Author's Note: So...I never expected to do more of a one-shot with this, really. And then, I was reading feedback and sitting at the library not reading a book on gender in New England when - BAM - it occured to me that making this a five-parter would be fun. So I'm going to. And I'm going to play around with dates and times and perspectives, and just be inventive. Consider this my creative release. Please read and review.
II. March 1996
There are many things that Nymphadora Tonks can't do. She can't make cookies, magical or not, without burning the bottoms. She can't help but trip over that umbrella stand in the hallway, even if she's pay extra close attention. She can't use household spells without something backfiring and she certainly can't pick a hair color that makes her mother happy. But she can hold her liquor, which is a lot more than Sirius Black can say at the moment.
Sirius tips his bottle over as he tries to find a place for it on the table, full of plates holding the remains of dinner, and now the amber contents have spilled out and are seeping into the wood.
She brought over bottles of various types of Muggle beer, because Sirius had never tried Muggle beer before. This very fact still surprises her, as she takes another sip, because she thought Sirius would be the type to indulge in all the Muggle things his parents taught him were wrong. It turns out that despite his predilection for motorbikes and Muggle women, he never really cared that much about beer.
Tonks stifles a giggle as she watches Sirius in his state of shock, the precious remains of his third bottle now vanishing into the wood. She glances over at Remus, who has tried Muggle beer before and is nursing his third bottle. She is somewhere around her fourth.
"Blasted…Muggles," Sirius says, eyeing the table. "Sodding beer is in the table."
Remus shifts, trying to hide a smile. "Nymphadora, isn't there some sort of etiquette involved with beer drinking where any beer spilled must be mopped up somehow?"
She nods. "Yes. Beer, once spilled, must be cleaned up – with one's tongue." She winks at Remus while Sirius throws confused glances between the two of them.
"You see, Padfoot, beer is an important commodity to Muggles," Remus says in his Professor Voice. "Many wars have been fought and nations founded in the quest for the perfect type of hops."
Sirius is staring at the table, so Tonks looks over at Remus and catches his eye. In the several months they've known each other, she's come to admire this side of Remus. He doesn't show it very often - most of the time he's serious and he's busy with Order business - but whenever that Marauder comes out, it's always fun. She decides to play along.
"Don't you know that Spain once went to war with the Holy Roman Empire because a shipment of beer, which was meant to be part of a bridal dowry, was lost at sea?" she asks him.
Sirius doesn't know Holy Roman Empire from The Empire Strikes Back, but he bends over and starts to lap at the table. Remus scoots closer to Tonks.
"The Holy Roman Empire never would have fought with Spain," he says, his breath warm on her neck. "They were united through marriage and blood."
"I was just looking for names," she says, a smug smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. Remus laughs and she feels excitement shoot through her veins.
She'll never tell him, but she likes it when they gang up against Sirius. It's always them versus him, and she doesn't really remember how that came to be. She thinks it's because Remus took pity on her the first time Sirius played a trick on her and she ended up covered head-to-toe in some concoction he had made, a mixture of Molly's marmalade and firewhiskey and some binding charm to hold it all together. It took her a week to get all of it out of her hair (she had to resort to Muggle products – magic refused to work.)
Ever since then, they had become partners in crime, and poor Sirius was always at the end of their schemes.
"Errrgh!" Sirius says. His face is contorted. "Disgusting."
"I'm sure it won't happen again, now that you know the importance of beer," Remus says. "Right, Sirius?"
"Yes, Profess'r," Sirius says. "Gimme another, Tonks."
She laughs and hands Sirius another and takes another for herself. She flicks her wand and the tops fly off and she wonders how drunk Sirius will get tonight. He drinks most nights, usually firewhiskey but the affects of firewhiskey can be taken care of with a simple spell; Muggle alcohol, for some reason that most wizards can't figure out, doesn't work like that.
Sirius and Remus start to talk and she takes a sip of her beer, thinking that she likes this, the three of them together. Mostly, she just likes being around Remus.
Truthfully, it's more than just the two of them working against Sirius. They're both half-bloods and they both were raised around Muggles so they share an appreciation for the finer things in life, like Muggle movies and books and grocery stores. One time, they went to one at midnight, an all-nighter in a dodgy neighborhood and bought potato crisps and sat on the sidewalk and ate them and talked about everything under the waning moon. She'll never tell him, but that was one of the best nights of her life.
Sometimes, she thinks it's more than the fact they have similar backgrounds, or the fact that they both have characteristics that make them different from ninety-percent of the wizarding community. She thinks they genuinely like each other and seek out the other's company. She knows they have great chemistry, and sometimes she wants to see what'll happen when –
"Tonks? You lissen'?" Sirius slurs. He's slurring a lot now.
"You need to sober up, Sirius," Remus says as he reaches for his friend's bottle. Sirius shakes his head.
