Chapter 1 : Does it Happen to Everyone?
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Teddy took after his father. At least, that's what everyone told him. He was quiet like him, wiser than his years called for. Brilliant like him, Aunt Molly said. Strong like him, Ron mused. Handsome like him, Ginny cooed, "When you aren't turning your hair blue, that is". She always brought up that story, especially when he brought home new friends. As if the last time Teddy had done so, wasn't before Albus was born. No, Teddy had outgrown that need to morph into someone else, anyone else, a long time ago. He didn't mind looking like his father now. Except sometimes, when the spotlight was extra bright and he got tired of hearing, "Oh, that's the Lupin boy. Poor thing. Ringer for Remus though, eh?"
Like today. Today, Teddy wanted to slip into another skin and crawl beneath a shadow. Everyone was here today. The Potters, the Weasleys, the Longbottoms, the Scamanders. But so were the various Ministry department heads, the Slug Club (past and present), a decent amount of Quidditch stars, most of his year at Hogwarts, and the Daily Prophet. You see, today was Theodore Lupin's graduation party. The Gryffindor Head Boy, leaving Hogwarts with "Outstanding"s in all his NEWT subjects, beginning training for his new position in the Department of Mysteries. The most famous child of The War, godson of The Chosen One himself. How could the affair be anything less than a spectacle?
Teddy couldn't really figure out whom to blame, however. He knew his godfather hated this sort of thing, as did Ginny, and Hermione, and Aunt Molly. . . well, everyone with any influence in his life for the most part. That is, except Ron. He preached disdain to save face of course, but he always had a story ready for the writers and a flirtatious grin ready for the camera. But, not even Ron could've botched things this royally. No, the best he could come up with was some random war aficionado slipping the news that Teddy Lupin was graduating to the right Ministry Official, successfully backing his godfather up against a very hard place. Politics.
"Look a little bit more miserable".
Teddy rolled his eyes. "You'd be miserable too if they were all here for you," Teddy snorted. "I've signed twelve autographs, taken about a thousand pictures, and been told more 'war stories' about my parents than I think are capable of actually existing in that time frame".
"Come off it mate. They're not here for you, they're here for them. Just flash a smile and enjoy the open, unattended, bar," Fredrick said with a smile while handing Teddy a fresh butterbeer. "Let old Bacchus lift those spirits!" Teddy laughed in earnest and clinked his bottle against Fredrick's. Cheers.
Fredrick was fifteen. Six feet tall with oak-wood skin, a dusting of freckles across his nose, a sarcasm-laced tongue, and the worst knack for getting into trouble. He was also Teddy's best friend. They didn't make much sense- Victoire loved to remind him he had no sense of humor- but ever since he was five and Fredrick was two, Fredrick had been roping them into trouble and Teddy had been pulling them out of it. He had also insisted, rather early in his life, that he be called Fredrick. Trickster or not, Fredrick hated being someone else's shadow too.
Victoire and Dominique eventually wandered over to join them posted so cavalierly by the bar, and the four of them had preceded to get irreparably sloshed. Well, the girls did, and Fredrick. Teddy teetered the line between feeling warm and slurring his words; he would undoubtedly be asked to shake more hands. After Teddy strolled back to his. . .friends, was the easiest way to put it (couldn't exactly be family with Victoire running loose in his dreams), following a particularly extended conversation with Oliver Wood about Wizarding policy for Goblin relations (he really did spend too much time with Hermione), Teddy reclaimed his spot between Fredrick and Victoire at the bar, and his abandoned, half-full beer. Of course, that was just in time for Angelina to come huffing over to them, taking Fredrick's firewhiskey (neat) away and chastising the way only mothers can.
"You aren't adults yet. . ." She caught herself when she looked at Teddy. "you three! Now shoo, away from here. And Fredrick, don't let me catch you with another drink in your hand. Not after last Christmas!" She even added a wagging finger so Fredrick would know she was serious. They all laughed once she had walked away, conveniently with the firewhiskey still in her hand.
"I keep forgetting Teddy Boy's an adult now!" Fredrick joked. "They grow up so fast!" He laughed and took the butterbeer from Teddy's hand before half-gesturing goodbye. "I'm bored, might go incinerate something". Dominique bounded along behind him.
"A walking charm, that one," Victoire commented.
