A/N: Innumerable thanks to my beta, Zsenya, for her excellent advice and for creating the Quill in the first place.
Legal stuff: I wouldn’t be driving an hour to and from work every day if I owned any of these characters. It’s all JKR’s. But then, you already knew that.
They had finished dinner hours ago and all the children were already in bed, but Molly Weasley’s day was not over yet. She was bustling around the kitchen, putting the dinner plates back in the cupboard, wiping down the table and counters, and making a plate for Arthur.
Out of habit, she looked out the window but knew she wouldn’t see him. He was working such late hours. But, no matter. She was just as proud of his promotion as he was, and if it meant some longer hours fighting this war, then she was happy to make the sacrifice.
Besides, she had plenty else to keep her busy. She had almost a full house again. Hermione had arrived the day before yesterday, much to both Ginny’s and Ron’s happiness. And Bill was spending much more time at home, as well. And, of course, his fiancée Fleur took as much patience to handle as Fred and George, though in a much different way. She was certainly a beautiful girl, but….
And Harry was expected in the morning with Dumbledore.
“Poor Harry,” Molly muttered to herself as she wiped down the kitchen table and tossed the cloth into the sink. “I do hope he’s coping alright. And speaking of coping….”
Molly checked out the window again. She was expecting company. But Tonks had accepted the invitation somewhat grudgingly, muttering something about “not wanting to be a bother.”
“Nonsense!” Molly had said. “You keep turning down my invitations to dinner, but I won’t have you saying no this time. Come ‘round for tea on Friday evening, after your shift. Say, ten o’clock?”
But it was after ten now, and she hadn’t arrived. Just as Molly was deciding that her guest was a no-show, she heard a faint “pop” from outside.
“Now, is that Arthur, or her?” Molly said to herself as she headed toward the door. Before she could open it to find out, the sound of someone tripping over the Wellington boots by the door and cursing softly answered her question. She opened the door with her best welcoming smile.
“Hello, Tonks! It’s so good to see you!”
“Wotcher, Molly.” Tonks replied, without really looking at her.
Molly gave Tonks a quick appraisal. She had come straight from her shift, as she was still dressed in her usual work attire. But either she had experienced an extremely rough day, or she wasn’t putting much store in her appearance or personal care lately. Her usually vibrant hair was a very normal and subdued shade of mousey brown, and it was rather mussed up as if she hadn’t bothered to comb it that morning. Her eyes also seemed to have lost some of their sparkle; there were definite dark circles under them from lack of sleep. In fact, everything about her seemed subdued, almost melancholy. And she had been this way for almost a month.
Molly had originally noticed at the first Order meeting after the fight at the Department of Mysteries. At first, Molly had chalked it up to Tonks recovering from her injuries and mourning her cousin’s death. But after that meeting, Molly began to think it was something else entirely.
At that first Order meeting after Sirius’s death, Tonks had sat sadly between Kingsley and Remus. And at that meeting, Dumbledore had announced that he wanted Remus to assume the role of spy on Fenrir Greyback and his pack of werewolves. Reluctantly, Remus had agreed and Tonks had looked none too pleased about it. But then, neither had Kingsley or Arthur or Bill or even Dumbledore.
And after that meeting, Molly had observed Remus pull Tonks aside. Though she had tried not to listen in, she could tell that it was not a pleasant conversation. As always, Remus remained composed, but Tonks was clearly quite upset by whatever he was saying to her. And at every Order meeting since then, Molly had always sensed a palpable tension between the two of them, as cordial as they tried to be around each other.
Tonks had never said anything to Molly, and neither had Remus, but Molly had been married long enough and had raised enough children to recognize when two people fancied each other and not all was well. And after two weeks of Remus being gone most of the time and of watching Tonks fade more and more, Molly had decided that it was time to do something.
Realizing with a start that Tonks was still waiting on the doorstep, Molly took a step back and waved Tonks into the kitchen.
“Come on in, dear. Have a seat. You can hang your cloak on the rack, if you like. Have you eaten? I can warm up some leftovers for you.”
Tonks shook her head slowly as she hung up her cloak. “No, thank you, Molly. I’m not hungry.”
