Disclaimer: I'm not JK Rowling, as should become painfully evident, just playing with her things.
Author's Note: Written for the All Hallows Moon Jumble at Metamorfic Moon, where I lucked out with the prompts: banshee, comedy, and day of discovery, and chose a pic of Temple Bar to go with them. Oh, and this fic won a community choice award, which made me happy because I never normally win so much as a raffle...
"I don't think you fully appreciate, Moony," Sirius said, tipping his stout whiskey glass at Remus accusingly, "quite how hard it's been for me, you and Tonks getting together."
Remus' heart sank. He'd rather been expecting – and dreading – a discussion like this, although he'd held out a hope that although Sirius always hated feeling left out, the pleasure of shouting 'I told you so' would take the edge off.
Apparently, though, his hopefulness had been a shade too optimistic, and not only was he about to be subjected to the discussion about his love-life he'd been dreading, he was going to have to listen to it sober, too. Remus raised his own glass of Firewhiskey to his lips, taking a sip and hoping that drunkenness would rise up and take him, even though he knew he hadn't been able to get drunk on half a measure of Firewhiskey since he was 14.
"I mean, it was bad enough," Sirius continued, "watching the two of you making goggle-eyes at each other all summer and listening to you denying the whole thing and then whinging about not being good enough, let alone having to listen to you – you know."
Sirius made a hand gesture that Remus would have thought looked infantile on a twelve year old, and he looked around for something to throw at him. His eyes fell upon the bottle on the table, but he had a feeling that if Sirius continued, he'd need the contents more than the satisfaction of hitting Sirius with it. "Consider it payback," Remus said slowly, "for all the times I had to listen to you and Sandra what's-her-face at it in the bed right next to me."
"You can't compare the two," Sirius said, dismissing the suggestion with a wave."Sandra what's-her-face was nowhere near as noisy as Tonks. Sandra didn't – "
"Excuse me," Tonks said, her Butterbeer bottle halting halfway to her lips, "could you at least wait until I've gone to bed to talk about me like I'm not here?"
Remus turned in his seat, regarding her with what he hoped was apology, although really, when it came to Sirius, there were no excuses or apologies big enough, sometimes. "So you don't mind us talking about you, you'd just rather not hear it?" Sirius said, his eyes glinting with amusement.
"Nah," Tonks said. Her gaze drifted teasingly to Remus', and she grinned at him, her dark eyes twinkling mischievously. "I mean some of the things we get up to, I'd be offended if you didn't talk about them."
Remus made a vague, high pitched noise of surprise, then bit back a smile, trying to resist the urge to take Tonks by the hand, drag her upstairs, and give himself something new to talk about.
Sirius cleared his throat a little nervously. Presumably, much as he evidently wanted to talk about them, that wasn't quite what he'd had in mind. "Anyway," he said, "we're deviating from the point here. It's not been easy for a man of my ineffable charm and aching good looks – "
"Not to mention modesty," Remus said, meeting Tonks' eye askance. Sirius ignored him.
" – to sit around while his goody-two-shoes sidekick gets the girl."
Remus pressed his fingers into his chin, debating whether or not to challenge the notion of himself as either goody-two-shoes or sidekick, but ultimately decided that the ensuing debate and all the evidence Sirius could bring up to embarrass him really wasn't worth it. "I'll confess," he said, "that you being related to Tonks did, I think, give me an edge I might not have had in other circumstances."
"Exactly. If we didn't share genes, I'd have – "
"Still here," Tonks said, loudly, glaring at Sirius to fully make the point.
Sirius met Tonks' eye with a look that came as close to apology as he knew how, and her expression softened a little. "But no," Sirius said dramatically, "it's the life of a maudlin bachelor for me."
"Oh be quiet," Tonks said. "It's not like I'm the only single girl in the Order, is it?"
"No," Remus replied, "but you're the only one he hasn't already slept with."
Tonks' mouth dropped open, and she let her bottle of Butterbeer fall onto the table with a thump. "Really?"
