"Remus, love, could you bring the potatoes in? They're on the stove."
It was half-past four in the afternoon and the Lupin family was sitting down to an early, and unusually quiet, dinner, for Teddy, after fussing for the past quarter-hour, had finally fallen asleep. They'd moved his cradle to the tiny dining room so they could have him close while they ate, and now he lay in it peacefully as it rocked gently back and forth, never slowing, thanks to a particularly ingenious charm from Tonks.
As Tonks set the table, Remus downed the very last draught of wolfsbane in the kitchen and then obediently carried the food to the dining room, shooting a glance at the lunar clock on the wall before setting it on the table. It was the full moon tonight and within an hour he needed to be down in the cellar with the door safely locked and fortified behind him.
"Hurry and sit down while it's still hot," Tonks said, pushing the tureen toward him. "You'll want a warm meal in you while you're waiting tonight."
While he ladled out the potatoes and stew and peas onto his plate, he marveled – as he always did – at how calm she seemed, and how matter-of-factly she spoke of the coming change. He knew that even the most tolerant witches and wizards would never dare sit so near a werewolf on the day of the full moon, much less reach across the table for his hand. In Tonks he had truly found a miracle.
"You're all clammy," she said softly.
"I know." He tried to laugh but it came out sounding choked.
"It'll be okay, you know."
"You say that every time."
"I mean it every time."
"But it's different now, Dora. We've got Teddy, and… What if you're stuck with two of us?" He blurted it without thinking, and then immediately felt ashamed for once again voicing this fear. He began to withdraw his hand but she grasped it tighter in hers.
"I don't think that's likely. Acquired traits are rarely passed down, and when they are it's usually only after centuries, maybe even millennia of evolution." She smiled, and added dryly, "After all, I had sex with you, not the wolf, Remus."
"But what if, Dora?" He pressed, undeterred by her levity. "What if he is?"
"If Teddy is a werewolf, he'll change into a very small pup. You forget I grew up with two pet mastiffs – I'll know how to handle him."
He opened his mouth to argue the logic of this, but she cut in,
"Stop worrying and eat your food. If you don't you'll be hungry tonight and, to be honest, I'd feel a lot better knowing you were nicely sated down there."
That shut him up sharp. He ate quickly, scarcely registering the taste of the food though by the look of it he knew it had to be good – nerves made everything seem like sawdust in his mouth. Nevertheless he ate two full portions at Tonks's insistence and afterward felt that the waistband of his trousers had grown tighter than was usual. This drew a wry smile from him. Since he'd moved in with her she'd implemented a strict eating regimen which forbade him to leave the table until all the food was gone, and she always refused seconds. When he'd jokingly confronted her about her plan to fatten him up, she'd had a retort all ready:
"You're skin and bones, Remus, and if you won't do anything about it, then I will. I refuse to be seen with a man whose trousers might fall down at any moment. And don't give me that rubbish about your 'special' metabolism. My dad had a special metabolism as well, and look how he turned out!"
Ted Tonks, Remus knew, had been good-natured, quick to laugh, and even quicker to clean his dinner plate. And it had showed.
He wondered whether Ted would have been as quick to accept the prospect of having a werewolf for a grandson as well as for a son-in-law, namesake or not. With this thought to sober him, he helped Tonks clear the table in silence, then carried Teddy back to the nursery and sat many minutes gazing at him as though it was for the last time. When Tonks came in nearly all the light had drained from the room, leaving only the painted white bars of the crib, the grey in Remus's sweater and the streaks of it in his hair. All the rest was shadow. Wordlessly, Tonks took his hand.
In the glow of the cellar's single bare bulb, Remus undressed and placed his folded clothes on the specially built shelf high on the wall. He turned off the light with a flick of his wand before stowing it away as well, out of the wolf's reach. In the darkness he felt his way over to the pile of blankets Tonks had folded up for him in the corner, pulled one about his shoulders, and sat huddled with his hands around his knees, waiting.
It was a while yet till moonrise, and if he'd been less anxious he'd have tried to get some sleep in the interval, but his heart fluttered painfully and his mind was no less active, unable to block out the fears for his son. His son! The idea had not yet lost its ability to awe him. It seemed impossible that amid the mounting violence and the looming shadow of the battle that he knew would soon come, there could exist such innocence, such perfection, in one tiny being. And that it should be his – that it should bear his name, that his blood should flow in its veins – was nothing short of a miracle, was beyond even the most far-fetched of his dreams. Remus had lost so much in the past few years. After experiencing the revelation of Sirius's innocence, only to have all the joy it had brought him undone in one swift moment of chaos and rage, he'd begun to believe himself cursed, an outlaw from Happiness. And then amid the haze of mourning (which had happened in private of course; shows of emotion were always in private with Remus) hope had come in the form of one energetic, strong-willed and tender-hearted young woman. He still wondered daily what he had done to deserve her.
