Tonks walked cautiously through the front door of Headquarters the following day, not wanting to alert everyone in the house to her presence just yet. Luckily, she’d had a quiet day at work. Well, quiet wasn’t the right word since she’d been forced to endure Dawlish’s prattle while investigating reports made by two different wizards claiming to have had a Memory Charm used against them. According to both, they had started the night at the Poison Quill and ended it at home with little recollection of anything in between. The second wizard hadn’t taken kindly to Tonks pointing out that it was likely he had gotten too pissed to remember his evening.
Passing the stairs, she heard movement and voices from above. Knowing that Molly had the kids busy with cleaning, Tonks hoped she was upstairs with them. She wanted to be able to procure the puking sweets from the twins without Molly overhearing; incurring the wrath of the Weasley matriarch wasn’t on the agenda for the day. She stepped as stealthily as possible down the steps to the kitchen, making it down to the bottom step before catching the heel of her boot and tumbling through the kitchen door. So much for stealth. Having made it the entire day so far without so much as a stumble, she supposed she was due.
A pair of hands pulled her to her feet, and she looked up to see Sirius’ scowling face. “Can’t you ever stay on your feet?” he said with a growl.
“There’s no need to be nasty,” Tonks said as she pulled her arm from his grasp. “Especially when I brought you something, you grumpy git.”
“Sorry,” he mumbled, sitting back in his seat. “I’m just…sorry.” He ran a hand through his long hair. “What’d you bring me?”
Tonks plopped the three books she’d borrowed from her dad’s study on the table in front of him. “These won’t help as much with your personal growth project, but they’re still entertaining.”
Sirius perused the books and looked up with a slight smirk. “I bet these don’t have the naughty bits that the last book had, do they?”
“Would you prefer another romance novel?” Tonks asked with amusement.
“I’m not going to turn down anything you decide to bring me,” Sirius said with a shrug as he opened one of the books. “I’m sure these will be good, but I wouldn’t mind another like the first one you brought.”
“You don’t get to start them yet,” she said, grabbing the book from his hands and setting it back on the table.” I need your help with something.”
Tonks felt a pang of sympathy for her cousin at the hopeful look on his face, realizing he would do anything simply to feel useful. “Yes,” she said firmly. “I need you to distract Molly so I can speak with the twins.”
“Distract her how, exactly?” Sirius asked warily.
“I don’t know, just talk to her.” Tonks glanced up at the wall clock. “She’ll likely be down to begin dinner soon, so you can offer to help her. Just keep her from going back upstairs for a bit.”
“This is a job better suited for Remus,” he said with a pout. “She likes him better.”
“Even if that’s true, it doesn’t look like Remus is here.”
“He’s upstairs researching whatever it is you two are working on. I’m sure you could convince him to come help me,” he said with a roughish grin. When Tonks rolled her eyes at him, he continued. “Oh, come on. You two must have made up. He came back from your flat after working with you all day and devoured that crème puff like he was pretending it was you.”
“Don’t be a prat,” Tonks said with a laugh, feeling her cheeks color slightly.
“It’s the truth,” Sirius said with a smile.
Behind the smile, Tonks could tell that Sirius was fighting through a tetchy mood. If his reaction to her entrance was any indication, he was in quite a state. She took in the bags under his eyes and the disheveled state of his long hair and wondered if this were the first time he’d really smiled in days.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Molly came through the kitchen door, smiling broadly and enveloping Tonks in a hug. “Tonks, dear! You look like you’ve gotten some rest since the last time I saw you.”
Tonks filled Molly in on her restful day off at her parents’ house and thanked her for the food she’d sent with Remus. She also didn’t hesitate to accept her offer to stay for dinner that night.
“Wonderful,” Molly said, clapping her hands together decidedly. “I was just going to get started.”
Molly turned toward the pantry, giving Tonks the opportunity to shoot Sirius a pointed look, jerking her head toward where Molly was rummaging for dinner ingredients. Sirius stood with a slight smile and a shake of his head.
“I’m going to go catch up with the girls for a bit,” Tonks said, turning to leave the kitchen. She smiled as she heard Sirius offer his help as the kitchen door swung closed behind her.
Tonks climbed the stairs, stopping at the first landing to peek inside the parlor and finding it empty. Fighting the urge to knock on Remus’s door, she went up the next set of stairs and turned to the bedroom she knew the twins were using. She knocked lightly and heard muffled voices and the clicks of a trunk fastening before the door finally opened.