"That's an exaggeration," Sirius said, gesturing vaguely in irritation and shifting nervously in his seat. "Those rumours about me and Mrs Figg were totally unfounded."
"But all the others?"
"Well," Sirius said, smirking slightly, "I am, as previously mentioned, ineffably charming."
Tonks laughed, and Remus couldn't help but be warmed by the sound. "Well come on, then," she said, resting her elbows on the table and leaning forward, regarding Sirius keenly. "Dish the dirt."
"A gentleman never kisses and tells," Remus said, shooting Sirius a warning glance he really hoped he'd heed. One thing he hadn't missed about Sirius while he was away was the tales of debauchery he liked to recount, normally when Remus was too sleepy or busy eating to protest.
"I never claimed to be a gentleman, Moony," Sirius said, winking. "That's what they like about me."
" 'They' being..?"
"Well, of the new batch, Emmeline," Sirius said.
Tonks leaned forward in anticipation, and when no further names were forthcoming, she frowned a little in thought, and then disappointment. "That's it?"
"Well I couldn't go after Hestia, could I?"
Remus' heart plummeted in his chest, and settled like an icy weight in his stomach that no amount of whiskey or warm laughter would melt.
Silently, he berated himself for not seeing this coming, for not anticipating Sirius doing something like this – but he was barely halfway through the list of names he had memorised to call himself when he realised that actually, it was all right, because this was too horrific to actually be happening.
He must be drunker than he thought – imagining things, probably, because Sirius couldn't possibly have just brought Hestia into things.
"Why not?" Tonks said. "Hestia's single, isn't she?"
The last delicate hope Remus had fluttered to the ground. Ok, then, so it was happening, he thought. But there was still no need to panic quite yet, because Sirius and he had agreed never to talk about it, and a Marauder didn't go back on his –
"Because – "
Remus glared at Sirius across the table. Evidently he was the only one who remembered the agreement never to talk about it. Sirius stopped, although Remus feared it was only a temporary hiatus, because the glint in Sirius' eye said he was having far too much fun to let this slide, or help Remus out of the hole he'd dug for him with a Hestia-shaped shovel.
"What?" Tonks said.
When no-one spoke, her eyes narrowed in suspicion, and her gaze flashed between them, from Sirius and his smirk to Remus, who was trying to sink as low as possible in his chair in the hope that he would drop from view. His cunning plan to simply disappear under the table and maybe make a run for it didn't work, however, and the suspicion in Tonks' eyes intensified.
Remus swallowed nervously.
Things had been going so well with Tonks –
He should have known it was too good to last.
"Well," Sirius said, leaning back a little in his chair and gesturing with palpably false reluctance, "you don't go out with your mate's ex, do you?"
"Ex?" Tonks said, her tone eminently surprised, her gaze fixing on Remus entirely and making him wish for an invisibility cloak.
"She's not my – "
"Don't split hairs, Moony."
Sirius offered him the briefest flash of a devious grin across the table, before his expression settled into one of complete mock innocence, as if Tonks' surprise was total news to him. Remus sank down further in his seat, glancing at Tonks to find her eyebrows raised in rather stunned inquiry, and winced. "We only – once – it was nothing."
"I'd hardly call it that, Moony," Sirius said. "The words you used at the time were, 'all over me like a niffler in heat', as I recall."
Was thereany use in hoping that Tonks hadn't heard that, Remus thought.
Tonks' eyebrows inched higher, and she made a rather strangled noise of surprise. "Really, Tonks," he said, "it was perfectly – "
"Yeah, let him off the hook, Tonks," Sirius said. "He only did it to prove to me that he wasn't in love with you."
The words clanged against the inside of Remus' head. Had Sirius just said –
He glanced from face to face, surmising from the smug smile on Sirius' lips and the startled 'oh' half-formed on Tonks' that indeed he had, and a deafening silence settled over the room like some kind of strangulating mist.
Remus closed his eyes and sighed. "Thank you, Padfoot," he said quietly.
"What?" Sirius said, his gaze flickering from Tonks to Remus and then back again as if he hadn't the faintest idea what he'd done wrong. "It's true, isn't it?"
