"I'm sure she's fine."
Remus stopped short and glanced at Sirius sharply where the other man slouched against the wall with his arms folded, before immediately resuming his pacing over the dusty floorboards, scraping his fingers through his thin hair frantically.
It was irrational. It was pathetic. But he could not help worrying. Tonks had told Sirius she would be back at Grimmauld Place by 6am, as she had promised Dumbledore she would stay in the Department of Mysteries until Kingsley replaced her at 5.30am. It was now 8 o'clock in the morning – he and Sirius had both intermittently stayed up for the whole night, in order to give Harry his hourly dosage of Gunhilda potion – and there was no sign or word from her whatsoever.
"But surely she would have sent word if she knew she was going to be late?" he asked for the third time. "If I know Tonks, she would never leave us waiting anxiously."
Sirius shrugged. "Maybe she went home," he suggested, and his slightly carefree manner annoyed Remus.
"You forget she lived with her parents," said Remus impatiently. "It was only just burned down, remember?"
"But she does have a life," Sirius pointed out. "You know, she could be in the Aurors' office – she was at the Ministry anyway and…"
"If it was Harry," Remus interrupted lowly, "you would worry. Wouldn't you?"
His friend looked taken aback, then, and he bit his lip and half-glanced to the closed bedroom door along the corridor that was his godson's. Sirius loved Harry and always envisioned the worst possible scenarios when something was out of place. Remus… he cared about Tonks a great deal and felt extremely protective of the young woman. These days, he did feel attached to her almost physically.
"Yes, yes I would."
Sighing sharply, it occurred to Remus that there was somebody else who would probably always know what was going on more than they ever did.
"I think I'll contact Dumbledore!" he told Sirius rashly, moving to the staircase. "He'll want to know how Harry is anyway."
By seven o'clock that evening, however, Tonks still had not shown up, and even Sirius was becoming anxious. You always had to be anxious when one of your friends was late and they were an enemy of Lord Voldemort's. But eleven hours, to Sirius, was more than tardiness; it was reason to start considering that something bad and unexpected may have occurred.
Remus was out of his mind with fright and worry. At one point he had been physically shaking and he had not sat down, eaten or drank for the day's entirety. It was not difficult to understand. Nobody knew where Tonks was, not even Dumbledore who was also at this minute trying to discover her whereabouts. They had sent her two messages, the second one demanding to know if she was all right, in patronus form which had not been answered. Kingsley had reported nothing out of the ordinary. The other auror had relieved her from her watch quite normally—Tonks had been fine—and she had said nothing of where she was going or what she was planning to do upon leaving the Ministry building. It was currently a mystery.
"Sirius," Harry said weakly, interrupting his thoughts, "what's wrong?"
Sirius snapped out of his reverie to find that Harry was awake, and staring at him curiously. He was sat in the chair he had conjured besides Harry's bed and had been lost in his thoughts for a long length of time that he could not place. Undoubtedly, some of what he was thinking had showed on his face. He forced a smile and leaned forwards. It was positive that Harry was conscious and well enough to have located his glasses for himself.
"Nothing, Harry. Are you all right?"
As he nodded and smiled, Sirius was glad to see that he appeared majorly healthier than he had the previous day. The potion was working. Although somewhat loathe to admit it, Snape's potion skills were well adept and the finished brewed result had allowed the vomiting, at least, to cease, and Sirius was sure that the greenish tinge behind the pustules on Harry's face had diminished a little. They were also continuing to give Harry the antidote of the Fever Fudge to keep his fever down, and were regularly making him drink goblets of water to maintain his hydration.
"I feel ok," Harry said, stretching out his arms and examining the rash. "Everywhere's still stinging, though."
Nodding, Sirius reached out and brushed Harry's fringe away gently to observe the rash on his forehead, as it was worse on his face.
"I think you're definitely on the mend," he agreed contentedly. "The potion's taken effect sooner than I thought it would."
"Good," Harry sighed in relief, rubbing the rash on his arm with the palm of his hand and pulling an uncomfortable face.
"To be honest, I think the fever was what was causing you to be sick. Merlin bless Fred and George! I knew they were into making these joke products, but not that they were capable of this standard of magic."
"You've probably only seen the half of it," Harry grinned. "Even Hermione has been amazed. They're going to have an impressive shop one day."
Sirius frowned. At Hogwarts, and even for a few memorable years after their graduation before their lives had become too darkly ensnared in the war against Voldemort and definitely before Harry had been born, he and James had spent countless hours researching and experimenting in most areas of magic that were taught and also never mentioned at school. They had never aimed to create joke products but had occasionally ventured along similar creative routes. It was partially how he and his best friend had become so talented, knowledgeable and successful with everything. Of course, they had never once considered touching the Dark Arts. Nevertheless, Lily, who had been an easy-going person once she had settled in a relationship with James, had never often approved of their antics, as sometimes the experimenting and even mere curious fooling around had been dangerous.
