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15 January 2012 @ 02:31 am
Fic: Landslide  
Title: Landslide
Author: shimotsuki
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 | mild profanity, brief descriptions of violence and injuries, canon minor-character death (oh, and Dumbledore, of course)
Format & Word Count: Fic, 7600 words

Summary: Remus is so very certain that he is right to push Tonks away, no matter how much pain it causes both of them. And Tonks will never give up, not as long as she knows that Remus loves her. But the inevitable collision between the irresistible force and the immovable object takes an unexpected turn on the night the Death Eaters invade Hogwarts.

Author’s Notes: This is a stand-alone story -- we all know what happens in the hospital-wing scene! -- but it's also part of the Kaleidoscope series, set between To See Clearly (which introduces Bess's spectacles) and One Step Forward (where we see just why Tonks makes Remus promise at the end of this story).


I don't think there are words enough to say how important metamorfic_moon has been to me. It was one of the very first fanfic communities I joined on LiveJournal, and the various events here -- especially the Jumbles -- challenged me to push myself far outside my comfort zone when I was first learning to write fic. And I got to know so many wonderful writers and readers here, people who I still keep in touch with even though many have moved onto other fandoms and interests.

So I think it's fitting that I post this story as my final submission at Meta. For one thing, I'm posting only minutes before the event closes, which makes it just like old times. ;) For another, it's the hospital-wing fic -- a scene every R/T writer just has to attempt! And besides, this is a belated follow-up to my first attempt at the same scene, for the Last Chance Full Moon Showdown in (heh) 2007. This version is drastically different, although a few paragraphs of the original survive. (There are also a few lines taken from a version of this scene I attempted even longer ago, as a drabble at the Sugar Quill. And long-time readers with long memories might note that I've given Molly a few lines that used to belong to Tonks in an earlier version of One Step Forward, before I edited that scene out!) And, I'm still challenging myself at Meta up until the end, because this is the longest one-shot I have ever written.




Landslide


“You can count me out, Fenrir.”

The words were not loud, but they landed like a thunderclap.

Remus felt his breath stop. Matthias, sitting next to him, set down his charred potato and stared. The familiar restless grumbling of the dozen werewolves gathered around Bess’s cooking fire dissolved into a silence like the hiss of a fuse set alight.

Bess unfolded herself from her perch on a fallen log and got to her feet, glowering at Greyback from across the circle. Behind the new pair of magical spectacles, her eyes were sharp. Steely. Gone was the shortsighted squint, the vague expression she wore when she couldn’t quite work out what was happening.

“What?” Greyback growled. “I’m offering you an opportunity, Ogilvie. Not good enough for you? ’S that what you’re telling me?” He stood up as well, wiping greasy hands on his filthy trousers.

Bess tracked the motion, her lip curling in distaste, and Remus had to bite back a dangerously inappropriate smirk. She was flat-out observant, now.

“I don’t trust those friends of yours who come around here, promising things in the future because they want something from us now.” Bess cocked her head, watching Greyback again. “If you want to play their games, you go on. But I’ll stay out of it.”

She turned her back, slowly—deliberately—and walked away.

Greyback snarled. But he didn’t call her back, or chase her down. She had too much status in the pack for that.

Which was exactly what Remus was staking everything on, now.

The low-status werewolves were melting away, not wanting to wind up too close to Greyback when he was in a foul mood. Remus caught Matthias’s eye and stood, making for the wood that flanked the camp. It would be better if they waited a while before going off together to debrief.

Bess had never defied Greyback this openly before.

Remus kept his head down and his face blank until he reached the shelter of the trees. But what he was feeling was something close to elation.

~ * ~

Tap, tap. Tap.

Tonks woke with a start and stumbled to her feet.

She’d dozed off in the armchair again, after coming in from an Auror shift spent patrolling all around Hogsmeade. “Got to stop this,” she muttered, rubbing her eyes. Especially since she kept falling asleep without supper. She needed to keep up her strength, or casting a Patronus might get a little fiddly, and there were simply too many dementors about to take that risk when she was supposed to be protecting the village—and the school.

And then she saw the owl at the window. One she didn’t recognise.

She barked her shin on the coffee table in her mad dash to let it in.

There was no reason to go breathless with hope. She knew that perfectly well. Even if they had been on speaking terms, which they most decidedly were not, Remus had no way to get an owl.

Still, her shoulders slumped a little when she saw that the handwriting on the envelope wasn’t his.

~ * ~

“Lupin,” came a familiar strident whisper from behind a large tree.

Remus froze. Moody never came looking for him outside their scheduled meetings.

Something must have happened.

Not Tonks, he caught himself thinking, a mantra of desperation. Please, don’t let anything have happened to Tonks. The deliberate coldness of the last words he’d spoken to her returned to chill his own heart.

Remus glanced around to make sure that he was unobserved, but of course he was; Moody wouldn’t have made contact if the coast hadn’t been clear as far as a magical eye could see.

He slipped off the well-worn path and ducked around behind the tree.

Moody pushed his Invisibility Cloak back from his face, leaving a disembodied head floating there in the wood. “About time you left the compound,” he growled. “I’ve been waiting for hours to talk to you.”

Remus forced himself to breathe. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing, yet.” Moody shrugged. “But Dumbledore sent me with a message. Seems to think he’ll need to leave Hogwarts soon, and he wants you available for guard duty there at a moment’s notice.”

Was that all? Remus rubbed his hands over his arms as the chill of fear dissipated. For now. “It’s hard for me to be able to leave on short notice. Dumbledore knows that.”

“He does,” said Moody. “His message is that he wants you to go and stay at the Burrow for a few days, so you’re ready when he needs you.”

“Now?” Just when the balance of power in the pack had started to shift?

“Yes, now,” said Moody gruffly, though not without a certain glimmer of sympathy; he knew about Bess and the spectacles, after all. “Dumbledore says it’s important. He thinks the Death Eaters are on the verge of trying something pretty big at Hogwarts.”

