Written for Season 4 of the QLFC, Round 3.
Title: Memory Lane
Team: Wigtown Wanderers
Team Prompt: Wanderer(s)
Position: Chaser 2
Word Limit: 2,551-2,750
4. (word) varnish
8. (colour) lilac
14. (quote) "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud" - Maya Angelou
Word Count: 2,685
Beta: Firefly81 (Thankyou!)
No one had been living in number 12 Grimmauld Place since June. Molly Weasley had gone through great efforts to clean it out once upon a time, but she living in her own home now, and there was no one in Grimmauld Place to visit. There was no one interested in making this ruin into a place of warmth anymore.
Order members had once laughed around the kitchen table, complaining about doxy bites and enjoying Molly's soup. Now meetings were brief; everyone was thinner and more tired than they cared to mention. Duties were doled out, and the group quickly dispersed.
It was Autumn, and Sirius had been dead for only a few months. Tonks could hardly move for grief.
The Order were gathering for a meeting in the kitchen. Tonks had developed a dreadful habit of arriving at the house early and simply drifting from room to room. This must have been the fourth time in so many weeks that she stood alone in her cousin's bedroom and waited to hear the arrival of the others. At each creek of the floor, she imagined it was him moving around. She tried to feel close to the once living man and his barking laugh.
Her Auror training allowed her to recognise them as they wandered in: Kingsley's sure step, Mad-Eye's distinctive limp. At least she told herself it was Auror training, in reality it was probably because she had come to know these people as she would her own family.
Remus was usually late, and she was confident it was because he was avoiding her. He couldn't tolerate her affections, and if it was difficult for him it was unbearable for her. No one had Sirius's lolloping gait; his feet had once touched the creaking floor more times per yard than anyone could justify as he moved around the house. It was like he somehow took enough steps for four legs even when he was on two.
She made her way downstairs, pushing her stubborn mousy hair out of her line of vision. She stopped briefly and tried to flood it with even the slightest bit of colour, but it remained unchanged. She huffed out a frustrated sigh and tried to take light steps with her combat boots as she made her way into the foyer. She was aware that they all already knew that she had developed this morose habit, among countless others, but she didn't wish to flaunt it.
She was almost clear of Mrs. Black's horrifying portrait when the inevitable crash sounded. She had tripped over that damned troll-foot umbrella stand.
"Bollocks! One of you has moved this!" she shouted over the unbearable shrieking that filled the hall as the curtains around her aunt's portrait flew open. Twin heads peeked —out from around the kitchen door as Tonks moved to tug at one of the drapes.
"No need," George replied loudly, easily distinguishable by the name tag attached to his garish magenta robes.
"Your foot can be trusted to find the mark every—" Fred's jibe was cut off as Mrs. Black's complaints reached fever pitch. She had recognised Tonks.
"Scum of the womb! Werewolf fornicator! Half-breed! You, Andromeda's hybrid Mudblood spawn, you dare bring your shameful body into this most venerable house. The home of the ancestors you have shamed!"
The twins shot forth and aided Tonks in her attempt to bring the tirade to an end. Each of them tugged at the dusty velvet curtains with all their might until silence fell. The three of them hurried back down towards the gathering as one of the twin's whispered;
"As we were saying, there is no conspiracy against you. You're just lucky when it comes to hand-eye co-ordination."
"If only we could all have your natural grace and stealth," the other lamented, speaking more clearly as they took a seat at the table. Tonks scowled and rubbed a hand over her bruised toe.
"Are you alright?" Tonks looked up to see Remus's scarred face twisted in concern. She felt her own brow furrow. She was immediately tempted to tell him to shove off but, in some corner of her mind, she was strangely grateful to the umbrella stand.
"Just business as usual," she said as she shrugged. He nodded and looked away, easy as that.
"First things first," Moody spoke, "none of us died this week, those of us who are not in attendance are simply indisposed or undercover."
There was a murmur of assent, and the twins applauded enthusiastically. The boys enthusiasm was only slightly dampened as Moody's magical eye whizzed in their direction.
"Bravo," Fred declared.
"It's nothing to get excited about. Don't let it make you complacent. Injury count was minimal. Hestia sprained her wrist while stationed with the Muggle monarch last week. She had a run in with the Carrows and the big one tossed a shovel at her, but she got out alright."
"Queen's not dead then?" George asked in a business like manner.
