14: The Heart of the Matter
Tonks had to admit that - considering the rapid rate of her breathing and her sweaty, slippery grip on the banister - it was a miracle that she made it to the foot of the stairs in one piece. The strange shivery wash that seemed to flood over her as she descended did little to help matters.
Focus. Concentrate. You are a law enforcement professional. Undercover work is part of your job. Stay calm and think Mum.
You can do this. For Teddy, you can do it.
With steely determination, Tonks forced herself to swallow down her nerves. Then drawing herself up into her best approximation of Mum's dignified stance, she reached out and opened the door.
The only indication on the face of Zenobia Moon that showed she was surprised to find the door opened by a woman in her sixties, rather than a twenty-year-old man, was the slow raising of one distinctly sculpted eyebrow. Tonks had to admit that, on first impressions at least, Zenobia was about as different an Auror to her as it was possible to be – her dark red robes were immaculate, her straight, black hair pulled back into a tight and shiny bun, and her sharp, serious-looking features arranged into an expression of imposing, icy menace that had undoubtedly struck fear into the hearts of many a wrongdoer over the years. Her mahogany wand was held loosely, but with intent, in one long-fingered hand.
Tonks could feel her eyes narrowing. You think you're really something, don't you? There's no place in the Auror Office for arrogance or ego, that's what Mad-Eye always told me, not when there are Dark wizards to be stopped; they've ego enough for everyone, more often than not. Well, you don't scare me with your fake eyebrows and your glare of doom. Right now, I am Andromeda Tonks, daughter of the House of Black, and if there's one thing no one can top my mum on, it's being downright intimidating…
She drew herself up and fixed Zenobia Moon with her mother's best Nymphadora-what-are-you-wearing expression. "There was no need to make threats, Auror Moon. I was already coming."
Zenobia Moon's expression did not change. The two men behind her, however, exchanged an uncomfortable glance. They were dressed in robes similar to the ones Teddy had donned a few mornings before, presumably the uniform of the Unspeakables, and neither looked even close to being pleased to be here; the taller of the two, a vaguely familiar curly-haired man in his forties, was chewing on his lip with an expression that mingled disappointment and resignation, while the shorter, a thin mousy-haired man, lurked behind eyes that as well as showing superficial discomfort, were grim and slightly bewildered. Both had the look of men who wanted to be proved wrong.
Auror Moon, however, had the look of a woman holding a half-raised axe over the execution block.
This does not look good. But at least Teddy's not here right now and maybe we can warn him, get him out of here if something incriminating has come to light…
"Mrs Tonks, I presume?" Zenobia Moon's voice broke Tonks' slightly distracted chain of thought and she made herself nod haughtily. The other Auror's expression tightened at once. "Where is Teddy Lupin?"
Oh, you think you can out-terse me, do you? "Out." Tonks kept her voice clipped and cold. "Visiting a friend."
Zenobia's lip curled slightly into a mockery of a smile. "Not upstairs?"
Tonks fought to prevent any outward sign of the wash of cold that slipped through her body. Oh Gods, if she searches the house… "No, of course not. I told you he is out, Auror Moon. I've no reason to lie about it."
Zenobia's expression was oddly smug. Oh, if Mad-Eye were here, he'd slap that self-satisfied look off your face and no mistake! A smug Auror is a dead Auror! "Well then, Mrs Tonks," she said, in a tone rich with the same charming consistency as nails scraping over a blackboard. "Perhaps you would care to tell me why the Locator Charm I cast not long ago told me that there were two people upstairs?"
The strange wash she'd felt on the stairs was immediately explained. Shit. She may be a smug cow, but she knows how to do the job.
For a wild moment, Tonks almost considered actually calling Remus down and getting him to bluff some story or other, but another quick assessment of the three arrivals told her that such an act would be a bad mistake. Although the curly-haired man looked perhaps as year or two too old, both Zenobia Moon and her mousy companion looked as though they might fall somewhere within the age range of students taught a year of Defence by one Professor Lupin. And given that two of them worked with the now damaged Portal, the presence in Teddy's house of someone bearing a striking resemblance to his dead father would not be a good thing to reveal.