"That's so far from the point that it and the point are actually on different continents," Remus said dryly, although he didn't for a second expect his admonishment to work.
Sirius sighed, muttering something about relationships never being this complicated in his day, and poured them all another drink.
Remus made use of the momentary diversion to glance at Tonks. She was still regarding him rather agog, and so he looked away again, lamenting the fact that there definitely wasn't enough whiskey left for him to drown in, and that it was too late for throwing the bottle at Sirius to do any good.
The idea of them – him and Tonks – had always been too good to be true, he thought. He'd always suspected it, right from that first second when she'd surprised him in the drawing room with a kiss. He'd been so stunned it had taken him a moment to realise that yes, she was actually doing what he thought she was, and no, this wasn't another wonderful daydream, and kiss her back, and ever since then, everything had felt so impossibly unreal as to be fragile –
And now she knew about the one thing he'd tried to hide from her.
He should have known Sirius would put his foot in it, sooner of later. Why on earth had he ever chosen to confide in the least discreet man in Britain?
Not that he'd really had a choice, since Sirius had spotted what he felt for Tonks weeks before he had and had badgered and badgered until Remus had asked Hestia out just to prove him wrong –
And then had realised with a sickening yet wonderful lurch that actually, Sirius had been right all along.
None of which mattered a jot, because now Tonks knew what he'd done, his days of feeling wonderful lurches inspired by her would surely be over.
"Anyway, it's all bollocks, isn't it?" Sirius said, reaching for his glass and raising it in toast. "I mean you're at it like nifflers in heat yourselves most nights, so no harm no foul, I say."
Remus closed his eyes, desperate for the world to go away and too depressed even to rebuke Sirius for his crassness. Sometimes, he thought, he really did rue the day Sirius Black had approached him on the Hogwarts Express and introduced himself with the immortal words: 'budge up, scrawny, I want to put my bag there.'
He should always have known it'd come to something like this. Sighing, he reached for his whiskey, knowing that it wouldn't help, but at a loss as to what else to do.
As they climbed the stairs, Remus' feet felt like lead, and he longed, futile as he knew it was, that he'd never get to the landing.
Tonks hadn't said anything about what Sirius had disclosed, but he hadn't either, supposing that they'd like to have the rest of the inevitable discussion in private. They'd gone on to make meaningless small talk about Halloween approaching and what they'd done to celebrate it at school, until Tonks had declared herself off to bed, and raised her eyebrows at Remus in an indication that he should join her.
The bedroom door closed behind him and sounded all too much like the clunk of a prison cell door, and with a grimace at the thought, he turned and faced Tonks.
He wondered how she'd break up with him. Was she a shouter? The kind of girl who'd throw something at him?
Or would she just look at him with aching disappointment, and slowly fracture his heart into a million tiny fissures and leave it to silently implode?
He thought he liked the thought of the last one least, although it was probably no less than he deserved. That she'd discovered that he'd been out with Hestia from someone other than him was bad enough, that she thought he'd only done it because he wasn't in love with her was – he struggled for the words. Insurmountably worse, was what he came up with, and though he cursed his inner melodrama slightly, it really was insurmountably worse, especially when the idea that he didn't love her was the very last thing he wanted to foster.
Why hadn't he just told her the truth? Why hadn't he just confessed that in the early days, he'd had a moment of being so utterly confounded by what he thought he might feel for her that he'd acted like a moron, and worse, a man? Why hadn't he just said that?
He'd had plenty of chances. She'd even asked him, one night, as dawn crept up on them and he traced constellations on her skin, when the last time he'd done this was – but instead of telling the truth, that a month ago he'd taken Hestia to the Grinning Kneazle but it meant nothing – he'd lied, because –
Well, he supposed he'd been a moron and a man again, and he hadn't felt ready to confess what he thought this fragile, wonderful thing between them was.
Remus forced himself to look at her, and even in the darkness of his room, Tonks' eyes sparkled.
He really wished they wouldn't. They'd been his undoing, he thought, ultimately. That, and the way she held her head to one side when she was really listening, and her hair fell into her face and –
Merlin, he was going to miss her.
