Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Teddy sent his Patronus to Madam Pomfrey, and followed Hagrid back out without waiting for her.
They ran to the paddock, where Dapple lay on the muddy ground, making short, high-pitched screeches. Roger was kneeling beside his head, stroking the feathers of his neck. Buckbeak, his wings spread, stood protectively over them.
Hagrid bowed while running, and Buckbeak let him in. Teddy stopped to make his own bow, but had to take a guess that Buckbeak would let him in, as it wasn't returned with so much as a nod.
"What happened?" he asked as soon as he was safely at Dapple's side. This close, he could see that Dapple's left wing was broken badly, a bone poking out between the feathers, blood pouring from the wound.
Roger continued to pat Dapple's neck. "We were going for a flight," he said. "I've been trying to take him up every day for exercise. We went near the Whomping Willow--"
"The Willow hit him?"
"It's been so quiet lately, I didn't even think of it, but today, all the sudden... well, I noticed that the ditch was gone, then the tree hit us out of nowhere."
"The ditch..." Teddy hissed through his teeth. "The damned Maze is manifesting again." He put his hand on one of Dapple's talons and patted him gently. "I'm sorry, Dapple. Madam Pomfrey will get you fixed up, though."
Madam Pomfrey indeed arrived a moment later, shooing away Roger and Teddy and asking Hagrid to keep Buckbeak off of her. Teddy and Roger dropped back, and Teddy glanced up at the Whomping Willow, which was sluggish and slow again.
"I want to have a look at the ditch," he said. "You said it was actually gone?"
"It was like it used to be," Roger said. "Before... you know."
"Before I caved it in."
Teddy looked again at Buckbeak, Hagrid, and Madam Pomfrey, all watching carefully over Dapple, and decided that he wasn't needed. He struck off toward the ditch, Roger beside him. When the reached it, it was there again--full of early wildflowers on the sides, the bottom a long and dirty puddle. Teddy began to walk along the edge, toward the school wall.
"What are we looking for?" Roger asked.
"I just want to see if anything's different. If it changes again. What if it had done that while someone was walking along?"
Roger didn't say anything.
"I'd steer clear of the Willow, anyway," Teddy said. "Dapple doesn't know to stay away on his own."
They continued to walk on. The days were getting longer now, and the evening had a fragile golden light in it. Teddy hadn't walked the whole length of the ditch since it had formed. It had a strange beauty as it wound its way through the grounds. Honking daffodils had taken root, and were singing to the evening sun. Forget-me-nots and daisies commingled in the long grass. A family of frogs hopped along in the puddle, from which algae was sending up a pungent green sort of smell. At some points, the teachers had put up little footbridges, and they were getting pleasantly mossy in the spring dampness.
Teddy tried to remember what it had once looked like--the unbroken rolling hill, with the tunnel a secret beneath it, a shadowy exit where the Marauders had once crept out, followed by Severus Snape, where Uncle Harry had followed Sirius, and later gone to see Snape die while Mum and Dad were dying back at the grounds. He could have been in this very tunnel, on his way to their house, while they were being cut down.
The wildflowers bobbed their heads drowsily, not caring about Teddy's morbid turn of thought. Roger, silent beside him, didn't even seem to notice. Even Teddy couldn't really work up any anger, just a momentarily overwhelming sense of loss, as they reached the school wall. Iron bars had been extended down from the base of the stones. The puddle had a bit of an incline here, and was cascading down into a spreading pool on the far side.
He sat down against the wall and looked back up at the Whomping Willow, now just a black smear on the twilight.
Roger sat beside him. "What if it did come back? What if someone's head got caught when the ceiling formed? Can you fix this, Lupin?"
"I don't know. Don't stick your head in until I figure it out."
The ditch remained a ditch for as long as they sat there in the lengthening shadow of the wall, and for the length of their walk back. By the time they reached Hagrid's, Madam Pomfrey had healed Dapple's break, but Dapple was curled on the ground, looking dejected. Buckbeak was prodding him to get up and fly, but he wasn't taking the bait.
Roger shook his head. "I should stay and see what I can do."
Teddy let him walk away, then turned and went back to the castle. He wrote to Maddie first, to tell her that there was definite evidence of the Maze's continued operation here, and ask again if there was anything at the Ministry. Uncle Harry hadn't mentioned anything, but it just might not have happened where he'd see. When he finished that, he brought out Phineas's diaries again, and read through the time when the Maze-world had started to seep into their real world. His notes hadn't been meticulous, but he did mention accidents like Dapple's. Frustrated, Teddy flipped ahead, looking for their answer, but all he could find was a repetition of Percival Dumbledore's advice: The only way out is in.
