Summary: A series of scene-fillers set during DH.
A/N: Funny, this piece was harder to write than Remus' departure. But sorry, I couldn't resist having Ted pop up. I really love the bloke! This particular piece's place in the DH timeline should be fairly self-explanatory.
Part Three: Return
The honeymoon was most definitely over.
In fact, it had been over since it started, thought Remus bitterly as he entered his flat. He was hoping that his flat would be empty, but couldn’t quite deny the disappointment he felt when he found it was. Tonks had gone to stay with her parents, as he had assumed she would. He sighed and sunk into the hot pink settee, and it felt oddly unsettling not to have her curled up against him. He was suddenly overwhelmed by sadness, taking a shaky breath of stale air in an attempt to keep his tears at bay.
Two days had gone by since Remus’ fight with Harry at Grimmauld place. Well, he could just add that guilt he felt from the way he had treated Harry to his ever-growing collection of self-loathing. These days, it felt as if ever relationship he touched became tainted. Perhaps he was destined to be alone. Still, he wished he could find the boy and apologize.
Not boy, he realized with a hint of pride. No, Harry was most certainly not a boy anymore. He’d proven that again and again, most recently in the way he had stood up to Remus, refusing to allow the older man to shy away from his responsibilities. He supposed Harry really was like James – too much like James, in fact, for Remus had forgotten entirely that it was not his old friend with whom he was having a row until he’d already fired the hex. He’d struck his best friends’ son! Remus knew Harry would forgive him, though – he was, after all, Lily’s son as well – but only hoped that James, wherever he was now, could do the same.
Now that his anger was fading, Remus felt completely empty, as if everything he’d been feeling when he left Tonks a week ago had seeped out of his very pores. It left him feeling ashamed and utterly spent. He hadn’t slept well when he was alone; between the guilt and the fear and the uncomfortably hard, dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack, his conditions were less than accommodating. But now, his eyes began to droop as he settled more comfortably into the soft cushions. Without another thought, Remus fell asleep.
His dreams were strangely distorted around the edges, as if he was watching a series of old films like those he’d often seen in his Muggle Studies class at Hogwarts all those years ago. He was holding Tonks’ hand under the table at Grimmauld Place; she was clinging to the front of his robes, crying, “But I don’t care either, I don’t care!”; they were exchanging wedding rings; they were going to have a baby; he was running so fast his legs were threatening to give out, farther and farther away...
A sharp knock on the door caused Remus to awake with a start.
Gripping his wand tightly, Remus hurried toward the door and pulled it open. To his great surprise, Ted Tonks stood in front of him, looking not at all like himself: tired and drawn and almost sick with worry.
“Ted? What’s happened? Come in, come in,” said Remus quickly, gesturing inside, fearing the worst.
Ted nodded in appreciation and quickly crossed the threshold, taking care to close the door before making his way into the living room.
“Dora’s fine,” he said and Remus let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “But you should know, I’m on the run.”
“On the run?”
“From the Ministry. Kingsley Shaklebolt got word that they were about to come for me, so I left. I’m not complying with the damned Muggle-born Register,” he spat, “so I’m going into hiding.”
“Good for you,” Remus said, feeling slightly overwhelmed. “But you do realize the risks of living on the run. It won’t be easy.
“Of course it won’t be easy! But it’s what I’ve got to do to give myself a fighting chance!”
He could not quite imagine Ted Tonks living off of stolen stale bread and stealing mere minutes of restless sleep on the cold, hard ground, but Remus chose not to share these thoughts. Rather, he fixed the man with a look of sympathy. He had, after all, been in Ted’s shoes many times before.
“You shouldn’t be here then,” he said instead.
“I know, but I had to stop here and talk to you before I left.”
Remus looked down at his shoes now, noting the way the top was beginning to separate from the sole at his toe. He did not want another lecture, not after his run-in with Harry. He felt ashamed enough as it was.
“Now, Remus, I’m not here to tell you what to do. I just figured you could use someone to talk to. I mean, ever since Sirius died, I was under the impression that you’ve had no one other than Dora to talk to. And, well, you can’t very well talk to Dora when it involves her, can you?”
“I’m fine, Ted, really. Just go –“
“No, really, I want to help. Not just for my daughter, see, I’ve become rather fond of you as well.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have,” muttered Remus.
