Thank you for waiting patiently for this chapter. I had quite a lot of trouble getting the characters right, and feel free to tell me if you think I got anything wrong. This leads on directly from the last chapter, so if you can't remember the ending I suggest you go back and check that last section out.
EDIT: I had to repost this because apparently it didn't reach many alert inboxes. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Word count: 4,200+
"Mmhmm…" he mumbled, his smiling lips against hers, but then Remus took a step backwards, leaving Tonks in the doorframe. "What… Dora, I – I can't do this." He avoided her eyes directly, but he couldn't help himself looking up to see her reaction.
Hurt flashed across her face as she tried to quickly cover it up with seriousness, but it was to no avail. In four words he'd hurt her more than anyone had in a long time. She didn't even protest. She could feel tears pricking at her eyes, and so she turned on her heel and ran back to her room, slamming the door behind her. For a moment Remus just stood there, staring at the space where she'd been, but from within her room down the silent hallway, he could hear her quiet sobs.
He swallowed and took a soft step onto the floorboards of the hallway, so as not to make the floorboards creak. As he grew closer to Tonks' door, her crying seemed to grow louder, but they still were no louder than a cough. When he was close enough to do so, he rested his head against her door, and waited. He didn't know what he was waiting for.
He waited for a minute. Two. Two and a half. Round about the third minute, Tonks' room fell silent. He took this as the sign of what he was waiting for.
"Dora," he called quietly. "Dora, I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"
"Go away, Remus," came her shaky reply.
"Go!" She was pleading with him, close to tears again, and sure enough, just a few seconds later she began to cry again. He didn't move. "Please, Remus, we'll talk in the morning."
With a brick pulling down on his heart, he stepped away from the door. He didn't say anything. He couldn't. He retreated back to his bedroom, closed the door behind him and collapsed heavily onto his bed. What had just happened? Tonks had kissed him. He'd been longing for that to happen for so long, and then it'd finally happened, and he'd told her that he couldn't do it.
He was right to turn her down, wasn't he? The memory of the sound of Tonks' cries were enough to argue otherwise, but he'd cause her a lot more than one night of pain if he were to stay with her, he was sure of it. He couldn't provide for her, he was thirteen years older than her, and sooner or later he'd end up hurting her. Men with burdens shouldn't be with perfect women. He refused to end up like his father - old, bitter and abusive. He could never hurt Dora, not willingly, but he was sure that he would. They would both have to sit through this night of pain so that he couldn't cause her a lifetime of pain and exclusion.
Remus sat on the edge of his bed, shoulders slumped forward and his head in his hands. His arm ached from having Chicken perched on it for most of the afternoon, and his head was pounding, but he couldn't sleep. He stood up and paced the length of his bedroom for a while, but when the rhythmic beat of his feet on the wooden floorboards beneath him began to irritate him, he abandoned his room and descended the stairs, his destination the kitchen.
Owl treats and party streamers were still scattered about the table and the scarce remains of Molly's soup was still sitting in the sink, unwashed. With nothing else to do, he began to clean. He did so manually, with no magical assistance, for the activity itself was both time consuming and something that if he out his mind to it, could occupy most of his thoughts, allowing for few other infatuations to take over. Within half an hour, the kitchen was spotless. He moved on to the bottom floor living space, which wasn't really a space used for living in at all. Though it had been one of the first rooms they'd rid of all pests and dirt, it still held an alarming amount of gothic furniture which a lot of Order members found disturbing to be around for any extended period of time. He began to wander around aimlessly, until at last he gave up on procrastination and collapsed into a dusty old armchair.
He sighed deeply, running his hands over his scarred face. He'd been waiting so long to tell Tonks that he loved her. Everything about her, from her bright ever-changing hair to her clumsy feet, made him smile. He loved her, and there was no doubt at all in his mind. What there was, however, was guilt. He couldn't be with her. He was a danger to her. Even if he never laid a hand on her himself, others could. He was a social outcast. He regularly received abuse and rejection - if Nymphadora was to be with him, she would receive the same treatment, and he couldn't be responsible for that. Being seen in public with him could cause her to lose her job, and he couldn't allow that to happen.
