Chapter One: Nymphadora's Task
"I need you to look after her for a few hours."
"What? But the lads are coming round, and the flat's a mess, I'm decorating."
"I'm sorry Sirius, but Ted's at work," Andromeda told him. "You're my last resort."
"Oh thanks for that!"
"You know what I mean."
"Isn't she old enough to stay at home on her own now?"
"You know what she's like, I can't leave her on her own," Andromeda said, pre-empting Sirius, adding "we've gone through all the baby-sitters in London, if there's anyone who she hasn't scarred for life, they know people she has."
Sirius sighed. "Go on then, but you owe me."
"Yes of course." She handed Sirius a handful of money.
"What's that for?"
"Damages. If it comes to more than that, let me know."
Sirius nodded, wondering how much damage she could do to his little flat. He held out his hand to Nymphadora who was busy playing knock-down-ginger with his neighbours' front doors.
"Come on then, Littlen," he said as she ran over to him and hugged his outstretched arm.
"Are your weird friends coming round today?" she asked him, as he waved to Andromeda. She was quite literally running down the street.
"Yes they are," he told her, leading her into the living room. "And they're not weird."
"They are," she said. She screwed up her face and it became identical to Sirius'. "I like weird."
"Don't do that, it's disturbing," he told her. Nymphadora pouted and returned her face to normal. Sirius sat down on the sofa while Nymphadora skipped in circles round it, humming loudly. Sirius doorbell rang for the second time that morning, and as he went to answer it, Nymphadora began mimicking the noise of the bell.
"Ding dong! Ding dong!"
"Be quiet!" Sirius yelled, opening the door. "Morning lads, come in."
"Hello Mr Scruff, hello Mr Slate-Gray, hello Mr Porky!" she cried, running in small circles around the living room. "Hello smelly baby Harry!"
"Never, ever side-along apparate a baby," muttered James, heading into the bathroom with Harry and a baby carrier full of sick. Sirius shook his head.
"I never thought he'd be the one to have kids," he said. "He used to hate them."
"Still do Padfoot," James called from the bathroom. "Other people's kids are awful, but there's nothing I wouldn't do for our Harry."
"You've gone soft," Sirius said. "Lily's a bad influence on you."
"Aint that the truth," James laughed, returning from the bathroom. He sat his now clean, nappy-clad son in his little bouncer chair and strapped him in. Nymphadora, who was still running in circles, caught her foot on the rug and went head over heels into Sirius' coffee table.
"Damage report Miss Tonks?" Sirius asked as she sat on the carpet rubbing her elbow.
"All fine Cap'n!" she said, saluting.
"Jolly good," he said. "Right Littlen, we've got a very important job for you. We've got something very important to talk about, so we need you to look after Harry for half an hour, okay?"
"Yessir!" she said, standing to attention.
"Right then," said Sirius, dragging Harry and his chair into Sirius' empty bedroom. "Stay in there until I call you alright?"
Nymphadora nodded and went inside. Ten seconds later she came out again.
"Can I have a biscuit?"
"Not before lunch," Sirius told her. "It's nearly twelve, it wont be long Littlen."
"Oh okay," she sulked.
"If you behave, there'll be a reward in it for you," Remus pulled a bar of Honeydukes finest half out his cardigan pocket.
"Mummy says I'm not allowed sugar."
"I wonder why," muttered Sirius.
"I like firewhisky though," she told them.
"Um, I'm sure we'll find you something, now be a good girl and look after little Harry," Sirius said, pointing her towards his bedroom door. "We wont be long alright?"
She nodded, stuffed her hands in her jean pockets and shuffled off. Harry sat in his bouncer chair in just his nappy, playing with his fingers. She poked him. He started to cry.
"Shhhhh!" she said, bouncing his chair. "I'll get in trouble!"
After a few minutes of bouncing, he had stopped crying and had begun investigating his ears. Nymphadora was not so easily amused.
"I can turn different colours," she told the unresponsive baby. "Can you do that?"
Harry gurgled. Nymphadora screwed up her face and turned her skin a violent shade of orange, as if to demonstrate to her linguistically challenged friend. Harry blew a large bubble through his nose.
"I can't do that though," she told him. She hummed 'twinkle twinkle little star' from start to finish.
"You're really boring, you know that?" She tickled him lightly, Harry giggled and squirmed in his bouncer chair. "You're really cute, but you're boring."
She poked the chair back and forth, scanning Sirius' near-empty bedroom.
"I wonder what we could do to make you more interesting," she thought aloud. Her eyes fell on the dirty white sheet in the corner. She shuffled over to it and threw it back.
"Aha!" Underneath the sheet lay several cans of paint, rollers and brushes. She surveyed the tins.
"What d'you reckon Harry?" she asked him. He seemed more interested in what his fingers tasted like.
"Hmm, you want gray? No, too old. Yellow? Too bright. Oooh, I know!" She prised the lid off a can with a paint-covered teaspoon and chose a small brush.
"Hope there's enough," she said, dragging the paint can towards Harry's bouncer.
"Look, we can match," she said, turned her skin and hair royal blue and began work on her masterpiece.