Author's Note: Not JKR, just messing with her characters. This is dedicated to my friends, Mrstater and Godricgal. It was a birthday gift for both of them. :)
The Little Bear Cub
Her pains start a few days early, and she's become so used to living with backache and the downward pressing heaviness that she thinks this is more of the same. But when it starts to feel as if a Hippogriff is kneeling on her backbone and trying to break it, she knows it's time.
Which would seem to be at about three in the morning. Molly has told her that unborn babies have a definite sense of humour, and an even better sense of timing, and this one is living up to that from start to finish.
Remus is watching her pace from the bed, with the unfocused, slit-eyed look of a man used to little or no sleep because there's simply no position she's comfortable in and the only rest they get lately is when he rubs the small of her back and talks to her.
To both of them. Sometimes, Tonks thinks the baby kicks her around on purpose, just so he can hear another Marauder tale of old and silently giggle away for hours afterwards, like she does. Certainly as the baby relaxes, then so does she, and so does Remus, and they all drift off together in a mountainous heap for a short, exhausted while.
So she's not quite sure for whose sake it is that she says, "It's backache, that's all," even as she's forced to clutch at the bedpost for support and exhale slowly for a minute. Followed hastily by, "It's a flaming false alarm, that's what it is," as she sees him swing his legs over the side of the bed.
"Of course," he says calmly, but he puts his arm out as she paces by and catches her, turning her round towards him.
"It goes on for hours," she says, to reassure him. Or her. "No hurry yet. You've read the books. You've had all those cosy little chats with Arthur where he tells you you've got time to go to the pub and get at least four rounds and a jacket potato in."
"Hmm." He grasps one of her hands and flattens it beneath his warm one on her stomach, looking into her face. "All the same, I think I'll wake your mother and go get the—"
"Remus." She hesitates as he drapes his dressing gown over her shoulders. Pushes her feet into her slippers. "It's the middle of the night."
"So it is," he says, and he's halfway to the door before she even realises he's going. "Remus."
"Yes?" He's at her side in an instant and takes her face in his hands, tucking her hair behind her ears to kiss her. "I'll be back in a minute. With your mother."
"Wait." She holds her breath as the stabbing pain comes and, thankfully, goes. Catches sight of them in the mirror opposite; herself all white face and huge dark eyes, rather buried beneath his dressing gown, and the pale, thin man in neatly striped pyjamas, whose hair is a tangled, rather magnificent mess. The man who is both reserved and reserving with others, and with whom she shares such love and intimacy, though some might say – and probably do – that it was very hard won.
She's not one of them. He's always loved her; it was peace of mind for them both that was the fight. And she couldn't bear it if their child made that fall apart again.
There are a million things to say at this moment, not least that she's terrified that she won't be able to do this, but she picks the most unimportant.
"Comb your hair before you go and wake up Mum."
"You could sleep in the spare room?" she'd said, about a month or so before. Once it became apparent that the baby thought lying down in the dark on the bed was the signal to wake up and start playing Quidditch. He definitely planned on being a Beater. "It's daft both of us being knackered, especially when you've got Potterwatch and the Order to think of as well."
"Do you want me to? Do you think you'll sleep better?" She saw the worry in his eyes, that he tried to mask but couldn't quite.
"No. It just seems sensible."
He smiled then, his face creasing with relief. "I thought we'd agreed a long time ago that 'sensible' hasn't ever really worked for us?"
"Okay." She shrugged, fighting to hold back an inane grin. "Just thought I'd offer. Like a caring wife." She laughed then, because it wasn't so long ago in terms of months that they'd come to that joking decision, but it felt like part of some very distant past where they weren't anywhere near the couple, or the equals, that they are now. She attempted to hug him as she saw his smile widen, and couldn't get near as her stomach effectively pushed him away. Laughed again as he moved behind her and put his arms round her and their child, burying his face in her neck.
"Thanks for the kind offer, caring wife," he said softly, his mouth and breath against her skin. "It's firmly rejected."
It's not ideal to meet your midwife for the very first time when birth is, if not imminent, then approaching a lot faster than Tonks has expected. However, if it isn't safe or fair to put friends at risk these days by having to make an essential journey, to two people and a house already singled out for attention by You-Know-Who, then there was no way anyone else would or probably should come.
