An Alternate Chain of Events

Chapter 15- How do We Solve Narcissa?

Chapter Fifteen - How Do we Solve a Problem like Narcissa?

Lily could hear something. It sounded like words but from a long way away, somewhere in the dark. The sounds were becoming louder and clearer, she could just about make out her name. Was that James's voice? Was he somewhere in the dark too?

"Lily, wake up." Lily decided that it was definitely James's voice she could hear.

Feeling began coming back to her. She could feel her legs against the cold, hard ground, she could feel blades of grass by her fingers, she remembered that she had been in a forest before the darkness. Everything came back to her in an instant, the chaos at the world cup, the fires, the Dark Mark and finding Narcissa Malfoy… then being knocked off her feet. Lily's eyes snapped open.

James's face was barely an inch from her own, he looked white and petrified.

"Are you alright?" Lily asked groggily. "You don't look well." Before James could get a word in, Lily jumped straight to her worst fear. "Is it Harry? Is Harry alright?"

James exhaled and gave her a small smile. "He's fine, I'm fine, it's you that's the mess." He kissed her nose.

Lily took in his words, feeling her relief and something else. "My head's killing me." She felt it as suddenly as she said it.

"I've stopped the bleeding, but there's nothing I can do about the pain until we're home. Or should we go to the hospital? I think we should probably go to the hospital."

Lily felt her head and face, she was caked in dried blood, but there was no trace of a wound. "Don't be ridiculous, I have potions at home." She said decisively.

"You're the boss." James stood up and helped Lily to her feet.

Lily's world began to sway and she held tightly to James for support.

"I'll take you home then come back. I need to find Kingsley."

"That's ridiculous, just find him now." Lily said, wincing as every step made her head pound. Her entire body was aching.

"You need to lie down." James argued. "You can hardly walk."

"I'll be fine." Lily said stubbornly. "I want to know what's been going on."

James sighed but didn't argue any further. "What happened to you?"

Lily thought before replying. "It was really odd. I bumped into Narcissa Malfoy." She told James everything that occurred. "James, I think Sirius was right. Something's wrong with her, the whole thing was just weird."

"You were lucky not to have been killed!" James fumed. "I bet it was Malfoy that sent you flying."

"Probably." Lily said dismissively, James was missing the point. "James I think she's been," Lily lowered her voice, "I think she's been Imperiused."

James looked at Lily like she was mad. "How hard did you hit your head?"

"I'm being serious." Lily insisted. "She's being controlled by someone, and someone who's not doing a very good job by the looks of it."

"And who do you think is performing the curse?" James rolled his eyes. They were approaching the mouth of the forest and could see lots of people milling around, despite the lateness of the hour. Many people were packing up their things, ready to leave as soon as it was possible.

"Lucius Malfoy of course." Lily whispered. Dawn was breaking and the devastation of the area could be fully appreciated. "Merlin." Lily whispered looking around. "Why have they done this?"

"Sport." James spat in disgust. "They fled like the true cowards they are when the Dark Mark appeared."

"Who cast it? You don't think it was Peter do you?" Lily wondered.

"No, I think Peter's long gone," James said reassuringly. "Actually," James's voice was barely above a whisper. "Barty Crouch's elf was found at the scene, clutching Harry's wand."

Lily gaped at him. "Are you saying it was Harry's wand that did this?"

James nodded.

"How does he end up at the centre of everything?" Lily hissed rhetorically. "What did Crouch do?"

"I'll tell you later." James muttered as they approached the Ministry members that they were looking for.

Kingsley's robes were ripped and blood splattered, but the wounds had already been healed. Other Aurors were supporting similar minor injuries like black-eyes and the odd broken bone.

"Lily, are you alright?" Kingsley said the moment he saw her and James approach.

Lily smiled warmly and assured him that she was perfectly fine. "But your guys could use looking at." She noted.

"It's nothing serious." Kingsley said calmly. "I'll send them straight along to St. Mungo's when we're done here."

