The Sugar Quill
Author: jncarlin  Story: Transformations  Chapter: Chapter 2: Sorting Things Out
Next Chapter
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Chapter 2: Working Things Out

Author’s Notes: Thanks again to my beta-reader, Shimotsuki for all her help. Portions of this chapter were previously posted as a one-shot called “Second Thoughts.” That story can now be considered an extended out-take of this one.

 

Previously, in “Transformations”: The morning after a wild night on the town with Bill and Sirius, Remus and Tonks share their first kiss. Before the implications of that act have time to sink in, Tonks must rush away to a lunch date with her mum. While there, Andromeda gets Tonks to confess to knowing where Sirius is, and to agree to arrange a meeting between the two old cousins. Tonks ends the day at her best girlfriend's house, where they dissect her evolving relationship with Remus.

 

 

Chapter 2: Sorting Things Out

 

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

 

He struggled to his feet, and slogged downstairs to the kitchen. He intended to scrounge in the pantry for something to ease his headache, but 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 was certain 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 one of 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 library.

 

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 the 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 all right 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. “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 House 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 would place a bet that his friend was already more than halfway in love with her. Luckily for Remus, Tonks showed every sign of being equally enamored.

 

“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 the two of them 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.

 

~~~~~

 

Remus stood in the dining room of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, pacing back and forth. In less than an hour, most of the Order of the Phoenix would be gathering—this time not for a meeting to discuss new assignments in their unacknowledged war, but for a celebration. Today was Sirius Black's thirty-seventh birthday. But Remus's mind was not on Sirius—it was on someone vastly nicer to look at. And tonight would be the first time he would see her since they had kissed.

 

He had barely slept last night, kept awake by thoughts of her. And he couldn't keep still. He felt compelled to action, but to what action he wasn't sure. Kreacher wandered into the room, muttering epithets about the hideous half-breed creature wearing holes into his mistress's nice rugs with all its pacing. A minute later he left the room clutching a stack of embroidered napkins. Remus let him go without comment.

 

His talk with Sirius yesterday had done little to ease his misgivings. Remus had no desire to drag Tonks into a relationship fraught with the never-ending complications of lycanthropy. But neither did he want to give her up. Sirius’s assurances that she wasn’t too serious about things hadn’t helped. The more he thought about her, the more he realized that he wasn't sure which scared him more—the thought that she was serious about him, or the thought that she wasn't.

 

A few minutes later, Sirius came into the room. "There you are."

 

"Yes. Here I am," said Remus, pausing in his back and forth circuit of the room.

 

Sirius nodded at him. "Molly and Arthur will be here any minute to get things set up."

 

"Lovely." Remus clapped his hands together. "Will I be needed in the kitchen, then?"

 

Sirius nodded. "I think so. I sure as hell won't be helping. It's my party, after all."

 

"Some things never change, do they?"

 

"Would you really want them to?"

 

Remus smiled, and shook his head. "I suppose not."

 

Sirius looked intently at him. “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. “Casual and friendly, no strings attached. Sounds good to me.”

 

Remus knew Sirius was lying. Of course it didn't sound good. It didn't even sound good to him. Half of him wanted to go back in time and stop himself from ever kissing her—then they could just keep going as they had before, as friends. The other half of him wanted to pull her back into his arms the instant he saw her, and snog her senseless. It was amazing how much she'd gotten under his skin in the six short months that they'd known each other. He wanted her more than he'd wanted any other woman in years—and it terrified him.

 

“Good,” said Remus, in response to Sirius's feigned approval, forcing a smile onto his face. “Do you think she’ll be all right with that?” he asked lamely.

 

“Sure she will! Sure she will,” said Sirius, patting Remus on the back. Sirius turned and left the room, and Remus slowly followed. He was beginning to feel sick.

 

