This story is the sequel to Of Mischief and Responsibility. Pre-reading isn't necessary, but this fic picks up not long after the last left off, and does give a bit of background. Very many thanks to MrsTater, for her superb beta work.
No Time For Ducking, Chapter 1
"I am sorry about that," said Remus over his shoulder as he walked down the front steps of Grimmauld Place, his old summer jacket swinging loosely from one hand.
Tonks, who had just finished fumbling with the door handle, turned and replied, "You don't need to apologise for Sirius. He's a git, he can't help it. At least he was just subtle enough that the kids didn't cotton on. Although Molly sent me a few questioning glances."She bounded down the steps, almost losing her balance, but managing to grab Remus' arm and plant a kiss on the end of his nose. "Now, come on, where you are you going to take me for this walk?"
"How about a romantic evening stroll along the Serpentine?" he asked, leading her to the dingy alley a few houses down from Number Twelve. Once they were safely away from any prying eyes, he slipped his arms around her, locking his hands at the small of her back.
She wound her arms around his neck. "Mmm, sounds perfect to me," Tonks replied in a low voice as she leaned up for a kiss.
"Hold on tight then," he murmured against her lips, before turning them both, leaving Grimmauld Place empty but for the reverberating crack of their Disapparition.
The contraction of Apparition served only to push their bodies closer together. Remus couldn't help but be keenly aware of every one of her curves pressed up against him. The heady rush of her lips moving against his intensified as they arrived at their destination.
Kissing whilst Apparating wasn't something that Remus could say he'd experienced before, but he found that it was something he really wouldn't mind trying again.
Tonks didn't seem particularly keen for the kiss to end, which was fortunate, since Remus found himself completely and utterly lost in the sensation of her lips and tongue moving in time with his. Her body, small and supple, so close to his, spurring him on as his hands roamed up and down her back.
The shriek of a child's laughter pieced the air, and Remus realised that if they were going to have any degree of success in taking an evening walk, they were going to have to stop their kiss very, very soon. After a few gentle kisses, and then a few more, Remus pulled away. He noted a glazed, dreamy expression in her eyes -- which was no doubt mirrored in his own eyes -- and marvelled once again that he had been the one to put it there.
After taking a moment to catch her breath, Tonks glanced around the small clearing they stood in, surrounded by low trees and holly bushes. "Where are we exactly?"
"Not far from West Carriage Drive. No one would ever come back here, so it's safe to Apparate."He reluctantly released her from the circle of his arms, but caught hold of her hand. "Come on, this way," he said, pulling her gently to lead her through the shrubbery.
Remus stepped over the fence himself and then turned to help Tonks. He watched as she stepped onto the bottom rung of the fence, steadying herself with one hand on the post and the other firmly gripping his own hand. She stumbled over the fence, but lost her balance only slightly as her feet hit the ground.
"This way?" she asked, pointing towards a gentle slope.
"Indeed," said Remus, threading his fingers through hers as they set off towards the lake.
Mid-evening sunbeams streamed though gaps in the trees and reflected off leaves, creating a carpet of dappled light that danced in the light breeze. Nearby, the grass had been recently mown, infusing the air with the scent of an English summer.
As they walked, Remus and Tonks talked lightly, and caught up on the events of last few days, their assignments and recent news. Their low voices mingled with the laughter and chatter of others enjoying the park; the families with picnic blankets and hampers, the young men, kicking a football around or throwing a Frisbee – the occasional shriek of a bare footed young woman who'd joined in these games.
Tonks sighed and leaned into Remus as he let go of her hand to drape his arm about her waist. "I love summer," she said. "Everyone's just so happy and free."
"The boys and I used to come here a lot after we'd left Hogwarts; it was the best substitute we could find for the grounds and the lake there. No giant squid of course, but you can't have everything."He paused to listen to the light chuckle from Tonks. How he loved to be the person who made her laugh. "James and Sirius used to wind Peter up with stories of a giant snake in the lake, but I think even Peter knew that they were making it up."
Tonks laughed again, but her face became serious as she fell silent. Remus glanced down and noted the thoughtful expression on her face. "Something on your mind?" he asked.
There was a slight pause before she asked, "Do you mind if I ask you something about Peter?"
Remus hesitated, thinking that it entirely depended upon what she was going to ask, but he didn't want to refuse her, so he found himself saying: "Not at all."
"It's just that when Sirius talks about the Marauders, he'll include Peter, but always follow his name with something venomous. When you talk about him, it's almost as if you're talking about a different person." Her gaze dropped, and she bit her lower lip before asking in a soft, hesitant voice, "Yet Sirius has told me that you were just as ready to kill him a year ago."
