By the time she reached her parents' home, the mists had become a chilly, pervasive fog, and she was glad to trade her sodden cloak for a warm jumper and a pair of jeans. She warmed a second jumper with a Heating Charm and picked up her old cat, Granny, in it, being careful of her arthritic hips in the cold and damp. Granny gave her a grateful purr and nudged her chin.
When she got downstairs, the other three housecats--Granny's last litter of kittens, Quaffle, Bludger, and Snitch--were huddled together on the sofa, trying to keep warm. Dad was at the living room window, watching the swirling mist and absently flicking his wand to light candles. He looked over his shoulder and gave a faint shadow of a smile. "It seems we've been hit with quite a severe Stereotypical Weather Curse," he said.
"Yeah, foggy London. Who'd've thought? I wonder how long it will take the Muggles to notice anything wrong." Tonks sat down on one of the unoccupied armchairs, curling her legs under her and being careful not to jostle Granny too much.
"They have instruments to track these things. They'll notice soon enough. What is it really? Dementors?"
"Dementors," she confirmed. "They're breeding."
"That's a mental image I didn't need." Dad left the window and sat down on the couch, across from the other cats. He absently scratched Quaffle's head. "We've seen some attacks at St. Mungo's. The Closed Ward is becoming crowded. Your mum got a nasty group in just before the end of her shift."
"We're trying to keep up."
"I know, Dora."
They talked for an hour as the night deepened, Mum joining them when she finally made it home. After Mum and Dad went to bed, she found herself wandering the house, stopping at windows, Dumbledore's last words echoing in her mind more and more loudly as the night grew more silent.
She hadn't thought much of it at first, assuming that Remus would come by, tell her about it, work out anything that needed to be done. But minutes and hours went by, and there was no word. She was nearly asleep when she saw an owl making a weary, zig-zagging path toward the door.
Suddenly wide awake, Tonks opened the door. The owl flew in, crashing onto the floor with resignation, his wings still flapping weakly. From the armchair, Granny gave him a sympathetic mew.
Tonks managed to find the small bit of parchment, and sighed with relief, recognizing Remus's small, spidery handwriting. She untied it and carried the ancient owl to the kitchen to have food and water before sending it back.
She unrolled the scroll and did a quick decoding spell.
Dora, he had written, Dumbledore has received rather disturbing news regarding the reappearance of an old acquaintance of mine, and wishes me to go undercover to investigate. Time is of the essence if I'm to arrange an accidental crossing of paths, so I can't write at length, or speak to you before I leave. I won't be able to send or receive messages with any regularity, but Molly and Arthur, whose owl this is, have quite generously agreed to be my contact point during this assignment. If you need to reach me, I will visit them on Saturdays (depending on the obvious timing issues).
There was a wide blank space here, and when the writing picked up again, it was a slightly different shade of ink, and the letters were even smaller, and more quickly formed. She imagined him writing his cool-headed bit of information, reading it over, then, at the last minute, grabbing another quill and ink bottle to add his coda while no one was watching.
I'm very sorry to disappear like this, Dora. I miss you already, and love you always.
She sat at the table, suddenly very cold. Nervous pinwheels of energy spun around in her stomach, and the note was shaking in her hand.
She looked up. Mum was standing in the door to the kitchen in her dressing gown, her light brown hair a muzzy halo around her face.
Tonks tried to speak, found no particular word, and finally just shook her head. "Remus," she said.
"Dumbledore's sent him off somewhere."
"I suppose I'm not cleared to know where."
"Apparently, I'm not either."
Mum frowned and sat down, Summoning the teapot and two mugs. The sugarbowl and creamer floated along and began sweetening and lightening. "Do you need to talk?"
"No. I'm sure... there's a good reason. He'll tell me. I can see him at the Weasleys' this evening, I think. I'm just worried, is all."
"Understandable." Mum gave her a suspicious look. "Dora, Dad and I were talking. You haven't mentioned anything about--"
"Can we not talk about that?"
"Are you sure?"
Mum nodded dubiously and picked up her teacup. She gestured at Tonks. "I don't think I've seen your hair that color since you were four. What's the occasion?"
"What do you mean?"
"The natural look?"
"Accio mirror," Tonks said, and a small mirror flew over from the counter. Her hair was the same light brown as Mum's. She looked up. "No offense, Mum, but I didn't make it this way."
Mum smiled. "No, I believe Dad and I made it that way."
"But my hair is black when it's not morphed. Like Sirius and Aunt Bellatrix and Auntie and..."
"Like your Dad," Mum corrected. "Totally different side of the family. You decided it was black when you were little, and I never could talk you out of it."
"Would you be terribly offended if I changed it back?"
Tonks concentrated, looking into the mirror, and after what seemed like a very long time, bright color rushed up from the roots of her hair. The pink didn't feel quite right at the moment, but her head hurt from the effort, so she decided to leave it alone. "Odd," she said. The pinwheels in her stomach spun faster, sending out little sparks. She shook her head; there were more important things in the world to worry about than the color of her hair.
Which had faded back to brown by the time she got to work.
Kingsley and Mad-Eye commented on it. She lied to them.
By the time her shift was over--all deskwork, Scrimgeour's notion of punishment for aiding a perfectly innocent fugitive--her heart was beating too quickly, and sounds seemed to be echoing. She took several deep breaths before Apparating to the Burrow.
It wasn't a place she'd been before, though Molly had given her the coordinates long ago, but she would have recognized it in an instant--everything about screamed "Weasley," except for the redheaded girl running out of the house screaming, "Tonks! I'm so glad you're here!"
She found a smile and painted it on. "Wotcher, Ginny."
Ginny Weasley examined her. "I like the brown. It's different."
"I aim to please. Is Remus here?"
"Professor Lupin?" Ginny looked puzzled. "No. Why?"
"I had heard... Er..."
"He's due in later," Molly said, coming up behind Ginny. "Go on inside, Ginny."
"Yes, Mum." She disappeared into the house.
Molly sighed and put her arm over Tonks's shoulders. "I'd prefer the children not know... everything."
"I don't know anything," Tonks said. "He couldn't tell me anything in the note. I'm worried sick."
"Come inside, dear. Have some tea while we wait."
Yes, I'm leaving it off before Remus gets there, which is of course the main point of this rambling monstrosity of a sequence, but it's getting late.