As far as the coward Mundungus Fletcher was concerned, not many were too terribly worried about finding him, only because they knew that he was somewhere, wheeling and dealing, or camping out in some kind of hidey-hole. Anyway, he was the least of the Order’s worries.
“They’ve been making arrests left and right at work,” Arthur reported at the next Order meeting as they all sat around the Weasleys’ kitchen table at The Burrow. “They’re picking off employees with a Muggle-born blood status one by one. We’ve all been put through screenings. I had mine today.”
Molly pursed her lips. Clearly she had already had this news related to her the moment her husband had returned from work.
Kingsley made a derisive noise in his throat. He and Nymphadora too had been screened (she just before going on her “holiday” a.k.a. her maternity leave). The three of them had been cleared of course, Arthur being a pure-blood and Kingsley and Nymphadora being half (Kingsley’s great-grandfather had been a Muggleborn), but it made little difference for Arthur in terms of being targeted, seeing as how he and his family were blood-traitors. Nymphadora too would be hard-pressed to get out of abuse from fellow employees were she still working.
As for Kingsley, well…he was just another Dumbledore lover who caused trouble by trying to protect the people in his department from the rest of the Ministry, people like Nymphadora (for whom he also managed to wangle it so that she received holiday pay, seeing as how nothing was going to come from Remus, certainly not enough from Werewolf Welfare, which had actually spent some time shut down entirely when the old Ministry under Scrimgeour had really been cracking down on werewolves—but now that Voldemort, who favored the destructive power of the werewolf, was in power, the Welfare was back on, though not for much).
Remus and Nymphadora caught each other’s eyes soberly for a moment before they flicked back to Arthur, who went on to report the next bit of unfortunate news:
“They also evaluated Dirk Creswell today, and…I had to tell his family that he wouldn’t be coming home tonight.”
“Has he been sent to Azkaban, Dad?” asked Charlie, who despite summons after the wedding to return to Romania, wanted to stay put a little longer (though everyone knew it was to ease his mother’s anxieties, especially now that Ron was gone).
“It’s more than certain that he has been,” Arthur answered wearily. “And this time I have an in on who it was who ratted him out—some sneak lickspittle by the name of Albert Runcorn. See, Dirk tried to ensure some protection by forging a wizarding family tree for himself, and there Runcorn reported him, passed on the incriminating evidence of Dirk’s Muggle heritage. So as far as I know, they didn’t even ask him any questions in there, but simply processed him and sent him off to Azkaban.”
Though the meeting broke up with a gloom of things to come hanging over it, the lot of them were all pleased to read a piece in the newspaper the following morning about a very dangerous escapee by the name of Dirk Cresswell, who had apparently made a success of a daring escape on his way to Azkaban.
“Looks like he just ran for it,” said Remus with an irrepressible grin as he turned a page in The Daily Prophet, or as Nymphadora had renamed it, The Daily “Sod-It”. “Sirius’d be proud of him.” He completely ignored the bit about Dirk Creswell being armed and dangerous and not to be approached but to be reported with all haste to the authorities, and instead turned to doing the daily crossword puzzle.
He could almost hear Sirius concur in his head, Proud indeed, with a cheeky smile.
Instead, it was Nymphadora who said it: “Proud indeed,” as she laid out tea on the table in the kitchen for breakfast, and when Remus looked up, it was she who gave the cheeky smile.
Time to start living in the present, Remus thought ruefully as he returned her smile. He reached over and stroked his hand along the line of her waist, his thumb passing over the curve of her belly that was still deceivingly unchanged from its usual curvature, still devoid of any sign that there was a baby growing in there.
“Oh, don’t you worry,” said Nymphadora. “Soon I’ll be as big as a house.”
“Dora…” Remus admonished. “You’re going to be beautiful. You are beautiful. And that’s why.”
Nymphadora chuckled, but she did turn slightly pink even as she reached up and affectionately pushed back his fringe with her hand, stroking her fingers through his grey-brown hair.
