Tonks awoke to bright sunlight angling across the bed in her tiny flat
and groaned when she remembered that it never came through that window
until noon or later.
"Damn," she muttered sleepily, not feeling refreshed in the least. "That's half the day."
was groggily considering a cup of tea when a tapping at the window
forced her out of bed. When one foot caught the trailing edge of her
bedcovers she hopped around on the other, cursing when her elbow
smacked painfully into the bedside table as she spun in a woozy little
circle to disentangle herself. The tapping continued as she staggered
toward the window.
"Coming. I'm coming you daft bird! Keep your bloody feathers on."
sturdy-looking post owl hovered outside with a roll of parchment in its
beak. When she managed to get the window open, it flew in to land
neatly on her rumpled bed. She took the parchment, which was rolled and
fastened with a bright yellow ribbon, and held it in her teeth as she
searched the pockets of last night's shorts for a Knut. After the
owl had flown off, she gave the ribbon a tug and yelped with surprise
when the whole thing burst into riotous bloom in a showy puff of smoke.
She suddenly found herself clutching a nosegay of daisies while a small
card swung saucily from the yellow ribbon that bound them.
Thanks for our little chat. --Remus
She blinked in surprise but couldn't suppress a smile as she
lifted the flowers to her nose and took in their pungent scent. This
was certainly unexpected. Such a gesture was hardly like Remus, but the
note was written in his precise hand and sounded just like him --
friendly, polite and understated to a fault.
that was how he usually was, but last night had been different. He'd
revealed a depth of emotion that was startling in its intensity. She'd
known from the time she'd met him how kind he was and from the very
beginning she had felt drawn to his gentle influence. Truth be told,
she supposed it was a bit of a schoolgirl crush, but she had always
laughed at the thought of Remus caught up in the throes of a grand love
affair. He was so... well... bookish.
But her smile
faded as she remembered how anguished he'd been last night, and later
how embarrassed he'd been by his own vulnerability. She had stayed with
him until well after the moon set, sharing memories and
keeping watch outside Harry's window until fatigue had forced her to
Apparate back home in the murky chill just before dawn.
fact that Remus had acknowledged the incident at all was both
astonishing and humbling. He must consider her to be a trusted friend
to have opened up like that, and then he had said "thank you" so
sweetly. Her chest felt a bit heavy as the weight of such a gift
settled upon her. She looked down again at the bright little bouquet
and felt the sting of sudden tears as it occurred to her that Sirius
would have probably approved.
When she arrived at Order headquarters the meeting
room was already crowded and fairly crackled with tension. She slid
into a chair along the wall next to Bill Weasley, who looked like he
hadn't slept much in the last few days either.
"Wotcher Bill. What gives?"
scrubbed at his face and made an unsuccessful attempt to swipe back the
hair that trailed uncharacteristically from the ponytail he always wore.
there, Tonks," he said wearily. "We found them -- or at least we think
we have." His eyes flicked upward, and he grinned roguishly.
Tonks fingered the sassy little style she had
pinned with wee sparkling daisy barrettes and colored to match the
yellow of the ribbon that held her flowers.
"Thanks. You found them? Where? How?"
a guesthouse on the grounds of Malfoy Manor. I managed to come up with
a Tracking Charm we could use on that little bastard Kreacher and he
led us right to 'em."
"Cool. When are we going in?"
"That's what we're about to find out. The higher-ups have been meeting since dawn."
looked toward the table, where Dumbledore, McGonagall and Moody were
listening carefully to Remus. She couldn't hear what he said, but she
marveled at his quiet authority. His fatigue of the night before
appeared to be gone, though she knew he hadn't slept. His sandy graying
hair was growing longer. It brushed his shoulders and flopped boyishly
over his forehead while his expressive hands gestured to emphasize a
particularly important point. His eyes were alight with determination.
nodded curtly as Remus finished speaking and rose to address the room,
which immediately fell into silence. "Ladies and gentlemen, we know
where they are."
