Author's Note: The characters, of course, all belong to JK Rowling. If something from these particular scenes is familiar, you may have seen it on the LJ rtchallenge Spring Ficathon.
Sirius had invited her to stay sometimes when it would be convenient for her. He sent me up to help her unpack. I'd seen colorful knickers before, of course, but this was overload. Each time I saw her after that, I wondered which ones she was wearing: stripes, polka dots, animal print... and did the bra match? Guh.
Sirius must have done it on purpose. He brings her up in conversation often enough, with the consequence that she is nearly always on my mind. Perhaps not always foremost, but always at least a splash of color on the periphery.
A love of coffee and doughnuts was one of the things Tonks and I had in common. Our Black relatives would be appalled that the only place we liked to get them from was a Muggle shop up the road. Now that I was confined to the house, takeout was my only option. Tonks always brought a proper assortment of doughnuts: twists with glaze, jelly filled, ones with powdered sugar that gave you a beard, a chocolate one or two. We would sit in the kitchen together after she'd had an all night shift and I'd had an all night bender and sip "hot, so hot!" coffee that scalded us and inhale our doughnuts. After awhile, Remus started to join us. He, of course, showed a preference for the chocolate ones. One morning, after too much Firewhisky and Marauder memories, Remus and I pulled our heads off the kitchen table to see our styrofoam cups of coffee being put in front of us. Perfect. I really needed that strong, black coffee.
But the coffee wasn't black. "Tonks!" I coughed, "what is this shite?" She said something about Mocha Madness, or some such nonsense, but I couldn't be sure she was paying attention to me. She was watching Remus very intently as he started to drink. His sigh of pleasure brought a very satisfied glint to her eyes. Hmm. That would explain a lot. Over the last few weeks, the selection of doughnuts at the shop seemed to have narrowed quite a bit. Most of the doughnuts she brought had chocolate on them. The few times Remus wasn't there, she'd looked really upset. I had thought that she was disappointed that she'd have to eat all of the chocolate ones by herself. Apparently not.
Tonks was easily figured out. Moony? A bit harder. He'd never chosen to be a ladies man at school, though he could have been. I wondered...and then Tonks tripped. As a matter of reflex, Moony caught her and pulled her onto his lap to keep her from hitting the floor. But he didn't let her go. "Thanks for the coffee, Tonks. It was perfect." Ah, that was well done. Husky tone of voice, lingering eye contact, slow grin. Make it clear that the coffee is not what you are really talking about. He learned all of that from watching me, I'm sure.
James Potter and I had always wanted to be Aurors. We used to plan strategies for interrogating a suspect together. He didn't know it, but Remus had been our test subject. He'd always had amazing self control. We used to test him, to look for the signs that would give a clue about whether something bothered him or not. Remus would hide his anger, frustration and hurt for a long time before giving any overt sign. The small signs were hard to catch: a minor crease between his eyebrows, a slight thinning of the lips, slowly exhaling through his nose, etc. I was curious to see if he had changed.
"What kind of a wizard would Tonks go for," I asked one night. Remus looked up quickly, too quickly, and gave some sort of non-commital murmur. "It's my duty as her cousin to help her find some romance. She works too hard and spends her off hours shut away with old codgers like us." Ah, there it was, the nose exhale.
"I have no idea, Sirius. Being an old codger, as you say, I would have no idea what a young, vibrant woman like her would want in a man."
"Foreign. Maybe she needs a man who's foreign. If he's not actually foreign himself, then he should have some exotic job overseas. Like Bill Weasley. Curse breaker, long hair, dragon skin boots, and all that to go with her punk hair." The eyebrow crease.
Remus gave as much of his attention as he could to his book. This conversation was really bothering him! It was more fun than I'd had in a long time. "So, who do you think she belongs with, Remus?"
Silence. Tense shoulders, tight jaw, clenched book. He wouldn't last much longer.
"Do you want to know who I think she belongs with?" I asked.
"Since you asked so nicely, I'll tell you. She needs someone mature, to keep her steady. She needs someone who won't want her to change, but won't mind when she does. She needs someone who needs her. When she loves you, she won't stop, she won't give up. She's a Black, so she's stubborn enough to stay with you when you try to run. You will try to run, of course Remus, but she will not let you get away with it."
And with that, I left. I hope it percolates properly.
I am a creature of habit. Nymphadora would hate to hear me say that, as it contains the word 'creature.' She has put much effort into showing me that I am, indeed, a man. Not since James has someone been so casual about my furry little problem. I've gotten used to rejection when people find out what I am. By the time I was twenty, I'd decided to accept the inevitable and acknowledge that I was not going to get married, was not going to keep a steady job, and that my best years, my Marauder years, were behind me. Not getting involved with anyone was easier than facing rejection when I was found out.
