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“No, but seriously, Kingsley, what can I do to help?“ Lee persisted. “I mean, look at what those bastards did! Saving the magic world for pure-bloods? The way it is now, they destroyed it for all of us, and that includes pure-bloods! What is the magical world without Quidditch, and Hogwarts, and a bustling Diagon Alley? Diagon Alley almost died out, Quidditch has been cancelled. What’s the point?”

“You don’t need to tell me, Lee. We’re not the ones who need convincing. I’m counting on it that eventually, even his followers will see it that way. Only I’m losing faith on when this will be …” he trailed off, both disappointed and dejected. “I’m hoping Cresswell’s got away alright, after we’ve taken that risk just now.”

“The worst thing is that no one seems to know anymore. We get what the Death Eaters feed us through the Prophet. Xeno’s been great, though he doesn’t have the largest circulation, and Mum went to check on him last week, as she sometimes does since Mrs Lovegood died. He wouldn’t stop complaining about the state of his owls, blamed some strange creature.” George shook his shoulders.

“Good ol’ Xeno,” Fred added. “Though that’s just another point: you can’t even send letters anymore via owls without them getting searched. And the Floo Network is a no-go, as well.”

“Don’t forget you can’t even call Moldywarts a malicious snakehead when you feel like it,” George quipped.

“Yeah, but can you say that three times fast?” Fred interjected out of habit.

“My point is: I lost my job with Puddlemere when Quidditch was cancelled. No need for a commentator when there’s no matches,” Lee continued sourly. “I wish I could cast a Sonorous and tell them exactly what’s on my mind. Probably wouldn’t do that more than once, though.”

“Probably. If you were thick enough to get caught,” Fred sniggered at this friend.

“With a Sonorous Charm, you’d still only get the people in a certain radius. Not worth the risk,” Kingsley had listened to the boys’ banter with an amused face. They only rarely had fun those days.

“We hijack the Wizarding Wireless Network, then. Ditch Celestina Warbeck, I know a certain new Weasley who’d be only too thrilled about that,” George said lightly.

“Like a pirate radio station, you mean?” Lee pounced on the idea. As the three pure-bloods looked at him curiously, Lee - who had a Muggle father - rolled his eyes. “A radio station, but it’s illegal, most often not government-conform and often changes location.”

“Sounds like exactly what we need. Ha, I’d like to see their faces! That would be brilliant!” Fred slapped his thigh, ideas springing up in his mind.

“Boys!” Kingsley cautioned. “That’s all nice and funny to talk about and distract from the current climate, but it would be just too dangerous to carry out.”

“You forgot to say that we’re too young and don’t know what we’re dealing with. But Kingsley, we do. We stopped being innocent the moment we saw Cedric’s body fall down from the sky.” George’s voice and face were serious.

“And we weren’t exactly being Ministry-conform today, were we?” Lee put in.

Kingsley held his hands up in a ‘stop it’ gesture. “Hold your hippogriffs! I can’t wrap my head around this! You really aren’t kidding anymore, are you?”

The former Gryffindors looked at each other, their eyes showing nothing but determination. “If we don’t do anything, how can we expect anyone else to?” Fred said, almost challengingly.

When Kingsley looked a bit confused, George elaborated with a sarcastic little smile, “Well, that’s what we all took away with us from a slightly illegal little study group and that obnoxiously moody altruistic black-haired git we’re not going to name here because who knows if they’ve put a trace on his name as well.”

“Besides, maybe he hears us and knows to hurry up. He can’t have more information than the general public, and it might come in helpful. I think it’s time that people know what’s really going on,” Lee supplied.

Kingsley let out an exasperated breath. “Sometimes, I wonder what you lot got up to at Hogwarts. I swear I was never that troublesome.”

“Is that a yes?” Fred called him out.

“I’m not saying that. We’d have to sort out the equipment first, and figure out how to do it with a semblance of a plan, and an escape plan. – And don’t snort at me, I’m not jumping into anything blindly, we don’t need to take avoidable risks.”

