Author's Note: I was writing a short 'first R/T meeting' for another fic I'm working on when I realised that, with a bit of tweaking, and a lot of extending, I could use one of the prompts ('Awake') at the rtchallenge, March 2008. Which was great as I'd always wanted a go at writing this, even though I know it's probably been done a million times, lol. But I think it's my answer to DH - go back to the very start of things! I'm definitely still not, and never will be, JKR ...
Remus bent down and politely shook the hand of the newest Order member.
"Nice to meet you," she said with a wide grin, looking at him from her position on the floor. "Should I get up or are you always this tall?"
"Only on Fridays," Remus said gravely. "Can I—?"
"Too right you can." The goblet, the plate and the slice of golden sponge on it were placed carefully down on the floor next to her and his hand was gripped tightly as he pulled her to her feet. "Ah. That's better." She regarded him with obvious interest, layers of pink hair that were a deeper shade close up falling forward into dark eyes as she unhurriedly let go of his hand to dust at her knees. "It's a relief to know I haven't met a giant here at Grimmauld along with everything else."
"Oh, he's far more exciting than that." Sirius seemed about to go on, but caught Remus' eye and instead tapped a critical leather toe in the slowly spreading puddle on the floor. "Do you want another drink, Tonks? As you seem to have lost yours while you were inspecting for woodworm down there?"
"I'll get it," Remus offered.
"No stay." Tonks was bending down for the goblet, wand in hand to deal with the offending puddle. "I've always been a cup half full girl so this'll be about right now."
"You're keen for an early night, aren't you, Moony?" Sirius looked from one to the other. "You look a bit knackered. You could get her one as you go?"
Remus thought wryly that 'a bit knackered' nicely summed up two days after transformation and a body that seemed to always ache at this time, not just in every muscle but bone deep as well. Tomorrow he'd start to feel over it, and start to trust that same body again. Besides, he could hardly blame Sirius, who was doubtless trying to help out, but who also craved new company as only a man who nature hadn't designed to be solitary could, for wanting to keep Andromeda's wholly unexpected daughter all to himself for a little while longer.
Best all round if he took himself off as he'd been aiming to do when she'd half stumbled, half fallen in front of him. Though another day he'd like the chance to chat with her.
"Two Firewhiskies then—" Sirius started, breaking off as Tonks straightened up and passed him the goblet with an amiable grin.
"Off you go then, as you insist," she said, the grin ending and staying on Remus. "I've met you already, now it's his turn to suffer."
Sirius looked momentarily taken aback, unused as he was to dismissal of any sort, especially, Remus thought, inwardly surprised and amused himself, from a girl. It took him a slight effort, but he tossed a best of luck there, mate, she's a right one smirk, which Remus acknowledged with the faintest lift of an eyebrow as he headed off.
Honour was hopefully restored. Remus stifled a weary yawn and wondered what she wanted with him.
Tonks watched Sirius' retreating back for a second. "You know, I'm pretty sure he deliberately didn't tell me that this table leg here juts out at just the right angle for any passing clumsy idiots to catch their foot on. Leaving them facing one of those nightmare decisions that can change your life forever."
"Mmn. Lose the drink which is the only thing keeping your nerves steady all night, or the Victoria sponge Molly Weasley has told you has risen to absolute perfection and is one of her best ever."
"And so you—"
"Yep. Two bruised knees are a small price to pay for sugared heaven still safe and sound on a plate. And the chance to make it to my next birthday with all limbs intact." She held the plate up triumphantly and he found himself smiling back, liking the friendly, unassuming lilt in her voice. She wore a black glittery top over faded jeans and he looked into the young, upturned face which was wide at the brow, pointed at the chin, and the colour of warm ivory.
The only thing which spoke of a Black family resemblance was the brightness and the vivacity. First seen in Sirius long ago, and now only a memory that was stirred whenever Remus watched him speak of Harry or the past.
"Course, I see you took a big risk with yours." She nodded towards the plate on the table next to him, with its half-eaten slice.
