Title: Only the Cause and End of Movement
Fandom: Harry Potter
Format & Word Count: Fic, 2,300 words
Warning: Various Deathly Hallows spoilers regarding Remus and Tonks' relationship. Also, angst and fluff, heavy on the former.
Summary: Remus comes home for the last time.
Author's Note: I think the first part of this fic I came up with was Tonks' line about knowing what she was getting into when she married Remus, which I believe may have come to me from reading about and being appalled by Edward and Bella's relationship in the Twilight "saga": the Tonks in my personal canon is a strong young woman who loves Remus deeply without going in blind, but if you're going by canon alone, there's a lot of room to see her as kind of foolish and shallow. So that's where this came from, balancing my love of Remus/Tonks in general and the need for Tonks to say, look, I do have limits.
In more practical and somewhat pedantic matters, I checked the timeline at the HP Lexicon, but I have no idea how long Remus was actually gone--apparently he tried to join the Trio in August and we only found out that he and Tonks were back together when Ron re-joined Harry and Hermione in...wow, late December? I've got it in my head that he was gone for kind of a while, but not that long, and I guess Ron would have found out about them almost as soon as he went back home, except we don't know quite when that was either--only that it took him a long time to get back. For that matter, I guess there's nothing in canon to indicate whether he left left and came back or just tried to leave and stayed with Tonks after all because of what Harry said. So...whatever, really. In my personal canon he leaves and eventually comes back. I also don't know for sure that Remus and Tonks were living with Tonks' parents at that point, so I'm just going to say they were, especially since I imagine she was by then. And yes, of course the title is from Eliot, and of course there is another Eliot quote in there, because I am slightly obsessed with Eliot and so is my Remus. Also, there is a reference in here to something I haven't written yet, where Greyback sets Remus up to bite and turn a young boy, so...that's what that's about.
The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
-"Burnt Norton," T. S. Eliot
Remus Apparates in as close as the Tonkses' wards will let him; he doesn't dare give himself the extra time to screw anything else up or lose what little courage and resolve he's managed to gather. It's still far enough that he can't be seen immediately, and he stands in the chill night air for a long time, just looking at the house, and when he does start to move forward, it's with the sense that his feet belong to someone else: his mind is definitely still frozen there on the walk.
(He doesn't want her to take him back, because that would be too easy. He doesn't want to think about what he'll do if she doesn't, because that might be impossible.)
The door opens before Remus reaches the front steps, which surprises him, although when he thinks about it for a second he isn't sure why: it's not that late yet, and even the Apparition point is in full view of the Tonkses' front window. He almost stops again anyway; doesn't, reaches the door, finds Ted and Andromeda both waiting for him.
"Is Dora…" Remus swallows hard and finds he has no idea what to say. "Can I…speak to Dora? Please?"
Ted doesn't say anything and neither does Andromeda, although her expression—when Remus musters up the courage to meet either of their eyes, out of self-loathing for his own cowardice or a desire to punish himself by driving the guilt in further—is at least a little less forbidding than his, which surprises Remus more than it probably should; Ted is the Hufflepuff, after all, usually more easygoing and quicker to forgive, but then he also has the intense loyalty of his House and anyway he's a father, staring down the man who hurt his little girl, and if all this internal babbling is supposed to distract Remus from what he'd otherwise be thinking or from his honest-to-God terror at being here, it's not doing a very good job.
It's Ted who steps back and calls upstairs for Dora, though, and with a pang of fresh guilt Remus wonders if she's in bed already—she's pregnant, for God's sake, and she may be one of the strongest women he's ever known, but that's not going to stop her getting sick or just plain tired, and if his running out on her has harmed her or the baby, then…he doesn't know what he'll do. He can't think of anything bad enough.
It isn't his lycanthropy that destroys everything he touches. It's him.
(But that's why he panicked and ran in the first place, why he's run so many times, in fact, and how much good has that ever done anyone? He's only made things a hundred times worse. Again.
He is very, very good at that.)
