"And that's everything?"

It wasn't, but it was almost everything. Tonks had left out the, um, 'dedication' that she and Harry enthusiastically brought to maintaining their cover. Everything else she reported was accurate, though. "Yes, ma'am."

Bones leaned back in her seat, setting her quill down and steepling her fingers. "I'm proud of you. Even through all the pressure, you kept your head and went back to the evidence. Very well done."

"I didn't know the DoM was guilty at the time. I just wanted their evidence report."

"That's true, but your attention to detail put you in the right place at the right time. I don't think I need to tell you what might have happened if you hadn't got to Potter before our assault team broke in. And I know for a certainty that the Unspeakables' pursuit of you kept them from setting up more effective defences when we did arrive. You saved a lot of lives."

"Thank you," she said, feeling proud and grateful to hear such praise from a woman she admired so much.

Bones stayed quiet for the next few moments. When she spoke again, it was a much softer tone than the one she'd maintained throughout the debriefing. "Do you want to talk about what happened down there? In the corridor?"

Tonks instantly recalled breaking down after the fighting ended, sobbing into her hands at the battle's conclusion. "I- I needed to vent my frustration. I'm sorry."

"Nymphadora, I'm not asking as your boss. I'm asking as someone who wants to look out for you: are you okay?"

She wasn't. Reality had come crashing into her like a two-ton lorry in that corridor of the Department of Mysteries, and Tonks could still feel the wounds that the truth's impact had left on her. "Ma'am, I'd like to request a transfer."

Her jaw dropped momentarily, and with wide eyes, Amelia sputtered. "Transfer? Wha- to where?"

"Not out of the department," Tonks shook her head, but her voice was firm. "I'd like a new partner."

"Has your current partner not met your expectations?" She had to give it to her boss - Amelia Bones could recover from a surprise as fast as lightning. "Has Junior Auror Potter not carried out his duties in an effective manner?"

"No, Harry's a good auror, and one day he'll be a great one. But he should be with someone more experienced. It was unusual to put a rookie with a Junior Auror to begin with; I think, I mean, after all he's gone through, that decision deserves revisiting."

"I see." Much to Tonks' dismay, she suspected by the look on Bones' face that she really did, further reinforced by the gentle lilt to her voice when she continued. "If I had to guess, I'd say that you figured out in that corridor why personal relationships between aurors are prohibited."

Her mind replayed the scene of events, feeling Harry pull her to the side to parry those incoming curses, watching the way his face shifted from concentration to confusion as he was struck from behind, the slow motion fall to the ground, his dark blood blending into the black tile floor…

"Easy, it's okay," Bones said, and Tonks realised with a start that she'd been holding onto the arms of her chair with a white-knuckled grip. "I've already told you, these things happen to the best of us."

"It's my fault. I knew better, I shouldn't have let it happen-"

"You're not in any trouble. There's no reason for this to leave my office," Bones said, and Tonks released the breath she'd been holding. "Now, that being said, we're more than two months into the current partner rotation. With your past record, there simply isn't another auror I could partner you with."

Tonks nodded. She'd always known Harry was her last chance. "I understand."

"Therefore, I have a proposition. You and Junior Auror Potter played a major role in breaking the biggest case this department has seen in the last twenty years, maybe in the last half-century. We're going to see some major fallout, and not just from the public. The entire Ministry is going to be different by the time the dust has settled.

"I think, in light of that reality and your own forthcoming accolades, a temporary reassignment is not unwarranted. I'll be transferring Potter to work with Rufus on the investigations team, to give him a bit more experience in different cases. You'll be going back to the Academy as an instructor, teaching recruits a special course on stealth and infiltration."

"Ma'am? I'm not qualified, I'm only a-" Tonks bit off the end of her protests as Bones slid a badge towards her. "Is that…?"

"It is. Congratulations, you can finally knock the 'Junior' off your rank, Auror Tonks."

It was what she'd wanted for so many years. She'd sat by and watched a parade of others get promoted ahead of her, time after time, and finally she'd done it. And all it took was- all she'd had to do was give up on the man that she…

Suddenly, her accomplishment wasn't quite as sweet as she'd anticipated.

"What do you say? The next class at the Academy starts in three weeks, and your special course will be for a two-month stint. Would you feel comfortable resuming your regular duties with Junior Auror Potter after that?"

Three months. That was enough time, she'd be able to get a handle on whatever this was by then. "Yes, that should be fine."

"Good, I'm glad to hear it. You're dismissed, Auror Tonks, and good job. You're a credit to us all."

Tonks picked up the badge, cradling it possessively as she made her way out of the DMLE. Harry had vanished after the battle, presumably taken away for medical treatment. If she were going to find him, St. Mungo's was as good a bet as any.

