A/N: Alright guys, here you go. Chapter six, as promised. And it is the last chapter. Thank you guys so much! You are the best audience I've ever had! I hope very much that this last chapter was worth the wait and that you all are happy with it, because you deserve a good ending! Hope you're holidays were merry and you have a spectacular new year, and that I keep hearing from you for a long time to come!
The house seemed too loud, too hot, too crowded. Teddy leaned over the banister to scan the packed sitting room and kitchen, looking for Harry's dark head among all the red. But he didn't seem to be there. Swallowing an irrational panic, Teddy descended into the mob. Harry wasn't about to run out on him after this.
Charlie passed him, heading up the stairs. "Hey, kid, you alright?" he asked, turning around a step above Teddy.
Teddy gave a half-shrug, not daring to stop. He found Ginny helping Fleur set the table.
"He just ducked out to get something," she assured him with one look at his face. "He'll be back in a second."
Almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth, the door opened. Teddy jumped out of the chair he'd just sunk into as if it had burned him.
"Finished?' Harry asked from the doorway.
Teddy nodded, swallowing hard. Harry opened an arm to him, and Teddy let himself be guided out of the house, away from Fleur, Mrs. Weasley, and George's curious stares and into the cool back garden. They crossed the grass in silence and both leaned against the rickety fence in mirroring poses.
"So, what do the critics say?" Harry asked at last.
"It's not funny," Teddy said angrily, turning around to stare up at the first stars dotting the dusky sky.
"Sorry," Harry mumbled. "Been hanging 'round Ron and George too much the last thirty years."
He crossed his arms over the topmost rail and leaned over to examine the wildflowers growing along the road. Teddy pushed off the fence and turned an agitated circle, trying to find some way to relieve the pressure building in his chest.
"I don't know what to do with this!" he exclaimed suddenly, throwing his hands up.
"Neither did we," Harry said quietly. "For a long time, none of us knew exactly what we were supposed to do with everything that had happened once things were ordinary again. Teddy, you just had to read about it. We had to live it. And that's the whole point of everything we do, that you don't have to live it. But there comes a point where you do have to understand it because it shaped your entire world. Horrible things happen. They happen to people you care about, and you can't do anything about it. People get scared, do things they regret, and all you can do is forgive them or resent them, and it better be damn worth it if you pick the latter."
Harry paused and looked over at Teddy.
"I know it's hard," he went on, quiet again. "And unfortunately it's harder for you because you're the first, and none of us really know what to say."
Teddy sank to the grass and pulled one knee up to his chin. "I just… there's so much stuff I didn't know and I don't understand it all…."
Harry folded himself down opposite him. "Alright, let's try to sort it out, then. What's the biggest thing on your mind?"
Teddy chewed his lip. "You don't still think like that, do you?" he asked, a small crack in his voice. "I mean, Ron and Hermione told me – they told me you tried to get yourself killed, to sacrifice yourself for all of them. You're an Auror, you still run head-long into danger every day. You don't still – still –"
"No, of course not," Harry said emphatically. "I told you, I never wanted to die, but Teddy, I was seventeen and going up against the most powerful dark wizard in a century with no clue what I was doing. I wasn't trained for what I was doing, people were dying all around me, I'd only escaped on luck more than once. And there was a prophecy –"
"Yeah, you mentioned it in Neville's letter," Teddy remembered, coloring a bit at the admission (although Harry had known before) that he'd pried into that particular letter which had nothing to do with him at all and whose recipient happened to be his teacher.
"Yeah, well, that prophecy as good as told me that if I couldn't bring Voldemort down, he would bring me down," Harry went on. "Maybe it seems like he didn't have a chance now, but back then, he had the upper hand. There was a very real possibility we weren't going to make it, and I was just putting things in order in case."
"But you did give yourself up," Teddy pressed. "You did try to die!"
