A/N: This is a story that came to me at 3 am. Hope you enjoy it!
A Little More Love
"But she wants you," said Mr. Weasley with a small smile. "And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so."
Tonks stood quietly, holding her breath, waiting for some indication that what Arthur just said had touched something in Remus. Around the room, the others waited with her, watching. Remus stared at Arthur for a moment, then slowly shook his head.
The scene had taken on a nightmarish quality. Molly and Fleur sobbing over the injured Bill Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, that stalwart woman, sitting white and shaken, and appearing suddenly old. And Remus, looking stricken and hopeless as he met her eyes.
She turned and walked out of the hospital wing, trying to wrap herself in whatever shreds of dignity she could muster, grateful that she hadn't tripped on her way out. Halfway down the corridor, she heard the door swing open behind her, heavy footsteps, and then… that voice, soft and slightly hoarse.
She paused, without turning around. The footsteps reached her and stopped.
"Nymphadora… we need to talk."
This time, it was she who shook her head, refusing to look at him, knowing that if she looked in his eyes, she'd crumple to the floor. "There is nothing else to say. It's over. I'm done with it. I'm leaving."
"Leaving? Where? It's too dangerous out there." A hand touched her shoulder and she moved, jerking away.
"I'm well able to care for myself."
"I'll come with you. We'll go somewhere where we can talk… alone."
Reaching deep inside, she found the remnants of her pride, and was able to answer him calmly, without her voice shaking. "There is nothing to talk about, and I do not want to see you again." She paused, then continued quietly. "I'll be back for Dumbledore's funeral."
She moved away, and the footsteps followed. Stopping, "Don't you dare follow me. I've come to you again and again, and you wouldn't hear me. Well, you needn't worry, I won't bother you again." Speaking through the ache that burned in her chest, the tears that wouldn't fall, "I don't want you anymore."
She Apparated into the small park a few blocks from her apartment. It was more like an open field, with a few pieces of climbing equipment for the local kiddies, and one rather abused swing set standing alone, only two of the swings still with seats intact. She made her way to it, seated herself, and listlessly rocked back and forth in the darkness. Past grief, she felt an emptiness, such a sense of total loss, that she wondered if she would ever be able to feel anything again. Dumbledore's death and Snape's betrayal – two disasters beyond scope in their effect on the Order… on the war. And her own personal disaster… falling in love with the one man who would never return her feelings. She sighed. She'd been so sure that with persistence, with him knowing how much she loved him, he couldn't help but love her back. She gave a small snort of laughter and spoke aloud. "Oh Tonks, you have seriously underestimated your ability to make a total and complete fool of yourself!"
A faint crackle in the bushes that rimmed the park, and she was off the swing, her wand drawn defensively. Scanning the park around her, every nerve on edge, throat suddenly dry, she cursed herself for being caught out in the open like this. Shadows shifted around her, branches moving in the slightest of breezes. Suddenly, a yowling screech split the night, and a frantic cat raced across the park, disappearing in a clump of nearby trees. Heart pounding, she took several gasping breaths, willing herself to calm down. Home, and a set of locked and warded doors between her and the rest of the world seemed extremely attractive at that moment.
The three-block walk to her apartment stretched in front of her like miles. Once out of the park, she kept to the center of the walkway, wand still in hand. Trying to watch every direction at once, she kept turning and looking behind her. Someone… or something was out there. She couldn't see anything, but she could feel it. That cold sense of dread, like ice water dribbling down her spine, that told her she wasn't alone. She was watched, and she was stalked… she'd stake her reputation as an Auror on it.
She backed into the stairwell that led up to her apartment door. "Lumos Maxima!" Flooding the entryway with light, she examined the door closely. Her wards seemed in place with no sign of having been tampered with. Opening the door quickly, she slipped inside, and spelled it closed and sealed. A whispered command, and every light in every room came on. Slowly, with infinite care, she searched each room until she was satisfied that she was alone. Retreating to her bedroom, she warded and sealed that door as well. Finally, crawling into the bed to the furthest corner against the wall, she sat with her knees pulled up to her chest, and began to shake. Pulling a pillow to herself, hands trembling, she curled up as best she could with her wand still in her hand, and prepared to wait out the rest of the night.
Tonks opened one eye; the other was in serious danger of being poked out by the wand that lay beside her on the pillow. The events of the previous night rushed back into her mind, and she sat up, picking up her wand and looking around the sun-dappled room. Shaking her head… had she truly been so grief-addled that a stray cat could have reduced her to a shivering wreck? No, not just grief. Her nerves had been strung impossibly tight by the battle and its aftermath. Little wonder that she'd panicked. Or had she? Senses finely honed by her Auror training had perceived some kind of threat out there.
