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Chapter 14 This brings me to the end of HBP in my story. There will be an epilogue to follow. Thank you so much to my loyal readers and reviewers, and to JKR, who owns it all. A Little More Love in the World Remus Lupin was having much more fun than he really deserved. Granted, anything would have been better than spending the evening eating shredded rabbit in the freezing werewolf den, but patrolling the halls of Hogwarts with Tonks was a particularly enjoyable experience. He told her stories of his Marauder days, and she listed a few pranks of her own, many of which, he was sure, had kept her squarely out of the ranks of Prefect-dom. “You put cat-nip in Minerva’s tea?” Remus chuckled as he rounded a corner with his wand at the ready. “Yup.” Tonks’ grin was as wide as all outdoors. “Then I let a snitch go in the Transfiguration classroom, and she chased it for an hour and a half. She even caught it in her teeth once or twice, and let it go so she could chase it some more. Meanwhile the rest of us laughed our arses off. I got three months detention for that one!” She seemed to beam with pride. “You’re a madwoman, Tonks.” “Indeed. You aren’t too freaking sane yourself - OUCH! What was THAT for?” She jumped about three feet in the air and grabbed her behind. “Pardon?” “I can’t believe you pinched my ass!” “PARDON?!” “Geez, Lupin, if you asked nicely I’d produce it for you – there’s really no need to grab.” She blushed a little and continued to rub her left cheek. Lupin, who had managed to turn a rather violent shade of puce, took a shaky breath before speaking. “Tonks – I didn’t touch you, I swear. I would never…” He was unable to finish, as Tonks began to convulse with laughter. In his confusion he thought that she might have been hit by a curse, and was about to examine her, when the source of the unwanted advance made his appearance. “Loopy, Loony Lupin! You keeps your paws off my Nymphie, do you hear?” Remus rolled his eyes and gave a shudder. Peeves. Cripes. “Go away.” “No! Not while Nymphie’s in danger. Peeves sees the way you looks at her! You stay away from her, Loony Lupin!” Tonks had finally stopped laughing enough to intervene. “Peeves has a bit of a crush on me,” she whispered to Remus. “Oh Peeves – don’t worry. Loony Lupin will never replace you in my heart! Here…” she indicated her cheek, “give us a kiss.” Peeves made a noise like a drain gurgling and then leaned in to Nymphadora, bypassing her cheek entirely and leaving a kiss with a resounding smack somewhere in the vicinity of her frontal lobe. She shuddered uncomfortably, but managed to make it appear to be a girlish giggle, so as not to hurt the poltergeist’s feelings. Then she pointed to her companion. “Remus gets a kiss too, Peeves – just to prove to me that you’ve made up.” Remus began to shake his head, but before he could protect himself, Peeves had come within an inch of his face, lips puckered and ready for some lovin’. Lupin winced as, at the last second, the ghostly creature blew a raspberry in his face and flew away, laughing like a lunatic. Remus wiped at his cheek boyishly and spoke to his companion. “Peeves likes you. I’ve never really known him to like anyone.” “Well – we have a shared sense of mischief, I suppose. He tried to sabotage most of my relationships while I was in school. Even succeeded a few times. I should thank him, really – most of the boys turned out to be great prats – I was much better off without them.” She seemed lost in her memories. “Did you date much at Hogwarts, Tonks?” “Nah – the odd fella here and there. No great love of my life, though. You?” “Not really. I couldn’t, you know? I couldn’t really risk letting a girl know of my condition, and then telling the world. Dumbledore was kind enough to let me attend the school, and I didn’t want to betray that trust. I tried my best to work hard and keep a low profile – not the easiest thing to do when you’re friends with James and Sirius, mind you.” “I can imagine. You know, you still do that,” Tonks said, warily. “Do what?” “Work hard and keep a low profile.” Remus smiled. “I suppose I do. It’s my nature, maybe. Plus, I owe it to Dumbledore to do the best work I can for the Order. That wouldn’t be possible if I was always drawing attention to myself.” He shrugged, and walked slightly ahead to check around a corner as they continued patrolling. “I think you’re dashing, Remus.” He stopped and turned to face her, blushing again. “I know you do. It means the world to me, Tonks.” He looked into her eyes. There was something so uncomplicated about the way they chatted with each other, their ease with each other, even the astonishing attraction they had for each other. It would be the simplest thing in the world to walk to her, take her into his arms and kiss those sweet lips. It would be so easy to hold her, to touch her, to take his place in the blazing orange of her soul. He was certain that the unbearable tightness in his heart would melt away the moment that he did. But, as always, he stopped himself, turned away, and kept walking. Then he took another stab at idle chatter. “So…Tonks…what’s up with the Barbie? She’s gone fishing, has she?” His eyes twinkled as he looked over his shoulder and watched her catch up. “Yup. She and Ken are trying to be friends.” “And how’s that going?” Tonks shrugged. “Ah well, you know. Male/Female relationships can be tough. Barbie’s trying her best, but she can’t resist the urge to occasionally