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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 67 : Plates And Plans
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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Lucius heard footsteps outside his office door and looked up from the letter he was reading; it was from that infernal Umbridge woman, who’d been increasingly independent lately. Lucius was trying to find out who her new source was – she’d all but severed ties with Dawlish, who now had his wand in a knot over the whole thing – but things were progressing slowly, unfortunately.

The footsteps in the hallway didn’t stop; in fact, they didn’t even pause before his office door was forced open and his wife strode into the room. Lucius took one look at her face and set down his quill. Then, he rose slowly, and approached her, but she held up a hand.

“What,” she asked, in a low, absolutely deadly voice, “were you thinking?”

Lucius didn’t pretend to misunderstand; Narcissa was no fool, and even if she was, he’d have had a hard time explaining the dead rat on his desk, and the injured occamy in the gilded cage on his bookcase. Neither of the boys would recognise the significance of the cage, but she would; she’d know it meant that he’d bought the creature. She’d spotted the rat; she strode over to the desk and looked down at it rather dispassionately; for all that she’d softened – all that hugging with Draco and what not – Narcissa was certainly not squeamish. And, when one grew up with a sister like Bellatrix, Lucius rather expected that one got used to dead animals.

“I-”

“You set your lizard-chicken monster-”

“It’s an occamy, Narcissa, and a baby at that. Harmless-”

“Harmless?” she asked flatly, eyes flashing. Lucius sat down again, and steepled his hands, knowing it was best to just let her talk. “That creature killed Draco’s rat, and it almost took out his eye!” Lucius winced. He’d hoped she wouldn’t notice; he thought he’d done a very good job of healing it, and that the scar had been hardly noticeable.

Trust a mother to notice something like that, he thought, sighing.

“Don’t you have anything to say?” she snapped. “An apology?”

“I won’t apologise for doing what was necessary-”

“Then you’d better hurry up and explain yourself before I find my own monster and set it on you.” And she’d do it, he suspected; knowing her, it would probably be a dragon, or something equally large and dangerous.

“It all comes back to monsters,” Lucius said carefully. Narcissa merely folded her arms. “A few weeks ago, Draco was up and about in the middle of the night, talking about monsters.” He curled his lip. Narcissa looked surprised, but blanked her expression a moment later. “I have worried for some time, that Draco might not be quite right – some children develop problems as they grow...” He had, of course, done extensive research on the matter, and even shared his fears with both her and Severus. Both of them had given him strange looks; Narcissa’s sad, Severus’ scornful, and had insisted that Lucius was overreacting, that Draco was just different.

Different was right, of course; Draco might have had a few changes in nature – he’d become bolder, and more loyal to the family, and to his peers – because of Lucius’ attempts to get him to exhibit some Gryffindor traits, but they should have been well and truly over. It had been clear, upon meeting Potter, that he was no Dark Lord, and so Lucius didn’t feel the need to have his sons win the boy’s favour. Draco’s Gryffindor training had ended immediately, and that had been months ago.

Despite all that, however, Draco was still different; he was mocked by the other children at functions, and rarely retaliated, he was curious about muggleborns – though he’d snapped out of that a few hours after that awful breakfast, and assured Lucius that he hadn’t been feeling well, and that he’d been spending too much time around Potter. Lucius had been relieved, but had talked to him about muggles anyway, just to be safe. Draco had seemed quiet, but he hadn’t argued.

“I fear they’re in his head, these... monsters.” Lucius said. “That perhaps they encourage him to... behave in certain ways... to believe certain things.” Narcissa shook her head; it was a disbelieving gesture, and Lucius felt a small surge of pity for his wife. “It’s a lot to take in, I know,” he said.

“Keep explaining,” she bit out, not looking pleased at all.

“I thought that perhaps, it might to do give him a real monster to focus on... I thought it might help. It’s a roundabout method, I admit, but he’s become so quiet and- and well, I thought that an action – something that he needs to worry about physically, if only for a moment - might get through to him more effectively than words. The rat was an unanticipated casualty, but these things-”

“-happen,” Narcissa said, pinching the bridge of her nose. He couldn’t tell anything about her mood from her tone, and her body language was simply tired. That weariness could have come from the Draco situation, but Lucius thought it was more likely to be because she’d spent the morning visiting Azkaban. She turned on her heel and strode toward the door.

