Chapter 1: Tea with Tonks
I adjusted the IV drip on the newest post-surgical patient, a forty-three year old woman who’d developed chest pains yesterday. There had been no previous history of heart disease, so little did she know that less than twenty-four hours later she’d be recovering from major surgery, four of her coronary arteries would be bypassed, and her very life, saved. I checked her surgical site and level of consciousness, grateful to be busy, involved, and unable to let my mind wander elsewhere.
‘Elsewhere’, on this day, was King’s Cross Station, where a woman who looked exactly like me - Nymphadora Tonks, under the effects of Polyjuice Potion - waited to meet Lucius Malfoy.
The road leading up to all this had begun shortly after our return from the States, when the newest addition to the Lupin household arrived one Saturday morning.
* * *
Remus is an early riser by nature, and while I have to do the same on the days I work, Saturday is my day to sleep in. I’d just cracked an eyelid to check the time and, pleased to see that it was only eight in the morning, was burrowing back under the covers when I heard a rapping at the front door. That was followed by Remus’ footsteps moving from the kitchen to the living room, then the creaking of the door as it opened.
Then I heard Arthur Weasley’s voice, and wondered what it the world he was doing here at this hour. And then I remembered. I sighed and climbed out of bed, threw on my robe, and wandered out to the living room.
“Kailin! Good morning,” Arthur greeted me cheerfully. “Had a good lie-in?”
I wanted to say No, thanks to you, Arthur, but I refrained. My attention was taken immediately by a large birdcage sitting on my coffee table.
And then by the brown and white owl sitting serenely on a perch within it.
“Here’s your new owl,” Arthur said proudly. “A beauty, isn’t she?”
I managed a smile. Ever since returning from the States a month ago, Remus had taken to borrowing other people’s owls to keep up with Order business. There was, quite simply, no other way to communicate since his deportation from Great Britain. There would be no more trips to the wizarding post office in Diagon Alley until his situation changed dramatically. As a result we were now the proud owners of this owl.
“So,” I said, “you brought our new pet.”
“No, no, she’s not a pet.” Arthur corrected me at once. “Many people have that misconception. Pets are something you keep for companionship or amusement. An owl works for you.”
In truth, the owl worked for Remus. If it worked for me, I’d teach it to dust the shelves or run the vacuum cleaner, duties I found useful.
“Does it - she, you said? Does she stay in the cage all the time, or does she have someplace outdoors where she stays, or does she -” God forbid, I thought, “- fly loose around the flat?”
“Not loose around the flat,” Remus said. “She’d stay in her cage when she’s indoors.”
“I see what you mean, Remus.” Arthur Weasley had wandered over to examine the two small stained glass windows which flanked the fireplace. “Your owl could easily come and go through one of these. They’re on the side of the building, so they’re not easily viewed from the street. We could fix the window so that it swivels open when the bird lands. That way, even if someone did catch a glimpse, the owl would be gone from sight rather quickly.”
I’m not really a bird person. They’re pretty to look at with binoculars and fun to feed, but keeping one indoors always seems wrong to me, somehow. Besides, they’re not cuddly and affectionate as is usually the case with cats or dogs. I knew this all was quite necessary, but I wasn’t particularly happy about it.
“How do you handle it? Her?” The one time I’d observed owls up close at an animal sanctuary, they were being tended to by keepers with very thick leather gloves.
“Like this,” Arthur said, opening the cage door and making some smooching noises. The bird fluttered out at once and onto his proffered arm. “I bought a little bag of owl treats, if you’d care to fish them out of my coat pocket, Kailin. You can give her one and start to make friends.”
Just what I wanted to do on my Saturday morning. I reached into the pocket Arthur indicated and pulled out a folded paper bag. Inside were small morsels of something which reeked to high heaven. Grimacing, I plucked one out.
“What are these?” I demanded, wrinkling my nose.
“Mousie Munchies,” Arthur told me cheerfully.
