A/N: Apologies in advance if you find this chapter is a bit disjoint - it essentially covers two very distinct moments of the story, the later one being... well, you'll see pretty clearly what it is. If my count is right, only a couple more chapters and an epilogue until this volume is over - then, it's time for the sequel, which I count on making smaller than this fic.
On other news, I keep apologizing for my delays - this time, I blame it on the massive funk I got myself into when I realized the theme I had in mind for my master's dissertation sucked. It took three weeks of self-pity and researching but now I have another one. I still wonder what possessed me to think getting an MBA on Business Management coming from an anthropology background was a good idea in the first place...
Anyway, good reading and a Happy belated Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it!
Teddy Lupin was a little over three weeks old when the Blacks finally got to meet him.
Although Remus managed to find the time to visit his friends often after his son’s birth, proudly boasting the newborn’s achievements and tiredly sharing the well-known stress of being a new parent – doing so while looking happier than he’d ever seemed –, the baby never actually came along or left home, for that matter. Sirius and Mia didn’t blame him or Tonks – Merlin knew they wouldn’t let their little ones out of the house even if they hadn’t bounties on their heads. Not when people were snatched and murdered on the streets of London every other day.
But, as full-moon approached and Remus started despairing at the prospect that his son might have possibly inherited his ‘problem’, Teddy having to leave the safety of home in order to meet the Blacks became inevitable: Remus didn’t want want his wife alone with the baby in case his fears turned out to be real and there was no one he trusted more to look after his son if that were the case than the best friend who’d been dealing with him during full-moon since they were in school.
So, as evening approached in the much-dreaded day, the doorbell of the house eventually rang, announcing the arrival of a clearly exhausted Tonks, balancing a portable bassinet on one arm and a bunch of bags on the other.
“Merlin, are you planning to sleep over or permanently move in here?” Sirius asked the moment he laid eyes on the new mother.
The metamorphagus gave him an exasperated look. “Teddy's never been out of home before. I don't know what he'll need – he's a demanding little thing, you know?”
“Don't mind him – he seems to forget very easily how clueless he was when we took Alex out for the first time and we were just going to the park then, mind you,” Mia said, slapping her husband on the arm. “Now, let us see that demanding little thing of yours while Sirius gets the bags upstairs.”
“Hey, I want to see the little bugger too!” Sirius protested.
“Hurry putting the bags away, then,” his wife replied in a practical fashion.
He protested a little more under his breath but that didn’t stop him from taking most of Tonks’s load, all except from the portable bassinet.
As her husband made his way upstairs, Mia peeked into it, finding it occupied with the sleeping little Lupin. He was a tiny little thing, not that much bigger than the last picture Remus had shown them, all rosy cheeks and colourful hair – that day, it was bright red, having apparently been inspired by the blanket he was wrapped on, which was exactly the same shade of red. Even as Mia reached in, softly caressing one of the baby’s little hands, Teddy didn’t as much as move a muscle, so deeply he was sleeping. “You’re a peaceful little thing, aren’t you?” Mia whispered to the boy with a smile.
Tonks snorted the moment she heard that, actually shaking with laughter that the baby seemed completely oblivious to in his sleep. “Peaceful?” she asked. “Merlin, that’s just hilarious… You should have heard him a few hours ago – ‘peaceful’ would be the farthest word from your mind if you’d been anywhere near him then.”
“A good pair of lungs, I take it,” Mia guessed.
“A great one,” Tonks pointed out. “I mean, I love this little bugger to death but he does not like going to sleep when we want him to.” She peaked into the bassinet, sighing at the sight of the sleeping boy. “On the other hand, when he’s really down, it takes nothing short of an earthquake to wake him for at least three or four hours. Still, I’m a bit impressed that he managed to sleep through me apparating here.”
Mia looked up from the baby and frowned at the new mother. “I can’t believe you apparated here with all that on you. Not to mention more than a few sleepless nights on your back,” she said. “Merlin, you could have splinched yourself, Tonks!”
Tonks rolled her eyes. “Now you’re starting to sound like my mother.”
“Good – that’s the tone I was aiming for.”
“Well, then I’ll tell you what I’d tell her: I’m an auror. I was trained to apparate in the worst conditions without splinching myself. Worse – I got trained by Mad-Eye, who was completely mad. He did everything from making me apparate while juggling stuff to getting me out of bed with the flu and make me do it while I was running a fever of 40 degrees. It didn’t go very well at first but it sure worked out in the end. I know what I’m doing.”
Mia sighed. “Well, fine, but at least next time send a warning ahead so we can send Kreacher to get the heaviest things. You look exhausted.”
Tonks took a breath that matched Mia’s assessment just right. “It’s the most frustrating thing, you know? I chased bad guys for a living, sometimes for weeks in a row with little sleep in between. I lived through physical auror training, which is known to be able to bring grown men to tears. And, still, despite all of that, this little guy has me running more raged than all of those things. Talk about small packaging for big trouble.”
“I'd love to tell you it's all about reverse proportion but I can't – just wait until he’s a little bigger and able to crawl away when you take your eyes off him for a second. And when the accidental magic starts kicking in… well, you’ll be thankful at least they usually sleep through the night then,” Mia warned her. “But in the meanwhile, since he can’t move on his own yet, let me carry that bassinet up for you – I imagine your back could use a rest right about now.”
“Wise words,” Tonks said, handing the bassinet over to her friend.
Before any of them had a chance to head to the stairs, though, their attention was caught by the sound of someone shouting something similar to ‘Auntie Tonks’ from the nearby room that held the library, followed by the patting of little feet on the floor that preceded the arrival of a dark-haired blur motioning towards Tonks – a blur, of course, named Alex and seemingly more-than-eager to wrap himself around his godfather’s wife’s legs (with such eagerness that he nearly threw her off balance).
