Disclaimer – JK Rowling owns Harry Potter, Brian McFadden owns the song 'Pull Myself Away', which partially inspired this fiction (hence the chapter title, it always reminds me of Remus/Tonks). I own nothing.
An – This was originally a series of drabbles, which eventually evolved into this...Italics are flashbacks. Let me know what you think.
"Nor doth this world lack worlds of company, for you in my respect are all the world; then how can it be said I am alone, when all the world is here to look on me?"
A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare.
Remus spun around when he heard it, his heart lurching with sickening fear, he knew that voice –
'Dora – no, go back!' He shouted desperately, terrified for her, but she ignored him and her wand sliced through the air with lethal accuracy, jets of bright light cascading down on the Death Eaters he was fighting, his urgent warnings just noise in the chaos he was surrounded by; her face was hard and sharp with determination and anger, it betrayed nothing of the fear his own must have as he fought erratically towards her, shouting all the while, 'Dora! Dora!' She turned for a second, her eyes flashing dangerously, 'Go back; go back! Get out of here!'
She wouldn't listen, and he was forced to spin around and fight another masked Death Eater shooting curses at him, such pure terror coursing through his veins he could hardly think, not just for Dora, but for everyone; Harry, the Order, the Weasley children...they were all here, everyone fighting – how many would make it to the end? And Teddy – what about Teddy?
The air crackled with the power of the blazing spells sent ripping through it, the light burning his eyes – they were outnumbered, far outnumbered, and he couldn't send for reinforcements, he didn't have a chance to stop for a second, to even think – and who would come? They were all in the same situation...but he had never known panic like he had when he saw Dora – she couldn't be here, in this – she was only here for him, and if she...it would be his fault – no –
Everything slowed, the deafening noise dulled as he turned; he might have screamed, he didn't know, as he saw her fall...
'Lupin, Remus.' Calls Professor McGonagall, and Remus hurries nervously up to the three legged stool, sitting on it with the ragged hat over his eyes and praying...
He doesn't care which House he ends up in, as long he gets sorted...he knows he's lucky to be here in the first place and finds himself begging for the hat to just pick a House, any House...it takes a long time to make its decision, musing aloud in his ear as his hands grow sweaty where they grip the wooden stool beneath him. Then, after an eternity...
'...GRYFFINDOR!' It shouts for the whole hall to hear, and Remus is dizzy with relief, taking off the hat with shaking hands and stumbling over to the Gryffindor table, slipping onto the bench beside a dark haired boy whose own sorting caused something of a stir amongst the older students – Sirius Black.
Remus waits, shaking with fear and excitement, hardly daring to believe he's here, for the others to be sorted; 'Macdonald, Mary' makes it into Gryffindor, as does 'Mckinnon, Marlene'...a Slytherin...a Hufflepuff... 'Pettigrew, Peter' takes even longer than Remus to be sorted, eventually into Gryffindor.
A black haired boy with glasses is put in Gryffindor as soon as the hat touches his head, and, grinning, high-fives Sirius Black before taking his seat on the other side of Remus, flashing a smile at a girl with bright green eyes opposite them...
Remus scribbles out a mistake on his essay and yawns; not for the first time, he's the last one in the Common Room, everyone else has gone to bed, but, stiff and tired though he is, he's still behind from staying in the hospital wing after the last full moon...he needs to catch up, if only can keep his eyes open for long enough to finish his homework...
He starts and looks up when the portrait hole opens and a few seconds later James, Sirius and Peter emerge from beneath the silvery invisibility cloak, looking unusually sombre.
'What's wrong?' He asks, 'where've you been?'
'The library,' James replies shortly, which is unusual in and of itself; more unusual is the fact that Sirius is carrying a heavy book; accidentally or on purpose, Remus doesn't know, he is hiding the title.
'This late?' They ignore his question and Remus' insides squirm unpleasantly; they can't...they can't have...can they? They don't know – they haven't – no – please...
'Are you ok?' Asks Peter; Remus has a horrible feeling they have planned this, but he won't help them get there if they do know; he can't face the rejection...what can he tell them? He's run out of excuses; he's so tired of hiding...
'I – I'm fine.' Remus tells him, his voice somewhat higher than usual, unconsciously backing up in his chair and folding his arms, shaking.
'Nothing you want to tell us?' James sits down opposite him and his face is deadly serious. It terrifies Remus.
'No.' He says, a little too quickly, burning panic coursing through his veins as his heart pumps double speed; he wants to run, he wants to tell them, he wants to lie – he doesn't know what he wants to do, he just doesn't want to lose them too...
