Along the left wall of gilded fireplaces in the Ministry Atrium, the flames in one turned green to signal an incoming Floo. Out of the green flames, a tall and lanky teenager emerged, never breaking his stride as his Converse shoes squeaked slightly on the dark, polished wood flooring of the Atrium.
The teenager wore comfortable Muggle clothes: jeans and a t-shirt with a flannel button-up over top. One hand was clutching at his backpack strap, and he gave it a tiny jolt to let it rest higher on his shoulder more securely. With a flick of his hand - no wand in sight - the ash from the flames disappeared and his flannel shirt flapped back a bit with his purposeful strides. There was an unconscious grin - almost wolfish as a canine peeked out - on the teenager's face, as he approached the two large golden gates and the security desk. He fell into line behind several men and women as he joined the short queue; the one in front of him, tall and imposing with a large, flamboyant hat that matched her lime green robes, sniffed as she stared at the teen from along her long, pointed nose.
Grinning, the teen gave a cute little wave to the woman, who humphed loudly and turned on her black booted heels, ignoring him. Stifling a sigh and shaking his head, the teen plucked something from his ears, and one of the tiny white earbuds dangled down his front, little squeaks and cadences piping from it. Then, he was at the desk, manned by an old guard with white hair sticking out of his ears and thick glasses that enlarged his eyes.
"Hey, Mr. Atticus," greeted the teen with an enthusiastic voice, dipping and weaving in his enthusiasm. "How are you?"
The guard grinned at the teenager, showing off his teeth with various gaps between them. "Ah, young Teddy! I'm well, my boy. Are you enjoying your summer so far? Haven't you just graduated from Hogwarts? Well done!"
Teddy Lupin grinned back and rocked on the heels of his sneakers. He took out his wand from a holster attached to his right wrist and placed it on the weight scale in front of him as Atticus peered intently at it. "Yeah! It's great. Proud Hufflepuff Alum here!"
"What brings you by the Ministry?" asked Atticus, humming and nodding as he gestured Teddy to take his wand back. He looked knowingly at Teddy. "Seeing your godfather?"
"Well, he's where he always is - Level Two," the elderly man said, waving Teddy through. "Wish Head Auror Potter my best, Teddy. And congratulations again, young man!"
Teddy grinned and waved his goodbye, and made his way toward the lift, placing his earbud back in. The music washed over him, and he found his left hand unconsciously tapping the rhythm of the song as he bounced into one of the gilded gold cages, leaning against the back of the lift wall and out of the way as two men in Wizengamot robes stepped in, crowding Teddy further back. Several flying memos followed the men in and quivered above him.
He sighed and made himself small, watching the two men argue - although he couldn't hear them over his music - and waited as they got off before him. He was familiar with these halls and the people who wandered in and out of the elevators, ducking under flying memos, waiting to zoom out on the right floor.
The doors dinged open, and Teddy stepped out, a flurry of memos behind him.
The corridor was long, lined with doors on both sides. Each door led to a different part of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; and with the doors open, Teddy could peer in as he walked past, toward the end of the corridor when it turned, L-shaped.
"Hi, Mr. Newbury," he said, walking past the Wizengamot Administration Office, and then bleary-eyed wizard in pinstripe robes glanced up, nodded tiredly, and went back to reading his parchment.
Teddy shook his head and kept walking, nearly colliding with a frazzled older woman whose wand was directing a large pile of scrolls and texts. "Sorry, Mrs. Mulligan!"
The witch gave Teddy a dirty look, and hurried past, her heels making a clack-clack noise. Teddy sighed and shrugged, and then turned the corner where a set of heavy oak doors led into the Auror Headquarters. The large open area was a hive of activity, memos zooming here and there, a few wizards shouting at one another from across the room where they stood in their tiny cubicles, and a bunch were congregating by the Keurig coffee machine that a Muggleborn had brought in a few years past - an instant hit with the often sleep-deprived Auror workforce.
Teddy turned and was greeted by someone he knew well from the Auror offices: Dennis Creevey. The scarred and bulky man offered Teddy an easy grin. "Seventeen and a Hogwarts graduate already, huh? How's it feel, mate?"
"It's great!" enthused Teddy, clasping both of his backpack straps as he looked up at the taller man. Like most Aurors, Teddy admired them for their work catching bad wizards - especially given what happened to his parents - but he admired Dennis Creevey more than most, given what happened to him at the Battle of Hogwarts, and what happened to his brother, a man he never knew but heard his godfather speak about in the warmest tones.
His amber eyes darted around the office, and Creevey caught it. The sandy-haired man laughed and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Your godfather's in his office."
