Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of the places and/or characters which you recognise.
Summary: Wars tend to do a number on people, hell, they do numbers on whole societies. Especially one as small as ours. They leave behind a trail of dead bodies, families torn apart, injuries and broken minds. We won the final battle, we won the war, but now that the feat is done many struggle under the weight of the memories. Post-war AU.
Prologue: May 2nd 1998
Tonks ran down the stairs taking them two at a time, holding tightly onto her outstretched wand. She continued her frantic search for Remus whom nobody had seen since Aberforth had run into him when her husband was duelling Antonin Dolohov. The Auror remembered from her training that the average fight between two skilled wizards took twenty minutes at most. She had to hurry if she wanted to make it in time to assist Remus in his fight.
If you still can help him, a small voice at the back of her mind whispered. She swallowed and tried to push the dark thoughts away.
The witch approached the explosions and flashes of light from the hexes being thrown around on the battlefield. Three opponents surrounded her all at once, their faces not concealed by Death Eater masks. Tonks recognised two of them as Ministry officials she had passed a few times on her way to the Auror office. She wondered if they acted under the influence of Imperius or if they had joined the wrong side willingly and simply had yet to earn the privilege of being able to hide behind a mask.
She heard a loud chuckle followed by a maniacal explosion of laughter from the other side of the room as a small body crumpled on the floor. Tonks' blood ran cold and she shivered. She deflected a spell from one of her opponents and aimed three quick stunners in their direction. All spells hit their targets and she took off towards Bellatrix only stopping to tie the three men's hands behind their backs.
She got a glimpse at the body and a wave of rage erupted inside her. The boy was still in his robes, the Gryffindor emblem a sad reminder of his bravery. He could have been sixteen at most and Tonks recognised him as one of the boys she saw on more than one occasion with Ginny Weasley the year before. What kind of monster could take the life of somebody's son, someone's brother, someone's friend so easily and not even have the decency not to laugh about it? Colin Creevey's face quickly turned into Teddy's in front of her eyes and she advanced on Bellatrix with a cry of fury sending off one spell after another driving her aunt to the corner of the room. All the Death Eater could do was deflect the attacks. Tonks was about to shorten the distance between them and point her wand at the Black sisters' throat when she was disrupted by a cry of pain somewhere behind her. Remus. She froze. The eldest Black daughter didn't hesitate and was quick to use Tonks' moment of distraction.
There was a loud crash as Bellatrix's spell hit the wall behind Tonks' back. She took a few steps sideways in order to avoid the flying rubble when her right foot hit a small rock and she came crashing down. She reached out the palms of her hands instinctively in order to soften her fall and her wand slipped out of her grasp. Tonks breathed in the damp smell of the floor for a second to steady herself and tried to reach her weapon. Her fingers were almost touching the piece of wood when she felt a crushing weight on the small of her back. Bellatrix leaned down and retrieved her niece's wand stashing it into her robes. She grabbed the younger woman by the neck roughly and they both disappeared in a puff of black smoke.
They reappeared only a few hundred feet away at the outskirts of the Forbidden Forrest. When Tonks looked up she was staring straight into the face that could have easily belonged to her mother were it not for the mad glee shining from the dark eyes and the widest of grins, utterly out of place in the middle of the final battle of a long fought war. A chill ran down the young Auror's spine when she fully grasped the reality of the situation. She was going to die. It was inevitable. In some deeply hidden corner of her mind she had long prepared for this moment. The faces of her loved ones - Teddy, Remus, her parents, the Order, her friends would appear in front of her eyes and she would welcome death as an old friend knowing that she sacrificed her life so that her son could live in a better world.
Many an Auror dreams of a hero's death. In their imagination it's all glorious and they think of the honours, medals and fame. Despite being younger than most of her colleagues, even in her tender age Tonks knew better than that. She had to learn better. Death didn't claim its victims in the form of heroic tales but in the form of bodies never recovered. In the end she wouldn't mind her body being found with no wand or sign of struggle, simply hit by the briefest flash of green. As long as she stayed true to herself, it didn't matter what tale history would spin of her life.
But of course she wouldn't escape that easily. Bellatrix had been waiting for this moment for long, perhaps even since before Nymphadora Tonks was born or even thought of by her parents. She would take revenge on her sister for betraying her family and their cause. And what better way to do that than toying around with her prey? When they find the body, it will remain unscathed safe for a small message to be delivered to the mother who had her heart torn out even before she sat her eyes on her daughter's dead body.
Even if some part of her brain was expecting it, she couldn't stop the reaction as Bellatrix lips formed to create the despicable word.
She had only delivered her baby a few weeks ago, so Dora knew more of pain than most men who had ever walked the earth yet she couldn't stop the involuntary whimper when her whole body shook with the onslaught of excruciating agony. She wasn't sure how many repeats of the curse her body still weak from childbirth could take before it would eventually crumble.
