Author’s Note: Because this story takes place in Japan, several different additional notes will be needed for those unfamiliar with Japanese culture. An explanation of Japanese honorifics precedes the story. Translations of the Japanese used in the story (I am a complete novice at it, so hopefully there aren’t any glaring mistakes) as well as an explanation of names follows at the end of this chapter. The story's title means "The CherryTree Duel."
This story was written for magicmuggle’s “Spin Off Challenge” at The Golden Snitches forum. It’s a spin-off of my novel-in-progress, Nothing Else Matters, and fleshes out an encounter briefly described by Severus in Chapter Four concerning how his maternal grandfather came to own his cherry and dragon heartstring wand, which Severus eventually inherited. (For those not familiar with my writing, I started my Severus-centric fics before “Half-Blood Prince” came out, meaning that I had to invent ancestors for him because none were known yet. This is why his grandfather’s last name is Greyadder, not Prince. In this one bit of straying from canon, I ask for your understanding.)
I was inspired to assign this specific wand to Severus because of a passage written by Jo Rowling on the Pottermore website, in a section dealing with wand woods. The entry for cherry wood states: “This very rare wand wood creates a wand of strange power, most highly prized by the wizarding students of the school of Mahoutokoro in Japan, where those who own cherry wands have special prestige. The Western wand-purchaser should dispel from their minds any notion that the pink blossom of the living tree makes for a frivolous or merely ornamental wand, for cherry wood often makes a wand that possesses truly lethal power, whatever the core, but if teamed with dragon heartstring, the wand ought never to be teamed with a wizard without exceptional self-control and strength of mind.” If that doesn’t sound like the perfect wand for Severus Snape, I don’t know what could be better.
Thank you for checking out this story. I think it’s going to be quite different from most of the Harry Potter fan fiction out there. Hopefully in a good way. ~Renny
A Note on Japanese Honorifics:
“-san” – the most common honorific, used between two people of equal standing of any age. It’s equivalent to “Mr,” “Mrs,” “Miss,” or “Ms” in English, however as with all Japanese honorifics, it is almost always used with a name. In English we might call a neighbour named John Smith “John” or “Mr Smith,” but in Japanese it would be “John-san” if you knew him well or “Smith-san” if he was not known as well.
“-sama” – an honorific much more respectful than “-san,” used when speaking to someone of a higher station than oneself. An English equivalent would be “Lord” or “Sir” So-and-So.
“-kun” – informal and usually used by someone of senior status referring to someone of a lower status, especially if that person is a young man or teenaged boy. It can also be used for close personal friends.
“-chan” – diminutive honorific used to create a sense of endearment. Usually used with babies, young children, teenaged girls, and grandparents. An example in English would be calling a child named Billy “Little Billy” or your grandmother “Grannie” instead of “Grandmother.”
“-senpai” – pronounced “sempai” and used with senior colleagues. A freshman in a western school would refer to a sophomore student as senpai. Edmund calls Atsushi senpai because he was a year behind Atsushi at Mahoutokoro.
“-sensei” – used to address people of social standing in a society, such as doctors, teachers, politicians, and lawyers. It can also be used for those who have achieved mastery in an art form, such as master wandmaker Sakurai Takumi-sensei.
CHAPTER ONE – “HOMECOMING”
With one gloved hand holding fast to his overcoat while the other pulled the brim of his fawn fedora slightly lower over his ice blue eyes, Edmund Greyadder alighted the afternoon express from Tokyo. Tapping his waistcoat pocket, he was relieved to feel the slightly cylindrical bump of a single cigarine beneath his fingers. He fished it out, placed it between his thin lips, then cupped it between his palms while glancing about discreetly. It was bad enough having to worry about attracting attention with his pale hair and eyes. He didn’t want to think what sort of chaos would descend on him if any passer-by happened to notice him lighting up without use of a match. But he always seemed to forget to grab a box of the blasted things when pulling together a Muggle ensemble. Edmund seized the moment when a cloud of white steam enveloped him from the black streamliner beside him, still chugging at a tortoise’s pace along the platform, and flicked his thumb against the cigarine end to set it instantly smouldering. With a sigh of relief, brought on from both the sweet smoke filling his lungs and the realisation his little act of magic had gone unnoticed, Edmund stepped away from the train and into the middle of the platform. He never would have dared even such a slight infraction of the Statute of Secrecy back home in England, but here in Japan the local magical government tended to be more laissez faire about their policies.