“Tonks!” Fred and George said in unison.
“Shhh!” she admonished them. “Keep your voices down, and let me in.”
“Well, this seems promising,” Fred said with a grin. “Finally throwing over Professor Lupin for one of us?”
“Or both?” George asked, waggling his eyebrows.
Tonks snorted. “Not quite. I need to purchase one of your sweets.”
“Is this for official Order business?” George asked with a glance at Fred.
“Because if it is, then I feel like we should know as many details as possible about what you’re planning,” Fred continued.
“It is for official Order business,” Tonks said as she placed her hands on her hips. “The most I can tell you is that I may need to skive off work at some point this week without raising suspicion.”
“You’ve come to the right place,” George said, clapping his hands and rubbing them together, looking utterly like a businessman attempting to close a deal. He pulled his wand from his sleeve and levitated a trunk from its place under the bed. After his wand tapped the latches, the top sprung open to reveal packages neatly lined up inside. “What’ll you have, then? Nosebleed Nougat? Fainting Fancies? Puking Pastilles?”
“Having a nosebleed won’t necessarily get me out of work,” Tonks said wryly, remembering the time she’d been on the receiving end of one of Kingley’s elbows during a scuffle. Once he’d stopped the bleeding, Tonks had simply Scourgified her shirt and gone on with her day. “Nobody wants a puking colleague around, though.”
“Puking Pastille it is,” George said. He selected a package from the trunk and handed it to Tonks, giving a quick explanation on how the sweets worked.
“You’ve tested these, right?” Tonks reached out and tentatively took the package. When they both nodded enthusiastically, Tonks fixed them with a glare before asking, “And not on unsuspecting Order members?”
“Nah, that was just a one off,” George said with a wave of his hand. He bent down and retrieved a large envelope from the open trunk and pulled out a sheet of parchment, handing it to Tonks. “Professor Snape scared enough sense into us to come up with a consent form for product testing.”
Tonks smiled despite the embarrassment of that day. “You idiots deserved his temper. How much do I owe?”
George looked to Fred and asked, “It’s on the house, don’t you think, Freddie?”
“Reckon so,” Fred replied. “Consider it our contribution to the Order. Other than cleaning out this manky house, we’ve not been able to do much.”
“I can’t just take it,” Tonks said with a shake of her head. “I want to pay for it properly.” She knew the Weasley’s financial situation was always strained; the last thing she wanted to do was take something for nothing.
“Don’t worry about the money,” George said, suddenly serious. “We want to help, even if it’s just something little.”
“How about this,” Fred said, interrupting any further protest on Tonks’ part. “When we get our shop open, make sure you send us some business.”
Tonks looked back and forth at the twins, each wearing a serious expression she knew they rarely wore. Finally, she agreed. She could understand them wanting to help, and this was an easy way to let them.
Tonks decided she should really stop in and say hello to the girls in case Molly asked about it later. They enthusiastically invited her in and spent a good amount of time trying to get her to give away details about her mission with Snape. In the end, Tonks told them about the food and the dessert table. And—just to see the looks on their faces— she told them that their Potions professor was actually quite a good dancer.
They left their room with Tonks still giggling at the girls trying to wrap their heads around Professor Snape, evil bat of the dungeons, dancing. As they were heading down the stairs, they met Remus as he was walking up.
“Molly would like you ladies to set the table for dinner,” he said to the girls, who each gave sly grins over their shoulders at Tonks after they’d passed him. Remus climbed a few more steps until his height was even with Tonks’. “And Sirius told me to find you and tell you he has reached the breaking point of his helpfulness.”
Tonks laughed loudly, then clapped a hand over her mouth so as not to disturb the mad portrait. “I asked him to distract Molly so I could sneak in a chat with Fred and George.” She reached out and pushed her hand through the hair resting on Remus’ forehead. He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch as her hand drew down the side of his face and cupped his cheek. “I suppose we should go and rescue your whiney pooch,” Tonks whispered.
Remus gave a noncommittal shrug as he reached up and grasped her wrist, placing a kiss to the palm of her hand. “You go on. I’ve been charged with rounding up all the kids.”
Distracted by Remus’ lips on her skin, Tonks almost forgot the other reason for stopping by Headquarters. “After dinner, I should tell you what I learned from my dad yesterday about our next mission.” Remus raised his eyebrows at her in question. “We discussed it in a roundabout sort of way,” she said reassuringly as she moved past him on the stairs.