"So, you and Hestia," Tonks said.
"Really Tonks – I – we didn't sleep together – it was – "
His words were impossibly garbled and didn't say what he wanted to anyway, and Tonks grinned, which simultaneously halted Remus' protests and rather confused him. "Right," she said, with a slow, sly smile.
Meeting his eye with an expression he would have thought flirtatious in other circumstances, she edged closer. Her hands drifted down his chest and she pushed him back towards the bed, which did nothing to help clear Remus' confusion, although he couldn't say, hand on heart, that he truly disliked the direction things were taking.
He sat on the edge of the mattress, a little agog as she straddled his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning in so close he could feel the heat of her body and the prickle of anticipation in his that she always inspired. "Actually," she said slowly, "I was rather more interested in the part about you trying to prove you weren't in love with me."
In all his panic, he'd rather forgotten about that bit.
Well, not forgotten, but he'd thought that she'd focus rather more on the not part than her smile suggested she had. "Because, well," she said, toying with the hair at the nape of his neck and meeting his eye with hopeful trepidation, "I was thinking that normally when people want to prove something isn't so, it's because it is."
"Oh," Remus said again, fully aware that what she'd said required something more than a one-word response.
Could he tell her?
With her in his lap and all this to lose, why was he even thinking about it?
"It was stupid, really," he said.
"Hmm," Remus murmured. He glanced down at where his hands had settled all of their own accord on her waist, thinking about how impossibly at home they looked against that ridiculously tight checked shirt she was wearing. He looked up slowly, meeting her eye with a slight smile. "I should have just owned up to what I felt."
"What you felt?" Tonks said, shifting a little in his lap and biting her lip. "And what was that, exactly?"
Remus half-heartedly attempted to bite back a grin, although really, it was something he'd been meaning to say for a while, and something he'd felt for much longer. "That I was completely, scarily, in love with you," he said, smoothing her hair back from her face.
"And when I'm scared, I turn into a moron and a man – and going out with women I don't really fancy ensues."
The smile on Tonks' face, he admitted, was rather gratifying. "So nothing happened?" she said. "With you and Hestia?"
"I might have kissed her a bit," Remus said, frowning at the memory of how the dry stone wall had dug into the back of his knees as she'd cornered him and that that had actually been the least unpleasant aspect of their encounter. "But seriously – a niffler in heat."
Tonks laughed, and he let her for a moment, before allowing his fingers to drift up to her face. "I still am, incidentally," he said, meeting her eye with what he hoped she knew was perfect seriousness.
"What?" Tonks whispered, eyes alive in the darkness as she took him in.
"Completely and scarily in love with you."
Tonks let out a tiny, fluttering sigh, and then grinned, pressing him back against the bed. "Good," she whispered, "I was a bit worried it was just me."
As she leant in to kiss him and made his world spiral, Remus found himself rather taking back his rueing of the day he'd met Sirius Black, although he still thought that opening line of his left a lot to be desired.
Sirius lay in the dark, listening to them at it, again.
The term 'nifflers in heat' barely did justice to their evident enthusiasm for each other.
He cursed the groaning springs. He cursed the headboard and its proximity to the wall. He cursed the fact that he stupidly hadn't anticipated this and wasn't drunk enough to pass out, rendering this all unto utter oblivion, and most of all, he cursed the fact that there wasn't a girl in here with him to help him drown them out.
He tried not to picture what they were doing, but he couldn't help it because the noises emanating from their room were so damn descriptive.
It was always the same. First there'd be the vague creak of the bed springs as they moved slowly – kissing and what have you – and then there'd be giggles, sighs, moans – but it was when things got… rhythmical that he really started to cringe.
He really did try not to picture them, but sometimes, the idea of their naked bodies, sheets twisted in their fingers, tangled limbs –
Well, he just couldn't help it.
There it was, that relentless creak after creak, and Sirius wrapped his pillow around his head and let a strangled groan out into it. Any minute now, Tonks would start murmuring Remus' name in a way he couldn't help but find tremendously disconcerting, and then he'd start with hers and –
It was, in short, too much.