"Not nearly as close to death as you will be if you don't plug up that gash in your face!" Moody retaliated and the twins shared a look of approval at the Auror's creativity.
"Affirmative," Fred replied for his brother, and they saluted.
Remus didn't look at her again, but that was the thing with Remus, he could look without looking. This was typical behaviour for the older man. He was the last to arrive and the first to leave. Now that Sirius was gone, he barely exchanged greetings with other Order members.
The twins had come carrying news of their family and to collect Arthur's next intel assignment. It was a nice change to have them attend; they were masters of normality. With great effort, she could almost ignore how much they reminded her of her cousin and just take comfort from the rare ease they offered. Once the Weasleys had finished telling an amusing anecdote about Ginny hexing an unnamed Slytherin, Kingsley explained circumstances on the Muggle end. It was her turn next.
"What of Hogwarts?" Moody asked, his tone less gruff when referring to her then it had been since they'd begun. She found this to be a little heartening and smiled at her mentor cautiously.
"Security is being increased daily with a new enchantment being cast practically every hour. Firenze, the centaur Dumbledore hired to replace Trelawney, is still on the docket. Got beaten half to death by his own colony. Albus really didn't have a choice other than to keep him on after the sacrifices he's made. Still, it's a fair indicator that Ministry interference is manageably low. Legislation hasn't been too pro-centaur lately."
Moody gave an approving nod and made to move on. Tonks was happy to finish her report there, but she knew that Remus wanted to know about Harry and would never actually ask her.
"Right—" Moody began but Tonks cleared her throat. After the meeting, Remus would return to Greyback's pack, it terrified her. She couldn't deny him any comfort.
"Harry's doing fine," she said as she chanced a look at Remus and could tell he was listening intently. "He's doing great actually. He's top of the class in Potions and as best we can tell he's disbanded his little militant club... but that's hearsay," she finished awkwardly.
"Long live Dumbledore's Army!" Fred and George cried heartily. Mad-Eye snorted knowingly.
"How goes it with the werewolves, Remus?" Kingsley asked, with his usual tactful timing.
"No new developments," his voice was whispery and compelling, "it's all I can do to keep Greyback from turning more children and to keep the Ministry away from what pups there are. As it stands, I should be returning before I am missed."
He stood and Tonks almost cried out for him to stop, but the rest of the Order were nodding their understanding. When would she see him again?
"Adjourned," Moody announced and the room filled with the rumble of the group making to leave.
"Keep the faith!" George instructed them all, jovially.
Tonks pushed her dull hair behind her ears and attempted to pursue Remus. No one else had quite made it to the door yet, but he was already in the hall.
"Remus?" she called after him with hushed insistence. She was determined not to disturb the painting again. He pretended not to hear, taking quiet steps away from her. She followed him, as usual, attempting to not make a sound. Suddenly, pain shot up her leg as her foot collided with the cursed umbrella stand. She reached for it, but it was too late. Remus turned just as the antique teetered and smashed to the ground with a bang.
"Again?!" she complained to whoever was the cruel master of her fate.
"Filth! Retched depravity in my own home! In the house of my fathers!"
Tonks wondered how this woman could be Sirius's mother as she rushed to hide the portrait. The screeching crone clawed at the canvas, reaching to tear at her skin. Remus joined her efforts, and she continued to tug on one of the drapes as she looked at him. Several Order members squeezed by the familiar scene and made for the door. Remus kept his eyes on the grotesque painting.
"I'm fine, leave it," she told him pointlessly, the velvet she was clutching hardly budged. He looked at her then, summoned considerable strength, and heaved his edge of the fabric so that it met with hers.
"Would if I could," he whispered, his voice saturated with self disdain. Almost the entire painting was sealed by the one curtain. His eyes were darkened with conflict under his greying fringe.
"Stay then," she pleaded, a little breathless from the exertion. She tried a little vainly to light her eyes up with some colour when she said it. She was all too aware that it hadn't worked. They both took a few cautious steps away from the portrait.
"Try to be more careful."
He indicated the umbrella stand, but his double meaning was so transparent she wanted to throttle him. The moment was almost over. They were at the door, and she was so tired.
"You're daft if you think you can brush me off like this," she told him in the now empty foyer. Only Kingsley and Mad-Eye remained, and they were discussing logistics in the kitchen.
"I'm not brushing you off; I have important work," he insisted.
"None of us are safe."
