"What, Gram can't handle me anymore?" the voice was sullen, bitter, even a little bit self-pitying, as it always was these days, and Harry Potter couldn't help but think there was some truth to the words. Andromeda had raised a wonderful daughter, but Tonks had been mischievous and cheerful. He knew that this angry, sulking teenage boy was something entirely new to her. And while Teddy's letters from Hogwarts were becoming shorter and fewer, Neville's letters were becoming far more frequent, and contained more troublesome information about Harry's godson than they did about Neville's own life. Then at work that afternoon, Harry had received a letter from Andromeda herself, a letter saying that Teddy had only been home for one day, but that a situation had arisen at school just before he left, and she didn't know what to do, and maybe Harry could come talk some sense into him? A letter from Neville had arrived only minutes later, telling Harry exactly what that situation at school had been.
"Hey Teddy," Harry said, ignoring Teddy's question. Andromeda had made a motion as though to respond to Teddy's snide greeting, but Harry shook his head at her ever so slightly, and she closed her mouth. Teddy was curled up in a corner of the couch, staring at a textbook. His eyes weren't moving, and Harry knew he wasn't actually reading it. Andromeda sat stiffly in an armchair, and Ginny, who had apparently received a note as well, was sitting in the other chair. They clearly had all been waiting for him.
"You're here about Matthew Wood." It wasn't a question.
Harry took off his jacket and sat down at the other end of the couch, surveying his godson. "You tried to stuff him into a Snargaluff trunk?"
"Professor Longbottom is a tattletale," Teddy said, but his irritated voice didn't cover up the half-smirk that he was trying to hide.
"It's not funny, Teddy. It's dangerous. And Nev-" he stopped himself. "And Professor Longbottom did you a favor by writing directly to your Gram and me instead of going through Professor McGonagall." Harry wasn't sure which he found more irritating: that Teddy thought it was funny to stuff another kid into vicious tree stump, or that he was trying to somehow blame Neville for the fact that he was getting in trouble for it.
"Yeah, well, Matthew deserved it."
"What on earth did he do that you felt it justified feeding him to a plant?" Harry tried to keep the exasperation out of his voice.
"He's a pompous pretty boy," said Teddy decidedly, as though this were a perfectly acceptable explanation. Harry didn't say anything. After a moment, Teddy finally looked up from his textbook, confused by the lack of reaction. Seeing Harry's expectant face, he continued. "He's so spoiled! He thinks he's so special! He has that stupid broomstick and those stupid shoes and his stupid dad sends him all those stupid toys."
Harry opened his mouth, but instantly shut it. He had started to say, "I know his dad," started to defend Oliver, but something in Teddy's voice stopped him. Something about the way he said the word "dad." Teddy confirmed his suspicions a moment later by bursting out, "His stupid dad does everything for him! You know what he got him for his birthday last week? A new broomstick! He already has a nicer broomstick than anyone else in the school! But his dad, the famous Quidditch player, got him an even newer one! And his mom sent homemade pies along with it. And he'll come back next term with all his Christmas presents on top of that. Prat." The last word was muttered under his breath.
It was one week until Christmas. Harry thought about his own Hogwarts Christmases, spent at the school, at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, and at the Burrow. And even though he tried not to, even though he told himself that this was about Teddy and not about him, he couldn't stop himself from seeing Weasley sweaters, Ron's pile of gifts that was so much larger than his own, and Fred and George marching Percy downstairs, arms pinned to his sides by his homemade sweater. Teddy was looking at his textbook again, glaring furiously at it, as though it were to blame for Matthew Wood's new broomstick. Despite his blue hair, his gray eyes, and that face that looked so much like Remus's, Harry thought in that moment that Teddy looked an awful lot like him.
Whereas Harry had enjoyed Christmas a little more each year, included more and more in the celebrations with the Weasleys, eventually with Remus, and even for that one – only one – year with his own godfather, Teddy had become more and more sulky every year. It didn't matter what Andromeda gave him, what Harry and Ginny gave him, what Ron and Hermione gave him, he still looked at the other kids with envy. Harry wasn't resentful. He understood. It wasn't that they weren't good enough, that Teddy didn't love the gifts. It was just that, no matter what the gifts were, they didn't come from his parents. Unlike Matthew Wood, Teddy had never, ever been able to return from the holidays and say to his friends, "Guess what my dad got me for Christmas?"
"His dad does everything for him?" Harry repeated quietly. Teddy blinked, his eyes refocusing on the book in front of him, looking less angry and a bit uncertain, and maybe even a little bit ashamed.
"He's just a git, okay?" Teddy muttered, turning a page.
"Teddy," Teddy ignored him. "Teddy," he repeated, louder, and the young teenager finally looked up. Harry leaned forward, keeping his voice low, knowing that Ginny and Andromeda were trying to catch every word, but knowing this had to be between them. "I get it." Teddy looked down again, turning another page angrily, his face twitching slightly despite his obvious attempts to keep it stony.
"There's nothing to get," he whispered bitterly, shaking his head.