Remus looked back toward the camp, where the gleam of the cooking fires had begun to brighten in the gathering dusk. It wasn’t that he couldn’t leave now. This new momentum in the pack, away from Greyback and his Death Eater contacts, would surely keep on whether he was there to watch it develop or not. Bess was far more likely to take advice from Matthias than from a relative newcomer like Remus, anyway.

“All right,” he said, with great reluctance. “I can leave tonight. I’ll just need a few minutes to pack my things and let Malkin know.”

There was really no alternative. His fundamental duty was to serve the Order—to follow Dumbledore’s directives, wherever they might lead. And of course, if the students at Hogwarts were in danger, he wanted to do what he could to protect them.

The fact that he was now more afraid of leaving the werewolf camp than staying would simply have to be irrelevant.

~ * ~

Tonks sighed, gave the owl half a biscuit that was rattling round in the pocket of her Auror robes, and unfolded the letter.
Status update: Our deep-cover agent will be temporarily returning to the roost as ordered by #1. Burn this after reading. Constant vigilance!

No salutation, no signature—Tonks had to smile a little. Typical Mad-Eye.

Only, it was typical Mad-Eye telling her that Dumbledore had sent Remus back to the Burrow.

Tonks dropped the note into the fire and prodded it with the poker until the parchment turned as black as the ink and the whole thing crumbled to ash. Of course, she was only following the old man’s paranoid instructions. Out of affection. This had nothing to do with indulging herself by thoroughly obliterating the news she wished she’d not been sent.

That would be childish.

And she wouldn’t even think about Apparating over to the Burrow, not even to hide in the shadows outside the kitchen door and pump Molly for information. She had her pride—dammit!—and if Remus was so bloody certain that he didn’t want to see her, she was hardly going to give him the chance to turn his back and walk away.

Again.

The owl spread its wings and flew out into the mild June evening. Tonks closed the window behind it and wandered into the kitchen.

She really ought to fry herself an egg, at least.

~ * ~

Remus tucked his most valuable belongings carefully into his rucksack—his least ragged shirt, his Muggle notebook and biros, the muffler that Tonks had knitted for him when they were still friends. He left his bedroll and a few other pieces of clothing, though, to make it clear to the rest of the camp that he didn’t expect to be gone long.

It would be best if his exit went mostly unremarked, but he did need to warn Matthias. He ambled casually over to where his ally was sitting with his feet propped up by the fire, whittling.

“I’m going away for a few days,” said Remus, just above a whisper. “Order business.”

Matthias threw him a sharp glance, but was too canny to react more visibly. “And where shall I say you’ve gone?”

“The weather’s getting warmer.” Remus shrugged. “Let’s say that I’ve decided to take off for a bit of a tramp through the woods now that it’s nice.”

Matthias huffed.

Remus had to agree that it wasn’t the most convincing story, but it was the best he could do on short notice.

“Keep an eye on the garden for me, will you? If I’m not back in two or three days, it would be good if you could weed it a little.”

Matthias raised an eyebrow. “How do I know which ones are the weeds?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” said Remus, feeling a grin start. “They’re the ones that aren’t in straight rows.”

Matthias’s answering grin helped loosen the knot of worry in Remus’s stomach. With a slight twitch of his fingers in place of a farewell, he started off down the winding lane and into the wood to find a suitably deserted spot.

Wandless Apparition took an enormous amount of concentration, and could only be done to a place that one knew very well indeed. After two years in the Order with Weasleys, though, the Burrow was an easy destination. Remus left the silent darkness of the wood behind and opened his eyes to warm yellow light pouring from uneven, mismatched windows. The breeze carried the faint sound of voices and the chinking of crockery.

He shivered, a little, and gave the kitchen door a tentative knock.

It swung open at once.

“Remus!” Molly beamed. “Dumbledore said you’d be coming!” She swooped toward him with her arms open wide.

He stepped back quickly, holding up his hands in warning. “Keeping clean isn’t so easy, with nothing but cold water from the river—”

Molly clucked her tongue and hugged him anyway. “Come in, come in,” she said, still beaming, with a firm grip on his elbow.

The Burrow’s kitchen hit him just as hard as it had the last time he’d come back, and this time he wasn’t even wounded. It was bright and comfortable, brimming over with delicious smells. Arthur greeted him cheerfully. Hot food—a warm, dry house—no one there but people he could trust—

“Are you all right, dear?” Molly peered up at him, her brow wrinkled in concern. “You look a bit pale. You should sit right down and have some supper.”

“I—” Remus sighed, and looked away. He was hungry, but not starving, and he was hardly fit for polite company in his current grimy state. “If you don’t mind,” he said, with an attempt at a small grin to cover his embarrassment, “I think I might like to wash up, first.”

“Of course!” Molly patted him on the arm, mudstained shirt notwithstanding. “All your things are in the chest of drawers in Bill’s room, and there’s a stack of towels on the bed. Take your time. I’ll have some supper ready for you when you come back down.”

Remus climbed the narrow stairs and pushed open the door to Bill’s old room, his de facto home now when he was away from the camp. He went straight to the chest of drawers and pulled open the top drawer, where his wand lay among small stacks of socks and pants. He picked it up, cast a brief nonverbal Lumos, and then just stood for a moment,running his thumb back and forth along the smooth, warm wood.

The second drawer held some shirts, two pairs of trousers, and two sets of robes. Remus pulled out a clean set of clothes and shucked off his boots, taking a moment to Banish as much of the mud from them as he could. Then he gathered up one of Molly’s thick soft towels (which seemed to have been put under a Warming Charm) and padded down the hall to the bathroom.

The hiss of the shower sounded oddly foreign, it had been so long. Remus stepped into the strong hot spray. The sigh he breathed, as the warmth spread through his knotted muscles and washed away layers of grime, was almost a sob.

