Harry had known for quite a long time that it was coming. Teddy's name was Lupin, but his temper was Black, and this had been slowly building for years, from the first time his grandmother had been unable to tell him how his parents had died... and no one else had, either. At ten, he'd taken to haunting other survivors, trying to piece together what had happened on the castle ramparts, and he'd gone through the short list of witnesses several times now. Harry had been more than willing to help, though he hadn't held out much hope, as he'd done the same thing. Remus had been dueling Dolohov, and Tonks went looking. People saw Dolohov afterward, but by then Remus was dead. There was speculation that he had striven for years to keep from Teddy that there had been no other duel involved, that Tonks had seen her beloved Remus lying dead and had taken her own life in a fit of grief. Harry didn't believe it--it had obviously been the Death Curse, and as far as he knew, it was impossible to administer it to oneself. But of course, Teddy had finally found someone cruelly willing to share the theory with him--that had been the year he was twelve--and Teddy had ended up in St. Mungo's for a week, refusing to talk or eat until Harry was finally able to convince him that it was just speculation.
Teddy was haunted by parents who never would have chosen to be ghosts, and there was no exorcising of them.
So Harry knew it was coming. But it still managed to take him off guard when the front door of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, blew in like it had been hit by a whirlwind, letting in a blast of cold, rainy October air as well as his godson.
Teddy grabbed him by the front of the robes and shoved him, hard into the portrait of Walburga Black, which began to scream silently behind the Muting Matte Ginny had finally managed to affix to it. He was shaking, his eyes were wild, and Harry guessed he'd slipped away from the crowd during a Hogsmeade trip, as he was covered with soot. He'd probably morphed into adult form to avoid suspicion, flooed through one of the business fireplaces to the Leaky Cauldron, and taken the bus over. Ginny appeared at the top of the stairs, but Harry shook his head at her. She nodded, and moved back into the drawing room to give them some privacy.
"Take off your glasses," Teddy said. "I'm going to hit you in the face. I don't want to get glass in your eye."
Harry reached up and pulled his glasses off.
Teddy's fist flew in like a piston, and Harry heard a dull crunch as his nose shattered. Blood poured over his lips and chin. A second blow whipped his head wildly to one side, and a third jab lit his lower ribs on fire.
"Are you done?" he asked when Teddy had gone a few moments without striking again.
"Thinking about it," Teddy said, then drove a sharp blow against Harry's jaw. He took a deep breath, then another. "All right," he said. "I'm done."
Harry took his wand and repaired his nose, thinking wildly of Tonks doing the same spell on him long ago. He put his glasses back on. "Anything you want to break?" he asked. "Kreacher still has a lot of picture frames set aside just for you."
This didn't bring even a ghost of a smile. "I have the photos that used to be in them," Teddy said. "They're in my trunk. Muggle pictures of them, you know." His hair turned its natural light brown, went to storm cloud black, then went back to his habitual scarlet streaked with gold. He was emphatically fifteen.
"You should be at school, Ted," Harry said. "Neville will be worried."
Teddy sat down miserably on the steps. "I was going to go back before we ran out of time in Hogsmeade," he said. "Vicky's watching for trouble. She was the one who said I needed to talk to you."
Harry sat down beside him and didn't say anything for a long time. Teddy's body was warm beside him, trembling like a live wire. He looked like he'd been the one taking blows to the head. "What was it?" Harry asked. "A potion? Time turner? Did you get something to look at in the Pensieve?" (After much discussion, the Pensieve had been brought to the Hogwarts school library, where, after a few months of curiosity seeking, it now mostly sat collecting dust.)
"A letter from Azkaban," Teddy said, then reached into his robes and pulled out a sheaf of parchment. The lettering seemed crude and shaky. Harry had got letters in that hand before, and they quite frankly made him want to return to the old Azkaban rules, where no one had contact outside. Or to wish that Ron and Neville hadn't been as decent as they had been.
"Greyback found out about you, did he?"
Teddy nodded. "You didn't tell me that someone else had seen everything."
"I didn't know."
"There was this, too," Teddy said, and flicked a small glass ball to Harry with a disdain that would have been more convincing if he would have avoided reaching back to keep his hand on it.
