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Chapter 20 : Puddifoot's And Post-Boxes
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“This is so exciting,” Tonks said, growing slightly so that she could see over the other trainees’ heads. She’d passed everything in her practical with ease - she’d spent the last two months studying for them - and had been reassured by the character testing after speaking with the other trainees.
They were designed, she’d heard someone saying, to put the trainee on the spot - thus the sudden changes in topic - put them under pressure - thus the large audience - and to trigger an emotional response - thus the personal and often frustrating questions.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Florence said. Tonks noted with concern that she was looking rather green.
“At least you managed to keep your Shield Charm up,” Ben said gloomily. His Shield Charm had worn off ten seconds before it was supposed to.
“McKinnon!” McKinnon - she hadn’t told anyone her first name and no one remembered it - slipped out of the crowd and off to the side, where Moody was waiting. Tonks shuffled back a few steps, eager to learn more about the older woman.
“Mad-Eye,” she heard McKinnon say back. None of the trainees knew a thing about her because she’d kept to herself for the last two days, yet everywhere she went, she had Moody’s constant attention. Tonks was fairly certain he’d choose her to train.
“How’ve you found it?”
“Is it hard?”
“Yes,” McKinnon said, sounding surprisingly emotional, though Tonks couldn’t for the life of her work out why. “I just- I look at Plants and Poisons and I can’t help but think of- of-” She took a deep breath. “I remember hearing all the stories of the Program and now I’m the one here, when I shouldn’t be. It should be them.” McKinnon sounded almost hysterical. Moody looked impassive. “Does-does it get easier?”
“Not really,” Moody said with a loud sigh. “You just get better at coping.”
“... right, Nymphadora?” Tonks whipped around.
“Don’t call me that,” she muttered. “It’s Tonks.”
“Were you even listening?” Ben asked.
“Shh,” she said, turning back to look at McKinnon and Moody.
“... you already. There’s not much more I can impart on you-”
“It’s all right,” McKinnon said. “It’d probably be showing favouritism anyway.” Moody grunted and then lowered his voice, saying something about Hit Witches. “No,” McKinnon said. “Definitely an Auror, now.”
“Knew you were too sensible for the Hit Team,” he muttered. He clapped her on the shoulder and limped off. McKinnon watched him, smiling slightly and then spotted Tonks, who flushed and looked away, daring only to watch her out of the corner of her eye. McKinnon’s face became impassive - Tonks wondered if she was perhaps an Occlumens to have that much self-control - and she joined the crowd of trainees, promptly ignoring Yaxley’s attempts to find out what Moody had wanted.
While they waited, three trainees were singled out by Aurors and asked to leave. Tonks didn’t know any of them - they’d obviously been in the other group - but she felt a little sorry for them nonetheless. Then, Aurors started calling names.
Yaxley was partnered with an Auror named Louisson - she’d looked pleased with that - Lori Patel and Mary Wright joined with the witch with the eye-patch - McDuff was her name - Ben was sent over to an intimidating looking Auror named Shacklebolt, Florence was paired with Auror Finch who was also Melvin Clarke’s mentor, McKinnon was paired with Robards, Trixia Dale and Wesley Hill were given to Auror Blackburn and Michael Brown was assigned to someone called Hemsley.
More and more of the other trainees were paired off - some had an Auror to themselves, others were paired - and Tonks was growing increasingly nervous when finally-
“Nymphadora Tonks,” a growling voice called. Tonks could hardly believe her ears. She was too stunned to even bother telling Moody not to call her Nymphadora. “Come on, Nymphadora, I don’t have all day!” he barked.
“Sorry,” she said, hurrying over. She stumbled but thankfully didn’t fall and extended her hand the moment she reached him. “It’s a pleasure to be working with you, sir-”
“None of this sir, nonsense,” he growled, shaking her hand surprisingly gently. “Find something else to call me.”
“Okay-” she said hesitantly.
“Good. Training starts tomorrow. Be at my house at four.”
“In the afternoon?” she asked, stymied.
“In the morning. We’ll be visiting a friend of mine.” Moody didn’t strike her as the type to have many friends but she didn’t say anything. “Four,” he said and then limped away.
It was only after he’d left that it occurred to her that she had no idea where his house was.
