|Over The Moon
Author: Lady Bracknell PM
Having made tentative admissions that all their sniping was a smokescreen for something other than animosity, Remus and Tonks test the romantic waters with a first date, little suspecting how choppy the waters will become.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Romance - Remus L. & N. Tonks - Chapters: 9 - Words: 43,861 - Reviews: 371 - Favs: 144 - Follows: 70 - Updated: 07-16-07 - Published: 09-27-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3172481
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I'm not JK Rowling, and anything you recognise is her brilliant creation, not mine.
A/N: This is the sequel to Under The Table, and it'd probably be useful if you read that first – although obviously you're free to ignore my advice, and my puppy-dog eyes, and plough on regardless ;).
It had been a long time since Remus had had a woman make an effort on his account, and he found himself not entirely sure what he should say. He thought that matching one's hair to the exact raspberry colour of the Chinese print on one's dress probably constituted quite a bit of effort, even for someone like Tonks, and felt he should say something fitting about how lovely she looked, about how the longer length of her hair framed her face very nicely and brought out the sparkle in her eyes, but he couldn't really think what. His eyes drifted down, taking in red tights and huge black biker boots, and he couldn't help but smile, in spite of how lost for words he apparently was.
Tonks stood in the doorway, one hand on her hip, and a slow smile crept across her features as she watched his eyes take her in.
Remus battled a grin, and lost. "Evidently you're waiting for someone else," he said, making to go back the way he'd come. "I'll leave you to it."
He just registered Tonks' flash of a grin before she disappeared from his sight as he took a pace back down the hall, only stopping when she grabbed his wrist and pulled him to a halt, laughing. "Hello," he said, his eyes roving her face, taking in, with some surprise, how genuinely pleased she seemed to see him.
For a moment they just looked at each other, her dark eyes glittering with a nervousness that he felt sure was echoed in his own. He wasn't quite sure why either of them should feel nervous – after all, they'd spent most of a day in bed together quite recently – but that was different, and whatever tentative admissions of liking they'd made before, this was concrete, this was real, and, he supposed, quite apart from anything else, this was new. They'd been alone together for long stretches on missions, ended up spending hours together in Grimmauld Place and having a resolutely lovely time, but never like this, never planned, of their own choosing, for fun.
Remus was vaguely aware that Tonks still had a loose hold of his wrist. He wondered what to do, what the parameters of this new arrangement were, but when he saw Tonks' lips curve into one of her intoxicatingly cheeky smiles and her eyes dart to his lips in expectation, he thought that she'd probably answered his unuttered question. He pressed closer and touched his lips to hers, and his heart leapt in his chest as she responded.
He rested his hands on her waist and allowed himself to sink into the kiss for just a moment, closing his eyes and enjoying the feel of her soft lips beneath his as she shifted closer and sent delicious shivers through his body. "I believe I promised to take you out," he said as he pulled away, caressing her waist lightly so that the silky material tickled the skin on his fingertips. Tonks swallowed, and one eyebrow lifted in question.
"That's why you're here, isn't it?" she said.
"Hmm," he said, "but if you kiss me like that again, I fear we won't make it to the restaurant."
Her eyes sparkled; his heart leapt higher. "Is that a promise?" she said, her voice low and flirtatious, her words tickling his lips.
The witty reply he had half-planned about it being a threat rather than a promise died on his tongue as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down for another kiss. He slid his hands into her hair and pressed her back against the doorframe, half-wondering why someone like Tonks would even give him the time of day, let alone let him mess up her hair.
When he finally pulled away, Tonks bit her lip and grinned at him in a way he found absolutely endearing, and utterly charming. All of a sudden, spending the evening with her seemed a thrilling prospect, rather than something that should be the cause of jangling nerves, a dry mouth and sweaty palms, all of which he'd experienced earlier in the day, and all of which had just vanished as he realised that this was what he wanted, what he needed.
She shot him a look that may or may not have been apology, and reached inside her flat to grab a small, khaki bag and a black cardigan from a table just inside, and then closed the door firmly, sealing it with a range of different protection spells. "So where are you taking me?" she said fighting to get both arms into the correct sleeves of her cardigan.
"Not far," he said, and she shot him a look of amused annoyance for his evasiveness as she straightened her clothes, but took his hand anyway.
They Apparated to a dingy alleyway in Soho that stank of stale fish and chips and something ammonia-based Remus thought it was probably best that he didn't put too much effort into trying to identify. Tonks turned to him and raised an eyebrow, meeting his expression of mock-weariness, which he'd chosen to let her know that he not only anticipated, but expected, whatever jibe was coming next. "Go on, then," he said, one corner of his mouth twitching and desperately keen to give away his amusement.
"Go on what?" she said, with entirely playful innocence.
"Say whatever it is you're dying to about me knowing all the best places."
Tonks bit her lip in consideration, and then looked away. "Actually," she said, "I was going to do the one about you knowing how to show a girl a good time."
"Hmm," she said, and although she tried to keep her tone even, he could tell she was dying to laugh.
"Come on then," he said, jerking his head towards one end of the alleyway.
"Are you sure you want to leave?" she said. "Surely every man knows the easiest way into a witch's knickers is a dingy alley that stinks of p–"
"Are you going to be like this all night?" he said, cutting her off, raising an eyebrow and making a show of annoyance he really didn't feel.
