The House of Tonks
Something hard and sharp was digging into his chest. Something hard and sharp was hitting his forehead. Not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to hurt.
Harry opened his eyes to an irate snowy owl standing on his chest and pecking at his forehead.
"Ow, Hedwig, stop that."
Hedwig pecked him again.
"I"m sorry for leaving without you, but you found me alright."
"Alright already, just get off me."
Hedwig fluttered off him and Harry stepped out of bed and went to his trunk. He pulled out the owl stand and the bag of owl treats.
Hedwig barked again, so Harry tossed three owl treats in her direction and set up the stand while she ate them. She barked again, so Harry hand-fed her three more treats, at which point she she allowed him to stroke her, hopped on her stand, and promptly went to sleep.
Harry supposed she'd had a long night. He felt pretty tired himself, but he also felt awake, and in the morning light, the wood outside his window, past the garden and the grass, looked inviting, and he wanted to be up and exploring, investigating where he'd be living for a month.
He dressed and went into the hall, avoiding the closed doors, reasoning they might be bedrooms, but he found a library, a music room and a game room, which held a foosball table, among other things. He didn't think the house was quite a mansion, but it definitely had more rooms than the Dursleys' house, and the rooms were bigger too.
He went through the parlor to the kitchen and found Ted and Andromeda there, making tea.
"Up already?" said Ted, seeing Harry. "I thought you'd sleep until noon. Tea?"
"Cream or sugar?"
"A dollop of cream."
A grey cat entered the room, wound around Andromeda's leg, purring, then faced the door and meowed.
Andromeda said, "That's Alien. Nymphadora named her. She's half-kneazle." She pushed a cup of tea across the table to him, Harry a little puzzled by how quickly it had been made.
He took a sip, found the tea very good, and said, "Can I help with breakfast?"
"Come out with me," said Ted. He had his wand in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. He waved the wand at a chest on the wall.
The chest was light walnut and on the large side. It was mounted on a rack about at eye level, and it had no front, its racks, levels and crannies there to be touched.
The chest grew legs, or perhaps showed them, and it lifted itself up off the rack. It seemed to Harry that the chest looked at Ted.
Alien, Ted and Harry went out the side door together, the chest walking behind them. Alien went into the garden, sniffing a plant Harry thought was sage, and a yellow dog ran up to them.
It came up to Harry's mid-thigh, and Harry could see it was friendly from the way its tail was wagging furiously, but he still felt nervous thanks to the way Aunt Marge had always liked setting Ripper on him.
"This is Yolk," said Ted. "He's a sweetie, but resistant to training."
Yolk stuck his head in Ted crotch, then bounded around Harry in a tight circle, bumping against him.
"Scared of dogs?" said Ted, watching Harry.
"No." Harry put out his hand and Yolk sniffed it. Harry scratched the dog behind the ears, it licked his hand, then ran away, shoulders lowered in an invitation to play.
They walked along on a path through the garden surrounding the house, and fruit began to fly. Passing by a tomato plant, three fat, ripe tomatoes broke off their stems and flew into the walking chest. A cucumber did the same, and four peaches from a peach tree, softening but still firm.
They reached a wooden hutch with steel mesh, and at a flick of Ted's wand, the door to it opened. Harry knelt and saw three large chickens.
Nine eggs flew out of the hutch, mostly brown. Yolk whined, and eight eggs landed gently in a part of the chest that looked very much like an egg carton. The ninth egg hovered in the air over Yolk, who whined again. The air around the egg shimmered slightly, and the egg lowered over a dark grey stone marking the path, one with a concave top, like a plate, Yolk watching it, body aquiver.
The egg cracked, letting out half-cooked egg onto the dark grey stone. Yolk slurped it up.
Harry said, "Three chickens produce nine eggs in a single day?" He didn't know a lot about chickens, but he didn't think that was normal.
"Magic," said Ted.
Talking with Ted as they picked their way through the garden, Harry found a lot else was magic. The tomato plants produced a few tomatoes a day, year-round, and potatoes at their roots. The peach, apricot, apple, plum, orange, pecan and walnut trees were always in fruit. Cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, berries, corn, carrots and broccoli. The Tonks' garden was perhaps twice the size of the Dursleys' garden, but it produced loads of food.
