“I want a story!” Lily cried at the top of her lungs, causing the dishes to rattle.
Teddy sat back in his chair, rubbing his temples. Never again.
“Stories are for little kids,” James shot back, squishing a grape between his fingers. He threw it into the air, but it missed his mouth, landing on the floor with a splat.
It made Teddy think of dripping blood.
“You two never agree.” Albus’ voice floated in from the other room.
“They’re not supposed to, they’re siblings.” Rose took a seat on the floor, leaning her head back against the couch.
Teddy turned to look at her. “You get along with Hugo alright.”
She shrugged, shoving back her bushy red hair. “We’re just better behaved.”
“Hey!” James half-leapt from his seat. “That’s not true, and you know it.”
Rose’s face flushed, her brown eyes glaring. “Don’t you–”
Enough, enough. He had to stop them. Guess who’d be to blame if they went at each other again.
Teddy struggled to his feet and went to stand between them. “Both of you sit down across the room from each other.” He tried not to yawn. “Next time, I’ll tell Aunt Ginny, okay?”
James scowled. “Doesn’t matter to me.”
“‘Course not. You know that I’d beat you.” Rose settled back onto the floor, smiling.
As James’ scowl deepened, Lily began to giggle, the high-pitched noises filling the room.
“You look just like that Snape man from the picture at school!”
An innocent murderer. Nice paradox.
The scowl immediately disappeared. “I’ll leave that for Alby.”
After a moment of dead silence, a response came from the next room. “I heard that, my dearest Jamsie.”
Teddy took a deep breath. “Let’s all relax a bit, here. We have the whole evening to ourselves and I don’t want to spend it watching you fight, as amusing that could be.”
Hugo, who’d been watching the whole scene with wide eyes, suddenly let out a bark of laughter. “It would be, Teddy. Very much.” He covered his mouth with a hand once he caught his sister’s glare.
“What should we do?” Teddy asked, his own enthusiasm making him ill.
Lily bounced off her chair. “I already said, you should tell us one of your stories!”
How had he gotten into this position? Aunt Ginny asking him to look after them while she went off with Aunt Hermione for an afternoon in London. Uncle Ron had gone to Cardiff to explore opportunities for a new shop, while Uncle Harry was somewhere on a mission; no one exactly knew quite where he was or what he was doing, not even Aunt Ginny.
And although that left many other caregivers for the five Potter-Weasley children, Teddy was the one who needed “settling down” and time to “get over” a summer spent without seeing Victoire one single time. Why did she have to go visit her family in France? Better yet, why was everyone trying to keep them apart? She was of age now....
“I’d prefer a game,” James announced, arms crossed. “A good bit of Quidditch–”
“You realise that it’s raining
Drip. Drip. That’s where he got that sound from. But why blood?
“Don’t call me that!”
“Don’t act like one then!”
They were going to kill each other one day.
“I still want a story!”
“Uhoh, I think they’re going to fight, Teddy.”
Hugo, the last to speak amongst the din, looked up at Teddy, some degree of worry entering his expression. Could he sense the violence in the air?
Jaw setting in a grim line, Teddy felt his hair turning colour. Red, probably. A nice bloody red colour that would have put any Weasley to shame. He flexed his lengthening fingers and closed his eyes as the ground fell a couple inches further away.
“Stop it!” His voice was deeper than they accustomed to, stopping James and Rose in mid-yell. All four of them in the room stared at him with open mouths.
“Bloody hell, Teddy.” Hugo’s voice squeaked.
Lily cowered behind a table. Rose sniffed and folded her hands into her lap. James huffed, ran a hand through his messy black hair, and flopped down onto the couch, much to Rose’s dismay. She scuttled off to sit on the hard chair in one corner of the room.
Teddy tried not to smile at their antics. Honestly, every time these kids got together....
Now he was sounding old. He was, compared to them. But really
old, like Uncle Harry. He said things like that sometimes. He’d have to spend more time with Uncle Ron at the joke shop, no danger of heart-to-hearts there. Sometimes, Uncle Harry was the most annoying person he knew, always talking about “the enemy” and “dark wizards”. He was getting to sound like Mad-Eye Moody. Don’t know how Aunt Ginny could put up with him, the great Boy Who Lived and now the Great Head Auror.
