The potions had affected him oddly this month. Madam Pomfrey must have adjusted the dosage again without telling him. Remus had taken them at the usual time and in the proper order, he was certain, but he had hardly bled at all, and the pain had been much less than usual. At first, he was delighted. Perhaps, after almost seven years, the matron had finally found the right balance. Or maybe now that he was eighteen, Remus's hormones were beginning to settle out.
But as the days following his monthly visit to the Hogwarts hospital wing passed, the squashy, bloated feeling and the waves of mild nausea did not dissipate as they usually did. Remus's relationship with his body was complicated at the best of times, but he knew it well, and he knew when something was off.
Sirius knew it, too. He sensed Remus's preoccupation, and had begun asking him every few hours whether everything was all right. When he asked, Remus would smile and kiss his boyfriend and assure him that he was fine. Which was true. He was just having an odd reaction to the potions treatment that kept his hormones in check.
Remus was a man now, no matter what the Death Eater's curse had done to alter his body as a young child, and he was a Gryffindor. He needed to stop worrying himself and Sirius, stop suffering in silence, and face up to Madam Pomfrey. The matron would adjust the dosage once more, and in a week, he would have his treatment again, and suffer through the usual unpleasantness of menstruation.
Just a few more months, he reminded himself. Once he finished school, his parents had promised him an appointment with a Muggle doctor to discuss non-magical options for transition.
"I'm just popping down to the library, love," he told Sirius, planting a quick kiss on his boyfriend's forehead.
"Want me to come with you?" Sirius asked, looking up from his book. He was only half-dressed, and his hair looked as if a hippogriff had been nesting in it.
Remus smiled. "No, I just need to get a book. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Making a mental note to stop by the library for literary cover on his way back, Remus set off for the hospital wing. The school was quiet. Most of the students, including Remus and Sirius's roommates, were away for the Easter holiday. The two of them had stayed for the pleasure of an uninterrupted stretch of quality time together, spent mostly in bed. It was inconvenient that his body had chosen this month to act up, derailing Remus's libido.
Remus found the matron in her office, going over some paperwork, but she set it aside with a smile when Remus put his head in through the door. Her normally brisk manner was often tinged with maternal fondness when it came to her favourite patient.
Madam Pomfrey's expression changed to a frown of concern, however, as Remus described his symptoms. She checked his vital signs, frown deepening all the while, and ran a couple of tests, including one which required him to urinate into a beaker. After performing a magical examination of the inner workings of Remus's abdomen, she gestured for him to take the seat across the desk from her.
"Has someone been interfering with you, Mr Lupin?" she asked gently but matter-of-factly. "Making you do things you don't want to do? You can tell me if anyone has. It wouldn't be your fault."
Remus frowned in confusion. "Interfering? You mean, like the Imperius curse? I don't think so, Ma'am." He could not think of any spells or curses which might account for his symptoms.
"I am not talking about magic, Mr Lupin." The matron's mouth had a grim set to it. "I am referring to physical acts."
Bewildered, Remus shook his head. "No, Ma'am. No one is giving me any trouble."
"Mr Lupin," said Madam Pomfrey, voice firm and even, "are you sexually active?"
Remus's eyes widened as heat rushed up his throat to stain his cheeks. Wordless, he nodded.
"With a boy?"
"Yes," Remus whispered, lowering his eyes.
The matron sighed. When she spoke, her voice was gentle once more. "There is no easy way for me to tell you this, Mr Lupin. You are pregnant."
Remus's eyes snapped up, and he stared at Madam Pomfrey in disbelief. "What?"
"I believe I gave you the recipe for a contraceptive potion. Have you been using it?"
"I -- but we only tried it that way a few times! And we always stopped before --" The blood was flowing quickly away from Remus's head, leaving him dizzy and disoriented, feeling as though he might faint.
Madam Pomfrey closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, as if she felt a headache coming on. "Every year. It never fails," she muttered, half to herself. "If the board of governors would only give me leave to give lessons in proper sex education --" She broke off, shaking her head. "That is not an effective means of preventing pregnancy, Mr Lupin."
