The Sugar Quill
Author: jncarlin  Story: The Rookie  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

It was the assignment she had begged for—the assignment she had dreamed of

A/N: For readers who have read my other Remus/Tonks stories, this is not a part of my other series, but is a completely new take on the relationship. This was originally written for the LJ Metamorfic_Moon Half-Moon Fic Jumble in October 2006, and was awarded “Best Romance” and “Outstanding Contribution.”

 

 

The Rookie

 

August

 

The first time she knocks on the peeling door of his tiny flat, he opens it with a wry grin on his face, and he lets her in without hesitation when she shows him her badge. He invites her to sit down and offers her some tea. She accepts.

 

While he bustles in the kitchen, she surveys her surroundings. The front room is cramped almost full to overflowing with books and periodicals. But it is all clean, and tidily organized. The books seem to be evenly divided between novels and scholarly tomes. She reaches forward and picks up the book lying open on the side table. Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Not at all what she would expect a Dark Creature to be reading. But then, nothing about him is what she expected.

 

“I assume you know why I’m here,” she says, after he hands her a cup of tea, and takes a seat in the armchair across from her.

 

“I suppose you’re here because Kingsley is tired of getting the same answers from me time and time again. He must be hoping that you might bring a new style and perspective that will get me to drop some sort of incriminating clue.”

 

“I’m not here to incriminate you, Mr. Lupin. We’re all aware that your alibi is unassailable. There’s no way you could have assisted in Black’s escape on the night of the full moon.”

 

“It’s nice to know that the Ministry has finally conceded that point.” His smile is full of warm humor. She certainly hadn’t expected a werewolf to be so handsome and civilized. She’ll have to do better research before her next interview—she doesn’t like getting caught off her guard.

 

“Mr. Lupin,” she says, trying to ignore his glib comment and the rather arresting smile that accompanies it, “I’m simply here to ask, once again, if Sirius Black has made any attempts to contact you since his escape from Hogwarts.”

 

“And you can have the same answer I’ve given Kingsley: no, he has not.”

 

“If Black does attempt to contact you, the Ministry would be very grateful if you would inform the Auror office immediately.”

 

“And you?”

 

“What?”

 

“Would you be grateful?”

 

“Well…” she stammers. She really wasn’t ready for this interview. Why the hell did Kingsley rush her in here? “Yes, of course I would. Everyone involved in the investigation would be grateful.” Why does he keep staring at her like that?

 

“You’re Andromeda’s daughter, aren’t you?” Once again, he catches her off guard. She sits, her mouth hanging slightly open, dumbfounded.

 

“I thought so. There’re not many Tonkses in the Wizarding world. And I remember the hair.”

 

She reaches instinctively up to touch her short coif. She doesn’t even remember what color she’s wearing today. “It’s different every day,” she says, defensively.

 

“I know,” he replies. “That’s what I remembered. And your mum used to dress you in those awful mismatched neon clothes, so that she wouldn’t lose you in a crowd.”

 

“When did you..?”

 

“You were very young. I came with Sirius.”

 

Somehow, in less then ten minutes, he has managed to completely take control of the interview. It’s time to take it back. “And Sirius is who I came here to talk about.”

 

“He’s innocent,” he says suddenly, forcefully. “All those years, without a trial, and he was innocent.”

 

She’s ready for this. Kingsley warned her that he would say this. “The uncorroborated word of a single witness is hardly enough for the Wizengamot to alter its ruling.”

 

“Dumbledore will vouch for him,” he says.

 

“Dumbledore can only speak based on his belief of your testimony—he wasn’t present for any of the events you claim to have witnessed.”

 

“There were three other witnesses. Has Scrimgeour obtained permission from their parents yet to debrief them?” He continues to stare at her with an uncomfortable intensity.

 

This is the question she struggles with herself. She has believed from the start that the children should be interviewed, and their accounts of the night in question be examined. Fudge, on the other hand, insists that dragging minors into the investigation would cause a public relations nightmare—especially if they’ve all been bamboozled by their werewolf teacher into believing Black’s innocence.

 

He seems to take her silence as an answer. “Their parents haven’t even been contacted yet, have they?” He looks sad, and resigned.

 

“No,” she says quietly, looking away from his gaze.

 

“Is Scrimgeour the one who made the decision? Or was it Fudge?”

 

She looks up again. She feels as if his brown eyes can see inside of her. “Fudge. But Scrimgeour didn’t put up enough of a fight.”

 

He smiles at her. Her pulse begins to speed. “How long have you been an Auror?” he asks. “Less than a year, surely?”

 

“Two months,” she replies.

 

“I thought you were a rookie,” he says, but his tone and smile are friendly, not condescending.

 

“Is it that obvious?”

 

“Just a little,” he teases.

 

She smiles back at him.

 

After a moment, he says, “Sirius was in the Auror training program when he was arrested.”

 

“I know,” she answers.

 

“He really is innocent.”

 

She looks deep into his brown eyes, and says, “I want to believe you. But I don’t think I can, unless you tell me what really happened that night. What happened to make you so sure that Sirius is innocent?” She doesn’t really expect him to answer, but she has to try.

 

He leans back in his chair, and taps his chin with his hand. He seems to be considering telling her—or he may just be toying with her. Finally, he shakes his head. “No,” he says. “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. Go talk to Harry Potter, or Hermione Granger, or Ronald Weasley. Once you have the true story from them, then come back to me. And I’ll tell you the same thing that they did. Maybe after that, you’ll believe me.”

 

“I wish I could go to them, I really do,” she says, and she means it. “But I can’t. You’re the only one who can tell us what really happened before you transformed.”

 

“I can’t. Not until I have some reassurance that I’ll be believed. And so far I have had no such reassurance. So until Scrimgeour gets the guts to stand up to Fudge and insist upon interviewing those children, I have nothing more to say to you, or anyone else from your department.”

 

She tries one last tactic. “If you give me even a partial statement, it might be enough to convince the Minister that questioning the children is necessary.”

 

“I don’t think so,” he says. “I believe this interview is over.” His tone is firm, and final.

 

She stands, and walks to the door. He follows her, and opens the door for her. Is he being a gentleman, or is he just determined to see her leave as soon as possible?

