A Black in Wolf's Clothing
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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Full Moon10 - Inappropriate clothing. During OotP, Tonks and Remus go to the attic and discover some forgotten items. Tonks POV.
Author Notes: Rochefort, as always, has my undying gratitude for her perceptive comments and suggestions.
Tonks lifted her hand to the doorbell and then snatched it away, remembering just in time. Instead she knocked, three quick raps.
After a minute the door swung open. “Oh—hello, Tonks,” Remus said, looking a little surprised.
“Wotcher, Remus,” she said as cheerfully as she could. “I thought I’d pop in and see what was going on, and drop this off for Sirius.” She swung her bag forward as she stepped into the hall.
Remus stuck out his hand and kept the bag from knocking over the umbrella stand. “How nice,” he said politely. “Would you like some tea?”
Tonks knew she should say no, should go home to her own flat, but there was nothing there but a pile of papers to review and her dead toad’s empty terrarium, now housing only a collection of cobwebs. She tried to look as if she were thinking about Remus’s invitation. “All right,” she said after a couple of seconds. “If I’m not keeping you from anything.”
“Not at all,” he reassured her, putting his hand under her elbow and guiding her past the portrait. “I was about to stop for a little break myself.”
“Oh? What have you been doing?”
Remus led her down the stairs to the kitchen. “Writing up my reports,” he said briefly.
Tonks remembered that he’d just come back from one of his trips. It didn’t sound as if it had been successful.
“What about you?” he asked, setting out the teacups.
That brought her day flooding back, and she scowled. “War exercises with Moody. Want some help with that?”
“No, no, I can manage,” Remus said quickly. “Go ahead, sit down. I think there are some biscuits here—” He opened a cupboard. “No, Sirius must have eaten them.”
“Where is Sirius?” Tonks took a seat at the table.
Remus glanced at her. “He’s with Buckbeak. He kept trying to help me write my report, so I sent him away.”
Tonks laughed. She remembered her cousin leaning over her shoulder as she wrote an essay for Charms, making silly suggestions in a whisper so that her mother wouldn’t hear. “That sounds familiar.”
“Mm. I don’t think Dumbledore would appreciate a report that featured my graphic descriptions of mermaids, shall we say, cavorting with sea-lions.” Remus poured the tea and passed her the sugar.
Tonks decided not to ask about Remus’s visit with the mermaids, but thought that Dumbledore might rather enjoy Sirius’s additions. She tipped two spoonfuls into her cup. The sweet liquid reminded her of what she’d brought. “Where’s that bag?”
Remus hoisted it onto the table. “What’s in this? It weighs a ton.”
“Ice cream. It should go into the cooling cupboard before the charm wears off.”
“Ice cream?” Remus looked at the bag longingly.
“Yes, Fortescue’s has a new flavor. Do you want to try some?” She reached into the bag.
“Well, if it’s for Sirius—” Remus demurred.
“We’ll leave him some.” She could tell Remus would need a little more persuading. “It’s called ‘Butterbeer Bonanza.’ It’s Butterbeer-flavored ice cream with Chocolate Frogs in it, and a caramel swirl, and toffee bits.”
“I’ll get the spoons,” said Remus, leaping up.
They ate straight from the tub in blissful silence. After a while Remus put his spoon down. “That’s enough for me. Thank you, Tonks.”
Tonks gave her spoon a final lick. “No problem.”
“We don’t seem to have left much for Sirius after all.” Remus peered into the tub.
“That’s all right, I brought him some beer and a couple of magazines too.” She leaned back in her chair with a contented sigh.
“Dare I ask what kind of magazines?” He sounded faintly amused.
“Quidditch Monthly and something called The Classic Motorcycle,” she replied promptly.
Remus chuckled. “You know him so well.”
Tonks smiled, pleased. It was difficult to make Remus laugh. It was almost enough to make her forget the day she’d had. The week. She thought about Moody again and gritted her teeth. Constant vigilance, indeed. At least she had all her own body parts. She wasn’t the one who’d been captured outside her own house, looking into her own dustbin! Just because she’d knocked against the wall when they were practicing sneaking up on Death Eaters—it could have happened to anyone—she made herself stop thinking about it. When she looked at Remus again, he was studying her with a thoughtful look on his face.
Remus opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, then shut it again. There was a moment of silence before he said suddenly, “Do you want to come up to the attic with me? I want to see if there are any old spell-books up there. And you could help me if there are any more booby-traps.”
Tonks knew that lots of the spells in the house were keyed to Black blood somehow. Sirius hated that, hated all kinds of blood magic. She didn’t blame him; it was creepy as hell. “All right,” she heard herself saying. That didn’t sound quite enthusiastic enough. “Sounds like fun!” She jumped up from the table.
