A/N: This story is complete, and I am uploading the last three sections now--it's been written in bits and pieces between "Of A Sort" segments, and I promise I am continuing to work on that as well.
Lines of Descent
July 28, 1974. Three days after the full moon.
It was a good summer for strawberries.
They'd started coming in wildly in June, and hadn't stopped. Elizabeth was delighted; she hadn't had such a good crop since they'd come to the island four years ago. She'd lost some over the last three days (it had been a bad moon, and she'd felt too weak and ill to come outside), but she didn't begrudge them. They'd probably gone to hungry animals, and she understood hungry animals quite well. At any rate, she still had enough that she'd filled one basket, was partway through a second, and thought there might well be a third. Maddoc said she should just grow them by magic all year, like the rest of the wizarding world, but she took some delight in letting them grow in nature, letting them be special. It was something she could enjoy here on the island. Here in exile.
Maddoc called it an island--"our own private island"--but it was really just an outcropping of rock just large enough to hold some topsoil. Elizabeth could see the mainland in the distance, and the shack where a man rented boats to people on holiday, but she never went there. That had been part of the agreement when they'd been chased from the farm. The old man with the boats kept making offers on the property--he had visions of building a rustic hotel of some sort--and couldn't understand why neither Elizabeth nor Maddoc expressed the slightest interest.
Still, it had its advantages. Maddoc had made a lovely garden at the center of the outcropping, and the large western window had a majestic view of the water. The crisp salt air was invigorating. There was pleasant breeze, a great deal of privacy on full moons, and a choppy sea between her and any curious little hand that might find its way into her cage.
A pie, she thought, picking a berry the size of her small fist and deliberately pulling herself out of her ruminations. I'll make a strawberry pie this evening, with fresh whipped cream on top.
A shadow fell over the strawberry plants, and a foot came into her field of vision, clad in a battered canvas shoe with long laces. Somewhere above her, a soft, slightly hoarse voice, said, "Hullo, Elizabeth."
She was smiling before she even rose from the ground to see his face. "Remus," she said, wrapping her arms around him. "How good it is to see you!"
He gave her a brief hug, then drew away. He had always been a physically reserved boy, though when he'd been a small Wolf--not precisely a cub, more a Wolfling of sorts, without enough body mass to be a threat to her--he had been desperately affectionate, as though starved for it.
Well, at least with another werewolf. With his parents, or any other humans, he had snarled and snapped and clawed. But with Elizabeth, after they'd exhausted themselves dashing their heads and shoulders against the bars of the cage, he would curl up docilely under one of her forepaws and look up with those big golden eyes, waiting for her to groom him. She had usually done so.
There were no real thoughts beneath the moon, but there were feelings--oh, there were feelings--and as they had huddled together in the cage that Maddoc had built, surrounded by the protective charms both families had placed around the properties, Elizabeth had loved Remus ferociously, and felt the strength of a connection, of knowing that at last she was not alone. That she finally had the child she had longed for all her life.
But he wasn't a Wolfling anymore, and there was no longer any question of him staying with her during a full moon.
And considering what she'd done to his life, she had never had a right to the joy she'd taken in him. He was not her child; he was her victim.
She patted his arm. "I'm sorry. The usual run of thoughts. What brings you out to the island?"
"I just wanted to say hello."
"You're a terrible liar, Remus."
He shrugged, not denying it. "May I help you pick?" he asked, taking up the empty basket.
"If you'd like."
He crouched down on the other side of the vine and picked strawberries with an expression of intense concentration. They didn't talk for nearly half an hour, but so much of their early communication had been non-verbal that there was no particular feeling of distance associated with this. Every now and then, she caught him popping a berry into his mouth instead of the basket, which made her smile. Some things didn't change. Remus Lupin's sweet tooth appeared to be quite as incurable as his lycanthropy.
"How are your parents?" she asked. "I've missed talking to them since we left the farm."
"They're fine," Remus said, pulling up a leaf to find a nest of berries. "Mum said to bring you her best. They don't like the new neighbors very well." He grimaced. "Too many questions about my shed."
"Mmm. They commented on the cage when they bought the place. Maddoc told them it was a wool bin." Elizabeth kept her voice as casual as she could. As far as most of the town knew, there had been only one werewolf, and she had been dealt with. After Elizabeth had bitten Remus, the Lupins had insisted on secrecy about his condition--a wise precaution if he was to have any sort of normalcy in his life--and as long as he didn't speak out, there was no reason for the townspeole to know anything at all. There was no need to allow Remus's active imagination to fix on the idea of being chased from his home. It wasn't going to happen. "You're still transforming in the shed? Is it holding up now that you're bigger?"
"Dad has it charmed to stay together pretty nicely. Looks a bit of a wreck, though." He wiped sweat off his forehead. "I only need it in July and August. I have the house when I'm at school. In Hogsmeade, they call it the Shrieking Shack. Everyone in town thinks it's haunted by a rough crowd of ghosts."