“Oh, Merlin,” she muttered. She glanced around but most of the other Aurors had either left or were busy with their trainees. He’s going to kill me! How do I even contact him? Surely someone in the Ministry would know but who should I as- “Sorry!” she said, bouncing off someone.
“It’s all right,” McKinnon said, helping her up.
“Sorry. I’m dead clums- You were talking to Auror Moody before, weren’t you?” she asked, her eyes lighting up. McKinnon frowned at her.
“He’s my mentor. I’m Tonks. You’re a... friend of his, aren’t you?”
“Do you know where he lives?”
McKinnon blinked. “Why?”
“He told me to meet him there tomorrow morning but he didn’t say where and I thought, maybe since you knew him-”
“I used to know where to find him,” she said. “That was years ago, though.”
“Where?” Tonks asked hopefully. McKinnon shook her head.
“If he’s still in the same house, I’m a flobberworm.”
“Oh,” Tonks said, disappointed.
“Your hair’s just gone blue,” McKinnon told her. Amazingly, she looked close to smiling.
“It does that,” Tonks said, starting to panic again; she could see her fringe turning a sickly greenish-orange colour. “Thanks for trying-”
“Talk to Dumbledore,” McKinnon said unexpectedly. “If anyone knows where he is, it’s him.”
“Thank you,” Tonks said, throwing her arms around the other woman. “Thank you, thank you, thank you-”
“It’s yellow,” McKinnon said, picking at a strand of her hair. “How in Merlin’s name do you do that?”
“I’m a Metamorphmagus,” Tonks said, still beaming.
“What did you say your name was?” McKinnon asked again, eyes wide.
McKinnon blinked. “Ted and Andy’s daughter?”
“How did you know?” Tonks asked.
“I babysat once,” she said, flushing. Tonks cast her mind back, trying to remember but couldn’t; she remembered a lot of people coming and going from her parents’ house during the War. She remembered Remus Lupin and James Potter well because they, other than Sirius, had been the most frequent visitors. She also had a faint recollection of a red-haired woman and of a rather pudgy man, but not of McKinnon. “Sorry, that’s probably not exactly what you want to hear-”
I’ll bet she knew Sirius Black, then, and probably Remus Lupin too, Tonks thought. She didn’t say anything, though - Remus Lupin hadn’t minded, but he’d been nothing but friendly from the outset - not when McKinnon, who hadn’t talked to anyone but Moody for two days, finally seemed to be relaxing a little. Tonks forced a laugh. “It doesn’t bother me. I’d better go if I’m going to see Dumbledore in time, though...” she said a bit awkwardly.
McKinnon looked faintly relieved. “I suppose I’ll see you around, then,” she said. “It was nice to meet you again.”
“You too,” Tonks said. She waved goodbye to Florence and Ben and hurried up the stairs and out through the broom cupboard entrance. She Flooed home from the atrium, changed hurriedly - she had to meet Keith in Hogsmeade at six - and wrote a quick note to remind Mum and Dad that she wouldn’t be home for dinner; she’d told them but Mum had a tendency to forget and would worry. She wasted five minutes searching for her money bag only to find it under her sleeping cat.
“You knew I’d need it tonight, didn’t you, you evil little-” Canis hissed and took a sleepy swipe at her ankle.
She Apparated to Hogsmeade and paid a post owl to carry a brief letter to Dumbledore warning him of her visit and headed up the dark road to the castle. She was pleasantly surprised to find Dumbledore waiting for her at the gates.
“Wotcher, Professor. I’m sorry to come on such short notice,” she said when she saw him.
“Not a problem,” Dumbledore said, beaming. “Shall we head to my office?”
“It won’t take long. It’s just one question,” she said. Dumbledore inclined his head. “Where does Auror Moody live? I was told you’d probably know-”
“You’re quite right,” Dumbledore said with a chuckle. “Might I ask why you need to know?”
“Oh, right, sorry. He’s my mentor-”
“Congratulations, my dear!” Dumbledore said, beaming.
“Thank you,” Tonks said, smiling back.
“I’ll be sure to notify Pomona.”
“I owled her to say I made it in, but not that I’ve passed the preliminary testing,” Tonks said. “If you could pass that along, that’d be wonderful.”
