Chapter 5 : Crossing the Bar
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It didn’t help my plan that Sirius decided to join us in escorting Harry and the others to Kings Cross. I left with Ginny, Fred and George so I wasn’t aware that he left Grimmauld Place until we saw him on the platform. I was beside myself, as was Molly. He was going to get caught than half of the Order would be in hot water. Tonks and Kingsley were supposed to catch Sirius, not dine with him at his place and conspire against Voldemort with him - they would at best lose their jobs but the most plausible result would be a cell in Azkaban. I tried my best to put on an amicable face when I said my goodbyes, but the moment the train whipped out of sight, I had Sirius by the scruff of his neck.
“What were you thinking?” I hissed at him. “You could have been caught, got the whole Order in trouble. Tonks and Kingsley would lose their jobs. The Weasleys… they’d get hauled in too.”
Sirius was growling at me, contempt at being told off was clear behind his eyes. I glanced back at the platform and saw Tonks transform from her old lady disguise. In the midst of my boiling anger I noticed that Tonks had been just as beautiful in her disguise as she usually was. I also noticed that she was talking to Moody which deflated the vague plans of asking her out for lunch – as did escorting Sirius back to Grimmauld Place.
When we got back to Grimmauld Place, Sirius changed back into his human form with a foul look on his face. He was seething with anger from my whispered admonitions our entire way home. We didn’t yell at one another, but our eyes conveyed anger with one another. After a few moments of intensity, Sirius broke the silence.
“I’m going to visit Buckbeak,” Sirius said with a snarl and a grimace passed over my face, quite disconnected with his hippogriff. When Sirius mentioned visiting him, it usually meant he was going to read magazines of adult content. I settled into the study thinking of some jinxes I could use while he was in the act of whatever he was up to. Sirius was upstairs for a few hours, which was mildly alarming when I thought about it.
Sirius was quite relaxed when he came into the study. “I hope you washed your hands,” I muttered with a cringe as Sirius plopped onto a nearby chair.
“I was reading,” he said in a dignified voice. I was going to say that a book never put that kind of smirk on his face, but Kingsley came tearing into the house, causing the retort to die in my mouth.
Kingsley was the type of man who could look calm while juggling flaming firewhiskey bottles with a crowd of chimeras at his feet. So, the sight of him looking peeved, if not slightly stressed was quite alarming.
“You were spotted,” he said without preamble. His low rumbling voice was brimming with constrained anger. “Malfoy connected the dots and reported your presence at the station.” Sirius’ eyes opened wide in surprise. The look, one I had seen many times, told me that he had not thought his actions through. When he set out that day, his mind was not on the array of consequences. No, his mind was set on having a laugh not on the ramifications.
“Is there anything we can do to counter his claim?” I asked feeling a rush of guilt for my anger with Sirius. “What if he was spotted in Egypt?” I suggested rashly.
As angry I had been at him for putting so much at risk, I couldn’t remain mad with him for too long especially not with his panicked look of a lark gone wrong. I was accustomed to bailing him out in his moments of thrill seeking, unable count the number of times he went out on a late night adventure without realizing there would be danger or how many hearts he broke without knowing he had done any such thing. I felt obligated to find him a way out of this mess. Sirius helped me in ways that he would never require assistance - always being there for me after the full moon had its way with me. Sirius was there when I was down on my luck and hopeless.
With a shake of Kingsley’s head, I realized that Sirius was condemned to house arrest until his name was cleared. Sirius took his sentence with the aristocratic elegance, growling as he threw a book across the room breaking a vase. Kingsley was taken aback by his display of raw emotion. I moved towards him vying to establish eye contact. When our eyes met, he lunged at me and hugged me aggressively. I could feel his sobs against my shoulder.
“It’ll be alright, Padfoot,” I said softly holding him in a tender embrace. There weren’t tears falling from his eyes but his dry sobs were full of bitter anguish. This was a side of Sirius that few saw, but I had grown to understand.
“I’ll see you two later.” Kingsley looked uncomfortable with the high emotions running through the room. He turned away and walked towards the door before pausing to say, “Don’t worry, it just means that Tonks will be spending a lot of time in London.”
Kreacher’s head poked around the corner after Kingsley left. He was muttering something about Sirius being an overgrown nancy of a blood-traitor. Losing his temper with Kreacher helped Sirius perk up a bit.
