Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling.
Chapters Posted: 23
Words Posted: 158,525
Thanks: badgerlady and crescent did an amazing job beta reading this chapter. Thanks!
Family Time (Part 1)
Brunch with Andromeda
Harry Apparated just outside Andromeda Tonks’ garden gate a bit before ten in the morning.
He had been up too late the night before, reading the biographies. Homework, he thought wryly. Hermione would have been on him about putting it off until the last minute. It wasn’t that he hadn’t had the time, it was more... He shook his head.
He hadn’t been able to force himself to read any of the other entries until he had read Sirius’, but his eagerness to read that one made him nervous. Even two years later, Harry’s brief time knowing Sirius stood out in his memory. He had finally forced himself to pick up the book and read Sirius’ entry, a bit eager, a bit fearful of how it would make him feel.
In truth, it had been too short for his preference. It mentioned Sirius’ Hogwarts House, and that he had been fostered by the Potters. The wording had been odd, and although the implication was clear that it had not been an official fosterage, the biography had not stated that outright. Harry wondered what felt odd about it, and how he was even aware of the difference, but a note of amusement in the back of his head was all the answer he needed.
The Black awareness was unobtrusive most of the time, but every once in a while it caught him off guard with knowledge or understanding that was not his own. It was too late to decide that he didn’t want it, and so far the choice on how to use what he learned had always been his own, even if he seemed to have cultural instincts he had never had before. Some of them were pureblood reactions that disturbed him. They were muted, but they were still not reactions he wanted to have, even a little. According to Andromeda, the more he connected with it, the more he would be able to guide it and use it, rather than allowing long-dead purebloods to influence him.
He certainly cherished the rare moments when he felt a fond brush from Remus, or a sparkle of amusement that felt so like Tonks he almost expected it to trip over his thoughts. He hoped that those moments would become more frequent as he connected more strongly to this thing he had acquired in the back of his head. That alone was reason enough to learn all he could from the biographies.
There was a brief paragraph about Sirius’ time as an Auror, and mention of his supposed betrayal of Harry’s parents, his time in Azkaban, and his escape. It stopped there. There should be more, or less. If it had been written by a family member, it should not have information about the escape, and if it were acquired by magic, shouldn’t it have the truth regarding his innocence? Shouldn’t it have knowledge of his death? Harry swallowed down the sadness that clenched his belly and continued reading.
In general, the information in the biographies was spotty; some entries were quite detailed, with information on alliances, spouses, even whether they played Quidditch and in what position. Others just had a name, date of birth, date of death, and any spouses or children.
Well, he wouldn’t get any answers standing in the garden.
Andromeda answered his knock with a smile. Harry smelled baking bread and a hint of something that reminded him of the greenhouses at Hogwarts.
Teddy’s bassinet rested on the sofa, his arms and legs jerking randomly as he blew bubbles at Harry.
“Would you like to hold him?”
“May I? I don’t want to hurt him.”
“Babies are more durable than they look. Here, you sit there,” she gestured to the couch, “and I’ll bring him to you.” She wiped the spittle with a soft cloth, and lifted the small boy and his blanket. When she put Teddy in Harry’s lap, he was amazed at how light he was.
Harry looked at the small face. Teddy’s eyes stared up at him, and Harry had a sudden sense of what a Legilimens must feel, gazing into someone’s eyes. He felt as if he could see Teddy’s soul, and those of his parents, and their parents, all the way to the beginning. Teddy seemed not to blink as he stared up at Harry, as if Harry was all there was in the world.
Harry felt a flash of warmth in the back of his mind, with echoes of pride, and sadness. He found himself brushing the top of Teddy’s head, as if combing back what little hair there was. Harry noticed, as they had been sitting there, the hair had gradually shaded itself darker, from a light brown to something near black like his own.
