A/N: Originally written for rt_morelove on LiveJournal.
Tonks had been dreading this since last year. She’d hoped she might break something — not entirely implausible, given her clumsiness of late — or perhaps catch a bad cold. But it was four nights before the Auror Christmas party, and so far, her bones and limbs were intact, and her temperature remained as healthy as ever.
“I thought Christmas parties would be right up your alley,” Remus remarked; she had been relaying this to him and Sirius over dinner.
“They are,” Tonks said, “when they’re fun. According to Kingsley and Moody, the Auror Office Christmas parties used to be marginally entertaining. Then Scrimgeour became Head of the Auror Department, and now they’re awful.”
“How so?” Sirius asked.
“Where do I even start? It’s a formal, dry, boring event. Only slow dances are allowed in case Fudge shows up, which he never does. We’re not allowed to use Room Heating Spells either, because Scrimgeour thinks keeping us cold will keep us more productive during the work day and doesn’t want to adjust anything just for a party. Then we have to listen to Scrimgeour bragging about all of his Auror feats over the last two and a half decades. To top it all off, Ida Proudfoot and her husband will always get pissed out of their minds — probably from being bored and frozen half to death — and start talking about the first time they met.”
“Isn’t that normal for older couples?”
“They met when they were drunk at another Christmas party. There’re details. Loads and loads of details. I’m pretty sure some of it took place on what is now my desk, given that Ida always winks at me.” Tonks shivered.
“Can you get out of it? Say you’re too ill,” Sirius suggested.
Tonks shook her head. “It would look bad. Scrimgeour always notes who does and doesn’t show up.”
She looked at Remus. “You could come with me, you know.”
“No, I can’t. For one thing, if Fudge or Umbridge does show up, how will they react to the presence of a werewolf? For another, I thought we agreed to keep this under wraps.”
Tonks had, in fact, agreed to that. Her only other secret relationship had ended in heartbreak, so they decided to tell the Order, but she knew that, when it came time to be more public about it, it would ruffle feathers, and Tonks wanted to enjoy their relationship for what it was before tackling the hard stuff. Besides, it wasn’t really anybody’s business. She was very happy, and that was all her casual friends and colleagues needed to know. For now.
On the other hand, as horrible as these parties were, it would be nice for Remus to meet her colleagues, to see where she worked. To be with her. And would it really be any worse than the year Tonks had shown up with John Dawlish’s son?
“I know,” Tonks told him. “I just wish you could be there.”
“We have the rest of the holidays,” Remus replied, kissing the top of her head. “It’s fine. We shouldn’t push it, not yet.”
Tonks smiled. “Well, I ought to go. I’ll try and leave the party early tomorrow.”
Right now, listening to Great Aunt Walburga scream obscenities at her sounded like a laugh compared to the stupid party.
As soon as Tonks left, Remus and Sirius looked at each other.
“I’ve never seen anyone look less forward to a party,” Sirius said.
“Me, either,” Remus agreed.
Sirius looked thoughtful. “We should liven things up.”
Remus knew that tone. “Sirius—”
“Come on, Moony. It’s the least we can do. Consider it an early Christmas present.”
“How can we liven things up if we’re not—”
Remus stopped mid-sentence. “I’ve got it,” he said.
It was time to do a little Marauding.
Tonks was lucky enough to work the shift right before the party, meaning that she and Ida had to oversee the house-elves decorating the Department. It took them less than an hour. Scrimgeour was in his office with Gawain Robards and Kingsley.
“Are you bringing someone tonight?” Ida asked Tonks.
“‘fraid not,” Tonks said.
“I don’t think Kingsley’s bringing anyone, either.” Ida winked at her.
“I’ve seen you two whispering. It’s obvious you fancy each other.”
We need to be more careful. “It’s just business.”
“Of course.” Ida grinned slyly. “I don’t blame you. If I weren’t much older and married… scratch that, if I weren’t married…”
Before Ida could finish, Moody walked in.
