A gift for: fpb
Length: 3,000 words
Characters: Andromeda, Tonks, Teddy, Ted and Remus, with various other cameos
Summary: Preparing for Teddy's first Christmas, Andromeda reminisces about her daughter.
Notes: To fpb, I very much hope you like this! The title comes from the poem by WB Yeats, 'In Memory of Major Robert Gregory'.
You're crying again.
Your mouth stretches wide around those sobs -- too wide. If I didn't know your talent well, I'd be terrified by the way you look sometimes, your feelings so clearly expressed through those malleable features. I pull you into my arms, stroking your downy head, and levitate the milk up to your face. Your gaping jaw clamps around the teat and your eyes drift closed; that's all you wanted this time. Thank goodness.
My own eyes are closing, so I carry you to bed with me, plump up the pillows and lean back. You don't stir. Nymphadora did this with you a lot, and I worried that she'd spoil you, or even accidentally suffocate you, falling asleep and rolling over in the darkness. But I'll never sleep that deeply any more, and no amount of spoiling can make up for what you've lost.
Enough brooding. You're at peace for now, so I should try to find my own peace. I should -- it's the time of year for it, after all. People have been kind; Molly has visited often, hiding her own heartbreak since that morning when we wept together. She's good at this, Molly.
I am not. I'm a Black; no matter that I repudiated my family, no matter how hard they tried to forget me. They can scratch me off the family tree, but they can't scrape away my bones. I am a Black, and we don't discuss emotions, although sometimes (Nymphadora, Bella, Sirius) we express them with abandon.
People come for tea and are kind, and I reach for a smile that never quite arrives. Yes, I agree, it's tough, but I am doing all right. Teddy needs me (and I need him, although I will never tell them so), and so I am all right. And now it's Christmas -- your first Christmas, and we are going to spend at least some of it in company. With Harry, so anxious to be a good godfather, and with Molly and Arthur and their family. It is going to be a beautiful day.
After Ted died, I thought everything was finished. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up, but you were born soon after, and even though I could see you were a Black as well as a Tonks, I fell in love with you instantly. The way I did with Nymphadora.
Although it was different then. I was so happy to be free of my family, and yet ties don't just snap like that, do they? What Ted and I had felt so precious, so unlikely; I'd never understood before how you could have so much fun, but I was also frightened. I had no money, no training, because Blacks don't need a profession -- certainly not Black women, not in those days. And Ted, well, he was a wonder, but money was never top of his agenda. He earned respect and friendship and love, but it wasn't the same as money. Not to me, however often I told myself it was.
We made it work, anyway. Partly because we had to; I'd made my bed and I was going to lie in it. Stubborn to the core, like the rest of them. And then Dora was born, and she was something entirely new. Some days she was all Black, with her flashing eyes and imperious manner, but mostly she was a typical Tonks, with Ted's relaxed manner and easy way with people. Even her name...admittedly Nymphadora was a silly, frivolous choice, although I love it still, but to her friends she was always 'Tonks'.
You're asleep. I'll try you in your cot again, so we can both get some rest.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like without Dora, and it makes me cold. Even now, with a baby to mother when I should be playing the grandmother, I shiver to think how close I came to never having her. How nearly I stayed at home and tried to forget Ted.
I wonder if Sirius felt anything like that? I heard about him running away to stay with the Potters, and wished him the best. Even intended to Owl him, although I never quite got around to it. Then Dora was eight, the Dark Lord had fallen, and Sirius was in prison.
Around that time I tried to build some bridges. I wrote to Cissy, but she never responded. Perhaps she didn't know what to say, or perhaps she thought I was gloating, although I made my Owl as sympathetic as I could. As sympathetic as I could, knowing what she and that husband of hers had been up to, while I tried to keep my Dora and Ted safe.
I even visited Bella, but it was hopeless. It was as if the Dark Lord's disappearance had flicked a switch inside her, opening the gate between sanity and madness. I don't think it was Azkaban, although I'm sure that exacerbated matters. On the other hand, perhaps she'd been like that for a long time. It wasn't as if I'd seen her for a decade.
I tried to visit Sirius, too, but was told it was out of the question. He wasn't allowed to see many people, certainly not witches of questionable heritage like me. I would have laughed at the idea of the House of Black being publicly tainted, if I hadn't been so sad.
So I returned to Dora and Ted, and we carried on with our lives. I was quiet, Ted was safe, and Dora was Dora.