Making her way down the gloomy staircases to the kitchen, Tonks wondered if they could convince Sirius to be helpful once more in testing her theory on using another person’s spell. She thought she likely had her answer when she pushed through the door to the kitchen and caught Sirius’ venomous glare from he stood at the cooker stirring something in a frying pan.
Tonks approached Sirius with an innocent smile on her face. She pulled her wand from her robes and, with a flick, tied his long hair back from his face. “Keep your mange out of the dinner,” she told him as she peered into the pan and saw onions and garlic cooking away.
“You owe me,” Sirius hissed at Tonks. “I had to pretend I wanted to learn the incantation to properly chop an onion to get her from chasing the kids down to help her.”
Tonks laughed, not even trying a little bit to disguise her amusement. “Is this your handiwork?” she asked between laughs. “Did you indeed learn how to properly chop an onion?”
“I did,” he replied, trying to disguise his own amusement with a scowl. “Not that you’ll ever benefit from it.”
“I plan on eating dinner here tonight, so I believe I will be benefitting from it.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for your help.”
After dinner, as the kids tidied the kitchen, Tonks sat with her feet in Remus’ lap, happily letting him massage them while they passed around the issue of The Quibbler claiming Sirius was the lead singer of The Hobgoblins. Tonks was fighting down a fit of giggles over the article, glad to see that Sirius was joining her with laughter of his own.
“Maybe next they’ll name you one of the Weird Sisters,” Tonks said with a renewed burst of laughter. “I could help Kingsley investigate that tip and get some autographs.”
Sirius stood from the table. “Now that I’ve entertained you for the evening, I’m off to entertain my Hippogriff.”
“Can he wait a bit longer?” Tonks asked. “There’s something else I thought you could help us with.”
“Sorry, Tonks,” Sirius said while heading for the door. “You used up all my helpfulness earlier.”
“Oh fine, you grumpy bugger,” Tonks said huffily as Sirius ducked out the door.
“What’s your back-up plan?” Remus asked with a smile.
Tonks looked to the sink where Fred and George were levitating clean plates and silverware to their places while the others did the washing and scrubbed down the table. “Are you in charge of that lot this evening?”
Remus nodded. “Arthur is on duty, and Molly left for the Burrow to pick up a few things.”
“Let’s prepare a lesson then, Professor,” Tonks said as she pulled her feet from his lap and shoved them into her boots. She quickly went through what she and her father had discussed over the intent behind a spell and what that might mean for tracking Hagrid.
“Interesting theory,” Remus said thoughtfully. “What were you thinking of doing to test this?”
Thinking back to the example she and her father had used, Tonks said with a smile, “Well, since Sirius is being a prat and won’t help, I thought you could Confund Fred or George since they’re of age—”
“Confund them to do what, exactly?” Remus interrupted.
“Nothing terrible,” Tonks said. “You tell them to clean the table and I’ll try to use your charm to get them to clean the counter or something.”
Remus tapped his fingers against his lips, thinking. “They are of age,” he murmured.
“And dying to help, so they’ve said,” Tonks said with a wink as she rose to her feet, grabbing Remus’ hand and pulling him up after her. “Oi,” she yelled to get the kids’ attention. “Impromptu magical theory lesson. Fred or George, since you’re both of age, which one of you wants to volunteer as our test subject?”
Tonks smiled as her question brought quick responses of “I’m in” from both twins. “All right.” Tonks motioned to the other teens in the kitchen. “You four go sit on the other side of the table.”
“Wait!” Hermione said urgently, jumping from the seat she’d just taken. “I need something to take notes.”
Her statement earned eye rolls from the others and a chuckle from Tonks, but Remus grinned and Summoned her a sheet of parchment and a quill. “I would equally hate to see a learning opportunity to go to waste,” he told Hermione kindly.
Tonks tossed George a rag from the sink and explained that Remus was going to cast a Confundus Charm and Tonks was going to try and use it to her advantage without casting her own charm. Remus cast the charm, compelling George to wipe the table with the rag in his hand. Tonks raised her wand and concentrated on the magic from Remus’ spell. She closed her eyes and focused on the intent of the spell, concentrating on the image of changing George’s focus to cleaning the countertop behind him. She nearly squealed in delight as George abruptly turned and stepped to the countertop and began wiping away.
