Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling is the creator of these characters, and all credit goes to her. I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
ENORMOUS thanks to starmom and ASM for their beta work on this piece - really guys, you did an amazing job and somehow kept me sane at the same time. You're awesome!
A/N: This story is the result of a challenge on Metamorfic Moon - all the writers were issued a series of four prompts which had to be incorporated into the story in some way. Mine were: hate potion, Stonehenge, a day of change, and romantic comedy. I chose to do a two part fic, of which the first is indeed romantic comedy, while the second is anything but.
"Explain to me why we're going to Salisbury on our time off?" Gingerly leaning against the wall, Remus tipped his head back to stare at a patch of rotting ceiling. He suspected that most swamps contained less fungus than could be found in Grimmauld Place.
"What, famous old Muggle cathedrals aren't enough of a draw for you, Remus? And here I thought you were into dry, dusty, historic places like that." Hunched over slightly, Tonks searched through her bag, the patchwork fabric bulging and rippling as her hand dug through the contents inside. Long, cherry-red curls slipped forward, hiding a smirk.
He removed his gaze from its contemplation of the mould and brought it to rest on the far-more pleasing shape in front of him. "What are you looking for, exactly?"
"Ah, Mad-Eye gave me directions to a place in Salisbury where I need to ask a few questions about a case. Nothing too time-consuming, and then we'll have the rest of the day to ourselves."
He watched her rifle through the bag for a few more seconds. "Soooo...you're looking for one scrap of parchment in there?"
He just couldn't resist. "Right, I'll just put the kettle on, shall I?"
She paused long enough to raise one hand.
"Tonks!" Dismayed laughter rang through the hallway. "Hasn't anyone told you that particular gesture isn't very ladylike?"
"What are you - my mum?" she grumbled. "You're in a mood. I've changed my mind. You're going to stay here with Sirius and I'll go wander through Salisbury by myself. Take in the sights, buy some chocolate, go dance on top of Stonehenge..."
A hint of perfume drifted up to him as he shifted again, closing the gap between them. He paused to breath in the exotic sweetness - myrrh and rosewood oil, he thought; she'd shown him the bottle one day - before quietly taking out his wand and bending down to whisper, "Accio Moody's directions!"
A carelessly folded square of parchment launched its way out of the bag and smacked solidly into his waiting grasp. Tonks whipped her head up, his unexpected nearness startling her into taking an abrupt step back before realizing what he held. "What...Remus...give me that!"
She reached out to snatch it a second too late. He raised his hand above his head, but try as she might, he was simply too tall for her to reach it through any other means than playing dirty. Fingers that had been grasping in the air just shy of his outstretched hand went suddenly for ribs and armpits and dug in mercilessly, despite the daunting thickness of his jumper.
He gave an undignified yelp and tried to fend off the sudden assault with his free hand, but she ducked under his arm and pressed her advantage.
When a laughing spasm contracted his arm downward for a moment, she made a wild leap that set her curls bouncing and grabbed her prize.
"Hah! Bollocks to you, you annoying git. Who's the smart one now?"
Remus stood there, holding his aching sides and trying to catch his breath; somehow he still managed to look smug. "Before you crow too loudly, why don't I instead ask why you didn't just make yourself taller, Ms. Metamorph?"
Chagrined, her cheeks flushed scarlet, and she tried and failed to come up with something equally crushing. "Yeah, well...you...you shriek like a girl!"
"If you want to hear real shrieking, try tickling Sirius." He pushed away from the wall, a dangerous glitter in his eyes.
She took a tiny step or two away toward the stairs. "Um, ew? No thanks. Besides, I doubt he'd manage better than you just did." Her hair had tumbled into her face again and she impatiently shook it away, shambling backward as he advanced another pace..
"I suppose it would be rude of me to point out what sort of noises you make sometimes?" The most intriguing smile had curled his lips upward, and Tonks briefly wondered why she was retreating when being caught presented far more enticing possibilities.
Her footsteps halted as she lowered her voice to a flirtatious whisper, her head coquettishly thrown to one side. "But you're not tickling me when I make them." With her hands behind her, she took the map and shoved it into a back pocket of her jeans.
"Touché." Taking a last long stride, he planted himself directly in front of her and looked down questioningly. "What made you stop?"
