A/N: This story is written jointly by me and Mrs Tater,who has posted it at her LJ should you prefer to read it there. Plaudits, brickbats or anything in-between should therefore be distributed evenly, please. It takes place on Wednesday, 11th August 1995, the night before Harry's hearing at the Ministry of Magic, and aims to provide an explanation for the behaviour of Remus and Tonks at breakfast the next day. It's the end of Chapter 6 and start of Chapter 7, OotP, but all you really need to know at this moment in time is that Tonks claims to have been "…Up all night."
Disclaimer: Neither of us is J K Rowling. Not even combined.
Don't Look a Gift Auror in the Mouth
Remus Lupin hated to say no to friends at the best of times. He especially hated to say no to friends and fellow Order members, who didn't usually corner him in the hallway after a meeting and ask favours with faintly embarrassed expressions. But this was lousy timing, being only two days after a transformation which left him craving one of Molly's famous roast dinners, followed by a steaming hot bath, and a decent night's sleep. Preferably one that lasted forty-eight hours or more.
"I wouldn't ask," said Kingsley Shacklebolt, his gold earring glinting as it caught the light from the nearby gas lamp, "it's just that Scrimgeour's insisted I work late tonight without any warning whatsoever. And he's been a bit odd with me recently so the last thing I need is to say I can't do it."
Remus nodded and tried not to lean against one of Grimmauld's damp walls for various health and safety reasons. He was momentarily spared answering by having to move aside for other Order members, who filed past them on their way out. Bill Weasley gave them a slightly curious and cheery grin, Elphias Doge nodded briskly, and Dedalus Diggle shot past, saw them both at the last minute, and managed to neatly hook his violet top hat onto one of the shrivelled house elf heads on the wall as he turned to doff it in acknowledgement. He whipped it off and shook it with revulsion.
Kingsley half-smiled and shifted the large sheaf of parchment he was holding from one arm to another.
"What is that?" Remus, all too conscious that he was avoiding the issue in the vain hope Kingsley would get hit by a passing Memory Charm and instantly forget the entire conversation, thought he might as well be nosey while avoiding things.
"Oh, they've updated one of Mad-Eye's definitive Auror Guides and reprinted it." Kingsley grinned. "'Constant Vigil, Volume One.'"
Remus raised a questioning eyebrow. "Not 'Constant Vigilance?'"
"No, it's an abridged version. My bedtime reading for the next six weeks." Kingsley looked at him, a slight smile still playing round his lips. "Look Remus, I'm sorry I've got to ask, and I know exactly what you're thinking—"
He probably should apologise profusely if Kingsley really did know.
"—but I can't tell you how I was looking forward to this night duty and I'm a bit gutted, to tell you the truth, that I can't do it."
Not only could he sleep on his feet but it was Harry's hearing tomorrow, so he'd have to be up early to wish him well, and try and say something reassuring. And Sirius would probably be in an even worse state, being forced into his least favourite role – the one where he was required to sit, wait and make meaningless small talk while doing so. He'd be on the look out for any distraction going, and it would definitely be a good idea if Remus was the one to find it for him.
The obvious answer was to politely put a stop to this and suggest Arthur, who was always obliging, and therefore frequently put upon whenever favours were needed.
That thought made him feel even guiltier, so instead he said quickly, "You were actually looking forward to a night duty? What is it, guarding some stunning sorceress from the clutches of evil?"
"Not exactly." Kingsley rubbed his neck, before smoothing his hand over his bald head as though picking his words with care. "Emmeline and I were due to spend a night in Thurlestone in Devon, watching to see if a message is delivered to a suspected you-know-who sympathiser. It's only till midnight or so and then we'd get relieved by Mundungus. It's in one of his hidey holes actually, but he says it's a great place to hang out. Totally secluded and overlooking the beach, apparently. He says, and I quote, 'Thurlestone rocks, mate.' What do you think?"
Remus felt like issue dodging again. "Well I presume he's not commenting on its geological layout—"
Kingsley gave him a look.
In spite of himself, Remus grinned. "Do I translate that as he's found it's a quiet little place that doesn't ask too many questions about a sudden influx of cauldrons and suchlike?"
"You do." Kingsley's voice was rich with amusement. "But it does sound a real gem from what he described to me. The place is called Primrose Byre, and he says he got it off some gormless gargoyle who couldn't recognise a gold mine from a gnome hole. Which, apart from demonstrating an unexpected talent for alliteration when he's had a few, makes me think he's somehow got his hands on one of those Muggle barns that they do up and sell for a fortune. So what do you think?"