"What are we doing?" James asked. "Did we get anyone?"

"No." Kingsley replied. It was the most abrupt that Lily had ever heard him speak. "Did you see anyone?"

"Not their faces," James said bitterly. "I was too busy trying to protect others and put out fires to pull off their masks."

Kingsley sighed. "We're going to have to do some serious damage control, can you get a few hours sleep and come back in?"

"I'll drop Lily off and go straight to the Ministry." James agreed. Before Lily could argue, James had grabbed her hand and they were standing in their living room.

Lily felt her knees giving way as her living room began spinning. James caught her and sat her on the sofa.

"Stay there." He instructed. He left for the kitchen, returning seconds later with a potion that he forced down Lily's throat. Her head felt instantly better.

"Thank you." She said when she had swallowed the last drop.

"You're welcome. Now go to bed."

"I can't go to bed, I need to talk to Dumbledore."

"About what?"

"Narcissa Malfoy!" Lily exclaimed, he was being remarkably slow on the uptake.

"Lily!" James said incredulously, his hazel eyes widened in disbelief. "You can't be serious!"

"Of course I'm serious." Lily said defensively. "You didn't see her, James, there's something up and it must be dark magic!"

"Why is everyone so determined to see the good in this woman?" James fumed. "She's married to a Death Eater! Her sister is the worst Death Eater! She's a damn Death Eater!"

"You don't know that," Lily pointed out, getting to her feet. James pushed her lightly back down.

"Sit down." James said impatiently.

"Don't tell me what to do!" Lily was furious that he was being so pigheaded. "You're too angry at Sirius to see that he was right!"

"That's ridiculous." James snapped.

"You're being ridiculous." Lily got to her feet again and James didn't try to stop her. They stood staring at each other, arms crossed, both refusing to give in.

"I'm going to work." James grumbled, he turned, making his way towards the stairs to change. Before he had even taken two steps he heard Lily announce:

"Well I'm going to Albus."

James span round just as her robes disappeared into the emerald flames. "That bloody woman." He muttered, half irritated and half impressed.

"My dear Lily!" Dumbledore exclaimed as he helped her out of the fireplace. "What an unexpected pleasure!"

"I'm sorry to call so early." She said earnestly. "But I didn't think this could wait."

"Quite," Dumbledore said seriously, taking in her bloody appearance.

Lily caught his gaze and smiled. "Sorry Albus, I should have washed off the blood, I don't mean to alarm you, that's not why I'm here. Or at least that's the least important part of the story."

Dumbledore offered Lily a seat and a drink. "Please go on."

Encouraged, Lily began. "Albus, I think Narcissa Malfoy is under the Imperius curse." Lily looked up into the headmaster's twinkling blue eyes, there was no doubt or ridicule.

"I believe so too." Dumbledore said gravely. "But what has drawn you to this conclusion?"

Lily gaped at him before laughing off her amazement. Dumbledore didn't miss a trick.

Dumbledore listened quietly to her story, it was exactly as he suspected.

" - and then," Lily said as she drew to a conclusion. "I thought about what Sirius said to James after the hearing, he told him something wasn't right with Narcissa. James thinks he's going mad, or sentimental, but he's right, isn't he?"

"Indeed." Dumbledore nodded. "The night that Pettigrew escaped Narcissa Malfoy was on the Hogwarts grounds. You see, her allegiance to Lucius has been wavering for quite some time now, the last remaining straw holding her to him is Draco, she is frightened of losing her child. She told me all of this and much more that night." Dumbledore told an astonished Lily. "You see, Narcissa has been involved in Sirius's life for quite some while, unbeknownst to him until very recently. It is my belief that Sirius sought Narcissa out that night for answers, he wanted to know about everything she'd done and why she'd done it. Of course the why is not difficult to guess, everything she has done has been because she loves him and wants the best for him." Dumbledore smiled at Lily, who was drinking in his story, marvelling at it, she never would have guessed. "It is also my guess that Lucius interrupted them, which is when Sirius attacked him, I would also suggest this was when Narcissa was cursed. She would never have spoken out about the attack of her free will, and her speech at the hearing was disturbing. It jarred with everything she had told me."

