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He feels the presence of the wind around him
He feels the power of the past behind him
Friday, May 18 • Afternoon

I know, under the circumstances, that this can be but little comfort to you, but despite how it seems, I am sorry.

We both know it was no accident, and that any reasons I might give for what happened are just worthless excuses — there can be no justification offered for what was done to you.

Nor can you receive justice.

Not in full, not if I can prevent that.

I made the choice many years ago to stand by him as long as I'm still capable of standing. I might not always be physically there, but the point remains. For good or ill, to me he's a part of my family. And I've reaffirmed my choice to help protect him and his, and in doing so protect my own.

I expect we'll all pay for that. If not in this life, then perhaps the next.

Until then I'll leave you in peace. I know it's an affront to be here, just as it would have been to stay away. It's a measure of a person, how they fulfill their responsibilities. We failed you, and we're continuing to fail you, and when the time comes and can have no objection to you taking what's owed you.
Hestia's family had come to accept that she was gone, never to return, and the memorial service proceeded as planned.

As if to mock the mourners, the rainclouds of the morning had cleared off by mid-afternoon, when they'd all gathered by a stone with no casket beneath it.

Tonks hadn't been expecting Remus — she didn't know why; thinking back it made perfect sense that the leader of the Order of the Phoenix and the current Head of Hes' former House would be in attendance. Even if he had been "ill" recently.

She excused herself from a somber, troubled conversation with Shacklebolt and the other Aurors and approached the grave, where Lupin stood alone, lost in reverie.

"It's good to see you're well again."
Nymphadora Tonks had something of a custom when it came to funerals — during the war, Remus had come to know it all too well. She chose her hair as a sort of tribute to the deceased, a way to say goodbye.

Today it was unmorphed hair, handing simply down to her shoulders.

A request of the mother's?

"Yes — as you saw at Roger's party, I believe."

Avoiding the Auror had preyed upon his conscience, but it was clearly for the best that he'd done so.
"Yep. Very few deathly sick people at that picnic, I'd say."

At least he looked guilty.

"For crying out loud, Remus. If you're going to give excuses at least put some effort into it."
Lupin's spine stiffened. He had been ducking out, true, but —

"It's only been since this past moon that I've been back to normal," he protested. "Before that — I had to keep clear of anything or anyone too upsetting. And you are still on that list.

Although for a slightly different reason than before; her career was the main sticking point now, more than their past. After all, he was a married man.

Remus wished, not for the first time, that he'd left things in a better state when he'd left. Among the small circle of people he wanted to wish himself and Izabel well when they made their marriage public — he would like for Tonks to be counted with them.

I wish I had the right to ask you to be happy for me.
She was still on some list?

What the hell was that supposed to mean?

Oh, please.

Don't you try that, Lupin. Not with you engaged and me sleeping with Bill.

Not like that. Well, maybe.

Not the point!

Kingsley and the other Aurors from the London office had had some disturbing news, which had left Tonks with little patience for distractions and Remus' ... Remusness.

"I needed your expertise with something, but I'm all caught up now on what I needed to know. What made you sick, then?"

Tonks had a hunch.
Remus had already been thinking about how much to let the Auror know. He needed to know who'd tampered with the cage and who adulterated his potion that final month — who had put the students and Izabel in jeopardy.

There was a line to walk there, between finding out what had happened and concealing the truth of what had befallen Hestia and Kevin from the authorities. If they walked it well, the root cause of the Aurors' deaths could be found. Something resembling justice could be salvaged.

"Hogwarts' wolfsbane supplier decided to experiment with a new and ... interesting variation. I took it for months without knowing how it was affecting me. I'm sorry for how I behaved in the tea house, by the by. I had no right to be ill-tempered."

Remus searched Tonks' face, hoping this next bit would be accepted at face value.

"Then, in February, something was added to the wolfsbane leaves to make me truly ill."
"Werewolf heart."

Tonks nodded. Nice to get some confirmations coming at last.

"I think I can prove who flavoured your drink — if I can get past their solicitors. I had the paperwork in order, but now something new's come up, a question of residence and the scope of the warrant."

It didn't matter, really, however many obstacles the lawyers threw in the path.

With what Kingsley had told her, every Auror in the kingdom would be with her on this one.

Something had happened to the Longbottom boy. He was missing, almost certainly dead with the evidence they'd found — and not one Auror had forgotten Frank and Alice.