He only realised that time had passed when a soft chime sounded from the back. “Our meal is ready.” Andromeda stood and gathered Teddy from Harry’s arms, and then gestured for him to precede her. She put Teddy in the bassinet and picked it up, and they made their way to a dining room.
The room was not as homey as at the Weasleys’. Andromeda had fine china set out on an antique wooden table instead of stoneware on solid, well worn wooden planks, but the walls here were a cheery blue and there were bright yellow flowers in vases along the sideboard and two in the middle of the table. The dark wooden floor shone, and the chairs were wide and sturdy, with dark yellow cushions. It was a far cry from the overly elegant, fancy dinners that Aunt Petunia would have favoured—instead, it combined elegance and comfort seamlessly. Plates were already on the table, and silver serving dishes with eggs, fish, asparagus spears, fresh baked bread, pots of jam and butter, a bowl of cut fruit, and a small plate by each place setting with what looked like marinated vegetables. Harry wondered if Andromeda had cooked it all herself, maybe with magic?
“This looks delicious.”
“I’ll tell Pipo you said so.”
“I didn’t know you had a house-elf.” Harry imagined Hermione’s reaction.
Andromeda gestured to Harry to sit, and followed suit.
“When my Uncle Alphard discovered my mother’s...rather extreme response to my marriage, he gave me a bit of money, a few items from his family vault, and a house-elf. Nothing entailed, mind you, just a few things to start a household, but my mother was still furious.
“I was young, and had lived in a pure-blood household my entire life up until then. I didn’t know how to cook, or clean house, or look after clothes—we had house-elves for that. I married for love, and have never regretted that, but Ted and I were severely unprepared for a life on our own.”
“If you hadn’t married Mr Tonks, what would have happened?” Harry asked, fascinated by this glimpse into pure-blood customs.
His question was vague, but she understood his meaning. “Traditional pure-blood families will typically arrange a suitable match. These days, in all but the most rigidly traditional families like the Selwyns or the MacDougals, the choice is left to the individual, but the families then arrange the details. If I had married up, as would have been expected of a daughter of Black, the family that I married into would have provided a house and elves and all the necessary accoutrements to start our new family. The Black family is well respected within the Wizarding world, certainly to those who value lineage. My family would have traded on that to see me well established.”
Andromeda took a sip of pale wine. Harry also tried some. It was light and tasted like flowers and lemons. He wasn’t sure he liked it, so followed it with a gulp of water.
“With the number of pure-blood families dwindling, there aren’t as many families of equal or higher position as the Blacks’, so marrying downward was also an option. If I had married down, into a family not as well off or as respected as the family Black, my family would have set us up in a house of our own, usually one of the Black properties. Your father’s family did much the same, arranging for the house in Godric’s Hollow for your parents. It had belonged to a brother of your great grandfather, and had been rented out once that branch of your family died out.”
Harry wondered what his mother had thought of the idea that his father was marrying “down.” It did seem that Wizarding families had more of a pecking order than he had realised. All that he knew of his mother’s parents was that they had lived near Snape, and had produced Petunia, as well as Lily. It didn’t seem likely that they were wealthy.
“There was a time,” Andromeda continued, “that we all would have lived together in large manors, all the aunts and uncles included, but witches and wizards are a strong-minded bunch. With magic feeding our emotions it can be good to have a bit of distance from each other.
“When my mother cast me out of the family, Alphard came to us and brought Pipo. The elf was so small—he had to bring a newly weaned one so that the Black prejudices would not get in the way. With just the two of us to care for, and no family lineage to empower the elf, he remained small—he is the smallest house-elf I have ever known. But he helped immensely, and since he was so young, I didn’t have to fight against any indoctrination or loyalty to his old family.
“He had learned a bit about what his duties would be, but had never performed them himself. In the end, he taught me how to care for myself as much as I taught him how to care for Ted and me, and later Nymphadora once she was out of the nursery. Even then, he never grew large, as we did not have the family magics to call upon. He may not have the skill of an elf that has been bound to an old family for generations, but he is himself, and a much valued member of this household.”