Edmund took another long drag on his cigarine. The purple, clove-scented smoke flew away from him to join the final great puff of steam as the sleek black engine behind him finally grinded to a screeching halt. Even if he hadn’t been trying to slightly conceal his Caucasian appearance with his angled hat, it was unlikely any of the rushing local Muggles passing him would have even noticed him. Nearly half of the Japanese men on the platform wore similar drape cut suits, western fashion having taken the island nation by storm not long after Commodore Perry tried to force his way into the bay around Edo. Several men, mainly those in their older years, still wore the traditional kimono. However, the most common style of dress Edmund observed was the drab mustard soldier’s uniform as formation after formation marched silently past him with dark eyes and shined boots aligned dead ahead. A gust of wind tore sakura blossoms from the surrounding cherry trees, showering the passing soldiers with the tender white and pink petals like celebratory confetti.
Even though he knew his Muggle attire made him less conspicuous, Edmund was greatly looking forward to when this last short leg of his long journey had concluded and he was able to change into the robes of his host country. He often felt like these restrictive Muggle fashions constricted the flow of his magic along with his basic range of motion. When a careful scanning of the Asian faces around him did not reveal the one he was expecting, Edmund quickly collected his steamer trunk from a porter and moved into the station.
Edmund settled himself on a worn wooden bench with his feet propped up on his trunk and finished his cigarine with relish. He hoped Atsushi-senpai would not keep him waiting long. A journey that under normal circumstances should have taken merely a series of instants had been stretched out into tedious days. At least at the moment, the Soviets were inclined to allow British wizards to Apparate into their country, provided their arrival was cleared by an official first. This had saved countless hours, to be sure, than if Edmund had been required to take a train or airplane here all the way from London. But since the Japanese were still restricting Apparation into their empire except to those in the Ministry of Magic on official state business, Edmund had been forced to fly into Tokyo and make his way to Kyoto by train since the forthcoming airport in Osaka was still under construction.
Fortunately Edmund did not have to wait long. Within a few minutes, a very familiar face sought out his own in the crowd. Edmund stood and quickly found his hand being shaken enthusiastically by the smaller, calloused grip of his dearest friend in the world, Masamune Atsushi.
“Ojii-chan! Hasashiburi desu ne!” Atsushi exclaimed with unbridled excitement, his still very young-looking face breaking out into a wide smile.
Edmund found himself instantly smiling as well at Atsushi-senpai’s use of his childhood nickname. “Ee, sou desu ne! O genki desu ka?” he asked, relieved the Japanese tongue had found its way home so easily back onto his own tongue.
“Yes, yes, we’re all very well,” Atsushi replied in Japanese, though to Edmund it appeared like a corner of his friend’s smile slanted downwards somewhat at the reassurance, as though he was merely going through the motions of his culture’s renowned politeness instead of giving a true affirmation.
“I hope you haven’t been waiting long?” Atsushi continued.
“Iye, just a moment.” Edmund waved one of his gloved hands in front of himself to put his friend at ease.
“Well, let’s not linger here any longer. My family is preparing a banquet for you as we speak, and all of these Bongu soldiers are making me lose my appetite.”
Atsushi took up the trunk after running his palms over the outside of it to magically lessen its weight. Edmund had always been very jealous of the ease with which Atsushi and their other Japanese schoolmates at Mahotoukoro were able to perform small acts of wand-less magic. However, that’s not to say he wasn’t very grateful for the help. He was already sweating in his Muggle suit in the unseasonably warm weather for April in Kyoto. Atsushi seemed less bothered by it, the wide, striped legs of his belted hakama swinging breezily as he led the way out of the train station into the great square out front.
Despite its extravagant size, the square was congested with traffic composed of a hodgepodge of military trucks belching acrid exhaust, automobiles belonging to the richer of Kyoto’s inhabitants, and dozens upon dozens of jinrikisha pulled by wiry older men. Atsushi hailed a jinrikisha near the end of the line. The almond-shaped eyes of the man pulling it opened wide enough for Edmund to see a full ring of dark brown when Atsushi conveyed their destination. It was unlikely many passengers ever requested to be brought all the way across the river, practically to Gion. However, the man’s face soon broke into a gap-toothed grin and nodded in understanding when Atsushi handed him three times the normal fare in advance. After storing Edmund’s belongings, the pair boarded the small carriage and were soon off.
