Disclaimer: J. K.Rowling is the creator of these characters, and all credit goes to her. I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
Warnings: Strong language
Main characters: Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Bill Weasley
Summary: How can Sirius coax Remus out of a foul mood? A bottle of Firewhiskey and stories of Tonks seem like a good place to start...
Tonks followed Molly out of the kitchen, unaware that two pairs of eyes followed her departure from the room. Sirius immediately swung his gaze back to Remus, the unspoken question in his eyes of their whereabouts that day so badly hidden that Remus gave his head a small shake.
"Shut up, Sirius. For the love of all that's holy, just shut up now."
"I dunno, mate, seems like you took piss-poor care of my cousin. Don't you think that warrants some questions?"
The other Order members were trickling out of the kitchen, waving tired goodbyes as they headed to their respective homes. Bill stood up and Sirius, flashing a sudden and alarming grin, jumped up to intercept the red-haired curse-breaker on his way out.
Clapping a shoulder, he announced, "Bill, you and I have a mission tonight."
The eldest Weasley son started at the contact and turned to the older man. "What?" he stared blankly.
"Remus here is a bit despondent that Tonks got knocked about on his watch and needs a bit of cheering up. Stay for a drink? I think you're just the man we need for this job."
Bill allowed himself to be steered to the kitchen table and pushed into a chair, still looking confused.
Remus remained in the same seat he'd occupied during the Order meeting, glaring at Sirius.
Sirius himself began to innocently whistle a tune as he gathered glasses and a full bottle of firewhiskey before plonking down into a chair across from Bill. "Come on, Lupin, come over here and take your medicine like a good boy." He uncorked the bottle, poured out three generous glassfuls of the steaming liquor and leaned back in his chair.
Lips pinched together as if holding back a wave of angry words, Remus sat a moment before standing abruptly and walking over to the table. He grabbed a glass, taking a large swig before throwing himself down in to the chair at the end of the table between the other two men. "Sirius, you're the most complete bastard I've ever known, and if you weren't my friend of many years I'd be telling you to fuck off by this point."
Bill stared in surprise, looking from one man to the other. "You guys care to explain just what the hell is going on here?"
Even Sirius looked a bit shocked, his eyebrows raised as the usually polite-spoken Remus drained his glass of Firewhiskey and poured himself another. "Whoa, mate, take it easy! That attack got to you more than I thought it did. You alright?"
"Fine," Remus replied hoarsely, taking another large swallow.
Sirius moved the bottle further down the table. "Yeah, well, drinking oneself into oblivion is my job, not yours, so slow down there. You're the sensible one, remember? This'll do you in next full moon – it's not that far off."
"Go to hell, Sirius. I'm a grown man, I can handle myself."
"Just not when my cousin is around."
Remus' head shot up like a whipcrack. His eyes wore a haunted look that the whiskey hadn't quite been able to drown out. "How would you have reacted, then? She had to fight off four Death Eaters by herself because I wasn't there! I couldn't even find her at first, and then when I did and finally got her Disillusioned, she was unconscious, her leg was broken and she had bloody nails sticking out of her side!"
Sirius threw an uneasy glance at Bill. Remus was obviously distraught and on the verge of letting slip far more than he intended.
Bill, the tiniest glimmer of understanding dawning in his eyes, jerked his head back to Sirius as he was lightly punched on the shoulder.
"Eh, this softie here has never been able to handle a woman getting hurt in battle, which is why I wanted you here. If his mind is currently filled with the horrors of Tonks being run down by Death Eaters," Remus flinched slightly, "then we need to replace those images with others equally horrific but at least more amusing, right?"
Bill, having just decided that the other two were either privy to more information or simply insane, resigned himself to a state of bewilderment for the rest of the evening. "Uh, sure? What, am I supposed to tell him some bad jokes? Because, really, you'd need Percy here for jokes that awful, you know."
"No, no, I was thinking more along the lines of stories. You were at Hogwarts when Tonks was there, right?"
"Yeah, that's right." Bill decided that perhaps more whiskey would lend some understanding to this bewildering conversation, or at the very least render him insensible to the fact that he felt very much as if he'd been Confunded. The rest of his Firewhiskey was downed in a swift gulp and Sirius obligingly poured him another.
"So, I bet you've got some stories to tell about trouble she got into while she was there. I mean, that Quidditch match can't have been the only thing."
