Nymphadora's memories didn't return all at once. It took a series of therapy sessions and the gradual process of refamiliarisation to undo Bellatrix's Dark spellwork. Remus cherished the time as an opportunity to support his family as husband and father. He gained a deeper appreciation for everyday wonders—a baby's smile, laughter around the dinner table, holding his wife's hand as they drifted off to sleep.
Remembrance brought grief along with joy. Sometimes, all Remus could do to comfort was hold Nymphadora as she cried for her father, for Sirius, and for all the others lost during the war.
Harry invited them to stay at Grimmauld Place as long they liked, but Kreacher's presence and bittersweet memories made letting a flat the healthier choice. Nymphadora had no qualms about keeping Bellatrix's gold, and Remus agreed they would do a better job than the Ministry using it for a worthy cause.
As the weeks passed, Nymphadora reconnected with family and friends and frequently visited the Auror Office. Remus didn't press her to decide whether to accept the Head of Aurors' offer of reinstatement. She would make the choice when she was ready.
On the third Sunday in June, the day of the summer solstice, Remus heard the doorbell chime. He rose from the breakfast table. "I'll answer it." Although it was probably his mother-in-law, he cast a Protego charm before opening the door.
William Hughes, the young werewolf Remus befriended during his mission "underground," stood in the corridor. "Hullo, professor. Your new address was listed on the Werewolf Register."
"They still like to keep track of us." Remus offered his hand and gave Will's a hearty shake. "It's good to see you."
Remus glanced over his shoulder to see Nymphadora striding toward them, delighted recognition sparkling in her eyes. "What brings you to London? Where's Lillie? Come and see how Teddy's grown." Her brow furrowed slightly. "We did send you a baby picture, didn't we?"
"Yeah. Lillie loved his hair so much she put matching streaks in hers."
Nymphadora said, "I always liked her style. Have you had breakfast?"
"I ate a few hours ago in Inverness."
"Have seconds. I am." Remus was full, but Will had a lean and hungry look about him. He could use another meal.
To his credit, Will's focused his attention on Teddy before the food, and took Gitta's presence in stride, smiling when introduced and complimenting her cooking. He demolished a bowl of fruit salad along with two English muffins topped with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
"Did you go for more training?" Nymphadora asked. "Is that why you're still in Inverness?"
Instead of Salford, working at the pack-owned Black Wolf Brewery—Remus wondered the same thing. Will had earned general certificates in brewing, distilling, and packaging.
"It's my goal to be a Master Brewer one day," Will said.
Nymphadora replied, "I'm sure you will be," and excused herself a few moments later to see to Teddy while Gitta took the dishes into the kitchen and left the men to finish their coffee.
Will said, "I guess they picked up that I wanted to talk to you in private." He smiled wryly. "And I promised Lillie I'd be subtle."
"You were." When the reassurance failed to get Will to open up, Remus suggested they walk off their breakfast in the park across the street.
"This is a long way from a council estate," Will said as they began their stroll.
The green grass, manicured shrubbery, and bright profusion of flowers suddenly seemed an embarrassment of riches. "We're letting the flat, we don't own it." The defensiveness of his tone made Remus shake his head. It shouldn't matter either way.
"You doing any teaching?"
"Not at the moment." His priority was his family.
Will halted. "I know a group of students who want to learn more than they can from a single teacher. They need your help, professor."
Images of the pack of children raised to hate wizards flashed into Remus' mind. Donnie with his combed-back hair and alcoholic Buckfast "tonic" ; Adrienne showing off the many piercings she'd done herself; Lark's sad, dark eyes; Frank's swagger—and the rest, young and painfully eager to learn wandless magic.
"Skoll fought with Greyback and died at Hogwarts," Will said. "The pack has no alpha and no future if somebody doesn't step in."
"They only heed Lillie's mum when she teaches magic, and before you ask, yes, I've tried to help and nobody was interested in what an outsider had to say."
"What makes you think they'd listen to me? I wasn't there long."
