First in the Transfigured Hearts series, this story is an interlude for chapter six of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Many thanks to Godricgal, beta extraordinaire, for very generously offering her beta services to assist my anal urges to revise this old fic.


Caught

"Wotcher, Remus!"

At the sound of Nymphadora Tonks' characteristically eager greeting -- directed at him, her clear, piping voice pronouncing his name -- Remus' heart launched like a firecracker into his throat --

-- only to immediately plummet when his sluggish brain registered that the hair-raising squealing sound underscoring her voice was coming from the rear door of number twelve, Grimmauld Place, and meant that he'd been caught. By the very person he'd come out to the garden to hide from.

Well -- he wasn't precisely hiding fromher, Remus amended as he turned to see Tonks stepping through the door she was pushing open with her hip, a dark Butterbeer bottle in each hand, lips parted in a wide grin. He never wanted to miss an opportunity to be in her company when she was at Headquarters. But tonight he'd made the sacrifice because there were things he wanted to hide from her. Such as the fact that he desperately wanted to ask her for a date, even though after what happened today, he was reasonably sure she desperately did not want to be asked for a date. Not by him. Not any more.

At one point -- just two days ago, in fact -- he'd thought otherwise. She had made him think otherwise, anyway, by how she'd reacted when he'd applauded her scheme for luring Harry's aunt and uncle out of their home so the Advance Guard could fetch him.

Remus had seen Tonks pitch ideas to the Order before, and noticed the way she held her head a little higher, rolled her shoulders back a little straighter, and regarded her colleagues a little more intensely, as though realising she'd proven herself an equal among them.

So he'd been caught just a little off his guard when, instead of jutting her chin proudly, or even cracking that wide grin, she gave him a little tentative smile, lower lip caught between her teeth, and hadn't quite met his gaze with those beautifully lit-up dark eyes. There was no mistaking her obvious pleasure at his approval, but the distinct girlishness of it -- he was almost sure her cheeks had gone a bit pink -- told him it was down to something much more personal than merely proving herself capable; she'd wanted his approval. As an equal. As a friend. Perhaps as...

In that moment of basking in the sunlight of her smile, he'd suddenly recognised why, over the course of the summer, he'd gone from liking having her around, to anticipating her presence, to looking forward to assignments if they were paired or teamed together, to feeling frustrated when they weren't, to becoming downright depressed if he had to go to bed without having seen her at least for a few minutes.

Perhaps she wanted his approval as a man.

For the next two days, every waking moment -- and sleeplessness accounted for a lot more waking moments than usual -- that was not spent strategising the safest plan for getting Harry from number four, Privet Drive to number twelve, Grimmauld place, was spent planning how to ask Tonks to go out with him.

After much internal debate about the merits of grand romantic gestures over the few non-sexist, non-sexual pickup lines he'd heard Sirius successfully use, Remus formulated the brilliant plan of simply playing it cool and approaching Tonks after the successful mission, and asking whether she thought they might pull off dinner together as well as they did covert Order operations.

But then he'd ruined it by acting, at worst, like the antithesis of cool and, at best, like a stupid boy. Or at least, he'd begun to think that when he'd moved to help Tonks carry Harry's trunk into Headquarters, and she'd not uttered a word to him; and where lately he'd noticed their eyes meeting frequently across the table during meetings and meals, Tonks had passed dinner entertaining Ginny and Hermione with amusing morphs, with only the occasional sideways -- always immediately averted -- glance at him.

The signals she was sending now, however, were decidedly mixed, thoroughly confusing, and made Remus want to run and hide till he could puzzle out exactly what was going on underneath that spiky pink hair.

Raising one Butterbeer in greeting, Tonks called, "Bit warm out tonight. Thought you could use an ice cold--"

Her words died and her smile fell into a gaping O of horror as turning at an awkward angle to push the door shut with her other elbow threw her off-balance. She lurched forward and blundered down the porch steps, feet tangling with each other, one untied lace of her clunky black boots wrapping around her ankle.

Imagination readily supplying a vision of the inevitable outcome, Remus, grimacing, sprang forward to catch the young Auror before she could do herself a mischief on the flagstone patio and smashed glass.

He was too late.

Just as he reached her side, Tonks tumbled to her knees on the patio. She had, however, somehow managed to cushion the Butterbeers and keep them out of harm's way.

"Are you all right?" Remus gently prised the Butterbeers from her vice-like grip.