He considered for a second, still amused. "Black Forest gateau is a risk?"
"It is when you want to make a good first impression. Too much cream to go everywhere." She gave a low laugh, which seemed to start at the back of her throat. "I've learnt the hard way. You going to eat that piece of chocolate on the top?"
"Yes, but thank you for asking."
"Pity." She grinned, unabashed. "I thought you might feel sorry for me on my first night and with my chocolate-free plate."
"Perhaps you should have taken a risk. But perhaps I might be persuaded to share."
"Perhaps you'll have to let me know how I can persuade you." That smile again as her eyes danced at him in the muted lamp light. He started to reply without thinking, and then caught sight of them reflected together in the gold mirror on the wall opposite, his white, drawn face next to hers, and stopped.
"I know, I know." She nodded, understandingly, as the gargoyle-like head that sat on top of the mirror frame sneered at him. "I talk too much when I'm nervous. I haven't recovered yet from that awful round of introductions Dumbledore kindly did for the new members – bit of an ordeal what with me being the only one and all. I'm still hoping no one remembers the part where I thanked Mad-Eye for having me here tonight instead of bringing me. One of the few names I could remember out of them all was yours. Which wasn't much good when you've been avoiding me all the time."
"Avoiding you?" He blinked at her, surprised again as he turned his gaze resolutely away from the mirror. Wondering why the fact that she'd remembered his name – surely she was only being polite in saying so? – gave him a little jolt of pleasure. Except that it was immediately followed by another jolt as the realisation of exactly why an Auror would instantly remember and note his name amongst so many hit home.
He'd got to get used to this now; to being known. To being notorious.
"Far from it," he said. "I merely assumed you'd be more interested in meeting relatives for the first time and more senior members of the Order. Or someone closer to your own age, with whom you'd have something in common."
It was her turn to blink. He realised how cold his tone had sounded, and could have kicked himself because it was hardly fair to take it out on her, and he never slipped like this with strangers anyway. That last fruitless mission and all those doors shut – slammed - in his face must have affected him more than he realised.
"I'm sorry if I—" He started at exactly the same time as she said quietly, "But I was interested in meeting you," and looked up at him with those large, dark eyes which were utterly without artifice of any kind. "Mad-Eye says you're the wizard he'd want watching his back in a tight corner. That you're pretty handy when it comes to defensive spells against Dark creatures and Mad-Eye isn't easily impressed so, yeah, I was keen to meet you. Especially as Dumbledore hired you to teach Harry Potter, and all the others, and took so much flack for it..." She broke off and took a visible breath. "Perhaps we should do those intros again?"
"Intros?" He felt as if he was still catching up with what she'd said, taking in all the implications.
"Yeah, you know." She held out her hand to him. "Wotcher. My name is Nymphadora Tonks; I'm a Metamorphmagus, I'm new here, and I don't think there's much left in this creepy house I haven't tripped over. I hate my first name so use my last, and I'm worried I've got off on the wrong foot with you. Though," she shrugged, her subdued tone slightly at odds with the glint in her eyes, "I'm frequently on the wrong foot so I should be used to it. Are you sure I can't have that chocolate?"
He smiled again to hide the icy feeling of resignation inside, looking down at the slender white hand in his. "Quite sure. Why don't you like your first name?"
"Ah." She thought for a second, her head tilted to one side. "Probably because my mum absolutely loves it. It's a heck of a mouthful and it's not really me, is it? I couldn't say it until I was two and a half for a start."
"So if I call you by it—"
"There'd better be a very good reason." She gave him a mock glare. "Like, you know, you want to get under my skin and risk my wrath for all eternity. It's all right for you with a nice name—"
"Mine's nice?" He raised an eyebrow at her.
"It goes well with 'professor', doesn't it?"
"Yes, it looks extremely effective in all those newspaper articles too." He let go of her hand gently to save her doing it.
The colour rose like a flame in her face but, to her credit, she didn't look away. "Now I know we're definitely on the wrong foot again."
