- Story Summary:
- If love is the entwining to two souls, then breaking up is a slow, painful unravelling of all that had come to be. A story about coming together and falling apart.
Authors Notes: Follows on from another story of mine, Auror Disciplinary Committee Case 1229, but you shouldn't have needed to read that to understand this. Big thanks to Miss Josephine for being the beta of this fic.
The old suitcase sitting in the corner caught Tonks' eye as she headed for the bathroom. They had moved into her old muggle flat as soon as she had left St. Mungo's, both in need of someplace safe to stay until the ownership of Grimmauld Place could be determined. It made sense for the both of them, a couple moving into her cheaply rented place for a while. After all, she had been practically living with him before then. That was nearing two weeks ago now, and he still hadn't unpacked.
Leaning on the sink, Tonks began her morning ritual. Most women applied makeup, plucked hairs, checked on the steady progress of time. But not Tonks. She had to undo the work of guilt. The face of Bellatrix Lestrange stared back at her, as did the face of Sirius Black. Her failure taunting her, reminding her. It was in her head, and leaked though magic into her skin, into her flesh and into her bones as she slept. She had been horrified the first morning it had happened. Now it was a ritual.
For Remus, it was still a horrible shock every morning. That was why he was sleeping on the couch, she reminded herself.
"I'm going out to fetch the Prophet. I may be a while," called Remus from the door of her flat.
Aurors didn't require occlumancy to tell if the average person was lying and Tonks had been trained by the best. Criminals would give away signs by the small lines on their forehead, all one had to do was sit back and watch, and for her, Remus Lupin was much easier to read than that. He couldn't look a person he cared about in the eye, and lie to them. Remus was a gentleman and he was no mystery to her.
So Tonks wondered, as she changed her eye colour to her father's rich brown, why Remus Lupin was avoiding her.
She wished Sirius were there. He would know what Remus was thinking.
A tear fell down her face. Rubbing her eye with the back of her hand, she glanced at her reflection. Now she was back to Tonks.
Once she got a grip on her powers; once the grief passed; that's when he will come back to me, she assured herself.
Remus Lupin was responsible for all the mess in front of him. A distraught mother was half crying and half yelling at him outside the room where her only child lay. He had found Tonks nearly a year ago now. He had brought her into his world and now, as a result, he had hurt her.
"You...you," Andromeda Tonks stammered with rage, her whole body shaking, "you should know better. She's young. She's impressionable!" The time of Andromeda's quiet hostility towards him had ended. Everything was in the open.
Remus couldn't meet her gaze. "You are old enough to be her father, you have no prospects, and you are far, far too dangerous for her...This is your doing...yours and Sirius'. Always trying to save the bloody world. And now ...now you've got her involved." Tears streamed down her angry face as she berated him.
Andromeda was right, and he had been deluding himself. He had known she was right all along, somewhere within him. He had always known it was wrong. How could he let it get this far?
"It's not his fault mum." Remus and Andromeda turned quickly to see Tonks, having emerged from her room, propped up on one side by her father, not quite capable yet of walking properly by herself. She winced with every step. She looked at her mother, her face a contorted mixture of rage and pain. "I'm an Auror, I will get hurt and you have to accept that."
"You shouldn't be up." Andromeda moved protectively towards her only child, arms outstretched, ready to usher once again to bed. Remus felt the same protective urge, but was stopped by the determination in Tonks' eyes. She stretched out her arm and shook her head, causing her mother to stop.
"What your mother was trying to say is that, Remus is quite a bit older than you and..." Ted began, looking at between his daughter and Remus with tired eyes.
"And I'm a werewolf," Remus added quietly, cutting Ted off. Remus knew he was too polite a man to be able to say it himself.
Tonks' eyes met Remus' as she marked her position. "I love him," she stated. She then glared at her mother. "I thought you two of all people should understand."
The tale of Andromeda Black and Ted Tonks had always been their daughter's proof and a reason for her blind faith in the power of love to overcome. Remus knew it well.
But Remus knew more. She was wrong. Would she ever realise she was ruining her life for him? He knew she would, one day when she realised her mistake. Throwing her life away for an idea of happiness that would - could - never be reality.