He stood up suddenly, his mind made up. As he ascended the stairs and entered his room, he was pleased to see Chicken perched on his windowsill, a letter attached to his leg. Remus was quick to let him in, and the bird went straight to his cage after Remus had untied the parchment from his leg.
I'm glad you had a lovely day, dear. He's a very beautiful owl, he reminds me very much of Mitch. Do keep me up to date with your situation with Nymphadora, I only want for you to be happy, and she does seem to make you happy.
Love, Mum. Xxx
He read the letter twice through decided to reply immediately. He reached his desk quickly, took out a sheet of parchment and a quill and scribbled a quick reply.
Tonks and I kissed. It was incredible, but I've decided not to burden her. Now she's crying and can't look at me. I don't blame her.
After scanning the room for his new owl, he found Chicken in his cage, his head under his wing. The letter would have to wait. He sat calmly on the edge of his bed, and then slowly laid back, his head resting on the soft white pillows. He barely even noticed himself slipping away into a peaceful state of sleep.
The early morning sun shone brightly into Remus' bedroom, waking him gently from his deep sleep. His eyes slowly eased open, becoming reacquainted with the room and the world around him. His stomach rumbled loudly, projecting the sound of his hunger across the room, where Chicken glanced up at him. He smiled instinctively at the bird, only remembering that it was his a few second later. The bright pair of amber eyes was trained on him and his every move as he stood and began to get dressed. It was only when he came to put on his trousers that he covered the cage with the t-shirt he'd slept in, removing it from the cage when he prepared to go downstairs.
He debated bringing Chicken down to breakfast, but decided against it at first. He didn't want a bird messing up the kitchen, but then things were sure to be tense with Tonks, and he'd do anything to reduce the tension. Besides, Chicken would surely make her smile. After opening the latch on the cage, he placed his hand through the small wire doorway, and smiled widely as Chicken obediently climbed onto his outstretched hand. He spent a minute marvelling at the owl – his soft feathers, yellow beak and large observant eyes which always seemed to be looking at something. He was so lucky to have such a beautiful owl in his possession, and he knew that he still owed Tonks for gifting him with this.
He made his way downstairs quietly, careful not to jolt Chicken with every downward step. The cold and silent interior of the Black family house was eerie at the best of times, but walking down the narrow corridor, walls lined with the heads of long-dead taxidermy house elves, with the notion that he was causing someone pain just by being, he started to feel as if he was no better than someone who had enslaved an elf for its life with no hope of freeing it. That's what he'd be doing if he committed himself to Nymphadora, and yet he was still hurting her by saying no.
The door to the kitchen swung open before Remus had reached it, as Sirius appeared in the doorway, rubbing the uneven stubble on his chin. He was clearly troubled, and looked at Remus with solemn, worried eyes.
"Morning Sirius," Remus greeted wearily. "You alright?"
He received no reply. Instead, Sirius turned shook his head and walked past him. With no hope of getting anything from him, Remus continued into the kitchen, where he found Tonks pushing a few pieces of cereal around in a sea of milk, her brown hair hanging over her face. He paused at the edge of the table, unsure how to proceed. Tonks still hadn't looked at him or even acknowledged that he'd entered the room.
"Good morning, Dora," he hedged softly, sinking himself into the seat opposite her. When he received no reply, he eased Chicken onto the table and pulled the discarded Daily Prophet closer to him. The silence dragged on for a while, as Remus skimmed the pages without taking anything in. Tonks continued to stare at her bowl, not once even lifting the spoon to her mouth, until very abruptly she scraped her chair back across the slate tiles with a horrible screech, and started to walk out.
"I'm really very sorry," Remus blurted out before she could leave. She paused in the doorway. "What I said last night, I didn't mean- well I did mean it, but I see how you might have misinterpreted, I mean-" he took a long sigh, silently praying for her to turn around and for everything to be okay again. "What happened last night was amazing, Dora, and you have no idea how much I wanted… but..."
