Table of Contents and Summary So Far
"Teddy?" Victoire called softly from the other side of his door. "Can I come in?"
Teddy Banished his towels to the laundry basket, pulled on a jumper over his clean blue jeans, and said, "Sure, come on, it's open."
The door opened, and she came in, carrying his books from the library. Without asking, she went to his bookshelves and started to put them up, in subject order. "What did the Headmistress want?"
"I can't tell you," Teddy said. "I would if I could, but it's not my call."
She raised an eyebrow. "Uncle Harry was here?"
Teddy didn't answer.
"Well, tell him I said hello when you see him again." She finished with the books. "I've been having some trouble in Potions. Could you help me?"
Teddy gladly agreed, and they spent a pleasant half hour trying to get her through a Calming Draft.
"I'm glad to see Victoire again," Mum said from the painting after she left.
"Me, too," Teddy said. "Just remind me never to take her on another date."
"What's this?" Sirius looked up from the table, where he and Dad had pulled in an old chess set from some other painting. "Is this Lupin defeatism?"
"No, it was just a disaster," Teddy said.
"Oh, of course." Sirius nodded wisely. "It's a catastrophe, and the world will end at any moment. Can't risk that again."
"Shut up, Sirius," Dad said pleasantly. "Check in three."
Sirius ordered a castle to take up a few spaces, obviously not caring about the game. "I'm sure he's right," he said. "He might take her out again, and then they might actually kiss--or who knows what else goes on when a girl moves the portrait--"
"Enough, Sirius," Mum said.
"--and then what will happen after inevitable messy end of things?" He shook his head with deep, feigned resignation. "Yes, all told, much safer not to risk all that. Better to sit up here, with our homework and our portrait to dispense wise advice, no, sublime advice, really..."
Teddy grinned and said, "Shut up, Sirius."
"As Master wishes," Sirius said, bowing.
"What Harry wanted," Mum prodded. "Is it what we talked about?"
"Yes, but please don't say anything to any of the other portraits. The Headmasters' portraits aren't allowed to talk, but all I can do is ask you."
"Aren't allowed," Sirius mused. "Never become Headmaster, Teddy."
"By which he means," Dad said, "that we do have some experience keeping secrets, and it was very polite of you to ask nicely, but we're not disposed to spread tactical secrets around."
Teddy turned his chair around and sat on it backward, his hands on the back, to look at the portrait. "Mum, did you ever have to morph into someone you didn't like very well?"
"I generally created people from whole cloth," she said. She bit her lip. "I interviewed Uncle Lucius once, at Azkaban."
"He's a bit creepy."
"Yes. But he was glad to hear that his wife and son missed and loved him. He's not inhuman."
"I know. Professor Snape got him to listen by--"
"You had Snivelly's help?" Sirius said, exaggerating indignation. "Tell us a way to help. I insist on getting on even terms."
Mum looked at him sternly until he sat down, then said, "Lucius Malfoy is an evil man, and I think he knows, on some level, that he's evil, or that people see him that way. I don't think he imagines himself bettering the world for everyone, just getting what he feels he's owed. The most important thing, though, is that he's utterly convinced of his own superiority. The act of questioning his superiority is proof, to him, of another person's inferiority."
"Sounds like Geoff Phillips."
"From what you've told us of Phillips," Dad said, "I think that's exactly right. Had Lucius been Muggle-born, I think that's exactly how he would have behaved. It's a zero sum game--it can't, to their minds, end up with things better for everyone. One side or the other has to win everything, and they intend it to be their side. Speaking of which, Sirius, checkmate."
"I've lost!" Sirius stared at the board. "Well, then, it's all over. Dora, brew up some turpentine, it's over."
"Don't tempt me," Mum said lightly.
Dad started to put away the chess board. Where it belonged, Teddy had no idea. Sirius came forward to the frame, standing a little in front of Mum. The smirk had left his face. "Listen, Wings," he said, "as someone who grew up in a family not entirely unlike the Malfoys', I can tell you that as mad as it looks from the outside, it's a lot madder on the inside. It's so mad that it seems perfectly rational to them. It's my brother I wish you could talk to. Do you think you could... dream him?"
"I never have."
Sirius nodded. "Well, he talked to me enough. I thought he was full of it and as mad as Mum, so I just ignored him, but... I reckon it might help you to know how he talked. How he felt."
"It really might," Teddy said. "But Regulus turned out good at the end."