“Alex! Don’t go around nearly tackling people!” Izzy scolded her brother, apologetically hurrying after him out of the library. “Sorry, I tried to keep him away so you’d have the time to get the baby to safety but he got out of the blanket fort and heard your voice and, well, you can figure the rest… Did we wake him up?”
Tonks glanced at her still-sleeping son in his portable bassinet and shook her head. “He’s fine. At this point, I’m pretty sure it would take an army of Alexes to wake him. I’ve got to say, if the kid didn’t react so badly to my attempts at singing him to sleep, I might just wonder if he was deaf,” she mumbled, just before another shout came from the library – that time from Mary and clearly out of outrage at being left behind rather than enthusiasm like it had been her brother’s case. The words were still hard to decipher but Izzy clearly recognized them as her name as she hurried back into the room, cursing under her breath.
“Where'd the baby go?” Alex asked his borrowed aunt, staring at her surprisingly flatter midriff, likely too young to remember how things had worked out when his mother had been the one having a baby in the previous year.
“He’s right over there,” Tonks said, pointing at the bassinet. “Do you want to see him?”
“He’s a boy?” the young man asked, completely missing the hint given by the use of the ‘he’ rather than ‘she’.
Alex shrugged. “D’you wanna trade’im for Mary?” he offered after a few seconds of observing the sleeping baby and deeming him interesting enough once Teddy changed his hair to blue in his sleep.
“Alex!” Mia light-heartedly scolded her son as Tonks just snorted at the proposal, having not been the first time she’d heard it. “Why would you want to trade your sister for another baby?”
“Girls ‘re icky,” he responded like it was obvious.
Mia sighed – so it was that phase. “Honey, I’m a girl and so is Izzy. And your auntie Tonks too. And grandma Lulu. Are we icky?”
She might as well have said there was no such thing as Santa Claus – apparently Alex didn’t seem to have put it together that ‘big ladies’ were technically girls too. And, by the look on his face, he didn’t appear willing to believe it now either. “’re not girls!” the little boy shouted, in complete denial, clutching to one of Izzy’s legs the moment she stepped back into the entrance hall with Mary in her arms. “No!”
“No what?” Izzy asked, looking confused as her mother shook her head, telling her to just drop the subject – the clock was ticking and that would have to be a conversation for another time.
She put her sister down and let her toddle towards Tonks, who didn’t hesitate on picking her up and letting her place the usual slobbery kiss on her face, even though she clearly grimaced at the toddler’s weight. “Alright, now, what did I hear about a blanker fort? I used to love making those,” Tonks said, using the excuse of clutching down to Alex’s level to place Mary back down on the floor.
The mention of the blanket fort seemed to work on deflecting the little boy’s thoughts from the ‘girl conundrum’. “We’re campin’,” Alex proudly announced, his face all smiles.
Tonks raised her eyebrows. “Camping?” she asked, unsure his notion of ‘camping’ was the same as hers. “In a blanket fort?”
The boy nodded enthusiastically before pointing at the door he’d come from. “’t’s in the libwy. ‘t’s big,” the little boy proudly announced.
“Biiiii,” Mary repeated with a giggle, having toddled over to her mother and started pulling on her leg to get her attention – having placed the bassinet down for Alex to see the baby, Mia took a moment to reach down and press a kiss against the top of her youngest child’s head, keeping an eye on her once Mary turned her attention to the baby, eyeing him curiously before she started making faces.
“You can camp too if you want. There’s space,” Alex offered.
Tonks chuckled. “That’s a very tempting offer, Alex, but I’ll have to skip this time,” she told the little boy, ruffling his hair affectionately.
“Oi, what’s taking you two so long?” they heard Sirius asking before spotting him coming down the stairs. “I thought I was the one who needed to hurry after you.”
“We’re going – we just stopped so Tonks could say hello to our little campers,” Mia told her husband.
“Well, take your time, then, because in the meanwhile Mr Teddy here and I,” he said, taking the bassinet from Mia, “are going to have a bloke-to-bloke chat upstairs. And I won’t apologize for any corruption that takes place while you ladies stay behind.” He stopped before heading to the stairs to tickle little Mary’s neck until she escaped, giggling, to hide behind her mother’s back and to ruffle his son’s already messy hair. “Keep an eye on your sisters tonight, mate.”
“Oh, good – trust the hyperactive three-year old over the nearly-off-age daughter to keep things calm tonight,” Izzy said sarcastically as her father chuckled all the way upstairs, already sharing philosophical thoughts with a thankfully sleeping Teddy.
“Well, have a good time tonight in your blanket fort,” Tonks said, kneeling down to embrace both Alex and Mary, who was quick to join from behind her mother’s back, before getting up and doing the same to Izzy. “I promise I’ll try and join you one of these days now that I have Teddy for an excuse to do all those things I loved as a kid all over again.”
“We’ll be waiting,” Izzy said as the metamorphagus took a step back. “Hey, one thing, though – you haven’t heard any word from the Weasleys lately or anything, have you?”
Tonks shook her head. “Not directly. Remus did tell me a few weeks ago that he was with Bill and that he said everyone was okay. He and Fleur are not staying with the others, though. But they were safe – I’m sure we would have heard if that had changed. Can’t tell you more than that, though. But I could ask Remus to pass a message along when he sees Bill again, if you want. Anything you want to say to them?”
George, get your arse in here so we can make this official, she thought, knowing there was no way she was going to say it out loud to be passed along by who-knew-how-many-people before possibly reaching the intended target. “Just that I can’t wait for the next time I see them,” she said, hoping George in particular would get the message. “It’s getting boring in here.”
Tonks nodded. “So noted… I’ll get the message on the move as soon as I can.” She checked her watch and did the math to figure out how many minutes they had before moon rise. “Alright, I’d better head upstairs before your father somehow manages to scar my baby for life in his sleep,” she said, trying to sound far more upbeat than she felt before heading to the stairs.
