Chapter 22 : Chapter 22
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Tonks had scarcely landed her Apparition before she began walking swiftly to the lifts. She was thankful to see the lift that arrived to take her to level two was empty, giving her a few moments to compose herself before she was expected to interrogate Sturgis, likely in front of Scrimgeour, who would assuredly be watching her closely after the suspicious behavior he’d questioned her about the previous month. As the lift doors clanged open, she hurried through the corridor to push through the heavy oak doors to the Auror department, wondering whether the empty cubicles meant her coworkers were out of the office on cases, or watching Bennett take Sturgis to task; she hoped for the former.
The interrogation rooms were in the far corner of the office, close to the corridor that led to the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. To passersby, there was an uninteresting blank stretch of wall. Magical Law Enforcement employees knew there was a concealed door that required wand recognition to ensure that only authorized personnel entered. Tonks reached the stretch of wall and tapped her wand to the spot where she knew the handle would appear. With one last deep breath, she opened the door and entered, pulling it shut behind her and securing it once more with another tap of her wand. In the small antechamber, a small group was gathered around a one-way window that was magically enhanced to act like a Muggle speaker, allowing the conversation from inside the room to be heard by those viewing on the outside.
Tonks was glad to see the group included Kingsley. Also present, as she’d suspected, were Scrimgeour and Gawain Robards, who was essentially Scrimgeour’s second in command.
Kingsley looked up quickly and locked eyes briefly with Tonks before turning back to the glass. “Bennett’s been at it for a bit already. It’ll be your turn soon.”
“Got it, boss,” Tonks replied, watching as Bennett stood and paced one side of the room. Sturgis sat, his legs bound to his chair and hands bound in front of him, staring at the table while a Dicta-Quill recorded their conversation on a length of parchment. “Has he said anything yet?” she asked, attempting to sound interested in the proceedings, but not desperate to know if he’d betrayed any Order confidences.
“Not a word,” Kingsley said.
They continued to watch in silence as Bennett took a seat across from Sturgis and questioned him, escalating to where she was raising her voice, issuing threats in the standard protocol of “bad Auror”. Tonks recognized the technique as she slammed her hands on the table hoping to at least startle him into a reaction. Still, he sat staring at the table. Bennett stood and walked around the table, leaning close so that her face was inches from his. “They’ll toss you in Azkaban in a heartbeat, you know. Have you ever been around a Dementor?” she asked tauntingly. “They bring up every bad thought you’ve ever had. Most people don’t last a week before they go mad.”
Tonks grabbed a mug from the small table in the corner that functioned as a tea cart. She pulled a tea bag from the drawer and filled the mug with her wand and charmed it to heat. It wouldn’t be the world’s best tea, but it didn’t need to be; it just needed to serve its purpose.
“Maybe they’ll put you next to one of their lifetime guests,” Bennett continued. “I hear Dolohov’s a piece of work…maybe you’d even share a cell.”
Willing the knots in her stomach to subside and giving Kingsley a quick glance, Tonks pushed open the door to the interrogation room, mug in hand. “Merlin, Bennett, you act like the man robbed Gringotts or something.” She smiled down at Sturgis. “I’m Auror Tonks. And this cow,” Tonks gestured to Bennett. “Is going to take a break.”
Bennett huffed in feigned annoyance and headed toward the door. “Better enjoy that tea, Podmore,” she said over her shoulder. “It’ll be your last cuppa for a while.”
Tonks sat next to Sturgis at the table and pushed the tea close to him. “I’m leaving your legs bound to the chair, but I’ll unbind your hands so you can have a drink,” she said gently, grateful that she played “good Auror” in their little scenario rather than the counterpart. This was hard enough.
“Sorry about Bennett,” she said, keeping her tone light. “Some of us have a bet going that she was actually raised by mountain trolls.” Tonks paused and casually rested her chin on her hand with her elbow propped on the table. “Or maybe Harpies,” she said thoughtfully.