"At least we haven't had to worry about them being wary of coming near a Dark Creature." Remus said it lightly, but his mouth was a taut line as he'd turned down Molly's sobbing request for the third time to come, while Arthur stood wretched and silent behind her. Till Kingsley announced laconically, "I'll fix this," and within half an hour had a name, an address, and a gleam in his eye as he said, "Trust me, no one will be watching this one. Or if they are, she'll probably poison them."
Kingsley Shacklebolt, midwife expert? Well, he always likes to boast of having contacts for every possible occasion. It's a little disconcerting that this one is an ex-Healer, ex-Matron, and ex-midwife, now long since forcibly retired, but Kingsley said it was no reflection on her honesty or ability. Simply on her ability to get along with anyone else.
Tonks thinks she's probably not meant to be laughing. Which is ridiculous, because if you can't laugh at the fact that you're having a baby at about the most dangerous time imaginable, and you're fairly sure that your husband, even though he appears completely calm (and has brushed his hair) is currently torturing himself with thoughts about her and the baby, and their health and survival, then when can you?
"That's the spirit," says the tiny, wizened old woman, who's unpacking a bag nearly as big as herself in the corner. "Nice to meet you, Mrs Lupin. I'm Vivienne. Call me Viv."
"Call me Tonks." And tell me you've bought a million bottles of pain relief potion?
"You haven't taken anything already, have you? Or did your mother when she named you that? Don't mind me, it's my way to speak what's on my mind. Now it's a shame you haven't got breeders' hips from the look of you, but this'll still be as easy as pulling giblets. It's your first, right? How old are you?"
"Twenty-four." Tonks rolls her eyes at Remus in amused disbelief – did this nutter just say 'giblets'? – but the pain takes her and her next words are a suppressed groan. She's determined to be normal for as long as possible, especially when she sees his look. "Nearly… twenty-five."
"Merlin! You're late! I had three by then, and another well on the way." Viv trots over to the fire, sniffs at it and pulls a face. "Make a nice cup of tea over that, you could, if there was anyone hanging around not doing anything very useful. Like a man."
"My mother-in-law's getting tea for us all," Remus says, and crosses over to the bed, straightening up Tonks' pillow. "You don't have to pretend," he says softly as his eyes meet hers for a moment, and she winks at him as she's still fairly sure she does. He turns round to face Viv.
"Talking of being useful…" He raises an eyebrow pointedly at the tiny little witch, who is staring at them both with unabashed interest and what looks like a bundle of dried herbs in her hand.
"Oh, don't fret, young man, she's got hours yet. Plenty of time for a cuppa and some biscuits, if you've got any going spare?"
"How do you know she's got hours? You haven't examined her."
"She's not breaking that hand of yours, yet, for a start. Lots of time for us to chat and get to know each other." Viv smiles, sniffs. "A werewolf and a Metamorphmagus, eh? You two don't do things by halves, do you?"
It's over a week since he'd left her and found Harry at Grimmauld Place. Three days there, three days back, and a day spent at Shell Cottage. Back home, if it was still home, for over a day now, too. He'd been determined to be as honest as he could, while hurting her as little as he could. But the two aims were incompatible, and she, who always asked questions, now asked none at all. While he could not explain how what had suddenly seemed like the only answer for them both, was, with Harry's words still ringing in his ears, clearly no answer to anything at all.
His gaze kept going to the curtains round the window. Dora had been planning to replace them. Before she lost her job and was conspicuously avoided in the street by people she'd thought of as colleagues and friends.
"Do you want me to go?" he asked, at last.
"Don't you normally decide that by yourself?" She was quiet, withdrawn. Not at all like Dora. "I don't know what I want, but I don't want that. Besides, you've talked, but you haven't said anything. We agreed you'd find Harry. Agreed you'd try and help. It's the other offer I don't remember discussing and you haven't explained that one. Only you'll have to wait now till I want to listen."
Explain? Oh, he could dress it up, pretend he'd been doing the honourable thing, the right thing; finding a way out that would both help the son of his friend and might bring her – and the child – no shame. Dora would go on, eventually; it was her nature to do so, and she'd have the support of friends and family. And he wouldn't have to face the all-encompassing fear that one day very soon she wouldn't want him, might come to hate him for ruining her life.
