Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Instead of taking the Whomping Willow tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, Uncle Harry led Teddy out of the front gate, and they came to the Shrieking Shack through Hogsmeade. Uncle Harry stopped at the gate and smiled. "It's all yours," he said.
Teddy blinked, then remembered the keys that would let him in. He thought about wanting to get in and closed his fist three times. The iron keyring Uncle Harry had given him for Christmas appeared, looped over one of the rusty spikes of the fence. He picked it up, and let them in. He could feel some other Teddy, some shadow Teddy who lived alongside him, who had always come into this house this way. The windows weren't boarded--or under the illusion of boarding, as some of them were--and the last few Christmas decorations were still up because no one was really in a hurry to take them down. The shadow Teddy glanced up at the window of his bedroom, to see if anyone had been into his things, then ran carelessly up the path, calling for Mum, because he guessed she might have some notion about why girls did things, though he didn't hold out much hope, really...
He blinked, and the Shrieking Shack was just itself again, and he was standing at the base of the path with Uncle Harry. He really did have a question about Ruthless, but only the mice were there to answer it. He sighed and went up the path to the door. The same key that worked on the gate went to the door, and he opened it on its squeaky hinges, unused for nearly fourteen years (if then; he had the impression that his parents had mainly used the back entrance, through the garden, during the brief time they'd been here together). The Shack looked different, coming into it from a level, rather than clambering up from below.
The blood stain in the parlor still drew Teddy's eye. He thought about asking Uncle Harry for help in removing it, but he had a feeling the request wouldn't be taken well. He shook off the mood and tried to think of a way to bring up the problem with Ruthless, but nothing came to mind before Uncle Harry launched into trying to teach him to make his Patronus carry messages.
"This is generally done nonverbally," he said, "but I don't think you're ready for nonverbal spells yet, so I had Hermione come up with a good incantation. She thinks Declamare Patroni will work." He raised his eyebrows and waited for Teddy to repeat it properly, then went on. "The message it carries is a matter of what you need. Try to keep it simple. The Patronus can't carry complex instructions. You can't really use them for long conversations. What I need you to be able to do is have it tell me where you are and what sort of trouble you're in--for instance, 'I'm on the Hogsmeade road. Twenty werewolves surrounding. Get here quickly, I can only handle ten one-handed.'"
"Right, I'm sure that's exactly what it will be."
Uncle Harry smiled. "As long as you tell me where you are and that you need help, I'll get to you."
"How will I know if the message gets to you?"
"I'll show up, wand out."
"What if I'm behind an Apparition barrier?"
"I'll get as close as I can and run. I'll send my Patronus ahead so you know I'm coming."
"Won't that warn Greyback?"
"That's a good point," Uncle Harry said. "But I imagine he'll have heard and seen you send yours anyway."
Teddy nodded. "How does it know to go to you, rather than just flying around, looking for someone?"
"I don't know. But I've never had a Patronus end up misdirected. You just need to imagine the person you're sending it to." He thought for a minute, then said, "Go upstairs. Somewhere. Then send your Patronus down to tell me where you are."
Teddy went up to his room and sat down on the broken old bed that occupied it. It occurred to him to wonder why in the world the Shrieking Shack had been furnished--with broken furniture, no less--but there was no one alive to ask. He hadn't cast the Patronus since the first night, and didn't feel particularly good, but it didn't give him any trouble. When he said, "Expecto Patronum," the hawk flew easily from his wand. He watched it, then fixed his surroundings in his mind and said, "Declamare Patroni." The hawk swooped at him suddenly, racing toward his face. In a flash of white light, it disappeared.
A few seconds later, something white swirled on the ceiling and dropped to the floor. Prongs's jaw dropped, and said in Uncle Harry's voice, "It came, but said nothing. Concentrate on the words."
Teddy did the spell again, then said aloud, "Upstairs, in my room."
The hawk disappeared.
A soft pop in the corridor announced Uncle Harry's presence, but he was a few doors down. He came to the door and leaned on the frame. "This is particularly your room?"
"Well," Teddy said, "it would have been. Mum had started to fix it when they had to leave. I forgot that you didn't know. It had the words, then? Exactly?"
"If the exact words were 'Upstairs, in my room.'"
"Then you have it. Well done."
Teddy cast the Patronus again, just to watch it fly around. It landed on top of the dusty old wardrobe where the boggart had hidden in the autumn. "I think it needs a name," Teddy said. "How about Wings? That's my Muggles and Minions character."
"I could use it on the Map, too."
"But no one really calls me that."
"I don't really have nicknames, either," Uncle Harry said. "Just not something my friends did. The Marauders are really the only people I've known who did that."
"McGonagall had a nickname," Teddy said. "It was in my grandmother's book. Sirius's Uncle Alphard called her 'Pallas.'"
"I can't even imagine."
Teddy fumbled for a connection to what he really wanted to talk about, and said, "Do you suppose that Uncle Alphard was going out with McGonagall?"
"You know... maybe that's why he called her that."
"Er... I don't know. You'd have to ask McGonagall, because I'm certainly not going to."
"People going out sometimes do strange things, right? Like strange nicknames?"
"Excellent segue," Uncle Harry said, bemused. "What confusing thing has Ruth done?"
Teddy blushed. "Nothing really. It's just..." He bit his lip, then found himself telling Uncle Harry about the last kiss, in the fireplace, and the fruitless search for privacy the first night back, then the week with no kissing at all, and then the cheerful wave across the common room. "She's not angry at me, but I don't know what she's thinking! I looked in the ring, but the Marauders didn't have any idea, and Mum wouldn't talk to me in my dream, and..."
