Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Through his mother's eyes, Teddy could see a rocky hillside, marked by weathered signs with wizarding symbols on them, groggily pointing the way up a steep path. Teddy knew that she was nearly nine, and had been looking forward to this since Christmas, when Mr. Lupin promised that he would take her to see Merlin's Cave while the Squib school he was teaching in that year had its Easter holidays. The view shifted up, and he saw Dad, higher up the slope, looking young and quite graceful as he balanced on the stones. Mum was jealous of this as she watched him nimbly climb over a fall of jagged rocks that had spilled over the path. At Christmas, she pretended that she would grow up to marry him--Teddy found himself amused by this--but now she pretended that he was her teacher again, as he used to be, and he was teaching her to be graceful and not fall over her own feet. She took a deep breath and leapt, as he had, over a washed out gully. Landing safely from this, she felt confident that she could do anything, that she would never fall again, and the pain in her ankle came out of nowhere, like the rocks had come alive and bitten her, and she fell face first into a scattering of pebbles in the dirt.
She looked up, and Teddy felt her face get hot, then--to his great pleasure--recognized the sense of mental push combined with a physical pinch as she tried to morph to cover it up. Having tried this many times himself, Teddy had a sense that she hadn't quite got it right, though he had no way of knowing how it was wrong. "Sorry!" she said. "Just... the, er... the rocks..."
Dad had reached her now, and squatted down beside her, pushing down on her shoulder as she tried to get up. "Your ankle is already swelling, Dora. You twisted it pretty hard." He pulled her leg straight, looking at it to check for breaks, and cursing under his breath. "The Ministry doesn't take care of these sites at all. No wonder there are no tourists." He finished his inspection. "It's just a sprain," he said. "I'm not as good at fixing this as your mum would be, we should really go back--"
"I trust you," Mum said, and her voice felt strange and high to Teddy. "You can fix it. And we can see the cave, like you said."
Dad bit his lip, looking unsure. Mum was hopeful, as, before they'd left, her parents had made a joke about wanting "alone time," and she didn't know exactly what they meant, but she thought Mr. Lupin was meant to have her all afternoon. "I'll try," he said tentatively, and raised his wand.
Mum's ankle grew warm and tingled, and Teddy could feel the swelling going down, but it was still sore. Dad helped her to her feet, and she tested it. It held her weight. "I'm fine!" she said. "You did it just like Mummy."
Dad looked at her suspiciously. "Walk." He waved his wand and cleared several stones from the path.
Mum took a few steps, trying to force herself not to limp, and on the last one, she hissed as her ankle tried to turn again.
"Mm-hmm," Dad said. "Dora, when someone asks if you're all right, you shouldn't lie. It could make it worse."
Mum sat down miserably on a boulder beside the path. "We can't go to the cave because I'm clumsy and I fell."
"We'll go some other..." Dad looked down the hill, then said, "Oh, what the hell." He pointed his wand at Mum and suddenly she felt light as a feather, like the wind might pick her up and carry her away, and she realized that he meant to carry her the rest of the way, and she loved him completely in that moment. Teddy felt this like sunshine breaking in the cloudy sky as Dad crouched down and let her sling her arms around his neck, then scooped her up, her sore ankle pointing up over his arm. She thought it looked like she was kicking a cloud.
Dad started climbing again, and he talked to her as he did, telling her stories about the cave, and Merlin seeing the dragons under Vortigern's tower. They finally reached the top, and the cave opened up, and suddenly the dreary Welsh countryside was gone. They were surrounded by sparkling crystals, lit by magic Mum didn't understand. Dad showed her how she could look in them and see the faces that she loved best, and how in another place, there were faces from the past.
"I want to see the future!" Mum said as he set her down so she could get closer to the past. She hobbled over to it, not feeling clumsy or embarrassed at all now. "I want to see who I'll be, and how everything turns out."
"No one's seen the future here since Merlin," Dad said. "If he did."
Mum turned, feeling horror. "Oh, you don't think he didn't, do you? Do you think the stories aren't true?"
