In time it is like Nymphadora takes him, and begins to own him - she sucks him in - and then she becomes double him. Twice the skin and triple firm curve. She totters and teeters and her feet become swollen, and then she is like an apple or pear: so round and sweet and easily held, easily bitten and thrown to the side of the road. Remus is frightened to look at her. He sets a plate of oatmeal before her small pumpkin belly. Once or twice she snaps and her eyes grow livid, like glowing sparks; he imagines it wasn't his fault at all, wasn't his fault, because no one warned him.

Soon after marrying Remus has a series of nightmares about birds, and empty offices. In the dreams his soul flies out through his mouth, and it walks around - loopy and liquid - until eventually a seagull comes down and swallows it up like a bit of popcorn. He hears its cries forever and ever afterward, until the sound drowns; and then he realises all he's been doing is reading about what happened, how his soul is gone and digesting comfortably now, and he's just a soulless piece of dust recording things that ought to have happened but did not.

And sometimes Peter is there.

Remus rides a broom speeding to earth. Earth speeds to the space between his eyes, and his mouth is open, the wind piercing the back of his throat. In the last few seconds he imagines it barreling to the pit of his stomach and settling there forever. He was never able to fly like the others; not even in his dreams.

Then he wakes and swallows a pill or two, grinning mirthlessly into the grey light.

This will happen again, and it will happen thoroughly, another time. It will happen when Remus has given up hope that it ever will, like most of the better things in his life - things he ceases to hunger for, but that come back to him just as they should, and that he never lets go of afterward. And when this happens again, that's what he remembers later; though later he will think of this and a part of him will quiver longingly until he can forget again, so he will do his best not to think of it at all.

It is now night on the hill. He is watching Sirius, as he always is, in one way or another. The voices have died. Neither of them has said anything for nearly half an hour, though perhaps Remus has tried; he's had things to say, of course, about school and about James, about what's going to happen, and even about Marlene if Sirius ever wanted to hear it. (He doesn't; later Sirius will die never knowing what Remus thinks, and in fact it's like this when it comes to a great many things. This is one of them.)

He feels himself smiling after a time, matter-of-factly, as if he is already laughing at a joke Sirius hasn't thought of yet. It's not a rare moment, though it feels like one. Sometimes that is all friendship is: a mass of innate and intimate knowledge that doesn't seem to amount to much at all, except when Sirius moves. He moves decisively.

His arm slides along Lupin's, and then he leans over Lupin, and his hand comes down on the other side of Lupin - all mouth & eyes - and he thinks for a moment as he holds himself there. He seems to think for an eternity. Lupin can hear nothing, smell nothing; and in fact, he knows nothing either, can think of nothing, can barely recall himself. Everything seems to be happening at once, though nothing does. Sirius laughs brusquely; then a queer look comes over his face, and he touches Lupin's mouth softly with his fingertips. He says something, and all of him pours out and into Remus, down his throat and through his pores, into his brain cavity, under his tongue - so that for as long as Remus is alive he can never get rid of it all once he's felt it, once he's seen it, and that is the end of that, and that is why. Because Sirius said something, out of the myriads of things he ever said: oh why, how, why.

Now the band on his left hand glints unhappily when he tears out his hair at night. He isn't sure why he does it, or even how. One moment he is staring into the mirror, nervously asking himself why - and how again, there is always the how after the why - and the next is a bit of pain and his watery mouth, so by reflex he spits helplessly into the sink. He throws the handful of English brown hair in afterward, like ashes, or rice at a wedding. He has to force it all down the sink before Nymphadora sees. He told himself he could nurture her, because he meant to - wanted to - but she took him all in before he knew how, and now he's lost in pieces all scattered through the hideaway, in their mingled spit and the little bit of him percolating below her bellybutton. He doesn't know why. He doesn't understand why. He didn't mean it, and there it is: like a seed, or Once Upon a Time. You don't take these things back, and they grow as they should. Nymphadora grows - she roots and curls up in the shell of Mr. Lupin's last stand.