"No, I'm sure it's the right one for both of us. People usually want to avoid werewolves though, not meet them, so I appreciate you seeking me out." He said it evenly, not wanting to embarrass her further when she'd made the gesture. His mind was already running ahead to how they could end this politely, and another time, when he wasn't so damn tired, and the small bones in the back of his neck weren't cracking every time he moved his head, perhaps she'd think better of him—
"I didn't want to meet my first ever werewolf. I can think of plenty of things I'd much rather do, thanks." The dark eyes flashed, angrily. "Everything I've learnt about them in my job makes me wary; I haven't read much that's good, either. But I meant what I said before – I was curious to meet the man who everyone has spoken of so highly. Mad-Eye's sung your praises, Molly Weasley says you're a dear, that tall witch, Evangeline, or Emmeline, or something beginning with E, says you're an absolute gentleman. And Sirius says you aren't half as dull and boring as you look, and has promised to tell me a tale from your school days involving a drunken game of cards, a dare, and how you won a red suspender belt off a girl called Felicia Fane. No one," she fixed him with a glare that made the gargoyle head look friendly, "said anything about you jumping to stupid conclusions and seeming to think I was just being… kind."
There was silence. Remus thought if he blinked any more he'd end up with two eyes like Moody, and that very shortly he was going to kill Sirius as slowly and as painfully as possible.
"And, besides." It seemed she wasn't finished as he started to open his mouth so he shut it again. "If we're talking kind, I owe you one for diverting Snape when he started on about the day little Nymphadora ended up starting a small fire in Potions class. I want to fit in here, and I've been scared stiff all night of saying and doing the wrong thing, and you were the first person to be nice and make me feel I wasn't being judged."
"I'm sorry, I—" Remus swallowed, remembering his earlier remark to her about being young and how she must have taken that. It was impossible to explain that recent events, and that glimpse of them together in the mirror, had rocked him in a way he found hard to understand. "I am sorry," he said again, holding his hands out in a gesture of culpability. "I have no excuses apart from churlishness."
"Hmm." She looked at him, her head tilted again. "You're not one of those men who says 'sorry' all the time, are you?"
"I wasn't." He risked a small smile. "Not until I met you."
"Good." To his immeasurable relief, she smiled back. "Anyway I bet you have more reason than most to be very churlish. What you need," her face stiffened, a look of utmost concentration forming a deep frown between her brows, "is something to make people see behind the obvious."
Her hair was suddenly a demure dark brown, styled in a sleek bob with subtle golden highlights peeking through.
"You see," she said, rather proudly he thought. "Or rather you don't."
"Lovely hair," he agreed. "Though the pink's more you, if I may say so. And you can put it back now."
Her mouth dropped open. He wanted to laugh. "Merlin, you're good," she managed, eventually.
"Thank you." He was very careful not to even hint at a smile as she opened her hand and slowly replaced the piece of chocolate on the cake, squashing it down hard in the cream to make sure he noticed, watching him all the while with the puckered frown between her brows. Her hair turning slowly, thoughtfully, to a light, caramel brown, fading into the palest of pastel pinks, before returning to that deeper shade.
"OK," she said, small chin rising determinedly again. "But I think you'll have to admit that I've proved my point."
"That a career choice as a chocolate thief is out of the question?"
"That appearances can be deceptive and that—" the low, throaty chuckle again "-you're a really, really smug git." She stopped abruptly, the humour fading from her face. "Oh crap! Look, I didn't mean to - I mean we've only just met, and you're a senior member of the Order, and I already called you stupid earlier on, and – oh, crap."
"What?" He stared at her, confused, seeing the shadow and discomfort on her face. Before suddenly understanding and laughing, except that he stopped himself immediately because the shadow at once deepened and he didn't want to see her looking like that.
It was a new girl he saw in front of him now, not as confident and outgoing as she seemed, but as unsure in her own way as he was. Hiding that behind a mask of laughter, and a gallery of different faces and colours.