"I don't know, Dora. But I've wondered... what if he wasn't seeing the future? What if he saw his own dreams of the future, and just made them happen?"
Mum turned the idea over, then smiled, then there was a shift in the memory, and it went dark, and Teddy was in his dormitory again, sitting at his work table, staring at Dad's wedding ring on a piece of blank parchment.
He looked at his watch. Thirty minutes had passed. A terrible, crashing wave of pity seemed to loom above him as he thought of the boys he'd seen, all lost, of Mum, with the light in Merlin's Cave flashing over her legs as her Mr. Lupin carried her around, of Dad, who had never been able to help him rescue the queen from the horrible dragon on the clothesline. They had been real.
But they had also been happy sometimes, and had loved one another, and had loved him enough to want him to know it.
He turned the ring counterclockwise three times and said, "Cordis Patronum."
Words formed beneath it, in his father's hand. "Don't get lost. Wait."
They faded and left the parchment blank. Teddy stared at it for a long time, his mind settling, thinking of the words, thinking of the hand that had written them so long ago.
"All right, Dad," he said, and picked up the ring. He started to put it back in its box, but found that he didn't want to lose sight of it just yet, so he rummaged through his trunk for a bit of string, hoping against hope that there would be one, and there was. It had been wrapped around the box of fireworks George Weasley had sent him. He looped it through the ring, tied a knot, and put it over his head. The ring now rested over his chest.
He wanted to go back into the past, but he didn't feel frustrated that he couldn't. Even the rule against going so soon was a gift from Dad, and he wasn't angry about it. He imagined having grown up with quiet proddings like this when he was about to make a mistake, and liked it. He guessed Dad must have lost his temper sometimes--once, when Uncle Harry and Granny had thought he was asleep, he'd sat on the stairs and listened to them talking, and Uncle Harry had said that Dad had lost his temper in a rather large way--but Teddy was quite sure that this was the father he'd meant to try to be, if he'd had the chance. It was the father John Lupin had been, and Teddy thought of the first memory again, of walking along a wall with the man who would be his grandfather, telling stories...
Like I do with James.
Teddy sat up, suddenly smiling. He hadn't even known anyone else had done that, but his grandfather had done it with his father, and if Dad had lived, perhaps they'd have played games like that together, and now he was doing it with James, and it was part of everything. He suddenly wanted to be back at Uncle Harry's, looking for treasure behind Aunt Ginny's knitting basket while James spun one of his endless tales about monsters.
Laughing, he reached for a quill and a small bit of letter parchment.
Dear James, he wrote in careful block letters, I don't know if you remember the game some of the grown-ups were playing at Christmas, called Muggles and Minions, but I play it quite a lot here at school, and my character has found an airplane, only I don't know how to use it. I thought we could share it. It might come in handy on treasure hunts, if you learn to fly it...
Teddy slept soundly that night, dreaming easily of the glade by the river. The fog was still there, but no one was screaming, and when he tried the bridge, it held. He walked into the shapeless mists on the other side, peering curiously into them, knowing he could go back when he needed to.
He woke up on Sunday feeling rested and relaxed, and played with Checkmate until it was time for breakfast, then sealed up his letter to James and nipped up to the Owlery before going down to the Great Hall. Ruthless caught him as soon as he got to the table.
"Watch out," she said. "Frankie's still fuming."
Teddy stopped. He'd nearly forgotten that Frankie was even angry at him. "But I--"
"I know," Ruthless hissed, "but he's annoyed."
Teddy started to go over to the Hufflepuff table, wanting to work this out, but when Frankie caught sight of him, he turned away, burying his nose in a book.
Ruthless caught him by the arm and dragged him back to Gryffindor. "Let him work it out, Lupin. He's not stupid. Usually."
"Come on," she said. "Have breakfast. I didn't see you at dinner last night. You must be starving."
Teddy didn't feel especially hungry, but he let her pile food in front of him and he ate it, stealing glances across the Great Hall over bites of breakfast he didn't bother looking at. Frankie left as soon as he'd cleared his plate, and didn't talk to Teddy for the rest of the day.