The hospital was surprisingly quiet. Tonks didn't even have to wait in line to speak with the receptionist, making quiet inquiries about her partner. Harry, it turned out, wasn't there and hadn't been admitted the prior night. That left only one option where she'd find him, and it wasn't the ideal setting for the conversation she had in mind.


"Hello, Mother." To her surprise, her mother hurriedly approached her with her arms out, as though to embrace her. "Whoa, what's all this?"

"You can't send an owl to let me know you're not hurt?"

"What are you talking about?"

"The Department of Mysteries! It was in the paper!"

"Oh," Tonks hadn't thought to consider that. "Sorry. I- there's been a lot going on."

Andromeda looked down at the badge that she still held in her hand. "Wait - is that…? Don't tell me you finally got your promotion?"

"Yea, just now."

"That's wonderful! Your father will be so proud! You must come for dinner tonight; bring your new partner, as well, won't you?"

Merlin, was the universe conspiring against her to make this as difficult as possible? "I don't- that's not a good idea. I should let you get back to work."

"Nonsense! I'm just finishing up, was about to head home, myself. I can leave with you!"

"Alright," she agreed miserably. Her mother excused herself for a few minutes to gather her things, reappearing shortly to meet her at the Floo. "I really can't stay long," she warned.

"That's fine, your father's still at work, anyway."

Their home looked the same as the last time Tonks had seen it, whenever that was. It had been more than a year. "Place looks nice."

"Your father's got several new clients recently, recommendations from Sirius. We haven't had a chance to pick up, my apologies."

Tonks gave her a wan smile; if she thought this was messy, she'd likely keel over at the sight of her own flat. Still, at this point she was simply delaying the inevitable. "I need to go."

"Must you? At least come back for dinner tonight?"

"Maybe, I don't know. Sorry, got to run!" She apparated away, leaving one uncomfortable situation to head right into another.

The manor looked, from the outside, as pristine as ever. As the gates opened and Tonks stepped through the wards, following her announcing charm, the illusion fell away and the devastated grounds revealed themselves.

"Nymphadora!" Lily greeted. "You should know, I keyed you into the wards weeks ago. No need to ring like a stranger!"

"Oh. Sorry," she said in surprise. "What happened here?"

"I can't say," Lily replied, calling out for her husband. "James, Nymphadora was asking about the state of the manor."

The Head Auror sighed as he approached, looking as downtrodden and defeated as she'd ever seen him. "A group of Unspeakables came last night, shortly before our raid. They tried to blackmail Lily into dropping her budget proposals, and made her swear an Unbreakable Vow. After which, my wife," he directed a hard look at the woman in question, who stood silently with an innocent smile, "decided to take matters into her own hands."

"Wait, you did all this?" Tonks asked, looking around dumbfounded. "How many were there?"

"I can't say," Lily repeated.

Tonks gave her a confused glance, but James spoke up. "The Vow was that Lily could never speak of what happened here last night. At least she had the forethought to leave one of the eight alive, so we got the full story from him."

She regarded the Lady Potter with a newfound respect; Tonks wouldn't have willingly decided to fight a battle with those odds. The woman really was terrifying. "I'm glad you're okay, but I came over-"

"Harry's over there," Lily interrupted, pointing beyond the burnt-out shell of a large tree. "It's nice to see you again, dear!"

Making her way through the brush, Tonks found herself at the edge of what was a lovely meadow. Flowers and plants were tastefully arranged, and she could see how this was once an exceptionally well-manicured garden. Unfortunately, the scars of battle had torn apart the tranquillity, altering the landscape to a shadow of its former appearance.

Harry stood shirtless but for bandages wrapped around his wounds from last night. He was using some sort of tool, a flat edge on a long pole, digging up sections of soil around the destroyed foliage.

"What are you doing?"

He turned, leaning against his tool and wiping sweat off his brow. "Dark magic corrupts the soil, these plants will never grow back the way they were."

"Why not use magic to do that?"

"My mum's family was big on gardening. She and her sister helped their mother in their garden from a young age, and I guess my mum wanted to share that with me. It would feel weird to use magic here."

"Are you sure you should be doing that, with your injuries, I mean?"

"I'm all patched up. Besides, I'm just tilling the soil, making it easier to move later," he said, leaving the tool standing in the dirt and approaching her. "You weren't hurt, were you?"

"No," she said. The few bumps and bruises she'd had were healed in a matter of minutes the night before. "Listen, we-"

He kissed her, and she reflexively opened her mouth to his tongue. She could taste his sweat, feel the sun's warmth on his skin. How, after so many times, could it still be this good? "I missed you."

"Listen," she said, putting both palms flat on his chest and pushing him back a step. "We need to talk."

