My Father Before Me


Story Summary:
Teddy and Cedric make a vow to reform the Centaur Liaison Office, but the price may be more than they can bear.

Chapter 01


Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder. "Cheer up, Teddy. You look like you're about to face a firing squad."

He opened his mouth to ask what a firing squad was but thought better of it. This was his last chance; he could ponder the meaning of Muggle expressions later. "Are you sure you can't do anything?"

"The internships are --"

"-- randomly assigned. I know." There was no choice but to resort to the most devious weapon in his arsenal. He gave her his most charming smile, the one that never failed to melt his grandmother's heart and let him practically get away with murder. He turned his hair pink for good measure. "Please, Aunt Hermione, they'll laugh me out of Gryffindor if word gets around that I spent my holiday in the Centaur Liaison Office. You know what they say about that place, don't you?" He paused for dramatic effect. "Anyone sent there is about to be sacked. How am I supposed to get a job with that on my record?"

Her expression was a curious mix of amusement, sympathy, and irritation. "By doing the very best job you can." She shook her head. "In any case, it wouldn't be fair if I arranged to get you reassigned. You don't want people to think you succeed because of who you know instead of what you do, I'm sure?"

"No!" he said sharply. His hair turned back to brown. It was time to try another tack. "I hear the head of the place -- Struthers isn't it? -- is a real git."

"Don't worry about Victor Struthers until you have to."

Well, that was comforting. They had reached the Fountain of Magical Brethren. They watched as water shot from the centaur's arrow. Teddy had a sudden urge to blast the thing into scrap, regulations be damned. Hermione might have been right that it wasn't fair for her to get him into another department, but his current assignment hardly seemed fair either. He had wanted to work in Werewolf Support Services and had thought himself uniquely qualified to do so. The clients wouldn't have been merely a name and the case file; he would have worked tirelessly on their behalf as if each of them had been his own father. Harry had always told him that Remus Lupin had been a kind and easygoing man despite his condition. Teddy had dreamed that he would be able to make life easier for other werewolves who had been unfairly maligned and prove that they were not all like Greyback and his pack of barely human savages. That dream was slipping away like water through his hand.

The lift doors opened. A middle-aged man that Teddy vaguely recognized but could not immediately place stepped out. He smiled slightly when he saw them. "Morning, Granger."

"Morning, Diggory." She looked between him and Teddy, and then her face broke out into a wide grin. "Teddy, this is Cedric Diggory. Cedric, this is Teddy Lupin."

Teddy stared. Through Harry, he had met many famous witches and wizards and thought he should be used to the experience. Still, it was a shock to meet someone he knew only through stories and photographs in the newspaper. Despite his graying hair and the lines about his face, the man before him still resembled the smiling boy who had been Hogwarts champion in the Triwizard Tournament years ago. He'd nearly tied to win the thing, but he'd decided that Harry had deserved it more and refused the Cup. That had probably saved his life. Today, he was a prosecutor in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

He was startled from his reverie by Diggory extending his hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Lupin." His grip was surprisingly firm, and Teddy nearly winced in pain.

"Teddy here is starting his internship at the Centaur Liaison Office." She bit her lip, and her eyes sparkled with barely suppressed laughter, though Teddy couldn't see what the joke was supposed to be. Diggory opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione shook her head. "He's not very happy about it. He's terrified of Struthers."

"I didn't say that!"

Diggory's left eyebrow quirked upward. "Is that so? Well, if it's any comfort, I don't think anyone who works at the CLO wants to be there, including Struthers." He muttered something under his breath that Teddy couldn't quite catch and turned to Hermione. "Want to make sure he doesn't get lost?"

"Hey! I'm seventeen, not seven. I can find the bloody office!"

"Think of it as orientation. I can tell you what food to avoid in the cafeteria, which toilets are the cleanest, and who's a right pillock." He gave Teddy a conspiratorial smile. Teddy thought it must have been very useful to him in the courtroom; Lord Voldemort himself would have wanted to spill all his secrets when confronted with that toothy grin. "That last bit is very useful for interns, trust me. What do you say?"

Teddy looked at him. There was no trace of condescension in his features; it seemed like Diggory sincerely wanted to help him. Seventeen or not, he would be a fool to turn down an offer to learn the ins and outs of the Ministry on his first day there. He nodded once. Diggory's smile broadened, and he took Teddy to a wooden bench opposite the fountain and motioned for him to sit.

Diggory was as good as his word. He explained that the haddock sandwich the cafeteria served was delicious -- early in the week. The morning lift rush could be avoided by arriving precisely six minutes early to work. He should always be nice to Magical Maintenance; they could make his life hell if they wanted to.

"As for actually doing your job, I'm afraid every scrap of advice I could give you pales in comparison to hands-on experience. Learn by doing, I say."

"It's not as if I'll have much to do. The Centaur Office is a waste of space. The centaurs don't use it. I don't understand why it's still there."

"Oh, I'm sure the head of this department will be able to find something for you to do." He clapped Teddy on the shoulder. "You had your heart set on something else, didn't you? Werewolf Support?"

"It's just..." Teddy struggled for the right word. "I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to make things easier for people like my dad."

"Ah," said Diggory. "That's very noble of you. Let me guess: Gryffindor?"

Teddy grinned. "Prefect and Quidditch Captain. Head Boy when term starts."

