I have always resented him.
It's difficult to explain.
His kindness has always felt false. Yes, he speaks to me. Yes, he invites me over for dinner as often as he can. Yes, he has written me into his will. I know all that.
But that's all I am to him. I am just another responsibility.
He has a lot of responsibilities. He has work, his children, and their trials and tribulations. He has power. He takes his job very seriously. His name is in the newspapers every week. He meets with dignitaries and creates alliances. He puts away the criminals while campaigning for equal rights in other parts of the world. His home is surrounded by protective detail. Even I am not allowed in unless I have been scanned.
I resent him for making me feel unwelcome.
His children seem to not notice that lack of warmth. They don't notice the expression he puts on when he is around them. I have never seen him show his true emotions. He treats me like a child. He hides behind his smile and tells me nothing but menial stories. Everyone always boasts about what a great man he is. How he is selfless and caring and strong and fair and kind…
He is not kind.
Why is everyone fooled but me?
Why am I different?
I haven't seen him in over ten years. I didn't visit him when he fell ill. No one asked me to be there. Maybe I wasn't important enough. Maybe he never asked for me. It doesn't matter. I have my own life now, away from resentment. If I wasn't wanted, then I wouldn't stay. I've never needed him. I don't believe I ever will. When he dies, I will find myself richer. I don't want his money. I will give it away.
When he dies, I will not feel sad.
"It's a rare condition. His mind is affected and, as is usual with such cases, his body grows weak as well. He regresses unsteadily. As you can imagine, it is disorienting for him. His thoughts become fragmented by the slightest stimuli. But he has stopped deteriorating at a fast rate. He has been relatively stable over the past year. We are hopeful that our rehabilitation techniques are working. His medication has been adjusted so that the side effects are not so acute. His therapist has been with him for the past decade, so they gotten to know each other well.
"He might not respond when you speak to him, but don't worry about that. He can hear you. He just needs time to respond. His memories are scattered and it takes him time to pick through it all and find an appropriate response. It will be quite a shock for you to see him, especially after all these years. Just know that he is more coherent now that he was a year ago. He is improving.
"Oh, and he takes to children well. So you don't have to worry about your son, hmm?
"There he is on that bench. You may go sit beside him. I'll be right here if you need help."
Little Noah stood close to his father's leg, unnerved by this strange place they were in. He didn't like it. He knew that all the people in the grey pajamas were ill. The whole building smelt like illness. He didn't want his father to bring him to such a place.
"Let's go," Teddy murmured vaguely, ushering his son forward.
"I don't wanna," Noah whispered.
"We already talked about tantrums in the car, didn't we?"
He bit his lip and sulked. He felt like he was allowed to throw a tantrum at that point. He wanted to go back home and play with Mummy instead of being in this icky corridor with stupid Daddy. He was gently pushed into moving and he had no choice but to do so. He shuffled towards the bench that sat facing gigantic windows that looked out into a patch, green field.
On the bench sat a thin, hunched man in grey. His chin was tucked down against his chest and his legs were crossed under him. He seemed to be writing intently on the book set against his lap. His thin glasses had slipped down to the edge of his nose. His gaunt face was pale and the nest of grey and white hair on his head made him look even more ghostly. Noah could tell right away that this person was very sick.
He didn't want his stupid father to push him anymore.
"Daddy," he whined.
Teddy remained moot. He approached his godfather quietly, forcing down all his resurfacing emotions for the sake of his son. This was not the time for memories.
The two of them stopped beside the bench with equal trepidation. Teddy sat down first. Noah was about to refuse, but he was pulled close. He ended up standing safely between his father's long legs. At least that was better than sitting beside this sick man.
That's when he noticed that the man in grey wasn't writing at all.
He was coloring.
Beside him was a Tupperware full of grubby crayons. In his hand was a blue one and he was painstakingly coloring the sky on the coloring book.
Noah liked coloring too…
He craned his neck to see the rest of the picture.
There were two dogs playing with a Frisbee. The ground was already colored green and now the sky was being colored blue. On the other page was a drawing of a clown and it was fully colored in. It had a big red nose, pink cheeks, blue hat and a green smile.
Noah liked that clown too…
When the sick man finished coloring in the sky, he looked down at the coloring box and put the blue crayon away.
