I think I got my headache yesterday because Teddy is insisting on being a little emosnot, even though he knows better. Though at least he knows he's being stupid rather than deep. This contains a modified version of the ficlet I did for at_upton. The main point of it will be spread out a little more than in a single scene.
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Teddy had never been particularly fond of sports, and he suspected Dudley was frustrated by his inability to put his feet exactly where he was told to put them, in exactly the right way. His balance was off, and he managed to tip sideways and end up essentially falling into Dudley, who was representing Greyback, which seemed a less than advantageous approach.
"All right," Dudley said, "let's get a little less fancy. First thing you've got to do is recognize where I'm coming at you from, and block it." He moved his left arm quickly, but there was nothing wrong with Teddy's eyesight, and he was able to fling his right arm out to block it. Dudley nodded. "Good. We'll keep up with this. And don't worry, when I started this, I was so fat I practically tipped over just by shifting my weight."
And keep up with it, they did. Dudley slowly added more to it, and talked about his "center of gravity," which was meant to help him keep his balance. They used the round stones that lined the path for balance exercises, while James mirrored it by walking along the edge of the bench with an ease that Teddy envied. After forty minutes, Al and Artie ran out to collect James for a game out in the front garden, girls against boys in a marshmallow war. George was supplying exploding marshmallows. Teddy allowed that he was a bit too old for this.
When James and Al were gone, Dudley taught him some good ways to hit a person, and how to put all of his weight into it. Then, he went back to the balance exercises.
"Sorry to get into that, but this business with falling could get you into trouble at a bad time. You should practice doing this. D'you have some rocks or whatnot to practice on up at your school?"
"There are some around the lake."
"Good. Just find a bunch of really uneven ones and practice walking on them without flailing about."
"I'm always going to be clumsy. My mum was clumsy."
Dudley shrugged. "My mum's compulsive about cleaning the house. I decided I'd rather watch a game than clean the sink with a toothbrush. Try it again."
They kept it up for another hour, then a cold rain started to fall, and Dudley checked his watch. "I reckon I'd best find out how I'm getting back to Little Whinging before dinner. You're not half bad at this, you know."
Teddy frowned in concentration and made five steps along the stones without flailing for balance, then stepped down onto the flat path. "Thanks for teaching me," he said.
Dudley puffed up visibly and said, "Well, I reckon you'll do just fine. Really wasn't much to teach you."
Teddy walked back inside with him. The adults were sitting around the fire, picking at Christmas biscuits, playing cards, and chatting about the school. Teddy had to look twice before he realized that Professor Longbottom's arm was actually around Vivian Waters' shoulders.
"Not a word at school, Teddy," Professor Longbottom said.
Teddy nodded vaguely, attempting to remove the information from his mind entirely.
Dudley had gone to Uncle Harry, who was talking to Granny, and they were debating how best to get him home. Granny said she could drive, but the drive to Surrey would take longer than was strictly a good idea. Uncle Harry was trying to convince Dudley to let him bring him back magically, either by dragging him through the Floo again, or dragging him along as an object in Apparition. "I really ought to say Happy Christmas to Aunt Petunia some year or another," he said.
"It's probably happier for both of you if you don't," Dudley said.
They weren't paying any particular attention to Teddy. He drifted away. For a few minutes, he joined Percy, Molly, and Arthur, but they were halfway through an involved sort of board game. Teddy moved on shortly after he saw Uncle Harry leave with Dudley, headed for the Apparition boundary. Penelope and Fleur were cleaning in the kitchen, getting things in order, laughing about Weasley men. Teddy didn't think he had much to contribute to the conversation. He went back upstairs. There was laughter coming from his nursery, and he went quietly to the door. Lily Potter was sitting at the work table, tangling her red hair around a baby brush. Hugo Weasley had hold of a little drum that Teddy had used to play with, and he was hitting it enthusiastically, making little musical notes float up into the air with each beat.
Sophie Weasley was sitting on the floor, getting a new pair of trousers onto Freddy. "I thought we had it when we got him out of nappies. No one told me all of the things that can happen with magical accidents!"