"Long enough to show them living is about more than survival. That's it's possible to have a better life."
The heartfelt words affected Remus deeply. If he'd managed to influence the pack in such a short time, imagine what he could do . . . "I'll have to think it over, talk to my wife," he said. "What you're suggesting would change our lives—"
"Something a werewolf and a Metamorphmagus should be used to."
Remus ignored the cheekiness the way he had during lessons and finished his statement. "I make decisions with my family, not for them. You'll have to wait."
"On a park bench? It's a sunny day and Lillie likes me tanned. Take as long as you need."
"I'll send an owl," Remus said.
Will grinned. "I had to try."
A cheerful "Wotcher!" drew attention to the woman who pushed a classic pram in a non-traditional turquoise camouflage fabric in their direction. "Teddy fancied a ride, so I figured I'd get some exercise," Nymphadora said.
She'd dressed the part in running clothes and trainers. Remus looked into the pram. "Teddy's asleep."
"Already? I knew Pegasus Prams were smooth as gliding on air, but this is amazing. I'll have to write the company a letter." She peered at the baby and sighed. "Lack of motion might wake him, I'd better go. Enjoy your chat." She walked away at a leisurely pace.
"Should we join her?" Will asked. "Our talk's over for now."
Nymphadora had stopped to retie the laces on her trainers. Remus admired her legs and her determination. "Yes. Let's."
Tonks was contemplating whether to amble a few metres down the path and stop to do a few stretches before giving up and taking a proper walk when she heard footsteps approach. She glanced over her shoulder. "Hullo! Did you two decide to keep me and Teddy company?"
Remus arched a brow. "Teddy?"
She concentrated and lengthened her eyelashes in order to flutter them outrageously. "He's very intuitive. I'm sure he knows you're here."
"Look! He's smiling in his sleep!" Will said.
Tonks was willing to use coincidence. "Teddy loves his da—AH! My eye!" One of her super-long lashes had fallen out. It scraped like hell.
Remus gently pressed her lower lid down and removed the irritant.
She morphed her eyelashes back to normal. "Thanks, sweetie."
"You're very welcome."
Tonks kissed his cheek and then asked Will, "Ever pushed a pram before?"
"Here's your chance. It'll be good practice and impress Lillie." She laced her fingers with Remus'. "It's been ages since we took a stroll holding hands."
"A couple of days, at least."
"That's ages—Will, keep both hands on the push bar at all times."
The day was gorgeous, the feel of Remus' skin warm as the sunlight drenching the pathway. She asked Will about Lillie and the Salford pack, glad to hear the brewery was on its way to success and providing even more jobs than expected.
She tried to find a tactful way to ask about a different pack whose only shelter was a rundown warehouse—the reason Will had breakfast in Inverness. "What about the kids Lillie's mum teaches?"
Remus said, "That's what Will came to talk to me about."
His hand pressed hers lightly, a cue to drop the subject and discuss it later.
"Did Greyback provide anything for them?" she asked. Tonks could wait to ask other questions, but she had to know if basic needs were met.
"He left some Galleons," Will said.
Enough to pay for food, she expected, but not proper housing or anything else most children in the wizarding world took for granted. Even after death Fenrir Greyback tried to keep his pack feral. The bastard.
After their walk, Will declined their offer to come up for tea or a Butterbeer. He had to get back to Lillie.
Tonks asked him to say hullo for her and took Teddy upstairs. She transferred her sleeping love to his cot and waited for Remus in the lounge. He came in while she was morphing her fingernails from pink to purple.
"Pinot Noir," she said. "What do you think?"
The way he said "interesting" interested her. "Why?"
"The Pinot Noir grape demands optimum growing conditions and requires special attention and care from the winemaker." He half-smiled. "That's why so much less is produced than other wines."
"And why it costs more? We can afford it." Tonks patted the cushion beside her. "We're not just talking about wine."
"No." He sat down. "I told Will I make decisions with my family, not for them."
She leaned over and kissed him. "One of the many reasons I love you."
