Harry paused at the edge of the pond, looking across at the house, imagining Hagrid lying spread-eagled here, the motorcycle shattered around him. He remembered falling forward, then waking up inside, with a kindly sort of man healing his wounds. But he had never had a chance to really see the place. Like the Burrow, it was tucked away and safe, and very obviously magical. The plants in the gardens moved, craned their flowers to have a look at him, whispered in strange languages to each other. Unlike the Burrow, it spoke of money, with its gently rolling lawn and well-kept Tudor facade. Sirius's idea of "some money" given to the wayward cousins by their Uncle Alphard was considerably grander than Harry had imagined.
He had seen Andromeda Tonks once since he'd crashed into her pond a lifetime--many lifetimes--ago. She'd buried her husband in the small plot she owned, but the keeper of the burial ground would not accept a werewolf, and Andromeda would not separate her daughter from Lupin. Harry had seen to it that both were buried with honor in Godric's Hollow, beside his own parents, though he'd needed to hiss, "They just helped me save the world, if you don't mind," at the wizard sexton in order to force him to allow it. Andromeda had thanked him distantly. Her eyes were as hollow as Sirius's had been when he'd escaped from Azkaban. She'd remained for the burial service, standing straight and alone, not crying. She hadn't brought Harry's godson, Teddy Lupin, and had given Harry a look of deep suspicion when he brought the subject up. "Fine," she'd said coolly after a while. "He's healthy. I should get home to him."
She'd shuffled off into an early summer rain that coated the world with gray, nearly tripping over a stone in her haste to escape him.
In other circumstances, Harry would have taken the hint and let the poor woman alone. But these weren't other circumstances. He wanted to meet his godson. Lupin would have trusted him to do this. So he'd slipped away from the Burrow this morning, leaving Molly Weasley a note to assure her that he was safe and meant to do nothing dangerous and heading out into the stiflingly humid sunshine. He could have Apparated, but he wanted time to think, so he'd taken a long route through the floo network, finally arriving here close to noon, still not having thought anything through. Thinking seemed like a great lot of work just lately.
He stepped carefully over a pile of horsetail, and, quite suddenly, the afternoon was full of noise and thunder. The door to the house burst open, and Andromeda stood there, full of rage, the baby tied into a sling over her shoulder, her wand raised in Harry's direction.
Harry raised his empty hands.
She approached him warily, finally letting her guard down when she was close to him. "Harry Potter," she said.
He nodded. "Hi, Mrs. Tonks. I, er... didn't get much of a chance to talk to you at the funeral."
"I wasn't in a sociable mood. Please forgive me."
Harry had never seen anyone who looked less like she wanted to be forgiven, so he didn't offer it. Instead, he said, "Sirius... he said you were his favorite cousin. He was my godfather."
Her eyes narrowed even more. Inside the sling, Harry could hear the baby making contented gurgling noises. "I remember. He told everyone he could reach. I once saw him pull over a stranger in the street to share that bit of information."
Harry felt a ghost-smile come over his lips. "Thank you," he said. "The thing is... well, I'm Teddy's godfather and--"
"No," she said.
"What? I know there was no ceremony, but I promise, Remus Lupin did ask--"
"I know he did. Dora agreed. Godfather you may be, but you aren't. Taking. Teddy." She spat the last words out onto the ground between them, and, like magic beans, they seemed to grow immediately into a vast, impenetrable, invisible briar wall. She turned and headed back toward the house.
Harry, utterly wrong-footed, stood and blinked in the sunshine for a long time, then remembered that there was something he meant to do. He loped forward and caught up with her. "You're right," he said. "I'm not taking Teddy."
She stopped, giving him a narrow look. "You're not?"
"I'm seventeen," Harry said. "I've never looked after a baby before. I'm living in Ron Weasley's room. I mean, I suppose I could go back to Grimmauld Place, but--"
"--but who'd want to?" Andromeda asked, raising her eyebrows. "It's not a poison place," she said.
Harry, who had seen quite a bit at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place that he would classify as poisonous, didn't answer. "The point is, it's no place for a baby, and I wouldn't feel right bringing a baby into the Weasleys' house, and... well... I wouldn't take him from you. You've lost enough, and I'm sorry." It sounded completely inadequate in context, and had taken much less time than he'd imagined it might. "But I want to know him. I'm supposed to. I don't really know much about being a godfather, except that I should give him a toy broom for his first birthday, but--"
The coolness in Andromeda's face disappeared abruptly, and she put her hand on Harry's upper arm. "Come inside," she said. "I have a good cooling charm, and we can get something to drink." Slowly, she untied the bundle slung over her shoulder, unwrapping it until it was just a blanket, falling in gentle drapes away from the tiny, pudgy baby it had been hiding. "Would you like to carry him?"
