No Time for Ducking, Chapter 4Author: godricgalSummary:
It's early days in Remus' and Tonks' budding relationship. Just how serious is it? With their respective responsibilities to the Order, will they find the time for their relationship to move forward?Rating and warnings:
PG-13 (the last chapter of this fic will be rated R)Author's Notes:
It's getting on for a year since I updated this fic; if any of you have been waiting for it, I do sincerely apologise for the delay, and I hope you enjoy the update. This chapter is dedicated to MrsTater, who must also be thanked for a her superb beta skills on this and every other chapter. Chapter One
No Time For Ducking, Chapter 4
Tonks was excited -- possibly a little too excited if she had any hope of making a good impression on the individual from whom her excitement originated. In a few hours she would make the acquaintance of none other than Harry James Potter -- surely a hero to Aurors and aspiring Aurors everywhere, and she had been one or the other for as long as she could remember.
She'd been home from work for about two hours, and, once she'd spent some time making her final preparations and checks for the Advance Guard's mission (renewing the anti-tripping charm on her boots, inspecting the balancing charm on her trusty Comet Two Sixty, and double checking the flying coordinates between Privet Drive and Grimmauld Place) she'd turned the wireless on full volume and danced around to the WWN's early-evening Rock-Magical Hour -- partly to check the integrity of her anti-tripping charm (or so she told herself) and partly to give herself something to do other than bouncing off the walls in her anticipation while she waited for Remus to arrive.
They'd both been sorely disappointed not to have had an evening -- or a morning -- to themselves since the news of the Dementor attack on Harry had interrupted them four nights ago. Since then they'd only had snatched time: late night moments between slipping under the sheets and being claimed by sleep after days spent working and evenings locked in planning or attempting to convince Sirius that his presence on the mission was not only unnecessary, but dangerous, too -- a fact that seemed plain to everyone else, and to which Sirius remained stubbornly oblivious; only after several frustrating hours over the past two nights had Remus managed to convince him that Harry would be safe and in capable hands with the Advance Guard they'd put together.
Remus had promised to make it in time for them to share an early supper; they were to dine at Grimmauld Place later that evening but neither of them ever managed more than a quick bite of lunch and one of Mad-Eye's rules was never to embark on a mission with an empty stomach. Of course, Mad-Eye had a caveat that if the food was not prepared by oneself, it was better to risk going hungry, but Remus and Tonks did not suffer the same paranoia and were planning to share a large portion of chips from the chip shop around the corner, which Remus would pick up on his way to her flat. She was expecting him any minute; plates, forks, a couple of glasses of chilled pumpkin juice and a large bottle of tomato ketchup were ready and waiting in the kitchen.
Turning off the wireless with a flick of her wand so she'd hear Remus' knock, Tonks ducked into her bedroom to change. She shucked off her work robes and pulled off the plain-coloured t-shirt she wore, exchanged it for one of her favourite Weird Sisters tour shirts, and pulled on a pair of loose-fitting blue jeans. She opened her wardrobe and grabbed a fresh set of every day robes from a hanger and slung them over her shoulder while she turned to the mirror to inspect her hair, which was still a slightly shocking electric blue she'd morphed that morning.
Her eyes skimmed over her t-shirt and fixed on single letter in brightest violet, her nose scrunched up and her eyes closed as she focused on matching her hair to the colour. When the tell-tale prickle in her scalp had receded, she opened her eyes to inspect her handiwork; turning her head this way and that, she hummed in thought, wondering if the shade was a little too bright for her complexion -- not that she couldn't change that if she wished, but she preferred not to, especially when she was to see Remus.
She'd just taken a deep breath and shut her eyes once again with the intention of darkening her hair just a little bit, when there was a sharp rap at the door. Concerns of a peaky complexion were not severe enough to give her a second thought before bounding towards the front door in eagerness, dropping her robes over the back of the settee as she passed.
Tonks pulled open the door with a wide smile she found mirrored on the face of the man who stood before her with a steaming paper bag under his arm and looking very handsome. Under his robes he wore a dark maroon jumper, collars of a white shirt with faint blue pin stripes peeking out, the top button undone.
