Chapter 8: from the ashes

He slept late, having finally drifted off in the early hour before dawn, snuck down to the kitchens for brunch, and spent most of the day out on the grounds, down by the lake. The weather was warm this late in June, and it felt good to be outside again. He'd been cooped up too long.

If he was going to stay, he was going to have to make his presence known to a few people. He'd have to see his father again, and he was looking forward to meeting Sirius. Dumbledore would have to know as well, but not yet. And Cedric knew, of course. Four people. In years to come, things might change, but for now, that would be enough.

He looked at the map. Cedric was with his parents near the Trophy Room. He felt a twinge of satisfaction to see that Cho wasn't with them. He didn't wish her ill, it was just…

It was just that he still had certain feelings for Cedric, and why shouldn't he? Cedric had said he missed him. That was hopeful. And if he survived, who knew what the future would bring.

He pulled up a blade of grass and chewed on the end. It wouldn't do to think about that. It promised to be a long day, and an even longer night. There were clusters of students out on the grounds, enjoying the day, but they ignored him. He purposely sat near the forest on the edge of the lake, a place few students ever came. He looked out onto the lake where the Durmstrang ship was moored. It was strange to see such a huge ship here.

A trickle of sweat ran down the back of his neck, and he shortened his hair in irritation. He'd grow it back out later. He wiped the map blank and stowed it in his pocket, lay back on the grass and closed his eyes. A nice kip wouldn't be amiss.

He awoke to the sound of low voices off to his right. He squinted up into the sun. Late afternoon, likely, though the sun wouldn't set until near on ten o'clock tonight. He sat up on his elbows and looked around. A boy and a man were sitting by the lake, just on the other side of a large beech tree, having what looked to be a serious conversation. He watched them for a few minutes before realising with a shock that it was Harry and Sirius Black. Sirius, out in the open, dressed in jeans and t-shirt no less! Sirius stood up and looked around, and Teddy quickly ducked back down. A moment later, a large black dog was tackling Harry, who shrieked with laughter.

Laugh all you can, Harry, he thought grimly, thinking about what the evening would bring. He wished…. Best not think about it. It had to happen and that was that. But what was Sirius doing out in plain sight like this? It was dangerous for him, especially with so many ministry officials milling about the grounds today. He considered walking over in their direction, but decided against it. He knew history said that Sirius would not be captured at Hogwarts, and it was still a year before his death. Let them enjoy this time together; he would not intrude.

His stomach rumbled, and he rose, lengthened his hair just past his shoulders and headed back up the hill. The house-elves were preparing a feast tonight and they'd have plenty of food for him to nick.

o…o

Teddy waited by the entrance to the Quidditch stands. He'd snuck down before the crowds and was watching for Sirius Black. He'd seen him on the map having dinner at the Gryffindor table with Harry and Bill and Molly Weasley. He'd run into Bill earlier and had stared in shock at his scarless face. He was used to the scars, of course, but seeing him without them had been quite a jolt. He'd been a very handsome man in his youth. He'd had to cover a grin when Molly had approached him and started nagging him about a haircut. She still did that, and his amusement had been followed by a wave of homesickness.

He'd never be able to go back to his own time. Not only that, but his very existence was at risk. He wondered what would happen if the future changed so much that his future self never went back in time in the first place. Paradox. He had many years before that would be an issue, so he put it from his mind. There were more important things he needed to do tonight.

The four champions were headed his way, accompanied by ministry officials. A few of the teachers had already gone past, including Hagrid, and were milling about in front of the maze. He made eye contact with Cedric as he passed, and Cedric's eyes widened slightly. His lip quirked and he gave a curt nod of acknowledgment, and continued on with the others.

Teddy sighed and clenched his fists, and offered a quick prayer up to Harry's parents, asking them to see him safe. See both of them safe.

He was worried. In his own history, Sirius Black had been a fugitive, cleared of his crimes posthumously. Something had gone wrong. Dumbledore's portrait, which was on the same timeline as the events happening now, had said that Wormtail had escaped, that his father had kept his promise. But something had changed because Sirius was free, and he knew with a certainty that his freedom was part of the chain of events which altered the future. It was his fault.