"Yeah," Teddy chuckled. "But he's my walking charm".
Teddy looked off in the general direction of Fredrick's movement. As Fredrick crossed the back deck of the mansion, Teddy saw Hermione go inside.
"This place is gorgeous, yeah?" Victoire said, having followed Teddy's gaze.
"What? Yeah. I used to love it when I was little". Victoire was doing that thing she had recently started doing when they were talking alone, where she looked down at her wringing hangs and bit her bottom lip every time he spoke. It was cute, in its way, but he hated it. He liked looking at her eyes.
"You came here when you were younger?"
"Yeah, every now and then. With Harry. It was a while ago though. He hasn't taken me here since I was about seven, since I was a kid".
"I thought this was Aunt Hermione's place?"
"It is. An inheritance or something. They use it like a summerhouse. It's up for grabs most of the time, so to speak".
"Cool." She was doing it again.
"You don't have to look down, you know?" Teddy half-whispered.
"What?" Victoire gasped lifting her head, her eyes wide and blue and perfect. Teddy smiled, maybe now was the moment. He was about to lean in when a close-by thud caught his attention, followed by a straggled "ow".
Rosie was on the floor, cradling a scraped knee and scowling at a smug, unapologetic Louis Weasley standing above her.
"Louis!" Victoire screamed in that fierce way she often spoke to him. "You apologize to Rose right now!"
"Sorry Rose," he insincerely mumbled as Victoire grabbed his arm, stalking off. "Come on, I'm bringing you to Papa!" Teddy heard her saying.
Teddy bent down beside Rose examining her knee. "You hurting, Rosie?"
"It's not that bad. Hugo's done worse damage. Louis is just too easily excitable." Teddy smiled at her. Partly for being a trooper, mostly because of how little like a nine-year-old she sounded.
"And what exactly did you do to excite him?" he asked.
"He kept going on and on about how much better France was than England. So I told him that France wasn't so great because the Foudre du Paris was a terrible name for a quidditch team, and they suck, and everybody knows French people smell bad." Teddy eyed her. "It's not my fault he can't fight with words". Teddy laughed and mussed Rose's hair.
Rosie was Teddy's favorite little cousin, with Al coming in at a close second. He knew he shouldn't have favorites, but there was something about the precocious little firestorm that he loved more than almost anyone. He thought it might have had to do with the fact that Rose had been a particularly fussy baby (something Hermione attributed to the Ron in her), but she would always stop crying whenever Teddy was around. He was her favorite, her personal Teddy Bear, as she'd called him ages two through seven. Rosie was the baby sister he never had, and since she technically didn't have a big brother, he figured they were a fair fit. Plus, she was quicker than a whip. And he was the only one allowed to call her Rosie.
"Rosie Bud, stop antagonizing your cousins, please. They're all boys and they all hit, and you're bruised up enough as it is".
"Well, I can't very well just let them win Teddy," she said, half rolling her eyes. Teddy sighed exasperatedly and leaned his forehead against hers, shaking his head.
"What to do with you?"
"Get mummy. She does the best healing spells."
Rosie, ever the pragmatist. He mussed her hair again and told her he would be right back. He ran over to the deck and entered the decadent mansion that had been closed off to the guests; he knew Hermione hadn't walked back out yet. He always watched her, monitored her movements the way he did Harry, whom he realized he also hadn't seen in a while.
It was funny how his body seemed to remember the layout of the hundred-room house he had not entered in over ten years. He maneuvered through the empty halls as if he had lived there his whole life. It had seemed so much bigger back then, when he was still so small. He checked every room on the first floor, and the second, but he didn't have to check once he reached the third floor. The whispered voices from the second door on his left filled the desperate quiet, and he recognized them both. He would have knocked, but he knew the sound of a strained whisper that wanted to be a scream. So instead he stood outside and listened, and waited.
"It's killing me," he heard his godfather's baritone voice say. "It gets worse every day. I miss you".
"Don't," Hermione begged.
"No. I'm sick of pretending. I'm sick of being good. Aren't you?"
Teddy was surprised by the octave he heard Hermione's voice jump, but realized he had not been confused at all by the conversation; he should have been.
