Disclaimer: All characters and settings belong to JKR. I just like to play with her ideas.
If he cared, something deep down inside her knew that he'd come looking.
Nymphadora Tonks winced as the springs creaked on the old, careworn lounge. She suspected that it had formerly been quite pleasant, but now all that remained was a patchwork of scratches and gashes that ran through the faded, checkered fabric, revealing mustard yellow foam, cheap wood and dusty, white padding. Willing herself to remain calm, Tonks crossed her legs, for once not bothering about her shoes on furniture. Resting her hands on her knees, she inhaled. The room overwhelmingly musty – it smelt like a secret clearing in the Forbidden Forest, all wet earth and damp leaves and still air. Immersing herself into this strange, lonely place, she closed her eyes to wait.
Tonks had never been an introspective sort, but there was a first time for everything, she supposed, and this place rather leant itself to introspection. She was not used to the quiet. She liked light and colour and noise – one of those unbearable children who could not sit still – and to simply sit and exist, especially here… She did not belong, not at all. But then again, that was defeating the purpose of her presence, anyway. She was not supposed to fit in: this was Remus' place, after all. Remus liked peace and calm and stillness, and by being in his place, Tonks was mildly concerned that she might interrupt him: but then again, that was entirely the purpose of her presence.
Although, there was probably no harm done if she could brighten the place, and Remus himself, a little. As her father had always said, she was Nymphadora Tonks, rainbow and all, the most unusual Black that there ever was.
She had always been colourful and, although a strange concept to most people, the fact that she carried colour with her wherever she went brought her comfort. It certainly hadn't brought others comfort, although it had taken a while to understand that. This understanding had first started at the tender age of five, when her mother had advised her gently that morphing in public wasn't the best of ideas. For a while, she had been left with a little, niggling piece of self-doubt: that maybe she was the one who was all wrong: perhaps her mother had been right, and she was a little too colourful for her own good. But to suppress who she was, to suppress her colours, was simply impossible. Instead, she wore her hair pink and her eyes blue, and when she was home for the holidays, her mother could pretend to the neighbours that she was a Difficult Child and that They Had Tried Everything, with a roll of her eyes, as though a little colour was bad. The neighbours would cluck sympathetically, refrain from complaining about her loud music (what was the use, after all, if she was such a Difficult Child?) and quietly long for the day when she would return to her boarding school in the country.
She had never been able to understand why colour overwhelmed so many people. They wore muted shades and tones, subtle things, as though suppressing the true selves that a little colour might expose. Even Remus – unassuming, practical Remus – did not wear colour. In fact, he often seemed quite overwhelmed by her and her colours, but then again, Sirius had always assured her that it was a good thing. Remus was so used to his comfort zones, his old friend had told her, and that shaking him up every once in a while was good for him. A little colour had never hurt anyone.
Tonks sighed wistfully. She missed her cousin fiercely – his easy laugh, his brotherly affection, his blunt advice, his willingness to treat her as an equal. It helped, she knew, that her mother was his favourite cousin, but Sirius, unlike almost everyone else, had welcomed her into the Order without any questions being asked. She was his relative and Moody's protégé besides: why wouldn't she be good enough? What did it matter, that her hair was pink and that she could change the shape of her nose by simply thinking about it? The Order needed a little bit of flair, after all.
Remus had told her once that he trusted Sirius' judgment above all others. Once upon a time, it would have been Lily, but she and James were long gone now, and Sirius was all he had left.
Ever since Sirius had died… Things hadn't been the same since that night.
Remus had gone quiet again; the joy had left his eyes, and he had stopped laughing… And Tonks had lost her colours.
He'd died, and a part of her (or rather, her self confidence) had been lost with him, and she did not even have Remus to share in her ironic laughter, that the last of the Blacks had stolen her colours.
Tonks shivered suddenly as a gust of wind slipped through a gap in the walls and circled the Shack. The stairway creaked under the weight of invisible steps, and the curtain rustled noiselessly. And somewhere in the back of her mind, she heard Sirius whisper, "Don't fret, little cousin. He'll come around. He just needs a good smack around the head, first. And once you've done that, I'll give your colours back to you. All of them, and better and brighter than before. But only once you've helped him. Don't worry: he'll come.
"I really wish you'd be sensible about this, Remus."
Remus Lupin glanced up, startled, to find Minerva McGonagall take a seat beside him, smiling wearily. She looked exhausted, and lines around her face even more pronounced, and for the first time, Remus saw his old Transfiguration professor and mentor for what she was: ageing and frail, rather than sprightly and strong.
"Are you all right?" he asked quietly, motioning for a house elf to bring an extra cup and saucer. Almost immediately one appeared beside him, and he thanked the elf kindly.
