Want Part II
All she's aware of is white light pressing down on her shut eyelids and a hard, unfamiliar bed beneath her. The bed seems to be dipping down at one side and the firm pillows aren't so much cushioning her head as holding it steady, and… at the correctly prescribed angle for healing possible head and neck trauma.
She knows that light. She knows that unmistakable smell and mix of many different potions in the air. She's been here before. Too many times as a child.
She forces herself to very slowly assess the situation. Never forget your training, even if every instinct is telling her to sit up and find out what's going on. She moves her toes first, wriggling them, rotating her ankles, raising her knees slightly and – thank Merlin – they might ache and protest at the effort, but they all still move.
Her fingers. Then her hands. She brushes against another warm one, which stirs. Long fingers slide into hers, and her left hand is clasped tightly, sending reassurance flooding through her.
She tries to speak but it takes two or three goes. Her tongue seems stuck to the roof of her mouth, which tastes bizarrely of greengages. She wracks her brain momentarily for what potion that could possibly be and his grip tightens on her, reminding her he must be worried. She's fallen, hasn't she? She's always falling, nothing new there. Down stairs, into drains, over troll legs. Falling for Remus Lupin, who makes her feel like no one else does and has taught her about another kind of magic…
"I'm here. Take your time. It's all right."
But there's anxiety behind the calmness in his voice. She forces her eyes open, though the weight of them nearly defeats her for a minute.
He swims dizzily into view as she tries to sit up. Not one of her muscles or limbs seems to approve of the idea.
"Be careful, you've—"
"I'm fine. Just give me a— Ow!"
"You've got a lot of bruising. The healers say—"
"Oh, what do they know?" She says it crossly because she's not too fond of healers, who all seem to be absolutely fascinated by a Metamorphmagus, and must simply have loved having had her unconscious and at their tender mercies. Well playtime is over, sorry boys and girls. She's going home as soon as possible.
She's finally sitting up. He's half sat on the edge of the bed, still holding onto her hand and she takes a few deep breaths as the room starts to spin a little slower.
"—and you gave your head quite a bump as you fell. You haven't finished all your potions yet, and they say you're going to be very sleepy as well as a bit disorientated…" He stops, voice trailing away as she looks at him properly.
A small smile. "I'm so glad you're awake," he whispers and leans forward to kiss her temple, letting his lips linger there.
"Yes." Images are filling her mind, memories flooding back of the events that have brought her here. And his face. There's relief there, but he's so very tired and so very calm.
But it's the unnatural tiredness and numbness of grief, when you feel so much that the mind shuts down and you function on memory only. Going through the motions. She's seen it on the face of the Ministry official, whose job it is to inform families of death and disaster.
She looks down the bed and sees the pillow with the dent where his head has rested. He's been lying across it watching her. For many hours, by the looks of things, and the way he clearly aches as much as she does.
"Did … we all make it?"
"Perhaps you should get some—"
Not Harry. Not anyone. "Tell me then."
"Dora, I—" He stops. She knows before he says it.
"How?" She wants to say Why?
He tells her, so quietly that she has to strain to hear, and she doesn't think she can feel anything any more. Not for herself. Only for Remus, who has suffered the loss of more people he's loved than anyone should have to and now has lost his last friend again.
And for what? Because she let Bellatrix get past her?
She tries to tell him how sorry she is for so much, but the words won't go past her choked throat. Instead she stares at him hopelessly, trying to pull him against her, to hold him, and let him rest his head against her breast. But her arms are too weak and he's wiping the tears from her cheeks with his fingers. Sliding his hands into her hair and pulling her tightly into his side. Rocking her, saying her name over and over.
"I love you," she finally manages, into his shirt with a button digging into her cheek. Meaning let me comfort you, let me try and make the pain go away for you. You're not alone any more, Remus. Not like before. Let me help you.
Instead he says, "He laughed at her, you know. Right at the end. He threw back his head and laughed like mad. Like he did when he thrashed us all at chess."
She forces a smile. Pretends it's some comfort and all she can hope is that it will be in the days to come.
"Your parents are outside somewhere," he says at last. "I promised to go and find them when you woke up. Dumbledore's spoken to them."
She nods against his damp shirt front. "I don't suppose they knew who you were," she says, without thinking.
"Let's say they were a little surprised to find me here." She looks at him, but he smiles and strokes her hair. "We'll sort it all out later. Do you want me to go and get them?"
