Chapter Eight: Talk of Home and Family
Andromeda's house was quiet and still the next time Harry visited. He'd sent her an owl, letting her know that he'd be stopping by to talk to her. She'd sent a quick reply telling him to come right in when he arrived, because she would be working on something upstairs and might not hear him.
Harry stepped through the Apparition barrier and glanced around the front hallway. He couldn't see any source of light coming from the nearby rooms, and he couldn't hear any movement upstairs. He didn't want to disturb Andromeda from whatever it was she was working on, so he decided to go over to Teddy's room and wait for her.
His godson was fast asleep when Harry entered. The memory of his first time ever seeing Teddy flooded Harry's mind briefly as he looked down at any portion of face that wasn't obscured by blankets.
You're doing all right, thought Harry. You don't have to worry about abusive aunts and uncles and spoiled cousins. You've got your grandmother… And you've got me.
It was a calming experience, watching the sleeping child; to forget for a few moments the pressures of being a war hero and an Auror in training, and to ignore everything all the unpleasant things in his life - it was blissful. Teddy Lupin, the son of two brave people who had died a noble death… well, in theory it all sounded very poetic. But Harry knew from experience that nothing about losing loved ones ever sounded pretty.
Footsteps from above made Harry start. He'd forgotten that Andromeda was here. He waited for her to come downstairs, and after a moment she appeared in the doorway, looking a little tired but quite pleased about something. She greeted Harry very quietly, then they both walked out into the living room. Andromeda offered to get Harry a drink, but he politely declined.
"I see Teddy's doing all right," Harry said.
Andromeda gave a swift smile and nodded. "Yes, he's always smiling lately. Not like Nymphadora was. She was fussy and demanding when she was that age."
"I wish I could come by more often and see him," said Harry. "I've been busy."
"It'll be a while before he's fighting to spend more time with you," said Andromeda fondly. "It's enough that you come see us as often as you do. I admit, I look forward to your visits. I'm afraid I rely too much on Ted's siblings for social interaction."
Harry felt a pang of guilt. He hadn't taken into account how lonely Andromeda must be now that her husband, daughter, and son-in-law were all gone. He wished he could come round to spend time with her more often, but didn't see how that would work out. He'd been keeping so busy lately, and his training hours were so sporadic…
"I'm going to fix up Grimmauld Place," he said without thinking. "It would make sense for me to live there, instead of paying to live somewhere else. You'll always be welcome there, you know."
Andromeda looked thoughtful. "Thank you so much, Harry. Will you be staying at Grimmauld Place while you're cleaning it? I'd be happy to come by with Teddy and help you."
"I don't know," said Harry. "I thought I might just stay in Ottery St. Catchpole for a while, until everything is sorted out. I've got Kreacher to do the cleaning at number twelve, but you could help me sort through all of the old Black family things."
She laughed. "A daunting task, to be sure."
"Yeah," said Harry. "I'm a bit nervous about taking it on, but I suppose it's got to be done sooner or later. It might be a nice place, once it's all fixed up."
"I could look for a way to remove my Aunt Walburga's portrait, too. I suspect she found such a powerful Sticking Charm in a book in the library there, so maybe there's a counter spell."
"Lupin told me the summer I first stayed there that he and Sirius had looked through all the likely books, but it's still worth a try."
"Yes," said Andromeda. "It does sound like Remus. If a book didn't have the answer to his questions, his conclusion was always that there was no answer. That's why he panicked when Dora became pregnant. He knew that female werewolves couldn't carry babies, and male werewolves rarely had any prospects with normal women. He and Dora were a very unique couple."
"Yeah. Not many documented cases of half-werewolves, right?"
They sat in silence for a moment, then Harry heaved a sigh. "I suppose I should be going home. I've got to work tomorrow."
"Yes, of course. It is a bit later than I realized."
Andromeda hesitated for a moment, then as Harry rose to his feet and started back toward the hallway to grab his cloak, she opened her mouth to speak.
"You know," she said, "if you wanted a place to live for a while, I do have room here. You'd be able to see Teddy whenever you wanted… You could save your money while we sort out Grimmauld Place."
