Desperately, she folded herself into as small a ball as possible and rolled under a table before one of the laughing, anorexic airheads could skewer her to the carpet with their stilettos.
Tonks was not having a good day. In fact, the entire week had been a disaster. On Monday she had received the invitation to the wedding of Remus Lupin and Lucy Reive. Later on in the day, while she'd been arresting Mundungus Fletcher, he'd thrown up on her in the presence of muggles and it had been some time before she could clean herself up. Thursday she'd spent two hours as a chicken.
After spending most of the day reconciling Auror expenses she'd discovered that she was using a 'Write-Wrong' quill.
She had arrived at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes without passing go and one of the unexpurgated idiots had fired something at her from a water pistol. Unfortunately a chicken with metamorphic abilities tends to be a small dinosaur. Given the extreme penalties for hexing an Auror, the twins had been reluctant to attempt it until their nephew came into the shop. 'Velociraptor' was a long word for a three year old, but his mother seemed to be getting the idea, and Tonks had been glad to escape the premises before Fleur went completely Weasley on them.
Friday was, despite all probability, shaping up to be worse. Having finally made up for Thursday's wasted effort, she had been looking forward to a long bath followed by a meal out with her colleagues Gates and Styles when an alert had come in concerning Bellatrix Lestrange.
After the fall of Voldemort, most of the Death Eaters had gone to ground. Not so the Lestranges. Bellatrix had taken to urban terrorism like a hooligan to extra strength lager. At Headquarters, pictures of her leered out from every wall. Now, instead of relaxing with wine and dinner, she and her team were at the Exhibition Centre posing as members of an anti-terrorism squad. Three weeks ago the Lestranges had visited Porton Down. Staff there, while exceedingly reluctant to discuss exactly what had been taken, wanted it back rather urgently. Germ warfare was a new idea to some of Tonks' colleagues but they had caught on fast. Twelve days later they had succeeded in capturing Rabastan Lestrange. While this had been the cause of general rejoicing, the Aurors themselves were less happy. Rabastan had, at least, exercised some control over his wife's proclivities.
Better yet, they had the Ministry's favourite Auror Cadets in tow. While Granger was on her way to becoming the youngest Unspeakable in several centuries, it was no sort of secret that Potter and Weasley had been accepted only so that they could be watched more efficiently.
Back stage at the fashion show, they had finally located their contact. A blonde man in eyeliner and skin tight leather trousers had led them into a corner behind racks of clothes. 'Hi Adam,' he'd said.
'Draco? What's this about?' demanded Styles.
'Something left over from Aunty Bella teaching me Occlumency. I always know when she's around. She's here somewhere. And she's horribly excited about some sort of muggle potion she's got.'
'No, I meant the clothes,' clarified Styles. 'Should that be absence of clothes?'
'They pay me,' said Malfoy. 'If you'll remember, the Ministry's still sitting on my inheritance.' Weasley had begun to snigger loudly.
'Weasley,' Malfoy sneered. 'Are they still paying trainees a pittance? And making deductions from that pittance for uniform and a grotty Ministry flat? I don't even get out of bed for less than . . .'
'Yeah? And what do you get into bed for?' interrupted Ron.
Without hesitation Draco's fist had flashed out and Ron was staggering backwards, clutching a bloody nose. 'Shut the fuck up and try not to bleed on the clothes. You can't afford it.'
It got worse.
Tonks was wondering how the muggles kept the clothing in place. She'd been forced to resort to sticking charms for her borrowed finery. Seven inches taller that usual; a mass of blonde hair was making her neck ache. Shoes that doubled as lethal weaponry had been strapped to Tonks' feet and she had actually managed to totter about six and a half yards before she fell. Now she was under a table, threatening to damage anyone who came near her, and trying not to cry.
'I'm truly sorry, Tonks, but it's for the best. It can't work for us. How long before you begin to reckon just how much you're losing because of me? Lucy's a werewolf. She understands'
'Do you love her?'
Tonks had strangled a sob. 'More than me?'
'Do you love her more than me?' Tonks had muttered through clenched teeth, lengthening incisors cutting into her lower jaw. Remus had been so offensively reasonable that she'd wanted to rip his throat out.
'Walking in heels is difficult if you're not used to it.'
Tonks snapped to. Her personal life had nothing to do with the job. One of the 'airheads' had ducked down beside her and begun gently to unfasten the shoes. 'It's a lot harder than it looks,' she said. 'And you wouldn't be able to see anything from the catwalk anyway. And that designer's a bastard. Damage these and he'll throw a fit. You should really try to get up off the floor.' She pulled a handful of tissue out of her pocket. 'Here.' Tonks blew her nose. 'Draco says there's some sort of nutter loose?'
'If you've a picture of her, I'll take a wander outside. Maybe I can spot her.'
There lay the problem: with Polyjuice, Bellatrix could look like anyone. 'She'll be in disguise,' said Tonks. 'But thank you anyway.'
'So how are you going to recognise her?'
'She's a foreigner. She's likely to dress a bit oddly.'
The girl looked at her. 'Most of them are foreigners and they all dress oddly. They're rich.' Taking the shoes, she climbed out from under the table leaving Tonks to pull herself together.
'Ah, there you are.' The tablecloth was lifted and Gates' face appeared. He considered her clothing. 'Did it look like that before you put it on?' he asked. Tonks snorted and slid out from under the table.
Gravely, Styles helped her to her feet.