Disclaimer: I do not own the original canon nor am I making any profit from writing this piece. All works are accredited to their original authors, performers, and producers while this piece is mine. No copyright infringement is intended. I acknowledge that all views and opinions expressed herein are merely my interpretations of the characters and situations found within the original canon and may not reflect the views and opinions of the original author(s), producer(s), and/or other people.

Warnings: This story may contain material that is not suitable for all audiences and may offend some readers. There are mentions of LGBT+ issues throughout the piece. Please take personal sensitivities into consideration before and while reading.

Dedication: This piece is written in memory of a very important person in my (and many others) lives who passed away, quite unexpectedly, earlier this week. As head of Campus Life & Leadership, he helped so many clubs not only come into existence but flourish. He kept things running smoothly and kept everyone's morale high, even during Hell Week. As a transman, he was a source of comfort and strength to hundreds of students during his decade with the college, including myself. The world truly is less bright for having lost one of its stars.

Song Recommendation(s): "Saturn" by Sleeping at Last

Author's Note(s): This piece was written for the Houses Competition on the FFN Forums.

The Houses Competition Information:
House: Hufflepuff
Category: Short
Prompts: Grimmauld Place [setting]
Word Count: 1178

-= LP =-

The Courage of Stars

-= LP =-
You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.

– Sleeping at Last, "Saturn"

-= LP =-

"Hey, Teddy, you up here?"

Harry stuck his head into the attic of Grimmauld Place. He had renovated it after the Final Battle, reclaiming the space that had once been dark and gloomy. It had been the place Harry had spent time with his godfather, the little time he had had, even if it had been the man's prison. There was a certain amount of poetic justice in raising his own godson here but with love and support. There would be no bad memories about the place for Teddy. Harry wouldn't let there be.

But Harry had seen the letter Teddy had left on his bedroom desk when he had gone to collect him for lunch. He didn't make a habit of reading the teenager's mail, but something about the crumpled parchment had made the auror curious enough to check the contents. His heart had clenched at the news contained in the letter and if he was hurting, how must Teddy be feeling?

"Yeah," came the quiet reply from a shadowed corner. Harry finished climbing the ladder. It was as easy as breathing to sit beside the sixteen-year-old and sit in silence. Teddy was a lot like his father, in that he didn't speak about what was hurting him. It didn't mean that Harry was going to leave him alone in his mourning. Everyone deserved comfort, even when they wouldn't (couldn't) ask for it. Harry lost track of how long they sat in the dark, saying nothing.

"It seems wrong, you know," Teddy whispered finally. His voice was crackly like it had broken into pieces like his heart had.

"I know," Harry confirmed. Teddy dropped his head sideways into his shoulder. Harry wiggled his arm from between them to wrap around the almost-grown boy. As one, the pair breathed and let it out slowly. It was an old ritual they had developed when Teddy was still young and Harry couldn't explain the nightmares that had sometimes made him wake up screaming in the middle of the night. They had adopted it for other reasons—Teddy had his mother's temper and his father's wolf, so emotions had a tendency to run high even without taking into consideration the number of times the pair had found themselves in the middle of a crowd that either adored them or hated them. It helped to center them if they focused on the other one.

"She's always been there," Teddy continued. Each crack in his voice widened the ones in Harry's heart. "I didn't even play quidditch, but Hooch was still willing to listen if I needed—" His voice hitched and Harry felt the wetness seeping through his shirt. "I told her first, before I was brave enough to tell anyone else. She didn't judge me for waiting to tell anyone else, but she said that you wouldn't care, despite being raised by muggles like Aunt Hermione."

"She always was very observant," Harry responded as he lay his head against Teddy's trembling hair. It was probably cycling colors in his distress; it did that. "It didn't matter if it was on the field or off it. And Hooch was very wise to how people actually were, rather than how they wanted to be perceived, though she could see that, too."

"She shouldn't be—"

Neither one of them wanted to say it. Speaking the word would make it true. Harry had only known Hooch through quidditch, but it was a well-known secret that any student was welcomed to talk to her if they had certain questions or needed a specific kind of help. Hooch had probably seen more students needing patched up from self-inflicted or sex-related injuries than Pomfrey any month of the year. Teddy wasn't the only student questioning their sexuality who had gone to Hooch for comfort before telling their friends and families. Hooch wasn't a coach for just quidditch. She was a coach for how to live life.

Her death, so sudden and so blameless, was going to be a blow that many people felt. She wasn't a big name among the fighters of that last battle with Voldemort. She didn't have reporters stalking her every move like Harry did. She had never sought to become a Head of House and her subject was limited to a single year of flying instruction. Yet Ronda Hooch had probably saved more lives than Harry could ever dream of doing. She was an unsung hero.

And that was so wrong.

"It's so wrong," Teddy said, an echo of Harry's mind. "It's just wrong. She should be getting ready for the new school year and the new season. She should be laughing with Professor Sprout and teasing her about how she always smells like dirt and fertilizer. It's wrong, and I can't imagine how the world is still moving."

"It turns because to the world, a single person does not matter," Harry replied after they breathed together again. "Even if that single person matters to so many other people. Even if that single person wasn't the type that nothing ever happened to—not the type who did great things or brilliant acts of genius. They're just the type that brings out those things in others. The world cannot stop for anyone, even when we wish it would because we can't deal with a world without them in it."

"Why her? It's not fair! What kind of way to die is an aneurysm anyway? It's stupid. It's meaningless and so fucking wrong."

"Language," Harry corrected, more out of habit than any desire to stop Teddy from cussing. "I know it's not fair, but things just happen sometimes. Life is precious because it ends, my cub."

"It's not fair," he complained again, weakly as he rubbed his cheek against Harry's shoulder. It was a strange habit, a carryover from the wolf that couldn't fully manifest in Teddy. Harry tightened his one-armed embrace of the boy, understanding that he was needing if he was reverting back to such a childish habit. Unfortunately, Harry couldn't fix this; he couldn't make it better.

"No, it's not," Harry agreed, staring out into the shadows of the attic. What else could he say? Together, the pair breathed again, united in their grief and wanting nothing more than to find the way forward through the darkness. The entire world seemed a little less bright, just knowing that Hooch was no longer in it. Teddy was absolutely correct. "It's really not fair. And I would do anything to make it better, but I can't."

"What are we going to do now?"

"I don't know," Harry admitted and they lapsed back into silence. It filled the attic, making the space as oppressive as it had been back in fifth year when he had hidden in this very room, convinced that he had tried to kill his best friend's father. Harry had never wanted Teddy to feel that weight, not here. This time, Teddy initiated their synchronized breath. As they let it out, the tension faded again.

Somehow, they would get through this.