A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Harry Potter" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
Tonks struggled feverishly against the ties that held her. The conjured bonds were too strong to be broken by sheer strength alone but she refused to give up her fight even if it meant rubbing her skin raw and bloody.
Death Eaters were near, she did not know how many had gathered together because an odd buzzing had filled her head and deafened her to their voices, but she knew they had not abandoned her to solitude. They would show themselves soon enough. A cold chill spread up her spine and froze the blood in her veins. It would only take one to perform an Unforgivable Curse and kill her, she wanted desperately to know how many would be required to torture her into giving up the Order’s membership – surely, considering their ways, no more than a single Death Eater would be needed. She did not think she could handle a room full of mortal enemies with quite the aplomb she would like.
She had been captured by her own aunt. How many family members, Tonks wondered, did Bellatrix intend to personally murder? One, two, a dozen? Was Sirius’ death not fulfilling enough for her appetite that she felt compelled to destroy her niece as well? Would her sister Andromeda, Tonks’ own mother, be next to find herself on the wrong end of Bellatrix’ wand?
As if she could read her thoughts, the door on the far wall of the dungeon opened and Bellatrix entered the chamber – her eyes sparkling with anticipation and an evil smile twitching on her lips.
“Nymphadora, my dear niece,” she crooned in mock sweetness. “How do you fare?”
Tonks clamped her jaw tightly shut lest her tongue betray her and she glared stonily at the vile woman. Images of Bellatrix’ past victims tripped unbidden through her head – Sirius, the Longbottoms, the others who had been tortured and murdered. She squeezed her jaw tighter against the rising bile in the back of her throat.
Bellatrix’ eyes nearly glowed in her eagerness. “So the clumsy little mouse has discovered she has a spine. This should prove to be a delightful challenge. Tell me, Nymphadora, just how low has the Ministry sunk that they have allowed someone such as yourself to be an auror?”
Tonks let the taunt slide and kept her eyes locked on her aunt. She had already tried a good dozen hexes and curses during the woman’s greeting but Tonks doubted they would have had any effect even had she been able to utter them aloud. She had been unable to successfully perform an accio charm on a stick of straw, something she generally hardly had to concentrate to do, prior to Bellatrix’ entrance.
“No answer, hmm… Perhaps we should have a go at loosening your uncommonly silent tongue.” She smiled as she withdrew her wand from her robes.
Tonks closed her eyes and deafened her ears to Bellatrix’ words. She had no desire to know which dark curse her aunt might choose. Instead, she forced her thoughts to pinpoint on Remus – the last time she saw him. Remus’ gentle smile when she opened her eyes from dream-filled sleep, his fine slender fingers as they laced with her own, his soft voice against her hair as he held her close. She could almost feel his touch, his soft breath, when her nerves exploded into white-hot agony.
It might have lasted a millennium for all Tonks was able to comprehend – the excruciating pain that defined her existence. When it ended, just as suddenly as it had begun, she struggled to draw a haggard breath before the pain returned. And begin anew it did. Bellatrix allowed her no mercies, tormenting her endlessly and without any sense of rhythm. The pauses between pain were sometimes mere seconds, sometimes long stretches that allowed Tonks’ breathing to slow and her tears to begin to dry. The pacing was based on Bellatrix’ own wavering humor.
“You’ll kill her before she can be of any use to you.”
Tonks recognized the voice, the icy tone, but she could not lift her head or even pry open an eye to see who else had entered the dungeon. She only hoped whoever it was would complete the task Bellatrix was dragging out interminably.
“Not kill,” Bellatrix hummed lazily.
“Torment to insanity, then. It will be just as useless.”
Tonks let the words sift through her head. She was certain they had meanings, meanings she once understood. But now, just sounds. Familiar sounds. Cold sounds. It hurt her head to try to understand and so she allowed the sounds to slide away.
“Now, now, dearie,” Bellatrix crooned. “None of that. Mustn’t leave the party before the cake’s served.”
Tonks felt a tingling sensation dancing along her skin and braced for a new method of torment. Rather than the lancing pain she was almost becoming accustomed to, the tingle seemed to ease her pains. She panicked. This was impossible – nothing in her aurors’ training had prepared her for a tormentor who tortured her only to heal her so that, presumably, they could begin the tortures anew.
“Nymphadora, open your eyes and see who else has come to play.”
Tonks squeezed her eyes shut even more tightly. She did not want to know who had raised her aunt’s spirits even higher than they had already been.
“Do you really want me to make you open those eyes, Nymphadora?”
Cold fingers gripped her hand and slowly extended her index finger, pulling it back further and further until Tonks willed her eyes to open lest the digit snap. Her acquiescence seemed to pass Bellatrix’ notice however and she heard the pop of tendons and bone echo in the room. She struggled to contain the gasp of shock as pain radiated up the length of her arm.
Just beyond Bellatrix in the dim room stood another, a man. His robes were black and made him seem huge to Tonks from her crouched position on the floor. He was silent but there was something familiar about him. His stance niggled at the edges of her mind that were not rebelling against the pain in her hand.
“Enough, Bellatrix,” he commanded coldly.
Her hand fell lifelessly to the floor with a dull thud and Tonks’ eyes widened in recognition. Severus Snape sneered down at her along the expanse of his nose, a scornful twist to his thin lips. She wondered fleetingly if she had changed so much through her aunt’s ministrations that he did not recognize her. She knew her previously short pink hair was long and lank, most likely the mousy brown that she so despised. It hung over her face in damp locks and stuck uncomfortably to her cheeks.
Perhaps he had not caught Bellatrix’ use of her given name. Surely he would find some method of rescue for her, a fellow member of the Order. Hope faded with the further understanding that Snape was a spy, he could not threaten his position just to save her. He was far too important an asset.
“Go ahead then, worm your way into her brain, Severus. You always were quite good with leglimens. But leave her body for me,” Bellatrix cooed. “I’ve a great deal of interest in testing the endurance of a metamorphmagus.” She glided past him to the door before calling sweetly over her shoulder, “I’ll return for you soon, my dear niece.”
“Your appetite will wait until the Dark Lord has his answers, Bellatrix. No matter how long that might take.”
