Tonks stared at the Disillusioned person standing next to her. His form became visible as he leaned in closer, the movement causing his outline to shimmer slightly.
“Let me in. Please.” Tonks could hear the desperation in William Murphy’s plea as he tightened his grip on her elbow.
“Are they watching you right now?” Tonks whispered, keeping her wand pointed at him and a Shield Charm around her.
Murphy hesitated. “No,” he finally answered.
Tonks felt no qualms about Stunning the man, who fell in a heap at her feet. Served him right, really, for not learning to implement a Shield Charm. She glanced around the empty hall to make sure they were indeed alone, wondering what to do next. As her eyes settled on Edith’s door, she smiled. Unlike her tiny flat, Edith’s larger flat had a fireplace for a Floo connection. She crossed the hall and knocked, quirking an eyebrow when her new friend answered her door wearing a brightly colored floral dressing gown.
“Aren’t you supposed to be readying yourself for bed, young lady?” the older witch chastised, placing her hands on her hips.
Tonks smiled at the woman. “Thanks, Mum, but I have a bit of a situation that needs handled first.” She turned and stepped aside so Edith would have full view of Murphy slumped against the wall next to her door. “Finite,” she murmured, pointing her wand at the man. The Disillusionment Charm he had used slowly lifted.
“Back for more, is he?” Edith asked with a disapproving look and a shake of her head. “What shall we do with him?”
“Yes, we, my dear,” Edith said as she drew her wand from her sleeve.Tonks had a fleeting thought that Mad-Eye would be impressed at her having her wand so accessible.
With a sharp flick of her wand Murphy’s body rose from the floor. Tonks watched as he floated past her into Edith’s flat, landing face down and not so gently on the floor next to her sofa. She smiled as Edith flicked her wand once more and Murphy’s hands were bound behind his back. Tonks stepped into the flat and, with one last glance around the hall, shut the door behind her.
“May I use your Floo?” Tonks asked as she stepped over Murphy’s body toward the fireplace.
“I’m sure you know Alastor won’t answer his Floo,” Edith said.
Tonks turned to the older witch, distracted by Edith’s admission. “Mad-Eye told you that?” she asked incredulously. She knew he didn’t routinely answer his Floo due to security concerns, but might if she sent a Patronus saying it was urgent. “He doesn’t say much to anyone, usually.” Tonks supposed she shouldn’t be surprised that one of the first things Mad-Eye told his new acquaintance was something regarding his habits surrounding his security routine.
Edith smiled. “I was able to...persuade him to open up a bit.”
Tonks cringed at the image that popped into her head. “All right, all right,” she said raising a hand to stop Edith from elaborating. “That’s worse than thinking of my parents snogging.”
“I baked him biscuits, you naughty girl,” Edith said, her smile widening. “Although, I’m glad for your Mr. Lupin, knowing where your thoughts lie.”
Tonks felt a blush creep across her cheeks and quickly changed the subject. “I’m even more surprised that Mad-Eye let you feed him. He won’t let me make him even a cup of tea.”
“Oh, he inspected all of my ingredients first,” Edith said with a casual wave of her hand. “But, in the end, he allowed me to bake for him.”
Tonks shook her head, still processing this new development of Mad-Eye’s relationship with Edith. Since she wasn’t even sure Mad-Eye would be home to let her through his fireplace, she decided to use another Floo connection rather than wasting time tracking her paranoid mentor down with a Patronus. She lit a fire in the fireplace and tossed a pinch of Floo powder into the flames before sticking her head in and called, “Hog’s Head Inn.”
Not surprisingly, there were no patrons sitting around the tables of the pub. “Aberforth,” Tonks yelled.
A moment later, Aberforth peered into the flames. “Merlin, girl! There’s no need to bellow at me.”
“I thought maybe you were in the kitchen,” Tonks said with a roll of her eyes. “Now I know you’re there, I’m coming through.”
Tonks took Aberforth’s stepping aside to mean that she was welcome to enter his pub. Retreating from the fireplace, Tonks turned and pointed her wand at Murphy, who was still lying motionless on the floor. “Accio,” she said, not feeling the least bit sorry that his head thumped against the leg of Edith’s coffee table as he slid across the floor toward her. She cast a Feather-light Charm, bent down and turned Murphy to his back before picking him up by the front of his robes.
“Are you planning on taking him through the Floo with you?” Edith asked.
“Unless you’d rather I left him with you?” Tonks replied with a grin.
Edith eyed her with concern. “Please travel back this way so I know you’re all right.”
Tonks huffed. “Now you really do sound like my mum.” She released one hand from Murphy’s robes and threw another pinch of powder into the flames before she stepped forward, dragging Murphy along with her. “But I’ll come back through your Floo if it makes you feel better.”
“Be careful stepping out on the other side,” Edith called as Tonks was stepping into the flames. She called out her destination and smiled thinking that it didn’t matter if she was careful or not since she rarely landed gracefully even when she wasn’t carrying another person with her.
