Tonks was busy humming her tune and placing a container of her mother’s scones in a sack along with the other items for Sirius’ care package when her parents’ door-bell chimed. This was not altogether unheard-of on a Sunday afternoon, as her parents sometimes had friends or her dad’s family drop in. She stopped her humming and frowned when she heard Mad-Eye’s voice coming from the sitting room. Her plan of seeing Remus now seemed very unlikely.

“Ted. Andromeda. Sorry for the interruption,” Mad-Eye said.

“It’s perfectly all right, Alastor,” Andromeda replied. “Tea?”

“No time for tea, I’m afraid,” he answered. Tonks wasn’t sure if there was indeed no time for tea, or if Mad-Eye was just being polite in order to avoid having someone other than himself prepare his tea.

Tonks sighed and picked up the bag of goodies, mourning the loss of her potential plans to snog Remus some more that evening. She entered the sitting room. “Wotcher, Mad-Eye.”

“Dumbledore wants to see you, lass. First, I want a word.”

Tonks raised an eyebrow at him. Usually, when Mad-Eye wanted a word, he wanted to tell her off for her lack of vigilance. Tonks motioned for him to follow her into her father’s study. He cast a Silencing Charm on the room and turned to stare at Tonks.

“Let’s hear it, then,” she said.

He stared at Tonks for moment more, looking as though he were trying to decide what to say. “What’s between you and the lad?” he finally asked.

Popular topic today. “The lad?” Tonks asked with a laugh. “Are you referring to Remus?”

“You know bloody well who I’m referring to.”

Tonks crossed her arms over her chest. “We’re friends.”

“Friends,” he repeated disbelievingly. “He took you out last night.”

“How’d you know that?” she asked.

“He was too cheerful this morning. Seemed suspicious.”

Tonks cringed at the thought of Mad-Eye being privy to the cheerfulness that came after an evening with a lady. The thought was honestly just as bad as the thought of her parents snogging in a broom shed. “So you interrogated him?” She rubbed her hands over her eyes before peeking through her fingers at him. “Please tell me you didn’t make him prove his identity.”

He looked at her like she was mad. “Aye,” he replied. “Can’t be too cautious. Anyhow, Black’s the one got him to admit he took you out.”

Damn it, Sirius. Annoyed as she was at her cousin, Tonks had to grudgingly admit the thought of Remus enduring an interrogation from Mad-Eye after their date was somewhat amusing. It was likely worse than anything her dad would say. That didn’t mean she wanted to answer any more of Mad-Eye’s questions herself.

“You don’t have to worry about not being the love of my life, you know,” Tonks said, hoping that getting a rise out of him would stop his questions. “Nobody could take that spot.”

“Stop havering,” he said, narrowing his eye at her. “I’m just tryin’ to make sure Lupin’s not—”

“Not what? Getting a leg over?” Tonks asked, placing her hands on her hips and glaring at Mad-Eye.

“For Merlin’s sake, Tonks.”

“Well, isn’t that what you’re asking?”

“No. This is…we’ve never talked about this before.” He sighed heavily. “I prefer when there was no lad to worry about,” he grumbled. “I want to know you’re all right.”

Tonks stared at him for a moment, feeling quite fond of her mentor and feeling bad that she’d teased him. “Do you not approve of Remus?”

“Never said that,” he replied gruffly. “If it has to be anybody, I guess Lupin is a good choice.”

Tonks smiled as she walked over to give Mad-Eye a kiss on the cheek and a brief hug, earning her a rough pat on the back. “I’m all right, Mad-Eye. Now, I’m guessing you didn’t just track me down to make sure Remus is being a gentleman?”

“We’ve got work to do, lass.”

