"Because he's smart, sexy, clever as hell, and he always makes me laugh," Tonks' voice carelessly rang out from the kitchen.
Remus froze. He'd only been down to use the loo, and after a particularly harrowing transformation, he didn't really feel like talking with anyone, but this was Tonks talking. While he wasn't about to admit it to a soul—not even his own—he was very, very interested in hearing who the subject of her description was. Slowly he backed up from the stairs and peered into the room
Sirius was sitting in a backward-turned chair, his arms slung over the back as he peered at his younger cousin. Tonks was bent over a large pile of parchment, her quill rapidly scrawling across the top page.
Remus felt his heart pound in both his chest and in his head. Who could she possibly be talking about?
"Yeah, but don't you think he's a bit old for you, Tonks?" Sirius persisted, reaching out to take a swig of his butterbeer.
Sweet Merlin. She couldn't, could she?
"You're kidding, right?" Tonks stopped writing to grin at him. "You of all people should know that age is only a number. How many younger women have you dated?"
Remus could practically hear Sirius smirking. "That's different. It's okay for blokes. But looking at the girl? She's usually considered a harpy after your Gringott's account or some flighty tart with a schoolgirl crush. Bonus for the man, really--"
But Sirius was abruptly cut off by a muttered chant and a howl filled the kitchen.
"Really, Sirius, you shouldn't have expected anything else from a flighty tart," Tonks remarked idly, bending back over her paperwork.
Remus could see his old friend's shadow on the wall, doubled over, and when Sirius looked up, Remus could see bubbling boils all over the man's face. Trying to stifle his laughter, he clamped a scarred hand over his mouth, but a muffled snort managed to squeeze through.
"Did you hear something?" Tonks was quickly on her feet, her face a bit pink. She waved her wand at Sirius, whose face shrunk back to its normal size.
His eyes locked with Remus' and the werewolf shook his head vigorously from behind his hand. Sirius, no!
"It's just Remus," Sirius replied nonchalantly. "He's been there the whole time." Smirk.
Remus swallowed hard, preparing himself to be confronted for his rude eavesdropping, but he was surprised to hear Tonks say, "I believe that one, you bloody wanker. Now shut up before I hex you again." With that, she promptly went back to her paperwork.
"Really, Tonks, he's just outside this door," Sirius insisted, grinning maddeningly.
Remus mouthed, "You sodding prick!" shaking his head menacingly, but Sirius knew better. What would the man do, lean on him? He was practically using the door frame for a crutch at the moment, after all.
"Whatever, Sirius. I know he went to Hogwarts after his transformation to talk with Dumbledore. You're really ridiculous, you know that?" Tonks wouldn't even look up at him.
In fact, he had gone to speak with Dumbledore following his transformation, but the meeting had been brief as the Headmaster gave him a "direct order" to get some rest. But just knowing that Tonks had kept track of his whereabouts made his chest tighten even harder.
"You really don't believe me?" Even Remus couldn't miss the challenge in Sirius' voice.
"No," he mouthed again, shaking his head again; but Sirius paid him no heed—as usual.
Tonks finally set her quill down and glared at him, crossing her arms across her Weird Sisters t-shirt. "No, Sirius. I'm not falling for one of your stupid jokes and you're not about to make me feel like an idiot."
"Fine." Sirius paused, glancing over at Remus, and he knew his old schoolmate was about to do something reprehensible. He slowly backed away from the door frame, shaking his head again, but Sirius just shrugged and went on, with the two words Remus had just known he was going to say. "Prove it."
Remus scrambled as best he could for the stairs but even if he had been in his room, he would have heard Tonks shout, "I fancy Remus Lupin!"
That did it. Remus stumbled over the last three steps and fell backwards, tumbling down the squeaky steps and landing square on his chest with a loud, "Oomph!"