Just as she predicted, Tonks stepped into the Hog’s Head and tripped over the tangle of robes that surrounded her and Murphy. Closing her eyes, Tonks braced herself for impact with the floor, surprised when the worst part of her fall was having to endure Murphy landing on top of her as she came in contact with a Cushioning Charm rather than the floor. She opened her eyes to find Aberforth, Dumbledore, and Severus standing over her.
“Good evening, Nymphadora,” Dumbledore said pleasantly.
“Wotcher. Could one of you fine gentlemen get this tosser off me, please?”
Severus reached down and pulled Murphy up by his scruff and deposited him in a chair.
“Thanks for the soft landing, whoever cast the Cushioning Charm,” Tonks said as Aberforth helped her to her feet. She smiled as Severus avoided her gaze and busied himself with binding Murphy to the chair.
“This is what you were yelling about?” Aberforth asked. “What’d you bring this idiot with you for?”
“What was I supposed to do with him?” Tonks asked exasperatedly. “Invite Lucius Malfoy back to my flat to collect him?”
“Back to your flat?” Severus turned sharply to look at her.
Tonks heaved a sigh. “Don’t start,” she said. “I handled him just fine.”
“Indeed, you did,” Dumbledore said, peering at all of them over his spectacles, a sign Tonks took to mean they should stop their squabble. “Now, did this young man state his purpose before you took care of him?”
“Not really,” Tonks replied with a shake of her head. “He surprised me coming home from my neighbor’s and practically begged to be let in.” She looked up at Severus before looking back to Dumbledore. “He seemed...desperate.”
“This is likely his last chance to get it right.”
They all looked to Severus, who was staring at Murphy with an odd expression on his face. It started as a look of disdain but turned to something else. Pity? Tonks wondered if sympathized with the man for having made a terrible choice.
“You should go so we can wake him up and find out what the hell his problem is,” Tonks said, reaching out to touch Severus’ arm.
His head snapped quickly from his perusal of Murphy to look at Tonks, his gaze flitting quickly between where her hand rested on his forearm and her face. She wasn’t sure if she had made him uncomfortable, or if he was simply not used to casual day-to-day contact. She didn't recall him reacting in such a way during their mission to Malfoy Manor. His arm had tensed under her touch, so she pulled her hand away and gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. As soon as her hand had left his arm, he quickly crossed his arms over his chest.
“It wouldn’t do for him to see you sitting for tea with the boss’ sworn enemy,” Tonks said, turning her soft smile into a cheeky grin in an attempt to ease his tension. Unsurprisingly, Severus didn’t return her smile, but his facial features relaxed from the scowl he had adopted.
“Tonks has a point, Albus,” Aberforth said as he gestured toward Severus. “Idiot here is going to wake up soon, and it wouldn’t do well for him to see a colleague here.”
Tonks smiled as Severus turned and strode to a seat ten paces away from where he’d placed Murphy and sat, drawing his wand and tapping himself on the head. His scowl was back in place as the Disillusionment Charm slowly trickled down his face.
She turned back to the older men. “Who wants to play good Auror, and who wants to play bad Auror? Oh, let me play bad guy, please?” She said, clapping her hands and bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Bennet always makes me play the good guy.”
“I reckon this bloke won’t need much of an interrogation,” Aberforth said with an amused look. “He’s gonna wake to find himself tied to a chair with us standing here and just start singing.”
“Well, that’s no fun,” Tonks said. “I’d like to give him a piece of my mind for all the trouble he’s caused.”
“Go on, then,” Aberforth said with a shake of his head. “You don’t look like much of a bad guy though with that pink hair.”
Dumbledore chuckled at the rude hand gesture Tonks flashed to Aberforth as he gave a flick of his wand, Summoning two chairs that arranged themselves in front of Murphy.
“I believe I will observe with Severus and let the two of you handle our guest,” Dumbledore said as he turned to walk to where Severus was sitting.
Aberforth sat and gestured to the chair next to him. “You want to wake him up, or should I?”
“I’ll do it,” Tonks said, taking the second seat and pointing her wand at the man bound in front of them. “Rennervate.”
Murphy opened his eyes and looked around lazily before his eyes settled on Tonks and Aberforth. He startled and swore, struggling against his bonds for a minute.
“Hello, William,” Tonks said sweetly.
“They’re going to kill me now,” he said hoarsely.
Tonks shrugged. “Not really my problem, mate.” She turned to Aberforth and said, “He should have thought a little harder before joining their party, don’t you think?”
Aberforth shrugged and sat back in his chair, crossing his arms at his chest.
Murphy swallowed audibly. “What are you going to do with me?” he asked as he looked back and forth between the two people before him. “Don’t send me back. Please.”
“As much bloody trouble as you’ve caused, I ought to send you back, you stupid bugger,” Tonks said seriously as Murphy looked to the floor. “You seemed all too happy to work for them a month ago. What’s changed your mind?”
