FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

Teddy Lupin and the Forest Guard, Chapter Nineteen: The Shadow in the Smoke, pt. 2

Eh, so I don't usually write with this much sunshine going on outside. I felt like moving on with things. I can do housework later. (The benefit of living alone, I guess--no one cares how long I leave the dishes.)

I admit to a little nervousness here. I know that the Stone isn't behaving exactly the same way it did for Harry, but the circumstances are also different, as Teddy is unconscious.

Teddy has gone out looking for Frankie, who decided to go into the Forest alone, because he's afraid that the adults have found the weird little patch around the old spiders' nest where there's strange white ivy growing. Teddy doesn't consider this the best of ideas, and leads the Forest Guard down there, splitting them into small groups to search different parts of the Forest, though he's pretty sure where Frankie is, and is right. He goes with Tinny. When they are almost there, they're attacked by Red Caps, who also have Frankie cornered. Teddy sends Honoria, who has followed them, back to Hagrid's, where she says she saw the professors go, and tries to fight his way through. Tinny is injured, and then Frankie is, and Teddy accidentally sets the Forest on fire trying to dispose of a Red Cap. He crawls into the patch of ivy after Frankie, pulling up a plant by the roots and picking up several pebbles that had been tangled there, at least one of which sticks to his hand. Weakening, he gets Frankie and Tinny together and shields them, but the smoke is making him dizzy, and a blow from a Red Cap sends him reeling. He grabs blindly for his father's ring, which lands in the hand that's embedded with pebbles, an dizzily turns it, wishing for a good memory, but no memory comes. In fact, he's passing out. Just before he loses consciousness, he sees a thin, frail shadow in the smoke.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Teddy knew he was dreaming as soon as he was aware of anything at all.

He was very aware of his body, of the burning in his lungs from the smoke, the pain of bruises where the Red Caps had hit him, the heat of the encroaching flames. His fist was closed tightly around Dad's ring, and the pebbles embedded in his skin stung like fire. He also knew that no further blows were falling and something seemed to be blocking the smoke, and he had a sense of long, thin fingers resting lightly on his head, smoothing his hair, coming to rest on the back of his neck. It was a familiar feeling, though he couldn't remember when he'd felt it before. He opened his eyes to see to whom the fingers belonged, but in his dream, he was somewhere entirely different. Both places seemed to exist simultaneously.

He was curled up among the roots of the Whomping Willow, looking down into the tunnel that led to the Shrieking Shack. It took a moment to recognize it, though, because the world around the tree was a strange, warm shade of yellow, the grass on the hillside oddly flat and cracked like parchment. The castle, far-off, was drawn in ink, and he could see flickers of motion as dots moved about. As the dots came closer, they seemed to take on shape and reality, becoming human as they moved down the hill. He could see dark shapes swimming around their feet, and knew that their names would be there, floating along beside them like shadows on the ground.

Their right names, of course, because the Marauder's Map never lied.

He sat up groggily--in the other place, he continued to lie still, and the fingers continued to caress his head comfortingly--and moved toward the tunnel, hobbling on all fours with one fist closed. A pair of pale gray eyes looked out at him, then a huge dog jumped up, blocking the entrance entirely. The name "Sirius Black" trailed along beside its forepaw. A hoof crunched the twigs on Teddy's other side, and the words "James Potter" snaked over his wrist.

Teddy tried to look around him into the tunnel. Sirius growled, warning him off.

"Wotcher, Teddy," someone said. "You don't need to go into the tunnel, not for a long, long time."

Teddy turned slowly, his eyes to the ground. Her name came into his field of view first, or part of it, skimming over the parchment earth: "-adora Lupin." He looked up, and she crouched down to look him in the eye. She was young and beautiful, with bright pink hair and the high cheekbones and glittering gray eyes of the Black family. Beside her was a cat with white feet and a pattern on its back just like Checkmate's, and the name beside its paws was "Granny."

"Mum," Teddy said.

She smiled. "Yes."

"I'm not dead. It hurts to breathe."

"You'll be all right. Help is coming."

Teddy looked from the dog to the stag, then glanced frantically around the Map. "Where's Dad?"

"Where he belongs," Mum said.

Teddy blinked. "Am I dreaming?"

"Yes. You have no business as near to this particular border as you are, and I don't want to see you here again, but you're not really close to crossing it."

"Then how... how are..."

The Map went white and shadowy as a painful series of coughs ripped through Teddy's body, dragging him back to the clearing. He could feel Frankie and Tinny beneath him. Behind him, he could feel someone else, someone crouched in the smoke, one hand on his neck, comforting him.

He slipped back into the Map.

Mum was watching him, concerned. "Teddy?"