Then she kissed him and turned away to get the plate of toast. As Remus watched her, he found himself not lost in thoughts of bygone days, of wishing that his dead friends could be alive to share in his happiness (for he began to suspect that wherever you go when you die, you can share in the happiness of those you’ve left behind in any case just by them thinking of you), but rather he found himself lost in thoughts of what he and she might do tonight, provided he returned safely from patrol.
And provided she was up for it.
As it turned out, not only did he return safely home that night, but also Nymphadora was in fact more than up for it. And as she rolled over beneath the sheets to rest her head on his bare chest in the wake of their lovemaking, she looked into his dreamy and satisfied face and said, “You know…I haven’t heard from the wolf lately.”
Remus leaned in towards her. “It’s my fault. I don’t let him invade my human life anymore.”
Nymphadora shared his mischievous grin. “Good,” she said when he kissed her, “we don’t need him anyway.”
The following day, Remus kissed his wife goodbye and left with the knowledge that a full, brand new jar of olives was sitting in the pantry. When he came home that night, he not only discovered poor Nymphadora up in the lavatory upchucking profusely, but also noticed that an empty olive jar was sat on the kitchen table next to a copy of Witch Weekly.
Then the door opened, and Nymphadora appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Hello, Dora,” Remus greeted, opening his arms.
“Oh Remus….” Nymphadora kind of half-stumbled down the stairs as she tried to hurry down them and flung her arms around him. “Don’t worry, love, I’ve cleaned the sick off,” she murmured into his neck.
“Like I’d care, I’m just happy to see you,” Remus told her truthfully.
“Ooooh, that’s why I love you!” Nymphadora pecked him on the cheek.
“Had some olives did we?” Remus teased with a roguish grin.
Nymphadora’s own smile faltered a little as her eyes flicked guiltily to the empty olive jar on the kitchen table and then the floor. “A few. I got a…bit of a craving for them.”
“Hmmm…I seem to remember Lily got a particular craving for pickles while she was pregnant with Harry…and Aurelia, when she and Sirius were going to have a baby—before it miscarried that is—had cravings for chocolate-covered strawberries.” Remus kissed the top of her head.
Nymphadora managed a chuckle. “High taste.” She paused. “Chocolate sounds rather good too, actually,” she added, as a kind of pleased afterthought.
Later that evening though, Nymphadora found herself quite tired, but Remus knew part of it was a symptom of the pregnancy, and that this would just be the beginning—the fatigue and the cravings and the nausea and all of that.
As she slept away in his arms, he wondered to himself—not as a werewolf, but simply as a regular old expectant father—if he would be up to the task. But then he supposed Nymphadora must be wondering the same thing.
She was peaceful now, but he expected a tide of raging hormones to catch him by surprise any day now.
Actually the first time she managed to let her feelings leak out all over the carpet, so to speak, was for a perfectly legitimate reason. Nymphadora’s parents invited them for dinner that Friday, almost a week after they’d had Kingsley and Denise for dinner at Lupin Cottage. Remus had an unfortunate feeling that Ted was planning to break the news that he was going to make a run for it while he still could, to protect his family no less, and he could tell by the way Andromeda acted that she knew nothing of it any more than Nymphadora did. He could tell because she was actually being civil towards him, which meant that she’d started to grow used to the idea that she was stuck with him for a son-in-law, and that she’d not yet gained a new reason to resent him.
No more did he like keeping this secret, from Nymphadora most of all, but Ted had asked him especially not to mention it, to his wife and his daughter both, and Remus respected that too. It seemed these two men understood each other much better for this, and Remus was glad that he could at least feel this way towards his father-in-law, if not his mother-in-law.
As he and Nymphadora crossed the threshold at their house in Buckhurst Hill, while Andromeda and Nymphadora hugged, Ted caught his eye over their shoulders, and Remus’ suspicions were confirmed that tonight would be the night he would break the news, and he wondered vaguely what sort of reason he had come up with for having them over that he had given to Andromeda to convince her to go along with it without suspecting anything herself.
