Summary: Post-HBP. The Order has gathered. Where is Tonks, and why is everyone worried about her?
Author's Notes: Written for the MetamorFic Moon fic jumble, October 2006.
"Where is she?" Remus ran his hands through his hair for probably the twentieth time in as many minutes, though his fringe kept falling back into his eyes.
"She'll be here, don't worry," Harry replied, looking nervously down the row of books. A few steps away at the windows, Ginny paced back and forth, occasionally leaning into the glass with her hands pressed against the rain-streaked panes, watching the sky for a witch on a broomstick.
Remus and Harry stood between the last two stacks, and now Remus picked up a small textbook and started thumbing through it absently, out of habit. He wasn't even seeing the words on the page. It was deathly quiet here, as school wouldn't begin for another two weeks. Professor McGonagall had agreed to open Hogwarts for the group. It was strange being here now, after so much had changed; but it was the only safe place that was large enough for everyone. Remus' thoughts tumbled over each other as he considered the last few months. Dumbledore was dead. Harry wasn't planning to come back to finish his seventh year. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were trying to talk Harry into letting them help him search for the remaining Horcruxes; but the Weasleys wanted their youngest two to finish Hogwarts. Bill and Fleur had married quietly at the Burrow last month, with less fanfare than they or their families likely had anticipated; but when it was over without a hitch, Remus saw relief in the young man's disfigured face, and Fleur couldn't seem to stop smiling or crying the entire day.
Remus wished Sirius were here now. He'd help his mind stop whirring.
Remus heard hushed voices coming from the opposite side of the library. The old surviving Order members were all here – except Snape, of course – and some new members, as well as Harry's friends. They were all waiting. But where was Tonks?
"You stupid bloody git," Tonks whispered.
She couldn't believe she was standing here in the pouring rain, her plaid rubber Wellingtons making squishing sounds in the mud, trying to bribe a gnome away from her patch of purple delphiniums. She was certainly glad that Remus couldn't see her in this state, with rain dribbling off the hood of her bright yellow rain slicker into her eyes. The basketful of squirming Horklumps was shifting in her arms. She plucked one out and held it out toward the little monster of a gnome, who even now was backing further into the patch and crushing more of the delicate stalks.
"No! No!" Tonks shrieked, waving her arm at the evil gnome. The Horklump in her hand grasped her fingers with its pink tentacles for safety. "Fine, here." She placed the Horklump on the grass, where it quickly set down its tentacles into the ground. It wouldn't have any trouble finding earthworms in this sodden earth. Tonks backed away slowly, waiting.
The gnome merely looked at her.
Merlin, weren't gnomes supposed to be stupid? Why was he looking at her like that? Didn't he want the sodding Horklump? She had gone to great lengths to gather the little buggers this morning from the empty lot at the end of the street, as the gnome had already trampled her daisies and lupines in a matter of minutes after digging under the fence. Remus had left after breakfast and had missed the entire spectacle. If only he were here now; he could have the gnome dizzied and tossed over the fence in no time. But Tonks knew better than to throw a spell anywhere near her flowers; she'd probably fry them. It had taken her mother a lot of effort to help Tonks grow this garden, and by Merlin, she was going to get the flowers she wanted today. But why wouldn't the damned bugger come and get his bloody Horklump?
"Oh, no …" Now the gnome was traipsing through the delphiniums into the phlox. "No, no, no, no, no …"
She placed another Horklump onto the ground next to the first and retreated toward the back steps of her flat.
Remus looked at his pocket watch. Tonks was fifteen minutes late. She was never late. Well, not exactly. She often blustered into Order meetings precisely on time, still tying her shoelaces or struggling into a jacket. But she was never truly late.
He caught Harry staring at him, so he replaced the watch in the pocket of his trousers as nonchalantly as possible.
"She'll be here," Harry said again. It was all he seemed to know how to say.
Visions of Death Eaters invaded Remus' thoughts, and he stubbornly shoved them aside. Not today, he thought. That won't happen today.
"You will not win this fight, you little wanker," Tonks said in a low voice.
There were now seven Horklumps sitting like a row of pink, hairy mushrooms in the middle of her yard. The rain was running into her Wellingtons and her feet were cold. She sneezed, and The Most Intelligent Gnome on Earth scurried toward her sunflowers, rustling into the patch and breaking several of the stalks.
Tonks gritted her teeth and stifled a scream of frustration.
"Fine! Fine! Fine, you bloody evil little shit!" Tonks strode toward the Horklumps and dumped the rest of the basket's contents onto the ground. They all sunk their little tentacles into the grass, their bristly heads bobbing contentedly as they sucked the earth for worms. In no time the little buggers would start to reproduce and spread. She'd lose her garden one way or another. "You win! Happy? You win! I cannot beat you at your own game, you little creep!" The gnome turned its peanut-shaped head and ignored the Horklumps as it gnawed on the head of a fallen sunflower.
