Written for my dear friend Godricgal's birthday. Many thanks to Bratanimus for giving this a pre-read, and to Shimotsuki for awesome beta work and knowing where all the Order are during Deathly Hallows!
Party Till the Wolf Comes Home
"Good-bye, good-bye -- I'll try and bring some pictures in a few days' time -- they'll all be so glad to know that I've seen you--"
He fastened his cloak and made his farewells, hugging the women and grasping hands with the men, then, still beaming, returned into the wild night. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ch. 25, "Shell Cottage")
It was a howling gale, Remus knew, in some back corner of his brain that managed, amidst his state of intoxication with wine and happiness, to remain attentive to his surroundings; but it was impossible for him to really hear the wind over the pounding of his heart.
I'm a father! it seemed to beat as he leaned into the gusts, his cloak flapping and unfurling about his legs like a flag flown in defiance as he trudged uphill, against the wind, to the Apparition point beyond Bill and Fleur Weasley's property line. I'm a father!
Father, of a beautiful baby boy, Ted Remus Lupin, Metamorphmagus, brilliantest wizard of his age...
Some other back corner of his brain was also alert enough to know that 'brilliantest' was grammatically incorrect, but grammar seemed insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe, which was overwhelmed with the idea that he was a father!
Remus wanted to shout it out, louder than the wind, to be carried out to sea and declared to the ends of the earth. He knew, however, that this course of action wouldn't be exactly what the late Alastor Moody would call a shining example of constant vigilance -- his status as a fugitive undesirable and government subvert notwithstanding.
Nor would Apparating under the influence -- and not even to his home in said late Auror's house, but to the Weasley family's current hiding place at Molly's aunt Muriel's.
But Remus didn't care: he was a father!
And by Merlin's baby booties, while he was out, he was going to tell his friends.
Materialising on wobbly legs, Remus grabbed hold of the fence rail that delineated the boundaries of the anti-Apparition wards around Auntie Muriel's house. He blamed the April wind for his lack of balance -- not the two goblets of Bill's good wine -- but then noticed, by the lack of struggle against his cloak as he climbed over the stile, that there wasn't any wind here in Ottery St. Catchpole, as there had been by the sea.
Still, Remus wasn't quick to blame the alcohol. It was difficult to focus fully on the three Ss of Apparition when you were preoccupied by the thought that you were a father!
He laughed to himself as he missed his footing on the way over the split-rail fence, narrowly avoiding a catastrophe that could well have put an end to any desire he had to experience becoming a father again. His distraction stemmed from picturing himself practically lifting a newly-pregnant Dora over a similar fence, at the Burrow, as they'd fled an unexpected visit from Rufus Scrimgeour at Harry's birthday party last summer. What a wreck Remus had been that night!
For some reason, the memory made him chuckle harder. If anyone had told him then that the actual birth of his child -- his son -- would make him giddy to the point of recklessness, why, he'd have told them they must have learnt Divination from Sybil Trelawney. Now he sprinted across the dark yard toward Muriel's large, tidy house, with the energy of a much younger man -- an energy he wasn't sure he'd ever possessed, even when he was a much younger man. He was fairly bursting to relay news he'd been ashamed to admit to Harry all those months ago in the dingy kitchen of Grimmauld Place.
At Muriel's front step, Remus caught his toe on the base of a potted geranium in a pedestal planter and pitched forward, his speed lending momentum so that he fell into the crisp white-painted door, catching himself with his fists. He pounded on the door, and, without waiting for anyone to ask a security question, bellowed, "It is I, Remus John Lupin! I'm a werewolf--"
"Werewolf!" crackled the voice of Muriel.
"Auntie!" A female, whom Remus could not distinguish as either Molly or Ginny. "Remus is our friend."
Molly, then; Ginny still tended to call him Professor Lupin.
"Prove you're my niece's friend, werewolf, and not a Death Eater impostor!"
Remus was too euphoric to bristle at Muriel's stinging suspicion. After all, you couldn't fault a person for constant vigilance, and Muriel didn't know him from Fenrir Greyback. "I'm married to Nymphadora Tonks--"
"Andromeda Black's daughter?"
"Yes, Muriel," Arthur said. "You met Remus and Tonks at Bill's wedding, remember?"
"Andromeda's daughter married a werewolf? Hmph. Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it? But go on, then!" Muriel said louder, for Remus' benefit. "Tell me something a Death Eater wouldn't know."
Chest puffing, and with a grin so wide he thought his face might split in two, Remus announced, "As of two hours ago, I'm a father!"
The door swung open, and Remus found himself in a tight squeeze to get through as his friends caught him up at once, Arthur giving him a firm handshake and clap on the back, Molly clutching the lapels of his travelling cloak.