He couldn't do anything about it now, and seeing, earlier, how happy his presence made Harry, he couldn't begrudge Sirius even one minute of his freedom. But Teddy needed to talk to him, and make sure nothing went wrong tonight.

He saw him, walking with Bill and Molly, Bill acting as buffer between two quarrelling parties. He saw Sirius throw up his hands and stalk off ahead while Molly stared after him, biting her lip. Bill had a hand on his shoulder and was talking to her.

Sirius was scowling when he reached the entrance, and when Teddy tried to tap him on the shoulder, Sirius snarled at him.

"What!"

"Sirius, you don't know me, but I need to talk to you. It's important."

"Sorry kid, I don't have time right now. I'm busy."

Teddy rolled his eyes. "You'll make time. Padfoot."

Sirius started at the use of his nickname and narrowed his eyes. "Where did you hear that name?"

"That's part of what I have to talk to you about. Will you sit with me?"

"Who are you?"

"My name is Teddy." Sirius showed no sign of recognition at the name.

"Sorry, I don't know you."

"But you know my father."

"Yeah? Who's that?"

Teddy glanced around, but nobody was paying any attention as they were too busy filing into the stands. He relaxed his features, his face changing swiftly back to his own, and his hair turning lighter in colour. Sirius' eyes widened as he watched.

"Remus Lupin," Teddy said.

Sirius eyed him warily. "You have his eyes, but you're too old to be Remus' son."

"Not if I haven't been born yet," Teddy said. "Please. My father does know me. We met a year ago. And I can prove who I am." He reached into his pocket and showed Sirius the blank map.

"Where'd you get that?" Sirius asked sharply, recognizing it at once. "Moody has it!"

"Moody? But he's—" He caught himself, and cleared his throat. "Moody has this era's map then. This one's mine. My godfather gave it to me."

"And just who would that be?"

"Harry Potter."

"Bloody hell," Sirius said, and laughed.

o…o

It was strange sitting in the stands, being a part of history like this. Bill and Molly had gone to sit with the other Weasley children, and Teddy found himself looking over his shoulder at them frequently. Especially at the twins whom he discovered he couldn't tell apart. Not at a distance anyway. Seeing them together, the way they moved as one entity, always together, it struck him how much George must have lost by his twin's death. The more he watched them, the more he realised that he couldn't think of Fred as anything but 'another George'. Strange indeed.

He turned back to regard the man next to him. Sirius Black: his father's best friend, Harry's father's best friend, Harry's godfather. His mum's cousin, too. He knew how he felt toward Harry and wondered if Harry regarded Sirius the same way. He must, he thought, remembering the scene by the lake earlier today. Sirius was thin, too thin, and his eyes…. They changed from minute to minute, heartbeat to heartbeat, a range of emotion rippling in their depths.

He could tell that the crowd bothered him, and of course it would – so many years of solitude had changed him, and he was jumpy and impatient. Teddy was jumpy and impatient, too, but for very different reasons. He was filled with a kind of numb dread, and the noise from the crowd was like a distant rumble. It had been a half hour since the four had entered the maze. He could see Professor Dumbledore below him, calm but obviously troubled. Red sparks had blossomed high above the hedges twice, the second time only a few minutes ago – they were still visible, a beacon – and each time the crowd reacted with a mixture of fear and excitement.

"It's not Harry," Sirius had said both times, repeating it as if to convince himself. And both times he'd glanced at Teddy for confirmation. Teddy had looked away, not wanting to meet his eye. Perhaps he'd take that as a sign that it was Harry after all.

He'd told Sirius how he'd travelled in time by accident, how he'd met Remus, briefly, and instead of returning home, he'd ended up here. It was technically true, because he hadn't returned home at all – that false dystopian future certainly hadn't been his home. He wasn't quite sure at first why he'd sought Sirius out now – there was plenty of time to become acquainted with him tomorrow, even after the events of tonight played out, but as the evening wore on and his fingers ached from clenching them so tightly, his palms stinging in crescent-shaped patterns, he knew.

