Author: XiaoGui

Summary: Tonks intends to spend a quiet evening at Headquarters with a cup of hot cocoa as Snape turns up. A night of catharsis is waiting for her. No romance! Inspired by the song 'Until it sleeps' by Metallica; one-shot!

Category: General/Drama

Rating: PG (for one bad word, hehe)

Beta: Persephone Lupin for the original version; lucidity for the translation – thanks a lot to you both, I truly appreciate your combined efforts!

A/N: That's the translation of my originally German shortfic, which has been inspired by one of my favourite songs by Metallica. I am Austrian and thus no native English speaker, so please forgive me possible mistakes and my probably not very sophisticated language. I did my best to catch the atmosphere... :-)


Until it sleeps

-

Where do I take this pain of mine

I run, but it stays right by my side

So tear me open, pour me out

The things inside that scream and shout

And the pain still hates me, so hold me until it sleeps

-

Just like a curse, just like a stray

You feed it once and now it stays

How it stays

-

So tear me open, but beware

The things inside without a care

And the dirt still stains me

So wash me until I'm clean

-

It grips you solely, it stains you solely

It hates you solely, it holds you solely

Until it sleeps...

-

So tell me why you've chosen me

Don't want your grip, don't want your greed

Don't want it

-

Tear me open, make you gone, no more can you hurt anyone

And the fear still shakes me, so hold me until it sleeps

I don't want it...NO

-

Tear me open, make you gone

No longer will you hurt anyone

And the hate still shakes me, so hold me up

Until it sleeps...

-

-o-0-o-

Nymphadora Tonks reached out for the instant cocoa. Humming cheerfully, she flicked her wand to heat up the already prepared big mug of milk in front of her. Pleasantly anticipating the sweet, hot beverage she felt her mouth watering. She was alone at Headquarters tonight, Kingsley was on night shift and the Weasleys were visiting relatives. Maybe Albus would drop by later on, but as his timetable had been somewhat unpredictable lately, she didn't get her hopes up. Actually she needn't be here either, but as she was on early shift tomorrow and since Grimmauld Place was close to tomorrow's operations area in Muggle London, she had decided to spend the night here.

Should she...? Hm... Well, a little drop wouldn't do any harm, now would it? She chuckled and reached out for the bottle of Firewhisky. Aaaaah, much better, she thought sipping contentedly and went over to sit at the kitchen table, where the Daily Prophet was lying spread open. Yesterday's edition, hm... While sipping her hot cocoa, she flipped through the pages. The beverage was warming her up nicely.

Good, she thought, this house was so horribly cold. It was horrible regardless, but there was not much they could do about that with all those vicious curses on almost every piece of furniture. 'The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black'... She snorted. Oh Sirius, she thought, your life really wasn't easy at all. Hopefully you're better off now, wherever you are...

The kitchen truly was the only place in this sinister domicile that even came close to being comfortable. At least they had managed to finally get rid of the nerve-wracking portrait of that blasted old hag from the hallway. Shortly afterwards Kreacher had passed away. Obviously he couldn't bear the loss, she thought shaking her head in disgust. Despite Albus' thoughts, she could never muster even the slightest feeling of compassion, let alone sympathy, for that wretched spawn of a house-elf.

Hm... What was that noise she just heard? The young Auror lifted her gaze and listened intently. Albus perhaps? No, probably not, now there was only silence. This house could really drive anyone crazy! The shot of whisky had definitely been a good idea, it soothed her nerves. Turning her attention back to the newspaper, she scanned the sports section. Oh no, she thought, the Chudley Cannons had lost again. That new seeker of theirs was a real flop. A blindworm tied to a broomstick could not be less efficient, she grumbled viciously and scanned the article about the National Cup.

There it was, that noise... again, followed by a swirl of cool air, brushing slightly around her exposed neck. She grabbed her wand, turned around and ...found herself looking into a pair of cold, deep-black eyes.

"Severus!" she exclaimed, while her heart skipped a beat. "Merlin, you did scare me!"

The Slytherin was standing by the door in the shadows, glancing at her disapprovingly.