“I’d like to meet him.”
“I’m sure that can be arranged. Now, please, help yourself!”
Harry dished up some eggs and fish, which was smoked and delicious, as well as some of the vegetables. He treated himself to a few thick slices of bread and some of the jam. He was not sure what the fruit was; it wasn’t any of the standard ones he had tasted.
Andromeda must have seen his reaction to the wine. She poured him some chilled juice, which he was surprised to discover was a tasty spiced apple juice.
Several times during the meal, between bites of asparagus and fish, Andromeda picked up Teddy, put him in her lap and jiggled him a bit, before laying him back down in his bassinet, which was on a low table by her chair. It was apparently a habit of hers; the table had been placed there already, and looked to have been there awhile. She somehow managed to do it while retaining her dignity, yet Harry could see her devotion to Teddy. A tension that he hadn’t been aware of until that moment released its hold. Teddy would be okay.
Harry knew he would have been completely out of his element, taking care of Teddy, but he would have if there had been any sign that Teddy was getting less than the love he deserved. Harry took a deep breath, smiling at the sight.
After the meal, they returned to the sitting room and Andromeda started the quiz. Harry was sure she did not mean it as such, but he felt woefully unprepared to answer any of her questions, even though he had read the biographies well into the night.
This was not a Hogwarts quiz, however. When Andromeda asked if any of the names were familiar, or if any evoked a memory, he was surprised. He had never been asked how he felt about something that he was learning. Facts were facts. You could either do the magic or not. You either knew the history of the goblin wars or you didn’t. Once she asked it, however, he realised that he had had the vague niggling of familiarity.
“That is your connection to the family, waking up. As you learn more about our relatives, it opens the way to communicate with them.”
“But not with Sirius.”
“I’m sorry, Harry, but without his magic returning to the family, he won’t be one of the ancestors you can hear.”
Harry nodded in understanding. “Would you... even if it won’t help me to connect to the family, could you still tell me about him?”
Andromeda must have seen the yearning in his face, for she set aside the biography she was holding, leaned back, and spoke of Sirius. They had only shared one year at Hogwarts, with Andromeda in her seventh while Sirius was in his first, but she had seen his Sorting, and his moment of abject fear when the hat called Gryffindor. She had watched as the fear had been masked, and he went over to the Gryffindor table, slapping James Potter’s hand in the air when he joined the table a few minutes later. She shared memories of holidays at the Black estate, before Andromeda had been exiled. Later, when Sirius had turned sixteen and left the Black family behind, he looked Andromeda up, and they shared a few holidays, although he spent most of them with the Potters. The two of them had become closer after Sirius left school, and the Black exiles gathered for more than one holiday.
Andromeda shared stories of four-year-old Nymphadora following Sirius around like a crup puppy. “He never objected, as one might expect an adolescent to do when a child tagged along after him. He did pull several pranks on her, but they were much gentler than what I saw when he was at Hogwarts. She learned to prank him right back, even at her age, without a wand. She’d hide his belongings, or make faces as only a metamorphmagus can. I remember one day she walked around as a mini-Sirius all day.” The pride in her voice was painful to hear.
Harry could just imagine Tonks and Sirius in a prank war as children. He wondered how the house survived.
As Andromeda spoke, Harry felt a warm amusement in the back of his mind and got a sense of the personality that had made Remus a Marauder, behind the quiet face he had showed the world. In addition, he got a hint of Tonks in his mind, amusement at the memories, and a tiny bit of embarrassment. Even though Sirius was not there, Harry could not help but feel that with the memories and emotions coming from Remus and Tonks, he could still feel Sirius, an empty shape, filled with others’ memories.
Andromeda finally told of nine-year-old Nymphadora, inconsolable when she realised that Sirius was locked up as a bad man, and the following Yule she was despondent at his absence and apparent betrayal. All of them, both in the room and in Harry’s mind, sat for a few moments, quiet and thinking of loss.
