A/N: Once again, not what I've been promising, but this is for My Dear Professor McGonagall's mother/child competition as well as for thecompletebookworm, winner of my Forgotten Family Ties competition from way back in December. Long time coming, I know, but it's hear at last! Everything I keep promising will be coming… eventually, I promise! Thank you all for your lovely reviews and encouragement! :)
Just as the sun was dropping low in the winter sky, and the eager tension of a school day building to a close could practically be felt out in the street, trembling the chain link fences enclosing the playground, a bell sounded across the blacktop. In moments, children were pouring out of the doors. They ran for the yellow busses snorting exhaust in the chilly air, the cars lined up along the curb, gathered in packs on the pavement, and launched themselves at the swings with excited shrieks and loud chatter.
Girls giggled more than usual as they put their heads together. Every now and then they would glance at a passing boy and he would blush or stick his tongue out more readily than on an ordinary day. Several students munched heart-shaped cookies as they climbed into their parents' waiting cars and nearly every small hand clutched a stack of brightly colored cards decorated with glitter and hearts and perhaps a few wavering lines about violets and roses. It seemed to be a particularly festive and energetic afternoon for most of the students at Westridge Primary School.
Most of them.
Teddy Lupin wandered out of the big double doors quite a bit behind most of his classmates. He held his own stack of valentines just like all the other children, but with the other hand he dragged his book bag along the ground, listlessly kicking at melting chunks of snow that had slid onto the walk. He didn't even seem to notice the group of girls who cast him furtive looks, elbowing each other as they muffled giggles in their mittened hands.
Keeping his head down and his sandy bangs in his eyes, Teddy trudged along the pavement towards the silver-haired woman seated primly on a bench at the end of the block as she always was after school, waiting for him.
"Hello, Teddy-bear," she said, smiling in greeting as he joined her and running a hand affectionately through his hair. School was the only time he kept it a normal color. By the time she was eight, his mother hadn't even been doing that much. "How was your party?" she asked as the pair of them waited to cross the street, eyeing the cards Teddy held.
He shrugged, glancing down at the cards as if he'd forgotten he was even still carrying them. And that seemed to be all he had to say on the matter.
Andromeda Tonks scrutinized her normally-talkative eight-year-old grandson, gripping his elbow as they hurried across the street and made for home.
"Did everybody like the cards you gave them?" she asked.
"I guess," Teddy mumbled.
"Did Miss Palma bring you treats like she said she was going to?"
Teddy gave a jerk of his head that barely passed as a nod.
"Did you get any special valentines?"
For the first time a spark seemed to cross Teddy's face, and his breath caught a little before he answered, "No."
Andromeda sighed internally. She'd thought it was coming to that the moment she'd seen him plodding up the sidewalk toward her. Teddy was getting to that stage where he might get his first taste of puppy-love.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much, Teddy. Girls only give valentines to the boys they want to harass, anyway," she tried to assure him. "If she really likes you, she's probably too embarrassed to say so."
They had reached their house by now, and Teddy had jumped up the steps ahead of her, but at these words he turned with a completely incredulous look on his face.
"You think I wanted a special valentine from a girl?" he asked, scrunching up his nose like he'd tasted something sour. He didn't even try to explain how foolish his grandmother was being with that thought. He just pushed open the front door, shaking his head, and dumped his bag and heart-shaped cards unceremoniously by the bottom of the stairs.
But there was definitely something bothering him. Teddy didn't linger long in the kitchen, not even when Andromeda offered to fix him a snack. Usually he had endless things to say about his school day, about when they'd next visit the Burrow or an upcoming outing with Harry and Ginny, or any number of other things. But not today. Teddy barely said two words before he disappeared up the stairs, leaving his grandmother looking after him with a slight frown pushing her eyebrows together.
Teddy pushed open his bedroom door, but two steps into the room, he changed his mind. He didn't want to sit in here and stare up at the walls covered in drawings and pictures and cards and think about the one valentine he wanted.
Gran didn't understand. The last thing Teddy wanted was for one of those snickery girls to be chasing him. But Valentine's Day wasn't just for schoolyard crushes and gooey romances, was it? It was just a day for love. That was what Miss Palma said. The way you love your friends and your family as much as anybody else.
Teddy wandered to the end of the hall and pushed the door that led to the narrow attic steps open with a creak. As he listened to his footsteps reverberate in the close space, a memory of that morning flooded up in his head.