Mia stayed behind for a moment as the pink-haired woman climbed up to the first floor, waiting to have a last word with Izzy out of her earshot. “Okay, do you remember what we told you?”
Izzy huffed. “Yes: don’t tear my eyes away from Alex and Mary; don’t go upstairs no matter what I hear; send Kreacher up in case it gets really bad and cast an imperturbable charm in the room so Alex and Mary won’t get scared.”
“And don’t let Alex take your wand,” Mia added. “We don’t want another incident like last week’s – I still haven’t figured out how he got the dinning room’s furniture to stick to the ceiling or how to get it down from there.”
“Got it,” Izzy assured her. “We’ll be fine down here, Mum. Just… be careful up there. It’s not that I hate babysitting them,” she said, nodding at Alex, who happened to be showing Mary how to climb up a chair and failing at it, for the little girl’s amusement, “but I don’t want this to become standard full-moon practice.”
“It won’t,” Mia promised, before bidding goodnight to her children and making her way up the stairs.
In the living room, she found Tonks leaning back against the sofa, probably enjoying the quietest moments she’d had in a long time, struggling to pay attention to Sirius as he walked around the room with her sleeping newborn son in his arms.
“…honestly, with this metamorphagus thing, if he’s even half the troublemaker we were in school, he’s going to be the bane of McGonagall’s existence,” Sirius proudly attested. “Get him together with Alex and she’ll be pulling at her own hair.”
“Will you stop rooting for those prime-prankster Black genes to kick in?” Tonks said, sighing as Mia came into the room. “Honestly, I could use a full night of sleep anytime before he’s all grown up and over the prankster thing.”
“You should know no one’s ever really over the ‘prankster thing’. And, by the way, ‘Black genes’? You think it’s the Black genes you have to worry about? Oh, no, those Lupin genes can give you a run for your money. That detail-oriented brain of Moony’s: he could turn the sloppiest prank prompt Prongs and I came up with into a work of art. Wrap it with a bow and hand it over in a flawless platter. Your husband was no saint, Tonksie. He was – is – just as much of a Marauder as James and I were. He’s just better at making himself look innocent.”
“Not to mention that he does have something called ‘a notion of what is and isn’t appropriate at certain times’ and an inkling of self-control, which you and James often lacked,” Mia pointed out.
“Don’t listen to her, Teddy,” Sirius told the little boy. “Auntie Mia may say all she likes but one of the reasons why she fell for Uncle Padfoot was him being so wild and spontaneous, not to mention ruggedly handsome.”
“Auntie Mia would like a chance to hold young Mr. Lupin before Uncle Padfoot corrupts him for good,” Mia replied, walking over to her husband.
“Uncle Padfoot will concede, but only because he just happens to find Auntie Mia very attractive when she’s holding a baby,” he agreed, handing the boy over to his wife.
“Ew!” Tonks said from her seat. “Don’t use my son as a prop for your twisted flirting. You’re grand-godparents – act as such.”
“Grand-godparents?!” Sirius asked in an alarmed tone as he stared at the baby. “Grand-godparents…”
“Well, Harry’s his godfather, you’re Harry’s godparents who just happened to raise him, thus: grand-godparents,” Tonks explained.
“Merlin,” Sirius mumbled. “We’re old,” he whispered.
“We’re thirty-eight – that hardly makes us old,” Mia told him, not looking up from the sleeping baby, whose hair had just turned into some sort of violet shade.
“But the prefix ‘grand’… it just sounds so old,” he mumbled.
Mia sighed, finally turning to Tonks. “Can we just stick to being Teddy’s borrowed uncle and aunt? Else I think Sirius may just have a slight bout of neurosis.”
“You can be whatever you want to him – if it wasn’t for you steering Remus back in my direction every time he pulled away, I’m not sure if Teddy would exist at all.”
“Oh, I’m sure he would,” Mia told her, smiling down at the boy. “Fate has a way of working things out in the end, especially if they lead to precious little things like this one.”
“Besides, Remus had it bad – still does, honestly,” Sirius pointed out. “And the bloke can be stoic like nothing I’ve ever seen before, but he’s still human. That self-control of his isn’t made of steel. And speaking of self-control and, by extension, unintentional lack of thereof, how was Moony doing when you left? Think this is going to be a bad full-moon?”
“Well, it’s never a good one, but I’ve seen him worse. Physically, he wasn’t too bad: he took the Wolfsbane in time, even let me feed him a few pepper-up potions. I think he did it so he could hang around taking care of Teddy even today… which brings me to the other part…”
“He’s anxious about Teddy’s first full-moon,” Mia easily guessed, reaching to place him back in the portable bassinet on the sofa before taking a seat by it.
Tonks nodded. “I told him he was being silly – warewolves are made, not born, and even if they were, there was never any sign when I was pregnant.” Which brought her to the point when she had wonder why she needed to make such a massive effort to keep a brave face and not to freak out, if that was actually what she was so certain of… “Teddy will be fine,” she said, more to convince herself than she was willing to admit.
“Of course he will,” Sirius agreed. “That’s what we’re here for. We’ll look after him whatever happens tonight… probably nothing worse than a pile of dirty nappies.”
She had to chuckle a little. “I haven’t thanked you for doing this yet,” she said. “Letting me and Teddy come here tonight when there’s a chance – even if small – he might…”
“Hey, none of that! That’s what friends are for,” Sirius assured her. “Besides, I know how to handle werewolves and if it’s the kids you’re worried about, they’re perfectly safe.”
Mia nodded. “Kreacher’s under orders to apparate them all out of this house if he hears any suspicious commotion up here.” A detail of the plan, they had conveniently left out of their daughter’s briefing, considering that adventurous little streak of hers might just make her want to stay and help out rather than be taken away to safety. “As far as the little ones are concerned, tonight’s a fun night camping in the library with their big sister.”
