|Teddy Lupin Goes Visiting
Author: Jedi Tess of Gryffindor PM
Teddy Lupin visits his two families, the Malfoys and the Potters, and learns a lot from his cousin, Score.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Teddy L. & Scorpius M. - Words: 8,065 - Reviews: 26 - Favs: 40 - Follows: 4 - Published: 02-20-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4086078
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Teddy Lupin Goes Visiting
By Jedi Tess of Gryffindor
Summary: Teddy Lupin visits his two families and learns a lot from his cousin.
A/N: So this is in the "A Sketch of Character" post-DH timeline I kind of created for myself. It kind of makes more sense with that as a background. This is, once again, dedicated to Go10, who inspired me not to let this little foray into next gen. canon fic go. Also for Twi – something to tide you till the next chapter of Bend It is up! Again, sincere apologies for the less than good edit this got – with three jobs, time is the last thing I have. Also, I'm impatient.Hope everyone enjoys!
Disclaimer: All characters and situations belonging to the Harry Potter canon (including books 1-7) belong to the estimable J.K. Rowling and are not herein used for profit, but rather toward that far nobler aspiration, Creation.
Teddy Lupin shambled up the steps of the great manor house, his juice-stained hands tucked away in his pockets. He'd tried his best to scrub it off, but this week was fruit pie week at the academy and he had been elbow-deep in blue, black, and raspberries since Monday. He only hoped his great-aunt wouldn't notice. She was very particular.
He reached for the large brass knocker that hung from the ornately carved wooden door. He pulled it back and the bong echoed through the massive corridor beyond. Almost immediately, the door was pulled open by a tight-lipped butler, who gestured him through into the grand entrance hall. Teddy pulled his long sleeves down as much as possible over his hands, but the butler didn't give any indication that he cared what a mess his mistress's nephew was.
He had noticed, though, Teddy was sure.
"Is that Ted?"
Teddy's shoulders relaxed as his young cousin came skidding into the hall.
Scorpius Malfoy strode briskly up to him, stopped, and looked him up and down. "You smell like … something."
Teddy grinned. "Thanks."
Score waved a hand. "No, no, I mean something I like." He sniffed, squinting. "Is it …?" he paused.
"Score, leave our guest alone," came a deeper voice from the far end of the entrance hall. "He's only just come through the door."
Teddy glanced up. He smiled. "Hi, Draco."
"How are you, Ted?" Draco Malfoy came forward, shook his hand, and gestured him through into the lounge.
"Learn anything interesting in school last week?" This was his cousin's favorite question and Teddy could remember him asking it from about the time he, Teddy, had started at Hogwarts.
"Yeah – berry juice stains the skin." Teddy pulled his hands out of his pockets.
"You were making pies, weren't you?" Score demanded. "Didn't you bring us the leftovers?"
"Steady on, Score, I left them at my flat. Two of them had to set first." Teddy glanced at Draco. "Would you mind distracting Aunt Cissy so she doesn't see what a mess I am?"
Draco smiled, a twitch at the corners of his lips. "Course, mate. Just keep your sleeves rolled down."
"What kind of pies were they?" Score wanted to know as he pushed open the doors of the lounge. He scowled. "They'd better not be huckleberry."
"Scorpius, that's quite enough."
"Grandmother, I was just saying – "
"Really, Draco, can't you teach the boy any manners?" Narcissa Malfoy rose to her feet.
"You know we've been trying for years, Narcissa." Elizabeth Malfoy stood as well, and offered Teddy a wink.
"Oh, go on, I'm not that bad." Score threw himself onto a settee beside the final occupant of the room and had a little sulk.
"No, you're not, darling." Andromeda Tonks put her arms around him and he put his head on her shoulder, smirking at Teddy.
"You coddle him, Andy," Narcissa admonished. She gave a smile very like Draco's as she took Teddy's hands (without looking at them, thank goodness) and kissed both his cheeks. "How are you, my dear? How's school?"
"Very well, school's been interesting, thank you, Aunt," Teddy said, careful to tuck his hands away as soon as she let them go.
"You said you were studying pastry this week," his great-aunt said as she reseated herself and gestured for him to sit with her. "As I recall, that's one of your least favorite subjects."
"I like it when he's studying pastry," Score put in.
"We know, love," Elizabeth said, stroking his hair from where she stood behind the settee. "You're always sick the weeks he studies pastry."
"I take it as a compliment," Teddy said, and Score grinned at him.
"You're on to antipasto next week, I understand?" Narcissa, woman with the memory of an elephant, went on, placidly ignoring her grandchild.
"Yeah, much more to my taste," Teddy admitted, thinking about how nice and clean his hands would be.
"And how is your godfather?"
Somewhat taken aback, Teddy glanced at his grandmother, but Andromeda was gazing into the fire. He glanced at Draco, but his cousin was also watching the fire, his lips pursed and his arms crossed.
"He's – he's doing well, I think," Teddy said carefully. His great-aunt had never asked after either of his godparents or siblings in all the years he had been coming to visit her. He looked back at her, but she simply waited. "He and Aunt Ginny are getting ready for Matilda – Ginny's due in four month's time."