Remus knew he had to do what was right for her. He was responsible for harming her; he would not be responsible for destroying her.
One day, she would understand.
Tonks never thought she could miss Grimmauld Place, the last standing memorial of what the Black family once was. Tonks thought she needed colour, something those grim walls and dark drapes could never give her. Now back at her cheap muggle flat, surrounded by the cacophonic painted walls and garishly coloured furniture, she was drowning in the one thing she thought she would always need.
Frustrated, she grabbed the remote and flung on the television set. Muggle flats had their advantages; there were more of them, at much cheaper rent and they came with electricity, itself a wonderful thing until it came in contact with magic. Protective spells interfered with the reception, all she could see was snow, but the drone of the announcer's voice rang through.
"...A middle aged woman had been found dead in her home last night after a disturbance was reported. The police report she had died under mysterious circumstances and they are treating the matter as a homicide. They will not yet release the victim's name but they have confirmed she lived alone... And now, it's time for this week in politics..."
She switched off the television, still restless. Exiled, suspended, bored and living a half-pint muggle existence. She let out a soft scream of frustration.
The door handle turned, and Remus walked quietly into the room, he looked even more drawn than normal.
"It's been three hours. I was starting to worry," Tonks said quietly, wondering what he could have possibly been up to this time.
"I was discussing a matter with Severus," Remus replied. Tonks felt less concerned now. He had been like that for the past three days, disappearing for a couple of hours, 'discussing a matter.' Tonks had barely seen him since they had moved in.
Then she realised he had that look, the one he always bore when carrying bad news; his eyes cast down, wrinkles crossed his brow. The one he had worn in St. Mungo's.
"I want to know what's going on. You don't need to protect me," she blurted out, sick of the secrecy and dreading in the pit of her stomach what he was going to say next.
"Now's really not the time for that discussion." He placed the newspaper on the table, face down so she couldn't see the headline. Something very bad had happened. Remus sat down next to her and held on to her hand.
"Amelia Bones was murdered last night."
Remus awoke to the sound of Ted Tonks' fake cough. "Nymphadora would like to see you."
"Two minutes go. She's asking for you." Ted's worried eyes followed Remus into the room where Remus was soon meet by the cold glaze of Andromeda. You did this to my daughter.
Nymphadora looked small, lying there prone, hair sprayed around her face as if it were her aura. Pink, her hair colour was the only life in the hospital room. She stared up at him with big dark eyes. Remus was shocked by how vulnerable she looked. Had she always looked that young?
"Remus. You're all right." Her voice was scratchy. A tear fell down her cheek. "I woke up...and you weren't there...a-and I just assumed the worst." Remus mentally pulled himself together. Now was not the time to question his actions over the past few months.
Behind them Ted Tonks took his wife's arm and they left the room together. Remus sat down next to her and held on to her hand. "Are the kids alright?"
He was expecting this, but he didn't know how to tell her. He stumbled around in his mind for the words, but he just couldn't find them. In the end he didn't have to use words. She read it off his face.
"Who?" she sobbed.
"None of the kids," he reassured her. "They are going to be okay. It's...it's Sirius...He fell...." He didn't need to say anymore.
Remus entered expecting to comfort her. Instead she managed to hold together, while Remus was the one to fall apart. He clutched her free hand, holding it tightly as he hunched over her, mourning his brother, his friend. She ran her spare hand through his hair, not saying a word, allowing the grief he had been containing to finally flow free.
Night came, but for Tonks, sleep did not follow. All she could think of were the photos of crime scenes she had studied during her training. They had once been so detached; people she never knew, and never would know.
She knew Amelia, had spoken with her just a few days earlier. That had happened to her, and the images produced by her imagination plagued Tonks' thoughts.
Eventually she got up and made her way into the kitchen, being careful not to disturb Remus, asleep in the lounge. Atlas asleep on her couch, perpetually holding the world on his shoulders. Even sleep did not bring with it peace.
She pulled out the cardboard box from on top of the fridge and placed in on the kitchen table. Pouring herself a glass of water, she sat down, about to rummage thought the many copies of files on known and former death eaters she had collected from the ministry over the past year. Some of them, maybe all of them, had motive to murder Amelia. By morning she would know each and every one.