"There's a hole there," Harry said simply. "It's just a hole. And sometimes you notice it, and sometimes you don't, but it's always there. And then sometimes you realize that other people don't have that hole, and it makes you angry. I get it." Teddy didn't answer right away.
"He shouldn't have done it." The words were barely audible, as if Teddy wasn't sure whether he wanted Harry to hear them. He didn't sound angry now. He sounded defeated.
"He shouldn't have done what?" Harry asked, though he was pretty sure he knew.
"He shouldn't have gone. He knew I was at home. He knew he had a son. Why did he go? There were others to fight the war. He should have stayed. They both should have stayed." His lower lip was quivering, and he looked less like an angry fourteen year old, and more like the four year old that Harry remembered, the one who carried a stuffed wolf with him everywhere, his thumb in his mouth.
Harry watched Teddy for a moment. "A lot of dads fought," he said slowly. "Matthew Wood's dad fought." He paused. That wasn't the point, he knew that wasn't the point. "Wait here," Harry said, standing. Ginny opened her mouth, but once again, Harry deflected any questions with a sharp shake of his head.
During Teddy's childhood, Harry had spent as much time in Andromeda's house as he had in his own, and he knew exactly where the study was, exactly where the closet was, and exactly what shelf the basin sat on. He took it down, and carried it with him back into the sitting room.
"You know what this is?" he asked Teddy, setting it down on the coffee table. Teddy shook his head, and Harry could tell he was trying not to be curious. "It's called a Pensieve." Harry hesitated. Was this wise? Would he have wanted to see this when he was fourteen? And there was a part of him that was scared for far more selfish reasons, part of him that wanted to keep this to himself, but he tried to push that part aside. "There's something I'd like to show you," Harry said, pulling the memory from his head and placing it in the Pensive. "If you would like to see it."
Teddy look perplexed and hesitant, but he nodded. "Okay."
He would need some context for the memory, Harry thought. Scrimgeour giving him the snitch, contemplating with Ron and Hermione the phrase "I open at the close," and Xenophilius Lovegood explaining about the stone. Harry wondered if Teddy would be able to see them; Sirius had said that they were only visible to him. But then, Harry thought, they are my memories. Teddy should be able to see them, he decided.
Teddy was looking at him curiously. "If you put your face in the Pensieve," Harry explained, still speaking quietly, still speaking only to Teddy, "then you will be able to see my memories, just as if you were there."
Teddy looked a little bit frightened at the thought. He looked from the Pensieve to Harry nervously. "Are you going to watch them too?" Harry considered for a moment. Perhaps it would be better for Teddy to see it with some privacy. But then, perhaps it was not the sort of thing one should watch alone, especially one so young. However, as soon as he really considered going with him, he knew that he couldn't. Selfish or not, he could not watch himself make that walk. Could not live that again.
"No," Harry said. Teddy nodded nervously, walked up the Pensive, slowly lowered his head to the basin, then disappeared.
"What's going on, Harry?" Andromeda asked nervously the instant Teddy was gone.
"It's between us." His nerves and doubts made the words come out more sharply than he had intended.
"What are you showing him?" Andromeda tried again.
"Memories," Harry said shortly.
"What kind of memories?" Ginny, like Andromeda, sounded slightly nervous. Harry knew Ginny thought that he sometimes lacked tact and sensitivity. She said it was probably the result of too many years spent in the company of Ron.
"The kind he should see." Harry could tell the two women wanted to ask him more questions, but his voice had clearly indicated that he was not going to give them any more information. He wished they weren't there. He knew Andromeda was there because she loved Teddy, and that Ginny was there because she loved all three of them, but he really felt that this was something just between him and Teddy. As incredible as Ginny was, growing up without a family was a concept that was entirely beyond her reach.
They sat in silence for several minutes. Harry thought that he might as well have gone with Teddy, because he couldn't stop himself from journeying through the memories himself, wondering what Teddy was seeing at just that instant. He was starting to think he had been rather rash. Teddy was young, and Harry wasn't sure that he could grasp the magnitude of what he was seeing, wasn't sure that Teddy could realize it was real. As Harry was trying not to dwell on the words of his parents, the words of his godfather, and the words of his godson's father, Teddy returned.
He was shaking violently, and Harry saw his face for only a moment before he conjured a bucket, throwing it under Teddy just in time. After Teddy finished throwing up, he turned to look at Harry, his face horrified. He crawled back into his spot in the couch, pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping his arm around them. He closed his eyes and shook his head, trembling and crying, and for the first time since Teddy was little, Harry reached out and held his godson
"I didn't know, I didn't know." He said the words over and over again. Harry said nothing, but simply held him, waiting. He was trying not to think about what Teddy had seen, trying not to relive it himself, but though he was able to keep his expression calm, he couldn't stop a few tears from escaping. Poor Teddy. It had been too much, Harry realized.
"We learned about it in school," Teddy whispered finally, calming down enough to talk. He pulled away from Harry. "But I didn't... I mean, I always think of you the way you are, you know? I didn't know you were so young."
"Seventeen," Harry said. "Had I not dropped out, I would have been finishing my seventh year at Hogwarts."
