The Sugar Quill
Author: jncarlin  Story: Second Thoughts  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.

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A/N: This story was originally composed for the June ficathon at the LJ community, rt_challenge. Thanks go out to the administrators of that community for giving me the inspiration.

 

Second Thoughts

 

Sirius awoke on the rug in front of the parlor fireplace, curled up around an empty bottle of wine. His head was killing him.

 

Last night Bill, Tonks, and Remus had treated him to a high-spirited birthday surprise party involving a great deal of immature carousing, far too much alcohol, and more than a little dangerous mischief. Bill had called it “the real party,” in contrast to the sedate cake and tea affair that Molly was planning for tomorrow night. Sirius had enjoyed his “real party” immensely—dangerous mischief included—but this morning he was paying for it.

 

He struggled to his feet, and slogged downstairs, clutching at his aching head. He entered the kitchen intending to scrounge in the pantry for something to ease his headache, when an object on the table caught his eye. It was a steaming mug of what appeared to be his favorite hangover remedy, ready and waiting for him. Next to it was a note.

 

P-

I think this is what

you’re looking for.

-M

 

“Moony and his damned werewolf metabolism. He probably felt just fine this morning,” muttered Sirius. He raised the mug to his lips and downed the pungent concoction in a few large gulps. He couldn’t help but feel some gratitude for his friend’s thoughtfulness when his head began to feel better almost immediately.

 

Once his headache had subsided, he began to notice the hunger pains in his belly. He opened the larder, looking for a quick bite to eat. As his eyes scanned the shelves, he began to get the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. In just another moment, he realized what was bothering him. The larder was tidy. Organized. Everything was clearly visible, in neat, orderly rows. It hadn’t looked this way yesterday.

 

He backed out of the larder, and took a closer look around the kitchen. It was definitely cleaner than it had been yesterday. The sink was practically gleaming.

 

“Huh,” grunted Sirius in puzzlement. He grabbed an apple out of a basket on the counter, and headed up the stairs taking large crunching bites out of the fruit.

 

The juice from the apple began to dribble down his chin as he strode down the main hall. It had none of the usual accumulation of dust on the floor; it certainly looked like it had been recently swept. And he had no doubt that Kreacher was not the responsible party.

 

A strange sound up ahead caught his attention—it appeared to be coming from the library. He found the wide double doors of the library were open, and he stepped inside, pausing to take in the bizarre scene before him.

 

All the shelves in the library were bare. Remus stood in the center of the room, his back to the door, in front of a massive pile of books. One by one he was picking up the books, examining their covers, and then, with a flick of his wand, levitating them to six smaller piles of tomes dotting the room.

 

“Good morning,” said Sirius.

 

“Good afternoon,” responded Remus without turning around. “Didn’t you notice the time?” He sent another book floating across the room.

 

Sirius glanced up at the clock on the library wall. “Huh,” he said. “Good afternoon, indeed.”

 

He stood in the doorway, watching his friend send book after book soaring around the room. He took another bite of his apple, and slowly chewed it. Finally, he swallowed. “So,” he said, “what exactly are you doing?”

 

“Something I’ve been meaning to do for months now,” said Remus. “I’m organizing the library. It was pure chaos in here. I’m sorting the books into subject categories, and then I’m going to shelve them alphabetically. But I haven’t decided whether I should alphabetize by title, or by author. Do you have a preference? It is your house, after all.”

 

“And this is after you’ve already organized the larder, cleaned the kitchen, and swept the halls?”

 

“I washed your linens too. It seemed the perfect opportunity, with you not sleeping in your bed.”

 

Sirius sighed. Remus, stop sorting the books. Turn around, and talk to me.”

 

Remus lowered his current book back to pile, and half turned toward Sirius with a concerned expression. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

 

“That’s what I was about to ask you,” said Sirius, folding his arms and leaning against the doorframe.

 

“Why would you think something’s wrong with me?”

 

“Because I haven’t seen you acting like this since you thought you failed your Potions OWL and decided to clean and reorganize the whole dormitory. So, in the twelve hours since we all passed out in the parlor, what could possibly have happened to freak you out like this?”

 

“I am not freaked out,” retorted Remus.

 

“Yes,” replied Sirius, “you are. So what happened?”