Hauling herself out of bed, she showered and dressed, determined not to think about what had happened with Remus. Out in the kitchen, she forced herself to make a small omelet, sprinkling the egg mixture with cheese and bits of ham, toasting bread, carrying it all to the table. Her first bites were interrupted by a tapping at the window; once opened, a small brown owl flew in.
Recognizing it as the Weasleys' hyperactive Pigwidgeon, she waited until it had zoomed around the kitchen a number of times before it finally landed on the table. Removing the note, she picked out a piece of omelet containing a good-sized chunk of ham and fed the bird. She opened the missive, recognizing Molly's handwriting.
Tonks, dear, we were so worried about you after you left last night. Please come and stay with us at the Burrow until after the funeral. Remus will be here…
She crumbled the note and dropped it on the table. Penning a quick reply, she refused the invitation, saying only that she needed the time alone. Another chunk of ham for Pigwidgeon and the note was on its way. Now gazing down at the plate in front of her, she felt faintly nauseated. The plate and all its contents were dumped in the sink, and she left the apartment. Nothing in the morning air gave her pause, and she turned into the alleyway behind her building and Apparated directly to the Ministry.
It was while moving through the crowded entry hall that she felt it again. Prickles down her spine; she was being watched. Freezing, she heard a muffled oath as a man collided with her and dropped a load of papers, muttering under his breath at her rudeness when she didn't assist him in gathering them up. Ignoring him, Tonks darted into the lift and stared out at the workers moving through the hall in front of her, scanning the crowd while fighting her panic, until the lift doors closed and shut off the scene.
Dropping into her chair, reaching for a tablet and a dicto-quill… familiar movements seemed to calm the frantic beating of her heart. A face appeared around the edge of her cubicle, graying and sporting a walrus-sized mustache. Recognizing Gary Statler, one of the older Aurors, Tonks smiled.
"There you are, Tonks. Shacklebolt says to get your report to him soonest! Bad news, this, about Albus Dumbledore." He paused. "I say… are you all right?"
"Just shaken by the events, like all the rest of you. Thanks, Gary. I'll get the report to him right away."
Slipping into professional mode, she dictated the events of the previous evening as she'd experienced them, from the time that Minerva raised the alarm to the point where she'd stood staring down at the crumpled body of the Hogwarts Headmaster. She followed that with a list of those injured and killed, then instructed the quill to make the requisite number of copies. Picking up the original, she walked unsteadily down the corridor to the office of Kingsley Shacklebolt, stepping inside in response to a terse command to enter. The big man held out an impatient hand.
"Let's have it."
He read through it quickly, passing it over to a waiting assistant. "See that this gets put with the others and verify the names on the casualty list." He gestured towards a chair, dropping his voice. "This is an unmitigated disaster. Dumbledore… Snape – a traitor, with everything he knows about the Order… a disaster." He reached up to rub two fingers over his forehead, and looked directly at her. "I want you to take the rest of the day off."
"Kingsley, no. I'd rather stay here and keep busy."
"Bloody hell, woman, you look like death warmed over! Now, I don't care what you have to do. Get some sleep, get drunk, have a good cry, but do whatever it takes. I want you back here for a shift tomorrow night, and in shape to work. Understand?"
She stood up and gave a mute nod, not trusting her voice. He walked her to the door, slipping an arm around her shoulders. "Take it easy, girl. We need you."
She'd slipped off her robe, shrunk it to the size of a handkerchief, and stuffed it in her pocket. Now in black jeans, boots, and a faded t-shirt, she looked like any other Muggle as she walked the streets of London. Window shopping, stopping into a small boutique and buying a pair of earrings she didn't really want, she kept to well-traveled streets and popular shopping areas, dreading the idea of being alone.
A jumper in a shade of robin's-egg blue caught her eye, and she entered the shop to examine it. She was enjoying the soft feel of cashmere under her fingers when it hit her again. Someone was watching her. She dropped the jumper with a startled exclamation.
The shopkeeper looked up at her in surprise. "I'm sorry, Miss. Did you find a stray pin?"
"No, I… I mean, yes. Took me by surprise." She popped a finger into her mouth for a moment. "No harm done. I think I'll live."