 

As she steps into the hall, she impulsively turns, and looks back up at him. “I’m sorry to interrupt your evening. I know you’re sick of us by now. I hope you enjoy the rest of your book. It’s a good one.”

 

“It’s my first time reading Austen.”

 

She smiles. “She’s my favorite Muggle author. If you like this one, you should read Pride and Prejudice. It’s the best one.”

 

His smile returns. “I’ll have to do that. It was nice meeting you again, Auror Tonks.”

 

“It was nice meeting you as well, Remus Lupin. I hope we can meet again someday under more pleasant circumstances.”

 

“So do I,” he says.

 

She can still feel his gaze burning into her as she leaves the building.

 

****

 

October

 

She closes the large, musty tome, and stretches her arms. The book is interesting, but not quite what she needs. She stands, and heads back into the stacks. As she turns a corner, looking for the right row, she runs headlong into him.

 

She hasn’t seen him since their interview in August, and she is surprised once more by the intensity of his brown-eyed gaze as he takes her arm to steady her. She is also surprised by the small thrill she feels when he smiles down at her.

 

“Nymphadora!” he says warmly.

 

She is caught off balance by his use of her first name, and it takes her a moment to regain her equilibrium. “Just Tonks, please, Mr. Lupin,” she steps back from him, and his steadying hand falls to his side. He clutches a sheaf of parchment in his other hand.

 

“Just Tonks, it is, then,” he says, his smile becoming more subdued. “But if you insist that I call you Tonks, then I insist that you call me Remus.”

 

She finds that she likes the way his eyes brighten when she smiles up at him.

 

“What in the world is a lovely woman like you doing cooped up in a library on a Saturday afternoon?” he asks.

 

She wonders if he is flirting with her, and if he is, what does he hope to gain from it? “I’m doing some background research for a case. My first few months on the job didn’t go as well as I would have liked, and I’m trying to impress the boss,” she says.

 

“Hmmm,” he hums. “I hope a rather unproductive interview with a person of interest in the Sirius Black case isn’t one of the things that got you off on the wrong foot?”

 

She laughs lightly. “Notice I haven’t been back?”

 

“How could I fail to notice your absence?” His playful tone sends a shiver down her spine. “But don’t feel too bad. You’re not the only Auror I’ve foiled in recent months. They’ve sent four others to try their hand, before giving up and sending Kingsley back.”

 

“So I’ve heard. You’ve become quite the talk of the Auror office.”

 

He looked strangely pleased. “It’s nice to know you won’t forget me.”

 

“How could I possibly forget you?” she says, flirting back. If he’s going to play a game with her, she can play right back.

 

They continue to talk, and he follows her through the stacks. She tells him about her case, and he helps her choose a few helpful books. When she asks him about why he is in the library, he tells her that he is doing freelance work as a writer and fact-checker for several different periodicals. “It’s the only work I can get, in the current political climate,” he says, but without bitterness.

 

“I’m sorry,” she responds. She suddenly feels ashamed of herself for thinking of him as a Dark Creature. But he is, isn’t he?

 

He shrugs. “It’s good enough to pay the rent and keep food on the table. What more do I need?”

 

She wonders if his optimism is genuine. She hopes for his sake that it is.

 

They share a table in a back corner of the library. He helps her with her research, and she helps him with his. After a few hours he suggests that they go and get a cup of tea at a nearby café.

 

She has to think, before answering. He could just be toying with her again—trying to gain her trust and win himself an ally in the Auror department. But if he is genuinely attracted to her, she could use it to her advantage, and possibly have the chance to learn more about what really went on the night of Sirius’s escape.

 

She accepts his invitation.

 

He holds the door for her as they leave the library, and he pulls out her chair at the café. None of the men her own age have ever done these things for her, and she finds that she likes it.

 

She also likes it when, instead of the expected tea, he orders himself a cup of hot chocolate. She finds herself enjoying their conversation so much, that, for a few minutes, she is almost able to forget all about the investigation, and his role in it.

 

But she can never forget it completely. It hangs over them, like a rain cloud that could start to downpour at any moment.

 

****

 

November

 

“So he’s really nothing like this?” she asks, folding her Daily Prophet, and setting it down next to her tea.

 

“Nothing,” he replies firmly. “Rita Skeeter ought to be sacked for all the rubbish she writes.”

 

This is their fourth Saturday together at the café, following their fourth “accidental” encounter in the library. They are discussing the latest articles on the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and Remus is rather vehement in his refutation of Skeeter’s description of Harry Potter. He has managed to pique her interest, so she spends some time probing him further about his relationship with Potter. Eventually, he seems eager to change topics, and she lets him.

 

“I finally took your advice,” he says.

 

“What advice?”

 

“I spent a large part of three days this week reading Pride and Prejudice. I think you were right—it is Austen’s best.”

 

She is excited that he remembered her three-month old recommendation, and thought to act on it. She smiles brightly, and they discuss the foibles of Elizabeth Bennett, Mr. Darcy, and their circle of acquaintances for several minutes before lapsing into a brief silence. It is Remus that shatters the comfortable pause with a jarring question.

 

“So is now the time when you start asking me your not-so-subtle questions about my relationship with Sirius?”

 

She stares at him in shock. He speaks again. “You’ve already finished your line of questioning about Harry—no doubt to ascertain whether or not we were close enough for me to brainwash him. So now it seems only natural that you turn things back to Sirius. That is why we’re here, after all. Isn’t it?”

 

She suddenly feels miserably ashamed of her motive for spending time with him. He’s a good man, and he deserves better. She wonders when she started thinking of him as a man, instead of a werewolf.

 

“I thought we were here for a cup of tea,” she says quietly.

 

His expression is somber, and thoughtful. He looks down and fidgets with his spoon before raising his eyes to meet her gaze. “Is your desire to advance your career the only reason you’ve been meeting me every week?”

 

He has the same tone of resignation that he did during their long ago interview, when he asked if the children’s parents had been contacted yet. She answers impulsively—and, she realizes, truthfully. “No. Of course not. I have plenty of better ways to spend my Saturdays than to waste my time trying to butter up an uncooperative witness. And plenty of better ways to advance my career. Is your desire to play a nasty game of cat and mouse with a rookie Auror the only reason you keep showing up every week?”

 

The faint beginnings of a smile return to his face. “No. But it is part of the fun.”