Harry rubbed his forehead, unconsciously pushing a thumb over his scar. "That last night… Teddy, I wasn't just giving myself up because I thought he'd leave everyone else alone or because I didn't see any other way out. I had to do it. It's hard to explain, but when he tried to kill me the first time, things happened that not even Dumbledore fully understood. He wasn't exactly magically stable and what my mother did was ancient and powerful magic that's unpredictable. Essentially, we were connected and he couldn't die as long as I was still alive. I didn't find out until halfway through the battle that we couldn't win unless I turned myself in. That's why I did it. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, I promise you that, Ted. Even after expecting not to survive for years, I didn't think I'd have to actually, consciously walk to my death, and it took everything I had to do it. Does that make you feel any better?"
Teddy swallowed. "Maybe a little."
Harry reached over to ruffle his hair. "I'd gladly take a curse for you, kiddo, but only if it's a choice between the two of us and there's no other way, alright?"
"What else, then?"
Teddy pulled up a handful of grass and began shredding it. "My dad… I talked to Hermione about it. She said I can't really understand what he was thinking but not to hold it against him."
"Yeah, that was something I was rather hoping you would never have to find out about," Harry sighed. "Hermione, as usual, is right. Your dad was in a tough place. He thought he was doing the best thing for you when he left, but he did come back."
"Only because you told him off," Teddy muttered. "Even before I was born, you were looking after me better than he was."
"Teddy," Harry said sharply.
"He attacked you just for suggesting he was messing up," he shot back heatedly. "How come you never mentioned that side of him in all the stories you used to tell? You made out like he was a mild-mannered professor who always knew how to stand up and do the right thing. You said that's what made him different from other werewolves. But really he wasn't that much different –"
"No, this changes everything! Everything anyone's ever told me about him! He didn't want me!" Teddy heard the trace of petulance he'd thought he'd outgrown, the way his words rang like those of a child, but he didn't much care at the moment. He could tell Harry was about to lay into him like he'd done when Teddy was a petulant child and looked away.
"Did you know my dad was bullying arse?"
Caught off guard, Teddy glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, shaking his head.
"Well he was," Harry told him. "I didn't know a thing about it until I was fifteen, and, er, went some place I shouldn't have. Like godfather like godson, I suppose. Anyway, everyone always told me what a great man he'd been, how much he'd cared about his friends, how brave, how heroic, and there he was hexing younger kids just because he could, humiliating people. My mother couldn't stand him or Sirius, who was just the same way.
"So I confronted Sirius and your dad about it, and you know what they told me? I'd caught him in a bad moment. He wasn't always like that. He grew up, changed. They didn't tell me because when they thought of my dad, they didn't think of that at all."
"My dad was already grown up," Teddy muttered.
Harry sighed. "Alright, you're going to be angry about this for a while. I understand. I was, too. But just remember it was a bad moment. I can show you that memory if you want, and a load of other memories to prove to you it was an anomaly. Don't judge him too harshly."
"But what about you?' Teddy asked suddenly. "Maybe Dad ran out on me and Mum for some stupid, deluded reasons he could justify in his head, but what about how he was for you? You always acted like Dad and Sirius were there for you and you were just returning the favor with me. But They weren't, were they? You said Arthur and Molly were the closest thing to real parents you had, that you couldn't look up to Sirius and Dad like you thought you could. Fred and George were the ones who had to teach you how to shave!"
"Whoa, ease up a second," Harry cut in, holding up his hands. "First of all, I still do and always have looked up to your dad and Sirius. Both of them had a hell of a lot going against them, and they still managed to do the right thing most of the time. And they were there for me more than they had to be. Your dad took a lot of time out of his evenings to help me when he was teaching, and afterwards he made an effort to come 'round when he could, talk to me, make sure I was okay.
"And Sirius took a vested interest in my life – every part of it, which was a big deal because he was really the first person ever to do that outside of Hagrid and my friends at school. When I got thrown into the Triwizard Tournament, even though he was the most hunted man in Britain, he came back to the country, lived in a cave in Hogsmeade surviving on rats just so he could be close at hand. Granted, he can't've had much better circumstances elsewhere since he was being hunted worldwide, but at least in Africa there wasn't snow and rain every day and he probably could've chanced walking around as a man once in a while and getting decent food and a place to sleep.
