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"Jesus. What a slaughter. Are they all from - "

"Yeah. That's why they sent 'em here. Too many for old Gotobed to handle in Hogsmeade."

"Christ. This un's young, hasn't even started to shave."

"I've got worse. This gel - looks like she had a kiddie at home. What the bleedin' hell was she doing there?"

"What - oh. I heard about that one. Ran after her husband, and they both got it. Poor kid."

"We got enough orphans without makin' em deliberate like. Who's this?"

"Lemme see, he looks familiar - oh, that one. Taught at Hogwarts for a while. I think he's a werewolf, maybe a vampire? Something Dark - "

"Poor bastard. Looks like he didn't have two sickles to rub together."

"Who does these days? Bloody Ministry and their bloody - what's wrong?"

"Bloody hell! He moved!"

"What? That - fuck! He's -

"I'm calling a Healer!"

"Here, raise him up, he's choking - "

"Not a chance, he might be contagious! Di'll kill me if I get infected - "

"What's going on? I came as fast as I - good Lord man, get away from him! Let me - oh my. Crash Cart to Morgue One, stat! Casualty reviving!"

"Sir! There's another one, over here, the one the elves brought in - "

"Make that two Crash Carts - damn, damn, damn, he's bleeding out! Possible poisoning, bring a bezoar and antivenin! We're losing them!"

"He's a Death Eater! Let him go!"

"We can send him to Azkaban after he's out of danger - yes, right there - massage it down his throat - good, he's starting to breathe again, clamp the wound - how's the other?"

"Heartbeat's thready, sir. We're bagging him until we get him upstairs."

"God. Get a team down here and check everyone. If there's even a chance, we're taking it."

"Right. Let's get these two up to Critical Care!"

*****

Excerpt from dictated medical reports of J. Staghorn, Senior Healer, Critical Care Ward, St. Mungo's Hospital.

…upon examination, it was found that three (3) casualties of the late battle maintained some minimal respiration and brain activity. Revival efforts commenced at once.

Patient #1 - male, aged 38, widowed, one child. Patient suffered severe spell damage, including a deflected avadra kedavra, broken bones in the wand arm, and a variant crucio on a compound fracture to the right femur, as well as pre-existing lycanthropy. Left arm moved while morgue attendants were preparing for autopsy, resulting in call to Emergency Services. Standard blood-borne pathogen precautions were used during revival efforts due to pre-existing condition (lycanthropy; see below).

Resuscitation and treatment were complicated by hitherto unknown spell that seemed designed to force the lycanthropic transformation. Patient's internal organs had begun to change (lower GI tract, urogenital system, lungs were lupine; other organ systems remained grossly human). Spell reversal was required to permit normal respiration. Theory that magical residue of partial transformation forced patient into suspended animation must be investigated further.

Current status: serious but stable. Patient has yet to regain consciousness. Will require physio to regain full use of leg and arm.

Prognosis: good.

Patient #2 - male, aged 38, unmarried. Patient was not present at battle but was brought in separately by a Hogwarts elf identified only as "Mimsy." Death was attributed to severe blood loss and damage to the central nervous system due to snakebite from the self-styled "Dark Lord's" familiar, an oversized king cobra. Tissue necrosis around the bite was also present due to the venom. Stasis spell presumably cast by "Mimsy" was in place to maintain body until burial arrangements could be made.

Patient gasped during preparation of battle casualties for autopsy. Revival efforts were successful thanks to large doses of antivenin and blood replenishers (see treatment regiment for Weasley, A.,) as well respiration spells until patient's pulmonary nerves had regenerated. Tissue samples showed that patient had partial immunity to snakebite due to ingestion of small quantities of cobra venom over a long period. Patient also had the remnants of a miniature bezoar concealed in a rear molar, which may have slowed the anti-clotting factor in the snake's venom.

Current status: critical. Patient has yet to regain consciousness and will require extensive physio and occupational therapy to regain full function. It is not known if the patient has suffered impairment due to oxygen deprivation and poisoning.

Prognosis: guarded.

Patient #3 - female, aged 52, divorced, three children. Patient suffered massive trauma to the throat and internal organs. Shallow respiration was discovered during check of all casualties initiated after above patients showed signs of life. Revival efforts were hindered by crushed larynx and brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Patient could not be revived and was pronounced dead after 57 minutes on respiration spells. Family was notified and claimed body for cremation.

Excerpt ends.

*****

You shouldn't be here.

What?

You can't escape by dying. Especially since you're not dead.

I'm not alive - look, I'm there and -

You still have magic. Just a trace, but it's still there. Dying to get away from your responsibilities -

McNair and Yaxley -

She took that curse for you, Moony. The least you can do is live for your son.

She's right, mate. You can do what we couldn't. Go back.

Oh God. What I said to Harry - I meant -

I'm sorry, Moony. But you can't stay.

She shouldn't have followed me - she just had a -

Go home, Remus. You have work to do. We'll be here when you're done.

But -

Go home!

*****

Death was white.

He was mildly surprised about this. The battle had been red, blood red, or green from the Killing Curse sizzling overhead. Those few seconds when Harry brought him back had been grey, the dull, peaceful grey of a fogbank. Then nothing, and now everything was white, whiter than milk or stars or paper or -

Remus gasped and tried to sit up. A witch in a white St. Mungo's uniform was there almost immediately, pushing him back to the smooth cotton sheets before he could notice that his wand arm was bandaged almost to the shoulder and his right leg was immobilized. "What - "

"Don't try to talk, Mr. Lupin. You've been unconscious for days. Here, this will help." She held a cup of something cool and blue to his lips. "It's a strengthening potion, not a sedative."

The liquid tasted of summer fruits and fresh mint. Remus swallowed. The witch drew her wand and ran it up his right side, nodding from time to time.

"What happened?" He turned his head enough to see that he was in a hospital ward. Most of the beds were empty, except for one in the corner that was surrounded by a fabric screen. "The battle - "

The Matron broke into a huge grin. "Over. You-Know-Who is gone for good, thanks to Harry Potter." The grin faded. "Hogwarts is a mess, and Headmistress is farming out the students to Beauxbatons and a couple of smaller schools until they can rebuild. A lot of good people died - some of those children were so young - "

Headmistress? Minerva must have survived, thank God. "What about Harry? He - "

"Oh no, alive and well! He'll be thrilled to hear you're awake again." She cast a temperature-check spell and looked pleased. "Your arm and leg are healing well, and your fever is gone. You'll be well enough to start rehabilitation therapy in a few days, and then we can send you home. Your little boy is so sweet, though why he keeps changing his hair I couldn't say."

"He's a Metamorphmagus." Remus allowed himself a glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, they could make a go of it now that the War was over. "Did my wife bring him in?"

"Your - oh. Dear." The smile faded, and Remus knew. His left fist clenched.

"She's dead, isn't she?"

"I'm not supposed to say until you're - "

He managed to raise himself on his good elbow. A cold ache that no painkiller could dull had begun under his ribs. "The last thing I remember is her throwing herself in front of a spell. If I'm alive, it's because of her. Please."

The Matron would not meet his eyes. "I'm sorry, Mr. Lupin. You only caught the edge of the Killing Curse. She took it full in the chest." She made a show of checking the clipboard hanging at the end of his bed. "Her mother's been to see you with your little boy, but she couldn't stay long, poor thing. She's that crushed, she is, losing her daughter so soon after losing her husband."

Remus slumped back against the pillows. "I'm sure she is," he whispered. Oh, Dora - why? Why were you there? Was it for me? I'm not worth it, I’m not -

"Here. You rest. I'll get Healer Staghorn." The witch hesitated, then reached down and patted his hand before fleeing. "He'll tell you everything."

*****
Excerpt from treatment records of R.J. Lupin, werewolf, as dictated by J. Staghorn, Senior Healer, Critical Care Ward, St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies.

…patient was awake and alert. He had many questions about his condition, prognosis, and treatment, and asked repeatedly after his son and friends. I provided answers and a full treatment schedule, although I could not promise a date by which he would be released.

Patient requested several days' worth of back newspapers so he could "catch up" with current events. He became emotional upon reading the casualty lists in the Prophet and the interview with Headmistress McGonagall of Hogwarts. I suggested that he might wish to speak to an alienist concerning grief issues, especially given that he will have sole responsibility for a son that seems to have inherited his mother's unusual abilities. Patient stated that he would consider his options and then pled exhaustion….

End of excerpt

*****

"Here we go, ducks," said the physiotherapist. She was a stout, cheerful witch with the most powerful forearms Remus had ever seen that weren't on a professional Beater. "Up we go and into the chair, that's right!"

Before he could so much as squawk she'd scooped him up and placed him in a wheelchair, then gestured and set it rolling toward the door. "Where are we - "

"Physiotherapy, of course. I can work on your arm anywhere, but your right leg was such a mess you'll need real work if you want to walk without a limp." The halls cleared as they approached, most likely because the chair went so quickly that Remus bounced slightly every time they went over a seam in the floor. "Just because they took the cast off doesn't mean you're shipshape and Bristol fashion, you know!"

"No doubt." Remus clutched at the metal armrests as he whipped around a corner and headed for a door marked REHABILITATION. He'd already guessed that physiotherapy was next from the way his leg had buckled yesterday when Healer Staghorn had finally let him hobble to the loo unassisted. "Have you done this long?"

"Twenty-five years this December, ducks." He finally got a glimpse of her nametag: A. GIDEON. She stopped the chair when they were in a long room that looked like a cross between a gymnasium and a dance studio, gesturing expansively at a collection of polished torture devices. "We use Muggle equipment here in case you're curious. Modified, of course. Some of the old guard on staff don't like it, but I say if it works, use it, and we get amazing results."

"I daresay." The room was pleasantly humid and warm thanks to a bubbling hot tub near the wall and a long, thin swimming pool by the windows. The water in the pool was moving in a slow, rhythmic pattern, and Miss Gideon beamed as she noticed him staring at it.

"We're right proud of that. It's designed to let people work on their legs without putting weight on the bones while they're healing." She clapped him on the back. "You'll be there eventually, but not today. I'm starting you with stretching and strengthening in case your hamstring shrank while you were out."

"I - " Remus fought to keep his balance as Miss Gideon helped him stand. Healer Staghorn had assured him that it was just a matter of time and exercise before his leg was perfectly fine, but it was disheartening to be so weak. "I'm not a good swimmer."

Miss Gideon helped him to an exercise mat and had him lie flat. "Don't worry, ducks. There's an anti-drowning charm on the wave pool and the hot tub. Some of our patients can hardly move, let alone swim."

She ran her wand along his leg, nodded to herself, and began carefully lifting it up, inch by inch, until it was straight up. Remus grunted at the stretching pain and turned his face to the side. "I know it hurts, but this is the only way to make sure it heals right. Here, it needs to stay like this for a few minutes."

A murmured charm, and his leg remained sticking straight up as she checked his chart. "Besides, you're better than some. That other patient in Critical Care - he's still out and they're not sure he'll ever wake up. Whatever You-Know-Who did to him was torture, pure and simple."

That had to be the mysterious patient behind the screen. Remus had seen Healers and mediwitches coming and going at all hours with what looked like every potion in the Pharmacopeia Magica on their neat little trays. The surviving members of the Order were all accounted for, so who was it? An Auror? A student? "Have you seen him? If he was at Hogwarts, I probably know him."

"I think so. He was much worse than you were, love. I hear they used ten vials of blood replenisher and all the antivenin in the hospital, he was that bad." Her cheerful face darkened. "He's no older than you, not that it's easy to tell with him looking so bad. They've had me draw up a rehab plan for him in case he comes to, but I'm not sure I'll ever use it."

Remus closed his eyes at the thought of yet another person damaged by Voldemort's madness. Would it never end? Fred, that poor Creevey boy, Mad-Eye, Dora -

I should be dead, not her. Why me? A great spasm of guilt swept over him, and he started to cough into the arm of his hospital-issue sweat top. The grey fabric seemed to be charmed to absorb moisture.

"Here, it doesn't hurt that much, does it?" Miss Gideon knelt beside him and held out a wad of fluffy tissues. "You're doing much better than most, you know. That Beater for the Pride cried like a baby when I worked on his - "

"No, no. I'm almost used to it." Damn this weakness! "It's - sometimes I think about the casualties, and - "

"That's right, your missus! I'm so sorry." She stuffed the tissues into his hand. "War's a terrible thing - " Her wand blinked, and she made a face. "Hang on, ducks, I have to lower you."

Remus blew his nose and managed a faint smile. "Thank you. You're very kind."

"If you want to talk about her, I'm listening." She murmured a spell and began manipulating his bad leg, carefully checking the alignment of tendons and muscles alongside the knee as she worked. "Good, it's mainly residual weakness. You'll be up and running soon enough."

Talk about Dora? He stared at the ceiling. The pain had faded to a dull warmth as Miss Gideon stretched and flexed and relaxed his muscles. "The last time I tried, it didn't go well. Har - my friend didn't want to hear what I had to say." The hollow feeling was back, worse than ever.

"Well, that's a shame! Everyone has a story. Your friend should have at least listened." She pulled him upright and helped him stand so they could limp over to a weight machine. "Now, you need to build up leg strength - that's right, sit down and put your feet right there - good, like that.

"If you need to talk about your missus, I'm here. You're probably not ready, but when you are, I'll listen." She drew an X over her heart. "Promise."

Remus cautiously pushed his legs against the weight-resisting plate. His right leg protested, but not nearly as much as he'd feared. "'Dora was - she was like no one else I've ever met. She was a good friend and a good Auror, and I did love her, as much as I could. But I tried to tell her that it wasn't that kind of love, and we shouldn't have gotten married - and then she told me about the baby, and it was too late - "

*****

Owl to J. Staghorn from Horace Slughorn.

My dear Jeremy! How wonderful it is to hear from you. How is your wife? And your kiddies? We must have lunch.

Of course I'll brew the Wolfsbane for Remus! We're all so pleased that he's alive and recovering. When will he be allowed to receive visitors? Young Harry is wild to see him again, and I'm sure Mrs. Tonks will be delighted to bring little Teddy for a visit - such a beautiful child, even if he terrified his grandmother by appearing to be a girl at his last nappy change.

The potions lab has all the supplies I'll need, so expect the Wolfsbane within a few days. Please let me know if you need any further medicinals and I will speak to Damocles about putting his lab to work.

Sincerely yours,

Horace

P.S. I've enclosed a supply of blood replenishment potion and my own nerve tonic. I've heard rumors that you're running low on both for a certain unnamed patient. If he ever wakes, I'd be obliged if you'd give him my regards. H.S.

 

Paid obituary from the Daily Prophet:

TONKS, Nymphadora Eugenia, during the Battle of Hogwarts. Miss Tonks, daughter of Andromeda Tonks and the late Theodore Tonks, was an Auror for many years until her recent retirement. She was a Hufflepuff, and was involved in several notable cases during her law enforcement career. She is survived by her mother, Andromeda, and son, Theodore.

Services will be private. Contributions in lieu of flowers to the War Orphans' Fund and the Alastor Moody Scholarship Foundation.

*****

He was a wolf when the visitor came.

He hadn't wanted to stay in the Critical Care Ward during the full moon, even with Wolfsbane, but Healer Staghorn had insisted. "I want to monitor the first transformation in case something goes wrong. Your bones are almost healed, but the whatever it was - "

"Emergo lupus was the incantation, I think. I'm not sure who cast it." Remus squeezed at the little rubber ball Miss Gideon had given him to strengthen his hand. She was planning to start him on wand motions in the next day or two, carefully monitored in case of residual weakness or tendon damage.

" - may effect your transformation," the Healer continued, frowning slightly at the interruption. "I want you here when it happens, not downstairs with the recently turned. Some of them are on the verge of going feral thanks to Greyback, and I don't want to risk your recovery if there's a dominance battle."

Healer Staghorn had been right, of course. So when Remus became Moony, he was watched by his entire treatment team, checked for organ damage and muscle strength, and fed a carefully monitored bland diet in case he had a human's digestive tract in a wolf's body this time.

