I am eleven, and I am afraid.
The Hogwarts Express is so big and bright, and there are too many people around me. I feel so small, like I might be swallowed up if I step just a little in the wrong direction. I hold tight to my motherís hand, pulling little Dominique along behind me. I am the blind leading the blind.
My parents, grandparents and a whole slew of aunts and uncles kiss me goodbye and then Iím alone. Iím stepping on board the train and there are so many places to sit, and I sort of wish we hadnít arrived early so there would only be one place left and I would know where to go.
I choose a random compartment and plop down unceremoniously on the seat, hugging my purse close to my chest. The students around me look to be a year or two older than me, and they look at me strangely for a moment, but then a girl compliments me on my shoes and weíre talking.
Outside, an older woman with grey streaks in her dark hair gives a hug to a boy with brown hair. He kisses her cheek and waves goodbye, and she stands there wearing a curious half-smile as he hands over his bags and boards the train. A moment later, he is standing in front of me, taking the seat across from where Iíve planted myself.
I feel inexplicably embarrassed and I get up, ready to go try again in another compartment. But just then, the train moves and he smiles at me, and I feel my stomach turn over inside my body.
I decide to stay where I am.
I am fourteen, and his hands feel so warm in mine.
Teddy, not Theodore. He made sure to let me know that the day after the Sorting, expressing his frustration over the fact that his mother and father chose such an old-fashioned name for him. He prefers Teddy, which is fine by me because heís as soft and comforting as any stuffed animal.
I asked what his middle name was and immediately regretted it. I canít imagine growing up without my mum and dad. But Teddy smiled, and I could see that Gryffindor pride in his eyes.
The pride is there again tonight.
Iím a Ravenclaw, with my nose always stuck in a book, but he has snuck me into the Gryffindor common room for the victory party. Victory, like my name, though Iíve never been much for parties. Still, itís hard to be in bad spirits when someone has bested the Slytherins at something.
Neither of us is very into Quidditch, so we take two empty chairs off away from the others and he gets me a pint glass full of foaming, sweet Butterbeer. I take a sip and feel the liquid slide down my throat, coating my insides with sugar and warmth. I realize that I like it so much that Iíve closed my eyes, and when I open them again, Teddy is smiling at me, his glass half-finished.
The kiss he gives me tastes delicious, and I never stop craving more of them.
I am seventeen, and Iím still a little shy.
Thus, my first urge when he put his lips on me in front of my entire family and everyone else on the platform is to push him away and chastise him for being too forward with me. But I know Iím kidding myself. I know Iím like any other girl, wishing with all her might that some sweet prince might come and sweep her off her feet, and the only man fit for the job is Teddy.
Out of the corner of my eye, just before Teddy captures my lips in a farewell gesture, I notice sneaky little James Potterís eyes go wide as he watches from a short distance away. I kiss Teddy back defiantly, wondering what my mother would think.
Sheíd probably be proud, come to think of it. This is the boldest thing Iíve ever done.
We break after an eternity and he grins at me, and I wipe my lipstick from where it has smudged onto the corner of his lips. It is not until I have taken out my wand and removed all of the lipstick from my own face, too embarrassed to go look in the mirror and see the pink streaks all around my mouth, that I realize he is still staring at me.
ďDid you hear me?Ē He says, and the train starts, even as I stand on the steps. ďI love you.Ē
I smile, and I step back safely into the train. ďI love you.Ē I call back softly.
He blushes. Iíve never felt so victorious.
I am twenty-one, and we are standing at their twin graves in the pouring rain.
He falls to his knees and confesses what he has kept inside for so many years. His father was a werewolf, a human body filled with the blood of a vicious beast. He has been told that his father was loving and kind, but he knows what this curse means and he wonders, has always wondered, if his father was really a very loving murderer in disguise. His father married his mother and his sin infected them both, perhaps even drove them to their deaths, in a way.
Teddy wonders if the sin has invaded him as well.
I hold him close as his tears mingle with the droplets falling from the sky. I whisper to him that he is a good person, that I have heard nothing but good things about his parents, things that no amount of unwanted sin could ever tarnish. But I donít know any other werewolves who got it together enough to find a mate, and I start to wonder, too.
I think of the permanent scars on my own fatherís face, and itís not just Teddy crying anymore.
I am twenty-four, and he is on his knees.
I still canít believe this is happening to me. My little sister, Dominique, is the life of the party. She always followed Mum around, playing hostess even as a young girl, and now she is twenty-two and has insisted on planning this birthday party for Louis all on her own. My brother is eighteen and has already dated most girls in Hufflepuff House, which seemed quite proud to welcome a Weasley into its fold for the first time. I donít even know the girl at his side today.
But Teddy is kneeling before me in front of all of the guests, and I feel like a princess.
He takes my shaking hand and offers me a delicate gold ring emblazoned with a diamond, a token of the affection he now professes to me in front of my entire family. Nostalgic tears drip from his grandmotherís aged brown eyes, and a beaming smile graces my motherís painted lips. My father is staring at me and I realize Teddy has fallen silent. Itís my turn now.
I look past his nervous smile and see the fear still glistening in the gray flecks in his brown eyes. They are my favorite feature, because they change with his mood. I prefer the green color he uses when heís happy, because these are his fatherís eyes, the eyes of concern.
Heís not worried Iíll say no. His thoughts are back in that graveyard.
I squeeze his hands, trying my best to bring him back to the present.
As everyone applauds and cheers, Iím embarrassed it took me so long to state the obvious.
I am twenty-eight, and she is beautiful.
Isabelle Nymphadora Andromeda Lupin. The name is bizarre and long, but we couldnít decide.
Teddy cradles her gently, already a natural, and I decide she can just be Belle if she wants.
I smile, laying gently back against the warm, soft pillow in my bed at St. Mungoís. Teddy is busy giving the harried nurses the information they need to finish filling out the birth certificate. My grandmother dabs at my sweaty forehead with a wet cloth, and my sister squeezes my hand, gushing about how the baby has our motherís blue eyes, which are really mine, thank you.
She is so precious, and when itís my turn to hold her again, her little hand wraps around my thumb possessively. I first mistake the sensation for fear, a desperate clinging, but she is holding me with the quiet defiance I recognize from Andromedaís half-smile that day on the train.
I decide right then and there that Iím not afraid. My daughter could never be tainted. Neither is Teddy, with his easygoing nature and unfailing kindness. Neither am I, even with my flaws.
Teddy glances at me, and I see the gray flecks returning, but now I know how to will them away.