Disclaimer: Small portions of the dialog in this chapter were written by the wonderful J.K.Rowling. I do not own her words, nor do I profit from them.

Author's Notes: Wow! I finished it! The wonderful MrsTater has given me a great deal of help on this story, and deserves heaps of praise. I'm so happy to get this posted before DH! If anyone is interested in a more detailed discussion on my thoughts about Snape, you can read my essay: "The Unbreakable Vow, Pride, Trust, Cowardice, and the Self-Interested Snape" at http://jncar. At the end of that essay is a list of links to most of the other fabulous essays that I read while developing the character of Snape for this story. Thanks to all my readers for their support and encouragement. Y'all rock! ETA: This is the new version, revised post-DH.

Chapter 6: This Time Will Pass


Remus is still living at the Burrow, and Tonks arranges her schedule to stop by as often as possible. He still hasn't talked any more about what happened in the pack, and, from what she can tell, he still hasn't visited his mother. She wants to chide him to get himself back on track, be she knows she should be patient and let him have the time he needs to mourn and heal on his own.

There are times when his old wit and humor break out of his new reticence, and he seems almost normal. But underneath it all there is still a new tension—a new sorrow.

She almost feels like they are reliving the early months of their friendship all over again—when she still suspected him of aiding and abetting a fugitive, and he still thought she was looking for an excuse to arrest him. There are so many moments when she can't help but think things would be easier if he would only let her take him in her arms and never let go. And there are times when she is sure he feels the same. But they hold back. The tension between them feels the same as it did then, but there is one major difference: back then, the source of tension wasn't real. It was all in their heads. But this time, it is far too real.

Things will never be completely the same again. But Tonks has confidence that something new can take the place of what they used to have—and that this new relationship can be even stronger than the old, after being refined and tempered by the fire of what they've been through.

So she forces herself to take one small step at a time. Things are so fragile that she doesn't dare rush them.

One evening in early may, Tonks and Remus find themselves alone together for the first time in weeks.

They talk lightly of unimportant nothings for a time, until they are both comfortable and relaxed. Then, Tonks decides to try something deeper.

She asks him how he is sleeping—are his dreams bothering him?

He admits that they have been. That the events of that battle in March still haunt him.

"Remus—you really need to talk to someone about what you've been through. You need to get it out of your system. I know it will help."

He only nods.

She sighs. "You don't have to talk to me if that's uncomfortable for you. Maybe you could talk to Arthur, or Alastor. But you need to talk to someone. Please. I can't stand to see you hurting like this."

He finally meet her gaze, and eyes are shining. He nods. "You're right. I should talk to someone. I will. I promise."

"Thank you. I'll hold you to it."

When she leaves for the night, her heart is light. She feels as if they are finally moving forward.

After a brief, sharp knock, Severus storms into her sitting room.

He neglected to bring a drink, and instead of sitting he begins pacing violently back and forth across the small room.

Clearly, he's having a bad day. She raises her eyebrows, and asks, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"It's that damn Potter!" he snarls. He launches into a vicious attack on Harry's character, and it is only after a few minutes that the crux of the matter finally comes to light: Severus claims that Harry attacked Draco with potentially lethal dark magic.

She is stunned. "But…If Harry said he didn't know what the spell was for, I'm inclined to believe him. I know those two have been at each other's throats for ages, but Harry would never intentionally do that sort of harm to Draco. I'm sure of it. He's a good boy."

Severus glares at her. "There you go, simplifying things again to fit into your tidy little world. It's time you realized that things are never as simple as you want them to be. There is no idyllic world of black and white, wrong and right. It's time you grew up, and stopped thinking that there is!" He begins pacing again, complaining loudly that detention is the only punishment he's allowed to mete, when imprisonment would be more appropriate.

Tonks sits in stunned silence. His words have chilled her to the bone, and for the first time since they've known each other she thinks that she finally understands why they've had so much trouble maintaining a friendship. They really do live in different—irreconcilable—worlds.

Despite Severus's assertion to the contrary, she firmly believes that there is such a thing as good and evil. There really is a black and white at the heart of every important issue. But in Severus's world there is nothing of the sort. He doesn't see in black and white—only in infinitely varied shades of grey.

As she watches him pace and fume, she feels more sorry for him than she ever has before. Now that she sees his world, she knows that she would never, ever, want to live in it.

When Moody asks Tonks to spend one of her rare days off on an Order mission, she is irritated. That is, until Moody tells her that Remus will be her partner. She will gladly sacrifice her day off to spend it with Remus.

