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When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.
~ Lord Falkland

Monday, June 18th ~ Morning



Almost a week had gone by since Anne had been out jogging and had had the misfortune to make the acquaintance of Bellatrix Lestrange. Anne understood the woman was dead and was no longer a threat, but that didn't stop the images that kept replaying in her mind through the potion induced haze of medication the healers insisted she take. Once or twice they'd been busy enough she'd received it a little late and there was no argument about taking it after that. Whatever hex it was the dead woman had managed to hit her with - hurt! Anne's left arm and shoulder still weren't responding the way they should, but the healers had assured her they would in time.

Nerve damage - strange that it causes such pain - but they hang there like - like dead weight.

Anne had been fortunate enough to be in the states during the altercation with Voldemort, but she had heard stories of what had happened of course. If they were anything like what she'd seen - she was heartily glad she'd been absent.

If things like this happen even now - maybe my mother is right. Maybe I should return - home? It wasn't a decision she had to make right away, but it was one she was seriously considering. Anne didn't care if it labeled her a coward. The sight of her old potions professor being pummeled by unseen blows and coughing up blood was enough to make her wish for a Portkey right now.
 
 
 
 
 
 
She'd dropped by St. Mungo's before a couple times, when work allowed, to check in on Bellatrix' final victims, both for professional and personal reasons. Both Snape and Anne needed to give statements — and Tonks felt she had to see them to assuage an internal voice that spoke of the previous time she'd failed to take Mrs. Lestrange down quickly enough and allowed her to hurt people.

It was hard to have a decent conversation with someone hopped up on pain-relief potions, though, even if it could be entertaining at times.

Now that the Healers said Miss Perks was awake and able to receive visitors, Tonks was ready to try again. She knocked on the doorway before poking her head into Anne's ward.

"Hey, Anne. Glad to see you're awake. May I come in?"
A faint smile tugged at the corners of Anne's mouth and she nodded. It wasn't Tonks' fault she'd been stupid enough to blunder into the middle of - whatever it was she'd blundered into.

"I don't suppose you managed to smuggle in a good stiff drink with you, did you?" Anne asked with a note of hope in her voice. "That's about the only thing I've asked for they won't let me have."

She knew of course with the different medications she was on, liquor of any kind was forbidden, but it was going to be one of the first things on her list when she finally got out of the hospital.
Tonks chuckled and made her way across to a chair next to the bed, making it without one stumble.

"Sorry, no booze on me. Maybe if you were in the Llewellyn Ward something could be arranged, but the Fourth Floor Healers are right demons. I'd get caught, and pfft, that would be the end of me."

She leaned forward conspiratorially, noting as she did so that not only did Anne sound more normal, she looked it as well. "I did bring you something, though, now that you're lucid and all."

Anne's wand had been in her care since the incident, and now the Auror gave it back.

"Sadly I think they do have wards up against Conjuring anything interesting."
"Well, bugger," Anne said with a grimace while taking her wand and tucking it away.

"Medical people have no sense of humor at all do they?" Anne was of course completely ignoring the fact she could be considered a medical person under the broad definition, but then - she'd always had the opinion a good stiff belt when needed was the proper prescription for a lot of life's little slings and arrows.

And since she'd seen neither hide or hair of one Charlie Weasely...

Or the feather from an owl.

"How do you feel about male strippers?" Anne asked with a questioning look on her face. "After I get out of here - I want a treat and I know just the place, but I don't want to go by myself."

Especially if Charlie's still there dancing his booty about for everyone else but me.

"Who knows - we might find a straight one or two in the deck."
Tonks moved a flower arrangement back slightly — noting the name on the card without even thinking, Mad-Eye Moody's warnings about constant vigilance having sunk in despite everything — so she could lean an elbow against the table and settle in.

How do I feel — well, optimally there's some feeling involved, depending on the quality of the place ...

"Hey, no knocking the Healers, 'cause from the sound of things post-curse physical therapy has gotten a lot more interesting than when I was in for the same thing."

She laughed. "Strippers? I'm game.

"And I guess Charlie can hardly argue with a prescription, now, can he? Or did you have in mind going to his place? Because, if so, I have to warn you — I will laugh my entire arse off if I see that."

Too late, Tonks cringed slightly.

"No offense."
"None taken," Anne advised with a smile and while the subject of Charlie did - rankle - maybe it was time to talk with someone else about it. She didn't know Tonks all that well, but sometimes it was better to unload on someone you didn't know and might never see again. The medication could be blamed later if it came to that.

