1 October 1997
Remus took a deep, steadying breath and raised his hand to knock loudly on the door. There was no answer for several long, tense moments. Then he heard the sound of someone putting their hand to the latch on the other side.
"Declare yourself," said a sharp voice. Remus took another breath, running a hand over his unshaven chin. He had somehow hoped that it would not be Andromeda who answered the door, but he couldn't run now.
"Remus John Lupin," he said clearly. "Werewolf, husband to your daughter, and—" he broke off, the words sticking in his mouth— "and father, to her unborn child." There was a longer stretch of silence, though Remus sensed that Andromeda was still on the other side of the door. He stepped closer. "Please let me in, Andromeda," he said quietly.
At last, there was the sound of the latch and door chain clicking open. Remus stood up straighter, setting his jaw, as the door swung open to reveal Andromeda. She looked different since Ted had left; there was something wrong with the way the lamp on the porch lit her sharp-featured face. She'd lost weight, Remus realized, not that there had been much to lose in the first place.
Despite her thinned-out appearance (and suddenly he realized just how loose her dressing gown was), Andromeda's eyes were sharp as ever, and she was glaring at Remus with a great deal of cold mistrust.
"Was there something you needed, Remus?" she asked icily, when he did not speak.
"I—I'm here to see Dora," he stammered at last.
"Nymphadora is resting," Andromeda informed him. "It's very late, Remus, and now is not the time for a visit." She started to push the door shut, but Remus flung his hand out, smacking the wood loudly. Andromeda lifted her eyebrows.
"Please," he said. "Please—Andromeda, I'm sorry—I'm sorry—can't…can't I see her? Please, I—I need to see her, I need to tell her—" Remus broke off, staring desperately at her.
Andromeda's eyes narrowed slightly. For a few horrible minutes, Remus thought she would slam the door in his face. Then, Andromeda stepped back, and though he distinctly saw her hand slip into the pocket of her dressing gown and clench something, she allowed him to come inside.
Remus shut the door behind him, and he and Andromeda stared at each other for a long moment in the half-lit foyer.
"Come with me," she interrupted, turning on her heel and leading him through the parlor (he looked there, but didn't see Dora—she had to be upstairs) and into the kitchen, where Andromeda drew her wand and waved it. The teakettle hopped onto the stove and began to bubble, as the tea service started to assemble itself.
Andromeda turned to face Remus from the sink, her expression still unreadable. "Sit," she said, pointing her wand at one of the chairs around the kitchen table, which swung out with a loud scrape. Remus didn't move. "Sit down, Remus," she said again, as the teakettle began to whistle.
Remus sank uncomfortably into the chair as Andromeda poured the hot water into a teapot, and served it into two large mugs. She raised her wand again, and the tea service flew into the air and landed on the table. Then, Andromeda sat down, her cold eyes still watching Remus. She set his mug before him, and Remus thanked her.
Andromeda nodded almost imperceptibly, but did not touch her tea. She rested her elbow on the table and delicately placed her hand beneath her chin, still sitting up very straight. Remus had the sudden, rather startling realization that with her head turned just so, she looked strikingly like Sirius.
He set his mug down with a clatter.
Andromeda blinked coolly. Did she expect him to speak first? Remus shifted uncomfortably in his seat, opening his mouth, but—
"My daughter has been very, very sick," she said.
Remus stared at her, his stomach churning.
Andromeda crossed her legs. "Not only has she lost one of her great mentors, she has said goodbye to her father, with no idea of when he will return. She has been forced from her job, the thing that makes her happier than almost anything I can think of—" Remus swallowed uncomfortably, but Andromeda pressed on. "She has also spent the better part of five weeks wondering why her husband has chosen to leave her, when her only crime was that she told him she is pregnant. And, finally, and more importantly, why he has chosen to leave her when he seemed so very aware of how difficult her pregnancy could be."
Remus felt nauseous. "She—she's ill?" he asked, his throat dry.
Andromeda's eyes narrowed. "She's coping," she said in a hard voice. "Because she has to."
"I am not interested in hearing justifications, excuses, or anything else regarding your current relationship with my daughter," she said sharply. "I merely wish for you to understand exactly what you have done in leaving her behind."
"I do," Remus said quickly. "I can't stop thinking about it—I talked about it with—" He had said the wrong thing. Andromeda's nostrils flared, and she clenched her jaw so tightly that Remus again saw a flash of Sirius in her face.
"Who else knows?" she hissed, going very white. "Who else knows about Nymphadora?"
"N-no—Andromeda—it's—it's just Harry, Harry Potter—" Remus said quickly, and Andromeda gave a kind of strangled gasp, sitting back and putting a hand to her heart.
"You—you told the one—the most—and you—"
Remus had never seen his mother-in-law lost for words, but now she looked so inexpressibly furious, and terrified, that he could not stop to marvel.