The mission is alarmingly simple: they are to meet an Order informant in a quaint river-side village, exchange information, and then go their separate ways. The only catch is that the informant has given them a five hour time-window in which he might arrive.

Tonks can't help but wonder if Moody arranged this assignment on purpose to give her and Remus time alone together. The old warrior may pretend to be hard as a rock, but she suspects that there is a warm heart beneath the gruff exterior.

The day is warm and lovely, and the village is as peaceful and beautiful as anywhere in all England. With the sun on their faces, they slowly wander the village, waiting for their informant to appear.

It doesn't take long for the beautiful day to warm their hearts and convince them to lower their guards. Soon they are chatting and laughing like old times. She buys them sandwiches and coffee in a small café very reminiscent of the one they used to visit together in London, after their long afternoons in the library.

After they eat, they stroll along the river. He plucks a delicate pink flower for her, and tucks it behind her ear.

As they walk, she finally confesses to him how hard she struggled for the first few months after he left, and she admits to him the crushing guilt she felt over Emmeline's death. He tells her that he feels that same way about the people he cared about whom he lost in the fight with Greyback. He tells her that he has been to talking it over with Arthur, and that she was right—it is helping.

As they wander up and down the village streets, they walk so close that they are almost touching, and their hands brush lightly against each other—though she doesn't quite dare clasp her hand around his. She has to let him set the pace.

She is disappointed when the informant finally arrives, and she can see from his not-so-genuine smile that Remus is disappointed as well. The exchange of information goes like clockwork, and soon they are once again left alone.

In spite of the wonderful afternoon that they have spent together, she feels the tension between them beginning to return. She asks him for one last stroll along the river, and he agrees.

"Have you been to see your mother yet?" she asks him.

He shakes his head. "Not yet."


He takes a deep breath, and stares intently at the swiftly flowing water beside them. "Because…I don't know how to tell her about what I've done. I don't know how to face her again with this weight on my conscience."

She reaches up to place her hand lightly on his arm. "She won't care what you've done, Remus. She won't love you any less."

He pauses, and they stand still, staring at the river. He stretches his opposite arm to place his hand over hers. He looks down into her eyes, and her breath speeds as he leans his face ever closer to hers.

Suddenly, a bird breaks the silence with a raucous caw.

Remus pulls back from her, and looks away. "I should be getting back to the Burrow now. I'll just Apparate there directly, if you don't mind?"

She wants to stamp her feet in frustration. She has to take a deep breath, and remind herself once again that she has to go at his pace. She has to wait until he is ready.

She nods. "That's fine. I'll just head back to Hogsmeade, then."

Their farewells are brief, and before she knows it, she is back in drab, lonely Hogsmeade, with nothing to look forward to but a stack of letters to screen.


Remus is avoiding her. Every time she has stopped by the Burrow in the past few weeks, he comes up with some excuse to leave—an errand, or a visit to make, or a duty for the Order.

After their afternoon along the river, she was so sure that they were making forward progress. What happened? Why won't he talk to her?

Finally, she manages to catch him alone in the kitchen. He stands to excuse himself for a trivial errand, but she will have none of it.

"You're not going anywhere, Remus Lupin. You will sit down, and talk to me. Right now!"

He coughs uncomfortably. "There's no arguing with that, I suppose." He slides back into his seat.

Now that she has his attention, nervousness surges through her, and her tongue feels heavy in her mouth. Is she doing the right thing? Shouldn't she just wait until he's ready to talk to her on his own? But it's too late to turn back now. She's committed herself to action.

"Why are you avoiding me?"

"I'm not avoiding you," he protests weakly.

"Yes. You are. I thought we were starting to have fun together again. I thought we were friends. What happened?" She bites her bottom lip, waiting anxiously for his reply.

He looks away from her. "I'm sorry, Tonks. I thought I could be your friend. But I was wrong. I tried, but I just couldn't do it. I'm sorry."

Tears are rising in her eyes, and she fights to hold them back. "Why? Did I do something wrong?"

He shakes his head. "No. You did absolutely nothing wrong. The fault is all mine."

"Then what is it? Why can't we be friends?"

He looks straight at her, his eyes full of sorrow. "Because I'm still in love with you."

Her mouth hangs open, and her chest heaves with emotion. He still loves her. He still loves her!

But before she has a chance to respond, he is on his feet. "I have to leave. I'm sorry." And with a sudden sharp crack, he is gone.

She collapses into a chair, stunned and confused. If he still loves her as much as she loves him, then why does he keep running away? Nothing makes sense any more, and she has no idea what to do.