Lee said he had a pretty good idea about how to work the broadcasting equipment as needed, from Hogwarts and more importantly from professional Quidditch, as Puddlemere had had a state-of-the-art commentator’s box. “Get crackin’, boys. Put your heads to use, we need an agenda,” he told his red-headed friends, while Kingsley told them he’d look into the logistics of it all, and that he would call on them for further discussions.

The Auror left first, and Fred smiled wistfully. “Who knew he’d be willing to help break the law, big bad Auror that he is?”

“Ex-Auror, though,” George inserted.

“True. Their loss, and I bet they know it. Right, any suggestions as to names? Any good show needs a catchy title. - I quite like ‘Fred’s Fantastic Revelation Frenzy’,” the second red-head proposed, batting his eyelashes comically.

George flicked the little paper ball he’d been perfecting during the conversation at his twin. “Boo! Major fail on the alliteration there, Freddie!”

“I was under pressure!” Fred complained, raising his hands in a ‘what-can-you-do’ gesture.

“Well, come up with something better,” Lee said in a business-like voice, before he too left.

*

A squeal had already half-way risen in her throat, but she caught herself just in time; her hand hovering over her wand she’d stuck behind her ear.

“Merlin, Remus, one of these days …” Nymphadora couldn’t muster the anger that had fuelled her during the first weeks after he’d left her. His pearly-white wolf patronus was hovering a little ways away, just watching her. There had been one every day, which should have made her expect it, but she still almost jumped out of her skin every time. And given the nature of that particular spell, the patronus would invariably appear where she was at any given time. Though thankfully, he seemed to limit it to those times when she was at home. She didn’t dare question how he knew where she was – and more importantly, whether any given Death Eater could get the same information about her – but they hadn’t had any unwanted visitors breach the wards since August 1st.

The young witch closed the fridge where she had been rummaging around for an early-morning snack – she was sure she was the first one up, since the sun hadn’t even risen yet above the horizon. But the baby had certain cravings, and that’s what she stuck with. It was certainly not her who suddenly found the combination of medium rare steaks topped with caramel sauce appetizing.

Wandering toward the familiar patronus with a weary sigh, she passed her hand through the misty shape. “Maybe you do have a certain point fearing the baby might be affected in some way. By Dumbledore’s purple dress robes, I’ve never even been that fond of steak, not even well done. I wish you would have talked to me instead of making that decision over my head.”

The apparition shifted as if it wanted to lean into her touch, but there was nothing there for her to touch except air and a white mist.

“I’ll be in Carlisle tonight at seven.” Her husband’s slightly hoarse voice rang around the room, before the wolf evaporated in front of her, leaving her hand hanging uselessly in midair.

There was always a message. Sometimes, he’d recite a poem, or just sprout some sappy nonsense –which she couldn’t deny she loved secretly. He’d asked to meet her with his first messages; lately he only stated where he would be at a certain time with every other message. “Don’t do that. Just about anyone could hear you. Just what am I going to do with you?”

*

Percy had no idea what had triggered the sensation; but the Ministry seemed even more daunting than usual. Thicknese looked like he had been run over by a hippogriff. Had the man been subjected to torture? He could only suspect, but it looked like someone wasn’t satisfied with the results of the search for Harry Potter, as Thicknese had announced even harsher measures against ‘opponents of the rightful regime’ and increased the manpower behind the search for the Undesirable Number One tenfold. You-Know-Who was getting impatient, it seemed.

“Weasley!” His head shot up at the sharp voice, and there was Yaxley, beckoning him to follow. What could the Head of Magical Law Enforcement want with him?

Yaxley’s office was richly equipped, yet the man felt out of place. Percy was forcefully reminded of when he visited the former heads Scrimgeour or Thicknese – back when the man hadn’t had that glazed look in his eyes – here. Both had not proved up the job when they were made Minister, but in this office he’d found them competent enough and deserving of respect. Yaxley just didn’t fit there, having been appointed out of nowhere. Percy filed the impression away with all the things that had furthered his doubts in their rule. He could no longer pretend he was working for the right side.

He almost jumped out of his skin when someone else was led in. Percy tried to keep his face blank and sat with his back ramrod straight when his father took the seat next to him.