Except she might very well hate him now as she sat opposite him at the breakfast table, pouring herself a mug of tea with a drawn, shuttered face and hands that shook slightly from time to time which he couldn't bear to look at. The white table cloth seemed like an endless divide that he had no idea how to cross.
"You look tired," he said.
"I'm pregnant." With our child hung so loudly in the air between them that he could have sworn she'd said it.
He swallowed, tried to control his voice. "I never really told you why I – I went to Bill and Fleur's. I wanted to talk to Bill. I thought he might understand some of what I felt."
"I'm not sure he did; I ended up talking more to Fleur. Well, listening to her. She couldn't understand why I was there."
Dora was staring out of the window with what looked like unseeing eyes. She said nothing.
"Yes, so I – I listened. They want a family, her and Bill. She has plans… Names, even what pets they're going to have… I was astonished. We're in the middle of a war, and Fleur is imagining the future. And though you can suggest she's a little self-obsessed, a little oblivious – she's still frightened, like all of us, and dreads what news each day will bring. But they're beating Voldermort and everything he stands for. By being a family. By being happy."
"Really?" She took a small sip from her mug. "That's nice."
"It reminded me of James and Lily. Of how they lived with their child, and how I— Dora, you're spilling your tea."
"You know how clumsy I am," she said, holding his gaze, and deliberately dropped her mug on the floor. "You went to Fleur."
The words were hissed at him, and he was aware of the tea spreading slowly outwards on the carpet, but, most of all, he was aware of the blazing anger and hurt in Dora's eyes as he gaped at her. She was a fighter, and it showed now, as she clearly struggled with herself not to knock the whole lot, teapot, crockery and all, either to the floor or at him.
"No, I went—"
"To Fleur. When you could have come home to me."
"I was so ashamed," he said softly.
"Good! You're going to be ashamed again before we're through here." She brought her left hand, the one with his ring on it, down firmly on the table and glared at him. "You're going to talk to me, properly, Remus – not to Harry or Bill or bloody Fleur - and I'm going to talk to you. And you're not going to protect me from the things you think I shouldn't hear, or don't want to hear, or mustn't hear, because I'm absolutely not going to protect you any more for fear you'll hate yourself and go! As you'll go anyway! Have you got that?"
"The only thing keeping me at this table," she said, "is that there was once a man; a good man, an honourable man, who stayed that way in spite of everything the world and some ignorant people threw at him. Except that somewhere along the way it all took a terrible toll, so that when it came down to the small matter of his own happiness he couldn't trust either it or himself. But I know that man, and I know you. I saw your face for that split second when I told you we were going to have a baby, and if I didn't believe that offering to go away with Harry was the last thing you really wanted to do, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Have you got that, too?"
"I've got it," he said, humbly. For the first time, he dared to let himself hope that somehow they'd come through this, because she was still Dora and she was still fighting for the three of them. She knew him better than anyone else had ever done, and she still cared enough to thump a table for him.
He'd always thought that love blinded her to harsh reality, but perhaps the truth was it had blinded him. If she'd let him, then he'd try for once to see not only what she lost by this relationship but what they both gained.
So this is what it's like, Tonks thinks to herself, amazed.
Though at the moment 'this' is the likelihood of her being left to gasp and sweat her way into oblivion on the bed, while the three other people in the room bicker amongst themselves. Viv has managed to upset Andromeda by saying mothers are best off downstairs, out the way and preferably making soup for the workers (which doesn't seem to include Tonks). This in turn annoys Remus, who, in the last few months, has developed an unexpected relationship with his mother-in-law, one which seems based on mutual respect and affection.
Perhaps not that unexpected. Funnily enough, Remus is exactly the sort of intelligent, older man her mother admires, and would have liked her only daughter to marry. Even if he isn't, er… exactly.
Tonks gives up on that one. She's losing track of time, which has narrowed down to the time between contractions when she gets to breathe normally and try and make conversation to reassure everyone she's having a great time. Viv has said the longer she delays the pain relief potion the more effective it'll be, and the less she'll sleep afterwards.
She also adds that Tonks is probably having an easy time of things as her muscles are used to morphing.
"How… long have I got?" Tonks asks her, hanging onto Remus' hand in a vice like grip to stop him saying anything. Though it's tempting to let him loose as she's fairly sure she doesn't usually morph these particular muscles, and she's recently inclined to agree she hasn't got breeders' hips.
