|Transfigured Hearts 10: Marauding
Author: MrsTater PM
Remus wants to give Tonks the birthday she deserves. The Marauder in him sees their assignment to escort the children back to Hogwarts provides the perfect opportunity to pull off a surprise. But can a Marauder keep one step ahead of an Auror?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Remus L. & N. Tonks - Chapters: 4 - Words: 7,649 - Reviews: 65 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 04-08-06 - Published: 04-05-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2877252
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Boggart?" Tonks asked in a low tone as she and Remus stood before a rattling cupboard in the Shrieking Shack.
"Most likely," Remus replied, "though I am surprised a boggart could make enough noise for Aberforth to notice."
Tonks nodded vaguely, clearly preoccupied with another thought. "Aberforth described sounds of chores."
She strode about the sitting room with a lit wand to inspect the place more closely. The curtains were shredded, and most of the furniture was broken and battered, but Tonks ran her hands over everything, and sure enough, turned up not so much as a speck of dust.
"A building that's been vacant for years should be filthy," she said.
Remus frowned. Last night, he'd found the Shrieking Shack looking precisely like a building that had been vacant for years. Leaving it in that state of squalor had not been an option, if he wanted to give it even a semblance of comfort; but he wished there had been some way to tidy without drawing attention to having. Could this one detail strike Tonks as incongruous enough to make her disbelieve the entire elaborate scheme?
Clearing his throat, Remus said, "You think something besides the boggart has been here, then?"
The conviction of her tone filled him with relief, and he relaxed as Tonks continued, "A boggart could never get past the wards, and certainly the bloody things aren't smart enough to get in through the Whomping Willow." She turned and looked at Remus with arched brows. "Why are you smiling?"
He had not realised he had been, but he was not surprised. In this case honesty would not compromise his plan, so he admitted, "I've never seen you on the job, investigating like this. It's an intriguing side of you, and I can see you don't miss a thing."
Tonks flashed a quick smile, but she was in full Auror mood and did not let her attention linger on Remus' admiration or compliments. She had been like this since they left Dumbledore; the walk across the school grounds under the invisibility cloak had been brisk, involving considerably less intimate contact than earlier, and the trek through the tunnel from the Whomping Willow had been completely nonphysical. But there would be plenty of time for that soon enough.
Facing the cupboard again, Tonks said over the pounding sounds, "Someone put that thing in here."
"Why?" Remus knew full well this whole business was a farce, yet he was curious as to what theory she would create. "Who would let a boggart into a ramshackle house no one ever enters, and why would they bother to sweep and dust the place?"
"Doesn't matter," Tonks replied. "What matters is someone did. D'you think Dumbledore will want us to camp here tonight and watch?"
Remus shrugged. "Perhaps we ought to dispose of the boggart, just in case?"
Tonks eyed the cupboard warily. "I'm not entirely sure that's what's in there."
"Only one way to find out," said Remus, moving at an angle where he could best access the cupboard. "Shall I open it? Or if you would rather, you can, and I will take care of whatever comes out."
"No," said Tonks firmly. "I'm the Auror."
Stifling another grin, Remus said, "Be ready with a riddikulus and a stunner, in case it's not a boggart."
"I know, Remus."
Remus delayed for a moment before opening the door. Nothing of the awkward or clumsy remained in Tonks' stance as she positioned herself directly in front of the cupboard. Her feet were planted firmly on the floor; her shoulders flung back and squared. Her jaw was set, and her dark eyes hardened on the door as though she could already see the creature within. Remus hoped she wouldn't turn that intensity on him – unless, of course, it was channelled into kissing – when he revealed the contents of the cupboard.
"Ready?" he asked, more for his own benefit than for hers. "Whatever happens, I've got you covered."
Tonks nodded. "Let it out."
Remus raised his wand and shouted, "Alohamora!"
The door opened, and instead of a boggart or any other creature, bright pink balloons and purple festoons floated out, and affixed themselves to the banisters and around the windows, making the ramshackle house less gloomy. At the same time, the banging sounds had been replaced by voices raised in the birthday song. For a moment, Tonks gaped in astonishment; then, as understanding dawned on her, happiness bloomed on her face.
"Choir!" she cried, bursting into laughter. "Aberforth was trying to spell choir, not chores!"
But her laughter died, and her eyes widened again as the last of the balloons emerged from the cupboard. She leant forward and squinted at a miniscule object that settled on the floor.
Remus flicked his wand and said, "Engorgio."
The item enlarged to a proper dining table, dressed with crisp white linens, sparkling china and crystal, and gleaming silver; lit with glowing candelabras; laden with a feast.
"Blimey," said Tonks when the birthday song ended, but still resonated through the old house. "That was some spellwork, Remus. Maybe you should think about going into the surprise party business. Y'know – partner with Fred and George if they ever get their joke shop off the ground."
"Excellent notion. Incendio." A fire crackled to life in the grate, bathing the room in a warm, flickering glow. Remus tucked his wand back into his robes. "For wild parties, Snape-in-drag shall leap from the cupboard."
Tonks grimaced. "Thank you for not throwing me a wild party."