 

When she smiles back at him, his own smile returns to full force. “Now that you mention it,” she says, “you are doing something for my career advancement. You see, I’m crap at library research, and you’ve become an invaluable asset to me when it comes to finding obscure books.”

 

“Oh really?” he says, taking up her playful tone.

 

“Yes. If you were to abandon me now, I’d go back to being woefully under-prepared for my more obscure cases. It would be disastrous.” She refrains from mentioning that it is the conversations at the café that she would really miss, were they to stop. But she’s not quite ready to admit to that, yet.

 

“Hmmm,” he says. “If my help is really that valuable to you, perhaps I should start charging you. I do have to make a living, after all.”

 

She rolls her eyes and sighs in mock frustration. “Very well. I suppose I can start treating you to that rich hot chocolate you seem so fond of.”

 

“I don’t think that would be enough—good research assistants aren’t easy to come by, you know.” His eyes are twinkling, and his face hints at mischief.

 

“You drive a hard bargain, Remus Lupin,” she says. “Fine, I’ll throw in some biscuits as well—but that’s my final offer.”

 

“Congratulations,” he says, extending his hand. “You’ve just hired yourself a research assistant.”

 

She takes his hand with a little laugh, and shakes it firmly. When he takes a little too long to let go of her hand she doesn’t mind at all.

 

****

  

December

 

She stands at the shop counter, waiting as the clerk finishes gift-wrapping the box of chocolates. She worries for the thousandth time if he’ll be suspicious of her motives when she sends him a Christmas present.

 

For more than two months now, they’ve been casually (on purpose) running into each other every Saturday at the library. They always spend an hour or two researching, and then spend the rest of the afternoon drinking tea or chocolate at the café. It’s become something like a well-choreographed dance, as they glide up and down an invisible line. On one side of the line he is a suspect and she is an Auror—on the other side, they are friends. But every time they come close to waltzing over the line, he says or does something to push them right back. She can’t seem to make him trust her, no matter what she does.

 

She wonders when she started going to their Saturday rendezvous because she wanted to see him, and to hear him talk, instead of because she wanted an advantage in the search for Sirius. She can’t remember when it happened. All she knows is that it did. And she’s not sure if she should have let it.

 

She wants to send him the gift as just a friend—but she doesn’t know if she can. And she doesn’t know if he can receive it as just a friend. She sends it anyway.

 

The next day, as she dons her cloak to leave for Christmas-eve supper at her parents’ house, an owl taps at her window.

 

It carries a small golden box, and a card.

 

She opens the card first. It reads simply, “To my favorite interrogator, from your favorite suspect.” Is he making a joke, or just reminding her of the unpleasant truth? Or both?

 

Breathlessly she opens the box, and stares wide-eyed at the necklace lying on a velvet pad inside. On the silver chain are small multi-colored alphabet-block beads spelling out the words, “Hug me, I’m an Auror.”

 

She starts giggling uncontrollably.

 

This is friendship. Isn’t it? Can he be a suspect and a friend at the same time? More importantly, can she be an Auror and a friend at the same time? She wants to be.

 

When she wears the necklace to supper that night, her mother tells her that it’s ridiculous.

 

“I know,” she says happily.

 

****

 

February

 

She’s been given a Saturday shift, but the meetings at the library continue. Sometimes they are on Wednesday, sometimes Sunday. Sometimes both. And more often than not the drinks at the café lead to dinner. They are always very careful to split the bill—more careful than she would be with any other friend. They step lightly up and down the length of their invisible line each time they meet, and every time she thinks she has crossed it, he does something to remind her that she is still an Auror, and he is still under investigation. She is ready to accept him as a friend, but she isn’t sure if he can ever come to trust her.

 

There are signs of hope that he is ready for friendship unfettered by suspicion. She hasn’t asked him about Sirius in nearly two months, and yet, this week, he starts talking about him. Not Sirius the fugitive, but Sirius his boyhood friend. It thrills her to hear him talk freely of his past.

 

Today the air is unseasonably warm and invigorating, and after dinner she suggests window shopping on Diagon Alley. He agrees. They stroll side by side down the street, so absorbed in their conversation that they barely notice the passing shops. Until they pass the Magical Menagerie. A large yellow and orange cat in the window catches her eye. She stops to study it intently.

 

“Thinking of buying a pet?” he asks.

 

“No,” she says. “I just want the color. I don’t have that color yet.”

 

He gives her a quizzical look.

 

In response, she lengthens her hair until she can hold a large lock up to the window, next to the cat. She concentrates, focusing on the mottled color of its fur. In an instant, her hair takes on the same yellow and orange tones. She compares the lock of hair with the cat one more time. Satisfied, she shrinks her hair back to her preferred short length, and smiles at him.

 

“That’s how I get all my colors,” she says. “I collect them.”

 

Two days later an owl interrupts her breakfast. It is carrying a single pink rose—a beautiful blushing shade that is darker at the base of the petals than at the tips. The note accompanying the flower is unsigned, but she knows who it’s from as soon as she reads it. It says, “Another color for your collection.”

 

When she sees him again on Sunday, her hair is the same graduated pink as the rose. The look on his face when he sees her makes her happier than anything else all week.

 

****

 

March

 

They sit in the back of the café, in an isolated little booth that gives them a semblance of privacy. They have finished their dinner, and are slowly sipping the last of their wine.

 

She looks into his eyes, and finally asks a question that has been on her mind for a long time. “Will you tell me about Sirius?”

 

He stares at his glass, swirling his wine. “What do you want to know?”

 

He’s already told her dozens of stories about Sirius from their days in school. He must know what it is she wants. But since he wants her to say it, she says it. “Tell me why you believe he’s innocent.”

 

The corners of his mouth curve up. “I’ve been wondering if you would ask me that, one of these days.”

 

“Well, I have. So will you tell me?”

 

He gives her one of his trademark intense gazes. She’s certain he’s going to decline, but he finally says, “Yes. Yes, I will. But it’s a long story.”

 

“I have all night.”

 

It takes more than two hours before she is satisfied that she has all the details. She can tell that he feels guilty for not trusting Sirius for all those years. And he blames himself for ruining Sirius’s chance for freedom when he transformed without his potion. She has no words sufficient to ease his guilt, so instead she reaches across the table and takes his hand in hers. She holds his hand tightly, hoping to give him comfort with her touch. At last, she says, “I believe you. And I trust you.”