Harry seemed to understand the gravity of her mood. "Sure."

"We can't do this anymore."

"What's 'this'?"

Tonks sighed. "Don't be difficult. Wasn't last night enough of a lesson for both of us? We can't keep doing this if we're going to be working together."

"You can't think that what happened was anything but an extraordinary situation. It's not something we'll be facing on a regular basis," he argued, reaching out for her.

"No." She batted his hands away. "This- this thing between us, it's affecting our work. You put the case in jeopardy, you almost died because of your feelings."

"That's not- I would have tried to save anyone in that situation!"

Tonks gave him a sad smile, remembering an accusation he'd made weeks earlier. "Really? If you were with Shacklebolt or Proudfoot, you'd have done the same thing?" He flushed, and whatever protests he'd prepared quieted. "It's too risky. We've got to be realistic."

"Then I'll quit."

"No!" Against her better judgment, she grabbed one of his hands with both of her own. "You can't! Not over this, not for me. Being an auror, it's- it's what we both want. I'm not going to let you abandon that, not when you've finally made it!"

She wished he wouldn't stare at her like that. His gaze was magnetic, and she released his hand to cradle his face, pressing a short, soft kiss to his lips. Feather-light, full of promise of what was but could never be. She pulled back, still keeping her eyes locked on his.

"Tonks, please…" he breathed.

She cleared her throat, finally looking away. "I requested a transfer. It's only temporary, but it will give us some time to move past this. I'm sorry."

Abruptly turning her back on him, she walked away, forcing herself to maintain an even stride until she'd passed beyond the burnt out tree. When she was sure he couldn't see her, her walk accelerated into a run. She had to go, get away from this hurt and this pain; away from Harry. Through blurry vision, she saw Lily open her mouth, confusion and concern evident on her face, but Tonks didn't stop, just kept running, right out the gates where she vanished with a crack!

"Back so soon- what's wrong? What happened?"

"Mum-" she choked out. She didn't even know what to say, but her mother somehow understood in the way parents do, simply wrapping Tonks up in a hug and rocking slowly side to side.

She wished that she really was Lissa Fields.

"How was work?"

"It was fine."

"Did you talk to Nymphadora?"

"Why would I?"

She huffed in annoyance. "Because she's your partner, and you two went through a lot together."

Harry shed his robes, walking past Lily into the kitchen where he started pulling out ingredients. "How does a stew sound? Do we still have any of that fresh bread?"


"Mum, leave it be. We're just on different assignments, it's not a big deal."

"Then why was she crying when she left last week? Why haven't you mentioned her once? It's like you're trying to pretend she doesn't exist!"

"That's not how it is. Tonks is- she's busy preparing materials for her course at the Academy." Harry set aside the vegetables he'd been chopping, waving his wand to cast a preservation charm before banishing them back to the chiller. "I'm going to go see Ginny."

He stormed away before he could hear his mother's reply, tossing a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace and stepping through after calling out the Weasley's address. In their sitting room, he found her playing a game of wizard's chess with Ron.

"Hey, mate! Haven't seen you in ages," his old roommate greeted.

"Hi, Ron. How's things at Chudley?"

"Coming along real nicely, let me tell you. I've started a whole new fitness program, diet, exercise, callisthenics, the works. Give me three years, and we'll be making a run at the championship!"

"That's great, really," Harry said, seeking Ginny's gaze. She stubbornly insisted on staring at the board.

"Listen, I wanted to say- you know, about Granger. I'm glad you brought down the ones that did that to her."

Even now, a month removed from the discovery above Potage's, Harry still felt a sinking feeling in his gut at her mention. "Me too. Gin, could you spare a minute? Outside?"

She pursed her lips, but her brother moved a piece, proudly announcing "Checkmate!" before she could reply. Instead, she stood up and led the way out of the house, past the garage to the edge of the pond. They sat down together, staring out at the water's placid surface.

"Are you excited about the draft?"

She nodded, still not meeting his eyes. "Yea, got an agent and everything. Only one more week, then I'll know if I've got a job or not."

"You'll get picked. You're a brilliant chaser," he offered, then that awkward silence fell over them once more. "Look, we need to talk."

"It's over, isn't it?"

This wasn't at all what he'd expected, and the mental arguments he'd prepared fell apart before he could even give voice to them. "How- I mean, what are you talking about?"

"So you aren't here to break up with me?"

"No, you're right. Sorry, this isn't at all how I thought it'd go. Guess it was obvious, huh?"

Now she looked at him, her brown eyes dark with intensity. "You know, that's so like you. Is now really the time to be making jokes?"

"Sorry," he said again. "I wasn't trying to- I don't know how to act here, Gin. You were my first girlfriend; my only girlfriend. And I'm really glad to have shared so much with you, but I don't think 'we' are working any longer."