Tonks shrank back from Snape’s icy promise although she valiantly tried to keep her fear quelled. She shivered involuntarily at the sound of the slamming door as Bellatrix departed angrily. The trembling would not stop as Snape stalked toward her with a chill glint in his eyes.
“No, no, no…” Tonks struggled back against her chains and struck the back of her head hard against the wall. Her injured hand she let drag against the rough stone of the floor as she used her uninjured one to press against the unrelenting bindings. The scene was not concocted for show, she knew Snape’s abilities, knew he would need to be convincing. She feared how far he would feel the need to go before he would be convinced he was not in danger of being found out.
“You’ll do yourself harm if you continue to scrabble along the floor in such a way,” he noted in clipped cold detachment. He crossed the room in a flurry of billowing robes and crouched down beside her. “I will endeavor to do you little more harm than you have endured already, Miss Tonks, but you must assist me by offering your cooperation.” Snape peered at her through his greasy hair as it fell in front of his face. “However I cannot make the same promises on behalf of your aunt.”
He directed his wand at her injured hand for a moment and frowned. “My talents fall short of medi-wizardry. Your injury will have to wait until you are free of this place. I would take care not to exacerbate the wound any more than necessary, were I in your position.”
A thin shiver raced through Tonks’ body. She kept her eyes on her would-be savior as he fidgeted with his wand, but regardless of his repeated attempts, the chains that held her would not surrender their captive – even to Snape’s ministrations.
“I supposed as much,” he muttered darkly. “You have, in your aunt, a cruel and vindictive enemy. She will not risk the loss of her prize.”
Tonks sucked in a heavy breath and tried to calm her racing pulse.
“Give her the time to adjust to her victory. She will become careless – eventually.” He pulled his robes closer around his body and eyed her jeans and t-shirt with disdain. “Are you adept at occlumency?”
“I’ve trained, but – ” Tonks’ whispered admission was cut short by a commotion at the door.
Snape was standing by the time the dungeon was again breeched and he faced Bellatrix and another man. The man was short and pudgy with fat ruddy jowls and thick dark whiskers along his jaw and he shifted restlessly from foot to foot. Tonks wondered vaguely if he was excited or nervous.
“Ferris wishes to witness the interrogation,” Bellatrix explained in a bored tone.
Snape wavered but for a fraction of a second. “Are you trained in leglimens then, Ferris? Perhaps you would rather suffer this duty and save me sullying my thoughts with those of the young woman in question.”
“No, no.” Ferris’ voice was high-pitched and excited. “I’ve perfected a method that will allow me to see what you do. A way to piggy-back leglimens, if you will.” He rubbed his meaty hands together in odious glee. “Tends to be quite uncomfortable for the person being leglimensed, painful even, but that’s of no import in circumstances such as these of course.”
“Of course,” Snape agreed icily with a slow bow of his head.
Tonks’ shivering increased. Snape she could trust, however unwillingly, to traipse about through her head without truly attempting to destroy the Order and hand victory to Voldemort on a gleaming silver platter. But this new twist threatened to force Snape’s hand. Her thoughts were so wrapped up around that one point that she failed to notice Bellatrix brush past Snape and kneel at her side. Tonks stifled a cry as Bellatrix’ knee pinned her injured hand to the ground but she could not keep the tears from springing to her eyes.
“Just wait, my pretty child. Once Severus is through with you, I’ve devised unpleasantries beyond even your wildest imaginings.”
A fire crackled and danced cheerily in the hearth and a platter of Molly’s most tempting biscuits sat atop the table. The fire was meant to warm him, yet he shivered. The sweets to temp him , but they remained untouched by his hand. He buried his face in his hands and tried to will the creeping panic far enough away that he might be able to concentrate on the meeting that was going on around him. It had taken Molly but a moment to discern from Remus’ face what had occurred when he had appeared at the door to the burrow mere hours before and the Order had gathered immediately upon hearing of Tonks’ inexplicable disappearance.
“She’s an auror, Remus. Surely if anyone can withstand their tactics, it’s her.” Molly placed a hand on his arm. “Please try to eat something. She’ll be worried when she returns to us if she discovers you haven’t taken care of yourself.”
He knew Molly was right. He could almost hear Tonks’ own admonition in his ears. Tuck in, Remus. Molly’s biscuits are better than anything you can buy at Honeydukes.
He listened to Moody’s suggestions of where the Deatheaters might have hidden their lost member. Moody’s list was added onto by Elphias Dodge and Hestia Jones. The longer they all sat at the table, the more the list grew. So many places for the Deatheaters to have hidden her, but it was Remus’ own imagination that slowly worked to finish him off – so many torments to wreck havoc with her small body.
“She won’t give into them,” Bill said solemnly. “She won’t break.”
“She’ll try not to,” Emmeline conceded. “She may not have any choice in the matter. It just depends on what techniques they choose to utilize.”
Remus decided at once that he did not care for Emmeline. He could feel Molly’s had patting his arm again.
“We’ll find her, Remus.” It was Moody who spoke and Remus wondered how much Tonks might have let slip to the craggy auror of their fledgling relationship. “We’ll find her.”
“Yes,” Remus agreed. “And hopefully in one piece.”
Moody nodded in agreement and clomped out of the kitchen.Remus lifted the piece of parchment that had his list of places to look into. The biscuits and dinner could wait until he had checked off at least a few of the locations.
She thought it might be a full moon night - she thought it might be nighttime. It was hard to be sure. She had no way of knowing how long she had been held. The dungeon had no windows or even any chinks between the bricks that might allow in a sliver of sunlight. She thought it might be night but she had thought a great many things since her capture that had proven to be fallacious. She was quickly learning not to trust her instincts.
She yearned to be home or at least at number twelve Grimmauld Place, to be anywhere else. She dreamed of being home, of seeing Remus. It happened so many times that even in her dreams she sought to reassure herself that it was truly him – it never was. He would morph into Bellatrix or Severus or even the werewolf and shatter her hopes.
The Deatheaters were breaking her, slowly but surely, and she knew it. Her only remaining hope was that she could hold out long enough against their torture tactics that she could take the secrets they sought with her to her grave. It became her brightest wish.