“Alastor!” Ida hurried over to him. “What a lovely surprise!”
It truly was a surprise, considering that Moody had been banned from the office.
“Thought I’d drop by, see my old friends,” Moody said. “I was going to come earlier, but I’m pretty sure there were enemies close by.”
“Oh, you,” Ida giggled. “I’ve missed my Mad-Eye.”
Tonks winced. Scrimgeour had seen him, and considering he was the one who’d pushed for Moody’s retirement, this would not go down well.
“What are you doing here?” Scrimgeour demanded as he approached them quickly, Kingsley and Robards close behind.
“Can’t a retired Auror say hello?”
“You’re not allowed to be here, not since you literally turned the place upside down looking for—”
“—I still say they were there!”
“And I’m pretty sure you Confunded me!”
Tonks knew that had been Barty Crouch who’d Confunded him to create a diversion the night You-Know-Who came back, but this wasn’t exactly a good time to bring it up.
“All in the past, all in the past,” Moody was saying.
“Moody, walk with me,” Dawlish said in a not-so-pleasant voice.
Moody threw up his hands. “Walk with me. Walk with me. That’s all this old man hears anymore! Bah humbug!”
“Alastor,” Tonks began, but he’d already stormed off.
“I let him catch my Snitch at another party once,” Ida whispered to Tonks.
It wasn’t long before people started arriving; the Auror office had always extended the party to other divisions and departments. Mostly, Tonks thought, so that Fudge might show, although it did seem only fair to invite the rest of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, at least.
“Always nice to see you,” Amelia Bones told Tonks with her usual polite smile. “We’ve got gold hair today?”
“I wanted it to be green,” Tonks whispered, “but Scrimgeour wouldn’t stop making loud comments about my hair resembling the decorations.”
“Oh, dear. You know, when I was an Auror, my Head was insufferable too — what is that?”
Amelia pointed to the window; a small bird was pecking its beak on it excitedly. It had a grey chest and orange-gold wings.
Suddenly, the window opened, and the bird flew inside. Everyone gasped audibly when it went straight for the large pear tree in the middle of the room.
“Splendid, indeed!” Amelia said with a laugh. “Oh, I must get a photograph for my niece, she loves birds…”
Tonks looked back at the window; it seemed to have shut itself.
I need a drink, Tonks thought. Unfortunately, that was where Scrimgeour had parked himself, and Tonks knew she couldn’t walk away, but she might as well get one of his stories over with.
Sure enough, Scrimgeour was droning on. “And as we locked eyes, I realized… he wasn’t just a magical creature poacher. He had become the creature.”
Tonks yawned as Scrimgeour muddled his way through the story, which was very poorly exaggerated. It didn’t fool nearly as many people as he clearly hoped it would.
“Unbelievable,” a young woman said softly. Tonks knew the tears in her eyes weren’t from sentiment.
“Quite. It reminds me of the — Percival!”
Tonks turned; Percy Weasley had blessed them with his presence. Lovely. How difficult would it be not to punch him? Tonks would never forget the expression on Bill and Charlie’s faces as they told her what he’d said and done… the look on Molly and Arthur’s faces whenever someone accidentally brought him up, or they did themselves…
“Rufus,” Percy returned with a firm handshake.
“I’m glad you could make it.”
“I would never miss my favourite Auror’s Christmas party!”
Tonks rolled her eyes.
“Can I assume that Cornelius will also be joining us?” Scrimgeour asked.
“I’m afraid that Fudge had a prior engagement. Had he known about this party sooner, he would most certainly have been in attendance.”
“That’s funny, considering we sent the invitations in September,” Tonks quipped.
Scrimgeour’s jaw tightened. “Very well, then. I understand — he must have far more important matters to attend to.”
“Indeed,” Percy said. “But he sent his best — what’s this?”
Two owls had flown in with a package, dropping it at Scrimgeour’s feet. They all peered at it; the package had open me, already! written on it.