Murphy simply stared at the spot where his gaze rested on the floor.
“You might as well say something, boy,” Aberforth said. “It doesn’t get much better for you at this point.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “You’re either gettin’ dumped back with the Death Eaters, where I know you don’t stand a chance, or I’ll let my friend here have a go at you. From what I’ve heard, you don’t stand a chance against her either.”
Murphy looked up at Aberforth and glanced quickly to Tonks before looking once more at the floor.
Aberforth leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest again, smiling slightly as he gestured between Murphy and Tonks. Tonks gleefully took this as an invitation to continue her bad Auror role. She stood and walked toward Murphy, giving a flick of her wand to release the thin cords that Severus had used to bind him to the chair, as well as the binds that Edith had placed around his wrists. Murphy shuffled his feet back, attempting to find purchase on the ground, but succeeding only in nearly tipping his chair backwards.
“W-what are you going to do?” he asked shakily.
Tonks stowed her wand and leaned down, once more grasping the front of his robes. She pulled Murphy forward before slamming him roughly back against the chair, the legs of the chair scraping against the wood floor as it was pushed back a few inches.
Bringing his face within inches of hers, Tonks asked, “Why were you at my flat tonight?”
Murphy’s gaze flitted wildly between Tonks’ face and where Aberforth was sitting behind them.
Tonks shook him slightly to bring his attention back to her. “Answer me.”
Murphy gaped at her stupidly and shook his head. Hoping that the Feather-light Charm hadn’t worn off completely, Tonks hoisted Murphy from his chair. Even though he was several inches taller than her, she was able to pull him to look her directly in the face while his legs hung uselessly under him.
“Come on, boy, help yourself and say something,” Aberforth said. Tonks could hear the amusement in his voice. “At least fight back against the girl.”
Aberforth’s words seemed to spur the man into action. He finally got his legs underneath him and tried to reach into his robes to draw his wand, grabbing Tonks’ wrist with the other hand. She reacted much too quickly for him. Bringing her knee up, she landed her boot hard on his instep, earning a sharp yelp of pain from Murphy. After releasing her grip on the front of his robes, she took advantage of his tightened grasp on her wrist and swung her arm behind him, bringing his along with it as she pivoted her body behind his. She used the distraction of his likely aching foot to reverse their grip, her hand now grasping his wrist tightly. She looped her leg around Murphy’s and tugged, bringing him down to one knee before using her knee to his back to force him face-down on the floor. With his arm still wrenched behind his back, Tonks used her knee to keep him in place, drawing her wand and touching the tip to his back, which he took as a sign to stop struggling against the hold she had on him.
“All right!” Murphy yelled breathlessly as Aberforth gave a clap of his hands and chuckled. Tonks gave another tug to the arm she had pinned behind his back, encouraging him to keep talking. “I was supposed to bring you back with me!”
Tonks looked over her shoulder as the fireplace roared to life, Mad-Eye stumping though with a scowl. He scanned the room, taking in the scene of Tonks kneeling on Murphy’s back while Aberforth looked on casually from his chair.
“You two want to fill me in on what the hell is going on here?” Mad-Eye said roughly as he walked over to stand in front of Tonks and Murphy. “Someone just told me you dragged this scum through her Floo.” He leaned down and grabbed a handful of Murphy’s hair and lifted his head.
“Someone told you, did they?” Tonks asked with a grin.
“Let’s focus, lass,” Mad-Eye said, giving her a glare with his good eye as he tilted Murphy’s head to see him better.
“Oh no, not you,” Murphy said with a whimper as he looked up into Mad-Eye’s face.
“Heard that a time or two before,” Mad-Eye said, his mouth pulling into his crooked grin.
Aberforth snorted. “From where you're sitting, you should be more afraid of the girl on your back.”
“William here was just getting ready to tell us more about why he was waiting outside my flat tonight, weren’t you?” Tonks asked as she gave another tug on his arm.
Mad-Eye let Murphy’s head drop with a thump and walked over to take Tonks’ chair. “All right, then, lad. Let’s hear it.”
“I was supposed to bring her back so they could put her under the Imperius Curse.”
“Oh, you’re going to have to be specific, William,” Tonks taunted, digging her knee into his back, much to his dismay. “Who’s they?”
“Malfoy!” he cried. “And Avery. Avery is waiting outside your building for me to bring you out.”
“Where is Avery now?” Tonks demanded. If Avery was waiting outside her building, she definitely wanted to know about it.
“I-I don’t know,” he said hesitantly. “I don’t know how long he was going to wait.”
“You idiots underestimated my apprentice,” Mad-Eye said with a satisfied smirk. “It would have taken more than you and that Avery to get her out of there.” He gave a wave of his hand and said, “Let him up, Tonks.”