"Just, if you are," he said, "I'd like to know now."
"How will that help?" she said. "You've still got to put up with me for a reasonable amount of time, just to be polite."
Remus rolled his eyes. "Yes," he said, "but if you're going to be like this all night, then when we get to the restaurant I won't bother to take my jumper off, and then when I climb out of the window in the toilets in half an hour, I won't be chilled."
Tonks pressed her lips together in an effort to keep the laughter that was definitely bubbling internal. "All right," she said, rolling her eyes with impressive mock-concession. "I'll be on my best behaviour. I wouldn't want you to get cold."
"Ok, then," he said, offering her his arm. "Shall we?"
Tonks nodded, slipping her hand into the crook of his elbow, and they headed towards one end of the alleyway. As they rounded the corner and stepped onto the busy thoroughfare, he glanced down, seeing what she made of it. Her eyes widened in delight as they ended up on a short mews, with a smattering of late-night opening boutiques whose windows spoke of exotic orange-coloured promise, insight and enlightenment.
The restaurant he'd chosen was set back from the road a little way, and as Tonks' eyes fell upon the booths in the window and the low-hung paper lanterns her face lit up, and he knew he'd made the right decision. "After you," he said, pushing the door open and eliciting a tinkle from the bell above the door.
Remus followed Tonks inside, and gave his name to a small, squat man with jet black hair and round, steamed-up glasses. They were ushered to one of the booths right next to the window, and the man offered them a menu each and scurried away to attend to some other customers, leaving them to sink into their dark red, squashy seats. Tonks smiled as she took in all the details of the place.
"How on earth do you – "
"Please, Tonks," he said, raising an eyebrow at her, "don't ask me how someone as boring as me knows about somewhere as cool as this."
She opened her mouth in astonishment at him figuring her out and just a hint of indignation, and, for a moment, he thought she was going to protest that she hadn't been thinking any such thing. "I was going to say that I wouldn't have had you down as the kind of person who knew Soho so well," she said, offering him a teasing smile, "actually."
"Really?" he said, with melodramatic disbelief.
"Hmm," she said, suppressing a laugh with some apparent difficulty. Remus propped his head up with one hand and regarded Tonks across the table through the flickering candlelight.
"Well," he said, leaning heavily on his hand and battling to suppress a grin of his own, "I'd have thought that recently you might have come to the conclusion that I am, in fact, full of surprises."
Tonks turned to her menu, dropping her chin down so he couldn't quite make out all of her expression. "Aren't you just," she said, her voice lilting with quiet amusement.
Remus reached for his own menu, scanning the cream card in his hands, taking in the Chef's Specials, the array of different side-dishes, and not quite knowing where the pleasant churning feeling in his stomach had come from. It had something to do with the tone of her voice, how knowing it was, although he couldn't quite claim to have figured it all out yet. Whatever it was, though, he thought he liked it.
He gave Tonks a moment to either actually peruse the menu or to make a good enough show of pretending that that was what she was doing, and then glanced up. Her eyes were darting from dish to dish, occasionally widening in delight at something she'd found, something that tickled her fancy. He smiled at the thought, and, sensing he was watching, she looked up. "It all sounds really good," she said. "What do you fancy?"
"I'm not sure," he said. "The hot and sour big bowl noodles are excellent here, as is their house special ho fun, and I can heartily recommend the beef in black bean sauce – " He'd been about to start waxing poetic about their mini spring rolls, but Tonks was gazing at him so curiously that he stopped. "What?"
"This is where you always bring girls, then, is it?" she said, smiling rather slyly.
Remus studied the list of Chef's Specials more intently. "What makes you think that?" he said, refusing to look up and meet her eyes for fear that he might laugh out loud at the suggestion that he had anywhere that he usually took girls. But he couldn't deny that Tonks thinking that he might have such a place, that doing this kind of thing was a regular occurrence for him, was immensely flattering. When she looked at him, she saw the kind of man girls – multiple girls – might have wanted to do this with. His heart beat more fiercely at the thought.
"Nothing," she said. "You just seem quite familiar with the menu."
"And from that you assumed that I must have a string of exes as long as the list of side-dishes?" he said.
He glanced up and met her eye, and Tonks leant forward, resting one elbow on the table, her chin in her palm, and peered at him inquiringly. "Do you?" she said, her eyes dancing with inquisitiveness, and he raised an eyebrow in response and then went back to his menu, trying not to smile. Tonks waited a moment, and then when it dawned on her that he probably wasn't going to say anything, she let out a long, amused sigh. "We're going to have to have The Talk at some point, you know," she said.
"The Talk?" he said, looking up and frowning at her in question.
"Hmm. You know," she said, "the one where you get to tell me how you wound up single, and then quiz me about how many other blokes I might have done this with. You tell me a tale that makes me feel sorry for you, and I lie for the sake of your ego."
"That's how it works, is it?"
"Well," he said, "I don't think that's a very good idea in this particular case."
"No?" she said, bringing her other elbow up to join its fellow and resting her head on both, her fingers cupping her cheeks. "Lots of skeletons in your romantic cupboard, then? Is that why you don't like to talk about your sex-life?"
