"Nymphadora, dear, you can't keep letting boys treat you this way," Andromeda Tonks said reproachfully, setting a cup of tea down before her distraught daughter.
"Who said anything about a boy?" Nymphadora, who adamantly desired to be known by her surname, asked.
Her mother raised an eyebrow. "You always have trouble with your Metamorphosing when you're having troubles with boys. You're a very head strong girl, Nymphadora, but when it comes to men, you just let them walk all over you."
"I don't have a problem with men right now, Mum," Tonks said, taking a sip of her tea. "I'm not even seeing anyone right now."
"Really?" Andromeda mused. "Maybe that's the problem, then. I heard something in the office the other day about that one auror, stationed with you in Hogsmeade. Oh, what's his name?"
"Jason Savage," Tonks supplied wearily.
"Yes, that's the one. I heard he's quite keen on you."
"I don't want him to be keen on me, Mother."
"It's because you like someone else, don't you?"
"I don't like anyone," Tonks said, putting her cup of tea back on the table and standing up. "Look, I came by to drop off your Christmas presents, Mum, not to have a lecture on boys. And now that I've done both, I think I should leave."
"Don't leave, dear," Andromeda insisted. "It's been so long since you've been around. You've been so busy lately, with work and all."
"No, I've really got to get going," Tonks said, grabbing her cloak off the back of the chair.
Not letting her mother's protests stop her, she pulled on her cloak, and headed to the back door where they had an apparation point. She heard her younger brothers argue with each other behind her, and she waved to her dad on the way out, but mostly she just wanted to be gone. She apparated safely to her rented flat on the second story of someone's home in Hogsmeade. It was as much of a home as she had now. It was small, but cozy. Just the way Tonks liked it. Most people thought her to be very frivolous, which was easy to understand because she normally walked around sporting bright pink hair, but when it came to her home, she was unnaturally conservative.
She hung her cloak up by the door and kicked off her shoes. With a flick of her wand, she turned on her old stereo system. An old Weird Sisters album was in there, and listening to it resonate throughout her flat always made her feel better, to an extent. Music could only do so much. She trudged into her room, and changed back into her pajamas, flannel shorts and a grey long-sleeved shirt with the auror's insignia on it and a thick pair of green socks. She paused for a moment in front of her mirror. Her hair was mouse-colored and lank. Her skin was pale. She looked sick. She was also a few inches shorter than what she normally pretended she was. That had always been a perk of being a Metamorphmagus. If she didn't like something about herself, she could change it in an instant. But not now. She was so down that she was lucky if she could change her eye color, nonetheless her height.
She sighed. There wasn't much about her appearance she could do now, so why bother? All she wanted to do was mope, and, seeing as how it was Christmas, she decided that a day full of nonstop moping would be her Christmas gift to herself. After fixing herself a mug of hot chocolate, she plopped herself down on her couch in front of the fire place. With a flick of her wand, a fire was roaring. Staring into the fire, she allowed herself to replay the conversation with her mother.
Andromeda Tonks was an interesting person. She completely disobeyed her parents wishes at the age of nineteen and got married to a muggleborn by the name of Ted Tonks, and act that was strictly taboo among most pureblood families. She then proceeded to have children, the oldest of which was Nymphadora. Andromeda had never agreed with her oldest daughter's taste in men. She always seemed to find the men who were perfectly wrong for her. She also thought that her daughter should marry into a well-known, well-to-do family. Every time Andromeda mentioned that, Tonks had to keep from calling her mother a hypocrite. Her mother was a smart woman, full of advice and experience, but when it came to her daughter's romantic relationships, the circumstances were always different. She claimed to know who was right and who was wrong for Tonks, but never asked for Tonks's opinion. Which was why Tonks never mentioned her latest heartache to her mother.