If this were a few years ago, when regulations on the use of Unforgivables in the line of duty were lessened, her aunt Bellatrix would already have been ambushed by a phalanx of Aurors seeking vengeance for that entire family.

Tonks met Lupin's eyes squarely.

"I think my aunt's been a busy woman."

A theft, a handful of murders, and top it all off with some torture. Typical year, really.
Remus throat went dry, and he swallowed.

"Which?" he asked.

Narcissa was on the Board of Governors. If she was behind all this, they'd have to be truly cautious.

On the other hand, the carnage of releasing a frenzied werewolf into a school was more Bellatrix' style.

Or they're simply working together.

Remus was still thinking it over when Tonks confirmed she suspected Bellatrix.

"The Herbologist who suppied the school with whatever Sprout didn't have room to grow is dead. The wireless said it was a heart attack, but you might look into it for links to your aunt."
Merlin, finally. Why had that taken so long?

"See, that wasn't so bad, was it? The ground didn't open up or the heavens fall because you told me something."

Another body to investigate — they were stacking like cordwood.

No, that wasn't right.

For that to be true, corpses had to be left behind, and that wasn't happening.

Which brought her back to Longbottom.

"Thank you, though, because we needed that. We have to stop her — or if not her, whoever's out there — because we think they're staying active."

Tonks' cool brown eyes surveyed Remus, ready to gauge his reaction.

"Neville Longbottom's dead."
Neville ... dead?

No, surely —

"Oh, damn it all."

It didn't seem right for someone like that, so close to the heart of the conflict, to come through the war and then be lost. The senselessness of life, all over again.

"When did this happen?"
Remus had seemed genuinely disturbed, the well-trained section of the Auror's brain noted.

"Some time shortly after his grandmother's funeral. You'd heard she passed away?"

Lupin nodded, so Tonks continued, fairly clinically for her.

"He left word that he was taking compassionate leave after that but was never seen again. They've drawn up one of Vector's missing-person charts — he's gone.

Well, mostly. There was still traces of blood within the plants in Neville's greenhouse, but that was the sort of detail they were keeping from the public.

"Just like Hestia and Kevin. They've been keeping it quiet to follow up on a couple of things, but his colleagues are starting to ask questions, and it's going to go public on Monday."

Tonks shrugged and looked away.

"After this I'm going to go find Ginny so she doesn't hear about it over the wireless."

Tonks knew Ginny and Neville had been close; she thought she'd better find Molly or Snape first to make sure someone was with Ginny. Neville'd never been Snape's favorite, not by a long shot, but surely for this he'd put Ginny first — so he was Tonks' first choice.
"And I'll tell Harry."

The initial numbness was wearing off, and in its wake there was ony the certainty that there was one thing to do.

"Anything we can help you with, anything at all, please don't hesitate to ask."

If he had come forward with the information about the Herbologist earlier, could it have been tied to Bellatrix and led to her incarceration before she'd gotten to Neville?
Eh. I don't give deputy badges out to just anyone, thanks.

That was being petty — you hardly could be miffed and suspicious when someone avoided you, then turn right around and do the same when they didn't.

Besides, Remus and his friends knew their stuff. Nothing wrong with using your resources.

"It's not my case and not my jurisdiction — unless Shacklebolt's hunch is right and they are all connected. But thanks."

Tonks nodded.


She waited until she had his full attention.

"There's nothing you need to tell me about any recent attacks, is there?"
He'd been lulled into a state of security, but at least to this he could offer something of the truth.

Remus cast a minor ward for extra privacy.

"I haven't bitten anyone as a wolf since I was undercover, Nymphadora."

He used the forbidden name deliberately, as a signal of the importance of what he was saying. It was the truth, after all — deer didn't count.

He'd offer up Izabel's presence as an alibi but that was coming too near the truth. It would be of little concrete use, anyway; what would anyone expect a fianceé, a wife, someone in love, to say?

How much would you have concealed for me, if things had come to that or if it were more clear-cut? And how far would I have let you go?
Her eyes had flashed at his use of her given name, but that was all. Tonks waited to hear if he'd say more, then slowly dipped her head in assent.

"All right. I just had to ask, Remus."

She made no apologies for doing so, though.

"And I wanted to talk to Hes' grandmama before she left, so if you'll excuse me ..."

Tonks touched Remus on the arm and left him standing alone. She walked over to catch an elderly witch clad in a gray wool cloak despite the weather and began to mull over the encounter.

How much is Mr. Secrets keeping to himself yet?