Elizabeth knew most of this. She hadn't spoken to Remus himself for nearly three years (and then only briefly), but she had kept in touch with his parents, in case he needed her for something. She owed him her assistance. She would not allow herself to pretend a claim on him. He said he would write, but he had never done so and she didn't press the issue. She was only glad to see that it didn't seem to be an emerging animosity. He was talking to her as easily as he ever had. "Do you like it there, at Hogwarts?"
He nodded. "I really do. My friends... they even know about me. Hard to convince them that some new and different emergency happened on every single full moon, you know."
"Yes, I know."
"But they're still my friends."
"Sounds like you have some good ones."
Remus nodded. "I can't tell you how good," he said seriously. "The best."
Elizabeth smiled to herself. In some ways, Remus was old beyond his years. In others, he seemed much younger than sixteen. It was a charming sort of innocence that she hadn't really expected--most werewolves she'd met in her life were deeply cynical. "And your classes?"
He brightened up. "I like them. Defense Against the Dark Arts is my favorite. I actually do better than James there. James is one of my friends. He and Sirius, they're best at Transfiguration. I can do it, but they can..." He smiled and stopped talking, obviously keeping some sort of schoolboy secret. "They're very good at it. I'm nothing at it compared to them, and I still get full marks."
"I'm not surprised at the marks."
"I have to be careful sometimes in Care of Magical Creatures. Some of them can smell me. But Professor Kettleburn knows about me and he's good about warning me ahead of time when we're going to have one that will recognize me."
"What about girls?" Elizabeth asked, an eyebrow cocked. Remus was a compact, graceful boy, without the long gangling limbs so typical of boys growing into manhood. His face was handsome in a bookish way. It lacked the kind of sharpness that would make him popular among boys his age, but Elizabeth didn't doubt that there were any number of young girls at Hogwarts who'd set their pointed caps for him, especially if they'd come close enough to see his eyes. "I'll bet you need to beat them off with a stick."
He blushed. "No, not really. I'm not... Well, James and Sirius have girls enough... I... Well, maybe one or two. And I like one or two." A grin. "Not the same one or two, though. Not yet." The grin faded and he went deep into himself, looking back down at the strawberries. "I had a date," he said. "For the last Hogsmeade weekend. A girl from Ravenclaw. Nothing important, just, you know. The others had dates, and I thought I might..." He sighed deeply.
Elizabeth thought he was circling toward the reason he'd made the trip out here. She picked up her basket and headed for the shaded garden Maddoc had built for her. There was a long bench under a willow tree. She sat on it and patted the spot beside her for Remus.
He came and sat down beside her, opening his mouth as if to speak, then closing it again and just looking down at the ground.
Elizabeth didn't prod him.
"It's nice out here," he said after awhile. "Nice breeze."
"I'm glad you like it. Maddoc and I talked about it--after we're gone, I'd like to leave it to you. It's a quiet place for moons. No one around." No one to make ridiculous accusations and hold you accountable for them.
He looked up at her, shocked. "Really, Elizabeth, there's no need..."
"I've no one else, Remus. Maddoc has no family. And we... obviously never had children."
Remus bit his lip and drew his knees up to his chin and took a deep breath. "Why?" he asked.
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"You said 'obviously' you and Maddoc never had children." His muscles were tense and rigid, like he was about to begin a transformation. He stood up and started to pace. "Why is it obvious, Elizabeth? I keep looking for books, and there are books enough about werewolves, but none of them tell me... how to be one. How to... if I can ever... how far I can..." He covered his face and sat back down. "This is embarrassing. I'm sorry. I just... there are things I can't think of anyone else to ask. And the books don't say. I've read every book on lycanthropy in the Hogwarts library. Most of them twice. And there's nothing about... you know. Er, children and, er... you know."
Elizabeth smiled. "If you can't say it, you're not ready for it anyway."
"I know I'm not!" Remus moved his hands away from his face, looking almost as annoyed as he was mortified. "But someday I might be, and I don't know..."
"Shh." She put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him to her. He resisted at first, but after minute, he relaxed and let her rock him. She didn't know if anyone else was allowed to do this. "I'm sorry," she said. "Talking to you about when you're ready is for your mum. I had no business saying that."
"It's all right." He pulled away and swiped his hand across his face in a quick, wolfish motion. Elizabeth half-expected to see scratch marks when he stood and turned, but of course there weren't any. He crossed his arms defensively over his chest. "It's just that I did sort of... kiss that Ravenclaw girl. Margaret, her name is."
"Good for you."
"It really wasn't anything important. She's nice and all, but I'm not wildly in love with her or anything."
"I didn't think you were."
"But she'd kissed boys before. She knew how. And she sort of... nipped at me. At my lip."