There wasn't anyone else he could turn to for solace. His father was miles away and could not be here, his own godfather was light years and multiple realities away, separated from him by a distance even greater than death. So instead, he turned to the presence of this man because those Teddy loved most had loved Sirius. It was a tenuous connection at best, but it was the only comfort he could find this night. He was afraid, and he did not want to be alone.

A hand pressed down on his knee and squeezed. Teddy looked up sharply and Sirius was looking at him with annoyance.

"Would you quit bouncing your bloody leg? You're driving me mad. Merlin's left nut, your father used to do that when we were kids. You couldn't sit next to him when you ate – the bastard'd bounce your pudding off its spoon."

Teddy smiled despite himself and Sirius' lip twitched. "Fond memories?" he asked.

Sirius smiled and shook his head. "The best."

Teddy nodded and turned to look at the endless rolling green of the maze. The second burst of red sparks had dissipated, which meant a teacher had found whoever had called for help. He looked at his watch. Forty-five minutes. Fuck.

Sirius' hand clamped down on his knee again. It was going to be a long night.

o…o

Professor McGonagall emerged from the maze, supporting a tearful Fleur. Everyone stood to watch, gasping and pointing. As soon as he saw it wasn't Harry, Sirius sighed with relief and sat down again, tapping his thigh with his thumb. Teddy looked pointedly at the source of the drumming, but if Sirius noticed, he gave no sign. Teddy snorted and turned back to the scene below.

Fleur was upset, but she was also angry. She stormed over to a man with a goat-like beard and started screaming at him in French, pointing and gesticulating. A very large woman came over to Fleur, standing behind her protectively. A few minutes later, Professor Moody came stumping out of the maze, escorting a dazed Viktor Krum. Fleur turned at the loud reaction from the crowd and tried to run at him, her face murderous, but the woman held her back. Viktor looked as though he'd been confounded and he sat down heavily, his head in his hands, the goat-bearded man looking upset and fawning over him.

"C'mon kid," Sirius said, nudging Teddy's shoulder and leaning over, his long hair tickling Teddy's ear. "You can tell me. Does he win?"

Teddy said nothing, but he could feel Sirius' enthusiasm; two competitors out and not a hint of red sparks from the pitch. Teddy knew Sirius was worried for Harry, but it was a matter of pride, not fear for his safety. When Sirius had seen Teddy's name on the map, his entire demeanour had changed. His shoulders had lifted, and his eyes had brightened considerably. He'd clapped Teddy on the shoulder, laughing, and had dragged him off to find front row seats.

Sirius wasn't completely reckless, though. Teddy's presence alone had assured him that Harry would survive. Of course he was completely unaware of the real danger Harry faced. Giant man-eating spiders were child's play in comparison. Teddy was convinced that if he'd had so much as an inkling beforehand what Harry would face tonight, he would never have allowed him to participate, binding magical contract and blood protection magic be damned.

Sirius nudged him again. "Killjoy."

Teddy was about to reply when a loud cry resounded from below. Cedric – his robes torn, his face scratched and bleeding, had come running, half-limping, onto the pitch and had nearly collapsed at Dumbledore's feet.

He hadn't exited from the maze, but instead had come from the school grounds. The murmur of the crowd was a dull roar in Teddy's ears and Sirius had jumped to his feet beside him. It was instinct because he certainly hadn't told his body to move. He was running for the ladder—Sirius hot on his heels—pushing people out of his way, not bothering with the nuisance of climbing, and sliding down the poles instead.

Cedric was standing unassisted, talking to Dumbledore and gesticulating wildly when Teddy ran onto the pitch. Moody had stumped over beside them and there was a twisted smirk on his face. Then Dumbledore was moving, Moody at his heels, Cedric jogging alongside, still explaining, impatiently brushing his parents' concerned touches from his shoulders.

Dumbledore shouted something Teddy couldn't hear, and immediately a man—Merlin! That was Severus Snape! Snape stood impassively, listening as Cedric continued to speak. Teddy pushed his way through the crowd milling at the entrance, never taking his eyes from Cedric, ignoring everyone and everything around him.