"Oh, Remus!" Her plump, pink face (though rather thinner and paler than when he'd last seen her, due to the long, lean months of laying low) glowed, and her eyes were misty as if she'd just received word that one of her own dear children had given birth. "Is it a boy or a girl?"
Over Molly's shoulder, Remus noticed Ginny in the hallway, stood with her fingers crossed. She wore a grin he'd seen countless times on the faces of the twins.
"I bet Fred and George a Galleon it's a girl," she said. "They think it's twins."
"You haven't got a Galleon!" cried Molly in tones of exasperation.
"It'll be two, won't it, if she's wrong?" Arthur quipped, winking at Remus.
Molly rolled her eyes, but then turned back to Remus with a look of breathless anticipation.
"Well?" said Muriel, arms folded across her bosom.
The exclamation burst from Remus like a dam breaking. "It's a boy!"
Squealing, Molly embraced him.
"That's brilliant!" said the poorer Ginny un-begrudgingly. "What have you called him?"
"Ted Remus Lupin," Remus told her, beaming. "For Dora's father and Teddy's father." He considered his own words for a moment, and then added, leaning back against the door because he was suddenly overcome with the sensation that he could be knocked over with a quill, "That's me!"
"So it is," said Arthur, chuckling. "Takes some getting used to, doesn't it?"
Remus nodded, feeling light-headed with the thought. Or maybe the motion.
"Edward or Theodore?" asked Muriel.
Remus blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"You've called your son Teddy." Muriel spoke loudly, drawing out the words as if she were speaking to someone hard of hearing, or not fully equipped with mental faculties. "Short for Edward, or short for Theodore?"
"Teddy for Ted," Remus said, also loudly and slowly, because obviously Muriel hadn't heard him properly when he'd explained before. "Ted Tonks, Dora's late father."
Muriel heaved a forbearing sigh. "I mean--"
"Auntie," Arthur interrupted, "why don't you open that bottle of Elderflower wine you've been saving for a special occasion?"
"Oh, I shouldn't," Remus protested. "I've just come from Bill's -- I asked Harry to be godfather." At this he glanced at Ginny, who blushed. "Dora and her mother will be looking for me. If she's not sleeping, that is."
But these assertions were rather undermined by the action of unbuttoning and removing his cloak, which Ginny took and hung on the hall tree as he allowed Molly to guide him into a sitting room which would have been quite pretty, had Muriel not run amok with floral-print upholstery. Still, the armchair he found himself drawing up to the fire more than made up for that in comfort; Remus sank into an overstuffed down cushion and sighed in contentment as he drank the sweet wine from a cut crystal glass.
"How long was Tonks in labour?" asked Molly, serving Muriel and Arthur wine before joining her husband on the sofa. Ginny sat at Remus' feet on the hearth rug, hugging her knees and peering up at him hungrily for news; she'd always been very fond of Dora.
Remus realised he wasn't sure. He'd viewed the past several hours through a haze of anxiety, elation, utter terror, and sheer bliss. And alcohol. But mostly the other things.
Sipping his wine, he answered, "Not long! There wasn't enough time to send for you, Molly, or we surely would have. Thank Merlin Andromeda knew what to do. I was quite faint."
He actually had fainted, after Andromeda had let him cut the umbilical cord. But he wasn't keen to admit to such un-Gryffindor behaviour.
"You know, I fainted when Bill was born," Arthur said, smiling sheepishly at Molly, who was rolling her eyes again; the look exchanged between them contained a sense of memory so vivid that you'd think no time at all -- not to mention six more births -- had elapsed since Bill's birth. "I managed to make it through the entire labour -- the entire long labour--"
"Thirty-nine hours," Molly interjected.
"--but then when I cut the umbilical cord, down I went."
Precisely what had happened to Remus. But even with a fellow Gryffindor's admission, he preferred to drink his wine and keep mum. He didn't care to have Ginny laugh at him the way she was chortling at her father; he'd have experience enough with teenage mockery one day from his own son. His son! He, Remus John Lupin, had a son! I'm a father!
"Short labours are just as exhausting as long ones," said Molly. "Dear Tonks, I'm sure she handled it beautifully. She's such a strong girl."
"She was brilliant," said Remus. "So brave. Not that I ever thought she'd be anything less than that. I'm so proud of her. Of both of them. Teddy's beautiful."
"How much does he weigh?" Muriel asked.
"Seven pounds, fourteen ounces," Remus told her confidently, even as his fuzzy brain -- which seemed to be getting fuzzier by the second, he thought, gazing contemplatively into his empty goblet, wondering if there might be a connection -- told him that might have been six pounds, fifteen ounces, or eight pounds, thirteen ounces.
"A respectably sized lad," said Arthur.
"Dora thought he was going to be much larger, as she got so big. When she held him, she said he was so much tinier than she imagined, was Andromeda sure there wasn't another one in there?"
Everyone laughed, Remus loudest of all, as Molly got up to refill his goblet.
