The Sugar Quill
Author: jncarlin  Story: A Winning Bet  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.

I would say it was like watching a precisely choreographed ballet—at least that’s what I’d say if she were at all graceful and precise

A/N: Thanks goes to my beta reader, Logical Quirk. This was originally composed for the January/February 2007 ficathon at rt_challenge on LiveJournal. This is set in my “Marauders Reduxficverse, sometime between “A Serious Misunderstanding” and “Marauders Redux,” but it reads well as a stand-alone.

 

 

A Winning Bet

 

It’s like watching a precisely choreographed ballet—at least that’s what I’d say if she were at all graceful and precise. As it is, it’s more like watching a disaster in the making. Already—less than ten minutes after she started—the counter is strewn with a jumble of ingredients, half of which I’m sure don’t actually go into the cookies, and her clothes are liberally dusted with flour. It can only go downhill from here.

 

Although Remus is pretending to be interested in my eloquent critique of the latest issue of The Quibbler, I know he’s barely listening. He’s leaning back in his chair and watching her with a stupid little grin on his face like he’s watching the most engaging play he’s ever seen, instead of sitting in my dank basement kitchen watching Tonks slaughter a perfectly good cookie recipe.

 

And the coy bastard thinks he has us all fooled. Not likely.

 

Oh Merlin—she’s trying to grab four eggs with one hand! This won’t last long…Ooo. There goes the first one. Can she manage the last three?

 

Ahh. No such luck.

 

Two out of four survived. I hope she’s better in battle than she is in baking.

 

“You’d better turn out some pretty damn good cookies, Tonks,” I say, closing my Quibbler. “I know for a fact that you’ll be even worse at the cleaning than you are at the baking, so I’d appreciate it if Remus loses this little wager of yours.”

 

“Oh, he’ll lose, all right.” She cracks one of the surviving eggs into her mixing bowl, tossing the empty shell casually to the other end of the counter. “Nothing beats my Granny’s Triple Chocolate Cookies.”

 

I certainly hope not. We’ll need Remus to clean up after this—otherwise I’ll be walking over dried egg for days before Molly finally gets here and finishes the job. Is that butter smeared on the kettle? How in the world did she manage that?

 

“Let’s hope your Granny was as good at teaching as she was at baking,” says Remus, eating her up with his eyes. Ugh. And the look she’s giving him back is even worse. They’re like a couple of fourth-years flirting over their cauldrons in Potions. I wish she would pay as much attention to her stirring as she is to his dimples—she’s starting to spatter that stuff onto the cabinets.

 

And I had to go and start it all by opening my big fat mouth. After finishing the perfectly serviceable—and tidily prepared—sandwiches that I made us for dinner, I just happened to mention that I wished Molly would stop by with a tray of her famous chocolate cookies.

 

Then Remus gave me one of his sly looks, and said, “I seem to remember, a few months ago, Tonks made the claim that she could bake.”

 

“It wasn’t a claim,” she said to him (as usual they were only peripherally aware of my participation in the conversation). “It was a fact. I can bake. Very well.”

 

“This coming from the woman who proudly served us black-pepper soup the other night?” I said.

 

At that point she managed to pull her eyes off of Remus and look at me. “How many times do I have to tell you that it was vegetable soup? I just know that you like things spicy—” here her eyes darted back to Remus, then jumped back to me in a vain attempt to include me in the collective “you.” She went on, “And the only things remotely spicy in the pantry were black pepper and cumin. I thought black pepper was more vegetable soupy, so that’s what I used.”

 

I shook my head. “No matter how many times you use that excuse, it won’t change the fact that your so-called vegetable soup was completely inedible. Why should your cookies be any different?”

 

“I can make cookies,” she retorted. “Damn good ones, too.”

 

And that was when the trouble started. “Care to place a little wager on that?” Remus asked.

 

Like she was going to say no.

 

So now, here I sit, watching as Hurricane Nymphadora destroys my kitchen. Apparently, I’m the final judge. If the cookies—like she claims—are as good as Molly’s then Remus has to clean the kitchen for a week. And if the cookies are crap, like I halfway expect, then Tonks will be the one stuck with kitchen duty.

 

Damn, I hope she wins.

 

I pick up the Quibbler again. No new Sirius Black sightings this month, but there is a housewitch in Dorset that claims to be exchanging letters with him—or rather with his alter ego, Stubby Boardman. And apparently the Ministry is in collusion with a consortium of cauldron-makers to thin out the bottoms of their products in an attempt to cut costs. Whatever is the world coming to?

 

I glance back up to check Tonks’ progress. Things are not looking promising.

 

She’s scooping the dough out onto a baking pan now, and great clumps of it are dropping to the floor, and sticking to her fingers. It does look nice and chocolately, though. That’s a good sign. As long as she can navigate the newly formed labyrinth of goop on the floor and reach the oven without tripping, we might actually be eating cookies tonight.

