I slid my reading glasses off my nose to look up into the face of a rather wild eyed black haired man.
"Who gave you coffee, Sirius?"
My cousin, or maybe second cousin? grinned mischievously. "Oh, a little unsuspecting, tall, redhead."
"I need to talk to Arthur," I sighed, because Sirius Black is only so positively hyper and dangerous when he ingests caffeine, but a grin split my face nonetheless. "Or Ron or Fred or George or.."
"It was Bill," supplied my (second?) cousin.
"By the way, it's TONKS."
He grinned again. "Whatever you say, Nymphie."
I threw my wand at him. Rather unwisely. As he ducked and it hit the floor, hundreds of little cockroaches split out of it and began to scurry around.
I screamed and jumped onto the nearest couch. Sirius looked at me, amused. "I didn't know you were afraid of harmless little roaches."
"GET RID OF THEM!" I shouted.
He flicked his wand lazily and the floor was mercifully clean.
"How are you not scared of them?" I asked, sliding back into a sitting position.
Sirius shrugged. "You pick things up in Azkaban," he said calmly, seating himself next to me on the settee. As calmly as Sirius Black on coffee high can get, at least.
I sighed. "I hate those things."
Sirius grinned. "You've taken on Death-Eaters, Boggarts, Moody when he's angry"—Sirius shuddered—"and who knows what else, and you're afraid of little bitty cockroaches?"
I punched him. "Oh, shut up."
Sirius fell to the floor in mock agony. "It BURNS," he screamed.
I smiled, satisfied.
"So.." said Sirius, hoisting himself onto the couch across from me. "How've you been?"
"Well.." I thought about the question. Let's see.
We were in the midst of a war.
I was the clumsiest person I knew.
I was routinely yelled at by, of all things, a portrait.
And to top it all off, I was in love with my cousin's best friend.
"Just great," I lied. "Brilliant."
Sirius looked at me for a moment, cocked his eyebrow and squinted his eyes, winked, then laughed. "All right, what's up?"
I glared at him. "How do you always know when I'm lying?"
How does he always know when I'm lying?
He shrugged. "Cousinly instinct," he replied cheerfully. "Now, out with it."
I sighed and stretched my arms out. Promptly I fell over. Sirius laughed as I hoisted myself back on to the sofa, scowling.
"I'm clumsy, for one," I muttered angrily.
"Now, there," he said, looking highly amused, "that's no reason not to be having a great life."
"We're in the middle of a war," I pointed out. "That is."
He shrugged. "I guess so."
"I'm routinely yelled at by a portrait."
Amusement entered his eyes. "If nothing else, I guess that's definitely a reason to be down."
"And I'm—" I stopped, horrified at what I was about to say. I could not tell Sirius about Remus. I COULD NOT. I'd sooner die.
"You're?" he prompted.
"Never mind," I muttered quickly. "Just, uh, forget it."
He looked at me, cocked his eyebrow and squinted his eyes. Then he winked.
I threw my hands up in frustration. "AM I REALLY MAKING IT THAT OBVIOUS?" I yelled.
Sirius laughed and patted me on the head. Promptly I fell over.
"What is wrong with me?" I demanded of the general public as I pulled myself back up.
Sirius smiled. "It runs in the family, I think," he assured me. "Regulus was just as bad as you. If not worse."
"No. That's impossible," he confirmed. I swatted him, miraculously staying upright.
"Now," he said, crossing his arms. "What is this I see about your colorful eyes following a certain Remus Lupin's everywhere he goes?"
I groaned. "You are the nosiest man I have ever met."
He bowed. "Thank you very much, Nymphadora!"
"Oh—" I shot a hex at him, which he ducked. It hit the portrait on the back wall, the subject of which harrumphed, rubbed his nose, and marched away.
"Don't," I emphasized, "call me Nymphadora."
I aimed another hex at him, catching him this time. His nose swelled to the size of a clown's. I smiled triumphantly. "Mwahahaha!"
