It was no longer dawn. The pink blush of the morning had been replaced by clear blue skies and a strong breeze which bedecked the surface of the Lake in white lace ruffles.
Someone had already started to organise a clean-up operation. Dean could see a small group of house-elves and kids piling up fallen masonry in the courtyard outside the window, and Professor Flitwick had just gone past herding four grumbling suits of armour back to their proper places. Of course, since people were trying to tidy up, Peeves was causing chaos; a heap of blackboards had somehow ended up in Greenhouse Three and Neville had rushed off to give the poltergeist a piece of his mind. Dean had been vaguely amused to see that the other boy still had the Sword of Gryffindor and a gaggle of devotees trailing after him. There was one bloke who would never have to buy himself a drink again, not with that story to tell. Dean had already heard someone call him the True Heir of Gryffindor.
Somehow, Dean doubted that people would be queuing up to hear his part in the battle. Professor Lupin had died trying to keep Dolohov from killing him and then after a scant few minutes of near misses he’d gone down. He had woken up in the Great Hall sometime later with his insides unscrambled, but Madame Pomfrey had absolutely refused to let him go back to the "bloodbath", as there were already too many foolish heroes out there and one more wouldn't make a difference. She had needed another pair of hands, and she had been right - more than right. So many of those foolish heroes had been carried or dragged in to the refuge of the Great Hall by friends with white, blood-splattered faces who asked Dean in hoarse voices if they would be alright. Sometimes they were… and sometimes they weren’t... and sometimes Madam Pomfrey had taken one look at their newest patient, shaken her head and said “Give him some Dreamless Sleep, Dean, let him go easy.”
No. He couldn’t imagine anyone ever standing him a drink for that story. He couldn’t imagine himself ever talking about it.
Maybe that was why he was avoiding entering the celebrations. Right now he couldn’t believe in a bright new world. Not after months of being Undesirable 387 and hiding and watching people getting killed and watching people die and… helping people rest. It couldn’t all just end, could it? Maybe it was because he hadn’t actually seen You Know— Voldemort die. He hadn’t seen it and therefore it might not be real, this victory of theirs.
“No, little miss, you is not to be doing that.” Out in the courtyard a tiny house-elf was shaking his long finger at a young girl, “You is to put that rock down in that pile like Missis Parvati is telling you to or I is making you sorry.” Shame-faced, the girl did as she was told.
Dean found himself smiling. Maybe it was real. Maybe this was the Someday that Ted had told him to keep an eye out for. And maybe he ought to go and find Luna and ask her if she had really meant it when she’d said that she would quite like to see a football match with him.
But maybe that would be a silly question. After all, he thought, jumping down off his window-seat perch, Luna always meant what she said. Every single word.
The boy stepped out of an alcove and Andromeda had to stop walking to prevent herself from bumping into him. Teddy gave a muffled squeak of protest from the sling at her front and she rocked him absentmindedly as she accepted the boy’s mumbled apology. In a strange way she would almost have preferred it if he hadn’t bothered. Far too many people had been telling her that they were sorry recently. Sorry for Ted, sorry for Nymph, sorry that they had thought she was Bella and accidentally drawn their wands on her. Everyone was just too damn sorry.
She would have moved on then, allowed the boy to become just another misty face among many, but then he called her by her name.
“Andromeda,” he said when she turned, startled, to face him, “You’re Ted’s wife, aren’t you?”
It wasn’t really a question.
She still didn’t recognise him. But then Ted had always been good with people. Often he’d talk to a man for five minutes on the bus and next thing she knew the man would be invited round for supper. So many people wanting to pay their condolences….
“I am his wife.” And would always, always be. “But he’s been dead these long months now, so if you’ll excuse me…”
“I know, I mean, I was there when he died.”
His words echoed through her mind. Memories suddenly stirred, flung up into the air like dust before a broom.
