A single werewolf father is not what Teddy needs. Remus agrees with Andromeda, but he doesn’t want to live there, with the memory of Tonks looming over him.
He gave in to Tonks partly because he felt lonely, and he feels lonely still. It need not be great romance, only someone he can trust and respect, someone who’ll take good care of Teddy.
A name comes to him, and at first he thinks he’s gone mad. He thinks more, though, and soon it makes perfect sense.
When he feels brave enough, he takes Teddy for a visit at St. Mungo’s.
When Severus awakes in St. Mungo’s, he curses his bad luck for surviving. When Lupin appears one day, carrying a baby, he’s sure he landed in Hell. But he can’t do anything, and so he suffers through their visits – Lupin talking awkwardly, the boy gurgling, babbling, and putting sticky little hands on his face.
Severus and Teddy learn talking and walking simultaneously, and there comes the day when it’s time to go home.
They’re not what he wanted, but they’re what he can get, and Severus is tired of being alone. When they kiss him, it doesn’t feel so wrong.
Severus never tells Remus that he loves him, and Remus appreciates it. It’s a relief after Tonks, after all the pretending.
His friends tell him that he deserves better, that Teddy deserves better. And what about Severus, he wants to ask them. Doesn’t he deserve better, too? They don’t understand, but they don’t have to. It’s his life, not theirs, and he’ll be damned if he ever lets them talk him into – or out of – something again.
They don’t argue often, their touches are gentle, and recently, Teddy started calling Severus “papa”.
Remus is content, and that’s more than enough.
Severus is a virgin. He never wanted anyone beside Lily, and now, with Remus, he feels wary and nervous. He knows everything, of course, but theory and practice are entirely different.
Remus is patient, though, and soon, Severus’s self-consciousness dwindles. There are kisses and caresses, warm touches on pale skin, and Severus is amazed at how different it feels when it’s someone else’s hand instead of his own.
He thought of this as a duty he couldn’t refuse, but when he comes, held tightly in Remus’s embrace, he knows it won’t be. Instead, he finds himself looking forward to more.
It’s the first anniversary of Lily’s dying day since they’re together, and in the evening, Severus doesn’t come home from work. Remus isn’t surprised, and when it’s time, he brings Teddy to bed alone.
When Severus comes, it’s after ten. He’s drenched from the rain, but he doesn’t seem to notice, just like he doesn’t seem to notice Remus. Slowly, he crosses the room and disappears into the bathroom. Remus sighs and puts his book away.
They still haven’t spoken when they lie in bed, but when Remus hears muffled sobs, he tentatively reaches out. Severus flinches and turns away.
In the wee hours, Remus wakes up to find himself alone in bed. There’s light in the living room, and when he enters, he sees Severus and Teddy, both deeply asleep on the couch. Severus is holding Teddy, the two-year-old’s little fists clinging at his nightshirt.
Remus watches for minutes, unable to move. Finally, he goes to them, pulling up the blanket that had slid down.
Severus blinks sleepily. “Teddy…nightmare…” he murmurs.
“He’s fine now, “Remus answers. “Go back to sleep.”
Severus is asleep again in a matter of moments, but Remus doesn’t return to bed for a long time.
Severus never considered himself a nurturing person. On the contrary, he always felt vaguely mistrustful towards them, as though they were an alien species too strange to be understood.
Yet there are the mornings after the nights of the full moon – nights which Teddy spends with his grandmother – and it would be a lie to say that taking care of Remus is merely a task to fulfil. He dislikes seeing Remus weak and in pain and will only be satisfied when he is lying in bed, when scratches are bandaged, potions administered. When Remus smiles, grateful, and finally falls asleep.
“Why me?” Severus asks one evening. They’ve never talked about it during three years together, but he can’t deny that he’s curious by now.
Remus looks surprised, but answers willingly.
“Because you’re a good man. Because after everything that happened, I knew I could trust you. Because I knew you’d protect Teddy, just like your students.”
They’re good reasons, Severus thinks, although not many see him like this. Still, for some moments, there’s an odd, nagging feeling of disappointment. He brushes it aside and draws Remus close for a kiss. He can’t ask for something that he can’t give himself.
“Why did you say yes?” Remus asks the next evening.
Severus hesitates and looks down, not as willing to answer as Remus was yesterday. “I was lonely. You were there, and you wouldn’t go away.” He wraps his arms around himself as if he were cold. “I didn’t want to be lonely any more.”
Remus knows that feeling, and he pulls Severus into an awkward embrace. It’s difficult to talk about all these things.
“Are you lonely now?” he asks softly.
Severus shrugs uncomfortably, then shakes his head. “Sometimes,” he finally says.
He can live with that answer, Remus thinks.
On Saturday morning, Remus gets up late and finds Severus and seven-year-old Teddy looking at a photo album with Tonks’ childhood pictures.
