"Bollocks to family!" Teddy said, kicking—and missing—a curious garden gnome who was trying to pluck at one of the globs of jam and crumbs clinging to the hem of his horribly uncomfortable dress robes. He looked around quickly to make sure he was alone, gnome notwithstanding. Gran would box his ears if she heard him using that sort of language. Not that she was all that happy with him anyway, foul language or no.
He'd been in a dreadful mood for days, and hadn't wanted to come today at all. He'd put up a fair fight, he thought, having one of his better sulks while smashing up his bedroom. He loved the solid thunk his shoes made when he hurled them at the walls, and the faint tinkle of glass when the picture frame had fallen from his dresser.
He hadn't meant that one—he'd done it accidentally, magically—but he discovered that breaking things had made him feel better. Well, sort of better. He still hated everyone, but it had made him feel good for those few minutes anyway. Until Gran had flung open his door in a fury, waved her wand and righted everything, and dragged him kicking and screaming into the bath under threat of castration. He had no idea what that meant, but it hadn't sounded very pleasant.
She'd made him come today as punishment because he hadn't wanted to come. All he wanted was to be left alone in his room to sulk in peace for a few years, though the Unbreakable Charms Gran had put on his things took most of the fun out of throwing them about. He had been hungry, though, and he'd realised that his plan for solitude had a few major flaws.
Aunt Molly had fussed over him when they'd arrived, exclaiming over how handsome and sweet he looked in his robes.
"Nonsense," she'd said to Gran when Gran had told her what a wretch he'd been. "I raised six boys," she said, and paused for a moment, her face sad for the briefest of moments before brightening again, "and they were all mischievous at times. Some more than others," she added in an undertone as she bustled him off to the table in the kitchen where she set a plate of jam cakes and a glass of milk before him. "That's just the way of them.
"Go on, love," she said. "I'm sure you're hungry, and look at you! Growing like a weed, you are. You'll be as tall as your father was soon enough." He sat stiffly as she ruffled his hair. "Your cousin Victoire will be here soon, so you two can play together," she added, turning back to his Gran and ushering her into the parlour with a flurry of excited conversation, leaving him to his snack.
Normally he loved Aunt Molly. She spoiled him terribly, always cooked delicious food, and hardly ever yelled at him; not like she yelled at Uncle George or Uncle Ron anyway. But today he hated everyone, so he'd eyed the large plate of cakes with narrowed eyes and proceeded to methodically suck the jam out of each one, replacing all but one, which he stuffed into his mouth. He swallowed and quickly drank his milk to wash it down, and fled, sticky-fingered, out through the back door into the garden. Victoire loved Aunt Molly's jam cakes and she'd be furious when she discovered all the jam was gone.
It was damp and windy out here in the garden, and he shivered against the drizzly November chill, but he knew if he went back inside to fetch his cloak he'd be in for a scolding. He'd get one anyway, but it seemed best to put it off for now. If he was really wet and cold by the time they found him, Aunt Molly would take pity on him and ply him with hot tea or, if he was lucky, a nice cup of cocoa.
He bent to pick up a rock and the gnome scurried up his robe toward another glob of jam further up his leg.
"Hey!" he yelled, and struck at it in an attempt to dislodge it. "Stop that! Get off me, ya bastard." He dropped the rock and grabbed its head, pushing it away. "Get off, I said! Ouch!" he yelped a moment later and stumbled back, falling onto his backside. He put his finger in his mouth and sucked at the bite while he kicked at the gnome.
"Don't do that," a soft voice said from behind him.
He glanced up sharply, and a moment later, the gnome was gone, now held kicking and muttering in the hands of a tall blonde woman. She scolded the gnome in a gentle voice, and then placed him back on the ground further in the garden. "Go on now," she said to the gnome, making a shooing gesture with her hand.
The gnome glared up at her, shrugged, and tottered away into the underbrush, muttering.
He recognised the woman, though he'd only met her once or twice. It was Harry and Ginny's friend Luna. She knelt down beside him, unmindful of the wet grass, and gently took his finger from his mouth, peering at the bite mark with interest.
"That's lucky," she said, looking up at his face with a bright smile. "Gernumbli saliva is very beneficial, you know."
Teddy scowled and pulled his hand back. "It's not a 'numbli, it's a stupid, ugly gnome," he said, and stuck his finger back in his mouth.