Something told me that they were the genuine, chopped-into-tiny-little-pieces, article. “You know,” I said through gritted teeth as I inched my hand toward the owl, “if I hadn’t married a wizard, I wouldn’t be having this pleasure.”
Arthur looked startled. “You’re right, by Jove! See how well fate works things out?”
My little stab at sarcasm had sailed right over Arthur’s head and was winging its way towards continental Europe. Before I had a chance to correct his impression, the owl lunged at my hand as though it hadn’t seen food in weeks. I shrieked, dropped the Mousie Munchie, and leapt backwards.
“Not to worry,” Arthur soothed. “They move a bit jerkily, you know.”
“Are you all right?” Remus asked me solicitously. “Did you get nipped?”
“No,” I said, feeling a little silly now.
“You’ll get used to it. They’re rather nice, actually.”
“Yes,” Arthur put in. “I’m sure the fact that you’re a Muggle won’t mean a thing to your owl.”
Swell. I might be the proud owner of a bigoted bird. “I think I’ll grab a shower,” I announced. “You boys work on the window problem.”
So much for my leisurely Saturday morning. I stood under the hot shower for a while, then took my time drying my hair and dressing. By the time I was presentable, one of the fireplace windows was on the kitchen table, and Remus and Arthur were hovering over it.
“I was just thinking,” I announced. “What if Mr. Najib happens to come by and notices what you’ve done with the window? I doubt that we’re allowed to change it.”
“That had occurred to me,” Remus admitted. “But I don’t think he’ll be able to tell it’s different unless he tries to open it in the usual way. And I’ll certainly change it back whenever we move from here.”
We’d already reviewed our lease to see what it said regarding pets. While the size and number of pets was limited, there was nothing in writing which prohibited ‘exotic pets’. I took that to mean that we could house a leopard as long as it didn’t exceed forty pounds.
I gave up worrying about the window to watch Arthur Weasley in action. And I had to smother a grin almost at once.
A homemade leather pouch was sprawled open on the kitchen table. In it was an array of Muggle tools that Arthur had clearly collected over the years, and included everything from screwdrivers and wrenches to ice picks, nail clippers, and paper clips. Arthur had a rapt expression on his face as he showed Remus how to remove the screws from the window hinges.
Remus saw the look on my face and winked at me. He knew full well how to use a screwdriver, but I knew that Arthur would have been hurt if his enthusiastic demonstration was declined.
While Arthur rambled on about which tool to use for what job, I wandered back into the living room to stare at the re-caged owl.
“Kailin,” Remus called, “while we’re doing this, why don’t you think of a good name for the owl?”
“Me? You want me to name it?”
I reappeared at the kitchen door. “Uh - well, what do people normally name their owls?”
Remus shrugged. “Anything you like. Doesn’t matter.”
“You may remember,” Arthur put in, “that our owl’s named Errol.”
I knew that, but the information was less than helpful. There are names which are typical for certain animals - such as Lady or Duke for dogs, Fuzzy or Fluffy for cats - but I had no idea if there was a standard moniker when it came to owls.
I went back to the living room and sat on the sofa, studying the bird.
“So,” I said to the owl, “what name would you like? Are you a barn owl? Maybe Barney would fit.”
The owl looked at me indignantly, and I remembered at once that he was a she.
“Okay, not Barney then. Barnette? No, that’s stupid. Let’s see…” What did owls do? Well, they were nocturnal, they hunted, and wizards used them to send messages. Which pretty much summed up my knowledge of owls. “You fly,” I said aloud. “Are you a good flier? I suppose you must be. Hmm… a girl flier… How about Amelia, after Amelia Earhart?”
It was the only female flier I knew, and the only reasonable name that sprang to mind. It would have to do.
“Amelia,” I repeated, and the owl blinked at me. Well, she wasn’t flying at the bars of the cage in a murderous rage, so that must mean she found the name tolerable. ‘Amelia’ it would be.
I leaned back against the sofa pillows and watched the bird fall asleep on her perch. And thought.