It had been Eva Miller who brought it up that morning in the 'share circle' their teacher had them make to start off every day. Teddy hardly ever could share anything in the share circle because he couldn't very well tell a class full of Muggle kids that his godfather had taken him flying on a broomstick last weekend or that his friend Vicky accidentally turned his favorite stuffed frog into a real frog. But normally he liked hearing what everyone else had to say.
They had been talking about Valentine's Day that morning, of course, and Eva Miller put her little nail-polished hand up and told the whole class about how her mother got her a heart-shaped ring for Valentine's Day. Bragging wasn't unusual for Eva. Her parents spoiled her rotten. But then everyone else had to go and say how their mums took them for their valentine, too. Macy Ferris even brought out a little heart-shaped sticky note with X's and O's that her mother left on her lunch that morning.
Teddy was the only one who didn't say anything, but this time it was for a different reason: he was the only one who didn't have a mum to give him a valentine. Maybe after eight years he should be used to it, but there were some days when it felt like everything he looked at reminded him of the parents he'd never met, and by the end of the day when everyone was handing out their cards, all he could think about was what it would be like to see 'love, Mum," written on one of them.
But he never would, and it made his stomach hurt a little every time he remembered. So he was going to try to forget.
There was a place Teddy went when he tried to forget things. It didn't work very well because he only ever went there when he wanted to forget something, so he just ended up remembering all the things he'd tried to forget before. But usually when he left, he left the memory behind with all the others for a while.
The attic was dusty because Gran never came up here. It was her place for forgetting, too, but in a different way. She put all of Granddad Ted's old things up here with Teddy's mother's baby clothes and some other stuff from people Teddy had never met. But there was a path in the dust that led to a window on the other side of the attic. Teddy thought of it as his window because there was a dip in the roof right outside it that made it an excellent place to sit and stare out across the little back garden, alone with your thoughts.
But Gran must have been up here since the last time Teddy had come to brood (as Ginny called it) because there was a heavy cardboard box right in his way that he had to push aside. And of course when he pushed it, it tipped over and spilled half its contents across the floor.
With a heavy sigh, Teddy dropped down to gather up the dark, plastic rectangles that had been in the box. Tapes, they were called. They were his Granddad Ted's video tapes. Gran had told him about the Muggle contraption he'd gotten from his brother back before Teddy's parents had even met. She didn't know how to work it, though, so it stayed up here in the attic with the boom box and the old TV and the records Granddad Ted used to like to play.
Teddy sat cross-legged and squinted down at the peeling labels on the top of the tapes. There were only a few of them, and he had to brush the dust off to read them. One was blank, the other said 'Andy' (which must be Gran because her real name was Andromeda), and the last one said 'Dora'.
Teddy cradled the one marked with his mother's name in his cupped hands as though it were made of glass. He didn't know how it worked exactly (Granddad Arthur had tried to explain it to him, but he'd only managed to get himself confused), but he knew that somehow on this tape his mother's voice and face was stored. And right then he wanted more than anything in the world to find it.
Carefully holding the tape in one hand, Teddy got to his knees and peered into the box he'd toppled. Sure enough, the camera that made this tape was in there. It was a big black mass of buttons and plastic covered thickly in dust, and it took both of Teddy's hands to get it out of the box. He rested it on his knee and frowned down at the cables trailing from it. It plugged into the TV somehow, but Teddy didn't know how.
Tentatively, he ran his fingers along the buttons until, with a click that nearly made him drop the camera, a little screen popped out from the side and flickered with blue light. The buttons glowed now, showing symbols Teddy vaguely recognized from the gadget Harry and Ginny sometimes got out to play Muggle films on. He pushed one of them and something else popped open, a slot that looked just big enough to swallow up the tape Teddy still held.
He hesitated, looking down at the tape. He didn't want to wreck it by pressing the wrong button, but what good was it just sitting in his hand? Then Teddy thought of the picture on his nightstand that showed a pretty woman with pink hair laughing at the camera. How many times had he wished with all his heart that he could hear that laugh? So Teddy slid the tape into the slot. It took a couple of tries to get it in the right way, but finally he managed to snap the slot shut.
There was a muffled whirring from inside the machine. The glowing screen flickered. Teddy panicked, thinking the contraption was shredding that precious tape to pieces. But then an image popped onto the screen and voices bubbled up from some unseen speaker and Teddy couldn't have moved even if the house was burning down around him.
