Table of Contents and Summary So Far
For the first few minutes, Teddy's tension spiraled inside him until he felt the slightest touch would send him running through the castle wall. But Maddie remained calm, talking about Carny and Mac and asking after Frankie as she picked up the slivers of the Maze's case and averting her eyes from the brighter parts of the Mazelight, and slowly, the muscles in Teddy's shoulders relaxed. Once, her voice trailed off when her eyes happened on a glowing strand, but before Teddy decided that it was time to take action, she shook herself off and continued on her search. Each handful of slivers was tossed into the containment box, which shivered slightly with the small impacts.
She reached the main body of the Maze and looked up. Her chatter about the children stopping abruptly. "All right, Teddy. I'm going to pick it up now. I don't want to chance Levitation. The light should follow it. Be ready."
Teddy braced himself.
Maddie Conjured gloves for herself, then grasped the two less-damaged sides of the Maze firmly and yanked it up from the floor. Teddy could see a greater strain in her muscles than the Maze's scant weight should have produced. She moved toward him.
The containment box tried to close. Teddy forced it open with his hands, then said, "Adoperia." It opened reluctantly.
Maddie reached it and threw the main body of the Maze inside. A few tendrils of light followed, filling the box with an eerily beautiful silver glow, and Teddy thought it was going to work.
Until the Mazelight started snapping like harp wires wound too tight.
"Dammit!" Maddie yelled, getting to her feet. "Teddy, we have to get this inside!" She jabbed her wand at one of the ropes, but it swerved around her and dissipated into the wall between two of James's incomprehensible drawings. In one of them, a red square with feet that had been labeled "Martian" ran up the edge of the paper like it had been doused with cold water. Maddie grimaced. "Try McGonagall's idea. Just like you were gathering memories for a Pensieve."
"I've never done that!"
"Concresco Cogitatonus," Maddie reminded him. "And concentrate. Then drag them to the box if it works. The release is just Emancipo."
Teddy pointed his wand at a nearby light rope and said, "Concresco Cogitatonus." The light turned and looked at him. It had no more consciousness than a firefly, but no less palpable life. It reached toward him, found the tip of his wand, and began to wind around it in a glowing ball. When it had nearly become big enough to swallow the whole wand, Teddy pulled it to the containment box and said, "Emancipo." It slid away from the wand and curled down in the box beside the Maze.
There was no time to admire his handiwork, though, as Maddie barreled in with another full wand, and poured its contents into the box. Together, they worked for ten minutes at this, but the sheer amount of light in the room didn't seem to lessen.
Maddie signaled him to stop. "We've got to be feeding it somehow," she said. "Or the Maze is. Let's shut the box. Maybe they'll die on their own without it."
"What if they just get away?"
She pressed her lips together grimly. "Then we might have some overflow. Hopefully, it will dissipate. But if it doesn't work, I can go back to the Ministry, and we can put everyone onto the problem. Maybe Professor Sprout would let you come to London--"
"You've done more with this tool than anyone I've ever heard of, Teddy. I think you qualify as a Daedalus Maze expert."
This was not a comforting thought, and Teddy didn't answer it. Instead, he went back to the box and broke the spell he'd used to hold it wide open. With a decisive snick, it sealed itself.
The light ropes fell to the floor and began to writhe in what Teddy interpreted as pain. In his mind, he saw severed limbs and blood and heard the wailing on the battlefield that had once raged below. Covering his ears didn't shut this out.
The light drew in and swirled into the shape of a galaxy, then shattered and blew away.
The room was still and silent.
Maddie pulled Teddy's hands down from his ears. "It's the best we can do," she said.
"I don't think it's done," Teddy said.
"It's not. But I think we've got the center trapped. I'm going to take it back to London, where we can study it in more controlled conditions."
"What about the bits that got away?"
"I don't know, Teddy. But I'll have people up here looking into it. They'll want to talk to you, if something goes wrong because of it, but it's not your responsibility."
