Author's note: Holiday angst, anyone? Anyone? I promise I'll put some fluff in these two idiots' drabble collection to go with this soon. Until then, enjoy!
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns the canon, world, and characters portrayed below and you can tell I'm not J.K. Rowling because #transrights
Burning At Both Ends
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
-And So This is Christmas
She was so pale when she opened the door, but she somehow paled when she saw that it was him. The dim yellow light in the apartment building hall wasn't very flattering, but she was paler than he was used to seeing her—Remus was sure of it.
"Oh," she said, tucking her arms against herself. Her hands had drowned in the sleeves of her pullover, a plain grey men's shirt. She was also wearing fuzzy pajama pants dotted with snowflakes, and her toenails were painted the shade of pink that her hair usually was—except today it hung in brown locks. One strand fell in her eyes and she had to push it back.
He'd practised his greeting on his way, while walking through a snowy London night and up the stairs to the floor where she lived. Still, it took Remus a moment to remember himself.
"Hello Dora," he said. "I'm… sorry I came so late."
"That's fine," she said. The door was propped against her hip. She was chewing her lower lip, which for some people was a nervous habit but for her it was a sign of total confusion. That was another thing he could add to the long list of things he knew about Dora that he had no business knowing. Not anymore, anyways.
"I… I came because Molly told me that you were spending Christmas alone," Remus said. It had been lovely to see Harry again, along with Ron and Hermione, Arthur and Molly, the twins, Bill and Fleur, and Ginny who had shown him how much more potent her Bat-Bogey hex had gotten. But Dora's absence had gnawed on him all night, right to the bone.
"My family's Jewish," she said. "Hanukkah was my excitement for December, Christmas is just a day to get paid double."
"I know, but you're not one to shy from a party and she… she mentioned that she'd invited you," Remus said. Now he was the one chewing on his lip.
"I'm a grown woman," Dora said coolly. "It's my business where I go or don't go on Christmas night, not yours."
"I know, but I wanted to reach out because my intention was never to hurt you," Remus said. "My intention was never to make it more difficult to be around our friends."
"Okay," Dora said. She looked down at her painted toenails and then back up at Remus. "Well, I think we're past intentions, Remus. Is that what you came here to say? Is there anything else?"
Merlin, there was so much more that he wanted to say. You look tired. You never wear your hair brown, why now? I miss you. I hope you're well. Things are different without you, a bad different. I think of you all the time even when I don't want to and I hope it's not like that for you, except maybe I'm awful and I do because I miss you. Are you okay? You have bags under your eyes. Why didn't you morph them away? I want to go back in time. I'm definitely worse without you, somehow.
"I know you don't celebrate, but Molly sent some Christmas baking your way," Remus said. He reached into his coat pocket for the tiny tin of fudge Molly had given him. She had wanted to add something, but Remus had thanked her profusely for the meal instead, interrupting her before she started. He knew very well where she stood on the subject of him and Tonks, no matter how often she tried to remind him—as if she could roll out dough again if the shapes she cut out of it didn't turn out quite right.
"I'm very opportunistic when it comes to Christmas," Dora said. "I'll take the baking."
Remus handed him over. He was desperate for something else to do, something else to say, some other reason to stand in her doorway and be near Dora—the way they could just be near each other when she used to come sit on the couch with him while they each read their own book, or the way she'd lay in bed with him the day after the full moon without talking or touching him or anything. He'd made his choice when he'd broken things off with her, when Sirius had died and Remus had remembered how few friends he had in this world and how tenuous his hopes of a normal life were. He'd chosen to break things off with Dora without realizing that she had permeated into his life the way that you might soak a cake in honey before baking it twice. He'd forgotten some of the gaps she'd filled and forgotten the way things were without her—colder, yes, but also darker and plainer. That didn't make it his choice any less. It just made it a difficult choice, especially standing in her doorway now. Coming home from the werewolf colony for Christmas without jeopardizing the trust he'd earned from the others had already been quite a feat, and it wasn't one that Remus could manage often. He hadn't seen Dora since he'd gone underground and it was hard to see her now.
"I hope you're well," Remus said finally.
"Okay," Dora said. "You too, I… yes, I hope you're well too."
"Are you?" Remus asked finally. "Well?"
The fact that he never saw Dora, and had last seen her breathing deeply through what he'd hoped would be an adequate explanation of why they couldn't be together, made him worry about her. If he ever saw Kingsley or Hestia or Molly and asked about Tonks, they all told him to go ask her himself or got cryptic and vague. Well, there he was.
She pushed a strand of brown hair back—it wasn't a particularly dark or rich or exciting shade of brown compared to her usual choices of colour. In fact, the shade made Remus think of her mother more than anything else.
"Remus, you dropped off the fudge," Dora said. "What else are you here to do? Are you going to apologize for treating me like a child who doesn't know what she wants out of life? Are you going to take back the terrible things you said about yourself? Are you going to explain why you rather risk your life than have to possibly attend an Order meeting in the same room as me? Are you going to kiss me? Because that's what I would need to be alright."
"I still care about you…" he started.
"Oh, piss off," Dora said, rolling her eyes.
"It's true," Remus said. "I care about you and I'm not due back in the colony until tomorrow morning, so I wanted to check in and…"
"If you're going to make it impossible to care about you, I can be difficult too," Dora said. "Good night, Remus. Come back to me when you're moved by something other than the holiday spirit."
"I am," Remus said. "You matter to me."
"Then come back to me when you don't hate yourself for it," Dora said. That same strand of hair fell in her face again, limp and unruly. She pushed it back. "I… I promise I don't hate you Remus. I just can't just watch and wait and… Happy Christmas, Remus."
"Happy belated Hanukkah," he said.
"Thank you," she said. Her hand hesitated on the doorknob for a minute. Maybe she had things to say too. Maybe she had answers to his questions, even. But she closed the door too, just as he had. And Remus suddenly felt it hurt from both ends, like a candle sacrificed to the night. He could have melted just as violently when he realized how badly he still loved her, how miserably the werewolf colony and the distance between them and the time apart had managed to pry that away from him.
Instead he held it together, stuffing his hands in his coat pockets and finding a hole there that needed to be darned. Last year, she had explained parts of Hanukkah to him. She had told him about the miracle of oil lasting eight days when it absolutely shouldn't have. Miraculously, they would keep on burning separately too—he was sure of it. Or at least he very much hoped so, when he set out into the night again.