I know I shouldn't be writing these one-shots when I have "Gash or Gold" and "Random Acts" to finish, but sometimes these little ideas just won't go away! So here's a bit of quickly-written fluff to bounce around in for a bit ;).
"The Third Degree Epiphany"
Grimmauld kitchen was in a state of full-blown breakfast when Remus Lupin walked in and headed toward the coffee pot.
From the table's nearest edge, Sirius barely recognized the narrow back and tidy hair then smiled into his cup with realization and gestured to Arthur Weasley, who stood with his eyes narrowed, a bit of warning in his voice when he said, "Excuse me, sir."
Remus turned around to face them, stirring his coffee and looking a bit puzzled.
"Merlin! Remus, I didn't even recognize you! I'm sorry!" Arthur said with a slightly embarrassed laugh. "My you look – well, you look fantastic this morning."
"Thank you," Remus murmured with a hint of amusement.
Nymphadora Tonks looked up from her sausages and nearly choked. Remus looked…there was no way around it - he was devastatingly handsome this morning, in dark grey textured pants and a crisp sky blue shirt with his Hogwarts cufflinks and navy blue tie. His black shoes shone with a new coat of polish and matched the subtle glint of the thin black belt around his waist. Even more startling, he had shaved off the mustache and charmed or dyed the grey out of his hair to match the rest of his beautiful sandy brown locks, which sported a short and fashionable cut.
He looked…well, he looked delectable! She licked her fork, lost for a moment in an errant, naughty thought. Remus J. Lupin, how wicked of you to show up this morning looking so - Suddenly, her brain froze with a terrifying insight - Remus had met someone. He met someone while she stalled with her silly worries and inhibitions. That had to be it!
The werewolf's humble dignity, gentle soul and witty intellect had made him horribly attractive to her before she even noticed the physical things – his beautiful hands, his infinite-as-the-ocean blue eyes, the carefully drawn lines of his sensuous lips. Worn tweed and badly cut hair didn't matter in the least. But she had never said a word, never even hinted. And of all the things to procrastinate on, telling Remus she loved him shouldn't have waited for anything.
I'm such a twit. I've lost him to some romantically assertive...tart…with good taste…
Tonks stuffed a sausage in her mouth to keep from saying something she'd regret. After all, blaming some woman with more initiative really wasn't fair. She should feel happy for Remus. For the both of them, really, because whoever she was..this…woman...she had a date with a keeper..if she had enough depth to appreciate Remus for all his wonderful traits.
If she breaks his heart, I'll kill her. If she wins his heart...I'll still kill her.
"There must be some sort of occasion we don't know of, I'd wager," Arthur said with a smile as he finally sat down. He appeared in as much shock as the rest of the table, who now ogled Remus shamelessly. The werewolf blushed to find so many eyes trained on him, and Molly didn't miss his discomfort as she got up and walked over to smooth the back of his hair.
"Now everyone, leave Remus alone."
"Mum, did you cut his hair?"
"Yes, Ginny, I did."
"That explains the back there," quipped Ron.
"It's a cowlick, Molly. It's not your cut," he said, throwing Ron a chastising glance.
Remus thanked Molly and pulled a chair up to sit at the end of the full table. When he drew closer and the air moved around him, Tonks caught the bare hint of aftershave and the peppermint soap he always used. Not that she had used his tub when he was on duty or anything…
Sirius reached out and fingered the shirt appreciatively.
"What's the thread count on this thing! And a blue shirt, Remus? You think I don't remember who told you 5th year that blue brings out your eyes?"
Remus gave Sirius a warning glance.
"And even though you're not a blue man, you always wore it on dates after that." Sirius batted his eyes and Remus closed his in embarrassment. If he'd known breakfast would take a turn for the mortifying, he would have never come downstairs. Not that he didn't expect people to notice he'd spruced up a bit, but he hadn't expected the third degree.
"I got it on sale. And the pants," he said, pulling the sleeve out of Sirius' hand.
Tonks furtively studied his eyes and saw that the shirt did indeed accentuate their exquisite beauty. But she had never needed him in a sky blue shirt to notice his eyes..or him.
"So you have a date!" Sirius inquired with humor dancing in his voice.
"I have a lunch date, yes."
"With WHO! I mean, who warrants gel in your hair, Remus?"
"No one you know," he said, putting tobasco on his eggs then looking up to find the entire table still looking at him with various amused grins.
"What, you all!"
"Where are you taking her?" Fred blurted.
"And what time?" added George.
"I wouldn't tell you two that if my life depended on it!"
Even Moody had a smile. "Well, we're just interested, Lupin. This has to be quite a special lady to make you shave that thing off your upper lip."
"I just went shopping last night and Molly cut my hair. That's it."
"And you shaved the 'stache off," Sirius added.
"Yes! Yes, I did. Probably because you needle me so much about it."
"It wasn't sexy. It had to go." Sirius insisted.
"Well, you certainly look different!" Ron said with a trademark Weasley smirk of mischief.
Kingsley Shacklebot threw him a look like he had it all figured out. "It's Emmeline Vance. We've all seen the way she looks at you at meetings, Lupin. You might as well out with it."
"I've noticed, too. And I haven't been in town for that many meetings, "Charlie Weasley said with authority.
"What? No!" Remus threw a heavy glance to the ceiling and steadied himself to address them all.
"A friend of mine is in town. I haven't seen her for a very long time and she owled me and asked if I'd meet her for lunch. That is all."
Sirius wasn't convinced. In his day, he'd done far less for an entire weekend of unbridled sex.
"Lunch." he deadpanned. "How long is she going to be in town?"
"Mad-Eye, do you really need that information from Remus by this evening?"
"I don't – Moody, I don't need the day off! I'm just meeting her for lunch."