Perhaps it was because Tonks knew what I was from the start that I was able to be so comfortable around her. She liked to flirt, so we flirted. She and Sirius enjoyed evenings of drinking and playing Exploding Snap, and so we drank and played. We were paired on missions. She helped patch me up after a few nasty transformations. I caught her when she tripped. It all became our routine, and I was content with that.
At Christmastime, I was amused to see Sirius hang mistletoe in the oddest places. There was absolutely no method to the madness, as far as I could see. I tried to get some kind of explanation from him, but all I got was a look of disbelief, and odd mutterings like, "daft...repressed...take a chance, honestly...do it for you if you can't do it for yourself..."
By the end of the first evening after the mistletoe was hung, it was obvious that a clever and devious strategy was in place. I'd caught Tonks three times as she'd stumbled, which was not unusual, and each time we'd found ourselves right smack under a ball of mistletoe. Each time, I kissed her dutifully on the cheek. The third time, I could have sworn that she'd started to turn her lips my way.
The fourth time she stumbled, it all happened in slow motion. I registered two critical things: we were alone, and that as she fell, her wide eyes went straight to the ceiling and she actually looked pleased to see yet another bunch of mistletoe. I couldn't just let her hit the floor, so I gallantly caught her and pulled her to me so she wouldn't fall. I don't know how long I stood there with her in my arms, one of her hands on my chest, one wrapped around the back of my neck, but something finally slid into place, and I did what I rarely do—I took a chance. When we finally moved apart some ten minutes later, her contented sigh made me very glad that I had.
Sirius, Remus, Tonks:
Suddenly slamming down his book, Sirius growled, "What are you waiting for, Moony?"
Remus took a deep breath, exhaled slowly through his nose and sat up straight. He was more than ready for this discussion.
Before he could offer any explanation, Sirius started again. "It's not your conscience Moony. It's your fear. You're afraid to commit to her because you're afraid to get hurt. I'll never understand you. She knows what you are—the good and the ugly. She loves you unconditionally. Most people would give their eye teeth for a relationship like that! But you, you'll push her away now just in case later she decides to leave you. Don't you want to be happy?"
"It's not that simple."
"Yes, it is!" Sirius bellowed. "You're just afraid to admit it. You're being a coward Moony!"
They stood there staring at each other and Remus felt how fragile his self control was becoming. What he felt for Sirius at the moment was very much like hate. He was rational enough to keep his wand pocketed and leave the room. On the stairs, he passed Tonks, but he neither acknowledged her nor slowed down. He walked out the front door and paced the street for a few minutes, trying to calm himself down enough to Apparate home. He turned suddenly, burst back into the front door, and stormed up the steps.
"Don't ever call me a coward, Sirius. As well as you think you know me, you still don't understand. You've always treated my lycanthropy as an excuse for having fun, for rule breaking. It's just not that simple. I can't keep a job. I have no money and I never will. I could harm or kill her. She deserves better than that. In ten, twenty, or a hundred years, I will be something she will regret, and she'll not thank you for having helped me placate my conscience and agree to something I know is wrong!"
"Don't talk about me like I'm not here!" shouted Tonks.
Remus turned sharply to face Tonks, his eyes locked on her. Slowly stepping towards her, he pelted her with statements. "You won't be able to keep your job as an Auror if you're coupled with a Dark Creature. People will think you are a fool and I'm a lecherous old man. Even if you don't end up sharing my lycanthropy, you'll be tainted in everyone's eyes because you're my mate." She was startled by the hardness in his voice and started to retreat.
His voice lowered and became husky as she was backed into the wall. "There's always a chance that I could lose control. One day, we could lose and the wolf could win. Do you know what that means?" Brushing her hair aside, he dropped his eyes to her throat and watched her pulse trip and quicken. "That means," he murmured nipping her earlobe, "that one day, I'll mark you. You will be a lycanthrope too. There will be no cure, no escape, no divorce. The damage will be irreparable. You have no idea how badly I will want to do that to you."
He kissed her neck and grazed her skin with his teeth. "Are you absolutely certain you can live with that risk?"
She pushed him back to look straight into his eyes. "Yes, I can."
As he stood there pressed against her, knowing she could be entirely his, body and soul, he felt a thrill from the level of power he could have with her. She would do anything for him because she loved him so completely. He blinked and the intensity faded.
"You overestimate my self control. Maybe I am a coward, because I can't live with that risk." He sighed and walked away.
The most painful moment of my life is this moment, right now: having to walk from the veiled arch that Sirius just fell through to the place where Tonks has fallen. The man who has been like a brother to me is gone again, unrecoverable.
She's injured badly enough that she can't hold her morph. The sight of her brown hair shocks me into motion. For a moment I'm sure she is gone, but then she whimpers and clutches at me. I stroke her cheek, whisper her name, and her hair turns the slightest bit pink. I can breathe again.
I know now that I cannot resist her.