed Remus good morning. I made sure it was a very good morning. When
the door to the secret room unlocked, I took my rose with me as we left the space. Placing the
vase on the table in the area that served a dual purpose as a reading/dining nook, I looked up in
alarm when someone began pounding on the front door. Sirius would‟ve let himself in. Remus
picked up his wand and went to open the door.
Uncle Morty, running an agitated hand through his salt and pepper spiky hair, looked past my
partner to tell me, “There‟s a brawny Muggle by the name of Jimmy Durbin down at the Blue
Moon. Seems your Gran gave him the direction.” Exhaling heavily, he finished, “He won‟t leave
until he talks to you.”
“What does he want?” Remus asked, slipping an arm around my waist.
I knew. Swallowing hard, I answered, “Rory‟s calling in his favour.”
                                Chapter 2- Moonlight Confessions
At least he didn‟t say „I told you so‟. The moment I admitted Rory was calling in a favour,
Remus closed his eyes, shaking his head. Not wanting to bring up touchy subjects, like my
trusting a dodgy ex-boyfriend to help deal with Evan instead of relying on my partner, my lips
remained sealed. Uncle Morty and I both stared when Remus took a deep breath and announced,
“We‟ll Floo to her flat directly after breakfast.”
“Tonks?” Morty was asking if that was okay with me.
You don‟t have to handle things by yourself anymore. Let me share the burdens.
Remembering the words Remus told me not so long ago, I nodded. “Ask Bubbles to bring Jimmy
up and make coffee.”
After Morty Flooed to his own flat, I slanted a sideways glance and met a steady gaze. Trying
not to cringe, I said hopefully, “Maybe he just needs a check run on somebody?”
The corners of his mouth turned up. “Do you really believe that?”
“No.”
Apparently, I sounded pitiably forlorn and in need of a hug. Wrapping my arms around him
tightly in return, I buried my head against Remus‟ shoulder and confessed, “I‟ve got a bad
feeling about this.”
“About what?”
Sirius had let himself in. While still very lean, his dark good looks had improved dramatically
since his escape from Azkaban. The knowledge of the measure of happiness he‟d found and
Remus‟ warmth were my only comforts while my guy informed his old friend about the new
muddle I was in. Contrary as always, Sirius enthused, “Things were getting a bit dull around
here. Some action will be just the thing. I‟ll conjure breakfast and we can be on our way.”
“We?”
While bespelling bacon to crunchy perfection, Sirius jokingly marvelled, “It usually takes
couples years before they start saying things in unison. What‟s next…matching outfits?”
Removing brown eggs from the refrigerant charmed cabinet, Remus smilingly refused to rise to
the bait. Setting the table, I returned blithely, “Do matching jumpers count?”
“No!”
“What if we wear co-ordinating denims?” It was fun to yank Sirius‟ chain.
He groaned to Remus, “Tell me she‟s just being a brat, mate.”
Light brown eyes twinkled. “The jumpers have red-nosed reindeers emblazoned upon them.”
Plunking the bacon onto the table in the nook that served as dining/reading area, Sirius
demanded, “Say you‟re joking, man!”
“I‟m joking.”
Falling into a comfortable chair, my dramatic cousin heaved a sigh of relief. He jerked upright
when Remus said straight faced, “Snuffles is the one who‟s going to wear the reindeer jumper.”
“Gods no, I‟ll chew it up, use it for…” Finally noticing our grins, Sirius grabbed several pieces
of bacon and pointed one at each of us in turn. “Funny, real funny, but if either of you gets the
idea to put one of those doggie monstrosities on me…”
Knowing how Sirius felt about my pretty friend from Morty‟s Blue Moon Agency, I said, “What
if Cami gives Snuffles one for Christmas?”
The bacon dropped from his fingers. “No. She wouldn‟t.”
Unable to keep a straight face, I giggled. “Of course not.” Waiting until we were almost done
eating, I warned, “Unless someone told Cami her beloved Snuffles needed a jumper.”
Like the great black dog that was his alter ego, Sirius‟ hearing was selective. “Beloved?”
I should never have let my pal „dog-sit‟ overnight after that first time. Camillia Llewellyn had
bonded with Snuffles in a way that continued to make me uneasy. The affection between the two
had helped the woman cope with the death of her estranged father, but now she wanted to meet
Snuffles‟ master. Kept saying a dog needed more than an absentee owner…another fine mess I‟d
got us into.
Remus responded to my pleading look with a slight smile. He reminded, “An innocent love, for a
dog, not a man.”
Sirius was unfazed, waving his hand dismissively. “Yes, yes, but love is love and if she loves the
way I comfort her now, just think of how I could…” He abruptly stopped, narrowed his eyes at
Remus and said, “No. Don‟t think of it, much less do it.” Hearing my giggle, he barked, “It‟s bad
enough, putting up with the two of you exchanging moony looks, if you get to…” Breaking off
his thought along with a piece of toast, he mumbled through a full mouth, “My appetite will be
ruined forever.”
Hearing Remus‟ chuckle, my indignation faded. Sirius couldn‟t help being jealous that we were
able to show affection freely. My eyes travelled over the face that I saw in dreams that weren‟t
comforting as much as…
“Hot?”
“What?”
“What‟s hot?” Sirius repeated.
Involuntarily, I glanced at Remus‟ lips. He gave me a slow smile that made my cheeks heat.
“This room.” I fanned my face with my hand, avoiding my cousin‟s sceptical gaze. Sneaking
another peek at my guy, I said, “Really, really hot.”
“Merlin save me.” Snatching the last of the bacon from my plate, Sirius ate it in two bites and
said, “I‟m tired of playing gooseberry. Maybe I won‟t wait until Harry‟s in the clear to tell Cami
who I really am.”
“We‟ve had this talk before, mate, and you agreed…”
“Yes, remind me of that when you get a kiss and cuddle anytime you like and I‟ve got damn all.”
Levitating his plate to the sink, Sirius stood and accused, “It‟s easy for you to preach patience,
Moony. When your fur gets rubbed the right way, you know that morning will come and her
hands will be sliding along your skin. Me? I make do with a pat on the head, so don‟t be
throwing my words back at me.” Striding across the room, he looked out the window, brooding.
“Padfoot, I‟m sorry.”
Something told me this was a pattern held over from Marauder days. Sirius would blow up and
Remus would apologize. I was fortunate to love a peacemaker, being more like my cousin than I
cared to admit. Trying to lighten the atmosphere, I said, “Hey, I‟ve seen Cami kiss you on the
mouth, you dog.”
In one of his mercurial changes of mood, Sirius turned from the window with a grin. “That‟s
how I knew she used brushing/flossing mints regularly.” Snickering, he told Remus, “Even in the
old days, when a girl‟s looks were the most important thing, fresh breath was mandatory.”
Remus walked over and made my heart race by slipping his hand into my denims pocket. Pulling
out mints, he winked at me before tossing one to Sirius and popping another into my mouth.
Nipping his finger, I said, “The better to snog you with, my dear.”
“That‟s it. I‟ll be in the loo, reading the Prophet in peace, and when I get out, we leave, is that
clear?”
Remus answered Sirius by saying, “Read the main article. It‟s the longest.”
Growling incoherent aspersions, my cousin stalked out of the room. Hearing the lavatory door
slam shut, I hurled myself at Remus. He laughingly questioned after coming up for air, “Why the
desperation? It‟s a long article.”
Pulling his head back down to mine, I muttered, “Most Blacks are speed readers.”
“Really? No wonder he…” The rest of Remus‟ comment, most likely about Sirius‟ high marks
versus low study time was cut off by my lips. I slipped my tongue along his, and communication
became eloquent but non-verbal.
After Sirius returned to the room and threatened to douse us with a cold water charm, we broke
apart and prepared to Floo to my flat over the Blue Moon. Transforming into a Newfoundland
mix, my now canine cousin waited with Remus as I grabbed a handful of powder and stepped
into the fireplace.
Exiting onto my hearth, I stared at the couple sitting pressed together on the sofa. I‟d cleaned the
flat recently; there weren‟t piles of papers or laundry to cause the closeness. They were too wrapt
up in their conversation to notice me.
“You make good coffee.”
Bubbles, my uncle‟s ditzy blonde receptionist, giggled as she told the man who looked
deceptively like a gentle giant, “That‟s „cause I made it 'specially Irish.” Reaching out a hand
currently sporting rainbow tipped fingernails, she tried to wrap it around a muscular bicep.
“Especially for you…”
Staring in disbelief as he gave a husky chuckle and she collapsed against him in giggles, I
accused, “Bubbles, you‟re pissed!”
Jimmy Durbin looked up, baby blue eyes twinkling. “I think she put in more whiskey than
coffee.”
Blinking like an inebriated sprite, Bubbles protested, “Did not. Half and half, with a bit o‟ brown
sugar and heavy cream!” Looking up at Jimmy, her lips quivered. “Don‟cha like it?”
Face creasing in a smile that in other circumstances made grown men cry, the big man said, “I
like you even more. You busy tonight Bubbles?”
Remus and Snuffles entered the lounge while the pair made arrangements for later that evening. I
was grateful not to have to try and explain why a man and dog had appeared out of the fireplace.
When the receptionist noticed them, she beamed. “Look, more friends for you to meet!” Bubbles
made giggle-filled introductions and returned to work after a final wave of her multi-coloured
fingernails.
Jimmy sat on the sofa, patting Snuffles, who he said was his kind of dog- big and friendly. I
looked at him incredulously. “Bubbles?”
Wide shoulders lifted and fell. “I always liked Tinkerbell.” Giving Remus the once-over, the part
time pizza joint owner and full time enforcer stated, “Doesn‟t look much like an Ancient Roman
to me. I‟ll have to tell the boss he was way off.”
I hadn‟t shared any of Rory‟s comments. What guy cares about what some ex-boyfriend says
anyway? Remus lifted an eyebrow. “Perhaps I should do that myself."
Uh oh, time for a change in topic. “What favour does he need, Jimmy?”
The man replied, appearing almost as soulful as Snuffles, “Melanie‟s gone missing. The cops
think Rory‟s involved, but they didn‟t have any evidence, so they let him go this morning.”
Reflexively, I said, “No.”
“Yeah, I went and got him, took him back tothe house. That‟s where he wants you to meet him,
right now.”
Snuffles gave several woofs. Jimmy patted him on the head. “Sorry, mate, his uncle‟s not fond of
dogs. You stay.” All jovial humour gone, he told Remus, “You stay too.”
Remus said quietly, “Where she goes, I go.”
“Book of Ruth, right? Granny will be pleased, me remembering something Father Davis said.”
Jimmy added, “You want to help Tonks, good, but nobody goes to Farrell‟s but her, no
exception.” He spread his hands. “Orders are orders.”
That statement raised the hackles of both Animagus and werewolf. Before things could get ugly,
I stepped between the men…and dog…saying, “Fine. I go alone to meet Rory this once,” I
stressed, continuing, “and after this, anywhere I go, they go too.”
“Even the dog?”
Snuffles growled. I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Jimmy, even the dog.”
“He got special skills or somethin‟?”
I stomped my foot to get the canine‟s attention, and to prevent his hind leg from rising any
further. Urinating on trousers was not a skill in my book. The unrepentant gleam in black doggie
eyes told me my cousin felt differently. Remus answered, “We‟ve all got special skills.”
“Cool.”
That boyish smile reminded me of one of my Auror partners. Jerry Connelly was polar opposite
of Jimmy Durbin in ethics, but both Irishmen evoked affectionate exasperation. Shaking my
head, I asked, “Farrell got a car waiting for us?”
Taking out his cell phone, the man stared at it, mystified. “It‟s not working.” He shook it before
pressing random buttons. The building‟s magical properties interfered with Muggle technology,
so I suggested we take it outside and wait for the driver to come round.
While Jimmy headed eagerly for the door, I asked casually, “Where does Melanie live?”
He obligingly rattled off an address. I gave Remus a meaningful look. He‟d already scribbled the
direction onto a scrap of paper and waved it in acknowledgment. I blew him a kiss. “I‟ll be back
soon.”
“I‟ll track you down if you aren‟t.”
The thought was reassuring and weirdly sexy. Down on the pavement outside the Blue Moon,
Jimmy contacted the driver. Once we‟d climbed into the luxurious car, he gave a short laugh.
“That Lupin bloke…he couldn‟t really do that, could he?”
I thought of the way Remus had once tracked me across a room by my scent and smiled.
We travelled to an area of the city where the neighbours were simultaneously indignant that a
man of Farrell‟s ilk would have the gall to invade their rarefied turf and a secretly pleased that
someone so notorious invited them to parties that were the envy of their posh friends. As the car
pulled into the drive, I surreptitiously engaged a charm. If Mr. Farrell was under surveillance by
law authorities, my form would be a blur when and if any pictures were taken and developed.
Allowing the driver to assist me out of the vehicle, I felt my shoulder blades prickle as I
ascended the steps to the front door. Behind me, Jimmy said apologetically, “Hope you don‟t
mind being known as the associate of a suspected criminal.”
I was still laughing when a very stiff and correct butler ushered us into the stately home.
“What‟s so funny?”
I whirled around. I‟d expected Rory, but it was Colin. The older man had similar Black Irish
good looks, but his eyes didn‟t smile like his nephew‟s did. Even in a button down shirt and suit
trousers, Mr. Farrell looked dangerous. It probably helped in the line of „work‟ he was in.
Gamblers who thought they wouldn‟t live to welsh on a bet tended to have a better payback ratio.
“Come into the study and share what you find so amusing, Miss Tonks.”
“Please, call me Tonks,” I said automatically, following the man. Inside, he shut the door. Jimmy
hadn‟t come along. “You want our conversation to be private or something, Mr. Farrell?”
“Yes, and please,” waving to a seat in front of his desk, he invited charmingly, “call me Farrell.”
Plopping down into a leather chair, I said, “You don‟t like the name Colin?”
“Do you care for Nymphadora?”
I liked his name better than mine, but maybe he thought it made him sound like an effeminate
schoolboy. Point taken, I looked around interestedly. Nice place, with all the shiny wood, tasteful
art, and everything. He made a huff of amusement. “You haven‟t changed much. I remember that
bright-eyed look, back in the days before you broke Rory‟s heart.”
“We dated for a couple months when I was fifteen and he was eighteen. I broke up with him, yes.
I might‟ve dented his ego, but I hardly broke his heart.”
He leaned forward, and suddenly I believed every rumour I‟d ever heard about the man‟s
ruthlessness. Without expression, he promised, “If you let my nephew, my heir, down again, you
will regret it…Tonks.”
At least he hadn‟t threatened my loved ones, like a Slytherin ex had, when he‟d blackmailed me
into doing a job for him. In an odd way, I respected that „Uncle Colin‟ cared enough to threaten
me, and he did allow his orphaned nephew to call him by his disliked first name. That was
almost sweet. I nodded. “Fair enough…Farrell.”
Picking up the telephone receiver- I knew from films that land lines were easier to keep from
being bugged- he inclined his head and half smiled. “We understand each other, then. Rory‟s up
in his old room. You remember the way?”
“Uh huh.” My affirmation was given an affable nod. I let myself out and climbed the staircase. I
always liked Art Deco. The house still made me feel like I was in one of those old comic books
Rory used to read. The Shadow or something… At the end of the corridor, I raised my hand to
knock. The music coming from the other side froze me in my tracks. Was he listening to Queen?
The door opened, and the words to Crazy Little Thing Called Love became loud and clear.
Smiling at me, Rory said, “Uncle Colin said you‟d be right up. Remember that summer, when we
danced to this? Let‟s see if you‟ve still got the moves, Nym.”
On the surface, my willingness to be spun around by this bloke wasn‟t a good idea. He was
suspected of any number of crimes. Rory was also barefoot, bare-chested, and extremely fit. Not
that I felt more than art appreciation, but this dance wasn‟t something I was going to share with
my new love. I had sound reasons for doing it, though, besides the fact that he was a great
dancer.
Rory‟s dark eyes weren‟t smiling. They were haunted and sad. The sappy part of me wanted to
cheer him up, while the Auror wanted to make him trust me, so I could get the truth. After the
song ended, he sat on the bed and suggested, “Want to make out, like old times?”
“No.” Trying to soften the blunt truth, I said jokingly, “Why don‟t you put a shirt on so we can
do what we used to when I wouldn‟t let you take off mine.”
Pulling on a tee, Rory‟s smile finally made it to his eyes. “Go make hot fudge sundaes?”
“Yeah.”
“A little early in the day, isn‟t it?”
I smirked. “It‟s five o‟clock somewhere.”
In the kitchen that any house elf would approve of, the housekeeper left so „Mr. Rory‟ and his
guest could have privacy. I went to the cabinets that used to hold crystal dishes. They still did.
“Not a lot changes in this house, except the people.”
I waited until we both sat on stools at the kitchen counter before responding, “How‟ve you
changed, Rory?”
His spoon played with the hot fudge, but he didn‟t eat any. He pulled out a small photo from his
denims pocket. Handing it over, Rory watched me scrutinise the face of Melanie O‟Neill. She
was extremely pretty, with dark red curls. I savoured a large bite of my sundae, wondering
humorously if I was the only ex-girlfriend who didn‟t look like a model. Answering my spoken
question, he said, “I take no for an answer now. The day before Mel disappeared; we had a row.
Some of the boys heard rumours that she was stepping out on me. I went by her place to tell her
if she wanted to see someone else, fine, but I didn‟t appreciate being made a fool.” Picking up
his cherry by the stem, Rory twirled it while admitting, “The corridor outside her flat probably
wasn‟t the best place to argue. Several neighbours overheard.”
He offered me the maraschino. I took it, asking what he‟d said before popping it into my mouth.
I choked when he admitted, “I told her she was dead to me.”
                                   Chapter 3- Promise by Moonlight
I told her she was dead to me.
Luckily, the goblet of water I grabbed and drank washed the cherry down before Rory had to do
the Heimlich on me. I could almost see my mother frowning that I should chew food better.
Mentally saying „yes, Mum,‟ I regained composure and shook my head. “Rory, besides sounding
like a cheesy mobster line, didn‟t you think the neighbours might get the wrong idea?”
“Since I didn‟t know she‟d go missing, I didn‟t give a rat‟s arse what the neighbours thought at
that point in time.”
“Did you tell that to the cops?” I was curious to know if he‟d tried to cooperate, or if he‟d
stonewalled, saying nothing but „I want a solicitor.‟
“Sure. They threw it back at me. Said I didn‟t care if someone overheard my threat because I
thought I was above the law, didn‟t I?” Surging to his feet, Rory took his dish to the sink and
rinsed it out. Cutting off the water, he smiled wryly. “That‟s when I demanded a solicitor.”
I‟d done my share of interrogating suspects, so I knew how relentless detectives could be, how
everything said was rapidly turned around, in hopes of prying out more information. Trying not
to come across too obviously as „good cop‟, I said, “I don‟t blame you.” From the other side of
the counter, he shot me a sceptical look. I raised my hands. “I can see both sides, Rory, and I‟ve
worked too many cases to jump to any conclusions.”
Relaxing, he volunteered, “Cops think I went to get back on Melanie, but it wasn‟t about getting
even. I thought she‟d laugh it off, that she was real, you know? Somebody like you, a person
who would tell you if they changed their mind about keeping company, not just another bird on
the pull…”
“I remember, fine as five pence, right?”
“Right.” Rory stared curiously when I took a small orb out of my pocket. “What‟s that?”
“A recordbrall…erm…a recording device…experimental… I need details if I‟m going to find
Melanie. That is what you want me to do, isn‟t it?”
Distracted from his scrutiny of the magical object, Rory nodded determinedly. “Yes. I had
nothing to do with her disappearance, and even if I didn‟t want the cops off my back, I‟d still
want to find Mel.”
“How serious were you?”
Interestingly, his cheekbones showed a tinge of a blush. “You asking if we had it off?”
“Not precisely, I just wanted to know how intimate your relationship was.”
He held up a finger and went to grab a beer. Taking a long swallow, Rory said, “Five o‟clock
somewhere, right? Okay, here‟s the short of it. I met Mel at her family‟s pub, Molly O‟Neill‟s. I
was there to hear a band. She was the warm up act. Sings a bit too airy-fairy for me, but I‟d never
seen a prettier redhead. I‟d parted ways with Audrey, so I asked her out. She said „why not‟ and
we got along great, until I heard rumours.”
“Define „great‟.”
Leaning toward me, black eyebrows rose. “What do you think?”
Now I was turning pink. “I‟m not talking about the physical aspect right now. I need to know if
she told you about herself, her family and friends. I‟m going to have to talk to them.”
He looked upward, as if asking for patience from above. “It wasn‟t that kind of relationship,
Nym. We went out, we had fun. Mel wasn‟t like you, wanting to know a bloke‟s thoughts and
dreams. She wanted to keep things light.”
Shallow and superficial, more like. Biting my tongue, I refrained from comment. Rory said
thoughtfully, “Met about everyone in the family, though. Her father passed away a few years ago
from cancer. Mother is the unsinkable namesake of the bar.” Grinning, he added, “Loves me, she
does.” His smile faded. “Her sister Jenna disapproves. She‟s your bitter single mum with a great
kid, Danny. There are a few more assorted relatives, all of which seemed to like me, except
Jenna, who thinks I‟m charming bastard and never hesitates to say so to my face.”
I marvelled, “She thinks you‟re a bastard and still calls you charming? Boyo, you do have a way
with women.” While Rory looked thunderstruck by the realization of his impressive
blarney-master skills, I asked quickly, “Did Melanie sing anywhere else besides the pub? How
many times a week did you go out? At the end, was there a change? Was she unusually attentive
the last few days, or weeks, making you dinner, going out of her way to dress the way you like,
treat you extra special in any way, or maybe even showing more passion?”
“Is that what cheaters do?”
“Yes.” I knew first hand. I‟d never cheated on Remus in the usual meaning of the word, but the
one time I‟d deliberately gone behind his back, I‟d done all of the above, trying everything to
make up for my lies.
Running a hand over his hair, Rory gave a bitter smile. “She was a cheat, then. I‟d got
concerned, since the last few weeks, she seemed to swing from being too busy, tired, or ill to go
out, and being desperate to see me. Mel even showed up in the middle of the night a couple days
before we had it out.” Shrugging, Rory changed the subject and listed the other pubs she‟d sung
at before saying, “So. You ever do this kind of enquiry before?”
“Not really. But I owe you, so I‟ll learn fast.”
“Thanks,” he said huskily. When a wicked smile started to spread across his face, I acted on
instinct. Deactivating the recordbrall was a good move. Rory teased, “I remember another skill
you learned with flattering speed.”
So I‟d been fifteen and never been kissed. Refusing to react in a way that might get the subject
brought up again, in front of Remus, I smiled blandly. “Yes, I did become ace at skittles.” He
laughed. I asked, “Where did you go after breaking up with Melanie?”
The label of his beer became suddenly fascinating. His eyes were fixed on it. “I drove around,
came home.”
“Can anybody verify that?”
He shook his head. Jimmy entered the kitchen, grinning. “Hey Tonks, you‟ve been tracked
down. That dog of yours is sitting on the steps outside.”
Rory opened a drawer and tossed me a 'cell phone', rattling off some numbers. I said them back,
engaging a wandless memory charm so I wouldn‟t forget. “That your number?” He nodded. I
nodded back and Jimmy nodded too. Within moments, we‟d gone from nodding to sniggering
like goofy kids. It was one of the things I‟d liked most about the boys, back in the day. Telling
the guys I‟d be in touch, I strolled to the front door of the manse, Muggle communication device
in my pocket and „paparazzi‟ charm in place.
“Woof!” Snuffles greeted, once I stepped outside.
Taking the litre bottle I‟d brought from the kitchen, I twisted off the cap and poured some water
into my hand. After lapping up half the bottle, the dog licked my cheek, presumably in thanks.
Behind me, the driver asked in a pained voice if I…and my canine companion…required
transportation. Furry black ears perked up, but I shook my head. “No thanks, we‟ll walk.”
Grouchy, grumbling noises emanated from Snuffles‟ throat as we strolled down the drive. Once
I‟d engaged a voice obfuscation charm, I scolded, “Think about what doggie nails would do to
leather. These people are Muggles, cousin, they can‟t repair it with spells, and anyway, nobody
asked you to come. I wasn‟t in danger, you dunderhead.” He began barking furiously. I
remembered who‟d used that term frequently and said, “Sorry for using Snape‟s favourite word.”
When he calmed, I added, “I‟ll say dimwit next time.”
Quiet laughter caused me to whirl around. “I‟m using a Disillusionment charm,” Remus said,
when I called his name. Unseen arms slid around me, pulling me back against the body I didn‟t
have to see to recognize by scent and touch. I offered the water bottle. He drank it, inhaling
deeply. “Did Farrell need his hands held?”
I wished I could see his face. I told the truth, but not all of it. “Yes.”
Good thing we‟d reached the tall hedge at the end of the drive, out of sight of passers by. I was
also thankful trees obscured the view from the house. No one could see me standing with eyes
half closed, head lolled to the side to allow lips I could only feel to make their stimulating way
up my skin.
“As long as he keeps his hands off the rest of you.” His words received an „Mmm Hmm‟ in
reply. I was too distracted by Remus‟ hands, which had slipped beneath my top and were slowly
circling upwards. It was hard not to move restlessly, impossible to keep from breathing quickly.
How far would he go?
I didn‟t get to find out. Snuffles tugged at the wide hem of my denims, growling and pulling me
off balance. Remus steadied me. After clearing his throat, my guy said in a low tone that blended
apology, amusement, and something that made me blush, “Sorry about that, Padfoot. This is not
the time or place for…ah…displays of affection. We came to tell Tonks about our investigation,
not to…ahem…”
“What did you find out?” Stepping away from Remus, ignoring the dog that still had hold of my
hem, I‟d attempted to sound businesslike. From the low growl that came from a canine throat,
breathy was a better description. Rolling my eyes, I tried again. “Did you go to Melanie‟s flat?”
“Yes, and although the flat was searched at least once before, nothing looks to have been taken
except perhaps a handbag. Padfoot and I agreed that you should come have a look, see you if
notice something we didn‟t.”
I was flattered they thought I could. Not every wizard I worked with was like Connelly, thinking
I was brilliant. Some were chauvinists that acted as though women should be answering owls or
fetching coffee while leaving the „real work‟ to the men. My smiling agreement broke off as I
noticed a car pull up, blocking the drive. The vehicle didn‟t look posh enough to be one of
Farrell‟s, so I guessed Muggle law enforcement types were trying to get a better shot of the
mystery guest. Pivoting, I sprinted for the trees, calling, “I don‟t know where she lives exactly,
so I‟m going to Apparate to the nearest park!”
I heard Remus‟ assurance that they‟d soon follow before other sounds spurred me to into a burst
of speed. Car doors opened and voices called, “Halt!” Ducking behind an oak to take a breath
and Apparate, I hoped the cops didn‟t run after me. If Jimmy saw them on security cameras, he
might let loose dogs far less friendly than Snuffles.
The park I Apparated to had only a single witness to my arrival. Raising his head from watching
his dog urinate against a bench, the old man uninterestedly muttered, “Morning,” and tugged his
terrier into continuing their walk.
“The policemen were upset about losing the opportunity to question a possible witness.”
Turning to see Remus straighten after releasing Snuffles‟ collar, I asked, “What did they say?”
He half-smiled to hear the deep, menacing sound emanating from our Animagus friend. “They
think you might be part of a love triangle”
“What? Like a ruddy episode of EastEnders?” I practically growled, referring to my Gran‟s
favourite programme.
I took Snuffles‟ „woof‟ as affirmative. Remus said, “Unfortunately, it seems they‟re grasping at
leads.”
“I won‟t go back to Farrell‟s, then.”
“Good.” No elaboration was necessary for me to know Remus would‟ve been happier if I ceased
all contact with Rory, but he would support my decision to honour a promise. He reached for my
fingers, squeezing gently for a second. I leaned toward him. A series of yips prevented me from
completing the kiss to show my appreciation of his understanding. Shooting daggers at the
impatient mutt, I held Remus‟ hand as we walked.
In front of Melanie‟s building, a short bark reminded us that Snuffles was waiting for someone to
perform a concealment charm on him too. While Remus waved his wand, I asked, “If Sirius
keeps his faculties while transformed as Snuffles, shouldn‟t he be able to perform wandless
magic?”
Although I couldn‟t see the canine anymore, the low, pitiful whine made it easy to envision sad
doggie eyes. There was a suspicious cough before he replied, “At Hogwarts, Padfoot was too
busy practising snogging to bother learning to utilise the skill while in alternate form.”
My eyes rolled, not that either of them could see or appreciate the additional sarcasm. “Typical
wizard- thinks his wand is the end all and be all.”
Remus began „coughing‟ again. Snuffles made huffing sounds that were the canine equivalent of
chuckles. Hidden from sight, I smiled ruefully, letting them enjoy the moment of male humour
before clearing my throat pointedly. “This way,” my guy instructed, once he and his four legged
friend got hold of themselves. We entered with a simple „Alohomora‟ and took the stairs to the
third floor.
Melanie‟s flat was ridiculously easy to enter. No wonder the Ministry levied such harsh penalties
for crimes against Muggles. They would be irresistible marks otherwise. Once inside, Sirius
transformed into his bi-pedal self and groused as Remus waved his wand in the sealant spell that
would keep us from leaving any trace of our presence, “I‟m tired of living without a wand. It
makes me feel…”
“Insecure?” Remus offered blandly, throwing me a wink.
“Inadequate?” I added helpfully, seeing my cousin‟s scowl deepen.
“Emasculated!” Sirius barked, throwing up his hands when he saw our reactions. “Snicker all
you want, mates, but neither of you deals with the bloody headaches that come with using
wandless magic for every piddling thing.”
I hadn‟t considered that. Feeling guilty for making fun, I offered, “I‟ve got a spare you could
have.” When the guys both gave me surprised looks, I explained, “It wasn‟t lifted off a crime
scene, I went with Gran to a boot sale and found it labelled as a „magician‟s wand‟. I did a test,
and no Dark magic or crime has ever been done with it."
“Sounds perfect, what‟s the catch?”
My cousin‟s sharp ears had picked up the „but‟ implied in my tone. Trying hard not to break into
juvenile giggles, I looked at neither wizard while saying, “Well, its willow, not the luckiest of
woods, and…the wand‟s kind of short.”
An awkward silence fell. Finally, Sirius said philosophically, “Well, if the saying is true, it‟s in
the way that you use it, anyway, so I‟ll be glad to have the wand, Nymph.”
“Okay, Grim,” I returned, prudently keeping my gaze from Remus. Instead, my eyes scanned the
flat. Clothes were strewn across the floral sofa. Fashion and celebrity magazines were piled on
dainty side tables. Dust formed a layer over her telly. Shoes had been kicked off and left
wherever they landed. A couple of dead plants decomposed in colourful pots. Mel was messier
than me. That was something to like about her, at least.
“I‟ll check out the coolant cabinet again, look for clues I might‟ve missed before.”
“You mean edible food, Sirius?” I called as he began sniffing a container of beef chow mein.
“He ate leftover chicken last time,” Remus said in an undertone. We shared a smile.
“Hey! I just realised this is way too large for one person. Miss O‟Neill had a guest for dinner
before Rory came over. Stuff‟s still fresh.”
Sirius came out of the small kitchen and handed the red and white box to Remus, who smiled as
he read the name aloud, “Lee Ho Fooks.” Taking a sniff, he nodded. “I agree. Did Farrell have
dinner with Ms. O‟Neill?”
How embarrassing. I didn‟t think so, but Rory hadn‟t said if they‟d planned on having dinner
before the fight in the corridor changed their plans. Taking out the cell phone, I carefully
punched the tiny buttons and gingerly lifted the receiver to my ear.
“Hello, Nym.”
He could tell it was me? Cool. “Hello, Rory, I need to know, did you have dinner plans with
Melanie that night?”
“No, she was tired, going to stay in and go to bed early, why?”
“Uhm…” I tried to think of a diplomatic way to ask. “Do you know anybody she‟d ask over for
beef chow mein?”
Silence fell. I shook the phone thingy in case that would help reception. It must‟ve, since Rory
said, “She‟s got two friends, but they‟re the types who prefer to spend their calories on alcohol.
Mel might‟ve invited her sister and nephew. Danny likes Chinese.”
“Thanks. Before we continue searching, is there anywhere you know of that Melanie would hide
important papers?”
“Hmm…she said she had a desk in her bedroom, a Louis-something, that had a hidden drawer.
Mel was proud she‟d won it at an estate sale.”
I thanked him and painstakingly pressed the button to end the call. Remus and Sirius had been
watching me keenly. I showed them the phone. “Blasted thing is too small. I feel like I need
Pixie fingers to work it.”
Examining the device, Remus handed it back, asking, “Can you be traced from using that?”
“I don‟t think so. No wires.”
Looking relieved, he inquired, “Did Farrell suggest a place to look?”
“Yeah, the desk in her bedroom.”
Sirius volunteered to re-check beneath sofa cushions and drawers in the kitchen and lounge. I
suggested he lift the dead plants and check beneath those too. In the bedroom, Remus and I
skirted around the unmade bed to approach the desk.
Elegant and feminine, the mahogany escritoire was jammed with papers. I sorted through them
while my partner examined the desk. He‟d found nothing last time, but admitted the clutter had
hampered his search.
Piles of receipts for clothes, music, and shoes, amongst a myriad of other personal items, painted
a picture of a young woman who spent her wages on herself.
“This is the third time I‟ve searched this desk for hidden compartments, with spells and the old
fashioned way, by hand. I can‟t find anything. Do you want to give it a go?”
Nodding absently, my attention was riveted by our reflection in the mirror over the bureau.
Turning, his gaze followed mine. When he smiled, I sighed. “Don‟t we look wonderful
together?”
Wrapping his arms around me, Remus bent to kiss my cheek. “I think so, and as long as you do
too, who cares about anyone else?”
I placed my hands over his and leaned back against his warm strength. In the mirror, we smiled
into each other‟s eyes.
“Damn it to Azkaban, what do you two think you‟re doing?”
“Shite!” I yelped, while jerking out of Remus‟ arms like a teenager caught snogging by her dad.
Crashing into the desk, I rubbed my sore hip and defended, “None of your business, Sirius, but
we‟d already searched the desk and found…” My cousin was starting to grin, pointing to a tiny
scrap of paper that had fallen from the underside of the desk. Remus chuckled. “You found it.”
I giggled. “We found it, all of us.”
Sirius had already picked up the minute letter and read aloud,
M, if you come tonight, I‟ll be waiting. J
“Who the hell is „J‟?” Sirius asked, holding out the paper.
Remus took the missive and examined it closely before shaking his head. “The bigger question
is...why is this note written on wizard parchment?”
                                   Chapter 4- Chasing Moonlight
I was glad it was the weekend. My experience with missing persons was previously limited to
the still unresolved Jorkins case, but common sense dictated that sooner was better when it came
to collecting information. Keeping that in mind, Remus and I took our tail wagging companion
over to Cami‟s for their afternoon run before we planned to visit the O‟Neill family pub.
Opening the door, my friend pushed back limp brown hair and smiled wanly. “I took a Pepper
Up potion, but I‟m still not in any shape to go running today.” Kneeling to ruffle black fur, she
said, “I could use a pal to cuddle with, though.”
The massive dog immediately leaned against her, looking up with soulful doggie eyes. She
patted his head affectionately, giving him one of those pecks on the mouth that always made me
cringe. Remus „coughed‟. I bowed to the inevitable. “Okay. We‟ll be back for him in a few
hours.” Glancing sideways, I winked at my guy before asking, “How‟d you like some Beef
Chow Mein for dinner?”
Snuffles gave a woof. Cami hugged him. “I think that‟s dog for „very much‟. I‟d love the
company, and some Egg Drop soup.”
Waving goodbye, I held Remus‟ hand as we descended the stairs. He murmured, “Chinese from
Lee Ho Fook‟s?”
“I doubt anyone remembers anything helpful, but don‟t you want to go, just because of the
name?”
“How do you know I haven‟t been going for years?”
My jaw dropped. “What? You‟ve been going there, and you never told me, when you know how
much I like Werewolves of London?”
“No, I just asked a hypothetical question.”
We‟d reached the first floor landing. I pulled him close. “Leading me on, were you? Prepare to
pay.” His chuckle became an appreciative „Mmm‟ when I kissed him. I enjoyed not only the
knee weakening embrace, but the freedom to initiate it. Maybe I‟d been young and insecure, but
I‟d never made the first move on a guy before Remus. It was heady stuff. His hands slid down to
my backside, pressing me closer. Thank Merlin he liked my aggressive side. Playfully, I backed
him against the wall, my tongue boldly delving. With a sexy growl, he reversed our positions.
The warm weight of his body felt so good, I moaned, “Oh Remus!”
“Oh my!”
Even if I hadn‟t recognised Cami‟s voice, the barking would‟ve let me know who had witnessed
our little display of affection. While Remus‟ shoulders shook with repressed laughter, I ordered
crossly, “Shut it, Sir…Snuffles.”
My guy‟s shoulders weren‟t shaking any more. I gave his watchful face an apologetic glance as
Camillia led the dog down the stairs to us, giggling. “Were you trying to say Sir Snuffles? He‟s a
prince of a dog, but that name‟s ridiculous.”
I agreed with a nervous laugh. “Isn‟t it? He acts like he‟s lord of all he surveys, sometimes,
which is why I call him the silly name.”
Looking at the canine, my pal said thoughtfully, “He‟s probably jealous of sharing people‟s
attention.” Hazel eyes turned accusing. “I could tell right off that Snuffles was affection
deprived. He needs loads of tender loving care.” Of course the mongrel whined pitifully right
then, nudging Cami‟s hand. Her fingers clenched into a fist before relaxing and petting his fur.
“When his owner comes back, I‟m going to have my say, and I‟m going to get serious!”
My cousin panted happily, at the thought of her „getting Sirius‟, no doubt. When I gave him a
steely eyed look, he blinked his at me, the wretch. Not about to descend to the level of flashing
vulgar hand gestures at an animal, even if there was a wizard‟s mind inhabiting it, I said to Cami,
“You decided to go on a walk or something?”
“No, our big sweetie here was acting restless, so I thought perhaps he needed to go outside, if
you know what I mean.”
Snuffles wasn‟t looking quite so pleased with himself anymore. I smirked. “Well, I‟m sure he‟ll
take care of business if you wait long enough.”
Cami snorted. “I have to turn my back or he won‟t go. Very modest, is our friend.”
Remus burst out laughing. The woman frowned while the dog growled. My partner held up his
hands. “I apologise, it‟s just that the thought of him being modest is so amusing.”
I loved to see him grinning like a schoolboy. Taking his hand in mine, I said to the other couple,
pair, whatever, “We‟ll see you later, bye.”
Once outside, Remus gave a low chuckle. “When I think of the times we gave Padfoot hell for
relieving himself on whatever bush or building was handy…” His smile faded. “People change,
don‟t they?”
“For the better,” I said firmly.
He lifted my hand to his lips, pressing a kiss against the back before letting go. We headed for
the nearest Floo station and went inside. Exiting another London station a short while later, I
asked as we walked, “Do you think we should try and talk to the mother and sister together, or
separate them?”
“What would you do as an Auror?”
I admitted, “Separate them.”
“Alright, which O‟Neill should I speak to?”
I thought of how attractive Remus would appear to a bitter divorced woman with a kid and tried
to answer nonchalantly, “The mother, I suppose.”
“Really? I could take the sister, if you…”
“You even think about taking anybody but me and I‟ll…” His lips were twitching suspiciously.
Realising what I‟d just said, I tried not to blush.
He couldn‟t hide a smile, asking, “What?”
I looked down my nose, replying almost as loftily as my mother, “I‟ll demonstrate hexes Aurors
don‟t tell you about because then they‟d have to kill you.”
“No demonstration is necessary,” Remus assured with a tiny smile.
Bumping his arm with mine, I said, “Don‟t forget my family motto.”
He slipped an arm around my waist. “Toujours Pur? What a daunting thing to say.”
“Not always pure, you daft man. The Tonks motto, Facta, non verba.”
“Deeds, not words.” Brushing a kiss across my silvery hair, he said, “I‟ll remember.”
I had the feeling that Remus was speaking on more than one level, but I didn‟t have the time to
continue the conversation. We‟d arrived. Opening the door to O‟Neill‟s, he bent to whisper in my
ear, “The game‟s afoot!” I smilingly nodded and entered the family run pub that had an air of
lively good humour. Part of the atmosphere came from the dark, comfortable, décor. The rest
was derived from the sound of live Gaelic music and the Irish accents of the Muggles gathered.
In his brown coat and trousers, Remus blended in better than I did in my leather jacket and
patched denims. At the bar, an attractive redhead who looked to be around Mum‟s age was
supervising a young girl serving drinks.
Remus asked, “Ms. O‟Neill?”
“Herself,” the Irishwoman said with a smile.
“We‟d like to speak to you about Melanie.”
Her friendly smile froze. “Are you here for a story?”
“No, we‟re looking into the matter at Mr. Farrell‟s request.”
The combination of Remus‟ respectful tone and Rory‟s name worked like magic. All smiles
again, she waved us to the far end of the pub, where the singer‟s haunting vocals became a soft
background. Once she sat down, the woman asked, “What would you like to know?”
Remus nodded to me. I smiled politely. “Perhaps I might speak to your daughter Jenna while my
partner asks you a few questions?”
In a way that set my teeth on edge, she said dismissively, “Sure, Jenna‟s in the office through the
corridor marked „Staff only‟.” Focusing on Remus, her mouth curved. “I‟m Molly, and you
are…?”
I headed toward the office, controlling my temper with effort. Something about women who
acted like only big, strong men were worth giving the time of day made me long to practice my
Aranea Hex. I‟d used it once on a domestic goddess named Hestia, but her „spider bite‟ hadn‟t
swollen up…and I really, really wanted to see it happen.
In the staff corridor, a redheaded boy was playing with a blue racing car that seemed to zoom
around by magic. He noticed my curious regard and said, “It‟s a 1411 Le Mans. My friend Rory
adapted it for radio control and gave it to me.”
I saw the device in his hand and nodded. “Cool.”
“Yeah, it‟s ace.”
“Danny? Who are you talking to?” At the other end, a woman stood in the doorway, looking at
me with a frown.
Stepping around the miniature vehicle that likely came from a collection Colin had started for
Rory when he was Danny‟s age, I said, “I‟m Tonks. Rory Farrell engaged me to look into
Melanie‟s disappearance. Are you Jenna? Your mum told me it was alright to come back and ask
you a few questions.”
“I don‟t see how you could be any more incompetent than the police. Come into my office.”
Sitting in a battered armchair across a cluttered desk from the woman, I was surprised. Although
she had freckles and straight auburn hair rather than the dark red curls of her younger, prettier
sister, Jenna didn‟t look like a bitter divorcee. She was an attractive woman in her late twenties
with a straightforward attitude. “Farrell may have a dodgy reputation, but I know he didn‟t have
anything to do with my sister‟s disappearance. Mum and I both told that to the detectives, but
they seemed too happy to have a suspect to listen.”
