Title: The Last
Summary: "Tonks certainly saw more on the field than the boys did, and it would make more sense for her to cave before they did…but it wasn't to happen that way." Some Order members come to terms with mortality; others with impending doom. Written for the Lover's Moon Fic Jumble at the MetamorficMoon community on LiveJournal (prompts: Magic—Cruciatus Curse; Action—Boast; Characters—Mad-Eye, Harry, Fred and/or George; and Genre—Drama/Romance).
A/N: This is a companion piece to my fic "The Last Mission," written for the RT January Challenge. You don't need to read that to get this one, I don't think, but it wouldn't hurt… It's also in the same verse as "The First Mission."
It was the expression on George's face that finally did Tonks in.
After Bill was attacked, the only difference in the man—beside a peculiar palette—was the way his face looked. His brothers had great fun in taunting him, calling him "Wolfman" and "Moony Two," much to Remus' chagrin. But Bill took it all in stride, laughing along with the twins—because who wouldn't?
But summer missions grew more serious and more dangerous, slowly dimming them all into a hazy, bleak fog that none could fully see in front of.
Along with Tonks, the twins seemed to be in better spirits than the rest of the lot—likely because none of them could remember the first war. Tonks certainly saw more on the field than the boys did, and it would make more sense for her to cave before they did…but it wasn't to happen that way.
"D'you think mouldy-Voldy wears women's knickers?" Fred pondered, a faint smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.
"Only to bed," George answered lazily, toying with his wand. "Because you know it gets him up when his minions take turns doing the Cruciatus on his knob under all that pink silk."
This time Fred laughed out loud.
"Shut up, Fred," George reminded him half-heartedly. "Y'want to get us killed?"
"Like any of those Death Eaters could take the two of us together." Fred rolled his eyes. "Bloody idiots, the lot of them. We took down both Crabbe and Goyle's dad's without much work--"
"Oy, you know that was only because Mad-Eye took out McNair. If he hadn't been there, neither of us would be here tonight."
Fred rolled his eyes. "Boring, anyway. Stakeouts. Why don't they leave those to the younger Order members?" Since Dumbledore's death, a number of the D.A. had joined the Order instead of returning to Hogwarts, determined to fight in their beloved Headmaster's absence.
George just shrugged, lighting up a fag. "Dunno. But somebody's gotta do it, eh?"
Fred flicked the cigarette from his brother's fingers, stamping it out in the wet asphalt. "And you were on me about getting us seen?"
"S'not like anybody's going to see it in this fog," Geoge reminded him. He lit up another and turned to look West—meeting Bellatrix Lestrange's triumphant gaze in the process.
"Look what I've found," she hissed, eyes glowing. Behind her, several Death Eaters crept out of the fog and into view. Most sported hoods, but Lucius Malfoy's long hair could be seen beneath one mask.
Fred counted seven in all before backing up slowly, fumbling for his wand. He only managed to bump into his brother, who had just begun to raise his own.
"Can't have that, can we?" a masculine voice boomed. "Crucio!"
Fred screamed in agony as a white-hot, blazing fire consumed him inside-out. George flung his arm around his flailing brother's neck, dragging him helplessly as the Death Eaters loomed over them.
"Say goodbye, little Weasley rats," Bellatrix cooed viciously, her insane red smile splitting her face nearly in half.
"Impedimentia!" Mad-Eye Moody's voice was rough and echoed off the broken bricks in the alley even in the fog.
The group of Death Eaters whirled almost at once and was faced with the ex-Auror as well as Hestia Jones, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Remus Lupin, and the twin's own brother, Bill.
"Go!" Bill yelled at them, shooting a well-aimed hex at one Death Eater and taking him down instantly.
"We're not going anywhere!" George said automatically.
"Now!" Remus ordered, his voice telling them that he wasn't about to take arguments.
George hesitated, then looked down into the face of his brother. Fred's eyes were glazed over, and he continued to issue little whimpers as George limped along with him. Cursing the Death Eater who did this to him, George managed to Apparate them both to the rendezvous point.
Though almost a mile away, they could still hear the battle cries of their colleagues and the villains they fought against. When Hestia shrieked, George tensed; at Bill's roar, Fred drew a hand into a fist.
"Go…back," he managed, reaching out to grab George's arm, only to shove him away harshly. "They…need help."
George narrowed his eyes at his brother, nodded once, and cast a disillusionment charm over him before vanishing into the air with a pop.
Instantly George knew he was too late to be of any help. Four Death Eater bodies lay on the pavement, their bodies twisted in awkward angles; one had a pool of blood beneath his neck. The rest were gone.
It was hard for George to see through the fog but when he came to find his fellow Order members, his feet suddenly ceased moving, as if they were made of lead.
Kingsley was bleeding from what looked like a half-severed ear, and Bill's face sported even more slashes across it—which would undoubtedly break Molly's heart again, George thought absently. Remus stood nearby, seemingly unscathed; the three formed a grim semi-circle, and while it was too foggy to see what they were all staring down at, George could take a good guess at what.
Creeping up slowly, he could see one enormous shoe pointing toward the sky—alongside an unmistakable wooden leg.
