Author's Note: This oneshot idea came to me while I was listening to Kristina Cornell's "Little Red Balloon." I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. And I hope I can draw as much emotion from you as I did myself because I definitely cried while editing it.
Little Golden Owl
Andromeda walked down the crowded sidewalk of bustling Diagon Alley. She tagged her six-year-old grandson, Teddy, along with her.
His tiny hand was clasped securely within her own. His thin digits were just long enough to protrude from her grip and wrap slightly around to the back of her hand.
He was patient and polite as they zigzagged through the witches and wizards, who stood chatting to each other or haggling prices. He was quiet, too.
His hair was mousy brown today, just as his mother's should have been had she not been a proud Metamorphmagus. His eyes were downcast and lacking the sparkling wonder, that most children's eyes his age, radiated with when walking past the interesting shops.
Teddy was being unusually obedient today. And his grandmother knew why.
Andromeda frowned as she juggled a package, umbrella, and change purse in her left arm. She would do anything to put a smile on his heart-shaped, charming face. Even enter the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes shop with all its noise and rambunctious, begging children.
"Would you like to get a present today, Teddy?" she asked, her voice very close to a coo.
"Yes," he stated in a matter-of-fact manner, taking her off guard. She had expected him to become cheerful and excited at the prospect, if not remain sullen and silent. But he seemed rigid instead.
She nodded her approval and lead him into the wildly colored shop. The shelves were packed with vibrant candies, whizzing trinkets, obnoxious products for noise-making, and many other pranks and toys that would give any parent a headache.
"Do you see something you would like?" Andromeda Tonks inquired of her precious companion.
He remained still, his eyes scanning the shop, and his expression emotionless. It just was not like him to be so soundless and placid.
"Hello, Mrs. Tonks," George Weasley greeted as he came from behind the counter of the shop to stand next to her. "Hello, Teddy." George leaned down, placing his hands on his knees so that he could look the small boy in the eye. "Did you know that my latest product is inspired by you?"
Teddy just stared the redhead in the eye; his expression had not changed in the slightest, which made his grandmother sigh inwardly with genuine concern.
"It's a hard candy that changes your hair to a dozen different colors while you wait for it to dissolve," George explained when the child said nothing. "I'm working on one that will change your nose shape, too."
Teddy seemed nonplussed by this and just looked past the smiling Weasley before him to a squealing group of ten-year-old witches, who were playing with Pygmy Puffs.
George looked up at Andromeda, who released Teddy's hand and nudged his shoulder gently.
"Go find something you would like," she encouraged. "Anything."
Her grandson gave her a somewhat reluctant stare before walking over to a shelf filled with ampules of assorted potions and color-changing inks.
"He seems... troubled," George fumbled.
"He was fine yesterday when Harry and Ginny came by to give him his belated birthday present," Andromeda informed. "But today...," she broke off, her voice strained.
"Does he know what today is?" George asked, his own voice low and full of hurt.
Andromeda nodded, wishing all the while that she could relieve her grandson of his sorrow.
Today was the second of May. Today was the day that his parents had been killed in the battle at Hogwarts a mere six years ago. Teddy had not even been a full month old before his parents were ripped from his life.
"Are you all right, Andromeda? Would you like to go in the back and sit for a moment? I can watch Teddy," George offered.
She looked back to the redhead in front of her and appeared to be warring with herself. She was not going to make a public display by breaking down into tears. She could not stand that; she would not tolerate it.
People already gave her unwanted pity because she had lost her husband, daughter, and son-in-law to the war, thus leaving her alone to raise her grandson. She did not want them to witness her going to pieces in public, making a fool of herself by crying.
"It still hurts me, too," George confessed, his voice low and sympathetic. "It still hurts us all, in fact. There's no weakness in acknowledging it."
She gazed at him with determined eyes. Her mouth was set into a thin line, but it could not hide the growing grief. Tears threatened to fall every second she stood there and let them well in her eyes.
"Gram," Teddy spoke softly as he approached with an inkwell in one hand and a package of paper in the other.
Andromeda turned her head quickly away from her grandson and blinked the tears from her eyes. She sniffled and wiped her cheek with the back of her free hand before fixing a bright, false smile on her face. She would lie to the Minister himself if it meant protecting her cherished Teddy.
