Yes, but...: Ten

by Aestel

TEN

Eighteen minutes later, they managed to arrive in two separate and intact pieces at the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. As she peeked out of the gilded fireplace, Tonks had a sudden urge to flee. Mayhem had taken hold of the Atrium. It looked to her like every square inch of the vast room was packed with protestors and the shouted chants were nearly deafening. Every surface, from the polished wood floors to the vast turquoise ceiling, had been charmed to display anti-Ministry slogans. Even the Fountain of Magical Brethren appeared to be reluctantly sporting protest signs.

To Tonks, it looked a bit like a Weird Sisters concert gone horribly wrong. For one thing, it had been invaded by angry middle-aged witches.

And angry they were. It was a surprisingly organized effort for the day after the announcement first appeared in the Daily Prophet. By the looks of it, the owls of Britain had likely flown their feathers off in the intervening hours.

Snape touched her shoulder and said something to her, but his voice was lost in the din.

“What?” She shouted back to him, but she suspected that her voice was equally drowned out. The fireplace was acting like a ruddy echo chamber.

Snape rolled his eyes and pushed her forward slightly. “Move!” he bellowed into her ear. “You’re standing on my foot.”

Once they were out of the fireplace, the noise level died down to a bearable roar. Still, Tonks was of the opinion that half of Wizarding Britain would be hoarse tomorrow. She whistled softly in appreciation.

“Don’t say it,” Snape murmured from beside her.

She turned from her crowd-gazing to eye him incredulously. “I wasn’t planning on saying anything.”

“Yes you were. You were going to make some attempt at a clever observation.”

Tonks shrugged, then winced at the pain from the still-aching wound. “Hadn’t gotten that far, actually.”

“Only because I stopped you before you had.”

“I was simply appreciating the effort that went into this.”

“You can gape later. Keep moving. We’ll be late,” Snape muttered in her ear.

Tonks turned and stuck her tongue out at him. It was a childish response, she knew, but she figured she had years of them stored up from her Potions classes experiences. “If you want to move faster, by all means take the lead,” she returned, letting Snape wedge past her in the crowds. “But we’re early anyway. By Ministry standards, those who arrive five minutes late to a meeting are just on time.”

As they shoved and elbowed their way through the crowd, Tonks spotted several faces she recognized, including the parents of many of her former classmates. Her own mum was thankfully absent. She swore to herself when she realized that she had never responded to the Howler. She would have to do that as soon as their meeting with Elkins was finished – before her mother became seriously worried. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled warningly. One did not court the wrath of Andromeda Tonks nee Black with impunity. That Howler had only been a mild expression of her displeasure.

The signs were good reading, she discovered, and they detailed many interesting proposals for where the Ministry should stick its nose and what the crowd would like to do with Fudge and those responsible for this new law. More than once, Tonks had to restrain herself from offering suggestions.

She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing when one blinking orange and green sign in particular caught her attention. It read, at first, “V.O.M.I.T.,” then proceeded to spell out “Voters Opposed to Marriages Instituted through Tyranny.” An interesting choice, she decided. There wouldn’t be many in the world who would admit to membership in that particular group.

Her gaze slid to the purple sign beside it. “Witches Intending to Protest Eugenics.” W.I.P.E., she realized. Her eyebrows raised on their own accord in bemused – and amused – respect for anyone who would actually venture out in public holding that sign.

The coup de grâce, however was the enormous sign proclaiming its owner as a member of the “Association of Citizens Resisting Obligatory Nuptials for Young Muggle-borns.”

It wasn’t precisely a surprise that, once Tonks managed to unglue her eyes from the signs, she found that the protestors carrying them were none other than Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. From the expressions on their faces, both Ron and Harry looked like they would rather be dining on Cockroach Clusters with the entirety of Slytherin House than standing there with Hermione’s protest signs. As their path through the crowd pushed them closer to the trio, Tonks was even more amused to see them being photographed and interviewed by people from the Daily Prophet.

“Don’t tell me that’s–” Snape began.