Remus tensed. That was not a subject that he wanted to talk about. Tonks must have sensed it, because she stopped walking, putting her hand firmly on his arm, and looked directly into his eyes. "That's not a judgement, Remus."
He searched her eyes. They shone with clarity, and when she raised her hand to cup his cheek, he knew from her touch and her unfaltering gaze that she was speaking sincerely. "I didn't mean to upset you," she said. "If someone I'd called a friend had done the atrocious things that he did to people I loved, I think it's quite possible I'd have the same reaction. Anyone would."
He nodded, and they turned to continue walking towards the lake, his arm now sliding up to curl around her shoulders, drawing her closer against his side. He wasn't quite sure what to say, but he had to say something. He didn't want her feeling badly because she thought she'd upset him and he couldn't have her thinking of him as some tragic figure who had to be tip-toed around; he wanted her to be able to ask him anything. He settled upon answering her original question.
"I think it's because Sirius spent thirteen years with the knowledge that the person who'd betrayed us had got off scot-free, not to mention framed him for the very last crime he'd ever commit. He had all those years for hate to fester and grow, and allow the boyhood friend and the traitor to become the same person. Try as I might, I can't reconcile the two. There is Peter, the friend I grew up with, who struggled so hard to keep up with Sirius and James as they learned to become Animagi, And there is Peter the traitor, who I met for the first time in the Shrieking Shack and has since borne a prominent role in our current crisis." He glanced down at her. "Does that make sense?"
"It does," Tonks said quietly.
He squeezed her shoulder and smiled as she leant her head gently against his chest.
They'd reached the lake by now, it shimmered a pale shade of blue, the water disturbed by the passage of geese, ducks and moor hens. The occasional sea gull called into the breeze.
"Shall we sit down for a bit, enjoy the last of the sun before it gets too low?" Remus suggested.
"Sounds like a good idea."
Remus led her to the side of one of the small boat houses. He fished inside the pocket of the light jacket he'd been carrying, grasped his wand, and with it still concealed within the folds of the fabric, cast a light Cushioning Charm on the hard floor. Then, making sure that his wand would not be sat on, laid the jacket over the area he'd cast the charm on and gestured to Tonks to take a seat.
"Comfy," she commented, leaning back to rest against the side of the boat house.
He seated himself beside her, their shoulders and thighs touching, and took one of her hands in his, entwining their fingers and settling their joined fist in his lap.
"You couldn't ask for a more perfect evening, really, could you?"
Remus lifted their hands and kissed the back of hers. Looking her straight in the eyes, he said "Icouldn't ask for a more perfect evening." He hoped she understood his meaning.
Apparently she did, because she reached up to gave his a soft, lingering kiss and then pulled back to smile at him softly.
A reel of uproarious laughter-like quacks resounded from somewhere not too far behind them. "I love it when they do that full-on quack thing. They just sound so happy, like they want to tell the world about it," Tonks said laughing, sounding very much like she was every bit as happy as she thought the duck was.
"I can't say I've ever thought about duck contentment before," Remus said, amused, and enjoying the sound of her own contentment. He'd discovered early on in their acquaintance that the sound her laugh was one of life's true pleasures. "But now that you mention it, I think you're right."
"Mum could keep me amused for hours when I was a kid by giving me a loaf of bread and taking me to a ducky-type location."
"A ducky-type location? Is that an official –" He cast around for the right word. "Duck term?" he asked, shrugging.
"Duckology," said Tonks, nodding seriously.
He began to laugh, and then even harder as Tonks fought to maintain her serious expression. He watched as the corners of her mouth fought a determined battle not to give into the laughter he could see bubbling in her eyes. She didn't last long.
As their laughter receded, Remus reached over to pull her sideways to settle between his thighs. She leant back against his chest and he wrapped both his arms around her, dropping a kiss in her hair.
"You are very silly, you know."
"I know," she said, laughing slightly. "I think I'm in good company, though."
"This might be true," he said, thinking that she really did know how to bring out his sillier side, and how much he'd enjoyed that, in the weeks since he'd met her, and even more so since they had become a couple. He loved that they could be silly together.
"Look out," he said, pointing towards the end of the boat house, where it jutted out into the water. "I think we've got a visitor."
