Sirius Black poured himself a cup of coffee, wondering if he could get away with adding a healthy dose of whisky before anyone entered the kitchen. Just as he began rummaging through the cupboard, the kitchen door swung open and he gave it up for a lost cause.
"Tea?" Remus asked hopefully.
"No- coffee," Sirius answered.
"That'll do," Remus said, reaching for a mug. He swallowed the undoubtedly scalding brew with a grimace and Sirius looked at his friend with concern for his well-being. There was nothing magical that could be done about scalded tongues, after all.
"Bad night, Moony?" Sirius asked with all sincerity.
"Not at all," Remus replied, but pulled up a chair and sat down weakly, his eyes wide, his face pale.
Sirius looked at the calendar next to the clock in an automatic gesture.
Quarter moon tonight. So, what else could be wrong?
He patted his friend's shoulder and sat across from him, offering up the paper. The fact that Remus only glanced at it, shaking his head made Sirius even more concerned.
A moment later, Hestia Jones walked through the kitchen door, mumbled a sleepy greeting, poured a cup of coffee, and shuffled back through the door. Sirius looked over at Remus, trying to catch his eye and share a laugh at the uncharacteristic lack of pink in the cheerful witch's cheeks, but Remus was still staring ahead blankly. Sirius stood up and opened the breadbox, thinking that perhaps Remus might respond to an offer of toast.
The door opened again, but not before a thud and a muttered oath preceded the sound of it's opening. Remus' reaction was immediate. He snatched up the paper, tearing it open and allowing it to cover his face.
"Wotcher, Sirius," Tonks said, with only slightly less cheer in her voice than normal.
"Morning, Remus," she said quietly to the shabby slippers that peeked out from underneath the table.
"Good morning, Tonks," was the quiet reply, and Sirius stared at the back of Remus' head in disbelief. Remus was never cool like that, unless he was talking to Snape, and in Sirius' opinion, always seemed to reserve a special warmth in his tone when speaking to Tonks. Not to mention the fact that he usually called her 'Nymphadora,' probably for the sole purpose of getting a reaction out of her. Sirius scratched his head and looked over at Tonks, who was pouring herself a cup of coffee---overpouring herself a cup of coffee, actually, and he noticed that her cheeks were nearly as pink as her hair.
"Bollocks, I spilled it—throw me a towel, won't you, Sirius?" she asked. Sirius, who would normally have tossed the towel so that it landed on her head, walked up next to her, bumping her hips playfully and obliged her by handing her one of his mother's best monogrammed linen napkins. It was one of the few that had not been used (with a great deal of satisfaction) for cleaning the toilets.
"All right then, Coz?" he asked.
"Hung over," she admitted.
Sirius grinned, saying, "Join the club, love."
He reached for the nearly blackened toast, buttering it inexpertly. He handed her a piece and she took a bite without even looking at it. The other piece he placed in front of Remus, who completely ignored it.
Sirius might normally have taken a piece of toast for himself—he was famished, after all, but he was so fascinated by the engrossing scene taking place in front of him that he completely lost both his appetite and his desire for a drink to take the edge off. He sat down across from Remus, where he hoped that he would not only have a good view of his friend, but also a view of his cousin's hunched shoulders,
After a few tense moments, the kitchen door opened again, this time admitting Dedalus Diggle, who responded to Tonks' quiet "Wotcher, Dedalus," with the words, "No need to scream, young lady!" He watched her with narrowed, bleary eyes. He eventually, made his way straight to the coffeepot, pouring a cup and the groaning in appreciation at his first sip. Mumbling, eventually he, too, slipped out of the room.
Sirius looked again at Tonks' shoulders. After a few moments, she seemed to come to sort of a decision, because she not only took a deep breath but straightened her shoulders, pulling them away from her torso until she stood at her full height (which, though not considerable, was a few inches improvement on her normal, slump-shouldered stance.)
