A/N – Thanks to my lovely beta, Zenny! Also…make my day…review!
Disclaimer - Nope…not mine.
I trail my fingertips slowly down your bare arm as I slip out from under the sheets; this is my version of goodbye. I lean down and lay a gentle kiss on your collarbone, just where the birthmark is that you hate, but for some reason never change. You look so much younger when you are asleep, which makes this feel even more wrong. I study you for a moment in the weak light that slips in through the blinds from the street lamp outside your flat; your nose is a little longer than what you normally show the world, your chin pointier, and your teeth a little less straight…yet even with these imperfections you are still so beautiful to me. I dress quickly and quietly and wonder what in the world I am doing here with you. I slip out into the stillness that comes just before dawn and am both thankful and regretful that you did not wake.
I curse myself for letting my emotions run away with me, for letting things with you get so out of hand. There are a million and one reasons why we should never be, so what am I doing flirting with the idea of making you mine? I cannot say. I meant for you to be what countless other women have been to me over the years – a casual lover, nothing more, nothing less. I always knew you wanted more, others have wanted more of me and I refused them without a thought, so what is it that makes it so difficult for me to deny you?
It is often that I find myself comparing you to the people I once loved; they were stolen from me so long ago. Perhaps this is one of the countless reasons I cannot let us be – my fear of losing yet another loved one keeps my heart locked away. It has been easy until now to avoid deep connections, to avoid friendships like the ones I once had. Easy until I met you. They were more than just my friends - they were my family. You could be as well, and that thought scares me more than any other. It is not only love that forges deep bonds, but acceptance. You…upon first meeting me you knew what I was. They had to sneak around and deduce facts to figure it out. They loved me with my condition because they first loved me without it. They accepted me in pieces, but you accepted me as a whole.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that you were interested in far more than just friendship; almost from the start you wanted things I could not give. It was a task of enormous proportions just for me to let you in as a close friend, and despite my very best efforts to keep you at arms length you leaked into my soul and now I cannot imagine life without you…though I must. I am nothing but a danger to you. Of course you are an Auror…you are accustomed to danger, but I never want to look back on your memory and wonder if you would be alive and whole if not for me.
It was his death that broke my defenses and drove me into your arms. Losing one of the men who were brothers me once was hard enough, losing him twice…that is a new pain entirely. You share that pain; ‘survivor’s guilt’ they call it. You wonder if you had dodged the curse that took you down would ithave been different. If you had finished what you started with her would he still be alive? I cannot say. I can only tell you, as I have before, that I do not blame you for his death.
These past few weeks I have found myself in your arms time and again; every time I swear it will be the last and every time I prove myself wrong, prove myself weak. I fall asleep with you in my arms, holding me, each of us giving comfort to the other, our hearts beating as one. Each morning I wake before you, dress and slip out. I pretend nothing happened - to the world I act as if I never held you close, never loved you, never kissed you as if you were my own. I act as if we are nothing more than friends, as if anything we share is merely casual. I can see when I look into your eyes that it is killing you. I never meant to use you, to hurt you, and I wonder if you know that. I keep waiting for you to tire of it, of me, but each time I appear at your doorstep you smile and let me in. You hold and console me; you are what helpsme through.
I find myself once more at your door, you pull out a smile from deep within and let me inside. Your hair is lank today, long and brown, nothing like your short bubble-gum pink spikes. You are paler and thinner and I can tell you have been crying. I gaze into your eyes and the hurt there cuts me deep. “What am I to you?” you ask me. I reply that you are my friend and you turn away from me, sobbing into your hands. “Do you shag all your friends?” you gasp through your tears. “Do you pretend they are nothing special to you?” I place a hand on your shoulder and whisper, “I never meant to hurt you.” You jerk away, tripping over the footstool, falling hard to the ground. You look up at me and I can no longer stand the pain I see reflected there, I turn and stride away, closing the door behind me. It is not casual, for you, or me, no matter what I tell myself. It is hard and it is painful and I must escape.
I throw myself into my assignment, living with the werewolves, trying to gently persuade them to the side of good. It is hard work and it keeps me away from you. On the few occasions when I make it back to wizard society people approach me about you…Molly, in general. She seems to feel that I should open up; that I should let you in, that I should stop lying to myself where you are concerned. She doesn’t understand, just as you don’t understand. I cannot admit to feelings that may get you killed; I cannot have another death on my conscience.