"Couple of hours yet." Viv does one of her speedy and discreet examinations. Give her her due, she knows what she's doing, and Tonks rather likes her, and all the names she's called You-Know-Who and his followers, in short bursts.
The emphasis is currently on very short.
It seems like her last opportunity to say the thing that needs to be said and, miraculously, her mother is persuaded to take Viv downstairs once Remus, catching on quickly, has waxed lyrical about the wonders of her chicken and vegetable broth.
They listen to the footsteps tapping their way downstairs. Wonder if her mother will spike the soup…
She looks at him as he wipes her face. Every line is showing on his, and his hair is sticking up as he's run his fingers through it so much, but he smiles at her and the smile's the same as it always is.
"Do you want me to apologise profusely again for you ending up like this?" he says.
"Bit late for that." She shifts around in an effort to find somewhere comfortable and gives up. "Anyway, I obviously didn't pay enough attention in the contraception talk at school, either. It's always the-"
She breaks off as a pain starts, and he holds her tightly till it finally starts to pass and whispers, "The finer details that catch you out?"
"Mmm." She waits until she can talk again, learning to anticipate them now and ride the crest of them. But she must hurry. She's so tired and her body knows that very soon she's got to focus solely on this baby.
She wonders how to say this; remembers they promised to be honest with each other, and now it's a habit that works. Honest it is, then.
"We never talked about – about you staying with me throughout this. You don't have to."
His hand stiffens on hers. "You don't want me to?"
"It's not that. I don't want— I know you're worried. About the baby."
"Ah." He hesitates. "I won't lie to you, Dora. I know, rationally, that he won't, he can't be a werewolf, but there's still a tiny part of me that asks what if he is?"
"And what if he is?" she says on a whisper.
He looks at her hand. Traces the ring with his finger. "I want, I need to be here, even if I'm no use to you. If you want me to."
"I want you to." I'll break both your legs if you try and move.
He looks at her. Smiles. "We'll love him whatever happens, won't we? We already do."
She feels the sweat and the tears sting her eyes, starts to say something, but another splitting surge of pain begins. Enormous, like a freak wave, and the effort of riding this one out exhausts her and seems to go on forever. She holds onto Remus for dear life and feels the muscles go rigid in his arm.
When she opens her eyes, Viv and her mother are back. Everyone's arguing again.
"She's gone a lot further than most," Viv says. "These young witches of today are such wimps. Back in my time—"
"Now," says Remus.
"Because if you have too much, it dopes you, and the recovery time is that much longer when you want to see and feed your baby. It costs a lot, too—"
"Give her the fucking potion."
Tonks wants to giggle but can't spare the energy; her mother looks as if she wants to applaud, and Viv, sniffing loudly but looking somewhat impressed, is finally producing the most welcome potion bottle ever. Remus has a mouthful first, as he has of everything Viv's given her – she's going to tease him like mad after this, even though Mad-Eye would be so proud of him for his constant vigilance – and then she gulps it down. Feels it start to work almost immediately and tells herself the worst is over.
"There's so many tales and legends about werewolves. You're my first, you know." Viv is staring rather admiringly at the man who's just drank pain relief potion for women in labour.
Perhaps the worst isn't over…
"I like the one about them being sterile," Tonks grunts, aware that the world is blurring a little at the edges, as is the pain.
"I like the one about them mating for life," says Remus, and squeezes her hand hard.
There's been a never-ending list of urgent things to do in the days since Dumbledore's death – ironic, really, since Remus is sure that the frantic activity of the Order is masking the fact that no one is quite certain what to do. Not now the unthinkable has happened.
Be that as it may, the list of essential tasks today has brought him home so late that Dora must have given up waiting for him once she got his Patronus warning her. She'd been reading before she fell asleep, he saw, because a book was open on the bedcovers by her hand. He marked the page with her watch, sat down carefully on the bed which had become theirs so very easily, and studied her.
She lay on her left facing the side where he would be; her hand outstretched, her lashes dark against her skin and her lips pursed as though her dreams required intense concentration. Normally she lay on the right, and somehow he always woke up with his body touching hers as though he gravitated towards her in his sleep.
