Disclaimer: No, it's not mine. I wish it were mine (don't we all?), but my name is not synonymous with JK Rowling's. I only play with the characters.
Author's Note: I recently sat there trying to do the math, and all I was capable of coming out with is that Sirius was in his mid to late thirties when he died (I am not very good at math), so it stands to reason that Regulus would be in his early to mid thirties. Tonks, I'd think, would be somewhere in her mid twenties, and I'm talking far too much about the ages of cannon characters. General things you ought to know: I'm not at this point planning any romance, and . . . well . . . there's to be one more animagus in the mix (and it's not Harry). I, as always, enjoy and appreciate comments and constructive criticism. Cheers! — Loki
There was a tousling in the attic. Nymphadora Tonks looked up from where she sat in the kitchen, curious. No one else in the house made nearly as much noise as she usually did, and this was causing a far bigger stir. She considered her options, playing with the coffee mug in her hands, and stood up, drawing her wand from her pocket and running absent fingers through her hair, which at the moment bore its common spiky pink appearance.
The noise continued, making its way to the drawing room. Tonks paused then, eyeing the stairs apprehensively. She'd make quite the noise going up, and if it was at all skittish, whatever it was, it would run as she tried to climb them. The sound came again, and she made the decision to come after ir anyway.
There wasn't another sound from other parts of the house, and the drawing room door was open a little. Thinking perhaps it was just Kreacher, Tonks opened it farther to make sure.
It wasn't Kreacher. For one wild moment she thought Sirius was back from the dead, but just as quickly reality pulled her back down to earth. The man was too short to be Sirius, anyway, though the same black hair streamed down thin shoulders, and their profiles could have been the same. His grey eyes weren't haunted the same way. He stood by the tapestry family tree, running his hand across it.
"She blew Sirius off here . . . I remember that. But I'd no idea she was dead. . . ." His hand drifted over. "She blew Andromeda off, too. Pity— girl had more sense than both her sisters." The long fingers brushed the line that led Narcissa's name to Malfoy's. "Narcissa never could have decent taste in men; pity the one they approved of had to be him. Bellatrix . . . that girl and her taste for violence." He shuddered. His voice was cracked, rusty from lack of use, and Tonks noticed that the robes he wore were outdated by nearly a decade and a half and in poor condition. That, and how much he looked like Sirius. . . .
She stepped into the room. Startled, the man turned to face her, the look of an animal in a trap in his grey eyes. "Who . . . who are you?" he asked softly.
"I was about to ask you the same thing," Tonks replied.
"Well, one of us not answering doesn't help the other," the man answered. His own hand itched towards a pocket— apparently he was wary of a fight, too. "I thought . . . I thought I might actually be coming home."
"That doesn't answer my question." Tonks walked in and sat down, motioning that he might like to do the same. "I'm Nymphadora Tonks— and I want a name from you."
"Nym, huh?" the man asked, joining her on the couch she was perched precariously on. "Andromeda always liked that name— and she married a Tonks."
"How do you know my mum?"
"We're cousins." The man stared at her calmly, brushing filthy black hair back from his face in the same way Sirius had done once upon a time. Tonks stared, recognition dawning— she'd always been too young to remember this man at all, before he was dead, but he looked and acted so much like Sirius. . . .
"You can't be," she said.
"Why ever not?" He grinned slightly, and for a moment it was Sirius reincarnated four or five years younger; the joking, laughing, teasing Sirius he hadn't been too much before he'd died. "I realize . . . I realize Mum marked me dead."
"Regulus Black?" she asked softly.
He shrugged, reaching out and tentatively grabbing her shoulder. She stiffened under his touch, half expecting the chill of a ghost, but finding his hands warn and definitely solid. Tonks tried to talk, tried to say something to this man, but all she managed was a squeak. He grinned. "Not quite as articulate as your mother'd be, I'm afraid."
"How can I be articulate!" It came out quickly, partly due to shock, partly because his face brought something of the grief of losing who until tonight she'd thought was the last Black back anew. "You . . . you're . . . Regulus, you're dead!"
"Well, if I am, I'm certainly out of the grave fully by now," Regulus answered, wincing.