Remus got up, giving her a look that mixed amusement and disbelief. It made him seem fifteen years younger for some reason. As Tonks followed him out of the kitchen and up the stairs, she realized why: it was the way he’d often looked at her when Sirius brought him to visit her mother, before Sirius had been sent to prison. She sighed.
“Sorry, am I going too fast?” Remus paused on the landing.
“No, it’s all right. I was just thinking about my mother.”
They started climbing up the stairs again. “Is everything all right with her?”
“Oh, she’s fine. It’s just that I wish she could know about Sirius.” Her mother had been furiously angry when Sirius was captured; only now, looking back, could Tonks see that her mother had been bereft and saddened as well, and that her tears of anger were also tears of mourning. “It really hit her hard. You know, back then.”
Remus didn’t say anything. He’d stopped coming around when the Potters were killed and Sirius went to prison. Tonks hadn’t understood why; she’d kept asking her mother why Remus didn’t visit them any more, until her mother had shouted at her one day to stop asking silly questions.
Tonks blundered on. “It would be so much easier for her if I could just tell her the truth. He was always her favorite cousin. Well, he’s the only cousin of my mum’s that I ever met, I mean in our house. Sometimes we’d run into the Malfoys or the Lestranges when we were out, but it wasn’t exactly friendly. I remember the first time I saw Narcissa she just pointed at me and said, ‘So that’s your half-breed brat, is it?’ Mum was furious. Took Dad an hour to calm her down.”
Remus stopped and patted her shoulder. “That sounds awful.”
Tonks shrugged. “Nah, it wasn’t so bad. I already knew that we didn’t see any of Mum’s family because of Dad being Muggleborn, and I reckoned they must be idiots. I mean, who wouldn’t want ME in their family?” She gave him her best saucy grin and sprinted up the stairs ahead of him. “Come on, Remus, only a couple more flights of stairs now!”
She could hear Remus give a sigh of mock exasperation. At least she hoped he wasn’t really exasperated with her. She stopped at the door to the attic stairs and waited for him, pleased when she saw him smile at her.
“All right,” he said, “let’s have a look at this lock.” He drew his wand and held it to the doorknob. “Hm, tricky. What do you think?” He stood aside politely and let her approach.
Tonks imitated his actions, holding her wand out. A surge of power made the wand shake in her hand. “Bloody hell. What d’you think they kept in the attic? This is worse than that room behind the cellar that turned out to be our great-great-grandfather’s private dungeon!”
Remus smiled again. “No, look a bit harder. Try a Discernment Charm.”
Tonks obeyed. A moment later she understood. “House-elf magic?”
Remus nodded. “Kreacher must have been in the habit of going up here. But look how it’s layered in with Black blood magic. He hasn’t been able to get in here for ten years.”
“Where is he now?” Tonks asked. It was odd that she hadn’t seen the wretched thing today; he usually came out to tell her that she was a half-blood freak of nature.
“I don’t know.” Remus frowned. “He’s been spending time in the cellar, I think. He was quite interested in the dungeon.”
“Yuck,” said Tonks. “All right, then, you take care of the house-elf charm and I’ll do what I can with the Black stuff.”
They worked together to untangle the web of magic that was holding the door shut against them. Remus seemed to know exactly when Tonks came to a particularly sticky bit, and muttered a few words that helped her puzzle out the solution to the layers of spells that had accumulated on the door over the decades.
“It's like erosion,” Tonks said after a few minutes. That wasn't quite the word she was looking for. “Or something,” she added.
“Erosion?” Remus looked confused.
“Yeah, things drifting up. Silting. Like no one ever bothered to take off the last spell, they just put another one on. I think I just found one that our great-great-great-grandmother put on. Spells that old shouldn’t even still work!”
“It’s the blood magic,” Remus explained. “Haven’t they given you any training in it at the Ministry?”
Tonks shook her head.
“Idiots,” Remus said without heat. “I’ll speak to Moody. Perhaps he can work up a few lessons for the younger members of the Order. In fact, I’d be surprised if he didn’t have a lecture or two about it already.” He flicked his wand one last time and the door creaked and swung open. “I wonder if there are any more Black surprises on the staircase.”
But apparently Tonks’s ancestors had used all their energy on the door itself, because the stairs were clear, at least of magic. By the time Remus and Tonks got up to the attic, they were festooned with cobwebs, their boots were covered with dust, and they were coughing.
“I suppose it would have been preferable if Kreacher had been able to come up here,” Remus commented, eyes watering. “He would have kept it clean.”
