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The Black Book

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Lord Arcturus Black, the Duke of Blackmoor, strode through the Ministry for Magic with all the grace and fire his house was renowned for. The fact that his magical aura was visibly whipping about a small ice storm was nothing short of terrifying. The fact that it was a few days after the supposed decimation of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named caused everyone who saw him to stop. Lord Black was about to ruin someone’s life and they all hoped it wasn’t them.


“Now who has called an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot? I’ve already declared our right—”


Lord Black strode into the chambers of the Wizengamot and Minister Bagnold stuttered to a stop.


His aura flexed at the sight of this supposed esteemed body of individuals. He caught the eye of one Albus Dumbledore and he nearly trembled with excitement at ruining this man’s week…year if he was lucky. In a few years, after his temper cools and he feels a bit more generous, he’ll allow that maybe, maybe, the trumped up Dark Lord had momentarily distracted the wixen world and they had forgotten, in their fear and stupidity, that one does not trifle with the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black.


Lord Black settled into his seat within his box; the seal for the House of Black lit and he sent a prayer to Lady Hecate that the Wizengamot would always tremble in fear at the sight of it.


“I have called us here, Minister,” he said, gazing at each prominent member of the Wizengamot, “because you have neglected to set a trial for my heir.” He nearly hissed at the end and briefly wondered if any of those fools actually thought he would forget about Sirius. His grandson. His heir. A son of the House of Black.


Groans and shouts of disproval rose up and he carefully recorded who said each one and added them to his ever-expanding “Ruin their life” list. A list that was not to be confused with a little black book belonging to the House of Black, a book made of leather and vellum sheets, a book listing the enemies to the House of Black. Arcturus kept that book at home lest he be tempted to write the name of everyone in his sight. His wife, while gracious and forgiving, might be put out if he murdered half of Britain. No, his personal list to ruin the lives of everyone in his way today would be dealt out legally, perhaps financial ruin…maybe a scandalous article in The Daily Prophet. He’ll decide later.


“He confessed! The boy is mad and going to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban!” Barty Crouch, Sr. said, rising up.


Arcturus narrowed his eyes; on the other hand, one person wouldn’t upset his wife too much.

There was a lull in outbursts and Minister Bagnold looked ready to speak.


“I also demand Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore to be arrested for kidnapping my second cousin, twice removed, Hadrian James Potter.” This declaration was met with silence. Good. He wasn’t quite finished yet. “As the patriarch for the Most Noble and Ancient House of Gryffindor is dead—may James Charlus Potter rest in the embrace of our Lady Hecate—” He paused and noted Dumbledore’s flinch. Curious. “—and as I am the patriarch for the Heir of Gryffindor’s late grandmother, my dear cousin Lady Dorea Potter, formerly Black.” He paused again, a second too long to be comfortable, but these arseholes needed a reminder. “I am the rightful guardian of my cousin until the time his godfather, the Heir Apparent for the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, Sirius Orion Black is released from his wrongful imprisonment.” He settled his eyes on Crouch, who swallowed nervously under the full weight of his gaze, and inwardly smirked. Good.


Fear me for I am a Black.

 

///

 

It took two hours longer than he preferred before his grandson and young cousin were safely tucked away in the ancestral home for the House of Black, Ravenswood. He raised his war wards in the hopes someone with lethal intent would attempt to breach them and be porkeyed straight into the Atlantic.


After his beautiful wife dosed both of the new occupants with a safe amount of dreamless sleep, she entered his office with all the fearlessness over sixty years of marriage allowed. She perched herself on his lap as if it were her throne.


“How many lives will we be ruining, my love?”


He chuckled and held her closer.


“May Lady Hecate have mercy because the wixen world will never forget that the House of Black has none.”

Chapter Text

Sirius woke up in the Heir suite in Ravenswood with a hitching sob.

James was dead. His brother was dead.

He rolled over and saw a crib in the corner.

Harry. Merlin, his godson. His responsibility. His failure.

How could he be so stupid? How could he just leave Harry with Hagrid of all people? What the hell did Dumbledore want with Harry anyways? Merlin, he should have taken him to Alice at least, she was Harry’s godmother.

But Pettigrew! That rat!

Anger surged through his veins once more but he tempered it down. No. Not again. He’d have to get on his hands and knees and thank his grandfather or who knows what could have happened.

He heard a little cry from the crib and leapt up. Harry was stirring, his bright, green eyes—Lily’s eyes—were gazing up at him.

“Morning pup.”

“Pad!” Harry started crying. “Pad! Pad!” Sirius quickly snatched him up and cradled him close to his chest.

“I’m here pup,” he murmured into Harry’s hair, “I’m here and I’m never leaving you again.”

Harry’s crying slowly morphed into sniffles. “Pad. Mummy! Mummy. Mum.”

Sirius fought back tears. “I know pup. Mummy’s not here but I am.” And I’m never leaving, he swore, I swear to you James I’m never leaving him again.

“And don’t forget me!” The serene voice of his grandmother swept into the room. She was already dressed in her day robes, hair charmed, and face bright. Harry looked up at her curiously.

“Pad?” He turned his gaze to Sirius.

Sirius kissed his forehead, avoiding the ugly, red scar. “Pup, this is my grandmother.” He turned to Lady Melania. “Good morning, Grandmother.”

She smiled beatifically and dropped a kiss to his cheek. “Good morning darling.” She reached deftly for Harry and had him scooped securely in her arms before he could protest. “And good morning to you my little lamb…Or was it pup?”

Sirius barked out a weak laugh. “That’s my name for him, come up with your own!”

She simply nodded. “Get dressed for breakfast. Grandfather and I will be in the small morning parlour.” She turned her attention back to Harry. “And I will get my little lamb all ready for breakfast. Are you hungry Harry?” She walked back out the room and Sirius could hear Harry’s little babbles of baby conversation.

He took a deep breath, steadied himself, and dressed quickly. He would have time to mourn. He would have time to heal. But now, he needed to have breakfast with his grandfather, who was, no doubt, furious at him.

Sirius threw on the day robes available to him in his closet, but lamented the loss of his muggle jeans and leather jacket. The damn Auror department probably still had both. He was in damn prison rags when they finally released him. He followed the familiar halls to the the small morning parlour, which was richly decorated in blues and yellows for, as Lady Black would say, “a gentle introduction for the day.”

Harry yelled excitedly at his entrance. “Pad! Pad!” He waved a small spoon around as Grandmother secured him to the high chair the elves dug out from the attic.

“Morning pup!” He left a smacking kiss on Harry’s forehead, which caused Harry to giggle. Sirius still had no idea where Harry was for the past few days but he was relieved that there seemed to be little lasting impressions of Halloween night.

His grandmother pointedly held out her cheek so he dropped a quick peck to her and said, “Good morning, Grandmother,” he turned and nodded, “Grandfather.”

Lord Black was already seated at the head of the table, a book to his right, the paper to his left. He met Sirius’s gaze with a pointed frown and nodded to the seat to his right. The headline to the Daily Prophet flashed, “SIRIUS BLACK INNOCENT? HARRY POTTER TO BE RAISED BY THE BLACKS!”

Sirius’s face flushed with shame. The Prophet made it sound like Harry was going to be raised by blood purist wolves.

“Do you know why Orion and I allowed you to be housed by the Potters?”

Sirius jerked and met his grandfather’s gaze. So there would be no time for food and pleasantries, he thought. He shook his head.

Grandfather frowned. “The woman you called mum most of your life? Lady Dorea Potter?” Sirius nodded and swallowed a lump at the thought of his mum. “She was my first cousin.”

“I know.” Sirius said. The Black family tree was ingrained into his head. From the moment he could read, he knew who was family and who was not.

Grandfather snorted in distaste. “The moment you showed up at her home, shivering in the clothes you fled in, she sent an elf to inform me and your father that you were safe.”

“Wait—” Sirius frowned. He remembered that night. He remembered the screaming fight he had with Walburga; he remembered his father sitting stoically in his favorite reading chair, watching the fight with all the appearances of being bored. He remembered that witch hit him across the face and only a flicker of confusion reflected in his father’s eyes. He remembered Regulus hiding under his bed after Sirius finally shouted that he was leaving and never coming back. He had run up to his room, packed a small backpack of essentials, whispered goodbye to Regulus and ran out the front door. It took him forever to figure out Muggle transportation before he finally ended up at Gryffindor’s Keep.

“The moment you left, your father flooed to tell me. We all knew where you were heading so I sent an elf to Dorea and asked her to inform me when you arrived. We had your living arrangements set before you even knocked on the front door.” Grandfather pursed his lips. “Silly boy. Did you forget the first lesson? Did Walburga leave such a nasty taste in your mouth that it washed out everything you learned?”

Sirius swallowed. “Family first,” he intoned slowly, looking first to his grandfather, then grandmother, before finally Harry. Harry looked up at him and smiled James’s smile, Dorea’s smile, his grandfather’s smile. “The true and private motto for the House of Black is familia primum. Family first.”

“Which combines with our public motto, Toujours pur,” Grandmother continued, staring at him with all the gentle reprimand she could muster, “The House of Black is always pure, always true, to its first and most important principle: family first.”

“So, so,” he started wildly, swallowing back the discomfort of confusion, “you let me stay with the Potters because Mum was a Black?”

Grandmother laughed lightly while Grandfather nodded. “Of course. She still raised you to be a proper Black, did she not?”

A proper Black? “That’s not how Walburga saw it,” he shot back quickly.

Grandmother huffed and rolled her eyes. “Merlin that witch.” Sirius snorted in laughter before he could catch himself. That was probably the most cruel of insults for his grandmother, the most déclassé of women were “that witch.”

“Walburga was lucky she was born a Black,” Grandfather waved a hand listlessly, “My cousin Dorea was always a proper Black and she raised you to be a proper Black. I blame Charlus for your impetuous behavior.”

The automatic protest died on Sirius’s lips when Harry squealed. Apparently, Grandmother had neglected in her attention to him and he was not appreciating it. She smiled softly at Sirius before turning back to Harry and feeding him with all the enthusiasm of a new mother. Sirius sighed; he was impetuous. He was stupid and he didn’t plan and… 

“Lesson number two,” Grandfather prompted.

“No mercy to those that harm the House of Black.” He heaved a breath. Maybe Mum didn’t coach it as blood-purist ideals like Walburga but he definitely learned to protect his family above anything else.

“So it’s lesson number three we need to work on,” Grandfather noted with a slight smile.

Sirius shrugged half-heartedly and sighed. “Patience.” He looked from Harry to his grandfather and strained a smile. “The House of Black stands forever, once an enemy is declared, the enemy is dead whether they know it or not. Wait, plan, execute, and give no quarter.”

Grandfather smiled and handed him the little black book to his left. The leather bound book had vellum pages. There was no title on the front cover or in the front pages; there were simply dates and names. The first name in the book was Amulius Titus Tatis. The date next to his name was 300 B.C. when the House of Black was known as Casa Nigrae. Amulius kidnapped a daughter of the House and forced himself on her. The first date in the book was when her patriarch, Pollux Vulcan Nigrae, realized Amulius took her. The second date in the book was when the House of Black rescued her and burned Amulius, his family, his livestock and all his property to the ground with the first known version of fiendfyre. Then they salted the earth for good measure.

Sirius turned to the last page. The last entry was November 3rd, 1981, Barty Crouch, Sr.

“Add the names boy. The House of Black is still at war.”

October 31, 1981 — Peter Pettigrew

 

///

 

It was the first time in a long time that Arcturus felt his age. He sat and trembled in his magic; his aura hovered around him, unnaturally still, while he processed what Kreacher had just told him.

Why now? What could this possibly mean?

Regulus’s final orders to Kreacher rang through him: “Destroy the necklace, and if you cannot, bring it to my grandfather on the condition that he must promise to destroy it.”

“I promise to destroy this necklace.” Arcturus intoned slowly. Kreacher’s magic reached out to him and he felt the promise lay heavily on his magic. Melania, his sweet wife, inhaled sharply at the exchange; her own life and magic was now tied to this promise as well. Merlin.

What could this necklace be? Why did Kreacher just show up to him, years after Regulus’s death? How could this necklace be immune to elf magic? Beyond the purview of elf magic? And why, why did Regulus want it destroyed so badly he would force his grandfather to swear it on his magic?

“Give me the necklace, Kreacher.” Arcturus held out his hand. Was this how Regulus had died? Trying to destroy this necklace? He took a deep breath. He had so many questions but they all would have to wait until he got a closer look at this Merlin-be-damned necklace.

Kreacher hobbled forward, his hands desperately clutching the necklace to his chest. “Kreacher tried Master Black; Kreacher lives to serve—” Arcturus snatched the necklace from his hands and his aura flexed. NO!

“Take Hadrian to the safe house.”

“What?” Melania stiffened in shock. “What—”

“Leave now!” Arcturus took a deep breath, his hand squeezing the necklace. “Bring me Sirius and take Hadrian to the safe house.” He slowly took his eyes off the necklace, the monstrous thing, and met his wife’s gaze. Tears fluttered on Melania’s lashes but she quickly wiped them away.

She slowly stood from her chair and pressed a delicate kiss on his cheek. They had been enjoying afternoon tea in the green parlour, a habit they developed very early in their marriage, a time for just the two of them to connect. In all their years of marriage, Melania could count on one hand how many times Arcturus had sent her away during their tea time. The last time they were interrupted, it was a few years ago in early December when he had practically ran through the halls to raise the war wards after they were told You-Know-Who had attacked Gryffindor’s Keep, killing Dorea and Charlus.

“I shall see you for dinner.” She stared pointedly at him. They both knew she would not leave the safe house unless a patronus and an elf told her it was safe but it was a poignant reminder of what she expected from him.

He nodded stiffly as she walked through the door but otherwise did not move until Sirius sprinted in.

“What happened? Why are Grandmother and Harry going to a safe house?” Sirius paused two feet through the door before he stumbled backwards. Black magic. Something was wrong with the room, in the room, something, and he could feel it.

“The House of Black is still at war,” Arcturus said before Sirius could speak again.

Sirius shuddered and looked from his grandfather to the necklace before landing his sight on Kreacher. “Grandfather,” he said slowly, flexing a skill he was not yet used to—patience—and asked again, “What happened?”

“Wait.”

Sirius frowned but said nothing. Arcturus sat still and silent, clutching the necklace in his hand, ignoring Kreacher’s whimpers, and focusing so very closely on the wards of his home. It took a minute but he finally felt his wife and young cousin leave the house. Another moment, and then he felt the shift in the wards at the safe house. Another moment, and his connection with the safe house was severed as Melania shifted control of the wards to herself. He sighed.

“Kreacher, I order you, as the Patriarch to the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, to never tell anyone besides myself and Sirius Orion Black the Third, what Regulus’s final orders were to you. Return to Walburga.”

“Yes Master Black.”

He heard Sirius mumble a curse under his breath but ignored it. There was still much to be done.

“Tippy!” Arcturus called.

A small house elf appeared in a clean linen toga. “Yes Master Black?”

“Bring me Cassiopeia and…” Who to trust? Who had the power to execute what needed to be done? “And…and my daughter, Lucretia. Tell them its House business and I’ll accept no excuses. Bring them here immediately.”

Sirius stifled a noise of disbelief. Cassiopeia was practically a shut-in, a witch who invented more magical things then the world had use for and Lucretia was who knows where, enjoying wild, indecent adventures with her husband. But, Arcturus reasoned, they were separate from the events of the war, practically untouched by the vile and violent skirmishes of the blood war. He also knew, having been raised with Cassie and having raised Lucretia, they were true daughters to the House of Black and they would answer the call of their patriarch assiduously.

Cassie appeared first in a pop of elf apparition. She wore deep purple robes with three-quarter sleeves with little embellishments around the high neckline; something Arcturus knew to be at the height of fashion forty years ago. The robes were also a mess. Potion ingredients splattered haphazardly, one sleeve burned along the forearm, and the hem dirtied by who knew what. Her hair, however, thick, curly and truly emblematic of her Black heritage, was twisted meticulously into a tight bun—the only sign that she took care of her appearance.

She did not speak at first, but eyed Arcturus quite seriously before turning her gimlet stare to Sirius. Sirius stared back, just as confused as she was as to her purpose.

“Grandfather,” Sirius tried again but then Lucretia appeared, with a huff of annoyance.

“Father!” She immediately whirled on Arcturus. “What could possibly be so important that you called it House Business? You haven’t done that in years. Iggy nearly fell over in shock!”

Arcturus slowly unwound the necklace from his grasp. Sirius growled.

“Where did you get that?” Sirius whispered as he shook with rage. It reeked. Even from his position, Sirius could feel it, the black magic. It felt grotesque and wrong and horrifyingly familiar and it needed to go.

Arcturus finally focused on his grandson. Sirius’s attunement with mgic had been a gift and a curse growing up. It was perhaps a magical ability in his own right that he could identify magic in that way; light, grey, dark, and black, Sirius always knew. “Kreacher brought it to me.”

“And where the bloody hell did he get it?” Sirius shouted. Sirius tried to get a hold of his emotions but he was a Gryffindor at heart. And that thing felt wrong, maybe even alive? He was nearly tempted to shift into the Grim and howl in rage.

Most days Arcturus was proud of his grandson’s utter intolerance to dishonorable behavior. He knew from Dorea about Sirius’s gift and often wondered how much of Sirius’s impetuous behavior stemmed from this. It was not the first time that Arcturus wondered if something was truly wrong with Walburga; it would explain so much of Sirius’s upbringing. But now, for the first time, when Arcturus was staring at something that truly should have been impossible, that was truly horrific in all ways, that its very existence imbalanced all magic, he wondered if Sirius had a greater destiny than he would ever know. He wondered if the House of Black needed reminding of its ancient duty.

“Regulus had given this necklace to Kreacher for him to destroy, when Kreacher failed he brought it to me.” Arcturus cleared his throat, eyeing Sirius carefully. His brother was still a touchy subject and he did not know how to navigate it just yet.

“It’s Salazar Slytherin’s necklace.” Cassie declared. “Can I hold it?” She held out a hand. “Do you know what’s been done to it?”

Arcturus tightened his grip on the necklace and shook his head. “Black magic.”

Lucretia pursed her lips. “A family curse then? How is this so urgent that—”

“No Lucy.” Arcturus turned his gaze to his daughter. “Black magic. Forbidden magic. Magic that has no place in the world.” Arcturus paused and turned to Sirius, who was still standing near the door, a quick escape and as far away from the necklace as the room would allow. “When was our house built, Sirius?”

Sirius frowned, eyeing Cousin Cassie and Aunt Lucretia. Cassie drifted closer to Arcturus, studying the necklace with all the airs of studious curiosity. Lucretia had gone slightly pale but she flashed Sirius a weak, conciliatory smile. She truly missed her nephew and perhaps felt slightly responsible for his carefree attitude. Something she had passed on to both Sirius and his closest uncle, Alphard. He smiled weakly back, remembering the little adventures she would create for him as a child.

These past few weeks in Ravenswood reminded Sirius of the things he truly loved about his family, of the fond memories he had with select family members, members who often found themselves overshadowed by the louder, darker factions of the family, members like Aunt Lucretia and Uncle Alphard, who found solace in traveling or living abroad rather than deal with the arguments. These past few weeks reminded Sirius of his duty to his family, as the future patriarch to the House of Black, of his duty to Harry, to teach him how to one day be the patriarch of to the House of Gryffindor. He had much to work on, but first and foremost his goal was to learn patience.

He took a deep breath. Grandfather would never let anyone or anything hurt his family, so if he wanted to give another house lesson right now, Sirius would follow along.

“The exact date has been lost to time but our family legend states our first Patriarch was the son of Orion the Hunter and Lady Hecate.”

“And why did Lady Hecate bless Orion with a son?”

The atmosphere in the room shifted. Everyone’s eyes fell to the necklace. “To guard the balance of magic,” Sirius whispered.

Once again, Arcturus felt his age more than ever. “Follow me.”

They all walked silently through the hall, down the stairs and out onto the grounds. It was late November. The house was still adjusting as Sirius mourned James and Lily, as Arcturus attempted to bring the world back into rights after the war. He had other House business he still needed to attend to, as apparently his jumped up cousin thought he could disown his daughter for marrying a muggle-born. The same cousin who clearly drove his eldest daughter into insanity. At least the Wizengamot had learned its lesson and immediately brought Bellatrix to trial; the evidence against her was overwhelming and Arcturus had been building up energy reserves to strip her from the family magics, something that had not been done in the House of Black for centuries.

Other patriarchs of other, lesser families disowned family members without care but the House of Black had a very rigid, arduous ritual for true magical disownment. It was the height of dishonor and a progress that killed the last Patriarch to attempt it—more so because he was attempting to disown his heir whose only fault was loving a man, a quite foolish reason, especially considering that both men were in love with a woman that would eventually carry their heirs. But Arcturus was confident his cause was just; after all, Frank Longbottom was the granddaughter of Callidora Longbottom, nee Black, Arcturus’s first cousin and the daughter of his own namesake, making Frank and Bellatrix third cousins. She attacked the family and would suffer for it. Arcturus shook himself. That would have to wait. That House business would come later. This was more important; as improbable as that seemed, this was the ancient duty for the House of Black.

Arcturus flicked his wand from his wrist holster and lit the lanterns encircling the Black Circle. Ritual magic was fading in the world but the Blacks never lost sight of true magical art. Their circle was well kept and regarded; while snow and debris had fallen around the circle, the wards encapsulating it keep the circle pristine. It sat heavy and serene towards the North of the house. At the intersection of four ley lines, the Black Circle was to be envied. The first Black ancestor to enter Britannica heavily warded the area as soon as she found this intersection. After owling her brothers, Ara defended this new stretch of land against muggles and wixen alike and was nearly overcome by invaders. Her last act of defense was a blood ward. She sacrificed herself, bled on the intersection of ley lines, and infused her family magic into the area. When Ara’s brothers arrived, her blood ward extended deep within the ley lines, encapsulated several acres, and forever made the magic of this area entrenched in the Black family magic.

Her brothers built a circle here, in her name and honor. At the center of the circle lay the intersection of four ley lines, two of which run perfectly north to south and east to west. A circular altar of golden obsidian rests in the middle and the entire area is surrounded by seven, six feet tall granite rocks, spaced evenly two feet apart. At the north point, a large amethyst pillar sits and an onyx pillar marks the south point; then, moonstone for the west and amber for the east.

Arcturus dropped the necklace on the altar and took the position in the north.

“Grandfather?” Sirius stood outside the circle, gaze switching between his grandfather and the necklace. “Do you know what kind of black magic could create that?”

Arcturus shook his head. He honestly had no idea what to expect from this necklace. Perhaps his foolhardy grandson was rubbing off on him but he knew, just knew, that they needed to cleanse it immediately. “Take the position to the east, Sirius. Black magic has no place here.”

Sirius breathed in deeply and took the position at the amber pillar. He still had many questions—chief among them was how the bloody hell did Regulus get a necklace infected with black magic?—but if Grandfather wanted to do a cleansing rite first, he’d allow it.

“Cassie, to the south.” After Lucretia stood in the west point, everyone took a deep breath in, settling their magic for the ritual.

“May Lady Hecate bless our purpose,” Arcturus began.

It was several hours later, after everyone had completely sweated through their robes, sank to their knees in the Black Circle and had finally banished that thing to pits of Tartarus, when they realized how thoroughly depraved Voldemort truly was.

 

///

 

The next day, after Melania and Harry were called back home, Arcturus opened the black book.

 

December 9, 1979 — Tom Marvolo Riddle, known as Lord Voldemort — October 31, 1981 November 20, 1981

 

Chapter Text

Sirius shifted uneasily in his seat. He couldn’t remember the last time a Black Gathering was called. In fact, he was pretty sure there hasn’t been a Gathering since before he was born.

The entire Black family was currently sitting around a long, black table deep under Ravenswood. Arcturus sat at the head, with Sirius on his right and Melania on his left. Melania was the only spouse present, the only non-blood Black; as the Matriarch of the house, she had privileges other spouses did not. Her magical marriage to Arcturus was also more secure and entwined than most magical marriages today; she was his true magical partner in all ways and a true Matriarch and leader to the House of Black.

Walburga was there as well, farther down, complaining about being summoned from her home, about her blood traitor son, about poor Regulus. Sirius had flinched when she first showed up but was now steadfastly ignoring her in favor of Andromeda. Seeing her arrive with little Nymphadora was shocking and he sent a pleased smile to Grandfather. Although at eight years old, Dora was quick to protest her full name and shifted her tiny nose into a pig stout whenever other less, gracious family members stared at her. Uncle Alphard had immediately moved seats to sit next to her, regaling her with all his adventures abroad while Cedrella took to Andromeda’s side and began questioning her quite earnestly about Ted’s background and family history. Sirius had met Ted before, liked him quite a bit, and that was perhaps the only reason why he consented to show up at the Gathering without Harry. Ted and Harry were in a secure room above in Ravenswood. After everyone had gathered, Arcturus locked down the wards: no one was entering or leaving the premises without his consent.

Callidora was also there, her hands clenched white, studiously ignoring Cygnus, Andromeda and Narcissa. Narcissa sat tall, stiff, and did not dare look either in the direction of her father or her sister. Sirius wondered if it irked Lucius that the House of Black did not care about what a Malfoy thought, that the House of Black still retained strong ties to all members of their house.

Except, of course, when they betrayed the family.

Arcturus cleared his throat and everyone fell silent. “Bellatrix has betrayed the family.”

Pollux and Walburga hissed. Cygnus sighed and Callidora started to cry.

Arcturus ignored them. “I have taken a step back from my duties as Patriarch. I had trusted Orion to lead the family in the past and then when he passed unexpectedly, I had taken time to grieve.”

“I have ignored,” he glared at Pollux, “or have been unaware of certain decisions this family has made.” He glanced at Andromeda. “That ends today.”

Arcturus shared a look with Sirius. They had been discussing, post ritual, Sirius’s attunement with magic. Arcturus wanted to test it out more thoroughly, deliberately, so they went back out to the ritual circle, cast a circle dampening all outside magical influence, and piece by piece Arcturus slowly brought in magical objects. Some of the objects were non-magical but the rest fell within the entire magical spectrum, from wild, or neutral magic, to light, grey, dark, and then black. Sirius excelled at sensing dark and black magic but he struggled to tell the difference between light and wild magic. Arcturus wasn’t too surprised, wild magic in itself was rare and pure in such a way that it was easily confused for light magic. Light magic had intent however; whereas wild magic was boundless.

Today, however, they were going to test with real ramifications. Bellatrix allowed herself to consort with black magic and Arcturus wanted to make sure no one else in the family was tainted.

“Sirius is my heir—”

“He was not raised to be a proper Black!” Arcturus was unsurprised with Walburga’s outburst. He spared a glance to Melania and found her pursing her lips in distaste; it took everything in him not to smile.

“He was raised by my sister you little chit!” Cassie snapped. “Now sit down and shut up before I wonder if my brother went completely round the twist when he raised you!”

“At least I married!” Pollux stood up. “And had children to continue our House unlike you!”

“Cousins,” Arcturus drawled, “settle down.” He was getting too old for this. Arcturus turned to Andromeda. “Have you been teaching young Dora the House lessons?”

Sirius admired Andromeda’s unflinching face. She was always a true Slytherin. Her face was clear and she carefully planned everything, except when she recklessly fled the family after accidentally getting pregnant in the middle of her seventh year. Sirius wondered sometimes if she planned that too, if she knew it would be easier to ruin her pureblood image while she was still at Hogwarts rather than subject herself to her mother’s mercenary marriage goals.

Andromeda smiled at her daughter. “Lesson one?”

Dora grinned toothily. “Family first. But I haven’t decided if that includes all of you lot yet. I like Cousin Sirius of course, ‘cause he’s a dog. And so far Uncle Alphard has cool stories.”

Sirius laughed a sharp barking laugh and was joined with a few chuckles around the table but Melania turned to Sirius. “What does she mean a dog?”

Sirius sputtered into a cough. Right. “Um…nothing. It’s—”

“Answer your grandmother, Sirius.” Arcturus intoned, touching the table with his right hand.

This was what made a Black Gathering so rare. The room was created within a ritual circle, runes covered the walls, chairs, and table. Everything was spelled to prevent violence. Technically the use of magic within this room could only be defensive in nature and could never be used to harm a person with Black blood. It was meant to be a failsafe, on the occasions when passions were enflamed and brothers fought brothers. The Patriarch also had the ability to activate charms in the table to ensure everyone spoke honestly. Sirius did not think that this was how that little feature was going to be used today.

“I’m an animagus.” Sirius answered reluctantly. He still hadn’t registered, hadn’t even thought about it really. He would discuss with Grandfather though, to see if he should even register. He no longer trusted the Ministry, not with how they handled his lack of a trial or their handling of Harry. Even now, Grandfather and he were fighting for property control of the Potter Cottage in Godric’s Hollow. For Merlin’s sake the property has been a part of the Potter estate for centuries and these arseholes were trying to turn into a damn memorial. And then when they were organizing funeral rites…the Ministry almost didn’t turn over the bodies. That fight was over now; Grandfather had taken care of it.

Alphard laughed sharply in surprise. “When the bloody hell did you do that?”

At the same time, Lucretia beamed proudly at him and asked, “What kind of dog are you?”

“I’m…um…a Grim, actually.”

The answer sent a ripple of shock down the table, except for Dora, who leaned forward and asked, “What’s a Grim? Is that the breed for the big, black dog you turn into?”

Arcturus murmured a curse under his breath. “Now really, Sirius, that’s something you should tell us!”

Sirius flushed with embarrassment. “I forgot okay! James and I did it in school…” Sirius paused. “And Peter, too.”

Arcturus shared a look with his grandson. Now that explained his magical sensitivity. He turned back to his young cousin, Dora, and smiled indulgently. “A Grim is a big, black dog that is usually a harbinger for Death. If your cousin Sirius’s form is an actual Grim, he gains some of the magical properties the original species has.” He turned to Sirius. “Can you walk in shadows?”

Sirius nodded reluctantly. “Met Death once. He was at…” Sirius swallowed back a sob and blinked back tears. “At their place when I went.”

