One month after the death of Dumbledore…
“What’s goin’ on with Potter?”
The sloping, round-shouldered figure of a woman emerged from the shadows. She was by no means a good-looking woman: her tangled hair lay limp on her shoulders, she was rather squat, and her years in Azkaban had given her eyes the emptiness one came to associate with great suffering.
“Alecto.” The small, beady eyes of Peter Pettigrew stared back at her. “What a pleasant surprise. What do I owe the pleasure of…”
“Shove it!” Alecto Carrow snapped, staring into the face of her companion. “Just tell me, skinflint- what’s goin’ on with the Potter boy?”
“Snape’s found out Harry Potter will be leaving his Aunt and Uncle's house in three days.”
Alecto frowned. “You sure?” she asked.
Wormtail nodded. “Yes. Yaxley was sure he was going to be moved on the thirtieth, the night before the boy turned of age, but the Dark Lord has decided to trust Snape’s word.” Wormtail’s inflection made it quite clear how much trust he imparted in Snape.
Alecto ignored his tone, her brow furrowing further. “I thought Potter was gonna be moved to a safe house usin’ the Floo Network?”
“Haven’t you heard about Pius Thicknesse?” Wormtail asked quickly, obviously pleased he knew something before another of Lord Voldemort’s servants
Alecto, catching his tone, sneered in anger.
“I’ve been doin’ the Dark Lord’s work, you sniveling coward!”
Wormtail fell silent at once. “Of course, Alecto,” he said ingratiatingly.
Alecto glared at him. “Well?” she asked after a moment.
“What?” Wormtail looked confused.
“Thicknesse, you witless moron! What abou’ ‘im!”
“Three days ago Thicknesse was placed under the Imperius curse.” Wormtail’s eyes gleamed excitedly. “The Floo Network can’t be connected any more. He can’t use apparition or a Portkey to leave the house either.”
A silence fell between the two. As Alecto seemed to ponder this information, Wormtail studied her carefully, his face a mask of creeping servitude. As Alecto finally seemed to break her reverie, she turned her eyes back to Wormtail.
“So, Potter’s basically trapped in ‘is own ‘ouse?”
Before Wormtail could reply, a voice broke into their conversation.
“’Oo are you talkin’ to out there, then?”
The figure of Amycus Carrow appeared at the door. For a moment, Amycus and Alecto stared at one another, the blood seeming to drain out of Alecto’s face.
“Alecto?” Amycus blinked stupidly. “What’re you doin ‘ere?”
“Me?” Alecto said. “What are you doing here?”
“Me?” Amycus looked even more confused. “I’m keepin’ an eye on Wormtail. Aren’t you supposed to be waitin’ with the Dark Lord for the escape ‘o Potter? Alecto, he’ll kill ya if he knows you’ve left ‘is side!”
Alecto looked lost for words. Wormtail’s eyes darted between the two siblings, a dawning comprehension appearing on his face.
Slowly he drew his wand, nervously licking his lips.
“What…what’re ya doin!” Alecto seemed to be trying to draw some bravado, but failed, her voice shaking slightly.
“Alecto?” Amycus stared at his sister. “What’s goin’ on?”
There was a silence as the three people looked at each other. Then…
“She’s…she’s a fake!” Wormtail suddenly shrieked, and his hand shook as he pointed his wand at her chest.
“Fake?” Amycus blinked stupidly.
“What?” Alecto snapped.
“She’s from the Order!” said Wormtail hysterically. “It’s not Alecto, it’s someone from the Order of the Phoenix! They’re trying to find out when Potter is being moved!”
The woman in front of him remained impassive for moment, her face as set as stone. Then suddenly, without warning, she drew her wand.
Amycus’s wand was blasted out of his hand; the next second, with a loud bang, he had been blasted backwards off his feet and into the entrance hall, where he lay still. The woman then turned her wand on Wormtail.
However, Wormtail was too quick. With a shriek, he flicked his wand upwards, leaving a deep and nasty gash along the side of the womans face. She gasped and stumbled backwards as Wormtail raised his wand again.
The woman managed to raise her wand in time and the spell glanced harmlessly off the invisible shield she had erected around her. Wormtail ducked as the spell bounced back at him, throwing him to the entrance floor.
