Loneliness she could handle. In truth, loneliness was how they had ended up living in the house together. Harry had said, "I was going to give it to Remus."
She had said, "He wanted to see you and Ginny settled there."
Harry couldn't manage to sell the place, despite his earlier desire to do so. She couldn't manage to let go of the few tangible memories she had of Remus.
Harry cooked, because she couldn't be trusted in the kitchen. She erected wards, because Harry was still in Auror training, and he very well might have been stronger, but she was far more knowledgeable.
He said things like, "That green you did with your lips last week? I think it'd go well with the hair today."
She said things like, "Wanna play some Quidditch this weekend?"
Tonks was passable at Quidditch, but nothing like Harry. Most of the time, he let her win.
Harry brought home a red leaf in late August. Tonks hadn't yet seen one turn but he said, "Look," and she smiled, "I love that. Feel like I fit in more."
Harry's gaze slid sideways toward her. "Didn't think you cared about that."
Tonks shrugged. "Nice to have a change of scenery every once in a while."
Harry nodded. Tonks didn't think he understood, but when he woke at five the next morning and didn't go to bed until nearly midnight, she figured she had underestimated him.
In September she came home with her hair a rich, natural-looking brown, twisted and tangled in a bevy of golden leaves. He asked, "Showing off?"
She asked, "Is it working?"
He plucked a leaf from her hair. "In the fall, I would go back to school."
His voice was soft, even. She said, "I don't-"
He said, "I would come home."
"I've heard the stories-"
"They never talk about the things that matter."
Tonks knew a little about the things people said behind other people's backs. She repeated, "Is it working?"
He said, "You don't have to try."
When winter came, thick and white, Tonks blazed against it as Harry, even with his eyes and his scar and his hair, had never managed to do. He touched her shoulder and she took him to bed, put pieces of himself he hadn't realized he'd lost back where they were meant to be.
He pulled her to him afterward and she rose up above him, her hair falling, tangled, onto his stomach. It was striped blue and gold, and somehow reminded Harry of a tigress, protecting what was hers. She said, "You're home."
He said, "Yes. You're here."
She said, "You don't have to sleep. Not if you can think of anything better to do."
He smiled. He could. "No, I guess not."