Title: If Tomorrow
Remus, Tonks
Angst, Romance
1415 (Part 1/3), 2878 (Part 2/3), 1316 (Part 3/3)
This has probably been done and redone over and over again, but I guess I see their 'breakup' before the sixth book a little different. Three parts already completed—the other two will be posted soon. This is dedicated to my buddy Kittykatloren, for listening to my babble.

So tell that someone that you love
Just what you're thinking of
If tomorrow never comes
If Tomorrow Never Comes—Garth Brooks

She knows she's said something wrong by the look on his face. Nymphadora Tonks has spent the greater part of recent months getting to know Remus Lupin, and she takes great pride in her small victories that consist solely of figuring out his true feelings versus what he chooses to let people think.

And the way his forehead is crinkled, the way his eyes slant, the way his lips curl downward in a barely-concealed grimace…

Well, she knows she's ruined it all, everything, and all because of that one word she probably shouldn't have said.

It's true, I meant it, she thinks as she begins cursing herself, starting with, You bloody fool! What were you thinking?

It's now, standing in front of him outside the door to her flat, that she realizes something important.

She doesn't know Remus J. Lupin at all.

Not really. Oh, sure, she knows him about as well as she's ever known anyone, maybe better, but he's not like most people, he's seen more, felt more, experienced more—and he's certainly done a hell of a lot more hurting, too.

And here she is, still young, inexperienced really, and the saddest thing she's ever had to deal with has been Sirius's death. (Sirius's death, which she wasn't even awake to see, which she still partially blames herself for, which never had to happen, really, and wouldn't have, if only she hadn't been so stupid, so clumsy, so incapable.)

It's no wonder he doesn't want to hear something stupid like, "I love you, you know?" come out of her mouth.

But it's too late; she can't take it back, not now, not when she said it with such feeling because she's never meant anything more in her entire life, not when he's already heard it, not when he's looking at her as if she's kicked him in the stomach.

A part of her is already fleeing in terror, because she's never taken rejection well, it hurts a little more every time it happens, and come on, why can't she ever pick someone who likes her just as she is, someone whose like extends to love instead of, "Oh Tonks, you're just a friend," or, "Just like one of the boys!" because those things aren't comforting, aren't any less hurtful than, "I don't care about you that way," or, "Sure, if you'll change XYZ for me."

She's heard it all.

Or, she thinks she has.

"I can't," he tells her, and her mind is working frantically, trying to decide what is coming next, coming after those words, those two words that have started out sounding not-too-bad (for an impending rejection) but always end in some kind of awful lie, some kind of excuse, any excuse not to date her, because she's just so un-dateable or something she never quite understood.

But more words don't come, and she finds her temper overriding her abject fear of rejection from the one man who's seen her at her best and at her worst, looking quite natural and normal, with the body she was born with, including the hair, and didn't ask her to change a thing just so she'd be more pleasant to look at.

"You can't?" she finds herself saying, angry and incredulous and everything in between. What does that even mean, I can't, she wonders, can't what, can't date, can't date me?

He nearly flinches under her steady gaze, but nods, briefly, and she thinks she's never seen him look so cowardly before, so unable to face something.

"Why?" she asks flatly, because her temper's petered out and she's tired from working so much overtime, from working for the Order, from cooking and cleaning and making some kind of effort to remain a normal member of the wizarding world with a semi-clean flat and clean clothes.

"I just can't," is his only answer, and he doesn't look away when he says it. His jaw is set, but his eyes…they're different.

"Are you scared?" she finds herself asking before she can stop herself, before she realizes that it's probably not the right thing to say, not now, maybe not ever.

He doesn't want to answer, that much is obvious. He doesn't physically look away, but she knows he's kilometers away in his head, wandering off to think about it, to think of an appropriate answer to her question, one that won't—won't what? Won't hurt as much? Won't sound so ridiculous?

"Terrified," he says, truthfully; she knows because his eyes are very clear and he does not blink, but the most telling sign is the fact that he says it so simply, so sincerely, without even the slightest drop of sarcasm or humour in his voice.

"Of love?" she asks, and when he doesn't move to answer, she says, her voice barely a squeaking whisper, "Of me?"

His voice is hollow and tired when he finally dares to speak, "Both."

"For God's sake, Remus," she hisses, and she knows her face is scrunched up in a hideous combination of sorrow and hurt and anger, but she doesn't care, "you transform into a bloody werewolf every full moon, and you're afraid o—"

Her words stop abruptly at the look in his eyes. I don't want to talk about this, is what they're saying to her. Please don't make me talk about this. I don't want to, I don't want to, please, please, please don't make me.

But she wants to make him talk about it, wants that more than anything. Love isn't so bad, not really, not if you feel it for another person, not if they reciprocate. It's Remus she's talking to, though, and she thinks that for all his talk about being old, he's really just a scared little boy deep down, afraid of trusting again lest it hurt him, afraid of loving again, lest it hurt him—he's just afraid of being hurt, she thinks, and she can't blame him, not really, because if she were in his shoes, she might be just as likely to be afraid, too.

"If you don't love me, Remus, you can just say so." She looks down at her boots and gives what she hopes is a casual shrug. "It's nothing I haven't heard before."

Maybe she's fishing for a compliment, maybe she's giving him an easy way out, or maybe she's just hoping that he'll just say it, one way or another, because it's easier to get over someone if they just don't love you back, and if there's hope, well, she'll hold onto it, because what she's been feeling for ages isn't some passing sort of fancy with a bloke who's easy on the eyes and charming in personality.

This is Remus. And she loves him.

No, he's not particularly handsome, and he comes in a package of flaws, physical and mental. But isn't that what true love is supposed to be? That stupid "love is blind" nonsense that so many Muggles believe in is rubbish, because she knows most of his faults and they're just not bad enough to make her give up on him.

She's not blind at all. What she's seeing when she looks at him is exactly what she wants—right down to his mustache and his scars and the fact that he fears being hurt just as much, if not more than, the next person.

"It's not that," he tells her, and she's so startled by his words after the long silence that she almost jumps out of her own skin, though she manages to control her reaction to a sharp upward jerk of her head.

So there's an actual reason he can't, she thinks to herself, but then she realizes she doesn't know what he meant by can't, not really—can't love her, can't reciprocate her feelings, can't tell her he loves her, can't…? Can't what?

"Then what is it?" she asks, feeling a headache coming on from far too many hours spent on duty and far too few asleep. But this is important, and she determines that she will find out what it is that he feels, one way or another, because she can't stand the unknown, she finds it frighteningly uncertain, ungrounded, and despite her crazy hair and her confidence, she needs stability, especially now, and not knowing will upset the careful balance she's tried to create, will topple her far faster than the old umbrella stand at 12 Grimmauld Place.

She waits for his answer.