“So, Arthur,” Yaxley leaned towards his father as if they were the best of friends, “I hear your son’s still ill. Any chance of him getting better soon? We care about our employees’ families,” here he stroked his chin languidly, and Percy, who had followed the movement of the hand, could clearly make out the smug grin, “- and intend to make sure personally of his current condition. He IS a friend of Harry Potter’s, isn’t he?”

Percy felt a wave of emotions wash over him, so tangled he couldn’t place them all, as his father answered in a tense voice, “He is still ill, Mr Yaxley. Your concern is appreciated, but I fear there is no change from your previous visit. It is still not advisable to approach his bedstead.”

Percy was pretty sure Ron would be wherever Harry was. Or could he really be ill? Before he could dwell anymore on the fact that his last encounters with his youngest brother were nothing but hostile, Yaxley addressed him. “I am sure Mr Weasley would also like to learn if his brother was ill, and I am sure –“ he paused significantly, “- he would take care to verify his brother’s genuine state of health. Isn’t that so, Mr Weasley?”

So again, he was asked to spy on his family; was being used for their ends. Only this time, there was no way he could appease his own conscience by satisfying it with ulterior motives. “Mr Yaxley, I am sure you are aware that I chose sides long ago. For anyone who is ill like you say my brother is, I am quite sure is best with as much rest as possible, and I am confident my mother will make sure he gets that.” He didn’t dare glance at his father. He was sure he had just severed another tie to him, hurt him with his words. But this time, he was doing it for them.

“Very well,” Yaxley commented with an sardonic twist to his mouth,” given the circumstances, I can’t really say I fault you for your decision. - Arthur, I shall take your word for it, but do not assume that the matter won’t be looked into further. Mr Weasley, you will stay with me for another few minutes, won’t you?”

Percy could feel his father’s gaze on him for some fleeting seconds, then he was alone with Yaxley.

“I am aware you severed ties with your family to advance your career. I cannot be denied that your descent is pure, although some of your family display traitorous tendencies. This would have been an easy opportunity for you to show your loyalties. Yet, I can understand your desire to get away from that. Who would want to live in such an, ah, embarrassing … home?”

I would, Percy thought inwardly, wishing nothing more than to be back in his old room and pull his blanket over his head.

“Dolores Umbridge asked for you, she remembered you from a certain hearing before the Wizengamot some years ago, and the previous Ministers seemed to value your service as Assistant. Do not give us a reason to doubt you. You might not have connections with your family at the moment, but surely you would not be … thrilled … to hear something happened to them because of your failure to follow? I am positive your ailing brother and your parents would enjoy a little, let’s say, breather?”

The way Yaxley paused, and worded this so-called ‘opportunity’, Percy knew he had no other choice but to give his okay. He felt completely numb as he returned to his desk and moved his things to his new work placement.

So he hadn’t lost enough already. Still, the most confusing feelings were warring inside him, but above them all he could feel a fury that propelled him over the day. So they were making him Assistant? Who said they could use him that easily? He wasn’t foolish enough to think he could thwart the Ministry all on his own, but maybe he could intervene here and there in smaller ways.

*

The doors of the lift shifted closed in front of her; Arthur Weasley was just loosening his tie beside her, breathing rather heavily since he had sprinted to slip in at the last second. “Sorry, sorry,” he said loudly, addressing those around them. “was running rather late … lots of work …”

“Wouldn’t want you to miss dinner, now, would we?” Tonks quipped, inciting a few nervous chuckles around her.

“Tsk,” someone hissed disparagingly at the back of the lift, and a quick glance told her that Rookwood was leaning casually against the wall.

“Indeed, Auror Tonks,” Arthur told her brightly. “As always, my day wouldn’t be complete without your notorious obligatory comment.”

Both turned to face the front again. She’d always had a loose mouth, and nowadays, it had become a habit between Arthur and herself to kind of boost their moral that way whenever they’d cross path during work.

She weaved her way through the people around the Atrium to reach the fire-places, keeping a distance between her and Arthur on purpose.

As soon as she appeared on the other side and had exited the public restroom that served as the portal into the Ministry, she quickened her steps to catch up with the balding red-head.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to be give him an opportunity to scoff at you,” she said sheepishly.

