Part Three of Breaking the Silence
The next few days passed Tonks in a fog. She hadn't been fired, so she assumed that she went to work on time and hadn't caused any problems. There had been a troubling moment when she was called into her superior's office to discuss her relationship with a Dark Creature. But she could honestly say that they had ended their relationship and she didn't have the slightest idea where he was. Tonks even offered to let them use Veritaserum. At that point, she was told that everything was business as usual.
About a week after Remus left her, Tonks stood on the doorway of Snape's shop. Her lesson was scheduled to start in five minutes. Half of her wanted to forget it, but the other half wanted to keep learning. What if Remus came back?
Tonks let herself inside and walked to the backroom, where Snape had already laid out the practice ingredients.
"And how are you?" Snape asked.
She looked at him angrily, remembering the cutting words he had spoken at their last meeting. "I thought that small talk was a waste of time?"
"It is. However, taking in recent events, it's imperative for me to know that you are in the correct mental state to brew this potion," Snape said in a bored voice.
Not able to help herself, Tonks rolled her eyes. "I'm fine. Thank you for asking."
"And how is the werewolf?"
She flinched. "None of your business," Tonks replied. Her words were flat, with no life in them.
Snape arched one eyebrow. "Could something have possibly happened to cause a disturbance to your hearth?"
Tonks looked at him angrily. "It's none of your business."
"So the Suzie Homemaker act doesn't work anymore," Snape drawled. "My, my, I am surprised. I would have thought that Lupin would be on his bended knee, thanking you for all that you've done-"
"Will you please shut up?" Tonks demanded. "Teach me to make the damned potion."
"Not much point in brewing it, is there, if the wolf has left the den?"
She felt tears stinging her eyes. The last thing she wanted was to cry in front of Snape. She wouldn't. She couldn't. Taking a deep breath to compose herself, Tonks said in a low voice, "I have paid you for your knowledge to teach me this potion. Obviously, as the potion didn't work, you have not upheld your end of our arrangement. You will teach me how to properly brew this potion."
An unpleasant smile settled on the Potions Master's lips. "Then let us begin," he said simply. Tonks might have imagined it, but there seemed to be a hint of respect behind those words.
Snape showed her ways to tighten up the brewing process, such as a flick of the wrist during one step or pausing – only momentarily – between stirs during another.
Then when she had a practice run, Tonks determinedly kept her mouth shut - not saying a single word - during those thirteen minutes of waiting. By the end of waiting period, she was tapping her foot nervously and needing to all but put her hand over her mouth to keep from talking. She hated the silence that much.
Snape certainly seemed to be amused by her behavior. She could see out of the corner of her eye that he kept glancing at her and occasionally shaking his head.
Finally the thirteen minutes were complete. When they were, Tonks was ready with the Lovage. The brewing went seamlessly. Snape even begrudgingly admitted that it was acceptable, high praise from him.
The next two weeks were spent assuring Molly and Kingsley that she was fine. Complete bollocks, but the last thing she wanted was sympathy. The first time Remus had left her, during the war, Tonks had clung onto that sympathy. She had let it wash over her.
But this time around that was the last thing she wanted. So she declined Molly's dinner invitations and Kingsley's offer for a butterbeer after work.
Surprisingly, Tonks found herself looking forward to her lessons with Snape. There, in the back room of his dimly lit store, was the last place where she would find any sympathy. Tonks rather suspected that Snape would laugh at her if she tried to illicit that type of response from him.
And that's what she wanted. A place where she couldn't think about Remus. Except for those thirteen minutes, Tonks had to spend the rest of the brewing process completely focused on the potion. It helped clear her head.
A week before the full moon, Tonks had another lesson scheduled. As she walked down Knockturn Alley, Tonks wondered why she really was continuing the lessons. Did she truly think that Remus was going to come back to her?
Did she even want Remus to come back now? The thought surprised her. Tonks realised that she was walking with a lighter step, like a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She had been waiting for Remus to leave her for so long that it was almost a relief that he was finally gone. She didn't have to wait any longer.
