The Box Step
Remus Lupin casually reached for his wand when he heard the front door of number twelve, Grimmauld Place open. They expected no visitors tonight, so it never hurt to be prepared in case they were about to be attacked.
Sirius Black, having also heard the front door open, had no such concerns. He simply summoned an extra goblet and poured a glass of wine for whoever had come to join them.
When Nymphadora Tonks stomped into the parlor, Remus put his wand away and went back to The Daily Prophet. He watched her over the top of the paper as flung she herself into one of the wingback arm chairs.
She crossed and uncrossed her legs, finally bringing them up underneath her, Indian style, all while breathing heavily through her nose.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say something has upset you, Tonks," said Remus, sounding rather nonchalant, idly turning the page of the newspaper.
"Hrmph," was the only response that Remus received as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Sirius, in a bid to be helpful, stood up and held out the goblet of wine to her which she rejected with a wave of her hand. So Sirius took a swallow from the goblet himself and sat back down on the sofa.
A silence ensued, in which Tonks opened and closed her mouth several times, looking on the cusp of making some type of announcement, but then thinking better of it.
She did look upset, but Remus didn't want to force a confidence that she was not ready to share. Instead, he turned another page of the Prophet and said, "So Sirius, I'm thinking about picking up some groceries tomorrow. Anything special you'd like?"
Sirius looked at him oddly, but then seemed to understand what he was trying to accomplish. "Can you get a different brand of biscuits? What you brought home last time almost broke one of my teeth."
As Remus and Sirius chatted about groceries, he saw Tonks watch them both, her head moving back and forth as if viewing a tennis match.
Just as they were debating over flavours of tea, Tonks burst out, "I don't know how to dance!"
Remus put down his paper and looked at her quizzically. "Do you need to know how to dance?" he asked plainly.
"By tomorrow," she moaned, burying her face in her hands. She kept speaking, but Remus couldn't understand what she was saying.
"Why in the world do you need to learn how to dance by tomorrow?" asked Sirius.
Tonks glanced up and Remus realized she looked miserable. "Mission from Dumbledore."
"Somehow, Tonks, I would think that the Headmaster would have more important things for you to do than to learn how to dance," said Remus, raising an eyebrow.
She took a deep breath and raised her knees to her chest. "Snape's going to this fancy dress ball over at Malfoy Manor tomorrow, celebrating the fall equinox."
"And because of this, you need to learn how to dance?"
Tonks ignored him and continued. "Snape wasn't going to bring a partner, but Dumbledore decided that he really should. There will be lots of Death Eaters and they might get to talking after some drink. So Dumbledore wants me to go with Snape."
Remus and Sirius both looked at each other. A look of amusement crossed Sirius' face. "So Snivellus can't get a date, huh?" he smirked. "Has to let Dumbledore find one for him."
"I take it you're not going as yourself?" asked Remus, in concern. He leaned forward. It actually could be quite dangerous for both Tonks and Snape if she was discovered.
"I'll age about ten years, different face, no one will know it's me," said Tonks in a small voice.
"Until you trip on your dress and knock over the punch bowl," laughed Sirius.
Normally, Tonks takes their ribbing about her clumsiness in stride. But even Sirius must have felt bad about teasing her just now when he saw how distressed she looked.
Sirius stood up and sat on one of the arms of the chair she was sitting on and awkwardly patted Tonks on the shoulder. "Don't worry, love," said Sirius tenderly. "I'd be upset, too, if I had to go on a date with Snape."
She stiffened up immediately and looked at Remus for just a moment. "It's not a date, Sirius," she said quickly. "It's a mission for the Order."
"Which is about the only way Snivellus could get a date," snickered Sirius.
"Sirius, you're not helping," said Tonks, leaning her elbow on the other arm of the chair and resting her chin on her hand. "I need to learn how to dance. Preferably tonight."
"You don't know how to dance at all?" asked Remus, tilting his head to one side.
"I know how to dance if I'm in a club or whatnot," said Tonks defensively. "But wearing an evening dress and gloves?" She leaned back in the chair, looking defeated. "I haven't a clue."