In the month since our return to Britain, life had become increasingly stressful. Scarcely a week went past without news of some Death Eater activity. Two more Hogwarts students had been orphaned, and a half dozen Muggles were found murdered under mysterious circumstances.
The Ministry was spinning its wheels, of course. No one in the Order of the Phoenix believed that Lucius Malfoy’s ascent into an advisory position at the Ministry and Amelia Bones’ death were coincidental. Even though Bones had been dead four weeks now, Malfoy remained in ‘temporary control’, in no apparent hurry to find a suitable replacement for her.
With Malfoy at the wheel, mere lip service was given to the investigation of dark activities. Aurors were sent on wild goose chases, checking out false leads and red herrings. To the public, the frenzy of activity gave the impression that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was hot on the trail of Dark Wizards. Those Aurors who were also members of the Order of the Phoenix knew otherwise.
They were, in fact, furious about it. Nymphadora Tonks showed up at our flat to rant and rave one night last week, loudly threatening to reduce Lucius Malfoy to a eunuch if she ever had the opportunity. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Remus told me, had thrown his broom against a wall so hard that it splintered.
Remus faced his own frustrations. His chores within the Order had changed - although for the better, in my opinion. There would be no more missions for Dumbledore, no tailing Death Eaters, nothing where he might be spotted and his presence in Britain reported. Now his job entailed coordinating communications between Order members. In short, he was out of the line of fire, and I was happy about it.
But while Remus had accepted the change willingly, it hadn’t stopped him from feeling perturbed at being kept out of action.
“I’m beginning to empathize with Sirius, cooped up at Grimmauld Place for so long. At least I’m not confined to the flat,” he told me the other day.
“Do you think anyone can get Malfoy out of power?” I had wondered.
Remus’ smile was weary. “I don’t know. At this rate, possibly not until Voldemort’s finally defeated.”
“Couldn’t someone from the Order do something to Malfoy the way he did to Amelia Bones?”
“We could. But then we’d be no different from the people we’re fighting.”
Sitting in my living room now, watching the sleeping owl, I wondered about the absurdities of the war. Until Voldemort decided to make a sweeping move, the British wizarding world was being held hostage. The immediate concern of the Order was to get Malfoy out of power, but that was certainly easier said than done. More than once, I’d wished there was something I could do to help. But as a Muggle, the best I could do was to support Remus in whatever way I could.
Or was it the best I could do? I sat straight upright, thinking hard.
Moments later, Remus and Arthur marched in with the window, ready to put it back in its frame. My husband glanced at me.
“Can I send a note to Tonks?” I asked him.
“Of course. Arthur thought he’d send a message to Molly, just to introduce the owl to her, but if you want to send something to Tonks, that’s fine. I‘m sure the owl’s up to both.”
“Can you show me how?”
Remus looked surprised at my sudden enthusiasm. “Now?”
“I’ll get the window back in,” Arthur offered, and went to work. Remus went hunting for paper and string.
“Okay,” he said, handing me a piece of paper. “Go ahead and write your note, and then Ill show you how to attach it to her leg. Did you come up with a name?”
“I did. Her name is Amelia.”
“Amelia, eh?” Remus smiled. “Sounds like a fine name. What made you choose that one?”
“Amelia Earhart,” I said, writing Dear Tonks on the paper. “Famous American female aviator.”
Moments later, the message was completed. Remus showed me how to fold the paper, roll it tightly, then tie a string around it. Then he opened the door to the cage and coaxed Amelia from her perch. The owl didn’t look pleased, especially when Remus instructed me to tie the message to her leg.
“How tight?” I asked nervously, torn between watching what I was doing and eyeing the bird’s looming beak.
“Not too tight, not too loose.”
Well, that was helpful. My fingers shook a little, but I managed to get the note tied on without being nipped.
“Now what?” I asked.
“Just tell her who’s to receive the note,” Remus said calmly.
“Uh,…” I said helplessly, “take this to Nymphadora Tonks, wherever she is.” And when the bird failed to budge: “Please,” I added.