Severus had been her one comfort, though she was loathe to admit it even silently. His constant presence during the tortures inflicted by Bellatrix had given Tonks a tangible focal point. She could not betray him any more than she could betray Remus or Harry or any of the others.
She had worried that Severus would not be able to protect his own involvement in the Order during the leglimens and the Deatheater Ferris’ interference but somehow he had managed it. Tonks had no delusions that her own pathetic attempts to keep him from those thoughts would have been at all successful had he truly been seeking information and not just playing at it.
“Shall we proceed?” Ferris continued to rub his hands together and licked his lips greedily.
Bellatrix smirked. “Yes, do begin. I’m anxious to see for myself the little wretch’s response.”
“As you wish,” Snape conceded. He crouched down before Tonks, careful to avoid her injured hand but covering it with his robes when Bellatrix moved in to observe more closely, and placed his cool fingers against her fevered skin.
For her part, Tonks worked to clear her mind of all thoughts. It had been an impossibly long time since her last occlumency lesson and even then she had been a miserable failure at the practice. She had been so inefficient in fact that her instructor had suggested she merely sacrifice her life should an enemy’s threat of leglimens risk exposure of anything more significant than her current grocery list.
She watched as Ferris placed his hands over Snape’s and braced herself for the two of them to stomp their way through her mind. She could not stifle the cry that tore from her throat at the first tug on her thoughts. Frantically she strove to shove her strongest memories to the fore – things that had nothing to do with the Order of the Phoenix or Snape’s involvement. She struggled to send out any memories that would be able to throw Snape off his quest.
She relived the death of a fellow auror, a man who had trained alongside her, as he was caught in a vicious tug of war between two Dementors the previous winter. She had never shared the experience with anyone, much less let on that she felt wholly responsible for his death. She had watched helplessly while she urged her patronus to fight off the Dementor who had attacked heart that same time. Next was the memory of having been locked in a cupboard with a Boggart. She had been only twelve years old and had wandered away from her mother in Diagon Alley only to be waylaid by two of her cousins who despised her Muggle father and her own “muddied blood”. She had remained trapped for hours before she had been found.
Her worst memories continued to flood through her thoughts one after another until Snape shook off Ferris and pulled away from her. His eyes were unreadable through her tears and she quickly looked away. She drew in a ragged breath and tried to push away both the physical and emotional pain. At least, she thought, the Order was still protected.
From that first day onward, Severus appeared with Bellatrix each time she entered the dungeon. His presence unnerved and irritated her aunt. No matter what the time, seconds after Bellatrix softly closed the dungeon door, Snape would slip through it. Tonks imagined he was there to protect his own interests but it did not matter – at least she was not left alone with her aunt.
She huddled against the wall and curled her body in on itself as much as she was able. With any luck Bellatrix would remain away for a good deal longer and she would be able to rest. The Dark Lord had summoned Tonks’ aunt and it had been then that Tonks had discovered Voldemort was unaware of her abduction. He had no idea Bellatrix had snatched her and hidden her away to torment the information out of her and claim the glory of presenting it to Voldemort for herself. She wondered what Bellatrix’ punishment would be for not being able to obtain the information he desired, especially from a “clumsy little mouse”.
Their search had proved fruitless. Three days of drudging through the underbelly of England, reaching out in desperation onto the continent, using spells and good old fashioned searching and they had nothing to show for their efforts. Three days of not knowing what had befallen the missing auror.
Snape was their one hope that all was well, or at least as well as anyone could expect it to be. Snape, in those same three days, had neither returned to headquarters nor sent word of his whereabouts. Surely, they decided, he was keeping watch over Tonks and was far too busy to secret them a message. Either that, or he too had been captured.
The voices in the kitchen at number twelve were hushed. Remus wondered if it was out of deference to his current state or if everyone had simply grown tired of setting of Mrs. Black’s screeching. He paused at the door, not wanting to intrude.
The longer Tonks’ absence, the lower her chances of survival became. He understood that, they all did. Each progressive day, the other Order members would cast him worried glances when they thought he would not notice them. Only Molly was honest in her dealings with him – her eyes had become perpetually red and teary.
Waiting one more moment, Remus broached the warmth of the kitchen. There were only four people at the table and he was glad of it. The rest, it seemed, must have already departed for their morning jobs. Molly and Arthur, Moody, and Bill sat huddled at the far end of the table, their heads bent together and their voices too low for Remus to clearly differentiate from one another.
“Oh, Remus!” Molly cried when she did finally look up.
He was taken aback. He could not decide if Molly was upset or excited. The lack of clarity worried him and he decided that whichever it proved to be, he would do better if he were off his feet when he heard it.
“Can you stand?”
Tonks lifted her head slowly, unsure that she was actually awake and not dreaming. She forced her eyes open and stared blearily at Severus through the slits allowed by her bruised and swollen eyelids. “Stand?” she croaked hoarsely.
He crossed the room and knelt at her side, his wand pointing toward the tethered end of her chains. “Bombarda!” Tonks was showered in rock shards and crumbling mortar before she could do more than cringe.
“Severus?” Her voice was not improving with use, she realized – she had spent too much of the previous days screaming.
He eased the chains up from the ground. “These will have to be removed once you are free of this place. But we must make haste, the Dark Lord has called Bellatrix and Ferris away for an extended mission but I would not trust Bellatrix not to slip back and check on her favorite victim.” He took her arm and tried to pull her to her feet but stopped when she cried out in pain.
“Lumos!” he demanded. With cold detachment he studied her hands and arms in the light cast by his wand. Four more of her fingers had joined the fate of the first one and were swollen and discolored. The rest of her visible skin was mottled by dark angry bruises and he thought he might have felt the bones in her forearm move unnaturally beneath his hand. He turned his attention to her face and tried to block out the sound of her shallow breathing, certainly her ribs had sustained significant damage. While he had been able to prevent Bellatrix from killing Tonks, his presence had not kept the woman from doing her niece grievous harm.
“Can you stand?” he repeated.
Tears eased down her cheeks even as she nodded. “I can try.”
“I will assist you if need be,” he said slowly but rose and stepped back to allow her the attempt on her own. He kept hold of the chains for fear that their weight would prove too much for her weakened body. “Once we have departed this place I can aparate us away but we cannot do so from within these walls. Your aunt is very thorough.”
