This is my second fanfiction ever, so…uh, be kind! I've needed to blow off some steam lately and will write furiously when the need arises. Remus Lupin is a joy to explore, so there will be 8 chapters or so if anyone enjoys it and I need a pick-me-up. Any reviews will be consumed with great relish. Thanks in advance for reading, and I hope you enjoy it!
P.S. The title of this series will make more sense in later chapters.
Gash or Gold
Chapter 1: "In Vino Veritas"
Sirius glanced over at the boy sitting next to him at the kitchen table.
"Harry, you should be in bed."
"I know," Harry said, staying in his chair and taking another sip of his butterbeer.
Sirius smiled at his other two companions at the table – Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks – At times, the boy was so much like his father James.
The adults had stronger drinks, especially after the frightful revelations of the last few days. There were all sorts of mysteries to consider, but first and foremost, they had to protect Harry. And this little informal meeting had solidified many things for all of them – and probably their livers, as well, thought Sirius, as he gazed at the half gone jug of Zagwart on the table. Drinking at a time like this was not necessarily wise but definitely needed. It was nice, just sitting around the kitchen table talking, especially during this period when solace didn't come easily.
Sirius cast a furtive glance at his cousin Tonks and noted with amusement that she seemed right snockered as she stared moon-eyed at his old pal Moony. She had only consumed a few small shots, but Tonks had never been one to hold her liquor.
The young auror looked softly at Remus from across the table, his features flickering in the candlelight of the large crumbling mass of wax that was a beautiful pillar only two hours ago when they first sat down.
The flame Tonks carried for Remus had always glowed softly, but it seemed to her that the longer he failed to see it, the stronger it flared. And now, with a few drinks in her and a bad day behind her, Remus sat there with his bashful gaze and his entirely unintended charm. He looked deliciously vulnerable. Even in that enormous rumpled sweater….
Time for bed, you silly girl. Tonks drained the last of her nightcap and began to rise from her chair before a wave of impetuous heat washed over her. Suddenly Remus' bastion of clothing annoyed her beyond belief and she sat back down with a decisive plop.
"Remus, it's almost 90 degrees in here since that boggart locked himself in the temperature unit and broke it to pieces. Aren't you hot in that long jumper?"
Tonk's question caught him in mid swallow, but he placed his mug down carefully and looked around the kitchen.
"Yes, it is quite hot in here, Tonks."
"Well, WHY don't you take off that ratty old thing? What's up with this silliness?" She gestured a bit drunkenly towards his sweater. Her voice gave a squeak.
Remus gauged her with curiosity and added, "I'm fine," before he fished out his pocket watch to check the time. They were due back at the ministry in only four hours.
"Remus, I've known you for THREE years now, going on four, through all sorts of weather and temperatures, and I have never seen anything of you but your hands and your face, even when I know you're burning up. Now why is that, Mr. Moony?"
Tonks gestured emphatically before slapping her hands on the table in drunken exasperation. A slight flush appeared at Lupin's neck and he darted a quick look at Harry and Sirius, who could tell Lupin did not want to play. She had hit on a subject that he wasn't prone to talk about, yet his eyes were dancing with nervous amusement.
Sirius gauged Moony's reaction as too uncomfortable and blurted protectively, "Tonks, please! Leave Remus alone and quit your playing. Why don't you go to bed and get some sleep before Kreacher starts his nocturnal rounds of destruction and chaos. We have to be at the ministry in…
"Four hours," nodded Lupin with raised eyebrows, the good humor still playing on his face.
"Four hours," Sirius repeated, trying to disperse some of Tonk's toddy courage.
"Now now, cousin, I'm just looking for a little answer here, a little bit 'o insight into my 'ol friend's noggin'. And he's gonna give it to me, aren't you Remus? Come on!"
Lupin shifted in his chair and allowed a brief smile of concession. Realizing he wasn't going to win this round, he might as well play along. After all, weren't he and Tonks good enough friends to share an honest thought from time to time, even if it wasn't an pleasant one?
Remus glanced serenely into his empty cup and said, "I have scars, Tonks…lots of them. They're not just on my face." He looked up slowly to gauge her reaction, but Tonks immediately replied,
"And so wot are you getting at with the scar thing? Are you saying that you endure the heat and swelter of the worst British summers just to save the world from having to suffer the sheer torture of seeing your ugly, scarred, dilapidated body?"
Lupin smiled, but there was a hurt in his eyes that Tonks didn't miss.
"Something like that, yes."
Well, Remus John Lupin. Professor R.J. Lupin. Don't you think it's quite possible that all the people who know you and love you could care less whether you have scars? Maybe it's time to let go of this little issue, hmmmm?
Tonks sensed some emotional leverage and, egged on by her alcohol, blurted, "Take off your jumper."
Lupin looked shell-shocked.
