Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Molly patted her hand when she'd got through it all. "You're all right here, dear," she said. "We'll get you fed and warm, and I won't put up with any more rude letters." She pursed her lips. "I think I'll have a word with Lupin as well--"
"No, Molly, please! Remus needs someone and if he won't let me be there and he thinks you don't like him... and he'll think that if you yell... he'll just disappear..."
"Hmph. He'll need to learn to handle a bit of disapproval if he's earned it. I won't pretend he's not being an idiot. But I'll make sure he knows we're perfectly fond of him."
"Fond of 'oo?" someone said.
Molly raised her eyes heavenward. "It's a private matter, Fleur," she said.
Fleur Delacour drifted into the kitchen, looking curiously at Tonks. "I don't theenk we 'ave... " She frowned. "Are you--?"
"Tonks," Tonks said wearily. "Wotcher, Fleur."
Fleur nodded. The niceties thus covered, she broke into a wide smile, and waved her left hand airily. Something glittered on her finger. "'As Molly told you our news?"
"Not now," Molly said firmly, looking horrified.
"It's all right," Tonks said. "Good news is good to have. Molly told me a few days ago. Congratulations. To Bill as well."
Fleur gave a contented sigh. "Eet eez wonderful, no? I am 'ere to meet my new family! Bill eez busy, and Molly and Arthur 'ave let me come to stay." She kissed Molly's cheek, then floated over to the sink and found a glass, which she inspected in the candlelight and re-cleaned with a touch of her wand. Molly watched this with narrowed eyes, but Fleur seemed oblivious. "Eet eez very different 'ere zan at 'ome."
"I imagine so, dear," Molly said.
"But eet eez wonderful to be in love, don't you theenk?" She swooped down on Tonks. "Aren't you and Meester Lu--"
"No," Tonks said quickly. It was just a shield, thrown in haste to keep Fleur from stabbing into an open wound, but as soon as it was out of her mouth, she felt the world starting to slip away. Images streamed into her mind unbidden, and tastes, and smells. "No," she said again.
Fleur looked confused. "Oh, I thought... I must 'ave been mistaken... 'E seemed 'appy, and I thought that you... was eet someone else?"
"That's enough, Fleur," Molly said sharply.
"I'm sorry. I--" She frowned deeply, apparently coming to the conclusion that something was wrong. "Well," she said, "I weel leave you to your talk. Eet was lovely to see you, Tonks." She left.
Molly sighed. "I'm sorry about Fleur." She shook her head. "I have a feeling I'd best get used to saying that. The child has all the tact of a drunken poltergest."
"It's all right," Tonks said. "She's off in her own world. It seems to be quite bright. And shiny. I miss bright and shiny things. Perhaps I'll have a holiday in Fleur's world."
"If you want to, you could always just switch with her. Really. You'd have my blessing." Molly grinned.
Tonks tried to laugh and couldn't, but she found a smile somewhere. "Fleur's all right," she said. "You'll get used to her. Probably."
"Do you want to stay here tonight? It's a bit full, but I don't think Harry will be here until the morning, so you could sleep in the twins' room, if you don't mind sharing it with Harry's trunk. I don't like the thought of you being alone."
"Oh, Mum and Dad are probably home already and wondering where I've got to." Tonks looked out the window into the darkness and mist. She could barely make out the shape of the broom shed. "Do you know what I'm afraid of, Molly? I'm afraid that I'll tell them what happened, and they'll hate him. That they'll just be furious and say horrible things about him. They're his friends, but--"
"But you're their little girl, and there are priorities."
"Right." She looked back, tipped up her teacup to drink, and found it empty. "I don't want that. I don't need anyone to tell me he's being an idiot, I know he's being an idiot. Bolting is his favorite way to be an idiot, and I should have known this was coming. I don't want to hear that, Molly. I just want someone to tell me that he'll be all right. That he won't--" She covered her eyes with her hand, and brushed away a tear that was trying to get out. "Bugger all," she said, then looked sheepishly at Molly. "Sorry."
"If I didn't ignore one or two slips at the table, my children would have starved."