 

Remus looked down at the ground and fidgeted his feet. Then he looked back up, and said, “I think I may have made a terrible mistake.”

 

“Which is…?” said Sirius.

 

“I kissed her.”

 

Sirius didn’t need to ask who. He nodded his head in bemusement, strolled casually into the library, and flopped into one of the armchairs. “Okay,” he said. “So you finally kissed her. Why is this a problem? I thought you’d be happy.”

 

“I was—at first,” said Remus, shuffling his feet some more. “I was thrilled, and excited, and full of enthusiasm about the future. But then, once she’d been gone for about a half an hour, I calmed down, and started to think about it realistically.”

 

“Oh no,” said Sirius, shaking his head. “No, no, no. That was a horrible mistake. This is exactly the sort of thing that thinking can totally ruin.”

 

“You’re still reasoning like a teenager. I’m afraid I don’t have that luxury,” said Remus.

 

“You like her, don’t you?”

 

“Of course I like her! Her friendship is very important to me. That’s why I’m afraid the kiss was such a mistake.”

 

“Plenty of friendships have managed to survive a drunken snog. I wouldn’t worry too much, if I was you,” said Sirius.

 

“It wasn’t a drunken snog,” said Remus, sinking heavily into another armchair.

 

Sirius hesitated. “You didn’t… shag her, did you?”

 

“No!” said Remus. “I meant I didn’t kiss her when we were drunk. Somehow, when I was drunk, I managed to resist the temptation. No, I kissed her this morning when she was leaving for her flat.”

 

Oooh. You kissed hung-over Tonks. That’s different. I’ve seen hung-over Tonks before, and she’s not a pretty sight. Kissing hung-over Tonks is a sign of very serious intentions.”

 

Remus sat up straighter, and frowned. “She didn’t look that bad.”

 

Sirius barked a laugh. “You really are falling for her, aren’t you?”

 

“I might be,” said Remus, leaning forward and putting his head in his hands. After a moment he looked back up. “So do you really think kissing her this morning sent the message that I was serious…about things?”

 

“Hmmm,” said Sirius, absently tossing his apple core up and down in air. “What kind of kiss was it?”

 

“What kind?”

 

“Yes, what kind? Different kisses send different messages.” Remus clearly didn’t understand, so Sirius elaborated. “Was it just a quick little peck of a kiss, or was it a tongue twisting, body mashing, hands groping kind of a kiss?”

 

Remus blinked a few times in discomfort. “It was… somewhere in between. But… a little closer to the second than to the first.”

 

“Ah! So was it more of a tender, lingering, emotional sort of kiss?”

 

Remus coughed, and looked down at his fidgeting hands. “Yes. Something like that, yes.”

 

Sirius nodded. “Yes, that kind of kiss under those circumstances does send a pretty serious message. How did she react to it?”

 

Remus fidgeted some more. “She… kissed me back. And she fell off the front steps. And she wanted to skip her lunch appointment with her Mum to stay here with me.”

 

Sirius was not entirely successful at stifling a laugh when Remus mentioned the bit about Tonks falling off the front steps. He grinned. “That’s a pretty serious reaction.”

 

“Yes. I thought it might be.”

 

“So what did you do next?” he asked, still tossing his apple core up and down.

 

“I told her she should go meet her Mum.”

 

Sirius dropped his apple core on the floor, and it rolled under a side table. He stared in wide-eyed astonishment at his friend. “You kicked her out?”

 

“I didn’t kick her out! I just felt like she ought to keep her appointment with her Mum.”

 

“And what did she say to that?”

 

Remus sighed. “She asked if she could come back tonight.”

 

“And…?”

 

“And I told her we both needed a good night’s sleep tonight, and we arranged to meet here tomorrow night instead.”

 

Sirius laughed again. “And she was alright with that arrangement?”

 

Remus frowned at him again. “She seemed happy with it, yes.”

 

Sirius shook his head in disbelief. What kind of man was Remus, to pass up an afternoon of snogging with a beautiful—and eager—young woman so that she could have lunch with  her mum and have a good night’s sleep? “I don’t think I’ll ever understand you, Moony,” he said.