Harry took it gently, wishing that George had never gone back to inventing, least of all these things. Dream Marbles, he called them, but they had never been meant for dreams. Like the now-shattered prophecy orbs in the Department of Mysteries, Dream Marbles held a solid record of memories, to be viewed at will by anyone to whom they were given. Easier to use than a Pensieve and much easier to carry around, but not nearly as complete an experience. Teddy reached into his robes and pulled out the tube that was meant to read and project them, and Harry dropped the Dream Marble in.
The ramparts of Hogwarts, shattered and smoky, floated in front of them, soundless (one could produce sound, but Greyback had apparently not invested in the deluxe Dream Marble), and as they view tipped down, he saw a crowd of duelists, none paying any attention to another. Dolohov was fighting Lupin near the end. Not far off, someone else impossible to recognize in the shadow broke away and chased the Death Eater he was fighting, then Dolohov threw a casual curse that struck home. Lupin fell; Dolohov ran off without even going back to check.
The view shifted and swerved, and Harry supposed Greyback had been climbing down from the next level, or jumping. More duels moved by. No one noticed Lupin lying there. A foot shot into view as Greyback kicked him, then there was the disconcerting sense of moving too close, as suddenly, Lupin's graying hair as all that was visible. There was a strange twist of the perspective, and when Greyback leaned back again, there was a bloody wound--oozing, not spurting--on the side of Lupin's neck.
"He says in the letter that he'd never forgotten what Dad tasted like," Teddy said. "Got better with age, he said."
"Oh, Teddy," Harry said. "I'm sorry."
Another three duels went by, and Greyback was pulled with the tide, giving a wider perspective. Tonks appeared from a doorway, looking gaunt and haunted. She spotted Remus and ran to him, tugging him by the hands, weeping. More people passed her. She drew her wand and healed the wound in his neck, then started pointing it uselessly at any part of him she could find. Finally, she lurched forward, taking his hands, pulling him toward the steps, perhaps thinking she could carry him upstairs. Lavender Brown burst out of the staircase, not seeing either of them, and swerved around, headed straight for the ramparts. A masked Death Eater was chasing her. He cast a Death Curse. Tonks never saw it, and walked right into it. The Death Eater ran on. Lavender reached the wall and climbed it, then screamed, and then the memory shifted to attention to her, as Greyback toppled her over the wall. Harry remembered seeing them fall then. Had he been that close?
"It just keeps looping," Teddy said. "He wanted to make sure I watched it."
"Put it away," Harry said. "Better yet, smash it. McGonagall gave you a better one, I know. So did I, so did Aunt Ginny. I'm sure Kingsley would if--"
Teddy pulled the tube back, retrieved the Dream Marble, and put it in his pocket. "None of you saw this."
"And you think Greyback was just trying to be friendly?"
Teddy clenched his jaw and stood up. He went to the portrait. Walburga mouthed silent curses at him. When he turned his back on her, from Harry's perspective, she seemed to be looking over his shoulder, gesticulating wildly. "No one noticed," Teddy finally said.
"Why did you let them stay? Why didn't you send them home? They didn't accomplish anything!"
"After, your dad--"
"Oh, come off it!" Teddy exploded, and the glass globe around the oil lamp near the door blew into fragments. Upstairs, James woke up from his Saturday nap and started screaming; Teddy looked up with a guilty twitch as Ginny ran up to tend to him, then his face hardened, and he lowered his voice. "I've heard it a million times. My dead father told you all about how he died so I could grow up in a happier world. You know what would make my world happier? Parents."
"I know, Teddy. I've been there. I grew up--"
"You grew up knowing that your parents died to save you!"
"Actually, until I was eleven, I thought they died in a car crash."
"But when you found out the truth, you found out that your father died trying to give your mother time, and your mother died to protect you. And that when they sacrificed themselves, everything ended for ten years!" A muscle worked spasmodically in Teddy's throat, and his eyes were unnaturally bright and puffy. "Mine, on the other hand, didn't accomplish anything. Even the people who killed them didn't notice they were dead! They didn't save anyone, they didn't stop anything. They didn't die for anything, they just went out there and died."
"They died helping to fight a great evil--"
"BOLLOCKS!" Teddy cast around the entrance hall for something to break, then settled for punching Walburga's portrait. Blood spurted on his knuckles, and splattered onto the carpet. "They died for goddamned bloody NOTHING! It was entirely pointless!"
"Do you think you were the only one who lost anyone?" Ginny said from the next landing of the staircase. "I lost one of my brothers, and--"
"I LOST ALL OF MY BROTHERS!" Teddy bellowed. "All of my brothers, all of my sisters, all of my nieces and nephews and..."