Sirius was laughing in the kitchen and another person had since fallen as well; the unmistakable sound of Tonks cursing as she pulled herself up off the floor with the aid of the table. Remus could hear her scrambling to come to his aid and he feebly made an attempt to get up on his own, but all he heard was a bone crack.
Cursing himself, he lay there waiting and was not disappointed with her, "Remus! Are you alright?"
She knelt by his head and despite the burning all over his body, he felt his stomach sweep. "Y-Yes. I believe I've broken my wrist," he managed.
"Oh, Remus," she whispered, and for some reason, this made his stomach dip again. She waved an "episky," over him, and with her eyebrows drawn, and her lips pursed, she was the picture of concentration.
He marveled at how the clumsiest, most cheerful witch on earth healed him so completely, so carefully. He felt his mouth go dry as he watched her lips tilt upwards, pleased with her results, and all he could hear were those lips in his head—I fancy Remus Lupin!
Oh, Merlin. He had to get away from her. Fast. He turned away, attempting to push himself up.
"Need some help?" Her breath seemed very close to his neck, and when he looked up, he saw a pair of turquoise eyes sparkling at him.
He gulped and practically choked on his own oxygen. "I can manage," he finally said.
She stepped back, but as he stood, he stumbled again, and she caught him. "Imagine me, catching you," she murmured. "Usually I'm the one who's falling."
He allowed her to hold onto his arm, and he met her eyes and quietly said, "We all fall sometimes."
Now Tonks appeared to be the one who couldn't breathe properly. She stared at him, and he could almost feel himself being pulled closer toward her, and her face was definitely nearer than it had been a moment before…
"Moony, you alright, mate?" Sirius had recovered from his laughter-induced stupor, and by the look on his face, was feeling quite guilty.
"Quite alright," Remus replied, tearing his eyes from Tonks'. "I'm just heading up for bed. So, goodnight."
"Night," Sirius waved, already heading back to the kitchen, his guilt apparently assuaged.
"Let me walk with you," Tonks suggested, but before Remus could protest, she quickly added, "It's the least I could do, after making you fall down the stairs and all."
Remus almost fell again at her blatant admission, and she put her arm behind him, preventing another plummet to the bottom of the stairs. "Relax, Remus. I heard you flush the toilet. I am an Auror, remember?"
He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "Yes, I suppose that should have occurred to me." And under normal circumstances, it would have.
Fool. He could have kicked himself. Of course she knew he had been listening! It was all a joke. He felt his face grow hot in mortification and he stole a sidelong glance at the pink-haired Auror—only to find her shyly smiling at him.
"Tonks?" he could barely find his voice. Beneath those hooded eyes, she stared at him longingly, and her bottom lip took up permanent residence between her teeth, and suddenly, everything fell into place.
Her constant knowledge of his schedule. Her quiet, "Wotcher," as she brought him hot chocolate following most transformations. The glitter of her eyes when he called her "Nymphadora," when she cursed anyone else who dared. The way she sidled up next to him during each meeting, even if it meant squeezing between him and someone else. The way she always seem to fall around him, just in time for him to catch her…
She did fancy him.
Nymphadora Tonks fancied him back!
"Remus?" Her voice was husky as she looked up into his face. He couldn't feel anything anymore—dizziness simply overwhelmed him and he had no feet, no stomach, absolutely no limbs at all. He knew on some level that he was leaning toward her once again, and there she was, leaning back, and they were so close, maddeningly close, and her breath was on his face and there were those eyes again—those maddening eyes that simply shone at him, inviting him closer…
"Ah…" He swallowed. What in Merlin's name came next? He did the only thing he knew to do.
He stood up, reached out, and shook her hand. She shook herself, as if waking from a deep sleep, and raised an eyebrow at him as he finally said, "Yes. Well."
She smiled at him, siren-like, and inched closer. He took another step back.
"Indeed. Well. Thank you very much, Nymphadora."
Her smile widened.
"I really must be off now." And his door was open and then shut, with him in his room just as quickly as he was outside it.
And so was she.