He doesn't like calling her Tonks.
It's too short a name for her, he thinks, too abrupt, too harsh, too different.
He says so to her once, when she turns to him to chastise him for calling her Nymphadora, because "Really, Remus, must you call me that every bloody time?"
He hears the exasperation in her voice, and merely raises his eyebrows a bit. "I don't see why you prefer being called Tonks over Nymphadora," he says simply.
She grumbles something under her breath that he doesn't quite catch, tucks long red hair behind her ears, and glares at him. It is perhaps the glare more than anything else that makes her look like another Weasley. "Because Tonks is far better than Nymphadora," he thinks she mutters, and he is just curious enough to continue on this topic for a bit longer.
"Why?" he asks her. "Nymphadora is a lovely name. It comes from the classical roots for – "
Tonks turns to him and one corner of her mouth quirks up into what he's come to recognize as her familiar half-smile. "You're going all scholarly on me again, professor," she teases.
Remus tells himself that a man who is only a few years away from being forty should not flush like a schoolboy. "Sorry," he says, and stops talking. But he is persistent, and he is a bit bored, so after a moment he opens his mouth again to continue.
"Because it's from my mum's side of the family," Tonks says, cutting off his half-formed question. "And when I first started at Hogwarts… well, you remember how it was then. The Blacks weren't what they once were. And mum named me Nymphadora after great-great-great-aunt Nymphadora Brookshield Black, who was quite the character and quite the Black."
She looks down at her hands, one of which is twirling her wand absently as she speaks. "Tonks isn't a name that any wizarding pureblood family would recognize," she continues. "And other than the fact that a Black became a Tonks in some scandal years back, no one really paid any attention to it. So whenever I was introduced, I'd always find some way to go by Tonks instead of Nymphadora, and I figured that it would just catch on and no one would pick up on the fact that I was a Black."
He watches her slender fingers stop their deft motion, and she sheathes her wand quickly, as though she was a bit embarrassed to have been caught twirling it. "Well," he says, "you seem to have achieved that, at least."
Tonks glances at him and smiles quickly, one of her flash-in-the-pan grins that always makes his spirits lift unexpectedly. "Well, yes and no."
"Oh? Explain." And Remus leans back against the wall and tries to settle himself a bit more comfortably against the rough stones.
"No one picks up on the fact that I'm a Black anymore," Tonks says after a moment. "But then it doesn't really matter much anymore, now does it? And," she starts to laugh a bit, "I like to think that I've outgrown my rebellious youth. Honestly, going about calling yourself something other than what you've been called as a kid just to sound different and cool… it's a sure sign of immaturity, now that I look back on it. Don't you think?"
Remus thinks back to four boys with ink-stained hands, crouching over magical parchment and writing their pseudonyms so proudly – so seriously – onto their creation. He can't stop his fond smile. "I think that unfortunately, that theory makes sense."
Her smile turns impish. "Oh, that's right." She pauses, leans forward a bit, and nudges his bent knee with hers. "Moony."
He gently knocks his leg against hers in retaliation. "Ah, but I've outgrown my rebellious youth," he points out. "Only a select few know about that."
Tonks laughs and stretches her legs out so that they lie along his left side. "Really? Harry, I bet."
"Harry," Remus acknowledges. "Minerva McGonagall. Perhaps some other Gryffindors from my year."
"And me," she says, obviously relishing the thought. "Why, Moony, I do believe I feel honored that I'm one of the few to know the rebellious teenager you once were."
He chuckles. "Just because you got Sirius to reminisce about Hogwarts after he'd had a few too many whiskeys…"
"Just proves how smart I am, that's all," she retorts. "Moony." She says his nickname as though she's accusing him of something, though there is laughter rather than anger behind it.
It feels strange to have her call him that.
The name belongs to the Hogwarts of years ago, when three young boys befriended a boy who thought himself a monster. The very affliction that should have sent them fleeing in fear was turned into a bond of brotherhood between the four of them. It was hidden away with a ridiculous nickname, and it inspired his friends to put up with extra work, extra study, so they could gain their own ridiculous nicknames and keep him company during the full moon.
The name conjures up memories – good memories, because by the time the good memories had shattered and splintered into death and darkness, those who had known him as Moony had also shattered and splintered into death and darkness. So the name makes him smile and remember Care of Magical Creatures class outside in the rain when they had lost thirty points from Gryffindor by getting into a mudfight. It makes him remember warm afternoons by the lake, lazy and comfortable evenings in the common room, too-cold Astronomy labs at midnight.
As the years have gone by, the memories themselves have comfortably faded into a haze of emotions and lightning-quick sensations rather than full events. Now, when Remus remembers his nickname, he thinks of loyalty and warmth and safety. He thinks of laughter and trust and courage. He remembers shared secrets and acceptance and of not being alone. He feels nostalgic for school uniforms and harmless pranks and friendly taunts.
