Warning: character death. Unbetad.
H. K. Nadia
Teddy hates the fact that Harry waited until the NEWTs were over. On the morning of the final exam, Harry sent sunflowers hanging around an embarrassed mail-Hawk's neck. It was just at the point where Teddy thought he was dying from nerves and anticipation, and Victoire's vapid assurances only made him want to scream. The attached card read: If you fail, I've got contacts.
He hates the fact that Harry only ever took him to the infamous Hog's Head once. For his seventeenth birthday, and it was just the two of them. A rite of passage. Harry watched while Teddy become drunker and drunker on expensively aged firewhisky. His smile was so soft that Teddy didn't once guess how deep his melancholy was. Teddy hates the fact that Harry left a letter which was addressed only to him, propped innocently against Teddy's pillow. Not to James or Al or Lily, not to Ginny or Ron or Hermione.
Teddy I'm so sorry, the letter begun abruptly.
Harry's handwriting is perfect, with his y's looping in artistic tandem. Teddy hates the care he must have put into that opening. The time he must have spent regarding blank parchment, dripping ink down the neck of the bottle. Holding the quill, thinking, motionless.
Hermione stands at the podium in black designer robes. Both Ron and Ginny declined to speak.
"Harry always loved too deeply." Her voice is faint. Confused against the image of an elegant witch. "People remember Harry for his courage, and his heroism. But I belive that it was his compassion which made Harry a Great Wizard. His ability to give, and keep giving, even when society demanded too much. Harry would have done anything for the people he loved..."
Teddy hates Harry's compassion.
When Hermione approaches him after the funeral, Teddy wants to turn and leave and pretend he hasn't seen her coming. Without Harry's hand on his shoulder, or his quirk of a welcoming smile, Teddy isn't part of the Potter family. Ginny hasn't been able to look him in the eye. Lily and James have both been crying for days, consumed in internal worlds of grief. The tears of people who don't have a rationale, who haven't been given a reason. The tears of people who don't know why. Al set Teddy's old tree-house on fire, and watched blankly while it crumbled out of the branches. His tears know secrets.
"He loved you very much, Teddy." Hermione tells him.
Teddy's hair is black and he hasn't changed it for the entire week. It hangs around his face, dead and without movement. Unintentionally, it makes him statuesque. He has taken the style from Harry's old picture album. From the laughing face of a young Sirius Black who was slung between Teddy and Harry's fathers. The space between them. The Godfather. Some of the older wizards and witches attending the funeral have done double-takes, their watery eyes widening.
"I know." He responds to the meaningless comfort with meaningless agreement.
You and I have both lost our families to heartless wars and wizards. We have both had our parents, who should have been the ones to teach us about love, taken away. I tried to be your father. I tried very hard. I tried to give you the kind of love that I never had, even though I didn't really understand it at all. I was always destined to fail, Teddy. I'm sorry for that.
"He loved you." She repeats, and her hoarse voice sharpens. "More than he should have."
Teddy's throat has been dry for days, and he feels as though he's choking on air. Hermione's serene expression doesn't falter and she doesn't ask him if he's alright, as he coughs to hide his tears. Teddy realises that even Hermione resents him just a little, just because she can't help herself, just because it's beyond her conscious control. She stands motionless, and together they gaze around the Potter's living room. Teddy opened his first Christmas presents here, under a tree which obscured massive bay windows.
"You and Victoire are going to be married." Hermione's toneless voice could be a question, or a statement, or an order.
Harry had predicted the same. Teddy had been fifteen with tangerine coloured hair, and wanted to laugh his Godfather out of the room. He had been confounded at Harry's quiet confidence. Victoire? Really?
"No." Teddy says, "I can't marry her."
War stops you from noticing, Teddy. It keeps you too busy to start seeing the cracks, or to realise that when you say 'I love you' what you really mean is: 'I don't want to be alone.' Maybe someone who grew up with a mother and father would have known that the way I love Ginny, is not the way that a man should love his wife. That it has never been the right way. That it never could have been the right way. I have never been able to give Ginny what she really wants.
Hermione's eyes are cool.
"Don't be too hasty." She says. Once upon a time, Teddy has been told that Hermione was a Granger. But for the past eighteen years Teddy has only known her as a Weasley. To his Uncle Draco, that seems to mean something. "I'm sure that Harry wouldn't be happy to find you throwing away your future, in a fit of grief."
Despite how hard she has tried, Ginny has never been able to give me what I really want, either. The older that you get, the more that you smile, the times I watch you fall in love and I dream of how Victoire must feel when you look at her... the less my explanations of fatherly love can excuse the way that I find that want in you.