"Wotcher," she said, stepping aside to let Remus in.
"Hello," he replied as he walked in the door and set the bag on the table beside the door while he removed his robes. Then he stepped close to Tonks and took her face in his hands, pulling her gently towards him as he inclined his head to place a warm, soft and lingering kiss on her lips.
"Wotcher," she said again when they parted, laughing, wondering if she wasn't swaying slightly on the spot.
Remus laughed with her, or at her, perhaps -- she didn't care -- and said, "I think we covered that, didn't we?"
She hummed in response and then swatted him lightly on the arm. "I've got plates and stuff in the kitchen if you want to bring that through," she said, gesturing towards the package on the table and leading the way to her small kitchen.
"Right you are," Remus said.
Together they unwrapped their food and laid it out on the plates, then settled on the floor leaning back against the settee to eat their chips before they headed out, bound for Grimmauld Place and one very last meeting before setting off to rescue The Boy Who Lived.
"I can't believe you introduced me as Nymphadora," Tonks hissed as she grabbed one end of Harry's trunk and she and Remus lifted it up to carry it across the square.
"I would have told him you prefer to be called Tonks even if you'd not interrupted me," Remus replied.
"But you're still the reason he knows I'm even forced to bear that hideous name," she shot back.
Remus flashed her a grin that did much to melt through what little irritation she truly felt towards him, in spite of her words, and forgot it entirely when he said:
"I apologise, and I probably wouldn't have dared attempt such an introduction were I not sure I could placate you, or at least distract you with the surprise I have up my sleeve for later on."
"Surprise?" Tonks said, looking up sharply, her tone a reflection of her word.
"Mmm." Remus raised his eyebrows at her, clearly challenging her to ask him a few more questions.
"What kind of surprise?"
"The kind that relies on both of us having a Saturday off, which, I believe, we do."
"I thought you had to do something for Dumbledore tomorrow," Tonks said.
They'd reached the front door now and Moody was ushering them in with a frantic gesture of a gnarled hand while his eye spun wildly in its socket; clearly it had benefitted from its bath at Privet Drive, Tonks thought.
"Later," Remus whispered, as the door closed behind them and the dank, dark atmosphere of Grimmauld Place enveloped them. Tonks wondered if Remus had timed the conversation perfectly to be interrupted at that precise moment, but as they were both caught up in the bustle to make it down the stairs and into the meeting while Molly shooed Harry upstairs, she was left with no opportunity for further questioning.
The meeting passed slowly -- far too slowly -- and after her woefully incomplete conversation with Remus, Tonks found herself waiting for the end of dinner as well as the meeting, where previously she'd looked forward to the meal as an opportunity to get to know Harry a little more. Snape's dreary reports, delivered in superior and sneering tones droned on more insipidly than usual, and even Dumbledore's address failed to capture her interest, though she did manage a genuine smile when he thanked her personally for her part in the rescue mission.
When dinner came and the kids arrived, Tonks was happy to find Harry at a seat opposite her, but with Sirius beside him, and a nagging feeling that she'd made Harry uncomfortable earlier with her dashed curiosity (which she supposed was also to blame for her desire to get to know him now, at dinner) she was at a loss for a suitable opener to conversation; instead, she gratefully gave in to Ginny and Hermione's pleas for a repertory of noses. More than once she caught Remus' gaze as she morphed from one request to another. She was too conscious, though, of attracting Sirius' unwanted and inevitably embarrassing attention to linger too long on Remus' expression to accurately assess his thoughts, and so, when dinner had finished and Sirius had all but challenged Harry to defy Dumbledore's orders to keep information from him, Tonks tried so very hard to contribute a few words and thoughts she hoped would both placate Sirius -- and Harry -- and meet Remus', and hopefully, Dumbledore's approval. Remus, though, she thought, had handled the situation marvellously.
By the time the children were being ushered upstairs by Molly, followed by Arthur, who, Tonks knew, waited at the foot of the stairs each night while his wife made sure their children were tucked in bed, or at least safely in their rooms, and the rest of the kitchen emptied, leaving only Sirius and Remus, Tonks found herself gazing shamelessly at Remus, as he attempted to gently reason with Sirius further.
