This was a fic I wrote for the Metamorfic Moon Christmas Moon Fic Advent at LiveJournal. My prompts were Memories and a Christmas Choir. The story was a runner-up in the Best use of Prompts category.
All thanks go to my beta, MrsTater for her brilliant editing work.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its Characters belong to Jk Rowling and Co.
Remus Lupin looked up from reading the Daily Prophet at the sound of what seemed like glass shattering on the floor in the bedroom. He grinned, and then mentally counted to five.
He set the paper on the table, rose from his comfortable armchair, and made his way towards the bedroom he shared with the young woman responsible for the noise.
But as he reached the doorway, he stopped short as he took in the sight within.
The entire room seemed to have been turned inside out. It looked as though a tornado had whipped through it, decided it had not done a good wrecking job, and therefore whipped through it a second time. Clothes - both his and hers - littered the floor, and the bed seemed to have disappeared under the rest of clothes that were not on the floor. On the floor below his bedside table, were the shattered remains of Remus' bedside lamp – knocked down by the shirt which was lying on the table.
And in the midst of the chaos, stood Nymphadora Tonks, his partner of nearly two years, who seemed to be looking for something, all the while muttering heatedly to herself.
Remus was sure that the muttered diatribe had nothing to do with whatever she seemed to be searching for. He distinctly heard the words "slave-driver", "insensitive prat" and "damp-squid" sputtered out along with other indecipherable epithets, none of which seemed to apply to any inanimate article.
"Where the dickens did I put those infernal robes?" Her voice was laced with irritation, and the question that was followed by more mutterings expressed in an eloquence that only Tonks possessed.
And she still hadn't noticed Remus' presence.
"Good Morning," he greeted, allowing a casual note to creep into his voice.
He watched, amused, as her head whipped around partly in surprise and partly in annoyance. Her eyes, which were an unusual shade of gold, glinted with suppressed emotion, and her cherry red hair seemed to crackle with irritation. Both features combined with the dark green t-shirt that she wore made her look decidedly festive, Remus thought.
"Says who?" Tonks demanded as she returned to the task of locating her robes.
"Don't call me Nymphadora!"
"Nymphadora," he re-iterated, ignoring her admonishment as usual. "Don't be like this. I know you're ups-"
"Upset? Oh, I'm far past the point of being upset, Remus. This goes beyond upset and borders along the point of feeling murderous."
She dug into the mess on the bed again – this time by dumping any clothes that were not robes on the floor. Remus' innate sense of order was screaming at him to step in and prevent any further mess. But with her current frame of mind, he ran the risk of being hexed into the next century – so he held his peace.
"Tonks," he tried again. "This is ridiculous. We still get to be together at the end of the day."
"It isn't the same, especially when it's Christmas Eve," she said with a groan "Christmas is a time to be spent with family and the ones you love." She gave up looking for her robes momentarily and slumped miserably on the edge of the bed. When she looked up at him, her wide eyes glistened slightly. "It's our first Christmas together in nearly two years."
He raised his eyebrows.
"Yes, two years!" she insisted. "Christmas before last – well - we weren't together."
Remus felt his heart lurch at her distress. The last two years had seemed like one long year to him – as though there hadn't been any Christmas until now. He still remembered – not that he would ever forget – the Christmas they had spent apart with painful clarity. Being surrounded by the people who cared about him - Harry and the Weasleys – had done nothing to alleviate the pain he felt at being separated from the woman he loved. The guilt, however, far outweighed the pain when he perceived what the separation had done to Tonks. Even now, as she stood in front of him with her cherry hair and golden eyes, the memory of that mousy brown hair and eyes that had lost their light flashed before him causing his chest to tighten while his heart took up residence somewhere in the bottom of his stomach.
He took a step closer to the bed as she continued, "And last Christmas, we were, but, there was hardly any cause to celebrate." She paused and turned her head away.