Kingsley picked up the box and frowned. He pulled out a very, very small figurine set — so small Tonks could just barely make out that they were figurines.
“What on earth…?” Percy was peering as well.
Tonks took another look inside in the box. There was also a magnifying glass.
“I think we need this,” she said.
Sure enough, the magnifying glass revealed what appeared to be an ancient village; people were wandering around, some of them leading camels and goats. It was quite awe-striking. Something told Tonks to hold it to her ear; when she did, she could hear goats braying. Every so often, the tiny village went still, then moved again.
“Well?” Scrimgeour pressed.
“No idea,” Tonks said. “But we could use more lively decor, couldn’t we?”
She moved around some of the snacks, making room for the figurine in the centre of the table. She was about to take another look when the window opened again; this time, a bowl flew into the room.
Ida grabbed it. “Oh, it’s—”
The bowl flew out of her hands and away from her; several people (Tonks included) tried to catch it, but every time someone grabbed it, it wrenched itself out of their hands and flew away.
“What was it, Ida?” Scrimgeour asked. He looked very annoyed now.
“It looked like pudding!”
“I think it’s fig pudding!” Amelia Bones said as she grabbed it briefly.
Figgy pudding. Tonks laughed. Of course! The bird was a partridge in a pear tree…the little town was Bethlehem…
Scrimgeour had stormed over, ushering Ida to join them.
“Did you two plan this?” he demanded. “Any of this?”
“Not a single bit of it,” Tonks replied. “I wish I had, though, it’s brilliant.”
“Brilliant? Brilliant?! I’m worried there’ll be more, and we’ll all look foolish!”
Tonks couldn’t help but notice that many people were stopping to admire the partridge in the tree, as well as the minuscule Bethlehem figurine. And every single person who failed to capture or hold onto the bowl laughed, except for Percy — but when wasn’t he scowling or strutting around with a pompous expression on his face?
“It would be a tragedy, to be sure,” Tonks said flatly. “I will make sure the fun — I mean, ruckus — does not get out of hand.”
“Ruckus? I’ve not had a heartier laugh at one of these parties in ages!” Ida laughed loudly. “Not a heartier laugh, no siree! Not since the one where my husband and I met!”
Tonks was wrong about one thing: being bored meant it took longer for Ida to get drunk.
“We’d both had a lot of Firewhisky,” Ida was saying, “and he just couldn’t get enough of my arse. So I told him, you think the back’s something? Wait until I show you the front!”
That’s about the worst pickup line ever, Tonks thought to herself. Meanwhile, Ida was getting into a little too much detail. What had she told Remus and Sirius?
That was when she realized who was behind this.
“Excuse me,” Tonks told them quickly, and she exited the door. Knowing it would be a bad idea to Floo, she instead Disapparated to Grimmauld Place, where Sirius was waiting by the door with a grin on his face.
“Ah,” he said. “You figured it out.”
“So it is you. I love it. People are actually enjoying themselves. Well, except for Percy and Scrimgeour.”
“I’m pleased to hear it,” Sirius said.
“He’s near the Ministry, actually. I’m sending everything over, Moody’s delivering, Remus is adding touches where they are needed.”
Tonks remembered his appearance earlier that night. “Hold up, was that why he came into the Auror office?”
Sirius nodded. “Yes! We sent him in with extra fast-growing seeds. He was to—”
“—throw his hands up in the air so they’d fall, and no one would notice,” Tonks finished. “I love you lot.”
“There’s more coming,” Sirius advised her, “so you should hurry.”
Tonks realized something: he hadn’t looked this happy in ages. Not since Harry had visited that summer. This was as much a favour to him as it was her…
“Okay,” Tonks said, and she gave Sirius a tight hug.
When Tonks returned, she realized that there was a small child carrying a drum-set. He answered a question from Mafalda Hopkirk in a French accent. Kingsley nodded at her.
“I know,” he said in a low voice. “D’you think Fleur…?”
