December 22nd, 1991
Harry tried to summon his grandmother's stern tone of disapproval, the outright fear that Sirius could bring out in others, or even the way that a brief glance of disappointment from Remus could sink your heart right to the floor. He was positive that he was not doing any of them justice, considering both cats were not even looking at him, too busy licking their wounds and glaring at one another every so often.
His day had not gone well.
A terrible headache had woken him from a bad dream that he could no longer recall other than the brief memory of not having any hair and the heavy feeling of being stuck with someone he desperately hated and was unable to get away from. The headache persisted for most of the morning until Dobby and Aunt Camilla's house-elf, Winky, decided to get into an argument while picking out Harry's clothes and subsequently bathing and dressing him. While Winky had elected for dress robes that Harry was certain his grandmother would approve of, Dobby had clearly pilfered through both Sirius and Remus's wardrobes to put together an outfit so grotesque that Harry almost liked it. But he voted for Winky's ensemble in the end because he didn't want to be wearing it when Sirius found out that the image of one of his David Bowie t-shirts had been removed and sewn to the front of one of Remus's jumpers. Winky's outfit was also layered, and Harry knew he would be able to ditch the heavy robes early one in favour of simple trousers and a shirt.
Still while he had to wear them, the robes itched, his head still ached, his family was running all over the manor in preparations for the Yule party, and then all hell broke loose when Aunt Cassie arrived with three kneazle "kittens" that proceeded to lay claim to the entire house either by shedding on the sofa, peeing in the corner, or picking a fight with Max.
The black and brown kneazles were taken in hand easily enough, but the orange one slipped out the back door when Harry's grandmother began fussing over her newly clawed sofa before disappearing into the kitchen. Magic fixed the furniture up quickly, but no one else caught sight of the escaped kneazle, so Harry ran out the back door to track the beast down.
Easily distracted by the sight of his broom nearby, Harry—prompted by Neville's arrival—took to the skies, reasoning, at first, that the cat would be easier to see from above. Draco and Theo Nott joined them later on, thoughts of loose cats in the far back of Harry's mind as he and Draco fought tooth and nail over a Snitch that eventually took them both to the ground with a gaggle of Weasleys surrounding them at one point, egging them on. Bill Weasley broke up the lazy scuffle, shoving his brothers out of the way as he did so. Once Draco and Harry were parted, they shook hands, rolling their eyes and uttering underhanded insults about the other.
Eager for another game, they all grabbed their brooms, but Harry was distracted by the sound of yowling and was pulled swiftly away over concern that Max and the orange cat had gotten into another fight.
He had been right to be worried, and it seemed only his strong connection to his own familiar ended the mutual mauling. Sighing in resignation as his cousins started a new game, Harry decided to monitor the cats instead.
"Honestly, can't you stay out of trouble for two minutes?" he asked of Max, who curled her lip up at him. It did not escape his thoughts that the same could be said of himself and any of his new nemeses from Hogwarts—Sirius had said that it was nonsense to have an enemy at eleven.
"And you—" He turned to the orange kneazle, "—you're a guest in this house, y'know."
"King of beasts, that one. You won't convince him otherwise. Cats are stubborn creatures."
Startled, Harry turned to see an older wizard approach. Though they had not been formally introduced, Harry recognised him immediately and anxiously smiled, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
"If you think cats are stubborn, you should meet my dog," he said, thinking of Padfoot. Briefly, he wondered if his godfather was all right. Sirius sometimes had problems with crowds that seemed to come and go depending on his mood.
Newt Scamander sat down on a nearby log used for outdoor family gatherings, not even bothering to dust away the snow first. "I'd wager I know a Niffler or two that could out-stubborn the whole lot."
The man smiled at Harry, a twinkle in his eyes that briefly reminded him of Dumbledore, but in a way that left Harry feeling acknowledged rather than studied. Sitting down on the opposite end of the log, Harry held out his hand expectantly, feeling relieved when Max came over and butted her head into his palm. "Why'd you give those cats to Aunt Cassie?"