The room erupted into cheers and applause which Dumbledore acknowledged with a solemn nod, and quieted again as he continued.
to some hard work by our Charms expert Mr. Weasley, we have been able
to track an insider of the Malfoy household and locate magical
signatures that match the wands of several noted Death Eaters,
including Bellatrix Lestrange and Peter Pettigrew. They are residing in
a guesthouse on the grounds of Malfoy Manor, which is heavily warded
and no doubt well-guarded. Mr. Lupin --" Here he turned to acknowledge
Remus, who sat at the table with an indecipherable look on his face.
"-- has come up with a plan for a pre-emptive strike. We have selected
a strike force of ten Order members who will work in teams of two. We
will secure the perimeter by stealth and penetrate the interior by
force. There will also be an airborne unit of eight witches and wizards
who will serve as strike co-ordinators and double as back-up if
necessary. The objective will be to capture Voldemort's lieutenants and
search the premises for information that might reveal their next plan
Remus then rose to speak, his gentle voice carrying throughout the room.
are three physical entry points. The front door leads into a formal
sitting room, the back door goes into the kitchen, and there is a side
door on the outer wall of the attached greenhouse. Three of the ground
teams will use these entry points. The other two will Apparate into
upstairs bedrooms once the wards have been disabled. Any questions so
Tonks sat up from her comfortable slouch and raised her hand.
Remus' warm gaze shifted to her and the corners of his mouth turned up
slightly as his gaze flicked up toward her hair and back down to meet
"Have you been able to identify the configuration
of the wards? I don't fancy being fricasseed before we can even pop off
a spell." She heard Bill's soft chuckle beside her and felt,
rather than saw, his weary nod.
"Mr. Weasley was easily able
to identify them. The way in which they are layered is complex, but the
wards themselves are easily broken if taken in the proper sequence."
Here Remus grinned. "I can only say that I'm glad he's on our side."
laughter rippled around the room as everyone agreed with that
assessment. Tonks turned to Bill and offered up a high five, which he
"Any other questions so far? Right
then, here are your team assignments. When I call your names, get with
your partner and gather over here. We'll go over the details once the
meeting is adjourned."
He began reading names off a list in
teams of two. Tonks was not surprised to learn that she was partnered
with Mad-Eye, since it was common to combine youth and experience on
the missions, but she was taken aback by the nature of her task.
"I'm part of the stealth team? Are you certain that's a good idea, Mad-Eye?"
roving eye fixed upon her in its customary glare. "Of course. The
sneaking around's not going to last that long, but the fight's going to
be a hell of a thing. I can't think of anyone I'd rather have at my
side, lass. You've proven yourself, don't worry."
frowned at the memory of the searing pain and sudden blackness of the
spell she'd taken at the Ministry while providing cover for Moody from
above. The story went that he'd been able to neutralize a couple of
Death Eaters before he'd been taken out himself, thanks to her efforts.
After she'd awakened in St. Mungo's a day later he'd stopped in
to see her, and as he'd returned her wand only said, "Well done, lass,"
in that cranky rattle of his.
She gave him a grim smile and nodded curtly as she turned her attention back to Remus' instructions.
The conditions were perfect. An overcast sky
provided cover from the moonlight. The air was warm with a slight
breeze that swished through the trees and covered the sounds of their
approach. As soon as Fawkes' signal arrived, Tonks and the others had
Apparated to safe positions directly across from their designated entry
points. Tonks allowed herself a quick sigh of relief that Bill had been
able to bring down the wards without tripping some sort of alarm. He was good. She also gave herself a pat on the back for not getting tangled in the shrubbery this time.
head to toe in black, with her hair back to its natural state, she fell
to one knee and fumbled for her Omnioculars while still keeping hold of
her wand. Moody, also in black, swiveled his eye toward the quiet
house, where a few lights glowed through the leaded glass windows. So
far, so good -- no sign of having been detected. Her gaze lifted
skyward, where the airborne team was assembling. She could just make
out Remus' lanky form through the lenses of the Omnioculars.
"Okay," she whispered to Moody. "We're all here. Stand by."
