Twelve year old Teddy Lupin awkwardly straightened his pointed black hat, and double checked to make sure his robes were clean, even though he'd never worn them before. The other boys in his dorm – his friends – shot him a few awkward looks, as though they were unsure what they should say – or even if they should say anything.
Teddy had been to Hogwarts' annual war memorial service every year of his life – except for the first, obviously – but this time it was different. This time he wasn't arriving with his grandmother, the Potters and the Weasleys, but instead joining the service with his fellow students.
Somehow, it seemed harder to exit his room, even though he'd be sitting with his family once he entered the great hall. Still, every step seemed overly loud on the polished floors, as he and his friends neared the hall.
For a moment on the threshold, Teddy remembered that eleven years ago, his parents' dead bodies had lain on the floor in this room. Feeling slightly sick, he wishes that they held the memorial in another room. Or at least had never told him how the bodies had been stacked here.
"Teddy!" There were some murmurs in the hall, parents greeting children, adults greeting one another, but Victoire Weasley's voice rang out, louder and clearer, in a way some might consider inappropriate, or disrespectful.
Teddy, however, smiled widely as he glanced towards the sound and saw her. With a brief goodbye to his friends, he hurried towards his family, opening his arms to hug Victoire.
"Happy birthday, Vee." He said as he drew back from her.
"Thanks." The newly-ten-year old replied. "Are you OK?"
He nodded, as he always does when asked this question on this particular day. "Fine." He looked past her, to his grandma and Harry and all the others, and offered a smile.
After some brief hugs, they found seats near the front. Little Lily Potter, now two, was hushed by her father, while little Hugo Weasley, of the same age, was crying for some inexplicable reason. Teddy smiled a little as Ron hastily passed the boy to his wife, who rolled her eyes and attempted to comfort her son. James and Albus, five and four, respectively, were whispering, while Rose giggled at whatever Fred was murmuring to her.
Once Kingsley stood on the newly conjured stage, however, everyone fell into silence, even Hugo, though Teddy decided this was due to Hermione, rather than out of respect. Does a two year old, he wondered, even have the ability to feel respect? Does Hugo or Lily or any of the other toddlers scattered around the hall even understand why they're here?
Teddy barely listened to the words the Minister was saying, instead wondering how different today would be if his parents were alive. He'd be sat with them, of course. His mother would probably look sad, his father respectful.
Wouldn't they? Teddy stifled a sigh, because he doesn't know. And he was supposed to sit there and look all sad about the deaths of people he doesn't even remember.
Sometimes, just sometimes, he wishes Hogwarts didn't bother with the service, and just let him forget that his parents are dead.
Beside him, Victoire covered his hand with hers, in a gesture meant to comfort him. Instead, Teddy hoped none of his friends notice, because they'd never let him hear the end of it. Holding hands with a girl, and a ten-year-old one at that.
But he didn't move his hand, because she meant well, and she is his best friend, after all.
He watched as Professor McGonagall took the stage, and said how it's important every single student remembers what happens. Teddy thought "remembers" was the wrong word, because surely the students are all too young to remember? She added that they need to know the names, to remember just how many died for them.
It isn't fair, Teddy thought, to say "died for you" like that, like it's his fault, his fellow students' faults. It's Voldemort's fault, and it's not like he asked his parents to run off and die, is it?
If he'd been given the choice, he'd have chosen for them to stay home, with him, where it was safe.
Then she recited all the names, everyone who died, and Teddy couldn't help but jolt when she said his parents' names, or notice how a few students looked his way, as she said "Nymphadora Lupin. Remus Lupin."
Only, his mum didn't like being called Nymphadora, and she'd only been a Lupin for a few months. He knows that much, and thinks it's unfair that the woman talking knows loads more about her and still doesn't call her the name she preferred.
When she'd finished, Harry stood, passing Lily to Ginny, and walked to the stage.
He gave another speech, saying mostly the same thing. Teddy vaguely thought that there was no point in three different people saying the same kind of thing. Why bother? Half the students aren't listening anymore anyway, and most of the adults will have heard the same thing just as often as him.
Lily leaned across Harry's seat to grab at Teddy, smiling widely. He smiled back, because she's like a little sister to him and – though he'd never admit it – he thinks she's adorable. She struggled from Ginny's grip and climbed into Teddy's lap. He assured Ginny quietly that it was OK, and pulled a face that made Lily giggle. Realising that the sound was quite loud, he stopped quickly, though Lily doesn't seem bothered, and pulled at his hair. It's black today, because he figured blue or green might be disrespectful.
He should probably have been listening, but Teddy's sick of hearing about the war. Sick of hearing about how brave his parents were, and how they loved him and didn't want to leave him and how they died for a good cause. He's sick of sitting here, year after year, while people send him sympathetic looks or curious stares.
"...some of you here even lost parents in this war. I lost my own in the first one." Harry said, and Teddy looked up, surprised, because he doesn't remember Harry ever saying this before. He always figured Harry considered it something private. "My godson lost his, and my children lost their uncle." Teddy flushed, because on the word "godson", what feels like a million pairs of eyes spin his way. He slid lower in his seat, causing another giggle from Lily, who seemed to think it's a game.
"So don't just remember the fallen, remember how many people's lives were changed."
Teddy looked down, at little Lily, and for a moment wondered if she and her brothers will get all this in a few more years. The staring, the whispers, the sympathy. In that instant, he hates his godfather for bringing him into his speech.
Because he doesn't know how he's supposed to feel, to react. He doesn't know if he's supposed to pretend to remember his parents, or to make people pity him because he doesn't remember them. Is he supposed to act proud, or sad?
The speeches are over now, and Harry crossed to a small table, lit a fat white candle.
"For our family and friends." He murmured, in what would be an inaudible tone if his voice wasn't magically altered.
McGonagall lit another. "For the students of Hogwarts."
Kingsley lit the third. "For mankind." The three flames held for a second, before suddenly growing upwards and merging with one another.
The ceremony is over, and people stand, parents and children begin to talk excitedly. In an hour or so, the visitors will all leave, the students will go to bed, and tomorrow will be a normal day.
Teddy passed Lily to the nearest person – Uncle Ron – and slipped away from his family. Who aren't, if you want to be technical, his family at all, he thinks. Except for grandma, who was still seated, looking tearful.
He left the hall, and paused for a moment in the entrance hall, because the cool air flooding his mouth and lungs feels like his first breath. His face, which had still been heated and red, cooled, regained its normal colouring, and Teddy started to walk, making his way to the memorial plaque. A huge sheet of gold fixed to the wall, with the names of the dead engraved in black. The message at the bottom tells the reader to remember them, that they were all heroes.
Teddy found his parents names easily, and just stood for a moment, looking at them.
They're just names to him. Names and photographs and bedtime stories. But as he looked at them, Teddy knew what he felt, even if he doesn't know how he's supposed to feel.
He feels pride. Maybe because he's always been told to, or maybe he reached the conclusion on his own. He feels sorrow. He feels anger – at Voldemort, for getting them killed, and at them, for leaving him. He feels, also, that if he was different, somehow, better, they wouldn't have left him. That it must be his own fault, he must not have been enough to keep them with him. That this must be what they mean by "died for you".
He stood there for a long time, just looking at their names, and wishing they weren't there.