“I heard you said he was a charming bastard.”
The woman‟s dark green eyes looked me over. “I said that. It‟s true. He uses charm in the same
way Melanie uses her beauty.” Threading her fingers together, Jenna asked coolly, “Why do you
ask? Are you hoping to replace my sister now that they‟ve broken up?”
“No, and who told you they broke up?”
Her expression froze, much the same way Molly‟s had. Reaching out to pick up a pencil, she
tapped it against the desktop. “Melanie.”
“When?”
“The night they argued. She was upset, but not gutted. He wasn‟t the love of her life or
anything.”
“No?” My feigned surprise drew an interesting reaction.
“No. My sister loves herself more than anybody else in the world.” Jenna smiled wryly. “I can‟t
really blame her. Mum and Dad gave her anything she wanted, told her she was beautiful and
destined to be a star from the day she was born.”
“What about you?”
“I spoilt Melanie too, helping with school work, letting her borrow my clothes, my shoes, my…”
“Boyfriends?” Some instinct made me slip that in. She turned a shade of red that clashed with
her hair. Standing, she said, “Get out. I don‟t know what you‟re trying to get at, but I won‟t put
up with intrusive questions.”
“Why not? Rory did.”
Before Jenna could order me out again, her son came charging into the room. “Mum, I gotta call
Rory. My car‟s not working right again. He‟s got to come fix it, he promised.”
“I‟m sorry, darling, I don‟t have his number.”
“But Mum…”
“Would you like to borrow my phone, Danny?” I offered the cell phone, which was grabbed
eagerly.
The boy pressed the numbers with an enviable ease, saying rapidly when the call was answered,
“Hi Rory, its Danny. Your friend Tonks gave me her phone. The remote‟s gone wonky again.
You gotta fix it, I can‟t reverse. Yeah, I did that, uh huh, you‟ll come right over? I‟ll go wait by
the back door right now! Thanks, Rory!” He tossed me the phone with a smile that showcased a
missing tooth. “Thanks, I gotta go!”
His mother stared after him with a soft expression. “I wish I had some of his energy.”
“I wish I had more tact.” Rising, I said, “Sorry to come on strong with the questions, but I really
do want to find Melanie, and sad to say, people closest to the person missing are often
responsible. Thank you for your time, I‟ll see myself out.”
“Wait.” Reaching into a drawer, Jenna handed me a sheet of paper. “Here‟s a copy of the list I
made for the police. It‟s all the places my sister likes to go, a couple of friends‟ numbers, and the
names of the other pubs Mel sings at. I hope it helps.”
I couldn't help mentally comparing the handwriting. She was a 'J' after all. No match. I smiled.
“Thank you.”
Closing the door to her office, I decided to make a quick side stop before seeing how Remus was
faring with and fending off Molly O‟Neill. Approaching the boy who was practically bouncing
in anticipation, I asked, “Hey, Danny, I have a cousin about your age. Do you think he‟d fancy a
car like yours for Christmas?”
In the blunt manner of children, he said, “Sure, but I don‟t think you could afford it.” He named
a price in pounds that made me blink. Looking down at the little luxury item proudly, Danny
boasted, “My friends call me a jammy git.”
I admired the vehicle, saying, “You take good care of it. The car seems brand new.”
“I just got it a couple of days ago.”
A chill ran down my spine, but I kept my tone casual. “Oh, when Aunt Melanie had you over for
Chinese?”
Fiddling with the control, Danny replied absently, “No, Rory gave it to me later, because Melly
told him I could probably hear him call her a slag, and he wanted to say he was sorry.”
A knock sounded. I jumped and backed away. “Thanks for telling me about the car. Say hi to
Rory for me.”
“Okay.”
I retraced my steps back to the public area. Remus was sitting alone, drinking a pint of Guinness.
He saw my tight smile and immediately stood. “Are you ready to leave?”
“MmmHmm…”
He drew on his coat and escorted me out of the pub. Outside, I scanned the pavement and the
street, but didn‟t see any signs of Jimmy or any of the „boys‟. Urging Remus to follow me into
the alley across the road, I said, “Let‟s talk back at my flat.” Nodding, he Disapparated. My
phone rang. Against my better judgement, I answered, “Yes?”
“Been havin‟ a talk with young Danny, have you?”
Rory‟s Irish was up. When we‟d gone together, I‟d thought that tone menacingly sexy. Now, it
was just menacing.
“What if I have?”
“Leave the boy out of this. I won‟t ask again.”
“Fine.” I hung up. The phone rang, but I didn‟t answer. I Disapparated.
On the pavement outside the Blue Moon Agency, Remus was pacing. “What took you so long?”
The phone rang. I pointed to it meaningfully before flipping the bloody electronic nuisance open.
“Yeah?”
“Don‟t hang up on me again, Nym.”
“Don‟t call in favours and then threaten me, boyo.”
I looked at Remus. The word „threaten‟ had him narrowing his eyes dangerously. It was very
sexy. I stared at the phone when I heard,
“Tha mi duilich.”
He was sorry…in Gaelic… That‟s when I knew Rory was arse deep in something. Sighing, I
replied, “Ceart gu leor.”
Remus asked when I hung up the phone, “What did you say?”
“One of my few Gaelic phrases…means right enough, or okay. He said he was sorry.”
Releasing the wards on the front door, I led the way upstairs. Inside the flat, I threw my arms
around Remus. “I think this is case is going to be more complicated than I thought.”
He ran his fingers through my hair. “Want to talk about it on the sofa?”
I nodded gratefully. Usually, „talking‟ was more a euphemism for me draping myself over
Remus as he stretched out on the sofa, chatting a little and snogging a lot. This time, I lay my
head against his chest and listened to the steady beat of his heart while I shared what happened at
the pub. The hands that had slipped beneath my top to rub my back stopped circling while he
mulled everything over.
Curious about his own conversation, I lifted my head and asked, “Did Molly give you any leads,
or was she too busy trying to get on with you?”
His little smile was smugly adorable. “She tried to get on with me, until I mentioned that you
were my partner in all things. After dropping the breathy lilt, Molly informed me that Melanie
last called an hour after the fight with Rory, saying she didn‟t want to stay alone at the flat.
According to Ms. O‟Neill, her daughter never arrived or called to say where she was. Several
regulars are policemen, and one of them got the search of the flat authorised, since possible
violence was involved.”
“Violence?”
“Molly said that such a threat was the only way to expedite the system, but she continues to tell
anyone who asks that Rory had nothing to do with Melanie‟s disappearance. She chooses to
believe her daughter took off on a whim for a few days and will call soon.” Remus traced my
mouth with a fingertip while saying, “A mother in denial, clinging to false hope. I‟ve seen it
before.”
His distant, shadowed look reminded me that he‟d fought in a Wizarding war that I‟d spent
playing with friends and wishing I could keep a stray dog called „Grim‟. Nipping at his finger in
an effort to distract, I scooted up when he chuckled and kissed him full on the mouth before
rolling gracelessly onto the floor. “I‟d rather stay here and snog, but I promised Cami soup and
Snuffles will chew my shoes if we don‟t deliver the chow mein soon.”
Rising from the sofa, he extended a hand to lift me up. “We can‟t have that. You might force me
to accompany you shopping to replace them.” Opening the door, he grinned. “Now if he chewed
up your lingerie…”
-
I was still smiling over the image of modelling lacy bits for Remus when we arrived at the tiny
Chinese establishment. Remus inhaled the delicious scents wafting from the kitchen in a manner
that reminded me of the way he drew in my scent. Everything girly inside me went Ah-Wooo! I
slanted a glance at my guy while we waited to place our order, thinking that his hair, and
everything else, was perfect.
After handing the till assistant the correct amount of Muggle money, I handed her a small
photograph. A gleam of amusement lit the young woman‟s eyes. “Are you looking for her, like
in a detective show?”
Remus nodded. “Her family is very concerned. She came in for take away the night she
disappeared. Do you remember her?”
“No, but I go to school and only work weekends. My cousin was here, he‟d remember such a
pretty girl.” Smiling, she called back to the kitchen. “John Woo!”
My eyes flew to Remus‟. I could tell he was remembering the same thing I was.
M, if you come tonight, I‟ll be waiting. J
The young man who answered the summons stopped smiling when the girl handed him the
photo, saying before we asked, “Never saw her before.”
Remus accepted the photograph, but held it toward the other man. “Are you sure? She was a
regular customer. Melanie O‟Neill.”
Backing away, John said, “Look, we‟re always busy. Lots of people come in for the beef chow
mein. I can‟t remember them all. Now, you‟re holding up the line, so take your food and go,
customers are waiting and...”
“Are you sure you weren‟t waiting for Melanie, John? We never mentioned her order,” I cut in.
He paled before turning and making a break for the back door. His cousin stared after him,
mouth open in shock. I grabbed the receipt and scrawled down Cami‟s address. Remus told the
girl as I slapped it down on the counter,
“Change our order to delivery.”
                                    Chapter 5- Moonlight Run
-
Pushing past the customers in pursuit of John Woo, we rushed back outside.
Remus cocked his head to the side, listening, before saying, “Sounds like he left on a motorbike.
Here‟s the photograph.”
I took the picture and walked beside him while weaving a tracking spell. It didn‟t matter how fast
or far John ran. Thanks to his touching Melanie‟s picture, we‟d be able to find him. When the tip
of my wand glowed, I looked around to make sure no Muggles were near.
“Window or side mirror, which one would be better?” Remus asked, pointing to the closest
reflective surfaces.
Impressed with his knowledge, I smiled and touched a nearby vehicle‟s mirror. An address
„appeared‟, glowing green. I sighed in relief. In training, my first trace had showed nothing but a
dark alley and amorous cats. The jokes had been brutal. Turning to Remus, I asked, “Do you
have any idea where that is?”
“Not the slightest, so let‟s find someone who will.”
Taking my hand, he led me to the kerb and hailed a Muggle taxi. I shook my head. “Do you
know how hard it is to find one at this…” I gaped at the black and white screeching to a halt
beside us. Opening the rear door with a flourish, Remus waved me inside, enjoying my awed
silence. After telling the driver our destination, he whispered in my ear, “Summoning spell.”
I usually find Muggle transportation annoyingly slow, but in this case, it was a pleasure to watch
the city glide past while sliding my fingers along my partner‟s. I loved the contrast of masculine
and feminine and the way his slightly callused fingertips felt against my skin. When he captured
my hand and lifted it for a kiss, I returned the gesture. It may have been a trick of the light, but
his eyes seemed to gleam wolfishly. Only the driver‟s interested glances kept me from kissing
him like this was a date instead of an enquiry. Clearing my throat, I looked away from his mouth
and said in a low voice, “This „J‟ may have run because he was scared. I‟ll try and talk him
round, but I‟d appreciate it if you‟d be ready with an Impediment Jinx.”
“Yes Ma‟am.”
My lips twitched at his fervent tone. “If only my partners at work would be so agreeable.”
I peeked sideways. His eyes were gleaming again. “They‟d better not receive the same rewards
for cooperation.”
I had to press my lips together for a moment. “No Sir!”
“You two military recruiters or something? I don‟t think this neighbourhood‟s the best place to
find prospects, but good luck,” the taxi driver said with a smile. We‟d arrived at our destination.
I paid the man while Remus said, “Through struggles to the stars.”
“RAF, right? You like to fly?”
While Remus chuckled, I answered, “We love it. Thanks for the ride.”
Standing on the pavement contemplating the house before us, my smile faded. Mind on the case,
I reasoned that the well kept but older attached homes meant Woo probably lived with his
parents. His wages at the restaurant were most likely spent on education and entertainment.
Therefore, Mr. and Mrs. Woo would be the best tools for ensuring their son‟s co-operation.
Looking at Remus‟ expectant face, I grinned. “Ready to go threaten to tell mum and dad if junior
doesn‟t behave?”
His features assumed a grave look that would‟ve made me promise to be better in school before
he winked and said, “I‟ve never had to threaten.”
I tried to smile, but the green-eyed monster within was whispering, Not the girls, at least, who
were too busy batting their eyelashes. „Yes, Professor Lupin…Anything you say, Professor
Lupin…‟
“What‟s wrong? You‟re scowling.”
“Irrational jealousy at the thought of schoolgirls staring at you in adoration.” I laughed ruefully.
Remus‟ slow grin made me feel like a girl called Little Red. What nice teeth you have…the better
to nibble you with, my dear… Refusing to go off the path picking wildflowers, I shrugged.
“Wolves aren‟t the only territorial creatures, I guess. Come on; let‟s go have a chat.”
He followed me up the steps. “Feel free to mark your territory later, but for now, do you want to
do the talking?”
Cheered at the thought of later, I shook my head. “No, they‟re probably very traditional and will
respond better to you. When we talk to John, though, I‟ll seem less threatening, so I‟ll ask the
questions.” Digging into a back pocket, I handed him a „Blue Moon‟ card. “Here. Might help us
seem official.”
Nodding, he palmed the card and rang the bell, assuming the professor look again. The woman
who answered the door smiled slightly as she asked, “Yes?”
“We need to speak with your son, John Woo. May we come in, ma‟am?”
She took the card and read it. “Is he in trouble?”
“No ma‟am. We‟re just hoping that he remembers something about the night the young woman
we‟re looking for came into the restaurant.”
“My husband is not home…I am not sure…” The woman took a step back, hand poised to close
the door.
“Her mother‟s very worried,” Remus said quietly. The seriousness of his tone and appearance
changed Mrs. Woo‟s mind.
Opening the door wider, she told him, “My son went upstairs to his room. I will send him down
to talk to you. Please, have a seat in the lounge.”
A casual three piece suite took up most of the space in the lounge. The focal point was divided
between an electric fire and a telly. While Remus sat on the sofa, I stood by the mantel,
examining photographs. They never moved. Although I‟d seen others like them at relatives‟
houses before, the frozen expressions still struck me as creepy. I wanted to murmur a counter
charm to de-petrify them. Instead, I used my wand to apply a transferablespell to my right palm.
“Verax charm?” Remus enquired with a half smile.
Smart and sexy, lucky, lucky me… I said, “Uh huh, and if he‟s not truthful, John will find the
un-truth hurts too.”
Suddenly, a spate of muffled words could be heard from upstairs. Within minutes, a
sullen-looking John Woo was prodded into the room by his narrow-eyed mother. “He will
answer your questions.” When the young man continued to stare at his feet in silence, she shot
some very interesting sounding Chinese in his direction. Flushing, he nodded resentfully.
Relaxing, the woman‟s lips curved in satisfaction.
“What do you want to know?” John asked curtly, when his small but forceful mother had left the
room.
I smiled and stepped toward him, hand outstretched. “Hello, John, sorry about what happened
back at the restaurant. We‟re not cops, just trying to help a mum find her daughter. Let‟s start
over. I‟m Tonks.”
A snicker accompanied his handshake. “Tonks? Funny name. Anyway, I only ran off because
you spooked me, coming in like that. I didn‟t know that girl Melanie, but I did remember her.
She was hot. There aren‟t many customers that look like her.”
Attitudes like this were why I hadn‟t minded being alone until Remus. Not allowing my lip to
curl, I said, “Wonderful. Can you remember anything specific?”
“She wore a mini skirt and bent over to pick up some fallen change.”
Ignoring the „cough‟ that sounded behind me, I kept my smile with determination. “Anything
else?”
Dark eyes lit up. “Yeah, she ordered two large Beef Chow Mein, said she was saving some for
later.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Remus lean forward. I felt the same excitement but asked
casually, “Did Melanie ever bring a partner in to pickup?”
“No.”
I heard the doorknob turn and spoke quickly. “Did she ever use a cell phone?”
“Yeah, sure.”
“Did you ever hear her say a man‟s name?”
Thinking about it, he shook his head. “No. Sorry, that‟s all I know.”
“My son has been co-operative?”
Mr. Woo had returned home. His demeanour was almost as intimidating as his wife‟s. John‟s
eyes pleaded for me to say he had. I smiled politely. “Yes, he has.”
Taking our leave of the Woos, Remus and I walked to find a secluded spot to Apparate.
“At least we know Melanie had planned to take dinner to someone,” he said. “She wasn‟t staying
home like she told Rory.”
“Why call her mum, though, if she had plans?”
We were both mystified. After we‟d Apparated to Cami‟s and filled her in on our enquiry, she
said while dishing Snuffles a large portion of chow mein, “Plans could‟ve changed, or…what
time did she pick up the Chinese? Maybe she had dinner with the mysterious „J‟ first, and saved
the second container for her sister and nephew.”
Remus and I exchanged chagrined looks. We hadn‟t considered that. Tossing me a set of
chopsticks, she put her hands together and bowed. “Personal enquiries are my forte, remember?”
The dog made a contented, rumbling noise. Cami beamed. “I‟m also fab at TLC. I must‟ve
brushed and petted him for an hour.” Her smile dimmed. “I know you‟re tired of hearing me ask,
but will you please promise to arrange for me to get the chance to talk to Snuffles‟ mystery
owner?
My cousin whimpered pitifully, the manipulative mutt. I glanced at Remus. He shrugged. I made
a stab at a piece of beef. “Fine. Somehow, someway, I‟ll get you together.”
Camillia smiled happily, enjoying her Egg Drop Soup. I pushed around my noodles, which had
lost their flavour. Beneath the table, a cold wet nose snuffled my ankle. I nudged him away,
smiling a bit. In another moment, my friend laughed. “I must‟ve spilled soup because Snuffles
keeps licking my ankle.”
I made a face. “Maybe it‟s another one of those canine courting rituals.”
My sarcasm drew a chuckle from Remus. “It is.”
“But…you haven‟t ever…”
“I‟ve wanted to.”
The room was awfully warm. I swallowed with effort. “You have?”
“In both forms.”
Somebody must‟ve put a hot pepper in my chow mein. My cheeks felt hot. I clutched my water
goblet and took a long swallow. As a distraction, I snatched up the bag with fortune cookies and
dumped them out. There were four. Cami broke hers open and then turned a shade that made my
blush look pale. I took the tiny white paper and read aloud, “You wildest dream will come true.”
Considerate as always, Remus broke the silence and prevented me from asking a nosy question.
“Well, my fortunes are always dull or ominous. Let‟s see if the streak continues.” Unfolding the
slip, he read, “A man without aim is like a clock without hands, useless as if it stands.” Rolling
the paper into a ball, he dropped it into the bag with a droll sigh. “Dull and ominous…a new
low…”
I regarded the two remaining cookies warily.
“If you‟re too chicken to choose one, I‟ll pick one for Snuffles and you‟ll have to take what‟s
left,” Cami declared with a smirk as she plucked one up. Throwing a piece of cookie to the dog,
she told him, “This is perfect! Don‟t ask, don‟t say. Everything lies in silence.”
Snuffles growled.
I took the plunge and opened mine. “Well, my lucky numbers are 2, 5, and 7, that‟s good to
know.” Turning the slip over, I read, “A new day will find you in…” Crumpling the paper, I
tossed it toward the rubbish bin. “Those things are ridiculous, aren‟t they? Why even bother to
read them?”
Remus raised a brow before saying, “Fetch.”
I straightened abruptly. “What do you mean, fetch? I‟m not…oh, you meant Snuffles.”
Taking the fortune from the dog‟s teeth, Remus gave me a steady look before reciting, “A new
day will find you in an old love‟s arms.”
“I would‟ve chucked that too,” Cami muttered as she used her wand to start clearing the dishes.
“Why didn‟t you read the fortune? Were you afraid I‟d think it meant I was old, or that you‟d be
with an old lover?”
His tone wasn‟t accusing, but I still felt defensive. Standing, I put my plate in the sink the old
fashioned way before turning around and crossing my arms. “I don‟t know. I just read it and
reacted. It was stupid but I didn‟t want you to doubt me, in any way.”
Cami said she and Snuffles would go enjoy the fire. The dog needed no coaxing to leave. When
we were alone, Remus walked across to face me. Reaching out, he cupped my face in his palms.
“I love you, and nothing, especially not some mass generated fortune, is going to make me doubt
your love.”
His face became blurry as I confessed, “I‟m sorry I didn‟t laugh it off, but I love you so much
that sometimes, I‟m afraid something will happen, and…”
Remus‟ lips cut off my choked words. I kissed him back, answering the soft, tender press of his
mouth with a sensual one. Arms around his neck, plastered against his body, all I could think was
a refrain of I love you…
“Ah-wooo!”
My tongue froze along with the rest of my muscles. What in the world? The howl was repeated.
“Snuffles, be quiet!” I heard Cami urge.
I could feel Remus shaking with restrained laughter. My gaze snapped to his. Reluctantly pulling
away, I grumbled, “Can‟t we even have a minute to snog without our chaperone protesting?”
Raking his hair back with his fingers, a predatory smile spread across a face that was lean and
hungry. “It‟s been much more than a minute.”
“No!” A glance at the kitchen clock told the truth. I bit my lip. “Time flies when you‟re having
fun?”
His low laugh was husky and made me want to get in some more snogging time. A big black
head poked through the doorway. I gave him an evil glare. “Just you wait. I‟ll return the favour
someday.” The dog panted, tail wagging furiously. I rolled my eyes and pushed past him to go
chat with Cami.
-
Returning to work on Monday was like pulling away from Remus‟ embrace- hard to do. I wanted
to be with my love and Snuffles when they showed the parchment to his friend and rare
bookshop owner, Mr. Hopkins. An object had to be recently touched to be tracked the normal
way, but Andrew would be able to determine if there was anything unusual and traceable about
the parchment itself. Trying to take consolation in the thought that I was avoiding a ferret buying
expedition and a Hippogriff feeding, I trudged through the double doors of Auror Headquarters.
“You‟re looking blue this morning.”
Un-wrapping the navy scarf that matched my hair colour today, I allowed it to fall beside the
desk. After sticking out my tongue at Julia, I asked, “Anything in your inbox? Mine looks
miraculously free.”
“Didn‟t you get the memo?”
Oh Merlin, not another Gulch memo of doom. Slumping on the edge of my desk, I waved a hand
at the paperwork strewing it and vented, “I told Connelly memos go on the dartboard.”
“There is a memo on the dartboard.”
I stood and peered. “Really? I thought that was from last week, about skipping being
unprofessional.”
“No, last week‟s said the PDA policy has expanded to include holding hands.”
We stared at each other with wide eyes. Shaking off the willies induced by personalised doom, I
said, “So what‟s the word from on high?”
“Certain personnel have been selected to assist in Auror training today. You and I, Tom and
Jerry, along with Stan are the lucky ones.”
I snorted over hearing „Tom & Jerry‟. Jul had never seen the old Muggle cartoon, so she ignored
my juvenile humour. Composing myself, I said, “Better than Wizengamot duty, yeah?”
“It‟s first years.”
“Aw, crap.”
“Yes, crap with a capital „C‟.”
“Vulgar language is considered unprofessional- didn‟t you get the memo?” drawled Tom from
the doorway.
Tall, blond, and handsome laughed when I said, “What? You got a personalised doom memo
too? I don‟t feel special anymore.”
He reached out and took Julia‟s hand. “I‟m extra special. I got two.”
“I didn‟t get a memo last week. Was I supposed to?”
My cubicle was starting to feel like one of those telephone boxes people cram into on a lark.
Shaking my head, I told the clean-cut, former Wizard Scout, “No, Connelly, only the naughty
children got them.” Jerry‟s expression reminded me of a boy torn between pride at being good,
and envying the bad kids. I knew the feeling.
He reminded, “Well, we‟re supposed to report for duty in a few minutes, so…”
“So I‟d better do this now, while no one will report it,” Tom cut in, kissing Julia.
I stepped around the couple. “Come on, Connolley, we don‟t want to get a memo about
punctuality.”
The other two caught up to us as we headed for the training centre. Jerry talked about some of
the things he remembered about first year in a nostalgic tone. I felt no such affection. Maybe
because I‟d been the Stealth and Tracking example girl…used to show what not to do.
Thankfully, the ickle firsties weren‟t in need of assistance with Stealth today. Joining Stan
Richards, we filed into the classroom chamber. From the blackboard, I saw that spellwork was
on the agenda. Sighing, I wondered if the young people thought I was as cool as I‟d thought my
Auror assistants had been. I hoped so. If they were in awe, they wouldn‟t ask so many annoying
questions.
By lunch, the awe had long worn off and the three I was stuck with were treating me like one of
the gang. In the cafeteria, I complained, “Why don‟t I get the reverence you lot get from your
toerags?”
Julia and Tom snickered while Jerry said, “It‟s not that your trainees don‟t think highly of you. I
heard them ask if you could be a permanent teacher.”
“Then why do I get the smart remarks while yours say yes, sir and no, sir?”
“You allow it,” Tom interjected. “You‟re irreverent style is effective and makes you popular, but
the awe my group continue to rightfully give will forever be lacking.”
“At least your firsties laugh,” Jul mourned. “Mine make me feel like McGonagall.”
Jerry offered cheerfully, “At least they don‟t treat you like Snape!”
We all shuddered, although I suspected my mate‟s was for a different reason than the rest. In
school, whenever I‟d go on one of my „greasy, supercilious, malevolent bat‟ rants, she‟d always
nod, but never enthusiastically. And once, playing truth or dare, when I‟d asked who had the
sexiest voice in school, she‟d said Professor Snape. I hadn‟t even considered the sarcastic git
until that moment. Even now, I considered her adding „sexy‟ to my list of adjectives describing
Snape the second worse offence by a friend after cousin Lora‟s revealing that there was no
Father Christmas.
Later in the afternoon, the sheep were ready for the slaughter, which was what „simulation‟ has
always been termed by the first year trainees. Up against full Aurors, they rarely succeed in using
the spells effectively. I wouldn‟t admit it, but it was fun to play „Dark Wizard‟ in the practical
portion of the training. In my role, I bewitched a Muggle, stole magical objects, and eluded
capture five times. Before the final exercise, I motioned for my group of long-faced trainees to
huddle up. “What did I tell you this morning about spells?”
One boy‟s hand went up. “Take the easy way?”
“Exactly, Prewett, you‟ve all been trying to get your wizard with loads of complicated new spells
right out of the Auror manual, but there‟s a tried and true one you haven‟t used.”
They looked at each other before gazing at me hopefully. I smiled. “Confundus Charm. Your
target is confused; you remind them they‟re supposed to go with you…to the nice gaol.”
Eyes started to brighten. Prewett, the overachiever of the bunch, said, “Would memory charms
work as well? If a wizard‟s short term memory was impaired, you‟d be able to manipulate them
too, wouldn‟t you?”
“Theoretically, yes, but memory charms can cause more harm than good, which is why
Confundus is preferred, every time.”
Just then, our group was called to go through the simulation exercise again. With confident
smiles, my trainees entered the chamber that shifted to suit our requirements. A simple evade and
capture began. Running flat out to evade, I fled down „Diagon Alley‟, Aurors on my trail. My
shielding charm deflected the jinxes and curses as I ducked into a bookshop.
“Halt!” A fast breathing Auror stood in the doorway. I was impressed with his speed even while
I fired a hex over my shoulder. Prewett deflected it with a counter curse and said, “I'll prove my
spell's better than Confundus!”
I‟d barely started to dive out of the way before I was hit by the memory charm. The world turned
black.
                               Chapter 6- Memories and Moonlight
                                                 -
Opening my eyes took effort. I was flat on the floor with no idea how I‟d got there. Blinking, I
focused on a familiar face. “Tom, what happened?”
Smiling in relief, he said, “That first year, Prewett, said he tried a memory charm. Instead of
impairing, though, it must have just caused a blackout.”
I shook my head and then wished I hadn‟t. “Fun with training, huh?” The woozy feeling was one
I didn‟t want to experience ever again.
“Tonks, are you alright? That firstie will regret mucking about with spells, once I get through
with him,” Julia vowed darkly while helping me up. She steadied me as I got my bearings. I felt
like a sailor getting land legs. The youthful faces watching raptly smiled at me. Glad they
weren‟t going to face Jul‟s wrath, I supposed.
“I…I‟m really sorry. My family have been Aurors for generations, and I heard an uncle talking
and thought...” The boy confessing looked miserable. “I‟m really sorry. I won‟t do it again.”
My brain seemed to be functioning, so I nodded. The room only spun half a rotation. “See that
you don‟t, or you‟ll find out how creative my mate can be with hexes.”
Julia bared her teeth in a smile that frightened the trainee into backing rapidly away. “I promise
I‟ll behave myself…somehow…”
I said wryly to my friends, “Is that reaping what I‟ve sown, being brought down by a boy lacking
the ability to behave himself?”
They laughed. Training was concluded for the day, so I headed for the double doors.
“You still look shaky. Want to go have a drink?” Jul asked.
My head felt a bit dizzy. “I don‟t think alcohol and memory charms are a good mix.”
“You could have a butterbeer,” Tom said. “We‟d like to make sure you‟re alright.”
“I‟m fine.” Smilingly, I reassured, “I have a guy waiting who‟ll look after me, remember?”
They insisted I Floo to the Atrium level instead of taking the stairs. We were waiting for one to
open when I heard, “Hey Tonks! You okay?”
I turned to see a bloke rush through the doors and skid to a halt in front of us. His face seemed
familiar. Freckles, earnest expression…the name came to me. “Connelly, yeah, I‟m okay.” It was
nice of him to be concerned. Stepping toward an open Floo, I told them all, “Let‟s hope they
don‟t put us with the first years tomorrow. Bye.”
Rushing out of the Ministry as usual, I turned the corner of the building and barrelled into
someone. Unlike most of the others I‟d bowled over, the wizard took the brunt of our fall. I
looked down into amused brown eyes and said, “Merlin, I‟m such a klutz. Are you hurt?” He
gave a chuckle and smiled. It was a great smile, transforming handsome, intellectual, features
into something that made my face heat.
“I think there‟s a lump on the back of my head, but it was worth it,” he murmured.
I pretended the husky tone didn‟t affect me, gingerly sliding my fingers through over-long,
grey-streaked brown hair. I searched thoroughly, but I couldn‟t find a bump. He had silky hair. I
licked my dry lips. “No lump, so I think you‟ll be fine. I‟m sorry I knocked you over. May I help
you up?” I tried to rise, but his gloved hands came up to hold my arms.
“You can help me by…”
Pulse racing, I bent to hear his husky whisper. “What?”
“Kissing it better...”
I froze. Staring down at the man who was way older than me, by the fine lines around his eyes
and the grey in his hair, I knew I should wrench myself away and tell him to go to hell. Instead, I
pressed my lips to his. They were cool yet warm, firm and soft, gentle but persuasive. It was the
most amazing kiss. I was seized by the urge to pin him down and snog his brains out. Shocked
by the mental image that accompanied it, I tore my mouth away and jerked out of his arms,
pushing to my feet.
“What‟s wrong? I know this isn‟t the best time or place, but…”
“No, it‟s not.” Backing up, I said, “This is not me. I don‟t go round kissing random hot guys. I‟m
not a cheat. I‟m confused. I don‟t know what I‟m doing.”
He started to rise. “What are you talking about?”
The concern in his voice and face intensified the melting sensation I felt. Shame flooded me.
Shaking my head, I prepared to Apparate. “I‟ve got to go. I‟m sorry.”
-
I had to take several deep breaths before I could enter the Rosier Building with a cheerful
expression. Sendak the security troll returned the wave as I headed for the lift. Today, I was glad
my future in-laws went for Victorian elegance over speed. I needed the time to put „the episode‟
out my head…or at least shove it to the back of my mind.
“Miss Tonks?”
Obviously, my brain was far more scrambled than previously thought. I was standing in front of
the executive assistant‟s desk and didn‟t know how long I‟d been staring off. Bravado was
needed. “Wotcher, Catherine, I like your new hairstyle. Suits you. I‟ll just announce myself, no
need to get up.”
I thrust open the office door. Evan‟s gorgeous blond head was bent over the file on his desk. It
was such a pleasure to look at him, I could hardly believe I‟d even noticed another man, much
less… He glanced up and stared- in surprise? “Nymphadora…”
Closing the door on his nosy assistant, I strode toward Evan, smiling determinedly. Halting
mid-way, I asked, “When did you change the furniture?”
Standing, he regarded me for a moment before saying, “Don‟t you like it?”
“If you were going for „I may be young, but I‟m twice as ruthless as any of you bastards‟ the
décor sure does the job.” He laughed. I said cheekily, “Knew better than to chuck the sofa,
though, didn‟t you?”
He moved from behind the desk. “Are you saying you have fond memories attached to that
furniture?”
“Mmm Hmm…” My gaze went to the glass wall and was caught by the reflection. “Merlin, no
wonder you stared when I showed up. Look at my hair!”
“What about it?”
His blue eyes were teasing. I rolled mine while lifting my hands. “I must‟ve changed it for the
training exercise. I think short would suit me, but I know you prefer my hair long.”
His hands rose to caress the hair I‟d morphed to fall halfway down my back. “Black silk framing
the prettiest face of the most talented witch in Britain,” said Evan,with the smile I liked best
because it was lopsided and real. I preferred my fiancée when he wasn‟t putting on his Slytherin
front of aristocratic perfection. Kissing my cheek, he asked, “Why don‟t you remember changing
your hair?”
I could feel my face scrunching up as I tried not to cry. “I…woke up…and Tom told me a first
year had hit me with a memory charm during training. I don‟t know why they had us with the
firsties…and I thought I was okay, but my head‟s all muddled and…and…I really need a hug…”
His arms wrapped around me while tears slid down the face I buried against his chest.
As I tried to keep from sobbing, he employed a projection charm. “Catherine, cancel my next
meeting and tell Sendak to tighten security. I don‟t want any interruptions.”
“Yes, Mr. Rosier.”
Evan‟s fingertips brushed my cheeks. Their cool smoothness struck an odd chord, like I‟d
anticipated the touch being different. He led me toward the sofa. “Why don‟t we lie down and
I‟ll see if I can make you feel better?”
I followed, although his phrasing made new tears spring to my eyes. I had to stop thinking about
how I‟d kissed another man to make him feel „better‟. Draped across Evan, I asked in an
intentionally seductive voice, “What did you have in mind?”
His smile was enticing as sin, but I wasn‟t sure I‟d be able to re-create any of our memories if he
took me up on the invitation. I tried not to let it show, but his expression shifted subtly. Softly, he
said, “This.”
Evan‟s fingers massaging my scalp were soothing. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the comforting
sensation. Listening to his heart beat, I started to get the strangest feeling. It was like everything
was familiar, but not. Trying to distract myself, I wondered aloud, “Will your mother throw
another one of her intimate holiday parties for two hundred this year?”
“Yes, she will. Next Saturday, Miss Forgetful, and it‟s even cosier, so she‟s hired extra staff to
help.” He managed to snort elegantly, a talent I was rather envious of.
“What‟s that for?”
“Mother‟s latest grand scheme to keep up with the Malfoys- they had a couple of Quidditch
players at their Halloween Ball, so she invited several to our affair.”
“And…?”
“And the beater for the Cannons is trying to boost the career of his latest mistress, so our guests
will be entertained by her folk songs.”
I giggled. Evan loathed that sort of music. “How jolly,” I said with a snicker. He chuckled. For
some reason, I expected it to be deeper, more of a rumble. Like someone else‟s?
“Why are you shaking your head?”
Because I was a head case, hearing voices, that‟s why. Not about to confess „the episode‟, I said,
“I was just remembering our first Christmas, when I asked your mother if I could bring
anything.”
“You thought she was being snide when she said „bring my son‟, but she meant it.”
“She was being snide.”
“Yes,” he agreed smoothly, “but she did appreciate you being able to recognise it.”
I snorted. “I bet. I should‟ve played dumb and pretended not to get any of her put downs. That
would‟ve driven Miranda spare.”
Evan‟s shout of laughter brought my head up. “Absolutely mental, depriving Mother of one of
her few enjoyments in life,” he agreed, through continued laughter. I was struck again by the
masculine beauty of his face. He leaned toward me, lips parting. I felt no urge to lean forward
and snog his brains out. The revelation made me feel melancholy and relieved at the same time.
My fingers prevented his mouth from pressing mine.
“You weren‟t surprised to see my hairstyle; you were surprised to see me.”
His gaze turned assessing. “What are you saying?”
I knew my smile was sad. “My head might be muddled, but my heart‟s not. We broke up, didn‟t
we?”
Tucking a long strand behind my ear, Evan asked, “How can your heart know anything? It‟s a
muscle incapable of doing more than pumping blood.”
Wistfully, I said, “I can remember the first time you kissed me, but I can‟t remember the last.”
“We could change that, right now.” I rolled off the sofa and hit the floor with a thud. He turned
on his side and smiled ruefully. “Or not…”
“What happened?”
“You found someone else.”
My heart jolted. I was a cheat? “No.”
He shrugged. “Technically speaking, perhaps, but since Priscilla means nothing to me while that
Remus fellow means something to you, I see it differently.”
One corner of my mouth pulled upward at his Slytherin logic. I sat for a moment, trying to
absorb what he‟d said. Prissy…I‟d been right about them. A ghost of pain and anger passed
through me and then was gone. No wonder he‟d laughed when I made that comment about his
mother. She was probably thrilled yet miffed her left handed compliments weren‟t
comprehended anymore. I could almost smile myself. Standing, I instinctively offered a hand to
help him up. A golden eyebrow rose. I shrugged. “You could‟ve taken advantage. You didn‟t.
You helped me instead. Why?”
He smiled wickedly and took my hand. “I considered it, and decided the next time you come to
my bed, I want you to know exactly why you‟re there.”
I didn‟t bother to argue. Evan always liked to have the last word. Besides, I needed to go have
my memory fixed. On impulse, I changed my hair back to short and spiky. “Thanks anyway.
Bye.”
“Au Revoir.”
Till we meet again… It was weirdly reassuring that some things didn‟t change. Shaking my head
in reluctant amusement over his arrogance, I left. Down in the entry, three Aurors in training
were threatening a troll while the guy I‟d kissed on a pavement strode toward me.
“When they told me what happened, I thought I‟d go mad with worry. Are you alright?”
His hands felt warm on my face, the fingertips slightly rough, and good and right. I smiled. “If
you‟re Remus, I am.”
-
The mediwitch in charge of the Spell Damage ward only allowed one person to accompany me
inside. I chose Remus. We were escorted to a curtained off section and told the Healer would be
with us shortly. When he moved toward the visitor‟s chair, I said, “Would you sit with me? I
won‟t feel so weird if you hold my hand.”
He had the best smile. I marvelled that I could feel so comforted yet thrilled by his touch. I also
wondered aloud, “What‟s your last name?”
Perched beside me, he chuckled. “Lupin, Remus John Lupin, at your service.”
“Cool. Did I ever ask you if you have a brother named Romulus?”
“Yes, and I said no, just a mother with a love of Latin and irony.”
What nice teeth he had. An image ran across my mind. I really hoped it was a memory, and that
he‟d nibble again soon. I met his eyes. My face felt hot. Almost as hot as…remembering
something else, I groaned.
“What is it?”
Suddenly, I missed long hair. I‟d be able to hide behind it. Instead, I ducked my head and looked
at him sheepishly. “Erm, I‟m sorry I called you a random…”
“Hot guy? I was flattered, until I became worried.” His gentle smile turned teasing. “Although,
since you kissed me before on our very first encounter, I don‟t know if that can be considered a
true statement.”
“I kissed you? Not that I blame me, but…whoa, that sounded mental.” He chuckled again. It
struck a chord that I knew was my heartstrings and blurted, “I love you, don‟t I? I can‟t
remember it, but I feel it.”
I recognised the look in his eyes before he said, “Yes, and I love you.”
I leaned toward him. He met me halfway. Our lips brushed ever so softly. I melted against him
and felt only joy that this man was mine.
“Am I in the wrong place? Are you Auror Tonks, with memory damage?”
Somehow, being interrupted felt very familiar. Grinning, I told the Healer, “I‟m Tonks, and I
want my memories back as soon as possible!”
-
I insisted on buying a round at the Iron Shackle. It was the least I could do after Tom, Julia, and
Jerry had realised the depth of my memory loss and stormed the Rosier Building with Remus.
Not to mention waiting around St. Mungo‟s for me to get my head screwed on straight.
Fortunately, Prewett had fired the spell with a first year‟s prowess. He hadn‟t done it with
enough force to cause more than temporary memory loss. I‟d fully recovered my senses, which
meant when Tom tossed the server a pile of galleons and said he wanted to do his part to keep
the economy going, I didn‟t argue. I took my butterbeer with a smile of thanks and snuggled
against the man who‟d laughed when, waiting for the Healer to return after stepping out to
answer a question from the mediwitch, I‟d asked,
“Have I ever pinned you down and snogged your brains out?”
“No, why?”
“Earlier, on the pavement, I got this incredible urge, so I couldn‟t help but wonder…”
“You‟ve got me wondering, too.” He grinned. “Later, when I escort you home, feel free to pin me
on the sofa.”
Anticipation made my smile stretch wide.
“Happy to have your memories back, mate?” Julia asked with a smile.
I nodded. “Abso-bloodly-lutely. I‟m also glad to be an Auror instead of a second year trainee.”
“I‟ll drink to that,” Tom said, lifting his glass. We all tapped mugs.
Jerry asked with a frown, “Didn‟t you all enjoy training as much as I did?”
“Yeah, and I miss reading the manuals, too,” I replied.
“I keep them in my cubicle, if you ever want to…oh…” Connolley‟s laugh was a bit
embarrassed, as my sarcasm finally registered.
Feeling like I‟d kicked a puppy, I glanced around and said, “Hey Jerry, there‟s a brunette from
Law Enforcement that‟s been giving you the eye. Don‟t you think you should go over to the bar
and talk to her?”
He looked surprised but pleased. “Sure, I could do that, now that you‟ve recovered. Goodnight,
everybody.”
Julia was covering her mouth with her hand. I said, “Shut it, Jul.”
“What? Did I say anything?” she asked with a smirk.
“No, love, you were incredibly restrained. Nary a „naïve, gung-ho, Wizard Scout‟ comment
passed your lips,” Tom inserted drolly.
Remus smiled. “Better a Gryffindor partner than a Slytherin.”
“I‟ll drink to that!” Julia said heartily, incurring Tom‟s mock wrath.
“Hey, I was in Slytherin!”
“We meant for Tonks, and on a personal level, so shut up and kiss me,” she returned.
I stood. “Thanks for everything, you two. I‟m going home for a private display of affection.”
Julia drew her head back to say, “I heard about the pavement episode. What was so ruddy private
about that?”
“It was around the building. No one saw.”
Remus chuckled as she shot back, “That you know- prepare for a memo about PDA now
including snogs on pavement.”
Laughing at the thought, I waggled my fingers goodbye before reaching for Remus‟ hand. It took
awhile to leave the pub, as the story of my training fiasco had spread, and Aurors took the chance
to ask how I was or make a „Remember me?‟ crack. I took it in stride, mind on other things.
Finally, we stepped into the cold night and Disapparated.
