Truth and Consequences.
'Clumsy as ever Ms. Tonks.'
She was sprawled on the muddy ground beside a tumbled pile of crates, but only because he had tumbled them and the bastard was standing on her wand. The Metamorphmagus swung around, kicked his legs out from under him and scrambled to retrieve it.
'Stupefy!' Snape's incantationwas accompanied by darkness.
Tonks awoke to find herself looking at a battered wooden desk. She was sitting in an office chair with her hands secured behind her. Not clever, she thought ruefully. She had succeeded in following Snape from Hogwarts to a lock-up under a railway arch in east London where a battered sign on the door had proclaimed 'Theatrical Costumier and Storage' and, instead of calling for backup, she had climbed up to peer in at a window. Not clever at all.
Snape came silently from behind her to perch on the edge of the desk. 'Why were you following me?'
This bloody verse,
What caused it?
Potion? Dark Arts curse?'
'Ah yes. Well I believe that this will put a stop to it.' He withdrew a small bottle from his robes. Tonks' jaw clenched. 'Stupefy!'
More darkness followed.
Tonks awoke and sat up, trying to identify the peculiar taste in her mouth. Snape was sitting, too close for comfort, on the desk in front of her. After one startled glance at his face she chose instead to look straight ahead. She was experiencing not numbness but a sense of hyper natural, almost surreal, clarity. 'NotVeritaserum?' Tonks licked her lower lip carefully, the bitter taste entirely unfamiliar. Some sort of truth drug though. She had not intended to speak.
Tonks could see the weave of the heavy material as she stared at Snape's black clad torso. 'Now,' he asked, 'why were you following me?'
She knew that she had no choice but to answer. What worried her was that part of her overly lucid mind actually wanted to talk to him. 'I wanted to know where you were going.'
'Who else knows that you are here?'
It was rather like being back in class, and from the quiet satisfaction in his voice it was evident that he already guessed the answers. She resisted the urge to shudder at the dry, familiar tones in which he was accustomed to tormenting his students.
What drug? She asked herself frantically. She didn't know. Nothing that she had heard of had this effect of mental enhancement. Her mind was working far more clearly and quickly than was usual. Remembering an Arithmancy examination that had challenged her recently, she could see the paper in front of her. How very simple . . .
'Who else knows that you were at Hogwarts?' Snape interrupted her abstraction.
She could sense the smirk with her eyes closed and it was a deeply uncomfortable sensation.
'Do you expect to be rescued?'
Breathing deeply, she looked up to meet his dark regard and discover that he could in fact smile. It wasn't nice.
'Why were you at Hogwarts?'
The question was rhetorical. Snape knew very well why she was there.
'You're the one responsible for the fact that my colleagues and I were unable to speak, or write, except in verse and I assumed that you could stop it.'
They had been at the school carrying out a 'Conduct Review' on Snape who had warned them not to touch anything before leaving them alone in his rooms. Unfortunately Gates and Styles had chanced upon a book of illustrated erotic poetry, which she had been forced to take away from them, and days of unrelenting rhyme had followed. Dogged by doggerel, Tonks had decided to have a little chat with Snape.
'And you assumed that I would want to?' The former Death Eater smiled again. 'Why?'
'I thought that I could make you.'
Beneath the sound of her own breathing Tonks could hear the dull roar of traffic in the roads beyond the weed-grown ally that led by the railway. After eleven years of apprenticeship, she had just received informal notification of her impending "Confirmation" as an Auror. It seemed likely that she would be missing the ceremony.
Snape drew his wand from his sleeve and gazed at it thoughtfully.
Now she was fighting to suppress a rising tide of panic. This man had been Voldemort's Inquisitor.
Curious about her one time teacher, she had gone through all the Ministry files that she could find concerning him and they had made uncomfortable reading. His use of a combination of Veritaserum, intimidation and Legilimency had left most of his victims physically undamaged but entirely unwilling to discuss the experience and, while he had not otherwise been known for cruelty, that had been before Azkaban.
Tonks was sitting in the section of the Ministry Library restricted to Aurors and Unspeakables: this memory now also subjected to the intensifying effects of the drug. She could see the dark graining in the gleaming wood of the desk in front of her. On the desk lay a number of documents. Her fingers rested either side of the one she was reading: ' Due to the nature of the injuries it was necessary to remove and re-grow all of the bones in the subject's hands and feet as well as . . .'
