The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne-Cara Apple  Story: Reflections  Chapter: Default
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Tonks Story

Reflections

Anne-Cara Apple

 

 

 

I have brown hair. I think most people would be surprised to know that, as if pink or green were my natural colors. I don’t think Kingsley even knows my hair is brown, and I think Sirius may have forgotten.

 

I’d decided to wear my real hair for three weeks after Sirius died. Dark brown and straight, and longish so that it went past my shoulders. Remus didn’t know who I was at first. It was sort of funny, him wondering about this dark-haired, swollen-eyed stranger who’d just knocked over that wretched umbrella stand in the entrance of 12 Grimmauld Place. “How did you get in?” he asked, surprised. “And who are you?”

 

Aunt Augusta on the wall began to scream.

 

“Blood traitor! Filth, Mudblood, perversion of my brother’s flesh!”

 

“Shut up, Auntie Hag!” I snapped irritably. “You may have a permanent sticking charm on your back, but that won’t stop me from hexing you!” Miraculously, she listened.

 

More tired than I’d ever seen him, Remus stared at me. “Tonks?” he asked.

 

“Wotcher, Remus.” I flashed a tired smile. “Hope you don’t mind me dropping in.” St. Mungo’s had let me out the day before, after a week’s captivity. I’d spent most of the day aimlessly wandering and now found myself where Sirius had lived for a too-short year.

 

He smiled faintly in return. “Better you than Moody.”

 

We sat in uncomfortable silence in the kitchen while water for tea boiled on the stove, each of us distinctly missing my cousin. Finally, Remus said, “You look like him. I never realized that before.”

 

The teapot began to whistle. “Neither did he.”

 

The last time Sirius had seen me before the reforming of the Order, I’d been eight.

 

My hair had still been curly then, brown ringlets that he’d liked to tug on. It was the Tonks family hair, like my father’s, only longer. As I grew older it straightened, making me look like a Black by the time I left Hogwarts. By the time I’d next see Sirius, I would be an Auror with a penchant for short, spiky hair in eccentric colors. No one in the Order understood; some, like Kingsley, were amused and others, like Molly Weasley, disapproved. Only the people I’d been with in Auror training knew why. Moody knew and accepted it, no matter how odd he thought it looked—like he was one to talk about looking funny!

 

There was a girl with me in Auror training, a Muggle-born who liked loud music and louder clothes. At Hogwarts, McGonagall had been scandalized by her appearance. Leah’s hair looked as if she’d cut it herself with scissors rather than a shearing charm—which, in fact, she had. That wasn’t so outrageous in itself, but from second year onward she colored it all sorts of blinding and not always matching shades. At first she used Muggle dyes, but upon discovering coloring charms there was no stopping her. Her hair was a different color each day, depending on her mood. When she was feeling particularly patriotic, Leah charmed it Gryffindor red and gold. It was only that, along with the fact that she was the best Transfiguration student all seven years, that kept McGonagall from giving up entirely. But then, McGonagall’s always been a bit of a stick-in-the-mud.

 

In Auror training, about a month in, Leah got it into her head that it’d be more useful to change her appearance than change into an animal.  

 

It’s possible to learn to be a Metamorphmagus—one of our instructors, Calvin Skoggard, had done it—but it’s not easy. It’s anything but easy. A lot of people (no one who’s tried it, of course) compare it to Animagism. It’s not anything like that except for the fact that both involve physical transformation.

 

There are no “born” Animagi, and there aren’t any spells to assist the Metamorphmagical transformations. I don’t know why, maybe they’re mutually exclusive. But all those spells and potions to jumpstart the first Animagical transformation, they’ve all got painkilling charms worked into them. It’d be a right shame if everyone who attempted it dropped dead of pain overload midway through, wouldn’t it? They’d be stuck half-human, half-goldfish, and wouldn’t that be a sight to see at the funeral.

 

I shouldn’t joke about it. There are no protective charms surrounding Metamorphmagi. I know people have noticed that I grimace whenever I shift faces or noses or hair colors. I know that they think I’m being dramatic; I can see it in their faces. Just because I nearly failed Stealth and Tracking doesn’t mean that I’m not a competent Auror, trained to observe. Most people don’t realize that, but that’s beside the point right now. At any rate, I’m not being dramatic. It hurts. You try rearranging your face or your skeletal structure! It hurts.

