Author's Chapter Notes:
* Line taken from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, UK edition, page 582. I do not own Harry Potter — I'm just playing with JKR's toys and I promise to return them in pristine condition!
Many, many hugs and squishes to Alex for her amazing ninja beta-ness. Thank you for making that crappy first draft better.
Through the window in the hospital wing, soft rain began to fall, slowly at first, but then it gradually fell more and more rapidly, until the view of the Hogwarts grounds was a green blur. The steady drip-drop of the rain mixed with the beautiful sounds of Fawkes's lament for his dead master, echoing throughout the castle. Remus exited the hospital wing without saying goodbye to anyone, hoping no one would see him leave, or hear the door shut behind him. After all, they were all busy discussing Bill's condition, and exactly what would happen next.
The castle was deserted, the Entrance Hall bearing no signs of the battle the school had endured. Remus tried his best to numb his mind, to forget the pain, to ignore the sounds and the sights of mourning in the hospital wing. As he walked briskly through the grounds, nearing the gates, he heard footsteps behind him. There was a squeak of shoes as his pursuer nearly slipped in the watery sheen covering the paved path. Remus didn't need to turn around to know who it was.
Tonks quickly caught up with him, panting a little. "You okay?" she asked softly. She reached out as if to touch his arm but then seemed to think better of it.
Remus imperceptibly shook his head, and yet he turned towards her in spite of himself. He had no idea what to say to her, and judging by the unsure look on her face, she didn't know either.
"Can... can we talk?" Tonks asked tentatively.
"There's nothing to say," he said helplessly. "We can't be together, Tonks. I— I care too much about you to burden you with—"
"But I don't care, Remus," she interrupted. "I don't give a damn, and I never have."
"It's hardly the right time, is it? Dumbledore—"
"—if he was alive, would be happier than anybody to think there was a little more love in the world*," Tonks said. "Minerva's right. He's gone, but he would have been happy if he knew we were, you know..."
Remus looked at her, his expression unreadable. Then he closed his eyes, turned on his heel and started walking again. He got beyond the gates, but she grabbed his arm this time, forcing him to face her once more. He tried to shake her off, but she was persistent and wouldn't let go.
"Remus, please. Just... just hear me out, okay?" He noticed the tears streaking her cheeks and the plea in her voice; it made him stop struggling against her and finally give her the tiniest nod.
She released him before taking a deep breath. "Look, I'm sorry if I embarrassed you back there—"
"You didn't," he couldn't help but interrupt.
"—but I wasn't thinking," Tonks continued as if Remus hadn't spoken. "Remus, I care about you so, so much, and I think I'm in love with you— no, I know I'm in love with you, damn it, and I thought you felt the same way, but if that's not the case—" She was rambling, Remus knew, but it seemed she couldn't stop the words tumbling out of her mouth. "I thought, after— after what happened on Christmas Day... in my flat..."
Despite the rain still falling on his face, Remus's cheeks became tinged with pink in embarrassment and his eyes filled with regret as he said, "That was a mistake, Dora; I'm sorry—"
But this just riled her up even more. "Is that what I am, Remus? A mistake?" She laughed bitterly, and it was so different from her usual infectious laugh that Remus actually flinched. "Was I that bad in bed that you didn't want to talk to me again?"
"No, I didn't mean that," he amended quickly. She raised her eyebrows and he said slowly, "That day... that night... was the best night of my life."
"So you think I was a good fuck and nothing else—"
"Tonks, just stop!" he shouted angrily. "Do you really, honestly think that I would think so little of you? Of anyone?"
"No, of course not," Tonks said in a small voice, her anger evaporating as quickly as it had come.
"I think you are beautiful and amazing and brave and intelligent and I'm so in love with you that it hurts," Remus told her. The unashamed honesty in his voice was unmistakeable. "But that night, we were both drunk and we weren't thinking straight. Sleeping with you was a mistake because we can't be together. We can't."
"We can make it work—" she tried, but —
"No, we can't! Because I'm not right for you, Dora!" he exploded at last. He was as shocked as her, for in all the time they had known each other, Remus had never raised his voice at her, not to that extent. Yet he continued, at the top of his voice. "I'm too old, too poor, too damaged for you. Good Godric, I'm a fucking werewolf! That alone should tell you that we can't have any future together!"