He was all she had left of her family, after all.
"Yes?" she beamed, looking upon him with a heart full of fondness.
"Can I get these?" he quizzed, holding out the color-changing ink and multi-colored, scented paper.
"Sure," she nodded in a bewildered way before fumbling for her change purse and wondering why he would want those things when there was a whole store full of other, more fun things.
"Let me," George offered. "I didn't get to give him a present for his birthday, so these are on the house."
"You do not have to do that," Andromeda tried to persuade him. It felt too much like pity to her that George was giving these things to Teddy rather than not letting her pay because he wanted them to be a birthday gift.
"Really," George insisted, holding his hand up in a polite rejection to her open coin purse. He smiled and then bid them farewell before returning to the register where a father stood with his eager twins, who were ringing the service bell continually.
Andromeda sighed and took Teddy's things, balancing them in her left arm with her own belongings. She took his hand once more and led him from the shop into the street.
"Would you like anything else?" she questioned, spotting the ice cream parlor a short way down the road.
"Just one more thing," he replied, "and then we can go home."
She glanced at him, taken aback by his comment, but kept her face sweetly expectant as she looked down at him.
He pulled at her hand, so she let him lead the way. He took them farther into Diagon Alley, deeper into the busyness of afternoon shoppers and away from the Leaky Cauldron. They passed the decorated entrance to Quality Quidditch Supplies, which was the place that she thought he might be headed. Instead, he tugged on her hand again, taking them against the flow of people to cross the street. Teddy kept driving them forward until they were standing inside Eeylops Owl Emporium.
"Teddy," Andromeda began, but she felt him slide his hand from her grasp.
She almost dropped her purchases, umbrella, and purse as she turned to snatch his hand back. Her parcel tottered, and she hugged it close to her as her umbrella swung wildly and hit a bystander.
"Sorry," she apologized quickly while working to right herself.
Andromeda turned to search for her grandson as the wizard walked away. Her eyes darted fervently around the place, trying to pick out his short body among the confusion. She finally spotted him among a grouping of cages, his small frame standing perfectly still as he admired something in one of them.
"Teddy," she snapped as she approached him, "do not do that again! I could have lost you."
Her words went unnoticed, though.
His attention was completely consumed by the tiny owl, which could have been no more than a baby, in the dirty cage before him. Its feathers were sleek – despite its cage's condition – and a lovely golden shade. The face was pure white, though, and had a flattened look, which was typical of a barn owl. The chest was white, too; black speckles sprinkled into the smooth, snowy feathers.
The owl hooted softly; its large, black eyes locked on Andromeda as it shook its head and ruffled its feathers.
"Can I have him?" Teddy pleaded.
"An owl is a big responsibility, Teddy, darlin-"
"I promise I'll take care of him," he vowed, trying to sway his grandmother's resolve. "I'll feed and water him everyday, and I'll write lots of letters for him to deliver."
"Who will you write letters to, though?" she asked, trying to get him to see reason, which was that he was too young to have an owl of his own.
"Harry and Ginny and...," he paused, looking uncertain. He mumbled something unintelligible that his grandmother could not hear. "I've already named him," he muttered a moment later, louder this time.
Andromeda tried to fight the frown that was making the corners of her mouth sag. She knew that if she showed him this signal of defeat, he would persist until he was certain she had given in.
"I was going to name him Gabriel," Teddy confessed solemnly. "After a messenger angel."
His grandmother's throat tightened immensely, and she had to fight the constriction so she could swallow back the tears. She did not dare speak because her voice would betray her breaking heart. Instead, she nodded, bringing a smile to his face finally.
The owner, who had been watching the two from the counter, made his way over. He shuffled the bird from its current, soiled cage to a smaller, cleaner one before carrying it up to the register. Andromeda followed Teddy, who stayed close to the man carrying his new pet.
Once she had paid, Andromeda gave her thanks and left with Teddy at her side, clutching the cage to his chest and trying not to jostle the now-sleeping owl.
There was a soft pecking on the window as Andromeda sat in her cozy living room, a thick book on magical knitting and quilting resting in her lap.
