Character(s): Teddy Lupin-centric
Length: 1666 words
Summary: Little Teddy Lupin meets a strange wizard during an outing in Diagon Alley...
Note: Dedicated to kikei with lots of love, and beta-read at warp speed by melusinahp. Title has been filched from 'Deathly Hallows'.
The world was full of legs and feet and shopping bags, and Teddy wanted to stop and watch the sleepy horned owls in the window of Eeylops'. He strained against Gran's hold on his hand, only to find himself being pulled along as if she didn't even notice.
He sucked in deep breath and let out a wail, but it wasn't loud enough with all the feet and robes clogging the road, and him so small. Gran just held his hand tighter and glared down at him. "Oh, be quiet Teddy, we'll be at the Floo in a minute."
Teddy hated the Floo – the soot went right up his nose and made him sneeze, and he was scared that the green flames might one day change their mind and burn him. He was tired and his back itched where Madam Malkin had scratched him with a pin when he'd squirmed against his too-warm new robes.
He reached out to hug Merlin for reassurance, and cried out when his oversized robe pockets came up empty. He'd stuffed him inside when they'd left Madam Malkin, he knew he had, and now he was gone! Digging his heels in, he wildly pulled away from Gran until his sweaty little fingers slid from her grasp. He ducked away under her arm and ran.
He raced down the road they'd come from, frantically searching for a glimpse of Merlin's bright fur among the mass of flapping robes, and pretending he couldn't hear Gran yelling behind him. Uncle Harry would use a Summoning Charm, would lift up a squealing Teddy into the air and rope him back towards him; Teddy loved the sensation, the prickling in his stomach, and made a game out of running off. Gran never used it. Maybe it was a spell for Aurors.
His trainer caught in a gap between two cobbled stones, and he stumbled hard, grazing his knee and the palms of his hands on the uneven stones. Tears spilled in his eyes and he let out a soft cry. He wasn't bleeding and Gran wasn't there, so there was no use in howling, but his hands and knees were red with little bits of gravel, and it stung.
Sniffling, he climbed to his feet and threw a look over his shoulder. Maybe Gran was looking for him. She knew all sorts of healing charms and could make his scrapes disappear in an instant. She had to do it often enough.
A flash of green and gold in the crowd made him think he'd seen Gran's travelling cloak, and he took off towards it, only to bang head-first into a tall wizard with long pale blond hair like Aunt Fleur. Teddy stared. The man's face was pointy and not very friendly, but his hair was nice. Maybe he was a Veeler too?
"You seem to be lost, young man."
"I'm looking for Merlin," Teddy explained.
A silvery eyebrow rose. "I beg your pardon?"
"Merlin." Teddy repeated. "My Pygmy Puff," he explained a bit impatiently. Adults could be so slow sometimes.
The man scrunched up his nose. "A silly girl's pet."
Teddy gasped in outrage. "It's not! It's blue!" It wasn't as if he had one of the pink things that Aunt Ginny bred in her study, who purred and breathed and had all the girls fawning over them, while Uncle Harry laughed and said he should charge her with breaking the Ban on Experimental Breeding. Merlin was made from fuzzy cloth. He didn't purr. And he wasn't pink!
To illustrate, he turned his hair the same sky blue colour of Merlin's fuzzy fur. It was something that got most people to smile, except for Gran who sometimes looked as if she was going to cry. The man's face, however, twisted in disgust like Uncle Ron's when he was changing stinky nappies on Rose or James.
"Theodore Lupin." It was his name, and yet the man made it sound like a piece of dirt.
"Teddy," Teddy corrected. He wasn't very fond of his given name either. It sounded way too big for him.
"And why might the godson of famous Harry Potter be running wild in Diagon Alley, all by himself?"
Teddy wasn't surprised that the man knew Uncle Harry. Most people did. However, most people were impressed. This man just looked angry, as if he disliked Uncle Harry. But that wasn't possible, was it?
"You didn't bite anyone, I hope."
Teddy's face went hot. He knew his Dad had been a werewolf, and he'd spent way too many days before the full moon under observation at St Mungo's when he was younger. All the adults had worried that he might turn out to be one too, even though they'd never admitted it. But no one ever talked about it like this, not since the nasty Healer at St Mungo's who'd sneered at him behind Gran's and Uncle Harry's back until Aunt Ginny had noticed and sent him away.