"When Voldemort hurt Kreacher," Sirius reminded him. "Because that was the sum of it, for Regulus. There was a whole world that he loved. He felt like it was crumbling around him, and he found the worst possible way to defend it. I don't imagine Lucius was ever as sentimental as Reg, but I think it probably comes from the same place. The way you hear Phillips... imagine that he heard everyone who expressed doubt about pure-blood privilege exactly like that. I think that's how we all sounded to Reg, and probably Lucius, too. Must have felt like walking around with a stone in their shoes all the time."
"I don't think it was in their shoes," Mum muttered. "Now, enough of this. Teddy will do fine. Harry and Ron and Ruth will catch Cresswell, and everything will straighten itself out. Which brings us back to the fair Miss Weasley..."
Teddy talked to the portrait until he felt considerably better, then finished his Potions homework, scryed for Divination, and put in an hour's research on a rather long paper that was due in Charms next month. Lastly, he wrote a letter to Minerva McGonagall. It wouldn't be wise at this particular point to reveal to the world that he was an Animagus, but he could formally begin his studies, so that, should he need to escape that way, it couldn't be held against Uncle Harry for harboring an illegal Animagus. Again.
Still not sleepy, though it was getting late, he transformed into a hawk and slipped out of his window. He thought briefly of going back for his letter and delivering it to McGonagall personally, but decided against it. Better to at least give the appearance of playing by the book, so she would also have some sort of plausible deniability.
With no particular destination in mind, he aimlessly followed the trench that had once been the secret passage ot the Shrieking Shack. At this time of year, it was partly full of muddy ice, and its sides glistened with frost in the moonlight. He followed its meandering line to Screech Hill, landed and transformed, and reached out for the keys. They came into his hand, and he opened the gate.
Despite the cool of winter, a few hardy things had taken root in the little valley he and Victoire had created of the cellar hole in October. A little scrubby pine tree she'd moved was now sturdily rooted in a new place, and there was moss on the rocks. At the top of the hill, the tulip-shaped window into nothing was glowing in the moonlight. Teddy went to it.
There was no reason to believe that the glass carried any magic. True, it had been broken in the magical shattering of the house, but as far as Teddy knew, there was no special after-effect of the Blasting Curse, other than a lot of rubble. Still, he sat down in front of it, looking through it toward the spot where his house had once stood. It had got a bit dirty, so he cleaned it off. The moon was behind him now, and the far side of the glass was dark. It showed his reflection almost as truly as a mirror.
He passed his hand over it, as he would his crystal ball.
Silly idea, anyway.
He didn't feel like flying back to school yet, so he lay down on the cold ground and cast a Warming Charm on himself. The earthy breezes and the far off stars lulled him, and he drifted down into sleep.
In sleep, the cold winter night became a soft and warm summer day. He looked through the glass, and saw the Shrieking Shack as he'd once imagined it--not grand, but friendly and welcoming. Through its windows, he could see the ghosts of his brothers and sisters wandering shapelessly in the ether. He knew that Dad was in the garden shed behind him, sleeping off a full moon. The back door opened, and Mum came out. She sat on the other side of the glass, and morphed her nose into a pig's nose.
Teddy smiled. "That's a useful one."
"I always liked it," she said. "It seems you've been morphing quite a lot lately."
"Oh, just into Lucius. And Wings," Teddy added, flapping his arms to indicate a bird.
"Really?" Mum morphed into Teddy, grimacing at the Malfoys, then into Teddy bent over his homework, then into Teddy laughing with the portrait.
"Oh, that... that was just... well, there's a lot going on."
"I know. I wonder if you've missed anything important." She morphed into Ruthless, then into Victoire, then into Uncle Harry, then into Lucius, then into Honoria, then into Laura Chapman. She held the last form. "What do you think, Teddy? Have you missed something?"
He awoke with a start, cold again, blinking into the pre-dawn darkness.
In everything... Laura. What had Laura said?
I don't think Cresswell's alone anymore.
He straightened his shoulders.
I don't think Cresswell's alone anymore. I see shadows around him.
He transformed into Wings without any hesitation, and flew back to the castle, slipping into his window before anyone would know he'd been missing.
It hadn't even occurred to him to tell Uncle Harry what Laura had seen in Divination Class. Uncle Harry didn't take Divination particularly seriously, anyway. But that had been important.
It was true that they had to catch Sam Cresswell. The plan they had in place might even work.
But it wouldn't be the end of it.