The kitchen door flew open with a bang, admitting a nine-year-old boy with shaggy turquoise hair at full throttle. The boy came to a sudden stop when he noticed the adults sitting at the table. Remus quirked an eyebrow at his son's wary look. What had the boy been up to?
"And this is my son, Teddy," he addressed the woman sitting next to him wryly. "Teddy, I'd like you to meet to our guest, Annie Reynolds. Miss Reynolds will be taking over for me at the Werewolf Rights office when I begin teaching at Hogwarts in the fall." He expected his son's customary cheerful "Wotcher" by way of greeting, but to his surprise Teddy put his head down and attempted to hurry past the table. He stood up to intercept his son, placing his arm around his shoulders and gently pointing him back towards the table. "Teddy, say hello—"
"Ger'off," Teddy responded irritably as he shrugged out of his father's grasp. A second bang marked his exit out the kitchen door and back into the garden.
Dora looked after him quizzically and then turned to Annie. "I'm sorry, he doesn't usually behave that way."
She shrugged, "I'm used to it."
"Not in this house," Remus corrected her firmly and went in search of his son. He had never been more furious with the boy. He found Teddy sitting on a large rock overlooking the pond in the garden, his knees drawn up to his chin.
"Ted Remus Lupin, you will come back into the house immediately and apologize to Miss Reynolds."
Teddy looked up at his father defiantly. "What for?"
Remus struggled to keep his temper in check. "Because you were exceedingly rude to our guest."
"So what?" Teddy shrugged and proceeded to pick at the frayed soles of his trainers. "I didn't invite the stupid w—" he muttered under his breath.
With an effort Remus forced himself to stay calm. "Very well, then, if you cannot be civil—go to your room and wait for me there." Teddy stood up and walked sullenly to the front entrance of the house, avoiding the kitchen.
Remus was deeply troubled as he rejoined Dora and Annie. "I apologise, Annie. Apparently my son is having a bit of a bad day. Perhaps we could continue our discussion tomorrow when we meet with the Minister?"
She gazed at him impassively. "No probs. Ten o'clock?" He agreed and walked her to the front door.
"She seems a bit indifferent," observed his wife.
He turned away from the door. "She's had a hard life. But she's been around long enough that the older werewolves respect her, and she has a good rapport with the younger generation. She has a daughter, did I tell you?" Dora shook her head. "Only a few years older than Teddy. Her husband disappeared with the child shortly after she was bitten." 'She'll be at Hogwarts this fall,' he realized with a start. Annie must have known, but had never mentioned it. As he stood gazing out the window at the garden—with its tree swing and abandoned toys—he couldn't imagine what it must be like, to know your child was out there and not be allowed to see her grow up.
Dora moved to lay a comforting hand on his back, bringing him out of his reverie. "What was that all about with Teddy, then?" she asked.
Remus shook his head in frustration. "I have no idea. He was completely defiant, almost as though he were daring me to get angry with him." He looked at her sadly. "I suspect it may have had something to do with the fact that Annie is a werewolf."
"But that doesn't make sense! We've had werewolves to the house before and he's always been perfectly polite. In fact most of the time he'll talk their ears off if they'll let him."
"Did your mother say anything before she left to go to the Burrow this afternoon?"
"Only that he had been feeling a spot under the weather and had spent most of the day in his room. He was a bit quiet last night at dinner. Do you think something happened yesterday?"
"Something's upset him." He paused before adding, "The Prophet hasn't been exactly quiet about the controversy over my appointment. It can't have escaped his attention entirely."
"Would you like me to talk to him?"
He shook his head, fingering a soft pink curl at her ear. "No, I have a feeling this is something he and I are going to have to work out."
A high-pitched voice calling, "Mummy!" interrupted her response.
Dora smiled. "It sounds like her majesty is awake. I'll go and make sure she stays out of your hair."
He drew her back towards him for a soft kiss before heading to the bedroom to talk to his son.
"Teddy?" Remus tapped twice on the door before entering his son's bedroom.
Teddy quickly shoved something under the cover of his bed as his father came into the room. Remus walked over to the bed and pulled a slim leather-bound volume out from under the pillow He looked with distaste at Werewolf: the Beast Within. 'Of all the bloody books for him to find ... '
"Is this the book you've been reading? Did you take this from my library?"
"Yes," Teddy responded sulkily, not quite looking at his father.
Remus pulled a chair up next to the bed and beckoned his son to sit across from him. "Sit down, please." He opened to a random page and recited out loud, "His clothes changed to coarse hair, his arms to legs - He was a wolf, yet kept some human trace, The same grey hair, the same fierce face, the same Wild eyes, the same image of savagery."1 He snapped the book closed and rubbed his brow in frustration. "Teddy, this book is ... well, it's somewhat sensationalized, to say the least."
Teddy's gaze met his. "So it's not true?"
Remus sighed. He knew his son wouldn't settle for platitudes at this point, and in truth he didn't want to deal in them. It was best to get it all out in the open. "It's not as simple as that, Teddy. There is a saying that a half-truth can be worse than a lie; the author of this particular book takes great particular pleasure in telling half-truths in order to play to the worst fears of his audience." He set the book on the floor and looked at his son. "I take it you had some questions about werewolves? You know you can ask me anything."
"I guess," he shrugged.
"Does your sudden interest have something to do with me taking up the position at Hogwarts?"
"Some of the guys said some stuff." He traced a pattern on the coverlet, not meeting his father's eyes.
"I see. Teddy, look at me. Nothing you can say will make me angry or hurt my feelings. And nothing is going to change the way I feel about you."