"Every creature needs a home. Needs someone who loves it. Someone to care for it in ways that no one else can," Newt said, mimicking Harry's gesture to the orange cat, who stared at Newt with what looked like disgust and then indifference before continuing to lick its paws. Rather than seeming offended by the clear insult, the man looked rather delighted that the cat hadn't just obediently come running to him.
Silence sat between them for several minutes.
Harry continued to pet Max, watching Newt from the side as he observed the other cat for a while before turning his attention to a nest of chirping birds in a nearby tree. The lack of speaking seemed to not bother the man, though Harry was not used to adults not having something to say, especially to him.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Harry judged the man's calm demeanour, bit his lower lip, and took a chance, asking, "Did you really fight in a war with Dumbledore?"
Newt did not look at Harry when he answered, "Wars are fought by soldiers. Warriors."
His wrinkled hands touched the snow near his feet, the tips brushing over it as though it were a pet. Harry noted that the skin of his fingers was discoloured and his knuckles were large. The hands of a man who works with them, Ted used to say, gesturing to his own.
"I've never felt like either, myself," Newt continued. "Then again, I suppose most who ended up in the thick of things didn't exactly sign up for it."
"My parents fought a war," Harry blurted out, a part of him wondering why. Maybe it was because most people acknowledged them, or his scar, or Voldemort and what happened in Godric's Hollow, especially when first meeting him. Maybe because having the subject ignored felt like something was being hidden, and Harry didn't like secrets. Harry didn't like not knowing what adults were thinking about him. Newt didn't even look at his forehead.
Newt finally met his gaze, smiling softly. "I know. I never had the pleasure of meeting either of them, but I've heard wonderful things."
Harry didn't respond to that; most everyone he knew said something similar.
His parents were wonderful people—heroes. It didn't make them more real to him than Merlin or Morgana. They were just stories. Stories about people he could not remember and might as well have never known because they were fiction for all he knew. The only proof was photographs, which still felt unreal to Harry, who all too often looked for the sound of his mother's voice in the echoes when women of the coven spoke.
His parents were heroes who fought bravely . . . and still died.
Perhaps sensing Harry's shift in mood, Newt slightly changed the subject. "Creatures don't war. They fight over territory, mates, food . . . but nothing like people."
"Not even these two?" Harry asked, referencing the cats just as Max rolled over and began absentmindedly chewing on the sleeves of his shirt.
"That's not war," Newt said with a soft, affectionate chuckle. "Sizing one another up, is all. I think we're through with the battle already." Max purred next to Harry's side, relaxed as she rubbed her head against him.
The other Kneazle, however, was distracted, sniffing around the firepit. A Warming Charm had been placed over a pile of wood that was often used for both the firepit outside and the fireplaces inside. The charm kept the wood dry for yearlong usage, and also served somewhat as a heater for Harry and his cousins during days like today when the weather was cold but they didn't want to take a break from playing to come inside and sit by the fireplace to thaw their hands from gripping brooms and throwing Quaffles in the freezing cold.
Harry knew that other creatures enjoyed the warmth of the wood pile.
His eyes widened just as the orange Kneazle arched its back and let out a loud growling hiss, swiping its paw at something beneath the pile.
Startled, and without thinking, Harry jumped up, knocking Max to the ground, and yelled, "No! Bad cat! Don't come out!" realising a split second too late—by the look on Newt's face when he turned to peek—that the words he had meant to say in English, must have been said in Parseltongue.
Avoiding eye contact with the older man, Harry looked back at the wood pile. The snake that he knew was there retreated back beneath the wood, and the orange cat began circling the pile once more, looking for an opening.
Nervously, Harry slowly turned his attention back to Newt, who was smiling.
"It's all right." The man held a hand out as though coaxing down a wild animal. "I won't say anything to anyone if you don't want me to. I know that Parselmouths are not looked on fondly here, but there's nothing to be ashamed about, Harry. You're not the first person I've met with an extraordinary ability that is badly misunderstood by others."
