I’m part of the Harry Potter generation. I was six-years-old in 1997 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone came out, and the release of each new book, and then each new film, basically book-ended my childhood with the final film coming out the summer after my first year at university. I’ve always felt very lucky for that.
One of my nieces discovered Harry Potter a couple of years ago, but she’s watched all the movies and never read any of the books and it makes me sad that quite a lot of kids now will experience the stories that way when the books are bursting with such wonderful characters and scenes that the films didn’t have enough time to include.
I’d be lying if I said my love for Harry Potter hasn’t wavered over the years, though. Whenever J.K. Rowling’s tweeted something new we didn’t ask for I’ve had plenty of ‘honey, no’ moments and gotten more and more frustrated with her refusal to make the wizarding world as inclusive as it should be. Harry Potter is so popular and there’s so much fanfiction and so many fan theories out there that are better than what Rowling says that I just need her to be quiet now.
Earlier this year, though, I had a craving to return to the wizarding world, so I borrowed the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from my library. The whole series is narrated by Stephen Fry and listening to this book felt like having a bedtime story read to me again; in fact it’s been so long since I read the first book that there was so much I’d forgotten and it was just plain lovely to re-experience it all.
It actually brought all my Potterhead feelings back to the fore! I found myself looking for fanfiction I’d loved as a teenager to re-read, and was reminded of everything I loved about this series before Rowling started putting me off it. Including, among many other things, one of my favourite characters from the series: Tonks.
We don’t meet Tonks until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I’ve always considered my favourite book in the series, but I loved her from the moment she appeared on the page. She’s cool and she’s fun and she has pink hair and, if I’m being honest with myself, she’s a character I encountered at a time in my teenage life when I was still figuring myself out and Tonks seemed like everything I wanted to be.
One of the most popular ships in the HP fandom is Remus/Sirius. I’d be lying if I said I was one of these shippers when I initially read the series because I actually really like Remus and Tonks, and there’s some brilliant fanfiction out there that means a part of me always will, but I do love Remus and Sirius a lot as a romantic couple now. The beauty of choosing to read characters as bisexual is that we can enjoy fanfiction where they’re paired with men and women both, as long as those two characters have chemistry, and it’ll feel true to the character.
Sadly, though, I see quite a lot of dislike for Tonks because she ‘gets in the way’ of Remus and Sirius and I don’t think that’s fair. Remus is a character I read as bi, but he isn’t only bi when he’s with Sirius. Even if we wish something had happened romantically between Remus and Sirius on the page there’s nothing stopping us from reading Remus as queer just because he marries a woman, and I think it does Tonks a disservice to treat her solely as someone who’s only there to get in the way of that other relationship.
When we only think of Tonks in terms of her relationship with Remus we miss out on all the other aspects of her character. Personally I love that Tonks is allowed to be vulnerable when she calls Remus out for pushing her away in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and I love that she doesn’t give a damn about Remus’s background and she just wants him because she likes him, but there’s so much more to her.
She’s a member of the Order of the Phoenix – in fact I’m pretty sure David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ must have been playing when Tonks was born – and a witch skilled enough to have become an Auror. One of my favourite things about her, though, (and something we don’t get to see much of because the books are told through Harry’s perspective) is her friendship with Ginny.
She doesn’t patronise Ginny like a lot of the other members of the Order do (even though she’s only a year younger than Harry, Ron and Hermione), and Tonks also notices Ginny when even her own brothers haven’t. Ginny is constantly surprising her brothers throughout her time at Hogwarts, who don’t initially realise how good she is at Quidditch or how powerful a witch she is, and it’s clear that while the Weasley brothers often like to compete with each other they tend to miss Ginny out of that competition simply because she’s their little sister.
Tonks, on the other hand, recognises a kindred spirit, and I wish we’d had more scenes of the two of them together – clearly that’s some fanfiction I’ll have to go searching for.
Tonks – or Nymphadora, if we dare to call her by her first name – isn’t the only Tonks woman who I think deserves better treatment from fans. We only see her once, very briefly, in the books, but one of my other favourite characters is Andromeda Tonks (née Black), Sirius’s cousin who was disowned by her fanatical, pureblood family when she fell in love with the muggleborn Ted Tonks.
In post-canon fanfiction I often see Andromeda portrayed as Teddy Lupin’s overbearing grandmother, and I just don’t think that’s fair.
Firstly, if I lost my husband, my only child and my son-in-law during a war, and the only family I had left was my infant grandson, then you can bet I would definitely be a protective grandmother. Andromeda being protective isn’t a reading of her that I disagree with, but I do think she deserves a bit more respect from the fans who treat her being protective like it’s a bore. Especially in a series that opens with a young boy being raised in an abusive household.
Andromeda left her entire family, and her entire lifestyle, to pursue a future with her Hogwarts sweetheart – and let’s face it, that’s a relationship that could have fallen apart after a few years, which means I’ve always read Andromeda as someone who would have left her family eventually anyway. This woman is the younger sister of Bellatrix Lestrange – the crackpot who thinks Voldemort is the best thing since sliced bread – and she had the balls to turn her back on her and leave. I don’t think we appreciate how brave she is.
(It’s a bravery we also see in her younger sister, Narcissa, who literally lies to Voldemort’s face.)
Andromeda only makes a brief appearance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so I get that we don’t see enough of her to get a complete grasp on the kind of person she is, but that means there’s all the more reason for fans and fanfiction writers to make her more nuanced than the grumpy, strict grandmother who never smiles.
The Tonks women are brave and they’re cool, and however little we see of them in the books themselves they’re always going to be two of my favourites.