Tonks surveyed the room as she spooned a bite of chocolate mousse into her mouth. She was attempting to improve her final minutes in Malfoy Manor by enjoying what she decided was one of the best chocolate desserts in all of creation. She had been quite impressed with the dessert table, even though pudding had been presented just as pretentiously as dinner. It was an elaborate display of individually portioned desserts all lined up in perfect rows on tiered silver platters, arranged around a large pyramid of crème puffs. The platters held bowls of chocolate mousse topped with fresh raspberries, glass tumblers filled with trifles beautifully layered with custard and berries, and little white ramekins filled with blackberry and apple crumble topped with perfect little dollops of crème fraîche. She’d chosen three different desserts—and a crème puff for good measure—because they looked amazing, but also in hopes of keeping herself looking thoroughly uninterested in any further dancing.
As Tonks finished the chocolate mousse, she continued to look about the room, seriously contemplating licking the small glass bowl clean of any chocolate leftovers. The party was still in full swing, making it easy to watch the room without obviously staring. She saw Snape crossing to the bar. He had stood with the small group of assembled Death Eaters, speaking with the man disguised by charms for a short time and had now stopped to lean casually against the bar while speaking to the jumpy man Tonks had observed when they’d first arrived. She busied herself between alternately watching Snape’s interaction at the bar and attempting to wandlessly Transfigure a napkin into a tiny box so she could smuggle the crème puff back to Headquarters for Remus. Overjoyed that her Transfiguration worked—her napkin finally turned into something that resembled a small Chinese takeaway container—Tonks was occupied with stowing the box in her purse and didn’t see Avery approaching until he was only a few paces from her. He sidled up next to her, far too close for comfort. She moved to the side slightly to ensure she still had Snape in her line of sight. After overhearing what Avery had said in the garden about shagging her if he had the chance, Tonks wanted to make sure she could attempt to get Snape’s attention if her interaction with this buffoon needed an intervention. There were a number of ways she hoped the night would end; enduring another dance or navigating a conversation in which she had to politely decline Avery’s advances were not on the list. Hexing him was much higher on the list.
“Care for another dance?” Avery asked in a low voice.
Tonks supposed he was attempting his best at seduction, which made her equally want to laugh and vomit. I’d rather dance with an insulted Hippogriff. “Perhaps if there’s enough time before we leave. I can’t ignore the dessert buffet I’ve gathered for myself.”
“The dessert will keep,” he murmured close to Tonks’ ear as he slipped an arm around her waist.
Tonks suppressed a shudder and kept her tone friendly. “Yes, well, I may not keep. I’m afraid I didn’t eat near enough dinner. Did you try this one?” Tonks reached across the table for the little pot of crumble she’d set there for Snape, grateful that her reach loosened Avery’s hold around her waist. “I was going to save this for Severus, but I may eat it and let him fend for himself.”
Avery took the dessert from her hand and set it back on the table. “Let’s not waste our chances,” he said. “Especially if you’re not in town but for tonight.”
Tonks looked across to the bar. Snape was still talking to the nervous-looking man, but she was glad to see his eyes were fixed on her and Avery. She reached once more for her dessert and shot Snape a look she hoped he interpreted as “get over here now and remove this man”. Before Avery could take the cup from her hand again, she spooned up a large bite and hastily shoved it in her mouth. She hoped he wouldn’t drag her to the dance floor with her mouth full of berry crumble. Unfortunately, he seemed unperturbed by this and snaked an arm around her waist again, pulling her closer as he reached his other hand up to her mouth and brushed a bit of crumb from her upper lip. She tried her best to keep her expression pleasant as she dropped her spoon back into the cup and placed her hand firmly on his chest. Tonks knew she had to keep her cool and not make a scene, but she wanted nothing more than to stomp on his foot and act on her earlier fantasy of placing a well-aimed knee to his bollocks. If she were Nymphadora Tonks right now rather than Claire Daniels she’d be walking away while he nursed an injury or two. But, since she wasn’t technically Tonks at the moment, she kept her temper and pushed against his chest to put some distance between them. Unfortunately, she found that he was planted firmly and wouldn’t budge without a strong shove on her part.
He took the cup from her hand and placed it back on the table. “I’ll help you finish that later.”
Tonks glanced surreptitiously to the bar, noting that Snape was no longer there and was relieved when she heard his deep voice as he appeared at her side. “I wouldn’t come between Daniels and her food.” To Tonks’ surprise, he had a bowl of chocolate mousse in his hand that he was holding out to her.
