Author's Notes: Written for the August 2007 ficathon at rtchallenge on LiveJournal. This story is set in my "Rookie" fic universe, but no prior reading in that universe is necessary. Much thanks to my proof-reader, Logical Quirk.
This story was my way of working through the events leading up to and the aftermath of Remus's confrontation with Harry at Grimmauld Place in Deathly Hallows ch. 11: The Bribe. This chapter does use a few quotes from the text of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Those words, and the characters and universe, belong to JKR and company—I am only borrowing them.
Choices: Part I
"It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
-Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Bright sharp teeth flash before Remus's eyes. He can hear children screaming, and crying. A woman calls out for help, but the darkness all around him is so thick that he cannot find her. Rage surges through him. He sees the shadowy figure of a man before him, and leaps with animal strength to tackle him to the ground. His fists pound against his unknown victim, and when he finally pulls back, his hands are covered with blood….
He wakes suddenly, his heart pounding in his chest, his breath coming in short gasps. He forces himself to take slower, deeper breaths and focuses his eyes on the yellow glow of the street lamp seeping through the thin curtains of the room he shares with Dora. At times like these he needs to remind himself that his days among the other werewolves are done—it's all in the past. He has a home now.
He slowly and carefully sits up, doing his best to avoid disturbing the slumbering form of his wife. The light casts a dim glow across her smooth face, and he can't help but smile a little to see her looking so much at peace. If only he could follow her example.
But he cannot. Just that afternoon—less than two weeks after their marriage—Kingsley told them of rumors that the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures is pushing to extend the Registry to include spouses and immediate family of werewolves, and that they are also agitating to bar those family members from employment at the Ministry.
Why did he let himself get carried away with the passion and excitement of their reunion? He knew the possible consequences, so why did he do this to her?
He rubs his forehead, and quietly slips out of bed. He pads softly to the bathroom, and closes the door behind him before turning on the light. He splashes his face with cold water, and smoothes his hair back from his face.
He stares at himself in the mirror. The harsh glare of the electric light makes him look ill. He can see that the grey in his hair has finally overtaken the brown, and the lines around his eyes and mouth look darker and deeper than ever before.
Great Merlin, he looks old.
He slides back into bed, and Dora shifts and stirs, moving to snuggle against him. He wraps an arm around her to hold her close. He needs to savor this while he still can—before, inevitably, she realizes what a horrible mistake she's made.
Remus studies his wife's face as the light of the almost-full moon shines brightly through the half-open curtains and sparkles off the moist tracks of tears running down her cheeks. Her mentor is dead and Bellatrix's killing curse missed her by mere inches. She is tired, afraid, and grief-stricken; yet, all he can think about is how beautiful her dark eyes look shining in the moonlight, and how glad he is that it was Alastor killed and George maimed instead of her. He knows he is selfish, but right now he doesn't care.
He moves in front of the window, casting his shadow over her, hiding her tears in darkness. "I love you so much," he whispers, pulling her into his arms, smothering her grief with his kisses.
He makes love to her that night with wilder abandon than ever before, feasting on her pleasure like a man who, after eating nothing but scraps for years, is suddenly presented with a banquet. As she arches her back, crying out his name, the first light of dawn falls across her face. He has never seen anything more beautiful.
Remus is still recovering from the full moon the day of Bill's wedding. He doesn't want to go, but how can he disappoint Dora when she looks so radiant with excitement? Their own wedding was nothing more than a short ceremony followed by dinner with a few friends, and he suspects that she is going to pretend that Fleur's reception is her own.
He can see that he's right as soon as they arrive at the Burrow, and her golden curls bounce and shimmer in the sunlight while she flits from friend to friend with a shining smile on her face. He can feel his own face settling into a frown of weariness and frustration. This is the wedding she should have had. It is the wedding her parents would have given her had she chosen any man besides himself. Why has he done this to her?