"'m trapped in this fuckin' house all the time, Moony. Let me 'ave some fun." Sirius grabs the bottle possessively, and Tonks looks at Remus.
"Sirius was wondering what you were thinking – you looked distracted," Remus says, and she notices that his eyes look redder, less focused. She can feel the alcohol running through her own system, and she's much smaller than him.
"Sorry, drifted off for a bit. What did you say, Sirius?"
And Sirius continues to talk and Remus joins in and occasionally she does too. They talk about nothing, because there's nothing to talk about. Sirius isn't allowed out, and Order business isn't something you talk about over a couple of bitters. So they talk about music, and say they'll bring Sirius movies to watch and books to read. Sirius then says something about Hogwarts, back in the day, and Tonks just has to sit and listen and sip her beer as the two Marauders start to take her play-by-play through one of their adventures.
She smiles and folds her arms on the table and rests her head. Her eyes dart between Sirius and Remus but linger for a while on Remus each time. He's animated tonight, and looking younger than he normally does. He's rolled his shirtsleeves up to his elbows and she can see how the shirt is tight on him, stretched across his chest, and he's so thin she can see his ribs even. They're outlines against the fabric and she wants to brush her hands against them for some reason. She knows why she wants this, but like always she tells herself Remus would never look at her the way she looks at him, with a mixture of lust and awe and something she can't even define, deeper than affection and stronger than friendship.
He'd never look at her like that because she's at least ten years younger than him and not only that, she's Sirius' little cousin so she's practically Sirius' sister and that means she's completely off-limits. Sometimes, though, she thinks she sees something in his eyes, a flicker of something and then when he notices her looking it's gone.
Sirius bangs his hand onto the table top and the story ends. It's hilarious, especially the part with that house-elf and the soap and the chocolate frogs. She laughs so hard she slides off her seat and onto the floor. The floor is comfortable in her intoxicated state and she stretches like a cat. Sirius says something to her and bangs his hand again and the table shifts. She feels a splash of liquid - beer -on her neck. Sirius laughs.
"Moony, yer gonna ta have ta wipe tha' up," her drunken cousin says. Remus looks down at her from the table. There's a glint of something in his eyes, something mischievous.
"I believe you're right, Padfoot," he says and for a moment, time goes in slow motion. Remus eases himself off the chair and onto the floor. On his hands and knees he crawls towards her and he's over her and Tonks has no idea how this is happening and why but she likes it.
She takes a deep breath, watching his eyes as he scans her face and body with something akin to deep interest.
"See anything interesting, Professor?" she asks with a laugh but she's nervous.
"Yes," is all Remus says, his voice a whisper. She suspects she should feel a bit vulnerable and uncomfortable but she doesn't. She meets his intense gaze.
It's the beer, the firelight, Remus Lupin on top of her, shirt-sleeves rolled up to his elbows, hair falling haphazardly: it's all coming together in this one moment.
Her body's on fire.
He leans down, his face inches from her as he inhales her scent, nose barely touching her jaw. She laughs at the unabashedly wolfish gesture, and then loses her voice as his tongue makes contact with the bare skin of her neck.
He licks upwards, slowly, and she shivers. He repeats the motion a bit slower this time, and she lets out a shaky breath. Her entire body is alive, focusing all of its energy on the place his tongue is touching and the place between her legs.
He licks again, this time following the path of a tiny drop that has flowed down her neck towards her cleavage. She moans this time, softly, his tongue burning her skin, marking it as his own.
She opens her eyes, glancing down at him. He's staring at her, his gaze a mixture of lust and drunkenness and something else. She recognizes that third thing almost immediately.
Despite his absurd (by Remus-standards) behavior, he is afraid of what she is thinking.
She knows exactly what she is thinking. She reaches for his collar, and gently pulls him up to her. His face is hovering over hers, and there's hope in his eyes. She tilts her head up towards his.
He tastes so bloody good. She tastes the beer and the slight saltiness of her skin and something else, something insanely Remus that makes the blood pulsing through her body go faster and faster. He responds immediately, their tongues meeting and touching and everything is great and fabulous –
Instantly, they separate: she untangles her hands from his hair, he sits up suddenly and hits his head on the table and then he's on the floor beside her in pain.
"Well," he says "that was interestin'." She scrambles to her feet. She's twenty-four years old and she is entitled to kiss whoever she wants to and so she puts her hands on her hips and looks at him defiantly. She's about to speak when he stands up and hobbles towards the doorframe.
"Do me a favor, kids, an' don't break the table," he says. For a moment she's confused, and then Sirius falls forward onto the stairs.
Both of them rush towards Sirius, who's obviously had far too much to drink and needs a stint in the loo and a good night's sleep. Remus reaches him first, and lifts the man up, swinging an arm over his shoulder. He looks at Tonks. Or, rather, her feet, because he's not looking at her eyes.
