A Matter of Opportunity
Healing is a matter of time,
but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.
—Hippocrates, Precepts (W.H.S. Jones, trans.)
Remus would not let go of Teddy that day.
Tonks tried to get him to sit still with the baby, at least, but every time she tried, restless energy pushed him to his feet and kept him roaming the house, upstairs and down. Even when Teddy napped, Remus refused to leave him in his cot. He held their son, and he paced.
He wasn't even supposed to be lifting things yet—it was barely more than a week since the battle, and Madam Pomfrey said the stomach wound from the Sectumsempra was nearly, but not completely, healed. Tonks watched his face grow paler and greyer as the day wore on. Still, except when Teddy needed to eat, Remus would not give him up.
Late in the afternoon, Tonks sat in a corner of the sofa, feeding Teddy. Remus was still pacing, looking lost without anything to hold, but his steps were slower, and he was beginning to stumble occasionally.
"You should get some rest." Tonks lifted Teddy to her shoulder so she could pat his back. "Come and lie here with me."
Remus closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples, but he didn't argue. He sat down wearily and then stretched out on the sofa, lying with his head in Tonks's lap, as he'd done for the last hour before the transformation every month since they were married.
"Oh, Teddy's gone off to sleep again." Tonks kissed her son on his warm fuzzy little head.
"Let me have him." Remus started to sit up. "Please, Dora."
Tonks put a firm hand on his shoulder. "All right, but you stay there." He lay back down, and she set the sleeping baby on his chest. Remus sighed once, shakily, his hand rubbing gentle circles on the tiny back.
"He's going to be fine," said Tonks, for at least the thousandth time that day. She let her fingers wander through her husband's hair and drift along his cheek.
"I hope so." But Remus's voice was flat, defeated. "I've put a weak Immobilisation Charm on his cot; I think he'd be small enough as a wolf for that to be enough, this month."
Tonks shook her head, sympathy for his bone-deep fear warring with exasperation over its baselessness. Remus was fixated on the fact that there were no documented cases of werewolves fathering children—female werewolves could not carry a child to term at all, and male werewolves historically had few opportunities to take up with non-werewolves. But even in the absence of records of healthy children, all the experts agreed: The magical characteristics of the lycanthropic curse ensured that it simply could not be inherited. And it was months since Remus had brought up his fears that their child might be infected. Tonks had no idea he was still worrying about it until that morning, when his terror at the approach of Teddy's first full moon had become too strong to suppress.
"No one has bitten him, Remus. He's going to be fine."
Remus said nothing, but he cradled Teddy in both hands.
"I'm—" Tonks fingered his fringe. "I'm much more worried about you, actually." She hadn't meant to say anything, but now her secret fear had become too urgent to hide. "If that wound opens up when you transform, you'll be alone and bleeding from the stomach for twelve hours."
"I'd happily bleed," said Remus bitterly, "if only I didn't have to wait twelve hours to know what happens to Teddy."
Tonks blinked. There was an answer, of course. To all of this. It should have been obvious—except that it wasn't something she was certain they were ready to face.
But the stakes were too high tonight not to take the chance.
"Let me come and see you," she said slowly. "After moonrise."
Remus stiffened—if not for Teddy asleep on his chest, Tonks thought he might have sat straight up. "No, Dora. Absolutely not."
"Think about it," she said, stroking his hair softly. "You're on the potion, and it's worked perfectly every month. I'll be able to let you know at once that Teddy's all right. And—" She drew a deep breath. "If I find you are bleeding, Aurors are trained in basic healing spells."
Remus shook his head. "It's true that the twins' potion has been effective all year, but this month was the first time George brewed it by himself. We can't predict what will happen."
Tonks bit her lip. The surviving twin had appeared at their door with a cauldronful of Wolfsbane, his defiant manner warding off both protests and expressions of sympathy. "I trust George. But—okay—even if the potion doesn't work, and the wolf takes over your mind, it would be afraid of fire. So I'll still be perfectly safe putting my head in the Floo to check that the potion has worked."
