Yes, but...: Thirteen

by Aestel

THIRTEEN
(Thursday)

Morning mist still clung to the dewy grass as Tonks and Snape trod out past the Apparation barriers. But for a somewhat-belatedly cast Impervious spell, Tonks was certain that her shoes would be soaked through entirely.

"It is unheard of for a centaur to prophesy with that level of specificity." Snape had been ruminating on that theme from the moment they caught sight of the Forbidden Forest's dark canopy.

For her part, Tonks had still not tired enough of his ramblings to stop toying with him. It was, after all, early yet. "Maybe the stars were unusually straightforward in their message last night."

"It cannot be."

"They could've gotten better at reading them, I suppose."

"Doubtful."

Tonks stepped on something squishy and quickly shifted her weight off of that foot. They were moving too quickly for her to stop to see what it had been. "Y'never know... someone might've revolutionized the practice of astral prognostication with some dazzling new technique..."

"The centaurs? They're traditionalists."

"Maybe they got spectacles. Could've been shortsighted."

"All of them?"

"Racial predisposition?"

"You cannot be serious."

Tonks stopped and took a moment to crack her neck. She hadn't remembered the student beds being that uncomfortable back in the day. "Well, no. I haven't bothered being serious about this since the last time I shared my theory that it was the centaurs' idea of a joke and you dismissed said theory out of hand."

"Centaurs are not known for their sense of humor."

"If they're telling jokes like that, it's no wonder." She looked around. "I think we're far enough to Apparate from here."

Snape seemed to notice his surroundings for the first time. "Shall I take you side-along?"

"Y'know," Tonks pondered aloud, "anyone who has the slightest familiarity with me would know that you could say I'd be smart to duck at any given time and it'd turn out to be more or less true."

"How do you want to Apparate?"

"I don't, really," Tonks said. "I thought we might walk."

"To London?"

"It's an idea," she said mock-defensively.

"A truly ridiculous one." Snape stepped closer. "I won't splinch you."

Tonks snorted. "Not unintentionally, at least. But you don't know where we're going."

She was surprised enough when he tilted up her chin with one finger that she actually met his eyes. That was all he had needed. She felt the tendrils rummaging around in her mind before she managed to push him out.

"Now I do." There was a malicious sort of triumph in his expression.

"That's cheating, you blighter."

"Explain to me why we're doing this again," Snape asked as they took the steps up to Tonks' grandparents' flat.

"Because my mother will hunt us down and eviscerate us if we don't?"

He took a moment to consider her words. "I suppose that's as good a reason as any."

"I've about given up on doing things for reasons that make sense at this point," Tonks said, pressing the doorbell. "But Grandmum and Grampy Tonks are good people and considering it would be a bloody stupid idea to invite them to the wedding, we should visit them now and let them meet the lucky bloke who's swept their beloved granddaughter off her feet."

Not giving Snape an opportunity to reconsider or object, Tonks pressed the doorbell again. Seconds later, she was enfolded into her grandmum's bosom.

"Who be that, then, June?" She heard her grandfather call from inside.

"It's your granddaughter and her young man, you daft old thing." She covered Tonks' face with kisses. "Come inside you pair."

Moments later, they had made it inside and Tonks' grandfather appeared to greet them. "I hear you got yourself a young man, my love." He eyed Snape critically. "This'll be him, then?"

"Yes, this is Severus Snape, Grampy."

Even though he was significantly shorter than Snape, Grampy stepped right up to the Potions professor and prodded him in the chest with his pipe. "And you'll be the fellow who's marrying our Nymphadora?"

Snape nodded. "On Saturday."

"What she up her duff or summin'?"

Tonks felt her jaw drop open and had the feeling that her hair had involuntarily changed color and stood on end. "Grampy!"

Snape, however, seemed to be taking it in stride. "No, sir. I thought it was traditional to wait until after the wedding day for that."

