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Figuring Things Out - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Figuring Things Out
I started this one last night, meaning to write about a library visit with ickle!Teddy, but then I thought of a better way that Harry might try to hide his little Metamorphmagus in a crowd... though it wouldn't ultimately work any better.




Teddy was crying inconsolably, and it was Harry's own fault.

He hadn't meant any harm. It had all seemed very clever this morning, and he'd felt quite satisfied with himself. The Chosen One, The Boy Who Lived, all of that nonsense had seemed insignificant in comparison to Uckaharry, The Godfather Who Figured Things Out.

Teddy had spotted the clown last week as they passed through the park near Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. She'd been standing in the midst of a circle of children Teddy's own age, singing songs and leading them in little dances. Teddy, his changing hair covered by a rather bizarre ladies' sun hat with a scarf at the bottom, had begged to go over, but just as Harry had decided to give it a try, the children and their parents had started to clap, and they dispersed. As they moved, they all looked strangely at Teddy, and Harry realized that it would have been impossible anyway. He couldn't very well explain that the strange headgear was there to cover up hair that was sometimes purple, sometimes blue, and often matching whoever he happened to admire at the moment. (In fact, when they'd got home, his hair had become red yarn, like the storyteller's, and he'd refused to change it until he went to sleep.) The sun hat was all right when people didn't look too closely, but sitting in a crowd for any length of time... it wouldn't do. And of course, there was the possibility that he would try someone else's nose or eyes as well.

The clown went to her large trunk and began to pack her things away, and Teddy ran up to her--a great oddity, as he was normally reserved with strangers. "I saw you!" Teddy cried.

The girl widened her painted eyes comically (Harry hoped Teddy wouldn't decide to copy her), and said, "You did? But I was hiding!" She covered her whole face, except her eyes, and did a little dance step.

Teddy clapped.

"We only came in at the end," Harry explained. "He certainly enjoyed you, though."

The clown bent down to Teddy and stage whispered, "I'm here every Wednesday all summer. But keep it a SECRET!" She waggled one finger in an oversized stuffed glove then looked more normally up at Harry. "I'm in a study on making things more cheerful. Psychology. I start every Wednesday morning at eleven. You're welcome to bring your little boy."

"Well, I-- He's... I'm his godfather."

"Oh. Well, if you're looking after him on Wednesday, feel free." She smiled, tugged the end of the scarf on Teddy's hat, and said, "I like your style."

The other children had gone to play together, and Teddy watched them hungrily for a while after the girl left, but didn't ask if he might join in. He wanted to sing. He wanted to do the little dances. None of them were doing that. He dragged his feet back to Number Twelve, where Harry, who had been cleaning there on his days off, took him back home by Floo.

Andromeda promised that he would forget his disappointment, but he didn't. The next evening, Harry had found him trying to do the dances he'd seen, and jumping about as the other children had. The day after that, he'd set up his plush toys and picked up his favorite--Remus's tattered old stuffed rabbit--and started telling them stories and clowning for them, his hair morphed bright scarlet. Over the weekend, when Harry took him along on a visit to the Burrow, he'd told Ron, Hermione, Molly, Arthur, and Ginny about the most wonderful person in the world, who all the children gathered around. Molly had done her best to tell a story (Harry himself, who'd never had stories told to him as a child, had been enthralled), but Teddy kept looking to either side, and when the other children failed to appear, he thanked Molly tonelessly and sulked off for his nap.

"It's not his fault," Molly said. "Or yours. He hasn't anyone close to his age to play with. In a few years, I suppose he could play with Kingsley's boy, but there's a big difference between being four and being two. Do any of the others have children closer to his age?"

Harry shook his head. "No. I've learnt... well, during the war, the year Teddy was born, there was more going on at St. Mungo's than Healing. There aren't a lot of wizarding children Teddy's age. At least not here."

"I heard one of the Weird Sisters has a son Teddy's age," Ginny offered. "Maybe you should drop your own name and get backstage for them to meet."

