A/N: Well, here is yet another of the myriad what-happens-after-the-infirmary-scene story. Hopefully it is an interesting take; for some reason I am not quite as pleased with it as its predecessor, Chocolate and Tea, which is recommended reading for this story if you want to get an idea of my characterizations beforehand. But no need to be unduly bothered about it. And there are responses to some of the reviews of my other Remus/Tonks stories at the bottom. Cheers!
Disclaimer: The quotes at the beginning and end are from the poem'And death shall have no dominion'. And must I really state the painfully obvious? I am not J.K. Rowling. Remus Lupin is not mine, nor Nymphadora Tonks, nor anyone else. Grr.
When the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
The shall have stars at elbow and foot;
It was very dark.
The Mark was fading from the sky, barely to be seen any more. Nymphadora Tonks was watching it, and wishing to heaven that it would just be gone. Or that it had never been there at all.
Well, pretending is always fun. But coming back just makes everything hurt more; Nymphadora Tonks ought to know that. She had tried to pretend quite a lot that year, and found that she could never make it last very long at all.
It was cold for June.
She had lost it in the infirmary, she knew. Lost it quite utterly, and now she felt horrible, because Albus Dumbledore had just died and she was thinking about Remus. How he'd buried his face in his hands, shaking, then was so calm, how he must be hurting right now and oh, Merlin, how she loved him.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore – who had always been rather amused by his long string of names – Albus Dumbledore was dead.
And surrounded by the Order, by his friends and those who loved him, only Harry Potter, sixteen and by all that was decent much too young for what he had to do, was left quite alone to carry on.
Because Albus Dumbledore was dead.
Nymphadora Tonks had a vague notion that she ought to try to do something useful, but for the life of her she could not think what. She was not someone any of the students aside from Harry's group knew, and so would not be any help at all in breaking the news or calming things down.
Nymphadora Tonks sat outside, looking at the ruins of Hagrid's house, and was surprised to find that she was still too numb to cry.
The only other thing that she could think of was to find Remus Lupin, because he had gone to help the teachers, still calm, and push her away though he might she was still the closest to him of anyone still alive, and he should not be alone now.
Remus Lupin had spent far too much of his life that way.
She stood, and looked up at the castle, where light was still spilling from the main doors. It seemed to take a very long time to reach them.
She wandered about, thinking of all the old haunts that Sirius had mentioned, whenever he spoke about his school days – the few happy years of his life.
But she found Remus Lupin slumped to the ground beside the gargoyle – the one near Dumbeldore's – McGonagall's – office. He was sitting quite still, knees drawn up, head bent.
Nymphadora Tonks had seen Remus Lupin in pain before. But never had he been this utterly defeated.
Because if Sirius Black had been his brother, Albus Dumbledore had been his hope.
She crouched beside him. "C'mon, Remus," she said. "You can't stay here."
He didn't answer for a long moment. "Nymphadora," he said at last, "I..."
She put her arm around him, and did her best to pull him to his feet. He was much too thin, and it wasn't as hard as it ought to be.
"C'mon," she said again, and carrying most of his weight, staggered along the halls, remembering the way to the staff room. It was the only place she could think of.
Despite Remus' gaunt frame, she barely made it there. She was exhausted, too, and could feel the battle taking its toll. But she couldn't bring herself to bring a spell. Dumbledore was dead, and hauling the man she loved through the corridors, barely able to stand, at least felt real.
Nymphadora Tonks kicked open the staff room door – the chamber was empty and dark – and half-carried Remus over to a sofa near the hearth. She lit a fire with a quick flick of her wand, found a blanket folded over the arm of one of the chairs, and draped it around him.
He was still.
She cursed under her breath, blinking hard against her tears, and knelt in front of him, prying his hands from his face and holding them in hers. "Remus..."
He blinked, then closed his eyes and at last, quietly, began to cry.
Nymphadora Tonks followed her first, almost maternal instinct, and straightened so that she could wrap her arms around him, holding him tightly. She was startled when he held on to her, his tears soaking into the shoulder of her shirt.
He cried for quite a long time, then, Nymphadora Tonks holding him and rocking him and making soft, comforting noises that did not mean anything until he could take deep breathes – not gasps – and repress the pain of it all. Partially.
Because oh, he still hurt.
And Remus Lupin was not sure what to do, as he opened his eyes at last and fully realized that he had just poured out his grief on the one person he had been trying to depend upon least.
He sat upright abruptly, but could not bring himself to let go of her.
Because she was there. He could see the brown of her hair in the dim light and feel the cloth of her battered shirt. Everything was falling apart, and despite that this was indisputable: he was sitting in the staff room sofa, and holding Nymphadora Tonks.
And she'd told him that she was not about to stop loving him anytime soon, so he might as well wrap his head around it.