You have to survive!
How could you leave your son behind without a mother and perhaps even his father?
But you have already made your choice! You have already left him behind in the safety of his cradle his hair turning from shockingly turquoise through the black of the dynasty that had forsaken him all the way to the inconspicuous sandy brown he inherited from his father. You ignored your husband's pleas and those of your mother and you have failed most profoundly in the most important job of your life even before your work on it had actually begun.
No! Don't let me go there. Tonks muttered to herself as the curse hit her unprepared.
She was almost expecting another attempt at physical torture but the Legilimens incantation caught her long before she even considered setting up the wall to protect her innermost thoughts.
Tonks was standing in front of the Burrow looking at Remus' silhouette hastily walking towards the protective wards so that he could run off far away from her. Even into the throngs of his biggest enemy rather than into the warmth of her embrace.
She wrapped her cloak tighter around to protect herself against the imagined chill of the warm night of the midsummer. Tonks could feel the colour evaporating from deep within her soul as her spiky pink hair turned to the shoulder length mousy brown. She had made a mess of things. Not only may her newfound cousin never wake up from his sleep ever again, she also managed to destroy the friendship with the man she had come to love over this past year by demanding more of him than he was willing to give.
Tonks was standing in front of the enchanted crib looking at the bundle of blankets and small hands, fingers and feet that was her baby. Merlin, her baby. Remus had gone off to tell the Order of the good news. After all, many of them could use the uplifting tidings in these dark times.
The young Auror considered the small form of her son distrustfully. She had no idea how to do this. Only hours ago she had felt so strong, Teddy hidden deep within the safety of her belly where she could fend off all the evil that intended to harm him.
Now she was standing next to him, her belly feeling very empty all of a sudden. She was still feeling weak and there were cramps in her lower abdomen.
But worse still was the emptiness that threatened to overtake her heart where the unconditional love for her son should have been. She was supposed to love him deeper than any other love known to men yet when she looked at his small sleeping body she only felt a gaping hole.
"Even the little shape-shifting freak can't stand her own cub," a voice snarled.
When Tonks registered it, it took a while for her to connect it to Bellatrix.
No, you don't go there! Something in her hissed and the force of that thought broke the power of her aunt's curse.
When Tonks came to, both of them were crouching down on their knees panting for breath.
The reprieve lasted only shortly as Bellatrix murmured the next curse even as she was still catching her own breath.
This time Tonks didn't merely whimper, she creamed out so loud that she could feel a dull ache in her throat which wasn't directly connected to the effects of the Cruciatus.
Her body was still shaking slightly as Bellatrix started the next onslaught on her mind.
Tonks was sitting in the uncomfortable wooden chair next to Sirius' bed in St. Mungo's trying to fend off the feelings that were threatening to suffocate her. Her cousin lied limply, his face paler than a Malfoy's. Only the beeping of the charm that monitored his heart rate betraying that he was still alive. Barely alive. Most likely to spend the rest of his years unconscious because she had failed to best Bellatrix in a duel. The last few days had been marked by all of her failings. Just as she had failed to prevent Sirius' injury she had also failed to protect the man she loved from the worst imaginable enemy. His own lack of self-worth. Instead she had given him even more ammunition to set him off to a journey into the throngs of his worst nightmare.
When the next unforgivable reached her bones she almost felt grateful. In some ways she found the physical pain easier to bear with, she could grit her teeth or scream her lungs out as the sensations were so strong that they pushed out every single one of her thoughts.
The poking around in her brain was much harder to bear as she found herself staring into the outskirts of the pit, of the never-ending void that had embraced her so many times during the last two years.
The December chill bit into her fingers as she walked through the streets of Hogsmeade. A solitary snowflake fell down on her nose. She picked up her pace as she longed to get away from the cheer that Christmas had brought to the village even in the middle of a war. She didn't know how long she had been wandering when she realised that she had walked straight to the Shrieking Shack. Oh, the irony. An unnatural mist fell down on the surrounding mountains. Tonks gripped her wand tighter as her teeth chattered once the swarm of dementors floated closer.
They kept moving closer and closer, surrounding her in a circle. She raked her brain for a memory strong enough. Her mind was coming up blank. She had faced them one too many times and the good times had become too few and far between. Just for the briefest of moments she flirted with the idea that for once in her live she could give up and succumb willingly.
A silver lynx tore through the middle of the dementor crowd running them off. Tonks stood as if glued to the spot not daring to look up at Kingsley as he admonished her in his soft deep voice: "What were you thinking?"