"Not at all," Remus said, his eye caught by the squat man from earlier approaching. He leant forward just a little, fixing his gaze on Tonks', and lowering his voice. "It's not a good idea because the thought of you being with anyone but me drives me just a little bit crazy, and I can assure you that the very last thing you want on your hands is a jealous werewolf."
He looked up as the waiter neared their table, but didn't fail to register Tonks' eyes widening in surprise, or the faint smile that crept across her features at his words. He tried not to snigger at his own admission, although it wasn't lost on him how much she seemed to like it. "Can I get you something to drink?" the waiter said.
"Erm – beer," she said, meeting his eyes rather coyly.
"I'll have the same," Remus said.
The waiter scribbled a note in the book he was carrying, and then indicated their menus with a lazy wave. "Ready to order?"
Remus raised an eyebrow in question, and Tonks bit her lip. "I'm not sure," she said.
"Well if you wanted," he said, leaning forward and indicating the spot on her menu, "we could get the selection platter – then you could try lots of different things."
"Ok," she said, her eyes full of playful twinkle. "Since you're the expert."
The waiter nodded and then scurried away towards the kitchen, and Remus sank back in his seat, enjoying the twinkle in her eyes as she looked at him. He thought he was probably returning her gaze with a rather dazzled one of his own, but as much as he tried to shake it, he couldn't.
She really did look delightful. He leant towards her a little, studying the candle on the table for a moment and deciding whether he really did have the nerve to say what he thought he wanted to. He raised his eyes to hers slowly, and she lifted her eyebrows at him in expectation, the faintest trace of a smile tugging on the corners of her mouth. "You look really lovely tonight," he said.
"Don't I always?" she said, and, despite the tease in her voice, her eyes sparkled appreciatively.
"Yes, you do," he said quietly.
"Told you I was fanciable," she said, and he laughed, glancing down at the candle between them and watching some wax drip down the side. "And – you know – you look – "
He looked up and raised an eyebrow at her, wondering what word a person like Tonks would use to describe a person like him. He didn't think she'd chose handsome, and he hoped that these days 'git' was a little closer to being off the cards than it had been previously, but other than that, he had no idea. "Well," she said, avoiding his eyes, "you scrub up pretty nicely."
"And here I was assuming you liked my dishevelled professor look," he said, and she chuckled.
The waiter came over and deposited two bottles of beer on the table with a nod, and then scurried away again. Tonks leaned on her elbows and peered up at Remus through her raspberry hair. "So how do you know about this place?" she said, her eyes quickly scanning the interior and then darting appraisingly over him, trying to figure out how the two might fit together.
"I used to live around here," he said, "during the first war. Only back then it was a bit – well, seedier. It's changed a lot."
"And what would a man like you be doing living somewhere seedy?" she said, raising an eyebrow at him.
"One day," he said, smiling slightly to himself, "I really am going to do something to shake your view of me as boring and dependable and sensible once and for all."
"Really?" she said, eyes lighting up.
"No," he said, and she laughed.
"Well," she said, raising her bottle at him, "either way, that sounds interesting."
"Cheers," he said, clinking his against hers in some promise he couldn't quite fathom the details of.
They chatted about nothing in particular until their food arrived, and Remus couldn't help but grin at the look of glee on Tonks' face as she took in the selection of dishes that the waiter deposited on their table. She thanked him enthusiastically and then turned back to the tiny red plates and dishes, looking from one to the other and wondering which to try first. "Oh," she said, a small crease of a frown appearing between her eyebrows. "I think he forgot the cutlery."
Remus reached for the paper-wrapped chopsticks that were half buried under a plate of mini spring rolls, and handed them to her, and then extracted his own, bright red plastic ones from their paper sleeve and turned to the selection. He was just about to dive into the beef in black bean sauce, when Tonks interrupted his progress. "Chopsticks?" she said, and he looked up to find her eyeing the instructions printed on the packaging aghast.
"You want me to use chopsticks?"
"I suppose you could always just shovel it into your mouth with your fingers," he said. Tonks grimaced at him in mock-annoyance and then unwrapped her chopsticks, frowning at them in confusion for a moment.
"How do I..?"
She furrowed her brow at the instructions for a moment, and then tried to arrange her fingers as was shown in the diagram. She raised an eyebrow at the results and then shrugged and lowered them to a plate of prawns, from which the wonderful smell of garlic mingled with chilli was rising. She almost captured one, but just as she was trying to lift it, the prawn slipped from her grasp. She frowned, went back to the instructions, and then tried again.
She was no more successful than she had been the first time, and as Remus scooped up a small pile of rice with ease, he caught her glancing at his fingers and then back at her own. He tried not to laugh, knowing he was in desperate danger of having her return to thinking him a git if he let on too much how her struggle amused him, or why. She made a couple of attempts at picking up a prawn as he watched, chewing thoughtfully on a piece of black bean beef. "This is useless," she muttered, picking up a prawn only to drop it again almost instantly. She tried again, but the prawn slipped between its would-be captors with ease.
"I'm sure you'll get the hang of it eventually," he said, and she glared at him with such adorable petulance he had to try very hard not to laugh.
"Can't I just get a fork?"