"Maybe it's not the same things I've been able to do for you, but you've got to remember that I also didn't meet them until I was thirteen. They didn't raise me; they didn't even see me that much because I was in school. I knew your dad for four years and Sirius for two, most of which we spent writing letters back and forth, and not very frequently since the Ministry was searching mail or one of us was in hiding. They had a lot of their own problems, they made mistakes, they'd never had kids of their own to even know what to do with me, but the thing is, they tried. They wanted to be a part of my life and that's all I needed to know."
He finally fell silent. Teddy let the explanation wash over him, settle around him.
"I s'pose if you're not upset, I shouldn't be," he mumbled. "But it just really sucks when people aren't what you thought they were."
Harry gave a hollow laugh. "I understand that completely. But you've still got to remember they've been that way all along. There are parts of what you thought that are still true."
Teddy shrugged. "Percy bailed on his family for years, you didn't even know Charlie…" he peeked cautiously up at Harry with the next part. "Dudley used to beat you up…."
"Didn't realize exactly how much I put in those things," Harry muttered, rubbing tiredly at his forehead again. "Alright, don't be angry with Percy. You weren't there, so you've got no business holding that against him. It was the biggest mistake of his life and even now it's a delicate subject, got it? Thing is, when you grow up in a family as big as the Weasleys, sometimes it's not as wonderful as it might seem. Inevitably, you get left out or picked on or overlooked. There's not a lot of money or time to go around, and if you happen to be one of the older ones, you get stuck having to be a parent to your siblings when you're still a kid.
"At the end of the day, I'm sure everyone in that family is glad they're in it, but can you understand a little why Charlie might've just wanted to get away, or why there might have been a lot of friction between Percy and the rest? Escalated with war and politics, you get estrangements, accidental or not. But they're mended now and there's no point breaking open old wounds."
Teddy nodded. Harry hadn't mentioned Dudley, but he felt it might be pressing a bit too hard to bring that up. Besides, he thought he got a pretty clear picture from the letters, and if it was more than that, he didn't really want to know. At least right now.
"It's a lot to process," Harry said sympathetically. "All of it, I know. It'll take some getting used to."
They sat in silence for a minute. Harry had just pulled something out of his pocket and was fiddling with it when the back door opened. Ron leaned out of it, scanning the dark yard until he spotted them.
"I think you better come in here," he called in a low voice.
"Why?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Ron let the back door bang closed behind him, shuffling his feet. "Er – Charlie may have come across something upstairs when he was getting an extra chair out of Ginny's room…."
Teddy's head shot up, and Harry swore under his breath and sprang up.
"I s'pose he looked, didn't?" Harry demanded, climbing the back steps.
"Well it had his name on it," Ron offered, grimacing. "And er, he sort of did more than just take his own…."
Harry whipped around at the door. "Tell me they all didn't open theirs."
"Well they haven't opened 'em yet," Ron mumbled.
"Why didn't you stop it!"
"Have you seen Charlie?" Ron asked, holding his arms out like a gorilla.
"And you're deputy head of the Auror office," Harry muttered, pushing Ron ahead of him through the kitchen door.
Teddy cautiously followed them. The Burrow's kitchen was a dense knot of tension. The letters were all spread across the table. Percy had picked up the envelope marked 'Will' and was gaping at it. George was flipping through the names. Bill, Fleur, Angelina, and Neville (whom Hermione had invited for dinner when she'd gone to get the kids) were watching Ginny and Charlie, who were in the midst of a heated argument Hermione was trying and failing to mediate. Mrs. Weasley stood at the stove with her back resolutely to her children, and as Teddy slipped in the back door, Mr. Weasley came in from the sitting room, jabbing his wand at the doorway behind him, probably to keep those in the sitting room from hearing.
"You'd've done the same thing if you'd seen your name!" Charlie was snapping at Ginny.
"Why did you have to bring them down here for everyone else though?" she demanded furiously. "It was none of your –"
"It has their names on it, too!"
"Did you even look to see what it was?"
"Of course I bloody looked! Why d'you think I bothered to bring them down here in the –"
"You are the thickest blockhead I've ever –"
"Well, excuse me for infringing on your secret –"
"Alright, that's enough!" Arthur yelled, shooting purple sparks out of his wand. "Could somebody please explain what exactly this is all about?"
Before any of the others could clamor to explain, Harry cleared his throat. Every eye turned to him.