It was the most pleasant transformation since the year he'd spent at Hogwarts, and if Slughorn's version of Wolfsbane wasn't quite as good at pain relief as Snape's, it still allowed him to think and react as a human rather than a slavering thing. Miss Gideon even snuck him a dog biscuit when it became obvious that he wasn't going to sick up, and after Healer Staghorn had gone off to tend the mysterious patient in the corner, she put him on a leash and took him down to the courtyard for a romp and a chance to lift his leg. She said it was to monitor his right leg, but Moony knew better.

He was curled on his bed, almost asleep, when the door banged open. His hackles rose and he growled a warning, but the cloaked figure swirled past him without a glance.

"Staghorn!" The posh accent was familiar, but the raw fury was not. "Is it true?"

Healer Staghorn stepped out from behind the portable curtains surrounding the corner bed. Moony raised his head and took a long sniff as air was displaced. Medicine, fever, sweat, soap, powder, something familiar under it all, someone he knew, poison -

"Mr. - "

"Malfoy. Draco Malfoy." The young man's hair was almost white in the dim glow from the corner. He grabbed the Healer by the shoulders, voice dropping to a snarl. "Is it true? Is it him?"

Healer Staghorn smacked Malfoy's hands away. "I don't know what you've heard, young man, but my patients' names and condition are confidential. Unless you're a relative - "

"He saved my life!" Malfoy's jaw worked as if he were fighting off tears. "Once at school, when Potter hexed me - yes, St. Harry Potter, don’t look at me like that! - and another time, when - " He sucked in a hard, angry breath. "All I want to know is if he's alive. Please. He wasn't even mentioned at the public memorial, but Barty Crouch's old elf said something about him being here - "

Moony flowed onto the polished linoleum and padded over to them, making sure to stay out of Malfoy's line of sight. Remus had read the transcript of the memorial service and gone over the long, long list of the honored dead until his vision blurred. Who was missing?

"Mr. Malfoy." The Healer's voice was gentle. "I realize that this is very upsetting for you, especially given some of the articles about your friend that have appeared in the last few weeks. I've spoken to Harry Potter and I'm fully aware of how much he sacrificed for the Light, no matter what Rita Skeeter and her ilk might say.

"You must understand that his condition is grave. He was severely - damaged, and unless and until he regains consciousness we have no way of knowing whether he will ever recover enough function to be the man you once knew. Muscle atrophy from being unconscious so long is a definite, and there is a strong possibility of brain damage from lack of oxygen. There's also tissue necrosis at the wound from the venom, and - "

"I don't care. Whatever care he needs, he'll get." For the first time Malfoy looked like a young man, not a petulant boy. "I don’t care what condition he's in. All I want is to see him for myself."

Healer Staghorn narrowed his eyes. "You must keep this confidential, Mr. Malfoy. Harry Potter aside, your friend isn't the most popular of men. We've taken no chances with outsiders knowing that he survived. Only those immediately concerned with his care know his true identity."

"His secret is safe with me. My oath as a Malfoy." The pointed chin came up a notch. "I'll tell no one. Not even my parents."

"Very well." The Healer drew the curtain back and nudged Malfoy forward. "You're welcome to talk to him, but don’t expect an answer. He hasn't shown any signs of waking since he arrived."

Everything was white: the glossy metal bedframe, the stiffly laundered sheets, the starched curtains on their enamelled steel frame. The man in the bed was white, too, nearly as white as the bandage on the side of his neck. His eyes were screwed shut and lips pursed as if he were in pain, even unconscious. The only splash of non-white was the smoothly combed black hair, and that was starting to grey at the temples.

Young Malfoy made a sound that was half shock, half pain. He stepped past the Healer and stared down at the unmoving figure, then lifted one limp hand and held it as if he could somehow will his friend to speak, move, react.

"Severus," he whispered. "Severus, please. Wake up."

Severus? Moony joined Malfoy beside the bed and positioned his front paws so he could raise himself enough to get a good look at his old colleague. The scent was right, the face was right - what had happened? The papers said he'd vanished after the last battle and was presumed dead. How had he ended up here?

Malfoy jerked backwards with a hiss, wand almost pinwheeling out of his fingers as he yanked it from its sheath. "Werewolf - Lupin? What the - "

Moony bared his teeth, then dropped back to floor as he realized that it looked more like a snarl than a grin. Snape looked so cold and so pale - what had happened? Why wasn't he awake yet?

Healer Staghorn grabbed Malfoy's wand arm before he could aim. Moony cowered and tried to scrabble backwards. His right hind leg held, but a spike of pain had started up toward his groin.

"You are in a hospital, Mr. Malfoy, and I would ask that you not forget that in the future."

"But - "

"Mr. Lupin is fully medicated. The worst he could do is shed on Headmaster Snape." The Healer's voice was nearly as cold as Snape's when he was angry. "He was gravely injured and is here until he's well enough to rejoin his family. Exactly like your friend."

Malfoy swallowed, then nodded. "I'm sorry. It's - he hated, hates werewolves. And Andromeda - my aunt - said - "

Healer Staghorn nodded after a moment. "I understand your concerns. Do you truly think I'd risk anyone's safety by having an unmedicated werewolf in the wards? Believe me, he's perfectly safe." He knelt and gave Moony a gentle rub between the ears.

Moony whined and nudged the Healer's fingers, then carefully prodded Malfoy's leg with his muzzle. The young man hesitantly extended a hand so Moony could sniff, visibly relaxing as the first contact was a tentative lick and not a savage bite. "He - he's not what I expected. I - "

There was a faint, almost pained gasp from the bed. Malfoy whirled and snatched up his old professor's hand again. "Severus? It's Draco. I'm here, you're safe - "

Moony ignored the ache in his leg and scooted under the bed. He came up on the other side and stared down at Snape. He had gone rigid, and the human part of his mind heard something that sounded like "seizure" from the foot of the bed. He whined and leaned close enough to smell the hospital's shampoo on the limp black hair - surely Snape was cold, and that was why he was shivering?

He nuzzled the still face, then the thick bandage on the neck. That smelled of antiseptic and healing, and he ignored it. The Healer was doing what he could as he chanted and drew patterns in the air, and it was not Moony's place to interfere.

The left arm, though - the skin where the Dark Mark had burned was greyish and unnaturally slick. Moony took a good, long sniff, then ran his tongue up and over the soft underside. Snape tasted of sweat and medicine and the faintest trace of venom, and Moony licked and licked until the taint was gone and the flesh was pink. He heard a question from somewhere, but ignored it. Wasn't he immune to all poisons except silver? He had nothing to fear.

There was another gasp, and a groan. Moony whined and began working on the long, stained hand. The salty, bitter taste of poison was there, too, if less and less as Moony lapped away. The fingers tensed, and then yanked free.

"What - " It was a ragged croak, not the old smooth flow. "Dog - Draco? Where - "

Healer Staghorn was at Snape's side in an instant. Moony stopped licking and ignored the slide of nails on floor as his weak leg finally began to give way.

"Headmaster Snape? Can you hear me?"

"Hear - who are - " Snape trembled. "So cold - where am I? Draco?"

"You're in St. Mungo's. Severus - oh God, you're awake - " Malfoy clutched Snape's right hand and ignored the tears pouring down his cheeks. "We thought you were dead!"

"Dead? Damn snake - " Snape turned to face Moony. Moony whimpered and lowered himself to the cold institutional tiles while he could still control his leg. "Lupin? You - "

"We'll explain everything in good time, Mr. Snape," said Healer Staghorn. He shooed the werewolf away from the bed and tapped a patch on his hospital robes. The Matron and Miss Gideon were there in seconds. "Welcome back to the world."

*****

Excerpt from letter by J. Staghorn, Healer, to Andromeda Tonks

…I have also enclosed a note waiving the usual age requirements for visitation in the case of your grandson Theodore. Mr. Lupin is not contagious and has repeatedly expressed the wish to see his son, and I believe it would be of great benefit to his recovery….

The letter is returned unopened with "Addressee Unknown" written in block letters on the front

 

Excerpt from dictated notes of J. Staghorn, St. Mungo's Critical Care Unit

…Mr. Lupin continues to progress physically, and I anticipate he will make a full and complete recovery from his injuries. Physiotherapist Gideon states that he has begun to cast simple spells using a practice wand, but that he currently lacks the fine motor control that would allow him to perform more complex magic. She plans to start occupational therapy and advanced wand work next week, and has consulted with F. Flitwick, Charms Professor at Hogwarts, for advice….

…Patient S is progressing very slowly. A full cognitive and psychological assessment was not possible due to his lack of cooperation with Alienist Plotkin (Note: advance replacment funds for destroyed intelligence chart, plus bottle of wine and gift certificate to Claridge's as apology), but all of his providers are convinced that his mind and magical abilities are intact. He has begun to use wandless magic without prompting, and Physiotherapist Gideon has had to use charm-suppressant spells to prevent him from using magic to compensate for his physical deficits during physio sessions.

Current problems: left arm still weak despite neutralization of venom; scarring on neck resisting all efforts at removal; balance issues due to venom damage to balance nerves on left side; extreme muscle weakness and nerve damage in legs due to combination of "Mimsy's" stasis spell, atrophy, and snake venom; involuntary spasms in the legs and occasionally the left arm. He also has lost approximately a stone during his hospitalization.

Treatment plan: enriched diet (see notes by F. Brenner, dietician); physiotherapy to regain leg strength and muscle tone; administration of nerve tonics to restore full function in damaged legs; balance therapy. I have owled Jean de Regnier, scar specialist of Toulouse, France, for a consult on the neck scarring….

 

*****

" - and that's what happened." Harry swung one leg back and forth. He had perched himself on one of the weight sets in the Rehabilitation Room and watched as Remus went through the treatment regimen Miss Gideon had prescribed for his leg. His arm was almost back to normal, and now it was just a matter of getting his leg back before he could be discharged. "Voldemort's dead, and the Aurors are rounding up what's left of the Death Eaters."

"I'm glad. Kingsley will make a good Minister, at least for now." Remus wiped his face with a St. Mungo's towel and drained a bottle of dehyadratus Miss Gideon had left for him. Cards, letters, and a basket of imported fruit had arrived as word of his survival spread, but this was the first time Harry had been able to spare more than a few minutes. "It's going to be a different world, you know. I can't remember a time when Voldemort or his followers weren't around."

"You aren't the only one," said Harry. The scar was still there, but it no longer looked slightly inflamed. "There's a lot of work to be done, especially at Hogwarts. Fortunately the elves are joining in. It's their home, after all."

"I daresay." Remus carefully draped the towel about his neck. "I can't wait to be discharged so I can help. I'll have Teddy to think about it, but surely there's - "

Harry kicked at a stack of weights charmed to adjust to the user's strength. "Remus. There's something you need to know."

The cold ache was back, bigger than before. Remus stared at Harry. "Teddy. He transformed during the full moon, and it was too much for him. Wasn't it?"

"No, he's fine!" Harry stiffened, then moved to Remus' weight set and grasped him by the shoulders. "I saw him yesterday, and he's thriving - his eyes are starting to focus, and he's not a werewolf, at least not yet - "

Not a werewolf? Remus stepped clear of the apparatus and stood. He was still taller than Harry, even though it was a man looking back at him and not a child. "What do I need to know, Harry? I assumed no one had brought him to visit because of hospital regulations, but - "

Harry flushed. "It's Andromeda. She's gone a bit mental since Tonks - since she - "

"I know she died, Harry. I was there. What is going on?"

"Hermione thinks it's because she lost her whole family. She won't let anyone say your name, ever. Tonks' obituary didn't even mention you, and she says she's taking Teddy out of the country until things have settled down." Harry pulled a folded letter out of his pocket and thrust it into Remus' hands. "She gave me this for you and said she didn’t need a reply. I tried talking to her, but she threatened to keep Teddy away from me if I said your name again, so - "

Remus tore at the envelope. Why weren't his fingers working properly? Miss Gideon swore his fine motor control was coming back, it was just paper for God's sake, why was Harry saying his name and telling him to slow down, Teddy was his son -

The words on the page made no sense, even after he'd read them twice. Because if Andromeda meant it, then -

"Remus?" Harry sounded almost afraid. "Are you all right?"

Remus shoved the letter into the pocket of his joggers. "Never better. After all, I'm alive." He waited until his vision had cleared and clapped Harry on the shoulder. "Here. It's almost time for lunch. They're finally letting me eat real food so if you'd like to stay - "

*****

Excerpt from letter by Andromeda Tonks to Remus Lupin

…Dora once told me that the only thing that got her through Dumbledore's funeral was knowing that she was having a baby, and then marrying the man she loved. Ted and I gave your marriage our blessing because she did love you, but your treatment of her during those early months made it difficult for me to hold my tongue…

…Losing Ted after all those years together was almost more than I could bear. He and Dora were the only family I had after my blood relatives cut me off. Losing Dora was far worse; parents are not supposed to bury their children, and especially not like that. She still hadn't recovered her strength from the birth, as you well know…

…Do not try to find me, or Teddy. My daughter died because she followed you. The very least you can do is let us alone….

 

Enclosed with the letter is a copy of a legal brief from Gillam & De Rochon, Solicitors, on behalf of Andromeda Black Tonks to the Wizengamot. The brief petitions for sole custody of the minor child, Theodore Remus Lupin, by Andromeda Tonks, nee Black, on the grounds that the child's biological father is a werewolf, unemployed, and lacks the resources to raise the said child. The petition lists as secondary grounds the biological father's "disinterest in fatherhood" and includes details of arguments between Remus and Tonks from early in their marriage.

*****

Other friends visited: Minerva, who wept for the first time in all the years he'd known her; Hermione and Ron, who seemed to be completing each other's sentences these days; Kingsley, who forced his entourage to wait outside; Arthur and Molly, who alternated between delight that he had been spared and grief that Fred had not. It was unsettling, and wonderful, and when it was time for lights out he scarcely had time to close his eyes before he was fast asleep.

Fortunately sleeping draughts were part of the standard treatment regiment for Critical Care patients.

A few days of playing the social lion had put him behind on his physio, and after Miss Gideon clucked over his lack of stamina on the treadmill and mentioned that she really couldn't spare much more time for him when her other patient was needing more and more attention, he threw himself back into regaining what he'd lost.

He was in the Rehabilitation Room working on wand motions when Miss Gideon brought her other patient in for his first physio session. Fortunately there was a mirror on one wall so Remus could finally get a good look at his wardmate.

He'd seen Healer Staghorn and what seemed to half the poison, wound, and magical damage specialists at St. Mungo's cluster around the curtained bed as Snape finally improved enough that the rest of the Order could be informed that their most valuable spy would live. Harry had shown up once, stayed for what sounded like a tense but cordial conversation, and left just before Draco and a weeping Narcissa Malfoy swept in. There had been muffled words as the Healers and Miss Gideon went to work, and the occasional cry of what sounded like pain, but beyond that Snape could have been on another planet.

"Come along, ducks. We'll start with the pool, you can exercise without putting any weight on your legs - now, now, no modesty, believe me I've seen worse, you don't even have any scars except on your neck!"

Snape had always been thin to the point of scrawniness, but the wasted figure Miss Gideon picked up and carefully lowered into the therapeutic pool was almost unrecognizable. The limp black hair was shot with grey, and the hawk's nose was ridiculously large in the drawn face. The purple bite mark on his neck from Voldemort's pet looked fair to be permanent, and his arms and legs -

Sirius had mocked Snape for being greasy and ugly. But even Padfoot at his worst would have been shocked to see what war had done to his old enemy.

"My legs - " The silky voice was shredded by pain as Miss Gideon shucked off her robes to join Snape in the pool. She wore a surprisingly bright Muggle bathing suit, but Snape was in a old-fashioned one piece that hung on his skeletal torso. "What are you - "

Remus lowered his practice wand to his side and deliberately scrubbed at his face with a towel. Snape had always been self-conscious about his appearance, even when he'd been a respected professor and apothecary. Having another person, especially one he hated, watch him struggle to stay upright in chest-high water must have been hellish.

