Author's Notes: This one-shot was written for the May 2009 Staff Challenge. I've been re-reading HBP and the conversation between Molly and Tonks (right before Dumbledore and Harry arrive at the Burrow) is one that I would have liked to see. This missing moment is from Chapter Five: An Excess of Phlegm (p. 81 in the American version of HBP).
This is sort of a belated Mother's Day story too :)
Everything you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling. Hope you enjoy!
Tea and Sympathy
Night had fallen over the Burrow, draping it with a cloak of darkness that should have been peaceful, but sleep eluded Molly Weasley. After tossing and turning for an hour, she gave up and began to pace the length of the bedroom. It was almost eleven o'clock and Arthur should have been home by now. She stared out the window at the empty yard, chewing absentmindedly on her thumbnail. Perhaps something had come up at the office; yes, that had to be it. With his recent promotion to Head of the Office for Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells, Arthur now had almost a dozen people reporting to him and his workload had nearly tripled. She tried to imagine him there at his well-lit desk, poring over a stack of papers, but the image of him traveling home alone would not go away. She could see him so clearly in her mind's eye, heading for home in the darkness, unaware of the shadowy figures that followed his every step...
"Stop it," Molly chided herself. Her paranoia was becoming truly out of control, what with the endless nightmares about Inferi and the way her heart pounded whenever the Daily Prophet came. I wonder whose turn it is to die today, she would think before she could stop herself. And just yesterday, she had scolded Ron and Ginny so angrily for being minutes late to dinner - they had been several feet from the front door, practicing Quidditch - that she had shocked even herself. The surprised looks they had given her had been the most painful reprimand she could think of. What kind of a mother have I become? she had thought, watching them eat with their heads bowed.
She slipped into her dressing gown and went out on the landing, peering into the room of each child as she passed. Their peaceful faces soothed her and she drifted silently through each room, tucking in a blanket here and smoothing a forehead there. She skipped one door at the end, knowing that she would only cry thinking about Percy, and walked past Bill's bedroom - Bill and Fleur's room now, she supposed. The twins' room lay dark and silent and Molly sat down on one of the empty beds, her heart yearning to see their heads on these pillows once more. But no, they would never live here again; she had lost those babies as well, those two small boys who were now men with lives that did not revolve around her.
Molly sighed, thinking of the children she still had with her: a man in love engaged to marry, a tall gangly boy of sixteen who no longer confided in her, and a girl who was rapidly becoming a woman. And then there was Charlie, so desperately far away. Time had already robbed her of so much; would fate do the same? Her thoughts immediately turned back to Arthur, still absent though the clock pressed on a quarter after the hour. Where was he? What if something bad had happened? What if -
A tap at the window made her jump. "Oh, Errol," she said with relief, hurrying to open the latch. The owl dropped a small folded note in her hand and she opened it frantically.
I have been detained at the office until midnight. Stop worrying and try to sleep. Don't wait up for me.
P.S. If you do wait up for me, I would love some hot soup. Hungry as a bear in here. I love you.
She read it a second time, chuckling to herself. He knew her so well, that darling, clumsy, hard-working man of hers. Tucking the note into a pocket, Molly crept downstairs as quietly as she could to begin making the soup. She had just put the kettle on for tea when somebody knocked at the back door. The spoon fell out of her hand with a clatter and she spun around, all senses alert. "Who could it be at this hour?" she muttered, her heart beginning to pound in a way that was already familiar. She crept carefully to the door and pressed her ear against it. "Who is it?"
"Molly, it's me," said a feminine voice. "Tonks."
Molly sighed with relief, opening the door to reveal Nymphadora Tonks' pale, pretty face. "What a surprise, dear," she said, noting the dark circles under the young woman's eyes. "Come in. Tea should be ready in a second."
Tonks merely nodded and took a seat at the kitchen table, looking exhausted. "I'm sorry to barge in on you like this, Molly," she said quietly. "It's such a -" She gestured helplessly out the window.
"I know what you mean. It's nights like this that make you long for company," Molly agreed, shivering at the swirling fog. "Are you hungry? Like anything to go with your tea?"
"No thanks, Molly. Just the tea." Tonks sat with her shoulders slumped, her dark circles vivid against her pallid skin.
Molly bustled around the kitchen, humming with forced cheer and sneaking surreptitious glances at the young woman. What a difference a few months had made in Tonks. Not long ago, she had been a girl who laughed easily, her hair as bright as that pink Muggle candy Arthur was so fascinated with. This sad-eyed Tonks seemed older and graver, and Molly couldn't remember the last time she had seen her smile. This is what war does to people, she thought regretfully. "Here you are," she said brightly, setting a steaming mug on the table.
It was as though her kindness had pushed Tonks over the edge. The younger woman pushed the mug away and burst into tears, resting her forehead on the table.
"Oh, my poor girl, what is it?" Molly asked worriedly, putting an arm around her. "You musn't cry like this, dear. Quiet now, shhh."
