Author's Note: I wanted to write about Tonks as an Auror as well as her involvement with the Order of the Phoenix. After everything that's happened in DH, I got drawn into the world of OotP. Also, I wanted to write a story where Remus and Tonks aren't instantly attracted to each other, just good friends, and while this will become Remus/Tonks, we've got a long way to go before that happens. Much love to my brilliant beta Jo, who is a fantastic Brit-picker and an all-around wonderful person :)
Slowly Sharpen, Gently Fade
"I've come to the conclusion," Tonks whispers to the wizard sitting at the desk beside hers, "that in order to be an Auror, you also have to be a nutter."
Alan Quincy laughs and leans towards her. "Took you four years to learn that, did it?" he asks, raising his eyebrows at her. "Would have thought it was obvious from day one." He gestures with his head at her former supervisor, which merely serves to demonstrate her point. With a grin, she turns back to her desk.
It's been one week since the Tri-wizard Cup and Cedric Diggory's death, and one week since it was discovered that Barty Crouch Jr. didn't really die in Azkaban. It's also been one week since Alastor Moody – the real one – was admitted to St. Mungo's, five days since he was released, and two days since his last visit to their office (including weekends).
He's here once again, badgering Scrimegeour and calling for a thorough evaluation of Azkaban, the Auror Corps, and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, which he thinks are responsible for a decline in vigilance and accountability. It's created quite a stir in the office, but most Aurors are out these days looking for any evidence that You-Know-Who is – or isn't – active again.
Most, but not all: junior Aurors don't go out nearly as much as seniors, and are left to handle the paperwork. So unfair Tonks thinks as she writes up another case report about (what she assumes to be) another false lead. She's fidgety, stuck inside while Savage and Cantor, her partners, go and have another look at a possible connection between their suspect and the Dark Arts. Mostly what they've found is a lot of Muggle comic books and a Muggle device called the InterNet which allows Muggles to carry on conversations over long distances. They're not sure what any of it does, and not really sure that taking it down to Misuse of Muggle Artifacts will do any good.
"Fuck," she whispers, and to her right Quincy snickers. She takes a deep breath, smiles, and stands up.
"Good morning, Alastor, aren't you a ray of sunshine today?" she asks with a large smile on her face. For added effect, she turns her hair bright yellow, and she hears Quincy muffle his laughter with his hands.
Moody frowns. "Youth these days," he says, then gestures with his walking stick, which she distinctly remembers being confiscated for evidence one week ago (never underestimate Mad-Eye Moody…). "You're coming with me."
She shrugs her shoulders at Quincy, before she follows her mentor down the hall.
"Where are we going?" she asks, but the trip's not too far, just to Kingsley Shacklebolt's cubicle near the door. From every angle, pictures of the Notorious Murderer Sirius Black look down at her, and she has a feeling her hair is no longer bright yellow.
"Kingsley needs someone to help with paperwork," Moody says, gesturing to the large black man seated at his desk. Tonks can't help but roll her eyes, earning her a thump on the leg with Moody's cane.
"The job of an Auror is more than just chasing Dark Wizards," he tells her.
"I have a job," she says, "and it's back there." She points with her thumb towards her cubicle.
"Scrimgeour reassigned you to me temporarily," Shacklebolt says. "Just temporarily. I've been inundated with owls since the Tri-Wizard Cup and –"
She tries not to look too upset, but she does understand the position Shacklebolt is in. Unfortunately, it puts her in an entirely different position…
"Sit down," Moody says, pushing her into a nearby chair. He doesn't say goodbye, but instead goes off to chastise Quincy, who's been snickering behind his desk, forgetting about Moody's magic eye that can see through walls.
"Hello, Monday," she says, and Shacklebolt laughs. She looks at the desk, the parchment with notes and the map with glowing red pins. She tries not to look at pictures of Sirius.
"I don't have to answer any more questions, do I?" she asks quietly. Shacklebolt regards her for a moment.
"No," he says. "No more questions."
When Sirius Black escaped Azkaban, she was called in for questioning as a Ministry employee with a family connection. When Sirius Black escaped the uppermost tower of Hogwarts, Kingsley Shackebolt was given permission to administer Veritaserum to get her to talk – all under the watchful eye of Cornelius Fudge and Scrimgeour, who was irate that Fudge thought that a newly-commissioned Auror would do such a thing.