Was this the responsible adult emerging in Sirius Black, worrying about his godson's teenage wizard friends whose strict mother was his cousin? The success of these Skiving Snackboxes proved that Fred and George knew what they were doing; of course they were fine. Creation didn't exist without experimentation. But, then, Sirius did wonder…
"How on earth are they buying their supplies?" he questioned Harry, puzzled. "Where are they getting their money from?"
The Weasleys' were not exactly the wealthiest family around. Certainly Molly and Arthur didn't provide their children with an extensive amount of wizarding gold, and the twins were still at school, unemployed. Both Sirius and James had owned their own private Gringrotts' accounts at their age. Sirius had obtained a certain amount of wealth from his family, despite his lifelong distaste at this, and James, especially, had never been out of pocket due to his parents' richness. A lot of the time the pair had nicked supplies from the Hogwarts' store cupboards but they had also needed to order specific products, sometimes. And these products had never exactly been what one would call cheap.
To Sirius' surprise, Harry had turned a faint pink colour. It was probably only noticeable because of his current very pallid features. He narrowed his eyes.
"Go on," he encouraged, smirking, "what's the secret? Are they somehow managing to bypass the fifth principle exception to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration?" He paused and joked, "It wouldn't surprise me after seeing these amazing Skiving Snackboxes."
Harry's eyes snapped up to meet Sirius' and his black eyebrows were raised questioningly and a little amusedly, his green eyes bemused.
"Law of Elemental Transfiguration," Sirius repeated slightly impatiently, thinking that this was common knowledge for someone who had attended school for four full years. "You know… the law with exceptions that prevent us from materialising objects out of thin air?"
"Glad you spoke in English at the end, there," Harry said, sarcastic, a smile twisting at the corner of his mouth. "You sounded like Hermione—and I've never said that about anyone before!"
"Trust me, I'm not a Hermione," he said lowly and seriously, grinning nonetheless. "So come on, anyway, where are the twins getting their experiment funds from?"
Harry shrugged and smiled. "Me," he said simply.
Taken aback, Sirius stared for a moment.
"Harry," he began steadily, "that's your dad's money—"
"Well, really it's mine now."
"And you may need it one day," he said seriously, again surprised at how easily the responsible guardian appeared, but then he shook his head. "Not that you'd ever be short when I'm around, or even if I wasn't."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"The money I gave them didn't come from Gringrott's," he revealed, "so you can relax. I gave them the Triwizard Tournament winnings."
Sirius couldn't help it – he beamed at his godson.
"You're too generous," he commented fondly, "you know that, don't you?"
"Says the man who bought me a Firebolt when he didn't even know me!" reminded Harry, smiling back. "Besides," he added, sobering slightly, "I didn't want that money – the reminder that came with it was too painful."
Nodding, Sirius was still saddened at the effect that Cedric Diggory's murder had taken on Harry. It was mentioned by him quite frequently and without him even realising, making it blatantly obvious that the recent memory played on his mind a great deal. Sirius remembered the numbness and isolation everyone had been forced to adapt towards the deaths of people they had known, the first time around whilst fighting Voldemort. There was no choice but to detach yourself, or the grief would have consumed. He also remembered that the first death he had ever witnessed had been the worst, and was still the freshest in his mind, besides the deaths of James and Lily, of course. Anger suddenly coursed through him as he remembered that the death of Cedric Diggory, causing Harry this grief, was Peter's work, as his dearest friends' deaths had been. The treachery burned inside him constantly like the fiercest of fires.
Pulling himself away from his thoughts and trying to ignore the anger and the hurt, Sirius nodded.
"Well, at least the money's gone to a good cause," he pointed out. "We could all do with a good laugh, these days."
"Sirius," Harry ventured and he looked sheepish. "Do you think… that maybe I could have something to eat?"
Surprised, Sirius grinned and clapped his godson on the shoulder.
"Of course," he said, rising from his seat, "I'll go and get you something. Are you sure you're feeling all right enough for that?"
"Yeah, I mean, I don't feel back to normal, still ill… but definitely hungry."
As he reached the door, though, Harry spoke again.
"I might even be able to join them at the Burrow, before Hogwarts, at this rate."
Sirius halted with his hand on the doorframe, not knowing how to react, knowing that Harry had not meant to intentionally cause that pang of hurt in his chest but also unable to ignore it. Stung, he hovered and turned back around without looking Harry in the eye and forced a smile that probably reflected the slight sadness that had overcome him at such a statement.
"Don't count your dragons before they've hatched, Harry," he said quietly, and smiled again before leaving for the kitchen.
It was understandable that he would prefer to be at The Burrow rather than here with his godfather. This musty, dark, creepy house was deeply unattractive and unappealing in comparison to the light and comfort of the Weasleys' quirky house, which at least provided the opportunity to be outside in the orchards for a bit of fresh air. Harry was like him, in some ways; he hated being cooped up indoors for any length of time. And of course he wanted to be with his best friends. Isn't that what he had constantly done at Harry's age? But, then, Sirius had not had that one person who had cared about him like he cared about Harry; he had loathed his family, so much that he had preferred to often think that he simply did not have one.