From the chair, there was a soft laugh, and Teddy looked across to see Victoire, her baby sister Muriel sitting on her lap. Muriel had a no-spill cup, and Victoire was helping her hold it, tipping it to her mouth expertly. "Artie once inflated his trousers and nearly floated away," she said. "And sometimes, I have to be in charge of all of them, and Muriel and Artie both sometimes... Teddy? Why are you lurking?"
Teddy shrugged. "Just wondered who was in here. They used to feed me in that chair, I think."
"Do you want to try with Muriel? It's fun."
"Scared of a little baby?"
"Dead terrified," Teddy said. He went across the hall to his own room, which was empty. Out the window, he could see James leading the boys' charge against Aimee, who was leading the girls. They all seemed to be having a great deal of fun. He looked away. The Fifi LaFolle books he'd found were sitting on his end table, the bookmark with Mum's chosen names lying on top of them. The old, familiar sense of wanting his mum, just wanting to see her face, came to him, and he fought with it. He was too old for it at any rate; it wasn't like his friends whose mothers were alive were always running about wanting to see them. He'd probably be making excuses for her pink hair if she were here. Complaining about Dad going on about his days as a Marauder. Chasing Julia and Raymond away from his school things before they did any damage and...
"Stop it," he told himself. "It's Christmas."
His traitor imagination didn't obey, instead Conjuring hazy, bitter images of cheerful Christmases, with Mum dancing clumsily around the kitchen, wearing a red and white hat, tipped jauntily to one side, while Dad sat with the little ones in his lap, reading them stories. Granny and Granddad spoiled all of them quite rotten, of course. Granddad would sing as badly as Mum danced. Julia had on half of the clothes in Mum's wardrobe and was carrying around a huge handbag, tromping in high heels that Mum couldn't handle without falling. Teddy hid her face behind large sunglasses, as he had no idea what she would actually look like.
He ground his teeth. This was what Uncle Harry meant about dwelling on dreams. Julia and Raymond were dreams. Mum in the kitchen with the hat was a dream, and so was Dad with a pair of smiling toddlers in his lap, reading about jolly bloody St. Nicholas. Teddy didn't want to be lost in the dream. The dream was awful. He ought to march back into the nursery and pick up Muriel, try to get her cup of milk down her throat without killing her. Or he should go out to the game and help the little boys, though it wasn't entirely fair. Perhaps he should ask Victoire to come down and take up with her sisters and cousins so it would be even.
Instead, he took Mum's bookmark and went back out to the garden. No one saw him. He went back to the bench by Granddad's Scrying dish. It was starting to get cold, and a thin frost had spread over the stone.
With some effort, Teddy pried up the base of it, and slipped the bookmark under it. He set it back down. With his finger, he wrote "Julia" in the frost, followed by "Orion," "Raymond," and the others. He leaned over and looked into the stale autumn rainwater that had gathered around the moonstones. "Show me," he said. "Just once, show me."
It remained blank.
He looked back at the house. There were dozens of magical decorations. Bill and Percy were currently Levitating something that George was trying to catch. Granny was magically cleaning up from the snacks. There was no chance at all of the Ministry noticing one tiny extra bit of magic.
He took out his wand and prodded the water in the basin.
The water went cloudy, like he'd dropped sand into it. He saw a flash here--light brown eyes like his own (unmorphed, anyway); a twirl of long, sandy-brown hair; a mischievous grin on a face he couldn't see the rest of. Then the water went entirely white. A white shape pushed up from it, became an upraised hand, the sign for "Stop."
Teddy jumped back.
The hand sank and disappeared. Teddy looked back down into the basin. The water was clear. His body had warmed the stone, and the names he'd written in the frost were gone. He sat back. The burning need to dream was gone, which was good, but he felt low and lonely, and he wished he'd invited some of his school friends, or that Victoire was doing anything other than playing with her baby sister. He wished he could use the Marauder's Map, but didn't dare try any more illegal magic... and didn't really want their jovial teenage opinion on this particular matter.