"You sound like me. You know how you have to work your arse off on the pitch before they even think about making you Captain?" Teddy nodded, and Cedric continued, "It's the same idea. Work hard here, and you'll impress the higher-ups. 'Look at that Lupin boy! He did a great job! Imagine what he could do with some actual responsibility!'"

"You sound like Hermione."

"That's because Hermione is an intelligent woman." He withdrew a battered pocket watch. "We'd better go. It'd be embarrassing if I made you late on your first day."

The lift was crowded; Teddy made a mental note to follow Diggory's advice to avoid the morning rush. Diggory didn't get off at the second floor. Teddy shot him a puzzled look. Didn't he work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? Perhaps he was just making sure Teddy made it to the right place as he'd promised Hermione. Yes, that was it. The lift stopped at the fourth floor. "Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," intoned a flat voice.

"This is our stop," said Diggory. Teddy marveled at the ease with which he maneuvered them through the crowd and into the corridor. A few people nodded in greeting as they passed. Diggory gave each of them a warm smile. They reached the door to the Centaur Liason Office. It had seen better days. The bronze nameplate had turned mostly green, and there were scuff marks on the surface. Teddy winced, bracing himself for the longest summer of his life.

Diggory seemed to be bracing himself for something as well. He bowed his head and inhaled. Several moments passed before he spoke. "Hermione and I have not been entirely honest with you."

"Sir?" He shivered. This was bad. He could feel it.

"She told you that you did not have to worry about Mr. Struthers, but neither of us told you why. The truth is, he's no longer head of this office."

Was that all? "Well, that's a relief."

"I am."

"What?" He heard the words, but they did not make any sense. "B-but you're a barrister!"

"Department reorganization. Officially, I've been promoted. Unofficially..." He grinned wryly. "Well, let's just say it's not wise to suggest that the Minister's nephew has been involved in illegal dragon egg smuggling, new order or not. It's my first day, too. We'll be learning our jobs together."

He was going to be working for Diggory. He'd just called the Centaur Office useless to the face of the department head. He was doomed. He was going to be sacked on his first day, and he deserved it for being such an idiot. Why couldn't he have been sensible and kept his mouth shut? "I'm terribly, terribly sorry about what I said earlier, sir."

Diggory didn't seem angry, as Teddy expected. He seemed amused. "It's all right. I appreciate your honesty. Most people think like you do, they just don't say it. As you said, the centaurs don't even use the liaison office." His tone grew serious. "I won't lie to you. I'd much rather be back handling court cases. I don't appreciate being kicked upstairs. But I wasn't in Hufflepuff for nothing. I don't intend to be in the Centaur Office for the rest of my life. If I could turn the office around and make it useful, my star would rise considerably."

Teddy exhaled. "So, you're as unhappy as I am. Does that mean you won't sack me?"

"No. In fact..." He stroked his chin. "I mean to do more than get my job back. I see this as an opportunity. Wizards don't have much to do with centaurs. We know less about them than we do the other magical races. Our relationship with them hasn't changed since the war. I'd like to change that. We should all be part of the magical community, not living in isolation and ignorance."

He fixed Teddy with his gaze, and Teddy stood transfixed. "I was a member of the Order of the Phoenix during the second war. I didn't fight for the status quo. I fought for a better world. Imagine the world we could create if all magical races worked together. I can't do anything about the other races, but I might be able to improve relations with the centaurs. I can't do it alone. You seem the dedicated, ambitious sort. Will you help me?"

"Will the centaurs even want to be more involved? They're classified as Beasts because they don't want anything to do with us."

He shrugged. "Maybe they don't want to be involved in governing. That's no excuse for us being ignorant. Look at it this way," he said, "whatever happens you'll get a hell of a reference letter out of this. What do you say?"

Teddy blinked. When he'd been younger, he'd begged for stories of his father in the Order. Harry had said Remus had been a hero, fighting for people who'd despised him because it was the right thing to do. He'd fought against the tyranny of Voldemort by spying and the ignorance of the wizarding world by existing. His grandmother had always shaken her head and chided Harry for being overly dramatic, but Teddy had devoured every word. This was his chance to fight for something as his father had done. "You have a deal, Mr. Diggory."

"Call me Cedric." He opened the door. "Well, once more unto the breach and all that."

The Centaur Liaison Office consisted of three desks, a filing cabinet, and a wastebasket. A wizard sat at one of the desks, quill in hand and sleeves rolled up, studying the Prophet. He looked up when they entered and frowned. "Who are you? Did you take a wrong turn?" He brightened. "Hey, maybe you can help me. What's a five letter word for 'an astronomical broom?'

"Comet," Teddy said.

"Thanks, mate!"

"I'm Cedric Diggory." The man stared blankly. "The new head of this office."

"I heard old Struthers went off to Misuse of Muggle Artifacts. Good riddance to 'im. Welcome aboard."

"Thank you. Since you're doing the crossword, I assume you've completed your work."

"Nope. I'll get to it later. None of it's urgent. Mostly busywork, if you ask me."

"I suggest you get to it now before you find yourself looking for other employment."

His mouth hung open. "You can't sack me; I'm Jakob Goldstein. My cousin was in Dumbledore's Army!"

"So was I. Now that we've got that settled, could you tell me the protocol for communicating with the leader of a centaur herd? I want to introduce myself."