Tonks sighed inwardly, relieved that she didn’t have continue along with Avery’s boorish attempts at asking for a dance any longer. She pushed against Avery’s chest once more, pleased that he took a step back this time. Tonks took the dessert from Snape’s hand. “I do value my food,” she said with a smile. “Chocolate above all. Thank you, Severus.”
“You owe me a dance before the evening is over, Miss Daniels,” Avery said, attempting to sound casual. Tonks noticed that his face was tense and his smile appeared forced. Snape, on the other hand, wore his usual indifferent expression; if he was at all bothered by the other man, he certainly didn’t show it.
Avery turned and stalked away toward the bar, and Snape took his place next to Tonks. He leaned against the table and reached for the berry trifle. “I saw him put his hands on you.” He regarded Tonks with an arched brow. “I assume he didn’t take your refusal to dance kindly.”
Tonks shook her head with a roll of her eyes. “Couldn’t take a hint,” she said between bites of the mousse Snape had brought her. “Real charmer, that one.”
“Indeed.” Snape finished his dessert and deposited the empty glass on the table and wiped his mouth with a napkin. “He’s a brute when it comes to women. I’d have enjoyed seeing you complete the plan you were envisioning in your head.”
Tonks thought about what he said as she fought the urge to revisit the desserts table once more before they departed. “How’d you know I was planning anything?” Snape merely smirked at her without explanation. “You enjoy winding people up, don’t you?” Tonks asked, shaking her head.
Instead of answering her questions, Snape picked up her handbag and handed it to Tonks. “I’ve confirmed my suspicious about the two guests in question,” he said quietly. “It’s time to find our hostess, say our farewells, and attempt to avoid your admirer on our way out.”
“Good plan. I’m ready to get out of here.” Tonks took her bag and tucked it under her arm. She looped her other arm through Snape’s before he started them forward. “I’ll have to cast a Silencing Charm on myself if I have to keep up this accent much longer.”
Although her instincts were telling her to leave the party as quickly as possible, Tonks reluctantly looked around the room for Narcissa; she agreed with Snape that they should say goodbye to their hostess. She wasn’t sure if anyone would notice, but it would be best not to draw suspicion by abruptly disappearing. A quick glance to the bar showed Avery watching them as he leaned against his elbow and sipped a drink.
“Your brute friend is keeping an eye on us,” Tonks whispered as they slowly walked closer to the edge of the dance floor where guests were still moving to the music.
“Follow my lead,” Snape murmured. “Keep ahold of your bag and stay on your feet.”
Tonks shot him an annoyed look and was ready to point out that she hadn’t so much as spilled a drink so far that night when she felt Snape’s arm slip free from where her hand looped around his elbow. He grabbed her now-free hand and placed his other hand at her waist as he pulled Tonks onto the dance floor, seamlessly inserting them into the crowd of dancing couples. For a few beats, Tonks was shocked into silence as Snape expertly guided her to the music. Finally recovering enough for speech, Tonks quirked an eyebrow at him and said, “I thought you didn’t dance.”
“I believe I said it was unlikely. In this instance, it is an opportune distraction.”
Never had she been more thankful for her mother’s insistent claim that all young ladies needed to know how to dance. At the time, she’d huffed and complained, telling her mother that she’d never likely attend a party where such a talent was necessary. Now, Tonks smiled at the thought of telling her mother that her teaching had actually come to some use. Snape continued to lead her skillfully around the dance floor as Tonks clutched her bag to her body and contemplated further what was happening. To her surprise, Snape was quite a good dancer, making it much easier to follow his lead. He seemed oddly at ease with their current situation, which made Tonks wonder where he had learned to dance. As they circulated the floor, he seemed to be concentrating on surveying the room, leading her to believe he would likely not answer if she asked him about it just then. Not that he would likely answer anyway, she thought, even if he wasn’t plotting their exit.
As the dance continued, they neared the corridor they’d entered upon arriving. Snape released her grasp and deftly slid the hand at her waist along her lower back, positioning them now side-by-side. He pulled her away from the dance floor as if they had never been dancing, and they walked through the corridor. Snape removed his arm from Tonks’ waist and offered it to her instead. They stopped briefly in the drawing room, making sure they said good night to their hostess before leaving the manor. Tonks could still hear muffled strains of music as they quickly walked down the long drive and past the iron gates. Once they’d turned off the drive onto the lane, Snape turned them on the spot, Apparating them away.
