"Looking forward to your mission tonight?"
Remus glanced up from his copy of the Daily Prophet only to look immediately back to the story in front of him. Sirius had taken a seat opposite at the kitchen table and Remus didn't trust the calculating look on his face. It spoke volumes that he'd rather direct his attention to the infuriating story—the third that week—that detailed just how untrustworthy Dumbledore and Harry were rather than endure whatever conversation Sirius seemed to be gearing up for. His friend's favorite topic of late was badgering him over the newest addition to the Order. Sirius had unfortunately spotted that Remus held an interest beyond that of friendly colleagues with the beautiful young Auror.
"Do you mean am I looking forward to spending an evening in what is likely the most deplorable pub in all of the U.K.?" Remus asked, knowing it was no use but still injecting as much casualness into his tone as possible. "Not especially."
Sirius sniggered. "I was actually wondering if you were looking forward to spending the evening with Tonks."
Remus turned the pages to where the story continued on page five. "It will be a welcome change to partnering with Dung."
Sirius merely hummed in response and poured himself tea from the pot resting on the table between them. Remus was glad it was tea rather than Firewhisky and internally praised—not for the first time that week—the arrival of the Weaselys and Hermione. The presence of children in the house had brought about a drastic reduction in the amount of liquor his friend consumed.
"Posing as Tonks' date will certainly be better than a date with Dung."
"The operative word being 'posing'," Remus murmured, knowing where the line of questioning was headed. "This is a mission, not a date."
With any luck, Tonks would put her skills to test by morphing herself into a man so they could play the part of colleagues rather than dates. It would certainly help keep his focus if she were a man. If anything, it would likely decrease the amount of time spent fantasizing about how pleasant the curve of her arse had felt against him when she'd tumbled into his lap the week before.
"But you wish it were a date."
Remus looked up just in time to catch the tin of biscuits Sirius had Summoned as it slipped through his friend's fingers and nearly hit him in the forehead. He opened the tin and snatched one of Molly's chocolate biscuits before passing it across the table, willing his friend to drop the subject before another occupant of the house overheard. The last thing Remus needed was for Molly to catch wind of his attraction to Tonks.
"Reckon she'd give you a date if you'd locate your bollocks and ask her," Sirius continued before shoving an entire biscuit into his mouth.
"You're mad," Remus said with a shake of his head.
Sirius thankfully chewed and swallowed the biscuit before answering. "Completely barking, actually, but I'm right about this."
Eyeing his friend critically, Remus said, "I thought you'd tucked the whisky away with the kids in the house."
Sirius smirked. "I'm not pissed. This just happens to be the one subject where I'm smarter than you."
Despite the smirk, Remus could sense that there was earnestness behind Sirius' words. "I've nothing to offer her."
"From what I've seen in your delicate state, you've plenty to offer a bird," Sirius replied, sniggering again.
The indignity of waking up starkers once a month in the Shrieking Shack with his friends was apparently going to haunt him far longer than he'd expected. Unable to resist the opportunity, Remus rolled up the folded Prophet and reached across the table to whack Sirius on the back of his head, glad that all pretense of a serious conversation was gone.
Arthur entering the kitchen gave Remus hope that he would be saved from any further taunts.
"I'm helping myself to your tea, if you don't mind. I'm afraid these overnight shifts are making me feel my age," Arthur said as he took a mug from a cabinet and poured tea from the pot before sitting next to Sirius. "Not interrupting, am I?"
"Of course not," Sirius said, sliding the milk pitcher down the table. "We were just discussing how Moony's todger's been mourning the loss of his bollocks."
Remus picked up the Prophet, prepared to whacked his friend on the head again, but Sirius Vanished the paper from his hand before it made contact.
Arthur chuckled. "You two'd better watch yourselves. Molly will be down in a moment with the kids in tow to put supper on the table." He paused and took a sip from his tea then looked over the rim of his teacup at them. "She casts a mean Soapy Jinx for foul language."
As if on cue, the kitchen door flung open, Fred and George leading the herd of teenagers, Molly right behind the group, blocking any chance the kids might have for retreat from kitchen duty. As Molly dictated orders to the group, all three men looked toward the door; Remus didn't need to rely on his sensitive hearing to know that Tonks was shouting angrily for Sirius from the entrance hall. Fighting all his instincts to go and tend to Tonks after she'd likely fallen prey to the umbrella stand, Remus sat back in his chair as Sirius jumped up from the table, although he couldn't help the slight smile of anticipation at the imminent arrival of the woman who occupied so many of his recent thoughts.
"Any particular reason your friend is questioning your manhood?" Arthur asked with a look on his face that made Remus wonder if the twins' mischief had been passed down from their father rather than their uncles as everyone insisted.
Luckily Remus was spared from having to answer Arthur's question when a cheerful greeting rang through the kitchen.
Arthur smiled and set down his mug before standing and joining Molly at the cooker where she was stirring a pot and insisting that Tonks join them for dinner. Remus' heart pounded as the young woman rounded the table and sat down next to him. It wasn't lost on him that she sat beside him even though every other seat around the table was unoccupied.
"Don't you look quite the vagrant?" Tonks asked as she eyed his shaggier-than-usual hair and the light beard he'd let grow in in preparation for their mission to the Quill.
To Remus' delight, Tonks' robes gaped as she crossed one leg over the other and he caught sight of one hosiery-covered leg. Expeditious scrutiny revealed an enticingly short dress under her robes—she certainly wasn't planning on morphing into a man for that evening's disguise. He had to quickly remind himself that they were headed out on a mission, and he couldn't allow the distraction of Tonks in a dress diminish his ability to focus on the task at hand. Although he'd wager the distraction was well worth the loss of information gathered.
Attempting—likely in vain—to keep his mind focused, he forced his lips to form the beginning of a question, but his mind went suddenly blank, words flying from his mind when Tonks touched her hand to his stubbled cheek. He froze as her fingers stroked his lightly-bearded jaw before she pushed them through the floppy hair that habitually rested on his forehead, unable to stop the image from popping into his mind of her running her hands through his hair amidst a passionate embrace.
Pull it together, old man.
Remus had a feeling this was going to be a long night as his self-control battled for dominance over desire.
A/N: Just a little fun to tide you over before "Friends to Lovers: There and Back Again" starts. It should be up by the end of the week-hooray!