The Sugar Quill
Author: jncarlin  Story: A Serious Misunderstanding  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Sirius tipped his glass higher, and let the last few drops of lager roll down the smooth incline and into his mouth

A/N: This was originally written for the June 2006 Remus/Tonks ficathon at the Live Journal community rt_challenge. It was composed in response to the prompt “Things left unsaid.” Much thanks to the moderators of that delightful community for the inspiration.

 

 

A Serious Misunderstanding

 

Sirius tipped his glass higher, and let the last few drops of lager roll down the smooth incline and into his mouth. He sighed. That was the last of it, then, until he could convince Remus to go and buy some more—Molly certainly wouldn’t be bringing home any bottles when she did the grocery shopping.

 

It had been a hard night at the end of a hard week. But he felt he could finally rest easy now that Harry was safely settled into his room upstairs. Sirius yawned, and put his feet up on the kitchen table, leaning his chair back on two legs. He looked over at Remus, the only other occupant of the kitchen. “Are you going to finish that, Moony?” He pointed at his friend’s half-empty glass of lager.

 

Remus raised one eyebrow. “Still thirsty?” he asked.

 

Sirius smiled at his friend’s mocking tone. “Nothing like a good argument to work up a man’s thirst. And no one argues quite as well as a red-haired woman.”

 

Remus smiled thinly, and pushed the glass toward Sirius. “Then by all means, help yourself.” The humor in his voice seemed forced. In fact, he’d seemed out of sorts ever since the Order meeting ended. Oh, he had put on a good front, playing the part of the kindly professor while they had been explaining the political situation to Harry, and telling him about the Order. But Sirius knew him well enough to see that something was bothering him—something more than Molly’s overprotective bossiness.

 

After taking a few sips of the proffered beverage, Sirius looked intently at his friend, and said, “So, for a bloke who should be toasting his own success in leading the mission that rescued Harry Potter, you look mighty glum. And don’t tell me you’re just sleepy—I can always tell when you’re lying.”

 

The corners of Remus mouth turned up. “Am I really that easy to read?”

 

“You are to me. I knew you back when you were still perfecting all those carefully guarded expressions of yours, remember? I can still see right through them.”

 

Remus looked down at the table, and nodded. “You’re right. I should be delighted that the retrieval mission went so well. I certainly am happy that Harry is finally here, with the people that really care about him. But …”

 

“But…?” Sirius echoed him.

 

Remus sighed. “It’s about Tonks.”

 

 “What about her?” asked Sirius.

 

Remus sighed again. “I was beginning to think that she and I were friends—good friends, even. But I’m afraid that I was mistaken.”

 

“What?” Sirius blinked in astonishment. Tonks’ preference of Remus over any other Order member had been rather blatant. In fact, she appeared to have adopted Remus as her personal Order of the Phoenix mentor, and Remus had seemed to enjoy the arrangement. What middle-aged bachelor wouldn’t like having a pretty young thing like Tonks hanging on his every word? Sirius wouldn’t mind having one or two witches like that for himself.

 

Remus shook his head sadly. “She’s been acting very…uncomfortable around me since the full moon last week.” Remus paused, and looked down at his hands fidgeting on the table-top. “I think that the full implications of my condition have finally sunk in with her,” he said quietly.

 

Sirius choked on a sip of his lager. “You think she doesn’t like you because you’re a werewolf?”

 

Remus nodded morosely. “I shouldn’t be surprised, really, considering the administration she works for. But I had hoped for better from her.”

 

“This is absurd!” said Sirius. “Tonks is no bigot, and implying that she is, is as ridiculous as calling Snape handsome and popular.”

 

“I just can’t think of any other explanation for her behavior lately,” replied Remus.

 

Sirius snorted. “How about a second opinion? You tell me what she’s been doing that has you so worked up, and I’ll tell you the real reason she’s acting that way.”

