Remus didn't so much as glance at Tonks for the length of the meeting that night, making her feel better about her decision to have a drink with Aswin.
She had spent a good hour trying to decide what to wear when she got home that afternoon, realising that she didn't really own any 'date' clothes. After many changes, she had eventually settled on a rather pretty black and floral dress she had found in a muggle shop few weeks ago, that clung tightly over every curve and had a rather low back and three-quarter length sleeves. It seemed like the best thing she owned to wear to a club, and she morphed her hair to a boyish, top-heavy cut in deep scarlet to balance the girly dress. Before apparating to Grimauld she pulled on her nicest trench coat and grabbed a pair of seldom-worn black heels and held them tightly in hand, not trusting herself to appear in any place wearing heels without causing herself serious injury.
She spent a lot of the meeting thinking about the evening to follow, and trying to ignore the strange, niggling thought that she was somehow betraying Remus. But when he refused to even offer her a smile in greeting as they all found their seats in the dining room for the meeting, her guilt practically disappeared.
Despite being wrapped up in her concerns for the date that was to follow the meeting, assuming Emmeline ever stopped blabbing on with her report, Tonks wasn't so thick as to not notice Molly's constant glances across the table. Were they filled with concern? She really couldn't tell. She truly liked Molly, but she certainly wasn't one of her children, so the expression of worry and nosiness wasn't necessary.
"Not a fan of shoes, are we, Tonksie?" Sirius drawled when the meeting finally came to an end at twenty-five past eight, and those who had to be elsewhere shuffled out of the kitchen.
"Those aren't shoes, they're weapons," Kingsley commented with surprise, staring at the black heels Tonks held in her hands.
"Oh har-har," she scoffed, standing up from her place at the dining table. "I took them off to apparate and figured that keeping them off is probably the safest thing for everyone," she explained, inspecting the nine centimetres of stiletto that she usually associated with a great deal of stumbling.
"You look different tonight, Tonks," Ginny announced thoughtfully, bounding into the kitchen with Crookshank close on her heels.
"Don't I always look different?" she said, hopping slightly as she pulled on her shoes with as much grace as she could. She would have to apparate to the club in them; she couldn't very well randomly appear in the street and put on her shoes outside of a nightclub.
"No, you look... are you wearing a dress?" Ginny exclaimed, looking Tonks up and down. She rolled her eyes to realise that everyone in the kitchen was now staring at her.
"I wear dresses. Sometimes," she defended.
"The last time you wore a dress was to my wedding. And as I recall, you set fire to it," Kingsley reminded her, with a small, laughing smirk. She scoffed.
"I didn't set it on fire, it just smoked a little," she defended petulantly.
"But this is a muggle dress, not dress robes, isn't it!" Arthur said with hushed excitement. Tonks opened her mouth to reply, but she couldn't really think of anything to say in response. Could she lie? But what was the point of such deception?
"Yes, it's a muggle dress," she sighed, sitting on the edge of the dining table as she tried to pull on her other shoe without falling over.
"Can we see it?" Ginny requested excitedly, skipping up towards her. "Oh, please, let me see! You have such nice clothes! Mum doesn't like me wearing too many muggle things," she huffed.
"Alright, alright, but only for a minute, I have to go soon," Tonks said, finally managing to put on her shoes. Before she had even stood up Ginny was unbuttoning her coat, as if Tonks were incapable of doing it herself.
"Oh, it's so pretty!" she exclaimed, as Tonks finally pulled off her coat all together. Kingsley gave a low whistle and Sirius said a mild expletive.
"Sirius!" Molly scolded, but he only sniggered.
"Sorry, Molly, but you have to admit, even though she's my cousin, she looks rather... uhh... fetching?" he offered, fighting a smirk as Ginny cooed over her dress.
As they were turning her round, for a split second, Tonks caught Remus' expression, and it sent a very chill down her uncovered spine.
His brows were raised in surprise and his jaw had dropped slightly. He was staring at her in a way she had never seen before. It was different to his watching, because that always held a slither of mild amusement and fascination, as if she were some sort of strange exhibition for him to discover. But this look was completely different. And it almost terrified her.
"Where are you off to, then?" Sirius asked with vague curiosity.
"I'm just going for a drink at this muggle club," she shrugged.
