Disclaimer: I'm not JK Rowling. Not even a little bit. Anything you recognise isn't mine.
A/N: Well, since it's Remus' birthday, I thought I'd celebrate with a fic about…Remus' birthday. It's a slightly different take on Remus and Tonks than my other fics, and I'm planning on this being pretty short – three or four chapters at most (however, knowing me, that has every chance of turning into a 100 000 word behemoth). Oh, and it's set during OoTP. Enjoy!
"Please, Tonks," Sirius said.
"I don't see why I have to," she said, glancing up petulantly at him from the sofa. "How do you know I don't have plans, anyway?"
"Do you?" he said.
"That's not the point," she said, taking her annoyance out on a loose thread on the sofa. "I don't even know him."
"Think of it as an opportunity to get to know him, then," Sirius said.
"He doesn't really seem like my kind of person," she said. "And I think he finds me annoying."
Sirius' lips twitched and he raised an eyebrow at her. "Imagine that," he said. Tonks narrowed her eyes at him.
"He's a bit old fashioned," she said, "and kind of boring."
"He can be surprisingly good company," Sirius said, "when he's in the mood."
"And if he's not in the mood?"
"Then I suppose you'll just sit and glare at each other in uncomfortable silence all night," Sirius said.
The idea of spending the evening with Remus Lupin filled her with a kind of dread. It wasn't that she didn't like him – he was always polite and nice enough – in fact, she supposed that's what it was that filled her with dread. He was always so very nice and so very, achingly polite; not her kind of person at all. And she couldn't think what on earth they'd have to talk about.
Tonks crossed her arms and glowered at Sirius for a minute before relenting in the face of her cousin's puppy dog expression. "Alright," she said, rolling her eyes. "But you're going to owe me big time."
Tonks stomped out of the room, down the stairs and into the kitchen, where Remus was thumbing the pages of a well-worn paperback at the table. "Wotcher," she said.
"Tonks," he said. "I didn't realise you were here."
"Sirius wants me to take you out tonight," she said, ignoring what he'd said, and throwing herself down in a chair to indicate what she thought of the idea.
"There's really no need."
"Well he seems to think there is. Maybe he wants some alone time with Buckbeak. I did try and argue with him. I mean it's not exactly my idea of a fun night either."
"How flattering," he said, his grey eyes flickering up to meet hers for a moment, and then turning back to his book.
She chewed her nails and waited for him to put his book down. He didn't, instead slowly turning a page with a look of intense concentration on his face. "So are we going, then?" she said.
"Charming as your invitation was," he said, "I may have to politely decline."
"What, to spend some more quality time with your old books? 'Cos you never do that. Why does Sirius want me to take you out, anyway?"
"I expect," Remus said, "that he assumes I'd want to go out on my birthday."
"It's your birthday?"
Guilt shot through Tonks like a dose of some particularly nasty potion. She supposed she should do the right thing. "Well come on, then," she said, and she reached across the table and snatched the book out of his hand. He stared at her for a moment, regarding her curiously.
"I don't think so," he said.
"Oh come on," she said. "We'll go to that Muggle pub on the corner. It'll be fun."
"I don't think so," he said. She rested her elbow on the table, put her head on her hand and looked up at him, pouting and doing her very best to be appealing. He looked a little unnerved, and so she stopped.
"I'm not going to take no for an answer," she said.
"I was beginning to suspect as much," he said, raising an eyebrow at her.
"So get your coat," she said.
He stood up as if it was causing him great effort and ran a hand through his hair. "Alright," he said. "But just the one."
"Wow, aren't we in a fun mood," she muttered as she followed him out of the kitchen, rolling her eyes at him behind his back.
"I saw that," he said. She stuck her tongue out at him. "And that," he said. Eyes in the back of his head now? she thought. She made another face. "Tonks," he said, pointing at the wall. "I can see you in the mirror."
She closed her eyes in annoyance at herself for being so childish and stupid. Perfect. Now he'd hate her even more than he already did. She forced herself to open her eyes, and they met his in the reflection. She was startled to see that he was smiling. And he looked almost, well…. She wasn't sure she wanted to finish the thought.
They walked down the road in silence, and when they got to The Red Lion, Tonks had to fight hard to conceal her surprise when he opened the door for her and ushered her into the smoky interior. She wasn't the kind of girl people opened doors for. She was the kind of girl people swore in front of and jostled and treated like one of the lads. And that was how she liked it. This politeness rubbish was just…well, rubbish.
The pub had a worn feel to it, with nicotine yellowed walls, scratched dark wood furniture, and carpet that she suspected was always slightly sticky. It heaved with people, mostly scruffy students and a few locals who didn't even bat an eyelid at her bright green hair or Remus' shabby clothes.
Tonks insisted on buying the drinks, and shooed Remus away to find somewhere to sit. He found a small, deserted table in the corner under a grubby stained-glass window, and plonked himself down, wondering why on earth he'd agreed to this, and what Sirius was playing at. He hoped he wouldn't get back to Grimmauld Place to find Sirius passed out on the floor again, a bottle of Firewhiskey in his hand, as was becoming the norm whenever he left the house for protracted periods.
