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Breathless and Broken

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Tonks never has been and never will be a lady, and that’s a fact that she has long since come to accept – even if her mum and dad won’t, but then that’s what parents are like and she wouldn’t change them for the world, not after the way they have both loved her unconditionally over the years, even when she turned out to be a freak of magical nature on top of being dead clumsy to the point where her mum had given up complaining about not being able to have nice things long before Tonks’ letter from Hogwarts – addressed to Nymphadora, much to her eleven year old consternation – arrived on a lovely, sunny day that Tonks only remembers for the fact that she got her letter on the same day she broke her left leg for the third time in as many years; really, her mum used to say, it was a miracle that the Medi Wizards hadn’t tried to intervene and rescue Tonks, since most people would have thought that the little girl clearly had to be the victim of abuse – that is to say, if it hadn’t been for the fact that on the first broken leg visit, Tonks had cut a swath across the hospital with her stumbling, bumbling ways, showing the entire staff of St. Mungo’s that really it wasn’t the parents they had to be leery of, but the child, who, as has been said before, never has been and never will be a lady – not even when she desperately wants to be with such a burning passion that she feels just as clumsy as she was when she was a child, even though she hasn’t broken her leg since Third Year and she really only trips and breaks dishes most times, instead of being the one person tornado she was all those years ago; not that that matters, because that’s what she feels like now as she stumbles and bumbles around the Grimmauld Place tomb (because it hasn’t ever been a home, in her own opinion, and it’s been even worse since her cousin died) trying to help out even though Molly won’t let her – Molly’s gotten very good at snapping denials even as she smiles to soften the blow that Tonks has long since gotten used to, because her own mother never so much as asked Tonks to magic the clean dishes into the cupboards, for fear of having to Reparo a million pieces of smashed crockery and porcelain – because what Tonks wants, the reason why she’s trying so very, very hard to be a graceful lady when she’s always been more of a lumbering bull, is to make a good impression on a certain man that she knows in her heart of hearts would never, ever, in a million years pick a freak like her because she would without a doubt destroy everything that he held precious just like she’s done to everyone but her parents, but still, she can’t help from dreaming about him; his red hair and freckles and his quiet manner, which is so at odds with the rest of his family as she knows them – and having lived with most of them, Tonks is pretty familiar with the boisterous nature of the Weasley family – and the way he can calm nearly anyone with just his voice; a skill Tonks is sure he learned in order to stop getting those burn scars that he’s got up and down his arms and back that Tonks saw just once when he got hurt on a mission and Molly had to patch up her second oldest son in the middle of the kitchen of the Grimmauld tomb, and that day gave Tonks a lot of fuel for her dreams since she actually did get to help that time, being as her own clumsy nature made it necessary for her to be an expert at First Aid charms and it gave her the chance to feel the strange, rough and smooth texture of his burns and to see that he must work with his shirt off when he’s back home in Romania – she’s heard Charlie call Romania his home, and to Tonks it sounds like a beautiful place, though that could just be because Charlie would be there if she were to ever visit at all – because Charlie had faint and fading freckles across his shoulders and back on the skin that hadn’t been burned, which really was most of him, though the burns made her flinch and ache to spell them away even though Charlie wore those marks with pride, just like the way Tonks wears the scar on her abdomen from the time she tripped and fell during Quidditch trials at school – she didn’t make the team, but she did get the job as the first ever team medic for the quick thinking that saved her own life when most adults would have panicked at the sight of their insides spilling out – and Tonks can’t help but respect and admire Charlie all the more for it, even while she wants to push him up against a wall and snog him senseless until he comes to his senses and snogs her back and they snog each other’s clothes off and Tonks doesn’t have to dream any more about what it would be like to have the man that she is finally beginning to admit that she might, maybe, could just be falling in love with; Charlie is everything she’s not with his graceful ways, and Tonks has heard it said that opposites attract, and she figures that really, they couldn’t