But we're Aurors. We're the good guys. We're not supposed to. . . She tried to close her mind. For a few moments she could see the grimy room and the dark figure bent over her and then she was leaning sideways into the cool of a wall, arms folded, listening to the low, pressing voice of a senior colleague. 'What you have to remember is that the bastard was withholding. People were missing, some of them just children. He only had to say, truthfully, that he'd told us everything and he couldn't do it. Snape's an Occlumens and he's got some sort of conditioned response to Veritaserum - shuts his body down. Think about it! What was he hiding? What was so bad that he'd rather . . . Tonks, there wasn't a choice. We had a duty . . .'
She concentrated on breathing. No choice . . . She forced the awful, burning lucidity of her memories aside and struggled until she could again see something black in front of her. What had they gained? Then black became white and she watched as her own hands furled into fists on either side of an 'interrogation' transcript.
'So why not? Don't you like girls?'
'I am a wizard. I do not need to express dominance in that fashion.'
Fatuous questions very obviously descending fast into pointless brutality until, eventually, he had begged for death. He had obtained derision. What was he hiding? What could possibly be that damning? She needed to know. The corrosive stream of thought and memory was unendurable and she could not break free of it.
Tonks felt as though her mind, her very soul, was being scorched and torn away. She was unable not to watch as, in a pensifix, a reanimated mass of flesh, bone and blood began, once again, to breathe and sob.
Tears slipping down her face, Tonks accepted that her own training in Occlumency wasn't up to keeping him out. Nor could she free her hands from some sort of sticky binding, and she could simply take no more. There was no other choice. Forcing herself to concentrate, smooth skin closed over her eyes, nose and mouth. It would be over in a few minutes. As the pain of suffocation increased she felt fingers running down the featureless front of her head and tried to turn away. Through the thunder of her own blood a voice spoke in her ear. 'I have a knife.'
An incision would suffice for breathing. He didn't need her to speak. But he had lifted the spell.
Tonks recreated her nose and mouth and drew breath, her mind in turmoil. Finally, when she was quite sure that she wasn't going to cry, she opened her eyes.
Now Snape appeared lost in his thoughts. 'So, how were you intending to coerce me?' he enquired almost casually.
'I seem to scare most people. Why not you?'
'And that's it?'
'Yes.' She tried to remember when she might ever have seen him confused before. 'I was angry.'
Now he was staring at her, his long fingers resting against his mouth. No bloody wonder half the first and second years think he's a vampire, thought Tonks.
Finally he spoke. 'What are you not telling me?'
'I was curious.'
'What were you curious about?'
She really didn't want to answer that. 'I wanted to know why someone of your intelligence would do something so bloody stupid.'
'I have done a fair number of stupid things,' he said softly. 'What exactly are we talking about?'
'Do not use that name.' He stood up and leant over her, his intent face inches from her own, black eyes fathomless. 'Why do you think that that was stupid?'
'Even if inbreeding was such a good idea, even if a war with Muggles was desirable, Voldemort only ever used people. You're Slytherin. Shouldn't you have too much pride to allow yourself to be taken for such a bloody fool?'
He had become very still and Tonks braced herself. 'He's back.'
He'd know, she thought, sickened. Of course Snape would know. He has the Dark Mark. She could feel herself shaking. Snape suddenly straightened and moved silently to stand behind her.
Avada Kedavra thought Tonks, although she had not thought of Snape as being unwilling to face his victim. Not when she was an Auror With the foul taste of the potion still in her mouth, she could only regret the waste of so much courage and intelligence in the service of a madman. Then her hands came free of the chair. As she attempted to stand, it slid away from under her, leaving her again, sprawling on the ground. She twisted to find Snape standing at ease, wand in hand, watching her. Knowing that he would not give her a chance to physically subdue him by attempting intimacy, she wondered just what he had in mind. Just what, by Rhiannon's bloody birds, would he rather die rather than admit? And why had Dumbledore, of all people, chosen to employ him?
'You will assume a sitting position on the ground,' he told her, pulling something bright from within his robes. 'Severus Snape here,' he continued, addressing what appeared to be a small mirror. The situation is as I had surmised. Ms. Tonks has indeed been rather foolish.' Snape tucked the communications device back into his robes. 'Sit.' She had been getting to her feet. Instead she slumped back to the floor, seized the chair and swung it towards him as hard as she could. Raising his wand, Snape sidestepped neatly and Tonks froze on her hands and knees.
Cower, thought Tonks. Cringe. It was all too horribly easy, but she needed him to come closer. She concentrated on augmenting both her physical strength and apparent fragility.
Snape kept his distance. 'I believe,' he said quietly, 'that I should congratulate you on your 'Confirmation' as an Auror.
