Chapter 5 : Chez Tonks
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It's the morning of the full moon, and Remus and Tonks have a mission to attend to. How will they manage?
It was the morning before the full moon. It hadn’t been a good one. Remus Lupin had managed to choke down enough coffee to awaken him, but not enough to render him particularly pleasant. There was a buzzing in his head, as there always was at this time of the month. He felt clumsy and confused and out-of-focus. He needed to summon some energy, some clarity, from somewhere. There was a mission to attend to.
Christmas holidays were over, and Lupin and Tonks had been chosen to escort the kids back to Hogwarts on the Knight Bus. Remus was not looking forward to the trip with baited breath. The cursed bus was stomach-churning enough at the best of times, but today, of all days, it would prove to be a test of strength. Hell – simply traveling with six teenagers would be a test of strength today.
Nymphadora Tonks, seated across from him at the kitchen table at number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, seemed to understand that her friend was having a rough morning. She took extra care not to knock over furniture or break her glass. She even placed her spoon, silently, into the sink, instead of hurling it from across the room and screaming “nothing but net!”, as was her usual practice. She tried not to be hurt that he didn’t seem to notice her heroic efforts. He was grumpy today. That wasn’t something she had seen before, but, in fairness, he had every reason to be. She had grumpy days all the time, and didn’t have anything approaching his excuse.
She cast a sideways glance at Lupin, and couldn't help but smile. She didn't dare let him see her, since he was in no mood for anything friendly or cute. She could only see a glimpse of the man she had nearly kissed just a few weeks ago. The sweet, gentlemanly angel of a man that she had been falling for was being eclipsed by the wolf, and compared to Remus, the wolf was quite rude. He'd been calling her "Tonks" all morning, he yelled at her for rustling the newspaper, and he stopped talking to her entirely when she suggested that he needed to chill out. She tried to suppress a chuckle. The wolf was great.
Tonks had always worried that Remus was a little too perfect, a little too controlled, and that she looked a litte too much like a bufoon in his presence. Knowing that he turned into this cranky bastard once a month leveled the playing field. Yes, she decided - she was very fond of the wolf already. She just couldn't tell him that.
She could hear the kids bounding down the stairs, and saw Lupin wince. Then, somehow, he pasted a smile on his face and wished them a good morning. Oh, he was good. Only someone looking very closely would notice that his brow was furrowed, even as he was exchanging pleasantries with the children. Tonks saw an opportunity to give him some space. She took charge.
“Remus, why don’t you head out front and organize the bags. I’ll herd the kids and get them through their goodbyes.”
“Fine.” He got up and left, abruptly. He was in no state to appreciate the gesture, but Tonks was happy that she had made it, even so.
Both Sirius and Molly were having a hard time saying goodbye. Molly had a constant, nagging concern for her babies, as all mothers do. She hugged and kissed them all, including Harry and Hermione, and left them with warnings not to do anything that would get them hurt, killed or expelled. Sirius tried his best to be strong, but he missed Harry already, and was heartbroken to see him leave. They spent an emotional last few moments together, and then it was nearly time to go. Tonks quickly morphed into a tall, rather stern looking old woman, changed her clothes, and headed out the front door to join Remus.
He looked her up and down and gave a short, harsh laugh. “You look like my mother.”
Tonks tried to be flippant. “Does that ‘do it for you’?” she asked, recalling a conversation from months past.
“Not in the least,” was Lupin’s curt reply.
They stepped out onto the street, away from number Twelve, and it disappeared. Lupin held out his wand, and the Knight Bus pulled to the curb, out of thin air. From there, Tonks took over, dividing the children and sending Lupin to the back of the bus with the twins and Ginny. He was happy enough not to have to make any decisions, and was almost thankful that Tonks seemed to have everything under control. He was even pleased with his share of the “cargo” – the twins were speaking in hushed tones with their heads together, and Ginny was humming softly to herself. His stomach was lurching and his head felt like it was being jackhammered, but Lupin had a moment when he realized that this trip could have been much worse. On any other day he would have expressed his thanks to the metamorphmagus. Today, however, he considered it sufficient not to bite her head off.
