Lucy In The
Sky With Diamonds
picture yourself in a boat on a river
R, Sirius/Remus, Remus/Tonks. A story about how Tonks grows up.
Something special happened when Nymphadora Tonks was five. It wasn’t Sirius
coming to visit, although that was something special that didn’t happen often,
because he was away at Hogwarts most of the time and could only come when he was
on holiday. Now it was summer, and he had come to babysit. Nymphadora was very
But it wasn’t like it usually was when he babysat. First of all, her mummy and
daddy hadn’t actually gone anywhere. They’d just said they were having an
important chat with Professor Dumbledore in the living room and she wasn’t to
come in and disturb them, but to stay in the kitchen and be good for Sirius. She
was a little bit disappointed, because she liked Professor Dumbledore almost as
much as she liked Sirius. Professor Dumbledore always gave her Muggle sweeties
(and her dad would eat them and tell her, “Ah, that takes me back!”), and said
nice things about her hair, and she was sorry she wasn’t allowed to go in and
see him; but then the doorbell rang and she knew it would be Sirius and she
forgot all about it.
Sirius bounced in through the door and picked her up. “Nymphadora! How are you,
Nymphadora didn’t mind being called a baby by Sirius. “I’m fine,” she said
politely, like she’d been taught, but then she forgot and asked: “Can we make
cookies by magic pretty please?”
“Of course we can! And Moony here will dye them pink to match your hair!”
Nymphadora squealed. Her hair wasn’t always pink, but it changed colour when she
got excited, and now Sirius was here, it was the colour of Drooble’s Best
Blowing Gum. He put her down gently and said, “Nymphadora, this is Moony.”
She turned round and realised he hadn’t come by himself, which was the second
reason it wasn’t like when he usually babysat. There was another boy with him,
who had long brown hair and brown eyes that had light-coloured flecks in them.
(She asked about the word “flecks” later, so she knew it was the right one.)
Nymphadora turned round. Her mum had opened the living-room door and stuck her
head out. “I thought it was you,” she said, and she was smiling. “And you must
be Remus Lupin. Sirius has told me a lot about you.”
The boy with the brown hair smiled back at Nymphadora’s mum and held out his
hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Tonks.”
“Andromeda, please.” She was still smiling. “Well, Sirius, you enjoy babysitting
Dora, and Remus, you enjoy babysitting Sirius.” She laughed, and so did the boy
with the brown hair, but Sirius looked grumpy. “Be good, Nymphadora.”
She went back inside, and Sirius picked Nymphadora up again. “What was that
about making cookies by magic?”
“Sirius...” said the other boy warningly. Nymphadora squirmed in Sirius’s grasp
to turn to look at him.
“Is your name really Moony? Mum called you something else.”
“Moony,” he said, looking down at her, “is what my friends call me. I’d be
honoured if you did the same.”
Nymphadora didn’t say anything, but something inside her stomach went pop.
In the kitchen, Sirius sat her down on the edge of a counter and started taking
things out of cupboards – things like flour and sugar and bicarbonate of soda.
(Nymphadora was very proud of being able to say bicarbonate of soda.)
“You see, little cousin,” he said as he did it, “we have a slight problem. Your
mum can make cookies by magic. But Moony and I, sadly, are not of age. You know
what that means, don’t you?”
“You can’t do magic or bad things happen,” she said, and suddenly felt
disappointed. “Does that mean no cookies?”
“Certainly not!” He looked like she’d said something awful. “There will be
cookies... the Muggle way! Do you know how Muggles make cookies, Nymphadora?”
Nymphadora thought about it. “My nana is a Muggle. I know how she makes them.”
Sirius laughed. “If my family heard you say the word “nana”, Nymphadora, I don’t
know what they’d....”
Moony interrupted. “Mine is too,” he said, and he smiled at her. “And she taught
me to make cookies as well.”
Making cookies the Muggle way was fun. Lots of flour got on the floor, for one
thing, and Sirius didn’t seem to know what to do with a rolling-pin. He
threatened to hit her on the head with it, and she screamed and ran away, but
she knew he wouldn’t really.
When the cookies were ready, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Sirius took the tray
out, wearing oven gloves – he would have forgotten if Moony hadn’t reminded him
– and put them on the counter. And Nymphadora opened her eyes wide, because they
were pink! “You said you couldn’t do magic!” she told Sirius.
“He can’t.” Moony put a finger on his lips. “Can you keep a secret, Nymphadora?”
She nodded her head.
“Look at this.” He held out his hand, shook it, and something dropped out of his
sleeve. It was a small glass bottle, and it was labelled – Nymphadora was good
at reading – food colouring. “Muggle magic,” he said, and grinned. “Now
would you like a cookie, my lady with the kaleidoscope eyes?”
She nodded again. Through a mouth full of crumbs, she asked, “What’s it mean,
“It comes from a song by the Beatles. Has Sirius told you who the Beatles are?”
Sirius snorted. “She’s Andromeda’s daughter, she’s been well educated already.”
Moony ignored him. “Well, they sing a song about it. A kaleidoscope is a Muggle
toy that you look through, and it changes colours while you look. And it’s a
good name for you, because your eyes change colour whenever you want. Do you
“I’m like a girl in a song?”
He nodded. “Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly...” he sang,
hoarsely. “A girl with kaleidoscope eyes...”
Sirius clapped his hands over his ears. But Nymphadora, sitting on the counter
and listening, knew something very special had just happened.
Late that night, when Professor Dumbledore had gone and so had her babysitters,
Nymphadora sat up in bed when her mummy came to say goodnight.
“Dora, I thought you were asleep.”
“Mummy,” said Nymphadora, “something very important happened today.”
“What’s that, darling?”
Nymphadora took a deep breath and worried she might laugh. “I fell in love.”
But her mummy didn’t laugh. She smiled, though, and said, “I’m delighted to hear
it.” And she kissed Nymphadora goodnight, and switched off the light.
When Nymphadora Tonks was eleven, she burst into tears in the middle of one of
Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration classes.
For a minute, nothing happened. The class were changing needles into
matchsticks, in a room filled with total silence, and Nymphadora’s sudden,
violent sobs cut into it like a blunt blade. Once they’d been alerted to the
noise, the people around her exchanged confused, surreptitious glances. From the
other side of the room, some of the Slytherins began to snigger. Nymphadora
ignored them all, cried solidly for two more minutes, and stood up, her chair
scraping. She stalked out of the room, her hair straightening out of corkscrew
curls, and slammed the door behind her.
The corridor outside was deserted. There were rolling clouds visible through the
large, dingy window, with a flash of sun. There was a little warmth in it, and
she moved to stand by the glass, looking down at the bleak, autumnal grounds
rolling away beneath. She took a deep breath, and then another.
“Now, Tonks,” said someone quietly, “suppose you tell me what’s the matter.”
She turned around, slowly. Professor McGonagall had just closed the door behind
her, and Nymphadora heard the latch click closed. “Can’t,” she said.
“No one inside can hear a word,” McGonagall continued, as if she hadn’t spoken.
“They’re busy with their needles, and anyone who has not produced a matchstick
by the end of this class will have detention for the next four weeks of term.”
She smiled grimly. “I do not make idle threats, as you know. Now, Tonks...” –
and her voice had a gentleness beneath the brogue – “I want to know why you were
crying in there.”
Nymphadora turned away again, back to looking at the sunlight spilling over
Hogwarts’ grounds. Far, far below, she thought she saw the giant squid break the
surface of the lake, making a shadowy wake in the flawless blue, then
disappearing. “I got the Daily Prophet this morning,” she said after a
minute. “My mum sends it on to me when I’m at school.”
McGonagall nodded. “Go on.”
“It was in the gossip column,” Nymphadora said flatly. “It was just a paragraph.
It said someone thought they’d seen Harry Potter in a Muggle shop.”
“Oh, I see. Harry went to live with Muggles, dear.” McGonagall had stepped
closer, but Nymphadora was grateful she hadn’t been asked to turn round, at
least not yet. “It was the best place for him. I’m not saying what they publish
in that rag is always true, mind you, but it could be.”
“I saw him once when I was little,” Nymphadora said. “He was Sirius’s godson. He
was so proud.”
McGonagall had tensed at the name, and there was a long pause before Nymphadora
“And I thought: they’re not coming back. Any of them. And just because I was so
little somehow I’m not allowed. I mean I’m not allowed to miss them. Miss him.”
McGonagall didn’t say anything.
“And it’s not like I’m not happy too,” Nymphadora told the window. “He, I mean
You Know Who, he’s gone. It’s all over. Mum doesn’t cry at night any more.” She
paused, catching her breath, feeling she’d said too much and that to McGonagall,
of all people.
But a soft, almost motherly hand settled on her shoulder, and all at once
Nymphadora felt like crying again. “But it’s not the same” – and she knew she
was wailing – “for me as it is for everyone else, because they’re all gone, and,
and” – a sniff – “my parents won’t let me even say his name!”
“Tonks,” said Professor McGonagall, “I think that perhaps you shouldn’t return
to my lesson. Just sit down” – she indicated the windowsill – “and listen to me
for a moment.”
This time, Nymphadora had to turn around to face her. Rubbing at her eyes, she
sat down. To her surprise, McGonagall heaved a sigh and came to sit beside her.
“We were all, and perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s true – we
were all surprised. Shocked, even. No one expected it, no one even considered
it. He was the last person anyone would ever have thought... in any case, it was
hard for us all, but there were a few people it was particularly hard on. Your
mother was one of them.”
Nymphadora nodded. “I hate it, that everyone always talks about how wonderful
things are now it’s over, and they forget the bad stuff.”
It was strange, but McGonagall looked somehow more kind than Nymphadora had ever
seen her. “I don’t like saying it to a mite of a girl,” she said, slowly, “but
time is a great healer. You might not know it now, but things will get better.”
