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Old 06-03-2009, 04:02 AM   #555 (permalink)
Cassirin

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Hogwarts RPG Name:
Grant Cornish
Graduated

x7 x8

Ministry RPG Name:
Genevieve James
Law Enforcement

Ministry RPG Name:
Carrigan Howard
Accidents & Catastrophes
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Made of Awesome | Ern-la the Best-wa | TZ's Apogee

Hey, friends! I know it's been a LONG LONG LONG LONG time since I posted, and I truly apologize for it. Since I last posted, though, I wrote and editted my first novel. So... you know... Yay! Good trade for me, bad for you all.

We are winding down in this FF, getting to the end of HBP. That means there is a lot of canon stuff to come, so I must acknowledge that I will be borrowing dialogue heavily from JK Rowling sometime in the next few posts. I did not create any of these characters, I simply made them crazy and possessed them for a while.

So much thanks to all who read this FF, and I WILL be posting again very soon. Please continue to let me know if you're reading, because I really am finishing this story for those of you who started this loooooong journey with me and have been so faithful. It's nice to know you're still out there.




The owl arrived early in the evening. Nothing really out of the norm – simply Dumbledore asking the Aurors to patrol the school grounds as well as the village. Their rounds had been expanded to the school in increasing intervals since the spring. Obviously, Dumbledore knew something he wasn’t sharing with the Aurors, expected something to happen before the school year ended.

Not that Tonks blamed him for keeping his secrets.

The Minister had conferred with each of them, asking them to rehash every glance and word the Hogsmeade Aurors had exchanged with the Headmaster, Harry Potter, or any of their known companions. Being both an Auror and a member of the Order had always required straddling the line of moral obligation; never more true when Tonks sat across from Scrimgeour and spontaneously contracted amnesia.

It couldn’t be coincidental that Tonks was the Auror on duty this evening. Dumbledore had always been the puppet master, and it simply defied belief that he hadn’t somehow arranged for Tonks once again to be on the grounds as he slipped out the front gate.

Nothing had been said, no words exchanged between Dumbledore and Tonks, but there was something in the air that made her feel uneasy. Perhaps there was something in the way Dumbledore shuffled out the gate, holding it a bit longer than necessary as if he hated to go. Perhaps it was that she grew weary of secrets and balancing her worlds so that they never brushed edges.

Once the figure disappeared through the gate, Tonks turned her attention to the castle. Her task was to patrol the grounds, for that was the only way anyone could approach. Yet, she’d been patrolling the grounds for weeks, and no one had ever explicitly said that patrolling in the castle was out of bounds. It would make her feel better to know that someone was alert in those halls now that Dumbledore was gone.

She mounted the steps and headed into the castle. Let Filch try to stop her. After his treatment the last time they’d met, she was almost hoping to run into the old crank and his creepy kitty. Mrs. Norris was getting a good dragon hide boot to the ribs.

“What else did he say?”

Tonks recognized the voice before she was fully through the enormous front door. Remus’s voice managed to calm her, even if he himself sounded anything but calm. He huddled in the Entrance Hall with Bill, Minerva McGonagall, and tiny Professor Flitwick.

It was quite an odd collection of Order members, and Tonks paused to look them over. What were Remus and Bill doing at Hogwarts, let alone meeting with two professors in the Entrance Hall?

“Ah, Nymphadora,” Minerva’s tone was crisp, and the look leveled over her glasses promptly made Tonks 12-years-old again. “I expected you earlier. Come.”

Huh? Minerva spun in a flutter of dark robes, leading them up the stairs into the castle. Flitwick scuttled after her with a squeak of dismay. With legs as short as his, he was hard pressed to keep up under normal situations. In these special circumstances, he would have to run if he wanted to walk with Minerva.

Bill gave Tonks a speculative look, considering whether or not he should wait on her. Clearly, Fleur had informed him about their chat at some point, and Bill was caught between protective older brother mode and giving Tonks time alone with Remus. The situation resolved itself when Remus coughed politely into his hand, prompting Bill to toss her a cheeky look before he too disappeared up the stairs.

“I’m late?”

Remus’ chuckle caught in his throat awkwardly. “I don’t suppose Dumbledore could apprise you of the situation without apprising the entire Ministry, could he?”

“What exactly is this… situation? Should I send for Proudfoot and the others?” Tonks dared to dart a look in his direction, but Remus was studiously examining the hewn stones beneath their feet.

Remus considered her suggestion. “Dumbledore requested additional security for the school, including your assistance in the matter. As for summoning more members of the Order or your fellows in the village, I believe we should wait to see what the evening brings before we notify anyone. The Headmaster may have been over cautious in his assessment regarding security needs, and he would not appreciate the Ministry knowing of his departure.”

And now Remus was back to sounding like a book on etiquette. How to Bore Your Date into a Violent Rage. Instant best seller.

They walked in silence for a while, neither eager to revisit their same old fight but neither wanting to lose the others’ company. Would it be unprofessional to hold his hand? Tonks gnawed at her lip thoughtfully.

“Careful. You chew that lip off and no one will ever want to kiss you,” Remus rasped once they hit the darkened fifth floor corridor, proving that he was managing to watch her more adroitly than she’d watched him earlier.

Tonks tried not to smile at his teasing. He didn’t get to make jokes when her heart hurt like this. She wanted to wallow like a normal person, but there were always too many things in the way, preventing her from a really good sulk. And now he was breaking her moody silence with something almost-charming.

“I don’t think anyone wants to kiss me regardless,” her sideways glance was a clear challenge. Prove me wrong, Remus.

Remus mulled that over, directing her toward the stairs again. Why were they climbing so bloody high?

“Shhh!”

They froze on the stairwell at Minerva’s signal. Her arms hung akimbo to her body, poised for flight or action, and there was an alertness about the older woman, almost cat-like. Tonks strained her senses, listening for whatever it was that Minerva heard.

There it was! The tread of heavy feet in the seventh floor corridor above them. More than just students out of bed at this late hour, the steps sounded heavier and incautious. Whoever was racing through the seventh floor was unconcerned with being caught. Perhaps there was a reasonable explanation, but Tonks felt the thrill of certain battle as she yanked her wand from its holster.

“Can’t be anything but students!” Flitwick insisted quietly. “How would they get in?”

How indeed? If the gate was intact and the secret passageways monitored, how could anyone but students be in the school? And yet there were the sounds, now including shouts from further down the corridor, that indicated someone else was in the school.

“No use lurking in stairwells waiting for trouble to find us,” Tonks knew she should feel fear, but all she felt was exhilaration. For far too long, she’d seen nothing but the blank walls of her own soul. She’d become so sick of the scenery inside her head that the tension and apprehension of a potential fight felt delicious.

She pushed past Minerva eagerly, brushing off Remus’s hand on her arm and Bill’s murmured words of caution. Not even Flitwick’s squeak of approbation could keep her lurking in the dark a moment longer. Two steps, and she was out in the open corridor.

It was empty.

Blast and blast! Whoever it was had disappeared, and Tonks kicked feebly at a suit of armor. This was what caution won. The others moved out of the staircase, and Tonks reined in her temper. Little girl Aurors with nasty tempers did not get invited along on Order adventures.

Another corridor met the main in a T-shape further down the corridor, and from that direction came the sound of rustling clothing and muted chatter. Was it possible their prey had simply turned a corner?

Ignoring the others again, Tonks rushed recklessly for the side corridor, her wand out. She wanted to duel. She wanted to fight.

She wanted to feel.
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