"Oh, that's Frederico." Tonks gave a forbidding smile. "The decorator I hired in Vienna to help Teddy restore the house. I love my grandson dearly, but if I let him loose on the walls himself, they would either end up striped in neon green and mauve or in several pieces. Household spells are no more his speciality than they were his mother's."
The almost reluctant hint of a fond smile that flashed across the mousy man's features told her that, here at least, she'd struck gold. But Zenobia Moon did not look convinced.
"Bring him down," she ordered sharply. "I'd like a word."
Damn. "He's in the middle of a very intricate assessment charm. I'd prefer not to disturb him if possible." She steeled herself and took a gamble, praying that Remus was listening in and would be quick enough off the mark to cover her story. "If you're that worried I'm lying, then do a magical check on the house and you'll find an assessment in progress. But do be careful. The vibrations from your Apparition already distracted him enough to damage a perfectly good pair of bedroom curtains."
Zenobia's lips twitched but nonetheless she raised her wand and muttered the charm that all Aurors were taught to use to check for active enchantments. Her slight grimace was all the answer Tonks needed.
Nice one, Remus.
"All right, he can wait for now." Zenobia's expression was grim. "But only for the time being. Where did you say your grandson was, Mrs Tonks?"
"Visiting a friend. To be honest, Frederico and I wanted him out of the way so we could assess the house in peace." Tonks was fairly sure that Zenobia would not be foolish enough to accept the offer she was about to make, but it was still worth a try. "He didn't leave very long before you arrived, and I'm afraid I've no idea when he'll be back. I'd be happy to get him to call you when he returns though, if…"
"No, thank you." Arrogant, but knows what she's doing. Great. Glancing over her shoulder at her two companions, Zenobia frowned before fixing Tonks with a determined look. "If you have no objections, Mrs Tonks, I'll think we'll come inside and wait for him."
Tonks returned the look, stare for steely-eyed stare. "I think I'd like to know what this is about first."
Zenobia's mouth opened and Tonks could almost see her lips smugly forming words like confidential and classified information, but to the Auror's visible surprise, the taller of the two Unspeakables got in first.
"Mrs Tonks, my name is Edgar Fortescue." He offered his hand and Tonks took it and shook it, glad that someone here was at least prepared to be civil. "I knew your daughter, at least a little, when we were at school." Edgar Fortescue? Oh! Yes! The odd feeling of familiarity she'd felt on first seeing him finally snapped into place. He'd been in Hufflepuff, a couple of years below her, famous as the grandson of Florian Fortescue of Diagon Alley. He'd brought buckets full of ice cream into the common room to celebrate a famous Quidditch victory over Ravenclaw, and had somewhat reluctantly done his duty as a new Prefect by turning her over to Professor Sprout in her seventh year, when he'd caught her sneaking into the Slytherin changing rooms before a match to fill Terence Higgs' boots with Swelling Solution for making disparaging remarks about her mum. She'd never spoken to him much but he'd seemed like a good enough sort of kid.
A kid who was now several years older than Remus. Would she ever get used to this?
Edgar was smiling at her somewhat sympathetically. "I understand this can't be easy for you, being door-stepped like this by an Auror." He shot Zenobia a reproachful glance that she ignored entirely. "But I'm sure you're aware of the accident in the Department recently?"
Tonks nodded. "Poor Penelope Weasley. Of course. Teddy told me about it. He was ever so upset."
"Hmm." At Zenobia Moon's disdainful noise, Tonks couldn't help herself. She shot the other woman a cold glare.
Ignoring them both, Edgar ploughed on regardless. "Penny was using the Time Division Portal at the time but it had been damaged somehow. Teddy was the only person present when what we believe to be the initial damage occurred. We just want to… confirm a few things."
"With an Auror present." The cold feeling was back.
Edgar gave a wan smile. "I'd have preferred without. But this is Departmental procedure for matters of potential sabotage."
"Sabotage?" Tonks didn't miss the glare Zenobia Moon fixed upon Edgar for revealing this crucial bit of information. "You can't possibly think that my Teddy would…"
"We don't know what to think, Mrs Tonks." This time the speaker was the mousy-haired Unspeakable, who up until that moment had lived up to his name. His expression was unreadable. "That's why we're here."
Tonks squared her shoulders. "And as I told you," she retorted. "Teddy isn't. And I see no point waiting when it could be hours before…"
It was at that moment a burst of emerald light filled the lounge to her left.
