The Badger Story
Teddy grimaced. "School nicknames never go away, do they? There was an incident in Transfiguration where I tried to show why Metamorphmagery can't be extended to full Animagery - anyway these things seem to stick." - from Raindrops on Roses
Hogwarts, the Year 2014
This was the thing about being a metamorphmagus.
At least, it was when everyone knew about it. Teddy often wished he had kept it just to himself when he had started school. It wouldn't have lasted forever, of course, because he had friends and adopted cousins who knew all too well, but perhaps if he'd have just had a few years of relative peace and quiet, well, maybe that would have made it just a little more bearable.
Because the thing was, the thing was… well, it was like knowing a particularly good joke, or knowing some especially impressive charms, or being really good at Quidditch. Well, maybe not that last one, because people were unlikely to say "hey, show us some tricks on your broom!" unless you were, for example, on a Quidditch pitch, or at least holding a broomstick. Being a metamorphmagus was something you were all the time.
And the thing about it was, the thing was, not a day went by went you didn't get asked to emulate some person or an animal, or just pull a funny face for someone.
It wasn't that Teddy really minded. When he was eleven it had been great. He had been worried that he wouldn't fit in at school, that people might think he was a bit weird. And people did think he was a bit weird, but the strange thing about Hogwarts was that being a bit weird was, well, kind of cool.
Teddy had discovered quite early on that being Teddy Lupin was cool. Having Harry Potter as your godfather was really cool. And being a metamorphmagus practically put you off the cool scale and into freezing temperatures. So he had happily shown off to anyone who asked, doing pig noses, bat ears, turning his hair all colours of the rainbow and, once, standing in front of his friend Ben for ten minutes while he bit by bit changed himself to exactly match, so that there were two Bens standing side by side. That had earned him a round of applause and many requests for a repeat performance, but he had never done it again because of the terrible headache he had had to deal with for two days afterwards.
That was one of the first times he learned that while he had a fantastic skill that had been passed down to him through a tremendous stroke of luck, it did have limits. Fine detail, for one thing. Hair colour was easy, he had been doing that since the day he was born, or so they said. Because hair wasn't even really alive. It didn't mind you changing it willy nilly. Eye colour was relatively easy, and after a bit of practice it was easy enough to shift certain things around so that he looked a bit older, or, if he really worked at it, way older. This had already led to some people asking him to buy them Firewhisky, but he was fairly sure his Gran would severely frown on that sort of thing.
For some reason he had been able to do animal noses and ears since he was quite small. This didn't make much sense to him, that certain animalistic features were easier than human ones, but when he got a little older, he started to realise that really the principle was the same. He figured out how to move bones under his skin to give himself a narrower look, or puff out the fat under his chin to make himself chubby. He learned how to change the width of his eyes, the curve of his brow and the shape of his nose.
He was fourteen the first time it occurred to him that he might be able to turn himself into a whole animal. After all, he could turn himself into an old man, or - very, very privately - not a half-bad looking girl. Why not an animal?
Luckily, Teddy Lupin was not one to rush into things. His gran often said he had his father's way of methodically looking at these situations.
He asked Ben to help him research the subject in the library. Ben was good at navigating the library. Teddy had tried, during his first year, to find all the books on metamorphmagi - on which there weren't many - and had given up when he realised that everything they said, he already knew. But Ben managed to find a few wider reference books that mentioned the 'strange and unusual species'. That last bit put Teddy's hackles up.
"Species," he muttered, watching Ben turn the page with a flick of his fingers. "Species. Honestly."
"Mate, if any of us are a different species, I reckon it must be you," his friend said casually. Ben had been his best mate ever since first year. He liked to read, which was admittedly unusual for a Hufflepuff, but his problem lay in his abilities to put what he read into any sort of practice. Teddy was currently tutoring him in Charms, Potions and Transfiguration, and he was still just scraping past in exams.
"Thanks a lot," Teddy muttered. He didn't say that that particular word brought up unpleasant memories of the time his uncle Harry had sat him down to tell him some difficult truths. The 'my father was a werewolf' story was one he had yet to tell to even his best friends. Uncle Harry told him not to be ashamed of it, but that didn't mean he had to just come right out and say it, so he had very carefully just… avoided the subject. Somehow he thought that the truth wouldn't do much for his reputation. Werewolves were slowly becoming less of a taboo, thanks to his aunt Hermione's work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, but they certainly weren't cool.
"Oh, here's something," Ben said, passing him the book.
Teddy peered down at the page.
It has been suggested that Metamorphmagi and Animagi may share a skill set. However, Animagery is a learned skill that also requires administration of certain potions, charms and several hundred hours of meditation to achieve. Metamorphmagi have a loose morphic field, giving them the ability to manipulate aspects of their appearance at will, however the dramatic physical changes required by full Animagery are, in general, impossible to achieve.