“Consider it done. Now, as for Alastor: are you familiar with Brighton?”
“Yes,” Tonks said. Dad had done a news story there the summer before last and she’d got to go with him.
“Just off Albion Hill is a street named Phoenix Rise. You will find Alastor there.”
“How do I know which house is his?”
“There will be an abundance of dustbins out the front,” Dumbledore said with an odd expression. “A simple Body-Bind ought to do it.”
“Brilliant,” Tonks said happily; she wasn’t sure what he meant about Body-Binds but then, Dumbledore had always been a bit strange. “Thank you so much, sir,” Tonks said happily.
“Not a problem, not a problem,” Dumbledore said kindly. “Are you certain I cannot tempt you to stay for dinner?”
“No, I’m having dinner with a friend, actually,” she said apologetically. “Thank you again, sir.”
“I’ll pass your message onto Pomona. Enjoy dinner.” With that, Dumbledore swept back inside the school gates, shut them with a tap of his wand and departed with a wave. Tonks, who couldn’t be bothered walking all the way back to Hogsmeade, Disapparated.
She materialised in front of The Three Broomsticks with a quiet pop and glanced around. Loud chatter was coming from inside and lamp light was shining merrily through the windows but she couldn’t see Keith anywhere. A glance at her watch told her it was just after six. He arrived about a minute later, just at Tonks was beginning to get nervous.
“Hi!” she said, waving.
“Hey,” he said, hugging her. “You look different.”
“I always look different,” she said cheerfully.
“So, how was your day?”
“Boring. What about yours?”
“Brilliant,” she said, grinning. “I made it in, and you’ll never guess who my mentor is!”
“Mad-Eye Moody!” she said happily. “I’ve just spent the afternoon trying to find out where he lives; I’ve got to be there at four o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“That’s awful!” Keith said.
Tonks shrugged. “Aurors could be called in at any time, so I may as well get used to it.”
He gave her a dubious look. “If you say so. Where do you want to eat? I was thinking Madam Puddifoot’s.”
“That pink place, with the fairies?” she asked.
“Oh.” Until this point, she hadn’t quite been sure whether she and Keith were dating; they’d gone out several times since school ended, but she hadn’t been sure whether it was as friends or as something else, as the flower he’d given her yesterday seemed to indicate. This, she was fairly sure, confirmed it. She’d never been to Madam Puddifoot’s and while Charlie had told her a number of horror stories - leaving her with absolutely no desire to go anywhere near the place - Keith seemed eager and she couldn’t bring herself to say no. “Yeah, I suppose-”
“Great.” They chatted on the way down the road; Keith was still working for his local Quidditch team and was having particular trouble with the under twelves. “After you,” Keith said, pulling the door open when they arrived.
“Thanks,” Tonks said, stumbling into the room. It was warm inside, at least, though she wasn’t a fan of the decoration; everything was covered in pink or a deep reddish-purple and was either frilly, lacy, or heart-patterned. Candles burned on each of the tables, emitting heart-shaped puffs of smoke that smelled suspiciously like flowers. Charlie was right, she thought darkly, forcing a smile in Keith’s direction. Cherubs fluttered over to lead them to an empty table and then a stout woman wearing glittery red robes bustled over with menus.
She scanned the menu and picked a dish with an Italian name; it seemed like the least nauseating item, even if it did have heart-shaped pasta. Keith ordered a chicken-something and they both ordered some sort of strawberry drink and then Puddifoot tottered off. “Isn’t it great?” Keith said happily, glancing around the room.
“It’s certainly not like anywhere I’ve ever been,” she said. “I take it you’ve been here before?”
“Once in fifth year with Dawn,” he said. “She really seemed to like it.” Tonks opened her mouth to reply and received a face full of confetti for her trouble. Keith laughed as Tonks spat into her napkin and glowered at the cherub. “So what sort of things did you have to do in the tests?”
Tonks happily filled him in, talking excitedly about the physical tests – she’d splinched a chunk of her hair and hastily regrown it before her assessor had noticed - as well as the odd questions they’d asked and the mirrors.
“I think they’re what inspired Snow White,” she said thoughtfully.
“Pardon?” Keith asked.
“Snow White,” Tonks said. “It’s a muggle fairytale, and there’s this mirror-”
“I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,” he said apologetically.