"Thanks, Mr. Creevey!" replied Teddy, walking by him and down a central aisle between the cubicles.
Creevey laughed, shaking his head. "How many times do I have to say it? 'Dennis' is just fine, kid!"
Teddy turned on his Converse, eyes wide. Walking backward, he nearly tripped over his own feet as he sputtered, "Oh, no, Mr. Creevey, sir, I couldn't -" Then his back collided into someone's chest, and he let out a loud, "oomph!" at the contact. Spinning around, Teddy blinked and groaned. "Oh, no…"
"Well, that's not quite the first reaction I was going for," replied his godfather in a very dry voice. "'Hi, Harry, how's it going?' or 'Lovely weather outside, isn't it?' is usually a good starting place."
"Sorry, Uncle Harry," muttered Teddy, shrugging, glancing to the side - looking down in guilt was one of the first things he learned not to do around his godfather (especially as looking down was a sign of guilt, as Uncle Harry often said). "I didn't see you there."
Harry Potter snorted, his green eyes lit with amusement as the thirty-six-year-old man partially turned so he was no longer blocking the aisle. "Clearly, Ted. Anyway, come on, let's go to my office."
The Head of the Department nodded at some of his Aurors, many who waved or called out greetings to the teenager. He had long been a familiar face in their offices, accompanying Harry in the mornings while other members of the extended Potter-Weasley family would rotate babysitting duties - one day, Teddy might be with Hermione; another day, he was with Fleur; or another, with Audrey or Angelina or later, when he was a bit older, George and Ron.
Harry's office was tucked into a corner, two sides of half-walls, and the rest made out of glass so he could look at his Department. There was a large desk and a comfortable chair which he eased himself into, sinking into it as he kicked his feet up onto his desk, which was untidy and cluttered with various bits of parchment.
Along the full wall was a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, filled with books, mementos, awards, and framed photographs, including two large ones. One was of Harry and Ginny and their three children plus Teddy (posing for a formal photo session which was all the rage with wizarding families who didn't want to sit long times for portraits anymore); and another of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, just right after the Battle of Hogwarts, dirty, skinny, and worn, but a form of quiet triumph and weariness in their eyes as they slung to each other.
Reminders, a voice in Teddy's head quietly told him.
The last wall was windows, and despite being several floors underground, the bright light that spilled through the glass reflected the balmy and sunny London far above them, a nice change from the week of rain they had previously.
"You know, I didn't expect you to spend your first day of summer vacation - as well as a Hogwarts graduate - visiting me at the Ministry," said Harry just as Teddy dumped his backpack next to a chair in front of the desk and plopped heavily into it, his earbuds still jauntily piping out some form of electronic music genre. "It's only ten - I was thinking you'd sleep in until noon at least. That is what you teens do, right?"
Teddy sighed. "Oh, ha, ha, Uncle Harry. Very funny."
Harry grinned. "Anyway, have you had any more thought about what you want to do?"
"It's only been one day since graduation!" groused Teddy, making a face. "I literally just graduated! I have time to think about my future."
"Some time," replied Harry evenly and eyeing him from behind his glasses. "Did you give my offer more thought?"
Teddy nodded, sighing. "Yours, and Uncle Ron and Uncle George's. Hell, even Professor Longbottom offered me an apprenticeship if I want to stay on at Hogwarts!"
"You've got options, kid," grinned Harry. "How is that a bad thing?"
"I don't know," shrugged Teddy, muttering. "I just-"
"Don't want to be an Auror?" finished Harry, his voice understanding and gentle. "Don't think you want to work in commerce or a joke shop? Or be a Professor?"
"I don't know what I want," replied Teddy glumly. "I just know that -"
Teddy scuffed the toe of his Converse against the plush carpet in the office and slouched further. "I dunno. I guess I want…" he paused, thinking back to the latest babysitting jaunt he had the previous night, falling asleep on the couch with his (not quite) cousins, piled on top of him as they watched a Disney film. He flushed scarlet.
"Oh, now you need to tell me with that look on your face," grinned Harry, dropping his feet from the desk and leaning forward instead, intently.
Embarrassed, Teddy looked up at the ceiling. "I guess - I grew up on all these stories that you and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione told, and I guess I want that too."
Harry frowned, confused. "You want to be Undesirable Number One, Ted?"
"No!" he sputtered out a laugh as his nerves overtook him. "I want adventure. You did all these amazing things - ride a dragon out of a bank! Meet merpeople! Fight Dark wizards!" His flush grew deeper. "All before you were seventeen. What have I done with my life?"
