The Halfway – Chapter Four
A/N: Thanks to everyone for the awesome reviews, I really appreciated each and every one of them! A few of you expressed some disappointment at the fact that this fic is so short, and I'm sorry, but I never envisioned it to become something epic. I really just wanted to explore a possible way in which Remus and Tonks could have survived the battle. If there's anything I dislike, it's stories that go on and on unnecessarily, they really tend to lose something when they drag. So I figured, why accomplish something in 10 chapters when I can do the same in 4, right? Anyway, without further ado, here is the fourth and final installment of The Halfway...
Tonks was moving so fast that her surroundings seemed to fade into a swirling mass of color. She had the distinct feeling that she was falling in a very steep and undignified dive. Then, it turned dark, save what seemed to be a million tiny dots of lights and she was falling even faster, and after what felt like an eternity, she could see small dark masses revealing bodies as she got closer and closer… and just when she thought she was going to hit the ground with a deathly smack, she stopped falling.
She felt pain again. She ached everywhere, especially in her chest, right above her rapidly-pounding heart.
Her heart was beating. Thank Merlin! She paused just to revel in the feeling.
If it weren't for the pain, she would have jumped up in happiness. But as it was, she felt worse than she'd ever felt in her entire life. It seemed as if every inch of her was contracting in pain.
But it didn't matter, she was alive.
She didn't dare open her eyes yet. She was in too much pain. Instead, she listened to the sounds around her. There was so much noise, she couldn't pick out one sound from another. Had the Death Eaters won? Or was she lying in the middle of a battlefield, defenseless against potential curses gone astray?
Could she die now, before even given the chance to live again?
However, she was quickly driven away from her thoughts when she felt someone gently squeeze her right hand. She smiled inwardly at the feeling of the familiar warm, long fingers curling around hers.
It was Remus' hand.
Suddenly, she heard footsteps approaching, giving way to the feeling that someone was standing over her. Tonks heard a strangled, "Oh!" and she recognized that voice as Ginny Weasley's. "I can't believe they're... dead."
Someone else approached the bodies as well. "I know," came Hermione's sad reply.
"I was – I can't believe... I mean he was our professor. And Tonks – I... I really liked Tonks. She was just so fun and lively and cool."
"I know," repeated Hermione. "They were good friends."
"Yeah..." Ginny stifled a sob. "I can't believe this. Tonks and Remus and... and my brother!"
"I'm sorry, Ginny," Hermione whispered.
The girls went quiet for a moment, although they remained in their places.
"How tragic." Ginny sighed. "It's not fair! They were just married, just had a baby... they were in love. I mean, look, Hermione, they're holding hands!"
"What?" Hermione asked sharply.
"That's... I mean, how could they be holding hands?"
"Maybe they held hands when the... curse hit them."
"Ginny! They weren't fighting in here, they were moved into the Great Hall after they fell! How could they be holding hands?"
"Merlin, no... Hermione, you don't think..."
One of the girls loomed over her then, she could sense the presence of a shadow. Then a cold hand touched her cheek. "Hermione, she's warm!"
"So is Remus!" exclaimed Hermione. "Check if they're breathing!"
Ginny grabbed Tonks' arm and poked at her wrist for a moment before dropping the hand again. "She has a pulse!"
"So does Remus! Ginny, go get Madam Pomfrey now!"
After a lot of excited voices and much prodding of her wrist and neck, Tonks almost choked as Madam Pomfrey forced a foul-tasting potion down her throat. She coughed and sputtered and then opened her eyes.
"My goodness, Nymphadora, how did you -?" asked Madam Pomfrey with an air of amazement. "I examined you before and you seemed quite... Gods, I think I need to sit down."
Tonks smiled sheepishly and then coughed some more. Madam Pomfrey moved away then, and subjected Remus to a similar treatment. After a moment, he, too, coughed and opened his eyes.
"I do not understand," said Professor McGonagall's shocked voice as she approached. "I thought you two were... Merlin! What do you remember?"
