The Sugar Quill
Author: jncarlin  Story: This Stony Pass  Chapter: Chapter 2: Stuck in a Moment
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Chapter Two: Picking Up the Pieces

Author's Notes: Again, much thanks goes to MrsTater for her beta-help on this story. Without her suggestions, this story would not be what it is. The story and chapter titles are derived from the song “Stuck in a Moment” by U2, lyrics by Bono.

 

Thankfully, although the remainder of this story was written prior to the release of Deathly Hallows, it survived the new canon virtually unscathed. (Hooray!) I’ve since made the necessary edits to bring it into full canon-compliancy.

 

 

Chapter Two: Stuck in a Moment

 

August

 

Tonks sinks into her chair and gratefully takes the cup of tea that Molly offers her. She needs an extra pick-me-up; it’s been hours since her Aurors’ special—the potent combination of black coffee and Pepper-Up Potion that is the only thing that gets her through the day. The young people are picnicking out in the garden, so Tonks and Molly have the house to themselves.

 

Tonks has been coming here often over the past month—but only at times when she is sure that Remus won’t be there. She is also still avoiding her parents—after what happened in the hospital she couldn’t possibly bear the mock-sympathy that would come with telling them about the break-up. She has no other friends that she can safely confide in, so she has come to rely on Molly’s willing ear.

 

“Remus was here yesterday,” Molly says casually as she prepares their tea.

 

Tonks clenches her jaw and takes a deep breath, preparing for the most painful part of her new routine with Molly. “Were you nice to him?” she asks.

 

“Of course I was!” Molly replies. “I always am. Just because I think he’s being ridiculous about all this doesn’t mean I’m not his friend.”

 

“Good,” says Tonks firmly. “Because you know I don’t want you taking sides on this.”

 

“I know, dear. And I haven’t. Remus is clearly in the wrong, but I assure you that he will never be made to feel unwelcome in my home.”

 

Tonks sighs. She supposes that this is the best that she can expect. Undoubtedly Molly finds ways to gently chide Remus, but hopefully it’s nothing too difficult for him to bear. Remus needs all the support he can get these days. He might not be willing to accept it from her, but she is determined to make sure he gets it from everyone else.

 

Molly sinks down into the chair next to her, clutching her own tea. “What I was going to tell you is that Remus says he might not be coming around anymore.”

 

Tonks bites her bottom lip, and the speed of her heart quickens. “Why not?”

 

Molly’s voice lowers as she replies. “He thinks he’s found a pack that will take him in. And once he’s gone underground, the only person that he’ll report to is Alastor.” Molly studies her face intently, as if waiting for her to break down.

 

Tonks refuses to let the chill of fear shooting through her show on her face. Instead, she calmly says, “We all knew this was coming. It’s what he’s been working toward.”

 

Molly nods. “Yes, it is.” She pauses. “I told him that he ought to say goodbye to you in person. He owes you that much, I think.”

 

Tonks shakes her head. “No. It would only make things harder for him. I wish you hadn’t said that, Molly.”

 

“I’m sorry. I was only trying to help,” she says. “Seeing the two of you like this breaks my heart.”

 

“I’m a big girl, Molly. I’ll survive.” But will Remus? That is what really worries her. Now that he’s forsaken the support she offered him, will he be able to do this without losing himself?

 

They lapse into silence, sipping their tea. At last, Molly speaks. “What’s this big news you say you have for me?”

 

Tonks looks down into her tea, and swirls it around. “I’m being transferred to Hogsmeade—permanently.”

 

“Permanently?”

 

Tonks nods. “The village has been clamoring for more of an Auror presence, and Robards has also been working to improve security measures at Hogwarts for the next school year, so he decided to station four Aurors in Hogsmeade at all times. Three of the positions will be one month rotations. I, on the other hand, am the new permanent Coordinator of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Security.”

 

“A promotion!” says Molly in delight. “How wonderful for you!”

 

“I wish it was.”

 

Molly frowns slightly. “How can a promotion be bad?”

