Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling. I'm only playing.

A Million Times

Dumbledore had told her a million times not to worry. And she knew that he knew best, really. Of course he did. He was so old. He knew so much. He knew best. She'd keep telling herself that.

Nymphadora Tonks sighed heavily and jammed her feet onto the kitchen table in 12 Grimmauld Place. The old house was certainly not the same since Sirius had died. Members of the Order flitted in and out, only staying long enough to take care of whatever business they had. No one ate or slept there anymore. It was this reason, in fact, that Tonks was sitting there now.

She wanted to be alone.

Well, actually, she didn't want to be alone, but she wasn't sure exactly how to broach the topic with the person on her mind. She'd been thinking about it now for weeks. At first she'd been a little unsure of what the fluttery feeling in her stomach and quickened pulse really meant. She'd had plenty of crushes (and boyfriends), so the feelings themselves weren't mysterious. What took her awhile to come to grips with was the fact that she was having them around a man twice her age. A man who was her coworker, her fellow Order Member. A man who was not really a man at all, but a werewolf.

And the feelings weren't going away. If anything, they were getting stronger, day by day. It had really hit her while she'd been recovering in St. Mungo's for a month. He'd come to see her so often and he'd been so good to her, even though he'd just lost Sirius. She hadn't dared to hope that he'd felt anything more than friendship for her, but then something incredible had happened.

He'd held her hand.

For him, Tonks knew, that was a big deal. He didn't make a fuss about his own emotions. Everyone else came first. It was the reason, she suspected, that after she'd gotten out of St. Mungo's, he didn't hold her hand again. He distanced himself, even though she could see, when she caught his eye, sadness. Was it because he felt something for her, too?

Then he went underground with the werewolves. It was at the moment she'd heard that from Dumbledore that Tonks knew what it was like to feel sick with fear. With that fear came another realization.

She loved Remus Lupin.

It was problematic, as love always was, but that couldn't be helped. She just needed to talk to him, to tell him how she felt in case ... well, that didn't bear thinking about. Dumbledore had told her that he came out of the underground to make reports. Who knew when that would be, though. Weeks? Perhaps even months?

At that moment, she heard the front door click shut, and she turned her head to glance over her shoulder at the person standing in the doorway.

"I didn't expect anyone to be here," Remus Lupin said. He looked exhausted, but he smiled at her nonetheless.

She stood up. "I didn't expect to see you here for ... awhile."

"I never know when I'll be able to get away."

Suppressing a shudder at the double-meaning of that phrase, she said, "You should sit down. Do you want something to eat?"

"No, that's all right." He gave her a look that she couldn't read before saying quietly, "It's good to see you, Nymphadora."

"You have no idea," she replied in what she hoped was a measured tone. There was silence for a moment, then, "Remus, I've been thinking while you've been gone. A lot."

His eyes didn't leave hers for an instant. "About what?"

"Well." She took a deep breath. "I feel ... that is, I care ... er." She let out a frustrated sigh, then blurted out, "I love you! And I know that maybe you think that's silly or maybe just impossible, but it's true. And I wanted you to know."

Remus was still looking at her, but his gaze had grown sad. "Nymphadora --"

"You know I prefer Tonks," she said softly, with no real bite.

"Yes, I know. But I think Nymphadora is beautiful. It suits you." He sighed and broke the shared gaze. "I was hoping we wouldn't have this conversation."

Though she felt her stomach plummeting, she said, "We don't have to if you don't feel the same way. Like I said, I just wanted you to know."

"No, that's not what I meant." Remus paused and met her eyes again. "I love you, Nymphadora. Very much. Too much."

She was frozen. A confession of love from him had not really entered her mind as possible and she hadn't the faintest inkling of how to respond. "I ... too much?"

He rubbed his eyes wearily. "I love you too much to expect you to love me back. I won't shackle you to someone like me."

"But Remus, I'm not being shackled."

Looking at the ground, he said flatly, "I'm too old, too poor, and too dangerous. You should find someone who is ... whole. Who doesn't lose himself in an animal rage once a month."

"I don't care," she told him. Her voice was steady, thank heavens. "I know all those things. They don't matter to me."

"I don't want you to waste any time caring about me," Remus said firmly.

Finally, she was able to move, and Tonks crossed the room to stand in front of him. "I don't care," she repeated.

Slowly, seemingly against his will, he lifted a hand to touch her face. "You should care," he murmured.

Tonks moved closer and, putting her hand on his shoulder, kissed him.

For just one wonderful moment, he returned the kiss tenderly. Then he pulled away, a sorrowful look in his eyes. "I can't. I can't do this to you."

"Remus, don't be stupid!" She grasped his hand. "I don't want someone young or rich, I want you!"

He looked like he wanted to say something else, but all that came out was, "I"m sorry." Remus squeezed her hand, then turned away to walk up the dark staircase.

Tonks didn't follow him. She'd been rebuffed. But he loved her. He did love her.

She'd hold on to that for now.