Summary: Implied Lupin Tonks, Black. Lupin and Tonks put their hearts on hold as a mission keeps them apart.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to JKRowling. I'm just having fun playing with them.

Tonks in Twilight

Ministry of Magic
October 7

Twilight fell on the city of London as Nymphadora Tonks sat at the floo monitoring station at the Ministry of Magic. Twilight, she thought, was the perfect way to describe her mood of late. Even her current assignment failed to penetrate her complacency.

Monitoring the Ministry floos was largely a vigilance task that required Aurors to pull miserly wizards and witches out of a situation of their own creation. These penny pinchers would purchase ineffective batches of floo powder and get caught in transit. That would mean tracing down and apprehending the seller which is why the duty fell to the Aurors. It was generally seen as the most mundane of duties and usually assigned as punishment for minor infractions. Some Aurors were particularly troublesome.

"Trouble is my middle name," murmured Tonks as she cupped her chin with a hand while she twirled her wand in her other like a miniature baton. It had been a simple thing to inadvertently set aflame the banners at the Ministry that read: Perfect, Preserve, Prune.

Of course, she had also apprehended Timula Totter, a large, burly witch who was trying to escape custody. The witch had been brought in for questioning about her activities at Knockturn Ally. Was it Tonks' fault that the woman kept dodging behind the innumerable banners hanging around the Ministry?

"I hope you're having more fun than I am, Remus." Tonks sighed as she thought about the Werewolf. He had been gone for just over a month and not a word from anyone other than Dumbledore to say the mission was in progress. He was the reason her heart was in twilight mode, she thought.

But thinking of Lupin also brought her mind to a conversation they had shared before his departure. He had alluded to a trick that could be used to monitor floos peripheral to the ones at the Ministry. Tonks was sufficiently bored to give it a try. He'd warned her that it would be difficult, but at least the challenge would keep her awake.

But where would she monitor? Tonks thought about Harry Potter and the news Dung had provided about the Trio's efforts to start a Defense Against the Dark Arts club. Perhaps she could peek at the floo network inside Hogwarts Castle?

Tonks viewed the image in front of her that showed the currently active floos. Then she let her eyes focus on the peripheral floos that seemed to be dormant. That was the trick, Lupin had explained. It was like those Muggle pictures where one saw nothing but abstract patterns if the eyes focused on the image in the foreground. But relax the eyes, let them focus on a spot in the background, and a hidden image would pop out.

The Auror tried this several times to no avail, but was persistent since nothing else was drawing her attention. She was on her last try when the image jumped out at her as she scanned the peripheral floos. The floo network at Hogwarts seemed to emerge, but she lost it immediately when she registered the activity.

"Oh, you wouldn't dare, Sirius!" she huffed. Her cousin was unaware of the danger, so she had to move quickly.

Tonks grabbed a scroll and wrote the Howler with flourish. A quick wave of her wand added a muting charm so that none but the recipient would hear it. She wadded some floo powder into the Howler and sent it on its way.

x-x-x-x-x-x

Grimmauld Place

"Get out of there NOW! Umbridge is watching!"

At Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black turned his head as he heard the Howler ringing in his ear. He jerked out of the floo quickly and struck his head on the lip of the mantle in his haste to make his escape. His heart was beating rapidly as he scrambled back from the fireplace and rubbed his head.

The Howler burst into flames above him, but he moved out of its path before it singed his hair. "Would you be more careful, Tonks!"

But he understood that his cousin had just saved him from a dismal fate.

x-x-x-x-x-x

Hogwarts Castle

In the meantime, Tonks had lengthened her hair and masculinized her appearance. She poked her head through a fireplace and called the floo in Flitwick's study at Hogwarts.

"Wotcher, Professor, are you there?" asked the head floating in his fireplace.

"Eh? Nymphadora, how delightful! Got assigned to monitor the Ministry floos again?"

"Yeah-eek!"

A fat, toadlike hand was tugging on Tonks' hair. Flitwick rose quickly and struck it sharply with his wand.

"Professor, how dare you" came the high-pitched voice.

"Oh, Madam Umbridge, I didn't know that was you," said Flitwick as he grabbed his chest. "You gave me quite a fright."

"Breathe, Professor, just breathe," said Tonks soothingly. She glared up at the hand above her head in the floo that was still shaking off the blow. "I'll come visit some other time. You get your rest."

"Good night, Nymphadora," called Flitwick, but unlike Umbridge, Tonks could see the wink he threw her way.

