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How did you survive all those fires and floods?
Saturday, July 21 :: Afternoon

Not too long ago Tonks wanted more than anything to get into this room. She wasn't a stickler for order or anything, but the state of Wilson's office went past a bit mussed into an outright detriment to anything they wanted to do.

He'd even had charms put on so the paper-airplane memos she sent never made it to him; they flew off to who knew where.

Nothing to keep her out of the supervisor's office now, though.

Tonks had made a couple of borderline-insubordinate comments this morning when Kingsley, who'd come up from London himself to direct the aftermath of last night's debacle, had suggested she go home and get some sleep after the initial interview were over.

It felt like the war again: an hour, maybe two, of potion-assisted sleep, another draught to wake up and get back on the job to patrol for stray Inferi and then start tackling the paperwork. Left you kind of jittery and insubstantial feeling, like if you didn't pay attention your skin would just slide right off and poof, nothing'd be there any more.

This wasn't the war any more, though, just a temporary situation, and in a couple of days the Auror Station'd be sorted out and all the potions'd be out of her system and everything would be ... normal-ish.

Not everyone got to say that. Not now, and not back then.

Tonks had been reading some of Wilson's old incident reports — the man had, at one time, been the sort of Auror anyone'd be proud to serve along side of. Then had come the attack on Hogsmeade.

He'd never recovered after that, apparently.

He should've been retired at a full pension long ago. Or the psych evals should have caught that he was likely to be unstable in a combat situation.

Tonks felt about two inches high as she reshelved the heavy books, now clear of a thick layer of dust.

She hadn't thought to even consider that Wilson might need help. For crying out loud, he'd been an Auror, one who'd given his Oath back when getting accepted still meant something. After the war the need for warm bodies in the ranks had necessitated some loosening of the requirements, but not back then.

She should have seen that.

'Course, he should have sought help, too. And speaking of seeking help ...

She looked out into the hallway and spotted Remus saying good-bye to Kingsley.

There was a lot of "should have" to go around.
In a better world right now he'd be feeding Izabel a piece of bridal cake, not answering a series of questions at the Auror Station.

And in a worse one we'd have lost her, or me, or us both.

They'd have to make do with the one they had now, which included grief and guilt over Rose and a very uncomfortable (and enlightening) session with Shacklebolt, but everyone else safe and well. That would do.

Remus had planned on returning home as soon as the official business was done — there was so much to do, not the least of which was figuring out what he'd do this next moon, now that those carefully crafted honeymoon plans were destroyed‚ but on his way down the hall he looked up to see Tonks.

His footsteps slowed, and he wondered what sort of world it would be where she didn't have cause to look at him like that, all anger and disappointment.

"How are you feeling?"
"No spell damage, no problem."

Tonks folded her arms and moved to the doorway, all the better to glare from. She wasn't going to be put off by courtesy — she wanted to know what had gone on in the other room.

"Did you tell him everything?"
Brave front or honesty?

With her it could be so hard to tell, unless there was a morph to give things away.

It had just been a knock on the head, though, and Kingsley hadn't had Tonks put up at St. Mungo's, so that was all the answer he needed, Remus supposed.

"There wasn't much to tell. None of us had any idea a vampire was in the area. If we had ..."
"If you had, what?" Tonks interrupted. "They both would have been disposed of quietly, no one the wiser? Don't talk to me about 'a' vampire as if it could have been any of them. I read the reports from two years ago and they don't quite tell the whole story, do they? Not according to what I heard last night.

"He had specific targets — that's the sort of thing the Being Division is very good at preventing. Did no one feel like pointing that out to Rose, or was she just told not to worry her pretty head over it all?"
Lupin didn't much feel like following up a sleepless night and one confrontation with an Auror with another argument.

Especially not out in the hall.

"I think I've had more experience with the Beast and Being Divisions than you, Nymphadora, and I don't share your estimation. Can we continue this in there?"

He didn't wait for Tonks to say it was fine before barging inside and shutting the door behind them.