Then she noticed something was not right. Lestrange, Bellatrix (nee Black) was not sitting at the top of the box. Greyback, Fenrir had replaced it in its normal position of prominence. She hadn't read much of that particular file; it was generally suspected that he died at the end of the first war.
Remus obviously had an interest in the man, so she picked up the file, Fenrir's face starting lustfully at her from the old photo all the while. She read on.
Horrified, she glanced at Remus, lying there sleeping. Motive and future actions revelled themselves to her. This was his fight. Then Tonks realised that Remus' plans for the future didn't involve her at all.
No, she told herself. It wasn't like that at all. They were just having some difficulties. Everyone grieves differently, and she only lost a cousin she was just getting to know. He lost a brother he had spent too many years estranged from.
"You know, I do have some secrets that you don't know," Remus found himself protesting. Never place the woman you love and the man who knows all your most embarrassing secrets in the same room together.
"None that I can't figure out, sooner or later. I am highly skilled in the art of acquiring knowledge about a person." Tonks grinned at him, whilst charming plates dry. Having just finished breakfast, they were both preparing to leave for the day. Work called her; errands called him.
"No you're not, you just read his ministry file," Sirius called from the kitchen table.
"Oi! Be quiet you. You're giving away all of my mystique," she called back, scrunching her noise up in annoyance.
"Don't worry, I'm just about to leave. As much as I would love to tell you about Remus' first crush, it's time for Buckbeak's breakfast." Sirius marched out of the room, leaving Remus alone with her.
"So what does my file say then?" Remus asked, trying to get her back into the flirty mood she had been in thirty seconds ago. He loved that mood.
"Remus John Lupin," she said in an official sounding voice, changing her hair to grey and looking very authoritative all of a sudden and with a voice in the same vein of Minerva McGonagall's. She continued, "Five foot eleven inches, hazel eyes, brown hair, excellent marks in transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and has a birth mark the shape of China on his arse." She lost her authoritarian act as her face was graced with that big smile of hers, the one he would do anything to see.
He laughed. "They don't know that last bit."
"Yeah they do. I've been telling all the other Aurors your intimate secrets and we've been sticking them on file, Moony boy." She grinned, reached one hand behind him, and gently slapped him where the birthmark was located.
Remus wasn't about to let that slide. He reached into the dishwater and splashed her in the face with a hand-full of bubbles. She let out a small mock scream of indignity and sent more bubbles, along with quite a bit of water his way.
Ten minutes later Nymphadora was lying next to him on the floor, her red Auror robes and his shaggy old suit both soaked through. Her chest was rising and falling in fits of laughter, and Remus - laughing as well - could hardly breathe because of it.
He stared around at the wet kitchen. "You make quite a mess, good thing I love you, or Sirius would probably kick you out," he joked.
She suddenly turned around at him, and he realised what he had said. "Did you mean that?" The simple words with so much meaning had just rolled off his tongue. Well they should have, he realised, as he had loved her for months.
He paused and tilted his head, indicating that he was thinking just to tease her a little. "Yes." He stared in her dark eyes; her grey hair was wet and matted to her forehead. "Nymphadora Jane Tonks, I love you, more than I ever thought it was humanly possible for one person to love another."
She grinned from ear to ear. "Well...I like you enough, I suppose." Getting up on her hands and knees, Tonks stalked over, dark eyes glimmering. She kissed him, then and there in the middle of the floor, in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, when they broke apart, her hair had returned to its pink state.
"So I'm guessing that means that...?" he queried.
"I love you too," she whispered before kissed him again. He would never leave that spot, Remus decided. He would remain there forever, always part of her. Both of them combined on the kitchen floor.
"So what exam does Harry have today?" Sirius asked as he walked into the kitchen. They pulled apart and watched Sirius look from the two of them on the floor, to the rest of the kitchen, noticing the state it was in. "You had a water fight? Without me?" He looked hurt.
"Sorry Snuffles," Tonks said, looking guilty.
