"There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter." - Ernest Hemingway.
During her training with Mad-Eye, he had told a quote that had helped him through the years. 'You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.'
So in some way having a maniac try to scare her off with a severed head, could be seen as a personal accomplishment...or she should start considering a different line of work.
Within twenty five minutes of calling the Aurors, Tonks' apartment was swarmed with three Aurors, two Hit-witches and one Hit-wizard.
So much for a quiet night in.
She would have offered them all cups of tea, but she wasn't sure the milk in the fridge was safe to use anymore…
Benshaw's voice zapped her out of her daze. Tonks glanced up, she had been leaning on the wall, silently watching her colleagues search her bedroom and kitchen drawers. She noticed He had two coffees in his hands. "Oh, thanks…" She frowned, taking the coffee from him. "You didn't have to."
Benshaw arched an eyebrow. "You found a head in your fridge…you seem to be handling that pretty well."
She shrugged, taking a sip of the hot beverage. "Have you ever seen a Giant and a human have sex?"
Her partner blanched. "Uh…no, can't say I have. Is this a story I want to hear?"
Tonks just shook her head. "Nah, you probably don't. The point is, I've dealt with more disturbing things than this."
"Well the wards are still intact." Auror Smith came out from her bedroom – Tonks' eyes narrowed. How long had he been in there? "Place is a bloody tip though."
"Like your place is any better, Alex?," she retorted, rolling her eyes at the rookie Auror. She didn't get why he was even here. He tended to avoid nights like they were the plague, this being more apparent with his disheveled light brown hair and the bags under his blue eyes.
Smith cocked an eyebrow. "I don't leave half-eaten sandwiches under my bed."
One of the Hit-witches—was it Bethany?— popped her head from round the bedroom door. "It really is disgusting."
Tonks groaned; it was as if they'd all forgotten about the rotting head in her kitchen! "Guys there's a flipping head on my counter, so can we please figure out how the hell it got here?"
There was a collective pause.
Work colleagues = bloody useless!
Then Auror Proudfoot cleared his throat, drawing in their attention. "The wards haven't been breached and there's no sign of forced entry."
Smith frowned, walking towards the door, using his finger to trace the keyhole. "What if they picked the lock?" He glanced over at Tonks. "Didn't your report say the killer favoured Muggle methods?"
Auror Alexander Smith = competent.
She nodded. "It'd make sense…have you lot questioned my neighbour yet?"
Benshaw shook his head. "Nobody was in."
Tonks glanced at the clock, 00:23, Riley should be back by now. "He works late at a pub – he's a Muggle," she said. Everyone except Smith looked surprised "…Well this is a Muggle neighbourhood." She looked at them in bemusement.
"What time are his shifts?" Smith asked.
Tonks racked her brain. "Four or six hours? I'm not sure. He has tomorrow off, so I'll talk to him then."
Proudfoot nodded, then he frowned, the long lines in his sagging face becoming more apparent. "In the meantime, you can't stay here tonight. We've already alerted your parents."
Tonks sighed quietly. She knew it was protocol, but having to explain everything to her folks would be uncomfortable; considering how overprotective her mum could be…
"Right, fine then. Am I being moved to a safe house? Or are you just going to barricade their house?" she said casually.
"Well I am all for the barricade idea," Smith teased. Proudfoot shot him a stern look. Smith gruffly cleared his throat. "But you'll be transferred to your parents' house. The wards will be reinforced and two Aurors will be stationed outside."
"For how long?" Tonks folded her arms.
"Just until we figure out how the wards were breached and we catch the perpetrator," Benshaw reassured her.
So this would take a while, she thought.
Tonks felt a rise of frustration. So what was Melanie's game this time? The message was an invitation veiled in a threat. From what impression she got, Melanie didn't seem like a bully.
Do you want to play a game, Tonks?
The message was laced in curiosity and expectancy. Melanie expected a response, an answer of some kind — so how as Tonks going to respond?
"Oi, you still with us, rookie?" Benshaw clicked his fingers in her face, jolting her back into reality.
The others were looking at her in concern.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just need to go pack some things," she said dismissively, brushing past Benshaw towards her room, nearly tripping over the rug in the process.
Tonks yawned, stretching in her bed. Her bedroom back home was preserved, not a spec of dust in sight. The walls still a deep blue shade with an enchanted mural of unicorns chasing stars.
She went downstairs, still clad in her wrinkled Weird Sisters t-shirt and pink flannel pyjama bottoms. Her mum and dad were already in the kitchen, eating egg and bacon, with a jug or orange juice on the side.
"Wotcher," Tonks mumbled, rubbing her eyes sleepily.