"All right, all right," he grumbled, lifting his own wand to his nose and repairing it. "I'll stop." He grinned. "It's a habit I picked up from your mother..Lord, it's been forever since I've seen Meda...how is she?"
"Mum's all right," I sighed. "She was a bit of a mess last time I saw her, though, because see she spent the last fifteen years thinking that her favorite cousin was a mass murderer and now it turns out he's not actually a mass murderer, so she's really confused and angry and doesn't quite know what to believe." I paused. "You should talk to her, you know. I could tell her to Floo over."
"Yeah," Sirius smiled, "yeah, tell her to do that. I miss Meda. She was my favorite cousin, you know, did I ever tell you?"
"Yeah," I said, "and she did, too. Generally while crying."
Sirius's smile faded slightly. "Is that an accusatory tone my ears perceive, Tonks?"
I shrugged. "I don't blame you, exactly," I said carefully, "but you kinda messed up her life, a little bit."
Sirius's smile faded altogether. "I – what?"
I heaved a sigh. "Yeah, you sort of did. She's never been really..happy, not completely. I mean she's been a great mother, completely fantastic, but even when she was laughing her head off there were always..I dunno, frowns behind her smile? Yeah. By the time I was about ten I wanted to know why she was always so sad, and so I asked her, and d'ya know, she wasn't even surprised that I'd asked. 'I knew you'd figure it out eventually,' she said, and then she told me the whole story – the story of you, and how – um, horrible you'd turned out in the end." I ducked my head, going red. "I kinda grew up really, really hating you – you were the man who made my mama cry, and light candles every Halloween, and just not be happy..."
Sirius's face had gone ashen. "Meda, he said softly, his dark eyes suddenly far away. "Oh..and after all she did for me, too."
I patted him. "It's not your fault," I said consolingly. "It's Pettigrew's, innit?"
"Yeah, I s'pose," agreed Sirius. He frowned. "God, I hate that rat.."
There was a long silence.
"I miss James at times like these," Sirius said softly. "I mean I always miss him, but..yeah..he could always cheer me up."
I felt bad. I liked Sirius very much indeed, and I didn't want him to be sad...
"But in any case!" He perked up quickly. "Remus!"
I buried my face in my hands. "Oh, no, not Remus.."
"Yes, Remus," said Sirius cheerfully. "What's going on with that, then?"
I willed my hair not to change to red, but it did anyway. Stupid unruly hair. "Nothing," I said emphatically. "Nothing's going on between us and nothing ever will. I just have a stupid schoolgirlish fancying sorta thing on him. Kinda."
Sirius grinned evilly. I acknowledged dimly that I had just given him the type of information that he could basically ruin my life forever with.
Sometimes I actually wonder if I was born with some sort of Saying Wrong Thing impediment.
Along with, y'know, a will-fall-over-at-any-and-every-chance impediment. Thing.
Warning bells rang as Sirius's smile broadened. "If you tell him," I warned desperately, "if you even think about telling him, then I swear I will sic Moody on you. Or I'll kidnap you and take you to the Ministry. Or I'll make you eat every one of your meals from a dog bowl on the floor. Or I'll – "
"I'm not going to tell him!" laughed Sirius, holding up his hands. "I'm just thinking..y'know, he might actually.. but I shouldn't say."
I lunged at him with my wand. "WHAT DO YOU KNOW?"
Sirius burst into laughter. "I dunno, but Remus has never really..ever..looked at anyone like he occasionally looks at you," he said slyly. "Hmm.."
I felt a stupid blush rise to my cheeks, and a stupider grin rise to my face. Arrgh.
Sirius grinned once more. "Take of that what you will," he advised. "I'm gonna go get some more coffee. Want to come?"
If you can't beat em..
Plus, perhaps Remus would be in the kitchen.
With a long-suffering sigh, I joined my second cousin in going to get some coffee.