FANDOM: Harry Potter
PAIRING: Teddy/James, with mentions of Teddy/Victoire, Teddy/OMC, and implied Remus/Sirius
SUMMARY: Teddy always visits his father on his birthday.
NOTES: Thanks to theemdash and matthewbowers for the beta work. This is for theemdash, who thinks the best of me when I'm at my worst.
The first time—the first time he can remember at least—he was seven. Harry's told him they'd started going when he was five, but those first two years are lost to him. Even the visit when he was seven is vague, a memory built more upon re-tellings than true remembrance.
March was often rainy, and that day was no exception. Teddy remembers standing very still in Harry's house while Harry carefully covered him in water-repelling charms; Harry knew his godson too well to think that Teddy was going to stand still under an umbrella the whole time he was visiting his father's grave.
What makes him sure that he truly remembers this visit, at least in part, is a memory that Harry would never have been witness to, a moment between a son and his father.
"Harry's got a new baby now. Albus. They call him Al. I think Jamie got a better name."
He doesn't remember anything else about that visit, though Harry assures him it was much like any other, with Teddy babbling cheerfully about big things that had happened in the last year, until it was time for their goodbyes, and a promise to eat some cake for Dad's birthday.
"This is the last birthday visit for a while, Dad, though I'll make sure to see you at some point next year." This year it's dry, and Teddy's sitting in front of Dad's white marble headstone, robes tight around him for warmth. Mum’s matching headstone is to the left, looking much the same as when he visited on her birthday last month. Harry is off paying his respects to other fallen heroes.
"It's a good thing. Y'know, um, I'm gonna start at Hogwarts next year." His eyes widen. "I mean, I think I am. Haven't gotten my letter, yet, but I'm eleven next month, and, well." He shifts his hair briefly from his natural brown to bright green—it’s his newest color, and he's amused by how it always takes Harry a moment to not look horrified by it. "I think I've got magic in me, so I'm sure I'll get a letter. And, well, if I'm off at school, I won't be able to see you on your birthday. But Harry says Hogwarts lets everyone come down on Victory Day if they want, so I'll be able to see you then!"
Teddy looks around, back up the hill to where he can see the tallest spire of the school peeking over, watching the graveyard that had once been a battlefield. He's eager to attend the school, eager to learn more about his natural talents and how to use them for more than delighting Harry's kids (James is pretty used to it now, though, and Al never seems very impressed; Lily, at least, is still very young and giggles happily whenever Teddy performs for her).
He looks back at his father, at the solid marble expertly carved with sleek, chiseled letters, the only way he's ever known Remus Lupin, Loving Husband and Father. "In a few years Harry thinks I should be able to come visit you on your birthday again, especially if it's a weekend. But, y'know . . . I'll still think about you."
Harry is wandering back towards him, and he knows he's running out of time. "Maybe I can get Harry to bring me back on Victory Day this year. I'll try, anyway." He doesn't expect much success; Harry never comes here on the anniversary of the battle. He says it's because there are so many people who come that day, that the press is out for cheap interviews. Teddy's not so sure that's the only reason. One year he was visiting the Potters on that day with Gran, and Harry left for a few hours, coming home tired and red-eyed, though Ginny didn't seem surprised or upset by it. Like it was expected.
"If not, the next time I'll see you, I can tell you about my classes!" Teddy sighs and says, as he always says at the end of his visits, "I love you, Dad. I miss you."
He stands and goes over to Harry, nodding at him, ready to go for another year.
It turned out that he'd hated visiting on Victory Day. The resting grounds were packed, as Harry'd said, with people pressing a little too closely for a proper conversation. He also had to split his time between his parents, which felt so wrong to him. He'd written to both Gran and Harry after that, pleading with them to go back to their normal routine: Gran loved the chance to celebrate her daughter’s birthday, and Harry was always pleased to see his old professor. Harry said he couldn't ask the school to make special rules for Teddy or anyone, but the following May Harry came on Victory Day, distracting the press and the gawkers enough for Teddy to have a bit of privacy as he spoke to his parents.
Once Teddy had permission to go on Hogsmeade trips, and a little more freedom on the weekends in general, he skipped Victory Day that year and made the birthday visits on his own, only a few days late.
In his fourth year, he has a confession for his father.
"So . . . I've been trying to decide since Christmas what to say to you.
"I got your letter. I got the letter you wrote for me to read in case you didn't survive the war."