He looked up from the table to see Tonks making her way through the crowd, a pint of beer in each hand, her tongue gripped between her lips with effort. She made it to the table, and managed to set them down without spilling anything. She looked at him with quiet triumph, and then sat down when it became apparent that he wasn't going to compliment her on her carrying skills. Her knees knocked against his under the table.
"Well, happy birthday," she said, raising her glass at him.
"Thank you," he said, taking a sip and then folding his hands together on the table.
"Cool place this, isn't it?" she said brightly. "I don't get much time to go to Muggle pubs," she said. "But I've always rather liked them, haven't you? They've got a kind of nice dingy quality to them."
"I can't say I've made an extensive enough study to comment," he said, sipping his pint.
He noticed a newspaper rack hanging on the wall next to him, and even though the edition was a day old, he slid a broadsheet out and spread it on the table. "You're going to read that?" she said.
"That was the general idea," he said.
"Why?" she said. He sighed.
"I like to keep up with Muggle events," he said.
"I find it useful."
"It helps to keep things in perspective."
He rested his head on his hand, massaging his eyebrow with his middle finger. "Because," he said eventually, unable to think of anything else. Tonks smirked, and then reached past him for a tabloid paper. She stared down at the front page with disinterest, and then opened it.
"Wowzer," she said, "look at those, and in a newspaper too!" She turned the paper round, shoving the picture of a page three girl at him. "Have you got one in yours as well?"
Remus sighed. All he'd wanted was a quiet night….
"No," he said, turning the page. "I haven't."
"Why do you think they do that?" she said, still staring at the image with a look of concentration and bemusement. He ignored her. "Is it like an advert? Oh look, it says here she's studying to be a lawyer, and she's twenty-three. That's nice. I wonder if there's any more?"
Tonks thumbed through the rest of the paper, screwing her nose up in concentration. Remus took a large gulp of his pint, and tried to read. As soon as he'd got to what seemed like an interesting article, however, Tonks piped up. "Nope," she said. "That's the only one. Funny that. Are you sure you haven't got one in yours? You've been staring at that page for ages."
"I'm trying to read," he said.
"Oh. Right. Gotcha," she said, and she mimed zipping her lips together. Remus turned back to the article. He'd only just made it to the end of the first paragraph when Tonks' knee started jiggling against his under the table. He looked up with a vague scowl. She stopped. He made it halfway through the next paragraph before she started drumming her fingers on the table in a deeply infuriating rhythm.
Defeated, he folded the paper and placed it back in the rack, and she smiled at him across the table. "So how come you and Sirius are friends?" she said.
"What do you mean, how come Sirius and I are friends?"
"I mean you seem so different," she said. "He's so edgy and playful and you're really – "
Remus raised his eyebrows at her, waiting for her to finish. She raised her glass up to her mouth and muttered "boring" into it, her eyes fixed on the table.
Remus suppressed a smile. "I suppose opposites attract," he said, and took a sip of his pint to try and disguise that he was about to break into a grin. She certainly was arresting company.
"I didn't mean boring boring," she said, biting the skin around her fingernails.
"Yes you did," he said. "And it's true," he continued, peering at her from under his raised eyebrows, his chin tilted down so that his hair fell into his eyes. "I am so terribly, frightfully, boring."
She didn't know why, but she suddenly felt like he was making fun of her, as if her accusation had amused him in some way. She couldn't understand why anyone would think being called boring was funny. She bit her lip and peered at him through the faint, smoky haze. She was about to ask him straight out what the joke was, when she changed her mind. "Get anything cool for your birthday?"
"As a matter of fact yes," he said. "A pint of weak beer and a close up look at a woman I've never met's breasts."
Tonks almost laughed, but for some reason she couldn't quite fathom, she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing he'd amused her. She brought her hand up to her face and pretended to cough instead. "Nothing else?" she said, leaning on her hand and keeping her mouth covered.
"At my age that's the best you can hope for," he said, and Tonks pressed her clenched fingers into her mouth to stifle her snigger.
He regarded her across the table with an expression akin to someone observing an experiment, as if he was trying to predict what she might do next, or figure out how she worked. It made her extremely nervous, and she wasn't really sure why.
"I wonder why they call this place The Red Lion?" she said, scrabbling around for a question to distract him and finding that that was the best she could come up with. "There've never been any lions round here, have there?"
"Not red ones," he shot back, draining his pint. "Thank you for the drink," he said, "but I'd best be getting back."
He stood up to leave, and she found she didn't want him to go. "You could at least buy me a drink," she said. "I bought you one." He pressed his lips together, and his eyebrow twitched up almost imperceptibly.
"Very well," he said, and made his way over to the bar.
Tonks sat waiting for him, a rather smug expression on her face at the thought that she'd made him do what she wanted and she'd get to talk to him a bit more. The expression quickly disappeared when he returned and placed a single drink on the table in front of her.
She looked at him, and then it, and then him again. "Bottoms up," he said, and walked away, the faintest trace of a mischievous grin playing on his face as he left her alone in a crowded pub with a full pint to drink.
Git, she thought, suddenly realising why Sirius and Remus were friends.
A/N: Anyone who reviews gets a big slice of super-chocolaty birthday cake, and a werewolf of their choice to share it with.