He touches the belly to placate her. A part of him is thrilled beyond reason; his mouth twitches at the corners with that secret glee. So there is that much. Her smell changes: warm, thick, a hot residue on the back of his throat. The notes are golden and innately honest, like her - and yet she is not herself. He can tell the moment she goes double, because the taste of her kiss is sunlight, milky and white. The change is so sudden and so thorough he cannot believe he is the only to notice; and he notices even before her, so she begins to ask: "Why are you so funny today?" Though they know he's funny all the while: still too thin, nervous, and secretly sad in every moment he is not alone. Best when he can achieve that loneliness with Nymphadora there - then she feels that they are married, and for a time he can convince himself he is not failing. All his life: connections, reasonable connections. Where are they? He never imagined he could want one like this, and yet she is there; and when she comes to him to say there will be a baby he has already known for weeks. A hot stab in his heart warns him to stay and be reasonable; but perhaps he will encourage the wolves, if they can smell him through the curve of her belly. He imagines a coiled dark thing at the center of his child, one that will only uncoil if it senses his matching disease. He could not bear it reaching that small heart, only the size of a table grape - and at least half his, pumping half his blood. He knows that that is where it all lies, bathing there: no where else is deep enough, blue enough, hot enough. And it has come from him - could not help but come from him, the better part of his chemistry.

But how to explain to her breathless white face? So he does not - and Harry calls him a coward instead.

"I'm - I think I feel something, it's just -"

The better dreams are of Sirius and James. All three run in a winter that seems warm, and beautiful - spun out of his mother's yarn, a heaven she must have planned for him when it turned out he'd never be happy. A white winter, a tropical coconut winter. In those dreams, Remus is immortal, and it seems that nothing terrible has ever happened - or ever will. Lily is a pendant around James' neck. They fly forward for hours. The semantics appear to be: classrooms, smoky bars, hallways they are simultaneously in and out of, like pleasant spectres. Remus feels his heart scream at the betterness of it, whistling and spitting like a kettle with cracks, until eventually Sirius notices.

Sky and wind and the memory of snow on the hill, which is where Dolohov will be later.

And he tries to sort it out in time to make a difference, but it's so hard. The habit is to forget himself when he's needed. He doesn't remember how to remember. When he was twenty this would have been clear: he had a purpose, and everything else was smaller, somehow less clear. Those were days of toast and Sirius Black's leftover gin. He tasted the liquor in his teeth and his throat and his research, the bloom of better warmth that said: do this. He had the Order. Now there is barely any order at all. Harry disappears. The young people disappear. It's getting darker outside, and the stones are thrown less and less carefully. A pseudonym. A broken school. At times, he looks up from his maps and his secret letters and his charmwork and he throws up his old hands - he nearly sighs out loud, Sirius. I am married. And in his mind Sirius laughs brightly at that, because it was nearly more preposterous to think of Remus as a husband even than himself. They took turns, one at a time, at becoming more and more preposterous until soon it seemed there could never be any turning back; only now here they are, and every day Sirius grows deader and deader. Love burns brighter and brighter so that it begins to hurt, and his greyness is at least in earnest now - gleaming as if he holds a lightbulb in his fingers, and that's why they go so bright at the ends.

He'll never be a proper husband, not really, not until this is all over - why? Remus doesn't think it will ever be over - and he doesn't think he could bear it. Dora spares him from the worst of her wifeness, and he spares her from the worst of his greyness, and that's how they love one another: because they are tolerable, warm, intelligent people who have grown tired of most everything else. "None of this is real," he says, closing her wand hand in his. It's a familiar movement; he can't count how many student's wrists he ultimately clasped and moved himself, as a determined professor. Professor Lupin.

She pulls herself from him, startlingly pregnant. Her body is no longer carved but sculpted, like ivory clay, and filled so full of yolk; he is afraid it will all leak out, disappear from them like a shared and unbelievable dream. "Stay here with me," she insists. "We're a team, Remus."