"You mean how do we talk to them? We send an owl like for every bit of official Ministry business." He shook his head. "I wouldn't bother if I were you. They never answer."

Cedric went pale, and a muscle worked in his jaw. Teddy had the distinct impression that he wanted to jinx Goldstein. He could sympathize. "Of course, they never answer! Centaurs eat owls. They probably shot and killed them before they even saw the message. Did you learn nothing in Care of Magical Creatures? Did you even take Care of Magical Creatures?" Goldstein opened his mouth to answer, and Cedric held up a hand. "Never mind. I don't want to know."

He withdrew his wand. For a moment, Teddy was afraid that he was going to jinx Goldstein after all, but then he said, "Expecto Patronum!" A silver Labrador shot forth from the wand. "Vox!" The Labrador tilted its head to one side as if waiting for something. When he spoke again, Cedric enunciated each word carefully. "To: The Centaurs of the Forbidden Forest. Greetings. My name is Cedric Diggory. I am the new Head of the Centaur Liaison Office. I look forward to working with you. I would like to arrange a meeting between us to discuss issues concerning both our peoples. You may relay your response through the Keeper of Keys and Grounds. He is an old friend. I look forward to your prompt response."

The Patronus sailed through the door. Teddy watched it go. He had been wrong. This summer was going to be anything but boring.

"Any word?" Teddy asked as he walked through the door two weeks later.

Cedric looked up from a stack of papers. "No. Well, unless you count Hagrid calling me mental again."

"I agree with him," muttered Goldstein. "Who'd want to talk to a ruddy centaur?"

Teddy glared at him, but Cedric acted as if he hadn't heard. "There must be a way to get a message to them." He smiled at Teddy. "That's your assignment. Find me a way to get in touch with a centaur herd."

"Me? But I don't know anything about centaurs."

"Neither does anyone else. That's why we're doing this, remember?"

Teddy groaned.

He spent the rest of the day poring over musty books and investigating dead ends. It was a relief to come home that night. The house had belonged to his parents. It was in a clearing in a forest in Lancashire, ten miles from the nearest hint of civilization. Except for the magically reinforced door that led to the cellar, it was a perfectly ordinary cottage. If he listened at night, he could hear squirrels chitter in the distance. He'd spent every summer here. When he left school and moved out of his grandmother's house, he would live here.

"Harry, Ginny, and the children are coming over for dinner," his grandmother said when he walked through the door. "You'll want to freshen up."

He looked down at his robes. "Looks fine to me."

"Nonsense. Your robes are all mussed. And for Merlin's sake, do something with your hair! It's sticking up in the back."

Teddy never quite saw the point of fixing his hair. Why bother when he could change the length, style, and even the color, with a thought? He dutifully trooped up the stairs anyway. By the time he heard a knock on the door, his robes looked positively immaculate. His hair, however, was a mess. He concentrated, and it became close-cropped and magenta. A small tuft still stood up in the back. Oh well. Even a Metamorphmagus couldn't have everything.

"That wasn't quite what I meant, Teddy dear," he grandmother said when he came back downstairs.

"Come off it, Gram." He turned his attention to the assembled children, who were regarding him with eager eyes. "You kids love my unconventional sense of style, don't you?"

"Yeah!" said Albus. "Grow antlers. I like that one."

"Turn yourself into Professor Longbottom," said James.

He spent the next few minutes turning into everything the boys asked for. They laughed and clapped at each transformation. He smiled. If his Ministry career didn't pan out, he could always have a career doing children's birthday parties. If James and Albus loved his act, then Lily was uncharacteristically silent. Normally, she was the one spurring him on to ever greater heights of wacky inventiveness, but she hadn't said a word since she'd arrived.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

She sneezed. Sparks spewed from her nostrils, and she flew three feet into the air before floating harmlessly to the ground. Teddy jumped back in surprise. "Sick."

"I see that."

Ginny clucked her tongue. "Propulsion Sickness. The mediwitch said she'd be fine in a day or two. I told her she should stay home, but she insisted on coming to visit her favorite cousin. At least she can only catch it once."

"Like horse pox."

"That's chicken pox, sweetheart."

"I like horse pox better."

He saw his grandmother wince when Ginny said the word "sickness," but she knelt in front of Lily. "I'm sorry you're ill, dear. I've prepared some nice chocolate cake. Perhaps that will make you feel better. Just try not to sneeze on the food," she added under her breath.

Dinner was a pleasant affair. James had received his Hogwarts letter the week before and inundated Teddy with questions. Did the staircases really move? Was Peeves as bad as Uncle George made him out to be? How much homework did first-years have? Most importantly, how could he make sure he was sorted into Gryffindor? Teddy answered to the best of his ability, though he was deliberately coy about the Sorting Ceremony. That was best experienced first hand.

"Victoire's really excited, too," Harry said between bites. "She made prefect. I expect you two will be seeing a lot of each other next year."

Lily clapped her hands together. "Maybe you and Victoire will fall in love and get married. We can all be a proper family." She sneezed on him. Teddy coughed as the smoke hit him in the face. "Sorry," she said when she returned to her chair.

"Don't listen to her. You're already family."

