Author's Note: This came about last year when I was trying to write why I thought Tonks was portrayed as a moping glummy immature girl in HBP. The result was this, bigger than I expected and far more personal. Thanks to Claire and Jo for the betas, and please, as always, concrit welcomed and encouraged.
Molly stirs her tea and glances at the clock, a habit Tonks has become accustomed to these dark winter nights. It's a routine, one meant to calm fraying nerves: Molly glances at the clock, then at her tea, then out the window, then a glance over her nose at Tonks before a sigh escapes her lips.
Tonks wishes for such regularity but, more than that, she wishes for what Molly has. She wants to grow old with someone she loves, bear children and watch them grow into teenagers and adults and maybe have children of their own. She wants the constant ache that exists when you love so deeply that the love permeates your bones and your body hums like a guitar string that's just been plucked with every breath you take.
But she doesn't have that. Instead, she has nothing save a weariness that rests on her shoulders from hours of work and little sleep, and a sour taste in the back of her mouth, a bitterness she has never tasted before.
There is a cake, half-eaten, on the table between them. Tomorrow will be Tonks' twenty-fifth birthday, and she will be spending it with her parents. Molly requested, if it wasn't too much trouble, her presence at the Burrow this evening for a small celebration. Kingsley, Bill, and Fleur joined them, and as she blew out the candles on the tiny cake, she wished that by this time next year, she'd stop crying herself to sleep each night. She missed the twenty-sixth candle – for luck – and isn't sure her wish will come true after all.
There's a knock at the door, and a security question, and Molly lets her husband in, chiding him for trailing snow on the floor. It's a game they play every evening, and Tonks catches a wistful look of happiness in Molly's eye. That is her cue, and so she excuses herself and exits into the cold January air.
That night, she traces the patterns of the rain that hits her window with the tip of her pinkie finger. Her breath fogs up the window and she draws a heart without thinking and when she realizes what she's done, she smears her palm across it, wiping the window clean.
If she's honest with herself, which is becoming a regular phenomenon these days, she'll admit she wasn't particularly attracted to him at first. He was funny-shaped, cardigans and bulky sweaters adding weight to his tall frame. He had scratches and scars and a peculiar mustache and more than that, he was old, much older than her. He wasn't anything special, and he carried himself like he knew that very well. They would sit at dinner together, her bright colors contrasting with his dark browns and grays and as she took bites of her potatoes she'd think that they were such different people, and it was so weird that they were partnered together sometimes.
She knows now that the sweaters covered up scars and long limbs and lean muscles which she can feel under her fingers as tangible as she feels the cold glass of the window.
That's another thing she never really expected. If she closes her eyes, she can almost feel his breath on her neck, the way his lips pressed underneath her ear, and she misses him. She misses how he smiled, and how he'd get embarrassed when she said something endearing, and she's grateful that they were partnered together because he was something special, for she may never have learned that if they hadn't spent time guarding that damn door.
When she falls asleep, she clutches the pillow like a lover, wishing for a better birthday next year, if she lasts that long. What she really wants she doesn't think wishing will bring.
She had known that he wasn't normal when she was reintroduced to him at her first Order meeting. She remembered his name, thrown about her parent's house after the incident two years ago at Hogwarts. They didn't know he was a werewolf until then, and it bothered them for weeks, not because they had let a werewolf near their only child but because it brought up bitter memories of happier years.
She had met him when she was a kid, because she had gone to several of the Potter's Christmas parties (even the ones that were James-and-Lily-cohabitation parties), always getting so tired and falling asleep on her Mum or Dad's lap, and the last time, at the party when she was seven and Harry was just a few months old, she had fallen asleep on Remus' lap. He was younger then, and he was teaching children at a Muggle school. He had read stories to her and Harry, who she held in her lap more precious than any baby doll she had. Harry was playing with some toy, gumming it with his baby mouth and she sat, enraptured, by the way Remus spoke and the story he told. Soon, Harry had fallen asleep and she herself was drifting off, and she remembers, vaguely but surely, Remus ruffling her hair and pressing a kiss to the top of her head at midnight.
She told him this, after the first meeting, wondering if he remembered her. He noded, and smiled, and while he was so much older than he was before, he was still very nice and made her a cup of tea and laughed at all of Sirius' jokes because he was very polite. She remembered that, too.
It's Sirius that told her about Remus' condition. It was a full moon, and when she stumbled in from her assignment to leave a report for Moody he was waiting for her, tumbler of Ogden's on the kitchen table, a stern look on his face.