 

“I’m terribly sorry for being such a mystery to you,” Remus replied. After a pause, he said, “I don’t know what I was thinking, this morning. Last night was just so… and she looked so… and I just… There really wasn’t a single rational thought in my head. It was pure instinct. Nothing more than a purely selfish act derived from the natural genetic drive to couple.”

 

Sirius burst out laughing. “The natural genetic drive to couple?” said Sirius again, choking on his laughs. “Are you sure that was all there was to it?”

 

“No,” said Remus with a sigh. “But the point is—I acted on pure impulse. And I know from sad experience that every time I act on impulse, things go wrong. They often go very, very wrong.”

 

“Every time?”

 

“Would you like the list?”

 

“How could I resist?” said Sirius. Remus had always been prone to over-dramatize his mishaps, and Sirius was certain that today would be no exception.

 

Remus got to his feet, and paced to the other end of the room. Then, he turned sharply, staring Sirius in the eye. “Do you remember Driselda Tippens?”

Oooh,” said Sirius. “That did go rather badly, didn’t it? So that’s what you mean by acting on impulse.”

 

“What did you think I meant? Deciding at the last minute to eat kidney pie instead of curry?”

 

Sirius shrugged. “Go on,” he prompted.

 

With a sigh, Remus continued, pacing and turning with each new item on his list. “How about my sudden decision to try-out for the Quidditch team?” Sirius winced. “Or that illicit trip to the Hog’s Head the night before taking our NEWTS? And don’t forget the time I asked Doreen Hopkins to spend the day in Hogsmeade with me. And the incident at James’ bachelor party. Or the time I thought the Death Eaters had captured Lily, and I went in to rescue her single-handed without telling a soul? I could have died, for God’s sake!”

 

“Very true,” said Sirius, nodding. His guts and clenched with the memory of each horrific incident on Remus’ list. He was starting to agree that Moony was making a very solid case for his inability to make good decisions on impulse, but he still felt that kissing Tonks would prove to be an exception to the rule.

 

“And there were a large number of similar mishaps while you were away—none of which I plan on sharing with you, by the way. But you full well know the crowning example of my disastrous impulsive behavior. How could you forget the night I impulsively followed you to the Shrieking Shack without thinking to take my potion first? If I hadn’t transformed into a ravening beast, we very well may have retained our possession of Peter, and you would now be exonerated and Voldemort may never have been returned to power!”

 

“Good lord!” said Sirius with an incredulous laugh. “Now you’re blaming yourself for Voldemort’s resurrection?”

 

“How can I not?” exclaimed Remus, with a despairing look on his face.

 

Sirius closed his eyes, and rubbed his forehead. He could feel his headache coming back. “Did I ever tell you how much I hate it when you get melodramatic?”

 

“I’m not being melodramatic,” retorted Remus.

 

“Yes,” said Sirius firmly, “you are. Now stop it. We’re not here to second guess each and every decision you’ve ever made so that we can ultimately blame all of society’s woes on you. We are here to determine whether or not you should spend some more time snogging my cousin.”

 

Remus struggled to look outraged, but finally gave in to Sirius’ light-heartedness, and cracked a reluctant smile. “You have quite a way with words sometimes.”

 

“One of my many talents. Now sit down. All your pacing is making my head hurt.”

 

“Sorry,” said Remus, and he returned to his seat.

 

Sirius rubbed his forehead again, and said, “I’m not even sure if your litany of negative precedents has anything to with the matter at hand. Tonks wasn’t a sudden impulse. You’ve fancied her for ages, haven’t you?”

 

Remus looked at his fidgeting hands for a moment, before saying, “Yes, in a way”

 

Sirius raised an eyebrow. “How can you fancy someone in a way?”

 

“Well,” said Remus, as if searching his mind for an explanation. “I admit that I was attracted to her almost from the start. But I never in my wildest imaginings thought that she would ever be interested in me as something more than a friend. So I just…tried to be her friend. I suppose I felt that having a tiny bit of a crush on my friend wouldn’t do anyone any harm, so long as I kept it to myself.”

 

“And now?” pressed Sirius.

 

“And now… Well, it was only in the last few days that I admitted to myself that my feelings for her have grown stronger than I ever intended them to. And then suddenly, last night, it became clear that she actually felt the same way about me. It boggled my mind. I didn’t know what to do. And this morning I just … kissed her.”