His breath coming out shaky, Harry wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "You won't tell?"
Newt smiled again, one side of his mouth turning up more than the other; his eyes crinkled at the corners. "I have no reason to tell secrets that are not mine. I imagine your family knows?"
"Why do you think that?"
Harry glanced down, noticing his wand sticking out of the pocket of his trousers. Since they were unable to use magic at home, he had not thought much about it—especially since it had been quiet since arriving home—but Harry kept it on him at all times, just like his grandmother and Sirius insisted. "What about my wand?"
"Horned serpents are all but extinct in Europe," Newt said casually, "and they don't do well in Britain. There's a few nests of them in America that I've tried to help keep protected as an endangered species. A short time ago, an old wandmaker friend of mine asked if I knew where to acquire a horn from one. It just so happened that I knew an older serpent that had broken a horn in a fight. I'd kept it myself because it's quite useful for potions, but I sent several shavings of it upon request."
Gently brushing his fingers against his wand, Harry muttered, "What wandmaker?"
"Gregorovich," Newt said, gesturing to the wand. "And I know his style. Is that snakewood or cedar?"
"Cedar," Harry said. "You helped make my wand? But how did you know it was for me?"
"It's not a common wandcore these days," Newt admitted. "But it is known to be very beneficial to those with the gift of Parseltongue. It's supposed to be obedient and even protective."
Scoffing, Harry scowled and said, "It's more of a nuisance, really."
Realising that he wasn't supposed to talk about it with anyone outside his family, Harry clammed up, biting his lips shut.
"Does it sing to you?" Newt prompted. The words sounded almost like a joke, but the look on his face expressed concern. When Harry remained silent, his heartbeat pounding in his ears—and his traitorous wand remaining silent—Newt sat up straighter, his mouth opening in obvious worry.
"Harry, does your wand make noise?"
Hosting a party for Yule had seemed like a good idea at the time. The family holidays had always been a little maddening over the years, but with extra guests and Camilla's house-elf taking over, Dorea had felt a bit like stepping back and leaving the hard work to the younger generation, the house-elves, and the busybodies.
It also didn't help that, normally, Yule was spent with Harry counting down the days until Christmas. It was not as though they didn't participate in Muggle holidays often, but Christmas was especially important to him since the few he had spent with the Dursleys had left him with rotten memories. Both Dorea and Sirius were determined to overwrite every single one of them. This year, however, Harry was at Hogwarts for the majority of the month, and even putting up the tree had been made sadder all by the fact that he wasn't there to run around it as she and Sirius levitated baubles onto the branches.
The arrival of the Scamanders was a lovely interruption.
While Cassie had always been fond of Newt, Dorea found him a peculiar individual that she sometimes struggled to communicate with. It, of course, did not help that she displayed an open distaste for nogtails from a young age when one had bitten her, and could not be swayed by Newt's passionate argument of the creatures supposed sweetness. He did not argue, however, and was not often one to easily make angry. But Dorea could tell that his opinion of her had taken a nosedive, and she highly suspected that anything she ever said to him again would be taken with a grain of salt.
Newt's wife, however, was a woman after Dorea's own heart.
Dorea had first met Tina Scamander before Newt, actually, long before even James had gone to Hogwarts. Charlus, irritated by the nonsense happening in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement where he worked as a consultant, had brought Tina home for dinner one evening when she was working as a representative of MACUSA during on of Newt's trips home to handle his own affairs in the Ministry.
Despite being from dramatically different backgrounds, the two witches bonded quickly over their thoughts on reform within both America's and Britain's magical governments and the problems associated with both blood purity and interactions with Muggles—or No-Majes, as Tina called them.
"I had a brother once," Dorea confessed over a late night glass of wine.
Charlus had taken Newt outside to offer advice on working around the D.M.L.E. and their kill on sight policy regarding werewolves that he was trying to help ban while also fighting an up-and-comer in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures by the name of Lyall Lupin. Newt had just passed a ban on experimental breeding, and high off the win, he was trying to continue his good works but was falling a bit short due to his inability to placate politicians and various department heads.
