Unless the few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us.
Albus Dumbledore, GoF
The great black dog sat in an alleyway, watching patrons enter and leave the small corner market in Little Whinging, Surrey. The June day was warm and still, scented with the flowers of spring although the season had slipped into summer. When an old woman wearing carpet slippers and a housecoat exited the market, he waited for her to pass by and then began to follow.
"Mr. Tibbles will not be pleased his favourite brand was out of stock," the woman muttered to herself, shaking her grey head. She lifted her chin and pulled back stooped shoulders. "I shall tell him, quite firmly, he will eat what he is given and be grateful for it!"
The woman's brisk steps slowed when she turned the corner of Wisteria Walk. As she approached a bungalow with a weedy, overgrown front garden, four cats darted out of the house to greet her.
Crouched down behind shrubbery, the dog craned his neck, looking the felines over. He didn't see the Siamese he remembered fondly. Grizzabella had just celebrated her first birthday the last time he'd visited. Playful and affectionate, she had twined around his legs and pounced on his feet. Now she was gone. Had so many years passed?
"Snowy? Where are you going? What have you found?" the woman called.
The dainty white Persian had discovered the watcher in the shrubbery. The dog stood and pushed through the bush to face the old lady. Her eyes widened. The string shopping bag in her hand dropped to the lawn, spilling tins of cat food.
Cats looked from their mistress to the strange dog on the lawn, waving their tails in warning. One, a black Tom, arched his back and hissed. The woman gave a watery-sounding scold. "Is that any way to greet a friend, Mr. Tibbles?" She picked up her bag and gestured to the dog. "It isn't safe to linger outside. Come in, dear boy, come in!"
Once the old woman shut the door and drew the curtains in the lounge, the Animagus resumed his human form. "Hello, Figgy."
The cats, scattered to various perches in the cluttered room upon witnessing the transformation, meowed their distress. Arabella Figg bustled from one feline to the next, petting them and whispering reassurances, before taking the man's hands.
"Oh my word, Sirius Black…I never thought to see you again."
"That was the Ministry's plan," he said with a trace of bitterness.
She gave his fingers a squeeze. "It was shameful to condemn you without trial. I wrote letters to everyone from the Minister for Magic to the editor of the Daily Prophet, but no one paid heed to a Squib."
Sirius raised her hand to his lips. "They were fools."
She smiled. "You always were a charmer." Figgy patted his cheek. "Come along to the kitchen. I'll make tea."
A few minutes later, Sirius gave a bark of laughter at the amount of food placed before him. "Are you saying I need feeding up?" He knew how he appeared; white and thin, but was he that gaunt?
Figgy handed him a plate of sandwiches. "Yes, and those responsible for your condition should be very glad I cannot do magic."
His smile became a grin when he saw a ginger-coloured feline poke its head into the room. "You do magic, Figgy. The Ministry's just too stupid to realise it."
The old lady's gaze followed his. "Mr. Tufty! Make up your mind, in or out, but do stop lurking!"
The cat darted back down the corridor to the lounge.
"He's so curious," Figgy said, "and a trial to poor Harry. Gives the boy a start to find Mr. Tufty's followed him into the loo."
Sirius chuckled. "I'm sure it does." An odd shaped candle on a counter drew his attention. "What's that?" he asked around a bite of ham and salad.
"Exactly what it looks like, a cabbage candle. Stinks up the whole house."
"A gag gift?"
"No," Figgy said sadly. "I bought it to use when Harry visited." Her expression hardened. "His Aunt wouldn't let me mind him if she thought he liked being here."
"Petunia always was a bitter, spiteful hag," Sirius said darkly.
"I don't think hags would thank you for that comparison."
He pushed his plate to the side. "No, I suppose not." He looked across the table and said, "Thank you for being there for Harry." The way I should have been, but wasn't.
Figgy smiled. "It has been an honour." With a hopeful expression, she asked, "Would you care to see some pictures I took of Harry with my cats? Most were taken when he was younger, and not so self-conscious about being photographed."
He nodded. "Do you have any of Grizzabella?"
Figgy beamed. "Many. She loved Harry almost as much as she loved you." She rose from the table and began putting the luncheon things away. Sirius pushed to his feet to help.
An hour later, he closed the photograph album. "You know why I'm here, don't you?"
She lifted a hand to smooth grey hair. "You-Know-Who has returned, and Dumbledore is calling the Order of the Phoenix back together. I've been expecting this for a very long time."