An amused glance was sent her way. “We’ve been over this, Tonks. There’s barely a place in the Ministry nowadays were you’re not overheard. I know how to take it; and frankly, I’d rather enjoy the change away from the pure-blood talk.”

“Okay then,” she relented, turning to send a smile his way. Arthur extended his arm and pulled her to the side a bit; which had her avoid a group of teenagers they passed on the sidewalk instead of running straight into them.

“Oops. Nice safe.” Tonks pulled away to turn into a less busy alley so they could apparate. “Well, goodbye, I gue-, erg, Arthur?”

He had stopped, and was pacing, apparently something was on his mind. “I, erg, I wanted to address this for a few days, actually. Tonks, are you okay?”

“What? Why wouldn’t I be?” She felt her features slip into the indifferent mask she had come to define as her ‘work mode’, and immediately regretted it. Nice, not suspicious at all, she thought.

Arthur raked a hand through his receding hairline, before giving their surroundings cautious glances. “Let’s go somewhere else, yes?” He offered his arm for a side-along apparition. She considered her options, but finally took it, and felt the familiar feeling of being forced through a narrow tube.

They reappeared on a grassy field, which offered an unobstructed view in all directions. Still, it didn’t mean that someone couldn’t have been around under the guise of an Invisibility Cloak or disillusionment charm. And I’m becoming as paranoid as Mad-Eye, Tonks chided herself.

“We’re near Bath, I’ve once spent a holiday here when I was a child,” Arthur said, anticipating her question. “So, erg, there’s no way I can ask this without feeling awkward, but, erg, …” Instead of finishing his sentence, his eyes travelled downward and came to rest on her stomach.

Heat rose in her cheeks, which she was sure were beet-red. “Did Charlie …?”

“Charlie? What? Oh no, he didn’t!” He turned impulsively, prepared to storm away. Tonks wondered what she could probably have missed, since she only wanted to ask whether Charlie had blabbed about her pregnancy, when the realisation caused her eyes to go as wide as saucers.

“Arthur! Stop! Not that!” she exclaimed, feeling horribly torn between wanting to explain and break out into hysterical peals of laughter.

Arthur faced her again, and she could see all kinds of emotions on his face. “What do you mean, not that? I was talking about, uhm, …”

“You were trying to ask me ‘discreetly’ whether I’m going to pop a baby anytime soon?” Tonks decided to help him out of his misery. His expression turned to mortified, but she had to hand it to him; he caught himself quickly.

“Not very successful, was I? – Well, I’m not the most observant guy; but I saw it with Molly, seven times. I wasn’t sure though … And what did you mention Charlie for? He’s not the father, is he? Because if he is, he has another thing coming … A married woman …”

Tonks noticed how his voice had darkened at the idea of that possibility, and the resonant disappointment. “No, no, not that,” she interrupted quickly. “I told him, but I asked him to keep it quiet for now. I’m not already showing, am I?” She peeked at her mid-riff, trying to discern a difference. Not that there would be any since that morning when she had last checked.

“So, is it Remus’s? I’ve mostly seen you at work only, but you seem … distant lately? And it seems the Ministry thinks you’ve come to your senses and separated …”

Once again, he proceeded cautiously. She guessed he was a gun-shy, since Molly’s temper was formidable on any normal day, but she couldn’t imagine her high on those blasted hormones. “It is. We’ve had some … differences. But we’re working on it,” Tonks hastened to add at seeing his immediate worry. And it wasn’t a complete lie, since she had contemplated all day going to Carlisle. “He’s worried the child might be affected by his condition. I’m not having it. And the Ministry can just go stick their noses somewhere else!” And, she concluded for herself, indeed she would not have it.

“Well. So, I take it it’s okay if I congratulate you? And you’ve got my full faith that you’ll work it out with Remus.”

She accepted his well-wishes, hoping his words would come true.

“But seriously, Tonks. You cannot keep working … in your condition.”

Arthur’s face was worried; but she had the strange urge to laugh. So I have a condition, now, as well? Take that, Remus!