You can't keep them safe. I realised that the first time we let her play with the Weasley boys and she came back crying because Bill had shut her in the broom shed...and then insisted on going back the following Sunday to get her revenge. As a metamorphmagus she was always popular with the other children -- ironic, given what my family thought of that particular trait -- and she inherited Ted's unobtrusive confidence, which I never understood and always envied. So I thought she'd be safe out there. As safe as she could be.
Even when she joined the Aurors and came back exhausted every night, or when Moody Owled to let us know she was in St Mungo's after a training exercise had gone too far, she led a charmed life. She was happy-go-lucky Dora, who believed nothing bad would ever happen to her, so it didn't.
It was soon after she finished training that we noticed the changes. She had her own flat by then, but she'd pop in to see us a couple of times a week. The visits grew shorter -- five minutes in the evening instead of Sunday lunch -- and she'd turn up exhausted, yawning, always looking over her shoulder. At first I thought she must be in love; there'd been nobody so far, apart from a couple of boyfriends who'd lasted a few weeks each. I'd even begun to wonder whether she was keeping a girlfriend out of the way, although she had no reason to do so. She was in her twenties, and I'd have welcomed anyone. Anyone who loved her.
Are you stirring? Oh, just a yawn. You look adorable when you do that, you know.
For months, Dora became increasingly distant. I know now it wasn't intentional, but at the time, Ted and I talked about it obsessively. We'd tell ourselves it was just a belated case of teenage angst, and then she'd drop by again, bags under her eyes, lying about what she'd been up to. She was a terrible liar, Dora. Definitely a Tonks in that respect.
Finally, we had another Owl from Moody to say Dora was in St Mungo's. When we dashed over there, she was unconscious, but tears were sliding down her face and she was sobbing in her sleep. I thought that was the worst I could ever feel, to watch my daughter suffering and be utterly unable to help her.
It was Minerva McGonagall who took pity on us and explained about the Order. Dora had been recruited straight out of training, and Dumbledore had had them out at all hours, spying or trying to protect something; Minerva was vague about that. She told us about Sirius: how he hadn't betrayed the Potters after all, and had been hiding in that awful old house. How he'd been killed; how Dora had been there. How it was Bella who had attacked Dora and then killed Sirius.
I always knew Bella was dangerous, but that was the night I finally understood what the meaning of the word fanatic. Bella would do anything -- anything -- to cleanse her family of those she considered blood traitors.
Oh, Teddy, it's only six o'clock. That's right, you close those eyes again. Doze for a little longer.
Of course, it turned out that Dora had been having an affair, as well as carrying on clandestinely with the Order. She didn't warn me in advance, just turned up one afternoon, holding defiantly to his hand while he surreptitiously tried to extricate himself.
What could I say? I'd met Remus once or twice over the years, and had nothing against him. Everyone says the Wolfsbane potion works wonders these days, and I have nothing against werewolves generally, but that's not the same as having one in the family. Dora had set her heart on him, though. I'd lost my own family after setting my heart on Ted. I wasn't going to turn them away.
Things moved quickly, the way they always seem to in wartime. One minute Dora was holding Remus's hand, the next she was showing me an engagement ring. I'm still not sure how happy Remus was about the whole thing, although he loved her; you could see that whenever he looked at her. But loving her wasn't enough, was it?
My poor Dora. Ted and I were just getting ourselves together again after those thugs from the Ministry turned up. They weren't Ministry at all -- in fact they'd just murdered Rufus Scrimgeour, we found out later -- but I don't know what else to call them. Anyway, I don't want to think about it. They left us both in one piece, and I'm thankful for that, but at the time we were a mess. Dora appeared the next day and didn't say a word, just straightened up the house and made a gigantic pot of tea, and cooked us some food. I found her later with her arms around Ted, who had buried his head on her shoulder. He wasn't crying, just drawing strength from her, and she was happy to give it, although we were all running low on strength then. She always was a daddy's girl.
Next day, she told me she was pregnant, and that Remus had left her. She wouldn't admit to much, only said that the pregnancy had been a shock to him, and he felt responsible for Harry, so he'd gone off to find him and he might not come back.
I could see the fear in her eyes, though. The fear that he might not return; that they might not make this work, however much they loved one another.
We told Ted she was staying for a few days, and maybe he understood more than that, but he was happy enough to let her be. How did he always manage that? Why is it that when I tried to let her be, it put distance between us, but when he did it, they somehow became even closer?
Anyway, a couple of days later, there was Remus on the doorstep, so Dora was right all along.
That year. It was the most precious, terrible time. We all lived together for a few weeks, waiting for another attack, waiting for the baby to grow inside Dora. Then the Ministry brought in that statute requiring all Muggle-borns to register, and Ted left.