“Where are you going?” he asked, standing again.

“To speak to Dumbledore,” she said over her shoulder. Lucius hurried after her, bewildered, and managed to catch hold of her hand. “I think Draco might appreciate Severus’ company today,” she added, looking sad. “But I need to make sure Severus doesn’t have lessons.” She squeezed Lucius’ hand – he squeezed back – and then released him and headed for the drawing room fireplace.

Severus is a good idea, Lucius thought. He’s more patient than I am, and harder than Narcissa. His influence will be good for Draco, particularly after something like this. After all, who better to infuse Draco with a bit of the Slytherin that he was currently lacking, than the Head of Slytherin House? And, Severus was also an expert of the mind; there was no one alive – unless the Dark Lord was, somehow – that knew more on the matter than he did. If he could find out what was wrong, then perhaps, he could also fix it.

Lucius nodded to himself, content.

*                    *                     *

“Tell Sirius what you told me on the way here,” Remus said, nudging Dora. Sirius' interest piqued in a rather morbid way; Remus didn't sound happy about whatever it was. Harry, who was still in his school uniform, glanced over from the kitchen counter; he was buttering a piece of toast for an afternoon snack.

“The Greyback case is closed,” Dora said. Sirius nodded; the entire Department had been buzzing with that news, though no one knew who was at fault, because the trial had been private. It was a protective measure, apparently, and one that Sirius thought was a good choice; whoever the person was would have the entirety of the pack bearing down on them otherwise.

“So they were sentenced, then?”

He was,” Dora said. “Remus says you know him.” Sirius looked at Remus, frowning.

“Who-”

“Dung Fletcher,” Remus sighed. “Apparently Mad-Eye thought I'd find that interesting.” Sirius let out a low whistle, and then shifted to make room for Harry, who was watching them all curiously over the top of his toast.

“Dung?” Sirius asked, shaking his head. “Dung's a bit of a-”  He glanced at Harry and then thought better of what he'd been about to say; Sirius had been called into speak with a concerned Mrs Phelps, who'd overheard Harry using a few words that he probably shouldn't have - nothing vulgar; he'd said 'Merlin's pointy, purple' and then been cut off before he could say 'hat'.

It wasn't a phrase muggles were familiar with, however, and he'd apparently been given time out (his friend Hermione had been wholly disapproving, and his other friend Blaise had thought the whole episode was fantastic), and had been given a note to take to Sirius. While Sirius hadn't thought it was anything worth punishing Harry over (the pair of them had actually had a good laugh about it) he was now trying to watch his language (which had worsened slightly since he'd gone back to the Auror Department) around his godson.

Words like prat and git were thrown around between Remus and Sirius as commonly as their names were, and were used in an affectionate sort of way. Were Harry to use those (or anything worse) at school, however, they wouldn’t be received in a manner anywhere near as accepting. Sirius and Harry had sat down one night last week and had more fun than they should have deciding on phrases that were safe to use, should the situation warrant it. And after that, they’d then run their conclusions past Remus, just in case.

“Dung?” Sirius finished weakly, looking at Remus. “But Dung-”

“I know,” Remus sighed, looking frustrated.

“It wasn’t him,” Dora said, in a low voice. Sirius’ gaze snapped to her again, and even Remus looked startled by this new information. “He’s taking the fall for- for someone else.”

“He’s being paid off,” Sirius said at once. “There no chance anyone would choose to go to Azkaban for the sake of it.” He curled his lip, and his Padfoot patronus – who was a permanent, but mostly dormant feature in his mind, nowadays – stirred, apparently looking for danger. He settled again a moment later.

“Why paid?” Dora asked.

