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08 January 2009 @ 11:43 pm
Christmas Quackers  
Title: Christmas Quackers
Author: godricgal
Rating: PG (Just to be on the safe side.)
Word Count 3,375 words.
Summary: As Remus and Tonks' first Christmas approaches, they manage, around their Order duties, to make time to enjoy a little Christmas shopping together and pay a visit to Tonks' beloved Grandpa.
Author's Notes: This begins in mid December of OotP. It's set in Ducking verse, but I don't think you'll miss too much for not having read the other fics. It's probably enough to know that Remus and Tonks have a certain fondness for ducks. Many thanks to mrstater for a quacking beta job and for being one step ahead of me with the duck puns. ;) I should add that this is what should have been my Meta Advent fic, for which I had two prompts, only one of which I can remember: Christmas crackers, and so I assume I have not used the other one. Though it's possible that I did...;)

Christmas Quackers

Tonks always looked forward to visiting her grandpa; he was, in many ways, a kindred spirit, and the hours she spent with him in his small but cosy room were ones she knew would always pass far too quickly for her liking. One part of each visit, however, she dreaded, and it could never pass quickly enough: Tonks hated walking the hallways of this place, the nursing home that had been her grandpa’s home for too many years, through the stench of sickness that leaked through the clinical mask of cleaning fluids and past doors from which the sounds of the suffering and insensible emanated.

Years before, when her Apparition licence was newly awarded, she’d taken to using the Wizarding privilege to by-pass the whole experience, but a month or so later, she’d been caught by the matron and, when she’d heard the telling off the young nurse whose job it was to sign visitors in had received, felt so guilty , that she’d never tried it again. Well, that and the fear of her mother discovering what she’d been doing. And by the time she’d recovered from that, she’d gained enough sense to know that while a little bit of magic here and there wouldn’t hurt, it would be a foolish thing indeed to dance the line around the Statute of Secrecy as a matter of routine.

Which was why she’d long ago perfected the knock that was the most effective in swiftly gaining admittance to her grandpa’s room. It was a balance to be achieved between making the volume required to reach his aged ears and, well, not giving him a heart attack in the process. The fingers of one hand entwined with Remus', Tonks raised the other to rap quickly at the door. The response was almost immediate, and Tonks shot Remus a quick, satisfied smile before grabbing the door handle and turning.

"Wotcher, Grandpa!" she said, closing the door behind her.

"Dora! Remus! I wasn’t expecting you today. What a pleasant surprise, but oh dear, I'm not wearing my best shirt."

Relief flooded her as she heard the chipper note in his voice through the joke and saw the brightness in his eyes. He had been none too well the last time they’d visited, and though they’d ended up passing a pleasant enough afternoon together, she and Remus had both returned home with a significant burden of concern.

"We're not staying long, I'm afraid, Grandpa"

"We're on our way to do some Christmas shopping," Remus said. "Thought we'd stop by to see if you wanted us to get you anything."

"And because we wanted to look at your television." She flopped down in the vacant arm chair while Remus perched on the arm.

"If that's okay," he added politely.

"'Course it is," Grandpa replied. "Where are you off to?"

Tonks grinned. "Well that's the thing. This is probably the only day that we're both going to be off at the same time to go shopping together -- at least, the only time we can count on -- and Remus said that we ought to go to a town where it's snowing because it'll be more romantic-"

She glanced up at Remus to find a sheepish smile on his face. He shrugged and said, "You only have one first Christmas together, don't you?"

"Quite," agreed Grandpa, who looked upon them with a mixture of amusement and something Tonks fancied to be approval. .

"And anyway," Tonks continued, "we thought it would be more sensible to watch a weather man report than start Apparating willy nilly to various northern towns."

"Sounds perfectly logical to me," Grandpa said. "Where's the remote?"