“That’s all right,” she said. “I’ll lend you my old muggle fairytale book-”
“I’m not reading muggle fairytales,” he said, laughing. “I’ll just take your word for it.”
“All right,” she said, little put-out.
“Did I tell you about the under twelves team?”
“Yes,” she said, but he told her again anyway. Their food and drinks came not long after; the drinks were so sweet she couldn’t manage more than a mouthful but the pasta was good, though she was a little disconcerted by the pale pink sauce.
They talked about Quidditch while they ate - Tonks was an avid Harpies fan, while Keith preferred the Tornados - and endured the cherubs; Tonks was fairly sure she’d accidentally consumed several mouthfuls of confetti by the time she’d finished her meal, and her drink had a layer of soggy paper floating on top. Finally, she got sick of the little golden creature and Stunned it.
“What are you doing?” Keith demanded, looking horrified.
“I’ll let it out before we leave,” she said, stuffing the cherub in the sugar pot. He gave her a doubtful look but didn’t say anything else on the matter.
Sometime later, Madam Puddifoot brought out coffee and bowls of strawberry ice-cream, and then Tonks released the thoroughly disgruntled cherub and stood, fishing around in her bag for a galleon.
“Nymph- sorry, Tonks - why are you paying?”
“For dinner,” she said, setting a galleon down on the table.
He picked it up and pressed it back into her hand. “I’m paying.”
“Don’t be thick,” she said. “I’m paying for what I ate.”
“But I want to,” he said, looking injured.
“Sorry, what?” she asked, bemused. He took the opportunity to throw his two galleons down on the table and steer her to the door.
“A gentleman always pays for the lady,” he said as she wrapped her scarf around her neck.
Tonks snorted. “I’m hardly a lady, Keith.”
“I’m being polite,” he insisted. She rolled her eyes and tucked her galleon into a spare pocket.
“Thank you, then,” she sighed. “But next time, I’m paying.” He laughed as if she’d told an absolutely hilarious joke.
“What do you want to do now?” he asked.
She checked her watch. “I think I should go home, actually.”
“What?” he asked, his face falling. “Why?”
“Well it’s ten now,” she said reasonably, “and I have to be at Moody’s by four.”
“Can’t you stay for another hour?”
“Not if I want to sleep tonight,” she said, stifling a yawn. “And if I don’t, I’ll be horrendous tomorrow, which won’t exactly endear me to Moody.”
“All right, then,” he said grudgingly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
Her eyebrows climbed. “Tomorrow?”
“You’re not doing anything, are you?”
“Well, no,” she admitted. “I suppose that’ll work. What would you like to do?”
“I know this place in Diagon Alley,” he said brightly. “Do you want to meet in the Leaky Cauldron at six?”
Tonks checked her watch again and nodded - she really needed to go if she didn’t want a repeat of the O.W.L. incident; she’d been so grumpy she’d hexed no less than seven of her classmates in a day and received three detentions, each from a different teacher.
“Six is fine,” she said. “It was nice to see you again tonight.”
“I’m already looking forward to tomorrow,” he said. She hugged him goodbye.
“See you then.” She Disapparated straight to her bedroom.
“Nymphadora!” Mum called.
“Don’t call me Nymphadora!” she shouted back.
“What have I told you about Apparating into the house?!”
“Not to do it,” she said wearily, pulling open her bedroom door to reveal a cross-looking Mum. “Sorry.”
“Don’t make me tell you again.” Tonks nodded absently but was fairly sure this wouldn’t be the last time it happened. “How’d everything go?” Mum asked.
“I made it!” she said, beaming. Mum wrapped her in a tight hug. “And I’ve been partnered with Moody-”
“Mad-Eye?” Mum asked, looking thoughtful. “He trained S- someone I used to know.” Tonks noticed the slip but didn’t say anything. “I’ve heard he’s a bit...” Mum floundered, looking for a word. “Odd,” she said finally, looking pleased with herself.
“He seemed all right,” Tonks said, shrugging.
“Good, good,” Mum said distractedly. “And how’d your date go with that boy - Kevin? When do I get to meet him?”