“Because everything Dung does, Dung does to get a profit,” Remus supplied. “His heart’s in the right place-”

“Or it was,” Sirius added fondly, sharing a significant look with Remus; Mundungus had been a member of the Order, during the war. Harry’d stopped chewing and was looking between them again. Dora just looked puzzled.

“Or was,” Remus agreed lightly. Dora still looked suspicious, but she didn’t say anything. “But the rest of him – his morality, I mean – is... well, a bit all over the place.”

“And Azkaban...” Sirius muttered, disbelieving. “It must be a fair bit of money.” Dora didn’t look pleased about that at all, and she had an oddly calculating look on her face; Sirius would have bet anything that she was planning to take this conversation – and a few questions, on top of that – to Mad-Eye at the nearest opportunity. Sirius suspected that was a rather futile endeavour; Mad-Eye had probably reached these conclusions already and he was about as easy to get answers from as a brick wall. “I wouldn’t go back if you gave me the entirety of every vault in Gringott’s.”

“You and Harry already have a sizeable portion of Gringott’s,” Remus said, looking amused.

“Hardly,” Sirius scoffed. “My fine for not registering took a fair chunk out of the Black account, and Harry’s trust has more in it than the Potter account, thanks to the war.” Quite a bit of James’ inheritance had gone into funding the Order’s activities, after all. James and Lily had not been struggling, by any means, but another year or two of war, and it would have been a different story.

“Fletcher said that other than the Dementors, Azkaban’s not so bad, because there’s a free bed and free food.” Dora glanced at Remus, Sirius was amused to notice; she’d been looking at him a lot, lately. “Mad, eh?”

“Mad,” Remus agreed, looking back at her. Sirius’ eyes flicked between the pair, and then he shook his head and glanced at Harry, who was trying to sweep his crumbs on the floor, without being noticed.

Oblivious, all of them, he thought, amused. Except for possibly Dora. Sirius decided that he’d steal her from the Program one day soon, and have a chat with her, under the guise of lunch.

Sirius cleared his throat when the staring on the other side of the table had gone on long enough to make him uncomfortable. Dora jumped and her hair immediately went pink – Oh, yes, she’s realised - and Remus just looked a little confused – and then annoyed, when he looked at Sirius. Sirius grinned, and got an eye-roll back in return.

“Mad,” Dora said again, looking a little embarrassed. “I mean, it’s a pretty easy lifestyle, but-”

“Easy? Azkaban?” Sirius drawled, arching an eyebrow at her. “Speak for yourself.” She flushed.

“Oh, bloody hell- sorry! Sorry, I forgot- I didn’t mean to-”

“He’s teasing,” Remus said, putting a hand on her shoulder. Sirius wondered if she’d even heard; as soon as Remus touched her, her eyes had developed a slightly glossy look.

“I do that,” Sirius said, to no one in particular. “Azkaban’s not worth it, but without the Dementors and the rubbish weather, it’d probably be all right. Somewhere like Nurmengard, or a muggle prison might not be so-” He blinked as something occurred to him, and felt his mouth fall open.

“What?” someone – Harry or Dora, because the voice was too high to be Remus’ – asked.

Sirius was vaguely aware of getting to his feet.

“Sirius?”

“I might be late to dinner,” he said in a strangled voice. Even if Remus didn’t stay, Harry’d be fine at home with Kreacher. And this really couldn’t wait. He was dressed like a muggle, in jeans and a tshirt, but he could feel his wand in his back pocket and that was really all he needed. He snatched up a handful of Floo powder and choked, “Ministry of Magic.”

*                       *                      *

It happened in mid-October, a few days after that odd afternoon when Sirius hurried off to the Ministry after all of the talk about prisons.

Tonks had had an early morning training session, and found herself at Remus’ only a few hours later. He didn’t have anything planned; the full moon was rapidly approaching, so he was taking things carefully. He offered her half of his late breakfast and they took their food outside to eat in the sunny garden.

They set their plates down when they were done – ants moved in within ten minutes, but Remus didn’t appear to mind – and neither were overly fussed about moving inside. Tonks started plucking grass – and was promptly told off – and so she lay down instead. After a moment’s hesitation, Remus lay down beside her – somehow managing to look very awkward as he did so - and Tonks smiled, without taking her eyes off the clouds.