"Have a lovely day, gents," she said cheerfully, though not turning around completely to face Remus. Without meeting either of their eyes, she strode to the door.
"See ya, Tonks," Sirius said cheerfully, "Come back any time."
Remus only mumbled something that sounded like, 'Have a nice day…"
The paper in Remus' hands shook slightly as the kitchen door slammed shut. Sirius stared at the newsprint in front of him, unseeing, but speculating madly.
Eventually, 'Bollocks to this,' could be heard from the other side of the door and suddenly it flew open, revealing a blur of pink hair and dark blue Auror's robes.
"Remus, this is stupid!" she said, barreling towards him and snatching the paper out of his hands. Sirius took in his friend's pallor, wanting to laugh at him, but not wanting to offend his dignity, either. Remus actually looked as if he were about to be run over by a pack of hungry Dementors.
"Excuse me?" he asked, and anybody but Sirius wouldn't have doubted his sincerity for an instant.
"This is stupid," she repeated. "Listen, I don't want us to be uncomfortable around each other. So it happened - big deal! Let's just forget about it and act as if nothing is any different."
Her dark eyes pleaded with Moony, and Sirius wondered how long his friend could keep pushing her away. Come to think of it…
"Oh," Remus said in reply, folding his hands in his lap as the crease between his eyes deepened. "As you wish."
Moony, you old wolf! Sirius was sure that his smile stretched from one ear to the other as he looked from his friend to his cousin. Tonks looked on the verge of tears, something that Sirius was sure Remus would be incapable of resisting.
"I'm sorry, Remus," she said. "I know I'm just a great clumsy thing, but it's really incredibly important to me that we keep on being friends. Promise me that I haven't gone and made you so uncomfortable that I've spoilt everything."
"You haven't spoilt anything, Tonks," Remus said heavily. And please don't go beating yourself up. You haven't got anything to be embarrassed about."
"And neither have you," she replied in a tone that dared him to argue.
Remus smiled in reply, his eyes crinkling at the corners and his ears going pink.
Sirius sat there, watching the sparks fly between them, pleased as punch. "And about bloody time, too, I'd say. Moony, I've always said you were thick when it came to girls, but really! It was so obvious that she was into you!"
His grin faltered when he realized that both of them were staring at him, dumbfounded.
"Sirius, have you been drinking already?" asked Tonks.
"No," replied Sirius, feeling just the smallest twinge of guilt. "What are you lot talking about, then?"
"What did you think we were talking about?" Tonks asked, looking at Sirius quizzically.
Remus chuckled. "Your cousin, Tonks, has a tendency to think with his…Well, suffice to say, I am afraid that he is under the impression that we, er, anyway, …woke up together, and that that is why he is so interested in our…" he gave Sirius a stern look, "private conversation. I think I'd better set him straight, hadn't I?"
Tonks cheeks were pink again, and she looked determinably at the floor as Remus began, "It's very simple and quite innocent, really. This morning I must have forgotten to lock the bathroom door…"
"You probably did lock it, actually," mumbled Tonks, who kept her eyes on the ground.
Remus cleared his throat. "In any case – I was toweling off from my shower, and she came into the bathroom."
Sirius laughed out loud. "Got mooned by old Moony, did you coz?"
Remus sighed, "Oh, for Pete's sake, Black, you can do better than that, can't you?"
Tonks interrupted, "Well, it's a really stupid thing to be embarrassed about, anyway. I didn't really see much, to be honest, and it's not like I've never… At any rate, we're all right then, Remus?"
"Of course, Tonks," said Remus gently. "I'll see you later tonight. Guard duty, don't forget."
"I won't," she said, and flashed him a blinding smile.
Remus strode to the door, clutching his coffee mug like a talisman. At the door, however, he stood for a moment, then turned and said, "Oh—and Nymphadora…What you said, just outside the bathroom door—I just wanted to say, er, 'likewise.'"
For a very brief moment, he flashed her a wolfish smile, then disappeared through the doorway.
