Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling; I'm only visiting her universe for nonprofit fun and edification. (No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended).
It's June of 1998, and the sunlight of a mellow English summer filters through the foliage of the hedgerow that divides the Burrow's garden from the common road. The Burrow is a beautiful house, or what Andromeda has come to think of as beautiful: lived-in, rescued from chaos by dint of clever frugality, a house with creaky floors that breathes and hums to itself at night. But it's not her house.
Andromeda Tonks would never have guessed that at age forty-five she would be nursing her grandson in Molly Weasley's kitchen.
Everyone thought that things would be simpler after the war, though she had already known that they were wrong. She never had the Sight, but weeks before the Battle of Hogwarts, something bone-deep, mother's intuition perhaps, told her that it was best that little Teddy preferred her as a nurse. Nymphadora was restless all those months of her pregnancy, pacing like a tiger in the close quarters of their little house, equally worried about Remus and about her father. Plenty to worry about there, but Andromeda had seen that look in her eye: just as soon as she gave birth, she'd be itching to get out and join the fight. She still shakes her head over why her Amazon daughter decided to get married—in the middle of a war yet—and then have a child. That marriage was shakier than any she'd seen, not that she's allowed to say that aloud now that both of them are dead.
Nymphadora hadn't objected when Andromeda sat down with her a week before the birth to talk about the nursing of the baby, and to teach her the lactation charm that had been passed down through generations of witches in the Black line. It was designed for just this situation, to guarantee the survival of the child of a witch who was killed in battle, or more usually, family succession struggles. At the time there was the possibility, as well, that Nymphadora would have to go into hiding somewhere more secure, and it wasn't clear with whom the baby would be safest.
There had already been one visit paid by some lower-ranking Death Eaters, which Andromeda had handled by hustling Nymphadora into the back room (with the understanding that she would Apparate to Shell Cottage if things went pear-shaped) while she went out front to draw herself to her full height and do her best Offended Pureblood Aristocrat impression ("I am a daughter of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. I am the sister of Bellatrix Lestrange. Surely you've heard of Bellatrix? You can ask her if you doubt me.") Not that she'd had to recite those lines in so many words. The resemblance to Bellatrix was credential enough. They cringed before she had a chance to open her mouth—the first and only time it was a relief to bear such a strong resemblance to Lord Voldemort's lieutenant and torturer-in-chief.
So when Teddy Lupin was born, his first nurse was his grandmother. Andromeda knew she'd chosen wisely when not a few weeks later, Nymphadora and Remus joined the uprising at Hogwarts. That's what they were calling it then: the uprising. Hogwarts was making a fight against Voldemort and his full forces. It wasn't until they won that everyone started calling it the Battle of Hogwarts.
They got the summons at ten o'clock at night from Aberforth Dumbledore at the Hog's Head. She still remembers the expression on Remus' face: dour and determined, and years older than he really was—the face of a man who was going to his death and knew it. It was hard to believe that this thin graying man with the deep lines around his mouth was actually the school chum of her little cousin Sirius, and harder yet to believe that her daughter was married to him.
Nymphadora's face was alight with the joy of anticipated battle, and the ferocious determination not to be separated from her beloved. There was a fraction of a second where she saw a flash of her sister Bellatrix in the too-young warrior who reached for the Floo powder, and said, "Well, mum, I'm off to Hogwarts, and I'll be back—with my shield or on it." Then she winked, threw the glittering stuff into the fire, stepped in, and was gone.
A flash of Bellatrix. Except that Bellatrix never winked.
She never saw either of them again, alive or dead. Kingsley Shacklebolt Flooed her from the Hog's Head at nine o'clock the next morning to tell her the news. As Acting Minister for Magic he was able to commandeer communications. Everything was horribly snarled; the townspeople of Hogsmeade and the relatives of the students at the school had joined the fight, but somehow word had propagated yet further. As they were sorting it out, it appeared that the auxiliaries had included yet more spur-of-the-moment volunteers, including some witches and wizards, both foreigners and British exiles, who had Apparated into Hogsmeade from across the Channel. He advised her that he could meet her in Hogsmeade to identify the bodies if she so wished, but positive identification had already been made by several Order members on the scene and the situation at Hogwarts was mass confusion.
At the time, the practical and patriotic thing had seemed to be to do what in fact she did, which was to remain at home with Teddy until the all-clear was given and the memorial service hastily organized on the Hogwarts grounds.