"In a bit."
She leans into him and shuts her eyes, feeling the white light pressing on them again. Thinking of Sirius, most Noble member of the House of Black.
He's spent the day walking.
He walked after the meeting with Dumbledore. Walked for hours trying to see another way, a way that would enable him still to be wholly selfish and keep what he should never have had. But there never had been a way and he should have known that right from the start. Before it took the events of the last two weeks to point out the blindingly obvious to him. There were boundaries between him and normal people which shouldn't be crossed. He'd not only crossed them, he'd thought he could ignore them, and now she was paying the penalty for it as he'd known all along she would.
Jump into the void, Sirius had said. They'd both done that in their different ways and he wasn't sure right now if he was any more alive than Padfoot.
"If there was any other way," Dumbledore had said, rubbing his eyes tiredly, looking immeasurably sad, "then I wouldn't ask this of you. I am all too aware I am using you for what you are. But it's the man who Remus Lupin is that I need to do this. If just one less person fights for Voldemort, then that one person could be the difference between winning and losing. And people listen to you."
Dora had listened to him too. Listened as he'd led her to this.
He's walking after seeing her as well. He can't stand still because if he does he sees her small, white face, washed of all colour by a storm of emotion. Looking as if he's struck her.
"Why?" she kept asking. "Why?"
"Because there's so much against us, Dora. Everything, in fact. I just pretended there wasn't. And only one thing for us."
"I thought that one thing was supposed to mean everything."
"Love isn't enough. I want it to be but … it isn't."
"It's the only thing there is, you fool! Yes, it's a risk. Yes, there are no guarantees and, yes, we could end up hating the sight of each other a few years down the line. But that's true for everyone, Remus!"
But not everyone has to face the prospect of Fenrir Greyback. Whose philosophy on life is an eye for an eye, a lesson taught for an insult given, and who, if he ever learnt he had a spy in his midst, would seek to make that spy pay in the most direct way imaginable. By hurting those dearest to him.
Not everyone has to face the prospect of a potential husband who can only offer hardship and suffering; no home, no family and no likelihood of anything ever being different.
She still wouldn't listen. It confirmed that she was too young to face the brutal realities of war and what life with him would have involved. How that joyous radiance, which had already dulled since Sirius' death, and now Amelia Bones' as well as Emmeline's, would have gradually faded away. Not her fault and he can take comfort from the fact that one day she'll come to realise what a lucky escape she'd had. While his will be that he'll forever know she once loved him.
It doesn't feel much like comfort at the moment. He's had barely an hour long conversation with a twenty-four year old girl and emerged shattered, weak-kneed and sick to his very soul.
"You're trying to make me hate you," she'd said quietly at the end. "I won't do it. I'm not giving up on you, on us, even if you seem hell bent on giving up on yourself. You might be going away but you can take that with you. You think about it every day and every night. I'll be waiting for the time you finally let the real Remus Lupin out and say you need me."
He'd realised he had no idea how to finish the conversation. It seemed as though he couldn't even finish them properly. Eventually he'd said, with his hand twisting the doorknob, "I understand from Molly that Charlie Weasley is coming home for the weekend. A very nice young man, I've always thought."
She'd looked at him as though he was some insect that should be crushed underfoot. "Charlie Weasley? Are you losing your mind?"
He thinks it's quite possible he is. It'll help when he has to live among the werewolves and see the poverty and despair of their lives.
He walks on. If he stands still, he knows he'll realise he's dying by inches. Like Sirius was in Grimmauld.
Molly's answer to everything would appear to be a cup of tea. This one comes with several biscuits and a very large slice of Victoria sponge. There is definitely an extra helping of cream on top too, and is that a couple of strawberries hidden behind it all?
"You're trying to fatten me up," Tonks says, smiling at the older woman. Remembering how she used to be secretly terrified when she first met her at Grimmauld and Molly had seemed, much like her own mother, so very good at all the householdy things that Tonks isn't.
It was almost funny, looking back, how she'd been so intimidated by someone's ability to crack eggs and mix flour and sugar into them. Now she'd just shrug and think it's a lot more useful, these days, to be good at other things instead.
Though it doesn't pay to underestimate Molly at anything. She's just blasted a gnome into what must be nearly oblivion for pulling up her flowers as the two women stepped out into the garden to make the most of the sunny skies and a rare afternoon off for Tonks.
