A/N: This is set when Tonks is in St Mungo's recovering after the battle in the Department of Mysteries. It's a moment of reminiscence and grief between the two of them, before Remus breaks off their relationship, leading to her depression.
Tucked between pressed, painstakingly neat hospital sheets, Dora feels out of place, like a fleck of dirt on a bleached-white cloth. The room is small, cramped, and oppressive, and besides all that, her legs hurt from underuse.
She's still only allowed to hobble around the room a bit, and confined to bed the rest of the time, supplemented with hourly servings of a vivid periwinkle-blue potion that tastes like curdled milk.
That's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that she feels…hollow. Empty, echoing, and more alone than she ever has before in her life. She's had visitors, of course, in the two days she's been here.
Mad-Eye came, bearing a rather rumpled bouquet of marigolds from his front yard, the Daily Prophet, and gruff conversation, cheerfully laced with tidings of doom. Her parents came twice, with homemade gingerbread, Fudge Flies, a stack of her old comic books, and copious tears.
But that's not the point. Mad-Eye reminds her of the battles already fought, and those yet to come. She understands like never before her mentor's old-soldier mentality. She no longer feels bright, young, exuberant.
Her parents remind her of family, of course. Blood is thicker than water, and all that. In her case, blood just spills more blood. Two days after being pinned down and cursed halfway to oblivion by her own aunt, Dora is freshly and painfully a member of her mother's nightmare family.
And that, of course, is a reminder of Sirius. Who is dead. Which feels horribly, irretrievably wrong. And who was killed, again, by Bellatrix. Somehow, that makes it all the worse.
She's kept her hair free of its usual brilliant artificial colors while she's been in hospital. It seems inappropriate, somehow. You wouldn't wear a bubble-gum pink dress to a funeral, and she can practically feel a funeral in the sanitized hospital air, which would be just as fitting in an undertaker's office.
So her hair is dark, for mourning, for respect. Shoulder-length and choppily cut. It probably accentuates her resemblance to her dead cousin, as well as to his murderer. This feels somewhat morbidly symbolic.
There's a knock at the door, the sharp staccato rapping of the mediwizard in charge of her wing, requesting permission to enter.
Her voice sounds hoarse and cracked.
The door swings open part of the way, revealing the mediwizard's square, solid face, her eyes framed by thick-rimmed glasses. Her head pokes into the room like a turtle from its shell.
"Miss Tonks, you have another visitor."
The girlish title sounds odd with her name.
"Alright," she says, wriggling herself up higher, her back propped against a thick wall of supporting pillows.
The door opens the rest of the way, revealing Remus Lupin, looking battered and uncomfortable in a worn tweed jacket.
Dora is surprised, to say the least. In more metaphorical terms, her heart leaps like a salmon, then plummets down an abyss. The mediwizard withdraws tactfully from the room.
Remus enters, his shoulders hunched. He looks dreadful. There are heavy shadows under his eyes, and there's a fresh shaving cut along his jawline, as if he'd shaved for the first time in days right before coming to visit her.
"I brought you something," he says, holding out a single red rose in a plastic sleeve.
"Thank you." Her voice is shy. "I suppose you should put it next to the other flowers, and I'll call for another vase later."
Remus lays the rose down on her nightstand, touching the bunch of marigolds tentatively. A ladybug crawls out from between two petals and up his finger. He shakes it off gently.
"Who brought these?"
"Mad-Eye. They're from his garden."
He turns to look at her. Smiling rather mechanically, he inquires after her well-being.
"I'm okay. They've got me on an hourly potion regimen, but my ribs feel much better and I can walk a bit now." She pauses, searching his face. "What about you?"
"I'm fine," Remus says immediately, voice rushed.
"No. You're not." She puts a hand out to cover his. He flinches but doesn't pull away. Heartened, she continues.
"I feel awful about it too. I miss him, you know. And that can't be much compared to how you feel. You knew him longer and better than me."
"I—" Remus begins to speak, then sputters to a stop. There are tears in his eyes. He wipes at them furiously. Dora leans up, as if to embrace him, then thinks better of it as her ribs sting painfully. Wincing, she returns to the bed.
"I'm sorry." His tone is brusque.
"Don't be. If you need to cry, you can cry."
Remus nods shakily, sinking into the chair by her bed. Head in hands, his voice is muffled.
"It felt so unreal, having him back after so long. It was so different, but the same in so many ways. It felt like a miracle, and a curse at the same time, because he was…unhappy, much of the time. But it was still wonderful, to have Sirius back. Even if he wasn't the old Sirius, entirely. And now, he's gone. I've lost him again."
Dora looks up at the ceiling, avoiding looking at Remus. She can hear the faint snuffling noises of a man trying very hard not to weep, and her own eyes are blurring with tears.
"I know what you mean. When I was little, and he'd visit…he seemed like he knew everything, could do everything. I idolized him. I was a kid, and he'd take me on his motorbike, or bring me presents…I felt, I don't know, broken, after he was arrested. And when I had him back, it was the most beautifully painful thing in the world, because he wasn't this great, perfect hero anymore, and I wasn't an innocent little girl, but at the same time he was still my cousin, and I remembered him, and he remembered me—"
She breaks off, her words catching in her throat, feeling embarrassed. Now it's her turn to wipe her eyes.
Remus sighs, a heavy, burdened sound.
"I know. We lost so much, since the last time I saw him. James and Lily are dead, Peter's worse than dead, Sirius has—Sirius had been through hell. And I…I've grown old since then. Old and tired. I spent a lot of the time we were together wishing I could turn back the clock, especially since…I think part of him was still living in the past."
Dora nods. "I understand. You wanted to go back to the way it was."
"Yes. But at the same time, we were still together, and we had each other, and we had you, too. And sometimes it felt like you were the only one of us who wasn't living in the past, and that made us look to the future. And now there's isn't a future, because he's—"
Remus's voice splinters into tears.
Gingerly, Dora lifts herself from her pillows. Ignoring the dull pain in her chest, she slides to the edge of the bed, leans outward, and wraps her arms around him.
Remus looks up, his blue eyes watery and full of pain. He smiles slightly, despite all that, and it is real this time, not painted on a face better suited to frowns. Faltering and twisted with injury, yes, but still real.