Now that the secret he had kept all day was revealed, Remus felt suddenly self-conscious. "I know you requested a simple picnic for your birthday. I hope this suits you."
"This is a picnic." She grinned and gestured to the table. "On a slightly grander scale." Her expression softened, and her voice dropped to an awed hush. "No one's ever gone to so much trouble for me."
Remus' heart swelled simultaneously as his throat constricted. He had never made this kind of effort, and knowing this moment was new and special to them both made it that much sweeter.
However, he couldn't help but rue the location, despite the fact that it really was the only place he could have done this. Dryly, he said, "I didn't think anyone would have taken you to the Shrieking Shack for your birthday."
Tonks rolled her eyes, and Remus made a mental note to avoid anything remotely self-deprecating to spoil her night.
"Everything's so elegant," she said dreamily, examining the table again. She glanced self-consciously at her everyday robes worn open over jeans and a pink and green-striped jumper Molly had knitted her for Christmas. "I'm not dressed properly."
Remus admired her unabashedly as he moved to stand beside her. He kissed her cheek and said, "You're beautiful and perfect."
Blushing, Tonks observed they were still wearing cloaks and scarves. Remus slipped hers off her shoulders, and she shrugged out of her robes as well.
While he hung the garments in the hall cupboard, Tonks lifted the covers from each of the dishes: roast chicken, glazed carrots, green beans, buttered bread, and a chocolate cake with pink icing flowers. Remus held his breath, waiting for her to inquire how he had come by the food. How could he explain to her it had come from the Hogwarts kitchen – payment for their services today – without it seeming like charity? But Tonks did not ask, either guessing the source, or not caring.
"Beyond luring us here," she said, turning to him, "how involved was Dumbledore in all this? Did he help you scheme?"
"The scheming was entirely up to me," he said proudly, crossing the room to her. He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets and added, "Marauder specialty, you know. Dumbledore helped me put everything in order. Last night we brought the food over and cast preservation charms, and we collaborated on the song spell."
"Oh, I wish I could've been there for that! Adventures in Spellwork with Professors Dumbledore and Lupin."
"Getting the song right was certainly an adventure." Remus grinned at the mental images. "It is rather a hybrid of a howler and a singing Valentine, but neither of us was certain how to achieve the proper volume. Our first attempt was so loud, we feared it would wake everyone in Hogsmeade."
"Why didn't you cast an Imperturbable Charm before you experimented with song spells?"
Remus sputtered for a moment. It had never crossed his mind, and apparently not Dumbledore's either. "We did not anticipate so thoroughly botching it."
Tonks smirked. "Egotistical buggers."
"Everyone already thinks this place is haunted," said Remus quickly, "what do a few strange noises matter? And anyway the point is that Aberforth heard it and provided an excellent cover story for us. I've no idea what we would have told you otherwise."
"I can't get over Aberforth mistaking chores and choir," said Tonks, giggling again. "How can he be the Professor's brother?"
"I believe Dumbledore asks himself the same question quite often."
The story told, silence now enveloped the couple. Tonks stared contemplatively into the fire, a little smile playing on her lips. Remus stepped closer to her and, from behind, slipped his arms around her waist. He rested his chin on her shoulder and caught the faint sent of her perfume as he pressed his lips to the nape of her neck. Happiness stole over him as she sighed and rested her hands on top of his.
"So after all my efforts to keep this secret," he asked, "were you really surprised? You've had me worried with your constant suspicion – though I suppose I ought to praise your vigilance to Moody."
"I can't help it that you were acting suspiciously," Tonks countered, facing him, "but once we spoke with Dumbledore I really did believe we had to clean out the Shrieking Shack."
She hugged him tightly and tucked her head under his chin. "This is a lovely surprise, with a fun mystery at the beginning." Laughing, she said, "I do wish I'd stayed in my old lady disguise for Dumbledore. He'd have taken it as thanks for his help."
"That reminds me," said Remus, "I do expect to hear about you posing as Trelawney."
"While we eat," she said. "But first…" Her hands slid to rest on his chest as she stretched up to kiss him softly. "Thank you, Remus. I'm the luckiest girl in the world to have you."
Even if he had been able to speak, Remus knew no words to describe how she made him feel. He cupped her sweet face in his hands, and kissed her deeply, hoping it would be enough; and he'd never felt more exhilarated than when her response, eager and yielding at once, revealed her understanding.
Some minutes later they stood each other as they caught their breath and regained balance. Tonks smiled dreamily at him for a long time, running her small, callused fingers over his face, but then her focus became suddenly sharper and she glanced around the sitting room.
"Y'know, Remus, you're very clever and creative to do all this, but there's one thing you got wrong."
"I thought we were going to work on follow-up to romantic moments."
"D'you want to know what?" she asked, dark eyes mischievous.
"The name of this place. After tonight, You've got to start calling it the Snogging Shack."
"The Most Romantic Dwelling in Britain?"
"And don't say that would disturb the students more than the thought of you transforming here."
"Professor Lupin might say that, but right now I'm Moony the Marauder." He held Tonks tighter and dipped his head down to hers. "And I very much like the idea of a Snogging Shack."