“Keith,” Tonks said. “And it wasn’t a date.” Well it was, she amended, but Mum doesn’t need to know that. She deliberately left Mum’s last query unanswered.
“Of course not, love,” Mum said, smiling. “I’ll see you in the morning, then.”
“Actually, you won’t,” Tonks said apologetically. “Moody said to be at his house at four.”
“It’s not enough that my husband’s out and about at all hours with his job,” Mum said, throwing her hands up, “but now you are too.”
“Sorry,” Tonks said sheepishly.
Mum harrumphed. “I suppose we’ll see you at dinner then, Nymphadora.”
“Don’t call me that! And no, you won’t.”
“It’s your name- What do you mean no?”
“It’s a stupid name.” Mum folded her arms, eyes flashing.
“It’s a beautiful name.”
“It’s a pureblood name. You did it to spite your horrible family-”
“I did no such thing,” Mum snapped. “I chose it because I liked it, Nymphadora, and for no reasons other than that.”
“It’s a stupid name,” she muttered. “About dinner-”
“Yes,” Mum said sternly. “About dinner?”
“I said I’d see Keith,” Tonks said, waiting for the explosion.
“Oh,” Mum said in a completely different tone to the one she’d been expecting. She almost would have preferred shouting to the sly smile that had settled on Mum’s face. “All right, then. But I want to meet him soon.”
“‘All right, then?’” she repeated incredulously. “That’s it?”
“Contrary to what you seem to believe, Nymphadora-” Tonks ground her teeth. “-I don’t actually want to clash with you about everthing.”
“I know that,” Tonks muttered. Mum wrapped an arm around her and gave her shoulders a squeeze. Tonks couldn’t help the little smile that plastered itself onto her face and she wrapped an arm around Mum and squeezed back. “It is a stupid name, though.” Mum took a deep breath in through her nose. “Admit it,” Tonks said, rocking into her.
Mum stood and kissed her forehead. “Good night, Nymphadora.”
“I thought I told you to clean these up,” Mum said, pointing an accusing finger at the pile of old textbooks on the floor.
“I needed them for Auror trials,” she said.
“Which are over, now.”
“Well, yeah, now they are.”
“I want them put away- In fact, this whole room could use a good clea-”
“Well, I’m exhausted, so I’m going to go to bed now. Good night.” Mum shook her head and continued out of the room. “Love you,” Tonks called after her.
“You too,” Mum called back sounding... amused?
Tonks flopped back onto her bed, and then a horrible realisation crept over her; Mum had brought up her messy room to distract her from the name argument. And it had worked.
“Mum!” she cried, outraged.
“I said goodnight, Nymphadrora.”
* * *
This has to be it, Tonks thought, glancing at the house with no less than four large dustbins lined up outside the front door. She checked her watch - five minutes until she was officially due - and found herself wishing she’d stayed in bed for those extra five minutes. She lit her wand and headed up the path, impressed with how neatly the grass was cut; she’d picked Moody to be fairly untidy.
A quiet rattle behind her drew Tonks’ attention. She twisted, wand raised and to her bemusement found she was being followed by a muggle post-box, a post-box which had resided innocently on the footpath until now. It hopped after her, clunking noisily.
“What in Merlin’s- Ah!” The post-box collided with her and knocked her to the ground. She glanced toward the house, wondering if Moody was behind it but the windows of the house were dark. The post-box was now doing its best to pin her to the path. She shuffled backwards and cast a hasty, “Impedimenta!” but the spell didn’t seem to have any effect.
With no other alternative, she rolled out of the way as the post-box threw itself down on the ground and landed with a noisy bang. She got to her feet quickly and flicked her wand at it, trying to Banish it back to the street where it belonged, but it seemed resistant.
She gave up on physically trying to push it back across the yard when it tried to bite her; only her Metamorphmagus abilities saved her fingers by allowing them to shrink an inch. Irritated, she gave it a jab with her wand and transfigured it into a button. It fell to the ground with a quiet ringing sound and proceeded to hop toward her. She picked it up and while the button squirmed violently, it couldn’t escape her fist. She then continued toward the house.
She lifted her hand to knock on the front door but it was pulled open before her hand touched the wood.
“You’re late,” Moody growled, stepping aside so she could come in. She checked her watch, which said she was only a few seconds late. She smothered her irritation.