Teddy pulls a well-handled piece of parchment from his robes, carefully opening it, noting how the creases have worn so thin from repeated opening and re-folding. He traces his father's handwriting with the tip of his finger, lines and curves, swoops and dips that have become so familiar to him since Harry handed him the envelope on Christmas Eve.
"I don't think anyone knew about you. No one who'd feel safe telling me, anyway. Or if they did, they must have thought I wouldn't handle it well, or, or something." He leans closer, and drops his voice to a whisper. "But I think I'm glad. I think it's better to hear it from you, not anyone else."
Which isn't entirely the truth—for the rest of Christmas hols he was sullen and angry. Angry at his grandmother and godfather for lying to him. Angry at his mother for being weak. Angry at his father for being even weaker. Mostly, he was angry at the people who killed them so that he had to find this out—find out his father was queer and only slept with his mother out of a shared grief—in a nearly fifteen-year-old letter, rather than the comforting voice of his father. (In Teddy's dreams, the voice was always comforting.)
"It's not the sort of thing you expect to learn about your old dad, though. And it's weird to think that if you'd gotten the happiness you wanted in life, I wouldn't be here. But . . ." Teddy takes a deep breath. "I decided to trust you when you say that I was your second lease on life. That knowing me, holding me, was more than you ever could have hoped for."
He swallows, nods his head once. "So I'll make my life good for you, Dad. I promise you. I'll follow my heart, and go after my dreams, and I'll always look on the bright side of my mistakes."
Teddy reaches out and presses his palm flat over the engraving of his father's name on the headstone. "I promise that to you."
A wind whips through the quiet graveyard, and a chill runs down Teddy's spine. He smiles, feeling very much like his father has heard and accepted his promise.
"Why yes, Pops, I am here on a Friday. And it is April." Teddy is shouting across the cemetery, weaving between the stones quite expertly, though with a fair bit of wobble that is not normally present. He finds his father and flops down, long legs folded up and his elbow propped on his knee, chin resting in his hand.
"Hullo, Dad. It's two in the bloody mornin', and I'm quite very pissed and officially seventeen, and so I'm out to see you on my birthday." With his free hand he pours out a shot's worth of firewhiskey over his father's grave. "There, y'can have some, too."
He takes a long pull for himself next, and laughs as he spills some over his lips. "M'a messy drunk. Cheerful, though, they tell me. No' like Dorian, tha' wanker, that sad, depressing drunk of a wanker." Carefully he puts down the bottle, resting it against the stone. "M'sorry to be like this t'night. Didn't always plan to come see ya now, but I realized I could and that we'd never spent my birthday together, so, y'know, why not, eh?" He frowns suddenly. "Bollocks. Should say hallo t'Mum."
Teddy leans over, falling on his side with a giggle, and his mother's headstone fills his slightly-impaired vision. "Hallooooooooooo Mum! M'sorry I'm not properly visitin' you tonight, but I've important things t'discuss with Dad. M'sure you unnerstan'." He leans forward and kisses the stone, letting his hair shift colors wildly for a moment, then pushes himself back up.
"Dad. Dad. You've . . . right, so you understand about bloody, buggering love . . ." He snickers to himself. "Buggering. S'not your kind, sorry. M'just . . ." He sighs heavily. "I think maaaaybe I'm in love? And I really shouldn't be in love with 'er. Practically family she is, is Vicky-Vic. An', an' I wanna ask her out, but she's dating some damn Ravenclaw, and bollocks, Dad, he's not even hot. Not, not that I think looks are everything." He sits up straighter, becoming quite serious, then leans forward and grips the edges of the headstone with both hands. "I promise, I don't, I know it's what's inside that matters." A few moments go by, and he sits back, feeling assured that his father believes him. "Buuuut. She's just wonderful." He sighs heavily.
"Wish you were here, Dad. You could tell me all 'bout forbidden love." With another sigh, Teddy picks the bottle back up and considers it a moment, then throws his head back and drains the rest of it.
"M'not going to do anythin' stupid. There'll be time, plenty of time. We'll have our go. She's where m'heart is leading, and I promised you I'd follow it. So I will."
He leaves the bottle at the grave like flowers, and heads back up to the castle feeling better having spoken to Dad.
He approaches the graveside carefully, his hair black with a feeling of guilt. He'd missed Dad's birthday last year. He'd used the excuse of a long shift, but he could have still gone a few days later, or on his own birthday, or really at any other time during the year. In truth, he'd simply been embarrassed, ashamed, and he'd continued to let those feelings rule him for the last year. Just last month, when he visited Mum, he'd angled himself to keep his father out of view, prolonging his avoidance. Finally, it's Dad's birthday again, and he's forcing himself to go.
