This wouldn’t exist without the incredible talent and generosity of PirateGinny. She waves her wand and all comes right...and of course JKR to whom it all belongs in the end.
“Curse it all,” Lupin hissed. Which way did she go? Behind him the infirmary door closed, hushing anxious whispers...Dumbledore dead...what do we do...who else?
Why did she have to run like that? Did she really expect him to propose there and then, with Bill’s blood smeared over his robes? With Dumbledore’s lifeless body still warm? Her eyes. Only in battle had he seen desperation like hers, that last minute before the final curse struck you, before the shock of death hollowed out your eyes. That was what he saw when he told her ‘No’. How many times had she heard that ‘No’? He had to find Tonks.
As he peered down the darkened hall, his fingers fumbled about in an inner pocket of his robe. There it was. The small, octagonal glass cylinder nearly slipped from his perspiring hand as he drew it out, his other hand now busy searching a different pocket. Cautiously he placed the glass cylinder on a window ledge, then pulled out a ragged, parchment envelope. Why couldn’t she understand? Because you don’t tell her the truth, an unwanted voice whispered. Tell her the truth? That would never work.
It was not poverty, nor age, nor even being a werewolf that drove him to push her away. No, he just could not take another death. Not after watching Sirius fall behind the veil. He came close to screaming that night in the Ministry, and he had screamed countless times since in his nightmares. Every night he watched figure after figure slip between the curtains, all of them wearing the same mask of shock that had covered Sirius’ face. Just like Molly watched the Boggart take on the lifeless forms of her children, only his nightmare followed him through the day. Again and again he would turn a corner or unfold a newspaper and suddenly find his mind imprisoned in that arch with its flapping, ragged veil silently mocking him.
The parchment crackled as he edged out a single, pink hair. He carefully worked the hair through the needle-wide hole atop the gleaming glass and then watched it slip slowly into the clear fluid that filled the cylinder. Thank God Fawkes’ lament still hovered above the halls. It would keep her from doing anything desperate before he could reach her.
The cylinder glowed softly as the fluid began to bubble; and in spite of the anguish of Dumbledore’s death, the horror that Bill’s face had become, the nightmare fact that Voldemort’s reins were snapped, a small smile crept unto his lips. James and Sirius had created the cylinder during their sixth year at Hogwarts. Sometimes, when the full moon slipped behind massive winter clouds, the werewolf would disappear from sight. A dog with a bad cold isn’t that much better at sniffing than any sneezing boy. So was the Signum Orbum born: an octagonal orb of glass, two inches wide, two inches deep. The rounded sides, which insured pinpoint accuracy, gave it an orb shape. The fluid was drawn from a unicorn’s pericardium. One small hair—a piece of skin would do if you weren’t queasy—and the fluid would do its magic. There was nothing to match the power of the pure fluid surrounding a unicorn’s heart when searching for a loved one.
There, it was working now, just like it had twenty years ago. The pink hair twisted and wound about itself until it formed a small, glimmering ball of pink that bounced wildly around the glass sides. The ball stopped suddenly and pressed itself against the glass wall farthest from him. Straight ahead!
Lupin broke into a run, one eye on the hall ahead, the other on the Signum Orbum. The pink ball remained where it was, flat against the glass. Dazed and bleary-eyed students fell back as he passed. One small first year squeaked when he saw the lone, gaunt runner bearing down on him and dove behind a tapestry of two lions. Usually the lions pranced about one another, waving their magnificent manes like banners in a medieval tournament. But now, as the strains of Fawkes’ mournful song flooded the air, they lay listlessly on their sides, mouths slack and open, one limp paw dangling over the gold fringe.
Relentless, Lupin ran until he came to a third intersection of halls. There, the pink ball began swirling—round and round the eight sides it ricocheted, then halted as quickly as it had begun. Left! He peered for a second down the darkened hall. That way? In answer the pink ball flattened itself against the glass until it seemed little more than a pink tint. She must be near, he thought with a small surge of relief that pushed him forward into the dark.
But why was it dark? Had one of the death eaters come this...no, this was her work. The battle hadn’t touched this part of the castle, certainly not the thin hall that ended at the stairs to the owlery.
