Black coffee was good...
Chapter One - EnDienda and coffee issues
...And no-one knew this fact more than Nymphadora Tonks. God-alone knew how many steaming polystyrene cups she went through on a night on patrol - and it was even worse when you were pacing a small village containing two bars. But the rules were strict: no alcohol on the job.
Of course, not everyone could control the cravings administered to the brain when it caught a whiff of the Butterbeer fumes coming from the Three Broomsticks, and many-a-night had Tonks spotted other Aurors staggering out of the bar. And on nights like this, it was all she could do not to just yell ‘damn it all to hell’ and go in herself.
‘You drink too much of that stuff, Tonks.’
Kingsley was on patrol with her, again. Rarely a day went by when the two weren’t partnered together - probably because of their case-history of working better as a team. ‘Nah... you can never drink too much coffee,’ she shrugged, sipping the scalding liquid.
‘Yeah, sure. I never could get the whole muggle drinks thing.’ Shacklebolt said, eyeing the beverage suspiciously. Tonks grinned at his expression - the man could be such a... pureblood, sometimes.
Another blast of icy wind swept past them both and provoked a shudder. ‘God I hate winter patrol.’
‘You’re not alone - on’y some of us aren't moaning.’
Without turning around, Tonks and Kingsley simultaneously greeted their grouchy colleague with a weary ‘Evening Mad-Eye.’
Mad-Eye Moody stepped up beside them, swamped in his oversized trench coat, holding his wand inside his pocket. He, too, seemed to be under the impression that she consumed more than a healthy amount of black coffee each night, but once he had made his point in a growling lecture he seemed to want to leave it for her to consider, rather than repeat it every ten minutes like Shacklebolt and Hestia Jones.
‘Ratchet wants us to go up to the castle and patrol the corridors for a few hours - just to be sure.’ Moody said, sounding as though, in his opinion, he could show Mina Ratchet a thing or two about defence strategies.
‘Brilliant,’ Tonks sighed, finishing her coffee and vanishing the cup, ‘how long is a few hours, exactly? I was supposed to be having dinner with my parents tonight, and it’s going to rain.’
‘A few hours.’ Moody shrugged, turning and vanishing back into the village. Kingsley echoed her sigh and started up the muddy track to Hogwarts, his booted feet squelching in the rain-soaked muck, Tonks reluctantly trailing after him.
‘This bites, man.’
‘Oh don’t be so pessimistic - at least we’ll be out of the cold.’ Shacklebolt’s reasoning was doing nothing to improve Tonks’ outlook on the orders.
‘Yeah, but we’ll have to watch over sleeping sprogs. If we have to do common rooms - you are so on Slytherin duty.’
They reached the castle and Kingsley banged on the huge front doors. They swung open to reveal the shadowy forms of Professors McGonagall and Snape, fully robed and apparently waiting for the Aurors.
‘Nymphadora, Kingsley.’ McGonagall greeted them curtly, before ushering them into the entrance hall and closing the doors behind them. ‘The Headmaster informed me that you were on patrol around the school corridors and, seeing as neither Severus or I had any interest in sleep, we have decided to join you.’
Great. Just marvellous. Tonks could have curled up in a ball and wept - she knew that the elder witch was going to pair them up and she also knew that she wouldn’t be allocated with Kingsley. And she had no interest whatsoever in walking around a damp, dark castle with McGonagall or Snape.
‘Shacklebolt, you can come and patrol the upper floors with me, Nymphadora, you will patrol the dungeons with Severus.’ McGonagall ordered, turning and heading for the marble staircase.
Flashing her a sympathetic grin, Kingsley hurried after the Transfiguration teacher, leaving Tonks alone in the hall with Snape.
‘I doubt the definition of ‘patrolling’ involves standing still.’ Snape said sardonically, folding his arms. ‘The dungeons are that way, as you should remember through four years of exploding cauldrons in my lessons.’
‘Yeah... thanks for that reminder, Snape,’ sighing heavily, Tonks followed him toward the dungeon entrance. ‘As if I couldn’t remember four whole years of torture.’
‘You weren’t the one who had to piece together a clumsy adolescent every other lesson.’