Teddy blushed. Harry was right. They were family. So, he sometimes wondered -- was obsessed with, his mind whispered -- what his parents had really been like. He had a godfather and a grandmother. That was more than some people had. He ought to be grateful. As for Victoire, she was a nice enough girl, if a bit young for him, but he wouldn't have time for a girlfriend. He'd be too busy studying for NEWTs and leading the Quidditch team to fall in love with anyone, even if she had inherited Fleur's looks.

Ginny cleared her throat. "So, Teddy, how's the internship going?"

"It's... interesting. Mr. Diggory wants me to find a way to get in touch with the centaurs."

He might as well have told them that Cedric wanted him to find a way to raise the dead. Everyone stopped eating and stared at him. Harry shook his head. "Poor Cedric. You'd think that after he got exiled to the CLO he would have stopped trying to remake the world in his own image. The centaurs don't want anything to do with us. They spent most of the Battle of Hogwarts sitting on the sidelines."

"Only most," Teddy said with a smile. "Mr. Diggory wants to understand them better."

"If they wanted to be understood, they wouldn't hide away in their forests, and they would talk about something besides Mars being bright or some such. Best leave well enough alone. They almost killed Hermione. I don't want history to repeat itself."

Until now, Teddy had never thought of what Harry would think of Cedric's plans. He supposed that he would have expected him to be mildly supportive. He was so amused whenever he told stories about SPEW. If Harry's attitude was typical, Cedric might have more problems than the centaurs.

"You should be somewhere else," Harry continued, "doing something useful. I could pull some strings and get you reassigned. Maybe not Werewolf Support, but I'm sure Percy would love to have you in International Magical Cooperation. That's sort of like what you and Cedric are trying to do."

"I promised." He was a Gryffindor. Gryffindors were chivalrous. Chivalrous people kept their word.


"From what you've told me," said his grandmother, "Hermione tried to trick the centaurs into doing her dirty work. The Death Eaters murdered people for less, but the Ministry was all for forgiveness and reconciliation to Narcissa and Draco -- largely thanks to your testimony. You can hardly fault Teddy for wanting to extend that reconciliation to centaurs. Cedric may or may not be on a wild goose chase, but I will not have it said that my grandson failed in the performance of his duties." She turned to Teddy. "Have you spoken to Firenze? I believe he is partly on speaking terms with the other centaurs of the Forbidden Forest. He may be willing to help you. I stress the 'may.'"

He hadn't considered Firenze. Divination had never been worth his time, no matter who was teaching. He saw him only rarely. They had never spoken. Firenze had struck him as remote and, frankly, a little intimidating. Still, it was better than nothing. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now be a good boy and eat. Your roast is getting cold."

I will not strangle Lily, no matter how much I want to. That would be wrong. He sneezed again and sailed toward the classroom ceiling. Flying was so much nicer when he was on a broom. From now on, potentially contagious dinner guests would be asked to stay home, adorable cousins or not. He hovered for a moment, the artificial forest clearing spread out below him. It would have been quite lovely under other circumstances.

Cedric watched him with a mixture of alarm and amusement. "Are you all right up there?"

"I'll be fine." He returned to the ground. "Want me to go home? I don't want to give you this."

"Already had it. Most miserable week of my life. You can go if you want. I can talk to Firenze." He checked his watch. "Where is he, anyway?"

"I can help with that." He withdrew the Marauders Map from a pocket in his robes and tapped it with his wand. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Familiar lines crisscrossed the parchment, spreading and twisting until the map was complete. He spread the map out on a nearby desk and scanned for the dot bearing Firenze's name.

Cedric watched him. "What is that?" It was the first time he had ever seen Cedric surprised by anything.

"Little gift from Harry when I started Hogwarts. It shows every living or unliving soul in the castle. Including centaurs." He tapped the parchment with his wand. "Firenze's in the corridor outside the staff room and heading this way."

"Incredible." Cedric thought for a moment. "So that's how Harry was able to sneak out so much at night. Snape and Filch nearly had aneurysms trying to figure it out. Gave the prefects hell. What nefarious purposes have you used it for, I wonder?"

Teddy gave him what he hoped was a reasonable facsimile of an innocent smile. "I'm sure I don't know what you --" He sneezed again. Smoke billowed over the map. Teddy groaned. The moment he returned home, he would take as many Sneeze Suppressing Sweets as he could fit in his mouth and go to bed. "Sorry about that," he said when he returned to earth.

But Cedric wasn't watching him. He stared at the map. Teddy frowned. It was only a map, albeit a very useful one, but Cedric was staring at it like it was the bloody Philosopher's Stone. He moved so that he could look over Cedric's shoulder. The map had vanished. In its place were four lines of writing, each in a different hand:

Mister Prongs would like to know what the hell just happened.

Mister Wormtail says he hasn't seen that much smoke since a Welsh Green got loose at his dad's dragon reserve.

Mister Padfoot expresses his hope that it was caused by the Slytherin common room burning to the ground.

Mister Moony would like to remind the bearer that this map is as vulnerable to fire as the next piece of parchment and hopes that all his hard work isn't going to be burnt to a crisp.

Neither of them said anything. Teddy had lost the power of speech entirely. He traced over the writing with his finger, lingering over the last line. The map could talk. No, it was more than that. The Marauder's Map contained a bit of each of it' makers. His dad was inside, and he could talk. A lump formed in his throat. Why had Harry never told him? Had he even known that the map was good for more than helping him sneak about at night?

