News of Family
He'd spent quite a while staring at the letter from Liam who wasn't quite Angel. Trying to find the words to write to explain, wanting to explain it all, wanting his friend back. Except that Liam wasn't Angel, wasn't the friend that he knew. Too much too fast would either frighten him away or leave him calling for... did the magical world have an equivalent to men with straight-jackets? He didn't want them after him if there were.
After a while, he decided on partial honesty, with the admission that there were more complicated parts that he didn't want to explain just yet, and perhaps not on paper at all. Even if most of the magicals did seem to prefer parchment. Surely a vampire, even if things were different here, would understand wanting to go slowly with information. Perhaps they could build something, a friendship. A sense of family.
But there were other things that he needed to worry about besides vampire relatives writing letters and living relatives not sending anything. He was supposed to be a teacher, and supposed to be learning himself.
It was a great relief that he only had one class before lunch, and that only just before lunch. It gave him a bit of time to pull himself together.
The fact that the class in question was first year Gryffindor and Hufflepuff made it a little easier. Neither house were in the habit of the keen attention to detail that characterized many of the Slytherins and Ravenclaws, and would likely not notice his emotional confusion. The fact that they were also his first ever class at Hogwarts gave a small note of pleasant nostalgia, if that was the right word for an event that had taken place barely more than a month ago. It still helped, a bit.
He made use of his note-cards as he gave a brief lecture on wizard-giant relations, explaining that as first years, they didn't need to be fully aware of all the details just yet. He also gave them the names of several books with further details, in case they were curious or some of those uncommon individuals who enjoyed learning about history just for the sake of the knowledge. Giving an assignment to write at least six inches but no more than twelve summarizing the wizard-giant relations and explaining their opinions on the matter, he dismissed the class.
Lunch proved a welcome distraction from his thoughts. Doyle made his way to the great hall, frowning as his stomach gurgled. "Yes, I know I didn't have enough for breakfast.. I did not put a small hungry beast in there!"
"Cute. Should I ask, or just make sure you get to the Hall in short order?" Tonks was grinning at him from a doorway, her hair currently shoulder length amber curls that went well with the current hazel of her eyes and the chestnut robe she'd thrown over what appeared to be blue jeans and a light yellow shirt. He wondered if that shirt also had some interesting picture or motto on it, as most of her shirts seemed to display.
"I got distracted by a letter," Doyle shrugged. "Perhaps we should get me to the hall before my stomach frightens any of the wee firsties?"
Tonks laughed, "By all means let's try not to scare the kids."
Then Doyle had a thought occur to him concerning his own questions. She might not be able to help, but he doubted asking would hurt. "Tonks, you mentioned that your mum came from one of those old magical families. What would be the normal way for one of those families to handle getting a letter saying 'hey, you don't know me, but we're related'? What would they do, and how long would it take?"
"I guess the first thing most would do would be to check the name against their family records. A lot of the older magical families have tapestries that track their family trees. Keeps track of who married who and when, records their children and when they were born, died, and who they married. They don't all track people that marry out, unless their descendants marry back within a few generations, but that would be the first place to check. Then a few other measures to see if this letter writer is who they claim and if their idea of being related might hold. Looking for verification, so to speak." Tonks glanced over at him.
Then she tripped, and just about fell down the staircase.
Doyle reached out, catching her arm and yanking her away from the stairs. She stumbled, colliding with him and almost knocking him over backwards. They were standing there off balance, arms around each other and trying to figure out just how that had happened.
"Sorry, I've got a clumsy streak," Tonks muttered, her cheeks turning pink as her hair fell out of the curls and picked up a few brown streaks.
Doyle sighed, regaining his balance though he wasn't really in a hurry to let go of Tonks. "As much as you change your shape, do you think that might have a connection to your clumsiness?"
"Bit more detail with that?" Tonks lifted one eyebrow, which had now taken on a chestnut hue that almost matched her over robe. Her hair had also darkened, though it still had amber highlights among the waves.
"When teenagers hit their growth spurt, they get clumsy because their limbs and bodies aren't quite the same size and reach as they've become used to. So they get clumsy while they're growing. You can change your limbs and...” Doyle paused, trying to find a way to mention that she seemed to be able to change any and all of her measurements on a whim or a distraction. Preferably a way to mention that wouldn't make her angry at him. "Well, everything about you seems a lot more adjustable than most. Maybe you're clumsy because your body can't quite adjust fast enough and by the time you've figured out where everything is you've already changed it again?"