Tonks took a moment to recover from the Apparition. Based on the dizziness she was feeling, she guessed they had travelled a fair distance. It was a beautifully clear night, the sliver of moon and bright stars giving plenty of light for Tonks to see her surroundings. They had landed beside a stone outbuilding of some sort that appeared to be large enough to have been a carriage house at one time. She took a deep breath and smelled the unmistakable scent of salty sea air and shivered slightly as the ocean breeze whipped through her blonde curls. She could hear waves crashing nearby. “Where the hell are we?”
“Anglesey. Across the bay from Holyhead.”
Wales. Tonks thought it was fitting for this mission to continue at yet another posh pure-blood home. Except now, rather than a country estate, they were at a Welsh seaside cottage.
She shivered again as the breeze brushed over her bare shoulders. Looking down at her pretty white dress, Tonks realized she was inappropriately dressed for the second part of their mission. “I need to change out of this dress,” she said as she opened her bag to search inside for her wand.
Snape gave her a skeptical look. “And wear what, pray tell?”
Taking a page out of his book, Tonks decided not to answer. Instead, she smiled and reached her arm into her little black bag and fished out her wand, handing it to Snape before reaching in again to retrieve her boots.
“Clever,” he drawled as Tonks pulled the remainder of her clothing from the depths of her bag.
Tonks took back her wand and tapped her head for another Disillusionment Charm so she could change. “Tell me more about where we are. I don’t want to break my mum’s heart by ruining this dress while hiding in the shrubbery.” She waved her wand behind her back to release the hook and zipper. After she removed her dress, Tonks silently apologized to her mother as she balled up it up and shoved it and her black flats unceremoniously into her bag. She shimmied into her clothing quickly—foregoing her robes to lessen her chances of stumbling—and shoved her feet into her boots.
Snape told her, “About fifty meters in front of this building is the main cottage; this is the guest house. We are at least ten kilometers from the nearest cottage, fifteen from the nearest town. Given the remote location, they will likely Apparate directly to the front walk. There is a large study off the entry hall where the meeting will most likely take place.”
Once dressed, Tonks cancelled the Disillusionment Charm for the time being. She was surprised when she looked up to see Snape standing in his shirt and trousers. He’d removed his robes, folded them neatly, and was holding them out to her. She caught his meaning and took them, placing them inside her bag. It was an odd sight, seeing him without his usual billowing robes and with his hair still pulled back from his face. She doubted any of his students would recognize him so unlike his typical grumpy Potions professor persona.
“Are you quite finished?” he asked impatiently.
Tonks hadn’t realized she’d been staring. “Sorry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your robes.”
“I thought it best to remove any obstacles that may interfere with your sense of balance.”
Tonks rolled her eyes. All his students would have to do is wait for him to speak to confirm his true identity as Professor Snape. “Oh, shut it. I haven’t so much as stumbled tonight. Not even during our impromptu tour of the dance floor.”
“Let’s hope it continues now that you’ve resumed your identity as Nymphadora.”
“I seem to survive my job everyday as—” Tonks paused and morphed her face back to her own, leaving her hair blond and curly. “Nymphadora,” she finished dramatically, dropping her voice to an exaggerated version of Snape’s deep voice.
In typical Snape fashion, he wordlessly lifted his wand and cast a Disillusionment Charm, first over Tonks, then on himself. Tonks could see the shimmer of the Charm as he turned and began walking through the wild grass of the property toward the main cottage. As they approached, Tonks noticed it was a beautiful home, made of the same dark stone as the guest house; not to the scale of Malfoy Manor, but impressive nonetheless. There were no lights shining through any of the windows, so she couldn’t see inside the house, but she risked a guess that the inside was as beautiful as the outside.
Tonks saw the faint shimmer of Snape’s Charm close in front of her and slowed her steps. The last thing she wanted to do was bump into him and give him reason to criticize her. They neared the front corner of the house, where she saw Snape move close to a set of large windows.
“I’m going to check for any nasty wards before attempting to open the window.”