He didn't reply, but she could sense the tensing of his body next to her as he held his wand at the ready.
a dark specter surrounded by others of his kind, Remus raised his wand
arm high. Tonks felt the nagging fatigue she'd been fighting lately
dissipate to make way for the familiar rush of adrenaline that always
accompanied her on missions. Her body tensed of its own volition like a
coiled spring. A brief Lumos spell shone from the tip of Remus' wand
like a single star and she turned to her partner.
it," she hissed, and grinned at Moody as she pocketed the Omnioculars.
She knew that she probably looked like a kid about to sneak into the
Hogwarts kitchens, but she couldn't help it. Moody didn't smile back,
but he did chuck her under the chin with gruff affection and gave her a
signal to move out.
Her smile faded when she remembered how
much she hated stealth approaches. As they left the cover of the
foliage, she crept forward with her wand at the ready and made for the
kitchen door at the back of the house. Without warning, she caught her
foot in some sort of divot in the lawn and twisted her ankle painfully.
She went down in a tangled heap of flailing limbs and felt a flash of
anger at herself for her own clumsiness. She felt a vise-like grip on
her arm as Moody hauled her to her feet and gave her a little nudge in
the right direction.
incident off, she made it to the door and looked skyward again. She
could no longer see the airborne team since they were standing too
close to the house, but when the sky glowed red she knew the time had
come. Stealth no longer a factor, she whipped her wand out in front of
her and yelled, "Bombarda!" The door blasted open in a gratifying
explosion, and she turned to cover the rear as Moody barreled his way
inside. Two guards rose in surprise from the kitchen table and fumbled
in panic for their wands. Moody stunned them quickly and efficiently,
one right after the other. He secured them with magical bonds as Tonks
moved into the house's interior hallway, which was filled with the
smoke of spell residue and alight with flying curses. Instinct took
over as her body responded with grace and precision. She cast a quick
Shield Charm and managed to stun two more guards. Her peripheral vision
caught sight of Hestia Jones and Sturgis Podmore coming down the hall
stairs at a dead run with the Weasley twins close behind.
floor is secure!" Podmore, whose nose appeared to be broken, yelled
over the din. "They've got to be at the front of the house -- hurry!"
sprinted down the short corridor to where she saw lamplight glowing in
steady contrast to the flashing of curses. The room was a mess.
Furniture had been overturned and was being used as cover for wizards
on both sides of the fight. The smoke was so thick it was hard to
discern faces. As a curse arrowed towards her Tonks threw herself to
the side, coming neatly to her feet from a perfectly executed roll.
scream of laughter pierced through the confusion and Tonks froze in
recognition. Bellatrix Lestrange was suddenly at her side, the point of
her wand at Tonks' throat.
"Well, Little Nymph, I'm
surprised to see you here. I thought we'd taken care of you the same
way we took care of Sirius, the great fool. How about a kiss for your
Aunt Bella," and she screamed with laughter again, so close to Tonks'
ear that it caused pain.
"Drop the wand, Lestrange, or you'll see him sooner than you think," came Mad-Eye's gravelly voice from behind them.
I don't know," she said with syrupy sarcasm. "I'm guessing you care
more about who lives or dies than I do right now. Shall we see who has
more nerve, old man?"
Suddenly the feel of her aunt's body
so close to hers, the cloying smell of Bellatrix' perfume and sweat
combined with the shrill timbre of her voice, made Tonks angrier than
she'd ever been. She flashed back to when she'd awakened in hospital to
learn that Sirius had died at the hands of this crazy old hag. The
sight of Harry at the train station, a fifteen-year-old boy with eyes
too old for his face, swam before her vision. Tonks thought of
Remus shuddering with grief in the moonlight, and the noise of the
battle faded as she focused on the feel of the wand at her throat.