The unsteady picture of a door at the end of a hallway grew larger until it took up the whole screen. A hand appeared, reaching for the doorknob, and then the door was swinging open into a bright bedroom. A beautiful woman in a white gown whirled, long brown curls swinging around her face.
"Dad!" she complained, putting a hand up to block her face from the camera. "You're not supposed to be up here!"
But there was laughter in her voice, an untouchable happiness in her face as she lowered her hand and tried to give the camera a stern look.
"Why not? I'm not the groom," a voice said from out of sight, behind the camera probably. It was a man's cheerful, mellow voice that sounded like it was smiling.
"Girls only. Didn't you see the sign?" the woman said, pointing behind the camera. The room spun until the image settled on the door once more, shifted up a little to focus on a hand-drawn sign proclaiming in Ginny's pink, looping, highlighter-writing 'NO GUYS PAST THIS POINT!' with many fierce underlines.
"I'm the father of the bride. It doesn't apply to me," Ted said, turning the camera back on his daughter. "You look beautiful, Dora."
She beamed and spun, the skirt of her gown flying out a little like a princess's. The ends of her curls were still bright, bubble-gum pink. One of her elbows accidentally sent a hat stand in the corner crashing into the wall, but she hardly seemed to notice.
Ted chuckled softly. "And how do you feel?"
That seemed to subdue her a little. She wrapped an arm around the bedpost and leaned against it, gaze drifting for a moment. Then a smile lit her face.
"Happy," she said quietly, closing her eyes. "Happier than I've ever been."
The screen flickered blue and for a moment Teddy thought that was all there was. He wasn't ready for it to be over, though, actually reached out a hand as though he could pull his mother back onto the screen. But then the image came back, only it was a different image than his mother glowing in her wedding dress.
They were back in the dimly lit hallway, the camera tilting and swinging wildly. Snatches of people moving and the ruffling of fabric and hushed voices came through in a discordant shush of background noise. Then abruptly the camera righted itself, came into focus on an older woman hurrying toward them, her dark hair pinned up and a harried expression on her face.
"Everybody's waiting downstairs, are you ready?"
Dora's voice from somewhere to the left said patiently, "Yes, Mum, ready when you are."
The woman nodded, a smile flickering across her face briefly before she turned back to the camera, reaching for it. "For heaven's sake, Ted, you're not taking that hideous thing through the whole ceremony –"
The image twisted wildly again for a second before it went out, and when it came back it was steadied, looking at a crowded sitting room from a corner.
Dining room chairs, rockers, a sofa, and the piano bench made a makeshift isle up the middle of the small room. A wizened old man stood at the head of the isle with an anxious-looking groom beside him. Grey streaked the groom's light brown hair, but he wasn't very old. A handful of people filled the seats, mostly redheads. A dark-skinned man with a gold hoop glittering in one ear sat at the back muttering to a grizzled, disfigured man with a round, electric-blue eye spinning crazily around in his head.
Music started to play from the unoccupied piano at the head of the room. Ted and Dora came into the camera's field of vision, moving slowly up the very short isle. The groom's anxious face softened, and he smiled as he took Dora's hands. A few quick vows were exchanged, rings slid onto fingers, then the bride and groom kissed and the room erupted with applause. The redheaded girl jumped up from the front row to hug Dora. Then the screen went blank again.
It took a moment for the new image to come up, and when it did, everything had changed. They were in a kitchen now. The harried woman and the bride and groom sat around a dinner table, only the woman didn't look so harried and the bride and groom were just an ordinary husband and wife. Dora's hair was back to short and completely bright pink. Her white gown was replaced by a torn concert T-shirt. Her husband's clothes were shabbier, too, and his face seemed more lined. He stared down at his plate as the two women talked.
Dora noticed the camera first. An indulgent smile crossed her face, then she started making ridiculous expressions at the camera, sticking out her tongue and making her nose change into more of a beak. Her mother clucked disapprovingly and turned to look at the camera, too.
"We're in the middle of dinner, Ted. I don't know why you keep insisting on fiddling with that thing," she said.
"I just want to make sure I don't miss anything," Ted said from behind the camera. "One day you'll want to look back and remember this."
"I highly doubt I'll be nostalgic for roast potatoes," she said.
Ted zoomed in on her impatient face, then panned the camera to look at each of the other two in turn. Only Dora smiled and waved.