Andromeda raised her eyebrows. "Harry hadn't told me they'd chosen a name."
Teddy chuckled. "They couldn't think of anything they liked and they were tired of naming the kids after other people, so they decided to let Jamie and Al and Lily choose the name. It's taken a few months, but they decided on Matilda after Lily read it in a Muggle book."
"That's an interesting name," Narcissa said.
"I think Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny were so surprised the kids agreed to one that they kept it on principle." Teddy watched her, but his great-aunt's expression remained neutral. He glanced at Draco again. His lips were still pursed, but he said nothing.
"Mum, it's so unfair!" Score cut in. "Lily gets three brothers and sisters, and I don't get any."
"If I could possibly communicate to you the difficulty of birthing a child," Elizabeth said calmly, but with a twinkle in her eye.
"So, it doesn't have to come from you," Score retorted. "There are millions of unwanted babies who would love to have me as a big brother."
"Really, Eliza," Narcissa said, looking reproachfully at her daughter-in-law.
"I understand, Score," Elizabeth said, bending down to kiss Score's cheek. "But your father and I love you so much that we don't need another child. Anyway, how could you stand it if we had to divide our attention from you?"
Score frowned. "You wouldn't have to do that," he said after a moment's pause. "You could get the baby for me and I could look after it."
The adults all laughed while Score demanded, "What? What?"
"Anyway," Draco spoke up suddenly. Whatever had been on his mind, his expression had cleared, giving Teddy no other clue. "Ted's practically your brother, isn't he?"
"Yeah, whatever," Score muttered. "He spends more time with James and Lily and Albus than he does with me. So it's like they have another brother. Huh, like they need one."
This time, Teddy saw Draco's expression sour, though he said nothing and turned back to the fire.
"I didn't realize you liked having me around so much," Teddy said, his eyes still on Draco.
"Rather," Score said. "I come all the way home from school every weekend you come to visit Grandmother, don't I?" He brightened. "Ooh, Mum, can he come on holiday with us to Ireland?"
"Of course he's welcome," Elizabeth said, smiling at Teddy. "But you know he's very busy with school, Scorpius."
"It's not like he can't cook things just as well in Ireland," Score said, looking hopefully at Teddy.
Teddy was spared answering by the arrival of the butler, announcing dinner.
"At last." Narcissa took Teddy's arm and led the way toward the dining room.
"Score, you're to stop bothering him immediately," Draco murmured from somewhere behind them. "He's here to visit us, not be interrogated."
"Fine," Score muttered. He rarely challenged his father. "But can't I ask just once more before he goes?"
"You may ask," his father said. "You may not badger."
The dining room was, as usual, exactly the sort of place in which normal people like Teddy felt totally small and grubby. Or like they should be in an apron helping out in the kitchens. It always took him a couple of minutes to adjust to sitting in the carved wooden chairs, drinking out of the twenty-galleon-a-piece goblets, and eating with fine silver off of antique porcelain.
He thought about Uncle Harry's house with its scrubbed wooden table, sturdy chairs, and solid ceramic plates and goblets. He thought about Jamie and Lily climbing all over everything and Albus fumbling everything he touched. He thought about Uncle Harry hollering that dinner was ready and Aunt Ginny herding everyone into the dining room, which was just off the kitchen.
He thought about the ironic difference between the houses, which was that Great-Aunt Narcissa's table was served by several maids, while Uncle Harry's was served by himself and occasionally one of his children.
"Teddy, love, are you all right?"
Teddy blinked. His grandmother was studying him across the table. He reddened as he realized that so was everyone else.
"Sorry," he murmured. "Just … thinking."
"About what?" Score asked.
"Family," he said.
"Oh." Score looked disappointed.
The supper was, of course, delicious. Everyone was braised, marinated in red wine, souffléd, or delicately roasted. However uncomfortable he felt in this dainty setting, Teddy appreciated the care and creativity with which Great-Aunt Narcissa had her food prepared.
"That was lovely, Cissy." Andromeda set her fork down after the main course.
"It was nothing, dear." Narcissa dabbed the corners of her mouth with a napkin.
"Maybe we could have Teddy cook for us some time," Elizabeth suggested.
"Nonsense, he's my guest." Narcissa didn't quite sneer, but Teddy had seen Draco do it enough to recognize the beginnings.
"We're family, mother," Draco said. He squeezed Elizabeth's hand. "We needn't be so formal. And it might be interesting to see how he's getting on."
"I'd love to, actually," Teddy cut in before his great-aunt could get too worked up. "Really, Aunt Narcissa, it might be fun. I'm not exactly French trained, but I've got a wicked way with a meat cleaver."
"Cool! Could you do like in those Muggle restaurants where they make all your food and flip their knives through the air while you watch?" Score asked eagerly.
"How on earth do you know about Muggle restaurants?" his grandmother wanted to know.
"Mum takes me all the time," Score said, shrugging.
"There's quite a nice little spot on Buckingham Palace Road," Elizabeth said. Teddy admired her composure under the circumstances. Narcissa's sneer was becoming harder to ignore. "It's Malaysian, actually."
