It was a brisk evening, the last Saturday of November. Remus sat at the desk in the parlor of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, his quill poised over the parchment before him, his eyes flicking back and forth between several open books. Just as he was about to put his quill to the parchment and write, his concentration was broken by the sound of a loud thunk, a voice crying "No!" and a noisy squirting sound vaguely reminiscent of an unsavory bodily emission. The whole exchange was followed by gales of laughter.
Remus smiled, and turned around to see Bill Weasley's grimacing face dripping with nasty-smelling green gunk. Nearby, Nymphadora Tonks and Sirius Black were laughing heartily at the mess. It seemed that Bill had just lost their Gobstone tournament.
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Bill, wiping the green sludge from his eyes. "You just had to go and fill your set with the worst smelling Gobstone Goo you could find, didn't you?"
"Well what's the fun in using the pretty-smelling Goo? I don't know why they even make the stuff. Everyone knows a Gobstone loser has to smell horrid—its part of the game," retorted Nymphadora, running a hand through her short black and purple hair. "Anyway, I gave you fair warning: If you play against the best, you'll get slimed like the rest!"
Bill pulled out his wand, and charmed away the rest of the Goo. "You're hardly the best, Tonks. I was just distracted—that's all."
"Excuses, excuses. What would your Mother say, Bill?" said Sirius, shaking his head.
"Don't you start in on me, too, Sirius! Tonks slimed you in less than half the time it took to slime me! Besides—I really was distracted. All that quill scratching was giving a me headache, Remus," said Bill, glaring back at Remus.
"This from a bloke who works in a room full of quill-scratching goblins all day long. You must spend half your wages on headache-banishing potions," said Remus with a grin.
"Give the work a rest for a while, Remus. Get over here and see how long it takes Tonks to slime you," called Bill.
"I'm trying to finish this chapter tonight," answered Remus.
"No excuses, Moony," said Sirius. "We've each taken our turns letting my little cousin slime us. You're next in line. Emmeline will just have to wait a little longer for your scratchings to be done."
Emmeline Vance, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, was also the Vice-President of the largest wizard publishing house in England. A few weeks earlier she had offered Remus some freelance work translating a series of books on magical creatures from their original German. Remus had done a number of freelance jobs for Emmeline over the years, both in translation and in copyediting. But this was the first work she had sent him since the Umbridge Werewolf Restriction Laws were passed. She was risking her position by giving him the work, and he was determined not to let her down by doing a shoddy job or missing his deadlines.
"Really, Sirius," he said. "My deadline is in five days. I need to keep working on this."
"Now Remus," Nymphadora began, smiling sweetly at him, "I think we all know that if you were really serious about working all night, you would have taken your books up to your room to work. I think—and I'll hazard a guess that my boys here would agree—that you’re just trying to worm your way out of getting slimed. What do you think, boys?"
Both Sirius and Bill began nodding enthusiastically. "She's spot on, Moony," said Sirius.
"You better listen to the lady, Remus," said Bill.
Remus smiled. He couldn't deny the truth. When Bill and Nymphadora were both over, he just couldn't stay away. When the four of them got together he almost felt like he was back in the good old days at Hogwarts with his old gang of friends. Tonight, like many nights before it, felt deeply familiar. Just like the hundreds of nights in his dormitory when he would sit scratching away at an essay, while James, Sirius and Peter would play wizard chess or Exploding Snap.
"All right, all right," he admitted with a grin. "I'll take my turn."
Nymphadora squealed with delight, and clapped her hands. "Another victim!".
Remus joined them on the floor around the coffee table, and they began to reset the game pieces.
A mere thirty minutes later, Remus found himself covered with foul-smelling green Gobstone Goo. But he could be proud of one thing—he had outlasted Sirius by close to fifteen minutes and had only come short of Bill's tenure by one or two minutes. "Woo-hoo!" shouted Nymphadora, leaping to her feet. "I am the champion!" She started doing a bouncy victory dance around the room. Remus forced himself to look away—when she did that dance of hers, certain areas of her body drew far too much attention to themselves, and one wasn't supposed to ogle one's friends.
Remus pointed his wand at himself and evaporated the Goo. "Too bad I haven't figured out how to make the Goo impossible to charm away," said Nymphadora. "It would have been fun to see the three of you lined up, dripping with Gobstone Goo. It would have been a perfect photo opportunity."
"Sorry to deprive you of your scrapbook moment, Tonks," said Sirius cheerily. "Up for a rematch?"
She shook her head. "No—I have my guard-duty night shift tomorrow. I'd best get home and get some sleep."
Sirius growled, "You just don't want to wear any of that slime yourself."
"Hah! Like you could beat me!" she retorted.
"Let's find out, then," he said.
"Gladly," she replied. "But not until Monday."
Sirius continued to grumble as she packed up her Gobstone set. "Goodnight, all," she called, heading out of the room. Sirius and Bill waved goodbye to her, pulling out an old wizard chess set. Remus followed her, and no one seemed surprised.
He wasn't sure when he had gotten into the habit of walking her to the door every time she left, but it had been going on for almost as long as they had known each other. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to cancel our Tuesday dinner, Nymphadora," he said, as they approached the front door.
"Why?" she asked. "Is that deadline really worrying you?"
He nodded. "I want to get the translation in early, if I can. Prove that I can handle anything they can give me."
She nodded. "It's good to see you working. I don't think I've seen you happier than the night you walked in, announcing that your free-loading days were over. Do you think Emmeline will be able to get you more work after this job is done?"