"This isn't with Aswin, is it?" Kingsley frowned. Tonks rolled her eyes.
"Not that is has anything to do with you, but yeah."
"You're... going on a date with someone?" Ginny exclaimed. Tonks turned back to see the young girl staring up with complete confusion, and something akin to betrayal in her eyes.
"I... I guess so, why?"
There was suddenly a rather uncomfortable silence in the room, and everyone seemed to be looking to Remus, who was now staring with feigned curiosity at the grain of the table.
Without saying a word, he stood after a moment of pregnant pause, and quietly left the room, not so much as glancing to anyone. It wasn't until they heard the library door close that anyone spoke.
"Nice, Tonks. Nice," Sirius said, his tone tinged with true bitterness.
"What? What did I do?" she exclaimed with surprise, looking to each face in the room. Arthur looked rather uncomfortable, and was avoiding her eyes, whereas Kingsley was staring at the door Remus had just left through with concern.
"But... how can you go on a date with someone else?" Ginny questioned with pained disbelief, looking around as if the room held the answers, but of course, there were none.
"Tonks, dear, I never thought you cruel, but that was... oh, the poor man," Molly sighed, shaking her head slightly.
"Can someone please tell me what's going on?" Tonks demanded, growing angered at the silence and the disapproval. What right did they have to comment on her personal life?
"Did you have to say that in front of him? Really? You didn't think that it might hurt him?" Sirius practically snapped, standing up and making to leave the kitchen.
"Hold on," she commanded, arresting his movement. "What are you talking about? You mean Remus?"
"Well who else left the room without a word?" he drawled in return. "What you do is your business. But to me, that was just plain old childish," he sneered.
"I don't get it," Ginny said, looking from Tonks to the doorway.
"Well you're not the only one," Tonks growled between gritted teeth.
"Simple. Tonks is parading dates and party dresses around to make Remus jealous," Sirius said, his voice clipped.
"What the – what are you on about? I'm not parading anything!" Tonks cried in defence.
"What, you turned up to the meeting in a tiny, tight little dress and now you're about to go off on some date after announcing it to everyone in the room, but he had absolutely nothing to do with it?" he drawled.
"Yes! I mean –" she stopped with an angry huff. "I'm just going for a drink, I'm not trying to make anyone jealous!" she snapped.
"But aren't you and Professor Lupin..." Ginny trailed off, her cheeks suddenly burning bright red.
"I don't know what any of you are talking about," Tonks said, glancing to her watch with an exasperated sigh. It was already eight-thirty. She stared at the door Remus had used to leave. Had he really thought they were... well, what did he think? "But because you all seem to think I've purposely tried to upset Remus, I'm going to have a word with him. Not that I did anything wrong," she added curtly, grabbing her coat and storming out of the kitchen.
What right did they have to judge her for going for drinks with someone? Aswin was a nice bloke, and she certainly wasn't attached to anyone. It was just plain ridiculous! And Remus had no right to make her feel guilty. He had to get out of her head, because she couldn't think with him there. It was impairing every thought and action and it was about time she confronted him on it.
She knocked on the library door, but didn't bother waiting to hear a response before she pulled it open, to see Remus sitting in his usual chair with a book on his lap.
"Wother," she said tersely, slamming the door behind her. He didn't glance up.
"Don't you have an engagement to keep?" he asked almost boredly, turning a page in silence.
"Well, according to everyone in that kitchen, that 'engagement' is nothing more than some sort of cruel way of getting your attention. I was just wondering when exactly it was decided that we were an item," she snapped, throwing her coat down on the nearest chair and crossing her arms against her chest.
"But we're clearly not, so there's no point in you being here. You have somewhere else to be, and I'm sure Aswin is waiting for you," he replied calmly. She scoffed.
"Don't. Don't just sit there and not even bother to look at me. I didn't do anything wrong to you, so you have no reason to play the victim," she said shortly. He sighed, removed his glasses, and looked up at her, his expression blank.
"Fine. Is there something you wished to discuss, Tonks?" he enquired politely. She felt herself burn with rage at his cool calm. He was doing exactly the opposite of what she wanted him to do, and it was unbearable.
"Don't call me that! Don't try and... Merlin, you're so infuriating!" she threw back with exasperation, wishing she had some biscuits or something hard to throw at him.