"Well, dear," Molly casts what she obviously thinks is a less than noticeable glance at Tonks' waistline. "When you're on your own and working long, tiring days, it's all too easy to skip meals. I said exactly the same at Christmas to—"
She stops. Tonks almost sighs, wanting to assure her that she won't fall to bits if his name gets mentioned. She likes hearing it, in fact. It proves the great prat continually wrong in his assumption that he makes no impact on anyone's lives and that he can disappear without anyone caring.
In fact there's a queue of people who care. Headed by her.
"Remus," she says, to help Molly out.
"Yes." Molly looks as if there's something she wants to say. It's bound to be a variation on a common theme, such as: 'Have you heard from him recently?'
To cover the silence, which is threatening to get awkward, she says, "I made him a cake once. Wallop cake, he christened it. I hadn't got the right ingredients so I improvised, and it didn't really work, and I ended up walloping everything I'd got into it." She smiles at Molly's expression. "He ate it. Said it held a whole multitude of flavours in one bite."
"Have you heard from him?" Molly gets the question out at last.
"Not for a couple of months." She sees Molly look hopeful and says quickly, "We went over the same old things as usual. Same old result. He checks in when he can with Mad-Eye, of course, but that isn't often." She adds lightly, "He always asks after me, I'm told."
"And how are you, Tonks? Really? Because I can see with my own eyes that you're suffering, just like I could see how that silly, stubborn man was at Christmas though he wouldn't admit it."
This question is the one that takes her aback. It's an effort not to touch the dull brown hair she hates. It makes her think of the time Dawlish, in front of Proudfoot and Savage, said, "You look bloody awful, Tonks. I hope you're not planning to go off on sick leave at a time like this and leave the workers to it. You're not much use if you can't morph." It had made her take on an extra shift just to stick two fingers up at the bastard, who'd be keeling over long before she was. She'd seen him heaving his guts up after only a couple of hours of fun and frolics with the Dementors round Hogwarts.
She takes a bite of cake to hide her emotion and says, round a mouthful, "We're all suffering, Molly. It's war. It's the worry of what's happening to him that gets to me. There are always dreadful rumours, and by the time I've found out that one isn't true there's another one. He was so down when I saw him because he doesn't think he's doing any good, and he looked terrible, but, of course, he's doing the normal soldiering on crap. God forbid he'd ever sound like a whinger or anything like that." She blinks furiously. "I hate that. I'm so bloody angry with Dumbledore because what's the point of it all? He's all alone, and he's got no Wolfsbane, and he's probably breaking bones in his feet right now while we sit here drinking tea. It's not doing any good, and if the stupid sod does go and get himself killed out there doing something heroically self-sacrificing I may not know about it for weeks. I only hope he's screaming in frustration at it all from a rooftop or something because at least that's real."
"Oh my dear." Molly blows her nose noisily on a large pink handkerchief.
"I'm sorry. I just have to sound off about it all sometime." Tonks swallows hard and thinks of all the things she can't say. Like how her body aches for the comfort of his at night. Though she thinks Molly would understand as all those children probably weren't found sitting waiting on the doorstep. Aloud she says, "It's a good job I have you to talk to."
"And your parents."
"They - I don't want them to worry more than they do." Tonks doesn't want to say more and Molly seems to realise this because she says, "I haven't asked you what I wanted to."
Tonks looks at her enquiringly. "What?"
"Your Patronus." Molly goes very red in the face. "It's so rare it changes and I – well, I, don't want to offend—"
Tonks takes out her wand. "Keeps me safe from a million Dementors, this does." She concentrates for a second, hears Remus' voice in her head, that amused, intimate tone he had for her alone, and imagines him smiling at her. The bright, shimmering light bursts out of the end of her wand.
"Oh my… It's beautiful." Molly looks entranced as the large wolf, which seems to consist of silvery mist yet somehow has the suggestion of a touch of brown here and there, trots almost playfully round her garden, even stopping to apparently sniff at the now rather bare flower bed before walking back towards the two women. Extending its head towards Tonks' outstretched hand and touching it lightly with its nose before slowly dissolving away.
"It's very friendly." Tonks smiles. "At least till a Dementor has a go at me."
"I've never seen anything quite like that." Molly shakes her head. "What are you going to do?"