Remus was silent for so long that Tonks thought he might have drifted off to sleep. When he opened his eyes at last, they were full of worry and uncertainty. "Only your head in the Floo. If the wolf walks away from you, it's safe to come through. If it doesn't walk away, no matter what it is doing, you must pull your head out of there as fast as you can and wait for moonset. Promise me."
"Unless you're bleeding too much to be able to walk away," Tonks retorted. She traced his lips with her thumb when he tried to protest. "I'll call for reinforcements in that case—Charlie would know how to help me, and I'm sure I can scare someone else up too, but I won't let you bleed your guts out just because you're too weak to signal that the potion has worked."
"All right," Remus conceded. Tonks could feel how tense he was. "I shouldn't let you try this at all, but I need to know about Teddy..." He tilted his head up to look right at her, and there it was: the shame she'd been afraid she would awaken in his eyes. "Only—please—give me a quarter of an hour after moonrise before you Floo."
She nodded. Fifteen minutes of blood loss was better than twelve hours, at any rate.
The moon rose, and of course nothing happened to Teddy whatsoever. He slept on, oblivious to fear or shame, full moons or werewolves. Tonks broke the Immobilisation Charm on his cot and laid him in it, gave Mum the same arguments she'd given Remus, and picked up a handful of Floo powder.
And then she stood, staring into the fire, unable to toss the powder into the flames.
She sighed and rested her head on the mantel. She had resolved long ago that if she ever saw the wolf, it would be at Remus's invitation. This was not at all how she had planned for things to go.
No choice, she reminded herself sternly, and hurled the Floo powder into the fireplace before she could lose her nerve again. At least she'd been able to respect his wishes and let him transform in private.
Tonks knelt down, sticking her head through the flames and into Remus's old basement flat.
She'd known more or less what to expect, but she still felt a rush of adrenaline when she saw the grey wolf curled up on the bed. He was huge, and his jaws were enormous; she could only imagine what his teeth were like—
Wait. On the bed?
An incongruous chuckle came welling up. For all Remus's protests, he must have been pretty sure George's potion would work if he hadn't shut the wall bed up to protect it from damage.
The wolf was lying with his head on his paws, but as soon as he saw her, he hopped down from the bed and trotted to the corner furthest from the fireplace, where he lay down again and placed a paw on top of his muzzle. He regarded her anxiously with large yellow eyes that were utterly unfamiliar and yet somehow still very Remus.
Tonks let herself laugh, feeling some of her tension dissipate. "That was pretty clear communication. I'm coming through." She pulled her head out, called a quick goodbye to Mum, and tossed more Floo powder into the flames.
She stumbled out of the fireplace and smiled hesitantly at the wolf in the corner of the room. "Wotcher, Remus."
He thumped his tail against the floor—reminding her with a sudden pang of Sirius, being Padfoot.
She went straight to the bed, unable to suppress a wry grin when she saw the tatty old blanket he'd spread over the faded but clean duvet to catch the wolf hairs. Always the efficient housekeeper, her Remus.
She carefully inspected the blanket for signs of blood. There were none.
Tonks took a few steps closer to Remus, who hadn't moved. "Is your stomach bleeding at all? Are you in pain?" She flushed. "I mean, more than usual?"
He shook his head firmly, and she almost melted with relief. She'd been so afraid that she would lose him to Dolohov's Sectumsempra after all.
Then Remus looked up at her and uttered a soft whine.
"Oh, honestly. Can't you tell just from the fact that I'm not panicking?" She sat down on the cold stone floor beside him. "Teddy is fine. He is completely, perfectly unchanged. He didn't even wake up when the moon rose." She smiled at him, shaking her head. "It probably isn't sporting of me to say 'I told you so' when you can't talk back, but our son is not a werewolf."
The golden eyes closed, and the powerful body shuddered.
Tonks reached a hand out but stopped herself. "Is it all right if I touch you?"
His eyes snapped open, looking wary, and he put a paw over his muzzle again.