"I will be," Ted said, zooming back out again. "You'll have to take all kinds of videos for me to watch when I get back."
The camera swung down to look at the floor as Dora said "Back? From where?" and then the screen turned blue again.
The fuzzy outline of a glowing angel came into focus. She dropped her hands and panted a little before returning to her original pose, singing out a long, sweet note. The camera zoomed out and the dim image of a Christmas tree covered in fairy lights and tinsel filled the screen. A few neatly wrapped gifts sat beneath the bowed branches. A fire crackled in the hearth. The camera turned and Dora and her husband appeared, sitting together on the sofa, fingers intertwined. Beneath her snowman sweater, Dora's stomach bumped out quite a bit. Her other hand rested on the top of it.
"Smile for your father," her mother said from behind the camera.
Dora smiled, but it was without the energy from before.
"You too, Remus."
Dora's husband waved, doing his best to look cheerful, but the worry never left his face. As the camera moved back to the tree, a few of his murmured words were picked up. "…Went back to Grimauld Place again, but I didn't really think they'd be there. Nearly five months…."
"They'll turn up…"
The screen flickered and then the camera was at a different angle. The room was darker, and the three of them were opening up gifts.
Remus held up a book in the firelight.
"Thank you, Andromeda. It's lovely," he said, nodding to his mother-in-law.
"Here, we've got one for you, too, Mum," Dora chirped, handing her mother a package wrapped in painfully bright florescent paper.
Andromeda took the package smiling at her daughter so she didn't have to wince at the paper. She tore it open and a surprised and touched expression came over her.
"It's wonderful," she said, lifting out an ornately framed wedding portrait. "How ever did you get it? We didn't hire a photographer…."
"Ginny helped us," Dora beamed, tucking herself under Remus's arm. "One of her friends is good with film. He got it off of Dad's camera," she said, nodding toward the camera recording them all from the corner. "We knew you… well, that wasn't how you wanted my wedding to be, so I thought maybe… do you like it?"
"I love it, dear." She leaned forward to embrace her daughter, kissing her cheek.
They murmured together for a while, evidently forgetting the camera. Dora fell asleep on the sofa and Remus carried her up the stairs. Andromeda stood and gazed at the Christmas tree for a while before turning and coming toward the corner. A moment later the screen had gone blank.
When it came back to life, Dora once more filled the camera's eye. Her hair was darker, longer, her face more tired and paler. She was curled up on the sofa, clad in baggy pajamas.
"Mum," she groaned, turning away from the camera. "You're as bad as Dad used to be with that thing. We don't need to remember me looking gross."
"My daughter could never look gross," Andromeda insisted. "Tell her, Remus," she added, swinging the camera around to focus on Remus, leaning against the windowsill a few feet away. He smiled sheepishly.
"Of course not. You're always beautiful, Dora," he said quietly.
The camera swung back to Dora who had hidden her face behind a pillow. "You're required by law to say that, you're my husband."
Remus's quiet snort of laughter came from off-camera. Dora lowered the pillow, looking over at him incredulously. "Did you, Remus Lupin, just snort?" she asked.
His expression must have gotten to her because a laugh bubbled up. She threw her head back, laughing loud and clear and she looked young and happy again.
Then a hand flew to her stomach and her face lit up with a whole new kind of joy. "He's thinks it's funny too," she said, looking over at Remus with a small smirk. "He's kicking again."
Fade to blue for a moment, and then –
It was the dark living room again, the stair rail passed across the bottom of the screen at first, but the camera zoomed in. Dora sat in the rocking chair under a pool of soft lamplight. She looked even more exhausted and older than before, but there was an air of utter contentment about her as she cooed to the bundle in her arms, rocking gently back and forth. She was completely oblivious to the camera.
As she set aside the empty bottle, a baby's sharp cry of protest rose up, but her soft voice quickly quieted it.
"Are you my sunshine boy, today?" she murmured, stroking the top of the baby's head, which just poked out of his blankets, fine, soft hair appearing to be canary yellow. "My little sunshine…"
She laughed softly as the baby's hand fluttered and let his fingers catch her pinky. Then she started to sing softly, rocking him.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away…"
Her rocking slowed, and she stood up, eyes never leaving the baby's face. She made her way to the basinet in the corner and laid him in it, bending low to kiss his forehead.
"Goodnight, Teddy. Sweet dreams…."