'Remus.' Sirius looks at him, putting the book on the table for him to see. 'We know.' There's silence for a second; Remus looks at the cover of the book and one word of the title leaps out at him, accusing him...werewolf...he wants to tear it, destroy it, just to stop that one word staring at him...and yet the pain of their rejection isn't as bad as he expected, it's just dull acceptance, he knew this would happen eventually...he feels the lump in his throat growing; just for a while, he'd had friends, for a while, he had belonged...why couldn't it have lasted just a little longer?
Then he hears James' voice, and it doesn't sound angry, or accusatory, or even fearful. It sounds almost confused, hurt, and hope bursts into his chest despite himself, despite the fact that he knows it can't be true...
'Why didn't you tell us?'
'I – what?'
'We wouldn't have abandoned you, you know.'
'You – you wouldn't?'
'Of course not.' They reply in unison, each face set with rigid determination.
'It's dangerous.' Says Remus,
'We know,' James tells him, in a voice that sounds almost bored of repeating itself.
'We know that, too.'
'I could attack one of you – I could – '
'Relax, Moony, we know you wouldn't hurt us.' Sirius tries to smiles encouragingly but even he looks a little nervous; justly so, Remus knows.
'You don't understand, I'm not me when I transform, I can't control the wolf, I could – '
'We wouldn't let that happen.' Sirius assures him, 'we've got everything planned, ok?'
'We haven't spent the last three years nearly killing ourselves to become animagi to turn our backs on you now. We've agreed on this before; you go down with Madam Pomfrey like always and then we'll follow and transform. You don't get a choice in the matter, it's decided.' James says. Remus looks at the three of them and opens his mouth to argue, but Sirius cuts him off,
'Look, this is happening whether you like it or not, so there's no point trying to convince us not to do it. We're not leaving you alone again.'
Remus doesn't reply; he can't, and when he wakes up the next morning in the Shrieking Shack, he finds to his surprise that he doesn't hurt as much as normal; he isn't littered with self-inflicted bite and scratch marks, he hasn't injured himself anywhere near as badly as usual, and most importantly, three faces are looking back at him, unharmed; he's not alone.
Remus touches the old parchment as if contact with the ink could bring back those it names; Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, the Marauders, as they once were, until one traitor destroyed them, until Sirius Black, whom they trusted, whom they believed would never betray them, had sold James and Lily to Voldemort, had murdered Peter, and left Remus alone. The anger isn't as strong as it used to be; the years have faded it into grief and confusion. How had the boy they had known – had thought they known – turned into what he was now?
As if in a trance he opens the parchment, just to look, just for old time's sake...he longs to go back there, not change it but just to stay in those years, blissfully unaware of what is to come...
He sees three dots; Harry, Ron and Hermione, traipsing across the grounds towards Hagrid's hut and smiles sadly; so like James, to whom rules were made to be broken, and loyalty to his friends was paramount...he scans to rest of the map, resting sometimes to watch a single dot's activities, thinking, remembering...then comes back to Hagrid's hut, where three – no – four dots were now leaving – he freezes and blinks, squinting at the parchment – no, no, he can't – he's seeing things, because he was thinking about them, he can't be...
A fifth dot, labelled Sirius Black, hurtles from nowhere and collides with the others, then drags two off towards the Whomping Willow – Ron and...no...Peter Pettigrew...Peter's alive...
He's had it wrong. He's had it all wrong, all this time...
'Remus, this is Nymphadora Tonks...' He shakes her hand and feels a rush of warmth through his own as her smooth skin touches his and she smiles brightly at him; he can't help but return the gesture...
H e looks up and breathes again; Dumbledore is here, the Death Eaters have no chance to escape now – he easily hooks one who tries to with a spell and their attempts to run are foiled; only one is still fighting – Bellatrix Lestrange.
She's fighting Sirius.
His heart stops when he sees it, his chest tears open and he can't bear the pain of it as Sirius falls back – he can't breathe, he can't see this, it can't be happening – automatically, mechanically, he grabs Harry and holds him back, leaden defeat weighing him down so he can hardly move – Harry's screams are the most terrible thing he has ever heard, not least because he wants so badly to scream himself, to lunge forwards and save the last but one of the Marauders – he barely realises he's speaking but the words taste like ashes in his mouth and he can't bear to say them...
'There's nothing you can do, Harry...nothing...he's gone.'
And Remus is alone. Again.
He is too old, too poor, and too dangerous, to ever be with her. He cannot provide for her, he cannot support her, and worst of all, he cannot protect her from himself. He knows he can't, and he knows that his decision is right even if she can't see it, because he knows his condition better than she ever could, he knows how high the chances are that he could hurt her; the wolf could hurt her. He knows that she would be an outcast, he knows, he knows all the reasons why he can't be with her.
So why can he still feel himself falling for her?
If he knows that it will hurt her, why does he love her? How can he be so selfish to let himself want to be with Tonks? When he looks into her dark eyes and sees her heart shaped face, he feels something he daren't let himself act upon, so he distances himself, he tells Tonks all the things he has to tell himself to remind him that he is too much of a danger to people to allow himself to love.
