A/N: This story borrows much from Portkey’s Gooseberry. If you haven’t read any of her work, please do so. She has written some of the best Remus/Tonks fanfiction out there much of which I have spent hours reading and rereading. Her Blood on the Moon is incredible. This story also borrows its title and related lyrics from Rodgers and Hart and its characters from JK Rowling.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all, or as Tonks would say, “Happy Single’s Awareness Day!”
Nymphadora Tonks stared at theceiling and cursed.
The Order, having called an emergency meeting that afternoon, was still going strong downstairs and in rare form: it seemed as if every member was either shouting, arguing, pounding on tables or stomping over the floor. Not at all in the holiday mood. It was Valentine’s Day or as Tonks liked to refer to it, “Happy Singles Awareness Day.” The young Auror reckoned Valentine's Day was celebrated in February to lighten up the gloom and doom of the long winter months. She also reckoned the whole thing was a load of bugbear crap. Nothing was going to lighten the doom and gloom of 12 Grimmauld Place.
Finally at long last, the clomping of footsteps ushered in a hush to the wretched house. Tonks sighed and turned onto her side, thumping her pillow into a more comfortable shape. She had been on duty for her third double shift in a row. She was exhausted and craved sleep. The peace did not last long, however, as the voices of Sirius and Mad-Eye Moodyrose from below, battling about some discrepancy in some bloody document. Mad-Eye began shouting, whereas Sirius started yelling.“You have got to be kidding! Why the hell do you think he would factor that in his calculations?” He proceeded to laugh raucously at the top of his lungs.
She would never fall asleep amidst this damn racket. No matter how many times she buried her head under the moth-eaten pillow or stamped on the floor, the argument continued.
“Shut your traps!” she bellowed. Rising to her elbows, she peered over at the old phonograph the resident of this room kept on his bureau. A stack of records sat on the nightstand and she turned on her side and began to flip through them, wondering if it contained any music capable of both drowning out the din from below and soothing her to sleep.
Remus Lupin had bizarre taste, to say the least.
Aha, there it was —that Mugglejazz thing he was playing the other night. He had smiled at her when he caught her looking at him. He closed his eyes as though he shared something with the plaintive strains that Holiday woman belted. She remembered how she backed into the shadows and continued to watch him, his long fingers drumming softly, his shoulders moving in an almost graceful shift underneath his threadbare cloak.
She didn’t understand him, this stoic, mysterious man. Something lived below the surface. As a Metamorphmagus she could change herself by sheer force of will. Yet for the first time in her life, she was beginning to believe someone else was capable of changing her by his sheer force of will. She shook her head at the thought. The sleep deprivation was speaking. She let the records thrum her fingers before she discarded them to their pile.
Giving up on the prospect of sleep, she made her way down the stairs andpassed the drawing room, pausing briefly to scowl at Sirius who guiltily lowered his voice, but nonetheless continued his argument with Mad-Eye. Mad-Eye, in a fit of touchiness, threw his hands up in the air. “Why don’t you just ask her, if that’s what you think? Evidently you don’t give a damn about an informed opinion!”
“Fine,” Sirius said disgustedly, leaning on a sawhorse and plywood table overflowing with parchments. “Tonks, come here and tell this old man what you think Lupin meant with this calculation. We’re working on Unplottables. You managed to pass that in school, right?”
Tonks stood staring at the two men, not knowing what to do,sure it would be a disaster no matter what.
“Well, are you just going to stand there? Come here and explain to him why this doesn’t work,” Sirius demanded.
In truth, Tonks had limited to no experience with Unplottables, but she already felt like the kid at the adult’s table in this Order. Throwing back her shoulders, she marched over to them as if facing a firing squad. She leaned over to look more closely at the parchment, but instead upended one of the sawhorses, scattering everything all over the floor.
She cursed and dropped to her knees, Mad-Eye’s magical eye rolling wildly in its socket while Sirius helped her collect most of the fallen papers.
Clearing her throat, she looked from one man to the other, the document in question clenched within her hands. “I think Lupin wants this to reflect the Vaguency charm,” she said at last, fighting to maintain an erudite tone to her voice that was totally absent from the rest of her. “That’s what he says in the margins here. He said to reference the previous parchment – that one over there, er, the one still on the floor, the one he was working on the other night.” She stood as they continued staring blankly at her, neither evidently satisfied with her answer.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted and what I meant,” said a deep voice from the doorway.
