Chapter 1 : Figuring it Out
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Teddy Lupin pushed the door open to his bedroom and crept toward the bed, where his wife was curled up under the blankets. His footsteps fell softly against the carpet, almost soundless. Faint sounds drifted up from downstairs through the open door, the sounds of their three young children playing. Teddy leaned over the bed where he reckoned his wife's head was hidden beneath the meticulously quilted blanket her grandmother had given them as a wedding gift.
“Victoire?” His voice cracked a bit at the effort to be both quiet enough not to wake her, because she'd said not to, yet also loud enough to wake her, because he really needed a wife right about now.
She moved slightly under the blanket, and he thought she moaned a bit. Then her voice came quite clearly, “Bugger off.”
“Um, dear,” he began, wishing she would get better so he didn't have to care for the children. It was harder than he'd realized to be the mum, now he'd had to do it all day. Victoire had not gotten out of bed since last night, when she'd gone to sleep straight after dinner. She was nearly at the end of her first trimester with their fourth child, and had been feeling so nauseated and exhausted that she literally could not get out of bed. He'd magnanimously offered to stay home from work and give her a day to sleep and rest, and had taken their children to a park and fed them food off a cart that Victoire normally never let them eat, which caused his sons to cheer loudly as they ate overly salty processed food, so it had been rather a triumphant day for him as a father.
Of course, the house was a wreck, the laundry was piling up, mud was strewn all over the kitchen floor, the dog had eaten a cushion off the couch, and now the children were wanting to be fed. Again. No food carts were at hand, so he was rather at a loss. He'd been married nearly eight years now, and even as a bachelor, all of his food had come from either his grandmother, his godfather's wife, or various taverns and restaurants. His version of 'cooking' had been to warm up the contents of a box. Marrying Victoire, who was a whiz in the kitchen, had been something of a relief, actually.
He hadn't really cooked for himself in years, much less for the children. He'd looked around the kitchen, found absolutely no food in boxes, and come straight up to beg his wife to wake up and save him from his own inadequate parenting.
“Dear,” he said again. “It's nearly six. The boys say they're hungry. And Dora's getting quite fussy.”
She sat up, pushing the covers back, and glared at him. Teddy took a step back. His beautiful wife, the woman he'd loved since they were teenagers, who had given him three wonderful children, gave him a look that said she clearly wished him to burst into flames on the spot.
“I feel bloody awful, Teddy,” she growled. “I can't eat. My hips hurt. I might throw up at any moment. If I set foot in the kitchen and smell something cooking, I will throw up. I can't even get out of bed long enough to make a potion for the nausea. And it's all your fault. If the children are hungry, do something about it. You're their father.”
He was rather taken aback by her refusal. “But how will I feed the children? There's nothing ready in the kitchen.”
“You're going to have to make something yourself then, aren't you?” Victoire said, and then rolled over, pulling the covers over her head.
A sense of panic thrilled through Teddy's stomach and straight into his intestines. “What? But what do I make?”
“Figure it out,” came Victoire's voice from under the blanket.
Teddy stared for a moment at the lump under the blankets that was his wife, then turned slowly and walked toward the door.
When his hand was on the knob, he heard his wife again.
He turned back, full of hope that she had relented and would get out of bed to feed the children after all. “Yes, dear?”
“Floo Hugo and ask him to stop by with some potions for me, would you?”
Teddy deflated a bit, his hopes dashed. “Yes, dear.”
His sons were already at the kitchen table waiting for him when he finished his Floo call. This was a bad sign. They'd put their baby sister in her high chair as well. This was an even worse sign.
“I washed my hands,” his eldest son informed him, holding up both hands for inspection. Remus's hands looked slightly less filthy than they had earlier, after he'd finished throwing balls of mud at his brother at the park.
“Well done, that man,” Teddy said weakly. “And Johnny?”
His younger son eyed him balefully and hid his hands under the table. Johnny's views on soap and water currently ranged from polite refusal to full-on screaming tantrums. Probably eating a bit of dirt wouldn't hurt him, though.
Little Dora in her high chair let out a shriek, which Teddy chose to interpret as a demand for attention, and he came over to growl playfully against her neck. This earned another shriek, and some giggles as well. Teddy straightened and told the three of them, “Mummy's still sick, so we're on our own for dinner.”
Remus's mouth dropped open, and Johnny looked mutinous.
“But I'm hungry!” Johnny wailed.
“But-” Remus began.
“Dad's going to make dinner,” Teddy said loudly, cutting across them. This shut them up. They stared at him as if he had sprouted a second head. “I do know how, you know,” he added irritably, which was not entirely true. But now he'd seen their reactions, his fleeting thoughts of Flooing his sister-in-law and asking her to come make some dinner went right out of his head. He would damn well make dinner for his children, all by himself.