Tonks rocked back to crouch on the balls of her feet, making sure to give one last dig of her knee before releasing Murphy’s arm and standing up. She Summoned two more chairs and sat in one as she watched Murphy cautiously get to his feet and sit in the second chair while glancing nervously at the group sitting around him.
“Are you going to send me back to them?” Murphy asked miserably.
Tonks glanced to Mad-Eye and Aberforth, who were watching Murphy with disgust. “Why the change of heart?” she asked. “You seemed keen to do their bidding a month ago.”
“We ask the questions, lad,” Mad-Eye said shortly. “Unless you want me to drop you on Malfoy’s doorstep tonight.”
Murphy took a deep breath before he began his tale, telling them that at first he’d just wanted to see what the Death Eaters were all about. He told them, shaking his head in chagrin, how he simply wanted to climb the ranks somewhere; his mid-level secretarial job at the Ministry wasn’t what he’d had in mind after leaving school. The Death Eaters commended his interest and asked him to do a few simple tasks, telling him how great he was for contributing to the cause. The more he agreed to different tasks for them, the more involved the tasks became: spying on his superiors, tracking down addresses, attempting to tail people home from the Ministry. If he raised concerns over his assigned tasks, it was quickly pointed out how easily they could cause him trouble. When Malfoy told him to attempt to enter Tonks’ flat, he had tried to refuse, which was the first time Malfoy had punished him physically. After Tonks had deposited him unconscious into a chair at the Quill two nights previous, Malfoy had shown up at Murphy’s fiancé’s flat as a final warning to improve on his performance.
“If they hurt her… .” Murphy nearly choked on the sentence. “It’ll be all my fault,” he said in a strangled whisper.
“Where is she now?” Tonks asked. If Murphy was supposed to have already gotten to Tonks, and he hadn’t reported back yet, she thought it was likely that Avery would go after the woman.
“She has Muggle relatives in Hertfordshire,” Murphy replied, his voice shaking. “I told her she should go there.”
Tonks looked to Aberforth, who was watching her intently. “What’re you thinking?” he asked.
She looked to Mad-Eye who seemed to know what she was thinking and gave her a slight nod. “Have you a vacant room?” she asked Aberforth.
Murphy exhaled a breath he’d obviously been holding.
Aberforth rose from the chair and grabbed Murphy under one arm, pulling him to his feet. “You’re goin’ to end up owing the girl your life, even if she did kick your sorry arse.”
“You’ll need to give us something in return, mind,” Mad-Eye said. “If we protect you, you’re goin’ to talk.”
Murphy could only nod his head as Aberforth directed him up the creaky stairs in the corner that lead to his rooms for let. Tonks followed and secured the room with a few strong protective enchantments along with an Anti-Disapparition Jinx before heading back down the stairs. Dumbledore and Severus had lifted their Charms by the time they made it back downstairs and were sitting at a table waiting for Tonks and Aberforth.
“Impressive physical quarrel, Nymphadora,” Dumbledore said with a smile.
To Tonks’ surprise, Severus commented next. “Indeed,” he said so quietly she was quite sure the other men hadn’t heard over Aberforth’s chuckle at how Tonks had ‘kicked the idiot’s arse’.
“Thank you, sir,” Tonks replied to Dumbledore before letting her gaze meet Severus’ piercing stare for a moment. Even though they had become friends of sorts, she was still shocked at hearing his praise. “We need to find these Muggle relatives before the Death Eaters do,” she said as she sat at the table.
“Hopefully our Mr. Murphy will be able to pass on the location,” Dumbledore said, holding up a hand to stop Mad-Eye before he could protest. “In exchange for information, of course.”
“How much do you think he’ll be able to tell us?” Tonks asked Severus.
He merely stared in response and raised an eyebrow. “The Quill?”
Tonks gasped and jumped from her seat, thundering up the stairs and unfortunately tripping over the top stair in her haste. She righted herself and took down the enchantments with a wave of her wand before throwing open the door to find Murphy sitting on the bed with his head cradled in his hands. He looked up sharply when Tonks entered and scooted back on the bed.
“Tell me what you know about that concealed room at the Quill,” Tonks said, placing her hands on her hips.
Murphy looked at her with a furrowed expression. “How’d you—”
“My colleague told you we’re the ones who ask the questions,” she said impatiently. “It doesn’t matter how we know about it. Just tell me what you know.”
“They’re using it for a few things, but I don’t know everything.”
Tonks rolled her eyes. If Murphy thought they were under the impression that he was in the inner circle of the Death Eaters, he was dumber than she thought. “Just tell me what you know.”
“There are lists. People they think are in the Order of the Phoenix. Or at least people they think are loyal to Albus Dumbledore.” He paused for a moment with a worried expression before continuing. “People they think are...keeping watch.”
Tonks stared at Murphy for a moment. “You’ve been keeping watch as well?” she asked.
