Author's Note: Dedicated to Drumher for her birthday. :) Not sure where the idea for this came from except that I've always wanted to write a fic about Remus and chocolate. With Tonks. And, apparently, Sirius too. I'm still not JKR, and by now I'm starting to doubt whether I ever will be, but I'm sure you knew that anyway... ;)
The ordinary day has become an ordinary night. Or so he thinks.
Though he doubts she's been ordinary from the minute she was born, and tonight she's turned up in a strange mix of outfits – a long purple jumper with what looks like a little embroidered top underneath, over dark blue jeans and flat black pumps – carrying a precariously slipping book under one arm, a box of peaches, a loaf of bread, a couple of bars of Honeydukes' chocolate and an expression of deepest concentration as she makes it safely from the front door to her usual seat in the kitchen.
Which Remus has stopped Sirius putting his feet on earlier. Just in case.
"I've come to seduce you," she states without preamble. Just as Remus has started with, "This is a pleasant surprise—", and Sirius, already sitting a little straighter, a little more animated in his chair, says, "Oh and I've got my best undies on. I needn't have bothered if you'd said."
"Not you," she says, patting him on the head with affectionate dismissal, and looking steadily at Remus, who waits for the half-impish, half-flirty smile while stopping a peach rolling at speed for the edge of the table and finally does it for her as she seems to have forgotten.
She gives him a rather grave look from under her dark lashes and then peels her jumper off over her head in one swift movement, dropping it onto the back of her chair before dropping onto it herself.
Sirius is pouring her a drink. "Thought you were working tonight? Not looking for innocent bachelors to have your wicked way with?"
"I was. I swapped. And it's not necessarily 'seduce' in the way your dirty mind's thinking, though I live in hope. Nice shower last night, Remus?" she asks, running her fingers through the pink hair and then shaking it vigorously so that all the layers fall back into slightly haphazard place.
"Very pleasant. Especially the Permanent Sticking Charm on the soap."
"Did it, ah, stick anywhere interesting?"
"Let's say one particular area is now very clean indeed so I must thank you for that."
"Glad to hear it. Care to tell me if you start by washing high or low?"
"No." He smiles at her, enjoying himself enormously already. "Care to tell me if you do?"
"No." This time she does smile back, but it doesn't quite reach her eyes and it puzzles him for a moment. They've had this sort of conversation a million times before, after all. This is what they do.
"Before you so sweetly interrupted us," he begins, falling back on the reassurance of dry formality as she starts to arrange the items in front of her. "We were discussing the new Order procedures for proof of identity on arrival."
"And I was off to feed Beaky rat supper," Sirius puts in. "Because that's how exciting a conversation it was when you realise you'll be the one listening to everyone else. Deciding if that's actually Snivellus or a Death Eater out there. Though it'd be an easy mistake to confuse the two and have to really apologise profusely for it an hour or so later."
"Oh, yeah, I saw Mad-Eye earlier on and he's well up for it all." She stretches for a moment, the little top riding up and emphasising both the slenderness and the curves. "He's got about an hour long speech ready and I hadn't got the heart to say no one could possibly mistake him because… they already did once. Whereas I'm thinking of something short, sharp and undeniably yours truly. Like, 'It's me, Nymphadora Tonks. I need a new kitchen, a new hair colour, a sexy French wizard with a low, breathy voice to coo in my ear and could you get the tea on for a cuppa while I'm hanging about out here?'"
Remus gives her his best innocent look as he's sure she's expecting him to reply to the French wizard line, which is obviously meant for him as the very idea is ridiculous. Obviously. "Don't call yourself Nymphadora, Nymphadora."
He's ready to dodge the usual slap, though he thinks that one might even get an unwilling laugh, or at the very least a smile. Instead she looks at him for a second, not smiling at all.
"Alright," she says quietly. It gives him another unfamiliar jolt because these moments when he can't quite pin down how the atmosphere changes between them, and without warning too, are getting more and more frequent in the last couple of weeks.