Sirius swung his feet out of the bed, and routed around in the dark for his jeans.
He knew he was supposed to stay put, that Dumbledore would do his nut if he found out, but Dumbledore hadn't banked on the cruel and unusual torture that was listening to his little cousin and his best mate groaning each other's names like a couple of wounded hippogriffs, and so he pulled on his clothes as quickly as he could, and made for the door.
The city swirled up to meet him as he Apparated, the slightly sour smell of the Liffey curling into his nostrils as the sounds of a typical Thursday night whirled around him.
Sirius hadn't realised until that moment how much he missed the taste of real, actual life on his tongue, how he'd yearned just to be young and alive. He'd suppressed it, he supposed, as he had so much, just to cope with his situation, and with the first breath of Dublin air he took, a weight he hadn't even known was sitting on his shoulders lifted.
He'd always liked it here, and in the absence of a brain-scowering spell to rid himself of the unpleasant mental images that were dancing through his head, he'd rather been in the mood of some old fashioned craic. The Irish Ministry had a far more laissez-faire attitude to the idea of his capture than their British counterparts, and he'd even heard of a bunch of witches from the outskirts who'd formed a group called 'Sirius Black is Innocent, So He Is' in his honour, and so all in all he didn't feel that this sojourn was unnecessarily risky. A quick glamour spell, he thought, though, wouldn't go amiss, and so with a couple of his more distinguishing features subtly altered (although he liked to think the easy rakish good looks remained), he headed down the cobbles.
He shunned the tourist traps, the pubs with plastic pumpkins and cut out paper bats in the windows, fake cobwebs hanging over the furniture and Guinness on special offer, and headed down a side street to The Empty Space, a wizarding bar that he vaguely remembered had a cool Muggle jukebox and an assortment of fine Irish whiskeys.
The place was hidden behind the former residence of some famous writer whose name he was sure he should be able to recall, a thin, stone building with a vaguely malevolent presence. Sirius pushed the door open, and the scent of damp mingled with faint amber promise rose and hit him square in the face. A tune he vaguely recognised from before he went to prison twisted through the room – lyrics about tarot cards and jezebels, and he glanced around. It was as he remembered – portraits of the writer whose name he couldn't remember stared at him from the wall with a kind of blank ennui, and the tables and chairs dotted haphazardly around the place were reassuringly ramshackle. The bar was nearly deserted, save for a couple of wizards in the corner playing chess and a girl with long black hair at the bar, who turned as he approached and gave him a wistful smile that seemed vaguely redolent of something, although he couldn't quite place it. He glanced up, meeting the barman's eye and ordering a Connemara, which earned him a nod of faint approval, although he knew his accent made him stand out a little.
Sirius sank onto a stool, dropping the necessary coins into the barman's waiting hand as a mostly clean glass was placed on the bar in front of him, responding to the uninterested question about the state of his day with a roll of his eyes. The barman sniffed appreciatively and moved away to go back to feeding coins into the jukebox, and the girl with the long black hair swivelled on her stool to look at him.
There was small talk – she didn't remember seeing him here before – and then less small talk, that she was having a bad day too, having just lost her job as a backing singer. As her eyes fastened on his, longing for some connection, it was easy to be nice to her, and conversation came easier than Sirius had thought maybe it might.
At some point she persuaded him to try an Old Comber, then something the name of which he couldn't pronounce with any real certainty, and two hours later, she was tipsy and had her back against one of those portraits by the jukebox, and Sirius was asking her between kisses if she fancied getting out of here.
"What the blue blazes is that?!"
Remus covered his ears with his hands, extracting himself from Tonks' limbs and disentangling the sheets so he could sit up.
Tonks sprang up next to him, her eyes wide and startled, and she blinked furiously as she tried to banish the sleep they'd both been blissfully enjoying from her head. They both craned their necks to listen, wincing as the noise – a high pitched wavering shriek – did nothing less than assail them, and Remus grimaced at her, wondering what on earth was producing such an unholy sound. Even Buckbeak was more tuneful in his protests for extra rats, normally.