Tonks nodded and with exaggerated care managed to gain her feet. When she swayed, Severus’ arm snaked around her waist and prevented her from falling to a heap on the floor. She managed to shuffle halfway across the room before her strength gave out andhe lifted her from her feet. He carried her through a maze of corridors and rooms and she was surprised by his gentleness. She had never expected him to possess such caring. It was her last thought before the black oblivion that had been niggling at her consciousness finally flooded in and claimed her as its own.
Once outdoors, Severus Snape glanced down at his unconscious burden and studied her by the light of the quarter moon. He had been unnerved by the lightness of her body when he gathered her in his arms, almost as disturbed as he had been upon taking a good look at her face in the dungeon. Had he not already been assured of her identity, he would never have recognized her beneath the abuse she had suffered.
As the days of Tonks’ capture had progressed, Bellatrix had used fewer and fewer healing spells. She preferred to heap injuries upon one another until her prisoner was nothing remotely similar to her former self. The worst Tonks looked, the happier Bellatrix became until she was nearly manic with joy. Snape had no question about Tonks’ chances of survival should she remain under Bellatrix’ care.
He was grudgingly impressed with Tonks’ endurance, she had never broken, not truly. There had been a point at which he had almost wished the woman had offered up some tidbit of information just so she might have gained a modicum of relief, no matter how fleeting. But the truth of it was that she had fared far better than he would ever have suspected.
She needed St. Mungo’s. But as much as she desperately required healing, she needed to be among the people who loved her and whom she loved. Repeatedly, under Bellatrix’ ministrations, she had called out for Remus to help her, to save her. Severus doubted Tonks had even been aware of it at the time, she had been out of her mind with agony, but he knew Bellatrix would deduce which Remus her niece had pleaded for. It was only a matter of time before the werewolf became a target himself. Tonks deserved to see Lupin at the very least, as a measure of reward for her bravery before he was found and taken in himself.
He tightened his hold on her, deafening his ears to the muffled sob she made against his chest, and aparated to Grimmauld Place. He had sent word earlier in the day that the Order was to prepare for Tonks’ return – he just had not gone into details.
“Remus, Severus is bringing her home to us.” Molly mopped inefficiently at her eyes with a damp handkerchief. She passed him the scrap of parchment that had appeared at the Burrow just that afternoon.
“Knew he had to know where she was,” Moody grumbled. “Took his time telling us though, didn’t he.”
Remus accepted the paper and read the words – twice.
“Constant vigilance,” Remus said at last, crumpling the note in his hand. “He most likely could not get a message through to us sooner without risking exposure.”
His heart pounded in his chest. Tonks was coming back. He did not miss, however, the lack of news of her condition. The possibilities loomed hugely in a void of information.
The slamming of the manor’s front door jolted them all and awoke Mrs. Black.
“Filth! A disgrace on the house of Black! Disgusting mudblood traitor!”
Remus nearly felled his chair in his haste to rise. They all fled the room in a rush and without a word.
“Nymphadora?” Remus’ feet would not carry him any further once his eyes had taken in Snape and his charge.
“It’s her,” Severus said in a strangled voice. “She requires assistance I cannot provide.” He crossed to Remus and deposited Tonks in the stunned man’s arms. “Moody, a break in must be staged.” In a sweep of robes Severus had left again, the cool night breeze swirling in through the opened door as Moody moved to follow.
“I’ll contact Minerva,” Molly said in hushed tones.
Remus wondered at her whispering. After all, Mrs. Black’s screechings continued to reverberate through the house and if any amount of noise was liable to rouse Tonks it was the yelling emanating from the painting.
With Molly gone, he was left in the entry room with Arthur and Bill but he could not tear his eyes from the woman draped in his arms. Her hair was back to mousy brown – it was the first coherent thought he could fumble together. He dared not try to inspect the rest of her before he was able to deposit her in a bed. He feared that the reality of her condition would surpass even his nightmares. Certainly, the heavy chains weighing against his forearm would insinuate as much.
“Come along, Remus,” Arthur coaxed softly. “We’ll settle her in her room above stairs.”
“Yes,” Remus choked out at last.
“Can you manage it?” Bill asked not unkindly.
Remus glanced quickly at Bill, knowing the other man was imagining Fleur in Tonks’ place, and nodded.
Bill accepted his wordless reply and turned on his heel. “I’ll check in on Mum then. She’s been so worried about Tonks, and now…”
Yes, Remus thought, now they all had more reason than ever to worry.
Arthur had moved toward the stairs and Remus followed numbly all the way to Tonks’ room. It was just as she had left it – bed unmade, stacks of parchment scattered across the desk, and a few crumpled pieces of clothing dropped on the chair. He might have at least tidied her bed for her, he worried.
He tried three times to lay her down. The first attempt was met with a mewling whimper. The second, with an outright cry of denial. And the third had her clutching and clawing at his arm with what few of her fingers could still function appropriately. He gave up then, fearing she would hurt herself even more if he attempted to force the issue. She had turned her head so that her face was pressed against his shoulder and she seemed most content to remain in his arms.
Arthur had watched each of his attempts to relinquish his hold on her and he reached around Remus to pull the linens free of the bed. “Have a seat, Remus. You may as well get comfortable – I don’t suppose she’ll be giving you up easily now that she’s got you back.” He patted the mattress and smiled sadly. “I can’t tell you—” he began but paused, “Don’t know how you’re managing. Don’t know what I’d do if it had been Molly.”
He sat down slowly. Bitterness flooded through Remus’ thoughts but it was quickly washed away by icy shame. Bill still had Fleur and Arthur still had Molly and both women were healthy and whole, of course Arthur and Bill should be relieved and grateful. Were the tables turned, he knew he would feel the same way. They couldn’t help but feel blessed even as he couldn’t help feeling cursed.
Still unwilling to examine her injuries, he rearranged the heavy chains so they would not pull against her tender wrists, leaned back against the headboard, ad relished the sensation of having her body curled tightly in his grasp. Help would arrive soon, most likely in the form of Poppy Pomfrey who had recently joined the ranks of the Order. She would know just what to do and her head would be far more clear than his own.