"He'll be bigger before we know it," said Remus. "He started nursing immediately."
A buzzing sound told him Muriel was remarking on this, but he didn't hear her, too lost in the image of Teddy's lips, like two rose petals, latched onto Dora's breast, suckling hungrily and being filled by his mother's nourishing milk. No Muggle painter had ever captured a more beatific Madonna.
Muriel's sharp voice jarred him out of the daydream. "And does the child have a lot of hair?"
Remus burst out laughing so loudly that the elderly witch jumped; Arthur's eyebrows were raised high above the frames of his glasses.
"Did you ever hear the one about how the only time it's polite to comment on a person's weight and the amount of hair he has is when he's just been born?" asked Remus.
Exchanging a glance, Arthur and Molly shook their heads and looked to Remus for the punch line.
He thought for a moment, then looked down at his wine, feeling his face grow very warm. "Oh. Well, that's all there is to it." He drained his glass and sat back in his chair, stretching his legs to that the warmth emanating from the fireplace touched his feet. "It depends on how you define lots, Muriel. Do you mean amount? Or can Teddy do lots with his hair?" He winked at Ginny while Molly gawped.
"Do you mean little Teddy's--?"
"A Metamorphmagus?" Arthur finished for her.
Remus nodded vigorously. "Just like his mother, yes! Clever, clever lad!"
"Cool!" cried Ginny. "A little morphing baby! Can we go see him, Mum? We could Disillusion ourselves."
"Oh, Remus..." Sighing, Molly brushed tears from her eyes. "That's wonderful. You must be so happy. I wish we could see the little lamb. Maybe in a few weeks -- after Tonks has had some time to rest and adjust to having a baby in the house. It's just wonderful, though, Remus," she said again. "It's lovely to see you so proud."
Suddenly, Remus' laughter caught in his throat as a ball of emotion. "I don't know why I was so afraid..." Just as quickly, mirth returned, and the urge to cry was pushed aside by a raspy chuckle. "It might've been easier if he was like me. Dora would only have to deal with special powers once a month, while Andromeda tells us she never had a chance to blink until Dora learnt to control her morphing..."
The living room of the Burrow fell silent, except for the crackling of logs in the fireplace, as Remus let this thought tumble over in his mind for the first time. Teddy had already demonstrated a remarkable talent for mimicry. Wouldn't he be devilishly difficult to keep track of in, say, a playground full of children?
He must have looked faint again, because Arthur moved to him. "Have another drink, Remus."
Remus did, but as soon as he'd drained the goblet, he gripped the arms of his chair and pushed himself to his feet.
"I really must be getting back to them--"
But he didn't go anywhere, because the room was spinning. Feeling himself start to sway, he kept hold of the chair while he regained his sense of equilibrium. Perhaps he'd had one too many, after all.
"Oh," said Molly, scurrying to him with his cloak, "do pop in and tell Fred and George! They'd hate to hear the news from anyone but you."
Remus grinned at Molly as well as at the idea, but then, noticing Arthur's and Ginny's amused gazes were fixed lower than his face, looked down at the front closures of his cloak. He'd done up the buttons crooked. So much for avoiding teenage mockery.
But he laughed. "Look at me, I became a father, and forgot to dress myself!"
Attempting to rectify the situation, he made his way through the hallway and out the front door, once again tripping over the potted geranium as he shuffled out into the night. "I've forgot how to walk, as well!"
"Remus," came Molly's wavering voice over his giggling, "maybe you should go straight home after all. The wine seems to have gone to your head."
"Nonsense!" Remus waved her off. "It's just the excitement. I'm a father, you know!"
"We know," said Arthur, accompanying him out into the yard; Molly followed several paces behind, arguing with Ginny about how she couldn't go with Remus to see Fred and George, because she wasn't old enough to Apparate, Remus shouldn't be Apparating himself, much less Side-Along Apparating anyone, and anyway, these were dangerous times, and they were in hiding, and being in hiding didn't include gallivanting up and down the country, while it did mean constant vigilance. All off which Remus was sure was probably very wise, despite Ginny's protestations, but he was more interested in what Arthur was saying. Which was, "Congratulations, old boy."
"Old?" Remus pulled a face. "I'm only thirty-eight, Arthur. Why, in wizard years, I'm practically a baby myself. Too old for Dora, indeed. Oof!"
He'd shambled smack dab into the fence.
"Thanks, Arthur," he said as his friend gave him a boost over with a steadying hand on his elbow. "Come 'round and meet Teddy when you think it's safe. You know where we are." Arthur, their Secret-Keeper, nodded. "I'll give the twins your love."
"Thank you, Remus."
Arthur's laughing features lined with confusion. "Arabella?"
"Mrs. Figg! I think I'll pop in on her first and share the news."
"That's probably wise," Arthur told a concerned-looking Molly. "Better for him to Apparate to Little Whinging first, instead of going straight on to London."