"Kind of sounds like – " Tonks paused, frowned a little at the thought as if she was unsure about what she was about to suggest. "Do they still do banshee concerts on the WWN?"
Remus closed his eyes. Even for Sirius, this was spectacularly petty, to wake them up by playing that racket. "What are we going to – "
"Don't rise to it," she said, raising her voice over the cacophony.
"I know it'll only encourage him, but I really don't think I can sleep through – "
Tonks reached across him for her wand, and before he'd even finished the sentence, Conjured a couple of pairs of ear plugs. He picked two out of her hand and she flopped down on the bed. "In the morning," she said, squeezing one pink plug into her ear, "I'm going to kill him."
Remus slid down on the pillows next to her, and as he slipped the earplugs in and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her and trying to block out the residual wailing, he was rather inclined to agree.
Remus yawned as he made his way down to the kitchen. He thought that, all in all, they'd managed about four hours' sleep, which seemed a pitiful amount, especially considering for most of the night, they'd been too busy trying to block out the noise to do anything to make the sleep deprivation worth it.
To his immense surprise, Sirius was in the kitchen humming to himself, and to his even greater surprise – and rather staggering disbelief – there was a woman he didn't know sitting at the table, cradling a mug of coffee in her hand, a plate with toast crumbs on it in front of her.
"Morning Moony," Sirius said, and Remus purposefully closed his mouth, still a little unable to believe that what his eyes were telling him was true.
He blinked. There couldn't be a woman he didn't know sitting at the table, could there? There was simply no logical explanation, other than that Sirius had –
But he wouldn't. Would he?
Sirius turned at the stove, and Remus blinked again, harder. Where there were normally grey eyes, startling brown sat, and his hair was different too, shaggier and a little lighter in colour. On a drowsy morning, he thought, he could well have walked past him on the street. "Erm – "
Remus didn't feel the word was particularly fitting for the occasion, and yet he couldn't quite think of a better one, either, and before he had the chance to give it a proper amount of thought, Tonks opened the door right into him. "What are you – oh."
She stopped dead in the doorway, the door itself swinging closed behind her, and her eyes widened as she took in the scene he just had. "Remus?" she whispered out of the side of her mouth. "There's a woman at the table and Sirius' hair's weird."
"Hmm," he muttered, although he was no closer to fathoming what was going on than she was.
There was something rather odd about this woman too, Remus thought. In the pallid light of the kitchen she looked rather – well, pallid, and her hair was impractically long, trailing along the floor, almost. She was rather scrawny as well, and the sadness of her expression seemed vaguely familiar, although for a moment he couldn't quite place it.
"This is Eithne," Sirius said cheerfully.
"Right," Remus said, stepping forward and extending his hand, "nice to meet you."
Eithne smiled, taking his hand, and as her thin fingers closed around his, the pieces fell into place, and Remus realised where he'd seen her before.
It was on the cover of The Wizarding Musical Express. He'd bought a copy in the hope of convincing Tonks he wasn't as woefully behind the musical times as she claimed, and there this woman had been in sunglasses, beneath a headline that screamed about her surprise exit from Celestina Warbeck's troop of backing singers. He blinked in incomprehension for a moment, because it was one thing that Sirius had gone out and brought a woman back to supposedly secret headquarters, quite another that he'd found a former pop singer, and –
Didn't Celestina Warbeck perform with –
Oh bloody hell, Remus thought.
He met Tonks' eye, hoping against hope that she'd just ambled down the same deductive path he had, and had reached the same destination with a plan as to what on earth to do fully formed, but she just returned his gaze with a rather puzzled frown and muttered something about a bacon sandwich.
"Well," Eithne said, and both Remus and Tonks started a little at the shrillness of her voice, "thank you for the coffee and the toast, but I'd best be going."
Remus tried not to wince, but in truth her voice was rather like nails down a blackboard to him, and he wasn't at all sure how Sirius had failed to notice what was now becoming more and more apparent with every passing second. But then, for all his supposed genius, Sirius had always had rather a blind spot for the patently obvious.
