Nymphadora Tonks sighed in frustration as she breifly paused, intending to lower her broom in the direction of Grimmauld Place.
"Moody. We are not circling back. I am cold, wet and hungry. We have Harry. We can be inside in 30 seconds. You know I adore you and your Constant Vigilance but in all honesty, you can bugger off. No one has followed us."
"Its just a precaution Nymphadora! Potter's safety is our number one concern!" her mentor, Alastor 'Mad Eye' Moody snapped.
"Don't call me Nymphadora!"
"Alastor, Nymphadora has a point. We are surely at more risk loitering in the air" the baritone voice of Kingsley Shacklbolt offered.
"Dont call me Nymphadora! Bloody hell. I am going inside now. Feel free to do laps of Greater London, but we have just managed to fly a 100 mile round trip without incident. I'm ready for dinner, a long hot bath, and my messy bedroom. Come now."
Without waiting for further instruction she drew alongside Harry Potter and guestured in the general direction of Grimmauld Place and pulled into a dive. Turning back to look at the members of the Advance Guard she was pleased to see the remainder of the team follow her lead including a begrudging Mad Eye who simply shook his head as she winked at him and tossed him a little wave.
Landing silently in the street Moody pulled alongside her. "You're lucky I like you, lass" he grumbled and waved his wand, causing Number 12 to suddenly appear from in between the adjoining townhouses. She giggled a little at their young charges delighted and confused face and waited with Moody, carefully watching the street, as the others led Harry into the entrance. Moody grabbed her arm as she went to step inside.
"Alright?" He enquired. She sighed.
"I'm sorry for getting snappy Moody, it's just more than a little awkward being here now. Plus, you know. Cold. Hungry. Tired. Ready to crawl up under my blankets. All alone" she hissed the last two words under her breath. Her mentor patted her back sharply twice, causing her to stumble slightly. After years of working directly with him she knew this to be the Mad Eye Moody equivalent of a comforting embrace and cup of tea, and she managed a small smile.
"Forget Remus. His loss."
"Fear not Moody. I'm not holding a torch if that's whats worrying you. It's just that the bloody bastard keeps giving me pitiful glances as if he feels sorry for me for turning me down. All I did was suggest dinner and hope for a shag for Merlins sake. He's acting like I announced my undying love and that I'm going to burst into tears and beg him to reconsider." She shrugged and Moody snorted.
"If it offends your delicate sensibilities too much girly let me know. I can always pull a few strings and get you stationed elsewhere. I'm sure your folks would love to have you home."
"Nah, he'll get over it. This is where the action is, even if its a bit more crowded with Potter here. He seems like a nice enough kid. Plus, you know, we all know what mum thinks of all this, I dont need the lecture."
"Indeed. Tad more crowded than that now, his friend Granger arrived while we were out. Mr Honourable himself went to go collect her. He'll be out of here in a few days with the full moon due soon anyway."
"Granger? Who's he?"
"Granger is a she. Interesting little thing. You'll like that one" he replied, giving her a knowing smirk.
"Thank you for the wise words, as always Mr Moody" she chuckled.
"Alright, alright. In you go" he guestured at the door, snorting again as she tripped up the step. "Try not to set off Great Auntie Black this time" he offered.
"I wont! Ye of little faith" she mumbled before stepping into the hall and tripping over the coat stand, doing exactly that.
"BLOOD TRAITORS! SCUM! SOILING THE ANCIENT HOUSE OF BLACK! FILTH -"
"SHUT UP!" a voice yelled as Sirius Black came tearing down the hallway and slammed the curtains shut that surrounded the portrait of Walburga Black.
"Not a word Moody. Wotcher Sirius, sorry about that" she whispered as he managed to silence the portrait and Moody clunked past, shaking his head at his protegee who picked herself up off the floor.
"Ah thats alright Nymphie. We'll get her down one day" he offered with a grin.
"Given you just saved me from being deafened by a portrait of your mother I will let the 'Nymphie' comment go. You're in a good mood. Harry was pleased to see you then?"