 

Tonks shakes her head. “It was the way Robards said it. He calls me into his office and tells me that because of my diligent and determined performance over the past month in spite of my continuing disability, he has decided that I am the perfect Auror for the job. Which is his way of saying that since I ruined myself for fieldwork when I lost my ability to morph, he’s decided to stick me with the crap job that no one else wants. And by making it look like a promotion, he gets away without seeming sexist for sticking one of the only two female Aurors in the safest post.”

 

“Oh,” says Molly, and Tonks can tell that Molly doesn’t see anything at all wrong with putting a woman in the safest post. Molly sips her tea. “Well, I for one am thrilled. There’s no one I would trust more with my children’s safety than you. And Ginny will be delighted to see you there, as well.”

 

Tonks can’t help but smile. Leave it to Molly to find the silver lining. “Thank you, Molly. I promise I’ll do my best.”

 

“I know you will, dear,” Molly replies, reaching out to pat Tonks on the knee. It’s good to have someone who believes in her, when she’s having so much trouble believing in herself.

 

She lingers at Molly’s late into the evening. She isn’t eager to go back to her flat; when she is there, too many memories crush in on her, and refuse to give her peace. Plus, she’s having trouble sleeping. Part of it is the strangeness of having the bed all to herself night after night. And then, there’s the dreams. She would stay awake all night if she could, just to avoid those dreams. The images of Emmeline’s terrified, frozen eyes staring out of her blood-spattered face haunt her nightly—and now they’ve been joined by visions of Remus’s broken body lying before her—of Remus’s blood darkening her hands….

 

But she has her duties to think of. Like Robards said, she is diligent and determined. So, eventually, she bids Molly and the children goodnight and heads back to the painful loneliness of her flat, wondering, as always, how she’ll make it through the night.

