A/N: This chapter gave me more than a little grief - it refused to come together mostly because I couldn't seem to find a point of view for it that worked until I stumbled upon the oblivious viewpoint that is used for most of the chapter instead. I've named a few Weasley children here - I hadn't intended to because I know that JKR has named them herself and will probably reveal all eventually, but I've just picked names that seem to work and am hoping for the best. Thanks as per usual to my Merry Band and to Snorkackcatcher and also to Fernwithy for giving me permission to borrow the idea of Andromeda as a genealogist from her excellant fic "Teddy Lupin and the Forest Guard".
11: Family Circus
Victoire Weasley was feeling terrible.
Poor Aunt Penny. Poor Uncle Percy. And their children too – little Elizabeth hadn't stopped bawling her eyes out into Granny Molly's chest ever since Victoire had arrived at The Burrow with her parents and sisters to help deal with the horde of distressed grandchildren and wait together for news. Monty – who still insisted on being addressed by the more dignified Montgomery in spite of the family crisis - had maintained a stiff upper lip worthy of his father as he coaxed his distressed younger brother Bertie down off various pieces of furniture. But his eyes had told a very different story, and when Papa had quietly taken the teenager outside for a "man to man" talk, she had seen her cousin's jaw-line quivering with suppressed emotion.
The Burrow was chaos, of course. As word of Aunt Penny's accident spread, the family had converged from all directions. Uncle Ron arrived next after Victoire's family, his freckled face filled with concern as he greeted his children and told Granny Molly that he'd sent an express owl to Uncle George and his family, who were staying with Uncle Charlie in Romania, to let them know what was going on. A response to his missive came two hours later in the form of Uncle George, who appeared out of the Floo looking harried from the three international connections it had taken to get him back into the country. He brought Uncle Charlie's apologies too – apparently he was caught up in the hatching of a clutch of rare Romanian Longhorn eggs and couldn't get away. And finally, Auntie Ginny landed her broomstick in the back yard with her usual panache a few minutes afterwards, Lily riding pillion and James and Albus flying solo behind her. She apologised for her slowness but had only just heard the news, having been busy seeing Uncle Harry off at the International Portkey Terminal – he'd been called away urgently to deal with a complication regarding Fudge's extradition and would be in Brazil until Thursday.
"And that reminds me." Auntie Ginny deposited Lily on the sofa next to Hugo and Granny Molly -who was still cradling the sobbing Elizabeth - and turned to Victoire, brushing her vivid red hair out of her eyes. "Victoire, when are you next seeing Teddy?"
Victoire felt a peculiar stab, which she quickly fought down. Teddy. The guilt she had felt when Teddy had come to see her the previous night had been overwhelming, a mixture of regret at ever believing he could be so foolish, and the fact she had gone running to Uncle Harry about it and made him look like an idiot in front of his godfather…
Oh, he'd told her over and over again that she had nothing to blame herself for, that she'd done the right thing, that he was the one who should be sorry; but there had been something awkward, even uncomfortable in his manner, and he had respectfully, if somewhat inexplicably, rejected her offer to let him stay the night. She fought down the uncomfortable feeling that he had wanted to get away from her as quickly as possible.
Oh please, let him forgive me for this. Please don't let this ruin what we have…
"I'm not really sure." She was quite pleased with the evenness of her tone as she replied. "We haven't made any plans. Why?"
Auntie Ginny deftly deflected James away from her limited edition Firebolt Thunderclap, and silenced his request to borrow it to show its instant braking charm to Victoire's Quidditch-mad sister Isabelle with a single steely look. "It's just that Harry and I were hoping to invite him – and you, if you want to come – over to dinner this Friday," she said, continuing in the same friendly tone as though nothing had happened. Victoire had to admit that while her mother was the Queen of Poise, she'd always admired Auntie Ginny's almost stylish cool-headedness, especially in the face of her most rambunctious son. "That is, assuming Harry's visit to Rio doesn't overrun too much. And I just thought that since you're more likely to see him before I do, you might have more of a chance to ask him than I will."
"You're seeing Teddy?" Granny Molly, looking both distressed and somewhat harried as she cradled the tearful ball of brown hair that was her granddaughter, glanced up sharply from her position on the sofa. Taking Victoire's awkward attempt to demur as an affirmative, she ploughed unstoppably on. "He Flooed here earlier to see if we had any news – he was there when it happened, poor thing, and he didn't seem himself at all, though I didn't really have much chance to question him, what with poor Elizabeth crying into my skirt and Rosie and Monty trying to coax Bertie down off the top of the dresser…" She sighed deeply, ignoring the rather shaky cry of "It's Montgomery!" from the kitchen doorway that suggested Papa and Monty had returned from their walk. "And he'll be in that cottage all on his own without even Andromeda to go to, because I'm sure she's not back from that genealogy conference in Vienna until the end of the week." The light that clicked on in her eyes was more than a little alarming. "Victoire, dear, why don't you Floo over and fetch him? Go to his house and bring him over to The Burrow. He shouldn't be alone on a day like this and after all, he's as good as a part of the family…"
And that was that. Victoire knew that she didn't really have any good reason to refuse and besides, Granny Molly was right, Teddy shouldn't be rattling around alone in that old house, when he could be here with the people who loved him. How could she say no?
