“Do you know what it’s like to be named for the dead?” James asks his father in the middle of one of many arguments. “Do I remind you of a man we’ve never met? Am I in honor of someone you watched die? Because I don’t want it.” When James Sirius Potter looks at himself in the mirror, he sees a mess of reddish brown curls and slightly askew glasses and freckles everywhere. He sees hands that climb trees and grip tightly to broomsticks. He sees his mother’s smile and hears his father’s voice. Because James seems like the thick goofball of the family, but he reads history book after history book, wishing to never repeat the sins of their fathers. If he saw any of James Potter he wouldn’t recognize him at all, and maybe, he fears, that’s where he falls short.
“Do you know what it’s like to be named for the dead,” Albus says one day to Rose as they sit by the Great Lake. “Names of men who I think aren’t the heroes I’ve been told about. Men I’m told are brave but seem just as bad as the rest.” Albus Severus Potter loves being called Al and having his hair ruffled by his friends. He loves sitting on high ledges and looking out at the vast sky and thinking about what is on the other side of the earth. Albus Potter sticks his nose in old books and keeps to himself and has no desire for greatness in any form. He doesn’t want to lead a war or be a spy. He wants to be Al and bake with his grandmother on Sundays and give his sister piggyback rides. And, most days, that feels like admitting failure.
“Do you know what it’s like to be named for the dead,” Lily shouts one day with tears in her eyes. “I’m not her, I’m not her, I’m not her,” she repeats over and over again. Because Lily Luna Potter is a Slytherin and brutal and fierce and full of fire and made of stone. She is not soft and kind - she is not the woman who saved her child from death. Because she can be selfish and harsh and unforgiving. She spends her mornings running through the icy, frozen woods and her nights leaning over windowsills because the rush is just right. Lily Potter will fight to the death, but for no one but herself. And does that make her somehow distorted, she wonders as she flips through photo after photo of a young woman with pretty eyes she doesn’t have and gentle hands that she will never understand.
“Do you know what it’s like to be named for the dead?” Fred chokes through sobs as he rushes past his mother. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be named for someone who haunts us every day and every night? Can you imagine being named for someone you can never look like because of your skin?” Because Fred Weasley ties up his wild dark hair into a thick ponytail when it’s time to play Quidditch and sees deep brown eyes when he looks at his reflection. Because Fred is dark skinned like his mother and will never look like his namesake, and is he resented for that? Is it worse to look like the brother that his father lost or to not resemble someone he loved at all? Because, most days, Fred is already different than the rest of his cousins and friends. Fred loves to laugh and play the highest caliber of pranks, because Fred is a Weasley…but that is something that no one can physically see, and that’s what’s the most terrifying.
“I know what it’s like to be named for the dead,” Teddy tells them all at some point, his hands on their shoulders or pulling them into a tight hug. “I know what it’s like to remind the person you love of all who they’ve lost. How much it hurts.” Because Teddy Lupin is named for a man who was killed alone and frightened in the woods over twenty years ago. He is his mother when he decides he likes the color pink and his father when his eyes morph into an almond amber. Because he is an orphan and no different from Harry…and he can understand how their father feels, because he wishes to honor those who died for him, too. Because he knows he is nothing like Ted Tonks, and yet his name carries a piece of his grandfather with him and that’s why Grandmother can only call him “Teddy,” otherwise she’d burst into tears. Because Teddy Lupin lives in between Harry and George and their children - born into war and only knowing peace. And so Teddy understands exactly what it is to be named for the dead, and knows exactly why it is so important to do so.
And even as he tries to tell them all this, he feels hot tears running down his cheeks and wonders to his parents, who have never been there, “Do you know what it is to be named for the dead?”