get any more opposite – which is why she’s certain there’s no way Charlie could feel the same about her, even though she’s done her best to have him get to know her (she’s found that if she sits very still with her hands in her lap and breathes very carefully, nothing falls over and her robes don’t get tea spilled on them, so she’s taken to having long, quiet conversations with Charlie in the library at night after everyone else has gone to bed and no one is awake that would laugh at her for sitting so strangely, because Charlie doesn’t laugh at her – not ever – and he only looked at her strangely the first time she slowly and carefully walked in the library and sat across from him with her ankles crossed just like her mum always told her to and her hands folded in her lap and started to chat with him like there was nothing out of the ordinary) and she’s told him how she wishes she couldn’t break anything ever again, and promises to do her best to stay away from his possessions, because the best thing she can do for anyone is to not break their things; but Tonks knows that there’s no way that a man like Charlie could want a woman like her, so she talks to Dumbledore and tells him that she needs to leave and go… somewhere else; somewhere that Charlie isn’t, because she doesn’t think she can stand another night of this, but she also knows that she’ll never be able to resist the urge to sit with him and talk like they have been for nearly every night that they’ve both been in the Grimmauld tomb (Charlie likes that name, he’s said) for the past few months – so one night she makes her usual slow and careful way to the library, sits down and tells him that she’s leaving and she doesn’t know where and Charlie just looks at her with this look that Tonks doesn’t understand so she just ploughs on ahead and natters on about she figures she’s set a record for not breaking things belonging to any one person and she doesn’t want to end it with a crash, if Charlie knows what she means; but Charlie just looks at her and she shifts in her seat uncomfortably until he says – in his quiet and thoughtful way that Tonks absolutely loves and knows means that really and truly means what he’s saying – that it’s too late, she’s already broken something of his and Tonks’ face just falls because she doesn’t remember breaking anything, but then she breaks so many things it’s still possible, so she apologises in a soft voice and asks what it is so she can replace or fix it and Charlie just shakes his head and stands up and for one horrible horrible second Tonks thinks he’s just going to leave like that, but then he’s kneeling in front of her and taking her carefully folded hands out of her lap and holding them in his large and freckled ones (they’re calloused and the knuckles have small scars, Tonks notices, and she tries to imprint the memory into her mind to get her through) and then Charlie does the strangest thing – he kisses her fingertips; a soft brush of lips over her hands that have caused so much damage, and then he whispers that the item she’s broken can’t be replaced, but she can fix it by staying with him wherever he goes and if she really, really needs to leave, then he’ll go back to Romania and smuggle her in a suitcase, because his heart is fragile and he doesn’t want it to stay broken like this for too long – and Tonks just looks at him, completely forgetting to breathe, not that it matters, because Charlie just told her that he loves her and her world is doing all these delightful twisty turny things that have her stomach fluttering and her heart stuttering and then everything catches up when Charlie mistakes her silence and starts to pull away and Tonks snaps out of it; she grabs at his collar and pulls him close again, intent on kissing him – their noses bump a couple times and their teeth clack together painfully, but then they find the same rhythm that has been in their conversation for months now and they kiss like they’ve been doing it all along and there never was any awkwardness and their noses aren’t swollen from the initial collisions – and they kiss and kiss until Tonks is forced to pull back and suck in a deep breath to her straining lungs and she takes the opportunity to smile at him as though to say she won’t go anywhere without him, not so long as he keeps her breathless like this and he keeps on loving her like she loves him – tomorrow they’ll have to worry about what his family will say and what the rest of the members of the Order will say because loving someone during wartime only invites heartbreak, but then again, Tonks knows all about broken things, so she can fix nearly anything – and besides, they don’t care if their love is imperfect like his back and arms and her abdomen and the way she can barely enter a room without knocking something over because they love each other and it’s so strong it steals their breath away to leave them happy and smiling and eagerly seeking each other for a bit of quiet perfection in the madness that is their now shared world.