When Arthur and Molly arrived, he went with Molly down to the kitchen to help prepare the refreshments. For some inexplicable reason, he didn't want to be upstairs when Tonks arrived. Finally, he and Molly had two trays each loaded with plates of cake and glasses of punch. They levitated them up the stairs and reached the sitting room where the Order had congregated without mishap. He began to pass the refreshments around, when suddenly she was at his side.

 

He caught his breath. She was stunning. Her delicate pink hair flowed in loose waves around her face, and her sapphire colored top clung tantalizingly to her curves, allowing a smooth expanse of pale pink skin to peek out above the waist of her form-fitting trousers. "Here, let me help you with that," she said, reaching for the glass of punch in his hand. As her fingers brushed against his, he lost his grip and the glass tumbled to the ground, dumping its contents on the hardwood floor.

 

"Whoops," he said, instantly regretting that the only word that would come out of his mouth made him sound like a dumbstruck ten year old.

 

"Don't worry," she said under her breath, leaning into him conspiratorially. "Your reputation is safe. Everyone will blame it on me." She winked at him, and cast a quick scourgify on the puddle of punch before bending to retrieve the glass.

 

Her prediction proved right, especially after she herself dropped another glass, and a piece of cake. As they circulated amongst their friends and comrades, they fell easily into their usual lighthearted banter. This isn't so bad, he thought. I kissed her—but we can still talk like nothing has changed.

 

Much to his delight, their easy companionship kept up for the whole evening. They moved throughout the room, talking and laughing with nearly all the Order members in turn. In fact, the only thing that had changed since before their kiss was that instead of wandering off from time to time, she stayed by his side the entire evening. It felt wonderful to have her constantly there, hearing the sound of her voice, and smelling the familiar waft of her vanilla spice perfume.

 

Remus did notice that Sirius kept giving him strange looks with a raised eyebrow, as if to ask “So when are you two going to sneak off together?”  Remus chose to ignore him.  Otherwise, he evening fairly flew by. In fact, Remus was surprised when he noticed that nearly everyone had left. Sirius was in one corner chatting with Dung and Bill, and Arthur and Molly were beginning to gather the scattered cups and plates back onto the trays. "We should give them a hand," said Remus to Nymphadora.

 

"Oh yes," she replied. "Let’s."

 

They helped finish the tidying up and collected the dirty dishes, following the Weasleys down to the kitchen. Just as Molly was turning on the water to wash the dishes, Nymphadora spoke up. "Molly, Arthur. You've both done so much tonight already, let Remus and me finish up. You two should go home."

 

"Absolutely," said Remus. "We can certainly handle this mess between the two of us.  You go ahead and go home." It wasn't until after he spoke that he realized that this may have been a ploy on Nymphadora's part to finally get him alone. His eyes darted over to her nervously, and he started to shuffle his feet. This was really it. Time to sort things out, once and for all.

 

Molly and Arthur thanked them heartily and then headed back up the stairs. Remus ignored Nymphadora’s meaningful gaze, and darted to the sink where he began feverishly washing the dishes. Without a word, Nymphadora stepped up beside him, and began to dry them and put them away. She only dropped one plate, and it didn't even break.

 

It seemed like no time at all, and they were finished. Remus’s eyes darted around the room, looking for another chore to occupy them, but the rest of the kitchen was perfectly tidy.

 

Nymphadora took a seat on the tabletop in front of him, and looked up at him expectantly.

 

Remus shuffled slowly over to the table, and gingerly lowered himself to the pitted wooden surface beside her. "Well," he said. "This was fun. But not nearly as fun as our other party."

 

"I'll agree with you there," she replied. "That was quite the party, wasn't it?"

 

"Yes. Yes it was." Remus was feeling exceedingly awkward, and his nerves were sending chills up and down his legs. He twitched them to try to quell the sensation.

 

"And then," she said slowly, looking down at her feet dangling above the floor, "there was what happened yesterday morning."

 

"Yes. Yes indeed. Yesterday morning. That was...That was…" He had absolutely no idea what to say.

 

"That was highly unexpected. But also very nice." She looked up to catch his eye, and smiled at him with a delightful twinkle in her expression.

 

"Was it?" he said. Nice. Nice is good. I can live with nice. "Because, I wasn't sure if...if you really...you know, wanted to?"

 

She raised her eyebrows. "If you weren't sure, then why did you do it?"

 

"It just…it seemed like the thing to do." Merlin, I sound like an idiot. Why in the world does she even give me the time of day? She shouldn’t, but she does!

 

In fact, she was giving him far more than the time of day right now. She was staring raptly at his face, a small smile dancing on her lips, looking both pensive, and excited. He could feel his heart pounding faster.

 