"Y'know what?" she said conversationally. "I think I've had just about enough of you, you miserable bitch."
that, she stomped hard on Bellatrix' foot and drove her elbow backwards
into the soft flesh of her midsection. Using the distraction to his
advantage, Mad-Eye roared "Expelliarmus!" popping the wand loose from
Bellatrix' hand. While she had Bellatrix doubled over, Tonks used the
opportunity to spin round and pull her to the floor. Her training took
over, and in no time she had Bellatrix face down on the polished wood
with both arms pinned behind her back. She shifted forward to allow
Moody the assist and ground her knee into the side of the witch's head
in a very satisfying way while Bellatrix screeched in impotent rage.
Oh, how she hated this woman. Still ignoring the battle raging around
them, Tonks gave in to a red haze of fury that seemed to utterly
"Why? WHY?" She was dimly aware that her voice
was nearly as screechy as Bellatrix'. With each question, she ground
her aunt's head under her knee and into the floor. "Why are you
like this? What in the name of hell is the matter with you?
You're supposed to be my family, and all you are is an evil bitch. A
BITCH! Damn you, Aunt Bella, WHY?"
Her wand was lying
on the floor where it had fallen in the midst of the tussle. She
snatched it up and jammed it into the flesh between Bellatrix' shoulder
blades as the older witch continued to hurl threats and insults.
up! Just SHUT UP!" Tonks raged, applying more pressure on the wand tip,
and then her voice lowered to a quivering whisper. "Just give me a
reason, you dried up old cow -- any reason at all."
surprise Bellatrix did shut up, but she was still breathing heavily and
her eyes glittered with hatred and fury. Tonks became aware of
just how hard her own heart was pounding, how each beat seemed to throb
in her temples and behind her eyes, which were stinging and tearing --
perhaps from the excess smoke, perhaps from something more. Her hands
trembled visibly. She could hear the far-off sound of her name being
called, but the room began to spin in a lazy, nauseating 360-degree arc
and it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. In the midst of
her confusion she felt a pair of strong hands grasp her shoulders with
gentle insistence, and she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.
She blinked a couple of times until she could make out the face of
Remus Lupin, who seemed very concerned about her for some reason.
"Wotcher, Remus," she managed to say in a flimsy squeak. Then his face disappeared as the world went black.
White walls... bright light... the smell of antiseptic potions. St. Mungo's.
damn," Tonks muttered as she closed her eyes to fight off the pounding
in her head. Her stomach still felt pretty dodgy, and her mouth felt
and tasted like she'd been licking out cauldron bottoms. What had
happened? She fought off the mental fog in an attempt to reconstruct
her last memory, and winced in humiliation as the night's raid came
back to her. Wow -- she had gone completely to pieces. Nothing like
that had ever happened in the field before, and she began to doubt if
her recall was indeed accurate. She couldn't help groaning as she
attempted to sit up.
"Nymphadora!" Her mother's voice came
from a chair in the corner of the room. Andromeda was at her daughter's
side in an instant, her cool hand resting on Tonks' aching
"Mum --" she managed in a dry croak. "Mum, what happened?"
dear. The Healers say you've not had much sleep, and you are still weak
from your earlier injuries. Oh, Nymphadora, what are we going to do
with you? My brave girl."
Exhaustion? Of all the damn fool
things to take her out. That explained her very unprofessional behavior
towards Bellatrix. How
couldn't help it. She was an Auror, an officer of the Ministry and a
member of Dumbledore's elite fighting force, but the sound of her mum's
soft voice, the endearments of childhood, and the express permission to
be a child again all felt exactly like what she needed at the moment.
She grabbed hold of her mother's hand and kissed it gratefully.
"I'm glad you're here, Mum. Dad?"
"Daddy's gone to work, but he said to contact him as soon as you're awake."
"Mum, Aunt Bella... " Her voice was quivering now.
dear, I know. It's all over now. Bella has never been quite right, and
there is no longer anything that can be done for her. She stopped being
my sister a long time ago. I understand your anger -- I'd have done the
same in your place. Do whatever you have to, and don't worry about my
feelings in the matter."
