Disclaimer: Not mine.
A Split Second's Realization
"She'll kill you," Sirius grinned. "I'm telling you Moony, you give her those things and she'll hex your nads right off."
Remus Lupin looked down at the potted flowers he carried and frowned. Girls liked flowers. Girls liked getting flowers. Tonks was a girl. Therefore, she would like to get flowers.
"Just trust me. Narcissus is not the plant for Tonks."
"They're daffodils. She likes yellow."
"Right, give her poisonous bulbs with a name reminiscent of her mother's sister. Nice choice."
"Daffodils does not sound like Narcissa."
"No, I was being polite. She will think you are calling her daffy."
"It is all they had left … this and …the florist said they meant Regards."
"That too, Regards is something you give to the boss' wife. No Remus, dump the flowers." Sirius pulled his wand out and reduced the flowers to ash. "Better to take her a box of chocolates instead."
"I tried that last time," Remus frowned. "She left them on a chair in the sitting room and…I paid for the dry cleaning but Andromeda looked at me as if I did it on purpose."
"Have you tried going out with her and not taking gifts?"
"Have you ever seen the looks her mother gives me? I feel like a child molester every time I knock on the door."
"Right, better to look like you are paying for it." Sirius stepped back and looked at him head to toe and then from toe to head. "You do sort of remind me of one. It's that baggy- trouser hangdog unfed look. Got anything that fits?"
"We are just stopping at the Hogs Head for a drink." Remus looked down at his clothes, and then shoved his hands in his pockets.
"That's the look you have to avoid. Andromeda must wonder what you're doing with your hands tucked away all the time."
Remus pulled his hands from his pockets as a blush crept up this neck.
"I have done this before you know. It's not like I have never dated."
"With someone this decade?"
Remus sat heavily at the kitchen table, resting his forearms on the table and leaning forward to moan into his hands. Sirius saw the defeated posture and felt sympathy for his old friend.
"Just not someone in her decade," Remus said as he watched Sirius take the chair opposite him. "We have nothing in common. I know none of her friends, bloody hell, she is an Auror. If her co-workers found out about me she could lose her job. You are the only one that knows I even see her."
"She should you know, lose the job I mean. Times are getting bad Remus, she should be taken out of it a while, you know, just until the worst is over."
"I've tried to get her to quit. She just screws up her nose and does that chicken cluck. I am worried for her Sirius. She doesn't stop to think, she just rushes in to a duel without a thought that she could be hurt."
"What do you plan on doing about it?" Sirius leaned back in his chair, stretched his arms up and clasped his hands behind his head as he grinned at Remus.
Remus looked at him from under his brows and scowled. "Nothing much I can do, now is there? Dumbledore won't tell her to stay out of it. If she loses her job she will just be in it thicker with the Order."
"No, she is too young to stand up to him and too stubborn to say no."
"I was going to say you could do something."
"Stay out of it Sirius," he snarled as he stood up quick enough to push the chair over and strode to the back door.
"Will you two be coming back here then? You're welcome to stay here you know."
Remus turned angrily and glared at him. "Let it go."
"Hey," Sirius raised both hands palms out as if in surrender. "Promise, I'll be in my room."
"I can't do that to her. I can't lead her on and let her think there will be something more, some sort of happy ending to this. I won't have a happy ending."
"None of us will my friend. Just don't be alone when it comes."
Remus slammed both hands against the door to push it open. He stood in the yard and closed his eyes, concentrating on breathing evenly and trying to put Sirius' suggestion of bringing her back for the night from his mind. As if it could be so simple. Nothing about her was simple.
Instead of collecting her, he spent the night walking, knowing she would be waiting. Finally, he found himself in the woods behind Hogsmeade. Stopping at the clearing that surrounded the shrieking shack and leaning on the fence he could still hear their voices from so long ago.
"Moony, come on," James laughed. "What's the matter? Need four legs to keep up?"
"Look who's talking," Peter walked alongside Remus, nudging him in the ribs with his elbow. "Bet if that Evans bird wasn't ahead of us he wouldn't be in such a hurry. Anyway Prongs, I hear she likes shorter wizards."
"You wish Wormtail," James smirked. "Padfoot and I are going to see if we can get served in the Hogs Head."
"Yeah, you're too short to reach the bar and Moony there may start itching those fleas," Sirius sniggered and punched Remus in the arm. "Told you to get a collar."
The four laughed and continued to tease each other until Remus shook his head and came back to the present reluctantly. The jokes had hurt even then, but these were his friends, his family. He knew they were joking, he knew what they said was meant to make him feel accepted, but Tonks would hear more than jokes from friends. She would hear the none too gentle jokes and be included in the none to kind innuendoes. She would not hear the laughing jokes of young boys out for a day of fun. She would hear the ugliness that he knew so well.
It was well after midnight when he found himself walking up to her house, and saw the soft yellow glow of firelight in the kitchen window. He knew she would be up waiting still, not able to believe he had stood her up. Part of him loved that in her, the complete acceptance and never asking for more than he had to give, and part hated that she could think so little of herself as to allow it.
"We still have time to catch a drink if you still want to go," she looked up from the step she was sitting on at the back door.
"We need to talk." He flopped down next to her.
"No, we've talked enough."
"Dora, this isn't working."
"I will buy you a new watch," she snorted a laugh. "Seems to me that is all you need."