Noah wanted him to color the dogs next, so he quickly reached into the box and picked up the black crayon.
The sick man pulled his hand back with a jolt, startling Noah into dropping the crayon and pulling back as well.
"Don't touch his crayons," Teddy whispered. "He doesn't like it."
Noah nodded. That wasn't very nice. He pouted and occupied himself with his father's sleeve instead. The sick man didn't like to share.
Teddy and Noah looked at him in surprise.
His head stayed down, but he was nudging his crayon box towards them. "It's okay," he mumbled. He picked the book off his lap and pushed it towards them too. Then he pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapped his arms around his shins and hid his face.
"Really?" Noah asked hopefully. "Can I color, Daddy?"
A sense of unease was making Teddy a bit nauseous. He nodded in response instead of speaking. He kept his eyes on his godfather.
Noah took the black crayon and moved away from his father so he could kneel on the ground and use the bench as a table. He started to color one of the dogs. Coloring was his most favorite thing to do in the world.
Teddy folded his arms against his chest to quell the ache in it. "He'll share, uncle Harry," he said. "You don't have to stop."
"Uncle Harry," Noah echoed distantly. "This is uncle Harry?" He tilted his head as he tried to keep the dull crayon from going outside the lines. "Your uncle Harry?"
Harry glanced down after moment of hesitance. His glasses were now pushed up closer to his eyes and he looked intently at the dog that was slowly taking shape. Noah was being very careful. He didn't want to ruin uncle Harry's picture. He finished up the black dog a minute later and put the crayon back. "Hmm. What should the other dog look like?" he wondered aloud.
He lifted his head up to smile at Harry. "Don't be silly," he teased. "Dogs can't be blue."
"Your hair…" Harry reached forward and gingerly grazed the tips of his fingers against Noah's feathered hair. "It's blue."
"Oh." Noah laughed. "I know. I like blue. What color do you like?"
Teddy exhaled shakily when he saw a quiet smile fill Harry's thin lips. "I like blue…"
Noah then picked a light brown color for the other dog. "I'll finish this drawing," he said. "Then you can color the next one, okay?" He tilted his head again and started coloring. "Maybe you can color one page and I'll color the other page. Is that okay?"
Before long, the two of them were sitting on the ground, coloring on each page of the open book. Noah was coloring a fire truck and Harry had an entire pond to himself. Neither of them spoke. They seemed to be content with simply filling the blank outlines with bright colors. Faint voices from the PA system or doctors didn't distract them.
Teddy watched them with growing heaviness in his heart. This wasn't his uncle Harry. This was someone else entirely. Uncle Harry had never colored with him. They had never been this comfortable together.
"Do you remember me?" he finally asked.
Noah looked up at his father in confusion, then at Harry beside him. When there was no answer, he nudged Harry with his elbow. "Uncle Harry? Remember Daddy?" he asked.
Harry pursed his lips and shook his head without looking up. His hand started to move a bit faster though as he colored the water.
"I… I'm sorry I haven't visited…" Teddy shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "You must be angry with me. I just-"
He was startled into breaking off when Harry suddenly scrambled up to his feet and walked away without a word.
Noah stared after him in dismay. "Look at what you did." He jumped up to run after his new friend. "Wait!" He caught up quickly. "What's wrong?" He reached up and clutched Harry's hand. "You forgot your coloring book."
Harry closed his hand around Noah's lightly and continued walking.
Noah glanced back, waving at his father to follow them. "I think we're going for a walk," he called out. Then he turned forward and kept pace. They were walking pretty slowly. "My name is Noah."
"My name is Harry."
"I know. You're uncle Harry. Daddy said-"
"Oh… Not uncle?"
Harry shook his head.
"Okay." Noah shrugged. He didn't mind. "Just Harry. And I'm just Noah." He started skipping. "Hey, is it okay to leave your book over there, Harry? Won't someone take it?"
Teddy lagged behind them.
"Do you know where I'm from?" Noah asked. "I'm from the United States. Do you know where that is?"
Harry kept his eyes on his scuffed white slippers and shook his head.
"It's a long way away. I came to visit everyone. I came to visit you. Aren't you happy?"
"Are you sick?"
His feet faltered. So did Teddy's. But the little boy didn't notice. He simply kept on skipping.