“I know,” she answered instead, softly. “Yet another point of contention. – But after Kingsley got busted, I didn’t want to desert ship. You –“

Arthur lifted his hands in disagreement. “Don’t. I will be fine. True, I’ll miss your jibes, but all we’ve been doing lately was watching and gathering information, anyway. You have other priorities, right now.”

“I just want to help,” Tonks said in a small voice. She was inwardly cursing her mood-swings, but this was really the only thing that made her go in day after day. That she could help prevent arrests or attacks by warning off the people in question. “Mum and Dad have been saying the same, but I just …”

“Believe me, I can relate on that account,” he smiled sadly in understanding. “But if it was my daughter in your place … I just had to ask …”

Tonks nodded in understanding, turning to take in the sight around her. She felt a calmness overcome her which she had lacked since her world had been rocked in early August.

Feeling eerily confident and a manic drive, she turned her head. “Thanks for asking, at any rate. I’m sure Molly’s about ready to send out a search party at this point, and about that dinner …, well I wouldn’t want to keep you. Send my regards to Charlie, will you? I think I have to be somewhere else, right now.”

*

It had been a week since Nora wandered into the shop, lost and confused. Her father had gained consciousness again, but he was too weak to travel by floo or apparition again. The times she had apparated with him after the splinching incident had taken its toll already and caused the long unconsciousness afterwards. And during that week she had also learned they were now wanted for aiding Muggles; so this meant if they left their current hide-out, they’d have to leave the country if they wanted to be safe.

Fred treated her politely, his twin George was suspicious, but they let them stay. Nora felt torn; she knew they couldn’t stay and endanger the Weasleys even more – she suspected there was more than they let on, they were most likely under suspicion by the Ministry as well already – but she had her father to consider.

One day, she was just sitting near the window in the early hours of the morning, concealed by the thick red curtain, when she saw a woman hurry by on the street below, a small girl on her hand.

The cause of her urgency became apparent soon; a black-cloaked man strode along the street behind her. He caught up directly below her window, lowering his hood some so she could see his sneer in the pale light of dawn.

“Now my pretty, where to so fast? Why don’t you keep me company for a bit?” he leered at her.

“Just home,” she answered politely, her voice level.

“Home, ay? Where would that be? You’re not some Mudblood trying to infiltrate Diagon Alley? Gotta make sure, you know, as a proud pureblood myself.” Encouraged by her silence, he continued in an oily voice. “I could be persuaded to turn a blind eye, though. Wouldn’t cost you much, only some of your … time.”

The woman’s face hardened as she looked at him, pressing her child closer to her body. She tried backing away slowly, but the man followed her.

Nora sprang into action; she jumped to her feet and grabbed her wand, flying down the stairs and through the showroom. Fred poked his head out of the back room, immediately following when she didn’t react to his calls.

She heard his voice again, and then two sets of feet behind on her. She had almost reached the door, as someone grabbed her from behind. She wanted to protest, but two almost identical hissing noises stopped her. “Bastard,” Fred breathed, his eyes trained on the group outside, which they could now see through the display windows, only barely concealed by the blinds.

“What are we going to do?” George whispered, flattening himself against the column between door and window to have a covert look outside. Nora briefly thought how they seemed to take it for granted that something would have to be done.

“It’s only one, and it’s early enough so we could get away with it without being seen,” Fred mused as if he’d just issued an invitation for tea. His eyes were ablaze, though.

“Are you completely mad?” Nora cut in sharply.

George shot her an appreciative look. “Says the girl who was prepared to charge outside without any kind of plan.”

Nora would later remember that it was the first time he addressed her personally, and even with some kind of respect. Now, she just rolled her eyes, listening to what the notorious Weasley twins were cooking up. Acting quickly, the threesome jumped into action.

George stepped outside, yawning as he made as if to pick up the milk bottles.

The pair didn’t spare him a glance, one too engrossed in his bullying, the woman had all her focus on her assailant, prepared for anything. Only the little girl was peeking out from behind her mother; eyes wide, and George smiled encouragingly at her.

He gave the arranged go-ahead signal behind his back, since he couldn’t see anyone else around.