"You can have it off if you want, Lupin. I can send Tonks to get that research in the library."
"Of course," Tonks murmured quietly, her face intent on the tablecloth.
Lupin glanced at her then did a double take, a look of slight confusion flitting over his face at the young auror's countenance. She looked totally miserable about something.
"Thanks, Moody, but I can manage."
After a beat of silence, Remus thought the pointless interrogation had ended then jumped in his seat when Ginny Weasley squeaked, "So who is she?"
"Yeah! We deserve to know!"
"Come on, Lupin, throw us a bone here!"
"It's Emmeline. You're just covering for a date with Vance! She loves blue!"
The table swamped him with a cacophony of titters and demanding questions until Remus blurted, "Shush!"
Hermoine Granger wailed, "Professor Lupin, you just shush'ed the room! Just like 3rd year!" She looked on the verge of sentimental tears and Harry added wistfully, "Just like old times."
"If you all must know, she went to Beauxbatons, and she works in Rome now for the ministry there. We've never dated, but I know the lycanthropy isn't an issue with her..with our friendship. I haven't seen her in years, and I just wanted to look nice for her."
When the crickets practically chirped in the dead silence, he added, "It would be nice for once to have a woman know what I am and be attracted to me anyway."
He started to eat then looked up again, gripping his fork tightly.
"Is it so terrible that I would want that, just once! That maybe she could leave at the end of a meal and maybe imagine..(he fought an encroaching blush riding up his neck)..maybe imagine getting to know me better? So I bought some new clothes. Molly cut my hair. And I let everyone get to me about the mustache and worried about her not liking it, either…I hope you're all happy." He stabbed at a piece of egg and shoved it in his mouth with his face down.
Then, unexpectedly -
"Remus, mate, you didn't owe us all of that. We were just needling you."
"You polish up like a new sickle, Remus!"
"Good luck, mate!"
A male voice blurted, "He looks hot!" Remus couldn't figure out who said that one and looked up with a bit of alarm.
"Yeah, good luck, Professor Lupin!"
"Chin up, Lupin, you know we wish you the best."
"We're happy for you, Remus!"
Another moment of silence…
"Thank you all…"
When he realized the mirthful staring hadn't stopped, he added, "Now...uhm...moving on to more interesting things, surely...I can provide topics, if you're desperate."
Everyone laughed heartily and went back to their food and chatter with an occasionally affectionate glance in Lupin's direction. Glad to leave the unexpected scrutiny behind him, Remus smiled and dove into his tepid eggs then glanced up to find Tonks looking at him dismally.
"Tonks? Are you alright?"
She didn't even notice his reciprocal gaze until he put a hand on hers and squeezed lightly, leaning forward to look at her in concern.
"Are you alright, Tonks?" he repeated.
"No," she whispered, pulling away from his grasp and rising from the table. She put her plate in the sink and walked straight to the door. Remus winced when she stubbed her toe on the trashcan, but Tonks didn't even react beyond a bit of a limp as she made for the exit and left, the swinging door flapping back and forth in her wake.
He took another bite of egg and traced his eyes, thinking. Suddenly, he knew. A hundred small moments they had shared flashed through his mind. And the ones that he held most dear rose to the top.
The day she wouldn't let him sulk in the sitting room but took him to the park, where she cajoled him into going down the toddler slide then laughed hysterically, tears in her eyes, to see this man in tweed try to go down a slide as long as he was tall. And he had laughed with her and felt a tremendous weight lifted off his shoulders, if only for that evening.
And once, after a horrible day at work, she accidentally spilled tea all over herself and burst into tears.
"It's okay, Tonks," he had said. "It's just tea." But when he reached to hug her, she pushed him away with a raw whimper of "Nooo, it's not okay!" And he gauged her seriously then poured the rest of the kettle over his head. And as the tea rained down his hair and clothes, her cries slowly turned to laughter and she hugged him hard, holding him close and letting her tears mingle with the wetness of his Earl Grey soaked self. And when Tonks calmed down, Remus felt her slip two fingers between the fabric of his shirt buttons to feel his pulse reverberate.
But some things spoke of a physical attraction beyond friendship. Why had he never thought of them in that light before?
After he moved into Grimmauld, they were casually talking in the laundry room, and she smelled his shirt before throwing it in the wash then looked horrified that he just witnessed it. And last month,he caught her napping in his bed, which meant nothing really, except that when he covered her with a blanket, she woke with a start and blushed furiously.
That night, he could smell her scent on the sheets and felt...honored...that she chose his room for a nap.
How his heart ached for her voice after days away on assignment. How his blood quickened when she wore maroon velvet. How, in a crowd, he always hoped her eyes would fall on him and draw him to her. And somehow, they always did.
In an awkward sort of way, he and Tonks had completed each other for quite some time now. And Merlin…the word "mutual" had never sounded so good.
I've loved her for so long…Could she really love me, too?
Sirius put a hand on his friend's arm.
Remus nodded numbly.
"Tonks. She left. You saw that, didn't you?"
He nodded again.
Sirius looked carefully behind him at the chatty table to make sure no one overheard when he said, eyes serious, "Moony…WHO did you get dressed up for today?"
He would have never come downstairs if it hadn't been for her. He would have never said those things to the table, had she not been there to hear them. Would it be so bad if just once, we could eat together and you would find me attractive and maybe think of getting to know me…better?
"For Tonks," he said with a smile. Saying it aloud felt so right.
Sirius smiled broadly at his friend and picked up both their plates.
"Go. Now. Before she jumps off a bridge, Moony."
Remus felt his heart open to a pure joy and clarity he hadn't felt in ages. And with the floodgate open, he burst out of the Grimmauld kitchen to find the woman he loved.