"I can't lose you too."
She glanced back in the direction they had come. Imagining as she often did that Sirius would emerge and mock their almost love affair. He'd bark out a laugh and say something like: "Moony, you miserable sod, she's a metamorphmagus with some kind of deranged werewolf kink. Where do you bloody plan to find another one of those?!"
"You mustn't become attached to a dull old werewolf like me. At my age, I'm on borrowed time as it is."
"Borrowed…? Don't you see that it's too late for that? You don't have to return my feelings, but don't do me the discourtesy of pretending they don't exist."
Her eyes were watering now, and she looked at Remus through a film of unshed tears. He raised his hand as if to touch her cheek but withdrew it. He tugged at his hair in frustration and looked lost.
"Nymphadora, please, what can I do? This my life, I can't just pretend otherwise. I'm dangerous."
"It's my life too."
She swiped a hand roughly over her cheek, and pushed her tears aside. Remus looked physically ill, and Tonks's stomach twisted with guilt. He reached toward her again, and this time managed to complete the movement. He pushed a stray curl back behind her ear. She cringed away and shook her head.
"Leave it," she repeated.
She didn't bother to hide her destination as she hurried toward the stairs and made her way back to her cousin's room. She left Remus stricken by the door.
Tonks sat at Sirius's desk and flicked through one of his Muggle motorcycle magazines. She reminisced about the affectionate boredom she had felt as he had raved on about engines and petroleum. The house was empty now, and so she ventured out alone into the grimy halls as was her habit. The House of Black, getting blacker by the day.
She was such a masochist. Loving Remus and taking these morbid trips down memory lane. She stood in the family library and ran her hand over the blackened stain on the tapestry where Sirius's likeness had once rolled its eyes. She averted her eyes from the snarling image of Bellatrix.
Eventually she wandered up to the attic where he used to sit with Buckbeak. She settled down on the floorboards with her back to the wall. There were some notes scattered here and there. Half-penned cautions for Harry along with unsent letters encouraging his rule breaking antics. A photo caught her eye, and she picked it up. Her breath stuck in her throat.
Sirius had not known that Andromeda had had a daughter until he was almost nineteen. When Tonks had met Sirius after his escape, he told her about the first time that they'd met. The memory had returned with his retelling in dribs and drabs. An exuberant boy at the door who her mother had embraced like a brother. A shiny golden Galleon thrust into her pudgy hands with a wink. An evening and several more after spent dressing Sirius up like a doll. His insistence that she match her hair to whatever flowers he brought her.
"Don't you remember how you used to cover me in nail varnish? I'd never looked so glamorous. Pity there was no one there to tell me that you shouldn't let that Muggle rubbish near your eyes."
There was no way to know how much of her own recollection she had invented to please herself and Sirius, but she never tired of his retellings. How he had loved to dote on her.
Tonks had only seen her mother cry a handful of times. She didn't remember the tears she was sure were shed when Sirius had been charged with murder, but she remembered the sobbing that had greeted the news of his innocence.
Andromeda had told her daughter that she had always hoped they were wrong about him. She had explained how Sirius had idolised her when she was a small girl. How he would arrive at their house looking drawn and leave with a grin wider than the Thames.
It was these moments in her life that caused her to see Sirius as more than a colleague or a friend. It might have only been for a few brief moments, but those moments defined them as what they were. Family that found comfort in each other.
If there had ever been any doubt that Sirius had patiently allowed her to paint him with nail varnish until he looked like an exotic bird, it was extinguished. How had she never seen this picture before? Suddenly, Tonks was laughing and crying, almost hysterically.
Sirius sat cross legged on some grass as he braided lilacs into her hair. Her face was scrunched up in concentration as she flooded her mop of curls with a bluish-purple imitation of the flower's petals. Each time she managed it, Sirius would laugh excitedly and tickle her until she lost concentration and had to try again. The teenage boy was covered in powder and nail varnish, a large glob of which was drying on his eyelashes.
Suddenly, it was right there in her mind.
"Is it doing it? Does it match?"
"By Merlin, you've done it! You're a little genius… on second thought, maybe you should start again just to be sure it wasn't a fluke."
"Bastard," she laughed aloud to the empty room, and she pushed yet more tears away from her cheeks. She knocked some of her hair from behind her ears and marvelled as it entered her line of vision. The mousy brown had finally stirred to bloom into a vibrant, familiar lilac.