“Bollocks. Come on now, out with it.”
“Tonks is having a baby,” he said flatly.
“Yes, I know, she told us.” Ted gave him a calculating stare before continuing. “Finding out that you’re going to be a father is scary, werewolf or not. I mean, I got sick to my stomach when ‘Dromeda broke the news to me about Dora. Granted, I didn’t run away, but there were times when I wanted to.”
“It’s not that I’m scared.”
“Right, and I’m the ruddy tooth fairy. Come off it, Lupin.”
“I don’t know what Tonks told you, but –“
“Tonks didn’t tell us anything. Just said you had gone on a mission for a while and she wanted to stay with us for some company. But we aren’t stupid, we put the pieces together.”
Remus looked into Ted’s bright blue eyes – so unlike his daughter’s, who’d inherited her eyes from the Black side – and sighed. There would be no fooling this man.
“I suppose you’re right: I’m afraid. For her and for the baby.”
Ted nodded. “I understand. That fear is natural, and it doesn’t just disappear once the kid’s born. There’ll never be a moment when you can completely breath easy once you’re a parent... especially not when your kid grows up to be an Auror,” said Ted with a fond smile.
“But it’s more than that,” said Remus, frustrated with himself for being unable to find the words. “My child... he could be like me.”
To Remus’ great surprise, Ted began to laugh. “Remus, we all want the best for our children – better than what we have. We all fear that they will inherit our worst traits.”
Remus blinked. “What?”
“Look, Dora’s a bit impatient, isn’t she? And loud and messy, to boot. Those aren’t good traits to have, but she has to get ‘em from me ‘cause ‘Dromenda is none of those things.”
“But I’m not talking about cleanliness, Ted!” he said, his voice raising in exasperation. “I’m talking about becoming a blood-thirsty beast once a month!”
“Well, no parent wants that for their child, either, of course. But it’s a risk you take, having kids, isn’t it? That they’ll end up like you. I mean, most of us can’t stand ourselves. The last thing we want is a miniature version of all that running around.” He lowered his voice. “But the crazy thing is that even though Dora is loud and inappropriate sometimes and dead clumsy like me, I love her. More than anything.”
“You not being there won’t change the fact that your child is a werewolf – if he even is a werewolf,” Ted reminded him. “If you stay away, it will only keep him from understanding his fate, won’t it? Think about it: it was, after all, partly your father’s fault that you were bitten as a child, wasn’t it? But do you hate your father for it?”
“No,” Remus replied earnestly.
“And why not? Because you know he didn’t let it happen on purpose, that he would’ve taken the bite for you if he could’ve. Because he loves you. But if you leave, your kid, he won’t get that, will he? He won’t know that his father wanted him around, and though he wished the circumstances were different, isn’t ashamed of his son’s condition. If you leave, Remus, he’ll never understand that his father loves him. And that, son, is far worse than a thousand werewolf bites could ever be.”
Remus’ head felt heavy; he leaned against the cushions as he considered Ted’s words. Despite his running away, he did already love his child, he knew that from the way his heart broke at the thought of passing on his condition. However, though leaving had seemed the right thing to do before, Remus was hard-pressed to find any argument for it now.
Now, the shame was so overwhelming that he almost choked on it.
“I’ve got to get going,” said Ted, bringing Remus back from his thoughts. “You’re a good man, Remus, and you’ll make a great father. In the end, just do what’s right for your kid, okay?”
Remus nodded, as Ted clapped him on the shoulder. “Take care, son. I’ll see you again soon.”
“Thanks, Ted. Be careful.”
Ted began to head for the door and, just as he was about to open it, turned to face Remus again. “Oh, can you do one more thing for me?”
“Don’t let my grandchild grow up without knowing who his grandfather is.”
“Of course not. You’ll be back far before then,” said Remus with conviction he didn’t quite feel.
“Right, of course. But... just in case. Okay, I’ll see you.”
And then he was gone. Remus stared at the door from which his father-in-law had left, taking in deep, steadying breaths. He still wasn’t sure that Ted should have placed so much faith in him, but, at the same time, he couldn’t help but feel strengthened by the man’s words. He knew what he had to do now: it was time to face Tonks.
Empowered by the thought, Remus turned on his heel and Disapparated.