-
Back at my flat, pinning Remus down was every bit as fun as I thought it would be. I knew he
could be free at anytime, but pretending otherwise seemed to turn him on too. Maybe it was the
snogging our brains out factor. Stripped of robes and jumpers, his body felt just as good as I
remembered, and I was deeply thankful that I had those memories. Like Remus, they were
irreplaceable, and I would‟ve been devastated at their loss. When the heat of his mouth began
eroding my control, I pulled back to lie with my head on his chest.
“Rosier‟s scent was on your robes, but not your clothes. I wouldn‟t have blamed you, but I‟m
glad all the same.”
I lifted my head. “I didn‟t kiss him, because it didn‟t feel right…like this feels right.”
“He didn‟t try…”
“At the end of our chat, but I declined, because I‟d realised we weren‟t together anymore.”
His fingers sifted through my hair. “How?”
“I didn‟t want to snog his brains out.”
His pleased grin was so boyish and cute. I almost pinned him down again. Instead, I asked, “Was
Mr. Hopkins able to detect anything unusual about the parchment?”
“No, but he invited us to dinner Friday night. I accepted, if that‟s all right with you.”
I laughed. “A meal cooked by someone else sounds brilliant.”
Remus asked with a casual air I wouldn‟t have pulled off nearly so well, “What did you and
Rosier chat about?”
I shrugged awkwardly. “Besides his change of furniture and my muddled head? Mrs. Rosier is
throwing a Christmas party Saturday and…oh my gods!” For the second time that day, I rolled
off a sofa gracelessly.
Remus sat up. “Tell me.”
“The Beater for the Cannons got Miranda Rosier to agree to hire his mistress to sing!”
His eyes gleamed amber. “Is she Irish?”
“I don‟t know, but she sings folk songs, and his name is a double „J‟.”
“Joey Jenkins,” Remus said with anticipatory relish before cautioning, “The chance of this being
Melanie is a long shot.”
“I know, but we could keep our ears open, for something the Underground could use.”
He stood and pulled me to my feet. “Would we go as guests? I hesitate to involve Emmeline or
the others in a personal enquiry.”
“No need,” I said. “Miranda‟s invited so many she‟s hiring extra help.”
A look of alarm crossed his face. “You won‟t try and carry any heavy trays, will you?”
I laughed. “That would bring new meaning to „crashing a party‟.”
He put his arms around me. “I should go fill Sirius in on all that‟s happened today.”
My mouth brushed his. “In a minute…I‟m feeling another urge.” Remus‟ lips smiled against
mine, and all was right in the world.
                                Chapter 7- Reflections of Moonlight
                                                   -
I was a killer. The victim was a cell phone, but I still felt guilty as I stepped into a telephone box
to make the call.
“Who is this?”
The man‟s voice sounded low and dangerous. I swallowed. “Erm, hello Rory. It‟s Tonks.”
“Why aren‟t you using the phone I gave you?”
“Uh, it died.”
A chuckle sounded. “Was it natural causes?”
I looked at the bewildering item in my other hand. “I don‟t know what I did, but it won‟t work
anymore. Sorry.”
“You probably left the power on and drained the battery. I‟ll give you another phone when we
meet for lunch.”
That was the other reason for my call. I‟d phoned Sunday about Woo, but it was Wednesday
now, and I had more questions to ask. “Lunch sounds good. Jimmy‟s Pizza okay with you? I‟d
like to stop by and say hi to Gran.”
“You always were a cheap date. I‟ll be there at 12:30. Goodbye, Nym.”
I preferred hearing the smile in his voice over a growl, even if it was at my expense. “Bye,
Rory.”
Outside the call box, my Auror partner waited patiently. I‟d convinced him to squeeze in a
couple of personal errands between cases, and was pretty sure he wouldn‟t start citing
regulations on me. Although plainly curious, Connolley was too polite to ask nosy questions. He
used the roundabout method. “I hope you got through and didn‟t have to leave a message. I
remember from Muggle Studies that people have machines that answer for them if they‟re not
home and…”
“I got the person, thanks.” Deflecting his attention away from the call, I asked, “Well, that‟s
done, ready to do your errand?”
He hunched his shoulders, looking uncomfortable. I said bluntly, “If you don‟t want to introduce
me to your mother…”
“No! It‟s just…” Face set in an expression of frustration, the wizard started walking back toward
the Floo station we‟d exited to find a telephone.
I jogged to catch up. “What? C‟mon, tell me, I can handle it.”
“Anne couldn‟t.” Stopping abruptly, Jerry saw my surprise and explained, “The brunette from
Law Enforcement. I told her I‟d come by her place before our date, but she wanted to see what
my basement flat was like. After I‟d shown her round, Mum just happened to stop by. She
invited us up for a drink.”
“And…” I prodded, when he didn‟t finish the story.
He raked a hand over his hair and didn‟t disturb a strand. My hair was almost as short, but I
would‟ve looked a wreck. How unfair. Exhaling heavily, he said, “I went to fetch a bottle of
sherry and came back to dead silence. Anne grilled me about family over dinner and then said
she had a headache and wanted to go home. I haven‟t talked to her since.”
Hmmm…sounded like an apron string strangler, his mum. Amused, I said, “Afraid she‟ll
intimidate me into asking for another partner, are you?” Seeing his abashed nod, I smiled. “Don‟t
worry, mate, I can handle her. My mother is a Black and nobody does daunting better.”
“Really? Well, if you‟re sure.”
Patting his shoulder, I said, “I‟m sure. I‟ll even convince her to go easy on your future dates.”
Anxiously, he asked, “Uh…how will you do that?”
“Never question the senior Auror.”
“But, you aren‟t actually…”
“In experience, Connelly.”
A weird look crossed his face. “You‟ve got more experience?”
“Compared to you, Mr. Jury Duty? Loads, but don‟t worry, you‟ll catch up.” He nodded in
agreement, so I ignored the grin. Typical man, even when he‟d done nothing more than keep
dark objects out of courtrooms, Jerry thought he could take the lead. Content that he knew better
than to say so, I quickened my steps. “Hurry up, Mummy‟s waiting.”
-
It was funny how our parents‟ homes could be so alike yet different. My own childhood home
always seemed to welcome guests while maintaining a spring clean shine that awed most and
was an odd comfort to me. Since Mum could never be rivalled in her housekeeping, I was
relieved of the effort to try. Connelly‟s home looked almost militarily perfect. As if an infraction
of debris on the driveway or a bit of chipped paint would be dealt with harshly. I was sorely
tempted to kick a few dead leaves onto the flagstones leading to the brightly polished
doorknocker. Before I could smudge the brass with fingerprints, it opened.
Wearing pearls and a two piece suit as tasteful and tidy as her house, Mrs. Connelly cooed,
“Jerreth, did you lose your key again? I know it‟s a bother, but keeping up appearances with the
Muggle neighbours is of paramount…” She stared at my gold hair while I was looking at my
partner and silently mouthing, Jerreth? Her voice cooled noticeably. “Who is this?”
“This is my partner, Tonks. She…”
“Wotcher, Mrs. C!” I cut in, sticking out my hand to shake her limp fingers with a grip as hearty
as my tone.
“Partner?” she echoed sharply, jerking away.
I hooked my arm through her son‟s, and leaned against his side, ignoring the way he startled.
“He‟d like to have it exclusive, but I make him share for now.” Giving him a wink and a cheeky
look, I said, “Maybe if Jerry-boy proves he‟s the best, I‟ll reconsider.” He smiled and returned
the wink.
His mother saw and reeled back against the foyer‟s pristine wallpaper. “Reconsider?” she said
faintly, as if in shock.
I grinned. “That‟s what I told Jerrikins- reconsider the keys. Chuffin‟ Heck! A ward‟s all you
need. What kind of neighbour is gonna see „im down at the basement door anyways? A Peeping
Tom?”
“There are no such personages on this Avenue, Miss…Tonks…” Drawing herself up, Mrs.
Connelly nodded stiffly. “I will return with the key shortly, unless you‟d care for refreshment,
Jerreth.”
“No thank you, Mother, I‟ve got to get back to work.”
“Don‟t suppose you‟d have a can of lager,” I said, trying to keep a straight face at the tightness
of hers.
“No.”
After she‟d retreated down the corridor, I squeezed Jerry‟s arm in triumph. “I don‟t think your
mum will mind if you bring dates round anymore, Jerreth.”
“Please don‟t call me that, Nymphadora, and yes, I‟d say the thought of my being your exclusive
partner will keep her polite, at least.” His wide smile became thoughtful. “I wouldn‟t mind if
they made us permanent partners, though. Would you?”
Hearing the click of his mother‟s heels headed our way, I said quickly, “No, but for Merlin‟s
sake don‟t tell her I‟m only your Auror partner anytime soon.”
“For my sake, I won‟t, and thanks.”
Gazing at the witch who acted like she had a broomstick up her bum, I replied, “My pleasure.”
-
Following the chat with Jerry‟s delightful mum, our second investigation of a possible Dark
wizard turned out to be just as false as our earlier case had been. My partner found it lowering,
but I was in too good a mood to be disappointed. Leaving Jerry to try his luck asking Anne out to
lunch, I Apparated to my Gran‟s neighbourhood and jogged to her flat. She opened the door with
a twinkling smile. “Nym, dear, how lovely to see you.”
I bent to kiss her cheek. She wore a red blouse and smelled like floral bath powder. I drew back
and said, “Gran! You‟re all dressed up. Are you going somewhere?”
She nodded and headed toward the kitchen. “The Senior Centre is having a Christmas
programme.” Taking out a bottle of lemonade, she handed it to me with a smile. “Come sit down
and have a drink. Your cheeks are pink.”
So were hers, and Gran hadn‟t been taking stairs two at a time. Taking a swig, I sat on the sofa
and stated accusingly, “You‟re wearing makeup.”
“Very observant of you, dearest- must come in handy in enquiries of all kinds. What are you
working on now? Anything you can tell me about?” She was trying to look innocent, but I wasn‟t
buying the act.
“You can tell me who you‟re going with to the Centre.”
Tucking a strand of silvery hair into place, she admitted, “Mr. Santini.”
“Aha!” Standing, I gestured wildly. “I knew he‟d wear you down, stalking you at the corner
market, always happening to take a walk round the park at the exact same time. Did you want to
say yes, or were you simply tired of saying no? If he pressured you, I‟ll…”
Soft laughter made me lose track of the threats I‟d planned to make. “Oh, Nym, you remind me
of myself, after reading Ted‟s letter sharing that a mysterious beauty had invited him to go with
her that first Hogsmeade Weekend.”
My mother was a mysterious beauty? Wait a minute. My mother had made the first move on my
father? “Tell me she didn‟t kiss him first too.”
“I‟m afraid so.”
It was every daughter‟s nightmare- to become her mother. The panicky feeling inside subsided
when I remembered my cluttered desk and that I acted more like Gran. Taking a deep breath, I
said, “You didn‟t answer my question.”
Rising, she took my hands in hers. “Dear heart, I‟ve wanted to say yes for a very long time, and I
finally got the courage to do it. I hope my having a gentleman caller isn‟t too upsetting for you.”
“Course not,” I insisted stoutly; hoping my eyes weren‟t as misty as they felt. It was selfish of
me to not want to see my Gran with anyone but my Granddad. Trying to sound cheery, I said,
“Bring him to the Christmas Eve party. I‟d like to meet him.”
“If you can wait a half hour…”
“Sorry, Gran, I was just stopping by on my way to lunch.” Giving her a hasty hug and kiss, I left
before I could do something embarrassing, like stick around to ask Mr. Santini what his
intentions toward my grandmother were. I‟d heard about those old Muggle men and their pills.
Appetite gone, I entered the pizza place and saw Jimmy and Rory sitting in the back corner
booth, talking quietly. Waving when they looked up, I went over to the jukebox and selected a
song. I approved of Jimmy not milking the customers by making them pay for the music they
listened to- especially since I didn‟t have any Muggle change.
“Interesting choice, what‟s the song?”
Turning, I threw my arms around Remus and hugged him tight. “Hungry like the Wolf.”
His body shook with silent laughter as the music played. “Do you want me to be on the hunt,
after you?” I nodded. He smiled and slipped an arm around my waist while we walked to the
back. “What should I do when I catch you? Pin you down and snog your brains out?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Halting to look at my face, Remus asked, “Is something wrong?”
“Hey Tonks, what‟s the hold up? Pizza‟s getting cold.”
“Untwist your knickers, Jimmy, we‟re coming.” Sliding into the booth, I held Remus‟ hand
beneath the table while I tried to say lightly, “I found out my Gran‟s got a gentleman friend.”
Remus‟ lips quirked, but his fingers squeezed mine comfortingly. Jimmy grinned while Rory
said, “Mr. Santini‟s been an admirer for years. It can‟t have been a shock.”
My shoulders rose and fell. “It was more a shock that she said yes.”
“Happens to us all, Nym. Have a slice of pizza.”
I watched Remus study the two pizzas before choosing the one loaded with meat. I smiled and
felt virtuous taking a slice with veggies. After the four of us had demolished most of the food, I
took a sip of fizzy drink and asked, “Any word from Melanie?”
Rory shook his head. “I talked to Molly this morning. She‟s posted flyers and talked to news
people, but still hopes Mel is just being thoughtless and will call soon.”
I pulled Jenna‟s list out of my trouser pocket and unfolded it. “We pub-crawled last night, hit
every one she regularly sang at, but no-one had seen her lately or remembered anything useful.”
“What a surprise.”
“Those places are revolving doors, changing staff and singers constantly,” said Remus. “Not the
best sources of information.” Tapping the two names written beneath the pubs, he continued,
“Miss O‟Neill‟s friends should prove more forthcoming. How do you suggest we contact them?”
“Try a telephone.”
My partner didn‟t seem to take offence at Rory‟s tone, but I did. I was just about to tell him off
when Jimmy spoke up. “Kate works out at that gym downtown.” While Remus was writing
down the name and location of the establishment, the big guy said to his boss and pal,
“Remember when we all went to dinner? She ate lettuce and whined that she‟d have to work it
off later at the gym.” His contemptuous tone became dreamy. “Bubbles eats like she‟s got a
hollow leg.”
I thought Jimmy‟s broad face looked sweet when he smiled like that, but a sideways glance
showed Remus found it alarming. I asked quickly, “What about the other friend, Debbie?”
Rory tossed me a matchbook with the name of a club on it. “She‟s there most Friday nights. Real
life of the party type- the bartenders will be able to point her out.”
I held up the matches. “I thought you gave up smoking years ago.”
He smiled at my biting tone. “I did. Uncle Colin gave me that to show off the new design. It‟s his
place.”
“Blues?” asked Remus.
“You can dance, but it won‟t be to Billie Holliday,” Rory answered with a laugh.
Jimmy sighed. “Bubbles is a great dancer.”
They‟d only met days ago, and already the pair had gone dancing? A smile broke across Jimmy‟s
face that made me wary, even before he said, “Hey, Tonks, you still do a mean Tina Turner?”
How the past haunted. Trying not to blush under my partner‟s interested scrutiny, I shrugged.
“On occasion.”
“I‟d like to see it,” Remus said softly.
I looked into his eyes and found myself saying, “How about Friday night?” He agreed with a
slow smile that had me grinning like a lovesick fool.
“Just remember you‟re there to work, not play,” cautioned Rory , like we needed to be reminded.
What did he think we were going to do? Fool around and forget to ask questions?
“We‟ll play after we talk,” I assured with a smirk, repeating what I‟d told Remus before we‟d
gone out the previous night. He gave a huff of amusement. Jimmy laughed. Rory unbent enough
to smile, until his cell phone rang and he saw who the caller was.
“Danny? What‟s wrong?” He listened for a moment and then said, “If you‟ve been to the doctor
and taking your medication, what‟s the emergency?” Listening unabashedly, I found the
emotions playing across Rory‟s face very interesting. Concern, puzzlement, and amusement
flitted across before anger took their place. “What? Your remote‟s gone wonky but your mum
told you not to call...ever?” He released a breath and paused before speaking again. Despite the
effort to keep his tone light, dark eyes blazed, and his accent became pronounced. “Don‟ worry
about a thing, mate. I‟ll be right over.”
Sliding out of the booth while pulling on a posh overcoat, Rory‟s smile didn‟t reach his eyes.
“I‟ve got to go. See you round, Tonks, Lupin. Jimmy, give her the new phone and meet me at the
office in an hour.”
“I‟ll be there.” Once Rory had left, his right hand man exchanged my cell phone for one with a
living battery. “That Jenna is one overprotective mother, but the boss will set her straight.”
“How will he do that?” Remus asked, in a quiet tone that seemed to invite confidences.
“He‟ll remind her he‟s not that lump she divorced who went off with some bit of fluff to „find
himself‟Rory knows what it‟s like not to have a Da.” Standing, he eased out and said, “I think
I‟ll go by the church, ask Father Davis to light a candle for you to find Danny‟s Aunt. That boy
doesn‟t need to lose anybody else.”
“Thank you for lunch, Mr. Durbin,” said Remus, after I bid Jimmy farewell.
“Pleasure.”
Alone, we sat in silence, mulling things over, until my guy asked, “When did Rory lose his
parents?”
“When he was eight. Drunk driver.” I took his hand and squeezed gently before whispering,
“What about you, baby?”
I‟d wanted to ask, so many times, but hadn‟t been able to scrape up the nerve. From the way
Remus talked about his parents and childhood in brief, general terms, I knew he must have
suffered traumas and experienced grief that would‟ve broken lesser men. He looked down at our
entwined fingers and said, “I was ten when my father didn‟t come home one night. Mum
checked St. Mungo‟s and then the other hospitals. Muggles called it unexplained, but we knew
what had caused instant death. Avada Kedavra.”
I gasped, hearing the name of the killing curse. He said flatly, “He was part of a group lobbying
for the reform of werewolf legislation. They disbanded after too many members died
mysteriously.”
“I‟m so sorry.”
“I had my mother, and Andrew Hopkins was always there for me.” Remus looked up with a half
smile. “I must admit, Rory‟s commitment to Danny raises my estimation of him.”
I joked wryly, “Don‟t worry about that being a trend. Evan doesn‟t sponsor an orphanage or
anything.”
His bark of laughter made me giggle. Kissing Remus softly, I said, “I wish I didn‟t have to go
back to work, but reports of Dark wizardry are probably piling up.”
“I need to be going as well.”
I asked eagerly, “Did you find a job?”
Remus‟ eyes shifted away. “I‟m…helping Neil Patil in the shop…in return for the flat.”
I‟d only spoken to his landlord in passing, but he seemed nice. Realising that my guy probably
didn‟t want to talk about stocking the shelves or doing inventory, I said, “That‟s great. Short
commute, at least.”
“I preferred my last one, but this is fine, for now.”
I couldn‟t help but think what if I lost my position as an Auror and only did enquiry work? I
wouldn‟t be so positive. Kissing Remus soundly, I said, “You‟re fine, and later, I‟ll prove it.”
“Really, how?” he asked, extending a hand to help me from the booth.
Clasping his fingers, I laughed as we strolled out into the sunlight. “I don‟t know, but I‟ll enjoy
making it up as I go along.”
“Hungry like the Metamorphmagus?”
Remus‟ smile was teasing, but I meant it when I said, “For you? Always.”
-
                                   Chapter 8- Moonlight Ladies
                                                  -
At the end of the workday, I put a big X through Wednesday on my calendar and walked quickly
toward the double doors. “See you tomorrow,” I told Julia and Tom, as they headed for a pub
and I went to meet Remus. Outside the Ministry, I saw Connelly chatting up Anne and waved
my goodbye. He grinned. She frowned slightly before turning a bright smile Jerry‟s way. I
snickered and turned the corner without crashing into anyone. Apparating to the Blue Moon, I
entered the building and saw Bubbles using her wand to change the colour of her nails.
“Hullo, Tonks,” she greeted, showing me her hand. “What‟cha think? Blue like Jimmy‟s eyes, or
white like his teeth?”
“Why don‟t you use both?”
I shouldn‟t have encouraged her. Bubbles‟ smile became radiant. “Little white clouds on sky
blue polish. Brilliant!”
“Thanks a lot, Nym, now she‟ll be beautifying her fingernails instead of sending off my billing
statements. When I go broke and you have no place to live, remember this day,” Uncle Morty
griped, standing in the corridor with a frown on his face.
“I sent the owls off already. Have to get paid, don‟t I?” the receptionist said with a shake of her
blonde curls.
“She thinks it‟s her job just to get paid, but you know better, niece.” With a jerk of his head,
Morty ordered, “Come tell me why I haven‟t been depositing any gold in Gringott‟s for you.”
“Toodles,” Bubbles said absently, once again riveted by nail art.
I squared my shoulders and followed Uncle Morty to his office. Dropping into a battered leather
chair, I stretched out my legs. “I‟ve been busy.”
“Yeah, so I heard the other night outside my flat.”
Okay, maybe shrieking with laughter over Remus‟ tickling at one in the morning wasn‟t being a
considerate neighbour, but he was overreacting. I said, “What‟s the matter, did I ruin a romantic
moment with Lisa?”
“Yes.”
“Really?” I sat up straight.
Morty leaned back in his chair. “No, not really.” He reminded me of my mum, giving that look
as if considering how much to tell.
I asked, “What‟s wrong?”
Shrugging, my uncle said, “We‟ve had everything from breakfast to a midnight supper and called
it business, but when I asked Lisa to go out on a real date, she says she‟s got to think about it.”
He ran a hand over salt and pepper spiky hair. “What the hell is there to think about? She either
fancies me or doesn‟t, end of story.”
He was older, Lisa‟s employer, and had a rascally reputation. Maybe some women would act
first and think later, but my friend wasn‟t like that. I smiled. “You want me to talk to her?”
“No! No, of course not,” he denied, before saying, “Unless it just happened to come up in the
course of conversation.”
I stood. “I feel the need to have a girl talk.”
His expression was hopeful. “You do that, and tell her you‟ll pull the next decoy job, while
you‟re at it. Lisa doesn‟t need the money, and I don‟t need to get tossed out of any more pubs.”
I really didn‟t need to imagine any more family members in romantic situations. Promising to
consider it, I went upstairs to find Lisa. Before reaching her office, I stuck my head into Cami‟s
doorway to say hi. Immediately, I noticed my cousin‟s wanted poster had been moved to the side
wall next to the desk. When my eyes fell on a large black dog curled up on the floor, I
demanded, “How did that get here?”
“He was on my doorstep this morning. Remus didn‟t answer when I went by, so I brought him to
work.”
I gave her a suspicious look. “How hard did you knock?”
Snuffles stood and doggy-grinned at me before resting his head on Cami‟s thigh and gazing at
her soulfully. She petted him with a smile. “I didn‟t want to bruise my knuckles.”
“Okay, dognapper, I‟ve got to talk to Lisa, so just bring him up whenever you get done for the
day.” Pointing a finger at the dog that was looking a little too pleased with himself, I warned,
“Behave!”
Next door, before I could do more than raise my hand to knock on the doorframe, Lisa said,
“Hello, Tonks, come on in.” She continued to write a line of a report while I sat down. Finishing,
she settled back in her chair. For a change, Lisa was doing a stellar job of projecting Asian
inscrutability, but I noticed how tightly her fingers were gripping the quill.
“Hi, Lisa. How‟ve you been?”
“Fine, you?”
“Fab.”
After a minute or two of silence, she broke down. “How are things going with Remus?”
I smiled. “Wonderful. How are things going with Morty?”
Lisa‟s smile was thin. “None of your business.”
“Sure it is. He‟s family and you‟re a friend.”
Silence fell again. I made myself comfortable and inspected my fingernails. Maybe Bubbles
could paint little moons on them. Or truffles- I hadn‟t been over to Jan‟s in awhile, and I was
craving chocolate badly. Recognising that Lisa couldn‟t be broken with silence, I decided to try
bribery. “Hey, how about we go to Chocolat and get a raspberry truffle?”
She looked wary, but nodded. “Sounds good, I‟m done for the day.” Tidying the already
immaculate desk, the woman rose and reached for her jacket. I followed Lisa, pausing outside
Cami‟s office to ask, “You want a truffle from next door?”
“Make it a biscuit instead. I‟ll give the part not dipped in chocolate to my furry friend.”
I protested, “You love truffles! Eat it and make him do without. He‟ll live.”
Cami laughed. “And live with guilt when the big sweetie turns those eyes on me? No thanks, the
biscuit will do fine.”
I could‟ve sworn my cousin was smirking as he lifted his head for a moment before lowering it
to rest again on her shoe. I showed Snuffles the back of my hand. Catching myself, I waggled
fingers in farewell instead of flashing the gesture he deserved for sticking a canine tongue out the
side of his mouth at me. On the way down the steps, I wondered how I‟d greet my cousin later
when he returned to human form. Right then, I couldn‟t decide whether to give him a smacking
kiss on the cheek or a sharp right jab. I had a feeling I wasn‟t the first woman to feel that way.
Lisa opened the door to Chocolat. “I want a truffle, but I don‟t want to talk about Morty.”
I shrugged. “I‟m not going to twist your arm.” Yet...
Hearing the jingle of the bells, Jan looked up from stocking a display case. “Salut!”
Returning the Frenchwoman‟s greeting, I bent to gaze reverently through the glass. “Does Alan
appreciate your genius properly?”
Long familiar with my cravings, the soignée proprietor began assembling a small box of truffles,
adding a biscuit that I chose for being heavily dipped in chocolate. Smiling, she answered, “Ask
my husband yourself Friday night. He‟s conjuring Chateaubriand again, and would love for you
and Remus to share it with us.”
Regretfully, I said, “We‟ve already made plans this Friday, but another night, we‟d love to come,
just for the company.”
Giving me a considering look, Jan filled three cups with coffee and held two out. “Here. Go on
back to the kitchen. I‟ll close and join you ladies in a moment.”
Lisa sat on a stool at the centre worktable and sipped her coffee, gazing around the space
decorated in yellow and blue. “Everything about this place is perfect. How does she do it?”
“She‟s French.”
“Oui,” Jan agreed, entering the room with an amused smile. Placing her cup beside mine, she
asked, “These plans you spoke of, Tonks. They are not to your liking?”
I told my friends about Mr. Hopkin‟s dinner invitation, and confessed, “His opinion means so
much to Remus. What if I break his late wife‟s china, fail to appreciate his taste in wine, and
come across as gauche?”
“You may be tactless at times, but you are never vulgar,” Jan assured. I thought of the gesture I‟d
almost given Snuffles and shifted uncomfortably on my seat.
Lisa said abruptly, “Maybe you have a right to worry.” Placing her elbows on the marble top, she
leaned forward to demand, “What will you talk about? He‟s seen and done and knows so much
more than you. What if you sit there, unable to think of anything remotely interesting or witty to
say?” Carried away, she added, “What if he realises that aside from physical attraction, you have
nothing in common and any relationship you might attempt is doomed before it begins?” The
colour that had suffused her face during the speech drained away when Lisa became aware of
what she‟d revealed.
“Is that why you‟ve been putting Morty off?”
She answered my question with a jerky nod. Jan smiled at us like we were her daughter Anouk‟s
age. “When I met Alan, I knew he was homme d‟esprit, a man of wit, an intellectual. I read only
histories de chocolat. Was I desole? No. I have my own strengths, my own talents. We
complement each other.” Reaching out to open the small box, she offered me a truffle and said,
“You are having a crise de nerfs, a crisis of nerves. If Andrew is Remus‟ friend, he cannot help
but like you too.” Extending the container to Lisa, Jan continued, “Yours is a crise de coeur, and
like every crisis of the heart, will only subside when you trust your feelings.”
I bit into a hazelnut truffle. “Damn, you‟re good.”
“At more than chocolate,” Lisa agreed.
“Naturelment,” Jan said with a wicked little smile. “I‟m French.”
-
Later, after Remus and I shared Mrs. Patil‟s chicken curry with Cami and Snuffles, we got ready
to visit the gym.
“Why couldn‟t we pretend to be interested in membership?” he asked, after we‟d Flooed to the
downtown station.
Holding up a small bag as we walked, I answered, “Because they give you a guided tour and then
wait expectantly for you to either sign up or leave. This way, we‟re guests, and can talk to Kate
without drawing unwanted attention.”
Remus said as we neared the place, “I much prefer to run outside.” Smiling wryly, he answered
my unspoken question. “Bad smells.”
Oh Merlin, I hadn‟t considered that. Now I wondered, “Are you sure when I sweat….”
“Good smell,” he interjected, with a wolfish smile.
Inside the gym, amid the bustle of members coming and going, a voice called, “Nym!”
I waved. “Lora!”
Earlier, I‟d used the cell phone to call my cousin and ask if she belonged to the gym Jimmy had
named. She didn‟t, but her fiancée did. Gerald Butler had been more than happy to arrange for
passes for his future cousin-in-law. Watching them approach, I thought they looked well
matched, both athletic and attractive. They even had the same shade of brown hair. In the back of
my mind, I heard Sirius, snickering. They‟ve got matching tracksuits, too.
After the introductions were made, Gerald offered to show Remus the way to the men‟s locker
room. Lora steered me toward the women‟s, saying, “He‟s a vast improvement over Mr. Rich
and Snobby. Way to go!”
“You haven‟t done so bad yourself.”
Green eyes were complacent. “I know.” Lowering her voice, she confided, “He sings, too.”
Storing my gear in a locker, I teased, “Won your heart singing Phantom of the Opera, huh?”
“His Music of the Night sure got me Past the Point of No Return.”
Lora and I were still giggling when we joined the guys in the fitness centre. Remus‟ appreciative
gaze made me glad I‟d chosen to wear a bra top and running shorts. We were indoors, after all,
and if the sight of my skin kept his eyes off more fitness obsessed women, that was fine too. He
was dressed in his favourite grey tee and tracksuit pants, but even in baggy clothing Remus was
fine.
Gerald led my cousin off to strange cross training devices while I steered Remus toward a
section I felt comfortable with—the treadmills. A board on the wall displayed a list of names and
the time the person began the wait for particular machines to become available. Adrenaline
surged when I took the dry erase marker and wrote our names in the treadmill column beneath
„Kate‟.
“I think that‟s her. She seems the lettuce eating type.”
Remus inclined his head toward a thin young woman doing stretches on a nearby mat. I grinned.
“Want to go do some sit-ups?”
“Do I get to hold your ankles?”
He hadn‟t said it suggestively, but I knew my cheeks matched the raspberry trim on my shorts. I
had a very vivid imagination. Nodding, I marched over and took a place near our target. With
Remus‟ warm fingers on my skin, it was a challenge to breathe steadily, much less talk, but I
managed. “Hey, are you Kate, waiting for a treadmill?”
Her disinterested glance flickered from me to the machines. “Yes. Is one opening?”
I made a face. “Sorry, I thought one was, but that bloke was just getting another magazine.”
Even Kate‟s lips were thin. The upper one curled. “He needs to forget reading and start running
if he wants to lose any of that weight.”
I had the urge to find out if I could perform a wandless Pinguescere hex. Kate could grow fat
overnight and see how she liked being looked down on. Remus‟ grip tightened just enough to
stop my lips from completing the spell. I gave him an apologetic glance while he said, “Is it a
long wait, for one of the treadmills?”
The woman‟s eyes brightened. “No, there‟s a thirty minute time limit.” Looking him over, Kate
smiled. “Are you a new member?”
“A guest.”
Tucking a strand of limp blonde hair behind a large ear, she asked Remus, “Who‟s your
sponsor?”
Apparently, I had become invisible. Determined to rectify the situation, I answered, “A new
friend of mine from the pub I work at. Melanie O‟Neill.”
“You know Mel? When did you talk to her last? Did you hear she took off without telling
anyone? Do you know where she is?” The mix of worry and hope in Kate‟s voice made me feel
better about not hexing her.
I shook my head, trying to appear shocked. “No…No I didn‟t…I don‟t…I mean, she seemed like
such a friendly person, offering to set me up when I mentioned I was looking for a gym. She‟s
really missing? Since when? I just talked to her last week.”
“Me too. We were supposed to go clubbing last Friday, but she never showed.”
Scrutinising her face closely, I said, “Are they sure she isn‟t with her boyfriend? She mentioned
some guy…I can‟t remember…but I think his name starts with „J‟.”
Kate shook her head. “No, its „R‟…she was going with Rory Farrell.” Seeing another member
step down from a treadmill, she said, “My turn‟s up. If you can, go talk to the police, or her
mother. Maybe they know who that J person is.”
I did a few more sit ups before I propped my arms on my knees and said, “I hope Melanie‟s
friend Debbie knows more than Kate.”
“Indeed.” Pointing in the direction of a couple that was leaving treadmills open side by side,
Remus asked, “Would you care to show me how those things work?”
I nodded. “Sure, I need to run off some frustration.”
Watching me erase our names off the board, he stepped close to say, “Me too.”
-
By Friday night, I was a mess of nerves. Not about going to a club and questioning Debbie- I
looked forward to that. I was nervous about meeting Mr. Hopkins. Jan had assured me three
times over as many days that he‟d like me. Cami had approved my black broomstick skirt and
red blouse as „tasteful, yet festive‟, and Julia had let me borrow her black pearl earrings, but I
still felt unprepared. Pacing while waiting for Remus to arrive, I realised why. It was like
meeting his parents. Andrew had been their close friend, so if he didn‟t like me, then they
wouldn‟t have liked me, and how could I deal with that?
“Mmm…I‟m happy to see you too, but I hope your lipstick‟s kiss proof.”
I‟d wrapped my arms around Remus the instant he‟d stepped inside, wanting to reassure myself
that we‟d stay together, regardless if anyone approved or not. Unable to remember what kind of
lipstick I‟d used, I stepped back and looked at his mouth anxiously. No smears of red, thank the
stars. I blew a sigh of relief.
“I was only joking,” he said, pulling me close for a hug. “Don‟t worry—Andrew will love you
almost as much as I do.”
“Yeah, right, we‟ve got so much in common,” I muttered.
“You have me.”
So we did. Cheered, I kissed Remus soundly and said, “Lead on, my love.”
Stepping out of the fireplace and onto the hearth of the flat above Hopkins‟ rare book shop, I
looked around and felt a smile stretch my cheeks. The large space was filled, floor to ceiling,
with shelves of books and paintings, and objects that beckoned me to examine them more
closely. Tables, low and high, were piled with books, Daily Prophets and papers of every
description. Several pairs of shoes were lined up to the side of the hearth. Just like me, he kicked
off his shoes and left them, no doubt meaning to tidy later. A set of wizard robes was draped
over the back of a chair.
“So that was where I left my best robes.” Using his wand to send them floating toward the back
of the flat, our silver-haired host shook Remus‟ hand and turned to me. The pale blue eyes were
kind. He smiled. “Andrew Hopkins. It is a great pleasure to meet you, Nymphadora. I have been
awaiting this day for a very long time.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hopkins.”
“Please, call me Andrew.”
I grinned. “Please call me Tonks.”
Smoke floated into the room, turning the older man‟s smile into alarm. “Our dinner! Excuse
me!”
We rushed after him to the kitchen, where a cooking dish stood engulfed in the magical flames of
a conjuring spell gone wrong. Remus blew the smoke out the window with a flick of his wand
while I asked Andrew sympathetically, “What was it?”
“Lamb Vandaloo. The book claimed the dish was easy to conjure.”
“Uh huh. I think cookery books should be declared Dark objects, myself.”
Andrew suggested we try the Indian grill down the street. “Or we could go to a Chinese
restaurant one of my clients recommended highly, whichever you prefer.”
Remus and I looked at each other. I knew the thought of fortune cookies pleased him as little as
it did me. We shared a smile before telling Andrew,
“Indian!”
-
                               Chapter 9- Dancing in the Moonlight
                                                 -
If Gran had been just a few years younger, I would‟ve been setting her up with Mr. Hopkins. I
liked him that much. The dinner I‟d dreaded would drag on forever had ended up flying by. Not
because of the food, although the grilled duck with black lentil sauce and masala mash potatoes
had been fab, but because of the company. Intelligent and witty, both men listened as well as
they spoke, and kept me laughing with their dry humour. Sitting across from Andrew in the
restaurant decorated in purple, ruby, and greenish gold, I listened to him debate Remus whether
Dante had been right to regard Virgil as il nostro maggior poeta, our greatest poet, with a
contented smile.
“My wife used to keep me from monopolising conversation with a loving kick under the table,
but I‟m afraid without Anne, I forget not everyone is enthralled by a dead language. Pray forgive
me, Nymphadora.”
Andrew‟s quiet charm made me not mind his forgetting to call me Tonks. Out of the corner of
my eye, I could see Remus fighting a smile. He knew I didn‟t mind when he slipped, either. At
certain moments, said in a certain tone, my disliked first name had a ring to it that was lacking in
all others.
“No need, I like Latin,” I said, while the desserts were set before us. We‟d all chosen the
Chocolate Silk. I savoured every bite of the cashew and pistachio brittle and chocolate mousse.
“What a relief. Do you have a favourite phrase?”
About to take another bite of chocolate, I answered without thinking, “Salve, mea columba, tu es
pulchra puella.” Andrew laughed out loud. Beside me Remus coughed and reached for his wine
glass. Realising that I‟d just said, „Hello, my little dove, you are a beautiful woman‟, I tried to
cover. “Hehheh, a little joke. Actually, it‟s…” I tried to think of something short and easily
pronounceable. “Mortui non mordent!”
They both chuckled. “Dead men don‟t bite?” Remus murmured.
Andrew said kindly, “A wise saying, since that is the only time men are no longer a danger.”
I‟d thought it meant to enjoy love bites while you could. I had a feeling Remus knew what I‟d
believed too, by the predatory gleam in his eyes. Desperate to change the subject, I asked the
approaching server, “Do you know who sings the song that‟s playing?”
His expression tightened almost imperceptibly. “Sonu Nigem. He is very popular. We play his
music here every single night.”
When Andrew had taken care of the bill, I told the men, “I recognised the voice. The girl who
does my nails listens to him.”
Remus lifted my hand to kiss the back and say, “She does an excellent job.”
“Yeah, I didn‟t know my fingernails could actually be oval, before Siva.”
The men smiled. We swapped conjuring cookery disaster stories on the way back to Andrew‟s
place. He asked us in, but it was half past ten, and Remus and I had an enquiry to get to. The
older wizard said temptingly, “You would enjoy looking through my old albums, Nymphadora.
There‟s a photograph in particular that would pique your interest.”
“I‟m not running bare arsed through the lounge, am I?” Remus asked, grinning.
Andrew shook his head, chuckling. I said, “Too bad, that‟s a sight I‟d love to see.”
Remus looked away, shoulders shaking. Andrew coughed. “Indeed. Ah, well, it was a pleasure
getting to know you better, my dear.”
I shook his hand and invited, “Next time, come for dinner at my flat. I‟ll order Chinese. You can
have my fortune.”
“Mine too,” said Remus with a smile.
“Then I‟ll be very fortunate,” Andrew responded gravely, before winking and saying farewell.
Alone with Remus, I sighed. “What a lovely man.” Bumping his arm with mine, I scolded,
“What was so funny about wanting to see your childhood photographs! I bet you were the cutest
little boy ever.”
“Thank you, but in my defence, you did say you‟d like to see me running bare arsed through the
lounge.”
I thought back and groaned, hiding my face with both hands. Remus asked, “Our amusement
didn‟t upset you, did it?”
I revealed my smiling face. “No. It‟s true. I would like to see that.”
-
Back at my flat, Remus, who had worn a black shirt and trousers that would be suitable
anywhere, waited while I went into the bedroom to change. My current outfit might‟ve been
tasteful and festive, but it sure wasn‟t gear for clubbing. Standing in front of the wardrobe, I
faced the fact that there was only one dress suitable for shaking it like Tina Turner. Taking it off
the rack, I frowned over a new dilemma. What shoes to pick?
“Ready to go?” I asked a short while later, returning to the lounge. I‟d morphed my hair to a
style that complimented the dress. That meant a long fringe and shoulder length, not the shaggy
spikes Ms. Turner embraced in the eighties. My guy wasn‟t looking at my hair, though. His gaze
travelled over the short white dress with layer after layer of fringe, down the length of my bare
legs, to settle on the high heeled slides that had cost twice what the dress had- on sale.
“You gave yourself a light tan.”
My toes curled at the sound of his voice. What a sexy growl you have… “White on white
clashes,” I joked.
“How will you walk in those?”
“Comfort and Stability Charms.” I stepped forward just as easily as if I‟d been wearing trainers.
Mischievously, I imitated the swaying walk I‟d seen Muggle girls use to keep balance on
non-magical high heels. “I can swing my hips if you‟d like.”
Remus‟ eyes met mine. “Oh, I‟d like, but we‟re supposed to work, not play, and you‟re going to
impair my concentration as it is pulchra puella.”
He made me feel beautiful. Kissing Remus in thanks, I said, “Then let‟s go get our work over
with, so we can play.” When he agreed, I picked up my cloak.
“A cloak‟s not enough protection from the cold. You need a Warming Charm.”
I snickered. “Afraid I‟ll get cold feet?”
Remus knelt and passed his wand along the arch of my foot to my ankle. His fingertips traced the
same path. It was hard to tell which warmed more. Standing, he brushed the backs of his fingers
down my cheek, replying with a smile, “Never.”
-
Approaching the club, I saw that it suffered from what Londoners claimed was a British disease-
queuing.
“Do we have to wait with the others?”
I wouldn‟t have minded, being a people-watcher, but I could tell Remus found the thought
disquieting. This wasn‟t exactly his scene. Giving him a reassuring smile, I hooked my arm
through his and led him toward the head of the line. Hopeful clubbers reacted with a variety of
reactions and colourful language. Approaching the tall, dark, and imposing bloke standing beside
the guy allowing people in, I grinned. “Wotcher, mate, I‟m Tonks.”
The large man‟s features changed from impassive to welcoming. “Good evening. Mr. Farrell said
you were to go right in.”
Following the bouncer, security personnel, or whatever those blokes called themselves; we
checked our cloaks and entered the club. Standing off to the side, we took the place in. I could
tell right off that Colin had added his personal touch. The main area was boxlike, with the usual
array of lights hanging from the ceiling, but the Art Deco inspired décor had changed what had
likely been minimalist or futuristic into a stylish venue. The sound system was high quality. I
smiled to hear R&B. This, I could dance to.
“It‟s very loud, isn‟t it?”
I heard the pained tone and looked at Remus in dismay. “I forgot about your acute hearing. Will
you be alright?”
He chanted something under his breath and then smiled in relief before saying, “Muting charm.
Should‟ve thought of that outside, but I‟m fine. Lead on, Holmes.”
I shook my head. “I‟m not intellectual enough. You‟re Holmes, I‟m Watson.”
“All I meant was that you should take the lead, being more comfortable in this environment.”
Expression serious, he said, “Don‟t denigrate your intelligence, which I consider brilliant.” His
lips curved. “You chose me, after all.”
I grinned. “Okay, I‟m a genius; follow me to the bar.”