"I wish you'd told me about it," Draco said, directing a warning look at his mother. "I love Asian food."
"Is that the kind of chef you're going to be, Ted?" Score asked. Teddy couldn't tell if he was oblivious to the undercurrents of the conversation or not.
"Not exactly," he answered. "I mean, I'm required to study world cuisine, but we sort of specialize in one foreign field."
"Wasn't yours Greek, dear?" Narcissa asked, turning her attention away from Elizabeth.
"Yeah. Didn't like it much, though. Too many olives."
"What did you change to?"
"My executive decision is that next time, Ted's cooking," Draco declared. Apart from Narcissa, the others heartily agreed.
"Shall we take our coffee in the south parlor this evening?" Narcissa suggested.
Though he had pleasant conversations with his great-aunt and grandmother, the opportunity Teddy had really been waiting for took forty-five minutes to present itself. When at last, his grandmother went to join Score for a game of chess, Teddy joined Draco at a far window, which overlooked the vast, well-lit gardens of the Malfoy estate.
"I hate that garden," Draco said, his expression sour. "When I was in my teens, Mother would send me out there with girls she wanted me to marry."
Teddy chuckled. "How many were there?"
"A fair few," Draco said, his lip twitching. "She blamed me for scaring so many off."
"What really happened?"
"I was friends with them and back then, you didn't bollix friendships." He frowned. "We needed all the friends we could get."
Teddy knew better than to bring up the war, either with his cousin or his godfather, so he changed the subject. Badly.
"I don't mean to – that is, I noticed – what I mean to ask," he began, silently cursing himself for sounding like a total prat.
"Ask what?" Draco was watching him now.
"You just looked," Teddy said carefully, "like something was bothering you earlier."
The sour expression, muted somehow, returned to Draco's face. He didn't speak.
"Sorry, it's just – well." Teddy couldn't think of a way around it, so he took the plunge. "I thought it might have something to do with Score's comment about how much time I spend with Uncle Har – with my godfather and his family. More time than I do … with you."
Draco looked sharply at him, but an actual half-smile was playing about his face. "I suppose I should be offended that you think I would resent you spending time with your godfather, who practically raised you."
Teddy blushed. "No, I mean … well, like Score said, you're family. Uncle Harry's not – not exactly – "
Draco opened his mouth, closed it. At last, he said slowly, "Whatever my … issues with Harry Potter, your parents chose him to be your guardian after your grandmother. I can't and don't resent that, particularly when I see how well he's done by you." He sighed, running a hand over his thinning hair. "I just - it's hard to explain. It's not you," he added. "Nothing you're doing. You've done nothing but make us all proud since you started walking."
"And before that?" Teddy ventured with a small smile.
"Eh, we basically ignored you." Draco shrugged. "Fed you a bit when we thought about it."
Teddy chuckled. "Thanks for that." He paused. "So, if neither Uncle Harry or I are on your mind ... well, what is?"
Draco stared out the window, rubbing his chin. While he was doing this, Score suddenly let out a whoop from the chess board across the room.
"It's him, actually," Draco murmured, gesturing toward his exuberant heir.
"Score is certainly unique," Teddy said.
"And he's lonely." Draco shook his head. "Lizzy and I have spoken about having another child, but … well, we spoke about it and by the time we decided not to, it was too late anyway."
"Would it help if I spent more time with him?" Teddy asked, watching as Score prodded a knight forward with a gleeful look. Andromeda smiled indulgently and took the knight. Score's expression drooped and he went back to eyeing his pieces.
"He's not your responsibility," Draco said quickly. "And he has plenty of friends at school. You're so close to graduating, we don't want to distract you."
"I know he's not my responsibility," Teddy assured him. "But he is my cousin." He hesitated. "Look, if he wanted to, he could even come with me to Uncle Harry's sometimes. Aunt Ginny wouldn't mind and Score likes Lily and Al." More than liked, in the case of the former, but Teddy didn't like to bring that to Draco's attention. The inevitable explosion when this infatuation came to light would echo off the walls of Malfoy and Potter alike. Teddy wanted to be in deepest Africa when it did. Or possibly, the Yukon.
Draco expression pinched again, but he said firmly, "I think that would be nice, so long as he isn't an imposition." He grunted. "The boy went on for months about meeting the Potters in Diagon Alley last Christmas."
Teddy laughed. "He was so pleased with himself. He thought he had you and Uncle Harry all sorted."
Draco cleared his throat. "We Malfoys are what might, in diplomatic terms, be called gloaters."
"Score certainly got it out of his system," Teddy agreed, watching as Score began to tickle one of his pawns with a quill feather. It giggled and fell over. Score giggled, too, while his grandmother called to him that cheating was not attractive.
"He did," Draco agreed before lapsing into silence again. "I want," he said at last, "for him to have lots of cousins. I want him to have a big, warm family, even if Lizzy and I alone can't provide it." He glanced at Teddy. "I watched those Potter kids that night we had dinner in the Leaky Cauldron. Those three have cousins coming out their ears, about a hundred uncles and aunts, a set of loving grandparents, and a strong connection to dead ones. Potter's given them all that and what have I given Score? His parents, a great-aunt, a grandmother, and one grown-up cousin." He grimaced. "And a mentally unstable grandfather. Lizzy's family won't have much to do with us now they know what we are." He shook his head. "Some dad I turned out to be."