There was a pause. Remus felt he was missing something somewhere, apart from the fact that Kingsley kept asking him what he thought, and his one unshakeable conviction was how much he wanted to get out of this. It was just proving hard to put into words.
He rubbed his neck to see if it worked for him, but it didn't bring forth much in the way of enlightenment.
"It's a treat to get Devon," he said, uncertainly. "I haven't been there for ages."
"Exactly!" Kingsley's deep voice rose in agreement. "Exactly! It's so hard to get any time alone with anyone you might really like around here. Plus you usually end up down some filthy alleyway as you-know-who's pals don't choose the nicest haunts. And I actually get a duty in Thurlestone – which I flew past once and it is the prettiest little village, all white Muggle houses and a wonderful long beach – and then this happens."
Remus felt his sleep-deprived brain working very hard to catch up.
"You wanted to spend time alone with -" He stopped. Surely not. He'd have noticed.
"You've probably noticed." Kingsley nodded, clearly appreciative of Remus's supposed powers of observation, and unaware that they appeared to be alarmingly on the wane. "Emmeline and I have got quite close these last few weeks."
"You're…erm?" He hesitated over the right choice of word, mainly because he strongly doubted the word had been invented yet, and he certainly wasn't volunteering to discover it.
Kingsley nodded again. "We're…erm." He appeared to be unable to find the right word either, and resorted to the neck rubbing again. It was so unlike his normally confident demeanour that Remus decided to ignore the health risk and lean against the wall. Some support was definitely needed to get his head round the idea of Kingsley and Emmeline coupled as names in the same sentence, let alone coupled as anything else, and the realisation that he'd completely failed to spot anything going on between them.
He didn't think he usually missed much. Unless it was Sirius being innocent and Peter spending twelve years as a rat.
Kingsley cleared his throat, and adopted a philosophical expression which Remus recognised as that of a single wizard of a certain age having a well-oiled late night conversation with Sirius, and reflecting on where he was. At the moment the answer was stood in the gloomiest hallway imaginable, but where was he on his life journey? Was he always fated to take it on his own? Was this whole conversation now going to take the familiar path of becoming a talk about past conquests and humiliations, interspersed with the occasional mention of sport and tasteless jokes, just to remind them that they were two blokes having a late night chat about women?
Kingsley, however, seemed to be attempting a radical interpretation of the usual text. Quidditch wasn't even getting a look in.
"It's early days for us, and frankly hopeless around here trying to find out if we could make a go of things. There's no such thing as privacy." He paused and appeared to shudder slightly. "That damn house elf gets everywhere."
Remus did the thoughtful nodding this time. He could certainly understand and relate to the lack of privacy complaint. It had been driving him mad for weeks now. How was he supposed to know if an intoxicating friendship, which included the jaw-dropping realisation that the young and gorgeous witch involved seemed to be equally interested in him, could be something more? It was well nigh impossible for anything to happen when you lived in a house like a railway station and Sirius – understandably – craved company all the time?
"You don't have to say it," Kingsley gave him an embarrassed grin. "I know she's not my normal type."
Now that was an understatement, even though he wasn't too sure what Kingsley's normal type was. It seemed a fairly safe bet it wasn't Emmeline, though. Remus was glad of the wall's solid, if mouldy, support. But then who was he to talk? He knew only too well what the world would think of his own unrealistic dreams. He hoped the world might be wrong. More importantly, he hoped the person at the centre of those dreams would think the world could hex its thoughts into oblivion, and sweep him along as well with the force of her fervour. But a large degree of empathy for Kingsley still didn't change the fact that another late and wearying night was the last thing he wanted at present.
"I am sorry," he began, smothering a yawn and any residual guilt. He also firmly quashed the part of his brain that insisted on wondering how Kinglsey would react if it was Remus shuffling his feet, not quite meeting his eyes, and admitting to trying to arrange a tête-á-tête in one of Grimmauld's closets.
Apparently while discovering a house elf lurking amongst the coats, broomsticks and dog baskets.
He cleared his throat and hoped his frowning forehead conveyed concern, rather than a boggling mind. By far the biggest boggle was how very much he wanted to be the one confessing. "I'm sure Arthur could go with Emmeline for you and –"
"Emmeline?" Kingsley shook his head, apparently in some surprise at Remus' obtuseness. "No, she's asked a friend to change too. There's another duty lined up at the end of the week and we're going to try and get that one together. Not a patch on Thurlestone, of course, so I'm sure Tonks will agree to change round."