"Hmmmm, that doesn't sound too crazy," Tonks tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "But it's boring to always look the same."
"Maybe you might test it by picking a body shape and size and not changing that for a while to see if it helps? Change your colors, change your hair, just... see if it makes a difference to leave your body the same. If it does, then you have an answer, and if it doesn't, then you haven't lost anything," Doyle offered.
"I'll consider that," Tonks looked back at the stairs. "Let's try this again..."
This time they made it down the stairs without any more clumsiness. Down the stairs, into the hall, and Tonks smiled and headed over to sit beside Professor Sprout.
Doyle chuckled, and made his way to his own seat, inevitably beside Professor Snape. Glancing again at Tonks, he muttered, "Magic or not, greatest institution of learning in magical Britain or not, I shall never understand women."
"You aren't supposed to understand them," Snape spoke with a small twist of his lips that might have been a smile. “No male is, magical or not.”
end part 1.
Doyle felt much better prepared for his third year class after lunch. They asked more questions, had longer essays, and would be slightly more likely to notice if he was distracted. Meaning a little distracted was maybe safe, but not as unbalanced as he'd been right after breakfast. Making sure he was ready for the students forced him to, as Cordelia would have put it, get his act together.
He missed Cordelia. Missed watching her smile and daydreaming about all the things that would likley have never been between them. Missed the way she smiled, the way she could look so dismissive of any foolish minion or demon thug that attacked her, even if she was petrified and bleeding.
He had to let the memories and daydreams of Cordelia go. Not only had she repeatedly said she didn't want a guy like him, not only had she thought the whole seer ability was an unfortunate mess, she had been less than impressed about his heritage. And they weren't even in the same world anymore. Perhaps the other things could have been worked around - unlikely, but stranger things had happened. But a whole different world... eeehh, not happening.
He even missed Angel, brooding obsessive lump that he could be. All the vampire's guilt and woe, for I have done bad, bad things and must angst in the dark and glowery disapproval of all that wasn't normal and human and oblivious... Despite the fact that he was and would never again be an oblivious normal human. Despite the fact that a maybe not so little part of Angel held the oblivious humans in a bit of contempt. Angel had his merits, and was a decent guy once you got past the angst. Most of the time.
He'd need to be sure he didn't confuse Liam for Angel.
The lessons continued, and Doyle gave a small sigh of relief when his last group of students left for the day. That meant it was time for his lesson with Filius.
"As much as I don't want to be giving meself a swelled head, I think I'm doing a bit better," Doyle smiled at the short Charms professor.
“Yes indeed, you are doing better,” Filius agreed, giving his wand a small twitch that sent chairs into a conga line through the room. The tiny man didn’t even bother to use a word to work the literal magic.
Doyle blinked at the line of dancing chairs. “Clearly, I still have a very long way to go.”
Filius laughed, eyes sparkling as he conjured another chair, this one rounded with thick, squashy looking cushions in a mossy green. “There are still days when I am left amazed at what magic can do. I am of the opinion that the day you stop being amazed and impressed by magic is the day you begin to die, or at least descend into insufferable stagnation.”
Doyle chuckled, not wanting to go into the many other ways that you could die, still impressed by the potential and demonstrations of magic or not. “How much does what you just did differ from the spell that I’m wrestling with to make one chair tap dance?”
Still chuckling, Filius grinned. “It’s actually the same spell. The difference is in experience, the sort of dance that I’m picturing, and the fact that I’m putting a bit more power into the spell. When you cast any sort of animation spell, it’s important to visualize the movements and behavior firmly. Not always in exhaustive detail, but the more focus you have on the results the better things work. If your mind wanders from a waltz to the mamba, your chairs will be confused and an observer may not be able to tell what dance you were thinking about. Though if you focus on a goal instead of specifics, such as envisioning a statue being defensive and protecting the house, that can also work quite effectively.”