After a few minutes of fruitless searching, Tonks decided that a little magic wouldn't go amiss and drew her wand to perform a Summoning Charm. The remote control with its plethora of buttons flew up from underneath a week's worth of Daily Telegraphs. She handed it to her grandpa because it had been far too long since she'd had to remember which button did what.

Apparently their timing was impeccable, which was particularly lucky as Tonks hadn't given a consideration to whether the weather programmes were only on at a particular time. Muggles certainly didn't make things easy for themselves. Still, she supposed, wizards didn't have a better way to do it, so it wasn't as if she had much of an argument in this case.

Their options, it turned out, were better than they'd expected, and they wouldn't have to venture north after all: Guildford was currently playing host to an even two inches of snow; it was still falling steadily and forecast to continue, on and off, for most of the afternoon.

"Perfect," Tonks said, looking up at Remus, who gave her a smile and squeezed her shoulder.

They took down a short shopping list from Grandpa, and before long they were hurrying back through the halls of the nursing home en route to the Apparition point her father had scouted out many years before.

They arrived together in Guildford using a Ministry-approved Apparition point. She felt so snug wrapped up in Remus arms and the big, long heavy coat he wore that when he moved to let go of her, she tightened her arms around him and was rewarded when he enfolded her once more and held her against his chest. She turned her head slightly and was satisfied to see the pristine white of virgin snow all around them; by the time she turned back to Remus, his hair was dusted with delicate flakes and a few fluttered between them as she said, "Romantic enough for you?"

"Not that it really takes much to feel romantic with you, but yes, I'd say so."

He bent to kiss her, and Tonks suddenly realised that she felt as light as the flakes that fell around them. They'd been so busy lately, so wrapped up in everything that was going on with the Order. How long had it been since they'd had a day to themselves? She couldn't wait for their first Christmas together and this -- kissing in the snow -- was a wonderful start.

A few minutes later, they set off in search of Guildford's high street, holding hands inside Remus' coat pocket. Beyond Grandpa's necessities, they didn't really have a shopping list or agenda of their own; window shopping was the order of the day, and Tonks thought they might have a wander around the Christmas decoration sections of one or two of the department stores to collect ideas for their own tree at her flat. Christmas decorations were easily Transfigured and Conjured, which meant spending good hard-earned cash on them was a frivolous waste of both money and the opportunity to have a little creative fun.

Tonks enjoyed the satisfying crunch of snow beneath her feet and, several times, looked back at the side-by-side track they'd made in the snow. She laughed at where she saw they'd crossed when she slipped and Remus had caught her deftly in front of him.

The high street was quite a sight to behold. Though much of the snow on the ground had been trampled through and quite a bit had turned to a wet slush, there was still much of the fairy tale about the town. Trees, their winter skeletons etched in fine crystal flakes, were a majestic sight between gabled roof tops draped in whiter-than-white blankets; benches, litter bins, street lamps, and the iconic clock that hung from the town hall were all thickly iced with a crunchy topping of fresh snow.

"What do you fancy doing first?" Remus asked. "Window shopping? Get something to eat? Sit on a snow-covered bench and gaze into one another eyes?" He paused and looked down at her through the corner of a mischievous eye. "Or decorations?"

"Decorations!" Tonks cried. "Maybe we can do the bench thing later," she added. "Reckon we might get chilled behinds if we tried it now."

"Reckon we might get chilly behinds if we try it at any point today," Remus replied.

"Yeah, but if we make it the last thing we do, we can go home and warm up in the bath. Or bed."

"Excellent point."

As they set up the street in the direction of the clock, Remus asked, "Do you have any idea which shops sell the decorations?"

"None. You?"

"Not a clue, but I'm sure two competent members of the Order of the Phoenix can figure it out."

"Constant Vigilance."

"Indeed." Remus glanced down at her with a smile and squeezed her hand inside his pocket.

It wasn't long before they happened upon the elaborate window display of a shop called the House of Fraser. Silver, white, and pink baubles hung before a dramatic black backdrop, twinkling like stars in a night sky excited in a dance of colour by the spirit of the season. Like any other child, Christmas had always exerted a magnet-like pull on a young Tonks, its colours, sounds and scents alive with a richness and spice in her memory, but nothing had been the same since Grandpa had ceased to play an active part in its happening; without the energy of his influence, celebrations had fallen rather flat in recent years.

This Christmas, with Remus, represented an opportunity to reclaim some of those lost traditions of her youth and forge new ones, together. Even if there was no reason to suppose that their duties to the Order wouldn't impede any attempt they made to celebrate without hindrance, Tonks was determined it should not scupper all of the plans and hopes they'd whispered to each other beneath the covers, late at night.

"Dora, look -- over in the corner."

Tonks trained her gaze in the direction Remus had directed, helped by the extra guide of his extended finger.

"Oh! A pink Christmas tree!" she cried, threading her arm through Remus' and steering him with a gentle force towards the shop entrance.

It was a good hour before Remus and Tonks quitted the warmth of the department store and, once again, stepped out into a scene worthy of a postcard. They'd browsed thoroughly in several departments -- most importantly, of course, the Christmas decorations section, where Tonks, who, through necessity and natural aptitude had a skill for recalling accurately the colours around her, had taken careful note; she thought Remus had filed away a keen observation or two of his own.

Particularly when it came to Christmas crackers. Tonks had recounted to Remus tales, knitted together from many years of yuletide celebrations, of how Grandpa used to fashion his own crackers, always being quite particular about who pulled which and insisting on bending the rules when the owner of the cracker did not 'win' the pull.

They had formulated a plan for Grandpa -- and, if they were completely honest, for themselves -- to revive this long abandoned Tonks family tradition: they would forego to making of the crackers, but attempt, by magic, to insert gifts of their choosing inside ready-made crackers by application of a Switching Spell. As they'd strolled around the shop, they'd managed to whisper the silliest academic discussion on the subject of whether it was possible to perform the spell on a specific object within the cracker, sight unseen, without risking the accidental removal of the all-important paper hat or joke paper, and concluded that it ought to be possible by the addition of a clause in the spell which excluded paper -- assuming, of course, that the gift itself wasn't constructed of paper -- a hitch they'd agreed to tackle if and when it presented itself.

Tonks had thought the crackers in House of Frasier expensive -- so too, no doubt, had Remus, though he'd not said a word. She rather congratulated herself at what she thought was an uncharacteristic grace in managing to avoid specifically saying crackers would be less expensive elsewhere, and instead ventured the suggestion that Woolies would have more choice in range and colour.

"Any idea where this Woolly place of yours is?"

"Erm, no." Tonks hung on to his arm, for warmth and for balance, for the snow, now much trodden, had turned to ice in places.

"Any direction feel lucky to you?"

"Erm, no."

"Feel like a lucky guess?"

Tonks slipped on the ice, sliding down the hill and hanging on to Remus who stood taller than usual beside her on the higher ground. "This way?" she asked, laughing.

"Providence speaking?" Remus joked as he pulled her firmly back towards him, nestling her against his side more firmly. "As good as any choice, if you ask me. Your propensity to losing your feet beneath you has got to be good for something."

Tonks would have jabbed him with her elbow, but he held it too strongly against him, or offered a verbal retort, but when she raised her eyes to his they danced with a silent laughter too merry, too laced with happiness as he looked down upon her to warrant anything but the tilting of her chin towards his -- an obvious invitation which he readily accepted.

When the kiss, brief, but felt just as keenly as something deeper for the sentiment behind it and the romantic setting, was parted, they set off down the hill. When they reached its bottom, having ambled in various shops on their way and still yet without their quarry, they stopped to ask a passer-by for directions; within five more minutes, they were admitted, though doors operated by what Arthur Weasley would surely deem "Muggle magic", into the shop called Woolworths and assailed in every sense, by Christmas.

