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No, my child, this is not my desire
and then she said,
I'm digging for fire
Wednesday, May 30 :: Early evening

It was obvious in retrospect that her lease had one or two loopholes you could ride a hippogriff through. The wizened old witch who was the owner of the building in which Tonks had found a flat had come by just as Tonks was about to go up to the roof to enjoy the warm weather and fix a bite to eat.

Plans had quickly changed.

Fire hazard my arse.

She grumbled a bit and adjusted the paper sack in her arms to rest on her hip while she knocked on the door of Bill's cabin.
Bill wasn't expecting any visitors, and Charlie wasn't home so he probably wasn't either.

For a moment, Bill contemplated ignoring the knock. What if it's Mum? With food?

The thought of a free home-cooked meal perked him up, and Bill padded barefoot to the door.

"Nymph? We weren't interrogating anyone tonight, were we?"
"Nah, we're off duty."

Tonks took off her sunglasses so she could peer up at Bill with her best hang-dog expression. It was such a curse, being a bit clumsy. People had no idea.

"Mrs. Tiddle says using the grill on the roof is prohibited. Something about keeping the stationery and quill shop below me safe." Her words started to speed up. "I could use the oven, but it's just not the same, you know? It gets the room all overheated and so I thought maybe I'd wrap up my steak and come over here?"

A slight moistness seeping through the sack and onto her T-shirt gave Tonks the uncomfortable feeling that she might have packed poorly. In her haste, the tomato might just have ended up at the bottom.

"I brought extra! For Charlie too, even!"
Normally, Bill would have quickly invited her in, especially if she'd brought steak. But it hadn't been that long since they had managed to wake up together, starkers, and Bill still couldn't remember what had happened.

His nostrils flared at the smell of the meat, and his stomach overrode his unease.

"Chuckles isn't here, so I guess we'll have to eat his share. Come on in."
"You're a peach, Stretch." Tonks grinned, then realized, "Ohh, peaches. I didn't bring anything for afters. I guess Charlie's portion for dessert it is, then."

She shook her head and made her way to the kitchen, trailing a stream of slightly oblivious chatter along.

"Seriously, though. It's sodding Scotland. May's traditionally a bit dry, yeah, but it's hardly a tinderbox ready to go off — and I know my extinguishing charms! There's no need of accusing me of trying to violate the insurance code; I'm a perfectly well-behaved Auror, always following the rules, that's me."

Tonks sat the sack down gingerly and went to the sink to get a rag to dab at the tomato juice on the hem of her Scalded Cauldrons tee.

"Anyway. Other than being a public menace, my day's been all right. How've you been?" She looked up from her work. "Thanks for this, by the way."
There wasn't anything for him to do other than follow her, a bemused expression on his face.

He shrugged and nodded at her bag of... something leaky. "'S no problem. Saves me the effort of going to the 'Sticks to beg food from Mum later."

Bill opened the icebox and pulled out a bottle of ale, holding it up so she could see it. "Want one?"
The damp spot was mainly dry now, good enough to let it go without using a wand.

"Don't be so sure. My landlady's dire predictions could come true and we might be begging Molly for non-carbonized meal later."

She began digging into the bag, pulling out a parcel of steaks and various veg; sad to say, but woman did not live on meat, ale and fried cheese alone. Besides, slicing up a couple of potatoes and courgettes and whatever else, tossing on some salt and pepper and wrapping it in a foil packet to go on the grill was so easy it hardly counted as actual cooking.

Hence Tonks' confidence she could handle it.

She paused long enough to grab the bottle Bill was offering, a slight question in her glance.

You all right?

She wasn't dim, she'd noticed that he'd seemed distant, but at first Tonks had chalked it up to surprise at her barging back into the scene of the ... well, not a crime. Scene of naked awkwardness. Or, heck, maybe it was something else entirely, maybe Charlie had left a mess for his brother to find or any number of things could have happened.

But on her way out the door at work earlier she vaguely remembered glancing at the station calendar, which was pretty insistent in pointing out upcoming events to be aware of. The full moon definitely counted.

A part of her suddenly felt self-conscious for intruding; Remus usually hadn't been very much bothered until the day of — but then, Remus wasn't Bill.

"You have some for yourself, too, right?"
Bill's laugh had a bit of a bark to it. "Of course. We may not keep much in the way of actual food around here, but we've always got beer. A man has to have priorities, after all."

He wanted to ignore her questioning look, but he'd known Tonks far too long to pull that crap. "Especially when that man has a tendency to get all introspective and morose every month."

As he pulled his own bottle out of the icebox, Bill gave her a half-smile. "Easier to drown my sorrows and all that. And don't I sound like an enormous whinger?"
"You really do," Tonks attempted to tease in return, "but as long as it's over something justified and not the meal I'm about to throw together, I suppose that's fine."

With a crooked smile, she took a small sip of her ale and busied herself with work — seasoning the steaks, submitting the rest to a washing charm, tossing the sack in the bin — while screwing up the courage to get past the boulder of nerves that had lodged somehow within her stomach.

Her mum had the ability to artfully direct conversation in any manner she chose without giving the slightest hint what she was doing; Tonks hadn't inherited that social grace. Instead, she barreled through with what she liked to call directness and Andromeda despaired of as being rudely blunt.

She wiped her hands off on a towel and turned back to Bill.

"If you want me to eat and run, I can do that, you know — but only if you want space to be all introspective in. Don't think you're going to be able to pull any 'oh, I don't want to be, but it's better for me to be alone' crap."

Tonks nodded to emphasize her point.

