Of Puppies and Potions
The next morning, after they had all eaten French toast stuffed with bananas and sweetened cream cheese for breakfast, which was one of Harry's favorites, Harry and Ginny took Alby aside and reassured the tyke that in no way, shape, or form was he to blame for the quarrel last night. Alby was sitting on Harry's lap, with Ginny across from him, and he gazed earnestly at his mother before saying, "Then you're not mad at Daddy no more, Mummy?"
"No, sweetie, I'm not mad at Daddy anymore," Ginny corrected.
"An' you don't hate him for not tellin' you where we was?" Alby persisted, his green eyes filled with worry.
"Alby, I would never hate your father!" Ginny exclaimed. "Baby, where would you get such an idea?"
"Well . . . you was screaming real loud, Mum . . ."
"Albus Severus, I know I probably scared you to death with how loud I was shouting, and for that I'm very sorry. I was very upset when you didn't come home on time and that's why your daddy and I were yelling. But that's over now and I forgave him and he forgave me."
"Yes, Alby. I love your daddy with all my heart, I love him best in the whole world, and I will never stop loving him, not even when I yell at him and lose my temper."
"And I love your mum the same way," Harry added. "You know how sometimes you get angry at Jamie and Teddy and yell at them? Well, sometimes your mum and I get angry too and yell, but that doesn't mean we don't love each other. Just like when you get in trouble, and we punish you, it doesn't mean we don't love you. Understand?"
Slowly Alby nodded. "Uh huh. But I'm glad you're not mad anymore." Then he gave Harry a hug and slipped off his lap to climb on Ginny and hug her too.
Ginny cuddled her baby and vowed that next time she had an argument with Harry, she was taking it outside and making sure the boys' room was surrounded by a Silence ward.
All of the Lupin boys were excited, because this weekend they would be sleeping over their grandmother Andromeda's house. Dora had a long patrol weekend, which meant she would be supervising and leading patrols round the clock from Friday night through Sunday night. So she and Remus had decided the boys needed a chance to visit and bond with Andromeda. Remus would be there as well, but he admitted he would be using part of that Saturday to relax for a bit. Andromeda was looking forward to the visit very much, she hadn't seen all of her grandsons since the Victory Day dinner at the Burrow. She had told Remus she had planned lots of fun activities for the boys and he should just take it easy.
Dora made sure the boys were all packed with clothes, pajamas, toothbrushes and other essentials. Then the boys and Remus Flooed over to the Tonks residence. The aroma of a fresh baked apple pie filled the entire house as the family stepped from the fireplace.
"Yummy!" Jamie shrilled. "Granny made pie! Granny made pie!"
"I can't wait to eat some!" Sirius hooted, his mouth watering despite the fact that he'd eaten breakfast.
"Me too! Before you two hogs eat it all," Teddy added, licking his lips. His hair was now the golden color of the inside of an apple pie.
Jamie stuck his tongue out at Teddy. "Says who? Last time, you're the pig who ate too much and gave yourself a tummy ache! Mum had to give you potions."
"Shut up, James!" Teddy ordered, glowering.
"Whyn't ya make me, Theodore!" Jamie taunted, using Teddy's hated full first name.
Before Teddy could retaliate, Andromeda called, "Is that my boys I hear?" She appeared in the entrance to the kitchen, wearing a flour and cinnamon stained apron and smelling deliciously of apples, her hair piled atop her head.
"Granny! Granny!" Jamie, Teddy, and Sirius shouted, and ran to her to hug her.
Laughing, Andromeda reached out to embrace them. "Take it easy, you rascals! You nearly knocked me down!"
After the grandchildren's enthusiastic greeting, Remus came and gently hugged his mother-in-law. "Hello, Mum. It sure smells delicious in here."
"I've been baking treats since early this morning," Andromeda admitted, her eyes twinkling. "I know how much all of you boys love your sweets."
"What did you make?" Remus asked curiously.
"Well, let's see . . . there's an apple pie, some strawberry and blueberry tarts, a banana cream pie, and some chocolate dipped shortbread."
"All for us?" Jamie's eyes were as big as saucers.
"Yes, so long as you behave," Andromeda said sternly. "If you argue with your brothers or disobey me or your dad, you go to bed with no dessert."
All three boys promised they would listen to her and not fight . . . or at least they wouldn't fight where she could see it.
"Can we have some pie now, Granny?" begged Sirius.