Off Nymphadora’s look, “They will. You’ll see. Now go and wash your face, dear,
and then go and have a cup of tea with Hagrid. It’ll do you good.”
Nymphadora gave a final sniff. “Thanks, Professor.”
“You’re very welcome. Off you go now.”
Nymphadora got unsteadily to her feet, her footsteps the only sounds in the
“I nearly forgot,” McGonagall called. “Two scrolls of parchment on the mechanics
of inanimate Transfiguration, by Monday, please.”
“Thanks, Professor,” Nymphadora said, and almost smiled.
“Tell me,” he said earnestly, “what’s it that makes you tick? Why do you do what
you do, say what you say? Why use that perfume or wear that dress? What makes
you laugh, makes you cry? Who is Nymphadora Tonks?”
She burst into laughter. “Charlie Weasley,” she got out, through the threatening
hysterics, “you quoted that word for word from this month’s Cosmo!”
He looked affronted. “I am hurt. You impugn me.”
“Charlie, you’ve never been pugned in your life.”
He grinned. “But I didn’t quote it word-for-word, as it happens. It actually
said ‘who is Insert Name Here’, but I improvised. Thought it might work this
She burst into laughter again. “For the last time, Charlie – I’m not going out
with you. Your deathless prose notwithstanding,” she added. “Look, we’re mates,
To his credit, he didn’t look too disappointed. “Yeah,” he agreed. “We are.”
Only good mates, Nymphadora thought, would be sitting out here at eleven o’clock
at night, up on the top of the tower with a picnic blanket in Gryffindor
colours. It wasn’t dark yet; there were still streaks of blue in the west, and
although it was chilly, she had absolutely no need to draw close to him for
warmth or anything else he might have been fantasising about.
Although, to be fair, he’d asked her out at least once a month for six years,
and much as she’d hate to admit it, she didn’t want him to stop.
“It’s a nice night,” he said after a while, throwing a cherry stone off the top
of the tower and watching it disappear into the dark at the base. “Nearly the
“Nearly the end of term, that means,” she replied, smiling at the thought. “And
then we’ve only got one more year left! Doesn’t that scare you?”
“To death,” he agreed. “Mum keeps sending me frantic owls wanting to know what
I’ve done about my Future. With a capital F. Future. Scary all by itself, that
is.” He shuddered.
“My mum’s the same.” She smiled wryly. “It’s in the job description, I think.
She’s been at it since we had that careers advice in fifth year. ‘What are you
doing with your life, Nymphadora? Are you taking your studies seriously,
Nymphadora? Are you sure you’re not a lesbian, Nymphadora?’”
He put one hand to his mouth. “You’re making that up!”
“Oh, if only!” She stuck her tongue out at him. “She thinks because I won’t go
out with you, I must be, you know. And anyway, Mum never quite got off the
free-love bandwagon. Apparently the Slytherin common room was the place to be,
back in the sixties.”
“I can imagine.” He paused. “Your mum was a Slytherin?”
“Yeah.” She drew her knees up to her chest, willing her hair longer to make a
shield against the breeze. It was getting colder. “We don’t all have noble
Gryffindor pedigree, you know.”
Charlie smiled wryly. “So, Miss Nymphadora Tonks, Gryffindor without pedigree,
what are you going to do with your life? Something bold and brave, no doubt?”
She shifted a little, pulling the blanket to her. “Can you keep a secret?”
“To the death!” he said dramatically, but his face softened when he saw she was
serious. “Of course I can. What is it?”
Nymphadora took a moment before answering. “It’s embarrassing,” she said
quickly, “’specially when I can’t get across a room without tripping over
something, you know me, and I’m not mega clever and yeah, I’m dead clumsy all
the time and I’m probably never going to get in, and....”
“Nymphadora! What is it?”
She blushed. “I want to be an Auror.”
It was his turn for the laughter, and she buried her head in her hands. “Oh,
fuck, it’s stupid, it’s a stupid idea....”
“No, no!” Charlie lifted her head, softly, one hand on each side, making her sit
up. “It’s not stupid at all. It’s perfect for you.”
“You really think so?” She looked up at him, blinking.
“Course I do. You’re great at Defence, and you’re a meta... meta... you know I
can’t pronounce it.”
“Metamorphmagus. Yeah. Yeah, I am. Won’t have to worry about disguise and stuff
like that.” She concentrated for a moment. “What do you think?”
Charlie laughed, and she drew out a small hand mirror to check her handiwork.
“Oh, yes, I like it,” he said. “Red hair with yellow stripe, very Gryffindor.”
“I’d do it proper gold, but I can’t be bothered.” She leaned back against one of
the battlements. “I can do bold and brave, though. Out there battling the forces
“You will be,” he said, and he wasn’t being flippant. “I remember when we were
kids. Aurors all over the place. Of course, there was lots of evil to be
“That’s what gave me the idea,” she confessed. “I looked up to them so much, as
a kid. They were always making jokes about what they did, you know, and some of
the things they had to do.... it was horrible. They’d go out every night and
come back in the morning covered in gore, and they were only a couple of years
older than we are now, but they seemed so wonderful, so grown-up. I remember
thinking I’d give anything to be like them.”
“Not exactly like them,” said Charlie, thoughtfully, and she knew what he meant.
“Some mornings, they didn’t come back.”
“I will. I’ll always come back.”
They looked at each other, exchanged awkward smiles. An owl hooted, swooping off
up into the highland, a shadow in a sky that was now dark.
After a pause, she said, “I’m cold.”
“Yeah, me too.”
She was shivering under the blanket, and rather than draw her close, Charlie
helped her to her feet and they began gathering up the picnic things. “Time to
go,” she said wistfully. “I don’t really want to go to bed.”
As they walked towards the spiral staircase, Charlie paused. “Nymphadora?”
“Are you a lesbian?”
She laughed. “Would it help if I was?”
Charlie seemed to consider. “No.”
“Didn’t think so,” she said, and put an arm round his shoulder, steadying him
all the way down the stairs.
She was late. She was always late, it seemed; this morning had involved a
headlong rush out of the door, a rolled-up newspaper on the step and an
unscheduled flight into a flowerbed, which had necessitated trudging back inside
to mop up the spilled blood and free-flowing embarrassment.
But if she hadn’t been late, she wouldn’t have been running with a Muggle
plastic cup of coffee in her hands, and she wouldn’t have knocked it all over a
total stranger on the Underground.
But in the stark flickering light of the train, she looked into the dark eyes of
the man and realised he wasn’t a stranger at all. She hung off the hooks of the
rattling train, swaying with it, her body brushing against his with each jerk of
the carriage. He stared down at her from beneath his hood, his face rendered
ghost-white and familiar with each passing window flash. “I know you,” she said,
the words at once a whisper and a shout above the roar.
There was a pause whilst he registered the fact she was talking to him. “I don’t
The palpable disapproval surprised her. “Where have you been all this time?
We’ve been trying – I mean Dumbledore and everyone else, they’ve been trying
desperately to find you, make sure you’re okay....”
“Look,” and there was something harsh and acidic in his voice that she’d never
heard in it before, “I don’t know where you’re getting all this, but I’ve never
seen you before in my life.”
“Remus!” she snapped, making him jerk to look at her. In the dimness, she
focused. In the next brief flash of a passing tunnel light, her hair shifted
pink, then green, then back to its current black. “It’s me.”
“Oh, it’s you.” His voice hadn’t changed. “It’s you. Good, I’m glad we’ve had
that sufficiently clarified. Now will you please leave me alone?”
“Remus...” – but he had already gone, making his way handhold by handhold down
the carriage and away from her. Annoyed, she followed, but she didn’t have his
grace and stumbled into baggage, windows, seated and irritated people. She got
tangled up with one man’s spread broadsheet, and by the time she had extricated
herself, the train had come to a noisy, confused stop at Embankment. “Remus!”
she yelled, but her voice was lost in the clamour of commuters and
announcements, and she launched herself through the train doors just as they
were closing only to see his shaggy head disappear into the crowd.
“Fuck,” she muttered, quietly, and struck out after him. The rush of the people
towards the exits guided her; she hurried down long winding passageways, past
buskers, up escalators, through the ticket hall – it wasn’t her station stop;
seek assistance, the barriers told her, and she vaulted over them – and into the
rush of wind, freezing cold after the muted warmth of the tunnels, and outside.
It was surprisingly easy to find him, leaning over one of the railings and
looking out across the river. The Thames was murky grey water below a murky grey
sky. She said: “Remus.”
He turned, tiredly. “Didn’t I tell you to leave me alone?”
“No.” She joined him in staring out at the river. “You asked me. There’s a
“Well, now I’m telling you. Leave me alone.”
“Sorry.” She shifted closer to him; he inched away. “No can do. Remus, the whole
of the wizarding world, more or less, is looking for you. Where have you been?”
He turned back to face her, and in the daylight, she saw the depth of his
pallor, the absence of flesh on his sharp bones. He was gaunt, ghost-like. “I’ve
“By the Thames.”
“By myself. I don’t see how it’s your business, or anyone else’s for that
matter, what I do with my life.”
“It’s our business,” she said, “because we care about you. We’re worried about
you. The last time anyone heard anything from you was years ago!”
“Not enough years.” He was looking straight down at the water again, and Tonks
noticed his knuckles were dead white.
There was silence. In the murk of the morning, it was beginning to rain, small,
irritating droplets that made a condensation mist out of Tonks’s hair. She
shifted it out of the way and stretched out. She was beyond late, now; Moody
would mark her down as a no-show, and away would go another precious attendance,
and she was pretty sure she’d be thrown out of the programme some day soon,
“Why were you on the Underground?”
It was the first thing he had said without her prompting him, and Tonks decided
to take it as a good sign. “I usually Apparate,” she said. “But I had a rough
night last night, and I’m too tired for it. Last time I tried it I nearly got
He looked up at her, seemingly for the first time, taking in all of her – her
changed face and hair, her frayed Weird Sisters T-shirt, the spiked cuff on her
wrist, her favourite boots. He smiled, humourlessly. “Sirius’s little Dora,
hungover. Wouldn’t he have been proud?”