This was his first great fear about leaving the camp: that he would grow too used to all these things again. Abandoning his life with the Order last summer to go and live with Greyback’s pack would have been so much easier if he hadn’t let himself start depending on comfort, on people, during the year he’d spent in Grimmauld Place.

“In for a Knut, in for a Galleon,” he muttered, reaching for the shampoo. He was here now, and nothing could change that fact. He would simply have to deal with the consequences once this mission-within-a-mission was over and he was back with the pack again.

Remus washed his hair three times before he was satisfied. Then he dried off carefully and dressed—in clothes from his old life, threadbare and patched but still better than anything he had at the camp—and went down to the kitchen.

“Oh, you do look happier now.” Molly smiled. “Here’s some supper.”

He ate his way rapidly through two bowlfuls of a miraculously fragrant stew with lamb and vegetables, and fresh-baked bread, and no rabbit at all.

And he was clean. He was warm. He was safe.

For the moment.

Remus shivered again, trying not to think too hard about how wonderful every single bite tasted.

~ * ~

Tonks’s washing-up from her fried-egg supper consisted of nothing more than one frying pan and one plate. She wouldn’t have bothered at all if Proudfoot and Savage weren’t sharing the Auror cottage with her, but now she dried the plate and returned it to the cupboard, and hung the frying pan carefully back on its hook.

She had just about decided to go to bed early—she had an early morning shift the next day—when there came a second tap at the window.

This time she set her jaw and crossed the kitchen with slow and deliberate steps to let the owl in, telling herself fiercely that it didn’t matter who had sent it. But she was powerless to stop the bitter sting of disappointment when she saw Dumbledore’s tall spiky handwriting instead of squatter, squarer letters.
Nymphadora—

I have never been so glad as I am now that you are one of the Aurors stationed in Hogsmeade. There will likely come an evening, very soon, when I must make a brief excursion away from Hogwarts. Unfortunately, certain Death Eaters are becoming bolder, and I fear that they may be planning to take advantage of the opportunity to carry out some dangerous mischief.

If you are available when the time comes, may I call upon you to join an Order patrol at the school in my absence?

— A.P.W.B.D.

Tonks rooted through a pile of junk that Savage had left on the kitchen table until she managed to unearth a clean sheet of parchment and a quill that wasn’t too badly bent.
Professor Dumbledore —

I am working early day shifts all this week and will be available from late afternoons onward. You can count on me any evening or night.

—N.T.


At least Order missions gave her something to do in her free time besides sitting around the Aurors’ cottage, trying not to think.

~ * ~

“Errol is at your disposal, you know,” said Molly, pouring Remus another cup of tea. “If there’s anyone you wanted to owl.”

“Thank you,” he replied, for both the offer and for the tea, which was a lovely Earl Grey that sent hints of bergamot wafting up in clouds of steam. “But I don’t particularly need to send any messages now, and if there’s an emergency, I’ll simply use my Patronus.”

“No messages at all?” Molly fixed him with one of her patented motherly stares. “Not even for Tonks? I’m sure she’d love to see you while you were here.”

“No,” said Remus, shortly. He didn’t like to be abrupt with Molly, who only meant well, but this line of conversation was to be avoided at all costs. “It’s better if we don’t see each other.” Tonks had to forget him and get on with her life; it was the only way for her to heal. And he—he didn’t trust himself in her presence any longer, not when the loss of her friendship, as necessary as that was, had left his heart with a festering ache.

“Remus,” said Arthur. “You’re being ridiculous.”

The unprecedented bluntness of those words coming from Arthur Weasley nearly made Remus spill his tea.

“Can’t you see how terribly unhappy you’re making her?” Arthur leaned toward him from across the kitchen table. “And even I can see how unhappy you’re making yourself.” He sighed. “Let her love you, Remus. And love her right back. Catch what happiness you can—Merlin knows we all need as much as we can find, these days.”

Remus took a deep breath, trying to banish the image of Tonks at their last few meetings—so thin and drawn, with lank brown hair that she had lost the ability to change. And the raw longing in her eyes... He was making her dreadfully unhappy. He knew that. But—

“I have no choice,” he said, his voice low and hoarse. “Surely you must understand that. Never mind that Nymphadora deserves someone younger, someone who isn’t destitute—all that aside, it simply isn’t right for me to put her in mortal danger.”

Molly set her teacup down so emphatically that it clanked against the saucer.

“Remus Lupin,” she snapped. “Are you dangerous right now? This minute?”

“What?” He stared at her. “Of course not. It’s nowhere near the full moon.” He searched her face for signs of the old crippling fear she used to have of him—but that was so long ago—“I wouldn’t be here if I were dangerous. I’d have locked myself up to wait out the moon.”

“Ex-act-ly.” It certainly wasn’t fear in Molly’s eyes; it was triumph. “So I don’t see why on earth you think you’re too dangerous to be with Tonks.”

“But—” Remus shuddered. “I do make mistakes, sometimes. You know I made one the night we learned about Sirius. I could have hurt someone.”

“Tonks is an Auror,” said Arthur firmly, “and she knows what she’s doing. You would never both make a mistake at the same time.”

“Think about it carefully, dear,” said Molly. “You’re making her miserable for no reason. It’s not fair to her. And it’s not fair to you.” She patted his hand. “I would so love to see the two of you happy together.”

Feeling somewhat dazed, Remus said his good-nights and wandered upstairs.

It was too dangerous for him to fall in love. It was. He had understood this since his first schoolboy crush at Hogwarts, and it had guided his behaviour all his life.

To let Tonks love him was simply impossible. Unthinkable. Too dangerous.

...Wasn’t it?

It was a long time before Remus fell asleep that night. When he finally did, he dreamed of pink hair and bright laughing eyes and the scent of lavender.

But in the morning he woke alone, empty and aching and cold.

~ * ~

It was the very next evening that Dumbledore’s summons came.