Tonks walked to the corner and stood next to Snape, resting her back against the stone facade. Curiosity got the better of her, and she peeked around the corner to check out the front of the house. There was a low stone wall that separated the front garden from a narrow lane; a wooden gate allowed entry to the front walk. From the light shining off a pair of old fashioned gas lamps positioned on either side of the front door, Tonks could just see the edge of the cliff where the ground dropped steeply beyond the lane. The waves of the sea could be heard from beyond the cliff.
Tonks gave a low whistle. “It sure pays to be a pureblood,” she said, just loud enough to be heard over the sea breeze.
“You should see the view in the light,” Snape murmured. “It is…something to behold.” Tonks heard him muttering incantations as she turned and skirted around him to position herself on her knees in the grass under the window. After a few moments, his low muttering stopped. “Do you have your Weasley device?”
Tonks dug in her bag and pulled out the Extendable Ears. The window inched up just enough for her to slip one end under the opening. “All set,” Tonks whispered. “Why do you suppose they’re meeting?”
“The man with the beard is Walden Macnair,” Snape said in a low voice. “He’s been away on a mission for some time.”
“Really? I was wondering earlier why he wasn’t at the party.”
“He’s taken an extended holiday from the Ministry to complete his mission. It wouldn’t have done well for him to be seen there tonight.”
“Reckon any of them will get totally pissed and reveal something really good?” Tonks asked.
Tonks heard him snort slightly from where he stood next to the window. “Unfortunately, they are unlikely to drunkenly reveal any secrets. When their talk turns to whisky fueled nostalgic recollections of the glory days, you’ll know it’s time for us to depart.”
They lapsed into silence as they waited. Tonks stifled a yawn as she wondered idly what time it was, thinking it had to be at least midnight. She was startled a few minutes later when she heard the sound of Apparition from inside the house, followed by the sounds of someone—presumably Nott— moving about the study. She hoped that Nott’s arrival would bring the others around soon so they could gather some useful information and bring the mission to a close. Although the evening had gone quite well, lecherous dance partners notwithstanding, she was ready for bed and a lie-in in the morning. And breakfast.
Tonks jumped slightly when she finally heard two almost simultaneous cracks of Apparition. She leaned forward enough to peek her head around the corner. She watched as two figures walked up the path to the house. Their conversation was just within earshot as they reached the front door and knocked.
“Couldn’t close the deal, eh?”
“Would have done if I’d had more time.” Tonks recognized this as Avery’s voice.
There was an unpleasant sounding snigger followed by, “Didn’t look like she was all that interested from where I was sitting.”
Their voices faded as the door opened and they entered the house. A few minutes later, Tonks heard more arrivals and saw the hulking figures of Crabbe and Goyle approaching the door, followed by Macnair less than a minute later.
From the Extendable Ears, Tonks could hear voices along with the sounds of ice clinking on glass and drinks being poured. She listened for what seemed like an eternity while they congratulated themselves on their cleverness. They had a long laugh at how grand it was that they had attended a party with the Minister—who they were thrilled to see still ducking his head in the sand. The discussion moved on to how old and barmy Dumbledore must be; Tonks especially enjoyed the bit where they commended themselves for having spies such as Macnair within the Ministry when Dumbledore surely hadn’t thought of such a thing. Finally, their boastful prattle ceased, and the discussion turned worth-while.
“Looks like your disguise fooled the right people.” Tonks guessed someone was addressing Macnair. “Even if the beard made you look like a ponce.” She covered her mouth to stifle a giggle at this.
“Bugger off. Got the job done, didn’t it?” Macnair growled. “Couldn’t have anyone from the Ministry recognize me when I’m supposed to be on holiday.”
“The Dark Lord wants a report on your progress.”
“Not much to say after the last report I sent. They’re a violent lot. Didn’t take much to cause a ruckus. Now the oaf’s going to have to head back to Hogwarts with nothing but his new pet.” Tonks thought through what she was hearing as she listened to them all have a good laugh for a minute. If a Death Eater was calling a group violent, Tonks wasn’t sure she wanted to know what he was up to. “He’s got that French headmistress with him. But, I reckon she’s keen to head back to her school right about now.”
“What beast is Hagrid going to house train now?”
Macnair gave a huff of laughter. “He’s not going to be able to house train this one.”
“Is the mission complete?”
“Almost,” Macnair replied. “Did what I was sent to do—reckon they’re on our side. Now I just need to make sure I give Hagrid hell before he gets back to Dumbledore. Can’t do much until his girlfriend scarpers.”