"Is there someone else?"

Would it be so bad to lie? It's not as though Tonks wanted anything to do with him; did Ginny really need to know what he'd done? "Yes."

Ginny took a deep breath, and Harry watched warily as both of her hands clenched. "You were an awful boyfriend, and I wish I'd never met you!"

"I never meant for it to happen, truly; I'm so sorry-"

"Just- don't. Go away, Harry. I don't want to hear how sorry you are!"

To spare himself from having to go back into the Burrow, Harry instead started the long walk to the ward boundaries to apparate. The sun was setting, and with its departure the summer heat was evening out into a mild evening temperature, meaning the only discomfort he felt was internal.

It was the right thing, being honest with her. If he were being truthful with himself, Harry should have ended it when he'd left Hogwarts, but he didn't, so he had to own his less than honourable behaviour. It just never seemed all that bad before; there were a lot of problems between him and Ginny, a hundred reasons why they didn't work as a couple.

But none of them mattered very much until the first time he was with Tonks.

The familiar sensation of stepping through the wardline washed over, and Harry spun in place, heading home.

Two months later

"What do you think, Minister?"

Lily sat among the other members of the special commission, waiting while Amos Diggory milked the anticipatory tension. 'He's absolutely loving this' she thought, suppressing the desire to roll her eyes as the Minister opened his mouth, only to cough lightly into his hand.

"The proposal is sound, but I worry about the reaction from our more upstanding members of society," he ultimately said. "Disbanding an institution that predates even the Ministry might be seen as giving in to more… nontraditional elements." While the Minister had the good sense to not look directly at her as he said that, several others at the round table glanced in Lily's direction.

"Fine," Lily said, her anger leaking into her voice despite doing her best to keep a tight rein on her temper. "Let the DoM get back to their work. In fact, let's have Amelia release all the Unspeakables."

"Lily…" James warned, certainly able to recognise the signs.

"I wonder, though, what will make the upstanding members of society more uncomfortable - disbanding the Department of Mysteries, or a Wizengamot member killing their entire staff to a man?"

There was silence around the table at her blatant threat, James with one hand over his face, Amelia stifling a grin, and the Minister white-faced with shock.

"Let's not be rash," old Elphias Doge said. "I'd like to think there's been enough lives lost already."

"Enough innocent life, certainly," Amelia interrupted. "I'm sure it is no surprise that I'll be seeking the Dementor's Kiss for the captured Unspeakables at trial." Lily could see the disquiet on several faces of the commission at that statement, but no one was willing to challenge the formidable DMLE Director.

"Right, well, getting back to this proposal," Diggory seemed eager to regain control of the meeting. "It feels rather performative. Besides name change and personnel change, how does this change the Department of Mysteries?"

"There's a big difference between the new Department of Magical Research and the DoM. The new department will have a three-person oversight committee of rotating Wizengamot members to ensure they are working on what they claim. What's more, each project will be funded by grant applications, rather than simply receiving an annual budget like other Ministry departments," Wilbur Higgs, head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation explained. "The proposal is sound, Minister."

Diggory hemmed and hawed for a while longer, but Lily knew he'd give in. While the others debated the merits of when to inaugurate the new department, she let her mind wander to the aftershocks of the startling revelation that rogue elements of the Ministry of Magic had wiped out an entire generation of muggleborn children.

The public had been outraged; even the staunchest pureblood dogmatists had expressed horror, though whether it was feigned or not was yet to be determined. Every member of the DoM was arrested and awaiting trial, and all of their research into squib births was destroyed. Given what it resulted from, the inhumanity of granting any shred of legitimacy to the Unspeakables' actions was considered a line not worth crossing.

Mafalda Hopkirk's Underage Office, while cleared of any participation in the crimes, still was reorganised completely to focus on protecting children rather than the Statute of Secrecy. And of course, the DoM was to be disbanded outright, replaced by a more carefully monitored research division once the criminal trials began.

The meeting adjourned, and Lily accompanied James out of the conference room. Most of her indignation at his lying to her had abated; still, leaving her in the dark about the danger Harry had faced wasn't easy to let go of. Taking his arm, the two of them set out for the Ministry cantina for lunch.

"Think Diggory'll sign the proposal?"

"Of course. Despite his hemming and hawing, his major concern is keeping Bones from expanding her power base. Since this new department is outside the DMLE's influence, the Ministry's internal politics will remain in the status quo." They picked out their food, paid the cashier, and sought out an empty table. "What's Harry up to today?"

"Rufus has him working on a break-in at Nimbus Racing's HQ."

"Corporate espionage? That'll be tough to prove, no doubt."