Remus Lupin was not well-known and could hardly be described as well-to-do. Quite the opposite, actually. Remus was a werewolf, shunned by most of society and unnaturally poor, not that Tonks cared. He was a reprieve from all the idiotic, blundering, egotistical tossers she normally ended up dating. Remus was intellectual, generous, and understanding. He had a wicked sense of humor. He was just an all around amazing person, and Tonks had fallen head-over-heels for him. For a year, they had grown closer together, and were heading towards the formation of a steady relationship. There were certainly some issues that they were going to have to work around, but nothing Tonks wasn't up for. Then, tragedy struck. Remus lost his best friend, Sirius Black. Sirius was Tonks's second cousin, and he had been killed by her Aunt Bellatrix, not that she had ever really met the woman. Remus had taken the loss to heart more than Tonks had expected, and all of her hopes of dating him were smashed to dust.
Remus had fallen into some sort of slump, but very few people realized it. Whenever Tonks pestered him to admit his feelings, he always came out with the same excuses. He was too old; she deserved someone her own age. He was too poor; she deserved a young man who could provide for her. And the ever popular, he was too dangerous. Granted, that excuse was somewhat understandable, but she told him many times that none of it mattered. He was solely focused on what she deserved that he never stopped to think about what he deserved, or what he wanted. He shut her out after Sirius died, and she didn't know what to do. And since she couldn't turn to her own mother, she turned to Molly Weasley – known to Tonks as the surrogate mother of the Order of the Phoenix, the secret organization against Voldemort that both she and Remus were in.
Molly was loaded with good advice and sympathy. She never scolded Tonks for her taste in men, and was always trying to cheer her up, usually to no avail. Honestly, Tonks didn't know what she would have done without Molly around to tell her that Remus was being an unnatural prat, and that none of this was her fault. Molly had actually invited her over to her home for Christmas. Remus was going to be there. So what Tonks was doing at her own home was beyond her. She could be at the Burrow right now, surrounded by people. She could be convincing Remus that he wasn't in the right mindset, and that she didn't care about his werewolfism, or whatever it was called. She loved him, and that was all that mattered. But she was here, alone in Hogsmeade.
Part of her didn't want to see Remus. He would probably try to avoid her, while not ignoring her. Tonks didn't want to put herself through that like some glutton for heartache. Not to mention, she didn't want him to see her. Not like this. She looked sick, hardly presentable to him, not that he would care. But, then again, Molly had said that Remus wasn't looking well himself. He was on a mission for the Order, and was currently living with a pack of werewolves headed by the infamous Fenrir Greyback himself. Tonks knew enough about werewolves to know that their living conditions would be wearing Remus ragged. She didn't know if she had the heart to see him pale and malnourished.
A knock on the door pulled Tonks out of her thoughts. She sighed. "Who is it?" she called to the door, not eager to stand up.
"It's Jason, can I come in?" Jason Savage called from the other side of the door.
She groaned. Couldn't he ever leave her alone? "No," she called back.
"I'm coming in, anyway," he said opening the door and letting himself in. "You should really keep the door locked, Tonks. You're just asking for Death Eaters to come barging in if you leave it unlocked like that." He locked the door as he shut it behind him as if to prove his point.
Tonks didn't look his way. "I told you I didn't want you coming in," she said.
"I know," Jason said, hanging his cloak up by the door. "You've been looking sick lately. I came to make sure you're feeling alright."
"I"m fine, Savage. I just want to be left alone," Tonks said
"Don't lie to me. You've looked terrible for months," Savage said. "Well, I don't mean that you look terrible, just that you haven't looked like yourself."
Tonks turned around on the couch and stared at her colleague. "This is what I look like, Savage. This is one hundred percent real Tonks."
Savage grinned. "Well you haven't lost your spunk," he said.
"Go away, Savage," Tonks said irritably. "Please."
"It's Christmas, Tonks," Savage said. "You shouldn't be alone."
"If I wanted company, I'd be somewhere else. I wanted to be alone."
Savage looked around, before sitting down next to Tonks on the couch. "This about that bloke, isn't it?"
"What are you talking about?"
"That bloke, you know, the one who's the reason why you won't go on a date with me," Savage said.
"He's not the only reason why I won't go out with you, Savage," Tonks said.
Savage picked up a picture off of her coffee table. It was of her and Remus taken by Sirius last Christmas. They were both smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves, just like they should be now. Savage looked from the picture back to her. "Is this him?" he asked. Tonks didn't reply. "He's too old for you, you know."