Tonks continued to listen as Macnair talked of his agenda for following Hagrid back to Hogwarts, planning to really harass him in earnest once he was on his own. Well, alone except for this new beast he was bringing with him. She shook her head thinking it was just like Hagrid to rescue some creature to give it sanctuary in the Forbidden Forest. He’d need some help to get home safely, but where the hell was he? Macnair had yet to say where he’d left Hagrid to attend the party tonight, how would they find him? How would Macnair find him again, come to that? Her questions were quickly answered when one of the men asked him the same thing. Apparently, he’d placed a locator spell—an illegal spell, you git—to find him. Tonks had to hope that Dumbledore knew approximately where to find Hagrid so they could warn him that a Death Eater was intent on causing him trouble.
As the conversation turned to other things, Tonks thought of what she knew about the locator spells. She knew they followed the trace of a witch or wizard’s magical signature, and that they were against the law for the Wizarding world. They even required special permission and loads of paperwork for the Auror department to use them. She’d never used the spell. What she knew of it, she had learned from Mad-Eye; he’d been around in the days when they had used them routinely, mostly during and after the first war.
Snape had been right about the conversation turning nostalgic after the whiskey started flowing. They were now regaling themselves on “the good old days”. Tonks listened for a bit longer for good measure, but their discussion was getting more boisterous as time went on, and she felt it was more important that they quickly get their new information to Dumbledore.
Tonks pulled the Extendable Ear from the gap in the window and dropped it back in her bag. As she was thinking through how to signal to Snape that it was time to go, she saw the shimmer of his Disillusionment as he crouched down next to her.
“We should leave,” Tonks dared to whisper. Unsure of what to do next, and wary of reaching out and grabbing something she’d rather not grab on Snape’s currently invisible body, she risked another whisper. “Hold out your arm.”
A shimmer of movement allowed her to see his arm clearly, and she curled her hand around his elbow as he helped her silently scramble to her feet. Together, they walked through the wild grass, back to the spot behind the guest house where they’d arrived. Tonks cancelled her charm, hopefully for the last time that night; she felt like she’d spent as much time Disillusioned as not.
She turned to Snape as she saw his body becoming visible once more. “We need to see if Dumbledore has been in contact with Hagrid,” she said quietly and without preamble. “What’s he off doing right now?”
Snape looked at her seriously. “He’s attempting to rally the giants.”
“Giants!” Tonks hissed in surprise.
“Would you rather the Dark Lord had them on his side?”
“Well, that’s what Macnair is up to, then.” Tonks stopped to take a deep breath. “But now he’s decided to cause Hagrid trouble.” She went on to relay everything she’d heard about Macnair’s plans, the locator spell, and Hagrid’s apparent new pet he was rescuing.
Snape gave an exasperated huff at the news of Hagrid’s rescue efforts. “Blast that man. Did Macnair say when he’s returning?”
Tonks shook her head. “I don’t reckon he’s headed out anytime soon,” she said wryly. “None of them seemed in a fit state to Apparate. Unless they fancy losing a limb.”
Snape held out his arm once more. “We shouldn’t linger.”
“Where to now?” Tonks asked around a yawn as she grasped his arm.
“Headquarters. We need to speak with Dumbledore and find out if he’s had any contact with either Hagrid or Madame Maxime. The last thing we need is for Macnair causing Hagrid trouble from Minsk to Scotland.”
Tonks had no idea what time it was, but it had to be the middle of the night. “Won’t Dumbledore be in bed? It has to be gone three o’clock by now.”
“I have no doubt he’s at Headquarters making sure Molly’s going to tend to Potter before his hearing,” Snape said with a sneer.
Tonks felt the pull of Apparition and landed moments later in the alley off Grimmauld Place. They silently walked the short distance to Headquarters and let themselves in, making their way to the kitchen. Tonks was somewhat surprised, given the lateness of the hour, that she could see light and hear voices from the other side of the door. She followed Snape through the door and found the Headmaster and Remus sitting across from one another at the kitchen table, both looking up as they entered.
Dumbledore smiled at them pleasantly, as if not surprised in the least to see them appear at Headquarters hours after their mission was supposed to end. “Interesting evening?” he asked with a small smile.
“Where’s your dress?” Remus asked, looking as though he hadn’t meant to ask his question aloud.