“Of course it is,” she confirmed. “One of us will be giving that girl remedial acronym lessons this year,” Tonks muttered to Snape. “I think she’s missing something of the subtle science and exact art.”

“It won’t be me.”

Tonks turned one of his own snorts back at him. “You’re the one with all the fancy speeches.”

By that point, Hermione had caught sight of the gaping Auror as well and was waving at her enthusiastically. “Tonks! Professor Snape!”

Snape looked at Tonks and shook his head warningly. “No. I have absolutely no desire to mingle with Potter and his press corps.”

“They saw us – we have to. It will only be a minute, you grouchy old git.” The Granger contingent was more or less on their way to the lifts. Tonks nodded to them. “Wotcher, Hermione, Ron, Harry! Nice signs.”

She turned an eyebrow on Snape in challenge. He glowered at her before curling his lips into a sneer. “Granger. Weasley. Potter.” He turned back to Tonks. “We are now officially late for our meeting, even by your Ministry standards.”

The reporter from the Prophet pushed her glasses back on her nose and squinted at Snape and Tonks. “And who are these?”

“This is Nymphadora Tonks, and Professor Snape,” Hermione supplied.

The woman looked at them doubtfully. “And you are also here to protest the Marriage Act?”

“No,” Snape corrected. “We’re here to discuss getting married.”

Tonks closed her eyes and felt the collective and decidedly hostile attention of every witch and wizard within a ten-meter radius suddenly coalesce upon them. For an intelligent man, Snape could be a right prat sometimes. Tonks reopened her eyes and smiled somewhat manically. “Unfortunately we’re late for our meeting. Catch you later, Harry, Ron, Hermione.”

“If I could get just one statement…” the reporter attempted.

“Sorry; have to fly. Maybe later.”

They attempted to beat a hasty retreat, but the crowd would not part for them. Snape looked down his nose at the burly wizard who blocked their path. “Move.”

“An’ if I don’t want to?” the man fired back.

Tonks groaned in frustration. “We don’t have time for this,” she hissed at Snape as she pushed herself in front of him. “Bugger off,” she announced to the crowd. “Auror in the line of duty.”

More startled than anything, the man let her push him aside and she strode past him. She grabbed the sleeve of Snape’s robe and hauled him with her.

“‘Bugger off’?” Snape repeated mockingly as he followed in her wake.

“D’you know how close we came to being mobbed back there?”

“So you told them to ‘bugger off.’”

Tonks ignored him and instead focused on getting through the mass of protestors. “I’m a bloody Auror! Clear a path!”

“Feeling a sudden urge to help maintain order?” Snape asked.

Tonks chose to treat that comment as an attempt at light banter and grinned back at him cheekily. “I’m off-duty at the moment. My fiancé wrote me a sick note. Besides,” she added as an afterthought, “I’m more or less inclined to let the buggers responsible deal with it by themselves.”

“Now that’s the attitude I have come to expect from Ministry employees.”

“Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” Tonks remarked, trying to conceal a grin.

Snape snorted, and Tonks could feel his breath on the back of her neck. The little hairs there rose in response. “I’m certain that had nothing to do with the fact that the right side of the bed was occupied at the time.”

“Let’s go register your wand, you surly git,” Tonks ordered, chuckling slightly to herself.

Thankfully, they made it to the security stand without further incident. It took more effort than usual to explain to Eric Munch that they actually had an appointment with the Matrimonial Planning Office, but once he understood that they weren’t protestors, he gladly registered Snape’s wand and let them pass to the lifts.

Once inside a lift, Tonks punched the appropriate button and then rested her head against the wall. Her shoulder had begun to hurt again from the exertion. She flexed it slightly. Yep. Definitely hurt. In order to distract herself, she felt around in the pockets of her robe for bubblegum. Reparo had undone much of the damage from Avery’s Slicing Hex, but the black material was still stained with dried blood. Householdy spells were apparently not Snape’s specialty either. It felt a little odd to be walking around in a robe caked with her own blood, but it was, she considered, fairly appropriate attire for announcing her engagement to Snape.