Remus slid down off his chair and followed Teddy as he poked around in the fridge rather aimlessly. Nothing jumped out at him as being particularly simple to prepare, and the feelings of inadequacy began to settle in his stomach alongside the panic. Bloody morning sickness, stealing his wife away. He didn't have a homemaker for a wife so that he could do the cooking. Teddy pulled out a package of chicken and stared at it for a moment, turning it over in hopes of finding instructions somewhere.
“That's not what Mummy does,” Remus said helpfully.
“What do you lot want to eat, then?” Teddy asked, setting the chicken back where he'd found it.
“Cookies,” said Johnny, coming over to join them at the fridge.
“Bacon,” said Remus.
“Eeeee!” said Dora.
Teddy searched the refrigerator and came up empty. “There's no bacon. And I, er, don't think your mum likes you to eat cookies for dinner.”
“Yes she does,” Johnny said sincerely. “She lets me eat cookies every day.”
“He's a liar liar pants on fire,” Remus informed his father. Johnny punched him in the arm.
Teddy ignored this. “What about a sandwich? We could eat sandwiches for dinner.” He knew he could handle making a few sandwiches. There would even be mustard.
His children stared at him in silence for a moment, then Remus said again, “Bacon.”
Right, not sandwiches then. “What about cereal? We could all have a lovely bowl of cereal.”
Johnny sat down on the floor, quite gracefully actually, then stretched out with great care full-length on the tiles, drew a deep breath, and began to kick and scream.
“Now look what you've done,” Remus said.
Dora began to wail as well, and Teddy hurried to comfort her and hush Johnny simultaneously. “Johnny, stop it – knock that off, d'you hear me – shh, Dora –”
“Shut up, Johnny,” Remus commanded his brother, exasperated. “You're so annoying.”
Johnny's volume increased, and Victoire's voice floated down from upstairs, sounding distinctly annoyed. “Teddy! I'm trying to sleep!”
“Shh, we'll make cookies, just shut up, all right?” Teddy said desperately.
Johnny stopped as if a switch had been flipped, going from red-faced screams to smiles wreathing his face in an instant. Teddy breathed a sigh of relief.
“Let's look at what's in the cupboards, shall we?” he said, hoisting Johnny up into his arms. Maybe he could find a recipe and simple follow it, and cookies would appear. It couldn't be that difficult, he reckoned. “Where does Mummy keep the cookbooks?”
“In her head,” Remus chirped.
“Bloody hell,” Teddy said.
“Bloody hell,” echoed Johnny, wiping his nose on his sleeve.
“Don't repeat that,” his father told him sternly.
Teddy set Johnny down with a pat on the head, and the three Lupin males traipsed over to the pantry. Rather at a loss, Teddy tried to think of what went into cookies. Sugar, surely, had to be the primary ingredient, at least if Victoire were to be believed. Anytime he sneaked cookies to the boys before dinner, she said she didn't like them eating sugar all day.
“Mummy uses that a lot,” Remus said, pointing to an unlabeled container of white-ish powder.
Teddy pulled it open and sniffed gingerly. “Flour, I think. Mummy uses it in cookies, does she?”
“Yes,” said Remus. He looked quite self-assured, but he was naturally inclined to be bossy and self-assured, so Teddy wasn't entirely convinced the air of authority meant his six-year-old son actually knew what he was talking about. This was, after all, a child who'd recently declared his intent to rename himself Gerald, of all things.
Teddy set the flour on the counter, and returned to the pantry. “What else goes in cookies?”
Remus pointed, and Teddy pulled down another container. Didn't Victoire label anything? Damn her razor-sharp memory, and damn her natural instinct for cookery. Kept the cookbooks in her head, honestly. This time when Teddy popped open the lid, he recognized the contents immediately. “Oats.”
“And sugar,” Remus said, pointing again.
A few minutes later they had amassed salt, sugar, and cocoa along with the flour and oats (Johnny had insisted upon the cocoa, and Remus's eyes had looked rather pleading as well, so Teddy had caved). Teddy guessed on the proportions, and when it was all mixed up, the three of them stared into the bowl. It did not look like any kind of dough.
“Shouldn't there be something, er, wet added?” asked Teddy, aware he was speaking to a six year old and a four year old. Possibly this was one of the stupider questions he'd ever asked in his life, right behind the 'Is that the baby, then?' he'd managed just after Remus was born (in his defense, he'd felt slightly dazed by the entire childbirth process).
“It's not finished yet,” Remus assured his father, and went to the fridge to pull out a carton of milk. Once this was added, it looked rather more like oatmeal and even less like dough.
“Uh-oh,” said Dora in her high chair. Teddy thought this was quite perceptive of her.
Remus, however, was still confident. “Now we pour it in a pan. Then cook it. Then, there you go.”
“Cookies,” murmured Johnny.