"I would have thought that during Auror training you would have been instructed never to sit with your back facing the door. Apparently that was a misconception on my part," he stated dryly, the corner of his mouth twitching disdainfully.

"Oh come on, Severus, who'd want to attack me here of all places?" Tonks remarked. "How would anybody enter Headquarters anyway? And what are you doing here, by the way?"

Snape deliberately ignored the question and fixed her with glittering eyes.

"Has Albus arrived yet?"

"No. And I don't believe he will. Why don't you sit down? Would you like a cup of cocoa as well?" she asked, quickly recovering her natural sunny disposition. I'd improve it with a drop of Firewhisky – just for you," she grinned at him impishly.

"No, thank you," the Potions Master answered curtly and glided across the kitchen towards the cupboard. With a graceful move he opened the wicket and took out a small bottle.

"McEwans?!" Tonks burst out in surprise. "YOU like Mugglebeer?!"

He punished her with a glare, the one usually reserved for Potter alone, and sat down at the table. "This particular beverage is one of the very few positive contributions their world has ever made."

The Auror giggled softly and lowered her gaze to her cup. She really had no intention of starting a quarrel with the quick-tempered Potions Master, whatever he was up to here. For some time both sat in silence, Snape drinking his beer and Tonks reading the local news.

"Would you care for the culture section, Severus?" she asked looking up, freezing at the sight before her eyes. The face of the Potions Master was contorted in pain as he clutched his left forearm.

"I would have appreciated it if the Dark Lord had simply granted me the time to finish this one bottle," he hissed through clenched teeth, cradling his arm.

Tonks eyed him with mixed feelings of compassion and thoughtfulness. The fact that she was sitting here face to face with a former Death Eater still caused her a slight feeling of uneasiness. Even though she - like everyone else within the Order - trusted him implicitly, she didn't want to look into the soul of this man. With all that he must have seen, experienced and ...the atrocities he must have committed, she was grateful, that he encircled his past in a cloud of mystery. She really didn't want to know, she thought and a shiver ran down her spine.

Snape stood, rubbing the spot where the Dark Mark was burning under his skin.

Tonks watched him closely. "Is this a regular meeting?" she asked reluctantly. Even talking about it made her stomach clench. Everything that she believed in, everything that she was raised to be – this man represented the opposite.

Snape sighed quietly and slipped into his long black travelling cloak. "It comes as no surprise. Some days ago I delivered a ...potion and in the meantime the Dark Lord would have discovered that the intended victims had been tipped off."

Certainly, Tonks thought, due to the information Severus had passed on to the Order. "What do you think will happen at the meeting?" she asked slightly concerned.

The Potions Master snorted bitterly. "Well, obviously the Dark Lord will not be pleased with those repeated failures, now will he? The mood within the circle of the Death Eaters will certainly not be very ecstatic." He opened the door.

"Take care, Severus," the young Auror whispered, but the figure in the billowing black robes had already swept through the door, without any word of farewell.

For several moments, Tonks stared at the half open door, through which Snape had gone to face yet another life-threatening peril. The door reminded her of the open mouth to hell, she thought with a shiver, then flicked her wand to close it. She tried to concentrate her thoughts back on her cocoa and the newspaper, wanting to push her musings over Death Eater meetings and the likes aside, but as hard as she tried, she didn't succeed.

Snape. The man who carried the Mark. The man who was stigmatised... The man whose stature and face were worn from his past, so that he appeared so bitter, so ...old, even though he was not so much older than herself, Tonks thought. Still, he had seen, endured and done so much more than she had. Here come those Goosebumps again. Would he be able to endure one more time...? Hopefully...

The young woman rose and poured another shot of whisky into her cocoa. Just a drop. She needed that now, she thought, and tipped her wand to the cup, reheating the liquid.

However... Despite all that Severus did for the Order, all the risks he took, he would never get rid of the stain from his past. The Mark would distinguish him forever. Even if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named eventually fell, Snape would still be a Death Eater. Former Death Eater, she added, correcting herself. The fatalism within this outlook tore her heart apart. Now Severus was fighting on their side, the Order's side, like they all did, and yet he never received any kind of appreciation for his efforts. On the contrary, most members of the Order despised or feared him, with his eerie appearance, the billowing black robes and his graceful and careful movements. At Albus' behest alone they all tried to at least get along with the ever dour Potions Master with his sarcasm-dripping remarks. Well, he didn't make it easy for them to accept him, she smiled thoughtfully and sipped on her cocoa. Although the situation had improved since Sirius' death. Now Snape even stayed for the meals sometimes.

