Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Being tall was an advantage at King's Cross, and Teddy used it to wade through the crowd to where Uncle Harry, Lily, and James were all waiting. They were harder to find, as, at some point, Lily had come down from Uncle Harry's shoulders, leaving them well below the average head in the crowd. Maurice--who was not height-advantaged--followed him, dragging Wendell along, hoping that Teddy would spot their parents on the way.
"Sorry," Teddy said. "I didn't see them."
"Who are you looking for?" Uncle Harry asked.
"My mum and dad," Maurice said.
"Maybe they forgot," Wendell suggested.
"No, we didn't forget!"
Teddy looked over his shoulder and saw the Burkes, winding through the crowd with pleased smiles on their faces. Henry looked like an older version of Maurice--dark-haired and sharp-faced, with thin and pale lips and small dark eyes. Salvina was wispy and pale, with silvery blond hair that made Teddy wonder if she might be related to the Malfoys on one line or another. She ran forward and hugged Maurice enthusiastically (Maurice looked like a martyr being dragged to his death), then turned her attention on Wendell, who took it better.
"It's a good thing you have tall friends," Henry said, shaking Maurice's hand vigorously. "I spotted Teddy and wondered if you were there." He noticed Uncle Harry for the first time and nodded with nervous politeness. "Mr. Potter. I, er... it's good to see you again. Happy Christmas." He held out his hand.
Uncle Harry shook it. "Well, it's certainly a happier circumstance this time. We're having a bit of a welcome home party back at my home tonight, if your family would care to join us."
"Er... No, thank you. Really." Mr. Burke looked a little embarrassed. "That is, we haven't had either of the boys for so long that we'd like to get the flat filled as soon as we can."
Uncle Harry laughed, and gave Lily a little hug. "I understand completely. When all of mine are off at school, I think I'll need to borrow the neighbors' children just to keep from going spare."
"But Teddy will be back by then," Lily said. "He can keep you company."
"Teddy will be a grown-up by then, Lily," James said, then looked at Uncle Harry in his most helpful way. "Maybe he'll have children you could borrow," he suggested.
Uncle Harry looked as green as Teddy felt and said, "Let's not rush things, James."
"And on that note," Mr. Burke said, looking just as spooked, which at least seemed to break the nervousness, "I think I shall bring my boys home while they are still boys. Even if one of them is of age."
Teddy and Maurice said a quick goodbye, and Lily grabbed Teddy's hand happily (James gave him a manly nod, and merely stuck close by). Teddy Charmed his trunk to follow the family as they left the station. "Where's Granny?"
"Al has a miserable cold," Uncle Harry said. "She's been looking after him, and he was quite emphatic that Dad was expendable, but he had to have his Grannydromeda." They got outside and headed for the car. "She's gloating, I think. When you were small, you always wanted me to be the one to stay home."
"Well, she wasn't nearly as good at dragon-hunting." They reached the car, and Teddy put his trunk in the boot. "What about Aunt Ginny?"
"Oh, everyone's at the house; she and Ron and Hermione are setting up the party." He got Lily and James secured in the car, and went around to sit behind the wheel. He would have looked odd, had anyone been paying attention, as he had no keys--he just tapped the ignition with his wand and the car drove itself toward Grimmauld Place, leaving him free to talk. "I've been getting my edition of the Charmer."
James leaned forward and stuck his head between the front seats. "I read the story about you. You didn't say anything about the book!"
"A pen name isn't going to do us much good if we tell everyone about it."
"Oh." James frowned. "Well, I guess it's more fun that way. Like a secret identity."
"It's a Marauder name."
"No it isn't. A Marauder name would be something like 'Quills' or 'Scribbler.' 'Jim Wolf' is just a secret name."
"That's a good point. Are you sure you want to keep it secret? If you don't, I suppose we could just--"
"No, secrets are good."
"Secrets are stupid," Lily opined from behind Uncle Harry's seat.
James turned to glare at her. "They are not."
"It depends on the secret," Uncle Harry said calmly, "so you're both right and needn't argue."