Tonks pushed aside her half-finished plate of kippers on toast and sent her Patronus in response, Apparating to the gates of Hogwarts just as dusk was falling.

Something moved alongside the wall.

She shifted her grip on her wand. “Who’s there?”

“Wotcher, Tonks. It’s Bill.”

“Wotcher.” She relaxed, trotting over to stand beside him in the shadows. “Where’s Dumbledore gone tonight, anyway?”

“No idea.” Bill shrugged. “I doubt anything will really happen while he’s away, but I’m glad he’s called for a patrol, just in case.”

A soft pop warned them that someone else had Apparated nearby, and they fell silent, waiting to see who it was before they showed themselves.

And so Tonks saw Remus before he knew she was there—before he had a chance to wall himself away. He looked thin, and worn, and quietly sad.

Seeing him hurt. Like hell.

It had hurt all year, missing him. Worrying about his health, and his safety; worrying about what being in the constant presence of Fenrir Greyback might be doing to his mind and his soul. Believing that he loved her—and he had loved her, hadn’t he?—even though he steadfastly refused to admit it.

In the end, though, he had rejected even her friendship, which hurt more than anything else.

And made her furious.

Even so, the quiet sadness that clung to him now tore at her heart. After all that had passed between them, she still wanted more than anything else to see his eyes light up, to see him smile.

~ * ~

Remus Apparated into the fading twilight, automatically shifting his weight to keep his balance when he landed on the uneven ground. He stood motionless for a moment, holding his breath, watching and listening for anything amiss. He didn’t much like arriving someplace unsecured with an audible pop, but time was short and he’d had no choice but to come straight here. When Dumbledore’s Patronus had found him, he’d barely had time to send back a hasty reply and put his few things in order at the Burrow.

At least he’d landed as close to the Hogwarts gates as he dared without risking an uncomfortable encounter with the school’s anti-Apparition spells. That meant that anyone lurking nearby was more likely to be a friend than a foe.

Probably.

“Oi, Remus!” Someone hailed him softly from behind, and Remus breathed again, recognizing Bill’s voice. He turned around.

But his smile died before it had time to reach his eyes.

Bill was not alone. Beside him, in the shadow of the Hogwarts gates, was the one Order member that Remus had desperately hoped would not be on this mission.

Tonks stood with the wide, solid stance of an Auror; chin up, shoulders squared, wand at the ready. But her eyes were enormous in her pinched, weary face. And her hair was still brown.

To his shame, the shock of this unexpected encounter made him weak. He let himself start drowning in those clear, dark eyes.

Great Merlin, but he missed her. Her loyal friendship, her warm generous laughter. The brightness she’d always carried with her everywhere—and which his own selfishness had killed, since he’d been too much of a coward to cut ties completely, even when he learned she’d thought she’d fallen in love with him. The loss of these things had left an enormous void in his life, especially with Sirius gone.

But it was so much worse even than that. Because, thanks to one careless moment in Hogsmeade last summer, he knew how it felt to have her in his arms, to hold her close. To taste her warm lips, exploring his sweetly, tenderly, hungrily

No. That memory was completely off-limits, especially with Tonks herself standing right there—

It took almost more strength than he possessed to wrench his gaze away.

This, of course, was the second thing about leaving the werewolf camp that terrified him.

He must never, under any circumstances, let Tonks know how desperately he loved her. But he didn’t know if he was strong enough to hide it anymore.

Remus closed his eyes for just a moment, and when he opened them again, he was able to focus on Bill’s face instead. “We should start for the castle,” he managed. “It’s getting dark.”

~ * ~

Tonks concentrated on where she stepped so that she wouldn’t lose her footing on the rough ground. Bill, in the lead, was setting a brisk pace for the walk up to the school. She and Remus formed the base of a triangle, wands drawn, aiming to the sides and behind.

Her strides were steady. Her gaze was sharp, scanning the grounds for the tiniest sign of danger.

But her hands were shaking.

And she wasn’t angry. Frustrated and irritated, yes, but not angry. Not hurt.

Not anymore.

Matthias had been right, that last dark day not a week ago, when Remus had sent for Mad-Eye but Tonks had gone to meet him at the werewolf camp instead. Remus did still love her. He was simply trying harder than ever to hide it.

She’d always thought he loved her, had clung to that one thread of hope through this whole dreary year. Until last week, when he’d spoken so coldly and turned away.

But just now, she’d startled him and the mask had slipped, and the hunger in his eyes had burned hot enough to scorch.

~ * ~

Remus did not let himself look at Tonks as they patrolled the halls of Hogwarts.

After all, they were on guard. It was standard procedure to be scanning all around for signs of trouble.

He fought to slow his racing pulse, to calm his ragged shallow breathing. To forget that she was right there, almost close enough to touch.

Instead, he tried to keep his mind on his old memories of the Marauders’ Map, on the twists and turns of the Hogwarts corridors, on the patrol pattern that Minerva had specified. Remus had expected that all of them—he and Tonks and Bill, Minerva and Flitwick—would split up and go round the castle separately, to cover more ground. But apparently Dumbledore had left instructions that they should form groups of no fewer than two. So the teachers had gone one way, and the three Order members had gone another.

Which meant that Tonks was still right there. So close.

Too close.

For the hundredth time, Remus wrestled his thoughts away from his palm, aching to slide along the warm skin of her hand; from his fingers, itching to twine with hers. Focus, he berated himself. You weak, stupid fool.

And then they turned a corner and almost collided with Ron, Ginny, and Neville Longbottom, who were running flat out.

“Death Eaters!” Ron gasped, skidding to a halt. “Inside Hogwarts!”

Ginny’s eyes blazed. “Malfoy let them in—we don’t know where they’ve gone—”

“And Dumbledore’s away—he’s taken Harry somewhere—” Neville wiped his face on his sleeve.

Tonks sent a Patronus to Minerva, and the six of them pounded down the corridor to find the intruders.

And then there was no time to think about anything but the fight.

