Author's Note: Written for the rlntficathon on livejournal, by request of a user: Write about the moment Remus and Tonks realized they loved each other (not neccessarily the same moment). Can be found on both the ficathon community as well as the wolfandlady community. Reviews are welcome, as always. Thank you, JKRowling, for these characters who I am having way too much fun with.
These Hearts, They Beat in Three-Four Time
She tucks her head into the crook of his neck, and he wraps his arms around her, pulling her closer. He can feel her silent sobs wrack her body as she burrows her face deeper, closer to his neck. He can feel the warm tears on his skin. He notices her hands are clutching the same part of his robe she was clutching not twenty minutes earlier in the infirmary, when she decided to publicly declare her love and his stubbornness to their friends in the wake of Dumbledore's –
His vision begins to blur as he thinks about the one person who helped him the most, the person that allowed him to go to Hogwart's, to be educated. He was one of the few people who tried to make his life easier – to make his life meaningful.
He feels her sobs subside, but doesn't relinquish his grasp on the one who also wanted – wants - to make his life easier, more meaningful – and who doesn't care that he is not young, does not have any money, and once a month the madness within takes control. He's lucky, and he knows it, because she's amazing and could have chosen anyone in the world to give her heart to and she chose him.
He's been struggling over the past months, hearing reports of her growing sadness but not seeing it until tonight, at the face that is thinner and paler than usual, at the eyes that still shine with love for him every time he looks at her, even though he's the one that's been causing her pain. He's been wondering whether he really can accept what's she's offering him, which he wants to so desperately because then – then – he'll feel whole in ways he never felt, not with the Marauders or Dumbledore or –
His thoughts rush through him so fast, he almost doesn't hear the voice that calls to him as if from a million miles away. He blinks, a tear falls, and he looks down to see dark blue eyes gazing up at him.
"Remus?" she whispers.
If she had to roughly estimate the date, time, and location, she would say in late March in the evening at Grimmauld Place. That was when she knew she loved him.
The epiphany was not accompanied by a chorus of voices, an orchestral swell or flashing lights, like they had in Muggle movies; it came quietly, a sudden moment of realization, words at the tip of her tongue but quickly swallowed back down to her heart. There, they burned slowly and surely like fire whiskey, making her both bold and shy at the same time.
She had been sitting at a table in the kitchen, picking at some meat and cheese that Sirius had given her. She was his only guest, and he sat across from her in his growing misery, swigging fire whiskey Mundungus smuggled past Molly and staring at the fire for long moments at a time. She wasn't very hungry, to be honest.
He rose suddenly, and announced he would be going up to the library to read. She nodded and played with a piece of ham on her plate, not wanting to met his eyes: the affects of Azkaban had not entirely waned and she found herself sometimes face to face with the prisoner, not her cousin.
She liked to judge people by their eyes because, to her, eyes really were the windows to the soul. She knew from experience that the look of pain or surprise or frustration or joy was always the same, regardless of her eyes being brown or green or blue.
"But Remus will be here soon," he said softly, at which point she lifted her head and met his eyes. In them she saw a cross between a question and a hope, hidden in the darkness that haunted him.
Her heart did a little dance at the notion of Remus. She remembered when she first met him. He had been lurking behind Sirius in the hall, a tall, lanky figure that seemed to want to take up as little space as possible. His shoulders were hunched, his clothes a bit too big for him, his overall demeanor one of someone who allowed himself to be forgotten easily.
She couldn't forget him if she tried.
It was his eyes. Light brown, filled with glowing warmth she had rarely seen. They reminded her of the honey her Grandma Tonks put in her tea when she was a little girl; his eyes shown with compassion and kindness. There was sadness too, decades of sadness that haunted the darker brown around his pupil, but that seemed to shrink when they looked at each other that day, and every day afterwards.
Those eyes made her want to talk to him, made her cross the floor and extend her hand in greeting. She watched them take her into consideration, traveling the planes of her face as if memorizing all her features. She giggled.