Perhaps they weren't so very different after all. He couldn't tell her yet what a relief it was to have a conversation without having to ignore both insult and caution. Even friends were so concerned about acting normally with him now that they overdid it and he had to pretend not to notice.
It was incredibly cheering to be called a really smug git in tones of decided admiration. And somehow, also … endearing.
"You can call me stupid any time you want." He smiled as reassuringly as he could as she still looked anxious. Probably best not to mention the dull and boring bit as well. "As long as it's said in a tone of proper respect, of course."
"I thought I might have—"
"No. Not at all."
"Because I'm sorry if—"
"You're not one of those witches who says 'sorry' all the time, are you?"
He thought he'd seen all her smiles, but this was the widest yet. Her face literally lighting up again with quick delight. "I wasn't," she said, "until I met a really smug git."
They both laughed.
"Merlin." She grinned, clearly relieved. "For a minute there, I forgot we'd only just met."
"Don't worry." He assumed an expression of mock-severity, which helped hide the sense of lightness inside her words caused. "I'm prepared to overlook it this time, Nymphadora."
"In another minute, I'm going to forget about any respect whatsoever and there will be rending of limbs—"
"Sorry to be so long." Sirius appeared without warning beside them, brandishing goblets and two packets of crisps clenched between his teeth, but apparently still able to talk. They both jumped slightly. Remus took a step back, suddenly conscious of how close he was standing to her, and wondering why he hadn't noticed before.
Sirius handed Tonks a goblet with a wink and dropped the packets out of his mouth, catching them neatly in one hand. The Black vivacity was clearly evident. "Dumbledore wanted to talk about Harry coming and, well, I had loads of things to ask - I hope you haven't been too bored without me?"
Tonks' eyes met Remus' over the goblet as she took a sip.
"It's been dreadful." She grimaced.
Remus sighed, regretfully. "Some people have nothing of interest to say."
"I was more animated in a History of Magic class."
"You could probably hear my snores from where you were."
"I was praying for a—"
"Yeah, yeah, you didn't even notice I'd gone. I get the message." Sirius was pleased all the same. "Anyway, didn't you want to get going yourself, Moony? You must be asleep on your feet. I'm here now to take over the entertaining duties for charming young ladies."
"Yes… I do." Remus reminded himself that he really did. That he had longed for a hot shower and bed. He smiled at Tonks, stood watching him, and kidded himself that for a moment she looked as if she regretted him going.
For a moment, he regretted he was too.
"I want to hear about Felicia Fane one day," she said, suddenly. "You're not getting off that easily."
"Good. I want to know how you set fire to a certain classroom." He smiled at her and held out his hand as Sirius watched, uncharacteristically silent, eyes flicking from one to the other.
"It's been a pleasure to meet you, Tonks."
"Good to meet you too, Remus Lupin, with the very nice name, and I ho—" She stopped abruptly, eyes opening very wide. Detached her hand from his and laughed, looking down at what rested stickily on the palm. "I'd applaud you, but you'd only get even more big-headed. Weren't we going to share?"
She broke the chocolate carefully in two and passed him one of the halves. He could remember saying to Harry Potter once on a train, I haven't poisoned that chocolate, you know, when Harry had hesitated about eating it. Not even knowing then that he'd taken it from the hand of a werewolf.
He thought it wouldn't have made any difference to Harry if he had. He knew it wouldn't to Nymphadora Tonks, even though he barely knew her.
She put the whole piece straight in her mouth and pulled an expression of ecstasy that made him want to laugh.
"Goodbye, Remus Lupin," she said indistinctly, with her eyes half closed and mouth full. "I'm sorry for delaying your early night and all that beauty sleep."
"That's all right," he said, watching the curve of her throat, those dark eyes opening fully to meet his as he lingered for a second by her shoulder and smiled at her. "For some reason, you've kept me very much awake."
Reviewers get my thanks and a chance to share some chocolate swapping with Remus too... ;)