hollow, like lines
Pairing: Remus/Sirius, Remus/Tonks
Spoilers: through Deathly Hallows
Word Count: 1,800
Summary: The fact remains that she is miserable and he is empty and there is nothing left to lose.
Author's Note: Don't mind me. This is just my attempt to sort out my Remus/Tonks issues. Hurrah! And this finally gave me the excuse to try out the reverse-storytelling tactic, which I've wanted to do for awhile.
Remus Lupin opens his eyes.
He is in a familiar, comfortably cluttered kitchen. It is nighttime, he observes in the window above the sink; the dim reflection of his own face informs him that he is younger now, perhaps twenty-two. Beyond his face, he can see the night sky. The stars glint happily; for the first time, the full moon seems docile, kind. He feels pleasantly groggy, like he's just woken up from a long, long sleep.
"Hiya, Moony," comes a whisper in his ear. The words sound like laughter.
He turns, and there is Sirius, effortlessly handsome and grinning, the way Remus tried to always remember him. He had known very well that Sirius wouldn't want to be recalled as he was after Azkaban, sullen and wasting.
Now, Remus realizes, he is Sirius again, without any of the shadows. More than anything else, understanding this feels like coming home.
"I've died, then?" Remus asks. The idea is a welcome one.
"Yup," Sirius confirms pleasantly. Mischievous, he adds, "Took you long enough."
He sinks with easy grace down into the chair next to Remus's.
Remus glances around, taking in details he'd already memorized long ago. "I never thought I'd come back here."
He recalls moving in at nineteen, unloading his own books onto hastily cleared shelves, unnerved somehow by his own happiness. 'Are you sure?' he remembers asking, again and again, before being stubbornly kissed into silence.
Sirius is remembering too. For some reason, he can tell the moment their eyes meet.
"What have you been doing?" Remus asks.
"Waiting, mostly." Sirius sounds untroubled as he says it.
Me too, Remus wants to say, but finds he doesn't need to. Sirius understands. Instead, he asks, "What are you going to do now?"
Sirius shrugs. Remus thinks he's never seen him so at peace. "We'll see, won't we?"
He thinks, fleetingly, of the things he's left behind – Teddy – Dora – a battle yet to be won or lost. For the first time, there is no sudden surge of panic, no sense that he is being smothered by his own mistakes. He finds they do not plague him here, consuming him, feeling like crimes committed in moments of weakness.
Now, he finds, he cannot worry. He is done. They'll find their way without him. That much is simple and inevitable. That much he knows.
Sirius is watching him. His eyes are sharp and young and bright.
"We'll see," Remus agrees, and smiles.
He will lose – he feels it in his bones, he knows with utter certainty, and yet the fight drags on. Dolohov is relentless, vicious, and there is no missing the thirst for triumph in his eyes. Remus tries to remind himself of the things he has to live for: Teddy, tiny and perfect and fragile, infinitely more terrifying than this moment; his wife, who he thinks lately he could come to love in time. Absurdly, he can't stop thinking of the sound of James's voice, the way Lily's hair caught sunlight; and Sirius, laughing. He feels closer to them than he has in seventeen years. Perhaps this is how he knows.
He hears his name and turns to see Tonks speeding toward him, undaunted. She shoots a curse at a Death Eater in her path and doesn't pause to watch him fall.
"Dora!" he shouts; she freezes. "Go! Please!"
She opens her mouth to reply, but he doesn't hear her. The words are lost in a flash of green.
"I'm coming with you," Tonks declares abruptly, following him from the sitting room of her mother's house.
He turns, impatient; there is no time, and it's in moments like these when her youth becomes so glaringly, maddeningly apparent.
"Stay," he orders, or maybe pleads, and places his hands on her slim shoulders.
She shakes her head. "It's not right. This is my fight just as much as yours, and I'm not letting you go alone."
"Voldemort tore apart my life," he tells her, low, fighting for composure. "All of the people I'd ever cared about were ripped from me because of him. You cannot understand how that feels."
"My father's dead," she snaps. "Or maybe you'd forgotten that."
"This is something I need to do without you," he answers sharply, without pausing to think. There is a terrible relief in it; telling her the truth, without consideration or mercy.
She sways slightly, but her gaze doesn't waver. "No."
"Stay with Teddy," he implores, and knows at once that this is the only thing that has the power to stop her now. "He needs you."
He does not say more than I do, but he's sure she'll hear it in his voice. She doesn't, though – just nods, once, and turns away without saying anything else – and he finds that even now, he cannot decide whether her blindness is a curse or a blessing.