Bellatrix didn't give her niece any time to compose herself before she fired off another spell. Cruciatus came after Legilimens, only for Legilimens to make room for yet another Unforgivable. Tonks could no longer tell apart the physical pain from the mental ache. She felt dizzy and it was as if her brain had turned to mush under the weight of her tangled thoughts. The only way she was going to survive this was if Remus was still alive, he was the only one on their side capable of hearing her cries. She decided to hold onto that tiny sliver of hope. If Remus was still out there, she owed it to him to try to think of an escape strategy. But how does one evade torture with no available escape routes? At best she could only attempt to sustain the onslaught while she waited to be rescued.
Bugger, she thought.
Ending up as the damsel in distress wasn't really part of her plans when she endeavoured to join this battle. She had to cast that thought aside. If she somehow managed to live through this day and walked away with her pride being the sole thing scathed, she could probably count herself lucky.
His wife's tortured screams pierced his ears even from a few hundred feet away due to his heightened werewolf senses. Remus' heart skipped a beat, momentarily distracting him from his duel. The flash of green from Dolohov's wand would have hit him square in the middle of his chest were it not for the invisible wall which Kingsley had managed to cast between the two men. Remus spared a brief nod into Shacklebolt's direction before firing off a series of vicious hexes towards his opponent barely leaving him enough time to defend himself yet alone attack. As Dolohov fell down and remained motionless, Lupin secured his body in a full body bind jinx before taking off into the direction of the Forbidden Forrest ignoring Kingsley's confused cries. He only stopped to send a spell towards one of the Death Eaters that Neville Longbottom was valiantly battling against.
He followed into the direction of Dora's screams, his nostrils wide trying to catch her scent. The smell of pink tulips mixed with the battle sweat and the subtle hint of baby powder that he had come to associate with her only recently. Remus slowed down when he caught sight of the dark figure crouching over his wife. Once he saw the tormented grimace on Dora's face something deep inside him came alive. A beast much more ferocious and bestial than the wolf to whose every whim his humanity had catered during so many moons.
Remus whispered the incantation, his lips barely moving but it did not matter. His resolve to kill had been so strong that the spell did its magic.
He hastened to come to his wife's side. He grabbed her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. There was something glassy in them and he wasn't sure if she could even see him.
"Dora," he breathed out.
Before he could get any further he heard a mass of feet falling on the ground heading into their direction. He got hold off his wife and dragged them both behind a tree and murmured a quick disillusionment spell.
At the sight of Harry's motionless body in Hagrid's hold he could practically feel his stomach turning into stone. It was only the desire to protect his family that stopped him from unveiling himself. Instead he swallowed down his scream and suffered his moment of anguish silently as was his custom.
Remus waited until Voldemort's procession reached the castle and then he set to follow them half carrying his still unresponsive wife with him.
By the time he reached the castle he could see Neville Longbottom standing ahead of the group of fighters from their side.
As the Centaurs joined the battle and all hell broke loose, Remus pushed his wife beside himself and tried to avoid direct confrontation, wary of the danger that it could cause Dora. Instead he concentrated on aiming spells to help his friends in their ongoing battle.
From the corner of his eyes he saw Flitwick striking down Dolohov while Ron and Neville put an end to Fenrir Greyback. At the same time George Weasley and Lee Jordan defeated Yaxley and Percy conquered Pius Thicknese with the help of his mother.
Kingsley and McGonagall were dueling Voldemort himself and Flitwick ran to join them once Dolohov fell down. A green flash of light almost hit the transfiguration professor into the chest were it not for Remus' shout of Protego.
Then suddenly Harry appeared out of nowhere and threw himself in front of the Order members to face Voldemort himself to defeat him in a brief battle in which only two spells were cast.
Remus led Dora to the Great Hall where the other survivors had gathered. A few moments later Kinsgley joined them, relief at seeing both him and Tonks alive passing over his tired face briefly.
"What's up with Tonks?" the senior Auror asked.
"Bellatrix," Remus answered.
Kingsley nodded accepting his friends' explanation.
"And what became of her? I didn't see her after the initial battle...," Shacklebolt said thoughtfully.
"Dead," Lupin whispered.
"Good," the other man answered not inquiring further. He gave Remus a brief squeeze on the shoulder and rasped: "You should get her to Madame Pomfrey, just in case..."
Kingsley didn't finish his sentence but both men knew where his trail of thought was heading. There were at least three wizards who had found themselves at the wrong end of Bellatrix Lestrange's wand who now resided in the irrevocable spells damage department of St. Mungo's.
"You'll have to excuse me now, it seems that I am needed at the Ministry," the auror said apologetically and added: "Apparently they are in a want for a new minister and the old man had told me once that I should make myself available for the post should the opportunity ever arise."
Remus didn't miss the twinkle in his friend's eyes and not for the first time he wondered how far beyond his grave Dumbledore had orchestrated their lives.