The silence stretched between them—as Tonks knew was necessary during this stage of the interrogation—while she took in Sturgis’ appearance. He looked haggard, burdened; his thick blonde hair was disheveled and he had dark circles under his eyes. She didn’t know Sturgis well, but she didn’t think he looked himself. At Order meetings, he was always clean-shaven with a warm smile on his face. Even after a night of guard duty, he shouldn’t look as bad as he did now. Was it his stay overnight in a holding cell or something more contributing to his appearance?
After enough time had passed, Tonks broke the silence. “It will help your defense if you talk.” She sat up and leaned toward Sturgis and said conspiratorially, “I can help you write a statement. Make sure the court hears your side of the story.”
Watching Sturgis staring at the table, looking exhausted, Tonks didn’t think he looked like a man who had betrayed his loyalties. There was no defiance in his face or his posture. His expression was impassive, as if attempting his best to give nothing away. Thinking of it being herself in his position—or Remus, or Mad-Eye, or Kingsley—she thought wildly of a way to communicate with him. Knowing she was being watched very carefully, Tonks weighed her options quickly and in a moment of inspiration, tapped the side of his boot with her own.
Tonks’ pulse quickened as she felt a return tap to her boot. Hoping he was attempting to communicate, Tonks asked, “Wouldn’t you like for them to hear your story?” It was a question she asked as much for the interrogation as she did for wondering if he was going to spill Order secrets to the Ministry.
Tonks felt two taps against her toe as Sturgis took a tentative sip of his tea.
“So, what is your story, Sturgis?” Tonks forced herself to keep her voice and hands from shaking, knowing that a lot was riding on her questions. Not only did her questions need to follow what her superiors would expect from such an interview, but she desperately wanted to help Sturgis and the Order any way she could. “I don’t know much,” she said as she reached for the file lying on the table and pretended to scan through its contents. “I know a wizard with no prior trouble with the Ministry doesn’t deserve prison.” She gave the necessary pause for the situation; it was important that she give the illusion that she was waiting patiently, kindly for him to answer before continuing. “Especially if you were working with someone else. A deal could be made if you give us a name.”
His eyes remained focused on the table as he cradled the warm mug in his hands.
“Did someone force you, Sturgis?” Use first names often. Keep your tone light. Be empathetic. “Good Auror” etiquette was running on a loop in her head, knowing that Scrimgeour was watching carefully. As she was biding her time before continuing, Tonks felt a tap on her toe. Her mind raced as she contemplated what to do next. “I’m your last hope before you’re sentenced. I would hate to see you take the fall if someone else is responsible.”
Feeling his toe tap hers again, Tonks admired his resolve. He showed no emotion on his face as he sat staring at the table. She was sure he had something to say and thought desperately of a way to let him say even a few words without their audience knowing. Part of her “good Auror” tactic was to offer a statement off the record. Tonks rose to her feet, hoping her idea would work.
“We can talk off the record, if you’d rather,” Tonks said, circling the table to stand in front of Sturgis. She placed her hands on the wooden surface and leaned down slightly, her back to the window to block the view of those watching. She raised her wand and gave a quick flick to cancel the Dicta-Quill. With a quick prayer to Merlin, Tonks flicked her wand at the window, cancelling the charm that allowed their audience to listen. “We’ve got about ten seconds until I have to renew the Listening Charm. Bring your mug to your mouth, and tell me what you can.”
Sturgis’s gaze never left the table as he raised his mug concealing his mouth. “I didn’t betray the Order,” he said, anguish evident in his voice.
“Tell me,” Tonks whispered, cocking her head to one side as if waiting for him to offer something off the record.
Sturgis pulled the mug away from mouth and inhaled the steam rising from the tea before bringing it to cover his lips once more. “Imperiused. I tried to fight it, but… .”
The catch in his voice and the torment in his eyes made Tonks’ heart ache. “I’ll make sure the Order knows.”
