Chapter 3 : Three
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She winced as the memories of the previous night began to come back to her. Between falling over the troll leg into Remus’ arms, mistaking his actions for flirting, listening to Sirius’ ‘advice’, tripping over the troll leg again, and – how could she have forgotten! – showing up at his house snogging Lupin, the only thing she wanted when she realized he actually would be staying for dinner that evening was to escape and help Molly with the cooking. But she had been such a clumsy mess that day—all due to Remus, if she may add—that Molly didn’t want her near the kitchen.
She couldn’t let go of the disapproving look she had gotten from Remus over dinner. Pig snout and all was when she caught eyes with him over Molly’s meal. With and uneasy nod, he turned back to his conversation of Goblins, leaving her down the table listening to more farm animal requests from Hermione and Ginny.
With a resonating ‘humph’, she lifted her feet off the desk and leaned forward to try to organize some of the endless stacks of paperwork. The work of an Auror had been forced to nothing with the alleged return of Voldemort—with Fudge trying to convince the Wizarding world there was nothing going on, it meant none of the Aurors were able to do their day-to-day fieldwork; it would put up the impression that everything truly was ‘just fine’.
It was probably better off she was here instead of helping The Order. With how much of a mess she had caused between waking up Mrs. Black’s portrait, and the whole snogging—
“Remus!?” She dropped the stack of papers as she noticed Remus Lupin walk outside her door, in an intent conversation with Scrimgeour.
“—you know we’d love to have your help, Remus.” Scrimgeour’s apology seemed forced even to Tonks as she snuck around her desk. “Dolores, however—” The distain in his voice wasn’t missed as he gave Remus an explanation. Tonks scrunched up her nose in displeasure at the mention of the new senior member of The Ministry. She had only met the woman once, and already felt much irritation towards her.
“Understandable,” Remus muttered with a surprisingly accepting tone. Tonks continued to follow as Remus went on, “It’s not the first and it’s certainly not the last time it has happened.”
“With all the rumors going around the last thing The Ministry wants is another tarnish on their backs by hiring – well – no offence, but, one of your type.” Scrimgeour at least seemed to roll his eyes at the working of his superiors.
“What’s wrong with his type!?” Tonks quickly brought her hand up to her mouth as she accidently made her presence known.
“Tonks!” Scrimgeour frowned as he realized she had been listening in, “I have to assume the only reason you’re following me around the office is to turn in your reports on the Goblin involvement of the first war.”
She came to a stop as the realization dawned on her that the reports were long lost in the mass of scrambled paperwork cluttering on her desk. Avoiding another scowl from her boss, she turned to Remus instead. She couldn’t help but grin when she saw him fighting back to laugh at her and Scrimgeour’s exchange.
Turning back to Scrimgeour a moment later, Remus broke the silence; “Thanks for meeting with me, Rufus, and for the consideration.” He then turned to Tonks and held out his hand; “It was good to see you, Tonks.”
“Yeh,” Tonks garbled out as she tried and failed to keep a professional manner. She met her hand with his and gave him a firm handshake, before spinning on her heel and heading back to her office. Tripping over her large boots, she stumbled through the frame before slamming the door shut.
Sirius would be thrilled when Remus told him all about her latest blunder; she grimaced as she replayed the interaction in her head. She had only tripped once, so that was a bit of an improvement—and she hadn’t fallen! Big improvement.
She couldn’t deny the feelings in the pit of her stomach that she had been having since the kiss. Even if the thought of her embarrassed misperception made her cringe every time, the way he had given a small, half-second smile before the shock sank in was enough to make her stomach tingle. He probably didn’t even notice he did it, she thought to herself. But it had been there. And if he wanted to believe he didn’t mean anything by the ‘I like the red’—he’d be lying. He was intelligent, and so kind— How he was friends with Sirius, Tonks wasn’t sure.
They hadn’t discussed the matter since. She hadn’t really figured they would talk about it that night, so the anxiety of the meeting tonight was creeping up on her as she continued to dig through the papers on her desk.