 

 It’s not something anyone knows about, really. I’m one of three Metamorphmagi of my generation, all of us born with it. The pain’s worse for people like Skoggard, who learned the abilities, whose body didn’t naturally accept it.

 

Brings me back to Leah, doesn’t it? She pleaded with me. “Come on, Tonks, please? I know it can be learned! Do you know how rare it is to have two of you in the same place? Please, Tonks?”

 

I gave in, of course. It would be nice to be able to share the powers with someone other than two teenagers I’d never met from Canada and Zaire, and Skoggard, who was thirty-five and looked fifty. I always thought it was premature aging, but it was learning his Metamorphmagus powers that had done it to him. There are plenty of reasons why everyone relies on Glamours or Polyjuice instead of spending who knows how much time to learn something that hurts every time you use it. There’re just as many reasons why almost no one learns it successfully, and half those who do—even some who’re born with it—end up addicted to painkilling potions.

 

Leah hadn’t expected it to hurt, even though both of us had warned her. She was working hard at it though, helped by her natural Transfiguration skill (something Skoggard had too, and I’m not half bad either). It was almost at the end of the first year of Auror training, and she’d been going so much faster than Skoggard said he’d gone at the little things: hair, ears, fingernails, nose, adding muscle or fat…but nothing with the skeletal structure. Leah hadn’t even attempted that yet. Then one day after watching me and Skoggard show her—both of us almost crying out in pain, and his face contorting in the same way that I knew mine was—she got it into her mind to try a full-body change all by herself. I don’t know why. Maybe she thought she was ready.

 

Halfway through—she was trying to become an old hag—the pain got too strong, stronger than she was ready for. She froze, hunchbacked, one leg long than the other, both her hands almost deformed. By the time I saw her, she’d killed herself.

 

Wotcher, McGonagall. Aren’t you glad that Animagi get protective little spells on them.

 

After the funeral, I started changing my hair to look like Leah’s. The others at Auror training understood; I think Skoggard would’ve done it too, if it wouldn’t have looked ridiculous. I was letting Leah live vicariously through me. It was almost worth it to see the look on Sirius’s face the first time he saw me.

 

But he’s gone now, too, so instead of remembering her I’m remembering him, letting my hair be brown and long and straight instead of short, spiky, and electric.

 

“How did he not know?” Remus asked, pulling me from memories to the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, where a teapot shrilled on the stove and both of us ignored it.

 

“It used to be curly,” I said, screwing my face up as I changed it to the ringlets I used to have before letting it smooth out to what’s natural. “The last time he saw me…I was eight.”

 

I let him figure out the ages, figure out that the last time Sirius saw me he’d been twenty-one and weeks away from the imprisonment no one could foresee. Remus looked old. “He would have liked to know that you looked like him. You’re a better reminder than…” He broke off, but I knew what he was going to say. Better than Bellatrix and Narcissa, and my cousin Regulus who

I’d never met. “He always figured you looked like your father.”

 

“I have his eyes and Mum’s face. I look more like her than I used to.” At least my powers enable me to recognize nuances in facial structure, identify features in myself as belonging to someone else. I have Sirius’s nose. He and my mum share the Black cheekbones; I have those too. I don’t wonder that my cousin thought I looked more like my dad, though. From all the things I’ve heard about Azkaban, it’s a wonder he remembered that I even existed.

 

The teapot screamed, and I wondered if Aunt Augusta would add her shrieks to it, too. “I’ll get that,” I said, standing before Remus could. My chair teetered, but didn’t fall, as I moved to grasp the handle of the teapot with an ugly checkered potholder that Molly Weasley had left behind. Remus rose anyway to take tea leaves from the cupboard and set them on the table next to chipped stoneware mugs that Sirius had bought twenty years before to avoid using the china teacups with silver inlaid in them.

 

I poured the water into Remus’s cup, watched the steam rise off it. I moved around to the other side of the table, poured it into my own cup, and was feeling very much a homebody as I walked back to put the teapot on the stove. It was, of course, inevitable that I’d put one foot on top of the other as I walked and go tumbling to the floor. I twisted around as I fell so that I’d land on my thigh rather than my face; I wouldn’t be able to brace myself, but at least I’d be able to keep a relatively steady hand on the teapot.