Gibbon was there, and Yaxley, and the brutal Carrows, and the huge blond Death Eater that Remus and Matthias had seen in the wood only the week before. Hexes and jinxes and curses filled the air like a deadly fireworks display. Out of the corner of his eye, Remus saw Neville go down, but it was all he could do to keep parrying Gibbon’s ferocious attacks. Tonks flashed past in front of him, duelling with Amycus Carrow. And then a gleeful shout from the big blond man made Remus turn, and duck, and shiver as a jet of green light whizzed right past his ear—only one curse had light that particular colour—

The Killing Curse that had missed him hit Gibbon squarely in the chest. The Death Eater crumpled to the floor.

Time slowed.

Remus saw Tonks, white as a ghost, glancing from him to Gibbon’s corpse even as she held Amycus off. He saw Neville struggle to his feet and send off a jinx at Alecto Carrow, who had backed Minerva into a corner. He saw Yaxley fire at Ron as he tried to aim a hex at the huge Death Eater, and saw Ginny fire back—

And then came a scream of pure terror that froze his blood.

Remus whipped around.

Bill was down, lying crumpled on the floor. And bending over him, still filthy and reeking even in a set of borrowed Death Eater robes that didn’t quite fit—

Fenrir Greyback.

There was no way Remus could keep his cover now.

And no way he would ever let the monster who had marked him for life destroy Bill Weasley.

“No!” he roared. He fired a Stunner, but Greyback’s reflexes were good despite his bulk, and he leapt to his feet, dodging the spell.

Blood trickled from the corner of Greyback’s mouth.

Remus tasted bile. No—not Bill—

Not the young man who had never been anything but friendly even to Remus, who was about to be married, who should have had a long life ahead of him—

“You!” Greyback snarled, turning on Remus and firing spells at him with clumsy but deadly force. (When had he learned to use a wand?) “Lupin! You traitor!”

“That’s right,” Remus called, between jinxes, his mind racing. “I deceived you all along, didn’t I! And Malkin—” listen to me, Greyback—“and Ogilvie, and everyone. No one guessed!”

“I will kill you myself, traitor,” Greyback growled. “Not with this wand. With my claws and my teeth.”

He lunged, but Remus hit him with an Impedimentia that blasted him back into the wall.

“Greyback, come on!” Alecto shrieked. “The boy’s still up there—let’s go watch the show!”

Greyback bared his pointed teeth at Remus, but pushed himself away from the wall to follow the Carrows. Remus tried to send an Incarcerous after him, but Yaxley lunged at him and spoiled his aim. And then the big blond Death Eater started showering the corridor with curses again, and it was all the Order and the children could do to shield themselves.

~ * ~

It was over.

Tonks bent over and braced her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath.

Dust from the collapsed ceiling still hung in the air, but the corridor outside the spiral staircase leading up to the Astronomy Tower was eerily silent now that the last of the Death Eaters had fled.

Remus was white as death, but he seemed otherwise unharmed. He shot a quick, desperate glance at Tonks, looking away immediately when she caught his eye, but she didn’t miss the flash of relief that crossed his face when he saw that she was all right.

His mask really was slipping tonight. He was almost easy to read.

Remus ran a hand over his face and made his way over to where Ron and Ginny knelt on the floor by Bill’s crumpled form. Hermione and Luna, who had appeared during the fighting, stood very close together nearby, looking rather stunned.

“He’s breathing,” said Ginny in a very small voice. “Isn’t he?”

Tonks helped Minerva pull a whey-faced Neville to his feet.

“He is,” Remus confirmed. “But we should get him to the hospital wing as quickly as we can.”

“Longbottom, you go straight to the hospital wing as well.” Minerva sighed. “In fact, let’s all meet there, and see if we can work out what happened tonight. I’ll go Floo Molly and Arthur, and then I’ll find Albus and Potter and bring them along.” She bustled away, wand still drawn.

Remus immobilised Bill, working gently, and then cast a nonverbal Mobilicorpus so that he could float him to the hospital wing. Ron and Ginny followed, with Hermione and Luna right behind them.

Tonks looked at the fallen Gibbon and shrugged. Might as well leave him there for now; he wouldn’t exactly be going anywhere.

Greyback, on the other hand, was nowhere in sight. Tonks was sure she’d seen Harry Petrify him, but the other Death Eaters must have revived him or dragged him along when they fled.

That was a bloody shame, that was.

Tonks offered Neville her arm. He accepted with a shaky grin. They fell in behind the others, limping along to the hospital wing.

~ * ~

Bill was stabilised. He was going to live.

They were all gathered around his bed in the hospital wing, all but Ginny, who had slipped away somewhere, and Neville, who had been installed in a bed of his own, and Minerva, who hadn’t arrived yet.

Remus could feel eyes on him from time to time, as though people were looking to him for explanations. As though he would know any more than anyone else about what happened when an untransformed werewolf bit you.

And then Harry came in, hand in hand with Ginny, and the explanations started.

Remus found that he could do this. He could listen, like a rational person, and give sensible, measured answers to questions.

It even helped, a little—helped keep his mind off the shock he was still feeling over the abrupt and unexpected end to his mission with the werewolf pack. Helped keep him from reaching for Tonks, who was standing so close—too close—and pulling her up against his heart, burying his face in her fine brown hair that still smelled of lavender.

So he listened, and explained, and kept his traitorous emotions safely invisible.

Until—out of nowhere—came Ginny’s words, and Harry’s silent confirmation.

Dumbledore is dead.

All at once, there wasn’t enough air in the room.

It was Dumbledore who had let Remus come to Hogwarts, who had made him a prefect and even hired him as a teacher. Remus had known the Headmaster longer than almost anyone else still left alive.

And Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever feared.

Through all the years, all the changes, all the losses—Merlin, so many losses—through all the battles, and the heart-twisting fear of what lay ahead—there was a little corner of Remus’s mind that had always seen the old man through the eyes of an awestruck eleven-year-old.

