A long-overdue final chapter written for the August 2007 RTChallenge and dedicated to Gilpin25, who requested I write this when she stumped me in a "Stump the Writer" meme. Thanks for making me write it, and for your ideas. I hope you like it, m'dear. And as always, thanks to Godricgal for the beta work.
Sirius bangs the larder door shut in disgust.
"WHY IS ALL THE FIREWHISKY GONE?"
He can't have drunk it all already. Only a week's gone by since he sent Remus out to stock up on booze, and while he may drop hints now and then that Sirius shouldn't drink so much, Moony never fails to deliver what he's given the Galleons to buy. So Sirius makes his second circuit in fifteen minutes around the dank basement kitchen, which looks rather like the Tutshill Tornados' mascot swept through.
He half-heartedly checks the drinks cabinet again, even though he knows all that's inside are a couple of cockroaches and a few bottles of some Elf-made wine which tastes like shit and really ought to be thrown out or maybe given to that sodding House-elf to shut him up. Kreacher's been skulking about like Snivellus Sodding Snape for the past quarter-hour since Sirius first thrust a hand into his cupboard and yanked him out by a spindly arm so he could clear out the stash of heirlooms and see if the little wankerhadn't nicked the booze.
Sirius shouldn't be surprised when he finds Kreacher's cupboard doesn't contain anything that wasn't there fifteen minutes earlier, just as no Firewhisky has miraculously appeared elsewhere in the kitchen. Still he swears as he gets off the grimy floor where knelt to through the Elf's filthy den. Noticing a mildewed photograph in a tarnished silver serpentine frame which Kreacher saved from the rubbish bin, Sirius stomps on it.
Not a brilliant idea when barefoot.
"Merlin, damn it!" He grabs the back of a chair for support as he picks his sliced foot up off the floor as much because it hurts like bloody buggering hell as he's afraid of catching something.
Dark, thick blood drips from his sole onto the photograph of his mum, and Sirius thinks how apt that is as he reaches for his wand, which is supposed to be in the back pocket of his jeans. (Two fingers in the air at Mad-Eye Moody.)
Only his wand's not there.
Or anywhere on his person.
Just like his Firewhisky's not anywhere in the bloody kitchen.
Where the hell is his wand?
Where the hell is Moony?
Probably in the library, doing his Order homework like a good...Moony. Probably with a Silencing Spell cast over the room so as not to be disturbed by his housemate.
Fat lot of good it does to have someone living with you when he leaves you to entertain yourself.
"Bet he's drinking the damn whisky himself--OW!"
Sirius had taken one hobbling step toward the stairs, but the jaggedly torn skin on his foot stings like the mother of all...Stinging Hexes.
A cackle sounds from under the table, low and wheezing like the rattle of death, and Sirius ducks, holding the chair again as he kicks his injured foot at Kreacher's face.
"Look, Kreacher! Filthy blood traitor's blood all over Mistress' kitchen!"
He just glimpses Kreacher's large, lamp-like eyes rounding in horror; the House-elf's screech is cut off by a CRACK, and the kitchen vanishes as Sirius materializes in the library.
The darkened library.
Since Moony's always going on about proper light to read by because if he's got to be completely grey before he's forty he's sure as hell going to do all he can to keep from needing glasses as well, Sirius doesn't call out to him, but simply Apparates up to the next floor, where the bedrooms are.
As he knocks on Moony's door, Sirius isn't sure why he didn't Apparate directly inside in his state of semi-emergency, except that it seems a bit discourteous to do that when it's the week leading up to full moon and Moony's probably turned in early. Sirius is sure Remus would sarkily call him sweet for not Apparating in, when he's going to wake him anyway with a bloody foot and a missing wand. It's the thought that counts, though, right?
Hand balled into a fist, Sirius pounds on the door.
"Moony! Moony, wake up!"
He stops knocking, hand still resting against the door. He presses his ear against it, too, waiting for Moony's heavy sigh.
No heavy Moony sigh.
That can't be right.
Sirius knocks again.
"MOONY, I'M BLEEDING TO DEATH RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR ROOM! NOW'S NOT THE TIME TO ACT LIKE A MAN INSTEAD OF A WOLF AND SUDDENLY TURN INTO A HEAVY SLEEPER!"
He pressed his ear to the door again, and waited.
Still, utter silence from within.
"MOONY, YOU GREAT GIT! WHERE THE HELL ARE--"
Turning as he shouted down the hallway, Sirius sees light beneath the door to Regulus' old room. The room where Tonks sometimes kips. Which used to puzzle him, because who'd stay here when they'd a lovely flat to go home to? Though it hadn't take long for a genius like him to figure out that Tonks likes to stay in the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black because she's head-over-heels in love with Moony -- even though she tries to pass it off as i"fancying him quite a lot."
She hasn't been here in a week, Tonks. Not since she chatted to Sirius over Firewhisky about How Do You Solve A Problem Like Moony.
Who, as Sirius shuffles down the hallway, one hand on the mouldy papered wall for balance, his gimp foot leaving a trail across the rug, speak of the devil, is in there with her. That low, muffled tone from behind the door marked Regulus Arcturus Black, Bastard First Class, is distinctly indistinctly the devil's own voice.