 

“And you really think that a second-hand description of her behavior will give you a better assessment of her motives than my own first-hand experience with her?”

 

“Yes,” said Sirius bluntly. “You’re not always the best judge of character, you know.”

 

“Oh, and you’re the paragon of empathy and emotional insight, are you?”

 

“I didn’t claim to be. I just might offer you a fresh perspective. And I know that Tonks is not a bigot.”

 

Remus glared at him. “Then what do you make of this, with your fresh perspective? Ever since I got back from my transformation, she’s been jumpy around me. When I try to get her alone for private conversations like we used to have, she comes up with some errand she needs to run, or a task she needs to complete, or she manages to bring someone else along. It’s like she’s afraid to be alone with me. And every time I touch her, she jumps away like I’m contaminated, and she starts tripping and knocking things over. So if my condition isn’t behind this—what, pray tell, is?”

 

“Well,” Sirius began, mulling things over, “she has been rather busy lately—lots of legitimate errands and such. And she does have a bit of a clumsy streak.”

 

“This has been above and beyond a clumsy streak, Sirius. Just tonight, in the middle of our top secret and supposedly stealthy mission I bumped into her while we were securing the Dursleys’ kitchen. She leapt away from me faster than you can say Gryffindor, and managed to break a plate in the process. Then, after the meeting, we were locking the front door together. I put my hand on her shoulder to get her attention so that I could congratulate her on her role in planning tonight’s mission. She got a horribly uncomfortable look on her face, and promptly tripped over the umbrella stand. Then, when I tried to pull her aside in the kitchen to ask her what was wrong, she knocked over a candlestick and nearly upset a chair in her attempts to avoid me. She clearly wants nothing more to do with me.” Remus folded his arms, and sat back with a hardened look on his face.

 

Sirius pulled his feet down from the table one by one and let the front legs of his chair fall to the floor with a loud thunk. An alternative explanation for Tonks’ behavior had already sprung to mind, but it might not make Remus any more comfortable with his cousin—in fact, it might make things worse. He tapped his finger restlessly on the table, wondering if he should mention his new theory. Finally, he looked up into Remus’ eyes and asked, “Have you considered confronting her with your suspicions?”

 

Remus shook his head forcefully. “What would be the point? To make her feel guilty enough to treat me more civilly? I don’t think so.”

 

“I’m still not convinced that your explanation is correct,” said Sirius.

 

“What else could it be?”

 

“I’m not sure,” lied Sirius.

 

“So much for your fresh perspective. You’ve been extremely helpful,” replied Remus.

 

“Well, if you don’t want to talk to her about it, would you mind if I do?” said Sirius, wanting an excuse to investigate his new theory.

 

“Yes, I would mind! I don’t want you to say anything about this to her.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because this is really none of your business, and I don’t want you getting involved,” said Remus.

 

“I’m already involved, now that you’ve told me all about it,” replied Sirius.

 

Remus frowned. “And I’m already beginning to regret that decision. Please—just don’t bring this up with her. If the problem is the lycanthropy, then nothing you say will make a real difference. And if that’s not the problem, then things will probably go back to normal on their own, and telling her about my suspicions will only make me look like I’m paranoid.”

 

“That’s a valid point,” said Sirius, nodding in agreement. Then he grinned. “Maybe you are paranoid.”

 

Remus grinned back. “Thank you so much for all your helpful advice, old friend,” he intoned sarcastically. He rose to his feet, stretching. “Now, since this conversation is going absolutely nowhere, I think I’ll give it up and turn in for the night.”

 

“See you in the morning,” said Sirius, still grinning. Remus gave him a little half-hearted wave as he headed out the kitchen door.

 

Sirius picked up Remus’ abandoned glass, and finished off what was truly the last of the lager in the house. He shook his head with a little smile on his face. Poor Remus still hadn’t figured out that merely asking a Marauder not to do something was no guarantee that the Marauder would obey.

