A/N - This was written for the Colour of Sins challenge over at Colourful Bat over at Livejournal. (Put a underscore between colourful and bat if you'd like to find the community) This will be posted in three parts.
Breaking the Silence
Tonks sat up in the bed she shared with Remus – a place she used to consider a sanctuary – with her knees brought up tightly to her chest. Besides her, Remus was not having a peaceful slumber. Every fitful movement seemed to be another dagger to her soul. Another reminder.
She wasn't enough.
It had been foolish to think that once the war was over than she and Remus would live happily ever after. But that one thought had sustained her through the darkest nights of the war. That once there was peace, they would be able to fight Remus' demons and find their way towards some sort of happiness.
But in order to claim that happiness, they both needed to fight and it seemed that Remus had stopped long ago. As was his style, Remus seemed content to wait for the day when she would leave him. She wouldn't. She couldn't.
Four years of her life had been dedicated to this man. Tonks couldn't just pick up and leave him. She wouldn't let him think that she was like everyone else. Because she wasn't. And someday she'd make him realise that.
Wearily, Tonks rested her head on her pillow and stared at him. Tonight was the best night of the month, he always told her. The full moon had been the night before and he didn't have to think of the moon again for twenty-seven days. It was a night they celebrated often in this very bed. Though tonight, when she reached for him, Remus had rolled over and professed tiredness.
Tonks reached out and gently stroked his cheek. Someday he would realise that she was never going to leave. And then everything would be perfect.
"Why so glum?" Tonks asked, trying to sound light hearted, ignoring the fear that started to build up in her throat when she saw his face. Hoping that the conversation she was so desperately scared he would find the courage for wasn't planned for the moment she stepped into their small flat.
Running his hand through his hair, Remus threw a piece of parchment across the kitchen table. Silently, Tonks picked it up and started reading. The news wasn't good. The Potions Master that Remus used to buy Wolfsbane Potion had been sent to Azkaban.
"That's not good," Tonks sighed, joining him at the table. "Can you find another?"
"There are no others," Remus said dejectedly. "We can't afford the prices from the Apothecary in Diagon Alley, so the only option is the black market. This is the third one that's been sent to Azkaban for shoddy dealings. I'll be killed at this rate."
Tonks ignored the casual tone of his voice when he spoke of his own death. "Could you brew it yourself?" Tonks asked, brightening at the idea. "Buying the ingredients has to be cheaper than buying the potion."
"I don't have the skills, Tonks," Remus said softly. "I didn't even receive an O.W.L. in Potions."
Drumming her fingers on the table, Tonks asked, "Could I do it, do you think?"
"I can't have you doing that." Remus looked up at her sharply.
"Why not?" Tonks was warming to the idea. "I can have someone teach me. I'm a quick learner, especially in Potions. I got an O on my Potions N.E.W.T."
"I could just go without-"
"No." Her voice was harsher than she intended. "If there is anything to make your transformation less stressful, you'll have it."
"If that's what you really want," Remus told her.
"It is," Tonks said with a smile.
"Then thank you."
Finding a Potions Master had been harder than she thought it would be. She couldn't go to any of the reputable Potions Masters, because questions would be asked. One of the greatest strains of her relationship with Remus was that it had to be kept secret. Only a few select people knew they were together. With the new statures against Dark Creatures that passed since the end of the war, if it was discovered that her lover was werewolf, it could mean her job.
Bill Weasley, using some contacts through Goblins, told her of a man located in Knockturn Alley, willing to make any potion presented to him. When she probed further, trying to get more information, Bill told her that he charged such an inordinate sum that hardly anyone was willing to go there.
Tonks decided that she had to at least try. The prices that were mentioned were for the actual potions themselves. Perhaps she could talk him down in price to give her lessons.
Pulling her navy Auror robe around her tightly, Tonks walked into Knockturn Alley with her head held high. It wouldn't be good to show any weakness. Since the end of the war, Knockturn Alley had become even a more depressing place, if that was possible. With so many former patrons either in Azkaban or dead, the economy had taken a nose dive. There were a number of empty stores that had been thriving businesses only a few years ago.
She stopped in front of the address that Bill had written on a piece of parchment for her. He was only able to provide an address, no name, so Tonks wasn't quite sure what to expect. Staring back at her was a large tarnished knocker.
Without thinking, Tonks knocked three times and waited. More than five minutes passed and Tonks was about to turn around and try back another time when a small slit in the wooden door opened.
There was hardly enough time to see the eyes on the other side of the door before the slit closed with an authoritative thud. She waited for the door to open. And waited. When another five minutes passed, Tonks knocked again.
The slit opened instantly. "Your business isn't wanted."