"Remus? What do you think? Shall we take pity on them or make them wait till noontime?"
The werewolf slid his gaze towards the kitchen and then back to his three imps, who were imploring him with soulful puppydog eyes. He groaned. "All right . . . you win. You can have one small piece, and then listen to what Granny has planned for you this weekend."
The boys all cheered and Andromeda moved aside to let them stampede into the kitchen. In minutes they had scrubbed their hands at the sink and sat down at the table with napkins, forks, and plates in front of them.
Remus eyed them in astonishment. "Okay, who are you and what have you done with my real sons?"
"Dad, we are your sons," Teddy protested. "We're just . . . err . . .on our best behavior."
"And that's a miracle," his father teased.
Andromeda began to slice the pie, it was still warm from the oven, and oozing with cinnamon and apples.
Remus began to make tea for him and Andromeda and poured each of his boys a glass of milk.
As soon as the boys were settled and eating their pie, Remus poured the tea and began to tell Andromeda about how the boys has all gotten sick with a bad ear and throat infection and also how Jamie and Sirius had been caught sledding off the roof!
Andromeda just shook her head. "You two have your hands full, Remus. Sirius was always a scamp, and it seems he hasn't changed a bit."
"Dora and I are working on it, though," said Remus. "Sirius is stubborn and not used to being given boundaries, but he can be taught."
"Of course he can. It's just going to take lots of time and patience." Andromeda said knowingly.
Remus agreed while savoring his own large slice of pie. He was definitely going to enjoy this weekend!
Two hours later, Remus was snoozing on the couch and Andromeda and the boys were working on a mosaic project in her craft room. Andromeda liked making things by hand, and her current project was painting a flower pot, but she decided the boys probably wouldn't be interested in doing that, so she had gotten some tiny ceramic tiles instead and some heavy poster board and taught them how to put tiles together to make a mosaic picture.
Teddy made a mosaic of a shell, and Sirius a mosaic of a lion, like the Gryffindor sigil. Jamie struggled with his mosaic of a puppy.
Andromeda went about and looked at her grandsons' artwork. "Oh, Teddy, that's lovely! I love the bright colors you used. And Sirius, you certainly remember the Gryffindor crest. Brilliant job! Now how about you, Jamie?"
Jamie felt a sudden flare of jealousy. His brothers were already finished, but he hadn't even gotten halfway done. "Mine sucks, Granny."
"James! I don't like that word coming out of your mouth," his grandmother reproved.
Jamie pouted. "But it does! Teddy's is way better and so's Siri's."
"What are you trying to make, dear? Maybe I can help?"
Jamie shook his head. "It's supposed to be a puppy. But it doesn't look like anything." Before Andromeda could suggest something more, Jamie sulked and swiped his hand across the mosaic, scattering his tiles. "I'm bored!" he whined. "I wanna take a walk."
Andromeda frowned, but all she said was, "All right, you may go down the street, but only as far as the cul-de-sac."
Jamie leaped to his feet and practically flew out the door.
Teddy snorted. "What a little brat! He's been in a mood for days now."
Andromeda's lips twitched. "All little boys get in a mood sometimes, Teddy. Why, I remember when your mother was a teenager, she had plenty of moods, some days I couldn't say two words to her without getting into a row . . ."
While Andromeda told Teddy and Sirius stories of Dora's childhood as they worked on their mosaics, Jamie pounded down the street, trying to work off some of his jealousy. It wasn't fair how Teddy always did things better than him, and now so did Sirius. He knew it was because they were older than him, but it still wasn't fair! He strode grumpily down the street, wishing he hadn't stormed off in a temper, but he refused to go back, because he knew his brothers would tease him about acting like a baby. He really hated being the youngest sometimes!
As he passed a house with a red brick front, Andromeda lived in a mostly Muggle neighborhood, with lots of children, Jamie paused. A boy around his age wearing blue shorts and a T-shirt with the picture of a dog catching a Frisbee was throwing a ball for a border collie puppy to catch.
The black and white dog was springing into the air and seizing the ball in his mouth, doing awesome twists and leaps in midair. Then he would trot happily back to his master, tail wagging. "Good dog, Mac! You're such a smart puppy!" the boy knelt and petted the collie, who wriggled and dropped the ball to lick his face.
Jamie watched as the boy stood and was about to throw the ball again when the dog noticed the silent audience and came over to the youngest Lupin, tail wagging. Jamie knelt and stroked the collie's ears. "Hey, boy. You're pretty fast, aren't you?"