“I didn’t expect things to have changed so much in such a short time,” Edmund commented once they were on the main road, gesturing to the stray military vehicle here and there they passed. The last time he had visited Atsushi and his family, it had been the summer of 1934. The past few years had proven unusually busy for Edmund with the bureaucratic nuisance surrounding his father’s death and his own inheritance of the family estate, as well as marrying his new bride, Roberta. “We don’t hear much about this war in England. The Muggles are too preoccupied with the movements of Herr Hitler while we wizards have Grindelwald to contend with.”
“It is not a good situation. That nasty business this past winter in Nanjing …” Atsushi trailed off ominously while shaking his head with furrowed brows. “I don’t know what the Bongu here are doing. The emperor has become more and more resistant to the advice of the shogun.”
Unlike in England where the current Minister for Magic had equal, if not more, power than his respective Muggle Minister, Japan’s magical government had been steadily losing ground ever since they signed their own Statute of Secrecy in 1868. Until Emperor Meiji seized a fistful of power from Tokugawa Yoshinobu that year, the madoushi who held the rank of shogun had been given almost free reign to govern the country, exercising his will indiscriminately over madoushi and Bongu both. Tokugawa’s council, the Hyoujousho, had been so furious over his inability to prevent the power shift that they had stripped the title from him and also refused to allow a member of his family to succeed him, as was the custom of the Tokugawa shogunate. Instead they appointed a member of the rival Oda family to the position, who nevertheless still had to abide by Emperor Meiji’s new decrees. Since then, relations between the Oda shogunate and the imperial family had been peaceful, but strained.
“I’m glad I was able to make it for the ceremony. With the way things are headed, who knows when I’ll be able to visit again. The winds of war are fierce and unpredictable,” Edmund said. A coincidental burst of air, odorous with petrol, almost lifted the fedora from his head. Edmund clapped a hand on it, nearly falling into Atsushi’s lap as the jinrikisha took a sharp corner.
“I’m also happy you’ll be in attendance,” Atsushi replied, holding Edmund’s arm to steady him until he found his balance once more. Edmund noticed that once again Atsushi seemed to be slightly ill at ease. “You’re practically a member of the family. It wouldn’t feel right when I take my place next to Otou-sama without you beside me.”
They sat in silence for a while as the jinrikisha carried them closer to one of the secret magical pockets of the city. A large section of this particular district was taken up by the homes and workshops of the Sakurai wand-makers, the premier wand-crafting house in all of Japan, which had been run by Atsushi’s family for centuries. After well over twenty years of apprenticeship under his father, Masamune Takumi-sensei, Atsushi was due very shortly to be recognised as a fully qualified wand-maker and officially named the Sakurai house’s heir. Edmund wasn’t exactly sure what the actual ceremony would be like, but he had nevertheless been honoured when he received his invitation from Masamune-sensei to attend such an intimate family event.
The sun had sunk in a blaze of crimson glory behind the gently sloping tiled roofs by the time the jinrikisha slowed to a stop in front of a non-descript torii gateway. Edmund and Atsushi unloaded the trunk while their driver mopped at his dripping forehead with a length of dingy cotton from around his neck. The older man was surprisingly not even very out of breath from the long journey and smiled heartily as he wheeled his carriage around to return to the train station. The rhythmic flapping of his rubber-soled jika-tabi as he jogged away echoed throughout the nearly deserted street. The only other people in sight were a geisha and her maiko heading down the street away from the Gion district in their own jinrikisha. As the two ladies were travelling at a much more leisurely pace than the men had been, the maiko had ample time to ogle at Edmund’s pale skin, nearly as white as her own made-up face, and almost colourless blue eyes. She giggled fiercely behind her hand as Edmund tipped his hat at her before she was silenced by a sharp word from her older companion’s painted lips. Though both the geisha and maiko continued to stare discreetly at Edmund as they passed, their attention was slowly diverted back to the road in front of them, as if being pulled by a magnet, as the two men passed under the torii. The magic of the gateway instantly rendered them invisible to the Bongu women, who continued on to their evening of conversation, dancing, and samisen-playing without ever remembering they had seen the strange, blond gaijin.