"Oh, I just decided that discretion really is the better part of valour, and that if you were going to get back at me, I'd better stand up and take my punishment like a man." Her hands snaked up his chest to wind themselves through his grizzled hair, pushing the strands away from his cheekbones, the better to see the gleam in his eyes when she touched him. "I mean, since you seem to need to be shown how it's done."
His own arms, which had wrapped themselves tightly around her waist, stiffened at the verbal jab. "Hmmm."
The low rumble vibrated through his chest into hers, and she almost decided then and there to ditch the day's plan and shove him backward through her bedroom doorway. Moody didn't have to have this information tonight, did he?
The intriguing smile returned. "So, you want to imply that I'm not manly enough? That leaves me in a difficult position." He bent and kissed her neck just under the jawline. "Because the only way to disprove your accusation," his tongue burned a path to one ear, "would require me," her earlobe was briefly drawn into the moist heat of his mouth, "to do things," a hand caressed its way down her spine to curl itself around the back of one hip as he leaned over to kiss her shoulder, "that might cause you," the other hand played its way around her side, raked upward over a generous swell of breast and came to rest on her throat, his thumb lightly chafing the hollow at the base of her neck, "to seriously neglect your duties." He drew his face slowly back across her neck, skimmed over her cheek and finally caressed her lips with a teasingly brief kiss.
Trembling slightly as he released her, Tonks wondered how undignified it would be to give in to temptation and drag him down onto the rug; her bedroom seemed unreasonably far away.
"Now about that map..." Remus' quiet reminder filtered through the haze of her thoughts.
She gave herself a swift mental shake. If she didn't pull herself together they would never get out of there. Taking a long step back out of the ring of his arms, her eyes danced with mischief. "You'll have to catch me first," she shot out before bolting down the hallway and thundering down the stairs.
Her feet stumbled on the last riser and she barely managed to make it upright to the door; it stuck for a moment before she managed to wrench it open and escape into the chill of the morning. She looked over her shoulder, expecting him to be hard on her heels, but the doorway remained empty. Weird. He never would have let her get away like that without...
She abruptly clapped a hand to her back pocket; the map was gone. Her mouth dropped open in disbelief, and she turned only to meet with the sight of Remus calmly strolling out. His shoulders leaned back against the jamb, and he took his time unfolding the map, lips pressed firmly together, steadfastly ignoring her. On the back of the parchment, in bold red lettering, now read the query 'Looking for this?'
"You git! How did you get that?"
His whole long frame trembled in barely restrained mirth, eyes still locked on Moody's note.
She canted her lower jaw to one side, glaring at him while she thought back over the last few minutes. "It was when you kissed my neck, wasn't it? You picked my pocket, you sneaky...buggering... Marauder!"
"That term really shouldn't be used in place of a proper expletive, you know." Remus, who had neatly refolded the parchment while she stood there fuming, was now secreting it inside his trouser pocket, grinning with schoolboy delight. "And you seemed to enjoy the kiss."
Tonks' nostrils flared. "You're lucky if I let you kiss my ass at this point."
Not even trying to hide a snigger, he countered, "And here the Irish say that kissing the Blarney stone makes you lucky."
Nothing but strangled noises emerged as she tried to smack his arm, but he adroitly dodged her fist and continued, "And let's not forget that you started this whole thing by calling me a girl." He nudged her shoulder with his own before taking her hand and walking down the steps.
With her other hand she reached into the patchwork bag again and pulled out a rather garish green and orange and yellow striped scarf and wrapped it several times around her neck, shivering in the cool air.
Remus stopped to help her, pulling her hair out of the way and smiling at how it clashed with the vivid colours in her scarf.
"What?" she asked. "Does it look silly?"
"No, it's perfect." He gently brushed her face with his free hand, his gaze shifting from mischievous to tender in the space of a heartbeat.
All of her earlier annoyance melted away at his caress. She leaned into his palm, turning slightly to kiss his fingers before they continued to the Apparation point at the end of the block. "Are you familiar enough with Salisbury to take us both there, or should I?"
"You go ahead. I haven't been there for years – likely the safe places I knew have changed."
She took a better grip of his hand and locked his forearm under hers, and they both disappeared with a resounding crack.