Andromeda closed her eyes, laying her hands flat on the table. "You thought that, in some misguided effort to console yourself," she spat, "it would be a good idea to put such information in the hands of the single most wanted—most hunted-for—person in the world? Someone who only last month broke into the Ministry of Magic, and has since disappeared?"
"I trust him," Remus said in a shocked voice. "He's our—"
"Only hope!" Andromeda said with a rather mocking tone as she got angrily to her feet and paced away from him. "Believe me, I've heard all of it," she told him coldly. "And I agree with most of it, you may be surprised to know. It is not a question of trust. It is a question of increasing the danger that surrounds your wife, and your child. Have you any idea what would happen if—if they captured him, and one of them found out about this? If Bellatrix found out about it?"
This was too much. Remus buried his face in his hands, trying to regain control of himself. He didn't look up until he heard a sudden noise at the other kitchen door, which led to a hidden staircase to the upper floor and bedrooms.
Holding open the swinging door was Dora. Her hair was mousy and brown, and she was very pale, wearing her favorite Weird Sisters shirt and her pajamas. She held one hand protectively over the almost-invisible curve of her middle, and with a kind of desperate, guilt-ridden thrill, Remus saw that she still wore her wedding ring. She was staring at Remus in shock.
"Darling," Andromeda said, hurrying over to her. "Go back upstairs. I thought you were asleep—"
"No—Dora, wait," Remus said, getting to his feet, and for the first time, Dora moved. She took a step backward.
"Go, darling," Andromeda told her, and Dora finally met her eyes. Andromeda nodded earnestly, squeezing Dora's arms.
"Okay," said Dora softly. She spared a half-glance in Remus's direction before turning and hurrying back up the stairs—Remus's heart clenched as he saw her try to discreetly wipe her face as the door swung shut. He rounded on Andromeda.
"She's my wife," he said, hearing his own anger building.
"And you haven't been her husband," Andromeda snapped in a low voice. "You've left her when she needs you most. You've left my daughter behind, and worst of all, you left her because you were afraid."
"It's more complex—" Remus insisted, but Andromeda waved her hand.
"Haven't I said that I don't want to hear about it?" she asked. "You have taken one of the best opportunities that could ever come your way—to be a father, a husband—and you have tossed it into the rubbish heap, because you were afraid." She took a menacing step closer. "Do you think I was afraid, when I had to tell my family that I wasn't going to marry a pureblood? When they refused to speak to me, for the rest of their lives? Do you think I was afraid when my only child told me that her one dream was to devote her life to hunting down murderers, like my own sister? And do you think I was afraid when she told me that the one man she loved most was a werewolf?"
"My guess is no," Remus said sarcastically, feeling the last remark burn him.
"Don't play stupid, Remus, it doesn't suit you," Andromeda shot back. "Of course I was afraid. But I learned to trust that Nymphadora could handle herself in danger. I learned to believe that you were just as good a man as she believed you to be. I learned resilience. And…Remus, I…I confess that I was very disappointed when Dora finally told me what had happened. I would have thought that someone as obviously intelligent as you would know the importance of being resilient."
Remus blinked, and Andromeda, nearly a head shorter than he, but suddenly so much more powerful, stepped forward and closed her thin fingers around his wrist. "I am not a cruel woman, Remus Lupin. At least, I hope not. But I will do anything for my daughter, and if it were up to me, my first instinct would be to ban you from this house, if only to stop her suffering."
Remus dropped his head. "Do it, then," he mumbled. "I deserve it." And to his surprise, he heard Andromeda give a low chuckle and met her eyes.
"No," she told him. "I said that was my first instinct. But I have learned that my first instinct is often a little—ah—overdramatic, when it comes to protecting Dora. Sending you away now would destroy what you've left of her." Remus winced.
"You don't deserve an easy way out," Andromeda said. "So I am going to give you the opportunity to learn some resilience." She released Remus's hand and strode over to the swinging door, opening it to reveal the back staircase. When she spoke again, her voice was surprisingly gentle. "Go on, Remus."
Remus closed his eyes, sighing. "I haven't even had a chance to say why I've come back," he said in a defeated tone. He looked at Andromeda.
She lifted one corner of her mouth in a rather sardonic smile. "Well, Remus, if you've come back for some other reason, do enlighten me. Although I must warn you, you will not be standing there much longer if you do."
Remus blinked, and Andromeda stood aside, nodding to the stairs. Slowly, he started up and paused at the top landing. On the wall opposite him hung a large photograph of Ted, Andromeda, and Dora, taken perhaps around the time Dora first started going to Hogwarts; she didn't look much older than twelve or so.
They were sitting beneath the large walnut tree in their garden. Andromeda was laughing, her arm linked with Ted's as he kissed her cheek, and Dora was draped across their laps making funny faces for the camera. Something about it made Remus's heart constrict. He looked away and saw a crack of light coming from a door halfway down the hall.
