SPOILERS: For Book 5: 'Order of the Phoenix'
The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black is 'noble' no longer.
If it ever was.
Tonks stands in the drawing room that was once the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.
The room is clean of the vermin that once inhabited it, but even Mrs. Weasley's most potent spells cannot completely erase the memory of the wizarding vermin that once inhabited it.
She thinks about the wizards that were her forebears, so proud of their name and lineage. She thinks about the tired, haunted face of her cousin as he looked around a house that held too many bad memories for him. She thinks of her mother's pained expression when she spoke of her siblings and her parents.
Kreacher is gone, banished from the house, yet bound by Dumbledore against further revelation of its secrets. The house-elf has been given clothes, but has had the Odysseus Curse set upon it. It will wander through the country and find no rest anywhere it goes.
Aunt Jericia is gone from the wall – another spell by Dumbledore that ripped the portrait from its place in the hall. She has been put up among the things in the attic – in Kreacher's old haunt where the unwanted bits and pieces of the house are now stored.
The Most Ancient House of Black is silent.
Tonks stands in the centre of the drawing room of the house and thinks about her cousin, Sirius.
Her memories of him are many and varied. The reckless older cousin who would take her up on his broomstick and fly her around– to her delight and her mother's horror - until she thought she could touch the clouds. The prankster who thought nothing of setting off dungbombs in the house – and grinned for every moment that her mother made him do some particularly nasty task in penance. The criminal in the newspaper, his eyes looking out at her – familiar and yet so strange – a murderer, a killer.
Sirius is gone.
There are others mourning him more strongly than she – Remus and Harry for starters.
Their losses are greater than her own could ever be.
But the responsibility that devolves to her in Sirius' death – the last of the blood of the House of Black with wizarding honour – is greater than anything they know or understand.
She carries many fears, none of which she shows to those around her. Fear of never living up to her handsome, reckless cousin. Fear of disappointing her mother, who, in spite of having renounced her family, kept the high standards of the Blacks even amidst the mundanity of the Tonks. Fear of death and dying, of the mortality rate among Aurors and members of the Order. Fear of suffering and insanity, of the Imperius curse and the Cruciatus.
Life is about fear and the degree to which you let it rule you.
Tonks was never one to let her fears rule her, so she laughs.
She laughs at the world, at the over-seriousness of Aurors like Moody, at the narrow-mindedness of her relatives, at herself and her own fears.
And she faces the world with her own face – in whatever incarnation it's in.
The latch of the door turns, but she does not turn to see who enters.
There is only one other person in the house now.
He asked her permission to stay here, and she granted it. Sirius would have wanted it – the last of his school friends.
Something in her pities Remus Lupin, but another part shushes it, warning her that this is not a man who accepts pity.
"Thinking?" His voice echoes through the room, low and weary, and the pity sweeps over her like an unstoppable torrent, before she steels herself against it.
"Yeah." The door slips shut behind him, and she hears his steps behind her.
"You're not one of them."
She doesn't ask how he knows what she's thinking. He can be perceptive when he chooses – like a switch he flicks on to dispel the absent-mindedness that is his usual demeanour. "I come from their blood."
"And I am a werewolf," he says. "That does not make me what they say werewolves are."
"You weren't brought up as one of them."
"Neither were you."
"A Black is strong, whether for the Dark or the Light," she recites, repeating the words of her mother.
He draws alongside her, the faintly musty smell of his robes contributing to the aura of faint shabbiness about him. Deceptions upon deceptions for the man whose nature hides and reveals itself over time - much like the moon that dictates his werewolf change. "And you call yourself 'Tonks'," he says, chiding her.
"I am what I am."
"But, as a metamorphmagus, you are who you make yourself to be."
They play this game, this vendetta of words. It is a lighthearted battle between them. Something to take their mind off the death around them, off their own frustration with the way the war is going, off Sirius' death, off Harry's bereavement, off the fear they might lose, off the hope they might win.
Something to take their minds off each other?
"And who do you think I am?" She turns to him.
He smiles, "You're far too old for your age," he says, very softly. "For all that you act reckless."
"I'm not the only one too old for his age," she responds instantly, riding the change of topic the way she shifts forms – effortlessly.
He doesn't mind the references to his nature. Not by her. "I have reason."
"And I don't?"
They stand there in silence and in harmony.
Then warm fingers lace themselves about her hand.
"You are not them, Tonks. No more than Sirius was..." His voice wavers a little at the mention of his friend, but he stands taller and fiercer than she's ever seen him before. "They gave you your wizardry, but you chose your own fight – as Sirius did." Her hands is gently squeezed before he lets it go, and her hand feels cold in the absence of his fingers.
She rubs her hands together, and looks up to find him regarding her. His gaze makes her nervous, the calm intensity of it sifting through the layers of her being to the person she is beneath the clumsiness and the shape-changing.
"Thanks, Remus." Her smile is self-conscious. "I think."
"You are welcome, 'Dora." His voice is wry. "I'm sure."
The nickname is gentler than 'Tonks' and has none of the mockery of 'Nymphadora'.
She accepts it from him as a gift between friends – as she accepts his judgment and his trust.
She is more than her ancestors. She is stronger than her aunts and cousins who still serve Lord Voldemort.
She will act with honour. They will not.
She chooses it so, as they choose it so.
In Sirius' passing, this house of prejudice and hatred will be used to fight the prejudice and hatred of Voldemort.
Sirius would have wanted it this way.
And Tonks wants it this way, too – for all that her right to this place is negligible.
She wants it so for more than just herself and her 'Mudblood' status. She wants it for other young witches and wizards whose parentage is not wholly magical. She wants it for Harry – who lives with the knowledge that so much is expected, and with the fear that so little can be delivered. She wants it for Snape – embittered by what he has done and what has been done to him. She wants it for Remus – downtrodden and weary of the curse that sets him apart and the legislation that confines his life.
Her ancestors were vermin. There is no other word for it.
Tonks will not be the rat that scurries to hide away, never facing its fears.
She will meet her fears and she will win.
They will win.
And her thoughts uplift, her determination rises, and a smile expands across her mobile face.
"I feel like dinner," she tells Remus, her mood dispelled.
He smiles - a weary smile, yet ageless. "It's a good thing I cooked, then."
And as they leave the drawing room, empty of its creature vermin and its wizarding vermin, Tonks ponders.
Perhaps, someday, having helped bring down the regime it encouraged, the Most Ancient House of Black will be truly 'noble' once again.
- fin -