"Oh, they're not stupid," Luna said, peering into the garden where the gnome, now joined by a friend, was peeping out at them from a clump of brush. "See?" she said, pointing. She turned back to Teddy, looking at him with interest. "How do you feel? Do you have any unusual urges?"
Teddy shrugged and looked away, not having any idea what she was talking about. He wanted her to leave him alone so he could sulk in peace. He took his finger from his mouth and scowled anew at the small bite mark. "Stupid gnome," he repeated. At least it wasn't bleeding. He looked toward the bushes and mimed throwing something at the two gnomes, who ducked and scampered away.
Luna laughed, a breathy, snorty kind of laugh, and Teddy grinned despite himself. He looked up to find her watching at him, and he scowled again, his 'I hate everyone' mask falling back into place.
She reached up and touched the ends of his hair where they nearly brushed his collar, still grinning even as he ducked away from her touch. "It's lovely the way it changes colour," she said.
"Hmmph. I hate it," he said, and quickly clapped his hand over his mouth. He didn't want to talk to anyone, and who did she think she was, intruding on his private sulk?
Luna dropped her hand. "You don't really mean that," she said.
"I do!" he said, forgetting himself in his indignation. "It's all because of my stupid hair that I can't go to the village school and Gran won't let me play with the Muggles next door! And when I do go out, I have to wear a hat, always, even in summer when it's hot." He drew his knees up and hugged them, resting his chin atop them.
"Ah," Luna said. He stole a glance at her, but she was looking toward the bushes again.
"I cut it all off once with scissors," he said proudly. "Though I missed a bunch in the back 'cause I couldn't reach too good. Gran went completely spare when I told her now I could go to school and make friends." He frowned. "She told me my mother was never this much trouble." He glanced sideways at her again. "Did you know my mum?"
Luna shook her head. "No, not really."
"Oh," Teddy said, and looked down at the wet, brown grass.
"I knew your father," Luna said a moment later. "He was a very nice man."
Teddy grunted. That's what everyone said. Remus Lupin was nice. Big deal, nice. If he was so nice, he wouldn't have died and left Teddy all alone.
"I didn't have many friends when I was growing up," she said. "It wasn't so bad."
"You didn't have any brothers and sisters either?" Teddy asked, turning his head fully, and resting his ear on his knees to look at her.
Luna shook her head.
"Not really," Luna said, still staring into the bushes. "Well, they were much older, and they moved far away when I was still a baby."
He didn't have any cousins either. Not that they spoke to at any rate. Unless you counted Victoire, but he didn't because she was no fun to play with anyway. All she ever wanted to do was play dolls or worse, play with his hair. She'd try to make him change its colour and when he refused, she'd tease him until he got angry and it changed all by itself. Then she'd chase him around, laughing, and he'd yell at her and get in trouble for calling her names, and Gran would take his broom away as punishment.
Victoire didn't care because she was afraid to fly anyway, and she never got in trouble because she was younger and a girl, and he was older so he was supposed to know better. He still didn't know what it was that he was supposed to know or why it would be better, but it made him hate his hair even more.
"Hmmph," he said, dismissing Victoire from his thoughts after a very brief grin as he wondered if she'd found the jam cakes yet. He waved his hand through the wet grass, thinking. His bottom was soaked through, and he wriggled a bit in discomfort, but he didn't care enough to do anything more about it. Soiling his dress robes was just one more thing to get yelled at for. Gran had already taken his broom away and locked it in the cupboard. He probably wouldn't see it again until spring. He picked up a stick and poked it at the ground, still feeling sulky. "But you had parents."
He heard a slight rustle of cloth, but didn't turn to look at her.
"Yes," she said, "but my mum died when I was nine."
He did look up at her then. Her eyes were wide and she was looking at him a bit strangely. "Oh. I didn't know that." He dropped the stick and wiped his hand on his robes. "Um, I'm sorry."
She smiled at him. "It's all right. It was a long time ago, and she's always with me anyway."
Teddy's eyes widened. "You mean like a ghost?" he asked, looking around for a hint of shimmering silver.
"Oh, no," Luna said, smiling. "Ghosts are nice to talk to, but it would get awfully tiring to have her constantly floating around, hovering. She's in here," she said pointing at her chest. "Even now I can feel her. Your mum and dad are there, too," she said, pointing at him.