 

“Thank you,” he says, in a voice barely above a whisper.

 

As they prepare to leave, he pays the whole bill. He walks her all the way to her flat, and holds her hand the entire time.

 

She can’t sleep that night, from thinking about him. She finally sees what she has been denying for who knows how long. The line that they have danced along was not between suspicion, and friendship. No, if he finally trusts her enough to join her on the other side of the line, it won’t be as her friend—it will be as something much, much more.

 

She knows it wasn’t easy for him to confide in her, and she is afraid of pushing him away again. So when they meet at the library four days later, she tries to keep things light and cheerful, and avoids the heavy topics. Despite her efforts, he seems uncomfortable and quiet. She asks him what is wrong.

 

“Nothing,” he says, avoiding her eyes.

 

“You’re lying,” she says. “It’s not nothing. It’s just not something you want to tell me.”

 

Now he looks at her eyes, but he does not reply.

 

“Fine,” she snaps. “I have a lot of work to do, anyway.” She opens the book on the table before her, and starts flipping through it furiously. “If you didn’t want to talk to me, you should have just stayed home,” she mutters.

 

“Tonks.” She ignores him. “Tonks,” he repeats, louder.

 

“What?” she says in irritation, looking up at him.

 

“I’m sorry. It’s just…I didn’t know how to react when you showed up today acting as if nothing has changed—as if nothing is different for you—when I just spent the last few days completely on edge. I kept waiting for Kingsley and Scrimgeour to come pounding on my door at any moment, to demand a repeat performance of what I told you the other night. I’ve been so wound up and nervous this whole time—and you seem just fine. I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”

 

“Is that supposed to be an apology? If it is, you’re crap at it.” She can feel herself shaking. “You actually thought I would tell them, didn’t you? You really thought, after all these months, that I was just using you. Well I’m not! I didn’t tell Kingsley, or Scrimgeour, or anyone else! I thought we were talking in confidence, as friends. I told you that I trusted you—and I thought you trusted me too. Apparently I was wrong.”

 

“That’s not what I meant—you’re misinterpreting me.”

 

“Then how should I interpret you?”

 

He just stares at her—not the stare that makes her melt, but the stare that makes her want to run away.

 

Her head is spinning. She’s starting to feel sick. “I have to go,” she says, standing up quickly.

 

“Wait. Tonks, please wait.”

 

She ignores him, and turns to leave.

 

“Tonks! Please! I’m sorry.”

 

She stops, but doesn’t look at him. “So am I,” she says, and walks away.

 

****

 

April

 

More than two weeks have passed since she last saw him. It is the only time since the day they first met that she has come to his flat. When he opens the door and sees her, his face lights up. It makes her pulse race, to see him looking at her like that.

 

“Tonks! I didn’t expect… I wasn’t…” he stammers. She’s never heard him stammer before.

 

“Can I come in?” she asks.

 

“Yes. Of course.” She strides past him, and he closes the door behind her. His flat isn’t as tidy as last time. She stands in the center of the room. She doesn’t want to sit down.

 

“Would you like some tea? Or hot chocolate?”

 

“No. Thank you,” she says, shaking her head.

 

He stands in front of her, his hands fidgeting nervously in front of him. “Tonks…” he begins.

 

“They know Sirius is back in England,” she interrupts him. He looks stunned. “All the clues point to it,” she continues. “And they are convinced that you know something about where he is.”

 

His face grows slightly paler, but his jaw is set. “What are they going to do?” he asks.

 

“They’re going to ask you to consent to an interrogation under Veritaserum. And if you don’t consent, they’re going to request a court-order from the Wizengamot that will force you to submit, or to face criminal charges.”

 

She is frightened. As angry as she is at him, she can’t bear the thought of his being sent to Azkaban. Why the hell did she let herself start caring for him so much?

 

He is pacing, running his hands through his hair. He looks as nervous as she feels. He must know something. Something that he can’t share without incriminating himself. She feels faint. She puts her hand on the nearest bookcase, to steady herself.

 

He stops pacing, and strides up to her, looking down into her eyes. “Do you know when they’re coming for me?”

 

“Later tonight” she says. “Tomorrow morning, at the latest. I was on shift when I overhead them… I’m still supposed to be on shift, but I just couldn’t… I had to come.”

 

He has been holding his breath, and now he lets it out in one long, slow, gush. “Thank you,” he says. His hoarse voice is so full of feeling—she feels tears forming in her eyes, but she fights them. She can’t let him see her cry.

 

“There’s still time,” he says. “Time to make arrangements.”

 

“What are you going to do?” She hears the fear in her own voice, and knows that he must hear it too.

 

He moves even closer to her. She wants to reach out and wrap her arms around him, but she holds back. “I’m going to consent to the interrogation,” he says. “But only on two conditions.”

 

“What conditions?” she asks.

 

“First, I will demand that Dumbledore be present for the interrogation.”

 

“Fudge won’t like that.”

 

“I know,” he says. He displays a grim smile. “But there’s nothing Fudge can do to stop it. These sorts of interrogations are under the direct purview of the Wizengamot. Dumbledore will see to it that I’m protected.” She wishes that she could trust Dumbledore as implicitly as he seems to.

 

“What’s the second condition?” she asks quietly.

 

He gently places his hands on her shoulders. She trembles under their warm weight. “The second condition is that I don’t want you to witness the interrogation.”

 

Her whole body grows warm in response to his closeness. “I’m just a Junior Auror. I doubt they’ll ask me to sit in.”

 

“But if they do,” he says, “promise me that you’ll refuse?”

 

What is he hiding from her? What is he protecting her from? He still doesn’t trust her. Even now, he still doesn’t trust her. She looks away from him.

 

“Tonks, please?” She looks back up. She wants him to look at her like that forever.

 

Finally, she makes her decision. He may not trust her, but she has placed her trust in him, and it is time to prove that trust. “I promise,” she says.

 

He pulls her tight against his chest, wrapping his arms around her. She slides her own arms around him, running her hands up his back, and breathes deeply of his musky scent. She never wants to let go.

 

“I’ve missed you so much,” he whispers.

