Disclaimer: Anything you recognise remains the property of the most marvellous JK Rowling. I'm just playing.
Tonks' eyes snapped open as soon as her alarm went off. Christmas morning was the one morning she didn't mind being forcibly awoken from her slumber. She leapt out of bed, her breath only slightly caught by surprise as the sub-zero temperature of her Grimmauld Place room hit her. With chattering teeth she pulled on jeans, a bright blue T shirt with silver snow flakes on it, and a huge green cardigan that clashed horribly with both. Feeling slightly less chilled as she hugged the cardigan to her, she Summoned a pair of earrings that had tiny silver robins dangling from them from the dresser and slipped them into her ears.
She took a moment to think about what to do with her hair, settling eventually on a nice festive red for her bob, and after giving herself an appreciative nod in the mirror, she flung the door of her room open and bound down the stairs to see who else was up.
Tonks burst into the kitchen to find Remus already sitting at the heavy dark table, and Molly busy at the stove. The air was warm and smelled of delicious spices with a hint of chocolate, presumably from whatever Molly was cooking in the oven. "Good morning," she said. "Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas, dear," Molly called over her shoulder.
"I love Christmas," Tonks said, plonking herself down in a chair next to Remus.
"Really?" he said, his eyes skirting over her T shirt and earrings. "I hadn't noticed."
She shot him a sarcastic smile, but she could never be annoyed with him for very long. It was one of the things she found most irritating about him. One minute he'd say something dry and sarcastic and make her stomach flicker with annoyance, and the next he'd say something warm and friendly and make her like him again.
And she did like him. More than she should. Even though she tried not to.
"Going to see you parents later?" Molly asked, and Tonks couldn't help noticing that there was something oddly strained about Molly's voice. Probably just worried about Arthur, Tonks thought, as she tried not to stare at Remus.
"Yes," Tonks sighed. "I'd rather be here with you lot, but, you know Christmas is a time for fam - "
She had been about to say that Christmas was a time for family, but Remus grabbed her arm and shook his head. Tonks remembered Percy and screwed her eyes shut in exasperation with herself for putting her foot in it.
"That smells wonderful, Molly," he said, his eyes still locked with Tonks'. She mouthed the word 'sorry' at him, and he let go of her arm, smiling kindly and making her stomach flicker with something that definitely wasn't annoyance. "What is it?"
"Arthur's mother's recipe for Christmas cake," she said, and if she was aware of Tonks' near blunder, it didn't show in her voice. "Bit last minute, but I thought he might appreciate it being stuck on the ward. He always says he likes mine better, but I know he's lying."
"Whatever did Arthur do to deserve you?" Remus said, and Molly turned and grinned at him, her eyes crinkling at the edges.
Soon enough the kitchen was full to bursting with the house's holiday occupants, the sound of excitable chatter about presents and the odd blast of a Christmas Carol from Sirius joining the spices in the air. Molly decided that they should convene in the drawing room around the Christmas tree to exchange presents before lunch. Harry, Ron, Hermione, the twins and Ginny had already opened theirs, but the grown-ups were scarcely less excited, owing to a breakfast batch of egg nog which Tonks suspected had contained a little more alcohol than Molly intended. Tonks suspected Sirius of adding a little extra when she wasn't looking, but the pink-tinge to Molly's cheeks suggested she either hadn't noticed or didn't mind.
Tonks located her pile of multicoloured gifts, and as Molly, Sirius, Remus and Bill exchanged thanks in a flurry of wrapping paper, she opened hers, gasping in delight at each and every one. But, much as she liked the things other people had got her, there was one gift she was looking forward to more than the others. She'd been wondering for a while what Remus would buy her, promising herself that she wouldn't read too much into it, but knowing that she probably would. And he always had seemed like the type of man who would buy exceptionally thoughtful presents, and the thought of him being thoughtful about her...
She sighed, she hoped, but doubted, quietly to herself, and returned to the pile of gifts at her feet, looking for the elusive tag with the name Remus on it.
She looked through everything twice before she realised it wasn't there.
Remus hadn't bought her anything.
Her heart sank. She tried not to show how disappointed she was, and whole-heartedly thanked Molly for the nutty-toffee she'd made her, and Sirius for the bright orange Weird Sisters T shirt, and the children for the Weird Sister's lead singer's biography that they'd all chipped in for, because really, they were all very thoughtful gifts, and she was grateful for the effort they'd gone to, but...
As Remus opened the giant slab of Honeyduke's chocolate she'd bought him (it was so big it came with a mallet to crack it), he looked at her across the room, and opened his mouth as if he was going to say something. Then he changed his mind, and settled for a simple "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," Tonks muttered, thinking that he probably felt guilty for having forgotten to buy her anything.
There was an oddly hollow sensation in her chest and she couldn't stand to be there any more, surrounded by seasonal chipperness and all that wrapping paper that now seemed nothing but a reminder that the one person she'd wanted to buy her a gift hadn't. All of a sudden she wasn't feeling remotely festive. She collected all her gifts together, and stood up. "I'm off," she said, as brightly as she could muster. "Tell Arthur I hope he gets well soon, Molly? See you all later," she said, and left.