Teddy had no idea how to have this conversation with Draco. He wanted to say the right thing but had no idea what that was.
"Er ... I suppose I can see why you would want that big biological family for Score," he began. "But ... well, maybe this isn't a good comparison, but I haven't any parents or aunts or uncles. I have a grandmother, a great-aunt, and two cousins. That's it. And who did Uncle Harry have? The Dursleys, who, from what I hear, barely count as relatives. Look what he's got now! More nieces and nephews than any one person should have. His best friends are his in-laws." He paused. "I guess my point is ... well, some people are just born into huge families. Some people aren't and I think those people create their own."
"You're right, of course." Draco gave him a half-smile. "I guess, growing up Pureblood and having a fanatic for a father, I always thought of family as represented by blood." He frowned. "And I still believe in the ancient birthright of the Pureblood families. We created the wizarding world; it's our legacy."
"But think of all the things half-bloods and Muggleborns have brought into our world," Teddy began, but his cousin held up a hand.
"And you're right." He gestured around at his mother and aunt. "Their sister, Bellatrix, was mad. Your godfather's godfather, Sirius Black was ... well, I've heard stories and I don't think he was stable. Your godfather's in-laws, the Weasleys – they're basically all right, but they definitely have some oddities as well."
"Yeah, you should meet Aunty Muriel," Teddy murmured, wishing (not for the first time) that he hadn't.
"My point," Draco said, "is that those are great families, with lineage back to the Hogwarts' founders and beyond. And I'm proud of that and think it shouldn't be dismissed or forgotten." His eyes came to rest on his wife. "What I am saying is that it's foolhardy to think that bloodline can continue with Pureblood intermarriage. You and I - we're related to the Weasleys, the Blacks, the Potters, even. Oh, distantly, but the relationship is there. Without unique Muggles like Lizzy, Muggleborns like Hermione Weasley, half-bloods like Severus Snape, Harry Potter, even You-Know-Who - well, we'd all be mental, wouldn't we?"
"So in a way," he said, "the wizarding world is like a giant family, right?"
"Yeah, I think so," Draco said. "And Potter's family is no different."
"So let Score figure out how to make his own family," Teddy suggested. "I'll start by taking him to the Potters. He and Al would probably get on famously. Or possibly," Teddy added wickedly, "he'll meet a nice Weasley cousin and – "
"Stop! Stop! Oh, I couldn't bare it!" Draco cried dramatically, waving his hands.
"Couldn't bare what, Dad?" Score asked, glancing up at his distressed parent.
"You're not to marry a Weasley, do you hear me?" Draco demanded, rounding on his only child with energy.
Score shrugged, turning back to the chess. "Dunno, Dad. Rosie's pretty cute."
Draco pretended to swoon into a nearby chair, soliciting laughter from Andromeda and Elizabeth. Draco glared at them. "I blame you, Aunt Andy," he accused, pointing a long finger at her.
"Why me?" Andromeda asked, toying with a pawn.
"You don't mind Weasleys," Draco said darkly.
"Draco, don't point," his mother chided, looking up from her book. "Scorpius, I tolerate a good deal from you. You are not to marry Weasleys."
"I just said Rosie was cute!" Score said indignantly.
"Stop contradicting," Draco ordered. "How do you feel about spending some time at the Potters' with Ted?"
Teddy was expecting Score to be excited. He wasn't expecting the boy's pale face to light up, his spine to straighten, or his crooked smile to burst onto his face. "Really, Dad?"
Evidently, Draco wasn't expecting it either. Teddy glanced at Elizabeth and saw her smiling, nodding encouragingly at her husband. Narcissa, in contrast, was shaking her head with the sneer tugging at her lips again.
"Really," Teddy told Score. "I've just invited you. We thought you might enjoy spending time with Lily and Al."
"When? When do we leave?" Score demanded, jumping to his feet.
"Settle down." Draco gestured for his son to calm himself. "Ted issued a general invite for the future. It's for him to tell you when it's appropriate."
"Oh, get me all excited, why don't you?" But Score was still smiling as he turned back to the chess.
He stopped smiling when Andromeda moved a rook and said, "Checkmate."
"Don't take it too hard," she said kindly. "No one's beaten me in years."
"Except Ron that one time at Christmas," Teddy remembered. "Oh, wait – no, never mind, he was cheating."
Draco sniggered. "He always fancied himself a chess prodigy." It was, Teddy thought, to his cousin's credit that he left the comment at that.
"So," Score said, throwing a glanced at Teddy. "Going to the Potters anytime soon?"
"I thought," Teddy said, suppressing a smile, "that you might like to come with me in a couple of weekends. Jamie, Al, and Lily are going to be at home for a visit."
Score didn't stop smiling for the rest of the evening, and when Teddy caught Draco's eye later, he knew that whatever he'd gotten them all into, it was going to be good.