Oh no, oh no, no, no…
"Would you believe it?" Teddy's voice echoed out of the lounge before she could even muster the words to call out some manner of subtle warning. "I get myself all steeled up to do it and she's out. Bill told me she's got her interview at St Mungo's for her Healer apprenticeship and she won't be back for…"
She saw him stop dead in the lounge doorway as he spotted his grandmother standing in the hallway before an open front door. His eyes went wide for an instant before he covered the expression with a surprised smile and strode over to her side.
"Edgar, Dennis." He greeted them cheerfully. "Auror Moon," he added, with rather less enthusiasm. "What are you doing here?"
Zenobia Moon cut across Edgar's greeting. "Before we go any further, Mr Lupin, perhaps you'd care to tell me the name of the person upstairs at this moment? I have your grandmother's story but I'd like to double check."
Tonks swelled with Andromeda-like icy rage. "Are you calling me a liar? I told you that he was…"
But the smug smile was back on Zenobia's face as she raised a hand to block any further interruptions. "A moment, Mrs Tonks. Mr Lupin?"
Oh sweet Merlin, if our stories don't match up, we are so doomed. You know I've answered, Teddy, so just keep it simple…
"Upstairs?" An expression of brief but deliberate confusion crossed Teddy's face, followed by a sudden surge of fond irritation. "Oh Gran, honestly, I told you I could do that myself. You didn't need to get anyone in."
Teddy Lupin, you wonderful, wonderful boy…
She affixed her mum's best that's-nice-dear-but-surely- a-normal-colour smile into place. "I know, dear, but I met Frederico in Vienna, and he had such a wonderful flair for decorating and restoration that I couldn't resist. You've been saying you'd like to restore the house for months now, but I know decorating isn't really your forte…"
Teddy laughed. "I knew you were trying to get me out of the house this morning!"
"Yes, yes, yes." Zenobia interrupted the carefully orchestrated domesticity with an irritable wave of her hand – clearly she'd been hoping to catch them both out, but Teddy's sufficiently generalised but still accurate response had thwarted her. "But that's not why we're here. Mr Lupin, we need to speak to you. Privately."
I can't leave him to face this inquisition alone, I can't let them tear him to shreds without anyone to back him up…
But Teddy had already seen the look on her face. His smile was sad.
"Gran, it's okay," he said softly. "Go and make sure this Frederico isn't turning my bedroom into a Gothic masterpiece, okay? You'll find the plans I made for it in the second drawer of my nightstand. He might want to take a look at them." Squaring his shoulders, he turned to Zenobia, Edgar and Dennis. "Come on," he said, gesturing into the hall. "We can talk in the lounge."
Tonks was halfway up the stairs almost before the door had closed behind him, only to find Remus already in Teddy's room, grasping a pair of Extendable Ears he'd just pulled from the second drawer of the nightstand. Wordlessly, he handed one to his wife.
"Clever son we've got," Tonks whispered with a wan smile as she dropped onto the bed next to her husband and sent the Ear on its way, praying Zenobia wouldn't be paranoid enough to cast an Imperturbable Charm on the door. "I just hope he's clever enough."
Remus simply put his free arm around her shoulders and leaned into her as they both waited the frustrating seconds needed for the Extendable Ears to weave their way down the stairs and snake towards the lounge door.
"I taught Zenobia Moon," he said suddenly, his voice low. "Bright girl, a Ravenclaw in Harry's year, but scared of her own shadow." He breathed hard, his face suddenly haunted. "I saw her briefly, hiding in a corner during the battle, saw the look on her face when a friend of hers died right in front of her while she was too scared to come out. I wonder if that's why she…"
But his brief speculation died as the Extendable Ears hit an ominous wall of silence. Imperturbed. Damn!
Tonks swore more fluently out loud. "Now what?"
Remus came to his feet abruptly. "Another thing I remember about Zenobia," he exclaimed suddenly. "While she generally thought of everything when writing her essays, she wasn't always as thorough at exploring the individual points she made. Come on." Grabbing Tonks' hand, he pulled her upright and across the landing into their bedroom. When he reached the window, with its now crooked curtains, he pushed the pane open a crack and, with one finger touched warningly against his lips, carefully threaded his Extendable Ear outside.