"Surely you're not going to give up that easily?" he said, and Tonks glowered at him.
"This is impossible," she said, trying again and ending up just chasing the prawn around the edge of the plate.
"Here," he said, setting his chopsticks down. "I'll show you."
He moved around to her side of the table, and took her hand, chopsticks and all, in his, shuffling a bit closer so he could demonstrate properly. He adjusted her grip, trying not to let on how much the simple gesture of holding her hand in his affected him. It was a formidable task since she had him feeling like a teenager – or what he thought teenagers might feel like. He didn't know – he'd spent those years with war and worry, rather than womanising – but if feeling like a teenager left a wonderful tangle of nerves and anticipation and wonderment in your stomach, then that's definitely how he was feeling.
"Try this," he said, placing his fingers along hers. "You balance this one on your third finger, and move this one." He opened and closed her chopsticks for her a couple of times and then met her eye, catching the smile in them.
As a jolt coursed right through him, it struck him how much things had changed. Two months ago, she never would have allowed him to show her anything – or she'd have called him a smug bastard for offering, insisting that she was fine doing it her own way as she stabbed the prawns one by one with the pointed end.
"There," he said, surprised by how soft his voice was.
He shuffled away a little and watched as she made another attempt to snag a prawn, getting it half-way to her waiting open mouth before she dropped it. She let out a quick frustrated sigh and eyed the prawn on the plate as if it was the most detestable thing she'd ever seen.
Remus surreptitiously reached for his wand. He managed to cast the spell without her noticing, and Tonks gave herself a quick shake, and then returned to the troublesome prawn, glowering at it with fierce determination. He watched as she picked it up with no trouble whatsoever and ate it with a gleam of satisfaction in her eyes. "Oh wow," she said, her eyes momentarily fluttering closed with delight. "These are fantastic. Here, try one."
She lifted another prawn from the plate effortlessly and held it out for him, and, surprised as he was by her actions, he leant forward and ate it. It really was every bit as nice as the gleam in her eyes suggested, and having her feed it to him was….
He wondered if he should perhaps reciprocate the gesture, offer her something too. "Do you want to try this?" he asked, gesturing to the plate closest to him with a vague wave, and she nodded. He shovelled up a decent-sized chunk of black bean beef and offered it to her, and she leaned forward and ate it. She chewed appreciatively.
"That's nice," she said, swallowing. "What's this one?"
She indicated a small dish with strips of lightly battered chicken in it. "Lemongrass chicken," he said. "Try it."
She did, picking up a piece – and some rice – with ease, while Remus turned his attention to a dish of spicy noodles. "Mmm," she murmured as she swallowed. "We should come here again."
Remus smiled, not entirely sure if he was pleased that she liked the place or that she'd used the word 'we' and hinted at plans for the future, as if it were a given, and not something they were still testing out. He was still pondering which it was when Tonks caught a chunk of chicken in her chopsticks, and then gaped at it when they separated in her fingers, and the chicken stayed attached to the lower one.
"Have you – " She paused, and he knew in an instant that she'd figured him out. She dropped her voice a little. "Is there some kind of a sticking charm on these?" she said, her eyes darting suspiciously towards her chopsticks. He couldn't resist a smile as he nodded. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Have you had one on yours all along?"
He nodded again, this time including a quiet snigger. "You bloody cheater!" she hissed, eyes wide in indignation and, he thought, just a hint of something that suggested she was impressed. She slapped him on the arm with the back of her hand. "You had me thinking I was some kind of incompet– "
"Spring roll?" he said, offering her the plate before she could get any more annoyed with him.
Tonks eyed the plate, and then him, and then the plate again, and he could see the internal battle against laughter waging in the muscles of her cheek. Eventually she offered him a slack-jawed glower, and then took a spring roll from the proffered plate and dipped it in the accompanying sweet chilli sauce. "I'll get you back, you know," she said, the menace of her voice slightly undone by the delighted eye roll she offered him as she bit into the spring roll.
"I wouldn't expect anything less," he said.
They chatted as they ate, and Remus found himself amazed at how easy it was to talk to her. He'd worried that barbs and sarcasm aside, they wouldn't have a lot to talk about, although now, listening to her tell a story about her first practical assignment in Auror training, where she'd tripped and knocked the instructor over before he'd even given the instructions, he couldn't think why. When he'd been out with her on his birthday he'd found her questions and constant chatter irritating, but there was an easiness to being with her too. She never let a conversational pause linger long enough for either of them to feel uncomfortable, and she always had a question or a comment, or some story on the tip of her tongue to fill the gap.
"You know," she said, eying him over the beer bottle she'd just raised to her lips, "I expected you to make this a whole load more difficult."
"Me? Difficult?" he said, his hand leaping to his chest in mock-offence. She chuckled softly, and carefully set her bottle back down on the table next to the dish that previously contained spicy noodles. She stared intently at the candle on the table, and he watched her closely as she picked the wax away from the top, causing more molten wax to dribble down the sides.
"I thought you might have had second thoughts," she said, glancing up, "about this."
Remus rested one elbow on the table, raising an eyebrow at her as he curled his fingers into his cheek. "Disappointed?" he said.
"A bit," she said. "I had a speech planned."