Two days pass before she manages to catch him again. She switches shifts with Savage to have the morning free, and in the mid-morning she Apparates to the Burrow.

She finds him sitting on a bench in the back garden, reading. When he sees her he smiles weakly, and sets down his book. He makes no attempt to leave—it seems that he is finally resigned to the fact that he can't escape this conversation.

She folds her arms across her chest as glares at him. "It was pretty shitty of you to throw that at me and then run away."

"I know. I don't know what came over me. I was behaving like a coward. I'm sorry."

She sighs, and sits down next to him. "I might be willing to forgive you, as long as you don't do it again."

He nods. "I think I can manage that."


They are quiet for a moment, and she knows in her gut that she needs to make the next move.

"Did it ever occur to you," she says, "that I might still be in love with you, too?"

For an instant his eyes brighten with hope, but then he turns his face away from her. "You shouldn't be. I have nothing to offer you—no home, no job, no prospects for the future…"

"I don't care."

"And despite what you say, I really am too old for you. Time will wear me down far sooner than it would an ordinary man…"

"I don't care." She grits her teeth.

"And after what's happened—now that I've seen and felt what kind of violence I'm really capable of…"

"Remus! For the last time—I don't bloody care!"

"What about Severus?"

She sits up straight her brow furrowed. "What?"

He shakes his head. "I tried not to be upset that you'd moved on. After all I've put you through; I can't fault you for giving up. I want you to find happiness. I tried to tell myself that it was all for the best. But I can't. Not with him, Tonks. He can't possibly be treating you the way you deserve to be treated."

She can't believe what she's hearing. "You think that Severus and I are…involved?"

He gives her a sheepish look. "Back in April when I went to check on how Jill and Mandy were doing, Jill told me that he comes to visit you in your rooms a few times a week. I just assumed…"

"You assumed that I was sleeping with him."

He nods, now looking thoroughly embarrassed. Her head is spinning as so many things click into place—this is why he gave her the speech about wanting to be friends. This is why he suggested she go out with men her own age. This is why he has been so uncomfortable every time they start to get close. This whole time he thought she was having an affair with Severus!

"Oh my God," she says, putting a hand on her forehead. "Oh my God! I can't believe…all this time."


She has to set things straight. "I am not sleeping with Severus! I have never slept with Severus, and I never will! I can't believe you've been thinking that this whole bloody time!"

"You're not involved with him at all?"

"No! I'm not! We're just friends who like to relax over a few pints in a quiet room once in a while. That's all."

He looks utterly flabbergasted. "Well," he says. "I feel like a rather enormous prat right now."

"Good. You ought to." She shakes her head. "You could have just asked me, you know—instead of relying on Jill's impeccable judgment."

He smiles, and chuckles. He's beginning to blush. "I think I've learned my lesson."

"I hope so."

They sit in silence for a few moments, smiling. Tonks can hardly believe that this ridiculous misunderstanding is what has been holding them back this whole time. Why can't they ever seem to understand each other?

She can't help herself—she starts to laugh. "This whole time—" she laughs louder, "I was trying to get closer to you, and you thought I was sleeping with another man!" Tears are leaking out of her eyes. "You must have been so bloody confused!"

Remus is laughing along with her, his smile broad and bright. "I did have some moments of rather extreme confusion, yes."

They continue laughing, and Remus reaches forward to grab her hands in his. It feels so natural—so right—to be sitting there with him, laughing, his thumbs gently stroking the backs of her hands.

Gradually, their laughter comes to an end. She takes a deep breath. "So where does this leave us now?"

He echoes her deep breath with one of his own. "Now…we may have sorted out that one problem. But it doesn't change the other issues that stand between us." Despite his reluctant words, he makes no move to relinquish his grip on her hands.

"It also doesn't change the fact that I don't care one whit about any of them. And it doesn't change the fact that I am still utterly and completely in love with you—and I always will be."

A smile still sits on his face, but as his eyes flit across her face she can see the mingled hope and anxiety. "I don't want to hurt you again," he says, barely above a whisper.

"Get over it, love. I'm sure you'll hurt me plenty of more times—and I'll hurt you right back. It comes part and parcel with being in a relationship. If it makes you feel any better, I've no doubt in my mind that the times when we make each other deliriously happy will far outweigh the times when we cause each other pain. In my mind, at least, that will make every moment of pain worth it."

He squeezes her hands even tighter, looking down at them. He hesitates before answering her, and she bites her lip in worry. He can't still be having second thoughts about this, can he?

