Fandom: Harry Potter
Title: It Opens
Summary: Panic on Remus's part forces the newly married couple to reconsider their marriage. Originally posted on rt_morelove, then beta read and posted on PhoenixSong.
1. Although this fic does follow Pottermore canon for the most part, I have maintained my own version of how Remus and Tonks met, which is that they were flatmates during GoF. It always seemed to me that they knew each other pretty well by the time we met them in OoTP.
2. This was a hard story for me to write. It tackles the only thing I strongly disliked about Deathly Hallows. But I enjoyed exploring Remus's rationale and Tonks's reaction to it, and I hope I've done them both justice.
3. As mentioned in the summary, this was initially written for rt_morelove, a Remus/Tonks community on LiveJournal. The song below was the prompt.
I thought I saw a man brought to life
He was warm, he came around like
He was dignified
He showed me what it was to cry
Well you couldn’t be that man I adored
You don’t seem to know, don’t seem to care
What your heart is for
No I don’t know him anymore
Harry’s words were echoing in Remus’s ears as he sat in the quiet pub. He tried to brush them aside, but he couldn’t. Nor could Remus forget that he’d used physical force against Harry.
Remus had conflicting views on the afterlife, but he knew that if James and Sirius were watching him right now, they were pretty disappointed. The thirteen-year-old boy who’d turned to Remus for help fighting Dementors would be as well; Professor Lupin wasn’t supposed to be like Professor Snape.
Remus wasn’t sure why he separated third-year Harry and the current Harry, especially when it hadn’t really been that long since he’d met Harry on the Hogwarts Express. Perhaps it was because so much had happened in that time. Harry was younger then. They’d all been younger then. Dora would have been completing her final year of Auror training.
Remus rubbed his face. Arguments with your former pupils were one thing; it was quite another to contemplate leaving your pregnant wife during wartime. Your child. What had he been thinking?
Remus’s parents could have abandoned him. Left him in the care of the Werewolf Registry and had another child who wouldn’t know they had a brother out there somewhere. It would have made their lives easier. Instead, they had taken care of him, loved him regardless of what he’d become. Why had Remus believed, even for a short time, that he should do the opposite to his own?
There was still time to make up for it, at least. He could return home, tell Dora that he’d made contact with Harry, and they would all carry on their night together. She didn’t know that he’d been planning to leave; she didn’t need to know, for that matter. As for her parents… they weren’t his problem, were they? Never mind that they were trying to arrange to go into hiding together, and thus would all live together. At least Lyall would also be there — Remus didn’t want his father to be left alone. Not this time.
Remus paid his tab and made his way back to Bristol, back to their flat. The flat was where it had all begun; the flat with the small room she’d let him live in for free — payment, she said, for telling her the truth about Sirius. They’d stayed there a year before the second war began, working on ways to find Wormtail and talking about their shared interest in all things Dark Arts. (On the “fighting them” end of things, of course.) In her he’d found companionship that he hadn’t known in years. Their romantic relationship had been secondary to that.
So why did he keep fleeing from it? Did he really think he was undeserving of happiness?
Perhaps it was better not to answer his own question.
Remus let himself into the flat and walked inside. As soon as he saw Dora, he knew he was, in fact, too late.
She was sitting at the kitchen table with her arms folded. She looked up at Remus and made the same clucking noise Andromeda did when she was upset.
“I found Harry,” Remus told her. “He, Ron and Hermione are okay.”
Dora’s expression softened. “I’m glad. I’ve been worried. I’ll let the Weasleys know.”
“Are you okay?” Remus asked, dreading the answer he feared was coming.
Dora shrugged. “I’ve been better. Want to see something funny?”
Without another word, she marched towards Remus’s old room, the one he used for an office of sorts now. There was no doubt about it — she knew.
“I was putting away some things,” Dora said, “when I spotted the trunk. And look—”
With a simple tap of her wand, she revealed clothes, a few potions, and a few books.
“At first I thought maybe it was for us to go away,” Dora said. “Together, that is. But then why would you try and hide it, albeit shabbily? No, I realized. You were going away.”
“I didn’t think you’d come in here.”
“It’s our flat, Remus. We’re married now; we share things. Things like rooms and trunks and feelings.”
Remus reached out to her, but Dora stepped back.
“How were you going to do it?” she asked. “Were you going to tell me? Or were you going to slip out in the night?”
“I don’t know,” Remus admitted. “I didn’t get that far. I panicked.”
“What did you panic about?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, it does.”
Remus sighed. “Very well. My first concern was the child having wolf characteristics…”
“We’ve already spoken with Deirdre, remember? She looked into it and told us, based on her research, that it was highly unlikely he or she will have anything more than a strong affinity for meat and maybe a temper! And if it is more than that, how would we be better off without you?”
“I do have more concrete concerns,” Remus said quietly.