Tonks smiled as she noticed a touch of disappointment in his voice. She took a seat next to Remus as Snape pulled out a chair next to Dumbledore and sat, crossing his arms over his chest and stretching out his legs to cross them at the ankles. “We took a little side mission to the Welsh coast, and I thought my party attire wasn’t suitable for lurking under a window.”
“Tea?” Dumbledore asked, waving his wand to conjure tea for four.
“Ooh, please!” Tonks exclaimed as she reached for a tea cup and the little milk pitcher. “Are there any dinner leftovers? I’m bloody starving.”
Dumbledore gave her an amused look and conjured a plate with two cheese and pickle sandwiches.
“Thank you, sir,” Tonks said, taking a bite of a sandwich. “You should’ve seen the tiny posh food they served at the party. Speaking of which.” Tonks took another bite as she opened her bag and shoved her arm inside, rifling around for the small box with the crème puff inside. She pushed the wrinkled heap of her dress aside and came across Snape’s dress robes. Remus gave her a quizzical look as she handed the robes across the table to Snape, who took them with a curt nod. Finally, her fingers grasped the box, and she pulled it out, handing it to Remus. “I brought you back one of the fancy desserts.”
Remus took the box from her with a bemused look. He opened it and looked up with genuine surprise. “You brought this for me?”
“I wish it could have been the chocolate mousse, but that would have been messy.” Tonks was thrilled to see that Remus’ earlier brooding expression was now replaced with his shy smile that she loved. She smiled in return as she felt a little flutter of warmth course through her body, no doubt bringing a tinge of pink to her cheeks. Her reverie was abruptly interrupted when she heard Snape speak.
“I believe we have more important matters to discuss,” he said impatiently.
“Indeed,” Dumbledore said before taking a drink of his tea. “What took you two to Wales this evening? If I’m not mistaken, the Malfoys live in Wiltshire.”
“Nymphadora proved herself a useful spy tonight,” Snape said with an air of surprise as he reached for a teacup, earning him a glare from Tonks. “I expect she can write a full report on what we learned at Malfoy Manor. It is the information gained at Nott’s house that needs attention first.” He paused to take a drink of tea. “Have you any way to contact Hagrid?”
“Who knows of his mission?” Dumbledore asked sharply.
“Walden Macnair,” Tonks replied around a bite of sandwich. She swallowed and took a sip of tea before continuing. “He’s also attempting to talk with the giants. Now he’s decided to cause Hagrid as much trouble as possible on his way back to Hogwarts.” Tonks took a deep breath and told Dumbledore the details of what she overheard that night.
When she’d finished, Dumbledore sighed heavily. “I was foolishly hoping Hagrid’s mission would remain secret. That it is Macnair who was sent to confer with the giants is rather unfortunate, given his history with Hagrid.”
“Well, I don’t know anything about his history with Hagrid, but I do know Macnair is known as a nasty bloke around the Ministry.”
“A fitting description, I believe,” Dumbledore said grimly.
“He seemed reluctant to bother Hagrid until he’s alone,” Tonks said around a yawn. “We just need to know when the French headmistress gets back to her school.”
“I’ll contact Beauxbatons after my business with the Ministry this morning. Speaking of which.” Dumbledore pulled a pocket watch from his robes. “I should be off soon. Before I go, did you make any acquaintances, my dear that proved helpful?”
“Nymphadora happened to make an…acquaintance, as you call it, this evening,” Snape said with an unsettling smirk on his face.
I didn’t happen to make any acquaintances,” Tonks said with a glower at Snape, whose gaze was surprisingly fixed on Remus. “Claire Daniels made an acquaintance that proved thoroughly unhelpful and requires no further comment.” She glanced at Remus, who had been quietly listening while she made her report to Dumbledore. Unfortunately, his look of interested concentration he’d worn during her report was now replaced with something closer to the brooding expression she’d seen the evening before. “I was, however, able to follow Malfoy and that blighter from the MLE office and overhear something useful from them. It’ll all be in the report, sir.”
“I’d like your report as soon as possible,” Dumbledore said as he rose to his feet. “I would also like you to account for me what you know of this locator spell.”
“I’ll tell you what I know, but Mad-Eye would be a better source,” Tonks said as she poured herself more tea. If she was going to complete her report before heading to bed, she’d need this cup plus maybe some coffee.
Dumbledore nodded decisively. “Work with Alastor on this over the weekend. We need to be able to manipulate this spell for our gain.”
