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Chapter 1 : Questions
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He sank to his knees, digging his fingers into the soil, not caring that the dirt settled into every crevice of his hands when he clenched his fists. He felt as though he were trapped in his own skin.
A tear carved a path down his face and stopped halfway down his cheek. It clung there, reluctant to continue, looking for one last thing to hold onto. Where the grief had touched his skin, his face stung. All along the trail left by the tear, his skin was inflamed, as though a line of ants were biting it persistently. More tears followed, and the sensation intensified. Instead of wiping away the salty residue, Teddy sat, transfixed, fascinated by the exquisite discomfort.
The tears seemed to follow the same paths they had taken the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, carving tiny riverbeds on his face. He wondered whether his features were being slowly eroded, and he welcomed it.
But the discomfort could not distract him from the pain for very long – not while his reason for being there was staring him in the face. He had no idea that a piece of marble could be so malicious. Confusion overwhelmed him as he beheld her name etched in stone, and for a moment, he could barely remember his own.
The question he was longing to ask died before it reached his lips. It caught in his throat, choking him. Would it have even come out as a question? He didn’t feel capable of forming words. Maybe it was a howl of misery, struggling to break free from his lungs. But he had no air to speak, or even to sigh, much less yell. His grief had only one outlet: the salty torrent flowing from his eyes. It was coming out much too slowly – he thought the pressure in his chest would literally kill him.
The answers…who had them? Where were they? Were they buried beneath the soil that covered her perfect body? Were they trapped inside her lungs? Had she taken them to the grave, along with everything else she had taken away when she left? Were they etched in the tombstones that surrounded hers, mocking the thousands of people who came here to ask the very same questions?
Teddy buried his face in his hands. Bill and Fleur didn’t have the answers. Teddy’s Gran didn’t have them. Arthur and Molly didn’t. He could see it, the day before, at the funeral, nobody had the bloody answers. They were all wondering the same thing as him – although, of course, nobody could feel it as acutely as he did. Not even Bill and Fleur. They hadn’t been the ones to put a damned ring on her finger, had they?
Through his sobs, he heard quiet footsteps walking towards him, crunching softly over the thick grass. Teddy looked over his shoulder to see a solemn-looking man with thinning black hair and glasses.
Harry…Harry would have the answers. His godfather always had the answers.
For all of Teddy’s life, Harry had answered every question patiently. And Teddy had had a lot of questions.
As a small boy, he had wanted to know what made brooms fly. Why some people got to do magic and others didn’t. Why his hair changed funny colors whenever he wanted it to (and sometimes when he didn’t). Why Hermione yelled at Ron so much. What that funny plant was that Neville brought over.
Magic. Because some people just had magic in them already. Because his mum’s hair had been able to change colors, too, and it was a very special talent. Because she loved him. A Mimbulus mimbletonia.
As he grew older, the questions became harder, but Harry still answered them. Teddy had wanted to know about his parents – who they were, what they were like. How they fell in love. He wanted to know the stories behind the pictures Harry had given him. He wanted to know how such an old guy had managed to marry such a cute young woman. According to a smiling Harry, his mum had bullied his dad into it.
Even when Teddy had wanted to know how they died, and why, Harry had answered. And Teddy understood, they had given their lives to make the world better for him – and he accepted that. Plus, Harry had assured him that his mum and dad were probably having a hell of a party with Harry’s mum and dad and Harry’s godfather somewhere. (Teddy hadn’t been too sure about this – from what he could tell from the pictures, his dad looked like a real square.)
There had been a purpose behind his parents’ deaths. As sad as it made him, he knew there was a rhyme and a reason to what had happened.
But this…this was senseless. It was madness with no method. That was why, more than anything else, Teddy needed Harry to sit down and explain it away – to tell Teddy why such a thing would ever happen, tell him there was a good reason that would reveal itself in time, tell him that one day he would feel whole again. Because, surely, the world could not be so depraved that her breath had been cut short for no reason at all.
He was standing on the brink of madness, and the only thing tethering him to his sanity was the fanatical hope that Harry would be able to tell him why.
Teddy wiped the tears from his face, leaving dirt in their place instead, and looked up at Harry with unmasked desperation. Harry knelt beside him and pondered Victoire’s gravestone for a moment before turning to gaze evenly at Teddy.
And as Harry cast his eyes downward with an apologetic look, the realization hit Teddy like a fist in his stomach: Harry had no answers for this one.
Disappointment engulfed him as he realized that his godfather had failed him. It was inconceivable. If Harry couldn’t make sense of it all, nobody could. Why had Harry forsaken him?
And then, as quickly as it had come, the disappointment was gone, replaced by bitter anger. Harry could sit there, maddeningly calm, with a look of mingled pity and understanding on his face, but he couldn’t tell Teddy what he needed to hear. He couldn’t tell Teddy how to make his life meaningful again.
Teddy refused to believe Harry didn’t have the answers. Harry had to know something that Teddy didn’t. How else could Harry have created a normal life for himself? Teddy had always drawn hope from the fact that his godfather, despite everything that had gone wrong in his life, was a happy man. He had a loving wife and children; he had devoted friends; he had a life worth living.
Teddy wanted to know the secret that made it all possible. And he hated Harry for keeping it from him.
For the first time in his life, Teddy felt utterly lost and alone.
Shaking Harry’s hand from his shoulder, he pushed himself off the ground and turned to walk away. He wanted to get as far away as possible from Harry and his look of useless sympathy.
He had taken no more than five steps, when Harry caught him by his sleeve. Furiously, Teddy shook his head and pulled in the opposite direction, but Harry kept a firm hold on his arm. Teddy couldn’t help thinking that Harry was way too strong for such a skinny man.
In the next second, Harry had both arms around Teddy, rooting him to the spot. Teddy struggled against his hold, and fought against the tears that were brimming in his eyes again. He didn’t want to be touched. He didn’t want to be calmed. He didn’t want to be understood.
But Harry didn’t let go. He simply held on until Teddy’s violent struggles gave way to convulsive sobs and uneven breathing. And Teddy finally gave in, burying his face in Harry’s shoulder and crying in Harry’s arms the same way he had when he was seven years old and had fallen off his broom.
Still, Harry held on until Teddy’s breathing calmed and his sobs became quieter. And then, as Teddy became light-headed, Harry continued to hold on so that Teddy would not fall.
With some resignation, Teddy realized that there were no answers to some of his questions. The frightening fact of the matter was that he would have to pick up and move forward as best he could. But the way his godfather hugged him, told Teddy that he would never have to find his way alone.
A/N: This was written in response to AngelofDoe's Silently Challenge. The task was to write a "silent" one-shot, with no speaking, and I was assigned Teddy as the main character, Next Generation as the era, and "Questions" as the title.
Loved it? Hated it? Thoughts? Questions? Let me know in a review! I appreciate them all -- they motivate me and keep me accountable as a writer. Thank you for reading!
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