"Oh… Carry on. Wait for something to happen and pray it's nothing bad. Do what the men folk seem to think the womenfolk should do around here, which is keep quiet and wait."
Molly gives a disbelieving snort. "It's the women that make things change. The men just like to think they're the ones doing it."
"I hope you're right. I'm not very good at doing either."
"You should eat that cake while you are. Keep your strength up."
Tonks reaches obediently for a strawberry. In the bright light of the sun, she thinks she can still see a shimmering, silvery outline. Watching her.
He can't quite believe that he's here again, that she's letting him in (though he did have to prove he knew the title of her favourite Weird Sisters' song, and she knows having to say it out loud embarrasses him considerably), or that Dumbledore is really dead.
He walks into the hallway and everything is exactly as he remembers. As he's seen it in his dreams. He tries very hard not to recall the last time they were stood here together and from the tightening of her lips into a very thin line she's doing the same.
Somehow that gives him a degree of hope; though exactly what he is hoping for he couldn't say.
"You must have been up early," she says abruptly. "Your note," she adds as they sit down. Her curling up on the sofa with her legs tucked under her, and him sitting stiffly in the corner armchair which feels a lot more awkward than any of the broken ones he'd sat on with the werewolves.
"Oh… yes." He gathers his wits. "I wanted to come and see you straight away after - after last night, but someone had to tell Aberforth and there were so many others to tell too. And I went with Mad-Eye to set some security wards and curses at Grimmauld. We're on borrowed time there with so many Secret Keepers now being created." He stops, losing track of what he's saying. "Tonks—"
She nods and an uneasy silence falls between them.
He looks at her properly for the first time since last night in the hospital wing. All white and brown, like the vibrancy has been drained out of her. The twist at his heart again; this time like a knife.
"No," she says, looking down at her hands. "I've worked a twelve hour day at a Ministry in panic stricken uproar and I'm so tired I can't think straight any more. You must be as well. I need to make peace with you in some way, but I can't do it tonight. It's like after Sirius died when I just went numb. We can talk in the morning. I don't have to be in till late."
"All right." He feels like the leaden weight, which had lifted momentarily while talking to her, is back on his shoulders again, but then what could he expect? And why does the thought of peace between them now feel like the bitterest of disappointments?
He starts to rise.
"Where you going?"
"You can try the sofa," she says mildly, and a glimmer of a smile appears on her lips. "You've slept in the bed and on the floor here. Might as well try out all available options."
"Well I wouldn't throw anyone out on a night like this."
He swallows. "It's a beautiful night, Tonks."
"So it is." She gives him a look he can't identify. "I'll take the shower first, I think."
It's almost the last he sees of her unless he counts the stilted conversation over cheese and tomato sandwiches. They'd stuck to safe subjects, which were so few that she'd soon said she couldn't keep her eyes open and fetched him a pillow and blanket. A pillow which smells of her and the scent she wears in the hollow of her throat. Something between flowers and citrus.
He stares at the shifting patterns of shadow and light on the ceiling. His body has demanded sleep for hours, but his mind is constantly whirling between fragments of former conversations, half-formed, half-mad fantasies, and visions of a future in which Voldemort picks them off one by one and he has to watch her and Harry die.
But overriding all that, clamouring at him incessantly as it has been ever since he stood in the hospital wing last night, is the knowledge that he has things he must say. That she had had the courage to speak out and he hadn't.
He's not sure when he knew his entire life is a lie based on fear. Probably when he left her to go and live amongst the werewolves. Dumbledore had told him to believe in the man he was, but instead he'd thought only of what he was and let that overshadow everything else. And he still thought he was right.
But it no longer felt right.
Letting her go. Letting her find a future she deserves. Letting his mind convince him that he was being unselfish and doing the best he can for her.
He doesn't believe a word of it. He's not quite sure how he ever did.
He rolls over again and breathes in her scent.
The bedroom door opens cautiously with the softest of sounds, suggesting a care and thought that is rather spoilt when it is followed by the sound of someone obviously stubbing something against the wall and a hastily muffled swear word.
He smiles. "It's all right, Tonks. I'm not asleep."
"Sorry." The light goes on and she's stood there in her favourite soft grey and brown pyjamas. She used to say they reminded her of his hair. She looks quickly at him, then away again as she rubs her foot. "Couldn't sleep," she says, rather unnecessarily. "Thought a drink might help."