 

As she scrapes the dough off of her fingers and onto the baking sheet, she says, “Now we just have to wait twelve minutes, and these will be done. Then I can prove once and for all that I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I can give Molly a run for her money when it comes to baking.”

 

Remus is staring at her with hungry eyes. I think he would like nothing better right now than to be licking that dough off of her fingers. And if I left, she’d probably let him.

 

But that’s too bad for them. It’s my house, and my kitchen, and my cookies. So they’ll just have to keep their doughy hands to themselves.

 

Hmmm…It seems that Cornelius Fudge is raising his own private army of heliopaths—whatever those are. I wonder what the chances are that they’ll turn on him?

 

Her movement catches my eye. She’s carrying the first sheet of cookies to the oven, now, and she’d better watch out for that splot of butter…

 

“Oh shit!” I duck.

 

She recovers from her slip, the tray of cookies-to-be still intact, and glares at me.

 

“Sorry,” I mutter. But who can blame me for expecting the worst, what with her track record?

 

As she slides the baking sheet into the oven, I notice Remus surreptitiously Sourgifying   the worst of the dough-slicks from the floor. At least I’m not the only one concerned for her safety—and my own. If she’d really fallen, that baking sheet would have smacked me right on the head!

 

She’s starting to put dough on a second sheet, now, and for some reason she’s squirming like a boomslang shedding its skin.

 

“What’s wrong now?” I ask.

 

“I’ve got an itch, right in the center of my back, and I can’t get at it because my hands are covered in dough,” she says, whilst unsuccessfully trying to scratch her back with her elbows.

 

“I think I have just the spell,” says Remus, pulling out his wand.

 

He’s using one of those clever charms of his to scratch her back with one of the last clean forks in the house.

 

“A little lower,” she says. “And a little to the right. Oh, yes. Right there. Oh, yes.”

 

Oh, Great Merlin. She’s starting to purr like a kitten.

 

I think I’m going to be sick.

 

Can’t they just get it over with, and start shagging like anyone normal would be doing at this point? This little teasing game they’ve been playing can only go on for so long before one of them gets fed up and quits. And then Tonks will stop coming ‘round and this house will be even more unbearable than it already is. And then Remus would start moping. He’s not supposed to be the mopey one—that’s my job. No, I simply can’t let that happen.

 

Oh, good. He’s put the fork down and she’s going back to the dough. And there he sits, with a self-satisfied smirk on his face like he’s just done something remarkable. Show-off.

 

I continue to thumb through my Quibbler as I ponder the situation. Perhaps they just need a little nudge in the right direction. I could probably manage something. Maybe Mad-Eye and Kingsley would help me come up with some sort of all-night “assignment” for the two of them in a remote, isolated, romantic location…

 

Merlin’s beard—those cookies are really starting to smell fantastic! Maybe Tonks really can bake!

 

She’s washing her hands now. Poor Remus. No digit-licking for him today.

 

Or maybe Bill and that little French bird of his can try setting Tonks up with a blind date, and the bloke can “cancel” at the last minute, but since the reservations are already made they need a last-minute substitute…

 

She sits down next to Remus. “There. Just a few more minutes and you’ll be doomed to kitchen-scrubbing for a week.”

 

He looks into her eyes and leans toward her. “If those cookies are as good as they smell, it will be worth every minute of scrubbing.”

 

Maybe Dung can get me some black market Veritaserum, and I can spike their morning tea. Now that would be a show worth watching—not like this sappy drivel I’ve been enduring for months. I’d almost pay admission to see that. Maybe I will charge admission—Molly would be interested. And Emmeline. And maybe Kingsley…

 

Wow—there’s the kitchen timer chiming. Has it really been twelve minutes already?

 

Tonks stands up, summons some oven mitts from across the kitchen, and walks over to the oven. She peers inside. “Perfect! Just perfect!”

 

The warm chocolatey scent wafts over me from the open oven. If those aren’t as good as they smell, I’m going to rip my hair out. Now that I’ve caught a whiff, I don’t think I’ll be happy until I have one of those in my mouth.

 

She sets the baking sheet down on the table, and I reach for a cookie. She swats my hand. “Ouch! What was that for?”

 

“They have to cool down, first. If you ate one now, you’d just burn your mouth.”

 

I sit back and send her a dirty look. She sticks her tongue out at me.

 

“I think we might need some cold milk to go with these,” says Remus.

 

I’m about to volunteer, when Tonks springs into action. “I’ll get it!” Great. Now there will be milk all over the floor, as well as dough.