"Yeah, great," Tonks said quickly. "Just saying hello to my best mate The Ground. Remus, The Ground. Ground, Remus."

Pleading with Merlin that the chuckle he couldn't resist didn't make Tonks think he took pleasure from her misfortune, Remus gently took her elbow and helped her to sit on the bottom step. Though the sun had set and Tonks kept her head ducked, the patio lights of number eleven and number thirteen highlighted the blush on her cheeks. Self-recrimination pummelled Remus like an entire shed full of Bludgers had opened. He'd been an utter fool to think that her sharply indrawn breath, and the crash of one of the Dursleys' plates following his flirtatious whisper, Can Auror Tonks be made to blush, or is that just a trick of the light on purple hair? meant he'd flustered her in the good way. It had been only a few minutes later that she'd gone upstairs to help Harry pack, and returned with bubblegum pink spikes. He should have realised then that he'd inadvertently insulted her, and put her off of him.

If she'd really been on to him to begin with.

He wracked his brain for a quip that would ease her embarrassment and atone for that blunder. "If only you'd been this fortunate earlier, when you upset the umbrella stand and candle before dinner."

To Remus' chagrin, his poor attempt at a joke brought neither ease nor atonement, but rather had made her flush deepen as she stared at her lap. Heat prickled up his own neck and cheeks as he hastened to recover. "I'm sorry, Tonks, I only meant, at least you didn't break anything this time."

"Bugger it," she muttered.

Remus followed her down-turned gaze to her knees and saw two patches of reddened skin instead of the dark denim of jeans.

Wanting to apologise, but seeing how doing so had been wholly ineffective in putting this upside-down situation to rights, Remus said, "Aren't ripped jeans very stylish?"

Amazingly, Tonks looked up at him and flashed a brilliant smile before she twisted to retrieve her Butterbeers, then scooted to the edge of the step.

"To ripped jeans?" she said, offering him a bottle.

Feeling just a bit dazed that she'd so readily forgiven him and was asking him to sit beside her -- not to mention the fact that he was actually doing so, and felt the brush of her sleeve against his as he sat on the creaking step, and the brush of her fingertips as he accepted the Butterbeer -- Remus heard himself say, "I believe this is the first time I've ever toasted a pair of trousers, Tonks."

His eyes fluttered shut as he uncapped his drink. Merlin, he hadn't said that? He'd never thought much of his lines to begin with, but he couldn't have drawn more attention to how woefully out of practice he was if he'd worn a sandwich board sign that read Fuddy-duddy: Young Witches Beware.

If things hadworked out according to plan, and he'd asked her out as they'd hefted Harry's trunk between them, it would have been fair to offer her a caveat now, and spare her the pain and suffering of having to spend an entire evening with a stale wizard more than a decade her senior.

But Tonks' dark eyes glittered at him over her Butterbeer as she threw back a swig. "I see how it is, Lupin." She dabbed the corners of her mouth with her fingertips. "I'm Tonks to you when I'm embarrassing myself in front of friends, but you use my wretched name to embarrass me in front of new people."

Remus swallowed his drink painfully at the recollection of how he'd grinned like an idiot after Tonks broke the plate; what a stupid, juvenile prat he'd been, to think that introducing her to Harry as Nymphadora, was an acceptable form of flirtation. Or that he'd read her teeth-gritting and instant retort of Don't call me Nymphadora as coy banter.

Silently cursing himself for a fool, he said hoarsely, desperately wishing, without expectation, that his praise would coax that beautifully pleased expression she'd worn before. "You did fine work today."

Tonks' eyes sparkled. "So The Petunia Plate incident won't tarnish my sterling record?"

Remus was sure his insides had never been in such a stir -- not even during a transformation -- as they were now, with hope miraculously resurrecting within him, telling him he'd read her all wrong, urging him to act on instinct and tease -- flirt -- with her in just the manner he seemed powerless to resist doing.

Or better yet, play it cool and ask her out like he'd planned.

Instead, without his brain's permission, his mouth blurted, "Thank your lucky stars for the ReparoCharm."

Tonks' laugh, loud and unladylike as it was, soothed away Remus' frustration with himself for missing his opportunity. His stomach felt as though the Butterbeer had suddenly fizzed up and warmed inside him.

"Really, Tonks," he went on. "The Order are exceedingly fortunate to have you. The way you lured the Dursleys out of their house was shatteringly clever. You flew brilliantly with Harry's trunk. You put him at ease – and the girls, too, at supper." Now that things were back to normal between them, he could chuckle about the pig snout. "It can't be easy for those children to live in a house with all this secretive war business going on all the time."