check out Ken’s ass.” “That’s no great concern, Tonks. What’s a little harmless leering between friends, right?” As if to prove his point, he slowly looked her up and down, and then raised an eyebrow and gave her an approving nod. She shook her had, chuckling, and gave him a light punch on the arm. Hell, if friendship was all Remus could give, she decided, it was better than nothing. They continued patrolling the halls for another hour without incident. Then, suddenly, they heard screaming and saw Ron, Ginny and Neville running towards them. All three were screaming at once, with Neville’s face almost as red as the Weasley siblings’ hair. Remus held up a hand, and they all became quiet. “Neville – we can’t understand you. Please explain what’s happening.” Neville breathed heavily before answering. “Malfoy, sir. He was in the Room of Requirement. Everything went dark. He let in the Death Eaters!” Tonks jumped in. “Which way were they heading?” “In the direction of the Astronomy Tower.” They all ran off, into the fight of their lives. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Later that night, after the fighting had ended, Lupin and Tonks levitated Bill, who had been injured badly by Greyback in his human form, to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey did her best to see to him, although not certain as to the extent of his injuries, and deferring to Remus on the nature of the wounds themselves. Moments later Luna, Ron and Hermione entered with Neville, who was bloodied and battered. Madam Pomfrey, however, declared that he would be fine after some rest in the Hospital wing. Ron did his best to be brave, not only in the face of his injured friend, but also at the sight of his mutilated brother. Even so, Lupin could see him blinking back tears, and gave him a reassuring squeeze around the shoulders. Harry and Ginny then entered, and Lupin could see that there was something very wrong. Even at the realization that none of his friends had perished in the fight, there was still a tightness to Harry’s jaw that was uncharacteristic. He was staring at the boy when he heard Ginny speaking to her brother. “Ron – Dumbledore’s dead.” “No!” Lupin looked to Harry, with the question tearing through the unshed tears in his eyes. When Harry didn’t contradict the young witch, all was lost. Lupin fell into a chair, buried his face in his hands, and felt himself consumed by an emptiness that hollowed him to his very essence. Dumbledore…gone? The man who had shown him great kindness and affection his entire life…gone? The greatest wizard of the age…dead? Wracked with sobs, he did his best to hear the remainder of the story. Could it be true? Snape? Dumbledore had trusted him! Even Lupin himself had trusted him – against his better judgment, because Dumbledore’s belief in the bastard had been so unflinching. They had always known Snape was an accomplished Occlumens – but enough to betray Dumbledore? It didn’t seem possible. Limp with sadness, Lupin sat and cried as the phoenix song filled the hospital wing with a tragic lament. As they tried to work out the details of what had happened in the confusion of the evening, he did his best to comfort the children, all of whom were blaming themselves for this tremendous loss. None of them were to blame. Molly, Arthur and Fleur came in to see Bill, and the story was re-told. Remus tried to assuage their concerns, explaining that it was unlikely that Bill would be a full werewolf, but would perhaps be somewhat contaminated. It seemed to him that Molly, the Great Mother, would happily have taken the attack herself. Strangely enough, it looked like Bill’s pretty fiancée would have also. He couldn’t help a little smile. He looked up to see the two women hugging. He was shaken from his reverie by the blazing eyes of Nymphadora Tonks, who seemed to have awakened from a great stupor. “You see! She still wants to marry him, even though he’s been bitten! She doesn’t care!” Lupin stared, stunned for a moment, before speaking. What was she on about? Didn't she want to be just friends? “It’s different,” Lupin managed to choke out. “Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely - ” He was cut-off by a now-fuming Tonks, grabbing his lapels and forcing him to look into the grey depths of her eyes. What he saw there was frighteningly intense. “But I don’t care, either, I don’t care! I’ve told you a million times…” He couldn’t look at her. He couldn’t betray his feelings for her. None of this made sense at this moment, none of this was right. “And I’ve told you a million times that I am too old for you, too poor…too dangerous…” Molly chimed-in. “I’ve said all along you’re taking a ridiculous line on this, Remus.” He shook his head. “I am not being ridiculous. Tonks deserves somebody young and whole.” “But she wants you,” Arthur said, smiling sadly. “And, after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.” Both men looked at Bill’s torn and tattered face. “This is…not the moment to discuss it. Dumbledore is dead…” Minerva’s voice broke as she spoke. “Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world.” As he sank back into his chair, head in hands, he was only half aware of the others speaking with Hagrid and then leaving to discuss the future of the school. He didn’t see Tonks slip out at all. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ Remus Lupin hadn’t cried since he was a child. In a sense, it felt good to let it all out: his grief for Dumbledore, his loss of James and Sirius, his sadness at the death of his parents, even his anger at Peter and Snape. He thought of Harry, who had suffered such tremendous loss over the years, and he realized that he would have to be strong for the boy. He would have to be more of a presence in the boy’s life. He knew then that he would not be returning to the werewolf den, and was surprised that that knowledge didn’t make him any happier – he would have been thrilled to return if it meant that Dumbledore was in the world a little longer. He knew even Nymphadora wouldn’t argue with that. Nymphadora. She still loved him. She still wanted him. It really didn’t make any sense to him at all. She was young and beautiful and full of life. He was old and poor and dangerous. He had thought that the year living apart would allow her to forget him, but it hadn’t. Heavens – it seemed to have nearly torn her to pieces. It hadn’t been kind to him, either. No amount of self denial seemed to purge her from his soul. So many times had had been near-starving and wracked with pain, and the thought of her still made him smile. He rubbed the back of his neck absentmindedly. Even now, in all his grief, the thought of her made him happy. As if reading his mind, Madam Pomfrey nodded towards the north-facing window. “She’s walking towards the gates.” Remus jumped up and kissed her cheek. “Thanks, Poppy.” He ran, with surprising agility, down the stairs and onto the grounds of Hogwarts. When he found her, she was sitting on a bench near the gates, crying softly. “Nymphadora.” She gave a start at the sound of her name. He seated himself next to her and took her hand. “I’m so sorry, Nymphadora.” At that she jumped up, eyes blazing, and stood squarely in front of him. “You’re sorry?! Are you kidding?! What do you have to be sorry about?! I made a goddamned scene in there in front of your friends and colleagues. What the hell was I thinking?! This isn’t about me! Dumbledore is dead!” She winced at the harshness of her words, and when she spoke again it was in a gentler tone. “I’m so sorry, Remus. I’ve spent so much time trying to convince you that you are good enough for me that I’ve totally missed the point: I’m not good enough for you. I’m stupid…I’m impulsive…I’m self-centered. You are the most brilliant, thoughtful, giving man in the world – how could I have thought that I deserved you? I’m so sorry.” Remus watched in confusion as she reached her hand to stroke his cheek before she spoke again. “And I’m very sorry for your loss.” She turned and made her way towards the heavy iron gate. He knew he could let her go. This was her decision, and maybe it was a wise one. For many reasons they were a strange pair. For many reasons it seemed crazy to have a personal life during such difficult times. For many reasons it was logical for them to stay apart. There was only one good reason to catch her. In a heartbeat he was behind her. “Nymphadora.” She stopped, but didn’t turn around. “Nymphadora, please.” He tugged at her elbow, gently. When she turned to him her eyes, welled with tears, had changed. He looked more closely to make sure. No, this was no trick of the moonlight – her eyes were…blue. She was herself again. His heart soared. “I...neither of us are perfect, Tonks, but I...I don’t want to be alone anymore.” He took a step closer to her, and raised a gentle, scarred hand to her cheek. When her blue eyes met his, they were filled with challenge and promise and pure joy. His face was only a breath away from hers now. She radiated warmth and light. He could do it – he could make a choice that would bring him happiness. All he needed to do was say the words. “I love you, Nymphadora.” With that, he tilted his head just a fraction and she was there, her warm mouth quivering at the sensation of his touch. She seemed almost shy as she placed her hands on his chest and leaned in closer. On her lips he tasted all the gentle sweetness she had to give. The feeling was so achingly beautiful it was almost more than he could bear. And, as he had guessed, the tightness in his chest melted away at her touch. It was perfect. Eventually he pulled away, slowly, and put his arm around her. They began to saunter towards the gates. After a moment, Tonks seemed finally able to speak. "Merlin, you smell good." "Ah - it's Patchouli. Would you believe some people consider it an aphrodisiac?" Tonks pressed closer to him and inhaled deeply. "Mmmm. You don't say." Her eyes told him the scent was working its magic on her as well. “Did you know your eyes were blue?” he asked, offering a grin. Tonks nodded. “Do you think you can morph again?” She nodded again, and then asked “Any requests?” Remus thought for a moment about the adorable little nymph who had had a hold on his heart for nearly two years, now. He thought about the tingling sensation that he felt in her presence, and the sense of emptiness that he felt when they were apart. He was almost timid as he stared into the eyes of the young woman who was suddenly his…forever. “Ah, love, you know what I like.” And as they held hands to apparate to Tonks’ flat, he watched as her hair shortened to an adorable pixie-ish length, and changed from mousy brown to vivid, vibrant pink. Well folks, that’s the story up until the end of HBP. There is an epilogue, which will follow next week, and which I hope you will enjoy. Please leave a review if you are so inclined. Thank you for your support!!!! Paloma

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