"How do you know she was telling you the truth?" Lily asked, taking a sip of her drink.

"It's quite simple," Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "I offered her a drink, much like I have you, which of course good manners dictate. However, I added something … extra to her mead."

Lily's expression widened in surprise. "You gave her veritaserum?"

"Indeed." Dumbledore allowed himself a small smile. "I hope you don't think me too rude."

Lily laughed. "Should I be worried what's in my drink?"

Dumbledore smiled back at her. "Of course not."

"So Andromeda was right." Lily leaned back on her chair and rubbed her tired eyes. "We all thought that she was clouded because Narcissa is her sister." Lily felt guilty for not taking her more seriously.

"She knows Narcissa well, better than Lucius I dare say."

"So what do we do, Albus?" Lily asked, hopeful that he had a plan.

Dumbledore's smile wained slightly. "It's going to be very difficult to prove. We need absolute proof."

"There's not a chance Fudge will believe us without it." Lily agreed. "Even James doesn't believe me."

"He will come round." Dumbledore said firmly. "Persuading Cornelius will be rather more difficult."

"How can we get proof?" Lily leaned forwards on her chair, eager to hear some characteristic stroke of genius from a man that she so admired.

For once Dumbledore disappointed her. "I'm afraid I don't know." He took in her surprise and smiled consolingly. "I have no intention of giving up though, what we don't yet know is only waiting there to be discovered."

Lily smiled weakly back at him, feeling some hope returning.

"I'm sure between us all we'll think of something."

Draco Malfoy was doing some serious thinking. He'd seen his father use the Imperius curse on his mother weeks ago and he was sure that it hadn't yet been lifted. For the first week or so after he'd seen it, Draco had tried to convince himself that it hadn't really happened, that he'd imagined the whole thing, or that he'd misheard, he tried to think of anything to believe that it hadn't actually happened. The problem with this was that it became incredibly hard to ignore the evidence, namely that his mother was acting very strange. She couldn't hold a conversation and she would just sit still for hours not doing anything but staring at whatever was directly in her sightline. Sometimes she would act with purpose, stand up and march out of the room, but often when this happen she would stop at some point as though she were fighting with herself, however this would only be for a second and she'd continue with her task.

Draco was aware that his family was not a particularly warm one, and for the most part this didn't bother him, he got everything needed after all. But with his mother so absent, Draco had lost the only warmth he received and consequently found himself feeling lonely.

The whole situation was eating away at him. He wished more than anything that he hadn't seen and didn't know that anything was happening. But then, he wondered, would he have noticed anything amiss? She was acting very peculiarly. His father on the other hand was acting precisely the same. Draco was feeling differently towards him though, every time Lucius spoke to Draco, he felt a burning rage on his mother's behalf and yet he didn't say anything. He had tried twice and both times the words had gotten lodged on the end of his tongue.

One day in early August, Crabbe and Goyle had come over. The three teenage boys trailed across the vast grounds of Malfoy Manor, while their mothers caught up inside.

"Have you noticed anything odd about my mother?" Draco asked them on a whim and quickly wished that he hadn't. Their large faces looked utterly blank and as nervous as if he had asked them to recite the five times table.

Crabbe was the first to reply, he was anxiously tearing chunks of grass from the lawn. "Has she had a haircut?"

Draco clenched his fists inside his robes in frustration. Slowly he exhaled and let himself smile. "Yeah that's it." He replied tightly.

Crabbe looked delighted with himself at getting the right answer, neither he nor Goyle noticed anything amiss with Draco.

Draco stood up abruptly and began stalking back towards the house. Crabbe and Goyle jumped up and scampered after him as fast as their fat legs would carry them. Draco approached the terrace and the grand french doors of the parlour, shielding his eyes from the glare of the sun, he observed his mother blankly nodding at Mrs Crabbe and Mrs Goyle. She paid no attention to Draco, it was as if she couldn't see him. Draco longed for her to wave or smile or do something to show that she was present. She didn't.