“…with your grandfather Ted,” Severus says.
Teddy looks at the picture, then at Severus, an earnest look on his small face. “Is it bad that I don’t miss her?”
Severus shakes his head. “No. It’s normal; you never knew her.”
Teddy smiles, clearly relieved, before he climbs into Severus’s lap. As always, Severus looks surprised for a second, but then holds him close and turns the page.
“You needn’t miss her, but you should know who she was.”
Severus comes home late from Lily’s grave, like Remus expected. Unlike the last six years, though, he doesn’t go to bed in silence. Instead, he sits down on the couch next to Remus, who doesn’t dare touching him.
“Do you think it will ever stop?” It’s just a whisper, and Remus has to strain to understand it. “I want it to hurt less, and it won’t work most of the time. But sometimes it does, and then I hate myself for it.”
Remus has no answer, but when he carefully slips his hand into the other man’s, Severus lets him.
Between Teddy and the ocean, it’s love at first sight. Severus refuses to go swimming with him and Remus, but he takes pictures of them splashing and laughing with an old-fashioned Muggle camera.
Later, Remus photographs them building a sand replica of Hogwarts, complete with the lake and Hagrid’s hut. When it’s finished, Teddy looks back and forth between the castle and Severus, eyes shining with admiration. It makes Severus’s heart twist, and he’s relieved when Teddy rushes off to look for stranded jellyfish.
The boy has so much to give, and sometimes, Severus isn’t sure he can take it.
“It’s ridiculous!” Severus snaps when Remus tells him. “I thought Potter had developed at least some sense over time!”
The violent reaction surprises Remus; he didn’t expect him to be overjoyed, but certainly not this angry either. He touches Severus’s shoulder, wanting to calm him, but Severus turns and storms out of the room.
That night, being almost asleep, Remus feels a hand sneak into his.
“It’s not right,” Severus whispers thickly. “He should take you, or his friend Weasley. Any name next to Albus’s but mine!”
Severus hardly ever cries, but tonight it takes long until he finally sleeps.
Severus doesn’t know what to do, what to say.
“You can't be serious!”
The idea is stupid, insane – yet here he stands, all eyes locked on him expectantly.
“Please,” Potter says quietly, and his wife smiles, holding the baby out for him to take.
It’s almost like an initiation, a show of acceptance after so long, and for a moment, Severus is angry, wanting to tell them that he doesn’t need any of it.
But he is so tired of lying.
Little Albus is warm and soft, his wailing soon dying down as he falls asleep in his godfather’s arms.
He knows that he will never forget this moment – how Severus stands in the kitchen door with an ashen face, holding a lifeless Teddy against his chest. When Severus speaks, his voice is without emotion, slow and even, and it chills Remus to the marrow.
“He fell from the apple tree. I heard him scream and ran outside, but he’d broken his neck and was dead already.”
Remus closes his eyes against the sight: Teddy, wide-eyed and still in Severus’s arms. But Severus goes on, his cold voice cutting through the soothing darkness without mercy.
“I was too late.”
It’s three weeks after Teddy’s death, and if it weren’t for Andromeda and his other friends, Remus wouldn’t get through this. They’re always there when he needs to talk, when he needs comfort, or simply someone being with him.
He refused to go to the funeral, and now he’s working overtime constantly, never coming home before nightfall. He barely talks, and if he does, it’s about trivialities only. At night, they sleep next to each other, but Severus pulls away when Remus tries to touch him.
They’ve been together for eight years, but suddenly, they feel like strangers.
Severus hardly sleeps anymore.
Most nights, he lies awake with his eyes open, listening to Remus breathing, and sometimes crying. He should be there for Remus, like Remus wants to be for him, but he can’t. He can’t comfort Remus, let him hold him, or try to work through it by talking. He’d just begun learning how to do it, and he knows he wouldn’t have succeeded without Teddy.
Now Teddy is gone, leaving him with an unspoken word that makes all other words die in his throat.
Teddy died just when Severus dared thinking of him as his son.
“It’s over. I’m leaving tomorrow.”
Remus has tried everything, but in five months, nothing has changed.
“Fine.” Severus sounds entirely indifferent. “It’s better, not being with the man who’s responsible for your son’s death.”
It’s the first thing Severus ever said about Teddy since then, and suddenly, it’s all making sense. Remus wants to yell at him, shake him, hold him and promise him that they’ll be all right. But it seems too late for that now.
“It was an accident,” he says softly before leaving the room. “And he was your son just as much as he was mine.”
Severus is sitting on Teddy’s bed in the dark, head lowered, arms wrapped around his knees. He must have heard Remus, for after a while, he looks up.
“I didn’t think it could hurt so much,” he murmurs hoarsely, making Remus hope when he shouldn’t anymore.