"A speech?" he said, voice curving with amused astonishment. "What about?"
Tonks shrugged. "Mostly threats of violence," she said. "I was going to try and hex your emotionally-crippled wanker ways out of you."
"Oh," he said, trying not to smile at the thought. "Well that might have been fun."
"Hmm. There's still time, if you fancy it."
"I could give you the 'it was a mistake, we weren't fully in charge of our faculties, never should have happened, I think it might be better if we stayed just friends' speech, if you want," he offered pleasantly.
Tonks smiled, and then leaned forward, her eyes searching his, and he knew, just by the look in her eyes, that the tone of the conversation had changed. "Why didn't you?" she said.
Remus studied the table, offering her a half-smile as he considered the question. "Well we both would have known it was nonsense," he said, glancing up cautiously to meet her eye. "It wasn't a mistake, we did it entirely intentionally, and yes, we were drunk and then hungover and probably not in full charge of our faculties, but that's not why it happened." He ran a fingernail through a groove in the wood of the table. "And we both know it."
Tonks leaned on her hand for a moment, her eyes roving his face, taking in the details, and then she offered him a cheeky smile, letting him know that the tone had changed once more and they were back on more familiar, less serious ground. "So," she said, wiggling her eyebrows at him suggestively. "Do you put out on a first date?"
He bit back a laugh with some difficulty because whatever else had changed, she was still arresting company. "What do you think?" he said.
"I think you'd have probably put out in the hall, given half a chance."
"Well that's me outed as a shameless tart," he said, looking away, his lips twitching in amusement.
"Drink your beer."
Tonks grinned, but did as she was told, and all too soon, he was settling the bill with the small, squat man and they were heading back onto the street. "It's still early," Tonks said, peering up and down the street through the drizzle. He watched as it settled in her hair, sparkling like miniature jewels.
"Are you hinting that you haven't quite had enough of me and would maybe like to do something else?" he said, and Tonks laughed.
"Maybe," she said, peering up at him through her fringe, her eyes doing a flirtatious dance with his.
"Well I'm open to suggestion," he said. "What would you like to do?"
"I don't mind," she said. "There's a bar near here I've been to a couple of times – it's pretty cool."
"Are you sure a man like me won't find it too frightening?" he said. "After all, normally I'm tucked up in bed with a mug of Horlicks by half past eight."
She eyed him curiously for a moment, as if she wasn't quite sure whether or not he was joking, and, finally coming to the conclusion that he was, she said "I think you'll hold your own." He let out an amused breath and nodded, indicating that she should lead the way.
The bar was small and dark, pulsating to the jerky beat of metallic-sounding music, and the air was thick with a vague sense of impropriety and sedition. The walls were covered with posters advertising the highly anticipated, critically acclaimed next releases of bands he'd never heard of, and upcoming tours by people whose names sounded oddly alien as he tried to roll them around his brain. In one corner of the room stood a bar with a collection of people who looked affectedly surly behind it, and in the other was a small stage, black curtained at the back and strewn with Muggle fairy lights.
It wasn't the kind of place he'd normally be caught dead in, but for some reason he couldn't find it within himself to really loathe the place, as he might have in other circumstances. He glanced over to where Tonks was waiting at the bar, all of her weight on one leg, casually leaning against the thick wooden counter, and wondered what on earth she was doing with him.
She paid for two beers and came over to where he was sitting, gripping her tongue between her teeth in concentration as she set them down on top of some flyers for a cool new club that littered the low table in front of him. She squeezed in next to him on the bench he'd chosen, crossing her legs and brushing the front of his with her calf. "So, do you come here often?" he said, meeting her eye with a cheeky smile.
"You're going to have to do better than that."
"Really?" he said. "I assumed that, since I bought you dinner, I didn't have to make any more effort."
Tonks gave him a playful slap on the arm, and reached for her beer. "I wouldn't have figured you for cheesy chat up lines," she said.
"Wouldn't you?" he said, reaching for his own beer and taking a sip, and then cradling it in his lap. "What would you have figured me for?"
Tonks considered him for a moment, frowning in thought, and then took a breath – but before she could get a word out, he interrupted, just because he couldn't resist. "Let me guess," he said. "Long-winded Victorian courtship, based on intricate, formal love-letters."
She chuckled quietly. "Well you did say you normally cower under desks and ask girls out by owl," she said.
"I did," he said, letting out a long, resigned sigh. "That was, of course, a gross exaggeration." He paused and took a sip of his beer, and then met her eye. "I nearly never get around to actually asking them out."
"So you don't have exes so much as pen friends?" she said, and he laughed.
"Something like that."
Tonks sniggered into her bottle and then set it down on her knee, toying with the label. "And what would you figure me for?" she asked, meeting his eye rather shyly.
"I'd say you probably drag unsuspecting blokes to places like this, ply them with drink and then take advantage," he said, and she laughed, knocking him admonishingly with her shoulder.
"Very," he said. He watched her toy with the label for a moment before continuing. "Honestly, though, I wouldn't know," he said, meeting her eye. "I can't say I've ever met a girl quite like you before, and ergo I'm not entirely sure what your modus operandi might be."
Tonks bit her lip and stared at him, a mixture of incomprehension and amusement playing on her features. "What?" he said.