Of course, she said nothing except she vaguely remembered him and his motorbike and her mum stopped talking to him when she was five, maybe six, and that she's been taught never to speak his name in the household because, in the end, he really was an elitist pureblood wanker.
"Thank god," she says with a sigh, and Shacklebolt smiles.
"I just need you to go through these –" he gestures to an overflowing bin of parchment, "and make a list of all the complaints and sightings. Depending on how crazy things are today, I might have you cross-reference them with prior sightings and try to establish a pattern."
"Any specific categories?" she asks.
"Well – Name, Alleged Location of Sirius Black and the like."
With a wave of her wand, she levitates the bin and sends it towards her desk. "And what do I do afterwards?"
"They go in the archives," he tells her. "Thank you, Tonks."
"No problem," she says, waiting until she leaves his cubicle to roll her eyes. Quincy waits beside his desk, rubbing his head.
"Fuck Mondays," he says, and she smiles.
"Cheers," she replies, pulling out fresh parchment and a new quill. Fuck Mondays indeed.
It's not that hard, working for Shacklebolt, though Savage and Cantor are not happy she's got another task and so she's juggling both assignments. She's unhappy about the increase in work but there's nothing she can do, not with the Ministry in a state of chaos.
The Official Stance of the Ministry of Magic is that You-Know-Who was vanquished fourteen years ago and anyone saying he has returned is using fear as a base attempt to undermine the Ministry itself. They have taken to tarnishing the reputation of Harry Potter, the only known survivor of the Killing Curse and possible vanquisher of You-Know-Who, and none of it sits well with Tonks, but she keeps her head down and does her job.
"What do you make of all this about You-Know-Who?" she asks Shacklebolt quietly as she sorts the incoming letters (there's a fresh bin every day).
"Honestly?" he asks, raising an eyebrow, "I'm not sure."
The Official Stance of the Auror Department, and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as a whole, is that there will always be those who favor the Dark Arts and it is up to the Aurors to capture them, You-Know-Who included.
There are those who follow the Ministry, and those who find their allegiance lies a bit closer to their department. Tonks isn't comfortable with picking a side – she's such a Hufflepuff – but she knows that day will come, and until then, she will do nothing but wait.
The benefit to being such a Hufflepuff is that a good number of her classmates have entry-level Ministry jobs, sorting owl-post or answering letters or something of that sort. She's the only Auror of the group – the only Auror out of any Hogwarts classes for several years, actually – and despite her schedule, she does her best to meet at the Leaky for an after-work drink now and again.
It's her turn for the round, so she heads to the bar to flag Tom down and bumps into a surprisingly tall man with red hair and a ridiculous fang earring. It takes her a moment to recognize him, earring and all, then she hits his arm.
"Bill Weasley!" she says, and he smiles, recognizing her immediately (it's rather hard to forget a Metamorphmagus).
"Nymphadora Tonks," he says with a smile. "Heard you're an Auror now."
"So the robes say," she says. The drinks have given her courage to be flirtatious with him, and she likes that power. "Saw your family in the Prophet a few years back, winning that vacation – what have you been up to?"
Bill smiles easily, and her breath catches. "Been working in Egypt, breaking curses and the like. Came back to work at Gringotts."
Tom drops off some drinks, which Bill pays for. Tonks places her order, and then glances in the direction Bill is facing.
"Is that Fleur Delacour?" she asks, feeling a bit less flirtatious and completely ordinary with a half-Veela French Triwizard Champion in the room. The look in Bill's eyes as he looks at Delacour is unmistakable: he definitely fancies her.
"Yeah," he says. "She works at Gringotts now. Wanted to go to a real British pub."
Tonks can't help but laugh. She hardly thinks of the Leaky as authentic, but she supposes things are a bit different in France.
"Well, enjoy your evening," she says, turning back towards the bar.
"Hey," Bill says. "Charlie'll be around for the Canons match against Puddlemore. We're thinking of meeting up here to watch the match."