“Sorry,” she said, passing him the hopping button. “I was caught up.” He limped out the front door and restored it to its usual form and place while she waited in the hallway.
“Not bad,” he said when he came back. “Next time it won’t be so easy.”
“That was- that was a test?”
Moody smiled faintly and led her into the house. Tonks got the idea that he’d just moved in; there were boxes lining the walls of the already narrow hall and stacked into every available corner. They ended up in his sitting room; it was a small room with an air of being half-unpacked; there were only two couches and rickety coffee table and a bookshelf laden with more boxes than books.
“Sit,” he said. She perched tentatively on the couch. “None of that. Put your feet up, or lie down.” She stared at him. “While you’re my trainee, you’re to treat this house - or any house I’m living with - as your own. You can choose one of the guest rooms and use it when you want. You can use my laundry room and my kitchen but if you eat something, you replace it.”
She nodded, stunned. “You’d trust me?” Everything she’d ever heard about Moody suggested he was an incredibly private, incredibly paranoid man.
“We’ll be working together for the next three years,” he said bluntly. She noticed he hadn’t said yes. “I don’t want any of this tip-toeing around each other. You have a question, ask it. You want to say something, say it. Am I clear?”
“Yes,” she said, remembering to leave off the ‘sir’ at the last moment. She had a feeling, if Mad-Eye really was as forward as he was acting, that they’d get along just fine.
He left the room and came back carrying two cardboard boxes. The first was labelled Baby Photos and the second Dog Food/Toys. She wondered if she was supposed to help him unpack.
“Here.” He shoved the Baby Photos box into her hands.
“Open it.” She did. Inside was - as the box’s label suggested - a collection of photo albums, frames and piles of photographs of babies.
“Who are they of?” she asked.
“No idea,” he said. She blinked confused. Mum was right. He’s odd. “Pass the photo album.”
She picked it up and the entire layer of frames, albums and photographs lifted with it. It was all stuck together, like some sort of bizarre sculpture. Underneath it, however, was a collection of files - Ministry files if the stamps were to be believed - and articles cut from various newspapers and magazines. Fascinated, she set the album-sculpture aside and with a half-glance at Moody who didn’t seem to mind, had a quick look at the files.
“They’re all about Harry Potter and Sirius Black,” she said after a moment.
“They are,” he said gruffly. “On days with a ‘T’ in them, that’s what you’ll be doing. So that’s Tuesday, Thursday and-”
“Saturday,” she said. “Got it.”
“I like it when I get smart ones,” he said, sounding almost pleased. “There’s a search, currently run by Lucius Malfoy. You’re familiar with it?”
“Of course.” She’d been following the Potter-Black search for months.
“You’re joining. You do everything he tells you to,” Moody said. “And then you report back to me. If anything strange is happening, I want to know about it. If you hear anything about Potter or Black, I want to know the second he does. If they’re caught, I want to know where and when, and if you catch them, you bring them straight to me.”
“So I’m like a spy?” Tonks said, her eyebrows raising.
“I like it when I get smart ones,” he said again and then leaned towards her. “I don’t trust Malfoy further than I can throw him, and at my age, that’s not far.”
Tonks nodded eagerly. “If I’m a spy, just how secret is this? Do I have to use a fake name, or-”
“You’ll present yourself as Theodora Tock. It’s close enough that you’ll respond to it. As for secrets, this is between us. Anyone asks, you’ve got no part in the search. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I’ve got you doing my laundry, or unpacking the boxes in my house.”
“But the Ministry-”
“Lucius Malfoy’s got the entire Ministry in his pocket, right alongside his lacy handkerchief and I don’t like it,” Moody barked. “Until I decide he’s got no ulterior motive, I need people to keep an eye on him, and this is a good way for you to get experience in the field. Do you think you can handle it?” Tonks nodded vigorously.
“Fridays are entirely dedicated to your training. We’ll be spending it in the place we’ve been for the last few days.” She noticed he hadn’t given a location, and wondered if he thought anyone was actually listening. Moody pushed the Dog Food/Toys box toward her.