 

****

 

Sirius was so preoccupied with Harry and the other children that he didn’t find a chance to talk to Tonks alone until several days later.

 

He had spent the first few hours of the day hiding out in Buckbeak’s room in an attempt to avoid being recruited into Molly’s latest cleaning brigade. Assuming that the coast would now be clear, he headed down to the kitchen for a late breakfast.

 

He was startled to see Tonks already seated at the long kitchen table, eating her way through what he feared were the last of the left-over breakfast sausages. “Wotcher, Sirius,” she said tiredly. Her short pink hair was limp, and she had dark circles under her eyes.

 

“Merlin’s beard, you look horrible!” said Sirius.

 

“Thanks—you really know how to cheer a girl up,” she said with a cross look on her face.

 

“Oh, sorry, Tonks,” said Sirius. “I’m just surprised to see you.”

 

Tonks sighed, poking listlessly at her sausages with her fork. “It’s okay. I probably do look horrid. I’ve been working an all-night stakeout for the last three nights, and this morning it ran overtime when my relief was late—that prat Williamson with his damned inability to tell time. I’m scheduled for two more nights on the stakeout, and the night after that I’m supposed to be on night duty for the Order. If you think I look bad now, just wait until you see me in three days. I’ll look like a bloody Inferius.” She stabbed one of her sausages fiercely, raised it to her mouth, and took a large bite. “At least you say what’s on your mind, unlike some people around here,” she muttered around her mouthful of meat.

 

Sirius sat down beside her, and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean by that?”

 

Tonks finished chewing her bite, and slowly swallowed. “It’s just … well… have you noticed Remus acting strangely around me lately?”

 

Her question brought his recent conversation with Remus flooding back into his mind. Now was the perfect chance to find out what was really going on between these two.

 

“Strangely how?” asked Sirius.

 

“I think he’s avoiding me,” she said. “Just this morning, I come here exhausted, looking for warm food and a sympathetic friend, and I thought I’d get that when I found Remus alone in the kitchen. But he immediately made up an excuse about needing to find a book in the library, even though I could tell he had only just started reading his Daily Prophet. It was like he couldn’t stand to be in the same room with me. I wish he would just tell me what’s wrong.”

 

“I’m afraid that my old friend is the king of leaving things unsaid when they ought to be talked about at length. It’s one of his worst failings,” said Sirius. “So, you wanted him to stay?”

 

“Of course I did!” she said. “He’s my friend. Or at least I thought he was.”

 

Sirius nodded. He was now almost certain that his theory about Tonks was correct. “You know,” he said, “I think he has been uncomfortable around you lately. He mentioned something about the way you’ve been acting around him.”

 

Her face fell. “I’ve done it again, haven’t I? Why do I always have to be so bloody obvious about these things?”

 

“You mean so bloody obvious about the fact that you fancy him?”

 

“Yes!” she exclaimed. Sirius felt like giving a victory shout—his theory had been confirmed with surprisingly little effort.

 

“I always do this!” she continued. “It’s like some sort of mental disorder. Every time I start fancying a bloke, it’s as if I can’t help myself. I start following him around like a lovesick puppy, and come down with a serious case of the clumsies. Unfortunately, Remus isn’t the first man I’ve scared off this way. I really am hopeless.”

 

Sirius let out a short bark of laughter. Tonks glared at him. “My pain is funny to you, is it?” she said.

 

“Not at all—I just find it amusing that the two of you have been capable of so thoroughly misunderstanding each other.”

 

“What do you mean?” she asked.

 

“I mean, he has absolutely no idea that you fancy him. Quite the opposite in fact,” Sirius said with a smug grin.

 

“The opposite? What’s that?” she said, looking utterly befuddled.

 

Remus,” said Sirius slowly, “thinks that you’ve been acting uncomfortable around him because you are prejudiced against him.” He let his words hang in the air, waiting for her reaction.

