The war is over, and Nymphadora Tonks goes to bed.
The others are cheering. They're gathering around Harry, and at some point, Tonks knows, she should hug him, thank him, tell him how much she admires his strength and his courage, and both of those things are true, but she isn't sure she can do it now, even if she could get through the crowd. Araminta continues to go from person to person, tending the wounded and injured, but she stops, now and then, when people come over to her—Molly Weasley, Hermione Granger, even Professor McGonagall is bestowing hugs and tears. Tonks sees Kingsley Shacklebolt approach Araminta, and Araminta's face breaks into a small, fierce smile as he cups her face in his hands. There's love and relief, and when Tonks looks away, the next people her eyes land on are Pippa and Charlie. Her arms are wrapped around him, one of her hands stroking his hair, the other protective on the back of his neck as he buries his face in her shoulder.
She looks for Sam, and finds him where she expects him: in a corner of the room, collapsed in Oliver's arms. Tonks has known Sam since he was an apple-cheeked thirteen-year-old whose older brother cheated the Sorting Hat to make sure they stayed in the same House, and even now, a part of her heart twists at seeing him like this. But she doesn't have comfort for anyone: not for herself, not for Sam. Sam, at least, has Oliver—his best friend and whatever else the relationship may include on any given day—and Tonks leaves Oliver to do what, right now, he can accomplish much better than she can.
Tonks finds her way out of the Great Hall, through the Entrance Hall, into the tunnel, into the deserted Hufflepuff common room, and finally through the corridors to her room from her seventh year. It's nearly unchanged; though the accountrements scattered around it are different, not Tonks's clothes and Eugenie's books and Araminta's posters and Prudence's fashion magazines, there's a basic ecosystem that persists, generation to generation, when four girls live together. Tonks goes to the far right corner of the room and, praying that this girl will be in the Great Hall celebrating for many hours to come, climbs into the bed that was hers as a seventh-year.
They never went to sleep at a decent hour, the four of them, always up talking late into the night. Classes, classmates, families, boys, girls (in Eugenie's case), their futures, anything—they'd been friends since their first year, the four of them and Pippa and Tamesis, the Hufflepuff Six. Utterly inseparable. Now Eugenie and Tam are dead, and Pru will probably spend the rest of her life in Azkaban, and Araminta and Pippa are out in the Great Hall with the people they love. And Tonks is here in this bed.
This is where, one long afternoon over the Easter holiday of their seventh year, Tonks lost her virginity to Dean Winchester, and he lost his to her. It was tender and awkward and a little bit painful the first time; pleasant the second; sweaty, intense, and ferocious the third. They did very little else for the remainder of the break, and wore each other's bite marks like secret tattoos underneath their clothes for the next fortnight.
Dean's body is now just one of many lying in the Great Hall.
Tonks twists the ring on her left hand—they're plain titanium bands, with their initials, NCT and DMW, engraved in neat capitals on the inside. They bought them in Notting Hill, three years ago, the week after Tonks passed her Auror's qualifications. They never did the legal ceremony—much to Tonks's parents' dismay, and, God, she can't think about her parents right now, can't think about her father, it's all too much....
She doesn't realize she's crying until she's sobbing so hard she can't breathe.
It's her mother who finds her first. Andromeda was Sorted into Slytherin like the rest of the Blacks, and has probably never set foot in Hufflepuff House in her life, but she has that sixth sense that mothers do. "Dora, love," her mother says gently, "let's go home."
"I haven't any Floo powder," Tonks says. The anti-Apparition wards are broken, but if she Apparates now, she'll Splinch. "I'm so tired. Let me just sleep a while."
"You're in some strange girl's bed, darling."
"This was my bed. My last year at Hogwarts. It was mine before it was hers."
"You'll scare her half to death if she comes back and finds someone she doesn't know in her room. I know you're tired. I'll take you by Side-Along."
"Where's Sam? We can't just leave Sam here."
"Sirius is going to bring him to our house. Oliver too. Come, love, you need to be home."
Home is her flat in Kentish Town, with its sunlight and rattling windows and copper kettle. Home is with Dean.
She stands—unsteadily, but she does—and lets her mother gather her up.
Her mother tucks her into her childhood bed, wants to give her a Sleeping Draught, but Tonks refuses. Andromeda shakes her head disapprovingly, but Tonks doesn't give in. She accepts a cup of chamomile tea, declines the company of any but her childhood teddy, still sitting stalwartly on the pillows, and curls up underneath the familiar blankets. She's exhausted—hasn't rested for days, hasn't slept properly for months, and everything else aside, this can't be good for...no, don't think about that now.