She had the air about her of a student who has been called to a teacher’s office. She was being polite, but it was clear that she was wary of why she’d been invited.
“Tea, then? Or some pie?” Molly asked as Tonks took a seat at the table.
“Tea would be fine, Molly. Thank you.”
Molly poured a mug of steaming tea and set it in front of Tonks. She then grabbed the platter with the milk and sugar and set it next to Tonks as she sat down opposite her.
An uncomfortable silence followed as Tonks added some sugar to her tea and Molly tried to determine the best way to approach this topic that she knew was really none of her business. Tonks was usually such a vibrant young lady and it pained Molly to see her so upset. She was spared finding a conversation starter when Tonks cleared her throat somewhat uncomfortably and spoke first.
“So, Dumbledore is bringing Harry soon?” Molly couldn’t help but notice the small flash of anger in Tonks’s eyes as she mentioned Dumbledore’s name.
“Oh. Yes, he’s due to bring Harry by in the morning. It will be nice to have him here. Those Muggle relatives of his do absolutely nothing for him.”
“Yeah. And their house is freakishly clean.”
Another awkward silence followed. Molly watched Tonks idly stir her tea and decided that she may as well get to the point of why she had invited Tonks over.
“Have you been feeling quite alright, dear? You’ve looked so tired and peaky these past couple of weeks. Is the Ministry overworking you?”
Tonks regarded Molly carefully. “I’m fine, Molly. Work has been difficult lately. But I’m managing.”
“But even your hair has been so… well… not like you lately.”
Tonks gave a small chuckle. “Actually, my hair is entirely me right now.” She sighed. “Really, Molly, I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine. Just busy. Like all of us are right now.”
Molly saw Tonks’s eyes darken slightly at her last statement. Deciding that Tonks wasn’t going to offer anything up after all, she threw caution to the wind.
“And how is Remus?”
Tonks’s eyes darkened even more and Molly could see her stiffen in her seat. “I wouldn’t know. He’s not due to report in until the next Order meeting.”
“Yes, but he hasn’t spoken to you at all? Hasn’t checked in or anything?”
Tonks raised her cup of tea to her mouth, eyeing Molly with a mixed expression of confusion and apprehension. “No. What makes you think that he would, Molly?”
Jumping to the heart of matter, Molly replied, “Because you fancy him. Or so it seems to me. And he seems to care about you as well.”
Tonks spluttered the sip of tea she had just taken and dropped her cup. It fell to the table and against the saucer with a loud ‘CLANG!’ and shattered.
“Oh, damn!” Tonks exclaimed, “I’m so sorry, Molly. Reparo.” The cup repaired itself and Tonks smoothed her robes, trying to collect herself. She was blushing visibly as she avoided Molly’s eyes. “I don’t… well… I mean…” Sighing and slumping back in her chair, she said, “How did you know? That I fancy him, I mean?”
Molly smiled warmly and moved around the table so that she was sitting next to Tonks. “Tonks, dear, I’m a mother of seven and a wife. Which means I’m very observant. I’ve noticed how you always sit by him at Order meetings and at meals. And it’s no secret to anybody in the Order that you two are friends.”
“Right. But how did you know that I… that I… well, that we… fancy each other.”
“Well, honestly, I didn’t know until now. I just suspected. At the meeting when Dumbledore gave him that assignment with the werewolves, you looked more displeased than anybody else in the room. And I saw Remus pull you aside after the meeting. And I noticed that it’s been since that meeting that you’ve been looking so… well….” Molly gestured to Tonks’s hair. “I tried to put the pieces together and came up with there being more to you and Remus than any of the rest of us know.”
Tonks stared at Molly open-mouthed for a moment, clearly surprised that Molly had figured out her secret. Then she closed her mouth, her lower lip began trembling, and she burst into tears. Shocked, Molly hastened to wrap her arm around Tonks’s shoulder and hugged her tightly.
“Oh dear. Tonks, I’m so sorry,” she said in her most soothing voice. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I know it’s none of my business and I shouldn’t have pried. I’m so sorry.”