"Hi! I'm Mike and this is my puppy, Mac. I think I've seen you around before." The boy said.
"I'm Jamie. I'm staying here for the weekend visiting my grandma. Her name's Andromeda Tonks."
"The pie lady?" Mike exclaimed. "She bakes pies for the bake sales at school. They're great!"
"I know. She just made an apple pie and I ate some," Jamie declared proudly. "What kind of dog is he?"
"He's a border collie," Mike answered. "And he's real smart. He can do all sorts of tricks. Want to see?"
Mike proceeded to put the young dog through his whole repertoire of tricks. He had Mac balance the ball on his nose, sit up and beg, pray, play dead, shake hands, roll over, sing, find the ball, and jump over Mike when he knelt down.
"Isn't he the smartest dog you ever saw?" Mike asked. "I taught him a trick a week. Next week I'm going to teach him to jump through a hoop like a circus dog." The boy beamed proudly at his pet.
Jamie suddenly felt the sharp sting of jealousy. Even this Muggle boy had something cool he could be proud of. He eyed the collie and then blurted, "I bet my dog could do more tricks than yours."
"What kind of dog is he? Most dogs aren't as smart as my collie," boasted Mike.
"He's a black mutt but he's the smartest dog ever!" Jamie challenged.
"Really? Where is he? Let's see what he can do," said Mike. "We can have a contest, like."
"He's at home," Jamie said. "Let me go and get him." He turned about and practically ran back to the Tonks house. It was only after he had reached the front porch that he realized he should never have told Mike about Padfoot. He groaned, for he had been really stupid, and now he didn't even know if Sirius would agree to help him out. He turned the knob and called, "Oi, Sirius! C'mere, for a sec!"
Sirius, who had finished with his lion and needed to let it dry, pushed back his chair and came out to see what Jamie wanted. "What's up, Jamie? You find something cool to do outside?"
"Uh . . . sort of . . ." Jamie fidgeted, then decided to just ask straight out. "I met this other kid down the street . . . he has a real smart collie name Mac . . .and I thought maybe . . ." He explained how he had made a sort of wager with Mike and what it was. "So will you do it, Siri? Please? I know I shouldn't have said anything but I just . . .I just wanted to be good at something."
Sirius sighed. "Okay. But if anybody finds out . . ."
"They won't." Jamie assured him, knowing he was talking about their father and grandmother. He gently snapped a leash on Padfoot's collar and led him away down the street.
Padfoot and Mac circled each other, sniffed each other, and then Mac wagged his tail and licked Padfoot under the chin. Jamie knew that meant Padfoot was the boss.
Mike eyed the big black puppy, Padfoot was larger than his dog, a bit uneasily. "Okay. Here's how it's gonna work. First you do a trick and then I will. The dog who does the most wins."
"All right."Jamie agreed, managing to keep from smirking. "Padfoot, dance!"
Padfoot rose on his hindlegs and began to hop about in a circle, as if he were dancing.
When he stopped after a minute or two, Jamie fed him a piece of ham. They'd snuck the ham from Andromeda's fridge.
"That's pretty good." Mike acknowledged, then had Mac play dead.
Jamie had Padfoot bark the tune to God Save the Queen.
Mac rolled over.
Jamie had Padfoot catch a Frisbee five times, each time jumping a little higher.
Mac sat up and begged.
"Padfoot, let's play funeral," Jamie ordered. "Pray for our dearly departed brother's soul and cry for him."
Padfoot sat up and prayed with his nose on his two front paws and made realistic whimpering and sobbing sounds as well.
And so it went. Mac performed well, but couldn't do all the tricks Jamie had Padfoot do, most of which he made up on the spot. He had Padfoot waltz with a stick in his mouth, count, and spell his name.
Finally, Mike had to concede defeat, and the other boy's woeful expression made Jamie feel a bit satisfied, even when a part of him felt like he'd cheated. "You win. He really is an amazing dog." The boy went and petted Padfoot on the head.
Padfoot promptly slurped his hand and Mike fed him a dog biscuit.
"Told you so." Jamie smirked, then before he could say anything else, he heard Andromeda calling. "Gotta go, my granny's calling me."
Padfoot's ears pricked up and he whined at Jamie to come on.
"Sure. Uh . . . maybe you could show me how to teach Mac some of those tricks tomorrow?" Mike asked hopefully. He petted his dog's ears. Mac wagged his tail, not realizing he'd lost any contest at all.