Just those words. Like that. 'Ted left'. After all the time we'd had together, he left, and I never saw him again. My beautiful, kind Ted, who never hurt a fly.
Dora and Remus were still in touch with the Order somehow, and doing what they could. Remus checked obsessively for information about Harry -- not that there was much -- but as far as I could tell, he never considered leaving again. He'd decided where his responsibilities lay, and I was grateful, especially after Ted left. It was good to see them keeping each other strong and it meant one less thing to worry about. Not that I had much energy for worrying about anyone except Ted.
He got a message through to us at Christmas. Remus managed to get a message back to him, through the various networks he seemed to be in touch with. We were in hiding by this time, although I was never sure how hidden we actually were. All it would have taken was one careless word; a second's betrayal.
One afternoon, I found Dora in tears, Remus holding her tightly, and when he looked at me, I knew. I could see his awful sympathy; could see him trying to form the sentence in the way that would hurt me least. But he didn't need to say anything. Dora must have sensed something, because she looked up and reached for me, pulling me in with the bump between us, while Remus stayed back, rubbing her shoulder.
When the first rush of tears was over, Dora, sniffed, looking down at her bump -- at you -- and said, "Well, Teddy, you'd better come out soon, hadn't you?" And so you had a name, even before you were born. Dora talked to you all the time: Teddy this, Teddy that. I'm still not sure what she'd have done if you were a girl. Called you Edwina and had done with it, I suppose.
I don't remember much between your grandfather's death and the day you were born. It was hard, that was all; every day was a struggle. Life still feels like that sometimes.
But there you were, blinking at me with those long lashes and those typical Black eyes, and you did make things better, although I was reluctant to admit it at the time. You can't hate life with a new baby in the family -- at least, I couldn't. Watching Dora and Remus with you reminded me of all those times when Dora was little, when I'd been so scared and yet so happy. When Ted seemed to have the answers to everything. I'd babysit you, because they still had things to do with the Order, and I'd think, maybe there's hope. Maybe there's hope, after all.
Until that night at the end of everything.
Ssh, I'm sorry. I just wanted to hold you, but see, I'll rock you in my arms and you can close your eyes again. It's not quite time to get up.
Remus went first. Potterwatch put the word out in the evening: Harry Potter was at Hogwarts, making a stand against the Dark Lord. There was no stopping Remus, and I wouldn't have even if I could. He'd lost so many friends, and I think he felt responsible for Harry, for James Potter's sake. Dora didn't stop him either, only held you up for him to kiss, and watched the spot where he'd been standing after he'd Disapparated, as if he might reappear at any second. But he didn't.
We made coffee, because it was obviously going to be a long night, and soon after we sat down, she said, "I should go, too."
"You're a nursing mother," I said. "Teddy needs you."
She looked at you, and you did that thing you still do, of mirroring the features of the person holding you, so that your fuzz of hair turned pink. And she cuddled you tight, but she looked up at me, and said, "I'm an Auror. The Order needs me."
I could have talked until I was blue in the face, and I nearly did, but it was no good. She was a fighter, my Dora, and she couldn't sit by while the battle happened without her. Not after everything else she'd done. She wouldn't have been Dora if she had.
So I took you from her, and kissed her cheek and told her to take care, as if that would make any difference. Then I sat back in my chair, with you in my lap, and waited.
You look so like her when you're sleeping, with your little button nose and heart-shaped face, and those grey eyes. Lying here, I can almost pretend to myself that it's twenty-five years ago, and Dora's just a baby with her whole life to live. I remember how it felt, knowing that one day she'd leave my arms and go out into the world. I yearn to turn back time, to change the course of her life, to put her in a position where she wouldn't have gone off to join Remus that night. But however hard I try, I can't think of a way that would have worked. She was Dora. It was who she was.
It's nearly time. In a few minutes, I'll go downstairs and put the kettle on. I'll pull out the Christmas pudding, which is my contribution to Molly's dinner, and I'll put you into your best outfit. Once you've fed and are sleeping again, I'll find some respectable robes for myself, and I'll listen to any advice the mirror has to offer about my appearance. It's Christmas. We should make an effort.
For Dora. For Remus, for Ted, for everyone, especially you, Teddy...but mainly for Dora, who would have made sure your first Christmas was a wonderful one.
Harry's coming here; he doesn't trust the Floo in his flat. I'll smile when I open the door, and he'll want to look at you, and then we'll head over to the Burrow and be full of Christmas cheer. And the world will be a little better for it. It will.