"Crazy old bitch."
dear," her mother's dark eyes twinkled with amusement even as they
sparkled with unshed tears. "Dumbledore himself was here to talk to the
Healers about your condition," she said, proudly. "Your work at the
Auror Division has been suspended for two weeks, and you are confined
to light duty for the Order." She held up a hand to still Tonk's
angry protest. "I know you have important work to do, and it's not like
you to sit idle, but you won't help anyone if your health is
compromised. Your commander was here -- Sirius' friend -- and he said
they'd find a way to keep you from going nutters."
then a well-padded, apple-cheeked woman in the bright green robes of a
Healer bustled in with a vial of evil-looking liquid in her hand.
-- look who's awake." She planted her feet and addressed her patient
sternly. "Nymphadora Tonks, we need to stop meeting like this."
"Wotcher, Aggie -- and it's Tonks, just Tonks. You know that."
At this pronouncement, Andromeda rolled her eyes and shook her head. "It's a beautiful name. Someday you'll -- "
you for it, yeah. Seems to me we've had this discussion before. Mum, it
makes me sound like a... " She took in her mother's raised eyebrows and
suddenly didn't have the strength to go on with the debate. "Well, I
dunno what it makes me sound like, but it's more name than I need."
It's a lovely name, and it suits you better than you think. Darling,
you're looking very pale. Perhaps you should get some more sleep."
that's just what you're going to get, duck. Here, drink up now." Aggie
handed her the nasty looking vial and stood with her hands on her hips
until Tonks drank the entire draught. She adjusted the pillows and
pulled the covers back up to Tonks' chin after giving her a glass of
water to chase the potion. "You'll be out for a while again, so I
suggest you say your good-byes and plan for no more visitors until
"Yes'm," Tonks said wryly, her arms feeling like lead weights. "Bye, Mum. Thanks for coming down. I'll be fine."
know you will. For now," Andromeda said darkly. "But I swear by all the
magic in my wand, Nymphadora, that you will be the death of me yet. You
just had to become an Auror, and I know that you're a good one,
but sometimes I think you go looking for danger even when you don't
"Yes, well, living with the name Nymphadora all my life has made me slightly suicidal. Love you, Mum."
you too, dear." Andromeda chuckled and leaned over to kiss her daughter
on the forehead. "You've grown to be an extraordinary woman,
Nymphadora. Daddy and I are very proud of you, but please -- do try to
take care of yourself, will you?"
couldn't fight the effects of the potion any longer and let the
delicious tug of deep sleep claim her. What she didn't know was that
Andromeda stayed for a bit longer, remembering her little girl and
marveling at the grown woman before her. What Tonks also couldn't know
was that as Andromeda turned to go, she whispered a plea to all the
forces of magic for her girl's safety, grateful that her only daughter
couldn't see her anxious tears.
When Tonks next awoke, she felt a great deal
better than she had in a long while. She was surprised to feel hungry,
and noted that the vague fog that had surrounded her for the last few
weeks was gone. She sat up, stiff from inactivity and still feeling
heavy in the limbs. She yawned widely and stretched to work the knots
out of her shoulders. It was then that she spied the bright
little nosegay on the table at the foot of the bed. Daisies again --
tied with a now-familiar yellow ribbon, and resting in a water pitcher.
There was no card with the bouquet this time, but she knew who had left
them. A little thrill swooped through her midsection at the thought of
Remus coming to see her. Blimey! What was up with that? "Get a grip,
you silly twit," she thought to herself. "He's way too old for you, and
he doesn't see you like that anyhow."
But the thought of such a possibility was rather nice.
was grinning like a loon when the man in question poked his head in the
door. She was instantly flustered and cracked her elbow painfully
on the bed rail as she instinctively reached up and to her dismay
encountered a magnificent case of bedhead. Oh, well -- it was too late
to do anything about it without looking like an idiot. Besides, she
didn't have the energy.
"Remus! What are you doing here?"
This is the greeting I get for having kept a tireless vigil beside your
bed, keeping you safe from all harm -- nay! For keeping the very
specter of death at bay!" His hand was over his heart and his eyes
rolled heavenward in a parody of saintly suffering. Then he winked at
her and grinned in his boyish way. "Well, at least I kept that Aggie
woman off your back."