"It's fine," she interrupted him, but still she remained facing the door. "I shouldn't have forced that on you. I'm sorry, Remus. I regret it. I'm just feeling a little awkward right now, but I'll see you later and we can forget last night ever happened."
Something about her voice wasn't right. She wasn't being sincere at all, and she was masking it horribly. He wanted to argue, tell her how much he wanted to be with her forever and that he never wanted to forget their kiss, but he knew that he was too dangerous. He knew that he couldn't be with her. And common sense ruled out. Tonks left the kitchen without a word, glancing back at him with blood-shot, tearful eyes, and Remus remained seated, all hopes of future happiness vanished.
Sirius closed the library door behind him as he entered, and stood staring at the miserable ex-professor without a word. His face was stern as Remus looked up, but as their eyes met, Sirius' hardened further.
"What do you want, Padfoot?"
"My best friend to stop breaking my cousin's heart."
Remus put his book on the table by his chair, his eyes narrowing. "What do you mean?"
"I mean you're an idiot. Tonks finally tells you how she feels and you turn her down? Are you completely insane?"
"No, I'm not," he replied sternly, "in fact I'm far from it. For one thing, she didn't tell me anything, she kissed me. And besides that, I had to turn her down."
Sirius clenched his fists. "What do you mean, you had to? Moony she loves you, she tried kissing you, and you didn't have to turn her down at all!"
"Yes I did, Padfoot! Can't you see, we can't be together and that's final!"
Sirius took a step back. In all the years he'd known Remus, they'd ranted at each other many a time, but it was very, very rare that Moony raised his voice, and when he did, it usually didn't end well. He loved his friend, he really did. Once, when he'd stayed with Remus and his parents, Remus and his dad had a huge argument, and Remus had stormed out of the house in a rage, wishing to never have been born. It took him nearly two hours to calm him down, but Sirius finally managed to convince him that he didn't mean what he'd said to his dad, and got them both to apologise successfully. Now with Remus on his feet, claiming that he was too dangerous for his own good, Sirius knew that this might take some work too.
"Remus, you love her," he said softly.
Something stirred inside of him. "No," he insisted. "No, I don't."
"No, Sirius, I don't, now please drop this!"
He didn't pause to consider this at all. "So you don't love her, you don't even care about her at all?"
Remus hesitated, his voice lower when he spoke. "Well of course I care about her, I care for her a great deal, which is exactly why I cannot love her."
"Can't or won't?" Sirius' tone was harsh. He knew that he was in danger of causing his best friend to flip out into a rage, but he couldn't resist this. As much as he knew this was the wrong path to go down, Remus had been irritating him for far too long because of this. He'd been able to restrain himself before, when the topic was just mentioned in passing, but this opportunity was perfect to prove Moony wrong, and he fully intended to seize it, and if that meant making his opponent feel like the scum of the earth, then he'd do it.
As predicted, Remus grew angry, struggling to find something to say that wouldn't put him as the lesser man.
"Both," he finally forced out. "I can't love her. It's far too dangerous, so I won't put her through that!"
"You never had that issue with me," Sirius said quietly. He regretted as soon as he'd said it, ever more so when the flash of pain cut through Remus' face. It was a low blow and they both knew it.
"That was different," Remus whispered in response, all anger lost from his voice. "We were teenagers. I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't fully realise the responsibility my illness would cause any potential partners."
"But you said that you loved me." Sirius spoke slowly. This bothered him clearly, but it wasn't difficult to tell that this was something he'd long-since thought over and accepted.
"So did you," came the simple reply.
"But did you?"
No reply was given.
"Did you?" he insisted, louder.
"Did you?" Remus shot back.
Sirius straightened himself as he looked Remus directly in the eye.
"I thought I did. I wasn't sure at first. I felt for you what I'd never felt for any girl, what else was I supposed to call it? I didn't even know what was going on in my head until... that night. When you told me."