He must have dozed off because one moment he and Tonks were nestled atop the bed in a silent room and the next he knew the room was a flurry of activity and filled with people. Minerva McGonagall stood with Molly near Tonks’ desk, their hands clutching one another’s in worry and silent commiseration. Arthur, Bill, and Kingsley Shacklebolt had gathered near the hearth speaking together but closely watching the bed. And Poppy Pomfrey and Pomona Sprout fussed over a hovering tray of a dozen or more bottles and vials. The door burst open to allow Moody and Severus as well and Remus dearly wished to close his eyes again and return to sleep until everyone had cleared out and he was again alone with Tonks.
He kept his eyes open however and noted the pile of chains on the floor by his foot and wondered how they had managed to remove then without waking him. He shifted against the mattress and startled Tonks into clutching at his arm again. How had they managed to remove the shackles without jarring Tonks?
“It’s alright, Nymphadora,” he murmured against her ear. He tried to brush her hair away from her face but she only turned her head more firmly against him. “How long have you been awake?”
“I felt them unlock the chains,” she whispered hoarsely. “Was afraid it was Bellatrix come back to…”
He waited for her to catch a ragged breath. “You need to let Poppy look you over,” he explained quietly when he realized she had no intention of continuing. Her body tensed in his arms as soon as he said it. “She only wants to help – as we all do.”
Tonks frantically shook her head against his chest.
“I won’t leave you. I’ll stay right here. I’m worried for your injuries, Nymphadora. Won’t you please let us help you?” He heard the sob that caught in her throat and closed his eyes against the pain it sparked in his heart.
Poppy had apparently heard it as well. “It’s alright,” she said in her patented no-nonsense tone. “We’ll take it one problem at a time. There’s no reason to traumatize her further without need. Let’s see one of your hands, my dear. We’ll start with the easy things first.”
Slowly and with painstaking patience, Poppy managed to coax Tonks into allowing her to mend both her hands, her arms, and even her feet and legs before Tonks blatant refusal to cooperate any further brought a sudden halt to the proceedings. The healer was blinking away tears by the time Tonks decided she had withstood more than enough for one day.
She stroked Tonks’ hair with a gentle hand. “I’ll let you rest then, dearie. Are you hungry at all?”
“No,” Tonks whispered, her face still hidden in the soft folds of Remus’ robes.
Poppy poured out a glass of pumpkin juice and sprinkled it liberally with a sleeping potion. “See if you can get her to drink some of this,” she commanded him and set the glass near Remus’ elbow. “I’ll be back in a few hours. Rest will do her more good than not just now.”
He watched Poppy and Madame Sprout as they filed out of the room. From the expressions on their faces, he imagined they were headed off to have a good cry. He didn’t blame their need to remove themselves from the room, a part of him wanted to do he same. The only problem was that Tonks refused to let go of him long enough for him to set her down.
Severus’ presence caught his notice as the man hovered against a far wall of the room even after most of the others had left. He looked miserably uncomfortable in the chamber but nonetheless determined to remain and Remus wondered at his reasons but kept the question to himself. He wondered more of Severus’ knowledge of Tonks’ unseemly adventure than of the man’s emotional state.
Snape must have felt the weight of Remus’ stare for the man lifted shadowed eyes to meet Lupin’s in a silent gesture of outright defiance. It was what he was defiant about that pricked Remus’ thoughts. What was it that had the man so oddly riled? He glanced down at the woman in his arms. Tonks, yes, he knew it all centered around Tonks’ condition but what was it precisely that had eaten away at even a sliver of Severus’ usual icy, austere attitude?
“You should know,” Severus began in a chilly, low voice, “that she kept her silence throughout. However,” his thin lips twitched slightly, “she was unable to remain wholly quiet.”
“What do you mean, Severus?” Remus asked softly.
“Bellatrix was frenzied. She had expected her niece to buckle under the weight of the tortures she had prepared and when Nymphadora proved more resilient, Bellatrix was thrown into a rage. At the height of Bellatrix’ ministrations Nymphadora did call out for assistance.”
Remus’ eyes jolted back to Severus. Had she unwittingly betrayed the man who hovered like grim death in the dreary corner of the room? Was that why he had taken up his guard of her? Or was it someone else’s name she had cried out, someone who could in no way hear her to lend aid?
“While it will take Bellatrix some little while to work it out, she will eventually uncover the man from whom her niece begged for help. There are not so many Remuses in our circles.”
Remus nodded slowly in acknowledgment of Severus’ words but his gaze had drifted back down to Tonks’ head. Her face was still hidden, firmly buried in the soft folds of his clothing, but he knew she slept. Her muscles had gone limp against the strain of his grip and from the dampness against his chest he would guess she had cried herself to sleep despite being safe and among friends – or perhaps because of it.
Severus had moved to leave when Remus lifted his head. “Before you go, Severus…”
“Yes?” The sneer cut the thick atmosphere as cleanly as any well-honed sword.
“First, I would thank you for bringing her back to us.” He watched the flicker of stunned surprise that flittered through Severus’ cold expression. No one, Remus realized, had acknowledged the man’s accomplishment in the light of Tonks’ return. “We are indebted to you more even than before. I would also ask for your assistance just this one time before you depart.”
A question, unvoiced but just as clear, hung in the air and Remus was reminded that Severus had been absent when he had first brought Tonks into the room. "I believe Nymphadora would be able to rest much more comfortably if she were in her bed but I cannot seem to extricate myself from her grasp. If you would assist me in this task, I would be grateful.”
To his credit, Severus said nothing and merely crossed the distance that separated him from the bed. Between the two of them, they were able to maneuver Tonks and slide her out of Remus’ arms and onto the mattress. Remus kept his arms wrapped around her when she startled, but Severus disentangled the linens and covered her quickly. She settled again – never truly waking – and Remus was able to stretch the kinks from his back while Severus moved Tonks’ chair nearer the bed and dislodged the clothes from its seat. Remus gave him a wary look.
“She’ll rest more comfortably with someone near,” Severus muttered coolly. “I’m certain Molly Weasley is up to the task if you are not.”
Remus sat in the chair pointedly and curled his hands around one of Tonks’. “Thank you,” he said quietly.
Severus nodded and left in a sweep of black.