Hers always rests back against him. In complete trust. Even though it's only days since he'd said he wanted to try again if she would have him, and he barely got out half the things he wanted to – and which she deserved to hear – because as soon as he touched her again, and kissed her again, his world rearranged itself and he knew he'd come home.
He still hadn't said them all, though he'd whispered some of them into her skin as they made love. He'd remembered the passion between them all the time he was away from her, but now there's affirmation and more joy than he's ever thought possible. Along with a desperate, selfish, incessant need to say the three words he's wanted to say above all others.
A swirl of her hair curled from her ear to the corner of her mouth and when he brushed it off her face, she stirred but didn't wake. He smiled at that. She was the soundest sleeper he had ever known.
Only since you've come back, she'd said, with a smile.
Could something that felt so right really bring her harm? No one else seemed to think so; it was only him that feared and stayed silent.
"Dora," he whispered. "Marry me."
Her breathing came and went evenly.
She didn't stir. She never did, this remarkable girl, who'd said to him, "You had no control over being cursed, Remus. But you have control over staying that way for the rest of your life. And mine."
"Marry me, Dora."
Her breathing came and went evenly.
She deserved so much more than anything he could offer. What was he offering now? A whispered proposal in the dark he had no right to ask, and which she was unlikely to hear.
He cleared his throat, hating himself, but saying it louder all the same.
"Marry me, Dora."
Her breathing came and went evenly.
He felt a wave of bitter disappointment sweep over him, and told himself it was for the best. All meant to be. All as it should be, for her sake.
"Yes, please," she said.
The world for Tonks has narrowed down to the brief respites between pain and listening to Remus' voice. She has no idea what he says half the time, but the sound of it, and the occasional word she does make sense of somehow keep her going. Till she realises her cry this time isn't simply of pain, but of excitement at their child coming to life out of her.
One final pain threatens to break her open, but it doesn't engulf her as before. All her body's attention is focused on the amazing sensation of the baby moving out of her, of her death-like grip on Remus' hand, and of the blurred image of her mother in the background, tears streaming down her face.
"A beautiful boy," says Viv, and sniffs, but there's an awed excitement there, too.
Even breathing hurts, and her whole body seems to be sighing at last, but there's only one thought in her head and she stretches her arms out for the baby as Viv bustles around at speed. Suddenly he's there, wrapped in the lemon blanket Molly has sent for him, and he's tiny and real and so is all this.
She stares at him disbelievingly and makes a small croaky sound in her throat, feels Remus nod silently at the side of her.
"He is beautiful." Her mother is composed now; smiling, wiping away traces of tears with her lace handkerchief. Tonks stares at her over the baby's head and her mother nods as well, blows her nose. She knows they're both thinking the same thing.
If only my dad were here…
Ted Tonks' grandson has uttered a brief cry, as though protesting at being so rudely shoved into the world. His skin has the colour and softness of a pale pink rose, and his dark eyes stare at them both with what looks like calm curiosity. He has one single, very thick tuft of hair, which is almost jet black, and his fingers open and close in a fist as though testing whether the air and the room is to his liking.
"Oh, Remus. Look what we've got."
She says the words on a sigh, unable to take her eyes off their son. Till she realises the arm still holding her is rigid and he hasn't uttered a word.
She looks up at him and sees his expression.
He nods, eyes glistening.
"Thank you," he says, at last. He touches his son's cheek. She doesn't think he could say anything else if he tried.
Her mother suddenly becomes very business-like. "I'll get the champagne and a drink for you, Nymphadora," she announces, and "You must be hungry again, so come along now," to Viv, who gives an enthusiastic sniff. The room's very quiet once they've left and Tonks and Remus sit and watch their son.
"You know, I thought at first his hair was much darker than that," Tonks says, after a while.
"I'm not sure." She barely recognises his voice. But he adds, "I thought it was black, but it looks a lot browner now."
The baby disentangles a tiny hand from the blanket and waves it in the air, as if to agree.
He's got Remus' hair, Tonks thinks. Our little wolf, no, bear cub. A tiny little brown bear.
"He couldn't be a—?" Remus' voice dies away, as though afraid to say the word.
"No. He, well, no, he couldn't." She stares at the thick tuft of hair – it really was going to be just like Remus' – which is now the most definite shade of brown.