Knowing she was out of time, Tonks lifted her hand from the table and gave another flick of her wand, enabling the Listening Charm and the Dicta-Quill. “I suppose that’s it then, Sturgis. If you’ve nothing to say, our interview is over.” Feeling absolutely wretched, Tonks straightened and bound Sturgis’ hands once more before picking up the quill and parchment. “Sturgis Podmore, this interview has now concluded. With no statement submitted on your behalf, you’ll sit in front of the Wizengamot accompanied by a representative assigned to you by the Office of Magical Law Enforcement and receive sentencing. Until then, you’ll be remanded by the Ministry of Magic.”
Fighting the urge to vomit, Tonks reached for the mug in Sturgis’ hands, squeezing his hand before she slipped the mug from his fingers in an effort to give him even the smallest measure of comfort she could. One last memory of kindly human contact before he was hauled before the court and likely sent to Azkaban. She left the room, pulling the door shut behind her, schooling her features into a look of disappointment as she faced her boss and colleagues.
“Tough break, boss,” she said to Kingsley.
“He’s said nothing in his defense since the Watchwizard apprehended him,” Scrimgeour said with a scowl. “I thought for sure you and Bennett would get something from him.”
Tonks shrugged, attempting to look casual. “Maybe when he’s facing the courtroom he’ll rethink things.”
Scrimgeour hummed in response, watching her intently. “He’ll likely receive the maximum sentence of six months.”
Tonks held his gaze levelly, as her boss watched her closely for her reaction. She forced another casual shrug and said, “Reckon after a few days in, he’ll be wishing he’d made a statement.” Willing her hands not to shake, she held the transcript of the interview and quill out to Bennett. “Want to sign and I’ll file it?”
After filing her report and telling Kingsley with a forced smile that she was ending her day the way she’d started—at home—she left the Auror office. The blood was rushing in her ears, and her stomach was in knots as she made her way quickly to the Apparition point. The trip through space didn’t help her stomach. As she landed in the alley near Headquarters, she took a few deep breaths before walking the short distance to number twelve. Once she entered the front door, Tonks realized she was going to be sick. She sprinted up the stairs to the first landing and threw herself through the door to the loo and slammed it shut behind her, barely making it to the toilet before her stomach heaved. With shaking hands, she flushed her sick—thankfully a minimal amount since she hadn’t eaten since breakfast— and sat back on the floor against the wall.
“Tonks?” Sirius asked through the door after a soft knock.
“You can come in,” she said in a quavering voice, tears threatening.
The door opened and Sirius stepped in, sitting next to her on the floor and handing her a glass of water along with a wet flannel.
Tonks took a drink and wiped her mouth. “You haven’t got a mint or something handy, have you?”
Sirius rummaged through a pocket in his robes and handed her a brightly wrapped sweet. “Drooble’s Best?” she asked with a shaky smile as she unwrapped the bubble gum, grateful to Sirius for making her smile. “Are you actually eleven?”
Sirius shrugged. “It was for a prank on Bill. This is a better occasion.”
Tonks popped the gum into her mouth and was taken back to the Hogsmeade weekends of her student days as she tasted the berry flavor. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against the wall, glad for her cousin’s presence, thankful that he was letting her sit quietly rather than grilling her over what had happened at the Ministry.
“Remus went to Hogwarts to speak with Dumbledore while Mad-Eye went to track down other Order members.”
Tonks sighed and leaned her head against Sirius’ shoulder. “How long’s Remus been gone?”
“I’m not good enough to keep you company for a while?” Sirius asked with a chuckle. “You need your werewolf to make it all better?”
Tonks smiled and reached up to pat his head. “Don’t worry, Snuffles, I love you, too.”
“You love me…too, do you?” Sirius asked quietly.
Tonks stiffened as she realized what she’d said, wondering what to say next. It was just a slip of the tongue, wasn’t it? She knew she cared for Remus, despite the short amount of time they’d known each other. She suspected that there was truth behind her slip, that she was well on her way to being in love with him, but was certainly not ready to say it out loud to anybody. Hesitating, she said, “I hope you know I care for both of you.”