"I'll fetch it for you." He gets up rather hesitantly, suddenly conscious that he's in the t-shirt and pyjama bottoms he'd left here (which she'd handed him without a word), just as she's saying, "It's no bother." They come up against each other in the middle of the little room, stopping short just before there's any contact between them.
"Dora?" he asks, seeing her face still turned away from him.
"It's over, isn't it?" she whispers. For a moment he thinks she's talking about them, and he can't speak as though he's been winded with the shock of it, and then he realises she means Dumbledore. The Order.
"No. We've still got—"
"And you. Out here. I'm lying in there thinking about the way we can continue to work together. Be friends. Like we used to be. It would be a good idea, wouldn't it?"
"I—" He stops as he realises this is perhaps his final ever chance to deny what he wants. To agree with her and then walk away. Make the cut and make it permanent.
Except that he suddenly doesn't care about doing the right thing. He's beyond exhaustion and… he simply does not care.
He knows now that if you walk away from love, you ultimately pay the price in your soul. He'd made both of them pay because he hadn't understood that. She had. She'd tried to tell him and he'd been so fearful he'd not listened to or understood a word. She had years of wisdom on him when it came to this.
"I'm so sorry," he whispers and puts his arms round her.
She stiffens for a moment and then allows the embrace. "Friends then?" she says, head bowed, and there's a choked edge to her voice that suggests she's on the verge of tears.
"Yes, of course." He ignores the disappointment again at her words because he has to make this better for her somehow, and kisses the side of her head. Strokes her hair. Her arms slip round him and he feels her breasts press against his chest. "We'll—"
He stops. His heart is pounding. The rise and fall of her own pyjama top is much quicker than it should be, and he can see a pulse thudding in the vein on her neck. His body, which has ached and sweated for so many of those nights without her, is on fire again at the simple contact. And he's about to have a discussion on being friends?
Jump into the void and live a bit. He can almost hear Padfoot yelling it at him.
"No." Gently he pushes her away from him. Puts a finger under her chin and tips her head up, finding those dark eyes aren't tearful at all as he feared but full of frustration and grief and anger. And the most vivid life blazing back at him. It makes him want to cheer. It fills him with the strength to go on. This is the Dora he knows and loves, still alive and very much kicking, despite everything that's happened.
About to kick him as well, if he's not careful.
He wonders if she's pushing the question of friends now to push him in turn. She's a clever woman, is Nymphadora Tonks, and she knows him so very well.
He takes a breath. "We're not friends; we can't go back to being friends. It was always something more than that, right from the beginning."
She stares at him. "Which leaves us where, then?"
"Where we've always been. I'm a werewolf and you could live a very different life to the one I can give you. But," he says quickly before she can speak, "the werewolf is the real Remus Lupin and didn't you tell me you'd like to meet him one day?"
"We always end up at werewolf though, don't we?"
"We do. Because it's a fact and neither of us can afford to ignore it. It matters now more than ever in this world, but perhaps it doesn't matter as much as I thought it once did. Half a man or not, whether it's fair or not, I need you. And I want you."
She makes the faintest of sounds, almost a sigh, and then moves a little away. He knows it's not enough, doesn't even start to make up for what he's done, but he also knows she's seen the best of him and the worst of him and the choice now is hers instead of his. It's the only thing he can give her.
She's staring at the rug in front of the fireplace. Where they once lay and made love and planned a future together.
"I can't give you a home, Dora," he says hoarsely. "Nor a family."
"I know." She straightens and walks up to him. He can see she's trembling slightly, but she fixes him with her gaze and dares him to move. To run again. "The thing is," she says, and her hand reaches up almost idly to touch his face, to slide into his hair as it always used to do. She smiles. "The thing you don't seem to get, Remus, is that you're my family and you're my home."
"Mmn." Her hand plays with his hair, curling a piece round her finger. "So does this new Remus Lupin believe I still have to kiss him first?"
He touches her cheek, traces the outline of her lips. He leans forward and kisses her very gently. With love.
Nothing else matters for the longest moment.
They separate and she looks up at him.
"We've a lot to talk about," she says, "and even more to think about. But I want you too."
Hope you enjoyed this story, and I hope you'll let me know if you did! Reviewers get a one-to-one with Remus, who's finally realised what he's wanted all along...