In no time, they had reached Hogwarts. They said their goodbyes, with Lupin reminding Harry of the importance of studying Occlumency. He was pleased with himself that he had remembered. His brain was getting fuzzier by the minute. Then the kids were off, and he was left with Tonks on the side of the road.
“I guess I’ll apparate back to Grimmauld Place,” he said, and made to go.
“I don’t think you should,” Tonks told him. “Sirius is probably in rough shape. Leave him be for a few hours.”
“Damn it, Tonks, I’m in rough shape. You may not have realized, but the full moon is tonight.”
Tonks laughed out loud. “Yeah, Remus, I realized. It’s hard not to notice. You’re barely yourself today,” she added. “Listen. Why don’t you come to my place for a cup of tea. Give Sirius a chance to dry his tears or drown his sorrows or something. I’ll have you home by noon, I promise.”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Lupin felt this was a bad idea. However, he was in no state to make decisions for himself, and Tonks’ logic appeared to make perfect sense. With a heart-jolting CRACK!, he apparated with her to her flat.
She bounded up the stairs and he followed, sluggishly. Part of him felt as though it wasn’t appropriate to be at Tonks’ home at this very moment, and another part of him found the idea exhilarating. Having such conflicting thoughts at once was confusing, and exhausting. He was rubbing his head, roughly, when she threw open the door and announced “Bienvenue à chez Tonks!” in an appallingly stilted French accent. It sounded like nails on a chalkboard to Lupin, but he tried his best not to let that show. Instead, he entered the flat, found a chair not far from the door, and sank into it. As she threw off her robes and tossed them aside, he took in the room.
It wasn’t quite what he was expecting. It was much more simply furnished than he imagined it would be, with just a desk, a few comfortable-looking chairs, a sofa and a coffee table in the sitting room. There were a few rather Tonksish touches, though. The walls, for example, were painted a deep, dark red that he probably would have found sexy on any other day, but today seemed so garish that he had to squint his eyes. She had two reading lamps, the bases of both being made from upside-down mannequin legs in fishnet stockings and stilettos. There was a rather elaborate hookah on the coffee table, which appeared to be filled with Every Flavour Beans. Who the hell uses a hookah as a candy dish? Lupin was shaken from this thought when Tonks called out from her bedroom.
“I’m just getting changed. Can you start the tea?”
Lupin shuffled into the kitchen, muttering to himself and rummaging through the rather disorganized cabinets for tea. He got the kettle boiling, and then went searching for milk. He noticed a number of photos attached to the outside of the icebox, and he stopped to look for a moment. All of the kids were there, as were Molly and Arthur. There was only one of Sirius, taken when he was about twelve, holding a wriggling, chubby baby who was probably Tonks. There were two of Remus himself. One was of him and Tonks on the sofa at number Twelve. He was reading, and Tonks kept trying to get his attention by any means possible. She attempted to tickle him, then poked at him, then eventually she bit him on the shoulder. That startled him enough to look up, and she pointed him to the camera. He was surprised to see himself blushing in the photo. They both gave a quick wave, and then the image repeated itself. In the second photo he didn’t appear to be moving at all. He was sleeping. He must have fallen asleep on the sofa, and she had taken a picture. Strange.
He set the mugs on the coffee table, and Tonks emerged from her room looking much more like herself. She had chosen a rather plain look for the day, with dark hair in a ponytail, jeans and a brown jumper. Lupin was thankful. He loved her pink hair, but today it would have just hurt his eyes. This was much better.
Tonk strolled into the room and hurled herself onto her sofa. She grabbed a mug of tea, and then lay back, with one forearm across her head. She looked exhausted, Remus thought. He took a sip himself. Neither spoke for a few moments. Then Tonks broke the silence.
“Sirius will be in bits today,” she said.