“Right,” Teddy said doubtfully, eyeing the mixture. Cookies, he knew from having seen them baked by various women in his life, ought to be rolled in balls, not poured in a pan. The mix he'd concocted, however, was unlikely to form any sort of shape whatsoever.
He really ought to have eaten his pride and called his sister-in-law. At least Dominique would have managed some real food, probably six courses of it if he knew Dominique. But the deed was done, so he found a pan he'd seen his wife use for cookies and set the oven for halfway up the dial (this sounded a reasonable compromise). He poured the cookies into the pan and decided to hope for the best as he popped them in the oven.
Once Johnny was appeased, Teddy set about looking for some sort of meat he could fry up as a proper dinner. A packet of sausages was duly unearthed from the freezer, and Teddy set them in a pan over the burner. At least this he could manage. even if there were no vegetables to go with it. He wouldn't have to admit to his wife that he had fed the children nothing but cookies for dinner. They would have a proper dinner, and a dessert to boot.
Sausages and cookies.
Dora began to fuss again, and Teddy gave her a handful of grapes to keep her occupied, but the first one she popped in her little mouth made her eyes bulge and her face turn red, and Teddy had to cast a quick spell to stop her choking.
Once the crisis was averted, Dora's crying soothed, and Teddy's heartrate returned to (nearly) normal, Remus remarked helpfully, “Mummy always cuts them up so the baby doesn't choke.”
“The sausages are on fire,” Johnny added.
Teddy plopped Dora on the floor and rushed to put the sausages out. As they smoked in the pan, he surveyed the damage with Remus and Johnny looking on.
“Mumumumum,” Dora said from her vantage point on the floor.
“Yes,” Teddy agreed with her. “I want Mum too.”
“I'm not eating those,” Remus declared, staring aghast at the sausages. “They're all wet now.”
“We'll dry them off,” Teddy assured him.
“And they've got all black bits all over.” Johnny's nose wrinkled in disgust.
They were quite horrible-looking, Teddy had to agree. Half-blackened and half-frozen, they clumped sadly in the charred pan.
“We could scrape the black bits off,” Teddy offered, loathe to admit he'd messed up a simple fry-up.
Johnny shook his head fiercely. “No no no no nonononono-”
Teddy tipped the sausages into the rubbish, and Johnny's rising voice cut off abruptly. Teddy set the pan in the sink, defeated. The cookies ought to be done, he reckoned. Perhaps the cookery wasn't a complete loss. Oats made them healthy, surely?
As soon as he pulled the pan from the oven, his heart sank. There was something off about them. His fears were confirmed when he grabbed a knife and attempted to cut into the 'cookies'. They had turned into a solid mass, hard as concrete.
“Bloody hell,” said Johnny, poking at them with a fork.
“Don't say 'bloody hell',” Teddy told him, though he secretly agreed with the sentiment.
Remus had looked away from the disastrous cookies, shaking his head as if he hadn't directed the entire operation. “Hey, where's Dora?”
Teddy looked round to see his infant daughter had crawled out of the kitchen. Oh bugger, he thought as he heard the front door open. Teddy let out a string of profanities at the sound, and dashed toward the door.
Hugo Weasley, Victoire's cousin and a trainee Healer, was just scooping Dora up into his arms when Teddy skidded to a halt in the foyer.
Hugo grinned widely at Teddy. “What is that awful smell, mate?”
Then there was nothing for it but to show Hugo the remains of the sausages and attempted cookies. Hugo chortled the whole time, not troubling to disguise his amusement.
“Looks like you forgot the butter or the egg, eh?” he said, nudging Teddy in the ribs.
“There's supposed to be butter and egg in it?”
Remus nodded sagely, as if he had known this all along, and Hugo guffawed.
“Oh, you're lucky Victoire didn't see this,” he chuckled. Dora made a grab for his glasses, and he dodged her little hands. “You'd never live it down. Better get rid of the evidence.”
“But I'm hungry,” moaned Johnny as Teddy attempted to Vanish the failed dinner. “What are we going to do?”
“Never fear, Johnny, I've come to save the day,” Hugo said, and handed Dora back to Teddy.
Hugo motioned them to follow him as he returned to the front door. Teddy had not even noticed the parcel on the console table in the foyer, but his sons cheered as they recognized what was under the bottles of potions for their mum.
A pizza box.
“Hooray!” Remus crowed loudly. Johnny was doing a victory dance beside his brother. Even Dora clapped her hands, though probably just to be included.
“You brought pizza? I said I was making dinner,” Teddy protested weakly as the pizza box was borne off to the kitchen table in triumph by Remus, with Johnny parading behind him.
“You can thank me later,” Hugo said cheerfully, clapping a hand to Teddy's shoulder.
Teddy sighed in defeat. By the time he'd eaten his third slice, even he had to admit that the pizza had been a brilliant notion.