"Also, where's your foil?"
Tonks seemed to have things well under control, and Bill had learned long ago to stay out of the way of a women in the kitchen unless she indicated your help would be welcome. He hopped up onto one of the counters and nursed his beer while she worked.

"I doubt everyone would think it's justified." He realized how odd is was that he was talking to her, or anyone really, about his problems. "Foil's there," Bill pointed toward the drawer, then picked up where he left off. "I mean, I'm not dead, am I? I'm not crippled. I'm not like Remus. I'm just - Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I was."

He took another long pull from his bottle, then admitted something he'd never really told anyone before. "Sometimes, when the moon is full and I feel like I'm going to come out of my skin, that I need ... something that I can't have, I wish I was like Remus."

Bill looked down at his feet rather than see the look on Tonks face. She and Remus had been close, surely she thought there was something wrong with him now.
Slicing charms were making quick if irregular work of chunking the veg. Tonks paused long enough to Summon the foil from where Bill indicated it was hidden, then continued working silently, wrinkling her nose as she listened.

Who the hell wouldn't think he was justified?

Tonks remembered being sat at the kitchen table in the Burrow listening to Remus talk with Molly and Arthur while Bill was at St. Mungo's recovering from the attack, about what its effects might mean. Oh, she knew Bill was correct — there were some right idiots out there — but it still inspired a healthy dose of indignance on his behalf, one that nearly overrode the faint shock that she wasn't being, well, told to butt out.

She left the vegetables half-done and came around the corner. The priority was clear; supper could wait.

"So it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it's not nothing, and I don't think you should be expected to pretend that it is. What point would that serve? Might only hurt, in fact — it's a curse's logic, isn't it? The wolf can't get you like it wants, so it inflicts what it can. Try to hide and it hunts you down from the inside."

Tonks hadn't ever considered he might feel this way, that he might want more. While a surge of protective instinct said it was pretty damn glad Greyback hadn't been able to make him a full-on werewolf and wanted to shake Bill for wishing otherwise ...

"I don't know how that must feel, and I don't want to patronize you by pretending I do."

That she didn't think he was monstrous or anything was so incredibly obvious she thought it went without saying.

"But, Bill?"

Tonks pulled herself up on the counter so she could sit next to him, and dipped her head to try to get a glance at Bill's face.

This was hardly going to be a perfect comparison, considering the end results if both their wishes to change had been granted — change for a metamorph was voluntary, painless, and didn't require a potion to stave off a feral, murderous insanity — but there was something in what he said that she recognized in herself.

"I do know what it's like to feel you should be changing your shape but you're not able to."

Like the phantom limb sensation for amputees, there'd been a stifling sense of something intangible missing for months — even after the initial shock of grief, guilt and fear had passed into day-to-day drudgery and by rights she should have been back to what passed as normal during the war, the constant reminder that she was ... broken was enough to keep her depression going, a self-fulfilling curse.

"I wasn't crippled, technically, but my god, did it feel like it. If there'd been an equivalent to a werewolf bite to fix me I think the cost would have had to be astronomical for me not to be tempted."
Slowly, he looked up to meet her eye; after a moment, Bill reached out to take one of her hands, and squeezed.

"If it was just the scars, I could live with that, no problem. No matter what I spouted off right after the - Greyback. It's the longing that gets me. Something inside wants to run free, and I can't let it."

He sighed and stared down at the bottom of his ale. "Over the years it gets harder to face, until I dread rising of the moon."
Tonks' free hand joined the first so that they were clasping Bill's between them.

"Have you ever told anyone? Remus or Arthur?"

She had some idea of the effect of mental distress over magical maladies.

"Do you think that holding everything back and worrying about it makes it worse? Like a blocked geyser constantly building steam?"
"I don't know. Maybe?"

He shook his head. "I couldn't tell Dad, it would kill him, knowing his son actually yearned to be a -"

Bill didn't say "monster," that wasn't the right word. Being a werewolf didn't make you a monster, Remus was proof of that. It was something else, something that men like Greyback carried inside of them - perhaps even before they were bitten - that made them a monster.

"And Remus... I don't think I've ever heard him even hint that being what he is had a good side. How could I tell him I wanted what he obviously finds to be a curse or a burden? I just couldn't do that."

He squeezed her hand again. "Listen to me. One night a month I get antsy, I spend more time moping and getting pissy about it than I actually spend suffering, if you can even call it that; and others, who are inflicted, have to go through so much worse. I'm just an ugly cuss with a temper, but I can still get a job, and no one worries that I might be contagious."

His eyes narrowed as he looked at her, then his lips twitched upward slightly. "And why the fuck am I telling you any of this, Nymph?"
"No clue. Must be because I'm so wonderful; glad to see you noticed."

Tonks' smile wasn't as wide as it should have been; she wasn't completely reassured he was OK, although the atmosphere of a moment ago had at least lifted.

"Anyway, I'm not going to say anything to them, but at least don't underestimate how much we care about you. They might give you a knock or two out of being frightened, but it's not like being tempted by something is so hard to understand. They'll be fine. You said it was getting worse, and you've got a lifetime of full moons to go. Nothing says you have to brood alone."

Tonks released Bill's hand, if a bit reluctantly.

"If you ever need a distraction from the moping and getting pissy — something else to drive you crazy — just let me know, all right? Mum, Kinglsey and back in the day Professor Sprout all seem to agree, it's one of my talents."

She hesitated, as if she was going to say something else, but shook her head and dismissed it.

"Also, for the record? For a not-so-ugly cuss with a temper you do fine."

Risking life and limb, or at least risking losing her balance and tumbling clean off the counter, Tonks leaned over and placed a brief kiss on Bill's cheek before hopping down and surveying what still had to be done.

"You wanna go get the fire started?"