"And you think that the children Fred never even had the chance to have are less real because they don't have an existing sibling?" Ginny glared at Teddy. "Or maybe you think that Colin Creevey wasn't important enough to worry about his descendants. Perhaps you think that--"
"That's enough," Harry said. "Apologize."
Teddy gave him a defiant look. "I've seen the memories from the hall. All of you were gathered around your brother, while my parents were there alone. Or did you think I hadn't noticed?"
"Yes," Ginny said crossly. "I'm sorry, but I did care more about my brother than about Lupin and Tonks. I loved them, but family is family."
"I wouldn't know."
Ginny started to say something else, but Harry held up his hand. This wasn't about Teddy having to learn the lesson that sometimes life was hard. Teddy knew that. Teddy wasn't making a logical argument. He was grieving. Arguing grief with equivalence was only going to make him feel worse.
"I couldn't have sent them home if I'd tried," Harry said. "Your father wanted to help us defeat the Death Eaters. Who knows who he saved by keeping Dolohov occupied as long as he did? You can't bend time to find out. We did need everyone."
"Right. Because no one else could have quite as successfully been cursed by someone not even looking at him. And what about my mum? She was supposed to be home!"
"Your mum loved your dad very much--"
"Obviously, more than either of them loved me!"
"That's the second apology you owe, and you're damned well taking it to their graves before I take you back to Hogwarts."
Harry stood up and took Teddy by the ear, frog marching him out to the courtyard garden, where they kept the Apparition shed, protected carefully on all sides. He dragged Teddy into it, grabbed his arm, and took him by side-along Apparition to the graveyard at Godric's Hollow, where Lupin and Tonks had been buried beside Harry's own parents. It was cold and raining here.
"Apologize," Harry said.
"I needed them," Teddy said mutinously. "You didn't."
"I didn't ask them to come!" Harry said, a twitter of unreasonable guilt burning through him. Teddy had always been able to stab him when he chose to. "They came because they thought it was the right thing to do!"
"Name one reason that they were there. Go on. Give it to me. Show me how they turned the tide of battle. Show me--"
Harry was still holding Teddy's ear, and twisted it lightly. Teddy crumpled miserably to the ground.
"It kept them who they were," Harry said gently.
"Mum died second," Teddy said. "Why couldn't she have at least decided to be a ghost?"
"You'd have wished that half-life on her? Separated her from your father?" But even to Harry, that sounded weak, and Teddy didn't bother answering it. Instead, he crawled forward, his hair lengthening, lightening, streaking itself with gray. He curled up at the base of their tombstone. Rain pattered indifferently against his face. Harry knelt beside him and did a quick Impervius charm to keep him dry. "Teddy, I can't make it easier."
"Why couldn't they have been home with me? Your parents were home with you."
"There was no battle the night my parents died," Harry said. "They were murdered; they died bravely, but they weren't on the front lines that night. Your parents were. It was a war, Teddy. We were all on the front lines. Do you think all of the other people who died did so pointlessly, or is that honor just reserved for your parents?"
"I needed them," Teddy whispered again. "I've seen your memories, you know. My father would have been really good. And my mother could have taught me about shapeshifting. And--"
"I know, Teddy."
"And it didn't make a difference. It wasn't fair."
"Voldemort didn't play fair," Harry said. "I wish there were a better answer."
"It was a cheat," Teddy said.
"And they didn't need to be there."
Harry thought about it very carefully before saying, "No, they didn't."
Teddy gave him a look of guarded interest, lifting his head slightly from the sodden ground. "What about protecting you from Dementors?"
"I'd lost enough other people who loved me. I was glad to see your father at peace and healthy, but, no, he wasn't necessary."
"And my mum. She wasn't there at all, even though she died because she couldn't stand being apart from him."
"I'll have to learn to stand it."
Harry jumped. Teddy went white, and raised himself up snakelike, his arms supporting his upper body. "M-mum?"
The slender gray ghost stepped between the gravestones, then crouched in front of her son. While Teddy (naturally, anyway) had his father's eyes, the resemblance to his mother was otherwise striking. His coloring seemed to morph of its own accord, until they matched, gray for gray, white for white.
"Don't," Tonks said. "Do you think I want to see you look like this?"
"Do you think this is how I want you?"
