“What are you doing?” I ask Remus, stopping outside our bedroom, watching him knot his necktie.
“Getting dressed,” he says cheekily, frowning at the knot.
I press my lips together to keep from smiling. He’s nervous.
“Remus, it’s tea Mum and Dad, not dinner with someone cool like the Weird Sisters,” I tease, stepping between him and the mirror.
“I take this seriously, Dora,” he says as I unknot the tie and begin to retie it. “And I want your father to know that. I love my family, and would do anything to make you all happy.”
I fuss with the knot, straightening it and smoothing his collar down. “Are you defending our honour then? Being chivalrous?”
“I’m furious, Dora. Your father insulted you, me, our marriage- everything we’ve fought so hard for. I admit I made mistakes. I admit that, but my foolishness stemmed from my desire to protect you and Ella above everything. I’m going to try and forgive him, and ask his forgiveness in return, but I won’t pretend I’m not angry.”
“Mmm…” I purr, smoothing my hands over his chest. “You know I like it when you get all worked up,” I tease, giggling as he blushes. “OK, now how’s it look?” I ask, turning him to face the mirror.
“Wherever did you learn to tie ties so well?” he asks, lifting his chin and turning his head in either direction to see the Windsor knot.
I arch my eye brows and purse my lips playfully. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” I laugh and nudge his shoulder after his eyes widen in surprise. “It’s all those boys I used to date at Hogwarts- you know, hurriedly tying neckties in dark broom cupboards before sneaking back to the common room.”
“Ugh, enough, enough. My mind is swimming with all sorts of thoughts now, thank you very much,” he replies, shaking his head.
“T’chah, like you didn’t duck into broom cupboards. Don’t forget, I heard all the stories from Sirius. You might fool someone else, but I know I married a Marauder.”
He blushed and smoothed his fringe away from his forehead, before glancing in the mirror one last time.
“Everything will be OK,” I sigh, hoping I’m right, though a feeling of insecurity surfaces. “Mum is on our side, and I have you, Ellie, and Violet- what more do I need?”
He forces a smile and cups my face. “But Dora, I never wanted you to be put in that position to choose. This is one of my biggest fears. I hate that my life as a werewolf affects you and our daughters. You deserve better than this.
“Hush,” I say, standing on tiptoe to silence him with a kiss. “I don’t like the way that sounds. It sounds an awfully bloody self-righteous to me. Besides, I’ve a pretty good idea of how my life has been affected a werewolf,” I finish, grasping his hand and pressing it to my abdomen.
He smiles- the gorgeous, genuine kind. “That’s a part of my life I never thought I’d let affect anyone. I was quite the idiot, wasn’t I? Wait, don’t answer that. I know the joy I might have missed out on. You and the girls are my world. Darling, I will never leave you again, I promise.”
On cue the doorbell rings, Darcy cries from Harriet’s room and Ella thunders down the stairs.
My parents have arrived.
“Ready?” I ask, holding out my hand for his.
“As I’ll ever be,” he replied, smiling and securing my hand.
I could hear Ella chattering away even over Darcy’s cry and Harriet’s apprehensive cooing as we descend the stairs to the living room.
I give my husband’s hand a squeeze as Mum and Dad look up at us.
“Remus, it’s good to see you. Nymphadora, you look lovely dear. Pregnancy suits you.”
“Hello, Andromeda, thank you. It’s nice to see you too. You’re right, Dora does look radiant, doesn’t she?”
She steps forward and hugs us both in one embrace, easing us toward Dad in the process. “Ted, doesn’t Nymphadora look beautiful?”
Dad made a non-committal grunt and turned to Remus. They stood staring at one another for a moment before Dad finally spoke.
They moved past one another and sat on opposite sides of the living room. Mum and I exchanged a glance. Ella seemed blissfully unaware to the tension as she clutches the leg of my jeans.
“Nymphadora, did I hear a baby crying?” Mum asks, settling down in the chair next to dad.
I open my mouth to speak, but Ella beats me to it. “Ooh! Grammy, it’s Harriet’s magical baby. She gave it away, but it came back.”
I press my lips together to avoid from smiling. “Harriet decided she wanted to keep her daughter after all and she’s going to stay with us for a while, until she has a job and feels more comfortable with her parenting skills.”
“That’s wonderful. She’ll do fine with you two as guides, won’t she, Ted?”
My mind flashes to the day Dad told Remus he wouldn’t be surprised if Harriet’s baby was his. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so betrayed or angry.
“Ellie, why don’t you go upstairs and help Harriet with Darcy. I’ll call you down when we have tea, all right?”
A smile graces her little face. She’s taken to Darcy better than I hoped she would. “OK, but don’t let Grandma and Granddad leave.”
I tweak her nose. “No, I won’t. Go, and be nice and very gentle with Darcy, remember?”
She’s gone up the stairs in a flash, and I’m not sure if she heard a word I said, but I smile and join Remus on the couch.
Mum sits on the edge of the chair with her hands in her lap. “How’re you feeling, dear?”
I look down at my tummy and smile. “Good, I feel really good. Not tired or anything. As long as she’s happy and healthy- that’s all I care about,” I say, drawing my feet p on the couch and curling against Remus’ body.
“Is she healthy?” Dad cuts in, not meeting anyone’s eyes.
I instantly bristle, knowing exactly what my father is referring to: lycanthropy.
Mum groans, and Remus stiffens as I sit up and look pointedly at my father.
“This is the kind of shite I’m not going to take anymore. He is my husband. I love him, and he loves me. If you have a problem, let’s deal with it, because if you’re going to be a bigot, then I don’t want you around our daughters.”
