Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Author's Note: Made a few changes to original OotP plot, including, but not limited to:
-Hermione, Ron and Harry are allowed into the Order's meetings
-Many Order members reside at 12 Grimmauld Place
Dignity in Fear
Hermione liked to drink tea, preferably at 3 in the morning, when most of the inhabitants of 12 Grimmauld Place -at least those that weren't off on assignment- were already in their rooms. At that hour she had room to breathe and, lulled by the constant creaking of the settling house and the mutterings of Kreacher, actually allow herself to relax. These days both of those necessities were in short supply.
Hermione sat down heavily at the kitchen table, groaned loudly and stared glassy-eyed into the murky depths of her mug. A thin layer of dust was already decorating the surface of the steaming liquid, but she took a hearty swig anyways before running a hand through her hair. Ron and Harry were probably already snoring heartily away in their room; she had no idea how they could do it. Falling asleep was the first item on a long list of things Hermione had no ability to do after five hours of Order business. She could still hear Mad-Eye Moody pounding his fist on the table repeatedly, trying to bring order to the….Order.
Hermione giggled, drunk with exhaustion and frayed nerves.
Crookshanks, who had been sleeping on a musty blanket folded next to the kitchen hearth, stretched languidly and jumped on the table, grumbling and snuffing hopefully in the direction of her mug. She considered shooing him away, but came to the conclusion that she didn't care. As Crookshanks settled down to lap at the tea, Hermione found it strangely thrilling to not care about something. Seemed like all she did lately was care, worry and feel responsible; about everything; and everyone. She was bursting with it. Between the war, and Harry's constant drama, Hermione hadn't done anything purely for herself in, well, she didn't know how long. She had been the serious, studious, overthinking, bloody parent of the two idiots slumbering happily upstairs since she met them. She cocked an ear in the direction of the stairs out of habit to see if Harry was having another nightmare. But having already jumped off the ledge of not caring once, and finding it agreeable, she decided to once again not care.
"Gits." she grumbled, doggedly leaning back in her chair to rest her head against the wall, arms hanging limply at her sides. She stared up at the ceiling and watched dust fall slowly through the floorboards as some Order member wandered sleepily towards the bathroom. The Bathroom. It has a tub. Hermione's hand came up to swipe at the back of her neck, Ew. She wished, not for the first time, that the wizarding world would accept the highly convenient Muggle invention: the common, household shower. Though a bath called to her, she was not able to fill the enormous claw-foot tub herself, since she was still under aged.
A door creaked upstairs, sending another snow of dust drifting onto Hermione's shoulders. The clock on the mantle chimed the half hour. Kreacher grumbled in the cupboard under the sink. Crookshanks yawned and licked his lips. Hermione closed her eyes, legs stretched out, head lolling against the bricks, arms still dangling numbly at her sides. The night sounds of the house were strangely comforting, the quiet comings and goings of the inhabitants becoming a part of a natural rhythm. Like a living organism, this house.
An unfamiliar sound permeated the walls, making Hermione jump, eyes popping blearily open. From somewhere upstairs a muffled rhythm, a haunting voice..."What the…" Hermione sat up, ears cocked, confusion showing in the lines of her face. Rising slowly from her seat, she edged around the table and tip-toed towards the stairs, as if the subdued rhythm would blink out of existence if she moved too quickly. She recognized the sound, had heard it somewhere, but it was flicking just out of reach as she softly climbed the stairs. Pausing on the landing of the second floor, Hermione scanned the bedroom doors, listening. Determining that the third floor was a better bet, she climbed again, instinctively avoiding the creaky boards. On the third floor were Fred and George's room, Harry and Ron's room, and her and Ginny's room. At the end of the hall… Tonks. She hadn't even known that the witch was at home. She hadn't been at dinner, nor at the endless after-dinner planning session. It wasn't unusual, sometimes after particularly strenuous missions members would disappear into their spaces for a day.
Hermione swiftly crossed to Tonks' door, carefully putting her ear to the wooden panel. A faint light glowed around the edges of the door, as from a shuttered lamp. From here she could plainly hear the rough voice of Janis Joplin soulfully crooning "Summertime", a particular favorite of Hermione's father. Before she could think too much about it, curiosity overran caution and she knocked on the scratched surface. "Tonks? You in there?" Hermione listened for a second, and then tried the door handle, finding it unlocked. Bored, exhausted, and inquisitive, she took her chances and stuck her head into the room.
Hermione had never seen the inside of the Tonks' room. For that matter, she hadn't seen the inside of most rooms in 12 Grimmauld Place. In a world where there was so little time for personal space, the members of the Order seemed to try their hardest to give privacy where it could be given; if it could be given at all.
Tonks' room was softly lit by an array of colorful candles, illuminating a messy jar of quills, open ink bottles, and rolls of parchment on a table against the far wall. Her bed was unmade, the old brass bedframe just as tarnished and bent as hers, with black satin sheets and a plaid quilt over the top. Tonks' Comet 260 leaned against the wall behind the door and a trunk at the end of the bed overflowed with clothes, many obviously muddy or wet. Hermione's eyes were drawn to the walls as she stepped further into the room; they were strewn with old Muggle band posters: The Clash, Sex Pistols, Crass, Buzzcocks, Dead Kennedy's; also The Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Joan Jett. The window was open, and was obviously the source of the music. Taking one more look around, Hermione headed towards the window. Putting her hands on the sill, she leaned out into the night air "Tonks? Oh!" She flinched, not expecting to find the witch sitting on the fire escape There's a fire escape out here?