And so Remus tells her no, he refuses her again and again; she deserves more than he can give her, so much more.
And maybe, just maybe, there is another reason he can't let himself fall even further; a selfish reason. He has already lost so much, how could he stand it if he lost her too? What if she realises what he is, she truly realises the implications of his being a werewolf, and she leaves him? He cannot go through being alone again, because the one and only time he let himself believe he wasn't, he didn't have to be, it hadn't lasted. James, Sirius...Peter. Two of his fellow Marauders are dead. The third is the reason for it; the third is a traitor. Now Dumbledore, too, has been killed. And he is alone. So why should that change? How can he dare hope that it ever will?
'You see!' Tonks says, and he turns to see her glaring at him. 'She still wants to marry him, even though he's been bitten! She doesn't care!' But he can't, he can't, he can't...
'It's different,' he replies, tense and unmoving. She doesn't understand. How can he make her understand? How can he make her let him go? 'Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely – '
'But I don't care either, I don't care!' She grabs the front of his robes and shakes them, and he can't stop her, he can't even look at her. He doesn't want to see the pain in her eyes and feel the guilt resurface, but more than anything, he doesn't want to risk letting go of reason, because her eyes will make him do just that. So he focuses on the floor. 'I've told you a million times...'
'And I've told you a million times that I am too old for you, too poor...too dangerous...' And now the others are watching too, and Molly Weasley has that mothering look in her eyes again.
'I've said all along you're taking a ridiculous line on this, Remus,' she says. He will not meet her eyes either.
'I am not being ridiculous, Tonks deserves somebody young and whole.'
'But she wants you.' Even Arthur is involved now; Remus feels the old teenage recklessness creeping back, he hears a voice in his head telling him to simply forget his misgivings and let himself be happy. The voice sounds like a cross between Sirius and James, it has their confidence, their arrogance, their loyalty and honesty; their reassuring familiarity. He finds it even harder to ignore now, but he can't, he can't...
Why not? Asks the voice. Arthur interrupts before he can think of an argument. 'And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.'
'This is...not the moment to discuss it,' he says awkwardly, 'Dumbledore is dead...' yet another person gone...the grief is like a weight on his already overburdened heart but it is almost unreal, almost not there, because how can Dumbledore be dead?
'Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think there was a little more love in the world,' puts in Professor McGonagall. They are all watching him, and he is almost glad when Hagrid comes in with the news that he has moved Dumbledore's body; it gives a distraction, however unpleasant, however unwelcome, it means they have stopped waiting for him to do something. But Tonks is still watching him, he can feel her eyes and he hates that, right now, he is not focused on the tragedy of the Headmaster's death, but the normally pink haired witch behind him...who loves him...loves him...
It is quiet now. The students are in bed, the castle is silent. The staff are either patrolling the corridors or in their own quarters. Remus is by the lake. He watches the Whomping Willow sway in slightly, benign for now in the darkness of the grounds where there is no one to disturb it. He bites back the memories of his friends, of his own time at Hogwarts, because it is too painful to think about.
Because it makes him wish he were with them now, wherever they are.
He hardly notices the tear that runs down his cheek, but some part of him registers how very ineffective tears are; how can mere droplets of water express the agony that he feels? How are they enough to say how much he misses all those he has lost?
He cannot even think of the words, because the simplest are the ones which describe it best and yet they couldn't ever do his friends justice. It just hurts. That's all there is to say, all he can say, and it is never enough. It hurts to think of them, to remember them only to realise that he can't ever make any new memories to join the ones his mind is playing to him, taunting him with.
He feels a hand slip into his and starts, looking around. He opens his mouth to speak, but she beats him to it.
'I really, really don't care.' Tonks says,
'You would if you understood properly,' he replies, but he doesn't fail to notice – and neither does she – that her hand is still resting in his.
'I understand perfectly, Remus.'
'You don't, you can't – I'm not – '
'What? What aren't you, Remus? Aren't you good enough to deserve this? Is that what you think? Don't you deserve to be happy? Don't you think you should let yourself – '
'I am not right for you, no, Tonks – you deserve someone better than me, richer, younger... someone whole...someone who is not a werewolf, who is not dangerous to you.' She is the one who moves her hand, and spins him so he is facing her properly, bristling with frustration,
'You're still human, Remus! You aren't – you don't – I told you, I don't care!' She refrains from telling him that she couldn't possibly deserve anyone better than him because she knows it is a cliché, but she also knows it's true. And she doesn't intend on giving up until he sees it.