Severus considered avoiding them altogether and simply aparate back to Spinner’s End to retreat into his shabby solitude there. He would have done just that had he not remembered his bare cupboards – he was hungry and he could hear a great deal of clanging resounding from the direction of the kitchen. Molly was sure to be busying herself with dinner preparations for the assembled Order members and he decided he had just as much right as any of them, if not more, to sit down to a decent meal. Even in the hands of Molly Weasley, dinner would be no worse than what he could scrounge at his own home.
He changed direction mid-stride and stalked darkly into the cheery kitchen. All conversation ceased at his entrance. His presence had not been anticipated.
“Severus.” Moody indicated that he should sit.
He had never been wholly accepted – even before – but he had never cared. That they all now watchedhim harboring something akin to hatred in their eyes did not bother him either. Dumbledore had trusted him and that had always been enough. That he had not gained the trust of the other Order members was no great surprise nor did it weight on his conscience.
He accepted the plate of food Moody helped Molly slide in front of him and began to eat in frozen silence. Let them all suffer from indigestion by his mere presence at their evening meal, a niggling voice whispered in his head. After all, those at the table did not catch glimpses of memory each time they glanced down at their hands – memories of Bellatrix’ glee while she ritualistically broke Nymphaodra’s fingers, healed them, and broke them again.
“Do you suppose Tonks would care for a spot of tea?” Molly worried. “It wouldn’t take but a moment to whip together.” She glanced toward Arthur, her concern clearly etched in the lines around her eyes and mouth.
Severus answered before anyone else could offer an opinion. “She sleeps now, your efforts would be wasted.”
Molly cast a pained expression toward the door. Her dinner plate sat untouched and her hands nervously twisted her napkin into tight knots.
Arthur placed a hand on one of hers and squeezed it affectionately. He carefully extricated the linen square from her grip. “She’s alright now, Molly. Remus is with her. He’ll let us know if she needs anything.”
“I wasn’t prepared for it,” she murmured, her voice verging on breaking. “I knew she would be hurt, I’d hoped she wouldn’t be, but I understood the chances –” she paused. “But she’s so frightfully pale. She’s been hurt so badly…” Her watery eyes flitted briefly toward Severus.
He could not suppress the icy chill of their silent accusations. “She’ll recover,” he sneered and drew his lips into a tight white line. “There was little to be done to curb Bellatrix without raising her suspicions. Nymphadora understood that.” He pushed aside his half-finished dinner and stacked his hands on the table in front of him. “Do you? Or am I to share Bellatrix’ guilt?”
The kitchen remained silent, the air heavy with unspoken resentment. “I thought as much,” he replied coolly.
“We’re not blaming you,” Kingsley drew out slowly. “We’re only trying to come to grips with what has happened. If you would care to explain, perhaps we would find it easier done.”
“I do not need to excuse my part in Nymphadora’s torture as I did not have a part in it.” Severus rose stiffly. “I will present a report at the next meeting. Until then, feel free to carry on with your misplaced blame as you are sure to do.”
He was soon gone and Fleur spoke up. “‘E is very –” She seemed at a loss to finish her thought.
Bill watched the kitchen door as it slowly swung closed with Severus’ departure. “Unpleasant,” he supplied.
“Yes,” she agreed. But ‘e did return wiz Tonks,” she added. “Did ‘e not?”
“Even so, I don’t trust him,” Kingsley admitter wearily. “Not now.”
“Can’t blame him for fulfilling an Unbreakable Vow,” Moody grumbled. He lifted his flask to his mouth and took a healthy gulp. “We’ve got the proof he isn’t lying about that.”
“But he killed Albus,” Hestia said tersely. She had arrived just after Tonks had fallen asleep and had clucked over the young woman’s trial while Poppy and Pomona filled her in on the essentials. They had all three required large glasses of fire whiskey for the telling. “Killed him. Why should we trust anything he says?”
Minerva wiped at her eyes tiredly. “As I explained – repeatedly – Albus gave Severus very little choice, if any at all. We knew Draco Malfoy was in league with Voldemort but Albus wanted to give the boy the chance to mature without blood on his hands. Severus agreed to the terms of the vow only very hesitantly and only because Albus insisted. In truth, Severus was placed in an impossible situation, trying to get by under the threat of two Unbreakable Vows.” She shook her head sadly. “What would you have had him do? I don’t like the man myself, but he’s done nothing but what he had to do under the circumstances he was forced into.”
Silence settled again in the room.
Sunlight was streaming into the room when Tonks opened her eyes. She was first struck with the all-encompassing brightness of the room and next with her lack of acute pain. She was sore from head to toe, but that was all.
Oh, but she was glad to be free again. She turned her head to face the window. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds were all that was visible and she was glad for it. The window, she noticed, had been recently scrubbed clean of the dirt and grime she had never had the time nor inclination to remove and the tatty, moldy draperies had been replaced with a pair of mismatched sheets stitched up to accommodate the curtain rod. She would have been content to remain watching the sky in awed silence had she not heard soft breathing beside her.
Remus was slumped in her chair asleep. He looked so careworn that it tugged sharply at her heart. Even in sleep he held onto her hand and she squeezed his fingers lightly. The gentle caress roused him.
“Wotcher, Remus,” she whispered hoarsely.
“Nymphadora.” He blinked blearily at her in an attempt to clear his vision. “What cheer, indeed. How do you feel?”
“Like I just went ten rounds with a Norwegian Ridgeback,” she answered and offered him a weak smile. “How are you?” Her voice was still rough but it was better than before.
“Better now.” He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. “Are you hungry yet? Molly’s been baking all morning. There’s certain to be a mountain of pastries ready to tempt you by now.”
Confusion filled the hollows of her mind. “Morning? How long did I sleep?”
“Just since yesterday evening,” Remus explained. “You’ve been asleep nearly twelve hours now but I think Poppy would be happier if you slept for another twenty-four.” He waited to see if she would ask any more questions. There were so many things she would be sure to want to know.
She plucked listlessly at the coverlet that was draped across her legs. “I might just be in the mood to be accommodating,” she admitted. “What happened to my clothes?” She had only just noticed the pajamas she was wearing. The sleeves had been rolled up but still hid her hands. Remus’ roving thumb was hidden from view but she could still feel the shivers coursing through her nerves at the light caress. The material of the pajamas was soft against her tender skin, almost unbearably comfortable. They were definitely not her own.