"Apparently it's rough on some of the Order members, too."

Remus nodded -- and then realised her tone didn't match the serious implication of her words. As he turned his head to ask what she meant, Tonks shifted and her shoulder brushed his. Sucking in a shallow breath, Remus darted his eyes down at her. She was fighting a losing battle against the twitching muscles of her lips.

His pulse raced as her grin broke across her face, and he wondered if she could hear his wildly palpitating heart. As disarming as her smile was, it was the look in her eyes that made Remus forget to breathe -- the familiar, even intimate, glow that darkened them when she flirted with him (yes, flirt was the only word for it) both now and earlier, at the Dursleys'.

He took another drink.

"I saw you watching me change my nose, Remus."

His face warmed again, while her slight movement against his arm sent shivers up his spine. "I wasn't watching."

"You smirked," Tonks continued, moving a little closer and lowering her voice. "I even caught you chuckling once or twice. I know it wasn't because of your Goblin talk with Arthur and Bill."

"I might have watched a little," Remus admitted, recalling how, at the time, he'd ignored a whisper in the back of his mind that if he still found her attractive even when sporting such a bizarre proboscis, then Nymphadora Tonks must be extraordinarily beautiful, or he'd fallen much harder for her than he'd yet realised.

The latter thought jarred him. He hadn't known her long enough to have serious thoughts about her, had he? His lack of expertise in the matter of more-than-platonic feelings suddenly loomed before him like an abrupt rise in the ground, throwing him off-kilter. Choosing to ignore the notion in favour of the simpler explanation that he did, indeed, think Tonks was lovely in her outlandishness, his mind raced with various images of her throughout the day.

"You changed your hair during our mission," he blurted.

Tonks' grin slanted sheepishly, but her tone remained coy. "Is that a reprimand, Mister Advanced Guard Leader Sir, for me being distracted by wondering which colour suits me better?"

"The pink is undoubtedly more striking than the violet," said Remus, his voice sounding faraway in his own ears as her implication that he had inspired her quest for the best-suiting hair colour gave him such a light-headed sensation that he was sure it must have floated high above the ground, into the clouds.

A slight falter in her smile burst Remus' bubble and sent him careening back to earth.

She'd been fishing for a compliment.

He'd missed the cue.

Idiot.

He stood and strode toward the gloomy garden again, as he finished off his Butterbeer, searching for the right words to correct his verbal misstep -- if it was possible. Surely by now Tonks had realised how woefully inept he was at this, and would put two and two together and make werewolves-don't-make-good-romantic-partners.

Still, he had to try, hadn't he? If she wanted him to compliment her, that had to mean he'd a chance.

Another voice, deep within, asked very softly, Just because you've got a chance, does that mean you necessarily should take it?

Remus had never liked that voice. Thanks to James' and Sirius' encouragement, he'd honed the art of ignoring it to a fine point.

Turning back to Tonks with a smile, Remus said, "It might have been a bit unfocused..." Seeing her brows knit, he faltered for a moment, then took a quick drink of liquid courage, swallowed, and went on, "...but I'd never admonish you for looking lovely."

Despite the awkward start, Remus felt an inward swell of what he recognised as the rare, but always welcome feeling: the male ego. It was a good line. He heard that same little gasp between Tonks' slightly parted lips, that she'd given in the Dursley's kitchen.

But then, abruptly, Tonks stood -- with a little wobble -- and pitched her bottle into a nearby rubbish heap. Remus followed suit, then flicked his wand haphazardly. "Evanesco."

Instantly, the whole pile vanished

Just like his aspirations.

As he tucked his wand into his trouser pocket, however, he noticed in his peripheral that Tonks was watching him intently. Feeling as though she'd used a Summoning Charm on him, his eyes drawn to meet her dark gaze.

"Why do you look so pleased?" he asked, noting the slightly smug purse of her full lips.

"I did that to see if you'd notice."

His head swam. He would thank his brain to stop leaping from assumption to assumption, alternately bestowing hope and stealing confidence, and making him feel like a confused fifth-year. Her nearness had a lot to do with his addled state, as well... her scent...her smile... Remus muddled through his sluggish memory to recall their conversation prior to discarding their Butterbeer bottles.

Unsuccessful, he was forced to present his ineptitude in all it's adolescent glory and ask, "Did what?"

Tonks sniggered. "Changed my hair at the Dursleys."

