RATING: PG13, with one case of appalling language.
LENGTH: approx. 3000.
A/N: In a recent fic, You and Me and the Rain (Hermione/Tonks), I killed off Ted Tonks. This is what I owed him. I took the title from the novel FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN by Mitch Albom. Illustrated (after a fashion).
Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the...
It had all come to an end in a rush; he had pulled Andy with him into a tight hot space and their last breath had been a kiss, acrid with smoke, a sodden edge of wet cotton and that was all. In fifty odd years, Ted had had plenty of time to think about death (though not enough time, not nearly enough and never Andy's). His dad, the Reverend Tonks, had always told him that after one life came another, which was nice. His mother, his beautiful young mum who had been gone by the time he was ten and with whom he had always associated the sweet, papery scent of caner...his mum had said that death was just an end to living, which wasn't it. He hadn't ever known what she'd meant. Dead (he didn't feel any different, really, but he knew in his fingers and his pores and the roots of his hair), he had expected to wake up wherever with Andy's hand in his but he wasn't surprised, really, to wake up alone. Andy-less, he opened his eyes and felt the shock of it.
What Ted Tonks never expected was to wake up feeling seventeen again.
The grass was tall enough to brush against the sky from where he lay, looking up. In the distance, he could hear the sound of water lapping on sand. It was the kind of sound that you'd only recognise if you'd heard it before. He hadn't expected Heaven to look so much like the Lake District, but alright. Ted lay on his back, looking up at the perfect sky, kicking his legs in the air and revelling in the feeling of joints which didn't pop, in vision which didn't blur and sting in the corners of his eyes. He'd been nearly sixty...but none of those things had happened here. He sat up, seventeen but incomplete. He couldn't take back the life which he'd had and he was willing to accept the Lake District and the very blue sky, but he wasn't sure that he could accepted that Heaven could be as simple as the world before Andy. He had a vision of Heaven as a thing of many interlocking pieces; the sum of many countries, and it comforted him...he thought that he could take a lonely Heaven, a heaven with her in it, if he could think of her dreaming of him on some distant shore. He got gingerly to his feet, smiling at the football shirt which had been lost, quite lost, by the time that he was nineteen years old. Heaven is regaining what is lost. In the distance, somewhere very far away he thought (though the roll of the hills made it difficult to judge) he could hear the soft thunk of rubber on wood. It was a sound he'd never heard before but he knew it all the same.
Alright then. Okay.
With a deep breath, a stretch and a sigh, Ted ambled deeper into the heart of Heaven.
When Ted Tonks was seventeen, he'd known a pair of boys, matched boys, twins. Later, they'd been heroes and put a haunted look into their pretty sister's eyes but when he'd known them they'd been Quidditch players, a year younger than him, Gryffindor's pride (Godric always did have a weakness for handsome heroes, a lot to do with grief). Ted stood on a rise and watched as, down below, a single figure knocked a small black ball between wooden paddle and booted foot. He dropped the ball and hit it as far as he could. It seemed to go for many miles, before he turned and looked up at Ted and shaded his eyes against Heaven's bright sun.
"It's not quite Quidditch, is it, Tonks?" he called, the light sparking and refracting in short red hair.
Ted wondered if Gideon Prewett's Heaven rang with the echo of a crowd.
They ended up sitting on the hillside, teenaged boys arranged around long legs, cold lemonade from glass bottles, cloudy and sweet like simple joy. Ted wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. He wanted to say long time no see, Prewett and how's Heaven been treating you? but all of those things sounded empty. In the way of seventeen year old boys, Gideon had produced a cigarette from nowhere, was smoking with the real relish of someone who loved the very act of it. Ted watched him for a moment; he'd always had a healthy appreciation for the things which other people loved. Absently, he wondered if everyone was seventeen, in his or her version of Heaven.
"It's not much," said Gideon, finally, "But it'll do, yeah? How much were we expecting of Heaven anyway."
"Well, yeah," said Ted, thinking that he'd expected a little more.
"I always thought you'd be along," said Gideon. "If anyone was going to be along, I had rather hoped that it would be you, Tonks..."