She's crying again, but she buries it in Teddy so that her mum won't hear.
Some time later, she's not asleep, but she's somewhere in that state where you're so tired you feel like you're floating. The door opens—"Mum?" she says, and turns her head, but it's not Andromeda; it's Sirius.
"Sam's downstairs," he tells her. He sits down by the bed and strokes her hair with unironic, uncharacteristic tenderness. "He's...well, I suppose he's doing as well as might be expected, under the circumstances."
"Thanks," she says. She means to speak in a normal tone, but her voice isn't quite working that way.
"Are you sure there's nothing I can get for you?"
"I'm fine, Sirius, but thank you." She thinks to ask, "Is Harry alright?"
"He's fine. Tired, like everyone, and in shock that it's all over, but he'll be fine. I left him with Ron and Hermione. I think that's the only company he really wanted."
"Working on getting the students home to their parents. He'll probably stay at Hogwarts tonight, but he promised to check in later today."
Sirius's hand is still terribly gentle in her hair. "I owe my life to Dean, back at the Department of Mysteries. If he hadn't caught me when Bellatrix—"
"That horrid old veil," Tonks whispers. "I hope someone set it on fire."
"You picked a good man, Callie." Sirius has always called her that—from her middle name, Calypso. "I'm so sorry about...about what happened. If there's anything I can do for you, any way I can help..."
"No." She remembers to add, "Thank you. I appreciate it. But right now I just want to sleep."
"Sometimes the best way to help is to leave someone alone." He kisses the top of her head and stands up. "If you do need anything, just call."
Her mother comes in again a while later, but Tonks feigns sleep, and Andromeda either is fooled by it or pretends to be. Once her mother leaves the room, Tonks opens her eyes again to watch the afternoon sun, glorious, and obscene in its imperviousness to everything that has happened today.
When the door opens a third time, Tonks turns over to tell her mum, or Sirius, or whoever, that, no, she really does not require anything, and would prefer to be left to keep her own counsel, thank you.
But it's not Mum or Sirius. It's Sam.
He looks exhausted, but they all do; that in itself does not distinguish his state from anyone else's. His hair's a mess, his robes in such a sorry state that they'd do better in the dustbin than in the wash.
"Hi," he says, sounding startlingly like his thirteen-year-old self.
She tries as best she can to smile; she doesn't think she has much success. "Sam. Are you alright?" As soon as the words are out, she realizes it's about the stupidest question she might have asked.
He doesn't seem to hold it against her. "About as alright as you are." He sits on the edge of the bed. She holds out her hand at the same time he takes it. "You look awful."
"And you look like a right tramp, you git."
When he smiles, it's tiny but genuine, and she's pretty sure that the same is true for her.
"No, you're not," she interrupts, longstanding Black, Tonks, and now Winchester family joke, and Sam rolls his eyes.
"I mean it, Tonks. Have you gotten any sleep at all?"
His accent comes and goes: He'll always sound—no, she corrects herself, he always sounded, past tense now, past—more English than Dean, who moved here just late enough that his accent was firmly in place. Sam's accent is more malleable, but when he's tired or under stress—and right now quite emphatically counts as both—his voice veers back toward his native Americanisms.
"I'm sure I have at some point," Tonks says, "or I'd be hallucinating. Have you slept?"
"I'm not sure. Not in a few days, I guess."
"Sam, really. Where's Oliver? Find him and get some rest. Both of you."
Sam shakes his head and looks away. "I...I can't. If I fall asleep—" He takes a shuddering breath. "If I fall asleep and then wake up and he's still not here, it means...it means it's real."
"I know," Tonks says, and the tears come back. "Except the opposite. I keep thinking that if I fall asleep, I'll wake up and he'll be here. Just like he's been out training with—with Alastor, and they're just coming back late..." And there she goes again.
"Tonks," Sam says in that same tone as Sirius, except it's less startling on him, and why is he comforting her, anyway, when he's lost just as much? He runs his thumb over the backs of her knuckles, soothing. "Ssh. Don't cry. You're exhausted. I know...I understand why you don't want to sleep. But I think you'll feel better if you do."
She shakes her head, but forces the tears back, quiets herself.