Charlie Weasley was the only Gryffindor in N.E.W.T. Potions, and she still remembers the day he put his cauldron down next to hers (he knocked over her carefully-placed ingredients, a feat she managed to avoid that day). He still sends her Christmas owls. It would be good to see him again.
"Still rooting for the underdogs, Weasley?" she asks with a smile. Bill winks at her.
"You know our lot," he says. "I'll owl you."
"Ta," she responds, collecting her round of drinks. As she heads back to her table, she thinks about how good it would be to see an old friend, especially in such uncertain times.
With each passing day, the letters about Sirius seem more and more ridiculous. Her list is five rolls of parchment long, full of sightings by wizards and Muggles alike and she writes them down with diligent efficiency like a good Auror should.
"Do you honestly believe these?" she asks Shacklebolt as he scans her latest list. She feels sorry for him, always running about the country on these ridiculous leads.
"Honestly?" he says, eyebrows raised. "I'm not sure he was even guilty."
Her jaw drops, just a little, because she's shocked. She's been raised to believe that Sirius Black is a lying, guilty, pureblood bastard and to hear anything else – inside the Ministry no less – seems almost ridiculous.
"Whatcha mean?" she asks, hesitantly. Kingsley leans forward.
"Just that some days, it all feels dodgy – like none of it adds up."
She has nothing to say, so he adds "Don't tell anyone."
"They'd all think you're batshit crazy anyway," she tells him.
That night, she makes herself some tea and thinks about Sirius Black. There are photo albums missing pictures and she can tell they probably featured Black, or maybe the Potters, but she's not sure since her mum doesn't talk about the war. As for Black, she's never heard any evidence specifically against his ability to blow up Muggle streets, but she's read the dossier. Gryffindor at Hogwarts, trouble-maker, best man at the Potter wedding. She's seen eyewitness testimonials, shown to all Aurors when Black escaped Azkaban. Everyone, from Albus Dumbledore to people who barely knew him, stated frankly that they never saw it coming, he seemed so loyal to James and Lily Potter.
What if – what if Black never killed anyone, or what if he wasn't a Death Eater? What if all these reports are fakes, engineered by Black to keep himself safe or by someone who knows the truth, to throw them off the scent? What if everything the Ministry said was a lie?
The implication of that last thought chills her to her core, and she takes a sip of tea, pondering the probability of it all.
Charlie Weasley claps a large hand on her shoulder and gives her a friendly shake. "Told you, Tonks, the Cannons are long overdue for this."
She wants to drown in her pint; thankfully, countless others across the Leaky look like they do too.
While it's great to see Charlie – it's been too long since they talked – she doesn't like the current circumstances. It had seemed too easy – a bet for Puddlemore, against the Cannons, excellent odds.
And then the Cannon's new Chaser scored two in a row, and it was Five Galleons lost.
"Fucking Cannons," she says, frowning as the worst team in the League continues to dominate what should have been a total sweep. Beside her the Weasley brothers shout in triumph as the Cannons score yet again, and she takes a gulp of her drink, deciding she needs another.
"Anyone else?" she asks, holding up her near-empty glass, and no one's paying attention, not even Fleur Delacour, who is hanging on Bill Weasley's arm while he explains the history of the Cannons to her. With a sigh, she finishes the dregs of her pint and heads to the bar.
On her way, she sees a flurry of movement out the corner of her eye, unusual because the Cannons aren't in scoring position again, and everyone is watching the small, magical figures above the bar with rapt attention. What catches her eye is the sudden duck and swerve of a man, dressed sloppily in old clothes with a thatch of ginger hair. He makes another sudden movement, and she sees his hand dip in and out of the pocket of a witch's robe.
She places her glass on the bar, and, reaching for her wand in her pocket, decides she'll have a go at the wanker (sure, this might be the way to vent frustration at losing money, but she is fine with that).
She makes her way towards him, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible – until she trips over some wizard's staff and the thief sees her. And somehow recognizes that she's a copper (or maybe he's just paranoid). And takes off.
The chase is quick; once outside, a well timed Immobilus prevents him from moving, and she's about to inflict some law and order when Charlie exits the pub.
"I thought you were off duty," he says to her, but she shrugs.
