She had come that night expecting questions; the identity of her interrogator was the surprise.
She's sitting on the ground, gazing up into the dark night sky. Molly had invited them – referring to Remus and herself as them still makes her giggle inside – to dinner at the Burrow.
Bill wanted to talk to Remus, and Remus is always nice enough to oblige people's requests. It's a convenient set-up to allow Molly to see the new couple of the Order. She takes a tiny bit of pride in her role in the ordeal, but who can blame her? She was there for both of them.
So she sits outside, her belly full of Molly's excellent cooking and looks at the stars. She wants to give Remus privacy when he talks to Bill about the lycanthropy, because he's still uncomfortable discussing it around her. She tells him he's full of shit, but he ignores her and she doesn't push. Everyone has their limits, and that is his.
She also wants to talk to the girl sitting next to her on the dry grass, the girl who ate enough at dinner to convince her mom she was full before slipping out into the starry night. Tonks remembers being fifteen and heartbroken all too well. She remembers trying to convince her mother and father that she was really fine, just tired and not hungry, just let it go.
She also knows that heartbreak always feels the same, regardless of age.
"When did you know you cared for Professor Lupin?" the girl asks, catching her by surprise.
No one ever asked her when it happened, they just seemed happy that it did. Tonks thinks it's because of the war, because people get together all the time when there's a crisis and they're afraid the other won't be there tomorrow. She wants to tell them it's not like that – it's much deeper – but the others probably won't believe her.
This girl might.
When did she know she had become fond of Remus? Probably sometime before Sirius' death, she suspects. But it wasn't romantic fondness, no burning loins and mad desire to rip his clothes off. It was more of a friendly affection thing. He wasn't intimidating, he wasn't trying to get into her knickers, he wasn't anything other than himself, and she liked the honesty of that.
And she likes how she feels around him, how she's always felt around him – comfortable. More like herself than she's ever known, because his eyes don't judge her when she drops a teacup or she stumbles over an invisible obstacle. And she likes feeling normal for a change.
But when did the burning loins feeling start? That's what the girl must want to know – or at least have an idea of. And after Sirius' death…they had been paired up on more missions and she knew her feelings were changing. The more time she spent with him, the more she found her attraction growing. She wanted to be closer than close.
"Last summer," she says. "Before he went undercover with the werewolves."
The morning she realized it was the morning she looked in the mirror and for the first time in the history of ever was satisfied with the reflection before her eyes. Pale skin, mousy brown hair, bright blue eyes, ordinary. Nothing flashy or unique. Just plain old Tonks, and plain old Tonks felt beautiful. She felt beautiful most often around him.
"Did you tell him? Before he went?"
"I did," Tonks says.
The night plays back for her like a scene from a movie. It feels that way, how it had to be staged. She had tripped over something and gone flying. He caught her, like the hundred times he had caught her before. But something was different. A lingering hand on her hip, gazes locked and something that felt like fire radiating spreading slowly through her body.
And then she kissed him.
And he kissed her back, and for a moment – just a moment – all was right with the world.
And then he pulled away.
"What did he say?" Ginny asks and Tonks knows she's not really interested in the details. She's more interested in how they went from point A (not together) to point B (together). Tonks can't blame her, given her situation.
"Same thing he said that one night in the hospital wing – he was too old, too poor, too dangerous."
He said a lot of things that night, some she'll repeat, others she won't. They ranged from apologizing for taking advantage of her proximity to telling her she deserved better. He said a lot of horrible things, things she knows he said to make her leave him.
And she took it all. Like a fool, she let him assault her heart, tear it to pieces. Eyes glue to his, she took every verbal blow without shedding a single tear. He left before she did, his eyes dark and fiery and she thought she saw tears in the corners before she looked away, burned by the intensity of his gaze.
He told her later that he cried for what he had told her, for what he had done. He thought he was saving her from him.
He didn't know what he said only made her stronger.
The girl does not ask what she did when he pushed her away: she knows she came here to see her mother. No one offered sympathy like Molly Weasley, and to this day Tonks is still grateful for the woman's kindness and her strong tea.
"And how did you know he cared for you?"
"When he started calling me Tonks," she says with a smile. "After we first met – even after I repeatedly told him that I didn't like the name – he called me Nymphadora. Nothing could stop him."
"Nothing except falling in love with you," her friend says softly.
"Yes," she whispers softly. She doesn't know how else to reply. Sometimes, when she wakes up, she's afraid he won't be there next to her. She's afraid he'll push her away again, say those horrible things he said that night. She's afraid that he'll forget how much she loves him in an effort to protect her. But she tells him she's not leaving him, not after it took this long to get through that thick wall around his heart.
He tells her that she's stupid for falling in love with a werewolf, but he's just as dumb for falling in love with a girl who favors bright pink hair. It's in those words that she knows the depth of his love for her.
They sit in silence. She wonders if there will be more questions – she could not have possibly told her everything – there has to be more.
But she has told her a lot, though not explicitly. She has told her of persistence, of not giving up easily. She has told her of hope in the darkest times.
