Author's note

I've been cleaning out my hard drive and came across an unfinished fanfiction entitled "Tea and Toast". It was written several years ago after the publication of Order of the Phoenix (either in '03 or early '04) and reflects how I saw the characters in question at that time (my view of the characters has changed slightly since then due to publication of the last two books in the series). The fanfiction is unfinished and will remain that way, as its main premise was sort of made redundant by later canon, however I thought that some might enjoy this little snippet of it.

Also, please hold off on the criticism of this one; it was written six years ago, and I'm already aware of most of it's flaws. I found reading it back very slightly cringy myself. I just thought some of you might enjoy reading.

Disclaimer

Without permission these characters I take,
But from them no money do I make.
So Rowling, and Warner Bros, and all you fine folk:
Please don't sue me, 'cause I'm stony broke.

Tea and Toast

***

CRASH!

The table shattered into thousands of tiny shards as the spell hit it. Another spell, missing its intended target, struck the wall, dissipating into a fizzle of blue sparks which formed strange patterns on the faded wallpaper.

A young woman dodged another curse, before firing off a retaliation at her opponent. It missed, instead striking a clock which burst open and began to cuckoo, but there was no time to look at that: more curses were raining down and it was all she could do to avoid being hit. Almost without thinking, she aimed several hexes and curses back across the other side of the room. One bounced around wildly, leaving behind a purple trail of light; another hit her opponent. It seemed to do little good; he recovered quickly and sent such a barrage of curses her way that she was forced to conjure a shield.

A well placed curse smashed the shield with an ugly splintering sound. Red light engulfed the woman. She crumpled ungracefully to the floor and lay still. Little trails of glowing sparks ran over her skin.

Wheezing slightly, Alastor Moody lowered his wand. Tucking it safely into his robes, he crossed the room. After checking over the limp form of Nymphadora Tonks, he got out his wand and muttered "enervate". Groaning, she came around.

"Why do all our duelling sessions seem to end like this?" asked Tonks, ruefully.

"You nearly got me that time" replied Moody happily. "Next session will be on following up advantages and identifying and using your opponent's weaknesses."

"Save that for tomorrow, I think" replied Tonks, getting to her feet and swaying slightly. "You can teach me that curse, too," she added as an afterthought.

Moody gruffly agreed. Then he repaired the table and the cuckoo clock, and followed Tonks out the door.

***

In the kitchen of No. 12, Grimmauld Place, Molly Weasley and Remus Lupin were drinking tea. A small cauldron of something was simmering over the fireplace. A comfortable quiet filled the room; both were too filled with worries to talk. The brass clock resting on the heavy oaken mantelpiece read five past midnight.

The quiet was broken by the arrival of Moody and Tonks, the latter of whom unsteadily crossed the room and sprawled into a chair. Mrs Weasley bustled over and started fussing over her, checking her forehead and asking questions.

"Would you like some achebegone potion?" asked Mrs Weasley. "The boys all swear there's nothing like it for fixing them up after they've bashed themselves around playing quidditch."

"The boys also swear there's nothing like the taste of it," replied Tonks, lips quirking into a grin. "The best description they could come up with was a mixture of rotten eggs, compost and wet dog."

Mrs Weasley looked suddenly devious. "Well, I had to make sure they didn't take it too often. This batch should taste fine". She ladled out some of the potion into a goblet and handed it to Tonks.

Somewhat cautiously, Tonks took a sip. Her face brightened. "Hey, this is good!" she exclaimed, cradling the goblet with both hands.

Across the table, Remus mirrored the gesture with his mug of tea. His face had grown tauter in the fortnight since Sirius had passed through the veil, but he steadily held himself together, determined not to be a burden on anyone. He was solid, dependable, and soul-weary.

He occasionally interjected a comment as Moody and Tonks discussed the finer points of duelling, the latter becoming steadily more drowsy as she drank her way though the potion. Finally, she stretched and yawned massively.

