Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to me.
Author's Notes: Thank you so much for reading my last story, "The Greatest Magic." I hope you enjoy this one too!
by Kristen Elizabeth
There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings. – Hodding Carter
It had all happened so fast. A flash of green and everything had turned black. He'd woken up outside of Hogwarts, knowing he still had one important task ahead of him. To be with Harry as he faced his final, for lack of a better word, exam.
Now it was complete. And it wasn't just the battle that was finished, but the war itself. The reign of Voldemort had come to an end, thanks to the son Lily and James had brought into the world. It should have been a time for rejoicing.
But Remus Lupin had never felt less like celebrating.
He was dead. He had died. While he had thought he was prepared for this very outcome, he found himself more than a little angry that it had actually happened. He didn't even know who had killed him. Curses had been flying left and right until one had caught up with him. He just hoped his killer had gotten something in return.
Standing alone in the middle of the Forbidden Forest, Remus suddenly remembered seeing a familiar blur of pink just before the deadly green. Tonks. She'd been there, at Hogwarts. Not at home with their son. Damnable, stubborn, wonderful woman…of course she'd come. Asking her to stay away while her friends faced death had been like asking her to stop breathing.
Although he no longer had a body, he felt his heart racing. If something had happened to his wife, what would become of Teddy? Their bright and beautiful little boy...even now, Remus could remember the softness of his little tuft of blue hair…the sweet scent of baby powder from the last bath he'd given him…the musical sound of his laughter as he waved goodbye with his chubby little fists.
He already missed him with a ferocity that made his soul ache.
Just when he could stand it no longer, he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Moony."
It had been so long that he'd almost forgotten that voice. Turning around, he tried to smile at James, but it came out weak and forced. "Prongs."
"I knew I'd see you again, old friend," James went on. "But I hoped it'd be a little bit longer before that day."
"As did I." Remus slipped his hands into his pockets. "I'm really dead, then? Walking with Harry wasn't just a mad dream?" Harry's father dipped his chin slightly. "I can't be dead, James." His voice took on an edge of panic as his last hope that he would wake up from this nightmare faded. "I have a son. He's just a…just a baby. He needs me to…be there! I can't…no, this isn't…"
He stopped when James gently squeezed his shoulder. "I know exactly what you're going through."
A long moment passed. "Of course you do. I'm sorry."
His old friend shook his head, indicating that he'd taken no offense. "I panicked at first, too. I just kept seeing Harry…and thinking of all the things that could happen to him if I wasn't there to stop them. He was so small and helpless." James broke into a smile. "Well…I thought so at the time."
This time, Remus's smile was a little more genuine. "Helpless is not a word anyone would use to describe your son."
James accepted the compliment with a nod. "I was angry after that," he went on, his smile fading. "I was even a little angry at Lily for falling pregnant, imagine that. Best thing that ever happened to us, and I wished it hadn't. Just so I wouldn't have to care so much about someone I couldn't be with anymore."
Remus looked away, unwilling to admit just yet that he'd often wished his wife hadn't become pregnant when he'd first found out. It hadn't been his finest hour.
"And then the guilt set it. How could I bring him into the world in the middle of a war? How could I die and leave him all alone? What kind of a father was I, not being able to save myself or Lily? And then…he didn't even go into Sirius's care, liked I'd planned. He got stuck with my horrible in-laws and there was nothing I could do but watch him be treated like…" He sighed, unable to come up with a good comparison.
"Harry is my son's godfather."
Remus could have sworn James' ears turned pink with pride. "Then you can rest a little easier. He really is a great kid, if I do say so myself." He paused. "Your son will be, too. How could he not take after his old man?"
"What part will I have in it?" Remus cursed suddenly. "I want to be there, James! I don't want to be some…some vague memory he gets from a photograph. I want to be a real father to him!"
"Think of it this way, mate. You died making the world better for him. Maybe it's not the same as teaching him a shaving spell or seeing him off to Hogwarts every term, but it's a bloody incredible parting gift."
"How did you get past this?" Remus asked a few seconds later. "How did you learn to let him go?"
"Who said I ever did?" A breeze blew through them before James spoke again. "Someone's coming."
Both men turned just in time to see two women entering the glen. A delicate red-head and a curvy pink-haired nymph. They had their arms around each other in support, although only one of them looked like she really needed it.
Remus locked eyes with his wife, unaware of his head slowly shaking back and forth. She was here. She was dead, too. "No…no, Dora…"
Tears spilled over her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Remus."
Of all the things he was angry about, this wasn't one of them. How could he be angry at the idea of not having to spend a single moment without her? He could be angry with her killer, angry with Voldemort for making all of this happen…he could even be a little angry at himself for not taking her with him to begin with, so he could have kept a better eye on her during the battle…but never with her.
She stumbled a bit as she ran into his arms, and it was all he needed to know that, dead or alive, he loved everything about the woman he'd married.
"Teddy," Tonks sobbed into his neck. "My baby…" He held her tighter, stroking her hair, unable to come up with any soothing response when his own pain was still so raw.
Now standing next to James, Lily reached out to touch his wife's shoulder. "Remember what we talked about, Nymphadora. He's going to be fine."
Tonks didn't bother to correct Lily's use of her name. In the wake of death, it didn't seem to matter to her anymore. She just clung to Remus, crying and murmuring their son's name.
"Harry will take care of him." Remus struggled to force each word out. Although he believed them, they were still hard to say. "We left him in good hands."
She nodded against his shoulder, but he could still feel her tears soaking through his shirt. "I miss him," she whispered. "His hair…he turned it pink when I was…kissing him goodbye." Tonks drew back, her face pale except for her red eyes. "He won't remember us…will he?"
James spoke up. "He'll remember that you loved him. I know it's little comfort now, but he will."
"No one will let him forget," Lily added. "Least of all Harry."
"Was I a bad mother for leaving him to join the fight?" Tonks asked, her voice quivering.
"He's going to live in a world that will be so much better than ours was." Remus cupped his wife's face in his hands, and stroked her soft cheek with his thumb. "And you helped make that happen."
She looked at Lily. "Will I be able to see him? As he grows up?"
Harry's mother took Tonks' hand. "You can't attach yourself to the living world anymore than your son should dwell on the dead." She smiled sadly. "Still…every now and then, there are ways."
"You'll see," James said knowingly.
This seemed to calm her a bit, but her tears still flowed steadily. Remus gave his wife a soft, soothing kiss which helped his own aching heart a bit. "I'm so very glad we had him, Dora," he told her. "I will never regret that."
She buried her face in his shoulder again, hugging him with her whole body, the way he loved. Although he knew that he should curse the fates that took them both away from their son, Remus couldn't help but feeling the tiniest bit happy that he could still hold her.
They stood in the darkened woods for a long time, four people with so much in common, each loving a boy they'd had to leave behind. Each knowing that they'd done the best they could with the time they'd been given.
But none of them were quite ready to say goodbye.