Tonks pulled herself away from Molly’s arm and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her robe. “No, Molly, it’s okay. I’m actually a bit glad you sorted it out. I’ve been so upset about this and I haven’t been able to talk to anybody about it. I try to talk to my mum, but she’s too concerned about my own safety to really listen to me. She doesn’t seem to think I should be bothered with a man right now while I’m an Auror in the middle of a war.” Tonks hiccupped slightly as her tears dried away.
Molly lightly rubbed Tonks’s back and said, “Well, dear, you are always welcome to come and talk to me. It seems you could use it. So. How can I help? Does Remus know how you feel?”
Tonks laughed at this. “Oh, he most definitely knows how I feel. Has known for ages. And he’s admitted to fancying me as well. But he says he’s too old for me….”
“Tosh.” Molly interjected, and poured Tonks another mug of tea to replace the spilled one.
“And that he’s too poor and too dangerous because of his condition. I kept telling him that’s all ridiculous.”
“And rightfully so.”
“And I was finally starting to convince him. Things were really looking up for us. And then Dumbledore had to send him off on that stupid mission.” Tonks’s eyes darkened again. “When you saw Remus pull me aside after that meeting… it was to tell me that we definitely couldn’t see each other anymore. That it would be too dangerous for me if Fenrir or any of his gang found out about me. And that it had probably been a bad idea in the first place. He told me that I deserved someone better than him. Someone “whole” he said, like he’s not a complete person or something, because of his condition. And I told him that I didn’t care. That I… That I loved him and I didn’t care what he was or how old he was or any of that. But he wouldn’t hear it. He’s just being daft, Molly. He won’t listen to me and I don’t know what to do about it. And now he’s off with Greyback, who’s a complete nutter. And who knows what will happen to him.”
Molly had sat and listened carefully to everything Tonks had said. She smiled slightly as Tonks finished speaking and considered her words carefully before speaking again. Remus was a good man, he really was, but Molly had long suspected that he, knowingly or unknowingly, used his lycanthropy as an excuse to keep himself from ever being truly happy. And hearing that he had told Tonks she deserved someone “whole” just confirmed it for her. But she could discuss that with Remus himself some other time. For now, she needed to try and make Tonks feel better.
“Tonks, I think it’s wonderful that you’ve found somebody you care for so deeply.”
Tonks scoffed and mumbled something mostly incoherent. Molly thought she caught the words “just great”, “doesn’t care”, and “back.”
Molly put a reassuring hand on Tonks’s arm. “No, really I do. And if Remus feels the same way toward you, he’ll eventually come around. I’m sure he’s just trying to protect you. And perhaps also himself. He’s not had the easiest life, as you know.”
Tonks opened her mouth to argue back, but Molly stopped her by speaking again, more urgently. “War makes people do crazy things, Tonks. Sometimes it makes them pull people closer.” She paused here, remembering how she and Arthur had hastened their marriage plans because of the last war. “And sometimes it makes them push people away, in some false belief that pushing them away will keep them safe from harm. But it’s always done out of the same emotion. Love.”
Tonks seemed to regard Molly’s words for a moment before dismissing them. “That may be true, Molly. But Remus didn’t end things with me until after Dumbledore assigned him to that crazy mission. Like anybody has any chance of recruiting any of Greyback’s pack over to our side. He’s poisoned all their minds to hate wizards.” Tonks’s lip began to tremble slightly again as she said this.
“Dear, you don’t really think Greyback could change Remus, do you? Remus is much too smart for that.”
“No, I don’t really think that. I’m just scared for him, Molly. Those other werewolves… they’re feral. Wild as wild can be. And they hate wizards. And they’re distrustful of any werewolf that shows the signs of trying to be a wizard. And Remus may as well be wearing a sign that says, “Hogwarts-educated wizard werewolf right here.” What’s to say that they’re not going to harm him or… or even kill him?”
Tonks looked like she was going to start crying again but instead she clenched her jaw and pounded her fist on the table. “Why did Dumbledore have to send him there? Why did he have to ruin everything between us?”
At this Molly took a firm hold of Tonks’s shoulders and turned her so that she could look straight into her eyes. “Tonks. Dumbledore has done nothing here. Nothing other than working the best way he knows how to win this war. What is between you and Remus is between you and Remus. Nothing between the two of you can be ruined, or made better, by anybody other than you and Remus.”
“Yeah, well, then Remus is doing a great job of ruining things all by himself,” Tonks muttered angrily.