“You might want to give her a Mousie Munchie,” Remus murmured in my ear.
Of course: bribery worked for all God’s creatures. I reached for the paper bag sitting next to the bird cage, gingerly pulled out another disgusting morsel, and placed it in the open palm of my hand. The owl fluttered into the air, neatly nabbed the Munchie, and took off through the partly open window, clipping Arthur Weasley’s shoulder along the way.
“How long until I get an answer?” I asked.
Remus shot me a look of pure exasperation. “She’s only just left, Kailin. You need to give her an hour or two.”
Exactly one hour later, Amelia returned, bearing a message from Tonks:
Hi, Kailin - I’d love to get together. What’s up? Want to meet for tea this afternoon? How about that Muggle tea shop near you - Lalley’s, isn’t it? Four o’clock okay? If not, let me know. Is this your owl? She’s a cutie.
“A cutie, huh?” I said dryly, staring at the now preening Amelia.
Amelia shot me a disdainful look that seemed to say Of course I am. What did you expect?
Some seven hours later, I was scanning the patrons at Lally’s, looking for whatever brilliant shade of hair Nymphadora Tonks was currently sporting. It’s impossible to overlook her, even in a crowded tea room. All I had to do was head straight for the most colorful person in the place.
“Wotcher, Kailin,” she said, smiling hugely as I approached the table.
“Pretty color,” I said, admiring her bright turquoise blue hair.
“Like it? I was thinking of how I’d like to be sunning myself on the Riviera, and this shade came to mind.”
“How are you?” I asked, pulling out the chair across from her and taking a seat. “Any better than last week?”
“Afraid not. You won’t believe what we went through yesterday. Kingsley and I got a tip about some supposed DE’s, and it turned out we were chasing one of those Muggle ice cream trucks that make the rounds. I tell you, if the wizarding population knew where their tax dollars went, -”
The waiter approached just then. While Tonks placed her order, I was busy picturing the best Aurors Britain had to offer, pursuing lead after lead, only to have it turn into a Mr. Frosty or whatever the British equivalent was called. Worst of all was knowing that Lucius Malfoy sat somewhere, laughing up his sleeve, while Voldemort’s followers went on about their business, unimpeded by little things such as the law.
“And you, ma’am?” the waiter asked me.
“Tea and the chocolate mousse, please.”
“So.” The waiter had barely left when Tonks folded her hands in front of her and looked at me expectantly. “What’s up?”
I tried to organize my thoughts. I liked Nymphadora Tonks, but she and I were hardly the best of friends. My invitation to tea had come out of the blue, and she knew it. I decided to plunge ahead without benefit of preliminary small talk.
“I had a crazy idea this morning, and I wanted to run it by somebody from the Order.”
Tonks raised an eyebrow. “Remus not around?”
I hesitated. “He’s around. I just wanted an unbiased opinion.”
“Does that mean he’s not going to like your idea?”
“That means he’s going to hate my idea.”
“Must be a doozy,” Tonks remarked with a grin. “Go ahead. What is it?”
I took a deep breath. “As I understand it, everyone’s ready to pull their hair out due to the situation at the Ministry, -”
“When you say ‘everyone’, are you referring to the Order or the DMLE? Actually, I suppose it doesn’t make a lot of difference. Never mind, go on.”
“What if…” I paused, wondering briefly if there’d be any going back after this. “What if Malfoy discovered that I was still alive?”
Tonks blinked. “What?”
“What if I wrote a letter to Malfoy, taunting him because I escaped the fire at the cottage?”
“I’d say you’re bloody mental, that’s what,” Tonks said, frowning. “Why do you want Malfoy to know you’re still alive?”
“Because his pride would be wounded and he’d want to finish what he’d started.”
“Any why would you want him to do that?”
I gulped. “Because there’d be a team of crack Aurors watching nearby, waiting to arrest him for attempted murder.”
The barest hint of a smile made the corners of Tonks’ mouth twitch. “Go on.”