We didn’t see much of Tonks the next few weeks, which put a damper in my bridging the canyon plan. I felt like I was about to leap from one side without really knowing there was a place to land. What if my canyon was really just an abyss to fall down?
Tonks showed up at my place on the full moon, despite her infrequent visits to Grimmauld Place. She had told me that she would be there every month which I didn’t tell Sirius but that was a reason for me to go to my place instead of remaining with him. I knew it was selfish… but I was determined to spend time with Tonks, even as a wolf. Even when we had a row about me going back to my house, I didn’t tell him about Tonks’ plans to visit me for every transformation, thinking it would only add fuel to the fire.
This was one of the few transformations in my life for which I was excited. The other ones were the months after my friends first became animagi for me. I was only exited for the first ones because soon after that an uneasy anxiety set in with the risk we took each month. I felt like a bad person for wanting this.
She was only spending time with me out of pity- and I was milking it for everything I could. I was succumbing to a furtive desire.
My pity theory was confirmed when Tonks came over during the night. She appeared to be cheery and was quite loquacious, but I could sense she was holding something back. I could smell something strikingly close to fear on her breath as she talked about work and some of her late-night musings from duty spent outside of the Department of Mysteries. I felt like I was getting the kind of insight on Tonks that a person only gains from lots of ferreting about or reading one’s diary. She talked nearly the entire time she was awake. I didn’t have to work so hard this time to fight off the wolf with her there - it was almost as if she was my anti-wolf shield.
The next morning she was cuddled against me. I remembered to be modest and got up with more grace than I managed the time before and was in pajamas before she woke up.
With a grand stretch, Tonks draped an arm over my chest. “Looks like I missed the show this morning,” she said sleepily. “You’re already dressed.”
I wanted to make a joke about some sort of reverse striptease but instead said, “You could always catch cartoons on the telly… if you hurry to a house with one.”
Tonks pursed her lips for a moment. “You are a brat,” she told me with a smile breaking through the words. She didn’t linger long after that and I couldn’t find it in me to ask her to stay. Not after she gave up a free evening for me.
Order business kept me away from Grimmauld Place for a few days. When I returned, I was disappointed to hear I missed a visit from Tonks and a letter from Harry. Well, I wasn’t upset about the letter as I could read it, but Sirius talked to Harry using Floo Powder. I only scolded him for a few minutes before asking how Harry was holding up. It turned out he wasn’t doing extremely well. Dolores Umbridge was making his life difficult and he couldn’t help but notice Hagrid was missing. Sirius told me about Tonks’ visit with a keen eye observing my reactions – I was unsure if it was jealousy or curiosity on his face at my elation when Sirius mentioned she might come by more often. Naturally, he covered whatever he was really feeling with teasing and sarcasm.
True to Sirius’ word, Tonks did come by more often after that. Almost daily, actually. Her renewed presence at Grimmauld Place marked what I refer to as, ‘The Underhanded and Overexposed Prank War of 1995.’
People never take me for a mischievous person – if someone puts salt in the sugar bowl, the finger of accusation rarely comes my way, even if I’m the perpetrator. When I was younger I found it bothersome to be underestimated in the realm of mischief-making, but as I aged and managed to evade detention and other such punishments, my meek and mild behavior was the greatest asset in ruckus rousing. People, even my closest friends, took my quiet observations and suggestions to heart without realizing I had a scheme going on. I didn’t abuse this trust people put in me, but I did occasionally play with it. Such an occasion came up when Tonks came into the study one evening with a mortified expression on her face.
I opened my mouth to inquire about it when she said, “Sirius really needs a hobby. I went up to his room to see if he had notes from the last meeting and he was,” she paused, lowering her voice and said, “beating the bludger! I thought he was up there spending time with the hippogriff!”
Sitting up a bit, I felt slightly embarrassed that she walked in on that. “He usually says that as a euphemism. I think he started saying that this summer so Harry wouldn’t know his true pastime when bored or frustration.” I paused for a moment, a horribly brilliant idea flittered across my mind. “He’s been obsessed with this adult magazine for months. I think he likes one of the writers in it.” Tonks rolled her eyes. “Well, the pictures too,” I added with a grin. “You know, I think it’s having a negative impact on him but it’s his one point of happiness.” I wore a concerned look on my face as I finished the sentence, careful to keep my voice light and conversational. Subtlety would make or break my plan.