He forces a weak smile onto his face for the few friends who greet them, but is vastly relieved when they finally take their seats in the cool shade of the marquee, where he can relax away from the glare of the afternoon sun
After the ceremony, he takes her for a few turns around the dance floor, but he can feel eyes on them everywhere they go. Disapproving eyes—pitying eyes—disgusted eyes. How could a bright, beautiful young woman like her ever agree to marry a Dark Creature like him? He can see the question on their faces. Why has he done this to her?
Once he has taken all that he can stand of those staring eyes, he mutters an excuse to his wife—he is still too tired for much dancing. Can they go home, instead?
"Can we stay just a little longer?" she pleads, her eyes gleaming in the evening light.
He sighs. How can he refuse? He's taken so much from her already—how can he deny her this small happiness?
So they sit at a small table in the shadows. She leans against him, wrapping her arms around his to clutch his hand between her own. They watch the other couples spinning around the dance floor, shimmering like sparks in their fancy dress robes. Why is she content to sit here with him in his dull brown robe, when she should be out there, out-shining the best of them? He shouldn't have let himself get caught up in her enthusiasm and optimism. He should have been the voice of reason. He knew it was a mistake the instant he asked her if she'd ever thought about getting married—but the light in her eyes had blazed so brightly, and that radiant smile had been all for him…. Why did he ever let this happen?
He feels like the most selfish man alive.
Suddenly, another light bursts into the crowd—a graceful silver lynx, glowing brightly as it brings them the darkest of news.
Remus stares around the dimly lit room, where the Weasley family and a few of their more unfortunate guests are huddled together in desperate, quaking clumps. Dora sits stiffly by his side, her blonde hair now hanging limp and lifeless around her pale face. She has remained strong and defiant throughout their hours of questioning, as Death Eaters and her own colleagues worked in dark concert with one another. Despite her show of strength, the heavy shadows of the deepening night falling across her weary face cannot conceal the toll this has taken on her.
With every leering comment—with every perversely suggestive question—the light in her eyes has grown dimmer, and the tension in her jaw grown more pronounced. It is because of him that she was singled out for this lewdly abusive treatment. This is exactly what he feared when he kept himself apart from her for so long—this is exactly why he regretted his marriage vows almost as soon as he made them. He knew this would happen to her. He knew his presence in her life would harm her.
Remus looks away from the smirking form of Yaxley as he spits another vulgar insult at Dora, and bites the inside of his cheek until he tastes the rusty tang of blood in his mouth.
Finally, the interrogators give up in frustration and stomp out of the Burrow. But Dawlish takes the occasion to throw a final bit of parting advice at Dora: "I wouldn't bother coming in to work tomorrow if I were you," he says. "The new administration won't take kindly to one of its Aurors willingly binding herself to one of those creatures." He points his bony finger squarely at Remus.
Dora glares at him and retorts that she has no intention of continuing to serve an administration that she considers illegitimate and immoral. She'll be owling in her resignation first thing in the morning.
Dawlish only laughs, his face gleaming eerily in the candlelight, leaving it deeply etched with harsh black lines around his mocking smile. "What right have you to call anyone immoral?"
With that he exits the house, leaving behind only a patch of moonlight shining on the threadbare carpet.
Remus sits quietly in a dark corner as Hestia examines Andromeda for any lasting ill-effects from the Cruciatus Curse. Dora is holding her mother's hand, and the yellow glow of the diagnostic charms reflects off of her wan face, giving her a sickly appearance.
He doesn't know what worries him more: what happened to his in-laws, or the prospect of what might be happening to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at this very moment. Are they safe? Where are they? Do they have any food? Any money? What exactly is this task that Dumbledore left for them, and do they need help?
He continues to worry as Hestia hovers over Andromeda. Bellatrix was here, and though they have not said it, Remus has no doubt in his mind that the viciousness of the attack on his in-laws was worse than it would have been had he not been a part of their family. He can see the silent accusation in Ted's eyes even now. Bellatrix won't rest until her family has been cleansed of filth like him.