Harry said, "It's enough food live off, isn't it?"
"We buy bread, dairy, sugar, wine, odds and ends and a lot of our meat. But yes."
Harry thought about if every family on Privet Drive produced most of its food in its garden. "It's quick, isn't it, with magic?"
"An hour or two most weeks."
Less time than Aunt Petunia spent on shopping. "So it's different. How muggles live and how wizards do."
Ted gave him a long look. "Smart boy. Yes, it's different. We brew most of our own medicines. With expansion and space-delving charms, land is dirt cheap and housing is cheaper. Apparition is near instantaneous and completely free, so there's no need for cars. We can even make our own clothing easily enough, though most don't. The independence creates a freedom most muggles only dream about. I'm muggle-born myself, and my life compared to my da's... It's different worlds, and you're lucky to be in this one."
Harry said, "So you don't work? At a job, I mean."
"I work for Nimbus. The broomstick maker. I used to lay charms, but these days I mainly tell the Charmlayers to show up on time and lay off the drama. I work a full and five. That's twenty-five hours a week. Andromeda works a full as a unicorn keeper. Doubles have gotten more common thanks to the war. People went into debt to purchase advanced wards, guards, and automatons and had to pay the goblins back. I hear poor Arthur Weasley works a triple. But it's settling back down. Fifteen hours is a 'minus five.' Ten hours is a half. Lots of young folk work halves. But it'll be years before you have to worry about this. Fancy crayfish with breakfast?"
Ted led him to the oval pond, which was oval, clear and sandy-bottomed, a stream running in and out of it, reeds along the edges and ducks on the surface. Fish flitted through the water. Some small, some so large that he worried about whether they had teeth.
Harry said, "What are the big ones?"
"Native carp. They grow quickly for us. Accio Crayfish."
What flew out of the water was not a fish at all. It looked to Harry like brown lobster about as big as Ted's hand. It went into a depression in the walking chest, clawing weakly.
"White-clawed crayfish," Ted explained. "Ours grow bigger than they normally do." He summoned seven more, sending them all into the chest.
Harry finished his tea as they meandered back to the kitchen, where he found Tonks, hair an irritated purple, dressed in sweats, sitting at the table and drinking tea. The chest came through the door behind them, set itself on the rack, and its legs stopped existing or went up into it — Harry couldn't tell.
Yolk came in, and Tonks scratched the dog up and down his body, sending him into convulsions of licking ecstasy.
Andromeda told Tonks to cook breakfast to 'work on her cooking spells.'
Harry watched carefully. Unlike with Ted in the garden, Tonks used incantations most of the time. The crayfish went into a pot, but the waffles were cooked perfectly with no use of a waffle maker, some of the eggs disappearing in the process.
Tonks served the waffles with butter and lightly caramelized peaches, eggs and shelled crayfish on the side.
"Crayfish with waffles," said Andromeda. "Not flavors I would pair together."
"I like it," said Tonks.
"You like anything. Ted dear, thank you for gathering."
Ted nodded. He had picked up a newspaper as he'd sat down for breakfast.
Harry felt odd about eating something he'd just seen alive, but his unease vanished when he took a bite of crayfish and found it good.
Over his newspaper, Ted said, "Any good on a broomstick, Harry? I have a few here you can fly if you like, but you have to stay within the wards."
Tonks said, "So good they tried to put him on the team as a first-year."
Harry said, "In my flying class, I, er, did well, and Professor McGonagall said it showed I would be a good Seeker, so she tried to put me on the team, but Dora said I shouldn't, so I didn't."
Ted raised an eyebrow. "That must've been interesting."
Harry admitted, "Some of the other boys gave me a hard time. The Weasley twins kept pranking me." He saw Dora's appalled look and said, "It was the right choice to not be on the team. The twins had to spend a ton of time on practice. If I'd had to do that, between my friends, studying, and spending time with you, I think I would've had to give up at least one and a half of them up, and they're all more important than Quidditch. And the twins weren't mean, really. Ron was more trouble, after every Gryffindor loss. I'm still a little angry at Professor McGonagall for trying to just put me on the team without explaining it or asking me about it."