"I'll stay with you," Sam says. "Or your mum can. I'll get you a Sleeping Draught or something; that way you won't have to just lie here."
"I really don't want to take anything. I know he's still going to be gone no matter what," she adds. "That's not it, not completely."
"What do you mean?"
She takes a breath and says, "I don't know what a Sleeping Draught would do to a baby. If a person is pregnant, I mean."
Sam freezes, then pushes her back to look her in the face. "Tonks. Oh my God. You're pregnant?"
"About four weeks, maybe six. I only found out a couple of days ago." She deteriorates into tears again. "I didn't tell him. I didn't tell him, because I was supposed to be doing the spells, and I did, Sam, I did, except that I must have miscounted the days, or bollixed the wording up somehow, because here I am pregnant, and I was scared he'd be angry at me—"
"Why in God's name would he have been angry at you?"
"Because we were supposed to wait! Wait until the war was over and it wasn't a completely mad time to try to raise a child and we weren't risking our lives every day! We talked about it! We talked about it and I agreed and I don't know what I did wrong with the spells, but clearly I did something, and I was going to tell him after the battle...." And she disintegrates yet again.
Sam's murmuring as softly as her mother. "It'll be alright. I promise, it'll be alright."
"I know," she says. "My mum will be overjoyed, and you'll be the godfather—er, if you're agreeable, that is—and Sirius will finally have a boy whom he can teach to misbehave, and my salary and the...the death benefits will be more than enough for food and clothing and Hogwarts, and I know that I can do it. But I didn't tell him, and he'll never know that he's the father of a beautiful son—or a beautiful daughter, it really doesn't matter to me—"
He holds her, curls around her. She's in her natural body now, and he's so much bigger than she is—she still thinks of him as the small, round third-year, but he's not, not anymore; he's fifteen stone of magic and strength, and it was only a few hours ago that he disarmed and killed Bellatrix Lestrange, deliberately and efficiently, after Bellatrix killed his brother.
"Tonks. Tonks, don't worry. I said it'll be alright, and it will be."
"How can you say that?" she asks into the front of his robes. "How can you of all people possibly say that?"
"Because I know," he says, hands gentle on her head and back. In any other circumstances, this would be unthinkably inappropriate, but the world has gone mad, and Tonks can't think of why appropriate and inappropriate should matter right now.
"Is this a Seer bit? You can look into the future and tell me that it doesn't matter that my husband's dead, that your brother's dead...."
"Of course it matters," he says, and now there's a catch in his voice. "Of course it matters. But it's not the only thing that matters."
"What are you talking about?"
"'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.'"
"That was Harry," Tonks says, "not us."
"Ssh," Sam says. "Really, you need to sleep. It can't be good for the baby, being exhausted like this. How about a Calming Draught? They're not as strong as the Sleeping Draughts, and maybe that will be enough to let you get some rest."
"Okay," she agrees, finally. "A Calming Draught. But a weak one."
"Good. I'll be right back with it. Don't go anywhere."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
He Apparates out, and is back about five minutes later, carrying a small covered cup. "From Madam Pomfrey," he says.
Tonks drinks it obediently, and almost immediately feels her mind slow down. She's had Calming Draughts only once or twice in her life, but she remembers the sensation, and doesn't particularly like it—it's disconcerting not to have control over the pace of one's own thoughts. But with the slowness comes sleep, and sleep is beginning to feel amazingly good after everything that has happened....
She drifts off with Sam's fingers stroking lightly over her hair.
She wakes up to the sensation of being picked up—and she struggles, fighting, trying to reach her wand, trying to kick her way out of the person's arms, before she realizes it's Sam. "Tonks. Tonks, calm down. It's just me. I didn't want to wake you."
"Merlin's balls, Sam, you scared me. Where are we?"
"We're still in your bedroom. Obviously my plan wasn't very successful."
"Are we going somewhere?" Now that she's awake, she feels slightly ridiculous, lying in Sam's enormous arms and being carried like a child.
"Tonks, I need you to...I need you to trust me."
"Of course, Sam. You know I do."
"We're going back to Hogwarts. Close your eyes."
"Do we have to?" Then she wakes a little bit more, tries to pull herself upright. "Is everything alright? Sam, what happened? Is it—"
"Everything's fine," he reassures her. "Nothing happened—nothing bad, anyway. Just close your eyes."