Yes, Christmas seemed to have bypassed them last year as well – or maybe it had just stopped in its tracks. The darkness – the evil had been at its peak during that time. And Remus and Tonks had been in the frontlines, defending and protecting Wizard-kind. They fought side by side, yet they seemed far away from each other - each occupied in their own thoughts of revenge and justice.
Remus gazed at Tonks now – her head was still bowed. He took one more step closer to her. She broke the silence again.
"I was hoping to indulge in some festive fun, y'know, just the two of us. For a whole week or even a few days leading upto Christmas. But no, Gawain 'Pighead' Robards has to play the Grinch!"
She stood up and scrunched her face up, her appearance and tone mimicking that of the Head Auror's. "I'm sorry, Miss Tonks! Christmas is a very tricky time. And we're not taking any chances." She scrunched up her face again, and much to Remus' amusement, her appearance took on the green complexion and wrinkled skin of Dr. Seuss' famous character. "Report here at the given time or you're in trouble, Miss Tonks!"
She slid back to her old self and went back to rummaging for the robes, emitting a low cry of victory as she located them under a pile of clothes.
As she straightened up from shaking her robes, Remus stepped closer to her and pulled her into his arms.
"This job isn't even worth it, Remus." She sighed, slipping her arms around his waist.
"Nymphadora," he said, settling one hand on the small of her back, while the other slid up and came to cup the back of her neck. "I'm sorry we won't be spending the day together."
She closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of being in his arms. She turned her head from his shoulder and pressed her face into his chest, and seemed to draw comfort from his hands, which he was now running up and down her back.
"I'll be at Grimmauld Place when you get back," he told her. "Harry Flooed me half an hour ago to invite us and the Weasleys to spend Christmas there. He's even got Sirius' old room ready for you and me. Everyone's going to be there. Even Hermione."
"Really?" Tonks was surprised. "I thought she'd be with her parents."
"So did I," he gave a low chuckle. "But I rather think she wanted to spend this Christmas with a certain someone."
"Ron." She smiled. "Of course. It's their first Christmas, too, yeah?"
"I guess so. And Harry's and Ginny's too."
Tonks suddenly giggled as an absurd thought struck her, "Voldemort never really had a chance, did he?"
"What?" His hands stilled their movement on her back.
She raised her head from his chest and looked up into his curious gaze. "There was a little more love in the world," she said, her eyes suddenly taking on a familiar shade of periwinkle with an even more familiar twinkle. "The power he knew not."
She grinned as his chest shook with quiet laughter.
"So between you and me," Remus said, "Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, Bill and Fleur and Arthur and Molly… " He shook his head amusedly. "That's five couples in the Order itself. Oh, he stood no chance. There was just a little too much love in the world – for him, that is."
She nodded, her expression only slightly serious, and looked into his eyes. He gazed back at her steadily. He raised his hand and gently scuffed her cheek with the pad of his thumb before lowering his head to press his lips against hers.
She brought her arms around his neck, pressing herself closer to him as the kiss deepened.
When they finally broke apart, Tonks kept her hands around his neck, her fingers playing with the hairs at the back of his head.
"I'll drop directly in at Grimmauld after work then," she told him. "But I have to get a move on now, or else I'll find myself on duty on Christmas day too."
A while later, as Remus walked Tonks to the Apparition point, Tonks looped her arm through his and said softly, "Thank you, Remus."
"Whatever for, love?" He looked genuinely astonished.
"For this morning. For everything." She gazed into his eyes, "I was wrong, you know?"
"Tonks, you're speaking in riddles," He said, rolling his eyes in mock-exasperation.
"Prat," she admonished. "I'm serious, OK."
"Sorry, dear." He wrapped his arms around her waist. "What were you wrong about?"
"This job is worth going to."
"And why is it worth it, Nymphadora?" he asked softly.
"Because," she reached up on tip-toes, her face inches away from his. "At the end of the day, I get to come home to you."
They closed the distance between their lips.
It was nearly nine at night when Tonks finally let herself into twelve, Grimmauld Place. Her hair, which had been a sparkly red when she'd left, now hung in limp, dull maroon-ish waves. Her head throbbed, and her feet felt like dead weights.