"The singing sandwich box really got on your nerves today, didn't it?" he asks cautiously, rather relieved as she rolls her eyes in apparent disgust up towards the ceiling. Sirius snorts and says to no one in particular, "And they say I'm the immature one around here?"
"No, they say far worse than that." Suddenly the familiar bubble of irrepressible laughter is back in Tonks' voice. "And you," she says to Remus, "should be a lot more worried you got on the nerves of the entire Auror department. Trust you to pick bloody Enya! And it kept on wailing, 'Sail away, sail away, sail away' till Kingsley did a Blasting Curse on it out of sheer desperation. You might want to keep out of his way for a bit too."
"I was only trying to introduce some, erm, quality music to your boring day-to-day routine", he says, a trifle smugly, but mostly with relief that they seemed to have got past this moment as well. He'd lain awake for long enough last night thinking about how the change between them had crept up on him unawares. But perhaps he was reading too much into things.
Though as he looks at her profile now, watching as she takes the gold wrapping off the chocolate bars and scrunches it into a ball to throw at Sirius, he thinks perhaps the problem is that he hasn't read enough.
"Not sure my own identification speech will be much use." Sirius clears his throat rather loudly. "'It is I, Sirius Black!' Oh no, hang on, it can't be if I'm outside the door because everyone knows I'm not allowed that side of it."
They chuckle dutifully as anything else would suggest pity and that would bring disaster. Remus says quickly, "So what does bring you and all your groceries here tonight then, Tonks?"
"Aren't we supposed to be living a little dangerously, Remus? Trying something new?" She turns and stares rather challengingly at him, at them both, though it begins and ends on him. "Night before last? In this very spot, almost at this very time? Though I'm glad to say we," she looks at Sirius and pulls a face, "well two-thirds of us at least, have changed our clothes since then. Oh, come on! We all named something that'd change your life forever if you tried it. And you two heathens said you'd never experienced the joys of bread and chocolate together, followed by the succulent juices of a ripe peach dripping down your chin."
"One of the heathens thought we were doing all this next week?" he asks mildly. "When I'd had time to catch Dragon Pox so as to avoid Padfoot's proposed life-changing experience."
"No, next week we're doing your tandem broomstick ride to see that Muggle village you say is like a giant wedding cake with all those white houses." Her voice falters for a second, hesitates as the colour rises in her cheeks and then carries on quickly and resolutely, "I couldn't wait that long for you to do mine."
The time the smile is the one he's been dreading seeing ever since he saw it for the first time. The vulnerable one which makes her look very young and very hopeful. Soft around the edges. Looking at him as though all she wants is for him to smile back in the same way.
He knows it's long overdue time for the arrival of that other Remus; the who has a smooth, quick-witted answer for absolutely everything like the first, but this one has long since acknowledged the implausibility of anything happening between them and assured himself she'll realise that very soon as long as he doesn't respond in kind. That Remus takes over now and firmly clamps down on the rush of pleasure that started on first seeing her and hearing her voice. The way she says his name with the slight stress on the first syllable. Like nobody else does. It's all pushed away to a place where he can neatly distance himself from it.
He smiles calmly back.
He watches hers slowly fade away.
"You know we're attached to the Molly Weasley home delivery service here." Sirius has already started eating the chocolate. "You didn't have to bring your own loaf round."
"We're not talking any of that walnut and raisin nonsense she's into that makes rubbish toast." Tonks slaps his hand and removes the bar back to her plate. "Though I never said that, right? But it's got to be a white crusty loaf and—"
"Dark chocolate?" Remus holds a piece up enquiringly. It smells delicious.
"Mmn." She nods, still looking at Sirius. "It's got to be as dark as possible to get the combination of flavours. You get the hard crusty bread with the soft, doughy fluffiness inside, and then the chocolate hits the roof of your mouth and melts on your tongue and…" She shuts her eyes for a second. "It's intense."