 

“I can’t wait to try these,” says Remus. He looks up at Tonks and watches her bum as she reaches three glasses out of the cupboard. “They look wonderful. I’m beginning to think that you’ll actually win.” Hah. He’s the winner, no matter what, and he knows it. If he wins the wager, he’s got the pleasure of giving Tonks all sorts of handy tips and tricks during her kitchen-cleaning efforts for the next week. And if she wins, he gets the cookies, and he gets to heap praises on her which will undoubtedly earn him all sorts of affection and attention from his favorite lust-object. Obviously, Moony doesn’t believe in fair fights.

 

Although, the pendulum does swing both ways. From the way she’s looking at him, I doubt she’d mind spending the next seven evenings cooped up in this kitchen with him “tutoring” her in housecleaning spells.

 

Lucky bastard.

 

Remus goes to the dresser for a spatula and a tray—and also because he has a better view of her bum from over there. I can tell that he doesn’t want me to notice, because he only pauses for a moment to give a quick glance in her direction. But he doesn’t realize that I’ve noticed it all, right from the start. What the hell else do I have to think about?

 

He strolls back to the table, and starts scooping the cookies off of the baking sheet and sliding them onto the tray, while Tonks pours milk into the glasses. She actually manages not to spill.

 

Can I take a cookie now, or am I supposed to be polite and wait for her to get back over here? I reach for one, and Remus glares at me. Damn him, and his manners.

 

Oh, man. Now Tonks is trying to carry all three glasses full of milk over here at the same time.

 

“Whoops!” she says as some of the milk sloshes out over her hands. Well—lapping that up won’t be as fun as licking the dough off, but at least Remus has something new to look forward to.

 

She giggles as she finally sets the milk down on the table, and Remus conjures her a towel to dry her hands with. Another wasted opportunity.

 

“Help yourselves, boys,” she says, sweeping her hand over the cookies.

 

Gladly.

 

Remus and I each take one of the warm cookies. They look great. They smell even better. I’m really beginning to think that Tonks can actually bake. I never would have guessed it. But will they be as good as Molly’s? That’s the question.

 

I catch Remus’s eye, and smile. “Time to find out who wins this wager of yours. Are you ready?”

 

“As ready as I’ll ever be. I think I’ve already resigned myself to losing.” He isn’t looking at Tonks, who is sitting beside him, but I know that his smile is for her—not for me.

 

“Good.” She nudges him lightly with her elbow. “Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

 

“Well,” I say. “There’s only one way to know for sure.” And with that, I take a large bite of my cookie.

 

Bliss. Sheer bliss.

 

It’s like the cookie is making love to my tongue. Oh, God this is fantastic.

 

I take another bite, and another. It’s melting on my tongue, and making my whole mouth happy. Who needs Molly’s cookies, when I’ve got Tonks’s? Mmmmmmm….

 

“These are amazing beyond words.” Remus breaks through my cookie trance. He’s staring at her with his best puppy-dog eyes, and I can see by that silly grin on her face that she’s completely eating it up.

 

“So you like them?” she says.

 

“Like them? I adore them!” He lays his free hand on the table less than an inch from hers. It’s like there’s sparks shooting between them. Why doesn’t the cagey git just close the deal? Doesn’t he see how she feels about him? If I had a girl like her looking at me like that, I’d jump at the chance. What the hell is wrong with him? God, these cookies are good. I think I’ll have another.

 

“In fact,” says Remus, “I think I should concede defeat right now.”

 

“Not so fast,” says Tonks. “As much as I appreciate the gesture, we both decided that Sirius would be the judge. And the rules are the rules, after all.”

 

“Since when?” I say around another mouthful of cookie.

 

“Since now,” she replies.

 

“I think this is his third cookie, now,” says Remus. “I think that might be a good sign of his verdict.”

 

I nod, stuffing another bite into my mouth. “Unh-huh. You win.” That was a little slurred, but I think she understood. I need some milk.

 

“Thank you, Sirius. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone eat my baking with such gusto.”

 

I try to smile around my current mouthful. I swallow. “Why don’t you bake more often?”

 

“Because the kitchen always looks like this afterward.” She waves her arm around the room, and laughs.

 

Merlin’s bones, this is a mess. “It’s a good thing we’ve got Remus here to tidy up, then.”

 

Remus looks at Tonks again. “Well, you have proven yourself, fair and square. It seems that the kitchen cleaning is mine for the week.”

 

“And you’re welcome to it!” She grabs one of the cookies for herself.

 

Ahhh. There’s nothing like cold milk to wash down chocolate cookies.

 

I glance over at them again, and she’s wiping a bit of chocolate away form the corner of his mouth. They’re looking at each other the same way James and Lily used to, right after she stopped hating him, and right before they became a couple.

 

Perhaps I won’t have to play any elaborate matchmaking game, after all.

 

All I have to do is convince Tonks to start baking more often. And if she does, I think that all of us will win.

 

This calls for another cookie. Damn, these are good….

//
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