Remus was waiting for her when she came home that night, standing on the landing outside the door to her flat, leaning against the wall, his hands in his coat pockets. Tonks spotted him the second before he turned to look at her, and her heart jumped. "Hi," she said, her breath quickening as he turned to look at her.
"Hi," he said, a faint smile about his mouth. "When was the first time I met you?"
"Summer of 1975. You visited Sirius at Grimmauld Place." She bit her lip. "Who else was there?"
The hint of smile disappeared. "James Potter and Peter Pettigrew." He produced a paper-wrapped parcel from his pocket. "I'm here to give you this."
Tonks accepted the parcel and put it into her own pocket - she knew better than to open obviously Order-related post outside the flat - and turned to the door. She bit her lip again, summoning courage, then turned to him. "Would you like to come in? Just for a cup of tea."
There was a long, uncomfortable second of silence, the memory of what had happened the last time they met, alone in this very flat, vibrating between them. Then he nodded. "All right."
Her flat was far from tidy; there were clothes strewn across the sofa and the chairs, unwashed mugs fighting old copies of the Prophet for space on the coffee table. "Sorry about the mess," she said, embarrassed, wishing she were good enough at household spells to clean it all up in a second. "I'll put the kettle on. Unless you'd like something else? I have gin." Her voice sounded a bit strangled.
Remus walked over to the sofa and carefully cleared a spot for himself to sit down. "Tea sounds nice," he said, his faint smile back. "Thanks."
Probably didn't want to risk getting drunk with her, Tonks thought miserably as she moved about the kitchen, turning the kettle on and looking for clean mugs. In one cupboard, there were some biscuits that, thankfully, hadn't gone stale. Next to them sat the bottle of gin. She contemplated, only for a brief second, putting gin in their cups and spelling away the taste. If she'd been more like her mother, she might have done it.
She carried the biscuits and the mugs of tea into the living room. Remus got up and took them from her, gently placing them on the table as she cleared her own corner of the sofa. When they both sat down, she noticed how terribly small the piece of furniture seemed, and swallowed. They sipped their tea in silence for a while.
"So," said Tonks at last, dipping a biscuit into her tea, though she wasn't really hungry. "How are you, Remus?"
"As well as I can be," he said, his tone suspiciously even. His hands were cradling the mug, long, slender fingers curled around the porcelain. "And you, Tonks?"
"Busy," she said, "and lonely." She blushed as soon as the word came out, wanting to slap herself. "I mean, it's hard to keep so many secrets."
"Don't I know it." He almost sounded amused, but when she looked at him, just a sideways glance under her lashes, he was staring into the tea, his face a blank.
What is it you want? she thought, studying him. Do you want me as I am? Do you want me at all? Or do you want me to change? I could do that, you know. I could grow big breasts, no problem at all. Or I could make myself taller, my hair black -
She stopped that train of thought before it got too far. Putting down her mug of tea, she turned to him and placed her hands around his.
"Remus," she said, seeking his gaze with hers. "I've missed you." She tightened her grip on his hands. "I thought you didn't want to talk to me again..."
He looked up, eyes sad. "I'm sorry."
"Do you regret what happened?" she asked, though she feared the answer. "I mean, we were both drunk, and in mourning for Sirius, and sometimes these things happen, they just do, but I care so much about you, and I thought, maybe..."
She cut herself off, her heart hammering. Then she said, in a voice that sounded pitiful to her own ears, "I thought maybe you cared for me too."
Remus freed himself of her grasp, but only to put his mug on the table, next to hers. Then he took both of her hands between his. "Listen, Tonks," he said gently, as though he was about to be kind to her. "It's not a good idea."
"But why not?" she couldn't help protesting. "We could be good for each other in so many ways; I don't care about the werewolf thing -"
"It's just..." And his gaze fell."I'd be horrible for you. I'm thirteen years your senior, I'm broke, I turn into a dangerous beast once a month, I'm -"
"I don't care," said Tonks stubbornly. She felt, very strongly, that these were poor excuses. Hadn't her own mother been a Black, and hadn't she left her family to be with a Muggle? Love was supposed to be far more powerful than these things, more important. "I'm an Auror; don't you think I can deal with it?"
"I couldn't do that to you," he insisted, then looked away again. "You deserve someone better."
Tonks wondered if he truly believed it. What must it be like, going through the world and feeling bad for other people's love of you? She raised her hands to his face, gently turning him to look at her.
"Listen to me." She took a deep breath. "Don't tell me what I deserve or what I want. I know what I want, and I want you. I don't know - are you afraid to let yourself care about me? Because I can understand that, because of everything that's happened before, but I'm not going to die, Remus, or betray you, or..."
She faltered; he was still looking away. Summoning her courage for the second time that evening, she took his hand and went on, softer and more hesitant:
"The question is, Remus, do you want me? Because that's what I need to know." She sighed, letting his hand fall. "Just tell me that you don't want me, and I'll never mention it again."
