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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 60 : Interruptions
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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Florence appeared about midway through training - Savage had just started on the blood ward focused part of his lecture – looking tired, and rather unwell. She was paler than usual, had a cut on her cheek and her arm was in a sling. She was immediately descended upon by Finch, and Ben hurried over to join them. Florence hugged him, and spotted Tonks. She waved, and Tonks waved back, and that was all they had time for before Finch ushered her back up the stairs; presumably she had questions that needed answers.

Tonks watched them leave, as guilt and worry gnawed on her insides, and tried to sort out what she was going to do. She was due to meet Mad-Eye in less than ten minutes, and she still have no idea what to say to him. It was her job to catch people that did the wrong thing – and Florence, technically, had – but Tonks didn’t feel right just turning one of her best friends over to the Ministry.

I’ll say nothing, she decided. Not for another day or two. Not until I can be sure that whatever decision I make is the right – or least wrong – one.

*                     *                    *

Sirius’ second trial was nowhere near as eventful as the first one. It happened three days after June’s full moon – when Remus was entirely recovered – and it was a very quiet affair, with just Fudge, Amelia, Rattler and Umbridge there on the Ministry’s behalf, and only Sirius, Remus and Harry there for their side.

The whole thing took half an hour, at the end of which, Sirius had managed to argue Remus’ way out of several prison terms and a fine – Umbridge’s prejudice against werewolves was shining through, and Sirius thought he wanted to strangle the woman as much as Remus, who kept flexing his hands – and Sirius himself had given in with rather ill grace and let them issue him a large fine for being an illegal Animagus.

“I did technically break the law,” he complained, as he, Remus and Harry made their way to Level Two so that he could register, “but you’d think that my time in Azkaban would negate the need for a bloody fine!”

“It’s not like you can’t afford it,” Harry chimed, and Sirius pulled a face at him. Harry pulled one back, and then pressed himself a little closer to Sirius’ side and nervously tried to flatten his fringe; a witch had just entered their lift and promptly dropped the stack of papers she was holding.

“Mmm,” Sirius said, staring back at the woman just as intently as she was staring at them. It took her a moment to notice, and then she smiled nervously, and then she started to look uncomfortable. She got off on the next floor, and Sirius leaned against the side of the lift, feeling rather pleased with himself.

“Git,” Remus said, chuckling.

“Hardly. She deserved it.” Sirius grinned at Remus, who did his best to smother his very obvious smile, and at Harry, who looked amused enough for the moment, but also rather resigned. “But honestly,” Sirius continued, “surely Azkaban makes up for-”

“If this is going to bother you that much,” Remus said tiredly, “then go and challenge them about it.” Sirius toyed with the idea for a few seconds and then shook his head.

“It’s not worth it,” he sighed. Then he grinned at Harry and said, “I reckon we’ve caused enough trouble.”

“Probably,” Harry agreed, laughing. Remus shook his head at the two of them, and stepped out of the lift. Sirius steered Harry out after him, and took the lead through the still-familiar Level Two; a few things had changed, but mostly, it was the same as it had been when Sirius worked as an Auror.

Remus was intercepted by Dora – who was heading off to lunch and greeted them cheerfully, if a little warily – as they crossed the Auror section of the floor, and he left with a sheepish smile and a promise he’d be home in time for dinner.

“He’s oblivious,” Sirius said, nudging Harry, as he smirked at Remus and Dora’s backs.

“To what?” Harry asked, waving tentatively at a pair of Aurors who’d recognised him from guard duty. Sirius chuckled and then shook his head.

“Never mind.” Registering as an Animagus was about as fun as Sirius had expected it to be – there was a form about three feet long, filled with stupid questions about Padfoot’s appearance and personality – and he was relieved once it was done. Guess the secret’s officially out, isn’t it, Prongs? he thought wryly, and was well able to imagine James snorting and telling him it had been out since the first trial. He smiled to himself as he passed the completed form back to the scruffy witch at the desk, and gestured for Harry to follow. “Do you want to go flying tomorrow?” Sirius asked, as they headed back to the lift. Harry grinned.

“Sounds brilliant,” he said happily. Harry truly had inherited James’ love of flying, but Sirius suspected some of his joy at the prospect was to get out of his Animagus study; he had a tentative grasp on Latin, and so Sirius had helped him move to the next stage, which was trying to come up with an incantation that would allow him to transform. It was easily the most time consuming part of the process – it wasn’t easy to capture an entire personality and physical description in only a few sentences – and it was the part that Sirius expected Harry to struggle most with, purely because it required so much introspection. All he’d managed to do so far was get frustrated. “At Moon-”

Someone cleared their throat behind Sirius and he recognised the sound’s owner and stiffened.