Caught off guard, Harry could not think of anything to say. Andromeda raised a good point -- in fact, the only excuse Harry could think of for not taking her up on her offer was that it would be -- well -- awkward. He didn't know Andromeda that well, after all. Still, a chance to see Teddy every day without having to worry about being intrusive… And Harry had to admit that it would be nice to have someone to talk to in the evenings when he wasn't with Ron and Hermione.
"I…" he said, but no more words would formulate.
"Think about it," said Andromeda. "I know it was completely unexpected, but I felt I had to suggest it."
"Er -- yeah, it was. But I'll -- I'll definitely consider it. It's not all that farfetched, anyway. I'll -- er -- come by soon and let you know."
"All right," said Andromeda. She smiled.
From Teddy's room there came the sound of grumpy jabbering, and Andromeda got swiftly to her feet. She heaved a sigh. "It seems someone wanted to say goodbye to his godfather. I don't want to keep you, but --"
"I'm never in too much of a hurry for Teddy."
"I'm glad to hear it." Her voice was soft. "Teddy is lucky to have you."
They went to Teddy's room. At five months, he had managed to pull himself into a half-sitting position, with the support of his blankets and his plush dog toy. A steady babbling was issuing from his mouth, along with quite a lot of drool. Andromeda pulled him up into her arms.
"Ma, ba ba," said Teddy happily.
"You should encourage him," said Andromeda. "Talk back to him as if you understand him."
Harry nodded at Teddy, who was watching him intently. "That's right, Ted," said Harry. "Ba. Right. Nice one. Er -- syllables are good, aren't they?"
"Gahh," gurgled Teddy in agreement. "Boo."
"Very good!" said Andromeda, in a high pitched, happy tone which sounded quite strange coming from a woman like her. "You're saying goodbye to your Godfather Harry, aren't you, Teddy?"
"Gah," the baby repeated. "Boo."
Harry grinned. "Is he always this articulate?"
"Oh, no. He's just showing off for you."
Harry held Teddy for several more minutes, talking to him, encouraging him. The baby seemed content just to sit in his arms and jabber on as if they were having an actual conversation. Andromeda told him that Tonks had loved the whole idea of baby-talk, and had encouraged Lupin to take part as well ("You should have seen them, Harry. They both looked so ridiculous.").
Andromeda seemed to like talking about her daughter. Harry was glad that she seemed to be coping so well.
"I wonder what his first word will be," said Harry absently as he handed Teddy to Andromeda. "I don't even know when they usually start talking."
"Oh, that won't be for a few months yet," said Andromeda. "But he's growing up so fast… I wasn't prepared for it."
"Well," said Harry. "Now I really should go. I -- er -- need to owl Ginny Weasley, then get some sleep."
"Yes," sighed Andromeda. "Sleep while you can. Dora always said that Aurors and sleep don't mix. I always worried about that with her."
Harry nodded and pulled on his cloak. "I'll keep that in mind." He leaned over and kissed Teddy's forehead. Teddy squealed happily.
Darkness had descended thoroughly by the time Harry stepped outside. The grass was already covered in dew, and it was quite cold, but otherwise it was a pleasant evening. Harry moved past the Apparition barrier, and prepared himself for the brief journey to his flat.
Just as he closed his eyes and steeled himself for the unpleasant sensation, a loud pop sounded right beside him, making him start and nearly fall over. His eyes flew open and landed on the shadowy form of someone he had definitely not been expecting.
"Whoa, sorry, Harry," said Ron Weasley. Even in the darkness he could tell that his friend was smiling broadly. "I thought I'd find you here. You weren't at your place…"
He didn't seem anxious, so Harry quickly decided that there were no emergencies. But he could think of no other reason why Ron would be here, of all places. He must have something important to tell him.
"Er -- yeah, I was quite startled there, for a second," Harry admitted. "Was there something you needed, Ron?"
"Oh, no," said Ron. "No, just something I thought you should know…" He laughed.
"What is it?"
"It's just - wow. I can hardly believe it myself."
"It's Fleur," he said, sounding slightly dazed. "She's… Well, she's pregnant!"