“Oh, I have no doubt,” Tonks replied. “This is the work of the Order. Mostly Remus and Sirius.”
Kingsley burst out laughing. “I should’ve known! I went to Hogwarts around the same time they did, and remember their Christmas hi-jinks very well.”
Ida waved to Kingsley and Tonks from across the room.
“Why is she always staring at us?” Kingsley asked.
“It’s nothing, she just thinks we’re having an office romance.”
Kingsley raised his eyebrows, and made to respond, when the lights went out.
“Hello?” Tonks called, but there was no sound; she couldn’t hear a thing, and the only thing she could see was that there were stars moving across the ceiling.
A large star crossed very quickly, and the room was light again. Every single person in the room was staring in wonder.
“That’s it!” Scrimgeour was hurrying over to Tonks yet again. “We’ve got to put a stop to this at once. At once!”
Why did he have to ruin everything?
“It has taken a life of its own now,” Tonks said wearily. “There’s nothing we can do. Just relax.”
“When the Minister hears about it, he will not be amused! And you’d better believe he will, what with Percival being here tonight!”
“The Minister doesn’t give a damn about your stupid parties,” Tonks retorted. “Percy’s presence is just a consolation prize, and you know it.”
Tonks realized at once how harsh she’d been; Kingsley’s look of astonishment made her feel worse.
Tonks waited for Scrimgeour to yell at her with baited breath, but instead, he stared for about thirty seconds before retreating into his office.
“Don’t say it,” Tonks told Kingsley miserably.
“I think, as your supervisor, I have to: That was low.”
“Look how happy people are, Kingsley,” Tonks said as she watched everyone talking and laughing and dancing. “How can anyone see all of that joy, and want it to end?”
“It’s time,” Moody told Remus as he joined him in the vacant office, taking off his invisibility cloak. Only Moody seemed to know how to get in and out of it.
“How’s it going, anyway?”
“Very well. It’s winding down, so it’s time for you to do the last part.”
Remus threw the heavy sack over his shoulders and winced. “Is my beard on okay?”
“I suppose so.”
Remus carried it past a few confused-looking employees, into the Law Enforcement Department, into the Auror office.
“HoHoHo!” Remus cried loudly.
“And we’ve got a Father Christmas!” a young woman said.
“We sure do!” Remus said.
He searched for Tonks, finally spotting her near Kingsley. To his surprise, she was frowning. He grinned at her, and her eyes widened.
“Remus?” she mouthed.
Remus tried to chuckle. He wasn’t very good at chuckling, however, and ended up making a noise similar to having been punched in the stomach.
“Never mind that,” Remus said. “Here are your presents!”
The gifts were random assortments — tiny ornaments, plastic birds, snow globes, and other trinkets. Nothing fancy — all fun.
“Oh!” Amelia Bones gasped. She took a second look at Remus. “Who are you, anyhow?”
“I’ve been ordered not to tell,” Remus replied.
Remus saved Tonks for last, as he had one last surprise.
“Here,” Remus said, handing Tonks her a snow globe.
“Thank you,” Tonks said. “For… all of this.”
There was a twinkle in her eyes.
“A kiss for Father Christmas?” Remus asked softly.
Without responding, Tonks pulled him towards her. They kissed with the whole room watching, but no one seemed to mind. Even stuffy Mafalda Hopkirk looked heartened by it.
“So he’s your secret lover!” one of the Aurors exclaimed. “All this time, I thought it was Shacklebolt!”
Tonks laughed. “Yes, Ida.”
She looked back at Remus. “How’d you pull it all off? Sirius explained that Moody sneaked the pear seeds in, but nothing else.”
“Sirius and I hexed every object we could think of. Moody, meanwhile, added a few touches after he pretended to leave in protest.”
“Wait — back to Moody, if he’s got his cloak, why did he need to storm into the office before?”
“It added to the show, I imagine.”