"Um." He clears his throat, his hands behind his back, fingers gripping each other nervously. "Hi Dad. I'm . . . I'm sorry I didn't come last year. I . . ." He sighs. "It was a bad time for me, and by the time I was feeling better, it was so far past . . ."
Teddy shakes his head. "But it doesn't matter. I'm here now." The guilt slips away, as does the black of his hair, leaving him with the natural brown hair that matches his father's in every picture.
He brushes a few leaves from the ground then sits, folding his legs, huddling close to his father's stone. "Last time I saw you, I told you I was seeing Victoire. Had been for about six months at that point. We were happy, having a brilliant time.
"But she dumped me. Three days before your birthday, she dumped me and said it was never going to work." There's still pain in Teddy's voice, but it's easier to say this now than it would have been a year ago. "I didn't see it coming. I was so . . . so sure that she was the one for me. The family was pleased for us, hoping that we'd get married so I could be a real part of their family." He takes a deep breath. "It gutted me when she left me. That she wouldn't even . . ."
He pulls a scrap of paper from his pocket, and his wand. "I would've gone with her, Dad. I would've given up the Aurors and gone with her. But she never even gave me a chance. She broke up with me, then sent me this owl from France. That's the last time I heard from her." He touches his wand to the parchment, watching as it ignites. "Tonight, I'm making myself move on."
There's quiet in the cemetery as Teddy waits for the letter to burn away, dropping it to the ground before it can singe his fingers. The paper blackens and curls, the blackened ash erasing her pleas for Teddy not to follow, her insistence that she needs to live her own life.
"I promised to always follow my heart, Dad, but last year I learned that I can't always keep that promise. I felt ashamed." He looks at his father's engraved name, taking strength from the words, and continues with the speech he'd tried to perfect over the last few days. "But I thought a lot about you. If you had followed your heart, when, when he died . . . . Instead you . . . you lived with the pain, and you found something new to live for." He takes a deep breath. "So I've lived with my pain, and I'm going to trust that something better is waiting for me."
He brushes the ashes away and lies down, curling up on his side, feeling his father's presence surround him, comfort him, as much of a hug from his father as he's ever known.
The next year he's smiling faintly as he greets his father, a slight blush on his cheek. He starts off with idle chatter, talking about the last year as an Auror, the cases he's worked, the close-calls he's escaped. He imagines his father is worried but proud.
Slowly his topics of discussion whittle down to the final one, the one he's been holding like a firefly cupped in his hands, but he's finally ready for someone else to see the light.
"I'm dating someone new. Been since just before Christmas, actually. It's going nicely, but I'm not quite as, as invested as I was with Victoire." He chuckles, remembering what a mess he'd been after she left, utterly convinced he could Never Love Again. "Which is a good thing. But . . . it's weird. I've not told anyone yet, not Harry or Gran or any of my friends." He imagines his father asking, "Why?" in a voice filled with curiosity, and Teddy smiles.
"Dad, I'm . . . I'm dating a bloke. His name's Corin, he's a Healer." He smiles softly. "He patched me up last time I was in A&E at St. Mungo's. Met him at a pub a few weeks later, we . . . well. Been seeing him since, anyway."
He rests against the headstone, getting comfortable. "Don't go thinking that I'm just trying to be like you. And I'm not, not sworn off women or anything ridiculous." It's time to confess something that's been with him for years: "I've always known I like blokes, actually—even before I got your letter. I like birds, too, mind. I've just found people in general attractive, and I knew that was odd, but . . . I figured since I did like girls, I'd just focus on them.
"But I think I should be more honest with myself." He shrugs, giving his dad a sideways grin. "So I'm more comfortable now, seeing men as more than simply very attractive people, and started considering them as dates and such. Corin's the first I've had the balls to actually go out with, though."
And he's been having a brilliant time with him. The sex is fantastic, different from sex with women, but not in any way lacking. Their schedules are so busy that it's been easy to keep the relationship quiet, but lately friends have started spotting the pattern, noticing that Teddy's been more cheerful, and he knows he can't stay in the closet forever.
"I wanted to tell you first, Dad. I'm sorry I didn't do it sooner, but I hope you can understand."