"It seemed like the thing to do?" she replied.

 

He nodded. “Yes.”

 

"Well then," she said. 

 

They were staring into each other's eyes. Somehow, Remus noticed, their faces had drawn very close to each other. She slowly reached up, and pulled his face towards hers for a kiss. It was slow, and sweet and soft. Her lips kept opening, tantalizing him, daring him to come inside. Then, suddenly, it was over. She pulled back, and looked up at him with an adorable expression, biting her bottom lip. "It seemed like the thing to do," she said.

 

He started to laugh. She joined him. My God, she’s beautiful when she laughs.

 

"I'm really glad this is happening," she said.  "I have to admit—I've been wanting something like this for a long time now." Her speech was hesitant, and nervous. Remus felt dumbstruck. This magnificent, extraordinary, beautiful woman had been pining after him—of all people? And she was still nervous about whether or not he wanted her in return? What god had he pleased lately to earn this kind of reward?

 

He swallowed, and took a breath. "How long is a long time?"

 

She grimaced and bit her lip again. "I never know when to keep my big mouth shut, do I? If I tell you, I'm going to be horribly embarrassed."

 

"Now I have to know," he said, smiling in spite of his nerves. "Was it more than a month?"

 

She looked away, still biting her lip. She looks as nervous as I feel. Remarkable. She nodded. "Yes.” He thought he could see a trace of a blush rising in her cheeks.

 

He was shocked. "More than two months?"

 

She nodded again. “Yes.”

 

His heart almost skipped a beat. She couldn't be serious. Could she? "How long has it been?" he asked with genuine curiosity.

 

She sighed, and looked at him imploringly. "You’re not going to let me get out of this, are you?"

 

He couldn't help but laugh. "Not when you're so determined to evade answering. It makes this far too interesting. Now come on. Fess up." He was actually starting to enjoy this.

 

She looked down at her hands. "I've been attracted to you ever since July."

 

"But that’s almost as long as we've known each other!" he said in disbelief.

 

"I know," she said. "Now I've gone and made you feel uncomfortable, haven't I?"

 

"No! No. Not at all." He found, as he said it, that he actually meant it. "In fact," he said impulsively, "I felt attracted to you for a very long time also. I just never imagined that you would feel the same way about me." There were quite a few other reasons why he had never spoken up, but he didn't feel that now was the time to go into them.

 

"Really?"

 

How could she doubt it?

 

“Really,” he reiterated.

 

The way she was looking at him made all thoughts of “friendly and casual” depart rapidly from his mind. The last thing he wanted right now was “friendly.”

 

He reached up to take her face in his hands, and leaned in to kiss her. This kiss rapidly became more intense than their earlier attempts. His mouth moved against hers with a hunger that he hadn't known he possessed—extraordinarily, she responded with equal enthusiasm. It was like something out of a wonderful euphoric dream, and he never wanted it to end. He slid off the table, and moved to stand in front of her, leaning over her with his fingers winding through her hair.

 

Just as he was deepening their kiss even further, he heard an unmistakable snort of laughter and the sound off feet hastily retreating up the stairs. They pulled apart, and stared at the kitchen door. "I believe my cousin was just spying on us," she said.

 

"It certainly looks that way," said Remus, unable to restrain his broad smile. Tonight was going far better than he expected.

 

"So what was so funny? Do we look like a couple of sucker fish, or something?"

 

Remus laughed. "No. I don't think he was laughing at how we looked. I think he was laughing at what we were doing."

 

Nymphadora raised her eyebrows. "Is laughter his usual reaction to snogging, then?"

 

"No," said Remus, shaking his head. "It's just that yesterday he and I had a long talk about...about what might be happening between you and me. And, I think I came across as rather—nervous. I led him to expect something quite the opposite of what he just witnessed."

 

Nymphadora smiled impishly. "So you were nervous about me?"

 

"I confess that I was, yes."

 

She laughed. "What were you nervous about? Did you think I wouldn't be interested, or something?"

 

Remus looked at his feet, suddenly feeling very sheepish. He shrugged. "Maybe."

 

She laughed again. "And here I was, terrified that I was going to scare you off because I was so obviously throwing myself at you."

 

Throwing herself at me? And I never even noticed. I must be the biggest idiot in the world. She was obvious enough for everyone else to see this coming before I did, and yet this whole time I was convinced we were just good friends! "Well, you didn't scare me off."

 

"And I assure you that I am interested. So..."

 

"So..." he echoed, “I think the thing to do now, would be for me to ask you out to dinner."

 