"Yes. We underestimated him and we made mistakes and what happened to Rose is partly on our heads. But the way things are out here, we didn't have much of a choice. I'm sorry Wilson died but this Station hasn't exactly been a force to be reckoned with under him. We did what we had to do."
If he wanted to explain things, using her given name wasn't doing much to smooth the waters.

"It wasn't the Ministry who let your secret out after all those years, Remus, it was Snape. They would have kept Rose's confidentiality, even the ones who are rude. And even then — alive and sneered at by idiots is still a hell of a lot better than dead!"

Tonks didn't regret that she'd staked Rose — that was her duty. But the fact that she'd been put in a position to do so felt like such a waste. It had been entirely preventable, but no one had spoken up and now she'd have Rose's gaze in those final moments reminding her of that in quiet moments.

"So Wilson wasn't the greatest guy. He wasn't the only Auror you knew, was he? I'm not talking about me — I'm talking about Kingsley. Do you have any idea much trouble he went through to help Sirius because it was the right thing to do? Don't you think he would have done that again for you all in a heartbeat? Do you really think he and Moody were so unusual, that there were only two decent people in the entire force?"
"No. No, I don't."

Remus's voice was pitched low and quiet, to try to get her to listen. Tonks was all worked up, and he didn't like that.

"But neither do I think Kingsley's decency — or yours — is something we can take lightly. Scrimgeour will use that against you both if he can. He already did once — this is still the same Ministry that sacked you for helping the Order.

"We weren't going to repay Kingsley for what he's done by involving him in a situation that we thought we could handle ourselves."

That had been hubris, and Lupin felt even older every time he considered what would have happened if Harry and Daphne had split up, or himself and Izabel, and the women had been left with only wards put in place when friends remembered to do so. Izabel had Hogwarts to protect her during most of the year, but over summer ... and Snape would not have allowed Daphne to be defenseless, but then, they'd all tried to keep Rose safe as well, until the vagaries of life caused their attention to flag. It wasn't the same as professional protection.

"It turns out we were wrong, but it wasn't because we were thoughtless. Scrimgeour's Ministry isn't something we can trust. You know that as well as anyone, and so does Kingsley, and so did Wilson — Kingsley said he's been reporting to Scrimgeour about Harry and the rest of us."

Remus shrugged and pointed out the one bit of hope, with a new person in charge of the Station.

"Maybe now things will change."
An odd expression fell across Tonks' face. She pushed off from the edge of Wilson's desk and went around to the back of the room where a red-covered set of ledgers used to sit, about the only thing in the office that never had piles of stuff on it.

They were gone, and she'd bet her wand on who had them now and what they contained.

"'Junior clerk assisting the Aurors with their personnel shortage' my arse," she muttered.

It wasn't surprising at all, but it was enough to make a less stubborn woman wonder what the point of any of it was. She wanted to take both sides and put them in time out like toddlers.

"Yeah, maybe it will," Tonks sighed and slipped into Wilson's chair. "Just promise you'll make an effort with whoever's here, all right? Just try."
Confused, Remus settled into a chair himself.

"I assumed that it would be you."
Yeah, anyone would leap to keep a position in a place that had seen three deaths in the line of duty in the past few months.

"I'm ... keeping my options open. Maybe I can do more good in London with Kingsley supervising the night watch and helping with whatever he's got planned for Scrimegour."

That was one question answered, at least — why Wilson had been kept on-duty. It'd been more important for the Minister to have a spy (even one of such dubious worth as Wilson) than to take care of his men.
Lupin knew Tonks did love the City, but he was still frowning.

"It's strange — from what I hear, you have a good reason to stay here. Won't the night shift be incompatable with bankers' hours?"
Tonks schooled her face to stay impassive.

She wasn't suited to this. Playing things smart, taking things slow. At work, sure, but not in her personal life. It didn't really feel fair, keeping one foot out the door while waiting for "someday," in the hopes that if things did go wrong she couldn't be that hurt and the relationship would still be salvagable.

(How detached she could be when the attack last night had nearly caused cardiac arrest at one point, she wasn't going to think about.)