“Fuck you.” The words came out quickly, sharp as a whip crack. “How dare you say
For a minute he was sounding like himself, the man she’d known coming through in
the liquid vowels, but she was too angry to care. “It’s Tonks now. Just Tonks.
And you would know that if you hadn’t fucked off into the wide blue yonder!”
He flinched. “All right, Tonks: tell me what I had to stay for. To live
for. To carry on for.”
“For what’s left behind!” she yelled. “For who’s left behind! For what they died
“The people left behind don’t need me. The whole world can forget me, and I’d be
happy to be forgotten.”
She didn’t say anything. The fury was leaving as quickly as it had come, fading
into insubstantial grey alongside the clouds on the horizon. “I guess you’re not
coming back with me.”
“No, I’m not.”
She tried to think about it without her head hurting. “Sirius was more than just
my cousin, you know that. He was my friend, my big brother, mine. And I’m still
here. I’m training to be an Auror. That’s what I’ve learned. I’ll never be
“I will be.”
Tonks looked up at him.
“I knew him better than you did.” It was a statement of fact, not an accusation.
“He was my friend, and my lover, mine, and I will always be fooled again.
Standing there, he was framed for a shifting sequence of moments by the sun
emerging from a cloud and then retreating again. There were changes in him that
were more subtle, Tonks realised. The drawn, white hollows in his face made his
eyes look even larger and more lustrous; the sparseness of his frame emphasised
the animal grace. For a long moment more, they looked at each other.
“Goodbye, Moony,” she said, at last, and he was gone into the bleakness, as if
he had never existed at all.
Tonks was in the bath when she got the summons.
Before she did anything else, she took a moment to resent being disturbed. It
was a twilight bath, the sort of bath you had when it was three am and you
couldn’t, realistically, be said to be hogging the bathroom, sitting in the
dimmed tub taking long, slow breaths of steam. The water had poured scorching
hot from the pipes, and she was keeping a warming charm on it, but even that was
fading with time. Cooled to blood-heat, it was only apparent to her senses as
soft, slopping movement, lulling her to sleep.
The interrupting owl, therefore, received a muffled curse – it went wild and hit
one of the light fittings, reducing the room to further dimness – and swooped
huffily out of the window. The letter was left on the edge of the bath, already
curling open from the steam. It was addressed in telltale green ink, with the
precision of address that betrayed the hand that had written it: Ms. N.
Tonks, The Bath, the First Floor Flat...
She liked the Ms., she decided. She wasn’t pretty, prissy, Miss
Nymphadora, with the blood of a pure and ancient house and a talent for behaving
herself; she didn’t think such a person had ever existed. Whereas the girl the
letter was for was the sort of girl, woman, who could have spent the night
drinking and dancing until her clothes were perfumed with sweat and scent, got
home in the wee small hours, thrown up pure zinfandel into a flowerpot, fallen
into an ancient claw-feet bathtub and watched, amusedly, as her hair and face
and body shifted through a spectrum of colours and curves back to feminine.
Now that – she paused before reaching for the letter – that had been an
afterthought. She’d been out with Charlie, nominally (off back to Romania in the
morning, and he’d dropped a few hints of the farewell-fuck variety, though Tonks
had demurred), but the club had been thick with magic and smoke and she’d ended
up on her own, for a minute. And then a girl had come up to her, taken in the
pink hair, given her a muted smirk of a smile, and asked, sultrily, “Does the
carpet match the curtains?”
She got asked the question a lot – it was a natural hazard of constantly
mutating hair colour – but usually, it was by men. And she’d spent four years in
one of the most elite training programmes known to woman, and she knew how to
deal with them.
This time had been different. Something had gone pop inside her head, and she’d
known, right then and there, that it did.
In the starker light of the ladies’ loos, she’d given it a bit of thought. And
although it was fading, here in the bath where her magic was going squiffy round
the edges, there was enough left to admire her handiwork.
Firstly, the hair. Short punky pink had become shorter and punkier, with a tinge
of bleach-white for the sake of the detail. Then her eyes, larger, but with
finer lashes. Her hands, roughened, with short, trimmed nails. Then, the
difficult bit. It was a straightening and a hardening, less softness to her
curves, more subtlety to the hourglass. And when she stepped out, the change was
almost invisible, but against a wall, it was palpable.
And there had been a few women and a few walls, and another word for wall was
dyke, which was the sort of thing that was very funny after four glasses of pink
wine and all of Charlie’s Ogden’s Old. He’d forgiven her. She thought so,
anyway, and if he hadn’t he was going to Romania in the morning.
Giggling a little bit at the thought – not all the zinfandel was in the
flowerpot – she reached for her letter with one hand and for a towel with the
other, getting rid of the water and bubbles before touching the parchment.
It was in Dumbledore’s narrow, elegant hand, and it was polite and serene and
laconic. After a few words Tonks stopped smiling.
She read it once quickly, and then again, taking in every detail. While she was
reading, her body shifted back to sensible femininity, her hair became dull
black, her toenails taking on a chipped coat of purple polish. The water was
growing colder with each descriptive paragraph, chilling her bones with each
word she’d thought she’d never read again. And, finally, at the end of the
letter, a sparse line drawing of a bird with bright eyes, and a request.
Tonks thought about it for a while. There was another piece of parchment
attached, which she didn’t have to unfold and read; she could drop it over the
side and go to sleep in the water and in the morning she’d forget. She’d go on
training. She’d wait for Charlie to come back, and maybe they’d go out again.
Her mum would be pleased, if something happened between them, and even so she’d
work on the baby-dyke thing. It might come in useful.
But she didn’t think about it for long. She unfolded the parchment.
The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix are at number twelve, Grimmauld
After a while, the note dropped into the bath and disintegrated, ink swirling
green and fading, vanishing, gone.
She remembered the house.
She remembered winter. She remembered the chill wind, the shaking chandeliers,
the headless house-elves. She remembered her mother. She remembered the shouts
and screams as the last daughter of the house of Black walked out, dragging her
own little one behind her – hush, Dora, don’t cry, don’t cry, we’re never
going back – and the sonorous, hollow sound of the door closing behind them
“I wanted to show you to them,” Andromeda said years later, and Tonks felt the
strange, rising bubble she’d recognise later as pride. “I wanted them to see my
little girl was growing up just fine without them. It was stupid.”
“No,” said Tonks. “No, it wasn’t.”
Sirius had done the same thing, when he was sixteen and she was three; he’d
walked through this very hallway, his eyes bright, his aristocratic Black
features hidden by a toss of glam rock hair, and he’d left forever.
And now – and now, when everything had come full circle and the door opened,
swung back with the same crash of finality – they were back.
“Hello!” Tonks called, through the silence and the dust. Her voice lifted up,
blurred into background creaks and then nothingness. “Is anyone there?”
There was no reply. Sunlight was coming down into the mausoleum, filtering
through layers of gloom until it emerged, sepia and faded, into a pool at
Tonks’s feet. She stepped through it, forwards and back, wondering whether she
should go for the stairs and search the house. Something scampered behind her,
and she turned, but saw nothing.
Far, far above, a voice stated: “Incendio.”
And through the silence came a shriek, someone shouting, “Sirius, NO!” and then
running footsteps, a strong smell of burning, and then something came hurtling
down the stairs, all flapping brown fabric, thick, acrid smoke and crackling
flames, and lots of yelling, and then a final, sickening thump of flesh hitting
Tonks shut her eyes, held her wand above her head and howled, “Aguamenti!”
There was a millisecond’s pause, a sound like onions hitting a frying pan, then
of water, and then everything faded back into silence.
The steam cleared, and Tonks opened her eyes. Remus looked up at her from floor
level. “Hello, Nymphadora,” he said serenely.
“Tonks,” she corrected, on autopilot.
“Tonks, then. Do you mind my asking why you just dumped about four buckets’
worth of water on me?”
“Um,” Tonks said, “you were on fire?”
“That was what the rolling was for. Down the stairs. To put out the fire.”
“Oh,” she said.
“Still, you probably helped.” He stood up and started wringing out his hair and
clothes, which were covered in sodden cobwebs and black with dust. “Thank you.
Excuse me a minute.”
He disappeared, dripping, presumably in search of wand and towel. After a
minute, Sirius walked down the stairs, slowly, and sat on the bottom step.
“Remus,” he called plaintively.
“Bugger off, I’m not talking to you,” came the distant, petulant reply, and
Tonks realised she was smiling, and so was he.
“Wotcher, Sirius,” she said quietly, and sat down beside him. “What did you do
“Not to him, exactly.” Sirius shrugged, waving his hands. “I was trying
to set fire to a curtain, and he was in the way.”
“He’s quite tall,” she offered. “Quite noticeable. I mean, you’d think you’d
have spotted he was there.”
“I think that’s what he said. Only with more swearing.”
“And why were you trying to set fire to a curtain?” she went on. “Was there any
reason or did you just randomly feel like it?”
“I think possibly he said that too. Obviously you take after him.” He smiled at
her, a little nervously, and she swallowed, feeling the tension flow out and
settle in the air between them.
“That’s strange,” she said, as lightly as she could muster, “considering it’s
you and me who’re related.”
“It is that.” He smiled again, still with that tinge of nervousness the old
Sirius would never have betrayed. “But looking at you now, I’d never be able to
It was painful, almost, to think that when he’d seen her last, she’d been a
tomboy eight-year-old; to think of him as he was then, with long lashes and the
beauty of youth; to think of the things left behind, lost and found broken.
“It’s good to see you,” she said at last. She’d never been as clumsy with
She wondered if he even remembered the house in London, the Muggle cookies, or
if that memory had been another thing lost. But he spoke eventually, and he
wasn’t a stranger to her. “You too, Dora.”