"I've spent most of the last two months trying to convince myself that we were done, and that I had to get over you once and for all. Please don't get angry…but I think…I might need a few days to readjust my thinking. Is that all right?"

She squeezes his hands back. "Take all the time you need, Remus. I'm not going to rush you. Over the past year I've developed a great deal of patience."

"Thank you. Thank you."

She is very encouraged by the way he continues to cling to her hands, and leans his face close to hers.

She tells him that she had to agree to take Savage's evening shift for two days in a row, so they agree to meet the evening after that. She hopes that by then he'll be ready to take the step that she's been ready for since Christmas.

She is still in bed just after noon, recovering from her two late nights of work in a row, when she hears a loud knock on her door. She pulls on a dressing gown and runs her fingers through her hair on the way to answer it.

It is Severus. He looks upset and anxious.

"What's wrong?" she asks. "Has something happened?"

"Not yet," he says. "But it will soon, if I can't do something about Draco. I was talking to him again this morning, and I'm making no progress whatsoever. Albus was convinced that I could dissuade Draco from his task, but I can't. I can't make him listen."

She is nervous. She has never heard Severus refer to Dumbledore by his first name before—he must be deeply agitated to let that slip. "What's going to happen? What is Draco going to do?"

He turns away from her, squeezing his eyes shut. "I'm sorry, but I cannot tell you. Just know that he must be stopped, or there will be disastrous consequences."

"Do you need me to take him into custody?"

He shakes his head, turning back to face her. "No. Arrest is still not an option."

"Then what can we do?"

"I have given this a great deal of thought—and I see only one solution. I need to take Draco away from Hogwarts. I need to get him out of England completely. Albus and I have already established a safe-house overseas, prepared should the need arise to move innocent victims of this war to safety. I think that now is the appropriate time to make use of that house. But it has become clear to me that Draco will not be removed by persuasion. Our only choice is to remove him by force."

"You want to kidnap him?" She can hardly believe her ears. Are things really so desperate that the Order must resort to those sorts of unsavory tactics?

"If that's what it takes, yes! And I see no choice but to bring Narcissa along as well. Draco will never renounce the Dark Lord if his mother is still in danger. Damn her! Without her interference I never would have been in this position in the first place, and now I'm stuck having to worry about her safety as well as Draco's. Damn her!"

Tonks is irritated and confused by Severus's stubborn secrecy, but if he is willing to risk his reputation and even his life to whisk Draco and Narcissa away, than things must be very dire indeed.

"You're absolutely certain that force is required?" She doesn't like the idea--but anything that Severus would call "disastrous" has to be very bad indeed, and if she can help stop it, she will.

"It is the only way," he says.

She nods. "Okay. If you really believe that this is the only way, then I'll support your decision. How can I help?"

As he stares at her the intensity of his gaze softens, and he speaks in an almost pleading tone. "You could come with me."

Her eyes narrow. What exactly is he asking her? "You mean, come with you to get Draco and Narcissa?"

He takes a step closer. "Not just to get them. You could come with me the whole way—out of England to the safe-house. And once Draco and Narcissa are installed there—once they are safe and secure and have renounced the Dark Lord completely…then, we'll be free."

"What do you mean by free?"

He takes another step closer. "Free of the Dark Lord—free of the Order—free of this school—free of the Ministry—free of Potter—" he pauses, almost choking on his words, "—free of this whole God-forsaken country. We could go anywhere—do anything. We could go to China, or India, or Peru…" His eyes are blazing with some powerful, unfamiliar emotion.

This is insane. She's never seen Severus act so completely unhinged before. Is he honestly asking her to abandon the war and run away with him? Does he really think that she'll throw away her whole life for him on a whim? To think that only three days ago she was insisting to Remus that they were nothing more than friends. Apparently, Severus wouldn't agree.

"I can't. I can't come with you, Severus. Don't you see how crazy that is?" She can see the pain flicker across his face as she speaks, so she tries to soften the blow with some logic. "You still bear the Dark Mark—if you abandon him now, Voldemort will find a way to track you down and kill you."

"Don't say his name!"

"See! You're afraid to even hear his name—yet you're ready to risk gallivanting all over the world after abandoning him?"

He closes his eyes again, and takes a few deep steady breathes, just as she does when she is beginning her meditation.

When he opens his eyes again, his face is wiped of all emotion, and his voice is tightly controlled. "I apologize. I was behaving most irrationally. I don't know what came over me."