“Detail, focus, and control of the magic,” Doyle sighed. Minerva had said much the same thing about transfiguring objects. Perhaps there wasn’t as much difference as some people thought between the branches of magic…
“Those three things are key to every type of magic. There are some things that depend on aptitudes, such as a seer’s visions, or a parsel tongue’s speaking with snakes. There are also quite a few areas where the amount of power can make a difference, such as the duration of spell-work or the extent of a spell’s reach. But transfiguration, conjuration, charms, defensive spell work, magical attacks, enchantments… all of them need focus, precise details, and control over one’s magic,” Filius explained.
Doyle smiled, glad that his teachers actually knew how to teach and bothered to explain the whys and the hows as much as they could, rather than just saying ‘because it works when you do this, but not if you do that’ the way others had in the past. It was important to know this works and that doesn’t, but it helped a lot to know why.
“Would you mind if I asked you a slightly prying and personal question, Filius?” he asked.
“Go ahead and ask, though if it’s too prying I won’t answer,” Filius remained in his squashy chair.
“Considering that you’re obviously not wholly human, have you ever considered marrying? Would your heritage be a problem?” Doyle hoped that his question, which he knew was rather prying, wouldn’t offend.
“My heritage is… I won’t lie and say that it’s never been a problem for me. For most, it is a mark against me in the ledger. But just as people can find love if they aren’t always the smartest, or richest, or most magically gifted, one can find love with mixed heritage. If you find someone willing to look at you, not just at your family or at social perception.” He sighed, and fell silent for a few moments. Perhaps he was wandering in memories.
Softly, Filius spoke again, “I was married. For about a decade, my wife and I had the most blissful life I could have asked for. A comfortable, if not large or elegant home, two adorable children with another on the way, and I had apprenticed myself to a charm master to study further into my craft.”
“What happened?” Doyle knew that it had been something awful.
“My wife was muggle born, and her parents lived in London. She went to visit them over the weekend, hoping to share the good news about our expected third child. She was hoping for a girl…” Filius paused, producing a handkerchief.
Doyle made a noise, not quite sure what to say.
“That was September seventh of nineteen fourty. Her parents lived near the Port of London…” Filius couldn’t continue.
“The German bombings,” Doyle whispered.
Filius nodded. “Our boys grew up, though it was much harder without Beatrice. I lost my younger son to the more recent Dark Wizard, slain by one of his attack squads who objected to our mixed heritage. He hated muggles and thought very little of muggle born, so that was dreadful enough, but to add a bit of goblin blood on top of that? Unacceptable to them. It took eight of them to kill my boy Leopold, and he took them all with him, but they still killed him. My eldest wound up moving to America after that, along with his intended.
“I’m sorry,” Doyle knew that his words wouldn’t help the older man’s pain. Couldn’t bring back his wife or his dead children. Couldn’t undo decades of loss.
“Hardly your fault. And don’t let my own woes keep you from trying a bit of courting yourself. Though there will always be some who consider certain types to be the wrong sort of ancestry. There will also be those who look with a clear eye, seeing beyond family and outer appearances to judge you for your own nature,” Filius managed a thin smile.
“Then I’d best try to make sure my own nature and what I’ve done meself remains something worth a bit of acceptance,” Doyle looked again at a chair. “No point in finding someone to judge me only on my own merits and then not measuring up.”
“A good lesson for everyone to keep in mind,” Filius agreed. “Now make the desk dance.”
Doyle pointed his chair at the desk and spoke the spell, an image in his mind. He felt the magic pass through him and into the wand. The desk began tapping against the floor and then tapping, shuffling and whirling around the room.
After several moments of thoughtful observation, Filius chuckled, “Your desk has a poor sense of rhythm.”
Doyle sighed and nodded, “Is that the desk or me?”
“It can be hard to tell sometimes,” Filius shook his head. “But you are improving.”
Doyle had to hope it would be enough. Hope he would improve fast enough to be ready for the next thing, whatever and whenever that next thing might happen. Though he suspected it would be more of those Death Eaters.”
End part 2.
The next morning, as he slid the toast and fruit to Severus, Doyle considered the large number of owls flying into the Hall. There were also at least half a dozen ravens in the mix, which Doyle remembered as generally bringing unfortunate news. There was also a small tan owl that circled the room a few times before landing in front of him with a soft noise. He wasn’t sure, but the owl sounded tired.