“And babysitting is good for Izzy – seems to be the one thing in this house that keeps her entertained enough to stop being holed up in her bedroom or walking around the place in her jim-jams,” Sirius commented.
“Why wouldn’t she? They’re so comfortable. And it’s not like she’s going anywhere anytime soon,” Tonks pointed out. “Best thing about having a baby is that you have a perfect excuse to wear pyjamas all day… well, one of the best at least.”
Sirius huffed. “You know what? I’m not even going to bother with you.,” he mumbled. “Anyway, how’s your Mum? Moony mentioned she’s been around a lot.”
“She’s doing better,” Tonks said, her lips curling a little. “It seems having a Ted in her life makes it infinitely better for her – now she’s got another one, even though he’s tiny and loud. She wanted to come along today. It took ages to convince her I’d be fine without her here.”
“Look, if it bothers you a lot having to hide our location from her, you can just tell her,” Sirius offered. “There are worse people in the world who could know.”
“Two of them being my aunts,” Tonks mumbled. “Anyway, it’s your secret – I’m just keeping it for you, so I’m not breathing a word unless you tell me to. And she can live without knowing. I know that and so does she. But she did say you’d better get visiting more often once this whole thing is over. When was the last time you’ve seen her, anyway? My birthday?”
“Yeah,” Sirius mumbled.
“The one from two years ago,” Mia added, narrowing her eyes at her husband.
“What? She didn’t ask which birthday! And it’s not like Andromeda comes here often either – I’m not the worst cousin in the world.”
“Well, that’s not particularly hard, considering the rest of the family is either legally insane or currently planning on killing you next time they lay eyes on you,” Tonks pointed out.
“Thank you!” he said, glad she matched his thoughts. “Someone finally puts things into the right perspective.”
Before any of them could say anything else, though, Kreacher apparated into the room with the usual ‘pop’. Mia immediately turned to him like she’d been expecting it.
“Is it time?” she asked the house-elf.
Kreacher nodded. “Fifteen minutes, Mistress.”
“Thank you, Kreacher. You can go back to what you were doing,” she told him.
The house-elf gave another nod and then proceeded to vanish again.
“I asked Kreacher to give us a little warning before moonrise,” Mia explained before any of them could ask. “Maybe we should move to the room. We can talk in there.”
Tonks nodded. “Yeah,” she agreed before turning to the sleeping little boy next to her. “Time to prove your daddy wrong,” she told the baby, mentally begging him not to let her down on that one.
They guided her to the only guest bedroom on the same floor, where she’d stayed before a couple of times, one when Remus had left, the other during the previous full-moon. Unlike those times, though, the cradle that had once belonged to Alex and then Mary was set up next to the bed.
“We thought he’d be more comfortable in there,” Mia explained when she saw Tonks looking at it.
The metamorphagus gave her a nod before placing the portable bassinet on the bed and lifting her sleeping son from it. She didn’t move him to the cradle immediately, though – she just cradled him against her chest for a moment while she paced inside the room. “So, how is this going to work?”
Sirius sighed. “Well, for starters, you put him down in the cradle like normal. Then I’ll cast a barrier charm over it – it will be like there’s a wall on top of it but you’ll still be able to see him. Remus reckons it will be enough to contain him since he’s still so little and you’ve given him a few drops of wolfsbane potion, haven’t you?”
Tonks nodded, placing a little kiss against the baby’s now blue-green hair. “Elizabeth said she didn’t think it would harm him even if he’s not… you know.” She looked at Mia for confirmation.
“It usually has no ill effect on non-werewolves – a little drowsiness, maybe. And, as long as you adapt the dose to the weight, any werewolf could take it, regardless of age,” she assured the woman. “Besides, if it had to hurt him, you’d already know.”
The new mother took a breath, rubbing a hand against the baby’s back. “And then we just wait,” she guessed.
“It’s really all we can do,” Sirius pointed out. “You can hold on to him for a couple more minutes but then you really should put him down. The moon rise calculations are not always 100% accurate. And neither are clocks. It’s good to keep at least a good five minute margin.”
Tonks clearly took that statement to the letter, as she used up every second holding her son up until the five-minute margin. Afterwards, she sat down on the edge of the bed next to Mia, looking at her little boy lying in the cradle as Sirius cast the barrier charm over it. She wasn’t sure if he’d somehow felt the charm or if it was just a coincidence, but the moment Sirius uttered the spell, Teddy started blinking his eyes awake.
“There he is,” she said, getting back up and leaning over the cradle in order to get a better look at the little boy as he started moving his arms and legs everywhere. She instinctively moved her hand to reach into the cradle but instead her hand hit the glass-like barrier. She immediately retreated her hand, resting it on the edge of the cradle instead.
“He’s a curious little bugger, hum?” Sirius said as he watched his best friend’s son’s eyes move everywhere, taking in every face and every detail of his unfamiliar surroundings. He looked as if he was deliberating on whether he liked them or not.
“He always watches things – when he’s not in a mood, that is,” Tonks said as Mia joined them at looking at the baby. “The first time he put him in his cot, he spent a good ten minutes examining the mobile over it. Then, he decided he didn’t like it and started to cry. Later, turned out it was just too low and it scared him. He’s fine with it now.”
He seemed to be doing the very same thing to the two strangers standing over the cradle along with his mum: assessing them in a wide-eyed fashion until he reached a decision. It wasn’t a positive one – the whimpering certainly gave it away.
“Oh,” Tonks mumbled, once again forgetting about the barrier and hitting it with her hand as she instinctively tried to reach in so she could soothe her son before the whimpering turned into full-blown crying. She looked up at Sirius, a pleading look in her eyes. “Do you think you can…?”
He gave her a sad look. “It’s probably not the best idea, Tonks. We’ll be cutting it close.”
She wanted to protest – part of her actually needed to. Standing by and not doing a thing while she heard her little boy crying was against every instinct she had.