"Well, see, I wrote quite a few of you some letters a while back…" he began. "When Ron and Hermione and I were hiding out that last year, and there was, you know, a good chance we might not come back, it sort of helped to know I had some control over what my last words would be. There were just things I wanted to say, so I wrote them down and hid the lot with Ron in case I didn't get a chance to say goodbye in person. But I didn't need to say goodbye, as it turned out, so I guess they rotted away in Ron's attic for eighteen years until Teddy came across them and couldn't help himself."
Teddy ducked his head, reddening.
There was silence.
"So…" George said slowly. "These letters are everything you always wanted to say to us but never had the guts to say to our faces?"
"Sort of… not exactly," Harry said uncomfortably.
"And Teddy's read every single one?"
Teddy nodded at his shoes.
"Well then," George said, reaching for his letter. "I reckon we have a right to them, then."
"Just because they have your name on them, doesn't make them your property!" Ginny flared up.
"And what did yours say?" Charlie demanded.
"Don't tell me the three of you didn't rip yours open the moment you saw them," George added heatedly.
"That's different –" Ron began.
"Why? Because you're part of that top-secret mission, so you've got a right to know everything and never let us in on your lives?" George threw at him with a surprising amount of anger.
"If Harry really wanted you to know, he'd've told you already," Ginny snapped.
"He wrote the bloody things!" George shouted.
"When he was seventeen and in the middle of a war," Hermione interjected.
"And only meant you to read them if he died," Ron added.
"He did die!" George cried, the force of it carrying him a step forward. "All three of you did!"
"None of us are the same, George," Hermione whispered.
"But it's different with you lot," George insisted, spinning on her. "We were all together. We saw it happening to each other, understood it. But you lot… every bloody year you'd come back and there'd be something a little more gone and we never knew why because you never told us a damned thing. Those kids that disappeared from Bill and Fleur's wedding? They never came back. They sent you lot, and you lot won't ever tell where you buried the bodies!" he was breathing hard now, red-faced, letter crumpled in his fist. "So I'd like to know what at least one of those kids had to say to me."
Without looking at anybody, he pulled out a chair, threw himself into it, and smoothed out the letter. Nobody else moved.
"Er," Harry said awkwardly into the silence. "You might as well go ahead and read them if you want to. I suppose I don't really mind…."
There were some mumbles and the room shuffled forward, sorting through the letters to find their own. Percy efficiently separated the heap into two neat stacks – those present and those not – and distributed the lot.
"You sure it's alright?" Neville asked tentatively as he took his.
Harry gave him an encouraging nod.
Mr. Weasley took the last letter. He crossed to the stove, but when he offered it to his wife, she turned away. "No, I don't want to read it," she said thickly.
A few of her children looked at her with surprise, on the point of unfolding their own letters.
"It's really alright," Harry promised.
She looked at him and her eyes filled up. She shook her head. "No, there's nothing in that letter you can't say to me in person. If there's something you want me to know, tell me yourself, face-to-face. But I'm not going back to that night."
She shook her head again and headed for the door, saying something about helping Audrey with the children. Harry watched her go with a pensive expression. The rest looked at Mr. Weasley uncertainly.
"I'll read it for the both of us," he mumbled, and pulled out the letter himself. The rest followed suit.
Harry turned back to Teddy, pulling something out of out of his pocket again. This time Teddy saw with some trepidation that it was another envelope. When Harry turned it over, he saw it had his own name on it.
"I wrote it the night you were born," Harry murmured. "Never found a chance to put it with the others. So when we left Shell Cottage, I slipped it behind some of the china figuring someone would find it, but I guess no one ever did. I understand if you've had enough for now, but… you know… since you read all the others."
He pressed it into Teddy's hands and turned toward Ginny, who'd come to stand next to him, clutching her own letter.
"Not going to read it?" he heard Harry whisper to her.
"I think I've read enough," Ginny whispered back.
Harry raised an eyebrow.
"Only I've got a very strong suspicion you scrawled the words 'I love you' somewhere in this, because if you didn't, you know I'd've broken into the afterlife and hunted your scrawny arse down. And the thing is, I really want the first time you told me you loved me to be Christmas Eve in the window seat, when we were looking at all the stars…. Somehow, a letter from the grave is not nearly as romantic."