The first torii, its dull, peeling red paint denoting its age, sat at the base of an imposing hill. It was soon followed by a series of smaller gates as Atsushi led Edmund up a steep path made of uneven stones and a few interspersed sets of stairs. Ancient maples flanked the pathway so thick that their intertwining branches created a tunnel that repelled the last of the sun’s feeble vermillion rays. Atsushi pulled out his wand from a folded pocket on the inside of his haori and lit the path in front of him. As they passed under each torii they approached, Edmund felt the strength of the Repelling Charms increase until by the final gate, even the most determinedly curious Muggle or Bongu would have turned around and returned to the road without discovering what lay just on the other side of it.
The reason for these charms became apparent as the pair finally crested the top of the hill. Spread out before them was a wide open space crammed with traditional wooden buildings surrounded by the wall of maple trees. Edmund leaned slightly with a hand pressed against the last torii, trying to catch his breath. Perhaps Roberta was correct with her constant hints that his beloved cigarines would be the death of him. Atsushi chuckled at his friend’s lack of stamina; the young Japanese man had been running up and down this hill several times a day ever since he was old enough to carry messages for his father. Taking a few more deep breaths of fresh evening air, Edmund took in the beautiful details of the city’s easternmost magical district.
Like Kyoto’s other hidden pockets of madoushi houses and workshops, this neighbourhood was not especially large, perhaps only several dozen wooden structures belonging to a handful of ancient magical families. It was common practice in the country for a property to remain in the hands of the same family for centuries. This sometimes meant that in the event a married couple produced only daughters, the resulting son-in-laws were adopted into their wives’ family, taking their name and cementing the continuance of the direct family line. Atsushi’s ancestors had been crafting wands in this exact spot since the tail end of the Heian period. Though it was traditional for only the eldest son or daughter to be made the legal heir and groomed to carry on the house’s fiercely guarded wand-crafting secrets once the old master or mistress died, each family member was still recognised as a vital instrument in the everyday workings of the clan. As with many Japanese arts, it was not just the finished product of the wand that was treasured. Each step in the process was undertaken with the utmost reverence and ceremony.
Besides the inherent high quality of the wands produced by each prominent wand-crafting house, the atmosphere in which the wand was created was oftentimes just as scrutinised by a prospective buyer. The Sakurai house was the most venerated wand-crafter in the land, but that didn’t mean vicious rivals were not constantly vying to seize that honour for themselves. The Masamune family, therefore, always worked with their neighbouring families to keep their communal district looking impeccable to ensure their customers returned year after year. Their attention to aesthetics was never more apparent than now, in mid-spring during the hanami season, the most auspicious time of year for the Sakurai house. It was no coincidence that Atsushi was poised to become the official heir of the Sakurai house just when the sakura were blossoming. The Masamune family specialised in cherry wands, the rarest of wands and the most sought by high-ranking madoushi and majo looking to give their children an edge over their classmates at Mahoutokoro.
The heart of the community was the meeting square, a large open space paved with gleaming volcanic stones that began a few paces from where the last torii stood. All of the gravel pathways leading to the homes and workplaces of the district veined out from this central location. During festivals it served as a gathering place for the celebrations. On any regular day of the year boasting fine weather, it was still often buzzing with people exchanging news or enjoying a little sun while mending household items or giving lessons to children too young for school yet.
Emptiness filled the square now. Delicious smells of bubbling broth and frying dumplings wafted on the night air to Edmund and Atsushi, reminding both men with a grumble in their stomachs that it had been a while since they’d last eaten. Having finally regained full use of his lungs, Edmund walked beside Atsushi directly across the square. Atsushi had since stored his wand back in his haori.
The magical denizens of Japan observed nearly five-fold the number of holidays and festivals in their calendar compared to their Bongu counterparts, leaving barely a week out of the year where their homes and workplaces were not decorated to celebrate the upcoming special event. Since the hanami season was especially important for the Sakurai wand-crafting house, and the adjoining families who depended on the fame of the Masamune family to bring business into their shops as well, the residents of the hilltop district were currently showcasing their homes to visitors with the finest attention to detail.
