Sirius discovers that Tonks is unaware of something rather important about Remus, so he takes matters into his own hands -- betting that the growing friendship between his cousin and his best friend is strong enough to survive the revelation.
Sirius sat slouched in a corner of the kitchen, scowling at the flames that writhed and twisted in the fireplace. Members of the Order had begun to arrive, but he didn't look up. He shouldn't even be
there—he should have gone with Moony tonight. But Dumbledore was being unreasonable, and Remus, the stubborn git, had taken the old man's side again.
And then he heard Tonks's clear voice over the rumble of greetings and pleasantries, so he straightened up and let the scowl fade. His little cousin acted tough, but he could tell his darker moods worried her. Besides, it wasn't her
fault if Moony was bullheaded and Dumbledore was paranoid.
He waved at her. She came straight over and gently tweaked his ear.
"Wotcher, Sirius. You look cheerful!"
He shrugged, but he managed half a grin. "Hi, peanut." Then he did a double take and laughed out loud, foul mood forgotten. "What've you done to your hair this time? Are those—stripes?
"Yeah." Tonks seemed rather pleased with herself. "Remus bet me I couldn't do
stripes. It's taken me a few days to work it out, but I've got it now!" She scanned the rapidly filling room, and her smile began to dim. "Where is
Remus, anyway? Won't he be here for the meeting?"
"Not tonight," said Sirius, raising an eyebrow significantly.
Tonks shook her head, looking puzzled. She doesn't know,
he realized, with a rush of adrenaline that started his heart pounding.
Well, then, it was time she found out, if she was a member of the Order—especially if Moony was starting to think of her as a friend.
He looked her straight in the eye and spoke, quietly but clearly. "It's full moon."
Her look of confusion gave way to one of shock. "He's a werewolf?
" she whispered, dropping down onto the worn wooden bench next to him.
Sirius nodded, carefully casual. "Since he was a little kid. Before I knew him."
where—" Tonks blinked, still looking dazed. "I read about him in the Prophet
last year, when they wrote up your escape from Hogwarts. I knew his name seemed familiar when I met him, but I couldn't place it."
"Yeah, Remus always tried to keep his condition as quiet as he could, until that year at Hogwarts, when Snape—" Sirius's expression hardened into a hostile sneer—"accidentally
leaked it to the students. Then the Prophet
picked it up." He sighed and rubbed his face with one bony hand. "He's been having an awful time finding a job ever since, especially with the new anti-werewolf employment laws the Ministry put through."
"I can't believe he's a werewolf," Tonks whispered. "Not Remus." She was staring blankly into the fire, twisting her fingers together.
Sirius waited, watching her out of the corner of his eye. It wasn't at all like Tonks to be this quiet for this long.
Finally, when the tension had begun to weigh like rocks in his stomach, her brows drew together and a fierce frown appeared. "How horrible
for him!" Her hands clenched into fists.
Sirius started breathing again. Good old Tonks.
He'd hoped she would be all right about it.
"Yeah, he'll never say a word, but it's pretty rough on him." He gave her another bitter half-smile. "He's running the meeting tomorrow night for the Oxford reconnaissance mission. You're on that team, aren't you? Just you wait and see how awful he looks."
"I've read—The transformation is physically taxing, isn't it?" Her fierce expression melted into worry.
He laughed, without humour. "That's a bit of an understatement." Then he shrugged, scowling again. "What makes it worse is that Remus hates
to be seen right after full moon, before he's got his strength back. He doesn't mind me—we shared a dormitory at school, after all, and I've seen him in some pretty bad states—but he'd rather avoid feeling vulnerable in front of other people." And having to acknowledge his condition in public shames him more than anything.
Sirius shook his head, thumping the bench with his fist. "That meeting shouldn't even be
tomorrow night. Dumbledore should've given him another day to recover. But no, the ruddy Order always has to come first..."
Tonks's hair suddenly turned midnight blue.
Sirius roused himself from his sulk again and tugged at one of her dark locks. "Hey, peanut, what happened to the stripes?"
Her eyes were still worried, but now her jaw was set. "I'm saving them for Remus.". * . * .