Christmas afternoon with Tonks' parents was a very trying experience. To try and avoid the usual arguments about her appearance, Tonks reverted to long, dark brown hair and dark, chocolaty, eyes before she Flooed over to them, but it hardly helped. Half-way through her mother's usual festive rant about how she'd never get a boyfriend in clothes like that, Tonks started to quite wistfully think she'd rather be back in Grimmauld Place with Kreacher.
As long as Remus wasn't there, she thought bitterly. She didn't want to see him at all. She couldn't believe he hadn't bought her anything. Nothing. Not even a sugar mouse. She'd thought they'd been getting on better recently - more than better, in fact. On a couple of occasions, she'd even thought he'd flirted with her over post-mission cocoa in the kitchen... They'd sat too close, and developed private jokes, and she'd thought...
But she must have imagined it, because she wanted him to flirt with her. She wanted the proximity of his knees to hers to mean something, and clearly, it didn't.
She shouldn't have bought him anything - it was tantamount to admitting that she liked him and obviously he didn't feel the same. She sighed, and pretended to be interested in what her mother was saying about Mrs Barnstaple next door's daughter, who was two years younger than Tonks and had already secured herself a husband. She helped herself to another mug of mulled wine, drinking it so fast that she burnt her tongue.
In the end she stayed rather later at her parents' than she intended. Every time she thought of going back to Grimmauld she thought of Remus and made an excuse to stay a little longer - claiming to be interested in watching a Muggle film with her dad about some spy from the 60s, and then even offering to wash up.
It had been a foolish thing to expect something from him, she thought. After all, they'd only known each other a few months, and he'd made it plain on a number of occasions that he found her to be highly irritating. As she drank another mug of mulled wine in front of her parents' fire, she wondered if she might just be able to avoid him for a while. She'd have a word with Moody about not pairing them up for missions, give him some excuse about wanting to learn from other members of the Order and their various specialities, and it wasn't as if she needed to spend protracted periods at Grimmauld. Of course she'd wanted to, but...
Tonks realised that her mother was talking. She looked up from the fire and smiled and nodded, not really knowing what she was agreeing to. Her mother beamed. That wasn't good. She glanced at the clock, and seeing that it was nearly eleven, decided that she'd probably better go. The mulled wine had left her with a warm, drowsy drunken feeling, and she reasoned that if she didn't go soon she'd probably fall asleep in the chair, and she couldn't entirely trust her mother not to Transfigure her clothes into something i more appropriate /i when she was asleep. One year she'd woken up from a post-turkey snooze in some kind of twin set and a skirt that she'd sworn was made from curtains.
Her mother tried to nag her into staying the night, but Tonks decided that she'd rather face Remus than her mother in the morning. She wished her parents merry Christmas, kissed them goodbye, and stepped into the fire.
She emerged into the kitchen, brushing her jeans where she'd gotten a little soot on them, and peered out into the gloom. Although the fire had been lit, there was no-one around, and she trudged up the stairs and down the corridor - taking great pains not to disturb the snoring portrait of Mrs Black - half-relieved that she wouldn't have to make small talk with anyone and half disappointed that there was no-one to talk to and take her mind off things. As she climbed the stairs up to the first floor, she noticed that the door to the library was ajar, and flames sent a flickering glow into the hall way. "Sirius?" she said, pushing the door open, and stepping inside. With any luck he'd have a bottle of Firewhiskey and she could properly drown her sorrows.
"Afraid not," Remus said, from an armchair by the fire. Tonks winced. She should have known it'd be him.
There he was, book in lap, his eyes still roving the page his fingers were itching to turn. "Did you have a nice day?" he said.
"Not really," she said, pushing her hair out of her face. "But duty called. How's Arthur?"
"Experimenting with Muggle remedies," Remus said, the faintest trace of amusement on his face. "I wouldn't mention it to Molly."
He was being so normal that she just couldn't stand it, and before she'd really had time to think about it or fully process what she was doing, she was striding across the room and facing him in front of the fire. "What's wrong with you?" she said. She could hardly believe she'd said it, and made a mental note to stop after two mugs of her mother's mulled wine in the future.
Startled by her abrupt tone, Remus looked up. "A great many things, I daresay," he returned, blinking in a slightly surprised fashion. "Could you be more specific?"
"I know you don't like me," she said, eying him accusingly, her hand on her hip. "But you could have bought me something. A sugar mouse, or something."
"Oh," Remus said, and, with a brief smile, he closed the book he was reading without marking the page, and stood up.
He strode to where she was standing, delved into the pocket of his tweed jacket, and pulled out a small red velvet box, tied shut with a green bow, which had imitation holly leaves and berries nestling in the knot. "Sorry. I didn't want to give it to you in front of the others," he said softly.
