Disclaimer: Obviously this situation and these characters belong to JKR and all too soon she’ll tell us what really happens after Bill and Fleur’s wedding. I just thought I’d get my shot in first.
Author’s note: This was originally written for the Summer Drama Challenge but not finished in time to enter. There’s action, drama, angst and character death and I felt very out of my comfort zone writing this. So any constructive feedback would be more than welcome.
‘Don’t scream.’ A strong hand clamped itself over her mouth, rendering the instruction entirely unnecessary, thought Tonks crossly. She might not be able to scream but she could certainly fight. She struggled to get a foot behind her attacker’s knee and pulled it forward so that the two of them fell, Tonks landing as hard as she could on top of him. In surprise, he let her go and Tonks scrambled to her feet, automatically reaching for her wand.
‘Don’t scream,’ she repeated, pointing her wand threateningly at the unexpectedly familiar face.
He lifted his hands in defeat. ‘What was that for?’
She shrugged, ‘Thought you were someone else. Why are you here?’
‘Remus sent me.’ Charlie sat up on the bed and looked around him. He’d landed on the hard floor next to Tonks’s bed which clearly hadn’t been made for some time. The curtains at the windows were held up with safety-pins and there was no wardrobe, so Tonks’s clothes lay around the room in colourful heaps. ‘Nice place you’ve got here.’
Tonks smirked sarcastically. ‘It’s not much, but it’s home.’
‘So, can anyone Apparate in like I did or is there a special spell to let ex-boyfriends through?’ Tonks’s hackles rose. Charlie had always been able to make her feel inadequate and she was damned if she was putting up with it now.
‘Oh, no,’ she answered through gritted teeth. ‘It’s free for all round here.’
He frowned. ‘Is that a good idea?’
Tonks shrugged. ‘Short of making it Unplottable, I don’t see there’s much I can do. And I don’t see that it’s any of your business.’
Charlie’s smile widened as he recognised her irritation. ‘Order business, sweetheart.’
‘Huh.’ She removed a tangled heap of garments and sat on the only chair in the room. ‘What do you want, anyway?’
‘Told you. Remus sent me.’
‘Why didn’t he come himself?’
Charlie winked. ‘Maybe he’s avoiding you.’
Since this was precisely what was worrying Tonks she gave Charlie a contemptuous glare. ‘Just give me the message and go.’
‘Fine, darling. If that’s what you want. Though it seems to me like a wasted opportunity.’
‘I beg your pardon?’ Tonks replied icily.
Charlie patted the bed meaningfully. ‘You, me, a dark and stormy night… How romantic can it get?’
‘Sod off, Charlie.’ But the anger had gone from her and she relaxed. ‘D’you want a cup of tea?’
‘Thought you’d never ask.’
‘Is Remus okay?’
Charlie nodded. ‘Fine. Relieved about Bill.’
Tonks put out her hand. ‘God, I’m sorry, Charlie. I forgot to ask.’
He shook his head. ‘It’s fine. He’s fine. It doesn’t matter.’ She offered him a chocolate biscuit and he grinned. ‘Things all right with you then?’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ she said innocently.
He waggled a biscuit at her. ‘An unfinished packet? Sure sign that you’re happy. Going okay with Remus, is it?’
Unconsciously, Tonks smiled and her hair brightened as she thought about Remus. ‘Blissful. But why didn’t he come tonight instead of sending you?’
‘Ah. Well that would be because he has a mission for us.’
‘For us?’ echoed Tonks.
Charlie laughed. ‘Don’t look so horrified, darling. It’ll be fun.’
She raised her eyebrows in patent disbelief. ‘Go on then. What does he want us to do?’
‘So, let me get this right. Harry is planning, with Ron and Hermione, to disappear after Bill’s wedding to go and destroy Voldemort without any help from anyone?’
‘Something like that,’ agreed Charlie who was crunching the final chocolate biscuit. ‘Got anything more substantial in the fridge?’
‘When did you last eat?’ asked Tonks in a resigned tone.
‘Supper today,’ Charlie told her cheerfully. ‘Mum made a terrific hotpot. But you know what these midnight assignments are like, always bring on an attack of the munchies.’
‘My heart bleeds,’ she replied dryly. ‘So Remus wants us to follow Harry? Or stop him?’
‘Stop him. And if not, follow him and bloody well make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.’
‘Ah. Isn’t that what we’re all doing anyway?’
Charlie shrugged. ‘Kind of. Are you in?’
Tonks slumped back on the bed and closed her eyes. ‘Yes,’ she said, suddenly sounding young and tired. ‘I’m in.’