And it didn't matter what Gideon was trying to say, didn't matter that Gideon had been waiting for him and why a boy would have spent so much time waiting on him. Ted shrugged and let it go, let everything go, gave it to the wind as a passing gift.
"I should go," he said. "I'm looking for something."
"Tell your pretty girl 'hello'," said Gideon, and Ted wanted to tell him that that wasn't it, wasn't only it, but it was. He nodded and turned to go, spinning at the last moment to walk backwards down the hill, looking up at Gideon.
"It'll be Quidditch one day, mate. Good things come to those who wait."
"And here you are," said Gideon Prewett smiling, raising a toast with an empty glass bottle as Ted turned away and heard the sound of a crowd singing.
He remembered pubs like it from his childhood; sitting on the steps with a bottle of Vimto and a bag of crisps while his dad drank a pint and set the world to rights. His mum too, then. Him and Julie sitting on the steps in the sun, sharing crisps and playing noughts and crosses with a stub of chalk. He stopped, for a moment, rubbing his fingers over sun-warm stone.
When he pushed open the door, punk music hit him in a wave. He'd drunk in bars like this before he and Andy got married, before Dora was born, never quite been part of that scene but liked it when it touched him, liked the feel of that scene pushing against him, leather and hobnails in the soles of boots. He stepped through the door and found himself in another pub altogether, a crowd pushing in tight around him, Thursday night in that little pub in Camden in 1978. It had all been coming down by then, hadn't it? Yes, it all been fucking self destructing. The crowd pushed in against him and, reflexively, he pushed back, a hand in the small of the back here, against someone's arse there. And there she was, unexpected as a miracle, like something from a dream. He stood back and watched her for a minute, gesturing with her hands, sipping from a half full pint glass, her black hair pulled out in all directions, her eyes smeared. She hadn't changed, not since he'd known her in her fucking and fighting days, her revolutionary days, straight out of school. She'd been brilliant, the best Witch of her generation. She'd been beautiful. He hadn't loved her, but he'd tried.
She was surrounded by a crowd, and her black t-shirt clung with sweat across her tits, and Andy didn't like the word tits, but Len had used the word herself and often, cupped her tits in her hands when she talked. Ted shook his head and watched her and waited for her to look him in the eyes. Marlene fucking McKinnon. He hadn't expected it in Heaven, loss like a wave.
She came to him, wrapped her arms around him, and her hair smelt of hash and gunpowder and a bitter edge which he imagined was the green light of her death clinging. She pressed her skinny body against him, and he held her and felt all of the anger and all of the hurt bleed away. He hadn't realised that he'd still felt that way, but he must have done, for all of those years. He felt empty once it was gone. The last time he'd seen her, he'd been so angry with her. He'd wanted to shake her. He'd frightened himself with how much he had wanted to beat sense into her.
"You...you...self serving, selfish, cowardly unspeakable cunt, Ted." He was numb, dumb, cradling his stinging cheek. It was almost worse when she burst into tears, trembling and pale in her rage. Her fists were clenched and he took a step back before he rocked forward to hold her. He'd seen her rage, seen her fight, seen her kicking off her shoes struggling in Arthur's arms as he held her back. Ted held her back.
"It's okay if you don't care about the fucking war, Ted...How dare you not fucking care about me."
It wasn't that he hadn't cared. It was just that he'd loved Andy more, by then. And there had been Dora by then, and Len might have been proud of her revolution, of her secret society, but Ted had had more important things to worry about; the whole world is two beating hearts beside his own. What she'd done was frightened him, been so wild, so dangerous that he'd begun to wonder if she wouldn't make him a little bit wild as well. Ted Tonks had been quiet his whole life.
"Is this your heaven or mine?" He shouted, his mouth against Len's many times pierced ear.
"You tell me, pretty boy," She shouted, whirling him, pogoing instead of dancing.
"You died. You died and I didn't get to say goodbye."
"You didn't deserve to say goodbye, Ted Tonks. You didn't love me."
