Every night, just before Teddy awoke from whatever dream he was having, the unmistakable sound of the ocean lapping against the shore would float into his sleep-drenched mind. Sometimes, the waves sounded hungry, as if it had just swallowed a ship into its watery depths and needed more victims to satiate its appetite. At other times, the waves were gentle and stroking as they sloshed against the beach—gentler than Teddy's hands as he petted his dog, softer than his grandmother's touch as she ran her fingers through his hair.
But whatever the quality, the sounds of the sea would alert Teddy to the breaking of day, and he would open his eyes to find the sun cheerily streaming in through his bedroom window.
As a young boy, he had often asked his grandmother about the sound he heard in his dreams. Since they lived many miles from the coast, he knew the sounds were not from reality and only existed in his subconscious mind. However, he could recall no time when his grandmother had ever taken him to the seaside before. Was there ever a time, he had pressed her, that he had been to the seashore as a baby, before he would be able to remember?
The old woman had initially brushed aside the question, saying the sound was due to the boy's overactive imagination; but as Teddy persisted, she grew harsher and harsher in her replies. Finally, the last time he had asked her about the sea, she had snapped, "Let the past stay in the past, Teddy!" before crossing her arms and pursing her lips in a thin, tight line.
That was when Teddy knew that the subject of his nightly ocean noises had fallen into the "Don't Ask Granny" category. It was just as well—he had always felt that the subject of his parents needed some company.
Teddy couldn't remember his late parents at all. They had both died when he was a few months old, both of them fallen warriors in the final battle against Voldemort. He only knew how they looked from the one picture he had of them, taken the month after he was born (and two months before they were killed). His mother was holding him in her arms, grinning as her hair shifted colors like a soap bubble in the sun. His father had an arm thrown around his wife, beaming alternately at her and the little boy nestled against her bosom. Teddy loved to stare at the picture for hours on end, trying to guess what color his picture-mother would change her hair next and matching it with his own.
His grandmother considered the topic of Teddy's parents strictly taboo—and how could Teddy blame her? Andromeda Tonks had lost her husband, her only daughter, and her son-in-law in under half a year. From the pictures Teddy had seen, his grandmother's hair had gone from pure black to a whitish-grey within a month of his parents' deaths. He intuitively understood how painful the subject was for her, and he avoided it as much as possible when he was around her.
Still, the nagging curiosity about one's parents that besets all orphans would not be silenced, and Teddy often went to his godfather—the person he felt most comfortable with alone, aside from his grandmother—to have his questions answered.
"Remus was like a father to me," Harry Potter would say, smiling down at the boy sitting at his feet. "My mum and dad died when I was a baby, and Remus was the first person I met who both knew them well and was willing to tell me all about them. He was an excellent Defense teacher, too—taught me how to cast my first Patronus, he did. . . the best Defense teacher in all my years at Hogwarts."
"And my mum?"
"Tonks—well, Tonks was something else." Harry would laugh. "A Metamorphmagus, just like you. She used to change her face on demand, just to make us laugh. A brilliant Auror, but clumsy to no end: There was never a time when I didn't see her trip over something or knock it over completely. She almost brought the house down whenever she visited Grimmauld Place—kept on knocking over the troll leg umbrella stand in the hall and waking up Mrs. Black's portrait, who'd proceed to scream bloody murder until several full-grown wizards pulled the curtains over her." Harry would wipe the tears of laughter out of his eyes. "Tonks always loved a good laugh, all right."
"And, Harry. . ." Teddy would stop, unsure of how to proceed.
"Is it true that my dad was—" Teddy would wince at the thought of the names he had been called by his enemies in primary school. "—a werewolf?"
At this, Harry would sober up. "Yes, it's true," he said slowly. "Your father was indeed a werewolf. But," he raised his voice, "he was also one of the bravest people I've ever met. He was willing to risk his life to protect others from Voldemort, even though he had a wife and child to think about! If that isn't bravery, I don't know what is."
"But, Harry. . ."
"There are no 'buts' about it, Teddy. Your father was afflicted with a terrible curse, but that didn't change one thing about him as a person." Teddy would open his mouth to speak, but a wave from Harry would silence him. "Oh, I know those stories about those evil werewolves who would sooner rip your heart out and eat it than look at you—I've even met some of them face-to-face. But your father was an entirely different class of werewolf. He never, ever let the wolf side of him overcome his humanity. Never a monster, but always a man."
Harry would lean back in his chair and fix Teddy in a stern gaze. "Remus Lupin was an excellent wizard, a gentleman, and a true hero. I want you to remember that, Teddy. . . your father was someone to be proud of. It's your job to make him proud now."
The years passed. The playful little boy who would entertain his primary school friends with his Metamorphmagus abilities grew up into a tall young man with a serious demeanor. Rarely since he received the letter of acceptance into Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry had he used his abilities for play. His regular appearance—not normal; with a Metamorphmagus, one never knew what their norm was—was a mop of honey-brown hair and piercing amber eyes in a heart-shaped face.
