Disclaimer: I do not own any of this. Well, I do take credit for 'Fergus the bad Irish Chaser' and 'Mouthwatering Miles'. But sadly, Tonks, and (even more sadly) Remus do not belong to me. Nor do Sirius (sigh), Mad-Eye Moody, Molly and Andromeda, who all make appearances. This is just me pathetically digging through JKR's dustbins. She has made a lot of money off of me, however, so perhaps she will let me attempt to bask in her glory for a few minutes.

Prologue

She dreamed that she was soaring over the Quidditch pitch, above the roaring crowd, a blur of red, green and black. The feeling of freedom and the rush of adrenaline were exhilarating as the wind whipped through her scarlet hair, worn short to keep her vision clear. She flew past Charlie, who gave her an encouraging wink as she slammed the Quaffle past the furious green-clad Keeper. Gradually the clouds began to roll in, the skies darkened, and the crowd below turned into twinkling lights, spread out in a vast mosaic below her. Another rider in dark robes swooped below her. That is Remus, isn't it? Then she heard Moody's gruff voice shouting behind her. She was so very cold; she had lost all feeling in her extremities. Up ahead she saw a sprinkle of red lights explode in the sky.

The 'all clear' then; finally, it'll be over soon. But the red light kept coming closer. It hurt to look at it. There was a dull throbbing ache between her eyes, and a knife-sharp pain in her chest. She was sure that she would explode, then felt herself plummeting through empty space.

We are too far up in the air; I'll never survive the fall.

But sooner than expected, she landed with a dull thud on a stone step, then another, then another. She looked up to see Bellatrix Lestrange's eyes flash in triumph. The last thing she saw before she slipped into oblivion was a stone archway, hung with a tattered black veil.

Her body ached everywhere. It felt as if she had fought a losing battle with a rabid Hippogriff. Maybe that wasn't too far from the truth. Her Auntie Bella was very proud, just like a Hippogriff. She was also a stark raving lunatic, a fanatic, madder than a March Hare. Her memory began to return. She saw herself at the Department of Mysteries, battling Death Eaters. Images of injured teenagers, of Malfoy's well-rehearsed sneer, and Bella's maniacal laughter flashed through her mind. She saw Sirius, his face transformed by a grin, and Remus, uncharacteristically fierce as they fought side by side.She felt cool hands on her forehead and opened her eyes slowly, painfully. The Healer's kind, homely face broke into a warm smile.

"Well, dearie, back among the living are we? You have had a rough night."

"Where am I?" she croaked.

"St. Mungo's, dear, have been for a few hours."

"What happened?"

"You've been in a fight, had a few nasty hexes thrown at you. You are very lucky girl, indeed!"

"No… I mean, did they catch them? Are the kids safe? Did anyone get hurt?"

"I wouldn't know, dear…"

A familiar, gentle voice caught Tonks' attention.

"How are you feeling, Nymphadora?"

"Tonks, Remus, Tonks!" she snapped, but her eyes were smiling as she turned in relief to her clearly exhausted but apparently uninjured comrade.

"What did I miss, Remus?"

"Well," he sighed and rubbed his temple as he waited for the Healer to leave the room. "To summarize, Dumbledore arrived shortly after you fell. We were able to capture most of the Death Eaters, but Bellatrix Lestrange escaped. Harry followed her up into the atrium, where Voldemort himself appeared. He and Dumbledore did a considerable bit of damage to the atrium as they fought over Harry. Just before he escaped with Bellatrix, nearly fifty Aurors, Ministry officials, and Fudge himself came pouring out of the Floos. Fudge has now been forced to admit that Voldemort is back, and Dumbledore is no longer in hiding. I understand he is setting up an Order meeting to discuss new strategy sometime today."

"Is everyone safe?"

"Nearly…"

"What is it, Remus?"

"We lost Sirius, he's...gone."

Chapter One

Scribbling On The Sky The Message He Is Dead

It was only 8 p.m., but the kitchen at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, full nearly to bursting an hour before, now had only three occupants.

"About to fall asleep on my feet," Tonks said as she stretched, reaching around to rub her neck, "I'll see you two tomorrow."

As the door closed behind her, Mad-Eye stared at it for a long moment, then muttered under his breath, "She should never have left her hospital bed."

"She looks a great deal better than she looked this morning. Most of the bruises have healed," said Remus. "At any rate, she refused to stay, absolutely insisted on attending the meeting."

Mad-Eye gave a non-committal grunt.

After a few moments, he spoke again. "You were the one who told her about Sirius, correct?"

Remus nodded.

"And?"

"She took it fairly well, I think. Of course she was shocked, and had a few choice words about her mother's sister, but she seemed ready to get down to business. Didn't want to sit around the hospital and get depressed, she told me. I've never known her to be too emotional, so I wasn't surprised. Then again, perhaps it hasn't really sunk in yet."

"She spent a lot of her spare time with Sirius last year."

"I know, I was here with them." Remus returned Mad-Eye's piercing gaze. "Is there a point to this, Alastor?"

"The girl who just walked down the hall didn't look much like the one who said good night. I wonder how close they really were?"

Remus didn't reply. His mind suddenly filled with flashbacks of the past year. He placed his head in his hands and closed his eyes for a moment, elbows resting on the battered kitchen table.