"Don't get used to seeing me like this," she said. "I'm a Metamorphmagus."
He smiled, not at all fazed by her bold proclamation. "Then I'll try very hard to remember each and every one of your faces."
She soon stopped by the house often, for Order meetings, and to check in on Sirius, and to talk to Remus. Her first impression was mostly right. He was thoughtful, respectful, kind, compassionate, but annoyingly aloof. He would humour her, answering her questions. He would disappear for several days each month – she later found out why – looking sadder than before, the dark brown in his eyes swallowing up the light.
They were sent on missions together. She began to learn more about him. He loved chocolate, loathed loose tea, actually preferred store-bought Muggle marmalade over Molly's currant jam, and liked to read all the thick books in the Black library, even if they were about dark subjects or full of pureblood nonsense. It was important things like this that Tonks wanted to know about, not that he hadn't held a solid job since he was 21, or the fact he was a werewolf. Those didn't matter: they were merely factors in the equation of Remus. (The equation of Remus, itself, was one part bookworm + one part dangerous animal + one part handsome man who really needed to learn he was lovely just the way he was).
It was more than just an attraction to his character – she really did find him dashing, especially when he smiled, which he seemed to do more around her than Molly or Arthur. Lately, being near him had made all the blood in her body hum, and she liked the light-headed feeling quite a bit.
The door in the hall slammed, her great-aunt started to yell and was silenced, and then she heard footsteps on the stairs.
"Ah, so I won't be dining alone."
She turned and glanced over her shoulder, smiling when her eyes met his. They were light and happy. She felt light-headed again.
"As long as you don't mind the company," she said. Remus took off his robe and folded it over the back of a chair. He smiled.
"No," he said, "I always enjoy your company, Nymphadora."
He always called her Nymphadora, even though she told him many times that she preferred Tonks. She didn't mind it, however, since it was their private joke. It was something of his she could keep for herself, because for all the warmth his eyes showed her the darkness kept creeping in and battling with the light.
They would stare at each other for seconds that felt like days, both trying to read the other and see if they were each thinking the same thing.
She picked at her plate, he ate his food, they poured two glasses of fire whiskey and toasted to March going out like a lamb (one of the Muggle sayings of her father, which Remus also knew) and talked about Order business.
It was growing later and she had duty at the Ministry that night, and as she attempted to stand up, her knees had other ideas and she knocked the table, sending the food to the floor. In an attempt to pick up her mess, apologizing furiously as she went, she proceeded to knock everything over, landing on him, faces inches apart, feeling incredibly happy and incredibly embarrassed all at once.
"I'm sorry, I really am dreadful company," she whispered.
And then he smiled at her, despite the fact she had ruined his entire meal by spilling whiskey over it, despite the fact that they were on the floor and his pants were covered in cheese, despite the fact that she was crushing him.
He smiled, nervously, and said "It would take a lot more than whiskey and wet stilton to make me not enjoy your company, Tonks."
Their eyes locked, his burning brightly in the dark kitchen, and she felt it – a surge of something going from her toes upwards. Words appeared on her tongue, ready for her to speak them, telling him exactly how she felt in his company. But she couldn't. Because in a moment the nervousness overwhelmed his smile, and Remus Lupin looked like he wanted to be anywhere but under Nymphadora Tonks.
He stood up, helped her clean the shattered remains of dinner off the floor, and muttered a goodbye and something about going to change his clothes.
As he exited the room, she whispered "I love you" quietly to his back. The words tasted like honey on her tongue.
She looks up at him expectantly, though she knows that he's gotten better about hiding his feelings from her. The past several times they've been in the same room, he managed to make his face as hard and stony as the walls of Azkaban. She's noticed the lines on his face, the new scars. She wonders if he knows it's his eyes that give him away, the longing and sadness that extended time together always brought, the happiness she sees flicker and fade as soon quickly as it appears.