Grampy returned his pipe to his mouth and favored Snape with a long, speculative look. "What's all the rush, then? Who's got 'is wand pointed at yer bollocks?"

Snape's gaze flicked over to Tonks for a second, and she read tolerant amusement in it. "More often than not, of late, that has been your granddaughter."

A sly smile stole over Grampy's face. "As it should be, my lad. And it'll only worsen from there. Well, come in then. Let me pour you something to drink and we'll talk like the gentlemen we aren't."

Tonks watched in barely-concealed amazement as Snape proceeded to sit down and have a glass of sherry at her grandparents' kitchen table. The worst part of it all was that she had no one to share her amazement with.

"So, what is it you do with yourself, young sir? Have you got a profitable livelihood of some sort?"

Snape gave Grampy what Tonks suspected was supposed to be an ingratiating smile. "I teach at Hogwarts."

"Hogwarts, eh? Now that's where our boy Teddy went to study to be a wizard. That's where he met... he met... "

"Amanda," Tonks' grandmum supplied.

"Andromeda," Tonks corrected. "My mum."

"That's it." Grampy smiled happily. "An' what subject do you teach?"

Tonks took the occasion to ply a little sherry from her grandmum. She felt as if she was going to need to fortify herself.

"Potions."

"Potions, is it? Our Nymphadora always did a proper job at Potions. Got top marks, she did." Tonks nearly snorted at that. She got them in spite of Snape's best attempts at failing her, but her grandparents didn't need to know that. "Bet you have that in common?"

"Something like that," Snape replied noncommittally. Tonks could practically see him struggling with a way to change the conversation. She wondered if the references to her student days bothered him, and filed that away for further use. "And you, sir, what was it you did?"

Tonks closed her eyes for a moment. Snape had inadvertently managed to hit on her Grampy's favorite topic of conversation. "Why you'll be speaking to a lieutenant in Her Majesty's Royal Navy."

"Retired," Grandmum Tonks reminded him.

A large gulp of her sherry found its way into Tonks' esophagus. She was definitely going to need the fortification if Snape got Grampy talking about the Navy.

"Grew up on me own da's knee hearing stories of ol' Nelson. So I moved to London and joined up as soon as the law let me. I was just a day over sixteen. Then three months later the Athenia went down and all hell with her."

Snape was nodding along at the appropriate intervals in Grampy's story.

"And then the old fool found out he got seasick just looking at a ruddy ship," Grandmum proffered. "Spent the entire war here at the Admiralty."

"The Admiralty and the underground military bases," Grampy corrected. "The city's full of 'em, as you might well know. Never knew where or when I'd be at any given time. Turned out better for me, in any case. I met this little bird as she was delivering mail one day, and the next week I married her."

Tonks' Grandmum tipped back her glass of sherry. "Guess you could say I was a mail war bride."

Snape gave Tonks a quick look that said something along the lines of: 'And now I see from whom you inherited your sense of humor.' Then he returned his attention to her grandfather. "So quickly?"

Grampy nodded. "Figured it weren't time to waste while there were bombs dropping on our heads every night and day. And it's not so much faster than you and our Pisky, here. Why is it then that you're so keen to get hitched?"

Snape spread his hands on the table in a gesture designed to convey that he was laying his cards out for the other man to see. Tonks was interested to see which version of the truth he would present. "Did your son ever tell you about a wizard named Grindelwald?"

Grampy scratched his head. "'E was that blighter runnin' around keepin' you fellows busy while we were fightin' Hitler, wann't 'e?"

"Essentially, yes. Well, there's someone now who's much, much worse running about now."

"Wossname, ain't 'e? The same one that was out killin' people right aroun' when our Teddy got married?"

"The very same. We believe he has starting killing people again and Nymphadora is working with me to do some espionage work."

The old man's eyes lit up. "So ye be spies, then? Going under covers, so to speak?"

Snape groaned almost inaudibly at the pun. "Something like that."

Grampy pointed his pipe at Tonks. "An' I bet you didn't happen to mention that to your mum, did you, Miss Piskie?"