I love you. I am finally man enough to admit it, if only to myself. It is because I love you that I must deny you. It is because I love you that I must let you go. In time I know your feelings for me will subside, you will find a young man, a whole man, and you will marry and have children and be happy that he is not me. At least this is what I tell myself.
You show up on my doorstep one of the few times I am home. I let you in and notice that your hair is still long, lank and brown. You are so pale your skin seems translucent and there are circles under your eyes dark as soot. You are much thinner than the last time I saw you, much thinner than is healthy and I briefly wonder if you are sick. You grab my hand and tears spring to your eyes. “What can I do?” I ask, willing to do anything to make you better. “Hold me,” you whisper. I wrap my arms around you and sigh gently. Oh God, how I’ve missed having you here in my arms.
We have never officially been a couple, I have never allowed it, but it feels as though we have. Before I went underground we would spend time at each other’s homes. When I lived with Sirius you stayed over often. I lost count of how many times we stayed up talking until dawn. Headquarters has too many memories now, of him and you, so I once more live in my tiny dilapidated house. There are some memories here but not as many.
You gaze up at me, eyes the same nondescript shade of brown as your hair, and I look away from the intensity of it. “Remus, can’t you see I love you?” I close my eyes and sigh. “Nymphadora, I can’t, we can’t. I’ve told you a thousand times, I’m too old for you, too poor…I’m a werewolf for God’s sake. You deserve a better man than me. A young man, someone with a good job…someone who is whole.” You reply that you don’t care about any of that, that all you want is me. I wonder if you know how hard you make this for me. “Do you love me?” My breath catches in my throat and I wonder how to answer this. You have said you loved me many times; I have brushed you off or pushed you away. I want to tell you the truth but I know I must lie. “Nymphadora, don’t,” I rasp. “Do you love me, Remus?” you ask again, voice insistent. I take a deep breath and close my eyes, telling myself that I am doing this to protect you. “No, Tonks, I do not love you.” You pull away from me and stare in disbelief. “Was all that meaningless then? All the nights we spent together? All the times we made love? Did it mean nothing? Do I mean nothing?” You are doubled over now, as if in great pain, which, I suppose, you are. I turned away from you then, but not before you see the tear trail its way down my cheek. You turn and walk out and I pray it will be the last time…the last time I have to see your departing back and hear your fading footsteps.
I dive back into my work but not a day goes by that I do not think of you. I wish that there was a time and place that we could be together, but I know that there is not. I would do anything, even carve out my own heart, to keep you safe; in a way that is what I have done. I return once more to my house and to my surprise I come in to find you on my couch. You look like a skeleton with skin stretched across it, your hair is as lank and brown as ever. “What are you doing here?” I say through gritted teeth. You come close and wrap your arms around me. I stay stiff, refusing to react, refusing to look at you. “Tonks, please go. If you love me as you say you do then go.” You ask me why and I sigh deeply. “You are not safe here. Please go.” You reply that you aren’t safe anywhere, but thankfully you respond to my wishes.
The next time I see you yet another part of our world has crashed down around us. Hogwarts was breeched, Dumbledore is dead and Greyback attacked Bill Weasley. You rant at me in front of everyone that you don’t care about my condition or age or the fact that I cannot get a job, you even go so far as to shake me in agitation. They all side with you, Molly especially, punching holes in my logic. You excuse yourself and walk out; after a moment’s hesitation I follow you.
No, young and whole men do not always stay that way, but wouldn’t you be better taking your chances? When should you choose what you want over what’s best for you? When should I choose what I want over what’s best? The world would be easier if we stayed apart, if you were with another, if I were alone. Is easier always better? We have proven that in many other ways it isn’t. If easier were better there would be no Order of the Phoenix and Voldemort would have taken over long ago. If easier were better would any of us be where we are today? I doubt we would. So if the path of most resistance is so often the path that we should be on, then shouldn’t I finally give in and let myself be with you?
I find you standing alone by the lake, staring morosely into the water. I step close behind you and wrap my arms around you. You turn and look at me, carefully masking your face. “I’m sorry,” I breathe softly. You look at me with an odd expression and wrap your arms around me. “I love you, Remus Lupin,” you whisper. “I love you too.” Yes, sometimes it is the hard path that is the most rewarding.
We are once again back at your flat, holding each other, loving each other, how could I have ever denied this, denied you? You drift to sleep still wrapped tightly around me and I trail my fingers through your short pink spikes. I drift off, only to wake just before the sun breaks over the horizon. I trail my fingertips slowly down your bare arm as I slide closer under the sheets; this is my version of hello.