He nodded. “Not a constant watch, but I was told to keep an eye out for anything unusual.” Murphy looked to the floor. “One morning I saw a man leaving the Ministry that was on the list I had of Order members from the first war. The following week Malfoy put him under the Imperius Curse,” he finished in a whisper.
“Do you realize that man’s facing six months in Azkaban?”
“Yes,” he croaked, placing his head in his hands again.
Tonks took a deep breath, willing herself not to haul Murphy to his feet again. “Keep going,” she said impatiently, waving a hand for him to continue when he looked up.
“I’ve been...bringing reports to Malfoy.”
Tonks suddenly remembered eavesdropping on Murphy and Malfoy weeks before at the party at Malfoy Manor. “Inspection reports from Azkaban.”
Murphy looked at Tonks incredulously, no doubt wondering how she knew about the prison reports. He must have remembered what she and Mad-Eye had said about who asked the questions and refrained from commenting, nodding instead.
“What are they planning?” Tonks asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “All I know is he wanted me to get the guard duty rosters next.”
“How do I get into that room?”
“It's a runic password, but it changes,” he said, taking a shaking breath. “But the two times I’ve been given the password, one of the runes has been Pure-blood.”
“He told you to keep bringing people into the Quill. What for?”
“They are recruiting heavily from the Ministry,” Murphy said with a shake of his head. “I was focusing mostly on people in departments like Magical Maintenance and other support services.”
“What’s with the cauldrons?” Tonks asked, remembering that one glimpse into the room had shown a couple of cauldrons stacked on a table.
Murphy furrowed his brow. “I’m not sure.” He gave another slight shake of his head. “I don’t know everything that went on there. It’s not like I took the Mark or anything like that.”
Tonks stared at Murphy for a moment and decided she’d interrogated enough, considering his haggard look. “Stay here,” Tonks said stepping back into the hall. “Someone will be back.”
“What about Deidra?” he asked worriedly.
“We’re working out what to do do next,” she assured him before closing and re-warding the door.
Tonks joined the men downstairs and relayed what Murphy had said regarding the secret room at the Quill, each man shaking their head morosely when she mentioned Sturgis. “That seems to be all he knows. About that, at least. He said he didn't get as far as taking—” She stopped abruptly and looked at Severus, suddenly understanding why he’d given her the look he had when she’d touched his arm earlier. She realized she’d touched his left arm, her fingers likely having grazed the inside of his forearm near where the Dark Mark was branded into his skin. It was such an automatic gesture for her to casually touch people—a punch to Kingsley’s arm, a hug to Mad-Eye, a silly pat to Sirius’ head—she hadn’t even thought before reaching out to touch him. It was easy to understand why he would be reluctant to contact with his arm: reminders of regret, self-consciousness of his past, and likely pain since she knew the Dark Mark burned when his presence was requested.
Mad-Eye’s voice cut through her thoughts. “Tonks?”
“Sorry,” she said, her eyes still focused on Severus, hoping he understood her apology. “The Mark. He hadn’t gone as far as taking the Mark.” She glanced around the table before setting her gaze once more on Severus, who simply stared at her, his dark eyes unreadable. Taking a deep breath, Tonks thought that at least he didn’t look angry.
“Anyway,” she said with a shake of her head. “If we can work out what runes they use, I’ll be able to get the door open and see what they’re doing with the information they’re gathering.”
“What of this fiancé?” Aberforth asked. “If you ask me, we should collect her tonight, but make him sweat about it. Payback for being such a royal prat.”
Dumbledore glanced swiftly at his brother. “I think Mr. Murphy has paid quite enough.”
“That’s a load of bollocks,” Tonks said before she could stop herself. “I mean, it’s not as if he turned up looking for help. He wouldn’t be here tonight if I hadn’t dragged him from my doorstep.” She paused to see Dumbledore watching her intently. “Sir,” she added for good measure, realizing she’d lost her temper.
“Do not be so quick to condemn his choices, Nymphadora,” Dumbledore said patiently. “Perhaps you dragging him here tonight was what he needed. Doing what’s right isn’t always easy.”
Tonks looked to the table and nodded. She understood his point, but still thought that Murphy was, as Aberforth had pointed out, a royal prat.
“Mr. Murphy and I will gather his fiancé tonight, and we will offer them sanctuary in exchange for whatever information he can provide us,” Dumbledore said calmly. “We will then relocate them somewhere safe.”
“Won't it be obvious that the Order has intervened on his behalf,” Tonks asked carefully. She truly did trust Dumbledore’s judgement and didn’t want to seem like she was questioning him further. “I mean, is Avery still waiting outside my building for him to come out?” The thought of the brutish man knowing where she lived didn’t make her happy in the least.
“It’ll likely be obvious he was aided by the Order,” Severus said, speaking for the first time since Tonks had come back downstairs. “But information can be provided to...mislead their thoughts.”