Forgetting all about feet and Firewhisky, Sirius presses himself against the door just in time to hear Tonks ask: "So what are we going to do now?"
Sirius bites his lip to contain a shout of praise for her. Why, just the other night when he told her she'll have to ask Moony out if she wants him, and she came back talking about being a great Hufflepuff chicken, he gave up hope that pair would ever resolve their sexual tension. Yet here she is, obviously coming clean about her feelings, and getting the truth out of him as well. Miraculous! A feat of Marauder proportions!
(When did she turn up, anyway? Must have been while he was destroying the kitchen and making too big a racket to hear her. She could've stuck her head in and said, Wotcher, Coz, I'm just on my up to ask Remus out, if you'd care to eavesdrop.)
He imagines her falling over the Troll-foot umbrella stand and Remus rushing out of the library to help her up. She'll have told him she was working in the neighbourhood and is going to stay the night here cos she's so tired she's afraid of Splinching, and she wonders, can he help her put fresh sheets on the bed because there might be Doxies in the linen cupboard and he's so much better at dispatching them than she? Which just goes to prove she's really got a bit of his blood after all, as that's exactly the sort of tactic he'd employ. Get a man talking about relationships while messing about with a bed. Brilliant.
Not that Sirius would talk about relationships with a man.
But if he were a women, by Merlin he'd get Moony out of his damned head and thinking with his--
"I don't know," comes Moony's voice.
Damn. So much for elevating the function of certain bits instead of creating great cock-ups. If only Remus would use that, instead of his brain that's so used to studying, he'd know exactly what he and Tonks were going to do now. Do, Moony, notthink! Can Remus really have forgotten that old motto? Merlin knew Padfoot and Prongs shouted it at him a million times...
"There're are only two choices," Tonks says, a sigh in her voice, which Sirius realises he should have recognised when she spoke the first time.
She's not taking the lead...She might have initiated, but now she's leaving it up to Moony.
Don't leave things up to Moony! was Padfoot's and Prongs' other motto.
"Got to pick one or the other," she says. "We just can't keep going as we have been."
"I know," says Remus, matching her for wistfulness, though Sirius knows that whisper of resignation that means Moony's planning on being noble.
As if there's anything noble about letting a lovely girl down...
"At least not if you want to have a single unbroken dish in this house, and your umbrella not dumped out of the stand cos I keep falling over it, and me to have a prayer of being stealthy when we're on missions together."
A creak -- like bloody sodding bedsprings -- sounds, which jars Sirius for a moment, though he reckons that's not an out of place sound when you're putting sheets on a bed. Not that he'd know anything about that.
Or maybe Tonks is flopping down on the bed. He hopes so. If she curls up and looks sad and pretty with her pink hair spilling across the pillow, Remus won't be able to resist sitting down beside her, touching her, comforting her...In fact, maybe that's the thing that caused the bed springs to creak...
"You're blaming me for the broken plate at the Dursleys?" Remus asks.
That can't have been a chuckle in his voice; whenever he's deflecting an undesirable topic with humour, he's always completely dry.
"That was when I realised you fancied me," says Tonks.
At Remus' incredulity, Sirius perks up a little. Hope! Moony likes to be liked. If Tonks strokes his ego enough, he'll take her out.
Whether Tonks does that or not, though, is anyone's guess. Either her voice has dropped to a whisper, or she's not said a damn thing.
The next thing Sirius hears is Remus saying, "I'm sorry."
Sorry? What the hell for? Where are those bloody Extendable Ears when you need them? And talking of bloody, there's a puddle under his foot now, seeping up between his toes. If he dies before Moony quits pussy-footing around about Tonks, for better or for worse...
Another groan of bedsprings is followed by another sigh from Tonks. "What do you want to do, Remus?"
Rule Number One in Talking Moony Into Things: Never ask him what he wants, because he's a closet Buddhist and tries not to want because wanting leads to suffering.
"I think you know what I want," says Remus.
"I know what I hope you want."
During the ensuing silence, Sirius nearly pulls out his hair while wondering why the hell these people had to have so many bloody pauses in their conversations?
"How could it work?" Remus asks.
After Sirius gets over the timing of the question, which makes him wonder if Remus doesn't know he's eavesdropping and is using Legilimency on him from behind that door, he nearly beats his head against it. Why does Remus always expect things not to work?
Sirius pleads for Tonks to prove she's his cousin by posing the question to Remus. He hears her voice, faintly, but can't make out her words.
It's all he can do not to shout, Go on, Moony! Be the Gryffindor who, through a lot of trial and error, made the Marauder's Map. Risk something not working because it just might. How can that be a bad thing?
"You could be hurt," says Remus, almost in answer to Sirius' unvoiced questions. "I know my track record."
"I know my track record, too," Tonks argues, "and you're at greater risk than I am of being hurt."
"I thought you said me going out with you would put an end to that."
Sirius snorts. It's all over. Moony's cracking jokes again. When he stops being serious, there's no getting through to him. He's erecting that wall, and the only way over it is to take him by the robes and shake him--"
"I'm just not sure I'm good enough for you," he says.