The shopkeeper was eyeing her with concern. Tonks gave him an airy wave and almost ran out of the front door. Out on the street, she leaned against the wall, watching the passers-by. The feeling remained, without any evidence to support it. No Death Eaters were marching down the street, no one staring her down from another doorway. Deciding it was time to put her training to good use, she took off in one direction, slipping into an alleyway obscured by a crowd of shoppers, doubling back, keeping to the shadows, watching for anyone who might be tailing her.
She kept it up for over an hour, unable to hone in on any one individual who might be her stalker. Shadows were growing longer, and her stomach began to make itself heard, reminding her that she'd thrown away her breakfast and skipped lunch. Soft music was coming from a nearby pub. Entering it, she took a seat in a sheltered corner from which she could watch everyone who entered. Ordering a sandwich and a whiskey, she sat back to enjoy the entertainment. A pretty woman with a lovely voice was playing a hammered dulcimer, singing first in English, then in Gaelic. An older man on a guitar accompanied her, and the combination was pleasant and soothing. A second whiskey followed the first and she was well on her way to convincing herself that her fears were just that… fears and fancy, the effect of great strain on an exhausted and grieving mind.
Another whiskey later, and she left the pub, surprised to see how much time had passed. The sun was down, the streets were dark, and there was a decided nip in the air. At an opportune moment, she pulled her handkerchief-sized robe out of her pocket and transfigured it into a wool jumper. Pulling it over her head, she decided to take Kingsley's advice and get a good night's sleep. If she cut across the park that followed a nearby creek, she could reach an alleyway that was an official Apparition point. Getting from there to her apartment would take a matter of minutes.
She was halfway across the park, enjoying the sound of the creek gurgling in the distance, when she heard it. The soft crackling that had startled her the previous night. Suddenly sober, she pulled her wand and scanned the shadows. This park was not an open playground, but a collection of pathways bordered by high bushes and huge trees. There were plenty of places for an assailant to lie in wait, and she swallowed convulsively. Keeping her wand at ready, she moved along the path, rounding a curve that opened into a small clearing.
And then he struck, knocking her to the ground, face down, her wand flying out of her hand, holding down her wrists, the weight of his body pinning her. The voice that muttered a Charm silencing the area around them told her everything she needed to know, and she screamed and twisted and fought him furiously.
"You bastard, Remus! Get the hell off of me. You bloody swine, how dare you! Bastard… !" He remained silent, holding her down with his body, the pressure on her wrists painful, her face half in the dirt, crushed leaves underneath her cheek. She struggled and fought and screamed until she was hoarse, and still he held her there until she gave up in utter exhaustion. Slowly, he loosened his hold on her wrists, and she lay there unresisting.
That was all it took, just the sound of his voice for the tears to start. She loved him and she was never going to be able to stop loving him. She sobbed, uncontrollably, crying now not only for herself but for everyone else. For an anguished Molly Weasley and a terrified Fleur, for Bill with his horribly injured face, for Harry – the end of his childhood written in his eyes, for Minerva – quiet and dignified in her devastation, and for Remus, who'd never had the chance for love and couldn't accept the chance for it even now. She cried as hard as she'd fought, and Remus sat up and pulled her into his arms and she wept against his chest.
He was speaking now, quietly, his lips against her hair, words that didn't register at first. "I was wrong. Nymphadora, I was so wrong. I knew it as soon as you'd walked out. Please… listen to me, love." His arms tightened around her. "I didn't mean to frighten you, but I knew you wouldn't talk to me. I... love you. And I want this… us. Give me the chance, and I'll show you. How much I love you… how much I will love you… how much I'll never stop loving you."
She twisted in his arms so that she could look into his eyes, her face dirty and tear-streaked. She brought one hand up to his cheek, softly, "Remus."
He kissed her, tentatively at first, then so thoroughly that they were both gasping for air when he finished. Rising, and pulling her to her feet, he kept his arms around her as they made their way through the park to the Apparition point. There, he wrapped himself around her, burying his face in her hair, and she slid her arms up and around his neck, relishing the hardness of his body against hers. Once in the apartment, he allowed his lips to move over her face, her neck, while sliding his hands up under her jumper. By the time they reached the bedroom, they were shedding their clothes frantically. Finally in her bed, thinking she could die from the feel of him, kissing her, touching her, his body moving over hers. She gasped out his name, her body convulsing under his, and heard his echoing cry as he reached his completion.
Cradled in his arms, her head on his chest, she was almost asleep when he spoke.
"You know, I would have followed you for as long as it took… ."
At Dumbledore's funeral, there were more tears from both of them, her pink head leaning on his shoulder, his hand holding hers, remembering Minerva's words.
"Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think there was a little more love in the world."