Disclaimer: I'm not JK Rowling, so anything you recognise isn't mine.
Warning: Some bad language.
Author's Note: This was originally written for rtchallenge on Live Journal, for the prompts: a picture of beer and cigarrettes, and the Tolkein quote "Never laugh at live dragons."
"Is this what our friendship has come to?" Sirius said, indicating the table with a lazy wave. "Beer and cigarettes?"
Remus murmured non-committally, but when Sirius sighed in vague complaint, he bristled in his seat. He had, after all, gone to a lot of effort to turn Grimmauld's kitchen into a good old fashioned East End boozer, unable to stand the thought of another evening spent listening to Sirius moan about how all he wanted to do was nip to The Grinning Kneazle for a swift half. He'd recreated the interior quite accurately, he thought, aside from the suspiciously sticky carpet, and he'd even gone to the trouble of providing peanuts and pork scratchings, although they'd polished the last of those off some hours ago in the hope of both avoiding a hangover in the morning.
From the way the room seemed a little blurry around the edges, though, that was probably now a false hope, Remus thought. "What would you rather it'd come to?" he asked, noting with some concern the slur in his voice which entirely masked his terseness.
"Dunno," Sirius said, his brow creasing in a frown momentarily as he slouched further down in his seat like a petulant schoolboy. "Whores and cake?"
In spite of himself and his annoyance, Remus laughed. "I might be able to rustle up a cake," he said, and Sirius raised an eyebrow in hopeful expectation.
"Fruit cake?" he said.
"If you want," Remus said, taking a sip of his beer, leaning heavily on his hand. "You'll have to Conjure your own whores, though."
Sirius took out his wand, and for a moment, Remus feared that that was indeed what he was going to do – either that, or Summon some from the nearby red light district, but all Sirius did was wave his wand lazily at the inside of the room to dim the lights a little. Remus sighed into his hand and Sirius took a long slurp of his pint, and pulled lazily on his cigarette, before leaning back in his chair and regarding Remus across the table with an appraising sort of stare. The kind of stare Remus had learned to be immediately suspicious of.
"How goes it, then?" he said, batting at the smoke with his hand.
"How goes what?"
"The quest for the fair Nymphadora," Sirius said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Remus rolled his eyes, biting back a grimace that felt a bit like a grin, in spite of his efforts, at the mention of her name. "Faint heart never won fair maiden, Moony."
Remus rolled his eyes again, reaching for his beer and taking a sip in an attempt to drown his hopes, since they were much more dangerous than sorrows. "One," he said, setting the glass back on the table with a light thunk, "she's not a maiden. Two, I'm not trying to win her, and three – "
He stalled. He was sure he had more objections, but right now he couldn't think of what they were because the words 'faint heart' were taunting him from the inner vestiges of his mind. "I don't have a faint heart," he mumbled, even though he knew it was a lie.
When it came to Tonks, his heart was very much on the verge of fainting nearly every time he set eyes on her.
He took a moment to marvel at quite how drunk he was, and stifled the urge to laugh and tell Sirius to smack him for being a melodramatic drunken tosser.
"Nonsense," Sirius spluttered. "It took you six months to ask what's-her-face at school out, and even then you had to write it down."
"I was sixteen," he said, raising an eyebrow in admonishment, even though it took him an inordinate amount of effort to get his facial muscles to move in the way he wanted. How much had they had to drink? "I like to think I've changed a little since then."
"Despite evidence to the contrary," Sirius muttered. He flicked ash into the niffler-head ashtray he'd found upstairs somewhere, and reached for his drink.
For a moment, Remus wondered what to say, but before he'd had chance to give proper thought to a change of subject, words came tumbling out of his mouth to match the dopey expression he was sure he was wearing at the thought of Tonks. "I really like her."
Sirius looked momentarily taken aback, and then he smiled. Remus sighed, and picked up his drink, thinking that in the morning he'd probably regret drinking it nearly as much as what he'd just confessed. "Then why don't you do something about it?" Sirius said.
"It's complicated," Remus said, trying to wave the discussion away, even though he knew things like this tended to linger.
"It's not. You say 'hey Tonks – you fancy me, I fancy you – do you want to go out, or shall we cut to the chase and just – "
Remus glared, and Sirius stopped, sniggering into his pint glass. "I never had quite your way with girls."