And it was then that Tonks remembered the deep crack in the mortar above the lounge window – a crack wide enough for a thin piece of fleshy string to slip through. When she had commented on it and the draught it created not long after she and Remus had moved in, he had laughed and pointed out it had been like that all his life and was a part of the house as much as he was. And then he had suggested that if the draught bothered her, they could always cavort naked on some other, less draughty hearthrug in the house…
Shaking away the extremely distracting memory of what had preceded – and indeed followed - that conversation, Tonks hurriedly followed her husband's lead. Oh please may Teddy not have had it fixed…
He hadn't. And Remus had been right. Though Zenobia Moon had thought to block the door, she hadn't remembered the window.
"… seriousness of your situation, Mr Lupin." The Auror's harsh tone echoed up through the Extendable Ear as she and Remus exchanged glances. "You have admitted to being present when the Portal was damaged and since we now know how that damage occurred…"
"It was an accident." Teddy's voice was low, but there was a pleading note. "I told you, the amulet…"
"Teddy." Edgar's voice was soft but firm. "I know what you told Rajesh and Bert. But I also know it doesn't wash. There was nothing wrong with that amulet before it went into the Portal. And we now know that the damage both to the amulet and the Portal was caused by a breach in the passivity field. And with all the safeguards Rajesh told me they have in place, we know that it could only have been done deliberately. And you were the only one there."
Tonks could almost feel the waves of tension emanating from her son. "Edgar, the field's unbreakable, everyone knows that. How could I have…"
"We don't know." This time it was Dennis who spoke, his voice strangely distant and slightly cold. "We were hoping you could tell us."
"And that brings us back to the point, Mr Lupin." Zenobia's voice was also chilly. "Tell us the truth. What part of history were you trying to change?"
Tonks heard the legs of a chair jerk sharply back, presumably as Teddy came to his feet. "I didn't change history! I wouldn't! I know better! If it hasn't happened in the past, it can't be remembered in the present! If I'd changed anything, we wouldn't be having this conversation!"
Zenobia's voice was venomous. "That doesn't mean you didn't try."
Teddy's voice was fierce. "I know better. You can only make things how they are. How they were. How they should be."
"And what did you feel they should be, Mr Lupin? What did you feel the need to alter so badly that you damaged an invaluable magical artefact and put an innocent woman in a coma?"
"I never meant…"
Teddy managed to stifle the rest of the sentence, but both Tonks and Remus had already winced. It was too late.
Zenobia pounced. "Then what did you mean? What were you trying to do? We know that you went back to the Battle of Hogwarts that night, Mr Lupin. Were you trying to change the outcome? Give Lord Voldemort the victory perhaps?"
"Are you insane? His loonies killed my parents that night!"
"Then were you trying to save them?" Uh oh… Tonks heard Remus' gasp even as she closed her eyes in horror. "Without giving any thought to how their presence might alter the tide of the battle, might change events?" Tonks heard the edge in Zenobia's voice sharpen fiercely, and remembered Remus' remark about her seeing a friend get killed that night and doing nothing to stop it. No wonder she was sensitive about it. "But why stop at them, Mr Lupin? Why not go back and save every person who died that night? Why not turn back time and fill the world with happy, living former victims without a thought to what they might change, what might be lost? Why not save Bellatrix Lestrange or Antonin Dolohov? Wouldn't that make the world a better place?"
"I didn't…" But Teddy's voice sounded weak now, unsure, and before he could muster the strength to return fire, the voice of Dennis cut into the room with suddenly vicious clarity.
"You selfish git!" For a moment, there was a shocked and ringing silence before Dennis hurled himself on. "Do you think you were the only person to lose someone that night? I lost Colin, Teddy, I lost my big brother!" Tonks saw Remus' jaw hardening – she knew that the death of Colin Creevey, a death he'd been too late to prevent, was still a raw and aching wound. "But have you ever seen me breaking the Portal to try and get him back? Did you ever see me ruining the Section or hurting someone to try and save him? No! Because I know the law, I respect the law, and I can't believe you've abused our trust like this, I can't believe…"
"Dennis!" Edgar's voice cut short the vicious tirade, but his tone was troubled and not unsympathetic. "This isn't the time." He took a deep breath. "Teddy, I'm sorry, I truly am. I wish I could believe that this was an accident. But everything we have is pointing to the contrary. You know the rules of your Section. You do not touch, you do not change, and you do not interfere. We watch only, Teddy, and you tried to break that. And you know what happens now."