"I was just thinking that that's probably the nicest thing anyone ever said about me that included the word 'ergo'."
Remus laughed and then took a sip of his beer, wondering if he shouldn't have paid closer attention to Sirius earlier that evening when his old friend tried to talk to him about suitable romantic conversation. "Do I get extra points for working in some Latin as well?" he said.
"Of course," she said.
"So..?" he said, lifting his eyebrows in her direction in enquiry.
"So what?" she said, her brow furrowing in incomprehension.
"Are you going to answer the question?"
"Isn't that my line?" she said, and he sniggered. "What was the question?"
"What's your modus operandi?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," she said, her voice low and teasing as she took another slow sip of her beer.
"You're the one who said you wanted to have The Talk," he said, fixing her with his best stern professor look, even though he'd never felt less stern or professorial in his life. Tonks rolled her eyes, letting out a sniff of laughter.
"I suppose I did," she said. She peeled one corner of the label away from her bottle, toying with it for a moment absentmindedly. "Well," she said, meeting his eye. "I'd have thought it was obvious, but normally I dance around a bloke for a couple of months and then persuade him to drink his own weight in tequila, shove him under a table and force him to lick my stomach."
"And that normally works, does it?"
"Hmm," she said, glancing up at the ceiling in thought. "Only tried it once, but so far so good."
Tonks let out an adorable giggle that reverberated right through his body from where their shoulders were touching, and he shifted a little closer so that their legs pressed together. "What's the worst date you've ever been on?" she said, smiling at their increased contact.
"Why?" he said. "Should I worry that for you, this is a contender?"
"No," she said, her lips twitching with amusement. "I'm having a very nice time. I'm just interested."
Remus lifted his beer to his lips and took a sip, and Tonks eyed him suspiciously. He got the distinct impression that she was weighing up whether or not he was stalling, and possibly whether he was going to answer the question at all. He thought that if he did, she'd read more into his answer than the simple facts he disclosed. "There was one occasion – "
"So you have done this before, then?" she said, and he raised an eyebrow at her in admonishment, even though he really didn't mind her teasing. "Sorry," she said, with a wave of mock contrition. "Carry on."
He surveyed her for a moment, as if considering whether he was going to continue or not, until Tonks poked him in the arm and raised an eyebrow at him tersely. He smiled to himself. "As I was saying," he said. "There was one occasion when I went out with a girl only to have her bend my ear all day about the availability of one of my friends – in whom she was clearly more interested than me. She probably thought she was being subtle enough that I wouldn't notice, but…. That was consigned to my least pleasurable afternoons pile." He took another sip of his beer and then met her eye, and Tonks offered him a sympathetic frown.
"What did you do?"
"Nothing," he said. "We walked back to the castle, and I lied, told her I'd had a nice time."
Tonks hummed thoughtfully, gazing at him as if she was desperately trying to find somewhere in her composite image of him to make use of that snippet of information. "How about you?" he said, taking a sip of his beer. Tonks rolled her eyes.
"It was this guy from Magical Law Enforcement," she said, grimacing. "All hands."
"Which I daresay you dealt with admirably," he said.
"I think I taught him a lesson," she said, smiling at the thought.
"What did you do?"
"Hit him with a very light forgetfulness spell," she said, "so every time he had a spare ten minutes he'd be convinced he'd left the oven on and have to dash home."
Remus laughed, and she smiled, her eyes twinkling at his amusement. He drained his beer, and, glancing down and finding Tonks' bottle nearly empty too, he gestured to it. "Would you like another one?"
She murmured her assent, and he went to the bar, mentally running an inventory of the jumble of notes and coins in his pocket and wondering how many more he could afford to pay for.
Luckily, the bar was nowhere near as expensive as he'd feared it might be, and when he returned to their table, Tonks was chatting animatedly with a young man with a mop of curly brown hair, who was wearing a T shirt baring the legend 'Money For Old Rope'. Tonks looked up as he approached, and Remus put the two bottles of beer on the table and then met her eye before turning to greet the man she was talking to.
His eyes fell on a vaguely familiar boyish face. "Remus, this is my friend Michael," Tonks said. "Michael, this is – "
Remus tried to keep his face pleasantly neutral instead of utterly horrified as realisation hit him: Michael Abraham. He'd taken him for NEWT Defence Against The Dark Arts.
Michael quickly got to his feet, wiping his hand on his T shirt before offering it to him, and Remus managed a greeting, a shake of hands, an enquiry about what his former student had been up to. He glanced at Tonks, trying to read in her eyes what she thought about the fact that she was friends with someone he had taught, and by the time he'd figured out that he couldn't quite tell from looking, Michael had launched into some explanation of his teaching prowess for Tonks' benefit.
"…and then obviously we had to re-do all the nonsense Lockhart taught us. Did two year's work in a year, basically. It's a miracle any of us passed at all, really. All thanks to Professor Lupin."
"Really it wasn't – "
"Never thought I'd see you in a place like this, though," Michael said, his brow creasing underneath his frizzy hair.
"I assure you that makes two of us," Remus replied, shooting Tonks a brief raised eyebrow and a tight smile.
Michael's eyes widened and switched between them quickly. Then he let out a soft "Oh," and shifted from foot to foot, staring at the floor. "You two are…."