Tonks packed up the Baby Photos box properly - Moody nodded his approval - before reaching for the other box. This one had a stack of tinned food, an old collar, and a fluffy duck toy that squeaked when she touched it. She grabbed the duck and again, the whole layer lifted out to reveal files. A brief look through told her it was about werewolves, and, more specifically, Fenrir Greyback.
“This is my current case,” he said, “and the reason I can’t watch Malfoy as closely as I’d like. On days with an ‘N’ in them, you’ll be with me working on this, or with the other trainees, learning what you’ll need to make it in this job.”
“What are we doing today?” she asked.
“What is today?” Moody asked, sounding irritated.
“It’s a day with a ‘T’.”
“So I’m doing Potter-Black things?” she asked. “Already?”
“No time like the present. I’ll give you half an hour to establish a look for Tock and a few personality quirks and then we’ll go get you a place in your uncle’s search.”
Half an hour later, Tonks emerged from the small bathroom Moody had directed her to. She peered around the corners into the hallway; Moody had jumped out at her, shouting “Constant vigilance!” twice while she was getting ready and she was feeling a bit twitchy.
Moody, however, was waiting in the sitting room and nodded in approval when she entered. She was several inches taller than she usually chose to be, with brown eyes and reddish brown hair. Her nose was straight and not overly long, her face was neither thin or round, she was neither chubby or thin and she was altogether very plain.
She’d also changed clothes; Moody had several wardrobes full of every size and style of clothing – muggle or wizarding, and for both genders – ‘just in case’. She’d ignored to obvious paranoia and gone along with it, picking out a set of navy robes.
“Name?” Moody said.
“Theodora Tock,” she said in a voice slightly deeper than her own.
“Hal- no, wait- Muggleborn.”
“Would anyone really ask that, do you think?” Tonks asked in her normal voice.
“Be prepared for anything.”
“Okay, erm... blue.”
“Blue? Why blue?”
“Because... er... I went to Beauxbatons.”
“Pouvez-vous parler français?” he growled.
“Is that French?” Tonks asked, making a face.
“At least you know that much,” Moody sighed. “You can’t get by without French at Beauxbatons, so stick with Hogwarts. Your favourite colour can be blue because you were in Ravenclaw.”
“No, I was too busy studying.”
“A bit stereotypical but it’ll do.” He asked her several more questions - her parents’ names, what subjects she took, how many N.E.W.T.s she received - and then seemed satisfied. “Just remember to stay in character.” She nodded. “Time to go then.” He ushered her through the house, out into the back garden and then offered her his arm. She took it tentatively. “Remember, constant vigilance. If we’re attacked upon arrival, conjure a Shield Charm and get inside. If one of us is killed-”
“I thought you said we were visiting your friend?” Tonks said, alarmed.
“You can never be too careful,” Moody said. He twisted on the spot, pulling her with him.
He landed easily but Tonks lost her footing and ended up on her back on the grass, staring at the dark, starry sky and the almost-full moon. They appeared to be at the edge of a forest, but looking closer she realised they were only a few yards away from a small cottage.
Neat bushes lined the outside walls and some sort of vine had climbed the pale stone exterior, though it had been cut away from the windows. Round white stones rested in the grass, forming a path from the forest - separated from the house only by a low picket fence - to the front door. The front door itself was sheltered by a small extension of the roof, supported by thin wooden beams.
“Are you sure they’re expecting us?” she asked, glancing at the house. It certainly looked and sounded like its occupants were asleep. Moody ignored her and limped not toward the door, but the window. “What are you doing?” she asked as he flicked his wand. The window opened soundlessly. “There’s a door-”
“Never do what you’re expected to do,” Moody whispered. He waved his wand several times, chanting under his breath and then snorted. “Mind the bushes.” With surprising agility, he pulled himself through the window and landed almost silently on the other side. I must be mad, Tonks thought before climbing through after him.
“Lumos,” she whispered, once she was inside. There was a large, well-stocked bookshelf on her right, and a mantel laden with photographs on her left. Two couches, an armchair and a table rested in the middle of the room and a kitchen bench and dining table with four seats was on the far side of the room. It was very tidy.
“This way,” Moody said, heading to the right, where there was an opening that seemed to lead to a hallway. His leg was almost silent on the wooden floor and while she made a bit of noise - she tripped over an umbrella stand by the door - they made it out of the main room without much trouble. “And put that light out.”