"Well, I knew a move or two in my day," said Sirius, slapping his knee and standing up. "Let's have a go."
Tonks looked at Sirius warily and stood up. "You know how to dance?" she asked hesitantly.
"Course I do," said Sirius, placing one hand on her waist and taking her other hand. He started humming loudly and practically started galloping around the room in an exaggerated waltz. Tonks simply threw back her head and laughed.
After two or three laps around the room, Sirius released his grip on Tonks and she went tumbling onto the sofa, still smiling. Taking a few deep breaths, she stood up again. "Well, that's my exercise for the month," she grinned.
Remus cleared his throat. He learned some simple dance steps when he was young. His Muggle mother had insisted, saying every young man should know how to dance. "I can show you the box step and the waltz, Tonks," said Remus softly.
Her eyes seemed to light up. "Really?" she asked, the relief in her voice evident. "Thank goodness."
"This should be fun to watch," smirked Sirius, settling in the chair where Tonks had been sitting previous. He summoned his goblet and the bottle of wine they had been drinking from and refilled his glass.
"Stop it," said Tonks, her cheeks turning pink, which almost matched the colour of her spikes. "I'm nervous enough as it is."
"It's just Moony, Tonksy," said Sirius, taking a swallow of wine. "He doesn't bite but once a month."
"Padfoot," sighed Remus resignedly at the exact same time Tonks chastised, "Sirius!" Sirius simply rolled his eyes and swung one leg over the arm of the chair.
Remus moved to stand in front of her. She was wearing thick Doc Martens that raised her height a bit. "Will you be wearing heels tomorrow?" asked Remus.
Sirius snorted and Tonks turned furiously and faced him. "If you're not going to be helpful, leave!" said Tonks angrily, one hand on her hip, the other outstretched, pointing towards the door.
"Oh, I'll be quiet," said Sirius innocently. "I'll be like a lamb; you won't even know I'm here."
Tonks turned again and looked at Remus. "There's not a Hades chance in Hell that I'll be wearing heels tomorrow."
Remus tried not to smile at the indignation on her face, but failed. "Are you ready?" he asked. "We'll start with the box step."
Her arms seemed to be pinned to her side, which was inconvenient if Remus was going to be able to start the lesson.
"Yes?" she asked, looking up at him expectantly.
He reached his hand out towards her waist and grinned sheepishly. "Can I just…"
Tonks' eyes went wide in understand. "Of course," she said quickly, raising her arms practically shoulder level. "Do what you will."
Remus swallowed hard at the thought. He long ago accepted that he might harbor what some might consider, 'feelings,' towards the young Auror, but he also knew that he wouldn't act upon them. But there were times like now…
He rested his right hand on her waist, his fingers feeling the firm skin underneath her baggy t-shirt. Then with his other hand, he placed his palm against hers and felt her fingers curl around his hand.
"Hand just goes on your shoulder, right?" asked Tonks, looking up for guidance.
"Exactly," said Remus. "Are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be," sighed Tonks.
"Just try to follow me," said Remus. He took one step forward with his left foot. It took a beat, but then Tonks stepped back, but with her left, not her right.
Remus stopped. "You'll basically do the opposite of what I do," said Remus, trying to smile. "When I step forward with my left, you step back with your right."
He took a step forward and Tonks stepped back with the correct foot. Remus tried to catch her eye, but she was looking down determinedly at his feet. His right foot followed his left, followed by a step to the left. A step back with the right and ending with a step to the right.
"That wasn't so hard, was it?" asked Remus with a grin.
Tonks was still staring at his feet with a fierce concentration. It took a moment, but then she looked up, a smile on her face. "No, not bad at all," she admitted.
"Bravo!" said Sirius, clapping so softly that no sound could be heard. "Good show, old man."
They were still in a dancing position. "Let's try again," said Remus. "But this time, look at me, not my feet."
Her lower lip seemed to be caught between her teeth. She took a deep breath and nodded. Their eyes met, and Remus gently pushed her back to start the dance moves.
She stepped with the wrong foot on the third step, but other than that, she did fine. In fact, Tonks seemed to move with a grace that Remus didn't expect, seeing how she trips over her own feet so easily.