Not long after silence had, at last, descended over the house, Remus said, "I'm going to take Tonks home. Then I'm off to meet someone for Dumbledore, but I'll be back tomorrow evening sometime."
"Right," Sirius said to the bottom of his second glass of fire whiskey since Molly's departure, which had been recent enough to make Tonks glad they weren't spending the night, even as she felt guilty for thinking as much; but she and Remus, she thought, had put more than enough aside for Sirius and the Order this week that she felt any guilt could be easily forgotten once she was in Remus' arms and with his lips on hers. Assuming that featured in his plans, of course, which she thought was a strong possibility.
Even so, when, not twenty minutes later, Tonks found herself with her back pressed against her front door and Remus' body flush against her, his hands at her waist and his lips on her throat, she was so intensely curious that, for the first time ever, she attempted to push him away; though it was, she had to admit, a half-hearted effort.
"Please," she said, as his teeth just barely grazed her earlobe. "What's the surprise?"
"Let's get inside and I'll tell you." He stepped back, and gestured for her to open the door.
"It's been driving me crazy, all evening, just so you know," Tonks said, looking over her shoulder at Remus, as she unlocked the door and stood aside to let him in ahead of her.
"I do know," he said with a half-smirk as he walked past. "Why'd you think I told you when I did?"
"I never had you down as a cruel man, Remus Lupin," she said. "You will pay--"
But Remus was apparently uninterested in possible retribution when he reached past her, his arm brushing her waist as he pulled the door shut behind her. Tonks breath caught as Remus leaned in slowly and whispered in her ear, "A little anticipation can surely only make things more rewarding, in the end."
Tonks thought she might have managed a squeak in response, but all she could hear was her breath coming in quick snatches and her heart beating firmly in her chest as Remus' lips brushed across the line of her jaw, just stopping shy of the corner of her mouth.
"Can't wait to have you to myself," he said softly, the shape of his words brushing her skin. And then abruptly, he stepped away. "Pack a night bag. We're leaving straight away -- that is, if you want to, of course."
"Where are we going?" Tonks asked, her curiously intensifying as her heart soared at the implication of his words.
"Well," he said, turning to face her, "that's still a secret till we get there -- you'll just have to trust me -- but the night, tomorrow morning and most of the afternoon is ours. I just have a small, five minute job to do around four o'clock."
"For Dumbledore?" she asked, and when Remus nodded, Tonks continued, a little bit in wonder, "But till then...?"
"All ours. Guaranteed."
The thought was wonderful -- it was still only ten o'clock and with the promise of a day off ahead of them, tonight they need not worry about getting an early night. They would be free to...
No further consideration or questioning was necessary. Tonks dashed to her room, first inspecting her underwear drawer and selecting her very best set which she tossed onto the bed, and then plucking her second best co-ordinating bra and knickers and stuffing them, along with a simple cotton nightie (sexy, she thought, but not too much) in a bag she pulled from the space between her dresser and the wall. A pair of robes and a couple of Muggle outfits swiftly followed before she hastily divested herself of her clothes and underwear, which she swapped for the ensemble she'd set aside and then redressed in a fresh t-shirt and the same pair of jeans. She was still pulling a black cardigan over her arms when she exited the bedroom, her bag in one hand as she look to Remus with an excitement that didn't even compare to that which she'd experienced earlier.
Funny, she thought, how love changes your priorities. Just a few months ago she'd have considered nothing more worthy of excitement than the prospect of meeting Harry Potter.
She stepped out of her bedroom to find Remus perusing the books on her shelf. "All ready," she announced, then watched him turn, cheeks full with smile.
"Come on then," he said, taking one step towards the door and holding out his arm for her.
Bags swung over their shoulders, they walked out into the hallway, and Tonks turned for a moment to invoke the charms that would, with grace, keep her home safe in their absence.
Laughing and giddy they made swift movements down the stairs and out the front door, where Remus wrapped his arms around her and told her in a whispered warning to prepare herself to Apparate.