She laughed, rolling her eyes. "Yes, Remus. Mind the teeth. I know that."
The wolf watched her for a moment, but finally he nodded.
Tonks held her breath and placed her hand gently on top of the broad grey head. His fur was thick and coarse. She fluffed it a little with her thumb, thinking of how she'd been fiddling with his hair not an hour ago, and then rubbed her hand firmly from his head halfway down his back.
Remus sighed, and his eyes closed once more. She felt him relax under her hand, and she relaxed too, leaning back against the wall and stroking the warm thick fur.
After several peaceful minutes, though, she stretched her shoulders and stilled her hand, resting it on his back. "I should go home and check on Teddy. I don't know how much longer before he'll want to eat again."
Remus looked over at her and nodded.
"I'll have hot porridge waiting for you in the morning." Tonks climbed to her feet, and the wolf stood too. "You'll hop up on the bed again, won't you? It's warmer, not to mention softer."
Now it was Remus's turn to roll his eyes.
Tonks chuckled. "Right—you're the expert here. Sorry."
He walked with her across the room to the grate. She picked up a handful of Floo powder, but then she knelt down beside him and dropped an emphatic kiss on the top of his head.
He stared at her.
"Don't look so surprised." She smoothed the fur between his ears with a gentle finger. "Werewolves, in general, are dangerous and scare the crap out of me. But this werewolf, on good Wolfsbane, is you. And it was a million times, wasn't it? That I told you I don't care?"
He rolled his eyes again, and she couldn't stop laughing even as she spilled out of the Floo into Mum's kitchen.
Teddy's fussing woke Tonks just after moonset, so she gathered him up and carried him down to the kitchen to feed him there, checking the Warming Charm on the bowl of porridge.
"Have a nice smile for Daddy when he comes home," she whispered as she cuddled Teddy close. "He might need cheering up, since Mummy's been poking her nose into his business."
She still wasn't sorry she'd gone to check on Remus last night—he might have been badly hurt. He'd reacted well enough to her presence, even. But now he'd had all night to worry about it. Tonks sighed. She would simply have to face the aftermath of her imposition.
Just as she finished feeding Teddy, Remus emerged from the Floo. He steadied himself on the mantel, one arm pressed to his stomach.
Tonks felt her hands go cold. "Are you all right? Did the wound open up?"
"No, no." He sank stiffly into his seat at the table, next to her. "It's sore, but that's all."
Teddy hiccoughed, and Remus reached over to rub his back. "How's my little lad?" he asked softly. "My healthy little lad." A smile of love and wonder brightened his face.
Tonks Summoned a pitcher of cream, stirring some into the bowl of hot porridge.
Now that she wasn't looking at him, Remus spoke, his voice low and slightly hoarse. "Dora... I'd been rather hoping you would never have to see me like that."
Tonks steeled herself and raised her head. In his eyes she saw—
—the merest trace of mild embarrassment and a little twinkle of humour.
She blinked. Where was the bitter shame? The weighty self-recrimination?
"But then," Remus continued, "you kissed me." The twinkle grew more pronounced. "When I was fuzzy."
Tonks fought to keep a straight face when what she really wanted to do was whoop with joy. "Not on the mouth," she said primly. "Because I was minding the teeth. I know about these things, being a highly trained Auror and all." She reached over with her free hand and gently massaged the cords of his neck the way she knew he liked after a transformation. "So I think you owe me a kiss."
He leaned back into her hand. "Let me have some of that porridge, and then I'll see what I can do."
Tonks, bouncing her son on her knee, watched a wan but cheerful Remus make short work of his breakfast. She hadn't heard him joke about his transformations like that since—well, since Sirius.
Apparently, it was more than just the stomach wound that was healing.
o— fin —o
Author's notes: This story was originally written for the "Timeless Moon Ball" at the metamorfic-moon community on LiveJournal; many thanks to the mods Gilpin, Godricgal, and MrsTater for running a wonderful event.
The proposal that childbearing might be impossible for a female werewolf is originally due to Fernwithy.