“Harry,” a voice said quietly.

“Hello, sir,” Harry said, with an easy smile and wave. Dumbledore smiled back, and then looked over at Sirius. Sirius’ attempt at looking aloof vanished and was replaced by shock; Dumbledore looked nervous.

“Sirius,” he said carefully.

“Afternoon,” Sirius said, and didn’t offer anything else. Dumbledore opened his mouth, as if he wanted to say something, and then he bowed his head, apparently thinking better of it. Sirius couldn’t decide whether to feel relieved or disappointed.

“Is Remus here with you?” Dumbledore asked finally, clasping his hands in front of him.

“He was,” Sirius said, folding his arms. “Why?”

“I require a word with-”

“He’s gone to get lunch,” Sirius said. Harry glanced between Sirius and Dumbledore and looked a little disconcerted. Sirius sighed, realising he probably looked like a bit of a prat glaring at his old headmaster, and unfolded his arms. He put a hand on Harry’s shoulder instead, and Harry smiled, but still looked concerned.  “No idea how long he’ll be.” Dumbledore looked disappointed, and Sirius felt something inside him shrivel. He still hated that look, and the way it made him feel. He groaned. “He’ll be living in his cottage again as of tomorrow, though,” Sirius said. “I don’t know if that helps, but-”

“It helps, dear boy,” Dumbledore said, beaming. Sirius wasn’t sure if he was happy to have an answer, or if he was happy that Sirius had offered the information. He thought it was the latter... well, he hoped it was. And then he cursed himself for thinking that way, because he was still angry...  except he wasn’t; he just thought he should be.

*                      *                       *

“Sarah and Ethan, you said?” Remus asked, and Dumbledore nodded and passed him a cup of tea. Remus groaned, and kneaded his forehead.

“You know them, I take it?” Dumbledore asked, stirring sugar into his own tea.

“Sarah usually goes by a different name,” Remus said. Greentooth. He sighed. “But yes, I know her. And Ethan too, I think.” Based on Dumbledore’s description, Ethan could only be Silverear. “They’re from the camp.”

Dumbledore gave him a searching look and said, “I take it you and she are on rather poor terms.”

“Something like that,” Remus sighed.

“I found her a little troubling,” Dumbledore admitted. “She’s not at Tom Riddle’s level, but I do have more reservations about her than I do about most of the other students... My main concern is that she could be dangerous.”

“Of course she’s dangerous; she’s a werewolf,” Remus said, taking a sip of tea. “We’re not exactly cuddly.”

Dumbledore chuckled, but sobered quickly. “Usually, I would give her a chance without hesitation, the way I did for you, but due to her self confessed affection for her ‘father’, I felt it would be wiser to ask for your opinion. I wish to help them, of course, but if they will prove dangerous to other students because of their upbringing...”

Remus wasn’t sure what to say; if what Dumbledore had said was true, then Greentooth and Silverear were coming to Hogwarts to try to give themselves a chance at a reasonably normal wizarding life. He didn’t like them, but they were only children and deserved a chance to have a fresh start... didn’t they?

“Give them a chance,” Remus sighed, after a moment of thought. “One chance.” He hoped, for their sakes, that they’d make the best of it.

“Very well,” Dumbledore said. Remus relaxed a little. “Thank you for your insight.” Remus drained his cup and stood. “Actually,” Dumbledore said worriedly, “I was wondering if I might be able to have a bit your time... it’s about Sirius.”

“What about him?” Remus asked flatly, but Dumbledore shook his head.

“I- He...” Dumbledore sighed. “Is he happy?”

“Reasonably,” Remus said.

“And safe? Him and Harry both?”

“Yes, they’re both safe,” Remus assured him. And then, because – while it had worked out for the best – he was still annoyed at Sirius for abandoning him to Dora after the moon, added, “They’re living in Sirius’ parents’ old house, and the wards on that-”

“Yes, it is,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “I thought it might rain all through the summer.”

“Pardon?”

“I said-”

“Yes, I heard that,” Remus said impatiently, “but it’s a bit of a sudden conversation change.”

“How so?”