So Remus Lupin carefully, quite gently untangled himself. "I am sorry, Nymphadora," he said, formally. "I'm sorry."
She looked at him with that hopeless smile that only made him hurt more, and shook her head. "It's all right, Remus. It's all right. I'm sorry too. I don't want you feeling guilty – least of all now. I'm sorry about earlier. And I shouldn't even be talking about this now, it's...it doesn't seem..." She shook her head. "I'm just sorry."
"I will be fine," Remus said. "I'll be fine. Dumbledore was never afraid of dying, you know." He was quiet for a moment. "I just never expected it. He – he was the first one, you see, to give me a chance. But I'll be fine. I will. Don't worry about me, Nymphadora."
Nymphadora Tonks looked up. "Stop it, Remus!...Just stop. I want to be able to worry about you. And he's dead. Dead. We're supposed to hurt."
Remus took a deep breath. "You're right, I suppose."
" 'Course I am." She gave him that painful half smile, and then lifted herself to sit at his side on the sofa. "And I...I don't know how I can be this calm. I don't. I suppose it will come later."
Remus half-laughed, a noise that sounded as if it had hurt coming from him. "It will."
She smiled again, lopsidedly. "Glad to know that, Remus."
He didn't say anything, just put his arm around her. It felt terribly surreal. He could feel a headache beginning in his temples; they always came after crying. And he was suddenly so tired that he couldn't remember why the young woman next to him really ought to be somewhere else. "I don't want you to be hurt," he forced out, at last.
"I know," she said softly. "But right now I'm hurt anyway. And it's this sort of thing I'm least able to look after myself in, you know."
"I know." Remus Lupin scraped a hand over his eyes. "It's not all selfless, though, Nymphadora."
"I know that. And I want to help. But I'm selfish too. But, Remus..." She paused, taking in a long breath. "It feels wrong. But if you...If you really want it, I'll stop bothering you. I can't promise anything else. But I'll try – I won't say anything, and we can just pretend that it was all–"
"No," he interrupted.
"Pretending has never worked for me very well, anyway..."
"That's not what I meant." Remus Lupin sat up a little straighter, trying to clear his head. "I meant – please don't give up on me right now. I'm tired and not thinking straight and Albus has just died and we're in the middle of the worst turn this war's taken yet – it couldn't work anyway. And the facts remain that I am old and poor and a werewolf and not a person anyone sane would want and–"
"Remus. What are you trying to say?"
"Oh, Merlin." Remus swallowed, trying to organize his thoughts. "I can't promise you anything. I could die – or you even could. But – maybe we will survive. I don't know. We're going to have to fight this, Nymphadora...if you've waited this long, could you wait until we know where we are? Whether the whole Wizarding world is going to fall with him? I won't hold you to anything. I know I've no right to ask this of you."
Nymphadora Tonks turned to face him, frowning. "Remus – why have you changed your mind?"
He studied her face, her straight hair and shadowed eyes. "I don't know, frankly. I could very easily regret this later. But right now you're here, Nymphadora. You've stayed with me – you said you would – while all the others that I've cared are gone. I don't want to lose that. I do love you, you see."
"Oh. Well." She ran her hand through her hair, and then really smiled. "I can promise – not that I'll survive, or any bosh like that – but that I'll do my best to do so, and if I do–" she wiped her eyes "– I'll still be here."
"Thank you," said Remus Lupin. "Thank you, Nymphadora Tonks." He was quiet for a moment. "I think...we will have to fight, Nymphadora. We will. But some things are worth it." And then they didn't say anything more, just sat there together and waited for the rest of the story to come.
It was surprising how happy Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks could be on the night that Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore had died.
Because Albus Dumbledore had loved and been beloved, and would be glad to see them do the same. This was a fitting way to honor him.
And life always, always does go on.
Though they sink through the waves they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.
Eliniel:Sorry to disappoint you, but 'Chocolate and Tea' was a one-shot. Other random bits continue to thread, though.
BaskervilleBeauty: You've a good point, there.
MaidM: Egads! Thank you - that's very high praise.
AHS: Really? You poor thing!
DarkLadyofB-Ham: Do you know how fun that is to type, my dear gel? random-squee
Banui: But I WANT to read your intetpretation! Please write it! Do! And thank you for the wonderful lengthy reviews - they both made me exceedingly happy. And ends are fun to write. Mheheh. And soon I shall corrupt the earth and EVERYONE WILL WORSHIP THE SPIFFINESS OF REMUS AND TONKS! maniacal laughter
Crookshanks22: Yes...I can picture him walking up to Life, some time in the hereafter, and saying 'Hello. Did you have any particular reason for ruining nearly every scrap of happiness I experienced in my first 30-odd years? No? Oh well, then. See you later.' Poor man - he's too nice for his own good.
Review...Please? I'd greatly appreciate it, you may be sure.