Where had Uncle Harry gone this time, anyway? He didn’t usually go on secret missions, and now he’d poofed off to Merlin-knew-where with hardly a by-your-leave leaving Teddy to be “father” to this restless lot. He was in his twenties now, too old to be baby-sitting. He’d have to talk with Uncle Harry when he got back, speak his mind about all this. Let him know that he wasn’t one of the kids anymore. Godfather or not....
The idea hit him suddenly. Too suddenly. It was disturbing. Dark. Dreadful.
But perhaps it would keep them occupied.
“Would you like to try something new?” His voice had gone back to normal, presumably the rest of him had as well.
James tilted his head. “What?”
“It’d be part story, part game,” Teddy continued, glancing at all of them in turn. Yes, they were all old enough for this. Hopefully mature enough.
“How would it work?” Rose narrowed her eyes.
“What would it be about?” Lily performed a pirouette, nearly falling over a small table.
“Sit down and I’ll tell you.”
Lily jumped onto the couch beside her brother, who yanked his arm from her grasp. Hugo took another chair in the room, shamelessly slouching in a way that would scandalise his mother (and cheer his father).
Teddy remained standing, raising his hands in a dramatic pose. “Imagine something dreadful happening. A murder, perhaps. Years ago, before the War.”
“A murder?!” Lily gasped, eyes widening.
“Yes, a murder. Someone killed by an angry, or jealous, or enemy hand.”
“Who?” James leaned forward, forgetting his sister’s grasp.
Teddy let one side of his mouth rise in a smile. “Who would everyone be trying to kill back then? Think.”
James frowned. Perhaps he had guessed. Rose appeared deep in thought. Lily only looked scared, and Hugo just watched, interested in listening only.
There was a sharp laugh from the doorway. Albus Severus adjusted his glasses and entered the room.
“You mean Father, of course. Brilliant, Teddy.”
The silence from the others was powerful. Like they had just come across the body of Harry Potter in some deserted corridor at Hogwarts, perhaps with some ghastly murder weapon sticking out of his heart, or throat, or stomach, whichever. Perhaps just with an expression of complete and utter horror upon his face....
“Any guesses for the killer then, Al?”
Albus opened his mouth to reply.
“Why not Mr. Malfoy?” Rose asked sweetly, her face breaking into a gleeful smile. “That’d certainly be suiting with the way he and Uncle Harry get along.”
James rolled his eyes. “That’d be too easy. Everyone would know it was him.”
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t we make it up as we go along?” Teddy broke in. His hair was turning blue. He was starting to feel pleased with himself.
They looked at him with questioning eyes. Time to explain.
“We’ll all take part in making up this story.” Teddy paused to took a breath. “I’ll tell most of it, then you can chip in at the important times to figure out where it’ll go next. Got it?”
Albus nodded. “Yes, we should make Mr. Malfoy the detective.”
Everyone, Teddy included, stared at him, open-mouthed.
Taking the time to choose a chair, Albus did not immediately respond. He seemed to enjoy letting the others wait.
“Everyone will think that Mr. Malfoy killed Father, so the only way that he could prove himself innocent would be to find who really did it.” He smiled. “It would make quite a story.”
Teddy nodded slowly, working through the details of the plot in his head. “Yes, I can see how it would work. Very good, Al.”
“But what about Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione?” Lily asked, pushing a lock of hair from her face. “Why would they let Mr. Malfoy be the detective? They’d lock him up in the dungeons for sure.”
“Hmm.” Teddy raised his eyebrows. “Maybe it’ll be understood once the story starts.”
“You better start before Hugo falls asleep.” James never bothered to hide his sarcasm.
A nice jinx would show him. Teddy clenched his fist, then distracted himself by sitting down and trying to get comfortable in that terrible chair. You’d have thought that Uncle Harry made enough money to get some decent furniture. Teddy cleared his throat, meshed his hands behind his head, then began.
"There was a blizzard on the first day of Christmas holidays...."