The club was packed. Remus stayed close and rested his hands lightly on my hips to keep us
from getting separated. The music pounded through me. I couldn‟t help moving to it as I wended
a path through the crowd. Halfway there, a couple stepped directly in front of me. I pressed back
against Remus to allow them to cross to the dance floor. His body was lean and firm. I sighed.
The fingers at my hips tightened. Taking a shaky breath, I reminded myself „work first‟ and
moved forward.
We stood for a few minutes near the bar, waiting for a spot to open, but too many people were
vying for places to drink and chat. Finally, I got impatient and cheated. I used an Aversion
Charm. I‟d chosen a stool near one of the bartending stations. The fact that the girl on it had
thrown a smile Remus‟ way was purely co-incidental.
“Are you sure you want to sit here? Over there might be better.”
I said, “Sorry, love, I forgot to counter the spell.”
After I‟d negated the charm, Remus smiled. “Smart thinking.”
“If I was smart, I‟d quit thinking about playing first and working later.”
He leaned close and said, “Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur…to be in love and wise is scarce
granted even to a god.”
I was about to unwisely kiss him when I heard, “A lot of blokes use French, Spanish, or Italian to
impress a girl, but I never heard Latin before.” The bartender‟s expression was amused as he
said, “Tonks and partner, right? Mr. Farrell asked me to welcome you to the club and let you
know drinks are on the house.”
“Would you care for a drink?” Remus inquired with a smile.
“Abso-bloody-lutely!”
“Okay, coming right up.”
I looked at my guy in consternation. “He didn‟t ask what I wanted.”
His smile flashed white in the dim atmosphere brightened by blue, pink, and green lights. “I
believe „abso-bloody-lutely‟, is a drink.”
A cocktail was placed before me with such a flourish; I couldn‟t hurt the bloke‟s feelings by
saying „what the hell is that?‟ Gamely, I removed the celery stick, lifted the long glass and took a
sip. My smile was kept bright although I was tempted to spit the fluid back out. I hated tomato
juice, and this had plenty, along with stuff that could probably strip paint.
“Pepper Vodka, tomato and lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and horseradish,” Remus listed,
after I demanded he assure me it wasn‟t poisoned.
I drank it fast as possible, coveting his beer and muttering, “Bloody hell.”
“Bloody Bull? Coming right up!”
The second cocktail had even more tomato juice and added salt and pepper around the rim. I
gave Remus a look that said if he laughed, he was going to be wearing it. After I downed the vile
liquid, he sniffed my glass.
“That had tequila in it. I don‟t think you should have another drink.”
I slipped a fingernail under his top shirt button and released it. “Me either. I don‟t need to lose
any more inhibitions.”
When the bartender came around again later, I asked if he knew the girl we were looking for.
“Sure, she asks me out every Friday. I tell her any girl called „Dare Anything Debbie‟ is more
than I can handle, but I admire her persistence. She‟s the redhead at the end of the bar with the
drink that looks like a fishbowl.”
Thanking him, I hopped down and tugged Remus‟ hand. “Come on, baby, the game‟s afeet!”
“Afoot.”
“Whatever,” I said, waving my free hand airily. Relaxed and happy, I danced my way through
the crowd. A girl bumped into me. I steadied her with both hands, smiled my acceptance of the
apology given, and continued on. Humming along with the music, since I had no clue what the
words were, I led the way for Remus to follow. I was ace at weaving around blokes gesturing
with full drinks in hand, stepping around couples and friends greeting each other, and finding the
spots to duck through to reach our target.
In contrast to Kate, Debbie was a voluptuous girl with hair so red; nature had nothing to do with
it. She looked at me and cried, “Hey, I know you!”
I blinked and turned to look at Remus. He wasn‟t there. I squinted through the darkened club, but
couldn‟t spot him. My sweetie must not have been as good at weaving. I knew he‟d catch up in a
minute or two, so I turned around and said, “Yeah? From where? School?” I laughed at my
private joke.
Debbie laughed too. “No, from photographs- you‟re Rory Farrell‟s old girlfriend, right?”
I gaped. “You‟ve seen pictures?”
Taking another drink from what looked like an enormous brandy snifter; she yelled over a song
heavy on the bass, “Melanie and I went snooping through his albums one day when scrummy
Uncle Colin called him down for a meeting. When we asked, Rory said you were the only girl
who ever dumped him.” Hopping off her stool, Debbie laughed again. “I said if I ever ran into
you, I‟d shake your hand.”
I looked down at her outstretched hand. Figuring might as well; I shook it, saying, “I came to ask
you a few questions about Melanie.”
“Right…Rory said you did enquiry work.” She shook her head. “Mel didn‟t tell me she was
taking off, and I don‟t know where she is.”
My face fell. Taking my arm, Debbie said, “Hey, my date didn‟t show, the bastard. Let‟s have a
dance. Maybe an idea will shake out of my brain. This place is bangin‟!”
Sounded like a plan to me. I‟d been longing to make the fringe fly, so to speak. Sticking to the
edge of the dance floor so Remus could find me, I got lost in the music.
“Hey, I actually thought of something!”
I opened my eyes to look at Debbie hopefully. The music changed to something slow as we
stopped to talk. She smiled widely. “The week she took off, we went to lunch. A guy stopped by
the table and said hello. Mel said hi, but she didn‟t introduce him, and he left right after that.”
“Do you remember his name?”
“I‟m not one of those people who write all their boring crap down in a ruddy journal, alright? I
think it started with „J‟. He was good-looking, had black hair, kinda long, maybe.” I smiled.
Confirmation and a vague description were better than nothing. My dance partner looked past me
and beamed. “Whoa, I think that guy‟s looking at me.”
Turning, I saw Remus walking toward us. “No, he‟s looking at me.”
“How do you know? He could be…” Debbie broke off when he reached me and slid his arms
around my waist. I looped my arms around his neck. She said disappointedly, “Guess he is yours.
Nice to meet you, ex-girlfriend. I‟m off for another drink.”
I couldn‟t resist. “Thanks…and Debbie? I dare you to go up to Farrell‟s office and ask „scrummy
Uncle Colin‟ for a dance.”
Her face lit up. “You‟re on!”
“Am I supposed to feel sorry for the older Farrell now?” Remus asked, once she‟d left us alone
on the dance floor. All the rest of the people didn‟t count. As far as I was concerned, it was just
us.
The sensual music evoked slow, winding, half turns. He pulled me closer. I sighed contentedly.
“No.” About to rest my head on his shoulder, I pulled back as a thought struck. “Where have you
been, love?”
“Watching you.”
“Why?”
“You were drawing the witness out so well, I didn‟t want to disturb you and later…”
I was swaying more than dancing now. “Yes?”
He bent and slid my hair away from my ear to say, “I love the way you move.”
I leaned against him. Clinging to my priorities, I told him what I‟d learned from Debbie in words
that were spoken so fast they were almost strung together. He smiled. “Joey Jenkins has black
hair.”
I pouted when he didn‟t kiss me. Instead, Remus clasped my hand and led me toward the exit.
Catching sight of my expression, he stepped close to say over the music that had shifted to loud
and fast, “Now that our work is done, I want to dance with you in surroundings more conducive
to romance.” His smile was wolfish. “Let‟s go listen to some jazz.”
-
The next afternoon, memories of the way Remus had caressed my back as we swayed together to
Unforgettable kept me humming as I strode down Knockturn Alley. The plan Remus and I had
decided on Monday evening had changed Thursday when „Lora‟ applied for a temporary
position at the staffing agency. I‟d learnt during the interview that they were only hiring women.
Although an illusion charm would‟ve sufficed, the work entailed assisting guests in one of the
women‟s lavatories, providing hand towels, along with the odd cosmetic or stain repair charm.
Remus‟ strengths lay in other areas. After convincing him that he could help another way, I told
him my idea. Reluctantly, he‟d agreed.
When I reached the abode/shop/pack rat hole of one Mundungus Fletcher, occasional poker
buddy of Uncle Morty and full time opportunist, I rapped sharply on the door. “It‟s Tonks, open
up!”
“D‟you have t‟ shout, Missy? M‟head‟s pounding somethin‟ fierce.” Dung could rival Snuffles
in giving doleful looks. I refused to feel pity. If he didn‟t know better than to keep Morning After
potions on hand, he deserved the hangover. Following me inside a room filled floor to ceiling
with items of dubious origin, the short man pushed stringy hair out of his face and whined, “I
„greed to get the potions, but y‟can‟t be meanin‟ to stiff Uncle Dungie…”
“Greed is right. Uncle Morty told me you‟ve given him so many promissory parchments, he
could paper his entire office, Mister Fletcher, so quit whinging and hand over the potions.”
“Used to be a nice girl what happily fetched a beer and pipe when Morty minded yeh on poker
nights,” Dung muttered while shoving crates aside to reach a small stasis box.
I took it with a word of thanks and a wave of my wand. While he sighed in relief from a pain
cessation spell, I said, “I‟ll send a few bottles of Green Dragon ale for your next poker night, but
you should stop smoking. It‟s bad for you.”
“So‟s usin‟ memory enhancer and Memoria Cadere to get up to no good.” In reaction to my
steely look, he promised, “Not that I‟d tell a soul, Missy.”
I jerked my head toward a crate. “Good. Then I won‟t have to tell about those Venemous
Tentacula seed pods, Uncle Dungie.”
He said, “Now, I got a story about them pods.”
I was sure he did, and it was probably hilarious. As a child, I‟d loved his “stories”, filled with
skulduggery, adventure, and language my mother would severely disapprove of. Sadly, Aurors
weren‟t supposed to willingly associate with known criminals. If I just happened to drop by my
Uncle‟s, however… “Maybe I‟ll bring the ales down to you myself- make sure Morty doesn‟t
forget.”
The rascal grinned.
-
Getting ready for the Rosier party, I pulled on black trousers with a white blouse.
Metamorphosing my features into those of a woman in her thirties with light brown hair and
eyes, I applied powder and a pale lipstick. Feeling prepared to blend into the crowd as a member
of the staff, I stepped into the lounge. Remus was waiting.
He was dressed in plain clothes. Putting our plan into action, I took the vial of memory enhancer
he held out and threw it back like a shot of icky tomato juice. “Gargh…why can‟t these potions
taste better?”
“Sweeteners ruin them,” he explained with a wry smile. “If I had my way, Wolfsbane would
taste like cocoa.”
The reminder quelled my urge to continue with my complaints. As I watched him lift his larger
flagon, I said, “Memoria Cadere means to be forgotten, so everyone but me will forget you the
moment they see you, right?”
He drank the potion. “Do you remember me?”
Relief weakened my knees. I hugged him tight. “Oh yeah.”
-
Using the staff entrance, I wished Remus luck overhearing something useful and said I‟d meet
him in the linen cupboard on the second floor during my first break. Trying to appear
unassuming, I headed into the kitchen. The housekeeper looked the temporary workers over and
decided I would best suit the mistress of the house. I held my breath in order not to burst into
laughter over the irony. Following Ms. Trunchbull to the lavatory that rivalled an opera house‟s,
I listened to her monologue on proper serving etiquette and promised to maintain a subservient
attitude at all times. She gave me a quick look, hearing that, but my lowered eyes and deferential
tone reassured her.
“Really, Priscilla, of all the times to tread on your hem… We have guests arriving.” Sweeping
into the lounge area, a regal blonde turned her pale blue gaze my way and snapped, “You, come
here and work quickly.”
Inclining my head, I walked slowly forward, trying to remember a fabric repair charm.
                                  Chapter 10- Jealous Moonlight
                                                  -
Kneeling to examine the tear in Priscilla‟s hem, my mind raced as I tried to remember one of the
spells Remus suggested I try in situations like these. He had some experience mending his own
clothing, but admitted the repairs were far from professional. Until now, I‟d thought I paid close
enough attention, but maybe I‟d only been riveted by the way his lips moved and the sound of
his voice.
A spell popped into mind. I smiled in relief, murmuring, “Reficiere.” Nothing happened. I tried
again. The tear remained.
“What in the world is taking so long?” Miranda Rosier demanded.
“I‟m sorry,” I began.
Priscilla patted my shoulder. I almost fell over in shock. She told the other woman, “I didn‟t even
realise I had a headache until it was gone. What an excellent servant to notice and fix that first.”
Crap. I‟d used a spell to repair body and mind. I closed my eyes in concentration and „heard‟
Remus say, “Consuere.”
It was as if an invisible needle began to „sew up‟ the rip.
“Finally. The last thing we need is for the guests to begin speculating about the cause of your
absence. I had enough of that with Evan‟s last fiancée.”
Hands on hips, Prissy retorted, “Since he‟s welcoming everyone, at least they‟ll know I haven‟t
dragged him off to fornicate in the linen cupboard!”
I kept my eyes downcast, but inside, I was fuming. It had been the Butler‟s pantry, not a linen
cupboard, and Evan had been the one to coax me away from the Christmas party. I may have
allowed him to try and persuade me to slip upstairs, but I wouldn‟t have actually done it. I‟d
known my fiancée was trying to thumb his nose at his mother. Back then I‟d still hoped to win
her over.
“Perhaps,” drawled Miranda, “but if you did, at least I would be assured of Rosier heirs. Tell me,
my dear, when was the last time Evan visited your bed?”
If my head bent any lower, I‟d be smothered by fabric. My back was starting to ache.
“I know my duty. Evan visits whenever he pleases, so don‟t worry about heirs before we‟ve even
had the wedding, Mother Rosier.”
Stars and stones, the flashing image of her passively doing her „duty‟ in that frilly pink
nightmare of a bed I remembered was threatening to make my eyes bleed.
“Don‟t call me mother before or after the wedding.” I gasped when sharp fingernails dug into my
chin, lifting it up. “And don‟t you repeat anything you‟ve heard.”
I kept my face pale and expressionless as my tone. “I heard nothing, Madam.”
“Good.” Something in her tone caused me to look up. Wintry blue eyes warmed slightly.
“Someone of your discretion should serve our guests downstairs. Tell Trunchbull I‟ve found the
girl with black hair and blue eyes unsuitable and to send her up here in your place.”
“Yes, Madam.”
With a swirl of ice blue dress robes, Miranda turned to leave. “Priscilla, come.”
Shaking out her ruffled gold skirt, the young woman followed, obedient as a pet pug. I waited
until the door closed to get to my feet. Splashing my face with cold water, I looked into the
mirror over the basin and said, “There but for the grace…damn, I‟m lucky.” The face staring
back at me raised mousey brows. I grinned. “You want to know how I‟m going to serve the
guests without dropping a tray? Dunno. Guess I‟ll have to keep winging it.”
-
I‟d successfully navigated the cavernous drawing room with a small tray of hors-d‟oeurves and
returned to the kitchen when Remus walked up behind me. “What are you doing downstairs?”
The tray tumbled out of my hands. He lunged and caught it, handing it back with a stare that
demanded an immediate answer.
Depositing the empty tray and picking up one loaded with canapés, I glanced around to see if
anyone was near. No one would notice me talking to what appeared to be thin air, so I said,
“Miranda liked my plain and servile manner. I think I blend into the furniture.”
He pulled me into a small room. Just my luck, it was the Butler‟s pantry. Inwardly hoping for
some new memories to replace old ones, I kept the hair but shifted my face back to normal, just
in case he wanted a quick snog. His intensity while warding the door had me thinking if Remus
had been my fiancée, Prissy‟s claim would‟ve been true. Trying to focus on the job, I asked, “Is
Jenkins here yet?”
“Yes, he‟s in the billiards room, playing a match with Rosier.”
His jaw was tight. I said, “What about his girlfriend?”
“She‟ll be here later.”
Dark and dangerous was sexy on Remus, but I had to ask, “What‟s wrong?”
His smile was thin. “Nothing… I‟ve mingled, unmemorable, and heard every kind of gossip, yet
nothing of importance to the Underground or to our enquiry.”
There was a growl in his voice that made me squirm, and not in a good way. I said, “Okay, well,
I‟d better fix my face and serve those thingies before they go bad.”
Remus stepped between me and the shelf I‟d set the tray on. “Aren‟t you curious to know what I
did hear?”
I took a step back. “Sure. Tell me later. After the party.”
He took a step forward. “I heard several people complain about how dull parties have become
since Rosier changed fiancées and stopped having it off in the linen cupboard.” I winced. Remus
grasped my arms gently and pulled me close. “The same cupboard you were going to meet me
in? What did you plan, to compare?”
I stopped trying to pull away and got in his face. “Of course not! For your information, that
happened two years ago, we didn‟t do more than kiss, and it wasn‟t in the bloody linen
cupboard!”
“Where was it?”
I tried to control my blush, but it was immediate and fiery. His eyes flared. “Here? Well, if a
comparison is what you want…”
I barely had time to inhale sharply before his mouth covered mine. It was no sweet coaxing of
lips. The kiss was devouring and hot. Every muscle tensed before I melted against him, opening
my mouth to drink him in. His tongue swept inside and I met it boldly, gripping his shoulders.
Remus‟ hands traced my curves and cupped my backside, pulling me close. I pressed closer. He
pulled out my blouse to caress bare skin. I threw my arms around his neck.
Off-balanced, he fell back against the shelves. A loud clang sounded as the tray crashed to the
floor. We jumped apart. Trying to catch my breath, I backed away. A canapé squished beneath
my shoe. I shook it off, grimacing. My eyes flew to his. Our bursts of laughter filled the confined
space.
“Evanesco.” Handing me the tray, Remus said in a low voice, “I was jealous. Forgive me.”
I nodded, reaching up to kiss him softly. “I wouldn‟t like hearing about you and another woman,
no matter how far in the past it was, so I understand.”
His smile was pained. “Even if this wasn‟t Rosier‟s house, I‟d still be on edge. These people
lobby for more Anti-werewolf legislation while supporting the wizard who would turn Dark
werewolves on innocent children. They‟re greedy and corrupt and it‟s hard to gather information
when I can barely stand to be near them.”
Oh Merlin. Remus put on such a good face that I hadn‟t realised the depth of his antipathy. To
me, they were just rich snobs, some worse than others. I didn‟t believe every Slytherin turned
their superiority complex in Dark directions, but then again, my life had been charmed compared
to Remus‟…or Sirius‟. In a voice that sounded as small as I felt, I said, “Do you want to leave?”
“No.” Taking my hand, he lifted it to his cheek. “I didn‟t tell you that to make you feel badly. I
should‟ve kept…”
“No.” I shook my head. “I want you share with me.”
He kissed my palm. “I‟ll try to remember that.” Remus‟ expression turned rueful. “Something
else that shouldn‟t be forgotten is that we have yet to discover if Melanie is Jenkins‟ mistress.”
“Then I‟d better get back to blending with the furniture.” Turning, I began to morph my features
while reaching for the door handle. My entire body jolted when I felt Remus‟ hands grasp my
waist and then smooth downward.
“You forgot to tuck in your blouse.”
How nice of him to do it for me. My voice was even huskier than his as I breathed, “Thanks.”
His huff of amusement by my ear made me shiver. Clinging to a semblance of a work ethic, I
forced myself to open the door and return to the kitchen.
People were working like house elves to complete dinner preparations. The housekeeper frowned
at my tardy appearance, but I kept my head down and she excused me to wait with the rest of the
serving staff. Standing by the wall, avoiding eye contact in order not to draw attention to myself,
I listened to snatches of conversation.
“Gods those people can eat.”
“Eat? How about drink? I thought that Malfoy witch was going to empty the entire tray of
champagne by herself.”
“Those people are so boring I‟d drink too, and besides, her husband was too busy chatting up
Ministry officials to care.”
“Those people are awful.”
“Yeah, awfully rich…did you see the dress robes…”
I wasn‟t interested in the two women‟s best and worst dressed list, so I concentrated on
remembering the list of courses. There was a huge difference in attending a party and working it,
but I‟d make it through somehow.
Two hours later, my nerves were shot. Why they served so many courses when most guests
never took more than a bite or two anyway was beyond me. The waste of food made my lips
tighten like my mother‟s. I could almost hear her intoning there were Muggle children starving in
China, or Africa, or whatever country she chose to guilt me with. Closer to home, there was a
soup kitchen off Knockturn Alley that could use the leftover food. Taking care to speak softly
and humbly, I approached the Chef and asked him about it. He shrugged. “I can send it there as
easily as chucking it out.” When I smiled my thanks, he pinched my cheek. “Especially for a
pretty thing like you.”
I backed away, keeping the smile with effort. The bloke had to be desperate, and I didn‟t want
him trying to corner me later.
“You there, go help serve the champagne. Mr. Rosier wants to make a toast.”
I took the bottle shoved into my hands and stumbled into the chamber, looking for someone
needing their glass charged. My gaze met Melinda‟s. She looked pointedly from me to her son.
Shite. The witch obviously wanted a plain female to serve Evan. Fine. I shuffled forward,
covertly morphing dark shadows under my eyes. Concentrating fiercely, I poured without
spilling a drop.
“Thank you.”
I fumbled the bottle in surprise. Since when did he thank servants?
“Steady.” Cool fingers brushed mine as he righted the champagne. My eyes flickered sideways.
He stared. Had I overdone the shadows? Look on the verge of death or something?
Hurriedly, I mumbled, “My apologies, Sir. Thank you.”
“I want more too.”
Gratefully, I served Priscilla and backed away silently, not daring to glance in Evan‟s direction
as he stood and lifted his glass in a toast.
I scurried back to the kitchen, where I was immediately tagged to ensure the ballroom was free
of any detritus from cocktail hour. Carrying yet another tray, I stepped into the chamber lit by
floating enchanted candles and began looking.
“What was that about in the dining room?”
Leaning back against Remus, I confessed, “I‟m not sure, but I think I overdid the dark circles
under my eyes. Evan probably wondered how someone so unattractive could be hired to serve
his posh guests.”
“You‟re beautiful in any guise, to me.”
My head lolled to the side. Brilliant man that he was; my guy took up the invitation to kiss my
throat. His mouth felt so good on my skin. I sighed and stepped away before I found myself up to
my neck in trouble.
“I‟m going to search the library,” said Remus from further away, as if he‟d taken a few steps
from temptation also.
If I looked at him, I was going to drag him to a linen cupboard, so I kept my eyes on the glasses I
was collecting. “Don‟t forget to use sealant spells to prevent triggering any wards.”
“I won‟t. Until later…”
The moment the door shut with a click, I took a minute to close my eyes and grin like a lovesick
fool. I would‟ve clasped my hands to my heart, but I was still holding the tray. Laughing at
myself, I finished clearing the chamber and returned to the kitchen.
-
After helping the rest of the staff clear the mountain of dishes and cutlery accrued throughout the
lengthy dinner, I was chosen to help keep the ballroom cleared of empty glasses. Aside from
unconsciously tapping my toes every now and then, I was the perfect servant- barely seen and
not heard. Since I was almost as unmemorable as Remus, I had the opportunity to overhear
numerous conversations.
Reginald Parkinson, tired of his wife‟s clinging, asked her when she was returning to their
country house. Malcolm Flint denigrated another wizard‟s bourgeois shop off Diagon Alley and
then hit Lucius Malfoy up for a loan. Several women made catty remarks about Narcissa‟s
drinking, and then went on to envy her slim figure and stylish wardrobe. I was entertained, but I
could understand why Remus found the back-stabbing and self-centredness repelling. He had
never watched soaps on a regular basis. I‟d made Evan laugh once by saying Gran prepared me
for Slytherin society with an inoculation of EastEnders. I was only half-joking.
Making my way back to the kitchen with another tray of glassware, I bumped into a wizard who
had used the servants‟ entrance to duck out for a cigarette, by the tobacco smell he exuded.
He caught a flute that slipped off and placed it back with a grin. “Wouldn‟t want them to dock it
from your pay, luv.”
My jaw dropped. “Jim?”
The wizard Tom and I had investigated when a neighbour filed a report of suspected Dark magic
against him returned my look with curiosity. “You recognise me? Fancy that. I‟d never figure
you for a MegaMaggot fan.” Shaking back his black hair, he said, “Wait. Were you the bird who
held onto the bars at the front of the pit last concert? I really thought you were going to make it
over the barrier.” Taking a cocktail napkin that only had a trace of lipstick on it, he pulled out a
quill and said as he scratched, “Keep climbing, Maggot. Jim.”
I was still opening and shutting my mouth like an idiot while he smilingly nodded and moved on.
Hearing the sound of a woman singing, I plunked the tray down on a side table, stuffed the
napkin in my trouser pocket, and rushed back to the ballroom.
“Hold on. You‟ll get sacked if you forget you‟re the hired help and rush in there like a guest.”
It was an effort not to shake Jim‟s hand off my arm. “So? What do you care, and why are you
here anyway?”
“Hey, I like fans with the galleons to buy tickets, and Rosier owns my record label. He invites
me to a party, I show.”
I said, “Sorry for the attitude, it‟s just…I think I know the singer and I wanted to see if…”
He raised his hand. “No problem, but I‟d sneak in somewhere other than the main doors, okay?”
“Okay.” I took a step and then half-turned. “Aren‟t you returning to the ballroom?”
Jim made a face. “I‟ve heard way too many birds tweeting like her over the last couple of
months. Sometimes I think I‟ll never find a decent singer.” His gaze turned speculative. “Do you
sing?”
I shook my head, smiling over the similarities to our prior conversation. “Good luck with that.”
“Good luck with making it out of the pit.”
My mind boggled at the thought. Waggling my fingers, I turned and made my way to a side
entrance. Slipping inside, I looked around for Remus. It was too crowded. I couldn‟t see him.
Craning my neck, I tried to get a good view of the singer, but I wasn‟t able to catch sight of her
either. Trying to look like I was on my way to collect something rather than trying to check out
the chanteuse, I slowly made my way around one side to the far end of the room.
There wasn‟t a stage, which is why I had to manoeuvre almost completely through the guests to
see the band. The singer was beautiful, but she wasn‟t a redhead, and she wasn‟t Melanie. Across
the ballroom, I saw Remus. He was shaking his head, smiling through disappointment. He‟d
started to walk toward me when a hand closed around my arm and I was pulled backward.
“Come with me. If you make a scene, I will ensure you regret it.”
Unwilling to take the risk, I allowed Evan to steer me out of the ballroom. Jim looked
sympathetic, but didn‟t comment as I was marched down the corridor. My stomach dropped
when I was thrust into the Butler‟s pantry.
My ex leaned back against the door. I looked down and bit my lip, trying to appear mortified.
“I…I…I‟m terribly sorry for watching the singer instead of working, Sir. I deserved to be
sacked. I can‟t apologise enough. I‟ll just inform Ms. Trunchbull and go.”
He laughed. When I glanced up, Evan laughed harder. “What the hell are you doing here,
Nymphadora? It‟s a Christmas party, for Merlin‟s sake. No Dark doings for you to spy on.”
“My name isn‟t Nymphadora, it‟s…”
“Lora…I know. I asked Trunchbull.” Chuckling, he smoothed a hand over meticulously styled
golden hair. “Still using your cousin‟s name as a cover?”
I made one last attempt to dissemble. “I think you‟ve confused me with someone else.”
Pale blue eyes looked me up and down. “No, I‟m not confused. You startled me at dinner, but
thinking it over, I rather enjoyed having my own ghost of Christmas past haunting the place.”
Out of options, I decided to gamble that Evan‟s tone meant he felt goodwill toward this woman
and would let me go in peace after answering a couple of questions. Keeping my assumed face,
but giving up the act, I asked, “How did you know?”
-
                                       Revealing Moonlight
                                                 -
Trapped in the Butler‟s pantry with my ex blocking the door, I should‟ve just told him why I
crashed the party and left, but I had to ask, “How did you know?”
Evan stepped closer and trailed his fingertips across my left cheekbone. “The morphing is tops. I
would never have recognised you except…”
“I wasn‟t wearing perfume?”
He bent and sniffed. “No, you‟re not, but I don‟t expect staff to draw attention to themselves
with noticeable scents.” The tip of his forefinger ran down my nose and tapped the end playfully.
I glared. “You know damn well I‟m ace at nose jobs. No way did I botch it!” Evan laughed. I
began to wonder how much he‟d been drinking. He reached out to rub beneath my right eye. I
said, “I made the shadows darker on that side? Bigger?”
“No, you left this eye blue.”
I closed both eyes, feeling the mortification I‟d pretended earlier. Remus tucking in my shirt had
short-circuited my brain. I hadn‟t changed both eyes back to light brown!
“Come, come, no need to look like Christmas is cancelled. You won‟t get a lump of coal in your
stocking.”
Evan sounding jolly was starting to weird me out. I cracked open a lid. “I won‟t?”
“No, and if you tell me why you‟re here and make the other brown eye blue, Father Christmas
might just deliver a present early.”
“What kind of present?” I asked warily, trying not to think of a holiday past and Evan playing
Father Christmas in only a hat.
“How suspicious you sound. Whatever could you be thinking?” He smirked, and then nodded to
see my narrowed blue gaze. “Much better...”
I shrugged. “I came to see the singer, to see if she‟s the missing girl I‟ve been searching for.”
“An Auror case?”
“Personal enquiry.”
“Ah. I take it by your expression she isn‟t the one.”
I shook my head. “No, so I guess I‟ll just say „Happy Christmas‟ and leave.”
“Would you really wish me a Happy Christmas?”
The words had been facetious, but taking a moment to think it over, I realised my heart had
healed enough for me to actually mean them. I told him simply, “Yes.”
His smile was slightly crooked. “Then I almost wish my present of information was a glad
tiding.” Smile fading, he said, “A source at the Ministry informed me that a new piece of
Anti-werewolf legislation is being drafted.”
“What legislation?”
“I don‟t know,” he replied, “but perhaps the covert group you pretend not to belong to can find
out.” Leaning down, he kissed my cheek. “Happy Christmas, little ghost.”
Numbly, I watched him leave, murmuring, “Happy Christmas.”
I followed him out of the pantry and drifted toward the kitchen like the spirit he‟d compared me
to. Inside, Remus was prowling around. He took one look at my face and rushed to meet me as I
grabbed my cloak and told another servant I was leaving. Outside, he walked beside me in
silence for a few minutes before asking, “What happened?”
Stepping off the pavement and into the shadows, I turned into his arms. “Evan recognised
me…or rather my eye, since I‟d forgot to morph one of them brown again.” I could tell Remus
was breathing in traces of scent. He‟d know Evan had touched and kissed my cheek, but not my
lips. I closed my eyes so I wouldn‟t have to see the expression in his. “He told me new
Anti-werewolf legislation is being drafted.”
His arms tightened. “What kind?”
“He didn‟t know…but it can‟t be good…and I‟m so sorry, baby.”
Responding to the repressed tears choking my voice, his was raspy. “Don‟t be. It‟s still in the
early stages. There‟s hope we can discover and prevent the legislation from passing into law.”
He whispered, “There‟s always hope.”
I morphed my features back to normal and shifted my hair to a blazing Christmas red. Remus
smiled. I sniffed and reached into my pocket for the napkin, hoping Jim would never find out I‟d
used his autograph for a tissue. Before it touched my nose, a thought struck and I thrust the paper
out, asking, “Does this handwriting look familiar to you?”
Taking the napkin, Remus didn‟t need a Lumos spell to read the words. He said, “We need to
compare it to be absolutely sure, but I think you‟ve discovered Melanie‟s „J‟.”
Back at my flat, Sirius was taking a snooze on the sofa. I couldn‟t help smiling at the sight of
him. He was one of those men who look innocent and boyishly sweet when sleeping.
Appearances were so deceiving. I kissed his forehead. “Wake up, Prince Charm-less.”
Gray eyes opened. “Cami finds me charming.”
“That‟s because you obey her every command…and she thinks you‟re a lovable dog.”
“I am a loveable dog.”
“You smell like a dog. Did you roll in a puddle on the way over?”
Sirius lifted a piece of his hair and brought it to his nose. “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Sitting up, he snuffled the air and frowned. “You smell like Slytherin- that‟s worse. I‟ll take a
shower when you get out.”
I looked at Remus. “Do I?” His eyes slid away. I huffed. “Fine. You tell him about the party and
scrounge up something to eat, then. I‟m starved.”
Stomping to my room, I shut the door and made a face at it, hearing their subdued chuckles. I‟d
pulled off the blouse and reached for the front of my bra when a knock sounded. I cracked open
the door.
“Would you…er…mind if I had something delivered?”
Remus‟ gaze was fixed on the clasp I held together with my fingers. I let it go and felt the straps
slide down as I shrugged. “Go ahead.” I allowed the fabric to fall while shutting the door in his
face. Leaning back against the panel, I giggled like a naughty schoolgirl.
“I hear you, Nymphadora.”
I jumped, heart pounding at the sensual promise in his voice. Running into the lavatory, I
engaged the water charm to full blast and said giddily, “Oh, Remus!”
Re-entering the lounge, my bright smile was met with rolling eyes as my cousin passed me. “Oh
Remus!” he mocked, in a cloying falsetto. I felt my face heat. Had I been that loud?
Strong arms wrapped around me, pulling me back against a lean, muscular chest. “The walls are
thin.”
In the shower, Sirius began to sing You‟ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Every word was clear.
Shite.
“He‟s not that bad, got out of practise, I expect.”
I turned my head to look up at Remus. “That wasn‟t what I meant. You weren‟t supposed to hear
me sighing over you.”
“I need your love…I need your lo-o-ove…!”
“Want to hear me moon over you?” he asked, over Sirius‟ wailing to „bring it on back‟. Brushing
my ear with his lips, Remus sighed. “Oh Nymphadora…”
Oh gods, I was madly in love with this man. I turned in his arms and tried to take his breath
away. It was only fair, since his lips stole mine. We‟d gone from standing to lying on the sofa
when Sirius came out saying, “Nymph, does Ted have a Righteous Brothers record? I‟d love
to…hey, break it up, break it up! Snog on your own time. I need food!”
The door ward chimed, causing me to roll off Remus and lever myself up from the floor.
“Now you‟ve got your priorities straight,” said Sirius with an approving nod. I gave him a
friendly jab on the arm on my way to answer the door. He yelped.
I paid for the takeout and held up the bag, telling the men, “Chinese? I‟m warning you both right
now, if I get another bad-luck fortune, there will be hell to pay.”
Sirius moved a low table in front of the sofa while Remus brought plates and cutlery from the
kitchen. My cousin looked into the coolant cabinet and said, “We have a lone beer and some
fizzy drinks.”
“You take the beer.”
Laughing over our simultaneous speech, Sirius brought the drinks over, gloating, “You two are
one step closer to matching jumpers.”
I handed him a carton of brown rice. “I saw Cami eyeing a doggie jumper in a shop window the
other day.”
The container dropped from his fingers. Fumbling, Sirius caught it and spooned some rice onto
his plate. “You‟re taking the Mickey, right?” Appealing to Remus, he offered the rice and said,
“Tell me she‟s having me on.”
“She‟s having you on.”
Blowing an exaggerated sigh of relief, he reached for beef with bamboo shoots and mushrooms.
I picked up a Crab Rangoon and took a bite. After we‟d eaten enough to quell hunger, I pulled
out the slip of wizard parchment we‟d found in Melanie‟s flat.
M, if you come tonight, I‟ll be waiting. J
I handed it and the napkin to Remus, who briefly compared then passed them to Sirius.
Keep climbing Maggot, Jim
“Ding, ding, ding…prize goes to the little lady.” Brow furrowing, Sirius asked, “Why did he call
you a maggot?”
“It‟s what his band calls their fans.”
“Nice.”
I shot back, “Jim is nice.”
Sirius‟ lip curled. “Is he good-looking too? You silly girls always go for musicians.”
“I only go for Remus, but…” I hated to admit it. “Melanie could‟ve gone for Jim over Rory.”
“He‟s been auditioning for a singer,” said Remus.
I remembered something else. “Jim said tonight that he‟d heard too many tweeting birds. Maybe
she came to an audition and got turned down, simple as that.”
“And maybe he didn‟t like the way she sang, but thought red hair would look good spread across
his pillow,” said Sirius.
Remus gave his friend a puzzled look. “Have I heard you say that before?”
“Yeah, to James, sixth year…I said he didn‟t like Lily‟s Perfect Prefect ways, but…”
“If you say that again, I‟ll hex you.” I pointed my wand for emphasis.
Sirius raised his hands. “Peace, cousin, I didn‟t mean to offend.” His gaze turned sly. “Or did
you find yourself imagining someone else‟s hair spread across a pillow and…OW!” Staring at
the red welt on one palm, he barked, “You little witch!”
Remus said a healing spell to ease the Stinging Hex. “Do I have to separate you two?”
His dry tone made Sirius and I both laugh self-consciously.
“Sorry, Daddy,” I said breathily.
My guy winked. My cousin made a queasy face. “Don‟t ever say that again.”
“I won‟t if you won‟t.”
After taking a second to think, he grinned. “Deal.” Picking up the fortune cookies, he held them
out. “I double dog dare you.”
Snatching one, I opened it with a snap and read aloud, “When two hearts race, both win.”
“That‟s as sappy as your smile, Nym. Your turn, mate.”
Remus took a cookie and scanned the slip before smiling. “There‟s no excuse not to dream.”
“Better. Now, for the grand finale, the fortune of all fortunes…” Using his chopsticks to beat out
a drum roll, Sirius paused dramatically before he held up his tiny paper and read aloud, “The
future is here.” He turned the slip over, as if the real fortune would be on the back. There was
only a word in Chinese. Xu. Dog. Rolling the fortune up into a ball, he tossed it into an empty
box, muttering, “I should‟ve gone first. Sappy is better than stupid.”
“That‟s what I always say.”
Sirius smiled at my quip, before throwing a chopstick at my head.
I caught it and was about to hurl it back when Remus took it out of my hand. His lips curved.
“You‟ll poke your eye out, kids.”
We all laughed and began clearing the dishes. Discussing the best way to approach Jim about
Melanie, Sirius thought I should morph and pretend to audition. Remus threw me an apologetic
look and said that might not be the best idea. Returning to the lounge, Sirius sat in a chair while
we took the sofa. I snuggled against my toasty warm guy while he put his arm around me,
saying, “Perhaps we should try the direct approach. Show Jim the picture and see how he reacts.”
I suggested, “We could go by his house after work one day. I‟d have on my Auror robes. He‟d
think I was on official business- how about Monday?”
“I‟m…working for Neil Patil that day.”
“Tuesday, then?”
“Alright, I‟ll wait for you outside the Ministry.”
Sirius tapped his fingers against the arm of his chair. “What am I supposed to do while you‟re
out having fun?”
“I think Cami‟s supposed to be interviewing new clients on Monday. You could go to work with
her if you‟d like.”
Remus chuckled, hearing my reluctant tone. My cousin heard only what he wanted to hear,
smiling widely as he asked, “Will you ask her to dog-sit tomorrow night?”
“No!”
Rising with a natural elegance I‟d failed to inherit, Sirius sarcastically clapped fingertips against
palm. “When you love-birds pick out those identical jumpers, I think you should go for green.”
Before I could do more than open my mouth, Remus‟ hand covered my lips. Sauntering toward
the door, Sirius snickered to hear my muffled imprecation. Right before he shifted into
Animagus form, I raised my hand in the gesture he‟d earned several times over.
“Save it for Remus,” he taunted. “Only, do try to contain your passion until after I leave.”
Within seconds, a big black dog woofed and pushed through the invisible doggie door we‟d
installed. I licked Remus‟ palm. He chuckled and released me. I grumbled, “You should‟ve let
me give him green teeth.”
“He‟s already green with jealousy. To do more would be unfairly punitive.”
Oh yeah, poor Sirius, being unable to express his feelings for Cami… I complained, “You take
all the fun out of a nark.”
He kissed me softly. “All the fun?” Remus murmured, sliding his lips across my cheek to tug
gently on my earlobe.
Shivering, I turned to press him against the sofa, admitting, “Not all…” Snogging my guy
quickly became almost more „fun‟ than I could handle. While most of my brain was afraid to
play with matches, a remnant didn‟t want to contain my passion, as Sirius had put it. That
reckless part of me longed to start a fire and let it burn. My cousin had been spot on about my
wayward imagination, too. Since I wasn‟t ready to see Remus‟ hair spread across my bedroom
pillow, I used a sofa cushion as a substitute. The sight made me sigh with longing. Remus smiled
tenderly and cradled my face for another kiss.
-
Sunday passed in a series of chores, and shopping, and a walk in the park with my love and his
„dog‟. I asked Cami if she‟d mind dog-sitting the next day, and she was delighted, offering to
cook dinner for us after work. Remus said he could be there at seven, which was a good time for
us all. When Cami said goodbye, Snuffles watched until she passed out of sight.
Monday went by in a succession of interviews. Julia and I were paired up that day. We were a
good team, clearing five „possible‟ cases of Dark magic. We also took the time for a quick lunch
followed by a leisurely walk down Diagon Alley, where Jul fell in love with a pair of shoes in a
shop window. Aurors weren‟t supposed to go shopping on duty, so I kept lookout while she
dashed into the shop to try them on.
At the end of the workday, I waved goodbye to my mates and headed to the Blue Moon. Jimmy
was sitting in the reception area, flipping through a magazine. He looked up. “These photographs
are brilliant. They almost seem to move.”
It was a wizard travel magazine, charmed against Muggles. That Jimmy noticed anything made
me wonder if he had any magic in his family tree. “Are you here to see me or Bubbles?”
I thought his smile was sweet, but I had a fondness for dangerous animals. “Both. I‟m taking
Bubbles out, but Rory wants to know if you got any leads on Mel. He says if you haven‟t phoned
because you‟re a serial killer, I‟m to give you a new one.”
I took the Muggle device out of my robe pocket, glad to rid myself of what Remus had teasingly
called the „tell-tale cell phone‟. “I‟ll call Rory tomorrow night after I interview a new lead, and I
promise to try really hard not to kill this one.”
“The lead?” asked Jimmy, grinning.
“The phone.”
Bubbles floated in from Morty‟s office, saying, “Hullo, Tonks. I‟ve got a note for you on my
desk from Snuffles.”
Jimmy translated, “The dog dropped it off while Cami was talking to the boss.” He stood and
asked his girl, “Ready to go, angel face?”
“Sure thing, you handsome devil.”
I devoutly hoped Remus and I didn‟t sound like that. Picking up the note, I opened it to read,
Tonks,
A new client is paying an obscene amount of Galleons for my immediate services. I‟ll be there at
seven, and treat you and Remus to dinner, any place you like. Remind me to bring a steak back to
Snuffles for coming along as my guard dog.
Cami
Was this another dodgy client? I stalked down the corridor and pushed open Morty‟s door,
demanding, “What kind of enquiry did you send Cami on?”
My rascally uncle was looking shifty. I threw the note down. “Spill.”
He leaned back and threw his hands up in a gesture that alarmed instead of pacified. “The client
is a rich businessman whose old man married young shop girl. The father died recently and was
buried by his Muggle first wife. Sonny-boy heard rumours the stepmother‟s hired a necromancer
to raise the old josser to sign a codicil to the will, leaving half of everything to her. He just needs
a witness and photographic evidence to…”
“Which cemetery?” I interjected, clenching my fists when he told me and then had the nerve to
ask what was wrong. “Uncle Morty, Necromancy is a Dark Art. There‟s a trip to Azkaban
attached to disturbing the dead. If the Dark wizard sees Cami, he might just raise a few more
corpses to make sure there are no witnesses…and she doesn‟t know how to Disapparate with a
dog!”