Ted said, "So you're not interested in being on the team this year?"
"Maybe. Ton- Dora won't be there, so that's a lot of time I'll have to spend somehow. And I won't have to read the books for muggle-borns, which is good because Overview of Wizarding Britain and Overview of the Wizarding World were extremely dull. And then if I quit the gobstones club too and started Quidditch I might have just as much time for friends and studying as before."
Andromeda said, "You like studying?"
"Sort of. I like doing wand magic. Theory of wand magic is mostly alright, and I like reading history. The hands-on portions of Astronomy and Herbology are okay, but I don't much like reading about it or doing the written work."
"I think it would be okay except for the fact that I really don't like Professor Snape. But I know I should study for it anyway, and Hermione makes me, so that's good."
Andromeda said, "Hermione's a friend of yours?"
"Yeah. She's bloody brilliant."
Andromeda said, "Language, Harry. You may, if a handkerchief becomes soaked in blood, describe the handkerchief as 'bloody.' Otherwise, the phrase need not leave your mouth. Now continue, about this Hermione."
"Ah, yeah. We met on the train, but we didn't start talking really until gobstones club. She can be a little anno—she cares a lot about the rules and studying and she tries to answer every question in every class and she tells other people what to do, but she's helpful and smart and interesting to listen to and she's really good at Charms and Transfiguration, and everything, really."
"And your other friends?"
"There's two. Ron, he's a Weasley, he's my best mate, probably. He was a little annoying about the Quidditch team, but he's really funny and he explains about the wizarding world a lot, which is good since I'm muggle-raised. And Neville's really nice and really shy. He likes Herbology. He actually likes reading about it and memorizing the diagrams. I noticed a little before Christmas that he was going to classes by himself. I asked him to walk with us a few times and suddenly we were a quartet instead of a trio, which is good, because that stopped Ron and Hermione arguing so much. He calms them down so I don't have to play peacemaker so much."
"They don't get along?
Harry said, "They didn't at first. Ron said some not nice things about her, usually when she wasn't there. Hermione worries that Ron still doesn't like her at all and only talks to her because she I are friends, and because she helps him with his homework."
"Is that true?" said Andromeda.
Harry hesitated. "Based on what Ron says, it's not completely true. It was getting better all year until she drove him batty near the end bothering him about studying for exams. She can't ever leave well enough alone. I was frustrated too sometimes. But I think at the end when he saw his marks he felt better about it."
"So he's using her for marks?"
"No. It's just that she kept nagging him into studying and it made him angry, but once he saw his marks it was harder to be upset. I felt the same."
"Sounds tiring," said Andromeda, "being in the middle of that."
Harry said, "Sometimes. Going through the obstacle course together made them get on better, so I wish we'd done that earlier in the year."
"So this Ron is a Weasley. One of Arthur and Molly's brood, if I recall. What's Neville's family?"
Dora rolled her eyes.
"Neville Longbottom. He lives with his gran."
Andromeda said, "The Longbottoms. That's a good family. Sadly reduced today, as so many families are. I knew his parents. And what's Hermione's full name?"
"Hermione Jean Granger."
"Related to the Dagworth-Grangers?"
"I don't know what that is. She's muggle-born. Her parents are dentists."
Andromeda smiled. "Two purebloods, a muggle-born, and yourself, a half-blood. Your group has all sorts. That's only to the good."
"I'm a half-blood?" said Harry.
Andromeda said, "I have a wonderful book for you to read. It's called An Overview of Wizarding Britain and every child ought to read it."
"I've read it," said Harry. Skimmed it, more. That book had been boring. He'd read whole pages without absorbing a word, and he'd skipped the chapter on blood purity because the introduction to it had made him angry.
Andromeda said, "Then you ought to know, that, oddly enough, in Wizarding Britain, there's traditionally no distinction drawn between the child of a muggle and the child of a muggle-born. Historically, muggle-borns were regarded as a sort of strange or dangerous muggle, and while they might have been paternalistically adopted into wizarding society, they were always viewed as muggle-borns, first and foremost."