"Well, I own this bloody house, so from now on I demand to be part of any fun that may happen within it. Alright?"
Tonks woke up to noise of Remus pottering around in the kitchen. She pulled her head up off the kitchen table and pushed her long strands of black hair behind her ears. Looking up at her was an old pre-Azkaban picture or Bellatrix Lestrange, grinning and laughing manically. Tonks snapped the folder cover over it quickly.
"I'm sorry, did I wake you?" Remus asked while he rummaged around in the refrigerator.
"Yeah...But I don't really mind," she protested.
"We're out of milk," he said reaching into the change jar hidden among the plates. "I'm going out to the store to get some more."
She was there, just woken up, and he was leaving again.
Tonks got up off the chair, and purposely stood in the only doorway out of the small kitchen. "Are you avoiding me?"
Tonks looked Remus in the eyes for the first time in days. He turned away.
The one simple gesture confirmed everything she had been thinking. Tonks felt the harsh reality drain away the reassurances she had created. She could no longer blame paranoia. This was real. He was leaving.
"Is it because of this," she said tugging a strand of hair with her hand. "'Cause, I explained this too you, when we first started this, sometimes I lose control and I'm sorry..." She felt her throat constricting. She was not going to cry. The world was falling apart around her, but Nymphadora Tonks, Auror of the British Ministry of Magic, was not going to cry. "...But I can't control it." She fought, held back the tears, but found herself leaning in the doorway. Why did everything have to unravel now? Not now. She couldn't deal with this now. She wasn't strong enough.
Everything was going so wrong. Sirius was dead, they had to move out of Grimmauld Place, her parents hated him, and war had begun with the murder of a hero, and a friend of hers, and on top of it all her powers were playing up. Tonks just needed one thing to go right - one thing - and this relationship; he was going to be it.
"No," he said quietly and calmly, in the way that only Remus could do. "It's not that."
"What is it then? My parents are bloody big hypocrites, it doesn't matter to me what they think," she pleaded. He couldn't possibly be doing this because of what they thought. Please don't let them have ruined everything.
He looked away from her again. "Can we please talk about this tonight?"
She leant her head back against the wall and watched the ceiling while he walked past her. Remus bloody Lupin. The wonderful. The dependable. The man whom she knew she could always rely on. The man she needed, was no longer there.
"Where the bloody heck is Sirius?" she asked him. "I'm really hungry."
Sirius had forced them to sit there while he locked himself in the kitchen and cooked. Well that was what Sirius had told them he was doing, but now Remus suspected his good friend Sirius was up to his old tricks. He had done something similar to James and Lily. Remus told himself that it was not going to work this time.
Five minutes of silence passed, with Nymphadora looking like she was concentrating on something.
She suddenly turned to Remus. "You know what? I have feelings about you - strong feelings about you. And its taken me a long time to realise it, and even longer to be okay with it, but that's the way I feel and I know you feel the same way too," she said, quickly and breathlessly.
She turned away just as quickly, and started to act like she hadn't said anything, finding fascination in the back of her hand while her cheeks flushed a soft rose colour.
"Oh," Remus replied, startled by the suddenness of her outburst.
A short silence passed before she turned towards him again. "'Oh', is that all you have to say? I pour my heart out and you say 'Oh'." She looked vaguely annoyed, but more disappointed.
He couldn't just ignore this anymore. She needed a response. He had made his mind up a few months ago that she was merely smitten by him. A crush. Nothing more. He didn't expect her to act on it, or that he would have to ever acknowledge it. She was, underneath it all, a very sensible woman. She couldn't possibly expect anything to result, no matter what both of them felt.
He could lie, he realised. Tell her he didn't feel that way about her...but she already knew. She had known for some time and Tonks wasn't the kind to go down without a fight. Lying would be futile, he realised.
"Well, I'm very flattered, but I don't think anything can really come from your expression of interest." He had practiced this speech; it was the one he had planed to use should any of his students happened to make a similar gesture.
Remus instantly noticed the kink in his plan and realised that it was so typical of Tonks to find the one weak point in his carefully planed argument. Unfortunately for him, the practiced answer to this question had been about the student-teacher relationship and she didn't really fit into that category.