James agreed, and their talk shifted to more mundane affairs - the upcoming birthday party for Frank's youngest son, spending a weekend at their cottage in Godric's Hollow, hosting a dinner party for some of her Wizengamot allies.

"I'd better get back to work. See you tonight," James said, departing with a kiss.

Lily stood, prepared to make her own exit, when the occupants of a table on the other side of the cantina caught her eye. Quickly paying for a cup of tea, she made her way over, standing beside an empty chair. "Is this seat taken?"

Nymphadora glanced up, features carefully schooled to be expressionless, but the lithe brunette sitting with her immediately jumped to her feet. "Certainly not! Won't you join us, Lady Potter?"

"Ah, my reputation precedes me. You are…?"

"Hestia Jones, ma'am. I'm a hitwizard with the DMLE."

"A pleasure to meet you. And Nymphadora, it's good to see you again. I hope the Academy isn't overworking you."

The normally vivacious auror was subdued, her features plain and unremarkable, hair limp and flat. "No, not at all."

"Then you really should come by for tea. I miss our chats."

"Of course, I'll stop by soon," came the predictable answer, and after pushing her food back and forth on her plate, Nymphadora set down her fork. "I'm sorry to run off like this, but I have to get back. I have an afternoon lecture to prepare for."

She hurried away, much to her friend's dumbfounded surprise. "Uh, my apologies. She's not normally like that."

"Quite alright," Lily reassured, turning to give the other woman her complete attention while slipping one hand into her robes beneath the table. "Tell me more about yourself, Miss Jones. You wouldn't by chance be related to the chaser for Holyhead, would you?"

The bubbly brunette filled any awkward silence that might have existed after her friend's departure, and Lily found herself on the receiving end of a long stream of consciousness from the hitwizard.

Best to get things back on track. "And how long have you been friends with Nymphadora?" she asked, when the younger woman paused to take a breath.

"Oh, Tonks and I have been close since we joined the Ministry together. She graduated from the Academy at the same time I finished my hitwizard training. There's not a lot of witches that go into law enforcement, so at first it was kind of an association by default, y'know? But we have a lot of fun together, and over the years became a lot closer."

"She doesn't seem to be enjoying her teaching assignment very much."

Hestia's eyebrows furrowed together for a moment, then her expression relaxed. "Oh, that. It's not work, it's just personal stuff that's got her down. I think she had a recent breakup," she replied easily. "Still, it's not like her to dwell on something like that for so long. Tonks is usually in the 'best way to get over someone is to get under someone else' school of thought," the hitwizard said with a giggle.

Lily frowned, not appreciating that characterisation of the woman she'd designated as her future daughter-in-law. "Just how long has she been dwelling?"

"I don't know… six weeks? Two months? The stress from that whole blow-up at the DoM probably caused the break-up, it was right around that time."

'I knew it!' Lily crowed internally. So the mystery man Tonks had mentioned was Harry. "I'm sure she'll bounce back. I don't suppose she's been seeing anyone else?"

Hestia shook her head. "Nah, she's spent a lot of time with her mother. I think she's trying to mend fences with her parents."

Cancelling her compulsion charm, Lily stood from the table. "I must be going, it was lovely meeting you."

Sirius was back from Brazil, wasn't he? Perhaps it was time to pay the old mutt a visit…

"Hello, honey, how was your last class?"

Tonks flopped onto the sofa, gratefully accepting a cup of tea from her mother. "I'm glad I got the opportunity, but I'm happy it's over."

Andromeda settled into a chair across from her. "That's nothing to be ashamed of."

"It should have been obvious, but I hadn't thought about how hard it would be to translate my experience to, uh, 'regular' wizards and witches. It was a lot more work than I anticipated."

"Well, you made it through, and now you can get back to doing what you love. Speaking of-"

"Mother, really," 'Not this again!' "Harry and I settled all of that. It was a little fling, nothing more."

"I'm glad to hear that, as you'll likely be seeing him this evening."

Tonks sat up straight, a jolt of anxiety running through her. "What are you talking about?"

"The Potters are close friends of Sirius," her mother replied in a bland tone, "Surely it's no surprise that they'd be attending this evening."

"I agreed to go with you to a Black family event!"

"Yes. The entire Black family - minus the one in prison - will be attending tonight's event at the Playwizard mansion." Her mother raised a single, regal brow. "I can make excuses if you don't feel up to it."

She scoffed. "I already said, that's all in the past. It starts at eight, right?"

"That's right. Make sure you dress for the occasion; you do own a dress, don't you?"

"Yes, mother." This wasn't a big deal. Nothing to be anxious about; after all, starting next week, they'd be working together again. "I guess I should head home and get ready."