Tonks lifted her head, her pale, wet face almost ghastly in the candlelight. "Oh, Molly," she sobbed. "I can't talk to anyone about this. I've been keeping it inside and it's killing me, Molly, do you hear? It's killing me." She looked so fierce and desperate that Molly was frightened.
"Don't talk like that, darling. You can tell me, go on," she urged, all of her motherly instincts alert. Something told her that this was not about the war; this was something deeper than fear.
"I can't, I can't," sobbed Tonks, her whole body shaking. "If it gets back to him, it will scare him off and I'll never have him, never!"
Molly's eyes widened. "Who...?"
"Remus," the girl whispered, tears streaming down her face. "It's Remus, Molly." She hid her face again as though ashamed.
Slowly it all became clear: Tonks' refusal to come to last weekend's dinner, knowing Remus would be present; her growing unhappiness; her dark, mousy hair; the way she had stopped laughing. The first thing Molly felt was utter disappointment. If Tonks loved Remus, she would never think of Bill, meaning that Fleur would have to be the Weasleys' daughter-in-law. The thought was so ridiculous that Molly nearly laughed out loud. Instead she put her arms around Tonks, stroking the girl's hair.
"Does he know?"
"Oh yes, he knows," Tonks said bitterly, wiping her face. "He knows and doesn't care." She paused. "No, that's not true... he does care, I know it. He just won't let himself give in and that's a hundred times worse than if he outright refused me. He's armed with excuses, Molly, oh yes..."
Molly listened gravely, her eyes on the thin, heart-shaped face in front of her. "What sort of excuses?"
"He says he's too poor. As though I give a damn about money!" Tonks cried, her eyes flashing. "And he says he's too old for me, as though I care about that either. And then there's..." She trailed off, shaking her head.
"He's afraid of hurting you," guessed Molly, "he's afraid that his condition will -"
"Damn his condition!" shouted Tonks. "I am sick and tired of hearing about the thousand ways he is wrong for me. Do I look like I care if he gets fangs and pointy ears every month? Doesn't anyone believe that I can love him for himself? Do I seem that superficial?" She sighed. "Oh, Molly, I'm sorry. It's just that I'm so close to giving up -"
"You can't give up," Molly answered.
Tonks' head jerked up and she stared at her in surprise. "You're not going to scold me?"
"Do I seem that superficial?" echoed Molly, smiling wryly. "No, I'm not going to scold you. Why should I? I love you both and it's more than I could wish to see you happy together."
"But there isn't a chance for me, is there, Molly? He'll never let himself love me..."
The older woman sighed. "There's something you have to understand about men, my dear, and that is they are extremely stubborn. They don't always see and feel things the way we do. You have to give him time," she explained. "Remus has been alone all his life. Sometimes I think he's almost ashamed of what he is."
"But I don't care about what he is! I love who he is," protested Tonks, clutching the mug between her hands.
"And I'm sure he knows that," Molly responded. "He just needs time to accept it, that's all. The way he sees it, he has nothing to offer you but pain and trouble. You can't push him into it. If you love him, you'll have to wait."
"That's about the only thing I can do," said Tonks miserably, hanging her head.
Molly stroked her hair gently. "You just wait, dear. I'm sure all will turn out well and remember that you may always talk to me."
Tonks gave her a grateful, bleary smile. "You're so motherly, Molly, thank you," she said, hugging her. "I wish I could tell my own mother, but she wouldn't understand. She probably wouldn't be too keen on me marrying a werewolf either." She sighed.
At that very moment, someone knocked three times on the back door and both women jumped. "Who's there?" Molly demanded.
"It is I, Dumbledore," said a kindly voice, "and I have got Harry with me."
Molly sighed with relief and hurried to open the door. "Albus! You gave us a fright, I didn't expect you til morning. Hello, Harry dear." The black-haired boy grinned at her and she squeezed his arm, noticing how thin he looked. I'll soon change that, she thought.
"My apologies. Slughorn was much easier to persuade than I had expected, thanks to Harry," Dumbledore explained, smiling down at her. "Hello, Nymphadora."
Tonks gave him a faint smile. "Good evening, Professor. Harry." She rose from the table, pushing the mug away. "Well, I had better be off. Thanks for the tea, Molly, and for listening."
"Arthur and I are having friends over for dinner this weekend, dear. Mad-Eye and Remus will be here. Won't you come too?" Molly asked hopefully. If she could have both Remus and Tonks under her roof, perhaps she would be able to speed the situation along.
Tonks crossed to the door without meeting anyone's eyes. "Oh no thank you, Molly, really. Goodnight everyone." She stepped outside and Apparated into the darkness.
"I shall take my leave as well, Molly. A pleasant night to both of you," Dumbledore announced, Apparating at the same spot as Tonks.
Molly stared out after them for a few moments. She hoped - it seemed naive to do much more - that all would be well for her young friend. Slowly she closed the door on the foggy night.