"Oh, hell no! She was in trouble all the time." Bill grinned as he finally caught something of what Sirius was hunting for. "I mean, I didn't know her really well, but as a prefect I caught her a few times when she was up to something, and I certainly heard a bit about her from the other prefects. There was the brief time we were both on the Quidditch team. And she was a favourite of Charlie's – he loved to come home with stories of the trouble she made. So, yeah, I remember a fair bit. She rivaled Peeves in her ability to create absolute pandemonium. The coats of armor in the castle were never the same after she left, I swear." He gave a sudden laugh as a memory surfaced. "You know one time she even managed to clear the entire Great Hall during dinner? Now that was a good prank. I personally have never seen McGonagall so angry at a student. I mean, I wasn't there when Fred and George reigned at Hogwarts, so that's not saying much, but it was pretty damned impressive at the time."
A frowning Remus held his glass in one hand, swirling the amber liquid around and resolutely staring at the contents, but Sirius knew from long experience that his friend was listening to every word. He permitted himself a grin at his own genius and tipped his chair back against the wall. "Alright, so get on with it…" he prodded as he put a booted foot up on the table.
"This was during my sixth year, so it would have been her..ah, fourth, I think. The whole thing started as a prank on the Slytherins by the Gryffindor Quidditch team - this was before she got sacked, obviously – and the idea was to set the Slytherins' food on fire in the kitchens right before it was transferred up to the Great Hall. Totally unsafe, I know, but their team had just jinxed all our brooms and we were pissed as hell, so, well, it got out of hand. Tonks got the job of sneaking into the kitchens-"
"You guys knew how to do that?" Sirius interrupted.
"Somebody from Ravenclaw showed a mate of mine in our third year, yeah…" Bill grinned. "Fred and George were pretty upset when they found out Charlie and I had known that whole time and never told them. So, anyway, since she could pretend to be one of the teachers and was a good hand at charms as well, Tonks was picked to do it. Daft choice, looking back now. She had to add drops from a little vial of dragonlily essence to all the main dishes – it's not poisonous, but it burns really well, even after you add it to stuff, apparently. Then she needed to wait until it was dished up and cast a little sparking charm on the Slytherins' food right before it was sent upstairs. Well, you know Tonks…she did the getting into the kitchen and adding the essence part well enough, though how she managed to fool all those house elves is beyond me-"
Sirius cast a surreptitious smirk at Remus. "She always was quite the charmer."
Remus took another mouthful of his firewhiskey and took the opportunity to glare daggers at his tormentor over the rim of the glass.
"Yeah, but she's clumsy as a blindfolded troll on stilts," Bill laughed.
Remus choked on his drink and quickly put the glass down.
Sirius pounded him on the back a few times before having his arm irritably swatted away. "Well, even blindfolded trolls have a certain charm."
Remus pulled out his wand and flicked it toward the bottle of Firewhiskey, deftly snatching it away from Sirius' lunging grab as it slid down the table, and poured out another liberal measure. "Sirius," he spoke through clenched teeth, "either let the man tell his story or let me go to bed."
"Are you sure you can even hear him tell the story? Your ears might be blocked at this point by that pole you've got shoved so far up your a-"
"Aaas I was saying," Bill cut in hurriedly, noting the unusually dangerous glint in Remus' eyes and trying to haul the conversation back to safer ground, "she did all right until the bit involving the sparking charm. The way I heard it later, she tripped on her robes just as she cast it and the spell went off in the wrong direction. It hit a cauldron hanging from the ceiling and the sparks went everywhere; every single table had at least a few dishes that were set aflame. I was at the Gryffindor table, of course, and we were watching the Slytherins so intently that none of us noticed right away that all the tables had little blazes on them, even the head table. Everyone started yelling and students started running out of the Hall, a small army of house elves apparated around the head table, squeaking that the kitchen was on fire, the staff was trying to figure out how to put everything out." Bill was fighting back laughter in order to give the rest of the account. "We hadn't known that dragonlily essence is stored in a concentrated form – it was resistant to spells at that strength. I think they ended up having to contain everything and just let it burn itself out in the end."
Sirius was by this time roaring with laughter, and even the corners of Remus' lips were twitching. "Brilliant!" Sirius choked out. "Why didn't we ever do that? So, what happened to her?"