 

~~~~~

 

Two days later she is bustling around her flat, loading boxes with all of her worldly goods. She has lived in this flat for more than three years, and it’s amazing to see how many things she has accumulated. She knows she should start clearing some of it out, but she doesn’t have the energy today. Most of it will go into storage in Molly’s garden shed.

 

She pauses every time she comes across something left behind by Remus. She lifts one of his shirts to her nose and breathes in the lingering traces of his scent, feeling the threadbare white fabric sliding smoothly between her fingers. She flips through the novel that he left in between her sofa cushions, running her fingers over the smooth pages. It is the copy of Pride and Prejudice that she gave him for his birthday, with a loving inscription inside the cover that now seems so fruitless and wasted. She delicately handles the quills he left on her desk, which he once used to write notes for her, to hide in with the lunches that he would pack for her to take to work. How many of those sweet words were true? Or was it all just part of a fantasy, like he claims? All of these items go into a special box of their own, and she has not yet decided if the box will go into storage, or come with her to Hogsmeade.

 

She hears a knock at her door and is astonished, once again, to see Severus standing there. They haven’t had a chance to talk since his last visit nearly a month ago. She lets him in, and invites him to sit down. He perches himself on the edge of a chair, holding his back straight and stiff as a board. When she offers him a drink, he tersely declines.

 

She sits down in another chair, and says, “For a man so determined not to be seen socializing with an Auror, you’re not doing too well.”

 

He scowls—a typical response to her humor. “I’m certain I wasn’t seen. If there had been any risk of it I’d have turned back.”

 

“I’m certain you would have. So, what brings you here again?” Having Severus turn up on her doorstep twice in less than a month is doubtless something that few other witches could boast of—not that they’d want to.

 

She is glad for the company to break up the quiet melancholy of her packing, but she is still not quite sure how to interact with Severus on a social basis. Most of the time they have spent alone together has been during her Wolfsbane brewing lessons, and on the rare occasions that found them together under other circumstances they fell back on talk about their work and the Order’s current projects. She wonders if her closer proximity to him in Hogsmeade will lead to more frequent social interactions, and if it does, will they find that they have so little in common that they run out of topics to discuss, or will they be able to turn their relationship into a more genuine friendship?

 

“I heard that you are being posted to Hogsmeade.”

 

“News travels fast. I only found out myself two days ago.”

 

“Minerva sent around a memo to the entire staff, instructing us to assist you in your work coordinating the school security.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Have you found lodging in Hogsmeade, yet? If not, I would be glad to make a recommendation.”

 

The question startles her. She never knows quite what to expect out of Severus, but giving her flat-hunting tips certainly wouldn’t have been her first guess. “As a matter of fact, I was planning on going up to Hogsmeade tomorrow to start looking. I’ve got four more days before I have to move, and I guessed that would be enough time to find something. But if you have a good suggestion, I might be able to make the move even sooner.”

 

“In that case, I would highly recommend you take a room at the Hog’s Head Inn.”

 

She raises her eyebrows. “That ratty old place? You can’t be serious?”

 

“I am always serious, Nymphadora. The Hog’s Head is inexpensive, centrally located, and has the best security wards in Hogsmeade.”

 

“Why does a run-down old pub need security wards?”

 

Severus gets the mysterious, far-away look on his face that he always wears when he doesn’t want to answer her questions. After a short pause, he says, “There was an…incident…more than a decade ago that convinced the proprietor that he should not only place strong wards over the pub, but also place additional wards over each of his guest rooms. And on the rare occasions when he decides to actually do something, he does it full-bore. You’d be hard pressed to find a better protected establishment in all England.”

 

There are so many questions swirling through Tonks’s mind that she hardly knows where to start—not that Severus will be very forthcoming. He never is. “Why the sudden concern for my safety?”

 

He gives her a sharp look. “I know you. You’ll spend so much time worrying about protecting Hogsmeade and Hogwarts that you’ll never think to protect yourself. It’s your way.”

 

Coming from someone else the same words might almost sound like a compliment but Severus manages to turn it into a disdainful criticism. He has the most backward way of keeping up a friendship of anyone she’s ever met, and there are times when she wonders why she bothers. But underneath his criticisms she can’t help but see a core of genuine concern—and more than a little truth.

 

She frowns at him. “How do you know so much about the Hog’s Head, anyway?”

 

“I’ve been known to take a drink there from time to time. Besides, the owner is the Headmaster’s brother.”

 

She raises her eyebrows. “Really? Then it must be a decent place to stay. You should have told me that in the first place.”

 

“I don’t see why that should make such a difference. Your own family is proof positive that you can’t judge one sibling by the character of another.”

 

Her mouth hangs open as she flounders for a reply. As always, his brusque realism catches her off-guard. Finally, she says, “You’re right. I suppose I simply like to think the best of people.”

 

“I’ve noticed.” How can he make every word out of his mouth sound like an insult?

 

She folds her arms, and sighs. “Fine. I’ll go look at the Hog’s Head before I go anywhere else. Are you satisfied?”

 

“Yes.”

 

They lapse into one of the silences that so often pepper their conversations. Severus shifts his weight a few times, and fidgets with his hands in his lap. He actually looks…nervous? Uncomfortable? What exactly is going through his head?

 

She arches a questioning eyebrow at him.

 

He coughs lightly, and looks away from her gaze. He’s wearing a strange, almost unnatural, expression on his face that is far from his usual scowl but is not quite his rare smile. He tugs the front of his robe straight before looking back up at her. “I feel compelled to state that Lupin’s treatment of you has been positively abominable, and there is no excuse for it.”

 