"Oh." Remus's voice was very small and very high. He felt funny all over.
"Penetration without additional protection is always risky," the matron continued. "You were playing with fire, and you got burned. The only question now is what you want to do about it."
"I-I don't know."
Madam Pomfrey's words were only just beginning to sink in. Pregnant? Him? It seemed impossible. Absurd. He had never even considered the possibility. It was beginning to dawn on him, too late, that perhaps he had been foolish not to. If he and Sirius had only -- Oh, Merlin! Sirius! Remus felt sick. He would have to tell his boyfriend what had happened. And his parents --
He tried to focus on the matron's matter-of-fact voice, an anchor against the storm rising inside him.
"You have a few options," she said. "You can, of course, choose to continue with the pregnancy. It's early days yet, so you should not begin to show until after you have completed your NEWTs. There are resources available to help you along the way, both before and after the birth. I can provide you with the relevant information. You have some time to decide whether you wish to keep the child or not. There are always Wizarding families looking to adopt."
Child? Remus stared down at his midsection, feeling overwhelmed.
"However," Madam Pomfrey continued, voice taking on a warning note, "if you do decide to carry to term, you will have to cease your potions treatments. I'm not entirely sure what regular exposure to such strong potions would do to the fetus, but I cannot imagine that they would be good for it. Without the potions, there might be irreversible changes to your own body. Pregnancy, of course, also causes physical alterations."
"And -- if I don't want to?" asked Remus, a little faintly.
The matron gave him a small, reassuring smile. "That choice is up to you. There is a simple procedure I can do right here in my office, since we caught it early. You would be back to your old self in no time, though perhaps a little wiser, hmm?"
Remus nodded stiffly. "Would it -- When?"
"You can take a few days to make up your mind, if you wish," she said kindly, "but if you do decide you want to terminate, don't leave it too long. These things are best dealt with quickly."
Feeling numb, Remus thanked the matron and left the hospital wing. He stumbled through the deserted castle, barely noticing where he was going. By the time he reached the entrance hall, he was almost running. He burst through the castle doors, pounding down the steps and out into the damp grey spring day, fleeing across the school grounds as if he could outrun the truth. He did not stop until he reached the wooden pier, jutting out into the lake. He stood at the end of it for a moment, staring out over the dark water and swaying, trying to force down the panic that choked him.
Pregnant? How? Well, he supposed that was obvious, in hindsight. But they had only been experimenting. Trying out different ways for their bodies to feel good together. And now -- He clasped his hands over his belly as dizziness threatened to overwhelm him again. In another moment, he might vomit, or topple over into the lake.
Sit down, Lupin, he told himself fiercely, gritting his teeth.
He sat, legs dangling over the edge of the pier, jaw clamped shut, eyes closed, forcing down the nausea.
When he opened his eyes again, there was the lake, looking the same as ever. Remus did not understand how it could carry on looking like that, when everything was so suddenly, hideously wrong. It felt unreal.
But it was real. He could feel the changes -- had been feeling them for weeks. His body had betrayed him again, in a more horrifying way than ever before. There was something growing inside him. Something alive that expanded and moved and would -- oh, Merlin! -- eventually come out.
Footsteps sounded on the boards behind him, but Remus did not need to look. He could guess who it was.
"Hey," said Sirius, sitting down beside him. "Did the library not have the book you wanted?"
"What?" said Remus, distracted.
Sirius peered at him from under the tumble of his fine black hair. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, fine," Remus said automatically. "Why?"
Sirius gave him an odd look. "You were gone for more than an hour. I was worried."
"I just needed some air," he lied, flashing Sirius a falsely-bright smile, still not quite meeting his eyes. "The castle's all stale from the winter."
"You think I don't know that's utter bollocks?" scowled Sirius. "You look like you've just seen the Bloody Baron in his knickers. Are you going to tell me what's wrong or not?"
Remus took a deep breath, trying to fix a reassuring look on his face. "No, really. I'm fine."
There was a moment's silence, then Sirius said quietly, "If you're planning to split up with me, just tell me."
"What?" Remus gaped at him.