The woman rushed in after him, her wand held aloft, firing spells down at her opponent. Wormtail, his silver-gloved hand flashing, was too quick: all the spells she was firing at him were being deflected harmlessly. Wormtail jumped to his feet and the two continued to duel, neither gaining the upper hand. After a few minutes both of them were panting with exertion, Wormtail’s bald patch gleaming.
“You’re the Metamorphmagus!” he squawked at the woman, looking frightened.
“Does it matter? I’m going to destroy you!” she snarled back.
Wormtail’s forehead was beaded with sweat as they continued to duel, his eyes darting periodically between her wand and the front door, obviously wondering whether he would be able to escape.
The woman’s, sensing this, sent a curse flying at him. Wormtail raised his wand:
The woman stumbled, falling as the spell rebounded and hit her in the chest. Wheezing from the floor, she tried to stand but failed, pain searing through her ribs.
Wormtail blinked. For a moment he seemed extremely surprised. Then an excited smile appeared on his face. He hurried towards his fallen opponent, his wand raised. Staring down at her, panting, he raised his wand, his eyes glinting ecstatically.
The woman stared up at him, breathing heavily.
“A-Avada…Avada… ” Wormtail had his wand raised, but seemed to be having trouble voicing the deadly spell. He gulped nervously, obviously trying to summon some sort of courage in order to complete the spell.
This moment of hesitation was all the time the woman needed. Snatching up her wand, she aimed it straight at Wormtail.
The force of the spell lifted Wormtail up and slammed him against a heavy bookcase in the drawing room which tipped precariously, spilling its contents all over him. He slumped, unconscious, to the floor.
Tonks slowly got to her feet, still panting. Wincing slightly, she put a hand to her ribs. They felt broken. Limping over to the still form of Amycus, she held her wand aloft. His heavy body levitated three feet off the floor, coming to rest in one of the armchairs. With another flick of her wand, she sat Wormtail in the armchair opposite Amycus. Looking around the house, she set a few things straight with her wand, removing all signs of battle from the dingy entrance hall.
Amycus began to stir. Tonks walked quickly to him, standing over him as he opened his eyes.
“Wha…” Amycus began to rise from his chair.
“Obliviate!” she said hurriedly. Immediately Amycus’s eyes slid out of focus, a slightly dreamy expression appearing on his face.
“You have had a little accident,” said Tonks as Wormtail began to regain consciousness. “You knocked over the old bookcase in the corner of the room. It fell on you and Wormtail. You were able to extricate yourself and Wormtail, and helped Wormtail to a chair before passing out. Do you understand?”
“Alecto Carrow, your sister, was never here. It has just been you and Wormtail all night. Do you understand?”
‘Good.” Tonks turned to Wormtail. “Obliviate!”
Immediately Wormtail’s expression became vacant. Hurriedly, wincing in pain, she repeated her story to Wormtail, who accepted it with ease.
“You are both going to fall asleep now,” Tonks addressed both men. “When you wake up, you will only remember the bookcase falling. It was an accident. Do you understand?”
They voiced their understanding.
“Good. Now, it’s time to sleep.”
Both men instantly fell into sleep. The woman stared at the sleeping figures for a moment, her heart beating wildly. Then, being as quiet as she could, she crept back across the entrance hall, aware that as soon as she sent the men to sleep that the memory charm had lifted.
Stepping out into the cool night, she shuddered as the closeness of her death caused her to shiver. Wrapping her travelling cloak around her, she turned on the spot and with a loud ‘crack’ was gone.
“Where is she?”
In a quiet hallway of a rather crooked house, a solitary figure paced. Up, down, up, down. His clothes were shabby, his hair was greying, and his face expressed a look of deepest worry.
“Remus, calm down. I’m sure everything is okay.”
Remus Lupin looked up at the sound of his own name. “Molly, she should have been back an hour ago.”
Molly Weasley glanced up from the pile of washing she was folding, worried Lupin was going to put a hole in her already worn carpet. “You worry too much.”