"Uhm - sorry - I don't recall that conversation, must have been when they had me all doped up."

"Could I talk to you - woman to woman about something?"
Ohh, girltalk. Tonks hadn't had a chance for some good girltalk in ... um ... well, not so long as that, surely?

Oddly pleased even to be asked, Tonks grinned and nodded. Her hair went from tomboy blue to a more girly purple.

"Of course you can. All part of the service, here."
Anne watched fascinated as the hair changed color.

"Ohhh, that is so - unfair," she said with a laugh and a pointed finger. "I wish I could do that, but you probably hear that a lot don't you?"

Now that the opportunity to talk had come - Anne was hesitant.

Isn't that just the way.

Professionally I can talk their legs off.

Get down to personal stuff - and I clam up.


Taking a deep breath, Anne decided to plunge right in and try to find her way back to shore.

Sink or swim it is.

"You brought up Charlie and he's a nice guy and all, but I find it maddening. I don't know what to do to be honest. One week he's all attentive and wanting to be more than friends and then two or three weeks - a month goes by and I don't hear a thing from him."

Flopping back on the pillows, which Anne soon regretted as her arm and shoulder let her know they weren't ready for that quite yet - thank you very much - she sighed.

"There was the two jobs thing, which I can understand, but I think he quit the stripping one and I've been too much of a coward to go trasping into the Sticks to see if he's working there, so it's just as much my fault as his maybe. I don't know. I chased him down at his place once and that's how it all got started the first time."

Leaning forward again, Anne frowned.

"I like him. The sex - when we have it - is awesome, but - this on again off again thing is throwing me. I don't know if I should see other people or not. I don't normally sleep around and yet - I'm tempted to just to see if it's the sex that's keeping me hoping there'll be more.

"Am I making any sense at all here or has the medication totally messed up my head?"
Back at school, Tonks had pretty much found the idea of her friend Charlie having a sex life hilarious. Apparently she'd matured less than she thought, because it still seemed a little on the humourous side — but not if it was upsetting Anne.

Oh, Chuckles. You piker.

"No, it's making sense," Tonks reassured Anne. "So it's seeming like an 'out of sight, out of mind' thing for him, maybe? 'Cause I've seen you two together and he seems attentive and all then. But no owls or anything? Really?"

She wondered if she should suggest pulling out the big guns. No way Molly Weasley'd let a son of hers get away with acting like that, if she knew.

"I think I'd have to like someone an awful lot to put up with that for long."
"No, no owls."

Anne leaned back against the pillows, more gently this time, and thought about it. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she slowly nodded her head.

"You're right and since I don't want to be a pest and someone he dreads seeing - when and if I see him - I think I'm going to keep him in the friend category. I mean, I like him well enough, but not enough to torture myself over."

That settled to her satisfaction, Anne brightened a little.

"Now about the club I have in mind. Like I said earlier, as far as I know Charlie doesn't work there any longer so there should be no problems with you laughing. I took Vera Vector along last time and her friend Daphne. Oh! And she - Daphne that is - ended up getting - oh, hell," Anne said with a giggle. "She ended up getting a shirt that Charlie had worn. I'd forgotten about that."

Taking a sip of water from the glass by her bed, Anne smiled.

"Percy went along too and it was quite a revelation all in all, so I doubt I'd be able to talk him into visiting there again."

The narrowing of the eyes was back as she tilted her head and looked at the pink-haired Auror.

"What about Bill? Is he going to object to you going along and seeing possibly-almost-hopefully-naked men?"
The thought that she'd helped tip the balance away from Charlie struck Tonks' conscience for a moment. No, she didn't think anything she could have said would have made that much of a difference — she had some experience with knowing when it was "being a pest" and when it was something more than that.

If it was worth fighting for, there'd've been fighting, she told herself.

Tonks refilled Anne's water glass for her, with only a minor dribble, and put it out of her head. There were jiggling, wriggling half-naked men to worry about instead.

"So's it a Wizarding club or a Muggle one? I've gotta say I've had more luck with Muggles than anything lately, so yeah, I'm definitely in. Have to celebrate when you're released anyway, right?"

And then Anne was inspecting Tonks, who started out simply blowing the question off:

"Bill? Like he gets a vote. Oh, if he knew about it he'd probably puff his chest out and say he'd be a better show than any of the dancers, but no one has to listen to him, least of all me."