"Uh . . . yeah, I guess so. Bye!" Jamie turned and ran back down the street, and Padfoot raced beside him.
When they were out of sight of the other boy, Sirius transformed back into human form and said, "A dog trick contest? That was too easy!"
"It was his idea," Jamie said defensively, feeling almost guilty for tricking the Muggle boy.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "I wonder what he'd have thought if I showed him the best trick of all . . . changing into a kid? Bet he would have passed out."
"Yeah, and then Dad would skin you," Jamie said, sniggering. "C'mon, puppy dog! Race you home!" He sprinted the two yards back to Andromeda's.
Sirius bolted after his sly little brother, thinking that the youngest Lupin reminded him more and more of James Potter every day.
By the time they got back, the boys were panting and sweaty. Andromeda sniffed as they waved at her before going into the house. "Boys, better take a shower before sitting down at my table. I don't think anyone wants to sit next to a hot and sweaty boy that smells like dog. What were you doing, anyway?"
"We were playing with some kid and his dog down the street," Sirius said. "He was showing us how smart his puppy was." He sniffed himself and thought he didn't smell that bad. Women! He didn't see what was wrong with a bit of honest sweat.
But since Andromeda's word was law, he went to do as she said. Luckily she had two bathrooms with showers, so neither of them needed to wait.
Once they were clean, they scampered down to the kitchen, where Andromeda had set out sandwiches and tomato soup. Sirius' eyes lit up. "All right! Grilled cheese with bacon and tomato soup. You're the best, Gran!" He gave her a one-armed hug.
Andromeda ruffled his hair affectionately. "And you're a scamp, Siri. Sit and eat before it gets cold."
Sirius didn't need to be told twice. He slid into a seat and took a sandwich from the plate and began eating it eagerly.
After lunch, Jamie elected to take a lie down, and Sirius and Teddy went outside to ride their brooms in the backyard. The yard was layered with Notice Me Not and Unseen charms, and as long as they stayed within the boundaries, they could fly.
"So where'd you and Jamie go?" Teddy asked after completing a lazy spiral.
"Just down the street. He wanted me to see this kid and his trick dog," Sirius said.
"Trick dog, huh? Too bad you couldn't shift and talk to the other dog. Now that would have been a real trick," Teddy said. "Could you understand the other dog, Siri?"
"Uh . . . a little," Sirius said. "But when I'm a kid, it's harder for me to answer back. Dogs use their bodies a lot to talk, specially their tails, and since kids don't have tails, it's harder to speak dog. I don't have the ears either. But the border collie was very happy to meet me. Most dogs are."
"Aren't they always?"
"Sometimes. Dogs can be in bad moods and grouchy too, like people."
"Oh. Guess that make sense."Teddy said, then he threw an acorn at his brother and screamed, "Tag! You're it!" before zooming away.
Sirius chased him, wondering what Teddy would think of the prank he and Jamie had pulled. Lately the eldest Lupin child had become much less inclined to play pranks, reminding Sirius of the way Moony used to be.
After supper that night, all of them played Monopoly, and Jamie sulked because when all the money had been tallied, Sirius won by 7 pounds. "It's just a game," Teddy said reasonably. "Why are you getting so worked up over it?"
"Because," was all his brother would say, pouting.
"Hey, I lost too and you don't see me acting like the world ended," Teddy remarked.
"That's 'cause you usually win," his brother growled.
"Next time maybe you'll win, Jamie," Andromeda said.
"I wanna win all the time," Jamie told her.
"Nobody wins all the time, sport," Remus said. It was at times like this he could see some of James Potter in his youngest. James had always been ultra competitive when it came to games and sports and detested losing to anyone.
"How about a piece of my pie with ice cream?" Andromeda said. "That ought to perk you up." She went to get the pie and ice cream.
Jamie sighed and figured that his grandmother's pie was the one good thing about this night, except for the fact that he and Padfoot had showed that Muggle boy and his dog who was better.
After the boys had gone to bed up in the loft, Remus took Andromeda aside and said, "This competitive streak of Jamie's has me worried. I know it's normal for children to go through a stage like that, but he seems not to grasp the concept that it's not winning that matters, but how you get to the top."
Andromeda chuckled softly and patted his arm. "Remus, he's only six. Most boys his age hate to lose. There's plenty of time for him to learn what's important in life. That ambitious streak might not prove too bad in the long run. Might actually be useful, if he chooses a career, like business, where you need that skill to get to the top. Or even in law, or medicine."