“You know, I reckon he’d say the same about you.”
Tonks raised her head from Sirius’ shoulder and glanced at him before looking away. “What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean?”
Tonks shook her head. “We shouldn’t be worrying about this now. Not with what happened today.”
“That’s an excuse if I ever heard one,” Sirius said with a snort of laughter. “What are you afraid of?”
Tonks thought back to when she asked Remus that very question just a few weeks prior. She realized that it was a harder question to answer than to ask. What was she afraid of? Getting her heart broken? Putting herself out there only to be made to feel she wasn’t enough?
“Is this about what you said about men in the past?” he asked quietly. “Asking you morph yourself to…how’d you say? Something more pleasing?”
Tonks huffed irritably. “I wish my mouth hadn’t run off without my brain that day.”
“What is it you think he’s going to say?” Sirius asked bewilderedly.
“Gosh, your tits are nice, but you know what’d be really fun?” Tonks said, once more letting her mouth run away before her brain stepped in.
Sirius gave her a look of disgust. “Some knob-head’s actually said that to you?”
Tonks shrugged and looked away, embarrassed at what she’d revealed.
“You honestly think that’s what Remus would do?” he asked.
Tonks closed her eyes and leaned her head back for a moment. Deep down, she knew their attraction was completely mutual. The way she felt when his hands were on her body was unlike anything she had ever experienced. Not only did he fuel her desire to the point of madness, but his touch was so sweet and reverent, like he was cherishing every moment he spent touching her. It was nearly enough to erase old memories.
“I don’t think so,” she said with a shake of her head. “But…past experiences are hard to forget sometimes. Nobody wants to be made to feel that what they are isn’t enough.”
Watching his silent nod, Tonks knew that her cousin understood both sentiments, probably better than she did.
It wasn’t that Tonks was unhappy with how her body looked; maybe her bits were on the small side, but it certainly made running easier. Her runs kept her toned and in shape. But, when someone casually asked you to change a part of your body “just for fun”, what else will they want you to change? What else didn’t meet their standards? Why wouldn’t her natural state be good enough?
“I’m going to say this even though it pains me a little to do so,” Sirius began. “I know for a fact that Moony finds you completely shaggable and wouldn’t ask you to change a thing.”
Tonks looked at Sirius and rolled her eyes with a smile.
“No, wait, I’m being serious,” he said, holding up a hand to stop her from responding. “Aside from that fact, he likes you for you. And, he would never make you feel like you’re not good enough. He’s had enough of that to know how it feels.”
Tonks smiled at his words. “You really are a good pooch, you know.”
“There’s more to me than what meets the eye,” Sirius said with a grin. “Just because I keep it quiet, doesn’t mean it’s not there.” He patted Tonks on the knee. “We could all use a little love right now. Let Moony know what you’re thinking sometime.”
Rather than answer, Tonks blew a huge bubble with the gum Sirius had given her.
“That’s no bubble,” Sirius said as he heaved himself to his feet and reached a hand down to help Tonks up. “You haven’t been practicing since the last time I gave you bubble gum. Blow one the size of your head, it’ll cheer you up.”
“There’s not much that could cheer me up after today,” Tonks grumbled as she let Sirius help her to her feet.
“It could be worse,” Sirius said, his voice losing the playful tone he’d just been using. At Tonks’ skeptical look, he continued, “Sturgis isn’t dead.” He paused with an agonized look that told Tonks he was possibly reliving some terrible moment where they’d lost an Order member during the first war. He shook his head slightly and looked at Tonks evenly. “He’ll survive Azkaban and rejoin the Order. It’ll give Molly another person to feed up and relentlessly mother. Now.” He leaned back against the sink, crossing his arms over his chest as if waiting patiently. “Let’s see this bubble.”