"It's very rare, isn't it, and the odds of having two in the same family must be—"
"We always beat the odds. We'll have to ask Mum and Viv if we're imagining it, but..." Tonks looks up at him, the tiny movement making her body protest, but she can't keep the smile off her face and neither, it seems, can Remus.
He kisses her. "Thank you," he says again, against her lips, as their son watches with apparent approval, and she wonders if anything will ever surpass this moment.
Dimly, she becomes aware that her mother and Viv are back with a tray of glasses; that the cradle Remus has painstakingly made by hand over many weeks is by the side of the bed, and everyone's discussing names. Though she thinks there's only one possible, perfect choice, as soon as Remus says it and she sees her mother's face.
Rain is falling steadily against the windows, which are rattling with the wind, and night is clearly well on the way. When did all that happen, she wonders?
She'd asked her mother many times about how she'd come to elope with her father. Growing up, she'd been greatly taken by the romance of it all because her parents were such total opposites in so many ways. Sometimes, Andromeda would smile, a mysterious smile, like a young girl seeing a memory in the distant past, and her voice would take on an unexpected richness in tone as she said it was hard to explain.
At other times, when she'd just picked up the pile of newspapers and the trail of socks that her father persisted in leaving draped round the house, she'd say with exasperation that, for the life of her, she had no idea. And that if Nymphadora had any sense, she'd think twice before she did anything like it.
Once, and only once, she said, "There's a moment. It's already happened without you noticing, and then you do notice and you think of course. And then you don't have any choice in the matter."
Tonks had her moment one day when she ended up head first in a haystack with Remus Lupin. She'd challenged him to a broomstick race, this calm, composed, maddening man, with whom she'd felt some strange connection from the moment they met. She challenged him because she was tired of him forever hesitating as though on the verge of saying more, tired of him featuring in her thoughts when she didn't understand why, and because she thought she'd beat him hands down and perhaps that would get under his skin as much as he got under hers…
He took a short cut she didn't even know about, and was half a length ahead as they flew at an insane speed towards the finishing place they'd agreed on.
She tried to shove him off course.
He shoved her back.
The haystack came out of nowhere for those too busy trying to tip each other off-balance to pay constant vigilance to anything else. Fortunately, it did make a nice soft landing.
They sat up and looked at each other. There was a large rent in her jeans by her knee. He had about half the haystack stuck in his hair. His mouth twitched first, and then they both burst out laughing at the same time.
If only fate had been kind, she thought, I'd have landed on him, not twelve inches away.
She had her moment.
Even before he reached out, cupped her face in his hands, and kissed her.
Remus hadn't wanted to leave her, but when he'd stumbled over the cradle after the third glass of champagne – thankfully, Teddy was in her arms, nursing at the time, an act he seemed to find much easier than her – she'd told him to go. The need for Remus to shout his joy from the rooftops was glaringly obvious and she wanted him to do it for both of them. Besides, she needed to sleep, and Teddy, with hair that is now a bright, golden brown, already was, and she wants to do so with the image of her husband and her baby exactly like this in her head.
"You want to tell Harry and everyone, don't you?"
He nods. Grins. Kisses her and Teddy. Appears to narrowly restrain from doing it again. "Can I?"
"Yes." She smiles. "Come back soon, though."
"Try and keep me away."
She drifts off, and is next aware of Remus' body touching hers, warm and reassuring as normal. The final potion has done its work, and all the pain has gone, leaving a sense of both incredible well-being and incredible weariness all at one and the same time. She leans back against him, as she always does; feels the familiar arm come round her, as he always does. Knows they're both listening to their son sleeping contentedly in the cradle at their feet.
We have a baby, she thinks, and wonders if she'll ever get used to the idea.
There's a sound which is distinctly like a small hiccup in her ear.
"Are you all right?"
"Mmm." A breathy chuckle. "I am Remus John Lupin."
How many has he had, along with numerous potion mouthfuls? "That's nice."
"Mmm. Married to the – the beautiful Nymphadora Tonks."
She drifts off again, silently giggling to herself.
I hope I haven't been guilty of an excess of fluff (I probably have of the most non-graphic birth scenes ever;)), but surely R/T deserve some? Hope you enjoyed the story and reviewers are promised a very happy Remus hiccupping gently in your ear... ;)