The day that Remus came home to Grimmauld Place to find Sirius organizing the books in the library by subject, author, and date of publication, he knew that matters had gotten out of control. In lieu of proper employment, which Remus couldn't provide for him no matter how much he might wish to, Sirius needed a distraction. Fortunately, Remus was acquainted with one of the most distracting people in the wizarding world.
"You want me to come celebrate Christmas with Sirius?" Tonks asked him in a tone of deep suspicion.
Remus nodded. "Yes. I think the company would do him good, especially on the holiday."
Tonks frowned at him. "Remus. Are you trying to set me up with my cousin?"
"No, no," Remus said, his protest sounding weak even to his own ears.
Tonks's left eye bulged forward and turned pale blue. It revolved a full 360 degrees and came to rest on him once more.
"No," Remus said more firmly. "I'm not. And does Mad-Eye know you impersonate him like that?"
The glare in the left eye was abruptly softened by Tonks waggling her pink eyebrows at him. "Probably," she said in her usual cheerful voice.
"So, will you do it?" he asked.
Tonks shrugged. "I suppose. Around four all right? I need to go to Mum and Dad's for Christmas dinner first."
"That's perfect," Remus said. "Thank you, Nymphadora."
"You could call me by my name," Tonks suggested. "Now that would be a real 'thank you.'"
"All right. Tonks," Remus said. He rather liked the way Tonks flushed with a mixture of indignance and embarrassment whenever he called her by her given name, but fair was fair. And then Tonks gave him a somewhat startled smile—blinding in its intensity—that he thought he might enjoy even more than making her blush.
Christmas afternoon, Remus begged off the third game of chess that Sirius was wheedling for, pleading his need for a nap. "It's all that time with the werewolves. I'm not used to these hours," he said when Sirius seemed about to protest.
"Oh. Right," Sirius said, in a tone of voice that made Remus wish that he could take the words back. Still, Tonks would be there soon; she could fix Sirius up with her cheerful and energetic presence more easily than Remus could with any number of comforting lies.
"Wake me if I'm not up by six, okay?" he said, trusting that Sirius would be more than capable of "forgetting" his request if the visit with Tonks went exceptionally well.
"All right, Moony," Sirius said, sounding marginally more cheerful.
Remus spared him one last smile on his way out the kitchen door. "Happy Christmas, Padfoot."
Fewer than ten minutes after he'd gone upstairs, he heard a crashing noise from the front hallway, followed by the usual ruckus from Mrs. Black's portrait.
"Hallo?" Sirius called in a puzzled tone.
"Happy Christmas!" Tonks answered brightly. One of them must have cast a silencing spell on the portrait, because Mrs. Black's wails cut out in a slow, Doppler curve of sound.
"Er, happy Christmas," Sirius said. "Come in, Tonks."
Remus waited a bit, allowing them time to walk from the front door to the kitchen, and then he crept forward to the head of the stairs. Feeling absurdly like a schoolboy again, he floated one of the Weasley twins' confiscated Extendable Ears down to the first floor and stuck the other end into his right ear.
"—us's idea," Tonks was saying downstairs. "I think he expects us to fall in love with each other over mugs of eggnog, or something."—Remus's eyes bugged out of his head. Apparently, his stray thought of swearing Tonks to discretion hadn't been so absurd after all.—"He kept nattering on about you being alone over the holidays."
"I'm not exactly alone, you know. Remus has been here three days now," Sirius pointed out.
"Well, lacking in nubile female company, then," Tonks said. "That's the part where I come in. As you can see."
"Does the daft blighter not know I'm queer?" Sirius asked, laughing a little, and Remus was so startled that he fell back onto the ground with a muffled thump.
"Well, he does now," he muttered.
"Remus does tend to be oblivious about the most obvious things," Tonks said, with an odd note of bitterness.
"Tonks…" Sirius began, his voice surprisingly gentle.
"For instance," Tonks continued as though Sirius had never spoken. "He seems to forget on occasion that I'm a trained auror."
Remus frowned, a bit puzzled. And then a sound like a huge gong reverberated through his head, making his ears ring. A moment later, Tonks apparated in front of him, the other end of the Extendable Ear pinched between her fingers.
"I think you dropped this," she said sweetly.
Sirius followed close behind her, blinking down at Remus in surprise. "I thought you were taking a nap."
"Got seized with an irrepresible urge to meddle?" Tonks suggested.
"Something like that," Remus admitted with an apologetic smile.
"Getting old maidish in middle age, Moony?" Sirius asked, dropping the insult with the same genial negligience that had saved him from getting his head pounded more than once as a boy. "You never cared about my lovelife before."
"I think it's more a case of what Freud would call 'transference,'" Tonks said. Remus choked a little, and she gave him a smile with teeth in it. "I've been reading some of Dad's old books."
Sirius, whose love of Muggle things began and ended with whatever was shiniest and loudest, said, "What who would call what?"
"A Muggle psychiatrist," Remus said, blithely ignoring the second half of the question.
"And why's he so important?"
"Come along to Remus's room, and we can show you," Tonks said.
Remus turned to look at her incredulously.
"Solution to all our problems, yeah?"
"I think 'complication' might be a better word than 'solution,' actually," Remus said, distantly aware of Sirius following their exchange like a spectator at a tennis match.
"Remus," Tonks said. "We're already hopelessly complicated. Let's just…get nice and drunk on some eggnog and brandy and have ourselves a happy Christmas, all right?"
Remus opened his mouth, ready to reel off a list of reasons for why this was a terrible idea, when Sirius suddenly placed his hand on Remus's arm. "We could even try for a happy year," he said a bit wistfully. "Or a happy decade? I think we're due a happy decade."
The stubborn expression on Tonks's face melted into something more sympathetic. She even gave Sirius a quick hug, when Remus had never seen them be particularly affectionate before.
"All right," Remus said, and took a deep breath. "I guess we could try that," and he took the hands that Sirius and Tonks extended to him.