"Teddy…" Harry trailed off. "My adventures - our adventures-" he amended with a glance at the framed photograph of him and his best friends "-you don't want that life. You don't want -"
"Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise?" finished Teddy wryly.
"Blimey. If you want that, I'll send you for an exchange with Fleur's family," muttered Harry, running a hand through his hair. "Merlin knows you'll end up getting into fights for Victoire's honour."
Teddy squirmed. Was his crush that obvious?
Harry sighed. "It sounds like you just need a change of scenery, Ted."
"Like a mini vacation?" he asked, perking up a bit.
"Yeah," replied Harry, turning at the waist and bending down as he rummaged through a drawer he opened. There was a lot of noise as he shuffled parchment and moved things around, as well as a muffled, "Ah ha!" but then he popped his head back up.
He handed Teddy a thin, flat box, once that someone might place a necklace on a velvet cushion, in. Teddy frowned. "What's this then?"
"Something for Hermione," replied Harry. "Came from a raid at an old Selwyn manor a few weeks back - it's jewellery that has soul marks carved into it - see that sigil on the box's lid?"
Teddy peered at the burnt image, but it was hard to make out as it cleverly melted into the wood grain. He had to tilt the box this way and that until it caught the light and he was able to make out a three-headed dragon. "A dragon?"
Harry nodded. "Uh huh. One that we've never seen before - I had a rubbing sent to Charlie for his thoughts. Anyway - the notes from the Aurors said it came into the Selwyn family by way of the Malfoy's, but you know what Malfoy's like - pulling blood from a stone, that snake is - so we barely got any information other than it's an old family heirloom of some sort related to soul marks. And since the best person to ask about soul marks happens to be a friend, well -"
Harry grinned and trailed off with a shrug. "Maybe you'll deliver it to her in person? Rumour has it that she's planning a world tour for her recent publication on soul marks in different cultures."
Teddy's head shot up from looking at the sigil. "Really? You mean it? You'll let me go?"
"If Hermione says yes."
Teddy shot to his feet, nearly tipping the box in the process. Harry's face turned from fond amusement to alarm. Teddy scrambled as it turned over several times until he clutched it to his chest and then gave a nervous laugh.
A sheepish grin overtook Teddy's face and he scuffed the toe of his shoe as he replied, "Sorry, Uncle Harry."
Carefully, the teen placed the box into his backpack, zipping it back up and placing it on his back with infinite tenderness, trying not to jostle it. Harry watched, one eyebrow slightly higher than the other. When Teddy glanced up from shouldering the bag, he frowned. "What?"
Harry shook his head, the lines alongside his mouth pulling just a bit as he tried to not smile. "Nothing." Fondness laced through his words. "Do you know where Hermione is today?"
Teddy nodded. "Oxford, right?"
Harry nodded in return. "She's presenting this afternoon at the Conference for Magical Advancement and Spellwork." He made a face at the name. "If you Apparate out, you'll probably catch her talk."
Teddy grinned and practically skipped out to the office door, calling loudly behind him, "Thanks, Uncle Harry! See you later!"
In no time at all, he was back downstairs in the Atrium, and then at the designated Apparation spot, firmly thinking about the three D's and spinning on his heel - squeezed like in a tube - and then popping out on a grassy knoll further north, in a small, fenced off garden.
The magical side of Oxford University was an old building that had long been plied with Notice-Me-Not and Muggle Repellant charms, runes, and all other sorts of magical devices to hide the location for several bright-minded wizards and witches. An old building repurposed and "lost" to the Muggle side, it had been expanded upon expansion charm until it housed the entirely of the magical post-secondary school.
Signs were plastered with blinking neon text, and smoky, floating arrows directed Teddy down several winding halls, with large gothic windows to one side showing an expansive green garden. Eventually, he slipped in a small crack between two very heavy doors and stood off to the side of the tiered lecture hall. It was dark, and no one turned to look at him as he softly closed the door behind him.
At the front, his Aunt Hermione was in the middle of her presentation, gesturing to her projection screen (although magical folk didn't use projectors the way Muggles did), standing in front and to the side of a lectern.
Hermione was wearing Muggle-ish clothing, leggings with knee boots, but overtop had a loose tunic-oversized shirt doubled as a dress, cinched at the waist. Her long brown hair was partially tamed with an updo that left several riotous curls to escape and hover in a frizzy halo around her face. Each step she took as she walked the raised platform at the front of the room made a soft slap-slap on the wooden boards.
"-there are a hundred different religions in the world that focus on the concept of the soul. A soul is our reason for existence; it is the whole of our being in terms of who we are: how we think, how we act, what we believe. Every single person is unique and individual." Her voice was loud, booming with a sonorous, but calm and friendly enough that she reached every single audience member, hanging onto her words.