They soon found the aisle that housed the Christmas crackers, and, as Tonks had predicted, many an option was presented to them: bedecked tubes in greens and gold, silver and reds, with or without bows and ribbons, at varying prices for what was contained within. Remus readily agreed that the cheapest would do since they were planning to replace the essential contents anyway.

The crackers thus purchased, they were left only to choose the gifts to go within. They'd already declared each other's the subject of a surprise, though Tonks had no idea what she's get for Remus, she had already decided that she would attempt to insert her own joke: What do ducks pull at Christmas? Christmas Quackers. Which would be funny to them, if no one else -- the inspiration had come when she and Remus had exchanged private and knowing looks when they'd spotted a couple of ducks waddling around in the snow in the quieter end of town.

A queue's worth of thought had been enough to for both of them to decide that Grandpa's gift required more time to ponder, and so they readily abandoned the idea of shopping and retreated to a nearby pub where they ordered half a pint of local bitter each and retreated to a nook by the fire.

"I'm glad we went out today," Remus said, once idle chit chat and a minute or so of companionable silence had passed.

"Me too," Tonks replied.

"It was so hard, this morning, to get out of bed." His eyes took on an expression of mischievousness. "But I have to think that particular struggle is my burdensome penance for having you in my life, and so I bear it. But my point is, I'm glad we decided to do this today. Even if, on other days...Well, you know what I mean."

She did. It was always so very tempting -- a temptation to which they very often yielded -- to spend their rare whole days together in bed, or at the very least at home, stretched in front of the fire, talking, making love as the mood caught them, or simply relaxing together. But it was nice to make the effort every once in a while to go out and do something, to catch an atmosphere and envelop themselves in it. For she had, during their trip of Christmas planning and shopping -- which all, really, had been in aid of planning the future, however seemingly immediate it was, let herself be caught up unrestrainedly in the romance of it all: in snowy days on the arm of the man she was now fairly certain she would marry; in living what seemed both to be a fairy tale and her chance at recreating and refining a time of year that had once held magic beyond that which she had learned at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry .

Tonks' awareness on Christmas morning rose slowly, like a gradually warming orange sunrise, until she lay awake, warm and relaxed, but yet still within Remus' arms; she knew he had woken, and that he was aware she, too was conscious in spite of not having moved or spoken a word. Over the months of togetherness, a creeping change had come over her: never before would she have been content to lie so still, so unemployed in thought or action; but Remus affected a calm over her that manifested in more ways than simple contentment in lying still in bed, soaking up glorious bodily warmth.

So they lay, she thought, for about an hour, before, finally, it was Remus' hands that spoke. She loved it when he pulled her into him like that, when it had previously seemed to her that they could get no closer, become entwined no further. Waking up on Christmas morning with him was everything she might have hoped for and despite the still and quiet that enveloped them in their sleepy Christmas morning rest, she was entirely aware of the festivity that awaited them -- not really even awaited -- that had, in fact, already overtaken them. She thought it might even have so many days ago on their very first Christmas outing.

No full day together had followed that, but they had managed to snatch a Thursday late night shopping trip that had secured them an inspired gift for Grandpa's Christmas cracker, and another that, though they had been too late for shopping, had afforded them a pub dinner accompanied by a Muggle rock band that played tunes they didn't know surrounded by the festive spirit of those who did, which proved to be catching.

They were dressed and ready at eleven, employing the hours between then and acknowledged consciousness usefully. Crackers in hand, they descended the steps of Tonks' flat to find an unseasonably warm day about them. Not twenty-five steps and two well-concealed Apparition points stood between them and their first and only point of mutual call.

Christmas Day was in full preparation, if not full swing at the Briarbanks Home for the Elderly. Though they arrived by proper means, barely a glance was afforded them as they made their way down the sickened halls, livened by festivity. Nurses bustled this way and that, but Remus and Tonks made their way unhindered to their destination.