"He's not too old for me," Tonks snapped.
"He's got grey hair, Tonks."
"He's gone grey prematurely," Tonks argued. "I think it makes him look distinguished."
"It makes him look old," Savage retorted.
Tonks felt color rise in her cheeks. "Savage, I didn't want you in here in the first place, and I certainly didn't want you to come in here and mock my friends. If you don't get out in the next two minutes, I will force you out."
"Have I upset you?" Savage asked, sounding somewhat concerned.
"No, I'm just peachy," Tonks snapped back. "Now get out."
"Look," Savage said. "I'm sorry if I've offended you. I just–"
"Tonks, just relax. I didn't mean any harm by it, honest."
Savage finally seemed to get the clue and stood up with a sigh. He pulled on his cloak and pulled open the door. "I'm sorry," he said before he left. "I didn't mean to upset you. I've just been worried about you lately. You need someone to cheer you up. I'll be by again later, and we can go out for a few drinks, or something, okay?"
Tonks didn't say anything, but just glared at him. He seemed to get the point and left. She hated men, is what she decided when he was gone. All of them were stubborn and pigheaded, and even the ones who weren't egotistical oafs were convinced that there was some reason why a relationship would never work out. Who's bright idea was it to make the heart so easily hurt by men? Whoever it was, they definitely needed to be crucio'd around the block and back again. Tonks repositioned herself on the couch so that she was laying down on her side, and, as she thought of brutal ways to punish all men in general, she drifted off into sleep.
The sound of knocking brought her back to her senses. She groaned. She didn't think that Savage would actually have the nerve to come back. Especially not today. Why could he never take a hint? "Go away, Savage," she called loudly at the door. "I don't care how lonely you think I am, I don't want to go get a few drinks with you. Take the hint."
There was silence on the other side, and Tonks hoped that Savage had come to his senses. "Erm, well, if I see him, I'll tell him your not interested, Tonks," a light and very familiar voice said from behind the door. Tonks's heart fluttered. It was Remus. She'd know his voice anywhere. She pulled herself off the couch and launched herself towards the door, tripping over an end table in the process.
Tonks wrenched the door open. Remus was standing before with a slightly sheepish grin on his face. He looked ridiculously thin, and his hair was now streaked with liberal amounts of grey. Dark shadows circled his eyes, which had a certain despondent look in them. He was wearing an old threadbare cloak over patched robes. Under his robes he wore an old pair of slacks and a newly knitted sweater that was probably the courtesy of Molly. In his hand was a small wrapped gift. Just the sight of Remus before her made Tonks go weak in the knees. How does he do it? she thought to herself.
"Remus," she said with her first genuine smile in weeks. "Come in. It's freezing outside." She didn't wait for him to give some excuse not to come in. She grabbed his wrist, which she noted, was disgustingly thin, and pulled him into her flat. Remus was caught slightly unaware and found him being pulled into Tonks's home, and led into the kitchen. "Would you like something to eat or something?"
Remus shook his head, taking a seat at the table. "I just came from the Burrow," he explained. "Molly tried to give me enough food to last for the next three months."
"Well, it's not like you don't need it," Tonks replied, searching her cupboards for something to give the older man. "Honestly, Remus, you're rail thin."
Remus smiled weakly. "It's just part of the lifestyle, Tonks. I don't know about you, but personally I've never seen a fat werewolf."
"That doesn't mean it's healthy. How about some hot chocolate?"
"Look, Tonks," Remus said softly, staring at the table. "I can't stay long. I just came to–"
"Please," Tonks insisted, holding an empty mug in between her hands, looking earnestly at the man before her.
Remus looked up at her, studying every feature of her face before he slowly nodded. Again, Tonks's face lit up. She bustled around her small kitchen as she made two more mugs of hot chocolate. When she finished, she set one down in front of Remus, then moved across her small table and took the seat across from him. "How have you been doing lately?" Remus asked as he sipped the hot chocolate. "It's been awhile since I've seen you."