Andromeda beamed. "Morning, Dora. I already made you a plate." She pointed to the ready-made plate next to the cooker.
Ted munched on his toast, dusting the crumbs off his shiny muggle suit. "Morning, love."
Tonks felt a rush of nostalgia, smiling faintly. She picked up the plate, which is when she noticed the two mugs of tea by the sink. "Uh, Mum, who's this for?"
Her mum perked up. "Oh, I nearly forgot about those. There for your friends outside, could you do me a favour and give it to them? They're out at the back."
Do me a favour = not a request.
Tonks discreetly rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure." She put her breakfast back down and picked up the two teas, sliding her dad's sandals on.
She went round the back of the house, finding Aurors Dawlish and Smith standing guard. Smith was the first to notice her. "Nice Pj's," the younger Auror said.
"Shut up and drink your tea," Tonks commented, handing over the mugs. "So, anything interesting happen? Did you halt any assassins trying to off me in the night?"
"No," Dawlish said curtly. He looked quite irritable, his ash blond hair was tangled and there were bags under his eyes. His suit was wrinkled, pale red tie sloppily done up.
Smith on the other hand was smiling brightly. His hair was neat and looked almost auburn in the morning sun, his suit fitting nicely with his lithe frame. Then again, he always was obsessed with looking perfect every damn morning.
"Oh well, maybe next time. What time is it?" Tonks questioned Smith.
He glanced at his watch. "7:40, you have less than half an hour to get ready for work," Smith answered.
"Plenty of time!" She waved her hand dismissively. "Who's taking over your shift?"
"Two Hit-wizards," Dawlish answered, draining his cup of tea.
Tonks grimaced, glancing over at Smith who just smiled grimly. "Right…well, see you at work." She smiled brightly, before turning back to the house.
Tonks popped a stick of bubblegum in her mouth, before unlocking the front door.
"Wait, don't forget your lunch!" Her mum rushed after her. A square pale blue plastic lunch box was in Andromeda's hands. "I heard the canteen can be expensive."
"Thanks, Mum," the Auror said, accepting the lunch box. They were cling film wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches, with a Mars bar stuffed in the side. Tonks found the nostalgic smile return to her face. Being home could be a bit smothering sometimes, but living with her mum and dad again made her feel oddly safe.
She just wished she didn't have to return under such unpleasant circumstances.
"Have a good day and tell me all about it when you get back," Andromeda told her.
"Yeah, I will..." Tonks chewed the gum more excessively. What if something happened to her mum? Two hit-wizards wasn't exactly tight security. If she was unavailable taking down another whack-job, she wouldn't be able to get to her mum in time if Melanie attacked her!
"Nymphadora?" Her mum placed a hand on her shoulder.
She was jerked out of her worrying. "Mum," Tonks groaned, sounding like a ten year old. "We have an agreement – please don't say my name."
Andromeda arched an eyebrow. "I can't recall agreeing to that," she said lightly, glancing at the clock above the door. "You're going to be late."
Tonks' eyes widened when she looked at the time. "Shi-" Her mum's gaze became stern. "…Sugar." The young spiky-haired Auror shoved the lunch box into her wide robe pocket. She kissed her mum on the cheek as she opened the door. "Love you…be careful, alright…Floo me as soon-"
"Dora," Andromeda interrupted, fixing her with a reassuring smile. "I'm not helpless. I didn't survive the last war by hiding in a kitchen. I love you too. Now go to work."
Tonks was pushed outside, accidentally swallowing her gum.
Tonks made sure to check up on her mum every hour. Her dad was a bit harder to contact because of his job as a man on TV who talked about the weather, so she felt he was safer in the Muggle world.
The Auror made her way to level 8 where she could grab a seat outside Ministry Munchies café. She wiped the sweat on her brow, the Ministry office was often stuffy and boiling during Spring and Summer. It also didn't help the cleaners sometimes forgot to place cooling charms around the place.
The Atrium was crowded, workers and visitors Flooing in and out. Tonks found an empty chair at the café,the table hadn't been cleared yet, meaning there were empty paper cups messily laid out. Tonks just shrugged and sat down, making some room for her lunch. She unpacked her sandwiches and took her first bite.
"I hope you didn't get the wrong impression from my message?" A velvety voice said.
Tonks froze, her stomach churned. Her hair changed to a dull brown. Melanie came around from behind her and sat down opposite. The Unspeakable was in her official grey lab coat, ginger hair tied up into a ponytail.
Tonks' throat ran dry, swallowing her bite of food.
"Hello," the—still un-convicted— psychotic serial killer greeted brightly, placing a clear plastic lunch box on the table, flicking her wand to make the mess vanish. "I've always found homemade lunches more delicious." Melanie took the lid off the box, revealing a neatly arranged assortment of triangular tuna sandwiches, small tomatoes and a strawberry yogurt.