For just a moment the teasing, flirting mask slipped off Charlie’s face. ‘It’s a bugger, love, but someone’s got to do it,’ he told her, seriously. ‘And better you and me than any other fool.’
She gave him a crooked half-smile. ‘I know. I know. But, oh Charlie, I wish this were all over.’
‘So do I, sweetheart. So do I.’
It was a beautiful wedding, thought Tonks, putting up a surreptitious hand to wipe a tear from under her
eye. She glanced up and caught Remus gazing at her. He’d clearly noticed the tear and reached for a clean white handkerchief which he solemnly presented her with.
‘I don’t suppose you brought one of your own,’ he murmured.
Tonks shook her head. ‘I don’t have any of my own. I just borrow other people’s and never give them back,’ she whispered.
The organ boomed out and the bride and groom made their slow, dignified way back down the aisle. Fred and George threw confetti which followed Bill and Fleur, falling in a perfect circle around their heads. Everyone was smiling and laughing, hugging and kissing, almost as if there wasn’t a war on at all.
Tonks turned to Remus and kissed him, hugging him hard. ‘I’ll be in touch,’ she promised. ‘As soon as I can.’
‘Be safe,’ he instructed her in husky tones. ‘Be safe, Tonks.’
She nodded, unable to say any more and found that she needed to use Remus’s handkerchief again. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Charlie, looking as casual as any man wearing a morning suit could feasibly be, leaning against a false pillar and downing a butterbeer. His eyes slid round to meet Tonks’s and he gave her the ghost of a wink.
‘That’s it, then.’ She stood up and bent to give Remus one final, brief peck on the cheek. ‘See you later, love.’
Godric’s Hollow. Charlie had overheard Ron and Harry talking and he knew that was where they were headed. Charlie was going to Apparate there straight away and Tonks was going to see if she could head them off at the Burrow first. They’d decided against stealth. Hiding from Death-Eaters was one thing, but hiding from each other seemed an unnecessary complication. If Harry, Ron and Hermione didn’t want Charlie and Tonks following them, they could give up their stupid plan altogether. But if they were determined to carry on, then they were having a bodyguard, like it or not. Tonks was pretty sure none of them would be stupid enough to try to attack her or Charlie and once they were together she and Charlie knew enough advanced magic to make certain no-one could sneak off alone.
It was well planned, Tonks acknowledged. Just after the speeches finished and the dancing began, each of them had slipped off. Harry first, then Ron and Hermione together so that no-one would comment. It was unlikely they’d be missed for hours, especially if Ginny was covering for Harry.
She followed Ron and Hermione up to the bedroom Ron shared with Harry and without bothering to knock walked in. All three of them turned to stare at her, Ron in evident horror, Harry with steely determination and Hermione with a knowing wink that made Tonks realise she hadn’t been as quiet coming up the stairs as she’d hoped.
‘Wotcher Tonks,’ Hermione said dryly. ‘I wondered when you’d get here.’
Tonks grinned and leaned back against the door. ‘So you know why I’m here?’
Ron began to shake his head but Harry spoke evenly, ‘I imagine you’re here to try and stop us.’ Ron blinked and turned to Hermione for confirmation.
‘We guessed someone might get wind of the plan. Does everyone know?’ asked Hermione.
‘No.’ Tonks shook her head. ‘Molly and Arthur don’t know. Nor do most of the Order. Only Remus.’
Harry narrowed his piercing green eyes at her but said nothing.
‘We’re going,’ said Ron. ‘You can’t stop us.’
‘Can’t I?’ mocked Tonks. ‘I know some pretty good hexes, you know.’ She waved her wand, just to make the point.
‘So do I,’ said Harry quietly. ‘And I’m prepared to use them. Just so you know.’
‘Look, why do it this way?’ Tonks tried. ‘That’s what the Order’s for. So you don’t have to do it all on your own. We want to help you. All of you. And specially you, Harry. Dumbledore…’
‘Dumbledore told me how to defeat Voldemort,’ Harry interrupted, tight-lipped and strained. ‘And that’s what I’m going to do.’
Tonks slid down to sit on the floor, her hand still gripping her wand. ‘Look, Harry, I know you loved Dumbledore. And that you trusted him more than anyone. But it doesn’t make the rest of us nothing. We all want Voldemort killed. We can do things to help you. Protect you while you do the things you have to do.
‘So can Ron and Hermione,’ Harry told her. ‘And I trust them.’
‘You can’t even Apparate yet.’
‘I can,’ Hermione put in. ‘And Ron passed his test last week. And Harry can, he just doesn’t have a licence.’
‘Won’t you even stay in touch?’ Tonks tried desperately. ‘Tell us what you’re doing. Where you are? We could find a code.’