“Oh, Remus, a bit of the old swish and flick and it’ll be sparkling new again,” Tonks said optimistically. With a dramatic flourish of her wand, she exclaimed, “Scourgify!”
A few layers of dust levitated themselves hesitantly, then collapsed again onto the piles of trunks, old portraits, wardrobes, and boxes that filled the attic.
Remus coughed. “May I?”
“Go ahead,” she said. “Cleaning’s never been one of my priorities. I’m a more specialized talent.”
“I’m sure you are,” Remus said dryly, flicking his wand and saying the charm. He managed to push most of the dust to the corners of the room. “It’s too bad we can’t risk opening a window. I could just levitate the dirt out onto the street. I don’t think the neighbors would even notice.”
Tonks looked around the room. “What did you want to find up here again?”
“Spell-books,” Remus said. “Anything useful—anything about the Dark Arts. If we could get some idea of the spells Voldemort and his followers are likely to use to get to the prophecy, we’d be able to put up a better defense.”
“Yeah,” said Tonks. “Poor Sturgis.”
Remus had already begun to go through a pile of boxes in one corner. “Yes, that wasn’t good,” he said absently.
Tonks watched him for a moment, then began her own inspection. She picked up something wrapped in a sheet; it turned out to be a moth-eaten house-elf head. “Must not have been room on the wall downstairs,” she muttered, and put the grisly thing aside. A jumbled pile of sticks in the middle of the room revealed itself to be old broomsticks. “These must be a hundred years old. Collectors’ items by now,” she said. “Can’t let Dung find out about these. Hard to imagine great-granny on one of these, innit?”
“What was that?” Remus lifted his head out of a box and sneezed. He had a smudge of dust on one cheek.
“Nothing,” she said more loudly.
“All right.” He stuck his head back in the box. “Oh, this is good. Property of Phineas Nigellus—good, good, good.” He hauled out a handful of parchment scrolls and sat cross-legged on the floor.
Tonks went back to her own search, fantasizing briefly about taking one of the old broomsticks out to the garden to see if it still worked. She opened a dirty box, the top folded over and Spellotaped shut haphazardly. It was full of children’s games. She pulled out a deck of Exploding Snap cards, her eye caught by the scrawl on the top card: Property of Sirius Black. Hands off, Regulus! She grinned. Sirius had given her her first deck of Exploding Snap cards and taught her to play. Then they’d played every time he’d visited. When she was ten she tried to tell him she was too old for the game. “You can’t be too old,” he’d said reasonably. “I’m not too old for it. And I’m lots older than you are.” She smiled again and put the cards back in the box.
She glanced over at Remus. He was still sorting through the scrolls. She rubbed her nose and moved on to a promising trunk. When she lifted the lid, she rocked back on her heels in surprise. “Wow!”
“What is it?” Remus looked up.
“Look at this!” Tonks lifted out a pile of cloth. “Dress robes from the 40s and 50s! These must have been old Mrs Black’s.” The robes were all black, but embroidered all over with designs in different colors. “Hand-stitched, by the looks of it. Probably by that damn elf. Oh, this one’s lovely.” She held up a robe heavily decorated with constellations in gold thread. “Looks like the Northern Hemisphere on the front and the Southern Hemisphere on the back. Amazing.” Unable to resist, she shed her own robe quickly and slipped into the one she’d found. The material was incredibly soft on her bare arms.
“Tonks, I don’t—” Remus started to stand up.
“Is there a mirror in here? I thought I saw one—oh yeah, over there.” She pulled the dust sheet off the mirror and angled it slightly to catch her entire reflection. She laughed. “I look like a kid playing dress-up!”
“You shouldn’t do that,” Remus said.
“Whyever not?” Tonks twirled. “Not quite the right effect, is it? Hang on, I’ll fix that.” She concentrated for a moment, then felt the changes begin as her nose lengthened and hooked, her chin jutted out, and her hair darkened and knotted itself up in a stern bun. “That’s better, isn’t it? Lots more realistic.”
She looked in the mirror. Something wasn’t quite right. “Oh, of course.” Old Mrs Black hadn’t worn these robes; the young one had. She made her lips plump up, erased the lines around her eyes and on her forehead, and took the grey out of her hair. “That’s better.” That was the woman she’d seen in a few photos that she’d discovered hidden in her mother’s closet when she was sixteen. None of the photos were labeled, but it was easy enough to see who the people were; even as a child, Sirius was instantly recognizable, and the man looked like Tonks’s mother, a bit like Tonks herself, dark-haired and dark-eyed. That was when she’d started turning her hair purple.