"What, so I should call you Nymphadora? Just so you can tell me not to call you Nymphadora?" he drawled, leaning his chin against his hand and sitting his elbow on the arm of the chair.
"Don't – just... just don't do that!" she growled, wishing she knew what he was doing that upset her so. Perhaps it was his calmness that pained her so. Or it could simply be the fact that lately, when she was around him, she had lost any sense of her own self.
"Well, I can't see what I'm doing that's wrong, Tonks, so if you don't mind, I have a book I would like to read, and you have a young man no doubt waiting for you," he replied with just a hint of coolness, lowering his eyes to his novel once more.
Tonks stared at him in silence. She didn't know what to say next. What was he playing at? Why was she suddenly the villain, when all she had done was follow his advice and accept Aswin's offer for a drink?
"Are you just going to stand there?" he asked after a full minute of silence.
"Well if I go back out there I'm going to be treated like I'm a complete bitch for going out with another human being, so I figure I might as well stay here until I can figure out why that's going to happen," she snapped. Remus sighed tiredly, and rubbed his forehead with his weathered hands.
"Well it certainly isn't my fault, Tonks. I haven't encouraged anyone to act in such a manner," he answered quietly.
She glared at him silently for a moment. She believed him, but that didn't help. It didn't help her release her anger and it didn't help her make any sense of what was happening.
"Why did you leave?" she demanded.
"Why did you leave? You just got up and walked out. Why did you do that?" she repeated, her voice shaking with growing force. She needed to know. Suddenly, she was desperate to know. She needed to understand.
He coughed, and then cleared his throat, as if stalling for time.
"I wanted to get back to my book," he murmured finally, not looking up to her.
"If you want to go read a book, you excuse yourself. You're so damn polite all the time. You wouldn't just get up and leave without excusing yourself if all you wanted to do was read your damn book," she growled.
"Well what was I supposed to do, Nymphadora?" he snapped, looking up very suddenly. She felt a small victory to hear his voice say her name once more. "Am I supposed to congratulate you? Or should I have complimented your dress? Did you want some more relationship advice, or perhaps another French lesson for the road?" he demanded angrily. "You know, just because you're a metamorphmagus and you feel the need to announce your presence everywhere you go by knocking over the closest piece of furniture doesn't mean everyone is constantly focused on you, Nymphadora," he practically scolded. She stepped back as if injured.
"You have no right to be angry," she murmured, shaking her head. He scoffed.
"And you do, storming in here and demanding explanations for other people's opinions? You know, there are some times, Nymphadora, when your immaturity astounds me," he said coolly.
"Fine. Fine, you can sit here and read your book, and I'll go do what you told me and have a drink with another human being," she spat. "And because you found the fact that I don't go round sleeping with everyone I meet so laughable, maybe I'll just go home with him, you know, take a 'romantic leap', just like you told me to," she continued bitterly. She knew she was not taking cheap shots, but she didn't care. His words were hurting her, and she wanted to hurt him back.
That one word silenced her before she could shout something else at him, before she could probe at whatever wounds they had exposed in each other. He swallowed, and stared at her with a rather pained expression.
"Don't. Just... just don't," he repeated, clenching his fists together on the armrests. She scoffed.
"You told me to accept dates, Remus. You told me not to ask, but to accept. You didn't say wait, you didn't say consider, and you certainly didn't ask me yourself," she threw back, wondering where the strength and force of their earlier arguing had gone, because her words felt flimsy and useless without it.
"And you've done exactly as I instructed. I can't help the reactions of others; so I believe this discussion is over," he snapped, growing impatient. She glared at him.
"So that's it? I should just go out with him and let that be it?" she demanded. He gave a tired sigh.
"If you're expecting me to make a similar offer to you, then I would give up, Nymphadora. It isn't going to happen," he replied calmly. That in itself seemed to hurt her.
He gave a dry, bitter chuckle, and shook his head slightly, as if she were pathetically amusing to him.
"Could it be, Nymphadora, that I simply don't want to go out with you?" he offered wryly. She held her jaw straight and firm, and tried not to think of that possibility.
"You called me beautiful."