Remus didn't move. "Tonks?" he asked, politely.
"Yeah, Emmeline's talking to her now. She said she was going to grab her after the meeting so I presume that's why they haven't come out of the kitchen yet." Kingsley peered at him, in the gloomy light. "Still, you do look tired, so if you're not up to it I could easily ask Arthur. I thought of you first as it occurred to me you'd like a decent duty for once, but I'm sure he'll do it. I don't think he's left yet either."
Remus took a moment to remember how he longed for that night of sleep. Some peace and time for more reflection as a single wizard of a certain age on the journey of life wouldn't go amiss either. It really was asking for trouble to go out like this. Risky and unprofessional. Even if all they had to do was sit in a secluded and beautiful Devonshire cottage, looking out to sea on a hot summer's evening. There'd be no kids, no Sirius, no Order members butting in, and certainly no damn house elf lurking in closets. There'd be just him and Tonks – with Tonks in full professional Auror mode – on the most straightforward of duties.
He straightened up from the wall and pushed his hair out of his eyes. He really wasn't quite as tired as he'd imagined. It must be the thought of all that sea air.
And the thought of him and Tonks. On their own. Together.
Anything might happen. Like a stroll on that apparently wonderful beach once the duty was done, where certain matters could get…discussed.
"Remus?" Kingsley was looking at him, with some concern. "Hey, I didn't think with the moon having just – don't worry about it, mate. I just thought you don't get many golden opportunities or lucky breaks handed to you, and you'd appreciate it more than most."
Golden opportunities? Lucky breaks? He couldn't have put it better himself. Well he could, but that would be showing off unnecessarily.
"I'll go and grab Arthur before he goes." Kingsley threw a glance over his shoulder, just about to move away. "You should get some sleep. You know the Order always relies on you to hold your end up."
Remus smiled. That was certainly the plan. Never let the Order down.
"Don't bother Arthur," he said. "I'll do it."
Don't Look a Gift Witch in the Mouth, Either.
Nymphadora Tonks hated to say no to friends at the best of times. Especially friends and fellow Order members, who didn't usually corner her in the hallway after a meeting and ask favours with faintly embarrassed expressions. But this was lousy timing, being her first night off after two nights on-call for Scrimgeour, which had left her craving one of Molly's famous dinners – she didn't care what, so long as it was home-cooked instead of bloody takeaway, and she could sit down and eat it leisurely – followed by a steaming hot bath and a decent night's sleep. Ideally one that lasted forty-eight hours or more.
"I would not ask," said Emmeline Vance, her emerald green shawl rustling as she adjusted it around her erect shoulders. "It's just…" She cleared her throat, then went on in more dignified tones, "Frankly, Nymphadora, I quite anticipated my assignment tonight with some degree of…expectation, but now Rufus Scrimgeour has requested Kingsley complete a late shift tonight, and I would prefer to take another one myself."
Tonks nodded, stifling a yawn, thinking that if Kingsley was anything like as overworked as she was, he'd be fighting yawns, too, on a shift with staid Emmeline. Not that Tonks would be any more interesting, tired as she was.
She was momentarily spared answering by one of Hestia Jones' shrill giggles pealing across the kitchen. It startled Tonks, and she dropped the gigantic sheaf of parchment she'd been shifting from arm to arm.
"Come along, Hestia," said Minerva McGonagall, with professor-like authority, motioning firmly for the pink-cheeked witch to mount the stairs in front of her. "I don't think we should be interrupting." She glanced towards Emmeline and Tonks, who had whipped out her wand and Summoned the parchment back at speed, in the vain hope that no one had noticed.
"I saw Kingsley with a similar parchment," Emmeline's sonorous tones redirected Tonks' thoughts. She was slightly distracted with wishing Emmeline would get hit by a passing Memory Charm and instantly forget their entire conversation prior to being interrupted, so that she could avoid the whole saying no thing. "Am I correct to presume it is for Auror eyes only?"
"Oh, they've updated one of Mad-Eye's old Auror Guides. It's my bedtime reading for the next month or so." Tonks thought it was more likely to be her lullaby, especially tonight. Resisting an eye-roll Emmeline would surely find unprofessional, she tried to give a smile that didn't look too sarcastic. "'Constant Vigil, Volume One.'"