Andromeda smiled and gave her husband's shoulder a squeeze. "Ted here is muggle-born, which makes Nymphadora a half-blood, just like you. This makes more sense when we recall that Wizarding Britain is an insular place, even compared to other wizarding societies. Muggle-borns and muggles who married wizards or witches were seen as equally foreign. There is some truth to that, but the truly correct paradigm for muggle-borns is not as foreigners, but as immigrants, and you only have to look at our language to know immigration is one of our most hallowed traditions. Moreover, they begin their immigration at the age of 11, and if you ever find yourself wondering why Hogwarts is a boarding school and we don't all just send our kids off through the Floo every day, consider that in your answer."
Harry was just starting to work out what she meant by that when Tonks looked at the clock and said, "It's past time I was going to the studio."
Andromeda said, "Enjoy your organized muggle flailing."
Tonks said, "I thought we might sign Harry up for it."
"For what?" Harry said.
"Mixed martial arts. It's a good physical activity and there's no harm in knowing how to throw a punch."
Harry thought of a Bruce Lee movie he'd seen half of on the telly, and he thought of Dudley and not being allowed to use magic over the summer. He said, "Sounds great."
Tonks said, "I'll talk to them. Monday maybe." She frowned. "Will you be alright here without me?"
Andromeda said, "No, Nymphadora, I'm sure that without you here to guide us, we'll get Harry in trouble with the ministry, expose him to licentious material, and have him play with matches in a muggle bomb factory."
"I just meant-"
"I assure you, Nymphadora, when you return from your muggle flailing class, and from the dueling club you falsely believe I'm unaware you attend, Harry will be alive, largely unharmed, and, perhaps, happy. Now go before you're late."
"You know about-"
"Alright, I'm going." She wrapped Harry in a quick hug and went out the door, leaving Harry alone with Andromeda and Ted.
They stared at Harry. Harry stared at them. They stared at Harry. Andromeda said, "Have you finished your summer homework?"
"Good. What would you like to do?"
"I could do chores," Harry said.
"That's sweet of you, but no. There is nothing you can do that we can't do in a tenth the time or less. You will have lessons instead. How would you feel about wandless magic?"
"Er, isn't that really advanced?"
"I didn't say you'd be any good at it, but struggle is its own reward. And don't say 'er.' It makes you sound slow of mind. Do you sing?"
"Um, not well."
"Don't say 'um' either. It's the same as 'er,' only more American, and you do not need to compound sounding slow with sounding American. I'll teach you to sing. Every young man ought to be able to sing. Do you play an instrument?"
"We'll fix that too. You ought to at least be able to play your wand, though I cannot speak to how much progress you'll make in only a month. I should think an hour of wandless magic followed by a ten minute break, an hour of singing and a ten minute break, and an hour of wand music. Ted dear, after lunch could you take him into the wood and show him the boundary?"
Ted said, "We should also get him up on a broom. Harry, I have a Nimbus 2001 on hand that you might like to try."
Andromeda said, "Not for more than an hour. We have a great deal to accomplish if we're to correct the rumored deficiencies of his upbringing."
Ted said, "An hour is hardly time for a good fly."
"An hour and a half then. Boys and their brooms."
Ted said, "He should have free-time."
"Most of his day will be free-time. But Harry, you are not to fly on a broom unsupervised, and Duckpot doesn't count. Duckpot!"
A pop, and a house-elf appeared in the kitchen. It wore a toga striped in black and green and looked much better fed than Dobby and had no apparent bruises.
Andromeda said, "Harry, this is Duckpot. She'll keep an eye on you when you spend your free-time outside the house. She's the only house-elf here, so if you see another, tell us. Duckpot, this is Harry Potter."
Duckpot said, "Duckpot is honored to meet Harry Potter," and bowed low until her nose almost met the floor.
Not sure what to do, Harry bowed back in his chair, though not as low, and said, "I'm happy to meet you too, Duckpot."
Duckpot gasped. Andromeda said, "We do not bow to house-elves."
Ted hid a laugh behind his hand, but not well enough for Harry to miss it. Ted said, "Andi, you've always said there's no downside to courtesy. If he wants to bow to house-elves, let him bow to house-elves."