"You know I haven't a choice, Professor." Miss Gideon tapped her wand against a tile shaped like a river nymph. The water began to move in slow, gentle waves. "If you ever want to walk again, you'll have to trust me."

"I know." Snape gritted his teeth as she cast another spell that started flexing his muscles as if he were walking normally. He clung to the support bars to stay upright, face contorting as Miss Gideon gradually increased the force of the waves. "Not that I have anywhere to go once you and your friends have decided to cease torturing me."

Miss Gideon rolled her eyes. "You don't fool me, love. The way you complain about the food, I know you can't wait to be out of here. That's right - good, you're starting to move on your own - excellent, I knew you could do it - "

Remus dropped his towel, raised the practice wand, and began slowly working through the motion to cast an Immobulus. The power was there, thrumming just below the surface, and the more he practiced the easier it was.

His wand shattered as Dolohov screamed a spell that seemed to turn him inside out. The Russian laughed and spat in his face as he collapsed, wand starting to glow a sickly green as he drew his arm up and over his head.

"Avada - "

"Remus! No!"

"Oh, lookee lookee, little Mudblood - come to your aunty Bella - "

"Dora!"

" - kedavra!"

The world flared green, and the last thing he felt was Dora's body falling limp across his as Bellatrix shrieked with delight -

 

"Mr. Lupin?"

Remus came back to himself with a jerk. Miss Gideon had tapped him on the arm and was looking expectantly at him. "Sorry - daydreaming, I suppose. Is something wrong?"

"Oh, nothing like that. But one of my clients down in Spinal has gone into spasms and they want me right away." She gestured over her shoulder at Snape, who was still in the pool, still grimly letting the spell and the waves teach his wasted muscles to respond. "Could you watch the Professor for a few minutes? There's a monitoring spell on him so I'll know if he does himself a mischief, but he still has about ten minutes to go and I don't want him to stop."

"I don't know if that's - "

"You're much stronger than you think you are," said Miss Gideon in a brisk voice. "Here's your real wand in case you need to signal someone, not that anything's going to happen." She summoned her robe and pulled it on over her fluorescent lime one-piece. "Professor? I have to pop down to another ward for a few minutes, but Mr. Lupin will be here in case you need anything. I'll be right back - Mr. Lupin, don't let him slack off - ta!" She shoved her feet into what looked like plastic beach clogs and bustled out the door before either man could protest.

They stared at each other. What did one say?

"Lupin." Snape straightened a bit. The scars on his neck moved as he swallowed.

"You're supposed to be walking," said Remus. He drifted to the center of the room. "Other than that -

"To be completely accurate, I'm supposed to be dead." Snape gripped the support bars until his knuckles showed white. "Why Mimsy took it upon herself to 'save' me I will never understand."

"I think the only person who does understand house elves is Hermione Granger." Remus knelt beside him and tapped his wand against the nymph tile. The current started up again. "It's not as if I’m supposed to be alive, either. I keep waiting for the Ministry owl terminating my treatment on the grounds that dead men shouldn't be in hospital."

Snape grunted. "I've already gotten one. Then it was rescinded, seemingly due to the Malfoys doing me one last favor. I'm on indefinite leave from Hogwarts while they sort out whether I quit, was terminated, or should have been sacked last year." Sweat mingled with water on his chest and face as he trudged on.

"You should at least get your job back. You're a better teacher than Slughorn." Remus aimed his wand at his towel and murmured scourgify. It was good to see the fabric lighten and fluff itself instead of char the way it had the last time he'd tried a charm. "I read an advance copy of the interview with Harry. He'll help if the Governors balk at employing you."

"After I duelled Minerva? At most she'll let me back long enough to collect my possessions," said Snape. A chime sounded and he sagged in place. "Better to be a dead hero than a live embarrassment."

"You're not an embarrassment, Severus." Remus levitated a clean towel to him so he could dry his hair and face. "You'll find a place in the world."

Another grunt, this one accompanied by a raised eyebrow. "I suppose I should thank you. Staghorn believes that the wolf's saliva neutralized the last of the poison. It had settled in the Dark Mark and was resisting all attempts to treat it."

Remus stood and swung his right arm in a circle to loosen it. "You needn't thank me, Severus. It was the least I could do. You'll find a niche whether you believe it or not."

"That's easy for you to say," Snape said. He tensed, concentrated, and heaved himself onto the edge of the therapeutic pool. "You have a child, after all. That's a powerful incentive to - "

"To what, Severus?" The room was suddenly much darker - had the sun gone behind the clouds?

"To live." Snape frowned. "I understand it's a boy. How is he? Your wife was - "

The window cracked into a brilliant spider web as Remus' hand came up and a jet of golden light smashed directly into the glass. Snape yelled and fell back into the pool. Miss Gideon, wand out, all but flew in, her plastic clogs smacking on the floor.

"Mr. Lupin! What's going on?"

Remus stared at his wand. The varnish was hot to the touch. "I - " He swallowed a wave of nausea and dropped the wand before he could actually harm someone.

It was a harmless question. He doesn't know.

"I - I'll pay for the window." He had to force himself to speak in the direction of the pool as he gathered up his robe and started for the door. "If you want to know about the child, ask his grandmother."

The door banged against the wall as he ran for his bed.

*****

Excerpt from interview with Harry Potter in The Quibbler, June issue

…as for Severus Snape -

A: He was loyal to Dumbledore to the end.

Q: The Ministry -

A: [expletive deleted] them. Everything he did was for the Light.

Q: Headmistress McGonagall -

A: I haven't had a chance to speak to her, but I will. Believe me. There's a lot she doesn't know.

Q: You realize that this is not the most popular opinion at the current time?

A: [laughs] Since when have I ever cared about popularity? Severus Snape is - was - the bravest man I've ever known -

Excerpt ends

*****

"I'm sorry, Remus. I should have told you."

"You're bloody right you should have told me! You never loved me, all you wanted was a father for your - "

"I did love you! But he was there and you weren't, what was I supposed to do?"

"Tell the truth!"

"I couldn't!"

"My God, Dora! I died thinking he was mine, that's half the reason I fought in the first place - "

"I'm sorry!"

"So am I, Dora. So am I - "

 

"Lupin?"

Remus woke with a jerk. The ward was dark and quiet, and his head ached from the pale green potion they'd ordered after his outburst in Rehabilitation. "What? What?"

"You were thrashing about." Snape cleared his throat. "Do you need the Matron?"

"No." Remus pulled himself upright and kicked free of the twisted sheets. "I'm fine. Just fine, Severus. Go back to sleep."

There was silence except for Snape's breathing, then the faint click of a light being activated. "Fine? I think not. You sounded like you were being skinned alive. Or don't you remember your own nightmares?"

"I don't dream, Severus." The bed linens stank of sweat. Remus made a face and wished he trusted himself to cast a cleaning spell. "Thank you for your concern, but you need your sleep."

Snape made a disgusted noise that segued into a loose cough. "Of course. My sleep is more important that your trauma."

"I don't have any trauma." Remus set his jaw. He'd lost control once. That was enough. "Go back to bed, Severus."

"No trauma? That's rich." Snape actually laughed. "What, are you reliving your death? Your wife's? Potter's heroic sacrifice?"

"For the last time, nothing is going on. Nothing."

"You always were a coward, Lupin, and now you're a liar. Don't you dare expect me to believe your usual 'I'm fine, go away' nonsense."

Remus whipped about, teeth baring in a snarl. His head felt as if it were about to split. "Severus. You have no right to - "

"To what? Tell you the truth?" Snape did not flinch. "The Hat was mad to put you in Gryffindor. You've spent your whole life running and blaming others, including your own family!"

"You have no idea what you're - "

"Don't deny it, it was all over Wizarding Britain what you tried to do! What kind of man walks out on his pregnant wife and - "

"Shut it, Snape!" Remus smacked both hand down onto the bed hard enough to dent the mattress. "He isn't even mine! Why the bloody buggering hell I should care what happens to him or her or - "

The first sob was so violent it nearly bent him double. He pounded at the bed again, desperately trying to breath, then fell forward with a strangled cry. The dam finally, finally burst and he rocked back and forth, teeth bared, arms crossed over his face as the tears poured out, salt burning his face as he mourned for what he'd thought was the best thing in his life.

"He's not mine, damn you! He's not mine…she lied she lied she lied, it was all a lie…."

Something scraped its way over the dingy linoleum, and someone held a glass of cool water to his lips. Remus swallowed by reflex, then dashed what was left onto his burning eyes. He tried to breathe normally, then gave up and blew his nose into the nearest corner of the top sheet. An orderly could clean it, not that he cared about the mess.

"Lupin."

Remus looked up at the sound of his name. Snape, legs dangling uselessly off the side of the bed, sat facing him across the narrow mattress. A Muggle-style walker gleamed whitely in the light from the Muggle street lamps outside.

"I didn't know." He raised a hand before Remus could speak. "Truly. I - I am sorry. I shouldn't have pushed you like that."

"Sorry? What, no jokes about a cuckoo in the nest?" Remus choked again. "I swear, wounded or not, if you so much as think about sneering I'll - "

Snape shook his head quickly enough that a stray lock of hair fell across his eyes. He swiped it back with a hand that only shook a tiny bit. "I wasn't fond of Nymphadora, but even I have my limits." He murmured a spell, and Remus's glass refilled itself. "You're certain? She was besotted with you, or so it seemed."

"Not besotted enough," said Remus. His throat ached even after he drained the second glass and set it on the bedside table. "According to her mother, she was already pregnant the night Albus died. We hadn't seen each other in months, let alone slept together. Teddy - her son - can't possibly be mine."

"Which is why Andromeda took her grandchild and left the country without so much as a murmur from you - oh yes, I heard you deflecting Potter's questions last week. At first I thought it was yet more evidence of spinelessness that you wouldn't even fight for your own son, but now - " Something unreadable flickered in the dark eyes. "I believe I understand."

Memories washed over him: Tonks on their wedding night, howling his name and clinging to him as they made love, then crying afterwards and telling him that this was the happiest day of her life; lifting her t-shirt and guiding his hands to her bump so he could feel the first tentative flutters of what he'd thought was his child; their first (and only) Christmas together when they'd talked about names and whether it was a boy or a girl; her radiant smile as she handed him a squalling newborn and said "I love you" -

"I knew something was off," he said at last. "That's why I tried to have it annulled. It was a mistake and I knew it, but after Harry told me I was being a bastard, what choice did I have?

"You see, for once in my life I wasn't a coward. I did the right thing. I stayed with her. I was there when he was born - cut the cord and gave him his first bath before I rushed off and told everyone. I took on Dolohov alone thinking that at least this way my son would have a chance at a better life than I'd had."

He stared out the window. A street light blinked green, then yellow, then red. "The right thing. And look what it got me. Dora is dead. Teddy isn't mine, and even if he were, Andromeda's determined to raise him without me. What am I going to do for the rest of my life? Be the pathetic old war hero they trot out on Remembrance Day?"

Snape made a disgusted sound. "No, that's my job. After all, I'm 'the bravest man Potter has ever known,' or so he told Rita Skeeter. Expect the adulatory unauthorized biography later this summer."

What could he do but laugh at the thought of Snape given the Skeeter treatment? "I'll be sure to buy a copy. Will you autograph it?"

"If I can sign my name by then, of course." Snape aimed his wand at the bed and slowly, carefully, cast abstersi. The bedclothes cleaned themselves and smoothed back into place over Remus' legs. "Who knows about the child?"

"Me. Andromeda likely hasn't put the pieces together. I don't know if Dora told anyone besides her mother precisely when she got pregnant." Remus did not protest when Snape conjured yet more water and handed him a cool compress. "Molly Weasley might have known about the baby before I did, but she probably thinks I slipped away from the wolf packs whenever I could.

"Beyond that, no one. Who would believe me? Harry nearly stopped speaking to me when I tried to run. Short of a Muggle paternity test, he'd think this was yet more evidence of me trying to chuck my responsibilities."

"Stopping the Dark Lord doesn't make Potter any less of an idiot." Snape thinned his lips. "He's his father's son."

"He's seventeen. Someday he'll understand." Wheels squeaked in the corridor outside as the night nurse made her dosing rounds. "Why are you doing this, Severus? You've loathed me for years."

Snape looked directly at him for the first time. "Seeing another man's face on what should have been your child is not easy. No one deserves that."

"There's that." Remus paused, then handed the compress back to Snape. What could he say, except I'm sorry I didn't stop James? And what good would that do now? "Thank you. For - "

"Saving you from another dosing with that horrid cack that passes for sleeping draughts hereabouts?" Snape grasped the hand grips on his walker and heaved himself upright. "I would have failed a NEWTS student who turned in anything that bad, but of course most of the lab workers here are Slughorn's little pets."

"I was about to say something else." Remus wrapped an arm about his shoulders and helped him totter back to his own bed. "Here, let's get you settled before she figures out that you're not asleep."

Snape stiffened at Remus' touch, then relaxed enough to let himself be lifted back into bed. "Really? I wasn't expecting that." He doused the light as the squeaking paused outside their door. "Good night, Lupin."

"Good night." Remus was not sure how much the night nurse had seen or heard, but the squeaking started up again after a moment and moved down the hallway. He was asleep almost before the noise died away.

This time he didn't dream.

*****

Excerpt from case notes by J. Staghorn, Healer, as presented at Grand Rounds to the St. Mungo's critical care staff.

…Mr. Lupin has made an almost complete recovery. He will return for a final check on his leg in two weeks, but otherwise has made a remarkable comeback from his injuries. I have prescribed Wolfsbane for his monthly transformation and Dreamless Sleep for nightmares, and referred him to an alienist specializing in grief and trauma reactions.

Professor Snape is also recovering, although more slowly; his left arm is still weak, and he has difficulty walking without assistance. His appetite is poor and his affect is depressed and flat. He has refused all offers of financial and housing assistance from former students and their families, and has repeatedly asked to return to his home despite his difficulties in walking, dressing, and performing the tasks of daily living.

I cannot in good conscience discharge him until his condition has improved to the point where he can climb stairs. Despite his insistence that he can and will sleep on his sofa, the Friendly Visitor who performed a discharge assessment of his home stated that the only water closet is up a very steep, hidden staircase, and there is insufficient room for a transfer to the first storey. I have advertised for a personal care attendant but so far have not had any luck….

 

Remus folded his last pair of trousers and carefully placed them in the worn suitcase. Despite all the good wishes, cards, and flowers, he wasn't sure where he would go now that he was well enough to leave St. Mungo's. Andromeda had vanished, not that he had slightest desire to see her or her grandson. Harry was busy at Grimmauld Place, the Weasleys were grieving for Fred, Hogwarts was right out….

I'll get along. I always have.

He shut the suitcase with a click, shrank it, and tucked it in his pocket. All he had to do was sign some paperwork and wait for Healer Staghorn to declare him fit to walk the streets, and then he'd be out and on his way, wherever that was.

"I understand they're discharging you today. I assume one of your friends will be waiting with open arms?" Snape asked in a deceptively mild voice. "Or will you be heading to the WWN for another episode of Potterwatch? Your code name was absurdly transparent, you know."

Remus turned and sat down on his bed. "They all were. Only Lee Jordan showed any brains. Then again, he was the only one who really had broadcasting experience." His robes were new, bought by Harry or someone else. Most of his old clothes had disintegrated from age, or been given to the deserving poor when Andromeda closed her house and left Britain. "Maybe I should apply to the WWN."

"The DADA position is open at Hogwarts. I'm surprised Minerva hasn't offered you the job." If Snape was jealous at the possibility of Remus taking the DADA post while he was still waiting to hear if he'd even kept his teaching credential, let alone his job, he concealed it well.

"No. Not again." Dora rushing up to him, Bellatrix laughing, Dolohov's wand - "Too many memories, most of them bad. I suppose I'll take a room at the Leaky Cauldron for a week or two until my wound pension comes through and I can start looking for a flat."

Snape harumphed and rubbed his right leg against the beginnings of a spasm. "Don’t promise you'll look me up when you're settled. It's not as if we've been more than roommates for the last few weeks."