Emmeline raised a questioning eyebrow. "Not 'An Auror's Guide to Vigilance Over Constant Relationships?'"
Tonks nearly dropped the parchment again, so off-balance did Emmeline's imperiously uttered joke put her. She did allow herself to let out a small puff of laughter. "No, he's forgotten that chapter in favour of the one entitled, 'Duty First, Social Life – Not On My Watch, Dear.'"
A slight smile playing round her pursed lips, Emmeline cleared her throat and said, "I do apologise for asking, Nymphadora. I know precisely what you must be thinking–"
She probably should be very embarrassed if Emmeline really did know.
"—but I cannot tell you how I was looking forward to this night duty, and I have found it somewhat upsetting, if you will indulge my melodramatics, to have to come to terms with the turn events have taken."
Not only could she sleep on her feet, but it was Harry's hearing tomorrow, and Tonks wanted to drop by Grimmauld Place before work to wish him well, and try and say something reassuring. She'd apologise and suggest Hestia, who was prim and proper like Emmeline, despite her giddy streak, and would be a perfect substitute for tonight's duty.
But, struck by how mean she was being in her current state of exhaustion, Tonks said instead, "You were actually looking forward to night duty? What was it, spying on those gorgeous Centaurs in the Forbidden Forest?"
Oh, God. Had she really just referred to Centaurs as gorgeous? In front of Emmeline?
At least Tonks didn't have to worry about fatigue sounding like a flimsy excuse for not swapping shifts.
"Not exactly." Instead of looking appalled at the smutty young Auror, Emmeline's lips seemed to form a hesitant smile, which was so unlike her normal regal expression that Tonks stared at her. "Kingsley and I were due to spend a night in Devon, where a message shall be delivered to a you-know-who sympathiser. At midnight we are to be relieved by Mundungus." The fine lines around her lips became a little more pronounced. "Our vantage point is one of Mundungus' haunts, as a matter of fact, but he assures me it is quite a picturesque locale, with the appropriate ambiance. Private and overlooking the shore. What is your opinion on that?"
Tonks felt no real compulsion to keep to the point. "Well, I assume picturesque locale and appropriate ambiance are a paraphrase?"
Emmeline gave her a look.
In spite of herself, Tonks grinned. "I take it Dung needed this privateplace to hide his stash of stolen goods from Aurors who aren't part of the Order of the Phoenix?"
"Indeed." Emmeline's voice was thick with exasperation. "But reading between the lines, the place does sound a really lovely weekend getaway for the discerning traveller. Full of character and rustic charm. It's called Primrose Byre, and I think – and Kingsley agrees – that he has somehow acquired one of those Muggle barns that they renovate to a high standard and sell for a substantial profit. What is your opinion on that?"
There was another pause. Tonks felt she was missing something somewhere, apart from the fact that Emmeline kept asking her opinion on things she'd no particular thoughts on either way.
"Devon's a treat," Tonks said, uncertainly. "I never get good assignments like that."
"Precisely." Emmeline's stately alto rose in agreement. "Precisely. As you know, Order Headquarters is hardly the place for becoming better acquainted with anyone you should wish to know on more…intimate…terms. And it seems as though you-know-who stipulates that his followers skulk in filthy alleyways and derelict buildings. It is unfortunately typical that I should have to trade away an assignment in Thurlestone – it is the quaintest village, with white Muggle cottages, and the loveliest beach."
Tonks' sleep-deprived brain worked very hard to catch up.
"You fancy -" She stopped. No. She'd have cottoned on.
"Surely you have noticed." Emmeline's cheeks flushed becomingly as she inclined her head towards Tonks. In hushed tones, she said, "A…rapport…has blossomed between Kingsley and me these last few weeks."
"You're…erm?" Tonks hesitated over the right choice of word, mainly because she strongly doubted there was such a word.
Emmeline nodded, once. "We are…erm." She appeared to be unable to find the right word either, and her colour deepened. It was so unlike her normally poised demeanour, that Tonks found herself clutching her sheaf of parchment as though it were some kind of life preserver in the midst of a sea of social awkwardness. Support was definitely needed to get her head round the idea of Kingsley and Emmeline partnered in more than a professional way, and the realisation that she'd completely failed to spot anything going on between them.
She didn't think she usually missed much. It was Stealth and Tracking she'd almost failed in Auror training, not Observing Unusual Romantic Inclinations In Colleagues.