"Oh." Remus swallowed hard. He wanted to tell her that he'd noticed much subtler things about her than violent purple hair metamorphosing to vivid pink, but his mouth had gone dry.

Tonks inched closer to him, touching the tatty sleeve of his jumper. Remus wished he hadn't finished his Butterbeer so he would have something to occupy his hands; his fingers twitched with the desire to twine with hers. Part of him thought it would have been a safe move. Another part told him to be careful, he'd misread her too many times today.

"You wouldn't admonish me for looking...lovely..." Her gaze dropped as she faltered, catching her lower lip between her teeth. "...because..."

Remus felt as though that look had somehow cast an Engorgio charm on his heart that made breath redundant, because surely he could live on gazing at her, so lovely in her girlishness, which he was the cause of...She looked up at him again, but her eyes roved, never quite meeting his.

"Do you like me, Remus?"

Her voice seemed higher than usual, and the rational part of Remus' brain declared it was due to shyness. But always in situations like this, Remus found himself more compelled by the arguments of the irrational part of his brain. Which, at the moment, were arguing that her voice was high and slightly tremulous with a piercing accusation that stole the air from him.

"Of course I like you," Remus said deliberately, quietly. "Everybody likes you."

"No..." Tonks' fingers released his sleeve, clasping together as she said in a voice so uncharacteristically quiet that if he weren't looking at her, he wouldn't have guessed it came from her, "I'm asking if you...fancy me."

Heat flooded Remus' face. Oh dear Merlin, she knew.

He'd always been bloody awful, despite his desire to be otherwise, at hiding his feelings. It didn't matter that he'd intended to declare himself to her -- if he could ever summon that Gryffindor courage he was supposed to have, which depended fully on being certain that she fancied him back -- because she knew anyway, and could only be addressing it now because she didn't fancy him back. Why would she? Probably she had hundreds of wizards lined up, every day, asking her to go out with them. Certainly they all had a great deal more to recommend them to her than he. Maybe it was in his favour that he liked her with pink hair and a pig snout, but he'd been grey while she was wearing a Hogwarts uniform, couldn't afford to take her on that date he'd idiotically dreamed of asking her for, and what woman wanted to get involved with a man who had lethal prior engagements lined up every month for the rest of his life? She was being so nice because they were colleagues and it was foolish to get involved in any way more than that and she knew that and was trying to stop him from doing something stupid and making Order business messy...Or maybe she did think of him as a friend, and was letting him down gently because she didn't want to mess that up. But of course it was too late to avoid that.

"Are you, Nymphadora?" he heard himself ask tonelessly.

She pinched him, and Remus squelched the ridiculous, stubbornly lingering thought that flirtation gleamed in her eyes, played at the corner of her mouth, focusing instead on how hard she'd pinched him -- even though he hadn't meant to use her Christian name..

"If you were trying to hide it, you mucked up," Tonks said, once again sounding like herself -- like the feisty young witch he'd teased this afternoon at the Dursleys'. "And you can't have been. Everyone's noticed."

No. Surely not everyone. Sirius had cottoned on, of course, but they'd been best mates since their boyhood. Remus thought it impossible that he could be so poor at masking his feelings that everyone--

Oh God. Remus closed his eyes as a thought occurred, and the floodgates of humiliation rolled over him. The whole hair colour change thing had been a test. She was reprimanding him for being so unprofessional as to flirt in front of Harry and the Order when he was supposed to be leading a serious mission.

Was there any way on earth he could possibly make it out of this, if not with a date, with a shred of dignity left intact?

"The whole Order's been going on about it for weeks," Tonks' voice, tinged with laughter, lured Remus a little way out from his state of mortified horror. If she was amused, then she wasn't reprimanding him. She wasn't the type to mock a person outright -- excepting, perhaps, Mundungus or Snape. And if she was amused by the Order talking about his obvious affection for her, then maybe, just maybe, she didn't mind him fancying her. Maybe she even--

Slowly, Remus opened his eyes. Tonks still stood quite close to him, but her head was turned slightly away, and in the summer twilight he could just make out the faintest flush of colour on her high cheekbones. The rational part of his brain told him that there was nothing to indicate she fancied him, and there was every chance her laughter had been nervous, embarrassed...

...but the irrational part of him said it could also mean she fancied him and was self-conscious. Unsure. As uncertain as he about whether her feelings were returned...She might have been bluffing, after all, by saying she knew, everyone knew, he fancied her (and he hoped, for the sake of his dignity, that she had been)...As at a loss as he about how to proceed.