Her heart threatened to strangle her even as she said it. For she knew, beyond any doubt, that he'd never tell her he didn't want her unless he really, truly meant it, and she wasn't sure she could bear to hear that. Please, she thought, closing her eyes and letting go of his hand. Please don't do that to me. I'll be understanding, I won't ask about all those things you keep from me, just...
Then she heard his breath, very close to her ear. "Tonks." She opened her eyes and saw that they were now sitting very close on the sofa. Remus raised his arms to put them around her, and she threw herself into them, turning her face upward, blind, seeking.
She wasn't drunk this time, but the kiss was all the better for it. Mouths together, noses colliding, a sigh that came from somewhere between them and resonated in the otherwise silent room. Tonks closed her eyes, feeling a slight sting there. She climbed closer, into his lap, pushing him down until he was lying on the sofa and she was on top of him. Please, she thought again, and muttered it aloud this time. "Please..."
He squirmed under her; the sofa was old and bulky, and too short for him to lie comfortably outstretched. "Not unless we get to an actual bed." They both laughed at that, somewhat shakily. Tonks climbed off of Remus and took his hand to pull him to his feet.
She hadn't made her bed that morning, but as they fell down on the mess of sheets, she couldn't find it in herself to care. Adrenalin coursed through her, like after a successful mission, when there was only the high and no danger. Remus had landed on his back; she crawled to straddle him, leaning on her arms on each side of his head. Staring into his eyes, she saw that they were darker than usual - with desire, she thought, oddly triumphant.
"Come on," she whispered, brushing her mouth against his. Things felt suddenly urgent, as if some part of her was convinced this would end any second, that he might change his mind, stand up and leave her here. She started fumbling with his jumper, clumsier than what was normal even for her.
"Let me," he said, and she reluctantly sat up. His naked torso looked thinner and more vulnerable than she remembered it, scars criss-crossing over his chest. He caught her looking and cleared his throat. "Tonks -"
Because she didn't want to hear what he was going to say - maybe something like this is a bad idea, after all, or maybe now you see what you're getting yourself into - she kissed him again, running her hands over his chest, his back, his arms. "Please," she said again, unable to keep anticipation out of her voice.
Together, they got rid of Remus's trousers, Tonks's Auror robes and all of their underwear. Remus pulled her to him - he was definitely aroused now, she was happy to note - and kissed her, and she ran her hands through his hair. "On top of me," she mumbled against his mouth, and they rolled around so that she was now the one lying on her back. She spread her legs, shuddering with pleasure when one of his hands found its way between them, long fingers caressing her where she needed it the most.
She arched against him, rubbing a foot up and down his thigh. "Good," she managed, pressing a clumsy kiss to the side of his mouth. "So good..."
He didn't answer, but she felt his mouth curl against hers.
The rush was building, but she didn't want to come yet, not like this. "Wait," she gasped, gripping his hand.
He stilled immediately, drawing back to look at her. "Everything all right?"
"Yes. Yes." Her breath came in heavy gulps. "I want you. Inside me. Now. Please."
No answer this time either, but she didn't need any, because he shifted to move between her legs, which she spread even wider, urgently, so that he would know she was serious. After a quick protection spell - something Tonks hadn't even thought about in her state - he slid inside her, but slowly, far too slowly. She whimpered and pulled him closer.
They moved together in heavy thrusts, Tonks's legs around Remus's waist, her hands in his hair. "So good," she almost sobbed into his mouth. "So good, that you want me like this, oh, Remus..."
"Please," he groaned, a pained strain in his voice, but what he was asking for, she didn't know, because she was giving him all that she could, herself, spread open and wide, arms and legs wrapped about him, urging him closer, closer, even closer. It was a bit painful and wonderfully good, and she didn't want it to stop, only it would have to, sooner or later, because this was too intense to endure for much longer -
Remus froze, then trembled, groaning as he collapsed over her. Tonks stilled, her pulse still racing, her blood still pounding. "Hey," she said softly, running a hand through his hair. "It's all right."
"Sorry," he whispered. Did his voice always sound that hoarse? "I'm sorry..."
His hand moved between her legs again, searching and finding, and Tonks cried out and came, her whole body shaking as she called his name out loud.
The next morning, he wasn't there when she woke up.
Tonks lay still, staring at the ceiling. You knew he wouldn't be, she said to herself. He said as much himself, before you went to sleep. He's got all those secret missions he won't tell you about. That won't change. You can live with that. You're an Auror; you need your distance too.
But somehow all those truths - those reasonable, practical truths - didn't manage to silence that little voice inside her, the voice that whispered, He regrets it already. He can't forget those who died. You'll never mean that much to him
She turned around angrily, pressing her face into the pillow that still smelt like him, and closed her eyes. A slight ache between her legs brought her mind to the pleasures of the night before, and she breathed slowly to calm herself down.
It didn't matter, Tonks decided in the end. If that voice was right - if that was indeed the price she'd have to pay - she could live with that. She was stubborn, she was patient. She was not one to give up.
And wasn't that what love was all about?