Shaking her head, she complied and blew a bubble that was nearly the size of her head before letting it deflate so it didn’t pop all over her face.
“Good show,” Sirius said with decisive nod of his head. “Come on,” he said as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and gave her quick a one-armed squeeze. “The others will be here soon to hear the news. Later I’ll get you good and pissed.”
Tonks sighed and tossed her gum into the rubbish bin. Before meeting to take the kids to King’s Cross earlier that day, she’d stopped by the post box Severus had set up and retrieved a brief letter stating that she would be needed that night at the Quill. “You’ll have to choose another night to get me drunk,” Tonks said, stepping into the hall. “I’ve a mission later I should be completely sober for.” She stopped to scrub her hands over her face, exhausted at the mere thought of playing the part of Piper for the evening.
“My schedule’s pretty open these days,” Sirius said with a tight smile. “Tea then,” he said, motioning for her to follow him downstairs with a jerk of his head. “My tea isn’t as good as Moony’s, but it’s drinkable.”
Tonks dutifully followed Sirius down the stairs—thankfully without incident—to find Kingsley, Arthur, and Mad-Eye already sitting at the table. Sirius prepared tea while waiting for Remus, an action that made Tonks smile, thinking that between his Pure-blood upbringing and his time in Azkaban, he had not likely prepared tea often in his life. Not much was said as they drank their tea and waited somberly. As they were finishing, the fireplace roared to life with green flames, Dumbledore stepping through followed by Remus.
“What have you learned, my dear?” Dumbledore asked gravely as he and Remus took seats across from one another at the table.
Tonks took a deep breath before beginning, some of the tension in her shoulders easing when Remus grabbed her hand and threaded his fingers through hers under the table. She told them of the interrogation, how she’d managed to communicate with Sturgis to find that he’d been Imperiused, that Scrimgeour had alluded to the fact that an example would be made out of his sentencing, that he would likely receive six months in prison.
“And if Scrimgeour had figured out what you were up to?” Tonks was shocked to hear Kingsley’s deep voice to go along with the question. She looked across the table to where he was sitting next to Arthur, his face set in an uncharacteristic frown.
“Did he?” Tonks asked challengingly, knowing that he wouldn’t have let her leave the Ministry had he thought Tonks to be aiding a suspect.
Kingsley shook his head. “It’s still a risk you shouldn’t have taken.”
“Don’t get shirty with me because we’re all having a shit day,” Tonks said.
“That’s quite enough,” Dumbledore said, speaking for the first time since Tonks had started the story.
The room fell into a tense silence for a few moments before Arthur asked, “And what if Scrimgeour figures out what you’re up to with your campaign to lead the Auror office away from Sirius’ whereabouts?” He gave a quick glance to Kingsley before focusing on his tea once more. “We’re all taking risks.”
Kingsley rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “Sorry, Tonks,” he said shortly. “Sturgis just looked…it was awful bringing him up from that holding cell.”
“It wasn’t a picnic interrogating him, you know,” Tonks said, glad for the simple comfort of being able to hold Remus’ hand just then. “I won’t apologize for the risk I took. I didn’t want him carted off to Azkaban wondering if we thought him a traitor.”
“And if he is a traitor?” Dumbledore asked, his piercing gaze studying Tonks intently.
“I can read a suspect, sir. He’s no traitor.” Tonks sighed. “Kingsley’s right. He looks…awful.”
“I’m not surprised that he’s been Imperiused,” Kingsley said. “He looks like a man who hasn’t been himself for a while.”
Dumbledore sighed wearily. “We need to take the necessary steps to find out who placed the curse. Do you believe this has anything to do with your recent admirer, Nymphadora?”
“I’d be surprised if it didn’t,” Tonks said wryly. “If you read my note at the end of the mission report I wrote for me and Dung, you’ve probably guessed that he knows we’re watching the Department of Mysteries.”
“Are we speaking in code now?” Sirius asked irritably. “Who’re we talking about?”