"Because I'm much older than you, and, well, I'm a werewolf." As if she hadn't realised that already. Tonks would use logical reasoning in her work, and sometimes in her life. But rationality was not defence with her, not concerning matters of the heart. Remus realised he was well and truly stuck now, he realised he had to get out of the room.
"Yeah, I though you might say something like that," she said quietly. Tonks seemed to be considering something for a second, her beautiful young face turned away slightly and Remus let himself think for a second that he was safe.
Then she leaned in and kissed him on the lips.
It was unconscionable what he felt, an old poor werewolf feeling lust for a young, pretty and energetic woman. He told that he just intoxicated by her spirit and yearning for the energy and idealism of her youth. He was just longing for a glimpse of happiness the told himself. She represented all he wanted from life and she deserved better. It was wrong. He knew it.
Part of him screamed it in his head. But the rest of him kissed her back, lost in her young lips.
She pulled away and smiled knowingly. "I care about you Remus. All that other stuff doesn't matter to me." Merlin, she was beautiful when she smiled like that.
She sat and waited. The darkness of night encased her and she embraced it. Remus returned some time after nine.
"You're a coward Remus Lupin!" she cried out at him as he walked in the door. He could not ignore her this time; she was sitting on the couch, ready for him.
"Pardon?" He seemed genuinely shocked by her sudden outburst.
When being smart doesn't work in a fight, fall back on your training. That's what she had always been told to do. That way, you get out in one piece.
"You heard me. You're going to leave me, claiming it because you're going to spy on the werewolves for the Order. And you will get killed for it too, but really, you're just a coward," she announced. Know thy enemy, and thy enemy is a Gryffindor, she reminded herself.
"How did you find out about that?" he asked, alarm in his voice. She wasn't meant to know. He headed towards the corner where his suitcase was packed.
"I'm an Auror Remus, I put a and b together, and figured it out. It's what I do..." She stopped herself before he could change the subject. "...But that's not the point. Things got hard, so you're quitting." She was shocked by the bitterness in her own voice. She didn't want to get out in one piece. She didn't know how she could get out in one piece. Not without him
"That's not why I'm doing this, and you know it," Remus countered, his tone of voice calm and patient.
"Yes it is." He had seen through her attack. Tonks felt the anger subsiding in her, and the sorrow it was covering return as she realised she was loosing him. "You can't face it, the whole world knowing. You didn't want this relationship to ever leave Grimmauld Place, and now it has, and you can't face the consequences so you're running away." She could hear herself get quieter as she continued. She just couldn't sustain the anger.
"I'm doing this for you," Remus replied, his voice still an oasis of calm.
"How can leaving me do any good for me?" she asked quietly.
"Because you deserve better." Sadness encroached on his voice.
She needed him to see. To realise what was right in front of him. The passion that had been leaking out of her returned. "Look at me Remus. I love you. So much," she cried urgently.
"Love isn't enough. People hate me, they will hate you, target you, and make you out to be a freak." She knew they already did, she hadn't ever been the picture or normality herself, but she couldn't reply, her throat had constricted again, her body's preparation for the coming tears, leaving her mute. "You could lose your job, nobody will hire you."
Love is not rational. Love is unreasonable, but it was powerful. She couldn't understand why he couldn't see that. "It doesn't matter," she managed to choke out. Why couldn't he see?
"Yes it does. And you are just lying to yourself. You've spent your whole life wanting to be an Auror and I can't let you throw it away. And that's not the worst, what if I was to hurt you? You know I could never risk that." Pure cool reason was all that came out of Remus' mouth, as if she hadn't considered this before she embarked on this relationship.
She wished she were able to stand up and explain to him exactly the reasons why they should stay together. All she could do was stare at his face, wishing to see what he was feeling but it was concealed by the darkness. Tonks was powerless.
He picked up his suitcase. "You're young. You'll get over this, and one day...some day, you will understand."
"Remus. Please," she pleaded with him, one final desperate attempt to make him see.
He turned away from her. "I can't love you," he uttered quietly.