She's hurt him. She knows she has, but there was no choice—not now that Remus is back in her life. But would there have been a choice if Remus had never come back? Would she have even considered his offer of escape? That's not something she can let herself think about. She's committed herself to Remus—there's no point in wondering about anything else.

"You're afraid," she says. "Draco is about to do something awful, and you feel helpless to stop him, and you're afraid. That's enough to make anyone act a little crazy."

He nods, but says nothing.

"We still have to solve the Draco problem," she says. "Have you told the Headmaster that you think removing him by force is the only way?"

"Yes. But he continues to disagree with me."

She takes another deep breath, hardly believing what she is saying even as it comes out of her mouth. "If this is really then only way, then we don't need his consent."

"No, we do not."

She nods. "Have you worked out a plan?"

"Not yet. Even this morning I held out hope for some other solution, but my latest conversation with Draco has dashed that hope. I haven't had time to formulate an exact plan yet. I came here before I had a chance to think things through."

"Okay," she pauses. "I'll do some asking around the Auror department. I know they've had Malfoy Manor under surveillance all year. I might be able to pry information on Narcissa's regular schedule out of someone. You'll have to come up with a potion we can use to subdue them. What about transportation? An International Portkey, or Apparition?"

"I think Apparition would be the safest course."

"Can you handle taking both of them side-along?"

He looks down at the ground in front of her feet. "I'll be making this trip alone, won't I?"

She sighs. "I can't do this with you. I'm sorry. Once you're at the safe-house, you'll have to stay there along with them. You know that as well as I do. It's the only way to insure your safety. But I have to stay here. I can't desert my post."

"It's him you can't desert," he snarls. "Your post has nothing to do with it."

The pain in his voice is palpable. How could she have been so naïve for so long, to fool herself into thinking he didn't have serious feelings for her? But it's too late to change things now.

"I'm sorry," she says.

He studies her face quietly for a moment, and then nods. "So am I." He pauses. "He'll never deserve you."

She sighs. "I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on that point."

"Indeed, we will." He looks away from her.

It suddenly hits her that once he is gone, she will actually miss him. She may never feel for him what he clearly feels for her, but he's been an important part of her life for more than a year. She only hopes he'll find some sort of peace in his new life. He's earned it. She smiles lightly. "I reckon the position of Defense teacher really is jinxed, isn't it?"

"It would seem so." He still does not smile, but his frown is not so deep as before.

"When do you think you can have your end of the plan ready?"

"Two, maybe three days."

"Then I'll do the same. We can meet again tomorrow to work out more of the details.

They quietly bid each other farewell, and as she watches him leave, she wonders just what she's gotten herself into.

Two hours later she receives a letter from Dumbledore requesting her presence to stand guard-duty in the castle that night while he is away on business.

So much for her quiet reunion with Remus.

She and Remus are only able to exchange a short greeting when they arrive at the castle for their duty. He seems guarded, and hesitant. But he never was very comfortable with public displays of emotion.

"Since we couldn't get together tonight," she says, "maybe we could go to breakfast together tomorrow, and have our talk then."

He nods. "I would like that."

Patrolling the empty corridors of Hogwarts is hardly the most exciting of duties, but at least she has a morning with Remus to look forward to.

The past hour has been like a nightmare. Severus warned her that Draco was going to do something horrible, but she never imagined that he could have found a way to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts.

And now Severus, along with Draco, is gone. But his exodus came too late. The damage is already done. And she didn't even get to say goodbye.

They stand around the small bed in Hogwarts' hospital wing, watching as Madame Pomfrey tends Bill's mangled face. Every time she glances up at Remus, she sees the pain in his eyes—he blames himself.

Greyback went right for Remus, in an attempt to revenge himself on the man who ruined his chances at assembling a private army. Bill was only in the way.

With every reassurance Remus tries to offer—with every word of comfort that he speaks—she can hear his guilt. How will this new burden for his conscience change things for them? Will it make him reconsider going forward with their relationship?

She squeezes her eyes shut. She shouldn't be thinking such things at a time like this. Her friend is injured, and her security plans were hopelessly compromised—she should be thinking about that. Not about whether or not she'll get her boyfriend back.

Ginny and Harry appear at the doors. He looks pale, and weary, but at least he is safe. And his only concern is for Bill. Her heart goes out to him for his compassion.

Suddenly, the unimaginable slips from Ginny's lips: "Dumbledore's dead."