Remus cancelled his charm with a flick of his wand and turned to Tonks and gave a nod of his head. “Impressive,” he said with a smile.
“I think this could work,” Tonks said, returning Remus’ smile. She waved her hand airily at the teenagers who all asked at once what it was that was going to work. “I promise you’ll be happy with it in the end,” she said, knowing that the kids were all close with Hagrid and would be happy once he was safe back at Hogwarts. “All right, let’s try again. Fred, you’re up.”
They went through the process again, Tonks once more successfully using the magic from Remus’ spell. In the middle of Fred wiping the counter, Molly entered the kitchen. They all froze—except for Fred, who continued with the cleaning—waiting for Molly’s famous temper to be unleashed.
“What exactly is going on, here?” she asked, one hand placed firmly on her hip, the other hand occupied with a basket filled with various fruits and vegetables.
Tonks looked to Remus, who, using Tonks’ earlier words, calmly informed Molly, “An impromptu magical theory lesson.”
Molly appeared to be unsure whether to be angry or not. “Well, at least you’ve gotten one of those boys to help with the cleaning.”
Remus flicked his wand, cancelling the Confundus Charm before taking the basket from Molly.
Tonks glanced at the wall clock and decided that an early night would be beneficial considering her sleep in the past month had been patchy at best. “Thank you for being our test subjects, boys. I’m off for an early bedtime.”
Remus turned from the pantry where he’d set the basket. “Shall I walk you out, or will I be required to chase you down the sidewalk again?”
“Don’t be thick and there’ll be no need to chase me,” Tonks teased.
The following afternoon, immediately after lunch, Tonks was sitting at her desk finishing her reports from the previous day when a purple paper airplane landed on her desk. She unfolded it, wondering who in the name of Merlin was sending her a memo. The message inside was simple.
It’s time, lass.
Tonks quickly looked around to see if there was anyone walking about the Auror office before vanishing the note and pulling the small parchment wrapped Weasley product from her pocket. She unwrapped the package, thinking that the timing was terrible since she had eaten lunch scarcely an hour before. With a quick look around to make sure nobody would see the cause of her sudden illness, Tonks popped the first sweet in her mouth and immediately upon swallowing, heaved her lunch into the rubbish bin next to her chair.
“All right there, Tonks?”
The question came from Millie Bennet, an older female Auror who Tonks always thought must be Mad-Eye’s kindred spirit due to the eye patch she sported. Tonks liked Millie for her no-nonsense attitude and her brilliant ability to speak whatever mad thing popped in her head at any moment.
Tonks nodded her head, but said nothing as she bowed her head as if she were going to retch again and stuffed the second sweet into her mouth, hoping fervently that the waves of nausea from the first sweet would stop with the eating of the second. She waved her wand to vanish the sick from the bin and turned to see Millie still standing in the doorway of her cubicle.
“Tonks, do you—” Kingsley’s voice stopped short as he peeked over her cubicle and saw her leaning over her rubbish bin.
“She’s just booted in the bin there,” Milled stated in a matter of fact manner. She leaned in toward Tonks and whispered, “Not up the duff, are we?”
Physically impossible. Tonks managed a shaky smile and shook her head.
“Let’s not start rumors, Bennet.” Tonks was thrilled to hear Kingsley’s deep voice say exactly what she was thinking. She usually enjoyed the mad things that Millie said, but she could have done without this one. The last thing she needed was Scrimgeour hearing that she was pregnant. Especially since he now thought she was sleeping with Mad-Eye.
“Just feeling a bit off color,” Tonks said as she grabbed a tissue to wipe her mouth.
“Why don’t you take the day,” Kingsley said. She knew that Kingsley wasn’t surprised at her sudden ailment. She’d stopped by his office the previous morning to let him know that she was working on something with Remus and would likely need to make a quick exit sometime that week.
Tonks stood and took a deep breath as if to steady herself. “Thanks, boss.”
Millie walked away with shrug and an offer to teach Tonks the charm to detect pregnancy if needed. Once she’d walked down the row to her own cubicle, Tonks turned to Kingsley and whispered, “Will you please fix that?” with a pleading look.
Kingsley had the nerve to smile faintly. “You know Millie. She likely said it just for shock value.” He raised his hands in response to Tonks’ glare. “I’ll say something, I promise.”