"We're a team..." He echoes wearily. "But you've got to take care of yourself. It's important. It's so deathly important, Nymphadora."

"You are so deathly important." Her voice rises in tone. "You are the most important thing in the world to me, besides - besides putting everything right."

And Mr. Lupin gestures vaguely to the roundness between them.

She looks from him and down to the child, who floats endlessly in her neon fluid, and her blood that sparkles; and she is not a mothering woman, truly, but her hands instinctively move to rest where it does. "That is part of making it right, you know. The baby. It's our baby, Remus."

"I know," he tells her. "I know it's our baby."

"Then why aren't you-"

"It's not that-"

"Ooo!" And she glares at him, wordlessly.

After a long moment, Remus simply sighs, showing a bit of the heaviness hanging between his ribs, and Nymphadora can only sigh along. They lie quietly together, linking index fingers so that the rest of their bodies lie separately - it makes him too nervous, too sick, to lie near. And of course she wants him near, always does, so that's that & he breathes achingly beside her, afraid of the vibration in her chemistry. The space between them seems laden with dust, spiders, even the vague suggestions of words or promises; forgotten years that divide their world view in twos and fourths. Before she falls asleep they think of names together (Lucilla, Mary, Augustine) and they imagine what it would be like to have a nursery, a kitchen, a brick fireplace. When Nymphadora wakes in the morning, lying in her mother's old silk robe, Remus is not there anymore; her collarbone is damp with kisses, or even tears.

"Do you remember something I told you, a year ago?" Sirius asks after a time.

"Err. Let me think."

"I mean - it was - Something... God... Something... Fuck, it was something significant. It was important."

Remus is worried. Sirius knows almost immediately, and turns toward him with a teasing look - one Remus will remember almost better than his mother's face later, when he is old and even greyer. "Don't get your knickers tied up, mate, I'm not angry you don't remember."

"You aren't? But-"

"It's not that sort of thing."

"Then what is it?" Remus asks immediately. "Unless you've forgotten, too."

"It was - it was after... Me and Marlene."

(Sirius and Marlene had a phase involving broom closets, which quickly went sour - sour enough that Remus can't help flinching somewhat at the thought of it, even months after. Funny, to have such small things mean so much; though they'd never really been small, not at the heart of it, and Sirius wasn't the same for a while after that.)


"Oh. Well. I guess really it's not so surprising you don't remember, now I'm thinking. I'm not sure you ever heard me."

"Strange! I'm surprised you didn't scream it in my ears till I did."

"Me too."

Lupin's father used to talk about Hiraeth; a word that only made sense in that it was not entirely a word, and not English, and had little to do with Remus. Hiraeth. Some sort of Welsh about homesickness, or grief, or a watery mixture of the two; and grief over the departed, of course, can never forget that. Hiraeth smells of tea and old salt and postage stamps. Longing and wistfulness and nostalgia - nostalgia, a word Remus confused for nougat as a child, but which of course became quite clear for him in the end. Perhaps it is a Welsh thing. Perhaps he is Hiraethus; wasn't it true his father was? He can hardly remember anymore. When he tries to think of his father, a Mr. John, he isn't sure if the images conjured are a childhood fancy or not: things he must have imagined to console himself, or perhaps to make things more exciting than they were for their own sake. He was a sick child - nearly always sick, a bookish little thing, and prone to what mother called 'flights of fancy', many of which left him sleepless and fitful. It's difficult to know - beyond what he learned in books, his arithmetic and histories - what was ever real and true about being a child werewolf. The truth is that there is a Hiraethus, and he is Hiraethus in heaven.