Remus frowned. "Of course I'll visit. We're the only ones left from our year, at least from our houses. When are they discharging you?"

The ugly scowl was back for the first time since Snape had awakened. "Discharging me? They aren't. My house 'isn't suitable for convalescence,' according to St. Mungo's assessment." Something that could have been pain flashed across the dark eyes. "The stairs are too steep, the lab is the cellar, and there's no WC I can crawl to in less than ten minutes should I be unable to find the chamber pot. They won't sign off on my discharge until the house is renovated, and without my salary from the school, I can't afford it."

"So you're stuck."

"Until I can walk steadily again, yes. When that might happen, no one can say." Snape rubbed his other leg. He could navigate after a fashion with the walker or two canes, but only on level ground. His balance was still off despite the best Miss Gideon, a nerve specialist, and Healer Staghorn could do. "I can't even levitate or glide - did you know that the Ministry has decided to monitor my wand? Any 'tainted' spells will result in an investigation."

Of course the Ministry would monitor him, hero or no. "What about having someone else live with you? A companion of sorts? My Muggle gran had someone like that her last few years." Remus struggled to remember her name. Gertrude? Georgina? "Gemma cooked, cleaned, helped Gran in and out of bed - "

"They've advertised for one. No replies." Snape gave up on his legs and picked at a snag on the waffle-weave blanket. "Most Squibs have hired on for construction work at Hogwarts and in Diagon Alley. Narcissa Malfoy offered me a house elf, but I’ve had enough of Malfoy 'assistance' to last a lifetime." The next words were so soft that Remus had strain to distinguish the words.

"One can't help speculating that it might be more personal than that. My survival was not popular."

Remus walked over to the other man's bed. One small potted plant and three formal cards adorned the bedside table.

"I doubt that. I doubt they mentioned your name in the classified ads." One of the cards was from Draco Malfoy, another from Poppy Pomfrey. The third was a stiffly worded apology from Minerva McGonagall. "They haven't exactly found a place for me, either. I don't have a flat, and all joking aside, I'll probably have to play the 'wounded veteran' card to find work. Most of the Umbridge Laws about werewolves are still in place, you know."

"Umbridge - " Snape shuddered. "Would you believe she tried to seduce me when she was Headmistress? Don't laugh. I had to use one of the Weasleys' vomit-inducing candies to get out of a romantic dinner in that pink horror she called an office."

The idea of Umbridge having sexual urges, at any time, with any one, was enough to kill one's libido permanently. "I don't blame you. She's - "

"Hullo, ducks! Ready to go home?" Miss Gideon swept in, all smiles. "How's my favorite success story? And my favorite work in progress?" She was probably the only person in Britain who could hug Severus Snape without being reduced to a small pile of ash, and if Remus hadn't seen her walk right up to Snape and do so, he wouldn't have believed it for a minute.

"Quite well, thank you," said Remus. He moved to help as Miss Gideon positioned the walker and lifted Snape to his feet. "I'll be at the Leaky for a week or so - "

"That's not a home, as nice as it is since Tom sprang for a couple of elves to turn the beds once in a while," said Miss Gideon. "Here, love, you know what to do. One foot in front of the other, that's right, just like that - "

"I know how to walk, thank you." Sweat sprang out on Snape's brow as he took a shuddery step, then another. "Why my body won't obey is - "

"You're doing better than you were, you know." Miss Gideon watched as he shuffled his way toward the door, casting the occasional spell to check the muscle action. "You'll be out of here before you know it."

"Not until I can climb stairs - damn it!" Snape jerked downwards as an ankle turned. Remus lunged forward and caught him before he ended up on the floor. He was painfully light. "Thank you, Lupin. I - "

Miss Gideon hadn't known him long enough to catch the faint note of despair in his voice. "We all turn our ankles sometimes. You caught a rough patch in the floor. Here, get yourself settled and - "

"He's right, ducks, I've been asking for someone to fix that tile for years now," said Miss Gideon. She cocked her head as Remus held Snape steady until he could stand on his own. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you'd done this before, Mr. Lupin. You're a natural."

"A natural what?" Remus stepped back and let Snape try it on his own.

"Companion, orderly - I think the Americans call them personal care attendants? The ones who help with aftercare." Her brow furrowed. "You don't cook, by any chance?"

"I've learned a few tricks over the years, not that anyone should trust me with a wand these - "

"Absolutely not, if that's what you're suggesting!" Snape straightened and turned quickly enough that he winced. Remus automatically grabbed his arm until his balance returned. "I will not share my house with - "

"It's just a thought, nothing more." Miss Gideon raised a calloused hand. "But Mr. Lupin needs a job and a place to live, and you need someone to help you if you're to go home. Seems like a good match to me, at least until we can hire a professional."

Snape turned to look Remus directly in the eye. Remus swallowed. Was she serious?

"Miss Gideon, with all due respect - "

"We've hated each other since - "

"I never hated - "

Miss Gideon tsked and shook her head. "I'll be in physio setting up the equipment. If you could bring him down, Mr. Lupin, I'd be obliged."

"Of course." Remus stared at her back as she trotted briskly out the door. He waited until she was out of earshot to speak.

"Severus - "

"Don’t tell me it's a good idea. This is a recipe for disaster and you know it." Severus bared his teeth as a spasm twitched down his right thigh.

"It's not a bad idea, either. I never hated you, Severus, no matter what you think." The rest was long overdue. "I was an ass, but we all were."

Snape did not reply. Remus sighed and took a step backwards. "I'll be back to visit when I've found a room. I did mean what I - "

He was halfway to the door when Snape spoke.

"Lupin."

He turned. Snape - Severus - looked nearly as frail as the first time Remus had seen him, when he'd stood beside a flame-haired girl on a train platform. Had it really been so long ago?

"Yes, Severus?"

"I have a pension from the school." Severus raised his chin enough that the bite scars shifted along his throat. "I also have a spare bedroom."

Remus gripped the doorframe until his hand ached. This was madness, utter madness, but -

A clean bed in a real house. Books to read, if Snape's quarters at Hogwarts were any guide. Someone who could talk about more than the latest gossip. Decent food, even if he had to cook it himself. A housemate who might have the slightest idea of what it was live through the last twenty years.

You're mad, Remus. Utterly mad. But if it buys you a few weeks until those bloody laws are repealed and you can find a real job -

"Do you have a cellar? I'll pay for a reinforced door."

Severus snorted. He sounded almost like himself. "No reason for that. I can still brew, Lup - I suppose you'd prefer 'Remus' under the circumstances? I had my fill of disgusting animals in the house after enduring Pettigrew for two months."

"Moony will stay out of your way. Or I could arrange to be at a dragon preserve during the full moon. That's what I did when I was - " When I was married. " - at my most dangerous this last year or so. I can use a portkey until I'm ready to apparate again."

"That would work." Severus hesitated, then gestured at his walker. "Miss Gideon expects me for another torture session. If you're serious about this, you can start by helping me get there in less than an hour."

"She did ask me, didn't she?" Remus positioned himself so Severus could lean on him if another spasm started. "You can do it, you're the most stubborn person I've ever met, that's right, keep on walking - "

"Stubborn? No, that would be Binns. You have no idea how many years he's fought updating the textbooks - "

If Miss Gideon felt like gloating at the sight of them together, she kept her opinions to herself.

*****

Excerpt from pre-release report by T. Martingale, Friendly Visitor, on #2 Spinner's End.

…the house is a traditional two-up, two-down in a former industrial town, modified with a small water closet and shower on the first storey and a set of bookshelves concealing the staircase in what was originally the sitting room on the ground floor. The neighbourhood is largely Muggle, although there is an apothecary on the opposite side of town frequented by Professor Snape during summer hols.

The entire building will need to be cleaned and swept out, and any forbidden objects or texts removed. Professor Snape's attendant, Mr. Lupin, has offered to supervise this process and assist with clearing Dark objects and books….

Excerpt ends.

Excerpt from psychological assessment of R.J. Lupin by W.T. Mizrahi, registered alienist.

…Mr. Lupin presents a calm and pleasant face to the world. He expressed appropriate grief at the death of his wife and his own injuries, and stated that he was grateful to be alive when so many others had died. However, he stated that he did not see the need for grief counselling, and flatly refused to discuss his son, who is being raised out of the country by his former mother-in-law.

Despite Mr. Lupin's insistence that he did not need further therapy, he agreed to attend the bi-weekly group I am facilitating for survivors of the late unpleasantness. He did so on the condition that no member of the Weasley family be in the same group as him, and that his identity be kept strictly confidential. I assured him that this was possible, and added him to the list for the Warboys Square group on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.

 

"You could have left the alchemical texts. There was nothing harmful in those."

Remus set the tea tray down in front of Severus. They'd arrived at Spinner's End just before lunch, and it had taken until now to get rid of the Friendly Visitor, Miss Gideon, Draco Malfoy, and a surprisingly quiet Harry Potter. Draco had tried repeatedly to give Severus one of the family elves and had given up only after Severus had claimed to be allergic to elf dandruff. Harry had laughed at that, and the resulting argument had been almost refreshing after several hours of sweetness, light, and forced jollity.

Now they were alone, and it seemed that Severus had already started to catalogue the missing books and artifacts from his sitting room. Remus shrugged and spooned sugar into his mug.

"It wasn't as if I had a choice, I'm afraid. An Auror watched while Mrs. Martingale and I cleaned." And it was purely coincidence that it was a young Auror who'd had a crush on Dora, and kept glaring daggers at Remus as if his survival were a personal insult. Of course the MLE didn't hold a grudge at him for getting one of their best young operatives pregnant and then getting her killed. "He had a list of 'questionable books' that had to be examined by the Ministry. You may well get some of them back, but no guarantees."

"Wonderful. That copy of Splendor Solis had belonged to my mother's family for generations." Severus squeezed a lemon slice into his tea, stirred until yellowish liquid spilled onto the tray, and took rather too large a gulp. "Dare I ask about my potions lab? Is anything left? Oh, I forgot - you're not a Potions expert so - "

Remus held up a hand. "Hermione Granger helped with that." He smiled just enough to move the corners of his mouth. "Don't worry. Between us, we managed to save everything except a few bottles of plimpy scales that had gone bad. Retorts, alembics, ingredients, recipes - it's all there. I can show you in the morning."

Severus raised an eyebrow. "Well, well. I suppose I should thank her. Please tell me she didn't bring her appalling excuse for a boyfriend? The idea of that particular Weasley in my home - "

"I don't think Ron knew she was here," said Remus. "She told him she was working on bringing her parents home from wherever she sent them - Australia? Capetown? Somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere."

"That girl is too powerful for her own good." Severus flinched at a roar from the street. Remus listened until he could identify individual sounds, then nodded.

"Boys playing footer on the sidewalk" He tried what he hoped was a jaunty smile. "Don't worry, the MLE warded this place to a fare-thee-well. No one's going to get in unless we invite them."

"How comforting. I so enjoy being in a comfortable prison." Severus opened a small soft cover book and began to read, nibbling the chocolate edging on a digestive biscuit. The worn afghan covering his legs twitched occasionally at a muscle spasm.

There was no way to answer that, at least not that Severus would believe. Remus stood, cautiously stretched his wand arm, and tried to remember which bookcase led to the kitchen and which to the staircase. It was almost time for supper, and part of his job including preparing and serving meals according to the careful instructions left by Healer Staghorn.

All the shelves looked alike, especially since so many of the books were bound in either brown or black leather. Was the catch under the bound volumes of Owen Meredith, or the musty set of the DNB? Or somewhere else? Or -

"Lupin. The kitchen is there." Severus gestured without looking up, and the shelves holding the complete OED and every edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable from 1870 to the present creaked open. "I have no idea what groceries are left, but I wouldn't take my chances on anything but canned goods."

Remus coughed at a puff of dust - he was sure he'd cleaned the doorway himself, but who knew how quickly all those books were rotting? "Not to worry. Mrs. Martingale and I went to the local Morrison's and bought everything fresh. Bread, meat, milk, veg - it's all rather bland, I'm afraid, but I should be able to cobble something together." The Friendly Visitor had also made arrangements for Remus to draw a weekly grocery allowance from Severus' pension, plus a few sickles for his own needs. It wasn't much, but it would do until his wound pension started. "I hope you like courgettes. Arthur Weasley brought round a few from his garden."

"He's probably trying desperately to get rid of them before they overgrow his house." Severus looked up, book forgotten for the moment. "Please tell me you know how to sautee? And that I'm allowed olive oil?"

"Olive oil was specifically recommended." Remus left the door open. It was too bad the back yard was such a mess, or he would have coaxed Severus into starting a small herb garden. If ever a man needed fresh air and sunshine, Severus was it. "Give me a half an hour and we'll have something more substantial than biscuits and tea."

He'd never cooked with someone making snide remarks and shouting advice from fifteen feet away, but it was easy enough to turn on the wireless and concentrate on his work. Soon enough they were tucking into two portions of grilled chicken breast, rice pilaf, and sauteed courgettes, washed down with a pot of the oddly flowery tea Severus seemed to prefer.

The courgettes were fresh, as promised, and after a few obligatory digs about the pilaf being from a box and the chicken being from a Muggle chain store, Severus allowed Remus to cut his meat and ate. Remus was absurdly pleased to see him clean his plate and ask for seconds on the courgettes, and by the time he'd done the washing up and helped Severus climb the stairs and take his nightly anti-spasmodics and his nutritive potions and the tonic that was supposed to stimulate his damaged nerves, he was smiling to himself.

Maybe, just maybe, this wouldn't end badly.

*****

Letter from Remus Lupin to Minerva McGonagall.

Dear Minerva -

I'm very flattered by the offer to teach Defense again this year. Unfortunately, I must decline. I have a job and a place to stay, at least for now, and it would be wrong for me to leave so abruptly.

I'm also not anywhere near as recovered as my healer may have led you to believe. My spell control is shaky, and I would not want to risk the safety of my students or the school should I be unable to handle complex magic.

Good luck finding a Defense teacher for the fall term. I'm glad that the school will reopen despite the damage.

Sincerely yours,

R.J. Lupin

 

Decision written on Petition of Andromeda Black Tonks requesting that Remus' parental rights be severed so she can adopt the minor child Theodore Remus Lupin.

Petitioner's request for full physical and legal custody is GRANTED. However, the request to sever parental rights is hereby DENIED. The father's living situation may change, and the door should be left open for him to assert his rights vis a vis medical care, education, and visitation.

K. Shacklebolt

The signature is firm and legible, as if the writer had deliberately steadied his hand before signing.

 

Life with Severus Snape was surprisingly peaceful. They'd fallen into an easy routine, with regular bedtimes, potion doses, thrice-weekly visits St. Mungo's for more physio, and quiet nights in the sitting room or at the local park, reading and chatting and sometimes listening to the wireless. Severus had not shown any inclination to mock Remus for hastily changing the station whenever Celestina Warbeck came on, and Remus had kept his mouth shut whenever Severus made a cutting remark about Harry being an arrogant young war hero who had no business announcing his engagement to a sixteen year old before she'd taken her NEWTs.

Of course he had to help Severus bathe, or at least watch as he soaped his flannel and cleaned himself. Washing the limp black hair was his job since Severus couldn't lift his left arm high enough to dump the pitcher over his head to rinse, and after some experimentation he found a Muggle dandruff shampoo that worked far better than Mrs. Skower's Oil-B-Gone Shampoo and Hair Treat. Mrs. Martingale had laid in a supply of large, fluffy towels to replace the threadbare rags she'd found in the linen closet, so it was easy enough to wrap Severus up so he wouldn't catch a chill while Remus dried his hair and combed it out.

Fortunately Severus could dress himself, at least until it came to lacing his day robes. Severus grumbled enough when Remus helped him with his stockings and boots, and he had no illusions that his charge would welcome an ex-Marauder pulling on his briefs and undertunic. Remus took the wash to the laundrette once a week, used simple mending charms on anything that seemed salvageable, and bought Severus enough Muggle clothing that he'd stand a chance of blending in outside of Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade.