A quick, hushed Lumos showed a row of dampened torches. Tonks was thorough if nothing else. A small snort escaped his mouth as he counted the puddles of water beneath each smoldering torch and two extra puddles where she missed. She might never be able to climb a stairway without stubbing at least one toe, but Tonks took all the honors when it came to sharp shooting. Rarely did she miss a moving target and never a stationary one. Two misses. She was losing control. He started running again.
Why the Owlery? His legs pumped harder, and his breath scratched at his lungs as he sprinted towards the stairs, the globe of light from his wand ricocheting between the ceiling and floor. “Louder, Fawkes,” he gasped. “Sing louder.” All he could see in his mind was Dumbledore’s body falling from that tower. She wouldn’t!Don’t let her!
Only twice in wizarding history had a wizard managed the intensity of self-hatred needed for an effective killing curse. In fact, suicides were rare. Potions were preferred as painless, but even the simplest death-inducing potion took two days to make, time enough to reconsider. Time enough for someone who cared to cast a strong cheering charm and sit the poor devil down for a long talk. His mother had cast endless charming spells on him during the first two days after a full moon. The aftermath was always the hardest thing in his life. The time before held its share of dread; but there was always the additive of challenge, an addictive one: the unquenchable hope that this time he could somehow hold on to a spark of humanity, that this time the faintest light of reason would illuminate the depths of the raging wolf.
There was a sudden clatter of metal on stone, and Lupin fell forward. He smashed his face against the stone slabs. “What the hell...” he moaned and attempted to stand up but slipped. There on the floor, right under his left knee, lay a long spear. More than six feet long, it was effective enough to trip anyone traveling the hall. A thirteenth century suit of armor—some swore Wallace the Wizard had worn it during the battle of Stirling—which usually stood a head higher than any Hogwarts suit of armor, was down on one knee. The gloves of intricate mail that usually held the massive lance, were crossed now on its chest. The helmet sung back and forth in solemn denial that so great a warrior could have passed without a chance to fight.
Lupin’s heart began to thrash. There, in a small alcove behind the suit of armor, a slender figure stood, wand held chest high, the tip glowing an ominous green.
“Stand where you are, Remus,” Tonks’ voice spitted out. “You cannot stop me now.” One wide arc of her wand ignited the twelve torches. She stepped into the flame’s swaying light.
This was the Nymphadora he had never seen, yet he knew her immediately from Sirius’ description. No pink curls, nor dull, limp brown hair. Instead thick waves of black hair cascaded around her shoulders; a fine, aquiline nose lifted slightly under two dark, brooding eyes. Sirius’ eyes. Bellatrix’s eyes. The eyes of the pureblood Blacks. Here stood the woman who refused to be one of them, who kept her face in a constant state of alteration rather than acknowledge the pureblood in her veins. Here stood everything he had ever wanted.
“Nymphadora, you must not...” his voiced faltered as the wand rose still higher.
“I am a Black, remember, Remus? I do what I want.”
“Killing yourself won’t....”
“Killing myself!” Her scream cut off without warning, and a flow of low laughter flooded the air around him, silencing the song of the phoenix. She moved closer, her wand trembling.
“What new lie is this? Were the other lies not enough that you have to add suicide?”
“Lies?” Lupin stammered.
“Yes, Lupin the Liar. Lies! That is all you have been telling me. Poor? Too poor? You know my inheritance is enough to last us two lifetimes. Too old? No wizard dies before 170 except by curse. So tell me one more lie, Lupin. Look me in the eye and tell me you do not love me.”
The wand dug into his chest now that she stood right before him. Her eyes had taken on the strange luminosity of burnt out stars, pulling him into them. He wondered if he would have ever been able to push her away had he known her like this.
“You know the answer, Nymphadora. You know I love you, but a werewolf cannot....”
“The last lie, Lupin? Well, I will take care of that soon enough. Only two weeks more and the moon will rise full. Enough time for a trusted Auror to check the Ministry’s registry of known werewolves. A few names, a little luck in tracking, and....” She cocked her head, pulled the wand back and held it an inch beneath her chin. A red, eerie light flowed over her face. “...then there will no longer be a wall between you and me.”
Tonks’ face began to morph; her jaw stretched forward while her nose flattened and darkened above pointed, protruding teeth. A terror like he had not known in years gripped Lupin, deafening him to her peels of semi-hysterical laughter. A yellow tint rimmed her eyes as they slanted backwards, eyebrows pushing down.
“Stop it! Stop it!” he shouted.