“Lucius Malfoy,” Remus said, furrowing his brows in confusion. “Although, I’m not clear what him entering your flat has to do with the Department of Mysteries.”
“Aye,” Mad-Eye chimed in, his opinion nearly drowned out by the surprised exclamations of Arthur and Kingsley at the mention of Malfoy being in her home.
Tonks rolled her eyes. “He was waiting for me in my cubicle last week when I finished guard duty,” she began. “We exchanged…pleasantries,” Tonks said, earning her a slight smile from Dumbledore. “And last night he was sitting in my flat, waiting for me to come home.”
“What’d you do?” Sirius asked with a smile. Tonks thought he looked as though he hoped it was a good story.
“Called him a wanker and told him to get out,” Tonks said. “Sorry, sir,” she said as she recalled Dumbledore sitting at the table. “I was going to write a report sometime today.”
Dumbledore gave a slight nod Tonks took to mean he understood. “Although I would no doubt use a different expression, I believe your description is quite fitting,” Dumbledore said as Sirius let out a loud bark of laughter. “Did he state a reason for his intrusion last evening?”
Tonks smile slightly at Dumbledore’s words. The thought of the Headmaster using a word such as “wanker” even in his youth was highly unlikely, especially since his youth had been more than a century past.
“If I’m not mistaken, he was offering me a job,” Tonks replied. “Although, it’s much more likely that his offer was simply a means to wind me up.”
Dumbledore looked at her seriously. “Make no mistake, Nymphadora, he was entirely serious in his offer. Tom Riddle doesn’t send one of his top lieutenants on frivolous errands.”
Tonks stared at Dumbledore, speechless for a moment. The thought that You-Know-Who even knew who she was much less wanted to recruit her was a thought that sent an unpleasant shiver down her spine. She was sure his knowledge of her existence was thanks to her Death Eater uncle. Never would the magic in her body allowing her to morph be used for whatever vile acts her uncle and his associates had in mind.
“Well, bully for me, he said the offer wouldn’t be extended again,” Tonks said after a deep breath.
Dumbledore nodded. “Is there anything else we need to know from the interrogation this afternoon?” Once Tonks shook her head, Dumbledore continued. “I need the room, gentlemen. Nymphadora and I have business to attend to.”
Remus squeezed Tonks’ hand before rising from the table to exit the room with the others, Kingsley giving her an apologetic pat on the shoulder on his way out. Once the room was empty but for the two of them, Tonks couldn’t help but smile at thought that she felt a bit like she was waiting for Dumbledore to issue her a detention.
“I haven’t much time, I’m afraid,” Dumbledore started. “Minerva is quite capable, but I fear that there will be an uprising amongst the staff if I’m not there to provide a buffer between them and our new Defense teacher.”
“You should just let them have a go at her,” Tonks said.
“Indeed,” he said with a twitch of his mustache. “Did you receive contact from Quigley?”
“I did,” she said, the smile leaving her face with the topic of her mission. “I’m to report at eight o’clock, keep my mouth shut, and keep the patrons happy.”
“Keep the whisky flowing and they should remain happy. Severus has informed me that he will not be summoned for many days owing to the start of term, so Remus will serve as your contact this evening.” He stopped and looked at Tonks for a moment before continuing. “Forgive the intrusion, but there is something I must address.”
Tonks raised her eyebrows at Dumbledore. “Go ahead.”
“You have become close with Remus, have you not?”
“Is that a problem, sir?” Tonks asked as she sat back and crossed her arms over her chest.
There was a hint of reprimand in his voice when Dumbledore responded. “Do not misunderstand me, my dear. I could not be more pleased at this development. I’ve wished happiness for Remus since I met him at the age of eleven.” He paused to peer over his spectacles at her. “I simply wanted to confirm my suspicions before I said what’s to come, lest I embarrass myself with my presumptions.”
Tonks relaxed her posture and nodded for him to continue.