"Well I did, Sirius. I knew exactly what was going on, and you know what? I told you. I gave us my best shot. And where did we end up? Nowhere. I don't want Tonks and I to become just nothing, going nowhere."
"We were kids!" Sirius roared in Remus' general direction, his head facing the heavens. "We were immature, sexually confused, horny teenagers. You have the potential for a real, happy relationship with Tonks, and you're throwing it all away on the grounds that there's a slight possibility it might not work out? You know Moony, you're one of the smartest guys I know, but sometimes you can be a real ignorant bastard."
This was the final straw for Remus. With a final glare at Sirius, he brushed past him, fists tightly clenched, and walked in as much of a calm manner as possible out if the room. Sirius allowed him to do this, and as soon as he'd left the room he ran to the doorway, and just caught the sight of Remus disappearing into his bedroom.
"This isn't over," he yelled down the hallway, but Remus just slammed his door.
It was the most he was going to get out of him for a while and he knew it. He wandered over to where Remus had been sat and sat down. A mug of tea sat on the side table, still steaming. He should probably take it to him, but if he knocked, would he even respond? Probably not.
He'd meant every word of what he'd said to Moony, but he still regretted saying them. He remembered what it was like to be a fool in love, even if it was a very long time ago. In fact, he really couldn't blame his friend at all for not wanting to burden her. The only problem was that he wouldn't be burdening Tonks at all. She was ready and willing to give herself to him, no matter what the dangers or consequences were.
The thought of Tonks panged inside of him, and he wondered how she was holding up. She'd left for work that morning in a falsely content manner, and people were bound to ask. Maybe she'd need some extra support.
He almost ran to the kitchen, filled with concern for his littlest cousin. When he entered, he was relieved to see Chicken resting on the windowsill, either about to take off or having just returned.
"Hey Chicken, c'mere," he called, holding out his hand which the bird obediently flew onto. He placed him on the table and told him to stay while he retrieved a small square of parchment, some ink and a quill. He quickly scribbled down a discreet message to Tonks.
Hope you're doing okay. We need to talk when you get home. I'm here for you.
Smirking at the terrible nickname, he folded the parchment in his own preferred manner and addressed it to Auror Tonks, since the letter would go to a special department who would transfer the message onto their own enchanted messenger parchment.
"There's no reason to wait for a reply," he told the owl as he tied it to its leg. "You just have to cheer Tonksie up."
As he watched Chicken disappear through the kitchen window, he couldn't help but wish that he didn't have to be so discreet when he spoke to his friends. He wished he could floo into the Ministry and not have to worry about getting arrested. Still, he was as free as he had ever hoped to be, and this was enough to help his friends.
Tonks shivered as she forced the door closed behind her, blocking out the raging March weather. Her hair stuck up in every direction from the powerful wind, and her cloak had provided no protection against the rain, which had soaked her through to the bone.
She tiptoed silently through to the kitchen, pleased to see only Sirius sat at the table, a mug of warm tea between his hands.
"Hey Tonksie," he greeted her, his tone a little more sympathetic than she would have liked to hear. But still, that morning he'd been very helpful. When all she'd wanted was a comforting shoulder to cry on, he'd sat with her and just hugged her. He'd only asked for the basic cause of the problem, and that had been it. Then he'd left her alone for her to compose herself, and left completely at the sound of Remus approaching. Really, she had to be grateful.
"Wotcher, Sirius. What are you doing up?"
"Just wondering if you want to talk," he offered as nonchalantly as he could.
She shook her head. "I'm fine thanks Padfoot." She turned to leave, but she'd been called back before she could turn away.
"Tonksie, sit down."
"Damn," she muttered, but submitted herself to a seat opposite him. She sat in silence while Sirius made her a tea, but as he slid it across the table to her, she could almost feel the interrogation.
"So," he hummed, "how are you doing?"
She thought it better to be honest. "I've been better."
