Nymphadora Tonks gathered her bag and her cloak, waved her wand vaguely in the direction of her desk so that the chaos of papers there jumped into small stacks and then turned to leave, nearly tripping headlong over a rolled up copy of the Daily Prophet as she did so. Cursing under her breath she grabbed it off of the floor and crammed it into her bag. Then she exited the room, locking her cubicle door with a wave of her wand behind her. She had gotten off early today which was a good thing, seeing as how she could drop by Headquarters before she went on guard duty. Sirius would probably be cooking for only one tonight so she had better hurry to impose herself on him. After all, he was usually greatly cheered up these days at the prospect of any visitors at all. She headed down the long line of office cubicles, pausing only to call good evening to Kinglsey who was dictating the contents of a memo to his quill. She glanced into Moody’s cubicle as she passed but, as he was on guard duty at the moment, it was vacant. She caught a lift and headed towards the Atrium, absentmindedly altering the color of her hair to from snowy white to dark black as she did so and experimenting with options for noses for that evening until she settled on a long beaklike one, slightly wider than usual. The lift doors opened and she headed out, past the statue and off to the apparition zone. It was less crowded than it would have been had she not gotten off early but she still had to stand around for a few moments to wait her turn. She conversed briefly with Mathalda Hopkirk about nothing more interesting than interoffice weather before she noticed Rufus Scrimgeour not far away. He glanced her way at almost the exact moment she noticed him and Tonks looked away quickly, redoubling her interest in Mathalda’s excitable comments about torrential downpours on in the Department of Magical Creatures.
“Well, I’ve got to be off. Have a good evening,” she said, excusing herself quickly and turning on the spot. It was best to avoid Scrimgeour these days. He had taken to seeking her out recently, asking unsettling questions about her views on pointed topics such as the Daily Prophet, the recent breakout from Azkaban, and Dolores Umbridge’s new policies at Hogwarts. Tonks had so far managed to find reasons to escape answering most of these queries to any significant degree but she wasn’t sure how long she would be able to avoid them. Up until now her involvement with the Order hadn’t been detected by any high-ranking Ministry members as far as she knew, but it was only a matter of time the way things were going.
Tonks appeared on a sidewalk a few blocks away from #12 Grimald Place. She didn’t like to apparate too close to Headquarters and always altered her appearance when she needed to go there. She did a few last minute jawline transformations and then straightened up and looked around. No one was in the immediate area except for two muggle children a few houses away playing football in the front yard. Tonks preformed a few hasty spells under her breath to ensure she wasn’t under surveillance and then headed up the street, appearing to anyone around as a dark and sallow young woman, not unlike, she realized with a snort of laughter, a weird female version of Severus Snape.
She reached #12 Grimald Place and knocked three times upon the door, switching her hair back to bubblegum pink as she did so and shrinking her nose back to normal size. Upon finding no response, she rang the doorbell and waited. Serious answered a few moments later.
“For the last time,” he growled, upon seeing who it was. “Just come in the house, don’t ring the doorbell. Then my dear old mother doesn’t have to strain herself too much.”
“Sorry Sirius, I wasn’t thinking,” Tonks said quickly, stepping over the threshold. She waited for her cousin to close the door again and then headed down the hallway, trying to keep as quiet as possible. She was almost past the danger zone when her toe connected with a slightly raised floorboard and she stumbled, letting out a loud cry of pain and the house was suddenly alive with the shouts of the drooling, contorting portrait of Mrs. Black, shrieking insults to her as she hopped on the spot.
“Blood traitors and beasts! Bowels of dishonor! Filth! Scum!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry Sirius!” Tonks called over the clamor, her toe throbbing as she directed her wand at the portrait. The curtains flew back across the crazed face and Sirius shoved her off again.
“You know, I think it might be best if I levitate you across the hallways from now on,” he said sardonically, the moment they could talk freely again.
Tonks sighed as they made their way into the dining room. She saw immediately that Sirius wasn’t alone for dinner that night. Lupin was sitting at the table, an untouched bowl of soup before him. He looked a bit moody which surprised her somewhat. She had rarely ever seen Lupin in a very bad mood before now.
“Watcha Remus,” she said, trying to inject an uplifting note into her voice.
“Good evening. Thought it might be you,” Lupin replied smiling faintly for the briefest moment before gazing back into his uneaten soup.
Sirius, seeming quite unconcerned with the rather dull atmosphere his friend was producing, slid a bowl of steaming stew in front of Tonks as well and then sat down across from her at the table, looking grim.
Tonks shrugged, taking a bite of soup. “Not anything new,” she said, glancing at Lupin. “Dear aunt Bella’s not been seen since the breakout. And of course no one at the Ministry seems to be taking it the way they should. They all think that lot’s just a bunch of renegades, don’t they? No idea they’re actually joining in with the rest of the Death Eater’s fun.”
Sirius nodded sourly. “Yeah, Arthur’s just left and he said about the same. You on guard duty tonight then Tonks?”
“Yes,” Tonks replied, taking another bite. “Mad Eye is supposed to be on duty until 6, then it’s my turn until 4 in the morning. I’ll be coming back by here if it’s no trouble Sirius.”
“Of course, of course,” Sirius nodded, lacing his fingertips together and looking vaguely cheered. “It’ll be you and Moony for breakfast then, excellent.”
They passed a few moments in silence before there was the unmistakable sound of a ringing doorbell and Mrs. Black’s shrieks filled the house again.
“What in blazes now?” Sirius snarled, standing up and rushing out of the dining room.
Tonks continued to consume her bowl of soup for a few moments as the wailing continued but looked up after they heard Sirius subdue his mother’s portrait.
“How have you been Remus?” Tonks asked, noting Lupin’s increasingly shabby-looking appearance.
“I’ve been…alright,” he said in a measured voice, not looking at her.
“You seem a bit off. Hey I thought you were going abroad this week to talk to that werewolf from Greece. That change?”
“I decided to go next week instead,” Lupin replied, shrugging. “A better time for him and me, actually.”
Tonks eyed him for a few more moments. “You’re staying here with Sirius then?” she asked.
“Yes. It’s the best place for certain, ah, certain work to be done.”
Tonks stared at him with a puzzled expression until Lupin, perhaps noticing her prolonged silence, looked up and her and twisted his face into a dejected smile. “It’s just one of the small inconveniences of being a werewolf,” he said, glancing up at the ceiling. “Full moon tonight,” he added as Tonks continued to look confused.
“Oh,” Tonks said, brought up short. “I forgot, I mean, I hadn’t looked at the moon yet today,” she said rather stupidly, blushing slightly.
“Most people wouldn’t ever bother,” agreed Lupin callously. “Me on the other hand…”
He trailed away and Tonks cast about for something to say. She had never talked to Lupin much about his identity as a werewolf, not since the first time he had told her he was one. She didn’t want to sink him further into depression about it but curiosity was burning at her all the same.
“You drink the Wolf’s Bane Potion then?” she asked, trying to sound conversational, as though she often interviewed werewolves about their transformations.
“Yes,” Lupin said, nodding. “Severus agrees to make it for me when I require it. That reminds me.” He pulled out a small flask, rather like the one Moody often swigged from on a regular basis. He unscrewed it, a slightly revolted look upon his face and took a long draft, coughing and quickly taking a drink of water the moment he had finished it.
“I’m guessing that tastes less good than pumpkin juice,” Tonks said, trying to crack a joke.
Lupin grimaced. “It is rather detestable. Snape could poison it very easily if he wanted to and I wouldn’t know the difference.”
“How long will you be, ah, transformed?” Tonks asked after a moment, when Lupin had replaced the flask and begun to toy with his soup again.
“From about the time you get on guard duty to about when you get off. The nights are a little longer at this time of year, I might still be transformed when you get back.”
Tonks fidgeted for a moment with her spoon and then burst out, “I’ll come find you when I get back. I mean,”
Lupin had looked up at her sharply, a very strange expression on his face.
“I-I’ll brink you some tea,” Tonks said lamely, blushing hard.
Lupin laughed, his face brightening for the first time that night. “Tonks, you’re very kind, but I don’t think you’ll want to hang around me once I’m transformed.”
“But you won’t be dangerous right?” she asked nervously.
“No no, the potion works wonderfully to that effect. It’s just I’m not very good company, really and not much to look at either,” he added, smirking at her. “You’d do better to stay away.”