He trailed off, and then spotted some friends on the other side of the bar, said a goodbye that sounded desperately like an excuse to be anywhere else, and left. "Well, I think you just shattered his illusion of you as a staid professor," Tonks said.
Remus sank back onto the bench next to Tonks, not quite sure what he should say. He leaned forward and retrieved their beers from where he'd left them, handing one to Tonks and taking a long drink from his own while he thought. Eventually, he settled on a question. "And how do you know Michael..?"
"From Hogwarts. He's my mate's little brother," she said.
"He's a good kid," she said, taking a sip of her beer. He marvelled at how strange it sounded for her to use a word like 'kid' to describe someone so close to her age. He shifted a little on the bench.
"I remember," he said. "He was very able, once pointed in the right direction."
Tonks smiled. "His parents want him to get a sensible, safe job at Gringotts, but he's a wicked bass player," she said. He raised his eyebrows in some brief show of interest and acknowledgement, but couldn't really think of anything to say, and as the minutes passed and he sipped his drink just for something to do, his thoughtful frown deepened.
Tonks leant back against the wall, regarding him searchingly for a moment, and he reached for his beer and took a quick swig, wondering why a phrase about steadying nerves kept sauntering through his mind. "You're not going to get all weird about this, are you?" she said.
"Weird?" he said.
"About the age thing."
"Oh. No," he said, even though he wasn't sure that he wasn't.
The look of challenge in Tonks' eyes told him that she wasn't fooled by his assertion any more than he was, and she considered him for a moment, weighing him up. He shifted on the bench again and looked away, unable to meet her gaze any longer, even though he knew his actions were speaking volumes in contradiction of his words. "Prove it," she said, and his eyes swung back to hers entirely of their own accord.
"Prove it. Prove it doesn't bother you."
Remus raised an eyebrow at her, even as any weirdness he might have felt dissolved a little under the weight of her soft, flirtatious smile. He dropped his empty bottle onto the table and then leant back, nestling his shoulder against hers. "And how do you suggest I do that?" he said.
Tonks twitched her eyebrows at him and shifted just a little closer, pressing her thigh against his and brushing his arm with hers. "I'm sure you'll think of something," she said, and he smiled.
Only one thing he could think of seemed to really fit the bill, and although he wasn't normally the kind of person who kissed in bars, he found he couldn't quite resist the impulse. He'd wanted to kiss her like he had in the hall all evening – if he was honest, he'd just been waiting for an opportunity, and here she was, fixing him with a gaze of adorable, playful confrontation, and so close he could see all the flecks of different colours in her eyes and smell her light, grassy perfume. His fingers strayed to her knee almost entirely of their own accord, and he eased towards her until he could almost feel her breath on his lips.
Remus closed his eyes and grimaced. "No," he muttered. "I'm someone else entirely."
Tonks smirked at him, and he turned to face the voice that had interrupted them. He took in the features of the girl who stood next to the table, and put a name to the face almost instantly: Louise Hayes. "Oh, hello," he said pleasantly, his voice a little more hoarse than usual.
"Michael said you were here. I didn't – er – interrupt something, did I?"
"No," Remus said, shaking his head as he eased himself out from underneath Tonks' limbs and stood up. "This is my – " He toyed with a couple of different words, wondering what exactly Tonks was to him these days, and found only answers that churned his insides. " – er – friend, Tonks." He glanced at Tonks, wondering if she'd be offended that he hadn't referred to her by a more affectionate or familiar term, but she smiled, and so he continued. "This is Louise, another one of my former pupils."
"Wotcher," Tonks said, getting to her feet and extending a hand to Louise.
"Michael said you were an Auror," she said, her eyes widening.
"Yeah," Tonks said.
"That must be so exciting."
"Has its moments."
"You must be really clever. Are you one of Professor Lupin's students too? From somewhere else?"
"No," Tonks said, her voice lilting with amusement, even though she kept her face straight. "Although I was hoping he was about to teach me a thing or two."
Remus felt his face redden, but he couldn't help the slight smile that formed regardless. Louise looked from him to Tonks and back again, her brow furrowed in what he supposed was confusion. They probably did look like an unlikely pair. "So," he said, just to give himself something to do other than feel uncomfortable. "Louise. How's the – er – herbology business?"
"Very good," she said. "We've had a bumper crop of Mandrakes this year, for some reason."
"Dad's talking about trying to cross-pollinate them with a French variety that doesn't make such a fuss when you re-pot them."
"I'm sure the residents of Dorset will be pleased to hear it. And your sister? She's well?"
"Yeah," Louise said. "Thinks she's all grown up now she's a third year. Hates the new Defence teacher, though. What's her name? Dolores something."
"Umbridge," Tonks interjected.
"Yeah, that's it. Sounds like a right cow." Louise looked momentarily embarrassed at having used such a word in front of a teacher, and then shrugged. "Well, I'd better go. Me and Michael are off to this new club – are you coming?"
Tonks turned to him for a verdict, the briefest hint of a smile playing on her lips. "Er, no, I don't think so," Remus said. "I think we're going to – " His mind went blank. He had no idea what he and Tonks were going to do. " – er – do something else." He finished his sentence with a weak smile. "Good to see you again, though."