Tonks's gaze moved back to the window, and she froze. "Molly, there are two people coming toward the house. I can't see who."
"Two? Arthur didn't mention--"
Three sharp raps against the door cut the conversation, and Molly got up warily, standing between the window and the door, out of a direct line of sight from either. "Who's there? Declare yourself."
"It is I, Dumbledore," a pleasant voice said from the other side, "bringing Harry."
Molly opened the door before Tonks had a chance to remind her to double-check, but the man who entered was very obviously Albus Dumbledore. The hand which had been bandaged at Emmeline's funeral was burned and blackened. Tonks stared at it while Molly exchanged greetings with him, told him he'd frightened her by arriving hours earlier than expected, and got some accounting for his whereabouts. The scroll on the table caught her eye, and she was surprised by a wave of anger at Dumbledore, deep and cold as the Hogwarts lake in January.
"Ah, hello, Nymphadora!"
"Hello, Professor," she said, barely noticing the use of her first name, which was becoming something a fashion in the Order for some reason. The anger hadn't left. She picked up Remus's letter and Vanished the ink, and told herself that Dumbledore would never have asked this if it weren't important, and it made no difference whatsoever. He tried to catch her gaze, but she couldn't quite look at him. She nodded to the slim, tall boy beside him. "Wotcher, Harry."
Harry Potter nodded at her. "Hi, Tonks."
She looked up briefly and found Dumbledore frowning oddly in her direction, so she gathered her things and stood up, fastening her cloak. "I'd better be off," she said. "Thanks for the tea and sympathy, Molly."
Dumbledore urged her to stay, claiming business with Scrimgeour that seemed unlikely to Tonks at this hour, but the Burrow was becoming a bit crowded. She felt that at any moment someone--perhaps Dumbledore, perhaps Fleur--would mention Remus, and Harry would ask how he was, and how would she answer that?
Molly suggested that she come to dinner over the weekend, reminding her--thank heaven without saying anything that would let Harry know what was happening--that Remus would be here to see Harry, if nothing else, but the words of the letter were still in her mind. They would know if he'd been with her. He would pay. She refused.
So she went out into the night, stopped in the middle of the dooryard, and Apparated home. Mum and Dad were both there, but they were sleeping (or, she supposed, not sleeping, but behind closed doors one way or the other; she only knew they were home because they'd left out a pair of wine goblets from a nightcap they'd obviously shared), so she didn't tell them, and by morning, she'd resolved to tell them only that Remus was involved in an elaborate pretense, a lie that was shattered when Mum found her two days later, sitting at the kitchen table and compulsively re-reading the letter he'd left for her.
The explosion of her temper was catastrophic, and Dad, who usually reined her in, sat fuming on his own. Tonks considered it rather ironic that they were so furious at Remus for hurting her that they were yelling at her, but it didn't seem like a wise moment to point this out. Instead, she just went up to her childhood bedroom and curled up on a pile of pillows with Granny the cat purring against her chest. She stayed there until the storm subsided. Mum apologized and promised to try and do better, but Tonks could see in her eyes that she was still out for Remus's blood.
She started working double shifts to avoid thinking too much about her personal life, but work was hardly cheerful. It was a rare day that went by now without someone coming up missing. Those who were obviously taken by force were the first priority. Those who simply vanished, the Ministry did not place a high priority on. They knew there was a possibility of coersion (or of the Imperius Curse), but it was all too probable that Voldemort was simply gathering his army, and when the time did come to look for these people, it would not be as victims.
The Dementors' mist cleared somewhat in the cities, but there were massive gatherings in some places, and by the time the second Monday after she'd spoken to Molly came around, everyone in the Auror Division had had an opportunity to see her new Patronus. Proudfoot, whose aunt or cousin or some such thing had been savaged by a werewolf, now looked at her with utter revulsion.
She was just coming off of a night shift, fighting with half a dozen Dementors who had chosen to feed from a group of Muggle teenagers covered with tattoos and piercings, when word came to the office that Florean Fortescue had vanished.