By the look on the Headmaster’s face, Tonks thought that she could guess what her next mission was going to be. If she had any extra time over the weekend, she would spend it locating her travelling cloak and her warmer boots if she was going to be wandering about the northern part of the Continent. She smiled inwardly thinking it would be nice to work with Mad-Eye again.
Tonks frowned as Remus glanced at his watch and stood from the table, mumbling something about waking Sirius. Once the door closed behind him, she turned back to Snape. “Why did you bring up the nonsense about Avery?”
Snape raised an eyebrow at her, the effect of which was lost when he broke out into a wide yawn. “I merely thought it relevant to the discussion.”
“That’s a load of tosh,” Tonks said. She was now sure that Snape had said it to be a berk, which wasn’t surprising, though she wasn’t sure whether he said it to wind up her or Remus. “Bring him up again and I’ll tell everyone how you used an ‘opportune distraction’ to get us out of the party tonight.”
Snape picked up his tea cup and drained it before rising to his feet. “Nobody would believe you.” He placed his cup on the table and strode from the room.
Tonks shook her head and sighed as she summoned a couple of sheets of parchment and a quill from the counter and began writing out her report for Dumbledore. As she wrote out the details, she couldn’t help but reflect on the mystery that was Severus Snape. Their mission had been a success, and they’d worked together surprisingly well…when he hadn’t been winding her up. And really, even then, they had done all right. He’d definitely shown his usual prickly personality over the course of the evening, but Tonks had realized that along with the prickliness, he actually had a wicked sarcastic streak that seemed to translate into a sense of humor. Thinking back to when he was her teacher, she realized his sense of humor had always been there, but was usually directed at unsuspecting terrified students—herself included at times—who didn’t appreciate his sarcasm.
Her report almost finished, she rested her head sleepily on her arm that was outstretched on the table while she wrote. She must have unknowingly drifted off to sleep, because the next thing she was aware of was a hand lightly brushing her forehead. An errant blond curl had fallen across her face and was now being pushed behind her ear. She heard a husky masculine voice at her ear whispering “Nymphadora,” followed by the soft tentative touch of lips to her cheek, so close to the corner of her mouth that if she turned her head less than an inch, their lips would meet. Somewhere in between awake and asleep she heard herself mumbling a sleepy “hmm?” as she reached her hand that had been holding her quill up to touch her fingers to the lips still close to her ear. Her hand trailed from the mouth across a slightly stubbly cheek and into a shaggy mop of soft, fine hairs mixed with courser strands throughout. She curled her fingers around the familiar tresses. “Nymphadora,” the voice repeated softly.
Tonks opened her eyes and blinked a few times, becoming aware of her surroundings. She realized that it was Remus waking her—quite deliciously, she thought. Why couldn’t she be woken up this way every day?
“Wotcher, Remus,” she said with a yawn. She realized her hand was still wound through his hair. “Sorry,” she mumbled drowsily as she reluctantly pulled her hand away.
“Quite all right, I assure you,” he replied, rewarding her with a smile. “I thought you might want some coffee and breakfast. Molly is on her way down.”
Tonks saw that he had a mug of steaming coffee in his hand. “Aren’t you lovely,” she said with a lazy smile as she sat up with a stretch and accepted the mug. Her head turned toward the door as Sirius shuffled through with Molly close behind.
“Tonks, dear!” Molly exclaimed. “Where’s your dress? The girls said you looked absolutely lovely.” She stopped and eyed her critically. “You’re looking a bit peaky, though. Have you been up all night?”
Tonks smiled at the onslaught of mothering she was receiving from Molly. “I have. I need to finish this report and then I’m off to Bedfordshire.”
“Not without breakfast,” Molly replied briskly as she drew her wand from the pocket of her dressing gown. With a few well-practiced wand movements, she had eggs and bacon started on the cooker and was levitating items from the pantry to the table. “Stay put for a bit for Harry as well. He could use as many friendly faces as possible this morning.”
Tonks turned back to her unfinished report as Sirius plopped down across from her with a cup of coffee. “Early start for you, isn’t it?” she asked him as she continued writing.
He gave a grunt of reply as he picked up the first page of her report, scanning down the parchment. Once he’d read it, he folded the page forward to peer at Tonks. “This doesn’t list a stop to change your clothes.”
Tonks moved her coffee aside as a plate of eggs and bacon landed in front of her. “I used a Disillusionment Charm,” Tonks said absently as she reread through the last bit she’d written.
