Author's Note - Dedicated to Tegdoh, who requested a Remus/Tonks fic and ended up with one that seems as much about Andromeda and Ted. And if Marisa happens to ever read this, thank you for your lovely review, and I'd like to reply properly, but you didn't leave an email address and there's no way to reply to anonymous reviews? :)
For the Sake of the Daughter
It's strange to be so afraid of someone you've always liked. Even harder when your daughter's smile comes easily again, and the inner calm and resourcefulness is back in her eyes after months of strain.
"It's good of you to go to so much trouble, Mrs Tonks," Remus Lupin says politely as she passes him a generous helping of both chicken and potatoes.
"It's no trouble," she says, which is a lie. As dark and huge as a lie can be for she's rarely been more troubled.
"Well… It's delicious."
He only glances briefly upwards this time, and she isn't sure he's caught the close-lipped nod which is all she's been able to manage since he stood on her front door mat with guardedness in his stance and, as was revealed soon after, in everything about him. She feels like emptying the entire vegetable dish over his head, but she's damned if he's going to starve to death in her house.
The man looks like someone getting over an illness. Grey face, greying hair. His robes, which seem either new or borrowed, hang on him. Like the Auror robes did on Nymphadora when she last saw her in them.
"Mum's a great cook," her daughter says, grinning widely as she puts several spoonfuls of peas onto her already heaped plate and then starts on the cauliflower. "Like me."
Ted, who'd begun to come round after the first hour and the third glass of wine – and by come round she means he's apparently forgotten everything he'd said he'd ask them – starts reminiscing about the ginger cake a much smaller version of their daughter once made. The three of them laugh together at the memory, and something makes Andromeda think that Remus would like nothing more than to be part of this intimate little circle of family life instead of listening to it gravely from his upright velvet chair.
She puts a forkful of carrot in her mouth to stop any impulse to draw him in, and when she looks up again he's watching her. That's if someone can be said to watch you when their eyes don't quite meet yours.
Her husband and daughter are still talking about the cake that ended up as a temporary doorstop to appease a frustrated ten year old and stop her demanding another try - and probably another and another till she got it right. Remus says, quietly, "I apologise, Mrs Tonks. This must be very difficult for you."
Why, no, Mr Lupin, I entertain a werewolf and my daughter's – what, exactly? – to lunch every day of the week.
It occurs to her that if what she suspects is true, she may well end up doing just that.
"Difficult?" she asks.
She watches him search for the right words to answer this and struggling because there are none.
"I feel… I feel as if I should just keep apologising to you." He gives a small, rather tentative smile.
She nods. "A shame you won't run out of things to apologise for."
It should be a joke. She'd meant it as a joke. But, somehow, it's anything but, and it hangs there over them all. Ted and Nymphadora fall silent. They haven't heard the words, but they've seen Remus duck his head back down to his meal so swiftly it's like a flinch.
Her turn now not to look at anyone for fear of what she might see. Hurt from Nymphadora? Warning from Ted? Or anger from him towards her, his wife, which would be the worst of all because she can barely contain her own or the fear that some of it's misplaced.
She'd always liked Remus Lupin, ever since her first glimpse of him long ago at Hogwarts. A new and lowly first year would normally be far beneath the notice of someone in her seventh, her head busy whirling at the thought of what the world and she would offer each other very soon, and then whirling again at the sight of the grey-eyed, dark-haired boy strolling casually towards her with the unmistakable certainty of a Black.
In the laughter of the introductions that had followed with Sirius' friends, it had taken her a while to spot the slight figure standing politely in the background until summoned. Self-contained and patient, like someone waiting at a railway station.
He's like that now sitting at her table, his elbows resting on her dark green tablecloth.
She thinks he'd like to be asked to leave. That he'd almost be relieved to, and feel things were happening as they should.
So she doesn't ask.
Later, she stands and watches them in the garden from behind the kitchen curtains. Watches them stand by the little white gate before the start of the protection charms and talk. At least her daughter, who has promised to come back and stay a while, is talking. Remus is standing with his hands in his pockets, seemingly gazing off into the distance. Apparently looking at the speckled brown bird, which looks like a song thrush, lying across the sundial in the heat with its wings outstretched.
Is he even listening to her?
She leans back against Ted's solid, comforting bulk, hoping he'll just hold her and she can watch the couple outside in silence.
"Easy, now," he says. "I haven't seen you like this in ages. All those high Black walls back up. So nobody gets in."
It was an old joke between them. Putting the walls back up again, are we? The tall, fair-haired boy with the freckled arms and the easy, unbothered grin used to say it to her a lot. Used to get under her skin with it so that she lay awake at night and thought of him and what he'd said. It's so you don't have to admit to a few things you don't want to?
"I thought you'd be so angry." She fails to keep the reproach out of her voice.
"You seemed to be the best of friends when the two of you came back in from your little chat outside. After what he's done to her—"
"Dromeda." She tilts her head to look up at him, and sees that beneath the reasonable tone he is angry. The anger of a father who has seen his daughter hurt all year and not been able to mend things for her. "We don't actually know what he's done. Or what she has."
