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Chapter 1: Smile
“Mind if I come along?”
He had been getting ready to go somewhere for the Order yet again and she could describe the exact manner in which his shoulders tensed at her request, in which he slowly stopped shuffling through the number of parchments he held in his hands and the way he carefully turned and silently asked of her to repeat the question.
The anguished terror growing in his eyes was even more prominent than when she had told him she was pregnant, and she didn’t know whether to feel happy to know there was something he feared more than being a parent or disappointed having to compare his reaction in the first place.
“Dora,” he had started gently and she could already see where this conversation was going.
He would always talk to her in such gentle manner. Actually, she couldn’t remember had she ever even heard him raise his voice even for a bit, lose his temper even the slightest. His voice was always one of the softest things she remembered, yet there was always a lingering feeling of something being left unsaid between them.
“Do understand that I can not allow you to place yourself in danger. Especially ---”
He had stuttered, stopped, looked down as if trying to think of a correct word to use.
She had waited. She stood, gazing in his eyes, waiting for him to say something, to acknowledge, to prove her doubts and worries of late wrong.
What did he think, that she wasn’t afraid as well? She was terrified! Foremost of bringing a child to a world in a middle of war, but of being a mother as well, plagued with suspicions of not being good enough. She wanted him, needed him to say something to assure her she would never have to worry of facing this alone, because, after all, her greatest fear was of abandonment. Of being abandoned by him.
“Especially now.” He had finished in an overly simple, undefined manner very unworthy of him. The only sign of his awareness, of the approval she had longed for, a fleeting glance on her still mostly flat stomach, the little bump that was their child visible only slightly and only when looking at her profile.
It was not enough for her.
Probably noticing her gaze dropping, he had reached out and cupped her face with both of his hands kissing her forehead tenderly.
As his voice, his touch was also one of the softest things she remembered. Nothing could compare to the way he handled her. As if she was made of glass, as if the slightest wrong movement could break her. She felt flattered, in a way, to be treated so carefully, felt loved, but sometimes she just wanted for him to knock the wind out of her lungs by surprising her on the doorstep, hold her so tightly that her ribs would hurt. Sometimes such careful manner left a cold void somewhere within her, a void she did not quite know how to fill.
She was supposed to be happy, wasn’t she? Having married the man she loved, she should have been happy. It should have been enough to have him with her, as she had dreamed for so long.
It should have been enough, however, she didn’t want to feel guilty every time she kissed him, sensing his mind was miles away.
He was her world and she felt completely isolated from his.
And that couldn’t make her happy, not the way she thought she would be.
“Please. Promise me you will stay safe.”
She thought she could hear his whisper quiver a bit, but she was looking away at the moment, not being able to conceal the hurt in her eyes at the same time not wanting him to see it.
It was probably some potentially lethal mission and he just wouldn’t tell her. But he was such an awful liar. There was always something that would give him away. This time it was his voice, sounding almost as if he was saying goodbye.
She didn’t want to think of the possibility of him saying goodbye, though. The stupid, noble fool.
He had kissed her lips next and embraced her tightly, a little too tightly in fact. It didn’t make her feel closer to him as she had thought it would, though. It reminded her of the way he had embraced her last year, just a day or two before he had told her he was going to live with the werewolves.
And she didn’t want to think of last year either.
It was some moments after the front door clicked silently in the place when she finally moved from the spot he had left her in, her mind heavy and preoccupied, and she mentally kicked herself for allowing it the privilege of doubt.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she muttered to herself, “Of course he is going to come back.”
She had fallen asleep waiting for him the previous night.
She had curled up on their living room sofa every ten minutes telling herself she would be going to bed in another five. That she wouldn’t wait up.
One of the last things she could remember thinking about before waking up at dawn, shivering under the cold wind coming from the open window and with a cramp in her neck from the uncomfortable position she was sleeping in, was a memory from some months ago, a night set in the first few weeks of their marriage. Kingsley had called Remus up for a mission and she had remained waiting for him, fallen asleep waiting for him on this very sofa.
At some point during the night something woke her from her anxiety filled slumber haunted with nightmares of him leaving again --- nightmares of a year behind her, the year she still had trouble forgetting.
He had increased his hold on her, whispered soothingly in her ear, proven he was there with her.
She had leaned into him upon calming down as he took her in his arms and carried her to the bed. She had fallen asleep happy, content, with a feeling of safety, all suspicions seemingly disappearing in his warm arms.
