Chapter 1 : On Assignment
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“I don’t see what’s--“ the young woman began to reply as she normally did, but stopped when Remus caught her eye and held up a finger to gesture to the still-blooming bush outdoors. Tonks looked as though she wanted to laugh, but she scowled instead, sitting down at the table with her plate piled high with food. “Mmmm, lovely,” she murmured with a mouth full of ham.
“Thank you,” blushed Molly, as the other residents of #12, Grimmauld Place waved and grunted their agreement, all similarly engaged in their breakfasts. The Weasley matriarch decided to attempt to shift their interest to someone else, and said, “So glad to see you enjoying the mornings, Tonks.”
Lupin nearly choked on a sip of orange juice.
“Constant vigilance!” Mad-Eye Moody said grimly, and clapped the younger man on the back a few times, nearly knocking him off his chair. He made to repeat the gesture, but Lupin held up a hand.
“I’m quite all right, thank you,” he said in a choked whisper. Moody just grunted, and shoveled another forkful of food into his mouth.
“You sure?” asked Tonks in an angelic voice. Remus knew that she knew he was fine, and just wanted the chance to mock him. He would not look at her... he refused to look at her... Lupin couldn't help it--he looked up.
Her eyes were gold today, and dancing with pure mirth. His own narrowed at her warningly, and she beamed. Somehow he knew that waking him up at the crack of 10 AM on a Saturday wasn’t going to be her only revenge.
“Good instincts, Tonks,” barked Moody. “Got to watch out for our partners, after all—you’ll be going along with Lupin on his next mission.”
“I--“ Tonks said in surprise, shooting the werewolf a glance. The look on his face was a mirror to hers; clearly this was a new development.
“Moody,” he began, but was cut off by the ill-tempered Auror.
“Don’t give me that!” Moody said before the younger man had said more than his name. “I know it’s just a observing job, but I’ll need you to do something special for me, and that means you’ll have to leave someone there to keep the surveillance. Can’t have people wandering off in the middle of things, after all.” Mad-Eye stumped off into the other room before Lupin could say a thing.
“I guess that settles that,” he said with a hint of a smile.
“Think he knows it’s hard to argue with him like that?” she asked, staring after the grumpy Auror.
“I’m sure of it,” Lupin replied with a grimace.
Lupin stuck his head into the library, looking for his assigned partner for the night. Sure enough, Tonks was there, staring out the window at the falling darkness. Discretely, he cleared his throat—but he mightn’t have bothered with sublety. At the sound, Tonks seemed to jump nearly out of her skin, and nearly toppled sideways onto an armchair. He watched as she collected herself and shot him a reproachful look, as if he’d set loose another thunderstorm instead of merely coughed.
“Ready to leave?” he asked, ignoring the look.
“Yep!” she replied in a mock-cheerful voice, and she made her way carefully across the room to where he stood at the door; she seemed to be trying very hard not to trip, which struck him as quite endearing.
Their assignment was, on the whole, rather boring. There was a pub nearby that Moody was convinced was being used as a meeting point for recruiting Death Eaters, and the irascible Auror had rented a room in the building across the street from the entrance. Their job (previously just Lupin’s) was to simply watch for known Death Eaters or sympathizers. It had seemed a waste to Tonks, but Moody had explained that they had to tread carefully; once they knew if their hunch was correct, they could proceed to more interesting ways of gathering information. She hadn’t bothered to ask why it needed to be a two person post tonight, as Moody probably wouldn’t have told her anyway.
“So,” Tonks said as she watched him charm the window so that no one could see in, “tell me about yourself.” She plopped herself down on the leather armchair, looking as if she were settling in for a long night. Lupin just looked at her. “What?” she said, flushing slightly under the penetrative gaze. “I mean, we have to pass the time somehow…” Lupin just raised an eyebrow. It was starting to get on her nerves, the way the man was able to make her blush just by staring.
“Well, we could pass the time by watching the pub entrance,” he said, blandly. Turning his back to her, he settled himself on a chair facing the large window, and lifted a parchment and quill from the case he’d brought with him. Tonks felt a burst of annoyance. Nice of him to assume I meant to skive off our surveillance duties, she thought, bitterly.
Some of what she was thinking must have shown on her face, because he said, “Oh, I’m sorry, Tonks, that sounded awfully…professorial of me.”
“It did, rather,” she said matter-of-factly, dragging the chair over to the window next to his. He watched her in amusement.
“You could have used magic, you know.”
“Did you really want to clean up after it once it had gone through the window?” she said, tartly.
“Knowing oneself is half the battle,” she said imperially, changing her hair into a severe grey bun with chopsticks sticking out at odd angles. They both laughed.
“Which reminds me,” said Tonks, changing her hair back into a short green bob and clasping her hands together in mock excitement, “tell me about yourself!” She leaned forward, giving him her rapt—albeit sarcastic—attention. Lupin sighed.
“I knew you wouldn’t do it,” she said, giving up the enraptured schoolchild look and swinging her legs over the side of the leather armchair.
“Think I’m boring, do you?” asked Lupin, dryly.
“No!” she protested hotly. “It’s just well…you are rather secretive; I didn’t expect you to give it up on our first…” she let it dangle there for a long moment, making it seem as though she would choose a more provocative word, “assignment.” Tonks grinned.