It was strange, having someone else with him. For years, Teddy had been visiting his godfather at least once a week for family supper. He liked to walk from the little Muggle village a half-mile off and he always did this alone.
Now, Scorpius shambled beside him, his hands folded into his pockets and his lips pursed in a thin white line.
"What's it like?" he asked, his eyes fixed on the ground.
"What's what like?"
"A proper family." Score threw him a glance. "You and I – we don't have families. Not normal ones, anyway. But I mean – the Potters are kind of yours."
"I suppose so."
"So what's it like?"
"Score, what's wrong with your family?" Teddy wanted to know.
"What, apart from the fact that Grandfather's a psychopath locked in Azkaban and there are no other kids and my great-aunt loves me more than my grandmother does?"
"Your grandmother loves you."
Score snorted. "She tries, maybe. She used it all up on Dad, though. She's limited."
Teddy thought about that. He thought about Narcissa's eyes when they turned on Draco. They were still fierce – Teddy knew what she had done to protect Draco during the war. She had put everything she was into shielding her son.
Didn't stop her staying with her madman husband and becoming a Death Eater, though, Teddy thought. Had she even loved Draco enough?
"So what's it like with the Potters?" Score pressed.
They had reached the little kissing gate that passed into the Potters' front garden. Uncle Harry had already been busy, Teddy saw – little buds were visible on the rose bushes and tulips were already open. New starts poked out of the ground. Even in the twilight the garden was bright, inviting.
"It's peaceful," Teddy told his cousin. "Not that peaceful," he added a moment later, as shouts came from the house. "James is always tormenting Al and Lily, and right now he's driving both his parents up the wall."
"Oh, I can't imagine," Score said, his lip twitching.
"And when the cousins are over, it's complete madness," Teddy went on, weaving his way along the little path that twisted through the tall bushes and floral arrangements to the front porch. "You can't get a word in and no one could hear you if you did."
"Sounds marvelous," Score said, his eyes wary as he stared up at the house. He squinted at the little plaque set into the base of the porch. "'Dobby Terrace' – is that the name?"
Teddy smiled. "Yeah. They named it after the house elf Uncle Harry freed his second year at Hogwarts. Dobby saved Uncle's Harry's life in the end, sacrificing his own. Aunt Ginny liked him a lot as well and they decided to honor him this way. Hermione cried when she saw the house for the first time."
"She's been lobbying for house elf rights for years," Teddy told him as they climbed the steps. "She said that the hero Harry Potter naming his home after an elf showed wizards everywhere that equality among wizards and magical creatures is the most important thing in our world."
The front door opened and Lily threw herself into Teddy's arms.
"Jamie is being horrible," she said into his shoulder. "I wish we could go back to school so I could get away from him."
"He won't always be horrible," Teddy told her, kissing her head.
"Yeah, yeah, they all say that," Lily said, pulling away. She noticed Score, standing just behind Teddy. "Scorpius!" Her frown drew into a wide smile. "How are you? I'm so glad you're here!" She took his arm. "Come in. It's so nice to have another Slytherin around."
Score might have said, "Good to see you, too," but he mumbled it so low that Teddy couldn't really tell.
As Lily pulled the door open, Albus came hurrying out. He said nothing as he wrapped his arms around Teddy. Since James's prickly adolescence, Albus had grown increasingly quiet and introspective. Teddy knew his parents worried that something was wrong, but Teddy suspected otherwise. Like his two namesakes, Albus Severus did things to him own time and tune.
"All right, mate?" Teddy asked him.
"Fine," Albus said, taking his hand and pulling him through the doorway. "How's school?"
"Fine," Teddy said, nudging him. "How's Hogwarts?"
Albus smiled, a slow curl of his lips that spread across his face like sunlight until his bright green eyes twinkled behind his spectacles. "Fine."
"Good." Teddy put an arm around him and they crossed into the entrance hall together.
The front room was entirely lit with sunlight through a combination of windows and skylights. Teddy loved the room – the peace of the garden followed and waved goodbye at the open kitchen doorway.
Albus was pulling Teddy's coat off when Aunt Ginny came through. She looked strained and was rubbing her swollen belly absently.
"Hi, Teddy!" She kissed his cheek. "You're right on time. We were expecting another ten minutes. How was your journey?"
"Oh, fine." Teddy glanced around. He could hear Lily's voice form the kitchen. She was talking a mile a minute, presumably to Score. Teddy couldn't hear his cousin contributing, but Lily could talk for England and Score was obviously more nervous than Teddy had originally thought.
"Ready for graduation?" Aunt Ginny linked her arm through his and drew him into the house, Albus just behind them.
"No, not remotely."
Aunt Ginny laughed. "Who is? I sometimes wish I were still at Hogwarts."
Teddy didn't miss the shadow across her eyes. "Everything all right, Aunt Gin?"
She shook her head, still rubbing her stomach. "Fine, love."
"Matilda all right?" He glanced at her tummy.
Aunt Ginny smiled at last. "More than all right. Heavy bloody thing, though."
"So … really, nothing is wrong?"