After last night ... well, there'd been a definite pattern in her life of getting hurt on the job and then being told that work was hazardous enough without having to worry about getting hurt afterhours as well so thanks, kid.

"Yeah. Like I said, I'm just keeping my options open."
"That sounds more like something I'd do. Not you."

Remus didn't doubt Tonks would do her job well no matter where she was stationed, but she should be choosing her spot for the right reasons.

"Listen to me. Back when I told you I was too old, I was wrong. It turned out I was actually too young and had some growing up to do yet. Bill's not as foolish or as frightened as I was.

"I told him the other night I wish you both well and I meant that. I also said that you'd better treat each other well or else, and I meant that too. Since when do you give up? Don't apply my mistakes to him — give yourselves the room to make a whole new set of mistakes."

He leaned back and spread his hands.

"Then, work through them and you'll have a relationship someone who won't look as ridiculous as I did at those music festivals you like to go to.

"We've rescheduled the wedding and I'd like to think you're on the guest list. Will you come?"
"I put a stake through a member of the wedding party. I think Miss Manners would say I should stay away."

Tonks shrugged her shoulders and half-smiled.

There was more for her to keep in mind than Remus knew — and there was nothing on Earth that would induce her to tell him that.

"I'll talk it over with Bill and then maybe. ... Since there's cake and all. Sound fair?"
"I thought I heard someone say 'Bill' and 'cake' which are my really two of my favorite words, especially if they're in the same sentence and result in me getting some." Unexpectedly walking in - most likely into a room he shouldn't have been in, in the first place, but he'd heard Tonks voice and Kingsley had been busy and told him to feel free to look for her - on Tonks and Remus, of all people, had thrown him off.

"Cake. I mean cake."

Screw it, he'd talked to Remus the other night and admitted he and Tonks were seeing each other. If the older man had had any issues with it, he would have said something then (and it was too late now, damn it).

Bill grinned and gave Nymph a wink. "Although, if you throw in some icing, I'm willing to negotiate what else could be 'got.'"
Remus might have had a point, somewhere in there, about not getting all Lupin-y over things, and maybe it had sunken in in the two seconds since he'd made it or maybe it was just seeing who it was coming through the door that changed Tonks' half-smile into a full one.

"One day Bertie Botts is going to come up with beer-flavored icing," she observed, "and your world will never be the same."

What flavor cake would go with that, Tonks had no idea, but it would sort itself out, she was sure.

"Wotcher, Stretch. How's the throat?"
"Afternoon, Bill."

Remus looked back over his shoulder and nodded at Weasley, then stood up. He had a wife to go home to and wasn't needed here any longer, he had a feeling.

"Yes, Tonks, that sounds very fair, although now I'm worrying a bit that what I think the House Elves said will be vanilla buttercream on the cake will now be inadequate."
He'd received a smile and Remus was leaving so he couldn't have interrupted anything too important. "Remus. Tell Izabel hello for me, if you would."

Alright, perhaps throwing in a gentle reminder that Remus was all but taken and therefor shouldn't have any reason what so ever to be moving in on... Oh, bloody hell, why don't you just scent mark her, dumb arse. Remus has his own bird, and a fine lady she is, and it's perfectly normal for him to be talking to Tonks. Even completely normal for the two of them to express concern for each other for fuck's sake. Just cause they used to be inseparable, doesn't mean either is secretly pining now. Bill's grin turned slightly sheepish. He figured he was still a bit keyed up after everything that had happened and a wee bit too anxious about protecting Tonks. Even if it was just from Remus.

"Nothing wrong with vanilla buttercream. I certainly wouldn't turn it down. Might even make my throat feel better, I mean, it couldn't hurt. Right?" He nodded toward Tonks as he answered her question. "It's actually ok, a bit sore, but the Healer says I'll live and no new scars to add to the collection. Since we're talking icing, does this mean there's a new date set for the wedding cake? And the wedding, too, of course."
"We thought about waiting a while out of respect for Rose, but the guests are already in the castle and we don't want to disrupt their entire summer. Harry volunteered his birthday, so that's what we're going with."