"What do you want me to say? You want me to say how I wake up some mornings and I look at my children, my beautiful children, and wish my son had unruly black hair and deep green eyes? You want me to say I named my daughter for a rose because I couldn't dare name her the flower I wanted to? Is that what you want Harry? There it is. But it's not grand and enlightening. It's disgusting. And I hate myself for it."
"I want you to say it!"
"No! I won't! And you can't! We agreed. We agreed to stop. And okay, it hurts like hell for me too, but we stopped for a reason. We had to. It was beautiful and something I wish I had the luxury to lose myself in, but I can't. We cant! And you can't keep doing this to me. We can't keep sneaking off to discuss something that is never going to change. We love them, Harry."
"It's not enough!"
"It doesn't have to be! It is. That's all. And tonight you'll go home and you'll make love to her in your bed and maybe you'll imagine me and maybe you won't but that's all it can be! That's all we can let it be, Harry. I. . . you know. You know how much I do. But this, us tucked away while a party rages outside, this is killing me."
"Hermione I'd stop the world for you! I'd throw away. . ."
"I don't want you to! And I won't let you!"
". . .Hermione. . ."
"Harry. . .no. I'm done. This can't happen anymore."
"Harry. . .go. Go back downstairs. Go kiss your wife and congratulate your godson. Go spin Lily around. Please Harry. . .please. If. . ."
"If I love you. . ."
"You'll go back downstairs. And. . . and we won't have this conversation again." Silence. Teddy repositioned himself in a corner, cloaked in shadow. "Go on."
"Hermione. I. . ." he could hear the resolve, the weakness, in the voice of his always strong godfather.
"It's okay. I know".
There was a pause, not a particularly long pause, in which no sound was made. Not even a rustle. Then Teddy saw the door of the room wrench open, saw Harry stalk out and walk right past him, heard the faint sob eclipsed by the bang of the door against the wall. He was still, unmoving. Until he was sure that Harry was at least two floors away; until he heard the softest sniffle.
He emerged from his shadow and crept towards the open doorway. She had her knuckles in her mouth, biting down, eyes closed. He cleared his throat just a little, and she jumped.
"Rose scraped her knee, thought I'd come get you".
"Of course," she said in that grown-up way, smoothing her velvet dress and preparing to be a mum again.
"I used to pretend, you know?" There was no reason for him to say it. But no one else was here, in this house he left so long ago. And he'd felt some type of shattering, not his world but something potent that necessitated this confession. "When I was little. I'd pretend, whenever it was just you and me and Harry, that I was Harry's real son. And you were my mum. And you both were all mine". She was staring at him, brown eyes wide, like he'd grown a third arm. "I never told anyone that you came too, when he brought me here. It was like a different world and I didn't want anyone to ruin it."
"And the last time. I'd woken up in the middle of the night and gone to Harry's room, and you were in there. And I heard you crying and talking about baby James, and I didn't go in because, I don't know. I guess I thought grown-ups couldn't cry. And I knew I wasn't supposed to, go in I mean. But, I think I knew it was over then, my little Harry, Hermione, Teddy fantasy. That's when it was over right?"
He wasn't sure when he had moved into the room, or when he and Hermione had sat down on the perfectly made bed.
"Yes". Her hand was at the nape of his neck, playing with his hair-- the way she did with Hugo to calm him down when he had a fit. "You've gotten so big. It's funny. I still imagine the little bundle Andromeda plopped in my arms whenever someone says your name".
He felt small; he felt like morphing. She was playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. The way she had at Andromeda's funeral when he was eight-years-old. The way she had when she'd found him crying in a shadowy corner. The way she had while he admitted that he hated his grandmother for dying just like he hated his parents for not staying home that night.
"Sometimes it's not about fair, or right, or good and bad, Teddy. We did what we had to. We gave you the best family we could." He wondered if he'd spoken aloud. "Sometimes things just are, and we have to make choices we hate, because we made choices we refuse to regret". He was looking at her now, possibly for the first time. Hermione, just Hermione. "No one under thirty ever wants to be responsible. Not even Hermione Granger-Weasley. And they shouldn't be. But, the bundles grow into new Ministry employees. And, sometimes, you have to make roses as beautiful as lilies, even if the scent's not the same."
"Does it happen to everyone?" He whispered.
"Yes. In some way or another. But, that's how it's supposed to be." She kissed his forehead. "Come on, there's a party out there we're missing and a scraped knee for me to mend".
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