Lupin winced at the forced casualness in her tone. He resumed his pacing, but not before he saw Arthur Weasley exchange a grim look with his wife. The look did nothing to allay his fears. On the contrary, he felt his insides become more knotted with each passing minute.
“I knew it was a mistake to let her go alone,” Lupin muttered.
“Remus, Tonks is a very capable Auror,” Arthur said. “She’s Mad-Eye’s most accomplished student. You know she can look after herself. Besides, we need that information to make sure Harry will be safe on Thursday.”
“I should have gone with her.”
“Remus, the full moon was only two days ago. You needed to stay at The Burrow.”
They all jumped as they suddenly heard a noise. Lupin started towards the front door, but fell back in disappointment as Fred and Hermione emerged from the stairs.
“No Tonks yet?” Hermione asked, looking at each of the adults in turn. Lupin shook his head tersely, resuming his pacing.
“No,” Molly Weasley answered for the adults. “She should be back any minute.”
Hermione nodded, her eyes straying towards Remus, whose face was becoming tenser by the minute.
“Well, anyway,” Fred interrupted, “we just came down to borrow a few things from the kitchen cupboard.”
Mr and Mrs Weasley, who were used to Fred and/or George inventing exploding substances, merely nodded. Hermione and Fred moved over to the kitchen drawers, grabbed a few things, and returned up the stairs, Hermione patting Lupin’s back uncertainly as she passed. He gave her a small, tight smile in return.
The minutes ticked by.
At ten minutes to midnight, Lupin suddenly stopped pacing.
“That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’m going looking for her!”
“Remus!” Molly stood from the kitchen table. “I really don’t think that’s a good…”
Their inevitable argument was interrupted, however, by a resounding ‘crack’ right outside the front door.
Lupin froze for a minute, his face pale. Then he strode for the door, Molly and Arthur hurrying along behind him.
There in the yard, in the middle of the scratching chickens, stood a small, dark figure. For one heart-stopping moment, Lupin was convinced he was looking at Alecto Carrow. Then his eyes travelled up to the flaming-red hair. The woman spoke.
“Remus. It’s me, Tonks.”
Lupin was frightened at how weak she sounded. With great effort, he raised his wand.
On either side of him, he felt Molly and Arthur also raise their wands.
“It is I, Nymphadora Tonks, Metamorphmagus, daughter of Ted and Andromeda, and lover of werewolves everywhere. Especially the one standing in front of me.” Her voice was dry with wry humour as she completed her sentence. Lupin smiled and lowered her wand.
As Molly and Arthur lowered their wands, he strode forward and she collapsed into his arms.
“Thank God you’re okay, we thought for a while there when you were late…”
Lupin broke off mid-sentence, peering down at Tonks in the dim light with concern.
“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
“N-N-No…” Her voice was becoming weaker and she was shivering: Lupin could feel her tremors through his cloak.
Somehow he didn’t believe her. Raising his wand, he muttered, “Lumos.”
What he saw made him gasp. One side of her face had a deep gash: there was blood all over her robes and her travelling cloak. Her face was ashen and her breathing was ragged. She clutched her side, obviously in tremendous pain.
“Dora!” He stared at her in alarm as her knees finally gave way and she sank into him.
“Remus, is everything okay?” Molly Weasley called into the darkness.
“No, she’s hurt!” Lupin said, his heart beating wildly as her scooped her into his arms. “We need to get her into the house!”
Rushing back through the yard, Molly leading the way with her wand, Lupin hurried forwards. Moving over the entrance to the house, he turned right and lowered her gently onto the couch.
In the bright light of the house, Tonks’ wounds looked even worse. Her robes were a dark crimson, and her eyes were closed. As Molly and Lupin bent next to the couch to tend to her wounds, Tonks opened her eyes.
“Amycus was there,” she said hoarsely as Molly began to mend her wounds. “Obviously since Alecto is supposed to be with You-Know-Who, Wormtail was slightly suspicious.”
“Shh…” Lupin looked over at Molly. “How bad is it?”
“She’s got a couple of broken ribs, some scratches and bruises, and that nasty cut, but I should be able to heal them all.”
Lupin breathed a sigh of relief. Tonks managed a smile.
“Do you have to ask that?”
Tonks just smiled at him weakly.
