Author's Note: Probably been done before, but I just had to write it. First HP fic in ages, actually, and unbeta'd since it's so short. It's also a bit different than I usually write, since it's not straight Remus/Tonks but more of a nuanced friendship thing. Feedback is love. None of this belongs to me, all of this belongs to JKR who makes the big Gs.
Window of Opportunity
She doesn't understand him, and probably never will, and the thought makes such bizarre sense it eases her at once.
"Ready?" he asks, slipping his jacket (honesty, can it be called a jacket with so many patches and threadbare spots) over his shoulders, fiddling with the collar.
"Yeah," she says, checking to make sure she has her wand as she'd had to be on patrol without it. She pays attention in the dark hallway, because tripping over that umbrella stand or an uneven bit of carpet would be embarrassing in front of him, and she'd rather not do that.
The air outside is dark and cool, and she takes a deep breath, smiling contentedly. She hates the old house with its heavy air which smells of dust and decay and hopelessness, and always relishes the moment she can escape and breath clearly again.
Out of the corner of her eye she sees movement, but it's just him, watching.
"The window in the spare room on the second floor opens out," he says quietly. He looks away, but she thinks there's a small smile on his face. "A window of opportunity."
"Thanks," she says, with a nod. If it was Dung, or one of the Weasley boys, she'd have punched him playfully in the shoulder but she doesn't, not with him. She wonders if it's because she's afraid he'll fall apart with the slightest touch, or if it's something else which pushes her away (not the fact that he's a werewolf, but rather some sort of fear of crossing boundaries. He looks like the type of man who doesn't want to be touched).
"Shall we?" he asks, gesturing with his head to the street.
She nods, and put shoves her hands into her coat pockets.
It's not that she doesn't understand him – it's that she doesn't understand how she acts around him.
She's not a shrinking violet – she can tell stories with the best of them, raunchy stories that'll make you blush and dirty jokes that make your ears turn red. She's not like this, not normally, but she feels like when he around her she can't act that way. She blames it on the fact he was a professor once – she's also demure around McGonagall, and Dumbledore, and if she didn't ignore Snape she's sure she'd be the same way. Authority intimidates her.
She seeks out the 'window of opportunity' one evening after work. There is a meeting in an hour, and dinner before that, and her stomach growls smelling the beef stew Molly's been cooking up all day. It does wonders to cheer up the old house, and even Sirius seems to be a bit less depressed.
The window does open out, and it's just big enough so that she can perch on the sill comfortably (she casts a protective charm just in case she takes a tumble – just her luck, you know?). The air is cool and crisp at twilight, and she breathes in deeply.
She's startled, pitches sideways, but a hand reaches out, grabs her wrist and pulls her back. She looks down at the long thin fingers which wraps around her wrist, making it seem so small. When she is steady, the hand lets go, and she reaches up, tucks a hair behind her ear, and meets his eyes.
"Yeah," she says quietly. "Thank you."
"It was my fault," he tells her, hands shoved inside his trouser pockets.
"No, I startle easily." There is a pause in the conversation, and she decides to fill it.
"Molly's stew smells delicious –" she starts before the woman in question calls upstairs, announcing dinner.
She slides off the sill and starts for the door, but notices that he doesn't move.
"Not hungry?" she asks. He shrugs.
"I'll be down in a bit," he says evasively, and she tries not to let her confusion show.
"I'll make sure to save you some food," she says, and he smiles meekly.
"Thank you," he says.
As she leaves the room, she can still feel his fingers on her wrist.
It's not about how she acts around him, but how he acts in general.
Keeping Sirius company is a full-time job, and unfortunately it's fallen on his shoulders. There have been years and betrayals and the distance between them changes with each passing day and each of Sirius' mood swings. And on top of all that, Remus still does is work with the Order, and still has his monthly transformations, and still manages to sleep somewhere in there.
She finds him one day at the window, smoking a fag. It's been raining the past day or so, making the air in the house feel damp and humid but in here, somehow, it's nice. There's a cool breeze, and she wonders if he's bewitched the window.
"I love the rain," he says. "I remember enjoying rainstorms as a boy."
"I liked splashing in puddles," she says, then laughs. "I still do."
He smiles, and she's glad that it reaches his eyes.
"Do you smoke?" he asks, reaching into his pocket for the pack. She nods, and he takes one out, passing it to her. Their fingertips brush, and she leans forward when he lights it with the Muggle pack of matches he also carries with him.
"Thanks," she says, and he nods, scooting over on the ledge so that they both can sit and watch the rain. Her shoulder brushes against his, and he doesn't flinch, almost leans into the contact (but she's probably just swaying into him, unsteady as she is). They don't speak, and when he finishes his cigarette he lets it fall onto the cement below.
It's not that he acts aloof in general – it's that the house isn't the best place to have a conversation. The air is dark and suffocating and words sounds vacant, meaningless, in the small rooms cramped with ancient furniture. The window is one thing, but when Death Eaters escape from Azkaban, it's no longer safe to keep it open.
Remus allows McGonagall to seal it shut, and she can't help but notice the tightness in his jaw. She thought Sirius would be the one to fight this but as it turns out, he never even knew it existed.
She can feel the impending fight like others feel an oncoming storm, deep in her bones, and so she gets Remus out of the house before Sirius can launch another tirade on the meaning of friendship, complete with allusions to one James Potter.
"Thank you," he says, as they hurry down the steps and away from the house. It disappears behind them and she wishes she could say the same about Sirius, who lingers over their heads (who knows what awaits them when they return).
"No problem," she responds. "Hungry?"
"Can we just walk?" he asks, and she agrees. It's a lovely winter day, not too cool and the wind has died down, so they head to the park across the street. They meander along the paths and scattered sculptures until Remus stops in front of one. It's an angel, one from the Muggle's first war. It's not very large, its once-delicate features worn away by the city's pollution. She thinks it's pretty, in a Muggle sort of way.
Remus laughs, just then, and asks, "Ever see your life reflected before your eyes?"
She doesn't know what to say, and her lack of response makes the air seem heavy with awkwardness. "I don't know what you're getting at," she finally says.
He looks at her, his gaze steady, when he says, "Sometimes I feel just…worn away by time. This war, and the one before it, and all the time inbetween spent doing nothing…" he stops, and looks away. "A lot of time wasted inbetween."
They return to the house shortly thereafter, but Sirius has gone into hiding (a stern warning from McGonagall has chastised him, for now) and Remus disappears into his room, leaving her alone in the kitchen with a cup of tea and a fag. She doesn't care if Molly yells at her, Molly who lost two brothers in the last war and stands to lose just as much if not more in this one.
They never talk about the personal losses, just the strategic ones at meeting, though names like Maureen McKinnon and Frank and Alice Longbottom are brought up with great sorrow. But it's obvious, she realizes, that those left behind are in equally tragic states.
It's not that they're very different – it's just that war does strange things to people. Less than a week after Bellatrix Lestrange escapes Azkaban they're looking over their shoulders, ready. They're pulling double shifts and she's having a harder time, now, keeping her two lives separate.
"Do you want to get out of here?" she asks one day. She's stopped by his room, not at all surprised to find him reading in a chair near the window.
"Where are you proposing we go?" he asks.
"I've got a window in my flat that opens out," she says, "if you fancy a fag."
"I could use some fresh air," he says, standing up and stretching.
"We all could," she says with a smile.