 

“Hmmm,” said Sirius. “So, your feelings weren’t impulsive, but your actions were.”

 

Remus nodded silently.

 

Sirius rested his chin in his hand, contemplating his friend’s situation. “So the situation at hand is: you suddenly found out Tonks fancies you, and impulsively sent her every signal that you were interested in starting a relationship with her, and now you’re thinking of backing out of it?”

 

Remus nodded sheepishly.

 

Sirius frowned, and shook his head in disbelief. “You really can be a cold-hearted bastard, sometimes. Did you know that?”

 

“There’s nothing cold-hearted about it,” said Remus. “I only have her best interests in mind.”

 

“Her best interests? Great Merlin, Remus! How in hell is this kind of mind game in her best interests?”

 

“She deserves better than what I can give her!”

 

“Oh really?”

 

“Yes!” Remus was turning red in the face. “She deserves a man who can hold down a job. A man who’s young, and healthy. A man who can afford to pamper her. She deserves a man who will be there to lift her spirits whenever she’s feeling down, and who can pick her up whenever she falls, and who can just… always be there for her, no matter what. And I am not that man. There are several days each month when I will never be there for her, or anyone else. I will never be the kind of man that she deserves.”

 

Sirius couldn’t believe that this was what Remus really thought of himself. “Damn. I guess I never looked at it that way. But still—if I had a girl like Tonks, I wouldn’t let my status as England’s-most-wanted stop me. What’s the difference?”

 

“The difference is, someday, once Peter is apprehended, you won’t be a fugitive anymore. But I will always be a werewolf.” Remus’ face was hard and cold. Sirius wondered how many times over the years Remus had repeated that sad mantra to himself, in order to deny himself the normal pleasures of life.

 

“She’s an Auror, Remus. She knows all about werewolves. And if she’s willing to give things a try in spite of it, then you should be too. Besides,” he added nonchalantly, “you don’t even know how serious she is.”

 

“You think she might not be serious about me?” asked Remus. He looked disappointed.

 

Sirius stifled a grin. He was fairly certain that his cousin’s feelings for Remus were very serious, but now didn’t seem like the right time to mention that fact. “She’s young. She’s still playing the field. She probably would just like to go on a few dates, see how things go. And if it doesn’t work out, no problem, you can just go back to being friends. That’s how girls her age do things.”

 

Remus suddenly looked very thoughtful. Somehow, Sirius didn’t think that was a good thing. “Do you think she’s too young for me?” asked Remus.

 

Sirius rolled his eyes. “No—she’s not too young for you. Yes, she’s young, but not too young.”

 

Remus was looking at his hands again. “Did I ever tell you that Andromeda was the first girl I ever fancied?”

 

“No. You never did.”

 

“Well, she was. It started when we were first years and she was a sixth year, and she would let us tag along with her even though we must have been horribly annoying. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Even after she eloped with Ted, I still thought of her as some sort of perfect dream girl. I didn’t really let go of the fantasy until I heard she was having a baby.”

 

“That’s awfully… bizarre, for a twelve year old.”

 

“I was a rather bizarre child at times,” said Remus.

 

“I’m remembering.”

 

“So now,” said Remus, “I am the bloke who just snogged the baby of the first girl he ever fancied.”

 

“Good Lord, you’re melodramatic today!” said Sirius.

 

“I must be in a melodramatic mood.”

 

“She’s not too young for you!”

 

“I know.” Remus nodded. “Logically, I know that. Logically, I know that she is indeed an Auror, and knows very well the complications that would come from a relationship with a werewolf. And logically, I know you’re right—this doesn’t have to be serious right from the start. We really could just go out a few times, and try things out. I just—haven’t done this sort of thing in a very long time. I’m,” he paused, “a little bit scared.”

 

“Oh really? I never would have guessed,” said Sirius.

 

Remus cracked a smile. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be unloading all my paranoia on you like this.”

 

Sirius leaned back, and put his hands behind his head. “No problem, mate. It’s not like I have anything more interesting to do.”

 

“Well, I’m so glad to provide you with an afternoon’s entertainment.”