His face drained of colour. I ran out the back entrance, taking only a moment to orient myself
before Apparating.
The darkening cemetery was enclosed by wrought iron. I levitated over the spikes and lifted my
wand, chanting a Dark Art tracing spell. A red light streaked from the glowing tip and shot off to
the left before vanishing into the twilight. It began to rain as I weaved through the headstones.
The sound of furious barking carried through the air.
“Tonks!”
Morty was metres behind me, wand raised. I pointed. “Hurry!” My skin crawled at the thought of
the dead lying beneath my feet, waiting to rise. Beside a crypt, I found Cami and Snuffles
backing away from a zombie who had just broken the bonds of her Incarcerous spell.
“Where are the stepmother and the Necromancer?” I yelled.
Cami used a trip jinx to take the dead man down, shouting over the barks, “They Disapparated
after he raised a couple more zombies to destroy me and my camera!”
Morty answered my question of “More?” by calling, “Help! I twisted my ankle on a bloody
headstone and zombies can‟t be stunned or petrified!”
Shite. My uncle looked like a crab, scooting backwards away from two of the living dead. The
one after Cami had begun to pick himself up. I wasn‟t close enough to help either of them.
Making a decision, I urged, “Cami! Point your wand and use Non Sentire! It‟ll turn him back
into a harmless corpse!”
Sprinting toward Morty, I aimed my wand at the closest foe. He crumpled to the ground,
returned to decomposing flesh encased in a posh suit. A waft of heat brushed my arm. I turned
and gaped. Merlin‟s toenail, the other zombie was engulfed with magical flames! Instinctively, I
scrunched my face and expelled a burst of psychic energy in what a Muggle novel had described
as „throwing a tantrum‟. The undead was propelled back, far enough for me to point my wand
and concentrate on the right spell.
I turned to my uncle. “You thought setting him on fire would be a good thing?”
He was staring past me. “By all the stars of heaven…Is that Sirius?”
My cousin was walking toward us, rain plastering his black hair against his skull. He looked
gutted. I ran to him. “What happened? Where‟s Cami?”
“She couldn‟t say the spell right. The zombie was reaching for her, so I transformed and grabbed
Camillia‟s wand.”
The monotone recital scared me. I placed my hands on his shoulders and shook. “What did she
say to you?”
His eyes were focused on an inward vision. It was hard to tell if it was rain or tears on his face.
His lips turned down. “She never wants to see me again.”
“And you‟re going to accept that?” When he started to nod, I slapped him as hard as I could. “If
you love Cami, you‟ll go to her and work this out! She‟s probably reaching for a bottle right
now, and if you don‟t stop her, I‟ll…I‟ll…”
Sirius‟ hug broke off my incoherent threat. “Take care of Morty. I‟ll take care of
Cami…somehow.”
He Apparated, leaving me soaked, worried…and with a lot of explaining to do.
                                Ch 12- Shadows in the Moonlight
                                                 -
“Was that Sirius?”
I‟d fought zombies and sent my Animagus cousin off to explain why the dog Cami loved was
also the Wizarding world‟s most wanted. Hysterical laughter seemed a natural response. “As
Sirius as he gets,” I choked out, before breaking into giggles again.
Uncle Morty raised an imperious black eyebrow. I cracked myself up over the pun. Black.
Ha-ha. He said, “Look in my coat pocket. There‟s a bar of chocolate. Eat it.”
Kneeling beside him, I wiped the rain out of my eyes and took a shaky breath. “I‟m okay, really,
I…” Noticing where he was lying, I pointed to the headstone. “That guy can say „somebody
stepped on my grave‟…literally!” I started laughing again.
“For Merlin‟s sake, eat the ruddy chocolate!” My uncle held out the bar with a grimy hand. I
took it, brushing grave dirt from the wrapper, trying hard not to snort with macabre humour. I
failed. He frowned. “Chew.”
The chocolate wasn‟t the best. Morty was such a cheapskate. Poor as he was, Remus always
carried a good brand. Swallowing a mouthful, I said, “You know, Jan carries some bars that
aren‟t that expensive, and I bet Lisa would enjoy creamy chocolate kisses a lot more than…”
“How do you know we‟ve been kissing?”
I finished using the Reficiere charm I‟d practised on Priscilla before replying, “You‟ve been
whistling in the mornings.”
He took the hand I extended and slowly got to his feet. “Thanks, but maybe I whistle because
business is good.”
“Def Leppard‟s Pour Some Sugar on Me?”
Morty looked embarrassed and then rallied. “Hey, I asked you a question. What the hell was
Sirius doing here? Does he think those posters all over the city mean he won Witch Weekly‟s
sexiest wizard alive contest?”
I smirked. “He made the top ten.” The rain had become a mist and fog was beginning to roll in.
The cemetery resembled something from a classic horror film. I wanted to leave. “Let‟s talk
about this back at your place.”
He ran a hand over his spiky hair, making it stick up. “Uh, that might not be such a good idea.
Lisa‟s there making dinner.”
I had to look away. The mental image of my friend chopping veggies while singing for Morty to
sometime, anytime, sugar me sweet, was threatening to bring back laughter. “My flat, then- I
used sound proof spells on the outer walls.”
“Fine.”
Returning to the Blue Moon and my flat, we each performed drying and warming charms while I
put on a pot of coffee. Handing my uncle a sturdy beaker, I sat across from him at the bistro
table. There was no easy way to explain, so I blurted, “Sirius is worried about Harry. He needs to
be close enough to go to him if something happens.”
“Why did he come to you instead of…other family?”
I realised he felt hurt to be excluded and said, “Sirius didn‟t come to me, I just happened to be
with Remus the morning after the full moon when…”
“You spent a full moon with a werewolf?” asked Morty in an overly calm voice.
“He‟s on Wolfsbane and harmless. Biscuit?”
“No thank you. Does your mother know?”
Selecting one of Jan‟s triple chocolate masterpieces off the plate between us, I took a big bite.
“MmHmm…”
Uncle Morty leaned forward. “About you spending the night with a werewolf?”
I took a long drink of coffee. “I told you he‟s harmless.”
“That means no. Has Sirius gone to see Andromeda?”
I shook my head. “It‟s too dangerous.”
He chuckled. “That man used to laugh in the face of danger.”
“He‟s changed.”
Morty shrugged. “Haven‟t we all?” Releasing a noisy breath, my uncle sipped his coffee, looking
deep in thought. He said reminiscently, “Andie and I hated Black family gatherings. They
weren‟t parties, or even remotely festive. They were more like family allegiance meetings.” His
lips curved. “Even when he was little, Sirius thought up the best pranks to play. Helping the little
devil carry them out was our relief from hours of boredom.”
“Sounds like fun.”
His smile was bittersweet. “Yeah. Aunt Walburga would shatter glass with her shrieks, before
she‟d curse the hell out of the cheeky blighter. When he was older, Sirius would drop by and
play poker occasionally. My mates would talk about him for weeks afterwards. He made „em
laugh their arses off while he took their money. Dung used to say the boy would either be
famous or infamous, but the world would know the name of Sirius Black.” Glancing at the wand
I held, he met my regretful gaze and smiled wryly. “Don‟t need to ask what that‟s for. You know
I‟d slip and tell somebody. I‟ve got a good poker face, but something like this is too hard to hold
in.” He winked. “Don‟t feel bad, but do let my favourite cousin know the blokes still think highly
of him…and so do I.”
“I will.”
A few minutes later, I followed my uncle to the door and made him laugh by giving him
smacking kisses on both cheeks. Thanks to a memory charm, he thought we‟d saved Cami from
zombies and he‟d been escorting me home. I leaned back against the door after he was gone and
tried not to cry. Reaction was setting in. I wanted to be with Remus so bad. I needed to feel his
arms around me and hear him say everything would work out. That life had meaning and a
purpose, even if we couldn‟t see it right now. I raised a hand. It was shaking. I headed for the
shower.
A half hour later, I pulled on a bright red jumper to match my hair. Slipping on a pair of denims
and some flats, I made a decision. I couldn‟t wait until Remus knocked on my door to share what
had happened. I was going to Floo to his place. I wouldn‟t bother him at work. I‟d just wait for
him to return. Feeling like a weight was rolling off my shoulders; I grabbed a handful of powder
and walked into the fireplace.
Stepping onto Remus‟ hearth and into his lounge, I was hit by the urge I‟d been fighting since
he‟d caught me examining the bedroom wall‟s invisible door handle- the desire to snoop. It
wasn‟t suspicion that made my fingers twitch. It was overwhelming curiosity. That and a
schoolgirl need to touch his belongings.
Flopping into a chair in the dining/reading nook, I picked up a book from the table and opened
the cover. Maybe I‟d read. It was in Latin. I set it down again. I‟d do something else. Out of the
corner of my eye, I saw a list. Without touching it, I leaned over to read,
Albus- warm socks
Andrew- flameproof kitchen mitt
Patils- fruitcake, with marzipan
Dunnes and Rochers- wine (Jenny Dunne prefers white, Jan Rocher red)
Tonks, Mr. and Mrs.- gift basket from Chocolat
Sirius- darts board
Nymphadora- ? (must be unique)
The childish part of me pouted over not seeing what Remus planned to get me for Christmas.
The rest was thrilled he was putting consideration into the gift. I didn‟t expect anything lavish, I
just wanted something thoughtful. Of course, that went both ways, and I was uncomfortably
aware that I still had abso-bloody-lutely no idea what to give Remus.
Resting my head against the back of the arm chair, I looked up at the ceiling and said, “If I took a
quick peek through my guy‟s stuff, I might get an idea.”
Put that way, prying was almost a selfless act. After all, I was doing it for Remus. Conscience
muzzled, I used a sealant spell so I wouldn‟t leave a trace…of a smudge…on valuable
parchments.
Deciding to leave the lounge for last, I searched the kitchen first. It looked like Remus ate
sandwiches when he had to shift for himself. Good thing he spent almost every evening with me.
I was brilliant at simple conjuring and takeout.
The counters were bare except for a tin of tea. No sugar. I smirked, thinking I‟d pour some sugar
on him anytime he liked. Pulling open the drawers, I was taken aback to find there wasn‟t one to
hold odds and ends. Didn‟t everybody have a junk drawer? My eyes slid to the table. Within
minutes, two extra quills, a menu for Lee Ho Fook‟s, a couple of sickles, and three rubber bands
resided in a previously empty space. My work there done, I sauntered into the lavatory.
“What are you looking at, witch?” my reflection asked cheekily.
I flashed a vulgar hand gesture.
The young woman in the mirror pretended to be shocked and then affected a „Sirius‟ voice.
“Save it for Remus.”
I grinned wickedly. “Oh, I will.”
Waggling my fingers to end the mental but amusing conversation, I ran a hand over a neat stack
of threadbare towels and then opened the medicine cabinet. The contents were perused with
interest. Several apothecary bottles lined the top shelf. Herbal remedies along with a couple of
Morning After potions…was the hangover cure for Sirius or for after the full moon? I‟d have to
find a way to ask casually without revealing my Christmas reconnaissance.
There was a pot of liniment, for sore muscles after a change, I‟d bet, and a box of
brushing/flossing mints. I took one, just to be minty fresh when I kissed my sweetie in…I
checked the time. No worries that he‟d be home too soon.
In the next room, I enviously speculated there had to be a special spell that made the bed so
precisely. Impulsively, I took a sickle out of my pocket and tossed it down on the coverlet. Sure
enough, it bounced.
Hugging the pillow, I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent. Weirdly, the thought popped into
my head that I‟d never done that with Evan‟s. It wasn‟t that I‟d never had the opportunity. There
were plenty of evenings I‟d ended up taking a nap on my fiancées bed when one of his meetings
ran late. Pressing a kiss to the fabric, I replaced the pillow. Maybe I just reacted more physically
to Remus. My gaze flickered down the bed and lingered before I dragged my eyes and mind back
to the task at hand.
His bedside table was small and contained only a paperback novel in the drawer. It was Call of
the Wild, by Jack London. Although tempted to kiss the wolf depicted on the cover, I restrained
my inner mushy schoolgirl and moved on to the wardrobe. Hidden behind a wall panel, it was
much smaller than mine. My guy didn‟t have that many clothes. It didn‟t matter to me, and I
hoped he felt the same way about the extensive wardrobe I did possess.
He only had three jumpers. I counted them again in disbelief. Black. Brown. Roll neck gray. My
frown became a smile. That was one present I could buy. Thinking about a shopping trip with
Jul, I returned to the lounge and began to look through the parchments on a worktable. It
would‟ve been more productive if I read Latin, but I liked Remus‟ handwriting. Impishly, I
wondered which parchment was the list of Roman pick up lines he‟d whispered in my ear one
evening. Hilarious to think I‟m new in town, may I have directions to your house had been used
back then.
Taking out books at random, I read the inscriptions. There were loads from Andrew and his
parents. Padfoot and Prongs had each given him several. Noticing a collection of Shakespeare‟s
Sonnets, I opened the cover. Inside, the inscription To Remus, Love Dorcas made me want to
incinerate the book to ash. I was going to be mature and calmly replace it when I caught a hint of
a floral scent. I saw red and threw it against the wall by the door. It almost hit Remus. Standing
in the open doorway, he looked from me to the book and said, “Not a fan of Shakespeare?”
I crossed my arms and turned to the window, blinking back tears. He shut the door and came
over to gently stroke my face. “What‟s wrong?”
I turned into his waiting arms. “Oh Remus…” I stiffened in disbelief and then pushed him away
to demand, “Who the hell made you smell like cheap perfume? Dorcas Meadowes?”
His stare softened into understanding. “Aashi Patil wanted me to „smell pretty‟ for my
girlfriend.” Seeing me bite my lip at the mention of the five year old, he added, “Dorcas gave her
life for the Order long ago, but we‟d parted ways before that. I couldn‟t give her the love she
wanted, and she couldn‟t accept that I was a werewolf.”
My surge of relief turned to shame. “I‟m so sorry, I…” Misery overwhelmed me. I couldn‟t stop
crying to answer his questions. I could only cling to him as he lifted me into his arms and carried
me into the bedroom.
Lying in Remus‟ warm embrace, I eventually quit crying and gained hold of my emotions.
Sniffing, I tried to covertly morph my face while using his handkerchief to mop up the evidence
of my tears.
“You don‟t have to do that for me.”
It was hard to meet his eyes. “I guess I‟m vain on top of being selfish and distrustful.”
He raised my chin. “You‟ve been hurt badly. I know it‟s hard for you to trust. And it‟s not selfish
to want the person you love to love you more than they‟ve ever loved anyone else. It‟s
human…and I feel that way too.”
I scooted up to kiss him, whispering, “I do love you more.” Trying to show it, I kissed him
deeply. His hands caressed down my back. I twined my fingers in Remus‟ hair and teased his
lower lip with my tongue. He had the most incredible mouth- hot and sexy. Our kisses became
wild. I pressed closer as his tongue plunged in a rhythm that made my hands clench. I wanted to
sink into his skin the way he sank into my mouth. I wanted…
“Nymphadora…stop…”
I froze, staring down into Remus‟ set face. Every muscle in his body was tense. My face burned
along with the rest of me. He was holding back for my sake, and I wasn‟t helping. I tried to roll
off him. He stopped me, shifting us to lie on our sides. I said wretchedly, “Are you tired of
hearing me say I‟m sorry?”
“Don‟t be sorry. I‟m not. Uncomfortable, perhaps, but I don‟t regret one moment.
Tears filled my eyes. “I didn‟t mean to get so…it‟s just that after the zombies, and Sirius, and
Morty, and finding that damned book…”
“Tell me…”
The words came gushing out. The story of my fear for Cami, the events in the cemetery, and
what happened afterwards with Sirius and Morty, spilled in a rush. He listened intently. When I
paused, Remus said, “Sirius always manages to land on his feet. He‟ll come back over the moon
and more in love than ever, but what about you? How are you doing?”
I tried to smile. “I thought I was coping.” Determined to be honest, I confessed, “I looked round
your flat, and had fun snooping until I found that book and went round the twist.” He smiled
when I admitted, “I would‟ve probably gone mental with jealousy even if I hadn‟t already been a
bit…erm…mental.”
Remus‟ hand was warm against my cheek. “Wolves aren‟t the only territorial creatures?” I gave
a watery laugh, hearing the words I‟d once told him. I kissed his palm. He pressed a gentle kiss
to my forehead, saying, “I‟m glad.”
“That I‟m mental?”
“I prefer to think we‟re crazy about each other.”
I wanted to snog his brains out for being so wonderful, but I didn‟t trust myself to behave.
Instead, I kissed him briefly and said, “I love you…and I‟d love some food, too. I‟m starved.”
He chuckled and led the way to the kitchen. After preparing roast beef sandwiches that weren‟t
so rare I couldn‟t eat one, he lit a tall candle and placed it in the middle of the table with a
flourish. “I would pull out my lady‟s chair, but it‟s already backed to the wall.” Playfully, he
took a linen serviette and folded it into a swan. I smiled in delight when it „flew‟ from his hand
to my lap before unfolding. Attempting to reciprocate, I waved my wand. The candle rose out of
the holder and floated mid-air. I was congratulating myself on creating a romantic glow when the
wax suddenly melted at an alarming rate and began to splatter.
Remus grabbed what was left of the taper, wincing as hot wax burnt his skin. Placing the stub
back into the candleholder, he said apologetically, “I can‟t afford wizard-made and , as you
discovered, cheap Muggle candles don‟t react well to spells.”
I used a healing charm on his hand and tried to look on the bright side. “At least the wax didn‟t
drip onto our sandwiches.”
His smile was wolfish as he pointed to the shortened candle between us. “The better to see you
with, my dear.” Remus‟ eyes gleamed amber. “Candlelight becomes you.”
I batted my eyelashes, joking, “Moonlight becomes me, too.”
He stared for several moments before replying with a funny little half smile, “It always has.”
Feeling shy, I mumbled „Thank you‟ and darted over to the coolant cabinet to grab drinks.
Affecting a French accent, I presented him with a bottle. “Une bière for Monsieur.”
“Merci.” When I sat down, he asked, “May I read your palm?” Curious to see what my guy was
up to, I held out my hand. Rubbing his thumb across my skin, Remus murmured, “These lines
say you have Christmas spirit and like beer.” He pressed lightly. “This pad says you like your
steak à point, medium, and your mousse au chocolat.” Tracing from the tip of my index finger
down to my wrist, he finished, “And this tells me you don‟t need fancy dinners, you just want to
spend time with the man you love.”
I felt a shiver of anticipation go down my spine. “You already knew all that, so why are you
talking like you just realised it?”
Remus brought my hand up to his lips before releasing it with a loving smile. “After we eat, I
have a story to tell.”
                                 Chapter 13- Loving Moonlight
                                                 -
We‟d agreed to a single goodnight kiss before sleeping on opposite sides of my bed, but it was a
promise impossible to keep. I wanted him too much. I couldn‟t let him go that easily. Remus‟
fingertips were stroking my abdomen. The memory of invisible hands slowly moving upwards
caused me to shift restlessly. His fingers fluttered across my ribcage and then began to draw
away. My hand covered his. “I don‟t want to stop yet.”
“Oh, Nymphadora,” he said in a voice that sounded caught between a chuckle and a groan.
I lifted his hand to where I wanted it and then kissed him deeply before sighing. “Oh…”
I awakened with a smile. Slowly, I became aware of the solid warmth against my back. I opened
my eyes to see Remus‟ arm draped over me. His hand was inside my top. Grinning, I stayed put,
rationalising that it would be cruel to wake a man who needed his sleep. His fingers moved. I
held my breath. Maybe he was having the same kind of dream I‟d been having. Mum always said
it was rude to interrupt.
“Tonks, you decent? I need to borrow some…Stars and stones! Don‟t get up- I‟ll find the coffee
myself.”
The moment I‟d heard Uncle Morty‟s voice, my eyes squeezed shut. It was the ostrich response.
I was hoping against hope that if I couldn‟t see him, he couldn‟t see me.
“Nymphadora?”
Remus‟ husky, amused tone got me to open my eyes and shift to see his face. “Mmm?”
“Perhaps you should let go of my hand.”
Oh gods, I‟d raised my hand up to cover the area Remus was…erm…covering and hadn‟t let go!
He probably thought I was purposely trying to keep his fingers there. A blush crept up my chest
and made my face hot. I did want his hand to stay where it was. Too embarrassed to admit it, I
tried to move away. He pinned me to the mattress and said, “When you run, it brings out my
primal side. Is that what you want?”
His face was shadowed and sexy. I pulled free so I could throw my arms around his neck. In the
middle of kissing my guy for all I was worth, I heard Morty return.
“Sorry to barge in like that, I‟m just going to take some beans home and grind…Cockroach
Clusters! I did not see this, and if Andie asks, I neither know, nor care to know my niece‟s
personal business!”
I couldn‟t help laughing over his hasty exit, although I was insulted by the choice of
exclamation. “We‟re Everlasting Gobstoppers,” I told Remus, whose smile made my pulse start
racing again.
He kissed me before helping me up. “Yes, we are.”
Wearing only the trousers he‟d kept on last night when I‟d asked him to stay, Remus looked
scrummy in the morning sunlight. I sighed happily. He smiled. “I‟d love to stay, but I‟d better go
see to Buckbeak. He‟ll need feeding if Sirius hasn‟t returned.”
Trying not to pout, I said, “I‟ll tag along, if you‟d like.”
He shook his head with a wolfish gleam in his eyes. “You might run, and if I chased you through
the warehouse in my current state of mind...”
What a thrilling image. Only the thought of my cousin‟s reaction to a situation more
compromising than what my uncle had seen stopped me from grabbing my running shoes.
Following Remus into the lounge and handing over his shirt, I dredged up a smile. “I guess I‟ll
see you after work, then.”
I wasn‟t very good at hiding disappointment. He paused in buttoning. Wrapping his arms around
me, Remus hugged me tight and kissed my cheek. “We‟ll play chase another time.”
“Promise?”
At least I made him laugh. Remus had a nice, warm laugh. “I promise.”
When he left, I returned to the bedroom and picked out some clothes. Heading for the shower, I
decided to stop by Cami‟s before work and see if she‟d forgiven me for keeping secrets- and to
find out if Sirius was still there.
-
Armed with coffee and pastries, I approached my friend‟s door. Appreciating the spell that
allowed takeaway cups to stack without falling over, I set the pastry bag on the mat and knocked
on the door.
Behind me, I heard the sound of a ward being released. I turned to see a woman open her door.
She smiled. “Good morning. Here to visit Camillia?”
“Yes,” I said warily. „Uncle Dungie‟ used to say it was hard to tell if a neighbour was a good
„un, or a bad „un, so he avoided all of them. I wasn‟t as suspicious, but I wasn‟t going to
volunteer any information, either. Smiling faintly, I allowed the silence to drag on. Like most
people, Mrs. floral housecoat with fuzzy pink slippers cracked under the silent pressure.
“Please give her this jar of marinara sauce. I made it last night with the wine she gave me. It
came out splendidly, so I hope she enjoys it.”
Cami had given the woman a bottle of wine? Shite. Had she been drinking? Was she passed out
on the floor inside with Sirius keeping a mournful vigil over her insensate body?
“Marianne, I can‟t find my glasses!”
“Coming, Gill!” she called, before confiding to me, “They‟re probably on his head, the forgetful
dear. Tell Camillia I hope she‟s feeling better this morning.”
I nodded while thinking, Merlin, had Cami staggered down the corridor, raving drunk and
shocking the neighbours? She wouldn‟t hurt Snuffles, would she? I banged on her door with the
jar of sauce. It made nice, solid thuds.
“Tonks?”
Forgetting my original vision of her as a pitiful drunk, I held up the marinara and said, “Let me
in.” My tone implied or else. I remembered a few door blasting spells from Auror training and
wouldn‟t hesitate to try one.
Cami nodded sleepily and backed away. I bent to pick up the bag and handed her the jar and
pastries. She smiled. “Thanks.” When I entered her flat, my friend shook her head and then said
frowningly, as if just remembering, “Hold on, you owe me a lot more than coffee, croissants and
pasta sauce. You owe me an apology for…” breaking off to hold up the jar, she asked, “Why the
blazes did you bring marinara?”
“That‟s from the neighbour across the corridor, and I am sorry for not telling you about Sirius,
but I couldn‟t, and I didn‟t tell Lisa or Morty either.”
Tightening the belt to her kimono, she said, “Well, in case you were wondering, I didn‟t run to
the off licence to grab a bottle when I found out. I had one on hand, behind the box of muesli in
the pantry. It was cheap plonk, to reduce temptation.”
“Cami, sweetheart, is it alright if I use your razor?” Holding up the item in question, my cousin
strolled into the room wearing only a towel in a coordinating shade of pink. Catching sight of
me, he smiled widely. “Morning, Nymph, where‟s Remus?”
“Feeding Buckbeak.”
“Good old Moony, always willing to shoulder responsibility.”
My unease at noticing Sirius was even better looking without clothing became indignation.
Poking him in the chest, I snapped, “Don‟t you think it‟s about time you became responsible
too?”
“I do.”
My gaze travelled from cousin to friend. Not sure how to interpret the soft smiles and scanty
attire, I said to him, “Brilliant! Now go get dressed or no croissant for you.”
He shook back his hair and grinned unrepentantly. “Uncomfortable with a little bare skin, are
you? What‟s the matter? Do I remind you of naughty Greek statues…or…perhaps my mate
Remus?”
“Remus has more definition and chest hair, and those statues often had parts missing, cousin, so
if you don‟t want to resemble them in more than colouring…”
“His skin‟s not marble white, it‟s pale and perfect!” interjected Cami. Sirius flashed a roguish
smile her way. She blushed. “Stop being an exhibitionist and go shave, love.”
I‟d never seen my self-confident cousin look almost bashful. It was amazing…and worrying. The
moment he left the room, I demanded, “What‟s going on with you two?”
“Will you think badly of me for saying we slept together last night?”
“No. Remus slept in my bed, but we didn‟t, well, you know.”
Cami smiled as she led us into the kitchen to divide the large coffees into three cups and put the
pastries on a plate. “I know. We didn‟t either, but I was really tempted.” She told me some of
what happened after the cemetery and said, “No one‟s ever looked at me like he does, or said
they loved me for the things he loves me for. I was already dreaming about Sirius from that
poster, and I loved Snuffles…and he is Snuffles, so…I think I love him too.”
“Wow.” I hugged her. “I‟m happy for you.”
“So you won‟t mind if he starts spending the night with me on a regular basis?”
I picked up a tea towel and snapped it at her. “Course not. I‟m not one of those Blacks. I‟m a true
Tonks. We want our loved ones to be happy.” Reaching for a cup of coffee, I took a sip and
asked, “Do you think badly of me for not being ready to take the same step with Remus?”
Cami offered a chocolate drizzled croissant. “No! Sirius and I talked a little about you two last
night…or maybe this morning...” Waving a hand, she continued, “I told him you‟d gone back to
b.c.e., and were slowly but surely making your way from there.”
Baffled, I said after swallowing a bite, “Before Current Era?”
She laughed. “Before Cheating Evan.”
I stared and then put the cup down so I could bury my face in my hands. “Oh gods, sometimes I
get the same butterfly feelings I did as a teenager, but I didn‟t think I‟d regressed to quite that
point.”
A large, warm hand patted my back. “Don‟t worry, little cousin, Remus is already a cradle
snatcher in physical age. What‟s a few more years‟ difference emotionally?”
I laughed and elbowed my dressed and happy looking cousin. “Thanks a lot, you git.”
“I am a jammy git, aren‟t I?”
I kissed his cheek. “Yes you are, and don‟t forget it.”
“I won‟t.”
Tossing back the rest of my coffee, I said, “Love to stay watch you moon over each other, but
duty calls. I‟ve got lonely old people to talk to and explain why their claims of Dark magic are
false and will receive a fine if repeated.”
“I‟d planned on being an Auror, after the war.”
Sirius‟ tone was meditative, but it made me sad. Stoutly, I assured, “You‟d have been ace.”
Trying to lighten the mood, I added, “And I would‟ve loved to take advantage of nepotism.”
He smiled. Cami took his hand in hers. “I‟ve got to follow a suspected fraud around today, see if
I can catch him turning the neck he claims is injured. Want to be my Seeing Eye dog?”
Sirius gave a bark of laughter. “I‟d love to.”
I jokingly warned him not to chase any cats and left for the Ministry. I noticed on the duty
schedule that Connelly and I were partners that day and dropped by his cubicle. After we talked
over our first case, I asked him while heading to the Floos, “So, Jerry…how goes the campaign
to win Anne over?”
He looked around before furtively removing a slip of parchment from his robe pocket. The
Wizard Scout turned Auror looked like a pleased little boy, handing it over. I glanced at the
paper and grinned. It wasn‟t a love note. It was something better. Jerry had finally earned a
personalised memo of doom. It read,
Excessive smiling is unbecoming to an Auror.
I gave back the slip and held up my hand. He gave me a high five.
-
At the end of the workday, I rushed down the stairs and out of the Ministry. Remus laughed
when I hurled myself full tilt into his arms. “I‟m very happy to see you, too.”
If two stuffy members of the Wizengamot hadn‟t been nearby, I would‟ve kissed him longer, but
I kept it short and sweet, murmuring, “More, later.”
“Is that a demand or a promise?”
I hooked my arm through his. “Both.”
“Good.”
Waving to several workmates who called out farewells, I accompanied Remus to the public Floo
station. When we walked out of the one nearest our destination, my guy said thoughtfully, “This
isn‟t an area I‟d expect to find a successful musician living in.”
Enjoying the tranquillity of the neighbourhood, seeing the children playing with model firebolts
and chasing garden gnomes on the lawns of their detached homes, I smiled. “I think that‟s the
point.”
“Are you here about my cat?”
I startled, hearing the shrill voice of Jim‟s neighbour Mrs. Cravitz. She hurried across the front
garden, carrying something in her arms. When she reached the pavement, I saw it was a hairless
feline. Tom was going to laugh his arse off when I told him. I kept a straight face with effort.
“What about your cat, madam?”
Mrs. C thrust the pitiful looking creature at me. “Mr. Biggles has no hair! It all fell off last night
and I just know that black-clad ruffian did it. Look at my poor kitty. Mr. Biggles was worth his
weight in galleons before this. Won best in show three years running! Now he won‟t even be
able to compete this year!”
“I‟m sorry for your loss, madam, and yes, I am on my way to interview Mr. Rune.”
Lifting her chin, the woman sniffed. “About time!”
Remus chuckled when she marched away. “Did this Jim really hex her cat?”
“Don‟t know, but it gives us a good excuse to knock on his door.”
Unlike his neighbours, Jim‟s garden was simple and free of what I‟d heard euphemistically
described as „lawn art‟. When he opened the door, I asked, “You do the garden work yourself?”
He recovered quickly from his surprise. “Yeh. It‟s relaxing.” When I nodded, impressed, he
shook his head. “That‟s not why you‟re here. I know Mrs. C‟s been making accusations again.
She came over this morning, ranting about her bloody cat.”
I held up my hands in a „what can I say‟ gesture. “She showed us Mr. Biggles.” I turned and
introduced, “This is my partner, Remus. Mr. Rune, We‟d like to ask you a few questions.”
Raking black hair away from his pallid, artistic features, he said, “Call me Jim. You‟re Tonks,
right? The Auror with a hair colour fetish- very cool… Come in.”
Something I hadn‟t noticed on the last visit was the clean, spartan décor. The guitarist caught my
interested appraisal and said, “What did you expect? Black leather, beer bottles, and babes?”
Remus chuckled. The guys exchanged smiles while I made a face. Just as we‟d taken a seat in
the lounge, a girl wandered in, dressed in a black MegaMaggot tee. Fortunately it was a man‟s,
since the blonde didn‟t appear to be wearing anything else.
Jim rose and said, “Oh, hey, Lucy…”
“Lori.”
He had the grace to look embarrassed. “Yeh, Lori, Uh, I‟ve got company, so why don‟t you get
dressed and let yourself out. I‟ll see you later.”
“But I want to stay.”
“Sorry, Miss, this is an Auror enquiry. I have to ask you to leave, unless you were a material
witness to last night‟s incident, in which case I need your name, date of birth, address, next of
kin…” I trailed off meaningfully. The groupie‟s eyes widened.
“NO! I don‟t know anything. I have to go now.”
Jim watched her leave with a wry smile. “Maybe I should‟ve stopped with „beer bottles‟.”
“Yeh.”
He laughed at my impersonation. “You‟ve got a real knack- sure you don‟t sing?”
“Very sure,” answered Remus. I pretended to scowl. He winked.
Jim smirked. “Partners, eh? I bet.”
I cleared my throat and shot back, “Where were you when Mr. Biggles became bald?”
He looked ready to burst into laughter. “Studio. Rehearsing for Friday‟s gig. Want a couple of
tickets?”
“Are you trying to bribe a representative of the Ministry of Magic?” I used my mother‟s velvet
over steel tone.
Jim held up his hands. “No way! It‟s just that the concert‟s sold out, and I‟ve got a couple of
extra tickets and you seemed interested…”
“Then we‟d love to go,” I said with a bright smile.
Remus „coughed‟. I kept smiling although I wanted to laugh at the comic expression on Jim's
face. He didn‟t know how to react to my abrupt switch in manner. Good. Off-balance was just
the way I wanted suspects. Made it easier to shake the truth loose… Pulling out a couple of
tickets from his pocket, the man explained, “My sister-in-law dropped them off right before you
guys showed. The kids gave my brother the elfin flu, so he‟ll be on potions and resisting the urge
to clean everything in sight for another week.”
I whipped out my wand and used a sanitising spell on the tickets. “No offence, but I‟d rather not
get the urge to scrub till I drop.”
“None taken,” said Jim. He smiled. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
My eyes met Remus‟. He nodded and held out a photograph, asking in what I thought of as his
„serious professor‟ voice, “Do you know the whereabouts of Melanie O‟Neill?”
“Photographs that don‟t move are so freakin‟ creepy.” Jim gazed down at the picture for several
moments. “She looks familiar, but I can‟t place her.”
Remus extended the slip of parchment we‟d found in Melanie‟s flat. The wizard examined it and
then took a closer look at the photo. “Oh, yeh, I remember now. Mel. Another bird that sings all
high and sweet. She asked for a second audition. I felt sorry for her, so I agreed, but in the end
had to say thanks, but no thanks.”
I was disappointed. Remus gave me a small smile of reassurance before asking, “How did she
learn about your audition? Miss O‟Neill is a Muggle.”
Jim shrugged. “Who knows?”
Fidgeting wasn‟t the only suspicious behaviour. Utter stillness was a giveaway too. I gazed
steadily into the musician‟s eyes and said, “Only the people closest to Melanie call her Mel. Are
you sure there‟s nothing else you‟d like to tell us?”
The sudden frostiness of his gaze was matched by the abrupt drop in the room‟s temperature. I
could see my breath. Jim shook his head. A scraping sound was heard. His icy expression turned
to alarm. Lunging toward me, he shouted, “DUCK!”
                                 Chapter 14- Questioning Moonlight
                                                 -
I felt something whoosh past my head and slam into the wall. Black pottery crumbled around me.
Before I could demand to know what the hell Rune was playing at, he yelled, “Cut it out,
Smash!”
Drawers in a corner desk popped open, the contents lifting into the air and then sent hurling
toward the sofa by an invisible force. Jim stood in front of us. While the rest of the objects
clattered to the floor, a letter opener remained suspended mid air. The pointed tip hovered a bare
millimetre from his throat. Grabbing the handle, he shook the blade warningly. “How many
times have I told you only to frighten the people who like it. Go to your attic and don‟t come
down for the rest of the day!”
The poltergeist remained invisible, but I heard a petulant „Awww…‟ before the cold draft, and
presumably the spirit, left the room. Jim said apologetically, “Smash is the reason I bought the
house. He‟s cool most of the time, but gets a little over-protective.” Clearing the pottery shards
with a wave of his wand, he explained, “His real name is Simon. The boy died trying to jump his
bike from the roof to the pool in a jackass stunt, but he was a hard-core Maggot, and the band‟s
fond of the little bastard.” Crossing to a framed poster on the wall, he pointed. “We called that
our „Smash Tour‟.”
I rose to examine the concert poster, my gaze wandering from the flaming „M‟ symbol to the
signatures of the band members. I said, “Well, he‟s no Peeves, but Smash does make a lasting
impression.” Shifting into Auror mode, I held out my hand. “Thank you for your co-operation.”
“Good luck finding her. She seemed nice.”
Remus shook Jim‟s hand and said, “Her mother thinks so.”
I waited until we were out of the neighbourhood to transfigure my robes into a comfy leather
jacket. Hugging Remus, I said, “If he didn‟t crack, you at least made him feel bad. Fab job with
the guilt, professor.”
“Anytime,” he replied with a smile. Holding my hand as we continued to walk, he said, “Jim
isn‟t the only „J‟ in the band, is he?”
“No, he‟s not, so you‟ll need a black tee and a muting charm this Friday.”
He chuckled and said, “Right now, I need to go by the warehouse and see if Sirius has returned.
If he hasn‟t, Buckbeak needs tending. If he has, Padfoot might need a friend to talk to.”
“Will you come see me afterwards? Morty dropped off a steak and kidney pie in barter for the
coffee. His cookery is almost as good as Mum‟s.”
“High praise, but even without the promise of dinner, I‟d come for the company.” He kissed me
and smiled. “I want more, later, too.”
I was still grinning like a love-struck fool when I Apparated. Walking around the corner of the
Blue Moon, I hummed a cheery, if off-key Def Leppard tune and headed for the front door.
Maybe I‟d drop by Cami‟s office and see if they‟d caught the fraud in action. Or perhaps I‟d go
take a bubble bath and daydream about Remus. I‟d decided to do both when a long, sleek car
pulled up beside me. The back window slid down. From the interior, a smooth Irish voice said,
“Get in.”
After I chanted a silent Paparazzi Charm in case there was a cop somewhere taking pictures, I
bent to look inside. Smiling brightly, I said, “Nice to see you too, Mr. Farrell. Thanks for the
offer, but I‟ve got plans.”
“Break them.”
The Chauffer got out of the car. He was well-muscled. I backed away and took out my cell
phone. “Let‟s call Rory. Maybe he‟d like to be in on this conversation.”
While the phone was still ringing, it was taken out of my hand. I gave Mr. Hard Body a warning
look. “Give that back.”
“After our conversation,” said Colin.
I exhaled sharply. “Fine.” Although his tone wasn‟t menacing, the man still made me nervous.
That made me tetchy. Slapping the phone thief‟s hand away from the handle, I opened the door
and slid inside. I‟d wanted to slam it shut, but I wasn‟t fast enough. The stone-faced driver
quietly closed the door and resumed his position behind the wheel. I stuck out my tongue. He
saw me in the mirror and half-smiled.
“Fiesty as ever, I see,” remarked the man beside me.
“Yeah, it‟s part of my charm.” Wishing it wasn‟t illegal to hex Muggles, I said, “Coercion,
though, is not so charming. What do you want?”
Black Irish eyes were not smiling. “We‟ll talk back at the house, where technology hasn‟t
advanced enough to bypass my security.”
I peered out the tinted windows as we pulled away from the kerb. “They can hear us?”
“It depends, but it‟s possible they can.”
That was cool and scary at the same time. The dry amusement in his voice caused me to change
tactics. Not only because I‟d rather be on his good side. Invasion of privacy got my Irish up.
“Hey Farrell, know what they say about eavesdroppers?”
He regarded me with a small smile. “They never hear well of themselves.”
I winked. “Right…So…why did the chicken cross the road?”
A black eyebrow lifted in silent question.
“Constable‟s answer: Give us five minutes with the chicken and we‟ll find out.”
His smile widened. I grinned. My cousin Rita was always cracking jokes and had a great sense of
humour about being a meter maid. I mentally thanked the lovely girl while saying, “Five P.C.
were on a boat. The boat sank. How many police died?
“Five.”
“Ten. Five during the accident and five during the re-enactment.”
Giving a chuckle that sounded just like Rory‟s, he made me smile by asking, “How many cops
does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
We disagreed about the answer. He said six- one to do it and the other five to smash the old bulb
to smithereens. I said none- it turned itself in. Colin asked the driver his opinion. Mr. Silent Type
surprised me by having his own. “One, but he‟s never around when you need him.”
By the time we reached Farrell‟s posh abode, the three of us were out of cop jokes, but the
Chauffer gave me a full smile. I told his employer, “I‟ll make him laugh yet.” Answering the
enquiring look, I said, “On the way back, I‟ll tell mob jokes.”
Farrell smiled in a way that made me feel like a schoolgirl trying to turn a professor up sweet to
get out of detention. We entered the study. It was still tastefully decorated as ever. I pointed to
the fireplace. “New picture?”
“It‟s a portrait I commissioned of Rory‟s family.”
I immediately went to stand before the fire. Rory‟s mum and dad looked like nice and caring
people but… “He gets his looks from you.”
“Yes, Siobhan always said I needed to have a girl who looked like her, to even things out.”
“It‟s not too late.”
He began straightening files that were already tidy. “It‟s also not what I wanted to discuss with
you Miss Tonks.”
Colin gestured to one of the leather chairs in front of his shiny desk. I sat and asked, “Are these
seats purposely low to give you some kind of psychological advantage?”
“What do you think?”
I thought the „professor‟ was amused, but he was still bent on giving me a hard time. Mentally
dusting myself off to try again, I sat up straight. “I think we‟ve made enough chit-chat. Why am I
here?”
“Why haven‟t you found Melanie?”
“Are you accusing me of not working the case hard enough, Mr. Farrell?”
“I want results.”
I clasped my hands together in the ladylike pose I used to prevent impulsive hand gestures. “I‟m
following every possible lead.”
He picked up a Muggle writing instrument and held it poised above notepaper. “Besides
Melanie‟s family and friends, those leads are?”
“None of your business.”
I was given a stare that made me glad I was sitting down. My knees might‟ve wobbled. “My
nephew is my business.”
I raised my chin and pretended to have an aristocratic nose to look down. “Anything my client
wishes to share with you is his concern. Mine is maintaining the integrity of this enquiry.”
“Don‟t put on airs with me.”
His voice was soft, but his expression was hard and intimidating. For an instant, I considered
trying Gran‟s „a gentle answer turns away wrath‟ approach. A corner of his mouth tilted. The
smug gesture set me off. “Don‟t try and muscle your way into my case.”
“It‟s only yours as long as I say it is.”
Leaning forward, I said, “Does Rory know that? He asked me to find Melanie, and I will, but if
any of your boys start mucking about, you‟re going to regret it.”
Elbows on the desk, fingers steeple, Colin raised both eyebrows. “And how you will accomplish
what no man ever has?”
