Table of Contents and Summary So Far
"Do you think they'll come again?" Teddy asked the next Thursday, just before the March full moon. "I mean, they must be angry."
Uncle Harry shook his head. "We've been doing some interrogation at Azkaban. Mathilde apparently never thought of teaching them to resist Veritaserum. We know how they got past the barriers, and if she tries it again, she'll get a surprise. I think you're safe, but trust me, the Division is on alert. Try it again."
Teddy leveled his wand at a ball of dried clay that Uncle Harry had Conjured. "I'm a little worried about blowing up the kitchen in if I overdo."
"The Blasting Curse isn't as easy as you think. And if you blow up the kitchen, we'll just build it again. It's used to it by now."
"All right." Teddy took a deep breath and focused his energy, then said, "Confringo!"
The clay ball trembled.
"You need to put more in," Uncle Harry said.
Teddy tried again. This time, the ball sprouted honking daffodils. He frowned. "Could you show me? I don't think I've got it right."
"I don't know. Honking Daffodils might have been enough to confuse Nagini when she came after us in Godric's Hollow."
Teddy raised his eyebrows and waited.
"All right," Uncle Harry said. He raised his wand and said the incantation, and the ball exploded into tiny fragments. Teddy and Uncle Harry went under the table to avoid being cut.
"Would that work on Greyback?" Teddy asked.
Uncle Harry turned to him, face ashen. "No, Teddy, this only works on objects. And I don't want you thinking of killing Greyback."
"Do you really think he'll be taken alive? And do you really want to?"
"I don't want you killing anyone. Leave it to the Aurors."
Teddy noted that this didn't exactly answer the question, but let it pass. Uncle Harry put the ball back together, and Teddy managed to get it to crack in half before they ended the lesson and started looking for things to do with the house. Teddy went upstairs to look, leaving Uncle Harry in the kitchen. It didn't exactly look like a palace, but the major work was done, and it was clean, except for the blood stain, and when Teddy came downstairs, he wasn't surprised to find Uncle Harry by the trap door, looking at it, troubled.
"I tried Evanesco and Abluo Clemente on it," Teddy said.
"I tried Scourgify."
"Is blood always this hard to get out?"
"No." Uncle Harry paced around the edge of it, looking at it like it might resolve itself into his old Potions Master and start lecturing him on his inadequacies. "Snape was bitten by Nagini, and she was venomous. She was also a Horcrux. Mixing all of that together may have some unusual properties."
Teddy was surprised at the mention. He knew the story--or most of it, there was a part that Uncle Harry was waiting until he was older to tell--but the Horcruxes weren't something Uncle Harry talked about frequently or easily. "You were a Horcrux," Teddy said tentatively. "Did your blood permanently stain things?"
Uncle Harry smiled faintly. "If it had, half of Hogwarts would be painted reddish brown. But to the best of my knowledge, I wasn't venomous on top of it." He shook his head sharply, and his eyes came into focus. "Right. Let me try modifying the Scouring Spell." He bent to the woodwork and did the spell nonverbally. Teddy saw the floor lighten considerably--around the stain. The stain remained as it had been, but now looked darker in contrast.
"Abluo," Teddy tried, without much hope that removing the gentling charm would help. It didn't.
"We could try it the Muggle way," Uncle Harry suggested. "I had to sand Aunt Petunia's stairs once when Dudley gave me a nosebleed on them." He waved his wand, and two pieces of coarse sandpaper appeared, wrapped around wooden blocks. He handed one to Teddy and said, "Go with the grain."
It seemed odd, especially when there was a Sanding Spell, but Teddy supposed that if it was resisting magic, a bit of Muggle technique might be just the thing. He bent over and started working at the edge closest to the trapdoor. The plank became very smooth, but Teddy didn't notice any lightening of the stain.
"I don't know if we'll be able to do this," Uncle Harry said.
"We can." Teddy stood up, casting around for a solution. A little rug was rolled up under the parlor sofa, and he dragged it over and put it over the stain, which poked out under the edges. He tried to move it, but another bit poked out.
He ground his teeth and went to the kitchen, where his book bag was sitting on the table.
"What are you after?" Uncle Harry asked.
"The knife you gave me a couple of years ago," Teddy said, finding it at last, folded up under the Marauder's Map and an essay for Robards. "If we pry up the planks, we can just turn them over, can't we? Then we could finish them, and you wouldn't even notice anything was wrong."
"The stain would still be there," Uncle Harry pointed out.
"Does it matter if I can't see it?" Teddy didn't wait for an answer. He popped the tip of the knife under the edge of the nearest board and leaned on it for pressure.
A huge chunk of wood popped out, looking like a clumsily made toy sword, but the board remained firmly fixed in the floor.
"Teddy, I don't think--"
"I can do this," Teddy said, moving around, trying to find a new place to start with the knife. The end of the board had been a bad choice. Maybe somewhere in the middle of its length...
The knife, which he'd dug between the floor slats, flew out of his control, slicing his hand open beneath the thumb, adding his own fresh blood to Snape's. Pulling away, he dragged the wound over the sharp piece of the floor that he'd managed to break off earlier.