“But you were naked in front of Snape?” Sirius asked incredulously, nicking a piece of bacon from her plate.
Tonks looked up to see a look of revulsion on Sirius’ face. She rolled her eyes at him before replying, “Yes, and then we had it off right there against the house.”
Sirius gave a noise of disgust. “Merlin, that’s enough to put me off breakfast.”
“Serves you right for asking such daft questions,” she said as she snatched the parchment from his hands.
“Best not let Moony hear you say anything about having it off with Snape,” Sirius said with a sly glance over her shoulder where Remus stood talking quietly with Molly. “He sat around sulking all night. The mention of you shagging someone… .” He shook his head as he trailed off.
Tonks neatly rolled up her report to send off to Dumbledore. “I was on a mission,” she whispered irritably. “It’s not like I got all dressed up for a bloody date.”
“Did you happen to see you in that dress?” When Tonks looked at him with a bewildered expression, Sirius continued quietly, “Let me tell you, Moony saw you in that dress. Liked what he saw, I reckon,” he finished with a knowing grin.
Tonks began eating her eggs in an effort to conceal her own grin from spreading across her face. Her insides gave a little lurch at the thought that Remus had been pleased with the way she had looked. While shopping with her mum, she had secretly been contemplating his reaction to every garment her mother had stuffed her in, and had hoped he’d like the one she’d chosen. Still, she didn’t want Sirius to have any more fuel for his matchmaking campaign, so she gave him a scowl and whispered, “Don’t be a prat,” as Molly and Remus came to the table.
Arthur joined the group a few minutes later and they took it in turns filling Remus in on the meeting he’d missed earlier in the week. Tonks was just getting to the bit about Scrimgeour’s questions when Harry walked through the door, looking distinctly like he was headed for the gallows. After trying their best to reassure him about his hearing, Arthur hurried him out the door to the Ministry.
Sirius scowled as Molly refilled everyone’s coffee and busied herself with beginning breakfast for the rest of the house. Tonks thought he looked as grumpy as the night Harry had fought off the Dementors. “Tell Remus what you were actually going to tell him about Scrimgeour before Harry came in,” he said after a sip from his mug. “I could use a laugh.”
“The pervy bit?” she asked around a yawn. Tonks smiled at the questioning look on Remus’ face before going on about her interview she’d had to endure with her boss that had ended with allowing Scrimgeour to believe she was in a romantic relationship with Mad-Eye.
Remus chuckled as she finished her story. “That would certainly be a bit of an unconventional relationship.”
“He’s only, what? Four decades older than you?” Sirius said with a snort.
“Something like that. I’m actually not entirely sure how old Mad-Eye is,” Tonks said thoughtfully. “Anyway, the age difference wouldn’t bother me, but we’d likely kill one another. Not to mention he’s like a second father…or maybe a mad uncle.”
“You’re more likely to end up with some young man from the Auror department, rather than an old man,” Remus said ruefully.
“Trust me, there’s nobody in the Auror office that I will ever end up with,” Tonks said with a huff.
“Someone will come along, I’m sure,” Remus replied.
Tonks stopped and stared at Remus, who seemed intent on studying his coffee mug. She suddenly felt like her warm feelings from earlier had been plunged into a vat of iced water. Having gone from feeling elated at being woken up by him so gently and hearing Sirius say how much he’d liked seeing her all dressed up, to feeling…well, she wasn’t sure what she was feeling now. Confused. And, after a long night filled with a trying mission and no sleep, she felt irritated.
“Right,” she said tersely as she stood and reached across the table for her black bag. “I’m off to get some sleep.”
“I’ll walk you out,” Remus said as he pushed back from the table.
“I survived last night surrounded by Death Eaters. Reckon I can walk myself to the alley.” She walked to the cooker to thank Molly for breakfast before turning for the door. “If anybody sees Mad-Eye, tell him I said to bugger off until I’ve slept and gone for a run,” Tonks called over her shoulder as she pushed through the door and into the hall. She was more than ready to get home and fall into her bed for a hopefully very long sleep.
A/N: Look!!!! Reviews!!!! Hooray! You readers have made this writer so happy:). To reward you all for your loyalty, after chapter 14 posts next week, there will be a one-shot from Remus' POV during chapters 12, 13, and 14:). Maybe if I get three more reviews from posting chapter 13, I'll post chapter 14 early!
As always, it's Jo's, not mine.
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