Bill had tears streaming down his face as he tried to keep up his narration. "Well, of course the house elves told Dumbledore that the only one who had been there in the kitchens besides themselves was Professor Newcastle, the old arithmancy teacher. Well, since he was at dinner and Tonks wasn't, they pretty much knew it was her. She had a rough time of it – Gryffindor got docked seventy points and all four Houses got nothing but bread and cheese for dinner that night, so all the students were hungry and knew who to blame for it. The house elves were hysterical and Dumbledore made them all take calming draughts and go to bed. Tonks managed in one fell swoop to tick off pretty much the entire school." He paused to wipe his eyes. "Ah, poor Tonks. McGonagall made her work in the kitchen that night and the next morning cleaning dishes since the house elves weren't able to do it. She got a lot of flack for the whole stunt, but at least the Slytherin seeker got his hands burned when a dish got knocked over and had to stay in the infirmary over the weekend, so they lost their next match." He didn't really look all that sorry for either Tonks or the Slytherin seeker as he finished.
"I suppose the rest of you let her take the fall?" Sirius surveyed Bill's grinning face with a shrewd eye.
"Erm…well, yeah, we did," he ruefully admitted, chuckling. "I mean, you should have seen McGonagall! Even the house elves were mad! And I'm pretty sure that Snape had to be ordered not to kill her – apparently the dragonlily essence we stole was rare…and expensive."
"Hoo…" Sirius let out a sigh and wiped his own eyes before reaching out to grab the firewhiskey for a refill, pointedly ignoring the empty glass that Remus held out. He kept a firm grip on the bottle. "So, what else did my lovely cousin manage to do while she was there?"
"Oh, lord, take your pick." Bill held out a hand and started ticking on his fingers as he listed items one by one. "Let's see…she had a smart mouth, well, still does really, so she was always getting detention, especially from Snape; she's one of the only people I've ever heard of that Sprout banned from the greenhouses after she killed off half the screechsap seedlings they'd been working on in a single afternoon; she made Honeydukes close down one day during a Hogsmeade weekend after she knocked over a big Christmas display and basically caused a chain reaction in the store - almost everything in the store came crashing down; she nearly flooded the Charms classroom when they were learning to cast the Aguamenti spell and she knocked Flitwick out cold just after he cast it – she had just chucked a big spellbook at some boy and it clocked old Filius right in the temple."
"That's mostly stuff she did just by tripping over herself. I know she's been called a mischief-maker, though…what did she do? Come on, you've barely made this old man crack a smile." Sirius poked Remus in the shoulder.
"Well, she used to pretend to be the teachers all the time – she got her friends out of detention more than once that way. Of course, it just landed her in detention every time she got caught. Filch hated her – whenever Mrs. Norris caught her at something she'd just morph to look like him, but he could never catch her at it. She was always finding out the passwords to the other House's common rooms, and then her friends could sneak in and set off dungbombs and stuff like that. I think she tried that, too, but really, if she's bad at sneaking now, just imagine what she was like before the Auror training." Bill laughed. "I did catch her myself once trying to smuggle chocolates into Slytherin."
"Chocolates?" Sirius asked, looking mystified.
"They were laced with love potion - anybody who ate one would fall for Professor Binns. I was going to let her get away with that one, but somebody came round the corner and I had to tell her off."
A quiet snort erupted from the end of the table, but when Bill and Sirius looked over, Remus was staring at the ceiling.
Sirius grinned. "She would have made one hell of a Marauder. Maybe we could bestow an honourary title. Well, you're making progress. At least the patient is making noises over there. What else have you got?"
Bill was warming to the task now and eagerly continued. "Tonks would take almost any dare. She's always been a Gryffindor through and through - not much she wouldn't go for. I could never really tell if Dumbledore and McGonagall were more proud or pissed with her. Look at the way she is these days – not much different, only now she's more dangerous. Like, once, somebody dared her to sneak into Filch's office and put a permanent sticking charm on the seat of his chair…" Bill had to pause as he started laughing.
"So what happened?"
Both Bill and Sirius jumped as Remus unexpectedly spoke up, curiosity overcoming his stubborn refusal to give Sirius the satisfaction of knowing that he was interested in any of these stories.
"Ah, she tripped and part of her robes got stuck to the chair. She thought she heard Filch coming, panicked and just crawled out of the robes altogether and bolted back to the Common Room. We got quite the eyeful of Tonks that evening…she was furious. None of the guys there could stop staring until she went up to the girls' dorm."
Remus scowled at the slightly dreamy smile on Bill's face at the memory. "Oh, come on," he snapped, "she must have been wearing something underneath!"
Sirius once again found the firewhiskey bottle snatched from his hands and watched in amusement as Remus emptied the dregs into his glass and swigged most of it down in a gulp.