"It's not proper."
"No, but Duckpot seems pleased. You were detailing his free-time?"
"Yes. Harry, you can play in the wood, but Duckpot will accompany you. Let her know. And don't go past the boundary. It's for your own protection, so don't be foolish. There are age-appropriate books in your room. If you don't read on your own, we'll set aside a time." She eyed him critically. "We'll take you shopping as well. And we must do something about your glasses."
Harry said, "I'm sort of a metamorphmagus, so Tonks said I'd work with her so I won't need glasses anymore."
Andromeda said, "You may be a sort of metamorphmagus, but you're not sort of a metamorphmagus. You're either a metamorphmagus or you're not. Tell me again, but be precise in your language."
"What did I say about 'er'?"
"Not to say it. I'm a metamorphmagus, but I'm not talented at it compared to Tonks."
"Compared to Tonks? But Ted Tonks here isn't a metamorphmagus at all."
"I'm not talented at it compared to Dora," said Harry.
"Hardly anyone is," said Andromeda. "I'll trust her to manage your metamorphmagus lessons. I have no talent for it, myself. Now, if you're quite done with breakfast, go scour your teeth and find me in the spellroom"
"Where's the spellroom?"
"Find it," said Andromeda. "It will be the room I am in."
Harry blinked and excused himself. He'd imagined relaxing and having fun with Tonks. Learning wandless magic sounded cool at least. He returned to the room, to 'his room,' marveling briefly again at how big it was. He cast an eye at the bookshelves, used the loo, let the dentscour do its thing, the went to find the spellroom.
The spellroom proved to be a granite chamber with white padding on the floor. There were two small wood chairs around a small wood table with a long white candle on it, and Andromeda had instructed him to light the candle.
He'd turned parts of the candle blue. He'd made bangs and pops. He'd scratched the table. He'd gotten Andromeda's robes wet. He'd burned his fingers slightly. And he had, at one point, singed the candle's wick, blackening it, a thin wisp of smoke rising.
But after an hour, he had not lit the candle.
"Time's up," said Andromeda. "Good effort. Take your break and I'll see you in the music room in ten minutes."
"I know I can get it if I practice longer."
"If you wish to spend your free-time on the candle, you may. However, time is up."
Harry said, "We'll try it again tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow is Sunday, so no. There are no lessons on Sunday. We will resume Monday. Nine minutes."
Harry had gone at the wandless magic exercises with a grim determination and had enjoyed it a little, feeling a warmth that reminded him of when he cast with his wand, only disorganized and diffuse.
The singing, however...
They had started out with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and after a few times through failing at that, Andromeda had sat at the piano. She'd hit a C, and told him to sing a vowel to match it. They did that for all the notes, and at the end Andromeda told him that he 'wasn't tone deaf,' and 'would learn to sing eventually.'
He was bored and embarrassed and wished a few times that he was being left alone in his room at the Dursleys. But also... Aunt Petunia hadn't ever taught him anything except which plants were weeds and a little about how to cook, and that had been mean and self-serving. Andromeda thought he should be able to sing, so she was teaching him, and that made him feel nice.
And he did like the idea of being able to sing, actually.
Harry said, "Did you teach Ton-, Did you teach Dora like this?"
"Of course, over the summers, and before she was old enough for Hogwarts. We taught her to read, to write, to sing and dance and do maths. We're not like muggles, sending our children off to strangers for schooling. Until they're 11, of course. Now get a drink. It's only seven minutes until we start on playing music."
Wand music, Andromeda said, did not have the same euphonic, suprasensory qualities as produced by enchanted instruments, but it did have the advantage of range. It was played by casting a charm and moving a wand around. He could change the pitch and the timbre (Harry didn't get what timbre was even after Andromeda explained it more slowly) and basically make any sound he liked, if he had the skill.
Since he was underage, Harry used Tonks' old baton instead of his wand. He thought it was fun, swishing the baton through the air, making annoying screeching noises, but by the end of an hour, Andromeda had him hesitantly doing rough scales, just trying to hit the notes.
When they'd finished, Andromeda said, "Now won't you feel good the whole rest of the day knowing you've been productive?