Tonks watched Severus as he spoke and couldn’t help but think how complicated his role was. Spying and lying to the most vile bunch of wizards in the world couldn’t be an easy task. She was sure his life must be in danger most of the time he was in their company. Regardless of Sirius’ opinion—which had been made abundantly clear the night before— she respected Severus’ position, more so as she learned of the risks he took. Even back to her student days, Tonks knew that the dour Potions professor was disliked by a large portion of the student population. She'd had a different experience than some of her Gryffindor friends; having been a Hufflepuff, she hadn’t suffered his ire as frequently as others, except of course when her ever-present clumsiness irritated him. With the perspective of being even just a few years older, and having the unique opportunity of learning even the tiniest insight into his past, she thought that perhaps he was more misunderstood rather than truly being the evil bat of the dungeons.
Mad-Eye’s voice once again broke through her thoughts. “You and I can see if Avery’s still lurking outside your building.” He hesitated before continuing. “This might be another good reason to reconsider what Lupin said.”
Remus must have mentioned how she’d blown off searching for a new flat. Tonks stared at Mad-Eye for a moment, considering how to respond. “How long have you lived in your house?”
Mad-Eye met her stare. “A long time.”
“Even after Crouch broke in?”
Tonks sat back in her seat and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not moving.” Even if the entire lot of Death Eaters knew where she lived, she was unlikely let them chase her from her home.
“All right, lass,” Mad-Eye said after a moment.
“Now that that’s sorted,” Aberforth said dryly, breaking the tension. “Can we all move on with what we need to do so we’re not up half the night? I’m an old man, after all.”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore said, rising from his seat. “Severus, let us know if you hear talk of Murphy’s apparent disappearance. We will meet here again tomorrow evening.”
They all rose from the table; Dumbledore and Aberforth headed up the stairs, Severus moved toward the door, and Tonks and Mad-Eye walked to the fireplace. Once they were back in Edith’s sitting room, the woman inundated them with questions and huffed irritably when Mad-Eye told her to wait in her flat as he and Tonks strode to her door. Mad-Eye placed his hand on the door before Tonks could wrench it open.
“Constant vigilance, lass,” he grumbled. “The last time you walked across the hall, a man was waiting for you.”
Knowing Mad-Eye was right, Tonks drew her wand. “Homenum Revelio,” Tonks said quietly, pointing her wand at the door. When no indicator revealed human presence behind the door, she opened it and stepped quietly out into the hall, Mad-Eye following. He stayed on the landing and let Tonks walk down the stairs, where she cast a Disillusionment Charm before stepping out of her building and creeping around the corner to the alley, her wand at the ready. Even though she was pretty sure the alley was empty, she cast the same Revelio spell as before to be certain. When the spell again revealed nobody was lurking in the alley, Tonks turned and went back into her building, meeting Mad-Eye at the top of the stairs.
“He must have left,” Tonks said quietly.
“Up to no good, no doubt. I’m going to answer Edith’s questions and make sure she’s all right,” Mad-Eye said, turning back toward the two womens’ flats.
Tonks smiled at the chance to have a little fun with her mentor. “Going to kiss her goodnight, are you?” When he turned to look at her with a scowl she merely raised her eyebrows at him as her smile widened. “She seems quite taken with you, you know.”
Tonks chuckled gleefully at Mad-Eye abruptly turning to Edith's flat and rapping sharply on her door. She turned to her door and happily let herself into her flat so she could ready herself for bed; something she’d wanted to do hours ago when she’d happened upon William bloody Murphy standing at her door.
The following week was like one never-ending day at work for Tonks. Between an increased workload at the Auror office, guard duty at the Department of Mysteries, and guarding the new witness they had to protect until he was relocated, she barely had a chance to take a breath.
After the Prophet published an article stating that Sirius Black was believed to be still at large in London, the number of Sirius sightings tripled from the amount they had been receiving. With Kingsley’s efforts to turn the public’s—and the Ministry’s—eye away from the belief that he was still in the UK, they’d had far fewer reports to follow up on. Now, the Auror office, Kingsley and Tonks in particular, were up to their necks in new claims surfacing with wild stories of where people had seen the fugitive.
Kingsley’s mood during the week reflected his irritation at Sirius taking the chance to show up at King’s Cross; weeks of work on his part were for nothing, and now he and Tonks were charged with muddling through the fallout. Tonks was pretty sure Scrimgeour had put her on Sirius duty not only because he always seemed miffed that she couldn’t help with the whereabouts of her fugitive cousin, but also because he wanted Kingsley to chat her up about her loyalties once more. Thus, her work week was certainly less enjoyable, not to mention busier, than others.