She wants to yell at him again, tell him to stop being so stupid and forgo the theatrics. She wants to tell him she's sorry for blurting that out in the hospital wing, because it really was stupid of her. She wants him to hold her because this is the third person she's lost in the last year, if you count him with Sirius and Dumbledore, which she does because if she kept her mouth shut she wouldn't have screwed everything up.
He looks at her chin, afraid to meet her eyes. He takes his hand and brushes his fingers across her cheek, trying to wipe the tears away but it's no use, there's too many. He pauses, one hand on her hip and the other on her face, and her blood hums and her heart skips a beat and her skin tingles and he leans down to place his forehead against hers and her breath catches and the words come up to the back of her throat, burning her tongue.
Finally, he looks at her, really looks at her and she notices his eyes seem to have changed color, become darker but it's not the darkness that takes over, it's the a combination of the two.
"I don't know how to say this adequately," he says softly. "I should apologize for saying things that apparently don't matter to you because for some reason, you seem to believe that what I am – all that I am - is enough." He pauses, and she wonders if those are tears in his eyes.
"I want to thank you for that," he says, and then their lips meet.
He knew he had fallen in love with her sometime after Sirius' death. He didn't know the date or the time. He didn't really care about things like that. Time was the enemy, dates passing and full moons rising. Moments and people, however, were to be cherished and remembered.
He was curled up on the floor in an abandoned farm house. Around him, members of the pack of feral werewolves he had been following were also sleeping. He had been trying to sleep, but every time he closed his eyes he saw the same thing: dark blue eyes and dark brown hair and that nose and that face –
He remembered people and places in the moments that were stored in the back of his mind like snapshots in a photo album. James and Lily holding Harry at Lily's birthday party, James and Sirius and himself after graduation, the drunken moments and the mischievous fun and the time spent at Hogwart's both as a student and as an instructor. James' hair, Lily's smile, Sirius' laugh -- all these things were treasured by Remus because even in his darkest moments, the shining memories would make it all just a little more bearable.
And then there was her
She looked him straight in the eye, blue eyes taking in his own brown ones. There were her features, changing every day, reminding him of a peacock. Bright hair, dark hair, long face, small nose, green eyes, brown eyes – he tried hard to pin something to her to remember her by. He didn't know why he was trying so hard, but he just knew he had to remember her somehow. He even told her as much, when they first met. He knew there was something about this girl, something about her ability to remember him when everyone else seemed (thankfully) to forget him.
He found her interesting and enjoyed their visits. She was a very bright girl, for all her clumsiness and silliness, and he enjoyed talking to her and listening to her talk. He enjoyed how her eyes would look at him, and he would feel warm inside because she wasn't judging and she wasn't thinking of him as Remus the monster, the pauper, or the old man, but just as Remus, conversation partner.
When they were paired up on missions, she would ask him inane questions like what his favorite color was, and if he liked Molly's jam, and if he remembered his first impression of Hogwarts. They had both been Gryffindors and so they talked about legacies. They'd talk about Sirius, and about the "lameness" (her word) of the Ministry. They'd play cards while waiting for an assignment, and he realized that she had the best poker face he'd ever seen because it was, well, natural.
He noticed that she didn't change her appearance around him if they weren't on a mission, save for that hair of hers – pink one day, blue the next. Those blue eyes and that nose remained. He knew that it meant something, though he wasn't quite sure. He was grateful, though, because then he could scan the lines of her face, remember how she looked with that smile shining at him because she had laughed at something he had said. He had never felt happier than basking in the glow of her. He had never felt that way before, a combination of a crush and physical attraction (because she really was quite lovely) and friendship and wondered why, for the first time in a long time, he didn't feel as broken and lost as he had before.
One night, she had slammed her knee into the kitchen table, resulting in both of them on the floor, drenched in fire whiskey and her cold dinner plate. He had told her that he enjoyed her company, despite the alcohol slowly seeping into his pair of pants, and she smiled. But then the ridiculousness of their situation struck him, as did the stupid thought that this was nice, having her pressed against him and seeing that she seemed to enjoy it as well.
