"OH NO! HIDE!" Lily dove under the chair.
Teddy joined her under the table, his makeshift sword in hand. He righted his paper crown and peered out into the playroom at the imagined danger. "Where is it?" he whispered.
"There." Lily pointed at the roof. "So big and bad."
The two of them were fighting a dragon. Lily was a powerful witch and she had her 'wand' that would only work if her most trusted knight was by her side. Teddy was her knight for the day. He was given a magical sword that could hurt any monster that tried to hurt his princess.
"What if it's a nice dragon?" he supposed.
Lily pulled a face at him. "If it looks so big and bad, it isn't nice," she taught him patiently.
"Hagrid looks a little scary, doesn't he? But he's nice."
"Agid doesn't count."
"Sure he counts."
"Nope." Lily was adamant. "Now shush." She pressed a finger to her lips.
Teddy wasn't about to get into a heated argument with a five-year-old girl, so he let her be. He pursed his lips together to show that he would stay quiet and then signaled to her to follow him towards the bookshelf. She nodded in agreement. The two of them crawled as fast as their weapons and fancy dress would allow them. Once situated against the wall and wedged by the side of the shelf, they peeked up at the imaginary dragon that was circling their kingdom, no doubt scheming something awful.
Lily strained towards Teddy to murmur, "You diswack it."
Teddy glanced over his shoulder to frown at her. "You distract it."
"I'm the princess."
"Do what I say."
Before they could start squabbling over that, the door opened without warning, startling them.
Harry let out a frustrated sigh when he saw the state of his kids' playroom. "I told you two to clean this up."
"OGRE!" Teddy screamed.
"ATTACK!" Lily charged forward, her knight not far behind.
Albus sat in bed, quietly humming to himself while trying to tie a perfect knot on his shoes. In fact, his sheets were covered in shoes of all sizes. If anyone in the house wanted to go out, they would be hard pushed to find their shoes. Because they were all in Albus' room.
The boy started and looked up when a curt knock interrupted his concentration.
Teddy was leaning against the doorjamb, hands in his pockets and head tilted. "What in devil's name are you doing, dude?" he asked incredulously.
"Practicing," Albus said. "See?" He held up a shoe. "I'm getting gooder."
"You're getting better," Teddy corrected as he walked into the cozy bedroom. "It stinks a bit in here, huh?" He wrinkled his nose.
"Can't be helped," Albus shrugged his small shoulders. "Oh…" He looked up with a faint smile. "Want your shoes? Can I tie your shoes for you?"
Teddy rolled his eyes. "Whatever floats your boat, I guess." He had to first find his shoes in all the mess. He started rooting around for them. "So… Something the matter?"
Albus pretended not to hear as he prettied the bow he had just done up.
Teddy glanced at the little young boy whose silence had always unnerved him because it was so unlike other Weasley children. Albus was a breed of his own. He actually liked to play alone. He didn't mind being in the fringes of everyone's attention. In fact, he preferred it. He never fussed or cried. He never shouted or screamed. He was just… Albus.
Aunty Luna must have infected him, Teddy decided.
He found his shoes and placed them neatly on the floor. Then he made some room on the bed so he could sit down and slide his socked feet into the sneakers. Albus was by his side a moment later, kneeling on the floor and doing up his laces for him. He watched the dexterous fingers work diligently. There was pride in the way Al moved his hands. He liked doing things right. Praise wasn't handed out too often to a quiet kid like him, but he didn't mind that. He seemed to praise himself and that was enough for him.
He finished up the last knot with a quick tug. Then he looked up at Teddy, his smile ever apparent. "There you go." He sat back. "Where are you going, Teddy?"
"Hey, Al?" Teddy reached down to take Albus' hands in his and pull him up. "What do you want for your birthday?"
Albus frowned in confusion. "Huh?"
"Books? Or a broom?"
"Oh… I dunno." He shrugged. He didn't care much for presents. He liked James' toys well enough. Even Lily's dolls would do. "Cake?"
Teddy sighed and pulled Albus into a warm hug. "Alright. You'll get some cake," he murmured. He pressed a kiss on the little boy's cheek. "I love you. Even if you're touched in the head. Alright?"
Albus hugged Teddy back dutifully. "Alright."
"It's like this all the time!" James cried with tears threatening to fall at the drop of a hat. "You two are always on his side! It's not fair! YOU'RE MY PARENTS, NOT TED'S! YOU SHOULD LOVE ME MORE!"
The sudden silence that followed was frightening, even for the passionate boy. His stomach twisted as the gravity of what he had said hit him. A sob rattling out of him, he spun around and ran out of the dining room.
"James!" Harry barked as he pushed onto his feet, scraping his chair against the floor.
"It's okay," Teddy said quickly. He reached across the table to grip Harry's hand. "I'll go talk to him."
James was in his room, fuming and crying in bed. He was furious with Teddy for everything. He wouldn't have said all those mean things if Teddy hadn't been there. He hated Teddy. It was so obvious that his parents liked their godson the best. Everyone was always fawning over precious Teddy who was so smart and well behaved and perfect. It just isn't fair. He hated Teddy so much.
"Get out," he ordered through his gritted teeth.
Teddy kept a hand on the doorknob, nervously twisting it in his hand. "You didn't mean it, did you?" he hesitated.
"I meant every single word I said."
"But not really, right?"
James scrambled up to face Teddy. "Don't tell me you've never noticed," he spat out through his tears. "They are always comparing me to you, always giving you what you want and not even asking me how I feel. You're their favorite and you aren't even a part of this family."
Teddy crossed his arms against his chest. "Look, I understand that you're angry with me right now," he said. "So I want you to think really hard about what you want to say next, okay?"
Words got stuck in James' throat, making him choke. His expression contorted slowly before he flipped over and hid against the pillows, muffling his sobs against it. He could never win an argument. Never ever. He dug his fingers into the mattress and twisted the sheets. It just wasn't fair. He couldn't stand himself sometimes.
When he felt a soft stroke against his back, he whined. "Leave me alone," he croaked. "I hate you."
Teddy didn't leave him alone. He bent down to kiss James' hair. "I know," he mumbled. "I hate you too."
James hiccupped. "No one loves me at all." He curled up into a tight ball, pressing against Teddy's leg. "No one loves me and I don't care."
"Then there's nothing to cry about, is there?"
"I'm not crying, you… you stupid head. You poopy stupid head."
"Takes one to know one."