Teddy looked at her sceptically. He didn't feel his parents anywhere, and rather thought it would be nice to have them around to talk to, even as ghosts. Plus, if they scolded him for misbehaving, they couldn't very well take away his broom since they wouldn't be able to touch it.
"You don't believe me," Luna said. "That's all right, I'm used to that. Harry didn't believe me when I told him his house had a horrible infestation of Peeping Trildofligs either, but luckily I knew how to lure them away, and he hasn't had any trouble from them since," she said knowingly.
"What's a Peeping Tril– Tril...?" Teddy asked, wrinkling his nose. He couldn't recall his stuffy old tutor, Mr Hodgekiss, ever having mentioned them, but then again, the old geezer had a knack for making even dragons sound dull. He hated his lessons, and didn't care if the old geezer had tutored his mother when she was his age. He hated being compared to his mother, especially when it started off with, "Your mother never would have..." He'd wondered once, if his mother had hated her lessons, too, but thought not, since she was apparently so perfect in every way. Not like him...
"Trildoflig," Luna said, interrupting his thoughts. "Well, they look awfully cute, sort of like tiny Puffskeins or a great big fuzzy clump of lint or dust. People often mistake them for dust, you know. They like to hide under beds, too.
"I remember back in school, Ginny had one as a pet! Can you imagine? Although she promised it was a Pygmy Puff," she said doubtfully. "But up close..." She shuddered. "They use their appearance to lure the unsuspecting witch or wizards. If you touch them, they cling to you like cockleburs and you can't dislodge them. They especially like hair, because it's so soft to nest in. Their tiny claws have a powerful venom that paralyzes their victims temporarily, and then they sing as its effects begin to wear off, though I've heard it's more like a warbling sound. The singing puts the witch or wizard into a trance," she said in her singsong voice, nodding.
Teddy sat up, mouth gaping in horror, and put his hands to his head, fingers scrabbling though his hair.
"If you catch them early enough, sometimes the effects are reversible, except for the occasional tendency to stare at nothing for hours at a time of course, and there are many stories of witches and wizards wasting away to nothing, completely ignorant to the existence of such dangerous creatures. My father has pleaded with the Ministry many times about educating the public to no avail." She sighed. "But don't you worry," she said, taking Teddy's hands in hers. "Your Gran is very sensible and wouldn't stand for such things in her house. I'm sure it's perfectly safe."
"How–how d'ya get rid of them?" he asked, just in case. His Gran was a very smart and powerful witch, but one could never be too careful. And he spent a lot of time at Harry's house, or at least he used to. He didn't want to think about that right now, though.
"Honey with a bit of powdered mugwort mixed in," she said, letting go his hands. "You leave a trail out the door. They can't resist it—just like bees, really, but it's the mugwort that makes a difference. And after they've gone, you sprinkle a potion made with sliced Gurdyroots around the doors and windows so they won't come back. Gurdyroot is very helpful," she added. "It's really excellent for warding off Gulping Plimpies, too, though it should be whole for that, not sliced and brewed."
"You're sure they won't come back?" Teddy asked.
"Of course," she said, smiling. "When I was over visiting at Harry and Ginny's house last week, I made sure to check for new hatchlings. Just in case, with the baby. Wouldn't do at all, and I wasn't sure if they might have left behind a few eggs. They usually take the eggs with them, but you never know when you might have a forgetful Trildoflig in the bunch. The eggs take two years to hatch, so it's important to repeat the process. But I was very thorough. You don't have to worry about them when you visit. They've all gone."
Teddy scowled. "Doesn't matter," he said, dropping his head and picking up the stick again. "Not like I'll be visiting much anyway," he muttered.
"Teddy! Are you out here? Teddy?"
Teddy ignored his grandmother's call and continued his judicious digging. Luna, however, stood and dusted off her hands.
"He's here with me, Mrs Tonks."
Luna reached down to offer him her hand, and he studiously ignored it, casually flinging clomps of mud with his stick. He heard her hum softly, and he wiped his nose on his sleeve as she patted his head instead.
"Teddy," his grandmother said sternly a few moments later. He ignored her again, too. "You're soaked through, and look what you've done to your good robes." She sighed.
"Harry and Ginny have come with the baby," she said, leaning over and plucking the stick from his cold fingers.