Arcturus rested his hand, softly but quickly on Sirius’s, before turning back to Dora. “Animagi who transform into magical creatures adopt some of the magical gifts those creatures have. As a metamorphmagus, shifting will be no problem for you but finding your animal spirit through all the physical shifts you can do may be difficult.”   

Dora nodded solemnly, still staring curiously at Sirius.

Arcturus settled a look on his grandson, the romantic, the fool, before turning to his family. “Grims are also notorious for being utterly intolerant of black magic.” He waited, and watched, until Walburga and Pollux shifted slightly. He wasn’t surprised at this point, but disappointed in himself for not seeing it earlier.

His own father, Sirius Black II, was actually the second child. Phineas Black named his heir after himself, but young Phineas had died in a horrible encounter with some muggles. Then after Arcturus’s younger brother, Regulus, died, Pollux’s father become second in line after him. If he had died before Orion was born, then Pollux could have been Patriarch. Now Arcturus could see that instead, Pollux maneuvered his way into having his daughter marry the heir.

Arcturus reached for his wife’s hand and prayed, prayed fervently to Lady Hecate, that his only son was not potioned into a marriage, that he was not so blind and unaware to not realize his son entered into a marriage drugged.

“Lesson number two, Dora?” He asked quietly.

Dora shifted a little uneasily in the silence but her mother quickly grabbed her hand to reassure her. “No mercy to those that harm the family.”

“No mercy,” Arcturus agreed, “even if they were once considered family.” Arcturus nodded to his grandson.

Sirius shifted into the Grim on the table. This part of the plan he was ready for. Sniff out black magic. He changed the plan, a little, by shifting, but he wanted to be sure. No, he needed to be sure that he was sensing magic correctly. Today was not the day for mistakes.

He whuffed at Dora and tickled her face with his nose. Wild magic. He wondered if all shapeshifting abilities were wild magic. Grandfather and Grandmother were grey, but he already knew that. Cousin Cedrella, to Andromeda’s right, was very light, as was Andromeda and Cousin Callidora. Uncle Alphard was grey with a touch of wild—he smirked when Sirius sniffed his way and he wondered if perhaps he was an animagus as well.

Aunt Lucretia was grey, as was Narcissa. Cousin Cassie had some wild magic swirling in her core, but her core was dark. Dark, but no where near black. Uncle Cygnus was the same, dark but not black. His mouth was twisted in confusion and concern when Sirius came his way and had crossed his arms protectively across his chest. His eyes, however, were only for his two remaining daughters and he glanced between them frequently.

Which left Walburga and Pollux. They both practiced dark magic, that was clear, but Sirius never had both the time or foresight to sift deeper into his senses to pinpoint black magic. He sniffed and flexed his magical sensitivity and…there.

Sirius bounded up the table, shifted smoothly before slamming his hand on the table to activate the truth rune.

“Did you potion Father into marriage?”

Walburga gritted her teeth, but a small, soft “Yes,” filtered through.

“Was it your idea?” Sirius turned to Pollux.

He did not attempt to fight the rune and sneered. “Yes. And now one of my heirs will be Patriarch. Regulus would have been better but I guess I’ll settle for you.”

Melania choked back a sob. Her son…and she never noticed.

“Walburga and Pollux have betrayed the family,” Arcturus said softly. He was an idiot and a fool and when could this have possibly happened?

“How dare you!” Walburga shrieked. “Everything I’ve done is for this family! You are the one who is betraying the family! By allowing muggles to taint our line!” She pointed harshly at Dora.  “She’s not a Black! She’ll never be a true Black. Not like me!”

“Quiet you old hag!” Lucretia snapped.

“Walburga is right.” Pollux stood and glared at everyone in turn. “It was a mistake to let Arcturus be Patriarch, he’s not strong enough. I should have been given the title. I should—”

“You won’t be getting the title.” Sirius growled. He felt disgusted and queasy and for the first time, in a long time, he wished his father was here, both of them. He wished James was here. He wished Mum was here. Should he have known? He could sense black magic, how could he not realize what Walburga was doing? “You’ll get your wish. Your grandson will be Patriarch but you will never be the Patriarch. You are no longer a Black at all.”

“You potioned the heir to the House of Black into a marriage. You…you…” Arcturus struggled to speak, still reeling.

“You have betrayed the House of Black in word and in deed.” Sirius picked up where Arcturus faltered. “You have harmed the House of Black by potioning its heir and abusing the sons of succession.”

Walburga hissed. “I never had to hit Regulus to ensure he was in line to be a proper Black.”

Sirius laughed harshly. “My real mother never had to hit me at all to raise me to be a proper Black.” Sirius pressed another rune and Walburga and Pollux were magically silenced and bound to their chairs. Nothing they could say would change what was about to happen.

He looked to the rest of the family and began the rite of disownment. “Bellatrix, daughter of Cygnus the Third, has betrayed the House of Black. She tortured, to insanity, her cousin, Frank Longbottom, the grandson of Callidora. What say you House of Black?”

Dora looked to her mother for guidance but followed with everyone when they said, “Aye.”

“Walburga, daughter of Pollux, has betrayed the House of Black. She potioned its Heir, Orion, son of Arcturus the Third, and abused her eldest son. What say you House of Black?”

“Aye.”

“Pollux, son of Cygnus the Second, has betrayed the House of Black. He potioned its Heir, Orion, son of Arcturus the Third and conspired against its Patriarch, Arcturus the Third. What say you House of Black?”

“Aye.”

Arcturus sighed, in relief, in grief, in exhaustion, and, almost reluctantly, pressed two runes, one to represent each Walburga and Pollux. They were immediately porkeyed out of the room and out of the wards. He couldn’t yet stop them from accessing their properties or family magic until the ritual…but…he couldn’t help but feel guilty.

Guilty because his son was potioned and he didn’t notice. Guilty because his cousins were the ones to do it. Guilty because stripping either of them of family magic at this age could be deadly. Guilty because he failed the House of Black.

There was brief silence before Callidora choked on a sob. Lucretia hugged her tight as silent tears fell down her cheeks. Alphard’s hands were clenched tightly as he stared at Lucretia. The two of them were closest to Orion. They both should have seen a difference in behavior; they both fled to the continent when things with the family were rough. They both should have stayed.

Cygnus, on the other hand, almost sighed with relief. With Pollux gone, he might finally get the divorce he wanted. “What happens now?” He asked. “Will Andromeda be reinstated?” Andromeda looked up sharply, first to her father then to Arcturus.

Cassie scoffed. “She was never disinherited to begin with. Pollux and Walburga can destroy all the tapestries they want, nephew, but only Arcturus and Sirius can disinherit someone.”

Sirius nodded, giving a roguish smile to Andromeda before looking back at everyone. He knew the answer Cygnus’s first question. “What happens now is we clean up our act.” Several people opened and closed their mouths but could not find a response. “Voldemort fucked up the wixen world with his pure-blood rhetoric. He turned families against each other. But we’re the House of Black, so that means family first. We still have enemies out there. I don’t trust the Ministry to do right for us, I don’t trust Dumbledore, and I don’t trust Death Eaters.” He leveled a stare at Narcissa and she raised a perfect, blonde eyebrow. “We’ve have an ancient duty to guard the balance of magic. Grindelwald made everyone fear dark magic so much that light magic has grown and thrown us off balance. We find a balance.”

Arcturus smiled softly at his grandson while Melania beamed with pride. A little patience and follow through worked wonders on Sirius. Lucretia also smiled proudly on.

And then Cedrella smirked. “Perhaps we can start by teaching these wixen idiots that most muggleborns aren’t actually muggleborns at all.”

 

///

 

House members were filtering to and from Ravenswood so frequently that he knew Sirius would not think it suspicious of him for having tea with Alphard and Cassie. The House was still reeling from the loss of three family members. He, himself, was still very weak after performing three rites of magical disownment. Pollux and Walburga nearly died instantaneously, or at least that’s what their elves informed him. He did not get a notice from Azkaban so he could only assume that Bellatrix survived.

To the wixen public, their deaths were at first a mere mention in the Daily Prophet, core failure from dabbling in black magic. But then Dumbledore, the nitwit, tried to use this as evidence that the Blacks were not a good home to raise their saviour, the Boy-Who-Lived. He raised the issue in the Wizengamot and the press took it from there. Melania, his precious wife, threw it all back in Dumbledore’s face with such ferocity that Arcturus just had to sit back and beam with absolute pride.

She arranged a playdate with Neville, with the help of Callidora and Cygnus, who had to convince his once good friend Oliver, Neville’s grandfather, to let Augusta socialize Neville outside the safety of their home.

Several reporters may have heard, through a friend of a friend of a friend of course, that “The-Boy-Who-Lived” was going on a playdate with the Longbottom boy. What they saw, however, was the formerly disinherited Andromeda having a small picnic with her younger sister and Draco laughing with Harry and Neville as Dora shifted her nose into a pig snout. Rounding out the group was Melania and Callidora, as the great-grandmothers who wanted a small peaceful outing.

Several photos of the three boys laughing at Dora’s pig snout were printed in various newspapers. Melania also, oh so graciously, took time out of her busy schedule as a doting great-grandmother to give a comment to a nearby reporter—“That Boy-Who-Lived epithet is so cruel to my great-grandson! How dare Dumbledore constantly remind of us of the terrible loss we have suffered.” She dabbed away a few stray tears before going in for the kill, “And that wizard’s absolute disregard for my cousin, Lily. If anything miraculous happened that night, why it was obviously her doing! Credit where credit is due, Lily Potter should be known as the witch who defeated You-Know-Who!” And with that, The-Boy-Who-Lived was never mentioned again and the House of Black was suitable once more to raising the son of their saviour.

But Melania was right; Lily Potter did do something that night to protect her child. His scar was in the shape of the ancient rune of sowilo. Did she cut that into Harry? Did she do a ritual that put it there? Arcturus wanted to know what happened that night, and he knew of two diligent researchers and experimenters who could figure it out.

Cassiopeia was ten minutes late. He was unsurprised; unless he said House business and ordered an elf to get her, she would never stop an experiment before it was finished. Arcturus enjoyed that time, however, by discussing Sirius with Alphard.

“There’s some speculation that animal spirits are actually shaped by our young lives rather than with us at birth.” Alphard reached for his tea before settling back into his chair.

Arcturus shot Alphard a disbelieving look. “And by those of us who recognize our Lady, animal spirits are born within us as guides to our ethereal nature.”

“Born within us or born to us are two very different conclusions, Cousin.”

They shared a look in silence. Pollux used to complain constantly that his eldest was more Ravenclaw than Slytherin but Arcturus always saw the shrewd, cunning Alphard possessed. Alphard may have always had his head stuck in a book but Arcturus knew most of the time he was listening in on conversations rather than reading. No one paid attention to him when they thought his attention was elsewhere but Alphard probably knew every secret of every person in his vicinity. Combined with his knack to see into the heart of the matter and Arcturus knew he would be able to solve the mystery of Lily Potter with Cassiopeia.

As for Sirius… “Either Sirius was born a Grim or was chosen to be a Grim.” 

Silence fell on them again. Merlin, he thought, Which was better?

Cassie popped into the parlour with a loud crack and Arcturus nearly jumped in his seat. “Was that necessary?” He grumbled.

She sniffed. “You’re the one who wants to interrupt my experiments! I was—”

“Another time,” Arcturus waved her to a chair. “You’re both here because I have a more pressing matter for you to research.”

Chapter Text

September 9, 1986

Five years later, things have finally begun to settle down for the House of Black. The wixen world slowly recovered from the devastating blood war and were moving forward and past their blood prejudice. Well, some were. Arcturus, with the help of Sirius, were pushing for more inclusive legislation for muggleborns. However, with the ascension of the absolute fool, Cornelius Fudge, as Minister, the progress was slow.

Cedrella, on the other hand, was having a much easier time with the public. With the help of the Goblin Horde, Cedrella advocated for inheritance tests for muggleborns. When muggleborns were wary of the consequences of this, Ted stepped forward and got tested at Gringotts to find he descended from the extinct Mole Family, whose most prominent member was the former Headmistress Eupraxia Mole. While he was unable to recover the family magic, as it had been long since enveloped into the general ambience of wild magic, it did encourage others to seek out their inheritance. Some muggleborns descended from families that were decimated during the war and were thus welcomed to join the family; others were bastard children that came back to haunt the more traditional families. Arcturus laughed at that and was even more grateful for his updating tapestry.

The tapestry became especially helpful when Cygnus finally got to divorce his cheating wife. Apparently it was widely known in some pureblood circles that Druella had never been faithful to Cygnus. Arcturus thought he would spend the rest of his life wondering why the bloody hell Pollux wanted a cheating chit in the family, until he realized that Druella was a pureblooded snob just like Walburga and had been the one to tell Pollux of Andromeda’s dalliances with a muggleborn. May that sanctimonious bastard rot in Tartarus for eternity.

The bitch didn’t get a dime of the Black fortune, just like she deserved, so unfortunately, she decided to claim all three of her daughters as her own and told every reporter she could find that she manipulated the Black tapestry to lie about her daughters’ true fathers—three different fathers because the chit wanted to drag Cygnus through the mud. Melania was forced to clean up the mess with the press and Arcturus did not envy his wife’s position. He was just relieved that she was able to handle the ridiculous accusations—Andromeda and Bellatrix were practically twins for Merlin’s sake! How in the world anyone thought they had different fathers was beyond him when the Blacks were infamous for their updating tapestries! Did these wixen idiots really think that a Rosier would have the magical power and ability to fool the ancient, runic magic woven into the tapestries? The rune sequence was a family secret but he was tempted to share it to put those silly rumors to rest. Thankfully, Melania was the one to handle those rumors so the family secret was safe.

And now, as a freer and happier man, Cygnus was socializing with old classmates again. Oliver and him met up frequently, and occasionally, brought along their grandsons to their get-togethers. Augusta was still wary of socializing with the family who raised the woman who tortured her son but she was appeased by Callidora’s description of the brutal disowning rite the family bestowed upon Bellatrix.

Melania and Andromeda, capitalizing on Cygnus’s reemergence into the social scene and Cedrella’s success with muggleborn inheritance, began to raise the social power of the Black family. Shamelessly using the three young boys, who became fast friends, they reconnected with the Longbottoms and Malfoys, maneuvering around Augusta’s fear and Abraxas’s prejudice with careful steps. Arcturus was happy to see the new generation of Black cousins were friends but that brought him to Sirius.

Arcturus was beginning to sympathize with his son. Had Sirius always been this stubborn? Had he always been this…this…ridiculous! He groaned. Sirius wasn’t stupid. He was bright and hardworking and loyal. One of the most eligible bachelors in the British Isles but getting him to go on one date was proving to be beyond the power of his wife and cousins. Andromeda had been trying to set him up for years and now it was up to Arcturus to talk some sense into him.

He rubbed his forehead, fighting off the headache that had crept up during his fight with Sirius. Merlin’s beard! Who would have thought that forcing a man to date would be such a trial! He had enough on his plate without worrying about his line of succession.

Cedrella was trying to push for a magical heritage class at Hogwarts and the Light faction of the Wizengamot was trying to stop it, calling it a pureblood agenda against muggleborns. The Grey faction was supportive; they saw the potential for muggleborns to join their ancestral families with an understanding of wixen culture. And that was exactly why the Dark faction was opposed—they didn’t want muggleborns to understand the depth of wixen culture and family magic.

Then, Alphard and Cassiopeia had found two broken ritual circles in Harry’s blown up nursery; they were still trying to figure out what rituals were done but it was clear Lily Potter formed one and Voldemort did the other. They were no closer to figuring out what exactly had happened that night and it worried Arcturus immensely. Was that bastard going to make another horcrux? He shuddered to think about it. He had watched Sirius’s interactions with Harry closely after he was told, wondering how to ask about the magical energies around young Harry without tipping Sirius off.

But that was a problem for another day. He was starting to feel his age; at eighty-five years old, Arcturus was approaching the last twenty years of his life. Wixen were, thankfully, long lived with proper magical care but Arcturus wasn’t thinking of his future, no, he needed to ensure his House’s future. Whether Sirius liked it or not, he needed to marry and have children, preferably as many as he could, to continue the Black line. For Merlin’s sake he was the last Black male of his generation! And Harry, even though he was practically his grandson, he was the Heir Apparent to the House of Gryffindor.

“Grandpa!” Harry ran through his office door with the force of a tornado. “Dad said we’re going to the Wizen-gah-mot today!”

Arcturus smiled at his young cousin. At six years old, Harry was a rambunctious child, tearing through the halls of Ravenswood with Neville and Draco at his heels. He enjoyed it, and he knew Melania did too. There were days he was reminded of his failure as a father to Orion…but he promised to Orion what he knew Sirius promised to James. I won’t leave him. I’ll take care of him. Even if that means conspiring against Sirius with his own son.

“Are you ready for today Harry?” Arcturus held out his arms for a hug.

“Yes!” Harry bounced over to him and clambered onto his lap. “Grandma put out my icky robes to put on and Neville’s gonna be there too but we promised not to talk during the meeting.” Harry paused, thinking hard. “Or make faces. Grandma says if we make weird faces in the Wizen-gam-not then a curse in the room will make our faces like that forever!”

Arcturus laughed and held Harry close. “You should always listen to your great-grandmother; she knows best.” Arcturus leaned in closer and smiled conspiratorially. “Now, I have a secret mission for you.”

///

It was Harry’s first time in the Wizengamot. He sat with his dad, Heir Sirius Black, and grandpa, Lord Black, in the Black box. Lord Black was trying to get the proper holidays recognized in Hogwarts but Dumbledore—or “that wizard” as said by Lady Black whenever she was particularly angry—did not think it would welcome the muggleborns into their society and besides, Dumbledore argued, no one really followed the old ways. Lord Black sometimes felt his lips would be permanently pursed in displeasure if he hung around Dumbledore often.

But Harry wasn’t particularly interested in why the old ways were out of fashion at Hogwarts. (He would still follow them as Grandma had taught him to.) No, Harry was on a secret mission given to him by Grandpa. He had tried to tell Neville before they went into their separate boxes but Dad had kept him close by. Draco said they should come up with a secret language and now Harry knew Draco was right—except if he told Draco that then he’d never hear the end of it.

Suddenly there was an uproar from the people in the room and Harry jumped in his seat. Dad put his hand on his shoulder and shot him a smile. Right. The mission. He grinned back but then scanned the room. He was quickly distracted by the pretty witch sitting next to Lady Amelia Bones.

He knew Lady Bones because sometimes when Grandma had tea parties with Auntie ‘Dromeda and Aunt Narcissa, they would invite a bunch of ladies over and Lady Bones would bring over Susan and sometimes they would play together.

What Harry did not know was that Lady Bones was the head of the DMLE after Barty Crouch, Sr. retired because of the scandal of his Death Eater son. When Crouch, Jr. was found to have also been a part of Bellatrix’s torture brigade, Arcturus felt…smug. He felt bad for feeling smug but he couldn’t help but feel that maybe Lady Hecate was listening to his prayers of ruining Crouch, Sr.’s life. When Crouch, Sr.’s wife also died shortly thereafter, Arcturus was almost tempted to write the date in the book and be done with the bastard. But then his wife informed him that the late Mrs. Crouch had been sick for a while but no where near her death bed. And when Arcturus still did not understand, Melania hit him in the back of the head and said, “What would you do if it were our son sent to dementors?”

For the benefit of the wixen world, Bartemius Crouch, Sr. had killed himself from the shame of his only son joining the Death Eaters before a stray candle burned his house to the ground. For the benefit of the Black family, Barty Crouch, Sr. was killed with a piercing charm to the heart and his only son was transfigured into a piece of paper that burned in a fire that Arcturus may have accidentally started after learning that Azkaban was good for his heir but gods forbid Crouch’s heir having to suffer.

Arcturus did, however, rescue Winky, a very dedicated and loyal house elf. And although he did resent that he could not salt the earth of the burned home without raising suspicions, he settled for taking all of Crouch’s money, as Crouch had no remaining relatives and was coincidentally the nephew of Caspar Crouch and Charis Black (Arcturus sent an offering to Charis, as she had passed years earlier from dragon pox, and thanked her for her inadvertent service to the family). Then after he laughed all the way to Gringotts, he wrote in the book.

November 3rd, 1981 — Bartemius Crouch, Sr. — January 18, 1982

Harry also did not know any of this. What he did know, however, was that his dad needed a wife like Grandpa had Grandma. Someone strong and smart and pretty and able to stand up to Dad because Grandma always said that Dad was too headstrong sometimes. Harry also thought, but never said to his dad, that since his first parents had loved each other (and him) so much that his dad deserved a love like that too.

So he followed Grandpa’s mission…and maybe, maybe, he went a little farther than Grandpa had asked but she was a really pretty witch! And Dad need a pretty witch because his first mum was really, really pretty but Dad always said that she was also super smart. So his new mum needed to be super smart and he couldn’t just tell from looking at her if she was smart. So when the Wizengamot had closed the session for the day and Grandpa, Dad, and Cousin Oliver were talking with some other pretty important people, Harry grabbed Neville and quickly took off after the pretty witch.

“Harry!” Neville whisper-shouted. “Where are we going?”

“Secret mission!” Harry wove through the crowd, checking on Neville because sometimes he would trip at the absolute worst times.

“Mission?” Neville grinned. “What do we have to do?” He hiked up his robes because running in robes were trip-inducing and secret mission time was not the time to trip.

They quickly squeezed into an elevator. The pretty witch was there but people were in the way. Harry shushed Neville before he could talk. When the witch got out at the Department for the Regulation and Control for Magical Creatures, Harry and Neville followed.

“Grandpa said that I should find a new mum.” Harry whispered to Neville as they followed the witch around the floor.

Neville nodded. “Is this the mission? How do you find a new mum?”

“Well—” Harry frowned; he had this worked out in his head. “She needs to be pretty and smart, like my first mum. But Grandma always says Dad needs someone who’s strong.”

“Right.” Neville nodded. This was all perfectly normal.

The pretty witch stopped in front of a door and suddenly spun around. The boys dove behind a desk but they heard her quick footsteps and knew they were doomed. She rounded the desk corner and examined the two boys crouching down, staring up at her with fear, worry, and embarrassment in their eyes.

She smiled and Harry saw that she was really, really pretty up-close too. She had soft, wavy strawberry, blonde hair and deep, blue eyes. Her hands were on her hips but she didn’t look angry, not like when Auntie ‘Dromeda would do the same. No, she was smiling still, and said rather cheerfully, “Do you boys want to see a drake?”

They looked at her, then each other, mouths open in shock, before yelling, “YES!” They scrambled up and each took an outreached hand from the witch.

“Draco’s going to be so jealous!” Harry grinned at Neville.

Rose McKinnon led both boys into her office. She had saw them running about the floor but had no idea what they were doing there. She recognized both from various newspaper pictures, but Harry was the spitting image of James as well and, while she was a year below James and Sirius, she remembered them both well. She saw Sirius in the Wizengamot today but had no idea where he was now. After she showed the boys the baby drake she had housed in a secure and comfortable cage, she sent a quick note to Amelia, hoping Amelia would find Sirius and Lord Longbottom before they panicked.

Harry was so distracted by the drake that he completely forgot the mission until Dad and Grandpa stormed into the room with all the fury of a Black wix set on decimating whoever thought they could kidnap two children under the protection of the House of Black. Not only did they find the two boys safe, Harry and Neville were vibrating with excitement and completely enthralled with the little drake crawling up Rose’s arm. (Sirius would not admit until years later that soon after he entered the room, he was also completely enthralled…but with a witch instead.)

Later, safe at home, after Harry was firmly scolded for running off, Grandpa took Harry aside and commended Harry on his good choice. Then, much later, Harry had succeeded in getting a new mum.

Chapter Text

October 19, 1987

“Magical children need to be protected!”

Arcturus sighed. It was the first time in years that he was alone during a Wizengamot session. Sirius was at home with a new baby girl, Carina, and wanted to give Rose some rest. Harry was determined to be the best big brother ever and has only left Carina’s side to sleep. He smiled, happily, at the thought of his newest great-grandchild; finally, his house’s future was a bit more secure. He did not begrudge Sirius for wanting to spend time with his new baby, but dealing with these dunderheads on his own was tiresome.

The MATTHEW Act—Magical Aid Targeted To Help Endangered Wix—had been debated for months now, nearly a year. Lord Longbottom had brought forth the legislation after several months of writing with Cygnus and Andromeda. It was truly Andromeda’s brain child, a beautiful piece of legislation that would see a new branch of the Ministry formed to focus solely on the accidental magic of children. Unfortunately, she realized the necessity of such legislation after a child died during her shift at St. Mungo’s from repeated child abuse. Matthew, the young boy, had been a half-blood abused at the hands of his muggle father; there were several Auror reports of extreme accidental magic that only resulted in the father’s memory being wiped but no further action taken by the Auror department. After the outrage had settled, it was realized that there was no legislation, no guidance, truly nothing that the department could do. It was a holy storm of epic proportions.

Now Arcturus had to sit back and watch the Grey faction foam at the mouth at the thought of magical child getting abused by muggles, while the Light faction went through an identity crisis because some of the Dark faction agreed with them. (He was trying not to enjoy watching Light faction members straddle closer to Grey, but every time Dumbledore lost a supporter, Arcturus felt younger and younger.) Of course the Dark faction was adamantly against provided services to muggleborns, healthy or abused, while the Light faction felt that bringing muggleborns into magical society at the first sign of magic would break their muggle-orientated families. Personally, Arcturus thought leaving magical children in non-magical homes would destroy muggle families quicker but that was not the point of the legislation.

He lit his seal and waited, impatiently, for Albus bloody Dumbledore, Chief Wix of the Wizengamot and preposterous muggle-loving, ignorant fool of a wix, to give him the floor. Dumbledore waited until there were no other seals lit, no other comments to be made, before he gripped his quill and acknowledged with a tight nod, “Lord Arcturus Black the Third, Duke of Blackmoor, has the floor.”

“How kind of you to give everyone a chance to speak, Chief Wix,” Arcturus smiled cooly, “It has given me a chance to collect my thoughts after hearing several ignorant and circular arguments.” Everyone shifted slightly in their seats and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lord Longbottom hide a smirk. “The MATTHEW Act is aimed to protect children. All magical children, regardless of pureblood or muggle parents.” Arcturus avoided looking at Lord Abraxas Malfoy—if any pureblooded parent would be worried about potential abuse, Arcturus would put Malfoy at the top of the list. Narcissa refused to leave Draco alone with Abraxas and, from what Melania heard, Lucius fully supported his wife’s plan. “Accidental magic, no matter the age, is caused by great emotional distress. The MATTHEW Act puts a plan in place for Aurors and newly appointed Keepers to monitor accidental magic of young wix and establish if these wix are acting out within the normal range or if there is a criminal or abusive situation that needs to be addressed.”

He paused, briefly, to glare at Lord Macmillan, a lily-livered pouf who wouldn’t know his wand tip from handle. Macmillan had taken the charge for the Light faction, twisting this legislation into an anti-muggle campaign, and Arcturus was nearly ready to curse him into silence—how this man could possibly be related to his wife was beyond him. “Magical children, regardless of parentage, must be protected. We have already failed young Matthew, a boy who had several episodes of accidental magic, who was protecting himself from the abuse of his father, before he was taken from us too soon. Are we to fail more magical children? Are we to let children be abused when we have the power to stop it? Are we to let children die?”

He paused but did not sit down. He stood there, holding the floor, until he saw Dumbledore twitch, clearly hoping to cut off his time. He cleared his throat. “The MATTHEW Act has several stages and steps to protect magical children. It begins with magical education, for both the child and parent, if necessary. Then a magical primary school when the child is old enough. If the situation becomes abusive, Aurors and Keepers have steps to stop the abuse, to protect the young wix. The absolute last resort is taking a young wix from their home, be it magical or muggle.” He paused again, glancing now to some of the Light faction that has been slowly shifting grey. “The MATTHEW Act does not advocate for the destruction of muggle ties between muggleborn wix and their families. It merely addresses a long-standing problem we wix have endured since muggles have turned on us, fearing us, and, for a brief time, burning us—”

“Now, Lord Black that’s out of line! Muggles do not burn—”

Arcturus pushed some magic into his aura to shift it into the visible spectrum. “I have the floor Lord Macmillan!” He shouted thunderously. Macmillan stumbled to his seat as a force of magical energy swept across the hall. Arcturus let the flow of his magical energy settle through the room, fueled by his overwhelming rage. “We are hidden from muggles. Magic has protected us from burnings for many centuries now. But that does not mean their silly little church has forgotten us! Our children are forced to acknowledge holidays of a religion that once swore to kill us all! My grandchildren went on Christmas break and not Yule break! Celebrated Halloween instead of Samhain. But I will not tolerate this!”

Arcturus’s aura swelled, and the air in the Wizengamot shot several degrees colder. He hadn’t been this angry since Sirius wasn’t given a trial. “I will not let muggle-loving rhetoric ignore the death of a magical child! I will not let you spew nonsense about muggle and magical harmony. We are hidden you fools! We hide entire sections of their country from them without a single one of them noticing. But you want to let them kill their children! To kill magical children who belong with us! Who will attend Hogwarts when they turn eleven—no, IF they turn eleven because you don’t care if they turn eleven, as long as they are abused by the hands of their parents!” Small hardened snowflakes surrounded him and extended nearly across the entire hall. Everyone was still in the face of the infamous Black rage. Arcturus took several deep, heaving breaths as he attempted to reign in his magic. “The next death of young child will be on your hands. Matthew’s blood is on all our hands. But the next—” His eyes swept the entire room, before landing on Macmillan. “The next will be on yours.”

He sat with little fanfare. His aura, visible, and the ice had not yet melted so his rage will still palpable but he had nothing left to say to these idiots.

Lord Longbottom lit his seal but did not wait for Dumbledore to give him the floor. “I call for a vote on the MATTHEW Act.”

Later that day, Arcturus relaxed in the green parlour with Melania. The MATTHEW Act passed 143 to 57; the factions blurred more today than he had ever seen. Several stringently Light and Dark families voted against the Act and he saw the moment when more flexible members of each faction realized their folly. The Grey faction won a great victory today, had gained more members from both sides of the aisle, but Arcturus was exhausted.

