Chaper 4—Black and White
Tonks scowled fiercely at Stanton. She knew the older man was ignoring her, and she knew he'd had every right to suggest her as bodyguard to this kid, especially since she wasn't good for anything else right now. But still, it infuriated her that she was going to spend the next several months babysitting some kid when she should be helping the other aurors in the war against the Dark Lord.
She glanced over at Harry and Lupin, who had joined them recently in Stanton's small office. Harry looked about as impressed as she felt. Well, at least they had something in common. Both of them had put up some pretty forceful arguments as to why this was a bad idea. And both of them had been politely shot down by their elders.
Lupin smiled at her. "Ms. Tonks, you have no idea how grateful we are that you're taking the time to help us." He shot a silencing look at Harry before he could protest.
She forced a smile and said nothing.
He continued. "I expect you've had the situation explained to you. Why Harry needs someone to keep an eye on him."
Tonks raised an eyebrow, glancing back at Stanton. "Actually, no. I was told that it was none of my business. And that I was going to watch him whether I liked it or not."
If her response was supposed to phase the auror, it didn't work, annoying her further.
"Ah." Lupin smiled faintly. "Then you're probably under the assumption that I'm just an overprotective uncle, afraid to let his nephew leave the house."
"Not at all," Tonks said, smiling genuinely for the first time since she'd gotten there. She couldn't help but like this man. "I didn't know you were his uncle."
He laughed softly.
Her expression turned serious as she forced the conversation back to its point. "So, if you aren't just being overprotective, then why does Harry need auror protection?"
Lupin's eyes darkened. "Do you read the paper, Ms. Tonks?"
Tonks snorted, twirling strands of her spiky pink hair. "Not when I can help it. In my opinion, The Daily Prophet isn't any more reliable than The Quibbler, now that they've let that Skeeter idiot write."
Harry tried to cover up his laugher, unsuccessfully.
"Yes," Lupin said softly, nudging the boy to quiet him. "Facts have tended to get a bit... skewed lately. But their recent articles have actually been hitting some fair points of worry."
Tonks' eyes widened, and she shot a look at the kid. "Black? What would he want with Harry?"
A painful expression was on Lupin's face. "I'm sure you've heard something about Black's first victims?"
Tonks scowled. "Yeah. Who hasn't?" Her eyes widened, as things began falling into place. "Wait a minute. You mean he's that Harry? He's Harry Potter? Their kid?"
The thin, greying man nodded. "Yes. I was a friend of theirs, and was entrusted with his care when his parents died." He looked troubled. "But Black was never one to leave things unfinished. If given the opportunity, I believe he'll try to take Harry. Now, according to Mr. Stanton, you've managed to survive a run-in with Black. Better yet, being a morphomagus, you can slip into the school without drawing suspicion, or embarrassment." He smiled ruefully. "Harry wasn't fond of the idea that he was going to have an auror following around where everyone could see. But perhaps if you could be disguised..."
"As a student, you mean?" Tonks exclaimed. She winced at the sound of her own voice, knowing how whiny it sounded. But she'd had a hard enough time getting through Hogwarts once. There was no way in hell she wanted to have to do it again... even if grades didn't matter this time.
"That's precisely what we mean," Stanton growled, shooting her a harsh glare. "Not just to ease Harry's embarrassment, although that is an extra perk, but also for security. I'm sure Black knows by now that there is to be an auror guarding Harry. But even if he has gotten word as to who it is, if he can't identify you, it will be difficult for him to eliminate either of you... and it will give you an edge if he decides to risk attacking Harry anyway."
"That's comforting," Tonks muttered, fiddling with her pink hair again. She grew it out a few inches, so it would be easier to twirl.
Stanton glared again, but she ignored him pointing out what she considered an obvious flaw in the plan. "Alright, so say I agree to do this..."
She ignored Stanton's outraged snort, and Lupin's amused smile.
"Say I agree, and play the part of the little first year. I would assume that the plan would be for me to be in a position where I can constantly watch him. We have a situation, then. First of all, I would need to be in common room. The only way to do that would be if I were sorted into his house, which is something that can't be fixed. Now, we could avoid the sorting hat by just 'transferring' me in as an exchange student, but then I wouldn't be a first year, and couldn't be in his classes. So that isn't an option. I would have to be sorted. Next problem," she continued, counting off on her fingers, "is the fact that all Black would have to do is break into the common room while everyone is asleep. I can't protect him then. I'll be in a different dorm..." She trailed off as a horrible thought struck her. And judging by the looks on both Stanton and Lupin's face, this was something that had already been discussed in her absence.
"Oh, no..." she announced, waving her hands in front of her face. "No, no, no, no, no... You're gonna give me enough of a complex making me playing an eleven-year-old. I am not playing a boy. Do you have any idea how much therapy I'll need by the time I'm through with my assignment? I have enough issues..."
"It's the only way," Stanton said tiredly. "Listen, Tonks, I know that this is a less-than-ideal situation, but our hands are tied. You're the only one that the Minister is willing to spare. We need someone watching Potter twenty-four seven. Which means you're going to have to be a male student in his house. As to the sorting, the Headmaster has already dealt with that issue. You are simply going to miss the Hogwarts express, and arrive after the sorting. That way, your 'sorting' will be a private affair in the Headmaster's office. He's already agreed to it. We just need your word now."