"I can't marry her." Teddy repeats. He wants to tear his hair out with his fists and scream and cry. He wants Harry back. He wants to rage around the Potter's broomshed while Harry sits bemused on a hovering firebolt, consoling him about his grandmother's strictness. He wants Harry to hug him, like the awkward teenager whose horrified face he remembers after falling off his first broom. He wants the aftertaste of firewhisky on his tongue, and the wistful way that Harry's fingers ghosted across his cheek on the night of his seventeenth birthday. He wants to grab Harry's hand. He wants to hold it against his heart. He doesn't want to let it slip away.
"I'm not in love with her. The only reason we're together is because people kept expecting it to happen. I don't love Victoire, Hermione." Teddy says 'love' like it's a dirty word.
Hermione doesn't reply. Her fingers wrapped around the stem of her champagne glass are white.
"Well, then." She finally says, looking sad. Hermione and Harry were friends for longer than Teddy has been alive, Teddy remembers. Sometimes it's easy to think of Harry as all his own. But everyone here has lost a friend. Teddy's head sinks down to stare at the carpet. What has Teddy lost? Someone he loved? Someone who loved him?
"Teddy..." Hermione starts, with a frown. She is watching him and wondering. Teddy can hear it in her voice. The thoughtfulness of Aunt Hermione as she works on a problem. It's easy to tell when she figures it out.
"He left you a letter." She whispers suddenly, with the intonation of someone who has had an epiphany. "He left you his suicide letter. Ginny looked, but... Oh."
Teddy looks up from the floor, and meets her wide brown eyes. He wants to slap her, for saying the word.
He looks away.
His lack of denial is answer enough.
"Oh, Teddy." Hermione's voice is horrified. "Why didn't you...?"
Teddy knows exactly why. He knows exactly why he held the crisp parchment, which still smelled of Harry's writing desk, until it was weak and soggy with his tears. Why he lay curled up against the hurt, trying to protect all his vital regions, in so much pain and horror that he threw up and choked on the acidity of his own bile. Why, even now, he has the letter folded in the pocket next to his heart. Why, even though he's standing, he's never getting back up.
"It was private." He mumbles.
I need to thank you, Teddy. I know it's morbid and I know that you'll probably not be thanking me, but without you I don't know where I'd be.
"It was only addressed to me." Teddy thinks that Al would burn down far worse things. "It was mine."
I love James, and Al, and Lily, because they're my children. But they've grown up now – going to Hogwarts and getting sick of their old dad bossing them around. They don't need me anymore. I love them because they're a part of me, and I don't begrudge that love in any way. But love doesn't have to be like that. I only recently discovered, Teddy, that love does not have to be like that. It doesn't have to be a burden. It doesn't have to be an obligation, or a safety-net, or a way to make myself feel normal.
"He was so selfish." Hermione whispers, furiously. "He was so fucking selfish. He shouldn't have told you... Why couldn't he just have let you be happy...?"
It's love that's held me down so long. Love for my friends and love for Ginny and love for James and Al and Lil. Teddy, it's my love for you, which lately has become so desperately hungry. So desperately wanting. I know that you will never, and should never, love me in the same way. Even if you did, I don't think I could live with myself. If you'll excuse the pun. But I want to thank you, so so much, for showing me how deeply it turns out I am capable of feeling. I can love, Teddy. I thought I was broken, but I really can. Thank you, for showing me how it feels to love someone so much and in every possible way.
"I probably would have married her." Teddy says, numbly. Inside his jacket pockets, his hands are shaking. "We would have gotten married, had kids. I would have ended up... just like..."
Hermione bites her lip, and closes her eyes just long enough for it to be noticeable. Without another word, she snaps open her handbag and offers Teddy an embroidered handkerchief. Teddy accepts it. All over his body, he feels heavy. His face is hot. He wants Harry to come back. He wants Harry to come back fuck you fuck you fuck please please just come back
"I think I'm going to leave." He whispers, vaguely.
Hermione nods slowly.
"He would have done it anyway, Teddy." She says, as he turns away. "Don't think that you can take all of the blame."
He sees an infinite sadness in her face. An infinite knowledge. She's been mourning for as long as Teddy's been alive.
"We all knew it. At the battle of Hogwarts. Harry never really made it out of the final battle."
Teddy laughs bitterly.
"Voldemort really does get them all, in the end."
A/N: Oh boy, what is it with these spontaneous drabbles? I've gone and made myself feel like crying. It's because I'm failing uni (true story) and making myself broke buying comfort coffee. It was cruel of Harry to leave Teddy that letter. Teddy would have been better off in ignorance. There's nothing anyone can do, now.