"Of Cracked Spines and Lost Hearts"

Tonks always trips on the umbrella stand when she enters the building, and he's often had to put down his book mid-sentence to silence the screaming portrait in the hall. The commotion forces him to leave it face-down, cracking the spine in a way that bothers him because it loosens the binding and with books as old as these, the pages can, and will, fall out. Loose pages means lost pages means setbacks in Order work and other annoying things.

Not that helping her, or even seeing her, is annoying. She's cheerful, with her multi-hued hair and her pretty face and it's a pleasure to see someone other than Sirius, that house-elf, or Molly Weasley, especially someone as nice as her. He doesn't say any of these things, though, merely smiles at her like he does everyone else and tries to forget the way her arse looked in those tight jeans before returning to his work.

One day, she doesn't trip but manages to walk up the stairs to the parlor, where he's enjoying a book of his own choosing, one of the trashy novellas that Hermione left here when she went back to school (if it weren't for his own interest in pulp fiction, he'd be more shocked that someone like Hermione read the stuff) . Sirius had read it and said it was shit, and slid it across the table on morning. Now, he finds he's engrossed in the exploits of the heroine and the boy next door ( i as he slid his hand underneath her skirt and she felt... /i ).

He's a bit shocked when she clears her throat before falling into the chair across from him. She raises her eyebrows at his reading material.

"Hermione left it," he says. She smiles and tells him Molly's made dinner and that night, he has a dream where he's the boy next door and he's sliding his hand underneath her skirt – doing a whole lot more, in fact – and when she enters the kitchen yawning, he tries hard not to blush. He takes to reading the book in the privacy of his room before depositing it in the kitchen for Sirius to have back.

Interestingly enough, it's next owner is Tonks. He finds her, legs draped over the arms of an especially-comfortable chair, the next afternoon. She smiles at him over the top of the book and he smiles back, abeit a bit hesitantly because of the absolutely dirty dreams he's had the past few nights. He starts his research again, only to be distrupted by Sirius' shouts and runs down the stairs to find his friend waging war with the house-elf and a particularly ugly dinner plate.

After the armistice, Remus returns to find his book – which had been left, spine cracked and open on the seat of the sofa – closed, the page marked with a coaster. He glances over at Tonks.

"Did you…?" he trails off, and she nods, closing her own book and putting it down.

"Old books are the most likely to fall apart," she says. "You need to 'give them love', like my Gran says. I'm sorry if I –"

"No, no. That's fine," he responds. "Thank you."

"Of course," she says with a smile.

It's not until later that he thinks about the possible connotations of her words, and wonders if she could possibly mean…no. Never. Not at all. Not for him. He turns over onto his side, drawing the covers up and sighs. Not for him.

He stops leaving books open and marks the pages with coasters, hoping she'll see it and say something, but the days grow busier and he doesn't have time to read anymore, let alone talk to her or even see her.

It's for the best, he thinks, letting this infatuation and hope wane. She was right, with her damned words that took on added meaning for him. Like a book, he must not bend in new ways and crack his mind or heart, and lose himself in the process. He's a fool for seeing it that way, but at least he's stopped himself before something stupid happens, like possibily thinking she could see something in him.