Tonks looked around the alley, and finding it free of Muggles turned back to Remus with a raised eyebrow. "Care to hand over the directions now?"
"If I refuse, do you have to strip-search me?" He leaned toward her with an unmistakable leer.
"Ha ha, you wish! Come on, whip that thing out and let's take a look." She stuck her tongue between her teeth as she grinned at him.
He'd been reaching for his pocket, but stopped, giving in to a chuckle as he cast a glare at her. "Could you make me sound any more like a prostitute? Here's your map." The folded square was tossed over and he shoved his hand into the vacated pocket. "And just so you know, I expect to be paid for my services up front and in chocolate."
She bit a lip. "Up front and in chocolate? I...could take that sentence in so many ways, Remus."
He gave a snorting laugh and strode forward to take her arm before they walked out toward the street. "Well, congratulations are due to both of us, I think. We're today's proud winners of "The Smuttiest Minds in Britain" award."
"Oooh," she giggled. "I wish I had known I was competing – I'd have made more of an effort. What's the prize?"
He quirked an eyebrow and suggested hopefully, "You get to dig through my pockets the same way you attacked your purse earlier?"
"Nice try, overachiever. Only you would want to get extra credit points for a fake award." Heaving a regretful sigh, she unfolded the directions and glanced over Mad-Eye's scribbled handwriting. "All right, playtime's over for now – we've got to get this thing done. We need to go...that way and down toward the Market Square." She indicated a cross street to their left and pulled him toward it.
March had been unusually cold this year, and the window boxes in the front of the houses and shops they passed sported none but the hardiest of bulb flowers. Midmorning saw the sidewalks slowly filling with Muggles on various errands, some already loaded down with bags and parcels. The occasional shopkeeper spoke a greeting, trying to draw them in with promises of fresh bread or produce, and one discerning bookseller caught the scent of a bookworm as he watched Remus walking by; Tonks had to physically drag him away from the lure of a first edition by some Muggle writer whose name she didn't recognize.
She flashed an apologetic grin at the disappointed face merchant and hissed under her breath, "Who's lacking in self-restraint now?
Sheepishly running a hand through his hair, Remus took a deep breath and grimaced. "Not like I could afford anything like that anyway."
"Oh, stop that. If the thing was that rare, Sirius couldn't afford it."
He conceded her point with a nod. As they continued walking, though, Tonks saw the way his eyes kept darting surreptitious looks of longing back towards the bookseller standing in the doorway, and she pulled him to a stop. He looked at her in some confusion as her hand brushed against his cheek.
"Fine. Go feed your addiction. I'll hunt up this other bloke and come back for you when I'm done, okay?"
His face lit up like Christmas morning and he leaned over to softly kiss her forehead. "You're a queen among women. See you in a bit, then?"
Giving his hand a squeeze, she watched as he quickly walked back to the now smiling bookseller, a distinct jaunt in his step; he looked very much like a boy set loose in a sweetshop. A fond grin stretched across her face and she went on her own way.
An hour later found them strolling through the town, Tonks returning to rescue him from the clutches of the bookstore owner before Remus could promise his firstborn in exchange for the rare editions.
"Hungry?" she asked.
"A little. Want to stop for something?"
"No need - I'd thought to bring a snack. It's not much, and we'll want to get some lunch later, but it'll hold us for a bit." She opened her bag to show him a package of chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies, a partially eaten bar of Honeydukes Finest and a thermos.
"So, where to now, Mr. Lupin?" She raised her eyebrows playfully.
"The few times I've been here, I always wound up reading in the gardens by the river. We could go take a walk and have a bite. And you can tell me about your interview."
"Sounds good to me." She drew her arm through his as they walked along, resting her cheek against the sleeve of his coat.
"So, Queen Elizabeth or Winston Churchill?"
"Which garden?" He pointed to the spire rising in the distance over the buildings in front of them. "There's the cathedral, so Winston Churchill is off to the left of it; Queen Elizabeth sits to the right, by the water meadows."
"So you don't know most of the city, but you're well acquainted with the good spots to read. How-" her mouth twitched upward, "-Lupinesque."
"Oh, I get my own adjective? I like it. It connotes peace. Quiet."
