(Note from Fern, re-reading the last part, it seems a bit uninspired, to say the least; any suggestions for revving it up a bit would be welcome.)
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Mum arrived unannounced on Wednesday night, another cauldron of a different sort of potion sealed and held under one arm. Dad appeared a moment later with a box full of Tonks's favorite toys from childhood. Granny, who had installed herself on the bed by Tonks's head and kept batting at her her hair in a worried sort of way, looked up at them and mewed plaintively to them.
"Don't even think about getting up," Mum said, setting down the cauldron and sitting down on the bed beside her. She drew her wand and started doing diagnostic spells.
"Mum, I'll be all right. I just need..." But Tonks couldn't think of exactly what she needed. She wanted rest, but she didn't want to send her parents away so she could get it. "Thank you for coming."
"Minerva McGonagall told everyone in a ten person radius from you," Dad said. "Except Remus, of course. No one seems to know how to reach him these days."
Mum made a kind of hissing sound, but didn't say anything about this. "I was on duty. There was a rather large accident today--a drunken uncle at a wedding tried to do a dancing charm on the guests, and they all ended up bound into their shoes. I didn't get the message until an hour ago. Dad was with a patient. I'm so sorry. We shouldn't have left you alone."
"I don't think I was. I think Remus was here."
Tonks thought about explaining this, but it seemed to require a great deal of energy, so she let it go. The diagnostic spells swirled around her, and Mum watched them with badly feigned clinical detachment.
Dad pulled a chair over to the bed and reached over to take her hand. "Your hands are like ice!" he exclaimed, rubbing her fingers rapidly. "How close did the bloody things come?"
Mum touched her forehead, smoothing back her hair. "I don't see anything permanent, but it looks like you have a residual trace of them on you. It will take time to get it out of your system."
"Oh. Wonderful. So, what can I expect, Healer Tonks?" Tonks smiled, and it felt like drawing a smile in frost on a windowpane.
Mum took her free hand and started rubbing it. "It looks like it was able to take a bit from you," she said clinically; Tonks had the feeling she was using her St. Mungo's manners to keep herself steady. "But the part of us that Dementors feed on--the soul--can regenerate if it's not entirely gone. I think the cold will hold on a bit; it usually does. I think it will mostly affect your mood. I..." Abruptly, she bent down and hugged Tonks. "Dora, God, Dora, I hate this job of yours. I hate it. Those damned things could have sucked your soul out of you."
"They didn't," Dad said.
"I'll be all right, Mum," Tonks said.
"I'm not going to be locked away from it this time, Mum."
Mum looked miserable, but nodded. "I'm all in favor of courage," she said. "I'm just not sure how well I like it being yours. Being injured twice in two months... I wouldn't mind if it were me."
"Well, I don't like it being either of you," Dad said. "But none of us made the call on this."
Mum sighed. "And we have to do what we have to do. I know. It's just a lot more difficult when it's you doing it than when it's me."
"Speak for yourself," Tonks said. "If you were doing this, I'd be going absolutely mad."
"The pair of you always were a matched set," Dad said.
Mum smiled and fretted a bit more at Tonks's hair.
They stayed the night with her, conjuring a mattress to sleep on the floor of her room, and in the morning, she felt considerably better for their presence, though Dawlish's snide look at seeing her breakfasting with her parents dampened it somewhat. Tonks didn't introduce them to him, partly because she didn't care to, but mostly because she was afraid Mum would try to put health restrictions on her at work, and Dawlish would never let her hear the end of getting safety directives from her mother at work.
Mum did try to talk her into staying off work on Thursday--"You were attacked by four Dementors, for heaven's sake!"--but as Tonks had enough paperwork to complete to keep her out of the field all day, she was finally mollified enough to go. Dad waited until Mum had Apparated out, then kissed the top of Tonks's head. "Your mum loves you."
He hugged her. "Don't think I was any less worried. Or that your mum's the only one who wishes you'd found your calling in magical accounting."
"Be as careful as you can be."
"And if you need us... I know you're having a hard time. If you need us, we'll be there."
He kissed her cheek, then left. Dawlish put a pile of incident report scrolls in front of her, and she settled in to work on them.
By Friday, she was feeling up to doing her normal patrol. She was strongly advised against investigating the stretch of road outside the school by herself, which was unnecessary, as she found nothing there when she went anyway.
There was a letter waiting at Molly's when Tonks arrived with Ginny's birthday present on Sunday. Molly handed it to her with pursed lips. "I told him he'd best not say anything rude," she said. "You've had quite enough trouble this week. Are you feeling all right?"
"I'm all right. Thank you, Molly."
"Are you sure?"
"Mum checked me over. If Mum's satisfied, I am."
Molly didn't look convinced, but she turned away to let Tonks read the letter (though she remained in conspicuously easy reach).
Tonks broke the seal and decoded the scroll.
I won't tell you to be more careful, because I'm quite certain everyone else already has. Mad-Eye came looking for me on Wednesday and sent me off to you as soon as he found me. He's quite annoyed that I didn't take his Invisibility Cloak off when I got there, but I seem to cause you quite a lot of distress lately, and I thought you'd probably had enough of it for one day. I just needed to see you for myself, and know you were safe. I didn't mean to wake you when I touched you. I'm not entirely certain that I meant to touch you, for that matter.
Tonks rubbed her eyes and took a deep breath, then continued reading.
Molly tells me that you worry about me. If so, please know that I am reasonably safe here, certainly not in the dire danger you imagine--not even as much as you are. I'm not living comfortably, but I've found a dry, decent place to go at night, and I've got a much better grasp of my compatriots' expectations this month than I did last month, so I'm not making nearly as many mistakes. I've found some willing to listen to a point of view different from Greyback's, but I'm approaching the subject with great caution.
In other words, Dora, I am being careful and you can stop worrying about me.
"Right," Tonks muttered. "I'll do that. No problem."
Molly looked at her quizzically, but said nothing.
I want you to be careful as well, both for yourself and for the Order. I don't like the idea that the Dementors are haunting the road around the Forest. It's close to the route the carriages take from Hogsmeade station to the school, and that strikes me as a reasonable target. Dementors have a strong effect on Harry, and Voldemort would know it by now. Will you keep an eye out for Harry for me, to make sure he gets in safely?
I'm sorry--it sounds quite cold doesn't it? 'So sorry you were hurt, now do a favor for me.' I don't mean it at all like that. There are a hundred things going through my head, and most of them don't have words. I suppose I want to tell you that I trust you to look after Harry, that Sirius would have as well, and I thought it might mean something to you to know that. I'm really quite bad at this letter-writing business.
Please take care.
Molly raised her eyebrows when Tonks rolled up the scroll.
Tonks smiled. "Awkward and stilted," she said. "But not at all rude. Where is Ginny? I wanted to give her her present."
Molly sent her up to Ginny's bedroom, where Ginny and Hermione were having a discussion about how best to get the attention of a thick-headed boy--Ron and Harry, who Tonks strongly suspected were the boys in question, were up in the orchard shooting Quidditch goals--and asked for Tonks's experienced input. She suggested persistence and good costuming, and presented Ginny with a box of brightly colored scarves and hats, of the sort she'd been most attached to from Tonks's own wardrobe. These were promptly piled onto all three of them, and Tonks spent a pleasant hour enjoying their company.
Her mood started to flag when they began discussing the kisses they'd each had, so she wished Ginny a happy birthday and slipped back downstairs. The boys were still out, so Tonks just said goodbye to Molly and Arthur, then headed home. Late that night, she wrote a long letter to Remus, telling him everything about her life, as she had when she was a child.
She sealed it, held it to her heart, then Vanished it.