Her jaw drops. This is positively the last thing she would have expected out of his mouth. How does he even know? Does Molly gossip with him, too?

 

Severus seems to take her speechlessness as permission to continue talking, and he launches into an extended rant about how she—of all people—deserves better than the treatment Remus gave her, followed by a diatribe in which he enumerates all of Remus’s seemingly endless flaws.

 

“He always was a pathetic coward,” he says, as Tonks continues to listen in dumbfounded astonishment. “Every time his life seems the least bit difficult he turns tail and runs away in search of greener pastures.”

 

Now her ire is rising. “Remus is no coward. He fought bravely in the last war, and he’s fighting bravely in this one—risking his neck each and every day to spy on Greyback’s followers. If you think disparaging him like this will make me feel better, then you’re dead wrong.”

 

Severus huffs, and sneers. “Of course he’ll risk his neck for the war—he’s a bloody Gryffindor. That sort of bravado is second nature to him. He’d recklessly take on half the Death Eaters single handed with no wand without once thinking of running away—that’s what Gryffindors do. That’s not what I meant when I called him a coward.”

 

She frowns. “What did you mean?”

 

“What I meant, was that when the there’s no glorious acts of derring-do to perform, and all that is left is facing up to the messy business of living his life, he is utterly and completely a coward.”

 

She can’t take any more of this. She rises to her feet. “This is asinine and petty, and I won’t listen to one more minute of it. If this is all you came here to say, then you can leave. Now!” She points at her door.

 

He stops and stares at her, his mouth opening and closing, his face flushing red. Finally he takes a deep breath and his stance relaxes. “I let my feelings get the best of me. I apologize. It was wrong of me to carry on like this.”

 

She still feels like telling him to leave, but she silently reminds herself that he needs her friendship, and—in some twisted way—he was trying to comfort her. Or at least to advise her. He may not have done a very good job of it, but at least he was trying. She sighs. “Fine. Just don’t do it again.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

“Good. Now, is this really all you came here to talk about?”

 

He gives a small nod, and opens his mouth, but hesitates before speaking. “I’m afraid this conversation did not go as I had planned. What I really wanted to say, is…” he hesitates again, “…is that I am deeply sorry you have to be suffering from this…dissolution of your relationship…at the same time as so many other stresses and trials. If you ever have need of someone to talk to, I would gladly offer my services in that capacity.”

 

Severus is full of surprises today. They’ve spent plenty of time talking about potions, Auror regulations, the deficiencies of Fudge and his administration, and plenty of other such mundane subjects, but he never once seemed interested in discussing her personal life. “Thank you. I appreciate the offer, and I will certainly keep you in mind,” she says, though the likelihood of her actually turning to Severus for emotional assistance is practically nonexistent.

 

“You’re welcome. I only hope that this pain in your heart will soon be able to heal, so that you can move on to a new stage in your life. I am certain that someday you will be fortunate enough to find someone who truly deserves you.” The simpering smile on his face strikes her as patently false; she feels disgusted with herself for not seeing this coming and she feels disgusted with Severus for ever thinking she would fall for his “sympathetic friend” routine.

 

She narrows her eyes at him. “And you’re doing your best to make sure that you’re right there waiting for me when I finally am ready to discover this more deserving man, aren’t you?”

 

His eyes widen briefly, before narrowing into hard slits. His jaw tightens, and his hands clench into fists at his sides.

 

She shakes her head. “I’m not as naïve as you think I am.” When he continues to stare at her speechlessly, she says, “Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. I’ll gladly admit my mistake and apologize.” She’s not exactly offended by Severus’s behavior—he’s never been one to display proper social graces. But she is determined to make it clear that he needs to give up on whatever notions he may have been harboring about her. She has absolutely no room in her heart for yet another guarded, emotionally-repressed man on a dangerous life-or-death mission—especially one who’s wit, humor, and sense of fun are virtually non-existent in comparison to the man she already holds dear.

 

He flushes red, then white, then red again, and a tight-lipped frown forms on his face. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m perfectly capable of telling when I’m not wanted,” he says stiffly, and turns toward the door.

 

“Severus…” she says, trying to stave off his anger.

 

“Goodbye, Nymphadora,” he says without looking at her.

 

“Severus…just wait,” she says, but he stalks out of her flat without a backwards glance, carefully shutting the door behind him.

 

She sinks into her sofa and rests her head in her hands. Now she’s succeeded in offending and humiliating him. She can’t help but wonder if she may have done something to lead him on—something to make him believe that she would be more receptive to his advances. She doesn’t think that she’s treated him any differently from her other friends and colleagues, but it occurs to her that perhaps that was all the encouragement he needed. She certainly hasn’t seen or heard of any other women offering him their friendship. No wonder he thought their relationship might lead to something more. She sighs, and slumps back into the cushions.

 

Why can’t anything in her life be easy? She’s beginning to wonder if she’s destined to live a miserable and lonely life, devoid of family and friends. Maybe she should go see a fortune-teller to find out, so at least she knows what to expect.

 

After a few minutes of rest, she reluctantly rises to her feet, and resumes her packing.

 

She takes a box into the kitchen, and looks at her un-washed boots still sitting on the counter. She hasn’t moved them since Molly set them there. She once again considers getting rid of them, but finally picks them up, wraps them in a towel, and sets them carefully in the box with Remus’s forgotten items. She’s made up her mind—this box is coming with her to Hogsmeade.

 

