Her voice is soft and gentle, her excitement barely contained as she sees him running down the garden path. Blue hair, chubby cheeks, and sea-green eyes, he's laughing without a care in the world.
She's on her knees, arms outstretched, waiting for him to run into them and snuggle up against her. Her voice catches, her throat constricting, because she's missed so much.
She's missed everything. The first word, the first step, the first bout of accidental magic . . . But she's here now, she's finally come home, and he's running to her as if she's never left.
When he slams into her, she gasps, clutching at her heart as the grim realisation sets it. He's passed through her like she's nothing more than vapour and wind, and his giggles and delight belong to another.
"Uncle Hawwy," he yells, leaping into the air. She turns, looking over her shoulder and feeling her heart shatter all over again as her son is swung through the air, as he howls in elation in the hands of another.
"Aren't you a little pirate," says Harry, setting Teddy down and patting his cheek, raising an eyebrow at the ruffled white shirt, the slacks, boots, and plastic rapier.
"Yup," replies Teddy, beaming. "Nana pwomised to make me an eye-patch before twick-or-tweating tonight."
She trembles as she watches the pair, and bites her lip before climbing to her feet. Her hair, pink and spiky, is already falling into limp, brown strands around her face, and she knows that even though she is on Earth there's no way for her to reach him.
Taking a deep breath, she follows, and watches her son run from house to house under Harry Potter's watchful gaze, the plastic jack-o'-lantern bucket in his hands gradually growing heavier and heavier as it fills with candy, chocolates, and cakes.
"Remus," she sobs, her voice muffled by his shoulder. Tears seeping into the soft fabric of his worn coat, her body heaves as he gently rubs her back. It's comforting – if only a little – but it's nothing more than putting a band-aid over a gaping stab wound. "He walked right through me, like I wasn't even there. I . . ."
"We're less than ghosts," she says, clenching her fists at her sides. "We're just wraiths who walk on Earth once a year."
It's the plain truth – one she's easily let herself forget with the approach of Samhain. Now that All Hallow's Eve has gone and left her, she remembers the law. No matter how weak the Veil becomes, not even when it's thin as parchment, will she be free of the Other Side.
"Shhh, Dora," he whispers. His voice is strained as if torn from his throat, and even though the sun always shines above the clouds she can feel the cold wrapping its frigid fingers around her. "I miss him too."
At least she's got these yearly autumn nights. It's not all she wants . . . it's not all she needs – but it's what she's got.
"Can you hear me?
She leans against the old oak, the chill breeze ghosting across her cheeks. The scent of pumpkin and cinnamon fills the air, latte, pie, and soup, clouding her mind with memories of things best forgotten.
Her mother stands waving at the door as Teddy goes running down the front path, trailing fluttering bandages behind him. A few splotches of fake blood cover the distressed linen, and he's holding the familiar plastic jack-o'-lantern in his hands.
She can't believe her mother's kept it – the very same candy bucket from her youth, from a time of eating pumpkin pie upon her Daddy's knee and dressing as the things which went bump in the night.
"Teddy," she calls, "Can you hear me?"
He doesn't turn back. Instead, he runs on to join Bill Weasley on the sidewalk, who's standing with both his daughter's in toe. The blonde, she can't remember their names, yanks him into a hug. The ginger punches him in the shoulder, but a few minutes later Bill's leading them down the lane.
Her sorrow wells within her, her fingers trembling at her sides. She clenches her fists, her nails digging into her palms, and the wind whirls around her. The tree behind her creaks and groans, car alarms go off in every driveway, and the wind-chimes hanging from the porch are nearly torn off their hooks.
Then a hand closes upon her wrist and she turns, her eyes widening at the sight of the spirit. Red hair and a heart-shaped face, she shakes her head sternly with a single look, quells the burgeoning storm.
"Watch yourself, Tonks. If Remus hadn't been watching and sent me when he did. Trust me when I say that you do not want to draw the ire of the Higher Powers." Lily shudders at the very mention of them, and then as if stealing herself, continues,
"It's time to go."
Tonks sighs, allowing herself to dissipate, but not without one last painful glance down the street to where she can just make out a shock of turquoise if she squints. It hurts, and she has an inkling that Lily knows exactly how she feels.
It's fairly evident that the other spirit's been already walked the very same path as she.
For once, she isn't dead . . . but she isn't alive either. Tonight, on Hallow's Eve, she's just a ghost with a beating heart.
The laws of Heaven are absolute. It's a blessing and a curse, really, but nobody feels the pain more than her husband. She at least can leave this place, even if only for one night a year, but he's trapped within its confines.
He's a wolf with a human heart, but he's still not truly a man, not in the eyes of those above at least. His soul can never leave this realm as hers can, as all others can, and it eats her up inside that the most he can glimpse of Teddy are visions through a cloud.