It was silent, but companionable; Remus’ breathing slowed, and his eyes slipped shut, but she didn’t think he was asleep, just very relaxed. Tonk was rather relaxed too, and her mind wandered as she watched the sky.

Ben and Yaxley were buying a flat together; Yaxley’s parents weren’t impressed (Ben was a Gryffindor, and a half-blood at that) but they were going ahead with it anyway, they’d announced that morning. Tonks had about as much interest in decorating as Ben – who’d confided that he was leaving that to his girlfriend – but the idea of moving out had affixed itself in her mind more strongly than she’d realised.

Not because she actually wanted to move out - while she had the money, she wasn’t in any rush to leave Mum and Dad, and have to fend for herself entirely – but because she’d been fleetingly curious about what it would be like to live with someone that wasn’t one of her parents. Remus, specifically.

And, she knew it was far, far too soon to even consider that; they’d been good friends for over a year now, and she fancied him, but he didn’t even know that (or at least she didn’t think he did) and even if they were dating, moving in together was a big step. It was an entirely irrational and impractical idea, and one that had only passed through her mind briefly, before she’d expelled it, mortified.

But her mortification had remained, and it cropped up every time she was around Remus (which was rather regularly). It had encouraged her to redefine her feelings for him, yet again. It had been a month and a half since she’d decided she’d fancied him, and, while she didn’t love him – well, she loved him as a friend – she was definitely well on her way to falling for him.

And you don’t even know, she sighed, glancing in his direction. She hadn’t the faintest idea how to tell him, and she’d spent more time than was probably healthy trying to work out how to go about it. Usually, she’d just announce it, or kiss him – both of those were pretty obvious giveaways – but Remus was... different. Or maybe Tonks was just shyer around him than she had been around any of her other – rather short-lived boyfriends. Either way, she was driving herself to distraction trying to work it out.

She’d even considered asking Sirius for help, but didn’t think she could stand the mockery that would probably come from such a talk. And she didn’t even know how she’d go about that conversation... So... I sort of fancy your best friend...

It was only when Remus stiffened and opened one eye that Tonks realised she’d spoken out loud. She clapped her hands to her mouth, and felt her hair turn a brighter pink than it had probably ever been before.

“He always did get the girls,” Remus said quietly. He’d pushed himself into a sitting position, and his shoulders had a resigned sort of slump to them. He was staring very hard at the grass by his feet.

“Not-” Tonks cut herself off, and then forced herself to speak; she’d be embarrassed, of course, but she couldn’t leave things the way they were. She definitely couldn’t let him think she fancied Sirius; they were second cousins, after all, and while it was strictly legal (particularly for purebloods) the idea freaked her out. “Not your best friend. Sirius’. Sirius’ best friend.” Remus had gone very still.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Remus said, very politely.

“I fancy Sirius’ best friend!” she blurted. “I fancy-”

“Those plates have ants on them,” Remus said, clucking his tongue. He gathered them up quickly and then got to his feet and hurried inside.

Now I’ve done it, Tonks thought miserably. She hauled herself to her feet and headed for the door. “Remus, I’m sorry, I just-”

Only Remus wasn’t there; he wasn’t in the kitchen (and neither, she noticed, were the plates), and he wasn’t in his bedroom, or in the bathroom. Tonks was almost relieved that he’d left; he wasn’t there to see the tears start.

*                     *                     *

“Come in,” Albus called, looking up from his copy of Transfiguration Today. He wasn’t expecting anyone, but surprise visits weren’t uncommon; it had been a few weeks since he’d seen the Weasley twins, so they were probably overdue. It wasn’t that particular pair of troublemakers, however; it was a single troublemaker, and one from an entirely separate era. “Good afternoon, Remus,” said, gesturing for the younger man to take a seat. Remus did, looking rather shell-shocked.

“Sir,” he muttered, by way of greeting. Albus’ eyes found the pair of plates – dirty plates, at that – in Remus’ scarred hands.