~~~~~

 

The cold mist swirls all around her, and she moves slowly forward, her wand gripped tightly in her hand. She is half-blind in the mist-shrouded night, with only a thin moon to cast a faint light. A large group of dementors has taken up residence in the Forbidden Forest, and she is determined that her first success as the head of security in Hogsmeade will be to rout the creatures. She wants them to be gone before the students arrive.

 

The chill is intensifying—she is closing in on them.

 

Proudfoot is somewhere off to her left; she can still hear his footsteps crunching in the underbrush. By now, he must feel it, too. She hopes he’s better at Patronuses than he is at stealth. She takes a few deep breaths, trying to clear her mind of all her worries, and focuses her thoughts on her memory of the first time Remus told her that he loved her.

 

She steps through a line of trees into a small clearing, and they are there—nearly a dozen dementors, no more than twenty feet away from her. They rear up as she steps toward them, and a wave of icy cold pierces her to the bone.

 

Voices and images begin to swirl in her mind—Remus telling her that Sirius is dead—Emmeline’s lifeless body cradled in her arms—the pain she felt the first time she tried to morph after being poisoned—Remus telling her that their life together had been nothing more than a fantasy.

 

She fights back the dark thoughts, focusing intently on her memory of the way she felt hearing Remus say, “I love you.” With that thought firmly in her mind, filling her with warmth, she points her wand and says, “Expecto Patronum!

 

A silvery shape erupts from her wand, charging at the dementors. With a startled gasp, she steps back. Something is wrong. That is not her Patronus. How can this be? She’s never heard of a Patronus changing form before. Why now? Why her? The great silver wolf bounds around the clearing, sending the dementors into a panicked frenzy. It’s Remus. Or, at least, it looks like Remus. This strange new Patronus is an exact copy of Remus in his wolf-form—the form she saw only once before, when it filled her with so much hope for the future. Now, it only fills her with pain, reminding her of just how much she has lost.

 

She takes another step back, watching as the Patronus chases the dementors back into the deep forest. She doesn’t want to see it anymore.

 

She turns on her heel, and runs back toward the village. In the darkness and mist she stumbles and fumbles her way through the trees, finally catching her foot on an exposed root, and falling hard to the forest floor.

 

She squeezes her eyes shut to fight back the tears. She’s on duty, for Merlin’s sake. She can’t cry—not now. She still can’t fathom how this could happen. A Patronus is supposed to be a protector—so why has hers suddenly taken the form of the malady that drove Remus away from her? What kind of protector is that? What sick part of her subconscious made this happen?

 

“Tonks! Tonks!” Proudfoot’s voice calls to her.

 

“Over here!” she calls back, sitting back on her heels and brushing the dirt from her hands. She takes a few deep breaths to clear her mind. She may have a sick subconscious, but she still has a job to do, and she can’t let something like this stand in the way. She won’t think about it now—she’ll think about it later.

 

Proudfoot emerges from the mist beside her, a bright light shining from the tip of his wand. “Are you all right, Tonks?”

 

She nods. “I’m fine. Just a little bruised from tripping on this bloody root.” She heaves herself back to her feet.

 

“That was a hell of a Patronus,” he says.

 

To her this seems like a gross understatement. The sight of her unexpected new Patronus has shaken her more than the dementors did. She feels tired, and weak, and miserable. If only she could curl up in her bed and sleep for the rest of the week….

 

“I’ve never seen dementors fly away so fast before,” Proudfoot continues. “We won’t be seeing that lot again for weeks.”

 

Tonks brushes her dirty hands on her robe one more time. “That clutch is gone, but there may be more. We need to finish our patrol to be sure.”

 

“Okay. You’re the boss,” he says, inclining his head at her. “Lead the way.”