Remus then quickly showed her the waltz and declared that she was ready. He reluctantly removed his hand from her waist; it seemed to be quite happy to stay there all night.
"Thank you so much, Remus," gushed Tonks. "Now all I've got to do is find a dress tomorrow."
"That I can't help you with," said Remus. "Dancing moves, yes. Fashion, sadly, no."
"Will you be around tomorrow evening?" asked Tonks, sounding eager. "Snape's going to pick me up here. You could see me in all my finery…"
Tonks seemed to think she said too much and lowered her head slightly. The colour rose in her cheeks. "I'll be around," said Remus, trying to sound casual. Could she actually want him to see her all dressed up? "Never did have many social obligations on a Friday night."
She nodded, smiled and quickly said good night to Sirius. When she was gone, Remus sat back down on the sofa and picked up The Daily Prophet. Within moments, he felt Sirius staring at him.
"You two were flirting," he said in an accusatory manner.
Remus cleared his throat and crossed his legs. "We were certainly not flirting, Padfoot," he said calmly. "I was showing a friend the proper way to do a box step."
"Is that what the kids are calling it these days?" asked Sirius, eyes wide. He leaned forward in his chair, resting his forearms near his knees. "Moony, I'm glad you were flirting. I want you to flirt. If she wasn't Andromeda's daughter, you sure as hell know that I would be flirting with her."
Remus turned the page of the paper forcefully. He wasn't actually reading, he just didn't want to see the expression on Sirius' face. Which was most likely smug and superior. "We weren't flirting."
"Of course not."
"Didn't I just say that I believed you?" asked Sirius with an air of superiority.
"…there was no flirting…"
"Keep telling yourself that, mate."
Remus and Sirius were both standing in the hallway of Headquarters the next evening. More than an hour ago, Tonks ran inside, said hello and then dashed upstairs, saying she needed to get ready.
"Doesn't seem fair that Snivellus gets to go out with her, does it?" said Sirius, sounding bitter, leaning against the wall.
"But when has life been fair, Padfoot?" asked Remus, waxing philosophical. He looked through the glass in the front door and saw that Snape was walking up the sidewalk. "Snape's here."
"Overgrown bat," muttered Sirius, looking out the door.
Trying to be polite, Remus opened the front door just as Snape was walking up the stairs. He stalked by Remus without a word of thanks.
"Where's Nymphadora?" he asked, glaring at both of them. Snape was dressed in a black dress robe, with a high collar that looked fairly new. His hair was back, tied at the nape of his neck. The scowl on his face made it seem like this was a fate worse than death. But then again, perhaps for Snape, having to get dressed up and socialize for a few hours might be a fate worse than death.
Remus looked at Snape, surprised that he used her first name. She normally didn't let anyone use that name.
"She's getting ready," said Sirius. "And while she is, let's get something straight, Snape."
"Spare me your lectures, Black," sneered Snape.
"If I get word that you mistreated her somehow, you will hear it from me, understood?" said Sirius angrily.
Remus faced both men, his back towards the stairs, hoping that the reminder of his presence would keep them from doing something stupid.
"Worry not, Black," said Snape curtly. "She was my student, if you recall. I learned plenty about her when she was at Hogwarts and believe me, I'm not interested. I have higher standards than a trouble making Auror who can't stand on her own two feet half of the time."
"I'm ready," said a small voice behind them.
Remus turned around quickly, and saw Tonks standing on the bottom step, her eyes narrowing slightly as she looked at Snape. She must have heard what Snape said about her.
It was her face, but she looked completely different. Her hair, normally all the colours of the rainbow, was a rich brown. It was up off her face, but curls and tendrils seemed to escape, framing her heart shape face nicely.
Her dress was a lovely dark purple. The bodice was fitted, with cap sleeves that showed off the curves of her shoulders. The floor length skirt seemed to be made out of tulle. She was beautiful.
All three men seemed to be stunned into momentary silence. Finally, Sirius spoke. "Tonksy, you…you…clean up really well."
She blushed and stepped down to the floor. "Thank you," she said.