Harry laughed quietly and kissed her forehead.
Teddy stared down at the letter in his hands. The one letter that was actually his to open, and it was the last thing he wanted to do. Later he told himself. The rest of the room was reaching the end of their letters, and Teddy quickly folded his and stuck it in his pocket.
Percy was the first one to look up, and Teddy was surprised by the anger in his expression. He was looking right at Ron. "You left?" he demanded in a quavering voice.
Ron's eyes widened. Everyone else looked up, too.
"You told him about that?" Ron asked, looking sharply at Harry.
"I –" Harry started.
"All that time I spent trying to make things up to you, and you weren't any better than me!"
"You've got no idea what you're talking about!" Ron said angrily.
"You left?" George repeated dangerously.
"Where did you go?" Mr. Weasley asked, frowning.
Fleur had frozen with her mouth half-open.
"Look, it happened a long time ago, and we don't understand all of it," Bill began.
"You knew!" George accused, jumping out of his chair. Angelina tried to put a hand on his arm, but he shook her off. "Why the bloody hell didn't you tell anybody? Didn't you think we might've liked to know he was alive?"
"He asked me not to tell anyone because he was still in hiding, and he knew you lot would act like this."
Charlie was watching the exchange between his brothers as if it were taking place in a foreign language. Ginny had rounded on Ron.
"You left?" she repeated, echoing George except that it was almost a shriek.
"Alright, look!" Harry said loudly, swiftly getting between Ron and Ginny. "None of you understand what went on back then."
"So tell us!" George shouted. "We've only been going over every horrible situation we can think of for nearly twenty years, wondering what the hell you could have seen to wake up screaming like you used to, to not be able to tell even us about it!"
"It's not that we didn't want to, it's that we can't," Ron retorted heatedly. "We swore we wouldn't."
"To who? Dumbledore? Mad-Eye? They're dead!" Goerge exclaimed. "You-Know-Who's dead! Surely it doesn't matter anymore!"
"Boys!' Mr. Weasley said sternly, forcing each of his children to meet his gaze. "I thought I was done breaking up fights with you lot. You're all grown with children, for Merlin's sake. Now, I recall having this argument plenty of times before. If Harry, Ron, and Hermione don't want to tell us what they were doing instead of attending Hogwarts for their seventh year, it is none of our business. They were all of age, as they are now."
"Ron stayed with me and Fleur for a bit," Bill said into the ensuing quiet. "He was completely torn-up about it, trust me. He showed up in the middle of the night, his hands all bloody and looking more devastated than I'd ever seen him, and he asked me not to let anyone know he was there, even Mum and Dad. What was I supposed to do? Turn him over so they could ground him?" he glanced down at the letter Harry had written to him and his wife. "Look, whatever happened, it was between the three of them and it was ages ago. Harry and Hermione are the ones he left, and they obviously got over it, so the rest of us have got no ground to upset about it now."
Ron gave him a grateful look and his father clapped him on the shoulder.
"Any other big, explosive topics you'd like to cover while we're here?" Harry asked wryly.
"Nah, I think that about covers it," George mumbled.
Smoke was rising from whatever was on the stove. Mr. Weasley quickly turned around to tend to it. He put a kettle on a burner, pulled down a tin of coco powder, and in a minute was handing around mugs of hot chocolate
"Sorry you got caught up in all this," he murmured to Teddy, dropping an extra cinnamon stick into his mug as he handed it over.
Teddy shrugged with a rueful half-smile. "My own fault."
Harry went to help him with the burnt pot, and Arthur clapped him on the shoulder, too. Teddy heard him murmur, "You never had anything to make up for," but the rest of their conversation was too low for him to catch.
Angelina perched on the edge of George's chair, rubbing his arm as they talked quietly. Neville, looking rather more pale than usual, was showing his letter to Hermione. Ron had taken a still-distraught Ginny into the scullery for a chat, and Charlie had sidled over to where Percy was talking to Bill and Fleur, folding and unfolding his letter.
For perhaps the first time in his life, Teddy didn't try to hear any of their conversations. He'd figured out why it was they spoke in murmurs behind closed doors.