"'mione!" Tonks exclaimed, obviously startled. Her cropped hair flashed a dusky purple before returning to its usual bubblegum pink. The witch had a lit cigarette held between the pointer and thumb of her left hand, and her wand stuck out the top of her muddy boot. The small radio sitting on the grating under the window to "Crimson and Clover" by Joan Jett, another song from Hermione's memories in the Muggle world. "I'm sorry, did I wake you?" Tonks reached out, as if to turn off the radio.
"No! No it's okay, leave it on. I hadn't gone to bed yet." Hermione replied, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. "When did you get back?" she blinked owlishly, eyes adjusting to the dark.
Tonks took a drag of her cigarette, face glowing in the light from the ember. "I got back just a while ago, while you guys were at supper." She exhaled through her nose, briefly enveloping Hermione in the smell of fresh tobacco. "I caught Mad-Eye Moody while he was grabbing something from his room, briefed him and told him I was knackered. Been out here ever since." She smiled, cocking an eyebrow at Hermione's awkward position in the window. "Come on out, join me" She said, indicating the empty space next to her.
Hermione glanced over her shoulder, briefly considering her silent dusty vigil downstairs, but swung her leg over the sill and accepted the heavy cloak Tonks held out to her. It smelled of tobacco, old beer and the slightest hint of fire; that smell you get in the back of your nose when you directly intake the heat of a flame. It was delicious, warm, and very much unexpected, and she quickly burrowed into it.
Hermione hadn't spent a lot of time alone with the metamorphmagus. Due to Tonks' abilities she was often on assignment. When she was "at home", she was often bright and funny, entertaining the glum Order. Just the other night she had spent all dinner sporting a hog's nose and large rabbit ears, much to the chagrin of Molly Weasley. Hermione had quickly ascertained that the flamboyant witch was both inexorably flirtatious and intensely clumsy. Tonks had caught Hermione staring interestedly at her upon their first meeting, and had winked coyly at her, making Hermione blush fiercely. Later the same night Tonks had managed to not only knock over her own mug of beer, but also break two plates while helping with the dishes. Everything about Nymphadora Tonks quietly intrigued Hermione, she wasn't like any of the other witches or wizards she had ever met. She was refreshing.
Tonks snubbed out her cigarette on the grating and settled more comfortably against the bricks. "You like Janis?" She inquired.
Hermione jumped, shaking herself out of the comfortable fog she had found herself in "Huh?" she said.
"Janis. Janis Joplin? The song that was playing?" Tonks gestured teasingly towards the radio, which was now softly playing something unfamiliar, but still pleasant.
"Oh! Yeah, I love Janis. And Joan Jett. My parents always listened to them when I was growing up." Hermione blushed, playing with the studs that lined the zipper of Tonks' cloak.
Tonks chuckled and scooted closer, "Ya, my dad introduced me to a lot of Muggle music when I was growing up. He was Muggle-born, like you." She smirked at Hermione's blatant shock. "I even went to a few Muggle concerts when I was growing up. I saw Joan Jett, the Sex Pistols, and a few others. I stopped after I once got a little too far into my cups and ended up scaring the Merlin out of a group of Muggles." She laughed, a contagious, throaty sound that Hermione couldn't help but chuckle along with. "Luckily, the Muggles were on some serious drugs at the time, and a person suddenly turning into a mutant creature before their eyes wasn't too far out of the question. Since my morphing doesn't register to the Ministry as using magic, they never knew about it" She paused theatrically, holding her breath. "As an afterthought, you probably shouldn't tell the Order any of that. Could possibly lose my job." The last part was whispered out of the corner of her mouth, eyes rolling teasingly.
Hermione burst out laughing. It felt so good, she laughed until her ribs hurt. "These lips are sealed." She panted, smiling at the older witch, who she found was smiling warmly back at her from only six inches away, their shoulders touching. Hermione's breath hitched, the scent of beer and tobacco, flame and flesh, swirling in her exhausted brain. Tonks is beautiful She leaned back against the wall and pulled the cloak more firmly around her neck, hiding the moment in busy movement. "So, we have a fire escape?" Hermione suddenly inquired.
Tonks chuckled low in her throat and pulled her wand out of her boot, fiddling with it. "Well, we do now." Hermione cocked her eyebrow. "Old Grimmauld Place can get to be a bit much. Sometimes it's nice to sit outside." Tonks said, shrugging her shoulders and biting back a yawn.
Hermione could have stayed right there, surrounded by the soothing warmth of Tonks' cloak, until dawn. It was so nice to just sit and talk to someone, especially another woman, who wasn't expecting her to have all the answers to all of the problems, but Tonks looked like she was fading fast, and Hermione needed to find her own bed. She stirred and moved to stand, levering herself up stiffly. "We should both get to bed, it must be around 4 AM." Hermione said, suddenly extremely tired herself.
Tonks rubbed her eyes and put out a hand, which Hermione took and helped the older witch to her feet. Standing face to face, Tonks was slightly taller than Hermione, but only just.
"Yeah I should probably hit the sheets. But you should come out here again with me sometime. We can listen to some music and unwind a bit." She smiled again. Even sleepy, it was impish, reckless, and completely radiant. Hermione's head spun.
"Let's do that." Hermione said distractedly, turning to climb back through the window. The two witches shared a warm, slightly flirtatious (Tonks), slightly shy (Hermione) good-night before Hermione headed down the hall towards the room she and Ginny shared, the light from the room blinking out as Tonks shut the door. It was only when Hermione went to change for bed that she realized that she still wore Tonks' cloak, the smell of beer and tobacco and fire still warming her skin.