That date just happened to fall right after a full moon. Remus raised his eyebrows and shrugged lightly, knowing Bill would recognize the timing.

"I'll be sure to give Izabel your best, and if icing is the prescribed therapy for your throat, then icing you shall have."

Lupin turned at the door with a few last words for Tonks.

"Again, I'm sorry about Wilson. But I think you should really consider keeping his office. Have a good afternoon."
Tonks had gotten up as well, and came around the desk as Remus left to stand next to Bill.

"Still sore? Can't they give you something?"
The new date made him wince in sympathy. Lucky for Remus, Izabel seemed to be the kind of woman who wouldn't mind doing a majority of the hard work during the Honeymoon night.

Not that he would ever, ever even hint at saying that out loud.

Bill loved that kind of woman.

He turned his attention to Tonks and debated trying to milk his injury for sympathy, but considering she'd been knocked cold it didn't seem right. "Oh yeah, they can give me all sorts of things, and they all have the same instructions that seem to involve a temporary ban on alcohol. I wasn't about to agree to that. Besides, it's not really that bad, I just don't want Mum to find out because she makes some delicious stuff if one of her babies gets hurt. Especially if they manage to do it while doing something useful and/or heroic. Not that I'm saying the only reason I followed you into the fog last night was cause I was hoping for some brownies, there were other reasons, but why deny the brownies if someone wants to just give them to you."

Right about then he realized he'd been going on quite long enough, thanks, and shut his mouth with a snap.

Only to open it again a second later. "So, speaking of brownies, I might have some at the cabin, if you're done with work soon? Or do you have to stick around here. I guess I could bring some here, but I'm not sharing with that lot out front, they look shifty and young. Mostly young. Definitely not brownie worthy. And the only reason I'm not asking about your head, in case you're wondering, is because I already asked Kingsley in on the chance you were gone and he told me you were working and fine, so you are, aren't you? Fine? I didn't manage to hurt you, dragging you around, did I?"

That's me. Bill Weasley, smooth operator.
"You know me, tough as nails and all that. But I'd've been a lot worse off if I hadn't been dragged around, so good thing you were there, even if it was partially for the brownies."

Tonks tipped her head back slightly to study Bill a bit more closely.

"I could use being beat up a bit as an excuse to leave work early — Kingsley's been trying to get me to go since noon — but on the other hand, I think you might have had enough sugar already."

Unless there was another reason he was talking so much. Nerves? Like he was about to deliver some bad news?

How about I give you some sugar instead and we don't have to worry about the whole "dangerous" thing?

"Everything else is OK, right? I already got the yelling out of my system a bit ago with Remus, so if there is something wrong I promise there won't be any shouting."
No yelling was good, although he wasn't sure what he had been expecting to get yelled at for. He hadn't touched the strippers the night before, but he had told Remus about him and Tonks without making sure it was okay with her before hand. He'd dragged her to safety, but only after getting himself caught and nearly killed. Then there was that whole heart stopping moment when Tonks had gone flying and wasn't moving and he didn't even have his own wand, and he had felt so impotent because there wasn't really anything he could do to protect her if the vampire had decided to finish what he'd started. But she wouldn't have known about that, would she?

"Everything's fine now," and he did mean it, since he'd seen her smile a large part of the weight that had been sitting on his chest since the night before was gone. "I'm just glad to see you, and pants at expressing it well."

He held out his hand. "So, ready to play hookie? We can stop by the 'Sticks and pick up some food on the way to my place and then hole up for a few hours."
"Yes, please."

Tonks took the outstretched hand and went up on tip-toe to place a peck on Bill's cheek.

"And you're not pants. I've just been paranoid all day."

Those poor rookies out there probably were about as impressed with her as she'd been with Wilson back in the spring.

"Partially from potions, partially from being stuck in the middle between Scrimegour and the old Order and being hopping mad over that, and ... well, a lot from being afraid that you'd be coming in here and it'd be a repeat of Mark Mazzeo and the bludger incident or Remus and the Department of Mysteries."