"Not too much," came Remus' reply, his voice weak and even more raspy than usual. "We were fighting beside each other and then..." He exchanged a significant look with Tonks, as if asking her whether he should leave out the part about her dad, Lily, Sirius, and James. She squeezed his hand reassuringly. For some reason, Tonks felt that their visit to The Halfway should remain a secret between them. "And then, I was choking on some foul potion."
"It's regeneration potion, it's not supposed to taste good," snapped Madam Pomfrey. "You know, I must go. There are hundreds of people to treat here. Minerva, will you get them to St. Mungo's? They were hit by some nasty curses, I certainly think the Healers should have a look at them."
As McGonagall began conjuring up stretchers, Tonks decided to take a look around the Great Hall. It seemed, she finally noticed, as if people were... celebrating. Could it be?
"What happened?" demanded Tonks, although her voice was so weak that it was not much above a whisper. "Is Harry –"
"Harry is fine. He defeated You-Know-Who." Remus and Tonks shared shocked, but pleased looks. "We'll give you the details later, I think you really ought to get some rest now, don't you?"
"All right," Tonks agreed easily, shocking herself at her willingness to drop the subject. Before, she would have demanded to know everything that had happened during her absence. But now? Now, she was content to just let things happen. She was happy to just live.
"Have there been many deaths?" Remus asked slowly, a pained look on his face.
"Of course, Remus. This is war," she said sadly. "Actually," added McGonagall, pausing as if to consider whether she should break the news to them now or later, "Bellatrix was killed."
Tonks noted a shadow of a smile cross McGonagall's face. "She was killed by... Molly Weasley."
Tonks' jaw dropped. "So Sirius was right," she mumbled under her breath so that only Remus could hear. She was suddenly overwhelmed by newfound respect for Molly Weasley. "I knew Molly was a powerful witch, but blimey!"
"Yes, well, you two are quite powerful yourselves, it seems. Surviving that many hexes... I daresay it's a miracle."
They both smiled. "Well, we had a little help from some friends," said Remus.
Andromeda refused to leave Tonks' side.
She'd left baby Teddy in the care of Molly Weasley, and Tonks didn't have the heart to argue. After all, having the baby around was keeping the witch's mind off of Fred's tragic death. Teddy wasn't allowed in the ward anyway, and Tonks was more than willing to do whatever she could to help, even if it meant putting up with her mother's constant needling.
"I can't believe you went to fight," Andromeda hissed for what seemed like the hundredth time since she'd barged into the ward in St. Mungo's. "Had me worried sick..."
"I know, Mum," she replied patiently. "I really wish I hadn't. I made a huge mistake, and I'm sorry."
"You could have died, for Merlin's sake!
"Keep your voice down," Tonks said in a harsh whisper, looking nervously over toward where Remus was slumbering peacefully. He shifted in his sleep, but did not wake.
"... Lucky, very lucky," Andromeda ended in a low whisper.
Tonks nodded in agreement, though she was not about to tell her mother just how close her scuffle with death had been.
"I don't know what I would have done if you had..." Andromeda sniffed grandly, turning away from her daughter with the slightest hint of a tear escaping down her weary face.
"You would have gotten through it... and you would have done a great job at raising Teddy, too."
"Shh, don't say that, you silly girl!"
"But it's true, Mum. You're so strong..."
She shook her head sadly. "I'm not nearly as strong as you think."
"Rubbish. I had to have gotten my strength from somewhere, and I know it wasn't Dad. A right coward that man was, always running from a fight," said Tonks with a smile.
Andromeda laughed tearfully at her daughter's joke. "He wasn't a coward, darling."
"I know," Tonks said sincerely. "He just chose his fights carefully."
"Very carefully," agreed Andromeda, looking mildly surprised at her daughter's unexpected wisdom.
She and her mother had not discussed Ted at length since his death. Yet, remembering her father's last words to her in the Halfway, it suddenly felt of the utmost importance to bring him up again.