She nodded her head, and kicked her dangling feet playfully. "That does sound like a good idea."

 

He couldn't stop smiling. "What night would be good for you?"

 

"We could do our usual night—Tuesday," she said. They had been going out as friends nearly every Tuesday night for the past several months.

 

Remus pursed his lips. "That wouldn't be...odd...for you?"

 

"No. Why would it?"

 

"I don't know," he said, shaking his head. "I've just never done this before."

 

"Done what—exactly?" She quirked her head and raised an eyebrow.

 

"You know—gone from friends, to...something more. It's always been just one or the other." Saying the words something more made him feel exceedingly nervous again. What exactly more meant had not yet been determined, and he hated uncertainty.

 

Her smile was reassuring. "I must confess that I've never made that leap before either, but I don't think it will be that hard. It seems to me that we can probably just do the same sorts of things that we've always done, only more often we'll do them as just the two of us, instead of with Sirius or Bill. And we can do a few other, newer things as well."

 

"Such as?"

 

"Such as this," she said, pulling him in for another sweet, lingering kiss.

 

After their lips parted, he leaned his forehead against hers, and with his eyes closed, breathed deeply, savoring their closeness. "You do make it sound very easy. I think I like that."

 

"Me too," she said, almost in a whisper.

 

He captured two more brief kisses from her mouth, before leaning back to look down at her beautiful face. As he stared into her eyes, he uttered the only words that came into his mind. "Why me? You could have any man in the world that you want. So why me? Why did you choose the old, impoverished, nobody?"

 

"You're somebody to me. Besides, I'd hardly call thirty-six old, and your financial status only bothers me when you get too stubborn about it to accept gifts from the people who care about you. You're smart, and funny, and caring, and compassionate. You're a wonderful man, Remus. I wish you could see yourself the way the rest of us do." Her words were so fervent and impassioned that he almost believed them.

 

"So you're not the only one who sees me this way?" he asked.

 

A mischievous smile spread across her face. "I would say not. The whole Order sees you this way. Especially the ladies."

 

He raised one eyebrow. "The ladies?"

 

"Oh yes," she replied, taking his hands in hers and swinging their arms with youthful abandon. "Did you know that you're the commonly agreed upon second most attractive man in the Order? You're first on my list, of course, but on the official list I'm afraid you only made second. Still, that's still nothing to be ashamed of."

 

"What in the world are you talking about?" he asked in genuine bafflement.

 

She let loose a light, carefree laugh. "Back in August, once things had settled down a bit, Molly decided it would be nice for all the ladies in the Order to do a little female-bonding. So we all got together at Emmeline's flat to eat biscuits, and drink wine, and gossip. And after a little too much elderberry wine, Hestia decided to start ranking all the blokes in the Order according to their looks. And the rest of us jumped in, and eventually we started factoring in personality as well as looks into our overall attractiveness scale. And at the end of the day, you came in a close second to Bill Weasley."

 

"You've got to be joking!" said Remus. "All of you were in on this? Even Emmeline? And Minerva?"

 

"Oh yes," she said. "Emmeline joined me in lobbying quite ardently to rank you first, but Minerva and Molly were able to overpower us once Hestia joined in with them to insist on Bill."

 

"So this is what women really talk about when they're alone together?"

 

"Among other things," she replied, running her fingers lightly up his right arm to his shoulder, and sending a corresponding shockwave down his spine. "You'd be amazed what the stateliest old woman will say once you fill her with chocolate biscuits and elderberry wine."

 

Remus shook his head in amazement. "So out of all the fellows in the Order, I came in second?"

 

"Yep," she agreed.

 

"Over Sirius? I thought he was every woman's bad-boy fantasy?"

 

"Oh, Hestia wanted to rank him first—she's quite taken with his tragic image. He could really have a go with her if he wanted, you know."

 

"I don't think he's ever thought twice about Hestia," said Remus, hardly believing he was actually having this conversation.

 

Nymphadora sighed. "No one ever does, poor girl. But in spite of her ardent argument in his favor, the rest of us dislike his moodiness and temper. So he was actually ranked fourth—first goes to Bill, followed by you, Kingsley, and Sirius, with Arthur rounding out the top five. But we only really ranked him there to flatter Molly, and because none of the others have seen Charlie lately. He's grown into quite a dish, you know."

 

Remus laughed. "Enough of a dish to challenge me for second?"

 