Every time Tonks visited with Remus, she found herself less ill at ease: she walked those halls with ever-increasing confidence, looked forward even more to the journey's end: Grandpa received Remus with as much, if not more, ease than he did her parents, had spoken so highly of him when she'd ventured there alone since their first and second meeting.

Tonks pulled the cracker with him; Remus stood not too far behind. The room erupted with colour. Then, when the sparks had flown and settled, a pink Christmas tree bloomed in the corner of the room, its presence added to by a number of magic-born fairies. The magic, which delighted Grandpa, would last but half an hour, until the time came for Remus and Tonks to depart. Remus had a duty for the Order to perform, escorting Harry and the Weasley family to St. Mungo's to visit Arthur, and Tonks was engaged to spend the remainder of the day with her parents. Spending Christmas as she ever had, at her family's behest, Tonks felt and hoped in her bones that it might be her last as a Tonks -- and that hope sprang from sharing the joy of her first Christmas with Remus with her Grandpa Tonks.

The End
sspring92: Pink Christmassspring92 on January 9th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
Yay for Duckingverse! Even something as ordinary as Christmas shopping came across as so special for them just because it was ordinary! Wish I had something inspiring to say about the mechanics or writing and plot, but yum, just warm and fuzzy!
godricgal: Pink Christmas - Godricgalgodricgal on January 19th, 2009 10:52 am (UTC)
Thanks very much! I'm glad you found it warm and fuzzy as that's pretty much exactly what I was going for. :)
gilpin25: Xmas Pink Treegilpin25 on January 9th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
As soon as I read the summary and that they were going shopping, I hoped they'd pay a call to poor old Woolies - and how I loved Remus asking after this Woolly place of yours, lol. I liked how neatly you got the pink Christmas tree in there, perfect for the Advent, of course!

There's always something delightful about your Duckingverse, and this is another worthy and smile-inducing edition. I think sspring92 has said it above, when she says that even ordinary shopping becomes special to read. It's as if you're sharing a personal moment or two with them, and it's all so beautifully described down to the tiniest details. I rather wish we could actually add a few magic spells to crackers (though I liked how Tonks' idea of a personal joke was also a favourite Muggle one, anyway), and it was such a nice idea to literally bring some magic and seasonal cheer to her grandpa's room. Perhaps nicest of all, is reading how happy R/T are at this time (especially their idea of a normal day off together;)), and that Tonks is looking to the future together.

I'm sorry you didn't get it done for the Advent because it is such a Christmas story. But then it's certainly brought some cheer to my chilly January afternoon, and I'd enjoy re-reading it and them like this at any time. :)
godricgal: Pink Christmas - Godricgalgodricgal on January 19th, 2009 11:06 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for such lovely review.

Had to include a trip to Woolies, really - for providing me with my very own pink Christmas tree and to keep them alive in fic! ;)

I'm always so chuffed to hear that people - you - enjoy the fics from Duckingverse, and it's good to know that this one seems to follow on. I did enjoy a chance to look, from Tonks' pov, at them not to far down the line after the end of No Time for Ducking, and just to let them do something normal without it being a big mile stone in their relationship - which is to say that I'm glad my indulgence led to something that was good to read.

I can imagine them getting more and more elaborate with the magic in the Christmas crackers with each passing year, lol. I think the potential for mischief and showing off would be too much to resist.

Thanks again for your kind words. :D
Jackie: Jackie - Treefantasticjackie on January 9th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid to read your title more than once, because I used to not be able to pronounce my 'R's: quackers - or cwackers - is exactly what I called crackers, among other mangled words. lol Even to this day, if I'm too tired, I'll slip!