"Yes. Yes, I did," he murmured, a little quietly, his eyes glancing her up and down before returning to her face. They suddenly seemed very blue, and very piercing. "However, attraction aside, you know that if I were to... it would be a mistake. We both know it would be a mistake," he said firmly. She crossed her arms against her chest and raised a brow.
"Does that mean that you fancy me, then?" she demanded. He sighed, and lowered his eyes to the carpet. He suddenly looked a great deal older to her.
"What does it matter if I care for you or not, Nymphadora?" he asked, a little desperately.
"But you do, don't you," she said blankly. She didn't know where the certainty came from, but all of a sudden, it was there.
"Alright, yes. Yes, I do care for you," he admitted finally, raising his head. "And I rather feel I was quite obvious about it. Do you think I would let anyone but you throw biscuits at me? Or that I would give anyone other than you private French lessons? Nymphadora, you knew. You can't deny that you knew," he coolly accused.
She bit against her lip. There certainly was no longer any denying that she had known. It at least explained the niggling feeling of guilt when she accepted Aswin's invite. But she couldn't believe that she had done anything to hurt Remus. She wasn't the kind of woman who used other men like that, and to do such a thing to Remus would have been beyond cruel.
"You didn't ask me. And even if you didn't want to ask me, you didn't have to tell me to accept when I get offered a date," she objected. Remus sighed, and closed his book, placing it on the table beside him.
"Nymphadora, sit down," he sighed, gesturing to the armchair closest to his, where they had once sat, slowly working their way through the first three pages of The Beauty and the Beast. It seemed like a lifetime away now, even though it was really only days. She briefly wondered if he thought he was the beast. If perhaps his affinity for that story stemmed in the hope that it gave.
Obediently, she sat down, still burning with anger but she was almost shaking with the realisation that yes, Remus had wanted to ask her out. He fancied her.
"I care for you. So much so that I can understand it would be better for both of us to leave whatever relationship we've started as nothing more than a friendship," he began calmly. "You will go for a drink with your friend from work, and I'll sit here reading dusty old books and getting drunk with Sirius. That's just the way that it's supposed to be," he said, with such little conviction it was almost sarcastic.
"Well what if I wouldn't mind having a drink with you, instead?" she challenged. He gave a slightly pained smile.
"Nymphadora, you are... the perfect and complete personification of almost everything I've ever wanted for myself," he quietly murmured, staring across the room as he spoke. "You're young and beautiful and charming and clever; no one can help but love you. You're not ordinary, you're... you're extraordinary, in the most wonderful ways possible. But the best I can hope for is to be just another face in the crowd for most of the month," he continued, his voice barely audible. Tonks listened in disbelief. "And I want... well, let's not bother with what I want. The point is that I'm old, I'm poor, I'm dangerous, and I can't have you. So if I asked you out for a drink, it would only be a mistake," he decided, before finally turning to face her.
Tonks stared at him for a moment. She saw more vulnerability in his expression that she had ever seen in a man before, but she still felt anger lingering in her heart.
"You can be surprising selfish sometimes, Remus," she said finally, her voice cool.
"What?" he exclaimed with complete surprise.
"'I can't have you'. Merlin, get a grip. Who says it's up to you?" she snapped. He looked positively startled at her response. "Do you really think I'm so narrow-minded that I would care about any of that 'old, poor, dangerous' nonsense? Yes, what you have to go through is terrible and impossibly unfair. But that has nothing to do with the fact that you could have asked me out, but you didn't. And now everyone thinks I'm trying to make you jealous and hurt you by having a drink with someone else, but I would never hurt you," she continued pointedly. He turned away, looking slightly ashamed, but mostly insulted.
"Well, this discussion is purely academic, because you're going to see some other man tonight. So none of this matters now," he announced, reaching back for his book. "I hope you two have a wonderful time," he added, flicking through the pages to find his place.
She vaguely wondered how he seemed to remember his page numbers in the middle of an argument. He didn't even bend down the corners of the page.
"What if I weren't?" she asked, very quietly. He glanced over to her with another sigh.
"But you are."
"I don't have to be."
"But you are."
"Remus, I don't have to go! It's not like he'll never forgive me!" she snapped. He shrugged.