Wrapping the bath robe tighter around her body, she recalled the memory once again before closing the window and going to bed to toss and turn at the verge of consciousness until a more decent hour.
Waiting only led to thinking and thinking made her feel anxious. That obviously led to a conclusion that she shouldn’t wait as obsessively. As far as she knew, he had left for what seemed as another outrageously long Order business. She should have left it at that.
The routes she took around Muggle London came to her instinctively, her feet subconsciously walking upon the same paths she used to wander around with her father as a child. She wished her father was here now. He would have known exactly what to say in a situation like this. However, such trail of thoughts only brought more pain to her, though, knowing her father had been forced into hiding with no one knowing where he was. No one knowing was he even alive anymore.
However, as much as she was exceptionally close to her easy-going, mild-mannered father, Nymphadora was always proud to have inherited her mother’s stubbornness and strength. It was what kept her facades from falling.
This morning, that strength was all that had kept her from averting to foolishness, all that stopped her from trying to find out where Remus had left and go after him risking to endanger them both.
By now simple worry had grown into fear, Mad-Eye Moody’s death still a very recent memory to her. Though in her mind’s eye, the imagined scene of her mentor’s final moments replayed a bit differently, the fallen body every time taking more familiar features; terribly scarred face turning a little less grotesque, dark hair becoming light and equally sized eyes, still glazed with their last look of surprise, the honey-brown color of her husband’s.
Every time she shuddered inwardly at the thought, begging her mind to focus on something else.
She had noticed a random bypasser eyeing her a bit curiously and she subconsciously doubled up her pace, finally realizing the risk she was taking. Raking a trembling hand through her disguise of curly auburn hair, dark eyes searched for an adequate place to Apparate away.
Remus would definitely not miss an opportunity to mention how he didn’t really fancy her wandering around. After her aunt Bellatrix had all but publicly announced she wanted her dead almost as much as Voldemort wanted Harry, he had reinforced the protective spells around their flat and, albeit very indirectly, practically forbade her to go out unless it was absolutely necessary.
She had accused him of being paranoid, but as she disappeared in the shadows of a secluded alley and lightly clutched her coat tighter around her stomach concentrating on her destination, she could relate that cold feeling of paranoia to her current mental state perfectly. It seems as if Mad-Eye’s year long tutoring in ‘Constant Vigilance’ finally rubbed onto her as well and she actually allowed herself the privilege of a smile when she imagined herself old and cranky with a scar to show as a reminder for every battle she took place in.
However, the moment ended too soon and the strange feeling continued to bubble uncomfortably in her stomach, bulging through her whole system as she disappeared with a light popping sound.
The suffocating feeling didn’t quite go away even when she had already passed the short distance from the boundaries of the protective spells to the front door of the Burrow. Taking a few deep breaths she knocked lightly a few times.
“Who is there?” came a careful whisper from the other side of the door.
A short pause followed and she shivered lightly under a sudden gust of wind.
“Who was traveling with you at the night Harry was moved? Which house was your target?”
At the strict, yet almost fearful tone of the question, she felt very ashamed all of a sudden, almost not able to recall a single good reason of why she was here. She needed someone to talk to, but it suddenly felt so selfish to think about her love problems while there was a war raging. Biting her lip, she bowed her head, although no one could really see her, and muttered the answer.
“Ron. We went to Muriel’s house but were attacked by Bellatrix and Rodolphus Lestrange, missed our Portkey and came here by broomstick just a bit before Bill and Fleur who were the only ones still missing.”
The door clicked and opened with a creak. A beam of light reflected from a bald spot at Arthur Weasley’s head as he ushered her inside.
“Sorry about that. We weren’t expecting anyone.” He smiled lightly, his eyes glimmering behind his slightly lopsided glasses.
“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have just popped up here unexpected,” she responded with an excuse of her own, still very ashamed of coming in the first place.
“Oh, please. You know you’re always welcome,” Arthur secured the door with a short wave of his wand and sent her a reassuring smile. “Make yourself comfortable while I tell Molly you’re here. She’ll be very happy to see you.”
She smiled back and had just started to fiddle with the buttons of her coat when the eldest Weasley suddenly stopped and turned, taking a few long strides back towards her.
“Listen, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” he leaned a bit closer, as if not wanting to be overheard, “Has Remus found out where Harry had gone?”
She stared up at him slightly confused than blinked rapidly a few times.