That had always believed that no matter what else happened, Dumbledore would always be there. That he would fix things, would make it all right again.

Dumbledore is dead.

Remus felt like a mountain climber whose firm footing suddenly gave way and buried him under an avalanche.

He dropped into a chair, his face in his hands.

~ * ~

McGonagall hurried out of the hospital wing with Harry. Hagrid followed right behind.

Almost everyone else turned to look at Bill again.

But Tonks was still looking at Remus. Her heart ached at the dazed pain in his eyes that he wasn’t even trying to hide anymore.

She drew a breath, ready to take another stab at persuading him to stop pushing her away. Because as long as she knew that he loved her, she would not give up.

He shook his head, forestalling her. “Tonks, I—” His voice was rough as sandpaper. “I can’t—”

He turned and fled.

“Go,” said Molly, tearfully, from her seat next to Bill’s bed. “Go after him, dear.”

Remus hadn’t gone far. Tonks found him in an empty classroom, in the dark. She waved her wand, lighting the torches; he was huddled into himself on the far side of the room, facing the wall, forehead braced against the cold stone. One hand was over his face. The other, curled into a fist, struck fitfully at the wall.

She went to him. “Remus?”

He lowered his hand and looked at her.

His face was wet.

“Oh,” she whispered. “Remus—”

She had never seen him cry.

“It’s all right,” she said, pushing at his arm, trying to turn him away from the wall. Her other hand went around behind him to pull him toward her. She half-expected him to resist. But instead he shuddered and wrapped his arms around her, very tightly, burying his face in her shoulder.

He didn’t burst out sobbing and wailing—this was Remus, after all. But his breathing was uneven and gaspy, and his shoulders shook.

Tonks held him just as tightly as he was clinging to her, one hand rubbing small circles over his back. “It’s all right,” she said again, inanely. “I’ve got you.”

Remus shuddered again, and his hands clenched around fistfuls of her robes. “I can’t believe he’s really gone,” he said, raw and rasping. And then, a heartbeat later, “They’re all gone.”

That was what this was. Something had torn a rent in the walls that Remus built to keep all his grief and pain locked away. He was crying for Sirius, and his parents, and James and Lily, just as much as for Dumbledore.

Had he ever let himself really grieve for any of them?

She held on, trying to send messages through the touch of her hands on his back. I love you. It’s all right. Let me in. We need each other. She memorised the shape of his shoulderblades, and the scent of his hair, and the weight of his head on her shoulder.

Slowly, the shaking stopped. His breathing steadied. His fists unclenched from her robes, and one hand reached up to swipe at his eyes.

Tonks steeled herself, waiting for him to pull away. And then how long would it be before she had a chance to hold him again?

But his face returned to its spot on her shoulder, and his arm slipped back around her.

She swallowed, hard, and held on.

“Nymphadora,” he said, at last. “I can’t—”

She sighed. Here it was. Can’t do this, he was going to say. Again. Can’t let you take such a risk. Can’t love you.

His fingers twisted in her robes. “I can’t let you go.”

She went rigid with shock, for all of five seconds. And then she clung to him, fiercely. “So— don’t. You know I love you.” She shivered. “If even Dumbledore—” She couldn’t say it; she started again. “I saw that Killing Curse tonight, Remus. It almost got you. We don’t know how long we have, any of us. I don’t want us to waste any more time.”

“But it’s wrong,” he said. He was still holding on, face still pressed into her shoulder, but she could feel the pain in his voice. “No matter how much I want this, I still know it’s wrong.”

She straightened up, then, and pushed at his shoulders. He let go at once, and stepped back, and there was something lost and lonely in his eyes that made her stomach twist.

She reached up and brushed her fingertips against his cheek. He shivered.

“Remus,” she said, her eyes on his. “Do you trust me?”

“Without question,” he said, immediately.

“Then you have to trust me to make my own choices.” She took a deep breath. “I choose to love you. I choose to be with you, if you’ll have me. That’s my choice, my right.”

His gobsmacked expression would have made her laugh, another day.

“You see?” she asked, softly, catching his hands in hers and lacing her fingers through his. “It’s not your fault. It’s my choice. And if you choose me, too—” She smiled, although she could tell it was a bit watery. “There we are.”

There was a tender sort of awe in his eyes, now, as though he was looking at the most marvellous gift in the world. For the first time tonight—after all that had happened—Tonks was in danger of tears.

“I do love you,” he whispered. “I never could help it.”

“I’m glad,” she said, fierce again.

She reached up and pulled his head down, and for only the second time ever, she tasted his kiss. This time, he wasn’t surprised, and he didn’t pull away. His fingers twisted in her robes again, and his lips were warm and eager, and he sighed, a little, into her mouth, and she didn’t think she could ever stop kissing him—

“Lupin! Tonks!”

They broke apart. Remus looked just about as dazed as Tonks felt.

It was Mad-Eye—somehow, neither one of them had heard him coming, not even with his wooden leg and the stone floor. And he was smirking; rather smugly, in fact. But all he said was, “McGonagall has called on the Order to sweep the school grounds for any remaining Death Eaters. Let’s go.”

He clumped away.

“Shall we?” asked Remus. He took a deep breath, and then slowly reached a hand out to her.

“Let’s,” she said, twining her fingers through his.

~ * ~

Dawn was breaking before Moody and Minerva declared themselves satisfied with the security of Hogwarts.

Remus walked down to the gates of the school grounds, his fingers still twined with those of a very sleepy-looking Tonks.

“Where will you go now?” she asked, suppressing a yawn.

“Back to the camp, first of all.” He saw the objection coming, and held up a hand. “But only to let Matthias know what has happened, and to say goodbye. Then—back to the Burrow, I suppose, until I have a chance to see if my old flat is still available.” He rather thought it might be; it wasn’t the sort of flat that people would be lining up to try to let.