Her flat not being connected to the Floo network, Tonks apparated home. The place was a wreck - never one for tidiness. Since she'd been seeing her parents more, she'd let her own home fall into even greater disrepair than normal. Still, it was better than sitting in the quiet, feeling loneliness and regret seep into every fibre of her being…

"By all that's magical! When was the last time I did laundry?" she groaned, looking around at the haphazard piles of clothes. The whole place needed a liberal application of scouring charms, but now was hardly the time to engage in a top-to-bottom scrub. Instead, Tonks opened up her closet, determined to find something suitably jaw-dropping.

There was nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, was there? Tonks wore what she liked because she didn't need to try to look good; after all, why wear something uncomfortable when she could effortlessly be more attractive than the world's most beautiful women? But for some reason, tonight that wasn't enough. It was probably because she'd be around all those Playwizard models - nothing more than the most typical insecurity.

She had almost convinced herself that was the truth when she saw it - the white dress that Lily Potter had given her the first day they'd met. A light fluttering feeling within her chest accompanied the memory of Harry, stunned into silence as she approached him, eyes for no one and nothing else in the world but her-

Yes. This would work just fine.

For all his talk about how rare they were, Sirius didn't seem to have had much trouble in replacing the doors she'd destroyed, Tonks thought as she stepped inside the mansion alongside her parents. The opulent splendour was somewhat muted, not quite so garish as normal in light of the 'friends and family' event taking place. The party must have already started, as even from the entrance hall, sounds of celebration were clearly audible.

Awaiting their arrival, looking uncomfortable, dour, and completely out of place was her mother's cousin. "Hey Reggie, how're you holding up?"

"I don't know why I came. He's a poor excuse for a wizard, much less as head of House Black."

"Now, now, he at least had the good idea of appointing you to the Wizengamot, didn't he?" Andromeda smiled in a similar manner she did when Tonks was a little girl, embracing her younger cousin with a peck on the cheek. "Besides, you could stand to get out more."

Regulus snorted. "You used to say the same things about him I do until he reinstated you to the family. Look at this place! Mother must be spinning in her grave."

"If so, I hope the old bitch gets motion sickness," her mother spat, and then the two of them broke out into laughter.

"I missed you, Andi." Merlin's beard, her family was strange! "C'mon, you know Sirius - the party's already started."

The Tonks followed Regulus into a massive formal dining room. All of Sirius' old friends were already there - Peter Pettigrew and his two protégés, all wearing horribly clashing dragonhide suits; Remus Lupin, as shabby and underdressed as ever; and the Potter family, Harry and James in simple black suits and ties with Lily in a soft violet gown, sleeveless with a conservative cut.

At the head of the table was Sirius himself, a model perched on his lap. He was gesturing with a bottle of firewhiskey, already trousered by the looks of him. Her family made their way over to him.

"Andi, Ted, you made it! Decided to be fash- fashionably late, did you?"

"It's a quarter to eight, Sirius; we're early."

"Ah, of course, of course, must be time for dinner then!" he said, lifting the model to her feet and setting the whiskey bottle on the table. "Be a dear and fetch a Sobering Solution, won't you?" He gave her a swat on the bottom as she turned, then ducked under a hex that came in reply.

Tonks rolled her eyes at his antics, trying and failing to keep her gaze away from the Potters. While James wore an uncomfortable expression, Lily looked serenely unconcerned at the debauchery around them. She smiled and raised her glass in greetings, and Tonks nodded in reply, her attention shifting to the young man seated on the other side of an empty chair beside her.

Harry looked… he looked good. She'd thought that two months apart would have dulled her attraction, but heat coursed through her body at the mere sight of him. Without thinking, she closed the distance between them, making for the empty chair next to his. No reason not to take the erumpent by the horn, was there? Better to get the awkwardness out of the way, get things back to a more profes-

"Oh, hello! I must say, that's a positively marvellous dress."

"Miss Lovegood," Tonks greeted. "I thought this was a friends and family event, I hadn't realized that employees would be attending."

The tiny blonde wore a loose, off-white dress with gold accents that shimmered in the light. It didn't hug her petite figure, but ran short enough to display her pale thighs. "No, you're right. I'm Harry's plus one," she said with a bright smile, gesturing to the empty chair Tonks stood in front of. "That's my seat."

Tonks gaped like a fish out of water for a moment, wordlessly stepping to the side as Luna pranced over to her seat next to Harry.

"Over here, dear," her mother called out, and Tonks realised with dismay that the chair she indicated was directly across from Harry and his… date.

Sirius must have had the Black family elves working overtime, as no sooner did she take her seat than the setting in front of her filled with a sumptuous meal of roasted pheasant and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

Tonks stabbed at her meal, flaying the game bird and shredding her asparagus, scarcely focused on what she was eating. Instead, her gaze was focused intently on the two people across from her, her annoyance and irritation burgeoning into anger and fury. How dare he?