James was fast asleep in his room, snuggled up warm with a Demiguise that had, supposedly, sneaked through customs in one of the Scamanders' suitcases.
Newt and Tina's son, Jacob, was away at Ilvermorny, allowing the two of them to spend more time in Britain pushing forward with reform since, apparently, America had stalled him with red tape at every turn.
Dorea nodded, looking into her glass. "Two, actually, not that my parents would have ever claimed as such." At Tina's inquisitive glance, she sighed. "Marius was a squib. He died."
"Dragonpox?" Tina gently asked.
"No. It was not by accident nor illness."
She remembered crying, refusing to go near the pond behind their house for years after Cassie pulled their little brother's body from the water, Pollux looking on coldly from the bank, the sleeves of his shirt still wet.
"Some writer was touring around with a new book about his life as a squib, and there were riots in protest from the old families. Several members of my own family signed their names to petitions and laws put before the Wizengamot to have squibs cast out or killed, calling it an act of kindness to the unmagical," she said with a disgusted scoff. "No one could have found out about Marius. Not after that. It would have ruined them. And so . . ."
She tossed back the remainder of her glass.
After a beat, Tina drank her own glass down and said, "I had a sister. Have a sister. Somewhere."
Dorea looked up, curious.
"She fell in love with a No-Maj. It's looked down upon here in England, but when they met, it was illegal in America to mix with people who weren't magical. Jacob," Tina said, wiping at her eyes, "was a dear friend. And after . . . well, there was a bit of a scene, and he was ordered to be Obliviated. It didn't exactly take, in a manner of speaking, and eventually, he and my sister were reunited. But it wasn't to be."
Taking her friend's hand, Dorea asked, "Did he . . . ?" She stopped, not knowing exactly what the end of her question was.
"After the war against Grindelwald, which he and my sister both contributed to," Tina declared firmly and proudly, "my sister was given a choice. For her contributions to Grindelwald's defeat, she would be allowed to marry her No-Maj and not be carted off to prison, but only if she were . . ."
"Obliviated?" Dorea whispered, horrified.
Tina nodded, clearing her throat. "And relocated. No matter what they'd done for us all in the war, and regardless of the fact that it wasn't technically Jacob's war to fight, they'd broken the law. President Picquery order Queenie's wand broken. Newt and I were given strict instructions not to seek them out. Punishable by . . . a thousand different threats; I stopped counting. They threatened her too if I were to ever look for her and try to undo what they did. So she begged me to let her go. She loved him."
"Did you ever—?"
"No. But I know my sister. And she and Jacob were happy. That's what I wanted for her. The loss of magic . . . I can't even imagine, but I wanted her to have love, and a family. I have to know that they had a good life. Have a good life. Maybe. Somewhere."
Sick to her stomach, and still thinking of her dead little brother, Dorea asked, "How do you stomach it? Working for them after what they did?"
"I fight. I fight for change so that people like Queenie and Jacob never have to make choices between love and magic." Tina wiped at her eyes once more and then immediately refilled her glass. "Love is magic. And now, with what little I could contribute and unfortunately not retroactive, it's no longer illegal in America to marry a No-Maj."
"That's not good enough," Dorea said softly, feeling a hate in her heart for policies and laws.
"No," Tina agreed. "It's not."
Dorea thought of Marius, of Tina's sister, and of James's wife as she looked at the little Muggle-born girl in her kitchen, kicking her feet back and forth from her seat on a stool, watching in delight as Tina's kneazle, Mauler, wrapped her tail around her foot.
"Tell me, Hermione, dear, are you enjoying Hogwarts?"
Hermione looked up with bright eyes. "Very much so, Madam Potter. I do prefer the one-on-one attention we receive in the Muggle-born Overview Programme, but getting to actually use magic at Hogwarts is just—"
"Magical?" Tina offered with a soft chuckle. "If you think Hogwarts is amazing, you should consider touring Ilvermorny."