Grumbling under her breath, she stormed through the back door of her flat, slamming it behind her.
When she saw the clock on the kitchen counter, she froze.
"No, there was nothing unusual this morning," Remus repeated. He felt sweat beginning to trickle down the center of his back. Merlin, how he wanted to remove his jacket.
"Are you quite certain?" Andromeda Tonks had a way of scrutinizing Remus that reminded him frighteningly of her daughter. They both had that same tilt of the head and narrowing of the eyes that let you know you were in for it if you were lying. So you never did.
"Breakfast as usual, coffee on the run. I haven't seen her since nine o'clock."
"And now it's half twelve."
"Twenty-five past," Remus corrected her, immediately regretting that he had. Andromeda should have been in Magical Law Enforcement. She could stare a confession out of anyone.
"Ted wants to send someone to check on her," Andromeda said curtly, a bolt of worry crossing her fine features for a split second.
"She'll be here," Remus said, echoing Harry's words as he caught the boy's eyes. Harry nodded and glanced at Ginny, who now stood, arms folded, glaring at the grey sky as if she could break the clouds apart with her glance.
Tonks stood at the window of her kitchen, glowering at what clearly must be the King of the Gnomes. The idiot was showing no interest whatsoever in the Horklumps, delighting instead in chewing on Andromeda's jasmine. Her mother would kill her, there was no doubt about it. Not only was the flower patch being destroyed before her very eyes; but today, of all days, when she wanted blossoms from the garden her mother had helped her to cultivate over the past two years, she was being thwarted by a sodding gnome. And it was her own fault that she now had a Horklump problem, as well.
Tonks felt angry tears spring to her eyes. Gnome Chompsky would not win. Not if she could help it.
She flung the door wide, slowly raised her wand, and whispered, "Stupefy."
At once the gnome stumbled, his mouth still full of petals, and fell onto his side in the flower bed, crushing the rest of the jasmine. But the gnome had already done too much damage for Tonks to be worried about a few more blossoms now. She should have done this two hours ago. Stalking over to the gnome, she lifted him by his feet, swung him around several times, and tossed him over the fence.
Remus was now pacing up and down the aisle of books, wishing he could loosen his tie. He spied Andromeda talking animatedly with her husband on the other side of the library, and Ted placing a reassuring hand on her arm. She glanced suspiciously at Remus, not for the first time. And not for the last time, he thought. Remus turned away and approached the windows once more.
"Is that – ?" Ginny wiped away condensation from the window pane and stared out, her forehead against the glass.
"It's Tonks!" Harry exclaimed, grinning at Remus and hurrying over to the dress robes that were hanging at the end of the row. "Come on, come on!"
"Wait," Remus said quietly. He wanted to make certain Tonks was all right.
Ginny opened the tall window, and Tonks swept in, bringing rain and fresh air with her. She stepped off her broom and shook herself, droplets of water splattering the stone floor. From the opposite side of the room, Andromeda sobbed. Remus and Tonks ignored her, their eyes latched on each other.
My Nymphadora, he thought.
She was soaked to the bone in her yellow slicker and rubber boots. In one hand she held a bouquet of purple and white wildflowers from her garden. Her hair, naturally black today, hung limply in her eyes. Her cheeks and nose were red from flying through the cold, wet sky. Her dark, glistening eyes held Remus' and she smiled.
Always more beautiful than yesterday. How is that possible?
"Avert your eyes, Mr. Lupin," Tonks whispered. "Pretend you never saw me."
"Impossible," he smiled, turning his back and allowing Harry to help him into his dress robes.
Remus heard Ginny perform a drying spell, and then another spell to switch her wardrobe from outerwear to the more appropriate item that hung at the end of the next stack of books. When Remus turned around, there was his Nymphadora in a simple ivory gown, fresh flowers in her hair and her bouquet in her hands. He had never seen her look so lovely. Or so happy. He felt a lump in his throat that he couldn't quite swallow away.
"Sorry I was late," Tonks murmured as they stood side by side, preparing to approach their guests and the official who would perform the ceremony. "A battle with a gnome over these very flowers stalled me."
"Glad you wrested them from his clutches," said Remus, unable to take his eyes off her. He registered somewhere in his consciousness that the music was beginning, that they would need to join the others soon. Ted Tonks was now hurrying toward his daughter, offering her his elbow.
"Why on earth are you marrying me?" Tonks asked, face flushed and glistening, her hair smelling of her garden and the flowers she had gathered.
Remus smiled as he brought his lips to her damp ear and whispered into it, "It's a mystery."
A/N: My prompts for the fic jumble were Horklumps, Hogwarts' Library, A Day of Celebration, and Mystery/Suspense. A bit daunting, but I had fun trying to figure out how to weave them all together!
Of course, anyone who reviews gets to enjoy Honeymoon!Remus, as I obviously didn't write that part. ;)