He held his wife’s hand, running his thumb slowly along her soft skin, and sipped his tea.

“Samhain is coming up,” Melania murmured. She could feel tension from her deceptively calm husband and knew that talking would either distract him or prompt him.

“Do you think he’ll forgive me?”

Ah, prompt him it is. She turned to him and asked, “Who, love?”

“Orion.” Arcturus took in a deep, shuddering breath before his veneer broke and he sobbed. Melania quickly settled herself in his lap, held him close, and cried into Arcturus’s neck. Together they mourned their own failures as parents.

///

October 31, 1987

Sirius struggled at Samhain. He always did but this year was different. On the first anniversary of James’s and Lily’s death, he held Harry close, played with him all day, tucked him into bed, and then got roaring drunk with Remus and sobbed his eyes out on their headstone. The next year, Harry was beginning to understand that Samhain was the day his parents left forever; so he cried all day and asked Sirius to bring them back. The year after that Harry began calling Sirius dad more regularly. He understood that he had parents before Sirius but no longer remembered them clearly enough to mourn. When Harry was five, Sirius joined in on the Samhain festivities that Lady Black had been hosting the past three years. He watched Harry, Neville, and Draco run around the fire; he joined in the feast and gave offerings to his ancestors. Sirius even wrote down everything about Harry, everything he had done these past few years, everything he learned, and burned the paper in the fire for Lily and James. Then, when everyone had gone home for the night, he got roaring drunk with Remus and sobbed in the graveyard. He did that again the next year and the year after that, with the only change that Rose now took him home from the graveyard.

On the morning of Samhain this year, he woke up to a swaddled baby and a bottle of milk.

“She’s your responsibility today,” Rose said unceremoniously. “Don’t forget to introduce her to your father and your brothers. I’m sure they’re all laughing their asses off at the idea of you with a daughter.” She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek and smirked on her way out the door.

Carina wiggled in his arms before blinking blearily up at him. She had his dark curly hair but her mother’s deep, blue eyes. She was perfect and his and he could practically hear James laughing at him now, Well, well, look at you Padfoot, still the center of attention with the ladies. He smiled sadly at the thought before shifting into a sitting position and taking on a role that was still strange to him sometimes: fatherhood.

“Well, little star, do you want to meet your uncles?”

He didn’t let Carina go the whole day. She was his anchor. She was his reminder that it was okay to survive when others didn’t. If he hadn’t survived, she wouldn’t be here and her being here was the most amazing gift in the world.

At dusk, he gathered Rose and Harry and they left, as a family, for Godric’s Hollow. Remus was waiting for them with a small smile and flowers. He gave Rose a kiss on the cheek and Harry a hug. Then he smirked at Sirius. “Well, well, look at you Padfoot.” They shared a watery smile before turning to James and Lily.

Harry was sprawled on the blanket Rose had set down in front of their headstones, munching on apple slices and talking absently to his “first mum and dad” as he called them.

“—And then Draco fell from the tree and I ran over and he was scared but I wasn’t and it was a snake! A pretty one but she was scared too and then I just started to talk to her and she talked back!” Harry pulled Iris, his new familiar and a birthday gift from Rose for his seventh birthday this past July, from around his neck. She was a beautiful, magical green viper, named Iris because when the sun hit her just right, she reflected back a rainbow of colors. Rose had assured him that while she was poisonous, she would never bite anyone—unless Harry told her to. Harry being a parselmouth was the biggest shock of his year but, according to Cedrella, parselmouths ran deep in the House of Potter—it was apparently the best kept secret of the House of Potter for the last fifty or so years. Sirius tried not to begrudge James for not telling him this little fact. “So then Mum brought me to a snake shop, and we gave them the snake that we found, and then I found Iris! She can grow to the size of a basilisk! But she stays small now, for me.”

Sirius settled on the blanket, behind Harry, and continued to listen to Harry tell stories from the past year. Remus joined in, occasionally, mentioning a book he had read that made him think of Lily. Rose told James about a pair of griffins who made their home in the Forbidden Forest.

Silently, Sirius told James he was doing his best. He was raising Harry the best he could. He was giving him a family just like Lily wanted. But he was worried. Because he was beginning to realize that all the Light magic he thought was around Harry wasn’t actually Light…but wild. Wild magic flowed through Harry in a way he’s never seen; even Dora, who had an abundance of wild magic, still had a center core of Light magic. He didn’t know what it meant, but he knew he would have to tell his grandfather soon, but for now, he told James.

His core magic is wild James and I don’t know what that means. I’ve never met anyone who was just filled with wild magic. Wild magic just surges within him and answers his call. I don’t know what that means James, but I’ll take care of him, I’ll take care of our boy.

///

September 1, 1991

“Mum,” Harry whined, “Where are they?” Harry craned his neck to look around King’s Cross station. “I knew we all should have left together.”

“Stop pouting, love. Draco and Neville will be here soon.” Lady Rose Black shared a smirk with her husband of six years and Sirius sighed good-naturedly before slipping a galleon in her hand.

“Uncle Luci?” Carina squirmed against Sirius’s secure hold and pouted at her lack of freedom. “Mama! Uncle Luci!”

Rose ran her fingers through her daughter’s curly black hair. “Uncle Lucius will be here soon darling.”

Before Carina’s eyes could well with tears, Sirius bounced her on his hip. “And what about me, little star? What about dear ol’ dad?”

“Dad! Dad! Dad!”

Rose shared a look with Harry before playfully rolling her eyes. They both knew Carina had everyone wrapped around her tiny, little finger, especially her father and Grandpa.

“You’ll pull me from school right?” Harry settled closer to his mum, glancing at her belly that was currently housing his baby brother.

“Of course dear but you’ll likely be home for Yule when Leo makes his appearance.”

“He better be in Gryffindor with a name like that,” Lucius drawled. Harry and Sirius shared a smirk and laughed.

“Well one of my kids better be in Gryffindor.” Sirius ruffled Harry’s hair, knowing full well that Draco and Harry had already made a pact to go to the same house. Draco would be sorted before Harry and everyone knew the boy was destined for Slytherin so Harry was gearing up to be the first Heir of Gryffindor to be sorted into Slytherin.

“Uncle Luci!” Carina squealed, reaching out for Lucius.

“Good morning starshine.” Lucius quickly plucked Carina from Sirius’s arms and nestled her into his side. She babbled to him while playing with his hair.

Draco shared a bemused look with his mother before joining Harry.

“Where’s Nev?” Draco looked around.

“I don’t know!” Harry shared a pointed look with his mother. “I told you—”

“There they are!” Aunt Narcissa pointed down the station. Neville was walking with his grandmother and Cousin Cygnus. Cousin Oliver had died two years ago and Cousin Cygnus helped Lady Longbottom adjust.

“Nev!” Harry yelled, waving his hand in the air. Neville caught sight of him and grinned.

“Look at this!” Neville hoisted a eagle owl in the air. “Cousin Cygnus gave him to me for Hogwarts. I named him Winogrand.”

“How lovely, Neville.” Narcissa said, after greeting her father.

“You should release him now, lad,” Cygnus said, shifting to help hold the cage while Neville let him out. “He’ll meet you at Hogwarts.” Winogrand hopped onto Neville’s shoulder before taking flight with a little twirl.

After that, there was flurry of activity. Goodbyes being said, kisses smacked on unwilling cheeks, and maybe a few tears shed—but no one gave Sirius any grief. And then, all three boys were aboard the train, waving frantically out the window, while the platform grew smaller and smaller.

They settled into a carriage. Harry had caught the stares of some of the students and nervously flattened down his fringe over the scar. On the platform, someone had whispered, “It’s the Boy-Who-Lived!” But his mother sent them a scathing look and they had scampered away before Harry could see who it was. Now, only with Nev and Draco, Harry was worried someone would try to talk to him about it.

Nev sat next to him, sensing the nervous energy, but Draco was gearing up to tell anyone off.

The door to their carriage opened, and Draco poised to strike. But the little girl didn’t seem to notice. She was already dressed in the Hogwarts uniform, with curly wild brown hair.

She smiled hesitantly at the trio. “Do you mind? Everywhere else is full.”


Draco was hesitant but Harry nodded, slightly dumbstruck by her hair. It sparked off wildly with magic and Harry was nearly positive this girl was not muggleborn but she didn’t seem to recognize them…and they were the heirs to three major families. She had to know them.

But instead, she sat down beside Draco, a respectful distance away and said, “Hello my name is Hermione Granger.” She struck out a hand to Draco and waited.

Chapter Text

Draco looked his way; even after all these years, Draco was always hesitant with strangers. Rose would say he’s shy but Sirius once told Harry that Draco’s grandfather was a mean man so Harry thought Draco was hesitant about being around mean people. And Draco was fiercely protective, so Harry knew that if he gave even the slightest notion that he was uncomfortable, Draco would bring out his snooty Slytherin side and tell them to go away. 

But this girl did not seem mean. In fact, Harry was already quickly enthralled with her. She had soft, pretty brown eyes and a cute, little upturned nose. So he stood quickly, and took her hand, turning it over so he could bow over it. 

“Pleased to meet you Miss Granger,” he murmured, doing his best impression of his dad, “I am Hadrian James Potter, Heir to the Most Noble and Ancient House of Gryffindor.” He straightened and smiled wryly, “You can call me Harry.” 

She flushed bright pink and Harry didn’t know if it was embarrassment or something else.

Draco and Neville quickly followed his lead. Arcturus told all the boys to default to formality first, then, if they liked the person, to shift into informality. Harry thought that it was a little excessive, but Mum and Dad sat Harry down and explained how formality was just politeness. It was better to be overly polite than slightly rude and create an enemy.   

Harry noticed her blush seemed to deepen and her eyes grew wide after each introduction. Neville must have noticed too because he said, “Oh, sorry, we were formal. We’re friendly, I swear.”

She nodded, still blushing. “I’m sorry, I just—I didn’t realize—Grandpa told me—” She tripped over the words. Harry shared a glance with the others, confused, when Hermione abruptly stood up. She curtsied neatly and said, “I apologize for not formally introducing myself. I am Hermione Jean Dagworth-Granger, Heiress to the Ancient House of Dagworth-Granger.” Her blush still stained her cheeks. “Please call me Hermione.”

Harry’s mouth fell open. He wondered how she was related to the famous potioneer Hector Dagworth-Granger. He wracked his brains for that family tree—he knew he read it, Grandpa Black required it, but he couldn’t remember where or when the family dropped off the magical sphere. 

“You did an inheritance test then?” Draco asked politely. 

Merlin, she really was a muggleborn. Harry stared, unabashedly, at her. He didn’t sense magic like his dad could but he thought he could see her magic glowing on her skin. The Dagworth-Granger legacy must not have dissipated into the wild magical ambience and settled all on her, heavily. The familial magic must be strong. 

She spoke after a moment. “Yes,” she said, “But actually, my great-grandfather was the last Lord of my house. My grandfather still remembers much about the wixen world.”

“Merlin,” Harry murmured. “That means Lord Hector Dagworth-Granger was your great-great-grandfather!” 

She nodded again. 

“Wow,” Neville whispered.

Harry agreed. “I read all his books for potions studies. Great Aunt Cassie made me.” Neville and Draco laughed, remembering just as clearly as he on the crazy potions lessons and experiments Great Aunt Cassie gave them. Cousin Alphard assured all three of them that potion making was usually a much more controlled environment than what Great Aunt Cassie thought potion making should be. 

Hermione titled her head; her eyes took a faraway look before she asked, “Do you mean Cassiopeia Black?” 

Harry nodded, eyebrows quirking in confusion. How did she know Great Aunt Cassie? “Yes, she’s my great-aunt.”

“Oh!” Her entire face lit up in excitement. Her eyes shone with magic and her hair nearly sparked off, crackling with light. She smiled widely and when she spoke, there were a million ideas and he could barely keep up. “She wrote the most interesting book on magical ethics. Do you think she would mind if I wrote her with questions? My grandfather and I read it thoroughly but some of the concepts were beyond us. The magical repercussions of harvesting plants for light and dark potions was fascinating but we couldn’t find any other books to cross reference her findings. She talked loads about her experiments but in other books, they took such hardline positions on light and dark magic. And we could barely find any books about dark magic at all. And...” She trailed off, blushing again. 

Harry stumbled to restart his brain. “You want to write to Great Aunt Cassie about magical ethics?” 

Hermione nodded. Her eyes were still bright, and shiny, and Harry realized she was smart. Like really smart. 

“Merlin, she’ll be thrilled.” Neville mumbled. 

Harry nodded numbly in agreement. “Yeah...yeah she would.” He sounded breathless and dumb; he shook his head to clear his thought and coughed roughly. “Yeah. Um. I can tell her that I met you on the train, if you’d like?”

She smiled brilliantly again. It was so wide and made her eyes brighter and in the back of his mind a memory shook lose. He could recall the conversation he had with Neville in the Wizengamot so many years ago: smart, pretty, and strong. 

“That would be wonderful! Thank you Harry.” 

She smiled at him again and Harry was lost. Harry knew from his dad that his first dad met his first mom on the train and wrote home that night about the red-headed girl he was going to marry. He knew that Grandpa Potter met Grandma Potter on the train to Hogwarts as well; she was few years younger, but Great Aunt Cassie told him that after her little sister’s sorting, Dorea told her all about Heir Potter and how he told her she was going to marry him one day. Apparently Dorea had told him that she would only marry him if he got straight O’s on all his O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. Needless to say Grandpa Potter graduated Hogwarts top of his class and married Grandma Potter the summer after she graduated.  

Harry knew it wasn’t unusual for Potter men to find their future wife early on. (Harry, though, was going to learn from his father’s mistakes and not tell her his plans just yet.) But he was going to write a similar letter to his family, except the girl he was going to marry had warm, brown eyes and wild, magic-sparked hair. Maybe Mum would have ideas on how to win her over. 

“What house are you hoping for?” Neville asked. Unbeknownst to Harry, he had a quick, silent conversation with Draco, using a series of hand movements, shrugs, and blinks they developed over the years. They saw the dopey look on Harry’s face, knew what was happening, and developed a game plan for him. Potters were not known for their tact.

“Ravenclaw,” she answered immediately. The boys started in surprise. She shrugged. “I...I just...it’s the house my great-grandfather was in.” They nodded slowly, that made sense. “And…and what about you three?” 

Harry flustered and shot a wide eyed glance to Draco. Merlin, they talked about being in the same house for years. Neville wanted to let the Hat decide, but he figured he’d end up either in Hufflepuff or Gryffindor; Draco belonged in Slytherin—between his Malfoy and Black heritage, it was practically a given. Harry knew his first parents and Dad were former Gryffindors; Mum was a Ravenclaw. Grandpa Potter was a Ravenclaw. Grandma Black was a Hufflepuff and every other Black relative ever were Slytherins. He was raised to feel comfortable getting into any house but since Draco was going into Slytherin, he wanted to go there. 

But now…Ravenclaw was looking nice. He shot a series of hand signs to Draco; Hermione probably thought him twitchy but Neville quickly distracted her.

“I think I would be happy anywhere,” Neville said, “But the Hat decides which house you go into, so it’s not like we really have a choice.”

“Hat?” She asked. “Hogwarts, A History never did say how the sorting was decided.”

Neville laughed. “Yeah, it’s supposed to be like a secret initiation of sorts but Cousin Melania didn’t want us to worry.” 

Her head tilted slightly, lips pursed, and her eyes took that faraway look that Harry was coming to associate with her thinking quite deeply about something. “Melania Macmillan Black?” She said slowly, her eyes going slightly out of focus, “Wife to Lord Arcturus Black the Third?”

Neville shot a wide-eyed look to Harry. “Yeah. How did you know that?”

She flushed again. Harry was entranced by the pink tinge. It was her response to nearly everything out of her comfort zone but she always seemed to march forward. He had a feeling Gryffindor would be a good house for her too.

“I have a perfect eidetic memory,” she answered punctiliously. “It’s…Grandpa said it was a familial gift.” 

Draco’s mouth dropped. “Are you saying you inherited a magical, familial gift?”

She nodded imperiously. “My grandfather and father inherited it as well.” 

All three boys gaped at her. Neville recovered first. “I definitely have to tell Great Aunt Cedrella about this.” 

“Cedrella Weasley?” Hermione asked. “She’s the one who advocated for inheritance tests for muggleborns.”

They nodded again. Harry was amazed by how much she already seemed to know. She might not have been raised in the wixen world but she definitely was up to speed with modern events.

“So,” Draco frowned, thinking, “Do you remember everything you read or hear or see or…?” He trailed off, looking at her expectantly.

“Everything I read and write. If I review everything I hear or see immediately after it happens, I might remember it nearly precisely but definitely not as well.” 

Neville grinned. “Well you’ll be a perfect fit for Ravenclaw.” 

She smiled widely at that. “Thank you!” Harry may have felt slightly envious he was not on the receiving end of that smile. Draco sighed and signed him a quick gesture of defeat and forgiveness—he would not be mad if Harry went to Ravenclaw instead of Slytherin like they planned. “So, um, how does this Hat decide?”

Harry shrugged. “Grandma Black didn’t tell us. Apparently they put it on our head and the Hat decides which house would suit us best.”

Hermione frowned. “I suppose some spell or something plays a part?” She asked hesitantly but Harry smiled widely in response.

“Yeah exactly. The Hat’s probably enchanted in some way; magic way beyond us right now.” 

Harry watched Hermione mouth the word “enchanted” before her lips pursed in that thinking way again. He wondered if she was recording this memory for recall. He hoped so. 

“Many families are sorted in the same house, though,” Draco said, “Whether that’s because everyone is raised with the same traits or something else, I don’t know. I’m hoping for Slytherin, like my parents.” 

“I don’t think it’s very cunning to get into a house where everyone assumes you’ll be cunning,” Hermione quipped before quickly adding, "But ambition is a very admirable trait.” 

Draco smirked. “There’s power in hiding in plain sight.” Hermione nodded before looking inquisitively to Harry.

Harry cleared his throat. “Um, yeah, well…” He felt his cheeks heat and tried to will away his reaction to her attention. “I’ve had family in every house but I wouldn’t mind Ravenclaw.” 

“We’d be in the same house then!” She grinned widely before blushing. Harry knew immediately she was about to say something that she was uncertain about. “Maybe…well then, since we might be living in the same tower, we can…maybe we can be friends?” 

Harry grinned widely. Maybe he wouldn’t need his Mum’s help after all. “Definitely.” She smiled brilliantly at him. “We’ll be friends no matter what house we’re sorted in.” 

“Don’t forget about us,” Neville said. He muffled some of his laughter, since that was more in response to Draco’s exasperated look and hand sign than anything else.

“Yeah,” Draco drawled, “don’t forget about us.” 

Neville snickered and Harry finally looked away from Hermione to notice Draco’s faux irritation. He blushed but then shrugged, signing to Draco a quick apology. Draco shrugged it off. 

They spent the next hour answering some of Hermione’s questions about the wixen world. When the trolley came by, Draco bought everyone some candy and gave Harry the opening to switch seats so he could sit next to Hermione. Neville snorted after catching Draco’s rolled eyes when Harry practically jumped at the opportunity.

A while later they heard a disturbance on the train but didn’t think of it until their door was wrenched open. A redheaded boy stumbled in. He looked around at everyone before landing on Harry.

“Blimey, it’s true. I thought the twins were taking the piss.” 

Harry frowned immediately and Draco immediately stepped in. “Can we help you?” His voice was ice. “Or do you prefer barging into compartments with no explanation?”

The boy turned to Draco and sneered, “I don’t need help from you Malfoy.” He turned his back on Draco and focused back on Harry. “Ronald Weasley. You can call me Ron.” He struck out a hand to Harry. 

Harry was not inclined to take his hand but, technically, they were cousins. He shot a glance to Neville, who was actually more closely related to Weasley than he was. Neville frowned, tapping his ring finger to his head. Right, they were cousins but they weren’t close with the family. Besides Cedrella, that branch of the Weasley family didn’t associate with the Blacks. Harry forgot why though.

He resorted to formality. He shook Ron’s hand quickly and said, “I am Hadrian James Potter, Heir to the Most Noble and Ancient House of Gryffindor.”

Ron grinned. “Right, I know. Well, I’m in a compartment a few doors down if you want to join. It’ll probably be a relief to get away from the dark families and…” He glanced around Harry to inspect Hermione. He grimaced. “And that.” 

Harry flushed in fury but Draco took over before he could lose his cool and attack the boy or something. Draco stepped neatly next to Harry, blocking Hermione from Ron’s view. 

“If my family is dark, so is yours, Weasley. Or have you forgotten your grandmother? Cedrella Weasley nee Black?” Draco glanced back at Neville, who had stood behind him. “Cedrella is the younger sister of your great-grandmother, right Nev?” 

“Indeed, cousin,” Neville responded cooly. “Great-grandmother Callidora visits me often with your grandmother, Ronald. I believe that makes us second cousins once removed.”

Ron’s ears burned red. “And who are you? I know my Weasley cousins.”

“I am Neville Harfang Longbottom, Heir to the Noble and Ancient House of Longbottom.”  Neville extended a hand, politely, and Ron took it after a moment of hesitation. (Neville would definitely be telling his great-grandmother that.) 

Ron frowned. “Longbottom? But that’s a light family too. What are you doing here hanging around a Malfoy?”

From behind a wall of formal, angry boys came an exasperated cry, “They’re cousins!” Hermione stood up, peering over the shoulders of the boys. “Are you slow? How can you not know they are all cousins?” 

Ron’s face turned ruddy with temper. “No one asked you buck teeth!” 

And that was a step too far for Harry, who immediately whipped out his wand and jabbed it into Ron’s chest. “Apologize!” 

Ron jumped backwards, stumbling into the door. “What the hell?”

“Apologize to the Heiress of the Ancient House of Dagworth-Granger, Weasley.” Harry stepped forward, jabbing his wand again.

“Why do you care?” Ron scrambled for balance, propping himself on the door.

“Because we treat witches with civility unlike you,” Draco answered cooly, saving Harry from floundering for a reason besides, She’s my future wife you idiot. 

“Yeah, well, sorry.” Ron glanced at Hermione then Draco before grimacing. “Right, well, if you ever want to get away from these—people, you know where to find me Harry.”

Ron reached behind him and opened the door, intent on a quick escape. Before he could leave, Harry sneered, “I have not given you leave to call me by my first name, Weasley.” Draco shut the door in Ron’s face before he could respond.

Harry immediately turned back to Hermione, sat next to her, and was horrified at the small tears he could see before she wiped them away. “Are you okay?”

She sniffled. “Yes—yes thank you for defending me.” She gave Harry a watery smile. Before he could think anything of it, Harry wrapped an arm around Hermione and hugged her quickly. 

“Well, we’re friends. That’s what friends do.” 

Hermione smiled widely at that and threw her arms around his neck for another hug. Harry closed his eyes and attempted to memorize the moment, hoping she was doing the same. 

Chapter Text

Harry walked next to Hermione as they followed Hagrid to the boats. Neville took one look at the half-giant and shifted slightly in front of Harry. Hermione sent a quizzical look his way but he just tightly smiled. How was he going to explain that that man may have inadvertently kidnapped him when he was just a baby? There was no way, so he didn’t even try.

Harry helped Hermione into a boat and Draco and Neville quickly followed him on. Once the boats began softly gliding through the water, Draco clenched and unclenched his fists and Neville’s leg bounced jerkily.

“Nev.” Harry gave him a quick shove and Neville stopped, smiling abashedly. Harry turned back to Hermione, whose eyes were trained ahead. “Nervous?” He whispered, because every sound seemed to echo along the lake. He could hear Weasley talking to another boy in a different boat and two girls giggling in another.

Hermione didn’t answer though, because Hogwarts came into view. His dad told him everything he wanted to know about Hogwarts but still, it was indescribable. Incandescent. Blinding and breathless. His home for the next seven years and he was equal parts exhilarated and disoriented. This was not his home; his home was with his Dad and Mum, Carina and his new baby brother that he had yet to meet. Home was Ravenswood with Grandpa and Grandma and Saturday morning Quidditch games with Nev and Draco. Home was safe. Home was intricate and brilliant wards that Grandpa showed him when he had a nightmare about a motorcycle and green light and being taken from home.

Hogwarts was a half-giant who kidnapped him. It was Albus Dumbledore who was a great wix and a crazy old man who tried to keep him from his dad. It was a Potions master who Dad and Grandpa and Uncle Lucius all said to stay away from and to not cause trouble.

Harry heard Neville, Draco and Hermione exclaim excitedly over the view and he relaxed. Hogwarts was also the place where he and his two best friends were going to explore every secret passageway and maybe even find the secret hideaway room Dad said the elves knew about but never shared their secret with him. Hogwarts would also always be the place where he met Hermione. He grinned and turned back to her.

“Hermione?” He whispered. She turned to him, smiling but eyes surprisingly wet. He jerked, surprised and worried, and nearly rocked the boat over.

“Bloody hell! Harry!” Draco cursed softly. “Be still. My first letter home is not going to be about how we fell in a lake.”

Harry ignored him. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” He didn’t dare move, because he also did not want to tip the boat over and hear Draco berate him for the next week.

Hermione smiled wetly. Her hand shifted, hesitantly, as if to reach out to him, and he met her halfway, gripping her hand. She smiled wider. “My grandpa and Dad never got to see this,” she whispered, and soft tears welled in her eyes before she blinked them away. “I’m so lucky.”

He squeezed her hand. “No,” he shook his head, “you’re a witch.”

“Witch,” she whispered, looking back up at the castle. “I’m a witch.”

The boats shuddered against the shore and Harry helped Hermione out. He hid from Hagrid again and then they were in front of the doors of the Great Hall, walking through, Hermione admired the ceiling and Harry whispered to her, amid the chatter of the upper years, “It’s enchanted to look like the night sky.”

She nodded. “I read that in Hogwarts, A History.”

“Yeah.”

And then Professor McGonagall was reading off the names. She paused, pregnantly, before shouting, “Dagworth-Granger, Hermione!”

A soft hush descended before the chatter grew up again. Harry shifted nervously for her. He had yet to look up at the staff table and he was avoiding eye contact with both Dumbledore and Snape. Draco had already told him that both had been looking at him intently and he wasn’t comfortable with that. Now, he realized, that Hermione would have to deal with unwanted attention too. While muggleborns getting their inheritance tests done was more commonplace than before, it still wasn’t everyday a “muggleborn” could claim a seat on the Wizengamot. In a cruel way, she was lucky it was only just a seat in the lower house of the Wizengamot, and not the upper echelons of the Noble and Ancient houses.

The Hat sat on Hermione’s head for a minute now. She was frowning, her eyes furrowed and her lips mouthing words without a sound. After another few seconds, she huffed. And then,

“RAVENCLAW!”

She grinned brightly, handing the Hat back to Professor McGonagall, before heading to the Ravenclaw table that was clapping enthusiastically. She shot him a quick smile before settling down.

Draco shifted next to him. “You’re going to be the one to explain to your dad that you went to Ravenclaw.”

“’Course,” he nudged Draco in the shoulder. “I’m sorry again. I mean, maybe the Hat won’t let me choose, but…I gotta try.”

Draco shrugged, smiling. “Yeah, I know. I’m not mad.” He looked past him to Neville. “Nev, I think you’re coming up. Any last bets?”

Neville snorted. “Hufflepuff. To get away from you lot.”

Draco laughed and Harry teased, “Not very loyal of you.”

“Longbottom, Neville!”

Neville smiled at them before sitting on the stool. The Hat seemed to debate with him, just like Hermione, before shouting, “GRYFFINDOR!”

Harry and Draco cheered along with the rest of the Gryffindor table. Neville’s cheeks turned pink as he walked over. He shot them a grin when he was settled.

And quickly it was, “Malfoy, Draco!”

Draco clapped Harry on the back before settling on the stool. The Hat shifted on his head and stayed silent, for a few seconds, and then a minute.

As they waited for the Hat to decide, Harry felt, more than saw, the crowd of remaining first years shift around him.

“Slytherin that one,” he heard a voice snidely remark, “That’s where all the dark wix go.”

Harry felt his cheeks flush in temper and turned sharply to see Ronald Weasley talking to another first year.

“Watch your mouth, Weasley,” he nearly growled, “I don’t know about you but I was raised to respect family.” Harry tried to raise one eyebrow, like his dad, but he wasn’t sure if he succeeded, not that it mattered because Weasley just scoffed.

“Malfoy isn’t my family,” he said, “My family members are only light wix.”

Harry frowned. “I know for a fact that part of your family is grey.” The crowd around them murmured. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.” He shifted his gaze to every other first year. Grandpa Black had taught him all about magical ethics but it wasn’t a class taught at Hogwarts—even though his family had been trying to make it a class for years. Harry wondered if any of them, wix-born and muggleborn alike, knew anything about it now.

Before Weasley could respond, the Hat shouted, “SLYTHERIN!”

Harry turned around and started clapping. Draco shot him a grin but Harry knew him well enough to see the relief around his eyes. Draco bit his lip, rolled his eyes, and touched his forefinger to his forehead. Harry frowned, trying to decipher the message. Biting a lip was worry but rolling your eyes meant there was nothing to worry about, or someone was overreacting for no reason. And then touching your forehead with your pointer finger meant intelligence. Harry couldn’t figure out what Draco was saying but before he could sign his confusion, Draco was already at the table and too far away. He would have to ask later.

“Potter, Hadrian!”

A silence filled the hall. And then, he heard whispers “It’s the Boy-Who-Lived!” He frowned darkly. No one in polite society said that, Grandma made sure. But that didn’t stop the light fanatics from saying it, and apparently teaching their children that. He would have to owl Mum and Grandma to ask for the best way to respond to it. (And then he would owl Dad separately to ask for a instructions on the stinging hex—that would also solve that problem.)

He sat on the stool, catching Draco’s eye before the bill of the Hat settled over him.

Ahh, Heir Gryffindor, I know where to put you,” a voice spoke in his head.