She pushed past Kingsley to head to the Apparition point within the Ministry. Once home, Tonks fought another wave of nausea as the dizzying effects of Apparition combined forces with the slightly lingering effects of the Puking Pastille. She walked straight to her bathroom so she could clean her teeth. As she was walking through her flat, using her hands to alternately brush her teeth and shove items into a rucksack, she heard a knock at her door. Thinking it was probably either Remus or Mad-Eye she threw the bag on her couch and opened the door with her toothbrush still in her mouth.
She nearly choked on her toothpaste when she opened the door to find it was neither Remus nor Mad-Eye, but Severus who was standing in the hall. “Sorry,” she mumbled indistinctly, attempting to keep toothpaste from dribbling down her chin. She stepped aside to let him in, leaving him to close the door behind him as she walked quickly to the kitchen sink to rinse her mouth.
“I have something that may be beneficial to your mission,” Severus said, taking a seat in her armchair.
Tonks held out a hand and Summoned her travel case for her toothbrush from the bathroom before depositing it in her rucksack along with her heavy travelling cloak, a hooded sweatshirt, and an extra pair of fuzzy socks. She exchanged her regular boots for her heavier boots she’d dug from the bottom of her wardrobe the previous day.
“Do you?” she asked as she flopped down on the couch. After tying up her laces, Tonks reached out a hand to take the small square of parchment Severus was holding. Written in his cramped handwriting was a set of coordinates. “Where is this?”
“The coordinates are for a heavily forested area just across the border into Poland.”
“Is this where Macnair left him to attend the party?” Tonks asked. Severus answered with a curt nod. “He didn’t happen to share what Hagrid is dragging back with him?”
“He didn’t,” Severus replied as he settled further in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “The Dark Lord’s only concern with Hagrid is to delay his return to Hogwarts as much as possible.”
Severus fixed Tonks with his penetrating stare. She decided it was unnerving since he was hard to read and she was never quite sure what he was thinking. At the moment, he seemed to be considering something.
“Is there something else?” she asked with a quirked brow.
“Your description of Macnair is quite accurate,” he replied.
Tonks thought back to what she’d said about him to Dumbledore. A ‘nasty bloke’ she’d called him. She wondered for a moment what Severus was trying to tell her before it occurred to her that he was possibly telling her to be careful. Slytherins.
“Are you possibly warning me to be constantly vigilant, Severus?” Tonks asked him cheerfully. His expression remained unchanged except for the slightest arch of an eyebrow. She shook her head at him with a slight smile. “Point taken, I’ll be sure to watch my back.”
As Tonks stood from the couch and shoved the piece of parchment into a zipper pocket inside her bag, she heard another knock. She opened the door and grinned widely at Remus leaning casually against her door frame.
“Come on in, Professor,” she said as she moved aside. “I’m nearly ready.”
Remus stepped inside and froze as his eyes caught sight of Severus still settled in his seat. Severus rose from the chair and swept neatly around Tonks’ furniture, his eyes locked with Remus’ the entire time. A smirk was playing on his lips as he paused for barely a second in front of Remus.
“Lupin,” he said coolly before stepping through the door and pulling is closed behind him.
Tonks shrugged out of her robes, watching Remus closely. “Let me just hang these up before we go since my mum worked so hard on making them presentable for me over the weekend.” She realized he hadn’t moved from his spot and seemed to be staring through the chair where Severus had been sitting. “Remus?” she asked as she reached out to touch his arm.
Remus jumped at Tonks’ touch. “What was Severus doing here?” he asked quickly.
“He gave me the location where Macnair last saw Hagrid,” Tonks said warily, her brow crinkling in confusion. “Are you all right?”
“Fine,” Remus said, giving his head a small shake. “We should set out at once if we’re to find Hagrid before dark.”
He reached into his robes and pulled out a folded sheet of parchment and handed it to Tonks. Forgetting about neatly hanging her robes, Tonks tossed them over the arm of her sofa and unfolded the parchment. She recognized Mad-Eye’s handwriting as she quickly scanned the information. They were to travel by Portkey and meet the French Headmistress at a quiet cafe in a small wizarding village in the Dordogne region of France. According to Mad-Eye, the village was a fair distance away from the school, and sufficiently secluded so that they were very unlikely to be recognized. Tonks shook her head as she read the bit that followed reminding them that even though they were unlikely to encounter anyone who’d spot them, they should remain alert.
Remus’ voice interrupted Tonks’ reading. “Why didn’t he simply owl it to you?”
“Hmm?” she asked absently as she glanced at him over the parchment.