Harry stood up, setting his napkin on his plate, and made his way out of the dining room. Tonks, tapping her leg impatiently, counted to thirty and then excused herself, darting out after him and standing across from the closed bathroom door. His eyebrows raised when he opened the door and spotted her waiting.

"Hello," he began carefully. "Did you need the facilities?"

"So that's how it is, is it? How long did you wait before you jumped into bed with her?"

His eyebrows raised, and he actually had the nerve to chuckle. "With Luna?"

"You think this is a joke? What was I, just a warmup? A convenient shag?"

Harry took a step closer, towering over her. So he was trying to intimidate her, was he? Tonks added three inches with corresponding muscle mass, straining the seams of her dress. "What does it matter? We can't be together, remember, our careers are too important, remember, you don't love me, remember!"

"It matters!" she shouted.

Harry's anger vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and retreated to lean against the wall, running a hand through his hair. "There's nothing like that between me and Luna. She's- we're friends, and I've really needed one of those."

Her form shrank back to an appropriate shape for her outfit. "Are you- you're not still having nightmares, are you?"

"It's getting better. I, um, I've been seeing a mind healer during weekends. He's helped a lot."

"That's- that's good."

"How did your class go?"

"It, uh, it was fine, but I'm looking forward to getting back into the field."

"Together?" he asked.

She offered a hesitant smile. "Yea. As partners, and as friends."

Harry held out his hand, and she gave it a firm shake. They stood together for a second, letting the remaining tension bleed out of their systems before Harry glanced over her shoulder, in the direction of the dining room.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Lily said. "Just needed the washroom."

"Go right ahead, Mum, it's free."

Tonks could swear she saw Lily's cheerful smile dim as she took in the distance between her and Harry, but put it out of her mind. They'd already aired enough personal business to last a lifetime.

"We should probably get back before Peter and the Weasley twins spike our drinks."

"You mean spike your drink," she said, giving him a nudge. "Sirius knows better than to let them mess with me."

"Are you saying that you're more intimidating than I am?"

"You can't pretend it's not true."

"I think 'strapping young auror' is a little more threatening than 'petite pink-haired lady'!"

"I-" Tonks pulled one of her bangs to her eyeline, noting the pink curls that had been absent for so long. "Size isn't everything, newbie."

His green eyes bright with mirth, Harry glanced over his shoulder to make sure the bathroom door was closed before leaning in, so close Tonks could feel his breath on her lips. "That's what they all say, boss."

Then he left, walking back into the dining room and taking a seat next to Luna. Tonks watched from the doorway for a moment, feeling a deep sense of relief as she grinned at the exchange they'd just shared. She couldn't wait for next week.

But for now, she had important business to take care of. Spotting Peter and his apprentices looking a little too surreptitious by the wet bar, Tonks made her way over. It was Harry's fault, really - he'd brought this pranking on himself.

"I'm sort of glad we only do this once a year," James groaned from the bathroom. He appeared a few moments later, toothbrush dangling from his mouth. "We're getting too old for this sort of thing."

"Nonsense, it's important to let loose every once in a while," Lily replied. "I think you've just forgotten how to relax."

He gave her a wobbly smile, and went back inside to spit and rinse, getting into bed a minute later. "Maybe you're right. We should take a vacation, get away for a bit."

Lily smiled; he said this every year. "Okay, that sounds good to me. Let's talk about it in the morning." She curled up next to him, resting her head on his chest.

"What were you and Andromeda talking about before we left?" Trust James to have eagle eyes, even when soused.

"Harry and Nymphadora. We thought tonight might be a chance for them to get back together-"

"Lily…" he said, a hint of warning in his voice.

"Stop it, James! Rules be damned, they're good for each other. Andi told me how devastated Nymphadora was after the DoM, and we both saw the way Harry shut down. They were in love, even if they couldn't admit it."

He was quiet for several long moments, likely debating whether or not it was worth challenging her on this. "So you hatched some scheme with Tonks' mother?"

"It wasn't a scheme, honestly! You make it sound so underhanded. We only made sure they'd both attend this evening. I thought- well, I was positive there was still something there, some spark between them."

"But there isn't?"

Lily frowned, feeling a strange sense of loss. She liked Nymphadora, respected her drive and determination, her freewheeling manner. Maybe she'd imagined what she wanted to see and what her son and his partner had was really nothing serious. "I guess not."

"C'mon Lils, cheer up. He's barely twenty years old, plenty of time for him to settle down. Not everyone gets lucky like we did."

"We are lucky, aren't we?"

He kissed her, and she pushed the 'what ifs' out of her mind. Even if he and Nymphadora were strictly professional now, at least she'd driven away that Weasley girl. Harry had the career he wanted, a partner who cared for him, and plenty of time for Lily to find him a woman that met her standards. It was enough, for now.


