disclaimer: I don't own these characters. They belong to JK Rowling.warning: HBP spoilers!
AN: Written at the request of Sonya for the_fund.
*~*~*I can grow
In spite of all you know
You might not recognize me tomorrow
Yes I can change
In spite of all they say
Become something strange and beautiful
Like joy, like joy...
-from "Firewalker" by Liz Phair
She was subdued as they made their way to her place in Hogsmeade. A little cottage with one bedroom. He should not be escorting her home, but on a night like tonight, her actually making it there was far more important than any of his resistance or gentlemanly notions. Or what had Molly said? His 'ridiculous line' on this.
He did love her though. He, Remus John Lupin, loved someone named Nymphadora Tonks, who was so very much more than her name. How could he not? She was this bright thing in his drab universe. He did not know how deep it went. He had not meant for it to happen, but one rarely does mean for love to happen. Love does as it pleases without regard to age or situation usually. It had certainly done as it pleased almost a year ago when Sirius had been killed, and he'd been trying to comfort her as she cried... only to end up somehow kissing her.
Remus could recall it with an ache like the one he still felt in his werewolf bite on cold nights. She burned in the pit of his belly. She was consuming him. Her presence, but especially her scent. He could just smell her in a room she'd left and be dizzy for days. Tonks had tried repeatedly to take things further, but he had been holding his 'ridiculous line' until now. He knew he was too old, too broken, too poor, and definitely too dangerous for a young woman like herself, but that did not change the amount of want within him for the very woman who was clinging to his arm because she had just had a misstep trying to get onto the porch of her cottage.
"Well, I should..." He said softly, leaving it hanging. He should... what exactly?
Her hand rested on his arm, barely touching, but burning. Her touch was always hot. Well, to his skin anyhow. Remus could feel the heat of her hand through the sleeve of his worn shirt.
"It's not proper. I shouldn't-"
"Please. I'd really rather not be alone just now if it's all the same to you."
She was not looking directly at him, and her eyes were shining with unshed tears. If he comforted her again... it was risky, but at the same time, his gut was twisting tortuously because she was so upset. He was upset himself. Who would not be? They'd just suffered a great loss. The wound was still very fresh and very much still bleeding, figuratively speaking. His upset he could handle. He was used to upset within himself, but Remus could not stand to see her upset, and she had been fairly upset for the last several months. Most of that was due largely to his 'ridiculous line'. No, now was not the time go away. She seemed awfully fragile, despite how hard she had gripped his robes earlier. She had shaken him as well, literally and figuratively.
"All right, but I am staying on the sofa."
"It isn't proper."
"You are so old fashioned about some things."
"Old fashioned because I am OLD."
"No. Not old. You just have manners." She sighed and seemed to sag in fatigue.
"But-" She started even as she fairly collapsed onto her small and ratty sofa.
"Perhaps you should sleep some."
"I don't think I could."
"Then let me make us some tea."
"I will." She started to rise.
"I said I would."
"But it's my kitchen. You won't know-"
"I'll manage." He replied even as he was hurrying out of her presence and into the small kitchen.
Her kitchen was actually very well appointed, and he spent far less time making the tea than anticipated. In no time at all, he was forced to go back into the small sitting room with her. Tonks was asleep on the little sofa. Remus set the tea service on its tray on the coffee table and grabbed a well-worn looking blanket from a nearby chair to cover her up with. Her eyes opened as he made to tuck it up to her chin.
"Remus." She whispered in a voice he felt all the way down his spine.
"See? You are tired. Here, let's put you in your bed. You'll rest properly there."
"Only if you stay in it with me."
"It's Tonks, Remus. I... I just want you to hold me. Please. I feel so... I'd just really like to be held tonight."
So dangerous. He didn't know if he'd stop at holding. Yes, yes, he could do this because she so obviously and desperately needed him to. He could never deny her if she truly needed something. Not even. She was took up too much space in his old heart for that.
"All right. I suppose."
Before he knew what was happening, he was undressed down to his undershirt, socks, underpants, and slacks with his arm around her middle. She had donned a pair of very ratty pajama pants with a drawstring waist that he suspected had at one time belonged to her father, and a cotton camisole type top. As strange as it seemed, he found her sleeping attire very sexy. Remus was spooned in behind her, and felt a bit odd and tense because he had not been in this position with anyone, let alone a woman, in a very long time. Remus could not resist pressing his nose to the base of her skull and smelling the skin there.
Her smell was so comforting, so soothing. He had dreamed about her scent often while staying with Greyback's group. Tonks startled him when she turned in his embrace and rested her cheek against his chest.
She cut him off by pressing her lips to his.
Remus nearly groaned aloud. He had wanted this for what seemed like so long now that it was near pain to actually be kissing her now. His denying himself had apparently done nothing for the want she made him feel. He should have learned from James... denying you were deeply in love with a woman did not make you want her any less.
Oh hell. Deeply in love? Was he? Remus considered. It seemed like an eternity, but it was mere seconds. Yes, in love. Had been for months now. No one made him smile as she did. Or had. Lately he couldn't bear her sadness, but he could take care of that. He could. It was his fault she despaired, and he could mend it. She was sad for wanting him, and he had been ever so foolish to keep himself from her. Selfish too. Selfish and scared. What sort of a former Gryffindor was he that a little thing like a very beautiful woman frightened him to the pit of his belly?
They parted for needing air.
"Please..." She whispered, placing soft kisses along his jaw line. "I need you. Let me have you, Remus. Fight me no more. I need you."
"I know. Forgive a blind fool?"
"I need you as well, I think. Have for some time now. I was just... frightened. I could hurt you."
"You could also love me as I love you."
"Oh it's much too late for that. I'm well and caught by every charm you have. I do love you quite a lot, I think. I'd like to drown in you. Caution has definitely not just been thrown but hurled into the wind here. I don't think I could stand your not having me any longer."
"Oh thank Merlin. I can't survive any more of your resistance either."
"You don't have to. The time for my hesitation with you is through. McGonagall's right. I do think Dumbledore would have been a bit happier for a bit more love in the world... even if it's between a rather undeserving old werewolf and a young woman who should want something a bit more."
"I do hope that Dumbledore isn't the main reason you've decided on this."
"Well... no. I don't do well without you."
"I tried so very hard not to want you, but ever since I kissed you..."
"You've been all I could think about."
"Kiss me again." She whispered. "Kiss away the numb and hurt I feel."
"And what if the kissing leads to other things? I don't think either of us is in the right state of mind just now to-"
"I've wanted the other things for months, man. You aren't taking advantage. Give it."
Neither could have guessed the dam of passion those words would have burst within Remus. It was definitely... given, Tonks remarked later. Much and far fewer articles of clothing later, it was given and given again. She also said, the naughty girl, that she would like to give it back and be re-gifted often. How could he refuse such a tantalizing offer? She was the second infection in his blood, and he relished this one. Especially in lieu of how her hair had gone from the mousy brown so similar to his own to the bright bubblegum pink he found so endearing on her.
A man just could not easily forget the sight of a woman moving on top of him, shrieking his name in orgasm, and having bright pink color at that very moment of ecstasy burst from the roots of her hair to the tips in a matter of seconds. In that instant, she had never, in all her guises, looked more lovely to him.
Strange and beautiful... and he had never felt joy like her.