“They are expecting us, aren’t they?” she asked a little nervously, as Moody limped down the hall. Her question was answered when Moody pushed open a door and led her into a dark bedroom and a soft snore came from the bed.
No, she realised, wincing. Moody’s friend has no idea we’re coming.
The bed’s occupant was a man - not the little old lady she’d half expected after seeing the neat house and garden - but he was so thoroughly cocooned in his blankets that she couldn’t tell much more about him.
Moody walked around to the side of the bed, leant right over him and roared, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”
It scared Tonks, so she could only imagine how Moody’s poor friend could be feeling; he awoke, starting so violently that he tumbled out of bed. He managed to grab his wand on the way down and fired a spell at Moody that missed by several inches and left a scorch mark on the ceiling.
“Fuck,” he said weakly. Tonks thought he sounded vaguely familiar and wondered if he was another Auror. “Mad-Eye?”
“Do you have any idea how easy it was to get inside?!” Moody bellowed.
“Is something wrong?” the man said, yawning.
“Yes! You’ve got no protection or warding whatsoever! I could have killed you and you wouldn’t even know!”
“Oh, well if that’s all...” he said sleepily, climbing back into bed. Moody tore the covers off and he made a little noise of protest. “Bloody hell!” he said. “What?”
“Toast,” Moody said.
“Toast?” the man asked, as if he’d never heard of such a thing.
Yes, I definitely know him from somewhere, Tonks though, squinting at him, but she really couldn’t make much of him out.
“And scrambled eggs,” Moody said. “Get moving.”
“Sod off, Mad-Eye,” he said, rolling into his pillows. Moody flicked his wand and the lamps in the room lit up. The man sat up, looking extremely dishevelled, and blinked owlishly. “Who are you?” he asked, frowning at Tonks. Tonks could only stare. It was Remus Lupin.
“Theodora Tock,” she said, managing to stifle a cheerful ‘Wotcher’ at the last minute. Theodora didn’t do that.
“Remus Lupin,” he said, sighing. He glanced at Moody. “What’s this about?”
“I’ll tell you once I’ve eaten,” Moody said.
“Toast and eggs, did you say?” Lupin asked, having obviously realised he wasn’t going to get back to sleep any time soon. He rolled out of bed with a sigh and slipped out of the room in just his pyjama trousers. Moody snorted and limped after him. Tonks followed wordlessly, unable to believe what had just happened.
She and Moody seated themselves at Lupin’s little dining table and watched as he turned on the stove. He walked back down the hallway a moment later.
“If he’s gone back to bed-” Moody growled to himself, but never finished because Lupin came back wearing a thin t-shirt and gave Moody a look that made Tonks think he’d somehow heard him.
“Has something happened?” Lupin asked, waving his wand to send three glasses of orange juice over to the table.
“Just need a word with you about Malfoy’s search.”
“And that couldn’t have waited until a more sociable hour?”
“I was hoping you’d be a good example to my trainee,” Moody growled. “You, Potter and Pettigrew were always the most vigilant and I can’t visit them for obvious reasons.” Lupin turned back to the stove.
“Was I a good example?” he asked a moment later, scratching absently at a large scar on his arm.
“Yes, of what not to do.”
“Glad to be of service.”
Lupin’s eyes landed on Tonks. “Congratulations on making it into the Program,” he said with a genuine, if sleepy, smile.
“Thank you,” she said in Tock’s voice.
“Mad-Eye’s a good mentor. He taught me quite a bit.”
“You’d never know it,” Moody grumbled. Tonks hardly heard him but Lupin seemed to, and had a small, somewhat mischievous smile on his face when he turned around.
“I am curious, though,” Lupin continued mildly.
“About?” Tonks asked.
“Do you have as much of an aversion to Theodora as you do to Nymphadora?”
“I’m sorry, what?” Tonks squeaked. Lupin gave her a knowing look. She glanced at Moody for help, but he didn’t look at her; he had an odd expression - almost fond, yet irritated - on his face.
“I’d forgotten about that,” Moody said, shooting a glare at Lupin, who seemed to be fighting a smile. Lupin turned back towards the stove and loaded a plate with eggs.
“Yes,” he said, “well, constant vigilance, Mad-Eye.”
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