"I want an adjective," she pouted. "Hmmm. Tonksesque sounds bloody awful."
"Tonksian?" he offered.
"That works. So what does the word Tonksian suggest to you?"
He shot her an evil grin. "Chaos and widespread destruction? Ow!" He rubbed his arm where she'd pinched him and glowered down at her grinning profile. "Malicious treatment like that only proves Shakespeare right, you know."
"He wasn't into this, I take it?" She made exaggerated grasping motions with her fingers and moved her arm toward his again.
He made a face and twitched away. "Stop that. For all I know, the man liked to be ritualistically pinched seven times a day. But if he was right and love is merely a madness, I see now why I put up with your abuse. Only a man completely besotted by love would stand for it."
"You're completely besotted?"
"Utterly. Madly." He kissed the offending fingers with smiling lips. "But that doesn't mean that you can keep tweaking the skin off my arms."
She leaned into him. "I'm pretty drunk off of you too, Mr. Lupin." Their eyes caught and held.
Unfortunately, staring into her lover's eyes drew too much attention away from the immediate need to direct her feet, and Tonks found herself hooking a toe on an uneven patch in the pavement. Catching herself before she could go sprawling into a picket fence, she grinned ruefully and squeezed his hand. "I guess I'll have to save my calf-eyed looks for when we're seated."
He returned the smile and replied, "I'll hold you to that."
The cathedral rose higher and higher in front of them as they approached the river. "All right, choose. Queen or Minister?"
"Queen, I think. It's getting warmer now, and I'd like to walk through the meadows." She unwound the scarf and stowed it back in her bag.
They turned right at the Cathedral Close, pausing for a few moments to stare over at the ancient church with its looming tower before sauntering across the bridge over the Avon and so on to the gardens.
Remus glanced around. "Walk first, or eat?"
"So many choices," she teased. "Eat, I think. I'm definitely hungry. How about you?"
"Well, I know there's chocolate to be had, so take a guess," he replied with a smirk.
They found a quiet spot under a tree on the banks of the river and stretched out. Tonks immediately tore into her bag and pulled out their goodies. She handed the Honeydukes bar over to Remus with a laugh when he eyed it with unmistakable greed. Unscrewing the lid of the Thermos, she poured out the steaming liquid and took a blissful sip.
"Is that hot chocolate?"
"So our choice for snack is chocolate, chocolate or chocolate. I knew you were the woman for me." He broke off a chunk of the bar and popped it in his mouth, savouring it for a moment before asking thickly, "Alright, tell me about this guy you had to interview."
Tonks ripped open the package of shortbread and took one out. "He's suspected of smuggling illegal potion ingredients and magical items into Britain, but we haven't been able to prove anything." She bit off a corner of her cookie and chewed for a moment. "Honestly, I didn't get much from him, but then Moody and I weren't expecting much anyway."
"Why bother then?" Remus took the lid of steaming chocolate from her and swallowed a large mouthful.
"Well, sometimes in order to build up enough of a case to go after the big stuff, you have to scout around and see what smaller stuff they've got. There are legal ingredients that any apothecary will stock in small quantities, but if you walk into some place and they've got massive amounts of say, marsh marigolds, then you've got something bigger on your hands."
"Marsh marigolds?" His forehead crinkled in confusion.
"Hmm. Hold on a sec." She rose unsteadily to her feet and walked off down the riverbank, obviously scanning for something in particular. He watched her form slowly shrink into the distance as she headed down the path into the water meadows; sighing, he put down the hot chocolate and reached into a pocket for a small paperback that he'd brought along, lay down on his back with his head cushioned on one arm, and settled himself to read until she returned.
After about fifteen minutes, he heard footsteps near his head and glanced up. She stood over him, grinning. "You are so damned adorable, you know that? Agh, put that book away before I decide you're too sexy to be out in public and drag you home again."
He cocked an eyebrow up at her and grinned mischievously. "I hate to tell you this, but that's the worst inducement I've ever been offered to get me to stop reading."
She sat down beside him and leaned into his side; his fingers trailed over her cheek, her neck, down her shoulder, coming to a stop only when they encountered the flower she held cupped in one palm. "What's this?"