Embarrassed by his lecherous thoughts, he left the room. He barely heard her say something to him that, something that, had it not been for his highly attuned hearing, he would not have heard. He barely caught the words "I love you" softly slipping from her mouth as he turned a corner and started up the stairs.
He did not turn around, but went upstairs and thought about it the entire night, unable to sleep. He turned them over and over in his head, wondering why they came out of her mouth, when she had suddenly decided this, had he seen it coming, had something happened between them and was he oblivious to it?
Most importantly: why would a girl like Tonks, someone young and whole, wanted the broken old mess that was Remus Lupin?
But he knew.
She saw him for what he was, and more than he was, and he knew that she understood him better than James or Sirius ever had, or ever could. She had never thought of him as a monster, or a poor man, or an old man. She had seen him for Remus, Remus who liked chocolate and despised Dickens, and not for all the periphery matters that seemed to overwhelm his life. She had listened, had watched, with a maturity well beyond her young years.
But did he return the sentiments?
Tenfold. He admired her character, and how, even though she changed her hair and her eyes and her face and her figure, she never changed her soul. She made him feel young and new and whole, every time she was around him. She was thoughtful and wonderful and alive and beautiful and wore clothes that he used to despise on any human but now loved because they were on her and sometimes her presence next to him, sitting at a table in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place, made his heart beat some sort of waltz in quarter-time. And he yet he couldn't utter those words, couldn't even think them because he didn't think he deserved her.
The bottom line in Remus Lupin's life was that friends come and go, memories made and savoured, but nothing could ever be permanent. Nothing good would ever happen to him because nothing good ever did. And the fact that something good was dangling in front of his eyes seemed too unreal. Things that were broken could never be made entirely whole again.
It wasn't until the Ministry, when he saw her battered and bruised body on the floor, that he felt it. A sudden jolt, words that had been floating around his mind coming to the forefront and blinking like a neon sign. When he glanced over, thinking that she might be as dead as Sirius, he wanted to die as well. He knew that if he lost her, that whole feeling that had been alluding him for so long would be totally lost.
But she survived, and she told him she loved him. And what did he do? He pushed her away, so sure of his feelings but so frightened of hers because he only had moments, never anything real. Things that were broken…blah blah blah.
As he pulled the tattered blanket around him, he knew that he had been terrified of being made whole for so long, just as he was bothered by new and unknown territory. But when he got back, he promised himself and her he would try to hope, for once, in permanence.
It was that moment, the one of her on top of him moments before she confessed her love into the darkness, the look in her eyes and on her face, which kept him sane all those months underground.
From the infirmary, she looks out the door. Her former teacher is holding onto the Auror tightly, as if, when he lets go, she'll be gone too. She knows that they love each other, that she'll never stop loving him, that he loves her even if he can be too stubborn to admit it.
This dance, these steps, they are too familiar to go unnoticed by a fellow dancer.
They split apart, her eyes seeking for some purchase on his unreadable face. And then his hand is at her chin, tilting it upwards. He's saying something, just a few words, and her mouth opens to take in a surprised breath, and then he kisses her. Just like that. But it's the most beautiful thing she's ever seen, because it's pure and it's real and it's what she herself has been waiting for these past four years.
There's movement at her shoulder, and she glances up and then away as Ron steps forward to watch the couple in the hallway. His elbow hits hers and she feels that nervous energy running through her the same way it always does.
"I thought he didn't want to be with her," Ron says and she wants to cry, because he can never see what's right in front of him, will never see it. She realized this a long time ago, but then he'll do something to make her think maybe he understands, maybe he's not as blind as she thinks. And then, he screw things up again. Like with Lavender Brown. She feels tears well up more, because that is something she really doesn't want to think about tonight.
"Sometimes, Ron, people are too stubborn to admit they just might be perfect together, and it takes being miserable separately for them to understand," she says quietly, looking him in the eye.
He frowns, trying to understand what she's getting at before she pushes open the door and walks out into the hallway, hoping that his soft call of "Hermione" doesn't disturb Tonks and Remus as they kiss.