When the gripping sensation of Apparition had left her, leaving Remus' arms around her as the only pressure on her body, Tonks opened her eyes to a world that was now dusty with shadowed light; they must have travelled north. They were concealed in leafy undergrowth, not far, she could see, from a wide path. As quietly as could be, Remus, keeping a solid grip on both her arms, guided her out of the bushes to the path, which, she could immediately tell, was a crudely made road; just to the left of them was an iron footbridge that spanned a coastal inlet just wide enough to allow a small boat to pass. A sign, with far too many consonants for good sense, told her they'd arrived in Wales.
The wind, not harsh, but insistent, combed through her hair, and she felt it giving rise to a pinkish tinge in her cheeks and goose bumps on her arms; the sound of boat rigging singing on the air currents lent an atmosphere of calm through the impatient, breezy gusts.
Remus' voice came softly in her ear: "This way," he said, guiding her towards the bridge. At the first sight of the building before her she turned to him, mouth agape.
"It's pink," she said.
"Yes," Remus said, his eyes twinkling with amusement and something more noteworthy: pleasure in her reaction, she thought.
"I love it."
"I thought you might," he said, smiling down at her.
"How on earth did you find it?"
"There's a group of researchers on Anglesey I had occasion to visit a few months ago. You'll see when we get inside that the hotel is set on the top of a cliff that looks directly through the Menai Straits, on a clear day it's easily visible from the coast opposite. It was almost too perfect when Dumbledore asked me to come here this weekend."
She felt him take a step towards her and gently nudge his hip against hers as he inclined his head and, almost conspiratorially, said, "They call it the Pink Palace locally, you know. How'd you fancy being its Pink Princess for the night?"
"I dunno about the princess bit, but pink I can do." She grinned up at him.
"Would it be too corny if I said that you're my pink princess?"
"Probably," Tonks said, her grin widening, "but I like the sentiment all the same."
"Good. Shall we go in?"
Tonks nodded and, hand in hand, they set off across the bridge, their foots steps ringing a low metallic tune on the cast iron grill below them, a counterpoint accompaniment to the chink of steel rope rigging against hollow metal masts, which, Tonks saw as they walked, was drawn from a small marina the inlet swelled and widened into.
"I'm afraid it's not quite as pink on the inside, but I'm told the rooms are very nice and we do have a sea view."
As Tonks marvelled at the perfection of Remus' 'surprise,' a slight pang of concern for who was paying for this and how flitted across her mind, though she knew to ask would be to risk ruining the mood. Perhaps the answer would present itself in due course and in any case, it wasn't something they couldn't sort out once they were home with precious memories.
"D'you think we'll be able to see anything tonight?" she asked.
"I reckon we'll be in time to see a few long shadows across the water."
They'd reached the front door by then; Remus stepped ahead to pull the it open and gestured for Tonks to go ahead of him. She walked in slowly, taking in her surroundings: the rich, but probably not genuine, Indian rug in the centre of the room on top of which sat two low coffee tables surrounded by old fashioned leather love seats. To her right, a bar made of untreated pine stretched along the back wall, propped up by a weathered-looking man with heavy boots, tatty clothes and a friendly face; he smoked a cigarette and drank long from a pint of dark ale. He regarded them with casual interest over the top of his pint glass and through tendrils of smoke curling from the cigarette that hung lazily from his fingers.
Remus, his hand at the small of her back, guided her to the left, to a reception desk that was considerably more ornate than it's beverage-serving counterpart. There seemed to be no one around but the man with his pint, not even a barmaid in sight. Remus raised his hand to hit the bell that sat to one side of the desk, but before he had the chance to press it, the man spoke up.
"No need; they'll not be long," he said with a light accent, "Mary's just gone to tap a barrel of this stuff." He raised his glass slightly. "So I'll not be out tomorrow, or drinking beer that's cloudy as stormy sea water."
"Thank you," Remus said, setting his bag on the floor, and indicating that Tonks should do the same with hers. "Good tipple, is it?"
"Best you'll find for a good few miles, an' they take good care of it here."
"We should try some, Remus," Tonks said.