"Mmmm?" She cast dreamy eyes downward and seemed as surprised as he was to find it there. "Oh, it's a marsh marigold. This is the time of year for them, and they grow, well, in marshes, so I figured I might find one in the water meadows. And I did, see?" She held out her hand so that he could inspect the small, yellow blossom.
Flat, broad petals surrounded a delicate center of the same colour; droplets of water clung to edges and sparkled in the sunlight. Remus frowned. "And what's so special about it, other than it's pretty?"
"Well, the plants aren't particularly rare around here, but they only bloom for a little while and have to be harvested quickly. Muggles sometimes use them for making medicines, and apparently they can get you drunk, somehow, though I wouldn't advise it – these things will blister your skin if you're not careful."
"I'm missing something. Why would finding these in an apothecary send up a warning signal to you?"
"Because this little, unassuming flower, if boiled down to an essence, forms a base for the altogether nasty hate potion."
Remus stared at her before taking the flower from her and examining it more carefully. "Seriously?"
"Well, that was a bit misleading - the whole plant is used, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and it takes a big harvest of them to make one small vial of essence. It may look innocent like this, but trust me, it's not nearly so friendly in essential form – it'll burn the skin right off you. The essence provides a catalyst for a type of divining – well, hatred. I don't understand the ins and outs of why it affects people the way it does – you'd have to ask Hermione – maybe it irritates the liver or something."
Tonks took one look at the adorably lost look on his face and burst into laughter. "Poor Remus. You look like you've walked into a class where you've forgotten to do the assigned reading. In Chinese Muggle medicine, they believe that different organs control different emotions, and the one in charge of anger is the liver. That might explain why dragon liver is another key ingredient." She gazed thoughtfully at the bright flower in his hand.
"When did I miss you becoming a scholar?"
She frowned, looking vaguely offended. "Just because you have no interest in this area of study doesn't mean that I don't. You don't like potion making and so you avoid the subject when you can, but I excelled in it, and it's an area that I have to keep up on. Why does everyone assume I'm such a featherbrained twit?"
Instantly contrite, he brought her hand to his lips. "I'm sorry," he spoke quietly. "I never meant to imply...you're not a twit, Tonks. How could anyone think that? You were an Auror before you hit 25, for God's sake. You're absolutely right, it's not an area of interest for me, so I never paid attention to the fact that you're an overflowing fount of knowledge on the subject." His smile was a mixture of teasing and apology, and the small knot of anger in her stomach dissolved.
Heaving a sigh, she leaned into his shoulder, wordlessly letting him know that the minor offense was forgiven.
He nudged her. "So, tell me more about hate potion."
She wrinkled up her nose. "You're going to go all out with this contrition thing, aren't you? Don't you want to talk about something more pleasant?"
"No, actually. I'll admit a certain curiosity, now that I know more about it. What in the world do you use it for?" He sounded genuinely perplexed.
"Are you serious? The possibilities are endless. Just think of any situation where you'd want to pit one person against the other. Politics, love, religion – in the Auror squad, we've used it to get evidence by slipping it to someone with information on a suspect. I'm telling you, it's nasty, both the effects and the ethical dilemma it brings up. And the worst part is, what you can get over the counter is just a diluted form. The potion at full strength is enough to push someone to commit murder. It's illegal to sell it that way, of course, but you can find it on the black market if you know who to go to."
"So those silly adverts in Witch Weekly that advise a girl to drink it and get over her cheating boyfriend...?"
"You're lucky if that form makes you upset enough to qualify for a nasty fight and good make-up sex. No, if you're that determined to get pissed at someone, you're better off either finding a seller of the full-strength potion, or making it personally. Well, not you – you'd poison yourself, and no one wants that." She bit her lip as she laughed down at him, and he was so taken by the captivating expression that he entirely missed her teasing abuse, which made her laugh even more.
She reached out gentle fingers to brush away the hair that fell over his forehead and watched the noon light catch the gold highlights that showed through the grey. A Muggle song drifted through her head as she played with the strands, and she found herself humming a snatch of the tune.
...Silver and gold, silver and gold, build it up with silver and gold, my fair lady...
Rays of warming sunlight filtered through the tree branches, enfolding them in a peaceful silence, and they found themselves meditating on each other's faces and bodies, their eyes giving the loving caresses that their hands could not.