Cedric recovered first. He picked the map up and held it close to his face. Teddy fought the urge to rip it from his hands. "How do you suppose it works?"

"I don't know." It didn't matter how it worked, only that it did.

"You don't suppose... that it's a horcrux? No, you can't put a piece of more than one soul in an object, and all four Marauders wrote something." He handed it back to Teddy, who snatched it back.

"Mischief managed," he said, annoyed. Really, would it have killed Cedric to say that the map couldn't be a horcrux because the Marauders -- three of them, anyway -- had been good people?

Cedric was oblivious. "I bet it's enchanted to respond in a specific way to certain events or phrases. Might even be able to carry on a conversation as long as you talked about sneaky business. Anything other than that and it'd probably spew out gibberish."

A throat cleared behind them, and they both jumped to attention. Firenze stood in the doorway. He was larger than Teddy remembered. His sides brushed against the doorframe. The muscles of his forequarters were large and well-developed. Teddy gulped. Firenze could crush both of them before they could draw their wands. Please, Cedric, don't say anything to make him mad.

Firenze inclined his head. "Gentlemen." He walked to the front of the room.

"Professor." Cedric bowed slightly and resumed his seat. "Thank you for meeting with us."

"It is not often that a human wishes to speak to me, especially one who is not one of my students. What do you wish?"

"I've been appointed head of the Centaur Liaison Office. I don't know if you're aware of this, but it's considered a joke by the rest of the Ministry." He paused, waiting for a response, but Firenze said nothing. Cedric cleared his throat. "I'd like for the office to be of some use to the centaurs, foster a closer relationship between our races."

"That is... an admirable sentiment."

Cedric exhaled. "I'm glad you agree. Unfortunately, I've had some difficulty contacting the centaurs. I was hoping you could relay a message for me to the centaurs that live here, at least. Tell them that I wish to speak with them. Tell them the Ministry is at last ready to listen."

Firenze's brow furrowed. Cedric leaned forward in his chair and clenched his fists; Teddy could see the whites of his knuckles. Teddy leaned forward, too, all thoughts of the map momentarily forgotten. "I could do as you ask," Firenze said, "but it would do you no good."

It was several seconds before either of them said anything. Cedric recovered first. "Excuse me?"

"They would not believe that you come in good faith."

"I assure you that I am entirely sincere."

"I believe you, but most would not. It is very difficult for a centaur to trust a human, especially a Ministry official. The memory of our relocation is too painful." He turned to Teddy. "Do you know what I am speaking of, or does Professor Binns do as poor a job teaching centaur history as he does that of humans?"

Teddy thought for a long moment. "Centaurs relocated to specially designated areas when the Statute of Secrecy was passed." Firenze nodded. "Why would you be angry about that? No one forced the centaurs to leave. You agreed."

"Not all force is physical. The wizards made many allusions to the growing Muggle population and how terrible it would be if secrecy were compromised because of one race. Measures would have to be taken. We understood. Even in those days, there were many more humans than centaurs. We could not have fought them all. So we left."

"I'm sorry," Cedric said softly. "If it would help, I could draft a formal apology."

"Words and more words. It would take actions to mend the rift."

"Such as?"

"We are dissatisfied with our lands."

"What? How could you be dissatisfied? The centaur reservations have some of the best hunting and fishing in Britain. If I could, I'd live in one."

Firenze's eyes flashed. He looked as if he were about to trample them. Teddy gulped. Please, don't kill me. Whatever we took from you, you can have it back, I promise.

Firenze calmed with visible effort. "Such arrogance!" he whispered. "You are like all the others of your kind, assuming that every being wants the same things that you do. We are not merely humans with horses' legs. We are centaurs."

Cedric seemed as shaken as Teddy felt. "F-forgive me. I meant no offense."

Firenze sighed. "No, of course you did not. How can I expect you to comprehend our ways without ever having been told what they are?" He looked from Teddy to Cedric. "Very few wish to understand us. Fewer still would have made the effort you have in coming here. Perhaps I can trust you with this knowledge."

"You have my word that everything you say will be held in strictest confidence. Isn't that right, Teddy?" He looked at Teddy, who nodded.

"I do not care who you tell, only that you make use of what I say." When he spoke again, his voice was low and rhythmic. "When a centaur dies, his spirit is bound to the forest where he lived. He serves as a guide and mentor to all those who come after him. When we were forced from our land, we lost access to our ancestors. Their spirits wander the forests without purpose. We know nothing of those who came before. Millennia of knowledge were lost. You say you wish to foster relations between our races? Give us back what is ours. Only then will the other centaurs believe you."

Teddy and Cedric looked at one another. Cedric had gone pale. Teddy's stomach felt suddenly queasy, and it had nothing to do with Propulsion Sickness. Conservative estimates put the centaur population in Britain and Ireland at seven hundred. Thousands of acres would have to be re-appropriated. It would be an immense task -- if they could get the Wizenagomot to agree to it.

"There is nothing else that would satisfy them?" Firenze shook his head. Cedric stood. "I see. Thank you for your time, professor. You've given me much to think about." He bowed again, and he and Teddy left.

"What are we going to do?" Teddy asked when they were alone in the corridor.