Why has he done this to them? If he had only followed his own advice and kept out of Dora's life once and for all, they might have been safe. Or, at the very least, safer. He won't fool himself into thinking that he is the sole cause of their suffering. But his absence might have mitigated it. They might not have been tortured. Dora might not have had to resign from the job she fought so long and hard to obtain. She could have held on, for at least at little while, and helped the Order from the inside. But now, it's too late.
Hestia finishes her exam and pronounces Andromeda safe. Dora and her mother stand to thank her, and to turn their attention to Ted. Suddenly, Dora wobbles and pitches precipitously forward. Remus leaps to his feet, but Andromeda and Hestia are faster, catching her before she hits the floor.
They shift her to the sofa, where she blinks her eyes blearily and asks what happened. When Hestia tells her she fainted, all she can say is "Why?"
"That's what I'm going to find out," replies Hestia, running her wand over Dora's body, and pronouncing that, for starters, she is dehydrated. She orders Remus to fetch some water, which he does so quickly that he spills much of it over his hands.
He kneels, trembling, by Dora's side as Hestia's glowing charms illuminate her abdomen in yellow, purple, and blue. Dora tries to reassure him that she is fine—it was just a long day. All she needs is water and rest, and she'll be fine. But the look on Hestia's face—almost spectral in the reflected light of her charms—tells him otherwise.
"So, what's the diagnosis?" asks Dora with a smile on her face.
"I have some news for you," replies Hestia.
"Good news or bad news?"
Hestia looks wary. "I'll let you decide that for yourself."
Remus isn't sure he hears her correctly the first time she says it. He can't have been hearing her properly. Surely she didn't just say—?
Andromeda repeats it, and then Dora, both of them looking pale and shocked. Ted is glaring at him with a fierce light in his eyes, and Remus can feel himself withering. He wishes he was still hiding in his dark corner, instead of under the harsh glare of the lamp.
His mind is in a haze. He feels as if he's been Confunded. Pregnant? Now? This can't be happening…it can't be. He wouldn't let this happen at a time like this—he's not like James….
While the dark thoughts swirl in his mind, before his eyes Dora's shocked face unexpectedly blossoms into a shining grin. "I'm having a baby!" she squeals with delight, grabbing Remus's hand and shaking it wildly. "We're having a baby!"
All he can say is: "But…we were careful…how…?"
She looks at him coyly. "I can think of a few times over the past month when we've both been a little too distracted to worry about being careful."
He can't deny that she's right. What was he thinking? He wasn't thinking; that's the problem. Why is he always so selfish—concerned only with sating his immediate needs, without a moment's contemplation given to the future? A child? Now? His wife has already lost her job over him; how much more difficult will it be for their child? And worse—what if he were to hurt it—to infect it? Or could it even be born like him…? Oh, God. What has he done?
"This is wonderful!" says Dora, squeezing him in a tight hug. "I've hoped for a long time that we could start a family together someday. It looks like someday came sooner than I expected!"
Thankfully, Remus is saved from having to reply when Hestia speaks up. "Now don't get too excited, yet," she says. "You're not very far along. Less than two weeks, from what I could tell. At this point the chances of a miscarriage are still quite high. You're not really out of the danger zone until your first trimester is over."
Remus looks up at Hestia, and the lamplight behind her shimmers around her hair like a halo. For one dizzying, terrifying moment his heart beats in exaltation. That's it! They might lose the baby! Everything might still be all right….
Then his heart falls into the pit of his stomach as horror and shame wash over him. What kind of man is he, to wish that kind of pain on his wife?
He darts to his feet. "I need some air." He turns and stumbles his way through the house to the back door, and out into the garden where the dark night sky takes him in her arms, holding him softly with the cool caresses of her breeze.