"Good-bye!" called Remus. He saw Molly's mouth open in speech, but the words were lost in the crack of Disapparation.
Remus was still waving a cheerful good-bye to Arabella Figg when the quiet suburban landscape of Little Whinging changed, in a split-second crack, to a shore pounded by a roaring sea.
Actually, it wasn't much of a shore, Remus observed as he dropped out of the misty air onto an uneven surface and immediately had his feet swept out from under him. Even though it was pitch black out here, his bum knew, without question, that it was more an outcropping of rock than a shore.
A very hard, very slick rock, carpeted with seaweed.
Honestly, all these spills had nothing to do with the alcohol he'd imbibed at Bill's, Muriel's, and Arabella Figg's. Nature was conspiring against--
The very instant he'd been poised on hands and knees, preparing to push himself upright, a wave crashed into him, knocking him down again and soaking him with freezing water all the way through his heavy woollen travelling cloak to his skin.
Along with the Kneazle kitten in his pocket, whose yowls Remus couldn't identify until he thrust his hand in and pulled out the shivering, mangy, dripping thing by the scruff of its neck. He didn't immediately identify it as a Kneazle on sight, either; it was grey, and more closely resembled a drowned rat than a feline.
Remus cast a drying spell over himself and the Kneazle, which didn't fully work. Sopping boxers bunched and clung to his thighs inside his damp trousers. The kitten fared little better, but as Remus' cloak seemed mostly dry, he returned the shivering creature to his pocket, scrabbled to his feet, and began to pick his way, arms outstretched for balance, up a slight incline to the Hut-on-the-Rock.
As he stumbled along in the dark, now and again doused by a rolling wave, he tried to remember how he'd come by a Kneazle and what had brought him way out here to the secret location where Dedalus Diggle and Hestia Jones had been hiding the Dursley family since last July. He felt sure that the former had something to do with Arabella; the latter might have been to do with a thought that since he was in the Dursleys' neighbourhood, he might as well pop in and tell Dedalus and Hestia the good -- no, wonderful -- news. Only the Hut-on-the-Rock wasn't exactly "in the neighbourhood," so the precise logic for this decision continued to elude him. Not falling required his full concentration, anyway, so he contented himself with not having answers to his questions. And by the time he rapped on the front door of the Hut-on-the-Rock, he'd forgotten that there were even questions at all, because he was a father!
"It is I, Remus John Lupin! A werewolf nicknamed Moony, I was prefect with Tuney's sister Lily at Hogwarts, where I later taught your favourite nephew Harry how to do a Patronus Charm. I've just seen Harry, and he's agreed to be godfather to my son, who was born three hours ago--"
The door opened, and Dedalus and Hestia were hugging him and shaking his hand (respectively) all at once, while the Kneazle squeaked in protest in his pocket, where it was being squashed. The greeting filled Remus with a sense of déjà vu. Only the three people lurking in the shadows beyond the Order members were looking at him with raised eyebrows and open mouths that looked as if they'd just tasted something nasty. Maybe it was the seaweed stench that permeated the hut, Remus thought, wrinkling his nose.
"Did you call me...Tuney?" asked Harry's aunt.
Remus wasn't sure, but was spared answering as Dudley asked, "Harry a godfather? Does that mean he's okay?"
"Werewolf?" Harry's uncle said. "What the hell do you mean, you're a werewolf?"
Remus tilted his head back to look at the ceiling. "Aa-rooo!"
There was a moment of silence, and then it was broken by a titter from Hestia and a snort from Dedalus, who was trying to stifle his laughter behind his perpetual violet top hat. Remus grinned at them.
"Nutters," grumbled Mr. Dursley to his wife, twirling his finger beside his ear. "Barking mad, the lot of them. Even if they can make this shack look like a country manor on the inside."
Remus looked around and he saw that the place was, indeed, much larger and nicer than the Hut-on-the-Rock appeared on the outside; he wondered why he'd never thought to try one of these spells on any of his own inadequate dwellings -- not that he had to worry about that any longer, now he was married to Tonks and living in Mad-Eye Moody's old house.
"What do you expect?" Mrs. Dursley said to Mr. Dursley in unconcealed disgust. "I never will understand these people having babies while there's a war on. Haven't they heard of the pill?"
"Or a little bloody self-control?" Mr. Dursley gave Remus an appraising look.
Remus appraised the obese Mr. Dursley, with his half-a-dozen chins, and Mrs. Dursley, with her equine face, right back.
"I can see how it's no trouble for some couples to forgo benefits of marriage," he said affably. "My wife, however, is very beautiful. I believe you had the pleasure of meeting her once, at King's Cross. After Harry's fifth year. She was the young lady with pink hair. At least, I think it was pink that day. She changes it quite often -- sometimes as often as every hour. It's her very special gift, you know, changing her appearance. But no matter what colour she does her hair, she's always the loveliest woman I ever set eyes on."