Children's voices dragged them back to the reality of their surroundings, and Tonks looked around to find the afternoon had advanced while they were lost in their own private world. The hot chocolate had grown cold, and the marsh marigold had withered where it fell, forgotten on the ground by their legs.
Remus' fingers on her chin gently brought her gaze back to his. "Shall we go somewhere else? I think we're about to be invaded."
The voices were drawing nearer, and suddenly a ball rolled through the grass and came to rest a few feet away. A little girl with her hair hanging in golden-brown braids skipped over to retrieve it. She stared curiously at the two of them reclining under the tree, innocently unaware of her intrusion.
Tonks grinned and waved; the girl returned the gesture with a shy smile and asked, "What are you doing?"
Remus sat up carefully, not wanting to startle the child away, and gifted her with the smile that had set so many students at ease during his year at Hogwarts. "Enjoying the sunshine, just like you."
"Oh." One foot scuffed the grass for a moment. "Why were you staring at her?" She pointed to Tonks.
The two adults exchanged amused glances. "Well, I love her, you see, and isn't it nice to look at the people you love?"
"My mum says it's impolite to stare." The girl's matter-of-fact statement set Tonks laughing.
Remus nodded. "Yes, that's true most of the time. Should I stop?" He tried to look abashed, and the girl giggled.
"No. We were staring at her too, 'cause of her hair. She's nice to look at." Losing interest in the conversation, her pale blue eyes wandered over the various items lying on the ground around them and fastened on the package of cookies. She glanced up hopefully.
He bit back a grin and reached his long fingers out to prise a cookie from it's wrapping. Holding it out to her, he asked, "Would you like one?"
She hesitated, lips compressed, before darting forward to snatch the treat. She ran off suddenly.
"Oh, no! Remus, why did you do that?" Tonks asked in mild dismay.
Bafflement clouded his face. "Give her a cookie? Why not? She wanted one, and we have plenty to share."
She shook her head vehemently. "No, I don't think we do."
"For one little girl? Come on, I know you're hungry, but why be selfish if we don't have to?"
"Um, not one little girl." She pointed, and sure enough the whole group of children were racing toward them, shrieking in laughter.
Remus paled at the approaching stampede and then shot a glare at Tonks, who was now doubled up with laughter at his reaction. He sat up straighter and began to take out not only the rest of the cookies but the chocolate as well, breaking it into pieces to dole out to the eager hands that soon presented themselves. They jostled each other for precedence in line, and he tried to quiet them down a bit, patiently smiling at each child in turn as he gave them their treats. Soon nothing but crumbs and broken bits of chocolate was left, and after bashfully offering various forms of thanks to the "nice man," they scampered off again.
"You are a nice man, you know," Tonks murmured as he took in the ruins of their snack.
"Even though I've just given away all our food?" He flopped backward, scrubbing his face with his hands.
"Especially because you just gave away all our food." She draped herself over his chest, her arm dangling over his side to play with the crumbled bits of shortbread left over in the wrapper. "You're the type that makes a wonderful father."
"Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to indulge my own children with chocolate-covered cookies and Honeydukes."
"I think your children would be content with bread and butter as long as you were there with them."
The simple statement drew his arm away from where it lay over his eyes, and he lifted his head to regard her with a tiny frown.
"I am," she added, trying desperately to show him with her eyes just how much she loved him, needed him.
A look of sorrow ghosted over his features and passed so quickly that Tonks thought she'd imagined it. Before she could think more about it, though, his long arm slipped about her waist and she was pulled forward.
"So do I stare at you too much?" he breathed into her ear.
She brushed her cheek over his and whispered, "Yes, but it's okay, because I'm nice to look at."
"She was a wise little girl, to see immediately what took me months to admit." His lips found the curve of her neck, murmuring into the sensitive skin.
Her breath caught as he raised a hand to brush away the hair from her shoulders. "What's that?"
"That your sometimes frightening taste in hair colour and style makes a convenient excuse to stare at you far more than is polite." He continued to speak with his mouth pressed against her, his voice little more than a whisper as his fingers buried themselves in the wealth of curls that flowed down her back.
And then her stomach rumbled. Loudly.