"Tonks, for goodness sakes!" Sirius interjected.
"Go on! Take it off! AND the shirt!"
"I can't believe that you're having this conversation in front of Harry!"
Come on, Remus! We're all friends here. Sirius has seen you naked, I know he has, and he said your body is none of my business! Do you know how frustrating that is! I'm going to help you get over this!"
Sirius rolled his eyes.
"I want to see a little skin on you!"
Lupin let out a huge laugh then quietly looked into Tonk's eyes with sincerity and protectiveness. Everyone could tell the game was over.
"Some things are better left under wraps…." He smiled and patted her hand as he rose from the table.
"Good night all. I'll see you shortly." And, hands in pockets slouching a bit, he walked tiredly from the room. Harry noticed that his limp was back but whether from the exhaustion of last night's transformation or the turmoil of just having such a wickedly batty conversation in front of others, he didn't know.
When he was gone, Sirius turned to Tonks with an unsure laugh and said, "Tonks, really…"
"Really what! Can't two friends have a chat? I'm just trying to help 'em out!"
"No, I think you were trying to help yourself!" Sirius sighed and added firmly, "Tonks, you hurt his feelings! Don't you think Remus has to go through enough without being hurt by his friends?….No more alcohol for you, at least not in my house!"
"Don't chastise me, Sirius! That man is impossible! Is it so wrong for me to just wanna see a little bit 'o...He HAS to get over this thing, it's CRAZY if he's not gonna chat me up that's one thing - "
"Tonks…Tonks…Tonks," Sirius kept repeating as she blathered on in frustration. He shook his head as he picked up his cousin under the arms, literally boosting her out of the chair.
"Let's get you to bed before things get any worse tonight." He laughed wickedly as her head knocked lightly against the door on their way out of the kitchen. It did stop her long tirade about Lupin's modesty, at least for a moment.
Harry remained at the table and allowed himself a confused smile as their voices trailed down the hallway.
"Ow! You git! You did that on purpose."
"Ohh, maybe so. Mmm..no more Zagwart, right Tonks?"
"Never say never."
Harry glanced around at the small mess they had made and began picking up stray glasses and throwing away the wrappings from a chocolate bar they had all shared. No conversation was totally free from the gravity at hand these days, but it was nice moment. Never in his memory of living with the Dursley's had he enjoyed sitting with adults and chatting like he was among family. Sirius, Lupin, and Tonks would never realize how important small moments like that were to him, despite the odd turn this evening's conversation took there at the end.
Sirius meandered back in sleepily and watched Harry fuss with the glasses for a moment before saying, "Come on, let some neat freak clean this in the morning. You need to get some sleep."
Harry shook a glass then sat it down to dry.
"Do you know what that was all about?" he asked tentatively, wondering if it was his place to enquire.
Sirius scratched his head then walked over and began washing the dishes and passing them to Harry to dry.
"Tonks has a crush on Remus, Harry. She's had it for years. And I daresay it's getting to the point where those baggy hand-me-downs he wears leave too much to mystery."
Sirius laughed at the thought then added thoughtfully, "I'd call it a schoolgirl crush, but that's not really a fair thing to say. She's a woman now, after all……and…"
Sirius handed Harry the last dish.
"And although Remus won't admit it, I think he has a crush on Tonks, as well."
"Why do you think that?"
"Well…" Sirius sat back down at the table and Harry waited eagerly hear his godfather's response.
"She's the first woman who has known about his lycanthropy and it hasn't changed their relationship. She still treats him the same as when she didn't know…..that's a rare gift for him."
"Maybe he should ask her out!" Harry blurted excitedly.
Sirius shook his head, almost sadly. "No, Remus hasn't asked many women on dates. When he was younger, he was just too shy, and now it's all part of…some…..selfless act," Sirius said emphatically with a good-natured tinge of derision. "He doesn't feel like he's worth the trouble, that it would be asking too much for a woman to put up with his condition. So he stays single. I know his shabby clothes are part of his poverty, but I'm not entirely convinced he doesn't use them as a way to keep women away. It's just another tool to keep him from getting hurt." Sirius thought a moment before adding, "It's easier to deny yourself if you feel that connecting will always end badly and early on at that."
Harry pondered that for a moment.
"Would you be upset if they got together?"
"No, of course not! In fact, I'd be delighted to see them together." Sirius considered the idea and found that it pleased him even more than he had realized. The thought of his favorite cousin and his best friend…..finally finding reprieve from all that the world had forced upon them…Perhaps it was too late for him, but...not for everyone..Moony had given up on himself far too soon...
"Then maybe we should…you know, help that happen…in some way."
Sirius turned to Harry and smiled. After a bit, his smile broadened even further, the seed of a very good plan growing in his mind.
"Hmm, yes, maybe we should." The two shared a good-natured laugh before parting ways to catch a few scant hours of sleep.