Teddy was still shaking. "In school," he said, "they just make it sound like... like you knew what you had to do, and you just went skipping off into the forest. They didn't tell us about... about going... I didn't know," he repeated.
"You couldn't know," Harry said quietly. "I never told anyone about it. Not even one person. Not ever. For fourteen years, that memory has been mine alone." He didn't tell Teddy that it was a personal thing, a private thing to see his family like that, and he didn't ask Teddy not to tell anyone about what he had seen. He knew that seeing it had been nearly as personal for Teddy as it had been for Harry, and that, like Harry, it was a memory that he would carry alone.
"That was them, lying in the great hall when I – when you – walked past?" Teddy finally asked in a strained voice.
"And that man... the one lying next to them... was that Uncle Fred?"
Teddy shuddered slightly. He had grown up hearing about his parents and about Fred Weasley, but Harry knew that they had been nothing more than stories, nothing more than names. The reality of bodies to go with those names had made Teddy go unnaturally pale.
"And did he tell the truth?" Teddy whispered. "The man who said it didn't hurt?"
A wave of sadness and peace rolled over Harry at the same moment. "Like falling asleep," he murmured with a small smile. "My godfather. Sirius Black." Teddy didn't respond to this. He stared hard at his knees, as though trying to make sense of all he had seen. When he spoke again, it was sudden, and caught Harry by surprise.
"That little boy... who was he?"
Harry's stomach knotted uneasily at the question. So much had happened that night, there had been so much going on, that he had forgotten how much Teddy would see. No wonder he was sick. He was just a kid.
"His name was Colin Creevey. He was evacuated with all of the underage students, but snuck back in to fight." Teddy nodded his understanding.
"That was Professor Longbottom, wasn't it? Helping carry him in?" Teddy's voice was getting a little more steady.
"Yes," Harry said again. "And the other boy helping carry him was Matthew Wood's dad." Again, Teddy nodded.
After a few minutes, Teddy had stopped trembling, and was simply staring at the arm of the couch beyond Harry. The horror was gone from his face, replaced by a vacant look that carried a tinge of fear.
"I feel stupid," Teddy finally whispered. Harry didn't reply. "How old was that Colin kid?"
"Sixteen," Harry said.
"I didn't... I didn't realize that so many people fought. That so many people..." Died. He didn't have to finish the sentence. "Somehow in class, none of that ever seemed real." He finally looked up at Harry. "They say that you saw Voldemort when you were eleven years old."
"I did." A shiver ran down his spine as he recalled the face coming out the back of Quirrell's head.
"That you saw him come back to life when you were fourteen."
"I did," Harry said again.
Teddy paused, then said, "I'm fourteen."
"I don't think I could do it. I don't think I could fight. I mean, before I would have thought I could... I'm in Gryffindor, after all. But after seeing that... I think I would have run." Teddy was looking at his hands again, speaking so quietly that Harry was quite sure he was the only one who could hear him.
"You would have fought, Teddy," he said just as quietly. "When the people you love are dying all around you, you'd have fought to protect them." The image of Fred, Remus and Tonks, all side by side, all dead... he pushed the thought away.
"I've never had to fight for anything." Teddy sounded guilty about it, but Harry smiled.
"What?" Teddy wiped his face and looked up at Harry.
"You asked me why he went, why he fought when there were others who could fight. He did it so others wouldn't have to. So you wouldn't have to. I think nothing in the world would have made your father happier than to know that your youth contained no bloody battles on the front steps of your school. It would have been worth it to him." Harry surveyed his godson. Some of his color was starting to come back.
"If it was too much, Teddy, I'm sorry. I just thought you should hear your father speak first hand."
Teddy shook his head. "No, it wasn't too much," he said, even as another tremor ran down his body. "I'm glad I saw it." He stood up slowly, and wrapped his arms around himself. "I think I'm going to go to bed now, Harry," he said quietly. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Teddy." As he watched Teddy head for the stairs, he thought about his own godfather. He wondered if Sirius would have shown him the memories. He wondered if Remus would have. He didn't know. He wondered what Remus would say if he knew that Harry had shown his fourteen year old son the carnage of a battlefield. He didn't know the answer to that either. He wondered if Teddy's dreams would now contain a field covered in bodies, his parents lying stiff in the great hall, the empty staring eyes of all those who died fighting. He was pretty sure he knew the answer to that one, and his stomach turned with guilt.
He wondered if Teddy would ever again believe that his father chose to leave him. That his father had abandoned him. He was pretty sure he knew the answer to that one too.
"What on earth did you show him?" Andromeda's voice hovered somewhere between fear and fury. "Ginny, what was that?"
"I'm not sure," Ginny murmured. "Harry? Harry, he looked scared to death."
Harry looked at the two women. They both looked confused, shell-shocked, scared by what they had witnessed between him and Teddy. He knew he probably owed Andromeda an explanation, but he also knew he couldn't give her one. He still wasn't sure if he had done the right thing. Overwhelmed, he shook his head as though to jar the thoughts and doubts out of it, grabbed his coat and headed for the fireplace.
"Are you going to tell us what all that was about?" Ginny asked as Harry stepped into the fire.
"A conversation between two orphans."