"Bummer," Ben said, sympathetically.
"Oh, that's okay," Teddy said, hiding his disappointment. "At least, I bet if I tried to be an Animagus I'd be pretty good at it."
Ben rolled his eyes. "Yes you would," he said, as if talking to a small child.
And that was the end of it.
Or it would have been, except that a few months later, Teddy happened to be early for Transfiguration while a couple of Gryffindors were flipping ahead through the textbook. "It would be so cool to be an Animagus," the girl sighed.
"Yeah?" what would you be?" asked the boy.
"I dunno. I wouldn't want to be anything too big, you know, like a bear or a tiger or something. Then you'd have to stay outside all the time. I'd be something small, like a cat."
The boy made a ppfft noise. "A cat? Come on, show some imagination."
"What's wrong with that? Professor McGonagall's a cat Animagus, everyone knows that."
"Oh yeah? You ever seen her do it?"
"No, but everyone knows -"
"I've seen her," Teddy broke in. He wasn't sure why, it wasn't as though he had been part of the conversation. But sometimes he knew things about some of the teachers, or important people like the Minister for Magic, because he had known them while he was growing up. And people liked to know those sorts of things. They thought they were cool.
The Gryffindors stared at him, wide-eyed. "Really?" asked the girl. "What did it look like?"
Teddy shrugged. "Like a person turning into a cat."
"Cool," the boy said, long and drawn out in awe.
"Can you turn into a cat?" the girl asked suddenly.
"Er, no," Teddy replied, blinking.
"Yeah, but you can do all kinds of other stuff," the boy said, catching on. "You can turn your nose into a pig's, I've seen you do it."
"I can't turn into animals," Teddy explained. "Not all the way. It has something to do with changing big important bones and organs and stuff. You have to take all kinds of potions and stuff to do that."
"Have you ever tried, though?" the girl demanded. "Just to see how far you could get?"
Slowly, Teddy shook his head. "No-o…"
"Go on then," said the boy, grinning.
Teddy felt his stomach drop uncomfortably. "Er, I dunno," he said. "I've never tried anything like that before."
"Please try," the girl said, nodding enthusiastically.
Teddy looked nervously over his shoulder. He was pretty sure Professor Ashborne wouldn't approve.
"We still have ten minutes," the boy said, though Teddy thought it was more like five. "Go on, just try. How cool would it be if you managed it?"
Teddy Lupin was not one to rush into things. But he did like being cool. And he had been practicing his animal noses recently. How hard could it really be?
"Well… okay then," he said, standing up. "What should I turn into?"
"A lion!" the girl exclaimed, apparently so overcome with excitement she had ceased thinking properly.
"Don't be daft," the boy scoffed. "If he was a Gryffindor, maybe. He's a Hufflepuff. He should turn into a badger."
"Oh," the girl looked mildly disappointed, but nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense, I guess."
Well, Teddy thought, that should be easy enough. He picked up his notebook, which had a rather good drawing of a badger on the front. Victoire had done that for him, since she was so good at drawing. He looked at it for a minute, trying to memorise the way it looked. He turned his hair black with a white stripe, and the girl gasped, even though he could do that much without even thinking. Then he concentrated on making hair grow on the rest of his body as well. This was something else he could do reasonably easily, though he'd never actually tried to grow fur, before, so it came out quite long and stiff. But for all he knew, that was what badger fur was like. When he had fur all over his face and arms, he looked down at his hands and tried to turn them into paws. He could make the fingers quite big, but the nails were another issue. He abandoned them after his head started to pound, and thought about lengthening his nose and turning the end of it dark and wet until he had a snout.
At this point he thought he was doing quite well. He opened small, dark eyes to see the Gryffindor pair staring open-mouthed at him. The girl looked like she might be about to throw up, and the boy wasn't too far behind her. What's the matter? he tried to ask them, but all that came out was a sort of grunt.
Someone behind him screamed. He whirled around to see the rest of the class beginning to arrive in the doorway, all of them staring at him as though they had seen something truly horrible. What? he tried to ask, but all he got was another, slightly more urgent grunt. He looked down at himself. The hands were not exactly paws, they were more like a shrivelled version of his own human hands, with dark fur all over them and short, stubby little fingers with black, pointed nails. They weren't' really very badgerish at all.
"What in Merlin's name is going on here?" Professor Ashborne appeared out of nowhere, wand at the ready to fend off unforeseen attack. She pushed through the crowd of gaping, retching students and gasped when she saw Teddy. "Oh my goodness," she breathed, hurrying over. "Is that you, Mr Lupin? Who did this? Was it you?" she demanded, rounding on the Gryffindors who had egged him on. The girl was very pale and only stared up at her, but the boy protested.
"We never did it to him! He did it to himself. He was trying to turn into a badger, Professor!"