It wasn't until late that night when Teddy sat at his desk in his bedroom at his grandmother's house, that he pulled out the letter addressed to him and looked at it again.
Percy had found Harry before he'd left and shook his hand. "I think I needed to hear that, even after all this time," he'd said. Fleur had hugged Harry very tightly, babbling something in French. George had ruffled Harry's already-messy hair and told him, "Anytime, kiddo," which had made him laugh. Charlie had taken Harry by surprise and grabbed him in a rough hug just before he and Ginny left.
So he supposed it was finally his turn. Carefully, he pulled up the flap and extracted his letter.
April 23, 1998
Well, I guess I'm your godfather. Barmy idea, that was. I'm already off to a rubbish start. You should hear what I've got planned for next week. Anyway, I hope I get to meet you soon. Sounds like you're already something else.
Now I've never been anybody else's godfather before – in fact the last time I was around a kid at all was when I was one, so you're going to have to bear with me, okay? I've asked around and it seems there are a few things, as godfather, it will be my responsibility to look after.
First of all, I'm going to try very hard not to get arrested, but I really can't make any promises given what's on my agenda. So in case I do get chucked into Azkaban or anything else gets in the way, here are some of the things I'm apparently meant to take care of.
The Sorting ceremony at Hogwarts does not involve a troll in any way, whatever Fred and George may tell you. It's actually a blast-ended skrewt. Much worse, trust me. But if you want to make really good life-long friends… then you may need a troll, among other ingredients.
There's a secret passage on the fifth floor that hardly anybody knows about. It's a great place for snogging, you know, when you're into that. And on a related note, try to avoid snogging your best mate's sister if at all possible. Particularly in front of him… and half the house, including her ex-boyfriend who may or may not also be your roommate. Anyway….
Don't worry too much about what house you'll be in. I reckon you're mum and dad'll be proud no matter what. They're pretty great people. Remember that.
Raise a little mayhem for me. Even Hogwarts gets dull without a little mayhem.
DO NOT take divination. Even if you've already started spouting off prophecies. Trust me, it's a bad idea. However, if you do, and if Trelawney is still the professor, best thing to do is make up the most horrible, gloomy predictions you can. Don't even bother with trying to do the work properly. She'll love it.
Make sure someone teaches you how to fly before you get to Hogwarts. Nothing good comes from school brooms. In fact, it's my godfatherly duty to provide you with a proper one, so make sure you take a little money out of my vault and get a top-of-the-line racing broom. Don't let it get near the Whomping Willow.
Alright, I suppose I should start giving you real advice, huh?
Don't hold grudges because they're a waste of energy. Either get on and forgive someone, or let them go. But make sure it really is worth letting them go before you do. Usually it's not worth it, even if you're furious with them. Give people the benefit of the doubt and they usually surprise you. Usually.
If there's somebody you like, and you're quite sure you really like them, don't wait around for something to happen. I mean, don't make an arse of yourself either. Definitely don't go snog someone else, especially not in the middle of, say, the common room where everyone will see you. But don't just hang back and hope something will happen. Time's not an unlimited resource.
I dunno about you, but I feel like the whole teenage rebellion stage will be lost on your parents. Your mother will probably still have pink hair and your dad helped write the Marauder's Map (ask Fred and George about that if you haven't got it yet). Don't give them too hard a time because they both love you loads. You're lucky that way.
Well, that's about as much wisdom as I can dole out right now. Give me a break, I'm only seventeen. I reckon someone else can fill in the rest.
If you ever get caught raiding the cookie jar before dinner or using fever fudge to get out of chores or snooping around where you shouldn't be, just whip this scrap of paper out and point here: I, Harry Potter, Teddy Lupin's godfather, hereby give him permission to be up to no good at least once in a while.
You're going to be a great kid.
All the best,
A/N: And we're out! Wow, that got long. I spent all day on it when I only meant to spend half the day on it. But it's finished. Yay! I'm glad to get one story out of the way, but guess what I'm going to do now that this is done? I'm going to go and put up a new story that will demand I update. Check out my profile if you're interested in what that might be. Anyway, once again, thank you guys so much! Love you all!