It had been a difficult night. Death Eaters in Hogwarts, a minor battle of sorts, Fenrir Greyback attacking Bill, and then on top of all else… Dumbledore's death had felled a heavy blow to the Order, and one that Remus wasn't quite sure they could withstand. Dumbledore, with his sparkling eyes and colourful robes, had brought light and hope to the Order. He had been their constant throughout years of dangerous missions and mounting casualties, and then even through the eye of the storm he had been a source of comfort and advice. To think of him as finally gone was something so intangible…
Minerva sighed, reaching up to loosen her hair.
"I don't know any more, Remus," she replied quietly. "I never thought… Everything's falling apart, and I can't do a thing."
Remus poured her a cup of tea, adding milk and sugar with his usual attention to detail, and set the saucer down before her. He knew precisely what she meant: the growing sense of helplessness that was creeping into all of their hearts, darkening their hope and dousing their laughter. He thought of the Weasley family and their bedside vigil of Bill, his heart beating with a steady, dull kind of pain. All Remus could feel was a sort of overpowering numbness. He was an onlooker to their grief, a source of comfort perhaps, but at the end of the night, all he could do, and all anyone could do, was wait.
Being a controlled person at heart, Remus didn't enjoy feeling so useless. He would much rather not think about it at all. If Lily were alive, she would tell him he was really just in denial; but Lilysimply wasn't about to burst into the kitchen and offer sage advice, no matter how much Remus longed for it. In her stead, Lily seemed to have sent his old mentor and friend, except that now, Minerva needed Remus' comfort just as much as Remus needed hers'.
"Drink," he advised.
Minerva chuckled weakly and obeyed. "I think I could do with something stronger," she murmured wryly.
Temporarily distracted, Remus looked at her in surprise, wonder etched across his face.
"Never," he whispered, delighted. "Oh, Sirius would've had a field day!"
Minerva eyed him reproachfully. He was right, of course: Sirius Black would have been the picture of delight, to hear those words escape her lips. "Nonsense. I never drink under normal circumstances, Remus Lupin."
Remus shrugged easily, the ghost of a chuckle in his tone. "That's hardly the point. The boys-"
He stopped, suddenly, the thought more painful than he had anticipated, and the smile died on his lips. Minerva patted his hand sympathetically, a sudden surge of affection taking hold of her. She'd always been fond of Remus, and witnessing his growth into adulthood had been one of the more rewarding experiences of her teaching years. Her classes had never been so interesting as they had with Remus and his friends as her students.
Remus smiled again, sadly, as if to brush the thought aside, though the pain in his eyes betrayed his true feelings. He was haunted, day and night, by the memories of laughter and carelessness, as though they formed a lifetime entirely separate to the one he was now living in. His friends had died for an ideal, it seemed, and now that the ideal itself had died… And all he had left was darkness and loneliness.
"What do I need to be sensible about?" he asked, recalling her earlier words. His voice was light, a blatant effort to change the topic. The gentle expression on Minerva's face deepened into a frown.
"Nymphadora. Remus, you're being quite ridiculous. You know that, don't you?"
Remus sighed, running a hand through his sandy hair in a move that reminded Minerva distinctly of James Potter. Her heart ached to see this little mannerism of his subconsciously carried on by his old friend.
The sound of her name had jolted something deep within him, and quite unable to resist, his thoughts had immediately strayed to the vibrant young woman, with her wide, pretty eyes and infectious laugh.
"I'm much too old for her," he responded immediately, chipper tone forced and weary. "I'm dangerous, I'm poor-"
"And you've never met anyone quite like her," Minerva finished, holding his gaze unflinchingly. "Remus, do you remember the way Lily and James looked at each other? Or rather, the way James looked at Lily?"
Remus laughed humourlessly. "As though he couldn't believe his luck?" he offered dryly, the memory of his friend's hopeless affection almost heartbreaking.
Minerva returned his wry smile. "Almost. As though they couldn't believe the other were quite real. They were a rather endearing pair, I must say-"
"So long as James was concentrating in his classes."
Minerva nodded. "Merlin, that boy was a walking distraction. And I think," she added sternly, " that you missed my point."
Remus raised his eyebrows mildly. "Oh, no," he protested, smiling. "The point was taken. I was just trying to avoid it."
"Remus Lupin, when you think no one else is looking, I've seen you look at Nymphadora the same way James looked at Lily, but as soon as anyone pays attention, you clam up again. You've got to stop this nonsense and tell her how you feel."
"Oh, she knows," he murmured quietly, staring into his cup of tea. His ears were bright red with shame as he recalled his quiet, awkward confession, and the way her pleased blush had lit her face with joy. "She knows only too well, and she's known all the long, which is why she won't give up on me. Sirius, the scoundrel, taught her to read me, you see."