"Don't care," he muttered.
He heard her sigh again. "Come inside," she said.
"Don't wanna," he replied, digging now with his fingers. He'd show her, taking away his stick like that.
"Teddy," she said with an edge to her voice. "Now."
"Is there a problem?"
"Oh, Harry, dear. You didn't need to come outside. I was just bringing him in."
"I see," Harry said. Teddy scowled and kept digging, his fingers hitting hard dirt beneath the mud. He raised his hand briefly, pleased to see the bits of brown beneath his fingernails, and sunk them back into the grass and mud, using his index finger and thumb to pry loose a deep-sunk stone.
"Yes, well, he's been having a fit of the sullens lately."
"Have not!" Teddy retorted. Whatever sullens were.
Harry chuckled and murmured something to his Gran that he couldn't hear. A moment later, he saw Harry's knee out of the corner of his eye as Harry squatted down beside him. His Gran had left them alone. Good.
"Gloomy day," he said casually. "You must be chilled to the bone by now."
Teddy shrugged then gasped in delight as the stone came loose and a fat earthworm wriggled out from underneath, twisting its body and dislodging small clumps of dirt as it struggled in the open air. He picked it up and set it on his palm, watching it wriggle and writhe.
"Haven't seen you in a while, kiddo," Harry said. "I've missed you."
Teddy shrugged again and turned so his back was to Harry, still intent on his new acquisition.
"I see," said Harry. "So it's me you're angry with, too. I'm sorry I couldn't take you to the Cannons match on Thursday. Your Uncle Ron did offer to take you instead, though, and he was pretty upset that you wouldn't come. Ended up going with your Uncle Percy, and while Percy's a nice enough bloke, well." Harry cleared his throat. "Ron said they even came close to winning, too. He was sorry you missed it."
"He's not really my uncle."
"Well, no. That's true. But he likes to pretend he is. He and your Au— He and Hermione both love you very much, you know."
Teddy grunted. "S'fine. I get it. You don't have time to be my godfather anymore 'cause you have your own son now, so Unc—so you want Ron to do it since he doesn't have any kids. He doesn't have to. I'm almost seven now, so I don't need a godfather anymore anyway."
There was a squishing sound behind him as Harry sat down, but he didn't reply. So Teddy had been right after all. He poked at the worm a little more vigourously than he probably ought to.
"That's very grown up of you," Harry said after a while. "Why would you...I mean, how did you come to that, ah, conclusion?"
Teddy wrinkled his nose and sprinkled dirt on the worm in his palm. "'Cause I'm smart, even if old Hodgepiss—"
"Teddy!" Harry scolded.
"Well, he is," Teddy retorted. He dropped the worm onto a large brown leaf in his lap and turned to Harry, looking at him for the first time. He'd expected Harry to be angry and frowny like his Gran, and was surprised to discover that instead he looked tired, and very sad.
"Professor Hodgekiss," he said, emphasising the name, "thinks I'm dumb. He tells me so all the time, that I'm not as good as my mum was, and I'm a nuisance and a ras— rasable. I tried to look up rasable in the dictionary but," he ducked his head, blushing, "I couldn't find it."
"Irascible," Harry said, frowning.
"That's what I said," Teddy said impudently. "I hate him!"
"He shouldn't have said that. I'll talk to your Gran about that."
"You don't have to. 'S'not your job anymore. I can look out for myself."
"I know you can," Harry said, the corners of his mouth turning up in a hint of a smile. "You're very smart, much smarter than I was at your age," he added. "But, Teddy, even smart people are wrong sometimes."
"Hmmph," Teddy said, pouting a bit, and crossing his arms.
"Ginny is very smart. Smarter than me, even," Harry said, "but she makes mistakes just like everybody else does. Even when she doesn't think she's wrong. Remember when she yelled at us both last summer after we fell in the lake, right before we were leaving for Victoire's birthday party?"
Teddy giggled. "She called you some really bad names."
"She did indeed," Harry said. "She thought we did it on purpose, but it was an accident, wasn't it?"
"Your Gran is a very smart lady, too, but I think maybe she was wrong to not let you come to the hospital."