"This reminds me of that girl in the year below us, Moony. What was her name? She was always eating weird combinations of things. You know," he adds impatiently. "Dark girl. Always following me around."
"Erm… You may have to narrow the field down a bit."
"Dana? Daisy? No, Dawn! That was it – Dawn Grundy. With the spot on the end of her—" He stops.
"Nose?" Tonks suggests helpfully.
"Face." Sirius frowns absently at the plate she's put in front of him.
Tonks' eyes meet Remus' for a second, full of laughter and mischief and he lets himself bask in the warmth of the knowledge that they're thinking exactly the same thing at the same time. They're sitting hip to hip and toe to toe, even shoulder to shoulder at a table which can comfortably seat twelve, but he's relaxed and in control again now. Even the brush of one of those shoulders against his as she leans forward for the chocolate again can't disturb the armour that keeps all desire absent and all longing dead.
All life incomplete as well, but then that's his price to pay and not hers. No one ever said life was fair.
"Well I suppose it can't be worse than Azkaban." Sirius breaks off a large chunk of bread and stuffs it into his mouth, followed by an equally big slab of chocolate, and starts chewing enthusiastically while Tonks is saying, "No, no, together! Slower! It's not a race!"
"You never want anyone to reach the trough before you do." Sirius mumbles indistinctly before licking his lips with his long tongue and making appreciative smacking sounds. "Not bad, though a nice slab of butter and a bit of jam wouldn't have gone amiss. I'll have to get some pepper out for the strawberries if we're going to have these gourmet evenings from now on in."
"Strawberries and pepper?" Tonks looks at him, laying her right hand very deliberately on the table with the fingers splayed out.
"Yes, Dawn taught me that one. Or was it Daisy?" He nods at her, a quick, tiny nod which Remus just catches the end of and is still trying to decipher the meaning of as Sirius gets to his feet. Grinning as he picks up two of the peaches. "Spare one for poor old Beaky?"
"I suppose." Tonks frowns. "Does Hagrid know you're feeding them to a Hippogriff?"
"I bet Hagrid would agree there's nothing worse than a constipated and grumpy Hippogriff in an enclosed space you happen to be sharing with him." Sirius tosses a peach high into the air en route to the door and catches it one-handed behind his back with no apparent effort or thought. "Well there is one thing worse, and let's hope the peach does the trick so we don't get to that stage. I'm sure Moony will entertain you somehow while I'm gone."
"You're not running away?" Sirius is opening the door while Remus is still getting the sentence out. "Not leaving me to Tonks' tender mercies?"
Sirius glances back and winks. "You bet I am. Lie back and try not to enjoy it too much."
The door shuts so quickly behind him that Remus has no chance to say anything else. Though he tells himself there's no need. Even if there's an immediate silence between them, it's a comfortable one.
He waits for her to say something. She doesn't.
He smiles at her and shifts his chair back a fraction so there's more room between them. "Shall I try this concoction then?"
"Mmn." Somehow it's hard to both meet her almost unblinking gaze and breathe evenly. Why isn't this light-hearted fun? "In a minute. I brought your book back, by the way." She pushes the volume of poetry towards him.
"Thank you. Did you enjoy it?"
"Well I got your subliminal message so yes, I did."
He stares at her. "I'm not sure I follow."
"Pick a page. Any page. You'll see what I mean."
Still puzzled, he looks at the book. "But you've marked a— Tonks, is this… toilet roll?"
"Don't get snooty, Remus. I was reading it in the bath and I knew you'd go nuts if I bent the page down. It's top quality and double quilted. Now look at the poem."
Still trying to get his head round the fact that she's been reading his book in… the… bath, he picks it up and reads the first two lines: Happy, happy, happy pair! None but the brave deserves the fair.
"See," she says.
He doesn't quite. "There's about a hundred poems in there, Tonks. That's a very long subliminal message."
"Yes, you would say that. I meant what I said earlier on, you know."