Remus does a lot of things, when he is gone from his wife. The world is changing: though he hides in similar patterns and places - dead houses, ditches, courtyards - the countryside is different, and after a time it doesn't feel much like a war anymore. Remus looks for Harry. He dreams of black hair and sometimes of Lily, who smiles at him; he dreams of Marlene and of Benjy, and where they died. Sometimes he thinks of Caroline, and how she must have a happy life far from the places they were together. He speaks to them all in his mind, and it doesn't feel much different than simply thinking. At times, Lupin even suspects someone might be listening: he feels warmer, concentrates more firmly, moves quick as if someone is pushing a button at the back of his heart. He has to get better at regressing - because this is all so unreal, sometimes he forgets what he's meant to be doing. He has to be a duelist, a fighter, as he once was (or attempted to be). He has to be a man. And one day he'll grow into something more, if that's the pattern; it'd been hard not to notice before that once they had a ring on their fingers, his friends all seemed to expand, grow golden and purposeful. Even James. James, who would laugh as much as Sirius now - though perhaps he wouldn't soften afterward, wouldn't stay the night afterward to talk until someone grew irritable, sharp again with gin.

Remus glances at the cigarette burn in the mirror, and it's a feeling not unlike what he feels now, imagining the darkness surrounding his unborn son: as if the blade will fall, and if it doesn't fall in one place it will fall in the other. What was it he'd thought before? Something dark and evil is coming for me. But isn't that awfully silly?

It's not hard to imagine evil. Remus sees evil, or what he imagines must be evil - the things that simply serve as evil, in the world where he is good and will always be good. If for nothing else than for Harry, who was already his son before he could comprehend what it felt like to have one. Now he knows why he often wanted to cry, wanted to help in so many undoable ways - and why he will still, forever. Nymphadora can't understand that, but she might come close before the end. At times she curses Remus for loving Harry more: for loving him the most, for holding the past so closely to him. And then Remus goes and sits quietly alone, and sometimes he sets his head down in his arms like a tired student - but he is never finished. He has to be everything, everything that is dead, so that in time it's almost as if he's died too.

But he listens to the perfect pulse, and if he is mainly dead he lives on by the liquid sugar shift of the growing baby. Miles away, that sound does not leave him. It haunts and needles him. There is something about being a werewolf that makes it impossible; it wails in his marrow and in the pit of his stomach, like a pain that will never go away. He hopes that the child will never imagine danger - that he is hearing banshees, screams in the night - picturing his life as a deer with broken legs. All that can be done is wait.

"Did you feel this way, James?" he asks aloud.

"I am married," he adds after a moment, as if somehow that will explain things.

"I dunno what it means - I mean, fuck, I never know -"

Now, in the darkness after speaking with Lee Jordan, he walks along a broken road. I don't know where you are, he thinks, and realises he is talking to everyone but Harry.

"I never know what anything means, but you do, but you don't -"

He sucks the cigar between his teeth, murmuring. Muggles drive by with music blaring from their automobile as Remus balances along a curb. Puddles are leaking in through the hole in his loafer - patched and re-patched so often the magic simply won't stay, as if it's grown tired of itself. He shakes with hunger, then smiles blankly at the feeling of the emptiness; it reminds him of being young, or even hopeful. There's that wanting, that thirst in it. It's lovely and sharp like the knife Sirius gave him for Christmas one year - perhaps also even enchanted to double as a compass, firmly and truthfully advising the proper path in a voice Remus recognises before his own.

He imagines that when he returns home, his wife will admonish him for living in a dream world of books and young Gryffindors; it's funny because she tells him he isn't Harry's age, but there's nothing he doesn't know better. He certainly is not young at all. He must have told her that a thousand times - along with sorry, and listen to me - after she decided he would be hers. I am too old for you. Nymphadora will never understand that it is not only a number: it simply is, and it's undeniably true, and he can't shake the frail feeling along his spine and slumping shoulders. Her hair goes red when she is angry, pink when pleased, and sometimes her eyes will shift from brown to blue to a piercing white. But Remus stays one color. It is overwhelmed by hers until everything is a muddy water-color mess - nearly as if a baby has been mixing all the paints together - something undefinable and broken, brown, squalid. Even when he begins to miss her he will not come home. I will put you in danger. I will fail.