Even if he probably won't want to see you…
And so she had headed into the kitchen, nodding to Papa and Uncle Ron, who were sitting at the kitchen table offering quiet reassurances to Monty, grabbed a handful of Floo powder off the mantle, and headed into the emerald flames.
She had expected to find him alone. What she had not expected to find was her boyfriend standing in his lounge, staring with an expression of mute horror at a woman's backside and jean-clad legs going sprawling on the floor.
A fairly decent pair of legs at that.
Victoire felt a sudden flare of rage. Who was this woman to be flailing around on the floor of her boyfriend's front room while she was moping around feeling guilty that she might have upset him? What did she think she was doing? What did he think he was doing?
And the expression of horrified guilt written over Teddy's features did not do anything to quell her fury.
"Victoire!" he exclaimed, not quite managing to conceal an alarm-bell-ringing hint of concern. "What are you doing here?"
Icily, Victoire fixed a drilling gaze onto Teddy's face.
"I came to see if you were all right," she drawled dangerously. "Granny Molly wanted me to bring you over to The Burrow because we didn't want you to be all alone. But as I can see, you're not…" With a flick of her hand, she gestured imperiously at the lurking backside. "So, Teddy, who, exactly, is that?"
"Now then, my dear." The voice that drifted up from behind the edge of the sofa was more than a little irritated itself. "I accept this isn't my most conventional angle, but I don't think there's any reason to take that kind of tone with my grandson."
Grandson? No, it couldn't be…
But indeed it was Andromeda Tonks who pulled herself up from her position on the carpet, her hair somewhat longer and – oddly – a little less grey than it had been when Victoire had last seen her, her outfit not her usual well-tailored, tidy clothes, but a pair of scruffy jeans and a loose red t-shirt bearing the legend of a band she vaguely remembered glimpsing in her father's record collection, all under a set of forest-green leaf-patterned robes that had apparently seen better days. Her expression, usually gracious and friendly on greeting her grandson's girlfriend, was distinctly frosty round the edges.
Victoire stared. She couldn't help herself. And even as she watched, the temperature of the expression on Mrs Tonks' face dropped another few degrees.
"Mrs Tonks!" she managed, glancing at Teddy for assistance and getting a most unhelpful shrug and a look of apology in return. "I'm sorry, I didn't recognise you… that is…I mean…" She forced herself to focus, to gather her mind – daughter of the Queen of Poise, remember? The dazzling smile that usually served well enough to diffuse any situation blossomed rapidly across her face. "Mrs Tonks, I'm ever so sorry but you surprised me by being here. Granny Molly told me you were in Vienna until the end of the week. And besides…" She fought to hide a rising grimace. "If you don't mind me saying, I've never seen you in jeans before."
Mrs Tonks' expressed flickered slightly as she adjusted her scruffy robes and flicked her hair back over her shoulder, stepping with inexplicable determination in front of the high backed armchair in the corner of the room. "I was in Vienna, until Teddy here owled me to tell me what had happened to poor Penelope and of course I came straight away." She sniffed. "Although I wasn't expecting to be bowled over by someone coming through immediately on my heels." Merde. That explains the irritation… "And as it happens, these are my travelling clothes." Her lips pursed pointedly. "I was hardly going to risk good robes in an international Floo connection – the maintenance standards on some parts of the Continent are terrible. I lost an expensive angora travelling cloak to a persistent cluster of soot near Strasbourg once, and I never make the same mistake twice."
There was something oddly fixed about Teddy's smile as he positioned himself firmly between the two most important women in his life. "Don't mind Gran," he told her awkwardly, shooting an oddly pointed look over his shoulder as he did so. "She's still a bit Floo-lagged. And sorry I sounded so surprised when you arrived, but it isn't often your grandmother and your girlfriend are involved in a Floo pile-up in your living room!" His smile bloomed more sincerely. "Come here. I think we need a proper hello."
For one brief instant, out of the corner of her eye, Victoire could have sworn that she saw Mrs Tonks actually bristling as her grandson dipped his head, but then the pleasing distraction of Teddy's lips against hers wiped the thought out of her mind. She could feel his fingers stroking gently against her elbow as his mouth brushed tenderly over hers and surely he couldn't still be angry with her if he was kissing her like this…
A flush of disappointment swamped Victoire as Teddy jerked sharply away to glance over his shoulder in the direction of his grandmother.