The screen went blank. The video camera stopped whirring. The lights flickered out, and Teddy suddenly became aware of how dark the attic had gotten. With trembling hands, he laid the camera aside and drew his knees up to his face.
There was a movement by the door, and he jumped. His grandmother stood at the top of the stairs. She looked odd and it took him a moment to realize it was because her face was streaked with tears. She must have been standing there a while.
Teddy didn't realize he was sobbing until her arms were around him and he could feel his chest heaving, see the tears soaking her shoulder. And even though he was really getting to be too big and she was really getting to be too old, she lifted him up and carried him down the attic steps, across the hall, and down into the sitting room. The same sitting room his parents had gotten married in. The same sitting room they'd opened their last Christmas gifts, laughed together in. The same sitting room his mother had rocked him to sleep in.
"I m-miss her," he cried, burying his head in his grandmother's shoulder because he didn't want to look at the room.
"Me too," she murmured, rubbing his back. "Me too."
Eventually Teddy ran out of tears. He sat gulping and hiccupping and staring at his hands with red eyes. His mother's voice, her laughter, her singing swirled around him and he realized that she had already told him how much she loved him. But he hadn't ever said it back.
In a flash, Teddy had jumped off the sofa and was running up the stairs. His grandmother's startled cry from behind him didn't even slow him down. He tore across the hall and flung his bedroom door open, making a bee-line for the desk tucked in the corner.
"Teddy, what are you doing?" Gran asked slightly breathlessly, leaning against his doorframe and watching him yank open drawers and pull out paper and scissors, glue and markers. He didn't answer, just flung himself down in his desk chair and set to work, tongue poking out the side of his mouth.
Scraps of paper went flying, marker caps rolled to the floor. Gran sat down on his bed, watching him work furiously, but she didn't ask any more questions.
At long last, Teddy dropped his marker and sat back in his chair, shoulders slumping from the effort. In his hands he held a heart cut out of pink construction paper, a bit misshapen, but definitely a heart. He folded it open and a bright yellow construction paper sun blossomed on the inside of the card. Bluebirds sang in the corners, and in the middle of the sun's yellow disk were written two words: "Love, Teddy".
"Can we send it to her?" he asked, holding the card out for his grandmother to look at.
"Send it…?" she said, taking the card and staring down at the sun in the middle of it.
"To Mum for Valentine's day," Teddy clarified. "Arrow can find anyone. Harry told me so at Christmas."
Andromeda looked from the card to her grandson's eager, tearstained face.
"Well, if Harry says so, it must be true," she said, voice cracking slightly.
Teddy flew off his chair. They went down to the kitchen where the barn owl Harry and Ginny had given Andromeda for Christmas perched, head under his wing.
"Take good care of this," Teddy told the bird as he carefully attached the valentine to its leg.
Arrow blinked at Andromeda as though asking for more instructions, but Teddy was already carrying him to the window, sticking his arm out of it, and prompting the bird to take off. Arrow had no choice but to launch himself into the sky. Teddy watched him disappea before pulling the window shut.
Then he turned to face his grandmother.
"I just had to tell her that," he explained, hopping down from the counter. "She can't send me a valentine like everyone else's mums do, but I forgot I still could."
Teddy's grandmother tucked him in that night. She hadn't sat on the edge of his bed and tucked the blankets snuggly around him since he was very little, but she did that night.
"You're a good boy, Teddy," she told him, kissing his cheek. "I know your mum – and your dad – are very proud of you."
"I think they miss me, too," Teddy said, burrowing into his blankets.
"I'm sure of it," his grandmother murmured.
She stood up and turned off the lamp. Teddy didn't know if it was a memory or a dream or something else, but after she had shut the door behind her, and he was drifting off to sleep, he heard his mother's voice saying, "Goodnight, Teddy. Sweet dreams…."
A/N: Alright, I write a lot of kind of sad stuff, but this is the first time I've nearly cried while writing a story. I think it was the song. My mom used to sing it to me. Of course, she's still here to sing it to me now if I asked her to, but it still makes me sad. Teddy and Tonks was my mother/child pair for this one and thecompletebookworm wanted to read about Andromeda and Teddy, so I hope I managed to take care of both of those well enough to satisfy. Do let me know what you thought!
Well I hope you liked it. I hear it's protocol to leave chocolates out when you write a sad story, so I'm leaving you all a big bag of chocolate chip cookies. Make sure everyone gets some.