Sighing, Draco changed direction and marched back on to the lawn, Crabbe and Goyle wheezing behind him, he knew that if he wanted to help his mother he needed to tell someone who wasn't his father, or his stupid friends, and he could only think of one person that he trusted enough.

Mary had never met anyone she liked or trusted less than Rita Skeeter. The woman was the lowest form of life. Mary was sure that if it weren't for a strict rule, made by the Editor Barnabas Cuffe, forbidding reporters to write stories about their fellows, Rita Skeeter would undoubtably have had a plethora of articles about Mary and Sirius. As it stood, she'd written enough nasty things about him already.

Mary was sitting glowering at the blonde ringleted goblin across the table at the staff meeting. Barnabas was doling out assignments at top speed, since the incident at the world cup the week previously, they'd been on override collecting material from eye-witnesses (although Mary seriously doubted how "eye" the witnesses were, they'd had several accounts from Mundungus Fletcher about how he'd seen a one Death Eater riding around on a dragon), they were also rehashing information about the past war, generating enough panic to keep people interested without outright terrifying them. Rita was on her own individual path. It was her self appointed job to point out blame wherever possible, and if possibility was an issue, Rita had no trouble outright lying. Just like she had about Sirius. In fact, the only good thing that come out of the world cup was that it had blown Sirius right out of the papers, and if nothing else Mary was grateful for that.

Mary was hardly paying attention to what Barnabas was saying. It wasn't until the whole room was silently staring at her that Mary realised Barnabas was talking directly to her.

"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" Mary asked unabashed.

"Certainly." Barnabas replied tightly. "I was asking if you'd be able to get us an interview with the Potters about the event?"

"No." Mary replied immediately. "I mean, I don't really think it's appropriate."

"I'll do it!" Rita snapped eagerly. "Barny, darling, I really think that-"

"Lily and James would never allow it." Mary directed her words at the editor.

"Now, Mary," Barnabas waggled a finger at her patronisingly. "Never is not a word we like around here. If you're not prepared to try then perhaps Rita-"

"No!" Mary shouted, the rest of the room shot her wary glances and she flushed. "I mean, I'll talk to them, see if I can persuade them."

"That's more like it." Barnabas smiled and went back to his agenda.

Rita Skeeter glared at Mary across the table. Gaining some satisfaction from stealing a story under Rita's over-active nose, Mary beamed back at her.

However, Mary's satisfaction was very short lived. She still had to get the idea past James.

Mary arrived at the Potters' house that night carrying a large bottle of firewhisky. She was determined to soften James up any way that she could.

Lily answered the door wearing a cotton shift dress.

"You look lovely." Mary noted as Lily ushered her in.

"Thank you, the day's just too hot for robes, don't you think?"

"It has been gorgeous," Mary agreed wistfully. It was still light out, but evening was slowly drawing in. "I've been stuck inside the office all day."

"Anything interesting going on there at the moment?" Lily asked as they entered the kitchen.

"Actually," Mary said slowly. "I'm glad you asked, Lil-"

"Blasted thing!" James's voice rang out from the garden.

Lily rolled her eyes. "Sorry Mary, one minute," Lily strode towards the open back door, "he's decided he's going to try to barbecue."

"Barbecue?" Mary asked in confusion. She followed Lily into the garden where James was bent over a metal stand with fire coming out of it, and he appeared to be poking a very burnt piece of something.

Harry was lying on a sun lounger nearby, grinning at James's distress.

"What on earth are you doing?"

"I'm trying to cook this bit of steak like a muggle." James said through gritted teeth.

"It looks quite primitive." Mary observed. "You could just use -"

"No magic." James said determinedly. His face was red from the heat and the exertion it was taking not to reach for his wand.

"Alright, sweetheart." Lily patted James's shoulder and she and Mary wandered over to Harry.