"But this is not the case," she suddenly changed her tone and stopped walking to look into the dimmed sea of faces in the auditorium. "How can this be the case when there are soul mates?"
She let the question sink in, and then turned, facing the projector screen. Images appeared. "Let's change things up for a minute; let's talk about Plato. In the Symposium, Plato has comedian Aristophanes tell a story. Now, we know this story-" she broke off and smiled knowingly at the audience, some of whom chuckled back -"because it is part of our magical history as well."
The image on the projector turned to a mass of human bodies, wrapped together, unable to tell where one began and the other ended. "Like most history, things have faded into legend and myth and start with 'once upon a time,' so - once upon a time, humans, according to Aristophanes, originally had four arms, four legs, and a single head with two faces. Split by gender, men were of the sun; women, of the earth; and those considered androgynous, the moon.
"It is fair to note that many of our earliest history of documented spell work and ritual is also gendered by celestial bodies - consider the Agni, a Hindu fire-based ritual to summon fire in large quantities to the earthly plane. It is traditionally undertaken by men as well as wielded by warriors in battle. Or, consider Mesoamerican goddess Awilix, whose twenty-day lunar cycle over the moon ties to the waning and waxing strength of Guatemalan witches."
Hermione gave a tiny laugh and shook her head. "Regardless, that's a lecture for another day."
More laughs and Teddy felt his mouth quirk up a bit. He may have been a Hufflepuff, but he was studious and had several very smart tutors over his terms at Hogwarts.
"These humans were powerful; the precursors to our magical ancestors, their histories lost to time and space. But powerful with magic of their own, they threatened the gods themselves. Yet, the gods stayed their hands; these humans were their disciples and worshipers, so what were they to do?" the image on the projector changed from the huddled mass to split bodies, each a separate entity.
"In punishment for their desire to overthrow the gods, Zeus split the humans in half," said Hermione, her voice low, reverent. "But these split humans were in utter misery to the point where they would not eat - and close to death, another god took pity on them, so he sewed them up. But his work was… let's say, incomplete, as instead of their original forms with two faces and two sets of genitalia, these humans were limited to one face and one gender. They would forever long for their other half; the other half of their soul.
"And what was left," here, she paused, images rapidly filling the projector screen, "Was a mark. A single mark that matched the other half, its pair, that denoted that they came from the same being. Aristophanes believed that when the two find each other, there is an unspoken understanding of one another, that they feel unified and would lie with each other in unity and would know no greater joy."
Hermione turned back to the audience. "And this is where the concept of soul marks comes from. Not everyone has a soul mark - we should be aware that this, of course, is merely magical and mythological lore. There is no scientific proof that any of this happened - but it's a nice, romantic tale. Who wouldn't want to find someone that is their perfect other half? The part of them that understands, that balances, that supports and reins one in?"
She paused. "As Aristotle said, 'Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.'"
Then the floating chandeliers' candles lit, and the room was bathed in a warm yellow glow. The talk was over, and the audience began clapping. A man in robes - in the Oxford blue of the university - strode across the raised platform, also clapping. Once at Hermione's side, he tapped his wand to his throat and his voice rung across the room.
"Yes, let's give a warm thank you to Ms. Granger for her introduction on soul mates and soul marks," he announced happily, beaming at the audience. The candlelight bounced off a shiny spot on his bald head. "More information on soul marks can be found in her latest book, Anima Mundi and Other Connections, proudly published by us here at Oxford Press. As the leading researcher in esoteric and arcane magic related to soul mates and soul marks, having Ms. Granger here for the start of her world tour has been quite the treat! So - are there any questions from the audience?"
There was a brief moment of silence, and then a few stood.
"Where does the magic of soul mates begin and the science end?" asked one.
"A great question," said Hermione, as the professor with her summon two stools from the side of the stage. She sat primly, her back straight and hands in her lap. "The short of it: we don't know. Science would have us look at the reasons as to how we receive soul marks while others do not; magic would have us explore why we have soul marks. Perhaps this is more a question of theology rather than science, or, hermeneutics given our magical status."
Between the professor and Hermione, they managed to answer several questions and even generate a debate, until about half an hour later when the question period wound down to the final few questions.
"According to statistics, only one in five have a soul mark. In your opinion, why do some have them and others not?"