"No!" gasps Remus. He looks wildly from person to person, as if hoping one of them will tell him that it's not true. But no one does. He collapses into a chair, dropping his head into his hands. He looks almost as broken as he did the night he confessed to killing Ulric. With all the signs of good humor that he has been showing lately, she's almost forgotten just how fragile he still is.

"How did he die?" Tonks whispers, still staring at Remus. "How did it happen?"

"Snape killed him." Harry's words pierce her like a knife. She feels dizzy, and weak. She reaches out to steady herself on a nearby chair. Harry keeps talking, but his words barely penetrate the haze in her mind.

Severus would never kill Dumbledore! It can't be true! Harry must have seen it wrong. Severus would never betray them like that. She won't believe it.

He was her friend!

The room falls silent as hauntingly beautiful music suddenly fills the air. It is the grief-laden song of a phoenix. It is true. Dumbledore is gone.

Remus sits up straighter, and some of the grief on his face is now replaced by what she recognizes as hard anger.

Minerva joins them after a while, and when she is told about Severus's betrayal, her actions echo Remus's as she collapses into a chair, exclaiming her disbelief.

"Snape was a highly accomplished Occlumens," snarls Remus, looking Tonks directly in the eye. "We always knew that." His words sting her like an accusation. Does he blame her for not seeing through Severus's façade? Does he hold it against her?

"But Dumbledore swore he was on our side!" she whispers defensively. "I always thought Dumbledore must know something about Snape that we didn't…." Her eyes remain locked with his, and she wills him to see her silent plea for forgiveness—she didn't know. How could she?

"He always hinted that he had an ironclad reason for trusting Snape," says Minerva. "I mean…with Snape's history…of course people were bound to wonder…but Dumbledore told me explicitly that Snape's repentance was absolutely genuine….Wouldn't hear a word against him!"

Dumbledore had told her as much himself. Could he really have been so deeply deceived? There has to be more here than meets the eye. There simply has to be.

"I'd love to know what Snape told him to convince him," says Tonks.

Harry's reply that Snape was sorry for causing his parents' deaths seems so implausible—so inadequate. No one else can believe it.

Tonks is certain that Dumbledore could not have told Harry the whole truth. Once again, the stubborn secrecy held between him and Severus is throwing everything into chaos. Will she ever know the truth?

Just this morning Severus came to her seeking escape—seeking a way out. Is this the disaster he wanted to prevent? And if so, why did he go through with it in the end? What could have happened since this morning to make him choose this awful course?

She replays the day's events in her mind again and again. Is there anything she could have said—anything she could have done—to stop Severus from making this choice?

The others are describing the evening's events to Harry, and she finds herself speaking up to tell him of the chaos of the battle, and how Severus had suddenly appeared. To think, her heart had leapt with hope when she saw him. If anyone could turn the tide of battle in their favor, it was Severus.

When he and Draco passed, she was certain that he was being chased—that he was making a final attempt for freedom and safety. And she had silently wished him well. Had he seen her along the way? Did he regret what he was leaving behind? "I thought I heard Snape shout something, but I don't know what—"

"He shouted, It's over," said Harry. "He'd done what he'd meant to do."

She feels numb and weary. Her heart refuses to believe that Severus really meant to kill Dumbledore, but her head tells her otherwise. How can she make sense of it?

And Remus keeps looking at her with accusation in his eyes. He's disappointed in her. He thinks she ought to have known. Something in the pit of her stomach lurches, and she knows without being told that she's lost him over this. It was too much, at too fragile a moment. She's lost him.

Her dark thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Molly, Arthur, and Fleur. They all rush to Bill's bedside in a panic, and Remus's empty assurances begin all over again.

Tonks only half hears what they are saying. Right now, she doesn't care about Bill's face. Her whole world is falling to pieces all over again. She's lost them both—Severus and Remus—all in one night.

Fleur's shrill voice breaks through her reverie. "What do you mean 'e was going to be married?"

Molly, flustered, has no words to defend herself against Fleur's passion for her fiancé.

"You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per'aps, you hoped?" says Fleur imperiously. "What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave!"

Fleur's bold words echo powerfully in Tonks's mind. Yes—Remus's scars, inside and out, do nothing but testify of his bravery.

As Molly and Fleur collapse into each other's arms, Tonks finds herself striding toward Remus. Her mouth opens as if under its own volition, and words come tumbling out. "You see! She still wants to marry him, even though he's been bitten! She doesn't care!"

"It's different," says Remus stiffly. "Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely—"

She can feel herself losing control. This is too much, on top of everything else tonight, this is too much. "But I don't care either, I don't care!" she cries, seizing the front of his robes and shaking them. "I've told you a million times…."