Fred disappeared under one of their hats, immediately vanishing from sight. She could just see a faint outline move for the door. “Impressive,” she whispered to herself, thinking she must try one of those particular hats herself. Fred seemed to be in position, as George slunk back into the shadow of the building. Taking her cue, Nora set of a Whizzing Frisbee.

Two red jets of light, one from out of thin air and the other from where she guessed George had retreated, hit the dark-clad man squarely in the chest. They had the man stunned in a matter of seconds.

Nora had been ready to jump in if necessary, but they’d made quick work of it. She took care to put a silencing charm over the mother and her daughter to prevent them from drawing attention to what had just occurred. “Quick, come in!” she urged them, hoping that her face would be deemed trustworthy enough to let the pair follow without a fuss.

“I’m going to remove the spell, all I’m asking is that you don’t scream.” Nora did as she had said, and guided them to a chair to let them catch their breath. Some explaining words were exchanged, when they heard a soft knock on the door.

Nora signalled for her companions to be quiet, but the tell-tale red hair she could see by peeking through the blinds. Nevertheless, she’d learned to be careful. “Identify yourselves.”

“Bloody Slytherin hijacking our shop!” Someone cursed under their breath, and she promptly deduced that had been George, because a second voice answered in a rather amused tone, “You stumbled into our shop on accident, instead of going to Gringotts where you’d have met a bunch of lovely Ministry personnel.”

Satisfied, Nora let them in, giving George a stare from narrowed eyes. “Bloody Gryffindor, always the big mouth.”

“How are you, Madam? And the little Miss?” Fred cut in loudly.

“Thanks to you, we’re fine. How can I possibly thank you?”

“Oh, you’ve nothing to thank us for. It was really nothing.” George answered this time.

The woman acknowledged his modest rejection of her praise, and asked instead, “What happened to that man? Is it safe to leave? We were just preparing to meet with my husband, who …, uh, cannot be seen, and leave the country.”

The husband was most likely a Muggle-Born, Nora deduced, sidling over to the check-out desk where she knew the twins always kept some chocolate frogs for special guests, and chucked one of the sweets at the girl, after calling out to her. She gave the girl a grin, when she caught it skilfully.

“… deposited him at the entrance to Knockturn Alley, with some empty fire whiskey bottles. No worries, he’s obliviated; won’t remember a thing, “ Fred was saying to the mother.

“Would you allow me?” George asked, stepping closer, indicating first his wand and then the woman’s head. “I’ll take away the memory of our faces, and then you can be on your way.”

The woman hesitated, clearly uncomfortable to have an unknown man, even if he had just saved her life, meddle with her head.

“He could have done it without warning you,” Nora supplied helpfully. It’s what she would have done; it would have certainly saved them the hassle. Bloody Gryffindors. Though the sentiment was tinged with fondness this time.

The woman relented, deciding to trust them.

Nora climbed the stairs first, stopping in the door to her current room. Her father slept on the make-shift bed, his face still sickly pale. The events of the morning had shaken her more than she cared to admit, and it was only now sinking in what they had done. Or what could have happened if they hadn’t done what they did.

She had her wand and could defend herself, but what about her father? The approaching footsteps from the hall had her whirl around. “Is there anywhere safe for him to hide?” Practically, she was already hiding, but it was only a matter of time until they were caught , living in the middle of Diagon Alley.

“Going for the safe route, after all?” George sounded almost disappointed, while Fred just kept quiet.

Nora didn’t take the bait, just watching them patiently. The evening of the very same day, a ‘friend’ who introduced himself as Ted invited them to his home.

Nora was surprised at the strength of the magical border she crossed safely, owing to her hosts instructions. She shuddered what the spells and enchantments would have done to them if they had tried going in without the guidance.

“Fred and George vouched for you. ‘tis good enough for me, so consider yourself at home for the time being.” She didn’t intend to stay for long though, only making sure her father was settled in before she said her goodbyes.

*

Nymphadora was picking her way through Carlisle’s streets. He hadn’t given a specific location, but she was pretty sure where she would find him. They’d had been here before, some time after she had first joined the Order, and he’d given her information from one of his werewolf missions to pass on to Dumbledore.