“Well, I said they’re staying at Sirius’ old house-”

“Yes, and then I agreed and said it is indeed a nice day today.”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit off topic?”

“Dear boy, I agreed with you.”

“I didn’t say anything that needed to be agreed with.”

“Pardon?” Dumbledore asked.

“I told you where they were living and you told me about it raining in the summer.”

“You told me the weather was nice today,” Dumbledore said, smiling faintly.

“I didn’t. I said they’re living in Sirius’ old house.”

“You’re contradicting yourself, Remus.”

Remus sighed, frustrated. “They’re living at Grimmauld Place.”

“I am aware your owl is named Strix,” Dumbledore said, frowning slightly. “What does he have to do with Sirius or the weather, though?”

“Why are we talking about my owl?” Remus asked, startled into laughter.

“You brought it up,” Dumbledore said.

“Sirius and Harry are living at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place,” Remus said, reasonably confident now that those words wouldn’t come out, for some strange reason.

“Yes, I suppose I can arrange to have biscuits brought up,” Dumbledore said. “Just give me a-”

“Biscuits?!” Remus muttered. “I don’t want biscuits!”

“Then why did you ask?” Dumbledore said.

“Sirius,” Remus said slowly. “Is. Living. At. Nostril- Wait, what?”

“Nostril?”

“No,” Remus took a deep breath. “They’re living at. Num. Ber. Tweezers- No, sorry, Toothpaste- NO! Twilight- No! The number after elephant. NO!”

Dumbledore seemed to be enjoying himself. “Do you know, perhaps, whether there are any security charms on Sirius’ home?”

“Hundreds,” Remus said. “I suspect that’s what this is; the Fidelius Charm... if that doesn’t answer your question about safety, I don’t know what will.” Damn you, Padfoot, he thought, amused.

“At the very least we know they’re well protected.” Then, looking wary again, Dumbledore said, “Tell me, Remus, is possible I could write them a letter?”

“Of course, sir,” Remus said. “But maybe... I could invite him here,” he offered. It was probably some sort of reconciliation that Dumbledore had in mind, and Sirius would be a hypocrite not to make an appearance, when he’d forced Remus to do the same thing only a few days ago. “I think he and Harry were just hanging around the house today.”

Dumbledore’s beamed. “Feel free to use the fireplace.”

Remus tossed a handful of Floo Powder into Dumbldore’s fireplace, knelt down and said, “Numbat Toucan, Garden Prosperity.”

“It is a very good thing you’re merely attempting to firecall and not travel. The delightful owners of Garden Prosperity would have been in for quite a surprise,” Dumbledore said. “Perhaps I should leave the room.”

“Yes, please,” Remus said, red-faced.

*                     *                     *

“Speak very, very clearly,” Padfoot said, looking nervous, and a bit annoyed; Remus had Flooed them a few minutes ago, said something about Dumbledore and something about Tonks and Padfoot being a hypocrite, and now apparently they were off to Hogwarts. “And you can go first, just in case.”

Harry stepped into the green flames. “Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts,” he said. The fire whooshed around him and he saw bricks rushing past his face and there was soot in his eyes and green, lots of green, and he hit his elbow again, and his glasses were slipping and then he skidded out onto soft carpet.

“Hello, Harry,” Moony said, helping him up.

“Hi,” Harry said. “Hello, Professor Dumbledore.”

“Hello, Harry.”

“P-Sirius is on his way,” Harry said, glancing around the large, circular room. There were bookshelves spreading around the walls of the office, and above and between those were portraits of witches and wizards. Harry crossed the room to inspect a table of strange, silver instruments, most of which were whirring quietly, or flashing, or emitting little puffs of smoke. He didn’t dare touch them. Behind Dumbledore’s desk was a ragged old hat that Harry thought looked like it should have been thrown out years ago.

There was a large cabinet off to one side of the room, holding a strange looking bowl, and a soft trilling noise made Harry look towards the office door. Sitting on a golden perch was what could only have been a phoenix; it was the size of a swan with bright, intelligent eyes and vivid red and gold feathers. It trilled again and Harry waved at it before retreating back across the room to stand by Moony who was muttering to himself about gardens, gnomes, parrots and parades. Dumbledore was humming. A minute or so later, the fire flared green again and spat Padfoot out.

“Ah,” he said, spotting Harry, “you made it.” Harry scowled good naturedly. “Morning,” Padfoot said to Dumbledore and Moony.