"No!" he cried, running toward the group—but Remus caught him, holding him back.
The older wizard said nothing, and simply held onto George as the boy's shoulders shook with silent, tearless cries.
Looking down, he saw a body alongside Moody's—Hestia Jones. Someone had already conjured a stretcher for both of them, but while the witch's chest continued to rise and fall, the grizzly ex-Auror's did not.
Every lesson the old wizard had taught him over the past few months, every mission, every instance of wry humor that didn't match but complimented his own shot past his memory. Mad-Eye flicking his wand, demonstrating a proper transfiguration. Mad-Eye stressing the importance of presence over power. Mad-Eye joining the twins with a subdued but nonetheless real chuckle at a Sugar Mouse charmed to chase Hermione's cat.
Mad-Eye's body lying on the ground.
"Is he--" George suddenly felt as if he'd never speak again.
Bill met George's desperate stare with his own wet eyes. "Get Fred. Apparate back. We'll meet you at Headquarters."
George stood dumbly until Kingsley nudged him. "Go on, son. You can't do anything here."
So George mutely went back to his brother, and answered all of Fred's questions with a shake of his head. When they trudged into the entrance of Number Twelve, where the others were already gathered for a meeting, Tonks met them at the door.
"How did it go? Where are the others?" she asked immediately.
George opened his mouth but nothing would come out, and he swallowed hard.
"George!" Fred's voice was panicked. "What in blazes happened? Tell us, dammit!"
By now the entire Order had gathered round, and not a face among them was a happy one.
"M-Mad Eye," George whispered, cotton coating his throat. "Mad-Eye is gone."
Gasps and hushed cries of incredulity filled the room, and when George looked up into Tonks' anguished face, he felt the grief to his toes and the glittering light that lined his eyes left them completely.
While Kingsley had returned from escorting Hestia to St. Mungo's, the Order awaited Remus' return from his secret meeting with Harry.
Though Molly had managed to make some tea, nobody could drink it. She continually dabbed at her eyes with a worn handkerchief. Faces were drawn around the table; George's expression was obscured through the two hands splayed across his face, and Neville Longbottom stared at the wall as if he'd never seen anything like it. Some, like Tonks, simply could not sit, and paced restlessly instead.
Charlie Weasley, who had been guarding Remus and Harry from another point, entered the kitchen with Remus following closely behind.
"So it's all settled, then?" Tonks asked immediately, biting her lip as she stopped pacing.
"Kingsley, you, and I," Remus said, and Tonks doubted that the rest could hear the slight tremor in his voice. "Harry says he's ready."
Ready was not the same as prepared, and Tonks doubted that any of them were either. Still, she gave him a tight nod, and turned to Kingsley. "Where are we meeting before?"
"The old bookstore." Kingsley's normally booming voice was quiet, and though the ear that had been torn was healed, its earring was gone.
"The rest of us will be nearby and ready to go," Arthur reminded the rest of the room, and gave them a brisk nod, as if to reassure them somehow.
"And you have all of it brewed and ready to go?" Molly twisted her hands nervously.
"Yes, Molly," Remus told her. "We're all set." Tonks reached out to grab his hand, and, though normally quite against public displays of affection, Remus kissed it.
Tonks squeezed him desperately as he sought to cover her completely with his mouth. Her hair, her cheeks, her neck; he wanted to simply swallow her whole so she wouldn't have to do this, wouldn't have to be dragged into this dangerous mission—wouldn't have to risk her life alongside him tomorrow.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he rasped, continuing to kiss her.
"It's not as if it's the first time, Remus," she gasped back, raining hard kisses over his body in retaliation.
"No." Remus pulled back. "I mean about tomorrow."
Tonks stilled immediately, mid-kiss. She grabbed the back of his desperately-in-need-of-a-cut hair and yanked his head up to meet her murderous expression. "Don't even do this, Remus."
"Shacklebolt and I, we can do this alone--"
Abruptly, Remus began to experience the feeling of weightlessness as his betrothed both flipped and straddled his body. "No, you can't. We've been through this before, Remus. The plan is set."
They stared at each other, chests heaving, trembling. "Tonks," he choked.
"No, Remus," she whispered. "I know exactly how you feel because I feel the same way. D'you think I want to send you to death's door tomorrow? We're in this together."
She shifted her hips and he groaned. She did it again. "Together."
"Please, Tonks," he pleaded, meeting her kiss for kiss once again as their bodies met pulse for pulse. "Please be careful tomorrow."
"Please, Remus," she echoed, sucking on his neck with fervor. "Don't die tomorrow."
He laughed shakily at her horrible attempt at humor but then lost himself in her scent, her sweat, her skin as the meeting of their bodies crashed in a frantic, ageless rhythm, and unintelligibly promised over and over again that he would indeed not die on the morrow.
And after she arched and wept and pulled at his hair and fumbled to stay atop his writhing body, and after he shuddered and screamed the name she'd hated her whole adult life and aimed a kiss at her neck that somehow ended up inside her ear, they collapsed and clung to one another in the darkness, both willing sleep to come but only managing to watch the fogged glass of the window, waiting for dawn.