And another chapter brought to you by me and my amazing beta, WendigoGirl! Bet you didn't expect us to be that fast, did you? ;) But here it is and hopefully, we'll keep that pace!
Also, a big thanks to my dear anon rachel for reviewing so much *u* I can't get back to you otherwise but I've read all of your comments and they really motivated me! (and might or might not have caused me to squeal at my laptop)
As always, read and enjoy!
It felt like hours passed without any of them moving before the door in the hallway was thrown open and heavy footsteps approached the living room. For a second, Tonks was convinced that it was Remus storming into her parents' house to console them. But then she remembered that he was on a mission for the Order and couldn't leave this suddenly, even if he'd heard of her father's death. Keeping that in mind with what little rationality she had left, she wasn't too disappointed when it was Giovanni entering the room instead.
It had been raining outside for the past few hours and her best friend was practically soaked. His cloak and hair dripped water everywhere and if the situation had been different, Andromeda would have scolded him for ruining her carpet. He looked much more disheveled than Tonks had ever seen him before, with enough stubble on his face that it could almost be called a beard and dark circles under his eyes. Their gazes locked and they just looked at each other for a second before Giovanni crossed the room in a few long strides and pulled her into his arms.
At some point since she'd heard the name on the radio, tears had started to run down Tonks' cheeks. She gladly buried her head in her friend's wet shoulder, the cold, scratchy material of his cloak soothing against the hot tears and his arms around her keeping her tied to reality despite the clamminess of the embrace. Her baby bump kept a bit of a distance between them but none of them seemed to mind in that moment. They were both shaking and after a while Tonks noticed the steady drip of warm wetness on her head – Giovanni was crying as well.
It didn't really surprise her. Apart from the fact that he knew how much Ted's death would hurt his best friend, Giovanni himself had been rather close to Ted as well. He and Tonks had spent most of their childhood together and the parents of the respective other were a bit like their own by now. They just stood there, crying together, until they both remembered that they weren't the only ones grieving in the room. With a forced smile, Giovanni loosened his hold on Tonks and turned around to look at Andromeda.
She was standing in the exact same spot she had been in when the news had registered. The shards of the broken mug and the puddles of tea were still scattered at her feet, her hands shaking and her expression blank except for the steady stream of tears running down her cheeks. She seemed to stare at nothing and the pain her mother would be feeling once the shock wore off hit Tonks hard and added to her own misery. She tightened her grip on Giovanni, closing her eyes and trying to forget any of this was happening.
It didn't last long. Reality caught up with her again when she was pulled to the couch and gently pushed into the soft cushions. Tonks' eyes opened on their own and she watched as her friend slipped out of his still dripping cloak, abandoning it on the floor and walking over to her mother. He gently touched her shoulder, careful as to not startle her in the state she was in. Andromeda showed no reaction to his gesture. Sighing, Giovanni put his arm around her waist and directed her to the couch as well, whispering soothing words into her ear. Once they arrived at their destination, he sat down between Tonks and her mother and pulled Andromeda down with him and into his side.
Tonks had no idea how long they just sat like that in silence, none of them moving or even looking anywhere but at the wall in front of them. She couldn't recall who cracked first, all she knew was that suddenly, they were all crying and clutching at each other as if their lives depended on it. They cried until there were no tears left and they were too exhausted to do anything but just lie there.
At last, Giovanni declared with a voice raspy from hours of crying that they needed some tea and got up – with some difficulty after sitting so long – to disappear into the kitchen. Tonks and Andromeda inched closer together and just held each other wordlessly, until more tears spilled.
Even though the tea didn't – couldn't – do much to lessen the ache in their hearts it did wonders for their dry throats and the hot liquid took away some of the icy coldness that had spread in their veins when they'd first heard the news. It was like that that Remus found them, all three of them staring into space, lost in their own thoughts, clutching their mugs and taking a sip every now and then, not talking but always keeping some sort of physical contact to remind them what was real and what was not.
Knowing the state they were in better than he cared to think about, Remus just made a cup of tea for himself and sat down in the armchair next to the fireplace. He didn't say anything, just waited. Finally, Tonks lifted her head from where it had been resting on Giovanni's shoulder and looked at him. The mixture of raw pain and numbness and loss in her eyes cut right into his heart, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. So he waited some more. After a while, Tonks got up, struggling to get to her feet, and slowly made her way over to her husband.
Seeing her approaching him, Remus just put down his cup and spread his arms. Without a single word being uttered, she carefully sat down on his lap, sinking into his arms and nuzzling into his neck, inhaling deeply. Still Remus didn't say anything, just closed his arms around his wife, hugging her to him as gently as he could, one hand rubbing her back soothingly, the other buried in her hair. They remained like that, unmoving, even as he felt the dampness of tears on his shoulder.
The day slowly turned to night. There had been more tea but still no one had said a word. By now they had somehow managed to make place for all four of them on the couch and what they couldn't express verbally they made up for in physical contact, sitting as close as they could, hands resting on shoulders or intertwined between legs.
After sitting like that for another few hours, with the gentle roaring from the fireplace the only sound in the house and no other light but the flame's lazy flickering, finally one of them moved. It was getting really late and undoubtedly a good night of sleep could only make things better. Remus, Tonks and Andromeda at last made their way to their respective bedrooms while Giovanni made himself comfortable on the couch.
There was a lot of tossing and turning that night, and very little actual sleep. Tonks and Remus only fell asleep when the sun was already rising again. It seemed like only minutes later when Tonks' bladder woke her up again. She decided to let her husband get as much sleep as he could and carefully slipped out of the room to get to the bathroom. When she was done and about to return to the warmth of her bed, she heard noise coming from downstairs. It took her a minute to remember that it had to be Giovanni since he'd been sleeping on the couch in the living room.