The house, which now belonged to Harry, was decked out in all its festive glory.
The house-elf heads no longer graced the walls of the hallway, and red, green and gold tinsel twinkled with a magically enhanced glitter that caused them to cast a multicoloured mixture of lights on the ceiling - a Weasley Wheeze, one of their harmless products that bore the rather cheesy name of Tinsel Twinklers.
From across the room, Tonks could hear the warbling voice of Celestina Warbeck singing that dreaded song that she had often likened to nails scratching on a blackboard – behind Molly's back, of course.
"Oh, come and stir my cauldron,
And if you do it right...
I'll boil you up some hot, strong love
To keep you warm tonight"
The song seemed all the more grating tonight, and in conjunction with her headache, seemed to twist the nerves in her temple even more painfully. Pressing two fingers into the side of her head, she pushed the kitchen door open. The entire Weasley clan, plus Harry and Hermione, were congregated around table. The twins were huddled together at one corner, apparently sniggering at the rapt expression on their mother's face as she listened to her favourite songstress. Arthur was perusing some reports, a faint frown creasing his eyebrows. Bill and Fleur were cuddled in the love seat that sat in a secluded corner of the room. Ginny and Hermione, seated near Arthur, seemed to be debating earnestly on some subject, that Tonks was sure involved the two boys currently engaged in a rousing game of Wizard's Chess.
Her eyes continued to scan the room, until they fell on him. Remus was seated in the big armchair at the corner nearest to the fireplace. An old book rested open and facedown on the arm of the chair. He definitely seemed to have been looking out for her and the eager expression on his face was an irrefutable indication.
"Wotcher, everyone!" Tonks said, her tone belying her fatigue.
The whole room at once stirred from their common inertia at her cheery greeting.
Almost instantly, Molly was at her side, asking if she'd had dinner. Tonks politely declined, insisting (a fair bit of insisting, it was) that she wasn't hungry and that she had eaten during her shift.
Arthur and the twins returned her greeting, while Ginny and Hermione grinned broadly from their spot. Harry and Ron, however, continued to be engrossed in the game. She could hear the protesting squeaks from the chess pieces as their players ordered them to fatal positions.
Finally she made her way to Remus' chair, and plopped herself wearily onto his lap, into his waiting arms. From the corner of her eye, she could make out Molly's delighted expression and over her shoulder, the twins' smirks. Ignoring them, she buried her head in the crook of Remus' neck.
"Bad day?" his voice was a soft rumble in her ears.
"You've no idea," she said, eliciting a low groan, which turned into a sound of pleasure when he raked his fingers over her scalp with a light pressure.
"Tell me," he instructed gently as he continued to massage her scalp with his long fingers.
"Have you ever spent an entire day walking the same route back and forth a zillion times, with a sullen faced partner added into the mix? Albert Moue is his name. The man kept throwing this look that'd put Moaning Myrtle - or even The Bloody Baron - to shame. Zero sense of humour. Brandished his wand at every passing opportunity. Would you believe he scared a couple of kids who were squabbling over some toy? He reduced them to bawling messes." She rolled her eyes. "I think he's more of a Grinch than Robards. At the end of the day, even I'd started to feel like saying 'bah! Humbug!' just by being with him."
She sighed as she turned in his lap, draping her legs over the arm of the chair. His right hand came to rest on her thighs, with his fingers tracing indistinguishable patterns on the fabric of her trousers. The other hand still continued to soothe the ache in her head.
The sat like that for a little while until he finally broke the silence.
"But now you're here," he started. "How about we indulge in some festive fun as you wished?"
All fatigue forgotten, Tonks sat up in his lap as her eyes took on their original mischievous sparkle. "What d'you have in mind?"
"We'll see," he took her hand and turned to the rest of the room. "Tonks and I are going to head to bed."
"Oh, Tonks, are you sure you won't have something before you go?" Molly asked anxiously. "There's hot cider."
"Its fine, Molly." Tonks said as she wound her fingers into Remus' hand.