Would he be able to deceive his former master once again? Tonks tried to imagine, what exactly was going on at that meeting – wherever it took place. Severus never recounted the meetings themselves, he just delivered the requested information and spared the details. Why should he, as it was no big secret that this side of his job as a spy caused the other members of the Order uneasiness, yes, even downright revulsion towards him. Feeling slightly guilty, she gazed down at the table top. In fact, she couldn't except herself on that score either, she thought. Certainly, she knew that Snape quite often went straight to Poppy after the Death Eater meetings, unless he was able to cure his injuries by himself. Once he even had to be carried to the infirmary, Tonks frowned. His former master had been very displeased, as the Order had thwarted two of his plans at once that time. And Severus was the one to suffer for it; he had been bedridden for a week back then. And all without receiving a single thank you, let alone compassion.

The young woman drained her cup and rose. She could at least sleep peacefully in her bed tonight, she thought yawning. Pushing all thoughts about Death Eater meetings, stains and Dark Marks aside, she opened the kitchen door. Pleasantly anticipating the soft feather bed waiting for her, she ascended the stairs.

-o-0-o-

A rumbling noise woke Tonks from a deep slumber. As she rubbed her eyes with her left hand, her right hand groped around for her wand, finally finding it on the nightstand. A mumbled Lumos lit up the sparsely furnished room and she once again cursed the damnable and inhospitable house. Reluctantly she left the warm blankets to look for the cause of the noise.

Guardedly she opened the door and stepped out onto the landing, wand at the ready. The sallow glow of the Lumos barely lit up the staircase, yet she noticed a movement at the bottom of the stairs. A dark figure was leaning heavily on the banister, apparently barely able to keep himself from sinking to the ground. With a quick spell Tonks illuminated the staircase.

"Who... Severus?" she asked and approached cautiously. Just as she descended the last steps, Snape lost his balance and sank to the ground with a groan. The pitiable sight of the fallen wizard clenched Tonks' heart; she hurried down and kneeled beside him. His eyes were closed tightly, pain furrowing his brow. While trying to move Snape's head into a more comfortable position, she desperately searched her memory. Damn, the last training unit on medicine and first aid hadn't been that long ago, she cursed inwardly. "Don't worry, Severus, everything will be just fine", she stammered somewhat ungainly, while her memory slowly retrieved the required information. First, move the injured onto a stable base. Second, assess injuries. Third, proceed to first aid measures. Ha!

Tonks noticed that Snape's left arm looked rather oddly twisted. Shit. That was bad - definitely. She carefully tried to stabilise the obviously broken limb and was rewarded by a wince and an agonised groan by the hurt Slytherin. His eyes snapped open and she flinched at his glittering gaze. "Let go, Nymphadora," he growled through clenched teeth and started struggling back to his feet.

"Trust me, it is not the first time I have found myself in a condition like this," he said weakly while struggling to support himself on the banister with his uninjured arm.

"Even if it is not the first time, this time you found someone who'll at least help you lie down on a bed," Tonks answered resolutely and put his good arm over her shoulders to support him – just in time as the knees of the spy once again gave way. Painfully slowly, they made their way to the kitchen door since the bedrooms upstairs were all out of reach. In the kitchen there was at least a long bench where the lanky Slytherin could rest.

Tonks opened the door and dragged Snape into the kitchen. She helped him lie down on the bench and after he was finally settled, she heard him sigh. "Thank you, Tonks," he then said quietly and took some deep breaths. The Auror nodded approvingly and reached out for the Potions Master's arm, which was hanging limply down by his side. He ground out a strangled "No..." and she froze. She watched Snape fumble awkwardly for the injured limb. Gingerly, he gathered the arm to his chest, his face ashen and contorted with pain.

Pighead, Tonks thought, slowly moving her wand over his body. "Examino", she mumbled and concentrated on human physiology.