"That you fantasize about a French wizard with a low, breathy voice?"
"Don't change the subject."
"I wasn't aware we'd got one yet apart from toilet rolls—"
"Because God forbid we don't stick to your rules and actually say something honest for a change."
"Now I think we're on a different subject—" He stops, more than a little annoyed, even though she's said it with resignation rather than irritation. Then he realises what else she's said. "My rules?"
"Yes, your rules that say every time we're on the verge of, oh… anything, you always stop things and make a joke. Like you're doing now, really."
"Anything more than friendship—"
"I bet you're going to say 'would be entirely inappropriate, Tonks'."
"Would be entirely inappropriate, Nymphadora." He glares at her. "If you're going to finish my sentences for me, try and get them right. And actually I wasn't going to say that at all but now you'll never know. I can't help but feel-"
"That you're very much to blame for all this. Quite right, Remus, you are." She sighs. "Shut your eyes."
"I give up. You stay closeted in your ivory tower of obliviousness, I'll work on getting rid of my frustration with this situation on a passing French wizard and we'll carry on as before as bosom pals. I'll just try not to stare at your bosom in future. Close your eyes." She holds up a crust of bread with the chocolate sitting on top. "Unless you're scared, of course." The dark eyes meet his unflinchingly.
Even deeply rattled as he is – where has all this come from because it just isn't like her? - the other Remus can cope with this easily. Always ready with the smooth remark because what is there to worry about a twenty-four year old girl feeding him chocolate and bread?
"If I'm nodding," he says, closing his eyes and smiling calmly. "It's because my mouth's gone dry with fear."
She says nothing, which does make his heart beat a little faster because now he's imagining what she's doing. After all, how long does it take to raise a piece of bread to someone's mouth? There's no sense of any movement, just quiet, steady breathing, which means she's…
He feels the crust and chocolate touch his lips together and opens his mouth.
It's so… intimate.
Not just accepting the food from her hand, but the feather light touch of her fingers against his lips.
He can feel the colour rising in his face, he can still feel her warm fingers for every one of the seconds they linger there, and when they're gone it's as much as he can do to remember he's supposed to be eating it.
Her voice is very close as well. Even so, he must surely be imagining he can feel her breath brush his face like those fingers did, and then the hard crust and softness of the bread is replaced by the bitter sweetness of the chocolate as he bites into it.
It coats the roof of his mouth and his tongue with the richest of textures, and melts smoothly and very slowly down his throat.
He opens his eyes. She is close. She has faint freckles across the bridge of her nose.
"You like it." She smiles.
He's heard of these things happening in an instant, but he'd never thought it would happen to him. Her voice is low and smoky, and it's as though in a spinning, crystal clear moment he knows that they're both part of the same bizarre pattern. That he's known this from the start.
"It's…" He finds his voice. It feels as though his tongue is made of cream and spice, and it wants to curl up and lick the insides of his mouth.
"Sweet and strong. Heavy and light. All contrasts." She nods, still smiling, and even over the smell of chocolate he can smell her scent.
"It is… quite something." He tries for matter-of-factness, but it doesn't quite sound right. "Now we're supposed to eat the peaches, are we?"
"In a bit. You've got to let the taste linger yet." She's rolling one absently from side-to-side on the table. "What's your identification speech going to be?"
The abrupt switch takes him by surprise and his brain takes a minute to catch up. "Oh… 'It is I, Remus Lupin, currently stuffed full of chocolate and unable to move so please take pity on me and let me in'."
She says very quietly, "Not, 'It is I, Remus Lupin, who Nymphadora Tonks would like to get to know very much better. And she thinks, and is almost sure that he'd like to do the same in return, but he's a stubborn idiot and just won't admit it'."