After saying a quick goodbye to her parents and gathering the care package, Tonks and Mad-Eye travelled to the Hog’s Head through her parents’ Floo. Mad-Eye travelled first so he could steady her when she inevitably tripped her way out of the fireplace. Tonks was pleasantly surprised—albeit thoroughly annoyed at the flush that she felt on her cheeks—to see Remus sitting at a table with Dumbledore. She gave him a shy smile as she sat across from him, trying her best not to let images from their activities on her couch the night before flash through her mind. He returned her smile. Tonks felt a little thrill at his brief smile and thought the look in his eyes showed he was equally struggling to focus on the task at hand.

Dumbledore conjured a fifth chair once they were seated. “Who else are we expecting?” Tonks asked.

“Severus will be along shortly,” Dumbledore replied.

Aberforth appeared from the kitchen and walked from the bar to their table with a bowl in hand. Tonks looked up at him quizzically when he placed the bowl in front of her. “Albus said you get hungry. And with these old fools talking, you’re likely to be here a while.”

Tonks took a deep breath over the steaming bowl of soup. “Potato?”

“Potato and leek.”

“You’ve got a thing for soups, it seems,” Tonks said as she spooned up a bite.

“Easy to make and feeds a crowd.”                                          

Tonks looked around the empty room with a slight smile.  

“I do get some customers,” Aberforth harrumphed. “And the ones I get expect a meal.”

“Well, this is as good as the soup you made last week,” Tonks said appreciatively before Aberforth disappeared behind the bar.

As was his custom, Dumbledore conjured tea when Severus arrived, and it was time for them to get to business.

 “Nymphadora is preparing to embark on a recurring mission,” Dumbledore began. “A mission during which she will need contacts.” Dumbledore looked to Mad-Eye and Remus.

“Are Remus and Mad-Eye helping?” Tonks asked.             

“They will serve in this role, as Severus will not always be available,” Dumbledore replied. “Your assignment and identity will, however, be kept a secret. Intentional or not, it would be disastrous should your identity be revealed.”

“Your target has been Confunded,” Severus said. “An owl will deliver correspondence to a post box I secured when he requires your services. Notify Albus and he will set up your contact.”

“I don’t like the sound of this,” Mad-Eye protested.

Tonks stole a glance at Remus and couldn’t tell from the impassive look on his face how he felt about the mission. He remained silent and kept his eyes on Dumbledore.

“Nymphadora planned this mission, Alastor. And I believe it to be advantageous,” Dumbledore pointed out, Mad-Eye responding with a grunt. “Efforts have already been made to put the plan into motion.”

Mad-Eye glared at Dumbledore. “Whatever the operation, there should be someone on the inside who has tabs on her at all times.”

“Too suspicious,” Tonks said with a shake of her head. “It’s not a big enough job to have someone else there.” She turned to Dumbledore. “What if I don’t check-in?”

“I know the nature of your assignment,” Dumbledore replied. “If a check-in is missed, your contact should notify me at once.”

“You know what she’s up to, boy,” Mad-Eye said to Severus. “Let’s hear your thoughts.”

“Nymphadora has proven herself capable of this mission.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me,” Tonks said, trying to ease the tension that had formed at the table.

“This isn’t a time for jokes,” Mad-Eye growled.

“Who said that was a joke?” To her astonishment, her comment earned her a fleeing smile from Severus. If you counted a quick upturn of the lips as a smile.

“I also believe her to be completely capable of this mission,” Dumbledore said, before Mad-Eye could reply. “There will be times, I believe, when Severus will be able to monitor the situation, but beyond that, she will be on her own.”

“The target is expecting you to stop in today to meet in person,” Severus said.

“I should go home and change first,” Tonks said, looking down at her attire for the day. She was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt, a pair of jeans that were fraying at the knees, and a pair of purple flip-flops. She’d forgone robes since she had only planned to lie about at her parents’ house.

“Remus, Alastor, thank you for your help in this matter,” Dumbledore said. “I will contact you as needed for this mission.”

Dumbledore turned his attention to Tonks after both men had returned to Headquarters. “No time like the present, my dear. Return here when you are finished. I’d like to know how the barman receives his new employee.”