 

She takes a deep breath, and grits her teeth, silently praying that she won’t have to produce another Patronus tonight. She’s not sure if she can.

 

“Let’s go,” she says, trudging back toward the path of their patrol-route. She keeps her mind tightly focused on the job at hand—it’s the only thing that will get her through the night.

 

~~~~~

 

September

 

The futility of all of her careful planning and long hours becomes clear to her the instant Harry tells her that Draco Malfoy was responsible for beating him and leaving him trapped on the train. No amount of school security will protect Harry from the enemies among his own classmates.

 

Her mind is still swirling with this uncomfortable thought as they wait by the school gates. She can tell that her distracted responses are beginning to annoy him—she’s seen him with that look on his face before, on other occasions when she’s prattled at him—but before she can think of anything more helpful to say, she sees the light of a lantern coming down the path from the castle, so she points it out to him.

 

Her stomach begins to clench when she sees who is carrying the lantern. It is Severus. He has been studiously avoiding her since the unpleasant scene in her old flat several weeks ago, but she saw the sneer on his face when she announce the change in her Patronus to the Order. She worries that he’ll say something caustic in front of Harry, and she has no desire to undermine the boy’s confidence in the Order by showing him signs of in-fighting. After all he’s been through the past few months, he needs to know that they are a united force standing behind him.

 

Fortunately, after a quick glance at her, all of his attention is riveted on Harry, and he lets loose with some of his characteristic cutting remarks. Just as Harry starts to explain his predicament, Severus turns his eyes back to her.

 

“There is no need to wait, Nymphadora, Potter is quite—ah—safe in my hands,” he sneers.

 

This is just the sort of thing she was hoping to avoid. She frowns. “I meant Hagrid to get the message.”

 

Hagrid was late for the start-of-term feast, just like Potter here, so I took it instead.” She is about to breath a sigh of relief as he steps back to let Harry to pass through the gates, but he turns to address her one last time. “And incidentally, I was interested to see your new Patronus.”

 

Her hands clench into fists as he shuts the gates with a loud clang, relocking the chains with his wand. “I think you were better off with the old one. The new one looks weak.” His voice drips with malice. He wants to hurt her—the bastard! He has chosen the most vicious way possible to get back at her for her rejection of his advances.

 

She is angry at his cruelty, but she also feels empty and abandoned. He may never have been a very good friend, but when you have as few friends as she does these days, losing even a poor friend is painful. Especially when that friend is inclined to hold grudges.

 

She responds half-heartedly to Harry’s farewell, and begins the lonely walk back to the village.

 

Her heart is heavy. This job may have been little more than Robards’s excuse to get her out of the field, but he still placed his trust in her, and already she feels like a failure. On the children’s very first day back to school an ugly incident has already occurred right under her nose, and when she got Harry up to the gates she couldn’t even walk him up to the school herself. How could she have possibly overlooked that flaw in the security plans? She has no access to school grounds unless admitted by the staff. She’ll have to do something to remedy the situation. And on top of that, there are already signs that the dementors in the forest are drawing close to the village again.

 

It’s just another small item to add the increasingly long list of her failures. She failed to protect Sirius, she failed to make Remus’s potion, she is failing at her friendships, and now she is failing at her job. No wonder Remus didn’t think she was strong enough or good enough to endure a relationship with him. She can’t even handle her own life, let alone a life together.

 

She trudges back into the village. Her shift will be over soon, and she can already tell that her troubled thoughts won’t permit her any sleep. But in the last few days she thinks that she’s found a solution to her insomnia: a shot of Firewhiskey mixed with a mild sleeping draught. If it works like it has the past few days, she can look forward to a deep, dreamless sleep. And right now, that is exactly what she needs.

 

~~~~~

 

“…and this incident may only be the beginning. With potential Death Eaters influencing their children still at Hogwarts, who knows where the next attack against Harry and his friends might come from? I think it was a crucial oversight for the Aurors not to have access to the school grounds. If we are needed at a moment’s notice, waiting for someone to come open the gates for us could make the difference between life and death.” She concludes her speech with a firm nod.

