AN: I hate getting sidetracked. I was working on an uber-long, dark Lupin fic when I just had the urge to write a Remus & Tonks story with slight romantic inclinations. Thus, this story. I don't want another long, sprawling fic, so I'm ending it after five chapters. Hopefully it's not too OOC. Enjoy!
Flirting for the Socially Inept
Part I- Clumsy
Nymphadora Tonks prided herself on being a very social person. She enjoyed speaking with others, for not only did it satisfy her burning desire to converse with all types of oddballs, but such conversations always provided the opportunity to test the Muggle psychological ideas her father used to throw at her.
That didn't mean she was adept at interacting with others, though. Tonks, for all her good intentions, was as clumsy with speech as she was with movement. She was continuously mentioning the wrong things at inappropriate moments, and the realization that she was hopeless when it came to polite chitchat only increased her physical gaucherie.
Take last week's Order meeting, for instance: Tonks ranted for five minutes about the evilness of Slytherins before noticing that she stood three feet from Snape, then tripped over a footstool and head butted the Potions Master in the knees; elbowed Kingsley Shaklebolt in the back and mispronounced his mother's occupation (when had "mediwitch" ever become so difficult to say?); and finally, spilled her tea on Remus Lupin's new trousers after joking about the multiple meanings of a "blue moon."
And really, the only person she felt compelled to apologise to was Remus. Repeatedly, sounding somewhat like a broken record: "Oh god, I'm sorry - so sorry - dreadfully sorry - oi, watch out! - oops - sorry - please forgive me - ow - sorry again ... "
Her hair had turned a bright red shade, unconsciously reflecting her embarrassment (well, at least it was better than the dull silver color that appeared whenever she was depressed), and Tonks spent the remainder of the evening sulking in her little bedroom at number twelve, Grimmauld Place. She had her own flat, but tended to spend most of her time at the old Black house; her apartment was just an official residence for Auror purposes, and besides, it was as messy as hell. Order Headquarters was now kept immaculately neat (not just due to Molly Weasley's handiwork - more than once she'd caught Remus cleaning the kitchen when he thought no one was home), and it was ... well, soothing in a screwball way. Biweekly meetings, visitors popping in and out at the most random hours, and a few permanent occupants.
Tonks stretched out on her mismatched couch and paused. Moody didn't really count as a resident at number twelve, Grimmauld Place; he was always patrolling and extolling the virtues of "constant vigilance." Kingsley preferred the comfort of his own home, the Weasley twins thought the house too "public" and spent most of the time at their joke shop, the rest of the Weasleys weren't due to arrive for another two weeks, and Sirius ... Sirius was-
That left just her, and Remus.
She tried to cross her legs, lost her balance, and fell facedown off the sofa. Bloody hell. Crawling towards the door, she eventually managed to stand upright and leaned against the wall. Despite having spent almost eleven months with the Order, Tonks didn't know Remus. Oh, she had talked to the man plenty of times at meetings or dinner, and Sirius had always managed to drag her along to Marauder reminiscing sessions with the never-fulfilled promise of hexing Snape on her birthday.
But she didn't count "official business" or recounts of old pranks as ways to properly acquaint oneself with an intriguing human being ... werewolf ... whatever.
It wasn't her fault, really; Remus wasn't exactly what you could call talkative. Most evenings, he cooked dinner (Molly didn't allow her within seven metres of the kitchen, and Tonks knew it was probably safest for the other people in the house that she wasn't permitted near the food), then retired to the front parlour with another large, old, dull book from the library. He would sit there for hours, on the left side of that ugly tartan sofa (he followed the same routine so precisely that Tonks had it memorized within a week), reading until he either finished or felt too tired to continue, then retreat to his bedroom.
He never initiated conversation, either; if Tonks were to enter, he would keep reading calmly, answer her inquiries in quiet monosyllables, then return to his task.
It was sodding annoying.
Where was Remus Lupin, marauder and troublemaker? The story was still being told of how Remus served four weeks of detention after he charmed all the Slytherin dinnerware to repel food during his sixth year at Hogwarts. And yet here he was, moping silently around the house, reading stupid works of nonfiction, and acting like an overall prick. Tonks had to do something about it.
She stomped down the stairs and stopped in the doorway of the parlour. First things first - before she pushed Remus back on the path of mischief and trickery, she needed to get him to acknowledge her presence.
Tonks cleared her throat loudly and struck an irritated pose.
Remus didn't even blink.
She staggered over to the couch and threw herself in the right corner, sighing dramatically. Remus stirred his soup slowly, turned the next page of his book, and continued to read.
Tonks decided that as long as he eventually put the book up, she could cautiously and conscientiously begin the conversation. "D'you always have to read?"
She stuck her tongue out musingly. "Why?"
"I learn things. It gives me something to do."
Tonks reached for an old Prophet on the coffee table and missed, smacking her head against another footstool. "I'm not saying books are horrid. It's just that they must be amusing and short, or they're not worth the effort."
Remus didn't respond.
"So ... whatcha reading?"
He looked at the spine then went back to his reading. "Egyptian Mythology and the Ancient Wizarding World."
"Oh." She pondered how that could interest anyone, but found no logical reasons for why he was so rapt in his selection. "Are you planning a trip to Egypt?"
Remus frowned. "No."
"Oh. Is Bill going back to Egypt?"
Tonks drummed a not-quite syncopated beat on the armrest. "Then why are you reading it?"
Remus shot her look of utter astonishment. "Because I want to."
"Weird. How is it?"
"My book?" he said slowly.
She smiled. "What else?"
"It's informative, I suppose," Remus stated, looking genuinely puzzled.