What? thought Tonks. How in hell did he know that? Only someone in the Department . . .
'Although I do wonder', he continued in the same soft voice, 'that it did not occur to you . . .' There came a sudden scrabbling at the door behind her and Snape looked up, one side of his mouth twisting with irritation. He flicked his wand. 'Alohamora!' To her utter disbelief, the door fell open to admit Sirius Black.
Completely ignoring her captor, Sirius seized her in his arms, dragged her up from the floor and hugged her, burying his face in her neck and rocking her.
Tonks realised, to her astonishment, that his reactions were those of relief. Could he actually still care about her? She breathed in the almost forgotten smell of him. Whatever he might have become, he was still Sirius, and she clung to him hard. 'It wasn't me,' he was telling her softly. 'I wasn't their Secret Keeper. I . . . I persuaded them to choose Peter Pettigrew.' Concern and bitterness fought in his voice. 'Pettigrew's an animagus: a rat, and he escaped as a rat leaving me to take the blame. Peter was the Death Eater, not me,' he concluded less gently.
It was possible she supposed. She pushed away from him, gazing up into his haggard face. 'It's true,' he said. 'We were Animagi, except for Lupin. James Potter was a stag and I'm a dog.'
And Snape? Tonks glanced at the impassive Potions Master doubtfully.
'Tonks, damn it, I was worried.' Sirius kissed her hair, and began to comb it with his fingers, as he'd done when as a child she'd had a bad dream. Look,' he pleaded. Suddenly Tonks was swaying as a large, starved looking, black dog nuzzled her hand. She reached out to stroke its head. Sirius Black was the only member of her mother's family that had liked her but he had worshipped her. She closed her eyes. 'Hey coz, come and see my new bike,' and thirteen-year-old Nymphadora Tonks was running out into the sunlit garden to hug the beautiful young man that she loved like a big brother.
He put his arms back around her. 'What in hell did you do to her?' he demanded angrily of Snape.
'What I was told to do,' was Snape's icy response.
'You bastard, you were only supposed to use Veritaserum and Legilimency, not to hurt her.'
'And I did not.'
Sirius produced a fragment of parchment and held it in front of her eyes. 'Read it,' he coaxed. She managed to focus on the single line of writing: 'The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix can be found at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, London.'
Tonks stared at Sirius and then at Snape. In her head things were finally dropping into place. The famously non-existent 'Janus Archive' . . . There had been rumoured to have been a spy within Voldemort's inner circle, but if Snape had been that spy, why wouldn't he have said anything?
The answer came to her immediately: because Lucius Malfoy had been able to buy and talk his way out.
After that, Dumbledore had allowed Malfoy's money and prestige to help in obtaining Snape's release, thus placing Snape back inside the enemy's ranks. If he had talked, Malfoy might have been able to arrange, just as easily, for him to be kissed by Dementors, either in or out of Azkaban. He would certainly have been no further use as a spy.
Tonks pulled herself free of Sirius and turned towards Snape who stiffened perceptibly, as she approached, and then held out her wand. 'And are you now Dumbledore's inquisitor?' she demanded, her voice harsh with burgeoning pain.
In the impenetrable depths of his dark eyes, Tonks thought she saw something stir. 'I will advise the Headmaster,' he said.
Slowly she put her wand away as, under Sirius' furious gaze, Snape left in his usual mass of billowing black. Tonks turned back towards Sirius and tears overwhelmed her. Twelve years she thought as she pushed her face into his shoulder and he wrapped his arms around her. While she had finished school and trained as an Auror, he had survived, surrounded by Dementors, finally to escape and be hunted by her friends for another year. It was unimaginable. She sobbed as she tightened her own arms around him in anguish Twelve long, wasted years in Azkaban because we got it wrong. She knew that Sirius had been questioned under Veritaserum after his arrest. She could see the transcript behind her closed eyes, and realised, with growing horror, that it was only inadequate investigation that, together with his own expressions of guilt, had condemned her beloved 'big brother' to hell.
And now he was trying to comfort her, wanting to know what had happened. 'What did that slimy toe rag do to you?' he whispered. 'Tell me. I'll deal with "Snivellus".'
What had he done? Tonks asked herself, and then she knew.
He had taken away her innocence.
In the drug's fading enlightenment she could see the terrible culpability of the organisation to which she was so proud to belong and her own part in that evil - her failure simply to pay attention. Tonks allowed Sirius to hold her while she cried like a child.
Author's Note: a pensifix is an abstract from a penseive - not unlike a vidio clip.