Sirius said, "Alert the old crowd is what he said. Not that many of us left, are there?"
"Elphias and Dedalus are still around."
"Are Doge and Diggle still trying to impress you with their hats?"
Figgy sighed. "Dedalus won't give up his top hat, much as Elphias and I try to persuade him violet is not his colour."
"Do the two of them still vie for your attention?"
Faded blue eyes sparkled. "We are all friends."
Sirius chuckled. "Will you pass the message on to your friends? Tell them I'll send word from Dumbledore soon. In the meantime, I'm off to Lupin's. I think he should be with me when I contact the rest of old gang. Not everyone will give me the fine welcome you have," he said, before transforming into Animagus form.
Figgy bent to pet him. "If they don't, they are fools."
He woofed and wagged his tail.
After letting himself into Remus's flat, Sirius frowned over the stale scent of the air. It smelled as if his mate had not been there for days. An envelope with an 'S' on it lay on the table in the nook by the kitchen. Inside was a note.
Tonks and I have gone on holiday. In case of emergency (and ONLY emergency) we can be reached at Caladh House, Isle of Lewis.
Sirius checked the date on the parchment. June nineteenth. The couple had enjoyed almost a week of togetherness. By now, surely they'd be glad to see him. Grinning in anticipation, he strode to the fireplace to Floo to Cami's flat. They were going back to Scotland.
A picnic basket sat on a plaid rug spread out over white sands, its contents—salmon and oatcakes, cylindrical 'truckle' of goat cheese and chocolate dipped berries—left behind by the couple enjoying the privacy afforded by the small, secluded beach.
Remus lay stretched out on the wet sand in his lover's arms. He felt the warm sunlight on his back, the cool water swirling around their bodies and smiled.
"What?" Nymphadora asked, pushing a strand of hair out of his face with deeply tanned fingers.
He shook his head. "Nothing." Remus glanced down and said, "Every shade of skin becomes you. How do you do it?"
"Magic." She giggled. "Thank you for the compliment, but if you're trying to distract me, it won't work. What made you smile?"
Remus was glad he had slight sunburn. It camouflaged his flush. "I was just thinking."
Nymphadora took his face in her hands. "What exactly were you thinking?"
"That I'd never snogged like this on a beach before."
She kissed him. "I know something else I'd like to do on the beach that I've never done before."
He watched her unfasten the ties to her bright pink bikini and admired her all-over tan before saying regretfully, "I'm not sure this beach is that secluded."
Nymphadora's laughter sounded like that of a naughty pixie. "Disillusionment is such an undervalued charm."
Within moments, she had become invisible except for a slight blur in air when two scraps of fabric flew onto dry sands safe from the reaches of the tide.
Remus's innate caution warred with desire. He looked up and down the beach. The sands of Uig were empty except for them. Hands dropping to the waistband of his swim trunks, he smiled wolfishly. "I promise to give it the value it deserves."
Unseen fingers assisted his. "Please do."
The sound of barking brought Remus out of a light doze. He tried to crack an eye open and found his eyelashes caked with salt. He blinked and lifted a hand to rub his eyes, seeing only a blur of motion. They were still under the Disillusionment Charm.
"Cast an Aversion Spell to make that mutt go away, baby," Nymphadora said around a yawn.
"Tonks! Are you there?" a woman's voice called.
Remus felt his lover jack-knife to a sitting position. "Cami?"
Camillia Llewellyn, Nymphadora's friend and Sirius's partner, stood a few metres away, with an enormous black dog beside her. She tucked a strand of brown hair behind her ear in a nervous-looking gesture. "Are…are we intruding? Mrs. MacLean said you two were going on a…picnic…." Cami's voice trailed off as her gaze fell on the unopened hamper.
Snuffles darted over to pick up a scrap of fabric with his teeth.
"Drop those bikini bottoms, you pervy mongrel!" Nymphadora yelled.
The dog padded over and dropped the bikini. "Woof!"
"Shut up and go get my top…and Remus's trunks."
When they were dressed and visible again, Cami said apologetically, "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't an emergency."
Remus nodded. "Let's discuss it over lunch."
"You two go ahead and unpack the food. I'm going to…erm…rinse off some sand," Nymphadora said, her blush barely visible on tanned cheekbones. She walked toward the ocean, warning the dog padding alongside, "If you shake water on me, Snuffles, you will get no food!"
The dog bounded forward to leap into the water.
"Aguamenti," Remus said, handing Cami a glass of water.