Then what was the point of learning how to brew the potion correctly?
It was more than Remus now, she decided. While she was a Hufflepuff, Tonks always thought she had a bit of Ravenclaw in her. Tonks wanted to learn to brew this potion. Wanted it more than anything now. It was one of the most complex potions in existence. She wanted to be able to tell people, "Wolfsbane Potion? Sure, I can brew that."
Tonks was ten minutes early and found Snape still setting up the work station. With real ingredients, not fake ones. There was no surprise on his face as she walked in. It was almost as if he expected her.
"Can I help?" she asked.
"Are you able to ask using proper grammar?" Snape replied, laying out the different stirrers that would be needed.
"I didn't want to help anyway," Tonks said with a flip of her hair, sitting down cross-legged on a stool.
Snape continued working, though Tonks did see him raise his eyebrows in surprise. He must not have expected that response. Good. Maybe she wanted the unexpected right now.
He indicated that it was time to start brewing. Tonks closed her eyes and focused only on the potion. Nothing else but the potion.
It worked, too. Clearing her mind allowed her not to think of Remus once. Until the thirteen minute break started.
She sat there, tapping her foot and drumming her fingers. Tonks wanted to speak. She just wanted to talk. It didn't have to be a serious discussion. Small talk. But Snape wouldn't be pleased if she started a conversation.
And then she realised what she was doing. Snape didn't want to make small talk during the thirteen minutes. Tonks did. She letting her own wants go to the wayside because she was trying to please him. Make him think better of her.
That was what she had done for years with Remus. When had she stopped being a woman who went after what she wanted? That's how Remus and she got together in the first place. She wanted him. He had resisted from the beginning, but she didn't back down because he was what she wanted.
And now look at her. She had become weak and accommodating. And almost lost herself completely.
No more. "So if you got a cat, what kind would you get?" Tonks asked.
Snape looked up between his curtains of hair. "I beg your pardon?"
"Last month you said you were thinking of getting a cat," Tonks said, leaning her elbows on the table and resting her chin on her hands. "What kind?"
"Why do you care?"
"Because, Snape," Tonks started, "there are twelve more minutes to kill before the next step of the potion and I feel like talking."
"I don't." He turned a page of the newspaper in front of him with a bit too much force.
She smiled impishly. Now that she started, it was going to take an army to stop her. "Then you'll just have to listen to me talk."
"Yes," Tonks nodded. "You must. I don't like cats all that much. I like dogs. I always wanted a plain Muggle poodle. I suggested it once to Remus-" Her heart clenched a bit saying his name. "-but he didn't think it would be very appropriate. Maybe I'll get a dog now that he's out of my life. Can't you just see it? Me having a poodle? Maybe I'll charm its fur pink to match my hair-"
"What was that?" asked Tonks.
"I would, naturally, want a black cat," Snape said begrudgingly.
"Wouldn't have it any other way," Tonks replied. She worked hard not to let her grin overtake her face. Somehow the thought of Snape with a black cat was just too perfect for words. "Kitten or a full grown cat?"
"Not a kitten," Snape said immediately. "I barely tolerated first years during my tenure at Hogwarts. I would probably strangle a kitten."
"Magical or Muggle?"
"Why does it matter, Nymphadora?" Snape said impatiently.
"I'm making the dreaded small talk, Snape. Answer the bloody question," Tonks laughed. She was feeling better than she had since the night after the full moon. How amazing that being in Snape's presence was actually a comfort to her.
"A Muggle cat." Snape paused and pointed his index finger at her. "So help me, if the next word out of your mouth is 'why?' you may leave right now."
"Duly noted. I won't ask why. May I ask if you'd like a male or female cat?" Tonks said, rolling her eyes inwardly once she realised she said 'may I' instead of 'can I.'
Snape seemed to realise that at the same time and looked almost pleased. "You may," he said magnanimously. "The answer is I honestly do not care."
Tonks glanced over at the hourglass nearby. The thirteen minutes were almost up. Standing up, Tonks rolled her shoulders and prepared herself for the rest of the potion.