The veins of Mrs. Dursley's giraffe neck bulged as she blinked in speechless indignation, while Mr. Dursley's face got very red as he sputtered in incomprehensible fury.
Dudley roared with laughter. "No wonder you're Harry's favourite teacher."
Surprised, but very pleased, to hear a compliment from Harry by way of one of the people he least expected it from, Remus started to smile--
--but ended in a sneeze.
"Remus, you're wet through!" cried Hestia, tugging at Remus' cloak. "Let's get you by the fire. Dedalus, darling, fetch the brandy. Remus needs a celebration drink as much as he needs to get warm!"
"I'll drink to that," Mr. Dursley said. "This whole damnable thing'll seem a hell of a lot more normal when I'm two sheets to the wind."
"He gets drunk a lot here," said Dudley to Remus as he hung his cloak on a hook in the hall. The Kneazle kitten's cries followed them into the living room, but Remus' ears were trained on Dudley's voice as he continued, "So does Mum. Your friends think they're a right jolly old pair." His plump features became more defined as his expression changed to one of concern. "Harry's really okay?"
"Really and truly," said Remus, patting Dudley on the shoulder as they made their way into a wood-panelled living room, where a fire blazed cheerfully in the grate. He hadn't been aware that Harry's cousin was at all fond of him. "I say, I suppose this makes you Teddy's god-cousin."
"God-cousin?" Dudley looked askance at Remus as he collapsed onto a rocking chair and Dedalus pressed a shot of brandy into his hand.
"Mm..." Remus drank the warming liquor. "Would you like that? He's a Metaphor... Metamorphosis... Metamorphic... Oh, hell." He threw back another shot. "He can turn his hair any colour you like."
"Yeah? Even Smeltings orange and maroon?"
"Even Smeltings orange and maroon!" said Remus proudly, though he hadn't the faintest idea what that meant. He studied his empty glass, then set it on the little round table beside his chair. Perhaps he'd had enough to drink...
"Lupin, is it?" called Mr. Dursley, his girth oozing out of an armchair across the room.
"Ironic name, innit? Is your kid a werewolf, as well? What would that be called? A werepup?"
"Werewolves are made, not born," Remus said pleasantly, as he stood up. "I could come 'round at full moon if you like, and give you a demonstration."
After darting bulging eyes sideways at each other, Mrs. Dursley giggled, and Mr. Dursley guffawed, spraying brandy all over. "Hear that, Tuney? A demonstration at the full moon! He's a bloody werewolf!"
"Such amiable people," said Dedalus.
"Delightful company," Hestia agreed.
"See?" Dudley nudged Remus with his elbow.
"I'd best be off." Remus shook Dudley's hand, then summoned his cloak and flung it -- complete with screeching pocket-Kneazle around his shoulders. Looking down at the row of buttons, they swam before his eyes; he shoved his arms into the sleeves and didn't bother about fastening the garment. Anyway, the kitten's claws were firmly embedded through the cloak's lining and into Remus' jumper. "Places to go and people to tell -- I'm a father!"
Despite a raid, and despite Lee Jordan having declared over the airwaves that Potterwatch was broadcasting from a new location, he and Fred and George were, in actuality, still operating out of the basement of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Molly was worried about security, but that was the beauty of it, the twins asserted: the Death Eaters would never look for them in the place they thought they'd driven them out of, and anyway, Diagon Alley was all but deserted these days.
They might change their minds after Remus materialised behind the boarded-up joke shop and crashed into a couple of bins. The sound thundered through the alley -- not, however, louder than the Kneazle in his pocket -- and a Hag poked her head around the corner.
Dizzily righting himself, Remus swept rubbish off the front of his jumper and trousers the best he could, checked his cloak pocket to see that the Kneazle was unhurt, fed it a bacon rind he found lying at the top of one of the bins, which shut it up, then waved to the hag. She disappeared around the corner of the brick building, and Remus approached the back door of Fred and George's shop, which only opened from the inside. He cast a Muffliato to mute his voice to any other passers-by, but still knocked as lightly as he could and still be heard.
"Hark!" came Fred's voice from within.
"Who goes there?" asked George.
"S'me, Remus John Lupin--"
"'Me'?" repeated an incredulous George. "'It's me, Remus John Lupin'?"
"Atypical grammar for an erudite lupine!" cried Fred, his teasing voice taking on an edge that was, even to Remus' not quite discerning ears, slightly menacing. "Prove you're not an impostor!"
Swaying a little on the stoop, Remus said, "I was your favourite teacher before I was outed as a werewolf during your fifth year, mostly because I didn't give the pair of you a detention when I caught you sneaking into Filch's office to lace Mrs. Norris' food with Hair Removing Potion."