"It's not funny!"
"I didn't mean to make you think I thought it was. Just don't screech like that." Within moments, he'd done the very last thing she'd expected a man like him to do— he'd pulled her into a hug, leaving her in shock that rendered her speechless again. "Nymphadora, listen— you're family. It there's one thing that tapestry proves Mum didn't really trust and I do, it's blood is thicker than water. Your dad might have been Muggle-born, but you're my family. Glad I got to meet you."
He finally pulled back, leaving Tonks staring worse than ever at him, trying to piece together random bits of information. The first was what he'd given her— Sirius must have effected his little brother enough that he'd forgive half-bloods, at least. The second was that his ribs were painfully obvious against her side, and from the state of his hair and his robes, it wasn't that he'd pressed against her so hard. "How do I know you're really him?" she asked.
"That's actually a damn good question. Sirius anywhere around?"
Tonks really did not want to tell this man his brother had died. Instead, she shook her head and stood up, offering him a hand to tug him to his feet. "Well, I guess you did get into the house, and what I heard you muttering about the family was true. I'm going to get you down to the kitchen."
He let her lead him down, and Tonks began to wonder if the clumsy gene was really fully from her father. Perhaps though, lack of food and sleep, and it was obvious Regulus was suffering from both, was just making him disoriented.
In the kitchen, Tonks found another mug and emptied the contents of the coffee pot into it, handed it to him and shoved him into the nearest chair. She then regarded the man, trying to figure things out. He was certainly in need of a bath and a shave. What had he been doing for the past fifteen years? Finally, however, Regulus looked back up at her. "And what is it you intend to do with me, Nymphadora?"
"First of all, my name is Tonks— my mother has cursed me with that name but it doesn't mean I have to use it. Secondly, I don't intend to do anything with you— I think I'll go tell Remus you're here, shall I?"
"How long have Mum and Dad been . . . been . . . been dead then?" Regulus asked softly. He shuddered, and something flickered in the backs of his eyes. He wasn't expecting to come home to his house set up as an army headquarters, that much was more than obvious. He didn't even want to believe his parents were dead. She'd leave news about Sirius to another person.
"Ten years, I think, something like that," Tonks answered softly. "I dunno."
He nodded. "Then Sirius can't be far behind, if Lupin's here— never thought I'd be meeting my brother's friend in my parents' house."
Tonks noted he said singular— apparently he knew something about Peter Pettigrew, and obviously the world knew James Potter was dead by now. "What did you expect, then?"
"I dunno. I thought I'd be in and out without being caught, to tell you the truth. Mum and Dad slept like the dead. I didn't expect my cousin's daughter and my brother's best friend . . . who else is here my parents wouldn't have liked?"
"Mad-Eye Moody's here, though that might have panned out with them," Tonks admitted cheerfully. "Molly and Arthur Weasley and their kids, and Muggle-born named Hermione Granger . . . a fence and a thief, Mundungus Fletcher . . . and right now that's about it."
She headed back upstairs and knocked on the door to Remus's room. There was no answer, so she poked her head in and lit her wand.
There came a wolf-like yelp and Remus sat up in bed. "What, Tonks— and at this hour?" he demanded.
"There's. . . ." Tonks swallowed, unsure. "Someone's showed up."
"At this hour?" Remus repeated. He shook his head, waving his hand and groping in the dark for something. "Tell whoever I'll be down in a minute."
"I've got to actually be dressed before I go do something about it!" Remus pointed out. "Get your head and your wand out of there; you're not watching me dress."
Tonks obliged him, and stood in the hall, waiting for her friend to emerge. Eventually, the werewolf did, wiping greying sandy hair back from his tired face and glowering at Tonks. "Why me?" he asked, suppressing a yawn. "Two days after the moon and—" he paused, unable to keep this yawn down "—you could have gotten Mad-Eye up."
"Moody wouldn't have. . . ." Tonks paused, uncertain. "You'll have to come see."
Remus lifted a skeptical eyebrow, shook his head, and allowed himself to be half-dragged down into the kitchen. Once he laid eyes on Regulus, his already pale face went another couple of shades closer to dead white. "Sirius?" he asked in barely a whisper.