His grey, smiling, eyes fixed on hers, and for a minute she was too shocked to take the box from him.
He had bought her something, then.
Something in what appeared to be a jewellery box.
In the firelight his eyes twinkled, and the orange light of the fire highlighted the youthfulness of his expression rather than the lines she knew were on his face.
"Oh," she said softly, and she took her hand off her hip, reaching to take the box from his proffered hand. She'd never had anything so exquisitely wrapped before, and it took her a moment to figure out how to get into it. She slid the ribbon off, and took in the velvet box beneath her fingers, her heart pounding.
She took the lid off to find herself looking at a necklace - a thin, silvery chain that sparkled in the firelight, threaded through a pendant, tear shaped and flat-backed with a large blue-green stone in the centre of a fine silver setting. She pulled it out of the tissue paper and held it up to the light of the fire. She nestled the box on the thick wooden mantelpiece so she could give his gift her full attention.
"Do you like it?" he said, still regarding her intently from underneath his sandy hair. She dropped the pendant into her hand, mesmerized by the stone, the different facets of colour within, and ran her finger over it, amazed to see it turn pink as she touched it.
"Wh - " she started, meeting his eyes.
"It's bewitched," he said. "It'll change stone according to your whim."
"It's beautiful," she said, and her voice was more hushed and awed than she thought she'd ever heard it. "No-one's ever bought me something like this before."
It was true enough. People always bought her Quidditch shirts or books on broomsticks or gobstones. No-one had ever bought her anything, well, beautiful before, and certainly nothing elegant and lady-like. They probably thought she wouldn't like it, or that she'd break it. But she loved it, and she loved that he had bought it for her - as if he really did think of her as a woman, and not stupid old klutzy tom boy Tonks.
"I thought how terribly frustrating it must be for someone who can change their appearance at will to have to make do with jewellery that can't," he said. "You can make this into any stone you like just by thinking it - for protection against certain poisons and curses, of course, or you could just make it match you hair, which, if I may say so, is looking particularly pretty this evening. Do you want me to fasten it for you?"
She gazed at him, wondering if he'd really just called her real hair pretty, if he'd really bought her jewellery, if he'd charmed it himself, and if she'd be able to stand having his fingers so close to her neck without fainting. A lot of ifs, she thought. She met his eye, and, seeing his eyebrows raised in tentative question, realised he was still waiting for an answer. She nodded.
He took the chain out of her hand and undid the clasp with his long, elegant fingers. She turned round, lifting her hair off her neck and trying not to shiver as he came close to brushing her ears with his arms as he snaked them though hers to drape the chain around her neck. She felt the cool weight of the pendant on her throat, and his breath on the back of her neck as he did up the clasp. She tried to keep breathing as she felt his fingers brush the back of her neck as he released it.
"There," he said, and she let her hair down and turned back to face him, surprised, but not displeased, that he hadn't taken a step back.
"How does it look?" she said, fingering it lightly as it sat on her chest, hoping he couldn't hear the thundering of her heart beneath it.
"Lovely," he said. "Why don't you try and change it into something? Just think of a stone, picture it in your mind, and it should do the rest."
Tonks nodded, and closed her eyes in concentration. "Hematite," he said, saving her the trouble of asking if it had worked. She opened her eyes to find he was smiling, and the look in his eyes stole what little breath she had left that his gift hadn't.
"Thank you," she said. "It's lovely."
"It's a pleasure," he said.
Something caught Tonks' eye above, and she glanced up and realised where they were standing. "Oh look," she said, quietly. "Mistletoe."
He glanced up too, but as quickly as his eyes had departed hers, they were back again. "Indeed," he said, his lips twitching at the corners in the beginning of a smile. "Harry reliably informs me it might be infested with Nargles."
"Nargles?" Tonks said. "What on earth are Nargles?"
"I haven't the faintest idea," he said, chuckling softly, his voice little more than a whisper.
They stood looking at each other for what seemed like forever in the firelight, but for once, Tonks didn't mind the silence. She enjoyed the soft crackling of the fire, the way it cast soft, dancing shadows on his face, and most of all, the way he was looking at her - as if he was captivated, and never wanted to do anything but look at her.
He bent his head to hers so slowly that at first she thought she'd imagined him moving altogether, and when she realised that he was going to kiss her, her breath caught in her chest. She was sure he was going to give her a peck on the cheek, but at the last second he seemed to change his mind and kissed her on the lips instead. His kiss was soft, and sweet and made her tingle all over. He pulled away far too soon, leaving the briefest impression of his lips on hers.
"Merry Christmas, Tonks," he said, smiling at her. Then he turned and walked away, his hands thrust into his pockets, humming a Christmas Carol to himself.
Tonks stared, open-mouthed, at the doorway for a very long time, absentmindedly fingering the pendant on her chest. "I love Christmas," she sighed.
A/N: Thanks for reading :D. Reviewers get a kiss under the mistletoe from their favourite fictional werewolf.