Cedric thought for a long time. "First, I'm going to make a stop at the library. There's been little written about centaurs, but something like that must have made it into some history book or other. It may be that Firenze has exaggerated for effect, or that not all centaurs have such reverence for their ancestors. If they all hold their ancestors in as much regard as Firenze claims, then we'll have to go through the records and see where their land was. If we're lucky, then the land is still mostly uninhabited."

"And if it isn't?"

"Then we have a problem." He clapped Teddy on the shoulder. "One problem at a time. I've got to go to the library and check Firenze's story before we do anything else."

"What am I going to do while you're doing this?"

"You," Cedric said with a weak smile, "are going home. Madam Pince will kill you if you cause smoke damage to her precious books."

Teddy opened his mouth to say that he was fine, but all that came out was a loud sneeze. When he returned to earth, he smiled sheepishly. "I'll be going now, shall I?"

His grandmother was waiting for him when he returned. "How was it? I trust that you didn't leave any holes in the ceiling."

"No, I didn't." He felt tired and fuzzy-brained. Too much had happened today, and he needed time to process it. He hardly knew what to think about what Firenze had told them. Granted, centaurs weren't humans, but how could they keep track of all those great-to-the-infinite-power grandparents, much less care about them? Just thinking about it made his head hurt.

Then there was the Marauders Map. How could he not know that the map could communicate? He had had the thing for nearly six years. Was Cedric right? Could he carry on some sort of conversation with the Marauders -- with his father? He hardly dared try it for fear of disappointment. On the other hand, it was perhaps his only chance to know one of his parents firsthand instead of through letters and stories.

His grandmother squinted and stared at him. "You don't look well. I knew I should have made you stay in bed." She rummaged through the shelves and produced a small glass phial. "Essence of merkleaf. It'll keep you from sneezing during the night. With any luck, when you wake up tomorrow, the Propulsion Sickness will be just a memory."

It tasted like rancid pork and burned in Teddy's throat going down. When the phial was empty, he escaped to his room. The window was open. He paused for a moment, letting the breeze play across his hair. He laid the map across the bed, then propped himself on his elbows in front of it and took a deep breath. Now or never.

"Hello in there." Nothing happened. "I'm Teddy, the one that's been using you for the last few years." Still nothing. "C'mon, I just want to talk." He continued like this for another ten minutes with the same results. Finally, he cursed loudly. "I just want to talk to Moony! Is that so hard to understand?"

Well, why didn't you just say so instead of blathering like an idiot?

Teddy stared at the familiar handwriting, momentarily speechless. "Um, hello." Way to go. Now Dad will think I'm an idiot.

Hello. Teddy, was it? What did you want? I assume you didn't go to all this trouble just to say "hello" to someone in a map.

That was very nearly the truth, but Teddy said nothing. The Remus Lupin who was in this map couldn't be more than sixteen or seventeen. He wouldn't know anything about Teddy or his mum, or even Harry. If he asked questions about Remus' childhood, the map might clam up, thinking he was a stranger. He had to be careful what he talked about. Well, if there was one thing a Marauder could appreciate, it was a good prank. "Peeves poured pitch in my hair. I was thinking of getting him back. Any suggestions?"

Hmm. Payback. A fine art. Let me see, I think this might work.....

Teddy slept well that night.

"Well, if it isn't our fresh-faced, idealistic young intern," Goldstein said when Teddy arrived at work the next day. "Come on, join the party."

Well, that was sarcastic, even for Goldstein. He looked at Cedric. Cedric seemed... older. His face sported fresh lines and day-old stubble. There was a pale, sickly cast to his skin and dark circles under his eyes. He clutched a quill in one hand. Ledgers lay in piles on his desk. Boxes marked "Wizarding Property - Records Office" lay on the floor beside him. "Good morning," he said dully.

"What's wrong?"

"I've been up all night. After you left, I went to the library. It took some doing, but I managed to find a passage in one book dealing with centaur culture and religion. What Firenze said? It's true, every word of it." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Ancestor worship isn't a part of the centaur religion; it is the centaur religion. Depriving a spirit access to the next generation is unthinkable, the very worst thing a centaur can do. It would be like one of us mutilating a corpse."

"No wonder they don't think much of wizards. Are you going to ask the Ministry to allow the centaurs to return?"

"Ask them?" There was a wild look in Cedric's eye. Teddy had seen it before in a photograph of Sirius Black taken when he was thrown in Azkaban. "Do you know what happened to that land? The Ministry kept a record of every acre they took from the centaurs. I've been cross-referencing it with deeds to determine the current owners."

Teddy felt like he'd been asked to solve a jigsaw puzzle with the picture on the box missing. He was fairly sure he wouldn't like how the pieces fit together. "And?"

"Read this." He picked up a ledger, opened it, and shoved it at Teddy. In one column was a description of the property. In the other, Cedric had scrawled the names of the present owners. It read like the society column of the Daily Prophet: Creevy, Patil, Macmillan, Vance, Shacklebolt. There was even a Weasley cousin or two on the list.

Teddy let out a low whistle. "That's a lot of famous names. How'd they end up with all that land?"

"When the centaurs left, some of the old pureblood families bought bits and pieces of the forests. They're excellent locations for hunting lodges and summer homes, apparently. Most of those families either died out or they fell on hard times after the war was over. They couldn't afford to keep the property up, so they sold it to people who could." He gestured to one of the piles. "I'm only half done. Haven't even gotten to those yet."