“Your shoulder?”

“’S fine,” Tonks said. “Just reopened the cut a bit down there.”

“I don’t suppose you’d consider attempting to be accident-averse on occasion…
We’re here.”

Snape gestured for her to precede him. Tonks did so, but didn’t quite manage to resist the urge to roll her eyes at him as she passed. “I’m fine. Big, tough Auror, remember? Just act like the ruddy overbearing fiancé you are and shut your gob,” Tonks advised, narrowing her eyes and searching the gloomy hallway for any sign of the office.

“That’s it,” Snape said, pointing to a door with a bit of parchment tacked onto it. Squinting, Tonks managed to make out the words: “Matrimonial Planning Office” written in cramped handwriting. She took a deep breath and reached for the door handle. Just as she touched it, Snape stopped her with a hand on her own.

“Last chance to turn back,” he whispered.

“Let’s get this over with,” Tonks returned gruffly.

Snape’s eyes glimmered darkly as they turned the doorknob together.

The first thing that struck Tonks about the office within was an impression of extraordinary dustiness and a familiar smoky smell she couldn’t quite place. The office itself was surprisingly spacious, but already beginning to overflow with filing cabinets and paperwork.

A woman who was most likely Ernestine Hibbins turned from the fireplace for a moment when Snape and Tonks entered. Apparently recognizing them as Elkins’ 11:15 appointment, she nodded to them and held up a single long finger before returning to her conversation over the Floo. Tonks felt oddly grateful that the Floo had been charmed so that all she could here was the caller’s muffled strident tones and the secretary’s placating answers.

“I understand your concerns, Madam, however… Yes, ma’am. No, ma’am. Er… No, a transfusion won’t… because that’s not how we determine blood status… oh, no, that’s not… of course, I understand. You’re not the first. Be sure to address it directly to Josephus Elkins at the Matrimonial Planning Office. Thank you and haveaniceday.”

The woman seemed to deflate as she sat back on her heels. She took a moment to regroup herself before getting to her feet and greeting Snape and Tonks. “Professor Snape and Miss Tonks?”

“That’s us,” Tonks confirmed. Snape inclined his head in agreement.

Hibbins sighed in relief. “Thank Merlin. Mr. Elkins was delayed. He told me to apologize for him and ask if you wouldn’t mind having a seat and waiting a few minutes for him.”

“Busy day?” Tonks asked solicitously. Beside her, Snape picked a pamphlet up off the stack on the coffee table.

Ms. Hibbins laughed shortly. “Just a bit.” Just then the fireplace flared to life again. Hibbins rolled her eyes. “Sorry. That ruddy thing never stops. Can’t get anyone to disconnect it, either. They say it will take two weeks before they can get someone in to work on it… so all I can do in the meantime is to charm it so the shouting doesn’t deafen me anymore… Yes, good morning, sir. This is the Matrimonial Planning Office. I’m sorry, Mr. Elkins is out of the office at the moment. May I take a message? That was spider boils? Where again? Ah - yes, thank you. Same to you.”

A tap on her arm directed Tonks’ attention to Snape. One of his eyebrows was raised and his mouth was twisted with suppressed amusement as he held the pamphlet out to her.

“Mimsy Marriages,” she read aloud. “The brave new world of the Marriage Programme.”

“Like it?” Hibbins asked with a decidedly impish grin. “I wrote it myself. It’s aimed at introducing the Muggle-borns to the idea of these Ministry-arranged marriages. Mr. Elkins seemed to think that since I’m Muggle-born myself, I’d be better able to explain the Ministry’s justifications to them.”

“That was very thoughtful of him,” Snape said evenly. Tonks shot him a quick glance and found that, as far as she could decipher from his expression, he was attempting to resist the urge to smile. It was a frightening thing to behold.