Tonks snorted. "My hero. Thank you for the flowers."
mention it." He settled comfortably in the chair at her bedside. "I
should give you more than that for delivering Bellatrix Lestrange.
Peter managed to escape, but I'll take what we've got. You're one hell
of an Auror, Nymphadora."
For some reason, it didn't bother
her to hear him use her given name. It actually sounded rather nice
when he said it softly like that, with more than a hint of admiration
in his voice.
He went on. "You fought like a seasoned
veteran. Moody was fairly crowing with pride -- once we knew you'd be
okay, of course. We thought you were going to kill her." His mouth
twisted into a wry smile. "Though a large part of me can't say I'd
Tonks could feel the heat creeping up her face and prickling along her hairline. "Yes, well... "
His voice was soft. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Yes! I mean... I don't know if there's much to tell. I just did my nut,
that's all. She made me so bloody angry I lost control. Damned
unprofessional of me."
"Yes, it was. Which is why you're here.
You need a rest, Tonks. No -- just hear me out. You've been pulling
double duty in the Auror field and with the Order. You've had hardly
any sleep, and apparently you weren't at full strength when you
returned to work. We almost lost you at the Ministry that night, and
you should have had more time to recover." He shook his head. "I should
have noticed that you were flagging. I was just too caught up in Order
business and my own problems to notice it. You put on a very good act,
you know that? Don't look at me like that."
By the time he was finished speaking, Tonks was fairly shaking with indignation.
look at you any way I bloody well please, you arrogant berk! A good
act? A GOOD ACT? Let's talk about who's got himself a good act, shall
we?" Tonks was sitting straight up in bed, gesturing wildly. "You're as
played out as I am -- probably more. You haven't slept or eaten
properly yourself since that night at the Ministry. You've been through
the full moon, you've lost your best friend, and you've not stopped
working for the better part of a year. You look like one good puff of
wind would knock you right off your pins, and you're still running around acting like you're the big effin' wing-nut that holds civilization together!"
been staring at her dumbfounded until that last phrase, which brought
forth an involuntary snort of laughter. He was obviously trying to hold
it back, but her bosom-heaving, nostril-flaring tirade combined with
that ridiculous declaration seemed to be too much for Remus. As her
words hung suspended in the antiseptic air, she had to admit it was
pretty funny. Pretty soon, the two of them were laughing uproariously.
Remus brought himself back under control with difficulty, his grin
slowly giving way to a thoughtful look.
His gaze lifted to meet hers. When he answered, his voice was barely audible.
may have been amusing, but there's a painful kernel of truth to what
you're saying," he said slowly, as though the words were being pulled
from him against his will. "Dumbledore gave me nearly the same speech I
gave you, and I convinced him that it would be better for me to keep
going. Perhaps I was wrong about that." He scrubbed at his face,
seemed to come to some sort of decision, and said with enthusiasm,
"Tell you what, Tonks. We'll both take light duty -- we pulled all
sorts of information out of the Malfoy guesthouse, and it all needs to
be sorted and analyzed. Bellatrix is being held for questioning, and
Peter has disappeared along with Voldemort for the time being. All
indications are that he will continue to lie low. I'll delegate people
to keep tabs on any leads that may surface and in the meantime we'll go
over what we found in that raid. For the next two weeks we'll work from
headquarters -- getting a full eight hours of sleep per night, taking
frequent rests during the day, and eating as much as Molly will feed
us. While we're at it, we'll plan a memorial service for Sirius and
I'll try to spend some time with Harry. What do you say?"
thought about it. She could spend the next couple of weeks holed up in
her flat with nothing to do but sleep, eat and read. Or she could take
Remus up on his offer and still contribute to the work of the Order --
and she could see to it personally that he would be getting some rest
in the bargain. It was a no-brainer. When her eyes met his again, she
smiled cheekily and pointed at him.
"Bring me some chocolate to go with those flowers, Lupin, and you've got yourself a deal."