“How’d you get the bird in here?” Kingsley asked as he joined them.
“That’s actually Dedalus. Turns out he’s another unregistered Animagus.”
“Well, my dear,” Tonks said, “you saved tonight’s Christmas party. And… I reckon it gave Sirius something to do.”
Remus nodded. “It did.”
Everyone had either left or seemed to be getting ready to leave. All of them were smiling radiantly.
“Well, I know you’ll want to stay a little longer,” Remus said, “but why don’t you come to Grimmauld Place? You too, Kingsley,” he added.
Tonks’s eyes travelled to a closed office door.
“Maybe later,” she told him. “There’s one last thing I need to do. Kingsley, can you see the rest of the office off?”
Upon returning, Tonks saw Scrimgeour’s office light was still on. She knocked, then let herself in when he didn’t respond with a light “Wotcher.”
“I never said you could come in,” Scrimgeour told her. He was staring at a piece of parchment with a sour expression.
“I don’t care. Here, I brought some Firewhisky and apple pie.”
“If you’re trying to warm up to me after what you said, this isn’t the way. You are in a lot of trouble; I’m writing a record of insubordination as we speak.”
“I would expect nothing less,” Tonks said. “But I also know you love apple pie.”
Scrimgeour finally looked up at her. “I see.”
“Rufus, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things. They weren’t true.”
“Don’t patronise me. You meant what you were said, and I’m afraid you were right. Cornelius Fudge is a cowardly son of a hag.”
“Then why on earth do you care what he thinks every year?”
“Because he should acknowledge how much I do. Instead, he makes Percy Weasley Junior Assistant?”
Tonks bit her lip.
“Probably just so he can try keeping tabs on Arthur Weasley,” Scrimgeour continued with a derisive snort.
“So you’re trying to impress someone you don’t even like.” Tonks clucked her tongue. “With all due respect, sir… that’s mental.”
To her surprise, Scrimgeour laughed. Tonks found herself chortling along. After a minute, Scrimgeour cut the pie, and they ate it together in silence.
“Can I ask you something?” Scrimgeour asked after a minute.
“Is Fudge telling the truth about Dumbledore?”
Tonks paused. How could she possibly answer that honestly? What if this was a trick?
“Right.” Scrimgeour shook his head. “I figured as much. I’d ask you more, but as I tell all of my Aurors, when you’re in a compromised situation, it’s better for things to be left unsaid, even if you’re sure the other party is at a point of mutual agreement.”
“I remember you telling us that.”
Scrimgeour looked at Tonks. “I see you’re dating Father Christmas?”
Tonks smiled. “My boyfriend is full of surprises.”
“Everyone thought it was Shacklebolt.”
Tonks shuddered. “No. I’d do anything for Kingsley, but I love him like a brother. The way I suspect you once loved Fudge. When you went to Hogwarts together.”
After a moment, Scrimgeour nodded. “Yes.”
Oh, Rufus. “Well, sometimes people change.”
“It’s no matter,” Scrimgeour said quickly. “We are very different people now.”
“Perhaps that’s a good thing,” Tonks pointed out.
“Yes,” Scrimgeour agreed.
He stood. “Well, I really do need to get out of this office. Thank you for your company tonight. And tell your… friend that I daresay he threw us a better party than I ever could.”
“How do you know it was my friend?”
“Bloke turned up as Father Christmas. That was a bit of a giveaway.”
Scrimgeour shook Tonks’s hand. “Take care, Tonks. Happy Christmas.”
“Happy Christmas,” Tonks returned.
She waited for Scrimgeour to leave, then looked around the office. Dedalus was still in his Animagus form, flying around the tree. In fact, all of the decorations were still up, and Tonks thought it was better that way.
Who knew the party she dreaded every year would have so many laughs, and end with her actually having a somewhat pleasant conversation with Scrimgeour, of all people?
Tonks knew she would have to complain to Remus and Sirius more often. For now, they would rather appreciate having the rest of the pie.