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The Lady Black

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Walburga’s life has been memorable. Being a witch and a daughter of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black practically ensured that it was so.

Still, there have been memories that stood out amongst the rest. Memories that refuse to be forgotten, that refuse to fade away. Seven of them in fact.

.

The first of which is when she is five. It is summer time; and her parents have invited her extended family for dinner. The little girl is excited; she got to dress in a pretty robe of purples and silver and she’d be meeting her extended family for the first time.

Walburga had never met anyone other than Mother, Father and her siblings Marius and Dorea. When she asked why, Mother became sad and told her that ‘it wasn’t time; she wasn’t ready for it.’ Walburga didn’t understand why, so she asked Father. When she did, Father became sad, and angry too (though he was never angry at her, Father explained that he was angry at someone else. “Never you, Walburga,” Father murmured the first time she asked. The memory’s hazy, but Walburga remembered the feeling of fear being replaced by warmth.)

There was another emotion in their eyes as well, one that Walburga couldn’t identify. But her parents were sad when she asked that, so she never asks again, deciding that she has ‘Rius and ‘Rea. Even if they treat her a bit differently than they did each other, they were always nice to her.

Now though, she’d finally get to meet other Blacks! Mother had said that she has two cousins around her age, and that there were others who were about ten years older than her. Mother told her to get along with them; that she’d be spending much more time with them after the party. Walburga had been so excited at the news; she almost missed the unshed tears in Mother’s eyes.

She tentatively asks why Mother was crying. Mother has never cried before. Mother was much too pretty to cry, Walburga says as she hugs Mother.

Mother gives a few sniffles and pats her head. “Walburga, dearest, you’re growing up. A-and,” her voice hitches slightly, “You’ll learn that the world isn’t nice, it isn’t kind. But you are a Black, so I know you’ll become a fantastic, powerful witch no matter what comes your way. Promise me, sweetheart, that you won’t forget that; that you’ll always be proud to be a Black.”

Conflicted and slightly terrified (Mother was crying. Mother was crying.), Walburga gives a hasty nod. Of course she would always be proud to be a Black! Why wouldn’t she?

That had been some days earlier.

Now, she stands with Mother and Father in the drawing room, along with two other… cousins she supposed? Walburga wasn’t told of their relation but she is no less eager to meet them. They were undoubtedly family; she sees the same eyes on the man’s face she saw in the mirror, and the woman’s face was similar to hers as well.

“Walburga,” Father halted, a storm of emotions flashes through his face before it is evened out forcefully, “They are Pollux and Irma Black.”

Walburga blinks in curiosity. ‘Irma’ is her middle name; that meant that these two had to be close to their branch. She beams, opening her mouth to greet them, but stops when she realises that Father hasn't told her how to address them. She gives him a curious look.

Father remained quiet; an indifferent mask in place, but Walburga could see that his arms are trembling. She looks to Mother, worried.

Mother gives her a strained smile, but it seems that her voice is lost, because she is only mouthing silent words.

What was going on?! Walburga panics. She looks to the other two adults in the room, dark eyes pleading them for help.

They remain silent, trading glances at each other.

Finally, it is Pollux that speaks up. “Walburga. I- There’s no delicate way to say this; we’re your parents.”

“No you’re not,” Walburga replies unthinkingly. She freezes, expecting to be chastised by Mother, but nothing happens. She glances confusedly at her.

Hesitating slightly, Walburga continues, “My parents are Cygnus and Violetta Black. They raised me.”

Parents were the ones that took care of a child, the ones that taught them new things, the ones that tucked them into bed and woke them the next morning. Mother and Father did that. They were Walburga’s parents.

Right?

“Mother? Father? Why aren't you saying anything?” Walburga tugs at their robes. Her voice begins to tremble when they remain unresponsive, “T-Tell them they're wrong; they aren't my parents-”

“Walburga. Hush child.” Father cuts in and his voice, for some reason Walburga can’t – won’t – understand, is hoarse.

She falls silent, and then walks towards him when he beckons her.