Maddie pinched his chin and made him look up, as she had once when he'd been very small and he and Frankie had accidentally broken the birdbath in the garden. He'd been certain she'd send him home and never let him play there again, but she'd just said, "Things break. They're just things. Don't cry over them." This time, she said, "The world is round, Teddy. There's no end of it."
Teddy bit his lip. "At least until the sun gets sucked into a black hole in the middle of the galaxy."
"I sincerely doubt that that'll be your fault, either." She grinned and winked, despite her pallor. Teddy couldn't help returning it.
"Teddy!" someone called from down in the Common Room. "Teddy are you all right?"
Teddy frowned and called. "Uncle Harry?"
Footsteps thundered up the stairs outside--it sounded like he was taking them two at a time--and then Uncle Harry burst into the room. He grabbed Teddy by the shoulders and hugged him, then let him go and nodded gratefully at Maddie. "Sprout wouldn't let me come up here until we saw the light disappear. Is everything all right?"
"We don't know," Maddie said quickly. "But we'll take care of it if it isn't."
Uncle Harry looked vexed at this, but didn't say anything. He turned back to Teddy, then hugged him again, like he was eight and had broken his ankle climbing around the rocks at Shell Cottage instead of putting Hogwarts into Quarantine for months.
He finally let go. "You grew," he said.
"I guess so," Teddy said.
"I'm so glad to see you." Uncle Harry shook his head. "But I suppose fifteen is a bit old for the old godfather to be making such a fuss, isn't it? Your grandmother came with the St. Mungo's Healers; she's in the hospital wing, and I imagine she'd like to see you, and I should warn you that she'll make me look stoic and stone-faced."
Teddy took a step back, disoriented, and glanced at Maddie. She took the hint and left without another word.
"Is something wrong?" Uncle Harry asked.
"No, it's just that we... well, we were quarreling. Aren't you still angry?"
"I'll never be angry enough at you to not be glad to see you after four months of quarantine." He frowned. "Are you still angry?"
Teddy hadn't given much thought to the actual subject of the quarrel--Uncle Harry's insistence that he should just accept Mum and Dad's deaths, like they were no more than a day's bad weather ruining a picnic, and not do whatever he could to rectify it--and found that some small part of his heart did still harbor an ember of anger, but he decided that he could choose not to fan it. He shook his head. "How is everyone?" he asked. "I'm sorry about... er... when I sent Phineas..."
"Don't worry about it," Uncle Harry said, and started to lead the way out. "We've moved the landscape out into the corridor, though."
"Good." Teddy followed him down the stairs. "How is everyone? Aunt Ginny? The kids? Is Martian getting along with Lily's dog?"
As they wound their way down to the hospital wing and away from any uncomfortable subjects, Uncle Harry filled him in. Rose Weasley and Al were trying to run a secret society for seven-year-olds, and had taken to speaking to each other in a "code language" that consisted of adding "eth" to the end of every verb. Lily was proudly walking her dog around Grimmauld Place, and even taking care of its messes. Martian had initially hissed and yowled at it, but had finally decided that it was more dignified to just ignore it. James had written several chapters of a novel. He'd been reading each day's pages to the family after supper. "Quite good, really," Uncle Harry said. "At least I think so. And the hero is a shapeshifting wizard knight who carries two wands and rides a hippogriff."
"He misses your letters terribly."
"I'll write him one right away. And letters for the others, too. Are you staying? I could just send them back with you--"
"No, I'm not staying," Uncle Harry said. "I came to check on you, but I've got a miserable case back in London."
"You should come home for Easter, though. I know you usually don't, but we missed Christmas, and there are presents waiting."
They came around the door of the hospital wing, and Teddy could see several St. Mungo's Healers in bright green robes, pouring potions down the throats of plague victims who were now awake. Daniel fretted from one to the other.
One of the green-robed figures broke away, and Teddy barely had time to recognize Granny and think, She's got gray! before her arms were around him.