"But I don't want his ambition to consume him, like it did Voldemort."
Andromeda raised an eyebrow. "Why would it? Remus, Voldemort was a sociopath. He cared for no one and nothing save himself. But Jamie's not like that. He loves his family, especially his older brothers. You just have to channel that drive to succeed in the right way, and who knows? He could be the next famous researcher or Minister of Magic or Josef Wronski. Ambition in and of itself is not an evil trait, Remus. Without it, you go nowhere. For decades, the wizarding world has suppressed those with ambition, labeling us evil and self-serving and power-hungry. Look at Slytherin House. Many of our top medical personnel and lawyers and business people have come from there, but are never recognized for their brilliance, for fear we might get too big of a head and become the next Dark Lord. It's an awful burden to instill upon a young mind. It's why we're so backwards when it comes to certain things, like communication and child abuse and bondage of house elves. There's room for improvement at all levels of society, but people are afraid of change and afraid of those who think outside the box. We need bright ambitious minds like Jamie's, need them badly. They're the ones who are going to move us forward. So long as they are guided by a set of principles."
Remus' eyes widened. "What are you saying, Andromeda? That Jamie might end up in Slytherin?"
"Yes. And what's wrong with that?" she asked, rather sharply. "Do you forget, that I was a Slytherin? Do you forget that the former Head of Slytherin and Headmaster of Hogwarts saved the world at great personal risk to himself, along with Harry Potter? Surely, you, of all people, do not still cling to that ridiculous prejudice that all things dark come out of the House of Serpents?"
"I . . . no, of course not . . . it's just . . ." Remus shook his head. How could he explain to his mother-in-law that his son was the reincarnation of James Potter? And he could not ever imagine James Potter as anything but a Gryffindor. "Forgive me. I know what we all owe Severus Snape. He, as much as Harry, is deserving of the title hero. Without him, Harry would never have survived to defeat Voldemort. I know there are shades of gray in everything, how could I not, being what I am? I guess I just . . . automatically assumed that my sons would be Gryffindors or even Hufflepuffs."
Andromeda's expression softened. "Forgive me my prickly temper, son. I've always been a little sensitive when it comes to my House. And who knows? Maybe Jamie will change and be Sorted into Gryffindor . . . or maybe not. Would you still be proud to have a son in Slytherin?"
"Yes," Remus said honestly. "And I would hope he would be as good as you are, Andromeda, and use his ambition to make the world a better place."
"With you and Dora or examples, I believe he will be," Andromeda said reassuringly.
Remus smiled. Then he allowed himself a private smirk over imagining Jamie as a Slytherin. Wouldn't that be a shock and a half, considering whose soul resided within him? Then again, that was the whole purpose of reincarnation, wasn't it; to gain a new perspective and learn from your mistakes of the previous life? Remus knew that James Potter had always been very one-sided in his views, very rigid and unbending. He had viewed the world in black and white, us and them. Maybe this time around he would learn about the other side of the coin and see the shades of gray that made up a life. Only time would tell.
That same weekend:
Ginny and Harry decided that weekend was a good one to visit the Weasleys, they had not been back to see Molly and Arthur since that disastrous Victory Day dinner, and Harry did not want either of his sons to associate the Burrow with that mishap. He wanted Severus especially to regard the Burrow as a good place, a place where he could have fun and enjoy himself with Molly and Arthur. He knew from viewing Snape's memories that the wizard had no hard feelings towards the elder Weasleys, that Arthur and Molly had treated Severus decently as an Order member and respected him in his role as an agent. They had been one of the few members to do so. They had also been one of the first to trust Harry when he had told them the truth about Severus' reasons for killing Dumbledore, and had forgiven their former ally everything. Ginny had seen how Molly had looked at the resurrected Potions Master that Victory Day, and she knew her mother's instinctive urge to protect and love any helpless child had gone into overdrive when she had seen small Severus. And so had Arthur's. Both of them would love their newest 'grandchild' without reservation.
The only stumbling block might be Severus himself, with his natural reserve towards trusting anyone.
But so far the visit was going well. Severus did not seem uncomfortable around Molly, he even allowed her to hug and kiss his cheek without doing more than sighing and rolling his eyes. "Oh, I'm so glad you've come, Severus! Rosie's here too, she's staying the weekend, Ron and Hermione had to go out of town. Maybe you can help her use her new potions kit after lunch? She's been dying to try it out."
