Note: This is something I started writing nearly a year ago for the Remus-Tonks challenge, and never quite finished. I've left the prompts on top of the sections where it made sense, since some of them at least were influenced by the prompt. The plan is to actually finish this this time around.
"He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health, a boy's love, or a whore's oath." King Lear (III, vi, 19-21)
"Don't say it, Sirius."
"I don't want to, either, James, but it must be him. You can see that, can't you?"
"Just stop, Sirius. I'd trust my life to him. You know I would. A day ago I would have said that you would, too."
"Of course you can trust your health to him, you old nag. And mine too, without question. But Harry's life, James? For Harry, we can't afford not to wonder."
But James just sputters indignantly.
"I am not a nag, you mangy mutt! Or do you need a reminder of what my prongs can do to you, Paddy?"
He picks up Harry's little stag and dog from the pile of toys on the floor in front of his son, and demonstrates exactly what he means, sending the dog flying across the room, where Sirius picks it up, and cradles it protectively.
Harry looks up at them, and smiles and laughs his peculiar gurgling laughter, to which his father and godfather are still endlessly susceptible. James had wondered, when he had first held his baby son just over a year ago, whether the novelty of having this marvelous little creature to play with and care for would ever wear off, and it hasn't yet; it only gets better. Harry is much loved, and he is easy to love, for he too loves easily. James kneels on the floor, handing the toys back to his son, and gives Sirius a real answer.
"Remus loves Harry. Harry loves Remus, and he knows that. He'd never do anything to hurt Harry."
Sirius picks up the little boy, and tickles his toes. He's rewarded with another giggle.
"Harry's just a little boy, James. You can't exactly trust his judgment on this."
James just shakes his head. Sirius is his brother, but Remus is as good a friend as any man could hope for. And Sirius knows this, but he is inexorable in his insistence.
"I know you love Remus, James. We all do. But do you think he has ever trusted to our love? He's never let anyone but us near him. He's shut the world out, convinced himself that any woman who's ever tried to get close to him is out on the make or bound to be disappointed. We had to grind him down, James. Don't you ever think that maybe he gave in just because it was easier than to keep resisting? Do you really think it's possible for him to overcome what he is?"
The only thing Remus likes less than hospitals are hospital gowns. As a boy, he spent what felt like a lifetime in hospital wards and clinics while doctors and nurses had talked over him in hushed whispers whose meaning was all too evident, recuperating from injuries caused by a beast within himself, or searching for a cure he had never let himself hope for. And grown to a man's estate he had made a craft of holding on to the shreds of his dignity as best he could, knowing that it would never suffice to earn him respect. Since he left Hogwarts, he's never subjected himself to the indignity of hospitals and the gowns that go along with them. He's handy enough with his wand, and he's gotten along quite well with a little help from his friends.
So it's very disorienting for him to wake up in St. Mungo's, and pull himself up in bed, only to realize from the unexpected breeze on his backside that he was wearing one of those dreaded hospital gowns, in Mungo's signature lime green. He blinks, experimentally, but opening his eyes again, he sees that he's still there in the hospital ward. He looks around then, seeing for the first time that James and Lily are there attending him, along with Dumbledore himself.
"What… what happened then? Did something go wrong? I don't really remember how I got here."
James winces. Dumbledore looks apologetic.
"I should never have sent you out there, Remus. It was much too dangerous. I'm just glad that we were able to find you and bring you back alive."
"I'll have to go back. I wasn't… I haven't been able to do anything yet. They just… they're not listening to me."
"No, Remus, you won't be returning. It was a mistake on my part to send you. I believe we've taken you a little too much for granted."
"Is this why you're all here then? To tell me that there's really nothing more I can do for the Order?"
James snorts. Lily exclaims. Remus ignores them both for the time being and turns to Dumbledore, who answers him.
"No, Remus. That's not why we're here. We have some news for you that we didn't think could wait."
But wait he does, for a moment that feels like an eternity, as the Headmaster gathers himself to speak.
"Remus, we've found a cure."
Remus stares at the old man, unbelieving. After so many years, and all of the false leads that his parents had chased down over the years, he had convinced himself long ago that he would never put his faith in those words. But he's hearing them now from a man whose words he could never dismiss.
"What is it?"
Dumbledore smiles, but it's not his usual easy, twinkling smile. Had it been anyone else, Remus would have grown nervous, but this was Dumbledore, after all. He could trust Dumbledore, if he could trust anyone.