"Yes. You just said it was." She looked at Harry. "I wasn't with them in the woods," she said, "because I was trying to get back. Like this. I didn't want to leave Teddy alone. But it was meant to be done... before. Preparations, you know. I never prepared."
Teddy reached out and touched her face. His finger sank through. The tears started again. "Mum, you can't... why did you... why haven't you been here, then?"
"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't intend to come back as a ghost, and it took a long time to learn how to make that decision from... from where I was. Your father and mine helped. I needed you to come here and ask for me."
"Then by asking, I..." Teddy's eyes went wide. "I took you away? I... made you?"
Teddy started keening miserably. "I didn't mean to... I know that being a ghost... but I'll grow up soon, and then what will you do, you'll be trapped and stuck and it'll be my fault, and I'm sorry...!"
Tonks's ghost smiled faintly, and arched an eyebrow at Harry. He could almost imagine it changing colors. "He's certainly Remus's son, isn't he?"
"I was just thinking of his ability to make me feel guilty," Harry said.
"And here I was thinking of perpetual accursedness."
Teddy took no notice of the conversation. "Do you want to go back?"
"I want you to be happy," Tonks said. "D'you think I like seeing you miserable? Or that your father does?"
"But it was all--"
"Pointless," Tonks agreed. "Are you happier for knowing that? Did solving the mystery make it feel any better?"
Teddy shook his head mutely. "Greyback said--"
"And if I catch you listening to anything Fenrir Greyback says ever again, I will find a way back, just to put you over my knee. You're not too old for it, you know. In fact, Harry, would you mind?"
"He is too old for it, Tonks," Harry said.
She gave him an evaluative look. "Well, at least go out to Azkaban and accidentally break some of Greyback's bones, then. Oh, all right. Just make sure he stays away from Teddy."
"I'll kill him if he comes near Teddy."
"He's already been near," Tonks sniffed, looking at the letter poking out of Teddy's pocket.
"I can handle him," Teddy said quietly. He stood, his eyes lowered. "Go back, Mum. You don't have to... I can..." His mouth twisted, and he started to cry again. "Go," he said. "Just go."
"If I do, I won't be able to make this decision again. And I will do what you need, Ted."
"She can accept her death," Harry said. "Can you?"
"No." Teddy brushed his tears away. "I can't. Ever." He looked at Tonks. "But that was never my choice, was it?"
"It is now."
Teddy looked at her for a very long time, the rain falling senselessly between them. He turned away. "Go back, Mum. Before I change my mind."
"We do love you," Tonks said. "And we watch. Teddy? I'll go now. Please, look at me. Look at me so I have your face in my mind to take back with me."
Teddy turned. His face was a livid brick red, his eyes swollen.
"So handsome," Tonks said. "I should have stayed home."
Teddy nodded, but said, "Go home now. And tell Dad... tell Dad that everyone remembers him well. Except Greyback, but I don't imagine he'll care about that." Teddy attempted a smile, which cracked and twisted so badly that Harry thought he was trying to morph. Tonks reached out and touched him again. Harry knew how unpleasant it was to be touched by a ghost, but Teddy sought the contact, leaned into her hand, tried to embrace her.
Teddy collapsed back to the ground, calling, "Mum! Come back!"
But the ghost did not reappear. Harry could feel Tonks nearby, along with Remus and others. He felt the now-familiar sense of his own parents and Sirius, just beyond the veil, whispering.
"I hate this," Teddy said clearly.
"So do I." Harry sat down beside his godson, paying no heed to the now flooded ground. They were both soaked, and sitting in two inches of water. Harry put an arm around Teddy's shoulders, and Teddy turned to him, hugging him fiercely. Harry returned it.
They stayed there until the rain stopped and they were both aching and nearly frozen. Harry did a warming charm on them and dried their robes as they rose to their feet like feeble old men using each other as canes. Harry Apparated with him back to Hogsmeade.
Teddy didn't let go of him until they reached the school gate, where Neville Longbottom was waiting with an expression of deep concern on his face. Harry shot him a look that he hoped would convey a wish that Teddy not be punished too severely.
Neville nodded and opened the gate. "Teddy," he said kindly. "I'm glad to see you. I've got a particularly thorny problem with my stinging rosebushes, and I was hoping you would help me with it..."
Teddy recognized the old trick--he'd seen Neville's memory of Remus's first boggart lesson--but it seemed to soothe him anyway. He nodded a goodbye to Harry, and followed Neville toward the greenhouses.