"D'you think he'd... mind?"
"Put out your arms."
Harry stuck his arms out.
Andromeda smiled. "No, bend them, give a bit of a rest at your elbow, yes, that's right..." She finished positioning Harry's arms, then suddenly, the hole they made was filled with the warm, squirming weight of Teddy Lupin.
Harry looked down at him. He was looking up with a kind of big-eyed goggle and sucking on his fist with great enthusiasm. The wet fist came up and grabbed at Harry's glasses, leaving a smear that he didn't mind at all. As Harry watched, Teddy's hair, which had been a pleasant shade of sky blue, matching the robes Andromeda was wearing, went deep black.
Andromeda looked pleased. "He likes you," she said. "He always tries to match people he likes. Nymphadora's..." She gulped, and when she finished, her voice was thick. "My Dora was always the same way." She turned and headed for the house, nodding to Harry to follow with the baby.
Harry found himself walking very carefully, sure he was going to trip over a stone and send his godson flying through the air to crash painfully into the side of the house. Which was a distinct possibility, as Harry couldn't keep his eyes on where he was going, so entranced was he looking at the little round nose, or at Lupin's tawny eyes looking out from this impossibly innocent face, or at the way the little fingers were working at the blankets. Andromeda waited for him patiently at the door, and let him in without any comment. She led him to the sitting room where he'd woken up last summer, and he sat down on the couch.
She put a Moses basket next to him. "For when your arms get tired," she said. "He's got toys you can play with while we talk, if you'd like." She reached into a pocket and pulled out a tattered old toy rabbit. "This was Remus's. He actually had the thing in his Gringotts vault, if you can believe it, with his parents' wedding rings." She smiled fondly, and shook her head. "Poor Remus."
Harry found he couldn't talk around an obstruction that had appeared in his throat, and he took the rabbit, holding it out to Teddy, who grabbed at it eagerly and started sucking on ears that looked like they'd already been gummed to the point of invisibility. "Ggrgggh," Teddy said.
"That's right," Harry told him. "That's Teddy's rabbit."
"Right, it was your Daddy's, too."
Harry looked up to see Andromeda giving him another gentle sort of smile. She'd curled up in the chair across from him, kicking her shoes off and tucking her feet under her legs. "What are you going to do next?" she asked.
Harry looked down at Teddy, then shook his head. "I don't know. I never did finish my N.E.W.T., but I don't know if it really matters."
"As Harry Potter, it doesn't," Andromeda said. "I can't imagine they'd turn you away from any apprenticeship you wanted. But kindly remind Teddy when he's fifteen and declares that he's going to leave school and become a circus clown that it's always wiser to finish. Do you mean to stay with your friends until you finish your apprenticeship? Or get married?"
"I'm really not going to take Teddy," Harry said.
"I know. I'm..." She gave him an awkward, horrible smile. "Honestly, I'm trying to make conversation that's not about the dead, and I don't know what else to say. Every time I try, they seem to crowd in, like Dementors waiting for a kiss."
"Not Dementors," Harry said. "More like Patronuses. They're there to protect us."
She blinked slowly. "Thank you, Harry," she said. "You sounded very confident of that."
"I am," Harry said, but didn't elaborate. "There's something I'll tell Teddy someday, but I'm not ready to talk about it yet."
Andromeda nodded. "All right," she said, then bit her lip. "Harry, do you know how...?"
"No," Harry said. "I didn't see. I haven't found anyone who knows yet. But I saw Tonks--Dora--fighting, and I know Lupin was fighting with Dolohov."
Andromeda's lip curled. "Please tell me he's dead."
Harry hesitated. "Back in Azkaban. For life. Ron and Neville didn't kill him."
"Never let him find out about Teddy. He terrorized Remus for the past two years. I never want him to decide Teddy would make a good target."
Harry privately thought that Fenrir Greyback, who was used to being outdoors, wouldn't last long in Azkaban even under the more humane conditions the new Ministry was instituting, but he didn't say so. Andromeda Tonks struck him, beneath her lovely, gentle exterior, as someone who might be more than willing to help the process along under the right circumstances, and as a Healer, she could find herself in the right circumstances. He frowned. "You sound angry about what happened to Lupin."
"Of course I am!"