Tonks clenched her hands into fists, glowering at Melanie, feeling a rise of anger. This was just another mind game, just another way for this maniac to get under her skin. Well she wasn't going to have any of it! "If you're trying to intimidate me, you can fuck off. I'm trying to eat my lunch," she said calmly, releasing a deep breath to try to settle her nerves.
The Unspeakable looked at her blankly. "Peculiar. You've always struck me as someone with more manners. Did my message unnerve you that much?"
The Auror gritted her teeth, her hair turning red. Ignore her, she wants you to react. Just walk away. The voice sounded weirdly like Mad-Eye's.
Tonks stood up, her chair scraping the floor – a few people glanced over at them curiously.
"Sit down, Tonks," Melanie instructed coldly.
Tonks tasted a rotten flavour in her mouth. "This conversation is over, Ms. Stone." She picked up her lunch.
"No it isn't," the Unspeakable's voice stayed empty and icy. "And I'd be very offended if you left in the middle of our talk."
Tonks shallowly breathed in, staring the other woman down. "And I'm not in the mood to play your games."
Melanie heaved a deep sigh. "I'd prefer we clear the air now rather than later. After all, I wouldn't want to inconvenience your mother and father," she said silkily. Tonks' eyes burned with rage. "Now, sit down. I thought it would be nice if we had lunch together."
Tonks slowly returned to her chair, placing her lunch back on the table. "What do you want?"
The other woman smiled pleasantly. "I wanted an answer to my question." Her eyes became darker. "I went through a lot of effort to make the message memorable."
Tonks swallowed a lump down her throat. "Do I want to play a game? No, I just want justice, simple as that."
Melanie was quiet for a while, taking the time to eat her tuna sandwich; the smell was strong and it made the Auror want to throw the woman's lunch across the room. "Has anyone told you how beautiful you are, Tonks?"
"Excuse me?" The shape-shifter's hair turned bright green, her eyes grew wider in shock. Some witches sitting at a table opposite looked at Tonks oddly.
"It's an entirely factual and scientific observation, I promise," Melanie replied smoothly, her lips twitching upwards. "My observation is more focused on you genetically, rather than shallow purposes."
There was a deep unpleasant ache in Tonks' stomach, as the Unspeakable stared at her unblinkingly. "What are you talking about?"
"You possess a genetic gift to change your shape and form. Only one out of a hundred Wizardkind have that power," Melanie said. "You're like a rare animal — it's magnificent."
Tonks shivered, a thick lump in her throat. The two of them sat in silence. The Auror's hair faded to a bland yellow, her skin crawling when she realised what Melanie really wanted.
In the game of cat and mouse you either escape or get captured, that was the only way the game ended. A mouse couldn't kill a cat…unless it gouged out the cat's eyes…
"…It must be frustrating." Melanie sighed deeply, gaze still trained on her. "Having your emotions displayed for all to see."
Tonks bristled in indignation, quickly changing her hair back to a vibrant pink. "First of all, I'm not your lab rat. I will take you down, I can promise you that," she said fiercely, standing to her feet. "I'll admit you make my skin crawl, but so does a cockroach. Don't delude yourself into thinking you're something special, because frankly you just come off as overcompensating."
The rest of the café had gone silent, staring at the two women.
Melanie's eyes narrowed and her lips pressed together. "Funny, you sound like you're trying to prove something? How…quaint." She packed away her half-eaten lunch. "I'll catch up with you later when you're in more of a...docile mood."
Tonks' hair was a flaming red. She gritted her teeth as she stared the woman down. Her magic sparked and fizzled, blood was pumping, roaring for a fight; she'd never felt so angry before. Melanie calmly walked away with from her, like an adult avoiding a petulant child.
The customers in the cafe were staring at Tonks as if she belonged in St. Mungos. She closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down, her breathing steadying, hair fading to a pale pink.
She gulped, shifting uncomfortably when she felt the burn of the onlookers gazes, causing her to hurry out of the cafe.
The ringing from her alarm echoed in her ears, while a beam of sun shined through the curtains. Tonks stirred in her bed. There was a faint sound of clattering downstairs – most likely her mum down in the kitchen.
When she opened her eyes she saw a jar of dead cockroaches resting on her pillow.
Tonks tumbled out of her bed, hitting the floor. Her heart was racing as she shivered in fear. Shakily she got to her feet and approached the jar resting on her white pillow.
The jar had a purple bow tied around it, there was no note attached.
She started to sweat and tremble, covering her mouth, her heart thundering against her chest.
So maybe she had lied when she said Melanie didn't scare her.
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