Teddy looked down just in time to scoop the wayward worm back onto the leaf. He'd had a huge row with his grandmother. She'd felt that hospitals were no place for young children, and that he would only be underfoot. And besides, she'd said, he had plenty of time to see the new baby once he was home. What she hadn't understood was that he didn't really want to see the new baby. Well, not much. He'd wanted to see Harry.
Harry had firecalled to tell them after baby James was born, but he'd been asleep at the time and Gran hadn't bothered to wake him; she merely told him the news over breakfast the next morning. He'd fidgeted though his lessons that day, and after the old geezer had gone home, he'd waited by the Floo for hours, waiting for Harry to call back, but he hadn't done so. Then Gran had yelled at him for not doing his homework, and he'd stormed off to his bedroom.
Three whole days had passed since, and still Harry hadn't called. He'd had Uncle Ron call instead, to take him to the Quidditch match. He did feel a bit bad for refusing, since Uncle Ron had seemed so excited about going. And truth be told, he'd really wanted to go to the match. He liked Ron—and Hermione—an awful lot, but Uncle Ron especially because he was always sneaking him things from Uncle George's store and making him laugh. Aunt Hermione didn't think Ron was very funny though.
He'd snuck the wireless into his bedroom and listened to some of the match until Gran had come in and told him it was time for supper. Unlike Harry and Ginny, Gran wasn't much for Quidditch and didn't allow the wireless at the supper table. He loved his Gran, but he was going to miss the frequent visits with Harry.
He looked up at Harry and swallowed over the lump in his throat. "I–I'd just be in the way. 'Sides, you have your own family now."
"And I heard Gran talking to Aunt Molly yesterday on the Floo, about how Un– um, Ron is gonna be baby James' godfather, so he doesn't need me either. I'd just be in his way, too," he said, and hurriedly swiped at his eyes. He laid the leaf down on the ground and sprinkled dirt and dead grass over it, half-covering the still-wriggling worm.
"Teddy," Harry said, then leant over, picked him up and sat him on his lap, putting his arms around Teddy's middle and hugging him close. "Your bottom's soaking wet," he said casually.
Teddy hiccupped in response and tried to squirm away. He caught a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye, and saw the gnome dart over to the leaf, grab his worm, and stuff it into his mouth.
"My worm!" he cried. "He ate my worm! I'll kill you, you stupid gnome!" He struggled against Harry's arms as the gnome made a rude gesture and ran away into the bushes, and began to cry.
Harry turned him so his face was against the front of Harry's robes, and held him tightly, rubbing his back and rocking them both gently back and forth. Unbidden, Teddy threw his arms around Harry, even though they couldn't quite reach all the way around his back, and sobbed. "Hate. . . stupid. . . gnome. . .nobody. . .stupid family. . ."
"Shhh," Harry said. "Hush now."
Teddy sniffed loudly and rubbed his dripping nose on Harry's robe. He felt a deep rumble in Harry's chest as he chuckled, felt him shift and mutter something, and a moment later, Harry was gently pushing him back and offering him a handkerchief. "Much better than my robe or your sleeve," he said.
Teddy took it grudgingly and swiped at his face. He sniffed again and hiccupped, and Harry chuckled again, hugging him close once more.
"Well, I tried. Oh, Teddy, what am I going to do with you, you silly boy. Yes, silly," he added as Teddy tried to squirm away, "but don't confuse silly with stupid."
"'M not either," Teddy said crossly, both embarrassed that he'd cried even worse than Victoire when he'd cut the hair off her favourite doll, and angry at being called silly. "M not a baby!"
"No, you're not," Harry said, stroking Teddy's hair. "It has nothing to do with age. Teddy, look at me."
Teddy shook his head. Harry leaned back and put his finger under Teddy's chin, lifting it gently. His finger was cold, and Teddy squirmed, scrunching his eyes closed. A drop of water from his damp hair rolled down his nose. He stuck out his tongue and caught it as it dripped off the end, but kept his eyes closed.
"Teddy," Harry said softly. "Please."
Teddy opened one eye just a crack. Harry's face was solemn. He had faint dark smudges under his eyes, his nose and ears were bright red from the cold, and he looked very tired.
"It wouldn't matter if Ginny and I had a hundred children. You're my godson, you will always be my godson, and I will never ever love you any less.
"I asked Ron to take you to the Quidditch, not for any reason except that I wasn't able to make it. And it wasn't because I didn't want to see you." He sighed and shifted Teddy on his lap. "Babies, unlike almost-seven-year-olds, are pretty helpless. And Ginny was still feeling tired. It was very hard work for her, you know, having the baby."