 

“You’ve got to pay for your lodging somehow. This way’s as good as any.”

 They were silent for a moment. Then Sirius spoke again. “So have you made up your mind? Will you be breaking my poor cousin’s heart tomorrow?”

 

Remus looked at him sharply. “I thought you said she wasn’t that serious about me.”

 

“It was just a figure of speech. So have you made up your mind?”

 

“Not yet.”

 

“Well, don’t take too long. The week’s almost over.”

 

“Why does that matter?”

 

“Because,” said Sirius, “if you start going out this week, Mundungus will be a very happy man.”

 

Mundungus? What…?” started Remus.

 

Sirius cut him off. “But if you wait until next week, Emmeline’s the one who will benefit, and we all know she doesn’t need the money.”

 

“What money?”

 

“Well, several of us started getting the feeling quite a while ago that your relationship with Tonks was headed in a romantic direction, so we started a small betting pool, to try to predict the actual week the two of you would become involved.”

 

Remus’ mouth hung open, and his face was turning red again. “You started a betting pool about my personal life!?”

 

“It’s as much about Tonks’ personal life as it is about yours, you know,” stated Sirius matter-of-factly.

 

“I can’t believe your audacity!”

 

“It was actually Bill’s idea.”

 

“Bill’s idea?”

 

“Don’t look so shocked—I’m not the only troublemaker around here, you know,” said Sirius.

 

“How many people are involved in this betting pool of yours?” asked Remus.

 

“Most of the Order.”

 

“Even Molly and Arthur?”

 

“Oh, they were the most optimistic of the bunch,” said Sirius. “Their weeks of choice have come and gone ages ago.”

 

“Are you trying to tell me,” said Remus with a pained expression, “that the members of the Order of the Phoenix have nothing better to talk about than whether or not Tonks and I will become a couple?”

 

“These are dark times. It cheers us up to talk about the potential happiness two of our friends could give each other,” Sirius said with a straight face.

 

“You are an outrageous liar.”

 

“Very often, yes. But the betting pool is real.”

 

Remus shook his head. “It’s just so unbelievable.”

 

“You know,” said Sirius, “it would greatly disappoint me if you rejected my dear cousin. I’d have to take her side—she is family after all. And I’d have to snub you for at least two weeks. It would make my life even more dreadfully boring; I have so few people to talk to. Not to mention, I’d hate to see Severus win all that money.”

 

Severus!?”

 

“Yes,” said Sirius, nodding sadly. “He bet that you’d never get together at all.”

 

“You let Severus place a bet about my love-life?” Remus looked outraged.

 

“He overheard Bill talking about it, and that git of a Weasley let him place the bet. I never would have allowed it.”

 

Remus shook his head. “So everyone but Severus has believed for months that Tonks and I would get together.”

 

“You two have been practically inseparable, you know. You’re always going off to dark corners to laugh at your little private jokes, and you’re always arranging to go on assignments together. It just seemed so obvious.”

 

“And it’s impossible for a single man and a single woman to just be good friends?”

 

“Your actions this morning clearly demonstrated that it is.”

 

“I was asking for that, wasn’t I,” said Remus with a smile.

 

“Yes, you were.”

 

“So,” said Remus, looking down at his hands again, “you don’t really think we could just go back to being friends, do you.”

 

Sirius shook his head. “Not completely. It won’t ever be quite the same again.”

 

“I’ve really mangled things, haven’t I? I don’t want to lose her friendship, Sirius.”

 

“You don’t have to. And you have the chance to have even more. You just have to be willing to pull your head out of your arse, and admit that she’s worth the risk.”

 

Remus looked up into his friend’s eyes. His face had gone pale. “What if I fall in love with her, and she decides she doesn’t want me after all?” Sirius had suspected from the start that this was the heart of the issue, and he suspected that his friend was already more than halfway in love with her.

 

“Then I,” said Sirius, “will be your shoulder to cry on.”

 

“Thank you. That makes me feel so much better,” said Remus sarcastically. Sirius let out a few laughs.

 

“So, my friend, have you made up your mind?”

 

Remus shook his head. “Not yet. But you’ve given me a lot to think about—not the least of which is how to get back at Bill for this betting pool.”

 

“But don’t think too much—your instincts aren’t all that bad.”