"I think so," he replied. "She hinted that if my job was sufficiently impressive, her associates would be less wary of outsourcing to a werewolf."
Nymphadora frowned. "That damned Umbridge. First she screws up your life, and now she's mucking up Hogwarts!"
"Don't get me started." Remus frowned. "I don't have the energy to get angry tonight."
"I'm sorry," she said, resting a hand lightly on his arm. "I had lunch with Arthur today, and he told me some more of the horror stories that his kids are sending home about her. How are we ever going to be ready for You-Know-Who with people like her in power?"
He put his hand over hers, and looked into her eyes. "Patience," he said. "Patience and tenacity. We'll come out ahead in the end. It's only a matter of time."
She smiled up at him. "At least your envoy missions are going well. There are times when it seems the international wizarding community is taking You-Know-Who's threat far more seriously than our own Ministry. Thanks to you and Dumbledore."
"We do our best," he replied.
"When are you leaving for Belgium?" she asked.
"Thursday, right after my deadline."
"So will we miss two Tuesdays in a row?" She looked disappointed. Their Tuesday night dinners had been a tradition ever since Remus had started a regular Tuesday guard shift outside the Department of Mysteries. When he was done with his guard shift, and she was done with her job at the Ministry, they would meet outside the entrance to go and explore the local cuisine. They had only missed three Tuesdays in the four months since the guard duty began.
"I'm afraid so. I'm sorry, Nymphadora," he said. "I promise, I'll make it up to you when I get back."
She got a very alarming twinkle in her eye—the same sort of twinkle Sirius always used to get when he was about to pull off a great prank. "I'll hold you to that," she said with an impish smile.
"Why am I suddenly frightened?" Remus asked with an answering smile.
"Because you know me," she said with a laugh. "So when will you be back?"
"A week next Wednesday, just in time for the full moon. So I won't really be back until the Friday or Saturday after."
"Can I come and help you with your transformation this month?" she asked. This was not an unexpected question—she had asked it every month since he first told her he was a werewolf.
He shook his head. "You know it's a private thing for me."
"You let that nutter who rents your ground floor flat help you out."
"That's different," said Remus. "Toddy Macnair is a trained expert in the field of Dark Creatures."
"He's an exterminator, Remus," Nymphadora stated flatly.
"He knows what to expect each month. And I give him a discount on his flat for helping me. If my friends started taking over, I'd have to charge him full rent, and then he might move out, and I'd lose my only stable tenant. Then where would I be?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," she muttered.
To change the subject, Remus said, "Sirius' birthday is coming up, you know."
"I do know," she said, her eyes lighting up again. He loved how she looked when she was excited about something—no matter what guise she had morphed into, she always had that same glowing expression. "Bill and I already have something brewing for it."
"What do you mean by that?"
She gave him a sly look. "It's a surprise."
"Oh, dear," he said, shaking his head.
"Oh dear, what?"
"Well, if you two are putting together a birthday surprise for him, and you aren't letting me in on it, then it probably means that it's something I won't approve of."
"Oh, stop sounding like a Professor!" she retorted. "I just think that both of you deserve a fun surprise, that's all."
"Can I have a hint?"
"No—I don't want to ruin it! But don't plan anything for the night of the sixth," she said.
Remus raised an eyebrow at her. "That's two days before his birthday."
She grinned. "I know. That's what makes it such a good surprise."
Remus folded his arms, and leaned against the doorframe. "Now I won't be able to think about anything else for the next two weeks," he said.
"I'm always happy to be in your thoughts, Remus," she said, patting his cheek. "I'll see you soon."
"Goodnight," he replied. She left, closing the front door behind her.
An hour later, after Bill left, Remus and Sirius relaxed in the kitchen with a bottle of wine. As Sirius sipped his wine, he gave Remus a thoughtful look, and said, "Moony—when Tonks and Bill are over, do you ever feel like we're the Marauders all over again?"
Remus was amazed at how closely Sirius' thoughts echoed his own musings from earlier that evening. "I do, Padfoot. I was thinking that tonight reminded me of all those nights back in our dormitory at Hogwarts."
Sirius smiled, and leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table. "So if I'm still me, and you’re still you," he said. "Then who are Tonks and Bill? Marauders-wise?"
Remus swirled his wine pensively in his glass. He didn't think either of his new friends were direct substitutes for his old—but if he had to choose… "Bill's a lot like James, at times," he said.
Sirius laughed. "I was about to say the same thing about Tonks! Two of James, and no Peter. I think we may have traded up."
"I don't completely agree with you on that, Padfoot," said Remus. "She's like James at times, but she's also a lot like you. And she has a flair all her own."
"You make it sound like she's a one-woman crowd. But you don't think she has any shades of Moony in her?" asked Sirius.
"No, she hasn't got any Moony in her," said Remus quickly.
Sirius let loose a short bark of laughter.
"What's so funny?"
"You forgot to add the 'yet'! She hasn't got any Moony in her 'yet'!" Sirius continued to laugh.
Remus folded his arms. "Just what do you mean by that?"
"You know exactly what I mean. And when will she get some Moony in her, old friend? You've certainly been taking your time," Sirius smirked at him.
Remus felt a slow blush spreading across his face. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he insisted.
Remus abandoned his wine, and stood up. "I don't care to dignify this juvenile line of questioning with a response. Now, I'm feeling rather tired. If you'll excuse me, I think I'll go up to bed."
As he stalked up the stairs, he heard Sirius' barking laugh echoing behind him.