“I thought it was an excellent idea as well,” Hibbins responded with a tight little smile. “Though I have to say I hadn’t quite expected the two of you to appreciate it.” The Floo flared up again before she could say anything more. “Sorry. What was that, sir? No, that would be the Department of Magical Pest Control. No, I’m sorry, I can’t help you with your Doxy infestation. Because that’s not what we do here. You really want the Department of Magical Pest Control for this one… Now why would they send you to us? Hold please; I’ll redirect you.”

The office door opened just as the green flames of the Floo died down and an older, harried-looking man hobbled in. “Miss Hibbins! Have you seen the protesters in the lobby? Why do these people not understand that we’re acting in their best interest?”

“They’re just not used to people telling them who to marry, sir,” Hibbins explained in a mollifying tone of voice.

“I barely made it through without being assaulted,” he continued. “Had to convince them that I was the janitor… that’ll show ‘em that old Elkins still has a wand or two up his sleeve.”

“Your eleven-fifteen appointment is here, sir. Miss Tonks and Mr. Snape…” Both Tonks and Snape hastily stood to greet the older man.

“Had to leave young Ibister behind, though. Ah, he’ll make it through. That boy’s as wily as a greased Jarvey.” He was interrupted by a tapping on the door. “That’ll be him, then. Good lad.”

When he opened the door, however, it was not the missing Mr. Ibister, but an all-too-familiar blue parrot with a smoking red envelope. Tonks groaned. Now she realized why the air in the office was so oddly smoky. The layer of fine dust over everything in the office was more than likely ash accumulated from dozens of Howlers. Ernestine Hibbins caught her eye and grinned as Elkins began to shout back at the Howler.

“And that’s that,” Elkins concluded, brushing a soot-covered strand of white hair to cover his bald spot again. “Now, who are these people again?”

“Miss Tonks and Mr. Snape – your eleven-fifteen appointment, sir… the couple that actually wants to get married?”

“Ah, welcome!” Elkins’ face lit up and he offered a hearty handshake to Snape. “Welcome indeed! I’m Josephus Elkins of the Matrimonial Planning Office. And Miss Tonks. My, what unusual hair you have, my dear…”

“Potions accident,” Snape lied glibly. Tonks deliberately stepped on his toes.

“Better get it back to normal before the wedding, eh?” Elkins said. “Wouldn’t want to scare your groom away.”

“We’re working on it, believe me,” Snape assured him.

Tonks folded her arms. “I like it like this.”

“Oh-ho, trouble in paradise!” Elkins chortled. “Come love birds, into my office with you,” he said, ushering them past Ernestine Hibbins’ desk to the inner office. “So, tell me about yourselves. Mr. Snape, is it?”

Snape waited until Tonks was ensconced in one of the ash-dusted chairs and Elkins sat himself behind his desk before drawing the other chair close to Tonks and seating himself. “Professor Snape, actually. I am Potions master at Hogwarts.”

“Good old Hogwarts! How is everyone there? Professors Tockley and good old Binns and Worblehat the Librarian… oh, but of course they’re…”

“I believe Professor Tockley and Doctor Worblehat retired some time ago,” Snape said diplomatically, “but Professor Binns is still teaching. I’ll be sure to send him your regard.”

“Strange, I remember old Binney being ancient when I was a lad. Though don’t all professors seem ancient to youngsters?”

Tonks nodded enthusiastically and Snape shot her a dark look.

Elkins continued on, oblivious to the exchange. “You would think the old man would retire. How old is he now?”

Snape coughed. “I believe he celebrated his thirty-fifth Deathday last week.”

Elkins had not been expecting that, and sat back in his chair for a moment while trying to come up with an appropriate response.

“I’ve heard his lectures are as good as ever,” Tonks supplied.

Elkins nodded to himself. “I’m glad. Good old Binney… Glad to hear he’s doing well, despite the circumstances, of course…”

“Can’t keep a good man down,” Tonks added pertly. Snape kicked her in the ankle. “Ouch.”

Elkins shook his head. “What was that? I’m sorry; I’ve gone a trifle deaf with all the Howlers these last two days.” He cleaned out one of his ears with a blunt finger and, to Tonks’ amazement, a thin stream of ash trickled out.

