-Note- This takes place just after the end of OotP. Rated K+ for language, a lot of tension, and, erm, Firewhiskey.

-Disclaimer- All characters, settings, etc. belong to JK Rowling.

Burying and Digging Up

It was as if nothing had happened. It was as if he was still moaning to her in the kitchen over a goblet of Firewhiskey about this or that…the state of the Ministry, bloody Snape, the war, et cetera, et cetera. But Sirius wasn't doing any of these (or if he was, he certainly wasn't doing them on Earth).

Tonks wasn't technically supposed to be drinking Firewhiskey with the potions she was still taking (apparently, Bellatrix was quite adept at cursing, and her little fall had done more than its share of damage). But she was young and at war, and if she was going to die tomorrow, she decided she might as well feel warm and foggy about it all. At any rate, packing up his belongings was dismal enough to warrant such thoughts; Dumbledore had said something about ownership of Grimmauld Place and Bellatrix Lestrange, so she had decided it best to come straight away and take care of what she could.

She had dragged out Sirius' old school trunk and was setting his things inside of it: Hogwarts school books, robes she had bought for him on his birthday, a handful of chocolate frog cards and old pictures. His wand had gone with him through the…the veil. Dora didn't remember the exact moment when he had gone through; she recalled only feeling herself fall and waking up later on the floor in pain! and seeing Remus' ghastly white face swimming over her. It was difficult to accept that between those moments, her cousin had gone and died; maybe it was impossible. It wasn't as though Tonks didn't believe that he had died- if she didn't, she wouldn't have returned to Grimmauld Place to save his things. But it was still hard, and it was hard to see him laughing and alive in those photographs (especially the ones she was in, too).

Tonks thumbed through a copy of his Divination textbook and couldn't suppress a smile when she read the notes in the margins. Sirius' handwriting was present, as well as others; she recognized a few notes scribbled by Remus, but mostly she assumed it was James. It was funny stuff: ugh, utter tripe and bloody, stupid old bat can't teach and how'd you get full marks on your star chart and I made it up, of course.

She laughed a little and continued to read. Interspersed throughout the chapter on palm reading were crude little sketches of various teachers and students, complete with captions.

"What exactly are you doing here?" came a voice from behind her. She jumped and the book clapped shut.

"I…packing…Dumbledore said…"

"It's not safe, you know, Bellatrix could be here any second," said Remus, his hands on his hips in the doorway.

"Why are you here, then?"

"Picking up some of my things."

"Oh."

"And you're not allowed to be drinking-"

"Sod off, will you?" she said, scowling at him.

"Sorry. I worry, you know."

She sighed. "Yeah, I'm sorry too. Do you want some?"

He shook his head. "Do you need help, Dora?"

She shrugged. "Maybe, I don't know. I think I'm almost done, unless you can think of anything else."

He thought for a moment, coming to sit on the other side of the trunk. "Well…you're taking his schoolbooks? You know he hardly used them, right?" he asked, smiling.

"I know, but I thought Mum would like them or something. I don't like throwing things out."

"Have you got his broom?"

"No…where?"

"I'm not sure. Perhaps in the attic."

"Shall we go, then? I'm not going up there alone. I haven't seen Kreacher at all, and if he's up there…" she shuddered. "I don't want to go alone."

He nodded and stood, his joints popping. She followed him, keeping a hand in her back pocket, on her wand. They marched determinedly up the sloping stairs, into the darkened attic, and she steeled herself against…something, or nothing.

"Nasty creatures…monster and filthy half-blood traitor…unnatural girl…"

She closed her eyes tightly, briefly, and drew her wand. Kreacher was hunched over in the corner, his eyes glowing against Remus' lumos.

"Kreacher's true mistress will come for him, she will…no more disgraces in this house…"

"Kreacher," Tonks said slowly, her wand hand shaking slightly, "go downstairs now. Or I will hex you into oblivion, you murdering..." If it came to it, though, she didn't think she could; she didn't have the stomach for murder, even if it did run in her blood.

"Half-blood filth orders Kreacher…"

"Go," she and Remus said at the same time. Kreacher shot them a murderous look and stumbled down the stairs, out of sight.

She didn't realize she had been holding her breath until it rushed out of her. Her wand hand fell to her side and she felt a warm hand on her shoulder; she walked forward, searching for her cousin's broom.

Thud. Ow. She glared at the rafter she had walked straight into and cursed.

"I'm so clumsy."

"There's nothing wrong with that," Lupin said mildly.

"Easy for you to say."

"I like it when you're clumsy."

The words came out in a quick staccato, like he hadn't meant to actually say them out loud. Dora saw out of the corner of her eye that the broom was between the ancient oak wardrobe and what appeared to be a pile of chains, and it took a moment before she could actually move toward it.

"Here it is," she said lamely, brushing dust off of it with a quick spell. "Nimbus Two Hundred…wow."

"He never actually played on the House team, but he was a mad Quidditch fan. He brought it to school first year, broke into the Quidditch shed, and stole two Bludgers- that's why brooms aren't allowed for first years, I think."

Tonks laughed. They made there way downstairs and put it on top of the piles of robes, books, and assorted knickknacks. The last thing to do was to close it.

They stood over the trunk, on opposite ends. She thought briefly, absurdly, of a casket.

Remus bent slowly, put a hand on the top, and closed the trunk with terrible reluctance. She wondered what he was thinking and realized she ought to comfort him; how alone he must feel.

"Thanks," she said at last. "Are you sure you don't want some Firewhiskey?"

"Yes," he said, and if he was a little more hoarse than usual she didn't comment.

"Should I wait while you pack your stuff?"

"No," he said, "I moved it all out yesterday. I came to do this, really."

"Oh," she said. "Do you have a place to stay anymore? My flat's small, but I've got a lovely couch and-"

"No, Dora," he said, "I'm fine. I can't…I'm too old and too dangerous to live with, you must know."

"I don't care."

"No. I'm sorry. I can't, and besides…I'm going away in a few months and I just can't be attached…it would be bad for both of us, Dora."

"Where are you going?" she asked, feeling a cold pang of worry in the pit of her stomach.

"I'll tell you later. I will. I just need to talk to Dumbledore first."

"Remus…"

"I'm sorry," he said, and his appearance told her he meant it: his eyes were wide, his forehead crinkled lightly, he was biting his lip.

"Me too." She levitated the trunk up and walked behind it down the stairs. Still, she half-expected to hear the padding of dog feet coming to see what was going on, but instead there was silence; she managed not to wake Mrs. Black and continued out the front door. As she closed it behind her and Disillusioned herself and the trunk, she heard Remus coming down the stairs.

She clutched Sirius' belongings to her chest and Disapparated.

-fin-