"Wotcher, Mr. Goose," said Tonks. The goose that had swum around the corner tilted his head from left to right as he regarded her, almost questioningly. "I'm sorry, we don't have anything for you. Those people look like they've got a morsel or two though," she told the goose. "Why don't you have a swim up there?"She pointed towards the bridge, where a young family had attracted quite a crowd of geese and ducks as they tossed bread into the water.
"Have you always made a habit of talking to water fowl?"Remus asked.
"Mmm," She nodded emphatically. "Usually give 'em names, too. It's difficult to name geese though," she continued, quite seriously.
"Oh, why's that?"
"They all look the same," she said.
"I see," said Remus, thoughtfully. "I suppose that begs two questions." He grinned as she raised her eyebrows at him. "Firstly, why does that mean you can't name them, and secondly, don't all ducks look the same, too?"
"What's the point in naming them if I can't tell them apart?" she said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Good point," Remus conceded, with slight nod.
"Some ducks look alike, but others have distinctive features, and that's how I choose the name. For example, I knew a very naughty duck once by the name of White Duck."
Remus couldn't help but burst out laughing, tightening his arms around her, and burying his face in her neck.
Though his laughter, completely without thought, he heard himself say, "I love you."
They both froze.
Remus knew it was true, but Merlin… six weeks! What on earth would she think? Was there any way to recover from such a thoughtless revelation, without ruining what they had?
Slowly, Tonks sat up and turned towards him, coming to rest on her knees, still tucked between his legs. She fixed him with imploring eyes that seemed to speak directly to his heart. "Did you mean that?" she whispered.
Under that gaze, it was impossible to be anything less that completely honest with her. "I did," he said very quietly. "I know it's so very soon, and I didn't mean to say it, but I do." He reached up to touch her cheek. "I do."
His heart pounded, and he almost couldn't bear to watch, but he couldn't take his eyes away, either. She laid her hand on top of his and pressed his hand more firmly to her face for a moment, before she pulled it away slightly and placed a kiss on his palm.
"I love you, too," she said, her eyes never leaving his.
In that moment, it was as though the world was standing still, and the sounds of the park fell away. Nothing and no one existed but the two of them, as their lives unravelled and reformed as one.
In slow motion, it seemed, they both leaned forward to seal their words with a kiss that spoke of promise.
When they pulled away, he folded her into his arms. She sat once again between his legs, this time, her legs curled beside his thighs, as he cradled her against his chest, stroking her hair and pressing the occasional kiss to her forehead, or in her hair.
They sat like that for a long time, in silence, but it was every bit as satisfying as any conversation, or kissing session. He felt calm and joyful as, through their silence, they communicated their thoughts by the way they held each other. Remus thought again the evening truly couldn't have been more perfect. He was sitting here on the shore of a beautiful lake, the air was warm and calm. In his arms was the woman he loved -- the woman who loved him, and in the distance was –
They both collapsed into laughter as the duck quacked his farewell to the sun as it disappeared behind the trees.
When their laughter died, Remus found himself saying, "I'm sorry I got a bit uptight earlier."He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"It's okay, I shouldn't have mentioned it. Mum's forever telling me off for being too nosey," Tonks answered, giving his hand a squeeze, lifting it to her lips and pressing a soft kiss on his knuckles.
"You have a right to ask any question you want of me, Nymphadora. Now more than ever," he said gently. "I will tell you about that night, one day. After all, it's wasn't all bad. It was the night I got Sirius back."
"I'd like that," she said, almost in a whisper, running the back of her hand down the side of his face, and then settled her head back against his chest. "Thank you," she added. He wondered if she had any idea how it made him feel that she should thank him for offering to share with her a part of his history, that she would want to know about his life.
"I don't want to leave you tonight," she mumbled into his shirt.
"I was just thinking the same thing," he replied softly, thrilled that she was as loathe to be separated from him as he was with her. "Will you stay with me at Grimmauld tonight?" She nodded slightly and tightened her embrace.
"On second thoughts," Tonks said, reaching up to kiss him. "Maybe we ought to stay at mine. Merlin only knows what Sirius would have to say if we bumped into him."
"That," Remus said against her lips, "is a very good point." And then he kissed her.
Five minutes later, they were headed back up the slope, debating whether or not Sirius would find it more amusing to discover them on their way to Remus' bedroom, or to discover that Remus hadn't come home at all.
To be continued…
Author's Notes: This story will have a second chapter, I hope to have it posted within a fortnight, so if you enjoyed this chapter, look out for it. To all who review, I will of course, offer the chance to take an evening stroll with Remus. Whether you choose to engage in silly conversations about 'Duckology' is entirely up to you. ;)