Nymphadora ate her portion of roasted hen, potatoes, and veg more slowly than usual, to keep the indigestion at bay. Her mother and she did most of the talking, mostly about pregnancy matters.
“So you’ve had some cravings, have you?” Andromeda asked with interest.
“Olives and chocolate mostly,” said Nymphadora.
“Well, be sure to stick to dark chocolate, milk chocolate’s no good,” her mother advised. “And how’s the nausea?”
“’Dromeda, do we really need to talk about this while we’re eating?” Ted asked.
Remus, as he picked at his meal and nursed his wine, knew Ted didn’t mean to be insensitive: he was just nervous about what he was about to tell the two most important women in his life.
“C’mon, Dad, don’t say you don’t have the same strong stomach you used to,” said Nymphadora, giving her father a playful nudge, to which Ted forced a smile past a grimace that only Remus could see. “You always used to bring up the most disgusting things at dinner just for my entertainment—and to annoy Mum.”
She glanced at Andromeda and Andromeda rolled her eyes. “Ugh, don’t remind me.” She dabbed at her mouth with her napkin in a dainty, sophisticated way that Remus didn’t wonder if she didn’t pick up in some Black Family-required finishing school of sorts.
“Very well then,” she continued. “I only thought I would ask. Anyway, this is nausea where pregnancy is concerned. And pregnancy is a beautiful thing—” She glanced pointedly, but perhaps also encouragingly, at Remus “—but whatever you brought up certainly wasn’t.”
You wouldn’t be so nitpicky if you knew he was leaving you, Remus thought, though he tried not to let his misery for her and for Nymphadora show on his face.
“Well, Mum, to answer your question, the nausea’s not been so bad,” said Nymphadora truthfully. “It’s the bloating that’s mostly a bother.”
Yes, pregnancy is indeed a beautiful thing, Remus thought wryly, and he caught Ted’s expression across the table and saw that he too was smiling in a similarly wry way, and he did muse with some amusement for a moment if Ted wasn’t reliving his memories of being with his wife while she was pregnant with Nymphadora.
“But I love that I can smell Remus’ cooking a mile way,” Nymphadora goes on, giving an illustrative sniff and catching Remus’ eye significantly. “Got the nose-power of a bloodhound now, and forget when I cook. Gardening, yes. But cooking? No. Only Remus’ is worth having super-olfactory powers for.”
“Dora, are you saying your fella’s a better cook than you?” her father teased in spite of himself.
“You’re not surprised are you, Dad?”
“Sweetheart, you’re not a horrid cook,” said Remus, giving his wife a pat on the hand.
“But you’re better.”
Remus knew he wouldn’t win the argument, because it was true. She had taken to cooking as well as gardening since he was so busy with Order work, and while she never burned anything, he had to admit that he added a kind of artistry to his dishes while she struggled just to get everything right by the book, which made sense since so much of her attention was spent just trying not to ruin the pans over the range. But rather than increase her own sense of inadequacy by conceding, he simply took another bite of carrot.
“Well, I propose a toast.” Andromeda lifted her goblet of elderflower wine. “To the grandchild-to-be. After all, that’s why we’re having this little dinner. We thought—that is to say, Nymphadora, your father and I—thought it would be good to celebrate the pregnancy properly.”
“Mum…” Nymphadora moaned, turning slightly pink. “You’re not trying to…to compensate for how you first reacted, are you?”
“Nymphadora, honestly! I’m just trying to celebrate the moment,” and seeing that no one was going to join her in her toast, Andromeda knocked back the remaining half of her goblet of wine.
“Easy ’Dromeda,” Ted murmured as his wife poured herself more from the bottle.