She was being unfair...it had never been a case of loving or not loving her. Her heaven then. That scene had never been his, not entirely.
"I missed you," he said.
"You were always here," said Len, smiling and he couldn't help but picture her head blown apart by fire. "You were always a part of my heaven, Ted Tonks. I gave you dreams of me."
Ted had never remembered his dreams when he woke up.
She pushed him then, and he tripped and fell backwards and Len's heaven exploded into pieces which reminded Ted of stars.
He was crawling on his hands and knees and he smelt her in the dark, which sounded worse than it was. More than anything about his mother, Ted remembered her smell - not that cancer smell but the one before that, lavender and hairspray and nail varnish and liquorice. As a child, Ted hadn't liked liquorice, but he'd loved his mom. Of course he had. Little boys and mothers are one of those miracle things. He smelt her but he couldn't see her. It was like dreaming of her and waking up. He closed his eyes and crawled toward the scent of her.
He found her by touch in the dark. His beautiful young mum.
Seventeen again, but also ten and two, he laid his head in her lap, the velvet of her skirt worn and scratchy against his cheek. When she stroked her fingers in his hair, the familiar feeling of her engagement ring catching, he closed his eyes in ecstasy. A little boy's mother is the closest thing to joy. His mother had died when he was ten years old, the year before the owl came with the letter, the year before he went to Hogwarts. She'd never known.
"I'm magic, Mum," Ted mumbled, pressing his nose against her thigh.
"You always were, baby," said Rebecca Tonks, his beautiful Muggle mum, stroking his hair until he fell asleep.
He woke up suddenly, with a start. In the cold way of Heaven, he was totally, utterly awake. He'd never been a good waker, in life. He'd shuddered and trembled, clung to Andy on the edge of sleep.
"My Dad didn't go to hell," he mumbled, instant in the way of someone who couldn't remember a dream but felt betrayed by it, all the same.
"Of course he didn't, mate. If ever there was a man bound for Heaven."
And Ted knew that voice too.
"You never met my Dad," he said, keeping his face pressed to rock, not wanting to look up yet (oh bonny, braw boy, you ruined us when you went).
"Raised a son like you, didn't he?"
Ted could smell cigarette smoke. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, feeling like he'd gone ten rounds (Len). He hadn't had a cigarette in twenty years, not since the ugly days of the first war, when Dora was a little girl but when he woke up in Heaven, Ted was dying for a fag.
"Couldn't trouble you for one of those, could I, mate?" he said to the young man sitting on the rock, huddled in his black leather, watching the fog in the valley. The young guy nodded through his curtain of dark hair, held out a crumpled pack. Ted sat beside him, and the cigarette tasted like Heaven.
"The last time I saw that jacket," said Ted, conversationally, taking a long drag on his cigarette, "It was on Dora."
"It's a memory of a jacket, I guess." He grinned. "Only you, Ted Tonks, would care."
They smoked in companionable silence for a few minutes.
"I see people everywhere," said Ted, flicking ash into the wind. "Unexpected people." He chewed on the end of his cigarette, tasted tobacco, bitter. He spat, covering his mouth with his hand. "People look different in Heaven."
Sirius laughed, a good sound. He looked so young. Ted had a flash of Sirius at seventeen, eighteen, baby-sitter, dancing in slow spirals with Dora on his hip. He'd been such a handsome boy, Andy's image, with his black hair caught in a stubby ponytail at the nape of his neck, his skinny black jeans, his pretty Black eyes, so like Andy's. Ted was glad that he hadn't had a chance to see Sirius afterwards, after Azkaban, after Andy had come back silent and strange, sat on the couch with her hands over her mouth and cried.
"Of course people look different, mate. Look at you. Look at me." He shrugged. "Not everybody looks different, though. Dumbledore passed by the other day. Looked exactly like he always did."
"He didn't always look that way, Sirius, mate. He was young, once."
"Mmph...well...he always looked like that to me." Ted nodded, considered his bitten cigarette.
"Passed by on the way to where?" Where was there to go, in Heaven? It all seemed very circular, a wheel of green and blue sky and sunlight. And nowhere to go forever. Sirius shielded his eyes from the sun, squinting into the very blue sky.