Quietly, he walked down the hallway and knocked gently on the door. He heard a sudden fumbling noise, a clatter, a sniffle, and then—
"Come in, Mum."
Remus frowned and pushed open the door to Dora's childhood bedroom. She was sitting on her window seat, wrapped in a blanket, and a single lamp atop a spindly table beside her was the only light in the room. Crowded around the base of the lamp, Remus saw with a pang a scattering of empty Oxygen-Replenishing and Dreamless Sleep Potion bottles.
"Remus." Dora looked surprised—even upset—and drew herself up, pulling her blanket tighter.
"Hello," he said quietly. Dora saw his eyes flicker back to the empty potion bottles, picked up her wand, and waved it over them. They rolled helter-skelter off the table, and a few clinked as they fell into the small rubbish bin that stood on the floor. Dora put her wand down again and looked up at Remus.
"Are you all right?" he asked, taking a step closer, and Dora gave a kind of involuntary twitch, slipping one hand beneath her blanket to touch her middle. "Dora, I—"
Dora shut her eyes, shaking her head tersely. "No, Remus," she said softly.
The bottom of Remus's stomach seemed to fall away. "No?"
Dora sighed and lifted aside her blanket, getting a little unsteadily to her feet. She folded her arms over her t-shirt and walked slowly towards him. Her eyes were suddenly so strikingly similar to Andromeda's that Remus almost flinched. She was staring at him with the same mingled fear and anger, yet her eyes were so warm and hopeful that it was as though someone had twisted a knife in Remus's heart.
"I'm not all right," Dora said. Tears filled her eyes, and she blinked rapidly. Remus clenched his fists, feeling his chin quiver. Then, quite suddenly, Dora threw her arms around his neck, giving a little sob.
Automatically, Remus put his arms around her, and she leapt back, but stumbled, and Remus had to grab her arms to stop her from hitting the floor. Dora reached for the bedpost, pulling away from him, and sank down on the end of her bed.
"I—I'm sorry—" Remus hurried to stand before her, but she put one hand out, asking him to step away, and laid the other hand on her chest, trying to slow her breathing. Pained, Remus sank down on the window seat, watching Dora massage her chest, her eyes closed. When she finally reopened her eyes to stare unblinkingly at her own fingers clutching the bedpost with white knuckles, Dora spoke.
"I didn't mean to frighten you," she said in a hard voice. "Anxiety—nerves. I can't help it."
Remus heaved a sigh. "I know, Dora."
"Don't call me that right now, Remus," she said rather sharply. "Please."
"Okay," said Remus softly. "Anything you say."
Dora gave a rather disheartened snort of laughter and wiped a tear from her cheek, still not meeting his eyes. "You talked to Mum?" she asked, staring at a very old Hufflepuff pennant pinned on the wall. Remus nodded. "That must have been fun."
"Nothing I can't handle," Remus lied.
Dora snorted again, putting her hand to her stomach again and rubbing it in small circles.
"How are you feeling?" asked Remus, nodding to her middle.
"Fantastic," she snapped. Then she sighed, pressing her fingers to her eyes. "I didn't mean that."
Remus nodded. "Andromeda—she's giving me a—er—a chance to talk to you—"
"You don't need my mother's permission to talk to me," Dora said, frowning and meeting his eyes for the first time. "I'm an adult, I'm your—your wife," she paused, and the hand on her stomach seemed to tighten. "And I'm the mother of your child, if you remember," she added rather icily.
"Oh, Merlin's beard," Remus said rather violently, getting to his feet. He spun back to face Dora. "If I remember? How can you say that? How can you? This baby has been the only thing on my mind for—for weeks—I can't believe you'd suggest—"
"I can say it because that is exactly what it looks like to me!" Dora shouted, standing up, and this time she didn't stumble. "From my perspective, you've forgotten about me, about our baby, about everything because—and listen closely, Remus, because your memory seems to be slipping lately," she added rather derisively. "You've forgotten about us because you've also forgotten the one thing I have always told you. I love you." She blinked back more tears. "I don't hate you, I am not afraid of you—I love you so much that it hurts—it causes me physical pain."
"I love you too," Remus insisted. "But this baby—"
"—Is the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me!" Dora said loudly. "And I hoped you would feel the same way."
Remus gaped soundlessly at her for a moment.
"Would you love me if I was a werewolf?" Dora asked suddenly, her tone shifting to cool and calculating. Remus's mouth fell open. He stared at her for several minutes in shock. "Remus," Dora said loudly. "Would you still love me if I were the werewolf, and you weren't?"
Remus closed his eyes and took a breath. Then her met her gaze, so that she could see the truth of what he said.
Dora nodded. "And would you love any child we had? Would you love a child who—who liked rare meat, instead of a blackened steak?"