There is a deep breath, and the other girl speaks.
"I knew Harry was going to tell me we…we couldn't be together anymore. I knew it the entire time, but I didn't care. I was just happy to be with him. I had the biggest crush on him for years and he never noticed me. So Hermione told me that maybe if I moved on, I could become his friend."
In the dim light of the house, she can see the smile on the girl's face. It's faint, but it's there. The words are unspoken: And then he'd notice me. Tonks wonders why she didn't try that strategy with Remus, not like it would have worked anyway.
"Your friend is a smart girl," she says. She admires Hermione's sage advice, but not nearly as much as the genuine love and loyalty of the girl sitting next to her.
"That's exactly what Harry said!" the girl exclaims. Then her eyes turn darker, sadder. "He also said that he wished he asked me out sooner. But I don't think that would have changed anything. It would just have made it harder."
Tonks says nothing. She knows how hard it was for her, when he left, though he had tried valiantly to break her heart and spare her the pain of lingering hope. She thought about him every day and she did not know him as well as Ginny knew Harry. They had only been acquainted for a year, and yet every day when he was gone was like the longest night of her life.
She kept the mousy hair, though. She doesn't like mousey-brown – she's happy to be back to pink and blue and green and bright colors – but she had no energy to make the changes, not when she remembers the day she realized she loved him. The hair color remained, as did the hope. She was a persistent little girl, always was and always will be.
"He's going to find the horcruxes," Ginny says and Tonks tenses slightly. She had heard from Remus that Dumbledore suspected about the horcruxes, but the idea still chilled her to the bone. As an Auror, she's heard all these things before, seen vile horrible deeds committed by psychopaths but the idea of splitting up one's soul still bothers her.
"By himself?" Tonks asks, feeling silly.
"No – he's taking Ron and Hermione." She detects a note of annoyance in this statement.
"You're going too, aren't you?" she asked. Ginny nodded her head.
"The worst he can do is turn me away," she tells her. "But he won't. He needs me more now that he's willing to admit."
Love. Of course.
"They always need us more than they can see," Tonks says.
Ginny giggled. "I know! He's coming for the wedding," she says, a nervous hitch in her voice. "I'm going to tell him then, even though he probably won't even want to be near me."
"I'll tell you a secret," Tonks says, leaning in. She lowers her voice to a conspiratorial tone. "They push us away because they're scared of hurting us, and they're too silly to realize it's hurting them just as much. That's why we have to push back, and be as stubborn as they are."
"That's not exactly a secret, Tonks...but I'll keep that in mind."
"Harry's going to wise up," Tonks says. "You just need to prove you're not going to listen to whatever bollocks he tells you."
"Thanks for answering my questions, Tonks," Ginny says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Sorry I sprung them on you like that."
"S'alright, Ginny," Tonks tells her, because it is alright. She's not alone in feeling the way she feels. It's the same old story, but with a new twist. This is war, and in war the individual is lost in the chaos. No one's story is their own, unique story anymore: there are duplicates, triplicates, multiples of any number. She only hoped that she had inspired her, given her persistence when she needs it most.
"I hope you ladies enjoyed your chat," a voice calls from the doorway, "but I'm afraid Tonks and I need to be leaving."
They turn and see Remus walking across the lawn towards them. Tonks can't help by smile, because she likes looking at him. She likes knowing that they're together, that maybe love can conquer all doubt.
"We did," she says, and Remus extends a hand to help her stand up. He turns to Ginny and does the same.
"Sorry to steal her from you," he says, "but we have work to do."
"I understand." Then Ginny's arms are around her, hugging her. "Thank you," she whispers, and Tonks smiles.
"Any time," she replies, and the girl takes off like a shot towards the Burrow, red hair streaming behind her. She feels Remus take her hand and gently lead her towards a clearing, where they will disapparate.
As she walks away from, she thinks about the things she didn't tell her. Stuff about the painful parts of love. Like knowing that if the Ministry ever did a search for werewolves and they brought Remus in, she would have to deny ever knowing him for her own good (he still likes to argue she's very important to the Order). Like knowing how, if the Death Eaters found out, she might be killed for associating herself with a werewolf. Like knowing he may die on a mission any day…
But she pushes these thoughts into the far corners of her mind. They're always there, because they have to be. They add value to the moments where it's just them; quiet moments in the early hours of the morning when nothing exists except each other. Not that she needs anything to make the moments more precious, they just make her realize how lucky she is. How lucky they are.
"Sickle for your thoughts," he says, leaning down by her ear. His warm breath sends shivers down her spine, even though it's already a warm evening. She looks up at him, at his amber eyes, and flashes a smile.
"They're worth a Galleon, at least," she says with a wink. He smiles.
"Maybe we can make a deal," he says, smiling, his face reflecting her own. She brings their joined hands to her lips and kisses the back of his hand.
"For you," she says softly, "anything."
A/N:Fortitudine vincimus translates to "By Endurance We Conquer" (roughly. I may be wrong).