Teddy wrinkled his nose. "How did she get it out?"
Harry chuckled. "Oh, the usual way, and I think we'll leave that discussion for a bit later. With your Gran. Or Ginny," he added. "It's not important anyway."
Teddy pouted a bit, but nodded. "Okay. Is she feeling better?"
Harry smiled. "Yes, much better, and she'll be glad you asked. Though you can see for yourself in a minute. We're both very tired, because James doesn't sleep for more than a few hours at a time, and when he wakes up, he's hungry and he yells even louder than you," Harry said, and tweaked Teddy's nose.
"I don't yell," Teddy said, and ducked his head. "Okay, maybe sometimes I do," he conceded.
"Mmmm," Harry said, and motioned for Teddy to stand up. He scrambled to his feet, and Harry followed, dusting off his robes. "It's cold, and we're both wet through. Any longer and our bollocks will freeze off, eh? Will you come inside with me? We can ask Aunt Molly to make us some hot cocoa with the little marshmallows."
"Okay," he said slowly, "but Gran's going to yell at me for being all wet and muddy."
Harry took his wand from his pocket, cast a quick cleaning charm and hastily dried them off with a blast of heat from his wand tip. His underpants were still wet, but his Gran didn't have to know that.
"Thanks," he said, smiling for the first time in what felt like ages. "She's still gonna make me take a bath when I get home though."
"I'm sure Ginny will make me do the same," Harry said, holding out his hand. "Women have a thing about us men being clean. You get used to it."
"Maybe," Teddy said doubtfully, and slipped his small hand into Harry's larger one.
Cleaning charms weren't much good for getting dirt out from under fingernails, but while he had scrubbed his hands clean in the sink with lots of foamy soap, Aunt Molly had made them both large mugs of hot cocoa. His Gran had shaken her head at him, bent to give him a hug, and then smacked him lightly on his bum. It hadn't hurt, and he'd grinned shyly in apology.
Now that he was clean and warm—he'd taken off his wet underpants and hidden them behind a large potted plant in the parlour—and full, he and Harry ascended the stairs to Ginny's old bedroom on the second floor.
He looked back over his shoulder, and Harry nodded, so he slowly pushed open the door and peered inside.
"Teddy! There you are!" Ginny said, smiling at him. She was seated on a big rocking chair, the baby on her lap. "Come in. Good timing, too. I just finished feeding him."
Teddy walked over to where Ginny sat, feeling suddenly shy. "I'm glad you're feeling better," he said, lowering his eyes.
"That's very sweet of you. I am, thank you. Now come over here," she said, pointing her chin to the side of the chair. "There's someone we want you to meet."
Teddy walked around the side of the chair. A crib had been set up in the corner of the room, and four brightly coloured birds were slowly flying above it in a tight circle.
He turned back to Ginny and peered over the arm of the chair. The baby was very small with a big red scrunchy-looking face under his white knit cap. His eyes were wide open, and he looked like he was staring down at his nose while blowing saliva bubbles with his mouth. He'd heard the adults downstairs exclaiming over how beautiful the baby was, but Teddy thought he looked like the gnomes in the garden.
"Isn't he beautiful?" Ginny asked.
Teddy cleared his throat. "Oh. Yes. Very beautiful," he said.
Harry laughed. "Well, he looks better now than he did in hospital. When he was first born," Harry whispered conspiratorially, "he was covered in white stuff, and he looked like a long, chubby gargoyle, except for his ears."
Teddy laughed, and Ginny tried to hide her own grin. "What a terrible thing to say," she said. "Oh, again?" She quickly lifted the baby to her shoulder and alternately patted and rubbed his back. Teddy scooted along behind the chair to look at the baby face to face.
"Oh, Teddy, you might not want to stand—"
The rest of her sentence was lost as the baby gave a huge belch, and spit up all over the flannel on Ginny's shoulder and Teddy.
"Ewww," he cried, jumping back and wiping the goo from his face and robes. "That's disgusting! Hey! What's the big idea?" he said to the baby, glaring. The baby just looked back at him and hiccupped.
Teddy turned his glare on Harry, who was unsuccessfully trying to stifle his laughter. "'S'not funny!"