“Good morning, Sirius,” Dumbledore said. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Padfoot said, shrugging. He glowered at Moony, who looked smug.

“I hope I’m not disrupting any plans,” Dumbledore said, and Harry thought he almost sounded shy.

“We were going to go for a walk,” Padfoot said, shrugging. “Have a game of fetch.... Nothing we can’t do later.” His voice was very polite.

“As a dog?” Dumbledore asked, looking amused.

“Sure,” Padfoot said.

“None of us ever picked that,” Dumbledore murmured to himself.

“Picked what?” Harry asked. Dumbledore turned to him, eyes twinkling.

“I’m getting sidetracked, I’m afraid,” he said. “Thinking about Padfoot, actually; when the names came about - sometime in third year, I believe-” Moony and Padfoot nodded. “-the staff began taking bets on what the names were for.”

“Did they really?!” Moony exclaimed, laughing. Dumbledore inclined his head.

“No wonder old Minnie was so insistent about trying to work it out,” Padfoot said, looking amused; the amount of tension in the room had lightened considerably. “She set our progress back weeks because we were so paranoid!”

“She’d be delighted to hear it, I’m sure,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “The record of everyone’s wagers adorned the staff room for quite some time, though I haven’t the faintest clue where it’s ended up.”

“Five galleons on Minnie,” Padfoot said, grinning. Then he seemed to recover his strange mood and sobered. Moony glanced between them, caught Harry’s eye and then nodded at the office door. Harry nodded and the pair of them excused themselves.

“Best to let them sort things out on their own,” Moony said, leading Harry down a staircase. They found themselves in a corridor – one girl in blue robes walked past and gave them curious looks, thought thankfully didn’t look close enough to recognise Harry – sitting on a stone bench beside a large window that overlooked the Hogwarts grounds. Harry was going to miss Padfoot and Moony and Kreacher when he moved to Hogwarts next year, but it certainly seemed like a nice place to live, especially when it was lit up by the summer sun.

“See that tree?” Moony asked. “That’s the-”

“Whomping Willow,” a snide voice finished. Harry stifled a groan and Moony squeezed his eyes shut.

“Snape,” they said together.

“Potter. Lupin.” Snape glanced around, apparently trying to spot Padfoot.

“He’s in Dumbledore’s office,” Moony said; it seemed he’d reached the same conclusion as Harry.

“Of course,” Snape drawled, looking annoyed. “Black always did have the very worst timing.” Snape cast a quick charm to check the time and then scowled and snapped a word at a statue by the wall Harry and Remus had come through earlier.

Moony and Harry talked – with Moony pointing out features of the grounds – for a while longer, at least until raised voices drifted down from the office.

Moony groaned and got to his feet. He didn’t invite Harry, but he didn’t tell him to stay either, so Harry went with him. Moony pushed open the office door to reveal Padfoot and Snape glaring at each other, from a few yards away, and Dumbledore getting to his feet, looking impatient.

“-suspect, Black, it has something to do with a botched murder attempt plot-”

Harry waited, hardly daring to breathe. Moony had also gone very still beside him, and Dumbledore was watching with a guarded expression.

“James saved you and you know it!” Padfoot snapped. He... he didn’t deny it, Harry realised, feeling ill. He did try to kill him! SNape was telling the truth!

“Only to defend you, Black!” Snape spat. “A position his offspring has graciously filled.”

“Don’t bring Harry into this!” Padfoot shouted, getting to his feet.

“Sirius!” Moony said, trying to get Padfoot to sit down.

“You brought Potter into this when you kidnapped him, Black, so don’t you tell me-”

“They treated him like you treated Lily!” Padfoot said. “Like dirt! Like something beneath them!”

“Professor-” Harry said, trying to get Dumbledore’s attention; Snape looked dangerous. He knew how much Padfoot and Snape disliked each other, but for this to have accelerated this quickly... Harry shivered and one of the trinkets on Dumbledore’s desk exploded.

“-father,” Snape was saying.

“I do not keep him around so that I can pretend he’s James!” Padfoot roared, startling Moony. He waved his wand and Snape’s greasy hair turned a vivid pink. Snape snarled and Padfoot sprouted a nasty set of boils on his forehead. Moony was still trying to get himself between them and Dumbledore was trying to calm them down verbally.