"You've been acting weird for weeks. You haven't really wanted to -- do things. Now you're avoiding me. Tell me to fuck off, if you like, but don't lie to me, Remus. Please. If there's someone else --" Sirius broke off, shaking his head. "Just tell me, all right?"
For one perilous moment, Remus considered it. If he created enough distraction and drama, Sirius might never have to know the truth. Maybe they could even get back together again when it was all over.
But Sirius had always been honest with him. It would not be right for Remus to lie to him, only because he did not want his boyfriend to worry. Perhaps the better plan would be to make as little fuss as possible over the matter.
"It's not a big deal," he told Sirius, hoping he sounded more convinced than he felt. "I just went to see the matron this morning."
Sirius frowned. "Your next potions treatment isn't for another week. Are you ill or something?"
Remus shrugged. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Remus gave a hollow, humourless chuckle.
"Is something funny?" his boyfriend asked irritably.
"A bit," said Remus. "Pomfrey thinks I'm pregnant."
Sirius stilled. "That's not funny."
"No, I suppose it's not."
Remus looked down at his feet, dangling over the lake. "Yeah."
Sirius stared at him. "Is it mine?"
Heat flushed Remus's cheeks. "Of course it's bloody yours. Who else's would it be?"
"But -- we were careful!"
Remus hunched his shoulders, hugging himself. "Not careful enough, apparently."
"I don't believe this," Sirius burst out, running his hands through his hair in a very James-like gesture. "I'm gay! I'm meant to be exempt from accidentally getting people up the duff."
Remus squeezed his eyes shut. "Sirius, please --" He stopped. He had no energy left for reassurances he did not feel, nor for Sirius's usual brand of melodrama. A single tear rolled down his nose to drip into the dark water at his feet.
Beside him, Sirius drew a deep breath, then said in a much quieter voice, "Sorry. I'm not helping, am I?"
Remus shook his head.
"What are we going to do?" Sirius asked.
"It's not your problem," Remus told him. "You don't have to do anything."
"Bollocks I don't," said Sirius tartly. "You think I'm some cad who's going to abandon you just because you're up the spout?"
"No. I just meant I'd understand if you don't want to deal with this, and I wouldn't blame you. I don't want to deal with this."
Cold fingers touched Remus's hand where it gripped the edge of the pier. "C'mon. Let's go inside. It's freezing out here, and you don't have your cloak."
"I'm all right," Remus said dully. "You can go in if you want."
"You think I'd leave you out here on your own?"
Sirius spread his own cloak, wrapping it and an arm securely around Remus, and resting his cheek against Remus's shoulder. For a time, they sat in silence, staring out over the lake.
"How do you feel?" Sirius asked at last.
Remus shook his head. "Weird. Numb. It's hard to think much about it. It doesn't really seem real. You know?"
It was only when darkness began to fall, and with it, a steady rain, that they were forced to return to the castle. The sounds of supper in progress came from the Great Hall, more subdued than usual with most of the students away for the holiday, but Remus did not feel hungry, so the two of them headed for Gryffindor tower. Sirius brewed a calming tea and raided James's and Peter's snack stashes for biscuits, while Remus sat cross-legged on the bed, staring down at his hands and feeling utterly wretched.
Tea made, Sirius climbed up onto the bed facing him and wrapped Remus's hands around the gently-steaming mug. He leaned in close, pressing his forehead to Remus's.
"Talk to me," he urged. "What do you want to do?"
Remus shook his head. "I don't know."
"What did Pomfrey say?"
"She -- she said it was early days," Remus said quietly, hesitantly. "I can keep it, or give it up for adoption, or --" he took a deep breath, "-- there's a thing she can do. She says it's quick. It would be like it never happened."
"Do you want to keep it?"
Remus wished he could see his boyfriend's face, to gauge his feelings on the matter, but he was a little afraid of what he might see if he looked. "Do you think I should?"
Sirius brought one of Remus's hands to his mouth and brushed his lips across the knuckles. "I think you should do whatever is best for you. Your body, your decision. But if you want to keep it, I'm here for that. I am serious about you, you know. We could make a go of it. Get a flat together. I'd probably be rubbish at babies, but I'd do my best."