"He was! I just hope it stays that way with Dumbledore having enforced the closed communications these past few weeks. He was getting a bit snappy earlier" he frowned.
"Ah, the frigid winds of teenage hormones. I do not miss those days my friend. Give it time. I'm sure theres method to Dumbledores madness. I bloody hope so anyway. Harry will understand."
"I hope so. Dinner will be on shortly if you wanted to wash up."
"Wonderful. See you in halfa then" she offered with a grin.
Tonks dashed up the stairs to dump her broom and quickly removed her leather jacket, grabbing a much less wet mens jumper she had filched from Charlie Weasley last time she had seen him and reminded herself to write him later. Giving it a sniff and assessing it for stains she decided it was clean enough and pulled it on over her tank top and took off her equally wet cargo pants rummaged through the pockets before finally managing to track down down a half squashed cigarette and pulled open the window to her room, sitting on the ledge and gazing out over Islington as she deeply inhaled, thankful to have a moment to herself.
Stubbing the cigarette out a few minutes later she cast a spell to freshen the air in her room, lest she be accused of corrupting the children, threw on some jeans that were certainly verging on needing a wash and strode down the hallway to wash her hands and face before making her way down to the stairs. A sudden movement caught her eye and she turned, drawing her wand, cursing the stupid house and all the dark artifacts it possessed. It was never possible to really relax when half the furniture was trying to maim you and you had a dozen housemates, even in a house as big as this. She knew Lupin had mentioned finding a boggart earlier before it slipped away and that was the last thing she needed jumping out of her closet in the dead of the night.
Peering into the study she paused at the doorframe and watched. Ah, the elusive Miss Granger she thought to herself, watching a young woman with brown hair even more disheveled than hers and caramel eyes in jeans and a tight top that sat very snuggly in places she, for one, could admire as she silently insected the room before the grandfather clock in the corner caught her eye and she stepped towards it. Fuck.
"Look out!" she yelled, charging into the room and tackling the suddenly highly alarmed girl to the ground, a bolt fly over the top of her head so closly she felt the breeze through her hair as it lodged itself in the wall opposite them.
"What the bloody hell just happened?!" an indignant voice squeaked, startled. Tonks lifted her head from, she was amused to find, the girls cleavege.
"Ah. That. Black family households are a bit of a safety hazard. I'd recommend not touching anything, ever. Wotcher, I'm Nymphadora Tonks. Don't ever call me Nymphadora though or I'll regret not letting the clock finish the job" she stated, pulling the girl to her feet.
"Tonks it is. I'm Hermione Granger" the girl offered with a smile.
"Apologies for such a violent introduction. I don't normally tackle or grope people before at least giving them my name, even the very pretty ones" she offered with a wink, pleased to see Hermione flush.
"It was certainly a memorable one".
"Well I am normally that" Tonks offered with a laugh, seeing the girl flush even redder.
"I'll bet you are" she muttered demurely.
"I suppose if I've felt you up already you should probably let me escort you to dinner then. Oh you are fun" she couldn't help but giggle as the younger witch continued to remain beet red and cleared her throat. Decided to take it easy on the poor girl she looped her arm through the younger witches and led her to the door and towards the stairs.
"Fear not Miss Granger, I shall protect you from this horrid house" she whispered dramatically, gesturing with a wave to the walls, and Hermione laughed. Beaming, Tonks led her down the stairs before stumbling over the rug.
"Smooth" Hermione snorted before a flicker of amazement passed through her face. "Erm. Did I hit my head or did your hair just change color?" Tonks laughed.
"I'm a Metamorphmagus, no concussion for you" she smiled before concentrating and morphed silently into a spitting image of the girl in front of her.
"That's amazing!" Hermione replied, reaching out to touch the hair that looked so much like hers before thinking, and caught herself, dropping her hand beside her.
"I'm that too" Tonks said with another saucy wink and morphed back to her standard pink-haired self before the door in front of them was thrown open by Molly Weasley.