“I broke a nail,” Tonks lied.

Elkins smiled benignly at her. “And what do you do, dear?”

“I’m an Auror.”

“Ah.” Tonks suppressed a smile as she watched Elkins start to flounder again.

“But she has just resigned in favor of becoming Hogwarts’ Defense Against the Dark Arts professor,” Snape said smoothly. He shot Tonks a quick warning glare which she interpreted as an instruction to stop making jokes that went over Elkins’ head.

Elkins’ second “ah” sounded much more relieved. Then he raised a bushy white eyebrow. “But… Dark Arts? One would think a subject like Charms would be better suited for such a lovely lady.”

“I tried to get Charms, but Flitwick beat me,” Tonks lied. “At an arm-wrestling contest.”

Snape patted her hand condescendingly and she got the feeling he was resisting the urge to throttle her. “You can always apply for it again next year, Pookie.”

“Flitwick’s too tough for me…” She grinned at Snape. Obedience to direct orders was never her strongest suit. Besides, it was like her sense of humor was a Snitch in a Quidditch game and Elkins hadn’t a chance at catching it. “I could always have a go at Potions.”

“Over my dead… my apologies, Mr. Elkins. My fiancée has a unique sense of humor.”

“So, you will be working together,” Elkins said, still blissfully oblivious of the couple’s unspoken warfare. “Lovely. And what about your families? What do they think about this?”

“My family has unfortunately passed,” Snape answered. “Nymphadora is the only family I have now.” He ran an icy finger up Tonks’ arm and smiled at her in a way she figured was meant to be doting, but was actually right eerie in Tonks’ expert opinion. She kicked him in the shin as surreptitiously as possible. Bloody git knew how much it freaked her out when he touched her.

“So you’re the last scion of the Snape family, eh? Don’t believe I’ve heard much about them.”

Snape’s touch left Tonks with the sensation of crawling spiders scurrying up and down her arm. “Few have,” he answered cryptically. “They kept mostly to themselves.”

“It sounds like a good old wizarding name, though. ‘Snape.’ It’s got a nice ring to it. And your parents, missy? Muggles, no doubt?”

“My dad’s Muggle-born,” Tonks answered, shifting her arm away from Snape. “My mother’s pureblood, actually. Andromeda Tonks. Used to be Andromeda Black.”

“Ah, yes - a great wizarding family, that one,” Elkins said, seizing upon the name. “Although now sadly declined. Yes, I remember your family well. Orion and Walburga - your grandparents, correct?”

“Er, no – actually my grandparents were Cygnus and Druella,” Tonks corrected, shifting slightly in her chair. “I think.”

Elkins raised both bushy grey eyebrows in confusion. “You only think? Don’t know your own grandparents?”

Tonks tried an apologetic and ingratiating smile. “They sort-of disowned my mother when she married Dad. Blasted her off the tapestry and such.”

“Ah… high romance, I can see it now. It’s true, the House of Black was a bit concerned with blood status. It was almost like royalty, being a Black. Walburga certainly thought so. Dated her once when I was a lad… a bit tetchy, that one… but of course she married Orion. I’m related to the Black family on my mother’s side, you know… oh, about four centuries ago… considered quite the scandalous match in those days. Couldn’t imagine how they’re rolling in their graves with what we’re doing now… but it must be done. Got to protect the wizarding world against itself. Too many Squibs these days. Even the Black family had the odd Squib, you know.”

Tonks found herself smiling and nodding along at appropriate intervals. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that Snape was doing the same, except without the smiling.

“…And Phineas Black… wouldn’t he chortle now. Supported Muggle rights back in the twenties. ‘Course ol’ Araminta had to counter him with a Bill to legalize Muggle-hunting… You know, I think that last owl derived more pleasure than necessary delivering that Howler.”

“Sorry?” Tonks asked.

“That blue owl. Blue’s an odd shade for an owl, isn’t it?”

“Oh. Yes,” Tonks said. “He’s a nasty sort. I’ve had run-ins with him before.”