She caught sight of the crimson curls she had chosen for the day in the mirror as she leaned forward. Sitting back up, she turned in her chair and scrunched up her nose at them. They had looked alright in the dimly lit mirror of her bathroom, but in the artificial fluorescent light of the Ministry they looked right dreadful. She scrunched up her nose and thought for a moment, before imitating the deep chestnut color of her tiny office’s door. Catching the green she had chosen for her eyes, it no longer matched so she set out to change those too. Opening them wide, she watched as flecks of brown filled them into a hazel color. She twitched her nose, adding a few flecks of amber before she was looking into replicas of Remus’ eyes. Giving a satisfied smirk to the mirror, she continued to dig through the mountain of papers on her desk to find those damn reports.
For nearly failing the ‘Stealth and Tracking’ portion of the initial Auror examinations, Tonks was proud at how effectively she had managed to avoid talking to Remus that afternoon. She managed to avoid any glances at lunch by filling the farm animal requests of Ginny and Ron Weasley. She had to give some credit to the fact that Remus seemed to be spending most of his time off in one of the many rooms of the Black house talking to Sirius, but she only had the meeting left to get through before she could head home to safety.
“Tonks, do you have a minute?”
She was quickly reminded why she had almost failed ‘Stealth and Tracking’ as she turned around.
“Remus! I didn’t know you were here today!” she tried and failed to act surprised.
He was nice enough to ignore the fact that they had exchanged hellos when they first arrived, and had sat at the same lunch table that afternoon to explain; “Yes, well, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me soon. With things falling through at the Ministry today I’ve decided to give in to Sirius’ persistent badgering to move here with him.” His tone was full of detest as he snuck a glance down to the old curtains covering up the portrait of Walburga Black.
“Well, at least she’ll have someone to wail on besides me.” Tonks smiled as she tried to lighten up the mood.
Remus gave her his small, crooked smirk and said, “I think Sirius still gets it the worst.” Gesturing down the hall he added, “Meeting’s about to start, shall we?”
Once they arrived in the meeting room, Tonks couldn’t help but smile to herself as she accepted the chair Remus pulled out for her. Her stomach jumped a bit as he took the seat next to her, opposite Sirius. Ignoring her cousin’s suggestive glances, both of them listened intently to Moody’s introduction.
Sirius was in the greatest mood in a long time at the meeting. His moody whining had been getting old, and Tonks had to assume it was because his childhood friend would be moving in that it was brighter. This way, when Harry left for Hogwarts – pending his innocent sentencing – he’d have someone to spend his time with.
That was, of course, if Harry was allowed to go back to Hogwarts. As much as Remus tried to explain to The Order over the next few meetings that the law was on Harry’s side and he had nothing to worry about, Tonks was still nervous for him. She was at the Ministry every day; she herself could see how things were altering since the return of You-Know-Who. At this point she knew keeping her head down and sitting at her desk pretending to file paperwork was the best option. With weekly inspections of the Auror Department from Dolores Umbridge and Percy Weasley, she knew the Minister was getting suspicious of her and her fellow Auror’s involvement of ‘Dumbledore’s secret army’.
Over the next few days the Order meetings hardly varied. They would start with Mad-Eye’s introductions and assignments of who would be on guard in the Department of Mysteries that week, and follow up with different members presenting any news or changes in allegiances or laws.
Tonks’ afternoons away from the Ministry were spent more and more frequently at the Black house. As much as Sirius felt the need to bicker constantly with Molly about everything in Harry’s life, she had taken a liking to her. She even took the step to volunteering to help with the cleaning and cooking to have a female figure to befriend.
Okay, so part of it may have had to do with the fact that Remus had officially moved in to Grimmauld Place, and she may have wanted to seem not so much of a klutz, and more helpful in his eyes. Though the pair hadn’t discussed Tonks’ accidental belief of Sirius’ joke, they were slowly rebuilding an acquaintance as they spent more and more time together. His moving in had provided for extra work though, as Sirius finally agreed to clean out one of the upstairs bathrooms because of another permanent tenant.
Molly had left for the Burrow that day; she said she needed to bring more clothes for her kids but Tonks suspected she needed a few hours of alone time from the business of the Order meetings. Leaving Tonks in charge, she dictated that she’d like the bathroom cleaned out by the time she got back.