Harry hadn't thought much of the idea, but after watching Teddy spend Sunday afternoon sitting among his plush animals, staring at the old rabbit and waiting for it to talk, he'd actually got as far as contacting the Sisters' publicist. They were currently touring Australia. Harry considered making a concerted effort anyway, but then realized that he wouldn't take very well to someone trying to set up play dates with Teddy because they'd read about him on his parents' Chocolate Frog cards, and he didn't imagine the Weird Sisters would be any less diligent about their own charge. Better for Teddy to make friends with children who happened across his path more naturally.

Except that none did.

Monday, Andromeda tried the same thing Molly had, telling him stories and singing him songs herself, even painting her face. She even Charmed his animals to dance with him, but he was unimpressed. Even she was beginning to come to the conclusion that he wasn't going to forget about it.

Last night, Teddy had announced that he meant to see the clown. Andromeda had got quite lost in a memory of having to deny Tonks something similar when she was Teddy's age, and Harry'd found himself irritated that she wasn't even trying. He was sure there was a way. It wouldn't be fair for there not to be. It wasn't Teddy's fault, after all.

So as he'd tucked Teddy into bed, he'd thought about it, letting his mind wander, and as he tucked the rabbit under Teddy's arm, his eyes happened upon a doll with red yarn hair and a painted clown's face.

He smiled.

Early the next morning--his day off--he took Teddy to London, promising a trip to his mum's favorite store (at least according to Andromeda): Oxfam. Harry had got the sun hat there, and Teddy seemed to think he was simply going to be given another funny hat. Instead, Harry found him a bright shirt with floppy arms and giant dots, and a pair of clashing green trousers. This was topped off by a pair of men's boots, which Harry put on the wrong feet and stuffed with a copy of the London Times advertising circular. Teddy laughed at his own reflection in the changing room, then Harry said, "Shh," and Conjured a red yarn wig. He tucked it over Teddy's hair, then painted his face with a flick of his wand.

"I'm a clown!" Teddy said, delighted.

"And it's all because you liked that clown so much last week," Harry said. "Which is what you'll say no matter who asks."

"Why?"

"It's a surprise," Harry said smugly. "But you must promise to keep the wig on all day and tell people that you don't want to take it off."

"Like my hat?"

"Just like your hat, only it covers more."

Teddy looked at him suspiciously. "Tell who?"

Harry smiled, deeply pleased with himself, and ducked into an alley to Apparate to Grimmauld Place. "You'll see. Now, you also know that you oughtn't morph your skin."

Teddy nodded and said, "I'm not a baby, Uckaharry."

"Of course not." Harry put Teddy's hands on his arm and pulled him through to the steps of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, then opened the gate and pointed toward the park. "Which is why you get to come here, with other children who are big enough to behave."

Teddy's eyes went wide, and he grinned broadly. "Really?"

"Really."

Harry allowed himself to be dragged along watching Teddy take huge, stretching steps ahead of him. He looked around the park like Harry himself had once looked around the Great Hall at Hogwarts, then smiled over his shoulder. He ran toward a row of Muggle paintings that an artist was trying to sell, then stopped and looked at them curiously. "Uckaharry?" he whispered, and when Harry leaned down, he said, "They aren't moving."

Carefully, Harry tweaked his wand and cast a Muffling Charm. "These are Muggle pictures," he said. "You remember what I said about Muggle pictures?"

"Oh! Yes! They're special and catch one exact time to save it forever and ever, just the same."

"That's right. And what else do we know about when we're surrounded by Muggle things?"

Teddy thought about it, then brightened and said, "We never ever ever talk about magic things."

"Just so. Can you do that?"

He nodded, utterly uninterested in mere magic, which he saw every day. The clown had appeared and was singing a song to bring everyone over. When a crowd had gathered, she said "Parents may sit on the ground with their little ones if they'd like," she said, "or stand at the back."

Teddy pulled Harry to the front of the room and yanked him down, then frowned and bit his lip. "Uckaharry," he whispered.

"What?"

"Can you stay, even if you're not my parents?"

The old grief pushed up for a moment, then Harry smiled and kissed Teddy's hooded head. "She means the people who are taking care of you."