“For one thing, I’ve made you an outcast.”
“That’s not true!” Dora exclaimed.
“A lot of people were missing from our wedding reception. It was almost entirely Order members who came, in fact.”
“I don’t want the ones who wouldn’t come in my life.”
“Even if we win the war and the Ministry is put back together, and you get your job back, you may never be able to move up in the Auror Department.”
“That doesn’t matter to me either. Even if it did, the Ministry won’t return to its old ways. The resistance is making sure of that.”
“I don’t think your parents are thrilled with you being married to a werewolf.”
“Mum and Dad love you! They just don’t like how soon we got married, or that we eloped. Besides, they’ve always been tolerant of Dark Creatures.”
“Just because you like observing wolves in the wild doesn’t mean you want one as a pet,” Remus retorted.
Dora’s eyes widened with shock, but before she could respond, the Muggle phone rang. After the second ring, Remus remembered that they’d invited Andromeda and Ted over for dinner. He could tell Dora had just remembered as well.
“Wotcher,” Dora said weakly when she picked up the phone.
They let in the Tonkses and tried their best to act normal, though neither one of them did a particularly good job of it. Dora quickly began fixing a salad, and Remus put some soup on the stove. He could feel Andromeda and Ted watching their silence from behind them. Were they concerned? Smug? Hopeful? It was stupid to think they’d be smug or hopeful — Remus knew Ted and Andromeda had always liked him. He’d reunited them with Sirius, for one thing.
But he also knew that his marriage to their daughter might have been a step too far. It made him think of his grandparents, who cared about him in their way — yet he’d never really be an equal in their eyes. Lyall had distanced himself from his parents in favour of his son, and Remus knew the choice he’d made. The choice Dora might eventually be forced to make.
Not that distancing himself from his father had made anything better…
Dora did not speak a word to Remus during dinner; as soon as her parents left (all but ushered out the door), she turned to him.
“Here’s the thing, Remus,” she began, “I understand that you’re fighting many personal demons. I know things about you no one else does. And yes, I know, you came back. For now.”
“That’s what you said when we agreed to get married. Were you just upset over Dumbledore? Was comfort sex not enough for you? Did you need a comfort wedding, too?”
“Thing of it is,” Dora continued, “this isn’t just about us anymore. I’m pregnant with our child. What happens if you decide to run away on his or her birthday? The day they leave for Hogwarts? Their wedding day?”
“Why on earth would I do that?”
“Why the effing hell would you leave us at all?”
Remus started to respond, but Dora held up her hand. “I’m done talking. I need to collect my thoughts. I suggest you sleep in your old room tonight. The sofa’s also comfortable. Or you can just leave and get it over with.”
Remus’s heart was pounding. “Sweetheart… I’m sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
Dora stormed past Remus and slammed the bedroom door so hard the floor shook.
“Thanks for seeing me even though your shift just ended,” Tonks told her friend.
It was two in the morning, and Tonks hadn’t slept a wink. She didn’t know who else to go to, as everyone was asleep. Tonks didn’t think her parents would have minded being woken up, but Andromeda would be very angry, and she tended to say and do regrettable things when she got angry. Not to mention the potential “I told you so.”
Her parents really hadn’t loved that they’d eloped — Tonks didn’t think Remus was giving them enough credit; they had nothing against him being a werewolf, but it had been rather sudden for their liking. Besides, no parent took kindly to “Mum, Dad, I got hitched and you weren’t invited!”
Not that she’d told them that way. But she realized in hindsight that that must have been how they felt.
At any rate, she knew that Deirdre often worked late shifts at St. Mungo’s, so Tonks had gone over there.
“Don’t mention it,” Deirdre told her. They were sitting in the same soundproof office with the stained-glass door where Deirdre had spoken to Remus and Tonks about the latter’s pregnancy.
In many ways, Deirdre wasn’t an ideal confidante, given that Deirdre was completely oblivious to the Order, completely oblivious to most of the things Tonks had seen and done the past few years. Had it not been for the tragedy several months prior, Tonks would not have even felt comfortable talking to her about her and Remus’s baby. But there were things Deirdre understood now. She could be trusted. Besides, maybe it was better that she wasn’t among their mutual friends. For all the anger Tonks felt, she didn’t want anyone else to be mad at Remus.
“Remus tried to leave me,” Tonks told her.
“Tried to leave you?”
Tonks nodded. “He left to… do some chores, and while he was gone, I found a packed trunk. He was going to come back and tell me we were done. Apparently, along the way, he had some come-to-Jesus moment with himself.”
Deirdre’s brow furrowed. “Did he say why?”
Tonks told Deirdre everything Remus had told her; by the time she was finished, she was sobbing.
“Oh, Tonks. Tonks, Tonks, Tonks.”
“Yeah.” Tonks wiped her face. “This isn’t the first time, either. Remember how I told you I had a friend who’d been hurt by Greyback?”