“I imagine so. If I were to wager a guess, I’d say he’ll be shit-faced by noon.” Tonks felt a little start in her stomach. It was so unlike Remus to swear.
“If he’s drunk, he won’t be much help to you tonight.”
“True. I’ll manage. I have before.” Lupin was making no effort to assuage her concern.
Tonks did her best to ignore his harsh tone. “Maybe I should come and see to you tonight,” she suggested.
He considered this for a moment. “See to me? What do you mean?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I could scratch you behind the ears or rub your belly or something. You know…see to you.”
Remus let out his first genuine laugh of the day. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of both hands, pushed his head back and sighed. “Mmmmm. That sounds wonderful…”
Tonks got up and made for her room. “Give me two minutes – I’ll just throw a few things in a bag, and”-
“No, Tonks! Sorry. Sit. I was just…thinking aloud. I don’t want you there tonight. I don’t want you to see me in that state. It…it means a lot to me that you don’t see me as an animal. I don’t want to jeopardize that.” Tonks shook her head. “Remus, I would never…” He stopped her. “Please, Tonks - Nymphadora..." He seemed to struggle to get the words out. "Let me have this. Let me have you thinking I’m a gentleman. It’s important.”
Tonks wasn’t quite ready to give in. “I could howl at the moon with you.” She leaned closer to him, and whispered. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve howled at the moon, Remus.”
Remus got up and wandered past the sitting area. He searched for somewhere to set his focus, so that he wouldn’t just be staring at Tonks. There was a large bookshelf against the wall in the kitchen. There, on the centre shelf, in a place of honour, it appeared, was the pink Barbie camper van that he had given her for Christmas. It was rather elaborately set-up, with a canopy and picnic table, a swing set and wee jungle gym. Inside there was a kitchen with little utensils, and a table with a little table cloth and a vase of flowers. Past that, there was a bedroom. Barbie was inside, dressed in a leather corset and heels, brandishing a whip. Her poor, tanned, unfortunate boyfriend was lying, spread-eagle on the floor, in buttless chaps. The bland, moronic grins on their faces struck Remus as awfully funny. Then came genuine laugh number two of the day.
“Tonks, I’m not sure if that’s how the doll is meant to be played with. That poor fellow.” He chuckled to himself, and averted his eyes from Ken’s get-up.
“He was naughty,” Tonks deadpanned. “He needed to be punished.”
Part of him thought Tonks was the scariest woman alive, and part of him was more than a little intrigued. He figured he’d better make a hasty exit, before the intrigued part made a fool of the rest of him. He headed for the door.
“I should run, Tonks. If I wait too much longer, I’ll be in no shape to apparate. Thanks for the tea.”
She walked deliberately towards him, and placed her arms around his neck. Her wild, woodsy scent was overwhelming, and he breathed deeply. It was all he could do to stifle the growl that was forming at the back of his throat. She kissed his cheek, and then pulled away.
"Stay safe tonight, Remus."
He went out the door and stood in the threshold, still staring at her, silently.
Tonks leaned one arm against the doorframe, and placed her other hand on her waist. Then she started drumming her long fuschia nails against her hip. Remus’ eyes darted between that hip and her eyes, back and forth a few times. He took a deep breath, willing himself to leave.
“The wolf and I will be thinking of you tonight, Remus.” Tonks continued to drum her nails on her hip. Remus closed his eyes, and could see the tattoo of the wolf staring back at him. Before he could stop himself, he spoke too, allowing his thoughts to seep through the confusion and buzzing and general malaise.
“The wolf and I will be thinking of you, too, Tonks. Trust me.”
He apparated with a resounding CRACK!, and Tonks slowly shut the door to her flat.
So...there were moments when Remus Lupin wasn't a perfect gentleman, after all. Tonks smiled and sighed softly. "Thank god", she murmured to herself, and settled back down on her sofa, lost in her thoughts of her beloved, cranky werewolf.
If you have time for a review, it would be much appreciated! Thank you! Paloma
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