She hadn’t been with Ted. She had been having yet another quiet night in, sitting by the fire knitting bootees and listening to Nymph and her son-in-law discuss possible locations for the next episode of that radio program. Even her fear for Ted’s safety, which for months had been a constant ache at the back of her mind, had diminished. After all, he’d evaded capture for so many months, of course he would survive a few more and then the baby would be born and maybe…. She had hoped that things would get better.
She hadn’t even known until the next day. Those…animals had just dumped him and gone to bed, their pockets jingling with blood money from a good day at work. No one had even had the common courtesy to come around and tell her in person. Instead she had been summoned by some bastard of a bureaucrat to view a corpse and answer questions on the whereabouts a Mudblood boy named Dean Thomas and a goblin.
It’s very odd, what you remember. The questions had been as meaningless as the jabbering of Doxies. But Ted… there had been earth under his fingernails and a small twig tangled in the hair above his left ear. The jeans that she had washed and ironed the day before he’d left were torn at the knees, through the holes she could see grass stains mixed with mud and blood. She could remember how cold his hand was and the feeling of holding meat on bones. Someone had closed his eyes, looking back, she knew that that was a respectful thing to have done, but at the time she had wished that they hadn’t. She had wanted to look him in the eye, so that she could have seen him again. Not a corpse on a table.
What came next still haunted her.
“Madam Lestrange,” the questioner had said, Nymph’s hand had tightened around her own, “wishes you to see this. If you will, Mr. Smith.”
The young man in Healer’s robes had made a very slight noise of protest and had avoided her gaze as he stepped out from his corner to roll up the sleeves of Ted’s shirt and to twitch his collar away from his neck.
“Madam Lestrange said to tell you that now you can see what she has always known.”
Nymph had started to shout and had reached for her wand but Remus had held her back, held her until the tears had come and she had collapsed against him, her anger, for the moment, submerged in grief. Andromeda hadn’t been able to cry, only stand there, hold Ted’s limp hand and look at the mud that Bella had smeared into the deep cuts on his arms and neck.
“Do you understand Mrs. Tonks? Mrs Tonks?”
“Mrs Tonks? Do you want to sit down, Mrs Tonks?” The boy’s voice, heavily tinged with concern, brought her back to the present. He had taken a step closer and was looking at her with mingled anxiety and guilt. She waved away his offered hand and automatically glanced down at Teddy, who was fast asleep, sucking on one tiny fist. Andromeda hugged him closer to herself, seeking comfort from his peaceful warmth. She took a breath to steady herself then looked back at the boy, who was still hovering beside her.
“Dean Thomas, does your mother know you’re alive?”
His forehead creased in puzzlement for a second then cleared.
“Yes, Mrs Tonks, I sent her an owl. But how….”
“And I’m sure that some smelly bird is going to reassure her. Go home, Dean. Go on home and show her that you’re safe. Hug her and smile, let her look at you and feed you and tell you how worried she’s been and how happy she is now you’re home safe. Go home and make her the happiest woman in the world.”
Go home, and do what my Nymph cannot.
For a moment he seemed hesitant, slightly torn. Then he nodded.
“I will, I promise, but... but I want you to know that Ted looked after me when I needed someone and, if there is ever anything I can help you with, anything I can do, or say, then I will.”
Andromeda found herself blinking frantically in an attempt to maintain the proper decorum so a short nod was all she could manage in response.
“Well, I’ll be off then.” He paused as if he could not yet bring himself to turn words into action, then said quickly, “I just think you should know, that… I asked him once whether there was anything he’d say to you if, well you know, he didn’t make it back…. He told me that you’d said all there was to say a long time ago and that by now you knew everything there was to know about Ted Tonks and how he felt about his ‘Dromeda. But he did say that it never hurt to say I love you.”
She watched as Dean swallowed, gave her an awkward sort of nod, which she didn’t quite feel up to returning, turned and walked down the corridor and out of sight.
Little Teddy woke up some moments later to find warm salty water dripping down on to his face.