Hermione leaned back in the chair and tilted her chin up as she looked up at the domed ceiling in the historical auditorium. She laced her fingers together and hooked them around her knee as she mused, aloud, "Well, now…"
"I think we need to look at those who wear the mark," she finally said, slowly, contemplatively. "At the base level, all humanoid creatures have marks, whether Pureblood, Halfblood, Muggleborn or Muggle. But when we then look at the magical world, very few sentient magical creatures that are humanoid or bipedal have soul marks. Veela and werewolves, for example, do not. Because of that, we can't very well through around generalizations or phrases that 'all magical folk have a soul mate' or that soul marks are a purely magical thing. If that were the case, then Veela, merfolk, and werewolves would also have marks."
"But they have their own form of soul mates, don't they?" someone shouted from the back.
Hermione nodded. "Of a sort, yes. Werewolves find one mate and stick with them for life; as do Veela. But they're not attracted to their mate due to a matching symbol or phrase on their body. Perhaps their magic is tuned to soul magic in a way different to ours?
"Now, historically, there are stories and tales of Purebloods born without marks that are killed or given up like Squibs," added Hermione, "Which implies that the mark itself is something inherently magical to those with magic, a necessity or a part of ourselves that without, we are incomplete or somehow… lesser. I do not believe that this is true. The idea behind not having, or having, a soul mark is cultural, and often tied to romantic notions of love and partnership. Funnily enough, I knew someone who called his a curse mark…"
She trailed off into a fond silence. After a moment, Hermione snapped out of it. "Where was I…? Oh yes, notions of love. I've always been of the mind that we choose our own destinies, and our own partners to love. It is our choice, and the decisions we make, that determines the makeup of our soul - not the supposed 'other half.'"
Teddy remained at the back of the auditorium, watching as people left, either by themselves or in pairs or groups, talking enthusiastically about Hermione's research or something similar, until it was nearly empty.
Teddy bounced down the aisle, coming up from the side of the platform while Hermione thanked the professor. The man turned to look at Teddy - causing Hermione to turn around as well.
"Ted!" she lit up in surprise and happiness. "What brings you by?"
"Uncle Harry sent me," he replied, rocking back on his heels.
The professor gave a goodbye nod, leaving Hermione with Teddy. She smiled fondly at the teen. "Did he? Whatever for?"
"He wanted me to pass on something to you."
Teddy swung his backpack around and unzipped it, pulling out the wooden box and passing it off to her. Hermione reached for it, running her hands up and down the grain and then overtop the embossed sigil burnt into the wood. Her brows furrowed.
"What is it?" asked Teddy, watching her intently.
"This mark… I feel like I've seen it somewhere before," she murmured, eyes glazed over and lost in memory. After a moment, she blinked, and then her amber eyes were clear. She neatly tucked it into her beaded bag, which she had scooped up once her lecture was done from behind the lectern. "Never mind. I'll figure it out later. Was there anything else?"
Teddy shook his head. "Awesome talk, Aunt Hermione! I always knew your work into soul magic was something wicked, but hearing that?"
"That's just the introduction," grinned Hermione, reaching forward and slinging an arm around the teen's shoulders. "Merlin, Teddy! When did you get so tall? I think you're almost as big as your father."
The teen preened at the comparison to the late Remus Lupin. "Do you think so?" he asked shyly, ducking his head a bit.
Hermione nodded. "Yes, absolutely. Would I lie? Remus was always on the tall side - a bit gangly, too. A product of his werewolf metabolism. Speaking of - I'm hungry. Shall we head back to Grimmauld for a late lunch?"
"Oh, yes please," answered Teddy, but he then made a face. "But please tell me you're not cooking."
Hermione gasped in mock horror, staring up at the Hogwarts alum. "Edward Lupin!"
"Let's face it, Aunt Hermione, but no matter how smart you are, you're really quite useless in a kitchen," said Teddy solemnly, a knowing glint to his eyes.
Hermione went to respond, a tart and sharp retort on her lips, but then she stopped. "Sad, but true. Well… I suppose it'll be Thai, then?"
A few hours later, Hermione and Teddy sat around the renovated basement kitchen in Grimmauld Place, perched on stools at an island, chopsticks in one hand and takeout containers in the other.
The room itself had been upgraded and altered since the days when Hermione was Teddy's age and staying at the ancestral Black London home: much of the dark panelling and wallpaper had been striped and whitewashed to a neutral grey tone, with the baseboards painted to match the clean, white ceiling. Windows had been scrubbed and heavy dark velvet drapes were replaced with sheer white linen or sunny yellows. Even the dark furniture in many of the rooms, once cleaned of Dark magic, hexes, curses, and Doxies, was reupholstered and stained anew.