“What happened?” Arthur asked apologetically.
“They’re pretty sure Harry is being moved on Thursday,” Tonks said. “I don’t know how they know, but they know. Plus, they’ve put Pius Thicknesse under the Imperius curse.”
“What?” Arthur looked shocked.
Tonks nodded. “The Floo Network, Apparition and Portkey are all out, I’m afraid. We’re going to have to come up with a new plan to get Harry away from his Aunt and Uncle's safely.”
As Molly mended her wounds, Tonks, her transition delayed by her injuries, began to morph back into her usual appearance, her hair slowly turning a vivid bubblegum-pink.
“All right.” Molly sat back on her heels. “I think you’re all set. Wait!” she added menacingly as Tonks made to get up. “You’ve lost a lot of blood. I just want you to stay put here for the night. I mean it!” she said imperiously as Tonks started to argue.
“Fine.” Tonks fell back against the pillow.
“Good,” Molly stood up. “I’ll get some blankets.”
She moved off.
Lupin stayed crouched next to Tonks for a minute, his face still incredibly pale, before he made a strange jerking movement.
“Back in a minute,” he said stiffly, getting to his feet and moving away from her. Stepping into the bathroom, he clicked on the light and stared at his reflection.
His reflection stared back at him. He looked white and shocked. As his eyes travelled downwards, he caught sight of his robes, which were gleaming scarlet with drying blood. As he raised his hands he saw that they, too, were scarlet.
It seemed as though time stood still as he stood staring at his hands in the harsh bathroom light.
He suddenly heard a voice.
Lupin turned slowly to see Arthur watching him closely.
Lupin nodded jerkily.
“Here.” Arthur approached him, his arms covered by a clean set of robes.
“Thanks.” Lupin took the proffered robes, put them on the counter and turned away, turning on the cold tap. He put his hands under the icy jet and watched Tonks’ blood wash down the drain.
Arthur watched him for a moment more.
“It doesn’t get any easier, you know.”
Lupin paused in his cleaning for only a millisecond. “What do you mean?”
“The more you fall in love with her, the harder it’ll get.”
Lupin remained silent, still scrubbing at his now-clean hands. Then he sighed.
“I want to be there to protect her all the time. And when I can’t…”
“It drives you crazy.”
Lupin nodded, his eyes still on the basin, his back to Arthur.
Remus looked up; in the reflection he could see Arthur watching him closely.
“Do you love her?”
There was no hesitation in his voice, only cold, hard conviction.
“Then go to her.” Arthur smiled as Lupin looked surprised. “I saw the look on your face a few minutes ago. You obviously love her very much, Remus. Don’t let anything get in the way of that. Especially…not now.”
Arthur’s voice hardened at the last sentence. With one last look, Arthur clapped him on the back and left the bathroom. Lupin turned off the tap and dried his now-clean hands. He then changed into the clean robes and surveyed his reflection in the mirror. The colour was returning to his face now. Giving himself a mental shake, he headed out of the bathroom and into the living room.
Tonks was sleeping quietly when he reached his destination, her chest rising and falling softly. He pulled a chair over beside the sofa and stared down at her, letting his heart rate subside. The longer he sat watching her, the more love he felt, until he felt aglow with her presence.
“Do you know,” Tonks suddenly said, opening one eye and making Lupin start, “how irritating it is to have someone watch you sleep?”
After getting over his initial shock, Lupin smiled and smoothed the hair back from her forehead. “You love it.”
“Uh-huh.” She rolled her eyes. Then she grew serious. “All I could think about tonight when I was duelling those Death Eaters was you,” she whispered. “I thought I might never see you again…”
Lupin was silent for a minute; then he leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
When they broke apart she smiled as he continued to stroke her forehead lightly.
“I love you.”
The words, when they came, were spoken in a whisper. For a moment, Lupin wasn’t sure he had really spoken them at all, that they were merely thoughts that had flitted through his head. Then Tonks’ eyes widened.
“You love me?” she repeated.
He nodded. As he stared down at her, she broke into a bright smile. Before she could say anything, however, his voice was once again speaking of its own accord. For once his heart overruled his head and in the hush of the night his heart pounded in his ears as he spoke two words.
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