‘No, but I was the one who had to endure the sarcastic comments of an oversized bat every lesson, so cry me a river.’
The dungeons were just as dank and grimy as she remembered, if not even more so. Once they were inside the maze of stone corridors they slowed, wands drawn and watching for any activity, returning back to idle insults to keep the conversation flowing.
‘Look - it doesn’t matter what you say, Snape. Rubber and glue, I don’t have to listen to any of this.’
‘Well unfortunately for you, you don’t have Potter’s level of arrogance - so a lot of the time you do listen to all of this.’ Snape sneered, rounding the corner to the Slytherin common room. ‘Mudblood.’ The tapestry swung aside, revealing a colossally sized underground room.
‘God, your passwords get worse every week.’ Tonks snorted, climbing in after him and stumbling on the edge of a green and black rug. ‘Bugger... you really ought to watch where you put these things...’
‘Unfortunately the interior decorators didn’t choose the décor to suit your needs, Nymphadora. If they had, surely there would be no furniture in here at all?’
Low blow. Tonks glowered at him and turned to leave the room, stopping when Snape grabbed her arm.
‘Where are you going? Minerva instructed us to-’
‘Patrol the dungeons. There obviously isn't a rogue Death Eater in here, so let’s go.’ Tonks shrugged.
‘And what about the dormitories?’
‘You’re kidding me, aren't you?’ she stared at him, ‘you can’t seriously be suggesting that we go inside the Slytherin dormitories... I’d rather feed myself to the giant squid.’
‘What happens if someone got inside one? I trust you remember Weasley’s over-dramatic tale of how he woke up to find Black standing over him with a dagger?’
Tonks looked at him, convincing herself that he couldn’t be serious. There was no way in hell she was going inside a Slytherin’s dorm, especially when four or five of the buggers were asleep in them. It was like poking a sleeping dragon in the eye.
‘Well you do it, then. They’re your house.’ She shrugged, leaning against the wall and folding her arms stubbornly.
‘I can’t check the girls’ dormitories.’
He fixed her with a look and she relented. ‘Fine, but I’m just opening the door and looking. That’s it.’
‘That’s all that’s required to make sure a Death Eater isn't amongst us.’
‘Why the hell would a Death Eater hurt a Slytherin, anyway? Aren't they all future D.E’s?’ It was only once the words left her mouth that she realised what an insensitive question it was.
‘Contrary to popular belief, Miss Tonks, not all Slytherins are supporters of Voldemort.’
Snape breezed across the room and vanished up the staircase to the boys’ dorms, leaving her alone in the icy room. After a few moments of whacking herself on the forehead for her lack of subtlety, she headed across to the girls’ staircase, grimacing and hoping to God that they were all asleep.
Wand drawn, she pushed the first door open and made sure that the only people in the room were five sleeping forms on the double beds.
Wasn’t so hard... Moving onto the next room, she repeated the process. Again, and again, and again, until finally she reached the last door.
Shoving the door gently, she peered into the blackness. At first everything seemed fine, until she raked her eyes across the room again. There, standing in the darkness by one of the windows, was a figure too tall and strong to be a Slytherin female. Before she could stop herself, Tonks gasped.
The silhouette spun around and automatically fired a curse her way, which she only just managed to dodge. The good news was, the man’s yell woke up the girls in the dorm and caused an instantaneous commotion, involving lots of screaming and running.
Slytherin girls surged out of the doors all around Tonks and onto the landing, eager to know what the screaming was about.
‘Get into the common room!’ She bellowed, taking charge. The girls didn’t need telling twice, but Tonks didn’t wait to see if they obeyed her command - instead pushing her way into the dark dorm, wand drawn. The figure was no longer visible to her, but all windows were still intact and she had been blocking the only door, which meant that he was still in there somewhere.
‘What happened?’ A voice behind her hissed.
‘I thought you couldn’t come up here!’ Tonks glared back at Snape. ‘I don’t know who it was, but the bugger fired a curse at me, which draws out any innocence pleas.’