"And I don't fucking care!" she yelled back. "I don't care about what happens in the future — I care about what happens now. You're thirty-seven years old and you're a werewolf for twelve days a year and guess what? I don't give a monkey's! And it's taken Fleur bloody Delacour to make me say that in front of everyone and you still don't get it."
"I just want you to be happy," he said hopelessly. "And you won't be with me—"
"How do you know?" Tonks countered. "Stop punishing yourself, Remus. I would be a happier person with you. If I was with you—" she gestured at her limp, mousy brown hair "—I wouldn't be stuck with this hair. I wouldn't be such a fucking wreck," she cried. "Remus, look at me. I'm a mess. And it's all your fucking fault!"
"Don't 'Dora' me," she snapped. "Don't you dare call me that. Remus, if you love me, if you really love me like you say you do, then you won't care about little, trivial things like money or age. I don't care about money. I don't care about what anyone says. I don't care about you being a werewolf. I just want you. But if you don't want me, fine. Fine. I'll just go."
Without another word to him, she spun on the spot and Disapparated.
Her words were still ringing in his ears as he stood there, his robes now drenched in rain, watching her disappear into thin air.
If he truly loved her... well, of that, he was sure. Remus loved her even before that drunken one-night stand they had had at Christmas, but that didn't matter now. Tonks was gone, and Remus had just ruined their relationship for good.
But then he remembered what Minerva had said in the hospital wing, about Dumbledore being happy if there was more love in the world. Happier than anybody, she had said... But Dumbledore was dead, Remus reminded himself bitterly. His happiness didn't matter.
And yet, said another voice in his head, if he was alive, he would have told you the same thing. He would have said to listen to your heart, not your head.
Surely Tonks's happiness was more important, by far, than his own? And if Tonks was happy with him, Remus, a poor, old, dangerous werewolf, wasn't that enough?
He wasn't sure what the answer was but Remus turned on the spot nevertheless, thinking of Tonks's flat, and he hoped to find out what that answer was.
He knocked on the door and waited, his heart thumping.
"Who's there?" Her voice did not sound scared, but on guard.
"It is I, Remus John Lupin," he replied. He grimaced before continuing, "I am a werewolf, also known as Moony. I helped create the Marauder's Map along with Sirius Black, James Potter and Peter Pettigrew, and I witnessed the attack on Bill Weasley earlier tonight, in which he was savaged by Fenrir Greyback." The door remained closed, and he asked, "What form does your Patronus take?"
"A... a wolf."
Remus nodded to himself. "May I come in?"
The door opened, but she stood in the doorway, a hard look on her face.
"What do you want?" she asked wearily.
"I wanted to talk—"
"We already did." Tonks slammed the door shut, but Remus quickly spoke anyway.
"Dora, please. I— wanted to say sorry."
"You've had your chance, Lupin. You blew it."
"Just let me explain," he pleaded.
"No," she said curtly.
His shoulders slumped a little, but he tried again. "In that case, I'm going to be out here all night, Dora."
Still, the door remained closed.
Remus looked around and cast the Muffliato charm. Then he said, through the door, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have— look, I love you. I need you to know that; I couldn't let you walk away not knowing that I love you, because I do, so much, to the point that I don't want to burden you or hurt you—" He broke off, because at that moment, the door opened. Tonks didn't say anything, but gestured for him to come in, and he could see a strange expression in her eyes as she narrowed them and let him continue, her arms folded.
"But you said you were willing to shoulder that burden, for reasons that I will never understand."
"You're not burdening me," she murmured. "And you're hurting me far more by saying no to me."
"You deserve happiness, Dora. I... I don't know if I can give you that."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of how happy you could make me?"
Remus opened his mouth as if to speak, but then he stopped and shrugged helplessly. "I'm sorry. Can you forgive me? For hurting you?"
Tonks stood perfectly still, just watching Remus, unable to answer him. The rain had eased to the occasional drip-drop against the windowsill, and the clouds suddenly parted, the rising sun shining in Tonks's face, illuminating the dried tears on her cheeks all the more.
And then Remus closed the distance between them, and he lifted her chin and kissed her.
Chapter End Notes:
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