1 May 1999
Remus glanced at the clock and turned on the wireless, tuning it to the news-only channel.
"...in talks with the German Minister for Magic..."
"...the ban on flying carpets may be lifted..."
"...to the Cannons in a completely unprecedented upset..."
Remus's head jerked up at that last bulletin. The Cannons? Over the Harpies? Maybe Gwenog Jones needed to find her team some fresh talent.
CRASH diddle-diddle sproing CLANG!
"All right, Teddy," he said, between waves of cacophony. "Are you ready for your supper?"
Teddy dropped the pot lids he'd been wielding like cymbals (CLANG-ang-ang-ang-ang) and held up his arms eagerly. "Aaa." He wasn't talking yet, at more than twelve months old, but he was already a terror on two legs, so Healer Carmichael insisted there was nothing to worry about.
Remus deposited his son in Dora's old high chair and handed him a piece of banana. "Try this first, and then you can have some mashed sweet potato."
Teddy gnawed silently at the banana. The wireless, now uninterrupted, droned on. "Welcome to Wizarding Wireless News. We begin this hour with a look at today's headlines."
Six o'clock. Remus grinned. Dora would be home from work any minute.
"Preparations for tomorrow's festivities proceed at a breakneck pace all over magical Britain."
"In addition to a solemn ceremony led by Minister Shacklebolt on the grounds of Hogwarts School at sunrise, many local parades, speeches, and events are planned all up and down the country."
How had he not realized that was already tomorrow?
He flicked his wand and shut off the wireless with an emphatic click. Teddy looked up, startled.
"Here you go, little lad." Remus smoothed a hand over his son's mussy hair (pale lavender today, like his favourite plush badger). "Sweet potatoes!"
"Aaa," said Teddy again, opening his mouth like a robin hatchling and waiting for the spoon to descend. Remus managed to administer most of a dose of sweet potato, scooping the bits that missed back onto the spoon and waiting for Teddy to open up again.
Tomorrow. Parades, and speeches, and moments of silence. To commemorate the victory, and the losses.
But for Remus, tonight there would be anniversaries too. All night long.
He fed Teddy another spoonful.
"On this night, last year..." He swallowed. "I stood here in this kitchen and I kissed you and your mother goodbye."
Dora's eyes were bright with tears, and Remus could feel his own eyes burn. "I love you," he told her, over and over, stroking her cheek with his thumb, rubbing Teddy's fuzzy turquoise hair with the tip of his finger. "I love you both so very much."
"Be careful." Tears or no tears, her expression was fierce. "You have to come home to us. You have to promise, or I will follow you and make sure you come home again."
"You know I can't promise anything." He buried his face in her hair, inhaling deeply—as if he could ever forget her scent—and revelled in the surprisingly strong grip Teddy had on his finger. "But I will do my best...to give Teddy a future, and to come home and live it with both of you."
Dora nodded once, sharply, kissed him very thoroughly, and pushed him away. "Go. And come back."
Remus turned around for one more look before he stepped through the door. Dora stood tall and watched him leave with fire in her eyes.
Tonks pulled off her boots, hung her cloak on a peg by the door, and asked her usual home-from-work question. "Where are my boys?"
"In the kitchen," came the usual answer.
But then Tonks broke from the script. Instead of pausing at the kitchen door to make faces (literally) at her son, she went straight to Remus and wrapped her arms around his waist from behind, burying her face in his back.
Remus set down the bowl of mashed sweet potato he was holding and turned in her arms, gathering her close. She heard his heart beating under her ear and sighed, clutching at fistfuls of his jumper.
He pressed his lips to her temple. "Are you all right?"
"Do you know what tonight is? I didn't realise—not until I got to the Ministry this morning—"
"I know," he said softly, brushing a kiss along her hairline. "I know."
"On this night, last year..." She drew an uneven breath. "I let you go without me. And then the owl came."
Tonks stood beside Teddy's cot, staring in terror and fury at the ragged piece of parchment in her hands. The owl had got past the security spells and into Mum's house. Into Teddy's room.
That was supposed to be impossible.
The words in the letter were impossible, too. Bellatrix taunted her, announcing her intention to kill Remus at the battle and then come to kill the rest of the family. Here, in the house. Where Tonks had promised Remus to stay with their son and keep him safe, no matter what.
She'd been itching to join the battle—wasn't fighting the Darkest wizard of them all the epitome of her sworn duty as an Auror?—but she knew perfectly well that she wasn't in proper fighting form, not after giving birth mere weeks ago. And so they had agreed: When the time came, Remus would fight with the Order, and Tonks would stay safe with Teddy. So that if the worst happened, he would still have one parent to raise him.
But the owl had changed everything. Home was no longer safe at all. And someone had to warn Remus—someone had to stop Bellatrix.
"I love you, Teddy," Tonks whispered, kissing her baby's soft cheek and smoothing a hand over his stomach as he slept. "I will always do everything I can to protect you."
She turned and tiptoed away.
Andromeda heard the baby fussing as soon as she stepped inside the door, so she made a beeline for the kitchen without even removing her cloak. But when she got there, she smiled at what she saw.
Remus was spooning sweet potato into Teddy—only, he was trying to do the job one-handed, because Nymphadora was sitting in his lap and his other arm was wrapped snugly around her waist. Judging from the orange streaks smeared across Teddy's face and bib, this was not the most efficient of feeding methods.
Indeed, the dish of potato scooted along the table away from Remus as he tried to scoop some up, and Teddy, tired of waiting, fussed again.
Nymphadora looked up and saw her watching. "Mum." Her daughter slid from her perch on Remus's knee and caught Andromeda up in a fierce hug. "Do you know what tonight is?"
"Of course I do." Andromeda's arms tightened around her daughter. "On this night, last year..." She heard her voice crack. "I waited, and I watched. And I thought I would never see you again." She reached out and rested a hand on Remus's shoulder. "Either of you."
The ticking of the clock sounded eerily loud in the silent house. Andromeda sat bolt upright in a stiff chair in the sitting room, with Teddy asleep on her lap and her wand pointed at the door. Bellatrix would not touch a hair on her grandson's head—not while Andromeda lived.
If only she could say the same for Nymphadora and Remus. New parents, who hadn't had a full night's sleep since Teddy was born.
What kind of chance would they have in a battle?
"There is only one choice," Nymphadora had said. "If we lose, then what kind of world will there be for Teddy to live in?"
Andromeda knew that her daughter was right.
But that didn't make the waiting any easier.
"Aaaa!" said Teddy, startling Remus out of his morass of memories.
Dora squealed. "He said 'Daddy'!"
"It's just sounds, Dora," Remus eyed his squirming son, bemused. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything yet."
"The boy is old enough to be talking already, you know," Andromeda countered. "I think it's a word."
"Da!" said Teddy again. He leaned forward in his high chair, pointing at Remus with one chubby, banana-covered finger. "Da da da da!"
Remus gathered the last of the sweet potato onto the little blue spoon and grinned at Teddy. "At any rate, I think it's quite clear that a request is being made." The sweet potato disappeared into the eager sticky mouth.
"It's definitely 'Daddy'." Dora, standing beside the chair where Remus sat, slipped an arm around his shoulders.
"On this night, this year," she said, firmly, "Teddy Remus Lupin said his first word."
o— fin —o