‘You take that side; we’ll meet in the middle.’ Snape muttered, nudging her toward the right. Nodding, she stepped forward slowly, praying that her eyes would hurry up and get used to the bloody dark. She knew from experience that Death Eaters were like rabid animals - dangerous at their best and lethal when cornered or afraid.
She approached the furthest bed and leaned across to check down the side. Inspiration striking, she crouched down close to the thick carpet and ran her eyes across the undersides of all the beds.
She was right. The figure was crouched to the left of the centre bed, his head turned in Snape’s direction. The Potions Master was one bed from finding him. Tonks rose again and waved her arms madly, trying desperately to get his attention. It worked. He looked up and she jabbed a finger toward the middle bed.
Snape nodded and gripped his wand tighter.
‘On three.’ He mouthed. Tonks nodded and stepped slightly closer, grimacing as the man raised three fingers. ‘Three,’ he let the first one drop. ‘Two...’ That was as far as the Death Eater let him get. Smelling the scent of his own capture in the air, he leapt to his feet and fired a curse toward Snape, catching him in the chest. The Potions Master flew backward and hit the wall, falling to the floor and lying still.
‘Bugger - Stupefy!’
Her hex missed its target and she was forced to throw herself to the floor to avoid another curse.
‘EnDienda!’ Christ - she’d never even heard of that one. At first it didn’t seem to have any effect, but after a few moments she started to feel nauseous... her vision became blurred and blotchy and her limbs started to weigh more than they should.
‘Stupefy!’ She tried again, barely able to raise her wand. The spell connected with something, she was sure, but it gave off a sound of splintering wood - causing her to doubt her ability to work under pressure. If she couldn’t even see her target, how the hell was she supposed to hex him!
She was saved the effort - the door was flung open and McGonagall and Shacklebolt entered, the former firing enough hexes at the Death Eater to knock down a bloody muggle army.
‘Jesus Tonks... what the hell happened?’
Shacklebolt heaved her to her feet and supported her there.
‘Dunno...’ She slurred, mentally cursing. ‘He said sommat... EnDendo? EnDenda... somethin’ like that anyway... an’ I’m all sleepy...’
‘EnDienda? Nymphadora - was it EnDienda?’ McGonagall said, halfway through reviving Snape.
‘Coulda bin... yeah, that sounds about right.’ Her head was now throbbing painfully. ‘Bugger... what the hell did it do to my head!’
‘EnDienda is an old curse... I don’t think many people used it after the World War One blackouts. During the Blitz an old wizard called Hemsforth accidentally hit his wife with it and uncovered the effects of the curse on highly caffeinated people. So as long as you haven't had much caffeine in the past hour, you should be alright.’
‘Bugger, I’m screwed.’
‘How much have you had?’ Snape asked warily, rubbing his head.
‘How much is a lot?’
‘In an hour... about four cups... maybe five. Whaddya think, Kings?’
‘Five sounds about right. I did warn you that so much coffee wasn’t good for you.’
‘Yeah, yeah... so what do we do about it?’ Tonks asked, wincing at the pain in her head. McGonagall sighed and massaged her own temple, as though she was the one with EnDienda and coffee issues.
‘Severus?’ The elder witch asked.
‘You need a Parson Draught for starters... and Merlin knows where you’re going to get one this time of the year.’
‘Can’t you make one?’ Tonks begged, now in thorough agony. ‘I’m gonna scream if I have to put up with this kind of headache for much longer.’
‘I could only make one if I had the right ingredients... which I doubt.’
‘What are the right ingredients, like?’
‘Parson bone, Hemlock, Sinsore Negelus...’
‘Okay, you lost me completely... can’t you do it?’
‘I could... Shacklebolt, can you drag her back through the dungeons to my classroom, then you can come back here and... do whatever you were going to do with the Death Eater.’ Snape said, holding the dorm door open.
Kingsley nodded and picked Tonks up. She groaned as the sudden alteration in position sent her head reeling with pain and gripped the back of the Auror’s robes, eyes clamped tightly shut.
‘God that hurt...’
‘Stop whining you sissy.’ Shacklebolt grinned, carrying her back down the girls’ staircase. From what she could make out of the blurred scene in front of her, the entire Slytherin house had congregated in their common room to see what all the commotion was about, and the five girls from the dorm were dramatically retelling the events to anyone who would listen.