She didn’t correct him.
After a moment Remus stamped back in, shaking his head in a very canine way. The
drying charms hadn’t quite worked, apparently, as drips of water were flying in
all directions. “Sirius,” he said, and he was wagging a finger, “if you do that
again, I will still be hexing you at Christmas, peace and goodwill or not.”
“Sorry, Moony.” Sirius bowed his head, but he winked at Tonks, and they both
laughed, a little bit, the sound stifled but sparkling in the dimness of the old
They were supposed to be cleaning, Tonks knew, ready for using the house as
headquarters, but it was a separate war they were fighting – against the dust
and the dirt and the murky, shadowed past. To reinterpret, to rewrite, to fill
colour in the fading line drawings: that wasn’t the hardest part, but only
almost; it was easier to remember than forget. She wished for a minute that she
could see the memories like ghosts, to exorcise and cast out, say begone
and they would be gone, and then the men on the floor could come back, be
themselves like she’d loved them before, and it might all be all right.
Sirius was still laughing, quietly, and Remus put a hand on his shoulder, looked
up; she caught his eye and grinned. It was somewhere to begin.
“You’re up early, dear.” Molly Weasley rubbed at her eyes as Tonks opened the
kitchen door. “I looked in on the boys and Ginny and they were fast asleep.”
Tonks yawned, stepping in to join her by the stove. “I have to be at the
Ministry in an hour. Thought I’d save time for breakfast.”
Molly aimed her wand at a bowl of porridge, which poured a delicate stream of
honey onto it. “Eat this, it’ll fill you up. Tea?”
“Please.” Tonks warmed her hands on the mug – the kitchen was the only really
cosy room at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, and at this time of the morning
even it was chilly – and took a sip. It was weak, as Molly’s tea always was, but
welcoming, and she sat down at the table with it clutched tightly. Whilst she
drank it, Molly busied herself with brewing one for herself.
Tonks lapsed into silence, eating her porridge almost mechanically, but a
glimpse of her reflection in the Black silver coffee-pot prompted a grimace.
“Best spend a minute in front of the mirror before I go into work,” she said,
pushing back her chair.
“Could you give this to Remus?” Molly handed her a fresh, steaming mug of
coffee. “He’ll be needing it, poor dear.”
Tonks nodded and started up the stairs. She found Remus asleep on a sofa in one
of the upstairs sitting-rooms, eyelids flickering, buried under a pile of sheets
and blankets. Curled up at his feet was a large black dog with a thick winter
coat. Tonks stepped in, left the mug on the floor by his trailing hands, and she
had just moved to go when a soft voice called, “Nymphadora.”
She turned. “Remus, go back to sleep.”
“I don’t want to.” He sounded almost childish, and there was a shift in the
dog’s slow, steady breathing.
“Remus.” Tonks found herself wagging a finger, and she went to sit on the edge
of the sofa, with him rolling back to allow her room. She leaned down and picked
up the mug. “Here, drink this. Actually, no, wait.”
She had to think about it for a minute – it wasn’t a spell she used often –
before producing her wand and tapping the mug. “Exanthinus.”
Nothing appeared to happen, but Remus’s eyes had darkened. “Did you just
decaffeinate my coffee?” he demanded, and Tonks wanted to laugh.
She was unrepentant, laying a hand on his forehead before handing over the mug.
“Remus, you’re horribly dehydrated and you know you need to sleep.”
He took a sip anyway, hissing from the heat of it. “Tell Molly thank you for me,
and make it Irish next time.”
She didn’t take the bait, her hand moving to stroke his hair. “How was it?”
“Sirius was here.” He gave her a quick, twisted smile. “But I think I hurt
him... quite badly.”
“Nothing a little healing won’t fix.” She carefully didn’t look at the dried
blood on Sirius’s muzzle; she knew it would be taken care of, in time, and now
Remus needed to be soothed back into sleep. “Doesn’t the potion help with that?”
“It would, if Severus could be persuaded to make it with any regularity. This
month he has pleaded other pressing engagements.”
“Too pressing to keep you from tearing yourself apart?” Her voice was rising,
and Padfoot snuffled himself awake. Bright canine eyes regarded her for a
moment, and Tonks was certain he agreed with her.
“Yes,” said Remus simply, and laid his head back down. Tonks took the mug from
him before he dropped it, and laid it back on the floor. His breathing was
slowing, lengthening, and she realised he was drifting back into sleep. As she
watched, he pushed the hair from his eyes, twitching fretfully, and rolled over
so he was face down. There was something stiff and painful about his movements.
“He always did fall asleep in the middle of conversations.,” said Sirius,
quietly, and she jumped. He was tapping his left ear in a very doglike way, but
the transformation seemed to have been conducted silently in the minute Tonks
had been staring down at Remus. “I learned not to take it personally. Still, I
always worried that maybe I was just that boring a conversationalist.”
Tonks smiled wryly. “He’s exhausted. I don’t think he’ll even remember this when
he wakes up again.”
Sirius nodded at her, getting up to pace across the room. “He won’t. He won’t
remember.” He paused, turned on his heel and walked a few steps in the other
direction. “There’s something in your head, you know, that means you can’t
remember pain. It means it comes as a shock every time you feel it.”
Tonks had nothing to say to that. Sirius seemed aware of it; his movements lost
something of their tightness, and he came to sit on the floor beside her. One of
Remus’s feet, bare and curiously delicate, dangled near his head, and he pushed
it back beneath the covers.
“I wish I knew where he’s been,” he said, after a while. “Fuck knows how he’s
managed for himself all this time.”
Tonks shrugged. “No one had seen him for years before Dumbledore persuaded him
to come back to Hogwarts. Wish he’d been my Defence teacher.”
“He needs looking after,” Sirius went on thoughtfully. “And there was no one
he’d let close enough to do it. I despair of him, sometimes.”
“So do I.”
He glanced at her, flashing her a smile that lit his eyes. “I forget you’re all
grown up, now. Old enough to worry about my Moony.”
“You worried about him when you were twelve.”
He looked at her again, with that quick, intelligent interest, and Tonks
realised that she’d never talked, really talked, to Sirius; before, she’d been a
child, and now, afterwards, they were labouring underneath the weight of the
past, shown in Remus’s drawn face and dark eyes. Sirius was regarding her with
an air of revelation about him. “You’re a credit to the Noble and Ancient House
of Black.” He grinned. “Toujours pur.”
She flinched. “I’m not a Black.”
“You are.” He wasn’t looking at her any more. “So am I, and so is your mother.
It’s not always a bad thing. You’re just like Andromeda – you’ve got a mind of
your own. Moony said we always thought you would do.”
“He was right.” She looked up at him, white-faced and dreaming. “He usually is.
Sirius,” – and she touched his shoulder, grabbed at him in a way she hadn’t done
in years, “look after him. And look after yourself. He said he hurt you....”
Sirius frowned, running his fingers over the lines of his face and through his
hair. “He did at that. Scalp wound, nothing to worry about.” His tone was
nothing but affectionate, and Tonks wondered if he’d even thought to check
himself over. “Molly will fix it. Not you, you’re late.”
“Shit!” Tonks’s eyes went straight to the wall clock. “Sirius, I’ve got to go,
He laughed, softly. “Don’t hide the kitchen knives, Nymphadora. Remus and I will
be all right.”
Tonks nodded, and turned away. As she moved to the door, Sirius leaned down and
kissed Remus’s head, and for a moment they were boys covered in flour, looking
at her through time, and she had to run.
It wasn’t like eavesdropping, Tonks thought. It wasn’t anything at all like
eavesdropping. The kitchen door was wide open and they could be heard all over
the house. It was the two of them, shouting, and the portrait in the hallway
screeching like a banshee, and the front door banging open and then closed as
people entered, disappeared, tried not to linger in the vortex of sound.
Except her, of course; she wasn’t scared of either of them, and as she thought
it she hoped it was true.
“Greyback,” Sirius was growling, “you, you ... are going underground with Fenrir
It wasn’t the only argument they had had on the subject. Tonks had looked up the
name in the Ministry records, the first time, and been amazed that Sirius was
taking it even as calmly as this.
Then Remus, tiredly as always: “I’ve told you before, it’s something I can do,
and do well. And if I’m not worried about it, neither should you be.”
“Stop it with that fucking, fucking self-sacrificing shit!” Sirius yelled, and
Tonks was sure the last word had been heard everywhere in the house, and
probably by the neighbours, were it not for the fact numbers eleven and thirteen
thought they were neighbours. And that, she decided, was the problem; in a dark
old house which no one could see, things got bottled up and twisted and started,
belatedly, to hurt.
“I’m telling you the truth. Trust me,” Remus said, and even though he never
raised his voice, it rang painful clearly in her ears. “Trust me! Is that so
hard? Do you have to make it all so hard?”
Tonks wondered if she should step inside, let them know she was there. But they
must know, they couldn’t not know that they were shocking most of the Order, and
somehow that was worse than their usual fights behind closed doors.
The front door banged open even as she thought of it, and a quiet, oily voice
“Ah. Not only are they cleaning and cooking like a pair of gossipy housewives,
they’re putting the dispute back into domestic. How terribly fitting.”
“Fuck off, Snape,” Tonks murmured without turning round, and though it didn’t
feel as good as she’d thought it would when she was at school, it was almost.
And to her amazement, he took her advice, turning on his heel in a sweep of
rustling fabric. Looking over her shoulder, she saw she was alone again.
Alone, bar the shouting.
“It’s nothing to do with trust!” Sirius, this time, and the growls were becoming
less human. “It’s to do with you getting yourself killed!”
“And I’m telling you I won’t be! I’m telling you every single bloody day,
Sirius, so why, why do you have to do this?”
“Because I’m stuck here, doing nothing, and you’re going out there to die, and
forgive me for not being able to bear it! Don’t you dare stand there and tell me
to just trust and it’ll work out right, it’ll all go away! I’m not an idiot.”
