(A/N) This story
started out as a sort of writer's exercise--what can I come up with
by simply concentrating on one physical sense at a time? Then it sort
of . . . evolved. Thanks to Terry Pratchett for the werewolf's nose.
(A/N 2) This was
written about a year and a half ago, and posted at FF.net at that
time. Now that Remus and Tonks are canon (HUZZAH!), I thought I'd put
it up here at the Quill, even though the timeline makes it a little
AU in the latter parts. Still. Enjoy.
One - Scent of a Woman
He smelled her first.
It was the worst week
of the month for Remus Lupin. His skin prickled all over, as if the
hair was trying to sprout at top speed. His teeth seemed sharper than
usual--he had to concentrate hard on not biting a hole in his cheek.
And every sense he could lay claim to was on overdrive,
but worst of all was his
sense of smell.
Tonight was the full
moon, his first at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, and the headquarters
of the Order of the Phoenix was a haze of smells to him. Besides
the usual that anyone could smell--cooking, mold, smog from
outside--Remus’s nose picked out the particular scents of each
person who had walked through the front door in the past few days.
They were slightly muted, because almost everyone was either
still asleep or out of the house, but Remus had no problem picking
them out. Molly Weasley’s scent
was comfortable and warm, like baking bread, but with the biting
green edge of worry. Moody's paranoia hung in the air like a
murky black haze, but that was nothing new. Darker now, possibly,
than it had been fifteen years before, but still familiar. Sirius's
frustration vibrated like a twanged harp string, sharp as spilled
acid. That was new.
And the woman smell.
He caught his breath.
He knew this scent of
old, heavy and dark and rich with mysteries no man could dream of
touching. He'd been nearly seventeen before he realized just what it
came from. Even now, understanding that the source was menstrual
blood, he thought of it as simply the woman smell.
The iron hand of
control he clamped down was as old as his recognition of that scent.
His reaction was stronger this time than usual. Perhaps because he
hadn't laid a finger, or anything else, on a woman in quite a long
time. He drew in his breath through his mouth, letting it out slowly,
until his mind had wrestled the reins away from his body.
He often thought, at
times like these, that anyone who thought humanity was above the
animals could never have been within ten feet of a woman in all their
dried-up lives, because otherwise they would understand just how
idiotic that notion was.
The woman was
awake--the smell was too fresh for it to be a leftover from the day
before, the way the others were. He
couldn’t quite tell who this was. She must have been out of the
house for the past few days. Or the woman smell was covering up her
It strengthened as he
padded down the hall to the kitchen, overlaid with the scent of fresh
coffee. His blood leapt in his veins, and he wondered if he should
turn away and go back upstairs. But he was hungry--for food--and if
he didn't deal with it now he'd just have to later. With luck, the
woman wouldn't notice anything. He was very good at hiding himself.
Any other time of the
month, he would have had to proceed carefully in the greyish dark
before dawn, but his wolf eyes were sharper than his human ones. He
twitched his shoulders, wishing that it was a week later so his skin
felt as if it fit properly again.
As he reached for the
kitchen doorknob, a ceramic crash broke the silence, and a soft, "Oh,
bugger" reached his newly-sensitive ears. His hand froze.
It was Tonks who was
the source of the woman smell.
For a moment,
disorientation overtook him as he struggled to reconcile bubbly
little Tonks with this ancient woman's scent that was sending his
body mad. But why should that be so surprising? She wasn't a child,
Why had he never
thought of her as female? As woman?
He took a breath
through his mouth and pushed the door open. Tonks blinked up at him.
"Morning, Remus," she said. "Just popped in to snitch
some coffee after me patrol. I've got to be into work in about half
He stared down at her.
Today, her hair hung to her shoulders in uneven ribbons the
approximate color of a radioactive cucumber. She wore a baggy t-shirt
with the front witch for the Weird Sisters plastered on, and her
jeans had been hacked off three
inches below the knee, with ragged strings fluttering clear to her
bare ankles. She looked about ten.
He breathed in her
smell, which had nothing to do with being ten.
"Watch the floor
there," she said, after a few minutes of silence. "I've
broken another mug. No great surprise."
He suddenly realized
she was barefoot, in the midst of a lake of ceramic shards. "You
should take care yourself," he said. His voice sounded rough,
and he cleared his throat. "You don't want to get one in your
She shrugged. "Not
as if I'm not used to it." She pulled her wand out of her back
pocket and flicked it carelessly. "Reparo!" The mug
flew together, and she picked it up. "There. Handiest spell I
ever learnt, that's for sure."