“I wager Remus was the friend?”
“As you gathered at the time, he was trying to do some things on his own to stop him.”
“Right, and I told you that with what he did to little Gareth Montgomery…”
Deirdre stopped. She had been one of the Healers who’d tried to save his life, and had been beyond distraught when she was unable to. Clearly, it was still a painful memory.
“You said he might hurt my ‘friend’ — Remus – too,” Tonks finished. “Remus, meanwhile, had decided I’d be better off without him. No matter what I said, he insisted it was for the best that we part ways. It wasn’t entirely his fault,” Tonks added fairly. “Even though I was going through a very bad time, I avoided dealing with my problems and began to crack. He noticed as people always do, and I think that scared him.”
“Leaving you wasn’t the best way to handle it.”
“In his mind, it was. Then Bill was attacked, Dumbledore was killed, and… I thought he realized then how much we need each other. Now I’m not so sure. It’s like we hit rock bottom and helped each other up, but when the world hit rock bottom, he was prepared to leave me in the rubble.”
Tonks hiccupped. “But then, he didn’t really leave, did he? Just thought about it.”
“He definitely came back.”
“You don’t have to be the neutral friend right now,” Tonks told her with a wry smile. “If we work out this mess, I won’t hate you for whatever you really want to say. I promise.”
Deirdre hesitated. “Trouble is, I don’t really know what to say. I don’t doubt he loves you, for whatever that’s worth. But I also think he has insecurities that run deep, and… honestly, they aren’t unfounded. When little Gareth Montgomery died, two Healers in the Ward said it was just as well, since he wouldn’t be a werewolf. One of them told his parents that to their faces. They weren’t Death Eaters, Tonks. They were people with neighbours and friends who’d call them nice people. If that’s how seemingly nice people really think, Remus mustn’t have known who to trust for much of his life.”
Tonks closed her eyes. She remembered Deirdre telling her what the other Healers had said before. It was easy, Tonks thought, for her to forget that a lot more people were like Umbridge than they’d normally let on. Most of them were not in a secure enough position to run around saying those sorts of things on a regular basis, but sometimes they felt it was the “right” time, a good moment to express their true feelings. Moody had once told her that hatred wore an invisibility cloak.
Remus, however, always had to be guarded, always had to be wary. If Tonks found out someone she’d liked possessed such biases, she could walk away from them. It was more complicated and even dangerous for her husband.
And now, for her too. Tonks knew, deep down, that her vocational dreams had been compromised by marrying a werewolf. That old friendships had been severed, though no one would admit that was the reason. No wonder he was worried he’d burdened her.
“It’s only the beginning of his reasons, really,” Tonks thought aloud. “He’s lost a lot of people, thanks to both wars. I can’t even imagine… no, I can imagine. I’ve lost people, too. It’s hard enough for me, when I’m not alone, let alone him, when he was alone for so long. He once admitted to me that I was the closest friend he’d had in over a decade.”
“That’s horrible,” Deirdre said. “I had no idea he’d lost so many people. Still, if I may… yes, he has his reasons for the way he’s acted. They don’t negate your own need for comfort and security, especially with a baby on the way, especially with the world the way it is right now. I think you need to trust that he won’t leave again. Otherwise…”
Deirdre didn’t need to finish. Tonks sat in silence, contemplating what her next step should be. Deirdre handed her tea, and Tonks muttered a barely audible, “Thank you.”
Remus could not remember discussing relationships with his father. There was a first time for everything, he supposed.
When he’d woken up that morning, Dora was nowhere to be seen, and she had not left a note. It was fair enough, after what he’d almost done.
Remus contemplated talking to someone in the Order, but he didn’t know how to tell their friends that he’d almost hurt Dora all over again. He was much too ashamed. Of course, Remus realized, shame was his worst flaw.
No, his father was best. With everything that was happening, Remus was trying to reconnect, and what better way to do that than to talk about almost leaving your wife?
Remus smiled bitterly to himself as he knocked on his father’s door. He knew Lyall often came home from lunch now; the Ministry was too difficult to stomach.
The door opened after a moment, and Lyall stood in the doorway.
“Remus! Is something wrong?”
Before Remus could ask how he knew something was wrong, Lyall continued: “It’s not Christmas, you’re already married and Dora’s already pregnant, so that leaves something being wrong. Besides, you look like you feel tired and guilty. What happened?”
“Why don’t I come in?” Remus said, and Lyall obliged, leading him to the tiny family room.
“We really shouldn’t speak outside,” Remus explained.
“You’re right,” Lyall agreed. “So? What’s going on?”
Remus looked at his feet. “For a horrible few hours, I considered leaving her again.”