He let it all out in a rush — "They said you were a monster, that someday you would break out during a full moon and kill us all. That you were like Greyback and just pretending to be normal ... "
"And did you believe them?"
"No! It's just that, I don't know … you've never let me … " His voice trailed off.
"Your mother and I have always tried to be honest with you about my condition. We've never purposely hidden anything important from you; we simply didn't want to burden you with some of the details, things most children your age don't learn until their third year at Hogwarts." He paused and looked knowingly at this son. "But you're not most children your age, are you?
"What would you like to know?"
Teddy swallowed before asking, "Does it hurt?"
"The transformation? Yes, yes it does, very much. The Wolfsbane helps a bit, but ... remember when you broke your arm playing Quidditch at the Burrow with Harry? It's a lot like that." 'Except of course it feels as though all of my bones are breaking at once,' he added to himself.
Teddy nodded once, as if acknowledging what he had long suspected. But he couldn't meet Remus' eyes when he asked his next question. "Will you ever hurt us? Me and Livi, I mean. Or Mum?"
Remus reached for Teddy's hands and held them firmly, willing his son to understand what he was about to say. "I love you, your sister and your Mum more than anything in this world. I would never do anything to hurt you, nor would I allow you be hurt. You understand that?" He took a deep breath and continued. "But the wolf is different. The wolf doesn't care about you, or Livi or anything except its own bloodlust. It is driven only by the desire to attack humans and create more of its own kind."
Teddy was staring at him now with wide eyes. Remus smiled at him reassuringly. "So your Mum and I take every precaution to ensure that the wolf will never be allowed to hurt anyone. You know that I take the Wolfsbane Potion every night for a week before the full moon. The potion allows me to stay in control and prevents the wolf from taking over anything more than my body. And your Mum's a pretty good Auror — she has enough wards cast on the basement to stop an entire pack of werewolves, if need be."
Remus watched as Teddy absorbed what he had been told. He could see there was something else bothering his son, and when Teddy spoke again his voice was barely a whisper. "Will I be one when I grow up?"
Remus swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat upon hearing his son echo his own self-doubt from years ago. "Is that what the other boys told you?"
"Yeah," he whispered.
"No, absolutely not. The only way to become a werewolf is to be bitten by one." He hesitated before adding, "I was bitten when I was younger than you. Would you like to see my scar?"
Teddy nodded, wide-eyed. Remus unbuttoned his shirt and pulled his left arm out of its sleeve, indicating the scar on his shoulder. Teddy traced it with a finger. Remus told him matter-of-factly, "I was bitten by Greyback when I was six years old. But fortunately, there are very few werewolves as vicious as Greyback, and as far as we know, they are all safely behind bars in Azkaban. A child hasn't been bitten in Great Britain since shortly before the war."
He shrugged his shirt back on and refastened the buttons. "Behind every werewolf is a person, Teddy, a human being. And I don't ever want to see you treating another human being the way you treated Annie today, do you understand?"
Tears threatened to spill as Teddy answered, "Yes. I'm sorry, Dad."
"Each one of us has a choice, Teddy – how much of the monster do we let in? A choice to be kind and generous, or selfish and violent. The Death Eaters who killed your grandfather were not under the werewolf's curse. They chose to be cruel and vicious because it suited their needs. The monster takes that choice away from me, but only for one night out of the month. Do you understand?"
"It's all right, son. Come here." Teddy threw his arms around his father's neck. "Shh, it's okay."
"I love you, Dad."
"I know." He held his son for several minutes, until the boy's hitched breath evened itself out. "I think that this calls for some chocolate. Are you game?"
"Okay, just don't tell your Gran that I ruined your dinner. And perhaps, if you still have questions, we can find you some more appropriate reading material." He walked with Teddy into the library and retrieved his secret stash of Honeydukes chocolate. Soon Teddy was back to his old self, talking animatedly about the relative merits of nifflers versus kneazles as pets, which somehow segued into a discussion of whether or not a colony of grindlylows could live in the garden pond.
Dora appeared in the hallway with three-and-a-half year-old Livi riding piggyback. "Hi Teddy! Look at me, I'm as tall as Daddy!"
"Okay, young man, Gran will be home for dinner any minute. Go and do your washing up, and then set the table. Livi go and help your brother." Teddy left to do as he was told with a minimum of grumbling, allowing Dora to focus her attention on Remus "Chocolate before dinner?"
Remus grinned as he popped another piece of Honeydukes' best into his mouth. "Therapeutic purposes only, I assure you."
She sat down next to him and helped herself. "Is he okay?"
"I think so. He's a good boy."
"Are you okay?" she asked, taking his hand.
"Mmm," he replied noncommittally. "The dreaded 'werewolf talk' wasn't nearly as painful as I had imagined it would be. I can't help but wonder, though, if accepting the job at Hogwarts was a mistake." They had worked hard to give the children a normal life, in spite of their status as minor war heroes and his somewhat public profile as an advocate for werewolf rights. He had been concerned about taking such a controversial job again, afraid it would throw an unwanted spotlight on the children, and now it seemed that some of his fears were being born out.
"Remus Lupin, don't you dare start brooding about that job. We talked about it, remember? Yes, there's bound to be a bit of publicity in the beginning. But it will fade quickly enough and the kids will be fine. You love the idea of going back to Hogwarts, admit it. This is what you were meant to do, and I'll not have you acting like a self-depreciating git about it."
He smiled at her wryly. "Still trying to save me from noble prathood?"
"I don't think that's a word, professor." She stood up, pulling him to his feet and directing him towards the kitchen. "Besides," she added, "any lingering anxiety Teddy has because his father happens to be a werewolf will fade into insignificance when it dawns on him that his father is going to be his teacher in a year."