“I mean,” Arthur continued, “He was here yesterday, asked me if Ron made a contact or if maybe I had a clue where they might have gone. He wanted to make sure they were alright so I asked him to let me know if he found out anything and I was just thinking --- if there is anyone he would have confided his suspicions to, it would be you.”
She was still staring at him as if not quite comprehending what had been said. Arthur’s eyes held a mild look of honest trust.
“No,” she shook her head and looked away, “No, I don’t think he found their location yet. I’m sure he’ll let you know when he does.” Her tone had turned cold with the last words spoken.
She hated lying to someone like Arthur Weasley, but how to tell him Remus never came home yesterday when he was, apparently, supposed to?
“Oh. Alright than.” Slight disappointment was evident in his voice, but he smiled none the less. “Just do me a favor,” he reached out and touched her shoulder making her look up again, “Don’t mention any of this to Molly. She’ll just fret over it more than it’s necessary.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
Molly was indeed thrilled to see her and she simply didn’t have the heart to tell her about her problems and fears. Although her seek for some comfort was her ulterior motive of coming, that shame from before kicked in again. She wasn’t quite sure of what she wanted anymore. She needed someone to assure her everything was going to be alright, but at the same time was afraid to speak of Remus’ absence. If she spoke or thought about it too much, than he might really be gone and she dreaded that more than anything.
So in the end her confused mind decided that Molly didn’t need another daughter to worry about and Tonks refused to be a burden. Forcing a smile, she chatted on as if nothing was wrong, with a laugh and a wave of a hand brushing Molly’s worries off, joking that she didn’t need something bad to happen in order to visit her friends.
From the outside she appeared to be the perfect image of a happy wife, a glowing mother-to-be.
From the inside she was being ripped apart by doubts.
What if something had happened to him? Or what if --- what if he had abandoned her?
By replaying the scene of his departure in her head countless times she desperately sought for something, a detail she might have missed, a detail that might have given away his intentions.
The only thing she managed to accomplish was a suspicious look from Molly as she had profusely ignored her a couple of times.
The intuitive woman had definitely noticed something was wrong, but remained silent, not asking too many compromising questions. Tonks was grateful for that.
The sun was slowly reaching its final, brightest point in the sky when she finally bid goodbye to the Weasleys and took the Floo home.
The flat was still in the same state as she had left it that morning. Still, she looked up every room, observing everything frantically for the slightest sign of him being there, even only stopping by for a moment.
He had left for what seemed as another outrageously long Order business. It was just that, this time, she wasn’t as certain he was coming back.
It was just that, this time, she wasn’t even sure it was an Order mission at all.
The bright volcano of exploding reds and oranges blooming in the horizon bathed the kitchen in a surreal glow. The lights of a setting sun darkened her silhouette and gave her still auburn hair an almost golden reflection as she approached the stove and placed a pot of water on the fire. Taking out a cute looking light blue cup with little white stars and bears painted over the thick porcelain, she closed the cupboard with a slight creaking sound, entirely uncharacteristic for a sound that usually followed the closing of a kitchen cupboard. A silent click of a lock falling into place followed and her fingers trembled making her grip on the cup loosen and drop it rather noisily on the counter in front of her. The porcelain shattered over the white surface, a rather large piece still lingering in her hand, cutting it in the process.
She cursed under her breath. That was her favorite cup.
It is him. It has to be him, no one but the two of us knows the correct counter spell for the one he had placed on the door.
Sucking absentmindedly on the cut over her palm, she swiped her wand over the shards of a broken cup and did her best to mend it back together, but her hand was still trembling too much, her mind swarmed with conflicting feelings of relief, joy, anguish, doubt. She converted to mending her hand instead with a simple healing charm she was much better at and quickly took another cup --- large and white with bright hearts and colorful butterflies.
She could hear him shuffle through something in the hallway and she didn’t bother calling out to him. The shattered cup was a giveaway that she was home, anyway.
She took pride in possessing her mother’s stubbornness and strength, but for a moment, she would have traded it all for an ounce of her father’s soothing calmness. Maybe it would have been easier for her to run into his arms and give herself to the joy of him being back. Maybe it would have been easier for her not to think about his absence any further.
She noticed a faint smell of alcohol and tobacco lingering around him as his footsteps, previously muffled by the carpeting, suddenly echoed on the tiles behind her.
Remus did not smoke neither did he drink. At least he didn’t before.
“Another long one?” she spoke without turning around, trying very hard not to sound bitter.