 

The tears that she has been holding back began to flow. “I don’t want to lose you,” she whispers back, her voice tremulous with emotion.

 

He relaxes his embrace enough to look down at her face. He reaches up to cradle her face in his hand, and gently wipes away her tears with his thumb. “Don’t worry, Tonks. Everything will work out. I’ll be fine.”

 

“Maybe you could avoid the interrogation if I tell them what you’ve already told me. I can pretend that you only told me today, and that I tricked you into telling me. That might be enough,” she says.

 

“No,” he says, shaking his head. His hand drops down to her shoulder. “I won’t have you risk yourself for me. If you go to them now, you’ll only get yourself caught in whatever trap they’re setting for me. The Ministry needs people like you right now, and I won’t have you risking your position over something like this.” His tone is forceful, and his face decided.

 

“Please let me help you,” she says.

 

“The best way you can help me, is by going back to work, and pretending that you haven’t spoken to me since that interview back in August. I’ll contact Dumbledore and take care of the rest.”

 

“Remus…” she begins, but he cuts her off.

 

“I can’t do this if I think you’re putting yourself at risk. I need to know that you are protecting yourself. Please.”

 

His eyes are imploring her. She nods quietly in agreement. Before she can protest, he moves to her side, and leads her to the door. “Remember,” he says, “you haven’t spoken to me since August.”

 

She nods mutely, and steps out into the hall. “Tonks,” he says, before she leaves. “Thank you. Thank you for coming to me—for wanting to help me.”

 

“I had to. I couldn’t not help.”

 

He leans toward her, his face coming within inches of her own. She holds her breath. The look in his eyes is turning her legs to jelly. But, after a pause, he pulls back. “Take care of yourself,” he says.

 

“You too,” she replies.

 

He nods. She turns and leaves, wishing she could stay with him, and wondering how she will ever finish the day at work.

 

She somehow manages to get through her shift, though it passes like a blur. All she knows is that he hasn’t yet been brought in when she leaves for the day. She wants to go back to his flat, but she knows that if she is there when Kingsley and Scrimgeour arrive, she will only cause problems for herself as well as for him. So she goes home to her own flat. But she cannot eat. And she cannot sleep. She spends the whole night fretting, and pacing.

 

She finally gets an hour of sleep just before dawn, but rises again with the sun. She arrives at the Ministry early for her day’s shift, and it doesn’t take her long to learn that he was brought in an hour earlier, just after sunrise.

 

She muddles through another day in a blur of anxiety. Her colleagues keep asking her what is wrong, and finally Dawlish insists that she take the rest of the day off. She reluctantly agrees. Staying at the Ministry will not bring her news of him any sooner—she already knows that he is being held in custody for thirty-six hours prior to interrogation, to ensure that he uses none of the counter-agents to Veritaserum. All that is left to do is wait until tomorrow, and hope for the best.

 

She paces until she begins to fear that her floorboards will wear through. Over the past day, something has become obvious to her: the rules against Aurors becoming romantically involved with persons under investigation exist for a reason. They exist for this reason. Remus consumes her thoughts, stirs her passions, and enlivens her heart like no one else she has ever known. All her feelings for him could be summed up in one simple word—but it is a word that she is still terrified just to think, let alone say. And if the interrogation goes badly and he is sent to Azkaban, it will haunt her for the rest of her life. This has all been a mistake. A huge, huge mistake. A rookie mistake. And this whole time she was foolish enough to convince herself that she knew what she was doing.

 

She decides that the only way she is going to get through the night, is to get herself good and drunk. She takes out a bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey, and spends the next hour drinking herself into oblivion.

 

She wakes with a splitting headache, and a mouth that tastes like bile. One glance at the clock on her wall tells her that she is nearly an hour late for work. She wants to stay home, and hide. She wants to storm the Ministry and rescue him. She wants for him to knock on her door, and say that Dumbledore cleared things up and they let him go. Of course, none of that happens.

 

Instead, she takes a quick shower, and goes in for her shift.

 

In the early afternoon, she watches Scrimgeour and Kingsley leave the department. It’s time.

 

She manages to stay at her desk for another thirty minutes before she gives up, and heads for the interrogation rooms. A quick trip to the bathroom on the way gives her a chance to transfigure her Auror uniform into a plain black work robe, and to morph her features to match those of a mousy little secretary that she’s often seen scuttling around this part of the building. It isn’t hard to find the room he is in—it is the only one with two Magical Law Enforcement goons standing guard in the hall.

 

She manages to hover nearby for more than an hour without drawing any undue attention from the guards. She knows that most interrogations last more than an hour, but she can’t help but become increasingly nervous with every passing minute. She is on the verge of panic when the door finally opens.

 

Fudge storms out of the room, a scowl on his face. He strides past her without a second glance. Scrimgeour comes next. He pauses in the hall to give instructions to the guards in low tones. She wishes that she could hear what he’s saying.  

 

The guards follow him back into the room. When they reemerge, Remus is walking between them. She takes a sharp breath, and steadies herself against the wall. Dumbledore follows close behind them. Remus pauses, and he exchanges a few words with Dumbledore. They are smiling. They shake hands before Remus turns and follows his guards with his head held high. They follow the corridor leading away from her—toward the Ministry holding cells.

 

She doesn’t know what to think. Somehow, Dumbledore was able to protect him—or they wouldn’t have been smiling like that. Would they? But then why is he still in custody? She needs answers.

 

Kingsley comes out of the room, and he too exchanges a few words with Dumbledore. They pass her in the hall, still talking in low voices. She strains her ears to hear what they are saying. They are talking about the Tri-wizard Tournament. Remus isn’t even mentioned. She feels like screaming.

 

Once they have all passed, she returns to her natural appearance, and follows Kingsley back to the Auror department. She finds him alone in his cubicle. She steels her spine, and in as casual a voice as she can muster, asks, “So, how did the interrogation of the werewolf go?”

 

The way Kingsley is looking at her makes her uneasy. “I think we should talk in private,” he says. This is not a good sign.

 

She watches as Kingsley quietly casts a Muffliato spell on all the other Aurors working nearby. Then he looks at her, and says, “What in the hell have you been doing with him, Tonks?”