He drinks the air in deep, shuddering breaths, trying to slow the panicked beating of his heart. The clouds swirl around the waning moon, and he watches them intently—studying the subtle gradations of light and shadow. Anything to take his mind off of what's being talked about inside.
He continues to stare up at the moon, and after a few minutes he hears someone walking up behind him.
It is Dora. He knows it without looking, even though she stops a pace behind him.
"Remus," she says.
He continues to look at the clouds passing across the moon.
"Remus," she says again. "Look at me."
He turns, and looks. Her jaw is set and firm, and her eyes blaze with fiery determination. He knows that look. He's seen it before.
"You're not doing much to endear yourself to my parents, you know. Dad's about ready to burn you in effigy for running out like that." A small hint of a smile dances at the corners of her mouth.
He forces himself to smile back. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…I was just so…"
"Startled? Shocked? Dumbfounded? And about two dozen other adjectives all at once? Me too. But, for me at least, one of those adjectives was happy. I hope it was for you, too." Her shining eyes hold a note of pleading as the moon lights up her pale face like a bright candle in the surrounding darkness.
No, happy is far from what he is feeling right now. But he can't tell her that. He can never tell her that. Instead he pulls her into his arms, and kisses the top of her head. "I love you," he says.
"I love you, too."
They hold each other in the darkness for a few minutes, before she says. "Mum invited us to stay the night. She's getting the spare room ready. Let's go inside and get a good night's sleep—give ourselves a chance to recover from the shock. We'll sort all this out in the morning."
He nods, and allows her to lead him inside.
She falls asleep quickly, but he lies awake long into the night, worrying alternately about Dora, and Harry.
By the time he falls asleep, he knows what he is going to do.
Their stunned silence and shocked faces are almost enough to make him back down. But he can't. He's made his decision, and he'll follow it through, no matter what.
Ted frowns, his face dark in the shade of the heavy draperies of the dining room where they sit eating breakfast. "What the bloody he—"
"Daddy!" Dora cuts him off. "I need to talk to my husband. In private. Now."
Remus nods in quite agreement, grateful for the chance to talk this through away from her parents. Ted will never understand, no matter what he says. But Dora can be reasoned with.
They leave the room with Ted still scowling. Dora takes him by the hand and draws him back into their bedroom, closing the door behind them. She turns to face him, holding both his hands in hers. "Are you doing this because you're upset about the pregnancy?"
After all they've been through over the past year Dora has learned not to mince words.
"No," he insists. "It's not because I'm upset, but it is because of the pregnancy."
She furrows her brow. "What do you mean?"
He gives her the speech that he's mentally rehearsed since he woke before dawn. He tells her how, if Harry is captured or killed, everything that they are fighting for will be lost, and their child will face a world that doesn't want it—a world that will oppress it at every turn—a world that might even kill it for the crime of merely existing. As he talks the glow in her eyes begins to fade and the entire room seems to grow darker.
When she asks, as he knew she would, why someone else can't go, he has his list of reasons ready—he knows they're convincing, because he's managed to convince himself.
"All right," she finally says. "You can go. But I'm coming with you."
He is ready for this request. "No, it's too dangerous. If you were injured now…it could end our baby's life before it even has a chance to start." He feels a slight pang of guilt at the hypocrisy of his words, but if this is what it takes to protect her, than this is what he'll do.
Tears well in her eyes and begin to wend their way down her dull cheeks. "When will you be back?"
He promises that he'll return as soon as Harry is safe, and manages to more than half believe himself. Dora pulls him into her arms, clinging to him with desperate intensity. It is only when he feels her chest shake and tremble that he realizes she is crying.
He cradles her gently and strokes her hair, whispering meaningless words of comfort in her ears. He counsels her not to go back to their flat in Hogsmeade alone, and tells her to move in with her parents, where she'll be safe. She nods in quiet agreement. They hold each other for a few minutes longer. At last, she releases her grip on him and softly tells him to gather anything he'll need to take with him—she'll go explain to her parents.