While Grimmauld Place wasn't going to win any decor awards, Hermione thought that her investment in purchasing the place off Harry once he and Ginny married had been a solid investment, especially with her work based out of London at the Ministry (and the fact that there were far too many memories for Harry; it was easy for him to let go of his misplaced guilt from his teenage years once he was no longer facing physical reminders).
Hermione had left both Sirius and Regulus's rooms alone, locking the doors and turning them into shrines for the men, but the rest of the house had been gutted from top to bottom, including the master bedroom on the top floor, and then, another for Teddy when he stayed over. Andromeda had passed away just before Teddy began at Hogwarts, partially due to illness and the rest, loneliness from outliving her husband, daughter, and son-in-law; by then, Harry and Ginny had all three of their children and were lovingly swamped at their Ottery St. Catchpole home, leaving Teddy more often than not in Hermione's care.
She hadn't intended to have children; what she and Ron had fizzled out after that kiss during the Battle, and while she dated, she never dated someone consistently. As she told Luna, she knew where her soul mate was, and she had no plans on rekindling - or attempting to, at least - that. Then, her research into soul magic began; she had so many questions! How could she and Ned connect across universes? Why did someone sometimes see her and other times not? Why could she touch things physically but not leave something behind?
Her research took her deep into arcane magic and forbidden knowledge. It took her from old Pureblood libraries in Britain to collections in Hungary; to temples in Laos and Mexico; to hidden archives in Egypt and Tasmania. She became the leading expert on soul magic - having not only seen it up close and personal during the War, with Voldemort splitting his soul, but also with Lily Potter's ritual.
And now she published her thoughts on it, hoarding far more information than she'd ever admit to knowing, of course, and was about to capitalize on that by beginning a world tour, the current subject of her discussion with Teddy.
"-and Harry suggested this?" asked a skeptical Hermione.
Teddy shrugged, moving around the few remaining noodles in his container with the ends of his chopsticks. "Yeah. He knows that I don't know what I want to do with my life. So he suggested a trip."
"But going with me? Teddy, it's hardly going to be fun," said Hermione incredulously, eyes wide. "I'll only be in one city for about two or three days - hardly enough for sightseeing even if I wanted to stop and take in the sights! Afternoons and evenings will either be lectures - and before you say that could be fun, it'll be the same lecture each time - or book signings. What would you do with yourself?"
"I don't mind seeing things on my own," replied Teddy quietly, putting down the container. "I'd just be… not here."
"Is there something else going on?" asked Hermione softly, putting the remains of her own meal onto the tabletop. She turned to face the teen. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
Teddy bit his lip, looking away. A flush appeared on his cheeks, two bright spots of red that drowned out the few birthmarks on his face. His sandy hair - his colour of choice to be inconspicuous - cycled through to blue, green, and settled on an embarrassed red.
"I don't have a soul mark," he finally blurted.
Teddy glanced at her and then back down at the tabletop. "I thought I was just a late bloomer, y'know? Like, you've mentioned that there were cases where people got their marks later in life, near the end of puberty instead of at the beginning. But… I'm seventeen now, Aunt Hermione, and I've never had a single thing on my body show up."
Hermione took a deep breath. "Is that - is that something bad? Not having a soul mate?"
Glumly, Teddy traced a finger across the island as his red hair turned a melancholy, deep blue so dark it looked like his natural black. "Victoire has a soul mark."
Oh. Oh, Teddy… "Oh."
They were silent for a bit, and then Hermione said, quietly, "People don't end up with their soul mate, Teddy. People rarely do, now."
The teen cut a glance at her, eyes hopeful. "Yeah? Like who?"
"Like-" Hermione trailed off, casting her mind back for examples. The most obvious one was-"like your Uncle George and Aunt Angelina."
"That's because Uncle Fred died in the War, Aunt Hermione." Teddy stood from the island, collecting both their containers and began to walk around towards the garbage. He could vanish the containers, but Hermione had instilled a deep Muggle ethos of recycling during his summers with her. "I know you mean well, but people still do end up with their match if they can. Other than Uncle George and Aunt Angelina, there's no one-"
Forgive me, Harry. "There's your Uncle Harry."
Teddy dropped the containers he was holding and they clattered to the floor as he spun to stare at her. "What?"
Hermione swallowed thickly and said, "Harry and Ginny aren't soul mates. Their marks don't match, but they got married anyway because people expected them to."
"B-But," sputtered Teddy, looking bewildered. His hair went from firehouse red to orange, to a neon pink. "Then who is his match?"
Hermione looked away, not speaking.
"You, Aunt Hermione?" Teddy was shocked.
Hermione's mouth dropped open in surprise. "What? No! Merlin, no, Teddy." She reached up and ran a flustered hand through her hair. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
He looked at her askance.
