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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenge #3
It strikes me that Teddy and Miguel both have rather unique relationships/experience with Death, and are contemporaries. If they exist in the same universe, might they have occasion to meet? Might such a meeting be related in some way to the werewolf village in Oaxaca? for amethystbeloved

(He’s there because of Vivian, but I couldn’t really work the village into it.)
---

The English man wasn’t like the other tourists.

For one thing, he was up at the crack of dawn and sitting in the cemetery, clean-faced and staring off into the distance, instead of sleeping off a drinking binge with skull makeup smeared all over his face. He had a photograph in his hand instead of a guidebook.

“He’s been here since last night,” Papá Isidro said quietly. “Watching.”

“Most of them are watching,” Mauricio muttered, handing Miguel a broom to start clearing the gravestones. “That’s what they come for. The quaint festivities.”

“You expect people to grow if they take no steps to learn?” Papá Isidro shook his head. “I don’t think that’s the story here, anyway. Miguel… is your English good enough to ask what he needs?”

Miguel wasn’t at all sure about this—he’d managed a visit to Minnesota last Christmas, but Denny Calles and Bridget Shaughnessy had both done a lot of translating for him. But his English was better than Mauricio’s or Papá Isidro’s, so he nodded and headed over.

The man blinked when he heard Miguel approaching. He had light skin and hair that was almost (but not quite) blond. His eyes were a pale shade of brown. “I’m obstacle?” he asked. “I go to stand.” The grammar was bad, and the accent was almost like Bridget’s mother, who had been born in Aberdeen. He stood up.

Miguel raised his hands and tried out his English, which couldn’t be worse than the stranger’s Spanish. “You’re good. Do you… do you need to find something?”

“No.” He sighed, then held up his picture, smiling faintly. It showed a couple, the man considerably older than the woman (Miguel thought by about the same distance as there was between his own parents). The man seemed to be waking up from a nap as the woman smiled, looking like she might have just kissed his cheek. “My parents. Remus and Dora Lupin. I’m Teddy.”

Miguel nodded. “I’m Miguel Rivera.”

“I know.” He waved his hand vaguely (for some reason, he seemed to have a conductor’s baton in the sleeve of his jacket). His speech seemed to slow down a little bit, making it much easier to understand. The words came into Miguel’s head more quickly as well. “I saw you playing in the Plaza yesterday. You’re very good. My best friend is a guitarist. I almost called him to join me, but he had a show in Germany.” He looked back at the picture. “I’m sorry if I’m in the way of your clean-up. I’ll go back to the hotel. I could use sleep.”

“You were waiting for your parents?”

He nodded. “I never knew them. But I heard from my friend Vivian… about the holiday… probably stupid. They weren’t Mexican. And they’re probably on Greenwich mean time, anyway. My wife told me not to get my hopes up.”

Miguel felt his eyebrows go up. Teddy Lupin did not look old enough to have a wife. But that wasn’t his business. “Maybe they came,” he said. “I didn’t feel them for a long time. And we don’t see them.”

Except, Miguel realized, that Teddy wasn’t looking randomly into the middle distance. He was sitting on the bench, staring at the spot that marigold bridge would have been last night. He didn’t look like he was communing with a vague idea of the dead. He was holding a pocket watch loosely in one hand, looking up at the spot where the bridge would be, like he was waiting patiently for travelers to come down the gangplank on a ship.

He put the watch away and smiled. “Oh, no, of course, I don’t mean that…”

“You did see them!” Miguel grinned and sat down beside him. “You really did, didn’t you? You saw the dead and the bridge and the alebrijes… did you see the alebrijes change? Did you see…” He struggled for the English words he was looking for. “Did you see them fly? Did you hear what people said? Was…” He felt his grin widen. “You saw.”

Teddy looked over his shoulder. “I… don’t know. I…” He looked at Miguel, then sighed and said. “Yes. I saw. It was beautiful.”

“I know! I saw it… I dreamed I saw it, when I was twelve. But you never know with dreams. No proof.”

“Tell me about it,” Teddy said. “When am I talking to them, when am I just guessing what they’d say…”

“When are you just making them say what you really want them to?”

“Yes!” He laughed. “Well, I wasn’t expecting a conversation about this with the living. And you did see it. It wasn’t a dream.”

This was a statement, and Miguel didn’t argue, but he didn’t confirm it, either. He still hadn’t told close friends. He wasn’t going to tell a stranger. “I always imagine my great-great-grandfather coming down the bridge,” he said. “He was a musician. It’s his guitar I played yesterday.”

“Oh… of course! I saw the museum.” He picked up a phone. “Just a second, I did send a song to my friend.” The phone crackled a little, and Teddy pulled his hand back. “Well, maybe not. But my friend—the musician?—really liked the one about the world being his family. Of course, his family are all musicians, too, so…”

“What do you do? Are you a musician?”

“Just music-adjacent, with Donzo. I can’t carry a tune, personally. I’m a writer. And a researcher?”

“Quaint customs?”

“Death,” he said flatly, then shook his head. “Sorry. I… well, I’ve been studying the cultural norms of death around the world.”

“Who’s weirdest?”

“Mine,” he said. “Well, not mine personally. But England. Now. Not always.”

“Why?”

“Hard to explain.”

Miguel shrugged.