He let out a breath. "And that's when I sort of got frightened. What if I nipped her? Or some other girl? Does it pass that way? Or when you--" He blushed deeply. His Adam's apple bobbed furiously, but he seemed entirely unable finish the latter question. He finally gave up trying. "And what about children? Does it pass to them? I mean, if I..."
Elizabeth patted the bench again and smiled. "Sit down, Remus. I'm glad you came to me. I wish you hadn't waited until you were ready to boil over, but I'm glad you came."
He took a few breaths, swallowed, and sat down, planting his elbows on his knees and looking at a spot on the ground between his feet. His face was as red as the strawberries in his basket.
She put a hand on his shoulder. "You don't need to be embarrassed. They're good questions. Important ones. It speaks well of you as a young man that you thought to ask them before anything happened instead of after."
"I wouldn't want to give this to anyone." He gave her a guilty look. "Sorry, I--"
"It's all right. If there's one thing I want you to learn from me, it's that the greatest regret of my life is what I did to yours." She bit her lip before questioning herself about this. "You're right to be careful. But you're worrying about things you don't really need to worry about."
"Yes. Unless you're dating a girl with some very strange interests, you don't need to worry any more than any other boy. You don't want to nip hard, because it hurts, but as long as it's not a full moon, you're not going infect her. The same is true of more intimate relations."
"Are you sure?" He bit his lip. "I wouldn't want to fall in love with someone and then find out that I've made her... like us."
"Maddoc and I have been married the entire time I've been lycanthropic. I was bitten on my honeymoon, if you can believe the luck." She shook her head. "We've always had a perfectly normal marriage in every sense. I've nipped him more than once, and he's never started transforming."
"And the... er..." He tried to force the word out, but again, it didn't come. "I'm a... well, a boy. It's sort of different with boys than it is with girls, and I wouldn't be, you know, infecting her when I--" He blushed even more deeply, turning an alarming shade of violet.
"Remus, you are not contagious when you're not transformed. Biting isn't contagious as a human, and neither is sex."
He jumped at the word and looked away from her. "You're certain?"
"It was a male werewolf who bit me. He was a miserable old man as a human, but he had a wife and a houseful of children. The only one that was lycanthropic was one he'd bitten."
"And you're certain he wasn't bitten... after?"
"I discussed the subject with his wife."
"Then why is it obvious with you and Maddoc?"
Elizabeth felt her chest tighten up. "It's... as a man, you won't need to worry about it. Unless you marry a female werewolf, I suppose."
"You're the only one I know."
"There aren't as many. We tend to... despair a bit more." She forced air into her chest to expand it, and forced it back out. "The transformation is traumatic, Remus. You know that."
"Both humans and wolves carry their young. If I were human for nine full months, I'd be able to have a child. If I were a wolf for... whatever their gestation is, I would be able to have a cub. But the transformation... an unborn child doesn't transform along with its mother. It simply--" She shook her head. "Female werewolves can't bear children," she said. "We can conceive, but we can't bear. But that's not going to be an issue for you. You can have as many children as you'd like. You just need to make sure they understand--"
"--not to pet the big gray dog that visits the shed on full moons?"
"Do you want to have children someday?"
He sighed, then smiled sweetly. "Yes. I... my friend Sirius, his cousin had a baby. She met us at the platform when we came from school so we could see her. I got to hold her. She smiled." He shrugged. "It wasn't half bad. And I was a prefect this year. I helped first years. I like children. I suppose that doesn't sound quite--" Another shrug.
"It sounds quite a lot like Remus Lupin," Elizabeth said. "And I'm glad to hear it."
They sat together on the bench, the shadows of the branches moving across them, and the subject began to pass. Elizabeth felt her breathing normalize.
"Elizabeth, I'm sorry for bringing up... that. I didn't mean to make you unhappy."
"It's all right, Remus. It's something you have every right to know."
He sighed. "It's all probably a moot point anyway. I wouldn't... without telling a girl about me first. And I'll bet they all just run away."
"Some will," Elizabeth said. "I won't lie. But they won't be worth your time. You said your friends accepted you. Why are you so convinced that a girl won't?"
"I hadn't thought of it that way."
"Well, then. It's a new thought to entertain: some girl, somewhere, might well put up with your monthly mood swings." Elizabeth grinned. "She may even understand them better than you think."
Remus grinned and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I've noticed that at school. I'm glad that's not contagious, because I swear some of them will bite."
Elizabeth laughed. "You're staying for dinner, aren't you?" she asked. "You can floo home after some strawberry pie."
He bit his lip and pretended to think about it deeply, the tension flowing out of his muscles to dissipate in the summer afternoon. "I don't know... Twisting my arm with strawberry pie... "
"Well, we are merciless, you know. Vicious."
"Yes, I'd heard that." He grinned. "Thank you, Elizabeth."
They stood up together, and Elizabeth hooked her arm around his neck. He allowed it, giving her a sideways grin.
"Any time," she said. "Any time you need me. I'll be here."