 

Her eyes were wide, and her mouth hung open. “Prejudiced? Prejudiced?” The pitch of her voice was rising. “Why the hell would I be prejudiced against him? For being unemployed?”

 

This question seemed ridiculous to him. Surely his cousin couldn’t be serious. “No,” he said with a laugh. “For being a werewolf.”

 

Tonks face froze, and her skin tone slowly fluctuated from red to white to red. “He’s … a werewolf?” she asked quietly.

 

“You’re joking,” he said. She continued to stare at him with her somber red face. “You’re not joking,” he concluded. She shook her head.

 

“You mean he didn’t …?” Sirius stumbled over his words in disbelief. “Dumbledore … Kingsley… No one …? You mean no one at all told you?”

 

“No,” she said in a flat voice.

 

“They must have all just assumed that you knew—that someone else had told you,” said Sirius in amazement.

 

“They assumed wrong,” she said.

 

“Bloody hell. I don’t know what to say,” said Sirius, truthfully.

 

“I thought his name seemed familiar when you introduced us,” she said flatly, almost to herself. “I decided I must have heard Mum mention him when she was talking about you. But that wasn’t it. I was consulting the Werewolf Registry for a case a week before I met him. I must have seen his name on the list of registered werewolves. I should have remembered—its part of my job to remember these things. But I didn’t.”

 

Sirius nodded slowly. “That … makes sense.” This conversation was growing more and more uncomfortable by the second.

 

“So Remus,” said Tonks slowly, “thinks that I am prejudiced against werewolves; therefore, I am prejudiced against him.” Her face was hard, and her eyes glinted with a fiery light. Sirius had never seen her look like this before. He nodded quietly in response.

 

She stood, her fists clenched at her sides. “I’m going to go have a little talk with our friend,” she said, and stalked out the door. Sirius blinked in bewilderment a few times, and then hastily followed her.

 

She strode purposefully up the stairs, and down the hall to the library, her back straight, her arms swinging, and her fists still clenched. She stormed into the open library, with Sirius close on her heels.

 

Remus sat in one of the armchairs, reading. A half-empty cup of tea sat on the side table beside him. He looked up at their entrance. “Tonks, is something wrong?” he asked mildly.

 

“Wrong? You ask me if something is wrong?” she said. “You think I’m a bloody bigot! That’s what’s wrong!”

 

Remus stiffened, and grew pale. He glanced over Tonks’ shoulder to look Sirius in the eye, with an unspoken question hanging between them. Sirius just shrugged, and shot his friend a sheepish smile. This discussion was going to be very interesting.

 

Remus looked thoroughly unsettled. “I just thought…” he began, then changed course. “Ever since my last transformation you just seemed …”

 

“I didn’t even know you were a bloody werewolf!” she shouted.

 

“You didn’t… know?” Remus asked in a hoarse voice.

 

“No one bothered to tell me!” she replied.

 

“And when I was gone for my transformation, you didn’t think …?”

 

“I thought you had the flu!”

 

“The flu?”

 

“I can’t believe I didn’t even notice that you were gone over the full moon!” she said. “I’m supposed to notice these things! I’m a bloody Auror, for Merlin’s sake.”

 

Sirius prudently refrained from comment, though he was sorely tempted.

 

“So you really didn’t know?” asked Remus, a hopeful gleam growing in his eyes.

 

“No. I really didn’t know,” she replied.

 

“So you’re not afraid of me?” Remus said in a soft, hesitant voice.

 

“Afraid!? Of you?” she cried. “If I was afraid of you, would I do this?” She strode up to him and ripped the book out of his hand, tossing it to the floor.

 

“Or this?” she said as she abruptly seated herself in his lap.

 

“Or this?” she continued, as she ruffed his hair with her hands, and pinched his steadily reddening cheeks.

 

“Or this?” she cried, picking up his tea cup and taking a lusty gulp. “Oh no!” she said, “Now I’ve drunk werewolf saliva! And I’m covered with werewolf cooties! I’m doomed—doomed! Whatever will I do!