Harry, who might ordinarily have found this funny, was close to losing it. Snape - the git - had hexed his godfather, said awful things about both of Harry’s parents and been rude to Harry himself. Padfoot - the bigger git - had started it. Harry had defended Padfoot, said he wasn’t a murderer, and was rewarded with finding out his godfather had actually tried to kill Snape, and then this bout of infantile duelling.

Harry found his magic and flung it out with the intention of getting them both to be quiet. Both were shoved into seats and their voices immediately cut off.

“Harry-” Moony said, releasing Padfoot’s arm, to put a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Don’t,” Harry said shortly, pulling out of the other man’s grip. He just knew he wanted to get out of there, to get home, and so he spun on the spot, his magic lashing out around him, pinning Padfoot again when he tried to get up.

*                      *                    *

Severus stared at the place where the Potter boy had vanished. Several of the silver instruments Dumbledore insisted on keeping were going wild; one was flashing brightly when usually it just pulsed dimly, one - that somewhat resembled a muggle spinning-top - was whizzing around and the one that had kept exploding was still broken, resting in numerous pieces on the table and carpet.

Dumbledore got up, tapped the spinning one once to still it, repaired the emotional-gauge one with a warning look at Severus and Black, as if they might break it again, and picked up the flashing one, murmuring in a strange tongue Severus didn’t understand.

“Fascinating,” he murmured, setting it down again. Black seemed to snap out of his stupor. He waved his hands at Lupin who tapped his shoulder with his wand.

“I have to go,” Black said urgently.

“You’ll stay right where you are.” Dumbledore said firmly. “And if you say another word before I ask you to speak again, I’ll Silence you myself. That goes for you too, Severus.” Severus abandoned all hope of getting out unscathed when he heard the disappointment in the Headmaster’s voice. He nodded, well aware he’d make a fool of himself if he tried to speak; the Potter brat’s Silencing Charm was no doubt still affecting him. Dumbledore was now walking around his desk with his wand raised above his head as he muttered various protective enchantments.

“Sir?” Lupin said, puzzled.

“It would seem,” Dumbledore said, still walking in his circle, “that your behaviour caused Harry enough distress that he was able to remove a section of the wards in his desperation to return home.” Severus’ mouth fell open.

“That’s not possible!” Lupin exclaimed.

“Oh, I assure you it is,” Dumbledore said. He sounded cheerful enough but his eyes were not twinkling even slightly. Typical Potter: No regard for school property. Never mind those wards are in place to protect the students and staff, as soon as they’re inconvenient, he just brushes them aside and does what he pleases... Dumbledore didn’t seem to mind. He wasn’t angry with Potter, anyway, though he did seem annoyed at Black and at Severus. Worse was that Severus felt he might deserve it. But only a bit. And Black deserved it more than he did; the boy was Black’s to care for, not to upset and send into a fit of magical distress.

“He’s nine!” Black said, looking confused, proud and worried all at once.

“And in considerable distress,” Dumbledore said in a steely tone. “He could not do it if he tried and I doubt that he could ever repeat it, but it has happened nonetheless. Alas, accidental magic is often this way; unpredictable, and devastatingly powerful if given half a chance.”

Potter was by no means as strong magically as Dumbledore, but he was still young and he was certainly no average wizard, if Draco’s stories were to be believed. If he could learn to control that power, the Dark Lord would have a valid reason to fear him after all.

The boy had just vanished, after all! Had he had a Portkey Severus hadn’t been aware of? Or perhaps he’d Apparated somehow. That should be impossible - given his age and all of the laws of magic that said one could not Apparate inside the castle - but if he’d torn down the wards then perhaps not..

Curious, Seversu sent a very light Legillimency probe in Black’s direction. It should have merely skimmed the forefront of his mind and perhaps enlightened Severus on whatever it was that had just happened, but something else occurred instead; the probe was thrust back, and knocked into the walls of Severus’ dungeon mind with a mental thud that made him wince.

What in Merlin’s....

“Do you mind?” Black snarled, without as much as a grimace. Dumbledore and Lupin looked between them, confused. Severus merely raised a hand to his temple and scowled at Black, who, it seemed had just blocked him, without even seeming bothered. The man was still staring at the place where Potter had disappeared.

“Sirius-”

“No, sir,” Black snapped. “I’m not a student here anymore, and sure, I’m younger than you are, but I don’t have any obligation to listen to you if I don’t want to. I’m a free man. I’m sorry for what I said today-” Black shifted, looking genuinely apologetic. “-and I’d be more than happy to try to patch up your hurt feelings later.” His eyes landed on Severus at this last. “But if you think that’s coming before Harry, you’re dead wrong, because at the moment, the person that deserves an apology from me the most isn’t here, and I rather think that I need to be where he is.”