"I'll see that he gets settled," he says.
"Okay," she responds. And so Remus takes him upstairs, and she conjures herself a glass of water to sip while waiting for him to return.
After half an hour, she goes upstairs to check on Sirius. He's passed out in his room, a wastebasket next to his bed. Remus is nowhere to be seen.
When she wakes up, it's almost eleven. Her head is throbbing and she's feeling incredibly stupid because she kissed Remus and Remus ran away.
For a second there, she had thought he wanted her as badly as she wanted him. But obviously, alcohol had been clouding her mind and his judgment. Oh what a mess it will be when they see each other again.
With a sigh she sits up, running fingers through her hair which, the mirror says, is a mousy brown. The mirror also says it suits her better than that awful pink. She wants to break the mirror. She doesn't care because she's not out to impress anyone, least of all Remus who only thinks her attractive when she's drunk.
He's at the table, sipping his tea and thumbing through the Daily Prophet. Her entrance – she fumbles down the last step and manages to catch herself on the doorframe – causes him to look up.
"Tea?" he asks, like everything is fine and there is no war and his tongue wasn't on her décolleté last night.
She nods and sits herself down. A tea cup is in front of her, and a spoon stirs some honey and lemon in. He knows how she likes it. He learned it soon after she started spending the night here. Stupid Remus, doing things like this to make her think he cares for her. Stupid Nymphadora, for thinking she's anything more than a little girl in his eyes.
"Thanks for taking care of Sirius last night," she says. "I didn't check on him this morning."
"Out cold," Remus replies with a small smile. "He drank a lot last night."
"Mmhmm." She takes a sip of her tea. Remus clears his throat.
"I should probably apologize for my behavior last night," he says. Her entire body goes cold. She wonders if her eyes and hair are blue.
Remus looked at her over his cup. "I'm not sorry, in case you are wondering."
"I was." She frowns, confused. This was not the direction she thought the conversation would be going. He's…not sorry? What does that make him, then?
"I think it's suffice to say I am thankful that you brought that alcohol over last night," he said. "Or else I don't think I would have ever done that."
That. Kiss her, taste her, make her feel a million things she had never felt before with any other man. She's still confused at this confession, since Remus Lupin isn't the type to confess and he has to still be drunk, if he's saying this.
"I've been meaning to do that for some time," he says.
"Okay, I think I'm confused," she admits, "or maybe it's just the pounding in my head fucking up my audio sensors. What exactly is 'that'?"
Now it's Remus' turn to look confused, and Tonks wishes she held her tongue and had not said it so cruelly, because the look on his face is going from confusion to hurt and then embarrassment.
"I…I kissed you," he says, his voice sad. She can't breathe.
"I remember that part. I'm just trying to figure out what else you're trying to say."
Remus stands, his cup in hand. He's very embarrassed now, and as he walks towards the sink she realizes that Remus Lupin is far more vulnerable than she thought.
"I'm sorry, Nymphadora," he says, his voice low and slightly muffled by the sound of running water. "I guess I…" he laughs, "I really am a fool."
Now it's her turn to stand up and she stares at his back in astonishment. The water shuts of but he does not turn to face her. He picks up the towel and starts to dry the cup slowly.
She feels absolutely wretched. She wants to run up and hug him but she also wants to know what exactly is going through his mind now, as well as what was going through his mind last night.
"I don't think you're a fool," she says softly. She sees his back tense. He puts the cup down on the counter and turns to face her. He doesn't meet her eyes.
"You should," he says. He takes a deep breath. She holds hers. "Forgive an old man for thinking someone like you could possibly be interested in him. I misread the signs. I hope this doesn't change our friendshi-"
He doesn't finish because he can't. In a few steps she's crossed the room and grabbed his collar and pulled his lips down to meet hers. The kiss is as scorching as last night but not nearly as long, because he pulls away.
Remus touches the corner of his mouth with a hand, and then laughs. "You really don't have to humour me, Tonks," he says bitterly.
"Who said I was humouring you? And who said you misread the signs?" she asks. Her body's gone from freezing to boiling in record time, and the blood rushing through her makes her bold. "Remus, all I want to know is what you were thinking last night. Because I think, last night and just now, I've made perfectly clear exactly what I was thinking."
He stares at her, brown eye wide. She wonders if anyone has very explicitly spelled out I want Remus before. She doubts it.
"Remus?" she asks, and then he's bent down to kiss her again and her stomach's doing cartwheels and the blood is singing and then –
"I'm so very glad you brought over that alcohol," he whispers in her ear, his arms around her holding her close to him.
"They do say its liquid courage," she whispers back. "How long would it have taken without the booze?"
"Not sure," Remus says, pressing a kiss to the top of her ear. "Probably never."
"Remus Lupin, you-" she starts but she can't finish it because he's kissing her again and she's thankful for that.