"I thought you said that you were only going to morph your face," sneered Snape.
Tonks was holding a wrap, which she put around her quickly. Remus could tell that she was uncomfortable by the way Snape was looking at her, which was rather predatory. "I'm not morphed," said Tonks, taking a deep breath. "This is me."
Snape was obviously making some sort of comment about her body, which in a tight dress showed off much more than the baggy t-shirts and cargo pants that Tonks usually wore.
Remus cleared his throat and tried to think of appropriate words to use. There were none. "You look absolutely lovely, Tonks," he said finally.
Her face lit as she smiled at him. "I just need to change my face," she said, walking over to the mirror.
Remus watched in fascination as she screwed up her face in concentration. First, her entire skin tone darkened, so that it looked like she had a very nice tan, instead of her regular porcelain skin. Then her face elongated. Slight crow's nests were added around her eyes, which became a light blue. Her cheeks hollowed a bit and her eyebrows thickened.
She turned around and wasn't Tonks anymore. Though Remus liked to think that he would still know it was her, just based on the way her eyes danced when she looked at him.
"You look acceptable, Nymphadora," said Snape shortly.
"You certainly know how to pay a girl a compliment, Severus," said Tonks bitingly, rolling her eyes. "No wonder you're so popular. Let's get out of here."
Snape held out his arm and Remus tried not to wince as she put hers in his. Tonks smiled at both Remus and Sirius and a moment later, Snape and Tonks Apparated away.
Sirius let out a low whistle. "Girl's got a hell of a body," he said.
"Cousin," said Remus in a sing song voice, raising an eyebrow.
"I know, Moony, I know," said Sirius shaking his head. "Did you see Snape checking her out? I was ready to punch the bastard right in the grill. To think that he's going to have his greasy mitts on her all night-"
"I'd rather not discuss this, Padfoot, my friend," said Remus seriously. That's the last thing he wanted to think of. Tonks dancing with Snape, using hers and Remus' dance.
"Good idea. Let's get pissed instead," said Sirius, which lately had been his answer to every crisis.
They went into the parlor where Sirius opened a bottle of fire whisky. Remus accepted one glass, but that was it. Even though it was just a dance, Remus had to keep in mind that Tonks' mission might be dangerous. He knew that Tonks was a competent Auror, but that didn't keep him from wanting to see her back here safely.
By midnight, Sirius went upstairs, leaving Remus alone in the parlor. By one o'clock, Remus started to worry. Either something happened or somehow, Tonks and Snape were having the time of their lives. He wasn't sure which would be worse.
Fifteen minutes later, the front door creaked and Remus let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding. Then the parlor door opened, followed by a loud thump.
"Bugger," a voice said.
"Tonks?" asked Remus standing up and walking to the door.
She was sitting on the floor, with the tulle of her dress spread out around her. Her face was hers again, but he noticed that her eyes seemed awfully bright and her hair loose around her shoulders. "I tripped," she pouted.
"Is everything alright?" questioned Remus, kneeling down next to her. "How'd the mission go?"
Tonks shrugged dismissively. "Fine, I guess. There were plenty of suspected Death Eaters. But there were also a number of Ministry officials. The Death Eaters didn't drink at all; they're not stupid." The tone of her voice was flat, with no sign of its usual cheerfulness.
"Bit of a waste, then?" asked Remus, standing up. He held out his hand, wanting to help her up, but to his surprise, she shook her head.
Tonks smiled sadly at him. "I want to wallow in my misery for a moment, and it's much more dramatic on the floor with my dress all poufy about me."
He knelt down again. "We're wallowing now? Do tell."
"So ridiculous," muttered Tonks.
"What happened, Tonks?" asked Remus in concern.
She looked up and Remus could see tears in her eyes. "I know I made such a fuss last night, but I was really looking forward to this," she said wearily. "I never get to dress up like a lady and I thought, even with Snape, I thought I would have fun."
"No fun then?" asked Remus.
"Not at all," sighed Tonks. "Snape was so…Snape like. He wouldn't dance with me at all, and I even told him that we practiced."