"So, why is he doing this?" Mary asked Lily and Harry, both of who were smiling.

"It started when mum decided to wear a dress and dad asked why she was dressing like a muggle. Long story short, I bet him that he couldn't even make dinner without using magic. He's on his fifth piece of meat now."

"But why a fire pit?" Mary asked again.

"The barbecue is a muggle summer tradition. When it's done right, it's actually very nice. James came round in the summer after Hogwarts and my dad did one, he's been trying unsuccessfully to do it himself ever since."

"But he's still not very good at it," Harry continued. "Look, there's steak number six. Mum, I'm starving, if he's not managed it by eight can you please take over?"

"Sure, love." Lily replied. She turned to Mary. "Sorry, what was it that you started to say?"

"It can wait until dinner," Mary said smiling tightly. She thought it best to approach when James had defused a little.

"That could be anytime in the next century." Harry said, just loud enough for James to hear. He made an obscene hand gesture, making Harry laugh and Lily despair.

"How are you, Harry?" Mary asked.

"I'm fine." He replied still smiling at James and his cursing. "It was mum that looked like she'd been killed when she got back from the world cup."

"I didn't think you went Lil," Mary looked at her frowning.

Lily sighed. "I didn't go to the match, I went with James when it all kicked off. I got knocked over and cut my head, no serious damage, but when I went to the Weasley's house to see Harry I hadn't cleaned it up. You know what it's like when you cut your head, it just bleeds and bleeds."

"Who knocked you over?"

"A Death Eater." Lily replied casually as the secrecy sensor sounded. "I'll just go and see who that is."

When Lily had gone into the house, Harry turned to Mary. "She's casual about it now but her and dad were yelling about it for days afterwards."

"He gets a bit nervous when anything happens to you or your mum. Believe or not, in other situations he's remarkably calm." Mary said conversationally.

Harry surveyed his irate father by the barbecue. "If you say so."

"RIGHT!" James shouted to the garden. "That's it. I give up! Harry I'll fetch your galleon in a minute." He reached for his wand and extinguished the small amount of flames (and large amount of smoke).

"Excellent." Harry grinned, hopping up. He walked over to James and clapped him on the back. "Like you always say, it's not about whether you win or lose, only that you try your best."

Mary watched laughing.

James felt the corners of his mouth twitching and he tried to suppress them. "I've never said that, you patronising little git."

"No need to get touchy." Harry carried on, still grinning broadly.

James couldn't help but laugh a bit. "I'll show you touchy if you-" but something caught his attention over Harry's shoulder. Noticing his gaze, Harry too looked behind and gaped.

Mary rushed over to them. "Oh Remus, what took you so long?"

The first half an hour or so of dinner was incredibly awkward. James refused to address Remus directly, so Lily and Mary had to keep making stabs at "what do you think, James?" and the like. Remus was so sheepish that he could barely look any of them in the eye. He apologised to them all, and they all knew that it was utterly genuine.

"If I'd have known, I would have come back sooner." He implored.

"We know, Remus." Lily smiled consoling. "Of course, we know that."

But James wasn't as easily convinced. Harry and Mary were taking turns topping up his glass at regular intervals, which helped him ease up a lot.

Remus's abrupt arrival had driven the interview from Mary's mind, but as the topic of conversation circled back to the world cup she could avoid it no longer.

"I've got something to ask you guys, and you're not going to like it." Mary particularly directed this towards James.

"Alright." Lily frowned. "What's going on?"

"The Prophet's all about the Dark movement at the moment, you know that, and Barnabas has asked me if you would be prepared to do an interview."

"How could you even ask-" James began but Mary cut him off.

"I know, James." She sighed. "I said no, but then he offered it to Rita Skeeter. Do you really want her buzzing around? Merlin only knows what the end story would be!"

"So you want to do the interview instead?" James was still incredulous.

"Isn't it better me than her?"

"Why do we have to do the bloody thing at all?"

"James, Cuffe isn't going to let it go!" Mary insisted. "At least I can make it fair, with no lies or spin."