Remus colored slightly. “Your clothes were soiled – as were the rest of the clothing you left here. Molly washed the lot this morning and I offered the use of my pajamas until yours were dry.” He watched her closely, noting the tenseness of her shoulders and the tiny lines of exhaustion that tightened her features. “Poppy left another sleeping draught for you.”
“No, no more potions. I think I’ll just get in a bit of a nap.”
“Yes, do,” he encouraged. He let go of her hand and moved to draw away from her but her eyes shot open.
“Would you – I mean to say –” she stumbled over the words and, in the end, gave up and dropped her eyes from Remus’ face.
“I could remain if you would prefer it.”
“Yes.” She reached out and took hold of his hand again. Her eyes fluttered closed but she struggled to open them again. “I’m not keeping you from anything?”
“Not at all.”
She gazed at him, silent and solemn, and let her eyes drift closed.
He watched her for a long while. Slowly her breathing deepened and slowed and her tight grip on his hand relaxed a bit. They would get through this, that much he knew. But he dreaded the future – when she would need to discuss all that had occurred. Tonks struck him as the talkative extrovert when it came to dealing with things. He would need to steel himself to the task, perhaps he could speak privately with Severus first.
She was alone. The sunlight had fled and left deep shadows and hidden terrors in its wake. Night had fallen and she was left alone.
Tonks experimentally slid one leg over the side of the bed and felt for the floor with her toes. The memory of an old childhood fear of monsters under the bed lurked just beyond the lip of conscious thought but she refused to let it rise and take hold. She had enough to deal with of the real and truly threatening monsters that breathed and hunted in the world beyond number twelve, she had no need to invent more.
Finally her toes brushed against the chilly floorboards and she breathed a sigh of relief. She quirked her lips when the cuff of Remus’ pajamas fell over the top of her foot, she would trip for sure if she was less than careful. With painstaking care, she slid her other foot over to join the first one on the floor. She wanted to get up – she had no true destination in mind, just the notion that she needed to be out of bed.
Rising, she found her balance left a great deal to be desired but after a few wobbly moments, she was able to shuffle across the room and to the door. The desk had been cleared of her reports and books and held an odd assortment of flasks and bottles and a few jars that she could not identify. She slowly fled the room – she wanted no physical remembrances of her current state of being, her memory was surely enough.
The house was silent as a cemetery but she continued on her bid to reach the kitchen even so. The notion of a nice hot cup of tea had given her feet a sense of purpose and she grasped at that idea with all the strength of a drowning woman. Lying about in bed for days on end might be helping her body to heal but it was not doing her mental state any good at all.
The stairs were her biggest challenge. One. Two. Each step was a trial to her underused muscles and what aches still remained cried out against the unexpected strain. Twelve. Thirteen. Counting seemed to help keep her thoughts on the here and now. Fifteen. Shuffle across the landing and turn. Sixteen. She was inordinately pleased with herself that she had managed to pass Mrs. Black’s portrait by without rousing the image. Twenty. Twenty-one.
Tonks had almost gained the foyer when the front door swung open so quickly that she jerked. She felt the world slip sideways as she desperately tried to regain her feet. She didn’t want to fall down the stairs, even if she was nearly at the bottom anyway. A startled cry caught in her throat as she desperately clawed at the banister.
Remus sounded odd. It was strange that she could focus on such a thought as she tumbled down to the floor below. Tonks landed in a thoroughly ungraceful heap just as the beginnings of Mrs. Black’s new tirade began from behind her heavy drapery. And she had been doing so well…
He sounded worried now – the odd tone had fled in light of her fall. She lifted her head and tried to clear the hair from her vision by puffing at it. It remained stubbornly in place.
“Wotcher, Remus,” she said in exchange of an answer.
“Good evening, Tonks.”
She dragged a hand out from where it had been pinned under her thigh and shoved at her hair with better results. He was grinning at her. Not a huge smile, just the faintest traces of humor lit his eyes and played at his mouth.
“I thought I could do with a cup of tea,” she explained while she tried to push herself back up to her feet.
“Would you care for company?”
“That would be lovely. Want to help me up? I think my legs aren’t too keen for the job just now.” She gently waggled her fingers in his general direction and waited for his assistance.
“I could, I suppose,” Remus admitted but remained where he was. “And what would I receive if I were to provide my services.”
“Glad to see you’re back to your old self,” she said with a quirky grin and wiggled her fingers more determinedly.
“I don’t know what you mean.” At last, he stepped close to her and hauled her to her unsteady feet. One of his arms circled her waist until she stopped swaying, the other held onto her hand in a parody of a waltzing couple.
She cocked her head at him. “I was having a touch of trouble handling the man who wouldn’t even admit he wanted to sit next to my bed while I recovered.”
“Ah, but you see, I was having a touch of trouble trying to predict your wants.” He smoothed a hand over her still mousy brown hair. “It’s been a good while since…”
She lifted her face and watched him closely. “And just how many of your other romantic interests have been abducted and tortured?” She felt a jolt spike through her when Remus winced. “Sorry.”
“Nothing for you to be sorry for. As a matter of fact, you happen to be the firstto have been in quite that situation exactly.” He began to lead her toward the kitchen slowly but slowed even further when he caught the hitch in her breathing. “Are you certain you ought to be out of bed?”
“Poppy would probably have palpitations,” she admitted softly. “But when I woke, the room was dark and I was alone… I just needed to get out of bed and find some company.”
“Completely understandable. You say you were alone?” He mulled that over for a moment. “I’m sure Molly only stepped out for a second. You’ve probably given her a fright by disappearing from your bed in her absence.”
Tonks merely shrugged. “I’m still keen on having that cup of tea if you don’t mind. My room is beginning to smell like the hospital ward at Hogwarts.”
“Tea it is,” Remus announced. The atmosphere in the foyer was becoming far too heavy.
The kitchen was dark until Remus pulled out his wand and lit the lanterns in a sweeping arc. Gleaming copper pots magnified the light and chased all shadows from the room.
Everything was neat and tidy, much unlike the interior of her own room, Tonks mused as she slumped down at the table. The table had been covered with a clean cloth and tea things were set out already. Even a small pile of pasties was nestled temptingly beneath a glass dome.