"Nice to – er – meet you," Remus said over his shoulder, as Sirius winked at him and showed Eithne to the Floo powder.
Sirius had banked on surprise, had expected shock, perhaps, and had even half-prepared himself for a lecture on the recklessness of his actions, but even given all that, the two startled expressions that met his as he turned from the fireplace, dissolving the glamour spells he'd enacted, were rather extreme.
"What – where – do you – " Remus ran a hand through his hair and glanced up at the ceiling in what Sirius recognised clearly as exasperation. "I don't even know where to start."
Remus' shoulders slumped in something that looked a lot like defeat, and so Sirius rolled his eyes and decided to help him out and answer his half-arsed questions. "What do you think, Dublin, and yes I do know this is supposed to be secret headquarters," he said. "But it's my bloody house too, and if I want to bring a girl back occasionally then I will. And it's all your fault anyway – "
"My fault?" Remus said incredulously. "How is it – "
"You and her, at it like – "
"Nifflers in heat," Tonks said, crossing her arms. "We know."
"Like I said," Sirius said, "I don't think you appreciate how hard it's been for me."
"So you went out and slept with a banshee to get back at me?" Remus said, his voice high and pinched.
Sirius shook his head to clear the ringing in his ears that had somehow formed into an echo of the word 'banshee'.
"What?" he said.
"That woman – Eithne – she's a banshee, Sirius."
"Don't be ridiculous, Moony," Sirius said, although as the words fell from his lips, his confidence in them rather dwindled.
Remus folded his arms across his chest and met his eye, raising one eyebrow at him as if he was an errant student, a look he'd perfected roughly by his fifteenth birthday. "I'm not being ridiculous," Remus said. "She's one of the most famous banshees in the country – she was in Celestina Warbeck's backing band, got booted a couple of weeks ago over some row about gravely voices and too much whiskey."
Sirius pursed his lips in thought, although all of this was sounding just a little bit too plausible for his liking. She had said she was a backing singer – and she definitely knew her whiskey – and in truth, when she'd first put her hand on his thigh, he had thought those fingers were a little on the spindly side.
He swallowed. Now he came to think about it, she did have the floor-length black hair and her voice wasn't exactly the soft Irish lilt he'd imagined – and when they'd been in bed – well, it had been a while since Sirius had been with a woman, but even so, he'd found her responses a little over the top. At the time, he'd put it down to her being excitable and him always having been an above-average lover, but if he was being completely honest, the noises she'd made had been a touch on the piercing side, and definitely less appealing to his ears than he'd remembered.
"Merlin," he said, sinking into a chair. "I slept with a banshee."
"How could you not have noticed?" Remus said, positively aghast.
"It was dark!"
Remus rolled his eyes. "It's never that dark," he muttered.
Sirius slumped in his chair, dropping his head into his hands. "How was I to know?" he said glumly. "I just thought she was thin and a bit goth."
Remus made a face of appalled disbelief, and Tonks sniggered into her hand. "A bit goth?" she said, through a titter. "I'll say."
Sirius glowered at her. "Oh, and I suppose you've never accidentally ended up in bed with someone who turned out not to be exactly what you expected when the lights came on again?" he said, but that only made Tonks snigger harder.
"We thought you were listening to a concert," she said, "to get us back."
Sirius massaged his temples with his fingers, thinking that actually, he wished he'd thought of that because at least if he'd done that, they wouldn't be laughing at him and he wouldn't have a hangover. "But she was so friendly," he said, spreading his hands through his hair in protest.
"Everyone seems friendly after half a bottle of Firewhiskey, Padfoot. I thought you'd have realised that by now. I'm really not sure how you could have failed to notice –"
"And they were playing The Faces!"
"Really, Sirius," Remus said, "it's no excuse."