 

Dumbledore continues to eye her with the mild, slightly sad, expression that he has worn since she walked into his office. It’s hard for her to maintain her professionalism when he looks at her like that. When it comes to the Headmaster, her feelings fluctuate almost daily between anger and sympathy. She would never want to be in his position, with so many people relying on him to be virtually omnipotent. And his withered hand is a constant reminder that he is far from that lofty state. Whenever her anger over Remus’s assignment begins to rise, she has to remind herself that whatever else he may be, Dumbledore is just a man. A good man, and a wise man, doing the best that he knows how. But still, just a man.

 

He slowly nods at her. “Your suggestion has some merit, but I am hesitant to include your colleagues among those capable of bypassing the security guarding the school. Until I can be certain of their true loyalties, I do not feel comfortable granting a group of highly trained wizards unrestricted access to my students.”

 

The thought that some of her fellow Aurors may be in league with their enemies never fails to agitate her. “But what if there is some sort of attack or accident at the school and our assistance is needed immediately…?”

 

“Then you will be able lead your team onto school grounds.”

 

She pauses, taking in what he has just said. “Oh. So…you’ll grant me access to the school?”

 

He smiles. “Yes. I may not trust all of your associates, but I most certainly trust you.”

 

Her face grows warm with embarrassment, and she looks down at her hands. “Thank you, Sir.”

 

“You are most welcome. I’ll speak with Minerva later today, and she’ll see to it that the security wards are altered to allow you access.”

 

“That would be wonderful.”

 

“It is my pleasure.” He pauses, looking her over again with a renewed sadness in his eyes. “I was very fond of the pink,” he says. “Is there any chance I might be seeing it again sometime soon?”

 

She frowns, and bites her bottom lip. She has attempted morphing a handful of times over the past month, but with no effect. She shakes her head. “Right now, it’s not looking very likely.”

 

“Your wound will heal, Nymphadora,” he says, reaching his uninjured hand across the desk toward her. “It’s only a matter of time.”

 

“I wish I could feel so confident.”

 

The look of compassion in his eyes is overwhelming, and she wonders how she could ever be angry at him. Then, he says, “When Remus and I made the final decision to send him deep underground, I had believed that you would be there for him, to give him strength and hope. I had no idea that he would believe it to be necessary to end your relationship. I should have foreseen that consequence of our plan, and I did not. For that, I am sorry.”

 

“Thank you,” she says tersely. She can’t bring herself to meet his eyes. She wants to tell him that he damn well should have foreseen what this mission would do to Remus; after all, he saw what it did to him in the first war. And in her heart she is almost certain that even if he had realized what would happen, he would have encouraged Remus to go anyway. But she bites her tongue. These accusations will do neither of them any good.

 

“There is one final thing that I feel I should tell you,” he says. “I have always believed that there are certain truths—certain knowledge—that is best kept secret, for the welfare of those involved. But that most unfortunate incident at the Ministry last June taught me that I am not always the best judge of what knowledge is best kept secret, and what knowledge is best shared.”

 

Now, she looks up at him, raising her eyebrows in interest. Her heart is beating quickly. Does he have some news of Remus? Did Remus confide something with him? Something about her? She is not she whether she wants to know or not.

 

“Just before Remus committed to his mission, I shared with him one such piece of knowledge that I had previously hidden. And now I feel it is only fair that I share it with you, as well.”

 

She is befuddled. What could he possibly have to tell her?

 

He continues. “Several years ago, through much investigation and exploration, I discovered that Fenrir Greyback is the very same werewolf who infected Remus so many years ago.”

 

Her mouth falls open, and she holds her breath. Her mind is reeling with the implications of what this might mean.

 

Dumbledore speaks again. “Greyback was born with a different name—Nicholas Smith. He attended this school, and was one of my pupils. He was always a bully, and something of a brute, but I had hopes that eventually his naturally cruel nature would be tamed. Sadly, it was not to be. The summer after his fifth year, he was bitten by a werewolf. His family cast him out onto the streets, and my predecessor as Headmaster refused to accommodate him as a student, so he was forced to make his own way at that tender age. He lived of off begging, stealing, and occasionally even charity.”