"All right," Severus agreed. He knew that a child's potions kit would prove no challenge at all for him to navigate, after all wasn't he still the youngest Potions Master in the United Kingdom?
"That's a good idea, Mum," Ginny said, kissing her mother on the cheek. "Keeping them busy keeps them out of trouble."
"I know, dear." Molly laughed. "Too bad it didn't work with the twins half the time."
After greeting his grandparents, Alby ran through the house, yelling, "Rosie, I'm here!"
He found his favorite cousin sitting on the floor of the guest room, peering intently at a colorful box with a cauldron and several steaming potions on it. "Hi, Alby! Mummy bought me a Young Brewers Potions Kit yesterday 'cause I got five gold stars at school for Best Student Witch. Only I can't read all the directions."
Alby looked at the box but the only word he knew was 'potions'. "I wish I could help, Rosie, but I can't read. But my big brudder Sevvy can! He can help you make potions."
"Where is he?" Rose asked, climbing to her feet.
"In the kitchen with Grammy."
The two cousins found Severus wearing an apron and wielding a biscuit cutter with his small hands, helping Molly make gingerbread men. "Cool! Can we help?" begged Alby.
"Certainly, Al." Molly quickly handed out two more aprons, shrunk to fit little ones, and gave them each a biscuit cutter and some dough from her mixing bowl.
"Hello, Rose," Severus greeted Hermione's daughter politely.
"Hi, Severus!" Rose smiled back, she liked Alby's new brother. He was quiet and clever and didn't run about and make loud obnoxious noises like half her other boy cousins. "Alby says you can help me with my Young Brewers kit."
"I will, soon as I finish these," he indicated the row of gingerbread men he was carefully sprinkling colored sugar on and dabbing with white icing.
Rose peered at them. "Wow! Those look almost as good as Grammy's. Do you bake with Aunt Ginny?"
Severus flushed. "No. But it's not hard to sprinkle sugar," he said, embarrassed at her regard.
"Maybe I should enlist you as my helper at home, Severus," Ginny commented. It would be a good way for her to bond with the youngster.
"Like me, Mummy?" Alby asked, not wanting to be left out.
"Yes, just like you," Ginny smiled. "You can both be my helpers, since cooking is hard work." She could remember helping Molly at their age, along with Ron, though Ron had always gotten bored halfway through and wandered off to play with his brothers.
Alby concentrated hard on trying to keep his sugar sprinkles on the gingerbread man, and his efforts were good for a four year old.
Molly rolled out more dough, and allowed her grandkids to cut different shapes—like stars, moons, and pointed hats.
All three children enjoyed decorating their biscuits while the adults watched.
Harry sneakily pinched some dough off the scrap pile Molly had and popped it in his mouth.
Rose, whose sharp eyes missed little, gasped. "Uncle Harry! You ate some!"
Harry grinned, his green eyes sparkling. "And it was good too! You should try some, Rosie."
"But . . . Mummy says raw dough's no good for you. It'll give you a tummy ache."
"Only if you eat a lot of it. A taste won't hurt you," her uncle laughed. "Try some."
Rose looked skeptical. "Is he right, Grammy?"
"A little dough never hurt anyone, Rose," Molly said. "Although your daddy made himself sick once as a little boy by eating half my sugar biscuit dough around Christmas."
"I remember that," Ginny grinned. "He stuffed himself like a pig and then he threw up all over George, because George was tickling him."
"Gross!" Rose made a face.
"Did he hafta take potions, Grammy?" asked Alby.
"Yes, I did give him one for indigestion." Molly recalled.
Alby made a face. "Ugh! Potions are yucky. I spit mine out all over Daddy when I was sick last week."
"Oh, dear!" Molly said, trying not to laugh. "Poor you, Harry!"
"Tell me about it," Harry sighed.
"But then Sevvy taught me how to take them like a big boy an' I took them all by myself!" Alby declared proudly.
"That's wonderful, Alby," Molly praised him. "Your Uncle Charlie was always the worst at taking medicine. Your grandpa used to practically hold him down and pinch his nose shut to get him to swallow any of them. He acted like we were poisoning him they way he fussed."
"Why do potions taste nasty?" Rose inquired, finshing her third gingerbread girl and then doing a star.
"They don't, not all of them," Severus spoke up, dusting his hands off on his apron. "Only the healing ones taste bitter an' nasty."