Sirius tore his eyes away from the still swinging kitchen door and found his cousin slumped on the table, burying her face in her hands.
"He heard me," she moaned.
"What did you say?" asked Sirius eagerly.
"The door was closed…It was just muttering," she protested, looking up at Sirius through her fingers.
Sirius grinned. "Never underestimate old Moony's ears. What did you say?" he asked again.
"I said he had a nice arse," she whispered.
Sirius laughed until tears came out of his eyes. Finally he managed, "You really think so? I always thought it was kind of…well, scrawny."
"Oh, yeah, and yours is so much more muscular…" said Tonks, which only made Sirius laugh harder.
It took a long time for him to compose himself, but the accusatory look in her eyes helped. He took a deep breath and said, "Well, what you said, that's actually - probably - what embarrassed him more than…" He broke off.
"Actually, no. The whole thing must have…he doesn't take his clothes off in public very often."
"Oh, yeah Sirius, thanks for clearing that up…here I always assumed he was such an exhibitionist, didn't I? You know Remus…the party animal."
"Animal yes, party, no--"
"Oh, shut up! You're not helping. You know, I knew he would be a little embarrassed, but I didn't expect the look of…horror when he saw me standing there. I mean, like I tried to say—he hasn't got anything I haven't seen before."
"Yes he has," insisted Sirius.
"What?" asked Tonks.
Sirius gave her a pointed look, saying, "Bite marks. He did it to himself, of course, and since they're cursed wounds…"
"Oh, crap," said Tonks. "I didn't even notice…didn't even consider…"
"Too busy trying to get a look at 'little Moony, eh?"
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Black," snapped Tonks. "I was just—well, half asleep, anyway, and it took a minute to register what I'd done and then another minute to recover myself enough to actually say something and shut the door. And then, of course, I dropped the dressing gown I'd been holding so I couldn't shut the door properly."
"You dropped your dressing gown? What were you wearing, anyway?"
"My pajamas," said Tonks defensively, but her face suddenly reddened.
"Which were…?" nudged Sirius.
"A camisole," said Tonks.
"And nothing else?" asked Sirius.
"Of course!" protested Tonks, but then she muttered, "and knickers. I was a little drunk when I went to bed. And a little bleary this morning and all I could think about was getting into the shower. It seemed like too much trouble to actually put on the dressing gown when my room was just across the hall from the shower."
"And since the only person on your floor is Moony—" supplied Sirius.
"Well, I wasn't even considering him…he's usually up and about by this time. And I was pretty desperate to take a piss, too."
"So what you're saying is that Moony got a bit of an eyeful, too, did he?"
"Guess so," muttered Tonks, her face bright red.
"Well, cheer up—apparently you made a good impression."
"Oh, god—" Tonks' face went back into her hands.
"What's the matter? You do know, don't you—I mean he's absolute rubbish at it—but that was flirting, at least for him, anyway."
"I highly doubt it," Tonks said, looking up. "He was just being polite. Or maybe just honest. Or maybe he was out to make me as embarrassed as he was…but he wasn't flirting, or he didn't mean anything by it. He doesn't think of me that way "
Sirius stared at her incredulously, folding his arms in front of him.
"He's…he's—I'm not really his type," Tonks insisted.
"And what is his type, then?" Sirius asked.
"I don't know—you tell me. All I know is - I'm not it."
"Why would you say that? You're a single, attractive, fun girl. If we weren't related, I would be on you in a heartbeat."
"I wasn't looking for flattery, Sirius."
"It wasn't fla—"
Tonks stopped him. "He just strikes me as…well, let's just say that I m not entirely certain that you're not his type."
"Me?" Sirius howled with laughter. "But I'm not—"
"Oh, I know that…now, anyway. But for a while, I thought that the two of you…"
"No wonder my love life is so pathetic. And here I assumed that it was because I was imprisoned in this house."