"Dad?" Dora says, appearing at the top of the stairs, and yes, she's in her nightgown already, hair dark and sticking up a little on one side, which is better than the awful dead brown of last year but not much. She looks worn and exhausted, and that twists the knife deeper and it takes every bit of the heritage of his own House to keep Remus standing on the doorstep when all he wants to do is flee.
("I'm afraid there are some things you cannot run from," Albus told him once, last year, one of the few times they'd been able to meet in person for a report on Greyback's activity. There were things Remus couldn't tell him then—by the time he'd realized Dumbledore would've forgiven what he'd done, it was too late, of course—and he stared at the old wizard with something like panic. But there was no accusation in Dumbledore's eyes, only a deep sadness.
"I'm doing this because you asked me to," Remus said. "I am not…running. I understand my responsibilities. You gave them to me."
"And I am not forcing you to stay," Albus said gently. "Nor did I intend for you to accept your time with Greyback as some sort of penance, or a way to hide from what you believe you do not deserve." Absently he rubbed at a particularly dark blotch on his blackened, shriveled hand.
"I am not hiding," Remus said, his voice very close to a snarl. "Not anymore. All my life I've been hiding from what I am. This is the first time I've been thrown into the truth so I couldn't ignore it, and at least I owe Greyback for making me—see—" But his mouth dried and his words deserted him, and he couldn't finish the sentence, not when he remembered so clearly what Greyback had really made him do.
Albus looked back at him, his gaze calm and steady. "If you are inclined to credit him with removing the scales from your eyes and revealing your humanity as a deception, then I am afraid you are more deceived than ever. But I find it hard to believe you have truly gone so far. I would not have sent you to Greyback if I believed you so vulnerable to his manipulations."
"You might have guessed," Remus said, desperate to hold onto his anger. "You know what Greyback's like, you know what he does—you should have known what he'd want, what I would do—" He stopped, the words he hadn't meant to say hanging stark and heavy in the silence between them. He couldn't explain this, not here, not now, not to Dumbledore. Couldn't say what he needed to say.
The headmaster studied Remus for a long moment. And then he said, very seriously, "There is very little that is truly unforgivable—for you and those who know you, perhaps, even less. Believe me when I say I know something about this."
Remus didn't want to ask how the old wizard had seen enough to respond to what Remus wasn't saying, and he didn't want to know more. If Albus Dumbledore had ever let the monster inside him hurt and nearly kill a child, and pass onto him a curse almost as much a damnation as death—well, then he couldn't know. Not now. If he didn't have one solid person left to believe in—even if right now he only needed someone to blame, to rage against—he would go utterly mad.
But he said, very quietly, "What if…I don't want to be forgiven?"
Dumbledore folded one hand over the other, healthy skin protecting charred flesh. "Then I suspect you need it all the more—and the ones you love you will be yet more willing to give it.")
Remus can't speak—even if he could think of something to say, this isn't his house anymore—and no one else does.
"Mum?" Dora asks, taking a few steps downstairs, confusion and concern sharpening her tone. "Is something—" And then her eyes fasten on Remus and she goes absolutely still, her face expressionless, as if everything inside her has stopped. One hand convulsively grips the railing. She looks at him for a moment without speaking, and he can't bring himself to look back, but he can feel her gaze on him all the same. Then she starts moving again, descending the last few steps as if in a trance; and she grabs his hand—oh God, those achingly familiar fingers in his, he absolutely doesn't deserve even this—and pulls him upstairs.
The door's barely closed before she seizes his coat in both hands and kisses him so hard his teeth hurt. He curls one arm around her shoulders, wants to press her against him until there are no barriers left between them at all, but there is and it's the one he made, and just looking at her is almost more than he can bear.
Dora pulls away finally, just enough to drop her head against his chest, hands still fisted in his coat. Her face is wet, dampening his shirt, and she's tense and shaking, and Remus hesitantly wraps his other arm around her, but it's all he can allow himself: he can't comfort her, not after what he's done, not when he's the one who made her cry. Again.
