Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Nothing looked familiar, but he didn't really expect it to. The night he'd run this path, he hadn't been gazing rapturously at the wonders of nature. Anything he might have remembered was swaddled in fog, which was now taking on a golden tinge, but not dissipating.
He kept careful track of where the path turned this time, not wanting to lose the path back and be forced to call for a broomstick again, this time in front of Professor Longbottom, who had caught up with him quickly, and was walking along beside him and looking with great interest at the forest plants.
"It's a Cavorting Crocus," he said as they passed a small flower pushing up through the snow. "Once it gets stronger, it'll start to move about."
"What does it do?"
"It does what it does. We mainly use it for ornament. Remind me to tell Victoire, once we've got this fixed. She was just mentioning in class that she was looking forward to seeing them."
Teddy nodded and went on ahead. Professor Longbottom pointed out other plants along the way--mainly, Teddy thought, to keep the foggy silence from being oppressive. They reached a point where the natural path branched off in two directions.
"Where do you think you went?" Professor Longbottom asked.
Teddy frowned. One branch veered slightly west, the other sharply east. Had he started to go back toward the castle in the end, or gone deeper into the Forest? "I was limping by then," he said. "I'd probably go on the side I was lurching toward."
"I could be wrong," Teddy admitted. "It's just a guess."
Professor Longbottom smiled. "I'll keep that in mind."
Teddy considered protesting further, to forestall disappointment if it turned out that they had to retrace their steps, but decided it would sound like he assumed Professor Longbottom would think he was right, which was big-headed. Instead, he took a few tentative steps on the westerly path. Ahead, he could see it going up a rather steep incline. It could have been one of the places where he'd lost his balance, stumbled, and cut himself. More to the point, going up the hill seemed more logical when you were looking for a place where bedrock broke through the soil. The Forest sloped gently down toward the school, for the most part, from silt washing off of rocks over the years. He could see the rise from the castle windows.
He reached the sharp incline and scrambled up it. Professor Longbottom came after him. From here, they were a bit above the main part of the fog, and could see it below, snaking through the trees like choker vines. Here, the air was crisp, and there was frost glittering on the winter-bare branches. A flash of green on the ground caught Teddy's eye and he bent down.
"It's a quill," he said. "Green and gold. One of Aunt Ginny's Harpies quills. I must have dropped it." He thought about picking it up, but on closer inspection, it seemed to have rotted over the wet winter, and accumulated quite a collection of chizpurfles.
"We're on the right path, then," Professor Longbottom said. "I think it's been a while since anyone else has been, though. It's quite overgrown. I don't even see traces of the centaurs."
Teddy stopped and looked around. "That's true. I wonder why."
Professor Longbottom shrugged. "Maybe it was Unplottable as well. Maybe when Harry and I hid the spiders' hollow, it happened to overlap an old spell, and when we released it, they released together."
"That would be a big coincidence."
"There've been stranger ones." Professor Longbottom started moving again. "Hermione Weasley thinks that magic attracts magic. That's why things tend to happen in the same places over and over. She said there are places even Muggles are drawn to after a while. It's all just a guess, though." He looked over his shoulder and grinned. "She could be wrong."
Teddy smiled back dutifully, and filed the information away. He wondered if things like that were studied in the Universe division, and if Maddie knew what Hermione thought.
Which was silly to think about. Given his manifest failure with the Maze, he doubted he'd be asking any questions at the Department of Mysteries in the near--or far--future.
"I think I need to do some thinking before my Careers Advice meeting," Teddy said.
"That would put you several thoughts ahead of most fifth years."
"Did you tell Professor McGonagall that you wanted to be a teacher?"
"No. I told her I wanted to be an Auror, like my parents."
"I expected her to tell me I'd fail miserably, but she said she thought I'd be reasonably good at it, though she didn't think I'd ever get the Potions marks from old Snape to actually make it in. But she also said that she didn't think I'd be happy in the job, even if I miraculously passed my Potions O.W.L. Of course, I just didn't think I'd be happy with another two years of Snape. In the end, she nudged me into Herbology, which was where I wanted to be anyway."
They reached another incline, and didn't talk as they scrambled up it. Teddy could understand now why he'd had so many aches and pains on top of whatever magical damage he'd done to himself with the Maze. "How did you end up teaching?"
"Why all the questions?"
"I don't know."
He shrugged again. "I don't, either. I was helping Harry and Ron at the Ministry--Kingsley wanted all of us for the clean-up. I'm not sure if you remember us all together at the Burrow; you weren't even four when I dropped that."
Teddy wasn't sure he remembered, either, though his mind cheerfully supplied him with very detailed images of being passed around Molly Weasley's kitchen table by giants with red robes on. He said nothing.
"The whole time, though, I'd kept going back to Hogwarts. I finished my seventh year. I helped start the re-building. I just wanted to scrub every stone. McGonagall was in charge, though she still called herself Deputy Headmistress for reasons of her own. And when she said that she was retiring, and Professor Sprout moved up to the office, she asked if I'd like to stay on, and I said yes. As long as I could be more like Lupin than like Snape. She quite agreed."
"Do you teach like my dad taught?" Teddy asked, thinking of Dean's mural.
"It's a bit difficult to teach Herbology like Defense Against the Dark Arts, I'm afraid." Professor Longbottom smiled. "But I flatter myself in thinking that he'd find nothing objectionable in my classes."
"I wish I wanted to be a teacher. Everyone wants me to be Professor Lupin. They don't say it, but..."
"But they wish it. Of course they do; they loved him. We all did. And I'm sure Robards and Kingsley hold out a dear hope that you'll change your mind and be an Auror, because they loved your mother, and want you finish up her life."
Teddy watched his feet as they turned absently down a bend in the path. He'd always heard that he was somehow what made it all right that his parents were dead--"They're inside you" and all that rot--but no one had ever put it quite so succinctly. If he didn't finish their lives, who would? Perhaps he should start out as an Auror, for Mum, then, once he'd had some experience in the field, come back to Hogwarts, for Dad, when Robards retired.
His head buzzed steadily with this, and some horrible, childish voice cried that it wasn't fair, that they ought to be finishing their own lives, and who would finish his, and...
Professor Longbottom stopped walking. "You'd make a stellar Auror, and an even better teacher--don't bother saying you can't really teach again; I've seen you do it, and you're phenomenal. There are any number of adults who would be sentimentally pleased by either choice. But I don't think your parents would be among them, unless it's what you need to do. As Ted Remus Lupin, not as Remus John Lupin or Nymphadora Andromeda Tonks. They already lived the lives they chose, however obscenely shortened." He turned and started walking again. "And that's my thought for this morning. Take it as you will."
Teddy's head was swimming. "Is that my Careers Advice session?"
"No. Careers Advice is quite a dull recitation of what N.E.W.T.s you need to worry about. That was just... small talk on a foggy morning. Which isn't all that foggy up here."
He'd climbed to the top of a ridge and stepped around a boulder, and Teddy could now see bright sunshine on the path.
Teddy swallowed hard and followed him up the path and around the boulder. The land here plunged into another hollow, this one filled with old undergrowth and exposed tree roots. One, near the top, jutted out over the path. It was this one that Teddy had caught his foot on, sending him flying.
Beyond the crushed and rotting undergrowth, a vast expanse of exposed bedrock jutted up from the ground. Teddy remembered climbing it that night, sitting at the top with the Marauder's Map and realizing that he was beyond its boundaries. And he remembered being here in the Maze, watching Jeremiah Galdreward accidentally kill his own brother after setting the Quarantine.
He looked at Professor Longbottom and nodded. Together, they went down into the hollow.