“Time to see if your charm work is up to snuff,” Tonks said to Severus with a grin.

She Apparated to her flat and removed her jeans and t-shirt, tossing them to the bed before crossing to her wardrobe. Piper Smyth had a bit of an edge. She didn’t wear concert t-shirts and tatty jeans; she wore black and sported a “go bugger yourself” look on her face. Tonks pulled a pair of black leggings from a drawer and a long black jumper she’d purchased just for Piper when she’d appeared at the Quill on previous Auror missions. It fell just past her bum and had a wide neck that draped to one side, exposing one of her shoulders. Tonks morphed her face and hair to that of Piper and dressed quickly, stowing her wand in the waistband of her leggings. She shoved her feet into her boots before Apparating to Knockturn Alley.

Tonks rounded the corner to enter the bar. It was empty, save the barman standing behind the bar and scanning the Sunday Prophet. She took a barstool as he tossed the paper aside and eyed her critically. From her previous experience working the Quill, she knew Paul Quigley to be a cantankerous man who didn’t like to be bothered or have his goings-on questioned. She’d been to the bar on two previous cases. One was a frustratingly still-open case in which they were trying to catch the barman in the act of smuggling illegal potions ingredients. The other was a case Piper had helped close; tracking down a man who was doctoring ladies’ drinks with potions.

Quigley stared at Tonks appraisingly before he spoke. “A bloke said you’d be stopping by. Failed your NEWTs and can’t find work.”

Tonks rolled her eyes internally at Severus, but outwardly met Quigley’s stare and stuck out her hand. “Piper Smyth.”

He eyed her hand for a moment before reaching out to accept her handshake. “Paul Quigley. The lot you’ll be serving is a rough bunch. Sure you’re up for it?”

“A rough group doesn’t bother me, sir,” Tonks said in Piper’s Northern accent. “Like the professor told you, I need a job.”

“It’s Quigley, not sir.” He appraised Tonks for a moment more. “I don’t need you often, but when I do, I pay you gold at the end of the night. Show up when I send an owl. It’s usually Friday nights.”

Tonks wondered if the gruff demeanor was a requirement for all barmen. Aberforth’s more genial gruffness was preferred to that of Quigley’s. She surveyed him carefully. He didn’t appear to be upset at her presence, nor confused. This told Tonks that Severus had done a good job with his Confundus Charm. If Quigley was at all suspicious of his new employee, their mission would not work.

“Is that all?” Tonks asked as she stood.

“Mind your business while you’re here,” he replied. “Serve them their drinks, and keep your head down. Don’t go askin’ questions you ought not be askin’.”

With that great wealth of advice, Tonks slid off the barstool and left the bar, Apparating to the Hog’s Head. She paused next to the building long enough to morph her features back to her own before entering; she didn’t want even Aberforth seeing her disguised as Piper.

“Did you find him sufficiently Confunded?” Severus asked with an arched brow.

“I did.” Tonks said, refreshing her tea as she took a seat at the table once more. “Was it necessary to make me the girl who failed her NEWTs?”

Severus smirked. “What accent did you use for your disguise?”

“Piper Smyth hails from Lancashire.”

Dumbledore chuckled at their exchange. “Do you foresee any problems?” he asked.

Tonks shook her head. “He didn’t question my new job at all. Just told me to serve the drinks and keep my head down.”

“Wonderful,” Dumbledore said as he checked his pocket watch and stood. “If you’ll both excuse me, I have the distinct misfortune of needing to make sure my newly appointed Defense teacher is settling into her quarters.”

“Thank you for saying what you did to Mad-Eye earlier,” Tonks said once Dumbledore had left, leaving her and Severus to finish their tea. “I know he trusts me, but he gets a bit protective.”

Severus simply inclined his head.

“Do you think they’ll meet this Friday?”