Ravenclaw!” He thought immediately.

Now see here!” The Hat squawked in his head. Because, of course, it was the Hat. That was what Draco must have meant by intelligence. “You’re the Heir to the Most Noble and Ancient—”

Yeah I know but I want to go to Ravenclaw.”

The Hat sputtered. It sounded weird in his head.

And I know it can be done because my grandfather was in Ravenclaw and he was also Heir Gryffindor at the time.” Harry crossed his arms over his chest, triumphantly, not like the Hat could see that though.

I blame the Potter line,” the Hat muttered indignantly. “Ruining my great House with their stubbornness.”

Harry started in surprise. “Wait, your great House? As in—

Well boy who do you think this hat belonged to?

Harry whipped the Hat off, staring at it incredulously. The school murmured in shock, but Professor McGonagall just sighed. “Mr. Potter, you have to wear the Hat for it to decide your house.”

“This was Godric Gryffindor’s hat?” He asked, looking up to her.

The students started to shift and murmur at the news.

“Yes,” she said, before she looked at the house tables, “And you all would know that if you read Hogwarts, A History more closely.” She grabbed the hat from his hand and put it back on his head. “Now let the man sort you, lad. Or are you going to be as contrary as your grandfather when it comes to this?”

Harry smirked. “My grandfather was a smart man,” he said, before adding in his head, to his ancient ancestor, “Which is why I also want to be in Ravenclaw.”

Godric snorted. “You want to follow a pretty girl around. You can’t fool me boy.”

Harry shrugged. “Well, I am a Potter. When you know, you know.”

Godric sighed. “Oh I know. I still remember your many greats grandfather following my great-granddaughter around Hogwarts. Even then you Potters had a particular gift for finding the smartest witch to marry.

Harry grinned widely. “Smart, pretty, and strong.” Harry thought about it for a moment. “Wait, could you read her mind too?

Godric snorted. “Of course, that’s how I know how to sort you lot.

What do you think?” Harry asked. “She’s perfect, isn’t she?

Godric sighed. “Ah lad, no witch is perfect. No one is perfect.” He paused, a second too long and Harry was scared to interrupt. “Be her friend, lad. Then you’ll win her heart.”

Harry nodded, and then, slyly, “In Ravenclaw?

Bah! My descendants wound me, besmirch the honor of my house, traitors the lot of them!

Harry rolled his eyes. “See? I’m not dramatic enough to be in Gryffindor.

Oh hush you.” The Hat shifted a little on his head. “I expect you to visit me. You owe me.”

Yes sir!” Harry nearly trembled in excitement, nearly exclaimed out loud, before the Hat sighed.

You’re lucky I like you,” the Hat said, before, “RAVENCLAW!”

There was shocked applause from Ravenclaw and the Gryffindor table deflated but Harry nearly skipped over to the Ravenclaw table and sat right next to Hermione. She flashed him a wide grin and he returned it.

Hogwarts wasn’t home, but it wouldn’t be too bad.

 

/// ///

 

Sirius was nearly done with his dinner before a snowy, white owl sailed in. If Hedwig wasn’t so quick, he would have jumped out of his seat to meet her. As it were, she settled on his shoulder and held out the letter attached to her leg triumphantly.

“Hello lass,” Rose said, offering some meat for her. “How’s our favorite boy?”

Sirius’s fingers trembled a bit as he untied the letter and eagerly read it. Hedwig hopped onto Rose’s hand and allowed a few pets in before fluttering her wings.

Hegwig!” Carina shouted from her seat, waving her fork wildly. Hedwig obligingly flew over, landing lightly on her shoulder and nuzzling her. Carina laughed joyously.

“Bloody hell,” Sirius laughed softly, eyes still on his first letter from Harry. Merlin, he missed his kid like a limb but this letter was filled with nothing but joy and love, so Sirius settled his own rolling emotions.

“What is it Sirius?” Arcturus asked. His statement caused alarm but Arcturus calmed somewhat after hearing Sirius’s soft laugh.

“Potter men.” He waved the letter in the air, laughing, but before he could continue reading it, Rose snatched it up.

Melania snorted. “Did he already meet his future wife?” Sirius nodded, smirking. “Oh dear, how many in a row is that? Three?”

“Five.” Arcturus snorted. “My uncle and namesake was on the train to Hogwarts when Henry Potter, a little firstie, went to every compartment telling everyone on board he was going marry Adelaide Byrne. Half-blood, I think, and as soon as she learned a stinging hex, she hit him with it for a week straight.”

Sirius snorted. “Sounds like a woman a Potter would love.”

“And his father?” Rose asked, glancing up from the letter with a soft smile on her face.

“Ah, Hardwin Potter. My grandfather was a professor at Hogwarts at the time. During the sorting, before the deputy of the time could place the Hat on his head, the boy addressed the whole school asking Iolanthe Peverell to marry him in seven years.”

Everyone laughed at the image, replacing Hardwin with Harry, and Iolanthe, as his little Hermione.

“What did she say?” Melania asked.

“Oh, I can’t recall exactly what Grandfather told me. But she made him work for it.”

Sirius snorted again, shaking his head. “Potter men. They like them tough.”

Rose bumped his shoulder. “Ha! Don’t think you’re any different, Black.”

Sirius leaned over and smacked a loud kiss on her cheek. “’Course not! We just like ‘em a little bit more crazy.” She laughed, shoving him away, and he went around her to Carina. “What do you think, little star?”

Carina held her hands up to be picked up, before saying solemnly, “Dad crazy.”

Sirius lifted her from her seat, spun her around, and exclaimed, “Betrayed by my own blood! How can you do this to me, little star!” Carina giggled as the rest of the table laughed.

Arcturus rolled his eyes, sending a lighthearted prayer to Charlus, I blame you for the dramatics.

Melania, still laughing lightly, asked, “But did he mention where he sorted? Or the other boys for that matter?”

Rose quirked her lips into a grin. “Still on Hermione so far…” She read a bit more. “Oh! Wow, her great-grandfather was the last Lord for the House of Dagworth-Granger.”

Arcturus nodded, impressed. “Potter men have always had impeccable taste.”

Rose started to frown.

“What is it?” Sirius jumped, ready to take the letter from her hand.

She shifted it out of reach. “Nothing bad Sirius. Just a run-in with the youngest Weasley son, Ronald.” She kept reading. “Oh, dear, Cedrella is not going to be happy with this.”

Melania sighed. “It’s her daughter-in-law that’s the problem. We invite that whole family over for every holiday and what do they do? Ignore the invitation. Even Arthur’s older brothers respond!”

Sirius snorted. “Yeah well the one time Bilius showed up, I thought you’d never invite him again!”

Melania sniffed. “Family is family.” She glanced at Carina before whispering, “Even if that particular man had the manners of a ghoul.” She pitched her voice slightly louder as she said, “May he rest in the embrace of our Lady Hecate.”

Rose frowned; her attention momentarily shifted from the letter. “Isn’t he the one who claimed to have seen a grim?”

Sirius laughed and Arcturus snorted. “Yeah the old fool,” Sirius chuckled. Rose pursed her lips disapprovingly at him. “Hey! He knew it was me though! I changed back in front of him.”

She rolled her eyes in response before turning back to the letter. “Apparently the Weasley boy managed to insult all three of them in the space of five minutes, deny their familial relations, and then—” She chuckled. “And then he said ‘an egregious insult to my future Lady and I nearly called him out to a duel.’” 

Sirius and Melania laughed loudly. “Oh my dear little lamb all grown up and protecting his Lady.”

But Arcturus was scowling. “That boy is family insulting family,” he growled. “I should talk to Lucy. Those other Prewetts are so far up Dumbledore’s you-know-what that they can’t see up from down.”

Melania patted his hand. “It’s not the Prewetts’ fault, dear, if Arthur lets his wife run roughshod over him.”

Arcturus sighed, turning his hand over to grip his wife’s hand and lift it to his lips. He pressed his lips to her palm but didn’t reply. At the moment, there was nothing he could do. But he would talk to Cedrella, and maybe Callidora too, to see if anything could be done.

Sirius turned his attention back to Harry’s letter. “Houses, love?”

Rose folded the letter, handing it back to him with a grin. “Neville’s a Gryffindor—”

Sirius let out a whoop. “Well I got one!”

“Draco’s in Slytherin,” she continued.

Arcturus smiled. “No surprise there.”

“And Harry followed Hermione.”

“Wait, what?” Sirius struggled to open the letter, but he was still holding a now sleeping Carina to his chest.

Rose grinned triumphantly. “I also got one,” she said, raising her hands in the air before giving a little bow to the family.

“Ravenclaw?” Melania asked, and Rose nodded, confirming. “Oh, just like his grandfather.”

Sirius chuckled. “Followed Hermione did he?” He wrapped an arm around Rose’s waist and pressed a soft kiss to her hair. “I think James was relieved when Lily sorted into Gryffindor; he couldn’t imagine going to any other house but, Merlin, he would have followed Lily anywhere, even then.” He sighed, a tight ache in his chest at the thought of them, but it had grown manageable over all these years. Rose wrapped her arms around him, snuggling both him and her little girl.

It was quiet for a moment, before Tippy popped into the room. “Master Black, Mistress Callidora just came through the floo with Mistress Cedrella.”

Arcturus snorted. “Well I guess the other boys were quick with their letters too.”

However, it wasn’t the Houses or the Weasley drama that had Cedrella all a-dither, but rather magical gifts inherited in so called squibs. She had nearly fainted in excitement when she read her great-great-nephew’s letter. (Callidora was more upset with Cedrella's grandson’s insults to the family but Cedrella had already given up on getting her daughter-in-law to see reason.)

“It changes everything we thought about family magic!” She exclaimed, after everyone read Neville’s letter.

Rose frowned. “How so?” Rose had also done an inheritance test, nearly right after she saw Ted go through his, only to find out that all of her magical family was killed in the war. It still pained her to realize that she was close friends with Marlene all through Hogwarts, and Marlene would never know that they were actually distant cousins. Her family magic was still lingering by the time she had done the test but had greatly dissipated with the many deaths. The McKinnons were nearly to ancient status before the war, and now, they would need at least another five generations to rebuild what they lost.

“We had all believed that family magic would immediately begin to dissipate after the death of the last wix in the family,” Cedrella explained, “When Ted claimed his inheritance, all the family magic of the Mole’s had been gone for generations. But according to Neville, Hermione practically radiates with magic and her squib grandfather and—in our previous thinking—muggle father inherited magical, familial gifts.”

Arcturus frowned. “What does that mean exactly?”

Cedrella waived Neville’s letter triumphantly. “It means squibs might not be squibs and muggles might be squibs and familial magic can still build within muggles!” She bounced in excitement but then paused. “Or muggle-like? Squib-like? We’ll have to come up with a new term because apparently some squibs have some magic!”

Melania smiled carefully, eyeing Cedrella’s enthusiasm with care. “Love, we have always known some ‘squibs’ had some magic, maybe not enough to hold a wand but enough to make potions or—”

Cedrella shook her head. “This is different. This is not just one squib in a family of wix. This is a line of squibs. One after the other, holding the entire weight of familial magic because there are no wix in the family and generation after generation keeping the magic alive until a full wix can take control of it. This changes everything we thought about familial magic. This means familial magic can stay alive after generations of squibs.”

Rose coughed. “Or, at least, in some families,” she said slowly, “familial magic lingers.” She frowned. “How is that possible? How did my family magic dissipate even though I was alive at the time to take it over? Even if I didn’t know I was a McKinnon, shouldn’t the familial magic have known?”

“Exactly!” Cedrella said excitedly, not seeing the sad frown on Rose’s face. “Why does some familial magic linger in squibs while other familial magic not even recognize grown wix?”

Sirius rubbed his forehead. “And this is a good thing? You’re happy with this?”

Cedrella nodded. “Of course! We need to make inheritance testing mandatory!” She turned to Arcturus. “Don’t you see? How many ancient families do we think have gone extinct when really there is a long ling of squibs who have carried the family magic? The Houses of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff fell away to squibs. They could still be out there! And if we can figure out how squibs hold onto family magic then maybe we can figure out how squibs came to be!”

A heavy silence fell.

Merlin,” Arcturus whispered.

Cedrella grinned widely. “His family too!”

Chapter Text

Harry dared a glance at the High Table. He had heard Grandpa and Grandma mutter enough insults about Dumbledore to know that something was off about the man, and that was before he started the feast with “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” Hermione had glanced his way after those words, as if wondering if he had any insight about the crazy man that was Albus Dumbledore, but honestly, he didn’t. Now though, he was looking at the other professors.

There was Professor McGonagall; Dad called her Minnie but Mum warned that he’d get detention for life if he called her that to her face—apparently both his dads thought it was worth it and proceeded to have detention with her until they graduated. Dad was sure if he ever walked into Hogwarts Professor McGonagall would still try to make him seat for detention.

Next to her was Professor Flitwick. Harry was a little excited to have him as the Head of his house. Orion, his actual grandfather Grandma would say, was a dueling champion and could have pursued it internationally if he hadn’t fell ill shortly after graduation. Harry thought that would be cool if he could do the same and Mum told him that Professor Flitwick was a renowned dueling champion and was always willing to tutor his Ravens in extra subjects. He wondered how long he’d have to be in school before he could start to learn how to duel.

Then there was Professor Snape. Harry quickly slid his gaze over—not wanting to be caught looking at him or worse catch his eye—and found himself looking at the back of a purple turban.

“Ow!” Harry reached up and rubbed his scar. It twinged, a sharp bolting pain, for just a second. The sound was swallowed by the chittering of children and clanging of dishes so only a few people even noticed.

There was Hermione, of course. She had been talking to the girl across the table but had swiveled to him, concerned. “Harry! Are you alright?”

He nodded swiftly, turning away from the Head Table and flattening his fringe over his scar. “Yeah, yeah, just a headache from all the noise,” he lied quickly.

Hermione frowned. Harry could see she didn’t believe him and his chest tightened. He wanted to be honest with her but he honestly didn’t know what happened. And…and it felt personal; his scar never hurt like that before. But…he didn’t want to lie to her either. He didn’t need Mum or Dad to tell him that was a dumb mistake.

He leaned over and whispered, “I’ll tell you later.”

She nodded seriously. The look of concern was still there but her mouth pinched in determination.

Neither Harry or Hermione noticed Snape avidly watching them or the shared, loaded glance between him and Dumbledore. Maybe if he had, Harry would have sent a letter explaining the incident, but as it was, the rest of the feast sufficiently distracted him.

““And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death.””

Harry’s eyes snapped immediately to Neville at the Gryffindor table. Nev met his gaze and then Neville’s eyes drifted behind him to catch Draco’s attention at the Slytherin table. Harry didn’t turn around, he didn’t want anyone else to see how visibly perked up he was at that causal warning. Honestly, Harry felt half the Great Hall perk up at that announcement.

“Is…is he serious?” Hermione whispered.

Harry shrugged. He was going to find out, because honestly who says that to a group of children and not except them to go looking?

Isobel, another first year that Harry and Hermione had been talking with, looked horrified. “This is a school. There shouldn’t be anything dangerous here!”

Hermione agreed, nodding nervously and looking to him, maybe for reassurance? Harry fought back a smile at that thought and instead wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t worry about. As long as you don’t go near that corridor, you won’t get hurt.”

Hermione leaned into him briefly, smiling and blushing, and Harry did an internal victory dance before following the Ravenclaw prefect to their new home for seven years.

 

///

 

It took two weeks for Harry, Neville, and Draco to make their way up to the third floor corridor. Honestly, even without the warning from their family that Dumbledore was off his rocker, how were the boys supposed to resist an invitation like that?

So a few days into term, the boys carefully reviewed their schedules for when they would all three have a break, and then they developed a plan. And then many back up plans, as Draco pointed out that they might need a quick escape.

“Where’s Hermione?” Neville asked. It had been decided very early on that this adventure was for the three of them, even though Harry was practically attached at the hip to Hermione as they sat next to each other in every class. (Anytime they were in Transfiguration, Professor McGonagall surveyed him with a knowing look but he simply smiled innocently. That merely caused her to huff in exasperation because she was not ignorant of the Potter men’s romantic intuition.)

“Library,” he said, “with Isobel and Padma.”

Neville grimaced. “Is Padma anything like her sister, Parvati?”

Harry shrugged. “I dunno. What’s Parvati like?”

“Annoying,” Draco supplied.

“And obsessed with you,” Neville added.

Harry tripped over a step. “What? I don’t even know her!”

Neville looked around the corner before waving them on. “I, um,” he winced, glancing at Harry, “I got in a fight already.”

“What!” Draco and Harry shouted together. Draco was frowning, his eyes furrowed in thought while Harry was incensed.

“We’ve only been here two weeks,” Draco said at the same time Harry exclaimed, “How could you get in a fight without us?”

“Weasley,” Neville sighed. “The twins aren’t too bad but Percy is the fifth year prefect…”

“You got in a fight with a fifth year?” Harry’s mouth fell open in shock, suddenly very glad he did not go into Gryffindor.

“No!” Neville snorted, “Merlin no. I got in a fight with Ronald. He was going on and on about how…” Neville winced. “Well, about how The-Boy-Who-Lived should have been in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw.”

Harry scowled darkly. He hated that name. He had told off a boy during the Welcoming Feast about that name so no one in Ravenclaw ever said it to him.

“Did you hex him?” Draco asked, scowling but also thinking of the many different hexes and jinxes he could learn. No one in Slytherin ever said that name either, reverently or derisively. But most people in Slytherin recognized the power of the Black family—no one foolish would mess with the House of Black.

Neville blushed. “No, he’s got three brothers in the same tower. I wouldn’t have gotten away with it…and, well…”

“He’s still technically family,” Draco muttered in distaste. All three of them frowned and nodded. They were all raised to hold family as sacred; it upset them in ways they couldn’t explain that some of the Weasleys weren’t respecting that.

Neville peeked around the next corner. “Yeah, so, I told him to shut up and that Cousin Lily is the wix who vanquished You-Know-Who and no one with any respect would call Harry The-Boy-Who-Lived.” Neville waved them forward and they slowly walked up to the third floor.

“What did he say?” Harry asked. He wondered if he needed to send another letter home, maybe to Grandma. She would know how to settle these rumors.

“He said that there was no way a witch vanquished You-Know-Who and…” Neville winced, glancing up at Harry’s scar, knowing that this was always going to be a sore point for him, “And, well, that Harry’s scar meant he defeated You-Know-Who.”

Harry flattened his fringe over his forehead again. It was starting to become a nervous habit of his. His scar was giving him more trouble in these past two weeks than in his entire life; every DADA class he felt a small twinge whenever Professor Quirrell turned around. He was getting used to ignoring it and hasn’t said anything about it but he was starting to worry that he would have to tell his dad soon. It was weird but it wasn’t painful. Harry was hoping it would go away soon.

“I hate him,” Harry mumbled. He walked ahead of his cousins to survey the next corner. No one was there so he waved them forward. “I hate everyone who calls me that stupid epithet.” His mouth twisted around the word; Hermione had taught him it and it felt right to call that terrible name something else then a nickname. Nickname was a joke, and that epithet was not a joke to him.

Draco scowled and nodded. “No one in polite society says it.”

Neville snorted. “Yeah well…” He started to chuckle. “I got a letter from Great-Grandma Callidora.” Harry and Draco sniggered. “She told me to remind Ronald and the rest of the Weasleys that her sister—their grandmother—was very disappointed in their behavior and they should know better than to treat family like they have.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “That’s not going to help.”

Neville was still chuckling though. “I also have to tell them to respond to their grandmother’s letters before they get howlers from her.”

Draco started snickering. “Please don’t remind them! I can’t wait to hear the howlers.”

The boys were giggling and laughing at the very thought of Ronald, red and shame-faced, being berated by Cousin Cedrella. They turned the corner, finally on the forbidden corridor, to find two red-headed cousins already in front of the door.

Draco twitched, signaling to them quickly his distrust. Harry turned to Nev. Neville had the most interactions with them so far so he would have to be the one to decide if they should trust them or not. If they walked away now, it would likely be another week or two before they could find time to get up here. Draco signaled to retreat again.

Before they could decide either way, one of the twins said, “Well hello there, cousins.”

Draco grimaced. Well, Harry thought, at least they are acknowledging family now.

Both twins straightened up and turned to the three of them. “Now, what are our innocent, small, first year cousins doing in the forbidden third-floor corridor?” George said.

“We can ask you the same!” Neville said.

“Tsk, tsk.” The twins looked to each other, shaking their heads in faux disappointment.

“Now that’s—”

“No way—”

“To treat—”

Family,” they said at the same time.

Harry nodded, thinking quickly. “Very true,” he said, “Family is family.” The rest of the boys were starting to look at him in confusion but his plan was slowly coming together. “And family protects each other.”

Draco smirked, catching on. “Exactly. Family helps each other.”

George grinned widely, glancing to Fred then Harry. “Family also keeps each other’s secrets.”

“Excellent!” Fred whooped before turning back towards the door. “Now dear cousins o’mine, I have a problem and I need some discreet help.”

The three younger boys rushed forward to the door, excitement buoying their initial trepidation.

“Have you seen what’s behind the door?”

“Have you opened it?”

“Is it locked?”

George raised his hands in a settle down motion. “One question at a time firsties.”

Fred straightened; he had been eye level with the door handle before. “No, no, and yes, boys.” He grimaced. “We need to find a way to unlock this door.”

Neville reached forward and shook the door handle. Fred rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we tried that.”

“What about the Unlocking Spell?” Draco asked.

The twins looked to each other then to Draco, mocking smiles on their faces. “Oh little cousin,” Fred said, “you think a door that the great Albus bloody Dumbledore told us—twin pranksters extraordinare—not to go into is going to be charmed open with a simple unlocking spell?”

Draco frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. “Well have you tried it?”

“Simple,” they muttered in distaste. But they turned back to the door and Fred said clearly, “Alohomora!”

The lock clicked open.

"But effective,” Harry said, grinning broadly.

George shook his head, muttering under his breath, “The stupid unlocking charm. How dumb is that?”

Fred turned to the boys. “Well gentleman, let’s see what’s so dangerous about the third floor corridor.”

 

///

 

Harry joined Hermione in the library much later than what he had initially told her. But he had to regain the color in his cheeks after facing down a fully grown cerberus. George and Draco had noticed the trapdoor underneath the three-headed dog but honestly he was little preoccupied with the three snarling, growling heads that were trying to eat him!

All five boys ran from the third floor and only stopped when they were closer to other people who were getting out of class. They agreed to never tell anyone else what they saw. But when it was just Nev, Draco, and Harry, they had a serious discussion on whether to tell their parents. Draco was incensed and ready to write a letter to his father.

“A cerberus!” He kept whispering. “A full grown bloody cerberus!”

Neville kept nodding weakly; his face so pale his freckles stood out even more.

“It’s cruel,” Harry mumbled, even though the idea of having that dog loose was terrifying, he knew enough about them to know they needed exercise and… “It’s guarding something.”

The boys froze at that thought. Cerberi were natural guardians, the first guard dog. Even in protected environments, their caretakers always gave them something to guard. And there was a trapdoor in that room. It was guarding something.

“So,” Neville whispered, “Do we tell the family?”

Draco nodded before turning to Harry. “We have to! It’s dangerous!”

A part of him—the Gryffindor part, he thought wryly—wanted to keep it a secret, to find a way through the trapdoor and find out what the cerberus was guarding. But the Ravenclaw part of him was worried. A simple unlocking spell? Any first year could learn that and be face to face with a monster. And then the Slytherin part of him was planning—this might be enough to see Dumbledore fired. With Dumbledore fired, the Board of Governors would appoint a new Headmaster, or likely Headmistress McGonagall since half of his family was on the board. And then Snape would be gone and Cousin Cedrella could finally get her magical heritage class approved and Great-Aunt Cassie might be compelled to teach magical ethics. It would nearly everything Grandpa Arcturus would want…maybe he framed it right he could claim this as an early Yule gift.

Harry nodded slowly before looking up to Draco and Nev. “We definitely have to tell our parents.”

Chapter Text

Hedwig flew into his office from open window. Arcturus blinked in surprise. Yes, Harry sent many letters home but usually Hedwig gave them over to Sirius or Rose for first perusal. Harry would send a small note either written in the letter or within the letter for him and his wife. In his last letter, Harry asked for Orion’s dueling textbooks; Arcturus flushed with pride and longing and regret upon reading it. He didn’t think he could ever think of his son without thinking of his failure.

He was startled out of that thought however when he took in Hedwig’s appearance. She landed on his desk roughly, chirping indignantly and clutching Harry’s letter rather than holding it for him to take. Arcturus prided himself on his calm disposition, on his ability to form plans and contingencies and slowly decimate his enemies. But at the sight of a ruffled owl and a magical signature he did not recognize on Harry’s letter…the room turned several degrees colder in an instant.

He cast several spells and charms, checking the identity of Hedwig, the magic on the letter, anything to give him an idea of what happened. Hedwig was Hedwig, uncursed and in relative order but the letter was a little worse for wear. Not cursed exactly but magic lingered that was definitely not Harry’s.

“Tippy!”

She appeared in an instant.

“Bring Sirius to me.”

He didn’t wait, though, for Sirius to arrive, before carefully, magically, untying the letter from Hedwig and placing it on the desk. Hedwig ruffled her feathers before settling on Arcturus’s shoulder. He frowned at her behavior. She was affectionate with Harry and Carina but more like a mother to them than anything else. Arcturus was sure she viewed herself as another guardian for the children and as a contemporary with the other adults. The fact that she decided to stay with him, on his shoulder, did nothing to settle his unease.

He cast another series of charms to check the letter and still found nearly nothing. There was magical residue but nothing nefarious, nothing to suggest a curse if opened or read, just…something.

“Grandfather?” Sirius called from the hallway.

Arcturus waved him in. “Check the letter for spells.”

Sirius took one look at a disgruntled Hedwig and the room shot a little colder.

Arcturus smirked internally but chided, “Control yourself Sirius. We do not yet know what is wrong.”

Sirius growled but checked the letter with his own set of spells that he learned as a Hit Wix in the DMLE. He frowned at his findings. “She travelled through a mail ward. Can’t determine where but…it screened the letter.”

He waved his wand over the letter again and breathed deeply. “I doubt any other owl would have noticed…”

Hedwig tightened her claws in his shoulder. “Hedwig noticed,” Arcturus whispered, smug and proud that such an animal was in service for the House of Black. “Brilliant girl,” he praised. She hooted in reply. “Can we open the letter?”

Sirius nodded, but still opened it with a wave of his wand.

All three of them peered over the desk to read the letter without touching it.

 

Grandpa,

Thanks for the dueling books! Professor Flitwick said he might be open to tutoring me if I can read them all before next term! I didn’t know he also tutored Grandpa Orion for a bit but he showed me all the trophies Grandpa Orion won during his time at school.

Nev, Draco, and I have been exploring the school between classes.     Now, don’t get mad, but we explored it! We met up with the Weasley Twins there—they’re alright, probably could have been in Slytherin but don’t tell them I said that!    But we opened it with just the unlocking charm! It was too easy. And the reason why I’m writing is because even though I know you’ll be mad at me for going there, I can’t believe what we saw. Nev, Draco, and I all agreed we needed to tell the family, even if we get grounded for eternity.     We couldn’t believe it but we’re okay! We didn’t get injured. But we agreed with the Weasley Twins that no one should be allowed there.

I don’t know what Prof. Dumbledore is thinking!

Love, Harry

 

Arcturus sat back down and shuddered in rage.

“It’s been tampered with!” Sirius shouted.

“Tippy,” he called, his mind racing in a thousand directions as Sirius took his anger out on the chair. “Notify Narcissa and Callidora that I require their presence immediately.”

Sirius paused. “Do you think Nev’s and Draco’s letters came through unscathed?”

Arcturus nodded, his mind still racing. Hedwig flew through a mail ward…can it be so random to have not been Hogwarts? Or, was it the more likely situation, the one he feared the most?

Narcissa popped in with Tippy and then Tippy popped out again. She was unperturbed by the sudden call, sliding into the chair across Arcturus with graceful ease. “Is there a problem cousin?”

Sirius snorted and began pacing behind the desk but Narcissa barely glanced his way, used to his overdramatic antics. Well, Arcturus thought bitterly, sometimes he was exactly as dramatic as needed.

“Has Draco sent you a letter?” Arcturus asked.

She nodded, an eyebrow quirking up. “I just read it but I left it at home.”

“Bring it here.”

Narcissa called her own elf to retrieve the letter when Callidora popped in.

“Cousin.” She frowned at the collection of family members. Arcturus terrible and still behind his desk. Sirius pacing behind him. And Narcissa conversing quickly with her house elf. “What happened?”

“Did Neville send you a letter?”

Rather than reply, Callidora asked Tippy to retrieve it. Tippy went as soon as Arcturus nodded his acquiescence.

Soon all three letters were on the desk in front of him. Sirius scanned the letters just as he had Harry’s.

“Did you notice anything with your owls when you received it?” Arcturus asked. They both responded negatively and Hedwig hooted again. She had moved to a perch near the window but hadn’t left.

Sirius growled. “They have the same magical residue.”

“Excuse me?” Callidora glared at Sirius then the letter. “What magical residue?”

Arcturus ignored her question in favor of his own. “And did the letters seem normal?”

Both frowned. “Draco’s was a little disjointed,” Narcissa said slowly. “I had assumed it was because he wished to avoid punishment for when he would eventually explain what he did.”

Callidora stiffened. “Neville’s was similar.”

Arcturus waved a hand over the letters. “May we?” They nodded, and Sirius and Arcturus immediately read over each letter before handing over Harry’s for the women to peruse.

“Similar,” Sirius mumbled, “Something they did wrong…”

“The Weasley Twins acknowledging family,” Narcissa added with a glance to Callidora.

“Finally,” Callidora snarled.

“And something Professor Dumbledore did wrong.”

Arcturus’s aura accidentally flared out and Narcissa shivered from the cold. “Forgive me dear,” Arcturus said, and with a great deal of effort, controlled his magic but Albus bloody Dumbledore was the bane of his existence. He had seriously contemplated not allowing any of the Black family to go to Hogwarts…but British political moves began young and the boys would need to cultivate relationships for their future.

