Characters: Tonks, Hermione, Severus
Word Count: 1200
Summary: Tonks distracts herself from her own grim mood by playing housemother.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: eaivalefay prompted me with Hermione and Tonks: metamorphmagi and symbiosis. Hermione learns a bit of history.
"Well, that's not so bad, being a swot, I mean."
Sitting at Grimmauld's kitchen table over cups of ignored tea, Hermione scrubs her tears away and gapes at Tonks.
Tonks laughs. "You wonder how I can say that?"
It's an absurd question. Of course she's wondering, but Hermione only nods. Her throat's still too raw from all the crying.
Tonks grins, and Hermione is certain that she's not taking her seriously. "Listen, Hermione, Ron's an idiot if he doesn't appreciate you. I'll bet you help him and Harry out all the time at school."
Hermione nods again, sniffling.
"Well, most boys are slow and ungrateful at the best of times, but they're not all that way."
Hermione raises her eyebrows in disbelief and challenge.
"Merlin, for one. He was a great man—and he was a brother, did you know that?"
"A . . . a brother?" asks Hermione, through a cough. She rubs her throat.
"Drink your tea and listen. You won't find this out in your book," Tonks says, gesturing to Hogwarts: A History, which is spread open over Hermione's lap. "Merlin's mother was the daughter of a queen who was, er, romanced by an incubus," Tonks says, flushing. "She bore twins and was banished after their birth because, well, no father."
Tonks coughs. "Knowing everything's what got you so upset, right?"
"You're blaming me?"
"No, no—but listen, all right?"
Hermione's hands fidget on top of her book, but she doesn't interrupt.
"Their mother died when Merlin and his sister—no record of her name exists, but you'll understand why in a moment—had to help each other to survive. They developed an amazingly symbiotic relationship and were each able to do things the other could not. Between them, they possessed all the rarest of magical abilities."
Hermione wants to roll her eyes. She knows Tonks is lying to her. Treating me like a little girl, she thinks, annoyed.
"Merlin's sister was an Arithmancer, and she used this ability to help them find people to help them—you know, kind people who'd take them in for a while, feed and clothe them, that sort of thing. It was Merlin's idea, though, that his sister sell her gift so that they could earn enough gold to survive on their own. They travelled about the countryside and for a few coins, helped farmers predict their harvests and find good wells, that sort of thing."
"All right," Hermione says, not believing a word.
"Now Merlin, he had visions, and they scared him. They weren't as precise as his sister's Arithmantical abilities, but these visions often helped Merlin and his sister escape bad people."
In spite of herself, Hermione says, "So they both had some power of Divination?"
"Yeah, I guess—I mean, yes, they did."
"What else could they do?"
"Merlin was a Legilimens. His sister taught him Occlumency."
"But how? In Hogwarts: A History, it says—"
"Did you know that Metamorphmagi were natural Occlumens?"
"Pardon? But I thought—"
"It wouldn't do us any good if we could look the part but be read, now could it? It's just another sort of camouflage," Tonks says. "So, it was Merlin's sister who was the Metamorphmagus, but Merlin did all right as an Animagi. He was also a Parselmouth, but only in serpentine form."
"Tonks, it's nice of you to try to cheer me up, but—"
"I know, you don't believe me, but you should."
"Why? Everyone knows that Merlin never had a sister. He could do all those things himself. It says so in here," Hermione says, pointing at her book.
Tonks waves her hand dismissively. "We're not supposed to know this story. The First Wizards, you know, the ones who formed the first magical government in England, tried to excise all traces of Merlin's sister from the scrolls. You know about their censorship, of course."
Actually, Hermione did. There were several accounts of the First Wizards' attempts to control information by destroying it. "But why wouldn't they have wanted anyone to know about Merlin's sister?"
"Because she and Merlin became so close, learnt so much 'interesting' magic, that they were able to fuse into one being."
"What did you say?" Hermione asks, so startled that she almost knocks her book to the floor.
"You heard me. It was difficult for a witch travelling alone in those days, and she might as well have been alone, sometimes, given how Merlin was wont to find, well, a friend at nights, and in defending herself, Merlin's sister turned a wealthy man with an army—not a king, the text's clear about that—into a toad. They had to act quickly, and for whatever reason, to hide her, she and Merlin essentially Splinched themselves into the same person—which is why he's so impressive. He's half girl." Tonks sits back; she looks proud and rather satisfied with herself.
Hermione, not sniffling, says, "I want to know where I can verify your story. What texts should I consult?"
Tonks rolls her eyes. "You're supposed to be feeling better about being a swot, not busy thinking about proof."
"If you think I'm a swot, too, then you should understand exactly why I want to verify your story." Hermione knows that she sounds testy, but she really is grateful to Tonks for trying to cheer her up.
"I'm not surprised that you have to know the truth about everything," Tonks says, patting Hermione's hand. "Of course, the truth as I see it now is that you're not crying anymore, you're not fidgeting, and you don't care if Ron is an arse because you've got more important things to concern yourself with—like sorting out just what's true and what's not in my story. And the next time I see you, I expect you to be able to tell me." Tonks grins. "If you can."
"Goodnight, Tonks, and, er, thank you."
As soon as she's certain that Hermione has gone, Tonks says, "All right, you great bat, come out of there."
Severus steps out of the pantry. "What a load of bollocks that was, Nymphadora. 'Romanced by an incubus'? If Granger disturbs me in my office about any part of that rubbish, I'll—"
"Now why would anyone bother disturbing you?"
Severus, who already looks like shite, belts up and sits down to glare at her.
"Oh, please. I haven't been afraid of you in ages," Tonks says. It's a challenge, and one she knows he'll accept.
Severus leans forward. Tonks leans towards him, as well. "Go on, give me your best. You'd be, er, intrigued if you did know what I was thinking."
They spend the rest of the evening drinking tea, discussing just how it is that Metamorphmagi developed into natural Occlumens, and pointedly not discussing what is bothering Severus. It's good for him, and Tonks is the happiest of Hufflepuffs by the time his shoulders have settled back where they belong and he's able to go up to bed.
Now to wait for Kingsley to check in, and then I can sleep, thinks Tonks.
It's not her official job to play housemother, but Tonks knows that everyone needs someone to look out for them, and it might as well be her, right?
Makes me feel better.