The road to hell isn't the only thing lined with good intensions. Remus reflects on his current relationship.
She'd never had sex before.
He had, naturally, being considerably older and, odd as it was to think of himself as such, more worldly, but she hadn't. For some reason the thought that he had been her first made him uncomfortable, even more so than the rest of their relationship had. Now he lay beside her in what should have been the afterglow, watching her with her bubblegum pink hair and tip-tilted nose, smiling in her sleep, and felt guilt gnaw at his intestines.
It wasn't that the sex had been bad. It had been quite nice and now he felt like an overly lecherous cradle robber. Despite what the others said about thirteen years not being that big a difference, she was still too young. The way she looked at him, the way she smiled, they belonged to a much younger woman, a girl really, someone still in school with their sweetheart.
It didn't belong to him.
He couldn't appreciate it.
He didn't return the sentiment.
That was the part that really hurt as he lay there in the darkness, feeling her warmth pressed against him. It was the lie, the part where he looked at her and smiled and said that he loved her. It was the part where she smiled that smile and kissed his cheek and said that she loved him back (except that it wasn't really loving him back, was it? She just thought it was). But the lie was what made her smile, what made her and the others happy. It made Molly smile, it made Ginny and Hermione giggle, it even made Arthur give him subtle, knowing looks (or maybe it was that Arthur understood and, like himself, was just too polite to say anything).
He made her happy. Wasn't that what mattered? If he didn't actually love her, it didn't matter, just so long as she never knew. If he could hide it, she would always be happy and they wouldn't have to fight anymore over whether they should be together or not. They'd simply be and that would be that. And he did care...he cared and he didn't want to see her sad and moping as she'd been that year after Sirius' death, so it was a small enough sacrifice. Nothing important, just himself.
Nothing important, my foot!
With a discontented sigh he rolled over, trying to ignore the voice in the back of his mind, the one that always sounded like Sirius. There were others, one that sounded like James, one like Lily, one like Peter (the old Peter from school, not the traitor), one that sounded like Albus. There was one for every person who'd left, every person he wanted to talk to about this strange, one sided relationship he found himself in.
There was even one that sounded like Severus.
You don't have the guts to tell her, do you? Brave Gryffindor indeed.
As much as the Potions Master's malice had worn on him (he still couldn't believe Severus was a traitor. There were others who had no trouble with the knowledge, still others who couldn't believe that Albus had misjudged things so badly. But he had honestly thought better of the man) it had been nice to have someone out there who knew. Somehow Severus had been the only one (outside of Albus, but Albus didn't count. He'd actually told Albus about the whole thing when it started) who had looked at the two of them, at Tonks with her suddenly mouse brown hair and perpetual air of misery, at himself with his shy avoidance and awkward silence, and known that as passionate as her feelings were, he didn't feel more than a friendly fondness. It had, somehow, helped, much as a toothache or a headache or the familiar pains of his monthly transformation at least let him know he was alive.
Albus was the one he really missed. The old man had helped. He hadn't given answers (when had Albus ever given answers when there was a personal decision to make?), but he had listened, observed, shared the observations, and helped him realize what his options were.
Perhaps, in the end, that's why he'd caved. The options, so clear when the old man had been alive, suddenly seemed muddied again, and he'd felt the need to cling to whatever he could for stability.
He'd clung to her. He shouldn't have, he knew, but he had. Even though he didn't love her, even though he never would, with her throwing herself at him and Molly's gentle encouragement and the aching loss of the Order's central support, he'd caved.
And now he couldn't let go.
She'd been talking about marriage lately, like so many others. Molly, so quick to declare that Bill and Fleur were hurrying things, was urging her along with the matriarchal support she showered on any relationship she approved of. The problem was he couldn't.
He couldn't marry her and complete the lie.
He couldn't tell her the truth and watch it break her apart.
He couldn't turn to anyone for advice.
"Remus?" Her voice was groggy behind him. He felt her nuzzle her face between his shoulder blades. "What's wrong?"
He forced himself to smile in the darkness and reached up to touch one of the arms that wormed their way around his ribs. "Nothing, Nymphadora. I'm just thinking."
Her tongue flicked against his skin as she made a face. "You think too much, Remus. And how many times do I have to tell you not to call me that? I hate that name. Just call me Tonks." There was a low key whine in her voice, a sign that he'd failed in his job and that all was not right.
He opened his mouth to reply, then stopped, rethought his response, and simply said, "Sorry, dear. I won't do it again."
"Mmmm, good." She snuggled against her and soon she was asleep again, leaving him once more with his thoughts.
He'd almost said that if they got married, she wouldn't be Tonks anymore. She would be Nymphadora Lupin and there would be no Tonks ever again. He hadn't though, because he'd been afraid that if he brought the subject up, she might see it as a sign he wanted the marriage as well, when he didn't.
He wanted Tonks, ever and always, just Tonks. He wanted the bright, sunny girl with the bubblegum pink hair. He wanted Sirius' cousin. He didn't want to lose that, even if everyone else seemed eager to toss her away, insistent that it was a good thing.
He would eventually cave again, he was certain. Tonks would go away, she would be come an unwanted part of him, and he would be a wanted part of her. The others would all smile and nod their approval.
And he drifted off to sleep, surrounded by darkness and Tonks' arms and the voices in his head whispering to him.
You can't please the entire world, Remus.
No, Albus, I can't. But I can try.