Tonks' face was buried in her hands. This wasn't fair. Seven years in Hogwarts. Three years training as an auror and a year of active duty for... this? She got to be a cross-dressing student who couldn't even manage to catch the train... She blushed a little. Not even cross-dressing, really... More like... Her face reddened worse. Oh God...
"I'll do it," she muttered. Then her head snapped up and there was something fierce in her eyes. "But it isn't because I was asked or ordered. You all need to understand this. I'm agreeing to this for one reason only." Her eyes narrowed. "It's my responsibility to deal with Black. He's my cousin, so it's my job. If anyone has a chance against him, it's me, and honestly... I have to do it. For my mother..." He hesitated. "He was always her favorite cousin when they were kids, and his turning..." She shook her head. "I have to do this for mother..."
Tonks was startled into silence when Lupin laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I understand... He's...well, he was... a close friend during our school days. A brother almost..."
Harry's green eyes widened at his uncle's words. They were friends? His uncle was friends with Black, one of the most notorious killers the wizarding world had known? He stared at his uncle as though expecting Remus at any moment to admit it was only some sort of sick joke.
Only Remus' eyes were serious. Dead serious.
The pale man continued softly, "I know what you're feeling. But he is not the same man he was back in school. Then... I'd have died for him then. But he killed that part of himself. He tore it apart when he took the mark, and the Sirius Black that I knew, that your mother knew... he was no more... There is nothing good left in him to save..."
Tonks nodded silently, her eyes flashing darkly. "I know... that's why I have to do this. For my mother, I'll kill him. Kill him, so he can't keep destroying himself through murder, and so he can't keep tearing apart what my mother saw in him... I'll avenge the man he once was by killing what he's become."
Sirius sat alone in front of a fire in Grimmauld Place. The old book he'd been looking at sat forgotten on his lap as he stared into the blaze, lost in thought. It had been two weeks since his encounter at Gringotts. Two weeks, and he still hadn't been able to put thoughts of that girl out of his mind. Nymphadora Tonks. Andromeda's daughter. He winced at the memories. He'd never even met Nymphadora, hadn't realized how much like her mother she'd become. In fact, he hadn't even known of her existence, until she'd become an auror a year ago, and Lucius had felt the need to inform him.
He sighed. This was just going to make things more complicated. God knew the stupid girl was still young. She'd probably gotten it into her head that he wouldn't hurt her since he'd hesitated once. And now, from what he'd been hearing, the girl was being assigned to protection work at Hogwarts. Brilliant.
He scowled. The flickering firelight cast shadows upon his face, intensifying the lines and making him appear older than his years. No matter. He felt old, anyway. Sirius finally stood and dropped the book onto his chair. He needed to start preparing. He'd been given a new assignment, and this time, he wasn't sure if defiance was worth the price.
Sirius had been given two weeks to recover before Voldemort had contacted him again. When he'd first taken the Dark Mark, two weeks would have been plenty of time. Crucius curse or not, he'd have been his old self in a few days. But he wasn't so young anymore, and two weeks wasn't no longer enough time.
Sirius moved slowly, feeling the mark on his arm burning, trying to hurry him along. He felt like an old man, quick movements paining him, and his heart racing with everything he did. He was starting to think that this time it wasn't going to go away. That maybe he didn't have much longer.
Not that it would bother him much. What did he have to live for? An empty house? The little family he had left alive? Kreatcher? What had he fought for? He'd made his choice, taken this burden upon himself all for them, and what had come of it? He was a Death Eater. Famous. Notorious. His parents would be proud if they were alive. Narcissa was thrilled, as it gave her family an extra "in" with he Dark Lord. And he'd lost Andromeda. He'd done this for his family... but this wasn't the first time he'd wondered... had he given up his true family when he'd marked himself? The only thing so far that had kept him from completely succumbing to the darkness... The only thing still separating him from the rest of them was his defiance. If he did not agree with the assignment, or details of it, then he would not do it. As simple as that. He had no value for his own life anymore. It wasn't worth anything anyway. But now his body was failing him, and he had a sneaking fear that his courage would soon follow...
What would he be worth if he completely succumbed?
Sirius shook his head, blocking those thoughts from his mind. He didn't need this now. He would be working on his new assignment shortly, and that was what he needed to be thinking about. He couldn't risk failure again.
He'd just do his job and get the hell out of there. Sirius pulled an old, folded parchment form the book's pages, slipping it into his robes. He forced himself into a natural stride, and walked into the entranceway, pulling a cloak from the closet, and slipping it on. He glanced into the mirror, and after convincing himself that he didn't appear any worse for the wear, apparated to Riddle Manor, where he would await his final instructions.
The photo album he'd been looking at remained on the chair for Kreatcher to put away. That useless house elf needed something to do other than talking to Medea's portrait anyway.
The door clicked shut behind him, leaving the room empty except for the old black and white photograph waving from the album. A picture of four friends who'd never dreamed that they'd be torn apart.
Author's note: To honor book 6 coming out, I've decided to update ALL of my Harry Potter fictions. So, please don't go into shock that I've updated this. I'm considering taking this one off of hiatus. It's a lot of fun to work on, now that the writer's block seems to be finally working its way out of my system. Anyway, thank you so much for reading. Please review!