Remus could feel the truth ready to surface, and he laid aside his fork and pushed away his plate, tired of pretending he was as hungry as Nymphadora and Andromeda could be. He was not however averse to following Andromeda’s lead and took up his own goblet and knocked back the rest of his own wine.
“I quite agree with you, Andromeda,” he said, smacking his lips. “This is something to celebrate.”
His mother-in-law surveyed him with a critical eye, but seemed satisfied now that she’d gained an ally. “Would you care to polish off the bottle, Remus?” she asked him, offering it to him.
“Don’t ‘’Dromeda’ me, Ted. This was your idea, and I’m more than happy to go along with it, because this is a beacon of hope for all of us, to have this new life coming. Our first grandchild! So why not make a special meal of it?—Here you are, Remus.”
The red liquid splashed into Remus’ goblet and he thanked her after the last drops of it fell into it dripping from the mouth of the bottle like blood. Remus and Ted’s eyes met again as Remus lifted the rim of the goblet to his lips, and he gave him a look that said, You might as well get it over with, as he only knew too well from experience.
Ted sighed and pushed away his plate the same way Remus had done. “Listen, that isn’t the real reason I thought we should have them for dinner. I have…something to tell you.” He reached into the inside pocket of his tweed jacket and pulled out the summons from the Ministry, unfolded it and laid it on the table next to the rolls.
Nymphadora and Andromeda both peered over their own plates to read the letter, and then Nymphadora’s hand flew to her mouth as she gasped and recoiled in her chair. Andromeda meanwhile simply stared at the letter, and only very slowly did she sink back into her chair.
“What’re you going to do, Dad?” Nymphadora breathed.
“What I have to,” said Ted gravely. “I’m afraid I’ve…had this planned for a while…but I’m going to have to make a run for it…not just to protect myself…but for you and your mum too…and for Remus.”
Remus was rather touched that his father-in-law had been thinking of him too.
Ted looked at his wife, who was now staring at him as if she didn’t quite know what to make of him. “’Dromeda, you had to have seen this coming.”
“And you think leaving is the solution?”
“You know perfectly well that the second I go into that interrogation, I’m not coming out. I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of treating me like a cow to be herded to the slaughter.”
Nymphadora made a tiny noise in her throat, almost like a frightened whimper. “Oh…Daddy….”
Under different circumstances, Remus knew people like Andromeda and Nymphadora would keep their heads, understand that Ted had a better chance making a run for it than hoping for a “fair trial” with the Ministry. But he also knew that Ted meant the world to them both, and how hard it was because of that.
And although Andromeda was by no means a henpecking sort of wife, she seemed to deal with blows to the heart best by coming back with a feisty feline attitude.
“I suppose you expect me to weep and wave a handkerchief to fair thee well?” she groused at her husband.
Ted couldn’t help but smile this time. “Not at all, love.”
Nymphadora glanced over at Remus. “Did you know about this, Remus?” she asked very quietly.
Remus didn’t answer. He knew the guilt would be written on his face.
Andromeda certainly didn’t miss it. “And you didn’t think this was something worth mentioning?”
“’Dromeda, please, I asked him not to say anything. I didn’t want you—”
“To get hysterical? To beg and scream and kick things and all other manner of unladylike—?”
“Mum, just stop it!”
Andromeda did, though she finished with a kind of growl in her throat rather like Sirius’ whenever he’d been grumpily difficult. But after a moment’s tense silence she was unable to help herself.
“Well, go on then!” she erupted at Ted. “I don’t see what’s stopping you! You fool of a….” The rest of her sentence was lost in more grumbling, as her glaring eyes flashed between her husband and her son-in-law.
Ted sighed and rose from the table. “’Dromeda….”
“Don’t bother, Ted, because I know your mind’s made up, nothing I can say will stop you. And unfortunately I hate admitting this…but you’re right. It’s probably better if you left…I know what they’ll do to you if you don’t.” Andromeda bent her head over her plate, smoothed back a few strands of faintly greying black hair from her face.