A moment later, the stories and songs and dances began, and Teddy was nearly transported with bliss, clapping along with the other children, singing about "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," and watching raptly as she tumbled around and made great faces. Harry played along. He felt like a hippogriff's hindquarters, but he wasn't sure if it was because he was doing a dance or because he seemed to be the only caregiver in the crowd who didn't know how to do it. He didn't care. Seeing Teddy twirling clumsily around and playing a clapping game with the little boy next him was quite worth the price of feeling foolish. And, foolishness aside, he felt all-powerful and wise. He was doing this right, he'd found a way to make Teddy happy, and it was utterly successful. He prepared to bask in the glow of Teddy's adoration for a few days. He'd discovered this to be one of his favorite occupations.

The session ended with a rousing chorus of "Brother John," and then the trouble began.

The boy who had been sitting beside Teddy plucked a box of crayons from his mother's bag, along with a coloring book with drawings of clowns, then cheerfully offered crayons and a page to to Teddy. Teddy took them and started scribbling bright, loopy swirls in the lines of his own picture.

"Aren't you awfully hot?" the boy's mother asked. She reached for the yarn wig.

Teddy almost let her, then remembered himself. "I like it!" he said. "I'm a clown."

He looked to Harry for confirmation, and Harry nodded.

The woman turned on him, looking annoyed. "Are you mad? It's August. The child is sweating, can't you see?"

Harry gave her his practiced sheepish shrug--he'd had to explain Teddy's odd clothing to many strangers, mostly women who assumed a young man needed child-rearing advice--and said, "Oh, he likes it."

"It's unhealthy! You oughtn't allow it."

This caught the attention of a young nanny, who agreed with the mother of Teddy's playmate, and of a grandmother who tried to assure Harry that he could trust his own instincts, and then of another young mother who so adamantly defended Harry that he had to tell her he was engaged, at which point she said, "Well, it is too warm for that," then lost interest. Harry heard Teddy laughing, and turned to make a funny face at him.

Somewhere in the confusion, the wig had slipped, and it was now pushed halfway back, showing his hair, which was bright blue. A little girl clapped, and said, "You're funny!" and then his hair turned blond, like hers.

"Teddy!" Harry called.

Teddy put his hands on his head and his mouth made a perfect "O" of surprise. He turned his hair brown very quickly.

A mother screamed. For a wild moment, Harry expected her to yell "Freak" and start throwing things. Of course, she didn't, but it was too late anyway. Her scream had frightened one of the children, and a wail went up in the crowd. Teddy, looking as terrified as anyone else, backed up against someone's pram, and a stack of nappies tipped off the top and onto the ground, along with a box of pipe cleaner and paper flowers.

Which abruptly took root in the pavement and began to wave in a non-existent breeze.

The clown gaped at them, then looked up at Harry, frightened. The other adults grabbed for their children, who were mostly screaming in confusion.

Teddy started to cry, and a bouquet of balloons popped noisily.

Harry raised his wand, and everything and everyone stopped (except for Teddy, who continued to sniffle loudly). Quickly, he undid the accidental spell on the flowers; it was too late to do anything about the balloons. He looked around at the chaos, then looked at Teddy. "I'm sorry," he said, then altered the memories of all the Muggles, pulled up Teddy's wig, and broke the freezing spell. One more spell distracted them from looking at Teddy, who, in distress, had started to morph into all of his stuffed animals.

Harry carried him out and slipped into an alley as soon as possible, then wrapped Teddy's hands around his arm and carried him by Side-Along Apparition to the edge of the pond at home.

Teddy sat down on the grass and howled, tears flowing freely down his cheeks. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I'm sorry sorry sorry..."

Harry Summoned the tattered stuffed rabbit and put it into Teddy's hands. It could hardly be any more damaged by a runny nose and some salt water, and Teddy buried his face in it, using its floppy ears to wipe his eyes.

"It's all right," Harry said. "It's not your fault. It's Uncle Harry's fault."

"NO!" Teddy screamed, horrified at the very idea. "Not Uckaharry's! No-no-NO!"

Harry didn't push it. "All right," he said. "It was an accident. That's all." He wanted to say they could try again, but he had a feeling that by the time Teddy had complete control over his morphs, he would be too old for it. And Harry had no idea how he would control it if Teddy did make a Muggle friend, and got himself invited over for tea, when he could hardly wear a hat or a Muggle sweatshirt. For good or ill, Teddy was stuck in the magical world, and thanks to Voldemort, he was stuck here alone.