"Want me to help?"

Cedric shrugged. Teddy took that for assent and scooped up an armful of ledgers and tossed them on his desk. Goldstein watched him with barely concealed glee. "I told you two that you were idiots. You should have sat back and kept your noses clean." He looked at Cedric. "What are you going to do now Mr. I-want-to-save-the world? Petition the Wizenagomot to take the land back? That'll go over well. Your career really would be dead. And for what? The centaurs."

Cedric glared at Goldstein. "Now would be an excellent time for you to go out for a smoke. Or the bathroom. I don't really care. Just go."

"Fine by me. Think I might as well take the whole day off. You don't appreciate that I'm the only sane one here."

"He's right, you know," Cedric said when Goldstein had gone. "I could request that the forests be returned to the centaurs. The Ministry would have to compensate the owners; it would cost millions of Galleons, if it could be done at all." He buried his face in his hands. "When I said I wanted to improve relations with the centaurs, I thought I would end up organizing a few conferences, maybe try to arm twist the Board of Governors into adding a Centaur and Goblin Studies class at Hogwarts. Not going up against the most influential wizards in Britain. Last time I tried, I ended up here. If I do this, I can forget about ever prosecuting another case."

Teddy didn't know what to say to that, so he opened a ledger at random and began filling it out. It was tedious work that did nothing to calm his nerves. If keeping a centaur's spirit from his descendents really was akin to mutilating a corpse... He pictured thousands of pale, translucent Firenzes wandering the forest with pained expressions on their faces. He shivered. That settled it; the centaurs should get their land back before the thought of a few thousand ghosts running around gave him nightmares. On the other hand, it seemed such an odd thing for Cedric to risk his career over. He was intelligent and honorable. Surely he could do more good in the DMLE than he ever could here. The Wizenagomot would probably turn him down anyway, and it would all have been for nothing. The centaurs probably wouldn't even be grateful that he'd tried.

Lot #0157329, the ledger read, Fifteen acres. Lancashire. Contains a stream suitable for fishing. Whoever owned this lot probably didn't live far from his cottage. He frowned, trying to think of other wizards who lived nearby. If he recalled correctly, Luna technically lived in Lancashire when she wasn't scouring the globe for as-yet-undiscovered magical creatures. He smiled. She, at least, would probably be sympathetic to Cedric's goals. Teddy went to the box on the floor and thumbed through the folders inside until he found the one he wanted. He opened the folder.


Owner of Record: Teddy Remus Lupin. Inherited from previous owner, Remus John Lupin. (cf. the latter's last will and testament, filed with the Wizarding Probate Authority).

Teddy read the words, but they didn't make any sense. He couldn't think of anything at all. His quill dropped to the floor, unnoticed. Cedric picked it up and laid it on the desk. "Did you find something?" Teddy could only hand him the deed. He read it over. "I see. This is, er, unexpected. What are you going to do?"

"Do?" His brain was beginning to work again. "You mean am I going to give it to the centaurs? I -- I dunno. The house is the biggest thing I got from my parents, and it's not like I can just wave my wand and move it to Dorset, now could I?" He looked up, suddenly fearful. "You aren't going to make me give it up, are you?"

"I couldn't, even if I wanted to." He laid a hand on Teddy's shoulder. "Why don't you take some time off and think things over? It's a difficult decision. I won't pretend it's not. And for Merlin's sake, don't let my recommendation letter influence you. You've earned a glowing report, and that's what you'll get, no matter what you decide. Now go."

The house was quiet when he came home. His grandmother must have been out visiting friends. Teddy was secretly glad; the last thing he needed was someone asking him how his day had gone. He was all in favor of the centaur spirits reuniting with the current generation, but this was asking too much. He had few links with his father as it was. Why did he have to give up the house? What had he ever done to the centaurs to deserve that? He had a right to his ancestors as much as they did.

That didn't make him feel better. He had too much of his Hufflepuff of a mum in him to be good at lying to himself about things like this. He'd been in favor of the centaurs returning until it was his house that stood in the way. Giving the land back to the centaurs felt like the right thing, he supposed, in the way spending his life feeding the hungry or leaving all his money to St. Mungo's was the right thing. Admirable, certainly, but necessitating a kind of heroic virtue he wasn't sure that he was capable of.

It would be easier if he knew how his father had felt about the house. He knew that it had been his dad's boyhood home, but beyond that, nothing. Had it been lovingly passed down from Lupin to Lupin? Or had his grandparents bought it after his dad had been bitten to keep him away from potential victims? Had he loved this place?

He wandered from room to room, searching for some clue that would help him decide. The only thing he found was a box of old photos. In one, a Remus who looked to be about Teddy's own age lay across his bed, holding a book and glaring irritably at the camera. In another, his mum sat in an overstuffed chair, holding him. Mother and son were sporting matching pink hair. There was one of his dad holding him, too, though he looks less comfortable holding a baby. He was smiling, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. There were fresh-looking scars on his face, too. Teddy wondered how he'd gotten them. Had he still been spying on Greyback's pack then, or had he gone into hiding along with most of the rest of the Order? Teddy made a mental note to ask Harry the next time he came over.