Remus bit his lip. It was all too easy to imagine the scenario that Sirius described. A cozy flat. A bed and a life they shared. Sirius, there with him, always. And a child -- a child who was part of both of them -- who maybe looked like Sirius, but with brown eyes. Remus's throat tightened. There was a part of him that wanted that life.
Getting there was another story. Between Remus and that life were NEWTs, being and adult on his own in the world for the first time -- and several months of slow physical and psychological torment, as he lost all control over his body, hiding himself away from a world that did not understand, changing shape until he became something he did not recognise, and might never be able to come back from. And that was without considering the raw horror and panic that the idea of actually giving birth instilled in him.
He realised there were tears on his cheeks, and wiped them away, but they would not stop coming. "I can't," he whispered. "I love you, Sirius. So much. But we're not ready for this. I don't know if I'll ever be ready for this."
Sirius wrapped his arms around Remus, pulling him into a tight hug. "I know. That's OK. I love you, too."
He held Remus, murmuring soft words to him, as the events of the day caught up with him, spilling over and pouring like rain down his face.
When the sobs finally eased, Remus felt drained. He was weary to his bones and wanted nothing more than to curl up in his bed, even though he did not think he could sleep. Even changing into his pyjamas and pulling back the covers was a chore.
Sirius returned from cleaning his teeth and hesitated beside the bed. "D'you want me to stay, or --?"
Remus nodded, and Sirius immediately climbed under the covers, snuggling close and lacing his fingers through Remus's.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"It's not your fault."
"It is," Sirius insisted, squeezing his hand. "I did this to you. I wasn't thinking. I wasn't taking care of you. You should've been safe in your own bed."
Remus shook his head. "It's my fault. It was stupid of me to think that acting like a bloke was enough to make me one. Merlin, I hate my body!"
"I don't," said Sirius. "Your body is amazing, Remus. Just look at this incredible thing it can do that mine can't. I mean, I know the timing isn't the greatest, but still ..."
Remus scowled at him. "This isn't funny, Sirius. It's fucking horrifying. How would you like to have something growing inside you?"
Sirius winced. "No, thanks. Sorry. I didn't mean to joke about it. I know this is awful for you. But I do mean it. I love your body. It's part of you. I don't love you in spite of it. And you are a bloke. I'm not into girls, remember?"
Sirius kissed him softly on the mouth, and Remus returned the kiss, relaxing slightly. Kissing Sirius could be wonderfully calming sometimes. It was a comfort to be close to him now, kissing and holding one another, knowing that Sirius expected nothing more of him than Remus was content to give. With Sirius, Remus could just be, and that was enough.
After a while, Remus's fingers went to the buttons of Sirius's pyjamas. Sirius let Remus undress him, finding more places to kiss and touch. It was not passion that moved him, but the desire to be as close to Sirius as possible. It was only when Remus straddled his hips that Sirius put out a hand to stop him.
"Are you sure?" he asked, voice filled with concern.
Remus lowered his eyes. "It's not like it matters now."
The hand covering his gave a tender squeeze. "Everything we do together matters to me. I love you, Remus."
"I know." Remus bit his lip. "I feel close to you when we do this. I like it. And -- I'm probably never going to feel OK about doing it like this again after tonight."
Sirius pushed himself up on an elbow and wrapped an arm around Remus's shoulders, pulling him down for another kiss. "I'm here for whatever you need, love."
They made love slowly and gently, and did not worry about pulling out, since it was too late for that. After, they lay curled up together, holding hands, Sirius spooning Remus against his chest. They were quiet for a long time, though neither of them slept. Every now and then, Sirius would press a soft kiss to the back of Remus's neck or shoulder, to remind him that he was there, and Remus would run a thumb over Sirius's knuckles.
"Do you ever think about it?" Remus whispered.
Sirius's lips rubbed against the nape of his neck. "About what?"
"Being a dad."
Sirius was quiet for a moment. "No, not really. I guess I figured that part of life was still a long way off. Why? Do you think about it?"
"Sometimes," Remus admitted.