"Only because you refused to practice," Sirius said, and Remus sighed. "Why don't you just ask her out and see what happens? I've got it on pretty good authority that she likes you – "
"Well – " Sirius said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Mine."
rolled his eyes, but Sirius waved his objection away. "Seriously,
though, Moony," he said. "What exactly have you got to
"You mean apart from my dignity and self-respect when she says no?"
"Yes. Apart from that."
Remus laughed. "I don't know," he said, running his fingers lightly over his jaw and then resting his hand on the table, trying to steady himself. "I just – well, look at me," he said, gesturing to himself with a loose wave. "I don't have anything to offer someone like her. I'm just not good enough."
Sirius frowned at him, utterly perplexed for a moment, and Remus avoided his eyes, watching a bead of condensation run down the side of his glass and pool on the table next to his fingertips instead. "Do you really think that?" he said, and Remus raised his eyebrows in answer without looking up, letting out a soft snort of affirmation.
For a moment, Remus thought he was in for one of Sirius' infamous, but largely uncomforting, rousing speeches – he'd heard them over and over at Hogwarts in relation to a number of girls he'd liked but thought wouldn't touch him with a barge pole, but instead, Sirius rested his head on his hand and regarded him evenly – sympathetically, almost. "That's really bloody depressing," he said.
"Hence the beer and cigarettes," Remus replied.
They were quiet for a moment, and Remus took the opportunity to drink half his pint, knowing that he'd regret his actions in the morning, but not caring. It wasn't as if he had a string of pressing engagements to get up for anyway, he thought.
"Do you want to – you know – talk about it?" Sirius said, tone uncharacteristically tentative. "You know – you – and Tonks – and – stuff."
"Ok," Sirius said, shooting Remus a relieved glance across the table. "Did I ever tell you about that girl I met last year, who asked me to – " Remus held up his hand for quiet.
"Whatever it was, I don't want to know."
Sirius sniggered into his pint glass. "Fair enough. S'good story though – there's a budgie in it."
Remus ran his finger along a groove in the wood, wondering if he should try and explain to Sirius that a budgie wasn't actually considered to be a huge selling point in any story, and then if he should have talked to Sirius about Tonks after all. He was making precious little headway with his own thoughts on the subject, and although he'd never been in quite dire enough straights with girls to actually take Sirius' advice, it was always amusing, and heartening, to listen to.
But moments passed, and the one that had offered him the opportunity went with them, and so they lapsed into companionable silence, both their heads drooping closer and closer to the table….
"You know what I never got?" Sirius said, startling Remus a little. Remus raised an eyebrow by way of a reply, blinking furiously in an effort to stay awake. "That saying – never laugh at live dragons," he said.
"I was thinking about it the other day after Arthur said it in the meeting, and you know what? It makes no sense."
Remus frowned, perplexed, for a moment, lost in thought. Or just too tired and drunk to form proper thoughts, he wasn't sure which. "You know I never really got that either," he said. "It always implied to me that it's OK to laugh at a dead dragon – "
"Exactly – "
" – which is just cruel, really – "
" – although if they don't like being laughed at, making sure they've carked it first is one method of self-preservation – "
" – because why would anyone find a dead dragon amusing?"
Sirius frowned in thought. "I've never really given a shit about dragons, dead, live or otherwise," he said, waving at the room dramatically to illustrate some point he thought he was making, "unless they were flaring their nostrils and threatening to incinerate me – but that's a damn good point."
"Thank you," Remus said, tipping his pint glass in Sirius' direction in acknowledgement.
"And say you were faced with a live dragon," Sirius mused, frown deepening, "why would you be laughing at it, and not, say, running like buggery in the other direction?"
"Another excellent point. Much better things to do when faced with a live dragon than laugh at it."
Remus stared down at the table, stifling a yawn as he massaged his forehead with his fingertips. His thoughts felt fuzzy around the edges, and he was certain nearly none of them were about dragons and whether or not they minded being laughed at. "S'bit like you and Tonks, that," Sirius said, missing the table with his elbow as he tried to rest his head on his hand.
"Never laugh at live dragons – it's like you and Tonks," he said, rubbing his arm where he'd banged it.
"Is it?" Remus offered Sirius a baffled glance, and Sirius shrugged.