Minerva inclined her head. "A difficult feat."
"He's had a lot of practice. Thought she could capitalize on the knowledge."
The smirk on his friend's face lingered in his mind's eye, the image of him teaching his young cousin all she needed to know impossibly comical. It had been hard, at first, to comprehend that they were related: Sirius, as Black as his name, and Nymphadora Tonks, the girl who carried a rainbow….
"But the thing she doesn't understand is that I can't give her what she wants of me."
The pent-up frustration of Remus Lupin suddenly flowed freely, taking Minerva quite by surprise, although it was reasonable, she supposed, that such a controlled person was allowed to lose their head occasionally. She herself, on occasion…
"I'm a werewolf, a creature - this dark, untameable beast, and she's amazing, and we are an impossibility."
"Nothing's impossible," Minerva replied, adopting Remus' own mild tone. "And I'm quite sure Nymphadora has measured her choice, Remus. She's a bright girl and an Auror, and she knows full well about your condition-"
"And she loves me all the same," he finished wearily, thoughts straying back again to the softness of her hair and the subtle, rainbow pigment of her eyes, and the colour that had slowly drained from her, the day that Sirius had died…
"Exactly. The problem is that you're thinking about this too much," Minerva told him gently. "You've always been a worrier, but enough is enough, Remus. You're not about to change her mind, and you're being stupid, sitting here moping about it when you could be…"
Remus listened to her trail off, imagining the possibilities she had left open for him to interpret. He sighed, drained his cup, and stood up.
"I should go and talk to her."
He sounded defeated. Minerva smiled thinly. "A wise decision, I think. I wish you luck."
Remus gave a jerky nod and left the kitchen abruptly.
The air outside was cold now: a wind had risen, and it whistled around the castle walls eerily. The crescent moon cast barely enough light to see by over the castle grounds, but Remus' footsteps were steady as he took the familiar path. It was as though the years had stripped away, and all of a sudden he was a young boy again, anxious and very much alone, sneaking off with Madam Pomfrey to transform for the first time in a strange, lonely place…
He knew where she'd be without even thinking.
"What are you doing in here?"
His voice was strained, weary and yet gentle, and Tonks jumped, eyes snapping open to find Remus leaning in the doorway. She sighed ruefully. So much for constant vigilance… Moody would be appalled with her.
He stood in the doorway, sandy hair streaked with grey, a long, worn cloak swathed around his shoulders and beneath, as always, a crisp, dusty suit.
"I wanted to see," she replied evenly, gazing broadly around the room to take in the boarded up windows, the scratches along the walls, the torn curtains…
He sounded exhausted, and Tonks could not suppress the rising suspicion that he was humouring her, as always. The glint in his steady brown eyes was all at once frustrated, gentle and encouraging, with something else that she couldn't quite read - a look he seemed to reserve especially for her, these days.
"See where it happened," she replied promptly, meeting his eyes steadily. "This place was a part of your life for seven years, Remus. I wanted to see. It's important to you, so it's important to me."
He looked away, down at the floor, at the scrappy rug that lay carelessly before the long-empty hearth. How often he had lain on that rug, wondering what he had done to deserve his life. Now, he almost smiled as a similar thought drifted through his mind, although this time, it was rather what have I done to deserve her? He was too much trouble, he recited wearily. Too much trouble, too dangerous, too old. A creature of the dark, and she was a witch of the light – not to mention an Auror, and that she'd fallen in love with him probably contravened some of their rules, too, come to think of it-
"There's nothing to see."
Tonks stood, expression incredulous, gesturing wildly. He was like a wolf with a bone, she thought wryly, watching him. She could almost hear his thoughts, repeating that tired old mantra, the Reasons Why Remus Lupin Was Not Good Enough, for anything. "Nothing to see? Listen to you, you idiot!"
"You certainly aren't."
"I don't want to! You're being an idiot!" She smiled suddenly, and glancing back to his face, she met his eyes and wiggled her eyebrows teasingly. They were a distressingly mousey brown, and Remus decided in that instant that he missed her colour with a yearning that was not quite normal.
"And you're being impractical," he replied steadily, face struggling to remain impassive although the corner of his lips twitched with the telltale hidden smile.
Tonks grinned. "So?"
Her lips were pink, her eyes sparkled; inside her, somewhere, the colours lay hidden from his view, taunting him.
His eyebrows hovered halfway up his forehead, and he schooled his face to an expression that was distinctly anxious. "You can't afford to be impractical, it isn't safe."
"You can't afford to be an idiot, either."