With a sigh, Hermione peeled back the sleeve of her dress-tunic so he saw the shield with direwolf, books, and crossed wands, on the inside of her right wrist. He stepped forward carefully, sliding along the wooden floor in his socks and eyed the mark.
"Direwolf," corrected Hermione gently.
The teen looked up. "Where are they? Your match? Are they dead?" his face immediately dropped as he realized what he asked. "I'm so sorry, Aunt Hermione - I shouldn't have -"
"As far as I know," interrupted Hermione kindly, "He's still alive."
A shrewd look fell over Teddy's face as it shifted from remorseful to calculating. "Muggle?"
"... in a sense." Hermione cleared her throat, standing from the stool and forcing Teddy to step back. "Now, why don't we go to my office, take a look at my itinerary, and if you like to visit most of these places, I'll owl Harry and say that you can come along?"
"Oh, great! Wicked!" his moods whipped straight into elation. Hermione flicked her wand at the spilled containers on the floor, vanishing them while Teddy looked on sheepishly. He then trailed her down the hall, talking all the while about places he had always wanted to see or go, and things he wanted to do ("And mountain biking, what a wicked idea, don't you think Aunt Hermione? Or bungee jumping in Australia! Or scuba diving - what strange inventions Muggles come up with! How about Gamarian horseracing? Are those the ones with the wings?").
Hermione's office was once Sirius's study on the second floor, off the library. It was a cluttered, chaotic mess, where only Hermione's unique system of cataloging told her where everything was. Precariously piled books looked ready to topple, some in groups on the floor; a notable pile was on the edge of her desk.
"My planner is here, somewhere," muttered Hermione, heading to the desk littered with scrolls and parchments. "That's the most organized part of this. Gods be good! I haven't been in this room for months since I finished my edits…"
Teddy, deciding to help, began to lift and root around a pile of scrolls near an overflowing armchair and end table covered with mugs and petite cups, some still half-filled with tea. One had a bit of mold beginning to grow in it.
Teddy grimaced and tapped it discreetly with his wand, thinking scourgify.
"Ted? What are you doing over there?" called Hermione.
"Nothing, Aunt Hermione," he called back innocently. He was the son of a Marauder! "Have you found your planner yet?"
"No… do you think you can look by the fireplace? Merlin knows what it would be doing over there, but…"
Teddy moved as instructed, looking at the wicker yarn basket on the raised stone at the base of the fireplace, eyebrows lifting in surprise. However, he cautiously poked at it with his wand and surmised there was nothing there but wool and yarn. He then stood to his full height, moving a few framed photographs along the mantle, upending two rolls of parchment, which fluttered down to the floor, and then cursed as a belligerent doxy flew at him, screeching something.
He gave a wordless cry, and the thing dive-bombed him. Teddy swung his hands around, fending it off. He connected with the black creature, but it clung to his hand and bit - hard.
"Merlin's soggy underpants!" he swore loudly, growling and eyes turning amber as his hair turned a deep, dark red. The doxy screeched back and then launched off his hand, racing up to the ceiling where it disappeared in a crack.
"Yeah, fine - just a little bit of blood from a doxy bite. It's nothing serious," grumbled Teddy, shaking out his hand. He looked down and saw that the doxy had bitten him, drawing blood. Luckily, his father's werewolf stamina and his mother's metamorphmagus blood did have positives of magical immunities, and Doxy venom was one such strain.
"There's nothing here," he said, turning instead with a frown. He looked around the room, casting an eye and thinking where he might place a planner. He did learn from this witch, after all. At the base of the armchair, he walked by, was Hermione's beaded bag. "What about your bag?"
"Hmm?" Hermione looked up from her spot by the desk. "Oh? Yes? Maybe."
Teddy grabbed it and hauled it over, and together she held it open as Teddy rummaged through it.
"Oh! Oh, well done, Ted," she said, as he pulled it out, handing it to her. She took it and began to flip through it, using a tab to a specific date. She placed the planner down on the desk, resting it against a small bulge in the beaded bag so that a part of it was still touching.
Hermione hummed, indicating she heard him, but her eyes were rapidly shifting back and forth, as she read her notes in her planner.
"Hey, Aunt Hermione?" he asked, a strange look on his face. "I think the clasp broke on the box holding that Selwyn thing…"
Alarmed, Hermione looked up. "What?" Her eyes widened. "Ted! You said the Doxy drew blood?"