"I guess," said Harry.
Andromeda gave him a look.
"Definitely," amended Harry.
They went back to the kitchen for a snack and a drink, finding Ted there spending his Saturday by reading a book.
Andromeda eyed Harry critically and said, "I ought to take you shopping, if what you're wearing is anything to judge by."
Harry said, "It's fine. I don't need-"
"Yes you do," said Andromeda.
Ted shut his book. "Nymphadora mentioned that. Why don't I take him? As a muggle-born, I'll be able to explain matters to him better. Harry, you about ready?"
"Er, five minutes."
"Er?" said Andromeda, arching a brow.
"I'll be ready in five minutes," said Harry, and he ran off to the loo.
Seven minutes later, as Ted was walking him to the apparition point at the edge of the wards, Ted said, "Between you and me, Harry, you don't want to go shopping with Andromeda. You'll get stylish clothing in matching colors, but it won't be worth it."
Hardly an hour later, they returned, Harry the proud owner of a new wardrobe, muggle and magical both. He did perhaps, have the three of the same robes and the six of the same T-shirt in different colors, but neither Ted nor Harry saw anything wrong with that.
Harry had insisted on paying Ted back, and Ted had accepted with an amused smile.
Ted showed him around the outside and instructed him not to leave the boundary, which was marked off by a posts connected by ropes. Harry cast a longing glance at the stream, but Ted said it was time for lunch.
They went in to find Duckpot starting on lunch, and Tonks arrived just a minute after they entered, sat at the table, and told Duckpot to make a serving for her too.
Andromeda said, "Nymphadora, home for lunch, and not taking a bite to eat in her room. What's the occasion?"
Tonks averted her gaze and gestured vaguely in Harry's direction.
"Trying to be a good host? I'm so pleased to discover you were playing attention after all."
Ted cleared his throat. "Nymphadora, how was martial arts?"
"I'm not falling over so much when I kick."
Andromeda said, "If you had not objected so much to continuing your dance lessons-"
She cut off when Ted cleared his throat again. "So, Harry. I haven't heard yet about school.
Andromeda said, "Yes, you mentioned your marks. I'd be happy to see them, if you'd show me."
Harry said, "Let me go get the envelope."
He left, and came back from his room with a folded parchment in an open envelope, oddly short of breath. The Dursleys had never looked at his marks.
Andromeda drew the parchment from the envelope, unfolded it, and raised an eyebrow. "Odd to see a solitary P among those O and Es. I'd know potions isn't your favorite even if you hadn't already told me."
Harry scowled. "I did better than a P on my exam. If I were a Slytherin I bet I would've gotten an E, and if I were any other Gryffindor I would've gotten an A. But I only ever get an A if it's perfect, and even then sometimes Snape will vanish my potion and give me a T for the day."
Andromeda said, "You should speak of him as Professor Snape. It's a mark of respect. Even if he is, as Nymphadora claims, a 'slimy git,' you must still respect him. After all, as important as it is to respect our allies, it's even more important to respect our enemies. You wouldn't want to adopt any mental habits that lead to your underestimating them, now would you?"
Harry nodded, though he thought privately he'd keep calling Snape Snape.
Duckpot set the cucumber sandwiches and soup on the table. Andromeda gave her house-elf the barest nod and said, "From the sounds of it, Professor Snape is your enemy. How could we deal with that? There is always the idea of defeating one's enemy. You could perhaps get him fired. But that is a risky tactic, prone to backfiring horribly. And I must warn you that whoever replaced him would likely be the new Head of Slytherin, someone approved of by influential ex-Death Eaters, and thus might well be even crueler to you than Severus Snape."
Harry said, "Can't Professor Dumbledore hire whoever he wants?"
A small, amused smile graced Andromeda's face. "No. Just as in the muggle world, what to teach and how to teach it is the result of political conflict, and not all sides agree that small things like facts and effective teaching ought to have a place in it. Note that politics is one subject that we have come to a political agreement to not teach. Even your history course, taught by a soporific ghost, hardly gets to the structure of the Ministry until NEWTS, and most students don't bother to take NEWT history."