“Severus. Why didn’t he owl it?”
Tonks shrugged and looked back to the note. She didn’t have time to wonder why Remus was acting so odd about Severus being in her flat before he expected her to answer. She decided to respond casually rather than make a to-do about it. “I suppose he wanted us to have it before we set out. Also, Mad-Eye’s said he doesn’t want us owling information back and forth.” At least he knocked this time. Tonks thought back to when Severus had been waiting in her flat per Mad-Eye’s suggestion. She looked up to Remus’ unreadable expression, and promptly decided it best not to voice that bit aloud, especially given his current temperament. Tonks decided to try and lighten the mood.
“All right, Professor,” Tonks said as she closed her eyes and concentrated. “I’m going to have to do away with your beloved pink for now.” As she spoke, her hair lengthened from its cropped pixie to a messy chin-length style with choppy layers, darkening from pink to black. “Now, let’s shove off.” Tonks grabbed her rucksack and placed the parchment inside and closed the zipper. “Reckon the first part of our mission will be the easiest. It’s not like Madame Maxime isn’t easy to spot.”
“Quite true.” She was glad to see her comments had the desired effect, as Remus smiled and shook his head. He waved a hand vaguely at her hair. “I suppose I’ll allow the modification so long as I’m rewarded with my favorite color upon our return.”
Tonks cocked her head and gave him a challenging look. “You’ll allow it, will you?”
He met her challenging stare with his adorable grin, appearing to be thrilled that his remark had riled her. “Certainly.”
“How kind of you, Professor,” Tonks said as she slung her rucksack onto her back.
Remus checked his watch. “We’ve only about two minutes until this activates,” he said as he pulled an empty ale bottle from his robes.
“How’d we manage the Portkey?”
“I told you Dung has his uses.”
“You’re sure this is going to take us where we need to go?” Tonks asked, wary of using anything Dung had a hand in. “We’re not going to end up stranded in a desert somewhere?”
“Dung wouldn’t mess about with something he’s meant to do for Dumbledore,” Remus replied confidently.
“Except guard duty,” Tonks muttered, remembering the spot they’d ended up in the last time Dung was supposed to do something for the Order.
She reluctantly placed her hand on the neck of the bottle, feeling the unsettling tug of the Portkey activating a few moments later. They landed after their dizzying trip, Remus with his arm around Tonks’ lower back to steady her.
“Thanks for keeping my backside from meeting the ground,” she said as she leaned against Remus for a moment to gain her balance.
“I’ll endeavor to always do what I can do to keep your backside safe,” Remus said as he vanished the bottle.
“Here I thought you to be a gentleman,” Tonks said with a playful grin. “But I’m not quite sure that’s the case.”
“My interest in your backside makes me less of a gentleman?” Remus asked with a roughish grin Tonks was more used to seeing on Sirius.
“Makes you a typical man,” Tonks said with a laugh.
She stepped away from Remus’ side to get a sense of their surroundings. They appeared to have landed in a cobblestone alley of sorts between two buildings of pale brick. Surprisingly, Dung seemed to have come through with the Portkey. Tonks peered down the alley and caught site of a beautiful square bathed in late afternoon sunshine; there were several buildings with pretty storefronts, all in the same pale brick of the buildings they’d landed between. Turning to Remus, ready to say something about how pretty it looked to be, she saw an odd look on his face. Like he was deep in thought, but looked a bit shaken.
“Typical man,” he murmured, almost as a question. Tonks wasn’t entirely sure he was aware he’d said it aloud he was so lost in thought.
Tonks took a moment to study his confused expression and glimpsed another piece of the puzzle that was Remus Lupin. Her offhand comment seemed to have caught him completely off guard; like he was amazed that she saw him as a man first, above anything else.
“That’s how I see it, Remus” Tonks said softly. His eyes met hers uncertainly, like he wasn’t quite sure he could believe what she’d said. She smiled at him in a way she hoped was reassuring and looped her arm around his. “Now, come along. Let’s pretend for a few minutes that we’re on holiday in this lovely place.”
They crossed the square at an unhurried pace, as if actually trying to enjoy the afternoon while on a mini-break. Tonks decided that the entire place was quite charming. There were a couple of restaurants with pretty awnings and tables spilling out onto the cobblestones, along with some outdoor market stalls that gave the square the definite feel of a leisurely holiday atmosphere. Remus led her to a tiny café tucked into a quiet corner of the square, the entrance of which was almost completely obscured from passersby.