Ashborne turned to Teddy with a much less sympathetic expression. "But why on earth… oh for Merlin's sake. Can you reverse the effects?"
Teddy blinked at her, nonplussed. Of course he could. No matter what he changed, he was always able to change it back. Turning back into himself was easy. But to his surprise, when he tried to lose the fur and push his nose back into its usual shape… nothing happened.
At that point, he started to panic. He tried to shout, but a harsh, guttural grunting sound was all that emerged. He tried to draw his wand, to try some sort of spell, but his stubby, clawed fingers scrabbled ineffectually at his robes.
"All right, all right," Ashborne said, patting him gingerly on the shoulder. "You'll be fine. Off to the hospital wing, young man, off you go. We'll have a long talk about this when you get back."
His breathing was starting to get rough and difficult, and Teddy had to force himself to calm down. He turned and shouldered his way through the crowd, which parted hurriedly to get out of his way. He limped down the corridor, feeling quite ill. People walking past gasped and stared when they saw him, those that didn't immediately turn and run the other way.
Madam Pomfrey was a fairly unshakable woman, and it was said that she had seen pretty much everything, but even she raised an eyebrow when he walked into the hospital wing, holding up his stunted paws in supplication. "Oh dear," she said, with a sigh, and led him to a chair. "I was wondering how long it would be before this happened," she said, handing him a mirror. "Your mother was in her for a similar problem in her second year."
Teddy was so surprised by this that he didn't think to look in the mirror until it nearly fell out of his clawed fingers. He held it up and grimaced at what he saw, which did not improve the reflection at all. His face and neck were covered in black fur, slightly thicker on top where his hair was, and a long white stripe extended from the back of his neck, over his head and to the tip of his nose. The nose was black, and small, and his jaw had extended to make a short snout. There was certainly a very… badgery look to it. But at the same time, it was still human. The ears were in the wrong place. His mouth was a human mouth with human teeth. His eyes were smaller and rounder, but they were human eyes, looking out of the monstrous face with a look of fear and helplessness. All in all it was a horrible sight.
"Head back," Pomfrey said sharply, and he looked up to see her holding a small oblong vial of some orangey liquid. Sheepishly he put back his head and opened his mouth, allowing her to tip the contents down his throat. He was quite unprepared for the effect it had, and he started to cough and splutter. The stuff was fiery hot, burning his mouth and throat. It tasted like chemicals and spices.
"Firewhisky!" Pomfrey announced, while Teddy wondered if the stuff was going to burn a hole right through his oesophagus. "Lucky for you I had the opportunity to work this out already. Your mother was in here for days until we worked out that metamorphmagi revert to their original form under the influence of strong alcohol! Her mother was unimpressed we would force-feed the stuff to a twelve year old girl, but I said, well, it was either that or let her stay half a rooster until she came of age."
As soon as Teddy had decided that perhaps he wasn't going to die, his realised that his breathing was a little easier, and, as he held them up in front of his eyes, his fingers started to straighten out again and the long, thick hair reverted back into his skin. He could feel his nose and mouth changing shape. It was quite strange, not the usual deliberate shifting he knew so well, but weirdly fluid and utterly out of his control. It didn't hurt, but he felt dizzy, and he closed his eyes and tried not to throw up until it was over.
"And now you can stay here until you sober up," Pomfrey said sternly.
Teddy didn't argue. His head was spinning.
The 'talk' with Professor Ashborne came later, while he was still sitting in the chair with his head cradled in his hands, and it was not fun. Neither was the meeting with Professor McGonagall, which followed almost immediately and lasted nearly an hour. The lecture left him feeling like a reckless, idiot child, which was pretty much the theme of what she had to say. Worst of all, she said she would be writing to his gran to inform her of the risks her grandson was taking with his ability.
"Aw, come on, that's not fair," Ben said later. He was extremely put out at having missed the whole thing. "You're all right now, aren't you? And it's not like you're going to try that again."
Teddy shuddered. "Not likely."
"Well then. Owling the parentals is a bit much, I say."
Teddy was inclined to agree, especially after a Howler from his gran the next morning practically caused the Hufflepuff table to vibrate with the sheer volume.
"TED LUPIN, I WOULD NEVER HAVE THOUGHT YOU CAPABLE OF SUCH RECKLESS BEHAVIOUR! YOU MIGHT HAVE DONE PERMANENT DAMAGE! ITS GOING TO BE A DULL CHRISTMAS FOR YOU MY BOY BECAUSE YOU ARE LEAVING THE HOUSE ONLY OVER MY DEAD BODY! YOUR PARENTS WOULD BE ASHAMED!"