“Regardless of how close you have become, there are things that need to remain unspoken between the two of you. Some may question my need for secrecy—”
“May I interrupt, sir?” Tonks asked as she put up a hand to stop him. At his nod, she continued. “I understand completely.”
“I do,” she replied, holding his gaze. She was glad that she saw trust in his eyes rather than wariness. She cared for Remus deeply, she could admit that, but in some things duty came first. If there were certain missions Dumbledore needed kept secret, she was sure he had a reason.
“Splendid,” he said, rising to his feet. “I must say, I’m thrilled to continue to have my instincts about you proven correct.” He threw a pinch of Floo powder from a pouch in his robes, turning the flames in the fireplace green. “Arthur has informed me that Molly will be by to cook away her worries this evening. It would do her some good if you stayed long enough for her to see that you are all right, my dear.”
Dumbledore stepped in the fire and called “Headmaster’s office” before whirling away. Tonks heaved herself up from the table and went in search of Remus. She peeked her head around the door to the drawing room and found him sitting on the couch talking with Sirius, who had his head in his hands, grasping handfuls of his long black hair. Not sure if she should enter the room or not, Tonks leaned against the doorframe until Remus looked up and saw her. He gave a jerk of his head, and patted the seat next to him. She sat next to Remus and waited quietly for one of them to speak.
Sirius took a deep breath and rose abruptly from a wing-backed chair. “I’m going to take care of Buckbeak.”
“Dumbledore said Molly will be by to fix dinner soon,” Tonks said gently before he exited.
“Aces,” he replied. “I was worried I’d miss out on her cooking once the kids were gone.”
Once they were alone, Remus reached down and held Tonks’ hand once more. She looked up into his face to see it lined with worry. “Is he all right?”
“Thinking of Sturgis being locked up is going to plague him with memories of the past, I’m afraid,” Remus said, squeezing her hand and running his thumb along hers. “He copes pretty well most of the time, but along with being stuck in this house, the events of today are likely to get to him.”
“Today was awful,” Tonks admitted. “I hate feeling useless.”
Remus looked down at her with a look of confusion. “You were far more useful than you needed to be today,” he said roughly.
Tonks peered at him, surprised at his tone. “Is there a reason why you’re upset with me?”
He let go of Tonks’ hand and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and cradling his head in his hands, a mirror of the position Sirius had just held. Raking his hands through his hair, he sat back and leaned his head against the elegant slope of the damask patterned couch that looked to have once been a fine piece of furniture.
“I’m not upset with you. I’m just…” Remus took a deep breath. “I’m just not used to caring this much about the fate of another person. I’ve had only myself to worry after for quite a long time. And between your job and the things you’re asked to do for the Order, there’s quite a lot to worry after.”
Tonks picked up Remus’ hand and threaded her fingers through his once more, leaning her head against his shoulder. “I can handle myself,” Tonks said with none of the indignance with which she’d said it before.
“I know you can. But, days like today remind us all of the risks we’re taking.”
Tonks knew he was right. Now that the frenzied pace of the day had slowed, and she had time to think, the reality of what happened set in. She also knew if they all dwelt on it, the reality of the day would likely drive them spare.
“It should be a reminder to us all to be constantly vigilant,” Tonks said, for once not making a joke of Mad-Eye’s creed.
Remus’ head popped up from its resting spot on the back of the couch. He touched his fingers to Tonks’ chin and raised her head to look at him. With a look of incredulity, he said, “I believe you should take you own advice, Nymphadora. Why didn’t you mention the first visit Lucius Malfoy paid you?”
Tonks batted his hand away from her chin and scowled. “You were away when it happened.”
“And then I wasn’t.”
“And then we were otherwise occupied,” she said with a perfectly arched eyebrow that was a spot-on imitation of her mother.
Remus smiled slightly. “Very true.” He sighed and leaned his head against the couch once more. “All this worry is hard on an old man.”
“Ten years older hardly makes you an old man,” Tonks replied with a huff.