Severus made a small, disgusted noise – one meant to goad Black a bit, but Black just gave him a look containing equal parts loathing of Severus, and also of himself.

“I’m amiable to giving you a second chance,” Black said stiffly, looking at Dumbledore. “You’ll have to work for it, but the opportunity is there.” Dumbledore, oddly, looked pleased, as if Black’s opinion of him mattered. “If you need to contact me, send a letter to Remus’ and he’ll make sure I get it.” Black and Lupin exchanged a thoughtful look, and then Lupin nodded. “I’ve got to go. I’ll see you tomorrow, Moony.”

Lupin nodded. “Come around whenever.”

“And Sni-Sna-” Black swallowed loudly, as if utterly repulsed by something. “Severu- Severarse,” he finally managed. Dumbledore didn’t seem to notice the subtle inflection on the final few syllables but Lupin did and sighed.

“Black.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, looking as if he were physically in pain. “I don’t take back anything I did today-” Lupin groaned quietly, massaging his temples. “-but if I could do this afternoon over then maybe I’d have been... er... less enthusiastic with the insults.” Severus merely stared at him, wishing he had the ability to cause people (Black) pain - severe pain - with just his eyes. Black nodded once and walked over to the fire. He whispered and address that Severus didn’t hear – and didn’t need to hear – and was gone.

Lupin made his excuses and left shortly after leaving Severus alone with Dumbledore. “I have essays to mark,” he said, heading for the door.

“Not so quickly, Severus,” the Headmaster said, nodding at the three seats in front of him. Severus sighed and dropped into the one the Potter boy had used. His skin crawled at the very idea but he’d rather sit where the Potter boy had than where Lupin or Black had.

“Say what you need to, then,” Severus said bluntly. “I’m short on time and my patience has long since expired.”

“I had expected more from you.”

“I was provoked,” Severus replied.

“I appreciate that,” Dumbledore said, “but you were hardly a guiltless party. You are a grown man-”

“-as is Black,” Severus said, folding his arms. He refused to feel guilty about what had just transpired.

“Harry Potter is only a boy, and even he thought your behaviour was inappo-”

“Harry Potter is the most spoiled, inconsiderate-”

“You are determined to hate him, Severus,” Dumbledore said gently, “for no reason other than that he exists.”

“No reason?” Severus repeated. “You of all people should understand, Headmaster, that there is no greater reason.”

“Not for you,” Dumbledore sighed. “Remember, though, Severus, that Lily Potter sacrificed her life for her son. She believed that there was something in him, that he would be capable of great-”

“The fact remains, Headmaster, that she died for him,” Severus said curtly. “And that is unforgivable.” He spun on his heel and strode out of the office, relieved Dumbledore did not try to call him back.

*                        *                      *

It was with a heavy heart that she said her goodbyes to Yaxley and trudged up to Mad-Eye’s office. She bit her lip, trying to think of the best way to present her suspicions to her mentor, and knocked.

“I'm busy!” Mad-Eye growled. Tonks let herself in anyway, and Mad-Eye spun in his chair. She cringed; his eye was out and resting in a glass of water on his desk.

“That’s disgusting!” she said, looking away.

“Well good,” he said, ignoring her comment. “You were the person I was about to be busy with - I think I might have found our killer.” Tonks shrugged her rucksack off and left it in the corner.

“You have?” Tonks asked, both afraid - that Mad-Eye had reached the same conclusion as she had - and hopeful that it might be someone else.

“Aislinne Lovegood,” he said, and Tonks blinked.

I was wrong? she wondered, feeling hopeful, but also confused. It made sense, though... all the times she’s been sick, or slept in... though I suppose not all of them were on full moons – last week wasn’t a full moon, after all... Maybe she’s just incredibly unlucky. Maybe she was really kidnapped last night... maybe she didn’t attack herself; maybe she got hurt fighting her way free.  She’d been sure; almost certain, in fact, but Mad-Eye’d been at this job a lot longer than she had, and he knew a likely suspect when he saw one.

And it’s this Lovegood woman, apparently. Not Florence. She relaxed a little, and shook her head. Silly. Of course it couldn’t be Florence. Florence is so small and fragile... she couldn’t be a wolf.... and surely someone would have noticed by now. The Auror Department isn’t perfect, but surely they’d have done background checks or something before they let us in. She nodded to herself, and accepted Lovegood’s file from Mad-Eye.

