How To Be A Hero

Revenge And Rewards

The smell of freshly brewed tea greeted Remus as soon as he opened the door, pulling him directly into their small kitchen. A smile crept onto his lips as he leaned against the door frame, taking in the sight before him without announcing his presence.

Dora had put on the rather hilarious apron her grandmother had given her for the wedding, humming absentmindedly and pretty off-key, as she cut what seemed like randomly chosen food and mixed it all together without much decorum.

“My,” he finally announced, causing her to whirl around, her face instantly brightening. “What do they teach you Aurors these days? I could have been anyone, sneaking into our flat, and you never even noticed.”

“Remus,” she called, ignoring that the tips of her hair turned a rather interesting shade of red. Then she inclined her head, adopting the same playful tone. “Well, my husband has a deft hand for wards. So I feel very safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t let anyone with less than benign motives enter here.”

“So?” he drawled, taking slow steps closer to her. “That sounds like your husband is quite an intelligent man, to keep a jewel like you so well guarded.” A fond chuckle escaped his lips when she closed the distance between them, sinking into his readily opened arms.

“Oh, that he is,” she murmured against his chest. “And such a flatterer, too.”

“You certainly deserve to be flattered constantly.” Feeling her wide smile, he kissed the top of her head, wishing they could stay like this forever, their warmth mingling, hidden away from the rest of the world and its never ending problems.

“What are you cooking?” Remus asked, trying to identify the smells – and wondering whether the slightly burnt note was intended or not.

“Damn,” Dora exclaimed, freeing herself from his embrace, hurrying over to their decidedly muggle oven. Which Dora had gotten in the hopes that non-magical cooking would suit her better than every other household-related spell she had ever tried. Remus, as any wise husband would, preferred to stay silent on that topic.

When she opened the oven, a not quite black cloud closed her in, which she waved away half-heartedly as she tried to save whatever poor food she was murdering. Putting the baking pan down on the table, she let out another string of swearwords that would have Andromeda sputtering in indignation. Then she sighed, dejectedly staring down at her well-coloured meal.

“What were you cooking?” Remus asked, fighting hard to keep the amusement out of his voice.

“You were late,” Dora pouted, as if that explained everything.

“So,” he smirked. “As my punishment you decided you’d prepare dinner?”

Sparing him merely a disdainful sideward glance, she sighed. “Lasagne. It was supposed to be lasagne.”

Remus made a small step closer, carefully looking into the pan. “Well, it doesn’t look that bad.” To avoid her murderous glare, he went for two plates and cutlery. “Here,” he said, pressing it into her hands. “You set the table, I’ll make some salad to go with the lasagne.” Only a slight emphasis betrayed his highly inappropriate – in Dora’s mind – amusement.

Still, she looked up at him in surprise. “You want to eat it?”

“Do you want to insinuate that my wife is not able to cook an edible meal?” mock-frowning he raised the salad spoon warningly.

“Never,” she sputtered, amused despite herself. “You wouldn’t get yourself a woman that can’t feed you. I heard old wolves have a nearly insatiable appetite.”

“True,” nodding, he shushed her to get to work. “Hurry, or it will be burned and cold.”

Finally forgetting her initial embarrassment, Dora snorted. “I don’t think it could get worse.”

At her words, he smiled sardonically. “Believe me, it could.”

They set to work, Dora taking up her humming again, and serving a generous amount of lasagne for them both, desperately trying to hide its half-burned, half-undercooked state with an artful decoration of herbs. Then she sat down, watching wistfully as Remus took over her working space and prepared a, probably not only delicious-looking, salad. And that in merely a couple minutes, while she had been in the kitchen for hours. It was quite unfair, to see him doing this with such ease.

“You really don’t have to eat this,” she offered when they both sat at the table, a small part of her hoping to avoid tasting her creation.

But Remus merely laughed. “My dear Dora, believe me when I say that I’ve had worse. I’ll even play the ever-obedient husband and praise your unmatched cooking skills.”

Swatting his arm, she scowled. “You did not have to compare this to whatever grovel you got to eat at the werewolf camps.”

He raised an eyebrow at her, thankfully not put out by her growled mention of his less fortunate days. “That’s not at all what I meant, darling.”

“No?” she challenged, regretting at once, when he began grinning wolfishly.

“No. What I meant is, that you’re not the first Black whose miserable tries at cooking I had to endure.” She visibly bristled, causing him to laugh loudly. “It’s a good thing that Andromeda has your Dad, and that Sirius had me, back when we shared a flat. I’m not quite sure either of you would make it through a month.”

Deciding not to fight this indubitable truth, she joined his laughter – and stopped abruptly when she took the first bite of her lasagne. “Ugh,” she choked, marvelling at how Remus could swallow his own bite calmly, and without the slightest change in expression. Her cousin really had to have been worse at cooking than her.

“Well,” she then said. “You have definitely earned your place as keeper of the house. I’ll gladly work until I’m old and grey, if only you stay home.”

“When you ask so charmingly,” he toasted her with another spoonful of lasagne. “How could I ever reject such an offer? I’m positively delighted, my lady.”

He grinned. Dora groaned. And switched her plate for the salad bowl.