He wished he’d brought an umbrella.
It wasn’t a particularly cold night, but his traveling cloak was soaked through, and he was forced to look down at his feet to avoid getting hit in the face by violent gusts of rainy wind.
He stood outside of the Tonks’ residence for a few minutes, contemplating exactly what he was going to say. What could he say? Sorry I left you... again? Would you please forgive me... again? He supposed he could tell her he was being stupid, and he would do anything to make it up to her. And he loved her. But it wasn’t really a matter of love anymore. It was about forgiveness. And not just of her forgiving Remus, but Remus being able to forgive himself.
Right then, he thought, steadying himself in front of the door.
Without giving himself a chance to flee, Remus knocked. After a moment, he heard muffled voices and some shuffling, and then Andromeda’s unwavering voice demanded, “Who is there? Make yourself known!”
“It is I, Remus John Lupin,” he said with a confidence he didn’t feel, “werewolf, married to Nymphadora Tonks who prefers to be known by her surname only, and the world’s worst husband and father for leaving...”
He heard the tell-tale sounds of protection charms being lifted, before the heavy front door opened. However, Andromeda did not step away from the doorway. Rather, she gave him an icy glare that made the very blood in his veins freeze. He did not like to be the subject of scrutiny of those eyes; sometimes, she was so very like Bellatrix that it was utterly terrifying.
“What do you want? Come for another chance to hurt my daughter, then?”
“No. It was never my intention to hurt her.”
“And yet, you continue to do so. One would think you would have learned your lesson by now, Remus Lupin,” she responded coldly.
He had no retort to that statement, so he looked down at his feet shamefully instead, watching raindrops pelt the ground, a constant chorus of dull splashes against dark concrete.
“You know,” Andromeda began quietly, “when Nymphadora was a small girl, she loved climbing trees. If I turned my back on her for just a single moment, I would look back to find her high up in some towering oak, dangling precariously meters off the ground. It drove me absolutely mad, Remus, because no matter how hard I tried, she refused to stop climbing those trees. Eventually, I learned to stop worrying so much. I would just hold my breath and watch her carefully, wand out, ready to slow her down if she fell. I learned a long time ago that Dora does what she wants. There is no stopping her from climbing those trees, Remus. All we can do is stay on the ground and pray she makes her way down safely.”
“But what if she falls because of me?”
“You forget, Remus, that it is just as much her fault as your own for making the climb.”
He nodded, all the while wondering if this was Andromeda's way of lecturing him without actually saying the words. “Can I talk to her?”
Andromeda glanced inside for a moment. “I do not think so. Not tonight. It’s been a hard few days. My husband is gone.”
“Yes, I – I heard,” he said, not wanting to admit that he’d talked with Ted earlier. “I’m so sorry.”
“It is something he has to do,” she said calmly, but Remus could see a hint of sadness behind her dark eyes. The same shade as Tonks', he thought with a pang of longing.
“Please let me speak to her, Andromeda. I’m here to stay now, really, I am. For her and for the baby.”
“And what makes this time any different than the last?”
“I –“ Remus faltered, not knowing how to respond. There wasn’t anything different, not outwardly. But he was different; unlike last time, he was a changed man. He could feel it deep within him, flowing freely along with the very blood in his veins. But those feelings were so intimate: how could he express that for anyone but Tonks?
Luckily, he was saved from Andromeda’s unyielding presence when Tonks ambled into the foyer. She pushed her way beside her mother, not really paying attention to the sight before her. “Mum, who’s at the door at this hour? Is it Da - oh.” She paled and took a deep breath. “Remus.”
“Tonks,” he croaked, and then he fell to his knees. Rain trickled down his neck and he shivered, but he ignored it. Instead, he took her hand in his, watching her anxiously from behind clumpy, wet fringe. Although she didn’t shrug off his touch, she didn’t seem to welcome it either.
His mind was suddenly blank as she stared down at him with an unreadable expression in her eyes. Her hair was mousy brown again, and her face seemed to have aged ten years from worry alone. What had he planned on saying to her before? Those thoughts seemed to have come from some distant universe, for as he looked up at his wife in her most natural and vulnerable state, he was left devoid of anything except an overwhelming desire to hold her in his arms and kiss her until her hair turned pink again.