Moody spoke again, more softly. "The first one is always the hardest."

Remus looked up. "The first what?"

"The first death in a war, you know?" The battle-scarred Auror paused, his expression grim. He seemed to be choosing his words carefully. "You race into a fight, hopped up on adrenaline and the conviction that you are doing the right thing, and are therefore invincible. Then someone you cared about, or even someone you couldn't stand, falls right next to you. It really hits you then, what you are risking. In a normal situation, you would have time to accept it, but in a war there is too much to be done to show weakness. So you have to buck up, pretend it doesn't matter as much as it does. She's just a kid, really. She'll have to grow up too fast. All of them will."

This was a side of Moody that Remus had never expected to see. He generally displayed the sensitivity of a mountain troll, and had very little sympathy to spare. He wondered how many scars Mad-Eye bore that wouldn't show on his ravaged body.

He had thought to wait until he had the kitchen to himself, but it seemed right, somehow, to ask the old man to join in his private ceremony. He strode wearily to the cupboard and pulled out a couple of glasses and a bottle from Sirius' private stash of alcohol. He turned to the older man, his eyes filled with pain. "Will you join me in a drink to Sirius, Alastor?"

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Remus knew, more than anyone else could have, how close Tonks and Sirius had been. They had jumped back into their affectionate familial relationship as if thirteen years separation had never happened. The main difference that those years had made was that the cousins had reached nearly the same level of emotional maturity, and the two became fast friends. Tonks did indeed spend a great deal of time at Grimmauld Place, so much so that she had been given a permanent bedroom of her own. She could be counted on to brighten up Sirius' solitude at least once a week, bringing a bottle of Firewhisky or wine along with exotic food, and a positive attitude. The three of them had enjoyed innumerous late night discussions around the kitchen table or next to the fireplace in the study. Tonks was a lively storyteller, and a remarkably accurate mimic, particularly when she changed her face to match the person about whom she was talking.

On several occasions, she cajoled Remus into smuggling Sirius out of the house as 'Snuffles', and the two of them watched him run free in a nearby park. When Sirius had become quite depressed sometime after Christmas, having lost all of his visitors, Tonks decided that drastic measures were needed. One Friday night, she arrived with a bag full of vintage Muggle clothing. She then took them in disguise to a lively Muggle bar, where they danced and talked until the place shut down. Sirius, at one point, disappeared for over an hour in the company of a pretty bartender. As reckless as it had seemed at the time, it was the best time Sirius, and for that matter, Remus, had had in years. Tonks had been the bright spot in what had turned out to be Sirius' last year of life, and for that she had Remus' gratitude. He did not think, however, that it had been any of Moody's business to know all of this, however sympathetic he appeared. He was impressed by Tonks' apparent fortitude, and did not want anyone to intrude upon her grief.

His own grief was something that would have to be dealt with eventually. When Sirius had first fallen through the veil, Remus had wanted to howl in shock and rage. But Harry needed him, and he'd had to swallow his pain and act quickly. Chaos was all around, and reason and calm were in short supply. Someone needed to deal with the repercussions of the night. Now that he could be alone, there was time come to terms with the fact that once again his best friends were all lost to him. He was forlorn, and very, very tired.

He padded down the hall in his tattered dressing gown, toothbrush in hand. Lost in his thoughts, he nearly missed the muffled choking sound behind him, but, alert to danger, grabbed his wand and turned to press his ear on the door he had just passed. There it was again, but it was recognizable as a sob, followed by an unmistakably female whimper. Fairly certain that this was Tonks' room, he froze for a moment, considering. He was not supposed to be hearing this, he was sure. He ought to respect her privacy. But the mental image of her in tears, alone, was more than he could bear. He quietly opened the door and slipped in her room.

Apparently, she hadn't heard the door open. He saw her curled up on the bed, her head buried in a pillow, sobbing quietly. He stood over her, and reached his hand out to gently stroke her curly hair, still wet from the shower. She looked up quickly, taking a deep gulp of air. Her lashes were spiked with tears and her normally bright eyes were dull with pain. She spoke his name quietly and made an effort to brush away her tears, taking a cleansing breath, but he would not allow her to put on the mask again. He sat down and enfolded her in his arms, pulling her onto his lap. She tucked her head into his chest and simply fell apart.

He held her tightly as she wept, murmuring soothing nonsense words as she sobbed and ranted incoherently. He didn't try to offer her solutions. His feelings of guilt, pain and anger were as heavy as hers were, his own eyes were prickling with unshed tears, but somehow, holding her as she cried eased the burden a little.

Slowly, her cries grew quieter, then became random whimpers and shudders. She fell into an exhausted sleep, her tears soaking through his dressing gown to the faded tee shirt he usually wore to bed. He continued to hold her as he extricated himself from his robe, then slipped carefully down the headboard, finally resting his head on her pillow. She mumbled, then sighed and repositioned herself, nestling against his side. He absentmindedly drew a line up and down her spine as her breathing steadied, and he, too, drifted off to sleep.

A/N This is my first ever fanfic and I would appreciate input. I am a Yank, so any glaring Americanisms you Brits notice and point out to me will be swiftly remedied.