"I know exactly what you should put in it," James said loudly.

"James," Lily said in a warning tone.

"You should put that Lucius Malfoy attacked Lily!"

"James!" Lily yelled as Harry, Remus and Mary went, "what?"

"She was knocked out by Lucius Malfoy when she tried to help Narcissa!"

"You don't know it was him! I don't know who it was!" Lily fumed.

"You're not sure about that but you're certain Narcissa Malfoy is under the Imperius Curse?"

"WHAT?" Remus, Mary and Harry shouted.

Lily buried her head in her hands. "Great. Thank you."

"Narcissa Malfoy's under the Imperius curse?" Harry looked at Lily,

"Sweetheart," Lily began but Harry cut her off.

"Don't try and fob me off, is Narcissa Malfoy under the Imperius curse?"

"Yes." Lily sighed.

"NO!" James shouted. "She's just a damn Death Eater."

Mary and Remus watched Lily and James disagree like a tennis match, with the arguments being bounced back and forth.

"I know Lucius is a Death Eater, but I didn't ever think Narcissa was." Remus chipped in.

"She was right in there with him!" James insisted.

"I never heard of her torturing or killing anyone though," Mary said. "Is this about what she said at the hearing?" She asked Lily.

"Partly," Lily nodded. "And partly about what I saw in the woods." Mary, Remus and Harry were a lot more readily convinced than James. "And Dumbledore thinks so too!" Lily finished on a flourish, telling them Dumbledore's version of events too.

"Well that explains what Draco Malfoy was going on about last year!" Harry exclaimed and Lily nodded.

James shook his head in disbelief. He stumbled to his feet. "I give up. If you all want to believe this madness go ahead."

"Dad-" Harry began but James just didn't want to hear it. He went straight upstairs.

"He'll come round eventually Harry." Remus sighed, watching James's retreating form.

"I can't believe he still gets this petty about being wrong." Mary fumed. "Just when you think he's a grown up he reverts back to his fifteen year old self."

"It's not just about being wrong." Lily ran a hand through her hair. "It's everything. It's Sirius. If we'd discovered this before the hearing it would have made all the difference."

"It can make a difference now, mum." Harry insisted. "If we can prove Lucius Malfoy performed the Imperius curse, that's enough to put him away for life."

"It's not going to be simple proving it." Lily sighed. "And it's too serious an allegation to make without proof."

They lapsed back into silence, watching the candle on the table burn away.

"What about Draco?" Harry said suddenly.

"What about him?" Lily asked wearily.

"Well if you've noticed something's wrong with Narcissa, he definitely will have." Harry said slowly. "He clearly cares about his mum if he warned me to keep Sirius away from her."

Remus looked up. "Harry, that's a good thought, but you and Draco are about as friendly as Sirius and Snape. You can hardly go and ask him."

Harry deflated, and Lily patted his arm consolingly. Harry understood why James wasn't more enthusiastic about this news, there was nothing they could do for Sirius. Harry had been under the mistaken impression for a moment that Malfoy was a decent human being, Harry had forgotten he was just like his father.

When Lily went to bed that night James was lying awake in the dark.

"I'm sorry." He said quietly.

"I know." Lily replied.

"It's just that - I'm so mad at him. If he'd only told us some of this."

Lily didn't need to ask who 'he' was.

"I know James." She said softly. She curled up on the bed next to him and kissed his forehead. "I'm worried about Sirius too."

"I'll apologise to Mary and Remus in the morning."

"Thank you."

"And I'm ok about doing that interview with Mary if you are. She's right, it's better her than someone else."

Lily smiled and kissed him. "You get there eventually, don't you?"

James gave her a weak smile. "I feel awful."

"Mary and Remus won't think any worse of you." Lily said consolingly.

James sat bolt upright. "No, really Lil, I feel awful. How much did I have to drink?" Sitting up so quickly had been a mistake, as soon as the room had stopped spinning James had to run to the bathroom to be sick.