He thinks of their first kisses: the halting, disjointed quality of her mouth, her flickering limbs. He thinks of making love with Nymphadora, and how it hurt him - he could not associate his body with the behavior, could not believe that it was anything he deserved or needed. He'd been with women before, but they never wanted him so wholly. He did not know what to do with so much want, and her tender small hands that tore him, loved him.

Sometimes he thought of Sirius - he'd be thinking of Sirius and fall so displaced, lying in the bed the man had borrowed. He'd search for that old acid, that dirty Black smell, and there Nymphadora would be. She would hold Remus for hours, and he didn't even remember all of them until after his best friend had been dead at least long enough for every trace to disappear. By then, somehow a ring had appeared on his finger. Woman magic - or something else.

"I admire you," he admitted to her, and she made a show of growing taller for him, like a pale flower. She knew that it was more than it seemed, but that didn't matter.

"I think you are the best man I know," she told him. "I like you so very much."

"I'm - yes - of course."

"I want you to feel you've got a home."

"I have got one."

The baby, the baby. Lupin imagines it will be a boy; something in him insists that it will be, and that is a fact that is simply there, like a scent or a color. He pictures his son as a young man, someone capable and strong, bouncing dependably upward from every fall. Of course he can imagine nothing but falling - a realistic image, and one that mirrors his own. Perhaps his real son will be like Harry, and the two will know one another. Perhaps they will be friends. He sees his son as intelligent, perfect, and honest - even a little witty, a bit handsome. He can't see Nymphadora at all in these imaginings, or even himself. Only his son, who they suspect will be named something common and ill-placed - accidental - because the only names that ever stick belong to a girl that they will not have. It's funny: Remus imagines most fathers would see the home, the greatness they will build and leave for their brood, and their wife grown old and shining. The world just as it should be, without violence or strife. But all he sees is his son, and when he tries - tries so very hard - to paste himself in, the image crumbles and fades, as though made of sand.

There's a jacket James gave him, sometime at Hogwarts; he'd been asked to some ball of another, and mother never quite came through with her promise to send nicer clothing. So there was the jacket, at the very last moment: a smoking jacket, something pureblooded and thick with class, the sort of jacket that seemed to have an accent though it couldn't speak. Clipped, foreign, and wise. It was also the sort of jacket that looked ridiculous on Remus Lupin, though James was practically mythical in it; naturally, James decided it really ought not to belong to him after all, and it soon became an item that, although ultimately useless and embarrassing, Remus could not part with. (Like so many of his tics and mumblings.)

The baby will grow to be the sort of person that can wear a jacket like that, though by the time he can it will be hopelessly old. And he will be like James sometimes too: thoughtless, pleased at his youth and his mind, never realising how bad the bad can really be until afterward, when he can laugh about it all in a way that will make it so it never happened.

The next time Remus comes back, it is because Ted Tonks is dead.

Sirius looks at him carefully. They are centimeters apart, arm to arm in the coldness on the hill. Far away, they hear James and Peter and - Benjy? - yelling to one another, boyish and bigoted and somehow more real than their peers. That is always how it is, with Lupin's friends: they are brighter, better, truer even in their cruelty, and he can never fault them for being so purely whatever it is that they are. Even after years together his love of them is inexplicable, and his love of Sirius more so - after cigarette burns and angry hands. Sirius can't help himself. He is nothing but physical, more physical than Remus, of course. On the hill, Remus is a cube of sugar. He melts and grows sweet.

There are enough moments like this that James would have a lot to say about it, if he knew. But somehow it is just a thing - just a way - that Sirius has, and it's all right. It's all right. Some people have a lot to say, which they never will. Remus is like that, too, even at seventeen; possibly the time in his life he was able to say the most, only never what he really meant. He looks at Sirius just as carefully as he can manage too, so that they both seem to be studying one another, or perhaps only memorising - because within the year it will occur to them both that they will not live forever, and certainly they will not live together. Not ever.