“Now then,” she looked from Harry to Ron to Ginny – Hermione was downstairs getting the twins and Sirius in order to clean one of the many bedrooms – “Ginny, you and Harry can work on…” she paused as she snuck a peek into the bathroom. It was dark, so she waved her wand to turn on the light and instantly tried to fight back the bile forming in the back of her throat. It looked as if someone had a fit or something, and defecated all over the walls… the floors… and even the tub. “You guys work on the floor and the sink.” She paused to suppress a wretch in her stomach as she turned to Ron, “We’ll work on the wallpaper and the other fixtures.”
Tonks lead the task force into the grungy old bathroom, holding out her wand and pretending to look brave and unphased by the nightmarish looking mess. She jumped a little as she thought she saw the toilet lid lift, but as it stayed still she shook it off and turned towards Ron.
“Since you can’t use magic, start with the clippers at the wallpaper; it should help with the smell. Get it in the bin and I’ll vanish it.
“Yeah, alright,” Ron nodded and grabbed for an old pair of scissors to start pulling down the stained flowery wallpaper.
She snuck a peek back behind her; Harry and Ginny were laughing as they took turns scrubbing at the floor. Tonks couldn’t help but smile when she noticed Ginny with the smallest blush.
The clunking of the toilet lid happened again, this time every one of them heard it and shot to their feet. Once she tore her eyes away from the now still toilet, she realized that Harry, Ginny and Ron had all flocked behind her to hide.
“You guys are Gryffindors!” she pointed out with a laugh, “I’m a Hufflepuff! Why am I leading this army?”
None of them answered as the toilet started to shake violently. Unconsciously she backed away and nearly plowed over Ginny as the lid started to open.
“We can’t use magic!” Ginny shoved Tonks forward by herself.
“It’s… It’s just a toilet!” She tried to sound confident as she took a step forward now that the toilet had stilled again. When she finally was in arm’s length, she slowly reached forward and lifted the seat—
“URRAGH!” Something green and angry looking flew out of the toilet. She only managed to hear Ginny scream (or was it Ron?) for a second until it and wrapped itself around Tonks’ head. In a moment of stupidity, she dropped her wand to try to pull the thing off of her.
“Ginny! Ron! Harry!” she shouted for help as the three teenagers stood in shock. Harry seemed to be panicking as he moved forward to help her, but Ron and Ginny had started to laugh.
“It’s just a Ghoul!” Ron squeaked out between laughs, “They’re harmless, Tonks!”
As the thing on top of her head began to dig through her violet hair and smelly, musky water dripped down her forehead, she turned to Harry and pleaded.
“Help me!” She shouted as she reached up again. Grabbing the Ghoul’s slimy flesh by what she thought was the middle, she yanked again and whimpered when it held on tightly to her hair.
“Tonks!” Ron interrupted her and started to laugh, “It likes the purple!”
She restrained herself from cursing at him as she continued to pull at its middle. Harry, still looking concerned, finally snapped out of his trance and rushed over to help her. It seemed if Harry was the trick; at the notice of his mop of black hair the Ghoul finally let go of Tonks’ hair and jumped off of her. It made a beeline for the door, straight in between Ron and Ginny.
“Stop him!” Tonks shouted for Ron and Ginny to grab for it, but the Ghoul was too slimy and too quick. It slipped through their fingers and continued out the hall.
Ginny and Ron finally stopped laughing as a crack came from down the hall, immediately followed by a soft thud.
Harry was the first one out the door. “Professor Lupin! Thanks for that.”
Tonks cursed to herself as she looked frantically around the room for her wand. Catching sight of herself in the dirty mirror, she winced as she noticed the murky toilet water was still slicked through her hair. She was sure she smelled as bad as she looked and needed to change that if she wanted Remus to take her at all seriously.
If it wasn’t for the fact that she could practically see the cartoon stench lines flowing off of her, she could have had the chance to be happy he was looking for her. Instead she spun away from the door, frantically trying to find where her wand had fallen in the commotion.
She scrunched up her nose as she spotted it. Covered in the same sloppy mess as her hair, it had somehow rolled across the floor and landed itself in one of the slop spots the Ghoul had caused. Wincing, she bent down to pick it out of the mess.
She whirled around to Remus’ voice as her wand cleaned itself off and doing so, missed her footing. As she slipped in another wet spot and fell into the dirty bathtub, she sighed to herself as she met eye contact with Remus. Luck really wasn’t on her side.