All eyes whirled about to face him. There stood Remus Lupin, cloak draped over his arm. “See, gentlemen, and you didn’t want her in the Order,” he said, the corner of his mouth curling up slightly.
Despite his professorial attire he looked pleasantly disheveled standing there; his hair hung to the unbuttoned and rumbled collar of his blue shirt, his tie shoved into his breast pocket. He reminded Tonks of a young boy off to school who had run around the yard too much beforehand.
Sirius and Mad-Eye nodded in greeting then rolled up the parchments and stalked out of the room in a huff.
“I didn’t know you were interested in Unplottables, Nymphadora,” Remus said as he set down his dog-eared satchel, watching her with a hint of amusement.“When were you going to tell us? After you secretly redesigned Number 12?”
“I’m not an expert – I’ve only taken a few courses,” she said, retreating back from the table. “I just told them what I saw. That’s all.”
Tossing aside his cloak, he made his way to her side and eyed the parchment, unconsciously rolling up his sleeves as he did so.
“And what do you see, Nymphadora?”
“What am I doing wrong?”
“Here, with this. What do you see here?”
“On this parchment?”
He folded his arms across his chest and stared at her.“Do you ever answer a question?”
“D’you ever ask an understandable one?”
“R-right,” he said half-laughing, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand as he shook his head, his eyes bright.
“Well, let’s take a look at this one, shall we, Miss Top Grades in Concealment?” he said and flattened out the parchment in front of him.
“It would be an honor, Professor,” she replied, peering intently at the drawing.
He raised an eyebrow, stifling a smirk as he glanced over at her.
They spent the next few minutes in a spirited discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of Unplottables. Before Tonks knew it, he had pulled out other designs. Overan hour went by as they stood together engrossed in conversation about the more challenging aspects of the Spell Casting. He seemed surprised at her insight and candor, Tonks by his openness to criticism. Watching him talk about the reasons behind his design, the animated way he brought to life Defense Against the Dark Arts, she understood why Hogwarts students had flocked to his classes.
Pushing aside the rest of thedrawings, he twisted his neckandstretchedhis arms. “I’m sorry, Nymphadora, but I really need to get something to eat. I’m famished. I’ve been traveling all day - I didn’t have any . . . I didn’t get a chance to grab anything for lunch.”
“Oh…oh…right. Sorry,” she said, sure she’d overstayed her welcome. She turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” he asked, surprised. “Have you already eaten? Or do you have a better date?” His gray eyes narrowed in mock outrage.
Tonks shook her head and a goofy laugh escaped her lips. “Not unless you count Mad-Eye.”
In a grand gesture, he took her hand in his.
“As a Senior member of the Order,I hereby order you to have dinner with me — or what’s left of it. Did Molly leave us anything or do we need to fend for ourselves?”
He drew her arm through his as they wandered down the steps. Well aware of the man’s highly mercurial moods, Tonks was nonetheless thrilled. When he was happy, it was impossible for anyone in his presence not to be,too. Still she felt a bit wary, not knowing how long his present magnanimity would last before it disappeared, replaced with his normal detachment and reserve.
“Muggle scum! Round heeled tramp with that abomination!” Sirius’ mother screeched as they waltzed past her portrait.
“The pleasure’s all ours, Mrs. Black,” he replied over his shoulder, causing Tonks to laugh out loud.
As they entered the kitchen, they found a note detailing the location of all the dinner items and how long to heat them.
“Lord, there’s enough here for an army,” he said. “I think there is going to be significant fallout when this war is over. She won’t be able to cook for less than twenty.”
“Oh, she’s been doing it for years with that brood,” Tonks offered.“I’d love to have that size of a family, though, wouldn’t you?”
“No,” he answered without hesitation, the tone of his voice changed. “I don’t think someone . . . someone like me would be allowed.”
She inwardly cursed herself for her stupidity. She knew of his condition – he had never kept it a secret, but she remembered the hoarseness in his voice and the white of his knuckles when he told her late after dinner one night. He could change as she could, but only at the hands of the darkest of curses.
“But I make a somewhat decent honorary uncle,” he added, breaking the tension.
Then as if suddenly realizing something was missing, he walked over to the stairs. “Excuse me,” he said, “for just a moment.” He disappeared up the flight.
Tonks watched him leave. Filled with a melancholy she couldn’t explain, she opened a drawer and began to pull out cutlery.