Andromeda shook her head, releasing those memories for the moment, but turned to Harry. “I’ll see if I can get some photographs from those holidays. In fact, if you like, one of these Sundays, we can look at pictures, both from my own childhood and from those years when he came to share a few holidays.”
Harry grinned and nodded, and Andromeda gathered herself and focussed back on the matter at hand.
“Now, what else did you learn from the biographies?”
Harry didn’t answer right away.
“Mrs T—I mean, Andromeda?” Even though he instinctively seemed to think of her as Andromeda, and she had given him permission, the instinctive politeness was difficult to overcome.
Her mouth twitched in amusement. “Yes, Harry?”
He tried to put into words what had been bothering him. “How do these entries get written? I mean, Sirius’ entry has his escape from Azkaban, but not that he—that he’s dead. If it was written before the Black Family, um, almost went ex—there wasn’t anyone to update it.” Harry stumbled over the words. “So it had to be magic, right? But then why doesn’t it have more information? Why doesn’t it have his death?”
“It is magic,” Andromeda replied gently. “The updating spell on the biography pulls data from public records, which are enchanted to be actively available for such use, and from any linked journals kept by the Head of the Black Family. Sirius never became Head of the Family.”
“So if I started a journal, I could update it? I could write the full story?”
“You would have to do the linking enchantment on it, but I could help you with that. That would update Sirius’ information in any Black family records.”
“But not public records.”
“It’s not that easy. For it to be entered into public records, you would have to get him officially cleared. Of course, if you just wanted to sway public opinion, you could always give an interview to a reporter for The Prophet.”
“I’ve seen how fast public opinion can change,” Harry muttered.
“So, talk to Kingsley. It is your right as Head of the family to correct any injustices done to family members.”
Harry nodded, looking down at his fingers in his lap, as he pressed the tip of one finger after another between the thumb and index finger of the other hand. He was getting the sense that each of his rights as a head of the Black Family was a responsibility in disguise.
“What else did you learn about our illustrious family members?” Andromeda asked.
It was a welcome change of subject.
“There were fewer than I thought there’d be, in three hundred years.”
“Yes, wizards are not, usually, fecund. We are longer lived than Muggles, and that tends to correlate with fewer children.” Her voice was dry as she said this, but something in her tone made Harry wonder if she had wanted other children. Losing her only daughter ... He couldn’t imagine that. It seemed to Harry that being longer lived would just give more time to have children. He was probably missing something.
“Also, the book goes earlier than the tapestry. Was there just not enough room on the tapestry?”
“The tapestry depicts the current branch of the family. Licorus Black was a cousin of the previous Head of the Family, and a younger son at that. There was some to-do when the Head of Black at the time, Perseus, here,” she flipped the pages of the biography to Perseus’ page, and handed it to Harry, “made Licorus his heir. The two sides of the family developed some animosity toward each other in later years.”
“So there might be other Blacks still alive?”
“No, Harry. That other line died off as well. The book is quite complete when it comes to the births and deaths. It is the other details that sometimes go missing.”
Harry flipped through the pages a bit more, pausing at another Black relation.
“So Edwin Black had no children after his accident? How did he get that name, anyway? I’ve never heard of a constellation or star with such an... English name.”
“Edwin was born Betelgeuse Black, but when the accident happened, and it became clear that he would never have children, his father officially transferred his original name to the second son... who then became the heir of that branch.”
“Ouch. So birds can really do that? How big was that bird? How did it even...”
“It was an augury bird, Harry. They are quite big. My suspicion was that the bird had been attracted to something dangling, but we’ll never know. Its beak was sharp and strong; it bit clear through Edwin’s robes.
“If it hadn’t been an augury, Rigel Black might have allowed him to keep the name and adopt a cousin, but it seemed too strong a sign to ignore.”
Harry resisted the urge to cross his legs.
(continued in next post...)