Okay. So maybe he's not quite through. But the lack of self-worth means this is a direr situation than Sirius realised.
"Can't you shut up and let me be the judge of that?" Tonks asks, her voice so small that Sirius almost misses it over the sound of his own breathing.
Oh God, it's heartbreaking.
Remus has shut up, but Sirius doesn't imagine he's taking Tonks' judgment into account. As that poor girl's mum is his favourite cousin, by Merlin Sirius is going to make Moony see the light.
"OF COURSE YOU CAN!" he bellows, bursting into the room. "HOW'S IT GOING TO WORK? TONKS IS SIGNING UP TO DO ALL THE BLOODY WORK, SO SHUT UP AND--"
His words die as his eyes register, a bit late, that Tonks -- and Remus -- are lying on the bed, in a tangle of sheets that never quite got put on properly.
Her arms are wrapped around his neck; one of his hands rests on her waist -- her bare waist, as her t-shirt's ridden up -- and the other's woven through her pink hair. Their legs are tangled up, and Moony's shirttail's out and his hair's all untidy and in his eyes, and though they're bright and twinkling, hers are even darker than usual, and hazy and...dear God...her lips are a bit swollen and red as if...
"You weren't talking about why going out won't work, then?" Sirius asks.
Remus' gaze flicks away to look at Tonks, and they share a very irritating eye-roll that says they know he overheard everything they said to each other.
Great. All he needs is two of them in the house. It's not really overhearing, is it, when he's apparently not heard a thing they really said? He'll attribute his inability to interpret tone of voice through a shut door to loss of blood -- he is feeling a bit light-headed -- and not twelve years of solitary confinement leaving his people-reading skills a bit rusty.
"No," says Remus. "We were talking about how to make it work."
"Talking," Sirius repeats.
Since he guessed right about Tonks asking Remus to help with the sheets, it's probably safe to assume Remus found it impossible to think with his brain when he was in a bedroom with a pretty girl, thus avoiding the wrong sort of cock-up...Which Sirius is damn proud of Remus for doing, as this is the sort of thing Sirius has worked his whole life (minus prison time, of course) to get Remus to do.
Still, it makes him feel as lacking in equilibrium as Tonks must all the time, because wanting Moony to do something and expecting him to do it are not remotely similar things. If he's being honest, Sirius can't say he thought Remus would do anything of the sort now, if ever, not after last week's chats in which Remus confessed how unworthy he feels of the fair Nymphadora. Too old, too poor...too something else, he can't be bothered what. Oh yes, too dangerous. They the all sound the same after a while and they're all equally ridiculous.
Just like this tumbling about in the sheets snogging each senseless is ridiculous.
If they ever got together, Sirius's expectations included Remus making a carefully-worded and rehearsed about how little he had to offer and how low Tonks' expectations should be, and that they should take it slowly, casually, avoiding heartbreak, and awkwardness at Order meetings. Then, after the speech, if Tonks still wanted to go out with him, he'd woo her with a picnic or a walks beneath the not-full moon, and he might kiss her, chastely, at the doorstep of her flat when he walked her home afterward. Beds wouldn't come into picture for months...What Sirius expected was to be able to laugh at the careful courtship and heap brotherly abuse on him at every turn for being so quintessentially Moony.
Certainly he never in a million years would have expected to get it all wrong.
He, Sirius Black, wrong about Moony.
It's as preposterous as Snivellus being hygienic.
"Right," says Sirius. "Well, from where I stand, it seems to be working brilliantly."
Tonks giggles, and Remus smiles at her, his fingers stroking her hipbone. "It does seem to be so far."
Sirius thinks he might be sick with the sweetness...or maybe he's woozy...
"Is there something I can do for you, Padfoot?" Remus asks, sliding his hand out of Tonks' hair, tucking a few strands behind her ear, so he can push up on his elbow to regard Sirius with interest. "Only I heard you shouting to me."
"And you didn't answer?" Sirius wants to shout, but it comes out feebly, and he leans against the doorjamb.
"Well -- you always told me never to interrupt a snog, even for you."
It sounds like something Sirius would say, but he really can't be sure. "Can you make my foot stop bleeding?"
Remus takes out his wand and gives it a neat flick. "Episky." A second flick. "Accio Sirius' wand."
The pain leaves Sirius' foot as his wand flies into his hand. He Summons the Firewhisky, and soon has a bottle of it in hand as well. Be nice to know where it's been all night, but he doesn't care, not really, so long as he's got it.
Saluting Remus with the bottle, he says, "Cheers -- to whisky, and being risky," then turns to go.
Before he shuts the door, though, he pokes his wand through the crack and says, "Ekissky."
He wishes them well -- really he does. If anyone deserves a chance at happiness, it's Remus, and Tonks might be just the girl to help him find it.
But Sirius Disapparates to avoid the sound of their mingling laughter.
A/N: I'd love to know what you thought of this final installment. As incentive to review, I promise all who do a snog on a squeaky bed with Remus, or a nightcap with Sirius, who would be only too happy for the company. ;)