"How was duty?" he asked, barely able to keep the look of annoyance off his face as he spoke.
"S'alright. Had to work with Dung, and I think he nicked my watch from my pocket while he was groping my arse."
"What's your watch doing in a pocket?" Sirius asked, and she shrugged.
"I get it caught on everything, I'm that clumsy. Doesn't matter, though, it was cheap anyway."
"Have a drink," Sirius said, while proceeding to drain his own glass. After he watched her take a drink, he said "Remus is a werewolf and he's locked up in a room because it's the full moon."
She eyed him, steadily, and said "You're shit for exposition."
"Just what I mean – you're shit for setting it up. You could have told me a long-winded story about how you knew this werewolf once, because it's a full moon and all, but you just cut to the chase."
"Felt it was better that way." Sirius frowned. "Why aren't you surprised?"
"It was all over the Daily Prophet two years back, the year you escaped Azkaban. When Hogwarts sacked him, and all."
"He chose to leave," Sirius remarked in a threatening tone, and she shrugged her shoulders.
"He would've been sacked. Anyway, my Mum and Dad were upset about it, because they had known him for years and never known and it was a shock to them, ya know? I had forgotten the name, but not the face and so stumbling in here, I knew. Fill 'er up, love?
"So what do you think about it?" Sirius asked.
"He's a nice guy, for the most part," Tonks replied. "He's always been nice to me. And if Dumbledore trusts him in the Order, after Hogwarts – "
"And he does – "
"Then I have no problem with it. Shit, I get my own amount of flack for being a Metamorphamgus, and look at the Blacks – the lot of 'em, save you and Mum, are dark creatures." Truth was, she wasn't that fine with it, honestly, but what could she have done? He was a nice man, and she doubted she'd ever been threatened by him in wolf-form, so might as well not think about it.
"Truer words have never been spoken," Sirius said, in mock salute.
"So why tell me now?"
"Remus wanted me to tell you," Sirius said.
"Why didn't he tell me himself?" she asked.
"Because he thought it would be better coming from me," he told her.
"I…does he fancy me, or something?" she asked.
"Remus doesn't fancy anyone, love. He's had a hard life, and it's difficult to find someone who can love you for all of you. He's…he says he's lived with this curse too long to have even a shred of hope left."
She is twenty-five today, and she feels each of the years pressing down on her shoulders like twenty-five individual stones.
She spends the day with her parents, brunch and shopping in Muggle shops in London, and Mum's cooked dinner, a roast and chocolate cake with cherries on it for desert.
"We need to fatten you up, love," her mother says, eyes large and brown and concerned with the fact that her daughter seems to be shrinking right in front of her.
"Long hours, Mum," she replies, trying to find some justification to appease her mother. She doesn't want to tell her that she forgets to eat, or that she doesn't feel hunger anymore. Her father nods and she eats her entire piece of cake, because if she doesn't, there will be more questions.
The Ministry has appropriated a house for the Aurors in Hogsmeade. She has her own room, and bath, and they have some house elves to cook and clean for them. It's not her flat in London, but it could be worse. She's grateful for some semblance of normality in these troubling times, even if the rules of their new household are a little frustrating.
"No bright colours, Tonks," Dawlish told her one day, when she returned from duty with green hair. He went on to explain about how she's an easy target, being i special /i , being Bellatrix Lestrange's niece and all. She didn't find it particularly convincing then, and has only come to accept it now because she doesn't care how she looks these days, since she's not impressing anyone.
When she comes home, she finds that in her post is a small box, without a return address. She sets about to opening it outside, so that if it's cursed or something, she won't take the house down with her. Instead, she's surprised to find a large bar of chocolate, not Honeyduke's but something Muggle, she thinks, and a smaller box. The smaller box contains a tiny pair of earrings, studs really but with brilliant pink stones that reflect the light from nearby houses and shine beautifully. The chocolate has a note on it that says for the Dementors, but she knows what he means.
She doesn't need a note to know who it's from, but she's a bit frustrated because this is not right – he should not being doing this. You do not do things like this for the girl whose heart you have broken and whose heart breaks again when she packs up the smaller box, and writes a note. You really shouldn't be doing this, she writes, and I can't accept the earrings. I'm keeping the chocolate, though.
She leaves it for him at the Burrow, and in two days there is a reply, sent to her by Molly.
His reply is simple. I thought you'd do that. Happy Birthday, nonetheless.
"Fucking daft prat," she murmurs, taking a bite of her candy and that it's not fair at all. She blinks away the tears before Molly can see them, though she knows very well by now Molly will say nothing at all.