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 Redux” ficverse,
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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,”
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
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
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.
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
“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
Ahhh. There’s nothing like cold milk to wash down chocolate
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,
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….