"Well, I'm hungry. I haven't eaten anything in forever. If someone would just allow me to make my own lunch ... but oh, no, I'm a danger to others," she whined, focused intently on his face.
"I made soup. It's in the kitchen." He went back to his reading.
Tonks groaned. She needed a new strategy. She concluded that getting the food could grant her enough time to think up a new plan, so she stumbled back out of the parlour and tried to tiptoe past the pictures. Mrs. Black still refused to be taken off the wall, and what the hag termed Sirius's "incompetence" had only magnified her malicious spews.
The lunch wasn't difficult to spot: a bowl of onion soup on a tray, a piece of buttered toast, a spoon, a rather large napkin, and -
The Pink Indestructible Cup.
Tonks hated the P.I.C., as Fred (or was it George?) had fittingly dubbed the vile object. Molly had bought it for her a few weeks back, so she'd stop breaking glassware. Mad-Eye had turned out to be quite good at repairing plates and cups, but once Tonks destroyed them they were never the same, in insignificant little ways that apparently aggravated the Weasley matriarch. The P.I.C. had appeared on the kitchen counter one day, shining in all its rosy, heavily charmed monstrousness. Fred and George had found the child's cup highly amusing, going so far as to write Property of N. Tonks - do not molest on the surface in enchanted acrylic paint - which Tonks had yet to remove.
She crept closer and glared at the offending glass, then moaned. Remus had placed another of Molly's purchases - a sippy top - over the rim, so the P.I.C. was not only unbreakable but now also unspillable. And since the full moon was six days away, it probably contained unsweetened tea - another of her dislikes.
Tonks grabbed the tray carelessly and stalked upstairs towards the front parlour again. Barely missing a footstool, she dropped onto the couch, spilled some of the soup onto the carpet, and started at her meal in stony silence.
Halfway through her soup, she paused and glanced over at Remus. He was still diligently reading, though she noticed that he occasionally glanced over to check her tray's proximity to himself.
"So ... " she said, trying to think up an intelligent query, "Egyptian mythology was based on wizard stuff?"
"Mmm," he said, turning the page.
She persisted. "Like what? Was the god of the underworld really a magical mass murderer?"
He stopped, and studied the coffee table for a few seconds. "Not exactly."
She began to hum one of her favorite Weird Sisters tunes, loudly and off-pitched, and grinned as Remus winced painfully. He examined the table for several moments, then continued. "Egyptian Muggle deities acquired traits of prominent wizards and witches from several millennia ago. For instance, the god of chaos, Set, was believed to have great control over the weather. But according to wizard records, from 5000 years ago, a dark wizard named Setuchepel plagued the city of Thebes with sandstorms for three years."
Tonks rolled her eyes. "How interesting." She stirred her soup casually and tried a different approach. "Which d'you think has a higher probability of occurring this year: the Chudley Cannons winning the British Cup or Bill Weasley cutting his hair?"
"Hmm." Remus ceased reading entirely and stared at the carpet thoughtfully. "If the Cannons get a new Keeper and Seeker, that might be possible. But I don't think Bill will give into Molly's demands any time soon."
She nodded, and took a sip from the P.I.C. Plain, slightly cold tea, without a trace of sugar or milk or honey or anything to detract from the bitter flavor. Tonks made no attempt to hide her disgust and gagged. "Oi, your taste in beverages is awful."
"Thank you," he said.
Was that a smirk?
Shaking with excitement, she pried the top off the P.I.C. and pursued her previous statement. "No, really. Tea only tastes good with large amounts of sweetener."
His attention turned back to the damned book, and she barely restrained herself from swearing in disappointment. "Most people drink it for the caffeine, not because they enjoy it. Besides, Snape said I should avoid sugar with the Potion."
"Snape's a sod," she said frankly, using her wand to spin the P.I.C. slowly on her tray. "He just wants to make everyone else's life miserable. He failed me in Potions twice."
Remus eyed her cup nervously, then returned to his reading. "Yes, but he does know what he's talking about. Sugar and Wolfsbane do not mix well. Chocolate, too, causes ... ill ... effects."
Tonks muttered a levitation spell and watched as the P.I.C. raised a metre and a half above the couch. "Really? Like what?"
"Mood changes. Odd behavioural quirks."
Her soup bowl climbed in the air to join the P.I.C. in a wobbly aerial dance. "I'm guessing you know this from personal experience?"
"Well ... yes. It's a long story." He looked at the twirling dinnerware. "You shouldn't play with your food."
She frowned, and charmed her spoon to join the fray. "I've got it under control."
Remus pursed his lips and began to close his book. "That cup is full of staining tea, and onion soup is very difficult to remove from muslin. Which this couch is made out of."
"Really?" Tonks raised an eyebrow and added her tray to the spinning display. "I hadn't noticed."
He watched the demonstration carefully, his book not shut but still resting in his lap. "I'm just warning you ... "
"Well, thank you, but I do know what I'm doing. Never had a problem in Charms. Professor Flitwick said I had a talent for maintaining several different tasks-"
The front door slammed open, Moody's footsteps sounded in the hallway, Mrs. Black burst forth with venomous energy into a comprehensive description of the ex-Auror's faults - and Tonks completely lost her concentration.
She realized in horror that the P.I.C. and bowl were more orientated towards Remus than herself, but it was too late - her playthings crashed onto the sofa, dousing the man with dark tea and the sticky remains of her soup. She stared aghast at him for several seconds, then burst into hysterical giggles.
Remus blinked, wiping his face with his sleeve and inadvertently creating even more of a mess. His jumper was in a fairly sorry condition, and the book dripped brown liquid into the carpet, obviously ruined. He stood slowly, then - amazingly - smiled.
"Thank you, Tonks. And how has your day been?"