Her stomach clenched when she recognised the voice. Even though he was quite possibly the last man she wanted to see on earth, she needed his services. Knocking again, she said in a loud, no-nonsense voice, "Severus Snape, open-"
Even before she had a chance to finish the sentence, the door opened and he grabbed her tightly by the arm, pulling her inside.
"Are you attempting to have me killed?" he hissed.
"I take it you're not very popular with the neighbors," Tonks shot back.
"Explain your intrusion or leave." His glare informed her that he was about as happy to see her and she was him.
Tonks looked at him innocently. "You're the one that dragged me in by the elbow."
Snape walked behind a large wooden desk and sat down. In front of him was an unopened dark leather bound book embossed with faded gold letters. He said nothing as he leaned back in the chair and studied her.
She stared back, but used the silence to take in as many details as possible. He was thinner than ever, his shoulders protruded sharply from his plain black work robes. The man hadn't shaved in several days and needed a haircut, judging by the way the hair was messily tied at the nape of his neck.
More than a year had passed since the last time she had seen him. After the final battle, once his name had been cleared – proof was shown of his loyalty to Dumbledore – Snape disappeared. There were rumors that he went to South America or Albania or even as far as Asia. Obviously the rumors were only just that.
The uncomfortable silence in the room began to overwhelm her. Tonks was never good with silences – an admitted weakness - something Snape had known and was obviously using to his advantage.
She had to say something. Something to fill this horrible void. There was never a choice in the matter. Silences bothered her that much. They simply had to be broken.
This fear of silences started after Remus came back to her after Dumbledore's death. Every time a silence fell between them, Tonks always worried that Remus was thinking about leaving her again. So she would talk. About anything she could think of. Anything to break the silence.
Taking a breath, Tonks said, "You look like sh-"
"Why are you here?"
He was staring at her intensely, leaning an elbow on the arm of the chair and his chin resting lightly on his hand. Even after all this time there was an arrogance to him that thoroughly annoyed Tonks.
"I'd like to learn how to brew the Wolfsbane Potion."
"So you are the werewolf are still together, then." The words were a statement, not a question.
"What the fuck do you care?" Tonks snapped. "I'll pay you."
He waved his hand as if payment was no concern to him. "You don't have the skills."
"The hell I do, Snape," Tonks said, any patience she had gone. This was her one last hope for her and Remus. If she could just learn how to brew this bloody potion, everything would be perfect.
"If I say you don't," Snape's eyes lingered on her, making her quite uncomfortable, "you don't."
"I received an O on my N.E.W.T.," Tonks challenged.
"I am quite aware of that, Nymphadora. However, you have no patience, which is the most useful skill needed for that particular brew," Snape informed her.
"I can be patient," Tonks muttered under her breath.
"I beg to differ," Snape said casually, as if he didn't care that he was ruining all of her hopes.
"Look, Snape," Tonks said seriously. "Are you willing to teach me or not?"
"For a price," he said sardonically.
Tonks felt her eyes widen at the thought of what those words could mean. Yes, she wanted to learn how to make the potion, but she wouldn't do that. Never ever.
Snape looked at his hand with a bored expression on his face. "You always let your imagination run wild, don't you, Nymphadora?" A smirk formed, telling her that he clearly enjoyed her discomfort. "Galleons will do just fine for payment."
She wouldn't let him see how relieved he was to hear her say that. "How much then?"
He told her.
It took all of Tonks effort not to leave the cramped store at that moment. She could tell that he was gauging her reaction. Well, she certainly wouldn't give him one.
"When can we start?" Tonks said, her voice shaking slightly. The lessons would practically drain all of her savings. Savings that she had hoped to use for a down payment on a house. But it didn't matter. Brewing the potion for Remus was the only thing that mattered.
"Tomorrow. Seven o'clock."
She nodded and turned on her heels to leave the store. Just as she reached the door, he stopped her. "Nymphadora?"
Tonks turned and looked at him. "What?"
"Lateness will not be tolerated."
Tonks pushed back some hair that had fallen into her face behind her ear as she waited for Snape to open the door. She had told Remus that she had found someone to teach her the potion, but she couldn't bear to tell him who. There was enough bad blood between Remus and Snape already. No need to bring this into the mix.
The door opened and Tonks slipped inside. This was an awful time for her first lesson. Her mind was scattered everywhere and she just knew it was going to take a lot to get her to concentrate.
It was all the bloody Ministry's fault. It had to be today they announced that they were going to vote on a new decree, saying that it is illegal to harbor a Dark Creature. She had rushed home at lunch to talk to Remus about it, but he wasn't there.
And now, instead of being with Remus and trying to avoid discussing what this decree could mean to their relationship, she had to work with bloody Severus Snape.
"I'm in the back," he called out.