After a beat, Harry answered, "I think so…"
"If you drink your medicine, you'll get better," Noah sang. "Mummy says that. Are you drinking your medicine?"
"Do you like coloring?"
"Do you like drawing?"
"Me too. I draw a lot in school."
They walked around the ward hugging the left wall. Harry's fingers grazed the textured wallpaper and the closed doors as he went by. At his side, Noah stared shamelessly at all the psychiatric patients, sometimes open-mouthed at their antics. And behind him Teddy followed, tumultuous emotions rattling his composure.
After their third round, Harry stopped in front of one of the closed doors.
"Is this your room?" Noah wondered. "Do you have your own room? I do. At home. I have my own room."
Harry opened the door and stepped inside.
Teddy reached out to grab his son and pull him away.
"Ow," Noah groused as he was jerked back. His hand slid out of Harry's. He bumped into his father's legs.
Harry pressed his now empty fist against his side. Then he shut the door between them.
"Huh?" Noah frowned. "Is he going to bed? What time is it?"
Teddy suddenly let go of the boy. Why had he done that? He blinked rapidly. "He… um, he must be tired, that's all. He was happy we visited."
"Oh, we have to go now?" Noah wrinkled his nose. "I thought we were going to stay for a lot longer." He shrugged and reached up to hold his father's hand just as easily as he had held Harry's. "Remember Mummy wanted us to get flowers? I didn't forget."
"I-I know. Thanks, buddy. Let's go buy some."
He passed away two months after in his sleep.
It wasn't painful. I know many people will be glad to hear that. It was unexpected, but not uncomfortable.
I flew in for his funeral. It was a grand affair. The ceremony lasted hours. There were so many things to be said. Isn't it funny? Even though he isn't around to hear it, everyone still insists on speaking about him. He would not have liked it. He has always been a private man reluctantly thrown into the public eye. He was buried with his parents in Godric's Hollow. A fitting place to be laid to rest, I heard them say.
Teddy leaned against the doorjamb to Harry's study, swirling his glass of whiskey as he got lost in his memories. He hadn't been in this house in a long time. He remembered sneaking into this very room after having a good cry about his awful arithmetic homework. Harry would sit him down on the couch and help him. He was so patient.
Teddy looked over his shoulder to find Ginny. She looked much older that day. The sadness was apparent by the way her brows creased. "I'm glad you came," she said. "The children are glad too."
"Of course I'd be here," Teddy murmured. "Don't say it like that."
"I know that you… never felt quite at home with us."
He tsked. "Let's not."
Ginny nodded firmly. "Let's. I need to speak to you. I need to know how you feel." She took his hand and led him into the cold study. They sat down on the maroon couch that had seen many late nights. Teddy set his glass aside and kept his eyes firmly on the faded corduroy. Ginny took a slow breath to calm her voice and held onto the young man's hands. "Tell me, Teddy."
"I… I just…" His voice cracked. He cleared his throat and exhaled forcefully. "Did he love me?"
"Like his own son."
"Then why doesn't James or Al feel this way? Why don't his own sons feel the way I feel about him?" Teddy bit his lip, closing his eyes. "Why do I feel like he didn't care?"
She stroked his hands gently. "What did he do to make you feel that way?"
"I don't know. I don't know what he's done. I don't know what he should have done. I don't know and I hate that I don't know. I hate not being able to call him my father and I hate that he doesn't hug me and I hate that he keeps me at a distance." There were no tears in those words. There was only anger. His words shook with suppressed rage. "I hate that everyone thinks he was so perfect because he wasn't. I hate that he never wrote to me and I hate that he wasn't there at my wedding and I hate that he's dead. I hate him!"
Ginny struggled to keep her composure. She pulled her hands away to wipe away her tears.
Teddy clenched his jaw. He shouldn't have… "I… Ginny, I… I didn't…"
"No," she interjected. "No, it's okay, sweetheart. It's okay. It's just h-hard to hear…" She trailed off before shaking her head. "It's okay. If that's how you feel, then it's okay." She moved in closer to Teddy and snaked an arm around his waist. "You'll listen now, won't you?"
"Yes." He was subdued.
She squeezed him weakly. "He loved you like you were his own son," she said again. "It's just that… he was scared. He's always been scared around children."
Teddy looked at her in confusion.
