A/N: A while ago I had this idea of writing short little one-shots to show a bit of Coward's protagonists' interactions previous to Coward. Today, finding myself with the ever elusive gift of free time, I decided to write the first of these prequels. It can certainly be read without having yet read Coward, but I simply think that Coward's readers will like it better.


By Gueneviere



Taratap, taratap, taratap

Taratap, taratap, taratap, taratap, taratap taratap, tarata—

"Would you stop it with the bloody noise already?" Kingsley Shacklebolt demanded from a very bored, very tired, very purple-haired Nymphadora Tonks as the young woman switched to a different rhythm of finger-tapping for the seventh time since they had been seating there.

'There', being at The Noble House of Black's kitchen table. 'Since they had been seating', being about twenty-something long, interminable minutes.

"Can't help it. I'm bored," the witch shrugged simply and kept on tapping her obnoxiously loud lime green nails on the furniture of her ancestors.

Kingsley raised his eyes at the ceiling, wondering if a magnanimous deity would take pity on him and hand him some divine patience. Receiving no such thing, he closed his eyes, wishing that he didn't habitually shave his head, if only to have some hair to tug on right now.

"What's taking him so bloody long, anyways?" The witch demanded suddenly, slamming a hand on the table and glancing expectantly up the stairs. "It's Mad-Eye, for Merlin's sake. What can he be doing up there? Applying moisturizer? Polishing his eye? Braiding his hair?"

The Auror opened his eyes to smirk faintly. "He does that as a matter of fact."

Tonks head snapped back to stare him dead on. "Moody braids his hair?" She inquired in a horrified whisper.

"Of course not, you idiot." He snorted. "He polishes his eye, though."

"Ew. Merlin, Kingsley, don't tell me that!" Tonks wrinkled her nose in distaste.

"It's the truth." He said, smiling at her expense. "But I doubt that he's doing that right now. One of the Weasley kids asked him about some hex and they went to the library to check it out. You know how he gets carried away."

Tonks rolled her eyes but smiled ruefully. "He's probably half-way through the first year Trainee moves by now."

Kingsley nodded in agreement and leant back to stretch his arms over his head. "The man should be in the Academy's payroll, I swear; he never stops recruiting," he said through a yawn before dropping his arms on the table again and checking the heavy silver watch that lay around his wrist.

Get moving, you lazy bum, it read in bright yellow letters.

Maybe I should get himself a muggle watch, he thought with a scowl. At least those don't have an attitude.

He glared at the device before he returned his attention to Tonks, "I guess it's a good thing Hestia is always late anyways."

"Hestia works at Mungo's, Kings. Give her a break," she said, staring at her nails as they darkened to a hideous murky green shade.

Kingsley disagreed. "We're Aurors, Dora. I daresay we're pretty bloody busy ourselves and we still manage to arrive on time for Order business. "

"Probably not today, though." Tonks had resumed her staring contest with the still empty staircase. There was a silence before she spoke again. "So, which kid is Moody pestering then?"

Kingsley frowned pensively. He really didn't know the Weasleys all that well, Arthur having been just a Ministry acquaintance until his joining of the Order of the Phoenix five months ago. "One of the girls. The taller one," he replied noncommittally.

"The Weasleys have only one daughter," Tonks reminded him with a raised eyebrow.

The black man raised a shoulder to convey his ignorance. Now that he thought about it, the girl hadn't really looked like a Weasley at all. Might have something to do with the distinct lack of red hair and freckles, he thought with a smirk.

"I don't know then… the brunette? Long, curly hair? On the skinny side?"

"That's Granger, Potter's other best friend." Tonks nodded to herself. "Met her couple of days ago. Her parents are muggles so Dumbledore asked me to cast some wards around her house. She actually helped me." She glanced up the stairs again. "Nice girl. Didn't know she was here already."

"Granger? Lupin and Black might've mentioned her a while ago." He paused, trying to recall the conversation. "She's supposed to be smart, no?"

The metamorphmagus tilted her head. "That's what Remus says. And it was her and Potter who saved Sirius after all, so she must be."

Kingsley frowned and remained silent, fixing his eyes on the dark wood of the table before him.

Bursting into chuckled, Tonks shook her head at her friend and partner. "Oh please, you can't still be sour about that!"

He said nothing as Tonks laughed on. And on. And on, and on.

Kingsley snapped. "Hey, I'm almost thirty years old and this close to being made Senior Auror," He held two barely separated fingers before Tonk's face for emphasis. The woman's lips twitched and he dropped his hands, fighting the impulse to pout. Almost-thirty-year-old, almost-Senior Aurors didn't pout, after all.

"It's just not fair a little fifteen-year-old girl got to ride a hippogriff when I haven't," he complained, absolutely not pouting at all.

Tonks laughed again and patted Kingsley's muscular forearm comfortingly. "There, there, poor baby." The man threw her a dirty glare and she smirked back at him, her currently blue eyes bright and amused. "Don't worry, Kings, we'll take Buckbeak for a ride one of these days. I might even buy you a chocolate frog afterwards if you're a good boy."

Kinglsey scowled dangerously at her mocking conciliatory tone, but quickly desisted. He sighed instead. Everybody always seemed to be a bit intimidated by him, even when he wasn't trying. Everybody but Tonks, that is, and it was annoying as hell.

It was also the reason she was his best friend.

"By the way,"

Kingsley raised his head to glance at Tonks who had started walking up the stairs, presumably to retrieve Moody so they could get going on their bloody mission already.

"Granger was only thirteen when she rode the hippogriff, you know."

Kingsley Shacklebolt glared at the retreating back of the giggling Nymphadora Tonks, and wondered where he could find himself a best friend who didn't feel the recurrent need to crush his ego.