Sirius let out a huff of irritation, glaring at Remus and noting that his lips were twitching with the effort of not forming into a smile. "Even setting aside the security risk," Remus said, "you do know she could have killed us all? You do remember the Defence Against The Dark Arts lesson about how hearing a banshee scream can cause an extremely agonising death? I mean what if she'd – in the heat of the moment – well – you know – and we weren't listening, but from the sounds of it she was – "
Sirius glowered at Remus from underneath his fringe, and Remus looked away, trying to cover that he was desperately trying not to laugh with his fingers. "Oh shut up," he muttered. "This is all your fault."
And it was. The two of them always off together, tormenting his nights with sounds he could always just about place. If it hadn't been for that, he wouldn't have needed to get out, wouldn't have ended up sleeping with a bloody banshee because he was too miserable and drunk to tell the difference between a Dark creature and a goth.
Remus raised an eyebrow at him slowly in question. "How's that?" he said.
"Everything was fine when we were miserable bachelors together," Sirius said. "And then you had to go and – "
"Fall in love?" Remus said, meeting Tonks' eye and smiling slightly.
"Yes," Sirius said crossly, although hearing Remus say it rather took the sting out of his ire.
Watching him exchange a glance with Tonks that said they were clearly besotted with each other made the rest of his ire positively dissolve with a whimper, and Sirius suddenly felt rather ashamed that the next words out of his mouth had been going to be ' – abandon me for her'.
"Yes I did rather. My apologies," Remus said, although his smile said he wasn't in the least bit sorry about it. "Although I'll confess that driving you into the arms of a banshee was a completely unforeseen consequence."
Sirius let out a sniff of rather resigned amusement, and slowly, quietly, a thought crept in. Remus loved Tonks – and not just lightly, in the way he'd thought occasionally that he loved girls, an emotion that flared and died just as quick – he really loved her. He loved her like James had loved Lily.
How had he not realised that until now?
The evidence had always been there. He and Tonks had been near inseparable since they'd met, had always sat close, shared jokes – jokes that otherwise would have been fired in his direction. Had he let his bitterness blind him to the wonderful thing blossoming in this grotty house?
Surely he'd always known that for Remus – all that business with Hestia and his endless denials that he felt anything for Tonks but platonic admiration and friendship – this wasn't just about getting his leg over the best of the available bunch of girls and making a lot of noise about it to irritate his oldest friend.
And yes, listening to them was quite spectacularly annoying, but –
Well, they deserved to taste life too, to feel what it was like to be young and alive, didn't they, in the midst of all this? Where he'd found it in night air and whiskey, they'd found it in each other, and it seemed impossibly churlish to deny them that. Even if he did wish they'd keep it down.
He couldn't help but smile, in spite of the headache that throbbed on his forehead and the thought that he'd really never hear the last of accidentally sleeping with a banshee.
"I suppose it's your fault, really," he said, meeting Tonks' eye and grinning so she'd know he was joking. "I mean you're the one who made him fall in love with you, and the one who makes most of the noise."
Tonks sniggered. "So are you going to Floo her and see her again?" she said. "I mean apart from her ability to kill us all with one high note, I thought she seemed quite nice."
"Probably best not," Sirius said, wincing at the thought. "I hardly think I need to add falling for a Dark creature to my litany of mistakes."
"Nothing wrong with falling for a Dark creature," Tonks said, reaching for Remus' hand and lacing their fingers together.
They shared another glance, grinning at each other daftly as if they'd invented this thing called love, and Sirius rolled his eyes, knowing that tonight, he was probably in for another earful, but not really able to find it within himself to truly mind.
"Nothing at all," he murmured.
"Actually," Remus said, "I hear there's a lot of it about…"
"I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?" Sirius said.
"Not in this lifetime, Padfoot," Remus said, "and potentially not in the one after that, either."
"Just a bit goth," Tonks tittered. "I mean come on Sirius, that'spriceless."
Sirius bit his lips against a grin, and then got to his feet. "I believe someone said something about a bacon sandwich?" he said.
"Are you making breakfast, then?" Remus said.
"Thought I might," Sirius said, moving towards the stove. "Hopefully," he added, "a cup of tea and something to eat'll help get rid of the ringing in my ears…."
A/N: Thanks for reading. Reviewers get a night out on the town with their favourite fictional sex god ;).