"No, Sirius, I don't think anybody else thinks it…and it only took a few conversations with you to convince me otherwise. I just didn't know you all that well at first. And lately…I have a pretty good idea that Remus isn't either. But still—he comes off as sort of well…cold. Actually, that's not right. What's the word I'm looking for? Asexual…aesthetic…noble, maybe. Just …well, past all that."
"Old, in other words," said Sirius, cringing.
"No! Not old!" she protested.
"What d'you mean, then?"
"I don't know what I mean! Just—well, not in my league, anyway."
Sirius sighed. "Oh, cousin, you disappoint me. I always thought of you as ever so insightful. You always know just what to say to get to the bottom of things…just what to do to make someone comfortable or to break the tension, and you don't even see…"
"See what, Sirius?"
"He's mesmerized by you, Tonks. He doesn't quite know what to do about it, but given the chance—"
Tonks shook her head, but Sirius continued, "Trust me. Remus doesn't exactly have a type—well actually, maybe he does. He's attracted to boldness…to spirit, maybe. It's what he looked for in his friends, and when he sees it in a woman, he's done for. Of course, those pretty eyes of yours don't hurt. Not to mention the rest of you--nothing like a young, fit body to make a tired old man yearn."
"He's not old! And he looked pretty damn fit this morning…" Tonks broke off, blushing furiously, and Sirius beamed.
"So you do fancy him."
"I didn't say that!"
"But you do!"
" No, I—"
"I've been watching you two, Tonks. What else is there here to keep me entertained, other than baiting Snivellus? Anyway, coz, you light up when he comes in the room. Not to mention the fact that you are more apt to trip over your own feet trying to pretend that you aren't watching him."
"That's not true!"
"Sure it is. And he fusses with his hair when you're around; which is something that he's always done when he's nervous. Not to mention that he always is the first to volunteer when there's a chance to work with you."
"He volunteers for everything" Tonks tried to point out.
Sirius continued as if she hadn't spoken. "If you drop something - which happens an awful lot around him, by the way – he's there picking it up. If you start to lift something, he's there to help you. He even helps you to finish your sentences."
"No," said Tonks. "We just…happen to agree a lot. Sirius, he's so much smarter than me…"
"Bollocks," Sirius spat out.
She continued without stopping. "And he's so even-tempered…"
"And kind," she added. "And patient, and his sense of humor - it's so subtle and yet so funny – you have to really pay attention to him. And I'm just so stupid and clumsy and gauche…"
Sirius interrupted, "And adorable and brave and strong, and always the first person to say what everyone else is thinking but is too timid or polite to say out loud. Which, by the way - are some of the very words he has used when talking about you to me, Tonks."
"He talks about me?" Tonks asked hopefully.
"Any chance he gets."
"Has he said…"
"No—he wouldn't. And he'd deny it to the moon if I accused him of fancying you. But I know he does. As do you—for him. But he'll never in a million years let you know how he feels."
"He won't?" Tonks asked plaintively.
"He doesn't think he has anything to offer a girl. Why d'you think he's still single?"
"I thought…I thought …Well, I guess I never came up with a satisfactory answer, if he did like girls, except that maybe he'd met a lot of stupid, shallow girls."
"Probably so. He may have gotten worked over pretty badly in the past…in fact I'm pretty sure he has. But I think he may have met a few good ones who let him push them away - who gave up on him."
Tonks looked confused. "Why would he…?"
"He likes to play the martyr sometimes, our Moony. Doesn't think he deserves happiness. He can be a bit thick, clever as he is."
"But…" Tonks broke off shaking her head, maybe at Remus, maybe at his situation, maybe at herself.
"I think maybe he'll need a bit of a push - actually, more of a shove. Are you game, coz?"
Tonks' smile was positively blinding. "Hell, yes, I am!"
As Sirius began to scheme in his mind, he felt his melancholy begin to dissipate along with his desire for an alcoholic beverage. His inner Marauder awoke from a long slumber. "Now you see…the next time you walk in on the shower, don't be in such a hurry to leave…"