Snape shifted in the chair beside her and covered Tonks’ hand with his. For her part, Tonks tried not to cringe. “So, are we an acceptable couple under this law of yours?” Snape asked.

“More ‘n acceptable, lad.” The codger laughed heartily. “You’re the only one we’ve got at this point.”

The door behind them flew open and a pudgy, harassed-looking young man stumbled inside. “Just got past those damned protesters.” He stopped when he noticed Tonks and made a face. “Sorry, miss.”

Tonks blinked. “For what?”

“Cursing.”

“When?”

“Just now.”

“Must’ve missed it – what’d you say?”

“’Damned’.”

She snorted. “I say worse than that.” This time she dodged the swift kick Snape sent her way. “Mr. Ibister, I presume?”

“Miss Tonks here is an Auror,” Elkins supplied. “Not your shrinking violet type, I’d say, eh, Miss Tonks?”

“Violet makes me look right peeky. And no shrinking here.” She grinned back. “Else I wouldn’t be marrying Sn-arkypants, here.” She patted Snape’s hand and grinned fatuously at him to cover for her near-flub. His narrowed eyes promised swift retribution once they were alone.

Still puffing slightly from the exertion of escaping the crowd, Ibister paused and raised both eyebrows at the couple. “I hear you tendered your resignation from the Aurors yesterday, however.”

“My fiancée has accepted a position at Hogwarts,” Snape explained without looking away from her.

“Sevvy wants to keep as many pieces of me as possible,” Tonks added, pouting at him outrageously.

There was a glimmer of dark humor in his eyes as he quirked an eyebrow at her. “Ideally all attached.” His expression was almost mischievous as he turned to Elkins. “Can you blame me?”

Elkins chortled in delight. “No, lad. Sounds to me like a reasonable thing for a husband to want.”

Ibister, however, only nodded perfunctorily and pulled over an unused chair. After dusting the ashes off if it with a quick charm, he sat down and folded his hands in his lap and looked at the pair knowingly. “And how did you first meet?”

“Well, I was at this Ministry ball and one of my ex-boyfriends –” Tonks’ prepared speech was halted by Snape covering her hand with his, and quirked an eyebrow at Ibister.

“I believe he meant the very first time we met, Nymphadora.”

Tonks looked at him in momentary confusion. “Potions class?”

“Indeed.”

“Oh. I had Professor Snape for first year Potions. I was eleven and he was-”

“Attempting to prevent a classroom full of dunderheads from blowing themselves up, I believe,” Snape interrupted smoothly, forestalling Tonks from being able to make a crack at his age.

Henry Ibister looked as if he had been aware of their previous student-teacher relationship even before he asked. “And did you have any… er, did anything untoward happen while Miss Tonks was a student?”

“Huh?” Tonks asked. She was still admittedly a bit distracted by the hand on her own.

“He’s asking whether we had an improper relationship while you were a student, dear.”

“Merlin, no!”

“Are you certain of that?” Ibister asked more forcefully.

“D’you think I wouldn’t have noticed it?” Tonks returned.

“Seems like something they’d remember,” Elkins concurred. “Not that it would be all that shocking, mind you. In my day there was a great deal of scurrying around the hallways late at night… Even ol’ Binney. Did you know that about Binns, son?”

“I’d never imagined,” Snape answered. Tonks got the distinct impression that he did not want to start imagining now. She had to agree with him there.

Ibister looked flustered, though Tonks figured it wasn’t from the idea of Professor Binns’ late-night rendezvous. She was fairly certain he had not been a Hogwarts student. She pegged him for more of a Beauxbatons alumnus. “I simply mean that it could look very bad for us if it was discovered that our first couple had carried on a previous illicit liaison.”

“You worry too much, boy.”

“It’s my job to worry, sir,” he answered stiffly.

Elkins turned to Snape. “Did you and the lady here ever canoodle when she was a student?”

Snape looked him directly in the eye. “No. When she was a student I found her irritating and tried to ignore her as much as humanly possible. Among other things, she was a Gryffindor.”