"What Mum doesn't know won't hurt her," Tonks said. She caught Snape regarding her with a raised eyebrow and drained the last of the sherry. Retched, stuff, sherry, she decided. Still, it did the trick in a pinch.

Snape turned that lifted eyebrow to her Grampy. "What was that you called Nymphadora just now, sir?"

"Eh? Oh, that'd be 'Piskie,' you mean. I've been calling her that since she was a babby, haven't I, June? Seemed the right thing to call her, what with how she was only so big and you could tell that she was magic down to her own fingernails. And it weren't no great big name like 'Nymphadora' to be carrying around, neither."

"Piskie," Snape tried out the name. "I like it." Tonks got the feeling that this was going to lead to something she wouldn't like.

"Not like we couldn't tell our Teddy was magic, too, but it was a more normal kind of magic," Tonks' grandmum interjected. "None of that hair turning colors or faces changing shape."

"Our Piskie is perfect any way she wants to be," Grampy said benevolently.

"Thank you, Grampy."

"Even if her hair is an unholy shade of pink half the times I see 'er."

Tonks got the feeling that Snape was enjoying himself, but she didn't want him to get too comfortable with her grandparents. It seemed they were already proving to be a bad influence on him. "Well, we should really hurry off to see my mother before she sends a horde of flying monkeys to track us down. Thank you for having us over."

"Thank'ee for bringing your lad by to meet us," Grampy returned. He took the hint and stood from the table. The others stood too. "You can tell your pa that you discharged your duty with honor in that matter."

"I'll be sure to report back that you said that, sir."

"Oh, Piskie, do me a favor and tell Samantha to avoid taking the Underground on Saturday," her grandmum said, busying herself tidying the table. "And tell Teddy that he should stop by and visit his old mum..."

"Mum and dad don't use the Underground, Grandmum," Tonks reminded her. "They use magic. And, anyway, Saturday's the wedding, so they'll be at Hogwarts with us."

"Having a premonition again, are ye, June?"

"A premonition?" Snape questioned.

"Grandmum gets them sometimes," Tonks clarified. "Little flashes of things, mostly focused on travel and transportation." She could practically see the clockwork turning in Snape's brain. "Muggles seem to have bits of magic too, from time to time. Mind you, that's based on personal observation and is not, strictly speaking, the Ministry's position on the matter. Grampy here is very good at guessing what number you're thinking of, for instance."

Snape turned to Grampy. "And what number am I thinking of, sir?"

Grampy took his pipe from his mouth and scratched his whiskers. "Why that'd be one thousand, six hundred an' thirty-on." He paused for a moment and scratched his whiskers again. "An' a half. You're a tricksy fellow, then, ain't ye?"

It was Snape's turn to rub his jaw. "Indeed, although I believe I have just found myself out-tricked."

"Well, that done, I think I'll see 'ee to the door," Grampy said with a gesture for Snape to precede him. "As I don't figure you for the type who stays bested for long."

Snape inclined his head and gave Grampy a rare, real smile as he allowed himself to be ushered to the door. "It was a pleasure to meet you, sir, madam."

"Same to you, my lad. Same to you. You do your best to keep our girl safe, then."

"You have my word I will." Snape just happened to be looking at Tonks as he said it, and she felt her stomach somersault in response to the queer look in his eye.

Then Tonks' grandmum stood up on tiptoe to bestow a kiss upon Snape, who, to his credit, tried not to flinch too visibly. "Keep yourself safe as well, dear."

Unfortunately, their meeting with Tonks' parents didn't go quite as well by her estimation. For one thing, one of her idiot parents had invited a guest. Perched nervously on the parlor sofa with a slightly-wilted bouquet in hand was none other than William Walton Wood III.

"Oh honestly." Tonks pointed at Willy and then the front door. "You, out!"