Last was the voice, always the trickiest bit; Tonks made it shrill and angry. “Filth! Scum!” she shrieked, spraying saliva. “Half-breed blood traitors!”
“Tonks!” Remus scrambled to his feet.
“What?” she said, still in Mrs Black’s voice.
“You’ve got to—”
There was a noise from the stairs. “Moony?” Sirius called. “How’d you manage to get up there? You could have called me—CHRIST!” He stopped at the top of the stairs, face white, and stared at Tonks for a minute before turning and clattering back down.
“Sirius!” Tonks called after him. But she hadn’t changed her voice back, and she winced when she heard herself—heard Sirius’s mother yelling his name.
“Stop it, Tonks,” Remus said in a voice she’d never heard from him before. “Get out of those things and change back. Now.”
She reverted to her normal voice quickly. “Remus, I’m sorry—I—”
“Now!” he repeated, and ran down the stairs after Sirius.
“I thought it would be funny,” Tonks said to the empty attic. She turned back to her usual form and pulled off the robe. It seemed ugly now. She folded it and dropped it into the trunk, then put her own clothes on. She stood uncertainly in the middle of the attic. Finally she scooped up the parchments that Remus had been looking at and went down the stairs.
She stopped on the landing. It was quiet; then she heard Sirius’s voice, angry and frustrated, although she couldn’t make out what he was saying. Remus’s low murmur replied. Tonks crept along until she was outside the bedroom. One of them had left the door slightly ajar.
“—just the way she looked when I was living here. How did she know? It was only after Regulus died that she got old. I thought she was beautiful when I was a boy, can you imagine?”
“She was beautiful,” Remus said.
Sirius let out a sharp, unhappy laugh. “Beautiful in a horrible way, maybe. Like someone in those Muggle fairy tales you used to tell me. The wicked queen. I only saw her a couple of times after my brother was killed.”
“Do you? I remember I wouldn’t let you come to the funeral with me. Did I ever tell you what happened there?”
“No,” said Remus.
Tonks put her eye to the crack in the door. Sirius was standing by the window, looking out at the street; she could see his profile from where she stood. Remus was a little behind Sirius, close enough to touch. It occurred to her suddenly that since they’d all been at Grimmauld Place she’d only seen them touch a couple of times, casual brushes of hand to shoulder.
Sirius leaned against the window. “I was glad you hadn’t come, I can tell you that much. She screamed at me. The usual things. Right over the coffin.”
“Oh, Padfoot.” Remus reached out and touched Sirius’s back.
“She’d already started—her hair was going grey, and she just kind of collapsed after that. I saw her in Knockturn Alley a few months later, and she was old. Wrinkled, and bent over, and—and old. So seeing her young—seeing Tonks—” Sirius shivered.
Until today, Tonks realized, she’d always thought of Mrs Black as old. But she couldn’t have been that old when she died, to have a son as young as Sirius. It was easier to think of her as a crabby, fussy old woman, the most horrible kind of grandmother, instead of thinking of her as a woman who’d been aged by losing both her children to a pointless, bloody war, aged by her own pain and anger and grief.
“That little fool,” Remus said. He sounded furious. He was talking about her, Tonks recognized with a start. “And I should have stopped her. When she picked up that robe, I should have—”
“It’s not your fault, Moony.” Sirius turned and looked at Remus. “It’s not even Tonks’s fault. It’s just—God, I hate being here!”
“I know.” Now Remus sounded miserable and guilty.
“There’s no place to get away from it here. Every single place in this bloody house—I turn around, and there’s that house-elf, or there’s something that my mother used to threaten me with when I was eight, and—it’s everything I left behind, all here again, all here, and it’s—”
Remus was rubbing Sirius’s arm now, a long, steady sweep of his hand up and down, up and down, as if he could soothe away Sirius’s words.
“It’s like Azkaban.” Sirius’s voice cracked on the last word.
Remus’s hand stopped moving. “What?”
“All those memories,” Sirius said. “The past. You can’t escape it, no matter how hard you try. And it makes even the good memories—” He lifted his hand and touched Remus’s face. “It makes even those somehow feel wrong.”
“But they’re not wrong,” Remus whispered. He turned his face into Sirius’s hand.
Tonks shouldn’t be watching this, or listening to it. Any of it. She backed away as quietly as she could. For once she managed not to knock anything over. But she couldn’t help hearing Sirius’s reply before she reached the stairs.
“I know. I know. I want—I want to remember them the right way.”
She stepped back again. Her heel caught in something and she felt herself falling backwards, down the stairs, in a series of crashes and thumps and desperate grabs at the bannister. Finally she reached the next landing; the scrolls she’d been holding cascaded around her. “Shit,” she cursed.
