Remus was living alone in the Black Manor for the time being. He'd requested the Order let him have a few weeks off, too; they'd readily agreed what with Sirius' death. Remus was grieving of course - how could he stop himself? It was a grief that he nurtured inside; one that he hid from everyone. To him grief was a private thing. He didn't want anyone fussing over him; he wanted them to remember Sirius and offer their own grief to the man's memory.
That wasn't the only reason he wanted to be alone for those few weeks. The full moon was last weekend, and he'd definitely not wanted anyone around for that. He'd only ever let James, Sirius, and Peter see him in that state.
This reminded Remus of the last and possibly most important reason for wanting to be alone and sort through his thoughts. All of the Marauders were dead; Remus was left alone, and he had no idea what he was going to do. He'd learned to center his friends so that they were his reason for living. He couldn't go back to the half-life he'd lived from Sirius' arrest to his escape. He would rather die himself than become that shell.
Remus spent long hours contemplating the life before him. He even ventured so far as to wonder if it was really worth it anymore.
He was sitting in the parlor and reading a book when the doorbell rang. He stood with a weary sigh as insults were spat from Mrs. Black's portrait. He went to the front hall to greet his unwanted guest. He didn't want company, and he wouldn't be shy about letting the person know that.
Tonks was standing at the doorway. It was raining hard, and she was shivering. Remus' mothering instincts (that had gotten the Marauders out of more than a few tight spots) kicked in. He pulled her into the house and realized that she was sobbing. "There, there," he whispered, unsure of what to do. He certainly hadn't been expecting this. "Let's get some tea and warm you up, Tonks."
Tonks nodded through her sniffles. Remus pulled the curtains around Mrs. Black tiredly and began to walk towards the kitchen. He heard a crash, then a wail, and he turned around. Tonks had knocked the coat hanger down.
"Everything is horrid, Remus," she croaked through her tears. Remus took her arm and led her safely into the kitchen. She kept muttering, "I was just trying to be nice, that's all."
"Of course you were, dear," Remus said soothingly, reminding himself eerily of Mrs. Weasley. He sat her at the kitchen table. He usually enjoyed Tonks' company, and he was worried about her . . . but he had to be honest, he was a bit irritated. He had been looking forward to a serene afternoon. He knew Tonks, and 'serene' wasn't in her vocabulary.
"Tea would be nice," Tonks sniffled, pulling out her wand as if to make it herself.
Remus grabbed her wrist quickly. "Er - let me," he offered. He didn't want another mess to clean up. He got out the teakettle and did an incantation. A second later the kettle made the squealing noise that announced the tea was hot. He pulled down two mugs and poured both himself and Tonks drinks.
"I woke up and was feeling fine," she said, accepting one of the mugs as he sat across from her. The worst of her tears seemed to have past, and she was able to speak clearly. "I was feeding Slinky, my cat. I remembered when Sirius came to visit at Christmas when I was twelve. That was when he gave me Slinky. And I remembered how-how much Sirius l-loved animals." A few tears escaped down her cheeks, and her eyes were filled with pain.
Remus gaped. He'd had no idea she'd been this upset over Sirius. In fact, if he admitted it to himself, he'd been a little bit selfish about Sirius. He'd never paused to think that anyone could come close to hurting as much as he did.
"I remembered Buckbeak," she continued. "And I started thinking about how horrible it was for him. I started thinking about how I feel so bad about Sirius dying. And then I realized that-that Buckbeak probably felt pretty cruddy, too. That's when I felt really horrible."
Remus continued to listen in consternation.
"I wanted to show Buckbeak that-that I'm not entirely selfish. I wanted to try and cheer him up a bit." Tonks sniffled. "I went down to get him f-flowers."
"Flowers!" The word burst forth with a sob, and she started weeping again.
Remus saw that it might take a little effort to calm her again. He scooted his chair closer to hers and put his arms around her awkwardly. She launched herself in his arms, climbing into his lap and sobbing into his shoulder. Remus stiffened, shocked at her actions. Then he began to rub her back, knowing that this was an embrace solely of comfort.