"Remus, I want you to think about this very carefully. Don't reject this out of hand. You deserve this. Your parents looked their entire lives for a cure."
"What is it? Are there side-effects I need to worry about? How could it possibly not be worth it?"
"The Unspeakables at one of the Rooms at the Department of Mysteries recently made a breakthrough that they considered to be somewhat arcane. The application to cases like yours was not immediately apparent, but is actually quite straightforward. I'll admit there haven't been any tests conducted on individuals like you, but there is absolutely no doubt that it will work. I've examined the formulae myself."
"Is it that Wolfsbane formula?"
Remus feels a little sick, even thinking about it. It's all very well to say that the lethal effects could be neutralized and harnessed by skilled potioneers; it's still difficult to get away from the fact that in its raw form, the plant will kill him. Still, if it is part of the cure Dumbledore is talking about, he will take the risk of poisoning in a heartbeat.
"No, it's nothing like that. This is something we've used quite successfully for recent bites. It wasn't stable enough to use in cases like yours, but I do believe it'll work."
"What is it, Professor? Is there anything we can do to help?"
It's James who speaks up. He came here with Lily when Dumbledore notified them about Remus's condition, feeling all the more guilty about the suspicions that Sirius wanted him to entertain. Remus is loyal; James is sure of this, can hardly help being, when he sees the injuries Remus has garnered in the service of the Order. But he's been wondering why he and Lily were invited along to what should have been a private conversation between Dumbledore and Remus when the conversation drifts the way it does. He knows Dumbledore does everything for a reason, and if he's been asked here, it's because he needs to be. He's done a fair bit over the years to make Remus's life a little bit easier, sometimes in ways that even Dumbledore didn't know about, and now would be no exception, if only he knew what it was that Dumbledore wanted.
"Yes, James, there is a great deal you and Lily can do to help."
"Just what is this cure, Professor?" Remus interjects.
"Are you familiar with youth potions, Remus?"
Remus blinks at the non sequitor.
"Yes, of course. I mean, I couldn't brew one to save my life, but I understand the theory well enough."
Lily smirks, distracting Remus, who can't quite believe that the Headmaster said what Remus thought he did.
"Then you'll understand what we are proposing. As you know, the Curse is ingrained in your body as you know it now, and there is nothing we can do to remove it. But if we take you back to an age before you were bitten, before your body was infected with the Curse, you will be perfectly free of it."
"But that's impossible, sir! I was barely four years old. No one's ever used a youth potion like that. It can't possibly be stable."
"I assure you, Remus, the formula is impeccable. I admit that you would be the first trial case, but there is no reason to believe that it wouldn't work."
"So you would take me down to three years old, to cure me, and then age me back up again?" asks Remus, finally seeing a glimmer of hope that still seems tantalizingly out of his grasp.
But then Dumbledore shakes his head, and Remus knows why this is just another pipe dream.
"No Remus. It will be physically possible to age you back up again, of course, but we will be starting with you as a real three year old. You will lose a lifetime's experiences and learning if we do that."
"So then... this is…"
But he can't quite bring to say the word 'impossible;' he can't meet the Headmaster's eyes, and as he turns to James and Lily it suddenly becomes obvious why his best friends, the perfect parents, are sitting in this room while he has this conversation.
"You can't mean…"
But James interrupts.
"And why not, Remus? You know what this means. This is what your parents spent their whole lives searching for."
"But they're not here, James, and I can't just willfully become a burden like this. I'm enough of that already. And you know what else this means… a lifetime's experiences, gone. I'd never want to give up what we've had."
"But we'll still be here, Moony. Do you think we won't have another lifetime's worth of memories for you? You'll always be our friend, Remus – give us this chance to be something more. I couldn't live with myself knowing that you had this chance and turned it down."
"I'm not your responsibility, James. I can't ask you to do this."
But it's Lily who answers.
"Not our responsibility, Remus, but it would be our privilege. I can't imagine a better brother for Harry."
And suddenly Remus sees a picture of a perfect childhood, of a little garden, and a big black dog, and a small black-haired little boy, holding his hand and looking up at him. And it takes a minute for him to find speech, but Lily doesn't need an answer. She squeezes his hand, and says, "Just think about it, won't you?"
And then they leave the room, leaving Remus to grapple with the most important decision of his life. It's just not fair to spring these things on a man when he isn't even wearing a pair of pants.