Dedicated to those among us who didn't understand Tonks's decision to leave Teddy behind. And to those of us who understood it only too well.
You watch your husband warily as he sits stone-faced on the couch.
“It's time, Dora. I must go, it must be done. I have to finish it.”
The resigned tone of his voice is nothing new, it is a tone he has used with you all year. It hurt you at first, you are so much in love with him that every little negative nuance was like a garden gnome biting hard on your finger.
You realise with a great shock that he might not come back. This might be the last conversation you ever have with the love of your life. You swallow the objections, for you know they are useless, and you wish to cherish this time with him for as long as you can. There is, however, one tiny little detail you feel you need to get off your chest.
“Don't ask me to stay here, Remus, and do nothing. You can ask anything else of me, but don't ask me that.”
A silence fills between you, full of unsaid words and exclamations; of a lifetime of living and loving together. A lifetime you will probably now be robbed of.
“Okay, I won't ask you to do nothing.” He is choosing his words carefully and you brace yourself for what is to come. “I will ask you to sit here and be safe. Safe so that Teddy has at least one parent left when the battle is done, so that I know that I will not lose you, either.”
You suck in a breath. It has been months - an eternity - since your husband has voiced any kind of vulnerability, or love or passion, without you having to fish for it first. You are left feeling defeated. Of course you will stay. For Teddy. For Remus. You force down the confusion. Surely you could do more for them in the heat of the battle. You are, after all, a trained Auror.
With the battle of birthing still fresh in your memory - coated softly with Remus's strong presence beside you, even when your mother tried to forcibly remove him from the room - you agree to stay.
When he kisses you, it is with blinding passion. It is a goodbye kiss. It throbs heavily deep in your stomach, causing your arms to wrap around his neck. You breathe him in, you whisper again and again that you love him, will always love him.
Your heart breaks in two when he takes your face tenderly, as if you might break, looks you directly in the eye and says, “I waited my whole life for the chance you gave me, to love and be loved the way you love me. I will never, ever forget you, Nymphadora Tonks, not even from beyond the grave”. He kisses you again and rests his forehead against yours. With a whispered declaration of love, he is gone. You stumble, for you are only graceful when Remus is there, and you are alone. You are cold.
Your breasts tingle and become heavy, a wetness starts in your bra. As if on cue, Teddy cries out from the kitchen and you are not alone. But you are still cold.
Your mother is sitting at the kitchen table, your son is suckling enthusiastically at your breast, causing your belly to clench and release with every suck.
“Remus is gone?”
“Yes,” you struggle with the words. “He has gone to Hogwarts”.
“He just left you here? You and Teddy?”
“It wasn't as heartless as that, Mum. He had to go. I would too, were it not for my responsibilities. One of us had to stay.”
Silence reigns again in the kitchen, and the awkwardness between you and your mother is like a Dementor. Where you were once close, there is now distance. Where you were once warm, there is now coolness. Where there was once laughter, there is now sadness and confusion. You do not know how to fix it, you will not unmarry Remus, or change anything else in your life.
You are continuously shocked by your mother's prejudice. Having faced it herself - a Black marrying a Muggle-born - you had expected more acceptance, but there is nothing you can say to change what was said the year before. It is what it is, and you take comfort daily in the fact that Remus is, in fact, allowed in your family home, and Teddy is well and truly your mother's grandson.
But you miss your mother terribly, and the thought that you may never understand, or that understanding may never bring forgiveness, is a scary thought constantly in the back of your mind.
Subconsciously, your grip on Teddy tightens. You hope that you are able to accept him and his choices unconditionally when he is grown. A pang sears through you at the thought of him growing up without his father.
And then your mother pulls the bottom out of your cauldron
“I think you should go.”
You blink. Is your mother really kicking you out? Now? At a time like this?
“I think you should go to Hogwarts, I think you should fight. I think you should leave Teddy here and do the best you can to give him a world worth living in.”
You find your throat has closed. Your mother, who has just lost her husband, would give up her daughter, raise her grandson, because of the love of her child. You sniff and find it is too much. Teddy starts to cry as the sobs wrack your body. You are relieved. The responsibilities have been lifted from your shoulders, and your mother is yours once more.
You know she is right. She has done nothing but voiced your own thoughts and feelings, giving them the clarity you needed. Your sobs die down and you find Teddy on your arm, squawling still, but bundled and a comfort. You find your other hand in your mother's, and tears are falling down her face as well.
There are things you don't need to say. She understands and she is forgiven. You stand to bring your son to bed, bending to kiss your mother on her head.
It is, indeed, time.
The light falls softly around the room, casting long shadows on the wall and ceiling. If you looked up, a tableaux would be portrayed upon the wall; a feminine form leaning over the crib, peering inside as if the little, bundled and sleeping form holds all your answers. Your shoulders are bent under the weight of your decision.
You stroke the baby's head, your longing sigh drifting through the nursery. His hair is magenta, and you almost smile in wonder that he is yours. Your heart is pounding, swollen to almost bursting as you feast your eyes on his small face.
You know you've made the hardest decision you'll ever make; if you survive the night, you will know for the rest of your life that you essentially abandoned your son. If you die, and the odds weren't good, it will be with the knowledge that you will be leaving your son and husband to be outcasts in a society founded on prejudice and oppression. And all the fighting would have been for naught.
You feel the tears fall down your cheeks, and you choke on the sob that is writhing its way through your throat. You know that if he wakes, you will stay. If his eyes, so like his fathers in shape, meet yours then you will be chained in this room as surely as if a body binding curse had been cast on you. You know there is no real choice to make, you have to go. You know it will hurt to leave this room, this house, but it would hurt more to stay. You are out of options.
You have to go, you have to fight. You have been training for this all your life, and as you gaze upon your child, your Teddy, you think of Lily Potter and Alice Longbottom. You borrow their strength, the amazement in their sacrifice and you tap into their maternal love as you turn to leave the room. You chance one last look from the doorway and you do smile as Teddy sighs and grunts in his sleep. Something settles inside you. It is for him, after all.
As you turn fully into the glare of the hallway, you hope that one day he will understand. You hope with everything that he will forgive you for what you must now do.
A/N: Big thanks to Antonia East, for the encouragement and suggestions on developing this for a 500-word drabble to something… more. Thanks, as always, to Tari. You're the best beta a gal could ask for, babe.