She breathed in deeply at the sound of his voice. Silent, insecure, albeit his and all of the other thoughts and sensations drowned in a flood of immense relief.
However, what little that relief managed to relax her, the feeling had soon been replaced by disappointment. Anger even. For a moment, her frustration seemed such that she just wanted to whirl something heavy to his head, to maybe slam some sense into that thick skull of his, to take revenge for not being herself this day and a half that he was gone.
While taking a jar filled with tea leaves from a cupboard above her head, she weighed the object in her hand, actually reconsidering the option.
“You’ve been out?” uttered Remus, apparently noticing her discarded coat and purse in the hallway, his voice even more hoarse than usual.
“Yes. Went to visit Molly and Arthur,” she answered and placed the jar on the kitchen counter with a little more force than necessary. She expected him to mention something about her being reckless for placing herself in danger, but his silence surprised her. He appeared to be barely even breathing.
His silence echoed guilt.
The pot let out a piercing whistle as the water reached its boiling point and she jumped slightly, her wrecked nerves the only sign of her forced composure breaking.
“Tea?” she called out in the most even voice she could muster, doing her best impersonation of a nonchalant smiling housewife from those silly old television shows her father used to like. She hated these moments when she didn’t quite know what she wanted to do, what was she supposed to feel or how was she supposed to act. This was one of such moments and it thoroughly frustrated her. Deep inside, she felt guilty for wanting to take that frustration out on him. Another side of her, however, screamed that he deserved it.
For all the worry and anxiety he had caused her in these past two days, he bloody well deserved it.
She finally turned to face him.
He looked utterly surprised by her calm demeanor. She even managed not to knock anything over from the counter behind her.
Truthfully, she was thoroughly surprised herself, the shatter of that cup still echoing though her mind.
“I am making tea for myself. Do you want some?” she repeated calmly, slowly, as if teaching a small child how to read. It was as if another person, some different side of her personality had taken over. Almost subconsciously, her arms crossed over her slightly rounded stomach.
He smiled lightly, tenderly, in a way only he knew. It was only a small smile, though. Tentative, a bit insecure, anxious even.
But it was sincere. She could tell.
“Tea would be nice,” he whispered, falling into a trap as carelessly as an unsuspecting prey walking too close to a Devil’s Snare.
He had just confirmed her worst fears with that one little evasive sentence, she had read the truth from his eyes.
There was no Order mission.
Did he really plan on going away with Harry? Did he really consider leaving her, them?
But really, did she actually expect him to walk up to her and confess everything? Make up for all the lies he made, lies she had found out about just a few hours ago?
In a way, yes. A part of her did expect him to tell her everything like he used to. A part of her loved him for his honesty. A part of her didn’t want to be disappointed in him up until the very end.
And in a moment, everything fell apart. For that moment, she wanted to scream. She wanted to yell. She wanted to throw something, to make him see he was hurting her, to run up to their room and cry until she could cry no more over him, over herself, over his ridiculous insecurities and not forgive the first time he would come knocking.
In that moment she realized that no matter how overwhelming his return seemed at first, she would never be able to completely trust him again. At least not until this damned war was over.
Everything inside her was trembling as she wondered was it humanely possible to love someone more than life itself, but at the same time hate them with burning passion for being so infuriating? Was that even hatred at all? Was it love?
With eyes glistening with disappointment she looked up at him. With tightly pursed lips she noted his slightly trembling hands he so unsuccessfully tried to hide within the wrinkles of his robes.
And she decided for the next option.
She smiled. She simply, smiled.
A/N – This was inspired by a question in a Deathly Hallows Quiz posted both on HPFF forums and Elderly HP Fans forum that said “Who do you think suffered the most in the book?”. Although pretty much everyone suffered in their own way, I chose Tonks because I always did think she had a bit of a darker side to herself. Under being the clumsy, vibrant, pink-haired Auror, I’m sure she hid her own doubts and sorrows and sufferings especially in her marriage to Remus. He is an extremely anxious character, very insecure and, although he is my favorite charater - I have to be honest, probably very difficult to live with. It must have been hard for her to deal with his baggage on daily basis.
This is my second “trip” to Tonks’ mind and although I am aware it might be confusing on some parts, a slightly desperate woman in love (not to mention pregnant --- hormones raging and stuff like that… :p) rarely thinks very coherent thoughts so I tried to put myself in such state of mind.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it, I love reviews as the next person, but a huge thanks goes to everyone who take time to read this story as well --- hopefully you'll find something to enjoy... ^_^