"Do you think you might want to, someday?"
Remus sighed. "Maybe. Yes. But if I carry on with the potions treatments, or do whatever the Muggle version is, this might not happen again." He pressed Sirius's hand against his belly. "This might be our only chance."
The hand in Remus's twisted to grasp his fingers, squeezing firmly. "It's not. If you ever do want to, we could always try again. And if that didn't work, we could adopt. We could even adopt a Muggle. Imagine how cool it would be for a Muggle kid to grow up with two wizard dads."
Remus gave a small huff of laughter. "My life will never be dull, as long as you're in it."
"Then you'd better get used to it," said Sirius, kissing the curve of his shoulder, "because you're stuck with me. Try to get some sleep. We'll go see Pomfrey in the morning."
They showered together, mostly because they could not bear to be apart, holding one another under the stream of hot water. Sirius asked about breakfast, but Remus, exhausted from a sleepless night, stomach churning with nerves, shook his head. They walked down to the hospital wing holding hands, beyond caring whether anyone might see. No one did.
Madam Pomfrey was stocking the supply cupboard when they arrived. Her eyebrows rose when she saw Sirius. He shot her a defiant look, and wrapped a protective arm around Remus, who looked down at the floor.
The matron's eyes softened. "Mr Black. Of course. I should have realised. Please, come into my office."
There was only one other chair besides the one behind the matron's desk, so the two boys sat on the narrow bed in the corner, hands tightly clasped together, while Madam Pomfrey pulled up the chair and sat, facing them.
"There is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of," she said kindly. "You are not the first young people to come to me in this predicament. You're not even the first this year. Although not everyone has someone to stand by them in their hour of need." She cast an approving glance at Sirius, who gripped Remus's hand all the harder. "Have you made a decision, Mr Lupin?"
Remus nodded jerkily. "I want to -- stop it," he whispered, not meeting her eyes.
"All right," the matron told him. "That's fine. I got together the ingredients for the potion yesterday, just in case. It will only take me a few moments to mix it. You boys can wait here."
She stood and disappeared through the door into her work room.
"How are you feeling?" asked Sirius, resting his chin on Remus's hunched shoulder.
Remus sighed. "I'm so tired. I just want it to be over."
Sirius transferred his grip on Remus's fingers to his other hand, and wrapped an arm around him. "It will be soon," he promised.
Madam Pomfrey returned, carrying a beaker of cloudy, pale green potion. She did not give it to Remus straight away, but sat down once more, facing them.
"I want to make sure you understand what to expect before we get started," the matron told Remus in her usual crisp, professional tone. "This potion is an abortifacient. It is safe and effective. It has properties similar to your monthly potions, but stronger, and will have similar side effects. There will be nausea, cramping, and bleeding -- probably more than you are accustomed to, so do not be alarmed. The effects should fade after a few hours, by which time the potion will have done its work, flushing the embryo from your system. The bleeding will continue for a few days, and you may experience strong emotions for the next week or so as your hormone levels fluctuate." She gave him a heartening smile. "Don't feel too badly if you find you need to cry sometimes. That's perfectly normal. There will be no longterm impact on your health. You'll be back to normal by the time lessons resume."
"Thank you, Ma'am." Remus took the beaker from her hand, hesitating as he looked into the murky green depths. "Will I -- see anything?"
"Very unlikely," she assured him. "It's still smaller than the nail of your little finger, and doesn't look like much more than a lump."
"You must drink the potion all at once," the matron warned, "and keep it down for at least thirty minutes, or you'll have to take another dose."
Sirius's hand rested on the small of his back, and Remus tried to focus on that as he tilted his head back and swallowed the potion down, rather than on the bitter, nasty, and slightly gritty taste, or on his own lingering doubts. The churning in his guts almost undid him, and he clapped a hand over his mouth, squeezing his eyes shut and swallowing heavily, to avoid bringing the potion back up immediately.
Once the initial turbulence passed, Remus visited the hospital wing toilets for one of the absorbent menstrual pads Madam Pomfrey kept there. Sirius accompanied him, a quiet, pale shadow, in case he became suddenly ill or faint, but Remus made it back to the matron's office without mishap.