Oh no. They weren't back here again. "Tonks." He stares at her, knowing he has to stop this. Should have stopped it weeks ago when he first noticed the signs. "I hope I haven't led you to think—"
"That all that laughing and flirting, and those long looks, and Molly's prodding, and Snape's sneering, and the hours we spend together, and the fact that Sirius volunteered to get out the way tonight so that we could sort it out once and for all actually means anything real at all to you? Actually, yes, I do."
He waits for the smooth persona to click into place but nothing happens. His mind is reeling. Sirius volunteered to go?
"All of that," he says thickly, "doesn't change the fact that I am—'"
"A man I want to see more of."
"A werewolf that you shouldn't see anything of, Tonks."
"Bit late for that now." She leans towards him. "And you know why. It's the times where you forget that. There are hours and whole evenings and days where you don't even think about it."
"Do you?" The question sounds as if it's wrenched out of him.
"No." She says it with complete honesty and he can't speak.
She takes a breath. "And you can say what you want, you can tell me I'm a fool and you don't care at all, you can hurt me badly if you want to right now, but I can't go on like we have been doing and… I don't deal well with lies."
Rebukes are ringing loudly in his ears – what has he done now and, worse than that, what has he been blindly doing all these weeks and, worse than even all that, he knows that every word she's said is true – and he also knows he simply can't allow this to happen however much he wants it to.
He opens his mouth to tell her she's very much mistaken if she thinks he has any interest in her outside of friendship. That he's deeply flattered by being the subject of a young girl's infatuation, but she'll fancy someone else in a week or so. That this really is embarrassing for them both, isn't it?
He has to crush her for her own sake and his. He needs that other Remus, the one who won't let him feel that need to possess another person body and soul.
But he's on his own.
I don't deal well with lies.
The dark eyes, full of resolve and warmth and desire stare back at him. Her hand rests lightly on his arm. Waiting.
None but the brave deserve the fair, but only she qualifies, on both counts.
"Close your eyes," he hears himself say and reaches out to touch the pink hair as he sees her lips tremble.
It's not much of a kiss to start with because equal parts hesitation and longing seem to produce only caution and gentleness. But her smooth hands touch and then slide across his cheeks and into his hair, and as he tastes the sweetness of her mouth and feels the caress of her tongue he knows she can be in no doubt how much he wants this kiss. And her.
And after that it becomes very good indeed.
She gives a small sigh against his cheek and smiles, leaning back a little to look at him. He's not quite certain how she's ended up in his lap. "That's all right then. Isn't it?"
"I'm not sure it compares with French wizards."
"Kiss them a lot, do you?" The bubble of laughter is back again. "I'd tell you not to worry, but it's fun to see you go all expressionless and jealous."
"You had no intention of giving up at all, did you?"
"I said I'd come round tonight to seduce you. Get you to break those rules. I might have known chocolate would be the way to your heart, though I didn't think you'd be such a pushover." She kisses him wetly on the nose and then wrinkles her own. "Do you think Sirius was telling the truth about strawberries and pepper?"
"I'm not sure I ever want to know." He kisses her again and then again before she buries her face in his neck, her arms winding tightly round him as he thinks that it was her alone and her breathtaking honesty which got the truth out of him.
He hopes she doesn't regret it.
He wonders for a moment what's happened to the Remus who would never have let this happen. In his place, it seems, quiet and vulnerable, is the man he really is. Wondering just what he's done and yet still so glad he's done it. Thinking crazy thoughts like going upstairs with her and doing something entirely inappropriate right now. Making her forget she ever thought of French wizards. Definitely never lending her a book again to read in the bath.
He can still taste her and chocolate in his mouth.
Bitter sweet and irresistible.
Additional Author's Note:
The lines of poetry quoted are from Dryden's 'Alexander's Feast'.
I can vouch for the darkest chocolate you can find being eaten with a piece of freshly baked, warm bread as a very interesting combination. And I had a friend who told me that pepper on strawberries made the flavour of them even stronger, though I was never brave enough to try that one! But reviewers can have whichever they fancy, hand delivered by Remus when he can drag himself away. :)