“Will you come to mine for supper tonight?” she asked, eyes bright despite her obvious exhaustion.

A smile washed over him, and a little bubble of joy swelled, somewhere near his heart. He could do that, now. He could spend an evening in Tonks’s company, for no other reason than because he wanted to. “I’d like that,” he said.

She smiled back, but there was a hint of something unreadable in her expression. “Do you promise you’ll come? Order emergencies excepted, of course.”

“I promise,” he said, feeling almost giddy with sleepiness and the aftershocks of grief and the easing of a months-long heartache.

Tonks kissed him again, leaving him breathless. He squeezed her hand before dropping it to Apparate away.

Luck was still with him, because he found Matthias on his own in the wood, setting his rabbit snares.

“Malkin,” he said.

“Lupin.” Matthias stood and dusted off his hands. “Back, are you? What was the sudden mission all about?”

Remus felt his smile twist. “I was called away to help defend Hogwarts against a Death Eater attack. We sent the Death Eaters off, all right—but not before they killed Dumbledore.”

“Merlin’s bollocks,” Matthias breathed. “What happens now?”

“Who knows?” Remus rubbed at his eyes. “The Order will muddle on as best we can.”

“But you’re back, now?” Matthias’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not dressed for the pack.”

“Actually,” said Remus, “I won’t be coming back. I can’t.” He laughed, but it was hollow. “You know how Greyback was trying to get some of us to join him on a Death Eater mission?”

“He went last night,” said Matthias, “but in the end, thanks to Bess, no one else went along—” His eyes widened. “You’re not saying he was part of the attack on Hogwarts?”

“Afraid so. And he saw me. Called me a traitor.” Remus’s grin was very wry. “So I gloated a bit, boasted about how well I’d lied to him—and to you and Bess.”

“Ah,” said Matthias.

“I think you’ll be all right.” Remus reached out and clasped Matthias’s hand. “But if anything happens, and you need to get out—come and find me. Go to Hogwarts; they’ll know where I am.”

Matthias nodded. “You be careful, too. With Dumbledore gone, the war can only heat up.”

“I’m afraid you’re right.” Remus shrugged. “We’ll see what happens.”

“Oh,” said Matthias, “I nearly forgot.” He grinned, and dug in his pocket. “You’d better have one of these.”

He tossed Remus a radish.

Remus caught it, delighted. It was lovely, dark pink and clean white. “From the garden?”

“The first crop. And everyone’s eating them. You know no one thought anything would grow—but now they’re all watching for the carrots!”

Remus couldn’t stop smiling. “Keep it weeded, all right?”

“I’ll step up as head gardener,” Matthias assured him, mock-solemn.

Remus’s grin faltered. When Dumbledore and Moody sent him out here, he had never expected to make such a good friend in the pack. “Malkin, you take care. I mean it. And when this war is all over, do come find me. Things may be better for us, by then. And even if they’re not—life in the woods doesn’t have to be your only choice. Not for you, and not for anyone here.”

Matthias’s answering grin had a cynical edge to it. “I won’t be holding my breath, waiting for werewolves to get a better deal.” He clapped Remus on the shoulder. “But I’m sure I’ll see you again, sometime.”

“Right, then,” said Remus. “I’d best be off—”

“Wait,” said Matthias, suddenly. “If you’re going home—I think you should go and find Tonks, and tell her you’re back. You know you love her, and she obviously loves you. It’s a chance at happiness. You should take it.”

Remus felt the new little bubble of joy near his heart start to expand again.

“I think,” he said, slowly, “I already have.”

. * fin * .

 
 
 
Merry: LegoR/TKissmerryb87 on January 15th, 2012 08:32 am (UTC)
You know I really can't think of a better way to send off this wonderful community than with this fic. One that can so wonderfully describe what Remus and Tonks were going through and how they finally ended up together.

This is a wonderful fic that made me tear up, although it could be coupled with that this is the last fanfiction entry that Meta will ever have and I am terribly sad to say goodbye (A bit of me is sad that I never posted a last entry, but I kept with my own tradition and say I'll post something and then never do. ;).

But of course I can still look forward toward your work, Still ideas left for your Kaleidoscope series am I right?

May the Remus/Tonks fandom thrive for a long time coming! Cheers!
shimotsuki: rt_kissshimotsuki on January 15th, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much -- your comments have given me a huge grin. I'd been wanting to write this scene for years, but also feeling kind of intimidated by the idea, so I'm just glad I was able to post it at Meta while that was still possible!

There will definitely be more Kaleidoscope. I do hope to actually finish it one of these years (*sigh*), but there are at least ten more chapters planned.

May the Remus/Tonks fandom thrive for a long time coming!

Hear, hear! Let's all look forward to more new fic! :)
bookish_brownie: Remus Tonks IIbookish_brownie on January 15th, 2012 07:06 pm (UTC)
I agree with the first commenter that this is a great last fic to be posted at Meta. Both Remus' and Tonks' sadness and longing are palpable, but the ending gives them the hope of the happy ending that they deserve. I also love the little glimpses of Remus' life underground and the fact that his mission there did some good, which is well developed throughout your series. Thanks for sharing!
shimotsuki: meta_treeshimotsuki on January 15th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the comments. I'm glad you liked the backstory details that were slipped in here. I can't help but think that Remus must have achieved something in his time with the werewolves, even though we never get any hints about it in canon, because there is never any sign that any werewolf other than Greyback ever showed up to help the Death Eaters...
kuri333kuri333 on January 15th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
I agree with the previous comment. Such a wonderful way to say good by. I'll be reading your series as soon as I get some time and I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy every word of them, just as I have with everything I read from you.

Thanks for sharing!

Cheers!
shimotsuki: rt_kissshimotsuki on January 15th, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed this.
more_ruthless: wingfield1more_ruthless on January 16th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Oh no. It's really over isn't it?
As others have said, this is a very fitting send off.