“It’s very likely,” he replied. “They didn’t meet last week nor the week before. Lucius has been preoccupied with another task lately.”

“Probably scoping out the Department of Mysteries,” Tonks said. She went on to tell him about her interaction with Lucius when he’d been waiting for her in her cubicle after guard duty.

“No doubt he was thrilled with that conversation.”

Tonks laughed. “He seemed happy to leave after I called him a poncey git.” She was surprised again when she saw Severus’ lips turn up. “That’s twice in one day when you nearly smiled. Maybe you’re not the git everyone thinks you are.”

“I’m exactly the git everyone thinks I am,” he said dryly.  

“Oh, come on, we worked well together at Malfoy Manor,” Tonks said with a smile. “After this mission, we could nearly be friends.”

Severus huffed and shook his head. “I’m not an easy man to be friends with.”

Tonks rolled her eyes. “You act like that’s a surprise. It’s not hard being friends with someone, you know. You just greet one another in a friendly manner and trade conversation.”

“Nymphadora…,” Severus began with another shake of his head.

“Now, Severus, listen up. This is important,” Tonks said with a smile, knowing she was winding him up. “In a conversation, as it’s called, you trade remarks back and forth on mutually agreeable topics.”

“Honestly, woman—”

“You see?” Tonks said happily. “You called me ‘woman’. Some might call that a term of endearment.”

Severus simply stared at Tonks. “Haven’t you an entire Headquarters full of friends?”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t have one more.” Tonks drained her tea. “Speaking of Headquarters, that does remind me.” She stood and retrieved the bag she’d packed for Sirius. “I told my mother I’d make a delivery for her.” And I have a man to snog.

Tonks poked her head into the kitchen to say goodbye to Aberforth and smiled as she caught sight of Severus’ furrowed expression before she spun through the Floo to the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.

The kitchen was full of activity when she arrived. It was dinner time, which meant the entire Weasley family, along with Harry, Hermione, and Sirius were there. Unfortunately, she didn’t see Remus.

Tonks handed the package from her mother to Sirius with a pat to his head. “Where’s Remus?” she asked, trying to sound casual as she took a seat next to Sirius so she could partake in Molly’s lasagna and freshly baked bread.

“I’ll only tell you if you tell me more than he did about your date last night,” Sirius whispered.

“Then I suppose I’ll have to ask Molly or Arthur where he is.”

“Oh, come on,” he pleaded.

Tonks sighed as she heaped salad onto her plate. “We had a lovely time listening to music.”

“I know there was more to it than that,” he said around a large bite of bread.

“You are such a nosy pooch!”

At her exclamation, Sirius transformed into Snuffles, earning him a shriek from Tonks as he pushed his wet doggie nose against her cheek. The kids all laughed as Molly scolded, “Honestly, Sirius, not at the table!”

He barked loudly in reply and transformed back, laughing. Tonks was glad to see him in a good mood. She knew from Remus that he had become more withdrawn as they drew closer to term starting and the kids’ departure.

“I’ll tell you one thing, and that is all.” She lowered her voice so the kids—and Molly—wouldn’t hear. “We finally had enough uninterrupted time to kiss properly.”

Sirius rolled his eyes at Tonks. “God, that’s lame. I could have guessed that much by the look on his face when he got home. I was hoping you’d had it off. Reckon it’s been years since his last shag.”

He’s not the only one. “It was our first date, and there are kids at this table,” she hissed at him, reaching to pinch the sensitive underside of his arm for good measure.

“All right, all right!” he said, wrenching his arm away and laughing again. “He had an errand for Dumbledore, and then he has guard duty.”

“Guard duty?” Tonks said with a whine.

“You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to snog him again,” Sirius said with a smirk.

Tonks gave him a warning look as she caught Molly eyeing her quizzically from across the table.