Teddy thought that last bit was particularly unfair, especially since he knew his mum had done the same thing as a child, and his dad had had three best friends who had risked their lives to turn into animals and that couldn't have gone a hundred per cent smoothly, right? Not for the first time he wished they were still around to ask this stuff. Maybe he would ask uncle Harry next time he saw him.
Everyone applauded when the Howler was over. They were a rare occurrence at Hogwarts these days and there was nothing like a public humiliation to cheer everyone up just before the Christmas holidays. "Nice one, badger man!" someone shouted from the Gryffindor table, and several people laughed. Teddy felt his face go even redder than it had been five seconds ago, and his hair turned a depressing shade of brown of its own accord.
"Ah, don't worry," Ben said encouragingly as they left the Great Hall amid more laughter and explanations to those who hadn't yet heard the story. "Crazy stuff like this happens all the time. It'll die down in a few days."
But it didn't die down. By the time the train left for the Christmas holidays, people were still calling him 'badger man' at every given opportunity. Teddy hated it. It made him feel extremely uncool. He spent the entire holiday moping around the house, dwelling on his new lack of cool while dusting, polishing and mopping every surface in the house. Housework was his gran's idea of the perfect punishment for a teenage boy, and she wasn't wrong. At least he still got to go to the Weasleys' for Christmas dinner, but when seven-year-old James Potter asked him to "pass the potatoes please, badger man!" he thought his life must seriously be over.
What was worse, everyone seemed to find it incredibly funny. Even his gran smiled. Victoire was the only one looking even the slightest bit guilty. Teddy glared at her, and she shrugged apologetically. "Tattle tale," he muttered.
"Sorry, lad," uncle Harry chuckled. Teddy hadn't thought his godfather would ever laugh at him. "It could be worse."
"Yeah, it's not like this is the first time," Ron said. "This one time, Hermione -"
"Ron!" his wife snapped, slapping his upper arm with the back of her hand. "Not in front of the children."
So Teddy never even got to hear the story. Not that it would have made him feel any better, he decided later. All he could hope for was that when school started again, everyone would have forgotten his embarrassment and things would go back to normal.
When he got on the train at King's Cross, however, he was greeted on all sides from people saying "Hey, Badger! Good Christmas?" "Good to see you Badger!" "Waddup, Badger?"
"Well," Ben said practically when Teddy finally found him in a compartment with some other Hufflepuffs. "That's better than 'badger man', anyway. That made you sound like some kind of bizarre superhero."
Teddy wished his friend was not always so calm and practical about everything. He really needed someone to be indignant on his behalf, not people trying to see the bright side of the situation. But it wasn't as though he could do anything about it.
"You could always try turning yourself into something else," Ben suggested, grinning. "Like a tiger. Then people might call you tiger man."
"No fear," Teddy muttered. "I already had to clean the whole house about four times over. I don't fancy spending my whole summer doing the same. No more animals for me, thanks."
"Turn your hair a funny colour, then. That'll distract them."
"I don't want to draw attention to myself. I'll just lie low for a bit, and it'll go away."
"If you say so. Yeah, a few more days, and it'll go away. No problem."
"Yes sir." Teddy stood to attention as the tough-looking old Auror came around to glare searchingly into his eyes like he had done with all the other new recruits.
"Espionage program, eh?"
The man glanced down at his clipboard. "Metamorphmagus, it says here."
"That's right, sir."
The hardened old Auror nodded, blank-faced. "Lupin, eh? I knew your father. Good man. Your mother, too, she was a good Auror in her time, for her age."
"Thank you sir."
"I wasn't complementing you, boy, you haven't done anything to impress me yet. Now what's your codename?"
Teddy was ready for this. The Auror had asked all the other new recruits what name they would like to be known by in the field. "Yessir, my codename is Mutantur, sir."
The old man's face twisted into a derisive scowl. "Mutantur? What kind of codename is that?"
Teddy hesitated. "Er… mutantur, sir, it's… it's Latin for -"
"I know what it's Latin for, boy! You think I was born yesterday? Pick a name that doesn't sound like a five-year-old just made it up."
Teddy swallowed. He didn't have a back up plan. He had spent hours coming up with the coolest name he could think of, and the old man had shot it down in seconds.
"Well?" the old Auror demanded.
"Pardon me, sir," a fellow recruit piped up. Teddy looked over and saw Ethan, a Gryffindor from his year, grinning widely, and he knew his fate was sealed. "I know his codename. It's Badger."
The Auror blinked, frowned, and turned to glare at Teddy. "Badger?"
Teddy sighed heavily. "Yessir. That's me, sir."
The man shook his head, but seemed to find this acceptable. He wrote the name down on his clipboard and moved on.
Well, Teddy thought as the new recruits were herded into their first hour of orientation, it could be worse. He had put up with the name for four years. At least he wouldn't forget it when it really counted. And who knew? Maybe one day, no matter how unlikely it seemed, he might actually learn to like it.