X-X-X-X-X

Number 12 Grimmauld Place
October 8

The twilight lit the way as Tonks walked to Grimmald Place the next night. Sirius had no sooner shut up the portrait of his mother when Tonks began her own harangue.

"I can't believe you have the gall, the sheer and utter arrogance"

A barking laugh cut off her words. Sirius Black looked at his young cousin and crossed his arms over his chest as he tossed his head back to get the hair out of his eyes.

Tonks stopped her tirade to give her cousin an appraising look. "Well, actually, it does sound just like the cocky, reckless sort of thing you'd do. Honestly, didn't you realize that Umbridge would be monitoring the floo network?"

"Lucky for me, so were you." Sirius transformed quickly into Snuffles and leapt on his cousin to lick her face.

"Icky dog drool! That's the thanks I get for saving your stinking hide?"

Snuffles sat back on his haunches and looked highly offended. He tilted his snout up and barked in protest.

"Really, Sirius, when was the last time Snuffles had a bath?" asked Tonks sweetly.

Snuffles seemed to frown, but his dastardly cousin called, "Immobilus."

The large dog could barely howl his protest as Tonks waved her wand and levitated the canine before her.

"A good scrubbing will do Snuffles some good. Oh, and I think I have some of my berry scented shampoo here."

"Aroooo..."

The howling didn't stop until Tonks was waving her wand over the shiny fur to dry off Snuffles.

"I'm glad Harry is starting these Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons at Hogwarts and I'm sure your encouragement meant a lot to him, but you have to promise me that you won't risk it again, Sirius."

Tonks waved her wand to release the freezing charm.

Snuffles gave his body a big shake, then transformed into Sirius. "You know, I didn't realize how long I'd let Snuffles go without a good scrubbing. And you are not my keeper, Tonks."

Tonks swatted the side of his head. "I promised Remus that he'd find you safe when he got back and I don't intend to let him down!" Tonks then let her gaze fall and bit her lip as she added, "Even if he hasn't contacted me in all the time he's been gone."

"I'm sure he's been far too busy engaging in lecherous activities to write," said Sirius with confidence. He rubbed his hands as he added, "I suspect that no accessible piece of chocolate is safe around his voracious appetites. Can you imagine the thoughts of the sweet, innocent confection before that monster devours it?"

Tonks grinned at the image for a moment before her errant thoughts suddenly brought a blush to her face.

"Tonks, you lascivious wench! Get your mind out of the gutter and play a round of chess with me. I'll forgive you for torturing Snuffles with the bath."

The two cousins settled in for a game of Wizard's chess and although he was far from their company, their conversation kept turning to the moves that Remus would recommend.

X-X-X-X-X

Grimmauld Place
October 21

Tonks was almost stunned by the low-flying owl at twilight as she walked to Grimmauld Place. She put out a hand as she dodged the collision only to find a scroll left in her hand. The owl vanished without a trace.

Tonks stared at the scroll for a moment as she recognized the neat handwriting in the address. She entered Order headquarters with an air of disbelief and waved vaguely in Sirius' direction as he dealt with Mrs. Black's portrait.

Sirius found her sitting at the kitchen table staring at a scroll.

"You've got a letter from Moony!" he accused as he hurried into the kitchen.

"And I don't know whether I should burn it or read it," said Tonks peevishly. "Six weeks and not a word until now."

"Right, then, better let me read it for you in case he's run off with some saucy sorceress," said Sirius as he snatched the scroll away from her.

"Sirius!" Tonks chased down her cousin as he fled the kitchen and tackled him in the entry hall.

"Oof!"

Tonks scrambled after the scroll that fell from his hands only to have a large black dog leap over her to grab the parchment in his mouth.

"Snuffles, don't get dog drool on my letter!" Tonks blindly reached with her hand and yanked.

Snuffles yelped as his tail was pulled. The scroll fell out of his mouth and he heard Tonks chant, "Accio scroll."

Never one to give up, Snuffles turned and clamped his jaws on her shirt before she could get away. Tonks landed on her knees then the black canine's paws knocked into her back. She huddled over the scroll as the dog began licking at her face to get her to surrender the missive.

Tonks began laughing and called, "All right, get off me. I'll read the letter!"

Snuffles sat down and immediately transformed into Sirius who sat cross-legged beside Tonks. "I knew you'd give in. Come on, read it to us, then."

Tonks unrolled the scroll. She took a deep breath and began. "My Dearest Auntie Nyms. "

Sirius was about to say something nasty about how gushy the letter already sounded when he saw the soft gaze that had come into his cousin's eyes and the smile touching the corner of her lips.