"Hmmm... Not quite," she said.

 

Remus shook his head again. "If you had told me yesterday that I would be having this particular conversation today, I would have told you that you were crazy. This is really the most absurd thing I've talked about in ages."

 

"I doubt that."

 

"If I'm always so absurd, then why am I so damned attractive?"

 

"It's part of the appeal. Men who are serious all the time can never be truly attractive. They seem to be lacking something essential. You, on the other hand, have ample good humor to give you a delightfully winning personality, in spite of your being a stodgy bookworm." She finished with a playful smirk on her face, and clasped her hands behind his neck.

 

Remus smiled down at her. "Well, I think this teaches me to never again ask a woman why she finds me attractive."

 

"Good," she said. "Because I'm the only one you're supposed to be asking these things—not some random woman."

 

Remus laughed again. The idea of having a relationship with Nymphadora was rapidly becoming less and less terrifying. And the idea that she was only interested in a few casual dates seemed to have been blown out of the water. But with her arms around his neck, and his arms around her waist, the prospect of a more serious relationship was something that seemed very appealing indeed. Maybe, just maybe, he was finally ready to give this sort of thing another try.

 

"So," he said. "Before our little tangent, I believe we were discussing Tuesday?"

 

"Yes, I think we were."

 

"Do you still want to meet outside of the Ministry?" he asked. Their usual Tuesday routine had been to meet outside the front entrance, after she got off of work.

 

She shook her head. "I think I want to go back to my flat first, and change out of my work robes."

 

"Of course. Of course. So I'll pick you up at your flat, then. Say, at seven o'clock?"

 

She grinned. "Seven sounds perfect."

 

"All right, then. Seven, at your flat. Excellent, excellent."

 

"Where will we go?" she asked.

 

He pondered for a moment, before responding. "Let me surprise you."

 

"Oooh. That sounds like fun."

 

"I certainly hope so." He leaned in to kiss her again. He could really get used to this.

 

A few minutes later, she pulled back to look up at him. “Are you sure you haven’t done this in ten years? You don’t seem at all out of practice.”

 

He grinned. “I’m sure. I think this is the sort of thing I would have remembered.”

 

“Hmmm…” she said. “It must be like flying a broom—once you’ve learned how, you never really forget.”

 

“Must be,” he muttered, going in for more.

 

Just as things were heating up, they heard a scratchy voice mumbling, "Filthy creatures.  Tarnishing the sanctity of my Mistress's home." They both turned their heads, to see Kreacher lurking in the corner. He continued to mutter a string of complaints about their behavior as they stared at him.

 

Nymphadora turned back to Remus. "Maybe that’s my cue to leave," she said. "I do have work in the morning, after all."

 

Remus nodded reluctantly. "I'll see you out." Remus had walked her to the door of Grimmauld Place dozens of times before, but this was the first time he held her hand all the way. It felt good.

 

He opened the door, and they looked into each other's eyes again.  "I'll see you on Tuesday," he said.

 

"If not sooner," she said.

 

"If not sooner," he repeated.  He leaned in for another kiss.

 

A minute later, they parted, and she said, "Goodnight."

 

"Goodnight," he said.

 

After closing the door behind her, he made his way back upstairs.

 

He heard footsteps following him up the stairs. It was inevitable, really. Sirius caught up to him 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 striving to keep his expression blank. “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. That was a very good question. Just yesterday he'd gone on at considerable length to Sirius about why starting a relationship with Nymphadora wouldn't make rational sense, and would be pure selfishness on his part. But all of his carefully reasoned arguments had fled his mind the instant he saw her tonight. “I suppose I let instinct win this time,” he finally said.

 

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

 

“It did this time,” said Remus, smiling. “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, Remus turned on his heel and headed up the stairs.

 

“Come on!” called Sirius after him. “Please?”

 

Remus ignored him. The last thing he needed right now was a conversation with Sirius to muddle his thoughts even more.  What he needed was some piece and quiet to calm his rapidly beating heart. And, he needed to think of a place to take Nymphadora on Tuesday.

 

 

Author’s Notes: I hope y'all liked it! Please leave a review. And what did you think of the "Previously in..." blurb? Most of my favorite TV shows do one, so I thought I might try it out in fic, since it’s been more than a month since I updated. If you like it, I'll keep doing it. If not, it goes bye-bye. Thanks for reading!

 

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --