The Muggles in the neighborhood think that the house burned down years ago. Their children like to fighten each other by saying that the ruins are haunted by that cranky old woman who used to live there, the one who yelled at their older brothers and sisters when they used to hide in the woods, looking for a quiet place to snog. When the old woman would lose her temper, her posh, clipped accent would disintegrate into something that sounded decidedly like East London. If anyone was going to haunt a burned-down old ruin, it would be somebody miserable like her. However, the ghost might very well have been her eccentric husband, who outlived her by a good ten years and wore absurdly printed pajamas, even during the day. He'd been a friendly enough bloke, but something of a hermit, and there were rumors that his last few years had been painful ones.
The children used to dare each other to go into those woods at night, and lots of them tried to, but nobody knew anybody with actual photographic evidence that they'd made it onto the property. Those that had tried were never willing to admit to their friends that they'd approached the rusty old gate and suddenly remembered that they had somewhere else to be.
Still, the haunting rumors persisted, probably because most of the villagers got a funny sort of feeling whenever they got near the place. There was a crackling energy in the air (a little like electricity) which would make the hairs on the back of their necks stand up. Sometimes, they could have sworn that they heard the sounds of children playing football, but n one actually saw any children there, not since that funny little girl with the pink hair (who visited the old couple every summer) had grown up.
At night sometimes people thought they could hear wolves howling in those woods (which was really rather unusual for that part of the country.) But nobody ever saw any visible signs of them. None of the neighborhood farms reported chicken coops being broken into or missing lambs. If there were wolves up there, they seemed to keep to the woods.
Had any of the villagers been lucky enough to give birth to a magical child, however, that child could have told a very different story. There was a house there - a big stone house with an imposing entryway - and at the front of the house was a discreet sign which welcomed visitors to The Sirius Black Academy. They would also have seen children running around the grounds, and yes, sometimes they did play football, but only when visitors were not expected. (The wizarding world had changed a lot since the end of the second 'War against Tom Riddle' but many of wizardkind still had a great distaste for Muggle activities.)
The fact that the place did get visitors was notable in itself. You see, there was something very special about the children that attended the Black Academy, but what made them special also tended to make others afraid of them. The Headmaster of the school and his friends were working very hard to change those attitudes, though, and progress (painfully slow progress) was being made.
At the moment, the Headmaster was away for the afternoon, and the Deputy Headmistress was conducting an interview with the parent of a prospective student. The interview was taking place in the Headmaster's office, which seemed to have a great many more books in it than one would normally expect. There were also photographs all over the walls, and the visitor was trying hard not to stare at the famous faces looking out of the frames. There were medals and plaques everywhere. One of them looked like an Order of Merlin of some sort, but the visitor could not see it clearly enough to tell what class it was. (This was mostly because a neatly folded hand knit jumper with a large 'R' worked into it sat on top of the award, partially obscuring it.) The door opened and a small woman with hair the color of the Hogwarts Express (who was carrying an armful of pamphlets and application parchments) stumbled over a trainer which had been left outside the door.
"Bugger!" she muttered under her breath and then looked up at her visitor, blushing visibly.
"Kids, eh? They do tend to leave their shoes in the oddest places. Then again, I have no right to complain: my husband has been bemoaning my lack of housekeeping skills for years. So, Mrs. Hodgkins, as I was saying, my best suggestion would be for you to allow your son to spend a few days here, just to see if he feels comfortable."
The visitor seemed clearly distressed, twisting the hem of her robes. "But, don't you think he'll be...frightened?"
Tonks adopted her briskest, most professional voice. "Yes, perhaps. But he might also feel more secure because he will be with those that understand him nearly as well, if not better, than his own family. He will learn to manage his condition, and will be more likely to be able to function in society because of it. We have the best Wolfsbane Program in the country--in fact--probably in all of Europe, and your son will be fully prepared to function in a school environment by the time his Hogwarts letter comes. And then, he will come back here by Portkey every full moon to be with his kind in a controlled setting."
Mrs. Hodgkins ignored the brochure that Tonks held out to her, searching Tonks' face with a curious expression. "Pardon my asking, but are you…are you one, too?"
"Am I a what?" Tonks asked, but knew that the word 'werewolf' was not going to come easily from Mrs. Hodgkins' lips. Taking pity on the understandably worried mother, she continued, "Oh, no, I'm not. I am actually one of the three Aurors that patrols the wards on full moons, making certain that nobody gets out or in. But our headmaster is a Lycanthrope, and he is my husband. Three of our four adopted children are, too. I really wish you could have met him—my husband, that is-- but he is speaking at the Ministry today."
Mrs. Hodgkins perked up at this. "I have heard of his reputation, of course. A war hero, is he not? But when you met…was he a …you know…?"
"Yes. Since he was a child."
Mrs. Hodgkins gasped. "And you married him, still, even though…"
Tonks thought to herself that Mrs. Hodgkins would need to go through a serious attitude adjustment if she was going to become a supportive mother to a werewolf. "I think that our story is an important one for the children. We are living proof that a relatively normal life is possible, even with my husband's condition. Of course, we've come a long way, even in the last five years. We were actually only allowed to marry recently. I don't know if you have heard or not, but there has been some groundbreaking legislation, due mostly to the work of my mother, Andromeda Tonks…"
"That's your mother? Of course, we've heard wonderful things about her, even before…"
Tonks smiled fondly. "Yes, she's something of a force to be reckoned with…"
"But that must mean…you're Tonks, aren't you? You were something of a war hero yourself, and with Professor Lupin…"
Tonks really had no desire to go over war stories. "That was a long time ago, and since then…well, we …we prefer to be remembered for the work we have done here, really…""But--wasn't he--Professor Lupin--the one who…Fenrir Greyback?"
Tonks, who felt the hair at the back of her neck prickle, answered very quietly, "He made certain that Greyback could no longer hurt the innocent."
Mrs. Hodgkins sat forward eagerly in her chair. "But weren't...weren't you both in…the Order of the Phoenix?"
"As were many others, and many who gave their lives. My husband lost several friends to the two wars, as did I, but he is less likely than I am to respond kindly to questions about it." Past experience had made Tonks just the tiniest bit paranoid, but she thought she might need to trust her instincts on this one. "Do you have any photographs of your son?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't bring any…"
If you're a mother, lady, I'm a Death Eater. "And which Healer did you see about his bite?""I can't remember…Smith, I think…" Mrs. Hodgkins waved her hand vaguely.
"Hepzibah Smith, was it?"
Mrs. Hodgkins nodded eagerly. "That's the one. She really was very kind."
Tonks stood up and leaned across the desk, glaring at her visitor and saying in a low, menacing tone, "Tell your boss that this is a particularly low blow, Mrs. Hodgkins, or whatever the hell your name is. There are parents and children out there who are genuinely suffering, and we only want to help them. How dare you pretend…!"
She stomped over to the door, angrily kicking aside the trainer that still lay on the floor. She turned back to her unwelcome visitor, holding the door open in a very clear invitation. "My husband has given all of the interviews on that subject that he ever will! He's not forgotten the way that your paper treated him before the war, not to mention that the articles that your boss wrote about our good friends during the Triwizard tournament…"
'Mrs. Hodgkins' apparently knew when to give up the pretense. She protested, "I had nothing to do with all that! I'm just trying to do my job…I only wanted a few words. Our readers are very interested…he's a hero, after all, and…"
"He always was a hero. You were all just to stupid and prejudiced to see it. Write about the school. That is all we are willing to talk about. We already gave our war interview to the Quibbler, thank you very much…"
Maybe it was the look on Mrs. Lupin's face, or perhaps it was the possibility that the angry woman (an Auror, at that) had the option to summon nearly thirty adolescent werewolves to assist her in removing the unwelcome visitor from the premises, but 'Mrs. Hodgkins' gathered up her things and left without another word.
Several hours later, Nymphadora Tonks Lupin (affectionately known to her husband's students as Professor Tonks) came upon her husband hanging around the back of the garage, looking puzzled and irritated. The powerful feeling that filled her chest at the sight of him never ceased to amaze her. After a few minutes silent admiration of his backside, (which had only grown more appealing over the years due to improved access to decent meals and regular exercise) she set down her parcels and coughed slightly, saying, "Watcher, love."
He turned around and his eyes lit up at the sight of her, which of course, weakened her knees. "Hello, Nymphadora," he said, and the way he said her name weakened her knees further. He looked down at her feet. "What have you got there?"
She grinned mischievously. "Went to a sporting goods store – I could've stayed for hours. Never knew how many Muggle sports there were. Have you ever heard of lacrosse?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I have."
"Looks like fun," she said, her smile broadening.
Remus' eyebrow shot up. "Please tell me you haven't gone out and bought a lot of lacrosse equipment, love. Teaching them football nearly wore me out as it is."
"And look at what a success it was!" They're ever so much less…twitchy as the moon waxes."
Remus tried not to laugh. "Let's just…stick to football, my dear."
"For now, at least," he added, seeing the look of disappointment on her face. "And to be perfectly honest with you, I was contemplating putting up a basketball court. There is one game, at least, that the children can play alone or with a team."
"What's basketball, anyway?" she asked, her face alight with curiosity.
Remus sighed, looking back at the rubbish bins. "I'll explain later, just let me…"
"Why're you rummaging through the rubbish, anyway, Remus?"
Remus put his hands on his hips, surveying the uncharacteristically disorganized rubbish area. "I'm not rummaging through it, love, I'm cleaning it up. There is this infernal dog that keeps getting back here and knocking things over. Don't know how he's getting through the wards, but somehow… I'm about ready to ask Alastor about those Anti-Intruder Jinxes he used all those years ago."
Tonks tried to hide the smile in her voice as she said, "I've never seen a dog around here. I thought dogs tended to steer clear of lycans."
Remus shook his head. "Usually they do, but this one seems particularly stubborn. Elusive, too, though I've been trying my damnedest to catch him."
"How d'you know it's a him?" she asked.
"So, what does it look like?"
"Large. Something like a Great Dane, I think." He turned, just in time for her to change her expression from 'absurdly pleased with herself' to 'mildly concerned.'
"D'you think it could hurt the children? A dog that big, and clearly hungry…" She gestured toward the rubbish bins.
Remus shook his head again, looking back at the rubbish area irritably and waving his wand. "No, I suspect that it is harmless. He, or it, I suppose, didn't have that hungry look in its eyes. It actually seemed like it just wanted to play. I swear - it just looked at me and I could almost see that it was enjoying my irritation at the mess it made. It was completely undignified, in a way that only a really big dog could be."
He tore his eyes away from the now upright and filled rubbish bins, only to find his wife watching him with a broad grin. "You haven't gone and bought a dog, have you, Nymphadora? You know that's a bad idea don't you?"
Her smile - impossibly - widened and she said, (in a deceptively innocent tone) "I haven't bought a dog, Remus."
"Or adopted one. You can't feed a stray, you know; it will never leave."
Tonks attempted to compose her features. "Really, Remus, I've never seen this dog you're talking about. What colour was its fur, anyway?"
"I don't know…light brown, sort of mousy…"
Tonks spoke without thinking. "You never said it was mousy before, you said it was lovely…"
Remus stared long and hard at her, answering slowly. Your hair is lovely. The dog's, however, is sort of mangy…"
"That's a fine thing to say, Remus!"
"Nymphadora Lupin, what have you done?" he asked, emphasizing every syllable as if she were a naughty child.
In answer, she only laughed
"Oh, god," he said, and leaned against the nearest wall, never taking his eyes off her. "You did it, after all.""I thought you would be proud of me!"
He sucked in his breath. "I am, actually. And I'm absolutely terrified, too. Does Minerva know?"
"Who d'you think helped me work it out?" she asked.
"Are you going to notify the Ministry?"
She bit her thumbnail in an unconscious gesture. "Do you know - I'm of two minds about that. On the one hand, it is sort of a good thing to keep private, at least it was for Sirius, and I'm still not entirely sure I want the Ministry knowing everything about me, given their track record. Not to mention, if it gets into the paper, you know we'll end up becoming the butt of a lot of inter-species mating jokes."
"Oh, god," he repeated, and the tips of his ears reddened.
"But on the other hand, it could be dead useful to the Department. I mean--you know--they would likely call me in first when there's a werewolf on the loose, and I would be able to bring him or her in without nearly as much risk as a regular Auror."
"Oh, god," he repeated a third time, his face becoming suddenly pale.
"Of course, I'm counting on you lot to give me lots of practice interacting with werewolves. You did promise, you know, that if I turned out to be the right kind of animal…I mean, you're not going to back out now—I'm going to get to run around with your little pack! You did promise…" She took a step toward him, a question in her eyes.
Remus looked as if he were about to pass out. "I didn't think you'd actually manage it…plus, I thought you'd wind up as something like…I don't know, a chameleon? Possibly that funny old kangaroo that I haven't seen in years? I never imagined…a dog…"
"A big, clumsy, lovable dog. Bigger than Sirius, even." She grinned, and Remus was absolutely blown away at how much her smile resembled her cousin's.
He shook his head. "He would've been so proud…"
"Yeah he would've. No, he is proud—somewhere. So tell me, Professor, are you going to keep your word and let me be one of your little Marauders?"
He ran his hand through his hair, sighing in resignation. "When have I ever been able to deny you anything, Nymphadora?"
She put her arms around him, kissing him soundly. "Oh, you managed pretty well there, for a while, love. But you made it all right in the end."
A/N: Well, this is it!
Thank you to all who have faithfully following this story and especially to those who have commented. Your kind words have been gratefully appreciated, and your suggestions have always been helpful.
Another big thank you to those who have recommended this to others.
This was my first fic, and now that I have been bitten by the bug, I'm sure that there will be many more.
In fact, I am currently mapping out an entirely different story with this pair. This one will be first person, Tonks POV, (not quite as angsty) where her feelings are explored as they unfold, and with a slightly different take on both Remus and Tonks. It will have, at most, an R rating.
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Thanks for sticking with me to the end