"Caught this one stealing," she says, at which case the little bastard cries out, "WAS NOT!"
"I saw you!" she says.
"Ain't go no proof," he tells her, and, frustrated, she takes out her wand and taps his wrists. A pair of handcuffs materialize, binding his arms. Then, with another wave of her wand, the pilfered items trickle out of him in droves: gold, silver, and bronze coins, a necklace, some shoelaces, and an expensive pocket-watch.
"You've got to be kidding me," she says, as she conjures a sack to collect the stolen items. When she glances up at the thief, he's staring at her, slack-jawed.
"Ow'd you learn that?" he asks, and she rolls her eyes.
"Right, then," Charlie says. "I'll head back in."
"Be back in a bit," she responds.
Of course, catching a thief on game day means that no one's on duty when she brings the little bastard in. All the trainees who had been assigned a shift have obviously skived off, so she's left with an old witch manning the registry who, she knows, cannot handle this thieving little shit on her own.
And so she books him. And sets bail. And waits, hoping someone will come and claim him, or one of the trainees will return so she can yell at them for being slack arses and leaving their posts in the middle of a shift (she does love scaring the wee ones, now that she has a shiny badge).
Thankfully, the wireless works so she's able to hear the rest of the game, but with distractions.
"Shouldn't have brought me in 'ere, love, could be out there-"
"Shut it if you know what's good for you!" she threatens after at least the tenth smart remark in a quarter of an hour. "I'm the one who's still got their wand!"
"Got a bigger n' betta one," is the response.
"Not for much longer!"
Someone coughs, and she turned to see a tall man with limp hair standing in the doorway.
"I believe you have something of mine," he says. She frowns. He gestures towards the jail cell, where Mundungus Fletcher (what sort of name is that?) peers out.
"Allo, Moony," he says. The man waves back.
"You honestly want to claim him?" she asks.
"Unfortunately, the obligation has fallen onto me, as everyone else is watching the game of the century and I already lost my bet," he says, reaching into his back pocket.
"Same here - bloody Cannons," she says.
"Well, actually I bet that a certain thief wouldn't get into trouble tonight and I really should have learned not to bet against a sure thing," he tells her with a sad smile.
She smiles in return, opening the records book. She sets a quill on top of it. "State your name and purpose for the records, please."
He reaches for the quill but it jumps up, alarmed.
"Automated," she says. "Just say your name out loud."
"Remus John Lupin, here to post bail for Mundungus Fletcher," the man says clearly. The quill scribbles away, but under his name it writes something in parentheses: (Lycanthrope)
"Oh," she says. She was not expecting that.
"Sorry," he apologizes suddenly. "You probably don't get much opportunity to meet – "
"No, not really," she says, quickly trying to appease him and think of ways not to potentially offend him. "Sometimes we get some in here for misdemeanors, but it's not like we know until we look at the books." She gestures to the large book in front of her, feeling so awkward. What was she supposed to say? Aurors are trained in the ways to subdue and – if need be – kill a werewolf, but never how to maintain proper communication with them. The way the Ministry trains them, she forgets they're even human until she meets this Lupin bloke.
"I see," he says, taking out several Galleons. "This enough to cover it?"
"Yeah, though he's really not worth a sickle, if even that much," she says.
"I 'eard that!" the petty thief cries.
"Well," she says, gesturing with her wand and opening the bars of Fletcher's cell, "I hope both of you learned your lesson."
"My lesson?" Lupin asks.
"Never bet against the odds," she tells him. She turns to Fletcher. "And never fuck with an off-duty Auror during a Quidditch match."
Fletcher looks like he's about to say something, but one glance from his companion silences him, so he mock-bows and shuffles out the door.
"Goodnight," the other man says, and she smiles.
On her way back to the Leaky, she realizes that she's met her first werewolf. She's never really been for or against them, just a bit scared, as they're dark creatures and renowned for being almost impossible to defeat, but now that she's met one, she feels sad more than anything else. The fellow who came to pick up Fletcher looked like the sorriest man that ever lived, and when she returns to the bright, cheerful atmosphere of the pub, his sadness seems to linger on her skin even though they never touched.