“Is there a particular reason for-”

“Is there any chance the Defence position is still open?” Remus asked.

“I’m afraid not; after both you and Thomas turned down my offer-” Not that Albus had expected any different; things were difficult in the Ministry at the moment, particularly after Sirius’ trial, and Thomas was too useful to be allowed to come and teach for a year. Remus, similarly, had been busy; he’d, for the first time in years, had a chance at a family, with Harry and Sirius. Albus had been reluctant to offer him the position for that exact reason. “-Dedalus accepted it quite happily... much to Minerva’s distress.” Albus’ beard twitched.

While Minerva liked Dedalus well enough, he was too exuberant for her liking, and she was still, years after she’d first said it, convinced that he had no sense. A fleeting look of amusement passed over Remus’ face, and then he looked disappointed.

“Do you have any jobs going? I’d be happy to help Hagrid, or Filch, if-”

“Has something happened?” Albus asked, folding his hands.

“No,” Remus muttered. He was very obviously lying. “I just- want a change of scene.”

“Forgive me, Remus, but this is very unlike you; I know teaching is an ambition of yours, but such a sudden request is very... well-”

“So you’ve got nothing?” Remus asked, cutting him off.

“I’m afraid-”

“Right. Of course. Thank you.” Remus got to his feet, dirty crockery in hand. “Sorry for bothering you. Have a nice day, Professor.” He left the room – not quickly, but definitely abruptly – leaving Albus staring after him.

*                           *                            *

“I’ve found her,” Robards announced, and Sirius jerked and almost toppled his chair.

“Where?” he asked, heart pounding.

“A small, high security institute on the outskirts of London,” Robards said, tapping the piece of paper on his desk. “All female occupants, all of them murderers, or convicted for something... well bad.”

“And Marlene?”

“Mona Star handed herself over to a muggle police officer the day after McKinnon vanished. She admitted to attempting to murder a man.” Robards scanned the report. “An ex-lover, apparently... shot him once in the chest... man was found by his ten year old son... Star had a trial a few days later... unanimous guilty sentence...” Robards dwindled off, still reading the report, but only every few words was read aloud, and it was impossible for Sirius to make much sense of it.

“A guy gets attacked – hit by something that should have killed him-” Like he’d been, by Marlene’s Killing Curse in the holding cells. “-and has a ten year old kid that was traumatised by the aftermath.” The muggle boy would have been far worse off than Harry though; Harry didn’t even know the full truth about what had happened. “And then a woman goes and hands herself in.” Robards nodded.

“If it’s a coincidence,” he said, “I’ll eat the rest of my fingers.” Sirius grinned.

“You checked Azkaban,” Sirius said, “because she thought she needed to atone... well, she’s still doing prison time, and she’s either committed an identical crime-” Which Sirius privately thought was very unlikely. “-or just taken the fall for some muggle git.”

“Hopefully it’s the latter,” Robards said, looking grim. Sirius reached over and stole the report so that he could have a read.

“Mona Star,” Sirius mused, a few minutes later, as he set it down.

“Does the name mean something to you?” Robards asked.

“No, but it means something to her, I’m sure...” Sirius grabbed a quill and a scrap of parchment and tried to rearrange the letters to form some sort of clue; ‘star’ backwards, was ‘rats’ but something told him that wasn’t it. She probably didn’t even know about Wormtail or Padfoot, because she hadn’t made it to the trial. He sighed and continued to stare at the letters in front of him. Then he blinked. “Monster. Mona Star; monster.” Robards closed his eyes.

“It’s definitely her,” he said tersely. He rubbed the pitted scar where his smallest finger should have been and stared down at the report again. “So how should we do this, do you think?” Sirius glanced over, eyebrows raised.

“You’re asking me?”

“We’re partners in this case,” Robards said.

“Well...” Sirius said. “I suppose we ought to do things properly; we can forge badges and paper trails, apply to move Mona Star to our special facility, and then just disappear.”

“We ought to,” Robards agreed, nodding to himself, but his lips were pursed.