The small Muggle café was still there, overlooking a rectangular square where the Muggles were going about their business.

The confidence from her talk with Arthur Weasley was still cursing through her, and carried her right through the door. The interior hadn’t changed, the upholstery of the of the seats showing signs of wear and tear, a reminder that people had sat, eaten and laughed here. A wall showed pictures of couples or celebrities, and a black and white mural featured Carlisle Castle.

The table they’d sat at the last time was tucked away behind a large potted plant, but she had no difficulties making out the man with the sandy-brown hair.

She was sure he’d kept an eye on the entrance, since he got to his feet as soon as she was within a ten feet radius. “You came,” he stated instead of a greeting.

Nymphadora wordlessly slipped onto the bench, nodding shortly when he said something about ordering her a coffee. The cakes and pastries on display did look delicious, but she restrained herself, knowing now was not the time. The time until her coffee was served was spent in charged silence, made more obvious by him drumming his fingers on the table, although he did not seem to realise he was doing it. Once or twice, he shot her a glance, and looked like he was about to say something before clamping his mouth shut again.

The coffee smelled delicious, and the oversize mug it was served in warmed her hands when she wrapped them around it, serving as a kind of anchor for her feelings. She really hadn’t known when she received his message this morning whether she should go or not. The talk with Arthur was still fresh in her mind, which had given her a strange sense of certainty, as she contemplated Remus in silence. What had drawn her to this man, who was actually closer in age to her parents than to herself? The loss of his friends, prejudice and two wars had left their marks on him, making him look even older than he actually was. Not even thirty-eight yet, she recalled. Dark moods and self-depreciation, but he’d never turned dark himself. He easily could have turned out like Greyback, but he still tried to do what was right, even if she was not in agreement with this particular decision. His regular patronus messages had given her the feeling that he really did care for her, and the child as well, and she could acknowledge now what she couldn’t immediately after he left; that he had done it out of a warped sense of honour. Remus Lupin, constantly at war with his own impossibly high expectations for himself. She had been over the moon – ironic phrase, really, if she thought about it – when they had married in July, sure they had worked through his issue with his lycanthropy. She should have realised that, just like the moon and the invariable transformation, it would come up again; since it had been a part of his life for so long and must be engrained much too deep to just disappear. But he also could be incredibly witty and insightful, and she loved when his wry sense of humour broke through. She tended have to a sarcastic streak herself, and she missed those moments terribly, when their eyes would meet and she knew exactly that they were thinking the same.

The fact that he seemed actually nervous – or how else was she supposed to interpret his fidgeting? – made her feel like she had had a healthy swig of Felix Felicis. The talk with Arthur came back; Charlie’s encouragement as well as her mother’s assurances, both soothing and outraged on her behalf, and her father’s silent support boosted the feeling even more. She could make him stew some more, but she realised that she didn’t want to.

“Of course I came. Someone has to tell you that just about anyone could have overheard you saying where you’d be at a certain time.” Challengingly, she raised an eyebrow.

“Pardon?” Now he sounded just as out of his depth as he looked.

“You. Possibly setting yourself up. – But never mind that now. Why am I here?”

One last da dam on the table top followed, before he seemed to come to the decision to just get on with it. “I didn’t think you’d actually come. I was hoping, of course, but after you didn’t react all the other times … If you still want to hear them, I can give you the reasons why I up and left, something I should have done all along. That’s the least I could have done, and I understand if you don’t even want to hear it now. And then … it’s up to you of course … if it is at all possible … maybe you’d give me the chance to make it up to you.”

Tonks pressed her lips together and let go with a popping sound, taking it he had finished. Because she didn’t trust herself to just jump the gun and spare him the apology by jumping into his arms right away, she put her hand on his. Immediately, a spark seemed to spring over, reminding her how good they had been together.

Oh yeah; she’d missed that too. But she knew she had to let him finish; it would be important to him to do it properly. “So let me get this straight. You’re asking me to let you explain, and decide whether I let you back in?”