Before she leaves the room, she turns back and grips his hand again. "I wasn't sure if I should tell you, because Hestia says she can't be absolutely sure for another six or seven weeks…but…she has a really strong feeling that we're having a boy." Dora's smile shines in the dim light. Remus can feel his heart pounding faster—a son. He's having a son. She squeezes his hand. "If she's right—I want to name him after you." Her expression is so eager, and so hopeful, but all he can feel is dread in the pit of his stomach.
A son—cursed with his father's stigma—cursed with his father's name.
He forces himself to smile and nod weakly in reply.
She slips out of the room, and Remus stares at the dark doorframe, feeling desperately alone. He's doing the right thing—he knows he is. This is right for Harry, for Dora, and for his son. It has to be.
One at a time he visits a list of places Harry might have sought refuge, and Death Eaters dog his heels at every turn. They first catch sight of him at the Dursleys' house—and they do their best to follow him everywhere he goes. He manages to lose them a time or two, but since the Death Eaters and their cronies seem to be watching all the same places he has on his list, they always find him again.
He manages a few hurried, whispered conversations with old friends and allies, and he keeps track of the news in the Prophet. Things are growing worse with every passing day.
As he dodges the Death Eaters tailing him and slinks from one dark hiding place to another, his thoughts run wild. He has to find a way to help Harry, so that they can stop this madness as soon as possible. Whatever the boy is up against, he's sure he can help. There are even moments when he lets himself think that James and Sirius would be proud to see him charging to Harry's side.
He tries not to think of Dora—and he does all he can not to think of his son—but dark, guilty thoughts still pierce him at unexpected moments. He tries to shake them off, but it's not easy.
It is the third day since he left Dora behind, and he has his list narrowed down to Grimmauld Place and the Granger home. Of the two, Grimmauld Place seems more likely, so he is determined to get there before the day is out.
He manages to shake off the lone Death Eater tailing him that afternoon with a few quick Apparitions, and finally Disapparates to a street near Grimmauld Place. He Disillusions himself and quietly makes his way to the edge of the square just after dark. Two shadowy, cloaked figures stand vigil nearby staring solemnly at the indiscernible boundary between numbers eleven and thirteen. Alastor's spells must have worked—tying Snape's tongue to prevent him from revealing the location.
Using the greatest care, Remus Apparates directly to the top step outside the door, and slips inside unseen.
With a feeling of crushing sorrow and weariness he breaks the charm on the shadowy figure of Dumbledore that approaches him, and watches it dissipate into a dark cloud of dust.
"Don't move!" a voice cries from the darkness, setting Remus's heart pounding. It is Harry—it has to be.
As the dust clears Remus hears a loud clatter on the stairs. He calls out for them to hold their fire, and raises his hands in a gesture of surrender as he steps from the shadowy entryway into a pool of light.
He feels a surge of relief and gratitude as Harry, Ron, and Hermione come into view and even more relief when Harry insists on going through security questions to determine a positive identification. He may be young, but he's learned his lessons well.
A sense of excitement builds in him as he joins his young friends down in the kitchen. He sees how eager they are for news, and for help, and he knows without a doubt that he's doing the right thing. Dora will be safe with her family—his son will be safe. And now he can stand by Harry's side, and help him rise to the challenge of what lies ahead of him. Together, they can make this a better world.
He fixes a determined look at Harry, and extends his offer of help. Harry and Ron immediately brighten, clear relief spreading across their faces.
But something is wrong. Hermione looks doubtful. "But what about Tonks?" she asks.
He takes a deep breath, forcing the images of his wife's tears out of his mind, and reassures them that she is safe with her parents. But Hermione continues to press him. Why is she doing this? Shouldn't she be happy for his help?
Finally, reluctantly, he admits that Dora is going to have a baby.