“You don’t think so?”

“I didn’t say that.” Robards checked his Sidekick. “It’s going to be a busy few months, Black. I think I know a woman who can help us with the documentation... you can be in charge of researching muggle facilities that it would be plausible to move her into-”

“Months?” Sirius asked weakly. “But magic-”

“Can only help so much,” Robards said briskly. “We’ve got to procure the proper documents to copy, and insert them into the right systems – muggle computer systems, which aren’t at all receptive to magic-”

“There’s got to be a quicker way, surely?” Sirius said, wincing.

“Oh, probably,” Robards said blithely. “None of them legal, unfortunately. Aurors are allowed some space to manoeuvre outside the bounds of the law, but even we aren’t allowed to meddle too much in muggle affairs... It would be easy to walk in there, Disillusioned, and Stun every police officer that got in the way, but unfortunately, there are laws preventing that.”

“I don’t think that’d be a good way to go about it anyway,” Sirius said hesitantly.

“No, probably not,” Robards agreed.

“We’d be better off Apparating into-”

“We’d have to know exactly where she was,” Robards pointed out. “And if she’s with other muggles at the time, we’d be breaching far too many laws... And, the majority of muggle prisons are surrounded by anti-Apparition charms these days, after that mess during the war.”

“About time,” he muttered. Sirius had been an Auror at the time; Evan Rosier and Antonin Dolohov had infiltrated one of the most infamous muggle prisons in Britain, Imperiused a whole bunch of murderous lunatics (given them instructions to hunt down as many muggles as possible) and then Apparated them out. The whole tragedy had lasted for at least six months, and had involved hundreds of Ministry Obliviators, who’d had to remove the memories from as many muggles as possible, and a good portion of the Auror force. Sirius knew of three Auror who’d been killed by the muggles, and Sirius had personally had his nose broken by one (who, in turn, had had his nose broken by a furious James). “That was brought in when I was in Az-”

“Eighty-four,” Robards said curtly. “And it’s for the best, I think, but it does complicate things for us in this particular scenario.”

“Then maybe we should just put on disguises and get ourselves arrested,” Sirius suggested. It was the sort of thing he or James would have come up with during their early Auror days. It was also the sort of thing that Mad-Eye would have shouted at them for.

Robards didn’t though.

“You’d likely have to murder someone to get in,” Robards said, rather pointedly.

“Not-”

“-you’d be putting yourself in a lot of danger by exposing yourself to prisoners, and breaking out again would be incredibly difficult, even with magic.” He shook his head. “The Auror Department would never allow me to carry out such a risky operation. Scrimgeour would read the report and have my badge and wand.”

“So don’t report it,” Sirius muttered, not really meaning it; he knew Robards would have to report something like that, particularly because there was so much that had the potential to go wrong. He was just frustrated, because they knew where Marlene was, but were no closer to actually getting her back.

“I’m legally required to report everything I know about,” Robards said, rather significantly. “Do you understand?”

“Yeah, I know,” Sirius muttered.

“Every development in a case that I’m involved in, every plan that I develop and I put into action...” Robards’ bright eyes fixed themselves on Sirius’ face with rather alarming intensity. “I think we’re done for today,” he said abruptly.

“But it’s only lunchtime-”

“Then find a way to occupy yourself this afternoon,” Robards suggested, smiling wryly. Sirius’ mouth fell open as he realised what Robards was getting at. “Preferably one that doesn’t involve me; I’m going to be rather busy this afternoon, and probably all of tomorrow as well, writing an application to Scrimgeour, regarding those muggle documents we’ll be needing in a few months.”

“Right,” Sirius said unsteadily, not quite able to believe what he’d just been given permission to do.

“Oh, Black,” Robards said, as Sirius headed for the door. Sirius glanced over his shoulder. “Be careful.”

*                          *                            *

“Hi, Andy.”

Andromeda blinked and clutched the doorframe for support. She hadn’t been expecting visitors at all – though she was rather used to Mad-Eye Moody showing up for Nymphadora – but never in her wildest imaginings had she expected these two to show up.

