Part Two: Sight of the Wolf
Tonks regretted that she couldn't be on hand for Moody's dousing, but she'd been late to report twice in the past month, and she still had to change her clothes. She Apparated into the middle of her shadowy flat and drew every shade in the place with a few flicks of her wand. Light stabbed in, creating shadows with edges sharp as razors.
Dashing through shade and sun alike, Tonks hunted up an Anti-Cramp potion and downed it while pawing through her clothes, looking for something clean. She'd been in these clothes all night, and while she didn't have the time to shower, she could at least wear something that didn't knock dragons over at seven paces. Plus, she was reporting to Dawlish this morning, the old stick in the mud, and he preferred wizards to look like wizards. If she walked in with a t-shirt and cutoffs, he'd be seriously annoyed. The robe with green sequins on should only mildly irk him.
There was a fine line between mildly irked and seriously annoyed. Tonks didn’t consider that she walked that line so much as danced a rhumba on it.
She picked up a slightly tatty robe, but she didn't really see it. Instead, she saw Lupin.
Standing in the kitchen at Number 12, the pearly newborn light striking across his pale eyes, lighting the grey streaks in his dark hair. His neat, strong hands catching the mug she'd dropped. The lines around his eyes deepening slightly, his mouthless version of a smile.
He'd caught her off guard this morning. His eyes, which had always flickered absently past her before, had been intent and searching, as if he were trying to riddle her out. And there had been something, deep in them . . .
She'd never quite been able to believe that there was a wolf inside that gentle,
reserved man, until she'd seen that other something in his eyes this morning.
every nerve ending in her body had blossomed into life, and she'd dropped mugs and gabbled like an idiot.
She grimaced at the robe she held. For god's sake,
girl, get a grip. You are quite old enough to quit acting like an idiot around a personable man.
She took in a breath through her nose. Of all people, she knew that a person's looks didn't matter. They could be just another form of lie. Take her. A few seconds of concentration, and she could be anybody.
But Remus Lupin . . .
His looks were honest.
He didn't bother dying away the grey, or charming away the lines. He was always himself, and she . . . she never was.
In general, Tonks was pretty comfortable with herself, but when he was around, she felt like a silly child. He radiated quiet calm that made her feel like a ping-pong ball in comparison. A young ping-pong ball.
Her brain finally understood what her eye had been seeing for the past few minutes--the clock on the wall said quarter-to. And she had to be in Dawlish’s office on the hour.
"Sod it all," she muttered, giving up on the green sequins and trading her Muggle clothing for the robe she held in her hand. The purple glitter around the hems might be shedding, but it was at least stink-free. She dashed into the living room, leaving a trail of glitter floating slowly to the ground behind her like a comet's tail. Almost straight away, she stubbed her toe on the base of the sofa.
"Gyaaaaaaaaah--!" But that reminded her. Shoes. Shoes. Where the flaming hell were her shoes? She’d worn them last night, hadn’t she? She hated shoes. She chose them mainly by how easy they were to kick off.
A picture leapt to her mind. The floor at Number Twelve, the polished oak floor boards dark in the morning shadows. Her trainers, laces trailing, backs crushed, and tongues flopping like a parched dog’s, kicked into a corner.
Then Remus and that look in his eyes had walked in, and of course that had shot her brains straight to hell.
A blotch of color on the floor caught her eye, and she used her foot to flip the sandal over before stepping into it. Now for its mate. She ran unevenly into her bedroom and found one that would pass if nobody looked too hard. She hesitated, then looked at the clock again. "Bugger. Bugger. Buggerbuggersoditall!" She worked with a bunch of wizards, and the few witches in the office had other things to worry about than her shoes. She shoved her foot in and dashed out again.
She skidded to a halt in her living room, looking wildly around for the file folder. She was going to chain the damned thing to her skeletal system. Ha! There. No time to make herself lunch. She'd have to make do with the horrifying fare at work.
With another flick of her wand, she drew the shades again. The shadows had barely taken over before she Disapparated.
She arrived in the ugly front hallway of Auror headquarters, all greying plaster and interesting cracks that looked like things if you squinted right. Literally hundreds of protective spells prickled over her skin, verifying her identity, as she darted through the halls. Moody had been at this place again. Loony, she thought, but with affection. He'd trained her, and trained her well. She'd missed him during his year at Hogwarts--which hadn't been too much fun for him, either, she reminded herself.
She paused in front of Dawlish’s door, panting. She still had about a minute to spare, and she used it to regulate her breathing so it would look like she’d actually been on time for once.
Step-clonk. Step-clonk. "Hmph."
She jolted and spun
to stare into a face that regularly scared small children. "Hallo, Moody," she said, giving him her sweetest smile.
He wasn’t supposed to be here at all, being retired, but who was going to tell that face it had to leave? "You look a touch damp. Get caught in a shower on your way to work?"
Gargoyles could have learned from his glare. He didn't look in the least bit damp
, of course. But she could never resist
"Do you ever listen to what's going on, girl?
" he demanded.
"I walked right up behind you! Could've killed you before you could blink!"
"Constant vigilance," she said along with him. "I know." She didn't mention that she'd recognized his tread. She didn't want to spoil his fun.
He eyed her purple glitter. "Sometimes I don't know why we let you work for us."
She smirked and transformed herself into Dawlish. "Because I have skills."
"Hrmph." He stom
p-clonked past her and down the hall.
Tonks reverted to her former appearance, paused, and pulled a strand of hair over her shoulder. Green and purple. Definitely not. She changed her hair to match her robes
, shortened it because she was tired of pushing it out of her eyes, and went into Dawlish's office.