"I don't want you to think that you're in any way... indebted to me. Please, you're young and you're single, there's no reason why you can't have a drink with a friend. Or even with someone more than that," he said, managing a small smile. "Nymphadora, just go. I want you to go, you deserve to enjoy yourself," he insisted. She glared at the book in his hands with fierce determination.
"What if I go there, have a drink, and then realise that I don't fancy him at all? I only said one drink. I wouldn't be long."
"No, Nymphadora. He's a nice young man, and if you like him, you don't need to rush your date because of –"
"I won't. Remus, I'm not going to beg," she cut him shortly. He stared at her with an unreadable expression. "You know, I – I really do fancy you," she admitted with a weak smile. He still stared as she continued, rather nervously. "I know I'm annoying and attention-seeking and clumsy as all hell, and I know that you're boring and bookish and much too clever for me, but I don't really want to have a drink with Aswin, and I never would have accepted his offer if I thought you might fancy me too," she insisted, speaking almost in one breath.
Remus stared at her.
It wasn't his usual watching or his hazy gaze when she had taken her coat off, it was something completely different. Something thrilling. Something that made her feel equal with him for the first time.
"Can you do something for me?" he asked her, after a long silence. She nodded. "I want you to go have a drink with Aswin."
Her face fell, and her heart pounded against her chest painfully.
"No, I don't mean..." he stopped himself, and gave a heavy sigh, his eyes still locked on her. "I don't want to have a 'what if' situation. Have a drink with him. And if you feel that you might like him, even in the slightest, then you should have a second drink. Maybe a third. But no more – and please, please, don't go home with him," he begged, his eyes twinkling with laughter. She nodded, smiling. "And, you can kiss him if you'd like. But I'd rather you didn't," he added with a grin and a shrug.
"But what if I don't fancy him?" she challenged, raising a brow and feeling her smile grow.
"Well... then, I suppose..." he trailed off, before laughing breathily and staring into the fire.
"Have a drink with him, and if you don't think it could go anywhere, then come back to me. I'll be here. I don't... I'm not much to offer, Nymphadora, but if you want me, I'll be sitting here, waiting for you," he said. She wanted to protest and argue that he really was a lot to offer, because he was funny and teasing and much too clever for his own good. "And if you'd like, I'll let you throw biscuits at me and you can read the inappropriate chapter in the phrasebook," he offered with a rather charming smile and a wink. She got up, fighting a grin, and picked up her coat.
"Alright. I'll see how it goes with Aswin, and I might just come back and hold you to that," she decided, heading for the door.
She turned to see him leaning his chin against his hand, his elbow resting on the arm of the chair, his eyes running up and down her body.
"I forgot to say. You definitely don't look like a boy this time," he smirked.
She rolled her eyes and scoffed, but when she turned away to pull open the door, she couldn't help but smile. Suddenly, Aswin Corbett, the most handsome man in the Ministry with looks to kill and a smile more charming than even Gilderoy Lockheart's, had absolutely nothing on Remus Lupin.
Remus glanced to the clock above the mantle. It was really getting quite late. And she had been gone too long for it to be just one drink.
He tossed his book on the side table with a sigh and sunk back into the armchair. She wasn't coming back. She fancied that Law Enforcement fellow, and she wasn't coming back to him. He hadn't expected her return; he knew that from the moment he saw her in that damn dress. No woman could look so lovely and then leave a handsome young man in a nightclub to spend the evening with some old, boring, bookish werewolf. That was even more ridiculous than The Beauty and the Beast.
"Stop looking so glum," came a cheerful voice from the doorway. He looked up to see Tonks leaning against a bookshelf, still in her dress and heels, with a packet of biscuits in hand.
"You're back," he murmured in complete surprise. She smirked, and nodded.
"Yup. Sorry I'm late, had to get the biscuits. So, are you going to hold up your end of the bargain?" she asked chirpily, walking into the room with a surprising amount of grace given that she was still wearing those heels.
"How did the date go?" he asked, trying his best not to sound bitter. She scoffed.
"Turns out Aswin is a right old tosspot when you give him even the slightest bit of alcohol. But don't worry, he seemed to get over me pretty quickly with some blonde at the bar," she laughed, plonking herself down on the armrest of his chair, tossing the biscuits into his lap.
He swallowed, unable to avoid staring at the hemline of her tight dress, rising and exposing more of her ivory thighs as she crossed her legs.