Tonks’ face formed a mischievous smile as she formed the thought I was going for. “Where does he keep his stash?” she asked nonchalantly, the attempt at coyness was quite endearing.
I fidgeted with my hair for a moment, trying to appear at odds with myself. “Well… Last time I walked in on him, he was stuffing it back into the drawer of his nightstand. You’re not going to… I mean, his lives for those magazines.” Tonks gave a charming smile that bore a striking resemblance to Sirius and said she was only curious.
Sirius must have taken a break from his recreational activity. It took him a good three days after Tonks stole upstairs in the middle of a meeting for him to say anything about his magazines. Tonks was on duty the night he finally broke down and informed me of his loss. He was a bit peaky and seemed quite strained for a man with not much going on in his daily life.
“I might have to actually murder someone,” he said, glaring at my shoulder. “They’re gone.”
I raised my brow to show confusion at his statement. “Your marbles have been gone for quite a while. Are you just now missing them?” I loved playing thick when I knew exactly what he meant, but catching on too quickly would be a giveaway.
Sirius gave me a rare stern look. “I mean my magazines. Tonks took them.” Sirius dug into his pocket and showed me a note. Find a new hobby was all it said. I recognized the handwriting from the note Tonks sent me a month beforehand. “She replaced them with some trash on gardening and spells to prevent dry rot. Even worse, she made the cover and first few pages look normal.”
Taking a moment to marvel the planning Tonks put into her pranking, I admired how clever and unusually stealthy she was as she only missed five, maybe ten minutes of the meeting during which she got up with a wink and returned with a smirk.
“That’s quite… uh, odd,” I said trying to sound as if her knowing about his collection was news. Sirius blushed – such a rare occurrence that I should have taken a picture, but I thought that’d put a dent in my scheming.
“She walkedinonme a bit back.” Sirius’ flushed face wasn’t looking at me. It wasn’t the first time someone entered a room to find him doing something sexual, having walked in on him with other people several times through the end of our relationship and numerous times in school before we were a couple. It was new to find him acting alone in potentially compromising situations.
I made a sympathetic face. “That’s… awkward,” I muttered. “Bet she was a tad upset.” Sirius looked over at me, a torn expression on his face.
“She left before I realized she was there. I did her say ‘oh gross’ as she left. I guess she went home or something after that, though, I figured she’d march down here and tell you about it.” I shook my head feeling a twinge of guilt for my white lie. “I really miss those magazines,” Sirius said listlessly.
“You are better off without them,” I said conversationally. “I don’t see the allure.” Sirius cast me a dark look, spurring me on. “Well, I don’t. You go on about them and all, but it’s just not my cup of tea.” The thought of tea brought another twisted thought into my head and I held back a smile.
Sirius sighed, his attention wasn’t on me or what my face was doing. “It’s that toomanycurls. Her stories…” He let out a grunt of what I took to be lustful approval. This was a new development - I had suspected that he was into the stories, perhaps even one of the writers, but this person didn’t even use their real name!
I laughed mirthlessly. “How do you even know it’s a real person? It could be a group of people under one name.” Siruis’ face twisted in disgust. “Or, worse, they could be completely hideous. You never know with these types.” Siruis, who was out of dirty looks, did a rather rude hand gesture. I let my idle laughter die down before saying, “Are you going to mention this to Tonks?”
Sirius shook his head. “How would that sound? ‘Alright, hand over the magazines and no one gets hurt.’” He was doing his best Auror impression and it sounded like a mix of cowboy and Moody’s growl. I left the subject alone for the rest of the day, wanting to keep my hand in this undetectable for the time being.
My tea idea came back to me a few days later at breakfast. I was able to start up the conversation without preamble as I usually mentioned Tonks at strange intervals.
So when I said, “Tonks doesn’t ever make her own tea.” Sirius merely raised his eyebrows as if to say ‘so what?’ “She never even looks to see if there’s cream or sugar in it - she could ingest something foul and not realize it till much later.”
I could see some cogs working behind Sirius’ eyes. With my initial work done, I to my toast and kippers. I looked up a few minutes later and saw a glint in Sirius’ eyes and pulled a bottle of ink out of my pocket and slid it across the table.
“There are some lines a person should never cross,” I said benignly. “And when they do, some repercussion is in order.” I glanced at the clock, saying, “Got to head to work.”