Lupin looked at her in shocked amazement for a second, and then drew a trembling hand through his hair and shook his head before saying, “You, on the other hand, are far from boring.”
“Thank you.” She watched as he turned away from her to inspect the page on his lap, transforming from nervous to businesslike faster than she could change haircuts.
“And I’m glad to hear you’ll still be able to respect me in the morning,” he said nonchalantly, not moving his eyes from the paper in front of him.
“I’ll…” Tonks just stared at him. He’d neatly turned the tables on her, yet again.
When it became obvious to her that his entire attention was focused on the list of Death Eaters that Moody had given him, the young Auror sighed, and began watching the steady trickle of people heading into and out of the pub across the street. After a while, he handed her the list so she could peruse it as well, and they sat in silence for nearly an hour before the boredom got to her.
“So, what’s your favorite color?” she asked him, out of the blue.
He didn’t bat an eye before replying, “I knew you wouldn’t be able to stand it.”
“Stand what?” she asked, a trifle defensively.
“The silence,” he said, finally looking at her, a strange glint in his eyes that looked suspiciously like mischief. “You’re hardly ever completely quiet, you know. If you’re not talking to someone or listening to music, you’re singing, or talking to yourself.”
She realized he was right—she was almost always talking to herself or humming or something. But how did he know that?
“Hang on a minute,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. “How do you know that? What do you do, watch me or something?” Even as she said it, she realized she shouldn’t have. He would probably get offended and punish her by staying silent for the whole rest of the…
“Observation is a skill, Nymphadora,” he said, holding up a hand before she could even start to say ‘don’t call me Nymphadora.’ “Surely our mission here shows its usefulness as more than just a means of getting to know one’s friends and housemates. Using observation in that manner isn’t such a bad thing, really.” He paused, looking like he was finished, and then seemed to rush on as if he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to continue. “Something you know, full well, as you recognized me by the sound of my laugh last Monday, and not, as you claimed, by what shoes I was wearing.” He looked at her shocked face, and surprised her by grinning and leaning over to whisper conspiratorially, “I wasn’t wearing shoes.” She was sure that his grin grew broader as a hot blush rose from her collar all the way to her hairline.
Just then, the bells of a nearby church chimed 10 pm, and he stood, being careful to place his parchment and quill neatly on the desk in the corner.
“I should be back within the hour,” he told her. With that, he took his hat and coat from the rack, and was gone. Tonks was still blushing.
Damn the man, she thought, not for the first time. He always seemed to know exactly how to get under her skin, just for a moment, before retreating back into his proper Englishman exterior. But oh, how she loved when he let loose like that! Tonks decided to head that thought off before she got herself into trouble.
One thing she was certain of—she would not be able to stand sitting silently through any more of this watch duty. Tonks got up and paced around the room, careful to keep her eye on the pub’s front door. Ahh, but what could they talk about? She knew that she’d probably have to trick him into chatting with her, as her direct questions seemed to bounce right off of him as though he’d cast a shield charm. She considered charming him drunk…that always seemed to bury inhibitions. She knew that was underhanded, though.
Tonks had planned on spending her time alone coming up with a way to trick Lupin into telling her a little about himself, but wound up seeing someone she was sure was a good friend of Lucius Malfoy go into the pub and then back out in the space of fifteen minutes. She was just finishing writing down her observations of the man when Lupin returned, looking as pleased about the time spent as she was.
“Did you see him?” he asked, and she answered yes before she’d even realized what he’d said.
“Oh,” she said, trying not to show how disappointed she was that the errand wasn’t something more secretive. “Was that what you left for, then?”
“Yes,” he said, coming up behind her and reading her scribbled notes about the suspected Death Eater. “Moody suspected him and told me to check the tube exit around 10:15, as he gets off of work at 10.”
“Are we done here, then?” she asked, trying to make it sound as casual as her previous question, although her hope for the answer was the complete opposite.
“No, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the whole night,” he said, his back to her as he retrieved his quill and parchment. She was glad of this, because his innocuous comment had sent the color washing over her face yet again. Her pique at his having made her blush twice in the space of an hour made her braver than she normally would have been.
“In that case, would you care to make it interesting?” she said, the challenge in her voice mimicked in the expression on her face. She wasn’t disappointed; he whipped around to look at her so quickly that he nearly tipped his ink bottle over. Now, who’s clumsy? she thought, gleefully. Examining his shocked expression, she saw the beginnings of a blush, and felt victory. That’s 2 for you, 1 for me, and a whole night ahead of us!
“I…” his voice shook, and he paused to steady it. “I beg your pardon?”
“You know, like play a game, or something,” she faltered, a little less brave now that he was making eye contact instead of faced away from her.
“A game?” he parroted.
“Merlin, Remus, you’re acting like I’m asking you to play one-on-one ‘spin the bottle’ or something!” she exclaimed, saying it so quickly and without thinking that she’d blurted out his name. Rather than shocking him, however, it seemed to simply jolt him back into his button-down personality.
“I’d hardly think you’d suggest that, Tonks,” he said mildly, settling himself down on the chair by the window. Then, just as she was starting to lament the fact that he’d buried himself behind his normally staid exterior, he said, “we don’t even have a bottle.”