“You’re acting like one.”
“Fuck you, Remus! It’s not idiotic to want more to life than this! More than
this fucking house! I hate it here. I hate every minute of the day when I’m
here. All I’ve got, all I’ve got is memories, and you telling me to trust and I
can’t take it. Trust in what? What I have got left to trust in? Tell me that!”
Remus said: “If you’d trusted me fourteen years ago, they wouldn’t be
Tonks felt the words settle, like feathers falling in silence, and then there
was Sirius, battering past her, a whirlwind of fear and anger heading for the
“Sirius!” Remus was running out after him, robes flapping, bare feet slapping on
the stone. “I didn’t mean... you know I didn’t...”
He stopped and turned straight to look at Tonks. He couldn’t keep still, and in
his jerking movements, flexing fingers, wringing hands, she saw savagery. “It’s
my fault,” he said, helplessly, and went outside.
And that, she thought, two summer days later, would be another thing she
couldn’t bear to remember; along with audio fading as the red streaks of light
hit her and Remus clinging desperately to Harry and the pause, stretched out, as
it took her eyes a long time to close and Sirius a long, long time to die;
another thing to do with falling together, falling apart, falling into the dark.
When they left Harry at King’s Cross, it was a bright, sunlit day with an
achingly blue sky. It still ached, for all the colour had faded and dissolved
into dusk. There were buskers playing jaunty tunes on corners as they walked, in
silence, back through London, and Moody gave them money to be quiet.
There were no lights on in the kitchen at number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Remus
had tried. Flames had sputtered and flared into bright shining stars that
burned, withered, died, and he gave up. His power was splintered round the
edges, Tonks noted; the flares were indicative of loss of control. She nodded:
Remus’s first and last sign of grief.
Now, he was barely visible, a greyish shape in the darkness, but Tonks had
memorised how he was sitting, with boots on the table and head hanging off the
back of his chair, shaggy hair a soft cloud beneath. She hadn’t yet heard him
move, and besides, he sat still, these days. She didn’t try and move herself.
The room was too dark and the air too thick with things still left unsaid.
“I remember,” Remus said, into the silence to no one, “things that no one else
Tonks said nothing.
“James and Lily are dead, Peter’s forgotten everything he ever knew. And the
Dementors took Sirius away from himself.” He paused, and Tonks became aware of
his breathing, a steady rhythm below the syncopation of words. “They take your
happy memories, your defining moments, everything that delineates you and your
edges, every influence of the shaping world.”
Tonks thought he was probably drunk, or getting there. She turned and saw,
momentarily, twin mirrored gleams, canine eyes in the darkness. She was probably
drunk herself, to imagine something like that.
“Sirius could remember my birthday.” Remus laughed, and the sound was horrible,
obscene. “He could remember it’s the tenth of March, and that I turned seventeen
on a Friday. But he couldn’t remember that he woke me up before breakfast, gave
me three boxes of Honeydukes’ best and tickled me until I cried.”
Tonks asked: “Did he remember me?”
“He remembered every time you cried. Every time he shouted, every time he
scared you. I told him that when we were in seventh year we came to babysit for
you and made you cookies with pink food colouring, and how you laughed because
it matched your hair. He asked me to tell him more things like that.”
Tonks’s hair wasn’t pink today, tonight, wouldn’t be pink tomorrow. Remus was
silent for a minute. When he spoke, his voice was falling with every syllable.
“I told him about the time you flushed your goldfish down the toilet and told
your mum it had gone to live in Uzbekistan. I told him about how he left this
house forever and went to live with James and how they were spannered for a
week. I told him about the flat we used to have, this grotty little place on top
of Mornington Crescent tube, and how messy it was with motor oil on the floor,
and how angry I used to get about the motorbike. I told him about how we brought
you up to visit, once, and you spotted the collar and lead and wanted to know
since when had we had a dog.
“I told him, and he tried to remember.” His voice was almost gone. “For me, he
tried to remember.”
Tonks sat back, and said, softly, “I tried, too. I tried reminding him. He
wanted to get to know Mum again properly, and she was going to come up and visit
during this summer. She was going to help with telling him stuff, because you
know I can’t remember that much myself. It was all so long ago.”
“That’s right.” There was bitterness in Remus’s tone now, something she hadn’t
heard for years. “It was all so very, very long ago.”
Tonks thought about it. “Remus,” she said softly, “we have to keep going on, we
have to keep fighting. Sirius would have wanted us to.”
Remus laughed again, and Tonks stifled the deep-down, primal urge to shriek and
cry at the sound. “Those aren’t your words, Nymphadora. That’s Andromeda, that’s
Dumbledore, that’s not you.”
“I’m me. I’m not Nymphadora.” She didn’t know why she persisted, but here in the
darkness with only the sounds of distant traffic and Remus’s soft, soft voice,
it seemed more important than ever. “And I loved Sirius too.”
“I think...” Remus faltered, tried again, “I think he loved you, and me, and
Harry. I think love is too painful for the Dementors.
“But if we are the sum of all our experiences, then I lost Sirius fourteen years
ago and more.” He stood up, and Tonks heard the chair fall to the ground,
crunching wood on stone. Light flared, guttered, held. It flickered below the
ceiling, wordless magic illuminating Remus’s face, stark white, with dilated
pupils holes into his soul.
“I wish I could forget,” he said, and Tonks got up to stand behind him, put her
arms around his shoulders to feel the warmth seeping through his cloak, to feel
him still human after all these years.
On the stone floor beneath the kitchen table, they woke up with limbs entangled
in the dust. Through the blurring between sleep and dim awareness, Tonks
thought: it’s dark; it’s dirty; it’s probably really early; my knickers are
missing; this isn’t my bed....
“Sirius is dead.”
He was looking at her and she nodded, because that, like everything else, was
Remus sat up, his head skimming the underside of the table. He had been awake
before her, and she knew what he’d been thinking about before, during, after.
“Funny, isn’t it,” he said, “how it isn’t always better in the morning.”
Tonks ran both hands through her hair. “Remus, this is fucked up.”
“I think that’s a foregone conclusion. What, specifically, are you referring
“All of this.” She made an expansive gesture. “You know it is. And no” – she
held up one hand – “don’t you try acting like it didn’t happen. You were drunk,
I was drunk, we were both drunk, we were also both really stupid, we had sex,
Sirius is still dead.”
“Consciousness to narrative coherence in less than thirty seconds. I’m
It was his usual dryness, but newly sharp, suddenly hurtful. Even in the shadows
by the floor, she could see the closed-off quality about his face.
She rubbed at her eyes and tried to get out from beneath the table, but the room
was too dim, with only greyness to mark the difference between the dawn and the
remains of the night. Her wand had rolled out of sight. “Don’t you want,” she
said, ferreting about for it, “don’t you think we need to... talk about it?”
“No.” He shook his head. “Certainly not.”
“Then I’m impressed,” – delivered as cuttingly as she knew how – “that you’re so
disgusted with what you did last night that you wouldn’t have mentioned it,
would you, if I hadn’t.”
He didn’t say anything.
“Tell me, is it women in general that don’t turn you on? Or is that me
flattering myself? Is it not the girly bits? Is it just generally me?”
“Shut up, Tonks!”
They had been whispering, furiously, but the yell stunned them both into
After a minute, Remus put a hand to his head, probably nursing the same headache
as she was, and said, “I’m sorry. Look, I’m sorry. I don’t think... I don’t
think this is a good idea, that’s all. I’m sorry.”
She nodded, more to herself than to him. “In the dark on the floor and just got
fucked by a bloke who doesn’t want to know. Note to self – not a good idea.”
“Tonks.” He was sounding gentle, now, more like himself. “I really am sorry.
Even about the whole of last night, if you want me to be.”
“Fuck, no.” Feeling for him rather than trusting her vision, she put a loose arm
around his shoulders. “None of that taking-advantage crap. Don’t be sorry for
that. Be sorry for being a bastard.”
He nodded. “This is, as you say, fucked up.”
She managed a slight, bittersweet smile. “You don’t know how fucked up
this is. You have no idea. I want to show you something.”
She wouldn’t answer him. With a knot in her stomach that tied and untied, she
A foot away from her, her wand lit up. She grabbed it, using it in a large,
erratic sweep to light all the room sconces. Remus quickly found his own, and
emerged from under the table with a few graceful movements. “What is it,
“This,” she said, in a voice that was treacherous and shook, “is it.”
It wasn’t a matter of focus. It was about unravelling, coming undone, the caress
of a slipping mask. There was a mirror in her pocket but she didn’t need it; she
couldn’t get it wrong when it was her face, and although she hadn’t seen it in
years, she wasn’t able to forget. By now it must be the face of an adult woman,
heart-shaped, with high cheekbones and white skin with the faintest of blushes.
She could feel her hair on her shoulders, shaggy and fittingly black, and when
she opened her eyes, she knew they would be heavy-lidded, pale grey.
Remus was staring, his own eyes wide, golden-brown – they never changed colour,
with or without the moon – and he was pale and getting paler. “Bella?” he said,
and she knew all at once that he was going to make her cry.
“No,” she said, softly. “Me. Nymphadora Tonks.”
“I forgot.” He wasn’t looking at her any more. “I knew... but I still forgot.
She killed him. She killed him. And you look....”
“I look like my aunt who killed my cousin.” Her voice was flat, matter of fact,
and his head was in his hands. He was murmuring under his breath, softly,
painfully. She could feel it along with him, the labels falling off the world.
“Remus,” she said.
He looked up, and she changed. Her face lost the softness, the curling lashes
and heart, became beauty ravaged by years, an old dog, a dying star.
She heard a sharp intake of breath. There was light in his face, in his eyes,
and as she sat, fearful, he reached out with one hand. Delicate fingertips
traced the curve of cheek and jaw, pushed back a stray lock of hair, withdrew
wet with saltwater.