"Did you dance with anyone?" asked Remus. He couldn't help but be pleased that she used the term 'we' when speaking of the two of them. He rather liked the thought of being a 'we' with her.
"With Lucius Malfoy," said Tonks, rolling her eyes. "But that wasn't dancing. That was me trying to get his hands off my bum in time to the music."
"I'm sorry it didn't work out," said Remus softly. And he was sorry. She looked so beautiful tonight that it didn't seem fair that she had a horrid evening. Especially when she wanted to have a good time.
"I don't know why I thought if would," mused Tonks sadly. "I'm just not the type of girl that men dress up for and want to take out dancing."
As if it was happening to someone else, Remus reached out and stroked her cheek. "That's not true," he told her.
She smiled, but it wasn't a real smile. "I'm just one of the boys, Remus. It's the way it's always been."
A thought crossed Remus' mind. He stood up quickly and held his hands out. "Get up."
With a sigh, she put her hands in his and let herself get lifted off of the ground. Remus steered her to the sofa and sat her down.
"I'm going to be right back. Don't move," he said seriously.
"Literal 'don't move,' where I can't even blink? Or figurative, where you would prefer that I don't leave the parlor?" asked Tonks, sounding slightly mischievous. The smile looked more genuine this time.
"Got it," said Tonks, leaning back on the sofa. "Not moving."
Remus left the parlor quickly and took the steps upstairs, two at a time, anything to get to his destination as soon as possible, which was his room. Merlin, what he was about to do was foolish. No doubt she would laugh in his face when he came back down stairs.
He stood in front of his small closet which held every piece of clothing that he owned. Remus had two choices and finally settled on the dark grey suit, which had seen better days. But at least it was pressed. As quickly as he could, he took off his blue striped button down shirt and dark down trousers, put on a white dress shirt and then put on the suit, matching it with a worn navy tie.
Just a couple of minutes later, Remus stood outside the parlor and peeked inside. Tonks was still sitting on the couch, leaning back, her arms crossed over her chest. With a wave of his wand, he dimmed all of the candle flames in the room. Then remembering a favorite spell of Sirius', back at Hogwarts, he pointed his wand at the small chandelier and caused the shadows of the flames to dance off of the walls.
Tonks was sitting straight up by then, clutching her wand. But she relaxed as Remus flicked his wand again at the record player, turning the music on.
He closed his eyes briefly, just long enough to again whisper his hope that she wouldn't think him foolish and realize that he only wanted to make her feel better. Opening the parlor door all the way, he stepped inside and walked to the sofa where she was sitting.
Remus bowed slightly and held out his hand. "May I have this dance?" he asked.
Her face broke out in such a smile, that Remus knew that if that smile was the last sight he saw on this earth, he would die a happy man.
She placed her now ungloved hand in his. "You may," said Tonks simply, standing up.
They walked to the middle of the parlor. Remus' right hand rested on her waist as if was always meant to be there. There seemed to be some familiarity in the way her fingers trailed over his shoulder before setting in place.
The music in the background was some sort of slow orchestral piece. Not very good dancing music, but it was their only option at the moment.
Remus gave Tonks a prep beat and they started a slow box step. She was looking at his feet.
"My eyes, Nymphadora," said Remus, calling her by her first name without even thinking. "Not my feet."
"Sorry," said Tonks, sounding embarrassed. She looked up immediately and Remus felt a jolt through his entire system, throwing him completely off balance when their eyes met.
Forcing himself to continue the box step, Remus said, "You really look lovely, Nymphadora."
There was no hint of frustration in her eyes when he said her first name. A smile was his reward and it was plenty.
"So, Lucius Malfoy," said Remus, teasing her a bit. "A bit risqué, don't you think? Isn't the man your uncle?"
"By marriage only," said Tonks quickly. "And besides, he had no idea who I was-"
"Which is, of course, a trouble making Auror who can't stay on her own two feet," said Remus, remembering Snape's words. "He shouldn't have said that about you."
"But I am a trouble making Auror who can't stay on my two feet," laughed Tonks. "I was pleased he realized."