Harry's face was a mixture of confusion and realization, and Andromeda waved the aside aside and returned to the matter at hand. "A second tact is to simply withstand Professor Snape's dislike, keeping in mind that the only marks that really matter are those on your OWLs and NEWTS, and he won't grade those, but that is six more long years of discomfort, and hating the class will surely hinder your ability to learn the subject."
Andromeda continued, "Finally, he could cease to be your enemy. He wouldn't have to become your ally. That would be best, but it would be enough, I imagine, for him to be neutral. Why is he your enemy? Is it simply that you're the Boy-Who-Lived and as the Head of Slytherin he's required to publicly dislike you?"
Harry and Ron and Hermione had spoken extensively of why Snape might hate Harry so much, and it had never occurred to any of them that that might be the reason. But when he thought of how Snape looked at him and spoke to him... "That might be part of it," he allowed. "But it certainly isn't most of it."
Andromeda said, "Severus and your parents were a few years behind us in school, but James was very close friends with my cousin, Sirius Black, so I saw it, and heard more about it even after I'd left. Professor Snape and your father were in the same year, and they hated each other. Your father was a bit of a bully, you see."
"What?!" said Harry.
"Oh, it's quite true. Your father had many admirable qualities, but he was far from perfect. To those he liked, James was kind, compassionate, considerate, loyal and trustworthy. But he could be quite cruel to those he didn't like. Not just thoughtless cruelty, but pre-meditated cruelty, and as I recall, Severus was his favorite target. Don't think Severus was helpless, because he wasn't, and don't think Severus didn't keep the feud going when it had hit a lull, because he did, but of the two, I'd say your father was more at fault. Oh, stop looking at me like that. Your father was a good man. He was growing out of it by the end of his school days, from what I heard, and while perhaps he didn't ever grow completely out of it — I recall Lily being upset about something he pulled on her sister's boyfriend at their wedding — he was certainly continuing to grow out of it. He died quite young, after all."
Harry hadn't been told a great deal about his father, but everything he had been told was good. And the memories he'd seen had been good too. Mostly Professor's McGonagall's memories of his father doing very well in class and joking with his friends, and Tonks' memories of seeing him at gatherings, with a scattering of others.
Andromeda said, "No one's perfect, Harry. I'm not. Nymphadora isn't. Albus Dumbledore isn't. Your mother, Lily, well to be quite honest, she was closer to perfect than most, but she had her faults. She was pushy, short-tempered, and had a sharp sense of humor that edged at times into mean. I'm sure she did and said things she was ashamed of. But she was also honest and passionate, hardworking and caring, and did and said things that anyone could be proud of. I don't own a pensieve, but I'll borrow one from a friend and show you. But we were speaking of Severus Snape and why he dislikes you."
Harry wasn't ready to move on from the topic of his parents. But he was simultaneously extremely anxious to do so, and Snape was an escape from that topic, but also a return to it.
Harry said, "You think he hates me because of my parents?"
Ted looked up from his book. "He liked your mother. They were friends. It was very odd to see a little Gryffindor and a little Slytherin spending time together. I understand they knew each other before Hogwarts. I guess they had a falling out later, but Andi and I had graduated by then."
His mother and Snape friends? His head was pounding.
Andromeda said, "It's possible that he started hating your mother after they fell out, but I think the simpler explanation is that he only hates your father, and you do look remarkably like him. But, once you're not wearing glasses, the resemblance will be a little less, and Professor Snape might hate you less."
Harry decided he would keep on wearing glasses, even if they were simply empty frames.
Andromeda said, "But it may be that his reasons have little to do with your parents and more to do with you. Tell me about the first time you ever met him. First impressions can matter a great deal."
So Harry dutifully recounted the first potions class, including the three questions Snape had asked. He remembered it precisely. It had been engraved on his mind. 'Potter, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood.'
Andromeda looked startled, then satisfied. "That answers the question of whether he hated your mother after their falling out. The answer is no. Ted, did you ever read that book on Flower Languages I gave you?"
Ted turned a page in his book. "I may have skimmed it, dear."