The readings she received startled her. Snape's arm was broken, yes, but that was obvious even without any deeper magical examination. However, there was something else... "Severus..." she asked anxiously. "What happened?"

He eyed her oddly, almost bewildered, as if he doubted her mental capacity. "I thought that would be pretty obvious," he commented dryly and arched an eyebrow.

"Well, I can see your arm's broken, Severus," she answered rather piqued. His behaviour was getting more and more irritating. It was still in the middle of the night after all, and she was standing there in nightgown and slippers, freezing. "Nonetheless... there is something else I can't make out. As if your nerve endings were all inflamed..."

"Welcome to reality," the Slytherin sneered, yet his voice displayed a slight touch of bitterness. "I cannot believe this is your first encounter with the after-effects of the Cruciatus. Do you Aurors learn anything at all during your training sessions?"

Tonks allowed his sarcasm to roll off her as she surveyed him thoughtfully. "So you have been tortured..."

"I believe I told you that the Dark Lord would not be particularly pleased with the failure of my poison," Snape sighed and closed his eyes. "And on occasions like this, his Potions Master is usually the first victim of his wrath."

Feeling slightly uneasy, Tonks remembered the repeated occasions the Order had managed to foil attempted murders by Death Eaters during the last months. Often they had celebrated their successes here in Headquarters with a little party. Severus, however, had never joined them and now she knew the reason why. Every single time they had celebrated a victory, it was at the cost of Severus' pain, inflicted on him by his former master.

"I'm sorry, Severus," she said quietly and lowered her gaze. The fact that the Potions Master still attended those meetings, even though he knew of the likely punishment, extracted a grudging mixture of admiration and guilt from her.

"One must do what one has to do," Snape sighed. "And as matters stand, it is not like I have a lot more options to choose from, is it?"

Tonks remembered the Mark that was burned into his forearm. Compassionately she thought of the cross that he was obliged to bear for the rest of his life. The dirt that would stain him forever...

She conjured some dressing material and began bandaging his injured arm. This time the Potions Master did not resist, albeit he emitted a moan of agony when she fixed his arm in a sling.

"I'll contact Poppy," she said finally after covering Snape with a warm blanket and went over to the fireplace. At least they had a secure connection from Headquarters to the Hogwarts infirmary. Once again Albus' farsightedness was proving useful.

-o-0-o-

After a while a knock at the door announced the arrival of a somewhat drowsy looking Madam Pomfrey. Tonks explained the circumstances and led her to the kitchen, where Snape was watching them from across the room. While the school nurse attended to the wizard's injuries, Tonks brewed a big pot of invigorating tea. Madam Pomfrey healed the fracture without difficulties, though she advised Snape to keep the arm in the sling for another day. For the treatment of the after-effects of the Unforgivable Curse she ordered a day of bed rest, which was answered with a scowl from the Potions Master. Tonks made a mental note to postpone the party to celebrate their latest success for at least one day.

Eventually the two women helped the still shaky Slytherin to his feet and Tonks accompanied him and Madam Pomfrey to the door. As she opened the door, the Auror nodded curtly and gave Snape a coy smile.

"Thank you, Severus", she said gently. "Thanks for everything."

The Potions Master threw a last look at her and swept wordlessly out of the door, followed by the Mediwitch. Had this really been a smile twitching around the corner of his mouth? Well, miracles happen every day it seems, she thought and entered the kitchen. Now she really needed a cup of hot cocoa. With a drop of Firewhisky. A big one...

-o-0-o-

- END -


A/N:

The idea with the cocoa probably comes from the great(!) little fic "His Molly" by Snowballjane.

"McEwans Export" really exists – it's brewed in Edinburgh, as far as I am not mistaken.

The Potterverse with all its wonderful characters belongs to JK Rowling – also from Edinburgh.

The song "Until it sleeps" belongs to Metallica and their merchandising people.

The "examino" charm is by me – my Latin lessons at school finally had some use, jipiiee! :-)

And yes, I know that blindworms are neither blind nor worms – I just imagined it's a funny picture.. ;-)

I would really appreciate any comments on my humble little story! :-)