“He’s probably just upset at having a couple of strangers staring down at him. He’ll be fine,” Mia told her as she stepped back to sit back on the bed and signalled at Sirius to move away from the cot too, which he did by walking over to the window.
But it didn’t work. Instead of calming down, the boy actually grew more restless, crying as loudly as his little lungs would allow him. As she stated at his little red face, Tonks could practically hear him saying it: ‘Why won’t you pick me up, woman? What kind of mother are you?’ She looked at Sirius again – she knew she shouldn’t ask but she just couldn’t help it. “Sirius, please…”
“Just hold on a few more minutes until we know if it’s going to happen or not,” her cousin told her firmly. “Wailing won’t kill him but picking him might just kill you.”
She slumped back down onto the edge of the bed, sitting there unable to look at her son crying. She placed her arms on the edge of the cradle, over the barrier, and the rested her head down against them, staring at the floor, as the sound broke her heart over and over again.
She couldn’t help wondering all the wrong things. Could the crying be a sign? Could he already be transforming and responding to the pain by helplessly wailing? She couldn’t look to check – she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. So she didn’t move, forcing herself to listen to his wailing as some sort of penance.
It felt like hours in her mind. She only vaguely registered Mia placing her hand on her shoulder and telling her everything was going to be fine even though she had no idea if it would.
At some point, her friends’ voices became clearer and she felt herself being shaken back from the tortuous world of guilt she’d withdrawn herself into.
“Tonks? Tonks,” she heard Sirius calling over her son’s cries.
The metamorphagus looked up at him, appearing like the most miserable person on Earth.
“Sirius disabled the spell – you can get him,” Mia told her.
“He’s fine,” Sirius said. “The moon has been up for nearly ten minutes. If he had to turn, he’d have already turned.”
She just looked at him for a few seconds, so relieved she could barely believe it. “He’s okay?” she asked.
Mia nodded. “Your baby is a perfectly normal, very special little boy.”
“Oh,” she mumbled. “Oh, thank Merlin.” And, without any more hesitation, she reached into the bassinet, picking up her wailing little son and holding his little body firmly against hers. She placed a kiss on the top of his dark blonde little head – his hair always seemed to turn to its original colour when he was upset –, mumbling little nothings in hope to calm him down. Teddy didn’t seem set on making it easy, though, eagerly showing his lung prowess as his little hands gripped his mother’s shirt. For once, the wailing didn’t make Tonks wish she was deaf – she was far too relieved by the fact that she could hold her baby through it.
As Sirius and Mia watched the scene, they quickly realized the woman could probably use a few moments alone with her son. “We’ll be out in the living room if you need us, okay?” Mia told her.
Tonks absently nodded as she started walking around the room with the little boy, trying to soothe him.
“Well, that was awful,” Sirius stated as he closed the door behind them seconds later. “I felt like a villain in there.”
“You did what you had to do,” Mia told him. “You did what Remus expected you to do. She’ll be fine and so will the baby.”
“Bloody relief the kid didn’t turn,” he said with a long breath. “I’m not sure how Remus would have taken it if the kid had a furry little problem too. I know we talked about this and we told him it would be fine either way but let’s be honest: it would have killed him.”
“He’d have been riddled with guilt, yes,” Mia agreed. “But now he won’t have to be.” She sighed, lacing her arm with his as they walked back into the living room. “Just serves to show that good things can happen even these days when everything’s so bleak.” She looked up at him. “Hey, I need to ask you something.”
“Ask away, Mrs Black.”
“Do you think you could handle a potentially sleepless night tonight?”
Sirius raised his eyebrows. “Love, you know I can always handle a sleepless night when you’re the one asking for it,” he assured her with a grin.
She rolled her eyes as she took a seat on the sofa. “Not for that! And don’t even pretend that wasn’t what you were thinking about. We have a guest over! A tired new mother, a little bit overwhelmed with her new baby… which brings me to the real reason for the sleepless night I was talking about.”
“You’re thinking it wouldn’t hurt for us to offer to play overnights babysitters so she can get some sleep,” he guessed, since her reasoning was becoming painfully obvious.
“Yes. Alex and Mary already sleep through the night and Izzy’s got them until the morning, anyway…”
“Hey, you don’t need to convince me,” he told her. “A chance to teach the kid all the Marauder wisdom without his mum breathing down my neck? I’m there. Not sure she’ll go for it, though. Tonks may be exhausted but with all the drama she had to go through with him tonight, I’m not sure if she’ll want to be apart from him.”
“Well, like you said, it doesn’t hurt to offer,” she pointed out.
But, as a good half-hour passed and there was no sign of the new mother ever intending to leave the room, they started to think they might not get a chance. Maybe ever.
“Do you think Teddy’s still crying?” Mia wondered out loud.
“It doesn’t sound like it,” her husband replied – it had been a while since the wailing had subsided in the bedroom.
“Might be because she charmed the door soundproof – we did it all the time when Alex or Mary were throwing massive fits, remember?” Suddenly, recalling the extent of the abilities of a soundproof charm, Mia’s eyes widened. “You don’t think… you don’t think Teddy could’ve… you know… turned. After we left, I mean. What if it took longer because he’s a baby or…”
“I don’t think so, Mia. The most I’ve seen it delaying for Remus was two or three minutes. We gave Teddy ten,” he said. And, although logically he felt like he was right, the very idea crossing Mia’s mind – and now his as well – made him nervous. “I guess we could check, though, if it would ease your mind.”
Mia nodded, getting to her feet. “I think we really should.”
They walked in silence towards the room, from where no discernible sound came through the door.
“Tonks?” she called, knocking softly. There was no response. She looked at Sirius and raised her eyebrows in alarm. “Tonks?” she called again, getting – once more – no response.
At that, Sirius started to reach for the doorknob, only to have his hand slapped away by his wife. “What?” he asked.
“Let me go in first,” she said.
