Beautiful Child

Beautiful child . . . and she is beautiful. When you change the way you look at will, you notice beauty even more than ordinary people do, you see beauty where other people miss it. You try to figure out what makes her so beautiful. Flaming red hair – it shouldn't be attractive, should it? On some people it looks awful. And freckles – freckles lightly dotting her face and arms and legs, freckles that shouldn't be attractive but are, somehow. A cute nose, big brown eyes, and a mischievous smile that makes you want to grin every time you see her, and hug her and kiss her and hold her close forever and ever.

Beautiful child. Just a child, though, because she's barely fourteen the first time you see her, and even though you remember being fourteen and how fourteen-year-olds hate being thought of as children, you can't help but think no, no, Tonks, she's too young, too young for you, it doesn't matter if you still can't take yourself seriously as a grown-up, she's still too young for anything more than friendship.

Beautiful child with a boyfriend. She tells you in whispers, afraid of her mother or her brothers hearing. Molly is overprotective, and the boys would tease her. But she confides in you, telling you all the details of her innocent affair with a boy at school. When you hear he's two years older than her, you worry, but she giggles and says that there's nothing to worry about, that they've barely kissed, and you breathe a sigh of relief and try to ignore that little flicker of hope burning inside you.

Beautiful child, child, child.

***

And then she's sixteen-going-on-seventeen and you remember being seventeen and what you got up to in the dormitories with your best friend until she decided she couldn't handle it, and that time you and the Head Girl fooled around in the Prefect's Bathroom, and you ask the beautiful child about her love life to make sure she's being sensible, and maybe because you're desperate to know if there is anyone special in her life even if it'll hurt you, because there's a chance there isn't anyone, and then –

She tells you that she isn't a child anymore. You say you know this, and even as you say it you're struck by how grown-up and patronising you sound, and so you need to say it again, let her know that you really mean it.

Do you really mean it? You've been telling yourself that she's a child, too young too young too young, for so long now. When does that stop?

I'm old enough to love you, she says softly, and you don't know what to say to that. It's only later, after she's kissed you, after you've slipped away to her room and bitten down on her shoulder when she makes you come so that no one else will know what you're doing, after you've seen her naked form curled up next to yours, that you believe her.

You think beautiful child for the last time, and then allow yourself to fall asleep in her arms.