Oddly enough, Severus seemed to like the clothes, even if he'd carped about navy blue not being black, and he'd been a dunderhead not to realize that Remus would be colorblind whether man or wolf. Remus had shrugged and gone back to dusting the books, then made a lunch that Severus deemed "acceptable." If that was the worst Severus had to say about his housekeeping, he was content.

Soon Severus was well enough to be left for a few hours while Remus went to Morrison's or the little shop on the corner, or took a walk in a nice park by the river, or had lunch with Harry or Minerva or Arthur. The Prophet, as usual, offered little real news, and the only way Remus could keep up with what was going on was by talking with his friends. He made sure to carry a charmed stone that would alert him if Severus fell or had a full-blown seizure, and rarely went out after dark.

The one great exception was the grief support group. It was not a surprise that many, many families had lost loved ones during the War, either by death or imprisonment. What was unexpected was the sheer number of survivors who were willing to try Muggle-style talking therapy. Alienists all over Britain reported waiting lists for individual and group sessions, and St. Mungo's and other Wizarding hospitals had to take on more staff. The few specializing in adolescents and children were so swamped that at least half had hired assistants from America, Canada, and Australia.

Remus dutifully attended his group, biweekly at first, then weekly. The alienist was convinced that his magic was blocked because he hadn't properly mourned either Dora or Teddy, and after he'd nearly scalded Severus overheating the bathwater, he'd decided to give the group a try. He couldn't spend the rest of his life being a squib one moment and the reincarnation of Merlin the next, and if the other participants thought him a right bastard for neglecting his wife and deserting his child, too bloody bad.

Tonight was the usual:

Hello, my name is Remus, and I lost my wife in the War.

Hello, Remus

This week I saw a girl who looked a bit like my wife and I almost called her name, right there in the meat department at the grocer's….

And so it went. He talked about Dora, then listened sympathetically while Mrs. Grammaticus talked about her nephew, young Algie Curtis wept for his fiancee, and the pregnant girl who refused to give her name said she was fine, just fine, even though she'd have to raise her baby by herself and her parents thought she was a little bit mad simply because she'd slept outside on her boyfriend's grave on Lammas Eve in hopes of seeing him. It was the same thing every time he went, and it helped him deal with losing Dora and Teddy about as much as doing the Sunday cross-words with Severus helped him regain control of his magic.

As usual, the meeting ended at 9:00 with coffee and biscuits, and as usual, Remus had one cup, black, and left. It was nearly time to get Severus ready for bed, and it wasn't as if anyone here had actually been in combat, let alone been dead.

He was halfway to the apparation point when a voice hailed him. "Remus! Wait up!"

He turned at the familiar West Country accent. He had hoped to avoid the whole family, but habit made him smile and return the greeting. "Charlie. How have you been?"

"Well enough." Charlie's handshake was as hearty as ever, but he did not make eye contact. "I've been looking for you for a while. Since when do you live with Snape?"

Remus frowned slightly. Charlie had never been so abrupt. "Since St. Mungo's decided that I'd make a good personal care attendant for him. He's not well, you know."

"I'd heard that. Sorry, I'm just - look, is there someone we can talk in private? There's something I need to get off my chest." Charlie's hair looked like straw in the slightly bluish light from the street lamp. "Not here."

"We can go back to Spinner's End. I need to give Severus his medications and get him ready for bed." It was an unseasonably warm night, but Remus had to fight the urge to turn up his jacket collar against a sudden chill. "It's not far. We can walk."

"All right." Charlie fell into step beside him. "So. What about those Cannons? Ron's convinced the trade to get Oliver Wood will make them contenders this year."

"I follow Holyhead, myself." Quidditch was a nice, safe topic. "Does Ron really think one player will make that much of a difference? It's not as if their Seeker's up to scratch."

"Ron believes a good defense makes all the difference. Of course, he's been working on Harry to take a year or two to play professionally, not that that's likely these days." Charlie shoved his hands into the pockets of his pea coat and stared at the sidewalk. "Harry's pushing the MLE to let him join the Auror training program, even though he hasn't taken his NEWTs. He thinks they'll give him a waiver."

A rat skittered into an alley as they turned the corner onto Spinner's End. "He's Harry Potter. He'll get it." Remus brushed past Charlie and unlocked the door. "Let me go first. I need to warn Severus. It's not as if we get many visitors." Draco Malfoy came over to help Severus brew Wolfsbane, and had actually spent the last full moon tending his old professor while Harry took Moony to Snowdonia for a romp, but there was no reason for Charlie to know that. The Weasleys and Malfoys had never gotten along.

"All right."

Severus was on the sofa thumbing through the latest issue of The Economist, the worn afghan over his legs. It had been a mild shock that he subscribed to a Muggle magazine, and a free market one at that, but Severus claimed to read it solely for the book reviews. He raised an eyebrow as Remus walked in and shook the damp from his jacket.

"Did you grieve well?"

Remus rolled his eyes. "That's not what it's about, and you know it." He walked into the kitchen, measured out the evening doses of his charge's medications, and set them down on the coffee table. "Drink up, and then it's time for bed. I have a visitor, believe it or not."

"A visitor? One that requires privacy?" Severus downed one potion, then another, then another. "Dare I ask?"

"Charlie Weasley, and he's the one asking for privacy." Remus waited for Severus to position himself properly, then reached under his armpits and lifted him to his feet. Severus was now steady enough to walk with a cane on level ground for short distances, but of course the stairs weren't level. "Mobilicorpus tonight? I know you're usually sore after physio."

"Thank you, no. I'd rather not be treated as a corpse." Mrs. Martingale had insisted on installing a railing on the staircase. Despite the obligatory carping about his home being ruined by Muggle fripperies, Severus had to admit that it was the only thing that made it possible for him to keep his balance while Remus supported most of his weight. "If he tries to sell you a dragon, the answer is 'no.' No pets."

"The grindylow was more than enough, thank you." Dora had spoken about getting a dog when Teddy was old enough, a black Alsatian or a Belgian Groenendael. Remus hadn't had the heart to tell her that this was not an appropriate way to honor her cousin. "Do you need anything else? I'd rather Charlie didn't wait too long."

"I believe I can brush my teeth and piss without assistance, Lupin." Severus spread his hand flat against the wall when they'd reached the top of the stairs and began shuffling toward the bathroom. "Give him my regards. He's one of the few tolerable Weasleys, even if he cost Slytherin the Quidditch Cup three years running."

"I'll do that. Good night."

Remus waited until he heard the toilet seat click into place, then headed downstairs. Charlie was already in the parlor, staring at the bookshelves.

"God. No wonder his exams were so hard. Is there anything he doesn't have?"

"I wouldn't know. He inherited some of them from his mother's family." It wasn't like Charlie to come in without being specifically invited. Remus forced down his irritation and gestured to the worn sofa. "Here. Would you like tea? Or something stronger?"

"Nothing for me, thanks." Charlie dropped onto the sofa, then sprang to his feet. "Sorry, I just can't - " He ran his fingers through his thick ginger hair until it was nearly as messy as Harry's. And since when had any of Molly Weasley's sons not shaved for a week?

"Charlie? Are you all right? I was sorry to hear about Fred."

Charlie looked startled. "Fred? No, thanks, it's not that. George is taking it better than we'd thought he would, at least in public. Ron's decided to join him in the joke shop. If anyone's taking it badly, it's Fleur, of all people."

There was a scraping sound from above. Charlie jerked and looked upwards. "Don't worry. It's Severus. He uses a walker or a cane these days."

"Really? The way he walks - I mean, walked - "

"Voldemort's familiar bit him. Venom damage, you know." The scraping stopped in the approximate area of the master bedroom. "He's doing much better than when he was discharged. He's still not one hundred percent, not by any means, but St. Mungo's thinks he'll regain most of his mobility given time."

"Good, good. The sooner the better." Charlie stopped in mid-stride. His hands clenched and unclenched. "Remus. I - "

The chill was back, bad enough that Remus had to grit his teeth against the need to shiver. "Charlie. What is going on? Has someone else died?"

His visitor laughed, or tried to. "I almost wish it were that simple." He sucked in a breath and turned to face Remus.

"Remus, I’m sorry. But I slept with your wife."

The room was so quiet Remus could hear his pulse. "What?"

"It was only once, before you were married, and I swear she didn't know what she was doing, she was drunk - " Charlie hugged himself. Was there something wrong with the furnace?"

Before you were married. Remus coughed to clear his throat.

"Charlie. Start at the beginning. I'm not quite sure what you mean."

"Oh God." Charlie dropped onto the sofa, gaze fixed on a worn patch in the giant roses on what had been Eileen Snape's favorite carpet. "I was back in England for a couple of days, going over wedding plans with Bill and Mum, and - "

 

It was a cool, moonless night. Mum, Dad, and Bill were in London, staying with the twins at Grimmauld Place, and the younger children were safe at Hogwarts. Percy was God-knows-where, but no one dared mention his name. Mum would shout and Dad would shrink, and it wasn't worth asking.

Charlie padded downstairs to the kitchen in a tatty old dressing gown. Mum had given Bill such grief about his hair that he'd grown out his own haircut into ragged layers as a way to support his brother. They were adults, and it was high time Mum learned that she couldn't always have her way.

The Burrow was so quiet. Too quiet. Charlie breathed deep of the country air and strained to hear something besides crickets and night birds. Nothing smelled right anymore, no dragons, no brimstone, the flowers were wrong, no wonder he couldn't sleep -

Green flames belched out of the fireplace. Charlie whipped about as a slim woman staggered out. "Dora? What are you doing here? Are you all right?"

"'m fine - oh! You're here!" Her hair flared iridescent pink at the sight of him. "You're here, I knew you'd come, oh God I missed you - "

Before he could move she'd launched herself into his arms, hugging and kissing and tugging at his trousers. "Dora - what - "

"It's been too long. Too bloody long. Need you now." She pushed him backwards onto the sofa. Her eyes were so beautiful, how could he say no, even if she tasted of wine and whisky and pain -

 

"She was drunk, Remus. Dawlish had smuggled a bottle into the school and she'd gotten into it when she was off shift. I swear I didn't plan - "

"You - on the sofa?" Remus had no idea why he was so calm. "I thought you had a girlfriend in Romania."

"I did. I do. But Dora - " Charlie flopped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. "We were at school together, you know. She was so pretty, and the way she laughed - she was my first real crush. We went out for a few weeks but nothing ever happened, those stupid House rivalries - I was Quidditch Captain for Gryffindor, you know, and she was in Hufflepuff, and it wouldn't do."

The clock ticked. There was a scrape and a creak from the ceiling. Remus did not move.

"I - " Charlie bit his lower lip. "She wouldn't take no for an answer. We ended up in bed, and it was the best night of my life. She was - "

"I know how she was." Remus kept his hands in his lap. The furnace must have kicked in. There was no other reason for him to feel sweat pooling on the small of his back. "Why are you telling me this, Charlie? You're her age, and I was with the werewolf packs. I can't blame you for taking advantage of the situation."

"Because she never knew it was me!" Charlie was on his feet again, striding back and forth hard enough to shake the tea set. "Did you know she called me 'Remus' right before she fell asleep? Said how brave I was, going undercover, and how she'd wait forever."

He scrubbed at his eyes. "That brought me up short. I waited until she was asleep, then cleaned her up and spent the night with Bill and my parents. I couldn't - I couldn't bear disappointing her that way. She so obviously loved you - "

"And yet she couldn't tell the difference between us." This was a dream. It had to be. It was gentler than most of his nightmares, but it couldn't be real.

"It was dark and she was drunk. I’m sorry." Charlie bit his lip. "God, Remus. I'm so sorry."

"We weren't married yet, were we? You have no reason to apologize." She was drunk, and she'd never seen Remus in anything that wasn't patched and shoddy. No wonder she'd assumed a shaggy man in a tatty dressing gown was him. "It wasn't as if you put the horns on me."

"Barely. You got married what, six weeks later? If you hadn't I would have asked her out at Bill and Fleur's wedding, but - "

"Six weeks?" That time had been a blur, between trying and failing to turn Greyback's beta, Albus' death, Dora throwing herself at him - "That was what, April? June?"

"The middle of May. I had to go back to Romania a few days later, and I came straight home when I heard about Professor Dumbledore."

"You're so brave. I love you." She pulled him down onto the bed and kissed him. Her eyes all but sparkled in the candlelight. "Going undercover with the wolves like that, and then sneaking away to see me - "

"Sneaking away?" He chuckled and shook his head. Somehow they were both naked, and he couldn't help reacting to her scent, musky and sweet and tangy. "I wish. Greyback watched me like a hawk."

"Oh, so that's your story and you're sticking to it? I can live with that." She pulled him down onto her and wrapped her legs over his thighs. "Careful with the tits - yes, like that, perfect, ohhhhh - "

May. Six weeks before their marriage, or about three weeks before the Death Eaters attacked Hogwarts. Enough time for her to fall pregnant and know it, barely, on the night Albus died. No wonder she'd all but thrown herself at him in the Infirmary.

No wonder her breasts had been so tender on their wedding night, and she had smelled so wonderfully ripe…

"Remus? Are you all right?"

The cold, hollow ache under his rib cage was back, the pain almost paralyzing. "I'm fine, Charlie. It's a bit of a shock, but it's not as if we were married." The wolf rose without warning, almost for the first time since he'd wakened. He clenched his jaw until the urge to tear Charlie's throat out passed. "Would you like tea?"

Charlie was staring at him. "No thanks. I - I'm sorry, Remus, I know this is a shock, but it was tearing me apart, you not knowing. I swear, if I'd known she thought I was you, I never would have - "

"No doubt." She didn't lie. Dear God. She didn't lie.. "I'm just a bit tired. Early day and all that, Severus had physio first thing in London, and then I had to do the marketing and laundry and run some errands."

"Of course." Charlie hesitantly shook hands. "If you need anything, owl me. I'm back in Britain, you know, at the Cader Idris Reserve. It's only Welsh Greens, but there's a good chance I'll be in charge in a year or two, so - "

"It's a wonderful opportunity. I understand." Remus firmly ushered him to the door. He would ask Harry to take him to Dartmoor this month. "Good night, Charlie."

Why did Charlie look so wounded? Or was that pity in his eyes? "Good night, Remus. I'm - "

Remus gently shut the door before the younger man could apologize again. He had done nothing wrong, nothing at all.

He's Teddy's father. He has to be. And she had no idea.

He threw the deadbolt on the front door and tapped the converted light switch that activated the protection spells, then started up the stairs to the first storey. It was after ten and he had errands to run in the morning, breakfast to cook, Severus to tend….

"Lupin?" The bedside lamp was still on in the master bedroom. Severus, clutching at the worn jamb by the latch, stared at him as he walked briskly to the bathroom. "Are you - "

"Perfectly fine, thank you for asking." There was definitely something wrong with the temperature regulation system. Remus gasped as what was supposed to be warm water made his eyes water from the cold. "Charlie says hello."

"Sod Weasley," said Severus. He swayed slightly as he edged about the doorframe into the hall. "You look like you're having a relapse."

"Why thank you." Remus spat blood-tinged foam into the sink. What sort of bristles were in that toothbrush? "You know, I don't say a word when you get a letter from Draco and go green. Then again, I’m an employee so I don't have any right to privacy, do I - "

"What are you raving about? Privacy? I’m scarcely in any condition to sneak into your room and - "

"How much did you hear?" Remus threw his toothbrush into the bin. Severus recoiled against a faded sepia photograph of two Muggles on their wedding day. "I’m sure it's terribly amusing, finding out just how Dora got up the duff by someone else, especially since the poor girl didn't even know it wasn't me - "

"What? What?"

"Great love, wasn't it, that she couldn't tell the difference between me and a Weasley!" The bathroom smelled of Muggle medicines and healing potions. Remus nearly choked as he yanked the medicine chest open, then slammed it shut. "Damn it, Severus, can't you ever open a window? The air in this place!"

"We're a quarter mile from a carpet factory, in case you hadn't noticed. I never knew you enjoyed the scent of synthetic wool so much!"