“There’s no way…”
“Sirius, what if nothing’s actually wrong and she’s in some sort of compromising position? You know, changing or nursing or… never mind. Do you really want to walk in on your cousin in any of those situations?”
His face clearly said ‘no’. That would be awkward at the very least. “Fine. But if I hear any odd sound from inside…”
“You’re blasting past me like a knight in shining armour,” Mia guessed. “As if I don’t know you well enough. Now shoo.”
So, as his wife turned the doorknob, Sirius stayed just a step behind, his hand on the path to the wand in his pocket. But, as she pushed the door open just a small crack and no suspicious sound came from within, he found himself relaxing even as Mia poked her head in. When she pulled back and looked at him with a smile on her face, he found himself just a little stupid for having doubted his previous judgement. Everything was clearly fine.
“I don’t think we’ll get much of a fight from her in what comes to us babysitting,” she said, turning off the lights on the hallway before pushing the door open just a little more.
Even from the hallway, he managed to spot a streetlight-illuminated Tonks laying face-down on the bed, clearly asleep even though she was still fully dressed. If he had to take a guess, he’d say that taking a nap had been the least of her plans when she’d lain down. She appeared as if she’d been trying to lull her son, who just happened to be lying on his back by her side, back to sleep, although the intended roles had clearly reversed – she seemed so down under that, even while protectively resting her hand on the boy’s belly, his flailing limbs and faint whimpers wouldn’t even make her stir.
“I get the baby, you get his things,” Mia said before stepping into the room.
Ten minutes later, Mia had successfully gotten hold of the baby, placed a blanket over the new mother and closed the curtains of the room and he’d managed to not only carry two bags full of baby stuff but also his kids’ old bassinet – all that without Tonks moving an inch. Once he’d accidentally stubbed his foot against the door, making quite a bit of noise that still didn’t wake her, he found it necessary to shove his two-way mirror under her face to make sure she was still breathing – she was. It had been a while since he’d seen someone exhaust themselves into such a deep stupor – last one being her husband after a particularly gruelling full-moon. Therefore, he’d say there was little chance she’d wake before noon the following day unless someone made her.
“I can see where Teddy gets his sleeping patterns from,” Mia observed, looking down at Teddy as Sirius shared his observations with her. The boy seemed content enough for the moment, grasping at Mia’s hair like he’d never done so before. Then again, Tonks rarely wore it long, so he might have not. “We should probably write her a note, though, shouldn’t we? If she wakes up and doesn’t know where Teddy is, she might panic. I would.”
“I already did,” her husband stated.
“What did it say?”
“The obvious. We have the kid. What else is there to say?”
“Honestly! That sounds like a ransom note, Sirius!” she said.
Sirius frowned. “How is that a ransom note? I didn’t ask for a ransom anywhere in it,” he replied.
“A kidnap note, then,” she amended, getting up. “Here,” she said, handling the baby over to him, “watch him while I go write her something less horrifying.”
“Horrifying?!” he asked in disbelief as she walked out. He looked down at the newborn in his arms. “You know what, kid, now’s a time as good as any to start teaching you bits of wisdom. Lesson number one: ladies are mental. You can’t live without them but never let’em fool you: ladies and mental are synonyms all the way.”
Outside the room, hearing her husband’s room, Mia sighed. That was going to be a long night.
2 May 1998
It was two in the morning and Izzy Black was standing in her house’s kitchen, far from asleep. She knew she should be, but she also knew that if she didn’t use the godforsaken late hours of night to train her portkey-making skills, she would never get the chance to do so. Why? Because, during the day, her parents were everywhere. She could hardly spend fifteen minutes outsider of her room without running into one of them and since it was just pointless to test her portkeys within the limited square feet of her bedroom, nightime, while they were asleep, would have to do. It was much easier to pretend she’d all of a sudden developed a knack for sleeping late than answering a thousand questions as to what she was making Portkeys for.
She wasn’t doing anything wrong, she kept telling herself. She was just refining her contingency plans by practicing an exit – of course, such contingency plans might just rub her parents the wrong way so, to avoid a direct ‘no’, she kept them to herself.
So far, it was going surprisingly well – she might be dreadful at apparating but portkeys seemed to agree with her… which made her groan because, under normal circumstances, they might just get her arrested. Still, she made herself ignore it – weren’t there far more important things to worry about during a war? It wasn’t like she wasn’t a fugitive already, anyway. Better go on practicing, then.
The ideal would be, of course, to test those portkeys by travelling through distances of miles rather than the yards doing it inside the house allowed, but the wards wouldn’t allow her to go beyond those walls unless they were created by the owner of the house, who would be her dad and not her.
She was just starting to look around for some useless item to turn into her next portkey when she heard it: the front door opening and closing upstairs. The sound alone made her freeze, mostly for the fact that neither she nor her parents could have gone out and, outside of them, very little people could just burst in without as much as ringing the doorbell. And never for a good reason at that ungodly hour.
She moved carefully to the stairs and barely had the time to wonder who it was when she recognized the voice calling for Kreacher and asking him to get his masters downstairs – it was her grandfather, Gabe.His very unusual anxious tone only confirmed her fears – he’d come for no good reason. And she had a feeling such no-good-reason was not for her ears, which was too bad for Gabe and her parents because she wasn’t planning to go anywhere to give them their privacy – if there was one thing she knew about that house, was that from that stairwell leading to the basement kitchen, she could hear every word said in the entrance hall, provided no one looked down to find her there. She could only hope they wouldn’t move elsewhere in the meanwhile.
“What’s wrong?” her mother’s startled voice reached her ears, following the sound of footsteps. “Is it Lulu? Oh, Merlin, don’t tell me…”
“Your mother is fine. This isn’t about her. It’s Harry,” Gabe told her.
Izzy felt her heart racing at the mention of his name. Immediately, her mind was filled with all the worst scenarios.
“What about him?” her father’s voice inquired.