Sleep seemed like a far-away option, anyway, so she made her way downstairs to look after her best friend. He hadn't exactly looked his best when he'd stormed in the day before and she was sure that it wasn't only due to the news of her father's death and the horrible weather he'd been caught in. Tonks hadn't seen him in weeks but she was almost certain that this had to do with what had happened with Robert. By the looks of it she couldn't help but assume that that argument still hadn't been resolved.
When she entered the room she found Giovanni covered in blankets, staring blankly at the wall in front of him. He looked so vulnerable, so abandoned, that it broke her heart as much as yesterday's news. Carefully, slowly, so she wouldn't startle him, she approached the couch and sank down as gracefully as her baby bump and her natural lack of coordination would let her. She didn't say anything, just waited for him to react to her presence.
Tonks was about to give up for now and disappear into the kitchen to make some breakfast – against everyone's advice – when he finally made a move to acknowledge her.
"I'm sorry." He still didn't look at her, instead fixating a spot on the wall.
"Why? None of this is your fault."
"I know but... Still. I know this hurts you."
"I can't say it doesn't. But I'm not the only one suffering here. And I can't shake the feeling that it's not only because of D-Dad." She couldn't help the way her voice shook when she tried to say the word. But she was determined not to cry again. Not right now. Right now her best friend needed her as much as she needed him and in contrast to her pain something could be done about his.
"You're right," he sighed, finally looking into her eyes. "It's not just about- you know what."
"It's Rob, isn't it?" Tonks asked, knowing the answer already. The shocked expression on his face was almost amusing.
"How- How do you know about that?"
"He came here right after it happened and he got his head back on. I was under the impression he was headed to apologise profusely when he left here. Did he?"
"Well, yes, he did," Giovanni uttered, avoiding her eyes once more.
"And?" Tonks inquired, not sure she wanted to hear what would be coming next.
"I told him that it didn't mean anything and that he should leave." It sounded like saying the words was hurting him as much as it did back then.
"Oh Gio," she sighed, leaning against him as much as her pregnant stomach would let her. "Why?"
"Well, what if he was right? I mean, just because he didn't mean to say it the way he did, or even at all... It doesn't mean he didn't think it, right? What if he really thinks that I'm just some superficial, stupid jerk and not good enough for him? I knew the age difference was going to be a problem and I know my way of dealing with problems may seem childish and superficial to others but... I'm just trying to cope somehow, Dora, you know? It's just my way of making it a little better. I thought he'd know that by now but obviously, I was wrong." He didn't even seem to notice the tears running down his cheeks, just continued staring at the wall and held Tonks as close as possible in their current position.
"I know, Gio, I know. Remember, I spent the last I-don't-know-how-many years with you." They smiled at each other. It was more on the weak side and looked a bit forced, but it was a smile nonetheless.
"You don't think I'm childish and superficial, do you?" He sounded so insecure her heart made another painful leap in her chest.
"You're aware of who you're talking to right now, right?" Another tentative smile. Suddenly, he gripped her hand, expression back to serious.
"Dora, you're not childish and you're not superficial. You're one of the most selfless people I know. You're courageous and beautiful and kind. And I really hope you already know all of that and stop rolling your eyes at me. Because it's true and I thought I'd say it now. You never know when it's going to be a final goodbye these days."
With that, they were back to crying. Once they'd calmed down a bit, Tonks let out a wet chuckle, leaning back against Giovanni once more. "I guess you're right, no matter how horrible it sounds. And you're not childish or superficial. You're gorgeous inside and out and the best friend I could have ever asked for. Robert would be an idiot to see you as anything else, but I'm pretty sure he knows how wonderful you are. What he did that day was a shock reaction. It was becoming too much for him to handle and you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn't make better what he said, but believe me when I say that he honestly didn't mean or think any of it. I've seen very few people who were sorrier for something they've done. Do you think you could give him another chance?"
Giovanni seemed to think about it for a few minutes, tears drying on his cheeks.
"I'm not sure... I mean, I trust you and if you're really sure that he doesn't think of me like that, that he's genuinely sorry... I guess I didn't really give him a chance to properly apologise. I was just so... so upset and hurt and... I never thought it possible he could snap at me like that."
"But you still love him?"
He heaved a deep sigh. "Yes. Yes, I do. But I'm not sure that's enough. I think I'll have to talk to him to know if we can fix this, don't I?"
"Yes, that would be a wise course of action," she laughed at him. "Breakfast? I don't think Mum will be up for a while and Remus was out like a light when I got up."
"Only if I'm making everything and you sit at the kitchen table and watch." Tonks smiled at him, earning her a frown from her best friend. "Shouldn't you be more upset? I don't want you hurting, of course, but... Well, to put it bluntly your father just died and you're sitting here solving my relationship problems."
This time it was Tonks' turn to sigh. "Believe me, it does hurt and I am upset. I want to go out there and kill the bastard who did this. Badly so. But I guess I've been... sensing it for a while now. I just sort of knew I wouldn't get to see him again. It doesn't make it hurt any less but... It's like I've known quite some time now and it wasn't really that much of a surprise. Life goes on, you know? I'm probably going to cry every few minutes for the next few days but I can't really afford to give up now, can I? I have to be strong for the baby, for Mum, for Remus, and for myself."
Giovanni just pulled her into a tight hug, fresh tears on his face, not saying anything. After a while, he pulled away and stood up, offering her a helping hand. "Breakfast?"
True to his announcement, he gently pushed Tonks into a chair and made to prepare pancakes when suddenly, Remus barged into the kitchen, hair disheveled, eyes alight with something that looked very much like hope.
"You won't believe what just happened!"