"I'll let you boys have some privacy," said Madam Pomfrey, once she had checked Remus's vital signs and found them to be acceptable. "I won't go far, so you'll be able to find me if you need me, and I'll look in on you every now and then to see how you're getting along."
Less than ten minutes after taking the potion, Remus felt it beginning to work. His lower belly knotted up, as if in the grip of an enormous fist that squeezed and squeezed, grinding his insides together. He closed his eyes, bowing his head and bending forwards with a small grunt of discomfort. Sirius sat beside him on the narrow bed, gently rubbing his back, chin resting on Remus's shoulder, murmuring over and over that he was there and that he loved him. Remus tried to concentrate on the soft litany of his boyfriend's reassurances, but as the cramping grew worse, it became more and more difficult.
Sirius held the basin for him when he finally succumbed to nausea, but Remus did not bring much up. He had not eaten anything in nearly a day. Sirius vanished the mess and brought him water to rinse his mouth.
"Oh, Merlin," Remus moaned, close to tears. "Do I have to take it again?"
"No," Sirius assured him. "It's OK. It's been almost forty-five minutes. How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Remus shook his head, too focused on the throbbing ache in his guts to think about much else. He wrapped his arms around himself, bending double with a low moan.
"You're shivering," said Sirius. "Are you cold? Here, let's get under the covers."
Remus supposed that maybe he was cold. A clammy sweat had broken out on his skin, and he was prickled with gooseflesh. He lay down on his side when Sirius urged him to, not much caring what position he was in, since he would be just as uncomfortable one way as the other. A moment later, Sirius was there, between him and the chilly infirmary wall, knees tucked behind Remus's, chest pressed to his back, pulling a thick woolen blanket over both of them. He leaned up on an elbow, pressing a soft kiss to Remus's sweat-damp temple and stroking his honey-brown hair.
"You're brilliant," he murmured, low and soothing. "And so, so brave. I think maybe you're the bravest Gryffindor I've ever met. This is a hard thing you're doing, but you didn't even flinch. I'm glad you let me be here. You shouldn't have to do this alone. I thought I had the best boyfriend in the world before, but now I know it. I'm so proud of you. I love you, Remus. So much. You're going to be fine. I'm here. I'm here ...."
When the office door clicked open, Remus opened his eyes partway to see Madam Pomfrey standing in the doorway, watching them with an unusually tender expression on her face.
"Is everything all right in here?" she asked.
Remus gave a slight nod and closed his eyes again.
"We're fine," Sirius told the matron.
"It looks as though you will be," she said, and Remus thought he heard a note of satisfaction in her voice.
It felt like an eternity before the cramps eased their grip on him. Remus gave a sigh of vast relief as his body finally relaxed. He began to take notice of the rest of the world again. Everything had the peaceful, slightly dreamlike quality that came from being overtired.
"Hey," said Sirius, squeezing his hand. "Feeling better?"
"Much," sighed Remus.
He stretched, turning over in the narrow bunk to face his boyfriend, wincing at the squashy feeling between his legs, and gave Sirius a soft kiss.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Sirius shook his head. "I didn't do much."
"You were here," said Remus, taking Sirius's hand between his own. "It helped."
Sirius's ears turned pink. "So, how are you feeling?"
"Exhausted," Remus admitted. "Relieved."
"It was the right choice, then?"
Remus nodded. "Definitely. I couldn't've done the other thing. Not now."
"Good," said Sirius, wrapping an arm around Remus and snuggling close against his shoulder. "You'll let me know if you ever decide you want to?"
Remus returned the embrace, enjoying the feel of Sirius, warm in his arms. "I will."
"I'm glad everything turned out all right," said Sirius sleepily.
"Me, too," said Remus. "You were wrong about one thing, though."
"What was that?"
"You don't have the best boyfriend in the world," Remus told him. "You can't, because I do."
Sirius snorted. "I love you."
"I love you, too," said Remus, kissing the top of his head.
He felt as if he might sleep for a year. He would wake up when he got hungry.