He looks to his side and he can clearly imagine his father's affectionate smirk, the same one Teddy's seen in pictures with Harry's dad and Sirius. "Oh shut it, then, old man!" Teddy grins and stands up. "Just for that, I'm going to make sure I have a completely ribald tale to tell you on my birthday and make you listen to all the intimate details!"
Walking away, his smile is wider than when he arrived, the firefly set free to light up the night sky.
Tonight he comes to his father's grave a single man. His time with Corin came to an agreeable end, and he's dated a few more blokes and even a couple of girls in the years between; had his heart broken once, even. Recently, though, when his friends ask if he’s been on a date, he casually shrugs, knowing he’ll find the next bloke or bird when the time is right.
"It's an early spring," he says, grooming a few weeds from the grass, wondering when the lawn-tending charms will kick in. "Jamie says the Muggles in America listen to a groundhog to know when winter will end. Supposedly in the beginning, the groundhog was an Animagus, and his Inner Circle—the interpreters, I guess—were all wizards." He chuckles. "Jamie's always got little things like that to talk about. Ridiculous things, the sort no normal wizard would bother learning about."
He runs his hand through his hair, just now realizing it's turned turquoise, and he frowns a bit because he always wears his hair natural when visiting Dad. He shrugs and leaves it, sure Dad is amused by his son's talents.
"Oh, and I was in hospital again a couple months back. Sorry," he adds, ducking his head and feeling a bit sheepish. "I think they were being a bit cautious, it was my, uh, sixth admittance in four years." He smiles. "Was totally bored out of my mind, but James came by after work to spend the evenings keeping me company. Was a load off Gran's mind, I think, having someone else to look in on me." Teddy sighs, looks at the headstone and cocks his head slightly, as though listening. "Mm? James is good company, yeah." A soft fondness creeps into his voice. "He used to be such a brat, but he's grown up well."
"Anyway, I'm fine, no lasting harm." Except a long, jagged scar that will forever remind him of how close he came to being able to speak to his father in whatever afterlife was waiting for him. He doesn't want to worry Dad with all that, though. He's an Auror, and he's sure Dad's already concerned enough about that job. Here he's got Gran and Harry to fuss over him, and they're quite good in those roles.
There's a comfortable silence until Teddy can think of something else to talk about. "Funny story. Met James for breakfast yesterday—sort of a thing we do now, Sunday breakfast; it's nice. Anyway.
"We were, I don't know, I guess halfway through breakfast? James was digging into his second helping of eggs—which just happened to also be my first helping, mind—and he looks up and his eyes go wide. I ask him what's up, and he just sort of nods towards something behind me, so I turn and look, and who's just walked in but Dash bloody Brighton, Montrose's superstar Chaser. I look back at Jay and, ah-ha, his mouth's gawping like a troll's and there's bits of egg dangling from his lips.
"Now, what you need to realize—" Teddy shifts a bit, leaning in towards his father, wanting his dad to really understand "—is that poor Jay's had this epic mancrush on Brighton ever since the Magpies trounced Wimbourne for the league cup in twenty-nineteen, and ever since he's been Brighton's biggest fan and he's been trying for years to get his autograph.
"Anyway. Jay, oh Jay, he's still got the egg thing happening," Teddy grins fondly, closing his eyes as he revisits the scene in his mind. "So I sort of cough quietly, hoping to get him to come back to his senses and not be a twat about this, but he's a'gonner. So I reach over and wipe his mouth just in the nick of time," he laughs warmly, "because Brighton spots us, and, well, Jay looks like this perfectly perfect combination of his parents." The best parts of both Harry and Ginny are obvious in James's face; Harry's high cheekbones and striking chin blend well with Ginny's charming freckles and warm brown eyes. "And so of course everyone knows Harry bleedin' Potter, and a Quidditch man like Brighton knows Ginny from her Harpies days."
He's speaking more quickly now, eager to wrap this story up, to get to the punchline. "So Brighton comes over, looking between me and Jay, and, and, and—on Merlin's beard I swear this is true—he says, 'Oi, you're James Potter, ain't ya? Cor, I saw your last match against Ravenclaw, I was bloody furious when they called that foul on you!' And I think Jay may have sort of fainted for a moment, I can't be sure, ha, but he definitely swooned.
"Finally he comes to and mumbles something about the referee being paid off by the Ravenclaw captain, and he ends up with Brighton's autograph on a soiled napkin, which I'm pretty sure he's going to take home and put it under his pillow. It was adorable."