Back home in her flat, Tonks pulled her Auror training manual off the bookshelf and opened it to Chapter Nineteen, "Recognizing and Subduing Dark Creatures.""A transformed werewolf is a vicious creature, without a shred of human consciousness. It is driven by its very nature to attack humans; it is compelled to bite them, contaminating the innocent with its dreadful curse, or even to kill and eat them, feeding on their destruction. In human form, a werewolf may have a conscience, and may attempt to adapt to the laws and manners of human society, but this cannot be guaranteed, and is likely to be the exception rather than the rule. An Auror should never hesitate to subdue or incapacitate a werewolf if it exhibits the merest hint of aggressive behaviour, whether it is transformed or not."
The manual seemed determined to ignore the possibility that a werewolf might have kind eyes and a warm, quiet smile. Or an unexpectedly wicked sense of humour. Or a fondness for exotic tea."For some hours after moonset, a werewolf is weakened and distracted, being in considerable pain from its return to human form. This provides an unparalleled opportunity to overpower the creature before it can commit any further harmful acts."
Tonks thought of Sirius, exuding worry and belligerent protectiveness, and of Remus, undergoing—whatever he was undergoing.
The cold silvery moonlight inched a long way across the floor before she finally fell asleep that night.. * . * .
Very early the following morning, Sirius sat at the kitchen table, paging blearily through yesterday's Evening Prophet.
If Moony wouldn't let him be company for the transformation, the least he could do was haul himself out of bed—ungodly hour be damned—and make sure the stubborn git ate a decent breakfast afterward.
The fireplace flared green, and Remus stumbled out of the Floo. He dropped into a chair at the table and rested his head on folded arms.
Sirius set a hand briefly on his friend's shoulder. "All right, Moony? Need patching up at all?"
"I've already taken care of things," said Remus hoarsely, without lifting his head. "It wasn't too bad this time."
Sirius frowned—not too bad this time
still didn't look very good—but he kept his voice light. "Then here's breakfast, ready in a minute." He tapped a cast-iron skillet with his wand to make it sizzle, and cracked a few eggs into it. "Tea?"
"No tea, thanks. I've got to get as much sleep as I can before the meeting tonight."
Sirius carried two plates heaped with eggs, sausages, and toast over to the table. With some effort, Remus sat up. They passed the jam companionably back and forth.
"How was last night's meeting?" asked Remus after a while. The hot food seemed to have revived him a little.
"Snivellus brought information about a Death Eater plot to recruit followers in Magical Law Enforcement, so Arthur, Kingsley, and Tonks are going to be watching out for suspicious activity at the Ministry. And the team for your Oxford mission will be Tonks, Moody, Hestia, and Bill."
"Tonks gets around," Remus observed as he buttered a piece of toast.
"She was asking after you," said Sirius offhandedly. "So I told her why you weren't there."
Remus looked up and slowly finished chewing. "How'd she take it?" he asked quietly, visibly bracing himself against an anticipated blow.
Sirius grinned. "Very well. She looked like she wanted to go out and knock someone over on your behalf, actually."
"Hmm," was all Remus said, now focussed on his last piece of sausage. But Sirius could see that he was smiling.. * . * .
That evening, Tonks arrived at Grimmauld Place a few minutes early for the meeting. The kitchen was empty except for Molly and Bill, who were poking at a small cauldron of what smelled tantalizingly like lamb stew—and Remus, who had apparently sat down in front of the fire and fallen asleep. He was snoring quietly, tilting a bit sideways in his chair.
Tonks tiptoed carefully over to where Molly and Bill were working. "Can I help?" she whispered.
"Erm." Molly hesitated. "I think we're about finished, dear. Why don't you sit down and have a cup of tea while we wait for Hestia and Alastor?"
"Yeah, go on," said Bill, giving her a nudge with his elbow. "The stew'll be better without broken crockery in."
Tonks stuck her tongue out at him, but she took the cup of tea Molly handed her and slid into a seat at the table. As she sipped, she watched Remus out of the corner of her eye. Sirius was right—the lines of his cheekbones were sharp, and his face was grey with exhaustion. He didn't seem to be in any shape to sit through a meeting, let alone run one.