"We'll see you lot in the morning," they said to the room in general, as they exited to a chorus of good nights and see yous.
"Mm, this is so soft," Tonks said, as she plopped herself delightedly in the middle of a four-poster bed, her legs dangling over the side. "I could lie here all day."
Remus shook his head amusedly as he stood over her. "Not so fast, my dear." He grabbed hold of one of her boot-clad legs and undid one of the clasps of the black leather boots she usually wore to work. "You need to change out of these smelly things first." At her mischievous look, he added, "On your own."
Tonks adopted a mock pout.
"Once the kids are definitely asleep," Remus said in a huskier tone, taking her hand and pulling her into a sitting position, "I'll definitely help in getting you out of your clothes."
She sniggered and stood up, so that she was almost at eye-level with him. "I might be asleep by then too."
"I doubt it, Nymphadora," he said, looking straight into her eyes.
"You cocky git!" She shoved him playfully. "I'll get you back one of these days."
"I don't doubt it." He caught her hand and pulled her up against him. "I'll definitely look forward to it." He slid his hands down her back, till they came to rest on her bum. He grinned down at her parted lips and then without breaking their gaze, he lightly squeezed her bum and then abruptly let go of her – not missing her surprised expression – to rummage in their suitcase for a set of clean clothes for them to wear for the night.
"Tease," she said.
"Marauder," he corrected her over his shoulder.
"Git," she mumbled.
He tossed a nightshirt in her direction, while he selected a T-Shirt and the matching pyjama bottoms of the shirt he had given her.
"And I heard that."
"Good. I wanted you to," she replied as she moved towards the bathroom.
A little while later, Tonks stepped out of the bathroom to find Remus sitting on the bed, his long legs stretched out in front of him. The wireless that he had brought from their flat was playing Christmas Carols - the programme that was called "A Very Muggle Christmas" and played the popular Muggle versions of Christmas songs.
They'd listened to the programme together once before, during the Christmas Sirius had been alive. Remus had told her then that he listened every year, because the Muggle carols reminded him of his mother. Remus' parents had instilled the best of both their worlds in their only son. It explained a lot of Remus' lifestyle, Tonks reflected: from his love for Muggle Classics, to his apparent ease at blending flawlessly into the Muggle world without consciously trying to, the latter being something that very few wizards achieved.
He was softly humming along with the strains of a choir that filled the room - which he had Imperturbed to avoid disturbing the other residents of the house.
We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder Star.
Tonks climbed into bed beside him, settling against his side.
Remus' gaze, however, remained locked on the cupboard that stood in front of him, scrutinising it as if he'd never seen it before. Tonks gazed at it, too. It seemed to be an ordinary enough cupboard. She looked at him again and realised his eyes were trained on something at the top of the cupboard. And she saw it – three strange shadows seemed to flickering eerily in the candlelight on the wall behind.
"Remus? What is it?"
Without replying, Remus slid out of bed and went to the cupboard. Tonks watched with astonishment as he raised his tall frame to stand on his toes, and withdrew the object that had created the shadows
He came back to the bed, his eyes not leaving the object that he held in his hands. She still could not see what it was in the semi-darkness of the room.
She held her breath as he finally dropped it on the bed – and wariness turned to amused incredulity when she saw what it was. And Remus' smirk did nothing to help her bafflement.
"Muggle stuffed toys?" she asked in a squeak.
Remus chuckled as he sat on the edge of the bed and held them up in front of her. "Can't you see what toys they are?"
"A stag, a dog and…"
"A wolf," Remus finished, as Tonks took it from him.
"Moony, Padfoot and Prongs," she murmured, staring at it and the other two dolls, curiosity rippling through her.
"Yes," Remus said as he resumed his original position on the bed, clasping the stag and dog in his hands. Tonks snuggled against him, still holding the wolf. "These toys were a little whim on Sirius' part."
He looked at the replicas for a while without saying a word. He then set both of them on the side table before turning to her. "Did I ever tell you about the Lupin Christmas tradition?"