The sink trembled as Remus clutched at the edge. His reflection blurred in the unforgiving glare of the overhead light.

"Maybe I just need some fresh air." He shoved himself upright and strode down the hall past Severus. The other man made a grab for his arm and nearly fell over. "Good night, Severus."

"What? Where are you going?"

Remus paused at the bottom of the stairs. "Out. I'll be back at some point."

"Lupin, you - "

"Go to bed, Severus!" His shout echoed in the shabby hall. "I'll be back when I'm back!"

"Remus - "

The only reply was a faint *crack* as Remus disapparated.

*****

Letter from Draco Malfoy to Severus Snape.

Dear Severus -

I am back at school at Father's insistence, but be assured that I will continue to stay with you during the full moon if Lupin once again decides to get in touch with his inner wolf. Slughorn is teaching Potions and heading Slytherin House, and the contacts he is bringing in may prove invaluable in rebuilding the Ministry and establishing my place in it. At the same time, I am most distressed at the sight of half the girls in the house putting on weight from all the choccies our new Head of House leaves scattered about -

Excerpt from police report, Spinner's End substation, Halifax, Yorks

…responded to call from the Spinning Jenny at 11:30 p.m. concerning a drunk and disorderly man refusing to leave. The subject had arrived shortly after 10:00 p.m., consumed several whiskeys and two pints of beer, then started shouting incoherently about his wife sleeping with another man, a "dark lord" who had tried to kill them, and how "the wolf" wanted to strangle "the dragon man."

The subject resisted all attempts to calm him and had to restrained by the proprietor, three workers from Cuddington's Quality Carpets, and two constables. He was brought to this substation and confined to a holding cell while attempts were made to contact relatives and/or friends. The subject also claimed to be a werewolf and threatened to bite the arresting officer, but desisted when threatened with committal to the locked ward at the local hospital for observation. There were no other obvious signs of mental impairment….

Signed,

G. Snape
Constable

 

"You. Get up."

Remus carefully peeled the coarse blanket away from his face. His head felt as if it were about to explode, and he had to clench his teeth against the urge to vomit at the smell of disinfectant and stale piss.

A police constable stood in the corridor. He was young, and very thin, and had a nose like a battle-axe, but otherwise he could have been any junior level bobbie. "Come on. Your roommate's here to bail you out."

"Roommate?" Remus cautiously sat up and nearly vomited at the awful whirling sensation. The constable folded his arms.

"If you need to sick up, use the toilet and brush your teeth. We don't hold with public vomiting here."

Remus stood and breathed through his mouth. It was better when he'd brushed his teeth with a coarse, disposable toothbrush and paste that tasted of mint-flavored chemicals. "Good to know."

The constable grunted. "Comb your hair, you look a sight. Come on with you."

The clang from the door shutting actually hurt. The constable nodded in sympathy, even as he steered Remus down the less than clean hallway. "Spinning Jenny's not a good place for outsiders. You'd do better at the Golden Fleece."

"I'll remember that the next time I want to get stinking drunk." Had he really shouted come on you bastards, fight me! Call the cops! I'd love to fight a cop! just before he took on the house? "Will I be fined?"

"Not this time." They had arrived at a window, where a yawning female constable had him sign for his possessions (watch, wallet with Muggle money, "single knitting needle," a note with Mrs. Martingale's name and address, fortune from a Chinese takeaway). "No one's pressing charges. Algie said you was the best fight he'd had in months. Next time, though - I don't think you'll be so lucky."

"Right." It was a relief to see that the Wizarding pocket in his wallet had resisted any efforts to open it. He slid it into his trousers and tucked his "knitting needle" into his sleeve, stifled the urge to ask for two more hours, and let the constable lead him into a badly painted room with harsh lights and uncomfortable plastic chairs.

Upon one of which Severus was seated, both hands on his cane handle in a death grip. Remus blinked at the sight of him. Severus hadn't left the house by himself once since they'd arrived, let alone dressed neatly in his dark blue jumper, black trousers, and the black and white trainers that were the only thing that were comfortable enough for him to balance properly.

"Severus? What - "

"We'll talk when we're alone." Severus braced his hands on the cane and managed to heave himself upright. The constable automatically steadied him before Remus could move.

"Here now, none of that. Gemma'll kill me if you take a fall on my watch."

"Your sister is a paranoid biddy in training. I can't believe she lets Young Toby play footer." Severus seemed almost relaxed at what should have been an alien touch.

"Young Toby wasn't in a car crash in May," said the constable. "Need a ride home? Handicapped buses don't run this early."

"I thought you were still on shift." Severus beckoned to Remus, who joined them. Now that he saw them together, the constable's resemble to Severus was obvious.

You're an idiot, Remus. The Snapes have lived here for generations. He must have a dozen relatives in town. Why are you so surprised that one of them works for the police?

The constable shrugged. "I can clock out ten minutes early. It's not like we always have mid-week bar brawls."

"Very well. I don't fancy taking the bus." Severus waited until the other Snape had turned to wipe his name off the "In" board to shove a small vial into Remus' hand. "Hangover potion. Take it before you're sick on my shoes."

"Thanks." Remus did as he was told and felt instantly better. "He's your - "

"My cousin on my father's side. He thinks I taught at a public school in Scotland and was injured in a - "

"Car crash in May."

Severus thinned his lips. "Yes. One of his daughters may be a witch, but I'm not sure yet. If she is, I'll have to talk to him. Otherwise, they're very much the typical British family."

"That's good." Remus fell silent as Constable Snape returned and led them out to his squad car. He supposed that he'd ridden to the police station in it, or one like it, in the first place, but last night was a merciful blur.

Except for his talk with Charlie. Why did he still remember? And why did he care? He'd known Teddy wasn't his for months. His first morph had been from black hair to ginger. Why was it such a shock that Tonks had slept with a Weasley?

Because she said she loved me. Because she lied.

Whether she knew it or not.

It wasn't far to Spinner's End, and Remus automatically put his arms around Severus to help him out of the police car and up the steps. Constable Snape followed until Remus had unlocked the front door, then tipped his cap.

"Gemma will want you over for Sunday dinner. The whole family's there."

"I - " Severus hesitated. "I'll consider it. Send me a note."

"Only if you get a phone, Sev." Constable Snape grinned at what was clearly an old family joke and tipped his cap. "Let me know if you need anything. Good to have you back."

Severus scowled. "I doubt that."

This time the policeman laughed. "You're a caution, you are. Later."

Remus did not speak until they were inside the house and Severus was settled at the kitchen table with his usual cup of milky morning tea. "When do you want me out? I'll need to pack, and of course I'll have to owl Poppy and Mrs. Martingale before I - "

"Before you leave? How very typical." Severus blew on the tea to cool it, then raised the mug to his lips with both hands. The tremor was worse than it had been in weeks. "You get in trouble, and you bugger off. I should have known."

"What? You mean you enjoy having a drunken idiot as your caretaker? Forgive me if I find that hard to believe." Remus gulped his own tea down without sugar or milk. His head still hurt despite the potion. "Your cousin must think - "

" - that I treat you like my personal slave, or why else would you snap and spend your night out claiming to be a werewolf?" Severus glared across the table. "Of course the pub was the worst dive in town, and of course it will be shut for several days. Geoff told me that the local bobbie wants to stand you a pint."

"Oh God. I had no - " Remus rubbed at his temples. "I still should go. You're almost at the point where you can get along without me, you know. The sooner I'm gone - "

"The sooner you can disappear to someplace where Charlie Weasley won't track you down?" Severus sat back in his chair, lips set in a thin line. "Before you accuse me of eavesdropping, no, I don't know what you talked about. However, I assume it has something to do with your wife, since normally a chat with one of your friends doesn't lead you to storm out of the house and drink yourself into a fighting rage."

Remus opened his mouth, then shut it again. Damn the man, did he use legilimency on everyone? Or was Remus simply too easy to read?

I used to have some self-control. Or was I a coward all along?

"You're right," he said at last. He gulped his lukewarm tea. "Charlie came to apologize. He slept with Dora a few weeks before we got married. She was drunk and thought he was me, God only knows why."

Severus leaned forward, chin in his hand. He had taken the trouble to shave before coming to the police station, and Remus wondered whether it was habit or pride. "A few weeks before your marriage? And he hasn't worked out the dates?"

"Of course not. Why should he?" Remus stared at the salt shaker. "I should have guessed when Teddy's hair turned ginger when he was five minutes old, but Dora said she'd done the same thing. His appearance changes so frequently that I doubt anyone will suspect."

"And you don't plan to enlighten him, I assume."

"What good would it do?" The salt shaker began to quiver slightly. Severus summoned it and the pepper shaker before they could explode. "Andromeda is upset enough. The last thing she needs is to know that her daughter got up the duff because she was so drunk she couldn't tell the difference between the man she loved and Charlie Weasley."

Severus shook his head. "She was a Hufflepuff, Lupin. She saw what she wanted to see."

"I don't look a bloody thing like - "

"She saw what she wanted to see," Severus repeated. "She was besotted, Lupin. Drove the Order mad babbling about 'Remus this' and 'Remus that.' Even Pomona finally told her to buck up and find someone else, and you know how she loves to matchmake for her old students."
He stared so hard that Remus felt himself reddening under that intense black gaze.

"You're about the same height as Charlie Weasley, you know. If she was drunk - "

"She should have known. She said she loved me, she should have - " Remus buried his face in his hands.

"She would have thought it was you if Albus had shown up naked on her doorstep, beard and all," said Severus. His voice softened. "Do you honestly believe she knew it was a Weasley? No one can fake that sort of loyalty."

"Yes. Maybe." Remus scrubbed at his eyes. "I'm sorry."

"You should be. Typical impulsive Gryffindor." There was no heat in the words. "Teddy deserves to know his real father, you know."

Remus shook his head. "Why? Unless Teddy becomes ill, or grows up to fall in love with Charlie's daughter, it's not relevant. Let him think his mother was a hero, not someone so desperate for love she slept with the nearest warm body." He took a moment to steady himself, then stood and walked over to the cooling unit. "I'll make breakfast before I pack. You deserve that - "

"If you think I'm sacking you for getting drunk, you're wrong." Severus folded his arms. "You still need a job and a place to live, and I still need a companion. I'd prefer one that doesn't act like a dunderhead half the time, but at this point in my treatment I see no reason to change attendants."

Remus paused in taking out the frying pan. "Severus. I - "

"You need to finish making our breakfast, then strip the beds and do the wash. There's a new laundrette in the neighborhood that is offering a discount to celebrate their grand opening. After that, I believe Draco Malfoy is coming for tea, though Minerva technically shouldn't let him off the school grounds during the week." Severus sniffed and unfolded the morning paper. "Mind you don't burn the tomatoes this time."

"I'll - I'll do my best." It was absurd, being relieved that he still had a job after making a complete ass of himself. The old Severus would have gone into a screaming rage and tossed him bodily out the door, or had his cousin the constable let him stew in gaol for a few days before bailing him out. This was -

Later, Remus. Think about it later. Right now you have breakfast to make. No reason to let Malfoy think you're neglecting your duties. He took a deep breath and greased the frying pan.

Later.

 

*****

Dear Draco:

I unfortunately must decline your invitation to your parents' Halloween celebration, as I have a previous commitment. Please convey my regrets to your parents.

I hope you are well.

S. Snape

All but the signature is in Remus Lupin's handwriting.

 

Dear Harry:

Sorry I missed you last week! I've started working twenty hours a week at the local bookstore. Severus doesn't need as much hands-on care, and you know how much we both like to read. Severus is considering renovating his house to make it more handicapped-friendly, as they say, and since he can't work right now I thought I'd pitch in -

 

It was good to be working outside the house, even if the bookstore was owned and staffed by what the average Muggle would think of as witches. Remus's request to have the full moon off had been cheerfully accommodated on the grounds that everyone deserved to worship in his or her own way, even though he'd never actually said what he did that night. As long as he dressed mainly in black and didn't cringe too much when the customers said something outrageous, he was more than willing to play responsible adult in between stocking the shelves and working the till.

It meant a steady, if small, paycheque every week to supplement what he made helping Severus, which meant better clothes and the beginnings of a savings account in a Muggle bank. It also meant that he could hold a job in the Muggle world as long as his condition was accommodated.

For the first time since he'd wakened in St. Mungo's, Remus began to feel optimistic about the future. He'd be able to earn an adequate living whether the Umbridge Laws were in place or not, even if he'd never be rich. Better yet, his magic had begun to stabilize at last, even if he'd likely never be as powerful as he was.

Brass in pocket, decent clothes, a place to live, a job - life was rather decent. The only problem was that Severus seemed to be backsliding a bit as the year waned.

Not physically, thank goodness. Between Miss Gideon's sessions at St. Mungo's and Remus' own efforts, he had made good progress since his release. He would always be unsteady on stairs and getting in and out of the shower, and his hands shook too much to chop and grind, but his gait had improved to the point where he did not usually need the cane indoors. As long as Remus (or someone else) was available to prepare his ingredients he could still brew, and that meant he could do more than read and reread the same books day after day.

Mentally, though - Remus began to notice it around the time of the autumn equinox. Remus had stayed late at work to work the till whilst his employers "celebrated the turning of the seasons" with a great deal of chanting and singing in the back room. He'd come home after midnight to find Severus still awake, staring into the fire as if trying to interpret the flames. He hadn't spoken as Remus helped him off the sofa and up the stairs, and the next morning he'd barely touched his breakfast.

It got worse as September melted into October and the nights grew long and windy. Severus barely spoke as Remus helped him dress and bathe, and he picked at his food. Mrs. Martingale made worried noises about his weight loss and gave Remus tips for coaxing him to eat. Severus sneered at the clumsy attempts and began cleaning his plate, but the silence continued.

Remus spent more time at work, and with the grief group. Fortunately there was a confidentiality charm on the room so the participants couldn’t share what they heard, and he found that actually talking about Dora, and Teddy, and what he'd learned, helped. His magic was still shaky at times, but he no longer feared splinching himself when he apparated to Scafell Pike for the full moon.

He also decided to challenge Andromeda's custody petition.

Teddy might not be his son by blood, but the idea that he would never see the child again made his heart clench. Dora had loved him, to the point of obsession, and her son deserved better than Andromeda's bitter grief for a childhood. He would deal with the Charlie issue only if the boy took after his biological father more than Dora.

He broached the matter to Severus the night before he was due to write to the solicitor Kingsley had recommended. Severus could bathe himself and had for several months, but he still needed help getting in and out of the tub, and probably would for the foreseeable future.

"So. I'll get a flat as soon as I have Teddy back. I'll need a babysitter, but - "

"Lupin. Don't be ridiculous." There was a flatness in Severus' voice that had not been there for months. "Andromeda will demand a paternity test. You'll fail."

"She has no reason to do so." Remus handed him the soap. "Dora and I were married at the time of Teddy's birth. She doesn't know about Charlie, and neither did Dora."

"The test - "

"Werewolves have mutable blood and genetic material. Or so I'll claim." Why wouldn't Severus look at him? "One would think you'd be pleased that I'm showing some backbone at last. If you don't - "

"It's your concern, not mine," said Severus. He gestured at a pitcher of clean water. Remus carefully levitated it and poured it over Severus' hair to rinse. "I am simply pointing out that Andromeda will fight back, and when she does, the results may not be what you want."

"I know." Remus drew a second pitcher and gestured for Severus to tilt his head back. Most of his hair was coming in white, not gray, and he wondered if Severus would eventually cut it short to avoid looking like he'd dipped the ends in ink. "I have to try, though. Teddy doesn't have anyone else."

There was no answer. Severus finished bathing and let Remus help him out of the tub and into a dressing gown of Turkish toweling. He untangled his hair with a charm, then allowed himself to be helped into his room and prepared for bed.

He did not speak until Remus had arranged him properly, with pillows supporting his shoulders and one under his weakened legs. "Tomorrow is your day off at the bookstore, is it not?"

"Yes. They're 'casting a circle for Samhain.'" Remus smiled gently at the thought. They were so eager, and so naïve, and certainly had no idea that their newest clerk was a werewolf and a wizard. "Did you want to run an errand?"