"I'm doing okay," she said. "There isn't much action around here. Well, not other than that incident with Katie Bell a couple months back. We still haven't figured out where that necklace came from. All that ever happens, it feels like, is that I take mad orders from Dawlish (who is a complete moron, by the way) or I get hit on by Savage. What about you? How're you doing with Greyback and the other werewolves?"
Remus smiled sadly as he stared down into his drink. "It's not going to well," he said quietly, carefully shielding his emotions. "It's . . . hard. They hardly trust me, and well, that makes things worse. But it's something I can do," he finished, looking up at Tonks.
She could tell by the tired and hurt look in his eyes that his mission was a lot harder for him than he let on. No one in the Order, save Dumbledore (and possibly Sirius had while he was still alive), knew the exact details of what Remus had endured, but Tonks suspected that his physical health wasn't the only thing in jeopardy. The mental and emotional strain he was under had to be almost unbearable. The thought of Remus in any sort of pain tore at tore at her heart, so she decided to change the subject quickly. "So, what brings you this way?" she asked, trying to lighten the mood. "Other than the company, of course."
"I bought you a Christmas gift," Remus said kindly, plunging his hand into his pocket to pull out the small gift he had been holding earlier. "It's nothing too special, and I was going to send it in the post, but I didn't think it'd reach you in time."
"I got you a gift too," Tonks said brightly. "Lemme go get it." Quickly, she stood up and left the room, her heart pounding in her chest. Remus just sent her so many mixed signals, she had no idea what to believe. He had meant to send it by owl, which meant he never planned on coming at all. But he did get her a gift, which was a good sign, but what if it was a friend-type gift? What if he had only gotten her something as a courtesy? He doesn't have enough money to buy people pity gifts, Tonks, she scolded herself as she pulled her unwrapped gift out of her desk drawer. Trying to ignore her racing thoughts, she returned to the kitchen. "I'm sorry it's not wrapped. I wasn't sure when I'd get the chance to give it you," she said, hiding the gift behind her back. "But, anyway, I saw this in a muggle bookstore, and, well, I remembered you telling me it was your favorite, but that your copy had been ripped to shreds, so I went ahead and bought you a replacement."
Trying not to blush like a dimwitted school girl, she pushed the copy of The Inferno across the table. Remus picked it up, on hand smoothing over the cover as he carefully inspected the book. "Thank you, Tonks," he said, not looking up at her. "This means a lot to me." He pushed his own gift across the table. "Open it," he insisted when she had picked up the small parcel and was staring at it in confusion.
"Right," Tonks said, trying not to blush again. Carefully she pulled off the colorful wrapping around the package, only to be confronted with a box. Hesitantly, she lifted off the box's lid. Inside was a small leather-bound journal, and delicately embellished across the front in a looping gold script read the words:
When all is dark and there's no light,
Lost in the deepest star of night,
I see you.
Tonks was speechless; those words were the opening words to one of her favorite songs. Not looking up, she flipped open the journal, surprised to see that the first page already had writing on it.
A small and simple gift for a woman who is anything but. You give me hope when there is none to find, and you give me solace when peace is beyond my grasp. 'Thank you' would never be enough to repay you, and an expensive and flashy gift would insult the depth of impact you have had on my soul. So I give to you a small bit of what you have given to me: a place to keep your thoughts when light eludes you.
You held me in your arms as I fell apart, and allowed me one small escape from a world that has never been kind to me. And though I cannot allow myself to return your feelings, be comforted with the knowledge that you have made your mark on my soul, and I'll carry you with me always.
Tonks took a moment to blink unbidden tears from her eyes. She took a deep breath to regain her composure and looked up to thank him only to find that Remus Lupin had already left.
Final note: So, I have to ask, what did you all think? This is a new genre for me, and I'm curious to know whether or not I'm any good at it (hahah). Anyway, please forgive any spelling errors or glaring cannon errors. I've tried to proof read both of these chpaters extensively, but there are only so many mistakes that I catch. For my LWR readers, I am trying to get the next chapter up soon, and I sat down the other day and planned out at least four or five chapters, so hopefully that will speed up the process.
Anyway, Happy Holidays. I'd be very appreciative if you'd all review!
Peace and love