 

She’s petrified. Her tongue feels like lead in her mouth. Of all the possible consequences of the interrogation, it never once occurred to her that Remus might let slip something about their relationship. “I take it,” she says, “that my name came up?”

 

“Repeatedly,” replies Kingsley.

 

“Oh,” she says. She sits down on an empty corner of his desk.

 

Kinsley contemplates her for a moment. “I’ve known him since we were in school, you know. We were in the same house.”

 

She nods. Kingsley continues, “He’s a good man. You could do a lot worse than him. But you’re timing is shit.”

 

This isn’t what she expects, and she is momentarily stunned. “Yeah,” she says, trying to recover herself. “It’s not like I planned this, you know. It just sort of happened.”

 

“You shouldn’t have let it.”

 

“I know,” she replied, quietly.

 

Kingsley takes a deep breath. “Normally, at this point I would start bawling you out for so recklessly flaunting departmental rules. However, today, I’m in the mood to make an exception.”

“Why?”

 

“Has Remus ever told you what happened the night Black escaped from Hogwarts?” He looks her sharply in the eye.

 

She nods. “Yes.”

 

“Did you believe him?”

 

Again, she answers, “Yes.”

 

Kingsley nods. “So do I.”

 

Her eyes grow wider. This is another result she never expected. “What about Scrimgeour? And Fudge?” she asks.

 

“Fudge,” says Kingsley, uttering the name like it was a curse. “He insists that the lycanthropy must somehow interfere with the effectiveness of the Veritaserum. He refuses to admit the possibility that the Ministry made a mistake. Dumbledore started pressing him and Scrimgeour to reopen the original case, and Fudge would hear nothing of it. Flatly refused.”

 

“What did Scrimgeour do?”

 

“Humph. Scrimgeour is beginning to fancy himself a politician. He tried to play both sides, saying that he would have us keep an eye out for Pettigrew, but declining to re-open the Black case.”

 

“So what’s going to happen now?”

 

“Now,” says Kingsley, “I’m going to keep my mouth shut and pretend to agree with Fudge.”

 

Tonks is shocked. “How can you? Knowing what you know?”

 

Kingsley looks grim. “I believe in justice. That’s why I took this job. And the best way for me to give Sirius justice is to stay in a position to protect him. And right now the best way to protect him is to remain in charge of looking for him.”

 

Tonks nods. “You’re right. I should have seen it right away. My brain is so muddled right now. I’ve been so worried.” She looks imploringly at him. “Is Remus okay? What’s going to happen to him?”

 

He takes another deep breath. “He admitted to receiving multiple letters from Black over the past year. But he is, and has been, unaware of Black’s location. He’s agreed to hand over all the letters, and to forward any future letters that he receives. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the law, he is still guilty of withholding evidence, and abetting a fugitive.”

 

This is what she was waiting for. This is what had been terrifying her. She tries to stay calm, but it isn’t easy. “What’s,” her voice cracks, “what’s going to happen to him?”

 

“Due to his cooperation with this interrogation, and handing over the letters, he will only be sentenced to two weeks detention in a Ministry holding cell.”

 

“Thank God,” she says, closing her eyes. “Thank God.”

 

“Thank Dumbledore is more like it,” says Kingsley. “As the legal authority in the room, the final sentence was his call. Fudge was pressing for six months in Azkaban, but Dumbledore wouldn’t have it—and this time Scrimgeour backed him up.”

 

“Good.” She is beginning to feel stronger. “Scrimgeour is no fool.”

 

“Don’t get too excited. He might not think that Remus deserves Azkaban, but he seemed pretty shaken to hear him go on and on about you. He’ll probably want to talk to you sometime soon.”

 

“No problem,” she says. “I can handle it.”

 

Kingsley studies her for another minute. “I expect you’re pretty eager to go see Remus, but I think it would be best if you don’t. With Fudge and Scrimgeour all stirred up over this thing, I doubt they would react well if you started visiting him in his cell.”

 

She doesn’t want to agree with him, but she has to. “You’re right. You’re right. But…if I wanted to send him a few notes, would you take them for me?”

 

Kingsley sighs. “Fine. But keep them short, discreet, and anonymous. And I won’t be your bloody errand boy—two or three notes a week is all I’m going to do.”

 

She smiles for what feels like the first time in days. “Thank you. Thank you for everything.”

 

“You’re welcome. Now go down to the cafeteria and get yourself an Auror’s special. You look like hell.”

 

She takes his advice, and goes to get the Auror’s special—a mixture of strong coffee and an Invigoration Draught. She returns to her desk, and hastily scrawls a note to Remus. “I’m glad things went as well as they did. Can’t see you yet. You’ve won us a new ally. Thinking of you.”

 

It’s probably not as discreet as Kingsley would advise. But it’s not nearly as candid as she would like. So it will have to do. Just as she finishes charming it so only Remus will be able to read it, Scrimgeour’s assistant comes to fetch her. She slips the note to Kingsley as she passes his cubicle.

 

The meeting with Scrimgeour is quicker and easier than she expects. When she returns, there is already a note from Remus waiting for her on her desk. She opens it with trembling hands. “Don’t come. It wouldn’t be safe. I hope there’s no trouble for you. I’m always thinking of you.”

 

She clutches it to her chest, amazed at the effect that last sentence has on her. What exactly did he say about her during that interrogation? Kingsley and Scrimgeour probably know more about his true feelings for her than she does, and it’s driving her mad.

 

The next two weeks are some of the longest of her life. She manages to exchange four more notes with Remus, but they contain little more than reassurances that he is doing well. The one thing that delights her about each note is way he closes them with phrases so tantalizing that she can’t stop thinking about them. First, “There are so many things I ought to have told you—that I want to tell you—that I will tell you. I’m sorry I made you wait so long to hear them.” Then, “The days go faster when I remind myself of how soon I will see you again.” Next, “It’s amazing the things I find myself missing—I long for the scent of your perfume, and the sound of your laughter.” And finally, “I dreamt of you again last night—sometimes I dream of you even when I am awake.”

 

She keeps the notes in the pocket of her robes, and reads them again and again.

 

Finally, the day of his release arrives.

 

She sits on the stairs in front of his flat. A full brown paper bag sits beside her. He stops, and smiles up at her when he sees her. “Wotcher,” she says, feeling suddenly shy.

 

“Hello,” he replies.