He led his wife to the group of people who were waiting for their minor injuries to be tended by Madame Pomfrey and a small group of healers that seemed to have arrived from St. Mungo's in the wake of the battle. Remus spotted a middle aged witch in muggle clothing in their midst. Once their eyes met he recognised Hestia Jones. She hurried over to the pair.
"Remus, Tonks, are you alright?" she asked, her voice a mixture of relief at seeing her comrades alive and of worry that they might not have walked away from the battle unscathed.
"I thought you were with Harry's relatives?" Remus asked quizzically.
She pursed her lips.
"Yes, well, I figured that Dedalus could deal with them on his own for one night and I might make myself more useful here. Back to the point, any injuries, Remus?" she asked him sternly just as she used to after every full moon when he was living Grimmauld Place, daring him not to hide the damage from her.
The werewolf shook his head vehemently.
"A couple scrapes at worst, but I'm no worse for wear than I was before tonight," he tried to smile as he brushed against his temple at the mixture of sweat and blood that threatened to trickle down, suppressing the wince that almost escaped him when he moved his injured shoulder.
Hestia looked at him sceptically before her inquisitive eyes fell on Tonks.
"And you, my dear?" she asked kindly before admonishing: "Running off to fight Death Eaters a few weeks after childbirth, don't let me hear anyone say that Hufflepuffs are a bunch duffers ever again."
When she received no response from the young Auror, she scrutinized her from head to toe and she waved her wand around in a couple of complicated motions her face turning grimmer by the second.
"I found her like this...," Remus said weakly sitting his wife down on the floor suddenly feeling too weak from carrying her weight.
"Do you know what hit her?"
"I'm not sure. It was Bellatrix. Crucio for sure, but there might have been something more."
Before they could continue they were interrupted by Bill Weasley, his scarred face ashen and grief stricken making Remus only now realise that the Weasleys were one family member short when he walked by the corner of the Great Hall where they all had huddled into a small group.
"The aurors that Kingsley called in have just recovered Bellatrix's Lestrange's body at the outskirts of the Forbidden Forrest," Bill started and as he looked at Remus he added: "I thought you wouldn't be surprised as they found her with this," he said pulling out a rowan wand.
"According to Proudfoot this belongs to you," he offered the piece of fine wood to Tonks who didn't seem to register the presence of the oldest Weasley son yet alone move a muscle to retrieve what was hers.
Bill looked between her, Lupin and Hestia but when none of them offered an explanation he simply shrugged his shoulders and handed over the young Auror's wand to Remus.
"And there's also the matter of this," he pulled another wand turning to Hestia: "Perhaps you can make some use of it to find out what happened? It was Bellatrix's."
The healer took the recovered item and crouched down to continue her examination. With that Bill turned on his heels to join the fray of grieving Weasleys once again.
Hestia moved her hand in front of Tonks' eyes and then asked her to follow her finger and shined a small light at the tip of her wand into the eyes that were set on the amber colour the young mother had currently favoured to match her son's latest choice of iris colour.
"No reaction whatsoever."
Jones turn her attention to the wand she had received from Bill as she tapped it with her own saying: "Priori Incantatem."
In her last hour of life Bellatrix had cast only two incantations but she had repeated them for a staggering amount of times.
Hestia let out a frustrated sigh.
"As far as I can tell there is no magical damage caused by the spells, but her psyche seems to have been deeply disturbed. No wonder, I have only ever seen someone being done such atrocious number on once and still see the light of the day."
An uncomfortable silence settled over the two for Remus had comprehended that she was speaking about the Longbottoms.
"So, what can we do?"
"First we wait and see and monitor closely. It might just be temporary and it might loosen up gradually. I'm sorry, Remus, if I knew of a spell that could help here, I would...for now all I can offer are sleeping and nutritional droughts to care for the physical wellbeing…some calming droughts too perhaps."
Remus nodded slowly, an invisible emptiness gripping at him from the inside.
A large silver eagle chose that moment to fly into the Great Hall circling around a few times until the Patronus found its target and headed for Tonks delivering the message in the strained voice of her mother.
"Andromeda," Remus gulped and grabbed his wife looking at Hestia apologetically.
The healer smiled and looked around and when she was satisfied that Madame Pomfrey and the other healers had total control of the situation she told her friend: "I'll come with you."
A/N: Just a few short notes
- This will be an AU story in terms of some survivals but will try to stick with canon where possible both in regards to characterization (let me know if I'm doing any good with that one) and in regards to pairings
- I am not a native English speaker, so please excuse any mistakes and the lack of British expressions and the possible mix of British/American English that results from a person learning British English at school and watching too much American TV
- I have around 12k words of this already written on my computer and a lot of the story planned out, so hopefully I can keep updating this at least semi-regularly
- Also please note that this story won't be very heavy on plot beyond the prologue, I prefer playing with the characters more than focusing on adventures
- For this chapter: I took some liberties in regards to the timing of the battle