Remus leaned down to whisper into Tonks’ ear as he opened the door to the café for her. “She should be here already. Seated in the back, turned away from the door.”
As they entered, they were greeted with the delicious smells one would encounter upon entering an authentic French café that sold pastries along with their perfectly brewed coffee. It made Tonks acutely aware that her lunch had been wasted with the Weasley’s product earlier.
“Mmm,” Tonks hummed, taking an appreciative deep breath. “D’you think we could sneak a bite while we’re here?”
Remus gave her an amused look as he scanned the back of the room. “Didn’t you eat lunch?”
“The twins helped me lose my lunch to the cause of a quick exit from work,” Tonks said with a sigh.
“Those two really could have given your cousin a run for his money back in his day,” Remus said with a shake of his head. “Ah.” He reached down and grabbed Tonks’ hand, pulling her along behind him to a high-backed booth. He slid in, and scooted aside to allow Tonks room to sit next to him.
“Madame Maxime,” Remus began, holding out his hand in greeting. “Je m'appelle Remus Lupin. Merci d'être venue nous rencontrer. Nous avons besoin de votre aide.”
Sweet Merlin, he speaks French. She stared at him as he spoke, consciously closing her mouth so she wasn’t staring at him with her mouth agape. Just when Tonks didn’t think Remus could be any more appealing, he effortlessly spoke French. She was thrilled to learn yet another thing about Remus; another bit of the puzzle fitting into place. Equally thrilling was the large carafe of coffee sitting on the table along with a plate of croissants.
“Je suis heureuse de vous rencontrer, Monsieur Lupin,” Madame Maxime replied, taking Remus’ hand in her large one. “Je tiens à vous aider du mieux je peux.”
“C'est ma collègue,” Remus released Madame Maxime’s hand and held it out, indicating Tonks. “Nymphadora Tonks.”
And…now he’s said my name while speaking French. Tonks couldn’t even find it in her to be irritated at him introducing her as Nymphadora while shaking the headmistress’ hand, given that it sounded lovely while being spoken with his perfect accent. And, honestly, how could she be irritated at all when, in true Remus fashion, he fixed a cup of coffee completely to Tonks’ preference and passed her a croissant as he spoke.
She listened as they moved beyond pleasantries, idly wondering if Remus continued their conversation in rapid French rather than English to make Madame Maxime comfortable. Tonks’ French didn’t extend beyond general greetings and asking after the toilets, and so she was quickly lost to what they were saying. She could tell from Madame Maxime’s level of animation in her speech that she was quite worked up over their conversation. At one point, she produced a piece of parchment and scrawled something across it before handing it to Remus. After several minutes, and some tears, Madame Maxime excused herself to the loo to compose herself.
Remus turned to Tonks with a grim expression. “She said that there were two Death Eaters close to where they were camping, but they didn’t spot them after they departed. They’ve been travelling mostly at night.” He hesitated, looking toward the hallway where Madame Maxime had disappeared before continuing. “She won’t reveal what it is that Hagrid has decided to bring back with him.”
“What, she doesn’t want to ruin the surprise?” Tonks asked in exasperation as she unabashedly helping herself another pastry from the plate. She had thought the coffee shop in her neighborhood did a good job with croissants, but apparently, you needed to travel to France to experience them in their true form.
Remus smiled slightly. “She maintains that she promised to keep his secret.”
Tonks sighed heavily. “Did she give you an idea of where she left him?”
“They’d just crossed the Polish border,” he replied, handing over the parchment Madame Maxime had given him. “He’s taken cover in a forest about fifty kilometers from the town of Bialystok.”
“That matches up,” Tonks said, remembering the information Severus had passed on earlier. “What’d you say to set her off in floods?”
Remus chuckled. “She’s concerned for Hagrid.”
Madame Maxime returned from the loo, tidily composed, wishing them luck with their search. At least that’s what Tonks thought she’d said. She had thanked Tonks profusely for her help and leaned down and to give her a hug that wasn’t quite to the standard of the bone-crushing hugs she had received from Hagrid in the past, but hearty nonetheless.
“Your French is quite charming,” Tonks said with a smile once they’d reached the alley again.
Remus gave her a wistful sort of look before answering quietly, “I had a lot of time for study as a boy, and my mother saw fit to teach me.”
“Tell me something lovely in French,” Tonks said in a sudden inspiration.