Slowly, Remus sits next to him, and slowly, he reaches out. He’s waited far too long, and he doesn’t even know if he still wants this. Then Severus is in his arms, shaking, and just for now, it’s like the last months never happened.
“I never thought anything could hurt more than losing Lily.”
In the morning, Remus is awake first, sitting next to Severus. He’s holding his hand, watching him as he sleeps. Severus looks thinner, older, with streaks of grey in his hair. Remus never noticed before.
When Severus stirs, he’s tempted to take his hand away, but he doesn’t. If they still have any chance, it has to be now. Severus seems to think the same, for he squeezes Remus’s hand tightly, looking him in the eye.
“Please, Remus.” He’s obviously struggling with the words, but he still says them, and that's enough, for now. “Don’t leave me.”
It’s a beginning.
Severus has to force himself to let Remus touch him, and he has to force himself to talk. When it’s about Teddy, he can’t seem to look anywhere but to the ground.
But time passes, days and then weeks, and there comes the day when he doesn’t flinch, and the day when it’s he who starts a conversation.
It’s hard, and he feels like giving up constantly, but he won’t. Lily is gone, and Teddy too, but Remus is here, and Severus mustn’t lose him as well.
Then, finally, there’s the day when he can hold Remus as he cries.
Nine months after his death, they visit Teddy’s grave. Severus can’t speak, he can’t cry, and he doesn’t remember how they got home.
Later, he finds himself in bed with Remus, kissing, clinging. Having sex again for the fist time doesn’t make anything better, doesn’t make the grief any less – but at least they’re alive, at least they can touch, at least they can feel something other than pain, just for a while.
When it’s over, Severus feels ashamed, but he doesn’t let go, and neither does Remus. Like every evening, they wait together until they’re finally allowed to sleep.
Ever since they visited Teddy’s grave, Severus has been having nightmares about Teddy’s death – nightmares in which he could have done something, but didn’t.
“It’s not your fault,” Remus whispers, Severus’s too thin body pressed tightly against his own under the covers. He doesn’t know how often he’s said it during the last weeks, but he knows he’ll say it as often as necessary.
Something has changed between them; there's a tentative new feeling that wasn’t there before. Remus doesn’t try analysing it, doesn’t dare giving it a name. But he hopes with all his heart that it might last.
It’s been a year and a half now, and slowly, slowly, it’s possible to breathe without pain again.
Severus still can’t talk about Teddy other than in whispers, and Remus can’t look at pictures of him without crying. Severus has fewer nightmares, though, and there are fewer days when Remus feels as though he couldn’t get up in the morning.
Life is quieter now, and it’s a struggle to fill the empty space. But there are long walks together, long evenings spent on the couch, and a deep, gentle closeness.
Living no longer feels like it were only a burden.
Remus hadn’t liked the idea; he’d even felt angry. But it seemed so important to Severus, and he hadn’t had the heart to disagree.
Now Severus is kneeling under the Christmas tree with Albus, who’s ripping the wrapping off his godfather’s gift. Seeing the plush elephant, Remus grits his teeth – it was one of Teddy’s favourites. Albus hugs the soft toy, and Remus watches Severus smile for the first time in months, and suddenly, he understands.
Taking a deep breath, Remus joins them on the floor. It’s hard to let go, but the effort is worth it.
“Happy Christmas, Severus.”
They’re walking barefoot, the sand under their feet still warm from the day. It’s the last evening of their two-week vacation, spent with conversations, walks on the beach, and holding each other tightly at night.
Severus wraps his arms around Remus from behind as they watch the sunset, waiting until the last shimmer on the ocean has faded and they stand together in the growing dark.
Remus's voice is soft, melancholy but not sad.
“Do you think we can be happy someday?”
For a while, Severus says nothing, but when he answers, he realises he means it.
“Yes, we can.”
It’s disturbing to be here and not feel crushed by overwhelming sadness. It does hurt, but it’s like an old wound that finally scabbed over, and although there is guilt, the relief is stronger.
Remus has left, waiting out of hearing distance. It’s the first time that Severus took him with him, and while it felt good to have him next to him, there is something that he needs to do alone.
Slowly, he kneels and lays down the flowers, and slowly, he stands again, speaking words he never imagined.
“I’ll never forget you, but I’m done mourning. Goodbye, Lily.”
On Remus’s fifty-first birthday, four years after Teddy’s death, twelve years after they got to be together, Severus gives him a ring. It’s golden and plain, and both their hands are shaking when he slips it on Remus’s finger.
“I want...I mean I...Remus...” He trails off and looks down, cursing himself. He can’t say it, not yet.
“Severus.” Remus would have liked to hear it, but it is not necessary. The ring tells him everything he needs to know.
“I love you too,” he murmurs, fearing he’s saying the wrong thing, fearing he misunderstood.
He needn’t have worried. Severus smiles.
~ The End ~