“All right,” Teddy said. “What I was raised on was believing that once people were dead, they were completely at peace and would never want to be bothered by the living. Let them go. They want to move on a soon as they can, and trying to tie them to earth is almost criminal.”

Miguel thought of Papá Héctor, running at the bridge, sinking into the petals, desperately clawing for the way out. “I… that’s… I don’t think that’s true.”

“Nor do I.” Teddy stared at the picture of his parents. “I don’t know where it comes from, except… maybe to make us want to stay in the world and not dwell on things.”

Miguel reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture of Mamá Coco. “My great-grandmother,” he said. “She died almost two years ago. But I’m sure she was here last night.”

Teddy looked at it and nodded. “A blue dress with yellow embroidery, and dancing shoes.”

“It’s what we left her the first year!”

“She was holding hands with a man in a cowboy hat, and there were a lot of others with her.”

“I know,” Miguel said. “Not that it’s not nice that someone else knows, but I do know.”

“I wonder if I left them something and… made an ofrenda or something… at home, I mean. In our time zone. Would it be all right for me to try?”

“Sure.” Miguel stared at the empty space on the horizon. “The bridge is gone now, right?”

“Yes. The last people crossed before sunrise, and the petals fell.”

“Where did they go?”

“The place between, I guess.”

“What is the place between?”

“I’d like to find out.” Teddy put his parents’ picture back in his pocket. “Almost every culture in the world envisions a crossing. A river, an ocean, a bridge. Sometimes something more… nebulous? Crossing out of the body and into a new realm. The big one lately is going toward a light, crossing into a light. One way or the other, it’s crossing. So what are we crossing?”

“I couldn’t tell. And… well, we think there’s another death. When everyone forgets you, you die again.” Miguel looked curiously at Teddy, wondering if he’d think anything about that.

He just nodded. “Yes. That makes sense. We stop imagining a place for them, and then… they have no place.”

“I think it’s more than imagination.”

“I don’t mean it to make light of the idea,” Teddy assured him. “I think… I don’t know. I’ve never really understood how it all works. I never wanted to rotate through Death. I mean, I never wanted to study it. I hate Death.” He grinned. “Personal, long-standing enemies, you know.”

“It’s like hating a river.”

“My river keeps flooding and taking people away.”

Miguel thought about the photo of the smiling couple, the woman with the glint in her eyes, the man with his tired, lazy grin. Teddy had never known them. “It was murder, wasn’t it?”

“It’s hard to tell in a war. My father… I think that was the war. But my mother… same battle, but I think it was murder.”

“I hate murderers,” Miguel offered. “It’s more useful to hate murderers.”

Teddy smiled faintly. “All right. I hate murderers, then. Also, murder. And war.” He raised an eyebrow. “You really don’t hate death?”

“No. I really don’t. I miss Mamá Coco and Papá Héctor, and I wish… but, you know… it’s just life.”

Teddy considered this. “I suppose that kind of accepting it is better than the kind where you’re supposed to just let go so that they can move on.”

“I still don’t get that.”

“Neither do I. And it’s my own tradition, supposedly.”

“I thought there were English ghosts. And there’s Tir na nOg.”

“Our ghosts are… well, either they’re frightening or they’re… well… my people… they say that people who become ghosts weren’t brave enough to move on.”

“Or maybe they just actually cared about people who were still here and didn’t want to stop loving them,” Miguel said, then winced. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to… um… argue with… insult…”

Teddy laughed. “No. I get what you mean. I like what you mean.” He sighed. “Well, I’m glad we talked. But I can see that you’re busy cleaning up.” He stood up, then turned. “Do you have an extra broom? I’d like to help, if I could.”

Miguel smiled and waved to Papá Isidro.

Ten minutes later, Teddy had joined them in the clean-up, sweeping carefully around the gravestones. He pocketed a few marigold petals, but no one said anything about it.

6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 19th, 2019 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Dora would give her eye teeth to have a day of the dead. Although I imagine Sirius would find SOME way to set something on fire. Sirius. Fireworks.
Willow-at-work
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 19th, 2019 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Probably! I can see him finding the nearest Muggle-born wizard kid to talk to and having a blast.

And yes, I think Dora would totally switch her citizenship if she thought it meant she could spend a day every year with Teddy.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 19th, 2019 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

question

I shouldn't have read the ficlet without knowing the full story *sigh*. So did he get to see them or not? I thought he did. Oh and if only you were a fan of AUs as some fans of this paring...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 19th, 2019 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: question

Oh, Lord, my Teddyverse is so big that I forget about 30% of it! :D

Teddy didn't get to see them here--he's probably right about the time zone; the day was over for them before he started waiting in Mexico--but he did use the resurrection stone once, which got him enough memories to make portraits, and has a more or less open line on the dream plane (but he's never completely sure of it).
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 19th, 2019 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)

great

I liked Miguel's thoughts about ghosts. I like this better than what Rowling said, but it's not surprising,is it? While reading this, I wondered what she'd say.Teddy's uncertainty about what happened to his parents was strange, for a moment I thought he meant to say that war consumed Remus's life or something like that. And what kind of picture is that?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 19th, 2019 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: great

It's the picture from Shifts that Sirius took with a Muggle camera. :D

I don't think it's so much not knowing what happened to them as trying to verbalize that Remus died in a duel as part of the battle while Tonks was flat out murdered during the battle.
6 comments or Leave a comment