There's some truth in that, but Nymphadora is her only child and daughter. So it's what he's done.
Ted's continuing. "You know, I keep thinking of what she said to us that one day, a while back. About not being a fool, and that if it had just been a love affair gone wrong she'd have cursed him a lot, grieved for him a lot, and moved on. She didn't, did she? Now all we know for sure is that they seem to have patched up whatever went wrong between them. But until one of them decides to fill us in…"
"He didn't, then? What did you talk about?"
"This and that." Ted shrugs. "Reminded me a bit of another young man, many years ago. Aiming higher than he thinks he should, perhaps, and wondering what will come of it."
"This is nothing like that! You weren't a— weren't…"
"Your Muggle-born bit of rough? A werewolf?"
"I…" She simply can't say what she means without hurting him, so she takes the easier option and agrees. Says coldly, "No, you weren't. There's so much against them, Ted."
"That's exactly what Remus said." He's looking at her closely. "This isn't like you."
"You can't tell me it doesn't bother you! That you're pleased our daughter is going to spend the rest of her life counting the days till the next full moon!"
"Course it bothers me. Course I don't like it." His fingers knead her rigid shoulders, trying to loosen them. "I'd like it even less if he was a right bastard, though, who doesn't care for her."
"He doesn't show that he does." Which is unfair, and she knows that it is as soon as she says it. Remus had hardly had much chance to display affection over bread and butter pudding, and she'd have deemed it false if he had. Instead he'd been flawlessly polite, sometimes almost charming in that voice which invariably sounded as if he'd just woken up, and always coolly wary. But then who knows better than she how you can hide so much emotion behind off-putting reserve?
Nothing disgusts us more than having to face our own shortcomings...
She can't remember who said that to her once. It might even have been her own mother. Or one of her sisters. It sounded like one of their pronouncements.
Ted's cheek rests against the side of her face. He needs a shave. "You know what I was thinking all the time I was out in the garden with him?"
"That you like him?"
"That Dora takes it for granted we'll give him a fair chance. That's why she's brought him here today. That's how we've raised her. How you've raised her, Dromeda."
She watches the couple outside. Remus is looking as though he's about to leave, then hesitates, reaches out and pulls her daughter to him. Andromeda remembers wrapping her arms fiercely round Ted, exactly as Nymphadora's doing now to Remus; the same gesture of giving and taking strength from each other. Burying herself in him. The decisions she made back then based on the instinct that she could trust this man with her innermost thoughts.
Her choice. How can she tell her child that it's only now she knows nothing is as simple as it seemed all those years ago?
"And you know the damnable thing about that sort of blind trust?" She can hear the wry chuckle in Ted's voice. "It's that you find yourself having to live up to it."
They sit in the garden, mother and daughter. The flowerbeds doing especially well this year. The same garden where that much smaller version of Nymphadora once climbed trees she wasn't supposed to and fell in the pond in her best party dress.
Today, the grown woman has stood by that same pond and put her arms round a man that so many will condemn her for having anything to do with.
"You're getting married," Andromeda says to her daughter, and it's a statement, not a question, but Nymphadora meets her gaze steadily and answers, "Yes."
"I'd like you and Dad…" She stops, shrugs. "I'm not asking for your blessing, I don't expect that. I don't want you to hate him, though. There's a lot you don't understand. A lot I don't think I really did till now."
"I don't hate him, Nymphadora. I know he's a good man."
Even as she says that, she feels her heart plummet still further. A bad man she could have fought against. A good man would have his weaknesses as well, and they might be even worse ones, in a way, but he'd find the strength of will to overcome them.
Her daughter is still looking at her. "We want you to come to the wedding. It would mean a lot to both of us."
Andromeda realises that they could have eloped, like she did. Not giving her parents the benefit of the doubt – not that there was any doubt – but she'd just gone, all the same.
Whereas her daughter had come here. Come home. And Remus Lupin cared enough for her to come with her and face them.
"I know you wouldn't have chosen this for me. It feels right though, it always did." Nymphadora pushes her hair back off her face. It's pink today, with copper lights in it, and very pretty. "I suppose I'm just a bit of a rebel really, like Dad." She grins. "Like you."
You are like me, Nymphadora, and so I know exactly what lies ahead and how hard it will be. It's not because Remus is a werewolf that I fear him so much. It's because I fear this world will try and break you both.
"You think you did the right thing, Mum, don't you?"
There's only one possible answer to that, and fortunately, it's true. "Yes. Of course I do."
"Well, then." Her daughter leans back in her chair. Shuts her eyes against the warmth of the sun.
For a moment Andromeda thinks it's as though everything's settled now – and that chokes her even more - but then she realises it's because her daughter's frightened to push things any further.
Whatever she feels, whatever she fears, she's not having that.
Andromeda puts her hand firmly on her daughter's and squeezes it tight.
"I'm here for you, Nymphadora," she says. "Always."
Reviews are much appreciated. :)