Teddy seemed to take Harry's parting words to heart. He was top of the class in all his years at Hogwarts, Prefect, Head Boy, an award-winning Chaser on the House Quidditch Team, captain of the Wizarding Chess Club and an undefeatable Grand Master, and undeniably popular. And, of course, he was a proud Gryffindor, just like his father before him. Everyone was sure that both of his parents would have been proud of their son.
The only thing that bothered Teddy was the ocean noise that still permeated his dreams. It was as if his subconscious mind was a conch shell, that mysterious piece of fragile shell that tenaciously held onto the sound of the sea, so that listeners who put the conch to their ear after years of separation would hear the waves as if they were standing on the shore themselves. It bothered him, but rarely did his thoughts on the subject rise above the level of mild curiosity.
And so, Teddy was just waking from his ocean-ridden dream one December morning when he saw an owl flapping outside his bedroom window. It was winter vacation at Hogwarts, and Teddy had just gotten home from school to the welcoming arms of his grandmother. As he bounded to the window and saw the five other owls waiting patiently behind the first, all weighed down with packages, he realized that it was also his seventeenth birthday.
The first five owls were from friends at school, and Teddy liked the presents he received from them: books, mostly, on various subjects related to coming of age. Everyone at school knew what a bookworm he was (much to the pride of his Aunt Hermione).
The last package, the smallest and the lightest, was from his godfather.
Teddy ripped open the wrapping excitedly. His godfather always had the best taste; the year before, Harry had gotten his godson a brand new Firebolt XP to celebrate Teddy's setting the record on goals made by Gryffindor Chasers in a single game. But Teddy was surprised to find that the package contained only a watch, a map, and a letter.
Teddy picked up the letter, written in his godfather's hurried script, and began to read.
Congratulations! You're of age! When I came of age, my friends weren't sure whether to congratulate me for coming of age, or for managing to stay alive for so long. Thankfully, your friends will never have the same dilemma—or maybe not, if the Slytherin Beaters ever learn to aim AWAY from their teammates. A miracle, yes, but there's always a first time for everything. . .
When I was your age, Mrs. Weasley—Grandma Weasley to you—gave me a watch. Something of a coming-of-age ceremony in the Weasley family, I believe. I repeat the tradition and pass one on to you. However, that's not all. I remember what my greatest wish was when I turned seventeen: I wanted to see the place where my parents and I had lived before Voldemort came. It took me a while, long after my birthday, before I had the chance to do it, but I did. It was the best feeling, knowing that this was where the happiest moments of my life were spent. I now give you the same opportunity.
The map enclosed shows the place where you were born and where Remus and Tonks lived with you before the final battle. I leave it up to you to tell your grandmother about it. Andromeda is a good woman, but she's lost (and suffered) more than the rest of us and held up better than most. Do be kind to her.
Congratulations again, Teddy. You've made all of us proud, and I'm sure your parents would have agreed. (I'm sure Remus is just glad that I'm not taking you to a pub for your birthday, as I have a strong feeling that's what my godfather would've done.)
Happy Birthday, and Many Happy Returns!
Teddy was breathing heavily by the time he set down the letter. Where I was born. . . He looked out the window at the rising winter sun. It was a perfect day, he quickly decided, for a long broomstick flight.
By the time Teddy reached the small Muggle village on the coast around lunchtime, he was sweating hard under his woolen outfit. But he was glad for dressing up warm—he was sure he would feel even less of the tip of his nose if he wasn't so bundled.
He walked through the streets of the town with his broomstick over his shoulder, unaware of the funny stares he drew from the Muggle townspeople, and continued walking in a semi-daze until his feet had carried him to the outskirts of town. He finally paused when he found himself standing on a small ridge. Ahead of him, the road forked: the one on the left traveled down the ridge to the beach, the path which the most tourists took, while the one on the right rose upward to the cliff that overlooked the sea.
Teddy continued his walk on the right-hand fork.
It took him another quarter of an hour until he reached it: a small cottage on the very edge of the cliff, balanced precariously over the sea. It was abandoned, empty for many years from the looks of it, but even the bedraggled garden in the front gave the house an air of welcome. Teddy would have recognized the cottage anywhere; it was the same one that was in the background of the only picture he had of his parents. But that wasn't what made his heart pound so loudly in his chest.
A headstone placidly jutted out of the front lawn of the cottage, just meters away from where he stood.
Teddy rapidly closed the distance and knelt before the stone, the only physical reminder of his parents' existence on this earth. He traced the engraved lettering on the stone with a trembling finger. Remus John Lupin. Nymphadora Tonks Lupin, wife of the Above. Fell in the Final Battle in service to the Order of the Phoenix. We shall always remember their loyalty and bravery.
Tears rolled down his cheeks like a soft summer rain and partially froze on the scarf swathed around his neck. Teddy made no move to wipe them away. The only thing in his world now was this gravestone with his parents' names.
"Dad. . . Mum," he whispered. "I'm home."
And then, coming from the beach far below him, Teddy Lupin heard the soft sounds of the sea.