Uncle Harry held up his hand and shook his head. "One thing at a time, Teddy."
Teddy stopped, realizing that he must sound a bit mad. He shrugged. "I just tried a dream spell," he said. "Fourth year divination textbook. Nothing dangerous. It's to help you dream about something if you think you need to."
"I don't think that was in my book." Uncle Harry thought about it. "As far as Ruth goes, you need to talk to her. I haven't got any theories, and I'd guess she knows why she's doing this."
"What if it's because she wants to break up?"
"Is that what you're afraid of?"
"Well... yes. Everyone else has broken up. Roger's already gone out with someone new--Lizzie Richardson--and broken up with her, too."
"Well, you are a bit young to expect to be with her forever. Whatever it is, Ruth is the best person to talk about it with. She's the only one it makes sense to. If I've learned one thing being married, it's that."
"Does Aunt Ginny ever do things you don't understand that don't mean she's going to break up with you?"
"If she broke up with me every time she did something I don't understand, I would be a very lonely man."
Uncle Harry smiled, then fixed a shattered chair and sat down in it. "You're doing fine, Teddy," he said. "If she's not angry, then it's not anything you've done wrong, or that she imagines you've done wrong."
"But how do I fix it?"
"Well... I..." Uncle Harry winced. "I'm afraid I've run out of wise Uncle Harry advice. I don't know, Teddy."
This somehow didn't help. "Oh."
Uncle Harry looked at him for a long time, the good humor fading. "Teddy, you know what I'm going to say next."
Thoughts of Ruthless fled from Teddy's mind. "I'm not dwelling on dreams, Uncle Harry. Just trying to have them. That's all. Honestly. It's stupid. I know."
"No, it's not."
"Did you ever want to talk to your mum about a girl?"
"No," Uncle Harry admitted. "I had Hermione for that. And your granny, later. But the day my James was born, I wanted to show him to my dad. Introduce them. Ask him what I was meant to do next. I imagine he'd say I already had seven years of experience with you, but with you I had Andromeda as a safety net. I wanted my dad when I found myself without one."
"I thought it didn't bother you."
Uncle Harry looked surprised. "Of course it does, sometimes."
"How do you make it stop?"
Uncle Harry got quiet, then said, "It was worst right after the war. Everyone was celebrating, but I just seemed to go to one funeral after another. Your parents' funeral was the worst. There were so many things I realized I meant to talk to Remus about and never did. I wanted to call--" He stopped, seemed to consider something, and shook his head sharply. "But right around that time, Ginny and I were trying to fix things, and Ron and Hermione were getting their lives together. And of course, I fell madly in love with someone new."
"With someone other than Aunt Ginny?"
"Yes. Someone short and chubby with thinning green hair." He grinned. "Every now and then, someone will tell me how generous I am, looking after a poor orphan. They have no idea. It's pure selfishness on my part. Why do you think I used to have your Moses basket on my desk when I was training?"
"Because Granny couldn't find another babysitter," Teddy said, raising his eyebrow.
Uncle Harry laughed. "Right. That's it." He sighed. "Teddy, what I'm saying is that... well, that place where they're not there, it's not going to get any smaller. But it's not going to stop hurting if you gnaw at it all the time. The only way for it to heal is to leave it be a little bit, and concentrate on loving the people you've got around you. Otherwise, it'll drive you mad, because you can't do anything about it. It doesn't mean that you don't care, or you've forgotten."
Teddy nodded. "All right."
"Do you think we've had enough of a serious conversation for the night?"
"Good. Let's see if we can get this floor straightened out. This is pretty bad."
They spent the next hour getting the floor boards in Teddy's room to lie flat, and fixing the furniture. Uncle Harry had bought new fixtures as part of the Christmas present, and Teddy replaced the doorknob while Uncle Harry put up a new chandelier. Teddy was pleasantly tired as they made their way back to Hogwarts, talking about a Quidditch game Uncle Harry had taken James to, and the Gryffindor team's prospects for the cup this year. Part of Teddy's mind was engaged in this, the other part was turning over what they'd talked about earlier. When Uncle Harry left him at the door, he let it turn back again.
It hadn't occurred to him that Uncle Harry still thought about his parents and felt them missing, though he supposed he should have guessed it while they were working on the Marauder's Map together. Professor Longbottom had once told him about saving bubble gum wrappers that his mum had given him. Granny would sometimes break into tears for no reason. His cousin Draco had tried to kill someone to avenge his father. Voldemort had tried to destroy the world over it. And of course, Teddy had his own collection, his box of Marauder nonsense collected over the years, his searching not only for Mum and Dad, but also for Sirius Black, James Potter, and Peter Pettigrew.
Something was trying to come together in his mind; instead of going back to Gryffindor Tower, where it was noisy and crowded, he checked the Marauder's Map for an empty classroom. Professor Firenze was just leaving, and classroom eleven was empty.
He went inside. It was still Charmed to show the forest. There was a pool of water. He prodded it with his wand. "Indicare."
The water went cloudy, and a face swam up from it, muddy and unclear, but recognizable.
He was missing a father as well. He'd become a werewolf to fill the hole. Was he still collecting things? Trying to connect? Going places that would matter, just as Teddy went to the Shrieking Shack?
He went back to Gryffindor Tower, not pausing in the Common Room. He could only think of one person who might know something more.
He got out a piece of parchment and wrote,
Dear Professor McGonagall,
I was wondering about what you said about Astrid Greyback...