Pointing to the Black Family Tapestry, he motions towards his own image and Walburga’s eyes follow the branches surrounding it, one branch joining to an image of Mother which splits to-

Walburga stops. Surely, she must have seen wrongly.

Her eyes frantically rake over the names and images but they don’t change.

Pollux. Cassiopeia. Marius. Dorea.

Where was hers?! Where-

Her breath catches in her throat and she makes a sound of denial.

Extending from Pollux’s branch, which was entwined with Irma’s, is her image with her name emblazoned below it.

Walburga Irma Black. Daughter of Pollux and Irma Black. Granddaughter of Cygnus and Violetta Black.

Tears sprung to her eyes unbidden and Mo- no, Grandmother- reaches towards her.

Walburga flinches back.

Why… Why had everyone lied to her?

All is silent, save for Walburga’s quiet sniffles.

Finally, it was Pollux that breaks the silence, “Come Walburga. We… We’ll explain.”

Numbly, she follows.

The reveal and the following explanation sear themselves into her memory.

.

The second one is when she was seven.

She’s spending time with Dorea, helping her sis- aunt – Aunt Dorea – pack her trunk for her second year at Hogwarts. It’s late when Hermes, Dorea’s Eagle Owl, swoops through an open window and lands on his perch. He gives an imperious hoot and sticks out his leg. Glancing at it, Walburga starts slightly when she recognises the slightly messy scrawl.

It was from Marius.

“Kreacher!” Walburga calls out.

The House Elf pops into the room immediately. “Young Mistress summoned Kreacher?”

She eyes the Elf before barking out an order, “Inform us if either Fath-Grandfather or Grandmother plans to enter this room. That is all. Leave.”

Kreacher gives a low bow and pops out of the room.

Walburga shuts the door and turns to her sis-aunt.

“‘Rea? How is he?”

She hasn’t seen Marius for almost three years, ever since he was disowned when he didn’t receive his Hogwarts Letter. Walburga feels a chill go down her spine at the thought. A Squib. Marius was a Squib. A blight on the family, filth that had no place in their home, in their world. At least, that was what Great-Uncle Sirius had sneered. Fa-Grandfather had agreed, but he’d look absolutely shattered when he blasted Marius off the Tapestry.

But he was still ‘Rius. The goofy, easy-going boy who let Walburga dress him up in dresses and ribbons. Who had tucked her into bed and read her stories when Mo- Grandmother was out or busy. The one that held her and lent her his shoulder to cry on when she found out that her whole life had been just a charade.

She still cares for him, even if she knows she shouldn't. Just like Dorea.

At the sound of her question, Dorea turns and Walburga is startled to see tears in her eyes.

“Dorea, what happened?! Is ‘Rius-”

“He’s fine, currently,” Dorea cut in, “It’s just- He- How do I-” She flounders for a bit before her shoulders sags and she holds out the letter. “Here,” Dorea said, resigned, as her free had snatches up a handkerchief to dab away her tears, “Just, remember that he’s okay now.”

With no small amount of trepidation, Walburga takes it and scans through it.

Dearest sister,

How’ve you been? I hope this letter finds you well. Have you packed for Hogwarts yet? Are Father, Mother, Pollux and Cassiopeia well? And little Walburga; I hope both she and you aren’t taking my disownment too badly. I’ve said many times; I’m fine. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself; I don’t need the House of Black anyways.

But still, thank you ‘Rea for sending me that sack of galleons. I’ve been spending it frugally; I’ve quite a bit saved up- I was thinking of putting it in a muggle bank; that way I won’t have to worry about getting mugged and losing all my money. I might even get some money from it; I’ve been borrowing newspapers form my workplace- Oh! I almost forgot! I’m working now, so you don’t need to fret over whether I’ve been able to eat. The Muggles have this place called a ‘Cafeteria’- it’s kind of like the Great Hall? Only, its open to workers only and the food’s free and rather decent. I’m a mail boy, I ride this thing called a ‘bicycle’ and I deliver newspapers to the Muggles’ homes. Uncle and Father would absolutely pissed - a scion of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black reduced to a muggle post owl? Why I’d love to be a fly on the wall if they ever find out.