"Isn't it?" Sirius pressed his lips together in thought, finally managing to get his elbow onto the table and his face in his palm. "Which proverb am I thinking about, then?"
Remus shook his head. He wasn't really sure how any of this pertained to his situation, but he did know that when Sirius started getting proverbial, it was normally time to pass out, and the table top was really starting to look very appealing. "It's not the one about eggs in a basket, because you're not putting your eggs anywhere – and it's not the one about glass and stones, I don't think…. And it's not the one about friends and enemies – although that's a bloody good one."
Remus sighed. He was far too tired, and much too drunk, to try and makes sense of what Sirius was saying. "No – it is the right one," he continued, running all the words together. "It's about not underestimating your enemy, isn't it? And she's not your enemy, and she's not a dragon, and you're not laughing at her – " He frowned for a minute as if his argument had well and truly gone off the rails somewhere. " – but still, you're underestimating her, aren't you?"
Remus frowned. "Am I?"
"Well –" Sirius said, scratching the top of his head absentmindedly. "You're kind of over-estimating her a bit – thinking she's so much more than you – and don't get me wrong – she's a nice girl – stellar, in fact – but you're not so bad yourself – and while you're over-estimating her and underestimating yourself, that's kind of like underestimating her, isn't it? Thinking that she won't have given you and your supposed short-comings any thought."
not – " Remus scrabbled frantically to form the thought in his
head into a sentence. "It's not – I just think she deserves
"But that's my point exactly," Sirius said, gesturing wildly. "It's not your place to tell her what she deserves – it's your place to give her what she wants. And that, my friend, is you."
Sirius finished with a defiant point in his general direction, and then slouched forward dramatically and passed out in his niffler-head ashtray.
Remus grimaced on his behalf.
He toyed with the idea of finishing his beer, but when it came to it he just couldn't face it.
Sirius' words reverberated round the room, and he wondered if they were true – but before he had chance to come to any real conclusions on the matter, he gave in to the tabletop's invitation to rest his forehead on it, and passed out, with Sirius' snoring as a gentle soundtrack.
Remus was woken by the sound of groaning emanating from the other side of the table.
He whole-heartedly echoed the sentiment.
His tongue felt as if it had been transfigured into carpet. He gagged a little at the thought, and raised a shaking hand to his head, pressing the point on the back of his skull that the pain seemed to be radiating from, peeling his cheek slowly off the table.
Sirius stirred, the legs of his chair scraping on the floor in a most disconcerting fashion that seemed to make his whole body scream in protest at the noise. "Egads, Remus," he groaned. "What did you do to me?"
Remus groaned in response. "Homuffideavetoink?" Sirius asked.
"I said, how much did we have to drink?"
"That sounds about right," Sirius said. "Have you tried to move, yet?"
"Only a bit," Remus said. His stomach lurched at the thought of sitting up properly, and so he turned his head, clutching at the crick in his neck and resting his chin experimentally on the table. He squinted through his hair, bringing Sirius, face-down on the other side of the table, into near-enough focus.
The spells he'd cast to transform the place hadn't lasted the night, and they were back in the kitchen, although for once, it felt far too light, and not at all like a dingy basement. He rued not having the energy to reach for his wand, or the brains to come up with a spell to Vanish the sun….
"What time is it?" Sirius asked, and Remus lifted his wrist to eye-level and squinted at his watch. He brought it closer, peered at it, and moved it further away, then closer again. He was almost certain that the small hand was somewhere between the nine and the twelve.
"Morning-ish," he said.
Sirius nodded vaguely, and Remus wondered if he should tell him he had ash in his hair and a cigarette butt stuck to his forehead. "How do you feel?" Sirius asked.
Remus considered it for a moment, the revelations he'd made to Sirius and the knowledge that now his feelings were out in the open, his friend wouldn't let them be mingling with his hangover to make only one response appropriate. "I wish I was dead."
"See?" Sirius muttered. "This is why we'd have been better off with cake and whores."
For once, Remus was wont to agree with him.
A/N: Thanks for reading. Reviewers get a drunk Marauder of their choice to play with ;)
Incidentally, if anyone fancies a large slice of Valentine's Day Remus/Tonks, head on over to Metamorfic Moon on Live Journal (there's a link in my profile to my page - you should be able to find it from there), where there's dozens of anonymous R/T stories in the spirit of the day. Mine's in there somewhere ;).