Understanding passes over Hermione's face like a wave of light, and she smiles, offering him hearty congratulations, with Ron and Harry chiming in as well. His heart grows lighter. They understand—they see why he is doing this, and they agree. Now, he'll be able to help them.
But even as Ron and Hermione glance over to Harry for a final confirmation of accepting his offer, he can see a dark furrow growing in Harry's brow. "Just—just to be clear," he says, "You want to leave Tonks at her parents' house and come away with us?"
Remus grits his teeth. This was supposed to be easier than this—they were supposed to be grateful. He firmly reassures Harry that Dora will be safe with her family, and, on the spur of the moment, adds, "Harry, I'm sure James would have wanted me to stick with you." There. He knows the high regard Harry holds for his father. That ought to do it.
But rather than agreeing, Harry's face grows even darker. "Well," he says, "I'm not. I'm pretty sure my father would have wanted to know why you aren't sticking with your own kid, actually."
Remus feels as if a shadow has fallen across the room. His tongue feels heavy in his mouth. How can this be happening? They need him. He can actually help them in ways that he couldn't possibly help Dora and his child. Can't Harry see that? But still, Harry demands an explanation.
Remus can feel his anger and frustration building. He finds himself stammering about his marriage being a mistake.
Harry glares fiercely at him, looking shockingly like James in one of his proud rages. "I see. So you're just going to dump her and the kid and run off with us?"
The room seems to grow even darker as Remus leaps to his feet, the sound of his chair toppling to the hard stone floor sounding unnaturally loud in his ears.
He finds himself yelling—shouting his darkest, most secret feelings of shame and guilt at James's only son. He kicks his overturned chair, and grasps at his hair, pulling at in the desperate desire to use physical pain to escape from the persistent ache of guilt and regret in his heart. He can hear himself growing wilder and more desperate, and he can see the expressions of horror and pity on the faces of the three young people sitting before him, but he can't stop himself. "And the child—the child—" he almost chokes on his words as he expresses the fear that he did not even have the heart to share with Dora: that the child will be cursed with his malady. "And if, by some miracle, it is not like me, then it will be better off, a hundred times so, without a father of whom it must always be ashamed!"
The words hang in the air, hammering him again and again with their weight. This is the first time in what feels like weeks that he has spoken the whole, unadulterated truth. Now he sees, even in the midst of his rage, that it is not Harry with whom he is angry.
Hermione tries to reassure him, but he barely hears her. All he can see is James's disapproving specter staring at him through Harry's eyes. "My father died trying to protect my mother and me, and you reckon he'd tell you to abandon your kid to go on an adventure with us?"
Harry's insight is so close to the mark that Remus's stammering reply is incoherent with rage, and the black fire inside of him blazes even hotter as Harry accuses him of trying to step into Sirius's shoes.
"I'd never have believed this," says Harry. "The man who taught me to fight dementors—a coward."
The word pierces Remus like a knife, and the black rage surges through his mind, burning up the last traces of reason. Before he realizes what he is doing, his wand is in his hand, and he is blasting Harry backward with a hex. He spins on his heel, and runs up the stairs, his chest heaving with emotion.
He plunges through the dark hall and bursts through the front door, slamming the door behind him, and running into the dark square. He halts in the middle of the square, putting his face in his hands.
What has he done? Oh, God, what has he done?
But he has no time to think—no time to process what has happened, or what has been said. He hears running footsteps and knows that he has launched himself from the frying pan into the fire: the Death Eater sentries have seen him—they are almost upon him.
He throws up a Shield Charm just in time to deflect the first curse thrown at him, and takes off running, casting Stunning Spells over his shoulder at the two men chasing after him. Their curses light up the dark square with bright blooms of red.
As soon as he reaches the shelter of a nearby alley, Remus Disapparates.
To be continued…
Author's Note: Part II is already finished, and will be posted soon. Thanks for reading and reviewing.