Teddy makes things harder and easier all at once.
"Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?" Tonks breathes, exhausted and luminous, her fingers tracing the lines of the baby's tiny, perfect face.
"No," he answers, and savors it, the relief that comes with being entirely truthful to her. He presses a kiss into her hair, and for once, this seems right.
Saying "I do" is easier than he had anticipated; it is an unremarkable, necessary thing, just like every other lie he's told her.
It isn't until afterwards that he realizes the gravity of his mistake. Her mother is civil but eyes him with unmistakable distaste; he accidentally overhears her muttering to Tonks, quiet and fretful, "a man like that," and he recalls Sirius speaking of Andromeda, his favourite cousin; one of the only decent ones in the whole lot. Her husband is Muggleborn and still her smile cannot reach her eyes when she watches him (a werewolf, a halfbreed, an outcast) with her daughter.
"They don't understand," Tonks insists, her determined fingers twining with his. He knows all at once that there is no honor in this.
The decision to leave comes to him swiftly in the middle of the night as he lies awake, restless and unconsciously counting her breaths. Recklessness isn't something that comes naturally to him; he has always been the one who follows. This time, the choice is his. He goes over it in his head, realizes with a sharp sickening thrill just how much sense it makes not to stay. He owes it to the friends he's lost to help Harry now, after all; he would be a lesser man if he abandoned him. He tries to tell himself that this is what Sirius would have done.
She tells him over coffee one morning, not meeting his eyes; it twists his stomach, and he thinks for a second that she's joking. She's a little like Sirius in that way; a penchant for untimely humour. But she doesn't smile, just looks at him, hopeful and scared and God, so young.
He does not allow himself to think that this is punishment for knowing this was wrong and doing it anyhow; does not allow himself to realize that this binds him to her now; does not contemplate what it will mean for this child, to have a father like him.
A second too late, he forces himself to smile. She bursts into tears and throws her arms around him, mumbling against his shoulder that she was scared he wouldn't want it. "Of course I do," he says again and again, and he's glad that she can't see his face. The words taste hollow, like lines.
Ultimately, he's the one who suggests that they marry. It's the honorable thing to do, after all.
The truth, simple and cruel as it may be, is that he grows tired of saying no.
Dumbledore's death seems to shroud everything; there is no point, he thinks, in hoping much. Some things cannot be made right again. They will lose this war.
"Well?" Tonks asks that night. "I'm not giving up on you."
He sighs. "Tonks – Nymphadora—"
"Don't call me that," she orders automatically, and there is a flicker of recognition, a trace of the woman he'd befriended the year before. He has learned very well how to be alone in his life, but it has been agony this past year, and it shows no sign of getting easier this time. There is a weak, lonesome part of him that almost wishes Sirius had never come back at all.
The fact remains that she is miserable and he is empty and there is nothing left to lose. He thinks this and he kisses her.
The day before he leaves to go underground, she pulls him aside. Her hair is a dull brown; it hangs, lifeless, past her shoulders. "There's something I need to tell you."
He listens because he knows it will eat her alive if he doesn't, because she deserves the freedom of having confessed before he goes off to meet what might be death.
"I can't," is all he can offer in reply. She blinks back tears and nods, and as he walks away, he thinks, foolishly, well, that's the end of that.
"You loved him," Tonks says in a whisper, by melancholy firelight, and although it could mean so many things – for they were best friends, after all; brothers, in a fashion; a valued camaraderie, an unbreakable bond in and of itself – he knows all at once that she has stumbled upon the truth.
Denying it seems meaningless.
"Yes," Remus answers hoarsely.
This is the only time they speak of him.
He is fond of Tonks, her vivacity and her wit and, maybe most of all, her innocence; it seems remarkable, that in these dark times she remains young enough and sweet enough not to let it touch her. They get along well; he grows pleasantly used to her company right away. She makes him laugh, with her cheerful sarcasm and her religious devotion to The Weird Sisters, and laughter is a welcome distraction as the world is crumbling.
"She likes you," Sirius tells him one morning over breakfast, and Remus tries his best to think the idea is ridiculous.
At Christmas, he finds himself standing beneath some mistletoe with her; he leans down to kiss her cheek, in accordance with tradition, and she turns. He accidentally catches the corner of her mouth. He pulls back quickly, and the way she looks at him makes it clear that there's not much use denying anymore.
"Told you," Sirius says later, smug and maybe a little irritated (it's hard to tell these days).
"Worried?" Remus answers, as lightly as he can.
The corner of Sirius's mouth twists in a smile. "Should I be?"