Uncle Harry was over in a flash, grabbing Teddy's wrist. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," Teddy said, reaching for the knife, which had skittered under an old wardrobe.
"Wait a minute, let's get this healed."
Teddy didn't care about the bleeding. He tried to pull away.
Uncle Harry pulled him back sharply. "Teddy, that's enough." He tapped Teddy's hand with his wand, and the cut burned with pain as it magically healed. Teddy went for the knife again, but Uncle Harry continued to hold him still. "Teddy, I think it's time to get back to Hogwarts."
Teddy blinked at him. He looked his version of stern, which was something like he looked when Lily was about to toddle down the stairs and needed to be caught. "I'm not four," Teddy said. "I can--"
"It wasn't working," Uncle Harry said.
"It will. I just have to try harder. Isn't there a spell for it? For taking out floorboards? I'm sure there is. There must be..."
"I said, it's time to stop."
Teddy drew back, rubbing his wrist. Uncle Harry had been holding it hard enough that his red fingerlines were drawn on Teddy's skin. "You don't want me to fix it."
"I want you to pull back a little bit. I know the house is important to you, but you're waving a knife around and cutting yourself."
"You don't want me to get rid of Snape's blood. You never did. He's more important to you than my parents."
"I'm not having this conversation, Teddy."
"You were here eavesdropping on him while they were dying, and now you want him to keep their house."
"Are we here, then?" Uncle Harry asked. "I have a prepared speech about this, but I find I'm more angry than guilt-ridden, so the mood's all wrong."
"Yes. Believe it or not, you don't have a monopoly on it. You're not the only person who lost something that night."
"I know that!"
"Then why are you acting like no one can possibly understand you? What have I ever done that makes you think I don't understand?"
Teddy felt the blood rush up to his face. Of course there was nothing. Of course. Uncle Harry had always been there for him. Been kind. Generous.
Because poor Teddy was an orphan, after all.
He raised his wand. "Accio cloak."
Teddy's heavy cloak flew in from over a chair in the kitchen, and he put it on and started jabbing the fasteners together. He pulled up the trapdoor and tossed his book bag into the tunnel, then jumped in after it.
He didn't listen. He dropped to his hands and knees. A knife in his brain was turning merrily, and it felt good to be angry, good to just crawl away.
He winced as the heel of his hand, where he'd cut it, hit the ground, and drew in a sharp hiss of breath.
"What is it?"
"Nothing," Teddy spat back.
He started to hobble down on one hand and both knees, Levitating his book bag ahead of him. From behind and above, he heard Uncle Harry swear at something, then there was a thud as he also dropped down into the tunnel.
"Teddy, come back here."
"You said it was time to go back."
"I don't want to Summon you, but I will if I have to."
Teddy stopped and looked over his shoulder, horrified. Uncle Harry had Summoned him once, at Bill and Fleur's, when he'd been climbing the cliff and was about to go off of it and into the sea. He'd been six. "You wouldn't."
Reluctantly, Teddy twisted himself around in the tunnel and crawled back to the space under the trap door. "What?"
"You weren't putting your hand down."
"It didn't heal right. I'm going to have to see Madam Pomfrey."
"The healing was fine," Uncle Harry said. "But I think you have something stuck in there. Give it to me."
Teddy held it out. In the center of the palm was a ragged circular scar where, during his first year, a pebble and his father's wedding ring had cut him deeply during a fire.
"This one's turning into more scar than hand," Uncle Harry said mildly, his former anger not evident, though Teddy thought it was still there somewhere. He tapped Teddy's hand and the cut opened again. "Accio splinter."
"Ow!" Teddy gasped as something sharp pulled through his flesh. A small wedge of wood, covered with his blood, emerged from the cut.
Uncle Harry caught it and healed the wound again. He held the splinter up. Under the fresh blood, Teddy could see that it was deeply stained with the old. He tossed it aside, wrinkling his nose. "We need to find a new way to deal with that. We've both been breathing in the dust. It must still be impregnated with Nagini's venom."
Teddy felt something heavy fall down in the center of himself. "That's why I was angry?"
"I doubt it's the whole reason, but it may have made you less inhibited about it. Blocked out anything that might have stopped you."
"And it made you say those things, too?"
"No, Teddy, I said those things because I was angry."
"So you want to stop lessons?"
"What?" He shook his head. "No. Don't change the subject. You know I'm not going anywhere. I'm beginning to understand what made your dad want to hex me across the room, though."
Teddy nodded curtly, feeling somewhat better. After all, that had happened, according to Granny, because Uncle Harry had been telling the truth and Dad hadn't been ready for it yet.
Uncle Harry sighed. "Come on, Teddy. I'll get you back to school. Clean slate next time I see you. Deal?" He held out his hand.
Teddy examined the old scar on his own hand, then the new, thin scar that was forming where the splinter had come out. He shook Uncle Harry's. "Deal."
They didn't talk on the way back, and Teddy decided that he'd try the carpentry books to learn how to take out an old floor and put in a new one.