“He’s at Hogwarts. Aberforth got through to Kingsley, who got through to me. Something big is happening in Hogwarts and Harry’s right in the middle of it. I thought you’d want to know we’re heading there to lend him a hand in whatever he’s working on,” Gabe told them.
“Sirius is right, Gabe. If something big is happening, we need to be there for him,” her mother was quick to agree.
There was a moment of silence after that.
“Well, I can’t say I didn’t see this one coming,” Gabe offered. “And I suppose I have no authority to stop you since I’d do just the same if it were you out there. Just don’t make me regret it.”
“I don’t count on it,” she promised.
“How do we get in, though?” Sirius asked. “He’s at Hogwarts, not the shop around the corner. It probably won’t have the gates open, just waiting for us to swoop in. And the secret passages to Hogsmeade are all blocked.”
“Kingsley said to head to the Hog’s Head. Abe seems to have some sort of trick up his sleeve in there to get in. I’ll meet you there with Lucy – she went off to spread the word to a few more acquaintances.”
“This could be it, right?” her mother’s shaky voice said. “If Snape and the Carrows know Harry’s at Hogwarts, they’ll call their master and, as long as he and Harry are in the same place at the same time…”
That thought was as terrifying as it was exciting. In one hand, they could be headed to the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort they’d been dreading for years and could lead to the death of either of them. On the other hand, prophecy said such a confrontation was unavoidable, no matter how much they ran, so might as well get it over with. Because they could win. It could all be over that day. They could be free. And that was the outcome she chose to focus on, because them losing that night was just something she wasn’t willing to entertain in her mind and nothing actually happening – either because Harry being at Hogwarts was nothing more than a rumour or he’d left before Voldemort arrived or they, once again, were just unable to put an end to it – just didn’t occur to her.
It was the front door opening and shutting again that woke her up from her thoughts. Gabe had been the only one to leave, she quickly concluded, upon hearing her parent’s voices upstairs growing more and more distant.
“…hurry getting dressed. Still need to check on the kids…” she vaguely heard her mother’s voice saying upstairs.
“Oh crap,” she whispered to herself, recalling she wasn’t supposed to be out of bed. She needed to get upstairs and pretend to be asleep. If she didn’t, things would just get too complicated – they’d tell her to stay, she’d tell them she’d go, they’d say no and she’d fight some more. In the end, they’d probably find a way to keep her from leaving, either it was by guilting her into it or by physically trying her to the furniture or something. The easy thing to do was pretending to sleep, hoping they wouldn’t wake her, and not let them breach the subject. That way, she’d at least have the excuse that they hadn’t specifically forbidden her to go, although there was no denying it was more than implied.
She climbed up the stairs as silently as humanely possible, hoping they wouldn’t catch her on the act. Upon reaching the first floor, she heard them moving upstairs, outside of their room, probably already taking their rounds with Alex and Mary – she couldn’t risk getting to her room, so she changed the strategy. She went to the living room.
The door was closed when she got there, which thankfully served her purpose. She opened it and stepped in, closing it back behind her. Then, she lay down on the sofa, pulling a blanket someone had left there sometime before over her – thank Merlin it was there, she thought, or else they’d see she wasn’t in her pyjamas, always changing out of them during the Patronus-testing sessions, in case she made a mess out of herself or ripped them, creating proof she hadn’t exactly been sleeping all night – and used the remote to turn the telly on. Hopefully, her parents would buy it that she’d fallen asleep watching the telly and leave it alone.
As she lay there, waiting for them to come looking for her, Izzy couldn’t help thinking that it was the second time they’d heard about Harry that day… well, technically, the first wave of news had come the day before, since it was already past midnight. Still she wasn’t sure if they should consider them anything more than gibberish.
The first reason for that was because they’d come from the mainstream wireless station WWN, whose news-casts were just as bad as the Prophet these days. In fact, the only reason why they’d caught wind of the news the day before had been because they’d interrupted a daily wireless soapy drama she and her parents had recently gotten slightly addicted to in order to break them to the general public (and although her father vehemently affirmed that the only reason he listened to said drama was so he could be amused at how bad it was, he’d been the one out of the three of them who’d let out a very odd, almost girly, low-pitched scream when the previous day’s broadcast had come to a halt just as the main characters were about to dramatically re-ignite their on-again, off-again romance).
The second reason was the content of the news itself. Apparently, Gringotts had been broken into. And apparently, Harry had been the one breaking in… and stealing a dragon. Because that was just what Harry Potter went around doing these days, Izzy thought sarcastically. Breaking into banks, stealing massive magical creatures that were so easy to hide in one’s pocket, probably leading a gang of thugs as well, all with matching scars and tattoos… possibly with the shape of a lightning bolt. Honestly, it was just getting ridiculous how they could make Harry a scapegoat for everything. She was sure that if the sun blew up that very minute, the ministry would be pointing its finger at Harry sooner than the explosion could consume them as well.
She closed her eyes when she heard her name being said outside the door, which soon enough opened.
“Mia, she’s in here,” she heard her father whispering rather loudly to her mother, whose footsteps sounded next. “Wasn’t she already in bed when you and I went upstairs?”
Izzy tensed, fearing her story might just start falling apart.
“She probably had one of her insomnia bouts,” her mother whispered without much suspicion. “Must’ve tried to lull herself to sleep with some telly.”
Her father didn’t reply immediately, but she wasn’t particularly nervous about that anymore – her mother’s casual explanation seemed true enough.
“Do you think we should wake her?” she heard her father asking in a whisper after a few seconds.
Her mother hesitated in responding. “Part of me does, so we can say…” She paused, leaving the sentence unfinished. “But the other,” Mia continued, “tells me that if we do, she’ll fight tooth and nail for us to let her go along and I just can’t deal with that.”
Sirius sighed. “We could leave a note. It’ll be easier if she sleeps through most of it. Maybe later when we come back we can joke about how she slept through us saving the world.”