“Took him forever to forgive me for that,” Tonks muttered.

“Well, there you go,” Elkins said, looking fully convinced. “I’ll take this wizard at his word. Looks like this is the couple for us.” He chortled to himself. “Only couple we’ve got, and you know it, as well as I do, young Ibister. So, when do you two turtledoves want to get hitched?”

“As soon as possible,” Snape answered quickly.

Elkins reached over his desk and clapped Snape on the shoulder heartily. “Ah, to be young and rash.” Tonks had to bite her tongue in order to keep from giggling at the idea of Snape being rash, much less young. “But what about your lady – does she agree?”

Snape looked at her and raised a single eyebrow. It was the perfect set-up, even she felt it in her copper’s bones. Tonks most certainly would not agree to be married immediately… at least not before wheedling several expensive concessions out of the Ministry. It was time to play Bridezilla. Bugger. Even with all of her careful thought and spun-out scenarios, Tonks had somehow neglected to prepare for this one.

“No. No – I don’t agree! I’m sorry, Sev, but you’re not just dragging me to the Registry Office and saying ‘well, that’s it, we’re married.’ I want a real wedding!” Tonks let her voice trail off into a wail as she covered her face with her hands and cried. That ought to hook ‘em, she decided. She pulled out an eyelash for some more authentic tears.

Oh bollocks. Tonks realized too late that she was in a room full of men who were more or less completely at a loss for how to deal with a hysterical woman. Snape had undoubtedly seen a few in his time, but he’d more likely been the cause of the hysterical tears rather than a comforter. She continued to sob for what seemed an abnormally long period of time before Snape knelt down beside her, his knees popping as he did so.

“Now Nympha-”

“And don’t call me Nymphadora!”

“Oh-ho!” Elkins said, chuckling slightly as he moved around his desk and handed her a handkerchief. “Don’t you want to marry him, lass?”

Tonks looked up for a moment to take the handkerchief. “I do want to marry him… but I’ve dreamt of this day since I was a little girl. It has to be magical. With flowers and cake and a puffy white dress…”

“You know as well as I do that we cannot afford that kind of a wedding at present,” Snape said, resting one hand on her knee. Tonks caught the faintest edge in his dry voice, as if he were reluctantly chewing out words from a script he loathed. “Perhaps in another year or so…”

Elkins coughed slightly to get their attention. “Well then, let’s see what the Ministry can do to make this better.”

Tonks blinked up at him hopefully. “Really?

“You don’t have to do this, sir,” Snape said.

Elkins clapped him on the shoulder again and Snape locked eyes with Tonks. Once again, he was promising retribution for getting him into this situation, and retribution would be both swift and vicious. “Not a problem, lad. We’ve got a few Knuts set aside for this sort of thing… and, to be honest, some extra in the ‘informative pamphlet’ slush fund… we’d be happy to foot the bill for the wedding of this spiky-haired lass’s dreams.”

“You’d do that for me?” Tonks asked, biting the inside of her cheek again to keep from giggling at the look in Snape’s eye.

“In a heartbeat, m’dear. Can’t stand to see a pretty lady cry. Now of course you could help us out in return, I suppose…”

“But what could we do to help you?” Tonks asked.

“Well there, we’d have to write the expense off as advertising for the new campaign, you see… a replacement for those failed pamphlets. So if you would be willing to maybe invite a handful of additional guests to your wedding and maybe allow a photographer or two from the Prophet to snap the occasional picture…”

“I suppose we could do that,” Snape said slowly, his black eyes locked with Tonks’. “If it will make my Pookie happy.”

“And, of course, you would agree to give an interview with the Prophet,” Elkins said almost off-handedly. Tonks had to give credit to the wily old coot… he was deftly manipulating them to get just what he wanted as surely as they were manipulating him.

Snape put on one of his less-formidable scowls. “I’d rather not be interviewed.”

“We’d prefer it if you did, lad,” Elkins said firmly.

“Think of all the other couples it would help,” Ibister added quickly.

“And, of course, it would be a way of telling the wizarding world how much you love this little lady.”