"He'll be starting at Hogwarts in a year. No more trick-or-treating." She's trying to sound cheerful, even though she knows she'll never be able to fool him. "I'll miss seeing what he'll choose to dress up as every year."
"He's already gone through the entire gamut, hasn't he?" chuckles Remus, his optimism as fake as hers. "Well, other than werewolf, but I think that's because your mother told him it would be in poor taste."
"She never did like you," muses Tonks, winking, feeling just a little bit lighter as she took in her husband's offended expression. Then she quiets, a chill running down her spine, and she runs her finger down his cheek.
She closes her eyes, and when she opens them, she's walking up the garden path.
"You know, I don't really need an escort," she scoffs, taking a deep breath as she leans against the wall. The Great Hall is milling with First-Years digging into their Halloween feast, and she can see him laughing and smiling at the Gryffindor table.
A lion, just like his father, she notes, shaking her head at the sight and rolling her eyes. She can already hear Remus' satisfied chuckle when he hears about the Sorting.
"Who said I'm here to babysit you, woman?" retorts Fred, leaning against the wall beside her with a strained smirk on his face. "I happen to like spending my Halloween's at Hogwarts – McGonagall always pins the blame on all my supernatural pranks on Peeves."
"You seem jolly," she notes, sarcasm dripping from her tongue. All the while her eyes remain fixed on her son, knowing better now, after all these years of watching that calling to him is worth less than the air that fills her lungs.
They fall into an uncomfortable silence, but she finds herself shooting glances at the brooding twin every few minutes. This isn't like him, and even though he's just a few years younger than her, he still strikes her as a child. What she can only describe as motherly instincts kick in, and she sighs before deciding to follow his glare.
It's a shock to see that he's staring at a young girl, no older than her son, with straw-coloured hair and hazel eyes. Every now and then, something odd happens, the juice spilling or the chicken slipping off her plate and onto the floor, and yet the girl continues to beam at her friends and speak in a distinctly Scottish accent. Tonks then turns to Fred, noting how unlike himself he's behaving, and speaks,
"What did that poor girl ever do to you?"
Her voice, she notes, is shockingly similar to her mother's from whenever the woman's inner Black is showing.
"I'm just doing a bit of Halloween haunting."
"You're looking at her like a Dementor in search of a soul," she barks, irritated, feeling a pang as she turns back to look at Teddy and notices that he's laughing, head thrown back with mirth. Her hair is bright pink, though, and it's that which stabs her in the gut, because it's the colour she personally favours. "So who is she?"
"Cassie Wood," he finally says through gritted teeth. "You may have heard of her parents from before we died. Oliver Wood and Katie Bell."
"Puddlemere Chaser and Falcon's Keeper, am I right?"
"Other way around." He shrugs, watching the girl . . . and it somehow clicks, in that moment, that she's looking at Teddy in the exact same way.
"So, let me guess? You and this Bell bird were together before the war, and now she's married to Wood and has a kid?"
He laughs, a dry, bitter sound, and replies, "Wrong way round again, Tonks. Either way, she still represents something that I could have had if I hadn't died."
She opens her mouth to reply, but before she can, Fred disappears. Sighing and shaking her head, she decides to return as well, because the wretched look in the twin's eyes prickles at her heart. He used to be so full of laughter, and she can barely recognise him beneath the bitterness his clings too.
It rings familiar, because in a way, isn't she also haunting someone because of a future that could have been?
"Is it wrong? Remus?"
She sighs, letting her fingers trail through the wisps of cloud and fog which coalesce at her feet. From her perch upon the marble wall, she realises that she's almost as tall as he is.
His eyes glint, the amber flaring briefly stronger than the green, before clapping a hand upon her shoulder. It's reassuring to her, in a way, because he's always been the rock in their romance. She's a whirlwind, a furious storm, and he's a glacier, calm and unyielding.
Honestly, she's just tired. She wants to be at peace – because she's already fought her war and won at the greatest cost – but she knows now that it's a hope in vain.
"I don't know, Dora. I just don't know."
She sits back on the edge of the bed, her feet swaying through the air as she watches her son. He's sitting cross-legged on the floor with both his dorm-mates, a bottle of Firewhiskey set between them.
He's not a kid anymore, but damn it all if he isn't still her baby.
He knocks back a shot, and she winces at the scrunched expression that crosses his face. He'll definitely be feeling that one in the morning, and she's not sure whether or not she should be proud or cross. The first hangover is a rite of passage for every teenager, no matter how righteous they may be. As a mother though . . .
She stops short. She's never gotten much of a chance to be a mother, and maybe that's why she's so indecisive now.
"I'm sorry," she whispers, because it slams into her now more than ever that her life isn't the worst thing she's lost.
So this one was a rather abstract piece, and I hope to add a few vignettes to it in time. I do hope the overall theme came across though.