The gang of noisy Gryffindors clattering down the main staircase nearly went flying over the lone figure huddled on the bottom step.
"Tonks! What the hell d'you want to sit there for? I nearly broke my neck then!" complained the tall black boy who was leading the group.
"Not my fault if you can't be bothered to look where you're going, is it?" Tonks retorted. "You've got eyes in your head, Bishop."
Her adversary looked as though he might argue the point further, but he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. "You lot go on in," Charlie Weasley commanded. "I'll catch you up."
There was a snigger from a boy at the back of the group. "Sure you will, Weasley. We all know you're sweet on our Nymphadora."
"Don't call me that!" from Tonks and "Watch it, Harvey!" from Charlie came simultaneously, but had the desired effect. The other boys shrugged and moved on into the Great Hall, leaving Charlie standing beside Tonks, who was still hunched up on the stairs.
"What's up, Dorie?" he asked lightly, sitting down beside her in a companionable manner, and taking in her dull brown hair, dark eyes and disgruntled expression at a glance. "Aren't you going in to the feast?"
Tonks shook her head. "I don't like Hallowe'en."
"What?" Charlie looked at her uncomprehendingly. "You're a witch. How can you not like Hallowe'en?"
"You're a Pureblood, Charlie. You wouldn't understand," Tonks said, scowling. "Go on in and leave me alone, for Godric's sake."
It was tempting. Charlie thought longingly of the food on the groaning tables in the Great Hall. For a Weasley to miss a meal of any kind – let alone a feast – went against the grain. But Tonks was his friend, and she was unhappy.
"Try me," he told her. "And for Merlin's sake, do something to your hair. You don't look like you with brown hair."
She scowled at him, but then screwed up her face, and her hair changed from messy brown to long, sleek and black. Her face went so pale that it was nearly white, and her eyes were black. "Better?" she asked grudgingly.
He frowned. "Not a lot, but it'll do." His tone softened. "What's up, Dorie?"
She half smiled. "No one except you calls me that any more. Even Bill calls me Tonks now."
Charlie smiled too. "I like to be different. And it suits you. But don't change the subject. Tell me what's wrong."
"I don't like Hallowe'en."
"So you said. Why ever not?"
Tonks sighed, and avoided his eyes. "Well… You know my Dad's Muggle-born?"
"Yeah. So what?"
"His family were really religious. Not just going to church at Christmas religious, but really religious. Swallowing the whole Bible hook, line and sinker as the inspired word of God." She looked up and regarded Charlie quizzically. "You do know what I'm talking about? You were in the Muggle studies lessons when we did religions."
He nodded. "Yeah. I remember. Vaguely at least."
Tonks frowned. "You never pay proper attention to anything except Care of Magical Creatures do you? Well, I guess 'vaguely' will have to do, if that's the best you can manage." She shook her long hair back from her face, looking frustrated. "Anyway, Dad's family had real problems coming to terms with him being a wizard. As far as they were concerned, anything to do with magic was evil by definition. There's even a bit in the Bible saying it's okay – more than okay, good – to kill witches."
Charlie gave a low whistle. "Wow. I can imagine that might cause problems when you find out your son's a wizard."
Tonks grimaced. "Yeah, it did. But they came to terms with it in the end. They could see that there was something different about Dad, and – to do them credit – they didn't reject it – or him – out of hand. I think they had to modify some of their beliefs a lot, but they came to realise magic and evil weren't necessarily the same thing." She sighed. "I don't remember them at all; I wish I did. They were quite old when Dad was born, and they died when I was just a baby."
Charlie frowned. "So what has all that got to do with you not liking Hallowe'en?"
Tonks sighed and leaned back against the wall, her eyes closed. "Dad's got a few hang-ups because of his upbringing," she said quietly. "I guess that was inevitable. I mean, he couldn't just stop believing what he'd been brought up to believe when he found out he was a wizard. One of his hang-ups is that he hates – I mean really really hates– Hallowe'en. He says that Muggles just see it as all the worst things in magic – wicked witches, evil black cats, scary ghosts and ghouls, demons and devils. Nothing positive at all. He can't see Hallowe'en as something to celebrate, even though the magic world doesn't see it the same way, obviously. So we never did. And I guess he passed his hang-ups onto me." She opened her eyes and looked at Charlie challengingly. "You can say it if you want. I'm weird."
Charlie grinned, and put his arm companionably around her shoulders. "Dorie," he said mock-seriously. "You're weird." His tone lightened. "But then, I've known that for years. What about your Mum? Didn't she want to celebrate Hallowe'en?"
Tonks snorted. "Oh, you know my Mum. She might not talk to her family any more, but she's just as influenced by the way she was brought up as Dad is. As far as the Blacks are concerned, Hallowe'en is an excuse for a nice Pureblood ball or party. Terribly civilised. Posh food. No jokes or pumpkin lanterns. Unless she could have that – and clearly she can't now – she's as happy to ignore Hallowe'en as Dad is."
Charlie frowned. "Poor you. You missed out on all the fun. We have the best Hallowe'en parties at home."
"We did Bonfire Night instead. That's pretty cool."
"What the hell's Bonfire Night?" Charlie enquired.
"It's a Muggle thing. Something to do with someone trying to blow up the Muggle parliament in sixteen hundred and something, though no one really bothers about that now. 'Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot…' We have a bonfire, and fireworks and sausages and baked potatoes and toffee apples and popcorn and treacle toffee. It's fun."
"Sounds it," Charlie said, trying not to think of the feast he was missing right now. "But seriously, Dorie, just 'cause your Mum and Dad have hang-ups isn't a reason to miss one of the best nights of the year at school."
Tonks sighed. "I guess not. And I'm making you miss it too."
"You're not making me. I just don't like to see you miserable."
Tonks smiled properly at last. "You're too nice, Charlie."
"Don't be an idiot, Dorie. But for Godric's sake, come and have something to eat. I'm starving."
Tonks laughed out loud, and let him pull her to her feet, even giggling as he flicked his wand and changed her Hufflepuff tie into the scarlet and gold of Gryffindor.
"Change your hair," he ordered. "You can be an honorary Weasley for the night. Then you don't have to worry about what your Mum and Dad do or don't think of Hallowe'en."
Tonks screwed up her face and turned her hair a red as bright as Charlie's own, then let herself be led into the Hall to a seat at the Gryffindor table between Charlie and Bill, who raised his eyebrows at the sight of her, but said nothing, merely moving up on the bench to make room. Charlie was already loading her plate – as well as his own – with sausages and potatoes.
Tonks realised she was hungry.
A/N This was written for the Hallowe'en Challenge, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" at the Reviews Lounge Forum, and will also be posted as part of that collaboration.
Tonks' reference to Muggles seeing Hallowe'en only as the worst side of magic might seem odd to Americans, or even younger Brits. But in 1987, when Tonks and Charlie were coming up to fifteen, and when this story is set, trick or treating was simply a weird American custom that hadn't made it to these shores yet. Dressing up and general jollity were certainly not a common feature of Muggle Hallowe'ens then.