He chuckles and runs his hand through his hair again, flushing slightly as he realizes what a long and rambling story that was. "Maybe you had to be there." He sighs. "I wish you could've been. You'd like Jamie. He's . . ."
The peace of the graveyard surrounds him; it's one of the few places he's aways felt comfortable being completely honest with himself, and talking to his dad has always helped him work things out. "He's one of the best people I know," he continues softly. "And . . . and I talked about him a lot tonight, didn't I, Dad?" He inhales deeply, then lets the breath out slowly.
"It's always so good to talk to you, Dad," he finally says, feeling warm despite the cool night air; he realizes that he's spent all winter feeling warm, and now he thinks he understands why.
"Is it weird that I feel nervous about this?"
"Mmm. No. Not weird. It's pretty cute, though."
"Oh, good. I'm cute when I'm nervous. Good to know."
Teddy looks over at James as they walk through the cemetery, then takes his hand and smiles. "You're cute pretty much all the time. I'm sure I've told you that once or twice, haven't I?"
James shakes his head and smiles, just an upward curve of his lips while his eyes sparkle with mischief, and he squeezes Teddy's hand. "Yeah. Once or twice . . . ."
"A day," Teddy adds.
"At least," James agrees. They grin at each other, soft, secret smiles that they're only just starting to share with the world, despite the ten months they've now been together.
Teddy swallows and points ahead with their linked hands. "He's just up here. My mum's right next to him, of course, but . . . I've always found it easier to give them each their own day. And I love Mum, but I think you should meet my dad first."
James nods, and not for the first time since he suggested this unorthodox date, Teddy is further endeared to this quiet, understanding man, who has never once considered it anything but perfectly normal to meet his boyfriend's parents at their graves.
They walk past the final row separating them from Teddy's parents, and he leads them to stand in front of his father's stone.
"Hi Dad," Teddy says, pulling James close, an arm going around his shoulder. "Brought someone with me this year. This is Jamie." He chuckles. "You may have heard me talk about him before." That's an understatement, to say the least—last year Teddy spent most of his dad's birthday talking about all the ways he'd considered confessing his feelings to the object of his ever-deepening affection.
He turns to James, ready to reassure him about how to do this, but James is already starting to kneel, reaching out to touch the side of the stone, now well-worn and starting to show nearly thirty years of age. "Hullo, Mr Lupin. I'm very pleased to meet you." Teddy can see James's lips turn up. "You've got a most amazing son. I'm rather in love with him, actually."
Even after all these months, those words make Teddy's heart skip a beat and his skin tingle from head to toe. And hearing James say them to Teddy's father . . . well, there's a reason he never brought anyone else along for a visit, and he's very glad to see that he made the right decision to change his rule for James.
Teddy sits behind James, pulling James back against his chest, Teddy's arms wrapped securely around James. James smiles, patting Teddy's knees when Teddy props his chin on James's shoulder.
"Dad doesn't know how we got together, Jay," Teddy murmurs, closing his eyes. He can smell the soap from that morning's shower on James's skin, and it takes effort to keep himself from getting lost in that memory. "You want to tell him, or shall I?"
James kisses Teddy's temple. "Maybe we should both tell it. Together?"
"Mm. Good idea. I'll start. So, Jamie Apparates into my flat, completely naked . . . ."
"Liar! Tell it right, Tee!"
James's laugh fills his heart, and as they talk to his father, Teddy remembers his old promise from nearly fifteen years before. If James is to be the reward for keeping his promise, he'll eagerly renew that vow every year. As they sit atop his father's grave, he marvels at how the voiceless man has still been a constant guide in his life, someone who has not once lead Teddy astray.
Their playful teasing starts to turn physical, with poking and tickling, and then Teddy cups James's neck, kissing James sweetly, thrilled all the more when James kisses back without hesitation. For a long moment all he knows is James's heartbeat under his fingers, until the kiss begins to end and the sound of birds returns, and Teddy remembers where they are. When he opens his eyes, James is smiling widely, perfect teeth bright in the close shadows between them, and a perfect hint of blush on his cheeks. Teddy smiles back, hoping his own happiness is just as obvious to James.
The sun is high when they decide it's time to say goodbye, the morning and a couple hours of afternoon gone more quickly than ever before. Teddy always has had mixed feelings about leaving this place, but today he can feel James just a few steps behind him, waiting patiently and without judgment as Teddy leans forward to kiss his father's headstone.
"Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you. We'll be back next year. Promise."
x-posted to teddyjames, teddyxjames, and hp_tng.