"Besotted git," mumbled Sirius under his breath, but otherwise kept his peace.

"I'm glad to hear you have recovered from your latest malady." Tonks looked up and said, "Dumbledore must have told him something about our little adventure in the floo. Do you think he was worried?"

"Frantic, probably," assured Sirius.

"I would advise you to avoid any contact with toads henceforth for some can be truly detestable creatures." Tonks added, "Definitely a reference to Umbridge."

"He was probably cheering the fact that Flitwick whacked her hand with his wand," said Sirius with a nod.

"She carried a welt for about a week afterward he said." Tonks had contacted Professor Flitwick later to keep up appearances.

"I'd lay odds Flitwick struck with more than just physical force to leave it," replied Sirius. "He's not quite the pacifist he seems."

"Speaking from personal experience, Sirius?" asked Tonks. Sirius just responded with a nod before she continued reading. "I expect that your dog has been good company for you and that he never leaves your side."

"Hmph. He's telling me to be a good boy and not leave the house. Once a prefect, always a prefect," muttered Sirius.

"Home doesn't seem as far away now. I have been able to successfully fight off the dark feelings that plague me."

"He's kept the Death Eaters from harassing Hagrid and is closer to home," translated Sirius with a nod of his head.

"I know I have been remiss in writing to you and hope to make amends for this neglect." Tonks quirked an eyebrow and added, "Oh, now that sounds promising."

"And another man is ruined! He's beginning to sound like James when he wrote to Lily," muttered Sirius with a shiver. "If he drew little hearts on that scroll, I fully intend to chew it to bits."

"You're out of luck, no hearts. He just ends with Your faithful Nephew." Tonks carefully rolled the scroll and tied it with the ribbon. "I hope he'll be back soon."

"Why don't you stay here tonight after your guard duty. I'm sure Remus won't mind your using his bed-again."

"I seem to be making a habit of it," confessed Tonks. She had slept over at Grimmauld Place about once a week since Remus had been gone. "Thank you, Sirius."

Sirius just rubbed her spiky pink hair. "Moony will be home before you know it."

"Yeah, but, until then, I sorta feel empty. D'you know what I mean? It's like I'm lost in twilight, not quite dark, but that I've lost the day's sun."

"Oh, you foolish girl, you've fallen hard, haven't you?" asked Sirius as Tonks suddenly burst into tears.

Tonks blew her nose loudly against his robe as he patted her back to comfort her. She quickly gathered her wits and wiped her tears. "The man is making me mental!"

"And I bet you're driving him mad as well," assured Sirius. "I predict you'll be ravished by a raving lunatic once he gets back."

Tonks smiled and leaned forward to peck her cousin on the cheek. "You're a good man, Sirius Black. Cocky and reckless, but a good man."

x-x-x-x-x-x

Hagrid's Trail

At that moment, Lupin was dealing with the Death Eaters plaguing Hagrid's route home. The giant had his hands full in dealing with his half-brother, so Lupin had been left to serve as the rear guard for his return to Hogwarts. Lupin sighed in relief as another Death Eater fell into his trap.

Hagrid slept in the day and traveled at night, but Lupin could only catch his rest in snatches. He had deterred several attempts to capture Hagrid while he and his charge rested. Walden McNair, the executioner for the Ministry, was always in the periphery. Lupin had plans for getting rid of McNair, but that would have to wait until the next full moon.

As the night's surveillance ended, Lupin rested and focused on the emerging day. For a moment he stood in the light of dawn and thought of the rosy headed woman who waited for him. She was waiting for him, no? Had she received his letter?

Remus closed his eyes and tried to imagine her reading between the lines. He had felt so alive as he wrote his message, but as he had sent off the owl, his heart felt stuck in twilight again. What if she had moved on during his absence?

But no, Nymphadora Tonks belonged to him from the moment he had taken her into his house at Holyhead. He shook off his doubts and saw to his duty. But this time, he thought of the rewards that awaited him on his return.

The End

Edited to correct the date. I had November instead of October on the list! (Thanks, TDU!)

Author Notes: I wanted to capture that feeling of stasis that we find ourselves in when we're away from those we love. Originally this was to have been two chapters, but then the characters took hold of the story, so instead of chapter 2, there's a new story called Dias de los Muertos.

Sorry.

The timeline used was suggested by the Harry Potter Lexicon.

If you are new to the series and want to catch up on stories, just hit Queriusole to find the rest, but this can stand alone.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read and for your patience as the events unfold.

Happy Valentine's Day to all.