And now she had given him a son, the most precious thing in his life, Teddy. He'd not thought to be a father. It had seemed inevitable for James, so much the leader, and Sirius too, who for all his gallivanting had a remarkable way with kids, and even Peter, who at age 12 had caution enough for two over-protective parents. But not him, never him. He had not expected it, had not even hoped for it. He had taught children, on and off, when he was able to get work, and his year at Hogwarts stood out among the fondest of his memories, but teaching was the closest to fatherhood he ever thought to come. And it had been enough – he had accepted it as enough. But the moment he had clapped eyes on Teddy, instincts he never knew he had – human instincts, nurturing instincts – sprang to the surface. He knew he would give his life for him in a heartbeat, would fight for his son's happiness with the very last breath in his body.
Remus had never been a grasping man, and so he had learned quickly to accept the denial that society imposed on him. But tonight he had a want – a desire so strong it was beyond a mere thought or idea; it was a need. As he waited for the moon, he whispered it again and again into the dark:
Please not Teddy. Please. Let him go free.
Upstairs in Teddy's room, Tonks sat with her infant son in her arms, rocking him and waiting for the moon. Her wand was ready on the dresser beside her, and if the boy showed the slightest tremble, she would not hesitate to use it. She knew a very useful bubble spell which would be much more effective, not to mention more humane, than Stunning or Petrificus Totalus. It was warm and comfortable in the nursery. A blue, childproof fire burnt in the tiny fireplace and the animal shadows from the magic lantern (a Muggle invention despite the name, and a special gift from Andromeda) on the shelf above the door glided across the walls in a lulling, endless game of chase. She thought of Remus, below her in the unheated basement, probably shivering in his blankets now, unable to think of anything but the change. He didn't talk much about it, but she knew from Sirius how painful it was – he had been there, had seen it through Padfoot's eyes countless times as a boy. And despite hating these periods of waiting as much as Remus did – loathing the feeling of helplessness they gave her, and the distance they forced between her and the man she'd sworn devotion to in both sickness and health – she was grateful for the silencing charm in the cellar and the Muffliato that hovered over the door, affecting anyone who came within five feet of it. She would never have to hear his screams.
Teddy's crib stood in a corner, and she was sitting beside it in the rocking chair that had belonged to Remus's mother, directly above the corner downstairs where Remus was. It was as near as she could be to him, on this night.
Remus, I'm close.
As though both of them could hear her – her Silenced husband and her sleeping son – she began to sing very softly the song her father had sung to her as a child:
Baby sleep, gently sleep
Live is long and love is deep
Time will be sweet for thee
All the world to see
Time to look about and know
How the shadows come and go
How the breeze stirs the trees
How the blossoms grow
The next morning, Tonks shuffled groggily around the kitchen, making coffee to combat the effects of a restless night. Teddy had woken several times, fussing and crying until he was nursed or rocked or murmured to and sleep finally claimed him. And when she was not seeing to Teddy, she'd lain awake, thinking of Remus and wondering, as she always did, if somewhere deep in the wolf's mind he missed the warmth of another body beside him as he slept, and perhaps wondered where she was. As she sat at the table, sipping her coffee and rubbing her bleary eyes, she couldn't help but glance every now and then at the basement door. If it had been a good night, there was a chance she might see him by afternoon and they'd be able to have dinner together, and he'd sleep again beside her in the bed. Some moons passed differently, though, without him emerging until two or three days later. She knew he needed to rest, but she selfishly hoped that this would not be one of those moons. She already missed him desperately and wanted him here with her.
As if responding to her unvoiced desire, the cellar door flew open with a bang. Tonks jumped up so quickly she hit her knees on the table and knocked over her chair, which fell backwards with a crash. Remus staggered into the room, clothes all askew, hair wild, eyes huge and ringed with exhaustion.
"Christ, Remus! What are you doing?"
"How is he? Is he okay?"
"Teddy! Is he a werewolf?"
"No." She looked into his grey, panicked face and felt tears welling in her eyes. "Oh no, Remus, Teddy's not a werewolf."
Holding the wall, he closed his eyes and let out a sigh that pierced her heart.
"Thank God," he whispered. "Thank God!" Suddenly he seemed hardly able to stand. She went over to him, touched his face, put her arms around him and held him to her.
"Come," she said when he'd stopped swaying. "I want to show you something."
Teddy was fast asleep in his crib. A shaft of morning sunlight fell across his face, illuminating his tuft of hair – turquoise today – but he slept on, unaware that day had broken around him. As Remus watched, Tonks reached in and picked him up. He began to fuss almost immediately, clearly annoyed at being thus woken, but she shushed and bounced him until he quieted, blinking sleepily at his parents and waving his little fists.
"Look, Remus," Tonks said softly. "I know babies' eyes aren't supposed to settle for several months, but last night Teddy's changed and they haven't changed again since."
Remus bent closer to his son, and saw that the boy's eyes were a warm hazel – not his own pale blue, but the glowing, golden eyes of the wolf.
Overcome, Remus held tight to them both – his wife and his son, his entire world – and wept.