There it is: Mr. Lupin loves his son. Mr. Lupin loves his wife. He loves them so much he is afraid of somehow harming them, though he cannot imagine ever doing so.

"I think - I'm going to be a good father," he says, finally. "I'm going to be the best father I can. That's what I'm meant to do."

"Good," says Andromeda, from where she strokes her daughter's forehead. "I think so too. Oh, I'm so proud... Don't look at me cry, either of you, please...!"

These memories Remus turns over in his head, over and over again - memories of little worth, with little to teach, certainly not the ones he should consult so feverishly. But every spell Lupin could ever need is there, in the shy mumble behind his teeth: he knows what he must, of course, no one need worry. He shall never let them.

In the last year of his life, he seems to remember more than ever before, though it's true he was never one for forgetting anyway. Memory is more real sometimes than what is before him: trees, and fields of wheat, rain, death and what is left of the things he used to believe about a certain world, now broken and dim as as the English moon. That bright and shimmering world of young wizardry, where the impossible seems both possible and good - so queer, so heartbreakingly rare. How can it be that what might happen is the best it can be? Though sometimes Remus finds a particularly good tea - a particularly good kiss - and it seems to him that it might be, it might be very well. A paragraph in a novel might paralyse him with a particular gravity: grandly conceived of, startlingly lovely, like the knuckles on Nymphadora's freckled hands. It's not that the world isn't full of good things, only that they are shy and that they haven't often favored Mr. Lupin - like unicorns, unable to see his intentions for what they are. He has only ever meant well. He has only ever wanted to do what he can, and what he should; he spat out all the blood along the way.

"I'm sorry for fighting with you, and for making an arse of myself. It's all I do. I dunno what's wrong with me."

"You're a young person," says Remus, who is sure he has no idea what this means. "Really - it's all right."

Then Nymphadora cries on his shoulder for hours and hours.

"I can't - I thought that -" And a wail rises in her throat. "Oh, Remus, I was going to be here, I should have been here, I should have!"

He listens to her for as long as she can think of things to say. Some of them have little to do with him, and some seem to mean nothing at all: only sad words, hurt and audibly bloodied, as if her voice has been run through with a sword. Her body sways and shivers. He pats her on the back, runs his hands firmly across her as if to confirm her aliveness - the thing he loves - and when her body goes slack and grey as his, he buries his nose in her hair and breathes deeply so that he might always remember, because even in sorrow he thinks he must love her more than anything. Her tears are sweet, tainted with honey; the child makes everything about her, even the bitter, glow with love or something akin to it. The chemistry of love, or perhaps the product of love: so that in its roots it is warm and sticky and good and semi-breathless, always catching up with itself. Her blood boils. Remus listens to it careening desperately under his careful mouth, like a bat - a frightened bird.

"We'll call the baby after him," he says inanely, kissing her forehead.

Then they walk dizzily from the carnage. People offer them comfort, but it is enough to try to hold hands; Nymphadora is shaking too hard, and sometimes her fingers slip from his. She forgets to return them. Her teeth chatter, and he sees her face color as if she is angry - then she even looks angry, after a time, mouth stitched and bitter. She takes off her gloves and throws them furiously into a ditch. It occurs to Remus then that she is angry, and what's more: she is angry about almost everything. He has to try very hard to be angry with her when it finally erupts; she is so angry she doesn't remember that her father has really died. It's as if the event escapes her, something that may or may not have happened in the wake of its tears and strained voices. After that, Dora is never without her wand, and soon there are never opportunities to go without again.

Dreaming about the white winter again - with its classrooms and its hallways and that funny dark bar, where it all smells of gin and heaven and better intentions - Nymphadora is there, too, though she runs beside him invisibly. When his heart lets loose the first of its shriekings, he could not find her if he tried, though she is all around him. She is enveloping him, frozen and oddly solid, like walking through a petrified ghost; he loves her desperately.