"Oh, Harry, stop teasing the boy and clean him up already," Ginny said. "I'm sorry, Teddy. I should have warned you sooner. But you shouldn't feel badly. Come on back around, the front here. And Harry!"
"Y–yes dear," he said, and cast another cleaning charm. He cleared his throat. "Sorry, Teddy."
"No you're not," he said, still glaring.
"Don't pay him any mind, Teddy. As I was saying, you shouldn't feel too badly. It could have been worse. When the mediwitch handed James to his father for the first time, James peed all over him."
"Oh, so that's funny, is it," Harry said, still grinning as he reached over to ruffle Teddy's hair. Teddy ducked away, still laughing.
"All right, you two," Ginny said, smiling at the both of them. "Did you ask him?"
"No," Harry said, grabbing Teddy by his waist and planting a loud kiss on the top of his head. "Knucklehead," he said fondly. "Not yet, but maybe I should have, considering. He might not want to now."
"Ask me what?" Teddy said. "And stop kissing me," he added, though he secretly liked it. Not that he'd ever tell.
Harry grinned. "I'll get you later. Anyway," he said, releasing Teddy, "we have a special favour to ask you. You know we've asked Ron and Hermione to stand as godparents to the little dumpling—"
"Harry!" Ginny scolded. Teddy grinned. He did look a bit dumpling-shaped.
"—but we have another job that needs filling, if you're willing that is."
Teddy narrowed his eyes and put his hands on his hips. "I'm not changing any nappies."
"Oh, no," Ginny said. "That's his father's job."
"And his mother's," Harry said, narrowing his eyes at his wife, though he was still smiling. "No, no nappies, unless you change your mind later. You never know — you might like it once you give it a try."
"Uh-uh," Teddy said, shaking his head firmly. "That's disgusting!" He shuffled his feet. "So what do you need me for?"
"Well, Ginny and I have been talking this over for a while now, and we realized that James is going to need someone to teach him things, and maybe play with him as he gets older. A big brother. And we decided that there's nobody better for the job than you. That is, if you want it."
Teddy looked at them, both smiling down at him. He frowned, thinking, and looked down at the baby in Ginny's lap, who was making strange grunty sounds and flailing his hands. He reached out tentatively with his finger and prodded a tiny hand. James grabbed on to the offered finger and squeezed, and Teddy gasped.
"He's strong!" he said, astonished. James had a death grip on his finger, and was trying to stuff it, along with his own fist, into his mouth. "Hey, it's not food, you know." He looked down at the baby's feet, and reached his other hand over to touch one gingerly. "So small," he whispered. "And he's got the tiniest toenails."
A baby brother. Of course it wasn't a real baby brother, just like Ron and Hermione and Molly and Arthur, and all the Weasleys weren't really his aunts and uncles.
He thought about Luna, and how she had said her mum was always with her. He still wasn't quite sure what she'd meant by that, though right now he was feeling something in his chest that wasn't just his heart beating. And hadn't Harry and Ginny and all the Weasleys, and his Gran of course, always been with him, even when he was all by himself in his room, or playing out in the yard, or suffering through his horrid lessons with the old geezer?
He knew Harry had grown up like him, without his parents, and with a real aunt and uncle and cousin who didn't like him very much. So maybe real didn't matter so much after all.
"James Potter," he said softly as the baby grabbed on to Teddy's other finger with the other tiny fist. "That was your dad's name, wasn't it?"
"And my second name—Harry James, just like you're Teddy Remus after your father. He's James Sirius Potter. After my dad, and my own godfather," Harry said from beside him. "So what do you think? Do you want the job?"
"Can I teach him to fly?"
"When he's older," Ginny said.
"And throw the gnomes?"
"My mother will be thrilled, yes."
"And tease Victoire and say bad words?"
"As long as your Aunt Ginny isn't around to hear," Harry said, grunting as Ginny kicked him in the shin. "Well, maybe not that part," he amended.
Teddy grinned and looked down at James. "Okay. But if he's sick on me again, I'm gonna do it right back. You hear that, James? You're gonna have to listen to your big brother. Hey, I said no eating my finger!"
He looked up at Harry in askance. "He's not very good at listening yet, is he?"
"I'm afraid not."
Teddy sighed and scrunched his nose. "This job is gonna be harder than I thought."