They exited the room, to her relief - all the noise was drilling into her head like one of her dad’s old screwdrivers. Kingsley followed Snape through the damp dungeon corridors, eventually coming to a stop outside Snape’s classroom door.
‘You can leave her here.’
Kingsley propped Tonks upright against the wall, allowing her to slide miserably onto the floor. ‘You sure you don’t need anything else?’
‘Quite sure, thankyou.’
Snape waited until the Auror had vanished around the corner before speaking his password and leaning down to pull Tonks up again. ‘Come on woman - you can at least try to walk.’
‘Bugger off - I’d like to see what you look like after being hit with that End-Enda thing...’
‘EnDienda.’ Snape corrected, dumping her unceremoniously onto one of the wooden desks. ‘And I was hit with it; it’s designed to hit anyone in the vicinity bar the wand holder.’
‘So why are you spared unimaginable agony?’
‘Because I hadn't consumed any coffee beforehand.’
He set about pulling ingredients from his store cupboard, cursing every now and then when he couldn’t find something. Tonks made a weak attempt at sitting up, but lay back down again quickly straight away. Apparently any kind of movement was not recommended when it felt like there was a leprechaun with a sledgehammer living inside your skull.
‘I told you you’d be lucky to find a Parson Draught at this time of year...’ Snape muttered, brushing past her toward his cauldron, several vials in his pale hands.
‘You can do it, right? If you can’t, I’m going to blow this bloody castle up. And don’t think I can’t!’
‘I don’t doubt your explosive expertise for a second, Nymphadora, but blowing up this castle won’t affect your situation at all. Unless you were inside it at the time, obviously, in which case it would save you a lot of pain.’
‘Gee, thanks for that. I feel so much better.’ Tonks said sarcastically.
‘Good to hear.’
She watched through aching eyes as he added more and more bits and bobs to the steaming cauldron, wincing whenever a particularly bright burst of white light flashed through the room.
‘How long is this going to take?’
He glanced across at her in annoyance, as though she should be grateful for the fact that he was even trying to make the potion for her.
‘Yeah, I know I’m being ungrateful. I’ll be deeply gratified when my head isn't about to explode.’
‘It should only take ten minutes...’
Ten minutes. Great. Just sodding great... why couldn’t cures to headaches work faster, dammit? No, actually, why couldn’t that evil sod have hit her with a stupefying curse instead of something people had stopped using in World War Two! God, it was so hard to find a civilized Death Eater to fight with nowadays... no-one played fair anymore.
Then again, if life was fair she wouldn’t be lying on a wooden desk in Snape’s classroom - a place that after she graduated she swore she’d never return to - with an agonising headache. And of course, Kingsley was going to get all the sodding credit for the Death Eater’s capture. He would try to explain that it had been a combined effort from Tonks, Snape and McGonagall, but how could their colleagues congratulate three people who wouldn’t even be at the HQ that evening?
That didn’t sound good... opening her eyes again and turning her head slowly, Tonks looked at the blurry shadow she assumed to be Snape. ‘Damn what?’
‘I’m out of Sinsore Negelus.’
‘Great... and what’s that when it’s at home?’
‘Too much for your already overloaded and surprisingly small mind to handle.’ Snape snapped, irritantly. ‘I’m going to have to apparate back to my house... I keep some supplies there.’
‘Great... and how long is this going to take?’
‘Not as long if I take you with me.’ He said decisively. Before she had a chance to argue that she didn’t want to go anywhere with him, never mind his house, he had magicked her into the air and was packing up his potion.
‘Um... I’m not so sure-’ she began hesitantly, aware of his Death Eater heritage.
‘Hush woman.’ Snape ordered, moving toward the fireplace and dragging Tonks along with him. He took a handful of Floo Powder from a clay pot on the mantle piece and pulled her in beside him, before throwing it to the ground. ‘Spinners End, number four.’
Wincing at the painful brightness of the green flames enveloping them, Tonks closed her eyes and hoped to God that Snape had some of this Sinsore Negelus stuff at his house - she didn’t think she could take the agonising headache much longer.
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