Sirius’ capabilities as an elaborate prankster did not disappoint. Tonks didn’t have duty that night so we figured she’d turn up as she always made excuses for hanging around. Usually Tonks claimed she would go through social withdrawals if she didn’t have people to be around. I didn’t mind in the slightest - it caused a hopeful bubble to form in my chest and this time I wasn’t going to pop it. Sirius had a nice spread for dinner that night. He usually had Kreacher put together nice but simple meals but tonight was almost a feast. When we inquired about the occasion, he said he wanted to try something fancier and live up to his Black name. Knowing what he had in mind, I found the play on words to be brilliant.
The meal was quite spectacular. I could tell that he really wanted to lower Tonks’ defenses. She had been slightly guarded around him since she nicked his entertainment but Sirius was smart enough to abstain from pranking during the meal. We all chatted amicably while eating. Tonks showed a lot of interest in some of the recent werewolf control legislation. When Sirius served tea a bit later, I eyed mine a bit wearily before taking a sip. It looked like regular tea and sure enough my cup was regular tea.
However, Tonks’ teeth slowly stained a shade of blue you’d find on a trousers with ink spilled on them. Tonks didn’t notice that I avoided her eye during tea. She also didn’t notice anything on a jar that Sirius tossed to her and said, “Show us some of that Auror strength.” Tonks raised an eyebrow and opened it in a jiffy.
“Who taught you to eat?” Sirius asked critically. “You have something here.” He pointed to a place on his cheek. Tonks wiped at the same place on her cheek, causing black smudge to appear. I got up to do the dishes without magic, worried that watching this unfold would incriminate me.
“You didn’t get it.” Sirius said in a long suffering voice. Tonks did a more exaggerated wipe, apparently not concerned with what might be on her face. After a few more ‘no you missed it’ go-arounds Sirius gave up the attempt by which time, Tonks was thoroughly soot-faced.
When Tonks stood up and stretched a few minutes later I saw the other part of Sirius’ prank. He must have been very coy about it, I didn’t hear him cast any spells. The bottoms of Tonks’ shoes were loosely tied together and there were bits of toilet paper stuck to one shoe. I wondered how long she’d go before noticing she looked like she crawled out of the bathroom rubbish bin. Halfway up the stairs, we heard her shriek sounding painfully similar to that of Sirius’ mum.
“Sirius Black you sneak villain!” We heard a few steps then several thuds. I got up and rushed to Tonks’ crumpled form to see Tonks was glaring at me but looked somewhat amused. “You helped.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me into a nuzzling hug. I knew she was only trying to rub some of the gunk onto my face, but she sent tidal waves through my body. “You’ll pay for this, Black.” she said baring her blue teeth. I didn’t think she noticed them in the mirror.
Sirius let out a bark-like laugh. “I might be so kind to let up once I get my reading back,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “Or you’ll have to face the consequences.”
Tonks drew in a deep breath putting her hands on her hips. “I will not give you back those disgusting magazines. I threw them away.” Tonks smiled triumphantly as Sirius’ eyes narrowed in disbelief. Tonks turned on her heel and marched up the stairs with a smirk on her face. I glanced back at Sirius and followed her. “Think he believed me?” she asked in a low whisper.
I chanced a glance towards the staircase which downstairs. “Judging by the look of deep loss, yes.” I gazed into Tonks’ eyes for a few moments. “They’re not gone, are they?”
“No, I kept them. They’re an interesting read, actually.” I worked hard not to laugh. Then I worked even harder trying not to imagine what she did while reading. “I should go though,” Tonks said with a step back from me with a confused look in her eyes.
Tonks turned to go and I grabbed her hand. “You’ll want to check a mirror again.” I cupped her hand in my face and ran my thump across her lips. “Your teeth are blue.” Tonks pursed her lips before saying thanks and going. I turned to go comfort Sirius. I was sure he would be mourning until Tonks returned his treasures. Sirius took his supposed loss in stride, saying could always buy more. I wasn’t listening as he formed vague plans for avenging his pride. I was going over my interlude with Tonks. Minus the dialogue about blue teeth and smut magazines, we shared a rather romantic moment. I felt another surge of hope. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as difficult as I thought to bridge the canyon in my life.
A/N: The chapter title and summary for this chapter are from Crossing the Bar by Lord Alfred Tennyson.
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