“Are you ashamed of me, Sev?” Tonks asked, her eyes wide.

Snape didn’t quite restrain himself from rolling his eyes at her. “We’ll do the interview,” he said with obvious resignation in his voice.

Tonks threw her arms around his neck with perhaps more force than was strictly necessary. She hit his ear with one arm and managed to aggravate the cut on her other. By mutual assent, they separated rather quickly.

“Wonderful!” Elkins smiled benignly. “It just so happens there will be someone from the Prophet here this afternoon. I’ll have her speak to you as well.”

“I’ll be in my office all afternoon, and I’m sure Sev will be around somewhere as well,” Tonks said. “Right, Sev?”

Snape stood and offered her a hand up. Tonks took it grudgingly. “I have some business to attend to at St. Mungo’s this morning and then I shall most likely be at the Patent Office.” Tonks shot him a suspicious look. “We should talk to Nymphadora’s family tomorrow. After that, we shall owl you with the date we have set and decide on a time to meet so that we can take care of any other little details.”

“Haven’t told the family yet, eh?” Elkins asked with a knowing look and an arched eyebrow. “If I know Black family women, that’s not a wise choice, lad.”

“My mother already heard about the engagement from a source in the Ministry before I could tell her about it.” Tonks gave Ibister a quick scowl. She was careful to keep it at less than Snape-level ferocity. “The damage’s been done. Now we’re waiting a bit to let her cool off.”

“Ah…” Elkins said. “That could be wise, then. Well, good luck, my young lovers.”

Tonks looked at Snape and tried not to wince.

“Thank you,” Snape said stiffly.

Tonks attempted to plaster a grin over what must have been an expression of abject terror. “Yes. Thanks. Cheers, then.” The fake grin did not slide off her face until after they had marched through the outer office, down the hallway and lift doors slid safely shut. She took a deep breath and punched the button for Level Two.

“Healers first,” Snape said, not looking at her as he pressed the button for the Atrium. A moment later he turned a raised eyebrow to her. “Snarkypants?”

Tonks turned to him and smiled faintly. “I think it suits you.”

“Indeed?” The tone of his voice was dangerous, but Tonks caught a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

“You enjoyed yourself, didn’t you?” she accused.

“Of course I didn’t,” he said just a little too offhandedly. “That was one of the most painful experiences of my existence.”

“And you bloody well enjoyed yourself!”

Snape favored her with a knowing look. “As did you, Nymphadora.”

Tonks bit her lip. “Maybe a little.” She grinned at him. “Miss Hibbins suspects, you know.”

“She will make a good ally. The important thing is that Elkins does not suspect, despite your attempts at humor.”

Tonks rolled her eyes. “Half of it he didn’t even get.”

He ignored her comment. “Nor does Ibister suspect, I believe.”

“Ibister has his head wedged too far up his arse to notice the time of day,” Tonks returned.

Snape nodded in agreement and looked up at the lighted numbers above the door.

“Do we really have to see the Healers?”

Snape’s gaze flickered down to her for a moment before returning to the numbers. “Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I said… If you object to seeing the Healers, then the next time I find you lying on my doorstep dying, I will leave you there.” The door opened and Snape arched an eyebrow at her. “Coming, dear?”

Tonks followed him out into the Atrium. “I’m going to have to sit there while you heckle them, aren’t I?”

Snape grinned viciously. “Just think of it as an opportunity for me to ‘act like the overbearing fiancé’ that I am. Besides, half of it they won’t even get.”

Tonks sighed resignedly as she followed him through the crowd again. “Bloody hell… just kill me now.”

Snape stopped for a moment and gave her an appraising look. “Too late for that. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me now.”




Yes, it's really an update, and my longest chapter yet. I told you it wasn't abandoned.

Many thanks to Verity Brown, who patiently worked with me through sixteen (okay, three of the last four) drafts of this thing, and Wartcap, Britpicker extraordinaire. (Psst - you should check out their stories as well).

This story archived at: Occlumency

http://occlumency.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=4605