"Hermione! Nymphadora! There you are. I was just about to come looking for you" she said before hustling them into the kitchen and ignoring Tonks' wince.
Tonks found herself sitting across from Hermione at dinner, catching her eye on occasion and pleased to see the witch throwing subtle smiles at her which she returned.
Moody was right. Interesting indeed.
Hermione Granger awoke with a start and grasped her wand, settling slightly to find the noise that had so rudely awoken her was Ginny Weasley mumbling in her sleep. Pausing at a groan and a mumbled 'oh...Harry' she made the executive decision that if she was going to be able to look either of her friends in the eye tomorrow she best leave and quietly slipped out of their shared bedroom. Throwing a glance at a clock in the hallway she realised it was 4am and sighed, resigning herself to a cup of tea and a quiet room downstairs.
As she quietly walked down the hallway, mindful to recall the advice a memorable pink-haired witch had given her several days prior to Not Touch Anything Ever she decided that perhaps it wasn't such an inconvenience to be awake after all. Having grown up as a single child coming to share a room with Lavender Brown and Pavarti Patil had been quite a shock to the system – however nothing had prepared her for the overwhelming sensation of sharing a house with 6 Weasleys, an emotionally turbulent Harry Potter, Sirius Black and the assortment of other Order members who often showed up ranging from the gruff but odly endearing Mad Eye Moody, to the constantly sneering Severus Snape. The peace and quiet might be nice. She was startled, therefore, to tiptoe into the kitchen to find said memorable pink-haired witch in her mud-streaked auror uniform sitting at the kitchen bench clutching what appeared to be an almost empty tumbler of firewhisky.
"Tonks?" she asked, chuckling a little at the small jump from the auror who seemed lost in thought.
"Oh! You startled me, I was in my own little world."
"I can leave you to it if you like?" Hermione asked hesitantly, suddenly feeling a pang of anxiety at interrupting what might have been a personal moment.
"Nah, you're alright. Pull up a seat if you like. What brings you to the kitchen at this fine hour?"
"Ginny is groaning in her sleep. Quite loudly and suspiciously I might add. Thought it best to leave in case someone gets up to use the loo and hears, the rumors would be wild. I might get hexed." Tonks snorted.
"Can't be too afraid of those sorts of rumors if you are sitting around with me in the dead of night love" she grinned wolfishly, before laughing at Hermone's blushed cheeks. "Sorry, I can't help myself. Who'd be throwing the first curse do you reckon? Ron, Molly or Harry?"
"You've picked up on the Harry and Ginny thing then?" Hermione asked with a giggle.
"Please. Dedalus Diggle has picked up on the Harry and Ginny thing and he only spotted the two of them for about 30 seconds before an Order meeting the other night. Someone should just lock them in a room and disperse the rest of the Weasleys for a few hours and let them at it."
"Might put him in a better mood" Hermione offered, before feeling a twinge of guilt for complaining about her friend. Only a twinge however, she reflected, as he had been fairly insufferable the past few days with being kept out of the loop with the Order of the Phoenix meetings.
"Giving you a hard time is he? I could make some arrangements. Some repelling wards for the rest of the posse on the upstairs broom closet might do the trick. I could even leave them a lovely little contraceptive potion and some massage oil. Perhaps I'll pull him aside and give him some pointers on how to preform."
Hermione, who had taken a swig of tea at this point, quickly snorted in laughter and ejected the liquid from her nose at the image of Harry's face being given The Talk by the shameless auror. Tonks laughed loudly and patted Hermione generously on the back before squeezing her arm gently and withdrawing it to take another swig of her tumbler of Ogdins Finest. Hermione could only hope the blush on her cheeks could be attributed to the choking fit moments earlier.
"Tonks, I think I would pay most of the galleons to my name to see a pensive memory of that. Best not though, I wouldn't wish an overprotective Mrs Weasley on anyone, least of all you."
"Shucks Hermione, you'll have me as flushed as you if you keep going like that. So protective of me. It's very endearing."
"Merlin, you are such a prat" Hermione replied, her eyes glinting with mischief. Tonks could only grin wolfishly again.