Overher head, the lone ring of candles suddenly made a strange fizzling sound followed by a loud “pop”. “Ugh – this house!” she cried. Shewandered over to aim her wand at them only to be greeted by Remus returning witha bottle of wine and a puzzled expression.
“What have you done? I knew it! You’ve spooked the lights. Mad-Eye claims you’re not a witch at all. ‘She’s combs frum the fairy folk, Lupin.’” He did such a remarkable impression of the grizzled Auror that she chuckled.
“If I did, I’d bring my people with me. They’d be a lot quicker with fixing things than he is… I don’t think it’s the wicks cause these aren’t spooked.”She nodded toward the dilapidated taper hanging from the sink and the tiny votive over the stove.
A tentative sort of smile came across his face as he gazed at the lone dangling lights. “It’s a shame that,” he said softly as he set the bottle down on the table.
Tonks glanced away, blushing. Moments passed. Neither one of them spoke. When she finally looked up, Remus’ expression had changed; the half-open bottle lay forgotten in his hands.
From far off in the house she heard a clock strike the hour and was vaguely aware of men speaking in some far off room. All that mattered to her was that Remus Lupin stood a mere three feet away, his face as she had never seen it.
“What was I looking for….” He asked her quietly, his eyes now fixated on the table as he methodically peeled away the rest of the foil from the bottle.
“I don’t know.”
He stopped and slowly raised his face, tilting his head to one side as he watched her curiously.“No?”
She was not sure how long they stood thereor how long they would have remained there, silent, each staring at the other, until she heard herself speak.
“No,” she whispered.
“What was I looking for?” he mouthed distractedly, more matter-of-factly now, his eyes fixed again on the table.
He walked toward the dresser, idly opening drawer after drawer. “Aha… I found it.” Grasping the corkscrew, he held it in the air. “There’s hope for us yet.”
Tonks exhaled, the drumming in her ears subsiding. So this is what it feels like, she thought. This is what it feels like.
The thought of anyone looking, looking into her eyes as he had done, as though he needed something, wanted something, unsettled her. Men did not flock to her side and she did little to encourage them these days. If anyone found her attractive, it was their loss. Consumed by her father’s declining health and the ever-growing war, the last few years, which should have been filled with sweaty angst ridden sex, were lost to her. What few relationships she did have inevitably ended up as friendships; time and again she found she had neither the heart nor the patience for a love affair these days.
Watching him uncork the bottle, it seemed unbelievable that a man such as Remus Lupin might desire her. She gazed down at her torn jeans and her Weird Sisters black t-shirt. Her slender frame, her pale skin, might, as Molly told her repeatedly, be very appealing under different circumstances. Here in the faint light that no doubt was casting shadows underneath her large dark eyes, no. No, she was mistaken. She had misread him. Not Remus Lupin.
Grabbing the cutlery, she tried to distract herself by setting the table.
“What else do we need?” he asked, speaking to himself, looking off into the distance as if contemplating something of importance.
Across the room a paint splattered box wireless sat forgotten in the floor. He crouched down and twisted some knobs on it. The popular “Late Night Muggle Melodies” was playing. The strains of a scratchy, old song filled the room.
“My funny valentine, Sweet comic valentine, You make me smile with my heart. Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, Yet you’re my favorite work of art.”
He shook his bowed head, a small smile of bewilderment passing across his face.“Perfect,” he whispered begrudgingly. “Just perfect.”
He hummed to himself nonethelessand grabbed the bottle, easily pulling out the cork. Holding two glasses in his hand, he filled them rather generously. Her hand brushed lightly against his as she took hers. “Thank you,” she said, her voice unnaturally high. She took a gulp feeling, if a little shaky, at least warm and happy.
“Here, you’re going to need to drink if you want to jump in with the big boys. It won’t be long before Sirius and Alastor want in on the conversation, you know. They only left to pout — they’ll be back.”
Part of her wilted;for a split second she thought that they would actually have a meal together. Alone.
“Remus,” she asked quickly before her nerve left her, “do you dance?”
He studied her a moment before responding, his eyes steady over the lip of his glass. “It depends.”
With a sudden burst of inspiration, or perhaps it was insanity, Tonks took a step forward and reached out for his hands. She slid one of them down around her waist and clasped the other in her hand.
“I’m dead clumsy when I dance,” she whispered, “so you needn’t worry about my toes.”
“It’s not your toes I’m concerned about,” he whispered to himself,causing her to blush.