“Tonks, dear,” Molly began. She desperately hoped Molly wouldn’t bring up Remus at the table. “Would you mind running an errand for the girls after dinner? They’re bored and want something new to read, and I’m swamped trying to get all the kids’ school robes ready for the end of the week.”

Since she had nothing else pressing, except picking up her own clean robes from her parent’s house that she’d left behind, and Remus would decidedly unavailable for snogging purposes that evening, Tonks agreed.

After helping to clean up dinner and telling a disappointed Hermione and Ginny that Molly would not approve of them tagging along, Tonks crept through the entrance hall so she didn’t trip over the umbrella stand and wake the portrait on her way out. Snuffles was waiting for her at the front door.

“Are you mad?” Tonks asked. “I can’t take you to Diagon Alley.”

Snuffles became Sirius once again. “Why not?”

“A jog around Islington is one thing,” she whispered, pulling him into the nearby dining room. “But, let’s not forget that you’re still the most wanted wizard in the UK.”

“As if I could have forgotten,” he replied in a techy voice.

“Listen, I have to go before the book shop closes,” Tonks said, feeling sorry him. “Do you want me to bring you back something?”

Sirius sighed heavily. “I’ll take a Quidditch Quarterly.

“Did you finish the books I brought last week?” Sirius nodded glumly in response. Remembering his comment about the romance novel, Tonks had an idea. “Later this week, I’ll take you for a walk or a run and we’ll visit a Muggle book shop and pick up something more…interesting.”

“Deal,” he said, holding out his hand to shake.

Tonks grabbed his hand and shook it firmly before wagging a threatening finger at him. “If I buy you a smutty book, you have to promise to leave me alone about Remus.”

“That wasn’t part of the agreement,” he said with a wicked grin as he slipped out of the dining room.

An hour later, after stopping in Diagon Alley and her parents’ house, Tonks handed off Sirius’ magazine, refusing once again his offer to meet his feathered companion who glared at her from his corner. She went back down the steps to the girls’ room and knocked on their door.

“Brilliant! You’re back,” Ginny said brightly, inviting Tonks into their room.

Teen Witch this month has a quiz to tell whether you’re boy crazy or not.” Tonks handed a stack of magazines to Hermione. “I say we start with that.”

Hermione picked up the copy of Witch Weekly from the top of the stack between two fingers and held it away from her body as if it were going to bite. “I refuse to read Witch Weekly ever again after the rubbish they printed last year.”

Tonks raised her eyebrows at Hermione before she remembered an article from months ago. “Merlin, I had forgotten about that article Skeeter published about you breaking poor Harry’s heart!”

“Yes, well,” Hermione began tartly, tossing the offending magazine unceremoniously onto the desk. “Don’t hold your breath waiting for that foul excuse for a journalist to print anything again soon.”

Tonks looked at Ginny who merely shrugged. Rita Skeeter had been uncharacteristically quiet lately. “That do you know about it, you clever girl?”

“I…I’m not sure I should say,” Hermione said tentatively.

“Ooohhh, now you have to spill,” Tonks said gleefully as she climbed onto one of the beds and made herself comfortable, sitting cross-legged against the ornate headboard.

“What’ll you tell us in return?” Ginny asked, crossing her arms over her chest and reminding Tonks far too much of her older brothers.

“I can’t tell you Order business, you know that.”

Ginny grinned mischievously. “Oh, we don’t want Order news.”

Tonks felt her cheeks blush pink, knowing they were about to ask her about Remus. “Is there no keeping anything quiet in this house?”

“We interrupted Professor Lupin while he was packing up your picnic,” Hermione said, sitting in a nearby desk chair, looking at least slightly apologetic.

Ginny flopped on the bed next to Tonks. “Mum took him to task for nicking the rest of the roast beef,” she said. “That is, until she saw the bottle of wine sitting next to his bag.”

Tonks giggled at the thought of Molly badgering Remus about what he was up to. “You tell me what you know of Skeeter lying low, and I’ll tell you where the Professor took me for our date.”