“I am,” he said seriously. “Not necessarily because I think you too young for me…although there are days I think you’re mad for entertaining the idea of a relationship with me. You’re so young for what the Order asks of you.”
“How old were you when you first joined the Order?” she asked pointedly. He simply stared at her rather than answer. “Mad-Eye told me, you know. Not yet twenty. And don’t you dare tell me how it was different then,” she said pointing a finger at him and poking him in the chest for good measure.
Remus raised his head and looked at her once more. “Why are you in this fight? You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. A job.” He ran a hand distractedly through his hair. “Not just a job, a career for Merlin’s sake. A career that you put at risk with every mission. It could have been you caught today!”
“It very well could have been you too!” Tonks replied. She looked at Remus’ worried face and wondered how everyone else was coping with the loss of Sturgis today. Molly was going to come cook away her troubles, Sirius had locked himself away with his Hippogriff, Remus was arguing the validity of the risks we were taking. What did she want to do? She wanted to fight back; show the Death Eaters that just because they’d gotten to one of theirs, it wasn’t going to cripple them.
“I’m in this fight because I’ve got nothing if You-Know-Who wins,” she started calmly. “I’m the daughter of a Muggle-born and a blood traitor who is closely related to far too many known Death Eaters. You think it ends well for my family if he wins?”
Remus shook his head slowly at her question before bringing her hand that was still clasped in his to his mouth, kissing each of her knuckles. His lips turned up into a near-smile. “Your parents are quite a match.”
Tonks cocked her head to one side and said, “Unconventional couples must be a family trait.” She released Remus’ hand and maneuvered to her knees, swinging a leg over to straddle his lap. “Enough of this talk, Professor,” she said as she pushed his shaggy hair off his forehead. “Like your pooch pointed out earlier, Sturgis will survive Azkaban and Molly will mother him back to health when he returns.”
“Sirius was the voice of reason today?” Remus asked skeptically.
Tonks nodded before lowering her head to rest against Remus’ chest. “He was very helpful when I got here this afternoon.”
Remus brought his arms around and held her tight. She reveled in the comfort of his strong embrace after the trials of the day, hoping that her embrace offered him comfort in return. Her earlier conversation with Sirius drifted into her mind and she wondered if he was right that Remus cared for her the same she cared for him. In his arms, she felt comforted, safe…dare she think loved? She closed her eyes and put the thought to the back of her mind for another day that wasn’t nearly as eventful as this one. They sat quietly in their own thoughts for several minutes before Tonks sat up reluctantly.
“Molly will be here soon to begin dinner,” she said regretfully. “We should go down and keep her company until the others arrive.”
“Our current situation isn’t presenting a compelling argument for me to move,” he said, running his hands along her thighs, coming to rest on her bottom.
“We can pick up here later,” she said with a smile. “Dumbledore said you’re my contact for after my mission tonight.” Tonks scooted off Remus’ lap and grabbed his hand, tugging him up from the couch. “Come along,” she said as she pulled him to the door. “Let’s go find out what sort of storm Molly is cooking up downstairs.”
As they walked to the kitchen, hand in hand, Tonks was thankful that she would have a meal surrounded by pleasant company before she had to head off to her mission that evening in a pub full of Death Eaters. She was also thankful for the added bonus of coming back to Remus when the night was complete.
A/N: You guys!!!! The reviews from the last chapter made me seriously want to give you all a big hug! Reviews are like currency, so please, please, pretty please keep them up!
So, in two days starts the NaNoWriMo competition in which I will attempt (ahh!) to write 50,000 words of an original novel—I'm crazy, right!? Have no fear, I have plenty of JH content to keep you happy during November and will still post regulalry. Now, if you wanted to give me some smiles during the month and keep me motivated, keep the reviews coming...I may even be persuaded to post a Remu POV one-shot if people would like:)
As usual, just Jo's, not mine—but isn't it so nice of her to let us play!?
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