“Sirius,” she said, rather weakly. She’d written several hundred letters to him since the trial, but all of them had ended up crumpled and in the rubbish bin. She’d missed her little cousin, but had no idea what to say. Sorry had seemed like a good idea, but she hadn’t known how to word it; she’d heard he was guilty and believed it, because they’d said the same about Bella, after all, and Blacks had a predisposition to turning bad. Then, of course, she’d worried that he might have held a grudge – even after he befriended Dora a month or so ago – and hadn’t been sure if she could take the accusations.

“How’ve you been?” he asked.

“Good,” she said, glancing at young Harry. He had Lily’s eyes, but otherwise was James in miniature, though James had never worn a uniform that wasn’t the Hogwarts robes, or his Auror robes. Harry was wearing a muggle school uniform, and had a rucksack full of school books slung over his thin shoulders. His pencil case was in danger of falling out, she noticed. “I’m- good, thank you. How- would you like to come in?”

“Thanks,” Sirius said. She stepped aside to let them past; Sirius looked a little nervous, and Harry seemed to have picked up on that; he was sticking very close to his godfather, and his eyes were flicking around the room, as if to detect danger. Sirius’ eyes never left Andromeda.

“Can I get you- tea, or-” Unable to form a coherent sentence around her little cousin, she turned her gaze on Harry. “Would you like a biscuit?” He looked surprised that he’d been addressed. He glanced at Sirius, who put a hand on his shoulder.

“Tea and biscuits would be fantastic,” Sirius said. “Thanks.”

“The kitchen’s this way,” she said, trying to pull herself together. They weren’t strangers; they’d known each other as children, but also as adults. It shouldn’t be this difficult.

“You had school today?” she asked Harry; he was easier to talk to than Sirius. He nodded. Well, easier to address, she decided, but not very talkative. “What year are you?”

“Six,” Harry replied. Andromeda filled the kettle and set it to boil with a flick of her wand, before she went searching for tea.

“Would you like a hand?” Sirius asked.

“I’m perfectly capable of finding my way around my own kitchen, Sirius,” she replied, a little condescendingly. It was the way she would have spoken to him during the war; like an older cousin. He didn’t come back with a witty retort as he might have back then, however; all he did was raise an eyebrow, and leave her to it. The interaction left Andromeda feeling a little unbalanced. “I’ll go and see if Nymphadora would like to join us,” she muttered. “She got home about an hour ago, and I think she’s still here.” With that, she fled, almost tripping on her robes in her haste to get out of there.

Nymphadora was in her room, thankfully; Andromeda could have cried with relief that she wouldn’t have to endure the pair in her kitchen alone. And, hopefully, by watching Nymphadora interact with the pair of them, she’d be able to get a measure on this new Sirius; she preferred to observe before she was forced to interact.

“Nymphadora, we have visitors,” Andromeda told her daughter. Nymphadora glanced over, blue haired, dark eyed and pale faced.

“Who?” she asked, looking hopeful. Her hair turned a greenish colour.

“Sirius and Harry.” Nymphadora’s face fell – her hair went back to indigo - and she rolled back into her pillows.

“Tell them I’m sleeping.”

“It’s the middle of the day,” Andromeda said, exasperated.

“And I had an early start and an... eventful morning.”

“Up,” Andromeda said. “Now.”

“Mum,” Nymphadora said, in a rather pitiful voice, “please-”

“Up.”

“Mum-”

“Nymphadora.” Andromeda planted her hands on her hips and Nymphadora gave in with rather ill grace. She rolled off the bed and wandered over to the door, dragging her feet. She looked quite miserable about the prospect, and Andromeda wondered what on earth could have gotten into her usually cheerful daughter this afternoon. “And do something with your hair; you look miserable.”

Nymphadora sniffed and managed to turn it a mousy brown, which was marginally better. The two Tonkses made their way back to the kitchen, where they found Sirius locked in a stare-off with Canis. Andromeda found herself fighting a smile.