 

The floor was not forgiving, and I knew I’d be bruised. Remus stared at me. “Did you just trip over your own—

 

“Yes,” I said shortly, pushing myself roughly to my feet and leaving the teapot on the ground. I kicked it rudely, watched it skid across the floor, and felt like a sulking teenager who felt too mature to throw a temper tantrum.

 

A pause as he tried not to laugh. “Are you all right?”

 

I wanted to snarl at him, tell him that if he really cared if I was all right or not then he’d have come to visit me for more than five minutes while I was at St. Mungo’s, except I knew that he was—is—grieving more than me, more than I could try to. “Peachy,” I said.

 

He laughed. I hated him for laughing, but I wanted him to keep laughing so that he wouldn’t dwell on Sirius. Except then his expression faded. “He used to say that,” Remus said, and he didn’t need to tell me who “he” was.

 

“I don’t remember,” I told him honestly.

 

He looked into his cup wistfully as I sat back down. “When we were at Hogwarts. It was so…Muggle an expression that it sounded funny coming from him.”

 

“Probably picked it up from Dad.” My mum was the oldest of the cousins, ten years up on Sirius. She and Dad would have been going out or married for most of what Sirius could remember, or so I’d guess.

 

“I suppose,” Remus said. “He would have liked to hear someone other than himself say it, I’m sure.”

 

Yes, Remus, and I’m sure he would have liked a whole lot of other things, too, but it’s not going to happen, is it? I shrugged noncommittally, not looking at him.

 

Remus sipped his tea. “How did you manage to trip over your own feet, anyway? I do believe this is the first time I’ve ever actually seen it happen.”

 

When he said that I was raising the cup to my lips, and I slammed it down on the table without drinking from it. “You know, it’s not like I wanted to trip, Lupin!” I said angrily. The stoneware had cracked and was bleeding tea out onto the table. “I never want to trip or bang into things, I never bloody plan them! It’s not my fault if I don’t know where my feet are because I’ve forgotten how long my legs are or how big my feet are, because I can’t! I don’t even know what I look like half the time, and if I don’t know what I look like, then how the hell can I know where my feet are going to land, because I don’t know what they look like, either!”

 

“Tonks—” he began, and I cut him off, too far gone to stop now.

 

“You know, I never asked to have this power come up and bite me in the ass before I was even born! If I could get rid of it, I would, because I bloody hate being clumsy!”

 

Remus had a peculiar look on his face, and I suddenly realized that perhaps my choice of words had been worse than I’d have ordinarily thought. “Oh,” I said softly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have—I’m sorry.” For the first time I wondered if a werewolf’s transformations were anything like mine.

 

“You know,” Remus said, that peculiar look still upon his face, “Sirius once said almost the exact same thing, only he was apologizing for much more…” He took out his wand and waved it, murmuring a spell. My cup healed itself and the spilled tea dried up.

 

That stopped me, the muscles of my face tightening. “I…I guess I’m in good company then,” I said shakily. And before I could stop myself I added, “He’s not coming back, you know.”

 

It was his turn for his expression to freeze in place, a mask to conceal pain or tears or anything else. “Yes,” he said carefully. “I do. But it’s much harder to become acquainted with that fact when I’d only recently made myself believe he wasn’t going to leave again.”

 

My voice was small when I said, “I should go, I think. I’ll see you sometime soon.”

 

“Tonks,” he said, as I reached the kitchen door. “The funer—the memorial service will be next Sunday at Hogwarts. Dumbledore’s handling the details.” Because you can’t have a funeral without a body, and my cousin’s was lost when he went through the veil.

 

“I’ll be there,” I told him, and pushed a lock of hair away from my eyes.

 

Remus looked old. “Sirius used to do that,” he said. “You look like him.”

 

“I know,” I answered, and left.

 

I’d decided to wear my real hair for three weeks after Sirius died. It’s been longer.

 

I have to change, occasionally, and sometimes I’m still Leah, but for the bulk of it I’ve had brown hair, Black hair. I watch Harry. I help Remus. I see almost all the people my cousin used to see, and through me, they see him. Through me, I hope he sees them.

//
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