"Oh, she was – enough to keep her somewhat decent, anyway. Let's just say she had a lot more guys interested in her after that."
A decidedly wicked gleam shone in Sirius' eyes as he leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. "Really? And did she like all that attention?" He slyly flicked a glance at Remus, whose face was growing red.
"She was pretty wild at times, I guess. I mean, not like she was a tart or anything…but she liked to have her fun."
"Well," Sirius injected a disapproving older-brother tone into his voice as he tried to steer the conversation in the direction that would most get under his friend's skin, "it's good to hear she wasn't making out with every male she could haul into the broom closets or anything."
Remus narrowed his eyes in suspicion at the sudden change in demeanor and kicked Sirius under the table.
Sirius ignored him.
"Well…no, not exactly. Not every guy." Noticeably uncomfortable, Bill looked down at the table, but Sirius immediately cottoned on to the fact that he was keeping his answer deliberately vague.
"Well, well, Mr. Weasley, it seems you know something about my cousin that you don't want to share. Come on, she's a grown woman, it's not like you're going to hurt her reputation now. Spill it!"
"Yes, well, it's not really her reputation I'm worried about," Bill chuckled. "Alright. Well, when she got a little older, sometimes her friends would dare her to metamorph into one of the sixth or seventh year girls and lure the available guys into closets and classrooms, snog them properly and then stand back to view the resulting chaos. She was an evil little witch sometimes."
"Wait – so, she'd pose as someone else, snog to her heart's content any guy she wanted and then someone else would take the fall?" Sirius sat back in awe. "She was a bloody genius. What I could have done with that ability..."
With a face growing redder by the moment, Remus almost growled out the words, "Yes, well, seeing as you managed to get almost every girl in the school all on your own, you didn't really need it now, did you?"
"Aww, what's the matter? Jealous?"
His face deepening several shades at the double entendre, Remus downed the rest of his Firewhiskey and said nothing. The drink, while making his vision slightly fuzzy around the edges, had done nothing to dull the roil of emotions in his stomach and he felt it better to keep his mouth shut, wishing the others would do the same.
Keeping his eyes on Remus, Sirius grinned and asked Bill, "So, who do we know that's had the pleasure of being carried off by our enterprising metamorph?"
The younger man cleared his throat awkwardly and admitted, "Well, me for one."
Both Remus and Sirius whipped their heads around to look at the now sheepishly grinning Bill.
Sirius looked as if he had just won the high stakes at a Quidditch match. "You sly dog! That's brilliant! Remus, isn't that brilliant?" The look he turned on this poor unfortunate was so full of unholy glee that Remus had to struggle against the temptation to hex the other man into the next county.
Bill continued, as oblivious as Sirius to the silent conflict occurring at the end of the table. "Yeah, she posed as this girl I had a crush on…that would have been my seventh year. I bet Charlie put her up to it – he would have thought that was pretty funny, especially since he didn't like the girl. Thought she was a prat. Anyway, Tonks trapped me in a classroom on a break and well…I wasn't really averse to a little snogging. She was amazingly good, considering she was only a fifth year - did a thorough job of it."
Sirius, his face looking almost beautific, leaned his elbows on the table and watched as Remus closed his eyes for a moment, as if sending up a silent prayer to get through the conversation without throttling either of his drinking companions. "So, did she date anyone? Given the disasters that seemed to follow wherever she went, I find it in me to pity the poor Hogwarts student who decided to take up with her."
Even with his mind hazy from the liquor, Bill was marginally aware that this was an odd question for Sirius to be asking. Hoping it would all make sense when he sobered up tomorrow, he just shrugged. "Well, I don't know – she never seemed to really fall for anyone, unless you can count the crush she had on this one teacher…Charlie told us about that…totally hilarious. It was their DADA professor. Apparently she even fell into his desk one day and broke a table full of sneakoscopes or something like that. My brother teased her about it for years."
"A crush on the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? I'm shocked – you'd think she'd have better taste than that, really."
Remus looked as if he'd like to bite the table.
"Most of the girls that year had a thing for him. Well, like I said before, Tonks loved to have a good time, but she really wasn't one to go in for romantic stuff, you know? Charlie said at one point that he felt sorry for the guy she really fell in love with, since she was like a bulldog when it came to holding on to what she wanted. The poor bloke'd never get free of her." Bill laughed at the mental image of Tonks as a bulldog, chasing after a man with a terrified face. A howl of laughter made him look up to find Sirius struggling to stay upright in his chair. Bill couldn't imagine what he'd said to elicit such a response – it occurred to him that Sirius had reacted strangely to almost everything he'd said tonight. He turned to Remus, hoping to get a normal response out of one of them that night.