Teddy didn't believe her, but he didn't press further as she led him into the kitchen.
Uncle Harry was bent over the stove, tasting something red and bubbling. He shook his head, waved his wand, and a pepper grinder began to sprinkle black specks into the pot. A spoon swirled once around the pot and Uncle Harry tasted again. He nodded, drew back, and noticed his wife and Teddy.
"Teddy!" The tension in his lined face eased, flattening his scar against his forehead. He shook Teddy's hand. "All right, mate?"
"Yeah, great." Teddy glanced around and saw Albus join Lily and Score at the table. Teddy winked at his cousin, who was sitting up too straight in his chair and was nodding mechanically to everything Lily said. "Breathe, Score."
"Shut up!" Score snapped, going pink. His eyes widened and he turned magenta. "Sorry, Mrs. Potter."
"I've been known to tell Teddy to shut up a few times," Aunt Ginny admitted. "Not to worry."
Very few people were proof against Aunt Ginny's kindness. Score's shoulders relaxed and he turned his attention to Albus's question about their Herbology midterm with more sharpness in his eyes and less rigidity in his posture.
"Thanks for letting him come, too," Teddy murmured, leaning against the counter as his uncle turned back to the stove.
Aunt Ginny leaned back beside him, glancing at the blond boy, whose head was bent close to Albus's. "Poor kid. He's all right."
"So's his dad," Teddy offered tentatively.
"But I'd hesitate to invite him for dinner," Uncle Harry said.
"Scorpius seems like a nice boy," Aunt Ginny said. "We were very pleasantly surprised when we met the Malfoys in Diagon Alley last Christmas."
"I don't think kids should be judged by their parents or families," Teddy cut in.
Aunt Ginny looked surprised. "I'm very sorry if you thought that's what I meant."
"I think she meant," Uncle Harry jumped in quickly, "that because Scorpius is an only child, and a wealthy one – well, you have to admit that it's a volatile combination for some kids."
Teddy relaxed and felt a bit ashamed of himself. Of course his godparents weren't being prejudiced. And hadn't they moved beyond their childhood rivalries? He had seen Uncle Harry and Draco interact civilly in Godric's Hollow, hadn't he?
"Sorry," he murmured.
Aunt Ginny squeezed his shoulders. "You worried about your cousin?"
"Draco is," Teddy admitted. "Just – he thinks Score's lonely. He said it himself, he hasn't got much family and what he does have isn't great."
Uncle Harry murmured, "He's got a mum and dad who obviously love him very much."
Teddy nodded. "Yeah." They shared a look. "Just – he's the youngest in the family, his grandfather's in Azkaban, his grandmum is the world's iciest ice queen."
"Not easy for him sometimes?" Aunt Ginny guessed.
"You should have seen his face when he heard he could come here with me," Teddy said quietly, watching his cousin wave his arms around as he illustrated something to his captive audience. Lily's eyes were wide and Albus was chuckling.
Teddy glanced around. "Where's James?" He wished he hadn't asked when he saw his godparents' faces.
"He's in his room," Aunt Ginny said, waving her wand rather more violently than she probably meant to. The napkin drawer exploded.
"Gin." Uncle Harry reached around Teddy, but Aunt Ginny was across the kitchen cleaning up the mess, muttering to herself. The belly rubbing was more vigorous than ever.
"He's not joining us tonight," Uncle Harry explained under cover of Albus and Lily questioning their mother about the sudden noise. "You can go poke your head in if you'd like."
"Sure, I'll do that." Teddy glanced at his aunt. "Can I help with that, Aunt Gin?"
She waved him away with her wand and he fought the impulse to duck. "No thanks, love. Go on up."
Teddy squeezed her shoulder. He ruffled Score's hair as he passed the table.
"Are you going to see Jamie?" Lily called after him. He waved over his shoulder in acknowledgement. "Your funeral," she muttered, probably not meaning for him to hear. Her mother started telling her off as Teddy took the stairs two at a time. He followed the long upper hallway along to the door at the very end. He knocked.
"Go away!" a voice bellowed.
"Just me, mate," Teddy said, suddenly wondering if he wanted to go in. He rolled his eyes – how old was he, ten? He could handle James. "Can I come in?"
There was a pause. "Fine."
Teddy took a deep breath before pushing the door open. The room was a mess and the door caught against a pile of books and clothes. James was sprawled across his bed, Muggle earphones stuck in his ears. He had books and papers around him as though he were studying. He looked up from a piece of parchment he was scribbling on. He tucked the parchment inside the book on which he had been writing and threw it aside.
"Hi, Teddy," he muttered.
"Hi, Jamie." Teddy found a place on the corner of James's desk and sat. He thought about asking how his god brother was, how school was going, what he was working on at the moment. "What's going on with the family?" he said instead.
James's lip curled. "Gits, all of them."
"Harsh, mate." Teddy studied his fingernails.
"Don't give me some lecture about appreciating my family because you don't have one and I'm so lucky."
Teddy didn't rise to the bait. "I have a family, actually. I was going to remind you that being a git yourself sort of doesn't qualify you to judge others."