Sirius straightened suddenly. “It’s Hogwarts,” he said, “It has to be. There’s a mail ward around Hogwarts.” He growled and his aura shifted around him violently. Callidora jumped but no one bothered to chastise him.

Their children were smart and loyal and adventurous. Arcturus remembered many adventures when the boys broke something, hid somewhere, scared someone, and they never told on each other, never broke each other’s confidences. He knew it was hell for their parents to deal with, but Arcturus usually snuck them candy or books or a small gift whenever they protected each other’s secrets. That was behavior he rewarded, because family was family. And for all three of them to agree to share an adventure that they knew they would be punished for…What in Merlin’s name did they do? Where did they go? What was the place that all three of them plus the Weasley Twins thought was too dangerous?

“Perhaps Lucius can manufacture a visit as a school governor?” Narcissa suggested.

“Abraxas is still the governor for the House of Malfoy,” Callidora said. “We can’t tell them to send another letter because…”

“It’ll just get wiped away again,” Arcturus nodded, “Clearly there are words or phrases that trigger the mail ward or else the whole letter would have been blank.”

“For all his faults, Dumbledore isn’t stupid,” Sirius muttered. “Any parent would think twice if they received a blank letter.”

“We agree that Dumbledore is behind this?” Narcissa said, “How can we be sure someone else is not erecting a mail ward around Hogwarts? Or even just the Owlery?”

They nodded in recognition at the point but then they heard a snort behind them.

Rose stood at the door, her eyes flashing with ire and her lips twisted in derision. “Ravens kept their owls in the tower. It’s easier for us since we only have to share our rooms with one other person.” Rose’s gaze slid over to Sirius and he flinched. “Now, is my child in danger or are you?”

Sirius winced. “Me…hopefully.”

Rose glared before turning to everyone else. “The mail ward would have to be around Hogwarts. A ward that size would need to be powered by a ley line or a ward stone so large it wouldn’t go unnoticed so…”

“It’s incorporated into Hogwarts existing wards,” Arcturus continued.

“Dumbledore,” Callidora snarled. “It has to be him. Only the Headmaster is in charge of Hogwarts wards and he used his position to add a mail ward.”

“Why?” Narcissa frowned. “What doesn’t he want parents to know?”

“Something dangerous is in the school!” Sirius growled. “Of course he doesn’t want us to know that!”

Suddenly Arcturus grinned. “We can finally kick him out.” Ruining Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s life had been on his To-Do list for years. He successfully thwarted the man’s attempt to become Supreme Mugwump at the International Confederation of Wix but the bothersome man held onto his other appointments. Arcturus thought he was more likely to force the man out of his position as Chief Wix before he could kick him out of Hogwarts. But a mail ward? Censoring children’s letters about something potentially dangerous? All of his dreams coming to fruition.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself cousin,” Callidora said, “Half the British world still thinks the sun shines out of his arse.”

Sirius laughed sharply but Arcturus nodded reluctantly. She was right; for all the advancements the House of Black has fostered these past ten years, Dumbledore still had a ferociously loyal Light contingent.

“Can we counteract the mail ward?” Narcissa asked. “Could we fix the letters and read what has been wiped?”

Rose stepped forward as Sirius explained everything he did. She leaned over the letters, studying Harry’s intently.

“Arcturus, is it possible for you to lift the ink from the page, without ruining the letter?” She looked to him. “Just for a moment?”

He pursed his lips. Rose was a smart woman. The sole survivor of the McKinnon family even though she was raised by muggles. A brilliant magizoologist (with an affinity for snakes and reptiles that pleased him to an untold degree.) Sometimes though, she still asked questions about magic that betrayed her muggle upbringing. This, for instance. Why couldn’t he simple levitate the ink of the letter without ruining it? Shouldn’t such a thing be possible? She clearly thought it was possible and sometimes she made him think the wildest things should be possible.

He shook his head. “I could vanish it, but no, I don’t think I preserve the ink as you’ve suggested.”

“Is the original important?” Callidora asked. “Can we not just duplicate it?”

Without a word, Rose duplicated Harry’s letter, but reached for the original. “I’m going to have to vanish the ink.”

“Why?” Sirius asked.

“It’s a theory,” she replied, shifting around the desk to grab more parchment. “Tippy!”

“Yes Mistress Rose?”

“Bring me a pencil please.”

Tippy rocked back on her feet and bit her lip. “Mistress, Tippy does not know what pencil is.”

Rose blinked in surprise. “It looks like a stick, about this long,” she gestured with her hands, “yellow, and there’s a few on my desk in the west wing.”

Tippy nodded. “Tippy try to find it.”

“Rose,” Sirius frowned, “What are you doing?”

She grinned at him wryly. “Muggle trick.”

All four Blacks frowned at that. Arcturus had learned a lot more about muggles since Sirius moved back home but how could muggles help with erased words?”

Tippy popped into the room with a platter of sticks in her hands. “Is one of these pencil Mistress Rose?”

"Yes, thank you Tippy." Rose grabbed several yellow sticks before focusing back on the letter. “Right,” she mumbled, eyes intent on the letter. Before anyone could figure out her next step, she vanished all the ink off Harry’s letter. There were several exclamations of surprise. “Now, this is under the theory that the mail word simply vanished the ink with the compromising words and shifted the other ink to show no spaces.” She looked around. “At least that’s my understanding of the mail ward?”

Arcturus nodded but was still very sceptical. “How is vanishing all the ink supposed to help?”

“Well,” Rose grabbed a pencil and started drawing all over the letter. “My theory is that the mail ward didn’t bother erasing the indentations on the parchment, but simply removed the ink.”

“What?” Callidora asked, bewildered.

But Narcissa answered with a blossoming smile. “Draco did always have a heavy hand when he wrote. His desk at home was indented with thousands of words when he first started to write.”

Rose grinned. “Exactly!” Slowly the entire letter was covered in strange pencil ink but Arcturus could see Rose was right in some way. He could see the outline of Harry’s letter. It wasn’t perfect but…

“There!” Rose exclaimed, looking from the original letter to the vanished letter. “This is new!”

“Brilliant!” Sirius whooped before gathering Rose in a twirling hug and smacking his lips to hers. “My beautiful, brilliant—”

Rose slightly shoved Sirius away before he could twirl her more. “And pregnant!”

Sirius flushed. “And pregnant wife.” He kissed her cheek, whispering a soft apology in her ear.

“Arcturus! What does it say?” Callidora’s shout startled Rose and Sirius out of their little moment.

Arcturus was grateful he was sitting down already because he would have stumbled into his chair if he was standing. The pencil ink letter did not offer an easy or clear reading experience but it didn’t matter. One word stood out. One word was all he needed.

Cerberus.

 

/// ///

 

Harry had never felt more grateful to be in Ravenclaw when he found out most of his classes were with the Hufflepuffs. Sure, Draco and Nev got to hang out for nearly all of their classes, but they both also had to deal with Weasley.

Today was the first day for the flying lesson and unfortunately, it was all the houses. Nev and Draco complained constantly about the nuisance that was Weasley, but today Harry experienced it for the first time.

At first, it wasn’t bad. Harry could sense the more nervous energy radiating off the boy. When Weasley had boasted that he practiced Quidditch at home, Harry was quick to see the comment for what it was: bravado in the face of nerves. But then, Weasley turned to more derisive comments. One of the muggleborn Hufflepuff boys clearly had no real wish to fly and when his broom didn’t immediately rush into his hand, Harry heard Weasley say to the boy, “Look, you got to mean it. Don’t be a scaredy cat,” but then Weasley whispered to another Gryffindor, “But obviously he’s a Puff for a reason.” The two boys sniggered and Harry frowned.

In an attempt to keep the peace, Harry turned to Hermione and helped her.

“These brooms aren’t good,” he told her when Madam Hooch went to check on other students. “Don’t worry if it feels wobbly, it’s probably not you.”

Hermione grimaced at him, a definite attempt for a smile but she was far too nervous for any genuine grin. The broom had come up for her after several tries but Hermione still wasn’t ready to fly.

As the lesson progressed, Harry could understand why Nev and Draco had no more patience with Weasley. Maybe, Harry argued, he wasn’t paying close attention because this wasn’t an academic class. Maybe, he tried to think, maybe he wasn’t normally this disruptive. Maybe he didn’t always talk under his breath to the other Gryffindors during class.

Harry could only hope his arguments were true because otherwise it will be a long seven years for Nev and Draco.

Unfortunately for Weasley, Harry’s patience and understanding had completely dwindled to nothing by the end of class. When the class ended, Harry wanted nothing more than a shower and a nap. Harry trudged back up to the castle with Nev and Draco on one side and Hermione and Isobel on the other. Hermione and Isobel were discussing their Transfiguration class from earlier that day while Nev and Draco were reviewing where they were going to explore in Hogwarts next. They’ve covered the third floor—Harry shuddered at the reminder—but now they need to go back to the first.

Nev gestured to Harry to wait a moment before they spilt paths to their various common rooms. He waved Hermione and Isobel ahead, telling them he would meet in the common room so they could all walk together for dinner. Then, the three boys had a brief discussion, half hand signs, half words, and a lot of glances over shoulders to make sure they weren’t been spied on.

They had all received the same letter early that week. “Do not respond. Will send alternate method of communication soon. Stay safe and do not go near you-know-what ever again.”

The boys had been worried immediately. Do not respond? That was frightening to consider. It meant letters weren’t safe. How were they supposed to communicate without letters? It became the boys private research project—learn alternate ways of communicating. They kept it secret at the moment but if they didn’t find anything concrete soon, Harry wanted to invite Hermione into the mix. She has already proven to be a brilliant researcher and a quick mind.

After an update on their research and exploring plan, Harry walked back to Ravenclaw tower. As he was nearing the third floor—unfortunately there was simply no way to avoid it on his way up to the seventh—he heard a strange noise.

Growling.

Harry’s heart beat a little faster. Merlin, no! Was something trying to break into the door? Was someone stuck there? Harry jumped up the last few steps and ran around the corridor. And then he saw, stumbling out of the door, Professor Quirrell.

His scar immediately pulsed.

Harry ran back around the corner before the professor could see him. His heart and thoughts were racing. Why was Professor Quirrell there? Was he trying to get passed the Cerberus? Was he feeding the dog? Harry shuddered at the thought. In a way, a really weird way, it made sense for the DADA professor to feed the school monster. If, Harry snorted, you got past the idea that Hogwarts had a school monster.

His scar pulsed again and Harry winced.

But then, he heard Professor Quirrell shuffling over and quickly ran back down the corridor and up the stairs until he reached the Ravenclaw common room. His scar pulsed nearly the entire way.

He rubbed his head absently. He knew he needed to tell his dad now. At first, he thought it was just a headache from the garlic in the DADA classroom. Sometimes it flared up during meals and he thought maybe there was garlic in the food. But now…that was just him, the cerberus, and Professor Quirrell.

Harry shuddered. Professor Quirrell made his scar ache. Not a pain really…but more like a warning, a sense of unease, an impulse to stay far, far away. But he wasn’t allowed to write home anymore. Harry sighed. He needed to bring Hermione into the secret project now because if his dad and grandpa found out he was hiding something this big from them, he was going to be grounded forever.

Chapter Text

Politics was a delicate game.

Arcturus sat for the October session of the Wizengamot. The past week or so of his life have been meetings within the family, directing everyone to slowly bring in allies with careful inquiries. Has your son written home? Did he say anything unusual about Hogwarts? What do you think of the security of Hogwarts?

It was maddening to realize the general consensus of the wixen world. Oh yes Charles is happy to be back at school! Oh, well, nothing exciting but apparently Harry Potter caused quite a stir with his sorting. That damn forest needs to be marked off in my opinion!

Either children don’t tell their families anything or none of the children were as curious as his. Probably both, Arcturus mused. He needed to send them a gift of some sort—a reward for sharing important information with the family. He didn’t want them to end up like their peers, who apparently told their families banalities and nothing more. And frustratingly, that was the core of his problems. If the children don’t tell their families of dangers within Hogwarts, how was he to convince the Wizengamot that there was a danger in Hogwarts? He couldn’t put all the blame on the children—for all his faults, Dumbledore was a formidable opponent and his mail ward was part of the problem.

Arcturus sighed, fingering through the financial report with lackluster interest. Sirius was besides him, taking notes on the budget for the DMLE and the Department of Mysteries. There was a time Sirius would have pursued a career in the DOM and he knew Sirius would have thrived there—his vicious intellect and innovative mind could have created spells or potions or anything really. Arcturus was still impressed with the second version of the “Marauder’s Map” Sirius made this past week with his remaining childhood friend, Remus—and to think they made the first version as school children. But now Sirius needed an excuse to visit the school to tie the new map with the wards as they did the first.

A wicked grin threatened to spread across his lips. He stamped down the urge to let it blossom and vowed to save his triumph when he was behind his warded walls—wards that he checked monthly.

He lit his seal. Sirius sent him a curious look but said nothing.

And the wizard stumbling through the report stuttered to a stop.

Dumbledore frowned when he realized the problem.

Arcturus felt a sliver of satisfaction snake into his belly—Merlin did he love ruining Dumbledore’s day, even in the smallest, most petty of ways.

“Lord Arcturus Black the Third, Duke of Blackmoor, has the floor.”

“Mr. Binker, having reviewed this report, I’ve come to realize a substantial lack of funding for Hogwarts.” Out of the corner of his eye, Arcturus saw Dumbledore stiffen. He slowly turned his attention to the Chief Wix. “Chief Wix, as Headmaster of Hogwarts, could you inform this body if government funding for Hogwarts is sufficient for its upkeep?”

It was a gamble. The Black Family had a known agenda for Hogwarts, a known wish to influence classes and culture. Arcturus hoped that was what Dumbledore would focus on—his wish to give more funding for more classes. Arcturus hoped that Dumbledore would overlook the intermediary steps. The fact that the Wizengamot would have to overview all of Hogwarts’s finances. Perhaps if it was clear Hogwarts was operating on low funds Arcturus can prove that the wards haven’t been checked or updated in a long time. Sirius could volunteer his services…or perhaps Lucius can offer to go as a governor in his father’s stead and they could connect the map whilst checking them over. He figured Dumbledore would remove his mail ward before the check but…there might still be an imprint, a history of the ward within the ward stone. Or, worst case scenario, the ward will be removed and the financial review might show a need for restructuring and the wards will be independently checked more frequently…and maybe he’ll finally succeed in adding Cassiopeia’s ethical class.

It was a win-win in his mind. The only potential loss was if Dumbledore somehow realized that the Blacks knew of the mail ward… Merlin, Arcturus wished again he could send his children to a different school. At least if they could connect the map they could keep an eye on the children…and Dumbledore.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and Arcturus knew the wix had also run through a list of possible answers, possible explanations for Arcturus’s inquiry, and had to decide on his own best case and worst case scenario.

“While the budget at Hogwarts has never been superfluous, Hogwarts easily provides for our students and staff,” he began, “Although, Madam Hooch has complained often that we are in dire need of new training brooms.”

Macmillan’s seal lit in response to that but Arcturus cut in before Dumbledore could pivot to an ally. “Mr. Binker, when is the last time we have reviewed Hogwarts’s budget?”

Mr. Binker shuffled through his records before procuring a sheaf of parchment. “Ah yes, the last time the budget for Hogwarts has been revised before the Wizengamot was 1947.”

There was a mumbling in the crowd and several more seals lit, some of his own allies. This was going better than expected. With a causal air, Arcturus snorted, “That was the year my son graduated Hogwarts. I’ve had two generations move through since.”

Arcturus relinquished the floor but he knew he had won. Dumbledore pivoted to Macmillan immediately but even that fool knew it had been lost. After several more Houses from all spectrums of magic complained, Dowager Longbottom proposed a committee to review the budget.

Sirius stood from his place besides him and travelled to the Gryffindor box. The room quieted. Sirius, as his Heir sat with him during the Wizengamot and voted as the proxy for the House of Gryffindor from the Black box but Sirius’s flare for the dramatic sometimes worked wonders in the political minefield.

Sirius didn’t sit in the chair in the box, as proxy he wasn’t allowed to, but he stood there in deep purple, nearly black robes, his long, curly black hair pinned back with a claw shaped barrette, and a delicate, barely visible smirk rested on his lips.

“The Most Noble and Ancient House of Gryffindor, as the only surviving heir to a Hogwarts Founder, will lead the committee.”

Arcturus couldn’t contain a small grin and glanced at Dumbledore’s sour expression out of the corner of his eye.

No one could argue against Sirius and by the end of the session, a committee containing House Gryffindor, Longbottom, Macmillan, Nott, and Flint was formed to review Hogwarts’s budget and inform the Wizengamot at its next session of any deficits that needed remedying.

Arcturus smirked internally and spent the rest of the session revising his plan to decimate Dumbledore.

 

///

 

Arcturus strolled through Diagon Alley, flushed from his Wizengamot victory. Sirius had headed to the muggle world to pick some peculiar combination of foods to satisfy Rose’s cravings. Sirius was a good husband but Arcturus had expected nothing less. It may have taken him years—Merlin, nearly five long years—to find a witch that would catch and hold Sirius’s eye but he was glad it was Rose. He had worriedly, perhaps a little too late, when Sirius started to seriously court Rose that the witch might take advantage of Sirius’s undying loyalty—and wasn’t that a loaded phrase?

He shuddered. Sirius’s animagus form was still a background research project for Alphard…and occasionally Cassiopeia. Cassie was less interested in wix and more interested in potions and rituals but…a Grim. A harbinger of death. The guardian of innocent souls. A magical spectral dog that walked in shadows and followed Death. Alphard had researched how often a Grim showed up in the Animagus registry, the Black Family history, and was slowly working through all world government registers…if they had them. No results. He wasn’t too surprised; it was an exceedingly rare, magically significant form. And even Sirius wasn’t registered as one in the Ministry. After much discussion on if he should register at all, they put him down as a Great Dane. It fit…loosely. Alphard tagged any registrant with a dog form that could be mistaken for a Grim… That yielded more results but no one within the circle of Black connections, no one Arcturus was willing to even ask, less one suspect something was awry with Sirius’s own form.

He was, until further notice, at a dead end with that. He shuddered again. Any death entendres were unacceptable now.

Arcturus focused back on the Alley. It was less busy than usual, so late in the day and the Hogwarts crowd deep in their studies. But he enjoyed the bustle of shopping. He stopped at Quality Quidditch Supplies, wondering if they would have a good gift for the young Black cousins. Neville wasn’t much of a flyer though; sure, he saw him up playing with Harry and Draco but Arcturus didn’t see the passion for the sport in the boy.

He wanted to award their teamwork so he would have to find something to recognize that. New brooms would be wonderful, but as first years, he couldn’t give the brooms until Christmas. And even though he and family couldn’t find away around the mail ward (yet!), he wanted them rewarded now, so they would remember to always communicate with the family.

A smirk twisted his lips and he hurriedly turned down Knockturn Alley. He had an idea. They were rare, uncommon, and mostly came in pairs. But if he could get a hold of communications mirrors, he might be able to solve all of his problems in one fell swoop.

He stopped by Borgin and Burkes. It was more of an obligatory stop, to see if anything new had travelled through. The shop’s seedier reputation came more from its owners than its products. Mr. Borgin was an unfortunate sycophant and a crook that Arcturus preferred to deal with never. Tippy hated shopping here but Kreacher had turned into a rather more agreeable elf after that evil spawn of a wix Walburga died so Arcturus frequently sent him to deal with Mr. Borgin.

“Ah, Lord Black,” Mr. Borgin spilt his lips into a grin, showcasing decaying teeth, “How may I serve you today?”

“Just browsing, Mr. Borgin,” Arcturus replied, eyeing some jewels shielding in a spell-enforced glass container. They were radiating with dark magic but nothing malevolent; perhaps they were shielded from theft with more punitive measures than more light inclined magic. Melania did enjoy crafting new pieces of jewelry…she might enjoy the Arithmancy involved with taking apart these spells. “Kreacher!”

Kreacher appeared with a little bow. “Yes Master Black?”

“Please evaluate the worth of these jewels and make a fair offer to Mr. Borgin.”

Arcturus moved to the next display without looking to Mr. Borgin. The man’s magic was weak and for all of Kreacher’s faults, the elf wouldn’t dare let a wix cast offensive magic towards his master.

He found some compact mirrors with magical residue but otherwise unmagical. He had Kreacher had that to his list. Sirius was a smart man; if he and his teenage friends could create a runic map that connected with ancient wards, it was well within his field to create communication mirrors.

He turned to leave the store.

Mr. Borgin took a moment from haggling with Kreacher to say, “Thank you for your patronage, Lord Black.”

He left the store with a brief nod to Mr. Borgin and travelled farther down until he stopped outside of The Stheno. It was a small, unassuming shop, and a rare treasure in Knockturn Alley…although most patrons wouldn’t enter. The owner, a small, ugly woman by the name of Echidna managed to scare away most wix. He adored her for it, especially considering he was one of the rare few who saw her without the intricate, centuries old glamor she wore. Her actual appearance was breathtakingly beautiful and horrifying. She had a deep olive complexion, revealing her homeland of Greece, with deep-set, nearly black eyes. Her high cheekbones were striking and her graceful face was framed by dozens of red, venomous snakes. While this Gorgon could not petrify enemies with a single gaze, catching her off guard would be a feat considering her snakes kept an eye in every direction and whispered to her even under the glamour.

He walked in, crouching a little, as the store was too short for the average wix, and saw Echidna organizing bottles near a shelf in the back of the small store. “Lady Echidna,” he smiled, “How are you this evening?”

She frowned at him. “You are too cheerful.” She straightened and with a wave of her hand, betraying her old magic, she shut and locked her store. Arcturus felt the wards slither into space—clearly a touch of her parselmagic—and she dropped her glamour. “How may I help the many great-grandsons of Hecate?”

His smile widened. Perhaps that was why he was gifted the sight of her true nature. “I’m looking for a gift for my youngest cousins. They are doing well in Hogwarts and…”

“And in need of doting from their Patriarch?”

He nodded. “Do you have communication mirrors?”

She tilted her head and regarded him with slow look. Nearly all of her snakes blinked at him slowly. But she didn’t say anything about her perusal. She merely nodded, went to a closed off part of the store and returned with five mirrors. They all matched. All intricately engraved with snakes. The snakes' fangs held the shining mirror in place between their bodies and several snake bodies extended down to form a handle. He hesitantly touched the mirrors with his magic and it felt clean.

“The distance is not great,” she warned. “But a great-grandson of Hecate may discover how to change that.”

He nodded again, called Tippy, and exchanged a far greater currency to her than he would ever offer to Mr. Borgin. But he recognized her value as far more than a shop owner. It was wise to stay in the good graces of the very few immortal creatures of the world.

Arcturus made to say his farewells and head to the nearest apparition point when the air turned a touch warm. He turned to her, and her eyes were again focusing so very intently on him.

Internally, he shifted uneasily. Externally, he was far too old to let that emotion slip the surface. Instead, he inclined his head to her. “May I be of service to you, Lady Echidna?”

She narrowed her focus to his eyes and nodded. “Black magic has touched this street.”

He frowned. Black magic frequently “touched” Knockturn Alley; its reputation was not for naught.

“This past July,” she continued. “I did not see who, or what, or why. But late July, I felt a magic as black as I have ever known.” He moved to question her more, but then she said, “Son of stars, you must do your duty.”

Chapter Text

Hermione was fascinated at the idea of alternate wixen communications. Nev and Draco mercilessly teased him for days after witnessing his sappy smile at Hermione’s enthusiasm over the project. But she had gone on and on about telephones and mobile phones and how if magic can allow teleportation it was ridiculous to think they couldn’t achieve telephonic communication, and her hair sparked with magic and all he could think about is how both of his mums would have adored her. 

So now, after classes were over and homework was finished, the five of them—because Harry couldn’t exclude his new friend Isobel either—would head to the library and research all types of magical communication. 

Hermione and her magical encyclopedia of brain organized things in ways the boys couldn’t even dream of. Her first inclination was immediately to research all the different magical communications known to wix...and she seemed entirely underwhelmed by the options.

Today she heaved a large tome onto the table. Harry looked up, bewildered at her find. “Where did you find this? He asked. The title was indented into the old, patchy cover: Magical Innovations 1833-1901. 

Hermione blushed. “Well...Isobel and I were discussing our research on the way over and the Grey Lady suggested this book.”

Isobel slid into the seat beside her, opening the pages. “The Grey Lady loves Hermione. I swear, whenever we have a problem, she’s there with a solution.” 

Hermione’s blush deepened and she stammered, “Well...she...Prefect Hillbrant said she’s always nice to Ravenclaws.”

Harry frowned. “I haven’t seen her around yet.”

“Better than always having the Bloody Baron around all the time.” Draco shuddered. “He’s nice and all...but the chains...” The group shuddered as a whole. 

Isobel squeaked excitedly, her attention back on the book. “Look at this!” The children gathered around her as she read, “Letter boxes, invented by Lady Ekaterina.” 

“What do they do?” Nev asked. 

Hermione, who was by far the quickest reader of them all, summarized the passage. “She invented a part of letter boxes. One person would put their letter in their own box. Tap the box with a secret code phrase and then letter would appear in the other box.”

“That’s brilliant!” Harry exclaimed. The four of them immediately shushed him and he smiled sheepishly. Whispering, he asked, “Does it say how to create them?”

Hermione nodded, frowning. “It’s a bit tricky...” She looked to the rest of them. “I don’t know if we’d be able to do this on our own.”

Harry frowned; he couldn’t think of anyone to ask for a project like this. At least, he couldn’t think of anyone in the castle. He bet anything that his dad, or grandpa, or Great Uncle Alphard or Great Aunt Lucretia could create letter boxes. But he couldn’t send them a letter to ask for their help because...no letters. He sighed. This was hopeless.

Neville grinned. “I know just who to ask for help.” 

Everyone sent a quizzical look his way. “Who?”

 

///

 

Draco mumbled under his breath, “I think this is a terrible idea.” The boys had reconvened a few days later, debating Neville’s idea again. They were exploring the second floor now, taking time to find secret passageways.

Harry agreed with Draco, just a little. Technically they were family so they should have been able to trust them with this. But they weren’t raised with the family and other Weasleys clearly had no problem disrespecting family. Which meant they couldn’t be trusted. 

“We’ve already worked with them before,” Neville repeated his same arguments, “And they are clearly clever and they don’t care about rules.”

“But do they care about family?” Harry mumbled. Familia primum. Family first. He was raised to always put family first. The idea of betraying Nev or Draco or anyone in the family was just...was just...he couldn’t even think of a word for it. It was just never going to happen. He didn’t even realize until now how much he took that for granted. How he was always so sure Nev and Draco would look after him, would never hurt him, because they were family.

Neville shrugged. “Maybe? But it doesn’t matter,” he turned to Draco, smirking, “We’ll just bring out our Slytherin side.” 

Draco’s eyes widened before a smile broke out of his face. He nodded, “Right. Appeal to their interests, only reveal what is necessary, and plan our moves out carefully.” 

“And then hopefully by Christmas, we’ll have our letter boxes completed.”

Harry winced. Christmas was so far away. Harry wanted to write to his dad now. Better yet, he wanted to run into Grandpa’s office and tell them both about his scar and Professor Quirrell and the Cerberus.

“Harry?” Draco called. Harry looked to him and Draco did a series of hand signs. Are you okay? He asked. 

Harry sighed. Maybe he couldn’t tell Dad or Grandpa about his scar, but he could start with his two best friends. He signed back, I need to tell you a secret, something important.

 

///

 

Sirius walked wearily into the sitting room. Rose had been home from work for a few hours now and was comfortably lounging on the couch with Carina before he arrived. Seeing his face and utter exhaustion, she had shifted, allowing him to slip onto the couch, and rearranged her head in his lap. Carina drowsily wiggled out of her mother’s hold and cuddled into Sirius’s chest before falling back asleep. 

Sirius sighed. He smiled faintly at the sight before him. A wife. A daughter. Another son on the way. His eyes pricked with tears. Look at me Prongs, he thought, I’m a dutiful son for the House of Black, with an amazing wife, a daughter, and… He rubbed away the tears in his eyes. 

Harry should have been his best friend’s son. He should have been a godfather to Harry, not his actual father. He loved the kid. Merlin, Harry was his kid. But, every year, he was reminded that Harry shouldn’t be his son. In a perfect world, Harry would be his godson and Leo would be his first attempt at raising a boy. He rubbed his hand over Rose’s baby bump. It had grown substantially in the last month, as she entered the last trimester. He wasn’t as nervous as he should be, he thought. 

But that was because he didn’t live in a perfect world. He lived in a world without his very best friend. He lived in a world where Harry was his boy, his first son, so Leo would have an experienced parent and Sirius would have two sons to add to his list of things he never thought he would have. 

A dutiful son of the House of Black with a wife, a daughter, and two sons.

Rose entwined their fingers over her belly. “I had a crush on you. Third year.” 

Sirius choked on air, caught somewhere between a snort and a surprised laugh. “You never told me that.”

Rose grinned. “It lasted all of three weeks before I realized what an utter twat you were.”   Sirius guffawed, laughter bubbling unexpectedly to the surface. “You and James both.” His smile froze in place and she squeezed his hand. “And I know the only reason I remember this brief hormonal crazed crush was because it ended the week someone finally told Lily about the Potter family’s romantic intuition.”

“I remember that,” he said softly. 

She hummed. “I remember Lily striding into the Great Hall where she declared loudly, looking James straight in the eye, that she would never consent to marry a bully.” 

“Someone told her about the conditions Mum set on Dad before she would consider marrying him,” he added. “I don’t know who finally told her but…”

“It was Marlene,” Rose said. “I was there because it was the year Marlene and I became friends. And Lily didn’t believe it for a second but…” She grinned faintly. “If she was a half-blood, I think she would have been in Slytherin.” 

Sirius frowned at her, pinching her fingers lightly. “Blasphemy!” But they both chuckled. Lily had always been ambitious—she wanted to be the best in the school after all. But sometimes her cunning side slipped out…like then.

“She heard that and immediately turned around to use it to her advantage.” 

“And it lasted all of two weeks.” Sirius remembered James’s face at Lily’s announcement. It took him two weeks to work around the loophole… He wasn’t a bully, James had argued, he was a prankster. And he only retaliated in fights, he never started them. Fourteen year old logic concluded that he was right. Adult logic saw that sometimes their antics went from pranking into bullying. Sirius frowned. “How did that end your crush on me?”

She smiled softly. “Because I remember James’s face. Fourteen years old and utterly devoted to Lily Evans, even when she loudly declared she would never date him, love him, marry him. And you didn’t even know I existed then.”

Sirius made a noise to interrupt but Rose reached up and rested her fingers on his lips. “Love, you were fourteen. I was thirteen. It was stupid little crush on a very smart, mischievous—”

“Handsome.” He punctuated each of his words with a kiss to her lips. “Roguish. Brilliant. Funny.”

Rose laughed, poking him in the stomach. “And arrogant teenage boy.” She poked him again, before looking up at him and smiling widely. “I was horribly jealous of Lily for a while. Here she had a cute boy who stared at her with literal hearts in his eyes and she wouldn’t give him the time of day. But then…” 

She turned, sitting up and shifting to cuddle into him. He wrapped an arm around her waist, tucked her into his side, but they both shifted so they could still look into each other’s eyes. “I realized that I deserved that too. And it took a while, but then one day, a father who thought his son had been kidnapped burst into my office and, after realizing his child was safe, there it was.”

Sirius’s smile softened and he looked at her knowing that he was staring at her with the look she had waited for. Because, by all the gods, he was devoted to her. 

She smiled broadly back, cupping his cheek in her hand. “I am very lucky witch to have you for a husband.” She snuggled under his chin, pressed a light kiss to his neck and said, “Every Samhain I thank James for showing me, even in the briefest moment at fourteen, what utter devoted love looks like. Because of that, I was able to recognize it on your face immediately. And I thank Lily every year for teaching me not to waste a single moment of my life trying to change you.”

Sirius frowned. “Lily never really changed James.”

“Nope!” Rose popped the ‘p,’ chuckling. “She learned to love James, flaws and all.”

“Are you saying you learned to love my flaws?” Sirius snorted but Rose nodded.

“Yup,” she pressed a kiss to his chest. “The biggest one of course is your guilt.” Sirius frowned again and Rose shifted to look him in the eye. She cupped his face in her hands and said, “It is not your fault James and Lily aren’t here to raise their boy.” She squeezed lightly when Sirius tried to jerk away. “And we honor them every day by trying to raise Harry the way they would have if they had the chance.” Sirius swallowed thickly. 

“I still miss him,” he admitted softly. “Especially on days like today. When I’m acting as the proxy for the House of Gryffindor and all I can think is that it shouldn’t be me.” He shuddered. “I should have been the Secret Keeper. It should have been me and then they would have been safe.” 

“You would have died before betraying them. And the Secret would have fallen on Pettigrew anyways.” She paused. “I never did ask but…how many people knew the Secret? I just assumed Pettigrew told you and Remus.” 

Sirius shrugged. “Remus and I knew. I think Dumbledore—” Sirius paused and the color drained from his face. Rose sat up in alarm.

“Sirius? Sirius what’s wrong?” 

“Dumbledore knew I wasn’t the Secret Keeper. Peter told him the Secret. I’m sure of it…”

Rose furrowed her brows. “What does that mean?” 

Sirius’s mind whirled. His mind went back to a place and time he actively avoided. Samhain. 1981. And the days that followed after. How had Hagrid gotten to the cottage minutes after he arrived? How had Hagrid known where to go? The Secret protected the location…it shouldn’t have mattered what happened once someone was inside the cottage, the Fidelius charm should have held as long as the Secret Keeper was alive. But the protections of the Fidelius charm did fall…

Sirius wracked his brain. Who performed the charm? It required a castor and the Secret Keeper. Peter was obviously the Secret Keeper. Did Lily act as the castor? That was what he always assumed but… Lily was exceptional at charms, a prodigy. If she was the castor, the spell wouldn’t have fallen. And, as Peter was most definitely not dead but everyone could see the cottage now… How did the protection fail? 

Whoever performed the charm didn’t perform it properly. 

“Sirius?” Rose whispered. “What’s wrong?” 

Sirius slowly pushed Rose back, handed her Carina, and strode out the door. He didn’t turn around, even though he heard Rose following him. He didn’t stop until he reached his grandfather’s office. 

“I need the book.” 

Arcturus looked up sharply from his conversation. Narcissa and Cygnus were in the office but Sirius only belatedly noticed. His mind had raced in circles, followed logical paths to dead ends, only to end up with the most horrifying conclusions.

For his credit, Arcturus didn’t even question him. He stood and pressed his Lord ring to an indentation in a marble bust of Amulius Titus Tatis. The bust’s jaw lengthened and his mouth dropped open to reveal the black book. 

Sirius strode over to the desk to grab a quill and flicked to the next entry space in the book. 

If Lily didn’t cast the spell, then that left only one other person capable of casting such a notoriously tricky and delicate spell. One person who failed to properly cast the spell despite his prodigious magical skill. One person who had also advocated to be the Secret Keeper. One person who knew Sirius wasn’t the Secret Keeper but had not said anything while the Ministry nearly sent him to Azkaban for life. One person who sent his son to relatives Lily had explicitly told the entire Order of the Phoenix to never, ever let her son go to. One person who knew immediately when the Fidelius charm failed, who sent a loyal oaf to pick up a baby rather than him or Alice. Who directed him straight to Petunia rather than a healer, rather than St. Mungo’s or the DMLE, or even Hogwarts. 

October 31, 1981 — Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

Rose gasped as she read the name over his shoulder but the rest of room’s occupants were silent. Sirius strode back over to the bust, and placed the book in its open mouth. As the mouth closed, it intoned gravely, “Casa Nigrae stat in aeternum.

Sirius let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding as he turned to the room. Cygnus looked amused. Narcissa looked worried.

But his grandfather was smiling, ear to ear, as he whispered, “Finally.”

Chapter Text

If Arcturus could have gotten away with it, he would have apparated over to Hogwarts and killed Dumbledore in that moment. No ceremony. No pomp or circumstance. The wix didn’t deserve it.

As it was, Dumbledore was not the man he was today for no reason. Nor was he an enemy to take lightly. So Arcturus settled into his chair and planned. Sirius explained his reasoning, mostly for Narcissa who had to know if she needed to pull Draco (and the rest of the Black children) from Hogwarts. Rose felt the same way. They easily could have homeschooled the children until the threat was eliminated… The option was still out there but for the moment, he and Sirius had agreed—for all his faults and machinations, Dumbledore loved children. They had to hold onto that comfort until they could figure out his plan.

And his plan was the real trouble. What Sirius explained was…concerning.

Dumbledore set the Potters up to die. Period. When Harry survived, Dumbledore did his best to insure he controlled Harry’s future.

Arcturus thought back to that fateful day in the Wizengamot. He leaned back in his chair, allowing the memory to fill him before he extracted it for his pensieve, only accessible behind a bookshelf keyed to the Lord’s ring, in a pocket dimension, for safe keeping of course. He sunk into the memory.

“Now who has called an emergency meeting of the Wizengamot? I’ve already declared our right—”

He smirked at his entrance, appreciative of his dramatics and of the ability to watch this moment as an outsider. It allowed him to turn and narrow his focus on Albus fucking Dumbledore.

Dumbledore wasn’t Chief Wix at this time. In fact, Arcturus frowned, he couldn’t possibly think of a reason why he was here. Arcturus breathed deeply, calling upon his magic to deepen the efficacy of the memory. He hadn’t been close to Dumbledore in reality but he hoped that his magic was strong enough to call into details of this memory that he couldn’t have possibly known or seen at that time. His magical aura was very strong in that moment so it was a distinct possibility.

Arcturus listened to himself rip into the Wizengamot with his eyes focused on Dumbledore. “I have called us here, Minister, because you have neglected to set a trial for my heir.”

Dumbledore’s eyes widened before a nearly imperceptible scowl formed. His face was smooth in an instant.

Arcturus ignored the groans and shouts that rose up. Dumbledore seemed to relax for a moment. Maybe he thought others would fight Arcturus’s plan in his stead. Arcturus felt frustrated though, because through this all, there was no glance to an accomplice nor conferring with a third party. Was Dumbledore well and truly working alone?

Arcturus waited for his bombshell.

“I also demand Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore to be arrested for kidnapping my second cousin, twice removed, Hadrian James Potter.”

Ah. He savored the silence. Dumbledore looked shocked at this pronouncement but Arcturus wondered how much was a facade and how much was the truth. Did Dumbledore truly think that he wouldn’t raze the Wizengamot to the ground for his grandson and young cousin? For the first time, Arcturus wondered what the outside world thought of Sirius’s estrangement with his mother.

“As the patriarch for the Most Noble and Ancient House of Gryffindor is dead—may James Charlus Potter rest in the embrace of our Lady Hecate—”

And there it was. That wince. As if he had been slapped. Arcturus trembled. He never doubted Sirius, nor his conclusion, but there it was. Dumbledore knew. Dumbledore set up the Potters to die and knew he would have to face Lady Hecate one day.

His speech continued and Dumbledore frowned again. Nothing truly out of the ordinary for an old man accused of kidnapping but… Arcturus leaned closer. Dumbledore was surreptitiously shuffling papers into his robes.

Arcturus focused and restarted the memory. He immediately strode over to Dumbledore and, instead of facing him head on, shifted to look over his shoulder. The top parchment read, “The Last Will and Testament of James and Lily Potter.”

Arcturus’s magical energy rippled the memory into an unsteady haze. He breathed deeply, slowly, and restarted the memory again when he was calm.

As if one of the Most Noble and Ancient families of wixen Britain would leave a will to a fucking headmaster and not to the Goblin Horde who have the authority to execute individuals who attempt to interfere with the distribution of a Most Noble and Ancient will.

Arcturus read the will further in the next go around in the memory, unsurprised that a large monetary gift was to be given to their favorite headmaster nor that the order of relatives to care for Harry was shifted to begin with Petunia Dursley. Sirius wasn’t even on the list. Arcturus re-read the will twice more, careful to capture every detail.

He emerged from the pensieve. With a careful twist of his wrist, he returned it to the pocket dimension and shifted out of the secret room behind his bookshelf. Sirius was waiting for him in his office. As his Heir he would have been the only person allowed to be in his office when he was in the secret room. He looked upset.

“What is it Sirius?” Merlin did something else happen?

“Dumbledore denied our request to take the children out for Samhain.”

Arcturus smiled…and then frowned. He shifted to his seat and Sirius sat across from him.

“Grandfather?”

“He denied a Most Noble and Ancient family the right to celebrate one of the most important wixen holidays with their children?” Arcturus frowned again. He followed through the logical steps in his head. Obviously Dumbledore must know that Arcturus would object to this in the Wizengamot, that the cultural uproar would be against him, that Arcturus would finally win a public battle against Dumbledore. “What could he possibly gain from that? That…”

Unless he hedged his bets that Arcturus would not be able to win the battle until after Samhain. Unless he wanted Harry to stay in the castle on Samhain.

Samhain was an important day. The veil between the living and dead was thin on Samhain. Communication with the dead could be achieved without black magic. Most families spent this time honoring their dead, reflecting on the past year, and cleansing negative energy. Samhain was death to make room for rebirth.

It was also an ideal day for black magic. Arcturus shuddered, remembering the death of the Potters and the monster that was Voldemort. Samhain was an ideal time to make a horcrux.

Dumbledore was a lot of things but a black magic wix was not one of them. Merlin the man was barely grey although Arcturus suspected monthly cleansing rituals for a man as old and experienced as Dumbledore to stay as stringently light as he had. Melania, for all her experiments in taking apart dark curses, had never actually cast a dark curse and was still a grey wix because she felt no compulsion to cleanse her magic every month. Andromeda, on the other hand, as a St. Mungo’s Healer, had mandatory cleansing rituals every new moon in order to keep her magic light. Some healing spells required light magic while others just worked better with light than grey.

So no, Dumbledore was not likely going to create a horcrux. Arcturus shook his head, again feeling his age. His mind definitely wandered into more crazy scenarios than he wanted. But it still didn’t answer why Dumbledore would sacrifice this position to keep the children in at Samhain…

But… Arcturus smiled. It did give them a reason to personally go to Hogwarts.

/// ///

The entire Black family wanted to go to Hogwarts en masse to protest Dumbledore’s ridiculousness. And while Arcturus felt that the dramatic entrance might have been worth it…there was no way it would have been feasible. Instead, it was Dowager Longbottom in her peculiar vulture hat, Sirius in modern robes that more greatly resembled a muggle peacoat, Heir Lucius Malfoy in distinctly more traditional robes, and himself in the same outfit he wore so many years ago when he walked into the Wizengamot and unintentionally ruined Dumbledore’s plans. Because he wanted to see Dumbledore’s face as he realized that Arcturus would always be there to ruin his plans.

It was a week before Samhain (Arcturus wanted plenty of time to go to the Wizengamot in case this ploy failed) when their entourage burst through the Great Hall doors during breakfast. He heard, rather than saw, the pitter-patter of running children. His eyes were for Dumbledore only, and the put-upon frown on his face. Arcturus grinned. He would have to show this to Melania. Arcturus continued up to the front table, knowing that Sirius and the rest would stay behind to exchange letters and converse briefly with their children.

Sirius was so damn pleased to see Harry that he almost forgot the purpose of the visit altogether. Harry had run up to him, leaping into a hug and squeezing him tight.

“Dad! What are you doing here?” His green eyes crinkled. “Is Mum okay? Is Leo here?” And then, softer, “I’ve missed talking with you.”

Sirius squeezed him a little tighter before letting go. “Mum’s okay. Leo is still waiting for Yule.” And softer, “I’ve missed you more than you know.”

The reunions around him had ended and Dowager Longbottom was on her way up to the Head Table to join Arcturus, with Neville escorting her like a proper gentleman. Sirius exchanged a glance with Lucius, who nodded at the inquiring look. While their sons’ communication was more thorough, they had all come here with an understanding and an additional mission that they could hopefully accomplish. Lucius, who often acted as a school governor when his father was ill, would have a greater chance of achieving it. And distraction and spectacle were key.

“Now, pup,” Sirius turned to Harry, grinning broadly and whispering conspiratorially, “Why don’t you introduce me to your lady love?”

Harry turned red immediately and Sirius laughed uproariously. “Dad!” Harry glanced back to the Ravenclaw table before whispering to him, “Don’t embarrass me.”

Sirius wrapped an arm around his shoulders as Harry led him to the Ravenclaw table. “Never, son.”

Harry led him to a bright eyed girl with the craziest curls he has ever seen…and the Blacks were known for their curly hair. Maybe he could have Andromeda send her some hair supplies because he doubted the girl would listen to him…even if he did have curly hair himself. Harry, because he raised a proper gentleman, held a hand out for his lady love and helped her from her seat.

Sirius smiled softly. She didn’t even hesitate in taking his hand and stood close to Harry when he turned back to him. Well Prongs, he thought, I think we can safely say that we can thank Lily Evans for giving the Potter men some tact.

Harry straightened and said, “Father, this is Hermione Jean Dagworth-Granger, Heiress to the Ancient House of Dagworth-Granger.” Harry turned to Hermione. “Hermione, this is my father by ritual, Heir Sirius Orion Black, of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black and my proxy for the Most Noble and Ancient House of Gryffindor.”

Hermione performed a perfect little curtsey. “It is a honour to meet your Heir Black.”
Sirius grinned and swept into a deep bow, winking at Harry as he rose. “And it is an honour to meet you Heiress Dagworth-Granger.”

She blushed before adding hurriedly, “Harry is a very good friend of mine.”

Harry beamed. He was happy to see his dad (and happy to introduce him to Hermione) but he knew this wasn’t a social visit. Well, those weren’t allowed anyways so why was his dad here? He glanced over at Draco. He and his dad had joined the others near the Head Table. Draco caught his eye and quickly signed, “Trouble with holiday.” Harry frowned. The nearest holiday was Samhain…

“Dad,” Harry whispered, “Is everything settled for Samhain?”

Sirius glanced sharply at him before glancing over to the Head Table. He grinned warily. “It will be soon.”

Hermione perked up a little, turning to him. “I didn’t know you celebrated the old ways!”

Harry winced, afraid for the first time that Hermione wouldn’t understand him. She had that faraway look again so he knew she was likely bringing up everything she possibly knew about it.

“Grandfather told me everything he could remember, but he was still so young. And surprisingly there are very few books on…the religion, I suppose. Any books, too, kept reiterating how personalized the traditions could be from wix to wix and family to family.” She smiled shyly then. “Could you teach me more about it?”

Yeah, that old hat was lying; Hermione was perfect. He smiled widely and nodded.

And then the morning chime rang, signaling the end of breakfast. Harry turned to Sirius. “Will I see you before you leave?” Harry tried to think of a way to signal to his dad that he needed to talk. He wanted to explain everything about the 3rd floor corridor, and Professor Quirrell, and Hermione, and the letter boxes.

Sirius handed him a pack of letters. “From Mum and Grandma,” he said. He wrapped a hand around Harry’s shoulders and turned him towards the Head Table. “It was a pleasure to meet you Heiress Dagworth-Granger. Perhaps you can visit during Yule? We’d love to host you and your family.”

Hermione peeked shyly at Harry before whispering, “I’d really like that.” Harry sent her a warm smile and she relaxed into a genuine grin. “It was a pleasure to meet you Heir Black.”

After a brief introduction to Isobel MacDougal and then the appropriate goodbyes, Sirius led Harry to the Head Table after Hermione assured him she’d take careful notes in Herbology. Lucius was missing, as was Dumbledore, but Sirius hoped that meant that one plan of theirs was working. Draco stood with Neville and Augusta still. Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Snape were still present.

Sirius studiously ignored Snape. After the first Black Gathering nearly eleven years ago, Lucius and Narcissa exposed everything that had happened on Voldemort’s side. How it was well known that Pettigrew was a spy, how the Dark Mark still infected all followers—he knew that Narcissa and his grandfather were working on destroying the mark as a side project—and how Snape had delivered some information to Voldemort that shot him through the ranks. They didn’t know what the information was and Snape was tight lipped about it during and after the war. It was one of the many things that strained the Slytherin friendship/acquaintance/ally-ship between Lucius and Snape; Lucius had viewed himself for many years as a mentor for Severus but the war changed many things. The final straw was when Dumbledore declared Snape a spy for the Light side. Whatever side Snape was on, Lucius had noted, it was not theirs.

Sirius focused on Professor McGonagall who was working herself into a Scottish fury. “How dare he!” She pursed her lips. “Well, will you also be pulling the children for Imbolc or Lammas? Or just Samhain and Beltane?”

Arcturus had a slow, lazy grin and Sirius relaxed. He had clearly gotten his way. “Yes we will. My wife is dutiful in her worship and expects the same from the rest of us.” He paused and then glanced towards Sirius.

Perhaps it was all the silent conversations they had during the Wizengamot but Sirius was pretty sure he knew what his grandfather wanted but couldn’t say. “Minnie,” he exclaimed with glee, watching her face purple with rage, “You should join us this year, Yule at least.” He turned to Professor Flitwick before she could fly into a rage. “And you as well, Professor Flitwick,” he winked and Filius snorted. “I’m sure Rose would love to see you again. Although, that does greatly depend on when Leo decides to enter the world.”

Sirius heard a derisive snort come from Snape’s direction but he ignored it. He took a deep, slow breath. Patience. Briefly he wondered if being a general fucking arsehole was good enough for the book… He’d ask Grandfather; at the very least they could think of other ways to ruin his life. Unfortunately they had decided early on that being a marked Death Eater was not enough of reason. Sirius disagreed. But Theron Nott had been a helpful ally in swinging some of the Dark faction to their direction in the Wizengamot so Sirius didn’t bring it up…often.

“I would be delighted!” Filius responded. “I haven’t heard from her lately. But I see you brought some letters from home for Harry.” He nodded to the letters Harry still gripped, but he looked back to Sirius with a gimlet stare more reminiscent of Minerva. Sirius frowned. Rose did say that all Ravens kept their owls in the Tower; did Filius have a ward around the tower for owl activity? Merlin, Sirius hoped he was an ally and not a foe. If Sirius had to worry about Filius’s loyalties…well, that would not be something he’d tell his pregnant wife until it was either confirmed or Leo showed up.

“I will be also,” Minerva said before giving him a stern look, “You’re not too old for detention lad, so watch your cheek.”

Sirius grinned broadly and the boys giggled.

“We will be picking up the boys after their morning breakfast on Samhain,” Augusta interrupted with a stern look to all three professors.

Minerva nodded. “Yes that works.” She was about to continue when Sirius’s least favorite voice slid in.

“Are you sure, Minerva?” Snape said silkily, “They will be missing two days of classes. There’s no reason for them to not pick up the children after classes are over on Samhain.”

Sirius glanced to his grandfather and saw Arcturus smile guilelessly. Thank Merlin, Grandfather can take this one. “It is true that Samhain and all sabbats are celebrated from sundown to sundown,” Arcturus nodded to Snape, “However, much is needed to be done in preparation. There is simply not enough time to pick up the children any later.”

“Indeed.” Minerva leveled a gimlet stare at Snape. “That schedule will work for the rest of the Sabbats during the year.” She turned back to Arcturus. “I shall except at least one of you to retrieve the children on each sabbat unless you notify me otherwise.”

“Excellent!” Augusta clapped her hands together. “Sirius will be picking them up for Samhain.” Augusta glanced to him and Sirius nodded. “Now I hope Heir Malfoy’s Hogwarts business doesn’t take much longer.”

“Not at all,” Lucius’s voice echoed across the Hall. He strode purposefully through the room, which was his usual, but perhaps there was an extra skip in his step? An extra flourish for a successful mission? Sirius didn’t know and he hated that he had to find out later. Sirius glanced to Dumbledore and felt his blood boil. He was supposed to have been an ally, a caretaker, a champion for the people—

He felt a brush of his grandfather’s magic. Subtle, but a clear warning. He took a deep breath and relaxed, glancing to Arcturus and nodding once.

“Right!” He clapped his hands together. “Now that everything is settled,” he turned to Harry, “Walk me out son?” Harry nodded vehemently. Grinning, he glanced back to Minerva, “I’ll be back next week to pick up the boys.”

She nodded and then motioned them forward. “I will also walk you all out and ensure the children go to class. Severus, Filius,” she motioned them forward as well, “I believe we kept our first classes for the day waiting long enough.”

“Indeed.” Snape swept out of the room with a sour expression.

Filius followed them out the Great Hall. “Do tell Rose to keep in touch,” he turned to Sirius, “I would appreciate a letter once and a while.”

Great. Sirius turned his grimace into a grin. “Of course! I’ll tell her.” Filius nodded curtly before turning down a corner. Sirius caught Grandfather’s eye and he knew they were both weighing the same information. Friend or foe? But then Grandfather took over Minerva’s attention and Sirius focused on the precious few moments with his own son.

Harry tugged on his arm and they slowed to back of their procession. Nearly simultaneously Draco and Neville both started to loudly talk to Augusta and Lucius about Quidditch and classes and… Merlin, were they covering for Harry? Sirius immediately glanced down at his son and noticed his paler than normal face.

“Harry,” he whispered, “What’s wrong?”

“My scar hurts,” he whispered back. Sirius’s stomach turned in revulsion. What? What did he mean— Harry hurriedly continued, “Around Professor Quirrell. It’s like a warning. But it didn’t hurt around the…” Harry tripped over his words, “the 3rd floor. And it doesn’t hurt when curses or spells at thrown at me or any other dangerous things—”

“What do you mean other dangerous things?” Fuck was his son purposefully putting himself in danger to test his scar’s reaction?

But Harry didn’t respond. “It’s never hurt before. But—”

Sirius reached up and brushed Harry’s hair as if he was about to ruffle it affectionately, but instead he subtly brushed Harry’s scar with his magic. For the first time since Sirius had healed the wound in Harry’s crib, Sirius touched the scar with his magic.

Wild. Unbridled, fierce, and…protective? Sirius focused in on the strange emotion emulating from the wild magic concentrated around Harry’s scar. There was an essence of magic that felt almost separate from Harry’s own wild core. It was protective, and affectionate, and… Sirius viciously fought back tears. And feminine.

Oh, Lily what did you do?

“Harry,” Sirius whispered fiercely, hopelessly trying to reign his emotions in. “Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be alone with this professor.” Harry’s eyes grew wide but he nodded quickly. “What does he teach?”

“DADA,” Harry answered.

Sirius groaned. That stupid cursed position. Another thing on Grandfather’s to do list that kept getting pushed to the bottom. Maybe if they had addressed it before the kids got to school there would have been a different professor, and not one that Lily’s magic was warning against.

He gripped Harry’s shoulder as he neared the entrance.

“Oh!” Harry grinned widely, an unexpected turn for Sirius who was still wrestling with his rolling emotions. “Hermione has been researching magical communications and she found something called letter boxes. We’ve been trying to make some.” Harry’s eyes widened in the same faux innocent way he had when he knew he was caught doing something he shouldn’t. Sirius barked out a laugh. Oh yeah, he was still James’s kid.

“She’s a brilliant girl,” Sirius grinned, “You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if we already owned some. I can send them along to help with your studies.”

Sirius felt his son sag with relief so he enveloped him in a tight hug. His son’s first year of school should be joyous but so far it turned into a giant headache…literally. Sirius squeezed him tighter.

“I’d like that Dad,” Harry murmured. “I can’t wait to see you and Mum and Carina.”

“We miss you too kid,” Sirius cupped the back of his head and leaned back. “Now, stay out of trouble until I see you again.”

Harry nodded and then they both went to say the rest of their goodbyes. He went to Uncle Lucius and Aunt Augusta first—a clap on the shoulder and a quick hug—before turning to Grandfather. He held his arms open for a hug and Harry went happily.

“Good job,” he whispered, “Always remember to trust the family.” Harry felt something slip into robes pocket but he didn’t react—Grandfather was always one for gifts. He hoped it was some chocolate frogs.

After all the goodbyes were said, Professor McGonagall ushered them back inside. She leveled a gimlet stare on all three of them. “Now, to classes. Don’t dawdle!”

As soon as they turned the corner, Harry reached into his pocket just as Draco and Neville did the same. He pulled out a hard bundle that grew in his hand. Right, so not a chocolate frog. He unwrapped the packaging and held a shining, beautiful mirror. Impaled on one of the snakes’ fangs was a piece of parchment that read, “Say Draco.” He glanced at Draco and Nev and found them holding matching mirrors in their hands. Frowning, he held the mirror and said, “Draco.”

“Merlin!” Draco exclaimed, turning his mirror for him and Nev to see…his face.

“Wow!” He said, and Draco’s mirror immediately echoed the word.

“Communication mirrors!” Nev exclaimed. He faced off his mirror and said, “Draco.” Suddenly Harry’s mirror reflected back both Draco and Nev’s face.

Harry grinned widely. “Brilliant!”

And for the first time since the Cerberus incident, Harry felt relieved. Even if they couldn’t send letters, his family was still trying to find ways to reach them. They weren’t truly alone.

/// ///

Sirius held himself together by a thread. As soon as they apparated to Ravenswood, he curtly said, “Gathering. Now.” And walked out the door, through the house, and straight to the Black Circle. With a lazy flick, he activated the shield runes and released. All his magic, all his anger and fear and pain. A storm swirled around him but the Black Circle, so old, connected to the family magic, and aware, swelled to take the magic, gather it, and use it to reinforce the shields, build up the runes, and breathe the magic into the land.

Sirius didn’t know how long he was in there, letting the influx of his emotions swell and bank his magical energy. If he wasn’t in the Black Circle, he knew his magical core could have fractured under the stress, but as always, the Black Circle answered the call for protection—Ara answered the call. Merlin bless her.

After a moment, he saw Rose pacing anxiously outside the protective wards. He took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and then repeated the process until he felt calm. He couldn’t endanger Leo with his magical upheaval and could only hope Rose was keeping calm enough for him as well.

He released the wards and Rose ran to him.

“Harry?” A single word and all her fear washed over him.

He wanted to say, ‘He’s fine, don’t worry,” but he was worried and his son was near someone that…Merlin. Lily. He wrapped Rose in his arms; she began to tremble in the face of his silence.

“Should we pull them out of school?” Them, of course, because a danger to Harry would still be a danger to Draco and Neville.

He shook his head. “I’ll get them at Samhain and…” And…

A silver raven soared in front of them. In Grandfather’s voice it said, “We’re ready.”

Chapter Text

It was the first Black Gathering since 1981. 10 years have passed and now Rose sat next to him with Carina in his lap. She had clambered onto him as soon as he sat down and he held her close. As always, she was the reminder that it was okay—it was okay that he survived when James and Lily didn’t. He knew they would have sacrificed their lives for even the idea of her because he would have done the same for them.

Everyone was looking to him. Worried, concerned, confused. Narcissa had her hands tightly clasped in front of her, Andromeda rested one of her hands on top in a soothing manner. Sirius was sure that if Lucius hadn’t already told her that Draco was fine, she would not be so calm now. 

“I saw Death leave Godric’s Hallow in 1981.” 

Rose placed her hand on his bouncing knee, calming him when he should be calming her. He twined their fingers.

“He—well, he was wearing a cloak like a dementor would but carried a scythe so—” Sirius took a deep breath and restarted. “He didn’t say anything, and I didn’t see his face, but he looked at me—at least I felt him look at me—and then back to the cottage and back to me. And—” He sighed. “That was it. And I never thought much about it since.”

“What changed?” Grandfather asked.

Sirius turned to him. His grandfather was a meticulous, thorough and precise man. But he was also kind—and something told Sirius that even if he never wanted to think of that night, his grandfather would have wanted to know everything from that night. 

“I haven’t seen Death since. Why would he show himself to me then? Why would he personally retrieve three souls?” Sirius breathed slowly, knowing that after his next question he would learn things about that night he might never want to know. “What ritual did Lily do that night?”

Grandfather frowned at him and, with little hesitation, turned to Uncle Alphard. Sirius squeezed Rose’s hand—he knew Grandfather wouldn’t have let it go, wouldn’t have stopped until he knew everything, but the confirmation still rattled him. 

“Cassie and I have been researching for years now,” Alphard started, “And…well…” He glanced to Great Aunt Cassie.

She sat a little straighter and a peculiar smile twisted her lips, not triumphant but impressed. “Lily created her own ritual. Must have. We found runes in the crib, on the doors, walls and floors. It definitely interfered with whatever Riddle had planned. His own ritual circle had to be placed within hers.” 

Sirius was starting to get clammy. “Are you sure she created it? Or did she adapt it from another ritual?”

Great Aunt Cassie and Uncle Alphard shared a look. He cleared his throat before starting, “It’s possible.” He glanced around the room before landing on Dora who was currently finishing her mastery in DADA. She grimaced. 

“I’ve also looked over the runes,” Dora said softly, “Just to see if I could help and…” She winced, avoiding Sirius’s face. “Well, some of the runes and some of the placements are similar to the Ritual of Magical Transference.” 

Sirius closed his eyes and bowed his head on top of Carina’s. She was solemn and silent in his lap even if she had no idea what that ritual was. Black magic, almost as horrific as a horcrux. The ritual allowed the castor to absorb and take the magical core of the wix sacrifice. But Sirius knew that wasn’t what she did. Merlin that bloody witch.

“She gave her magic to Harry,” he whispered. Shocked and horrified gasps surrounded him. Rose gripped his hand so hard it almost hurt. “I think she cut Harry’s scar—I think—” He cuddled Carina closer—the things he would do to make sure she lived another hour, another day…a whole bloody lifetime if he could manage it. “She changed the ritual to get her magic to act as protection.” 

No one spoke. Because suddenly it was all too clear that Lily Potter managed to create the first magical ward against the Killing Curse. Plus something more—

“Harry’s scar is warning him about Professor Quirrell,” Sirius said at last. Everyone sharply turned to look to him. “Harry doesn’t understand but…I scanned his scar before we left today. Lily’s magic is protective…”

“Which means,” Grandmother said softly, “Lily’s magic is warning us that this professor is a danger to Harry.”

“And Draco and Neville,” Narcissa’s voice hitched. “Why didn’t you take them from the school?” Narcissa turned on Sirius. “Why would you leave them there? Unprotected!” 

“I’m picking them up in less than a week,” Sirius shot back quickly. “We…we’ll re-evaluate then.” Sirius glanced to Grandfather. “I don’t…I don’t want…” His voice shook. “I can’t ignore Lily. I can’t let him go back when…” 

“He’s not going back.” Rose glared at both him and his grandfather before looking to Narcissa. “Sirius will pick up the kids on Samhain and they won’t go back until this Quirrell is taken care of.” Then she glanced back to him. “If Lily’s magic is reacting to this man, then…then…” Her voice shook and Carina glanced up worriedly. Rose ran a shaking hand down the back of their daughter’s curls. “Harry said this was the first time?” 

Sirius nodded, suddenly worried about what logical leaps his brilliant wife had just taken. 

“Harry’s been around Death Eaters, around the Dark Mark,” Rose glanced at Narcissa—even if Lucius would have never followed Voldemort given the opportunity to go back in time, he still bore the Dark Mark. As did Snape for that matter. “Which means Lily’s magic isn’t attuned to just any threats—”

“Bloody hell,” Sirius cursed, “Harry told me that the scar didn’t react to curses or…” He groaned, “…other dangerous things.” 

Rose frowned at him but didn’t question further. “Which means…”

“Do you actually think his scar is reacting to Voldemort?” Great Aunt Cassie interrupted. Everyone but her looked horrified at the notion; she looked intrigued. 

Rose nodded slowly. “I don’t know how—”

Suddenly there was a chill in the air. Sirius glanced to Grandfather worriedly, knowing they were thinking the same thing.

Was there another fucking horcrux? 

 

/// ///

 

Harry had mixed feelings being pulled for Samhain. On one hand, he was so excited to go home, see his mum and sister and of course dad. On the other hand, he didn’t want to leave Hermione. Over the past week, he told her everything he knew about Samhain, all the traditions he followed, and he realized…well today would have been a really nice time for Hermione to meet his first parents.

But Harry realized that he was also exhausted. His scar kept a constant beat around Professor Quirrell, as if it was repeating over and over again: “Danger, danger, danger, danger.” He had DADA with the Hufflepuffs so of course Nev and Draco were worried about him being alone, and he was worried about Hermione being alone when he was gone. 

And that made him realize something stranger. He couldn’t trust Hermione the same way he could Nev and Draco. He wanted to, Merlin half the time he felt like he could. But it wasn’t the same. She wasn’t his Lady yet. And knowing that one day they would be family was different than the reality that Hermione probably never thought of being his Lady. He had taken for granted the absolute trust he felt with his family and he would never take it for granted again. 

But in the end, Harry couldn’t leave the school without warning her. 

On the way down to breakfast, he pulled Hermione and Isobel away from the rest of their classmates. They both sent him quizzical looks but followed his lead.

He had debated with Nev and Draco last night, via the mirrors, on how to tell the girls. Draco didn’t want to share any information about the family’s concerns and Nev didn’t want to expose Harry’s scar’s reaction. In the end, Harry decided to not share his scar’s reaction—it felt too personal. 

“I wanted to warn you about Professor Quirrell,” he said.

Hermione frowned at him and shared a look with Isobel. “What about him?”

“He’s already a terrible teacher,” Isobel groaned, “What else could be wrong with him?”

“I saw him a few weeks ago,” Harry said, “coming out of the third floor corridor.” 

Hermione gasped. “What were you doing there? You could have gotten hurt!”

Harry raised his hands in the air. “I was just walking past it, for the stairs. But I told my dad about it because I thought it was weird.” 

Hermione nodded. “I told my parents about the warning about the 3rd floor as well, but my parents can’t do anything about it so—” She opened her mouth, to say more, but stopped and frowned. “What did your dad say?” 

Harry frowned. Hermione always said what she was thinking; he couldn’t think of a time when she didn’t, so what was she not saying there? 

“Harry,” Isobel said, “What did your dad say? Is Professor Quirrell dangerous?”

Harry nodded and the girls gasped. 

“How?” Isobel asked. 

Harry shook his head. “I don’t know, but he told me stay away and never be alone with him. So…”

Hermione pursed her lips. “Is that why you’re always so tense in DADA?” 

Harry nodded again but didn’t add that it was mostly his scar pulsating that made him so tense. “Just be careful,” Harry said, leading them to the Great Hall, “and stay safe until I get back.”

Hermione and Isobel giggled; Harry may have only been their friend for two short months but he was already very protective and loyal. Hermione secretly thought that Harry could have gone into any house if he wanted even if the hat would have preferred Gryffindor. But she knew he would not have told them this unless he was seriously concerned.

So Hermione nudged his shoulder and said, “Harry, why on earth would we go searching for trouble?”

 

/// ///

 

Carina wouldn’t let go of his hand. But he prided himself on being the best big brother in the world, so he allowed it. Now if Mum would stop running her hand through his hair and holding him close, he might be able to enjoy Samhain. 

They had just gotten back from Godric’s Hallow. Apparently it had leaked to the media from someone that Harry visited his first parents’ graves every Samhain so the cemetery was packed. He felt his dad’s magic whip out in an angry storm at the sight of the people crowding around. He had sent a patronus through the cemetery, which scared some people away because of its shape, but then Grandfather and other family members showed up and erected a privacy ward around the graves.  

He told his mums all about Hermione and he told his dads about all the adventures he had gone on. Earlier that day, he, Nev and Draco had been summoned to Grandfather’s office to explain the 3rd floor incident. He had felt so proud of his mum for figuring out a way to read his letter…but it scared him all over again how the letters were interfered with. What about other kids? Other parents? Not everyone was as observant and careful as his grandfather. 

But then Dad had given him a letter box with a wink. “I bet brilliant Hermione could make her own set for you two.” Harry blushed but secretly he hoped the two of them could try to make their own letter boxes together.  

And with that, Harry was enjoying being home. He, Draco, and Nev ran around the bonfire. For a moment, Harry considered Samhain a success, disregarding the cemetery incident, of course. 

Until several heads popped up in alarm halfway through the bonfire. Grandfather, Grandmother, Dad and Mum looked to each other in concern. Harry gripped Carina’s hand tighter. 

“Mum?” Harry whispered as Dad and Grandfather briskly walked away. “Is something wrong?”

She ran a hand through his hair again, lips pursed in concern. “Someone’s at the ward boundary. Goblins, I think.” She glanced over at Grandmother, who nodded. 

Dad walked out the back door with a goblin beside him. Harry didn’t recognize him—he wasn’t the account manager for either the Blacks or the Potters. Grandfather walked out behind them, more sedately and a touch pale. 

“Arcturus!” Grandmother ran over to him. “Are you alright?” 

Harry bounced nervously, looking from his grandfather to his dad and noticing that even his dad looked paler than normal. 

“Sirius?” Mum asked as she squeezed Harry into her side. Harry held Carina closer. He didn’t like how nervous everyone was—he didn’t like that his grandfather seemed shocked. Nothing shocked Grandfather. 

Dad squared off to the rest of the family, drawing everyone’s attention. Without preamble, he said, “Hogwarts is on lockdown.”

Shouts of surprise and worry echoed softly. Harry had no idea what that even meant. Lockdown? How? What did that mean? Was Hermione okay? Could he go back tomorrow?

The goblin next to Dad turned to look at him. “Heir Gryffindor, your presence is required.”

Mum squeezed his shoulder tighter to her and Dad said, “I act as the proxy—”

But the goblin cut him off with a wave. “That is wixen business. This is Hogwarts business. The Grey Lady has informed us that her many greats-niece has been severely injured.” Everyone gasped. There was an heir to Ravenclaw? In Hogwarts now? But who could it—

“Hermione!” Harry exclaimed. In a moment there was no doubt in his mind. She was brilliant, with a rich magical legacy, and the Grey Lady adored her. “Is she okay?” Severely injured? Harry felt weak in the knees. 

The goblin eyed Harry critically before giving a sharp nod. “We have dispatched our best healers. She and Miss MacDougal will make a full recovery shortly. However…” The goblin paused. “Hogwarts responded…aggressively to the harm of its heir.”

“Merlin’s beard,” Great Uncle Alphard sunk into a nearby chair. 

Harry had no idea what any of that meant, and from the looks of a few family members, they didn’t either.

“Uncle Alphard,” Dad called to him with a sharp look that didn’t need explaining.

Great Uncle Alphard smiled grimly. “Hogwarts was…” He frowned and corrected himself, “Hogwarts is built on the lands of the House of Ravenclaw. It was fabled that Rowena and all of her ancestors imbued their magic within those walls. It’d be like…”

“It would be like if someone attacked one of us in Ravenswood,” Grandfather murmured softly. He turned to the goblin. “The attacker was subdued by the castle?” Harry couldn’t tell if that was a statement or a question but the goblin answered anyways with a quick nod.

“But…” Mum said slowly, bringing Harry even closer to her, “Why do you need Harry?”

The goblin frowned at her and said nothing but, “That is the private business of Heiress Ravenclaw.”

With those words, however, everyone immediately understood. Hermione’s parents were still considered muggles and she had no allies except, surprisingly the Goblin Horde. She needed an ally, a friend; she needed him. Harry tugged a little out of his mum’s grip.

“Let’s go.”

 

/// ///

 

Sirius travelled to Hogwarts in a daze. Hogwarts on lockdown? He had never heard of such a thing before Rugnut, the goblin, demanded his son’s presence. It was just him and Harry—the goblins did not care much for him but he made it clear that Harry wasn’t going anywhere without him. Rose had to stay behind but not before she gripped his arm tightly and whispered harshly that he better not leave Harry alone for a single second. Sirius had not forgotten Quirrell in the midst of this unusual Hogwarts business.

They had to travel through the front gates because all the floos were shut down. Rugnut wouldn’t say much about why or what happened only that Hogwarts reacted explosively to the danger of one of its descendants. That was more than enough to worry Sirius…

As they approached Hogwarts, Harry nudged him. “I feel something,” he whispered, trying to be subtle, but Sirius froze. Felt something? From his scar? Sirius gripped Harry’s arm and stopped them right before they would cross through the front gates; he surveyed the area around them quickly, ignoring the way Rugnut frowned at them.

“What do you feel?” He didn’t see anyone nor sense anyone’s magic nearby. 

Harry’s eyes narrowed in focus. “I think it’s Hogwarts,” Harry murmured, stepping forward. “She’s angry.” 

Sirius swallowed hard. Ara’s magic, and the Black family magic, could be felt sometimes around Ravenswood. Particularly when something significant—for better or for worse—had occurred. He could only presume that the latent magic of the Ravenclaw clan had awoken, restless and angry at the injuries of its last magical descendant. He shuddered at the thought of what the Black family magic would do to protect its last living heir.

Minerva met them at the gates. Her usual stern expression flickered with anxiety. She straightened her spine when she saw them approach and nodded once to him and once to Harry.

“Heir Black,” she paused, “Heir Gryffindor.” The greeting was stilted. In all his years at Hogwarts, he never heard her once address a student by their title. In her mind, all the students were equally under her tutelage and the affairs of the Wizengamot were inconsequential. This greeting only served to heighten his unease.

What in Merlin’s saggy bollocks had happened?

Sirius quickly gave a bow in return with Harry following jerkily after him. “Countess Elphinstone—”

“Chieftess, again,” Minerva corrected smoothly, clearly back on her stride now that she was about to have a teaching moment. “I let my late husband’s nephew regain title of Clan Elphinstone.”

Sirius frowned. When the hell did that happen? He had to remember to tell Grandfather—but honestly, even at this moment, Sirius knew that would be the least of his concerns. “Chieftess McGonagall,” he corrected, “my son was called to return to Hogwarts.”

Minerva pursed her lips and gave a tiny nod, turning to Harry. “Heir Gryffindor, Heiress Ravenclaw has asked for your assistance and…” She frowned. “And she believes Hogwarts…” She faltered. “She said that Hogwarts requires Gryffindor’s swordsman.” The look in her eye clearly betrayed her confusion and he knew he, and Harry, were befuddled as well. Only Rugnut, who was beginning to lead them to the castle at a brisk pace, seemed sure of the situation.

As they approached the castle, Sirius saw more goblins. Guarding the front doors, guarding the halls, guarding the infirmary. This did nothing but slowly ratchet up his anxiety. The House of Ravenclaw had a fabled relationship with the Goblin Horde, but over the centuries it had turned to legend rather than truth. It was said that Rowena Ravenclaw was the voice of the Goblins in the Wizengamot, the true connection between the wix and goblin nations in the British isles. Before his eyes, Sirius was witnessing the return of, and truth of, that relationship.

Dumbledore, Snape, and Madam Pomfrey were outside the doors of the infirmary. The goblins guarding the doors kept sharp eyes on all three. Sirius gripped Harry’s shoulder and held him tight to his side. He didn’t even have the time to process why those three were outside the infirmary when one massive goblin opened the door. Rugnut, Harry, and himself quickly walked through but it wasn't until the door was closed that he realized Minerva made no attempt to follow.

Inside the infirmary were more goblins, several were guarding two beds and several more were clearly the healers Rugnut had mentioned earlier. Additionally, Sirius saw several wix…and… Merlin. Muggles. It was the only explanation as to why several people were surrounding Hermione’s bed. The others were near Miss MacDougal’s bed. 

Harry tore from his grasp and ran to Hermione. Sirius followed quickly.

The girls looked fine, thank the goddess, but Sirius knew magic healed quickly—there was no telling what had actually happened to them. Hermione was being held securely by an older woman, clearly her mother by looks alone. Nearly every face before him was pale, frightened and angry. A dangerous combination but one he knew he would be if Harry had been severely injured at school.

“Hermione!” Harry wiggled between people to get next to her bed, looking from her to Isobel. “Are you two alright? What happened?”

The girl’s eyes flooded with tears. “I’m sorry!”

Sirius frowned, wondering what would make the girl apologize.

“I didn’t mean to lie—” She hiccuped on a sob, looking absolutely wretched. “But Grandfather and—”

“Oh Hermione,” her mother murmured, soothing her softly.

“I believe what my granddaughter was trying to say, Heir Gryffindor,” an older man, who stood closer to the end of the bed, began, “Is that she is sorry for lying about her true title and heritage. But she was ordered by her family to keep it a secret until a time came where…” Hermione’s grandfather drifted off. But Sirius knew what he was going to say: until a time came where she could protect herself, or have allies to protect her.

She was in a dangerous position. One not even Cedrella, for all her joy over inheritance testing, could have foreseen. Hermione Dagworth-Granger Ravenclaw was the heiress to two nearly extinct families. The heiress not only to a large fortune, but now a member of the House of Lords for the Wizengamot and had an automatic seat on the Hogwarts’ Board of Governors…or…Merlin could she disband the Board of Governors? This was technically her castle.

Sirius had the beginnings of a headache and knew that when he returned to Ravenswood he would be stuck in Grandfather’s office all night to plan because the entrance of the Heiress of Ravenclaw as a new player completely and utterly destroyed the old playing board.

But, he knew he could bet on one thing for certain: Potter men and their gift for finding love. Hermione, with all her titles or none of her titles, was going to be the Duchess of Gryffindor. (Hopefully not for seven more years—which honestly was too short of a time but Sirius decided not think about it.) But it meant, truly, only one thing: she was family.

“Heiress Ravenclaw,” Sirius began smoothly, “Let me be one of the first to congratulate you on the discovery of your magical legacy.” Sirius bowed deeply among the growing stillness of the room. Even Harry seemed confused as to why his father was suddenly so formal but Sirius knew he would catch on soon enough. “It was the fervent wish of my first cousin, thrice removed, Cedrella Weasley, for familial legacies to be revived. However, none of us foresaw the danger and confusion that can come from being born to…non-magical families. As your precarious position is partially the fault of the Black Family, I wish to offer you a hand of friendship and—” Sirius quickly cycled through all the available means to offer this girl protection. A mutual bond of war would be an abuse of power from his position, as the girl had no family or power to offer the Black Family. He couldn’t offer her a position in his house as a daughter, considering the eventual relationship between his son and her. But maybe… “And offer my dearest third cousin, Andromeda Tonks, as your magical godmother to seal the bond between our houses.”

Hermione, bless her, looked wide-eyed and confused at his proclamation, but her grandfather appraised him and his son closely. Sirius wondered what her grandfather saw that caused him to nod hesitantly to his granddaughter. She saw it for the approval it was and said softly, “Thank you Heir Black—for your offer of friendship and—care. I—I—”

“Do you accept?” Sirius offered, sensing her struggle to find words.

She nodded quickly. “I accept.”

The tension in the room relaxed slightly and Sirius briefly wondered if Hogwarts knew what had happened.

And, like he predicted, Harry figured out what was needed to be done.

Harry bowed deeply to Hermione before taking her hand in his. “Heiress Ravenclaw, our ancestors bound our houses as allies and friends centuries before either of us were born. The fall of your house was tragic but your return, and—” Harry stumbled briefly as the Grey Lady floated next to Hermione. He cleared his throat and began again. “Your return is a great boon to the wixen world and I would be honored if you accept the bond of friendship between our houses once more.”

Hermione did not wait for her family’s approval but merely threw her arms around Harry and held him close. Harry sighed and hugged her tightly in return.

Sirius sighed. One problem down, nearly a million more to go. 

Chapter Text

Sirius turned to the MacDougals. He faintly remembered going to school with Gavin MacDougal but couldn’t remember much else. He knew the name though, and that Gavin, at least, was a pureblood. He plastered a sincere, if small, smile on his face and introduced himself.

“I remember you from school Sirius,” Gavin responded with a strained smile. He gestured to the woman holding Isobel’s hand. “This is my wife, Sian.”

She smiled wanly in acknowledgment. “I was in Hufflepuff,” she added, “a few years ahead of your lot.”

This piece of information faintly rang some bells. Muggleborn, he was pretty sure now. And he thought he could remember a bronze tie for Gavin as well. But it didn’t matter. He turned to Isobel.

“And how are you Isobel?”

She was cuddled into her father’s side but otherwise looked unharmed. At his question, Hermione answered.

“It’s my fault!”

Sirius frowned. This was the second time tonight Hermione apologized for something. What could possibly be her fault this time?

Isobel shook her head. “No it’s my fault,” she said miserably, “I shouldn’t have listened to Weasley.”

Merlin help him, Sirius thought. If the Weasley family was somehow involved in the injuries to two little girls, his grandfather was going to lose his goddamn mind.

“He’s a right foul prat,” Hermione huffed, “And he shouldn’t have said those terrible things. They aren’t true Isobel, you’re—” Hermione trailed off, suddenly shy, “You’re one of my best friends and…” Hermione’s mum squeezed her a little tighter. “And…and well I never had many friends…I’m sorry if I wasn’t a good friend,” she whispered.

Before Isobel could respond, Harry nearly growled out, “What did Weasley do?” Sirius stepped forward and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. Goddess help him if Harry inherited the Black temper…or even Evan’s temper. Both were fearsome in their own right. James had, thankfully, taken after his father: a quick word, a quicker hex and then all was settled. Sirius pranked Lily once and paid for with various hexes, pranks, and one nasty boil jinx over the course of two months. Harry settled down slowly, so Sirius had a feeling the Black/Evans temper survived another generation.

Isobel wiped tears from her eyes and her father held her tighter. “He said that you were only friends with me out of pity and that you and Hermione didn’t actually care about me…and…”

“That’s not true!” Harry stood closer to Isobel’s bed.

“I know,” Isobel said sadly, “It just hurt and…”

“He is a jealous little boy,” The Grey Lady said frankly, from behind Hermione’s bed. She floated in-between the wall and bed frame, careful not to touch Hermione but still close at hand. “As soon as the young Heir Gryffindor left the castle, the boy abused my good niece and her friend.”

“What did he do?” Sirius said softly. Hogwarts did not shut down because of taunts and jabs and the girls were not in the infirmary over hurt feelings.

“Oh!” Hermione exclaimed, clearly following his train of thought. “He didn’t actually hurt us. That was the troll.”

Sirius tightened his grip on his son’s shoulder. In an instant, Harry’s magic burst from him as he yelled, “TROLL! How was there a troll in the castle?!” The air turned balmy and humid in the wake of Harry’s magic; it rolled off him in an unsteady beat of anger and confusion.

Sirius allowed his own magic to sooth his son, wrapping him up in a cold, relaxing embrace. “Breathe Harry,” he said, wrapping his arms around Harry’s shoulders and tucking his body into his chest. “They are safe now. Breathe.” He breathed deep and slow against Harry, willing his son to mimic his movements. Slowly, Harry followed his lead and his magical aura retreated.

Thanks a lot Evans. Sirius stifled a groan.

Still keeping a tight grip on his son, Sirius repeated his son’s question.

“We are figuring that out now Heir Black,” Rugnut answered from behind him.

Before Sirius could inquire further, the doors to the infirmary opened and then quickly shut behind Flitwick. The half-goblin ran forward, a piece of parchment in his hands.

“What did you learn Master Flitwick?” Rugnut demanded.

“The wards have shut down from all outside influence. Even Albus wouldn’t be able to take control over them again,” Filius started. “Therefore, I wasn’t able to get a list of all occupants from the wards, but I accounted for all the known inhabitants of the castle and we are only missing one, Centurion.”

Sirius swallowed through his suddenly dry mouth. Centurion. Well, if there was any doubt to House of Ravenclaw’s place in the Goblin Horde, it was well and truly put to rest. A Centurion of the Goblin Horde commanded a small legion of their army. All the goblins present in Hogwarts were likely a part of Centurion Rugnut’s legion. All the goblins in Hogwarts were here for Hermione. Sirius controlled a shiver threatening to trail down his spine.

Centurion Rugnut stared down at Filius, the unspoken question clear in his eyes.

“Prof essor Quirinus Quirrell is missin g.”

 

///

 

The last time Sirius saw the ward stone for Hogwarts he was in his fourth year. It amazed him then, and it still amazed him now.

They deduced early in their fourth year where the best possible place in the castle for a ward stone would be, thanks to Remus’s clever thinking and arithmancy calculations. Below the dungeons, directly underneath the Great Hall, the center of the castle. And then it took the rest of the year to figure out the entrance and password to the room. Tickle the underbelly of the dragon portrait while saying the Hogwarts motto—Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus. Sirius remembered laughing uproariously when they figured it out—clearly the Ravenclaw clan had a sense of irony.

Today though, Sirius did not need to direct anyone to the ward stone; in fact, he kept studiously quiet about his knowledge of the room. And luckily, the room still impressed him all these years later so that his awed gaze was natural.

Harry walked before him, one hand clutching Hermione’s. After the Grey Lady informed everyone that the wards would have to be changed and controlled by her great-niece, Harry had helped Hermione from her bed to make the journey to the ward room. He didn’t know if Harry or Hermione even noticed their held hands but both were calmer than they were when the Grey Lady made her announcement, so Sirius was loath for anyone to interrupt their innocent embrace.

The moment Filius informed everyone of the missing professor it became all too clear that the Grey Lady was in charge. And when she presented her plan, the instant resistance was quashed, with no hesitation. Her grand-niece would take charge of the wards tonight. No discussion would be heard otherwise. And so she led them all down to the ward room, with a contingent of goblins guarding them on all sides.

Andromeda was beside him. The only moment of pause the Grey Lady allowed in her plan was for the retrieval of Andromeda, who, as the new magical godmother to Hermione, would be a necessary ally in her plan. As the wards were still locked Hogwarts up tight, Sirius had hoped that getting her here would allow for time to review the Grey Lady’s plan, to perhaps even argue for a better course of action. A twelve year old, Muggle raised, wix should not have the burden of centuries old wards. Especially wards that Sirius knew had been tampered—even as recently as a week ago when Lucius tried to add the second map to them. (Sirius cursed Dumbledore’s shrewd surveillance of Lucius when they had exposed the warding matrix in the guise to check on it.)

But the Grey Lady was committed to her plan and asked Hermione to call her elf to retrieve Andromeda. Doxy, the elf bound to the Dagworth-Grangers, had appeared beside Hermione’s bed in a flash—but no pop, suggesting that she had been there the whole time. Sirius had still not heard the whole story with the troll, but wondered if perhaps Doxy had something to do with its capture or demise. Doxy held a hand out to Sirius, knowing already that she would not be able to apparate through the Black wards without permission and an escort. So, in less than five minutes, Sirius was back in the hospital wing with Andromeda.

And then they were here. The ward room was a feat of ancient, ritual magic. Most wards for most homes had a ward stone, but it was typically the size of a clenched fist, set into a cabinet or closet so it was out of the way. Ravenswood’s wards were unique, as it was fueled primarily with sacrificial blood magic and maintained in the golden obsidian altar of their circle. Hogwarts, however, had a room. The cool stone floor of the hallway turned to hard packed dirt at the door. A witch light hovered in the center of the ceiling, illuminating the room in a moonlight glow.

When he and the rest of the Marauder’s first entered this room, they were struck still by the complexity of the crystal matrix set before them. They had expected a single ward stone—yes, they thought it would be bigger than a fist, but still just one ward stone, in which a single spell could be cast upon it to connect their map. Instead they found various crystals set in strategic positions that took another month of diligent study to decode and analyze. (In the end, they connected their map to the fist sized, arrowhead tiger’s eye located in the southern point position—half hope, half guess work that it would allow them the barest access to everyone’s position in Hogwarts. Remus rightly took credit when it worked.) Matching in size and shape were stones of amethyst to the north, rainbow obsidian to the west, and pyrite to the east. Slabs of black tourmaline connected these crystal arrowheads to a perfect ball of black onyx the size of a boulder resting in the center. Rods of black kyanite, clear quartz and selenite alternated out of the center along the half cardinal lines. Encircling the grid was a shallow ditch carved not even an inch down into the dirt—Remus had presumed that it was a salt ring for the times when the wards had to be ritually changed. 

Again, he was struck with anxiety at the thought of a twelve year old taking control of these wards. Luckily Andromeda was clearly thinking the same thing.

“Grey Lady.” Her voice was a strained whisper. “How—” She took a deep breath. “Hermione isn't old enough to take on this responsibility.” 

“Nonsense,” the Grey Lady scoffed, “My grandmother took over the wards at nine.” She nodded to the door, catching Rugnut’s attention and he shut it with a snap. A guard of five stood outside, with another three right at the door. Six more, excluding Rugnut, stationed themselves along the walls of the room. Sirius knew that Filius, Minerva, Dumbledore and Snape were likely hovering at one end of the hallway—with absolutely no way to interfere.

A great and terrible thought occurred to him in that moment. Would Hermione receive all the ward notifications? Would she realize that Dumbledore erected a mail ward within the grid? Could this be the moment when Dumbledore was forced out of Hogwarts? Excitement warred on his previous anxiety.

And in his thoughts, he missed the Grey Lady leading Hermione over the salt ring. The Grey Lady directed her placement and before he or Andromeda could say another word of protest, Hermione began her first ritual.

“May Lady Hecate bless—bless this home.”

 

///

 

Harry shivered as Hermione’s words rolled over him. Home. Hogwarts was to the Ravenclaws what Ravenswood was to the Blacks (and him). Hermione could make Hogwarts home. A safe home. Without a cerberus or Quirrell or Snape or even Dumbledore. And while he knew his dad had some reservations about all this, Harry began to feel like this was the right move. He smiled encouragingly at Hermione who was repeating everything the Grey Lady was saying.

“I call upon the four elements, air, fire, earth, and water, for—for wisdom, courage, strength, and com—compassion. I call upon my ancestors for knowledge and—and protection,” Hermione stumbled through the opening spell; Harry wished he could hold her hand and help but he was outside the circle. “I call this circle to ensure the safety of my—myself, my home, and all who reside here.” In a soft hum, the small ditch filled with salt. “I,” Hermione gulped as she heard the Grey Lady say the words. “I am the Heiress of Ravenclaw, Hermione Jean Dagworth-Granger, and I claim Hogwarts as my rightful home.” She put her hand on the black onyx ball as directed and said, “I cleanse these wards of outside influence and—and—” The Grey Lady had paused, for the first time she seemed unsure of how to proceed.

Auntie ‘Meda spoke up from beyond the salt circle. “Claim ownership of the wards as well,” she said, “So no one can change them in your stead.”

The Grey Lady nodded approvingly so Hermione continued, “And I claim ownership of these wards.”

For a moment nothing happened, and then Hermione’s mouth dropped open in awe to something no one could see. Harry shifted nervously. What did she see?

“Slow down!” She ordered; she relaxed when whatever it was appeared to obey her. And then she stood silently, her eyes focused, and her lips mouthing words. No one dared to move, even when she stood like that for over five minutes. Harry had reached out and clutched his dad’s hand, seeking comfort in this confusing moment.

Finally, Hermione seemed to focus on them, a small frown on her face. And with a deep breath, without the Grey Lady’s guidance, she spoke, “Ravenclaw Citadel has been and always will be a safe place for learning all natural magic.” She paused. “Wicked magic is unwelcome here.” At these words, a pulse of magic undulated from the circle. “I banish all magical beings or things with wicked magic.” A second pulse. “I cleanse all wicked curses within my citadel.” A third pulse. “May Lady Hecate continue to bless this home. This circle is open, but unbroken and so it shall remain by the blessings of magic.”

For a moment, no one moved. Before Hermione, his Hermione, with her inquisitive and righteous nature turned to him and exclaimed, “There’s a cerberus in the third floor corridor! What on Earth is the Headmaster thinking?”

And then she fainted.

Chapter Text

When Andromeda left with Sirius, the swell of nervous energy abated slightly. He had just enough time to impart a few terse updates before Doxy popped them away.

“I aligned our house with Clan Ravenclaw by offering Andromeda as Hermione’s godmother; the Grey Lady wants Hermione to take over the wards. There was a troll in the castle and Quirrell is missing.”

Arcturus sat heavy in his chair and clutched Melania’s hand tighter. Two sentences had turned his world on its head. Arcturus ran down his mental checklist as the family softly conversed.

“I like that girl,” Cassiopeia declared over the hum of subdued conversation.

The mail ward would be destroyed, Arcturus mused as he kept an ear into the hum of conversation. That was easily the most reliable outcome of this event. At least now he would be able to freely communicate with his young cousins and they equally so with the family. Less reliably, but quite possibly, Hermione may realize the Headmaster erected the ward.

Cygnus snorted at Cassiopeia. “And how on the Goddess’s green Earth do you know her well enough to make that statement Aunt Cassie?”

And would she know Hermione well enough to know how the girl would react the Headmaster’s ward? He obviously didn’t know the child and so had no way to gauge whether she would be as enthralled as other children were with Dumbledore or more wary. (Arcturus was nearly positive that the twinkle in his eye was a glamour but he had no way to prove it.)

“She writes to me,” Cassiopeia sniffed. “She’s quite smart for a child. Asks very clever questions on natural magic.”

A clever girl would be wary of man who claims no agenda. But would she be brave enough to say anything? Brave enough to accuse the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the great leader of the light, Albus Dumbledore of misconduct?

“Hermione is very clever,” Draco murmured.

If she did, then Dumbledore would be removed from his post. Arcturus tried not to hope for it, but a plan, just in case, was reasonable.

“Top of our class,” Neville added, “It drives Draco mad.” Everyone chuckled good naturally as Draco glared at his cousin. Draco was a very clever child as well.

Deputy Headmistress McGonagall would be the obvious choice for replacement. She would need two-thirds vote from the Board of Governors to be appointed Headmistress. Unless, of course, the return of Clan Ravenclaw dismantled the Board of Governors. 

“It doesn’t—” Draco huffed and stopped himself from denying what everyone could tell was the truth. “It’s, well… She’s muggleborn. She didn’t grow up learning about magic like we did, but she still bests us in every class.”

Arcturus racked his brain for information on how the school was run before the Founders died. Alphard would know, but at the moment he and Lucretia were whispering fiercely to each other. Interesting. Perhaps they had a plan for Hogwarts as well? He would ask later.

“Not every class,” Neville corrected softly, “You still beat her in Potions, Harry in DADA and me in Herbology.”

In any case, the leadership of Hogwarts would be shaken from this event. Arcturus would have to consult with Sirius and now Lucy and Alphard for a way to make sure it was shaken in their favor. Perhaps even the DADA post would finally be cleansed of its curse. If the wards were anything like his at Ravenswood, she would have been notified of the curse. Well…if the curse was tied to the school. Arcturus had always made that assumption because if it was tied to something in the classroom, the object could have easily been moved about in the 30 odd years the post had been cursed.

Draco harrumphed. “Not if we studied extra, we wouldn’t. And we have no chance at all in Transfiguration. It’s easily her best subject.”

They needed a new DADA professor anyways, seeing as Quirrell was going to be removed, forcibly or otherwise from his position. He always thought Sirius would make a great teacher but with a small child and another on the way, he was much needed at home.

“Well, boys,” Cygnus said, “She is the Heir of Ravenclaw; Rowena Ravenclaw wasn’t touted as the brightest wix of an age for nothing.”

Ah but Sirius’s werewolf friend was quite skilled in Defence if young Nymphadora’s praises were anything to go by. He’d have to take extreme precautions of course, but perhaps Nymphadora could sub for Mr. Lupin on those days of the month. Arcturus sighed softly, feeling relieved with this plan—here at least, there would be family on the inside.

And with Dumbledore disgracefully removed from Hogwarts, Arcturus might be able to move him from his position as Chief Wix. It would take some careful maneuvering of course; he was thinking Greengrass or Fawley could be approached via Lucius or Augusta—

“But how in the world did a troll get into the castle?” Narcissa, who had seemed distracted for quite some time now, looked over to him.

Everyone quieted at her sharp question. Arcturus had truly discounted that piece of information. With all of Dumbledore’s machinations with the wards, Arcturus wasn’t surprised a troll managed to get through a kink in the armour so to speak and lumber onto the grounds. But…in the castle? Was Sirius speaking literally or figuratively? Literally in the castle or figuratively within the castle grounds?

Arcturus, in his own musing, missed Draco and Neville sign furiously to one another, calculating their own answer to the query. But then, they shared their answer.

Draco said calmly, albeit a little nervously, “It was a distraction.”

“Explain,” Lucius said cooly, eyeing his son and Neville with a mixture of pride, consideration, and reflection.

“To get past the cerberus,” Neville began.

Draco continued, “While everyone would go subdue the troll or herd the students to safety, Quirrell could go to the third floor corridor.”

“Exactly,” Neville nodded. “It would give him enough time to figure out how to get past the cerberus to whatever it’s guarding.”

Narcissa gasped loudly, breaking the reverie of the boys terrifyingly precise explanation. “Black magic!”

“Family magic?” Lucy asked dryly. “Or…?”

Narcissa shook her head. “No, no.” She sought his gaze. “I saw Quirrell in Diagon Alley on Harry’s birthday.”

Black magic has touched this street.

“I was picking up his birthday present when I saw him leave Gringotts and head to Knockturn Alley.” Her eyes widened. “I didn’t think anything of it at the time but…”

This past July…

“Harry’s scar is reacting to whatever wicked magic Quirrell has done,” Rose whispered.

I did not see who, or what, or why.

“Gringotts was broken into on Harry’s birthday,” Alphard added, “I remember the article because,” he paused, organizing his thoughts, “because the goblins insisted nothing was taken as the vault had been emptied earlier that week.”

But late July, I felt a magic as black as I have ever known.

“I saw Hagrid,” Cedrella said softly, “Just a few days before Harry’s birthday in Gringotts.”

Son of stars, you must do your duty.

“Boys,” Arcturus said slowly, “Do you have your mirrors?” Both whipped them out of their back pocket. “Let us see if my wife was successful in expanding their reach.”

 

///

 

They were back in the infirmary when Harry’s pocket began to yell his name. Harry was holding Hermione’s hand as she rested peacefully in her bed. She had a moderate case of magical exhaustion—as Sirius and Andromeda originally feared—but nothing a nap and sugar wouldn’t fix. Harry was explaining this and their ward experience to Isobel while Sirius and Andromeda were strategizing next steps with the wix, goblin, muggle, and ghost adults in the room.

And then his grandfather conveyed what the family had deduced. Sirius wanted to be impressed by his grandmother’s arithmancy with the mirrors but he was mostly unsurprised that she was successful. And then, he had no thoughts to spare to his grandmother’s skill.

Quirrell. Black magic. Wicked magic. The cerberus on the third floor, guarding something. And Lady Echidna’s warning.

Sirius turned to the Grey Lady. “Do you think Hermione’s cleansing of the wards would have banished the cerberus and whatever it was guarding out of the castle or…”

The poor Dagworth-Granger’s really knew very little about what was happening but all they knew was that a three-headed dog had no place in a school.

“A cerberus isn’t considered wicked magic Sirius,” Andromeda said softly.

Centurion Rugnut then added, “I had a team scout the area. The third floor corridor isn’t big enough to house a cerberus. They suspect a dimensional pocket was created there.

A soft hush fell over the group. A dimensional pocket? That suggested a plan far more elaborate than Sirius wanted to consider.

“Would it still be affected by the wards?” Miranda Dagworth-Granger asked.

He racked his brain for all his lessons on wards and warding. There were several dimensional pockets in Ravenswood but he couldn’t recall if they were affected by the wards or had their own protections added to them…

“Depending on the wards and the creation of the pocket,” Sian began hesitantly, “whatever is in the dimensional pocket might not have been affected. It might have a different warding scheme shielding it altogether.”

“So Quirrell, along with anything else that might have been in that pocket could still be there,” Sirius said. Was that relief or worry sliding down in his spine?

And,” Centurion Rugnut said harshly, “what exactly is in this pocket?”

Another soft hush of silence.

The Grey Lady appeared in the center of their unusual huddle. “Albus Dumbledore would know and as he is a guest of Ravenclaw Citadel, he must answer the demands of its heirs.”

Sirius exchanged a look with Andromeda. Must and will were a vast distance when talking with Dumbledore. Hermione could demand Dumbledore to answer but would he? Even so… Sirius glanced back to the still resting form of Hermione, she was in no state to demand answers.

But that didn’t seem to matter to Centurion Rugnut, who gestured to a goblin guarding the door. “Fetch me Albus Dumbledore.”

“Sirius,” his grandfather’s voice echoed from the mirror. Sirius had nearly forgotten that the connection between the mirrors were still open. His face was somber and grave. “Quirrell.” Grandfather released a slow breath and added softly, “Lesson number thirteen.”

Sirius’s world stopped. Yes, he could still hear the goblin announce that neither Dumbledore nor Snape were at the door, and yes he could hear the Centurion command the goblin to bring in Minerva but…nothing else. To invoke lesson number thirteen was… Sirius swallowed. Several plans, ideas, and worries filtered through his mind before he was ready to spring into action.

First things first: the children.

“Andromeda,” he turned to his cousin and found her staring wide eyed at him. She had also heard the call to action. “Your job is protect the children.” He thrust the mirror at her. “Try to coordinate with grandfather and get the Dagworth-Grangers and MacDougals to Ravenswood.”

He turned to Victor Dagworth-Granger, Hermione’s grandfather. “May my cousin borrow your elf? We’d like to move everyone to safety.”

“I thought we were safe now,” Miranda frowned, “Isn’t that why Hermione had to take over the wards tonight?”

Sirius didn’t answer. It went against his nature, turning his back on her, but…lesson thirteen thrummed in his soul.

“Centurion Rugnut,” he turned to face the goblin, “I ask for your assistance.” He took a deep breath. “I will be going after Quirrell and facing whatever lies in this pocket. Would you honor me with your support?”

The goblin eyed him critically. Minerva had walked into the infirmary, striding over with Filius. Andromeda was organizing the traveling party with Doxy and his grandfather. And all the goblins had seemed to fall in order around the motley crew of people in the infirmary.

Finally, soft but clear, the Centurion said, “I did not realize the Blacks remembered all their lessons.”

Sirius exhaled sharply but before he could answer such a declaration, the Centurion continued, “Let us see if we can learn more about what awaits us on the third floor corridor.”

Together they turned to Minerva.

“Chieftess McGonagall,” Sirius started. “Where are Dumbledore and Snape?

She frowned. Gryffindor though she may be, she was still smart enough for Ravenclaw and sly enough for Slytherin: there was no way she missed the honorific for her name and not the others.

“They ran off,” she answered swiftly, “When Miss Dagworth—” She stuttered to a stop and corrected herself, “When Heiress Ravenclaw entered the ward room.”

Fuck.

“Where to?” Rugnut asked.

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Sirius took a moment, a single, brief moment, to acknowledge his Slytherin upbringing and tutelage under his grandfather, before returning to his Gryffindor roots. He didn’t have time to be fucking clever and cunning.

“What’s on the third floor corridor?”

McGonagall paled. “I don’t know,” she said, “Albus wouldn’t tell me. He asked—”

“What did he ask for?” Centurion Rugnut growled.

“He asked me for advice,” she said resolutely, “on transfiguration defensive work but…” She frowned.

“But what?” Sirius demanded. He didn’t have time for this!

“But he ignored a lot of my suggestions and instead seemed to like a plan I had made for an interactive chess game.”

This stopped him short. “How can an interactive chess game be defensive work?”

Minerva shrugged. “You force the intruder to play in the game, so they cannot risk their own position or they would be instead risking their lives, and force them to play the game in order to get to the other side.” She frowned again. “I had intended it as a game for the students, something to set up in the courtyard. Not that I’d make them take an actual position on the board of course.”

“Merlin,” Filius whispered, his face ashen, “Dumbledore approached me for something similar this past summer.” Rugnut and other goblins within earshot growled. “He asked for charm ideas for an obstacle course for a first year…something we could do at the end of the year…”

“For a first year?” Sirius frowned, sharing a look with Rugnut. Why would Dumbledore purposefully plan obstacles a first year could get through…unless…

“Dad,” Harry whispered, “We’re leaving soon…”

The blood drained from Sirius’s face and he clutched his son to him desperately. He caught Andromeda’s eye and growled, “Put Ravenswood on lockdown when you arrive. No one in or out. Not even me.”

“Sirius…” Andromeda started.

But he shook his head and pushed Harry into her arms. “Go, now.”

She shoved the mirror into his hands. “Take this, so you can tell us when it’s done.” He nodded stiffly, accepted the mirror but otherwise did not move until Doxy popped Harry, Hermione and Isobel to Ravenswood.

Andromeda leaned close to him as Doxy popped back to take the Dagworth-Grangers next. “Do not,” she whispered into his ear, “duel the great oaf on your own. He’s still a very powerful wix.”

Sirius nodded shakily this time. Merlin’s bloody bollocks, Sirius was going to fight the Albus fucking Dumbledore. He was not ready for this.

When Andromeda and the MacDougals left, Sirius turned to Centurion Rugnut. “You are allied with Clan Ravenclaw.” He didn’t bother to make it a question but he still waited for the Centurion’s nod. “Are you familiar with the Potter Family’s flair for finding their wives young?” This time the Centurion smirked as he nodded; Sirius heard Minerva snort and Filius chuckle. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Heiress Ravenclaw is my future daughter-in-law.”

“Are you proposing an alliance Heir Black?” Centurion Rugnut quirked an eyebrow high and grinned, displaying his sharp teeth.

Sirius took a deep breath. With a pop Doxy had reappeared carrying steel black robes and several daggers. Sirius sighed, in relief and worry. They were his steel black armour  robes from when he was a Hit Wix. He grabbed a silver tipped dagger with a black hilt and sliced his palm.

“I, Heir Sirius Orion Black of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black offer our wands to fight, our homes for shelter, and our wix as allies, in times of war and peace.” He held out his bleeding palm for Rugnut to take.

His smile sharpened. In one smooth move, Rugnut took out his own dagger and sliced his palm. “I, Centurion Rugnut, son of Ragnok, Chief of the Goblin Horde offer our swords to fight, our homes for shelter, and our goblins as allies, in times of war and peace.” He slapped his palm to Sirius’s and gave it a quick hard shake, sealing their vows in blood.

Sirius shivered slightly as the relationship between Clan Ravenclaw and the Goblin Horde changed again. Rugnut was not just a Centurion; he was the son of the Chief. He was practically royalty and Sirius had just aligned his house with not just the legion Centurion Rugnut operated but the entire Goblin Horde.

He either just made the best political move in history…or ruined his House forever.

“Shall we go destroy whatever wicked things await us on the third floor Heir Black?” Centurion Rugnut’s grin turned bloodthirsty and the goblins surrounding them began to roar.

Right. Lesson number thirteen. Quirrell and whatever black magic he worked. Dumbledore too if he was in the pocket as well.

Sirius nodded and turned towards the door. His foot stopped in midair and the world slowed once more.

For the first time in ten years, he saw Death, waiting for him at the door.

Chapter Text

Sirius shivered, stopped, and bowed. He knew no one else could see what he saw but he also knew deep in his bones that respects were meant to be paid. He didn’t know what to say but he rose slowly. If he was willing to look around he would have seen everyone stare curiously at him and the door, but his eyes were only for Death and even though he could not see Death’s eyes, he knew Death only looked at him. He—she—they—it was in the same long, black, hooded robe he had seen ten years prior. The hood obscured its face and the sleeves covered its hands. Death was tall, easily six and half feet, but Sirius couldn’t be sure if they were floating above the ground or not. Death moved with an easy grace.

After a moment of silence, Death spoke to him for the first time in a deep, feminine voice.

“After you, harbinger.” She…? They…Death gestured to the door, one long billowing sleeve swept out as Death slid out of his way. Goosebumps trickled down his back with the urge to transform and howl following shortly thereafter.

He gave into it.

In a rush of black smoke, Sirius shifted from two legs to four, threw his head back and howled, signaling Death’s arrival. He didn’t spare another thought or glance to his living companions but instead broke out into a run towards the third floor, howling and howling and howling.

Death followed.

A steady beat thrummed around Sirius and he fell into its rhythm. He belatedly realized it was the goblins, running in sync, their boots thudding on the stone floor. And then they were in front of the third floor corridor. Sirius could feel the dimensional pocket’s magic rippling through the area.

He changed back. Death had disappeared but Sirius knew he—she—they—it was still here.

Centurion Rugnut gave him a heavy look full of questions but he had no words for what happened…at least none he was willing to share.

Several goblins were casting on the door that led to the cerberus.

“Heart beat is slow,” one goblin reported, “Sounds like it’s snoring but we can’t hear much.”

“Approach cautiously,” Rugnut replied. “We don’t know what or who controls this creature.”

Sirius knew who controlled the cerberus, or at least in part: Dumbledore. A first year obstacle course. How could a first year get passed a fully grown cerberus?

As soon as the door cracked open, he got his answer. Soft snores and music floated out. The soft trilling of a harp sailed through.

Rugnut and several other goblins snorted. “Music,” Rugnut rolled his eyes, “What soft wix raised this poor creature.”

Sirius stepped into the room, following the goblins. A giant cerberus greeted him. All three heads were fast asleep, two were drooling and one was snoring so loudly Sirius immediately realized that Sian’s theory was correct: the dimensional pocket had its own wards.

“Hagrid,” Minerva groaned from behind him and Sirius couldn't help but agree. Hagrid would have definitely thought of a cerberus as an overgrown puppy and lulled it to sleep with some music.

“Did Dumbledore ask for help for every obstacle?” Rugnut asked.

Sirius strode over to the trapdoor. “We’re about to find out.”

 

///

 

The goblins made quick work of each obstacle, sometimes they played along with the obstacle, such as burning away the Devil’s Snare, but for others, they used their skill in complex magic and warding to break apart the enchantments, such as McGonagall’s chest board.

But every time they moved through an obstacle, Sirius couldn’t help but think of Harry or Draco or Neville. Neville would have recognized Devil’s Snare immediately. Harry could have flown circles around Flitwick’s enchanted keys. Draco had won many chest tournaments as a child. And then the troll… Was Samhain night a test? Was that why Dumbledore wanted the children to stay? To see if the boys would have fought a troll and won?

Sirius stamped down the urge to call Ravenswood through the mirror. Harry was safe. The boys were safe in Ravenswood, behind centuries old wards and several vicious family members who would cast first and ask questions later.

The potions were an unusual twist but the goblins quickly dismantled the fire wards that encased the room. And then they heard spell fire.

The goblins quickly shifted into an attack formation. Sirius slid next to Rugnut and Minerva and Filius took the rear—although Minerva looked cross with the decision. Sirius took in several deep breaths to settle his nerves. It had been ten years since he went into battle but his body relaxed into muscle memory.

The door blew inward in a rush and bang of goblin magic. Their motley crew of wix and goblin ran into the room. The explosion of the door did its job in creating confusion and disorienting the occupants of the room so that Sirius saw the strangest scene of his life.

Dumbledore was off to one side, wand drawn, Quirrell was faced off against him, and behind the pair, up against the wall, was a giant mirror. And then Sirius got a better look at Quirrell. The purple turban Sirius had seen on the man previously was strewn across the floor. And the back of his head…or…was that…?

Sirius growled, a harsh sound better suited for his animagus self. Wicked magic. Wrong magic. Bad magic. Sirius shifted again, unable to control himself, and howled.

The room, which had began to recover from the intrusion, fell silent and still once more. The Grim was here. And so where the Grim was, Death followed.

The Grim ran forward in a speed aided by ancient magic and pounced on the wicked being. In the same breath, the Grim tore out the wicked being’s throat. A terrible shriek rose in the air along with a spirit that should not be. But before the spirit could escape him, Death wrapped long, elegant fingers around the wicked thing. The Grim howled again.

Death looked to the Grim. “And now it is four, harbinger.”

Death disappeared with the bit of Voldemort’s soul and Sirius regained control on himself. He shook his head roughly, spitting out the blood and skin of Quirrell’s throat before he felt someone cast a cleaning charm on his mouth. He shifted back and faced the awestruck room.

There was a swell of tension, confusion, and bewilderment that filled the silent room so fully that Sirius almost wished for someone to talk. But for long moments, every person simply stared at him, still crouched over the still form of Quirrell. And then, a memory shook loose, from his brief moment as Death’s harbinger, that renewed his fury.

He drew his wand on Dumbledore. “What do you mean by ‘the prophecy’?”

The goblins shifted as one to face Dumbledore, swords still drawn. Shock flickered for a brief moment across his face before he turned back into the twinkling headmaster. “I don’t think that’s a conversation for here, Sirius—”

“I do.” He stepped over Quirrell’s body and stood beside Rugnut. “You didn’t want me to kill Quirrell.” He paused, thinking over the scene they burst in on. “You didn’t even try to kill him either. Why?”

“I realized the same,” Rugnut added cooly. “Do tell us what mercurial prophecy you are referring to Mr. Dumbledore.”

Another brief flicker crossed Dumbledore’s face; this time it was anger. “I do not answer to you goblin.” Dumbledore turned to Sirius and then Minerva. She was looking at him with an expression of horror and confusion. Sirius wondered if he realized he was about to fall off his very high pedestal. “It is a matter entrusted to me by Fate and so shall it remain.”

Sirius’s grip tightened around his wand. Fate. Prophecy. He shuddered; if Dumbledore thought he was acting for a higher power, then he was a wix who would not see reason.

“Is that why you killed James and Lily?”

Sirius heard Minerva gasp and choke on a sob but his gaze was focused on Dumbledore. He winced, just as Sirius anticipated.

“They put their trust in the wrong man,” Dumbledore said gravely, “I had thought it was you.”

“But it was actually you,” Sirius growled. “Lily could have cast the Fidelius without you, and hers wouldn’t have fallen apart.”

“My boy! I didn’t—”

“Don’t fucking lie to me!” Sirius screamed. “What do you want with Harry? We know you wanted to keep him from me, to control him, why?”

“Is this so called prophecy about him?” Rugnut laughed, but it was harsh and hallow. “We can go to the Hall of Prophecies, Heir Black, and discover it, if it is true.”

“No!” Dumbledore looked anxious for the first time. “Sirius, Harry must not know until the time is right.”

The world stood still at that declaration.

Sirius growled. “How—dare—”

Dumbledore clasped his hands in front of him. “I had suspected for a while now that Voldemort was not truly gone…and with Quirrell…Fate is guiding Harry and I on a difficult path.” Dumbledore’s voice turned soft and soothing but Sirius could barely hear him over the blood rushing to his ears. “I had hoped to give Harry a carefree childhood before he must face Voldemort…”

Sirius couldn’t listen to the sanctimonious bastard for another second. He had completed Lesson Thirteen when he killed Quirrell. The ancient duty of the House of Black was to guard the balance of magic. Wicked magic was to be destroyed without prejudice. He had done that. His ancient house duty.

But now, it was time for lesson two.

In a swift movement, a quick flick, barely a swish of his wand, Sirius cast a silent cutting curse across Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s throat. Blood gushed and Dumbledore looked shocked as his fingers went trembling to his throat. His wand slipped through his blood slicked hands. He stumbled to his knees.

No mercy to those that harm the House of Black.

And then Death appeared once more. The shocked gasps around him told Sirius that everyone could see…her.

Sirius bowed again.

“I do not need Fate to gather what is mine,” she said, her voice deep, rich and slow. “Do your duty, harbinger, and bring me the remaining four.”

The soft, illuminated soul of Dumbledore rose from his body and Death wrapped her hands around it and brought into the folds of her robes. And then she left once more.

The room was quiet, a subdued chill filtered through. And then Rugnut asked, “What does Death mean by the remaining four?”

Sirius took a deep breath and reviewed the carnage in the room. Two dead bodies, three souls, and all his doing. He forgot what it meant, for many years, to be a Grim. A harbinger for Death. There was a reason he was such a successful Hit Wix. He had forgotten the battles of the first war in the midst of his grief and slow recovery. Sirius took another deep breath. But this was the reminder, as he once more looked over the death he caused: he felt no remorse, he had done his duty and he had done it well.

He glanced at Rugnut, and then Minerva and Filius. They hadn’t yet struck him down for killing Dumbledore…so he thought it well worth the risk to share this piece of sensitive information with them, as well as his new allies.

“In 1981, not even a month after…” He swallowed, “you know. The House of Black discovered a horcrux—” He paused for the shocked gasps and angry growls that erupted from the word, grateful at least he wouldn't have to explain what a horcrux was. “We destroyed it. And we thought that was the true end of Voldemort.” He paused again to let that sink in, to let what Death told him sink in.

“The bastard still has four more horcruxes,” Rugnut growled.

Sirius nodded.

The battle was over. But the war was not.

 

///

 

Sirius twirled Dumbledore’s wand through his fingers. When they had cleaned up the bodies and prepared them for transport, Dumbledore’s wand shot into his hand. Sirius could feel he had its allegiance and he was hesitant to use it but…something felt vaguely familiar about it. He tucked it away in his spare wand holster and resolved to think about it later, with Grandfather, in the grandest and longest of debriefs that awaited him at home.

He had assisted Minerva in explaining to the aurors why Dumbledore and Quirrell were dead. Thankfully, the group had resolved to blame Quirrell for Dumbledore’s death—after hearing Sirius’s reasoning and the crimes against him, Filius and Minerva acknowledged that he deserved it. As for the horcruxes, however, and the fact that Quirrell was possessed by Voldemort…well…for the moment, they agreed that was best kept quiet. Until at least, they could either prove it or…as Sirius and Rugnut agreed on, until they could decide if the Ministry could be trusted. There were still many marked Death Eaters and sympathizers who might try to find the horcruxes first and revive their Dark Lord.

After the aurors left, Sirius made the mirror call home.

“Dad!”

“Sirius!”

“Are you okay?”

“What happened?”

“I’m fine,” he answered over the rush of conversation coming from the mirror. “The school is secure.”

His grandfather’s face came into the mirror. “Who else is there?”

Sirius hid a smirk. That was code for: Is anyone listening in? “Centurion Rugnut and Filius are here. Minerva is alerting the professors as what has occurred.” He paused. “Hermione and Harry need to come back. Rugnut has informed me that the Founder Protocols have been activated officially and…well they need to appoint a new Headmaster.”

Sirius was very impressed by his family. His grandfather, for starters, did not even have a hint of unadulterated glee on his face even though Sirius knew that was how he felt. Additionally, there were no cheers or expressions relief heard in the background.

“What happened to Dumbledore?” Grandfather asked, his voice carefully neutral.

“He’s dead.” Sirius would convey the details later. “Quirrell as well. And the goblins have taken the cerberus and what it was guarding out of the castle.” A mirror…Sirius shuddered at what he had seen in the mirror. But now was not the time to dwell on it.

“Doxy is here,” Grandfather said, “She can bring Hermione and Harry back to the castle.”

In short order, Hermione and Harry were back and the Founder Protocols were explained. For such a regal name, Sirius understood it to quite simply mean that Hermione and Harry were in charge of Hogwarts. He was sure there were more technicalities but at the moment, he couldn’t care less. He wanted Harry (and Hermione) safe in Ravenswood for the night. He wanted to see his wife and daughter and fall straight to sleep.

It was close to one in the morning when he finally got this wish.

The Board of Governors were officially disbanded and Minerva was appointed Headmistress with Filius as her Deputy. Minerva assured the children and him that a thorough review of the school budget and goals would be available for them (or their magical guardians) by Yule break.

He gathered the children close and Doxy popped them back to Ravenswood. Before he could credit it, Rose and Carina were in his arms and he breathed in the scent of his family, Hermione included.

Safe. His family was safe.

Didn’t I tell you James, he thought solemnly, I would take care of our boy.

 

///

 

Arcturus opened up the black book. He had two edits he needed to make. One cheerfully, another furiously.

October 31, 1981 — Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore — October 31, 1991

December 9, 1979 — Tom Marvolo Riddle, known as Lord Voldemort — October 31, 1981 November 20, 1981

He glowered at Riddle’s entry. “May Lady Hecate have mercy because Tom Riddle will never forget that the House of Black has none.”