This averted a quarrel for perhaps ten seconds, when Lily expanded her thought to say that secret writing names were stupid, and James countered that she didn't know anything about anything, and started angrily listing famous pseudonymous authors, both Muggle and magical. Uncle Harry rolled his eyes and let them at it. He waved his wand and muttered, "Muffliato," then looked at Teddy. "I think they actually like arguing," he said. "I don't understand it, but I can't seem to stop them."
Teddy, whose only experience of family close to his own age was with the older Weasley girls, just shrugged. Victoire and Marie seemed to spend half their time screaming at one another as well, and it didn't make any more sense to him.
They got to Grimmauld Place only a minute later. Teddy sent his trunk ahead to the house without bothering to take it out of the boot, and snatched up Lily in the middle of a trenchant point about James's unsatisfactory grooming habits. "Can we let it go for now?" he asked. "I've heard a rumor of a party."
Lily stuck her tongue out at James once, then said, "Fine."
"Good," Teddy said, and put her down. He took her hand as they crossed the square to the house. James pulled one of her pigtails, then she took his hand with her free one, and let them swing her over a garden gnome by the gate (Teddy crouched to keep them at a somewhat closer height for this).
Inside, Teddy was pummeled by small Weasleys--Freddie, Rosie, and Hugo--and greeted from a distance by Al, who looked down from the second floor and waved. Steam was coming from his ears and his nose was bright red. Granny tightened a blanket around him and came downstairs to throw her arms around Teddy.
"Oh, it's so good to see you! Dear God, you look like your father these days... right down to the robes, what on earth have you been doing? You can afford some decent robes. How's school? Happy Christmas!"
Teddy laughed and hugged her. "I've missed you, too, Granny. My robes aren't that bad."
She frowned. "Teddy, they look like you've been scrubbing floors on your knees in them. And they're too short." She shook her head. "Oh, never mind, you look wonderful!" She hugged him again.
Teddy, now self-conscious about his robes (they had a few frayed spots from various school scrapes, and he hadn't thought anything of them this morning, but now they looked horrible), went upstairs to change into jeans, and by the time he got down, dinner was served. Rosie, who had obviously been reading the newspapers, tried to bring up the Needle's Eye case (she wanted to know how it was at Hogwarts after Fudge's body was found), but Hermione shushed her. Ron and Uncle Harry looked uneasy.
George and his family left after supper, and Teddy helped Aunt Ginny in the kitchen. He assumed Ron and Hermione would go as well, but when he finished up, the Potter and Weasley cousins were deeply involved in a long game, and showed no signs of even getting ready for bed. Granny was lazily Conjuring monsters for them to defeat while she read an old book from the parlor.
Aunt Ginny watched them for a minute, looked around the room, then rolled her eyes.
"What is it?" Teddy asked.
"The three of them," she said. "Honestly, being off the case has them acting like they're back at Hogwarts, trying to get around Snape to win the day."
"They're working the case?"
"Every time they're together."
"I'm surprised you're not in the thick of it."
She pushed a thick curtain of red hair behind her ear and sat down. "You know your godfather, Teddy. He's going to do things his way." She smirked. "Though I'm half tempted to hunt up Neville and Luna and see if we can beat them to it."
Teddy smiled and went upstairs, meaning to get some homework from his trunk. He wasn't sure if he and Granny would be staying with the Potters this holiday--it had become something of a habit, but it wasn't set in stone--but he could at least use the time to get started on his History of Magic assignment. He'd need to find people to interview. Hermione might be able to help there, as she'd worked with rehabilitating some of the wandless after the war, but he still wanted to avoid using family connections as much as was humanly possible, given his family in the era he was studying. There were others, too, and it was as good a time as any to start the list of who he'd want to talk to, and--
The door to Uncle Harry's study was ajar.
"..and that's what I keep coming back to," Uncle Harry was saying. "I trust everyone's alibis. Everyone who makes even a little bit of sense. There's not a hole in any of them."
"Then it must be someone who doesn't make sense," Ron said. "I mean, someone who'll make sense later, I reckon, but no one we'd think of."
Teddy saw a flash of Hermione's frizzy brown hair as she passed the door, headed for Uncle Harry's bookshelf. "There's got to be--" She stopped, and leaned back, a brown eye appearing in the thin edge of the open door. "Teddy!" she said.
"Sorry," he said. "You forgot the Muffling Charm."
She opened the door. "No, I didn't. Come in."