Harry felt his own eyes go wide. "Wow," he said. "That's excellent, Ron!"
"Yeah," said Ron happily. "Bill just sent me an owl with the good news. He asked me to tell you next time I saw you, but I couldn't wait -- I'm going to be an uncle, Harry!"
Ron's exuberance was infectious, and Harry found himself grinning broadly as well.
"What is going on out here, Harry?"
Harry turned to see Andromeda standing out on her front step, with Teddy in her arms. She looked more confused than stern at the moment.
"Mrs. Tonks!" said Ron happily. "It's nothing serious, I'm sorry I barged in… It's just -- my brother Bill and his wife are going to have a baby!"
Her face, illuminated slightly by the dim light in the house, broke into a very happy expression, and he came forward off the porch. "Well, that is wonderful news!"
"Yeah, it really is," said Ron. "I just had to tell Harry." He moved toward her and pinched Teddy's cheek. "Ha, I bet the baby and Teddy'll be best mates."
Andromeda nodded. "It'll be nice for Teddy to have a playmate."
"Yeah," said Harry. The night's joyous turn of events had left him feeling lighter than air. He hadn't felt like this for months. "And Teddy can help him out when they're at Hogwarts…"
"And they can get into trouble together," said Ron. "Like you and me, Harry."
Andromeda invited them back into the house for a drink, and both of them accepted. They stayed for a good hour, talking on and on about babies, and the things Teddy and Bill and Fleur's baby would get up to when they were older. It seemed natural that they would be the best of friends. Harry made a note to send Bill and Fleur a congratulatory owl as soon as he got home.
Ron left before Harry, talking about going to see Neville Longbottom. Harry and Andromeda watched him go, and they shared a smile.
Harry sighed. "It seems like I'm not meant to leave here tonight," he said, biting back a yawn. "I keep getting distracted."
Andromeda nodded. "Every time you try to leave, you find a reason to stay."
"I've probably worn out my welcome by now," said Harry. He noticed that Teddy's eyes had slipped closed and his head was drooping on Andromeda's shoulder. "Even Teddy got sick of me, see?"
"Oh, never," said Andromeda. "We are never sick of you, Harry. You're good company."
"I'm beginning to think I should just owl Ginny and the Ministry and tell them to look for me here from now on."
Andromeda raised her eyebrows. "You could, Harry. I didn't make that offer lightly, and it still stands."
"I know," said Harry. "But I really do need to go home for now. I'll be back soon, and we can talk more about it later."
"Wonderful. I look forward to it."
Harry's third attempt to get home and try to get some sleep worked, and he found that he was suddenly very tired. He looked around his flat, which housed his few most valuable possessions. He had his broomstick, the mokeskin bag he had got from Hagrid, and several photographs.
He flopped down onto his bed, fully clothed, and thought of his godson. Andromeda, poor Andromeda had lost everything she held dear, except her grandson. He knew Teddy was the world to her. Harry loved Teddy too, and wanted to be near him as often as possible. Andromeda's offer really was incredibly tempting…
The decision was simpler to make than Harry had anticipated. There was nothing holding him here, but there was quite a lot to draw him to the Tonks's house. There would be peace there, and good company, and… Harry fought to stay conscious…
Teddy would be there.
His godson. Nymphadora and Remus Lupin's son. Harry felt that that colorful child's presence could only be good for him. He looked forward to what was to come. Ginny could visit, and Ron and Hermione, and everyone else… And they could all work together in Grimmauld Place, making it a home.
Harry finally fell asleep, a faint smile lingering upon his face.
A/N: Well, I made it. I was getting tired of this plotless wonder, so I decided I might as well wrap it up and focus on something that might actually involve a plot. Good, yeah? I don't know why some of you liked this story - LOL - but I enjoyed writing it all the same. I know, it was a rush there at the end, but I felt you guys deserved some sort of ending, before I got too busy to finish it, ever. Ah well. Thanks for all of you who stuck by me through this whole thing, and hopefully I'll have another great thudding tract going soon, as soon as I think of a plot! Thanks again, you guys really made the journey worthwhile for me, and I hope to see some of you back here soon. Don't be a stranger!