"Your kind heart and generous spirit are two of the reasons I love you," Remus said. "I won't take advantage of them."
"You aren't. I want to help those kids."
"They need more than financial support."
"I understand." She tried to coax a smile. "They can't be worse than first-year Auror trainees."
"That's another issue. Your career."
"The one that doesn't suit me anymore? I can't go back," Tonks said. "I've tried, but things aren't the same." It was like dropping a burden to admit, "I'm not the same. The war—everything that happened—changed me. I just didn't know what I could do instead until now."
Remus still looked grave. "Even so, there's Teddy's wellbeing to consider."
"Precautions can be taken. Security wards. Safe rooms. Gitta—"
The house-elf appeared. "Yes, Mistress?"
Not for the first time, Tonks was grateful that saying a house-elf's name acted as a Summoning Charm. It saved her from doing something she had no right to do: speak for Gitta.
Tonks was a little apprehensive, sharing the reason for Will's visit. Gitta wasn't prejudiced, but caring for a household with a werewolf master was quite different than overseeing a school for them. Tonks couldn't even say how many students there would be.
"We'd employ any help you'd need," Remus said.
Tonks, sitting next to Gitta, saw her eyes narrow and quickly elaborated. "An assistant housekeeper. A gardener. You'd be in charge, of course."
Gitta seemed intrigued. "Gitta chooses her staff?"
"Absolutely." Tonks glanced at Remus.
He nodded. "We trust your judgment implicitly."
"Is they allowed to be house-elves?"
"They can be anyone, wizard or magical being," Tonks said. "I know a mountain troll named Sendak who'd make a perfect groundskeeper. He loves flowers." She shot Remus a warning look. Don't tell her he eats them!
"Indeed," Remus said, with only a hint of a smile.
Gitta promised her support without further hesitation.
They invited Andromeda for dinner that evening, and Tonks found her mum harder to convince. Andromeda worried about their safety and about losing the comfort of seeing them every day.
"What if the Ministry bars you from connecting to the Floo Network? Will I have to learn to Apparate long distances? At my age?"
"You could. I believe you could do anything—even teach a Life Skills class to children who never had parents to learn from," Tonks said.
"Household spells. Cooking. Shopping and budgeting. Time management," Remus said. "Your expertise would instil the confidence and ability needed to live independent and healthy lives."
"And who will mind Teddy?"
"We all will," Tonks said. "Together. As a family."
The Lupin Institute of Higher Learning's inaugural class—the Inverness pack—responded so well to the new structure and curriculum, the staff unanimously agreed Remus should invite other school-aged werewolves the following term.
Twelve letters went out by owl. Half of them received negative or no response. Those who showed interest received information packets followed by a visit from the Institute's Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress.
The first family they visited, the Peppers, lived in Bourton-on-the-Water, a picturesque Cotswold village. Mr. and Mrs. Pepper rented the other unit of their semidetached cottage, and initially mistook Tonks and Remus for holidaygoers looking to check in.
Mrs. Pepper invited them in for tea and called up the stairs for her daughter to come downstairs. Soon they all faced each other across the kitchen table.
Mr. Pepper opened the brochure to the photo of the manor house transformed into a school. "Where's this located in Scotland?"
Remus said, "Due to safety concerns I'm not at liberty to say. Students will arrive and depart by a specially chartered Knight Bus."
"You can owl anytime," Tonks said, "If there's an emergency, send your Patronus or go to the nearest Auror office and have someone get in touch. We're accredited by the Ministry. Harry Potter and Kingsley Shacklebolt are on our board of governors." She smiled at the thirteen-year-old girl who watched them through a veil of sandy-blonde fringe. "Any more questions?"
"Is there a library? I like to read," Alex said.
"Yes," Remus answered. "We've been fortunate to receive donations to augment the collection of books included in the manor's purchase."
"There's everything from romance novels to texts in Latin," Tonks said.
"What about wands?" Mrs. Pepper asked. "Are students issued wands?"