The other man was gazing at him thoughtfully, the angry glitter in his eyes slowly fading. "Yes, I've noticed that about her. Not a bad quality, necessarily."
Sirius whooped even more, now in real danger of falling off his chair altogether.
Bill was seriously beginning to wonder what the hell was in that Firewhiskey. Neither of these two was making any sense. Sirius, who generally walked around like a thundercloud was laughing uproariously at everything, even if it wasn't remotely funny, and Remus, who was usually the embodiment of calm and enjoyed a good story as much as the next man was now drinking like Mundungus, and had been in what seemed like a towering rage almost since he sat down. Perhaps it was time to go home.
Standing up, Bill passed a hand over his face. "Well, I'm off. See you two next meeting." He weakly waved a hand. "Thanks for the drinks, Sirius and Remus, glad to know you and Tonks made it away from those bastards tonight. It was fun going over those memories with you two, although Sirius, mate, you might want to check on that Firewhiskey. Really, I think it's gone off, if that's possible."
That set Sirius off into fresh gales of laughter, and Bill gave up. Shaking his head as he walked out the kitchen door, he almost immediately ran into his mother.
"Bill, what in the world are you still doing here? And what's all that noise in there? Poor Tonks need some rest, and she's never going to get it with all that going on." Molly's eyes narrowed at her oldest son, who edged away from her as subtly as possible. "Has Sirius been drinking again?"
"Um, no, not too much, mum. I was just telling him and Remus some stories about Tonks at school and Sirius lost it. I'm sure he'll quiet down in a bit." Reading the dangerous look in his mother's eye, he tried to ward her off before she went and put a flea in Sirius' ear. "So, how's Tonks? All tucked in?"
She sighed. "Well, she's still got some wounds to deal with, but Remus took her to St. Mungo's in time and I think she'll be fine. Really, I've rarely seen him so pale and shaken as when I walked into that hospital room – you'd think he was the one who'd been injured. Poor man, I haven't seen him look like that since James and Lily died."
"Sirius said that he couldn't stand to see women hurt," Bill offered.
"I suppose that may be true enough. It's hard for us all to see our friends in danger. I swear, that man is STILL making a racket! You'd better get home to bed, dear." She gave her son a kiss on the cheek before turning with grim determination to march into the kitchen.
Bill grinned as he heard her explode at the sight of the empty bottle of firewhiskey on the table. As he headed for the front door, he mused over what his mother had let slip about Remus in the hospital. Something tugged at his mind – he was sure there was a link between the strange behaviour of the two older men and what had happened to Tonks. It seemed like something clicked for a moment…Tonks, Sirius' teasing, Remus' anger. Ah, he was too tired now to figure out any puzzles. Some other time.
Molly finally left the kitchen, having read them both the riot act over getting drunk with her son. Remus sat there with a bemused expression on his face, calm once again but feeling decidedly the worse for the heavy drinking. He'd been fervently hoping that Molly wouldn't insist on him getting up; his legs weren't responding well to commands just now. Sirius, despite having Molly hiss at him to be quiet for the last ten minutes, had continued to laugh, his chuckles interrupted every so often by the word 'bulldog', much to her annoyance. She had thrown up both hands in defeat and taken herself back upstairs to check on Tonks and go to bed.
"You're not going to give us any peace about this, are you?" Remus asked, sounding tired but resigned.
"There's no way in hell, Moony, and I should know, since we're there already in this damned house. I've got a werewolf and a bulldog under my roof and I'm going to play this for all it's worth."
"Look, tease me all you like, but leave her out of it. Don't make this any harder."
"She's a tough bird, mate, she can handle it. Besides, if Charlie's right, it's too late for her to be scared off anyway." Chuckling again, he pushed back his chair and looked at the other man in amusement.
Remus lapsed back into thought for a moment. For some odd reason, that part of Bill's story had soothed away most of his anger and frustration. He liked to think that Tonks would hold tight to the man she decided on. "Look, you, stop your giggling and help me up the stairs before Molly comes back down and finds out which one of us really drank all the whiskey." He rose on very unsteady legs and grabbed the table for support.
Sirius snorted in laughter as he draped Remus' arm about his shoulders and started walking him out of the kitchen. "Well, I'd say it's been an enlightening evening all around, hasn't it, Moony?"
"Shut up, Padfoot."
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