Only now she has dreams in which Nymphadora is knocking on the window and telling her mum to let her in because she really isn't dead. She doesn't dream about Remus. Her dreaming mind is quite satisfied that he's dead; his last look to her said as much. There's a tiny voice at the back of her mind that says it was suicide, or at very least that he met death half-way. Unjust, of course. She heard from witnesses that what he met was Bellatrix in fighting mode, and that he gave her the fight of his life—the man had taught Defense Against the Dark Arts and been a fair duelist—and nonetheless Bellatrix killed him, and then killed Nymphadora when she came to his aid mere seconds too late.
"With my shield or on it." As if she'd been the kind of Spartan mother who would have demanded that. Nymphadora had to joke, didn't she? The fates did not have a sense of humor, and they liked to turn jokes like that inside out, along with the unlucky who made them.
Ted's gone, too, and the details of his death are murky.
That's the hardest part, to lose everyone at once. Ted's motorbike is still standing in the garage, his lovingly tended project that he finished a month before Nymphadora's wedding. He even offered it to her as a wedding gift, but she turned him down: that was when she'd looked grim. "After the war, dad, if I come through it," she said. "Till then, you should enjoy it in good health."
It is still there untouched, even after the werewolf pack came tearing through the premises a week after the victorious battle. Werewolves aren't particularly interested in Muggle machines, reserving their vandal attentions for flesh and blood. It was the eleventh of May, a little more than a week after the battle, and she'd come home from the Order of Merlin awards ceremony, declining Kingsley's invitation to the party at the Ministry. She was tired, and Teddy was cranky.
The ceremony had been long, not so much because of the speeches but because of the number of awards given. Sitting in the stands and nursing Teddy, she noted that Kingsley Shacklebolt looked every inch the Minister of Magic: tall, dark, stately, with a resonant voice that hardly needed the Sonorus charm to be heard in the back row. They held the ceremony on the Hogwarts grounds, and wizarding Britain more or less shut down to attend it, with fair representation from overseas. She'd sat next to Viktor Krum the Quidditch player, a friend of Fleur Delacour-Weasley from the Triwizard Tournament; he pointed out some other Durmstrang and Beauxbatons graduates in the audience. He looked quite the young Pureblood grandee, until Kingsley read out the names of the Knights of the Order of Merlin, First Class, and he cheered and threw his hat in the air like a schoolboy when Hermione Granger's name was called.
Andromeda was taken aback at how young the four of them looked; well, they are young. Hermione is the oldest of them and she's only eighteen, which is young even for a soldier. And skinny: even Neville Longbottom, whom she remembers as a distinctly round child, looks underfed for his broad-shouldered frame, and next to him, Harry and Ron look out-and-out spindly. For all their hastily organized dress robes, washed faces and carefully tamed hair, the four of them look like grubby urchins unexpectedly rewarded for serious mischief.
The fifth First Class award was posthumous, to Albus Dumbledore, and it was placed on his white marble tomb by Kingsley himself.
There was a brief speech, a sort of relay of remarks starting with Harry who talked about the heroic dead who had ensured the victory, and then Hermione who emphasized that they owed the victory to many people's talents, and Ron, who wanted to thank his parents and all of the parents and teachers who had come to the aid of their children, and last Neville, who said only "Dumbledore's Army!" which raised an answering shout from the audience.
Then there was the reading of the Second Class awards, which covered most of the Hogwarts faculty as well as Aberforth Dumbledore, and the Third Class awards, which included most of the rest of the Order, living and dead, as well as the Hogwarts resistance, the group calling itself Dumbledore's Army. Nymphadora told her that it had started as a Defense study group when Dolores Umbridge had banned practical study of the subject. Not bad for a study group, she thought.
Kingsley called the roll of the living, and one by one the surviving fighters walked up to the platform to receive their decorations. Then he called the names of those who had given their lives in the fight, either in the battle or in the resistance preceding, and the names of the relatives or friends who were receiving the decoration by proxy. Andromeda noticed that it was Harry who received the decoration for Severus Snape (Order of Merlin, Third Class).
Andromeda walked to the stage to receive the decorations for Nymphadora and Remus, and that's when Teddy decided to start howling. It had been a long day, and he had been looking around curiously at all of the strangers; he'd even made a grab for Viktor Krum's beard for all he was a stranger and Teddy didn't usually like strange men. But now was the moment that he decided that he'd had enough and let loose with an operatic yowl of indignation. Andromeda soldiered ahead, and when she got to the platform, Harry took Teddy out of her arms and held him while Kingsley gave her the two medallions on their shining ribbons.
When she returned to her seat, Viktor Krum was looking at her with interested curiosity. "Harry is Teddy's godfather," she explained.
He nodded. "Courage on all sides of the family," he said. "He will be a brave boy."
"I hope the times won't require it," she said in reply, and then sighed. "Though I'm afraid they will."