I leaned back and crossed my legs. “I‟ll dare your new girlfriend to re-decorate your home.”
“What?”
I jerked my head toward the fireplace. “There‟s a dragonfly hair clip on the mantel. Debbie was
wearing it the night I dared her to ask scrummy Uncle Colin for a dance. Said yes to lots of
things, did you Farrell?”
Implacable dark eyes were fixed on mine, but I could tell he was fighting the urge to check the
mantel. “You don‟t know shite.”
Inwardly, I rubbed my hands in glee over the telling vulgarity. Outwardly, I affected
embarrassment. “No? I suppose you‟re right. I mean, she‟s not exactly your type, being so…”
My hands outlined wide curves.
“Deb is not fat.” The second after he spoke, a look of chagrin crossed his face.
I grinned. “No she‟s not. Say hi for me, will you?” Standing, I went over to the mantel and
tossed him the clip. “You should be thanking me.”
He deadpanned, “Thank you for calling me scrummy.”
I was still laughing when Jimmy walked in. “Wotcher, Tonks, I didn‟t expect to see you here.”
Turning to Farrell, he said, “Rory stopped by O‟Neills, but he should be back soon.”
“Wotcher, Jimmy, I was just on my way out.” Pausing by the desk, I said, “I know you‟re
worried the cops will charge Rory, but trust me…I‟m close to finding her. I just need a few more
days.”
“Fair enough.”
We shook hands. I hugged Jimmy and left feeling a lot better than when I walked in. Outside, I
told the driver I didn‟t need a ride. Returning my phone, he looked almost disappointed, so I
asked, “What‟s your name?”
“Joe.”
“Hullo, Joe, want to hear a mob joke?”
His lips quirked. Taking that as a yes, I said, “A mob guy takes his girlfriend to the cinema and
says, „I'd like to see a film, but it's nothing but this shoot-em-up action bullshit. I get enough of
that at work.”
He made a deep, rumbling noise. I considered that a laugh and waved goodbye. There was no
invisible Remus by the trees at the end of the drive, so I stopped for a moment to sigh over the
memory and then Apparated.
-
I probably should‟ve gone home, but when I‟d heard Rory was at the pub, I couldn‟t resist
making a stop there first. I wanted to tell my „client‟ not to spill too much to his uncle. Colin
might‟ve smiled and shaken my hand, but I didn‟t trust him. He was too used to having things his
way.
Inside O‟Neills, fairy lights were intertwined with seasonal greenery and music was playing
through the stereo system. It was fast and cheerful and brought to mind little girls step-dancing in
embroidered dresses. Muggles looking happy to be off work packed the bar and tables. I really
liked the friendly atmosphere. Hearing a throaty laugh, I turned my head to see the woman who
made the place too friendly for me to want to bring Remus here again.
Molly was serving drinks and laughing with the male customers. I could see why they found her
attractive, in a brassy, overblown way. Idly, I wondered if she came on to Colin like she had my
guy. I smiled, picturing Debbie telling the older woman off in delightfully vulgar terminology.
“May I buy you a drink?”
Did I look like some bird on the pull? My discouraging expression changed radically when I saw
who had asked. “Gerald! How are you? Is Lora with you?” I kissed the handsome barrister‟s
cheek, which made a rowdy group at the back whistle and clap.
My future cousin-in-law smiled. “I‟ve found my fiancée the perfect Christmas gift, so all is
well.” He pointed. “I‟m with some workmates. Lora should be here soon, though. Would you
care to join us?”
I shook my head regretfully. “I‟m here to meet a client. Tell Lora I‟m looking forward to her
trifle at the party next week.”
“I will.”
Heading toward the bar once more, I was envious that Gerald already had Lora‟s present.
Besides a jumper, I still didn‟t know what to get Remus and there weren‟t that many shopping
days left till Christmas. Meeting Molly O‟Neill‟s impersonal smile, I put my selfish worries
aside and said, “You might not remember me, but I‟m Rory‟s friend, Tonks. I need to speak with
him. Is he around?”
She stared blankly for a moment and then snapped her fingers. “You‟re the enquiry agent. I
remember. Rory says you‟re really making progress. I have to say, that‟s the only thing keeping
my spirits up.” Another customer was trying to get her attention. Molly smilingly refilled his
drink before reaching across the bar to place her hand on my arm. “I pray for you every day.”
Blinking rapidly, she said, “You‟ll find him in Jenna‟s office…just go on back.”
“Thank you.”
The staff corridor seemed unnaturally silent compared to the noisy pub. Danny wasn‟t racing his
radio-controlled car around, so the sounds from the office carried low but clear. Unable to
believe what I was hearing, I crept forward. The door was ajar, so I slowly pushed it open. I
didn‟t want to look, but I made myself step into the doorway. My eyes confirmed what my ears
had heard.
Rory and Jenna were standing beside her desk, kissing passionately. Dark head bent to auburn, it
was obvious this wasn‟t a first kiss. There was no hesitation in the way lips and bodies moved
together. Her fingers sifted through his hair in much the same way I stroked Remus‟- sensuously
enjoying the texture. His hands roamed her back and hips with a possessive familiarity. I
shivered, although my face was burning. It wasn‟t jealousy over an old boyfriend that made me
see red. I slammed the door shut.
They leapt apart like guilty teenagers. Ignoring Jenna‟s distraught face, I focused on Rory. “Is
this why Melanie ran off? She knew you were having it off with her sister?”
His cheekbones flushed. “You know me. I‟m not a cheat. I never touched Jen until…”
“I thought I knew you,” I cut in, “but I would‟ve sworn you weren‟t a liar, either, and you‟ve
been lying to me since day one.”
“I couldn‟t tell you.” Rubbing a hand across his eyes, he said, “My solicitor told me if anyone
knew I went to see Jenna after the fight, it would look like there was some triangle going on,
and…”
“Wasn‟t there?” I didn‟t give a toss if interrupting was rude. I wanted answers.
“No, there wasn‟t!” Jenna insisted. She looked at the man beside her like she was waiting for
him to deny it too.
He was silent for a few moments. Taking her hand, he confessed, “Melanie used joke that I came
around for her family as much as her. She kept asking me why I cared if you liked me or not,
why I bothered trying to win you over. I told her it was because Danny‟s such a great kid; I
didn‟t want his over-protective mum saying we couldn‟t be friends.”
Jenna looked stunned when he told her, “Later, when she asked why I didn‟t try to do more than
kiss her, I told Mel I respected her desire to keep things light.” His smile was self-mocking. “I
was lying to myself. She hurt my pride by cheating, but I was the one who kept seeing her just so
I could be near you.”
“But that night…you were so angry.”
“I was afraid,” Rory admitted, in a low, raw tone. “I was afraid you weren‟t going to let me be
there for Danny anymore, and scared you‟d never give me a chance to be with you.”
“You found out I would when you kissed me,” she said with a smile.
I snapped my fingers to break up the touching moment. “Hello? Remember me? The enquiry
agent you two have been hiding your little romance from?” Fixing Jenna with a steely look, I
asked, “When did he kiss you? The night Melanie ran off?”
“No, he came over ranting, with a bottle of whisky, so I calmed him down, watched him drink
and let him sleep on my sofa. It was last week. When Danny‟s car broke, I told him not to call,
but he did, and Rory came storming into my office and…” She lifted her chin. “He wasn‟t the
only one lying about true feelings.”
I rubbed my eyes to try and ease the pounding headache they‟d given me. I was still cheesed off
that Rory had lied, and even more so that I hadn‟t added up all the little clues that pointed to this
relationship. Shaking my head, I blew out a breath and said, “Don‟t tell anyone
you‟re…whatever…until after I find Melanie, and lock the damn door next time, will you? What
if Danny or Molly had walked in on you? Or a police detective?”
“Tonks, I…”
“I want you to tell Uncle Colin to keep his boys out of my enquiry, and I want you to be honest
with everyone the minute Melanie comes back, but right now, I don‟t want to hear another word
from you Rory Farrell.”
On the way out the door, I heard him say, “Thanks.” Typical male, wanting that last word… In
the corridor, although he couldn‟t see it, I held up two fingers.
“You‟d get in bad trouble if you did that at my school.”
Looking at the redheaded boy who walked toward me, I said, “My teachers told me I lacked the
ability to behave myself.”
He shook his head. “You just didn‟t want to.”
No wonder Rory was so crazy about this kid. I smiled. “Danny, boy, you‟re abso-bloody-lutely
right.”
He grinned. “You‟d get in trouble for saying „bloody‟ too.”
Waving goodbye, I ducked out the back entrance and Disapparated. Back at the Blue Moon, I
took the stairs two at a time, hoping Remus was waiting for me. My heart lifted when I entered
the flat and saw his worried frown change into a smile of relief. I read the questions in his eyes
and said, “Later.” Stepping into his arms, I threaded my fingers into his hair and rose on tiptoes,
saying, “More kisses now, please,” before pulling his head down for a snog that made everything
better.
                                   Ch 15- Moonlight for Lovers
                                                  -
In Remus‟ arms was my favourite place to be. His hair was like brown silk threaded with coarser
strands of gray and I loved running my fingers through it, tugging it to pull his mouth down to
mine. He had fabulous lips. They weren‟t thin, or thick, too wide, or narrow. They were perfect,
and melded to mine in a way I didn‟t have to see to know was an ideal match. I could feel it in
everything from whisper soft kisses to bold explorations of my mouth and skin. It was just right.
Worries faded, overpowered by the sensations washing over me. Thoughts of stripping off a few
layers and increasing the pleasure incited me to press even closer. Hearing a low groan caused
me to release his lips and step away from caressing fingers. I loved Remus too much to use him
that way, even if he was willing.
He looked at me with shadows in his eyes. “If you don‟t want me to touch…”
“Of course I want you to!” I cut in hastily, “It‟s just…I was trying to forget the last couple of
hours, and you deserve better than that.”
A smile flickered across his face before he gently enfolded me with his arms. “I‟m willing to
take anything you‟re ready to give.”
I kept my head on his shoulder, feeling too embarrassed to meet his eyes. “Did you…erm…talk
to Sirius?”
Remus‟ lips brushed my hair. “Yes, and he told me what I already knew. You need to go slow, in
stages.”
Not about to ask if the term „cradle snatcher‟ came up, I gathered the nerve to raise my gaze.
“Thank you for being so patient.”
His expression was tender. “I love you. You‟re worth the wait.”
I melted inside. “I love you so much.” Our kiss was hot, but sweet.
Sticky sweet? From your head to your feet?
My eyes popped open. That stupid song was playing in my head again! I‟d been humming it
when Colin had pulled up and… Releasing a deep breath, I took Remus‟ hands and led him to
the sofa. “A lot happened after we said goodbye.”
He listened as I began to share the condensed version my talk with Colin Farrell. His eyebrows
arched when I mentioned the cop joke part, but he made no comment other than, “You‟re more
like Sirius than I‟d thought.”
I took that as a compliment and glossed over the nervousness I‟d felt while emphasising the
promise of non-interference. His lips curved a few times, making me wonder if Remus was as
good at reading between the lines as he was at reading Latin. I smiled when he said dryly, “I
don‟t know who to feel more sympathy for- Debbie or Farrell.”
Deciding there was no graceful way to segue into the second half of my story, I said with false
cheer, “Speaking of couples, I dropped by O‟Neills to tell Rory not to give Uncle Colin any
information and…” I swallowed, unable to continue in a light tone.
His hand cupped my cheek. “What?”
“I found out Rory and Jenna are seeing each other, that she‟s his alibi for the night her sister
disappeared, and he and Melanie were never lovers.”
Remus‟ gaze was sympathetic, but not shocked. It touched a nerve. I got up and went to stare out
the window. “You must think I‟m getting a dose of my own medicine.”
I stiffened when his arms slid around me. “I don‟t think that way. You lied to me about Rosier
because you were afraid I‟d be hurt. It appears Rory lied to you because he was afraid Jenna
might be implicated. Knowing someone‟s motivation doesn‟t make the lie sting less, but it is
much easier to forgive.”
Relaxing against him, I said, “I‟m upset because I feel stupid and…”
It was too hard to say. He said it for me, “Rory hurt your feelings by not trusting you.”
I shrugged. Trying to distract myself from painful thoughts, I focused on the window. It was
dirty. I cleaned the inside glass on rare occasion, but Morty was too cheap have the outside
cleaned more than once a year. Maybe if I used a spell to write „Clean Me‟ in the grime on every
window pane…
“Nymphadora.”
Closing my eyes, I said tightly, “I hurt your feelings a lot more than Rory hurt mine and I don‟t
know if I‟ll ever trust him again, so how can you…”
“Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
I shifted to face him. “That sounds like something Gran would say.”
“It is.”
“Really?”
Remus answered my true question. “I trust you completely.”
Why was it so hard for me to believe that? Wasn‟t that the way I trusted him? Twining my arms
around his neck, I kissed his face all over, trying show how much his words meant to me. Then I
concentrated on his mouth. When I came up for air, he asked, “Are you hungry?”
“Ravenous.” I showed him how much.
Remus dragged his lips away to whisper in my ear, “For food- I hear your stomach rumbling.”
I laughed and pressed my hand against my middle. “I wish I could live on love, but I'd better
reheat the steak and kidney pie.” He smiled in a way that made my heart turn over and caused me
to ignore my growling tummy for a few more minutes.
-
Wednesday morning, I marched into Julia‟s cubicle and announced, “We have to go shopping.”
She looked up from reading a file. “I‟ve got all mine done.”
Hoping my envy didn‟t show, I said, “So? I haven‟t…and I need help!”
Jul smiled . My tone must‟ve matched my Christmas-tree coloured hair. “Sit, my child, and tell
the shopping guru what you require.”
I slumped into her visitor‟s chair, which was much comfier than mine. Raising my arms in a
gesture of frustration, I let them flop and said dejectedly, “I don‟t have anything for Remus, and
if I can‟t find him something special…”
“Christmas is ruined?”
“Exactly!”
Tapping a beautifully manicured fingernail against her desk calendar, my pal nodded decisively
and said, “There‟s only one thing to do. Take a half day tomorrow and go emergency shopping!”
I grinned. “Tom is a lucky man. He‟d better buy you something outrageously expensive.”
“Did someone say I was outrageously expensive? I protest. My love doesn‟t cost a thing.”
Laughing at the man lounging in the open doorway, I said, “Are you saying you can be had
cheap, Fenton?”
He smiled wickedly. “For the right woman.”
Turning to Julia, I winked. “Maybe you ought to buy him something outrageously expensive.”
“I already have.”
“How do I know that? There‟s not a single present under your tree,” said Tom.
Did Viking gods pout? Tom did, and it was an amusing sight. Julia smiled as she explained,
“That‟s because you poke and prod and try to find out what you‟re getting. I‟m making you wait
until Christmas.”
I left them happily bickering and returned to my own tiny space. Notes and files were strewn
across the desk. Since I knew where everything was, I didn‟t want to clear it off and risk a
possible decline in job efficiency. A new memo of doom rested on top of the Bertha Jorkins file I
kept out in hopes a lead would turn up. Picking up the reprimand thinly disguised as advice, I
pinned it to the dartboard and pulled out a dart. Stepping back as far as possible from the side
wall, I aimed, fired, and hit dead centre, smirking at the slip that read,
A cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind.
Another note caught my eye. It made me smile. I was still smiling when I reached the small
office across from a broom cupboard. Seeing the lone occupant reading a magazine, I greeted,
“Wotcher, Mr. Weasley!”
He reacted like I‟d hit him in the arse with a pinching hex. “Ah!” Shoving whatever he‟d been
perusing into a drawer, he tried to shut it while saying, “Yes, good morning, Tonks, ahem…I‟ll
be ready shortly.”
Since I always try to be helpful, I walked over to see if I could assist in closing the drawer.
“Looks like there‟s no room to put anything else in, so if you remove your…Siren‟s Secret
Catalogue!” I didn‟t mean to sound so shocked, but it was like catching my dad looking at
pictures of half naked women. Whether he was ogling or trying to find something for his wife,
the scenario was disturbing either way.
“I…er…wanted to surprise Molly with something pretty, so when I saw this catalogue in the
mail…”
Arthur looked so uncomfortable, I clamped down on my squeamishness and said
matter-of-factly, “Good thinking, to get an idea of what you want before you walk in the store.”
“The…the store…I thought I‟d pick something and order…” he broke off when he saw my head
shaking.
“Even if they can owl it in time, what if it‟s the wrong size or the wrong colour? You really need
to pick it out yourself.” Now he was looking queasy. Somehow, that male fear of stepping foot
into lacy territory restored my mental equilibrium. Arthur was a workmate who needed help.
Giving him a bracing smile, I said, “We can run by between cases. Easy peasy.”
“Lemon-squeezy?”
Had my Gran taught him that? It was one of her favourite phrases. She'd be so chuffed to hear
how she influenced others. I grinned. “Yeah, that too.”
I half expected him to balk and use being „on duty‟ as an excuse, but he nodded sharply. “Right.
Let‟s be off.”
The witch we interviewed was tearfully grateful to have the illegally enchanted music box taken
away. When her partner had bought it from a street vendor off Knockturn Alley, she‟d laughed at
the Yank 'Santa Claus' dancing on top. After a few days, however, she‟d begun to crack from the
paranoia spell a Dark wizard had laid on the item.
While Arthur carefully placed the music box in a neutralising case, the woman said tearfully,
“It‟s been horrible, knowing he sees us when we‟re sleeping, and knows when we‟re awake.
Even when I placed it in a cupboard, I could see those little eyes, glowing in the dark…”
I tried to explain, “He doesn‟t really know if you‟ve been good or bad, it‟s the spell…”
She began to sob. “For goodness sake, just take it away!”
Gently advising her to see a medishrink, Mr. Weasley stood and said we‟d show ourselves to the
door. Once outside, he looked at the case and said straight-faced, “Santa Claus will indeed be
coming to town.”
I snorted with laughter. He gave a mischievous smile and Apparated.
A couple of hours later, Arthur‟s expression wasn‟t smiling. It was filled with dread. He
reminded me of his son Charlie. Seventh year, my Astronomy pal had come up to me in the main
corridor and wanted to talk. When he‟d hemmed and hawed trying to get around to it, my
patience vanished…
“C‟mon, Weasley, I don‟t have all day,” I told him as I grabbed his arm and dragged him into an
empty classroom. Shutting the door, I said, “Look, no one is staring, or listening, so tell me
already!”
Charlie‟s freckled skin flushed with embarrassment. “Um…uh…since you‟re not going with
anybody to the Yule Ball, and I‟m not going with anybody, I thought maybe…”
“We could go as mates? Sure.” I smiled, thinking of how Evan would react when I met him in the
library. His jealousy of my male friends was funny, considering he had a female friend who
would push me off the Astronomy Tower in a heartbeat.
“Mates…yeah…right…see you,” said Charlie.
Hand on the door knob; I turned to ask, “What colour dress robes are you going to wear?”
“Brown.”
“To match your eyes, good idea…I‟ll do the same. See you!”
Mr. Weasley‟s eyes were blue, but the expression in them was the same frozen uncertainty I
remembered. Giving him the Charlie treatment, I dragged Arthur inside the shop and said
briskly, “Now, what did you want to get your wife?” He shook his head almost dazedly. I heaved
a sigh and began to rattle off questions. “What kind of material do you like? Silk, satin, lace,
mesh, mesh and lace…”
“Lace.”
“Fine. What style? Babydoll, chemise, slip…”
“Babydoll.”
In the back of my mind, a little voice was moaning „too much information‟, but I ignored it and
soldiered on. “Okay. Last thing. V neck, halter, plunge halter…”
“Plunge.”
With every answer, Mr. Weasley‟s voice had lowered, so I had to strain to hear the last one.
Keeping my eyes averted from his, I did a visual search, located the desired apparel, and pulled
my companion toward the rack. Reaching it, I said, “Just pick a colour and take your purchase to
the till assistant. I‟m going to go…find something…alright?”
“Alright,” he agreed, sounding relieved to make his decision in privacy.
Across the store, a sheer demi cup bra embroidered in a pink floral pattern caught my eye. Mum
always stressed the importance of wearing nice under things in case one got in an accident. What
would the Healers at St. Mungo‟s think if they saw? Pretending it wasn‟t someone else‟s opinion
I wanted to be approving, I decided to buy it.
At the back counter, a gorgeous redheaded man dressed in leather and dragon hide was chatting
up a model-thin blonde. She was too busy tittering over his joke about the hag, the healer, and
the Mimbulus mimbletonia to notice me. I‟d just raised my fingers and was about to start
snapping when I heard Arthur say, “Miss, we‟d like to make our…Bill!”
“Dad!” the bloke yelped, sounding more like a boy caught with his hand in the biscuit tin than a
smooth operator.
“I thought you weren‟t returning until Christmas Eve!”
Nervously raising a hand to his pony tail, the man replied, “Actually, I got assigned this side job
at the last minute…”
Seeing my amusement, he smiled charmingly until the clerk asked, “Will your purchases be
made separately or together?”
“Together? Why are you together and what exactly are you buying here, Dad?”
The tone reminded me of the howler Charlie had once received at school. Bill sounded a lot like
his mum. Arthur straightened to say with impressive authority, “Tonks is the Auror assigned to
my department today. Now, the young lady will ring her items separately, you will not concern
yourself about my purchase, and as far as your mother is concerned, we never met.”
After I paid for the matching bra and panties I couldn‟t resist, I headed for the door. Bill
followed, averting his gaze from the lace in his father‟s hands.
“So you‟re Tonks, eh? Charlie talked about you, but it‟s been awhile since Hogwarts and I‟ve
never been good putting names with faces.”
I smirked. “So many women, so little time?”
He laughed. “Something like that.” His gaze turned speculative. “Are you really a
metamorphmagus?”
“MmmHmm.”
“Would you show me?”
I gave him a cynical look. “What did you have in mind? A Veela?”
“What can I say? I fancy porcelain blondes.”
“Buy a figurine.”
He snickered. “Ouch. Come on, if you were mates with Charlie, you probably showed him loads
of times. Why not show me once?”
Mr. Weasley exited the shop carrying an elaborately gift-wrapped package. I smiled at his son
and said, “You know what made Charlie a good friend? He never asked me to change.”
-
Hours later, I said goodbye to Arthur and returned home. The memory of Bill‟s open-mouthed
expression made me chuckle. My uncle must‟ve been waiting for me, because he immediately
stepped out of his office to ask, “What‟s so funny?”
I shook my head. “Long story. Why are you lurking?”
He didn‟t even try to deny it. “You promised to take the next slag duty.”
Crap. I tried to protest, “You didn‟t give me warning and Remus is coming over…”
“It suddenly came up and he can go along for all I care. I just don‟t want Lisa doing it.” He
rubbed the back of his neck, admitting, “The husband frequents the pub I was recently thrown
out of.”
Pushing past him, I went into his office and got comfortable in a chair. “Give me the details, I
want the money deposited immediately, and this cheat better have a name.”
Three hours later, I was a brassy blonde poured into a short red halter dress. Inside the pub, I
acted like the stares I received were flattering and looked for the subject of my enquiry. I saw
him chatting with a brunette. She was just the type his wife, a former „dancer‟, said he liked- a
tart with a too-short skirt and too-tight top. Raising my camera concealed in a clutch, I took a
picture. Photographs of the couple would be enough, but the client had requested I act decoy and
record the findings. Glancing down, I frowned and increased my bra size, to out-do the
competition. Stars, I hoped I wouldn‟t spill out or get a backache. Squaring my shoulders, I made
my way to the bar and sat on a stool near the target.
“What can I do you for?”
I ordered a beer, which got the attention of the cheater. He smiled. His current companion was
sipping wine. Maybe she liked it, but I bet she thought it was classier. I took more pictures while
laughing at the barman‟s lame jokes and flipping my blonde hair back. Flashing cleavage was
sinking low to get a man's attention, but it worked.
The cheat moved to the barstool next to mine. "I'm Hugh."
His name was Hubert, but that was the one thing I didn't despise him for lying about. I parted
glossy lips in a smile. "I'm Liz."
We chatted awhile about holiday crowds and our jobs. He said he was a journalist. I acted
impressed although I knew he really sold advertising for the Daily Prophet. Offering a mental
apology to Siva, I said I was a nail artist. He was fascinated by the three dimensional moons and
stars on the fingernails I held at chest level as I explained my 'art'.
After the cheating husband invited me back to 'his place' for a drink, I accidentally dropped my
glass on the floor. While the bartender waved away my apologies and cleared the shards, a
wizard entered the pub.
"Stars and stones, what's he doing here?" I muttered.
Beside me, Hugh looked from my sulky face to the approaching wizard's stern expression and
swallowed hard when he heard,
"I thought you weren't going to do this anymore."
I let a shoulder rise and fall. "I thought you weren't going out of town on business anymore."
I was pulled off the stool and against a muscular frame . "I'm not, so let's go home." Giving the
cheat a dark look, he said, "Do you have a problem?"
"No, no problem."
Impulsively altering our plan, I yanked my arm out of a firm grasp and put a hand on a cocked
hip. "What if I don't want to go?"
Amber eyes gleamed. "Walk out or be carried out."
Several patrons called for my partner to 'show who wore the trousers'. Secretly wanting to be
carried, I huffily marched to retrieve my cloak, swinging my hips every step of the way. Outside,
I pulled up the hood and morphed my body, watching Remus exit. He looked lean and
dangerous. I said, "You're not angry, are you? I was just playing back there."
He smiled wolfishly. "I'm not angry. I'm in the mood to play chase."
-
                                    Ch 16- Hunting Moonlight
                                                   -
He was in the mood to play chase.
Nervous laughter bubbled up inside me. I tamped down the schoolgirl reaction, asking, “What
did you have in mind?” I‟d wanted to sound worldly and sophisticated, but my voice was much
too breathy.
“The warehouse.”
My imagination supplied images that made my heart race. Fragments of dreams in which I‟d
been chased…and caught…played in full colour upon the screen of my mind‟s eye. I was thrilled
and apprehensive at the same time. Hesitantly, I said, “What about Sirius?”
“He left to visit Cami and said not to wait up.”
The bottom dropped out of my stomach. I tried not to show that the thought of being all alone
with no possible interruption to keep my responses in check was unnerving. After all, Remus had
said he would take anything I was ready to give. My body was more than willing to say "take it
all!" My mind, however, reminded me he knew I needed to go slow, in stages. He wasn‟t going
to re-enact one of my more vivid dreams. We were just going to play. Reassured, I nodded my
agreement with a smile and Apparated.
Moments later, approaching the dark structure, I started to worry again. I could barely hear his
footfall right behind me. He had much better night vision. How was I going to evade capture for
a respectable length of time?
“Don‟t be so tense. I won‟t gobble you up when I catch you. Just nibble a bit.”
Relaxing at his mischievous tone, I turned and placed my hands on my hips, playfully
demanding, “Are you so sure you‟ll catch me?”
Remus tapped his chest. “I‟m the big, bad wolf.” Reaching out, he traced my lips with a
fingertip. “You‟re Little Red Riding Hood.” His slow, predatory smile made my heart leap. “I‟m
abso-bloody-lutely sure I‟ll catch you.”
He was only teasing, using one of my favourite expressions, but it jolted me out of the helpless
female mode I‟d fallen into. Joking or not, my partner was much too confident. My pride was at
stake. Trying to conceal my newfound determination, I stepped close and brushed my lips across
his before whispering in his ear, “Oh really?”
He turned his head and kissed my neck, sucking lightly before saying with a sexy growl in his
voice, “Really.”
I felt him inhale deeply and knew he was planning to track me by scent. I tugged his earlobe
gently with my teeth and breathed, “Give me a head start, Wolfie.”
His low chuckle made me shiver with pleasure. Taking a step back, he said, “Better run, Little
Red.”
I ran.
His laughter followed me into the warehouse, making me even more determined to give my
smug sweetie a chase to remember. The interior was dim, but the huge skylight overhead
provided enough illumination for me to see the stairway at the back. I dashed over to it and
clattered up the steps, thanking the stars for charmed heels. Reaching the upper floor, I took off
my shoes and held them while muttering the spells I‟d learnt from a house elf and a sympathetic
Auror instructor. After my scent was neutralised and I became stealthy, I slipped back down the
staircase and bolted to the far right side of the warehouse.
Remus entered only moments after I‟d ducked down behind an abandoned crate. “My sharp nose
makes it easier to track your scent, my dear,” he said with a smile in his voice. His footsteps
were soft and deliberate as he headed for the stairs.
I waited and then kept my head low as I peeked. He was wearing black, which made him harder
to see, but I could tell there was a strut in his stride. I didn‟t want Remus to catch a flash of white
teeth, so I covered a grin as I enjoyed the view. When he began to climb, I waited until I thought
he was approaching the top before leaving my hiding place. I could hear a faint creaking of
floorboards overhead as I made my way around to the back wall, keeping to the shadows. When
the footsteps returned to the stairway, I flattened against a steel support beam.
“Your scent vanishes on the landing. Very clever.”
Why did people underestimate Hufflepuffs so often? We could be just as bold, clever and
cunning as those in other Houses. Smirking, I listened to him descend and then head straight for
my former hiding place. When his laughter echoed, I knew he'd found the cloak I‟d left on the
floor. It was my cue to dart to my next hiding place. This time I slid off my heels.
“Nymphadora was here, and is no longer. Aren‟t you chilly without your hood, Little Red?”
If I was shivering, it wasn‟t from a cold draft gusting through the warehouse. I was responding to
his tone, which suggested he‟d love to warm me up. To be honest, I would‟ve liked nothing
better, but I was out to prove I was nobody‟s „prey‟, however seductive the mental image might
be. Concentrating, I cast a nonverbal Disillusionment charm.
“I can hear you breathe.”
I gasped, and then shook my head in frustration when he chuckled. Damn it! He‟d been like a
predator trying to startle quarry into revealing position, and I‟d done exactly that. While he
circled swiftly around, I moved to flatten against the back wall. I tried not to make another
sound, hoping he'd think I'd rushed to a hiding place further away.
“Now you‟ve left your shoes behind. Are you trying to switch fairy tales? I don‟t want a
Cinderella. I want my Little Red Riding Hood.”
Remus‟ voice was husky and appealing…and gave away that he was prowling toward the left
side of the warehouse. I hadn‟t gone that way. I‟d stayed in the centre back, near the staircase.
After counting to five, I slipped from hiding and began climbing.
Halfway up, I paused when I heard my love call out, “This hunt is making me very, very,
hungry.”
The words to our favourite Duran Duran song popped into mind. When I stopped to bite my lip
to prevent giggling over Hungry Like the Wolf, I looked down and noticed the next step looked
different from the others. There was no dust. I hopped over it and felt the wood make a snapping
sound, like teeth clamping together.
At the bottom of the stairs, Remus huffed in amusement. “I wondered if you‟d catch my trick
stair. It was worth a try, and now I know exactly where you are.”
Shite! Giving up total stealth, I clambered up the stairs as fast as possible. At the top, I heard his
footsteps gaining. He‟d be upon me if I didn‟t act fast. I scrunched my face, not to hurl a
„tantrum‟, but to focus on a nonverbal spell. Backing away, I turned and sprinted when he
encountered the sticking charm.
“Conglutinare me, will you? Soon I‟ll be on you like glue, Nymphadora.”
I heard the laughter running beneath the pseudo-menacing tone and threw over my shoulder, “If
you want me, come and get me.”
Remus‟ answering growl travelled through the darkness, threatening to melt my resolve along
with my insides. Clinging to my plan, I headed toward the corner opposite of Buckbeak‟s space.
Using an illusion charm, I projected my image onto Sirius‟ pallet. As I‟d hoped, male instinct
overrode common sense. Instead of slowing his approach and questioning why I appeared to
have given up, he rushed forward.
I trip-jinxed Remus and pinned him to the floor. “The hunter becomes the hunted,” I gloated,
smiling down at him in triumph.
His stunned expression became wolfish. I yelped as he easily heaved me over and reversed our
positions. “What were you saying, Little Red?”
I tugged my wrists from his grasp and wound my arms around his neck. “Kiss me, Wolfie.”
We laughed, releasing some of the tension that had steadily built during our game of „chase‟. The
sensation of his lips parting mine was the true relief. I poured my feelings into our kiss. I loved
the weight of his lean, sculpted body and his swirling tongue between my teeth and in my mouth.
My mind became fuzzy as we devoured each other with hungry kisses. I sat up and pulled his
shirt apart to reach hot, firm skin. Former apprehension had long melted away when he began
tracing my curves.
“Damn it to Azkaban!”
The light from Sirius' wand illuminated Remus' sheepish grin. I pressed closer to him, grateful
Sirius only had a view of my bare back. With shaky fingers, I dragged up my halter. My guy
buttoned his shirt and calmly reminded, “You told me not to wait up.”
I couldn't fasten my dress, so Remus did it for me. Watching us, my cousin spluttered, “So…so I
make a ruddy joke and you decide to fool around here when there are two perfectly good flats to
do whatever you want in? What‟s wrong with you people?”
“What‟s wrong with you, Padfoot?”
Remus‟ quiet tone blunted Sirius‟ wrath. He hunched a shoulder, muttering, “Nothing. I just
don‟t want mental images of my little cousin having it off with my mate on a bloody pallet on
the bloody floor, thank-you-very-bloody-much.” Spreading his arms for emphasis, he said, “Is
that too much to ask? A little respect for personal space? A little common courtesy?” His voice
had begun to rise into a rant by the end. Blacks were known for their ranting, and his mother had
been a champion.
I sympathised, but I wasn‟t going to let him yell at Remus. Standing, I got in Sirius‟ face and
said, “Hold on. We weren‟t having it off; we were just playing…chase…and why aren‟t you still
at Cami‟s?”
He looked momentarily intrigued by the idea of „chase‟ before shaking his head and pointing his
finger toward the stairs. “None of your business, so grope elsewhere!”
I crossed my arms. “Make me.”
A glowing tip was pointed at me. “Have wand, will hex, cousin.”
Remus took my arm. “Let‟s go. There‟s no use reasoning with Padfoot when he gets in this
mood. He knows we‟re here for him, and that we care. When he‟s ready, he‟ll—”
Expletives filled the air before Sirius calmed enough to say, “After all these years, you‟re still the
best when it comes to laying on the guilt, Moony.”
“Thank you. I perfected the art teaching at Hogwarts.” Smile fading, Remus asked, “What‟s the
problem, old friend?”
Sirius backed away, wand providing a circle of light. “Anybody besides me need a beer right
now?” Leading us downstairs, he lifted the lid off the „crate‟ and took out a dark green bottle.
Offering it to me and then Remus, he shrugged when we declined, closing the lid of the
disguised coolant cabinet.
When my cousin seemed bent on drinking instead of talking, I asked, "Is Cami having second
thoughts about...?"
He sprayed a mouthful of beer. “Merlin!” Shaking his wet fingers, Sirius made a face. “No, Miss
Nosy, that‟s not the problem.”
Remus picked up my cloak and draped it around me before saying to his friend, “I know it‟s
been a long time.”
“A long time! Did you really say that, Moony? A long time?” Sirius‟ laughter was on the
scary/mental side. It was how I imagined his wanted poster would sound. He laughed until I was
ready to slap him…for his own good. Finally gaining control, he wiped a tear from the corner of
his eye and said, “Good one, Remus.”
“It‟s a simple fact.”
“Doesn‟t make it any easier to deal with.”
“True.”
Before the guys started discussing topics I wouldn't feel comfortable overhearing, I said, “Why
don't you two have some male-bonding time while I go find something chocolate.” Smiling at
Remus, I added, “For dessert.”
“I suppose you‟re going to feed each other chocolate mousse with your fingers,” grumbled
Sirius. “That‟s just what I need, more horrific images to disturb my sleep.”
“Thanks for the idea!” I said with a wide, bratty smile, before turning to Remus. Winking, I
asked, “Milk or dark chocolate?”
He reached for my hand and brought it to his lips. "Dark."
-
It took three tries before I found a market carrying packets of chocolate mousse mix. The spotty
youth ringing up my purchase said, "I bet that would be good with strawberries." He blinked
when the basket of fruit appeared, courtesy of my nonverbal Accio.
By the time my love arrived, I had changed into something less sexy and the mousse was chilling
in the coolant cabinet next to the fruit. He gestured to my tee. "Are you trying to tell me
something?"
Looking down, I felt my face heat. I‟d grabbed a black Weird Sisters tee, not caring which one.
This one read Sisters like it weird.
He ran the backs of his fingers down my flushed cheek. “I wasn‟t serious.” He grinned.
“Speaking of Sirius, he‟s gone back to have a talk with Cami.”
I headed toward the kitchen. “What did you tell him?”
“You could have stayed and heard every word.”
Opening the coolant cabinet, I tossed over my shoulder, “And get accused of being nosy again? I
don‟t think so.”
“Did that strike a nerve?”
I reached for the mousse while replying, “I‟m used to natural curiosity being misunderstood.”
I could hear his almost silent huffs of laughter. Thought I was nosy too, did he? Fine. I wouldn‟t
ask.
He took the bowl and then my hand. I tried to tug my fingers away. “I‟ve got strawberries.”
“We don‟t need strawberries, and don‟t you want to know what I said that gave Sirius
confidence? I can distil the advice into two words.”
I affected disinterest. “Not really.” After a moment, I asked, “What did you say?”
My heart jolted when he dipped my finger into the mousse and then sucked it clean. I sighed
when he murmured, “Ladies first.”
-
“And you didn‟t have your way with him then and there?” demanded Julia the next day, after I‟d
shared a highly edited version of the story. She thought Remus advising a „friend‟. “That‟s a
criminal waste of a romantic opportunity!”
“I didn‟t waste the moment, it just wasn‟t…utilised to its full potential.” Feeling defensive, I
looked at the building we were walking toward and said, “Remus doesn‟t mind waiting for the
time to be completely right, so leave off, will you mate?” When she reluctantly nodded, I
quickened my pace.
We were on our way to visit Gran before heading to Diagon Alley. It was family tradition that I
brought Gran a poinsettia every Christmas. Granddad used to buy her a pink one each December
'to match her cheeks'. When he passed on, I started bringing them, but I hadn‟t found the time to
drop one off this year. Clutching the cheerful plant, I entered the lobby and asked Julia, “Lift or
stairs?”
“Lift. Save your energy for shopping.”
Gran opened her door with a bright smile. “Nym! The flower is lovely. I‟m so pleased you
dropped by!” Ushering us into the flat, she said, “Happy Christmas, Julia dear. Do you still like
ginger biscuits? I just took a batch out of the oven.” Eyes sparkling, she gestured to the man who
had risen courteously at our entrance. “Marco fancies them too.”
I tried not to gape. Marco? Mr. Senior-Centre-Santini was now Marco? I grimly held onto a
polite smile during introductions and sized the man up. In his red checked shirt and sharply
creased trousers, the trim, white haired Muggle appeared a nice old gent. His smile revealed
teeth that looked real, and in good condition, not those of a smoker, at any rate. I didn‟t want any
of that second-hand smoke around my Gran. He held my gaze steadily, too. That was another
grudging point in his favour.
“Your poinsettia, it looks good with mine, no?”
I turned to look at the side table holding a tiny decorated tree, and two pink poinsettias. I said,
“Yes,” while my inner jealous grandchild screamed, “No!”
“Have a biscuit, mate,” said Julia.
I numbly took one. Gran served tea before settling into her chair. She smiled at the man sitting
opposite and then asked what we were doing off work. Jul saved the situation from turning
awkward, smoothly telling the older couple of our plans to shop. I forced a smile in between
forcing down bites of biscuit with sips of tea.
As soon as decently possible, I said, “Thanks for the tea, Gran. Nice to meet you, Mr. Santini.
Happy Christmas.”
“I look forward to meeting the rest of your family, Nymphadora,” the man said, holding out his
hand.
I shook it briefly, replying, “Call me Tonks.”
“But your name is so bella…almost Italian,” said Santini with a warm smile.
“Thanks,” I replied, before heading to the door. I saw a man‟s coat hanging on a peg and was
sorely tempted to pat it down for pills. Maybe at the party…
Kissing a soft, still-lovely cheek, I said, “Bye, Gran.”
She kissed both my cheeks and whispered, “It will be all right, dear, just give it time.”
In the lift, I rubbed my eyes and said to my friend, “Do you think I‟m mental?”
Julia laughed. “Only for not jumping Remus. Not for being upset about your Gran. I wouldn‟t
like seeing mine getting cosy with anyone but my granddad, either.”
“But your granddad is still alive.”
“Oh, right. Then yes, you‟re completely barmy.”
We laughed and turned our attention to more important matters. Shopping.
Three hours later, I‟d found small gifts for my parents and several friends, but nothing for
Remus. Jul dragged me toward an exclusive jeweller‟s, saying, “Don‟t be a reverse-snob.
Sometimes these places have great deals, especially on unique items.”
Inside, she went off to look at diamonds while I scrutinised an array of cufflinks and tie tacks
doubtfully.
“Shopping for your father? Those shout „old and staid‟, if that‟s what you‟re interested in.”
Straightening, I glanced at the wizard who addressed me. I should‟ve known he‟d patronise this
kind of shop. A few months ago I might‟ve rushed away, but now I simply shrugged. “Is that
why you wear them, Evan? You‟re old and staid, now?”
He chuckled at my dry tone, looking sartorially perfect as ever in charcoal robes. “It does
reassure others that I‟m not too young to handle the business.”
I waved a hand at the display cases. “Are you here to pick out something big and gaudy for
Priscilla?"
"Is that what you think she'd prefer?"
He actually sounded interested in my opinion- must've been the magic of the season. I shrugged.
"Honestly? Yeah. She might wear tasteful stuff to please you, but I remember some of the
jewellery Prissy used to wear, and she likes flash.” It was one of the few things I'd almost liked
about her.
“He‟s probably picking out a trinket for his new girlfriend,” Julia interjected, walking over to
stand by my side. “Does she hope to be fiancée number three, Rosier?”
Aristocratic features tightened as he regarded my friend. There had never been love lost between
my best mate and former fiancée. Raising a brow, Evan drawled, “How amusing you speak of
my fidelity when I‟ve heard rumours Fenton is considering a marriage contract with a more
suitable, Slytherin, partner.”
“If you want your forked tongue to swell, keep talking, you lying bastard,” Jul shot back.
I stepped in-between. “Don‟t listen, he‟s retaliating by trying to make you doubt. Tom loves you.
His parents love you. Trust in that.”
“You‟re right, let‟s go.”
“Are you as trusting, Nymphadora?” queried Evan, blocking me from following Julia. “Do you
know what your werewolf is doing right this minute?”
“He‟s at work.”
Smiling with pitying amusement, Evan said, “Is that what he calls it? Come by the office if you
want to see more pictures taken in the park. Crowley sent over a few that were quite illuminating
and...Argh!” he broke off when his tongue began to swell.
As he tried to cast a counter curse, Julia pulled me out of the shop, saying, “I warned the snake.”
“Thanks.”