 

She is fascinated and repelled all at once. She has no desire to feel any compassion for that monster, but it is hard not to feel at least a little sorry for anyone who has had to live through such difficult circumstances.

 

“Eventually,” Dumbledore continues, “Remus’s father was one of the people who took pity on Nicholas. The young man had broken his wand, so Remus’s father purchased him a second-hand wand, and directed him to some friends who could find him employment. When Nicholas lost his new job after only a month, due to his tendency to terrorize his new employer’s daughter, he chose to blame the loss on a faulty wand. He placed himself outside the Lupin household on the night of the full moon, succeeded in luring their son outside, and infected him.”

 

“That’s horrible!”

 

Dumbledore nods. “It is indeed. The first horrible act of countless horrible acts to come. Nicholas was able to evade capture, and fled England. It was not until many years later, during the first war, that a horrifying werewolf by the name of Fenrir Greyback first rose to prominence. And it was not until several years ago that I was able to uncover the truth: that Greyback was none other than Nicolas Smith, returned to England with an assumed name.”

 

Tonks feels her hands shaking. She doesn’t know what to do, or what to say. “And you told all this to Remus?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why!?” She shoots to her feet. “Did you want to send him on some sort of vendetta?”

 

“No. I only wanted to tell him the truth. I owed him that. And I owed it to you, as well.”

 

She puts her face in her hands, and paces back and forth in front of his desk. She doesn’t know what to think. She is angry and frightened and confused all at once.

 

Finally, she stops pacing. “I’m sorry,” she says softly. “I know you weren’t really trying to send Remus on a vendetta. That was uncalled for.”

 

“I am not offended, Nymphadora. And for what it is worth—I don’t think Remus has any intention of pursuing revenge. I believe his motives are nobler than that. He wants to save other children from what he himself has had to suffer.”

 

Tonks nods in agreement. That is the Remus she knows. Of course he would want to protect the children—and the fact that he is protecting them from the very same monster who hurt him so long ago would make the task all the more important to him. That’s why he left her. Because taking care of those nameless children is more important to him than taking care of her. Perhaps he even managed to convince himself that she doesn’t need to be taken care of?

 

She closes her eyes and tries to drive those thoughts from her head—she’s on duty. She doesn’t have the time to indulge in such thinking right now. She takes a deep breath. She knows that she should be proud of Remus for what he is trying to do, but she can’t bring herself to feel it. Why couldn’t she have been strong enough to help him with this task? She should have been strong enough…

 

As is so often the case these days, she feels like crying. She takes a few more deep breaths and focuses her eyes on the gilt frame of one of the portraits on the wall until the feeling subsides. She has to focus on her job right now. It’s all she has.

 

“Thank you for telling me this, sir,” she says. “And thank you for granting me access to the school. I appreciate it.” She turns to head out of his office.

 

He calls after her, and she pauses to listen. “Do not give up on hope, Nymphadora. And do not let go of your love. It may hurt right now, but in the end it is your love that will give you your greatest strength.” His eyes burn bright with conviction, and for a moment, she almost believes him.

 

~~~~~~

 

When she returns to her rooms at the Hog’s Head after her shift, her thoughts are still centered on her conversation with Dumbledore.

 

She sheds her uniform by the door, and makes her way back to her bedroom. She pauses in front of her dresser, where her dirty boots still sit placidly waiting to greet her every morning when she wakes and to bid her goodnight every evening when she lies down.

 

She runs her hand lightly over their surface. When she pulls it away, the tips of her fingers are covered with a light rusty-brown powder—the last remains of Emmeline Vance.

 

If Remus dies on his mission, will there be anything at all left of him? Will there be any memorial to his life, and the wonderful man that he was? Or will he be just another dead werewolf?

 

She wipes her fingers across the front of her shirt, and makes her way back to her tiny sitting room. She sits at the rickety old writing desk and places a new sheet of parchment in front of her. She takes up a quill, and starts to write. “Dear Remus….”

 

She writes long into the night.

 

 

Author’s Notes: My apologies for the Remus-free chapter. But rest assured he’ll be back soon! Please take the time to leave a comment. :)

//
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