"Not yet," Remus said, "but we've petitioned for it, and have hopes that the Wizengamot will soon repeal the ban along with other anti-werewolf legislation. Times are changing."
"Yet you have safety concerns," Mr. Pepper said.
Remus nodded. "Change takes time, and we have to protect against those who might act out of ignorance and fear."
"Am I allowed outside at night?" Alex asked, "Or do you lock the kids up to keep peace with the neighbours?"
"There are wards on the perimeter fence, but you're free to walk the grounds," Remus said.
"We don't worry about neighbours," Tonks added, "There aren't any. We take the bus to Hogsmeade one Saturday a month, adjusting to coincide with Hogsmeade Weekends."
Alex's green eyes rounded. "You want us to meet normal witches and wizards?"
"We want you to meet other witches and wizards," Tonks said, "so you can see they aren't much different than you are and—what's your favourite colour?"
Tonks changed her hair to the shade of Pinot Noir. "There's no such thing as normal. There's only life and making the best of it."
Alex turned to her parents. "Please let me go to their school!"
Mr. and Mrs. Pepper immediately agreed.
Once the paperwork was filled out, the supply list handed over, and the date set for Alex to meet the other students at the Leaky Cauldron on September first to board the Knight Bus, Remus and Tonks said farewell and walked to the nearby Mousetrap inn. Legend had it Agatha Christie, a Muggle author Remus was fond of, had visited there, and he wanted to see it.
Tonks enjoyed the local ale. She raised her glass in a toast to their success.
Remus touched his glass to hers. "To the school."
"To kids who want to learn."
"To our family," Remus said, in a contented, loving tone that brought tears to her eyes.
Tonks set down her glass and leaned over to kiss him. "To us."
A/N: Aw, dragon dung, I'm doing my Joan Wilder/Romancing the Stone imitation again, teary-eyed with joyful sadness over ending a story. I apologise for the wait. Once upon a time, I thought if Jo killed off my favourite HP couple, I'd write a fic where they lived happily ever on the Isle of Lewis. When I came to the end of my canon stories, however, I could only see the island as a holiday home. Remus needed to do more than tutoring now and then. He needed a new mission; one Tonks could share as his partner in all things. I don't believe after the battle prejudices magically ended, so I don't see young werewolves receiving letters to Hogwarts, but I can see, in an alternate dimension of the Potterverse, the Ministry allowing (with Harry Potter's political clout behind it), The Lupin Institute of Higher Learning.
The school name is a tribute to the X-Men. In my canon stories, when Tonks was fifteen she had a Muggle boyfriend named Rory Farrell. Besides giving Tonks her first kiss, he introduced her to Muggle comics. Ironically, she could never decide who was her favourite X-Man—Professor X or Wolverine. Maybe her sixth sense told her one day she'd marry a professor who had both caring intellect and animal magnetism. :D
Remus' comments about Pinot Noir are quotes from the Lost Canyon Winery webpage. I started out looking for a shade of purple for Tonks to morph her nail and ended with a description that was a perfect fit for a pack of young werewolves. Paraphrasing didn't sound right, so I decided to use the exact phrasing and give credit.
For anyone wondering about possible future stories about young werewolves and their professors, I have to admit there's an idea or two I'd like to explore. Werewolves, like Mutants, find the world a difficult and often hostile place.
I think they'd be up to any challenge.
(Cue the classic X-Men theme. Da da da DA da da . . .)
Thanks to everyone who's read and waited patiently for the last chapter. The lovely people whose reviews last chapter helped keep me writing a little at a time when life got in the way were . . .14hpl, , alix33, Calenmarwen, Cardboard, Carnivalgirl, Don'tCallMeNymphadora4, doralupin86, edwardfiend, ElphabaROCKS, excessivelyperky, iheartmoony7, ishandtwofourths, Lira-leigh54, MollyCoddles, Moontime, QuoteGirl, Rose of the West, Siriusmunchkin, tambrathegreat, TillTheLastRoseDies, vintagejgc, yiota and Ziva DiNozzo-David.