Hermione looked nervously to Ginny. “Oh, go on, Hermione. Tonks’ll keep that cow’s secret.”

With a reluctant look, Hermione went on to tell Tonks about Rita Skeeter being an unregistered Animagus and how she’d locked her in a jar the night of the third task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

Tonks laughed loudly, astonished at the girl’s cleverness. “Remus said you were the brightest witch of your age, and I think he is absolutely right! That is the most brilliant story I’ve heard in a long time.”

Hermione shrugged and grinned in spite of her reluctance to tell the story. “I let her loose once I reached my parents’ house and she Disapparated immediately.”

“She’s probably terrified of you now,” Tonks said with a laugh.

“All right,” Ginny said as she clambered to a sitting position on the bed. “Your turn.”

Tonks shared with the girls some details of their date; the picnic, the music they listened to, and how he’d asked her to dance at the end. There were certain steamy parts of the evening she obviously kept to herself, but happily replayed in her mind.

Ginny sighed dramatically. “I should have known he’d be the romantic type. Did he kiss you at the end of the night?”

“That, I’m keeping to myself,” Tonks replied primly.

“Which means he did,” Ginny said with a roll of her eyes.

“You are as much trouble as your brothers, young lady.” Tonks yawned and heaved herself up from the bed. Her Sunday had been much busier than she’d planned. “I have a free evening for once, so I’m going to turn in to bed early.”  

After promising the girls that she would try to stop in for a chat before they left for Hogwarts later that week, Tonks went home and prepared for bed, thinking up excuses for being able to stop in to see Remus the next day.


As it turned out, Dumbledore wanted to meet with a few Order members—herself and Remus included—the next day. Rather than taking time during their regularly scheduled meeting in the middle of the week, he wanted to meet beforehand to discuss how they would be getting the kids safely from Headquarters to Kings Cross station that Friday.

Tonks rushed from the Ministry once her work for the day was done, grateful that a mission hadn’t delayed her return to Headquarters. She managed to navigate the stairs to the kitchen without falling and pushed through the door, disappointed to find most of the group already assembled; she was hoping to arrive early enough that her and Remus would have a few quiet moments. But, it didn’t matter, really. Once she saw Remus sitting at the table, a small smile playing at his lips, she smiled widely in return and felt for a moment like they were the only two people in the world.

Mad-Eye brought her back to reality. “All right there, lass?”

“Fine,” Tonks said, taking a seat next to Remus. “Just glad to see your smiling face, boss.”

Dumbledore had his hands full with beginning of term details, so the meeting was blissfully brief. Not wanting to draw any attention to the group returning to school, they decided to walk to King’s Cross. Tonks and Molly would take one group of kids and Sturgis and Remus would take the rest, with Mad-Eye to follow.

After the meeting, and throughout the next few days in between guard shifts and meetings, Tonks and Remus snuck quick moments in quiet corners in and around Headquarters—the forgotten dining room, Remus’ bedroom, the alley before she Apparated home—to snog like teenagers, leaving them breathless and in need of readjusting various pieces of clothing before being able to join the others. This included the embarrassing situation in which Molly knocked on Remus’ bedroom door as they were happily roaming their hands over each other’s bodies, kissing heatedly, and fighting the urge to remove a few interfering articles of clothing.

There was to be a party that night to celebrate the new prefects and Molly had knocked to inquire after Tonks, wanting some help getting ready for the party while she shopped for the kids’ books. Considering the frenzied level of their kisses and the fact that his hand was currently snaked up the back of her t-shirt, Tonks thought Remus did an admirable job at sounding casual as he told Molly through the door that he didn’t think she’d arrived from work.

“She’s in the house somewhere.” Molly said. “Kreacher muttered something that sounded like he was referring to Tonks.”

Bugger that elf.

“I would check the girls’ room,” Remus said, reluctantly withdrawing his hand from underneath Tonks’ shirt.