"He said that Tonks's family was disgusted at the marriage and--"
She flew to her feet, throwing her clawed hands in the air and hissing. Harry hugged Teddy tighter and drew away from her. She started to pace. "Bloody... Remus was our friend. He was always our friend. Ted was disgusted with him last year, all right, but it had nothing to do with being a damned werewolf. How dare he make that judgment on us?" The rage subsided as quickly as it came, and she sat back down heavily. "Harry, you mustn't... Remus was fundamentally wounded by Dumbledore's death. At first, we all thought it was just mourning, but... He started wondering, if Dumbledore was wrong about trusting Severus Snape, he could also have been wrong about trusting a werewolf. He started listing all the ways in which he considered himself unworthy of trust. Dora tried to stop him. I tried. Ted tried. And then when Dora lost her job--"
"I didn't know that had happened!"
"It was before the Death Eaters took over. The end of July, when she first found out for sure she was pregnant. She was told that they had put up with her 'cavorting' with a werewolf, but if she was going to be so absurd as to breed with one, she no longer had a place there." Andromeda sniffed. "She loved her job when she started it, and I think she loved it at the end, in principle, anyway. She tried to keep cheerful, but Remus caught her crying, and the next thing we knew, he was talking about leaving, so she could have a normal life. She was to lie to the baby about who his father was, lie to everyone else as well. Then he started in on believing that he'd somehow passed lycanthropy through to Teddy, and that became an obsession."
"He talked about that, too."
"Absurd, idiotic, and impossible," Andromeda said. "But he wouldn't listen. Even Dora was losing patience, and that... where Remus was concerned, her patience was nearly infinite. It had been since she was a little girl." She waved her hand. "But he came back. He said you managed to talk sense into him where we didn't. I'm not entirely certain how, but thank you. They were happy after that."
"Really. They lived here with Ted and me, and least until..." She stood, blinking, then said. "Come, I'll show you." Harry stood, putting Teddy carefully into the Moses basket with the rabbit. Andromeda put a tether charm on it, and it followed them up the stairs to a sunny room on the second floor. "This was Remus and Dora's room," she said. "When Teddy's too old for his nursery, I'll move him in here. I don't want to repaint the nursery."
Harry leaned against the doorway of the pleasant room. The walls were lined with bookshelves and drawings, the bookshelves fronted with all sorts of photographs and knick-knacks. A pile of tattered paperbacks lay beside the bed. Two huge wardrobes stood between the windows, and he guessed they contained all of the clothes Tonks had used for her disguises. On the desk, open, was the box of art supplies that Harry and Sirius had given Remus for Christmas one year, and on a piece of parchment was a beautiful drawing of Tonks holding Teddy. It wasn't finished.
It would never be finished.
Harry looked away from it.
Andromeda seemed to know what he'd been looking at, and led him down the corridor to the nursery without saying anything. She said, "Remus finished the walls in here. Dora built the crib from an old desk she'd bought for Remus."
Harry looked inside. The walls were covered with cheerful pictures that capered in the corners. In his basket, Teddy looked up with delight and pointed at a giant butterfly that was fluttering near the ceiling lamp. The crib was made of dark wood, and Harry could see the fixtures of a desk on it--drawer handles that had been affixed to make the walls come up and down, the scroll-top made to block bright sunshine in the afternoon.
"Why don't you put him down for his nap?" Andromeda said. "He usually goes about now, and he's looking a little mutinous."
Harry nodded dumbly and went to the crib, taking Teddy out of his basket (sure, again, that he'd drop him) and laying him down among the old linens. Teddy gurgled at him again and reached out. Not entirely sure what he wanted, Harry took a guess and Conjured a bottle of milk. Andromeda checked the temperature and did something else to it, then let him put it in with the baby, who took it greedily and drank.
Andromeda backed them out of the room. "You don't want it to be cold," she said. "And there are formulas involved, so he gets the nutrition he needs without--" She blinked again for several seconds, then said, "I'll teach you."
"Then you won't mind if I come back?"
"You're welcome any time. As long as..."
"As long as Teddy stays," Harry finished. "I understand."
She nodded and led him down the stairs. "If it's crowded... or, you know, if you just need a place of your own--you're dating your friend's sister, aren't you? That can't always be comfortable, living there."
"Oh, don't mind me," Andromeda said. "I'm... I've enjoyed your company, Harry, and Teddy really does like you. But I suppose we don't know one another well enough for me to invite you to stay for a week or two. This house is so damnably empty."
"Maybe someday soon." Harry smiled faintly. "Teddy could introduce us."