Teddy put the photos away. None of this told him anything about how either of them had felt about the cottage. He thought for a long moment, trying to think of something he'd missed. Neither of his parents had written many letters. If only there was some way he could talk to them. He fleetingly considered rushing to Hogwarts and scouring the Forbidden Forest until he found the Resurrection Stone. That was one way to get in touch with his parents.

That's it! The Resurrection Stone was one way to talk to the dead, but it wasn't the only one. He had the Marauders Map; he could talk to the teenaged Moony any time he liked. He laughed. It was so simple. Why hadn't he thought of it before? He rushed to his room and grabbed the map from the nightstand where he had left it the evening before.

"Hey, Moony! I need to talk to you. It's urgent!"

Teddy? What is it? Peeves still giving you trouble?

"No, nothing like that. I was wondering if you liked your house."

My house? Well, I don't really remember that much about it. I remember that I had a house, but it's a bit of a blur beyond that.


I suppose that the other me didn't think that it was important enough to put in here. I don't remember much about my parents either, except for their names. I remember that James plays Quidditch but not how we met. I'm better with facts than memories. But if you want to know anything about Hogwarts Castle, I'm your man, er, map.

Teddy said nothing. He wanted nothing more than to crumple up the map and toss it into the fire. Useless. The map was useless. Not only could he not ask it about the cottage, he couldn't ask about his grandparents or any of the other questions he'd always yearned to ask the real Remus Lupin. He took a deep breath and settled for merely deactivating the map. Another dead end.

He stayed home the next few days. It didn't seem right to go to work until he had an answer for Cedric. When his grandmother asked him why he wasn't going to work, he told her he was still feeling ill. If she didn't quite believe him, she didn't question his story either. He tried asking subtle questions about his parents and the house, but she seemed to know no more than he did.

His impromptu vacation ended a week later when Hermione came to visit. "There you are!"

Teddy laid the book he'd been reading aside. "What's going on? Have you been looking for me?"

She nodded. "There've been all sorts of mad rumors swirling around the Centaur Liaison Office. I can't make any sense of them. Some people are saying that Cedric is going to resign and others that he's organizing some kind of symposium. Ron seems to think that he's actually hired a centaur. Have you heard anything?"

"No." That was technically the truth. Cedric had never informed him if he'd made a decision. As far as he knew, Cedric had decided to wash his hands of the whole business and retire to Greece. Teddy wouldn't have blamed him.

"Well, could you go check on him, please? Make sure he hasn't done anything drastic." She gave him a pleading look. "Please? I'm worried."


"Why not?"

"I don't feel well."

"You're a horrible liar. I'm just going to sit here until you tell me what's wrong."

Few things were more terrible than the prospect of being nagged by Hermione. He threw up his hands. "Fine. I'll go."

When he got to the office, Cedric was sitting at his desk, head bowed and lips moving silently. He didn't seem to have noticed Teddy at all. At least some color had returned to his cheeks. He'd shaved, too. That had to be a good sign. Teddy cleared his throat. Cedric looked up. His eyes were still faintly shadowed, but he no longer had the look of a man who'd been asked to face a pack of Dementors without his wand. "Afternoon, Teddy."

"Afternoon." He sat down at his own desk. "Is something wrong? You've got Hermione worried."

"Sent you looking for me, eh? I'm not surprised that she's concerned." He held up a piece of thick, expensive-looking parchment. Teddy couldn't read the words written on it, but the smooth even script spoke of one of the specially enchanted quills that the Ministry used for official business. "This is the final draft of the proposal I plan to present to the Wizenagomot."

"So you're going through with it, then?" Cedric nodded. "A lot of people are going to hate you for it. Most of the rest are going to laugh."

"I know. I might be sacked this time, instead of transferred. I'm a 'subversive element,' you know." He sighed. "Sometimes, I feel like I've spent my whole life giving things up. The Triwizard Cup, the prosecutor's position, and now maybe my Ministry career altogether. Me and my bloody principles." He managed a weak laugh. "I has a girlfriend who tried to talk me out of joining the Ministry. Maybe I should have listened. And you? What are you going to do?"

That was the question, wasn't it? He could help Cedric. The name Lupin carried weight. People remembered how his parents had fought and died in the war. If he signed the cottage away and announced that the centaurs could have his bit of the forest back, the Ministry wouldn't dare censure Cedric for suggesting the same. The Wizenagomot would probably still vote the proposal down, but he and Teddy wouldn't be mocked for it, at least not openly. On the other hand, it was his father's house, and, if people wouldn't mock him openly, they would certainly snicker behind his back. He wished some guardian spirit would come down and nudge him toward doing the right thing, like they did in those Muggle fairy tales that Lily was so fond of. The map had been his chance at that, and it had been a sham. He would have to make his decision without any handy supernatural hints. He felt sick.

An old memory bubbled to the surface. Harry was telling him about his father. "People hated and feared your father because he was a werewolf. Most people would have thrown up their hands and decided to live down to their reputation. Not Remus. He was determined to do everything he could to defeat Voldemort, even live with the monster that bit him. It didn't matter what people thought. He did it because it was right." Cedric was doing the same sort of thing in a different way. It would take courage to endorse him and give the house up. Well, hadn't he always wanted to be just like his father?

"I'll have my solicitor draw up a bill of sale in the morning."

Cedric blinked. "You would have made a very good Hufflepuff."

"Maybe so, but I make an even better Gryffindor." Teddy smiled. "Like my dad."