“Nymphadora, I observed your husband kissing another woman on the streets on London. He doesn’t deserve your protection.”
“No, Ted, you didn’t; you saw what you wanted to. Be honest. I never kissed that woman,” Remus says forcefully, staring my father down.
“I saw you!” Dad says indignantly while Mum urges him to hush. “You weren’t going to tell Nymphadora either- you were going to lie to her.”
“What did you see?” Remus replies quickly. “What did I do? How did I react? Did I enjoy it? Ask yourself those questions.”
He’d shocked Dad into silence.
“Well- well, that doesn’t excuse your lies,” he says, grasping at straws, knowing Remus had no voluntary contact with Hilary that day. Dad is fraught. “You left Nymphadora when she needed you the most.”
Remus’ eyes fall; he stares down at the floor. “That I did, and I shall apologise for my behaviour for many years to come, but I will never, ever leave Dora again.”
I reach over and grab Remus’ hand, squeezing it tight. I know he’s telling the truth.
“And what if the Wolfsbane stops working again?” Dad quickly fires back.
I shake my head. “Dad, that isn’t going to happen. The whole reason it wasn’t working in the first place was only due to Hilary tampering with it. She’ll be going to Azkaban for a long time. You’ve never had a problem with Remus’ lycanthropy before, and I don’t really think you do now. I think you’re desperate to keep this up.”
The room fell into complete silence.
Not only did my father not know what to say, but he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He swallowed with visible difficulty and looked across the room at me with tears in his eyes.
“Nymphadora, you’re my only daughter, it’s my job to protect you. I want you to be happy; you deserve the best. Your spirit is just so bright- I don’t want to see it dim again. I’ve seen it twice now, and seen what it’s done to you. When Remus left you and joined the ferals, and left you again this winter, I was worried you’d never be the same. I realise he thought he was protecting you, but what if he leaves you again? What if it’s permanent?”
“That’s not going to happen, Ted,” Remus offers in a stern voice full of conviction as he stares directly at my father.
“How do I know that?” Dad counters. “How does she know? How will your daughters know that?”
“Because I promised them.”
He leaned forward, looking Remus right in the eyes and began pointing at him (never a good gesture), “You promised them before. You took vows; you bonded yourself to Nymphadora, but you left her and Ella. How can I trust you to keep your word?”
“Look, I know werewolves aren’t known for their honesty, or their desire to have families, but I’ve fought my whole life against stereotypes, fought for something better. I never believed in true love until I met Dora. I never wanted to leave her- in either case, but I didn’t realise the error of my ways until this last time- and it is the last time. Dora doesn’t need my protection. She’s far tougher than me, and I can’t always be there to protect her. Her job is dangerous, and I can pray like hell that every night she comes home, and when she does I’ll always listen to whatever horrid details she tells me, and be brave. She needs my love, and support, and I will never cease to give it.”
My eyes welled up at tears as I contemplated the declarations of the two men before me. I look back and forth between them and smile.
“Daddy, I know you love me, and I’ll always be your daughter, but I’m not a little girl anymore. You’ve always trusted me to make the right decisions, so please trust me now. I love Remus. I love him, Dad. He’s a good man, he loves me, and he’s given me the two most precious gifts in my life. I want you and Mum involved in the girls’ lives, they need you, but I’m not going to let you badmouth Remus again. He apologised to me, and I trust him- that should be good enough for you. Please end this. I don’t mean everything will be sunshine and roses tomorrow, but make an effort, Dad. Go out to the pub, play darts, and talk- or get tanked up, or whatever it is you boys do.”
Remus clasped his hands and looked down at the floor. “I know I’ve let you all down, but I love your daughter more than I ever thought it possible to love another person. I love our life together with our family, and I will never leave Dora again. You have my word on that. Dora owns my heart and she has since the first day I met her. The day I leave her is the day I die.”
The tears poured over my cheeks as I turned to Remus and open my arms to him. He scooted closer, embracing me, threading his fingers into my hair. “I love you,” I breathe against his neck.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, “I’m sorry for everything.”
“Don’t,” I say, pulling away, pressing a finger to his lips. “I believed you months ago- I don’t need to hear it again. You show me you love me every day.”
Mum’s soft voice enters into the conversation.
“Ted, you owe Remus and Nymphadora an apology. This is their life- we can’t live it for them. They love one another. And it will do you good to remember that my family disowned me over the very same argument. I don’t want that to be a tradition with our family.”
Dad sighs loudly. “You’re right Andi. Remus, I’m sorry, I should have let you explain yourself. Nymphadora, I apologize for not trusting you enough to make your own sensible decisions.”
“Thank you, Ted,” Remus says quietly, nodding with contentment.
I let go of my husband, rise from the couch, and cross the room. “Apology accepted, Dad,” I reply, offering him a hesitant smile and extending my arms.
He stands and hugs me carefully. “Thank you. You’ll always be my little girl though.”
“Aww, Dad,” I reply, blushing warmly.
“Oy, you lot! Time for tea!” Ella hollers from the top of the stairs. “I’m hungry for biscuits.”
She descends the stairs, her feet clunking on each step as Dad and I pull away from each other and I wipe my tears away.
“Ellie is hungry, can we have tea now?” she asks, stepping into the room, followed closely by Harriet, who smiles and blushes at my parents and takes a seat on the floor near the fireplace.
“Yes, we’ll have tea now, Ella,” Remus answers as she clambers up on the couch to sit next to him.
One could never call my family conventional, but we’re happy, and it’s been a long time since I cared what anyone else thought about me. We’re happy, and that’s all that matters.