"No," Tonks shook her head, pressing the wolf closer to her chest.
He smiled at her gesture, before reaching over and slipping the toy out of her grasp and settling next to its companions on the table. He settled more comfortably against the pillows and pulled her so that she was lying almost on top of him. One of his hands rested on the curve of her hip while the other hand stroked the top of her own, which was resting palm-down on his chest.
"The Lupin Christmas tradition was simply a walk through Muggle London at night."
"Muggle London?" Tonks grinned, her anticipation rising with every word.
"Yes." He tilted his head to look down at her. "Christmas in Muggle London is always a sight to see." he smiled at her bewildered expression. "It's got a charm of its own. And every year I always make it a tradition to walk down those streets to watch the festivities."
Tonks smiled wistfully, "I never had any traditions like that." She looked at him, noticing the soft smile playing on his features. That gave her the encouragement she needed. "Would you take me there tomorrow, Remus?"
"I'd love to take you, sweetheart," He planted a kiss on her forehead. "I want to share that tradition with you."
He had said it rather casually, but Tonks detected a hint of sadness in the hoarse voice of her partner. To comfort him, and encourage him to explain, Tonks squeezed the hand that was holding hers. And when he looked down at her again, she locked her gaze with his, hoping he would understand the question in her eyes.
"It was a tradition before my father died," he explained. "Since I was a little boy, Mum and Dad would set aside a day during the holidays on which we'd put on our Muggle best and head out to the heart of the city. My parents, Mum especially, loved it."
"Because she was Muggle-born," Tonks said.
Remus nodded. "I would ride on Dad's shoulders, since he was tall, and from my vantage point, it was almost as if I could see the entire city at once." His tone was now decidedly dreamy. His intense blue eyes had softened, though the sparkle still remained. The light fringe of hair falling into his eyes only enhanced the boyishness.
Tonks listened while she pictured a small boy with light sandy hair and bright blue eyes, riding high on the shoulders of an older version of the man lying next to her.
"And then," Remus went on, "we'd stop outside the big display windows of the shopping centres, and just look at the things on display. Dad used to love this bit." A faint grin graced his features. "He'd ask Mum a hundred and odd questions about everything. And she'd explain them all, slowly and patiently – about the little candy dispenser or the Walkman…." He paused. "And Dad…. He'd lap it all up, 'Did you hear that, Remus?' 'isn't that ingenious, Remus?'"
"Y'know who your Dad reminds me of?" Tonks asked, a teasing lilt in her voice.
Remus let out a low chuckle, "Yes. I do know. But, you see there is a difference. While Dad was genuinely intrigued by Muggle life like Arthur, he was never usually the type to get overly excited about it. He just acted that way, since I was with them. It was one of his little ways to keep me entertained and happy."
"I take it you continued this tradition after you joined Hogwarts," she realized, indicating the toys which were lying on the bedside table.
"Yes" he nodded. "And in our fifth year holidays, James and Sirius joined me."
Tonks grinned, "That must have been fun."
"It was fun. It was James and Sirius' first full-fledged Muggle London trip. So needless to say, they were excited. And their enthusiasm made it quite the Christmas to remember. One of the best I've had to date."
Tonks nodded. "Of course, they would make it the best. And they bought these stuffed toys then?"
"One of the stores my parents always used to stop by was at the Muggle toy shop – Mum and Dad wanted me to have the best of both worlds. And since we seemed to be spending our Wizard money on trying to find a cure for me, Mum indulged me with Muggle toys. So the toy-store was one of the few shops we always visited during these sprees. And even when I outgrew them, the tradition still remained – just for the fun of checking out the newest additions."
"So bookshops aren't the only ones you like to browse," Tonks teased.
"No," he said, reaching a hand out and tugging at a lock of her hair. "And on that particular day, I took James and Sirius into that shop." he paused. "Before we entered the shop, my Mum and I had cautioned them. I was quite apprehensive, knowing those two as I did."