And then there was a stifled, quiet cry, a jerk of movement, sounds of pushed
chairs, footsteps, slamming door in morning silence, and he was gone.
She stayed where she was, cried and cried, and she never did find her knickers.
Every day Remus reached out in his sleep, with eyes tight shut and hands that
closed on nothing.
She was standing in the doorway, watching his still form, wrapped in sheets and
blankets and bathed in the afternoon grey falling from the attic skylight. He
hadn’t been there when she left; he’d be gone again come dusk. He was
underground with the pack by night, sleeping by day, and every day was shorter
than the one before.
She understood now what Sirius had feared.
It was cold inside the room; she drew the door closed with a gentle click and
sat on the edge of the bed. Reaching down, she undid her boots, meticulously.
She didn’t trip over things on missions, even if it meant tying her laces into
triple knots. From under the leather emerged a pair of very old, very smelly
socks. She grimaced, shook them off and felt herself begin to slip, insidiously,
off the edge of the mattress.
Shifting back, she crossed the space between them and her inching hands touched
the warmth of skin through the sheets. Beneath them, he was deeply, deeply
asleep, exhaustion uncoiling like a spring in the lines of his body. He was
becoming familiar to her, through the early mornings when it was still too dark
to see and they both needed something, someone, with desperation born of grief,
of anger born of the passage of time, and in the morning he was always gone but
she remembered him.
She was thinking, through a blurred mind, that she ought to worry she was being
used. After the second time, she stayed in his bed, below the window, below the
sky, because it was closer to the stars than the floor beneath the kitchen
table. But the truth was more complex than that, with more sharp edges than a
cut jewel; they were both using each other to fill a space, so his hands could
grasp something, so she didn’t feel like the grief of the house was settling so
deep within her bones.
Behind her head, Remus shifted, and the slow, sweeping sounds of fabric on skin
brought her back to herself. Standing up, she gathered her boots and stuffed the
socks down into them. She should take them, wash them, go home. She was staying
here out of convenience, mostly; when she couldn’t face the trek across London,
and there was a house to stay in, it was only sensible. Her own flat was growing
musty from lack of use, and still she didn’t go back and air it out.
She walked up and down the room, listening to the silence. She was going to be
home tonight, she was going to go home now. She would go after another five
heartbeats, another five steps, another five minutes stolen from this washed-out
afternoon. She was pacing up and down in bare feet, and her toes curled with the
The movement was silent, but she turned. He was still asleep, still breathing
deeply, his hands swimming through space, grasping for a lifeline. She moved
across and knelt by his head, all at once aware of the cold in the room, the
stillness, the grey in his hair and behind the skylight.
He touched her. Fingers closed around pink strands of hair, moving blindly but
softly towards the curves of her cheeks. She didn’t move, and from the
smoothness of the skin, the warmth of living flesh, he was awake. “Morning,” she
muttered, the word falling unnoticed into the silence.
His eyes narrowed, focused. He was looking at his hands, at her face, the space
in between. He didn’t speak, and he didn’t have to. She wasn’t whom he was
expecting, but he didn’t draw back.
She kissed him by daylight, and there was sweetness in it.
Tonks knew she was being followed.
There were a thousand little telling sounds, half-muffled by the snow and
amplified by the still, cold air – the snaps of twigs, the scrapes of boots on
cobbles, the short, shallow breaths. So far, no threatening movements. She kept
on going, and one careful hand dropped to her hip, rested lightly on her wand.
She was prepared. She always was; no one had ever been allowed to say that she
wasn’t extremely fucking good at her job, or at least no one who hadn’t shortly
been dead or wishing they were. Everything about her, her weapons, her stance,
her clothes, suggested a woman on top of things. “You look nice, dear,” the
mirror had said. “Very sensible.”
She did look very sensible. She had clean jeans on, with no rips as to not let
in any cold air, with the thickest jumper she owned, lots of layers beneath it,
and a wand case at her belt and sturdy dragon-hide boots. Her Weird Sisters
T-shirt was hanging off the end of her bed. She hadn’t washed it in weeks.
Trudge, trudge, trudge through the snow. The brief echoes of her footsteps –
someone matching her gait – were clearly perceived whispers that slowed down,
sped up, slowed down again, losing their rhythm. She’d nearly failed stealth
herself, but she recognised an amateur at work.
She didn’t turn around or stop. The crunching – that’d be the run up with its
quick, snow-compacting footsteps – the murmur of polish on fabric, which would
be the drawn wand, and then the jump, and she’d be ready....
She froze. The voice was clear in the chill, with a dozen notes of familiarity
in the brief syllables. The hands laid over her eyes were familiar, too.
He laughed, and brought his hands back down to his sides in time to submit to a
hug. “Charlie,” she muttered again, into his shoulder, “I thought you were a
“I’m flattered. I think.” He looked amused.
“You were following me!” She looked up, startled to see her vision becoming
fuzzy, his face a sudden, crystalline blur. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I don’t know, I had time to kill, thought I’d take in some of the lovely
scenery about these parts.” When she only stared at him, he grinned broadly. “I
came to see you, you silly bint. They told me in the village that you
usually patrol out here.”
“I do!” she said. “I do! I’m on duty....”
“Nah, you’re not. Dawlish is covering for you. You’re having a drink with me.
It’s all arranged, so come on.”
She smiled, unexpectedly, and fell into step beside him as they walked through
the trees. “What I meant was,” she said, “is what are you doing back in England?
Aren’t you supposed to be in Romania?”
“You’d laugh if I told you.” He gave her a sidelong glance over his scarf, eyes
dancing, and something about the look prompted a simple thought: she’d missed
“Mum wants to make sure I fit in my robes for the wedding. See, I knew you’d
She wasn’t laughing, but she was grinning broadly and that was as close as she’d
got in a while. “Ah. I see.”
“Stop trying to be polite, it doesn’t suit you. Anyway, you’re not going
to be polite when you actually see the bloody robes.” He paused. “You are coming
to the wedding, aren’t you?”
They were emerging from the tree line when she said, wistfully, “I might. I’m
“Why not? Hey, watch it!” He grabbed her hand to stop her from falling on the
frozen cobbles; hanging on, she skidded and slid but didn’t topple.
“Thanks.” She let got of his hand with reluctance and picked her way more
carefully through the ice. The windowsills of the houses were heaped high with
the snow, and large, dangerous-looking icicles hung from the eaves. It reminded
her briefly of days out to Hogsmeade at school; the village looked now much as
it had then, and with Charlie beside her, nothing had changed.
“Why aren’t you coming to the wedding?” Charlie asked again. He was leading the
way down the pavement, and she had to step quickly to keep up.
“I would, if I knew for certain that Fleur wouldn’t kill me stone dead.” She
smirked briefly. “Molly’s been trying to set me up with Bill even after
they got engaged.”
“Bet Fleur loved that.” Charlie grinned. “I haven’t seen much of her myself, but
she can handle her dragons, I’ll give her that.”
“High praise, coming from you.”
“Naturally,” he said, and paused beneath the Three Broomsticks’ painted sign.
“Ah, we’re here. After you.”
She stepped through, shaking her boots free of snow and breathing deeply in the
rush of warmth. The pub was almost empty at eleven o’clock on a weekday morning,
which had its advantages; once they were perched on barstools, complete with
foaming, warm tankards, the background noise was muted enough for conversation.
Sitting there, facing Charlie with his warm eyes and freckles, she had a
strange, uncomfortable sense that the pleasantries were over. He was regarding
her with his usual affection, but tempered with concern, with appraisal, and the
silence had been too long when he asked, gently, “What’s the matter,
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” – still gently – “you’re not fine at all. I haven’t seen your
hair that colour since sixth year.”
She touched it, self-consciously. She wasn’t going to say it, but the
mousy-brown surprised even her sometimes, catching sight of it as flashes in
puddles and glass. “It’s a reaction,” she said carefully, “to stress. It can
have an effect on morphing, sometimes.”
“So I understand.” He nodded. “And forgive me for asking, but what exactly is
the cause of the stress?”
“It’s a war, Charlie!” She waved her hands around, fretfully. “It’s a war and
I’m an Auror and any one of my friends or family could get killed! It’s
“I don’t believe you,” he said flatly. And when she opened her mouth, ready for
an angry reply, he went on, “Not about the wartime stress. I believe you. You
know I believe you. But it was a war months ago, and this” – he touched her hair
again – “is new. Do you want to tell me about it?”
She sat there, stared steadily, didn’t say anything. He took a deep breath and
asked, quickly, “Is it about Remus Lupin? Mum said....”
“Fucking hell!” she said, and the pub was quiet enough for people to turn around
and look. “Oh, Charlie, I’m sorry. I told your mum that in confidence, no one
was supposed to know.”
“Really?” He looked surprised. “Because I didn’t believe Mum, either.”
“You didn’t?” She stared at him. “Why not?”
He shrugged. “Because it’s you, you know? I remember when you were fifteen you
burned your bra.”
“What’s that got to do with it?” she asked, smiling for a second at the memory.
“You’re the essence of girl power, you are. Not the type who’d get silly over
“He’s not some bloke.” She sighed. “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it, but I do,
and fuck, it’s hard. It’s really hard. Look, Charlie... you know what Remus is,
“Gay?” he suggested, but the flippancy seemed to hurt more than meant. He
reached out and put a hand on her arm. “No, sweetie, I do know. I know.”
“He’s out there with Fenrir Greyback.”
“He’s what?” Charlie looked shocked. “He’s defected?”
“No! He’s a spy, he’s gathering intelligence, I think. He can’t tell me much
about it. Look... I ended up shagging him over the summer. Because Sirius was
gone. That was it, I swear. Sirius was gone, and him and me, we were left.”
“Right.” Charlie didn’t laugh and didn’t look surprised.
“And he was there and now he isn’t and I’m missing him. I think...” She paused.