Molly smiled slightly to herself. “Well, that may be. But it won’t do to be angry at Dumbledore for that. Just keep trying to talk to Remus, Tonks. If you truly love him, then don’t let him push you away. Love isn’t always easy, dear; sometimes we have to fight hard for it. If he really does care for you as much as he says he does, he’ll come around eventually.”
“I hope so, Molly.” Tonks replied somewhat dejectedly.
“And I’ll see if I can’t help him come around a bit more quickly,” Molly said with a conspiratorial grin and wink. Her attempt to lighten Tonks’s spirits didn’t seem to have worked though.
“Good luck with that. I certainly haven’t been having any success. And it’s been four days with no word from him.”
Molly was trying to think of a reassuring response to that statement when there came three sharp raps on the kitchen door. Molly looked at the door in alarm. It was too early for Dumbledore, and Arthur wouldn’t knock. Who was that at the door?
Motioning Tonks to be at the ready, she cautiously stood and walked over to the door. “Who’s there?” She said nervously. “Declare yourself!”
“It is I, Dumbledore, bringing Harry.”
Molly spared a quick glance back at Tonks and saw the other woman pale slightly and look quickly down into her mug of tea. Deciding there was only one thing she could do about this present situation, Molly flung the door open. There on the other side stood Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter. A quick glance at Harry told Molly that he’d grown another several inches and clearly hadn’t been getting enough to eat.
“Harry, dear! Gracious, Albus, you gave me a fright, you said not to expect you before morning!” Molly stepped aside so they could enter the kitchen.
“We were lucky,” Dumbledore replied as Harry entered the house before him. “Slughorn proved much more persuadable than I had expected. Harry’s doing, of course.” Dumbledore entered the kitchen at this point and saw Tonks sitting at the table.
“Ah, hello, Nymphadora!” He said cheerfully.
Molly saw Tonks force a somewhat less than genuine smile then reply. “Hello, Professor. Wotcher, Harry.”
As Harry replied, Molly tried to catch Tonks’s eyes to silently ask her not to leave. But Tonks was already standing and reaching for her cloak.
“I’d better be off,” she said quickly as she tossed her cloak over her shoulders. “Thanks for the tea and sympathy, Molly.” She still wouldn’t meet Molly’s eyes. Or anybody else’s in the room, either.
“Please don’t leave on my account,” Dumbledore told her. “I cannot stay, I have urgent matters to discuss with Rufus Scrimgeour.”
Tonks still wouldn’t look at Molly and before Molly could also ask her to stay, she was making her way around the table, still not looking directly at Dumbledore either.
“No, no, I need to get going. ‘Night.”
Molly really did not want the evening to end like this. She felt like she had finally been helping Tonks to feel better. In a last-ditch effort, Molly said, “Dear, why not come to dinner at the weekend, Remus and Mad-Eye are coming – ?” They weren’t. Yet. But Molly could take care of that later. She just didn’t want Tonks to leave like this.
“No, really, Molly … thanks anyway … Good night, everyone.”
And with a swish of her cloak, she was out the door, in the yard, and gone. Molly bit her lower lip anxiously. It worried her to see Tonks so out of sorts. She understood why Tonks didn’t want to be around Dumbledore and Harry right now but when would she have the chance to talk to her again?
Well, if she couldn’t talk to Tonks, perhaps having Remus over for dinner this weekend was a very good idea. He’d want to see Harry anyway. That settled it; she’d invite him in the morning.
Dumbledore left almost immediately after Tonks and Molly, her mind resolved about inviting Remus, turned to give Harry a once-over. She moved him closer to the lantern and could see that he had grown even more than she had thought at first glance.
“You’re like Ron,” she sighed. “Both of you look as though you’ve had Stretching Jinxes put on you. I swear Ron’s grown four inches since I last bought him school robes. Are you hungry, Harry?”
“Yeah, I am.” He answered.
Molly motioned to the kitchen table. “Sit down, dear, I’ll knock something up.”
As Molly bustled about, warming leftovers for Harry to eat, she gave a small smile to thought of having Remus over on the weekend. He really was a wonderful man, and he deserved some happiness. And she would just have to help him see it.