"How come?" she asked, puzzled.
"Because a lot of healing herbs are bitter and come from plants' leaves or stems. Take willow bark for example," Severus said, standing up straight and going into lecture mode. "That comes from the willow tree and is used in Fever Reducers. Willow bark contains salicylic acid, which is what aspirin is made from, it's a natural remedy for bringing down fevers, but it's very bitter. When you steep it, you draw out all the salicylic acid. A Fever Reducer also contains sage and ice berries, and they're tart like limes."
"How do you know all that?" asked Rose, awestruck.
"I read and studied about ingredients in school," Severus replied without thinking.
"Really? What school do you go to?"
Severus bit his lip, only then realizing what he'd said. Then he recovered and answered, "I don't have school right now, it's summer."
Rose giggled. "That's right. I forgot! But how come you can't put sugar or honey in the potion to make it taste better?"
Severus sighed, he had often been asked that question as a professor. "Because when you add a component, like sugar, to a solution, it can react with some of the ingredients and ruin the potency or neutralize some of the necessary reactions, and then your potion won't be effective. Potion making is a subtle and delicate art, one thing added wrong can destroy hours of work."
While his brother was lecturing, Alby had pinched off a handful of dough and was slowly eating it. He held out a piece to Severus. "Here, Sevvy. Have some."
Severus took it and ate it, savoring the spicy flavor of the dough. "Thanks," he said. He had always enjoyed eating gingerbread, and on the rare occasion Eileen had made some, also eating the dough left over.
"You'd better brush your teeth," Rose stated bossily to the two boys, before nibbling on some dough too.
"Don't forget to brush yours, little know-it-all," Severus teased.
"I never do. Mummy always checks," Rose declared with a tiny eye roll. "Dad says she's like a drill sergeant about teeth, and needs to take a Calming Draught, but Mummy always says someday he's going to regret not taking care of his teeth when they fall out and he can only eat porridge."
For some reason this caused everyone to start laughing. Rose was confused. What was so funny? She didn't want her dad's teeth to rot away and not be able to eat any cool food any more, like chips or sweets. That would be horrible.
"Poor Ron," Harry said, chuckling. "I'll bet all he gets to eat for snacks is carrot and celery sticks. No more chocolate."
"Daddy keeps a bag from Honeydukes in his drawer in his study. I saw it," Rose reported. "Mummy doesn't know though and I promised not to tell her. It's our secret."
"Out of the mouths of babes!" Arthur said, laughing. The look on his granddaughter's face was pure Weasley.
"When will the gingerbread be done, Grammy?" Alby wanted to know. Right now that was more important than any secret bag of sweets his uncle had in a drawer or brushing his teeth.
"In about ten minutes, luv," Molly said, sliding the first batch into the oven.
"But you can't have any till after you eat lunch," Ginny reminded him.
"Aww, Mum!" Alby pouted, reminding her of Harry.
"Why don't you come with me out to the shed?" Arthur offered, trying to distract his grandson. "I've a new Muggle apparatus called a microwave out there I'm trying to tinker with."
"Neat, Grandpa!" Alby liked to help Arthur with his experiments. He was one of his only grandsons that did.
"A microwave?" Harry said. "Maybe I'd better come along, Dad." Knowing Arthur, he didn't want to risk the wizard blowing himself or his son up by mistake. He quickly followed Arthur and Alby out the door.
"When's lunch?" Rose asked Molly.
"As soon as I clean up this mess," Molly replied. She waved her wand and the bowl and rolling pin flew into the sink and began to wash themselves.
Rose jumped down off the stool she'd been standing on and said, "I'm gonna set up the potions kit, so it's all ready for us when we start brewing." She ran in the guest room to open the box and take out the cauldron, stirrers, and other paraphernalia.
Severus untied his apron and handed it to Molly to put in the laundry. Then he got down from the stepstool he'd been using and asked for a drink.
Ginny gave him a glass of pumpkin juice then asked Molly if she needed help preparing lunch.
"What were you thinking of making, Mum?"
"Oh, just some chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayo. Maybe some chips too or fried string beans."
"Mmm! Sounds delicious," Ginny smacked her lips appreciatively. "I can start frying the chicken if you want. Or do the chips."
"Whatever you like, Gin. I'll start breading the string beans. I picked them fresh from the garden this morning," Molly said, summoning an egg, breadcrumbs, and a bowl to her along with the string beans.