Lily watched incredulously from the bed. She changed into her pyjamas and got under the covers muttering: "just when I thought I was getting through to him. If doesn't remember this tomorrow I'm going implant the memory myself."

"You're joking!" Tonks exclaimed.

When Remus had gotten back from Lily and James's he had immediately sent an owl to Tonks to thank her for her help. He hadn't expected her to turn up on his door step ten minutes later.

"Not joking." Remus sighed. He sipped his coffee and looked uncomfortably around the messy living room of his tiny flat. He was embarrassed of the whole place, and wished he'd been able to clean up before she arrived. Not that Tonks seemed to mind in the slightest, or even notice. He'd made her a drink and they hadn't stopped talking in hours.

"The Imperius curse?" Tonks repeated for the tenth time. "Well it would explain everything, wouldn't it?"

"Very neatly." Remus agreed. "Not that it's going to help Sirius."

"I don't know," Tonks pondered. "If we can get Malfoy for it, I think Sirius would be more satisfied than anyone to see him locked up. Even before all this happened, Sirius hated him, he told me once that he hated him from the first time they met."

Remus agreed solemnly, but he felt the corners of his mouth twitching. "When we were in our first year at Hogwarts, as soon as he learnt how, Sirius charmed meatballs to fly at Malfoy and smack him on the head. Sirius maintains it was the most worthwhile detention he ever did."

Tonks laughed, picturing the scene in her head, she could only imagine Malfoy's outrage. "My mum only properly met him once before she left home. She says that her and Sirius begged Narcissa not to marry him lots of times. Shame she didn't listen to them."

Remus shrugged. "Your mum and Sirius were excommunicated when they went against their family's wishes. Narcissa must have been too frightened."

"Well that would have been nothing to her situation now!" Tonks insisted.

"I don't think anyone would have predicted he'd do this." Remus let out a long sigh, he felt very sorry for the woman. "You can tell your mum she was right now."

Tonks looked over to Remus wide eyed. "I can't do that!"

"Why not?"

"Because she'd storm over there right away! I don't want Malfoy to kill her, curse her or get her arrested." Tonks said seriously. "You don't know my mum, she's absolutely fearless and she'd do anything for someone she loved. If my dad took his eye off of her for too long she'd go to Azkaban and try to break Sirius out!"

Remus stared at Tonks for a moment after she finished talking. She flushed, starting to realise that she'd been shouting. His expression was unreadable, until suddenly he cracked up laughing, Tonks was taken off guard for a moment before joining in. They laughed until their sides felt like they were ripping open.

"It's really not funny." Remus hiccoughed, wiping his eyes.

Tonks tried to swallow her giggles long enough to get a sentence out. "When there's nothing you can do, sometimes all you can do is laugh."

"Or cry," Remus exhaled.

Tonks stopped laughing gradually, she wiped her eyes and looked over to Remus who was also sobering up. "I think everyone's done enough crying."

Remus looked at her. He'd known Tonks very vaguely for years, through Sirius, but he had never really looked at her before. She was a very remarkable person, good, brave and very funny. He held her gaze for just a moment too long.

"Well, it's very late-"

"I should-" They spoke at exactly the same time and grinned awkwardly.

"Goodnight." Tonks said, getting to her feet.

"Goodnight," Remus replied, also rising. "And thank you for everything."

"You're welcome." Tonks said earnestly.

He showed her to the door. "Do you have something I can call you that isn't your surname or first name?" The corners of his mouth twitched.

"If you must," Tonks said slowly. "You can call me Dora."

"I must." Remus replied instantly, his eyes twinkled and in that moment he looked years younger and less burdened. "Goodnight Dora."

"Goodnight Remus." Tonks replied. She suddenly felt very awkward, and gave him one last smile before darting off down the corridor and out in to the dark London street, which suddenly felt pleasantly warm.

I really hope you've enjoyed this! Thank you all so much for reading. I'm sorry to announce that this is the penultimate chapter. The final chapter will be posted next week. Thank you all again :) x

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