But onto your fic, which I greatly enjoyed. I was so excited to see Grandpa Tonks in this, even for his little parts! The pink tree they settled on for him was really sweet; those nursing homes are pretty drear, even when the nursing staff erects mini trees in their rooms - there's no real meaning in it. But brought and decorated by loved ones... :) I really love the absolute normalcy of it, as well - the idea that Remus and Tonks got to spend a normal, happy Christmas together despite the world's dire circumstances and the evil plottings of a certain author. Yays for the fluffiness that is kisses in the snow! :D

A minor formatting thing I noticed - you have some </hr>s lying where scene changes occur. ;)

Really loved your ficcy, as usual! -Does Christmas have to be over already??
godricgal: Pink Christmas - Godricgalgodricgal on January 19th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
LOL. I think Cwistmas cwackers rolls off the tongue rather well...

Anyway, thank you very much for your review. It's so great to know that you were excited to see Grandpa in this, and liked his little pink tree. I've never written a particularly angsty R/T Christmas fic and I'm not sure I ever will because it's too much fun just to let them have a nice, normal Christmas and make it all fluffy, and I like knowing that my indulgence of that is appreciated by other people, too! ;)

Thank you again. :D
shimotsuki: metamorfic_moonshimotsuki on January 10th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
I'm sniffing a little here -- it's beautiful to see how comfortable and happy Tonks and Remus are, to see how Tonks realizes that she's begun to change under Remus's influence, to see her imagining a future for them (even though it's painful to know what's actually in store for these two before they arrive at that married Christmas together that Tonks is dreaming of).

I absolutely, positively adore the moment when they've just Apparated to Guildford and Tonks won't let go of Remus, so he tightens his arms around her again. Sigh.

The framing of the story with walking the corridors of the nursing home is an inspired idea, with what that lets you tell about the growing relationships among Tonks, Remus, and Jack.

(Of course, it's also delightful that you've managed to work in a pink Christmas tree!)
godricgal: Pink Christmas - Godricgalgodricgal on January 19th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
Aww. Thank you very much! It's lovely to hear that you enjoyed it so much. I did enjoy writing it and it was an interesting exercise to try and pin point where Remus and Tonks would be a few months down the line.

Thanks for mentioning the framing of the story. I hadn't intended to do it, but when I got to writing the last scene, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Thank you again for your typically thoughtful review. :D

P.S. I feel like singing 'I have a surprise for you-ooo!' because I do, except that now it's not, lol. Anyway, what that means is I have finally almost finished your birthday fic and it should be ready for your reading pleasure by the end of the week, but probably before.
shimotsuki: wintershimotsuki on January 19th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
P.S. I feel like singing 'I have a surprise for you-ooo!' because I do, except that now it's not, lol.

LOL -- but it was a surprise to hear that there was a surprise, so that still works. ;)

And now I am excited!
katyscarlett76: katyscarlett76 Quillkatyscarlett76 on January 19th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
I really loved this, it's just so sweet and fluffy and really warms the heart on a cold January day :) (While it's a shame you didn't get it done in time for Christmas, I'm kind of glad for that reason). It's so bittersweet where Tonks is planning their future, knowing what we know about it, I just hope that their Christmas in DH was as happy. There's just so many wonderful little moments, including (as others have pointed out) the bit when they arrive in Guildford and she doesn't let go right away so he wraps his arms back around her *sigh*
Just lovely, thank you for brightening my morning!
godricgal: Meta quill godricgalgodricgal on January 21st, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
Thank you, Katy! I'm so glad you found this shameless bit of festive fluff warming on a drear January day. I actually finished this at 5.30am on New Year's Day -- in time for the deadline, but by that point I was so tired that I'd no concept of quality control and decided to get some sleep and not worry about the deadline.

I find it very easy when I'm writing to forget about what comes next for Remus and Tonks, lol, but I think that can help for writing them in the moment, which I like to think they must have been, and which obviously leads to the fluff.

I'm glad you like the bit when they arrive in Guildford. It was one of those scenes where I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but was never quite satisfied with the wording.

Thanks very much for a lovely review! :D