She looked at me closely. “After telling me not to listen, you're not saying you believe his
gobshite, are you?”
I said emphatically, “No." I trusted Remus completely. He loved me and he wasn‟t a cheater. It
was just the way Evan said it—pictures taken in the park. What had Crowley taken pictures of?
"But you still want to go see Remus."
I tried to smile. "I need a hug and, no offence mate, but his arms are the only ones that‟ll do.”
She nodded. "Go on then, but if I come across a fabulous bargain in your size shoe—"
"You'll buy them and let me owe you?"
"Or Father Christmas might deliver an early present."
I grinned. "You're the prettiest, smartest elf in the whole world."
"Flattery will get you to the head of the 'nice' list every time..."
Waving goodbye, I headed for the public floo, determined to get a hug…and a full explanation of
how Remus spent his days when we were apart.
                            Chapter 17- I'll come to thee by Moonlight
                                                 -
I didn't Floo to Remus' flat with snooping in mind. I honestly intended just to wait for him to
come home. My plan was to sit in a cosy chair and flip through a book. How quickly plans
changed.
The moment I stepped out of Remus' fireplace and onto the hearth, something bothered me. It
was a scent in the air. Faint but flowery, the smell grew stronger as I neared the table in the
reading/dining nook. On the scratched wooden surface was a sheet of parchment. It was pink. I
bent and sniffed. Sure enough, it smelt floral.
Aashi Patil wanted me to „smell pretty‟ for my girlfriend.
Of course! Five year olds drew loads of pictures and handed them out to everyone. Imagining a
little girl handing the sheet to Remus and calling it his 'present' made me smile. The drawing was
face down, so I turned the parchment over to see what Aashi had coloured. A portrait of herself?
Remus? Snuffles?
There wasn't a drawing. It was a note- written by someone who wrote very delicately. The ink
was hard to read. I peered at it closely.

Remus,
Thank you for your kindness. Time spent in the park is the highlight of the day. On
Thursday, I have morning appointments, but if it is agreeable, we shall meet by the statue
of the faun after tiffin.
Again, aapakaa bahut bahut dhanyavaad, Ambika
I stared down at the parchment, trying to figure it out. Tiffin was a light meal, so they were going
to meet after lunch. I knew exactly where the statue of the faun was. It was at the dog park.
Remus and I called the sculpture 'Mr. Tumnus'. I tried to sound out the Hindi. The words seemed
familiar. Had Siva used that phrase? I hoped it meant 'thank you very much'. Thoughts of what
else it could mean were too distressing to contemplate.
Placing the parchment back onto the table face down, I sat in a chair beside it and told myself,
Stop getting upset. Remus is not a cheat. Cheats don't leave incriminating letters out in plain
sight. They hide them in sock drawers and...
I was off the cushion and standing before his wardrobe before the thought was completed. Biting
my thumbnail, I tried to stay calm. This wasn't Evan, this was Remus. I noticed that the door was
ajar. It would be so easy to open. A minute later, I made a decision. However tempted, I wasn't
going to search his wardrobe, the bedside table, or beneath his mattress. I was going to trust that
Remus had a logical explanation.
Washing my face in the lavatory, I reached for a towel to pat my skin dry. Unconsciously, I
sniffed the fabric. Immediately guilt-stricken, I replaced the towel. Was I going to be checking
for perfume from now on? My reflection in the mirror shook her head. Hell no! Leaving the
bedroom, I headed for the front door. Once down the steps, I stood on the pavement and focused
on the park. Trust didn't include patience. I really needed to hear that explanation. Thinking I
needed a hug, too, I Apparated.
"Woof!"
A great black dog was bounding toward me. I braced myself, but it was no use. He knocked me
over.
Pinned to the grass, I turned my head from side to side, trying to avoid doggie kisses. "Gerroff,
you minty-smelling mutt!" My cousin in Animagus form barked and licked the side of my face
and chin. When I heard the grumbling sound of canine laughter, I tried to roll away, but it was
too late. He'd slobbered me. Pushing him off, I sat up and wiped my lips with the back of my
hand. "Ack! Dog germs! I'll have to use a sanitising spell."
The shameless wretch rolled onto his back and looked at me with a mournful gaze. I nudged him
with my shoe. "Your puppy-dog eyes don't work on me, mate. Get up and let's go find Remus."
'Snuffles' whined pitifully. Nearby, a little girl skipping rope called, "He wants you to pat his
tummy."
Heaving an aggrieved sigh, I petted his chest fur, muttering, "Didn't you get enough affection last
night? Must every female cater to you?" When he stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth, I
stood and said, "Cute. Real cute. Now lead me to Remus."
Rolling to his feet, the dog gave a woof and took off. I jogged after him. He led me past the
statue, toward the main area. Walking across the grass, I saw a few wizards out walking dogs,
but not the one I was looking for.
"Woof!"
Turning, my gaze went past the dog to a large picnic blanket spread out on the ground. A man in
a brown coat was sitting with his back toward me. He wasn't alone. I walked slowly forward.
Stopping a few metres away, I said, "Hello."
Remus' body stiffened. Beside him, one of his two companions said, "Naamaste." The little girl
smiled. "I mean Hi!"
"Chup raho, Aashi, she's not talking to you!"
Dark eyes flashed as the girl told her twin brother, "I'm going to tell mataji you said 'shut up',
Samy!"
"I will tell mother you interrupted..." the hot words ended when the man placed a gentle hand on
each small shoulder.
Turning to face her, Remus said, "Samyak, Aashi, I'd like you to meet Nymphadora Tonks."
Aashi tugged on his sleeve. "Is she your girlfriend?"
A corner of Remus' mouth turned up. "Yes."
Samy asked, "Then why didn't you get up and kiss her?"
Chuckling, the man ruffled the boy's raven black hair. "You're quite right, I've been terribly
remiss." While the children giggled, he stood and walked toward me. I could read the discomfort
and uncertainty in his eyes. I tried to smile reassuringly. Looking down into my face, he said,
"Hello, Nymphadora."
Bending to kiss a cheek, he met my lips instead. The children laughed when I flung my arms
around his neck. After a sweet kiss, I whispered in his ear, "Is this what you've been so secretive
about? That you work for the Patils as a..."
"I prefer tutor to nanny," Remus informed softly, "Ambika decided to go back to school to
become a mediwitch, so they offered me yet another part-time position." Ruefully, he admitted,
"I viewed myself as not too proud to take honest work, yet I hesitated to share it with you out of
male pride. That's ironic...and truly humbling. Please forgive me."
If we didn't have an audience, I would've trip-jinxed Remus onto that blanket and snogged his
lips off. Since his charges were watching us raptly, I hugged him tight and said, "If you'll forgive
me for reading Ambika's note. I thought it was a drawing, because it smelt like Aashi's perfume."
"She probably wanted my letter to smell pretty." He smiled at the girl fondly.
I said, "I want you to know that I came here fully expecting you to prove my trust with a logical
explanation."
I felt his chest shake with repressed laughter. "Did you search my flat first?"
Drawing back, I replied, "I certainly did not! I said I trusted you!"
"Didn't even think about it, hmmm?"
After a glance at the children, I stood on tiptoes to whisper, "I think about doing lots of things.
Thinking isn't the same as doing."
Amber eyes heated. "I am well aware of that, but your Gran might argue differently." His lips
brushed my ear and made me shiver. "According to Father Davis, if a man looks on a woman
with lust it's the same..."
"As doing it? No!" His nod was solemn, but his eyes twinkled. My jaw dropped. "Crikey, that's
like paying for a dinner I didn't get to eat!" My gaze fell to his lips. "And I'm still hungry."
Remus' laughter brought the children rushing over. Samyak asked with a wide smile, "Did you
tell him a funny joke?"
After a glance at Remus, I picked a blade of grass off my cloak and said, "I was just telling him
how Snuffles toppled me over."
My guy appeared impressed with my quick thinking, but Aashi's little rosebud lips turned down.
"That's not funny." Shaking a pink-gloved finger at the dog, she scolded, "Naughty!"
The manipulative canine hung his head and whimpered. The girl's stern expression melted.
Dropping to her knees, she hugged his furry neck and pronounced, "Snuffles is sorry!"
Was I the only one who could read a smirk on a dog's face? I muttered, "Yeah, he's sorry
alright." Remus disguised a chuckle with a cough. Smiling at him, I jerked my head toward the
blanket. "What did I interrupt?"
Samyak piped up, "We're going to make kites and then fly them!"
It wasn't a breezy day. Remus read my face and winked "We'll manage somehow."
A little hand tugged mine. Aashi looked up at me with a child's version of puppy-dog eyes. "Will
you help me?"
I gave her fingers a soft squeeze. "Of course! Girls have to stick together."
Soon, I was sitting cross-legged on the blanket and listening to Aashi inform me in a tone that
was amusingly 'little-mother', "We make our kites with fine paper and bamboo."
Following her directions, I placed a piece of thin bamboo lengthwise, and another like a bow,
asking, "How do you keep the paper on the frame? Spells?"
Giggling, she shook her head. "We can't do magic yet, silly! Samy and I use paste."
I said wryly, "I meant an adult."
She handed me a jar. "Paste is more fun." Leaning close, she said in a carrying whisper, "Last
time, I dared Samy to eat some...and he did!" Small white teeth flashed in a smug grin. "Boys
think they're so smart."
I looked across at the boy pasting blue paper. He glanced up for a moment and nodded. "It tastes
like coconut."
Aashi dipped a finger into the paste. After licking it, her mouth puckered. "It does not!"
Her brother smirked. "Girls think they're so smart."
Remus interjected, "You are both extremely intelligent...but can you fly a kite?"
I was proud of the kite Aashi and I named "Pink Puffskein" and happy to wave my wand to
provide the breeze needed to fly it. After a few tranquil moments, however, the "Blue Bomber"
began to drift toward us.
"Kite fight!" Samyak called.
"Don't try to bring my kite down!" Aashi yelled back.
Remus had a boyish smile on his face. I demanded loudly, "Are you going to allow this?"
Nodding solemnly, he replied, "It's all part of Patang Bazi, the Indian tradition of kite flying."
I walked over and said in a low voice, "Tradition my arse, you're just a naughty boy at heart."
His smile became wolfish. "Girls are so smart."
Trying not to laugh and encourage him, I marched over to Aashi. "Do we run away or stand and
fight?"
She thought for a moment. "Run."
Snuffles ran with us, barking as Aashi shrieked for me to keep the wind blowing. Our kite dipped
and turned circles like a trick kite, but it wasn't on purpose. It was hard to run and maintain a
spell. All too soon, a blue kite swooped down and carried our pink one to the ground. When the
girl picked up her kite and began to cry, I snapped, "I hope you two are happy."
"We are!" Samy cheerfully assured, before saying, "Don't cry, Aashi, now we can play Kokla
Chappakki!"
Tears dried like magic. We returned to the blanket where the four of us sat in a wide circle. The
boy gave Snuffles his blue scarf and explained, "Snuffles will walk round and round while we
sing a song with our eyes closed. When we open them, everyone looks behind their back. The
one who finds a scarf has to catch Snuffles before he runs around the circle to their seat, or they
will be the one to walk."
I'd played a game like this before. Closing my eyes, I smiled to hear the children sing,

Kokla Chipaki jumae raat aae je...
Aashi stopped and said, "Let's sing the English one, so Mr. Lupin can sing too!"
Remus had a great voice, mellow and smooth. I'd love to hear him sing It Had to be You.
Together the three voices blended to sing,

I wrote a letter to my love
On the way I lost it
Someone came and picked it up
And put it in his pocket...
The children laughingly corrected their tutor, "I wrote a letter to my father!"
He smiled. "You two write your father, I'll write my love. Deal?"
"Deal!"
I looked behind me. There was a scarf on the ground, so I picked it up. "Hurry! Get Snuffles!"
cried the twins. I did my best to catch him, but tripped on uneven ground and bowled over
Remus instead. The children's amusement drowned out his chuckles, but I felt the reverberations.
Aashi said, "Oh! That is funny!"
Samy nodded, eyes shining. "Let's do it again!"
After I'd got dizzy from running around the circle, the children took pity on me and told Remus I
should come home with them and have tea. He assisted me to my feet and kept his arm around
me in case I tripped again.
In front of us, Aashi held Snuffles' leash and told her brother, "He's really doing that 'cause she's
his girlfriend."
I didn't mind them having a laugh at our expense. I'd snickered at my parents loads of times. The
memories made me smile before I stumbled over a thought, followed by my feet.
Parents
Smiling my thanks to Remus for keeping me upright, I looked at the children in a new way. Was
this what being married would be like? Playing in the park with our children, going home for
tea? I imagined a girl with brown hair and a little black-haired boy calling for their parents to
hurry up. With the children ahead of us, and Remus' arm around me, it was easy to slip into a
daydream...
The feel of my husband's lips brushing my hair brought me out of a reverie. I glanced up as he
asked with a smile, "What are you thinking about with that faraway look on your face?"
I snuggled closer to his side. "That on days like this, I envy you being able to work from home
and go the park whenever you like with the children."
The arm around my waist tightened in a brief hug. "When it's raining, and those two are
fractious, and I can't concentrate to think, much less translate, I sometimes envy you working out
of the house."
"Not often, I bet. You're the best father." Kissing his cheek, I sighed. "You're the best husband
too. I'm so damned lucky."
"Lucky, are you? Any particular reason why?" asked Remus.
Unabashed to be caught talking to myself, I reached up to kiss his cheek. "Because you're
mine...and you're the best."
"Best what?" asked Samyak. The children had dropped back to walk with us.
Aashi rolled her eyes, apparently over her brother's ignorance, as she replied, "Best kisser, of
course!" Looking at me, she asked, "Right?"
To Samy's disgust and Remus' amusement, I said fervently, "Right!"
-
The Patils had a lovely home filled with beautiful, breakable things. I kept away from walls and
furniture, making it to the kitchen with a sigh of relief. After tea, Aashi helped my love clear the
table while Samyak showed me his favourite Raj comic.
"Super Commando Dhruva can talk to animals and birds, and even sea creatures!"
"He's got a cool costume, too," I said, admiring the bright colours.
Samy rolled his eyes. "Who cares about costumes? He's an expert at martial arts! Mr. Lupin likes
him too."
I looked over to where the other two were putting teacups away. Remus smiled. "He's a brilliant
strategist who defeats villains through sheer intellect. I have to admit that's my favourite kind of
superhero."
"I like Inspector Steel, but Dhruva is good too," said Aashi. "His name means North Star, and
bad men will never move him from doing what's right." A moment after making that lofty
pronouncement, she started to giggle.
"What's so funny?" asked Samy.
"If we play Super Commando, Miss Tonks can be Commander Natasha!"
Both children found the idea hilarious. "Dhruva loves Natasha," Remus explained, before telling
the children, "We'll play another day. Right now, it's time for you to read picture books or rest
quietly. Wash up and then go to your rooms, please."
Aashi gave me a hug. "You will come back and play, won't you?"
"Yes, soon."
When the children reluctantly filed out, Remus led me into the lounge. We sat close on the sofa.
Contemplating our entwined hands, I blurted, "I think you're brilliant at whatever you do. Did
you think that I wouldn't understand- that I'd look down on you for being a childminder?"
"Tutor. The children know their Latin numerals cardinal and ordinal, unus to decem, primus to
decimus, and..." Pausing, he laughed shortly. "There's more of that pride I was so proud of not
having." Facing me straight on, Remus said, "It wasn't you. I'm the one who was ashamed to be
thought a nanny, although the job is far more pleasant than stocking shelves, and an ancient and
honourable profession."
"Of course it is."
My supportive tone earned a smile. "Thank you." After a moment, his expression became
solemn. "In the park, I asked you to forgive me. Have you?"
I studied our clasped hands again. "Yes...did you forgive me for not trusting you completely? I
didn't finish shopping in record time, Remus. I ran into Evan, who said he had some illuminating
pictures of you in the park. I didn't care what he insinuated, I never doubted your love, but I
Flooed to your place anyway...because...I was afraid you were holding something back."
"There's nothing to forgive. I was holding back and I'm sorry."
His face seemed etched with regret. I tried to smile. "It's okay. I don't expect you to tell me every
little secret. Merlin knows I kept them from you. It's just...the feeling...that you're hiding
something...makes me insecure and..." I took a deep breath and said, "But that's no excuse for not
waiting for you to tell me. I'm sorry."
He took my face in his hands. "Now that we're both forgiving and repentant, shall we kiss and
make up?"
Remus' arms felt so good around me. The press of his lips warmed and comforted. If a little
voice in the back of my mind whispered that he hadn't promised not to hold anything else back, it
was drowned out by the knowledge that he loved me more than I'd ever dreamt a man could.
Since Mrs. Patil was expected to return soon, I refrained from pinning Remus to the sofa for a
lengthy snog. I cuddled against his side, instead, and happily listened to him relate a few of his
adventures in childminding. When we'd finished laughing over the story of Snuffles dressed in
tiara and tutu, I said, "When Ambika returns, you have a different kind of adventure waiting."
The arm around me tightened briefly in a hug. "Really?"
He obviously expected snogging to be involved. I'd make sure he got that later, but first, there
was important work to be done. I nodded solemnly. "Yes, an adventure in shopping." He looked
adorably dismayed. I gave him a quick kiss and said, "It has to be done. The concert's tomorrow
night, baby. We've got to find you a MegaMaggot tee."
                                   Ch. 18- Music and Moonlight
                                                  -
A MegaMaggot tee was hard to find. After a fruitless search through what seemed like every
shop on Diagon Alley, we finally struck lucky in a second-hand shop off a side street. The
proprietor, a witch who reminded me of Professor Trelawney, told us she didn't get many concert
tees in, but thought she might have one for that band. Grimly determined, I sorted through the
crowded racks until I found what we'd been looking for. My cry of triumph made the owner look
up from her book on Astrology.
"Dressing area in the back: Men's on left, Women's on right."
Remus didn't look very enthusiastic, but at least he was willing to try the shirt on. I sat outside
the changing rooms and happily waited for him to model it for me. The bloke in the next chair
had a dazed expression and a lapful of garments. His wife must've been trying clothes on for
hours.
"I'm not wearing this tee," Remus stated from the other side of the curtain.
I called back, "Why not?"
"I would show you, but I refuse to be seen in public."
Stifling a laugh, I looked around. No one was watching, so I darted into the men's area. There
were only two doors in the tiny corridor. "Which one are you in?" I asked.
A boy's head stuck out from beneath the door on the left side. "Are you talking to me?"
I said, "Are you my boyfriend?"
"No." His grin revealed missing front teeth. He reminded me of Danny.
I returned his smile. "Then no, sorry."
The boy's father sternly ordered him to resume trying on a suit. Making a comical face, the child
retreated back into the changing room.
Suddenly, the door on the right opened and I was pulled into the cupboard-sized space. "I
should've known you wouldn't take my word for it. Go ahead, look and laugh."
I couldn't laugh. I was too busy trying not to drool. Remus, in a black muscle tee emblazoned
with flaming M's, was incredibly scrummy. The clinging material really showed his runner's
body to advantage. Not liking the thought of other women eyeing my view, I said, "Maybe a
plain black tee with sleeves would be better."
He crossed his arms. I watched muscles flex and smiled. Remus shook his head. "I thought you
wanted me to have a MegaMaggot tee, to blend in with the other concertgoers.
I shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now..." I trailed off, not keen on
admitting I was feeling territorial again.
He misunderstood my hesitation and smiled wryly. "I look like an old man pathetically trying to
seem cool."
"No, you're better than cool," I said on a sigh. "You're hot."
A wolfish gleam appeared in his eyes. "Then perhaps it's best I wear the tee."
I stepped close and tugged at his hem. "Take it off or I'll rip it off."
"Would you?"
"Oh yeah."
"Then I'll take it off." Remus seemed to enjoy having my unblinking attention. He pulled the tee
up and off, asking with a knowing smile, "Is this better?"
I placed my hands on his abdomen and slid my palms upward. "Mmmm."
He pulled me close. "I've never snogged in a changing room before."
His whisper reminded me that little pitchers had big ears. After ensuring our privacy with a
charm, I rose up on tiptoes. "Me either."
His kiss tasted faintly of tea. When Ambika Patil returned home, she had insisted on making a
special pot before we left. I didn't know the name of it, but I could taste ginger and other spices.
My fingers traced the curve of his shoulders while his tongue traced my lips. I sank my fingers
into his hair, silently urging him to deepen the kiss. When he did, I pressed eagerly against him,
mouth and body. He fell back against the wall. The jolt made my eyes snap open. Remus' gaze
was smiling. I kissed him soundly on the lips and then bent to pick up the tee.
"Are you going to return that to the rack?"
I could feel my face getting hot as I said, "No, I'm going to buy it so you can wear the tee some
other time, in private."
Remus gave me a slow smile that made my pulse race. "I could wear it while we make dinner
tomorrow night if you'd like," he said with a wink, "to get us in the mood...for the concert."
"I'd like-" I said, before shaking my head and correcting, "No, I'd love it." Blowing him a kiss, I
walked out and smiled from ear to ear while making my purchase.
-
The next morning, I found it extremely hard to concentrate on routine paperwork. My mind
wanted to flitter off into daydreams. In some of them, Remus was the guitarist and I was the
groupie who would do anything to be near him. In others, I played rapid-fire kick drums and he
was my number one fan. I'd just started to drift into a new, both-in-the-band scenario when a
hand waved in front of my face and rudely interrupted.
"Tonks, you okay?"
I blinked as Connelly's earnest face came into focus. Hurriedly, I snatched up a piece of
parchment and said, "Yeah, I was just...finishing a report. I'll send it off to Gulch and be ready to
go."
His jaw grew slack. "Uh, Tonks, that's..."
"The report she wanted on her desk yesterday, I know. Her witchy-ness will just have to live
with delay like the rest of us mortals."
Jerry tried to grab the parchment I sent winging away. I stood and demanded, "What's wrong
with you, Connelly?"
He looked distressed. "That wasn't the report. It was the caricature Marsden sent round of Gulch
as Scrooge!"
I looked down and saw the report I thought I'd sent. Trying to shrug it off I said, "So what? It's
not like she hasn't seen it before. I'm sure Harriet the Spy sent her a copy yesterday."
Jerry grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the cubicle. "But Gulch doesn't know who drew it,
and if she sees RL+NT inside a heart at the bottom, you'll have a hard time convincing her you're
not the artist." When I gaped in horror, he urged, "Run!"
We drew our wands and sprinted down the winding corridor, following the paper's trail. Several
colleagues poked their heads out of their cubicles to ask what the hubbub was about. I said,
"Training," and kept on running. Dodging a couple of Aurors, I got a clear shot and hurled an
Incendio. The parchment winged around the corner while my spell went into the entrance of a
cubicle. Shite! It was Harriet's! I paused to check the damage and winced. The miniature
Christmas tree on the desk was on fire! I hollered, "Connelly!"
"Got it," he answered, extinguishing the flames while I pressed on. Up ahead, the caricature was
starting to float past the senior staff offices. Unwilling to risk making a cubicle vanish or setting
it on fire, I yelled, "Kingsley!"
He came to the doorway of his office. "Is that the proper way to address a senior officer, Auror
Tonks?"
I desperately promised, "I'll call you anything you want as long as you stop that parchment!"
Other staff had wandered out to enjoy the spectacle. They snickered and suggested Shacklebolt
demand I call him a variety of names ranging from Your Magnificence to Daddy.
I ignored the onlookers. Kingsley had snagged the parchment, and that was all that mattered. I
followed him into his office, thanking him profusely and apologising for the break in protocol.
He ordered me to silence and waved me to a seat. After engaging his privacy wards and scanning
the caricature of Gulch, chocolate brown eyes bored into mine. "Did you draw this?"
"No, only the heart at the bottom."
One corner of his mouth twitched. "How did this manage to be sent to Gulch?"
Shifting uncomfortably, I looked at my cousin's wanted poster while answering, "I...erm...was
distracted."
"Distracted? By what? Visions of sugarplums dancing in your head?"
Could Remus be considered a sugarplum? I nodded. "Something like that."
He put the parchment into a drawer and said, "I'll accept your apologies and overlook your
actions. Consider it a Christmas present." He smiled briefly. "Call me Kingsley...but only in
social situations."
I nodded. "Okay." Thinking about it, I asked, "Is an Underground meeting a social situation?"
"Yes."
"Are we going to have one anytime soon, or a Christmas party or something?"
"No." His deep voice was grave. "Our membership has declined to the point that Emmeline has
begun to question our viability."
"People get scared and quit?" I asked hopefully.
"People die." He abruptly opened a file and began to read.
Taking it as my cue, I said, "Thank you Sir." I stood but didn't leave. After a few minutes, he
looked up and said, "Yes?"
I laughed nervously. "May I have my parchment back?"
"No."
He returned to his work. Stubbornly, I asked, "Why not?"
Without looking up, he answered, "Because I didn't get one."
"Oh." Backing out, I made a mental note to send him a packet with copies of my favourite office
caricatures- except the one of Kingsley shackling a female suspect.
Connelly was waiting in the corridor. In answer to his silent question, I theatrically wiped
imaginary sweat from my brow. He grinned. I said, "Thanks mate."
"That's what partners are for."
An inarticulate shriek echoed down the corridor. I said disbelievingly, "You didn't Evanesco the
burnt tree?"
A flush of embarrassment made his freckles stand out. "I thought you might need help."
The shrieking increased in volume. We looked at each other. Neither of us needed any urging to
run for the double doors.
-
Making dinner with Remus consisted of spooning Chinese take away onto plates, but I loved the
way he looked doing it. To me, the flaming M's stood for mine all mine.
"Here. Eat the egg roll instead of eating my mate up with your eyes, cousin."
I took the egg roll and used it to poke at Sirius, smiling even as I griped, "Why aren't you
annoying Cami instead of us?"
After reaching into the coolant cabinet for beer, my cousin said to Remus, "Hear how she's
speaking for you, mate? It'll only get worse. Blacks are notoriously managing. Almost as bad as
Prewetts." Smirking at me, he said, "I'm not annoying Moony, and if it wasn't the truth, you
wouldn't be tetchy."
"Yes I would. I'd have that tee off him by now if you were eating Chinese with Cami." Returning
the smirk with interest, I asked, "So why aren't you?"
Sirius' expression was one of comic revulsion. "Moony, keep your shirt on so I can keep my
appetite, if you please." Grinning in response to Remus' bark of laughter, he told us, "Morty and
Lisa asked Cami to dinner. Snuffles was invited, but I didn't want word to get back to
Andie...can't have her thinking she isn't my favourite cousin!"
I tried to smile as I took a plate and a bottle of beer and headed for the lounge. I didn't want the
guys to know how silly I was. Even though I'd only really gotten to know Sirius well over the
last few months, I'd thought I was his favourite cousin. My steps were halted when arms
wrapped around me and my cheek was given a smacking kiss.
"I'll tell you a secret, Nymph. You three are all my favourite cousins, but I like you best."
"Really?"
"Of course, you're the most like me, and you've made my mate a happy man."
"I'll be happy to rip your arms off and beat you with them if you don't unhand my woman,
Padfoot," Remus said conversationally as he brought his food to the lounge.
Sirius released me to taunt, "Threats of violence...how primal, professor." Seeing my dreamy
smile, he prodded, "And you? Are you going to stand there and let him get away with calling you
his woman?"
I shook my head and plunked my food down before leaning over to give Remus a lingering kiss.
"Please stop that before I'm forced to retaliate by reading your fortunes."
Remus and I shared a laugh as we turned our attention to the beef chow mein. I giggled while my
guy said, "You'll have to make them up, since we requested no cookies."
Sirius threw a chopstick at each of us, and dove for a sofa pillow to use for a shield when we
threw them back. Halfway during the meal, he looked at Remus and said, "I'm glad you're not
wearing that ridiculous tee beyond this flat, but what are you going to wear to the concert?"
Chuckling, he added, "Moony the metal head. James would laugh his arse off."
"Yes, he would," agreed Remus. He looked at me and smiled. "My currently pink lady informs
me that trainers and loose denims with a belt for her to grab onto, and two layers of tees should
suffice."
"No boots?" Sirius reminisced, "I had a pair of combat boots I used to wear..."
"Worst thing," I interrupted, before he started telling one of his Sex Pistols stories. Not that they
weren't hilarious and very cool, but I wanted to keep the focus on tonight. "We need to keep our
footing and move with the crowd, not kick someone's arse, cousin."
"Well I wouldn't have kicked anything in trainers," retorted Sirius, before commenting, "This
sounds more like an Auror Operation than a rock concert."
"It is. Our mission is to see if Melanie shows up at the concert, and if she doesn't, to get
backstage and demand the drummer tell us where she is. No one will notice us navigating the
floor, but that can be a dangerous place if you aren't prepared and don't know what you're doing."
Remus took my hand and squeezed. "Don't worry; I won't let anyone mosh you."
It sounded so cute when he said that. I kissed his hand. "Thanks, but since most guys tend to
avoid slamming into a girl, I'll be the one protecting you."
"What's this moshing- slam dancing?" asked Sirius.
"Yeah, except some blokes do flying scissor kicks and act the bully, even out of the pit, since
Metal is more intense than Punk."
"No way," my cousin argued, "I was there. The Clash, the Sex Pistols, those blokes had crowds
singing every word, fists in the air, people pushing you from behind, bumping into you on all
sides, body slamming in the pit...nothing could be more intense than that!"
I shook my head. "I'm not a big fan or anything, but from what I've seen and heard, Metal is
louder, faster, more aggressive. The crowd feeds off the energy, the vibe, and...I can't explain the
true difference...you'll just have to experience it for yourself one day."
"Fair enough." He challenged his mate, "Will you brave the mosh pit with me, Moony?"
"If I escape this one relatively unscathed," said Remus.
"Oh my gods, my boyfriend's a mosher!" I giggled.
"Better that than a monster," he responded with a self-deprecating smile.
I hated that kind of talk and said hotly, "You're not a monster, you're a werewolf, and there's a
difference!"
"Whoa...how about we clear the dishes and I'll leave you two to argue in peace," Sirius
interjected. I let the guys handle the cleaning while I stored leftovers and wiped down the sofa
table. When I hugged Sirius goodbye, he whispered, "Don't be too hard on our Moony. He's hard
enough on himself."
I nodded and said, "Tell Cami hello for me."
"I'll kiss her for you, too."
"I didn't say that!"
Sirius winked. "She won't know that, will she?"
After he transformed and pushed through the invisible doggie door, I turned to Remus. Instead of
opening my mouth, I hugged him as hard as I could. His arms encircled me. I felt his lips brush
my hair. He said quietly, "You don't know how much it means that you look at me and see a man
instead of a monster."
"I love you," I said fervently, trying not to get all emotional and weepy.
"I love you, too." He tipped my face up for a kiss. My lips tried to cling to his when he finally
pulled away. Remus chuckled. "Don't you need to change?"
I looked down at the pink tee that matched my hair. The v neck showed cleavage and the hem
ended right below my navel. The thought of bare skin rubbing up and down against sweaty
strangers made my skin crawl. I had to minimise that right away.
Dressing quickly, I returned to the lounge to find Remus in a plain black long-sleeved tee and
blue denims. I wore black trousers with a similar tee I'd picked up at the Weird Sister's 'Toil and
Trouble' concert a few years back.
"White?" he asked curiously. I'd been adamant about him wearing black, to blend.
I admitted, "I'm shorter, and the colour helps me stay visible. Most blokes won't purposefully
hurt a girl, but if they don't see me, I could get an elbow in the face."
"I thought we were avoiding the pit if at all possible," he said with a frown.
"We are, but even on the floor, things heat up, and it's not just down front that mosh pits form.
Things can get crazy anytime."
"That's reassuring to hear."
I snickered. "Knowledge is power."
He huffed with amusement. "Then I suppose we're armed and ready. Lead the way."
I preferred Remus confident and relaxed to wary and stiff, so I didn't tell him we were about as
armed as a first year that had memorised a book of spells. I hadn't actually been down on the
floor during a metal concert. The guy who'd taken me to a Muggle one Easter holiday sixth year
had wanted me to enjoy the music from a position of safety. While my date had played air guitar
and thrashed in place, I'd avoided his dreadlocks and watched the crowd instead of the group
onstage.
Tonight's venue wasn't as large as the one I'd been to, but the crowd looked the same, wizard or
Muggle. Outside, people were getting tattooed, pierced and painted while they waited for the
doors to open. Standing in the queue, Remus watched with an expression I inwardly termed
'concerned professor'. It was adorable.
"Isn't jewellery a potential hazard?" he asked.
I told him, "People in mosh pits usually don't wear any."
"Those who do?"
"Are arseholes looking to hurt somebody, or dumb and going to have it torn off...or out."
Inside, we didn't try and rush to the front. We stood in the back to the side and watched the
activity around us.
"It reminds me of bees swarming," said Remus. I laughingly agreed.
I took micro-omnioculars out of my front pocket and began to search for Melanie. I didn't think
she'd be wandering around during the opening acts, but you never knew. Besides, I enjoyed
people-watching. Remus watched my back and the crowd milling around us.
"The recorded music has stopped. Is this the start?" I nodded, checking to make sure we wouldn't
be backed into a corner or against a wall. He held onto my belt and smiled. "I'm glad we used
muffling spells."
The lights died down, causing a chain reaction that startled the hell out of Remus. He recovered
quickly and stood with his feet planted, knees slightly bent, just like we'd practised. When a
group rushing toward the front collided with those panicked at the thought of being sucked into a
mosh pit, we didn't get hurt. Not so lucky was one guy nearby who stiffened up and had his knee
dislocated. His mates carried him off, but not before I saw the knee cap pointing out the side of
his leg instead of in the front where it belonged.
The music began and the mayhem subsided into a controlled turbulence. The entire episode had
lasted only a few minutes, but it seemed longer.
"I'm already starting to sweat!" yelled Remus.
I yelled back something my worst-blind-date-ever had said, "If it isn't hotter than hell and if
you're not miserable, it isn't metal!"
The guy behind me bellowed "Yeah!" and began to belt out the German group's
anti-establishment lyrics. Remus didn't appear to enjoy the deep metal pounding of the song, so I
shouted, "Let's explore!" We moved forward slowly. A few times, Remus had to push through
with his shoulder, but most of the time, a polite yell to let us through did the trick.
I got asked to show my baps repeatedly. There were girls who did, and I wondered if metal had
impaired their common sense or if they were always exhibitionists. The blokes who asked took
my 'hell no' with good humour and looks of respect. I sneered at the double standard. Ask a girl
to flash and then treat her like a slut if she did. Men!
"I've never asked a girl to show me anything," Remus said loudly by my ear. I could barely hear
him.
"You wouldn't have to ask!"
He grinned wolfishly. "I respect you, too!"
I laughed. The noise level was growing, so I pointed to the side I hadn't scanned yet. He nodded
and pressed on. I was so intent on staying with Remus; I didn't notice that the band was building
to a crescendo, inciting the fans. Within seconds, the crowd erupted. I was yanked away from
Remus and carried forward, helpless to do anything but try to stay on my feet.
A shove from behind sent me sprawling. People were packed in so tightly, I couldn't get up. I
could barely breathe. Someone stepped on my hand. I was starting to get light-headed. Right
before the world started to go black, I heard,
"Man down!"
                                    Ch 19- Moonlight Madness
                                                  -
“Man down! Help him up! Help him up!”
I was too grateful to hear someone yell, “Come on, give me your hand!” to care about the
mistake in gender. I reached for outstretched fingers, trying to rise. Several sets of hands grabbed
me, and I was thrilled to let them. Lifted to my feet by the back of my shirt and beneath my arms,
I stood shaking with reaction, surrounded by the four who had helped me. They insulated me
from the fans who screamed with joy as the headliners came on stage. It took several minutes for
the mania to subside into headbanging and thrashing around us. My rescuers took it all in stride,
absorbing the pushes and occasionally returning them.
When the band transitioned from one song to another, the blond guy on my left yelled, “You
okay man?” I nodded.
“Dave, if you weren‟t so cute, I‟d dump you for being stupid. She‟s a girl!” shouted the one
who‟d given me her hand. Long red dreadlocks swayed as the she shoved away a bloke who fell
against her. Brown eyes were curious as she turned to me. “No offence, but what the hell are you
doing in the pit when you don‟t know the music?”
“Anybody can get knocked down, Aimee, and I know she‟s a girl. I felt for myself.”
I would not be telling Remus about the accidental grope. At the time, I didn‟t care who grabbed
what as long as it helped me up. I wasn‟t going to get cheesed off about it now, either. Aimee
gave her boyfriend a punch on the arm. “She‟s wearing Weird Sisters, you bloody pervert, so
obviously…”
“I‟m Tonks. Thanks for the help, and Jim likes the Weird Sisters,” I said loudly, to interrupt the
domestic dispute.
“Jim? You know Jim?”
The blokes who had been silent spoke with an awe usually reserved for Merlin himself. I looked
from one large man to the other and smiled. No wonder they had spoken in unison. The two
dark-haired metal heads were twins. I yelled back, “He gave me tickets.”
“Damn!” They looked impressed.
Aimee shouted, “Maurice and Andre worship the drummer. If you get them one of Jonas‟
drumsticks, my cousins will be your slaves!”
Identical cheeky grins flashed. I laughed. “I have a boyfriend, thanks, but if you help me find
him, I‟ll do my best.”
Dave shook his head, “No way to do that, except…”
“Surf out!” bellowed the twins.
I said, “Can‟t I just fight my way back through the crowd?”
“Sure, if you don‟t mind getting the shite kicked out of you!” Aimee smiled at my expression,
explaining, “It won‟t be on purpose, but you‟ll get in the way of a bloke‟s moves or thrash and
he‟ll hurt you. I‟m a pro compared to you, and last concert I went home with a black eye.”
“It was an accident!” chorused Andre and Maurice, as they cheerfully shoved aside blokes who
were trying to cut through our little group.
I looked back at sweating headbangers and said, “What if I go forward?”
“Nobody will let you through the front ten rows,” said Aimee, “but crowd surfing will get you
there- maybe even on stage. Your boyfriend will know exactly where you are and, who knows,
Jonas could give you drumsticks!”
The queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach told me my body had already accepted the
inevitable. I asked, “What do I do?”
“You need a leg up,” answered Dave. Andre…or it could have been Maurice…laced his fingers
together and crouched down a little so I could step into his hand. I pushed off with my other leg
as he boosted me up. My thoughts ran in a loop of „oh shite, oh shite, oh shite‟. Launched above
the crowd, I fervently prayed not to fall. I so did not want to explain the injury to Remus…or my
mother.
The crowd was dense enough to support me. I made an effort to keep my body relaxed, so I
wouldn‟t kick anyone on accident. I didn‟t want to send anybody home with a black eye, even if
they‟d brag on it to their mates. I just wanted to get to Remus, any way I could. Propelled
forward, I slapped groping hands from time to time, but most blokes passed me on without trying
to cop a feel. The energy pouring off the fans was amazing. Suspended above the cheering,
singing/screaming crowd, ferocious metal making my heart pound, I knew why people did this
kind of thing voluntarily. It was a rush.
As I reached the front of the stage, I could see burly individuals moving toward me. They looked
one-step down from security trolls. Along the perimeter, I saw other surfers pulled over the
barrier and escorted to the side. I didn‟t want to be sent to the back of the crowd. I wanted Remus
to know exactly where I was so he could find me! I tried to climb the barrier before they could
reach me, but spells prevented me from doing more than clinging desperately to the bars.
“Take my hand, maggot," said the security guard.
I shook my head. Not until I'd tried one last gamble. I concentrated on casting a nonverbal
Sonorous Charm. Amplifying charms were against concert rules, but I wasn‟t a tone-deaf
arsehole projecting to show the band he was their number one fan. I had a good reason, and only
called out one name.
“Jim!”
The powerful lights made me squint. Onstage, the guitarist with white and black face paint
laughed, motioning for security to allow me over. The crowd roared its approval. Within
moments, I found myself in the spotlight. Out of nowhere came the image of me at fifteen,
headbanging with Rory to Queen‟s Bohemian Rhapsody. Taking that as divine inspiration, I
threw my head back and forth to Jim‟s bass line, totally into the beat, thrashing in place.
At the end of the song, Jim ruffled my hair and said off mike, “If only you could sing!” The
drummer Jonas threw me his drumsticks. I clutched them and ran offstage, laughing in metal
induced euphoria…or hysteria…whatever.
My muscular rescuer escorted me to a side door. “We give second chances on surfing, but there‟s
zero tolerance on amp spells. I hope you enjoyed the concert. Good night.”
Outside, Remus waited. I ran into his arms.
He held me tight. “I acted like an irrational teenager, shoving and pushing after you got swept
away, trying to find you. I was so worried,” he said, kissing me fiercely.
“That‟s why I surfed onstage, so you‟d see me, but I got kicked out.” I was still in shock about
that. Allow you onstage then kick you out? How unfair!
I could feel his chest shaking with repressed laughter. “You were a metal head‟s dream girl up
there.”
I looked up into his face and batted my eyelashes. “Was I your dream girl?”
He cupped my face and smiled. “You‟re always my dream girl.”
I was drenched in sweat, my face undoubtedly shiny and pink with heat and excitement, but
Remus made me feel beautiful. I kissed him ardently in appreciation. Then I kissed him
passionately because he was sexiest man ever and the combination of the music and his mouth
was one I couldn‟t resist.
A back alley wasn't the ideal snogging spot, but I didn't care where we were. I only cared about
showing Remus how much I loved him and how glad I was to be safe in his arms. The rush of
crowd surfing paled in comparison to what I felt right now. Need pounded through me like a bass
line. Kisses and caresses had veered into take-it-someplace-private territory when I heard the
sound of a throat clearing. Burying my face in the crook of Remus‟ neck, I giggled to hear him
say in his 'enquiring professor' voice, “Yes?”
“Uh…Tonks said she would try to get us a drumstick.”
It was Maurice and Andre. Their identical gazes were locked onto the drumsticks sticking out of
my trouser pocket. I said, “You left the concert! Will they allow you back in?”
“Yeah, but even if they didn‟t, I could sit and stare at those for hours,” said Andre…or Maurice.
“You‟ll have to share the one, guys. I have to keep the other for official purposes.”
“Official?”
I nodded solemnly, although I had to fight a smile.
“Man, I read about this in the Quibbler! The Ministry is anti-Metal!” exclaimed Maurice…or
Andre.
I told them both, “No, I‟m just an Auror on an enquiry that has nothing to do with the band.” Just
a member of the band... Offering a drumstick, I said, “Thanks, guys, and tell Aimee and Dave I‟ll
always appreciate the rescue.”
“No problem.”
They used a spell to precisely divide the wood in half and walked off with their shared prize. I
gave Remus the other stick and said, “We‟ll use it to track Jonas if we need to, but I‟d like to
give him the chance to explain first.”
Remus slipped the drumstick into his pocket. With a cheeky smile, I un-tucked his tee from the
waistband of his denims and pulled it down to conceal. A smile tugged the corners of his mouth
as he said, “Now that you‟ve been thrown out, how do we get you back in?”