Sirius frowned. "Can you tell me what exactly happened? I spoke to Moony, he didn't really give much away."
"It wasn't very exciting, Sirius. I'd had a sudden burst of confidence and a little too much firewhisky, and thought that it would be a good idea to kiss Remus. I was wrong. No big thing."
"No big thing?" he exclaimed. "Have you not seen Moony's-"
He grinned mischievously, but Tonks' expression reduced him to a sympathetic frown.
"You're really messed up about this, aren't you?"
She nodded. "It's just like... He's my friend, Sirius! He's a really good friend, but there's a part of me that wants to be... I don't know, more than friends. He makes me happy, but in a different way to how everyone else does. When he smiles at me I get this funny feeling in my chest that makes me want to kiss him. And then, I just found myself outside his door, and he opened it and we were just stood there, and then I just went for it. I didn't even know what I was going to do until I'd already done it." She put her head down on the edge of the table. Sirius reached out to stroke her hair, and she held his hand there, squeezing it lightly.
"It felt good, Sirius," she sighed. "I felt so right, you know? Like it was supposed to happen." She smiled to the floor, glad that the table would stop any tears from dripping onto her feet. She sniffed and carried on. "But then he pushed me away, told me that he couldn't do this, and it just felt like my whole chest had... Broken. It still does."
"You love him," he concluded solemnly.
She shook her head weakly. "No, Sirius, I can't. I can't say that. If I admit it then it'll be true, and I can't..." Tears began to form in her eyes, trickling down the side of her nose and onto the table. She sniffled for a while, fighting the onslaught of emotion, until at last she gave up. She lifted her head and looked Sirius dead in the eyes, his bright blue ones to her red and teary ones. "I'm being stupid," she insisted through her thick, painfully sharp throat. "There's no use in crying over this. Me and him, it's never going to happen. I know I should just let it go but I- I can't. I do still care for him, and as much as I'd like to, it's not the sort of thing I can just drop."
Sirius stood and made his way round to the other side of the table, where he crouched on the ground and pulled Tonks into his arms.
"Nymphie... You don't have to drop it." Too late to stop now, he continued against his better judgement. "He does, he wants to be with you, I know he does," he soothed her, rubbing her back encouragingly.
He'd known her since she was born, but oh so rarely had he seen her cry.
"He's stubborn, Tonks. He won't give in to his feelings without a fight, but you're stubborn too. You can get him. You've just got to show him how amazing you are."
"But I'm not amazing," she sniffed. "I'm clumsy, I'm stupid, I do stupid things, I-"
"Hey now!" Sirius cut her off. "Do not say that."
"But I am."
"No. Well, yes, you're clumsy, Nymphie, you always have been. But he doesn't see that. What he sees, what every man with a brain must see, is a beautiful woman, with the most amazing personality a girl could ever have. He'd be lucky to have you, and he knows it."
She sniffed deeply, staring into the eyes of her cousin, desperately trying to determine the level of truth in his words. In the silence, she struggled with her emotions. She didn't want to believe a word of what she'd just been told, but the hope he'd installed was too much to give up on.
"I need some time alone," she sighed, rising to her feet. "See you later, Sirius."
He watched her disappear down the hallway, waited for her footsteps to reach the top of the stairs before he stood, and sunk into the chair Tonks had just left vacant. The love affair, or lack thereof, between his best friend and his little cousin was not something he had ever thought to imagine. Remus had never been one to be romantically involved with anyone, but he'd really fallen for Tonks, and it was clear she'd really fallen for him too. They both deserved each other. They deserved the love that he could never have.
A bottle of firewhiskey sat conveniently at the end of the table. Abandoning his cold tea, he picked up the bottle, and evading the use of a glass, took a long drink. A burning warmth spread from the tip of his tongue to the depths of his chest, pulling him under into a realm of indifference. Their love lives would have to sort themselves out. He was destined to be alone forever. The drink would have to suffice.
Thanks for reading. Please review, whatever your opinion. It makes me happy to even hear constructive criticism. :)