“I tried telling him before he went, but he wouldn’t listen to me, and I don’t
know. I think we could work. I think we could. I’m not the fucking sentimental
“No, you’re not.” Charlie smiled, probably at a memory of his own.
“But neither is he. And he’s lost something and I’ve lost something and it’s
him, it’s Remus. It could have worked, Charlie!” Her vision was blurring again.
“But it didn’t.”
Charlie nodded. “What happened?” he asked, quietly. “What did he do to you?”
She didn’t answer him.
“Did he do something?” Charlie had a look on his face she remembered; it meant
some boy, or man, now, was going to be nursing a black eye soon. “Did he do
something to hurt you?”
She sat still, and the drops on the counter were like the dripping meltwater
from the icicles on the eaves, thawing, cold, deadly.
“He left,” she whispered.
The next time her hair was pink, she was at a funeral. When the worst of it was
over, when the throngs of people had dissipated and they were left to the quiet,
beautiful summer’s day, Remus took her hand and led her across the grass, down
towards the lake. There were birds over the water, wheeling and calling,
breaking the surface into shadowed droplets and flying back up to the sun. It
was too bright, it hurt to look at, and she blinked hard, painfully.
“I think he would have liked your hair,” said Remus.
She opened her eyes and saw the vivid colours, green, blue, pink, still summer;
nothing changed, for all the world was being remade around them. She sat down
beside him on a soft, sunlit patch, and watched his fingertips trail along the
surface of the water. “What?”
“Dumbledore.” Remus looked up, head inclined. “He would have liked it.”
“He always did.” She smiled to herself. “He liked the pink best out of all the
colours I used to have it.”
“Past tense,” Remus murmured. So close to her, she could see the year spent with
the pack lying heavily on him; there were more wolf-grey streaks in the shaggy
hair, even less weight on his sparse frame. But he was there and he was alive,
she reminded herself; unlike others, he had come back. “I can’t get used to
“Me, neither.” She paused, breathed in and out before speaking again. “What are
we all going to do, without Dumbledore? Other than argue lots?”
She got a smile. “Yes, quite. I think we’ll have to do what we were doing, and
keep on fighting. What else is there for us to do, except remember the past?”
As he spoke, he lifted his hands out of the water, and a flash of red caught
Tonks’s eye. Reaching out, she grabbed them and he didn’t resist, letting her
cast careful eyes over the bruised palms. Close to, she saw the ragged cuts,
split fingernails, and the palpable splinters, gravel beneath the lacerated
He was looking at her, smiling awkwardly. “I meant to do something about them,”
he muttered, “just never got around to it....”
She took her wand out of her pocket and grimly, efficiently, set to work. “This
is going to hurt, Remus. I guess we’re blaming Greyback?”
“Not specifically.” Another awkward smile. “It’s just... an occupational hazard,
She tapped one of the splinters. It rose through the flesh and Remus hissed in
pain; quickly, she asked, “What was it like, out there?”
“Cold, mostly. Wet. Miserable. Dangerous.” He closed his eyes. “Half the time I
was afraid they were going to lose patience and dispose of me. But there were
some who – ouch! – took an interest in what I had to say.”
She held up her first prize, a sharp, bloodied thorn the length of her
thumbnail. “That’s quite an impressive souvenir. Who were the ones taking an
“The children.” His hands relaxed in her careful grip. “Fenrir specialises in
children. He likes to catch them young. And they have so much potential, some of
them. They could do, and be, so much, and they know there’s more to life than
what he’s offering, they just don’t know where to go, how to go.”
“You were helping them,” she said, tapping with her wand again; she was clearing
the debris according to the clear, rounded shape of pads and paw.
“I was trying. It may not have been enough.” There was a pause, while he opened
his eyes and watched in wonder as she threw a handful of gravel into the lake.
“That was in my hand?”
“Yes! How could you not notice?”
He shrugged. “It blurred, after a while. I couldn’t think.”
She didn’t say anything, focusing on the warm, torn flesh, pulling and teasing
out the last of the pieces. She held onto his hands after she had finished,
leaning back onto the grass and looking up. The sun was burning with sweetness,
working into her skin, cleaning through the old cobwebs. Across the lake, she
could see Harry and Hermione, talking quietly; they and the other Gryffindors
were lingering on the grass, within sight of the tomb.
“This is beautiful,” she said.
“What is?” Remus was pale, washed through by the light.
“All of this,” – she swung an arm out at the water, the greenery, the sky –
“it’s all so wonderful.”
He said nothing, and his eyes were mild.
“I know. I know, it’s not. It’s not wonderful. It’s horrible and people are
going to die and so many people are dead already. I think we need to take what
beauty we can when we find it, that’s all.”
“I wish we could.”
“Remus,” – and her voice was sincere, pained with truth – “why can’t we, you and
me I mean, just start again? There’s a war going on, last year was horrible,
we’ve got enough pain and angst in our lives. Why can’t we just wipe the slate
clean, say here’s where our lives begin and just start from here?”
He was quiet for a moment, and then he leaned in, kissed her lightly on the
lips. “Because,” he said, and there was weariness in his tone, “I would love to,
but I can’t.”
“Why not?” She was breathless, from the caress, from something else. “Why can’t
“Where would we start?” He was smiling as he looked at her, but there was a
weight in his eyes and she’d learned to bear it. “Where does this begin? When we
She covered her eyes. “I was five.”
“But we have to meet somewhere.” He was frowning, but not with irritation; she
recognised the expression as the one associated with crossword puzzles and
academia. “If we were to get someone to perform a selective memory charm – such
things can be done, according to the most recent research – then what would we
keep, what would we throw away?” He went on, talking more to himself then to
her, “Does it begin with the war? The first war? But Sirius and I met – and we
wouldn’t have met without Sirius – years before that, so maybe it begins then?”
“Does it begin with I met him? But he only knew you when he left home, so does
it begin when he walked out? When Andromeda walked out? Or did it only
really begin when James and Lily died? Or does it begin when you were five? How
about when I was five, does it begin with Fenrir biting me? Does it begin with
Voldemort? Or does it begin with Tom Riddle?”
She frowned, thought about it. “It begins here. Right here, right now.”
He nodded. “I thought you’d say that.”
“Remus...” She ran skilful fingers over his hands, feeling for any last traces
of injury. “I know there’s a lot of history. I know, all right? I lived through
most of it. Believe me, the one thing we’re not going to do is repeat it.”
“I will be your weakness.” He was looking up at the sky. “I will be your
weakness the same way I was Sirius’s. In the end, we found it easier to believe
the other one was a spy, rather than face the fact we were falling apart. If
we’d only thought, only realised...” He waved a hand. “You know the rest.”
“I said, we’re not going to repeat it.” She looked up at him, angry. “I will not
lose you, Remus Lupin. Not to a pack of werewolves or Death Eaters or Voldemort
himself, may he rot in hell. I will not let you go.”
His gaze was steady. “This is more than a mere age difference, more than my
being old and poor and all the rest of it. This is a war, and I’m fighting on
the wrong side.” He smiled, tiredly. “I’m a certified creature of the dark. I’ll
come back to you torn up and smelling like the pack. I’ll come back to you
soaked in blood and it won’t be mine.”
She shook her head. “You don’t scare me. I’m an Auror.”
“You’re twenty-three years old. You’re not scared of anything.” He laughed,
suddenly, and kissed her again. “And it’s not too late for you to get out.”
“I will not let you go,” she repeated. “You go out there and you fight, and then
you come back to me.”
“I will,” he said.
“You mean it?” she demanded. She was standing up, had leapt to her feet without
noticing, was staring down at him hurt and dazzled by the sparkle off the water.
He lay back, his robes a flat half-moon of fabric around him, his fingers
curled, inviting. “Come down here with me,” he said, and she was on her knees,
on the floor. The softness of skin and hair and grass was a muted chord beneath
the sunlight, beginning something.
Charlie stood framed by a doorway with his hands on his hips. “You’re laughing
“Oh, no,” said Tonks, quickly, “no, no, no, I’m not laughing, does it look like
it, Remus, does it look like I’m laughing at him?”
Remus regarded her appraisingly. “Either,” he said, “you are trying very hard
not to have hysterics, and failing miserably, or you are having some variety of
acute, probably-fatal pulmonary embolism.” He considered. “The optimist in me
favours the former.”
“Remus,” said Charlie, pleading, “she’s your girlfriend, make her stop laughing
“Sadly, I think my girlfriend has read her feminist literature.” Remus smiled
and grabbed Tonks’s hand. “Come on, Nymphadora, let’s leave Charlie to his dress
robes. I’m sure he’d appreciate some time alone with them.”
On the way down the rickety stairs, she gave up the fight and let out the
threatening gasps of laughter. “They had,” – her hands were flapping – “lace!
And frilly bits! And, and, a ruffle!”
“From what I hear, the Delacour family are very particular about such things.”
She could tell by his expression that he was more amused than he was letting on.
“But ours not to reason why, ours but to provide the refreshments.” He stuck his
head out of the door. “Molly! Do you want some tea?”
Molly bustled into the Burrow kitchen, shouting something to the twins over her
shoulder; someone was yelling aggrievedly from upstairs and there were the
sounds of inevitable explosions emanating from the garden. “Bless you, Remus,”
she said sincerely. “I don’t know what we’d have done without you to help. Nor
you, Tonks dear.”
Remus smiled and tapped the kettle with his wand. Tonks grimaced. “You’d have
probably had a lot more intact china,” she said ruefully.
“Nonsense, dear! Who needs china when we’re having a wedding in the family? Yes,
Ginny, I’m coming! Be patient a minute!”
She disappeared with a rustle of robes and skirts. Remus started rummaging in
the cupboards for clean cups. “You’d think a wedding in the family would be
exactly the occasion you would need intact china,” he said thoughtfully.
“Oh, don’t rub it in.” Tonks sat down at the table. “Remind me to replace some
of Molly’s kitchenware. I broke six plates this morning.”