As she rose from her
crouch, she winced slightly. Only very slightly. Only someone with
wolf-sharp eyes would have noticed it. Remus said, "Are you
feeling . . . quite all right?"
"Who, me? Oh,
yeah. Just a little sore, is all. Wanker's protective spells got me
His entire body tensed.
"What? No. The
wizard I was following." She flipped an absent hand. "Auror
stuff." She poured herself coffee and opened a cupboard. "You
drink coffee, don't--oops!"
His hand flashed out
and snatched the mug out of the air an inch above the counter top.
"Not today, but thanks." The wolf did not need caffeine.
Neither, he thought, did Tonks, but that was her lookout. He set the
rescued cup carefully on the counter and looked around for the
said, flushing. "Wish I could do that."
He turned away. He
didn't know how much she knew about him, about his . . . condition.
"Good reflexes." Wolf reflexes.
"That from the
werewolf thing, then?" she asked casually, and took a slurp of
If he'd still been
holding the mug, he would have dropped it. "The what?"
thing," she said. "It's full moon tonight, isn't it?"
He couldn't think of
what to say, except, "You know?"
She made a "tuh"
sound. "Of course I do. Got a full briefing on the team, didn't
I. Just like you." She took another great gulp.
experimentally toward her. She didn't jolt back or tense up, but only
lowered her cup and looked at him. Her eyes were neon green today
too. She said, "As long as you're not feeling hungry, I'm not
going to run away screaming from the ravenous werewolf."
He said, "Most
would." This close to her, the woman smell filled his head and
set his blood roaring. He should step
back, he knew.
"Yeah, well, I'd
probably offer you toast instead. Better for your heart, that."
She slapped her rounded hip. "Eating me wouldn't do a thing for
He thought of a reply
for that. If he'd been Sirius, he would have said it, but since he
was Remus, he said instead, "I have to say, I never really think
of my cholesterol when I have fur and fangs." He looked at her
intently. "You've known since you came into the Order."
"Mhm. And to what
you’re going to say next, yes, I stayed. Not that I had
a choice, of course. It's sort of all-or-nothing thing, this."
She lowered her mug all the way. "But you think I would have
left. Because of you."
He said nothing.
"If Moody or Dung
didn't scare me off, why would you?"
He trailed off. He had a lot of words for his wolf mode, but he
didn't want to say any of them in front of Tonks, somehow. If she
knew what was going on inside him right now . . .
She snorted into her
cup. "Right, because being a perfectly decent man who happens to
turn into a wolf every full moon is so much worse than being the
lightest-fingered sneak thief this side of the Channel, a paranoid
looper who'd break your arm if you tried to shake hands, or worse, a
chameleon you can never really trust because you don't know what
they're going to look like tomorrow."
"I don't think
that's a terribly accurate description," he said quietly.
"What, of Moody?
He's a total flipping loony, and Merlin knows we all appreciate it,
as it's the reason most of us are still alive. Oh, and speaking of
that. Don't use the front door for about--oh, half an hour, say. Just
until he gets in from patrol."
"Unless you fancy
being wet through--" She shrugged. "I figure if he's going
to be paranoid, I might as well give him a reason for it." She
glanced at the clock on the wall. "Merlin's wand, is that the
He looked too. "I'm
holding her cup, she spun. "Remus, d'you see a file folder?"
He looked down at the
counter, where a coffee-spotted folder rested. "Is this it?"
"Phew. Thanks. The
file room are a bunch of tight-arsed bastards if you leave one of
those lying around."
The folder said,
"Accounting Requisitions, 1978-1979,"
which didn't look like sensitive information at all. He raised his
She grinned. "Good
charm, isn't it? Even if a non-Auror got hold of it, they'd be bored
stupid in fifteen seconds." She tucked the folder under her arm,
tipped her mug up to catch the dregs, put it half-on and half-off the
counter, gave him a quick grin, and Disapparated.
His hand darted out and
caught the mug on its way down, but it was total instinct. He stood
staring at the spot where she'd Disapparated. Her smell--the woman
smell--still hung in the air.
"I thought I knew
you," he said to it.
In the next room,
Moody--who had refused to Apparate anywhere since he'd been caught in
a trap on the arrival end sixteen years before--pushed open the front
door. The bucket delicately balanced in thin air dropped. There was a
splash and a bloodcurdling scream.