Title: If Tomorrow (Part III)
Characters: Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks
Genre: Romance, Angst, Introspection
Notes: At the bottom.
The one time she needs her legs to buckle at the knees, needs to trip over her own feet, needs to somehow fall and give herself a life-threatening injury, nothing happens, she remains steady on her feet, and she is forced to watch him leave.
She thinks she feels the colour fading from her skin as he disappears, the great sodding prat.
Coming back to tell her that he loves her, but that he won't let anything happen between them. Well.
She wonders how she is supposed to get over him now, now that he's up and left her, now that he's told her that he loves her, now that she knows for certain that she hadn't imagined all of those glances he'd sent her way over the kitchen table at Grimmauld Place.
Her knees give a delayed response and buckle, now, and she drops unceremoniously to the stoop outside of her flat's front door.
Remus loves her.
Remus loves her.
She wants to smile, because she's wanted to hear those words from him for a long time, hoped he'd say them first so that she wouldn't have to work up the courage to be the first one to say it, but her smile is empty and her eyes are full—of tears.
Well, it's okay to cry, just this once, because nobody is here to see it, and Remus did kiss her, and it was nice while it lasted, and now that she's known what it was like, it's going to be impossible to forget, to think about what she might have had if only she'd gone about it differently.
Her mother always said her impulsiveness would be her downfall, but she hardly feels like showing up at her mum and dad's house so that her mum can say, "I told you so," and her dad can laugh good-naturedly about it because he doesn't really know, doesn't understand.
She wonders what they'd say if they knew about Remus, if they found out what he is, and she wonders if maybe she's nothing but a great big coward herself because she's never told them about him, never told any of her friends, never told anyone who wasn't in the Order.
And everyone in the Order already knew that Remus J. Lupin was a werewolf.
A part of her thinks that she'd happily walk down the street with Remus on her arm if she could, and she has, in the past, though she now realizes that she's never done it with both of them looking their natural, normal selves.
But she'd be proud of him, she thinks, proud of Remus, because he's such a good man, the perfect listener, because he's always been there to hear about her day when she needed someone to unload on, and it's only him she's ever wanted to tell about the slightly more personal things, because Remus will never laugh at her or tell her she is being ridiculous.
She has a pretty good income, and since entering into the training to become an Auror, she's lost touch with most of her friends—though she tries not to think about it, because it is almost entirely her fault, she's always so busy, so very busy, she doesn't have time, or maybe it's that she doesn't make time. Really, all that she's ever wanted in a man is someone who complements her personality, who is calm and rational to counter her impulsiveness, who listens when she talks but isn't afraid to tell her when she is being tactless.
She doesn't need money, or more friends, or someone she can show off. She just wants someone who is going to be there for her, and now—
Now that someone is not Remus, because he can't.
He can't be that person for her, the one she wants.
The tears have stopped, and she wipes her face on the sleeve of her shirt, but the sorrow continues to press in around her; it's as if she is facing one of the dementors of Azkaban.
She still wants him to be that person for her.
If he comes back—no, when, because he will come back, because he is not dying out there with Greyback's pack, he can't, she won't allow it, she'll rush in there and keep it from happening, somehow, if it all boils down to that—she will try again. She's not a quitter, she's never been a quitter, but she thinks maybe this is a bit like a necessary time out in Quidditch; maybe if she can manage to regroup and come up with a new strategy, the game will be salvageable.
She can still win.
They can still win, because she knows now that he loves her, and someone in love always wants to be with the person they love, even if they're afraid of the consequences. He wants it as much as she does.
It will be a long time in coming. She realizes this as she walks back inside her flat and closes the door behind her. Passing the mirror in the entryway, she tucks her mousy-brown hair behind her ears, and sighs.
"I might be stuck with you for a while," she tells it, a little sadly, because she knows it will take months and months to get Remus alone again, to get him in a fitting mood, to make certain that things are exactly as they should be…and even then, there is no guarantee that he won't flee again, that he won't run away.
And she knows she can't kiss him, or corner him, because that will only make things worse. It has to be on his time, he has to be comfortable with it, or it will only hurt them both more. One wrong move and it will all be over for them.
She sits on the couch in her quiet flat and stares at the ceiling for a long moment. With her work in the Order, and the daily grind she puts herself through with her job as an Auror, she could very likely die any day; she nearly died at the Ministry, in the Department of Mysteries. (She still remembers the pain when she woke up before they'd managed to get her to St. Mungo's.)
She had worried, then, that she would die before she could tell him, and she had tried to tell him right then, when she didn't have a clue as to where she was, exactly, when tears were spilling from her eyes from the pain alone, but her lips wouldn't move, her voice wouldn't work, and all she could think was, I'm going to die before I can tell him.
And that had hurt nearly as much as her physical injuries.
Unfortunately, the moment she had chosen to say it had been only marginally better than when he had been trying to take her to St. Mungo's for help after the battle in the Ministry. She had allowed time to pass, but still, he had not been ready to hear it, and she'd given in to impulsiveness to spit it out after a routine stakeout as he saw her home.
But at least she's had the chance to tell him.
Despite the sadness that she feels because he refuses to act on his reciprocated feelings, she's glad that she knows that he loves her, because as much as she wants to say it's impossible that he won't return, there is always the chance that he won't, that he won't be able to make it back, that he'll die out there, that tomorrow will not come.
So if tomorrow never comes, because of death or the threat of ending up with the Longbottoms and Gilderoy Lockhart as permanent residents of St. Mungo's, at least there will be no doubt that what both of them feel is love for the other.
And that's enough for now.
Notes: It's not a long 'fic, but it says what I meant it to. Tonks is not a quitter, but it's always good for a non-quitter to notice, realize, and respect that there are boundaries. Some boundaries can be pushed, or broken, while others just can't. People have erected them with good reason, and they don't want them to come crashing down without ample warning.
In this story, Tonks realizes what Remus's boundaries are, understands she's pushed too soon (alternatively, at a bad time) and that if she pushes again before he's ready, she'll likely only ruin the tentative friendship they still have (because a friendship once confessed to be more from one person to another is never the same again).
So it hurts, to have to wait for him to make up his damn mind, it hurts because she knows he does love her (he's just not ready to face the consequences of that), and there are some communication issues that need to be worked out, because she understands his issues and concerns far better than he realizes she does, but it also wouldn't hurt for him to say more of what he's thinking to help her see his side of things.
But this story does end on a happyish note, because they do know how the other feels—it's always good to know that you're loved by someone else!—and there is hope that in the future, Tonks will find the right moment to Remus, the right moment to talk things over, the right moment to start a relationship.
Thank you for reading—I appreciate the kind feedback I've received, and I hope this last chapter wrapped things up well enough, even if it wasn't the happy fanservice ending some were hoping for.