"Nice of you to join
me this morning," Dawlish said
coolly. His eyes flicked over her purple glitter and violet spikes, and he frowned
the invitation," she returned, and dropped the Natchez file on his desk. "
This one has automatic protection spells around his shop and his home." Her side twinged, too high up for cramps. She added, "Nasty ones. Sir, I'd like permission to have a look at his Gringott's records." She could have done it herself, but occasionally it was politic to go through channels.
"Denied." He pushed the folder away with one
blunt-tipped finger, and it slid along the scarred, pitted surface of his desk into a patch of sunlight.
Her jaw dropped. "What? But he's living too high on the hog for a shop owner--it's all in there, in my notes--"
Dawlish’s eyes were flat and cool. "He came into some family gold recently.
"Family gold or not, there’s something off about him. I--"
"Natchez isn't under suspicion anymore."
With an effort, she closed her mouth. "Can I ask why?"
"He's been vouched for."
Her boss frowned at her. "An impeccable source."
She gritted her teeth. Fudge. Or one of Fudge's cronies. Like Lucius Malfoy. "Right. Is that it?"
"That’ll be all," her boss said briskly. With a flick of his wand, he sent the Natchez case to the file room and, sliding gold-rimmed spectacles on, he started reading some other Auror’s report.
She stared at her boss a moment. He might be the top Auror in the business, but he was as blind as a bat. There are things you don't know, can you possibly conceive of that? Things you don't want to see. And if you'd just take the damned blinders off, you idiot-- "Right," she said, and left.
Outside, she leaned against the wall and struggled to control her breathing. She couldn't let anyone see her like this, because they might wonder why she was so furious. As one of the most junior Aurors in the office, she had to be careful. This double-life business was no joke.
Somehow, she thought carefully, it would have been easier if he were smug about it. But Dawlish really was doing his job, the best way he understood. That was what made it hard. He truly believed in the self-deceiving pap that Fudge put out. For that matter, so did Fudge. So did ninety percent of the people in the Ministry and on the street.
Thank God and the little baby Jesus for the other ten.
And thank God, thank God, it had been Moody that trained her.
Maybe he'd drilled her endlessly on self-defense and protective spells that others might have said were overkill, but his peculiar paranoia had also trained her to look beyond the surface of even those things she was supposed to take for granted. If he hadn't been her teacher, she might have gone through the past month with the same blinders as Dawlish.
Gritting her teeth, she stared fixedly at the window opposite, concentrating all her attention on the peeling paint of the frame that exposed the greying wood beneath, so her frustrated anger would have a chance to subside. A bit of sun speared in through a crack in the glass, bursting out again in a little nova. From her angle, it looked a bit like a star had landed on the windowsill. As her fury ebbed, she let herself sink into that burst of light.
And in the light, she saw a wolf.
It was an old wolf, old and scarred, with weird pale eyes. It padded into her line of vision, then paused and lay down, carefully, as if movement hurt it. Its tail swished back and forth across the ground, very slowly. It didn't lay its head upon its paws, but kept it uplifted, watching. Waiting.
It looked very, very alone.
She thought, You're waiting for your mate.
Who is your mate, old wolf?
Someone's hand landed on her shoulder. In the pause between heartbeats, she slammed her elbow back into his stomach, pivoted neatly, and followed through with a hard punch to the chin that snapped his head back. Her attacker dropped like a stone.
A glass eye rolled across the floor.
She bent down to help
Moody up. "Sorry," she said. "Startled me."
"Good--reflexes," he wheezed. "Good, girl, good."
"I've been practicing."
He looked around. "Get my eye, would you?"
She made a face. "Are you mental? I'm not touching that."
He picked it up himself, grumbling. "Where were you, anyway?" he asked, rubbing it on his slee
"Thinking," she said. "About things." The fury had seeped away, to be replaced by the faintly disgusted resignation that accompanied her at work the past month.
She also felt a little silly for nearly killing him. If she’d been paying attention to her surroundings, she wouldn’t have been surprised. "Where're you going?"
"Around." He popped the eye back in with a slight squelching sound. She made a disgusted noise. He ignored it. "How'd the report go?"
She met his eye. "Natchez," she said, "has been vouched for
They set off down the hall in tandem.
I’m for the file room, to get another case."
His eye swiveled toward her, squeaking slightly in its socket. "Nothing you can do about it, girl," he said. "On to the next job, is it?"
"Right. Nothing I can do about it. Just like you taught me." Her copy of the file was hidden up under her wardrobe
in her flat. Just like he'd taught her.
She decided to run into Bill Weasley at lunch.
Moody said, "You'd best stop staring at nothing in the middle of the halls, girl. Very suspicious."
She raised her eyebrows at him. "If you met a baby birdie chirping in its nest, Mad-Eye, you'd be suspicious."
"Too right," he said forcefully. "It could be a harpy in disguise. And about that little trick this morning--"
"Thought you'd like it," she grinned, settling into the comfortable rhythm of bickering with Moody. It lasted until he left her at the file room. She made sure of it
By that time, she’d slipped easily into her accustomed mask. Her fellow Aurors, seeing her brilliant hair and shedding glitter, shook their heads. Nice girl, really, but she had a lot to learn. Keep her on the simple cases for a bit. Good job crazy old Moody hadn’t completely ruined her.
Under the mask, Tonks kept returning to the vision.
To the wolf.
A first-year Divination student could have taken a look at her vision and understood it. Staring blindly at the new file folder on her tornado-aftermath desk, Tonks wondered about Remus Lupin and the mate he was waiting for.