A smile flickered onto his lips, now, but his eyes darted away toward the floor as though it was all he could do to resist her. Tonks watched him, satisfied, as he licked those reluctantly smiling lips. She felt a quiet thrill at the thought of all this: of the conversation they were having, and of the possibilities it opened, endless and exciting….
"No, I don't suppose I can, can I?"
Tonks crossed her arms, willing him to glance up and meet her eyes. His determination not to look at her had suddenly made her feel inexplicably vulnerable.
"Sometimes, I feel as though I'm not good enough, you know," she confessed quietly. "I'm too loud and clumsy and childish. I know I can be embarrassing but… well… I love being me. And I love you, very much. I think you're worth it, Remus. You're absolutely worth it, and I wouldn't change who you are for the world."
Remus swallowed hard, not only unwilling but also unable to meet her eyes. Tonks seemed to sense this, for she attempted to move forward quietly, feeling the sudden urge to comfort him.
"Nymphadora," he pleaded quietly. Her name on anyone else's lips was offensive: from Remus, the word was magic. "Please, don't. My resolve – what little of it I have left – is wavering dangerously, I'll have you know."
Tonks bit back a smile. "Good," she murmured, moving even closer. "Then perhaps you're coming to your senses at last."
Finally meeting her eyes, he offered a gentle smile, extending a hand to cup her cheek. Uncertainty scarred his youthful face.
"This isn't a fairytale, Dora," he murmured, almost apologetically. "Not really the place or time for happy endings. I can't give you your rainbow. I'm… well, we've been through that. But Minerva is right, I suppose, and you're old enough and beautiful enough to make your own choices." He shook his head ruefully. "I just don't want you to make a mistake."
"No rainbows?" Tonks murmured, amused. She gestured at herself absentmindedly, frowning as she remembered her drab clothes and mouse-brown hair. "Hold on-"
Closing her eyes, Tonks thought pink. The familiar tingling sensation overcame her, and she felt Remus' fingers brush her hair, confirming her success.
Watching her transform had always been a privilege, Remus acknowledged as his hand extended of its own accord to brush her soft, bubble-gum pink fringe. It was strange, in a way that he had never acknowledged before, but they were similar, more similar than he had thought: she too was a creature of constant transformation, after all. She grinned up at him, eyes sparkling, oblivious to his thoughts and, as always, the laughter in her eyes seemed contagious.
"That's better," she told him cheerfully. "Now what were you saying about my rainbow?"
Remus couldn't help but smile. The careworn expression slipped from his face immediately as he relaxed, and Tonks breathed a sigh of relief.
"Much better," he agreed wryly.
Tonks nodded firmly and took his hand. "Absolutely. Anyway – my point is, Remus, that life may not be all rainbows and happy endings – and that would be boring, anyway – but there's nothing wrong with a bit of colour, every now and then."
"And you're absolutely sure? No regrets?"
Tonks stood on her tiptoes and kissed him gently. Remus inhaled sharply, savouring the softness of her lips on his, a myriad of thoughts running through his mind unchecked, the most important of those being, so this is what it feels like to taste a rainbow…
Gentle fingers brushed her hair as they sat together on the old, worn lounge, Tonks tucked under his arm, Remus' head resting on hers.
"I'm glad you're back," she told him quietly. "I don't like miserable, selfless, self-sacrificing Remus, much."
"I'm glad you're back to you too," he confessed, quietly, a smile in his voice. "The lack of colour was scaring me, a bit. You wouldn't be you without the pink."
"I didn't want to be me. I wanted to be… someone else. Someone you'd finally notice."
Remus lifted his head to stare at her, incredulous. "Oh, I noticed."
Tonks chuckled. "That's what Sirius said. He said you'd notice, but you'd be too shy to do anything, so I would have to make the first move, and if you didn't take, I wasn't to give up, because you just needed time to get used to the idea. He said surprises were good for you."
Remus was shaking. For a moment, Tonks was alarmed to think he might be crying: but then suddenly, a small chuckle escaped his lips, and she glanced up to find his face etched with delight, shaking his head ruefully.
"Good old Padfoot, always sticking his snout where it isn't wanted."
"He was just looking after you," Tonks pointed out fairly. "You're his family, and us Blacks stick together. We're a loyal bunch, I'll have you know."
Remus couldn't escape the double irony of that statement, considering all of Sirius' family troubles over the years.
"I still can't believe the two of you are related," he told her dryly, planting a solid kiss on her forehead and savouring the feeling of holding her in his arms. "For a Black, Nymphadora Tonks, you're the most colourful person I know."
Author's Note: This is my second contribution to the collaborative Reviews Lounge project Rainbow Magic . It can be found as Chapter 41.
I hope you all like this – I've been working and revising it for a while, as I have never written Tonks and/or Remus before! As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading,