- Character Bashing
- Alternate Universe
The next new moon was November 27th of that year, a little under a month before the Winter Meet of the Wizengamot. Arcturus summoned all of the living members of the Black Family, both those who were still living under the Black name or those who had married into or out of the Family; their spouses and children were there as well. Arcturus made sure that those who had been told they’d been disowned and/or cast out of the Family had arrived several hours before the others, explaining the truth of the situation to them. To say that surprise was a prevalent emotion amongst them would be an understatement.
The eldest of them, Cedrella Weasley nee Black, took it in stride, though Andromeda was rather emotional, confusing her daughter greatly. Arcturus rather liked young Nymphadora. The eight year old was insatiably curious, and her hair changed with the whim of her emotions or when she was trying to focus particularly hard. She was working on consciously changing her body mass and face, but so far it was pretty much ruled by her subconscious mind. Arcturus made a mental note to fetch the journals of the last known Black Metamorphmagus from the library vault for her before she went to Hogwarts.
The rest of the Family filtered into the auxiliary ballroom of Chateau Noir, the ancestral seat of the House of Black, over the next hour or so, with neatly uniformed house elves guiding them to various table that had been set up near a set of French doors that led out onto a neatly manicured lawn. If there was even a hint of aggression between members of the Family, the house elves had free rein to silence and/or temporarily stick the offenders to their seats. The Malfoys were the last to arrive, with a sleepy looking Draco being held securely in Lucius’ arms.
Once everyone had sat down and had been served drinks, Arcturus stepped up onto a raised platform so everyone could see him properly. He held up his hands, quelling the conversations that had sprung up with a practiced ease.
“Welcome, one and all, to this Gathering,” he said, his voice easily heard regardless of where one was in the room. “Thank you for taking time out of your undoubtedly busy lives to come here tonight. I will do my best to keep this simple and to the point.”
He waited for any comments before continuing on, bracing himself for the reaction that was surely to come.
“The Most Ancient and Noble House of Black is a disgrace to Magic and Avalon, and, in it is current state, is something I find to be contemptible.”
An immediate backlash of angry outcries and protests washed over him, but Arcturus stood firm, holding up his hands for silence. Once he got it, he started speaking again.
“Allow me to explain what I mean by that. Look around you. We have lost far too many of our Family members to the two most recent Blood Wars, first with Grindelwald and then with Voldemort. I am ashamed of those who fought for them. They went directly against our core tenet: Toujours Pur—Always Pure. It means not that we should always stay pure of blood, but that we remain loyal to Avalon and the House of Black, no others. There are precious few here who have lived up to that.
“We stand at a precipice now that the Second Blood War is over. We can continue on with the path this House has been going on, relying on our money and the deeds of our ancestors to carry our name, or we can stop and take stock of what’s to come in the future. We can place ourselves in a prime position to help guide the Wizarding World for years to come.”
“What do you know that we don’t?” Druella Black asked curiously when it looked like Arcturus was done speaking. “Why this sudden change?”
“I have sat back and let the House edge too close to ruin and end. There is only one direct male descendant of the main Black Line alive due to this insanity with Voldemort,” Arcturus replied seriously. “He is unable to have a natural heir due to curses he has taken throughout his life.”
Walburga snorted sharply. “My worthless spawn of a son has been disinherited and tossed out of the Family,” she said. “He’s hardly a good heir.”
“And yet the Heir ring accepted him easily,” Arcturus replied. “Sirius is the official Heir to the House of Black, and that won’t change regardless of you burning his image off a priceless tapestry. You had no right to do that, Walburga. That was a centuries-old magical artifact that was woven by one of the last full-blooded Elven weavers before they left this realm. The moment you got here, I sent the house elves to fetch the tapestry from Grimmauld Place as well as any near or fully Infernal artifacts that may be stored there, as well as in any vaults owned by a member of the Black Family, dowry, personal, or otherwise. They will be sent to the goblins to be destroyed in their Fiendfyre furnace since they hate the Infernal just as much as we do. We are not consorting with the Infernal, and no one besides the current Lord or Lady of the House can disown and/or disinherit anyone, which is why those who were supposedly thrown out of the Family and are still living are here. We are stronger together than apart, even if we don’t all agree with one another.”
As he spoke, the Family magic rolled out in waves from him, touching all those who were tied to the Black Family in the room and beyond. Arcturus noticed when Lucius twitched and then went pale at the proclamation against Infernal magics and artifacts and made a mental note to talk to him later in the night.
“The events of this night are to be considered a Family Secret,” Arcturus finished up, his voice heavily laden with magical power. “No one may speak of them outside of the Family. May Magic lock the information away in your souls and minds so that no one can take it from you. Nor can anyone use this information or the events that happen tonight against members of this Family nor to their own gain. So say I, so mote it be!”
The magic washed over the inhabitants of the room, sealing what had already been said and what was to come away so not even the most skilled Legilimens or torturer could glean the information from their minds, not even the youngest members of the Family who had no sort of mental shielding whatsoever. There were those who didn’t look too happy about it, particularly the caveat about not being able to use what they learned to further their own plans and plots.
“Now that that’s said, all of you are to follow me out to the standing circle,” Arcturus said as he stepped down off his platform, the house elves making it vanish once he was safely on solid ground. “We are welcoming a new member into our House by a ritual of Magic and Blood. Come. I will need all of your support, magical and otherwise.”
He led the way out of through the French doors, the others following after him as he made his way down the gently sloping lawn to the standing circle. The elves had been busy at work there as well, setting up dozens of floating paper lamps around and over the circle that bathed it in a gently flickering golden light. Sirius was waiting there with a dozing Amaranth in his arms. He wore plain black winter robes, his hair pulled back neatly at the back of his neck with a dragon bone hair clasp artfully carved in the long, sinuous shape of an Eastern-style dragon. Amaranth was bundled up against the cold, wrapped up in a dark green blanket with gentle warming charms woven into it with each stitch.
Arcturus stepped into the circle of standing stones first, invoking the deep seated Family magic to rise and saturate the area. He turned when he reached the center, his hand stretching out to Sirius.
“Come, Sirius Orion, and present your heir,” he called out. Sirius took in a steadying breath before stepping into the circle, shivering despite the warmth the gathered magic brought with it. He stopped in front of Arcturus, his head held high.
“I present Amaranth Euphemia Potter, my blood- and oath-sworn goddaughter to be my heir and daughter by Blood and Magic. This was a final wish of her late and much beloved Patriarch, James Fleamont Potter, who I considered my brother in all but blood.”
“Do you vow to care for her as if she were your natural born heir, to teach her both the Ways of her birth Family and of ours, becoming a third parent to her in Blood and Magic?”
“Do you vow to raise her to be a credit to Avalon and her Families?”
“And finally, do you vow that even if you do have blood born heirs in the future, that you will not cast her aside in their favor?”
Arcturus nodded and then took a gleaming silver knife out of a sheath on his belt. He took Sirius’ free hand, cutting its thumb and then dragging it gently along Amaranth’s forehead, leaving a red swathe behind. The cut healed the moment the thumb was lifted away. Arcturus added his own blood, the magic gathered around them heaving.
“Nymphadora, Narcissa, Cedrella– Maiden, Mother, Matron –will you welcome Amaranth into the Family as the newest Daughter of the House of Black?” Arcturus asked.
Narcissa and Cedrella stepped forward, the house elves quickly Silencing Walburga’s protests at not being called up for either the Mother or Matron role. Nymphadora entered the circle after a brief argument with her mother, her steps surprisingly sure and steady when compared to her usual clumsiness. The three witches each added their blood to Amaranth’s forehead, the Family magic flaring and then swirling in on Amaranth as the blood disappeared, sinking into her skin.
A circular wave of golden energy surged out from Amaranth’s body, rippling out to touch each member of the Family that was gathered around the circle and those who were not there. Far away in Azkaban, Bellatrix and her husband let out low, pain filled cries that went unnoticed in the general soundtrack of screams, moans, and groans. The deep connection Amaranth had with the magics of Avalon and the Pendragon legacy broke their ties to the Black Family magics for their betrayals to the Family and the magical realm, leaving little for their magical cores to subsist on besides the faint ambient magic in the air around them.
They would be dead within the year and buried in the small graveyard on the island, with only a perfunctory letter sent to Arcturus several weeks after the fact. They were mourned but only quietly, their wedding portrait in the portrait hall of Chateau Noir being shrouded in the traditional sheer black cloth for a year and a day, as was the custom in Pureblood families.
Those who were gathered around the standing stones felt a rush of heat run through them, though how said rush affected them was different depending on who they were. Most were comforted by it, though to several, it was highly uncomfortable and even a little painful. It was meant as a warning: tread too close to betraying Avalon or the Houses of Black and/or Potter in deed, thought, or word and pay the price.
All throughout the ritual, Amaranth had stayed asleep, only stirring when the rush of magic settled and then faded away. She opened her eyes, a confused noise leaving her as she looked up at Sirius. “Pad?” she mumbled, squirming a little in his arms. Sirius noticed that her eyes had shifted color a little, gaining a tiny bit of a gray shade to the vibrant green. It wasn’t enough to erase the legacy Lily had left her daughter, but it certainly made her look as if Sirius had been one of her biological parents. Her facial structure had changed slightly as well, her jawline and cheekbones becoming a little sharper than they had been before, gaining more of the subtle Black features. Her hair remained mostly the same, though it lay a little more smoothly on her head now.
“I’m here, Pup,” Sirius replied, shifting her up in his arms so he could kiss her forehead. “Everything’s okay.”
“ ‘Kay?” Amaranth repeated before turning her head to look at the others still gathered nearby. Her eyes widened when she saw the brilliant pink shade that Nymphadora’s hair was at the moment, and she reached out her arms towards her, hands opening and closing in a grabby motion. “Ooh!”
Sirius chuckled. “I think she likes your hair, kiddo,” he said. Nymphadora grinned and then screwed up her face, her tongue poking out of the side of her mouth as she concentrated. Her neatly braided hair shifted from pink to lime green to– and this was a favorite of hers –a banana yellow with jet black stripes. Amaranth giggled mightily, her hands clapping in joy.
“Hey there, little cousin,” Nymphadora replied, her hair going back to the standard pink as she relaxed. “It’s nice not to be the only girl in the family any more.”
“And what are we, then?” Cedrella teased gently, gesturing between herself and Narcissa, who was looking on with a smile.
“You’re grown-ups,” Nymphadora replied promptly, turning to look up at her elder cousin several times removed. “There aren’t any girls my age or younger in the Family.”
“Ah, I see. Well, in that case, continue on,” Cedrella said, looking highly amused. Nymphadora smiled up at her and then turned back to Amaranth.
“I’m Nymphadora,” she continued on, her nose wrinkling at the name, “but you probably can’t say that yet, huh?”
Amaranth just stared at her, still fascinated with the vibrant color of her hair. Nymphadora pouted at that, wanting a better reaction.
“Maybe we should just go with Dora for the time being?” Sirius suggested. “She’ll get there eventually.”
That made the young girl perk up. “Dora… Yeah, that’ll work. Dad calls me that anyways,” she said. “Everyone can call me that!” She looked up at Arcturus pleadingly. “Can you tell everybody to call me Dora instead? They have to listen to you.”
Arcturus chuckled. “I can say that you would like to be called that, but I can’t force anyone to listen,” he said, kneeling down so he could be on a similar level to her. “Would you like it if I forced you to… I don’t know …eat your least favorite food all the time or hop around on one foot to get from one place to another?”
Dora thought about it and then shook her head. “No,” she said finally.
“Neither would anyone else,” Arcturus said, “but you can ask people to call you Dora. People often respond better when you ask rather than demand. You can open a lot more doors that way.”
Sirius let out a small laugh. “Teaching cunning early, Grandfather?” he asked dryly. “She’s only eight.”
“It’s never too early to learn manners, especially if it helps get one ahead in life,” Arcturus replied as he stood back up, absently brushing his knees off. “And that applies to everyone, regardless of what House they had been or may one day be Sorted into. Now that we’re finished here, why don’t we head back inside? I believe the elves have come up with a meal and some hot drinks that will help restore us.”
The Family went back into the castle, the house elves clearing away the paper lanterns and making sure everything was clean and no blood had been left behind to be used against anyone. Arcturus waited until the others were busy talking amongst themselves before discreetly approaching Lucius at the table he was sitting near.
“Lucius, a word?”
Lucius, who had been watching over Draco while Narcissa spoke with Andromeda for the first time in almost ten years, looked up from his sleeping son who was curled up in his lap, head resting against his father’s shoulder.
“Lord Black,” he said, inclining his head. “Forgive me for not standing, but my hands are rather full.”
“No need to apologize,” Arcturus said, waving an idle hand as he sat down next to Lucius. He smiled down at Draco. “He looks quite a bit like you.”
“Yes, but his hair is closer to Narcissa’s shade,” Lucius replied, running his fingers gently through Draco’s hair as he spoke. “Something I am grateful for. The Malfoy blood tends to run strong.”
“Mm. Your father and grandfather shared similar looks, so I can see where you would get that idea,” Arcturus mused. He drew his wand, the tip twitching only a little as he cast a privacy ward around them before letting it return to its place in his wrist holster. “Your reaction earlier when I spoke about Infernal magics and artifacts… Is there something you wish to share with me?”
Lucius went still, staring out across the ballroom, his fingers still carding through Draco’s hair. He watched Narcissa and Andromeda slowly warm up to one another again before letting out a soft sigh. “I was… entrusted with something most precious to the Dark Lord,” he began hesitantly, suddenly looking far older than his twenty-six years of age. “It reeks of his magic, twisted and cloying. It is very… potent. As if he were there in the room, almost.”
“Do you keep it in the same building as your son?”
Lucius briefly closed his eyes as if in pain. “Yes. Merlin, I didn’t even think–”
“No, but you can stop and think now,” Arcturus said gently. “Take it to the goblins tomorrow. Have them destroy it before it can influence you, your wife, or your heir any further than it may already have. Infernal magic is not something you should dismiss or take lightly. I can send someone along with you to ensure it happens, just in case. Infernal magics… they will do anything to survive, and are often seductive. It’s why they are to be feared and fought against at all costs. We might be more attuned to the Dark, but that doesn’t mean we are evil.”
“Even after all that I’ve done, however unwillingly?” Lucius asked, looking down at Draco with a sad expression. “I fought against my brothers and sisters in magic all for a cause that saw more deaths than victories and ended only because of a surprisingly powerful child somehow defeating a madman. What was that, anyways, during the ritual?”
“Something I had to swear a Vow on my magic and life never to discuss without prior permission with anyone else,” Arcturus said seriously. “It’s why I sealed what happened under the aegis of a Family Secret so those who are too young or old to take such a Vow could be there without endangering themselves.”
Lucius took it in and then nodded. “Alright,” he agreed. “I’ll take it to the goblins tomorrow. I would appreciate a companion as you suggested just in case.”
“I’ll arrange it,” Arcturus promised. “When would be the best time?”
“Hm.” Lucius tipped his head back, thinking over his schedule for the following day. “Eleven in the morning will work the best. We have a healer’s check up for Draco tomorrow at one, so we’ll be on Diagon anyways. I can have Narcissa take him shopping while I’m at the bank.”
“Is he sick?”
“No, no, it’s just a standard check up,” Lucius said. “He’s almost a year and a half, after all.”
“Ah. That’s good.” Arcturus got his feet, absently smoothing out his robes. “You were close to Severus Snape in school, yes?”
“Yes,” Lucius said, surprised. “We had an informal fostering/sponsor situation while I was at school, though his parents never let us make it formal.”
“Good. I’ll ask him to be the one to accompany you,” Arcturus said. He made a thoughtful noise, one hand coming up to brush at his neatly trimmed goatee. “It’s a pity that fostering and sponsoring new arrivals to the Magical world died off so much when the second Muggle World War began and Grindelwald rose to power.”
Lucius nodded. “Yes. That was during Dumbledore’s time as Deputy Headmaster,” he mused. “My father and grandfather spoke of the fact that there were far more fostering and sponsoring situations for Muggleborns and half-bloods during their times at Hogwarts. Maybe it’s time we try to bring it back. That, or a compulsory Introduction to the Magical World course for the Muggleborns for the first three years at Hogwarts.”
“Yes, Sirius was mentioning something similar in regards to Muggle Studies,” Arcturus said. “Apparently it’s woefully out of date. The Muggles have been to the moon within the past decade, for example.”
Lucius stared up at him. “What, really?”
“Apparently so. I had some of my house elves get newspapers and books from the Muggle world talking about it. It’s fascinating. Perhaps if we had something similar to that– an Introduction to the Muggle World –during the first three years of Hogwarts, then the tensions would be lessened.”
“Huh. Definitely something to look into,” Lucius said thoughtfully. “Thank you. Going back to tomorrow, I’ll look forward to seeing Severus. Just tell him to Floo over. He’s already listed in the wards.”
“Very well, I’ll let him know. Thank you, Lucius,” Arcturus said, drawing his wand again and then dispelling the privacy wards.
“No, thank you,” Lucius told him. “If you hadn’t said anything, who knows what would’ve happened by keeping that thing in my manor for years on end.”
“Well, now you won’t have to find out,” Arcturus said simply. “In regards to the fostering situation, perhaps it’s something we should meet about before the Winter session. Sirius has a group of people from across the spectrum– Dark, Gray, and Light –that he’s allied with, all of whom have a voting seat on the Wizengamot. We can bring it up at the session in a month to see how people would react. If we can get it back into practice early enough, then by the time Draco and the other children his age– or even Dora’s age –start at Hogwarts, perhaps things will be easier for them.”
Lucius looked at him shrewdly. “Does this have anything to do with the vow you took?”
“Perhaps,” Arcturus replied mildly. “Have a good night, Lucius. I need to tend to the other guests and then send a few owls.”
Arcturus stepped away, mingling with the rest of the Family as the night progressed. Narcissa rejoined Lucius and Draco after a while, looking far happier than she had in a while. Lucius smiled at her as she took a now-awake Draco from him, a few wisps of hair escaping from the intricate style she had put it in.
“Have a good conversation?” Lucius asked.
“Yes, I did,” Narcissa confirmed. “And you? I saw you speaking with Arcturus.”
“We had an interesting conversation,” Lucius said. “Would you mind if we go a little early to Diagon tomorrow? I have some private business at Gringotts I need to attend to with Severus. Perhaps you could take Draco shopping? I remember you had mentioned wanting to get him some more clothes.”
“He’s growing so fast that the tailoring charms can’t keep up. I also want to get some more blankets for him,” Narcissa said. “I wouldn’t mind going early, and it’s always pleasant to see Severus.”
“Wonderful.” Lucius leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek, earning a small, pleased smile from his wife. “He’ll be Flooing over a little before eleven.”
“Alright,” Narcissa agreed easily. She kissed Draco on the top of his head as he yawned, looking all too ready to go back to sleep again. “Let’s get home. I think it’s time for our little Dragon to sleep.”
Lucius nodded as he stood, helping Narcissa up without jostling Draco too much. The three of them left via a one-way Portkey Arcturus had set up for them earlier, swirling back into reality in the secure receiving room of Malfoy Manor. Narcissa went to take Draco to bed while Lucius made his way to his office. He transfigured an old book into a lidded box that was lined with lead and silver, the advanced spellwork tiring him some. Once he was done, he went to the safe set behind a portrait of Armand Malfoy, the founder of the entire Malfoy Family, muttering the password and waiting for the portrait to swing forward before he pushed his magic into the safe and opening it.
The slim black book that lay on top of the pile of documents and other parchmentwork looked very innocent and innocuous if one wasn’t attuned to the feel of the Dark Lord’s magic. Unfortunately, Lucius knew exactly how that felt, and to him it made him feel ill and shaky. He levitated the book over to the box, not wanting to touch it with his bare hands, and then quickly sealed it inside, fusing the lid to the box without a seam so the Infernal magic contained within couldn’t escape and manipulate him.
Lucius only breathed a sigh of relief once he had levitated the box into the safe and then locked everything up, activating the highest wards he could on the safe before leaving the office. Merlin, he’d be glad when that was out of his manor and possession entirely. He went to the bedchambers he shared with Narcissa, the tension bleeding out of him completely when he saw his Lady at her vanity, brushing her long hair as she got ready for bed.
“You look beautiful,” he said as he approached her from behind. She watched him come closer in the mirror, a slightly amused smile curving her lips.
“Oh? I look beautiful when I’m tired and ready to sleep?”
“You always look beautiful,” Lucius said, lightly wrapping his arms around her and then kissing her jaw. “You looked beautiful even after giving birth to our son. Speaking of, did he go to sleep well?”
“He did,” Narcissa said, leaning back against him. “Dobby is watching over him tonight.”
Lucius hummed, nuzzling at her skin. “Come to bed, my heart?”
“Of course, but you’ll need to let me go first.”
Lucius sighed dramatically. “If I must,” he said, giving her one last kiss before releasing her. Narcissa finished brushing her hair as Lucius got changed into his pajamas, soon joining him in bed. They cuddled together, Lucius holding Narcissa close in his arms. It wasn’t long before the two of them were asleep, both dreaming of a better future for themselves and their son.