She fights to hold back a sob at the look of shame on his face. He's ashamed of her. If her trust of Severus hadn't really ended things, this out-of-control outburst surely has.

"And I've told you a million times," he says, avoiding her eyes, "that I am too old for you, too poor…too dangerous…."

"I've said all along you're taking a ridiculous line on this, Remus," says Molly.

Oh, no. Please. Please don't let them gang up on him at a time like this. She's already done enough damage on her own. Doing this to him in front of everyone he cares about might finish him—she can't believe she did this, now of all times.

"I am not being ridiculous," says Remus. "Tonks deserves someone young and whole."

"But she wants you," says Arthur with a small smile on his face. "And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so." He gestures down at Bill's prone figure.

His words of calm reason hover in the air for a moment, before Remus looks away. "This…is not the moment to discuss it. Dumbledore is dead…."

"Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world," says Minerva.

As Hagrid enters the room, most everyone's eyes turn to him. But Tonks looks only at Remus. He raises his eyes from the ground, and for a moment, they lock gazes. She can't read what he's thinking. Does he despise her for trusting the enemy, and for making a spectacle of both of them at a time like this? Or, somehow, is there still hope for them after all?

Soon, Minerva and Harry leave, and the whole room falls into a murmur of low, worried conversation. Tonks wanders away from the main group to take a seat by a window overlooking the grounds. She's in too much of a muddle to face them all right now—especially Remus.

Her mind keeps circling back and forth between two dark thoughts—that she's lost Remus, and that Severus has betrayed her.

As she looks out over the darkly shadowed grounds, she wonders where—among his millions of varied shades of grey—did Severus find his rationalization and justification for what he's done? There is no denying it now—he is a murderer. Regardless of what Severus might feel for her and regardless of what she feels for him, as an Auror it is her duty to help capture him. She only hopes that someday she has a chance to ask him: Why? Why did he betray them all?

Less then fifteen minutes later Ministry officials are swarming the school grounds, and she is called into action. As she leaves the hospital wing she casts one last look over her shoulder at Remus. Their eyes lock, and he smiles.

That one small smile fills her with hope, and it is that image that gives her the strength to get through the rest of the night.

The injured have been transported to St. Mungo's. The bodies of the fallen have been removed. Barriers have been erected inside the castle to keep students away from the damaged areas. The disabled Death Eaters have been arrested and removed to the Ministry holding cells. Magical Law Enforcement officers are now posted all around the grounds and even inside the castle. It is almost noon, and Tonks is exhausted.

She has finally been relieved, and is trudging back toward the Hog's Head with both her head and her feet aching after the past day's ordeal.

She doesn't want to think about Remus. And she definitely doesn't want to think about Severus. All she wants to do is empty her mind, and sleep for as long she can—it's the only way she'll be able to escape.

Jill is at the bar when she enters, and she asks after Aberforth. Jill shakes her head sadly. "He's not doing too well. He's just sitting out there in the barn, moping. Mandy is out there with him, trying to cheer him up."

Tonks nods, and sighs. "I'll try talking to him later. Right now I need to get cleaned up and sleep for a few hours."

"I'm not sure you'll be getting any sleep," says Jill, with a mysterious smile on her face.

"Why not?"

Jill leans forward and whispers conspiratorially, despite the emptiness of the pub. "You have a visitor."

Tonks's heart freezes. Severus? No—it couldn't be. He wouldn't dare show his face in Hogsmeade after what's happened. He's not sentimental enough to want to risk himself just to say goodbye. So there's only one person it could be—Remus.

Jill smile and winks at her, and Tonks tries to smile back, but her mouth feels dry and leaden.

She takes slow, deep breaths as she ascends the stairs. She can do this. She can do this.

She opens the door of her sitting room, and he is there on her sofa, reading the copy of Pride and Prejudice that she gave his as a gift ages ago.

He looks up, and says, "Hello."

"Wotcher, Remus."

"I thought I'd lost this."

"No. You left it in my flat. You were a right slob when you moved out."

"I was a little upset at the time. It hampered my natural tidiness." He is smiling.

She finally lets out the breath that she didn't know she was holding.

"Can't be perfect all the time, I suppose." She smiles back at him.

They are silent for a moment. Then, he rises to his feet.

"Tonks—there's something I need to say to you, and I really need you to let me get it all out, all at once. Okay?"

She bites her lip and nods. "Okay."