The door opened, but the twins stood in the entrance, blocking Remus' path.
"I still can't believe you didn't let us go through with it," George said, apparently convinced in spite of the grammatical lapse -- although truth be told, Remus wasn't quite sure there had been a grammatical lapse. Not that he was in the condition to distinguish when to use 'I' and 'me'...
"Cruelty to animals, my arse!" said Fred. "What about animal cruelty toward humans? Next you'll be saying we shouldn't do what we're currently plotting to do to Umbridge."
"You shouldn't," said Remus. Over their protests, he added, "at least not until Teddy's grown up enough to do whatever it is with you. Although I should hope that by then, she's been rotting in Azkaban for a good fifteen years..."
The twins looked at each other.
"What the hell are you talking about?" asked George.
"Who in God's name's Teddy?"
Remus grinned. Or rather, grinned wider, as he hadn't stopped grinning once in the past four hours. His face was really starting to hurt.
"The littlest Marauder. My son."
At once, Fred and George grabbed Remus' arms and pulled him through the door, which clanged shut behind him.
"Tonks had the baby?" George asked as they stood in the dark at the top of the stairs to the basement.
"She had the baby!" exclaimed Remus.
George let out a whoop, but Fred folded his arms across his chest and regarded Remus from under a raised eyebrow that disappeared beneath his too-long hair; clearly, he hadn't been to see his mother in a while, or she'd never have let his hair get into that state.
"But you didn't bring the little bugger 'round to meet his namesakes and godfathers?"
"Because his middle names are George Fred--"
"Fred George, you mean--"
"Actually, his middle name's Remus. Ted Remus Lupin. Sorry, boys, but you know that little tradition of the eldest son taking his father's name."
Harassing him about holding to tired old traditions when he could have started such amazing new ones as naming first born sons after Messrs. Weasley and Weasley, the twins led Remus down into the basement. Remus was grateful that they were descending ahead of him and too absorbed in their own humour to see him clinging to the banister as the steep flight of stairs seemed to rise and fall like a Muggle escalator before his bleary eyes. He regarded it as a small miracle that he managed it without incident, and solemnly swore not to take a drink from the twins if they offered one.
But as he stepped into the fully-equipped basement apartment the twins had set up, where Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, and Lee Jordan, with Verity the shop assistant sat in his lap, were all gathered, George called out, "Whisky, whisky, who's got the whisky?"
He snatched a bottle from Angelina, who protested, "Oy!"
"This man needs whisky!" Fred told her.
"Actually," stammered Remus, "I d-don't--"
"You jolly well do!" Fred declared over the alarmed voices of his friends, who were all looking at their former professor in varying degrees of distress. Remus rubbed his hand over his stubbly cheek and realised he must look the worse for the wear of cross-country Apparition, the alcohol he'd drunk at each stop, and of course-- "This man's just become a father!"
Fearful cries changed to exclamations mainly consisting of, "Aw, a baby!" from the girls, while Lee hopped up from his chair, letting Verity tumble unceremoniously onto the floor.
"You know what this calls for? A special Potterwatch!"
Remus started to protest, some back corner of his brain telling him a Potterwatch broadcast might not be the best thing for his family's security, but then he considered all the Order members he'd not told yet, and all the ones he couldn't see in person: McGonagall, for one, because he obviously couldn't stroll into Hogwarts where Snape and other Death Eaters would kill him on sight or capture him and hand him over to Bellatrix; Hagrid, for another, because no one had heard from him since he fled his hut on school grounds after his Support Harry Potter party. Probably only the Order would catch the unscheduled broadcast, anyway.
The next few minutes passed in a blur during which Remus knocked back Firewhisky as his former students piled him with joke shop merchandise for baby gifts. Someone must have summoned Kingsley Shacklebolt, because his booming voice announced his presence at the top of the stairs, and a moment later his strong hand gripped Remus' and then he pulled him in for a quick, tight manly hug.
And then Remus was seated at the news desk with Lee, who was speaking into a microphone:
"River here, for a breaking edition of everyone's favourite programme, Potterwatch! Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all witches and wizards! For unto you is born this day...a child of one of the Pals of Potter! Romulus, tell our listeners all about it!"
"It's a father!" Remus shouted into the microphone. "I'm a boy!"
Everyone in the basement roared, but Remus didn't know why. Before he could ask, Lee, chuckling, said, "And the new dad's obviously had a few. Romulus, how's little Rome's mum?"
"Rome?" asked Verity.
"You know, Romulus, founder of ancient--oh, never mind."
"Rainbow's fine," Remus answered. "She was brilliant, even if she did use some rather shocking language. Darling, if you're listening, I love you very much. Mwah!"
Kingsley's dark hand closed over the microphone. "I think Romulus has said quite enough, don't you, River?"
"Just one last thing!" Lee said. "As always, Romulus, our listeners want to know if they can be sure Harry Potter's still alive."