She shifted her gaze from the bold type on the page to the source of the noise. Teddy's owl was waiting tolerantly on the outside window ledge.
Andromeda rose, laying her book aside, and lifted the window with a forceful shove; the change in weather was causing the wood to swell and fit tighter against its frame. With a pant, she held out her hand, and Gabriel hopped into her waiting palm.
She sat him on the end table and gave the window another good shove, slamming it unintentionally. She paused and listened carefully, praying she had not awoken her Metamorphmagus grandson.
When she heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing, she safely assumed he was still snoozing in his bedroom down the hall. Returning to her seat, Andromeda picked up her book once again and began flipping through the pages to where she had left off.
Gabriel gave a hoot and ruffled his feathers, making a scraping noise.
Andromeda turned her head to look once more at the small, golden bird, and that was when she realized he was carrying a letter. She rose and walked back across the serene space of her living room to where the owl rested on the dark-stained, wooden end table. As soon as she took the letter from Gabriel, he nipped her finger, drawing a yip of pain from his owner's grandmother.
Apparently the owl needed training. Of course, Teddy had not even had Gabriel a whole day, so she reminded herself to be patient and to allow the bird to get used to them.
The envelope she held in her hand was not addressed, and it smelled faintly of chocolate. Upon tearing it open, the scent grew stronger, especially as Andromeda drew a brown piece of parchment out.
She unfolded the it carefully, inhaling the intoxicating aroma of chocolate. She found herself growing hungry, but the sensation was soon forgotten as she began reading what was written in color-changing ink.
May 2, 2004
Dear Mom and Dad,
I am not sure if you know it or not, but I have been talking to you for a year now. You never answer, but that is okay. Maybe you cannot hear me, so I thought I might try writing you. I am sure Gabriel will get the letter to you in heaven. That is where Gram says you are.
Gabriel is my owl by the way. He is named after an angel, so I am sure he will be allowed into heaven to deliver this to you. Gram bought him today from the smelly owl store in Diagon Alley. I am really happy she did. Now I can write you all the time. Grandpa Ted, too. Does he hear Gram when she talks to him at night before she goes to sleep?
I wish you could have been here for my birthday. I am six years old now. Harry and Ginny got me a toy broom. Harry was teaching me to fly yesterday.
Gram got me a whole basket full of chocolate from Honeydukes. It is my favorite! Harry said that it is your favorite, too, Dad. I was happy to know that I am like you in some way. That is why I thought you would like this paper. It smells like chocolate, and it is the same color.
I am like Mom, too. I can change my hair and face and everything! So the ink is for her. It changes colors! See! I hope you both like them. I picked them out specially at George's shop. He gave them to me for free for my birthday. I wish you could go to his shop with me. It is fun!
When are you coming home?
Gram is calling me for dinner now, so I have to go. I will write you again soon. I hope you will write back or come home soon. Bring Grandpa Ted. Gram misses him a lot, and you, too, Mom.
Andromeda dropped the letter into her lap and cupped her hands over her face to cover the tears now streaking freely down her splotched face. Her shoulders shook with inaudible sobs, and her heart felt as though it had been shattered.
She cried for her grandson, for the mother and father and grandfather he would never know. She cried for the loss and secret pain she and Teddy shared. She wept for the fact that her beloved daughter would never see her son grow, would never grow old herself either. Andromeda sobbed for the lives that had been unjustly ripped from her own life, leaving it miserable and lonely.
No, not completely, she thought a second later as she wiped furiously at her cold cheeks.
She still had Teddy. Her treasured, adorable little Metamorphmagus.
He might not have been her sweet, clumsy Nymphadora, but he was just as good in every way. He was a piece of her daughter; and something her daughter loved, Remus Lupin. He was also a piece of Andromeda's late, much-loved husband, Ted.
That little boy, who slept down the hall from where she sat in her husband's favorite chair, was her only link to what she had lost. Her salvation and sanity and will to continue living all wrapped in an endearing, living, breathing form with his mother's talent, his father's passion, his grandfather's name, and so much more from all three.