Severus' eyes seemed to darken for a moment, if that was possible. "I thought we might take a walk in the park."

Was that all? "Of course. There's a lovely one downtown, and - "

"No. The small one near the canal."

Something in his tone sent prickles down Remus' spine. "All right. Let me know when." He rose and doused the lights. "Good night, Severus."

"Good night."

*****

It was an unnaturally clear, lovely day for late October as Remus wheeled Severus toward the canal. The park was an easy walk for him but not for Severus, and his charge had asked for a wheelchair for the first time in months. Beyond that he hadn't said a word as they left Spinner's End and made their way toward what must have been a well-equipped play park when it was first built.

Now it was low on the civic priority list to judge by the weeds growing about the jungle gym, the paint flaking off the see-saw. The occasional discarded page of newsprint or crushed juice box added to the air of shabby neglect.

"Scourgify." Severus raised his wand and made a slashing motion across the park. The garbage and weeds disappeared with a brilliant flash, and the original paint colors reappeared, albeit battered.

Remus touched the chain on a swing. It didn't look sturdy enough to support an adult, but with a little work this would be a perfect place to bring Teddy when he was older. "This isn't bad. I wonder why the council let it look like this?"

"Budget cuts. They haven't had tuppence since the factories closed." Severus sheathed his wand and gripped the arms of his wheelchair. Remus automatically moved to steady him as he rose and shuffled toward the swing set. "Of course they don't care about this area. It's full of the unwashed poor. What funds they have are going toward making the business district more 'upscale,' whatever that means."

"It means higher rents and trendy restaurants, I daresay." Dora had loved trendy restaurants. Remus had always felt guilty that they could barely afford chicken vindaloo from the takeaway on the corner, let alone a night on the town. "Little boutiques with hand-dyed scarves and odd jewelry. That sort of thing."

Severus laid a hand on the supporting A of the swing set. "In short, sod the poor."

"So it would seem."

"Bastards."

There was a bitterness in the single word that made Remus frown. "Severus?"

"M' parents started ta fight when factory closed 'n Da had ta nip on t'dole." The accent Severus had ruthlessly suppressed as long as Remus had known had surfaced without warning. "Bloody bastards never cared about t'workers, always about their fuckin' profits."

He smacked his hand against the iron pipe. It vibrated with a hollow bong. "Never cared. Only time they did was when she an' her parents lived across t'trees."

"Lily?" It was a shock to hear Severus swear, but even more shocking was the look of utter despair on his lined face. "I know she grew up here - "

Severus shook his head, scowling as if realizing how he'd sounded. His usual neutral accent was back. "This is where I met her. She fell off the swings and floated to the ground. That's how I knew."

"So that's how she knew about the Wizarding World before her Hogwarts letter. You told her." Lily had been nearly as poised as the Black brothers about the Wizarding World, despite her appalling sister and bewildered parents.

"Of course I did. She was the only friend I had." Severus coughed a bit too hard. "We were so poor that Mam had to cut down her old clothes for me, even when I was in primary school. Most of what we had went to drink after Da lost his job. I looked a rare sight, I did."

"Lily wouldn't have cared." Remus bowed his head, remembering how Lily had never once expressed fear about his lycanthropy. How many times had she brought him soup and tea after the full moon? And how often had he taken it for granted? "She wasn't like that."

"I know." Severus' voice was thick. "I tried to apologize, you know. After I called her - "

"You don't need to say it."

"She told me I'd gone too far, and we never spoke again." The too-thin face contorted as he fought for control. "She was right. When she died - "

"Severus, I know. I read the papers - "

"It wasn't heroic. It was guilt, Lupin. Guilt." He slumped into a swing. It barely sagged under his weight. "I kept Potter alive for her sake. He's so bloody much like his father, I - "

It was his turn to listen while another mourned. "He looks like James, but he's never been that cruel - yes, cruel." Remus knelt beside the swing and conjured a handkerchief. "Why do you think I never said anything? They needed a scapegoat, you know, and I was afraid of what the wolf would do if they turned on me."

Severus jerked his head up and down. "It was today - tonight, you know. Halloween, 1981."

"I know." Remus had reconciled himself to the day years ago, even though it had cost him his best friends and what little income he had. "I never understood why everyone celebrated. Voldemort was gone, but the cost - James and Lily dead, Harry with Lily's sister - "

"Petunia. She always hated me, and she hated Lily after she found out that she was the only witch in the family."

Remus automatically handed him the handkerchief. Severus accepted it without using it.

"Did she truly never speak to you again? She forgave James so often."

"Never." Severus stared toward a peeling teeter totter. "I tried over and over that summer - sent her cards, begged her mother for help, followed her about - nothing. She wouldn't so much as look me in the eye."

"I'm sorry. I didn't know." The air was cold, with the promise of rain in the next few hours. So much for the bookstore circle's plans for a skyclad ritual in the park. "I mean, I knew she was angry, but cutting you off like that - "

"All she cared about was Potter by then. I suppose it was inevitable." Severus finally dabbed at his eyes. "You shouldn't bring Teddy here. It's a dreadful place to grow up."

Remus blinked at the abrupt change of subject. "What does that have to do with Lily?"

"Nothing. Everything." The handkerchief was wet by now, although Severus had not once sobbed. "If you want him, raise him someplace decent, not a broken down neighborhood where a poor boy will only make a fool of himself before a rich, pretty girl."

"You didn't make a fool of yourself," said Remus. He'd thought he'd apologized for this years ago, but apologies were nothing in the face of such wounds. "Sirius - "

"Did that for me, yes, I know."

"I was going to say that he never quite understood why what he did was wrong." Remus hesitated, then plunged ahead. In for a penny, in for a pound. "You know, he tried to talk Harry into being a junior version of James. He was so dreadfully disappointed when Harry kept saying no."

"Good on him." Severus cast a cleaning charm on the handkerchief, blew his nose, then cast another cleaning charm before pressing the clean white cotton to his eyes. "That doesn't change the fact that this is not a good place to raise a child."

"Maybe, maybe not. My employers aren't the only young people moving in." Remus gestured at a lopsided carousel. "This place could be unrecognizable in a few years."

He cautiously settled into the other swing. It creaked slightly but seemed able to hold his weight. "If you want me to take my son and leave, say so. You're almost well enough to handle the stairs by yourself, which means you won't need an attendant, and it's not as if you're fond of young - "

"Shut it, Lupin." Severus turned to look at him. Remus swallowed at the raw pain in his eyes. "I am attempting to point out the challenges of raising a child in this neighborhood, let alone one that will have to be watched constantly lest he change his appearance in front of Muggles.

"However, if you are determined to do so, you'll need a place to live, and I doubt your salary would cover the cost of rent." His hand shook slightly as he brushed his hair out of his eyes. "You're more than welcome to stay, at least until Teddy is old enough to need his own room."

Remus opened his mouth, then shut it. They could talk about this later, after Remus had contacted a solicitor. "Thank you. Here, you're shivering - let's go home before you catch a chill."

"I'm perfectly fine, Lupin. You fuss too much." Severus made a face as Remus helped him to his feet and back into the wheelchair. He stared at the play park a final time. "I'm not very hungry, so don't bother with lunch. Soup at the most, I think."

"Of course." There was a tin of thick, meaty oxtail soup that would do, especially if Severus agreed to a piece of bread and butter. Mourning did not mean starving one's self, especially so many years later.

Even if Remus didn't feel much like eating himself.

*****

Excerpt from wireless service report, 30 November.

WAR HERO RECLAIMS SON; "I'M SO GLAD TO HAVE HIM HOME," SAYS LUPIN

London - In a heartwarming development, war hero Remus Lupin was awarded custody of his son, Teddy, after an emotional day of testimony before the Wizengamot. Mr. Lupin's mother-in-law, Andromeda Black-Tonks, had taken care of the infant during Mr. Lupin's convalescence from wounds suffered at the Battle of Hogwarts, and then had petitioned for full and permanent custody.

"I'm thrilled to have him back," said Mr. Lupin. He works for a bookstore in Halifax and lodges with Order of Merlin (third class) recipient Severus Snape. "I can't believe how much he's grown! I'm so very grateful to the Wizengamot for giving me the chance to raise my son. I'm sure that's what my wife would have wanted."

Mrs. Black-Tonks had no comment for the press -

Excerpt from letter to Severus Snape from Narcissa Malfoy

…please tell me the brat isn't another werewolf. If he is, please know that you'll always have a place here. I told Andromeda that she never should have married that Muggle, and look what happened - "

Reply from Severus Snape to Narcissa Malfoy. The letter is written in a very shaky, very spiky hand.

Narcissa:

Lupin has been critical to my recovery, such as it is, and I am more than capable of handling a babe in arms. The child is assuredly not a werewolf, even if his abrupt changes of coloring are disconcerting -

 

"Ooo, he's so cute!" Sarah smiled and tickled Teddy's nose. He cackled and grabbed at her fingers. "Why didn't you tell us you had a little boy? He's adorable!"

"It's a long story," said Remus. He smiled as she gently stroked the wisps that passed for Teddy's hair. "Thanks for letting me have the time off for court."

"Oh, no problem! I can't imagine what it must have been like, not seeing him for so long. He's lovely." She gave Teddy a chuck under the chin and handed him back to Remus. "Here, it's getting late, you should be home before it's too cold. Thanks awfully for bringing him by!"

"You're welcome." Remus still fumbled a bit dressing an infant for winter, but he was getting more confident by the day. "See you tomorrow!"

Teddy squealed and grabbed at a snowflake as they started for home. It was nothing more than flurries now, but the weather reports predicted an inch or two by morning. Severus had grumbled and insisted on casting no-slip charms on the front and back steps "so you don't kill yourself and the boy." Remus had been worried more about Severus taking a tumble on the way to his cousin's Sunday dinner, but given the way the Snapes fussed over him, there was probably nothing to worry about.

There was a light on in the kitchen, and Remus knew without asking that there would be tea, biscuits, and a warmed-up bottle of formula waiting on the scarred old table. Maybe he does care. At least we'll have Christmas here before he gets tired of us.

It had been surprisingly easy to reclaim Teddy. Andromeda's solicitor hadn't made more than a token protest when Remus casually mentioned that he was a personal friend of the Minister, and Mrs. Martingale had pulled strings to have the usual home visit waived since she was familiar with Spinner's End. Teddy had shrieked when the Friendly Visitor handed him over, but five minutes in Remus' arms had evidently triggered some memory of safety. He'd fallen asleep in the baby sling Mrs. Martingale had provided, much to the Friendly Visitor's amusement.

Now Teddy slept in a cot by Remus' bed every night, and watched from his playpen or high chair while Remus cooked or tended to Severus. Miss Gideon's Squib cousin ran a small, Ministry-certified creche in York, so Teddy would start at day care after the holidays while Remus worked at the bookstore. One might almost call it a happy ending.

Almost. Remus could see Dora in the child, of course, especially when his hair changed color. But where was Charlie Weasley? There was no trace of freckles, or ginger hair, or Charlie's sturdy, muscular build. If anything, Teddy resembled Remus' long-dead mother, who had been fair and fine-boned. Normally he would have put it down to Wizards being ridiculously inbred, but both his mother and Dora's father had been Muggleborns, which meant fresh blood.

Was it merely his imagination desperately trying to see something of himself in the child? And what would it mean as Teddy grew older?

Most of all, what would it mean to the wolf? He'd reclaimed Teddy after the December moon, but the January moon was on New Year's itself. How would the wolf react to the child as the change neared? And who would look after Teddy? It wasn't fair for him to ask his friends to babysit on a holiday while Moony roamed, and where else could he leave him? Severus couldn't watch an infant overnight, that is if he didn't finally accept a Malfoy invitation and go to the Manor for the holiday -

Teddy babbled happily as Remus stepped into the house and began unpeeling the layers of clothing every expert insisted an infant needed for warmth and good health in the winter. Remus gave the boy a light kiss on the cheek.

"I missed you, Teddy," he murmured. "I hope you missed me."

"Training him to be a sentimentalist already, I see." Severus, leaning on his cane, stood in the doorway to the kitchen. "I assume your co-workers fawned over him in the traditional fashion?"

"Of course, and why not? He's a beautiful baby, aren't you?" Remus chuckled as Teddy, free from the restraining charm, immediately turned his hair acid green. "One would think you, of all people, would think that tradition - "

"I spent two years complimenting Draco Malfoy despite the fact that he bore an unfortunate resemblance to an albino frog until his hair came in," said Severus. "Teddy is, at least, attractive enough to merit the praise, appalling color sense notwithstanding."

"I'm not sure he quite grasps the concept of color yet," said Remus. He settled Teddy in his high chair and sank into what had become his place at the table. "He's barely eight months old."

"One hopes he isn't color blind." Severus eased into his own seat. "Given his abilities, the results could be - "

"Blinding," said Remus. He fixed a cup of tea the way Severus liked it before pouring his own cup. "Then again, he hasn't changed much beyond his hair yet. Dora could alter anything, any time. Eyes, skin, hair, features, height, weight except when she was pregnant, gender - "

Severus set down his cup and stared so hard that Remus nearly choked. "Gender? You're joking."

"That I am not." Remus dabbed at his lips with a paper napkin. "I never saw her do it for more than a few minutes, but she could flatten her chest and, um, extrude - "

"The illusion of male genitalia? Fascinating." Severus rubbed his chin. "That must have been useful for the Corps. The ultimate undercover agent."

"So one would think," said Remus. Teddy banged a tiny fist on the tray of his chair and made a ba ba ba sound. He summoned the bottle resting on the counter, checked its temperature against his wrist, and carefully placed it in his son's hands. "Actually, she was barely used in covert operations. Kingsley and the younger Aurors were fine with it, but Moody's successor didn't believe in women doing field work. He forced at least three agents in Dora's class to retire or go into administration."

Severus snorted. "Pucey, wasn't it? Imbecile. I tutored Nymphadora for her Defense and Potions NEWTs. She deserved better than that, for all her flaws."

It was rare for Severus to say something good about Dora, even now. Remus set down his teacup and stared. "I'm glad you agree. She never stopped thinking she should have been sent to the Muggle PM instead of Kingsley - said a female secretary would have blended in a lot better."

"She was right. Then again, wasting talent is not unusual at the Ministry." Severus stared into the depths of his tea. "She could change her gender? Fascinating. That must have - "

"I'd rather not discuss that part of our lives," said Remus, a bit too loudly. "It was more a - novelty. A joke sometimes. It made good camouflage when she had to go outside until she was too big to disguise it."

The sugar bowl floated over to Severus as he poured himself a second cuppa. Teddy leaned forward to grab the tempting new toy, then began to wail as it maneuvered its way past him. Severus tapped one tiny hand with a shaking finger. "None of that, young man. You're far too young for tea."

"Give him time. He's British, after all." Remus couldn't help smiling as Teddy blew a spit bubble in Severus' general direction and started in on his bottle again. He was a happy child, and Remus would do everything he could to make sure Teddy stayed that way. As long as he could find someone to babysit during the full moons, it would all work out.

*****

Of course the Ministry was throwing a massive New Year's party to celebrate the great victory. And of course everyone who had offered to watch Teddy "any time, just ask," was invited.

Remus binned the polite note from Molly Weasley that sent to tell him that she was planning to attend "Harry's party," and thus was unavailable. For all that she'd spent the better part of a year shoving him at Dora, she'd barely spoken to him since the battle, and hadn't once visited Teddy, either during his months with Andromeda or now that he was home. Remus was almost tempted to tell her that Teddy was her biological grandson, but what good would that do? She wouldn't chuck her plans to tend her son's baby without proof, and that would mean trashing Dora's reputation over a party.

Molly. He crossed her name off his list and capped the inkwell. She was the last Wizarding possibility unless he begged an elf from Minerva, and he doubted that Minerva had any to spare. He could always ask one of his coworkers to watch the baby, but what if the morphing-suppression charm failed?

He put his head in his hands and squeezed his eyes shut against the building migraine. What the hell was he going to do?

