DISCLAIMER: Anything you recognise belongs to JKR.
Written for the Milestone competition on HPFC.
The first thing Tonks noticed when entering the dingy kitchen was the sudden burst of laughter from the far corner. The four men fell about, one slapping the table enthusiastically while he howled with mirth, another choking on a poorly timed mouthful of his drink. The third just shook his head sadly while he patted the choker's back while the fourth, who had apparently told the joke tossed his hair and gave a bark-like laugh that resonated in her childhood memories.
As their host rose from his seat to welcome them in she clenched her wand-hand tight to restrain the urge to arrest him. Every day since his escape two years prior she had dreamed of being the one to bring him down. Her last year in training had been spent assisting senior Aurors collect and collate all information on Sirius Orion Black, trying to be one step ahead.
Many of those she had been working for had been quite abrupt with their view that she, as a relative of their quarry, should be kept far away from the whole thing but since their only other trainee was three months in and useless their grumbles never came to anything. In the end it was how she and Kingsley had become friends; he didn't automatically assume her Black blood made her a security risk. If anything he suggested that her prior knowledge of their quarry could come in handy and that she might just spot a pattern or see through a disguise where the others would fail.
She had tried questioning her mum, albeit subtly, with little success. Mum had never really believed that her cousin who she trusted to babysit her only child on numerous occasions had actually been an evil maniac. Even with all the evidence, the eye-witness testimonies and the direct murder of one of his school friends she refused to fully believe his guilt. Andromeda Tonks was also a superb Slytherin, which made subtle prying of anything like pulling teeth. As it had turned out, her mum was right.
She wondered if it was that doubt, along with the unsuccessfully repressed memories of piggy-back rides, gobstone Quidditch and a trip on a flying motorcycle that she kept her promise never to tell about that had helped her see the truth. Working closely with Kingsley even after she was qualified, they began to see holes in the story. Two of the muggle witnesses claimed they saw Pettigrew cast a spell first and one dusty report included a muggle child's testimony that he had magically turned into a rat and run away. All of these had been dutifully filed under Questionable Reliability and the muggles memories wiped. Two days later there had been the commotion at Hogwarts when Black was caught and subsequently escaped, with his number one target proclaiming his innocence.
Dawlish and Scrimgeour had told her directly how much bollocks that was, and even Robards and Schuyler who were usually fairly open-minded started giving her suspicious looks when she asked the question. Kingsley had stayed silent on the matter and she mentally raged at him for a week before he took her aside to a meeting with one of their trainers, old retired Mad-Eye.
He had told them everything that he knew about Black from the first war in his usual abrupt manner. He had also mentioned the werewolf professor who had once been amongst Black's best friends and the story he, and three children including Harry Potter were now telling. It hadn't taken long to fill in the gaps, which was why she was now walking into this kitchen.
Sirius stopped just out of arms reach and stared at her, then drew her into a bear-hug like she remembered from her childhood. When they broke apart he was still wide-eyed, and turned back to the occupied corner with a grin.
"Do you believe it Moony? Little Tonks all grown up!"
The sandy-brown haired man who had been trying to help Charlie Weasley's brother breathe again did a double take as he looked back up at her. She remembered him too, she realised, though the lines of his face had not been so sharp, his hair less gray, his eyes less sad. He had been at Sirius's place when she stayed over the weekend while her parents went away. There had been a third man too, though all she could remember was that he was small. They had taught her to play cards and gobstone Quidditch, and it had been one of the most fun weekends she had ever had.
The man rose from his seat, and hesitantly offered his hand.
"You probably don't remember me. Remus Lupin."
The werewolf! The voice in her mind made the connection, and she hesitated momentarily. Then again, she was a shapeshifter too, she knew what it was like to be judged. She grinned back and took the offered hand.