He sipped white wine, smiling when she said, "This is an elegant packed lunch."
"Our friends who stayed at another guesthouse kindly arranged for a hamper to be delivered every day."
"Nice friends," she said.
Nymphadora, finished sea bathing, dropped to her knees on the blanket next to him. "All my friends are nice."
Remus sent her a dry look, thinking of Mundungus and various dodgy Irishmen. She grinned. "Even the ones no one else agrees with me about."
He handed her the glass they were sharing. She took a drink and gave it back. "No beer?"
"We'll go out for one later."
"OK," his love said agreeably, reaching into the hamper for the cheese.
After the four of them had eaten, and Snuffles had licked their plates clean, Cami asked, "Is it safe for him to transform here?"
Remus glanced around. This beach was located down a hill that isolated it from the rest of the landscape. He looked at his friend. "I'll cast a Disillusionment Charm as a precautionary measure."
Within moments, Sirius's voice rang out, "I knew it would happen and finally it did. Voldemort has returned!"
"How do you know?" cried Nymphadora.
Sirius's words rushed out. Remus listened in silence, feeling a chill that had nothing to do with the sudden breeze. His gaze flickered past his lover's shoulder. The sun continued to sparkle on the ocean, but it seemed as if a shadow had fallen across the idyllic scene. A new war had started, with the list of casualties already beginning to mount.
"Figgy is still trumps, but I don't expect the rest of the old gang to welcome me with open arms. I need you with me," Sirius said at the end.
Remus's eyes went to Cami. She said, "Before the Underground disbanded, people were already starting to whisper that it wasn't safe for an alcoholic to be privy to secrets." Her lips turned down. "Even if Dumbledore is willing to take the risk of permitting a recovering alcoholic to join his new Order, I won't."
"I don't care if anyone wants me or not," Nymphadora declared. "No one's keeping me out."
"You're wanted," Remus said.
Remus shook his head with a smile.
"I'm going to volunteer Grimmauld Place as headquarters." Sirius's voice hardened. "And if anyone tries to say Cami shouldn't visit, I'll tell them to go to hell."
"Me too…and give 'em the finger to point the way," Nymphadora said stoutly.
Remus smiled at Cami. "We're all behind you, one hundred per cent."
Cami brushed the corner of her eye with the tips of her fingers. "I have nice friends too."
Later that night, Remus leaned against the high back of the slipper bath, resting his arms on the sides of the tub. While his love used her wand to send bubbles floating around the room, he studied her back. It was slender and strong, like Nymphadora herself. He traced her spine with his finger. "I'm glad you morphed your skin. Your natural, porcelain shade is my favourite."
She set her wand down and settled back against his chest. "You're just saying that because you like being more tan than me."
He chuckled. His skin did seem darker than hers did for once. "It won't last," he said ruefully. "My skin will fade to scholarly pallor within days, and Merlin only knows when we'll have the time again to—"
"Shhh." Nymphadora said, shifting to face him. "We'll find time…make it…steal it, if we have to."
Remus slid his hands up her arms to rest lightly on her shoulders. "Is that your 'Black streak' talking?"
"No. It's the woman who loves you talking, so you'd better listen."
He leaned forward, vowing between kisses, "I will."
This is where I would've come for Black family get-togethers.
Tonks gazed up at the place that put the grim in Grimmauld and muttered, "Thanks for getting disowned, Mum. You did me a favour."
Her love was waiting for her on the front step. She gestured to the run-down Muggle houses on either side of number twelve. "Sure it's a fixer-upper, but look at the location!"
Remus had the most wonderful chuckle. Tonks ran up the worn steps and hooked her arm though his, hugging his arm close while he tapped his wand on the door. She noted the serpent doorknocker looked eerily lifelike, its silver body seeming poised to strike.
The sound of numerous chains, locks, and bolts opening on the other side of the weather-beaten black door made Tonks's eyebrows rise.
Remus said, "In his later years, Sirius's father developed an extreme interest in wizarding security devices."
"That's like saying You-Know-Who has an extreme interest in ruling the world."
"Understatement is such an undervalued quality."
Tonks laughed, remembering a beach in Scotland and her statement about Disillusionment Charms.
The door creaked open.
From inside the shadowed entry, Sirius said, "I'm glad someone has a sense of humour about this place."
"Reminds me of something out of a Muggle horror film." Tonks stayed close to Remus as they stepped inside.