Tonks gave him a mock glare before Apparating to Ginny and Hermione’s room a floor below. Both girls wore startled expressions that quickly turned amused when Tonks suddenly appeared in their room as they were packing their trunks. At their giggles, Tonks looked down and found that she only had one arm through the sleeves of her robes. She hastily pushed her arm through the second sleeve just as there was a knock, followed quickly by Molly opening the door.

“Tonks, dear,” Molly said with a smile. “I thought you were in the house somewhere. I knocked on Remus’ door and he said he thought you hadn’t yet arrived. Are you all right? You’re looking a bit flushed.”

“Fine,” Tonks replied in a strangled sort of voice, trying to catch her breath. “Just rushed over from work.”

Molly eyed her, but seemed to buy her story. “Well, I left the twins preparing potatoes in the kitchen, but I’m off to Diagon Alley. The three of you come down and help with dinner after you’ve had your chat.”

When the door closed, Ginny burst into loud laughter. “Mum nearly caught you snogging Professor Lupin in his room, didn’t she?”

Tonks smiled, despite her embarrassment. “I may have popped in to say hello.”

Ginny clapped her hands gleefully. “I’m going to collect on my bet with Fred and George.”

“Please don’t,” Tonks said with a groan. “Those two idiots will never let me hear the end of it.”

“True. But, why are you hiding from Mum?” Ginny asked. “Surely she would be thrilled to know that you two are getting along.”

Tonks flopped backwards on the nearest bed. “Thrilled enough to begin mentally setting up house for the two of us.”

“Also true,” Ginny said with a giggle. “I’m still going to collect from Fred and George.”

“Let her be, Ginny,” Hermione said. “Even if you tell Fred and George you’ve won the bet, they’re likely to drive us mad gloating that they were right all along that Tonks and Professor Lupin fancy one another.”

Ginny seemed to consider this. “I’ll not say a word if you do two small things.” Tonks sat up and raised her eyebrows at Ginny. “Don’t be worried,” she said with a wave of her hand. “First, you have to wear your hair exactly like mine for the ickle prefects’ party.”

Tonks smiled. “That’s a price I can handle.” She scrunched her eyes closed and lengthened her hair to nearly her waist and changed it from pink to red.

“And second,” Ginny said with a smile Tonks didn’t trust. “You have to tell us what happened after you danced during your date.”

Tonks grinned at Ginny in the same calculating way. “We cleaned up our picnic.”

“That’s surely not all that happened!” Hermione said. Her face was set in a way that made Tonks think she was coming up with an Arithmancy equation on the magical probability that they’d kissed immediately after their dance.

“All you said was tell you what happened after we danced,” Tonks said with a laugh. “And right after we danced, we cleaned up our picnic.”

“Oh, come on,” Ginny said exasperatedly. “Hermione will tell you who her first kiss was if you tell us whether the professor is as brilliant at kissing as we suspect.”

“Ginny!” Hermione shrieked, turning pink in the cheeks.

“Why are you offering the story of her first kiss rather than your own?” Tonks asked with a laugh. “Anyway, not that your gossip isn’t terribly interesting, but I’m sure I don’t know the boys that are kissing either of you girls.”

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow. Tonks couldn’t help but smile at the young girl’s tenacity. It was no real surprise that she was as formidable a force as she was, being the youngest and only girl of seven children and the daughter of Molly Weasley.

“Fine,” Tonks said, curiosity winning out. “If Hermione is willing to share, I’ll tell you that your professor is the most divine kisser in all of Britain, and my knees are still weak from our first kiss nearly a week ago.”

Ginny fell back on the bed next to Tonks dramatically, a hand draped over her forehead. “I knew it.”

Hermione sighed. “He’s always so kind. It’s not hard to imagine him being a lovely date.”

“All right,” Tonks rose from the bed. “We should go help your mother.”