Remus was so glad to see her laughing instead of being upset, that he dropped her hand and hugged her. He felt her arm slide up his and cup around his shoulder. For a moment, he thought about letting go, but realized that he had absolutely no inclination to. So he kept her close.
Their feet no longer listened to the beat of the music. They were doing no more than simply swaying to the music, but that seemed to be enough.
Remus thought he could hear her heart beat next to his. Or perhaps it was his. Or theirs combined. He allowed himself to lightly rest his cheek next to the side of her head, thinking that at some point tonight he must have passed out and fallen asleep, for surely, holding this beautiful woman in his arms was a dream.
When the song ended, Tonks pulled away slightly. "Thank you," she said softly, looking up at him, her eyes seeming to search his for something.
His hands slid up her arms and took her hands. "You're welcome," he told her. "Thank you for not laughing at a dodgy old fool."
"Now you're just looking for a compliment," she said cheekily, squeezing his hands. "You're not a dodgy old fool, and you know it."
"Really?" asked Remus. "I could have sworn I had a membership card around-"
But his ramblings were cut short by a pair of insistent lips pressed against his. Instinctively, he closed his eyes and started to put his hands round her waist, but pulled back instead.
The hurt on her face was evident. "I'm sorry," she said immediately. "I didn't mean to…I just thought…"
Not able to bear the disappointment in her eyes, Remus pulled her close and kissed her again. His hands rested on her waist, where he could feel both the smooth silk and scratchiness from the tulle.
Her arms wrapped around his neck and it was impossible not think of just how good it felt to have her fingers weaving through his hair. As the kiss deepened, Remus kept thinking of all the reasons why they shouldn't be doing this. The decade and a half that separated their ages, the moon that would be full in four days. There were plenty of reasons why he shouldn't be kissing her. But when Tonks' mouth opened slightly, raising the intensity of the kiss, Remus concentrated on the one reason why he should.
She was kissing him back.
There didn't seem to be any reason more important than that at the moment. Reluctantly, Remus pulled away again, but this time, there was no disappointment in her eyes, only a hopefulness that Remus found more endearing than he could imagine.
"That was lovely," said Tonks softly, her arms still encircling his neck.
Remus whole heartedly agreed. Though he was still in a bit of a daze over what they had just shared. Tonks knew everything about him, knew he was a werewolf, and yet she still kissed him like that…
"Perhaps next should be the Fox Trot?" asked Remus with a smile, while enjoying the feel of silk underneath his fingers.
"The Fox Trot?" asked Tonks, looking slightly confused.
"No?" asked Remus. "If I'm going to take you out dancing, we're going to need to know more than the box step and the waltz."
"Are you suggesting that there will be more opportunities to dance?" asked Tonks mischievously.
"We could move on to Latin Dances, I suppose. I'll have to do some studying up, though."
Tonks raised her eyebrow and grinned. She pulled him closer and said, "Rumba, Salsa, Tango-"
"Perhaps the Forbidden Dance," laughed Remus, not able to keep the smile off of his face. He wrapped his arms around her tighter, she that she was flush against him.
"Never before the third date, Remus," said Tonks jokingly, kissing him lightly on the lips. "A girl's got to have principles."
Remus swallowed softly. He hadn't even looked past their next kiss and to think about anything further…"I'll remember to keep that in mind," he said with a smile.
"No keeping track now," said Tonks saucily. "I've heard stories of your Marauding days from Sirius."
"Everything you've heard is a complete and utter lie," said Remus innocently.
"Pity," smirked Tonks. "I was hoping some of them would be true."
"Those ones are," deadpanned Remus. "Everything else is a lie."
Tonks giggled and went to rest her head on his shoulder. Remus found that he wanted to keep looking at her face…her lips…
"My eyes, Nymphadora, not my feet," said Remus gently.
Trust shone in those beautiful eyes as she gazed at him.
"Since keeping track until the Forbidden Dance is a very wrong, ungentlemanly thing to do…" Remus lowered his head and kissed her again.
"Let's just take things one dance at a time."
A/N – Would you believe that the original idea was going to be Tonks and Snape friendship piece? Remus quickly jumped in and let me know what he thought about that!