He hadn’t told Lyall about it the first time, but Lyall had found out when Dora told Lyall she didn’t know where he was several months prior. Remus had never discussed with his father why he’d left Dora, except to say that they’d had a few problems, talked things over, and they were now married. Still, he suspected that Lyall had worked out the details.
Lyall swore loudly. “Why, Remus? Why, when you’ve finally got the things you never thought you’d have, would you walk away from them?”
“I got scared.”
“Of course you got scared! Everyone’s scared right now!”
Remus started to explain all of his concerns, but Lyall stopped him. “No. I don’t want to hear how, as usual, you think people would be better off if you’d leave everyone you love behind. Do you love her?”
“Of course I love her. She means the world to me.”
“Do you think you would be better off alone than with her?”
“It’s not me I—”
“—Answer my question, young man, or it’s turnips for dinner.”
It took Remus a minute to realize his father was making a joke. He laughed, and felt tension easing from his stomach.
“No,” Remus told him. “I wouldn’t be better off without her. I wasn’t before, either, truthfully. I was miserable. So was she.”
“Why, then, would you be better off miserable?”
When Remus didn’t answer, Lyall continued, “No one’s better off alone in this world, son. Even without a war, it’s a dark and scary place. Life isn’t a complete painting to be admired in silence, it’s a jigsaw puzzle you’re meant to work on with the people who matter the most. You purchased one with Dora, now you have to work on it together.”
“And if, hypothetically, we don’t?” Remus hated this particular hypothetical, although given Dora’s anger, it was one he now had to consider.
“You’ll spend the rest of your lives wondering what happened to the missing pieces.”
Tonks stood on the rocks and stared at the horizon. She listened to the waves. She smelled the saltiness of the water. She closed her eyes as the breeze fluttered past her. But it didn’t help.
“I’ve got nothing,” Tonks muttered.
At least she’d managed to get some sleep on the beach. That had been earlier; it was now mid-afternoon, and the beach was crowded, locals and tourists alike taking advantage of the unusually warm weather.
Tonks knew one thing: Even though she was mad at him — furious with him, in fact — she still loved Remus. He was who she needed most right now, which seemed impossible considering that he was the source of her pain.
How did that work?
Tonks’s feet were bare, and she realized she had no idea where she’d left her sandals. With Muggles present, she didn’t want to summon them. Instead, she stepped onto the rocky sand, hobbled onto the softer surface, and looked for some time before finally giving up and returning home.
Remus was sitting at the kitchen table when Tonks returned, reading something on a box.
“Hi,” he said as she shut the door and wiped her feet. “Where’ve you been?’
“Here and there,” Tonks said. “You?”
“I visited with Dad. He sends his best regards.”
“I’m glad one of us had a nice day. If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to—”
“I found something for us to do. Come here.”
“Is this where we pretend nothing happened?”
“This is where we acknowledge everything happened.”
Tonks sat in the chair reluctantly, and Remus pushed the box in between them.
“It opens,” he told her.
Tonks took off the lid; inside the box were assorted puzzle pieces.
“We’re going to put the puzzle together,” Remus said.
Tonks snorted. “And that’s supposed to solve our problems? This is a solution for Hogwarts first-years who got into a fistfight, not—”
“Enough talking. Let’s get started.”
“Fine.” Tonks rolled her eyes, and helped Remus scatter the pieces.
They didn’t speak another word until the puzzle was complete; by then, it was well after dinner time. Tonks hadn’t even realized her stomach was growling.
Tonks sat back; the pieces had been transformed into an image of a tiny country cottage, with flowers in front of it and a small pond to the side.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“Maybe once the war’s over,” Remus told her, “we can live somewhere like that. I know there’s cottages in Hogsmeade, if I work at Hogwarts again.”
“Would you really consider doing that?” Remus had never expressed any desire to work at Hogwarts again, although it was clear that he’d loved his job.
“Absolutely. My post at Hogwarts was a service to Dumbledore first and foremost, as we thought Sirius was a threat, but I loved every second of it and would love to do it again. I spoke to Minerva this afternoon, and she said when she gets Hogwarts back, she’d willing to take me back, too.”
Tonks was staring at her husband. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d sounded so ambitious about the future.
“I realize my actions have indicated the contrary, but I really do want a life that isn’t all full moons and doubt. I want that life to be with you.”
“If you want that,” Tonks said, “then that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day. But then that’s it. No more running on the bad days. We talk to each other about these things from now on. Got it?”
“I almost lost you, Dora, don’t think I don’t know that. So yes, I’ve got it. If we’re going to raise this child and stop this war and live in that house, we need to do it together.”
Tonks stood at the same time as Remus, and they embraced. Tonks began to cry, except this time, they were tears of relief.
“One thing, though,” she sniffled.
“Maybe not that cottage. I’m pretty sure an eighty-year-old woman lives there with her fifty cats.”
“I agree. We’ll work on it.”
Tonks smiled. Of that, she no longer had any doubt.