By the end of the brew, Tonks was exhausted. As she watched Snape inspect the potion, she was chewing her nails nervously. She was almost as nervous as she had been when she took her Auror exams.
Snape placed the corked phial on the table and stared at her and said nothing.
It was obvious that he was waiting for her to break the silence. That was what she did after all. However, this silence she did not want to break. For some reason Tonks didn't quite understand, this didn't mind this silence.
So she kept quiet.
And this time it was Snape who was becoming uncomfortable. His gaze shifted from her to the workstation to his desk. Finally, he picked up the phial and handed it to her, their fingers brushing slightly.
"If I were grading this-" he started.
"Which you are," Tonks interrupted.
"Which I am," Snape continued. "This would have a grade of Outstanding."
Her eyes settled on the lumpy blue-grey contents of the phial. She had done it. She had learned to brew the Wolfsbane Potion.
"Are you planning to make a full batch this week?" asked Snape.
"I don't know," Tonks admitted. If she did, that would mean she would clinging to the hope that Remus would be coming back to her. If not…
Snape cleared his throat. "Whether you are or are not, you are welcome to continue to use this space to brew in the future."
Startled at the offer, Tonks looked up at him. "Thank you," she said softly, bringing her eyes back to the Wolfsbane Potion. She suddenly had the urge to be by herself at the moment.
"Have a good night, Snape," she said absently, still staring at the potion.
He said nothing as she left the store. The phial remained tightly in her hand as she Apparated to her flat.
The clock in the kitchen told her it was eleven fifty-five. If the Wolfsbane Potion was to be effective this full moon, it had to be drunk in the next five minutes.
The weight that had been lifted from her shoulders when Remus left her started pressing down again. Tonks shook her head. She didn't want this. She refused to live any longer wondering or hoping that Remus might come back into her life. No more.
With a determination that she hadn't felt since the war, Tonks walked to the kitchen sink, forcefully removing the cork from the phial and turned it upside down.
The liquid took a moment, but finally the potion started sliding down the phial and then into the sink, where it went slowly down the drain.
Tonks thought she might feel sadness or perhaps hopelessness watching the hard work go down the drain. It was, after all, a physical manifestation of her relationship with Remus. But she felt none of that.
It was liberating. Absolutely liberating. Tonks cleaned the phial with her wand and held it in her hand. She felt ready for a fresh start.
Holding a wicker basket, Tonks knocked on the door to Snape's store. There was no answer. She knocked again.
After a moment, the slit opened and she could feel his eyes on her. "I didn't expect to see you. What do you want?"
"No 'It's lovely to see you, Tonks' or 'how are you doing on this fine day?' I'm insulted," Tonks said with a laugh. "I think I'll take my business elsewhere."
"Open the bloody door and let me in," Tonks demanded.
The door opened and Tonks slid inside. It had only been a week since she had seen him, but already Snape looked a bit worse for wear. He clearly hadn't shaved since last she saw him and there were circles under his eyes.
"You didn't come to make any more Wolfsbane," he said in almost an accusing manner.
"I have absolutely no need for the Wolfsbane Potion," Tonks told him in a steady voice. "Though I'm glad I learned how to make it. I really am."
"Then why are you here?"
"You told me that I could use this space to brew, so I'm taking you up on the offer," Tonks said simply, switching the basket from one hand to the other.
Snape looked at the basket suspiciously. "What are you brewing?"
"I haven't thought about it," Tonks said cheekily. "Haven't made up my mind."
"Yet you're here to brew," Snape said, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"Exactly," Tonks smiled, bringing the basket up next to her chest. "I'll think of something to brew eventually."
He shifted. "What's in the basket?"
"I've got you a gift." Beaming, Tonks placed the basket on the desk. "Close your eyes."
"I'm not going to play ridiculous games, Nymphadora-"
"Close your bloody eyes or you don't get your gift."
Tonks watched in satisfaction as Snape followed her instructions and closed his eyes tightly. Convinced he wasn't peeking, Tonks lifted the lid of the basket and took out a slightly scared black cat she had found in a Muggle shelter.