When Remus is seventeen, he and Sirius walk out together by the willow nearly weekly. Sometimes they talk - often they talk, really - but the last time there is hardly any talking at all. Later he will remember it as light outside, but really it is only just starting to darken; Sirius had been nearly murdered at practise, and he limps sadly now, one leg before the other. There is a look about him both doggish and slow; he glances about him as if he cannot fathom his surroundings, or even Remus. Remus, perpetually worried, prematurely grey. A clear memory is of glancing at his hands, and then back up to Sirius, who manages only a quiver of a grin. It seems strange that there is nothing to say; there always seems to be so much more than can be said, at least intelligently. At least by Sirius, whose vocabulary often restricts him to wild babblings and obscenities, rolls of the eyes. But the last night - maybe even one of the last they ever spent at Hogwarts - Black is quiet, and it seems to fit him for once. He is never the sort who can sit in silence, at least not exactly, but the two manage to lie together in perfect stillness. The grass is wet at Lupin's back (much like the grass he sleeps in at forty) and he twiddles his thumbs.

When Teddy comes to be, it is like that.

Teddy comes to be, and he comes to be. That is the end of that.

Teddy comes to be in a whirlwind - a gaping mouth - a spasming howl of pain that Remus tastes from three rooms away; and the blood paints all red, red as Nymphadora in waves of thrilling agony, the flavor of such exquisite and ancient horror as babyhood. He comes wrapped in purple and glistening, smelling of new flesh and so sharply of adrenaline, of gore; there is nothing of darkness in him, nothing of wolves, and no unhappy promise upon his small head. There is only light, a fatal sweetness, so that Remus holds the baby and kisses his face, his curled hands and feet, taking in all of him so that nothing can be forgotten - because even in those first moments he is changing, and the scent of growth and newness is all about him, and it is intoxicating - raw - perfect - so Mr. Lupin cries a little and then has to walk away, he is so nervous.

Teddy comes to be, and there is something about him that Remus has never noticed before, never located in his supernatural sight: so neatly tucked under the small ribs, the doll-like bones. Teddy has hot blood, and baby skin, and little baby eyes that seem to squint and ponder; his baby limbs are shrunken, turned in on themselves as if by a blanket; he smells beautiful, so new, but entirely human - and under his shy pulse, under his fragrant nerves, there is something else. Remus can only sense it for a moment, while he is memorising Teddy the best he can - everything about Teddy - a moment that seems somehow important, somehow fleeting. He nearly forgets what it is he sees, but it is there, and now he knows.

"But - okay then, yes, I just wanted to tell you- can I? Even if I'd still be making an arse of myself? I've got to say it aloud."

"You can say anything to me, Sirius."

"Peckerface poppycock scrotum tea."

"Go on."

Dear Harry,

This is a letter you may never receive, and I think - I am trying to think - that it will be all right if you don't. I haven't much of consequence to say.

I know that this has been difficult for you. You've lost many things, and gained many things, and you've done so many things I am sure I will never comprehend. I have tried to help you when I can - I've tried to be for you what your father would have asked, if he'd known to... and what Sirius would have, if Sirius ever thought to ask questions like that. I have tried to make you feel that there is a family for you, just as real as the one you must have coveted when you were younger, and it has always been here. I have always thought of you as my son, from the very moment I saw you. You are the sort of person that will populate the world I hope Teddy knows; I hope I can know it, too, but I'm sure you understand how tiring the future can be, even in the best of imagining.

Harry, I know that I am not your father, and I am not Sirius. Nor am I Dumbledore. I am only Mr. Lupin - Moony - and I don't think I will ever be quite like any of them, even if I am very lucky. But I've done my best while they are gone to take the place you needed of me.

In short: thank you for calling me a coward, Harry. I'm going today to remind you - and myself - that I am not. I will see you afterward, and we will make things right.

I want you to be very happy. I hope that you are very happy, Harry, and that one day you realise that you are. It may sound funny, but sometimes it can be rather hard to tell.

"The thing is: I've been trying to tell you that I love you."