“Wotcher,” Nymphadora said rather gloomily. Both Sirius and Canis looked at her. Canis looked disgusted and promptly fled the room. Sirius, on the other hand, looked alarmed, and then suspicious, and then exasperated. Harry just looked worried.

“Can I have a word with you?” Sirius asked, getting to his feet before Nymphadora could sit down.

“Sirius,” she said, looking a little afraid at the prospect, “I don’t really-”

“I need help,” he said. “Regarding a certain missing friend of ours.” Nymphadora glanced at Andromeda and nodded.

“Can tea wait a few minutes, Mum?” she asked, looking exhausted.

“Of course,” Andromeda said uncertainly.

“You’re all right there, kiddo?” Sirius asked. Harry nodded. And with that, Sirius put a hand on Nymphadora’s shoulder and led her out of the kitchen again. Andromeda turned to Harry.

“A missing friend?”

Harry shrugged, but she felt like he knew more about it than he was letting on.

*                         *                             *

“Missing friend?” Tonks asked, as soon as she and Sirius were alone in the back garden.  “Mar-”

“We’ve found her,” Sirius said, nodding. The smallest smile flickered over his face, and then faded. “Unfortunately, while I was off doing that, I’ve managed to lose another one.”

“Who?” Tonks asked, but she already knew the answer.

“I think you know,” he said, tugging gently on a strand of her mousy hair. “He can be a bit of a git about things like this, I’m afraid.”

“It was my fault,” Tonks sniffed. “I shouldn’t have- I sort of sprung it-”

“Remus isn’t very good at dealing with people once feelings get involved-”

“I shouldn’t have said anything,” Tonks said, embarrassed to feel tears prickling her eyes again. “We were good friends, and now I’ve gone and ruined everything. He didn’t even respond, he just sort of-”

“Ran,” Sirius supplied. She let out a sob and flung herself at him. Unlike Remus, Sirius didn’t even hesitate before wrapping his arms around her, and his hand found a soothing rhythm on her back within seconds. Tonks felt immediately guilty for wishing it was another set of arms, but she couldn’t help it. “He’ll come back – he has to, because the full moon’s in two days.”

“And then what?” she asked. “He won’t want to see-”

“He’ll have to see me,” Sirius said. “And I’ve got a few words to say to him, I assure you. Self-pitying coward’s going to come up a few times, I think-”

“He’s not a-”

“Oh, he is,” Sirius said, matter-of-factly. “He thinks so little of himself that he doesn’t think he deserves much happiness... git. It’s not the first time I’ve used that particular word combination, and I know better by now than to hope it’ll be the last. But I’ll get through to him, don’t you worry. I usually do. And I’ve alluded to this subject numerous times before... he just hasn’t realised it. I think it’s about time to forgo subtlety.” Tonks sniffed and tightened her hold on her second cousin.

“Don’t- not because of me-”

“Even if you weren’t sobbing your eyes out on me in your back garden I’d want to say something to him,” Sirius told her. “I want to see him happy too – Merlin knows he deserves it. I think you’d be good together.” Tonks sniffed again. “And when he admits that, yeah, he fancies you back, I want to say I told you so.” Sirius grinned and Tonks let out a watery laugh as the last of her tears stopped. Sirius let her go and looked at her face.  “A bit puffy, but you’ll do,” he said.

“Do for w-what?” she asked

“Well, since my usual accomplice has run off to sulk or hide from his feelings or whatever it is that Moony does-” Tonks laughed. It was snotty, and she was sure her eyes were bloodshot – she quickly fixed that with her abilities - but it was a genuine laugh. “-I’m going to need a new one.”

“Why do you need an accomplice?”

“Are you busy tomorrow?” he asked.

“I have training at two, and then I’m out on a case with Mad-Eye for most of the night-”

“Tomorrow morning?”

“I’d planned to sleep in...” Sirius gave her a slightly pleading look. “But I suppose I could get up a bit earlier. Why?”

“I need you to help make me pretty,” he said, batting his eyelashes at her. Tonks stared, and he laughed. “And then I need you to die.”


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