She does. She closes her eyes, settles her head against his chest. Belatedly, it occurs to her to wonder why he uses Side-Along, why he doesn't just take a handful of Floo power from the jar next to her mother's fireplace and go that way, now that they can. But she's still drowsy enough that she just gazes at the darkness in the backs of her own eyelids, and waits for them to arrive.
Then the unmistakeable voice says, "T?" and she screams and throws herself to her feet.
The next few minutes are a blur: They're in one of the ground-floor antechambers, off the Great Hall, and her scream brings in a surge of people, wands out. She's not paying attention to them. She's staring at Dean, who's sitting on the floor, looking bemused and a little bit dizzy. His eyes clear quickly, though, and his gaze takes an instant inventory of everyone in the room. "Baby," he says, and smiles, holds out his arms, but she's shaking too hard; she can't make herself go into them.
Tonks feels a hand on her back, then two. Araminta and Pippa. Araminta was the one who tried to revive Dean—despite the well-known fact that there's no reviving anyone from a Killing Curse—and Pippa is trained as an Unspeakable. Horror is mounting on both faces. Dean stands up, wand in hand, looking at Tonks, at Pippa, at Araminta, at Sirius, at Molly Weasley, at everyone standing tense and ready behind them. Finally he looks at Sam. "I think I missed something," he says evenly.
"You aren't real," says Tonks. "I'm dreaming this. Sam gave me a Sleeping Draught instead of just a Calming Draught, and I'm dreaming this."
"I'm real," says Dean, at the same time Sam says, "He's real, Tonks. Go over there and see."
"I saw Bellatrix kill you," Tonks whispers.
"Must have been a Stunning Spell," Sam says, too lightly, "and not a Killing Curse."
"It was a Killing Curse." Araminta walks over to Dean, then, the first person to cross the small floor that suddenly seems much larger. "I saw it happen, and I examined you afterward. It was green light, not red, and you were definitely...not alive. I did"—she takes a breath—"I did everything I could to bring you back, even though everyone knows that's impossible. You were dead, Dean. I don't know what else to say."
There's a flicker of doubt, then, on Dean's face, and he pats himself down, sends a spray of sparks up at the ceiling with his wand. "I'm pretty sure I'm not a ghost," he says.
"You're not a ghost, Dean," says Sam. "You've alive, like you always were."
Slowly, Tonks goes over and puts her hands on Dean's shoulders, chest, face. He's solid and warm; he smells a bit strong because none of them have been giving much priority to things like bathing and washing clothes over the past few days (weeks); his hair's a disaster; his eyes are their usual river-through-woods green; his rings, theirs and the silver band that was his father's, the one he always wears on his right hand, are where they should be; his jeans are patched in both knees; he's wearing his old pair of steel-toed boots.
For the first time in the seven years they've been together, his arms, when they come around her, are tentative. "Sam," he says, "what did you do?"
"Nothing you wouldn't have."
"That doesn't tell me very much."
"What's the last thing you remember?" Sam asks.
"I remember taking down Rodolphus Lestrange. Then...nothing. It's like I got hit in the head with something, I guess."
"A Killing Curse," Pippa says. "Bellatrix hit you with a Killing Curse from behind. Araminta tried to revive you, and when she couldn't, Sam killed Bellatrix, fairly spectacularly."
"Good." Now Dean's rubbing Tonks's back, steadily, reassuringly. "The bitch needed to go down."
"I couldn't agree more," murmurs Molly Weasley.
"But that doesn't answer the question," Dean continues, "of just what the hell you did, Sam. I was dead. She hit me with an AK"—Dean has never liked to say the full curse out loud—"and Araminta, who's been able to fix damn near every other mess any of us have gotten into over the years, couldn't do anything, and Tonks screamed like she'd seen a serial killer when she saw me just now. Given that my name isn't Jesus, I'd like to know exactly what happened."
The room is silent.
Sam sighs and looks down at the flagstones. "Remember what Dad told us about crossroads?"
The horror on Pippa's and Araminta's faces was nothing compared to what's on Dean's now. "No. No. Sam, you didn't. You know better than that."
Tonks turns to look at Sam. "What about crossroads?"
"Tell her, Sam," Dean says. "She deserves to know."
"And me," says Molly Weasley. "I think I deserve to know. What can one do, at a crossroads, to bring someone back from the dead? I'll do it, whatever it is, if it'll bring Fred back."
"No," says Dean. "It's the darkest magic there is. Darker than anything Voldemort could have dreamed up."