 

She stands, and picks up the bag. “I bought you some groceries,” she says. “I thought you might like some fresh food when you got home.”

 

He walks up the stairs to stand beside her, looking down into her eyes. The smile hasn’t left his face for an instant. “Thank you,” he says, taking the bag from her. “That was very thoughtful of you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she says. Why can’t she think of something more meaningful to say? She always used to talk to him without any trouble—so why now does his gaze leave her mind in such a jumble.

 

“Would you like to come in?” he says.

 

She nods. He unlocks the door, and they walk inside. “Let me just…put this away,” he says, holding up the bag.

 

She follows him to the kitchen, and leans on the table while he puts the groceries away. “Interesting food choices,” he says, eyeing the selection of instant meals, fruit, chocolate, and beer.

 

“I just brought the staples,” she says with a shrug.

 

“Hmmm. Is this how you eat at home?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“We’ll have to do something about that.”

 

The “we” makes her smile more confident.

 

“Would you like something to drink?”

 

“One of those beers would be nice,” she says.

 

He opens a bottle for her, and one for himself. They go back into the front room, and sit next to each other on the sofa, sipping their beer.

 

“Kingsley tells me that he’s been talking more with Dumbledore,” she says. “They’re working out more ways that he can help protect Sirius. Kingsley’s a good bloke. We’re lucky to have him on our side.”

 

“Yes, we are.”

 

“Did you tell them everything about Sirius, or were you able to hold anything back?”

 

“I was able to keep back far more than I expected. Most importantly, I was able to avoid revealing the fact that Sirius is an Animagus.”

 

“How did you ever keep that back?”

 

“Dumbledore discovered a wonderful trick for eliciting some very distracting responses from me every time it seemed that I was coming close to a dangerous revelation.” He’s looking down at his hands. He seems almost nervous.

 

“What do you mean by distracting responses?” she asks.

 

He takes a deep breath. “Well…every time he wanted to distract Fudge and Scrimgeour from their questioning, he would jump in with a question that would make me talk about…would make me talk about you.” He looks up into her eyes. “I hope…that I didn’t cause any trouble for you at work.”

 

She’d wondered how she kept coming up in the interrogation. Now she has her answer. “Scrimgeour seems to think that you’ve been stalking me,” she says with a smile. “He even offered to help petition the Wizengamot to have a Restraining Charm placed on you. I politely declined.”

 

He smiles, and laughs softly. “I’m glad to hear it. Stalking you, eh? I suppose a few of the things I said could have been interpreted that way.”

 

“I really need to get Kingsley to show me the transcript of that interrogation,” she teases.

 

“Please don’t. It’s terribly embarrassing.” He still has a smile on his face.

 

“Is that why you didn’t want me to sit in on the interrogation?” she asks, hopeful.

 

He nods. “Yes. I didn’t want you to hear…certain things…under those conditions.” He doesn’t elaborate on what “certain things” are, but her guesses send shivers down her spine.

 

“You must not have sounded too much like a stalker, because Kingsley guessed closer to the truth,” she says.

 

He looks at her with a more serious expression on his face. “What is the truth?” he asks softly.

 

She leans closer to him, looking intently into his eyes. “The truth is… the truth is…” She doesn’t have the words. She wonders if he can see her feelings just by looking at her eyes.

 

He can.

 

He takes her face in his hands, and closes the distance between them, brushing his lips against her temple. He trails kisses down the side of her face, and she feels a fire inside of her burning hotter with every new kiss. He pauses with his lips hovering just over hers.

 

It’s driving her mad.

 

She pushes forward to seal the kiss. His mouth opens eagerly, and her whole body thrills as she tastes him for the first time. He twines one hand through her hair, deepening their kiss. He runs his other hand down her back, and pulls her closer, pressing his body against her. She feels dizzy, and delirious. It’s more perfect than she ever imagined—and she’s imagined a great deal.

 

After a time, he pulls back enough to look into her eyes once more. They are both catching their breath.

 

His smile thrills her almost as much as the kiss. Almost.

 

“I’ve wanted to do that from the first moment I saw you,” he says huskily.

 

“Is that one of the things you said in the interrogation?”

 

“I might have mentioned something like it, yes.”

 

“I really need to read that transcript,” she says.

 

“I’ll tell it all to you myself,” he says. “Later.”

 

“Later? What do you want to do first?”

 

“This,” he replies, pulling her in for another kiss.

 

****

 

May

 

They sit on a picnic blanket on the bank of a small pond in a Muggle park. They spend a lot of time in Muggle parks, and pubs, and shops. Gossip spreads too quickly in the Wizarding community for them to risk making their relationship public yet, so they avoid magical destinations. Word of his recent incarceration has already gotten out to two of the five periodicals that were outsourcing to him, and they have both politely informed him that they no longer require his services.

 

He’s been depressed about it, and she suggested the outing to the park in hopes of cheering him up. She wants to convince him that she doesn’t need expensive dates to have a good time. Just being with him is enough—no matter where they are, or what they’re doing. He still seems to feel that she deserves “better”, whatever that means. She doesn’t think that she’s ever met another man who could possibly be “better” for her than him—but making him believe that looks like it will be an uphill battle.

 

Part of her wishes that she could throw caution aside and show him off to her friends, so that they could help confirm what a wonderful couple the two of them make. But another part of her is glad to keep this special, private part of her life all to herself.

 

They have run out of bread to feed the ducks, so they discreetly pull out their wands, and race leaves across the pond. She wins every race, and she is starting to wonder if he is letting her win.

 

She is about to accuse him, when he freezes, with a strange look on his face. She follows his eyes. A large black dog has bounded into the park, and is loping toward the pond.

 

“Digger!” calls a young boy, running after the dog. “Come here Digger!”

 

Remus drops his eyes, and his tense shoulders relax.

 

“Did you think it was Sirius?” she asks.

 

“For a moment. He looks very much like that, when he is transformed.”

 

“Have you heard from him, since the interrogation?”

 

He shakes his head. “It’s too risky. I asked Dumbledore to tell him not to contact me anymore.”

 

“If you wanted to relay letters through Dumbledore, I’m sure Kingsley would look the other way,” she says.

 

He nods. “Maybe.”

 

She tightens her mouth. “You still don’t trust him, do you?”