Severus watched as Molly began to prepare the string beans, he'd always had a keen interest in cooking.
Ginny took out a cast iron skillet and filled it with oil and then heated it with magic. The chicken breasts had already been breaded and were ready to fry, and so were the chips. She put the chips into the skillet first, flash frying them with magic. The bacon had been cooked earlier this morning when Molly made breakfast, so Ginny just had to cut up the tomatoes and shred the lettuce with magic. She also used a charm to toast the buns for the sandwiches and slather mayo on half of them.
Soon she had fried up the chicken, and Molly had the string beans frying in another pan. In a matter of minutes the sandwiches and sides were ready. Molly had even whipped up some kind of roasted pepper dip to go with the string beans.
Ginny flicked her wand and set the table. Then she turned to Severus and said, "Sev, would you mind calling Rosie , Alby, Harry, and Grandpa in to eat lunch?"
Severus departed, going to call Rose first, as she was the closest.
The little girl immediately headed into the kitchen. "Yay! Lunchtime!"
Meanwhile, Molly took the first batch of gingerbread from the oven and put it to cool, then put in the one the children had worked on.
Severus headed out to the shed, which was in the back of the house, near the corn field. He knew that was where Arthur experimented with confiscated Muggle objects, trying to figure out how they worked and if they could be altered using spells. His flying Ford Anglia was one of his better experiments, as was the magical TV set. Severus remembered hearing about microwaves on his trips into Manchester and London, but didn't have the faintest idea how to use one. He wondered if Harry did. Maybe the Dursleys had owned one?
He cautiously opened the door to the shed and found Harry and Alby clustered about a counter, watching Arthur wave a wand at a black metal box with a door on it. "Harry, Ginny said to tell you that lunch is ready," Severus called from the doorway.
Harry turned. "Tell her we'll be right there, Sev."
Suddenly the microwave began spitting sparks all over violently.
Alby screamed as several white sparks hit him on the face and arm. "Oww! Daddy, it burns!"
Harry spun about and grabbed up his son. "Where are you hurt, Al?"
More sparks were cascading out of the machine, and Arthur was waving his wand and chanting frantically.
Harry began to back away, still holding Alby, as more sparks flew, striking him on the arms and chest and Alby, who had his face buried in Harry's shoulder, on the bottom. Alby shrieked. "My bum! Owwie!"
"Arthur, get out!" Harry yelled. "I think it's going to blow!" He grabbed his father-in-law by the shoulder and propelled him towards the door with a hard shove, then he followed, hunching his shoulders protectively about his small son, who was wailing hysterically.
Severus had watched in horror, and had begun backing away towards the house when the explosion occurred.
The shed became a fireball and the resulting concussive wave threw Arthur, Harry, and Alby across the grass and knocked Severus down.
Before Severus could regain his feet, Arthur rolled over and cast an Extinguishing Charm on the shed. His face was half black with soot. He climbed to his feet and ran over to where Harry and Alby lay in the grass. Alby was bawling loudly in pain and terror. "Daddy! Daddy! Fire!"
"Hang on, Al!" Arthur called as he gently turned Harry so Alby could crawl out from under him. "Come on, come here to Grandpa," he coaxed.
Alby's face was covered with dirt and scratched but he seemed unharmed except for the burns from the sparks. He grabbed Arthur about the neck and hung on tight, crying.
Severus had got to his feet, shaken and frightened. He raced over to Arthur and Alby. "Grandpa, are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine, Severus. But I'm afraid poor Harry isn't."
Harry lay motionless in the grass, a cut on his cheek trickling blood, the back of his shirt burned away. He had caught the worst of the blast, and his back was a mess of burns from his shoulders to his waist. Some of his hair had also been singed.
Severus stared in horror, feeling his gorge rise. He turned away and threw up in the grass.
"Oh, Merlin! Harry, I'm so sorry!" Arthur was saying, his voice hoarse with guilt and grief. Alby was still crying also, only this time it was for his father.
Shakily, Severus straightened and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. He knew Harry was badly injured and needed a Healer fast. He turned and ran for the house, screaming, "Ginny, come quick! Harry's hurt bad, he needs to be taken to St. Mungos!"
Ginny went white upon hearing Severus' awful words, then she ran out the door to where her husband lay.
A/N: How did you like Remus' conversation with Andromeda? Severus and the Weasleys? Yikes, an evil cliffy! What wil happen to Harry?