“Yeah, but they’ll still be cracked. And talking of being cracked – why are we
the only non-family members here helping out? What did the rest of the Order do
to get out of this?”
Remus came to sit down beside her, having miraculously found a handful of
unbroken mugs, and she held them still as he poured out. “Moody and Kingsley
will be here fairly shortly,” he pointed out. “Mundungus Fletcher has been
banned from the house. Harry, Hermione and Ron are out running last-minute
errands. I believe Bill is hiding in the garden so he doesn’t see his fiancée in
her dress. Do you think I should just keep making tea until people turn up to
drink it all?”
“That would be a waste of your talents. You can do the washing-up, too.”
He laughed. Getting up, he pushed the door open with a foot in time for them to
both hear Ginny yelling, “I don’t care! I won’t wear it!”
“Don’t tell Molly, but I’m on her side,” Tonks said. “It’s hideous.”
“It isn’t,” said Remus thoughtfully, “hideous in itself. It’s rather a nice
dress. And Ginny’s hair too is striking in isolation. The combination is,
“Fleur has a lot to answer for,” said Tonks feelingly, and shut the door again.
As she did so, someone knocked at the outside door on the other side of the
Someone hissed. “Psst.”
Remus put a hand on the door handle and peered through a small crack. “Hello?”
“No, don’t open it!” It was Bill’s voice. “Is she there?”
“Fleur? No, she’s upstairs.”
“Then let me in, it’s bloody freezing out here.” He bounded through into the
warmth, shivering, and came to sit down beside Tonks. “If she comes in, tell me
and I’ll close my eyes. I couldn’t stand the garden any more. Fred and George
keep doing product demonstrations on the flowering shrubs.”
“It may not be any more peaceful in here,” Remus told him, handing him a mug of
tea. “Your mother and Ginny are busy having a violent dress-related argument,
Charlie is probably wringing his hands in desperation in front of the mirror and
we’re expecting a pep squad of Aurors any minute now.”
“Just another Friday night at the Burrow.” Bill grinned and leaned back in his
chair, savouring the tea. Tonks still wasn’t used to the element of the
grotesque in his smile; mirth stretched at the fresh scars, made macabre mockery
of the once-handsome face. “Do you think I dare go in and get a jumper?”
“Cover your eyes,” Remus advised, and Bill did. He nearly walked into the door,
but Remus got it open in time to avoid a collision. He shouted quick directions
to no avail; there was a series of crashes as Bill hit an umbrella stand, then a
wall, then a grandfather clock, followed by imperious demands from above as to
what in creation was going on down there, couldn’t they all be left alone for
five minutes, whatever next, and with a wry smile, Remus shut the door on the
“I think it’s best we stay out of it,” he said, and returned to his teapot.
Impulsively, Tonks moved to sit beside him, perching on the table-edge. “Don’t
you think it’s strange,” she said, “all of this? I thought it would be different
somehow. But no, the twins are making explosions and Molly’s going crazy and I’m
breaking things. It’s like everything’s normal.”
“Not quite everything.” Remus looked up at her, and she thought about slipping
down to land in his lap, but then imagined what Molly would say and resisted the
urge. “You’re here. I don’t mean,” he went on quickly, “that in normal times
you, or Alastor or Kingsley for that matter, wouldn’t have been invited, but
there wasn’t a choice in the matter. Where’s your wand?”
She tapped her hip. “Here.”
“Mine too. People are prepared. They’re not afraid, but they’re prepared.”
“I knew that,” she confessed. “I’m here on official duty too. I wasn’t supposed
to let on, but you knew, I’m sure.”
He nodded. “I suspected.”
“But I thought people would be acting differently. I thought that it would be
different because of Bill being...” She trailed off. “You know.”
“Hard to know what Bill is, isn’t it?” His voice was weary. “There is a change
in him. I can feel it, though I doubt that anyone else can. The wounds are
cursed, but not like mine. But however bad it turns out to be, I think Bill
won’t let it stop him. Nor Fleur, at that. They’ll be happy.” He smiled a
little. “That’s the answer to your question, right there.”
“People try their best to be happy, in wartime. Their joy is their defiance.
After all, not engaging in a big crazy family wedding would mean Voldemort had
won, isn’t that right?”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “That sounds right.”
“I remember James and Lily’s wedding was the same. Molly was younger, but just
as crazy.” He flashed her a mischievous glance. “Sirius was best man, which was
a bad idea all round, as he thought it entitled him to shag the bridesmaids.
When I objected, he told me, and I quote, ‘You know what you have to do,
“You were a bridesmaid?” she demanded, spluttering.
“No, I hit him.”
She laughed, and when thinking about war, about memory, it didn’t seem to matter
what Molly would say. With more grace than expected, she slipped down into his
lap, putting an arm round his shoulders with one hand tangling loosely into his
hair. “You’re going to leave after the wedding, aren’t you?” she said, softly.
“Yes.” He shifted in the creaking chair so her weight was more evenly settled,
and his hand came to rest on her hip, fingers curling over her wand. “I have to
go. The call of the wild, you know.”
There was meant to be humour in it, but somehow it fell flat and she sank
further down into him. Through the thick, soft fabric of his cloak, she could
feel his heart beating.
“I have to fight,” she said, dully. “It’s my job. There won’t be any more quiet
days and village patrols. It’ll be battles and blood and raids all the time,
“I’ll come back.”
“I know.” He laughed very quietly, and she was being fanciful but there was
something about the wolf in it, low and purring. “You’ll come back, and I’ll be
Something crashed outside, and it was louder than the usual explosions; there
was the sound of a bell ringing, and then what sounded suspiciously like someone
shouting, “Constant vigilance!”
Tonks startled. “Just when I was getting comfortable!” she complained. “Bloody
Moody and his bloody fixation....”
Remus tried getting to his feet, so she fell on him and around him and clung to
him until they were both balanced, standing. “Sounds like the gang’s all here,”
he said, grinning, and the house exploded with life.
She crashed, soaking wet, into the flat, and sneezed violently, once, twice,
thrice. There was rainwater in her sinuses, flowing out of her ears, and it was
still battering the windows. In the small hallway, she stood and dripped. There
were lights on in the living-room, and she could hear music. Remus.
Lightning flashed, electric-bright, as she followed the sound now barely audible
above the rolls of thunder. He was on the floor, asleep. It had been days and
long nights, almost a week since she’d seen him, and the moon had been in the
meantime; she chose to notice peaceful sleep, rapid eye movement and dreams
rather than his hair thick with mud and the curious, painful angles of his
She went into the kitchen to put the kettle on the boil, reached into her pocket
and realised her wand was already in her hand, gripped tightly enough to leave
rigid grooves in her skin. She hadn’t dropped it nor let it go since she’d left,
and that had been hours ago, after a call through the fire in the sunny
purple-streaked dawn. She’d gone, and she’d come back.
She couldn’t find clean cups in any of the cupboards, and none had been left in
the draining-board either. There was blood in the sink. It formed a thick,
turgid layer around the plughole and splattered around the sides, clotting, but
fresh on the surface. She turned on the taps and went quickly back into the
living-room to retrieve an empty mug from Remus’s outstretched hand. She filled
it with water and used it to slosh round the sides, watching quietly as the red
colour diluted, turned pink and flowed away. She turned the taps down to low
pressure, but left them running.
On the table, she found a small pile of post addressed to her. On the top was a
postcard, showing a classic view of the Eiffel Tower in springtime, and once
turned over, proved to be from Bill and Fleur. Having wonderful time – lots
of good food – Paris est très beau en printemps – love to you and Remus – Bill.
She smiled, wistfully, leaning back and listening to the sound of the trickling
water. Remus would probably be able to translate, but the French words were
pretty enough without knowing what they meant; in her head they felt like
sunshine, strawberries, golden wine in gleaming glasses. There was a war being
fought over there, too – the honeymoon was nominal, considering Fleur was
recruiting at Beauxbatons for the Order – and probably it rained there sometimes
as well, with thunder and lightning and dirty water flowing out of the gutters,
but she preferred the fantasy.
She pinned the card carefully onto the notice board, preferring to do it by hand
than use her wand, and wandered back into the living-room. Remus had shifted
position, hands flung out behind his head, and the record player was skipping.
She pushed the stylus back into place and sat down, realising as she did that
she’d never got around to making herself any tea, but she was feeling too tired
to get up again.
The thunder was dying away, and the music was becoming clearer. Remus rolled
over, rolled back. He was waking up, but Tonks wasn’t going to rush him; she
stayed curled up in her chair, listening to the song playing. She wondered how
much he’d missed it, if werewolf packs, out in the old continental forests, had
songs, had music. She supposed not, apart from the low, melodic, ululating
howling. She’d heard that, rising below the aspens above the plains, and it
probably counted as music because it made her want to laugh and scream and cry.
“What’s that?” Remus sat up, hugging his knees and looking about him in
“Hey, it’s me.” She leaned out of the chair to touch him. “It’s me. What’s the
He was still looking wildly around. “What time is it?”
“Almost eight. Why, do you have to....”
“I have to go back. I was only meant to be here for a little while, I just sat
down for a minute and fell asleep.” He got to his feet, but didn’t move any
further, still looking puzzled. “What is that?”
“It’s the Beatles.” She glanced at the record sleeve left on the floor.
“Sergeant Pepper. Don’t you remember putting it on?”
“I remember.” He jumped across with sudden energy, grabbed her and twirled her.
“Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly....”
His voice was hoarse, and she held onto his hands and kissed his bruised, bloody
mouth. “Come back soon,” she murmured, through the water and the salt. “When you
come back we’ll make cookies.”
He nodded, once, and then he was gone, the room left silent.
Except for the rain, her breathing, her heart beating, and the song, the pretty
song about the boat on the river, the stars in the marmalade skies, and the girl
with the kaleidoscope eyes.