 

“I do,” he says. “Mostly. It’s just so hard to really trust someone completely.”

 

“It’s called faith, Remus.”

 

“I know. I’m just very selective with my faith.”

 

She sighs. This isn’t their first conversation on his trust issues. And she doubts it will be their last. This is something that will take time to overcome. Lot’s of time. There are moments she’s still not sure if he completely trusts her.

 

“Let’s go for a walk,” she says.

 

He smiles. He looks relieved that she isn’t going to lecture him again. “Let’s go,” he says.

 

****

 

June

 

They are enjoying dinner at a pub near her flat when the face of her watch starts to glow red.

 

“What’s that?” he asks.

 

“It’s the emergency signal from the Auror department. I need to report immediately. I’m sorry.” She stands to go.

 

“Go. Go,” he says, his eyes wide. “I’ll see you later.” He stands and kisses her goodbye before she leaves the pub to Apparate.

 

It is only just over an hour later when she knocks on the door of his flat. He opens the door with surprise. “I didn’t expect you so soon…” he starts to say.

 

She falls against him, wrapping her arms around him. “Oh God, Remus. It’s so horrible,” she says with a quavering voice. She knows that the sight of tears on her face shocks him terribly, but she can’t stop them.

 

“Come sit down,” he says, leading her to the sofa. They sit, and he takes her hands. “Now,” he says. “Tell me what’s going on.”

 

“It’s the Tri-wizard Tournament—the final task,” she replies.

 

His face goes white. “Is Harry…?”

 

“Harry’s all right—I think,” she says. “But…Cedric. Cedric Diggory is dead.” Even as she says it, she can hardly wrap her mind around it.

 

“The Hufflepuff champion?”

 

She nods.

 

“How?”

 

“When I and the other Aurors arrived on the scene, Harry was gone. Someone had taken him into the castle. But Amos Diggory was there, crying. He was crying so loudly, and kneeling by someone on the ground. It was Cedric. I’ve never seen anyone hit by Avada Kedavra before. He was so still—so pale.”

 

Avada Kedavra?” Remus sounds horrified.

 

“All the witnesses were clamoring—they were swarming around us, buzzing like a pack of flies. It took me a few minutes to make out what they were saying. Harry and Cedric had disappeared—officials had gone into the maze to search for them. Everyone was worried. Then suddenly, Harry had appeared in front of the stands, clutching the Goblet of Fire in one hand, and Cedric’s body in the other. He insisted that he and Cedric had been ambushed, and attacked. He said that…that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had returned to power.”

 

Remus’s grip on her hands was tightening. “Did you get a chance to talk to Harry? Or to Dumbledore, or Moody?”

 

“No,” she said. She looked down at their entwined hands as she spoke. “No. They were all inside the castle. We started trying to collect all the witnesses’s statements, when Fudge strode up with some investigators from Magical Law Enforcement, and insisted that we leave. He said that all the talk about You-Know-Who was just rumors and lies. Cedric’s death had been an accident. Most of us didn’t believe him. We wanted to stay. But he threatened our jobs if we didn’t follow his orders. Only Scrimgeour got to stay behind.”

 

She looked up into his eyes. “Amos and Cicely Diggory have been friends with my parents for as long as I can remember. I’ve known Cedric since he was a baby. He was such a good kid. He never did anything to hurt anyone. He didn’t deserve to die like this! He was so young.”

 

“Voldemort has always included the innocent and young among the ranks of his first victims. It’s one of his most nefarious tactics—designed to make the populace fearful and submissive.” She winces at the name. Remus’s voice is hard.

 

“Do you really think he’s back?”

 

“If Harry says he is back, then he is back. Harry wouldn’t lie about this.” He sounds so certain.

 

“How can we know if Harry really said it?”

 

“Dumbledore will talk to him. If Voldemort has really returned, Dumbledore will be sending me word—soon.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“I’m sure. Right now, we need to wait for him to contact us. There’s nothing else we can do.”

 

Her stomach feels like a cold, empty pit. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this, Remus. I’ve never even been in battle…”

 

“You’re ready,” he says, cutting her off. He reaches up to cradle her face in his hand. “You’re stronger then you ever give yourself credit for. You are ready.”

 

He wraps his arms around her, and she leans gratefully into his embrace.

 

They speak softly. She tells him more about the Diggory family, and about Cedric. She’s trying to work through her shock and her sorrow, and he listens patiently. Eventually she runs out of words, and he continues to hold her gently, stroking her hair. Slowly, she drifts off to sleep.

 

She wakes to the sound of scratching. She lifts her head from Remus’s chest. She hears more scratching, followed by a low canine whimper. “What is it?” she asks.

 

“If I’m not mistaken,” says Remus, “that’s the news we’ve been waiting for.”

 

They stand, and he walks to the door. She waits by the sofa. Remus opens the door, and a large black dog leaps in, wagging its tail eagerly. As Remus closes the door behind it, it catches sight of her, and its tail drops. It crouches, and looks at Remus, then back at Tonks.

 

Remus smiles down at it. “Don’t worry, Sirius. We can trust her.”

 

With those simple words, her heart swells. She knows, once and for all, that he finally believes in her the way she believes in him.

 

The dog blurs and rises upright in front of her, morphing into the form of Sirius Black. “I hope you know what you’re doing, mate,” he says.

 

Remus looks at Sirius, and then at her. “I do. I do. Sirius—allow me to introduce your cousin, Tonks.”

 

****

 

A few days later, once things have calmed down, Sirius asks them, “How in the world did you two meet anyway?”

 

They look into each other’s eyes, and smile.

 

“Kingsley thought it would be good for a laugh to send the greenest young rookie Auror to interrogate the prime suspect in the escape of Sirius Black,” says Remus.

 

Tonks laughs. “And he was so smitten with me, that when he saw me at the library two months later, he went out of his way to accidentally run into me.”

 

Sirius raises his eyebrows. “Is that really how it happened?” he asks.

 

Remus nods. “Something like that,” he says.

 

Tonks smiles, and looks into his eyes as she settles deeper into the arm around her shoulders. “Yeah. Something like that.”

 

 

 

A/N: I love reviews—and so does Remus. Your review might even make him happy enough to send you a silly necklace—or possibly even trail kisses down your face. :o)

 

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