"Don't I know it. You love it though, there isn't nearly enough laughter in this house."
"Yes, it's almost like there's some evil dark wizard plotting against us and it's got everyone in a mood" Hermione deadpanned before returning the older witches grin.
"On a – very rare I might add - serious note though, you'd let me know if I made you uncomfortable though, yeah?" Tonks found herself asking, a touch of nerves to her voice. The younger witch found herself smiling genuinely in response.
"No, you are correct, the banter is fine. This house needs all the normalcy and laughter it can get. That is something you always bring to the table. I'm really quite grateful."
"Good. What about the incorrigible flirting?" Tonks asked with the most innocent look on her face she could muster.
"I don't love the blushing but I'll survive. You flirt with everyone and they all seem fine with it, hopefully the phase where my face looks like a tomato will pass" Hermione replied honestly, after a moments thought.
"Not bloody likely, I save all my best lines for you" Tonks offered with a wink. Hermione won a brief but tense battle of wills as she fought the urge to ask why she earned the best lines, settling instead for swigging the remainder of her tea and deciding to set aside some time to dwell obsessively over it later, and was grateful for the change in topic. "What's the plans for the rest of the holidays, will you be staying here?"
"Not much I think. My parents are out of the country, I suggested they get out of the area for a while given You-Know-Who will be plotting now he has returned. It was sad to leave them so early, but safer for all of us I think. They left for the rest of the holidays the day after I came here for France" she replied sadly.
"You're probably right. I'm glad mum and dad are reasonably well hidden but at least they can defend themselves somewhat. I can't imagine being in your position" Tonks mused sympathetically. To her horror, Hermione felt a lump in her throat and tears spring to her eyes that did not go unnoticed and the older witch paled considerably
"Fuck. Sorry Hermione. Foot, meet mouth. Didn't mean to upset you."
"It's not your fault" Hermione mumbled as she cleared her throat and tore her eyes away from the pretty violet ones meeting her own. "It's just hard. I worry about them so much. I worry about everyone so much. No one really understands, the boys just...I understand why but they just don't get it."
"Would you like me to have a talk to the Order about some additional protection for them? I doubt we have the resources for a guard or anything, we struggled even with just Harry. But we could look at some wards on your house or something if you like? I don't know what's currently in place."
Hermione sighed. "I carved up some basic protection rune stones at school and brought them home at the start of the holidays but I think thats it to be honest. I was going to ask Professor Lupin if he could take a look at them when he came but everyone was in a tizz because of the Dementors going after Harry and in the chaos I didn't want to bother him."
"Hermione, I'd be happy to help! I'm no Flitwick but I can throw up a few protective wards. I'm on a four on – four off roster at the moment so I've got time over the next few days. I'll apperate us and get it sorted tomorrow for you if you like. It shouldn't take too long"
"Really? Oh I'd be so grateful if you could. It'd be a huge weight off my shoulders." Hermione replied, genuinely touched at the offer.
"'Course! It'd be my pleasure. You'll owe me though" Tonks offered with another wink.
"I'll take you you lunch! there's a brilliant Chinese takeout place near my house, I crave it dreadfully when I'm at school."
"Why Hermione Granger, are you asking me on a date? I'll have to wear some cleaner clothes" Tonks teased, cocking an eyebrow at the suddenly very flustered witch before her.
"What? No! I mean – yes, I guess, if you wanted to – of course, I - "
"Its a date then!" Tonks laughed at the younger witch. "On that note, we best get some sleep. Come find me before lunch and we can head off." She stood, drained the last dregs of her drink and bent over next to the still spluttering young witch and tucked a disheveled thread of hair behind her ear, gently pressing two lips to her cheek. "Night" she smirked before disapparating with a pop.
Hermione touched a hand to her burning face and remained shellshocked at the table for a few minutes before stumbling upstairs in a daze, stumbling into bed. As she pulled the covers over herself she could feel the burn from the kiss to her cheek, and quickly fell to asleep, dreaming of pink hair and red lips.