Over the years, Ted had become good at hiding. A very necessary talent considering what blood run through his wife’s veins – and through his. The Blacks were notorious for their quick tempers and their motto was – next to, of course, never ever sully their precious blood line with something like him – to shoot first and ask questions later. The Tonkses, in comparison, had a long history of angering the wrong people. So, in Ted’s opinion they were perfect for each other. He had still learned to duck very soon into their marriage.

This day, however, he was not hiding because of something he had done himself. In fact, it was something far more scary: Andromeda was happy. Not happy in the common sense. More happy in the female ‘we’re going to have a girls outing today, so you better get out of my way and don’t try to destroy this with manly scepticism’.

Remus, a fast learner himself, had naturally opted to share his father-in-law’s hiding place in his office, but still looked a bit dazed at the sudden transformation the women had gone through. For one, Andromeda had been more energetic than he had ever seen her before – at least when there had been no adversary to crush or politician to criticize – making plans with a smile so wide her face would certainly hurt later.

Nymphadora – for once not protesting her mother using her given name – was fluttering about like a hummingbird, giddy and impatiently throwing glances at whatever clock she came by.

“Mum,” she called, pausing in the door to her father’s office. “The portkey goes off in five minutes. Hurry.” It was a silk scarf, lying innocently in Dora’s hands, meant to bring them to Paris where they would meet up with a couple old friends to do unspeakable things – like shopping for hours on end.

Remus eyed the lavender coloured monstrosity with quite a bit of trepidation, causing Ted next to him to chuckle, though he could have sworn there was a bit of desperation lurking underneath.

“Just be glad they’re leaving us at home,” his father-in-law whispered in a conspiratorial tone.

Wide-eyed, Remus turned to him. “But they seem glad to go alone, why would they -?”

Another chuckle, a strange mix of fond and hysterical. “They’re meeting with friends today. No men needed. But you’ll find it out soon enough, when they’re alone, they need someone to carry their bags. And it will be hour upon hour of trotting after them and –“

“Are we interrupting a quiet moment of manly bonding?” a sickly sweet voice sounded from the door, causing both men to jump and look guiltily toward their women. Andromeda regarded them with an expression of a hungry predator, while Dora was simply grinning, enjoying the show.

“Not at all,” Ted stuttered, checking the time. “But we wouldn’t want to keep you. It’ll go off every second now, right?”

A single raised eyebrow indicated that his feeble excuse was not believed, but Andromeda nodded regally. “We’ll be back by seven. Try not to destroy anything until then.”

Ted swallowed hastily, obviously trying not to comment on the fact that it was not them who needed to be careful, seeing as they would be staying home like obedient little housemen – and were not slightly insane women on a mission.

Trying to cover up his partner in misery’s near faux-pas, Remus smiled benevolently. “Well, have fun in France.”

“Oh, we will,” Dora promised, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “And I’ll get something for you.”

When he started to protest, his wife regarded him with a predatory smile, while his parents-in-law wore incredulous expressions. Into the sudden chaos, the scarf began to glow, and a second later the women were gone, leaving behind blessed silence.

“What did I do?” Instead of replying, Ted kept staring at him, causing him to elaborate. “You know I don’t need any-“

“Remus,” Ted interrupted, talking slowly as if facing a child. “Your wife is going to Paris with a bunch of other women and she – quite cheekily if I might add – promised to get you something. I certainly hope that my wife is getting me something, too.”

“Bu-“ Realization hit Remus like a hammer, and when he felt his cheeks growing hot, he averted his eyes, much to the amusement of the older man.

“Oh, dear boy, I certainly understand why Andy loves riling people up. It is ever so much fun.” Standing up, Ted made his way over to his desk, getting a tumbler and two glasses. “Here,” he said, pouring for both of them. “I’m sure you need this right now. Just don’t tell the girls. It’s way too early for drinking.” His tone, and the appreciative smile after he took a sip, showed that he did not agree with that sentiment.

And Remus found himself appreciating the thought. It was never too early for a glass of good whiskey – especially not after the morning they had.

It had started innocently enough, an owl with a letter from Andy interrupting their breakfast, Dora’s smile upon reading it, her promise that it was good news. Which, apparently, was a synonym for female insanity dropping like a bomb. Leaving him to wash the dishes, Dora had disappeared into their bedroom, announcing she was going out with her mum and needed something to wear. Sweet fool that he was, Remus did not think much about it. His wife was, after all, pretty uncomplicated in those things.

He had not yet managed to clean the whole kitchen before frustrated shrieks sounded from the other end of their flat.

“Remus,” his wife had called – or rather demanded. “I don’t know what to wear.”

Frowning upon entering their bed room and seeing the chaos she had caused was his second mistake. Swiftly followed by the third. “But you look lovely in everything of these.”

Pointing at the multitude of clothes strewn around on the bed and ground, as if a storm had swept through the room, he almost missed her murderous glare.

“I do not look good in all of these. They’re old, and mismatched.”

Holding up her favourite ripped jeans in a desperate attempt to salvage the situation, he offered innocently, “Why not this and one of these tops. It will be warm in France and –“

Upon noticing that her expression turned even darker, he trailed off, not quite certain what he had done wrong.