"I've just seen him! He said he'd be hogfather! No one better, Rainbow said, and I quite agreed--"
"And obviously that's godfather," said Lee. "That's all the time we've got for tonight. We here at Potterwatch hope this news will inspire you all--"
"To make babies!" Fred leaned over Remus' shoulder to bellow into the microphone.
"Life goes on," said Lee. "For Potterwatch, River, signing off."
"I say!" Remus clapped his hands. "Good show, boys! Best Potterwatch yet! I hope Dora heard..."
"Why don't we go home and ask her?" Kingsley hoisted him up from his chair, and, slinging Remus' arm around his shoulder, kept hold of his waist and guided him toward the stairs. Remus resisted, but was unable to get away from the taller, broader man's grasp.
"I can Apparate myself," he said petulantly.
"You're missing an eyebrow. Tonks would kill me if you came home missing other bits because I didn't Side-along you. As it is, I imagine she'll be right narked at the state you've got yourself into."
"Please, Slinky!" Remus dug his heels in at the foot of the stairs. "Not home just yet. There's still others to tell."
"I'm sure they heard the broadcast."
"But what if they didn't? S'not every day I have--hic!--a son."
Kingsley stared at Remus for a long time, then sighed. "All right...But no more drinks!"
While Kingsley managed to keep Remus away from the booze at the last couple of stops they made, there were certain other new father vices that had been beyond the Auror's expertise to stop.
Either that, or the idea of Remus Lupin smoking a cigar had been too amusing to put a stop to.
If only he'd had the foresight to consider what it would be like to practically carry a completely sloshed and pungent werewolf up the front walk of his suburban home as he puffed on said cigar. A Cuban, it was not. Worse was the fear that Remus might have a non-smoker's reaction to the cigar and chuck all over him; Wand-cleaning never did much good on sick, Kingsley hadn't gone into hiding with much more than the robes on his back, and it was a bloody pickle doing the wash when you were on the run.
Chuckling at some joke totally unbeknownst to Kingsley, Remus puffed smoke in his face, then, possibly at the brink of sharing the joke with Kingsley, his powers of speech were overtaken by a paroxysm of coughs.
"For Merlin's sake, Remus!" Kingsley snatched the cigar from his friend's long, thin fingers, threw it on the pavement, and stamped it out.
Remus caught his breath, only to gasp in horror. "My...it's a boy!"
"Yes, you do have a boy," said Kingsley. "He's in there."
He gestured toward the front door, and proceeded with helping Remus shamble onward -- no easy feat, as Remus was looking behind them, at the discarded cigar, his body still wracked by coughs. It might be easiest to put him in a Body-Bind...
"If you cough up your lungs," Kingsley said, foregoing the Body-Bind and dragging Remus onward, away from the cigar, "what use will you be to Teddy? Or to Tonks? She worked very hard to bring him into this world. I imagine she'll be none too pleased to see you in this state. She'll probably kill me, too..."
By this time they'd reached the door, and Kingsley struggled to keep Remus more or less upright as he let go of him with one hand to knock.
"It is I, Remus John Lupin," began Remus without waiting from a response from his mother-in-law. "Aa-rooo! I don't even care about the werewolf thing anymore cos I'm the lucky husband of the bee-YOU-teeful Dymphanora Tonks--"
"Does that mean we get to start calling her 'Nora'?" Kingsley interrupted, chuckling.
"--and fa-fa-fa-HA-ther to an incredible son Ted, who's a Metamorphapotamus...er, Mephistopheles...er, shape-shifter..."
The door had opened in the middle of this speech, but Remus only seemed to realise now that he was swaying in front of Andromeda. He grinned, then leaned -- or fell -- forward into her and enveloped her in a bear hug, resting his cheek against her shoulder.
"You're a gran!" he announced, as if realising this for the first time and discovering yet another dimension of happiness.
If Andromeda was touched by the sentiment of the statement, the feelings were promptly obliterated by Remus' resounding belch in her ear.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Tonks," said Kingsley, as Tonks' mother's unflappable face twitched with the effort of not pulling a face at her son-in-law's stench. Kingsley hefted Remus off of her and once again slung the inebriated werewolf's arm over his shoulder to half-carry him inside. "I wish I didn't have to bring him home like this."
"I'm just glad you were there to bring him home," said Andromeda, shutting the door softly behind them. "When Nymphadora was born, Ted came back from the pub missing both eyebrows."
Andromeda's experience with new fathers had prompted her to prepare for Remus' return; a pot of very strong coffee was brewing on the stove, next to a cauldron of Sober-up Potion. The latter would give Remus the mother of all hangovers, but that, Andromeda said, was nothing compared to what Tonks had endured that day, and Kingsley was inclined to agree.
When Remus had sobered up, he clapped Kingsley on the shoulder. "Come meet my son, King!"