Tonks began to hiccough and clutched at him tighter. "I started to get ready, but my hot water wasn't working," she began again. "I didn't mind though. I got dressed, shivering, and headed to Diagon Alley to get some flowers for Buckbeak."
"Flowers for Buckbeak?" he teased gently.
"I didn't think he'd like chocolates," Tonks replied. He sensed her smile, and she seemed a little bit more at ease. "I couldn't find the flower shop. It took me an hour, and I had to ask around, but I found out that Lulu's Lilac Shop closed down five years ago." She sniffled. "I had to go into London to get flowers."
"You went into London?" Remus felt worry lines crease across his brow. He held her a little tighter. "You should have told someone."
"I know. I didn't, okay? I wasn't thinking." She sighed. "I looked everyone for a flower shop. It took me another hour. They're sparse on the side of town by Diagon Alley. But I got in there, picked out a bouquet, and realized I'd forgotten to drop by Gringott's and exchange for Muggle currency.
"I was walking out of the shop when I was pick-pocketed! Can you believe it? All of my money was gone. I had to go to Gringott's and get more money out. I went all the way back to Diagon Alley and ended up with the-the absolute rudest customer service of my life. By the time I left, I was utterly miserable."
"Even more so than you are now?" He patted her shoulder.
"Even more so," she agreed. "I went back into London to get the flowers. I came in only to find that they closed early on Fridays." She sobbed again. "I had to find another flower shop! It took me forever and a half. I wondered around town and finally found an overly expensive place. They didn't do custom-made bouquets like the place I'd found before, so I had to find one that Buckbeak would appreciate. I couldn't find a perfect one, but I found a bouquet to settle for."
"Where's the bouquet then?"
"I'm getting there. I bought the flowers and went out onto the street again. I got through one block when it started pouring down rain. I hadn't anticipated it, so I didn't have an umbrella or anything. I didn't see any alleyways, so I couldn't exactly use magic. I had to walk all the way back, but then I realized I was completely lost!" She sighed and rested her head in the cleft of his neck. "The flowers were ruined, and when I finally managed to find an alley, I Apparated here."
Remus hugged her closer and inhaled her scent. The smell of rainwater slightly washed out her usual Tonks scent. "I'm sorry."
"Don't feel bad for me. Feel bad for Buckbeak. I let him down."
"You didn't let him down. We can go out tomorrow and get him something." He smirked. "I rather think he'd enjoy a dead carcass instead of flowers, though."
She sighed. "Maybe you're right."
They stayed like that for a few minutes. Remus began to regret his earlier feelings. He felt horrible for finding Tonks annoying earlier. She had only been trying to make her peace, struggling with her grief. She seemed to have had a horrible day in all, and he was glad that he had sat with her instead of telling her to leave right away.
Tonks stirred, and she stood up. She wiped at her red cheeks and blushed. "I'm sorry."
Remus stood up as well, putting his hands in his robe pockets. "Don't be, Tonks. You made me realize something important tonight. Thank you."
"What exactly did I help you to realize?" Tonks ventured, looking confused.
He shrugged. "That I'm not the only person in the universe."
Tonks laughed shortly. "My dear humble Remus, you could never think like that."
"I was though," he said. "I didn't want anyone near me because I wanted to be alone. I thought that everyone else was being selfish by focusing on me instead of grieving for Sirius. I should have known that it takes group effort for something this big."
Tonks' eyes held intense emotion, and Remus looked away, unable to let himself connect with her like that. He felt her close the space between them, and she wrapped herself around him. Remus immediately placed his hands on her waist, and he drew comfort from her instead of giving it as he had earlier.
"Come on," Tonks said gently after awhile. "Let's go see Buckbeak. Maybe he wants to get in on some group grieving."
Remus smiled and let her squeeze his hand. He followed her up the stairs, feeling grateful that he'd opened the door that night.