There was no answer from her mother’s part. No sound. Before she knew it, she couldn’t resist it – cracking one eye open. She didn’t dare look up, though, so she just found herself looking at her parent’s entwined hands.
When her mother’s form moved towards her, Izzy closed her eye again. She heard a few faint movements and then felt her mother’s lips softly touching her head. It took all her strength not to flinch or move suspiciously. “We love you, honey,” she whispered to her and, all of a sudden, for just a moment, Izzy actually wanted to give herself away by sitting up and hugging her mother. She didn’t, though – she just barely managed to reply to her mother in the same manner, although it happened only inside her head.
She felt her mother pulling away, and then one hand was brushing her hair softly. “We’ll see you later, Izzybel,” she heard her father saying, just as the television sounding on the background up until then went quiet.
Seconds later they were walking away. She didn’t hear them closing the door of the room again, though, so she couldn’t tell if they were already out or just watching her or something. She got her answer when she heard them speaking to a third person nearby, though, by the sound of it, already outside of the room.
“Look after them, Kreacher. And don’t let them get scared – especially Alex and Mary. They’re still so little…” Mia was saying.
“Kreacher protect Young Masters with his life,” the house-elf promised, without needing to be asked.
“Thank you,” her mother said.
“And if something happens to us…” her father continued, “or you don’t get any news from us in the next twelve hours, you have the list. Use it.”
List? What list? Izzy thought.
“Yes, Master. First Mistress’ parents, then Weezys, then Lupins, then…”
“Good, follow that order. Tell them we were hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but that we trust them to look after the children when we can’t.”
Izzy was stunned for a moment. By ‘list’, apparently they meant a list of people who were to be her and her siblings’ guardians in case they… That’s rubbish. You’re not dying! She mentally shouted at her parents. No. No dying for them. Ever. They couldn’t die. None of them. That was a thought she wouldn’t even consider entertaining, because if she did, she would’ve already lost.
She soon heard the sound of her parents walking away and Kreacher dematerializing with the usual ‘pop’. It was only when the front door downstairs closed with a bang, though, that she dared to fully open her eyes, let alone sit up on the sofa.
That was it, she thought. The moment of the truth. The time for action. The occasion when she’d finally have the chance to do something useful in that war. And, of course, she couldn’t forget, the circumstance that might just lead to her seeing George again. That last one made her smile, while the others only served to mess with her nerves.
She shook her head and made herself focus on figuring out how to proceed. First of all, she needed to avoid Kreacher. She wasn’t sure if by ‘looking after them’, her parents had also meant ‘physically restrain Izzy if she tries to leave the house to come after us’ but she had a feeling Kreacher might just choose to interpret it that way. Therefore, because she didn’t want to hurt him, she chose to simply not give him the chance. That was for the best.
So, with the decision made, Izzy started looking around for something she could turn into a portkey. Her eyes landed on a nearly fully-melted candle resting on the mantle and she figured that might just do. Good. She had something to turn into a portkey. She had her wand. She was dressed. She had a pair of willies downstairs that were usually for the rain but would have to do that night. She had all she needed to go. Now all she needed was for everything to go well – namely making a portkey that would travel for miles rather than yards – or else she’d be in big trouble.
Finally, she got up, heading downstairs as silently as humanely possible. Keeping it silent became a little more complicated upon needing to put her shoes and cloak on by the door, but Kreacher still didn’t show, oblivious to her plans to leave. She found a pair of gloves on the cloak’s pocket and deemed them ideal to handle a portkey. With that, she put them on and placed the melted candle on the floor, taking a long breath as she looked at it while fetching her wand from her pocket.
Alright, she told herself. If this bloody thing doesn’t work like it’s supposed to, you could end up miles away from Hogsmeade, all alone and with no way to come back or move along because out there doing magic will set off the Trace. But no pressure. Just try not to get yourself stranded. Seriously don’t.
So, she didn’t tear her eyes off the intended object and tried to focus her mind as firmly as possible in the Hog’s Head. It was a good thing it had made such a lasting impression the one time she’d been there (though by ‘lasting’, she didn’t mean ‘good’ by any means), or else she might have been unable to picture it entirely. She focused on every grubby surface, dusty object and shady figure of the establishment. She recalled the location of it in Hogsmeade, of Hogsmeade in Scotland and of Scotland in the island of Great Britain. That last part was probably unnecessary but she didn’t want to risk cutting corners. Then, she whispered the charm. “Portus.”
The candle glowed as if it was lit for about ten seconds before it went back to looking normal, as molten as it had been before. She picked the portkey up, confident that, with the gloves on, it wouldn’t do anything. Only direct contact with skin would activate it, she knew.
She allowed herself a moment of hesitation upon leaving the house. Deep in her chest, she had this feeling that everything would be different next time she found herself in there. That could either be very good or very bad… or just plain bad if the one change that came was her parents catching her and having her sent back home where she’d be expected by the mother of all punishments and a ruthless enforcer in the shape of Kreacher, who she could tell wouldn’t like being fooled, even by his beloved Young Mistress.
The cold of the night hit her face for the first time in months the moment she stepped out through the door, Portkey in hand. It came surprisingly bittersweet, a very mix of fear and excitement. She made herself remain on the front step even as she closed the door behind her – on it, while the Fidelius charm still kept her out of unwanted sights, the house wards no longer bound or protected her.
She swallowed hard, allowing herself five to just breathe in and out. That was all Izzy was willing to concede to the nerves and that was all she indeed conceded before starting to pull her right glove off, baring her hand.
“Here goes nothing,” she whispered a bit shakily. She was going to fight. They were going to win. “Please let us all live through tonight,” she asked of no person or entity in particular.
And so, with a brush of her hand against the side of the candle, the world vanished around her. And, from then on, nothing would indeed ever be the same.
A/N2: I wonder what will happen next chapter... some knitting, maybe. Feedback is welcome! Review!