Summary: Harry doesn't even know how to start.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Harry Potter, Teddy Lupin
Disclaimer: Jo's for always.
Original story: Goodbyes by loony4lupin
"There's no good way to say this," Harry says and then stops because, while he's certain that there's no good way to say what he is about to say, he isn't so certain about what he should be saying.
Teddy doesn't appear to mind the pause. He seems a little awed by his grandmother's house, and his head keeps twisting back and forth like it's caught in a wind storm or like he's watching a very long freight train pass by. His hair is black today, and his eyes are pale green. Harry thinks that maybe he should be flattered.
Except he's too busy being worried to be much of anything else. He presses his lips together and tries to think about what he would have liked to have been told. It's an easy task in some ways, hard in others. Easy because Harry has a working list in the back of his mind of what he wishes someone had sat down and said somewhere, anywhere, in those first ten years. It starts with
1) The truth about how they diedand ends with
27) That they would have stayed if they could've.So he's got a head-start here if only he could find a way to actually begin. That's the hard part. Every time Harry looks down at Teddy – with his floppy head and tightly curled toes, wide eyes, mouth open in a little triangle of excitement – his carefully crafted list is replaced by a flood of he's so young, he's too young, I'll protect him for now, I'll tell him the truth when he's older.
But Harry knows where that kind of thinking leads. He's got a list for that too.
He takes a deep breath, a silent way of saying "Okay, Harry Potter, time to be brave again," and shuffles forward until he's standing right at the edge of the crib. It's a huge, old thing, coming up almost to his shoulders. The wooden slats, carved to look like tree trunks, are almost as thick as his wrist. When Andromeda had first led him up here, she'd smiled a crooked, sad smile at the crib and said, "Nothing less could have held my girl." Harry had just nodded and tried not to start crying again.
He reaches down and nudges Teddy's left hand, trying to catch his attention. Teddy writhes a bit and twists towards him but seems to ultimately decide that paying attention to Harry is not nearly as interesting as trying to shove his entire right fist into his mouth.
"Oi," Harry says, prodding Teddy's hand a few more times, "stop that." He presses the pad of his finger into Teddy's palm, which achieves something at least when Teddy closes his hand around it and squeezes. Harry decides this is the best he's going to get and forges on.
"Your parents are dead, Teddy," he says, dropping the awful truth in the shortest, quickest, steadiest way he knows how. "They died helping me defeat Voldemort. That was really brave of them, but they're dead now, and... And that's bloody awful, I know."
And he does. Harry has lost more mothers and fathers than most people ever even have. While they weren't all his, they were all because of him in one way or another, so it makes his chest feel empty and his throat feel raw anyway.
There's been a lot of loss today, though, so that even with a clear memory in his head of Tonks and Remus – laid out side-by-side in a classroom that might sometimes look like a forest but which is, nevertheless, a dusty, stone classroom in the end – it is impossible for Harry to forget that other people are mourning too. The Weasleys at home, gathered around their grandfather clock with its one, gold hand now pointing permanently to "lost." Andromeda downstairs, with her fingers wrapped pale and tight around a cold cup of tea.
Harry knows how easy it would be to wrap himself up in his own grief, yet another layer in a lifetime of loss, but he's supposed to be here for Teddy. He's supposed to make it all right. He promised.
Teddy gives Harry's hand an ineffectual tug, trying to pull it near. When he tugs a second time, insistently, Harry obliges by leaning forward, resting his chin and arm on the rail of the crib, and letting Teddy draw his finger up to his mouth to gum the knuckle ineffectually.
The rail is cold and hard in a way that makes Harry very conscious of every bone in his chin, but he's got something like Teddy's full attention now. He reaches out with his free hand to fiddle with the baby blanket, a shocking woollen rainbow made by Mrs. Weasley, while he thinks over how this next part ought to go.
Finally, he says, "You've still got me and your grandmother, Teddy. It isn't the same, but we'll take care of you. And someday, when you want to know what your parents were like, you just have to ask. I'll tell you everything. Even the stuff your dad would probably want me to leave out."
Harry looks down at Teddy expectantly, although he is not entirely clear on what he is expecting. Teddy just gurgles and blinks up at Harry in return. He reaches out his tiny, saliva-shiny right hand and takes hold of Harry's thumb. His lips press together in a little frown that puckers his chin, turning it into a field of dents and dimples.
Harry suddenly discovers that his glasses need cleaning, so he takes them off and gives each lens an intent scrub with his shirt. When he puts them back on, Teddy is still staring at him. And Harry is surprised to find that there is still one thing left to be said.
"I told them I'm sorry, and I am," he says quietly. "And I said goodbye. For you too, I think, so that's... something at least."
He clears his throat. "I just wanted to be the one to tell you."