Dressed in her auror robes while at her desk, for once, Tonks raised her head as Scrimgeour came around the corner. "Yes, sir?"

"Good work on the bribery case last month. Verdict came in this morning - guilty on all counts."

"Thanks, just doing my job." She bit her lip, trying to keep her breathing even and steady.

"Are you- is something wrong? Do you need to see a healer?"

Tonks shook her head, feeling a droplet of sweat drip from her hairline. "Nah, I'm fine."

Scrimgeour narrowed his eyes. "Your face is red, and you're sweating. We don't need you getting the whole office sick."

"Okay, I'll go see the mediwizard in a bit. Did you just come to tell me I did a good job, or did you need something?"

"Got a new case for you. Seems a French vampire clan has been expanding their activities across the Channel. You and Potter are going to Dover, to stamp this out before we have a fully-fledged clan of our own." Scrimgeour looked around, peeking over the neighboring cubicle wall. "Where is Potter, anyway?"

"He's around here somewhere. What, you expect me to stay on top of him every second of the day?"

"You have seniority, you're supposed to-" Tonks gripped the edge of her desk with both hands, knuckles whitening with tension. "For Merlin's sake woman, go to the infirmary, and then when you're done grab Potter and come to my office."

"O-okay!" she stuttered, managing to hold on until Scrimgeour walked away before she gasped and fell back into her seat, limp and boneless. "Gods, rookie, you couldn't have cut me some slack?"

A shimmer between her legs shifted, as Harry removed his head from beneath her robes, cancelling his disillusionment charm and licking his lips. "I got a little excited at the thought of you on top of me all day."

"I'll bet you did. Always looking for ways to make me do all the work, aren't you?" she said, reaching down to grip him through his trousers. "Did you hear we have a new assignment?"

"It was a bit muffled with the way your thighs were squeezing my ears, but I got the gist of it. Vampires?"

"That's right," she said silkily, her voice dropping. "I expect you at my flat tonight for some extra training on how to deal with them."

His green eyes darkened, and despite her release moments ago Tonks felt her own pulse quicken. "Training? On vampires?"

"Yep! You need to be prepared, so I'm willing to spend the whole night making sure you know how to defend yourself, in case one of them tries to suck you dry."

"Nasty little buggers, vampires."

"Dangerous, too. I'll be very thorough in my demonstration."

Harry stood, pulling her out of her chair, and they both straightened their robes. "I'm lucky to have a partner so dedicated to keeping me safe."

"What can I say? I'd hate to lose you - we fit together so well, after all."

"That's why I love… having you as a boss," he said.

"And I love having you as my partner," she replied.

Harry glanced around the cubicle farm, making sure no one was in sight, then they exchanged a quick, fiery kiss that would have melted her knickers off of her if she'd worn any. "Ready to go see Rufus?"

"Let's get to it, rookie."


A/N: That's it, it's over! This was the ending I'd always planned - sort of like in James Bond movies, how after the credits they'll say "007 will return in _". Harry and Tonks will continue to have lots of adventures and big cases, so adding any sense of finality didn't feel very plausible.

Fun fact about this fic: I based my version of Unspeakables on the CIA, which also has a secret budget they don't share with taxpayers (an explicit violation of the US Constitution). Anytime someone won't tell you what they're doing, what they're doing probably isn't very good.

I got a really interesting review from Geovanni Luciano, who said (I'm paraphrasing) it's a shame I got bored and rushed the end of the story with the DoM and Unspeakables/what was Croaker's motivation anyway. It wasn't a negative review by any stretch, but I felt like I owed an explanation.

From when I started this fic, I didn't want it to be another ASAoV - as in, I wanted it to be under 100k words. The DoM were always going to be the bad guys, and Croaker monologued to Harry the reasons why they did it in the previous chapter (to figure out why some muggles produce magical children and some magical couples produce squibs). So the 'cop' aspects of the fic came out exactly as I'd originally intended. Also, RE: Rookwood - this is an AU without Voldemort. Rookwood was just a regular old Unspeakable.

That being said, I definitely cut a lot of the romance/personal B-plots. Ginny and Luna had a whole subplot that I started, then dropped, and Ted and Andromeda Tonks were going to get more screen time as well. I decided that those plotlines weren't interesting enough and didn't add much to the plot, so they never got added. This fic ended up being close to 70k words, which to me is a good enough length for what was supposed to be a buddy-cop action/mystery with a bit of romance.

There were definitely a lot of things I'd do differently if I were to go back and write another story like this, but that's how we learn and get better. Thanks for reading! As always,

Stay safe, healthy, and happy! ~Frickles