"You know what I mean."
"No I don't. I only know what you say Remus, you hide what you mean."
"We've been through this before."
"Right," she muttered then screwed up her face and turned her hair back to its natural brown that Remus preferred, letting her eyes darken, her face soften and become rounded, and her lips become fuller. "You want the real me?"
He chuckled and traced her jaw line with the pad of his thumb. "Why do you do this? Hide your face when I like it so much more?"
"Why do you do this?" she quirked. "Hide your feelings."
She turned away from him and drew up her legs, wrapped her arms around them and laid her chin on her knees.
"You say I am too young when what you mean is that you are afraid of having a good time and letting go of who you think you should be. You say you're poor, but without you I will have the same amount I have now so what you mean is you'll feel odd living on my salary."
"A man should support his wife."
"Who said I had to marry you?" She turned her head to look at him. "I'll take what I can get. I won't ask for more than you can give."
"I won't do that Dora, you know that."
"You say that you may hurt me, but what you're saying is that I may hurt you because you couldn't hurt me anymore than you're doing right now."
"You couldn't hurt me Dora," he said softly.
"I want to Remus. I want to say something so hateful and mean that it will wake you up and force you to talk to me. I want you to just once get so angry that you forget who you think you are and let me see the real you. I want you to change your face for me Remus."
"You wouldn't like it."
"I'm not talking about what that monster did to you, I don't care about that. That's not who you are."
"But it is Dora, trust me…it is who I am."
"Only a part, a small part. Where is the man that learned to control it? Where is the man that learned to live with it? To have a normal life? To fight against the arses that said you couldn't do it? Where is the man that took everything they threw at him and still turned into the man that I love? That is whom I want. That is whom I see every time I look at you! You want me to see a defeated man that can't ever be anything more. You can be so much more. Just let me love you. Just let me be me, and if you don't love me back just tell me so."
He grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her to him, hard and rough, crushing his mouth over hers. One arm slid down to her waist, holding her tight, unyielding and hard while the other found the hem of her shirt and snaked inside to feel the skin that covered her back like raw silk.
He felt her stiffen and begin to struggle against him then relax as her arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him down. Then he tasted the salt of her tears. Just as suddenly as he had grabbed her, he now pushed her away, letting her fall to the ground as he stood up.
"I am not a boy Dora. I am not the kind boyfriend you need. Find someone else."
"I don't want someone else."
"It ends tonight." He tried to calm his breathing as he clenched his fists and fought not to grab her again.
The door opened behind them showing Andromeda clutching a robe tightly around her body. She pressed her lips together, seeing Nymphadora on the ground, and turned to glare at Remus.
"I am sure there is a reason my daughter is on the ground in tears. Just consider yourself lucky to be leaving. Dumbledore wants you to meet him at the Ministry. It appears that Potter kid took a bunch of others to save Sirius. Dumbledore said to tell you He Who Must Not Be Named set up a ruse to get him there."
Remus frowned, then looking to where Nymphadora was struggling to her feet, and turned back to Andromeda.
"Keep her here," he said gruffly.
He turned and began to run, turning mid-stride and landing in the Ministry's lobby just before the others. He saw Sirius and Moody arrive and then turned to the sound of yet another apparation to see Tonks land flat on the floor. He angrily reached down his hand to help her up only to have her push him away.
"You should have stayed back," he hissed.
"Knock it off Moony," Sirius glared at him. "Get over here. Moody has the co-ordinates. We enter the chamber at the same time."
"How many are there?" Tonks walked up pulling out her wand, not meeting Remus' eyes.
"With Harry, we think six."
"You take as many as you can and leave," Remus spat at her.
"We don't know if she can get to them," Moody said. "All we know is that they are in the chamber. We're going in blind."
Tonks screwed her face up and changed back to the bright colours she always wore. Remus frowned at her and pulled Moody aside.
"She draws attention to herself," he whispered. "She will make …"
"Her choice…" the scarred old Auror grumbled. "Leave it out here, you know what is about to happen. You need to focus."
Remus nodded and once again steeled himself, putting away all thought of the connections he had with the others in this room.
"Okay, come on… let's do it," Sirius grinned as they all spun out together.
Later Remus could not remember exactly what happened. He remembered the darkness, the children held with wands pointed at their throats. Everything moved so fast, so horribly fast but in slow motion as if wanting to stop and redo what was about to happen. He heard the curses, saw the flashes, and was reassured hearing Moody's staff slam into the floor behind him. He saw Sirius focus on Harry, only Harry. Attempting to get to the boy before the perimeter of the room had been cleared. Twice he tried to stop him, twice needing to call him back but at the end could only watch as he duelled with Malfoy, shielding the boy with his body. Knowing he was open for attack from three sides. Knowing he could watch but one.
Then the moment came. The split second error. The error that would take Sirius away. He saw Sirius pause and smile as he looked to Harry, and in that smile lost his concentration and the battle. A split second was all it took for Bellatrix to find her mark. A split second was all it took for Harry to see his godfather slip away and his life change again forever. A split second for Remus to see that he did not die alone but with someone, and for someone that cared. And a split second to wonder who would cry out for him if he sent his Dora away. A split second to know that if he were Sirius and Harry were Dora he could go with the same look as Sirius. Accepting and with no regrets.