She wondered if Sirius had told Remus about their conversation last night.
Suddenly Sirius himself came clattering down the stairs. He threw Tonks a significant look (she nodded back) and went over to shake Remus firmly by the shoulder. "Moony, old mate, it's almost seven."
Tonks caught her breath as the nickname she'd grown used to hearing suddenly made a lot more sense.
Remus opened his eyes at once, his expression surprisingly alert, although he looked a bit embarrassed at having fallen asleep. "Thanks."
Sirius nodded. "Right, well, see you later." He turned to head back upstairs.
"Wait," Remus called after him, "aren't you staying for the meeting?"
"No point, is there," Sirius growled over his shoulder. "I can hardly contribute to a reconnaissance mission when I can't leave the ruddy house."
"You could lend your considerable intellect to help us work out the plan," said Remus sharply, but there was no response except for the sound of footsteps receding overhead. Tonks bit her lip, but she knew that if even Remus couldn't talk Sirius out of a sulk, it was a lost cause.
Shaking his head, Remus pushed himself up out of his chair. He stretched his shoulders gingerly—wincing as he did so—and came over, limping slightly, to join the others. "That smells wonderful, Molly. Is there anything I can do?"
"Thank you, dear, but we've almost finished," said Molly again, eyeing his haggard appearance. "Here, why don't you have a cup of tea and keep Tonks company?" She patted him fondly on the arm and pressed a steaming mug into his hands.
Remus thanked her for the tea and sat down again—at the table this time, next to Tonks. She heard the tiniest of sighs as he took his weight off his feet.
"Hello, Tonks." He smiled, but it was a hesitant shadow of the warm grin he usually had for her, and his eyes were guarded.
So Sirius had
told him that she knew.
It was hardly surprising that Remus didn't seem thrilled—it was quite a private thing that her cousin had gone and spilled to her last night, without Remus's permission. On top of that, Sirius had said that Remus hated to be seen right after a transformation, and here she was, gawking at him.
Tonks tried to smile back. She managed to meet his gaze once, but then she reddened and looked away. She felt wrong-footed and awkward, as though she'd been caught snooping in his diary. Conversation with Remus had always been easy, but now his obvious discomfort was making her nervous, and for once she had absolutely no idea what to say.
She glanced up at him again, just in time to see his face change—it went very still. His smile turned wry, and his eyes settled into a mild, rather resigned expression.
But not before she'd seen the flash of lonely sadness that sparked in their depths.
Tonks sat, frozen, watching him fold into himself and shut her out.Helga's leather corsets.
Remus thought she minded
that he was a werewolf. That's what this was all about.
Her heart twisted. All Tonks could think was how badly she wanted to see him grin. She didn't ever want to be the one who made him look that sad.
"Remus." His arm was leaning on the table, near his mug of tea, and she reached over to rest her fingertips gently on his wrist.
He started at her touch, and looked up at her, confusion and a certain vulnerability in his expression.
Tonks swallowed a lump that had risen in her throat and smiled right into his eyes. "I'm glad to see you're up and about already."
"Oh." He flushed, a little, but he didn't look away. "Thank you."
Tonks relaxed. Her grin widened, and her eyes narrowed. "Because you owe me."
His eyebrows went up in surprise, but she'd startled a little half-laugh from him. "For what?"
"Just watch." She concentrated, very hard, on purple
and one inch wide.
"Stripes! You've done it!"
Tonks looked up to find a delighted smile dancing in those brown eyes, and she laughed in relief. "Yeah. So you have to help me the next time I'm on washing-up duty. Again."
"I concede." Remus grinned at her, his old easy grin. "But I'm not giving up, you know. I'll stump you yet."
Tonks tossed her head. "You just keep on trying, and I'll keep on winning. That suits me fine—I hate washing up."
Hestia and Mad-Eye came in, then, and Molly bustled over to the table with the stew. But Tonks was pretty sure, from the way his smile lingered, that Remus understood what she had really meant to say.. * fin * ."Kaleidoscope" series index