Unable to think of anything soothing to say, Harry just rubbed Teddy's shoulders until the crying fit passed, then carried him inside.
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Comments
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indusnm From: indusnm Date: January 12th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw this was so sad. I'd never thought of this, but it makes total sense. Poor little Teddy.
Great fic, thanks for sharing!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. The Metamorphmagus business would be really hard to handle. Imagine a Muggle-born morph!
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: January 12th, 2008 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Poor Teddy, but lucky us.

It's good to see you back, not only in form with an excellent fic, but clearly settled enough to start writing again.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Getting used to it, though I feel like I haven't had any time to write!
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: January 12th, 2008 06:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Sniff...

Poor little Teddy!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really have been cruel to him, haven't I? :p
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know. Harry, of all people, thinking that something shouldn't happen because it's not fair...
chienar From: chienar Date: January 12th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I feel so bad for Teddy being so alone when he was small.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
At least he has Uckaharry. :)
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: January 12th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Poor little Teddy - of course there's no-one exactly his age in the Wizarding World, but it's just too hard for him at this age to fit in with Muggle children. I'm glad "Uckaharry" tried, though!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope that everyone whose death (or lack of existence) Voldemort is responsible for gets a whack at him in some afterlife gauntlet.
From: kobegrace Date: January 12th, 2008 08:39 am (UTC) (Link)
It's three-thirty in the morning and this fic has brought me to tears (although the fact that it's three-thirty in the morning and I'm dead tired might have plenty to do with it, too). This was just so sad. It's awful enough to be alone, but it's rightfully sucky to be alone and four years old. :(

*sniffs a little*

On a less sad note: Uckaharry kept getting hotter and hotter as I scrolled down the page. Like, damn. Damn. Wow. S-igh...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love men who get silly with (and about) their kids.
jedi_chick From: jedi_chick Date: January 12th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Poor little Teddy. It really would be impossible for a young Metamorphmagus to be around Muggles, wouldn't it?

Teddy was adorable as he told everyone about the clown, and also when he was clowning around for his stuffed animals. And his insistence that it wasn't Harry's fault was very touching.

and then of another young mother who so adamantly defended Harry that he had to tell her he was engaged, at which point she said, "Well, it is too warm for that," then lost interest.

This was my favorite line. Harry cracks me up. I also loved that he was so determined to make everyone alright for Teddy.

Thank you for writing another excellent fic!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
And his insistence that it wasn't Harry's fault was very touching.

I think Teddy can deal with "I made a mistake" a lot more easily than he can deal with "Uncle Harry sometimes makes mistakes." Uncle Harry, after all, is all wise and powerful, and if he's not perfect, what will Teddy do? (I imagine Remus was somewhat the same about Dumbledore.)
summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: January 12th, 2008 09:30 am (UTC) (Link)
When I started reading this fic I did realize the full indications- that Teddy could never have any friends being young, and... that made me really sad.

Your ability to pull on the heart strings is amazing Fern (and I LOVED the line about Harry having to say he was engaged lmao.)

It's funny because lately I've been utterly into your Shifts world- *has been praying for Safe like noooo tommorow* so I find it almost odd, for some reason, that your so enthralled in Teddy's world- since my own mind is so far away from it, it refuses to accept Remus and Dora are dead you see- but it's lovely to be taken back to it (perhaps even healthy? I shouldn't be so enthralled in a world you seem to have no desire to write- it just leads to dissapointment) and honestly I DO love Teddy's world. It's sad and depressing, but he becomes happy, and that's wonderful.

I never am failed to be amazed at how verstile an author you are Fern- as I once said to describe you, I've seen you write a four year old child (Doll Army) to an 80 year old man (Marauder's Roost) and they both were wonderful. Whatever you write, I'll keep on reading, because you are fantastic.