“If Malfoy was arrested for attempted murder, it would ruin him at the Ministry, right? As long as he’s controlling the Ministry, the Order’s getting nothing in the way of cooperation. If he was gone, -”
“If he was gone, I’d waltz naked down Diagon Alley.” Tonks said wistfully. From the expression on her face, she was doubtless envisioning Lucius Malfoy being carted away in very heavy chains. “Kailin, there’s probably a good deal of merit in your idea. Trouble is, there’s absolutely no way in the world that Remus will let you be the bait in an entrapment scheme.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“You realize that I’d sooner stare down a squad of Death Eaters than face Remus Lupin and tell him that we’re going to let Lucius Malfoy go after his wife again.”
I fiddled restlessly with my napkin. “But you could guarantee my safety, right? The whole thing would be a set-up.”
Nymphadora Tonks regarded me with frank sympathy. “I’m supposed to say ‘yeah, we’re the best, you’re safe with us’. But things happen, Kailin. We‘d certainly do our damnedest to ensure your safety, but as far as a guarantee goes…” She left the rest unsaid.
I tried a different tack. “Okay, what about this: you’re a - a metamorphing wizard - uh - person. What if you changed your appearance so that you looked like me? I wouldn‘t even have to be there.”
“Metamorphmagus is the word you‘re looking for. Yeah, I can change my appearance, but not to look exactly like somebody. It doesn’t work like that.”
“It doesn’t?” I asked, puzzled.
“No.” Tonks leaned forward in her seat. “You see, I can make myself the same size as you, plus take on your eye and hair color, but that wouldn’t make me your exact double. Just think how many women are your height and your weight, with dark hair and blue eyes. See what I mean?”
“Oh.” I saw exactly what she meant, and immediately my shoulders sagged in disappointment.
“There is one thing, though…” Tonks said thoughtfully. “Have you ever heard of Polyjuice Potion?”
I shook my head.
“With Polyjuice, all I would need is a tiny bit of you - one of your hairs, say - and if I drop it into the potion and then drink it, I would turn into you. An exact duplicate of you. For one hour.”
“So it’s possible, then.”
I exhaled slowly, trying not to get too excited too soon. “What do you think? Could it work?”
Tonks tapped a long purple fingernail against the table top. “I don’t know. I’ll need to think it through some more. Can I get Kingsley’s opinion as well?”
“Then we’ll need to talk to Dumbledore, and we’ll have to get Remus to go along with it. And you need to decide whether you really want to go through with this.”
“I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t sure,” I reminded her.
“You say that now. What if I asked you to write a letter to Malfoy right now? Would you do it?”
She had a point. I said nothing.
“See?” Tonks glanced up briefly as the waiter brought the tea and my dessert. “Better to sleep on it, Kailin. And talk to Remus.”
“Alone?” I asked wryly. “No backup?”
Tonks laughed. “That may well be the most hazardous part of the plan.”
She was right. Despite Tonks’ suggestion that I sleep on it, I decided to broach the subject with Remus as soon as I got back to the flat. Predictably, he erupted.
“Are you mad?” he hissed, obviously trying to avoid screaming at the top of his lungs. “Let Malfoy know you’re alive? Kailin, you nearly died four months ago!”
“You didn’t let me finish,” I persisted. “Tonks mentioned something called Polyjuice Potion. She - or somebody - turns into me for an hour. I wouldn’t even have to be there.”
“And what if there’s not a ‘there’? What if you send the letter, and nothing happens? What if Malfoy decides he doesn’t want to risk his position to go after you, and sends some lackey in his place? The lackey’s arrested, Malfoy remains in power, and you’re still a target.”
I hadn’t thought of that, but I was sure Tonks would. “Tonks said she would discuss it with Shacklebolt to see if it’s a viable plan. And she’s going to talk to Dumbledore about it, -”
“And when was she going to discuss it with me?” Remus demanded angrily.
“I think she said she’d rather face a flock of Death Eaters,” I said, wincing.
Exasperated, Remus threw up his hands.