"Proper taste of Wales, it'd be. Every Englishman ought to have that education." His tone was jocular and his eyes twinkled; clearly he meant no harm but it was just as clear that the English were fair game on his territory. Which, Tonks thought, was probably only fair in return.
"Well, we're only here for the night, but I always think it's only right to sample the local brew."
"You've got a good man, there." The man addressed Tonks this time. She laughed, wondering if she should really add an adventurous attitude to regional ale to the extensive list of Remus' good qualities. She was just formulating a response went a door opened behind the bar and a middle-aged woman with greying, blonde hair stepped through.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," she called, then turned to address her regular. "Don't suppose it occurred to you to give me a shout, Huw? Honestly. Making my guests wait because I'm attending your precious brew."
"They'll be tasting it, too, Mary. I've just been telling them what good beer you keep, don't you worry," Huw said, turning on a smile Tonks had a feeling had charmed many a female before now, judging by Mary's reaction of a loud tut issued against a smile of her own.
When she reached the desk, she offered Remus and Tonks a welcoming smile; her face was warm and friendly, with dimples in her cheeks and large brown eyes and she had a mothering air that reminded Tonks of Molly. "Mr. Lupin, is it?" she asked, shuffling through some paperwork.
A wicked thought popped into Tonks' mind and before she had a chance to talk herself out of it, she piped up. "Professor
She allowed herself a sideways glance at Remus along with the very slightest of mischievous smiles, though it might have been more of a smirk.
"I'm sorry, Professor--"
"Really, there's no need--" Remus started.
"Good to get these things right, though, isn't it?" Mary said cheerfully.
"I always say if you've got a respectable name you should use it," Tonks said.
"Depends on one's definition of a respectable name, doesn't it, Nymphadora
"Nymphadora?" Mary said, as Tonks groaned inwardly. Trust Remus to turn the tables like that; though could she rightfully complain when it was one of the things that had first attracted her to him?
"What a beautiful and unusual name." Mary's voice was gushing, and almost too much for Tonks to take.
"My mother certainly thinks so," she said dryly.
If Mary sensed displeasure in her tone she didn't let on, but offered Remus a pale pink card and a pen, asking him to fill out the registration form.
"I see you're running with a theme," Tonks said, indicating the card.
"Oh, yes." Mary said with a chuckle. "Have to, really. And I see we have our guests contributing, too, now." Her eyes drifted up to Tonks' hair.
Tonks laughed. "I am rather fond of pink. Brightens up the world a bit, don't you think?"
"Surely there aren't enough pink hotels in the world, or pink-haired girls," Mary replied.
Remus looked up from the form and said, "But if there were too many of them, they wouldn't be so special." His eyes found hers and held just long enough for Tonks to start to feel a bit dizzy, all recollection of his recent treachery swiftly fleeing from her brain cells at a rate of knots.
Turning back to the form, Remus signed it with a flourish and handed it over to Mary, who barely gave it a glance before handing over a key with a large wooden tag that bore the number four. She pointed them through a door and gave directions to their room.
Remus picked up their bags and they both thanked her, turning as they called 'goodnight' to Huw at the bar; they walked across the room and through the door.
Remus took Tonks' hand, threading his fingers between hers, and led her up the flight of stairs they found just where Mary'd said they be. With each step they rose, so did Tonks' excitement, anticipation: for her first sight of the room with a view and for everything else.
They found the room easily and Tonks stood close behind Remus, two fingers of her free hand draped through a belt loop on his trousers; he inserted the key in the lock and turned it while Tonks held her breath.Continued in Chapter Five...
Author's Notes: About this time last year I was sent to Wales on a business trip. When I returned I told mrstater all about my adventures in the pink hotel on the top of cliffs that overlook the Menai Straits (which included writing a section of chapter three of this fic in the bar) and if memory serves, she was rather emphatic in her assertion that I must write a fic in which Remus and Tonks go to the pink hotel, and so I decided to do it for Ducking. This chapter is dedicated to mrstater for that reason, for being this Remus' biggest cheerleader and for being a wonderful friend.
Thank you very much for reading. I'd love to know what you thought of it, if you have a few moments to let me know. Reviewers will be offered the chance of a romantic weekend away with Remus. :)