 

Remus nodded, but said nothing.

 

“How about we go downstairs, and I make us some dinner?”

 

Remus raised one eyebrow. “It’s not even four o’clock.”

 

“I know, but that bloody apple is all I’ve had to eat all day. I’m famished. And knowing you, you’ve been too obsessed with your cleaning frenzy to stop for a meal. Am I right?”

 

Remus laughed. “Actually, you are. Now that you mention it, I think I am hungry.”

 

“Brilliant. Let’s go make some food.”

 

Remus agreed with a nod. As two old friends stood, and headed down to the kitchen, Remus said, “It really would be a shame to let Severus win all that money, wouldn’t it?”

 

“It would be a travesty. A complete and utter travesty,” Sirius agreed. He felt fairly certain that his cousin was safe from heartache, at least for now. But just to be sure, he wasn’t going to give Remus very much time to think, as he was certain that no good would come of it.

 

***

 

Sirius managed to keep Remus occupied for most of the night, and most of the next morning, but the stubborn git insisted on going to the market for some fresh produce late in the afternoon. He was gone far longer than Sirius liked, and Sirius just hoped that Remus hadn’t had time to confuse or frighten himself again.

 

Just before the little party Molly had planned for the night, Sirius cornered Remus and asked, “So have you finally made up your mind?”

 

Remus nodded, and smiled nervously. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I have.”

 

“So, what’s it going to be?” asked Sirius.

 

“I am going to tell her that I am interested in going out with her—but that I would like to keep things casual, and friendly. No strings attached.”

 

Sirius nodded thoughtfully. “Casual and friendly, no strings attached. Sounds good to me.” It sounded rather pathetic, actually, but Sirius wasn’t about to say that.

 

“Good,” said Remus, his smile growing broader. “Do you think she’ll be alright with that?”

 

“Sure she will! Sure she will,” said Sirius, patting Remus on the back. After all, what other choice did she have?

 

That seemed to make Remus happy, and he chatted jovially with the other Order members as they arrived for Sirius’ birthday party.

 

Tonks arrived late. Sirius let out a slow, low whistle when he saw her. She had never before looked so dishy. She was wearing her flamingo-pink hair longer than usual, in chunky waves that danced around her jaw-line and tickled the tops of her shoulders. Her shimmering sapphire shirt was cut lower than usual on top, and higher than usual on the bottom, revealing smooth lovely expanses of flesh in both places. She had clearly put a great deal of time and thought into her appearance, and Sirius knew that it wasn’t in honor of his birthday. No, it was a special treat for Mr. Casual-and-Friendly.

 

“Happy birthday!” she cried, giving him a friendly hug and a peck on the cheek. Then she stepped back, and with a silly grin, held out a sparkly pink gift bag.

 

“I see you coordinated your gift bag and your hair tonight,” said Sirius.

 

“I couldn’t resist,” she replied.

 

“Well, let’s see what we have here,” he said, taking the bag and reaching in to it. He withdrew a small green box. He stared in surprise at the label across its front, and raised an eyebrow at his cousin. “Sparkling Fresh Mint Doggy Dental Chews?”

 

She put on a straight face, and said, “I’m sorry it came to this, cousin. But I’m afraid I have to tell you—you have doggy breath.”

 

They stared at each other for another moment in silence, and then both of them burst out laughing.

 

“Perhaps Buckbeak will like them,” said Sirius.

 

“Feel free to try,” she said. She was still smiling, but her eyes had started darting around the room.

 

“He’s in the kitchen, helping Molly with the refreshments,” Sirius said softly.

 

“Oh! Thanks,” she said, her smile brightening. The two of them both worked their way back into the gathering, and started circulating among their collection of friends.

 

Sirius noticed that when Remus and Molly arrived levitating trays full of cake and beverages, Tonks was quick to offer her help—and managed to only upset two glasses of punch and one slice of cake.

 

Tonks spent the rest of the evening practically glued to Remus’ side. Sirius kept waiting for the two of them to sneak out, and have their little talk, but they never did. As the evening wore on, one by one the guests began to excuse themselves, but Tonks and Remus never did. And when Molly headed down to the kitchen to clean up, both Tonks and Remus were quick to volunteer their help.