Once the door had securely closed behind the retreating back of her would-be suitor, Tonks unbuttoned her shirt and pointedly displayed the still quite-grotesque-looking scars of her shoulder wound. "And this, Mum, is why one does not send howlers to one's Auror daughter." She could see out of the corner of her eye that Snape was discomfited by her behavior. "It's nothing you haven't seen before," she reminded him. Inevitably, that choice of remark left her with two visibly flummoxed parents. She buttoned her shirt again. "Well, who do you think patched me up? Hi Dad."

"Her grandparents gave her sherry," Snape said by way of explanation. "And she has only had one cup of tea today."

"At least we can remedy that immediately," Ted Tonks said genially. "Would you care to give me a hand in the kitchen, Severus?"

"Certainly."

There was no subtlety in this household; Tonks was certainly well aware that the gentlemen had intentionally withdrawn to allow her to speak to her mother. There was also the possibility, she allowed, that her father was wise enough not to leave Snape alone with Andromeda. Tonks folded her arms and stared at her mother in silence.

Andromeda stared back. "You have a point about the howler," she finally conceded. "But I should have heard about this ridiculous engagement from you."

"You would have, if Ibister wasn't such a nattering prat."

"What are you up to, my girl?"

Tonks smiled grimly. "Best you don't know, Mum."

"But... honestly, Severus Snape?"

Tonks shrugged as if the choice had been immaterial. Shrugging, she noted, still hurt a bit, but it was getting better. "He's a member of the Order, now. And if that's not enough to vouch for him, ol' Moldybritches had him tortured within an inch of his life before Harry saved him."

"I asked you not to call him that, Nymphadora."

And I asked you not to call me Nymphadora, Mum, she said to herself. "Moldybritches? What, is he going to set a Taboo on that or something?"

"Are you certain you can trust Snape?"

Tonks scoffed. "I'm fairly certain I can't trust him well, except with my life."

Andromeda seemed to buckle. "He did save your life then?"

"I would've been dead," Tonks confirmed. "Dead as a doornail - although I'm still not clear on what's so dead about doornails... but I would've been very dead in any case."

"And this isn't a real marriage?" Her mom looked at once dubious and hopeful.

"It'll be legal enough, I suppose."

"I mean you two aren't planning on starting a family together... Tell me that man will not be the father of my grandchildren."

Was that her real problem? Tonks almost laughed from relief. "Merlin, no. We've already had a long talk about contraceptives and we plan on getting divorced as soon as the Ministry removes its head from its arse. Besides, can't say I've ever gotten the impression that Snape was especially fond of children."

"And did I hear you've accepted the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, too? What about the curse?"

"I'm marrying Snape, Mum. I think we've got that curse bit covered right there."

"Don't be too flippant about such things." Andromeda sighed and glanced in the direction of the kitchen, then laughed a little. "To be honest, I was a little afraid this was an outgrowth of your thing for that Muggle musician. The one with the nose and that hair.."

"I didn't have a 'thing'," Tonks was quick to answer.

Andromeda Tonks lifted one meticulously-plucked eyebrow. "There are still posters all over the walls in your bedroom upstairs."

It was the sort of thing that taught a person the value of a more judicious use of permanent sticking charms, Tonks felt. Then she collected herself and followed her mother into the dining room.

"Well, you appear to have survived," Tonks said after the door closed with her mother's reminder that she would see her bright and early Saturday morning. She hadn't been certain whether that was a promise or a threat. Might've been a bit of both, she supposed. People tended to think that because Andromeda Tonks had chosen to marry a Muggle and side with the light and all of that, that she wasn't every bit as dangerous as her more infamous sister. Tonks knew better. The real difference between them was that Andromeda was entirely sane, and therefore could be trusted to come up with far more inventive ways of making her displeasure known than resorting immediately to Unforgivable curses.

"I have navigated worse social situations in my time," Snape answered blandly.

He probably had, at that. "Oh bugger, I'm going to be late for work again." She grinned at him. "Don't suppose you'd write me another note?"

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