 

Sirius could no longer help himself; he started to laugh. Remus looked at him for a moment, and then smiled. He began to laugh as well. Then, Tonks joined in.

 

“So, are you sufficiently convinced,” she said to Remus, “or do you need another demonstration?” She leaned into him with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.

 

Remus chuckled. “I’m convinced. You’re not afraid of me. And you’re not a bigot.”

 

“No. I’m not,” she said, looking deep into Remus’ eyes.

 

“And you really didn’t know?” he asked.

 

She shook her head. “I really didn’t know.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, not adding what he was sorry for.

 

“You’re forgiven.”

 

“Friends?” he asked, holding his hand up for her.

 

“Friends,” she replied, gripping his offered hand in her own.

 

Sirius watched as they sat that way for a few moments—Tonks snuggled on Remus’ lap, their hands clasped together, staring into one another’s eyes. They looked perfect together. Sirius wondered if he was catching a glimpse of what the future held in store, or if it was just wishful thinking on behalf of his cousin and his friend. He also couldn’t help wondering what sort of effect having Tonks in his lap was having on Remus, and whether or not it would be visible when he stood up.

 

“I do have one more question to ask you,” Remus said to Tonks.

 

“It doesn’t have anything to do with your periodic bouts of sharp teeth and rapid hair growth, does it?” she replied.

 

“No, not at all.”

 

“Then ask away.”

 

Remus smiled—he hardly looked nervous at all any more. In fact, he looked very much like he did all those years ago when he discovered that his three best friends knew about his condition, and that it didn’t bother them one bit. “Might I,” Remus began, “possibly, have my lap back?”

 

Tonks’ smile grew wide and bright. Her cheeks were rosy with a blush, and she no longer looked the least bit tired. “Certainly you may,” she replied. “Thank you very much for lending it to me.” She stood up, still looking down into Remus’ eyes.

 

“Anytime,” he responded.

 

“Is that a promise?”

 

“I’ll think about it.”

 

Tonks hovered over him for a moment more with a pensive look on her face. Finally she said, “I think I’m going to go get a coffee on my way home. And maybe a piece of cake. At this little Muggle café that I know. Do you like cake?”

 

Remus nodded, and stood up slowly. “Yes. Yes, I like cake very much.”

 

“Would you like to join me?” she asked, looking at her shuffling feet.

 

Sirius marveled at how she could be so brazen a few minutes ago, plunking herself down in Remus’ lap, and how now she could seem so genuinely nervous and shy. His cousin really was a fascinating little woman.

 

Remus nodded again. “I would be delighted to join you.”

 

“Brilliant!” she exclaimed, looking ready to start jumping up and down. “Let’s go, then.” She headed for the library door, with Remus following close behind.

 

As they exited the room, Sirius asked, “So I’ll see you later, then, shall I?” When neither of them responded, he frowned. “You’re not the only ones who like cafés and cake, you know!”

 

Remus paused, and looked back with a startled look on his face. “I’m sorry, Sirius. I’ll bring you back a piece of cake, if you like.”

 

Sirius sighed, and nodded. He shouldn’t let his own restlessness ruin their fun. “Yeah. That would be great. Thanks, mate.”

 

“Bye-bye, Sirius,” said Tonks brightly over her shoulder, and she and Remus continued on their way.

 

Sirius smiled broadly, shaking his head. “They didn’t even notice I was still in the room,” he muttered to himself, then laughed lightly. He didn’t know exactly where this thing between Remus and Tonks was headed, but he was fairly certain that he was going to have fun watching it get there. In the meantime, there was a plate of abandoned sausages awaiting him down in the kitchen. He strode down the hall with a bounce in his step, and a smile on his face, humming a little tune. Not even housecleaning with Molly could ruin his mood today. No—today, he was going to be happy.

//
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