Harry Potter was a little surprised to see Nymphadora Tonks sitting at the Weasley's kitchen table, when he arrived with Albus Dumbledore that night. Indeed, she looked different - thinner, paler, more subdued - but there was something else a little... off about her. Her eyes had a certain glaze to them - as if she'd just been on the receiving end of a partial frontal lobotomy - and she looked so much more serious than he'd remembered of the once exuberant, cheerful and clumsy girl.
"Hello, Nymphadora," said Professor Dumbledore, genially.
"Good evening, professor," she said, serenely. "I trust that you read that book I passed on to you."
"Er... yes, I did, dear. It was quite... er..."
Harry noticed at once that both Molly Weasley and Professor Dumbledore seemed to be a little edgy - as if they were both suppressing their true feelings. Molly was stirring a pot of onion soup at the fire, but even she looked more harangued than usual.
"Now Tonks, dear, did you want to come for dinner tomorrow night? Remus and Alastor Moody will--"
Tonks shuddered. "Remus is an SP. I refuse to eat dinner with an SP"
"No need to be nasty," said Harry.
"He's a Suppressive Person, Harry. I must avoid him if I want to free my true mental potential."
"Er... right." Harry wondered if his suspicion about a Muggle doctor having performed a lobotomy on Tonks was more apt than most of his premonitions. "Thanks for letting me stay here, Mrs Weasley."
"You know we've been looking forward to having you, Harry."
"Well, I'd best be off," said Tonks. "Now, Molly, you will remember what I told you about vitamins and exercise, right? You won't need calming potions. They ruin your brain-waves."
"Oh, of course," said Mrs Weasley, in a tone that Harry could immediately tell was laced with insincerity.
"Well, bye," said Tonks, who wandered dreamily out of the house. Harry stared after her; it was as if Tonks was being replaced by a pod-person, or a very convincing inferius.
"I had best be off too," said Professor Dumbledore, straightening his robes. "I trust that if you have any further problems, Molly, you will let me know." Dumbledore leaned in close to Mrs Weasley, and whispered: "did she make you read that rubbish as well?"
"She even tried to audit me," said Mrs Weasley.
"This has got to stop," said Dumbledore, sadly. "Well, good night, Molly. Harry."
"Wow," said Harry, sitting down at the kitchen table as Dumbledore closed the front door behind him, "Tonks is... really different."
"I don't want to talk about it," said Molly, furiously adding a handful of thyme to her onion soup.
As the festivities of Christmas Eve wound to a close, Harry noted that Remus was looking even more tired and harassed than he normally did. (This was a tall order, too, given that his default mode tended to be "tired and harassed-looking".) Harry approached Remus with caution, and sat down on the armchair beside Remus'. His old teacher seemed to be lost in thought as he stared at the fire, and Harry cleared his throat gently to attract Remus' attention.
"Oh, sorry, Harry. Must have lost track of the time."
"Is everything all right, sir?"
Remus shuddered. "It's been a bad six months, Harry."
"Yeah. Sirius' death hit us all hard."
"Well, yes. Amongst other things."
Harry noticed that even by Remus' standards, he was dressed abysmally. Though Harry had never seen him in anything fancier than what could be described as "hobo couture", he'd never thought that Remus would stoop so low to wear a burlap sack. "So, no work this year still?"
"Oh, that." He picked at his sack, and sighed. "There was some... unpleasantness. I can never speak to Tonks again."
Harry frowned. "Sir, what happened?"
"Oh, nothing. Just the usual business, I suppose - she tried to help me deal with my feelings after Sirius' death, and the next minute I know I'd spend every cent of Sirius' estate on buying these rubbish e-meter things, and channelling my inner thetan, or something--"
"You mean, my inheritance from Sirius," said Harry.
Remus buried his head in his hands. "They took the clothes off my back, Harry. The bastards."
Harry didn't know whether to feel embarrassed for Remus or angry at him, so he left him alone in the armchair by the fire, and slunk away feeling extremely awkward.
The mood in the hospital wing was extremely grim, as Molly and Fleur clutched onto an unconscious Bill, and everyone else silently mourned the death of Dumbledore. Harry was most upset by Remus' shock at Dumbledore's death - it was as if he'd lost the last pillar of strength in his life.
"I can't believe he's gone," said Hermione weakly, as she clutched onto Ron's arm for strength.
"How are we supposed to deal now?" Poppy Pomfrey wiped the tears from her eyes and looked askance at everyone in the room. "I mean, he was the greatest Headmaster Hogwarts has ever had!"
"You know," said Tonks, who was oddly serene for such a sad occasion, "I can feel all your pain, and this is a terrible tragedy. But I want you to know that I can help you all come to peace and understand how the world works."
Remus looked up, shooting figurative daggers at Tonks. "Oh, no, not now--"
Tonks pulled a thick, hard-cover book from her robes. "Have you ever heard of 'Dianetics'? It's really good. It helped me get on with my life by releasing the tormented ghosts of my past. Literally."
"Tonks, I swear," said Remus, pulling himself out of his chair and striding angrily towards her, "you mention that bloody cult of yours again and so help me God, I will throw you into a volcano."
"I expected that from such an enemy of the truth," said Tonks, nodding slowly. "You're in league with Xenu, aren't you."
"Oh, God, here she goes again," said Molly Weasley, and suddenly, Harry saw everything falling into place.
"You know, I don't think Dumbledore would have wanted someone spreading their crack-pot religious theories at his death," said Minerva, entering with a stern look on her face.
"You're glib, Minerva," said Tonks. "You don't understand the universe. I --"
That was the last word Nymphadora Tonks said, as a red ray of light hit her in the chest and pushed her out the window of the hospital wing.
"Sorry," said Ginny, wiping her wand on her robes as all eyes in the room turned to look at her, "but that was just really fucking insensitive and inappropriate. Dumbledore just died."