"Well, I'm off to bed now" she said. "Night, Molly, Remus, Alastor. And thanks for the potion, Molly".

Molly looked concerned. "Are you alright to get up all those stairs, dear?" she asked.

"Oh, I expect I'll be fine" replied Tonks, wobbling slightly.

"Perhaps I'd better walk you up" broke in Remus unexpectedly. "I should be getting to bed myself in any case".

It was difficult to tell if Tonks thought this was a good idea or was just too tired to argue, but she simply said "Ok, thanks" and left the room, accompanied by Remus.

***

Number 12, Grimmauld Place, was an old, tall house. It had six floors. The basement housed the kitchen and scullery. The ground floor and first floor consisted mostly of high ceilinged reception rooms: the parlour, dining room, breakfast room, drawing room and even a small ballroom. The family bedrooms and bathrooms were on the second floor. The third and fourth floors made up what had once been the servants quarters, and it was on the fourth floor that Tonks had a bedroom. Leading to it were an awful lot of stairs.

Tonks slowly made her way up the first couple of flights of stairs, Remus walking along beside her, considering. She was making little effort to hide her exhaustion – in addition to hard work and little sleep the potion was having a drowsing effect.

"You're wearing yourself out" Remus stated.

Tonks looked at him quizzically.

"You don't have to do all this," he tried to explain, "it wasn't your fault".

They reached the first floor landing, stopped and faced one another.

"I know it wasn't my fault," Tonks said carefully. "I didn't kill him. But the fact remains; if I hadn't lost, if I had fought better…" she trailed off.

Remus gripped her shoulders. "You did everything anyone could have expected, and more. You risked your life. You were fighting a witch of twice your age and twice your experience. You are already exceptional."

Tonks seemed to sag slightly. "But it wasn't enough. Without Dumbledore we would have lost. As it was…" her voice trailed off again and she shut her eyes. A tear leaked out from under a closed lid.

Awkwardly, Remus pulled her into a hug. She accepted the comfort readily. Remus rested his chin on her head, allowing himself to enjoy the human contact. They stood like that for a while, each drawing strength from the other.

When they broke apart and continued on upstairs, it was Tonks' turn to speak. "You've made sacrifices too" she said gently. "Don't think noone's noticed. And thank you."

He smiled slightly. Her acknowledgement of his quiet suffering meant a lot to him. It was uncanny how she understood him sometimes.

She stumbled, and he reflexively wrapped an arm around her waist, preventing it from falling.

"Thanks," she said.

By the time they reached the top of the final flight of stairs, she was leaning heavily on him.

"Thanks," she said again.

"No problem," he replied. "You need to rest. You push yourself hard."

"Yeah, well isn't that what we're about?" asked Tonks, "Defeat Voldemort or die trying."

Remus' mind recoiled from the thought of her dying. "Don't do that" he chided her softly. "I would miss you".

"I'll try not to" she promised, giving him a loose hug. Then she stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. The unexpectedly intimate contact surprised him, and he was tempted to press a kiss to her forehead, but years of habitual restraint held him back, and the moment passed.

"I'll wait out here while you change" he offered.

She agreed and went into her room, closing the door behind her. A short while later she called out "OK, all decent now". He went in. It seemed she had managed to sort herself out with no mishaps. She was in bed, covers pulled up to her armpits, robes untidily strewn across the floor. He moved around the small room, folding the robes neatly and placing them on a chair. Tonks watched him.

"You're really special, you know" she said suddenly. "The way you never stop caring for people". She reached for his hand and took it. "Love you," she added sleepily.

Remus' chest seemed to constrict. Did she really just say what he thought she did? And did she mean it like that? He looked at her. She was out like a light. A moment's observation convinced him she was really asleep. He lingered a little longer, then, giving in to his earlier impulse, he lent over and brushed his lips across her forehead, then turned and left.