I loved how you show how very exhausted the two are from fighting on multiple fronts, both external and internal.

Thank you for sharing.

shimotsuki: meta_treeshimotsuki on January 16th, 2012 05:13 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the comments!

I'm glad you said that about the internal struggle. I think that's a real key to understanding R/T, especially Remus, in canon.
gilpin25: Lupin & Tonksgilpin25 on January 16th, 2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
As I said in the post above, it seems wonderfully appropriate that the HBP canon scene which created so many R/T fans, and which would lead to the creation of this comm for many of them, should feature prominently in the final fic posted here. A full circle of the best kind, and it's a good job you've held back your take on this till now! It's also another lovely addition to your Kaleidoscope series.

It's good to see Remus' efforts with the werewolves paying off, even as his time spent with them is coming to an abrupt end. Better still to see Molly's reaction to him, and heart-rending as the extent of the mental struggle Remus has been through gradually becomes apparent. I loved this part of the fic, with the shower, the food, the warmth and the company of friends - and how all the time he's there he's wondering how he can ever go back. And you cleverly contrasted this with Tonks, who seems to be barely eating or sleeping at all, in between agonising over their relationship and trying to do her jobs, secret and otherwise. Both of them worn down and alone.

I like how you missed out the 'I don't care' lines, because they simply don't need it here. What they do need is to find a way forward, and Remus' capitulation is perfect, even while there are still the doubts that aren't going to go away any time soon. But I was nearly as happy as Tonks at that point, and she's absolutely right that it is her choice to make.

Remus seeking to protect Matthias seems typical; it'll be great to see their friendship develop further. And I hope your series will continue for a while yet, so we can all enjoy many more of your stories. They're a delight to read. ♥
shimotsuki: kaleidoscopeshimotsuki on January 17th, 2012 01:51 am (UTC)
it's a good job you've held back your take on this till now!

LOL -- I like that way of spinning the fact that I felt really intimidated by this one. ;) But thank you so much for the kind words.

Very glad to know you liked the Burrow scene, as that part did get the careful editing and rewriting that I wish I had been able to give to more of the piece. :/ I really wanted to show how badly Remus was fraying around the edges, and what a tenuous grip he had on his usual emotional control, after all that he'd been through for the past year.

I like how you missed out the 'I don't care' lines, because they simply don't need it here.

That's kind of you to say... A few years ago (heh) I had actually written out a version of the "I don't care" scene from Remus's POV, but in trying not to parrot whole bucketfuls of canon dialogue, I had turned it into horrible dry exposition. :( If I'd had more time, I might have been able to figure out an interesting way to incorporate that scene into the story, but as it was 8pm on the last day of the event when I got to that part ;) I decided I had better just chop it out and move the plot forward. At least anyone reading this story is likely to have that particular scene just about memorized!

And as for Matthias, I have all kinds of things planned for him in my post-war AU R/T-verse, if I ever get around to writing his adventures. If you happen to remember the werewolf Ravenclaw prefect who turns up briefly in Teddy's Sorting Hat story, that's Matthias's stepdaughter. ;) I'm also trying to figure out a way to get him teamed up with Ted out in the woods for DH...

Thanks again for the comments, and the support -- and the rec! ♥
What's Taters, Precious?: Expecto Patronummrstater on January 18th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
Oh my. As gilpin25 said, we couldn't have commissioned a more fitting fic to send Meta off with, and it's even more fitting that you are the author, given how you stepped up and lent us such a big hand there at the end.

This is just so beautifully written, and I think your brutal editing absolutely enabled you to capture the understatement that is Remus all the time, and Tonks during this time in her life when she's thin and mousy brown. Their grief is so poignant because they're doing their best to be so brave and British, and I like how it all lengthened toward the end when they're coming together and healing. So many wonderful lines in here, especially every single end line for a scene. That's what really made this spare style work, my dear.

And I like how you bookended with Remus and Matthias, and brought your ficverse full circle with Remus' werewolf mission--and the radish/garden motif there at the end was perfect, too. Thanks for giving REmus a successful mission!

I'm sure my review hasn't done just ice to this fic, but rest assured it's wonderful. Thanks for putting a little more R/T love in the world, dear.
shimotsuki: rt_kissshimotsuki on January 30th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for such lovely comments! It's reassuring to hear that you thought the pared-down style worked for this. (It probably needed a little more editing, especially toward the end, but you know how I am with deadlines. ;) )

It seems that Remus's mission had to have been successful, in some sense, because we never see a whole lot of werewolves fighting for Voldemort. I know Remus was pessimistic at Christmas, but surely something could have come together for him by spring?

I'm really glad I managed to finish this in time to post it here, because I really wanted this story to be at Meta. :)
sspring92: meta_morphicdsspring92 on January 19th, 2012 05:40 am (UTC)
I can't say it better than has already been said! Gave me that warm fuzzy feeling1 And so Glad a certain scene was left out!
I certainly do hope the Kalidescope verse goes on! I don't think I will every be ready to say goodbye to R/T, anymore than I am other great couples like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth! They deserve to live on, even if it is only occasionally now! I shall scan my flist and ffnet for that happy surprise here and there!
I think perhaps I will have to start looking up old favorites in Meta!
shimotsuki: rtshimotsuki on January 30th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC)
Yay for that warm fuzzy feeling! And I'm glad you didn't think I ruined this by skipping over the robe-shaking, heh.

Kaleidoscope will definitely go on -- I'm committed to finishing it (even though at my current pace it might still take a while). I'm actually working on the very first chapter right now, because katyscarlett76 wanted to read that part.

Looking up old favorites in Meta is a great way to find some good R/T!

Thanks again for reading, and for always being so supportive with your comments. It means a lot.
Mannahooves on January 30th, 2012 06:46 am (UTC)
Deep down inside I'm cheering that they finally got together, and it wasn't really like any other fic I've read where they got together. Really nice job on this one. I hope Bess *and* Matthias make it out okay. <3