Sirius smirked. "Maybe that's why I keep getting the urge to wear vampire teeth."
Remus shut the door. "You're Dracula, I'm Wolfman?"
Tonks snorted. "Bella Lugosi and Lon Cheney never looked as good as you two." Smiling, she asked, "Where did you blokes watch horror films? The theatre?"
"Lily's," Sirius and Remus answered together.
Remus motioned for Sirius to answer. A nostalgic grin spread across Sirius's face. "Easter holiday, seventh year, Lily stayed home while her parents and sister visited some Aunt in Brighton. A gang of us practically camped out there. One night, we found a horror marathon playing on telly and stayed up till dawn watching old films." He barked with laughter. "They were hilarious and brilliant at the same time."
"Like you?" Tonks said cheekily. Her smile became a scowl when she noticed the umbrella stand. "Is that a troll's leg?"
Sirius threw out his arms toward the old portraits hanging on the walls. "Welcome to the family." He pointed to a painting of a thin-lipped wizard, "Old Arcturus is said to have commissioned that after one of his hunts."
She glared at the arrogant face. "Sadistic bastard."
"Runs in the family," said a cold voice. Severus Snape stood further down the hallway, regarding them with a slight sneer. "I was sent to remind you the meeting is about to commence." With a swish of his robes, the Potions Master turned on his heel and walked away.
"Bet Snape's narked he can't deduct House points for my tardiness anymore," Tonks said as they headed for the door leading to the kitchen.
The angry look on Sirius's face became a smirk. "If you really want to wind him up, call him Severus."
"Do I need to remind you two he's on our side now?" Remus asked with a hint of a smile.
"He's still a git," Sirius shot back, his voice echoing in the stairway down to the basement.
"Who's there?" growled the distinctive voice of Mad-Eye Moody.
Tonks had a friendly rapport with the retired Auror who helped train her, which meant she could tease him without worrying about getting a hex. "Never ask, who's there'," she answered. "It's up with saying 'I'll be back' or going out to investigate a strange noise in asking for trouble. Haven't you ever seen a horror film?"
Behind her, Remus and Sirius chuckled. Mad-Eye met them at the door to the kitchen, scarred face twisting in a gruesome smile. "No need. I am one!" He jerked his head toward the long table dominating the cavernous chamber. "Find a seat."
The Order members gathered on wooden benches scooted in, leaving two seats at one end and one at the other. Tonks said in an undertone to Remus, "You two take the spots on this end. I'll go sit by Professor Snarky."
He smiled, making her feel the sacrifice noble and well worth it.
At the other end of the table, Snape, unlike the rest of the group, had scooted to the end, opening a spot between himself and Arthur Weasley. Tonks slid onto the bench, smiling widely at her occasional boss. "Oh, good, a warm body to offset the cold shoulder," she whispered, cutting her eyes toward Snape and back.
Arthur grinned. His wife gave her a measuring stare. Tonks gazed uncertainly at Molly Weasley, wishing she could go back to their first meeting and greet the woman with anything other than, "I love your husband!" She'd meant it in the most platonic, he's-the-nicest-boss-I've-ever-worked-for way, but still. Tonks sagged in relief when Molly smiled.
Standing beside the large fireplace, Albus Dumbledore turned his attention from the flames to the group waiting and said, "In the weeks since Voldemort's return, a new Order of the Phoenix has risen from the ashes of the old, and I am pleased to see the commitment of each member, old and new." His eyes touched each person while his voice rang out powerfully, "Much work has been done, but it is only the beginning."
As she listened, Tonks leaned forward and tilted her head in order to see down the table. Remus's expression was set in pained resolve. Abruptly, his eyes shifted to meet hers. The lean planes of his face softened. His lips curved. She returned Remus's smile, heartened to know that whatever the future held, they would face it together.
A/N: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr kissing on the beach in From Here to Eternity can't compare to Remus and Tonks (I pity the Muggles, lol). Anyone who has seen Shrek might remember "But look at the location!" and readers who watched Dracula with Gary Oldman know why I couldn't resist that reference either. Thinking Grimmauld Place resembled a house in a horror film brought to mind old films and newer ones like Scream, which had great lines to paraphrase like Never say, "Who's there?" Don't you watch scary movies? It's a death wish. You might as well come out to investigate a strange noise or something. :D
At the risk of breaking Scream survival rule 3, (never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, "I'll be right back." Because you won't be back!) I'll be posting a R/T OotP chapter fic Moonlight and Shadow.