Just once he had seen this. Once only had it been photographed: a second-by-second physiological study of a werewolf’s lunar transformation. He was only nine when a team of five highly renowned healers—four of whom were purebloods—had convinced a young werewolf to let them study his transformation. Baiting him with hints of how this might lead to a break-through discovery in the effort to heal lycanthropy, they assured him his identity would remain forever unknown. The parents had managed thus far to keep his condition concealed from others, and he had a promising future in his father’s business, Nimbus Incorporated. Young and high-minded, the lad consented and underwent a lunar transformation deep in the bowels of St. Mungo’s, encased in a transparent, impenetrable shield that was charmed to record every imaginable change in his body, including DNA structures. One of the purebloods was intent on proving that the transformation back to a human body left the werewolf with a sub-human genetic construction.
The following morning a junior healer ushered him out and summoned a Muggle taxi to drive him home. The following month the world famous journal of Wizard Healing was devoted entirely to the study, replete with no less than 1,000 photos detailing each moment of the five minute lycanthropic transformation. Three days later his mother found the boy’s lifeless body sprawled on his bedroom floor, wand still clutched in his hand. One of the two who had managed to turn his own wand on himself.
Tonks’ wand clattered on the stones as her elongated, sharpened nails dug into his shoulders. “I will do it, Lupin. I will,” she gasped.
“Now!” he screamed. “Stop now!” His whole body trembled, just as it had that day the eleven year old werewolf sat among his classmates in the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, watching Professor Ditherbats cast enlargements of the famous werewolf study on the wall. After vomiting twice, he was carried unconscious to the infirmary. Dumbledore quietly confiscated every known copy of the study, and any books that came into the library were purged of all photos detailing lycanthropic transformation.
She buried her face into his chest; the tremors shaking her whole body matched his own.
“Please, Remus, listen to me. We have so little time left. It’s no longer a question of my death, whether I will die or not. He’s coming, Remus, he’s coming for us. He’s coming for me: a pureblood traitor, an Auror, a member of Order of the Phoenix. He’s coming for you.” Her hands tightened on his shoulders. “Yes, you too. At the next full moon the others will shred you skin from bone. You’re a liar in their eyes now. Dumbledore, the protector you promised, dead. If you even have until the full moon, if any of....” Her voice sank into a sob.
Lupin stood, his eyes sealed to dam the tears that were forming, and slowly laced his arms around her.
“Die together, Nymphadora?” he whispered. “Is that what you want?”
He could feel her face transform, reshaping itself within the torn folds of his robe. Then she leaned back, still clutching his shoulders, still the true face of Nymphadora Tonks.
“Yes...no....” She struggled for breath. “God, what hope do we have now, Remus? Dumbledore dead. And Harry? The boy couldn’t bring Lucius Malfoy down, much less Voldemort. He’s no Dumbledore, Remus. We saw that at the ministry. Sirius....”
“There is the prophecy, Nymphadora. I don’t know what it says, but Dumbledore believed....”
“Prophecy! Is this ancient Greece, Remus? Are we two actors stirring the cauldron on Shakespeare’s stage? There has never been and never will be an iron-tight prophecy. You know that. You know we are free. ”
“Then why would you kill us, Nymphadora, if the future is still undecided? Why?” He pulled her back to his chest; he needed to escape those eyes for a minute, needed to think.
“Because I need something to live for. Someone to live for. Damn it, Remus, I need someone to die for. I am not a man, Remus. I’m a woman, and women live and die for people, for faces they will never lose, faces that will never change. Women don’t die for ideals, Remus, except the one called love. Please, Remus, please give me someone to live for, to die with.”
Her sobs were muffled in his robes, but they shook him just the same. Lupin drew a deep breath, and then paused. His face turned slowly upwards. Why had Fawkes’ song suddenly began again, soaring so high? Why now this slow ecstasy of notes eddying against the lower tones? Was everyone hearing this or he alone? What was this magic? What must he answer?
“No, Tonks, I won’t give you someone to die with.” His grip strengthened as her body jerked, and he pressed his mouth against her ear.
“Not to die but to live. We are going to live, Tonks. You and I, together. We are going to live.” For a single moment his jaw clenched as the fluttering veil loomed in his mind. No, that wasn’t the answer. Sirius, James and Lily—that wasn’t their end. That would be the last lie.