Remus walked out of her flat and closed the door quietly behind him, a gentleman to the end. Tonks stared at the door for a long time, before collapsing on the floor. Tonks had always believed love was powerful, but now she cruelly understood. Love was crippling and painful, it could strip a person naked, remove their defences, and defeat an army.
And that day, love left her crying, alone on the floor.
Remus didn't need to search far before he found her, sitting at the bar in the Leaky Cauldron. He recognised her despite the unusual long brown hair pinned behind her ear, winding its way down her long pale neck. She had once bragged to him that she was very apt at getting lost in a crowed, but there was something that always radiated off her, something special about her that prevented him from losing her.
"Why do you always find me?" she asked, not turning to look at Remus as he sat down on the stool next to her. "When everything starts falling apart, you always show up." Her voice made it sound like as accusation.
"Are you alright?" He wondered how long she had been sitting there.
"Cedric Diggory is dead, I hate my job, and I was a stubborn idiot. You were right all along. Sirius Black is innocent," she replied, her voice laced with bitterness.
Remus knew how this felt, everything you had believed, based you life on, coming crashing down at once. He wished she didn't have to experience tragedy and guilt at the same age he did, he wished he could tell her it would get better. "I'm so sorry." Was all he could manage.
She turned to him; she seemed so much paler than normal, and her eyes lacked their usual spark, but she also seemed a bit more sober than he had expected. "No I'm sorry. I was an arse. I should have believed you and not the ministry," she muttered.
"No, you just did your job. And give yourself some credit. You did figure it out, eventually." He smiled at her, trying in vain cheer her up. He wanted to see her smile.
"But what do I do now? I can't do my job, whether I keep it or not." She seemed like hope had escaped her, leaving her empty. She fiddled with an empty whiskey glass with her right arm, and turned back to staring at the bar.
"That's why I came. I know some people who can help." Remus silently thanked Albus Dumbledore. For once, he could do something.
She looked at him, seemingly deciding what to do. "You know, you make for one very strange knight in shining armour," she announced.
He didn't know what to reply to that. Maybe she was much more drunk than he had thought.
"I though they were supposed to be strapping, and young, and Scandinavian," she continued.
"Scandinavian?" Tonks had always had an odd and unpredictable part of her personality. Remus was relieved. She was still Tonks; she was just a bit down, but resilient as ever. Some things never changed.
She looked at him with a puzzled expression on her face. "Yeah, I don't know where I got that one from either. The pictures in my book of fairytales I expect. Anyway," she continued, "not that I ever believed in that stuff, I've always planned to either rescue myself or not get caught in the first place, but here you are. Again."
Remus didn't know what to say. She couldn't have romantic feelings for him; a prematurely middle-aged, poor werewolf with no prospects whatsoever. He shrugged if off, she was offbeat, but the loneliness and drink were most likely doing the talking. She couldn't possibly feel the same way...
"Are you drunk?" he blurted out rather tactlessly, inwardly he cringing immediately when he said it.
She didn't seem to take offence. "No. I've only had two. I'm just...I'm just in a weird place right now." That explained it, he decided. But her comment had caused the question of his own feelings for her to come into to his mind, it had been niggling at the back of his head for some months now, why he kept on thinking about her, even when he hadn't seen her for months. If she said yes, if she came, he would no longer in a position to ignore it.
"So, are you going to come with me?" he asked, trying to push those thoughts away, trying to bring back the conversation to safe territory.
"Where?" she asked again, all the seriousness and questions of an Auror implied in her voice.
"I can't tell you right now, you're just going to have to trust me," he tried.
She looked at him again with those big dark eyes she wore, analysing him like she was trained, asking herself if she should believe him.
Reminding himself of his purpose he tired again, putting out his hand to her. "Come with me," he tried again. He looked at her dark eyes, pleading with her to trust him, willing her to understand that he would never let harm befall her.
Remus realised then that he loved her. And the largest injustice of it all was that it could never be. No, he told himself, he would not let it be. For her sake he knew he could never tell her. She had one setback, but the whole world was still in front of her.
"Trust me," he whispered, urging her one last time.
She put her hand in his, the smile had had wanted to see since his arrival now present on her face.