Towering above her, his face serious, he resembled an instructor about to teach his young pupil her first lesson. That was, until he began. Slowly, they took their first steps.
Is your figure less than Greek? Is your mouth a little weak?
When you open it to speak, are you smiling?
They danced easily, moving across the floor, getting caught up in the music until Tonks bumped into the table. He pulled her closer. “Watch out for the dresser, it’s deadly,” he whispered.
She smiled up at him in thanks. His eyes gazed down at her, exploring her face as though it were somehow new to him. A yearning, almost feral in nature, lived behind those gray pools and Tonks swayed at the sight of it. She felt weak-kneed and dizzyand she raised her hands to his broadened shoulders, clutching at the rough material of his shirt. Remus’ own hands came down to her hips and he pulled her closer still.
Then the most unbelievable thing happened: he began to sing. So quietly that only she could hear him mouth the words. He had a beautiful voice. She beamed, trying to contain a rush of joy, and in her irrepressible mirth, repeated the chorus:
“But don’t you change one hair for me, Not if you care for me, Stay, silly valentine, stay. Each day is Valentine’sDay.”
He smiled and squeezed her to him;closing his eyes and inhaling, he lifted her hand to his lips. They rocked side to side, nuzzled together, the whole world forgotten.
Sometime later, they dimly became aware the song had ended. Perhaps it was the blaring commercial, perhaps it was Sirius’ none too discreet coughing or maybe they just remembered who they were and how bright and loud everything had become. No longer warm, silent and secure.
He gradually released her. His hands trailed down her shoulders, his arms reluctantly leaving hers. He stepped back, his breathing uneven.
“Not bad, Moony, not bad,” Sirius offered, suitably impressed.
Remus remained silent. Aware her cheeks were burning, Tonks lowered her face, focusing on a crack on the floor, unable to return his gaze.
“Well, that was... well… let’s eat, shall we,” said Mad-Eye looking blankly around the room and clapping his hands together.“I’m starving.”
Remus excused himself. ‘Wine’ wasthe only word Tonks could make out as he exited the room.
Breathe, Tonks. It’s easy just, inhale, exhale.
Her hands shook as she grabbed a plate. She stumbled over to the stove and began to heap food upon it.
“You sure like mashed potatoes,” Mad-Eye remarked eyeing the growing pile before her.
Tonks threw down the spoon and attempted to regain a fraction of her composure.She began chatting him up, asking him again and again where he purchased his worn leather jackets, not listening to a word the man said in response.
By the time Remus returned to the table, Tonks’ pulse rate had stabilized and she seemed able to form intelligible words.
“For Merlin’s sake stop standing there and sit down, Moony, the food’s getting cold,” said Sirius through a mouth full of pot roast and jabbed his fork toward the empty seat next to Tonks. Tonks felt Remus’ eyes on her as he slowly pulled out the chair.
So much for my pulse rate.
Throughout the entire meal, she dared not look at him, too swept up by the events of the last hour. Sitting there beside him, she sensed every move he made; she swore she could hear him breathing. At one point he leaned forward, his forearm brushing against hers. She felt the heat of his body through the thin material of his shirt, the sinuousness of his arm against her bare skin. Bloodyhell, she thought.I’m going to faint.I’m going to pass out into this godforsaken heap of mashed potatoes. She quickly sat back, embarrassed by her idiotic behavior.
The rest of the evening was lost to Unplottable talk. Remus and Sirius began sketching designs as Moody watched. Tonks added her insight where it seemed useful, but found it hard to keep up in conversation as it turned to the intricacies of obscure charms and spells. Ignored and discouraged, she finally rose from the table and began to clear the dinner dishes, afraid she could no longer hide her disappointment. The men had moved onto a house related catastrophe involving some set of pipes that had flooded an upper bedroom.
“Don’t be a fool, Tonks,” the voice of Reason whispered in her ear as she waved her wand, the sink filling with hot, soapy water. “He’s old enough to be — well, he’s supposed to humor you – that’s his job. Yours is to know what your position in this Order is. And after all, look at yourself for God’s sake.”
She looked up at the fogged-over window, unable to see her face or the disappointment that filled it. When she finally wiped away the window’s condensation, though, she froze. She had changed: her hair wasa rich brown, her cheeks aflame, her eyes sparkling. But more startling was the reflection from the table far behind her. There a gray set of eyes stared at her, intense and mysterious, holding the very same brilliance.