‘That Voldemort could break? No, thanks. My parents trusted someone they shouldn’t and lost their lives because of it. I’m not making that mistake again.’
Tonks put her head in her hands. ‘Let me come with you,’ she begged. ‘I won’t get in the way. I’ll help, I promise.’
‘No,’ said Hermione sharply. ‘Four is too many. Three is hard enough to hide. I’m sorry, Tonks, but it’s better our way. And we have to get a move on. Ron, have you finished packing yet?’
Ron stumbled round the room picking up items apparently at random and stuffing them in his rucksack. Eventually he said he was done and Hermione took the bag from him, deftly rearranging things, throwing out several patently unnecessary items like his Chudley Cannons sticker book and telling him to find at least two more pairs of clean underpants. She gave Tonks a friendly smile while Ron obeyed, and turned to check that Harry was ready.
‘Right, well, we’re off. We appreciate you trying, Tonks, but, well, this is what we’re doing,’ Hermione said briskly.
‘Yeah. Say goodbye to Remus,’ Harry added. ‘Tell him… thanks for trying.’
Tonks nodded. ‘Have a… safe trip.’
The three of them linked hands and said goodbye to Tonks, then turned to face each other and with a loud pop, Disapparated. Tonks scrambled slowly to her feet, took one long lustful look out of the window and followed them.
Charlie looked at his watch again. It felt like bloody hours he’d been waiting here. Hours he could have spent at his brother’s wedding. Hours he could have been chatting to Fleur’s glamorous French friends and relatives. Or dancing with them… Good job he’d brought those spare bottles of butterbeer in his pockets. Only another five minutes had gone. Huh. He hoped that Tonks would remember to come and get him if she succeeded. She’d be in big trouble if he’d sat out here all afternoon for no bloody reason.
He was sitting on a low wall behind what remained of the Potters’ old house. Their home was little better than a ruin these days. The windows had all been blown out and there was a large hole in the roof. Charlie had taken a quick look inside the place the other day when he and Tonks formed their plan. Squatters had been and gone leaving graffitied evidence of their visits and piles of unwashed crockery that had spawned all kinds of mould. Bats hung from the roof and mice scampered happily around the floor. Cobwebs covered every remaining sign of human habitation at least an inch thick. Tonks had remarked that here was another reason to persuade Harry to change his mind. He oughtn’t to see this.
Damn. Damn, bugger, bloody hell. The hand which Charlie had been resting on his wand slowly curled to grip it more tightly. He wasn’t certain but the voice sounded like it might be Sebastian Nott.
A small group of Death Eaters came into view, circling around Charlie with wands out.
‘It’s a Weasley,’ one of them remarked. ‘Look at that hair.’
‘Which one?’ asked the man who was holding Charlie, giving him a vicious shove and releasing his mouth. Charlie looked carefully at his attacker, opened his mouth as if about to answer then in an instant
brought out his wand and shouted ‘Stupefy.’
A chorus of ‘Expelliarmus,’ whipped Charlie’s wand out of his hand and he watched helplessly as one of the Death Eaters Ennervated Nott. They were a measly bunch, thought Charlie, certain he could take any of them in a proper fight and confident that he could beat them all over a hundred yards. But without a wand, and one on… he glanced round… seven, there was little he could do. Except stop them getting to Harry.
‘Weasley.’ A woman was speaking now--Bellatrix Lestrange. Disdain oozed from every pore of her body. ‘Tell us what you were doing here, in this…’ she waved her arm ironically towards the ruined house, ‘…charming spot.’
‘Tell us!’ she shouted imperiously.
He shook his head.
‘You’re the dragon boy, aren’t you?’ Nott leered unpleasantly at him. ‘Like it hot?’ A flame of fire erupted from Nott’s wand. Charlie almost laughed as he dodged the pathetic attempt to imitate dragons’ breath.
‘So, Weasley,’ Bellatrix was standing closer now, holding her wand so that it just touched Charlie’s throat. ‘Were you waiting for someone?’
Charlie thought swiftly. He had to find a plausible way of distracting them. He shrugged and held out his hands in a gesture of defeat. ‘A girl. Not,’ he eyed Bellatrix challengingly, ‘that it’s any of your business.’
Bellatrix’s eyes widened in delight. ‘Lovers,’ she purred. ‘My favourite.’
Damn, thought Charlie again.
Sebastian stepped in. ‘No time for your little games, Bella. If the Potter boy’s not coming, we have work to do elsewhere.’