"I don't know what you have heard about his childhood," Ginny murmured. "It wasn't pleasant. He was neglected for a long time. He was a strong child, but the struggles he must have been through… I don't know. He never told me.
"He didn't want to have children. We had a lot of fights about that. I don't know why he was scared. I know he would never hurt a child. He couldn't. I saw the way he was around you and I knew he would be a good father. He was so careful. He wouldn't pick you up. He was always afraid he would do it wrong. He would just watch you in my arms. He had so much love in him. I knew he would be a good father. He was a very good father.
"I think… the kids never noticed that distance because… well, there was always Ron or George around to play with. My family has been incredible. But you were never as close to them as you were with us. I realize that now. I should have realized it then. You didn't see them as your family. But you saw us as family, right? We were a part of your life for a very long time, weren't we?"
Ginny cupped his chin and pressed a cold kiss on his cheek. "Don't be sad. I want you to know how Harry felt about you." She then moved away from him and stood up. "He never knew how to speak with children, hmm?" She walked over to the stack of cardboard boxes that stood by the bookcase. "He never opened up to you because he didn't know what he should say and shouldn't. He looked forward to the times when you two could talk about Quidditch or schoolwork. I know it doesn't seem like much to you, but that was his way of connecting to you." She found the box she was looking for and lifted it up in her arms. "He would stay up at night telling me all about it." She laughed to herself. "He would feel so proud of himself. I wish I had told you earlier, Teddy. That's my fault."
She placed the box on the coffee table and sat beside Teddy once again. "Yes, he was hurt when you stopped coming over. Yes, he was angry with you for moving away. And, when he became ill, he… stopped asking about you. You understand from his point of view, don't you?"
"I'm sorry," Teddy whispered. He had the heels of his palms pressed against his eyes to staunch his tears.
"I know. I'm sorry too." Ginny dried her cheeks. "Let's not think about that right now." She sat forward and took out a sheaf of paper from the box.
Teddy heard the rustling and looked to find colored pictures in her hands. "Th-that's…"
"Harry's, yes." Ginny smiled fondly. "I never knew he liked colors. He always told me he didn't have an artistic bone in him. He never even colored with the children. But this is all he did after he got sick. It was therapeutic for him. His room was filled with these. Every wall, even the floor. It took his mind off of… other things. Hmm." She looked at the pink flower surround by yellow butterflies. "He forgot me…" She held the papers out for Teddy.
He took it in his unsteady, damp hands. He wished he could go back. He wished he could sit on this couch with Harry and listen to his quiet words explaining those maths problems. He wished he had let Noah walk into Harry's colorful world that day.
He looked through the drawings. They were all torn out of coloring books. One edge of the paper was jagged. They were just generic pictures – rainbows, school buses, gardens, and mountains. The crayon marks were careful. He could feel the concentration that went into making each of these. "T-take his mind off of what?" he asked quietly.
"Just… things he couldn't make sense of," Ginny answered. She sat back against the couch and watched Teddy. "He couldn't make sense of his life. His memories were leaving him, mixing up in his mind. It was hurting him. So he colored to keep his mind on one thing. Sometimes he would color for hours on end. That's when I know he's having a bad day."
"He was sad?"
"Lonely. He couldn't remember his friends and family. He felt lonely."
Teddy's breath hitched when he came upon a hand drawn picture.
Noah has blue hair
Underneath was a shaky picture of a boy with spiky blue hair, large blue eyes, and a wide, crooked smile. Beside him was another boy with squiggly black hair and round glasses. The two of them were holding hands and waving.
Teddy sobbed behind his hand. He couldn't stand the pain in his heart.
He blinked back his tears and struggled to see the faint, messy writing.
Noah came from very far away. But he cannot come into my room. Maybe he will not like it. He was very nice. He has blue hair.
He played with me. He talks a lot. I like my new friend.
He looked like Teddy. Sometimes Teddy has blue hair. Sometimes he has red hair.
Sometimes I miss Teddy.
He threw his arms around Ginny, crying helplessly into her shoulder.
"Don't," she groaned in dismay. "Please. Don't you see? He remembered you. When you brought Noah, he was so happy. It's okay. He loves you. He remembered you, sweetheart. Thank you."
"I'm sorry. I-I'm so sorry."
"You made his world colorful, Teddy. He loved you for that."