 

…the annual Ministry ball in London was a particularly gala affair, as war heroes such as Harry Potter, the Chosen One, and Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts, graced the occasion with their presence.

Potter, in a youthful yet classic take on dress robes, and his fiancee, Miss Ginevra Weasley of the Ottery St. Catchpole Weasleys, led the first waltz, followed by Miss Weasley's brother Ronald and his friend Miss Hermione Granger….

 

Pain. Twisting. Fireplace, stumbling toward green - clock chiming, too late, too late, baby wailing -

*****

He woke in his own bed, naked and aching in every limb. A small vial of pain relieving potion sat on the nightstand, with a note in Severus' trembling hand telling him to drink it before he attempted to get out of bed, unless he really was a typical Gryffindor dunderhead. There was no sign of Teddy, and he allowed himself a moment of relief that Severus had managed to find a babysitter at the last moment.

Wonderful smells of eggs and bacon and fried tomatoes wafted into the room. Remus sighed in relief. Mrs. Martingale must have come round to make breakfast, God bless her. He hadn't felt this wretched after a moon in months, and assumed it was because he'd been so worried about Teddy.

He drank the potion, waited for the ache to ease, and carefully pushed himself upright. His legs nearly buckled as he walked to the door for his dressing gown, but he was almost steady by the time he'd reached the loo, and a few minutes later he felt well enough to pick his way downstairs. Warming charms were all well and good, but hot food tasted better when it was fresh.

"Now. Do not dribble, Teddy." Severus sounded stern but not cruel. "You are old enough to consume cooked cereal without spitting."

Remus paused in the doorway and watched as Severus, in his Muggle jumper and jeans, levitated a spoon to Teddy's lips. Teddy giggled and swiped at the spoon, which neatly moved out of the way. Severus waited until the baby's mouth was open, then aimed the spoon and moved it into precisely the right spot so that the food went where it was supposed to.

"Nicely done," said Remus. He watched as Teddy swallowed, crowed with delight, and reached for the spoon as it refilled itself and rose to mouth level. "Where did you learn that?"

"From watching the Malfoy house elves feed Draco. Far be it from Narcissa to spot her robes doing it herself." Severus nodded approvingly as another portion of cereal found its mark. "Happy New Year."

"The same to you." Remus took his place at the table and watched as Teddy had breakfast. He was a lovely child, plump and healthy and happy. "Thank you for minding him. I can't believe I mistimed the - "

Severus waved his free hand in dismissal. "It was bound to happen sooner or later. You were fully medicated so there was no danger to either of us, unless it was deafness due to your window-rattling snores. How did a wolf get a deviated septum?"

"Deviated - I'm not sure." Remus checked his nose before he could stop himself. "I fell off a broom when I was thirteen and broke my nose, but Poppy fixed it."

"Not well enough, it seems." Severus jerked his head at a covered dish in Ministry-issue stainless steel on the kitchen counter. "Madam Martingale insisted on preparing what she called 'a proper New Year's breakfast' for both of us, even though I am perfectly capable of burning toast. I would do the washing up, but tending the boy - "

"Is more than enough." Remus ran his hand over Teddy's silky hair, chuckling softly as it turned cobalt at his touch. "Thank you, Severus."

"I was about to say that tending the boy was surprisingly easy, if somewhat tiring. Tending you, on the other hand, was not nearly so pleasant. I had no idea werewolves drooled in their sleep."

Remus gave him a sharp look. "You watched? I thought you were planning to lock me in the cellar."

"I was too occupied with Teddy to bother. Moving you to your own room was enough of an ordeal." Severus snorted and carefully wiped cereal from Teddy's cheek. His hand barely trembled. "There was no reason to compound the difficulty by setting up a den next to my work area."

"But - " Remus swallowed at the memory of how angry he'd been at Charlie Weasley. "The wolf would have known that Teddy isn't my biological child. Why didn't he attack? The old stories about werewolves and adultery are true - "

"Lupin. Stop babbling. It is most unbecoming." Severus waited for Teddy to take his next bite of food. "The wolf never threatened Teddy. If anything, he seemed glad to see the boy, that is if licking his face in an unsanitary manner is any guide." He offered Teddy a child's cup, his expression as relaxed as Remus had ever seen it. "Perhaps the wolf sees the world a bit differently. Animals are more direct in their reactions than humans."

"That doesn't make sense. Why would Moony want to see another man's cub?" It had taken him months to realize that he loved Teddy no matter who his father was, but Moony?

"How often did you care for Teddy when he was an infant? I understand the birth was difficult."

Remus thought for a moment. "I gave him his first bath, if that's what you mean. Dora lost a good deal of blood so I suppose I did more than the average. I couldn't breastfeed, of course, but I did almost everything else, at least for the first few days."

"And was this during the waxing or the waning moon?"

"Waxing. Andromeda didn't take over until just before the full moon." Remus stopped. "You think Moony accepted him because I tended him when he was a newborn."

Teddy spat out his last spoonful of cooked rice and made his bah bah bah! sound. Severus banished the mess with a muttered comment about can't wait till he's old enough to learn table manners. "It's called 'imprinting,' I believe. If you'd like, I can show you what I saw."

Remus picked up a napkin, wiped the baby's face, and lifted Teddy out of his high chair into his arms. The small, solid weight felt exactly right as the baby giggled and snuggled against him. "I didn't know you had a Pensieve."

"I don't. Legilimency works both ways." Something of the old glitter came into the dark eyes. "That is, if you're willing."

Tending Severus and letting him see to Moony was fine. That was only the body. But letting the other man into his mind, free to examine all the ambiguity, the guilt, the fear -

Remus rested his cheek against Teddy's hair, inhaled the clean, warm scent. He had someone else to think about now. Didn't Teddy deserve the best he could give? And didn't that include knowing why Moony had accepted another man's son?

"Will I need to put him down?"

"Not unless you're planning to drop him on his head. It's not as if I'm going assault you, Lupin." Severus raised his wand in both hands and waited until the tremors had subsided. "Ready? Legilimens."

Remus stumbling toward the fire/Moony standing up

Baby crying wolf turning

Wand out spell prepared save the baby innocent tiny not his fault

Wolf licking grooming curling up protect

Soft fur sighs baby asleep

My mother's face my father's hands how

Levitate them both to bed rest in chair watch them sleep

 

"He - I - " Remus hugged the baby closer, unconsciously mimicking the wolf curling itself protectively about the baby. "Moony accepts him - how? I don't understand."

"Here." Severus pushed himself upright and gestured at the parlor. "Sit. My cousin will be here soon to whisk me away to an allegedly delightful New Year's Day party. Spend the day with your son. I'll be back later."

"But - I - "

"Mrs. Martingale brought the latest issue of Ars Medimagica this morning, at my request," said Severus. A journal bound in plain blue-grey paper flew across the room to land on Remus' placemat. "There was a fascinating article on the influence of a pregnant woman's magic on her fetus. You should read it while I'm gone."

Remus stared down at the magazine, unable to move. "I'm not a mediwizard, Severus. I won't get a damned thing out of this."

Severus made a rude noise and pointed at the journal, which obediently flipped to the correct page. "You'll understand the abstract, at least, but since you seem convinced of your own stupidity, here is the essence of it.

"A long-term study among Wizarding families in the European Union indicates that a witch with a fervent wish for a child who strongly resembles her husband, or her husband's family, may unconsciously manipulate the child's appearance before birth, regardless of the child's genetic makeup. It's particularly true in the cases of Muggleborns who marry purebloods, or purebloods from poor families marrying above themselves, but it's documentable in every country in Europe if this study can be believed."

Teddy had gone quiet except for his quick, steady breathing. Remus stared down at a tiny hand that looked like a miniature version of his own, minus the enlarged joints of lycanthropic arthritis. "You can't mean - "

"I was Head of Slytherin for nearly twenty years and saw far too many purebred boys who could have been clones of their fathers. Inbreeding can only account for so much, you know." Severus summoned his favorite cane and began shuffling toward the coat rack. "Have a good time with your son."

"He's not my son." The words seemed to come from someone else's mouth. Teddy had fallen asleep against Remus' chest, completely relaxed and at ease. "He's - "

"As far as the wolf, and seemingly your late wife, are concerned, he is. I would advise you to remember that," said Severus as he opened the door and carefully picked his way down the steps to his cousin's Austin Allegro.

Remus did not know how long he spent at the kitchen table, holding Teddy and watching the preservation charm on his breakfast slowly dissipate. By the time he finally was hungry enough to notice, the fry-up Mrs. Martingale had prepared was colder than the roofing slates, and about as appetizing. He binned the lot and heated one of the instant meals that had been on sale at Morrison's last month, and then it was time to change Teddy and feed him a dish of mashed carrots. He tried the floating spoon method Severus had used, and as much as he disliked the thought of copying of Narcissa Malfoy's downtrodden elves, he had to admit that it was much less messy than the Muggle way.

The fire lit itself at a snap of his fingers, and Teddy's cradle rocked itself at a single word. Remus watched him play with a stuffed starfish, his chubby face alight with joy at how much fun it was to stuff his toys and his toes into his mouth.

Mine. Not by blood, but still mine. Had Dora guessed that Remus couldn't have come to her the night Teddy was conceived, or had she genuinely been drunk enough to see what she wanted? And did it matter now?

"Happy new year, son," Remus murmured. He stroked the baby's soft cheek with one knuckle. "I wish your mummy could see you now. She loved you so much."

After a while he read the article Severus had given him. When the medical jargon got to be too much, he turned on the Queen's New Year's message to her Wizarding subjects, then pulled out Severus' copy of The Twelve Hours of the Night and began to read.

The rest of the day was quiet. Remus napped when Teddy did, ate a very late lunch, and read more Ashbless (a long-dead Prince seemingly was a fan). When Severus returned that evening, father and son were curled up on the sofa listening to a music program on the wireless.

"Did you have a good time?" Remus carefully positioned Teddy in his portable cot before rising to help Severus with his coat, scarf, and a large bakery box tied with red and white string.

"Tolerable. We've been gifted with leftovers. I hope you like mince pie." Severus waited for his outerwear to be removed before cautiously starting for the parlor. He was limping a bit more than usual, probably due to overexertion. "There were too many people, but I expected that. Gemma and her mother have what they call an 'open door policy' toward visitors."

"Ah." Remus set the box on the kitchen table and watched as Severus made his way down the hall, cane gripped tightly in his left hand. That side would always be weak despite the improvements since Severus' discharge from St. Mungo's, but it was little short of a miracle that he could walk at all. "I can see how that could result in too many visitors."

"Quite." Severus' face twisted as he lowered himself to his favorite chair. He sighed with relief and began to massage his leg before it spasmed. "I assume you had a quiet day?"

"Reasonably," said Remus. "We slept quite a bit."

Severus hissed, then sighed with a relief as knot in his thigh finally relaxed. He managed to hold up his leg as Remus quickly shoved an ottoman into place under his foot. "Hardly a surprise, given your ordeal last night."

"Very true." Remus summoned a second ottoman and began massaging Severus' leg the way that Miss Gideon had taught him. "Here, let me do that."

"Thank you." Severus grunted at the attention. His face tightened, then eased as the worst spasm dissipated. "The boy?"

"Sleeping like the angel he is." Remus smiled and bent over his work. "That trick with the spoon is a lifesaver, you know. Please thank Narcissa or her elves on my behalf."

The wireless shifted from music to news. Remus sat back on his ottoman as Lee Jordan delivered the latest pronouncements from Kingsley and Minerva in a quick monotone, then brightened noticeably as he shifted to sport. "And now, in Premier League Quidditch, it was Holyhead over Falmouth 210-90 in their traditional New Year's Day match. In the European League Vratsa, crippled by the loss of Viktor Krum in a mountain climbing accident, fell to Quiberon, while the friendly match between American standings leader Fitchburg and German powerhouse Mũnchen-Gladbach - "

Remus gestured casually at the wireless, which obediently went silent. Severus opened one eye. He gave Remus a critical look, then nodded, seemingly unsurprised at the return of his magic. "Of course. If Draco is to be believed, she may be willing to admit that Teddy is related to her in a few months."

His leg had stopped trembling at last. Remus gave it a final pat, pushed back, and rose. "Tea? It's almost time for your potions and a cuppa might cut the taste."

"I've had at least three cups this afternoon, plus a glass of my great-aunt Jilly's wretched excuse for sherry. The last thing I want or need is liquids," said Severus. He paused, then said, almost casually, "Gemma introduced me to an estate agent she knows. He says there's a great market for these old row houses."

Remus ignored the sudden chill and selected the appropriate potions from the locked cabinet in the kitchen. "Do tell."

"It seems that young Muggles enjoy renovating them and pretending they're in solidarity with the millworkers." Severus snorted, downed his first dose of anti-spasmodic, and made a face. "He said that if I were to sell, I would almost certainly have enough money to buy one of the one-storey bungalows across the park."

"Bungalow?" Remus bit his lip. Spinner's End was old, and the neighborhood was questionable, but it had become home over the last few months. "That would be better for your leg, I daresay. Your pension should be enough to put in handicapped fixtures, and - "

"I've made arrangements to look at one next week. It has a solarium that would make a decent lab, and the yard is big enough for a small garden," said Severus. His hand was steady as he laid it over Remus'. "It also has three bedrooms and is in walking distance of a school."

Remus looked up, scarcely daring to hope. "School? You haven't any children."

"But you do." Severus' gaze was direct, clear, and unmistakable. "I've healed as much as I'm going to, and since my attendant has a small child that he presumably does not wish to grow up illiterate, it's better to move now, when I can get a decent price for this heap."

Remus lowered his head. "Across the park" was Lily's old neighborhood. Moving there would surely bring up painful memories. "Severus. You needn't rearrange your life for Teddy. Really. We'll find a flat near wherever you - "

"Don't be maudlin, Remus." Severus thrust a tissue into his hand. "If the last few months have taught us anything, it's that neither of us can make a go of it alone. I can't hold a knife steady and you can't make enough to support an adult, let alone a baby. This would be a good arrangement for both of us."

Teddy burbled and kicked at the end of his cot. Remus automatically cast a steadying charm to keep cot and baby from tipping over. "If you're serious about this - "

Severus rolled his eyes. "Of course I'm serious. Why else would I tell you that I'm planning to sell this wreck and buy a house with enough room for Teddy?" He took his second dose, this one of an anti-seizure medication, and let the vial drop onto the arm of his chair. "Honestly, Lupin, there are times when I wonder - "

"Shut it and let me finish," said Remus. He exhaled and let himself savor how good it felt to breathe freely at last. Severus looked oddly pleased. "As I was saying, if you're serious about moving, I've a little money set aside from my Muggle salary. If Teddy is going to grow up in this new house of yours, I insist on contributing to the down payment."

"You should put it toward his creche fees, but suit yourself." Severus rested his chin on his left hand, scratching thoughtfully at the stubble. Remus usually shaved him on the days when he wasn't steady enough to aim a depilatory charm correctly, and clearly he hadn't bothered this morning. "If it reassures you to have your name on the deed as co-owner, then so be it. You'll have to do the yardwork regardless since I'm scarcely capable of trimming the verge."

"As long as that's settled," said Remus. He held out his hand and made sure Severus had a secure grip on his arm before pulling the other man upright. "You look exhausted. Let's get you to bed, and we can talk about it more tomorrow."

"What about your son?" Severus peered over Remus' shoulder in the direction of the carry cot. Remus drew his wand, murmured wingardium leviosa, and smiled as baby and carrier rose into the air and obediently floated after them. "Ah. I'm to observe Teddy's bedtime, I see."

"At least for tonight. Nox primus, lumos secundus," said Remus. The lights went out in the parlor and came on in the hallway between the bedrooms as they started for the stairs, Severus draped over Remus' shoulder, Teddy giggling happily as he bobbed in their wake. "Mrs. Martingale says you should be getting more sleep, you know."

"Of course I know. She only tells me that once or twice a week." Severus grunted as he maneuvered one foot, then the other, into position. "Kindly do not nag. I don't fancy spending the rest of my life being told what's good for me."

"I'll do my best," said Remus.