They exchanged goodbyes, and Remus breathed a sigh of relief. Tonks eyed him mischievously for a moment, and then reached for his shoulders and pushed him back onto the bench, sliding in next to him. She offered him a slow, flirtatious smile that very nearly made him forget they'd been interrupted at all, and said "Now, where were we?"
"No idea," he said, softly, trying to keep his smile to himself as he moved in to kiss her.
"See you, Professor Lupin."
He closed his eyes in a brief wince of frustration, and when he opened them again, Tonks had her mouth covered with her hand and was biting back hysterical laughter rather unsuccessfully. This time Louise at least had the good grace to smirk as she passed.
Tonks bit her lip as she tried to stop laughing. "Third time lucky?" she said, and her eyes twinkled.
"I think we'd be slightly better off making a run for it before someone else recognises me," he said.
"Hmm," he said. "Have you finished your drink?"
Tonks raised her bottle to her lips, drained it, and then put it back on the table, nodding. He slid his hand into hers and got to his feet. "Where are we going?" Tonks said, grinning as she stood up to join him.
The air outside was cold and crisp, and they set off down the road with no particular plan for a destination. The streets were a little less busy than they had been earlier, and the shops had closed for the night, although some had left twinkling lights on in their windows. Half of Remus thought that maybe they should just find somewhere appropriate so they could Disapparate home, but the rest of him was enjoying Tonks company far too much, and his mind had just stumbled upon a rather good idea.
He lead Tonks to the small park he'd been so fond of when he lived here. It was only a couple of streets away from the proper hustle and bustle of the Charing Cross Road and Shaftsbury Avenue, but it felt about a world away. He stopped outside the black iron gates and gestured at the trees vaguely. "Been here before?" he asked.
"No," she said. "I can't believe there's somewhere like this right here."
The twittering of a bird in a tree above them caught their attention, and Tonks pressed against the railings like an eager child for a closer look. Her eyes fell upon a placard denoting the place's history, and her eyes widened. "Phoenix Park?" she said.
"Yes," he said. "That wasn't lost on me either. I used to come here sometimes, during the last war, to think."
"Oh," she said quietly.
"Do you want to go in?" he said.
Tonks face took on an adorable expression, a mixture of intense mischief and mock-disapproval. "It's locked," she said. "You wouldn't be suggesting we do something naughty, would you Professor?"
"No," he said, stifling a snigger with some difficulty. "Of course not."
He shot a furtive glance down the street to make sure no-one was watching, and then took Tonks' hand and Apparated them both to the other side of the railings. Tonks took a moment to steady herself on the grass and then took a good long look around, turning and taking in the trees, bushes and shrubs that surrounded them. "Wow," she said. Remus smiled, and it took him a moment to realise that the reason he was doing it was that he was surprised Tonks would use a word like 'wow' for something like a park.
He stepped closer. "You like it, then?" he said, and she nodded, leaning back against the railings and grinning at him with something that looked a bit like invitation. He leant in, heart racing.
"Oh for the love of – "
Remus glanced to his right, where he was sure the voice had come from, but saw only a deserted pathway, and beyond that a street that glowed under faint lamp light and glittered with distant life, but bore no sign of any former student. He turned to his left, but that too was deserted. He turned around completely, scanning for any sign of life and finding none, and then looked at Tonks, puzzled. To his amazement she was shaking with silent laughter.
"Sorry," she said. "That was me."
"Voice throwing spell. Couldn't resist it."
Remus felt his lips twitch in the beginnings of a smile. He stepped closer, and Tonks shifted back against the railings wrapping her hands around two of the poles. He leant against one of the railings, regarding her as sternly as he could when he desperately wanted to laugh. "I suppose you think that's funny," he said, quirking an eyebrow at her.
"The look on your face was priceless," she said, her eyes sparkling as she grinned up at him.
"You're a very wicked girl."
Tonks pressed her lips together and glanced down at the ground, and then looked back up again, meeting his eyes coyly. "That's why you like me, isn't it?" she said.
Remus hummed in consideration, and then stepped away again, trying not to smirk at the disappointed look in her eyes, the way her face fell, just a little, as he turned away and started walking across the grass, his hands clasped casually behind his back. "Is it?" he called over his shoulder, knowing that the lilt in his voice gave him away. Tonks laughed and it echoed through the quiet park, and then the only sound he could hear was her boots thumping on the grass as she jogged to catch up.
As they walked, taking in the array of different trees and revelling in the peace, serenity and quiet of the place, he thought about the things that he did like about her, which included, currently, the gentle pressure of her hand on his arm, and the way she bumped into him sometimes as they moved.
Eventually, they stopped, and, under a smattering of London starlight with the trees above them rattling the faint promise of a coming storm, he kissed her. He couldn't help but think of all the things he liked about her, and let her have a glimpse of that in his kiss, and when she responded hungrily, he couldn't resist taking her face in his hands and kissing her more intently, holding nothing back.
At some point, she Apparated them both to her flat and they stumbled into the lounge with her desperately trying to untuck his shirt, and he couldn't help but smile against her lips at the thought that yes, he did very much like her wickedness, amongst other things - although, admittedly, currently, it was quite close to the top of his list.