James opened his mouth, saw the half-smile on Teddy's face, and scowled.
"Gotta be to keep up with you."
"Why am I always wrong?" James demanded, throwing his hands up. "It's like whatever I do, whatever I say, I'm being rude or I'm being disrespectful, or I'm being a spoiled brat."
"What happened this time?" Teddy asked, crossing his arms.
"I just wanted to get Dad to send a note to Hogwarts telling Professor Creevey to let me start going to Hogsmeade again."
Teddy remembered the incident that had got James and his four friends banned from the village for the rest of the year.
"You blew up Weasley Wizard Wheezes," Teddy pointed out. "I don't care if George is your uncle, that's just not on."
"Okay, that was, like, two months ago," James said, rolling his eyes. "I went in every weekend to help rebuild. It's not like Uncle George couldn't afford to rebuild it, anyway. He's a Galleonaire."
"He shouldn't have had to rebuild it, Jamie."
"Didn't you ever screw up?" James exploded. "Jesus, you're like Al. Mister Perfect Suck-Up. Mum wishes you were her son."
Teddy laughed. "Yeah, right. I made your mum cry all the time when I was your age." James raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "She was usually crying because she was furious," Teddy amended. "I'm amazed she didn't throw things at me."
"You're not just saying that?" James demanded.
Teddy snorted. "I wouldn't do that. We're all gits at some point. Your mum made your grandmum crazy with worry all the time."
"Yeah, but Mum was a hero," James said, drawing out the last word with a curl of his lip.
"Not then," Teddy assured him. "She was a lovesick fourteen-year-old with anger management issues and a youngest child complex. She admits it – she was dangerous sometimes."
"She Bat Bogied my dad so bad he passed out."
They glanced up. Score stood in the open doorway, looking uncomfortable.
"Really?" James looked interested. "So if you're angry, it makes it worse?"
"James." Teddy gave him a look.
"I'm never leaving this room again, so I can't try it," James retorted. He glanced at the doorway. "All right, Malfoy?"
"All right," Score said. "You?"
"Something up, Score?" Teddy asked.
"Mrs. Potter sent me to get you," Score told him. "And to – um, pay my respects to James."
"Oh, for – " James threw himself backward on his bed and fumed.
"Lily said it, not me!" Score defended. "I was just – look. Hi, Potter. Bye, Potter." He vanished and Teddy could hear the echo of his shoes on the stairs.
Teddy tried not to smile, but his mouth was twitching all over and his eyes were crinkling. Also, his hair was going light pink.
"Don't take the mickey, Ted, I'll hit you," James stormed.
"Oh, try it." Teddy couldn't think of anything else to do, so he wrinkled his nose and turned himself into Grandma Weasley. "Now, young man, you get out of that bed and come eat dinner with your family, do you hear me?"
James also tried not to smile, but Teddy's impressions were pretty funny. He cracked a grin. "No, thanks. But maybe …" he looked hopeful. "Bring me something?"
Teddy rolled his eyes as he let his features settle back to normal and hopped off the desk. "I'll see what I can do."
Teddy was almost to the stairs when James called after him. He turned.
"When're you coming round again?" James asked.
"Dunno, mate. I graduate soon, it's pretty busy for me."
"How about Hogwarts?"
Teddy laughed. He had taken independent study and spent six weeks studying house elf cooking in the Hogwarts kitchens. He'd had so much fun that he'd gone back for two more independent study follow-ups over the next couple of years. "Dunno. I'll try to come by this term."
James nodded, satisfied, and disappeared back into his room.
When Teddy returned to the kitchen, the food was floating onto the table and Albus was laying out silverware. Lily and Score were talking about something while fishing plates and goblets out of the cupboard.
"You're alive!" Lily gave Teddy a very sly look.
"Stop, Lils." Uncle Harry ruffled her hair and she shrieked.
"Alive and glad I saw my god brother," Teddy told her. "Can I help at all with anything, Uncle Harry?"
"Have a seat and tell me how your last midterm went." Uncle Harry turned away but Teddy saw his smile. No one but Teddy understood James the way Uncle Harry did.
"Any leftovers?" Lily wanted to know as she threw herself into a seat beside him. Her long red plait slapped his shoulder.
"No, this was a written," he explained as everyone else took their seats around the table. Teddy was across from his cousin, who was also listening eagerly. "We have practical and written, just like you lot."
"I do like the practical exams," Score said. He frowned. "You didn't bring anything from your last exam." His eyes narrowed. "Did you do that thing where you save it to impress women?"
Teddy went very red indeed and Uncle Harry laughed hard.
"Are you trying to impress women with your cooking, Ted?" Aunt Ginny said with a straight face.
"Score, I will have to kill you now," Teddy told him, scowling.
"Oh, what, I so owed you one," Score retorted, sitting on his feet so Teddy couldn't kick him. Though he was blushing, Teddy noticed Lily out of the corner of his eye. She was leaning forward and grinning at Score across the table. Teddy was amazed that he seemed to be the only one who noticed this blindingly obvious behavior.
"Anyway, if I dispose of you, your dad might make me heir," Teddy went on as his cheeks began to cool.