'Tonks – ' He tries again, but she cuts him short,
'I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear you telling me that you don't think you deserve as much as other people do. I don't care.' He turns back to the lake, trying to push away the reckless Marauder voice in his mind. He loves her...he can't do this because he loves her... 'Remus...' she is quiet again, and he feels her put her hand back in his, 'please listen to me...' she rests her head on his shoulder and looks out at the lake too, desperate for him to see sense.
He doesn't speak. He doesn't think he can. He just leans ever so slightly sideways and rests his head on hers, closing his eyes as another tear leaks out.
Pink. That's what Remus sees in his dream; just vague shapes, tinged with pink, as he floats past them in nothingness. He likes it here. It's safe, oddly familiar; comfortable. He smiles. Here, nothing hurts. More importantly, here, the wolf cannot hurt anyone.
But all too soon his eyelids are flickering open against his will, and the real world is taking shape around him. For a moment, he thinks he is still asleep; he sees pink. It tickles his nose.
Then Tonks turns over, and her dark eyes rest on his face blearily,
'You were watching me sleep.' She says in an almost accusatory tone, but she is smiling.
'Only for a few seconds,' He replies. Even awake, the presence of the pink comforts him; Tonks's presence comforts him. It was her who got him through Dumbledore's funeral, her who held him together afterwards, when the fear and crushing realisation threatened to break him down, her who is still even now the reason he can smile when outside there is a war going on. He doesn't realise it, but she feels the same.
For a few moments, there's silence. Remus rolls back over and stares at the ceiling, deep in thought. He wishes he could just stop thinking; that's when the doubts start, when the fear starts eating at him again and he sees his school-friend's faces swimming before him, taunting him with the memories of a time when, for a short while, he didn't have to worry, when he was a teenager and all that mattered was that moment; what did it matter if he felt guilty later, what did it matter the rules he had broken? Now...now he can't look at her without thinking that what if...what if next full moon, something goes wrong? What if he hurts her? What if she realises what he is, truly, and left...?
'Don't do that.' She says, her voice sharp as it jerks him cruelly back to the present,
'Torture yourself over maybe's. I know perfectly well what you are, and more importantly, who you are, and I'm still here.'
'That's the problem; you don't understand, you couldn't, if you did...'
'Remus. Look at me.' Slowly, he turns his head towards her, and is shocked by how serious her face is. 'I do understand. I know everything I need to know; why can't you accept that?'
'Because...' he trails off. He knows he is running out of excuses, and a part of him just wants to give in and let himself act without planning, for once, act on sheer impulse, to do something just because he wants to, but that part has been held in check for years now, he's not about to let it loose so easily. It's dangerous...everything is always so dangerous, he's tired of worrying, tired of everything that comes with being a werewolf...
'Look.' She says, propping herself up on her elbow, 'I'm staying whether you like it or not, so you might as well get used to me.' She smiles, and something in Remus' throat closes. He's not used to this serious side of her, but he feels himself wanting to agree, and even now he can't help but notice how beautiful her smile is...
'Thank you,' he says eventually, putting a hand to her cheek, something like fear or excitement exploding in his chest as a though occurs to him – but he can't – it's stupid; this is bad enough, to do what he's thinking...it would be absolute madness...he can't do that to her, he can't...but...why can't he?
You know why not.
But nothing, it's a stupid idea, ridiculous, insane...how can you even think of doing that?
Because I love her, he argues with himself, because I want to...
That's precisely why this is such a bad idea, you know what you would be doing, what you already are doing, you know it...
But the excitement is building, clawing its way out of his chest and up his throat...
'What's wrong?' She asks, frowning. He knows his confusion must show on his face, and before he can stop himself the thought has burst from his mouth in the form of three words.
'Dora,' he says, 'marry me.'
Her smile has never looked so beautiful.
It is the single most terrifying moment of his entire life, and yet at the same time it is the most wonderful.
He knows that people always say that. He knows what James was like when Harry born – what he and Sirius were like. But this is like nothing he could have imagined, nothing he could have dreamed; a silly grin plays on his face even though there is a war going on, even though the fear is still nestled firmly in his mind, because for something so small and so delicate, nothing else matters in the world but their baby, who grips his finger reflexively while Dora smiles in her unerringly confident way, as if she had always known it would be alright.
Teddy Lupin. His son.
It will be alright.
He was numb as he watched her and the world seemed to slow down for the few seconds it took for her to fall – no – no – Dora...he couldn't take it in, couldn't breathe, couldn't think anything but her name – no – she couldn't be – she couldn't –
The Death Eaters far outnumbered him even as he fought mechanically through the fog that seemed to have descended on his brain, the sheer disbelief, he couldn't register what had happened, could hardly move for the pain of it...
Another flash of brilliant green; headed for him.
He was going to see them again...he was going to see her again...
As he fell, his last thought wasn't of fear. It was of her; his world.
An – Well...ok. Longer than I was planning – nine pages...the flashbacks got a bit carried away. What did you think?