Tonks's narrative was jerky and scrambled, but Harry managed to piece it together. Tonks had been following her aunt on the strength of a tip from another member of the Order. She wasn't any too clear on the details of why, and what she'd been hoping to learn, or do. When Hermione asked, Tonks didn't hear. Or pretended that she hadn't.
Narcissa Malfoy had led Tonks into a trap. "Stupid," Tonks said bitterly. "Stupid. Moody'll have a fit." She'd tried to kill Tonks, and-- "I threw a Stunning Spell at her. But she was at the top of the stairs. She fell."
"That's all right, then," Ron said loudly. "Wasn't your fault. You didn’t mean for it to happen."
Harry was inclined to agree. Tonks had been defending herself.
"It's not a question of intent. It's a question of--of deed. It did happen.”
“Your Aunt Bella didn’t much care when she killed Sirius,” Harry said in a hard, tight voice. “Bet she didn’t give it a moment’s thought. Bet she enjoyed it.”
Tonks looked at Harry wearily. “That’s why I have to care,” she said. “If I forget that it was Aunt Cissa I killed, then I’m no different.”
She looked at the cup, and they looked at her. Harry didn’t know what to say. Surely she’d done what you did in war.
Somewhere else in his head, though, a little voice was saying, Tonks killed someone. Tonks killed someone. Tonks killed someone.
And we know her son.
“Have you reported?” Lupin asked.
“No.” She pushed her empty cup away. “I’ll go do that.” She got to her feet, moving like an old woman.
When she passed Lupin, he reached down and took her hand. Their fingers wove together. He looked up at her.
She shook her head, giving him a half-smile.
“I’ll be here, then,” he said. “When you’re done.”
She pulled her fingers from his and left the kitchen.
“I don’t understand,” Harry said. He felt like a fretful child, but it was true, he didn’t understand, not one bit. “What do we care if one of them dies? She was the enemy. She was evil!”
“Be that as it may, Harry,” Lupin said, “she was a human being.”
Harry had to look away.
Lupin rose and put the tea things away, but absently, as if he were thinking very hard.
Hermione looked up. “Why didn’t you go with her?”
“She needed to do it herself,” he said. “She’ll come to me when she doesn’t need to be strong any longer.”
He left the kitchen, and they sat around the table, staring at each other.
It was a strange, disjointed day. Things happened around them, barely half-understood, but that was the way it was when you lived in the headquarters of the Order without being a member yourself. Ginny found them and asked what was wrong, and Hermione took her away for an intense, whispered conversation in the back garden. The two girls sat in the patchy, fitful sunshine, their heads together, their faces solemn.
Harry and Ron sat on the other side of the garden, trying to play chess. Staring at the board, Harry thought, This is sort of like war, isn’t it? Strategy and battles and all that.
His rook smashed a pawn to pieces, and he felt his stomach turn over.
“Hey, long-face,” Ron said. “That was my piece, not yours.”
Harry pulled his pieces off the board. “I don’t want to play anymore.”
Ron stared at him, then followed suit. “All right.”
They wandered down into the kitchen and were shooed out again. Out in the garden again, they found Ginny curled on her side, her eyes closed, and Hermione with her head leaning against the garden wall, gazing at nothing.
“She asleep?” Ron asked Hermione in a low voice.
“No,” Ginny said, not opening her eyes.
Harry sat down by her, plucking pieces of grass and cutting them into tiny squares with his thumbnail. Ron sat on the garden wall, kicking it absently until Hermione said, “Ron, stop it.”
It was the sort of thing that could have led to a half-serious bickering fight on a normal day, but Ron just hopped off the wall and sprawled on his stomach in the grass.
The sun had disappeared behind a heavy bank of clouds, and a breeze lifted the hairs on Harry’s arms. He shivered, but he didn’t want to go in. Looking at the others, he knew they didn’t either.
Her eyes still closed, Ginny said, “Her neck broke?”
“That’s what Tonks said,” Harry answered.
Ginny touched her own neck, tracing her fingers up her throat and around the side as if trying to understand how something so sturdy could just break.
“But she was on the other side ,” Ron said.
Hermione said softly, “Wonder if he’s heard yet?”
“Who?” Harry asked, but he knew.
“It’s just Malfoy,” Ron muttered. “Who cares?”
Harry said slowly, feeling the words roll around in his mouth like rough pebbles, “Think if it was your mum.”
Ginny opened her eyes and looked at him.
Ron said, too loudly, “Well, it’s not, is it?”
Ron’s mum was in the Order. Granted, she didn’t do a lot of the really daring stuff, not like Tonks or Moody. But she did her share of dangerous work. Just being in the Order was dangerous work. Harry said, “It could be.”
Ron looked at him sidelong, then closed his eyes. None of them said a word until Ron’s mum--pale, strained, distracted-looking, but alive--came to call them for lunch.