Harry did have family now—him. But frequently Sirius had to remind himself that he could never replace James and Lily even in terms of a guardian—not that he wanted to replace them exactly. Perhaps Harry did not want somebody to the extent of effort that Sirius felt he was putting into their relationship. Perhaps he was nice to have there, but in moderation, or only when he was really needed, like for instance because Harry had been ill and required care. Maybe he wasn't as important to Harry as Harry was to him.
As the doubts crept up into Sirius' mind, they also forced a thickness into his throat and a tingly pain in his chest as they devastated him. Harry was so important to Sirius, it was unbelievable. He was all he really had, or ever had, after Azkaban. The feeling that his godson may not want to spend time with him, or only see this place as somewhere to stay and not somewhere to see him, was almost painful. Lost in his thoughts and his sinking mood, Sirius did not even notice that somebody was sat at the kitchen table when he entered the dim room, or that the candles along the walls had already been lit.
Sirius gasped and jumped out of his skin. Whirling around, he found that Tonks was sat there, smiling as she cupped a large mug of something that he realised smelled horrible and caused his stomach to somersault. But it might have done that already as the combined feeling of relief and anger rose up in his chest like an eruption.
"You absolute idiot, Tonks!" he cursed loudly, striding around the table and grabbing her shoulder roughly. She was still wearing a travelling cloak. "Where the hell have you been? Everyone's been worried sick about you! Remus…"
Tonks raised her eyebrows which were currently bright green, and would have suited her well if it were not for the black rings that encircled her tired, bloodshot eyes.
"It's not really any business of Remus' where and how I spend my day off," she said coolly. "Nor does he want to make it his business."
Shaking his head in disbelief, Sirius pushed her away none-too-gently, causing the black, hot liquid to lap over the edges of the mug onto her fingers. She yelped as he collapsed into the chair next to her.
"How can you be so selfish?" he growled. "Dumbledore's been looking for you, everyone has been on edge all day, thinking the worst has happened!"
Sucking her burnt fingers, she scowled deeply at him.
"I've already spoken to Dumbledore," she said accusingly after a heated moment. "And I didn't really have time to contact anyone. I haven't received your messages. I've been in Romania."
He stared at her. That explained why she hadn't answered with her own patronus; messages in such a form were restricted somewhat to the sender's country.
"Romania?" he repeated doubtfully.
"Yes, actually. My mum and dad are hiding there, aren't they? They had to fly there in muggle style 'cause obviously dad can't apparate, so it's not like they can nip back to see me. I've been with them all day."
"And I suppose you obtained a license on a whim, did you?" he asked suspiciously.
Legally, you required a separate wizarding license in order to apparate across the seas, and usually the Ministry would pick up on the transportation if one did not exist, but Tonks shrugged nonchalantly despite this.
"I'm an Auror—we all have permanent licenses."
"I see. I just hope this wasn't on purpose to get to Remus," Sirius said accusingly, still mad with her. "You've half made him ill with worry, you know."
Again, she merely shrugged, but looked thoroughly depressed. He exhaled angrily and stood up again.
"In fact," he announced, fractiously, "I'm going to go and tell him you're safe and put his mind at ease! Unless of course you feel you should do it yourself?"
"No," she said very quietly, her head dropping as she stared into the nearly-empty contents of her mug.
Sirius even hoped that she felt guilty. Fair enough, he could understand her point of view that she held no ties to Remus and therefore it may not be his business whereabouts she was. But even so, it was horrible to place that fear in somebody's mind. And in his opinion, if they were all in the Order and the times were becoming as dark as they were, it should be everybody's business where everybody was and what they were doing. How else were they to know they were safe?
"Sirius," Tonks called timidly as he left the room.
He sighed and stepped backwards, but did not look at her.
Whether it was the mention of Harry, or the maternal care present in her voice, he didn't know, but he felt his own features soften as some of the anger subsided.
"He's better," he answered quietly, "much better. The potion's really working."
"That's good," she mumbled, nodding. It sounded like there was a lump in her throat.
"Tonks," Sirius implored, "please, please, don't let us worry like that again. Just… always tell us where you are."
The response was almost automatic and he realised that her thoughts weren't entirely focussed on his words. It wasn't difficult to guess, and likely be correct, about where her thoughts did lie, however, considering the expression on her face which could easily cause anybody's heart to sink with anguish.
"Remus isn't the only one who cares," he muttered after a pause, watching her for a moment, before leaving her completely alone in the kitchen and heading to his friend's room to spread the glorious relief.
Wow, that took a long time. And to think I was hoping to have started my next story by now! Just wanted to say: thank you again for the reviews! I really appreciate the time it takes you to comment.