"You say that," Molly spits, "standing there alive and well, with Nymphadora next to you—"
"He sold his soul!" Dean shouts. "That's the only way to do it. You sell your soul, and after some period of time—I don't know, Sam, a year? Five? Ten?—hellhounds come find you and drag you down, and you go to hell, Molly, forever, and that's what Sam did, and it's not fucking worth it!"
"It was worth it," Sam says quietly. "Whatever I paid, it was worth it."
"No one's life is worth your soul, Sam." Tonks has heard Dean angry, discouraged, but never like this, never simply defeated.
"Yours is," Sam says. "I would have gone Dark, Dean." He ignores the stares from around the room, and continues, "Did you think I never had offers? Did you think it never occurred to me to want to? You were what kept me from doing that, and if you were dead, I probably would have just gone over. If I'm going to go to hell for something—and it's a pretty done deal that I would, if I went Dark—I'd rather you get to stay alive out of it, all other things being equal."
"You don't know that, Sam—"
"Oh, I can be pretty sure."
"How long?" says Tonks. "That you have, I mean. Until...by the terms of the agreement."
"Five years," Sam says.
In five years, their child will be old enough to walk, to fly on a broomstick (a small one, of course, and supervised), maybe to read, depending on which relatives she or he takes after. But if Sam dies then, their child will barely remember him.
"Five years is a long time," says Tonks. "Long enough to figure a way out of the deal."
"There's no way out of this kind of deal," says Dean. "It's a deal with the devil. You don't get out of it."
"There's a way out of everything," Sirius says.
"I will do everything in my power to help you break this," comes a quiet voice from the back of the room. It's Remus. "Admittedly, I never had siblings, so I don't know what it's like to lose a brother, but I know what it's like to live a half-life without someone. Dean, you kept me from that with nothing more than good reflexes, and I'll do whatever I can to keep you from it."
"I can't try to get out of it," Sam says. "It's part of the agreement. If I do, Dean dies."
"Does that part of the agreement extend to others as well, or just yourself?" Pippa asks.
Sam blinks. "It wasn't negotiated, exactly, but when the demon said it, it was in reference to me."
"Then the corollary applies only to you." At what looks like a potential interruption from Dean, Pippa adds, "Demons are very legalistic. And literal-minded. Do you think I learned nothing as an Unspeakable?"
Pippa goes over to Remus and Sirius, and they embark on a focused, intense conversation. Planning already.
Maybe it's good to have a plan. Tonks can't even begin to know. Two hours ago she knew that her partner, her not-exactly-husband, the father of her child, was dead. Now he isn't. She doesn't think she knows anything anymore.
She watches Molly Weasley turn and leave. Arthur follows her, hand firm on her shoulder. The nearest crossroads is in Hogsmeade, and Molly knows that just as well as Sam did. Don't let her out of your sight, Arthur, Tonks thinks, has to bite her lip to keep from saying. She catches Pippa's eye between Remus's and Sirius's shoulders, and she's certain Pippa's thinking the same thing.
Oliver comes up to them then—he must have been back near Remus. He and Sam don't touch, and the look on Oliver's face is angry, fierce, and full of love. He looks like he's about to say something—and given Oliver and Sam's well-documented propensity for airing their disagreements in public, it's not an accident, Tonks thinks, that Dean bursts out with, "So, I could go for some food after all this."
Oliver stares, and Dean stares back.
"I could as well," says Araminta. "And it's quite fine outside. I think perhaps the best therapy for the house-elves might be to fix...whatever meal this is, and we can all eat out in the sunshine."
"I second that," says Sirius.
"But there's so much to do—" Oliver begins.
"The war is over," says Remus, "and with its end, life begins again. And part of that new beginning dictates that we eat and sleep and tend to our families and friends. I'll go see what remains of the kitchens."
It's not until later, much later, well into the night, when McGonagall declares that they'll do no more until morning, when everyone's had some rest, that Tonks and Dean return to their flat. They take Sam and Oliver with them. They haven't been home in what feels like months.
It's only after Tonks has been out for a milk run (theirs is curdled enough to require a revision of its biochemical classification), and they've all showered, and Sam has hugged Dean and Dean has for the first time in his life refrained from complaint, and they've bedded Sam and Oliver down in the second bedroom, and Dean is in boxers and Tonks is in one of his old T-shirts and they're lying together in bed, that Tonks says, "There's something I need to tell you."