"Hush," Dorea said, swatting a hand at her friend. "Don't listen to this old hag, Hermione. Your blood is for Hogwarts and nothing less."
"She'd make a good Thunderbird, I say," Tina said, swirling her glass of wine.
"She's doing just fine as a Slytherin," Dorea retorted. "Or so Minerva tells me. I think she might even be envious. If you turn out to play Quidditch, dear, old Professor McGonagall might demand a re-Sorting."
Hermione, for her part, looked elated by the praise even as she laughed, and Dorea watched and waited to see if ego peeked through somewhere. Instead, she was met with pride and a familiar look of determination.
"She says you work very hard and help others when they struggle. Is it true that your group of friends all learnt the Levitation Charm before all the other first years?"
"Yes, ma'am. But Harry and the others weren't far behind. They need to enunciate better, if you ask me."
Grinning at the pure potential, Dorea chuckled.
"Oh, she'll be a grand addition to your collection," Tina teased. "Ilvermorny may be a better school, but there aren't any covens in America, and even teaching Blood Magic is illegal outside of Louisiana."
Hermione's hand rose in the air, catching both Dorea and Tina off guard. "May I ask a question?"
"Of course, dear."
Hermione took a breath, looking like she was gathering her courage. "I guess I just don't understand why a coven's magic, Blood Magic, is stronger. Isn't it just everyone doing spells together?"
Dorea glanced at Tina, who shook her head as though to say "This is your arena."
"Not at all," Dorea eventually said. Instructing children in regards to Blood Magic had never been something she needed to do. Charlus was much too conservative to get deeply involved, and even if it wasn't a controversial subject in their home, James never had the care for such things, preferring Quidditch and his classes at Hogwarts—which definitely did not teach Blood Magic. Harry had grown up with a bit of it, but learnt along the sidelines while the coven got themselves in order.
"It's much more complicated than that. See, when a family wants to protect their home, they construct wards. You can think of them like invisible layers of magic, sometimes as thick as bricks."
Hermione looked at her with wide eyes, paying attention, clearly absorbing every word Dorea spoke into her consciousness.
"Normally, when a parent, for instance, puts up wards around their home, they are one layer thick. Sometimes, they can add more layers depending on what specifications are needed," she said, thinking of the very detailed layers surrounding the homes belonging to the coven members and their families. "Other times, they'll have Curse-Breakers come and put up wards, adding their own layers. That way, if someone tries to break through and they understand the complexities of the homeowner's magical signature, they might be stumped when they run into a layer built by one or more Curse-Breakers."
"So how does coven magic differ?" Hermione asked, her fingers twitching as though she were subconsciously searching for a quill to take down notes.
"Coven magic doesn't work like layers," Tina answered with a smile, running her hand along Mauler's scruff when the kneazle leapt onto the counter, almost knocking over a plant in its wake.
"A coven weaves their magic together," Dorea added. "When a person tries to unravel it by plucking at one string, hooks in the magic will catch onto the different spells from other witches, and instead of unravelling, it will knot. Blood Magic allows us to weave instead of layer. Do you understand?"
Pursing her lips in deep thought, Hermione nodded. "I think so. I guess I'm just not sure why Blood Magic specifically has this specification?"
"Come here," Dorea said, turning around and opening the cooling cabinet. "Do you know how to cook, dear?"
Hermione hopped from her stool, adjusted her dress, and followed her. "No, ma'am."
"I didn't either for quite some time.' Dorea thought of years earlier when she depended on house-elves for everything—until Dobby became more unpredictable. "But I insisted on learning. Have you ever seen someone make mayonnaise?"
"No," Hermione said, watching as Dorea removed items from the cabinet. "Mum buys it in jars from Tesco."
"There are three essentially simple ingredients: oil, vinegar, and the yolk of an egg." Dorea set a bottle each of oil and vinegar in front of Hermione, summoning a glass jar from another cabinet. "Do me a favour, dear, and mix these."