Remus was sure of one thing: that the only way to know and to end this agony, was to ask.

"People talked about it?"

It wasn't exactly what he needed to ask, but it was a step in the right direction, at least.

"Mostly Molly," Tonks replied. A breathless pause, then she continued, "She wanted to stop trying to talk Bill into asking me out if..." Her eyes darkened as she regarded the ground more intently -- then they abruptly flicked up to meet Remus' eyes. "...if you were planning on doing it."

For the second time that night, Remus' heart leapt -- she wanted him to ask her out, she did, because she fancied him back --

-- only to immediately plunge again.

She shouldn't fancy him back, said that voice he'd ignored earlier, clear and commanding and convincing as it always was after it had been squelched. She shouldn't want to go out with him. She ought to go out with Bill, who could afford to take her on the sort of date Remus had dreamed about. She deserved that, deserved someone young and confident and--

Envy for Bill -- or any other wizard who might win Tonks' heart -- interrupted the noble thoughts and knotted Remus' stomach tightly. Ashamed of himself, he tried to force the feeling away, insisting that it was how it had to be, if he wanted her to see how much he admired her, how special she was in his eyes.

He stepped back from her. "I can't go out with you, Tonks."

"Why not?" As though oblivious to the fact that he'd just put space between them, Tonks stepped forward – onto Remus' battered shoe. She sprang back and gave him a brief apologetic look before her gaze fell away from his. "Probably because going out with me's a dangerous sport."

Remus knew Tonks' floundering attempt at levity was a mask for the embarrassment she felt at her awkwardness. He wished he could relieve her with banter, as he'd grown accustomed to doing, but he couldn't do that anymore. Not now that hearts were at stake.

His own heart seemed not to matter as he wished to Merlin that he'd been more cautious, and not risked Tonks'.

In clipped syllables, Remus said, "I would think it's rather obvious why I cannot pursue a romantic relationship you."

Tonks' eyes rolled upward in a brain-searching expression Remus had seen on the students at Hogwarts during oral examinations. Like them, Tonks brightened and chirped her answer. "I fancy you, too, if that's the problem."

In spite of reason, Remus' heart sped up, and his stomach flip-flopped again. To actually hear the words...

No.

He forced himself to say, "The problem is that I'm a fair few years older than you."

Tonks' forehead wrinkled with genuine confusion. "That's a problem?"

As she moved toward him again, Remus momentarily feared for his toes, though he immediately decided that hurt would be worth it if only Tonks came out of this conversation unbruised.

However, Tonks was surprisingly nimble this time, and she leant into him and brushed her hands over his arms. Remus knew he should back away from her lest his resolve crumble, but her touch was paralyzing. Delightfully so.

"Y-yes," he stammered, without any conviction, unsure why he was bringing it up as a problem at all.

"Rubbish. I prefer older men." Her voice dropped to match her coy demeanour. "Always have."

"Older men who can't afford to take you out?" There. That was a problem he couldn't talk himself out of, and neither of them could refute.

Tonks frowned. "Dates don't have to cost." Her palms slid upward, toward his shoulders, and Remus held his breath as he imagined her arms snaking around his neck…Through his threadbare jumper he felt the warmth of her fingertips. "You could always take me for a romantic walk, or a picnic."

It was becoming increasingly difficult to think clearly and maintain control of this situation. Remus' eyes darted over her head, in the hope that the spell would be broken when he was no longer looking into Tonks' eyes. He'd never been glad to see the moon, but now was thankful for the stark reminder of why this couldn't happen, why he never should have allowed himself to dream in the first place.

Even so, he was unable to find a firm voice. "I'm dangerous," he said --weakly.

Tonks glanced at the moon, then back at him. "Did I say anything about a walk or picnic under a full moon?" She gave her head a flippant – or was it rebellious? – toss. "Ask me for a date, Remus. Just one date. You'll never know how it would be if you don't try."

She was so close to him, her heart-shaped face turned up so enticingly, her curving lips parted as though she wanted him to dip his head and kiss her. Remus moistened his dry lips. Merlin, how could he not give in to the look in her eyes?

He reminded himself that the light reflected in them was the moon's. Tonks might not care about his lycanthropy, but she should. She inevitably would. Better sooner rather than later.

Yet he could not make himself voice these thoughts. His lips refused even to open.