Hermione sat up straight in the desk chair she’d sunk into. “I believe we made a deal,” she said resolutely. “My first kiss was Victor Krum.”

Tonks looked at the girl disbelievingly. “International Quidditch star, Victor Krum?”

“Yes,” Hermione replied. “He also happened to be the Durmstrang school champion last year and my date to the Yule Ball.”

“You girls sure know how to keep me on my toes,” Tonks said as she walked to both girls and pulled them to their feet. “I have to thank you for the best girly chats this week that I’ve had in months. But, girl time’s over.” She tossed her long red hair over her shoulder and opened the door to the room to usher them downstairs. “Molly needs our help.”

As the party wound to a close later that evening, Tonks was congratulating Mad-Eye on trusting Molly enough to eat her cooking when Remus sat up in his seat and held up a hand to stop Hermione’s continued dissertation on elf versus werewolf rights. He jumped from his seat and bounded up the stairs. Sirius followed, with Mad-Eye stumping along after. Tonks stayed behind and set the kids who remained in the kitchen the task of cleaning up to keep them from following the action, as she wasn’t sure what Remus had heard. As Tonks was putting clean plates in the cupboard, Remus and Mad-Eye returned to the kitchen and sent Arthur up to comfort Molly after her run-in with a Boggart.

“Is she all right?” Tonks asked Remus.

He nodded and leaned against the counter. “Just shaken.” In a low voice, Remus filled Tonks in on what he’d seen in the drawing room.

“Poor Molly.” Tonks felt quite bad for her; she knew that regardless of how mad her mothering drove the kids at times, the Weasleys were a close family and all the uncertainty in the Wizarding world must be taking a toll on Molly.

Remus ran his fingers through the ends of Tonks’ long red locks. “This is an unusual look for you.”

“Part of my payment to Ginny to keep quiet,” Tonks replied before closing her eyes and shortening the waist-length hair to her chin.

“Do I want to know what the other part happens to be?” Remus asked with a smile.

“Girls don’t discuss girl talk with boys, Professor.”

“Now, Miss Tonks,” Remus started in a professorial tone. “I overheard that your inability to behave yourself prohibited a prefect position. Care to elaborate?”

Tonks looked over her shoulder to make sure the remaining occupants of the kitchen were otherwise engaged in conversation. “Come over for a while, and I’ll show you just how ill-behaved I can be,” she replied with a saucy look.

“What a delightfully inappropriate thing to say to a professor,” he murmured with a grin. “I need to make sure the kids head to bed at a decent hour since Molly and Arthur are upstairs. Then I’ll be by.”

After sitting and chatting with Mad-Eye and Kingsley for a short while—just long enough not to seem rude—Tonks made her excuses and left for her flat. She tapped her wand to her door knob and stared for a moment when it flared red. The sight made the hairs on the back of her neck stand. She thought quickly through the list of people who would be welcome in her flat right now. Having left Headquarters scarcely more than a minute before, she knew that Remus and Mad-Eye were still sitting at the kitchen table with Kingsley. Her parents would likely have owled prior to stopping in, and she didn’t think Mad-Eye would send Severus to her flat a second time.

Remus would be turning up at some point, but Tonks wasn’t sure how long Mad-Eye would keep him occupied. Part of her told said to leave and return with back-up. But, if it turned out to be her Mum dropping in to deliver laundry she would feel silly. And whoever was inside had likely heard her Apparition and knew she was standing outside her door. Tonks could hear Mad-Eye’s voice in her head telling her not to take the risk, but she refused to be intimidated in her own home. Taking a deep breath and casting a Shield Charm, she tapped her wand to her lock and entered, wand at the ready.

A/N: Hello, all! As always, I hope you enjoyed the latest installment.

Just Jo's not mine...specifically the mention of the ickle prefect's party and the scene where Molly Weasley encounters a Boggart—those bits come from OOtP, chapter 9.

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