Late spring, 2006
Remus lay stretched out on the sofa with his eyes closed and his head in his wife's lap as she combed her fingers through his hair in long gentle strokes. A warm fire snapped in the grate. The wireless played softly in the background. He was about as relaxed as it was possible to be, just over half an hour from moonrise.
But then his wand gave a soft chiming sound, and Remus sighed. Make that exactly half an hour.
Dora's lips brushed his forehead. He sat up, a little stiffly, shrugging his shoulders to work the kinks out.
"Well, then," he said.
"Teddy?" Dora called, in the general direction of the study. "Come say good night to Dad."
Teddy dashed into the living room and slid to a stop, perching on the arm of the sofa right next to Remus. His hair was an interesting shade of deep purple today, and Remus fought to keep a straight face when he saw how painfully that colour clashed with the orange Cannons T-shirt Ron had given him for his eighth birthday a few weeks before.
"What's my assignment this month?" Teddy had a little Muggle notebook in one hand, and in the other he held a Self-Inking Quill poised to write down instructions.
"I've been thinking that you're ready for a challenge," said Remus, ruffling the purple hair. It had become a tradition for him to give Teddy a little research project over the full moon, to keep him working on something until the second day after, when Remus would be recovered enough to teach lessons again. "How about trying manticores? You'd have to use some of Gran's more advanced books, though."
"Manticores are cool!" Teddy's quill scribbled furiously. "I can do that. Habitat, life cycle, magical abilities, and how to defend against them, right?"
"That's right," said Remus, pulling his son into a quick one-armed hug. "Good. I'm off, then. I'll see you tomorrow, probably when I wake up at suppertime."
"'Night," said Teddy, distractedly, before dashing back toward the study, manticores apparently already on his mind. Remus grinned after him, enjoying his absorption.
Dora slid her hand up his arm to his shoulder and leaned in for a kiss, finishing by resting her forehead against his. "I'm so sorry I'm not going to be here in the morning."
"Not at all," said Remus. "You were about due for a stint on night shift. I'll be fine." He smiled, slowly, and brushed a pink curl back behind her ear. "And this way you'll be just as interested in a nap as I am, tomorrow afternoon."
Her dark eyes twinkled back at him. It would be just a nap, given their respective states of exhaustion, but Remus rather suspected that Dora liked to curl up together after moons almost as much as he did.
"I'll leave some porridge under a Warming Charm for you, at least." She got up from the sofa and gave Remus a practiced hand up as well before following him into the kitchen.
Andromeda, who had been supervising the supper dishes as they washed and dried themselves, came over to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Try to get some sleep," she said, as she did every month. "We'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night," said Remus. After one more hug from Dora, he vanished through the Floo to the little basement flat he still used for transformations.
When Remus limped back home through the Floo the following morning, the kitchen was dark and quiet. For all his casual words of the night before, it was rather lonely not to find Dora waiting for him with her cheeky, if sleepy, grin.
He cast a quick Lumos, served himself some porridge and pumpkin juice, and sat down heavily at his place at the table. By the time he had finished his breakfast, his eyelids were drooping and the sharp pains from the transformation had settled into dull, burning aches in his muscles and bones. He sent his dishes to the sink with a careful wave of his wand, and then sat contemplating the long trek up the stairs that stood between him and his warm, soft bed.
He was just talking himself into standing up when he heard thumping footsteps on the stairs. Andromeda never thumped, and Dora wasn't home—it must be Teddy, brimming with excitement over the beginnings of his report on manticores. Remus started to grin.
But when he saw the plain brown hair and the worried face that poked around the doorway into the kitchen, the grin vanished.
"Good morning," he said instead. "You're up early today."
"Well," said Teddy, "yeah. There's something I wanted to talk to you about." He looked oddly hesitant. "Is that okay?"
Remus rubbed his hand over his face, fighting to stay alert when exhaustion was pulling at him quite adamantly. "Of course. What is it?"
"I was looking up manticores in some of Gran's books, like you said. Only—" He glanced up at Remus, but then looked away again immediately. "I found some things about werewolves, too."
Remus felt his stomach plummet with a sickening lurch, jolting him out of his post-moon torpor.
He and Dora had talked about this day, had planned for it, for years. But she was supposed to be here with him for it. He was not supposed to have to do this alone.
Especially not with his mind fogged with exhaustion from the transformation.
Please, he breathed, through the panicked thumping of his heart. Please don't let me lose my son.
Remus looked at the frightened brown eyes that would not meet his own and took a deep breath. "Teddy," he said, as calmly and steadily as he could, "you know that Mum brews the Wolfsbane potion for me every month, right? She's very good at it, and it always works perfectly."
"But—" Teddy broke in, stealing little glances at him again. "The potion doesn't stop you from changing into the wolf, does it?"
Remus swallowed. "No, you're right. I still change shape. But with the potion, I keep my mind, you know. And to make doubly certain I'm safe, I spend the moon alone where I can't get out and no one can get in." Please, Teddy. "I will never hurt anyone. Not you, or Mum, or Gran—or anyone at all."
"I know all that," said Teddy, impatiently. "Of course you won't."
His son turned to look at him, finally. "In the book, it said that when a werewolf transforms, the pain is ex—excru—"
"Excruciating?" asked Remus quietly.
"Yeah." Teddy took a couple of steps further into the kitchen. His eyes were still wide and frightened-looking. "That means really bad, doesn't it? How bad is it?"
Remus breathed a long, shaky sigh and patted his knee. "Come here," he said.
Teddy went right to him—thank Merlin—but then hesitated again. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely." Remus didn't even wince when Teddy's not-insignificant weight landed in his lap, straining his stiff joints and aching muscles.
It was worth it, a million times over.
He put his arm around his son. "Do you remember when you fell out of the apple tree at the Burrow, and broke your ankle?"
"Well," said Remus lightly, "it's probably about like that."
"Except, everywhere?" Teddy shivered. "Not just one ankle."
Remus smiled wryly. Teddy was exactly like his mother—a little too perceptive for comfort.
"It does hurt like that everywhere," he admitted, "but only for about a minute." And there was no need to elaborate on exactly how long that minute felt. "After the change is over, I'm just a bit sore. And tired—that's why I sleep so much, the day after." He gave Teddy a small squeeze. "It's not a lot of fun, but Mum's potion helps quite a bit. And you know I'll be feeling much better by suppertime tonight."
Teddy nodded slowly. He cuddled close, and Remus closed his eyes to savour the moment; his boy was too big, and too busy, for much cuddling nowadays.
But then his head jerked sharply, and he started awake.
"You see?" He chuckled. "I'd better get up to bed now, or I'm going to fall asleep right here, and then I'll be in Gran's way when she wants to make you breakfast."
Teddy slipped off his lap, but he was looking a lot brighter now. "So you're okay?"
"I'm okay," said Remus solemnly, smothering a yawn.
"I'll finish with the manticores before we start lessons again tomorrow," Teddy promised. "Unless you want me to do werewolves instead?"
"No," said Remus slowly, thinking of some more of the books that were in Andromeda's library. "I think we'll do that together. Sometime very soon."
The angle of the sunlight told Remus it was midmorning when the mattress dipped and Dora slid into bed beside him, slightly damp and smelling of shampoo.
"Hi," he murmured sleepily.
"Hi," she whispered, curling up against him and slipping an arm carefully around his waist. "How are you feeling?"
"Mmm," he mumbled, drifting off again. "Wonderful. Been granted a reprieve."
Dora made a noise indicating bemusement, but he'd have to explain later.
Right now, he only had enough energy to feel deeply, profoundly thankful.