The cat was female, so Tonks adorned her with a bright pink collar, one that she was certain that Snape would hate, which of course was the point.
"You can open your eyes," Tonks said excitedly.
He obeyed instantly and looked at the cat. "You got me a cat," he said in a surprised voice.
"I did." Tonks took a few steps forward and put the animal in Snape's arms. "Muggle black cat, just like you said. She's three and house trained."
Snape lifted the cat up and away from him. He and the cat stared at each other and for a moment, it was as if the two were judging the other, seeing if the other was worthy. They both must have passed inspection, because Snape brought the cat back in close and started gently stroking the fur on her neck.
"May I assume that you chose the garish collar?" Snape asked.
Silence settled over the room. It was a comfortable silence. A silence that Tonks didn't feel the need to break. So she sat down on one of the hard wooden chairs. Snape sat on the chair next to her.
Tonks reached out and petted the cat. Snape was doing the same and occasionally their fingers overlapped, but neither pulled their hand away. Meanwhile, the cat was clearly enjoying the attention and let out quite a loud meow, ending the silence that had gathered around them.
"Thank you," he said. "This was quite unexpected."
"You're welcome," Tonks said, smiling, pleased that he liked the cat.
"Does the animal have a name?"
"I was hoping that it had some horrible girly name like Fluffy or Ginger or Princess. But unfortunately it has a perfectly acceptable name," Tonks told him. She just accidently stroked Snape's hand instead of the cat but she wasn't embarrassed, not in the slightest.
"Are you planning on telling me, or will I have to keep referring to the animal as 'the cat?'"
"Shadow," Tonks told him.
"Shadow," he repeated slowly. "I believe that will do."
"I thought it worked."
"I'll have to get a new collar."
"I expected as much," Tonks sighed. "Can't say I didn't try."
Their fingers brushed again, and Snape asked, "Do you need to brew, or was that simply an excuse to bring over the cat?"
Tonks lifted her hands helplessly. "You found me out. I just wanted to give you the cat," she said sheepishly.
Snape coughed softly. "Friday evening, I had planned on working on a new potion I heard about. One that helps with the effects of the Cruciatus Curse. I hope to bring some improvements to the brewing process and could use an assistant."
Her breath hitched. She knew that in his convoluted way, he had just offered his friendship. What kind of friend would Snape make? She didn't have the slightest idea. Though she had no clue to what sort of friend she would be herself. In order to stay with Remus, she had chucked most of her friends. Would she even remember how to be a friend to someone?
"I'd like that," Tonks told him.
Snape nodded, a hint of a smile on his face, and walked to his desk. "Here are the instructions," he said, handing out the parchment.
Curious, Tonks took the parchment from him. The fourth line caught her eye. "Let the potion simmer for an hour?" she asked in surprise. "That's a long wait. I hope you realise that I'm going to have to ask you questions."
"I expected as much," Snape said with a sigh. "Or we could discuss topics of interest-"
"Small talk?" asked Tonks, arching an eyebrow.
"Perhaps a discussion more substantial then small talk, Nymphadora," Snape said with a hint of a sneer.
Remembering his words from their first Wolfsbane lesson, Tonks said with a smirk, "You'll display an interest in my person, perhaps?"
Raising an eyebrow, Snape said, "Perhaps."
"And perhaps I'll display an interest in your person as well."
"I've heard that often is the purpose of small talk."
Tonks grinned and petted Shadow again, who was now sleeping in Snape's arms. Another silence fell between them and again Tonks didn't feel uncomfortable. If anything, she was beginning to enjoy the silences that she shared with Snape.
It wasn't like those awful silences with Remus, when she was worried that a silence meant only one thing. That he was thinking of leaving her. That overwhelming dread of losing Remus had led to her fear of silences.
But that was a thing of the past now. Silences could remain without fear of the consequences. And after all, a silence could always be broken. If Tonks wanted to speak, she could speak. If she wanted to stay silent, that was an option as well.
Their fingers brushed once more and Tonks knew that the most important thing was that she knew she now had the choice.
She liked that.
A/N - Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story.