“Tonks! Tonks!” There were footsteps pounding down the stairs, and a hand touching her head. “Bloody hell! All right, don’t move. Where does it hurt? Did you—Tonks? Are you awake?”
Tonks uncurled herself with a groan. “Did you see that? Head over heels, eh?” She tried to sit up, but someone pressed her back.
“Just lie there for a bit, all right?” It was Remus, patting her arms and legs gently. “Looks like a nasty scrape here, but I don’t think it’s broken. Sirius, could you get some of the bandages from the bedroom?”
“I’m all right,” she insisted.
“Tonks, you’ve bashed up your elbow and you’re bleeding all over the place. It’s a miracle you haven’t broken any bones.”
“I s’pose there’s enough Black blood around here as it is,” she said, trying to make a joke of it.
“God, yes,” said Sirius, reappearing with a roll of bandages. Remus took one and wrapped it around her arm, fastening it with a muttered charm.
“I’m going to sit up now whether you like it or not,” Tonks announced, and did so as the two men watched her.
“All right? Any dizziness?” Remus asked.
“I’m fine!” Just clumsy, she thought. It was a good thing Moody wasn’t there. She’d never hear the end of it. To cheer herself up she turned her hair blue. “See? Right as rain. Fit as a fiddle. In fighting shape. Good as new!” Perhaps if she kept talking they wouldn’t think to ask what she’d been doing to fall down the stairs in the first place. “Ta-da!” She jumped to her feet.
“I think she’s all right, Moony.” Sirius smiled, but it looked strained. “But perhaps she could do with a cup of tea.”
“No, that’s all right,” Tonks said hastily. “I think I’d better be getting home. I’ve got to—I’m expecting—Mum usually firecalls me around this time.”
“Can you Apparate?” Remus asked with a slight frown. “Or do you want me to take you to a public Floo?”
She thought about it. She still felt a little shaky, but didn’t want them to know. “Actually, I think I’ll take the Tube. Just for a change.”
“Well—” He hesitated.
“She’s fine, Moony,” Sirius said, sounding a little exasperated. “Let her go. Come on, Tonks, I’ll walk you to the door.”
She followed him down the stairs, leaving Remus on the landing to roll up the unused bandages. She tensed as they walked past the curtained portrait, but Sirius didn’t even pause, and perhaps she only imagined that his shoulders seemed to tighten up.
Tonks paused at the front door. “Erm—about what happened in the attic—I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “That’s all right.”
It wasn’t, but she couldn’t make herself force the issue. “Right, then. Oh yes,” she remembered. “Don’t let Remus eat the rest of the ice cream without giving you some. Bye!” She kissed him on the cheek and went out the door. On the street, she turned around to watch the house slide out of sight again; she never got tired of seeing that. She wished she could bring her father to see it; it was exactly the sort of thing about the wizarding world that he adored.
Tonks began to walk to the station. On an impulse, she turned left and went to the tiny neighborhood park. She’d wait there for a bit until her head cleared, then Apparate home. Sirius had occasionally taken her to the park near her house when she was a child, she remembered. “Come on, Nymphadora, let’s get away from these stuffy grown-ups!” And he grabbed her hand and ran with her until she was breathless and laughing. Remembering, Tonks sat on one of the swings and rocked back and forth gently, lifting her feet so they wouldn’t scrape along the ground. She wondered if he’d ever played with his brother as he had with her, thinking up silly stories and jokes and teasing her non-stop about anything he could think of. She missed that, she thought. Missed Sirius’s light-heartedness, his easy laughter. That was what she kept hoping to find again on her visits to Grimmauld Place, what she’d been trying to conjure up with her imitation of Sirius’s mother. But she wasn’t a child any longer, and Sirius had told Remus that even his good memories were tainted.
She sighed and stopped swinging. So much for acting the part of Sirius’s playful little cousin and hoping that he would respond as he had fourteen years before. As if she could erase his years in Azkaban, the death of his friends, the loss of everything and everyone he’d loved, just with enthusiasm and a tub of ice cream.
But he hadn’t lost everyone. She thought about the way Remus had stroked Sirius’s arm, the way he had pressed his face into Sirius’s caress. The way Sirius looked at Remus when he thought no one could see them, with love and a kind of amazed, delighted wonder. Remus had had a pretty bad run too during those fourteen years, she realized. But like Sirius he was still there, still fighting. They matched each other in pain and strength. And she was just Tonks, just there for laughs and pratfalls.
She stood up and looked around; nobody was in sight. With a crack she Apparated back to her empty flat. It was probably time she cleaned out the terrarium.