"Teddy Remus Lupin." Zenobia Moon's voice rang out with such self-satisfaction that it was all Tonks could do to keep herself from hurtling down the stairs and smacking her across the mouth. "I am arresting you for attempting to pervert the course of history. You will surrender your wand and come quietly by Side-Along Apparition. If you do not submit yourself to this, use of full magical force is authorised. Come with me."
Tonks did not wait for the warning she knew was hovering on Remus' lips, behind his resigned eyes and expression of profound pain. Abandoning the Extendable Ear and her husband, she rushed out of the room and headed sharply for the stairs.
They had already reached the front door as she made her way down with as much haste as she dared. Zenobia had her son by the arm and was tucking his wand into her belt, glancing at his downcast eyes and shaken features with more than a little satisfaction.
"Teddy?" Tonks called, trying to conceal the furious desperation that made her want to scream out loud and hex into oblivion everyone who stood between her and her little boy. "Where are you taking my grandson?"
She could hear Zenobia spouting some smug sentences about the Ministry and questioning, could see the apology on Edgar's face and the suppressed rage that shook the short form of Dennis. But nothing mattered but Teddy, his face pale and filled with regret and fear, his eyes staring at her, pleading silently that she do nothing, say nothing that might give her identity away. She brushed past them all, ignoring Zenobia's shout of rage, and flung her arms around him.
She could feel him trembling in her arms, his head pressed against her neck, hair tickling her shoulder as she held him close, the body of the woman who had raised him and the woman who birthed him, all rolled up into one loving form.
"I love you," she whispered softly, fighting the tears that pooled suddenly in her eyes, and she could feel dampness against her skin that told her that her son's efforts not to cry were proving equally unsuccessful. "I'll sort this out, my darling. I promise you."
Slowly, shakily, he raised his head and pulled gently out of her embrace.
"I'm so sorry about this," he muttered, his voice cracking slightly. "I'm so, so sorry."
Gently, she raised one hand and brushed his cheek. "You've nothing to be sorry for. You'll see. It'll all work out in the end."
He managed to smile, though he'd never looked less like he wanted to. "I never saw Victoire," he murmured, his eyes meeting hers with a desperate plea. "Or Harry. Or…" He laughed, but it was a bitter sound. "Gran, please. And you…"
She nodded, her eyes never leaving his. "I understand. And don't worry about me. I'll be all right."
"If you're quite done." Zenobia's interruption almost pushed Tonks to the brink of violence. "If you want to see your grandson, Mrs Tonks, he'll be held in the Ministry Holding Cells until his trial before the Wizengamot. And after that…" She smiled grimly. "I suspect you'll have to apply to the warders at Azkaban. Good day, Mrs Tonks. Enjoy your decorating."
With an abrupt shove, Zenobia turned Teddy around and pushed him unceremoniously outside, Dennis following grimly on her heels. Edgar hesitated a moment, seemingly half torn as to whether he should offer some apology, but then, with a sigh, he turned and stepped outside, pulling the door closed behind him. An echoing crack a moment later marked their departure.
Tonks had no idea how long she stood there, staring blankly at the closed door, the tears running freely down her face as she waited almost mindlessly for the door to open, for Teddy to return and announce it had all been a mistake and everything was fine and they were a family again after all. It seemed a small, hellish eternity before she felt Remus' arms wrap around her, felt him pull her against his chest as she began to sob once more in earnest, as the bright, sharp pain of losing the son she'd barely accepted as hers pierced her like a dagger to the heart. She felt her morph slip away as she burrowed her head against her husband's shoulder, and she could feel from the slight tremble of his hands and rapid drumbeat of his heart against her ear that he too was fighting to stay in control.
"What are we going to do?" she heard herself whisper against his robes. "Remus, we have to save him. What are we going to do?"
She felt rather than heard his shaky, indrawn breath. "I think," he whispered quietly in return, "that it may be time to give Harry and your mother the fright of their lives."