“Dora, you don’t have to...”
“No, Mum. It’s okay.”
Andromeda frowned, but nodded nonetheless. She was letting her daughter climb that tree again, he realized. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”
She turned to give Remus one last disapproving glare before disappearing into the house.
Tonks turned her attention back to Remus and he swallowed, knowing fully well she was waiting for him to speak. He forced himself to look into her eyes again, and this time he detected a hint of hurt behind that deliberately neutral expression. He tried to swallow, but the sight of her left his throat completely dry.
“I don’t have an excuse this time,” he began in an even raspier voice than usual, “other than you’re right. I’m a coward. Whenever something big happens, I run away. First, when Sirius died and now the marriage and the baby and...” He ran a hand through his rain-soaked hair. “Tonks, being with you, it’s like realizing a life I’d only dreamt of having. No, it’s better than I could have dreamt. You – you’re an angel and being with you, it’s... it’s heaven.”
“No,” she said in a quiet voice.
“It’s not heaven. Stop looking at our life like it’s a dream, like it’s too good to be true. It’s reality, Remus, it’s your life. It’s not too good to be true because it is true.”
“But the better things are, the harder it will be to cope when they’re gone.”
“That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Everything can be taken away in just a single moment, that’s why we have to cling to the good, to make sure we get as much time as we can with those we love before it’s too late! By running away, don’t you just end up taking away your own happiness, not to mention mine, too? I mean, you can’t tell me you feel better when you’re gone.”
“Not at all,” he admitted quickly. “I feel worse.”
“Will I ever be able to make it up to you enough to be forgiven?”
Tonks put her hands on her hips. “Didn’t you hear me during our row? I said I’d always take you back. Remus, you’ve somehow managed to fight your way past my defenses. Whether I want to or not, I’m stuck loving you now.”
“The baby,” he said suddenly, remember the words she’d flung at him in anger. “You said that you couldn’t promise the same about the baby.”
“No, I can’t,” she replied frankly. “That’s why you’ve got to stick around. Don’t give the kid a reason to hate you, okay? You’ll be a great dad, I’ve seen the way you worry yourself sick over Harry...” She smiled. “Such a daddy thing to do.”
“I just wanted to protect you two.”
“Well, you can’t. No one’s really safe these days, are they? The best way to protect us is to stay with us. Be here when I have some crazy craving, hold my hand when I’m in labor, change the baby’s nappies, read him bedtime stories...” She smiled at that. “You’re ace at telling stories.”
"You aren't mad?" Remus asked tentatively.
"No, I am," she admitted evenly, "but what will staying angry with you accomplish? I'm with you now, good or bad, so I just have to wait it out - hope one day you'll stop running so much and just... let it happen. Do you think you can try that?"
“I... well, I, err, don’t want to make you promises I can’t keep this time. I want to stay, but... I’m terrified of all of this. It may become... too much again.”
“I know, and I’m not asking for you to promise you’ll never leave,” she whispered, squeezing his hand now. “Just promise you’ll try to stay. Give us a fighting chance at being happy, Remus.”
"I'll try. I'm afraid you forgive me too easily, Dora."
"Yeah, I suppose that's my curse, isn't it?" she said with a teary chuckle.
He nodded, and in a voice laden with emotion said, “I’m so lucky to have found you, Dora.”
She tugged on his hand then, and realizing that he was still on his knees, he stood up, his bones creaking as he did so. He didn’t hesitate in closing the distance between them now, leaning his forehead against hers, water from his wet hair dripping down her face.
“I believe,” she whispered in a husky voice, “it was I who found you, Remus.”
He laughed. And then he kissed her.
There would be more passionate kisses in the future, but tonight, their kisses were soft and comfortable, demanding nothing. Rather, they reveled in this moment: her soft lips against his slightly chapped ones, a breathless declaration of a fiery sort of love that could never be extinguished.
Remus placed his hand on her still-flat stomach, and she smiled against his lips.
There might still be Death Eaters out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to fight; but, tonight, Remus Lupin had won a war.
In the morning, there would still be fear. But he would run no more.
Part One: Happiness
Part Two: Flight
Part Three: Return
Part Four: Promise
P.S. I revamped parts of the Molly Weasley chapter of Conversations, if you're interested.