"There's a city. You can't see it from here...I don't think you can see it unless you're going there, but it's definitely there."
Ted raised an eyebrow.
"A city?" Sirius nodded.
"A heavenly city, if you will." Sirius at seventeen had made smirking into an art form. After Azkaban, he'd been tight, shrunk by sorrow to be his most useful size. Sirius at seven had throbbed and filled whole rooms. "People come, people go, people pass by."
"Why haven't you gone, yet?" Sirius shrugged.
"It's a one way street, mate. Once you go that way, you don't go back."
"What are you waiting for?"
"An old mate. He'll be along sometime."
Ted stood up, stubbing his cigarette out between his legs, slipping it into his pocket, extinguished. He'd had enough little sins in his life without littering Heaven. He rubbed Sirius' shoulder, Dora's jacket (which had been Sirius' first) warm in the sun.
"Don't wait too long for him, mate," said Ted.
"God all the time in the world, ain't I?" said Sirius Black, seventeen and whole again in Heaven, lighting a new cigarette with the spark of the one before.
He couldn't put his finger on it, but he knew. It was a vibration in his bones. It was a chattering, a jazz hum. He was searching. He was pacing. He was seeking here and there. He had to find her. He wasn't complete without her; the fact of her absence chattered in the empty space inside him where she should have been. In the real wor...in life, she'd have been gone without trace. In Heaven, he closed his and followed the quiet hum of a heartbeat echoing across the hills.
He stepped out of his Heaven and into hers, an audible pop making his ears sting. Where his Heaven had been wide open and populated, hers was close and dark, a threadbare sofa, an old fashioned TV set which reminded him of men leaving dust footprints on the moon. She was sitting on the sofa, curled around her knees. On the T.V screen, a picture flickered. She was the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen. When he sat down beside her, she looked up and smiled, butted her cheek against his shoulder, let him wrap his arm around her.
"Hello, Dora," he said.
When Dora died she was twenty nine years old and he'd thought that his life was over. At the funeral, Charlie had been handsome and brave in a black suit, a child for each hand. Dora had loved her children, her beautiful red haired children with their normal names. Girls named Nymphadora have sons called Jack and little girls called Gwen. It's okay, Ted, Charlie had said and it wasn't and it never would be. Dora never expected to make old bones.
No, but we all rather hoped that she would.
Ted nuzzled his nose against the top of her hair, relieved to find that her smell hadn't changed in Heaven. It was good to see her again. No words for a father who survived his daughter by years and years even if he never expected her to make old bones. He kissed her hair and watched as, on the screen, Charlie and the twins flickered and flared.
"This is your heaven, Dora," he said, quietly. "I haven't got any place here." And what he meant was, I don't think that I can bear a Heaven that has so much to do with looking back.
"All Heavens are to do with looking back, Dad," said Dora and Ted realised that even his thoughts were hers, in her Heaven.
"I have to go and find your mother," he said.
"Always looking back..." Dora was smiling.
"She's across the sea," he said. "I mean, when I think of her, all that I can feel is...bloody water."
"You'll find her dad," she said simply. "Mom's your Heaven."
He sat in silence with her for a long time, watching Charlie and the children, before he could bring himself to tell her that it was time to go.
In the end, she walked down with him to the water. He stood on the edge of the lake, the sea, seventeen in his football shirt, a hole in the toe of his trainer.
"It's such a long way, Dora," he said, her cheek against his shoulder.
"It's only miles, Dad."
"Water. Air. It's all in your head, Dad. Try it." Ted Tonks closed his eyes and took a step, and another step. The water felt curious, like walking on very long grass. He took a step back towards Dora, but she waved him off with her hands. "Go on, Dad. She's waiting."
Ted blew Dora a kiss, his pretty girl who had never made old bones, and then he turned and started to walk and started to run. He ran until he felt like his chest was bursting and then he stuck out his arms and lifted and ran and forgot about Andy but ran towards her, all the same.
It was his Heaven, after all.