Remus was starring at her hand on his, then turned his, and their fingers entwined. He looked up and nodded jerkily. “I’m so sorry, Dora. I could barely wrap my head around the fact that we were married. It was already making me feel guilty; but still, I tried to believe that you could handle it. I was selfish enough to want that. And then, you told me you were pregnant.” He dropped his gaze, and she wanted nothing more than to contradict, say it would be alright. With an agitated jerk, he looked up again, but his anger was clearly not directed at her. “Hell, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’d never have a family myself. Sirius nailed it on the head when he said James would probably be the only one of us to ever reproduce, the day we went to see Harry for the first time.”

Tonks couldn’t suppress the snort; she could just picture her cousin saying something along those lines. Her reaction caused the corners of his mouth to twitch upward briefly, but she had caught it. It reminded her how much she loved to make him smile.

“Have you thought about it, though?” It was a strange feeling, but she had more than herself to consider now. If he still had reservations about Little Squirt, she’d put the baby’s happiness above hers.

“I did,” he conceded. Remus bit his lip before ploughing on. “Dora, I wouldn’t wish my fate on my worst enemy, let alone an innocent baby. So how can I subject my own kin to something like that? Even if it’s only a possibility, even if there’s Wolfsbane now, and they might even invent a cure in the future. How could I …?”

“You make it sound like it’s your fault,” Tonks reasoned softly.

“He – she – might see that differently.”

“We might not be able to influence whether the baby turns out to be inflicted. Which we don’t know yet; none of the check-ups has shown anything out of the ordinary. But we can influence how the baby thinks about you. If that’s even an issue when the time comes. - So, answer the question.”

“You said we,” he whispered. Tonks just raised her eyebrow again to remind him she still needed an answer. Just say it, she urged him silently. She thought she knew the answer from the course of the conversation, but she still wanted to hear it from him, and it took all her Auror training to keep from bouncing in her seat.

“I love you, Dora. Even though I told myself that it was for the best, I missed you as soon as I was out of the door. I don’t know how to be a father, but I would try to love our child just as much.”

Only seconds before, she had felt a sort of elated anticipation, only to find it replaced now by an overwhelming emotion. Her vision blurred, and she only noticed that she was crying when he squeezed onto the bench next to her.

“Dora?” He sounded so hesitant, only touching her shoulders lightly as if he was afraid he might break her. Did he think she was crying because she was upset?

“No, no, no!” She protested wildly, almost knocking him on the nose with her hands, before throwing her arms around his neck without further ado.

“Dora? What’s going on?”

He sounded confused and worried, his voice reverberating in his chest, but he held on tighter nonetheless.

Damn those mood swings! She pulled away slightly, fishing in her pockets for a tissue, but made do with a napkin Remus held out for her. She blew her nose noisily, noticing that they had attracted the attention of the few other guests.

“Pregnant,” she mouthed, gesturing at herself. It seemed to satisfy them, since they got back to what they had been doing before.

Turning back to the matter at hand, she saw him watching her. “Gah, I’m a mess.” That wasn’t how she had intended to do this, her skin all blotchy and eyes red from crying. If only she had a way of fixing it quickly - oh, wait.. She scrunched up her face, careful to keep Remus between herself and the rest of the café, and felt immediately refreshed.

“One more try?” Tonks asked hopefully, looking up through her lashes at Remus.

He gave a short laughter, which she took to mean ‘If you must’.

Feeling bold, Nymphadora took his face between his hands. “I’m not upset. I was crying because you said the L-word. I just love, love, love you so much.”

“I said it because I mean it.”

“I know you wouldn’t have said it otherwise. And you’ll try to love Little Squirt. We’re a package deal now, so that’s good.”

“Little Squirt.” She could hear the trace of mockery in his voice, and swatted him on the arm before embracing him again with a carefree laugh. The feeling of exhilaration was back full force. Werewolf, metamorphagus, magical or not, her baby would have the best dad she could imagine.







A/N: Nothing you recognise is mine.

As always, I'm dying to know what you all think ;)
As for the Percy bit, he's been growing on me - I kind of like exploring what made him go from the brat who ditched his family for his career to the man who came charging into the Room of Requirement, eager to fight.

Happy 2012!

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