"Really, Teddy." Aunt Ginny was looking genuinely interested. Teddy hated that look – it was almost worth lying so she wouldn't try to fix him up. "Are you seeing anyone?"
Aunt Ginny looked surprised and turned to Score. "How do you know that?"
Score grinned at her. "My great-aunt Andy always knows and she hasn't said anything."
Uncle Harry nodded. "Yes, Andromeda does seem to know everything. He's got you there, Ted."
"Well, I don't like to meddle," Aunt Ginny said (a sure sign she was about to start), "but Nev has the nicest intern this year at Hogwarts. She was very interested when he mentioned that you're pursuing such a unique career."
"Thanks, Aunt Gin." Teddy quickly stuffed a large hunk of bread into his mouth.
"Let him alone, Gin." But Uncle Harry was grinning.
"Will she be like this when I'm Teddy's age?" Albus wanted to know. He sounded eager, poor boy. "Really, that might be nice."
"What're you talking about?" Score demanded. "You've got about a hundred girls in all four houses who'd give their wand arms to go out with you."
Albus was gobsmacked.
"Does he really?" Lily asked. "I mean, obviously, I'm not in the market, but … wow, how do you know?"
Score shrugged. "It's obvious. Haven't you heard the girls in Slytherin talking about him?"
"No." Lily stared at her younger brother. Then she giggled. "Al, you heartthrob!"
"That can't be right, though." Far from blushing, Albus was scratching his head and adjusting his glasses. "I mean, how could I not know?"
"Dunno," Score said, looking pretty amazed himself. "Hasn't anyone asked you out to Hogsmeade or anything?"
"A – a few times," Albus admitted, squinting. "Yeah, but just – just the five."
"That is so sweet," Aunt Ginny said, her chin in her hand as she stared at her youngest son. "Al, lovey, you never said!"
"Well, I didn't know," he said helplessly. He glanced up, saw them all staring, and said quickly, "Let's talk about something else."
Teddy saw Lily catch Score's eye and they both looked quickly into their bowls of stew, which had filled themselves while they were talking. Teddy studied Score's face. His cousin had locks of hair in his eyes as he spooned stew into his mouth. He wasn't sitting in his usual rigid posture, but slumped slightly forward. His lips twitched frequently into a grin or smirk, and his eyes glinted.
Why didn't I think of bringing him sooner? Teddy wondered.
"Wow, this is really good!" the object of Teddy's revelry said. He glanced back and forth between Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny. "I've heard your mum is an amazing cook, Mrs. Potter. Did you make this?"
Aunt Ginny laughed. "My mum passed everything she knows, including that stew recipe, on to my husband. I'm too impatient for household stuff. Harry likes it, for reasons beyond me, so when we decided to get married, he went to learn all my mum's secrets in my place." She laughed. "I hear he and Hermione had quite a way with roast potatoes."
"The aprons your mum made us wear were a bit much, though," Uncle Harry told his wife. "I think Hermione burned hers after Mrs. Weasley was finished with us."
"I wish someone would teach me to cook," Score said, staring straight at Teddy.
"Why?" Teddy was surprised.
"Why, Ted," Score said, batting his lashes, "to impress the ladies!"
Uncle Harry roared with laughter and Aunt Ginny hiccupped. Teddy shook his head and couldn't quite suppress a crooked smile of his own.
"All right, you win," he conceded.
Score crowed, then tried to pretend he was clearing his throat. "Really, though," he said when they had all calmed down a bit. "I wouldn't mind learning to cook. All my life, my food's been made for me. It'd be nice to know how to do something like that for myself."
"Come round when we have our family gathering in May," Albus suggested. "Gran makes enough food for an army and she loves help round the kitchen."
Score glowed. "Really? I mean, if it's a family thing – "
"You're Teddy's family," Uncle Harry said. "Of course, you'd be welcome."
Teddy knew what Score would have dearly loved to ask next, but couldn't bring himself to. Well, one thing at a time. Score closed his mouth against the request and instead went back to his soup. He didn't look unhappy – on the contrary, he was still smiling and took up conversation with Uncle Harry about the Defense Against the Dark Arts midterm he and Al had just taken. Teddy watched as his gestures got bigger and Uncle Harry began to lean forward over the table. He glanced at Aunt Ginny, who rolled her eyes and quietly questioned her son about all the girls he was apparently attracting.
Lily nudged Teddy then and nodded toward the doorway. Teddy looked and saw James sitting on the stairs. He was making a show of playing around with his Muggle music player, but he kept throwing glances at the bright dining room.
"What should we do?" Teddy whispered to Lily.
Lily pursed her lips, but her eyes were bright as she glanced across the table at Score. "Let's forgive him, just this once."
Teddy slipped from his chair without any notice by the others and made for the stairs. He knelt in front of his god brother and removed the headphones.
"There's lots of extra stew," he said before James could speak.
"I'm not hungry," James faltered.
"Extra chair by me?"
James glanced toward the dining room, the good smells and the bright laughter and his family. Silently, he accepted his god brother's hand up and followed him back through the doorway.