“Read it,” he said, trying to fish his eye out of his glass. “Then tell me what you think.” Tonks pulled a chair over and sat down, her eyes already skimming over the parchment. By the time she finished reading, she’d convinced herself that it was definitely Lovegood.

“She designs spells?” Tonks asked, arching an eyebrow.

“She does. And, if that wasn't enough, she's got a vague connection to Greyback.”

“What?” Tonks flicked through the file again, but found nothing about that.

“Her husband. Self-publishes a magazine – it’s about all sorts of things - but they’ve got an underlying focus on magical creatures... They’ve had stories about werewolves a few times in the last few years, and the articles are all detailed enough for me to be confident that someone – maybe Lupin’s Smoky – is answering questions.”

“So Lovegood’s not Smoky?” Tonks asked, her heart sinking again.

“Let’s find out,” he said, hauling himself out of his chair.

Two hours, two flights, three Floo excursions, one muggle bus and four Portkeys later, Tonks had finally managed to convince Mad-Eye that no one was following them, and they arrived on the Lovegoods’ front doorstep. Mad-Eye instantly began casting spells, while Tonks had a look around. The house was large, black and cylindrical and Tonks stared, fascinated at it, and also at the eccentric combination of plants growing in the garden. She was surprised that, despite her high marks in N.E.W.T. Herbology, she only recognised one or two things.

“Have you ever seen anything like that before?” she asked, nudging Mad-Eye. Her ignored her and didn’t even look in the direction of the plant with orange radish-like fruit. Instead, he continued to cast charms that were probably giving him all sorts of information about the house and its occupants. Unnecessary information, Tonks thought, knowing her mentor wouldn’t go anywhere without a good idea of what he was getting himself into. He was just being paranoid again, and she suspected he’d spend another hour doing this if she let him.

Rolling her eyes at the thought, Tonks stepped forward and knocked on the door.

“Nymphadora!” Mad-Eye snarled, freezing in place. Tonks heard voices in the house, and then light footsteps. Mad-Eye’s mouth set in a grim line, and he snatched his Sidekick out of a pocket in his robes. Tonks followed his example, though felt she was more relaxed about it; Mad-Eye’s knuckles were white, and his Sidekick was in danger of being crushed. Her own was clasped loosely in her hand, and she traced the letters of her name with her thumbnail.

Tonks saw Mad-Eye square his shoulders out of the corner of her eye, and a moment later, the door opened to reveal a small, brightly coloured figure, holding a paintbrush. Tonks liked the girl on first sight, which was a bit of a shame, since they were here to question her mother; she was wearing a pair of large, fluffy boots, vibrant green jeans and a bubblegum pink smock that was liberally splattered in colourful paint.

The girl’s eyes trailed over both of them – she seemed more curious than taken aback by Mad-Eye’s eye – and then she tucked her paintbrush behind her ear and smiled at them.

“Hello,” she said, in a high pitched, rather dreamy voice.

“Morning,” Mad-Eye said gruffly. “I’m Auror Moody, this is Trainee Tonks.”

“Can I see that?” the girl asked, looking at the Sidekicks with big eyes.

“Sure,” Tonks said, dropping hers into the girl’s small hands. She realised too late that she probably should have offered to clean the girl’s hands first – they were covered in smears of paint too – and did her best to ignore Mad-Eye, who was looking at her as if she’d just done something inexcusable.

The girl held Tonks’ Sidekick up for close inspection and then sniffed it.

“Interesting,” she said, squinting at Tonks, who gave her a blank look. “I thought it might have been made of leprechaun gold.”

“Erm, no,” Tonks said, accepting her Sidekick back. She wiped it on her robes and managed to get most of the paint off before she returned it to her pocket. Then, curious, she added, “Why would it be made of leprechaun gold?”

“Oh, it’s not, I just thought it might be... Perhaps you haven’t heard,” she said, looking thoughtful. “Rufus Scrimgeour’s part leprechaun, so-”

“Is your mother home?” Mad-Eye asked, clearing his throat. Tonks bit the inside of her cheek and rearranged her face slightly to keep from laughing.

“Yes,” the girl said, staring at them both again. “Would you like to see her?”

“Yes please,” Tonks said, and – after a glance at Mad-Eye - entered the house.


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