Doyle accepted the letter and gave the owl a corner of toast. It wasn’t a Gringott’s bird, and the letter seemed to be sealed with a bit of pumpkin pie hued wax. Once again, Doyle decided to open his letter elsewhere than the public table.
He could see several students at the Slytherin table receiving mail from ravens. There was another that delivered to that pair of first year twins at Ravenclaw, and one that delivered to a smaller figure at the Hufflepuff table.
He found himself wondering how distant the connections were to whatever individual the news mentioned. Wondering how closely related some of the families, especially the so-called pure-bloods, really were. And wondering if some of these children would think the letters spoke of relatives who, as Minerva had put it, would only be improved by death.
It was hard to judge reactions from the teachers’ table, though he was certain that some of them, especially the Slytherins, were trying not to let anyone see how the letters affected them. The Malfoy boy had a raven in front of him.
The sight of the raven in front of Malfoy suggested that they carried the official announcement of the deaths of the Death Eaters that had perished in Hogsmeade. The ones Doyle had killed. The ones that had been dealt with by Gringott’s. He absently wondered if the announcements had been delayed while the appropriate Heads of Family were identified and those pesky questions of inheritance had been addressed. He didn’t think it would be appropriate to ask.
Doyle waited until Severus had finished his second coffee before turning to face him. “Severus, if any of your Slytherins feel unable to attend history lessons this week due to unpleasant news concerning their family, just have someone else in the class bring me a note. I’ll have someone take them a copy of lecture notes and they should already have the assignments thanks to the syllabus at the start of the year. I’ll make sure that offer is relayed to Pomona and Filius as well, but there do appear to be more of them in your house…”
“And?” There was a hint of defensive challenge in Severus’ voice.
“Not everybody deals with bad news the same way. Not all students can cope by sticking to their normal schedule. I only saw one at the Hufflepuff table, and one to a pair of twin Ravenclaws, but there were several at the Slytherin table. Odds are that if only one student can’t cope,” Doyle paused and sighed. “I don’t know how well they will or won’t cope. But I don’t want to make things harder for them. Besides, you’re the Head of House sitting close to me. Filius and Pomona are both all the way over there.”
Severus glanced over, seeing that Filius and Pomona were both sitting on the other end of the table. In fact, Pomona was in the very last seat at the table – any further and she’d be against the wall. Both were looking towards the student tables. Neither were within good conversational distance. “Hmmmph. I’ll tell my snakes.”
Doyle made sure to pass his offer to Filius and Pomona both before he left the hall that morning.
He didn’t see the Ravenclaw girls at their class that morning. He did give copies of the notes, taken by dicta-quills, to some of their housemates to pass on to them later. The rest of the class did seem rather subdued, especially as the twins, Miranda and Rowena Pritchard, were normally quite giggly and chatty, full of questions and whispered comments that they thought he couldn’t hear.
Draco Malfoy wasn’t in class after lunch either. Doyle assumed that he was quite distraught at his father’s death. Anyone who’d listened to Draco knew that his father was quite important to him. For his father, the one that he seemed to believe could fix anything, to be suddenly dead… It was only natural for the boy to be shocked.
Not that Doyle felt bad about killing any of the Death Eaters. But there was a bit of a twinge of guilt that his students were upset because of what he’d done. It strengthened his resolve not to let people find out that he’d killed those wizards.
After his last class, he pulled the mysterious letter from his pocket. There was a bit of wax holding it closed, as well as a light yellow ribbon tied around the rolled paper envelope. The wax didn’t have any sort of crest or pattern to it.
Cracking the wax open, he discovered the front of the letter was addressed to A. F. Doyle, Hogwarts. The top corner listed ‘the Doyle Family’ as the return address, with no further details. A second dripping of wax closed the envelope. He felt like his chest was being squeezed as he opened the envelope to pull out the letter.
It was very short. His letter had been received, and was quite unexpected. A member of the family would be arriving at Hogsmeade to speak with him in about a week’s time, and would further evaluate his claim that there might be a blood relation between himself and their family at that time. In the mean time, they wished him good health.
He wasn’t certain what he’d been expecting, but this wasn’t it. Maybe he should have expected something like this, especially with the way Tonks had said many old families might react. It felt stiff, and formal, and slightly cold, or perhaps just wary.
It made him nervous all over again.
End part 3.
End Professor Doyle 19: News of Family.