She hadn’t been to Headquarters—which meant she also hadn’t seen Remus—much that week due to her schedule. Her workday Monday had only ended because she’d needed to leave the Ministry in order to meet at the Hog’s Head. By the time they’d finished discussing what Aberforth had learned from Murphy, it was far too late to visit Remus, especially considering he’d had guard duty the night before, and it was the week leading up to the full moon, which meant he’d be tired and not likely in the mood for company. Tuesday and Wednesday had been equally mad workdays along with an overnight shift guarding the Prophecy. She missed the Order meeting that week because she took a shift guarding Murphy. Oddly, this ended up being the most relaxing night of her week since it was just her sitting around the Hog’s Head, letting Aberforth feed her dinner and keeping an eye on who came and went from the pub while he tended to the few customers that popped in. Regardless of a relatively quiet evening, it meant that she missed seeing Remus that night as well since it was late by the time Aberforth locked up for the night, and she was ready to collapse into bed after two days of no sleep.
By Thursday, the Auror department was notified of Murphy’s absence. The first day, the MLE office hadn’t taken too much notice of their absent employee. With an upcoming wedding, they had assumed that he’d taken a personal day and had forgotten to mark it on their schedule. Day two they had started a quiet investigation of their own. By day three, a missing person's inquiry was placed through the Auror department. The inquiry stated that they would have handled the investigation on their own except for the odd behavior Murphy had displayed recently. Tonks read that he’d been late for work more often than usual—along with parts of the day where he was unaccounted for—and the attention to detail in his work was slipping. They also noted that physically he appeared more haggard. The last part Tonks didn’t have a hard time believing; he had looked like hell the previous week at the Quill.
Kingsley called Tonks into his office after the brief staff meeting where the inquiry had been announced under the guise of discussing a Black sighting. He closed his door and warded his office before he began.
“I’ve read your Order reports on this guy,” he started, waving a hand indicating the copy of Murphy’s missing person’s inquiry sitting on his desk. “What’s going on?”
“He’s in Order custody,” Tonks said, holding her ground and refusing to shrink back in her chair as Kingsley leaned forward, placing his elbows on his desk, staring her down after her statement. They definitely got on well, but he was still an intimidating wizard. “We need to let Dumbledore know that an investigation has been launched.” She went on to fill him in on the missing details, leaving out seeing him at the Quill, but telling him about his visits to her flat, specifically the visit earlier that week.
“Dumbledore didn’t mention it at the meeting this week?” she asked.
Kingsley shook his head. “He only said that you were guarding a witness. I got the feeling that he has a lot on his plate this week. What with the trouble Umbridge is causing and the article in the Prophet. He’s about as amused as I am over the Sirius Black sightings.”
Tonks sighed. “He wasn’t trying to be a prat.”
“I know. Doesn’t change the facts.”
“Who’s going to take this case?”
Kingsley gave her a slight smile. “You want off Sirius Black duty?”
“Depends on who you’d partner me with,” Tonks said, answering his smile. She sat back in her seat, propping her feet on his desk, glad to have him introduce a little humor, no matter how small, into their exhausting week.
“Not Dawlish,” he said, his smile widening.
“Thank Merlin for that,” Tonks said with a roll of her eyes.
“Williamson has tailed Murphy a few times at the request of Pius Thickness. I was thinking of putting him on the case.” Kingsley finally relaxed back in his chair. “He won’t need help digging around the Ministry, but I’ll put you with him if he has to go out for interviews.”
“Thanks, love.” Kingsley raised his eyebrows at Tonks’ words. “What?” she asked.
“Remus is worried about you. He asked after you last night.”
Tonks crinkled her brows in confusion before asking, “Where did that come from?”
“The last time you called me ‘love’, it was in front of Remus, and as I recall, he didn’t take kindly to it.” Kingsley gave her a measured stare. “I have eyes, you know.”
“Meaning?” Tonks shouldn’t be surprised that Kingsley had taken notice when Tonks had abruptly left the kitchen—and shortly after left Headquarters altogether—the week they were planning their mission to Privet Drive.
“It’s obvious there’s something going on between you two.”
She simply met Kingsley’s stare for a moment. “He told you he was worried?”
“Not in so many words,” he replied with a shrug.
Tonks crossed her arms over her chest. “You obviously have something you want to say. Go ahead and spit it out.”
“Before you lose your temper, you should know that I like Remus,” Kingsley said warningly.
“But?” Tonks knew her parents’ opinions of her relationship, as well as Mad-Eye’s. She supposed hearing her friend and colleague’s thoughts couldn’t hurt.
“You should keep your relationship quiet.”
“Have you heard me shouting about it through the loudspeaker?” she asked defensively.
“Did I say you were?” Kingsley asked patiently. “I'm simply saying to think of your job. You’re already putting it at risk.”
Tonks fought the urge to roll her eyes; it was one thing to give him cheek over partnering with Dawlish, but quite another when discussing the security of her career. Regardless of the ease of their relationship, Kingsley still happened to be her immediate superior. “You sound like my father.”
“I’m all right with that,” he said with a slight smile. “Just be careful.”
“Got it, boss.” Tonks swung her legs off of Kingsley’s desk and rose from her seat. “Come along. You can buy me lunch before we check out the next of the never-ending tips coming into the Ministry this week.”