"Dad's at peace now, you know, wherever he is. But I know he misses you a lot," assured Tonks, though she did not elaborate. Somehow, she knew that no one would believe her tale of visiting the Halfway, not even her own mother.
"I hope so."
"He'll never stop loving you, either. You should remember that, Mum."
"You think so?" asked Andromeda cautiously.
She and her mother had not been close before. Though she knew Andromeda loved her, she was not as openly affectionate toward Tonks as her father had been. This was new territory for both of them.
Tonks reached for her mother's hand and squeezed it. "I know so."
Andromeda looked down tearfully at her daughter and sighed. "Thank you, Nymphadora."
"You're welcome," she said, so relieved to finally see a peaceful look cross her mother's features again that she didn't even bother to chastise her for calling her Nymphadora.
Since Teddy hadn't been allowed to visit their ward at St. Mungo's, their first day back home was also the first day they got see their son again. From the moment she walked into the door, Tonks grabbed their son out of Andromeda's arms and refused to let go.
Remus didn't protest, allowing his wife all the time she needed with their son. Instead, he watched as she held the infant tight to her body, alternating between kissing his chubby cheeks and looking down at him in awe. He knew that she was feeling overwhelmingly grateful to have a second chance with her son.
He knew how she was feeling because he felt that way, too.
Remus was painfully aware that he had made some grave mistakes before the battle. But there was no use dwelling. He had the rest of his life to make it up to his wife and son.
And he would.
He would try his hardest to be the husband and father they deserved. Which was enough. He knew that Tonks would never even dream of asking more of him than that.
Now that night was upon them, however, Remus lay in bed beside Tonks, listening to her low breathing as if it was the most beautiful song he'd ever heard. He waited for that steady rise and fall of her chest with each rhythmic breath to tell him that she was truly asleep, before turning on his side.
Remus gazed at Tonks' figure, illuminated beneath a blanket of pale moonlight. She hadn't seemed this peaceful since before Teddy was born. Since then, she had always been on alert - always poised to fight. While it was this desire to battle evil that made her who she was, he was relieved to find that it was now a little more restrained.
Before, she was reckless with her life. Almost as reckless with her life as he had been with her heart.
But they had both learned their lesson now. It was time to push aside the selfishness, and to acknowledge that whether they were in the midst of war or peace, there always would be fear. It was time to rise above all that.
It was time to rise above all that, and be parents.
Softly, he trailed the side of his thumb against her cheek. She smiled slightly and mumbled incoherently, but did not wake. He smiled as well; she was absolutely beautiful.
He went over to the cradle in the corner of their room, intending to watch his son as he slept, and was surprised to find two rapidly color-changing eyes staring back at him. Grinning, he picked up his son and held him close for a moment, the baby staring up at him in turn with silent wonder.
Then, he lay down on the floor, flat on his back, and placed his son atop his chest.
Remus watched with a smile as Teddy's chubby hand grabbed a fistful of hair. He knew now that he had been living a half-life before, going through the motions, but denying himself true happiness. Despite his joy at Teddy's birth, even then he had been holding back, afraid of the sheer strength of the love he'd felt for his son.
He thought of his friends' words to him then, of them telling him not to fight against happiness in his life. He knew now that they were right.
Remus wasn't going to hold back anymore. He had been given a second chance to live and love, and he was going to make the best of it. The thought brought tears to his eyes.
"Thank you," he whispered, thinking hard of Sirius, Lily, James, and Ted. He was sure they could hear him.
As Remus stroked Teddy's soft forehead with his index finger, he was pleased to find that all of his reservations about marriage and fatherhood had left him.
There were no regrets now. Just an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that he had been given a second chance.
For a long time, he merely lay there, reveling in the feeling of his son's rapidly beating heart against his own.
It was the greatest gift he could have ever been given.
A/N: So... what do you think? Was it too sappy? (Is there such a thing??) Please drop me a final review! And be sure to look out for my next fic, Conversations About A Werewolf, which will be hitting a website near you shortly. (Sorry, I couldn't resist - that's the end of my self-pimpage!) Thanks for sticking by this story, long live denial!