Sobered up slightly.
"Don't call me King, Remus," said the Auror as he followed Remus back to his bedroom.
Thankfully, Remus had the presence of mind to pause outside the open door, knock, and say, "If you've got any breasts out and about, Dora, button up! Kingsley's here to see Teddy."
"Just a tic!" called Tonks in a thin-sounding voice. "How much did you let my husband drink, Shacklebolt?"
"Nothing! He was this way when I found him!"
"Okay, I'm decent."
Remus grinned broadly at Kingsley, and gestured for him to enter.
"Dora!" He around the bed, stumbling over the footboard, and sat down at the edge of the mattress by Tonks, who held Teddy propped on pillows for nursing. He leant in and planted a sloppy kiss on Tonks' cheek, and followed suit with Teddy. "I'm sorry I was gone for so long. I just had to tell all our friends--"
"And our entire broadcast audience," said Tonks wryly.
This seemed to delight Remus. "You heard Wotcherpot?"
"Never thought I'd get him say 'wotcher'," Tonks said to Kingsley while Remus babbled about how it had been the best broadcast ever, hadn't it?
"It was lovely," she told her husband, and obviously meant it. But when Remus kissed her again and slipped his arms around his family, she pulled a face. "Great Merlin, Remus, you smell like the bloody Hog's Head at happy hour! Have you been smoking?"
Kingsley backed away from the bed as Tonks turned a hostile gaze on him.
"Dung gave me a cigar!" Remus' face abruptly fell, and he said sulkily. "Kingsley threw it away." He brightened again. "But Arabella gave me a Kneazle! Well, gave Teddy a Kneazle."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the kitten by the scruff of its neck, putting it down between the bumps of Tonks' legs beneath the duvet. Tonks hardly seemed to notice the animal as it leapt off the bed and scurried underneath.
"Mundungus Fletcher, Dung?" she asked her intoxicated husband, and looked at Kingsley as if to ask whether this was true.
Kingsley thought about lying, but he was pretty sure Tonks was sharp enough, even though she'd just given birth, to see through him. He nodded.
"And you stood there and let him smoke it?"
"He's a new dad! Teddy's beautiful, Tonks, really beautiful. He looks like--"
Kingsley had moved to the bedside again as he spoke and offered his index finger to the baby, which Teddy immediately latched onto. Opening hazy blue eyes at the tall, black Auror, the newborn's wrinkly skin darkened to a warm brown. Then Teddy's eyes drooped shut again, and his little mouth yawned wide, and his skin faded back to its natural pale, downy complexion.
"Blimey," whispered Kingsley in the same tone of awe reflected on Teddy's parents' faces. "He's good, Tonks. Can I sign him up for the Auror squad?"
"He'll make a fine Auror one day," Remus agreed, stroking the slightly misshapen head, now covered in feathery turquoise hair, precisely the colour of Dora's nightgown. "Clever lad."
"Or anything else he wants to be," said Tonks.
"A great wizard in the making." As the words left Remus' mouth, he had a feeling he'd said them before.
"I'll drink to that," said Kingsley. Tonks shot him a look, and he added hastily, "Metaphorically speaking."
"Metamorphically speaking," Remus murmured.
Kingsley reached across the bed to pat him on the shoulder. "Congratulations, you two. You're going to make great parents. When Remus is sober, anyway."
The Auror left them, and for several minutes, the new parents lay silently together, looking down at their little one in wonderment. Though they were two people whose very bodies were infused with magic that mystified even those who'd known no other life than that of the Wizarding world, they'd never laid eyes on any greater magic than this child their love had knit together in Dora's womb. Remus traced the tiny shell-shaped ears, touched the tip of the little button nose that was all Dora's, gazed into the eyes he hoped werehis, though Andromeda had told him many babies were born blue-eyed, and wondered what powers had thought he deserved the honour and responsibility and the blessing of being father to such an innocent, perfect little thing.
"Will I be a good father, Dora?"
She turned her head just so she could press her lips to the fringe spilling across his forehead. "You will. You are." Her nose wrinkled. "Though you could be a better smelling father."
Remus knew he ought to shower; it wasn't right for Teddy's first association with his father -- him -- no, he -- or was it him? -- whatever -- Remus John Lupin -- to be, as Dora so aptly put it, the stench of the foulest pub in England. But his head felt so heavy...He leaned it against Dora's shoulder.
"I'm sorry I went out and got pissed."
"You're a new dad. I think it's a rite of passage. And you'll pay."
"Already am. Head's bloody cracking."
Dora shifted so that Remus' head fell off her shoulder, onto the pillows. "Don't you talk to me about pain, Remus John Lupin. Not till you've pushed a nine and a half-pound baby out a hole the size of a--"
A/N: Reviewers get to share a congratulatory drink with Remus...or a cigar, if you prefer. ;)