Remus could tell by the way that her lip trembled that she was fighting back tears, but her stupid Black Family pride would keep her from letting anyone comfort her. And even if it didn’t, he was the last person she’d want comfort from.
“Daddy….” Nymphadora grasped Ted by the hand as he passed by her chair.
“Oh Dora.” Ted bent and kissed his daughter’s head. “You’re going to be a smashing mum, you are.” He patted her stomach. “You two take care of this little un, eh?” He glanced between her and Remus.
Remus nodded like he’d been made to swear an oath, though of course he’d made this same oath a dozen times over at least.
“Okay…” said Nymphadora in a very small voice, looking up into her father’s face. “Dad….” She reached her arms up around his neck and they hugged.
“My big girl…” Ted murmured into her hair, the pinkness of which had dulled a little.
Shortly after he left though, Nymphadora half-leapt from her chair and followed him. Andromeda took her time about it, even though she was simply seething at Remus underneath the surface. Remus watched her follow with a kind of widowed regality.
Then he too got up from the table.
Ted said his farewell to them in the front hall. Indeed, he had been planning this, for he had slung over his shoulders a rucksack he’d stowed away, packed with foodstuffs and a few changes of clothes and a few other possessions. Pictures of Dora and Andromeda maybe.
“Goodbye, Daddy.” Nymphadora squeezed him tight.
Ted stroked her hair. “Goodbye, poppet. And I promise you…I’ll do whatever it takes to get back home….” He said this over Nymphadora’s shoulder to Andromeda just as much as he said it to Nymphadora. “I’m just hiding out ‘till this blows over.”
Andromeda stared at him with steely eyes and said nothing. But Remus could see the taughtness of her face holding back a million things she wanted to say, probably everything from what she’d be serving with tea the next afternoon to how much she adored him.
“And one more thing, Dora,” Ted went on, when he pulled back to look into his daughter’s face.
“Maybe you could teach the kid old Muggle fencing too? Keep up the tradition?”
Nymphadora managed a watery smile, but Remus could see it was hard for her. “Wouldn’t dream of depriving the kid of that lesson.”
Ted smiled again and laid another kiss on her forehead. Then Nymphadora stepped aside, flicking the tears away from her eyes, to let her father say goodbye to her mother.
“’Dromeda?” Ted held out his arms.
But Andromeda was employing the Black Family stubbornness to its fullest. “You said you’re going to try your damnedest to come back—more or less—so there’s no need for me to say goodbye…because it’s not.”
Ted sighed, and Remus saw with some sadness that the man had half-expected this temperament from his wife. Making do, he took Andromeda gently by the elbows (she had her arms folded rigidly beneath her breasts), and kissed her cheek.
Then he turned away. “Well…I’m off,” he said at the threshold of the open front door, hitching up his rucksack, and he gave Nymphadora, Andromeda, and Remus a kind of cheerful and upbeat salute before heading out into the night.
He was halfway down the front walk to the gate when Andromeda’s façade fractured.
“Ted! Ted wait!” Her voice broke as she called out to him, hitching up her skirts and trotting out over the threshold and into the night.
In the glow of the light flooding out from the front hall as well as from the lampposts out in the Muggle street, Remus saw Andromeda abandon all usual propriety and throw her arms around her husband’s neck, nearly knocking him over as she hugged him tight. Ted laughed and slid his arms around her in turn.
“You’d better come back, you,” Andromeda growled fiercely in his ear, and for a moment the two of them might have been as newlywed as Remus and Nymphadora were, as beneath the waning crescent moon the older couple shared a deep and ardent kiss that melted the years away from them both.
Though as much as she held his face in her hands and whispered how much she loved him, and how much loved her in return, the moment for his departure could no longer be prolonged. And Andromeda sadly watched as her husband, after tearing himself away, left through the front gate and the wards, and disappeared into the street, swallowed by the shadows of the night.
