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When he was little, he could not understand what the strangers, who, after seeing him, started sighing, patting his head and saying, "The poor dear, he must miss his parents so much" meant. That was his first indication that he was supposed to miss his parents. And yet, even after realizing that he should miss them, he couldn't. He had never known them, so how could he miss them? He was a little ashamed of that and for a while he tried, he really tried to miss his parents.
It didn't work, though.
And yet, he still wishes that he could meet them.
He was very little, when Victoire was born, and he didn't like her. He doesn't remember it himself. But Aunt Ginny always says that he didn't like her. When he saw the tiny being lying in its crib, he realized with disappointment that it didn't have a thick, soft pelt like the kitten that he was still trying to convince his Grandma to buy him. It didn't wiggle its ears like the black dog that Teddy liked so much – Uncle Harry's black dog, Padfoot. It didn't even look at Teddy, when he peeked in the cot curiously, and Teddy felt very insulted. Everyone loved him! Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny took him on their brooms, Uncle George gave him funny presents, Aunt Hermione read him fairy-tales, Grandma Molly always fed him pastries and everybody laughed, when his face and hair changed – he was too young to change them by his own will – and now this new thing did not even look at him! But wait! That was it. Maybe this thing was some sort of new stuffed toy? A very, very lazy stuffed toy. He poked it to check its softness, and then toppled over, when the creature proved it was alive by opening its eyes and giving the most piercing wail that Teddy had ever had the misfortune to hear. "No!" Aunt Ginny said. "Bad Teddy!" she added and bent over the crib to check on the thing that wouldn't stop wailing. "A stuffed toy that cries!" Teddy yelled disgusted. "I don't like it. Send it back."
At least, Aunt Ginny says he did.
When he first hears that story, when he is fifteen, he can't believe it. Oh, he knows that Aunt Ginny never lies. He still can't believe it, though. Not liking Victoire? Impossible! He likes Victoire. He likes her a lot. He likes her even when she makes his life hell with her sudden change of moods and the constant hostility that she, for some reason, seemed to harbor each time when she sees him studying with Melanie Gordon, or Janet Wilkins, or Deborah Cunningham. Not that he would ever admit that to anyone and especially not to her.
This is his most guarded secret, after all.
When he looks back into his past, he can't help but smile at the realization that the words 'I can't imagine my life without you' that so many people in love tend to say to each other, are literally true in his case: he couldn't imagine his life without her, because, in fact, he had never had a life without her. At least, not a life that he can remember.
Teddy is four. Victoire still haven't turned three. He enters the room and sees her – talking at full speed to her Grandma, while Aunt Fleur is plaiting her hair. She sees him and gives an excited shriek. "Teddy! Teddy!" Her mother tries to calm her down, but Victoire wriggles out of her hands and runs over to him, her hair half plaited and half falling wildly.
In this moment, he feels important.
Teddy is eight. Victoire is seven and they play in the garden of the Burrow, chasing gnomes and fireflies. Teddy is tired, he wants to go inside. Victoire is restless, though. "Aren't you tired?" he asks hopefully. Unfortunately, she answers petulantly, "No!"
For a moment, he considers the possibility to go back to the house without her, but then reluctantly dismisses it. While they are outside, she is under his protection and he can't leave without her, no matter how much he wants to. He tries another way to convince her, "Hey, Vickie? It's getting dark. I've that there is a big dog roaming outside in the darkness. Aren't you afraid of it?"
She smiles at him. She looks perfectly calm. "No," she says, matter-of-factly.
He gulps. "But why not?"
She takes his hand, trustingly. "You are so big," she says in the same calm voice. "You won't let the dog take me."
At that moment, he feels grown-up.
Teddy is eighteen. Victoire is sixteen. They sit in the Gryffindor common room and Victoire examines critically her friend's Aimee's Transfiguration notes. Teddy examines Victoire. Not looking at him, she reaches for his hand and squeezes it. Teddy smiles. He is up for a little snogging session, but right now, Victoire isn't in the mood. She needs to hand her Transfiguration essay tomorrow morning and Teddy is here just for moral support. In a vain attempt to stay awake, he looks around and sees something – something rare! He jumps up and sweeps Victoire up. Startled, she looks at him and the question that has started forming dies on her lips, when he carries her to the window, so she, too, can see the falling star and make a wish. When the star falls, she looks at him and kisses him gently. "Thank you," she whispers.
At that moment, he feels thoroughly happy.
Teddy is twenty-two. Victoire is twenty-one and she looks like she's just run a marathon – covered in sweat, her hair sticking to her face, her breathing hurried, her lips white and bloodied in the places where she had bitten them.
She looks deliriously happy.
He takes her hand and kisses her forehead, before looking, for a first time, at the small being that lies next to her. It looks curiously at him, blinking, and against the white pillow his hair shines green, and red, and blond, and chestnut…
"It's a boy," Victoire whispers.
"So I heard," Teddy whispers back. He has held babies before, of course – having grown as an honorary member of the Weasley family, it would be hard not to, - but he had never felt such a fear to touch one. This little boy looks so tiny, so fragile. And it depends thoroughly on them. On Victoire. On him.