Remus tapped a kettle with his wand and soon the room was filled with a gurgling whistle. He poured the heated water into a squat teapot to steep and moved it to the table along with a pair of cups. While he worked, he watched Nymphadora’s back. She was holding on by a thread, that much was obvious. The tension in her shoulders sent tiny trembles coursing through her arms and her back was ramrod straight. This was not the Nymphadora he was accustomed to. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t certain when that other woman might return, if ever.
A moment after he took a place at Tonks’ side the kitchen door swung open. The figure in the doorway was almost as ominously black as the shadows that had chased Tonks from her bedroom.
“You should be in bed,” Severus said coldly, “or does your expertise in health matters supercede Poppy Pomphrey’s?” He glowered at the pair of them and waited for an answer.
“Wotcher, Severus. Fancy a cup of tea?” She wouldn’t be rushed back to bed when she’d only just freed herself of it.
Severus looked to Remus who shrugged. He took a seat across from them and watched the steaming teapot. The room grew quiet once again, comfortably silent, words would come soon enough. For the time being they were each content to sit and stew in their own thoughts.
Remus stared blankly at her. Snape glared at her as if she had ten heads and he was keen to dissect them all. Tonks tried her best to push their faces out of her concerns. There was much more to worry about. She had been asleep for far too long although Remus was right about Madame Pomphrey's reaction should she find her patient out of bed. Plans needed to be formulated, she had slept enough.
“Biscuits are tasty.” Now if she could only cease talking about the food.
Snape growled low in his throat and Remus seemed to wait for more.
“They're sure as certain to discover I'm missing soon. What's to be done then?”
Remus sighed. “We've been preoccupied as of late. Moody and Kingsley have been discussing the possibilities however. It's nothing for you to worry over, Tonks. All will be taken care of. A break in was staged and enough evidence left to keep Severus out of their suspicions.”
“She's my bloody aunt, Remus. Blood of my blood and all that superfluous nonsense.” Tonks shook her head miserably. As much as she wanted to remain focused on the action of keeping herself and her loved ones safe, that one fact remained. Bellatrix was her mother's own sister. “My mother...”
“Andromeda was put under the watchful eyes of the Order the minute your disappearance was discovered.”
Remus reached a hand across the tabletop but Tonks pulled away, suddenly unwilling to receive the comfort she had longed for just hours, minutes, earlier. She curled in on herself and wobbled dangerously in her chair.
“Come, let me help you...”
“There's naught you can do to keep the memories at bay, Remus. No way to repair what damage I caused, no matter how inadvertently. I gave them a name – your name. I'm sorry, I just... I'm tired but I don't want to take to my bed again just yet.” She fell silent again.
It had begun to rain outside, the heavy drops splattering solidly against the house's windows and sputtering down the chimney into the warming flames of the hearth. With her usual cheerfulness gone, Tonks stared morosely at her hands. To look at them, no one would ever suspect she had been on the wrong end of Bellatrix' wand just a day before. Slowly her eyelids lowered and her chin drooped to her chest as she dozed at the table. It was a ferocious crash of thunder that jarred her awake. She gasped and choked on a scream she did not wish to give voice to.
“Nymphadora, perhaps it's time you returned to your bed.” Remus ignored the heated glare at his easy use of her given name and tried again for her hand. He was no more successful the second time than he had been the first.
“No, not yet. I've told you already. I've spent enough time lazing about. I wish to be among people.”
“Molly is sure to --”
“Be sleeping with her husband,” Tonks finished for him. “As she well ought to be. Besides, I'm not entirely certain I can make it back up the stairs just yet.”
“How did you manage to descend?” Snape snarled.
“Very slowly and then, not so slowly.”
“You fell down the stairs.” It was not a question. “I would have thought your friends would take better care to see to it that you remained in your room, if not in your bed.” Snape cast a pointed glower at Remus.
“I only just returned myself – in time to see her more rapid descent. I believe I tried to get her to see reason at the time but she chose to ignore my concern.”
“You didn't put up much of a fight,” Tonks muttered.
“You need rest,” Snape insisted coldly.
She glared at him. “I've rested plenty. I don't want to sleep.”
“Why ever not? As I recall, it was a favorite pastime of yours while you were under my tutelage.”
A shadow fell across Tonks' face, a shadow that had nothing whatsoever to do with long ago detentions for tardiness to Potions.
“Nymph – Tonks,” Remus caught his mistake but not before regaining her ire. “Is there something you're not saying? Something more to your reasoning for not sleeping?”
“I can't take the nightmares just yet.” She deflated in her chair and allowed her head to fall forward onto her fists. “That's all, I just want to spend a while awake and relatively calm.”
“I could prepare a sleeping draught for you.”
She smiled sadly at Remus' offer. “And I'll still have the nightmares only I won't be able to wake from them. No, thank you.”
“Perhaps it would help to talk...”
Remus snapped his jaw shut at the panicked expression in Tonks' eyes. Her head had shot up from her hands and she quickly denied his suggestion. “No, talking won't do anything but dredge it all back up. I don't want to talk about it.”
They all three jolted up straighter in their chair at the sound of Minerva's voice. Wrapped in a woolen dressing gown, she stood at the kitchen door wearing a disapproving frown. In an instant, she was beside Tonks' chair and had her half-way standing.
“You're to be in bed, Tonks. It's much too soon or you to go cavorting about the house alone.”
“But I wasn't alone,” Tonks tried to argue but her voice sounded weak even to her own ears. “Oh alright, I'll go back to bed. But don't say that I didn't try to warn you when I wake up screaming and send Mrs. Black into another fit loud enough to wake the dead.”
“May I offer you a hand?” Remus asked as he moved to rise as well.
“No, no, we'll manage,” Minerva assured him and briskly had Tonks out of the kitchen and well on her way back to bed.
“Yes, Remus?” Snape narrowed his eyes at him, waiting for more.
“There was something I've been wanting to discuss with you.”
Snape folded his arms and held Remus' gaze, waiting for more. He would make the conversation no easier for the man. If he wanted answers for his questions, so be it, he could walk through the fire and brimstone to get them just as Tonks had.