I pulled a small rectangle attached to a lanyard out of my trouser pocket. “Press pass, courtesy of
Uncle Dungie.”
Remus said, "I hope you don't owe Mundungus any favours for that."
"Not a one. He owes Morty too much money."
He scrutinised the pass while I morphed my features to match those of the blonde in the photo.
"Metal Rules?"
I shrugged. "I knew a guy who said that constantly, so I figured it would be a plausible name for
a magazine." Remus lifted an eyebrow. I rolled my eyes. "Sixteen. Worst date ever. Don't ask."
"I think you've said it all." His smile became a thoughtful frown. "Will you change your
clothing?"
"MmHmm, this gear doesn't say journalist, does it?"
"No, but what..." he broke off to stare as my clothing changed from black trousers/white tee to
black miniskirt/ white blouse, saying as my trainers transfigured into heels, "Nymphadora, that
gear doesn't say journalist either."
"I was going for groupie writer hoping for an exclusive interview."
Remus didn't look happy, hearing that. I explained, "If people are looking at me, hopefully they
won't be watching for shadows of Disillusionment-charmed wizards."
"Ah."
"And don't worry. The only private interview I want is with Jonas, with you by my side." I took a
step toward him and then stopped. "I'd kiss you, but then I'd have to hex you, because I'd be
jealous of myself."
His lips twitched. "I understand perfectly, which is worrying."
I burst into laughter. Remus said, "That's one thing that will never change- your exuberant
laugh."
"Exuberant. Is that another word for loud?"
"No, it means high-spirited."
"High in volume too," I said wryly. "Mum always said I was lively, but I knew she really meant
unladylike."
He took my hand, rubbing his thumb across the back. "When you walk into a room, it lights up.
When you leave, the sparkle is gone. Vivacity is rare, and one of your qualities I find
irresistible."
Remus kissed my hand. I sighed. Then I pulled my hand away and said, "Let's go before I jump
you and have to hex myself."
He chuckled and performed the Disillusionment charm. I hugged his words to my heart and
sighed again.
-
After the concert, I was sighing impatiently. The press corps, a grandiose term for three
barely-out-of-Hogwarts blokes and me, had been ushered to a private room backstage. My 'peers'
spent the time analysing what Remus had called "a musical onslaught" and munching the free
food. I shared a couple beers with Remus, who would take a drink when I left the bottle on a
table and then turned to block the view.
I was trying to decide what approach would get me an interview with Jonas when one of the guys
ambled over. "Hey. I haven't seen you around before. I'm Sean."
"I'm new. Lilith." I thought Lilith sounded more metal than Lora. Sean did too, by his nod of
approval.
"Who you with?"
I blinked. A slight tug on the press pass hanging round my neck made me realise what the guy
was asking. Silently thanking Remus, I said, "Metal Rules."
"Sonic Assault."
I presumed that was the name of his publication, not a term describing the band's music. "Cool."
"Yeah. So...what did you think of the concert?"
The bloke had a pimple on his chin. Was he old enough to be chatting up women who looked
like me? I quipped, "A metal head's fantasy."
Thankfully, the band's manager came in before I had to mention my boyfriend who would rip the
arm off any man that touched me. I followed the MegaMaggot tee wearing bunch to yet another
backstage area. Inside, band members were milling around, talking to the group of crew, friends,
and girlfriends assembled. The manager gestured for the band to come over to our corner of the
room. Whatever I'd imagined a question and answer session to be like, standing around casually
wasn't it.
I walked over to stand near Jonas. With his long black hair, and muscular build displayed by his
lack of shirt, I could see why Melanie would find him appealing. His eyes did the up and down
flicker, looking me over, but he smiled only politely. I waited for a pause in the questioning to
ask, "Jonas, can you describe MegaMaggot's music?"
He shook his head. "I don't have all night."
Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks getting warm. "In one or two words?"
"Life is pain."
Silence fell. Not good. I smiled. "That's three words."
He grinned. "I'll never tell another dumb blonde joke again."
While the rest of the group laughed and began answering other questions, I said to Jonas in an
undertone, "Look, my editor won't pay unless it's an exclusive interview. If you could give me
ten minutes alone, out in a corridor for all I care, I'd appreciate it." He started to shake his head. I
threw out in desperation, "That's all I'm interested in, asking a few questions. I promise I'm not
trying to get into your trousers." Inadvertently, my gaze dropped to skin-tight leather. "If that's
even a physical possibility."
He chuckled. Behind me, a voice said, "Give her a break, Jonas. She doesn't sound like any
groupie I ever heard."
I smirked at the guitarist. "Heard loads, have you?"
Jim's eyes narrowed. "Have we met before?"
"No, I would've asked you for an interview," I said with a smile. Inwardly, the refrain of 'Oh
Shite, Oh Shite, Oh Shite' had returned for an encore. I hadn't thought to disguise my voice!
"Okay, you have ten minutes. Follow me," said Jonas. I made sure to look thrilled and thankful,
waving cheerfully at Jim as I followed the drummer out of the chamber.
"The dressing room should be deserted. In here." Jonas held the door for me to precede him.
I sat in a chair and while he slumped on the couch, beer in hand. Remus stood behind me. The
warmth of his unseen hand on my shoulder was a much needed reassurance. I said the first thing
that came to mind. "Why is life pain?"
Jonas looked up at the ceiling. "Why is the sky blue?"
"Molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light." The
musician looked at me incredulously. I said, "I asked a lot of questions when I was a kid. Mum
found out the answers to shut me up."
"Are you telling me you'll shut up if I give you answers?"
I nodded. He snorted. "I can tell you haven't been in the business long. The press never shuts up."
"I will...in a few minutes...but first, why did you say life is pain?"
Jonas made a sound of exasperation. Remus' hand pressed briefly. I knew he was trying to get
me to move onto another, less touchy, subject, but I couldn't. Something about the way those
words were said was as familiar to me as my voice had been to Jim. I wanted to discover what
that was.
"Because it is. Life hurts. Bad things happen and all you can do is ride out the pain."
"What bad things?"
"Don't you read the Daily Prophet? Bad things. You pick."
I tried a different tact. "I've heard you described as 'the sex-symbol of the damned'. What do you
think about that?"
Jonas gave a shout of laughter. "You're taking the mickey, right? Having me on?"
"No, I heard several young ladies refer to you as such." They'd been behind me in the queue
waiting to get in. Remus had suffered from a 'coughing fit' upon hearing that.
He shook his head. "I'm not damned. Maybe I thought I was once. I could've given somebody an
interview when I was drunk and rambling and said I was, but I don't feel that way now."
"Why not?"
Jonas' long hair shook. "I don't answer questions about my private life."
Remus' hand gripped my shoulder tightly. He felt the same elation I did over the indirect
admission. I tried to ask calmly, "Does that mean the rumours you have a new girlfriend are
true?"
I was totally unprepared for his reaction. Jonas burst off the sofa and hauled me out of the chair
by my arms, demanding, "What rumours? Who have you been talking to?"
"Let her go."
I'd thought Remus had said that, but it was Jim, standing in the doorway. He watched me rub my
arms with a hard smile. "You can't sing, Auror Tonks, but you can sure as hell act." At my blank
stare, he laughed shortly. "I don't have a nose like Jonas, but I've got a damn good ear. Although
it takes me awhile, I remember voices." He added, "I also have a good memory, and the first time
you visited, I was watching you leave Mrs. Cravitz from the window, and I saw you turn your
black hair pink." He strode forward, demanding, "Are you a metamorphmagus?"
I shifted my features back to normal and my hair pink. "Yes." Turning to Jonas, I said, "Where is
Melanie? Her mother is sick with worry. Are you keeping Mel against her will? Did you hurt
her? Answer me!" I was shouting by the end, trying to crack him, but Jonas refused to answer.
His face was stony as he said, "Get her out of here, man. NOW!"
I didn't protest being pulled out of the room. Three security guards were waiting in the corridor. I
scoffed, "All this for me?"
Jim said flatly, "I'll never underestimate you again. They'll escort you out, and if you come back,
I'll file charges. Trespassing, harassment, whatever it takes."
I was so mad, my lips were trembling and tears were springing to my eyes. Releasing a harsh
breath, I gritted, "I won't come back, but I will find Melanie, and if Jonas hurt her, you'll be the
one up on charges...for accessory and obstruction."
The guards had to quicken their pace to keep up with me as I stalked down the corridor. One ran
ahead to open a door. Remus' fingers stroked my cheek. I walked out, my emotions spilling over
into an incoherent rant heavily mixed with curses. I jerked away when Remus became visible
and tried to hug me.
"Why didn't you stand up for me? Why did you let Jonas grab me and..."
"If he'd tried to hurt you, I would've intervened," Remus said in a soothing tone. "He didn't and I
didn't want them to know you weren't on your own. There was too great a chance my presence
would aggravate the situation and provoke violence."
I hurled myself into his arms, crying, "Jonas scared the shite out of me, which makes me want to
hex the shite out of him!"
"An indomitable spirit is another one of your sterling qualities," Remus murmured, stroking my
back.
"Is that another way of saying I'm stubborn?"
"Yes."
I gave a watery chuckle. "Good. Let's find a reflective surface and do a tracking spell."
A nearby shop window was chosen. After I wove the spell using the drumstick as a focus, I
touched the tip of my wand to the glass. An address appeared, glowing green. We looked at each
other in shock. It was Jim Rune's house! Remus said, "Don't go in without me."
"I'm not going anywhere without my partner. Meet you in front of Mrs. Cravitz's."
His smile warmed the chill of Apparating. I grabbed his hand the moment he appeared beside me
and ran for a row of shrubbery separating the homes. We crouched down. All the shades were
drawn over at Jim's. It looked deserted. I told Remus, "If she's in there willingly, I know one
sure-fire way to get Melanie to open the door."
"Do it."
It wasn't as easy as it had been earlier to transfigure my clothing. It took a concentrated effort to
conjure black leather trousers and a plain white tee. Metamorphosing my body to resemble
Jonas, however, was easy as breathing.
"I'll be right behind you," said Remus, as I began walking toward the house.
I staggered a bit, in case the house wards activated when I stepped onto the property. If Mel was
watching, and free to come to the door, I wanted her to think Jonas too drunk to remember the
de-activation runes. On the front step, I drew a few random runes on the door and then started
cursing. I feigned attempts to deactivate the wards for several minutes. Eventually, I heard a soft,
spell-projected voice say, "Jonas?"
I looked toward the window and swayed as I grinned and waved.
A giggle sounded. "That must have been some after-party." The door opened. I staggered
forward. Melanie watched me enter with amused exasperation. "How did you get home?"
Once she'd reactivated the wards, I shifted my features and kept the outfit, saying, "I Apparated."
Her eyes were huge. "I know who you are. What are you doing here?"
"Rory hired me." She took a step back from the anger in my voice. I followed, demanding,
"What the hell are you doing here?"
                                    Moonlight and Mistletoe
                                                 -
When I demanded to know what Melanie was doing at Jim‟s, I‟d expected her to start talking,
maybe even crying. I never imagined she‟d start yelling.
“Smash! Smash! Help me! Hel…”
The redhead broke off to see me stretch out the neck of my tee and thrust my hand inside. I
pulled out my wand and said, “Petrificus Totalus!”
Once Mel was bound by the spell, conscious but rigid, I looked at Remus and said in response to
his expression. “I had to stick my wand somewhere. That miniskirt barely had enough fabric to
cover my arse!”
He shook his head. “You cursed a Muggle.”
Oh, that. I nodded vehemently. “I had to, she planned to sic Smash on us and run!” I glanced at
Melanie and said, “You‟re messy like me so I figured you were probably sneaky, too. If I
misjudged you, I‟ll apologise later.”
Remus was still frowning in disapproval. I took a breath to explain further and gasped to feel the
sudden drop in temperature. I could see my breath and Remus‟ too as he said, “Duck!”
I dropped to the floor. He hadn‟t meant a waterfowl was flying at me. A metre away from my
head, a chunky paperweight thudded onto the floor. Remus stood with wand outstretched. He
said, “Get behind me! I‟ll deflect anything else he throws at us.”
There were numerous potentially lethal objects in the room. I scrambled toward Remus, yelling,
“We‟re not here to hurt Melanie, Smash!”
“Liar, liar, pants on FIRE!”
I couldn‟t help laughing. It felt like someone was tickling my arse. I laughed harder. What cheek.
I turned to see one of the logs from the fireplace smouldering on the floor. I said to Remus,
“Flame-Freezing charm with an extinguishing twist? You‟ve got to teach me that.”
“I‟m a trifle busy at the moment,” he replied with a small smile. Remus deflected a vase that
shattered against the wall and told the poltergeist, “That looked very expensive, Simon.
Wouldn‟t it be better to talk to us rather than destroy Jim‟s possessions?”
The poltergeist remained invisible, but his voice was clear. “No, and my name is Smash!”
I heard a scraping sound and pivoted to see a chair hurtling toward us. Inspired by my partner, I
used a freezing charm, immobilising it mid air. Remus and I stood back to back, defending
ourselves against flying pens, books, and statuary. I hollered, “Do you have shite for brains
instead of ectoplasm? We can hold you off all night. This mayhem isn‟t going to get you
anything but grounded to the attic for eternity, Smash.”
“Jim will be so disappointed in you,” added Remus.
“Disappointed?”
The spectre‟s voice went up and down like a pubescent kid. Remus nodded gravely. “Yes,
Simon, very disappointed I‟m afraid. He trusted you to contact him if anyone broke in, didn‟t he?
You weren‟t supposed to attack intruders, were you?”
“But, but I thought you were going to take Melanie away from Jonas.”
I whirled to look over my partner's shoulder. The ghost was visible now, floating near the
doorway. Although translucent gray, I got the impression that he‟d been a tow headed,
baby-faced teenager. Simon couldn‟t have been more than fourteen when he died. Thin shoulders
clad in a MegaMaggot tee hunched when Remus said, “We came here to find Melanie, to learn
why she left home. Her mother needs to know her daughter is safe. You remember how mothers
worry, don‟t you?”
“Yeh.” Crossing his arms, the ghost said, “I was supposed to open the window and send Lars, the
owl, but Mel screamed for me and…I forgot.” Looking around the room, his face scrunched.
“Man, I‟m so in trouble.”
I stepped forward. “I‟m an Auror. You can trust me when I say we won‟t take Melanie while you
send the owl.”
“I don‟t know.” Smash shook his head doubtfully. “You hexed a Muggle.”
I glanced at Remus. He raised a brow. I rolled my eyes. “The Ministry doesn‟t tell the public, but
Aurors are licensed to hex anyone and anything they deem necessary...as long as they don't cause
harm.”
“Not just in the course of duty?” murmured Remus.
I tried not to smirk. “Whoever wrote the regulation was pretty lax, wasn‟t he?”
“Cool,” said Smash.
I gave him a level look. “Keep that knowledge to yourself, and we‟ll help you tidy the lounge
before Jim gets here.”
“Deal!” the poltergeist said with a grin before zooming off.
Remus took my hand and kissed it. I said, “What was that for?”
“Your kind heart.”
I shrugged awkwardly. “Kindness, schmindness. I know how it feels to get in trouble for a messy
room.”
Calling the lounge a mess was an understatement. The room was going to be a challenge to put
to rights. I sent the chair back to its original spot and levitated a now headless statue back onto a
shelf.
“Did Evan know about your special authorisation?” asked Remus.
I replaced a chipped onyx paperweight back on the corner desk. “No. I didn‟t trust him not to try
and use it for his benefit.” It was easier to pick up books by hand. I bent down to gather several.
When I straightened, Remus was standing in front of me. I said, “I trust you. It just…never came
up. You know what I mean, right?”
He kissed me softly. “I know.” I dropped the books to hug him. They fell on his feet. Other than
a sharply indrawn breath, Remus made no complaint. He held me tight.
“Oh man, we don‟t have all day. Can‟t you guys do that later?”
I pretended to scowl. “Aren‟t you the one who tried to set my pants on fire? I‟d think you‟d be
grateful we‟re helping at all.”
“Yeh, I am.”
I grinned. “Then get your amorphous arse in gear and start cleaning, mate.”
Smash zoomed around the room, snickering. “Hehheh…amorphous arse…hehheh…”
Remus leaned down to whisper, “He‟ll be telling the band to kiss his amorphous arse, thanks to
you.”
“You think?” I smiled and whispered back, “I‟m grateful yours is corporeal.”
Remus chuckled and used Evanesco to clear shards of glass. Between the three of us, we quickly
tidied the room although we couldn‟t restore it to the former condition. A few pieces of pottery
and statuary were permanently missing.
“Shouldn‟t you release Melanie?” said Smash, floating beside the young woman who resembled
a life-sized statue. “Jonas is going to kill you if he sees his girlfriend like this. He‟s pretty mental
about her.”
“Thanks for the warning,” I replied, using a counter spell. Melanie swayed on her feet. I said, “If
you run, I‟ll hex you again, so don‟t, okay?”
She was looking at her hands, flexing her fingers. In a wondering tone, Mel said, “I was frozen. I
couldn‟t move, but I could hear everything.” She smiled briefly. “You didn‟t misjudge me.”
I shot a glance at Remus. I didn‟t say it, but his smile told me I conveyed, 'I knew she was going
to run, I knew it!' without words.
Then the front door blasted open.
Melanie shrieked. I jumped. Remus pulled me to stand behind him, keeping his wand at the
ready. I didn‟t need his protection, but I liked the thought behind it, and stayed put, although my
wand was kept ready too.
Jonas kicked through the remains of the door, bellowing, “Melanie!”
She ran forward. “Jonas, I‟m here! I‟m fine! Why didn‟t you deactivate the wards?”
The drummer still hadn‟t put on a shirt. He looked like Tarzan, swinging in to rescue Jane from
hostile natives. He wrapped his arms around her and glared at us. “I couldn‟t remember the
runes.”
“And he wouldn‟t wait for me,” said Jim, who stepped into the room shaking his head. “First my
roses and now the door. Jonas, mate, you two really need to find your own place.” He looked
around the lounge with a half smile. “Good job cleaning, Smash.”
“I had help,” the poltergeist admitted, floating over to his idol. The ghostly boy hung his head. “I
didn‟t send Lars like you told me to. I tried to scare them away first. I‟m sorry, Jim.”
“Go to your attic. We‟ll talk about it later.”
I spoke up, “Melanie did scream for help…”
“He didn‟t do a very good job,” barked Jonas.
“Kiss my amorphous arse, man!” yelled Smash, before zooming over to say, “Thanks for that
one, guys.” He smiled. “For cleaning, too. Later.”
I had to blink my eyes rapidly to keep from tearing up as the ghost vanished. Simon‟s smile had
been so boyishly sweet. How could his mother bear to leave this house…leave him?
“Here.” Jim held out a handkerchief. I mopped up the tears that had escaped. He said, “It was
breaking his mum‟s heart to see her boy and know he‟d never grow up.” He jerked his head
toward Melanie. “She cries over him too. That‟s why Smash stays invisible most days.”
Remus was dividing his attention between the others and me, never lowering his wand. He said,
“Molly O‟Neill cries over losing her daughter.”
Melanie burst into tears, burying her face against her partner‟s chest.
Jonas ground out, “Shut the hell up, you know nothing about us.” He scoffed, “You don‟t look
like a metal fan, either.” He sneered at me. “Nice trousers.”
My eyes met Jim‟s. He rolled his eyes.
Remus said, “I prefer jazz, actually, but I can appreciate your artistry, and if you want us to
understand you must first explain.”
“I don‟t have to explain anything! It‟s none of your damn business.”
“Yes it is, Jonas,” said Melanie.
“No, luv, it‟s not. The only thing that matters is you and me.”
“The band matters to you,” she said, “the way my family matters to me. I just…forgot…how
important they were for a little while.” Her smile was a little shaky. “You‟re good at making me
forget.”
“Mel.”
She caressed his cheek. “You won‟t lose me. I promise. I need to make them understand why I
can‟t go back, that‟s all. They can make Mum understand. All right?”
“Yeah.”
As touching as the scene was, I was getting impatient. “So you‟re a Muggle and he‟s a Wizard.
So what? My dad‟s from a non-magical family, but only my Gran knows about the Wizarding
world. The rest of them think our house is powered by electricity and I‟m an enquiry agent. It‟s
not a big deal.” I laughed shortly. “Regardless of pure-blood propaganda, do you‟d think wizards
would even exist if there weren‟t any Muggles?” I saw Mel‟s frown and added for her sake,
“Non-magical people?”
Melanie shook her head. “Jonas isn‟t just a wizard, he‟s…”
“A werewolf?”
We all stared at Remus, who smiled a little, like a professor who had astounded his class. He
reinforced the image by explaining, “One of the band‟s songs, The Beast Inside, is very
evocative of what happens on full moons without Wolfsbane Potion.”
“How would you know?” demanded Jonas.
“The same way I know you took a shower after the concert but put the same leather trousers back
on, presumably for your partner‟s benefit.” He smiled kindly at Melanie. “The way I know Miss
O‟Neill is wearing the same fragrance as the one contained in the third bottle from the left on her
dressing table.”
Jonas curled his lip. “What? You‟re freaking Sherlock Holmes?”
Remus‟ lips twitched. He said calmly, “No, I‟m a werewolf.”
“The hell you are, standing there lecturing like some professor…”
Jim laughed ruefully. “That‟s because he was one, Jonas. He taught at Hogwarts. Remember the
bloke from the paper, Professor R.J. Lupin?” He laughed again. “Remus J. Lupin, am I correct?”
“You are.”
I looked at Jim and shrugged. “I said he was my partner. I didn‟t say what kind.”
“No, you didn‟t.” He walked toward a cabinet Smash had not opened during his attempted
assault. “Anyone else need a drink?”
A chorus of voices answered, “I do.”
A few minutes later, I was having a beer with the man it had taken sixteen days to find. Melanie
and Jonas had made my holidays hectic, to say the least. I sat on the sofa beside Remus and
gazed at the couple sharing a chair across from us. I had to ask, “Does he ever wear a shirt?”
Melanie giggled. “Yes.”
“Good to know. Now, why the stars do think you can‟t have a relationship with Jonas and stay in
touch with your family?”
She looked sad but resolute. “It‟s too risky. What if they find out magic is real and werewolves
aren‟t only in horror films?”
“It happens,” I said, “But there are steps…”
“Jonas told me about those Ministry people who erase memories. What if they make a mistake
and do irreparable damage? I can‟t take that risk.”
“Your partner can petition the Ministry for a Muggle secrecy act exemption. Your mother and
sister would meet with you and Obliviators in a controlled environment. If they respond well and
allow secrecy spells, they keep their memory. If not, only memories of that time in the Ministry
will be erased.” I transferred my gaze to Jonas. “Are you willing to do that for Melanie?”
He nodded. Melanie started crying happy tears this time. I looked to Remus for help. He said,
“Are you on the Wolfsbane programme, Jonas?”
The musician kept his eyes on his girlfriend while he answered, “Yeah. Since a few months after
the attack in the Black Forest three years ago. German beer is good, but wasn‟t worth the price I
paid for drinking too much and wandering into the woods on a full moon.” Jonas stroked his
partner‟s hair while she dried her tears. He asked Remus curiously, “How long you been getting
hairy, man?”
“I was bitten as a small child.”
“Whoa.” Jonas gave me a wolfish smile. “Is he your sex symbol of the damned?”
“Not of the damned.”
“Heh…I get it.”
“I hope you get that life as a werewolf isn‟t limited to riding out the pain,” Remus said with quiet
conviction. He took my hand. “There‟s so much more.”
Jonas slowly nodded.
Jim broke the silence that fell. “I‟m all for personal happiness, mate, but don‟t start writing about
making out in the middle of the pit.”
I snickered. “You could call it „MegaMaggot Fans in Love‟.”
The guys laughed. I looked at Remus. He smiled and rose, tugging me to my feet. The others
stood as well. Jonas said, “I kicked the door in, but I‟m not kicking you out. I…I‟m glad you
found Mel.”
“We‟re going to tell Rory we found you, and that you‟ll go see your mother…tomorrow?”
“No, tonight, I want to tell Mum I‟m sorry for running off.” Melanie‟s resemblance to her sister
Jenna became more evident when she stuck out her chin. “Tomorrow I want you to file that
paperwork, Jonas.” She held out her hand. I shook it, remembering Debbie telling me about
finding Rory‟s photo album and vowing to shake the hand of the girl who'd dumped him. The
gleam in Mel‟s eyes told me she remembered too.
While the men were shaking hands, I leaned forward to say in an undertone, “No offence, but if
Jonas is going to meet Molly tonight, I‟d have him change his trousers and put on a shirt.”
Green eyes shifted to survey Remus. “Mum does like younger men.”
“Liking is fine. It‟s the chatting up I object to.”
She giggled. Remus and I said goodbye and stepped over jagged pieces of wood to leave. On the
pavement outside the house, a cat sat grooming itself beneath a streetlight. I stopped in my
tracks. The short red and white striped fur made it look like a feline candy cane.
“Now we know why Jim was late,” said Remus.
I shook my head and kept walking. “I know nothing.”
A gust of cold wind made me yelp and cover a spot on my backside. “Ruddy hell, Smash burnt a
hole in my trousers!”
Remus burst out laughing. The sound made me smile even though I didn‟t think it funny when he
said, “Perhaps that‟s why Jonas said they were nice.”
I put my hands on my hips. “I suppose you think they‟re nice as well?”
A wolfish grin looked good on him. “They do make me grateful you are corporeal.”
I threw my arms around Remus‟ neck and kissed him. His hands slid down my back. “Of course,
there‟s only one way to prove humanity for sure.”
His fingers on my skin caused me to dissolve into giggles.
Down the street, Mrs. Cravitz shrieked, “Mr. Bigglesworth!”
-
If I‟d thought finding Melanie would mean relaxing, I thought wrong. I had too much shopping
to do. I woke early Saturday morning after only a few hours sleep and ran into the lounge. I
needed help. I hastily lit a fire and tossed a handful of glittering floo powder onto the flames.
They turned bright green as I concentrated on the right spell. Warm air ruffled my hair as I
called, “Jan!”
My neighbour came into view, her face drawn in concern. “Bon jour Tonks, what…”
“I don‟t have anything special for Remus, I need a dozen small gift boxes of truffles for friends
and relatives, and it‟s been so long since I had a chocolate éclair I can‟t remember what they
taste like!”
“Come over, amie. I‟ll put on coffee and warm an éclair.”
Alan let me into the flat, smiling sleepily as I stumbled over apologies for waking him. “With
Anouk at school this holiday, the house is too quiet for me to rest easy. Now that you‟re here, I
can go back to sleep.”
I grinned. “Glad to help.”
He ambled back to the master bedroom while I walked through to the kitchen. I drank in the
aromas of coffee and chocolate. I sighed deeply. “Je t‟adore.”
“Merci, although I would have been happy with j‟amie beaucoup,” said Jan, looking elegant as
ever in a floral silk robe.
I snorted. “You, I like a lot, mate, but your chocolate and coffee, I adore.”
Dark eyes twinkled. “Since you are to become my first customer of the day, I will accept your
awkward English praise.” She watched me take a euphoric bite and said, “Tell me what you plan
to get Remus, and I will reassure you that they will be excellent gifts.”
I stared. How did she know? Immediately, my brain supplied the answer. She was French. I took
another bite of culinary witchcraft and told her what I‟d come up with.
Jan loved my ideas, and suggested a shop where I could find the first item on my list. I accepted
her recommendation, and her invitation for Remus and me to return for brunch the following
day. Her approval made me stride confidently into the boutique and head for the men‟s section.
A sales assistant noticed me eyeing the jumpers and said, “Any man who wears one of those will
attract every woman in sight.”
A vision of Remus surrounded by a bevy of my attractive single cousins flashed into mind. I
didn‟t want to be fighting them off all night! I turned and marched straight out of the shop.
Across the street, a bold-patterned jumper seemed to leap out at me from the shop window. I
smiled and crossed the road. Inside the tiny shop, a rosy cheeked blonde witch looked up when I
entered and said, “Happy Christmas! I make all the jumpers myself, and guarantee fit and
comfort or your money back.”
A quarter hour later, I bid the proprietor Happy Christmas and Apparated to a rare bookshop on
Charing Cross Road. The shop had a cosy, library feel to it. Two assistants were tending
customers. I headed for the younger man, calling, “Wotcher, David!”
He looked. I gasped. “You cut your hair!”
David Dunne held up a finger, greeted an approaching customer and directed him to the desired
section. I continued to stare. He‟d been a werewolf with long brown hair, a bad attitude, and a
suspicious neighbour when I‟d met him a couple of months ago. He turned to me now with a
smile. “This is grown out compared to a few weeks back. How have you been?”
“Busy. What did Jenny say about that?”
His eyes crinkled. “About my haircut? She likes the Wizard Scout look. Don't you?”
“Oh…yeah…its fab…erm…is Andrew in his office?”
“Yes, go on back.” He called after me, “Should I tell Remus you fancy short hair now?”
I spun around so fast I had to take a step sideways to steady myself. “Don‟t you dare!”
David grinned. “Happy Christmas!”
I shook my finger. “Keep it up and you‟ll be getting coal in your stocking.” He chuckled. I gave
him a last, warning look and pivoted to continue on to the offices.
Andrew Hopkins sat at his desk, contemplating a framed cross stitch hanging on the wall. He
waved me to a seat and said, “Domus et placens uxor. Home and a satisfying wife…I have the
former, but the latter is something I miss most this time of year.”
I looked at the picture of his wife on the desk. Anne had been a striking woman. I nodded. “I‟m
sorry.”
“Don‟t be. We had a good life together.” Pale blue eyes warmed as he asked, “How may I be of
service, my dear? Do you need a recipe for Turkey Curry?”
I had no clue why he'd ask such a thing, stammering, “Uh, no. I need to find Remus a special
book for Christmas.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“He said his mother taught Latin. Did she write any books?”
Andrew ran a hand over his silver hair, betraying discomfort. “Lois didn‟t publish much during
her career as a teacher.”
My heart sank. “Isn't there anything?”
Slowly, he nodded. “Yes. There‟s something I‟ve been selfishly holding onto.” He rose and
gestured for me to precede him. “It‟s time I let go.” Once we exited the office, Andrew led me up
to his flat. He went into his bedroom and returned with a slim book. “Fabulae Mirabiles, fairy
tales in Latin. Lois had this printed for Anne as a present, for encouraging her to send the
manuscript to a publisher. They sent back a letter praising the work but stating the current market
was not favourable. As far as I know, this is the only edition.”
The front cover showed a little boy opening a book. My fingers traced his face. “He looks like
Remus.”
“Yes. Anne was the artist.”
I opened the book, silently reading the inscription and then looking at the table of contents. “Tres
Porcelli! Remus would love to read the Three Little Pigs to Samy and Aashi.” I turned to the
story and began giggling as I read aloud, “Ergo huffabo et puffabo et tuam domum inflabo!”
Andrew smiled. "It's yours."
I hugged the precious book to my chest. "How much?"
He shook his head. "Some things are priceless."
"I can't just take the book. I've got to give you something in trade. It's only fair." I thought for a
moment. "Don't suppose you'd be interested in my collection of Muggle jazz records."
"Ah, no, but thank you for the thought."
I looked around the room. My gaze fell on the mantel. I walked over to the fireplace and took
down a framed picture. Softly, I said, "This isn't something I usually tell people, probably
because it sounds mental, but after Granddad died; my Gran asked if I'd use my 'gift' while we
had tea, once. She said it helped her remember the happy times, looking across and seeing him
sitting in his favourite chair." I held out the photograph. "Have you eaten lunch? I could make
you a sandwich...if you'd like."
I swallowed the lump in my throat and prayed Andrew wouldn't be offended by my unspoken
offer. He took the frame and gazed down at his wife before handing it back. With a slight smile,
he said, "I'd like that very much."
Anne Hopkins had been a woman of regal bearing and casual elegance. I studied her pictures for
several minutes until my metamorphosis was smooth and confident. While I fixed sandwiches
and a pot of tea, I moved with an unusual grace and poise. During the meal, I leafed through the
book of fairy tales, admiring the illustrations, while Andrew made occasional comments about
the book and his day.
After lunch, we tidied the kitchen and returned to the lounge in companionable silence. I decided
to transform back after I returned home. At the fireplace, I kissed his cheek, hoping my voice
wasn't too husky as I said, "Happy Christmas, Andrew."
His smile was bittersweet. "Happy Christmas, my dear."
Remus was waiting when I stepped out of the fireplace. His eyes widened. "What..."
"Let me put these things away and change," I said as I dashed into the bedroom. When I
returned, I rushed into his arms and told him about lunch while keeping the book a secret.
"Nymphadora," Remus said on a sigh.
I was glad he didn't tell me I was barmy. I burrowed closer and said, "Remus?"
"Hmmm?"
"I told Jan we'd come to brunch tomorrow. Is that alright?"
He smiled down at me. "Yes. I told Andrew we'd attend his staff Christmas party tonight. Is that
all right with you?"
"Did you say I'd bring Turkey Curry?"
"No."
I smiled in relief. "Then it's more than alright. It's S'wonderful."
He smiled. S'wonderful was a Sinatra song we loved to slow dance to. His hands cupped my
face. "You're s'wonderful, and it's s'marvellous that you care for me."
Remus' kiss was more than s'awfully nice. It was paradise.
-
It was hard to remember blissful feelings when Christmas Eve rolled around. I was a mess of
nerves. When the time came for Remus to Floo to my flat, I was pacing the floor of my bedroom,
staring apprehensively at the door. A tap was followed by a soft, "Nymphadora?"
"Yes?"
I could hear the amusement in his voice as Remus asked, "Are you coming out?"
"In a minute." Taking a deep breath, I said, "I have to confess something first."
"I'm listening."
I leaned against the door. "I didn't send you that jumper because I wanted you to look festive for
the party."
"You didn't?" he said in a tone of exaggerated surprise.
I rolled my eyes. "You know bloody well I didn't. I sent you that jumper because I didn't want
my cousins drooling over you all night."
Remus said, "You accomplished that goal admirably. No one will drool over this jumper, of that
I am sure."
"I will!" He chuckled. I smacked the door with a fist. "Ouch! I meant I'll drool over you wearing
it, because I know what you look like out of it." He laughed again.
After silence fell, he said, "If you're not coming out because you fear that I'm angry, I'm not. I'm
flattered."
I sighed. "I'm not coming out because I wanted you to wear that jumper...so I sent it...but then I
felt so guilty about it...that I..."
"What? What did you do?"
He sounded so concerned; I opened the door and showed him. His eyes widened at the sight of
my forest green jumper dress with an oversized reindeer head on it. Remus looked down at his
identical jumper and said through bursts of laughter, "Let's promise...right now...never to tell
Sirius."
-
There were candles in the windows and an elaborate wreath sparkling with white fairy lights on
my parents' front door. Remus gave me a gentle nudge to encourage me to take the step needed
to reach the doorbell. My hand was still upraised when the door opened and several cousins
squeezed outside to greet us.
"Tonks!"
"Happy Christmas!"
"Is this the boyfriend?"
"Matching jumpers? Hilarious! I love your sense of humour!"
The last comment was from Lora, who hugged me and giggled as she kissed Remus' cheek.
When the others looked ready to follow suit, I stepped forward and slipped my arm through his.
"Remus, these are Lora's sisters, Amy, Liz, and Meg."
He smiled at the girls who ranged from twenty four to eighteen. "This family is blessed with
dark-haired beauties."
Remus looked at me while speaking, so I didn't mind sharing the compliment. Warm air drifted
out as the front door opened. Mum looked as though she minded us giving the neighbours
something to talk about. "Lora Josephine, your mother asked that you assist her in the kitchen."
Lora made a face at hearing her disliked middle name. "Probably needs me to sieve the gravy,"
she muttered.
"Mum's gravy is always lumpy," Liz told Remus, before saying with youthful frankness, "You
must really be in love to wear that gear."
"I am."
"Awww..." Everyone sighed except Andromeda, who bestowed one of her rare, wide smiles.
"Come inside and meet the family," she invited. Dad met us in the entry and enveloped me in a
bear hug before welcoming my partner with a vigorous handshake.
I trailed along as Remus was introduced to Dad's sisters, Bess and Daisy, their husbands and
children and the assorted mix of friends and partners my cousins had brought with them. Our
matching jumpers were talk of the party. My cousin Rita asked where I found them, winking at
me before saying to her boyfriend, "Don't you think we'd look good in them?"
Everyone around us laughed to hear Paul's horrified, "NO!"
"I might be willing...if the persuasion was exceptional," said Gerald, waggling his brows at his
bride-to-be.
Lora smirked. "You said your mum used to make you wear a jumper with reindeer marching
across the front every year growing up. I think you'd like it, so you would be the one to have to
pull out all the stops to persuade me."
"I could sing you a song," he replied with a meaningful look.
Rita snickered. "Better add 'naked' to that, mate."
Remus drank Wassail the wrong way. I patted his back while he coughed, saying, "Blacks don't
have a monopoly on bluntness. The March and Laurence families are just as outspoken."
"So I gathered. It's...charming."
I laughed and pulled him away to say hello to Gran. She and Mr. Santini were decorating the tree
along with Aunt Daisy and Uncle Nat. My youngest and only male cousin on my father's side,
John, held up a white ornament covered in silver glitter. "Did you make this Tonks?"
"Yes, it's a German Star. I made that fifteen years ago. Dipped it in wax, that's why all the points
are still in good shape." Wax and a sealant spell, to be precise.
"Can you teach me to make one?"
"Sure, all you need is the right paper."
Gran said, "I told Remus they were your favourite."
I looked at him curiously. His expression was sheepish. "I dropped by for tea one day and asked
a few questions about what your Christmases were like growing up."
"He's being gentlemanly, Nym. I talked his ear off."
I bent to hug her. "You look wonderful in red."
"Thank you dear. You look like an elf in that jumper and those tights, but a lovely one." Gran
smiled wickedly. "I'm sure you are Father Christmas' favourite helper."
Mr. Santini chuckled and patted my Gran's arm. I said, "Nice to see you again, Sir," with a smile
that wasn't entirely faked. He seemed to adore my grandmother, so he couldn't be that bad. I
wasn't going to call him Marco or encourage more than friendship, but I no longer planned to do
an enquiry on him or search his coat pockets for pills.
The rest of the family joined us in decorating and soon the evergreen looked just the way a tree
should. Splendidly packed with ornaments and fairy lights and shining like Christmas.
Mum announced that dinner was served. I whispered to Remus, "A word of caution. Aunt
Daisy's mash potatoes are lumpier than Aunt Bess' gravy." He grinned and slipped an arm around
my waist as we followed the others into the dining room.
When the party died down and the family started bidding each other final Happy Christmases
before returning to their homes, Remus pulled me aside and said, "Will you give me a half hour
before returning to your flat? I want to give you your presents tonight."
I looked at the clock on the mantel. "It'll be Christmas by the time I arrive. That's perfect." I
pointed to the mistletoe tied to the chandelier overhead and rose on tiptoes to kiss him. "You're
perfect."
"Your reindeer look like they're snogging when you press them together. Please stop. It's
disturbing." Mum's dry tone was belied by her smile. She suggested Remus Apparate from the
back garden and led the way through the house, saying, "I speak for the entire family when I say
I hope we'll be spending much more time together in the future, Remus."
He looked modestly pleased, as if he hadn't heard the countless 'finally picked a winner'
comments during the evening. "I look forward to it."
Mum opened the kitchen door, halting abruptly. I heard her sharp intake of breath and said,
"What's wrong?"
"There's...a dog outside."
I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed gently. "Go pet him, Mum."
Remus and I stayed in the kitchen. He smiled at me knowingly. I said, "What? They needed a
moment of privacy." He lifted a brow. I admitted, "Alright, I didn't want him to see our jumpers,
although forest green really is your colour." His huff of amusement was so cute I twined my
arms around Remus' neck and said, "Let's make our reindeer snog again."
After several lovely minutes, Mum returned, sniffing and wiping the corners of her eyes. "I must
tell your father. Happy Christmas, darling, we'll see you tomorrow afternoon for dinner."
I walked Remus outside. We were greeted by grumbling sounds that became a long series of low
woofs. I glared at the mongrel 'laughing' his head off and said, "You won't be so smug when you
open up a doggie jumper Christmas morning!" Turning on my heel, I marched inside and
slammed the door.
A half hour later, I walked out of my fireplace and stared in wonder. Remus had given me a
Christmas tree! I stepped forward, reaching out to touch one of the white German Stars
decorating the small pine on the low table in front of my sofa.
"I made those, but Samyak and Aashi made the red origami bells and helped me dip the stars in
wax."
My gaze travelled from tiny enchanted candles making the tree sparkle to the man I loved. "This
is the best Christmas present ever."
"It's just part of the present. The rest is in a box under the tree. Open it."
I ran to my bedroom, calling, "I have to get your present." I found it, wished I'd done a fancier
wrapping job, and then shrugged and returned to the lounge. "Here."
We knelt on the floor by the tree, holding our gifts. Remus said, "Ladies first."
I giggled and tried not to rip the paper like an overexcited child. My fingers trembled with
eagerness , making un-wrapping a chore. I finally gave in and tore the paper off; eagerly lifting
the lid of the box to see what was inside.
"Oh Remus..." I tried to say how much I loved it, but I was too choked up.
He said, "It took longer than I thought it would to find the right one. The crushed velvet
Renaissance style wasn't quite what I had in mind and neither was that 'fetish' cloak I kept
coming across, whatever the blazes that means. I certainly did not ask." Remus watched me rub
the fabric against my cheek and smiled. "In a second hand shop, the proprietor showed me a
Cardinal cloak with hood that had been used in a play set in the eighteenth century. The scarlet
colour, double milled woolen cloth and satin lining was just what I had envisioned. Durable
yet..." he paused to watch me put it on, "beautiful."
"Je t'aime passionnement," I said fervently, leaning forward to kiss him. I must've got my French
right, because Remus kissed me passionately. Something poked me. It was his present, caught
between us. I grinned. "Open it, love."
I would never forget Remus' expression when he saw his mother's book. It was a mix of awe and
bittersweet joy. He traced the face on the cover with a fingertip, just like I had. "She always said
I would be the model, because I was a model little boy." His eyes shimmered. "This is my best
Christmas present ever, and words cannot express how much it means to me...how much you
mean to me. Je t'adore, Je t'aime, I love you, Nymphadora."
He kissed me tenderly. I sighed happily. "Will you read me a story? I love the way you speak
Latin."
Remus opened the book. "Which one would you prefer? Tres Porcelli?"
I giggled. "Maybe next time, but right now I want to hear Little Red Riding Hood."
He huffed in amusement and stood, lifting me to my feet. Within moments, we were snuggled
together in an oversized chair. I sat on his lap; my scarlet cloak wrapped around us, gazing
dreamily at the Christmas tree while Remus read Larcernella Rubra. It was the happiest
Christmas of my life.
-fin-

								
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