He looked up. James had come around the house. He had an exploded marshmallow stuck to one earlobe. Teddy turned away quickly, aware that his eyes were wet. He wiped them and said, "I'll be in soon, James."
"Aimee wants to have a treasure hunt," James said. "Could you make a treasure hunt for us? Granny Andromeda says it's time to come inside, before it gets dark."
"I'll be along in a minute," Teddy said again. His throat felt tight. He didn't want James to see him like this.
James's small hand patted his head. "Are you sad?"
"Yes," Teddy said. "Go away, James." He winced, horrified with himself, but James didn't seem upset. He came around to the basin side, where Teddy had turned to look away from him, and insinuated himself onto the bench between Teddy and the Scrying dish. His lower lip was stuck out stubbornly. Teddy hugged him, then drew away. "Go on back to your family," he said.
James blinked at him in a confused way, then seemed to decide not to try and puzzle things out. "You should come in as well. If you don't want to play at the treasure hunt, you said you'd teach me Tarot poker! I even brought cards."
"Tarot poker?" Teddy couldn't remember ever bringing up the subject of Tarot poker with James, but he couldn't think of where else he'd have got the idea. It had been a game that the Marauders had played, and Teddy had seen it in the ring memories. Why had he told James about it? When?
"You said. In the letter you wrote to me that Dad brought. You said we could play together."
"Yes!" Now James was starting to look spooked, and Teddy wondered just what his own face was doing. He reached up to touch it; it didn't seem to have morphed at all. James frowned. "Teddy, you should come inside!"
It seemed very urgent, so Teddy let himself be led back in. James ran upstairs and got a deck of Tarot cards, and Teddy spent the rest of the time until dinner teaching James, Al, and--eventually--Victoire how to play the silly game, which involved having a turned out card stuck to their heads (George provided packaged sticking charms, so they wouldn't have to break the law), which they didn't know. They had to bet on who had the highest. Granny insisted that they use the leftover biscuits for betting. Al won the biggest pile of them.
The strange, disconnected feeling began to fade during dinner, as he and Victoire caught the family up on life at Hogwarts. Professor Longbottom made a great show of whistling to himself while they talked about the hex war and sneaking out at night, though he ended up contributing a story about a midnight duel with Draco Malfoy that Uncle Harry had somehow forgotten to mention over the years.
The guests, with the exception of Uncle Harry's family, left after pudding, and it was already time for the smaller children to be in bed. James wanted another story, and Al wanted to be tucked in and tickled. Aunt Ginny took care of the latter, playing a game in which she snuck up on him then became the Tickle-Mummy-Monster. Teddy made up a story for James about a girl named Julia who flew to the moon on a toy broomstick that had been secretly given very special Charms. James declared it his very favorite yet.
Teddy went across to his nursery, where Uncle Harry had got Lily into her pajamas, and was now sitting in the rocking chair trying--around her squirming--to comb snarls out of her hair. He frowned at a difficult one and raised his wand, then set it down again.
"Isn't there an unsnarling spell?" Teddy asked.
"Yes," Uncle Harry said, "But last time I tried it, I ended up cutting off a chunk of her hair. She cried until Aunt Ginny got it to grow back." He fought with the snarl a bit more, and Lily sniffled.
Teddy bit his lip. "I don't reckon I could... give it a go?"
Uncle Harry handed him the comb with great ceremony and said, "Be my guest, Teddy." He stood up and let Teddy sit down, then plopped Lily onto his lap. She immediately started to bounce around and ask for a game. Uncle Harry raised an eyebrow in challenge.
"Hush," Teddy tried.
This had no effect.
"Why not play the quiet game?" Uncle Harry suggested. "You remember the quiet game, don't you, Teddy? Where you see how very, very quiet you can be?"
"Er... sure," Teddy said, then smiled daffily at Lily. "So how quiet can you be?"
She hunched her shoulders up and put her finger over her mouth, and whispered, "Thith kwyt."
"Very good," Teddy said, and, with some trepidation, tackled the snarl.