He tried to take a deep breath, but in the real world, the world away from this dream, there was too much smoke. It burned and his eyes watered. "Frankie," he said when he could speak. "And Tinny..."

"They're all right as well," Mum said, and pointed to the other roots of the tree, where Teddy could now see both Frankie and Tinny sleeping. "If you can hold on a bit longer." She looked toward Hagrid's cabin, and Teddy followed her eyes to see ink dots forming themselves into men as they rushed toward the Forest. Teddy could see flames, drawn in black ink, rising up from the trees.

Teddy blinked at her, wanting to say a million things, unable to find words for any of them. He had a feeling that she understood them anyway. She reached across and touched his face. Her hand was like cool mist rising from the ocean.

Teddy coughed again, not so hard this time, not hard enough to wake himself up and return to the Forest, but enough to make him lightheaded. He lay down again among the roots. Sirius came closer and lay down beside him, comforting him as he had once comforted Dad during transformations. James dipped his head and nudged at Teddy's cheek. Teddy felt, oddly, that there ought to be a rat here as well, nuzzled up under his elbow. Sirius let out a bark like a laugh, and Teddy realized that there was no privacy in his thoughts.

Mum smiled and put her hand on his shoulder. "I'm afraid Mr. Pettigrew couldn't make it."

"Is he... there?"

"Not that we've noticed." Mum sat down, cross-legged, and closed her hand over Teddy's fist. "You'll need to let go soon," she said. "They won't see you if you don't let go."

Teddy suddenly didn't want to let go. He wanted to keep his fist closed, stay here, inside the Marauder's Map, Mum's hand on his, the Marauders close by, comforting him.

Mum prodded his face, turned him to see Frankie and Tinny again. "They won't be found, either," she said sternly.

"I don't care."

"Yes you do. You wouldn't have been out in the woods if you didn't."

There was no proper answer to that. "Frankie went to the woods," he said, and his voice sounded petulant to him. "Frankie went to the woods to look for Sanjiv, and he's not here."

"I'm looking as well," Mum said. Her eyes became faraway, shifting their color.

Teddy looked around, baffled. "Don't you have the Map?"

"The Map is yours."

The words seemed to float in his head, as they'd floated to the top of the Marauder's Map: What binds is bound.

He didn't know what the words meant, or why it seemed important to tell this to the dead, who must know it already. James stood back and regarded him thoughtfully through the stag's deep brown eyes.

Mum looked at him, then sighed. "Frankie also needs to let go. This isn't his responsibility. You'll need to help him, Teddy."

"I've tried!"

"Shh. He knows. And you'll help each other." Her eyes narrowed. "It's time to let go, Teddy."

"But... Dad! I haven't seen..." He breathed convulsively, and the smoke poured into his lungs. He woke up, coughing and flailing. He felt the strong hand on his neck again.

"Shh," another voice said, this one soft, hoarse, and known deep in Teddy's own blood. "Let go, Teddy. Let go so they can find you."

Teddy lifted his head. He could see shadows moving about in the smoke, huge and towering. They were calling him, although they were quite close by. Their voices seemed to come from a great distance.

"Teddy, where are you? Teddy? It's Uncle Harry. Are you here? Let me see you!"

Teddy tried to turn over, to look at the figure behind him, but his head was swimming, and when he managed to turn onto his back, his eyes were watering, and the world was a white and gray blur. He had to squeeze his eyes shut. His fingers ached from where they were holding the ring, and the big pebble dug painfully into his palm. The chain the ring was on was pulled taut against his neck, cutting.

Fingers traced the line of his jaw, and the voice said again, "Let go, Teddy. Now."

There was no argument with that voice, that imperative. With more effort than it had ever taken, Teddy forced his fingers to curl outward. He felt smoke burn across the scrapes on his palm, and the ring fell free, dragging the pebbles along with it. The sense of a hand on his face disappeared.


He blinked and coughed hard, his lungs feeling like someone had used a Scrubbing Charm on them. "Uncle... Ha...!" He broke into another series of painful coughs.

A dark shadow swooped down out of the smoke, and suddenly strong arms were around Teddy, real ones, warm and clumsy. "I've got them!" Uncle Harry called. "Hagrid, Neville! Get the others, and Robards, keep these bloody Red Caps off of us!"

Teddy felt himself lifted up, hoisted and swung until he was lying in Uncle Harry's arms, being carried like a small child, one arm slung over his shoulders, the other hanging down toward the ground.

"Give me some help here, Teddy," Uncle Harry whispered, sounding almost frightened. "It would help a lot if you could put both of your arms around my neck. Can you do that?"

Teddy fought to bring his free arm up, flailed with it until it found the other wrist, grasped it weakly. He couldn't imagine it was helping much, but Uncle Harry just kept saying "Thank you" as he carried Teddy up the uneven path to the castle.

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