He has never thought it possible that he could feel such love and such fear at the same time.
At that moment, they make a man of him. Victoire and the baby make him. They are so young. They have a home of their own, they work and they support themselves. But they have had no responsibilities, except to one another. Now, now Teddy realizes that they have been just playing a family, just like they played Aurors when they were little.
Now, they are a family.
Teddy hated James Potter. For a while. After James was born, no one paid attention to the little Metamorphmagus anymore – everybody was cooing over the stupid baby or talking about it! Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny had no time for Teddy and even when they did, they were never truly there – they were always listening for the sounds coming from the nursery and when the baby started crying, they always stopped playing with Teddy and went upstairs. And God, did James cry!
Teddy even made a list of all the things that James couldn't do. 'Can't walk. Can't talk. Can't play Quidditch. Can't make his bed. Can't eat by himself. Can't go to the toilet. Can't read. Can't wash himself.' What angered him the most was the fact that despite all those horrible incapacities, James was still at the receiving end of anyone's care! Why did everybody like James so much?
Years later, James Potter reads the list, smiling. Teddy catches him red-handed. One would expect that he would be ashamed, but no, not James Potter. He smiles even more broadly. "You know, I can play Quidditch," he says. "You were the one who trained me."
Teddy rolls his eyes. "Unfortunately, one thing that I never managed to teach you is bathing on a regular basis. Go and take a bath. The dinner is in half an hour. Oh, and you can give Alan one, too."
James' face falls. "I already gave him a Quidditch lesson!" he protests.
"Yes, and you gave him sugar, too, I strongly suspect."
James' face is completely innocent, but Teddy can't be fooled that easily. Not after all those years of practice. "Yes, so I thought. Give him a bath, James. It goes with the Quidditch practice."
James leaves the room, the picture of misery. Teddy can't blame him – he, too, would have been horrified, if he had faced the prospect to give a bath to a little Metamorphmagus who hates baths. A little Metamorphmagus, who is on sugar-high.
He takes the list and smiles, reading it. He remembers how much he hated James. But then, it is not so unusual for kids to hate the new baby in the family. And the Potters are Teddy's family.
Speaking of family, Teddy quite likes his Malfoy relatives, although he rarely talks about them to the Weasleys and takes care to never mention them in front of Uncle Ron. He likes Aunt Narcissa and he especially likes Astoria. She is funny and sweet, and really good to him, and she saved him once, when he had run away from Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny. He sort of likes Draco too – he can be really amusing at times. He strongly dislikes Lucius and doesn't miss a chance to do a trick to him – something that is quite easy, given the fact that Holey Uncle George is always willing to donate his products for the cause. Once, after Lucius has started growing hair everywhere right at the dinner table, Teddy barely contains his laughter. He happened to meet Astoria's eyes and although she tries to give him a stern look, he has the feeling that she, too, was having troubles concealing her mirth.
Well, he has always known that Astoria is a woman of fine tastes.
Teddy will never tell it to anyone, but when he left for his first year at Hogwarts, he was terrified. What if they forgot about him now, when he wouldn't be there anymore? True, they all loved him, but he was neither a Weasley, nor a Potter. They wouldn't see him every day; maybe they would realize that they don't need him, after all?
That was his most lonely secret – a secret that he shared only with the owl that came the next morning, almost staggering in the air under the weight of a parcel of cookies and three pieces of cake, a piece of seemingly blank parchment that Teddy recognized immediately. "Don't tell your Aunt Ginny about this!" he read on its packet, a letter from Ginny, telling him that they were supposed to wait, until he owled them what House he had been Sorted in to write him back, but she just couldn't resist, because she still couldn't get used to his absence, and some scrawls that Teddy supposed to be James' insistence that Teddy shouldn't forget to come back for Christmas, because he had promised him that he would come…
He has heard many stories about how nervous men got, when they proposed. He has not been nervous, but then, he has never really proposed...
The sound of the sea mingles with the music. Teddy breathes the salty air with delight and thinks that it is a perfect night for a party. Victoire wears a green dress, her hair is thrown over her left shoulder and she is positively beaming. This night, she turns twenty and the party is for her.
Teddy goes to her and wraps an arm around her. She turns her head and smiles broadly at him.
"A wonderful night," she says.
"Yes," Teddy agrees. "Victoire, don't you think it's time for us to set a date for the wedding?"
"Oh," she says slowly. She doesn't look surprised. Probably, she isn't surprised. "Of course. September will be perfect for me."
That is his most delightful secret – that on important things, like that, they don't need to talk in order to know what the other one is thinking.
And that is thanks to the Potters and Weasleys, who took him in their family. They have given him so much and they still do. They give him a feeling that he belongs. Also, they were the ones who taught him to be proud of his parents.
Teddy acknowledges that is was not an easy task.
When he was little, sometimes he resented his parents a little for leaving him behind. Now, he is a grown-up. And he knows that they had tried to make the world a better place – for him. He would do the same for his kids. He only hopes that he will never have to do it.
And they didn't leave him behind. They left him with the people that they knew would give him love. Happiness. A family. And that is more than enough.