The green taffeta rustled as Emmeline smoothed her shawl. "Romance is only just blossoming, and Grimmauld is simply not conducive to discovering whether anything can really bloom between us. The conditions are not right. For one thing, there is no such thing as privacy."
Tonks nodded. For weeks she'd feared she'd go nuts like the rest of her family, for slightly different reasons. How were you supposed to know if an amazing friendship, with lots of recent flirting, and the added bonus that she fancied the boxers off him – did he wear boxers? – could be anything more when the only time you saw each other was at Order meetings? Even though Tonks loitered about Grimmauld as often as she could, Sirius was generally about, not to mention all the kids …
"I know what you must be thinking." Emmeline's tight, self-conscious smile returned. "Kingsley and I are the most unlikely couple."
No. Snape and Sirius were more unlikely. Though Emmeline and Kingsley were certainly close behind. Mother of Merlin, how did a middle-aged witch who wore a shawl pull a hot bloke like Kingsley? At this rate, Snape wasmore likely to get a date before Tonks would.
And she washed her hair.
Battling another yawn, Tonks shook herself. She was getting really morose here. Definitely way past bedtime. For reasons she didn't particularly want to analyse, the news of this unlikely romance simultaneously pleased and depressed her. Why was she having this conversation, anyway? She'd known straight away she was too tired to swap duty. If she'd told Emmeline, she wouldn't have been reminded of how pathetic her love life currently was, and seemingly always destined to be.
"Look," Tonks began, "I'm sure Hestia could go with Kingsley for you, and—"
"Kingsley?" Emmeline's brows knit as she shook her head. "No, he's asked a friend to change with him, too. We shall volunteer for another duty together." She sighed. "It will be an alley… But I'm sure Remus will agree to alter his arrangements."
Tonks' face felt rather like it had at puberty, when it had undergone frequent involuntary morphs. "Remus?"
"Yes. I saw Kingsley take him aside as they went upstairs." Emmeline peered at her, in the gloomy light. "Still, you do look tired, dear, so if you are not fit for it, I could easily ask Hestia. I thought of you first as you and Remus did so much of the planning for the Advance Guard and seemed to work so well together, but I am certain Hestia will do it. I think I hear her laughing upstairs."
As another yawn tempted her with thoughts of her cosy bed, Tonks took a moment to remember how she longed for that night of sleep. Though she and Remus did work well together, she'd thought so on more than one occasion, and it was good to know their colleagues thought so too. Molly had said as much to her only the other week, and she'd been secretly thrilled that it was so apparent.
But it really was asking for trouble to go out like this. Risky. Unprofessional. Even if all they had to do was sit in a secluded Devon cottage looking out to sea on a hot summer's evening. There'd be no Sirius, no kids, and no Order members butting in.
There would be just her and Remus -- and Remus in top form, pulling off complicated spells with that casual flick of the wand that never failed to impress -- on the most straightforward of duties.
She stifled another yawn and tucked her parchment under her arm. She really wasn't quite as tired as she'd imagined. It must be the thought of all that sea air.
And the thought of her and Remus. On their own. Together.
Anything might happen. Like a moonlight stroll on that apparently romantic beach once they were off duty, where certain matters could get…talked about.
"Tonks?" Emmeline was looking at her, with some concern. "It was thoughtless of me to impose – Scrimgeour has been keeping you extra hours, too, hasn't he? Please, do not trouble yourself, dear. I just thought you don't get too many advantageous and fulfilling opportunities handed to you, and you would appreciate it more than most."
An advantageous opportunity? Fulfilling? Tonks couldn't have put it better herself. Though she could have put it a lot shorter.
"I shall go and catch Hestia before she leaves." Emmeline clutched her shawl and moved toward the stairs. "Do have a pleasant and invigorating evening, Nymphadora."
Tonks smiled. That was definitely the plan. Why, she felt positively vigorous already.
"Don't bother Hestia," she said. "I'll do it."
A/N: Thurlestone Village, Devon, does exist and its prettiness is not exaggerated. Please don't go looking for Primrose Byre though, as you need the appropriate password, and Mundungus is very nervous about strangers just turning up on his doorstep… But if you review, Remus might just work it out to take you on a guided tour. And you'll have your choice of well-prepared Remus, who finds out the password in advance, or show-off Remus, who prefers to figure it out for himself with those well known powers of observation. Or, if you fancy a girly chat instead, Tonks is available to talk about those sexy Centaurs …