Tonks and Kingsley worked into the evening checking tips and filing reports, trying their best to quickly get through the bulk of the new tips before more piled in the following week. It was late by the time she made it to Hogsmeade—stopping briefly by her post box, unfortunately finding a letter from Quigley requesting her presence at the Quill the next night—to fill Dumbledore in on the investigation the Auror office was now in charge of concerning William Murphy.
When she entered the Hog’s Head, Tonks found Murphy sitting with Dumbledore, Aberforth, and a woman Tonks could only assume was Murphy’s fiancé Deidra. The man seemed humbled by his current position, stopping Tonks as she rose to leave, looking up with red-rimmed eyes to tell her he was sorry for the trouble he’d caused her. She looked quickly to Dumbledore, who nodded encouragingly to Tonks. Thinking of Dumbledore’s words earlier in the week, she responded to Murphy that at least he was doing the right thing now.
Even though it was well past what she considered bedtime for an exhausting week—and Remus was likely already asleep due to his fatigue leading up to the full moon—Tonks decided to stop in to Headquarters before going home. She stepped out of the Floo into the kitchen to find Sirius sitting at the table, staring moodily into a half-empty glass of Firewhisky. He looked terrible; his long hair was unwashed, and his robes were a wrinkled mess.
“Wotcher,” she said quietly, taking the glass from his hand and setting it out of his reach. “You shouldn’t drink alone.”
He scoffed and didn’t look up. “Where’ve you been all week?”
Tonks didn’t answer. She didn’t think he needed to hear that she’d been insanely busy at work due to his escapades at the train station. Instead, she wrapped an arm around his shoulders and rested her cheek on the top of his head. He sighed heavily and reached a hand up to pat hers.
“There’s a truculent werewolf upstairs asleep on the sofa,” he said.
Tonks pulled back and looked down at her cousin, who finally peered up into her face. “Truculent?” she asked with a small smile.
“Dedalus brought me a book of crosswords,” he said with a shrug. “Moony helped me with that one.”
Her smile widened slightly as she grabbed one of his hands and helped Sirius to his feet. “Let’s get you to bed,” she said as she looped an arm through his and maneuvered him around the chair.
She walked Sirius to his room before walking back down the steps to the drawing room, finding Remus lying on the sofa with his arms crossed over his chest, asleep. Stepping quietly into the room, Tonks debated whether to wake him or to let him sleep. Sirius had implied that he would like to see her, but even in sleep, he looked drawn and pale, exhausted even.
She knew that part of her reluctance to wake him was because she wasn’t sure how he would act when he woke. The previous month’s transformation had been a small insight into how his condition affected his mood, and she didn’t want him to push her away again after the lovely couple of weeks they’d shared. They’d only seen each other once during the week; a brief moment in passing when Tonks had popped into Headquarters to drop off a report. He’d greeted her with a chaste kiss on the cheek, which she wasn't sure was due to his mood or the fact that Kingsley had entered the door just after her.
Even though he looked like he desperately needed sleep, Tonks decided to wake him; if nothing else, he should walk up to his bedroom and have a proper night’s sleep in his bed rather than sprawled on a sofa. She perched herself next to him on the narrow expanse of available space and reached her hand to his forehead to brush his hair aside, smiling at having the chance to watch him, even just for a moment.
“Remus,” she said softly as she stroked his beard that was delightfully filling in.
He inhaled deeply and unfolded his arms, reaching a hand up to cover hers where it rested on his cheek. “You should be home in bed,” he murmured.
“And miss out on having the first proper kiss from you in days? Budge up,” Tonks said, scooting further down the sofa so she could lie next to Remus.
Remus grasped her wrist as she pulled her hand away from his face. “I should get to bed.”
Tonks looked into his eyes as he opened them, wondering if her worries about his pushing her away were about to be realized. “Too tired for a snog, are we?” she asked lightly in an attempt to ease her worries.
“The full moon is in less than two days,” he said, releasing her wrist.
Tonks huffed in annoyance; she wasn’t sure she could handle mixed signals after the shit week she’d had. “Is it the full moon right now?”
Remus sighed heavily. “You know it's not.”
“What’s the problem, then?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I just—it’s just not—” Remus gave a low growl of frustration. “Trust me, all right? It’s not the best time for me.”
“Right,” Tonks said in a voice far more wobbly than she’d like. “When the time is right, why don’t you let me know.”
“When I get the notice, I’ll be sure to send it your way,” he replied tersely.
The sting to her pride roused Tonks’ temper. “I might read it if I’m still interested.”
Before she could turn to go, he’d snagged her wrist again. Instead of keeping her away, he pulled her toward him. “You’ll be interested,” he almost snarled.
Instead of fear, Tonks felt arousal. “Prove it.”
A/N: Hello, friends! I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their holiday season, and I hope you enjoyed the little bit of action in this chapter:).
As usual, just Jo's, not mine.
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