Teddy's wide eyes met Hermione's, and together they hastily drew back the beaded bag flap and four hands collided as they shoved Hermione's collection of odds and ends in her bag to the side as they sought the wooden box Harry gave Teddy earlier. Heart thumping loudly against her chest, Hermione found it first, seeing that the clasps holding it shut were indeed broken, and the inside, the jewelry that Harry had mentioned was off its velvet cushion.
The necklace was made of thick, interlocking black blocks with veins of some silver metal cut through it. The dark jewel shimmering in the light of the office, its metallic form glowing strangely. Some of Teddy's blood had smeared along the velvet, and onto the dark links.
"Obsidian," murmured Hermione, her mouth turning down into a frown.
"But what's that in it?" asked Teddy. "I've never seen silver like that."
"I don't think it's silver -"
Anything else Hermione was going to say cut off as the silver vein in the obsidian jewel glowed and gold runes began appearing along the squared edges of the links. They were a form of runes that neither Hermione nor Teddy knew, both having studied Ancient Runes at Hogwarts, and as Teddy opened his mouth to ask what was going on, there was a loud rushing noise, a flash of bright light that made him instinctively squeeze his eyes shut, and a loud hum.
It took several moments for Teddy's lupine senses to return to normal - he was far more sensitive than the average human and witch or wizard, thanks to his genetics. But the first sense that returned was smell, and he immediately wrinkled his nose at the strong scent of feces and unwashed bodies.
"Aunt Hermione?" he muttered, groaning.
"Easy, Ted," the familiar voice and scent of Hermione washed over him and he took into a few deep breaths. "You're on the ground. Can you sit up?"
He nodded, but the movement hurt, so he remained still. He heard Hermione sigh, and then mutter a Notice-Me-Not.
"Where are we?" he asked instead as she pulled him into a seated position and he let his eyes open the barest amount.
Hermione pursed her lips, looking past him. Teddy took that time to survey where they were, and his mouth dropped open as he did so. They were crouched at the entrance of a side alley, two tall wooden buildings on either side of them and a tall fence at the back where the disgusting smell was coming from. But ahead - ahead -
There was a street, cobblestone-lined and wide, filled with people in odd fashion walking to and fro, vendors with rustic, wooden moving carts selling wares, and even others moving barrels, or sticks with rabbits hanging from them, or a group of women in fancy dresses and elaborate hairstyles with men with swords following them what was going on where were they -
"Calm down," said Hermione, and Teddy realized he was hyperventilating, panting quickly in from his mouth. His hair was a sickly yellow.
"Where are we?" he squeaked, when he finally managed to regulate his breathing, copying Hermione's as she watched him carefully.
She looked past him, eyes narrowed on a group of soldiers as they walked by in their red tunics and chainmail, their swords clanking against their legs as they did so. Teddy could just barely make out the lion on one side of the tunic bare from the armour.
"Westeros," breathed Hermione, eyes wide.
"Where?" demanded Teddy. "Did - did a Portkey go off early? Is that somewhere in - in - Kazakhstan?"
The look Hermione gave him made him feel like he was a first year again, and he mumbled a quiet "sorry," under his breath.
"No, Teddy," said Hermione simply, rising to her feet and pulling him with her. "We're in Westeros. It's… it's another world."
He gapped at her. "How do you know that?"
He then winced. His voice had been a little shrill.
Hermione sighed, a long, deep sound. "Because I've been here before," she finally said, looking up at him. "This is where my soul mate is from."
Teddy's eyes went wide as he goggled at her. "Really?"
She nodded, biting at her bottom lip. "C'mon, we need to find out where we are in Westeros, and how long it's been. And… And I should find out what's become of Ned."
She took a few steps, but Teddy remained rooted next to a wooden building, eyes unfocused as his words to Harry from earlier came back to haunt him. He let out a trill of hysterical laughter, causing Hermione to turn to him and frown in worry.
"What? What is it?"
"I - I told Uncle Harry -" he sputtered, leaning against the rough wood, staring at Hermione with wide eyes and a pale face, "I said far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise." He looked around, a wobbly smile on his face. "I think this qualifies for 'far off places,' don't you?"
Note: I wasn't planning on continuing this past the one-shot I wrote, but I was greatly inspired earlier today rewatching Captain America: Civil War and seeing the adorable version of Peter Parker that Tom Holland does, and according to my Tumblr, this was who people fancast as Teddy Lupin, so... here we go. :D
No idea when I will update next, as I'm slowly plotting this story out (but I've got a few chapters' worth of ideas at least). It'll be different in tone and content to the Winter Witch. Also, I am moving in 2 weeks, so I'm not sure what my internet situation will be like. In other news, 4 months, 146 days, and my strike is finally over? Legislated back to work... now I need to catch up on marking. Yay.