There was a blinding flash of light, and Harry Potter fell from the sky clutching a large golden cup.

o…o

It was four-o'clock in the morning when he finally descended the spiral stairway from the headmaster's office, out into the seventh floor corridor which led to the Room of Requirement. He was exhausted. He would sleep first and leave later in the afternoon, meet up with Sirius outside of Hogsmeade, and together they would Apparate to his father's cottage. The students would be going home for summer holidays in a few days anyway, so there wasn't much point in staying; The fewer people who saw him, the better. He'd owl Cedric, make sure he was okay, and perhaps they'd see each other sometime. It was enough to know that he was alive, that Harry was alive.

He was still a bit cross with Cedric, not for any reason except that he'd been a stubborn, heroic, noble arse. The bastard had gone with Harry, even knowing the dangers, just to reassure him, build his confidence, and then he'd escaped by Apparating away before Wormtail's killing curse could find him. By the time he'd managed to get back to the pitch and explain, however, Harry had returned on his own. Sirius had been livid, and he'd shouted long and hard at Teddy for not preventing the incident in the first place. It had been Dumbledore, hours later, who'd finally talked sense into Sirius, and he'd apologised, albeit grudgingly.

Moody—Barty Crouch, Jr., had been revealed, though Teddy'd had to intervene. He wondered a bit at that because it was one more thing that had changed from the original history. He thought back to Harry's story from last Christmas.

"Moody took me back to his office. I was in shock, bleeding, and of course I trusted him…

Ah. Harry had been alone because Sirius hadn't been there the last time. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. One more tiny little ripple. Crouch was in the custody of the Dementors now, and little more than an empty, breathing shell. He shuddered, glad he hadn't been there to see the Kiss, though at least Minister Fudge had been consistent and just as incompetent as the books said.

He thought of Sirius again, a free man and cleared of all charges – he'd learned that the Wizengamot had wisely dropped the remaining charges dealing with his escape and unregistered Animagus status. That hadn't happened the last time around, and that, it seemed, was the key, the catalyst that started it all.

He supposed he'd never know exactly what he'd changed; what had happened on that full moon night a year ago in this timeline that hadn't occurred the first time around, nor what would have happened had he not been here tonight. Would Crouch have continued his charade and gone free, the real Moody a prisoner until he died? Was that what caused Voldemort to win?

The important thing, what really mattered was that Wormtail had been free to complete his task earlier this evening, and as a result, the blood protection Harry needed was intact.

And Cedric was alive.

He still couldn't believe it, and found himself repeating it over and over, as if the words were what made it so.

Perhaps this meant Sirius didn't have to die, either. Or his parents. He didn't know. He didn't even know if he'd vanish himself one day, if he'd be walking down a street somewhere and suddenly cease to exist. There were too many unknowns along with the known. He'd keep his own counsel, remembering future Dumbledore's warning to him, and his charge, listening, until he saw how the patterns of this new altered future disbursed and settled themselves. It could wait; he was far too weary right now to think any more about it.

There was a dark mound huddled against the wall on the floor ahead of him, and he approached cautiously, slowing his steps and fingering his wand in his pocket. As he drew closer, the mound erupted and Teddy pulled his wand from his pocket, pointing it at the dark shadow.

"It's me," Cedric said softly. "I've been waiting for hours. I didn't know if you'd be coming back. I hoped…"

Teddy relaxed and returned his wand to his pocket. "What are you doing here," Teddy asked, his shoulders slumping.

Cedric didn't reply, he simply stepped forward, lifted Teddy's chin with his forefinger and kissed him softly.

Teddy grinned beneath Cedric's lips. "You're such a girl," he teased, and felt Cedric's answering grin.

"You're the one who can grow tits."

"My cock's bigger."

"Only because you cheat."

"What about Cho?"

Cedric shrugged. "We broke up."

"Oh." Teddy turned away then and paced the corridor, calling the Room. His room. Their room. When it appeared, he opened the door and stepped inside, glancing over his shoulder.

"Coming?"

-fin-