"Don't joke," Remus said, feeling tears burn his eyes. "Our child—"
"Would you love a child who transformed on the full moon?" asked Dora in a very gentle, barely audible voice. "If I were the werewolf, and I somehow passed it along to our child, to our son, or our little girl, would you still love that baby?"
"Yes," Remus said desperately. "But—"
"Then do you understand how I feel?" she asked, as tears began to spill down her cheeks. She was close, so close, but Remus didn't dare reach for her.
"It's not only a question of if we would love the baby," he said pleadingly. "Please, understand, D—"
"Would you forgive me if I ran out?"
Remus froze, his mouth hanging open slightly. "What?" he rasped.
"Would. You. Forgive me," Dora said, punctuating each word, "If I ran out on you?" She wiped her face, watching him with a curious expression. "If, right after the baby was born, I was so worried about what might happen that I disappeared?"
"I—I don't know," Remus said softly. Dora nodded.
"I do," she said. "Because I know that I want to forgive you."
"You do?" he asked, shocked.
Dora nodded again. "It won't be easy, but…you and I are all the baby has," she said, putting both her hands to her stomach. She was not crying anymore, but meeting him with a hard gaze. "But Remus, I—I need to know that I can trust you."
"You can," Remus insisted, getting on his knee before her. "D—Tonks, I'll do anything and everything it takes to win your trust back. I'll be here for everything—every upset stomach, every kick, every—" he laughed, putting a hand up to touch her face, which she grabbed and held onto. "Every sore back. I will never leave you again. I see now it was the worst thing I could ever have done—Harry, Dora, Harry made me see—"
"Harry?" she asked in a tone of great surprise, though she did not look angry as Andromeda had. She blinked back a few tears. "Harry knows?"
Remus nodded. "And Ron and Hermione—they were with him—"
Dora put her hand over her mouth, looking as though she were fighting very hard not to sob. "Were—were they happy?" she asked.
"They were so happy," Remus assured her. "I've never seen any of them like that, ever. Hermione was nearly in tears."
"Was she?" Dora asked, as a few tears of her own slid down her cheeks.
"And Harry," Remus pressed on, shaking his head in disbelief. "Harry made me really think about it—it nearly came to blows—but he made me stop being stupid, and it took some thinking, but I had to come—to come home," he said at last.
Dora had closed her eyes, and she was smiling as a few more tears fell. There were several beats of silence. "I knew I always liked him," she said at last, finally looking into Remus's eyes.
Remus gave a rather strangled laugh and took Dora's hands in his, gazing up at her. He still knelt before her. "I'm sorry, Dora," he said. "I'm sorry, I was the world's biggest fool—"
"Yep," Dora said, putting up one hand to comb through his lightly graying hair. "But I forgive you." She smiled gently. "Although trust…that's going to come a little slower," she said warningly.
Remus shook his head. "I know. But it will be my pleasure, and my goal to earn it back," he said, smiling faintly. He gently reached up and stroked a lock of her hair. "Thank you, Dora," he said. "I don't deserve you."
And with a rush, she was suddenly tight and warm in his arms, clinging to him for all she was worth, and he was holding her just as tightly, and nothing else in the world mattered.
Remus walked down the stairs at nearly two in the morning, having kissed Dora goodnight and promising his swift return. It was terribly late, and he was drained. He was therefore surprised to find lights on in the parlor. Frowning slightly, he crossed through the kitchen and found Andromeda sitting in her chair, knitting. The radio in the corner was crackling softly with an old song Remus didn't recognize. She looked up when he came in, removing her glasses and raising her eyebrows.
Remus shrugged, nodding.
"She's a smart girl," Andromeda said briskly, replacing her spectacles and taking up her knitting again. "You'll be back tomorrow? Bring your things. You'll stay here."
"First thing in the morning," Remus promised, though he must have sounded as uncomfortable as he felt at the idea of staying in his mother-in-law's house, for Andromeda looked up at him over her glasses.
"My daughter is pregnant, Remus, don't you think I know what you two have been doing?" she asked in a long-suffering voice, and Remus gave a small snort. Andromeda lifted one corner of her mouth in a wry smile.
"It's safest for us to stay together," she added, though Remus could see in her eyes a burning desire not to be left alone. "I hope you agree."
Remus nodded. "I'll be back at dawn," he said.
Andromeda watched him closely over her glasses for several moments. "Good man," she said at last. "You can show yourself out?"
"Of course," Remus answered.
Andromeda nodded. "Good night, Remus."
"Good night, Andromeda."
A thought I had the other day. "What did Andromeda have to say when Remus showed up again?"
It kind of turned into this study of what I imagine to be the strangest mother/son-in-law relationship in the whole story. And I couldn't leave my darling Tonks hanging.
TWO ONESHOTS IN ONE DAY! BWAHHH! XD