He went to sleep thinking of this, but no dreams came.
He spent the remainder of the week getting ready for his next visit to London. The robes Uncle Harry had got him fit perfectly well, but he felt he needed practice wearing them, as he felt like a great phony when he put them on, a small boy playing at being a Ministry official. Ruthless caught him at this endeavor on Thursday night, and howled in amusement. He also spent time going through catalogs, looking for Christmas presents for the family, since he hadn't brought them last time. George Weasley, declaring that he and Granny had decided Teddy was old enough to handle some of his own money, had sent him a bank notice for what seemed an obscene amount of money--two hundred and fifty Galleons--that had come to him through various sales of products either he or Dad had worked on. He had plenty left over when he finished shopping. He wasn't sure what to spend the rest on, or if he should save it, or how much might have accrued into his account without his knowledge over the years.
Saturday morning came in a rush of activity, getting to Professor Longbottom's office and out to the Ministry, but once he got there, it was routine. Maddie adored Père Alderman's question, and even liked that Teddy had asked someone else for a question. "Quite a lot of them come from elsewhere, you know," she said.
The Maze dutifully took him on a gentleman's tour of various faith communities, and he watched how they seemed to draw together around something magnetic and powerful. It left him with more questions than answers, but he guessed he'd have to move on to something different next time. He chose Mind, thinking that he'd like a turn with the brains.
"Are you sure about that, mate?" Ron Weasley asked at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, when Teddy mentioned it. "I got burned by one of those things."
"I think he'll know better than to Summon it, dear," Hermione said.
Teddy had expected to be the presenter of gifts this time, but he'd forgotten that this was as close as they'd come to his sixteenth birthday, and the whole family had descended. Granny had baked a cake, and various Weasleys teased him about being a grand excuse for a family party. He returned to Fort Potter, where James welcomed him as a visiting dignitary, and his brother, sister, and several cousins performed a "ceremonial dance," which appeared to have come from Victoire's sisters, since it resembled a Veela dance, though it included whichever of the younger boys could be coerced into participating. Rosie had brought a book on Native Americans, and kept making corrections to the longhouse. Aimee had also started a fort at Shell Cottage, which she claimed was vastly superior to James's, and they were currently negotiating a complicated peace treaty before hostilities could begin. James called on the Hallowed Paperweight to give them an answer. Someone had evidently Charmed it, because it glowed prettily before James declared that the paperweight deemed Fort Potter superior. Teddy wondered if Aimee would produce a prophetic quill to argue with it, but she didn't.
He went back to Hogwarts that evening and helped Roger and Maurice with Dapple, who was still stubbornly refusing to fly. Buckbeak went up and did simple circles to demonstrate, and then nudged Dapple again, but it was no great help. Roger managed at least to get Dapple to canter around the paddock a few times, but his overflowing enthusiasm seemed to have disappeared. They left him with Buckbeak, who put a large wing over him to keep off the rain that had started to fall.
Three days later, Teddy's actual birthday passed with little fanfare, as all of his presents had come in his visit to London. Victoire and Marie, still quite keen on the hand-made presents from Christmas, made him a tie and a tie-clip. Donzo gave him a box of hawk-feather quills. Ruthless found him a book on the history of the Animagus charm. She also instigated a bit of "nonsense" by the fireplace, but they mutually decided that it was a bad idea this time. This didn't stop Teddy from thinking about it for the next week and wishing that better sense hadn't prevailed.
April pressed inexorably on, the days getting warmer and longer, the greens getting lusher. Teddy returned to London for his third evaluation, on Mind, and Maddie admitted that they hadn't entirely got the Maze under control yet, and it occasionally seemed to "pulse." It was not, she promised, Teddy's concern. He told her about Percival Dumbledore's admonition, but she thought it was too dangerous to go into that particular Maze, no matter what they'd said. It was clearly pushed into more frantic activity by magical prodding.
Teddy supposed she was right. Its surprises had worn down after he'd left it alone for a while at Hogwarts; perhaps it would just wind down on its own if left alone at the Ministry, like a clock that no one bothered winding.
Or at least, that was what he told himself in the day. At night, it wasn't as easy to dismiss, and the twisting paths of the Daedalus Maze were once again haunting his dreams.