You mong. This is a chance for girltalk, so get it out there for a change instead of sticking your fool head in the sand.

She might have already brought it up with someone, but her usual pool of advisors for this sort of thing contained too many people who were either directly related to Bill or dating someone who was. And Anne had just established that that didn't apply to her any more.

"... OK, so I think I do fancy him a bit." Tonks allowed. "Possibly. But I've never gone this way, you know? It's always been 'go for it, and if it doesn't work, then go for being friends' — like you and Charlie. I've never tried to put the moves on a friend before."

Her hands moved while she tried to explain, coming dangerously close to a vase at one point. Tonks rolled her eyes at her own idiocy and blew a stray strand of hair out of her eyes.

"So I ... haven't decided if I want to do anything about it. Which is a bit worrying. Either this is what it's like to be mature, or I've suddenly decided to be the sort of person who dithers. In any case: bring on the dancers!"
A broad smile grew on Anne's face as she listened to Tonks.

"Great! It'll be fun. Two outgoing, good looking witches on the prowl - and it's a Muggle club by the way - and those strippers won't know what hit them!"

Anne realized it would probably be at least a week after she was released before she could even consider going out to party, but the anticipation was almost as much fun as the actual doing in her opinion. Sending Tonks a wink she added, "Who knows - it might make Bill sit up and take notice and decide he's the one who wants to make a move on a friend."
Tonks laughed, wholeheartedly.

"If we have the sort of night where the stories go out far and wide and everyone hears, to heck with this 'dating' thing, I'll be sticking with what works. I shop at Madame Salacia's Adult Emporium without fear, so between that and the dancers I'm set."

It would happen or it wouldn't, but either way it would be ok — right now Tonks preferred to have someone to talk over things like cases and her insane family with more than chancing a replay of history for them both.

"So I guess we'll just wait on you to get up and about, then?" She sobered a bit. "You know, the Healers are right — your energy will come back quickly, and the discoloration from that curse fades to nearly nothing."
Hearing the diagnosis from someone who'd actually recovered from the exact same thing helped. It helped a lot and Anne shot Tonks a grateful smile.

"Thanks and the first round is on me. I'll even let you calls dibs first on any dancers that take your fancy," Anne added with an impish grin. "You'll have - oh say ten seconds."
First round on Anne? Oh, no no no. Not when she'd been injured while Tonks was supposed to be on the lookout.

"Hrmm." Tonks twisted her lips and tapped her fingers on the bedside table. "Not sure I can let you get the first round, but we'll figure it out. Can't exactly quarrel over it, after all — we're gonna be there to enjoy the show, not provide one for the blokes."

She shook her head and laughed again. This was going to be fun.

"And I can do a lot in 10 seconds, so you're on, missy."
Anne's eyes narrowed fractionally before she studied Tonks.

Maybe ten seconds is too long.

"All right. If you must," she conceded with a heavy sigh. After making sure Tonks had enough time to appreciate what a great sacrifice it was, Anne grinned and pointed one finger of her good arm at the other witch.

"But the only way you get the first round is if the time gets cut down to five seconds and then if he's blond - all bets are off. My last boyfriend had dark hair, Charlie's a redhead - therefore I should have better luck with a blond, right?"
This seemed an eminently sensible arrangement.

"You're on."

Tonks nodded emphatically.

"Although I think I'm dutybound to point out here that hair colour doesn't mean bupkis. It's who you are inside and blah blah not really so relevant when it comes to just ogling strippers, so ... yeah."

Intrigued, Tonks cocked her head — which now sported green hair — and inquired, "Was the dark-haired guy a lot like Charlie?"
Anne's eyes widened and she shook her head vigorously.

"Good gods, no! If Charlie had reminded me of the arse-hat - well, lets just say you might still see the marks where I left."

She shrugged lightly and leaned back again.

"Charlie's a good guy from what I can tell. Just not close enough to "the one" that I'm willing to suffer over and I want to try a blond," Anne said stubbornly before winking at Tonks. "That way I've tried all the flavors and can start over if I want to."
Tonks wrinkled her nose. "One of those, huh? All right. We'll go for a variety there, too — from bad to good to really good, and from brunette to ginger to blonde."

Her eyes lit up.

"Oh, I wonder if the club'll have a variety pack for us to try? They really should. They'd make a mint."