Though the sun had now completely set, the night was brightly illuminated by innumerable white paper lanterns strung throughout the maple trees surrounding the tiny magical village. Most of the lanterns were no bigger than Edmund’s fist and lit with ordinary white magefire that would flare to life on its own as the first encroaching shadows of the evening darkened its surrounding paper prison. But the brightest source of light was located at the direct centre of the main square. Here stood a towering sakura tree, its ancient branches drooping sleepily with thick explosions of blossom clusters. Hundreds of larger pink lanterns hung from the tree, each oval shade twinkling slightly as the white lights of the glowflies within blinked gently on and off without end. Local legend dictated the first Masamune to ever craft a wand had taken the wood from that very tree. At the time the sakura had apparently housed a minor deity, who had bestowed its blessing upon the wand-maker and all of his future descendants. The tree had been revered practically as a deity itself since then, and no one would ever dream of taking a blade to it for harvesting wand wood now.
Edmund and Atsushi stopped for a moment in front of the tree. Though the sakura blossoms were still a day or two away from their optimal viewing time, the veritable mountain of flowers atop the unimaginably thick trunk was breath-taking.
“Don’t ever tell Roberta I said this, but I feel like I’ve just come home,” Edmund said as he stared up at the first evening star winking back at him through the branches of the sakura.
Atsushi smiled and placed a hand on Edmund’s shoulder, squeezing it slightly as he looked up into the sky as well.
(Note that most Japanese nouns do not have a plural form like in English. Singular or plural use should be derived from context. Also, common Japanese words used in English such as “kimono” and “geisha” are not italicized or defined.)
bongu – commoner (I’m using this capitalized as the Japanese word for “Muggle” to differentiate between British and Japanese non-magic-users) gaijin – foreigner, i.e. someone not Japanese hakama – a type of Japanese clothing worn by both sexes, though traditionally only by men. They are a type of very wide trousers tied at the waist and usually worn over kimono. hanami – cherry blossom viewing haori – a hip- or thigh-length coat worn over a kimono and hakama, usually by men jika-tabi – thick socks with a divided toe worn as shoes by Japanese workers such as rickshaw drivers jinrikisha – rickshaw maiko – an apprentice geisha sakura – cherry blossom or cherry tree iye – no madoushi – wizard majo – witch otou-sama – father (very respectful) torii – A Japanese gate, usually red and placed before the entrance to a Buddhist or Shinto shrine. Its placement symbolises the transition from the profane to the sacred. In this story, they are used to signify the transition from the mundane to the magical.
“Ojii-chan! Hasashiburi desu ne!” – “Grampa! It’s been a long time!”
“Ee, sou desu ne! O genki desu ka?” – “Yes, it has! Have you been well?”
“Okaerinasai” – “Welcome home”
A Note on Names:
Japanese names in this story will for the most part follow the order of how they are said in Japan, with the family name first followed by the given name. For instance, in Japan the story’s main character would be called Greyadder Edmund.
"Greyadder" – Those familiar with the comedy of Rowan Atkinson might recognise Edmund Greyadder’s name to be a play on the titular “Edmund Blackadder” from Atkinson’s hilarious television series. The “grey” seemed more fitting for a pure-blood family traditionally sorted into Slytherin House at Hogwarts. Fans of Blackadder might also be amused to know that this Edmund’s wife, Roberta, is a reference to “Bob,” Blackadder’s one-time fiancée. (Don’t worry, Edmund, there’s no Lord Flashheart or Furashuhaato-sama in this story!)
"Mahoutokoro" – J. K. Rowling’s own invented magical school for Japan. In Japanese it means something like, “magic place.”
"Masamune" - Gorou Nyuudou Masamune (c.1264–1343 AD) is considered by most to have been Japan’s greatest swordsmith. I thought it would be interesting if some magical members of his family delved into the art of wandcrafting instead.
"Oda" – Oda Nobunaga (1534—1582 AD) began the unification of Japan in the sixteenth century, a process that was eventually completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Togugawa Shogunate. In my own magical (and completely fictional) interpretation of Japan’s relatively recent history, the Oda family regained power after the Meiji Restoration to continue the Shogunate.
"Ojii-chan" – Atsushi’s childhood nickname for Edmund, meaning “Grampa,” the story behind which will be explained in the next chapter.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. All original characters are products of the author, as is the premise and plot.
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