 

Sirius was just seeing out the last of his guests when Arthur and Molly came back up the stairs.

 

Remus and Tonks said they would finish the cleaning up for us, wasn’t that dear of them?” said Molly.

 

“Oh yes. Very kind of them,” said Sirius, certain that Remus was finally going to take the chance to speak his mind. It was time to act gracious and mature for the Weasleys—after all, they were the number one competition for getting Harry over the summer holiday, and if he didn’t prove himself a mature and competent guardian, Molly was bound to put up a fight. “Molly, Arthur,” he continued as they pulled on their cloaks, “thank you very much for putting together this party for me.”

 

“Oh, it was no trouble. No trouble at all,” said Arthur.

 

“We were delighted to do it. It’s been far too long since you had a proper birthday celebration,” interjected Molly.

 

“Well, it was wonderful. Thank you very much,” said Sirius.

 

“You are very welcome,” said Molly.

 

They bid their farewells, and Sirius saw Arthur and Molly out. He made his way back to the parlor, and sat down. He waited. And waited. He began to fidget. He picked up a Quidditch magazine that Bill had brought for him, and started to flip through it. He put the magazine down and stood up. He paced back and forth, then sat down and picked up the magazine again.

 

Finally, he threw the magazine back down and headed out of the parlor. This wouldn’t do. This wouldn’t do at all. He just had to know what was going on down there. At the top of the stairs he slipped off his shoes, and slowly and silently made his way down in his socks. He thought he’d give anything to have one of those extendable ears right now.

 

The kitchen door was open just a crack, and Sirius stealthily made his way toward it. He stopped right beside the door, and ever so slowly moved his head to peer through the opening.

 

Tonks sat on the table, and Remus stood in between her legs. Their arms were wrapped around each other, and their faces were pressed together in a much more than just casual and friendly sort of kiss, which would almost certainly leave plenty of strings attached.

 

A snort of laughter escaped Sirius before he could stop it, and he quickly turned to run back up the stairs, careless of all the noise he was making in his hasty retreat. He should have known that Tonks could handle this without his help.

 

Sirius once more took refuge behind his Quidditch magazine. In about a half an hour he heard footsteps in the hall. He listened carefully, and was fairly certain that their goodbyes to each other included some more kissing. He then heard the front door open and close, and heard a single set of footfalls headed up the stairs. Sirius put his magazine down, and followed.

 

He caught up to Remus on the first floor landing. “Hiya, mate,” he said.

 

“Sirius,” replied Remus with a nod.

 

“So, did your talk with Tonks go well?”

 

“Very well, thank you,” replied Remus mildly.

 

“Oh. Jolly good, then.”

 

“Yes. Well, I’m off to bed. Good night.” Remus turned to start up the next flight of stairs.

 

“Good night.” Sirius paused. “So how did she take the whole, casual and friendly bit?”

 

Remus looked over his shoulder with a blank expression. “It didn’t come up.”

 

“It didn’t come up?”

 

“No,” said Remus shaking his head.

 

“So what happened to all your rational thinking and careful decision making?” asked Sirius in genuine curiosity.

 

Remus put his hands in his pockets and looked at the ground with a little smile teasing the corners of his mouth. “I suppose I let instinct win this time.”

 

“So the genetic drive to couple beat out rational thought?”

 

“It did this time,” said Remus, his smile growing broader. “Rational thought can be overrated, after all.”

 

Sirius let out a few barking laughs. “So tell me, Moony—what exactly did Tonks do to get that instinct of yours to take over?”

 

“Now Padfoot,” said Remus, looking Sirius in the eye, “that wouldn’t be very gentlemanly of me, would it?”

 

“Oh come on, mate! You know I have to live vicariously through you. Spill the details!”

 

“I’m sorry, Sirius, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave this one to your imagination. Good night.” With that, the still smiling Remus turned on his heel and headed up the stairs.

 

“Come on!” called Sirius after him. “Please?” he pleaded. But it was to no avail. With a sigh, he shook his head, and muttered to himself. “Good job, cousin. Good job, and good luck. You’re going to need it.”

 

Sirius slowly trudged up the stairs, alone. It was time to see if Buckbeak liked minty dog chews.

 

 

//
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