"There is no way that I can express to you how sorry I am for what I did to you last night." He pauses, his brow furrowed. "After you left—you were all I could think about. I was horrible…and insensitive…and I completely understand if you never want to be with me again after I treated you like that in front of everyone." He closes his eyes, and shakes his head.

He takes a deep breath. "I was in shock, and I couldn't think straight, and suddenly you were up in my face and I just…panicked. I had everything planned out—I knew exactly what I wanted to say to you—and in the midst of that chaos it all flew completely out the window." He pauses and rubs his face with his hands.

"My mind was in a haze. I was so angry… those words just tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them, and I knew the instant I said them that I'd probably ruined things between us forever." He looks mournfully at the ground. "On top of it all, I'd hurt you when you were already in pain from being betrayed by a friend. I know how much that hurts, and I should have been there for you. But I wasn't. Instead I was buggering things up like always."

He is avoiding her eyes as he speaks, and he doesn't seem to see that her smile grows wider and wider the longer he talks. "I just want you to know," he says, "that I am sorry beyond words; and if you can possibly find it in your heart to give me yet another chance…"

She starts to laugh—a small uncontrollable giggle brought on by frayed nerves and exhaustion that bursts out of her throat before she can stop it. He finally meets her eyes, and a curious smile forms on his face.

She shakes her head. "Great Merlin, Remus! All night I was sure I'd driven you away forever for behaving like such a pushy ninny! And I thought you must be holding it against me for not seeing the truth about Severus earlier. I though that I was the one who needed to beg for another chance."

His eyes are twinkling, and his smile is broad. Without another word he crosses the room and sweeps her into his arms, kissing her fervently on the lips. She runs her fingers through his hair, and surrenders herself completely to his embrace. This is where she belongs.

Just she slides her hand up him jumper, he breaks the kiss. "Wait. There's one more thing…one very important thing that I've been thinking about since last night. I have to say it now, before this goes any further, because I think it's crucial to making this relationship work."

She catches her breath, and nods—he wants her. That's all that matters. Nothing else he has to say will ruin that now. "What is it?"

He loosens his arms from around her, and takes her hands in his. "Tonks—every time we talk about some of the difficulties that we will have to deal with, you tell me you don't care. And that scares the hell out of me. I feel like you think you can just ignore those issues and they'll somehow go away on their own. But that's just not going to happen."

Tonks sighs. "Oh, Remus, love. That's never what I meant when I said I don't care. I do care about those issues and what they'll mean to us. I care very much. I only meant that those were issues that didn't have to keep us apart. They're problems that we can work through together—as partners. That's what I meant."

He takes a deep breath and grins. "You have no idea what a relief it is to hear you say that."

"Good." She pauses. "But I think, before we start tackling the problems we've already talked about, there's one more problem that should take priority."

"What is it?"

"We really need to learn to communicate better."

He laughs. "Truer words were never spoken."

She laughs, too, and shakes her head. "I love you, Remus Lupin."

He wraps his arms around her and draws her close. "And I love you, Nymphadora Tonks."

For the rest of the day all of their pain, their exhaustion, their fear, and their worry melts away in the comfort of one another's arms, where neither of them needs words to communicate exactly how they feel.

Tonks manages to get off of work the day before the funeral. When they wake up in the morning, Remus pushes her hair out of her face, and asks her what she would like to do with her day off.

She grins at him. "I want to visit your mother."

He laughs. "I should have seen that coming."

"Yes, you should have."

A few hours later when Cleo opens her door to find them standing there hand in hand, the look of joy and love on her face is enough to bring them all to tears.

After a lengthy conversation inside the cottage, they make their way to the back garden.

Tonks sits by herself on a bench near the back door, sipping her lemonade. The flowers are in full bloom, the sun is bright, the sky is clear, and a cool breeze tickles her skin.

The outside world may still be in chaos, but at this moment, watching Remus and his mother strolling hand and hand through the idyllic garden, Tonks is at peace.

For the first time, Tonks knows that she and Remus have seen the worst and survived it intact. Whatever else might come, they can face it, and they can win—together.

She's through with forcing herself into the drab brown world that Severus left her in. She's not afraid anymore.

With a deep breath and a smile, her brown hair blossoms into the vividest pink.

The End

Author's Notes: Thanks for reading! I've had tons of fun sharing this fic-universe with you. I am planning further installments in this fic-verse set during DH, and an alternate pov retelling from Snape's pov. Keep watching for them. If you leave a review, perhaps Remus will treat you to a romantic walk along a river. Or, if you prefer it, Snape might ask you to run away with him. ;-)