"Are you all right, Gran?" he called, and Victoire was shamefully pleased to note the irritation in his tone.
For some inexplicable reason, Mrs Tonks was rubbing her thigh as she glared venomously at the innocent armchair, her wand half-drawn and grasped in her free hand. "Sorry," she muttered with uncharacteristic informality. "I thought I saw an… Ashwinder or…something."
Teddy's expression twisted into a badly suppressed grimace. "Look Gran, I know how tiring long Floo journeys are for you. Why don't you go upstairs and get some rest?"
Medication sounded more to the point as far as Victoire was concerned. Uncle George had come through a longer Floo ride from Lupeni in Romania and remained his normal self. And she was sure Uncle Harry would be fine once he came back from Brazil, and that was a sixteen fire-connection trip. How had Mrs Tonks ended up so scrambled on a two fire ride?
"I'm fine, thank you." Mrs Tonks retorted stiffly. Her rather alarming smile fixed abruptly on Victoire. "It was very nice of you to come and check on him, dear, but as you can see, he's not alone so you're not really needed here. Run along."
"I tell you what." Victoire blessed the heavens for Teddy's rather brittle intervention. "Why don't you give me a few minutes to get Gran settled, and then I'll come to The Burrow for lunch? I'm sure it must be all hands on deck at the moment."
Victoire sighed deeply. "It's chaos," she admitted. "Little Lizzie won't let go of Granny Molly for love nor money, and Bertie's literally climbing the walls, the furniture and anything else that gets in his way. And Monty's being all brave and noble but…"
"But you can tell he just wants to break down." It was Teddy's turn to sigh, his eyes closing as a wave of emotion rippled across his face too quickly for Victoire to read. His expression was pained but resolute. "Well, I suppose I've got to face them sometime…" he muttered, almost to himself. "Is everyone there?"
"Aunt Hermione is attending the Wizengamot and Uncle Charlie and George's bunch are still in Romania." Victoire told him, resting one hand gently against his arm as she tried to silently will away the look of distress upon his face with her touch alone. "And Uncle Harry's in Brazil. But everyone else is…"
"Brazil?" Teddy's head flew up at Andromeda's sudden interruption. "What's Harry doing there? And when's he coming back?"
Teddy was biting his lip, his eyes distant as Victoire leaned round him uncomfortably to answer the older woman's question. "Auntie Ginny says there's been some complication in Fudge's extradition and he's gone to sort it out, but he should be back by Thursday. Oh!" She turned quickly back to Teddy to avoid Mrs Tonks' still unsettling gaze as she remembered the invitation she'd been asked to convey. "And we've both been invited to dinner with them at Grimmauld Place on Friday if you're free."
"I should be." Teddy's eyes were still worryingly far away. "But I'll have to see what happens." His gaze snapped abruptly back to Victoire's face. "Look, Vic, like I said, you head on back to The Burrow and I'll join you for a bit when I've seen to Gran." Lowering his voice, he bent his head closer as he pulled her into a soft embrace, his lips brushing her ear in an unintentionally tantalising fashion.
"I'm really sorry about Gran," he whispered almost inaudibly. "She's in such a strange mood, I don't know what that Floo ride's done to her. But I'll get her to bed – I'll sedate her if I have to – and then I'll be round to help. I was…" She heard him swallow as his voice rose slightly in volume. "I was there when it happened and I just froze. I should have done more to help. Maybe by helping with her kids, I can make it up to everyone…"
Her arms tightened around his back. "Don't be silly, Teddy," she said gently, resting her head against his as she closed her eyes. "It was an accident. Nobody's going to blame you." She smiled against his cheek. "I love you dearly, but you do have a terrible guilt complex, you know. You'd probably blame yourself for the fall of Rome and the existence of evil if you could find a way."
Teddy's arms tightened. Victoire increased her embrace in response and as she opened her eyes, she found Mrs Tonks was staring at her. But the stiffness and the barely hidden hostility present only moments earlier had washed away from her face, leaving contrition and a quiet smile of acknowledgement and gratitude instead.
Victoire smiled back. Now that was more like Mrs Tonks…
Gently, she released her boyfriend. "See you in a little while," she told him, lifting a handful of Floo powder out of the jar on the mantel and turning to the fireplace. "And I love you."
As the flames roared emerald, she heard his soft reply.
"I love you too, Vic. Very much indeed."
Smiling happily, Victoire stepped forward into the green maelstrom of flame and back to the family circus of The Burrow.
In times of crisis, it was good to have people you loved.
"Remus Lupin, I have got a bruise the size of a melon coming up on my thigh! Why the hell did you kick me so hard?"