Slowly, Charlie began to breathe again. They’d believed him. If only Tonks could hold the kids off for a few more minutes…
‘This won’t take long,’ Bellatrix replied sweetly. Charlie felt a thud in his stomach and found himself lying flat on the muddy ground. A stiletto-heeled foot pushed him onto his front and then landed heavily on his back. He took a deep breath then thrust upward and to one side sharply, throwing Bellatrix sprawling onto the ground but there was no time to look, no time to think. Charlie did the only thing left to him. He ran.
‘It doesn’t look much,’ said Ron doubtfully.
‘Come on,’ Hermione instructed impatiently. ‘You’re going to have to get over that spider thing one day, Ron.’
Ron didn’t seem to be completely convinced of this but Harry was already halfway into the old house and Hermione was irritatingly persistent. Reluctantly he followed her insistent tug.
Harry was sneezing and Hermione had reached for a handkerchief to hold over her face. Ron looked round warily. ‘God this is awful, Harry.’
Harry threw a sideways glance at his friend. ‘Thanks, Ron. Remind me to tell you what I really think of the Burrow one day.’
‘Look over there.’ Hermione was pointing to a large chest. ‘There might be some things in there from…’
‘From my parents,’ finished Harry in an unnaturally calm voice. He knelt and tried to lift the lid.
‘Locked,’ he announced briefly. ‘Alohamora.’ The lid came off in his hands. ‘Empty.’ He stood up, trying to conceal his disappointment. ‘Let’s try upstairs.’
The upstairs rooms were equally dirty but different. Hermione could make out the outlines of the patterns on the wallpaper.
‘I think this must have been your room, Harry,’ she said in a shaky whisper. ‘Look.’ There were Snitches and Quidditch hoops and broomsticks in a repeating pattern. Harry traced them in amazement.
‘Tonks is in the garden.’ Ron had been rubbing at the glass with his sleeve.
Hermione nodded. ‘I thought she’d probably follow us. But she won’t know where we’re going next.’ She came to stand beside Ron and cleared another pane of glass.
‘Ron,’ she said in a small voice. ‘What’s that?’
‘There. In the field. Just before the wood starts. That…’ she gulped, ‘that orange…’
Ron stared for a few seconds then turned abruptly, pushing Hermione out of the way as he dashed out of the house. He ran unseeingly past Tonks. He cleared the wall as if it were barely there. Ron only saw the heap of clothes and limbs and hair on the rough grass ahead of him.
He ran, willing it with every ounce of breath he possessed, not to be. Not to be what he already knew it was.
Ron had his arms around his brother’s dead body. He wasn’t crying but his eyes were wide and unfocussed and he was shaking. Hermione knelt beside him and began to stroke his hair and to whisper something that only he could hear. Eventually his grip on Charlie loosened and he turned gratefully to Hermione’s warm, live embrace.
Tonks began to examine Charlie with as much detached professionalism as she could manage.
‘There are scars all over his back,’ she said. ‘He must have tried to run away. Here…’ she swallowed, ‘Crucio. And… oh… Avada Kedavra. Maybe half a dozen attackers. No sign of his wand.’
Ron and Hermione didn’t appear to be listening but Harry nodded. ‘They were here for me.’ No-one bothered to contradict him.
‘We have to go back,’ Tonks said eventually.
‘No,’ Harry told her sharply. ‘I have to go on.’ He looked round at Ron and Hermione for confirmation. Both looked at him with white, shaken faces but they nodded bravely. ‘You take him back, Tonks and… and tell them I’m sorry.’
She shook her head. ‘Not you, Harry. You didn’t do this.’
He shrugged. ‘Tell them, anyway. And tell Remus not to send anyone else. It’s too dangerous.’ Harry turned away from the tragic group, putting up a hand to dash a tear from his eyes. ‘Too bloody dangerous.’
‘Ron?’ Tonks looked at the distraught boy still being cradled by his girlfriend. ‘You don’t have to do this. Not now.’
Ron held Hermione’s hand tightly. He didn’t trust himself to speak but he shook his head and looked to Hermione for help.
She nodded reassuringly at Ron and stroked his hand. ‘We’re going, Tonks,’ she said quietly but firmly. ‘We’re going with Harry. I’m sorry.’
Left alone, Tonks brushed a lock of bright ginger hair out of Charlie’s eyes. It was hard to believe that anything so vivid wasn’t still alive.
‘What a bugger, Charlie,’ she whispered. ‘What a bloody bugger.’
She drew out her wand and levitated Charlie’s body off the ground. Putting her arm firmly around his waist, she glanced up at his face. She could almost swear that through her tears she saw him wink at her in that knowing way he always had.
‘We’re going now,’ she told him. ‘Don’t scream.’
Author’s note: My LJ Flist will know just how much angst this story caused me. I hope it was worth it and that Jo doesn’t read this and get inspired by it!!