He wants her to be angry, he realizes, and cringes inside at the selfishness of it. If she were angry it would be easier to bear, because what, he would feel that he had done some small penance, to accept her fury? Could see it as punishment instead of facing what he's done?
He doesn't want to ask for her forgiveness because he doesn't know if he can handle either answer.
Harry had it completely right. He is such a coward.
"I kept telling Mum and Dad you'd come back," Dora says, her voice muffled by tears and the fabric of his coat. "Don't know what they thought, really, and…didn't much care…knew you'd be back eventually. But I kept thinking, too, is this what it's going to be like? Every time life gets too damn hard or there's another crisis, he'll blame himself and decide I'm better off without him, we're better off without him, and he'll run again? And then I'd think, well, I knew that when I married him. That's what I signed up for. Because I'm mental."
"I'm sorry," Remus whispers, and he can barely force the words out, they are so feeble and his throat is so tight. "I'm so sorry…"
Her hands move up to grip his shoulders, and she pulls back enough to look at him. The skin around her eyes is red and puffy, dark with sleeplessness, but her gaze is direct and unflinching. "I love you, Remus John Lupin, and I have since I met you, in a hundred different ways—love you so much I think sometimes it's really going to kill me, but you, and—and this, that's two different things, and I can't—" She squeezes her eyes shut, takes a deep breath, steadies herself. For his part, Remus can't tell if he's breathing at all. Dora drops one hand to cover her belly. "Maybe I can survive that, because I knew and I chose, but I can't put my child through that, wondering if Daddy's coming back this time—"
"No," Remus says, horrified, because he honestly hasn't thought that far—but then, he hadn't thought he'd be coming back, either, just like he hadn't thought he'd listen to her at all, last year.
She seems to read that in his face, because she almost smiles and doesn't quite make it. "I know that's not what you mean to do. You just don't…you don't get it, Remus. I'm better off with you and so is your child. No matter what. I just—I need you here, I want to do this with you, I don't want to do it alone, and…and we're stronger together. Both of us are. That's what you don't get. But I need to know—" She stops, takes another deep breath. "If you're going to leave me again, tell me now and just…go. And don't come back this time."
"No—" he starts to say again, not thinking, abruptly aware of nothing but his own need for her, but she raises one hand, shaking her head, fingers stopping just short of his lips.
"I need you to make your choice and mean it, Remus, really mean it. I need your word that you won't leave again."
He can feel it, inside: a small cowardly part of him panics, seeing the closing-off of his one way of escape. He buries it in a rush of shame and self-disgust, realizing something he hasn't understood until now, that he has always behaved as if he needs this escape, always left himself a way out if the inevitable happened and things began to fall apart and it was, one way or another, his fault—because it hurts less to leave than it does to be the one left behind.
And she's right, of course, as she usually is. But when he opens his mouth he has no idea what he's going to say, and realizes she does, because the glimmer of steady hope in her eyes is starting to die as she waits, and that alone nearly undoes him.
"I can't," is what he wants to say, what she expects to hear, "I'll hurt you again," and maybe it's true, but she's been through way too much for him to hurt her yet again, now, with his belief in his own shortcomings. This, right here, is what he really can't do.
He might not deserve her forgiveness, but she does.
The awful daring of a moment's surrender… Remus swallows down half a dozen stale, painful old arguments and for a moment he thinks he'll choke on them; but then he manages to speak, and he says "Yes," and he can't say anything more, but it feels like a sacred vow all the same.
Her answering smile is real this time, all the more beautiful for the tears still shining in her eyes, radiant enough to burn away the last of his doubts. In this moment, at least, it's all he needs. He pulls her against himself, her arms come up to wrap around his neck, fingers twining in his hair, and he finds himself whispering, over and over, "I love you, I'm so sorry, I love you…"
"Shut up," she says, still grinning, and follows up by silencing him very effectively with her mouth. All the doubting, fearful, guilty voices in his head go silent, and as he gives himself over to the kiss, everything else melts away until nothing matters in the world but her.