Andromeda rose quickly from her chair and tucked the letter inside her book. She turned off the light, leaving the sleeping owl on the end table as she rushed down the hall to her own bedroom. She tucked the letter away in a box, in the top of her closet, and then proceeded out of the room to the bedroom across the hall.
This room had once belonged to her daughter, but now only a piece of her daughter remained there. A living, breathing, sleeping piece that was more loved than he truly knew.
Andromeda crept quietly to Teddy's bedside and brushed back his now orange hair, a sign that he was happier than he had been earlier today. She smiled affectionately at him and leaned forward to place a tender kiss on his forehead.
Twenty-one-year-old Teddy Lupin stood in an upstairs bedroom of Shell Cottage. The same bedroom he had stayed in dozens of times before.
It was the bedroom he had proposed to his lovely Victoire in only a year ago. They had been lying in bed, listening to the ocean at night, after she had graduated Hogwarts. The question had just slipped out of his mouth without so much as a second thought. And the joy that came when she had told him that she would marry him had been such a natural feeling, as natural as breathing.
Now, however, he was having a hard time breathing.
He looked in the over-sized mirror on the antique, wooden vanity across the room and frowned. He was not sure that he could do this.
Yes, I can, he thought to himself. I want to marry Victoire. I love her.
He pulled out the chair at the vanity and dropped down onto it, ruffling his turquoise hair while taking deep, calming breaths to steady himself.
He opened the draw on the left side of the vanity and pulled out a piece of brown parchment; the smell of chocolate filled the room as he did. He grabbed a quill and the bottle of color-changing ink, with its battered, fading label.
He smoothed out the parchment and inhaled deeply as he uncorked the inkwell, dripping his quill into the dark liquid just like he had hundreds of times before.
June 27, 2019
Dear Mom and Dad,
How are things in heaven? I still miss you both dearly.
Gram is doing fine, by the way. Tell Grandpa Ted I heard her say his name the other night in her sleep. She has been overly excited as of late because of all the planning with Fleur for the wedding. Which reminds me: it is today. I hope you got the wedding invitation I sent with Gabe.
I know I have said it before, but I really wish you could have met Victoire. She is the most intelligent, beautiful, fun, kind-hearted, loving person I know. I think you both really would have liked her.
I wish more than anything that you two could be here to see this. I know that you will be watching no matter what, that is what Gram says, but I want to see you sitting in the front row. I would have liked to see the proud looks on your faces.
Well, it is all most time for the ceremony to start. Look for me, I will be the one at the alter with blue hair!
Miss and love you,
He read over the letter and folded it as a single tear slipped from the inside corner of his eye and down over his cheek. He pushed away from the vanity and walked across the room to where Gabriel sat in his cage.
"Special delivery, Gabe," he said to the owl as he rolled up the chocolate-scented parchment.
The golden bird held out its leg, and Teddy tied the letter there before carrying his pet to the open window.
"Straight to heaven," he muttered as Gabriel spread his wings and glided out of the window.
Teddy watched as the owl disappeared over the ocean.
There was a knock on the door, and he turned around. Smiling, Teddy walked across the room and embraced his grandmother tightly.
"I love you," she whispered in his ear. "And I am so proud of you."
"I love you, too, Gram," he chuckled, feeling her tears soaking through his white, button-up shirt.
"You better get your jacket on and get downstairs. Bill and the others are waiting for you," Andromeda informed as she pulled back and straightened his tie.
He cupped her face in his hands, wiping the tears away with his thumbs. He planted a kiss on her cheek and grabbed his jacket, slipping it on as she fought more tears and fussed with his unruly hair.
She watched him walk to the door with a feeling of satisfaction and deep-rooted love. He hesitated a moment, turning to look back at her.
"They would have been proud, too," she promised, reading his thoughts. "They will be watching, I promise; they would not miss this for all of heaven."
He nodded and disappeared from the doorway to join the wedding party downstairs.
Andromeda turned as a breeze carried into the room from the open window. The scent of sea salt, flowers, and chocolate were strong in the air. She smiled as she spotted the golden feather on the floor, rocking in the gentle wind.
She had lost count of how many letters he had written over the years since that first one, but she knew that even if they would not reply, they heard him. And they were there, whether anyone could see them or not.