It is a name that Tonks should rightfully not belong to. She wasn't one of the four Gryffindors that came up with it; she doesn't have any real sense of what it really represents. She's not part of the nostalgia of the nickname, nor of the camaraderie of his first real friendships. When she calls him by his nickname, it should sound somehow flat, somehow wrong. Like how Snape;s sneers and made it sound childish and puerile, or when Harry said it aloud in wonder and confusion and made it somehow old-fashioned, or when McGonagall mentioned it in her still-disapproving way and made it inappropriate and faintly embarrassing.
But instead, when Tonks smiles at him and says, "Moony," trying to provoke some reaction from him, all the emotions and meanings of his nickname blend together with all the emotions and the meanings of Tonks, and it somehow reaches a balance. In that equilibrium, Remus merely smiles back at her and is able to reply to her last statement, completely unruffled.
"As I said, I no longer insist upon being known as the name I had in my rebellious youth, as you so nicely put it. As some of us present," here he nudges her leg with his, "still do."
She groans. "I don't see why it still matters," she says. "Half the time I tell people to call me Tonks they call me Nymphadora anyways. I mean, Molly's always good about it, but McGonagall always calls me Nymphadora, and she gives me that look if I try to correct her about it. And Snape's always said Nymphadora too – that bastard, he knows I hate it, 's why he does it I'm sure…" She pokes him in the side. "And you don't help matters, either, always introducing me as Nymphadora. Honestly, Remus, I've told you a million times, it's Tonks."
"Did you?" Remus asks with a faint smile. "I must have forgotten. I'm starting to get old, you know. I don't seem to use childish nicknames anymore."
Tonks' smile turns into a laugh, and the laugh seems to surround him and permeate through his skin until it lodges somewhere inside of him, spinning and leaping in joy. "All right, all right," she says, "you win, Remus, you win. You're obviously the more mature between us." She sticks out her tongue at him, crosses her eyes, and to top it all off, changes her hair to a neon-bright orange for that brief instant. Then her tongue retracts, her eyes straighten, and her hair is once again simply red enough to pass as a Weasley's.
He laughs, comfortable and amused, because her reaction was so completely Tonks that he can't help but enjoy it. He drapes his arm over her shoulders and pulls her against his side, so that they are no longer sitting side-by-side but sitting together against the wall. It's not quite how they were told to wait for McGonagall, but they've another hour yet before she's set to arrive. He doesn't mind spending their unanticipated free time waiting together – they'd finished early, after all, and had really nothing better to do.
"I win, hm?" he muses, as she squirms a bit until she is comfortable and then rests her head against his shoulder. "So what do I win?"
Her voice is a bit muffled against his shirt. "Dunno. Does it really matter?"
This closeness is still new, still precious. Remus turns his head toward her hair and breathes her in. "Of course it does. How about if you let people start calling you Nymphadora?"
He can feel her lips curve. "Mm, how about not?"
His voice, when he speaks again, is softer, which surprises him a little. "How about you let me start calling you Nymphadora?"
Tonks laughs. "You already do," she points out.
"Only to address you," he defends himself, "or to introduce you. Never when speaking of you to others."
"Well, you're halfway there, then," Tonks says. "What, are there rules or something?"
"Or something," he agrees, and because he wants to and he can, he kisses the top of her head. "That's what I want for winning. Nymphadora, not Tonks. With your permission, too -- none of this glaring at me all the time."
She lifts her head a bit so that she could gift him with the aforementioned glare, and then sighs. "Oh, all right, Remus. Honestly." Then she settles back against his shoulder. "I'll have you know that you're the first person I've met who likes the name Nymphadora more than Tonks."
"Is that so?" he asks, a bit bemused.
"That is so," she replies dramatically, and giggles slightly. "It must say something about your mental faculties. Loony Lupin."
He strokes his fingers down through her hair. "You're awfully cheerful," he points out.
She lets out a sigh of contentment and burrows her head a bit deeper against his side. "I'm happy," she says. "You've no idea how happy I am."
"Oh," he says, smiling faintly, "I might."
Because he knows that Tonks is not the right name for her. It's too short, too abrupt, too different – and besides, he wonders what her mother had been thinking when she paired such a pretentious first name with such a truncated, monosyllabic last name.
He understands her emphasis on only part of her name, rather than the whole. Remus recognizes that Nymphadora Tonks just doesn't quite have the right ring to it.
On the other hand, Remus thinks Nymphadora Lupin does sound rather nice…
Sorry about the sappy ending, but I just love the dynamic between these two and wanted to play around with it. What did you think?