"I'm not a werewolf!" he yelled.
A thin smile curved the wizard's thin lips. "But that isn't certain yet, is it boy? Not before the onset of puberty. The monster might still be sleeping inside you. You might still be a creature, unfit for participation in wizarding society. Just like your father."
"I hate you!" Teddy shrilled, knowing that he was awfully rude and Gran and Aunt Ginny would be horrified if they could hear him. He kicked at the man's shin, but only bruised his toes on the repellent charm on the knee-high boots.
The man's face went cold in a way that shut up Teddy's second wail before it could start. "No more than I hate you, boy."
Teddy's eyes went wide. Gran was often angry with him, when he raced around or screamed or spat out his carrots, and Aunt Ginny sometimes asked "You're a little nuisance, aren't you?" as if it wasn't a question. But they loved him as much as Uncle Harry, of that he was sure. Nobody had ever hated him.
His face scrunched up. He sniffled and rubbed the back of his hand across his face, staring at the black gleam of the bad man's boots.
Then he heard a sigh and a muttered, "Oh, to hell with it." He looked up and saw that the wizard was raising his wand hand. He took a step backwards and made to run, but the man's other hand grabbed him by the hood at the back of his new robe.
"Accio Theodore Lupin's toy!"
A moment later, something bright and blue came zipping through the street, skirting hat points and tousling hair while witches and wizards ducked to avoid being smacked in the head by a soft toy gone mad. A shy smile stole onto Teddy's lips as he opened his arms, and Merlin shot between them and banged into his chest like a fuzzy pillow. He wrapped both arms around the Pygmy Puff and hugged it.
"All right, now let's see if we can reunite the Great Potter with his cub," said the wizard, prudently holding on to Teddy's hood. Still disgruntled, Teddy peered up at him somewhat hopefully. The wizard was bad, but he wanted to go home. He wanted his Gran.
"Not Uncle Harry," he said. "My Gran."
The wizard cocked his head to the side. "Andromeda?"
Teddy nodded. "My Gran."
At the same time, he saw the green-and-gold glint of Gran's fancy travelling cloak. He pulled at the wizard's robe and pointed.
The man pulled his hand off the soft fabric and smoothed the folds Teddy had crinkled. But he looked in Gran's direction and took a step forward, still holding on to Teddy's robe so he couldn't run off.
Gran's face went white when she saw them, and she dropped her bags. Teddy ducked, expecting to be scolded. Instead, Gran's hand went to her wand the same way the neighbourhood children duelled while playing Aurors and Death Eaters. Just faster. Teddy's heart started to hammer.
The man held him by the scruff of his neck with one hand, the other placed over his own wand sheath. For a moment, all of Diagon Alley seemed to hold its breath, oblivious to the milling crowd of shoppers. Then Gran let out a long breath and released her wand. She inclined her head a fraction.
"Madam Tonks." He emphasised the last name, and it took Teddy a moment to remember that that was what Gran was called by strangers. "I gather this belongs to you?" He released Teddy's robe and gave him a push forward so that he stumbled into Gran's arms.
Instead of scolding, she gave him a hug that had Teddy gasping for breath. He curled into the soft warmth of her cloak and the familiar scent of her perfume.
"Thank you for returning my grandson," Gran said, in a very clipped, polite tone. "I hope he was no trouble."
The wizard looked down his nose at Teddy. "It wasn't exactly a pleasure, but you're welcome," he said. "Now, if you excuse me? I have more important business to attend to."
Gran inclined her head again. "Of course you have, Draco."
Her eyes followed the wizard's retreating back as he disappeared into the crowd, his hair swishing behind him like a bright curtain. Her hand closed around Teddy's.
"Let's go home."
Teddy bit his lip. "Am I going to be a werewolf?" he asked.
Gran looked down at him, her lips thinning for a moment as if she was going to ask him what had brought on that question. But she didn't.
"I don't think so, Teddy," she answered softly. "And either way, it would make no difference."
Teddy thought back to the blond wizard's sneer, and understood that not everybody would agree. But then, he thought as he fell into the rhythm of Gran's steps, still holding on tightly to her hand, the bad man was just a stranger. And, unlike family, his opinion didn't really matter.