Tonks quirked an eyebrow. "Where's your Marauder spirit Sirius keeps talking about?"

A familiar feeling of boldness ignited deep within Remus. Hers was the rhetorical question which, when posed by James and Sirius, had never failed to pull Remus into their schemes.

But this was different. While Tonks might have been brash like her cousin, this was, as he had realised tonight, a matter of the heart. Wouldn't it be the epitome of selfishness if he allowed desire to overrule reason?

Heartbreak was the only possible outcome.

But…Tonks hadn't said a word about her heart. She'd only asked for a date. One date couldn't hurt, could it? She wasn't proposing marriage. Just a private outing between two people who fancied each other. He could almost hear James and Sirius making the arguments, urging him to seize this golden opportunity. Any wizard -- and he'd already decided there must be dozens who wanted it -- would be a fool to let a witch like Tonks slip through his fingers when she'd put herself on the line to let him know exactly what she wanted. Chances like this only came along once in a lifetime.

Less, in a werewolf's lifetime.

"All right, then." Remus drew a deep breath, determined to rise to the occasion and do this properly -- and he discovered that the happiness of knowing his feelings were mutual combined with that surge of Gryffindor courage made it quite easy to do so -- and asked, "Do you think we'd do dinner together quite as well as we do covert Order operations together?" Then, because he couldn't resist, he added, "Would you like to go on a date with me, Nymphadora?"

"Don't call me Nymphadora," Tonks reprimanded, though her mild tone and beaming smile altogether belied her words.

Hands still pressed to his chest, she rose up on her toes to peck Remus' jaw -- and he couldn't decide which was responsible for the return of his light-headedness: the soft warmth of her lips opening and pressing against his skin, or the tickling chill of her breath as she murmured in his ear, "Yes, I reckon we'd make a dynamic dinner duo. I'd love to go on a date with you."

Her arms moved around his waist as she rocked back on her heels to look up into his face. "Unless it turns out well -- then I expect two or three…" She peered charmingly from beneath long, dark lashes. "Or ten or twenty."

Remus had a thought that he ought to be alarmed by the implication that she was, indeed, thinking of the long-term -- but it was fleeting, shoved away before it could niggle by the reasoning that she had spoken without thinking, and by the simple fact that the idea of Tonks even joking about ten or twenty dates with him made him feel too good. When was the last time a witch had expressed that sort of interest in him? He'd never gone out with anyone like Tonks, and so many obstacles were overcome from the onset because she already knew he was a werewolf.

Already knew, and still entertained the possibility of two or three – or ten or twenty – dates with him.

"I hope you like long walks and picnics," Remus said with a sigh of annoyance that he had to remember, at that moment, how abysmally poor he was.

"My favourite kind of date," Tonks replied, sincerely. "And I've an idea you're a pretty creative bloke."

Her arms, encircling his waist, squeezed him tightly. Her guileless gaze drove away any shreds of scepticism Remus might have had about whether she was merely being polite. All she asked of him was affection and creativity -- the two facets of his personality he felt sure would be part of him even if he had a vault full of gold and didn't have to plan dates around full moons. He didn't have a great deal of experience with this dating thing, but he thought he might have a little more, or at least a little more success, if anyone had voiced that request. Or if it had ever occurred to him that so little could be enough. He felt fairly confident that maybe, with Tonks, he could do this.

He could at least try.

How could he not? Holding her slim, warm frame in his arms made him realise how empty they had been, and how very much he'd wanted this. He rested his cheek against her hair – which Tonks thoughtfully metamorphosed into a sleek coiffure, instead of the heavily gelled spikes. He knew he wasn't an ideal specimen of robust masculinity, yet with her slight body tucked so perfectly against his, he thought that to be anything other than what he was would have been superfluous.

And to think he'd nearly passed this up.

"Merlin, you're tenacious," he murmured.

"How d'you think I got to be an Auror?"

"Certainly not by sneaking into Muggle houses and breaking their plates."

She swatted his shoulder, and he caught her hand. As their fingers twined together, and their laughter mingled in the still summer night air, Remus looked up at the sky and thanked his lucky stars that his feeble attempts at hiding had never stood a chance against getting caught by Nymphadora Tonks.


A/N: Everyone who tells me what they think will receive their choice of Remus to ask you out for a first date: boyish Remus, who's shy and requires not-so-subtle hints that you're interested; Marauder Remus, who charms the porch steps so that you trip and he can rescue you; or sexy Remus, who doesn't bother asking at all and snogs you senseless.