She watched with Tina as the girl set to work with the same precision as one would in a potion's lab. If she had long sleeves on her dress, Dorea was certain that Hermione would have rolled them up. She measured equal parts of the liquids, swirling them inside of the jar once the lid was secured. A bit of the ingredients mixed together for a moment, but once the movement stopped, they split.
"They separated," Hermione said, looking defeated as though she knew what would happen, but had hoped for a different outcome. "They're layers. Like the wards?"
Tina grinned brightly. "You're a very bright little witch."
"Both potent ingredients, strong magic, and while they can blend together temporarily, they ultimately function individually." Dorea snatched an egg from a basket in the corner of the counter next to a fruit bowl. "Now, let's add the Blood Magic," she said, pouring out some of the oil and vinegar and then cracking the egg into the jar. Tapping her wand on the lid once secure, the content stirred themselves rapidly until it thickened. "Care to separate it?"
Hermione smiled in obvious understanding. "I don't think I could if I tried."
"It would take a great deal of effort, a lot of time, and even still you would not end up with vinegar, oil, and an egg in the end. You'd be left with a bigger mess than when you began."
"So why are only family covens allowed to use Blood Magic?" Hermione asked, looking back and forth between Dorea and Tina.
"We have the same blood," Dorea answered. "It's why newly inducted witches undergo a blood ritual. Even a single drop, when merged with your magic, will blend seamlessly with the others."
The girl nodded thoughtfully. "And if others who don't have the same blood perform Blood Magic? Is it just like oil and vinegar?"
Smirking, Dorea replied, "More like oil and fire."
Hermione opened her mouth, presumably to ask a question, but a door opening stalled her.
All three witches turned to see Harry and Newt walk in, both looking more serious than either ever had a right to, what with a mutual playful nature.
Concerned, Dorea stepped forward, cupping Harry's chin in her hand. "What's wrong, lamb?"
He predictably leant into her touch, freezing only at the sight of Hermione before pulling back in embarrassment, loudly clearing his throat. "Hey. You came."
"Hi, Harry," Hermione said with a smile. "Your grandmother was just . . . teaching me to cook."
Harry scrunched up his nose. "Why?"
Newt cleared his throat, tapping Dorea on the shoulder. "If I could have a word?"
His tone made her heart race just a bit, and she looked between him and Harry for a moment before nodding. "Harry, see to your guest, please."
"Is everything all right?" Tina asked.
"Fine, love," Newt said with a smile. "I just need to—Whoa!" He leapt back a bit, stumbling slightly into the hutch behind him housing an array of china. Dorea flicked her wand, stabilising the heirlooms just as Newt caught his balance, almost upended by two cats growling and hissing as they barrelled between his legs in an attempt to attack one another.
"Max, no!" Harry yelled.
Tina, spotting the orange cat, sighed heavily. "Oh, you little devil." She eyed her own kneazle, who barely batted an eye at the display. "This is your fault, you know. He's your son."
"Uh oh," Hermione gasped as the cats came toward her. Cringing as the impact seemed inevitable, she held out her hands in obvious panic, and in a flush of accidental magic that poured over each of the animals, they froze mid-air.
"Well, look at that," Newt said, amused.
Squeaking at the sight of what she'd unintentionally done, Hermione pulled her hands back, at which point Max and the other cat fell to the ground, landing softly on their feet. "Sorry!"
Looking indignant, Max turned around, wrapping around Harry's leg in a splay of obvious dominance and ownership. The orange kneazle growled, glanced around, and then mimicked Max's movement against Hermione's leg, going so far as to purr loudly, rubbing his head against her shin.
"Oh," Hermione said on a breath, leaning down to pet the cat on his head before scooping him up into her arms. She smiled sweetly, kissing the little beast right on his squash face and looking up at the gaping mouths of everyone else in the room. "What? I'm sorry . . . it was an accident."
Tina let out a shocked bout of laughter, covering her mouth.
Harry stared unapologetically, looking horrified.
Dorea shared a look with Newt, who smiled at Hermione. "Congratulations, young lady. I think you found yourself a familiar."