Andromeda said, "Powdered root of asphodel. Asphodel is a Lily often used at funerals. Its meaning is "My regrets follow you to the grave. Wormwood means absence, and symbolizes bitter sorrow. So, we can translate the first words Severus ever addressed to you as, 'Potter, I bitterly regret Lily's death.' Not a statement he could possibly expect you to understand, but as a Potions Master it would be like a second language to him. And of course that 'bitter regret' creates the Draught of 'Living Death,' as if he himself has not been really alive since her passing. How romantic."
Harry said, "Sounds thin."
"It's possible I'm not understanding exactly what he meant by it, but it can't have been pure coincidence. He simply couldn't say something like that without seeing the double meaning."
Harry found his head hurting again. His mum and Snape being friends, his dad being a bully, Snape apologizing about her death in a subtle, secret way... Harry ate his food mechanically and excused himself as soon as he could. According to what Andromeda had told him, his free-time had started and he wanted to check out that stream.
Tonks went out with him, and they walked together through the garden, across the grass and under the eaves of the wood, the burbling of the stream growing louder. Harry had the idea Duckpot was watching them, but he didn't see her.
Tonks said, "How was it? Your day so far."
Harry stepped on a large rock a foot inside the bank of the stream, the water turning white at the edges as it broke around the rock. "Ted took me shopping. Andromeda taught me wandless magic, singing, and wand music. It was interesting. She said something about a daily planner. Reminded me a little of Hermione that way. And I'm not supposed to say 'er' anymore. Or 'um.'"
Tonks said, "Sorry about that. She can be a bit overwhelming."
"No," said Harry. "I liked it. Sort of. You can tell she cares. Or, something."
"'Or something' is right," said Tonks. "We'll go shopping for your textbooks soon, and she'll sit you down in the parlor and watch you read them. It's bizarre. I asked, and no one else's parents do that. Well, Eucretia Boulder's do, but that hardly counts. I tell you what, I didn't bring you here to study. We're going to have some fun. Ever been to a concert?"
"Ever been to the sea?"
"Muggle theme park?"
"Yeah, not much need for that one. Brooms are better than roller coasters by a mile."
Harry said, "I went to the zoo once. When I talked to the snake."
"You've mentioned that. Maybe a zoo too. Zoos are fine. Ever seen a film at the cinema?"
"Twice," said Harry. Both times a lot like how he'd gotten into the zoo. Aunt Petunia had taken Dudley and hadn't had anywhere else to stash Harry.
"Not any museums at all," said Harry.
Tonks said, "We've got a lot to do. I have dueling this afternoon and evening, but we'll hit the beach tomorrow."
Harry said, "I don't know how to swim."
"Then we'll hit the pond instead tomorrow and I'll teach you."
Harry said, "Could I come watch you duel?" That sounded a lot more interesting to Harry that any sort of museum, and certainly much, much more interesting than the dance lessons he suspected were in his future when Andromeda realized he didn't know how.
"Maybe. Probably not. It's not a place for kids. Definitely not today. But I promise, we'll spend more time together later. It's just that Saturdays are big for dueling. You like it here more than the Dursleys?"
"Oh, loads." Lessons beat chores by a mile, even singing lessons, and everyone was nicer.
"I've gotta run then, so, see you later alligator." She jogged over to the apparition point, the soft spot at the edge of the wards and vanished with a pop.
I am neither a Snape hater nor a Snape lover.
To clarify, the flower language thing is not made up out of my head: it's made up out of the heads of a bunch of old dead people from Europe and the middle-east back when it was Europe too. I did not notice that Snape's question can be interpreted that way. I read about it and confirmed it. I'm mainly using Frederic Shoberl's "The Language of Flowers," certainly one of the most classic British works on floriography.
To read a flower dictionary is to read a list of the names of females in Harry Potter. Even Narcissa. (Daffodils are also called Narcissus.)
Mandrake means rarity, so the Mandrake Restorative Draught is "Rare Restorative Draught." Monkshood, by the way, is not in Shoberl's work, but traditionally means 'beware of danger,' though it can also mean 'chivalry.'
Anyone involved in education knows that national and state politics drive a lot of what happens, and I get the impression that a decent number of writers in the fandom are involved in education, so I don't get why that doesn't come up more often in explaining certain things about Hogwarts.