Remus gave her a soft smile and reached out a hand to push her black hair behind her ear. “Je ne peux pas arrêter de te,” he said softly. “Vous êtes comme un arc-en-ciel dans un monde de gris.”
Tonks gave Remus a small smile, relishing in his words even though she had no idea what he’d said. He could have read her the café menu for all she cared. “Are you going to tell me what you said?” As a self-satisfied grin spread across his face, Tonks realized he had no thought of revealing what he’d spoken. “Or, are you going to continue to act like an arrogant prat and keep it to yourself?”
“Prat,” he replied with a decisive nod of his head.
Tonks spoke her bold words before her brain even registered what she was saying. “Not even if I offer a prize?”
Remus rubbed his chin in contemplation. “If there is a prize being offered, I shall have to reconsider my decision. Although,” he said slowly, as if still contemplating. “How am I to know I’d appreciate the prize you’re offering?”
“I’d like to think you’d appreciate it just fine,” she replied loftily.
Remus’ gaze flitted to her mouth for a moment before he murmured, “I’ve no doubt.” He took a deep breath. “Unfortunately, we’re on a bit of a schedule so any prize-giving must wait.”
“Too bad, really,” Tonks said with a coy smile. She shrugged her bag off her shoulder and reached inside for the parchment Severus had given her. “Do you want to see the coordinates Severus gave us?” she asked tentatively. “To compare?”
“It couldn’t hurt,” Remus replied as he took the note from her. He compared the parchments before handing one back to Tonks and slipping the other into the pocket of his robes. “The coordinates match almost precisely. Let’s hope he hasn’t made too much ground.”
Remus slid an arm around Tonks’ shoulders as she snaked hers around his waist. Before he whirled them away in Apparition, Tonks thought briefly how nicely they fit together; her petite body nestled next to his tall frame. How it would be even better if they were lying nestled next to each other on a sofa…NO! Focus.
They landed, Tonks saw as she looked around, in a heavily wooded area. The trees were quite dense and they were on a slope, as if at the foothills of the mountains. She held out her hand as she took in her surroundings. “Have you still got Hagrid’s tablecloth?”
“Handkerchief.” Remus chuckled as he rummaged through his bag, pulling the large white cloth from within and handing it to Tonks.
“Maybe to him,” Tonks murmured as she kneeled and placed the handkerchief on her lap. She drew her wand and placed her other hand on the handkerchief, concentrating on both Hagrid’s magic and her intent to find him through tracking spell she knew Macnair had cast. She smiled as she felt the magic of the spell similarly to feeling Remus’ Confundus Charm.
She opened her eyes and peered up at Remus, who was watching her intently. “He’s nearby,” Tonks said. “And thankfully using magic in some way.” She closed her eyes in concentration again, feeling a constant thrum of Hagrid’s magic. “He must be maintaining some sort of ward. Muggle repelling or something protective. I think I can find him.”
Tonks stood and pushed the handkerchief back in Remus’ bag. He slung it back over his shoulder and pulled his wand from his robes. She slid her arm again around his back and looked up to see him again watching her intently.
“You’re quite an impressive witch,” he said simply.
Not trusting herself to say anything coherent to his compliment due to the thrill of giddiness coursing through her body, Tonks simply grinned in response. “Ready?”
At his nod, Tonks spun them away, concentrating on Hagrid’s magic and the tracking spell to guide her. Their Apparition was quick, telling Tonks they didn’t travel far. After landing, she opened her eyes just in time to see the red streak of light from a Stunning Spell flash behind Remus’ head and hit a tree. Another jet of light flashed as she felt Remus’ arms circle her body, twisting them around toward the ground. Tonks concentrated on “Protego” in her mind, feeling the Shield Charm hovering over them as she shrieked, “Expelliarmus!” Bracing her body for the impact of the fall, she saw another jet of red light— this time from Remus’ wand—bounce off an object just a few meters from them.
Hello, dear readers! One week left of summer vaca for my school aged kids and tempers are flaring! Cross your fingers that we survive the next week:).
*sigh* Does anyone else think Remus is just adorable and charming?? This chapter and the next have been my faves so far to write, so I trully hope you enjoy them:). Don't forget to review; I promise, updates will come much quicker if you review! If you need something else to read before the next chapter updates, go check out the one-shot I posted titled "Halo" that is from Remus' POV. Don't forget to review that one too!
As always, it's Jo's, not mine.
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