“I can’t wear ripped jeans when we’re meeting mum’s old friend Claire,” her tone indicating what a scandalous thing he had just proposed, Dora buried herself under a heap of new clothes while trying to get a specific piece out of their wardrobe. “She’d never let us live that down,” she continued sputtering after Remus had lent her a helping hand to free herself from her cloth prison. “In fact, I cannot wear trousers at all.”

Remus looked at her in surprise. “You want to wear a – dress.” He said it like that was something highly inappropriate – and he would have bet his last shirt that, under normal circumstances, she would have agreed whole-heartedly. Though, this certainly was not normal. Not even for a family like theirs.

“But you like those jeans,” he tried again, not quite getting her point. “And you hate dresses. You’re not yourself in a dress.”

That gave her momentary pause, in which she looked at him patronizingly. A rather ridiculous sight, as she was still half-covered by clothes in all colours.

“That is the point, Remus, dear,” she stated slowly. “Claire would never allow herself to be seen in public with someone like me.”

Still not understanding, Remus asked, “Then why go out with her at all?”

“Because it’s Paris, “ and, taking in the chaos around her, she added, as if it should be obvious, “And I don’t have anything to wear.”

Remus then decided, and that was probably the first good idea he had this day, that Dora would manage this serious problem on her own, and took small steps backward to the door. “I’ll be in the kitchen, if you need me,” he announced quietly.

But not quiet enough, as Dora, who had, in the mean time, returned her attention to the wardrobe, snapped her eyes to him. “Oh, no, Remus Lupin. You will stay right here and help your wife look respectable.”

That had only been the beginning. After much searching and a quite excessive use of magic to change a barely acceptable dress into something even the apparently not easily pleased Claire would approve of, Dora insisted that he stayed and helped her getting ‘the rest of her look’ right.

For someone who could change her entire appearance at a whim and seemingly without any effort, it took half an eternity – and a pinch of domestic violence, because Remus’ “But you love pink” was definitely not appreciated. But finally, and it had seemed impossible at multiple times, she was done.

Remus, ever the gentleman, kissed her cheek. “You look gorgeous, my dear.” And because he was a fast learner, he did not say that the shining black hair made her look too much like a Black, and the sea-green dress too much like a Slytherin – something Claire would apparently like. And he certainly did not mention, that he definitely preferred her pink and punky. He was sure she would appreciate that more this night, when he could finally get her out of these clothes again.

But his martyrdom was not finished with that. As soon as they entered her parents’ home, Andromeda looked her over with a critical gaze, declaring non-too-softly, “Well, that does not do at all.” And off they were, ever so often dragging him or Ted upstairs to approve of something or other.

It was chaotic and nonsensical. It was torture. So he had definitely earned that whiskey, even if it was not even lunch yet.

At exactly seven o’ clock in the evening, a familiar surge of magic brushed through the house and, not a second later, Andromeda and Dora appeared out of thin air laughing freely, and weighed down by an impressive amount of bags.

After sharing an indecipherable look, Remus and Ted rushed forwards to greet their wives and – ever the gentlemen – relieve them of their burdens.

“Remus,” Dora grinned, throwing her arms around his neck. “I’ve got the perfect gift for you.” Then, biting her lower lip, she regarded him closely. “Are you really hungry or do we want to go home immediately?”

“Nonsense,” Andromeda decreed while kissing her husband’s cheek – and skilfully ignoring his betrayed look. He was not hungry – not for dinner, at least. “We can’t let the boys’ dinner go to waste, just because we’re a bit exhausted from our eventful day.”

Ted muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, ‘I hope you’re not too exhausted to have an eventful night, too’ which caused the younger couple to blush, while Andromeda merely patted his arm fondly.

“Come now, children. Set the table. The sooner we are done, the sooner we can all go to bed. Tomorrow’s a normal work day, after all.” She had not even completed her sentence, before Ted and Dora had rushed off, leaving a slightly flustered Remus alone in the company of his mother-in-law, who looked her typically aloof self, though there was something like pride shining in her eyes. She was still the master manipulator in this family.

Remus, retreating to the safety of good manners, offered Andromeda his arm. “May I accompany you to dinner?”

She graciously accepted and together they made their way to the dining room at a leisurely pace – only to almost lose their composure when they found their respective spouses already seated, the cutlery in hand and twin impatient expressions adorning their eager faces.

“Children,” Andromeda muttered again, allowing her son-in-law to lead her to her chair. He waited until she sat comfortably and only then went to his own place. Three pair of eyes – two desperate and one amused – followed his every movement, as he carefully placed the napkin on his knees, even going so far to dispose of an imaginary fleck of dust, before looking up.

Bon appétit,” Remus said, and the mischievous undertone was not missed by anyone at the table, making his parents-in-law very proud. Or rather, Andromeda was proud. Ted would be, later, when he did not have other things in mind.

As it was, relieved sighs escaped his and his daughter’s lips, as they began loading their plates. Between two bites, Dora threw her husband a look, promising that he would later pay for that little display. But Remus merely grinned.

Mission accomplished.
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