When she finally returned home, it was with the thought of a good night's sleep to be followed by a nice lie-in the next morning. The full moon was just rising over the back garden, lighting the little patch of asphalt where Ted used to spread out the machine parts and tinker with his motorbike. She had changed Teddy's nappy, laughing as she remembered Nymphadora posing the famous question, "Where do Vanished objects go?" and answering it herself, "Only Ravenclaws know, but wherever it is, there's a lot of baby poo there." (She's not sure if the quip were original with Nymphadora or if it were a standard joke in Hufflepuff.)
That's how she's been remembering her: a laugh and a pang. Except for that dark passage when she was courting Remus, Nymphadora was the most cheerful person she'd ever met. She had all of her father's temperament, the courage that was so effortless that it looked like ordinary good cheer, and his irreverence. Kingsley told her that Nymphadora even joked with—and about—the fearsome Mad-Eye Moody, and lived to tell the tale. Had Moody eating out of her hand, if truth be told.
Well, yes, and except that her training as an Auror had curbed her indiscretion somewhat, she had Ted's tendency to repeat things that shouldn't be repeated. The problem with Ted was that he was far too quotable. When Andromeda got blasted off the Black family tapestry, Ted had shrugged, but he'd already come up with nicknames for every one of the in-laws who wouldn't speak to him as the Muggle-born arriviste. His two unwilling brothers-in-law, Lucius Malfoy and Rodolphus Lestrange, had long since been demoted to Lucky and Ralph, and he never referred to them otherwise in her hearing. Lucius' son Draco, who looked like a small copy of him nearly from infancy, got dubbed The Clone. Bellatrix was Crazy B, and Narcissa was The Princess.
So it did in fact come to pass the year before last, that Nymphadora stopped in from patrol duty at Hogwarts and told her that she'd seen the Clone and he was looking peaky, not that you could really tell when he'd never had much in the way of color to start with. No wonder, since Lucky wasn't living up to his name, having landed his Pureblood arse in Azkaban after the ruckus at the Department of Mysteries, and the Clone was doubtless feeling the loss of prestige.
Well, Lucius the Lucky was back there once more, and Narcissa with him. Andromeda had received the most curious note—well, the first note in years—from Narcissa, overlaid with the sigil of the Azkaban censor. She settled Teddy in his cot, and stopped in front of the window to unfold the note and look at it once more in the brilliant moonlight. Almost certainly it was her thought about Lucius and Narcissa that saved her life, and Teddy's, because as she looked up from the parchment, she caught a dark movement at the edge of the garden. The neighbors' cat, she thought—
Except much too large for a cat. The profile, what she could see of it, looked more like a dog. Only much larger… and there was more than one.
Every hair on her body stood on end. She'd left the back door unlocked. Not a moment later, she heard the scratching and then the splintering, and then the soft growling just outside the half-open door of the nursery.
She grabbed Teddy and Apparated to the front room of the Three Broomsticks just as the first of the werewolves nosed in through the door of the nursery (no time for the Floo, and it was in the other room). The Three Broomsticks was mostly empty, so she left a few Knuts on the mantelpiece as she took a handful of the pub's stock of Floo powder and went on to the Ministry.
In spite of her resolution, she ended up going to Kingsley's party after all, as the first messenger to bring news of the werewolf attacks that hit Hogsmeade, Ottery St. Catchpole, and the wizarding enclaves in suburban London in the first full moon of the post-war. Fenrir Greyback was dead, but his community organizing efforts among Britain's werewolf population were still bearing fruit.
Like many such messengers who alone escaped to tell the tale, she told her news in the clothes she stood up in, and little else besides the crying baby on her arm. She slept that night at Shell Cottage, the best-defended safe house of the Order. In the morning, Bill and Fleur accompanied her back to the house. The werewolves had torn up everything that had a human scent on it and sprayed their territory in the usual way, so it was some hours of charms, Reparo and Scourgify not the least of it, before the place was habitable again. To Andromeda's annoyance, it also appeared that they'd found the meat in the icebox, and made short work of it.
There followed a family council—the Weasleys proper, Harry, and Hermione—at the end of which it was decided that Andromeda could come to live at the Burrow until the werewolf threat was resolved. Which is how she came to be sitting in Molly's kitchen, nursing Teddy Lupin and reading the note from her sister Narcissa Malfoy nee Black—the first communication that she'd had from her in sixteen years.
It was a simple condolence note on the loss of her husband, daughter, and son-in-law, in the polite and conventional language that covers all cases. The note was exceptional only because her two sisters had sworn to kill those very people. Well, Bellatrix had sworn death on them, and where Bella went, Cissy followed. It always had been that way.