*This got off subject, wow*

On that note, I'm gonna go off and read all those various one-shots of yours I haven't yet! :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
My mind is still refusing to accept that they're actually dead as well. Even in the Teddy stories, I keep expecting someone to show up and say, "No, sorry, my mistake, here are your parents, they just got lost in shipping somewhere." One problem I'm having planning Safe--the thing that's stopping me from starting it--is that I have no idea how to make sense of the ending. Once I skip ahead to Teddy's time, I can treat it like canon treated James and Lily's deaths, but the moment of crossing... it doesn't resolve or fix anything, and has no moment of gestalt. They just die in the middle of a battle. How do you handle that fictionally? Make something senseless make sense, which is the job of fiction? At this point, it's less a problem of being depressed by it--I have the lifeline of Teddy's world to pull me up--but the technical problem of how in the world it can be made to work as a thematically sensible novel!

I think Teddy's the last and youngest victim of the war, and what Alderman wants of him at the end of Hunter's Moon is to kill Voldemort good and dead by not passing on any of his pain.
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beceh From: beceh Date: January 12th, 2008 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Aww poor Teddy. That was really good! Thanks for sharing :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. It felt good to start imagining again!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 12th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Like everyone else said, poor Teddy. He sure did turn out great even after all of his turmoil. What a sweet kid. Your writing is as fantastic as ever. Even though it made me cry, I'm glad to have another Teddy story.

Hope your enjoying your new adventure Fern!
~sam
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm a little overwhelmed by my new adventure, but, well... had to be done.

Teddy's got a couple of things in his favor. One is that Harry understands what it means to be completely outside of things and cut off from people his own age; the other is that he himself got lucky in the brains and temperament department. He's prone to the occasional rage and depression, but he has the capacity to handle both without going crazy.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 12th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just have this crazy urge to introduce Teddy to some little kids I know. The nice thing about kids is that the-boy-who-changes-his-hair isn't all that different from the-girl-who-dances-on-the-kitchen-table and is a good sight tamer than the-kid-who-drinks-the-whole-maple-syrup-bottle-if-it-isn't-locked-away. True, the parents might take a bit more preparing, but I think they'd agree about the maple-syrup-kid being much more gossip and concern worthy, which would leave Teddy free to go play with the-four-year-old-who-memorized-all-Jupiter's-moons-and-likes-to-plan-trips-to-them.

Although, come to think of it, Teddy would be in great danger from the-girls-who-like-to-play-dress-ups-and-thought-it-was-so-cute-to-get-the-two-year-old-boy-in-all-the-princess-outfits-then-show-him-off-in-front-of-as-many-adults-as-possible-icluding-his-dad (nothing seems to cheer up some little kids as much as realizing they have the power to freak out parents [I think at least 40% of his reaction was for their benefit]).

Those girls would be in seventh heaven with a little boy who could do whatever they asked him to with his hair and eyes.

"Ooooh! Teddy, do Ariel! Do Ariel! Hey, Teddy, can you do fins?"

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, the kids actually were fine. They thought it was funny. Adults are the ones who have a tendency to utterly freak out. But kids that age don't exactly travel around without their adults!
mrspollifax From: mrspollifax Date: January 12th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Funny, sweet, and heartwrenching all at once. Your school-age Teddy was always grown up for his age, but plausibly so -- and this totally illuminates why.

I'm so glad we still get to see some of your HP-verse in spite of recent interview 'canon'. Thank you!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dunno what I'm going to do about Victoire, though. I just have to stay away from whatever she happens to have talked about. It's frustrating.

Teddy really did spend a lot of time with adults, and I'd imagine most of his year-mates did as well (except Corky, of course).
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 12th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awww, this was lovely. :) Poor Teddy. (Poor Harry.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually think Teddy may get over it faster than Harry, who's had a serious blow to his self-image. ;p
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 12th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Teddy...
I'm one of those awful people who Lurk, and while I've been avidly reading your fics, I never really got into the habit of actually REVIEWING them... (rolls eyes at self, guiltily)
I liked this--it had sweet moments ("I'm not a baby, Uckaharry."--lol) but it showed that Teddy's never going to have a normal childhood, no matter how much Harry tries.
I also liked the image of Harry listening to Molly's story along with the kids...he never had a normal childhood either, did he? Hopefully Teddy's will be better than his.
Thanks!
-Victoria
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 13th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Harry will fight anyone it's necessary to fight to make sure Teddy's childhood is better than his, even if it will never be what it ought to have been.
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