“Oh Remus…” Nymphadora murmured. “Why couldn’t you have told us…?”
“He made me promise not to, Dora,” Remus said warily. “And I respected that. I know exactly what he’s going through….” His voice tailed away as his wife hid her face in her hands to catch the falling tears.
Andromeda reappeared after some moments staring into the night, into the place where she’d last seen Ted. She slammed the front door behind her, all heartsickness gone. Her nostrils flared as her eyes bored into Remus’.
“You put this idea into his head!” she snapped at him as she brushed past him, and upstairs they heard the subsequent slam of a bedroom door.
Remus managed to let this go. She was off her head with a whole new anxiety to deal with, and anyway, he knew she was going to blame him. Not only did he not tell her about it when he knew, but he was also the first of them to decide that leaving your wife and family behind to protect them was a “good idea”. In his case, no, it wasn’t, but in Ted’s….
No matter…Andromeda was far too distraught to be reasoned with.
Unfortunately Nymphadora was too distraught to hold back, and she marched up the stairs after her mother.
“No, Remus, she doesn’t need to say things like that to you! You’re no more to blame than I am!”
While the shouting match ensued, Remus took upon himself the task of clearing up the unfinished dinner. With his keen ears, he picked up things like, “…not his fault!” and “…that damned wolf of yours!” but he brushed it all off. By the time the clearing of the table and the cleaning of the dishes had been done, Nymphadora came back down the stairs, her eyes red and puffy and swollen, her face as pale as Remus’.
But she didn’t allow herself to break into a fresh wave of sobs—part distress-induced, part pregnancy-hormone-induced—until she was safely enfolded in Remus’ arms.
Ted rubbed his eyes and shut the journal for the night. Though “for the night” is rather inaccurate since it was actually about half-past-three in the morning. Still, despite his tiredness, he was also very restless from all he had read, so he went downstairs to the kitchen to heat up some milk that would curl up nicely in his stomach and put him to sleep for a few hours before he had to get up.
After he heated the milk along with honey and dished it out to himself in a bowl, he took it to the kitchen table and sipped from it until it was all gone. Once he’d drained the bowl, he deposited it in the sink, feeling like he was six-years-old again, and quite content about it too.
As he made his way back to the stairs, he paused at the dining room. He crossed over to the elegantly carved dining table, glazed and primped with lace, and thought again about the last entry from the journal. He touched the very chair where his father had sat that night, barely eating, looked over at the chairs where his mother and grandmother had been sitting, oblivious to the dreadful news, and then the chair at the opposite end was where his grandfather had sat, just drinking in the sight of his wife and daughter, the last he would ever see of them again.
And then he felt him, looking right across at the table—
My namesake, Ted thought.
Ted looked up and saw his grandmother in the doorway, wearing her dressing gown.
“Sorry, Nan,” he said hastily, stepping away from the table. “I was up you know…with those journals…and I thought it was high time I went to bed and so I made myself some warm milk and honey because I couldn’t manage to get to sleep despite how tired I am and…well, I got to thinking…about Granddad.”
Andromeda sighed and crossed over to the table and smoothed her hand over the polished wood almost lovingly. “I said a lot of things that night…that I very much regret now…including what I said to your father…but the anger’s always stuck with me, just a little. It’s hard letting go when blaming makes it so much easier, when being angry is so much more satisfying than wallowing in sadness. But I knew your Granddad was right, and when he and I kissed goodbye for the last time…I made sure it was good.” She managed to smile up at Ted, and Ted returned it, thinking how much of her love for Granddad Tonks shone in her now.
He went to her and wrapped his arms around her. She hugged him back, and he felt how fragile she’d grown over the years. Now, he couldn’t be sure, but he thought that the shoulder of his pajamas got soaked with a few teardrops then.
“Love you, Nan.”
“I love you too…Teddy Bear.”
Ted’s smile widened. It was times like these he didn’t mind being called Teddy Bear.