"For the most part, James and Sirius seemed almost un-impressed by the Muggle toys. Wind-up toys and those toys with strings and the stationary dolls seemed quite mundane to those two. We – Sirius mostly - had a whale of a time poking fun at the 'silly little monsters' –" Tonks raised her eyebrows, and he added, quickly, "Sirius' words, not mine."
"We continued in this vein until we reached a display of stuffed toys. It was a literal menagerie – and the wolf caught Sirius' eyes." He took the toy off the stand once more and looked at it with a fond expression. "And Sirius, being Sirius, couldn't resist a whim. So he looked around and found the stag, dog and rat. It was uncharacteristically sentimental of him, but the rest of us didn't need to question him."
Tonks listened to the story with a mixture of amusement and sadness – her cousin's quirks were almost legendary. And though Remus had not admitted it, she knew that little gesture was Sirius' pledge of loyalty to him.
And that's when it struck her.
"You said there was a stag, a dog, a wolf and a rat." She paused. "Where's the rat?"
"Where do you think, Nymphadora?"
She giggled. "Knowing Sirius, he must have done something really bad to it."
"I don't know what he did to it. I only just realized he still had these," he replied. "But whatever he did to it, I'm sure it would have been well deserved."
His statement had been uttered with a chuckle, but Tonks sensed the sadness in his tone. Remus had never openly acknowledged that he was the only Marauder left – but Tonks knew that the thought was never far from his mind –and all because one of them had turned traitor. Peter. The tag-along. The pushover. The apparent weakling who was forever seeking protection with James, Sirius, and Remus.
Remus, in his final encounter with Peter, had exacted his revenge for James and Sirius. And Tonks - who had been witness to that scene – had seen the look on Remus' face as he pressed his wand into Peter's throat. It had been one of pure hatred. And with a voice that was unlike his, he told Peter that it was time for him, Remus, to do what he ought to have done three years back.
In that one moment, Remus had shown what a powerful wizard he really was – and what he was capable of, given the chance.
And that night, after it was all over, Tonks held him as he cried – for the first time ever since he was bitten.
And now, it was Christmas, Tonks thought. A time to rejoice. A time to be glad. A time to bring good cheer to the ones you loved – especially the one who was staring at a Muggle toy as if it were a long-lost relative.
Struck by a sudden urge, she suddenly reached out for the two toys still standing on the table, took the wolf from Remus' hands and arranged them in a row on his chest. She sat up, her eyes twinkling as she broke into song.
We three kings of Marauder-kind are,
Bearing tricks we traversed afar,
Field and Forest, Castle and Village,
Nothing to fear or care.
Remus broke into an appreciative laugh, when she finished the song with a flourish. He swept the toys off his chest and pulled her once again on top of him.
"Nymphadora Tonks, you never cease to amaze me," he told her.
"Ta," she said with a grin. She moved so that she was straddling him. "The kids must definitely be asleep now," she settled her hands on his shoulders.
"Yes," he deadpanned. "So?"
She narrowed her eyes at him.
"So" she moved her hands to his sides and dug her fingers threateningly into them.
"Ow! If that's supposed to spur me on..." He pried the offending fingers away and pulled her down so that their faces were inches apart. "...You still have a lot to learn about Marauder-kind." He rolled her over. "Sometimes," he slid his right hand under her shirt and moved it upwards to rest on the underside of her breast. "You'll find that all it takes is a little bit of direct action."
"As opposed to?" her breath hitched as the hand strayed downwards, coming to rest just above her lacy knickers.
"Vindictive coercion," his lips came down on hers, as she let out a small squeak which soon turned into a giggle as he divested her of her shirt.
Later, as they laid, tangled among the sheets, Remus confided to Tonks, "You know, I agree with your comment this morning. Your job is worth it."
"And why is it worth it, Remus?" she grinned at him.
"Because," he told her. "At the end of the day, you come home to me."
"I love you. Merry Christmas, sweetheart."
"I love you. Merry Christmas, Nymphadora." He smothered her retort by pressing his lips to hers again.