With a sigh, Teddy turned away from the fire into which Victoire had disappeared moments before, to find his mother half-morphed back into herself as she glared at his now un-Disillusioned father crawling out from behind the armchair in the corner. His dad was glaring back with some force and Teddy had to admit he couldn't blame him.
Not exactly the ideal girlfriend meets mother scenario. Why couldn't mum just have been nice? What is the problem? Gods, if they don't get on, I can't make that kind of choice…
"Well, what did you think you were doing?" his dad retorted sharply, echoing the thought running through his son's head quite emphatically. "You were outright rude and you know Andromeda wouldn't have behaved like that! What's Victoire going to think of you when she learns the truth? And don't give me that look, you know it's true. And don't think I didn't see the look on your face when Teddy kissed her! Andromeda's features or not, I know that expression. That was the kind of look that leads to the surreptitious casting of itching hexes …"
"Well, honestly!" Fiddling uncomfortably with her loose robes, his mother threw herself down on the settee with a glare directed at the world in general. With a sudden burst of realisation, it struck Teddy just how young she was, barely a few years older than he was. How would he cope if he woke up tomorrow morning to find his grown-up son snogging his girlfriend in front of him? "Those looks she was giving me just made me… annoyed. And I'm sorry, but then all I could think was that she was ploughing her stuck up French lips all over my little baby…"
His father was back on his feet now, his brow creased and a steely frown on his face.
"That's it," he declared. "Get me those books from upstairs. Our first priority is to find you something to help sort out those hormones of yours."
His mum sat up sharply. "My hormones are fine, thank you!"
"Oh really?" His dad raised a cynical eyebrow. "Dora, tell me honestly - if I hadn't kicked you, would you have hexed that poor girl? Because that's what it looked like you were planning to me. You can't go on like this or someone, probably poor Victoire, is going to get hurt…"
"All right, all right!" His mother threw up her hands. "I'm sorry. I just saw her and I saw red, I don't know why. I don't know, maybe it was the hormone thing…" She sighed. "And anyway, I think I might have… misjudged her slightly." She smiled wanly at Teddy. "She was talking some sense there at the end, after all. And I shouldn't have been so abrupt…" With a sudden, furious gesture, she pounded her hand against a cushion. "Merlin, I hate this! I'm all over the bloody place!"
Gently, his father dropped into the seat beside her, wrapping one arm carefully around her shoulders. "It's okay," he said softly. "Have you found anything in those books that might help?"
His mum sighed. "One or two things. I wish I could talk to mum though." Her eyes lifted towards Teddy, filled with silent apology for what had happened earlier. "Is she really in Vienna?"
Teddy nodded. "At a genealogy conference. If all went to plan, she caught an early Portkey to Austria first thing this morning. She doesn't usually go to the foreign conferences these days, but she heard Rudolph Spragg was planning to make another presentation about how only research into the magical half of a wizard's bloodline really matters, and she does love to go and slap him down in front of their peers."
A fond smile flickered along the edges of his mother's face. "That sounds about right," she said quietly, an oddly shaky note trembling in her voice. "I really want to see her, Remus. I want my mum."
His dad tightened his grasp. "I know."
His mother gave a watery chuckle. "And ironically, it's the pure-blood side of the family I'll have to ask her about. When she was showing me how to feed… well, you Teddy…" Teddy fought down a potent blush as he caught her meaning. "She told me that apparently she was the first Black woman to feed her child herself for generations. Her mum and Sirius' mum Walburga and all the others used some potion to stop the milk early on." She pulled a face. "Apparently the Blacks were too dignified to feed their own babies. Which makes it all the more ironic that I'm going to have to ask my mum if she's got the recipe." She sighed again, deeply. "But in the meantime, there's other things I can try…"
Teddy shuffled his feet, trying to hide his discomfort at the direction the conversation had taken, but his dad's keen eye had picked his mood out in an instant.
"Did you want to get going?" he asked kindly, his eyes far too understanding for Teddy's liking. "To The Burrow, I mean."
Teddy nodded with some gratitude, although the shiver of cold fear that had filled his chest the moment he had forced himself to accept the Weasley invitation solidified sharply at the prospect. "I probably should. Though how I'm going to face them after…"
His dad's smile was strangely fortifying. "You'll be fine, Teddy. Don't worry."
Teddy felt himself sigh. "It's more lying though. And if Harry's not back until Thursday, it's going to go on at least a couple more days..." He fought down an urge to repeat his mother's gesture and start pounding the upholstery. "This is getting more complicated by the minute."
"I know," his dad replied softly. "But we know where we're going now. And we've always got each other to be honest with."
And as Teddy turned and proclaimed "The Burrow!" as he hurled the powder into the flames, he found himself praying that that would be enough.