"Damn it," she complained. "We should have told those kids to bugger off to their own parents for something to eat."
Remus unwrapped his arms from about her body with a sigh and motioned for her to stand.
Rising unsteadily, she reached for his hands as he got up, stepping into him for another brief kiss. The breeze fluttered the trash at their feet and she bent to pick up the discarded paper wrappers, along with the Thermos, the marigold blossom and Remus' paperback. As she started to shove everything into her bag, he stilled her movements with a touch.
"May I have the flower and the book?"
Mystified, she handed over the requested items and he laid the blossom within the pages of the thin volume, pressing it shut carefully before pocketing it. "Sentimental bookmarks are the best kind," he explained, and his heart leapt into his throat as a sweet, delighted smile lit up her features. Swallowing to dislodge it, the thought crossed his mind that perhaps the rest of the afternoon would be better spent in her flat, where wandering hordes of children couldn't interrupt them, and the only hunger that surfaced could be sated by the meeting of lips and hands and heated skin.
She recognized the change in his mood; hastily finishing the cleanup, she took hold of his arm in wordless accord.
They walked for several minutes in harmonious silence, the simple contact of their hands enough to communicate their need for the moment, as fingers trailed suggestively over knuckles, palms pressed slowly together and broke apart, nails dug in gently and traced invisible designs.
Tonks marveled how they could walk down the street, seemingly so decorous in their steady pace, and yet the interplay of their hands could steal her breath away so effectively. She had only to hear his unsteady intake of air and see the tightening of his jaw, the flush of blood up his neck and over his face to know that he was suffering from the same sweet agony. They needed a distraction or they'd never make it home.
"Do you want to stop and pick up something to eat? We can take it back with us – I don't have a whole lot in the pantry right now."
His voice was thick with emotion and rigidly imposed self-control. "I think we passed a grocer's up a block or two. So you're sure you don't want to go anywhere else today?"
The one word conveyed an ocean of meaning, and the sudden doubt that had assailed him, that perhaps he was putting too much pressure on her to leave, was effectively silenced by the overt longing in her eyes.
"Do you?" she abruptly asked, equally thrown by his question.
"As tempting as your earlier threat to dance on top of Stonehenge was, I'd rather you saved any dancing for a private showing."
Her face cleared immediately. "Good. Today's definitely not a good time for a visit there anyway."
"Why not?" Fighting through the fog of desire that rapidly clouded reasoning, he forced himself to distance himself from his emotions, to converse normally for a few minutes.
"Vernal equinox. I don't really fancy hobnobbing with a horde of drunken Muggles intent on drunkenly celebrating the first day of spring."
"All right, but I'd like us to go one day. I want to see you dancing on top of a megalith."
She watched his eyes smolder as he pictured it, and the intense heat of his gaze abruptly made up her mind. "You know what? Forget the groceries. I've got some more cookies at home. A few chocolate frogs. We'll make some tea and toast and continue the picnic by the fire. Sound good?"
His smile blazed like the sun in the sky overhead as he grabbed her hand and they practically ran to the nearest deserted alley. His arms encircled her, pulling her flush against him, and without a word Apparated them into the alley by her flat. Tempting as it was to kiss her right there, he really didn't want to waste any more time in places where he had to practice restraint, and neither did she, judging by the way she tugged him up the stairs to her door as fast as her legs could manage.
He folded his arms across his chest and bounced on his toes while she pulled out wand and keys and got the door open, but the moment it slammed shut his hands and lips took possession of her.
Her cardigan found itself unceremoniously tossed on the floor by the entranceway. His jumper curled around the leg of her coffee table. Both their shirts managed to entwine themselves together and nestle behind the sofa as he toppled her over into the cushions.
As his fingers eased open the top button of her jeans, her stomach growled again. Reluctantly, he tore his questing lips away from the satiny skin of her abdomen. "Perhaps we should get you something to eat before we go any further."
"Mmm, I think I know how to solve this little dilemma." She sat up and pulled out her wand. "Accio chocolate spread!"
She fumbled to catch the jar that came hurtling out of the kitchen and held it up with a triumphant and highly suggestive grin. "I believe you mentioned earlier something about up front and in chocolate?"
A/N: Please read the second piece before reviewing. Thanks!