"Well, I wish I could say I'm sorry about that," he replied smoothly, dragging his eyes back up to her face. She smirked.
"Mm. All's well that ends well, I suppose," she hummed thoughtfully. "So, biscuits, French lessons, and a bit of German poetry," she laughed, glancing to the book he had been attempting to read as he waited.
"Sounds like a date," he smiled, before taking off his reading glasses and setting them down on the table.
"You know, I think those glasses made you look rather dashing," she decided, before reaching forwards and brushing away some of his light brown hair.
"Well, I've come to the conclusion that you must be ridiculously tipsy to willingly come back here to see me. So I've decided I'm going to make the best of your drunkenness, but I can't kiss you while wearing them, so I'm preparing myself early," was his simple response, his eyes twinkling playfully. She raised a brow.
"Oh, you're going to kiss me, then?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," he teased, moving his hand to gently rest on her waist, feeling the tight material of her dress move beneath his fingers as she laughed.
"You could at least offer me a biscuit first," she smiled. He sniggered, and then picked up the packet of biscuits in his lap with one hand. Choosing not to shift his hand from her waist in the fear that he might not have the courage to place it there again, he rather childishly opened the packet with his teeth, and then held it up to her. "We have some really strange inside jokes," she laughed, selecting a Custard Cream and chewing on it thoughtfully.
"At least we have some jokes. It's a good indication for the future."
"What, we'll be teasing each other about baked goods for the rest of time itself?" she laughed, looking utterly charming as the soft glow from the firelight illuminated her short scarlet hair. He didn't want to frighten her by confessing how much he would enjoy to be with her for the rest of time, so instead began to rub his thumb up and down the curve of her waist in a decidedly affectionate fashion.
"It will certainly be interesting," he smiled with a slight shrug.
"Mm, well, as long as we have biscuit jokes, I'm sure they'll outweigh my annoyingness and your boringness," she said, before repeating her earlier movement of pushing back his fringe from his eyes.
"You still think I'm boring?" he challenged with a raised brow. She giggled, and nodded.
"What are you going to do about it?" she teased. In a moment of daring boldness, he gripped her waist and pulled her rather swiftly onto his lap, causing her to squeal slightly in surprise.
"Much better," he decided, not even bothering to conceal his smirk. She rolled her eyes at his smugness.
"I must say, that was a pretty daring way to prove that first impressions aren't always accurate. You're lucky I didn't fall off and skewer myself with these shoes," she laughed as he leant forwards and pressed his forehead against hers.
"I'll make it up to you," he assured her rather suggestively, his voice low and almost a whisper against her lips. He felt his heart race as the corners of her mouth twitched. He decided, that at least for a little while, he wasn't going to think about the fact that she was thirteen and a half years younger than him, that he had no job and no prospects, or even that he happened to be a werewolf. He didn't usually have evenings where beautiful young witches that he was finding himself increasingly fond of would willingly sit in his lap, and he had no intention of letting such trivial things as his lycanthropy get in the way of something he was quite certain was rather special.
"Want a biscuit?"
She laughed as he offered her the packet of biscuits, but his moment of victory was short lived when she slid her arms around his neck, and pressed her mouth against his.
He would have laughed, were he not so otherwise agreeably occupied.
Her kiss tasted like biscuits.
A/N: And here it is, the end of the story! Sigh. It's not so sad for me, because I've done stories with fifty chapters, so this little ten chapter story is really just a baby. It was some fun fluff and humour, and it doesn't really consider the bigger issues that threaten our lovely couple in the future. I just really like to think that Remus and Tonks were together from the beginning of OOTP, because that way they had three years together. And whilst that's barely anything at all, it's longer than the one year that a lot of people write about. So in my head, they would have a year of happiness and love, before Sirius' death and Voldemort's rise to power would just shake the foundations of any relationship.
Thank you all so much for reviewing and seemingly enjoying this fic, your lovely words are so reassuring and helpful :D I might write more Remus and Tonks in the future, but I think I took this idea as far as I could take it, and it was very hard to write the story without having any major angst. For those who read my Jane Austen or my Phantom of the Opera stuff, you will now how much I love angst. But I wanted something light and fluffy for this story. Anyway, thank you all so much!
Many hugs and much love,