The last part of that spilled out in a rush; she wasn't particularly proud of being suspicious but couldn't seem to find a way around it. Being told that everything was fine went a long way to restoring her confidence, enough to take Remus' advice and be more Tonks-like about the whole thing.

If this backfires I'm killing him.

"You know, the whole 'it's too dangerous blah blah blah I think I'll take Nancy Pinsky to the yule ball or go visit feral werewolves instead' thing."

Tonks could feel her face flush and winced.

"Anyway, give me an evening on the couch doing nothing particular and normal Tonks service will resume shortly."
"Feral werewolves? The hell? I'd always assumed Remus was a smart man, but maybe I should rethink that a bit." Who the hell would chose feral werewolves over Tonks? Who the hell would chose feral werewolves, period?

Bill squeezed her hand, and shook his head. "Rest assured I have no plans to run off with the wolves or take Nancy Pinsky to the Yule Ball, and if I did, it would have nothing to do with hanging around you being dangerous. I break curses for a living and I've had my arse handed to me by at least two mummies in my lifetime, not to mention I occasionally hang out with Harry Potter who is a danger magnet like no other. You, my sometimes blue-haired Nymph, fit right in."
"Oh, thank Merlin."

Tonks stepped away just long enough to swing the door closed and returned to Bill. She had a strong suspicion that the glass had been charmed by Wilson to show nothing at all of what went on in the office, so no one walking by would notice a sudden snogging session.

If it hadn't been charmed ... oh, well. A girl had to do what a girl had to do.

Gah, and no thinking of Wilson doing anything like that in here. Disrespectful to the dead as well as ewww.

After a bit, remembering at last the promise of brownies and food from the 'Sticks, Tonks pulled back to rest her head — hair bright blue — on Stretch's shoulder.

"It's not stupid, I get the protective thing. As a matter of fact I'm feeling a bit hostile toward mummies right now."

A fingertip traced one of the scars along Bill's jawline.

"It's the 'you're sort of breakable and I'm too dangerous for you' bit that I think is an insane theory, and I thought you might subscribe to it." She hesitated a few seconds. "Because of, you know. Fleur."
"I believe you've already proved me wrong on that account." A moment was spent looking at her, as if trying to work out how to explain that Tonks wasn't anything like Fleur without inadvertently insulting her.

"Fleur is, well, even with her temper there's just something about her that makes you feel like you're the big strong hero and she's the dainty damsel in distress that needs to be petted and protected. I never gave her a chance to get through to me when I was at my worst because I was afraid of what might happen. You, on the other hand, can take care of yourself and after last night, it's pretty obvious that you're handy to have around. I'm not saying there won't be a time when I'm going to pull the whole He-Man macho crap, because I nearly had a stroke worrying about you after you got hurt, but I'm pretty sure you've earned the right to tell me to stuff it. You're a bloody Auror, after all, and a damn good one, even if you do have shit taste in men." Bill hoped that might make her smile.

"Nancy Pinsky? Didn't she get arrested for lewd behavior with a garden gnome or something a few years back?"
Tonks sprung up in surprise.

"Get out! No way, she was way too prim and proper, and gnomes are so ..."

From the look on someone's face, her leg was being pulled.

"Git!" She pushed at his chest. "And I've developed superb taste in men, I'll have you know."

And it was pretty impossible to come off all fierce when you were trying very hard to hold back a torrent of laughter. To be seen as knowing what was best for herself was all she'd ever wanted, really, and to be offered that had taken on sort of a sheen of impossibility.

"I do think you underestimated Fleur a bit, but selfishly I'm not going to be too sad about that ... because now you're mine and I'm not letting you go. Especially if some vampire or something comes flying out of the dark again and I go all petrified for a moment."

The thought crossed her mind that she should inform Kingsley that he could consider the Hogsmeade post filled, but the boss would have to wait for Monday. It was officially hookey time.

"C'mon. I'll feed you brownies and make a fuss over you if you'll do the same for me, Deputy."