“Okay,” I continued, “forget for a moment that I’m even involved. Just picture this: Lucius Malfoy discovers that a Muggle he thought he’d disposed of is still alive and rubbing his face in it. He’s furious and decides to get revenge. He has to; he’s not the type of man to let it go. He goes to Meeting Point A to finish off the Muggle and before he can do so, an entire herd of Aurors leap out of hiding and slap him in irons. He’s ruined, he’s out at the Ministry, and somebody on our side can take over again. Can you see the plan working?”
“You’ve been watching those Muggle crime shows again,” Remus said darkly.
“I have not,” I protested. “Look, if the plan turns out to be workable and it gets rid of Malfoy, what’s the problem?”
“The problem is, half the time Nymphadora Tonks can’t walk across a room without endangering herself and ten other people.”
“I told you, Kingsley’s going to help her. Besides, with the Polyjuice Potion I’d be miles away from there and perfectly safe.”
Remus glared at me. “Where Death Eaters are concerned, there is no such thing as perfectly safe. Besides, what about Snape? We couldn‘t go after Malfoy through legal channels because it would expose Snape as a spy for the Order.”
“I thought about that,” I said triumphantly. “You said it yourself: we couldn’t go after Malfoy through legal channels, because it would require us to come up with a witness. And the only witness we had was Snape, and Malfoy’s confession to him.”
My husband didn’t answer. I continued.
“If we do it this way, what we’re saying is ’I bet it was you, Malfoy, and guess what? I’m still alive!’. Look, Remus, no one else has come up with a way to get rid of Malfoy”
“All right, fine,” Remus stated flatly.
I blinked. He was giving in this easily? “What?” I asked, not sure I’d heard correctly.
“I said, fine. If Dumbledore and Shacklebolt agree that it will work, I’ll agree to it, too - but on one condition.”
“You do what I’ve been asking you to do for months. You go home to the States until the war is over.”
My jaw dropped. “We’ve been over this. I can’t leave you,” I protested.
“But you can endanger yourself for the sake of the Order,” he countered.
“That’s what you do,” I argued.
“It’s my job.”
“And what about my job?”
“You’ll get a job in the States. You yourself said that nurses can always find jobs.”
“I’d have to send you money. The Ministry cut off your dole when they kicked you out of the country, remember?”
Remus shrugged. “You wouldn’t have to send me much. I could give up the flat and stay at Grimmauld Place. It’s Harry’s, now; he won‘t care.”
I stared at him, at a loss. “Please, Remus. Don’t make me do this.”
“That’s my offer, Kailin. Take it or leave it. If I have to lose you, better for it to be temporary than permanent.”
From the set of his jaw, I could see that he was determined. I’d boxed myself into a corner now, I thought unhappily. “What about this: if the plan doesn’t work for some reason, I’ll go back to the States. If it does work, I stay here.”
We locked eyes. Finally, Remus spoke up, his voice hoarse. “Why do you have to make this so difficult?”
“Because I love you and I want to help. It’s not just a wizarding war, R. J.. Muggles are dying, too.”
Remus sighed, then reached out to cradle my face in his hands. “I don’t want to lose you,” he murmured. “As much as I detest Malfoy for what he tried to do to you, and for what he’s done to gain power, he could rot in that position as long as you and I were together and safe.”
I blinked back sudden tears. “If I thought my idea would endanger either one of us, I wouldn’t have suggested it and you know it.”
“You know, a hundred years ago, a wizarding husband could order his wife about,” Remus told me. Almost wistfully, he added, “Those were the days.”
“Then wizards are way ahead of the rest of us. It hasn’t been that long since Muggle men ran the whole show. They still do in some places, -” I broke off as Remus lowered his head to mine in a tender kiss.
I shivered at the feel of his lips on mine. I had a feeling we were about to seal the deal in a rather spectacular fashion.
* * *
My patient was doing well, I thought. I checked my watch, wondering what was happening at King’s Cross, and moved on to the next patient.