Tonks sighed and walked through the small hallway that led to a pristine potions laboratory. He was looking through a microscope when she entered. When Snape stood up, she was surprised to see that he had shaved as well as gotten a haircut.
"Your punctuality is appreciated, Nymphadora," he said, motioning towards a desk where a tome lay open.
She shifted uncomfortably. "You're welcome," Tonks replied. Searching for something else to say, she added, "How are you?"
"You wish to engage in small talk?" he asked, raising one eyebrow.
Tonks couldn't help it, she rolled her eyes. "Just answer the question."
"I believe the socially accepted answer is fine." Snape sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk. He looked at her with almost a stern expression on his face. "I assume you won't care if I don't respond in kind."
"Maybe I do," Tonks told him, not holding back her irritation. The man hadn't changed at all since the war ended. Not at all. "Why can't you ask me how I am?"
"Because that would make you believe that I have an interest in your person when I certainly have nothing of the sort."
"Fine. Be that way," Tonks said with a shrug. Though on the inside she was a bit annoyed. She was trying to make some sort of an effort. Would it kill him to have something half polite come out of his mouth? "Can we start now?"
Snape stared at her, a smirk settling on his lips. "Grammar, Nymphadora."
Her hands immediately went into fists. Trying to control her temper, she said, "I'm paying you to teach me a potion. Not to correct my grammar."
Snape was clearly enjoying himself. "Consider it an extra service. Now sit."
With a sigh, Tonks walked to the desk and sat down next to him, ignoring the fact that their legs brushed as she did.
"Shall we begin?" asked Snape in a bored voice.
Tonks nodded and the lesson started. However, instead of actually brewing anything, Snape's idea of a first lesson revolved around lecturing her on the different ingredients required and how they interacted together. She had to actually get out a piece of parchment and start taking notes, because Snape hinted that before she even showed her the recipe for the potion, she would be required to pass an oral exam. It was like she was back in the dungeons again!
Three hours later, Tonks thought she had a thorough understanding of the theory behind the potion. Her neck and upper back was stiff from leaning over the various books Snape showed her.
Finally Snape announced that they were finished for the evening. Tonks stood up immediately and rolled her shoulders, trying to loosen up. All she wanted was to go home and see if she couldn't convince Remus to give her a back rub.
"When shall you be here next?" asked Snape as he walked her to the door.
Tonks bit her lip, thinking of her schedule. She had evening patrols the next few nights. She could have lessons during the day, but she didn't want to take that time away from Remus. "Would Thursday work?"
"I believe I will be able to make the time in the middle of all of my long standing social arrangements."
It took her a moment to realise that he was being sarcastic. "I'll be by after work, then."
Snape nodded and Tonks went home to Remus.
Remus didn't ask how the lesson went and Tonks didn't tell him. There was so much that she'd like to tell him. Like what a bastard Snape still was or talking about the theory of the potion, which was half way interesting.
But there were just so many things in general that they couldn't talk about. She never spoke about work, because that would remind him that he didn't have a job himself. She refused to bring up her family, thinking of her parent's disapproval of her choice of Remus as a romantic partner. It left very little they could talk about.
Her next lesson seemed to sneak up on her quickly. Tonks was in absolutely no mindset to work on a potion. At her lunch, she went home to see Remus and he started an argument over the new decree that would be voted on in two weeks.
She had had trouble concentrating since. And now she had to pass Snape's bloody oral exam before he would actually teach her how to brew.
"When the Aconite is mixed with the powdered Moonstone, what is the direct result?"
Tonks closed her eyes tightly, trying to think of the answer. But the only thing she could think of was Remus saying that maybe she was better off without him this afternoon.
"I don't know," she said finally.
"You can leave now."
"You heard me, Nymphadora," Snape said matter-of-factly, crossing his arms over his chest. "That is the third question you have failed to answer correctly. The Wolfsbane Potion is one of the most dangerous potions in existence. If I teach you to brew in your current state, you will get us both killed. Now get out."
"I'm just having a bad day," Tonks pleaded. "Please, I'll concentrate now."
"What makes you think for a moment that I believe you?" Snape glared at her and Tonks found she couldn't meet his stare. He lifted his arm and pointed towards the door. "Out."
"Can I – May I come back tomorrow," Tonks said, near tears. "Please, Snape. I have to learn how to brew this potion." A few tears escaped and trickled down her check. Snape turned away, a look of disgust on his face. "Please."
"You will still be charged for today's lesson," Snape said, still not looking at her.
"That's fine," Tonks said, relief washing over her. "That's absolutely fine. I'll be perfect tomorrow. I'll know everything."
"That remains to be seen."
"Thank you, Snape. Thank you so much." Tonks gathered her notes quickly.
A/N - I'll post the next part in a week or so. Cheers!