I think you’d like riding a bike (that’s short for bicycles). It’s kind of like riding a broom? But there’s no flying involved and you need to be able to keep your balance yourself (no Charms for that, unfortunately).

I seem to have become a little side tracked. Apologies.

Anyways, I’ve noticed that the interest rates have started to rise again. Unsurprising; the banks a probably trying to keep themselves afloat, what with the Muggle economy going to hell and back now. At least we’re not in America. I heard that things are absolutely abysmal there since their stock exchange crashed. (I can hear you snickering Walburga; I did pay attention when Mother explained banking to us so hush.)

What else can I say? Ah, yes. I’ve found out what a Muggle Hospital looks like. And before you freak out; I am fine. Some idiot tried to mug me (hence the reason for opening muggle bank account) with a knife. Ha! Worst mistake ever, coming at a Black with a knife. I managed to disarm him and knock him out but he managed to nick me in the side. It was a lucky shot and nothing severe.

But I probably scared a poor Muggle woman quite terribly. She saw the whole thing and dragged me to the hospital-

Walburga stops.

Marius had been attacked. He’d been hurt by a Muggle. A filthy Muggle had made her bro-un- her ‘Rius bleed.

Her breath comes out in gasps. If he had magic, it wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have had to leave. He’d be safe-

“Walburga?! Walburga, answer me! What’s wrong! Wha- KREACHER! GET MOTHER AND FATHER NOW!”

Walburga gasps frantically. ‘Rius had been hurt. Because he didn't have the House’s protection, because he didn't have magic.

She… she needs the House to protect her.

She needs her magic. And she needs it to be strong.

“Walburga! Wal- breathe child! Calm yourself!”

“Cygnus, it’s not working! Cygnus – move! Kreacher, a Calming Draught now! Stupefy!

.

The next one is several years later, in her fifth year at Hogwarts. It is Christmas break and she’d been camping out in the Library, pouring over various potions texts for her OWLs extra credit assignment.

In the past four years at Hogwarts, she’s built up a formidable reputation. She’s Walburga Black, a proud Slytherin who’s always tied for first place in Potions, Defence and later Arithmancy. Her reputation of hex first, interrogate later precedes her so much so that the younger years, and even some of her own year mates, give her a wide berth every time she strides down the hallways. It’s also been able to quell the jeers of her Slytherin peers, and later that of the Gryffindors and a few Ravenclaws when they found out about her situation, into whispers and well-hidden sneers.

Walburga could almost spend her days at Hogwarts in peace now. Almost, but not quite. Because the whispers still haunt her, whispers of being a mistake, of being a shame of the House, of being a bastard-daughter.

A sneer forms on her lips. Those that had been particularly vocal found themselves at the wrong end of her wand, and… opted to spend the night in the Hospital Wing. Despite them being older than her, their knowledge was pitiful at best and downright insulting at worst. Honestly, picking a fight with a Black and not even knowing a standard counter-jinx? Pathetic.

Her eleven year old self had known almost a dozen jinxes and hexes by then. And the necessary counters for them. And the basics of the Shield Charm.

She’s powerful, and she knows that. She’s easily one of the top duellist in their level, only bested by that halfblood Riddle. Even then Riddle only beats her sometimes, their duels, infrequent, but a sight to behold, often end in draws with both of them glaring down each other.

That being said, whenever she’s busy, she’s never disturbed. Her reputation ensures that. Not even by Riddle.

So when her cousin clears his throat and calls out her name with a faint note of hesitance in his voice, Walburga fights down the urge to hex him seven ways to Sunday and pins him with a cool glare.

“Orion. Is there a reason you’re disturbing me?”

To the First Year’s credit, he merely gulps and clutches a stack of parchment to his chest. “Cousin Walburga, I was wondering if you could assist me with my potions homework? I-”

“Why.” Walburga cuts in flatly. Honestly the boy has his own sister he could ask; Lucretia is the same age as Walburga and had a far better opinion of wasting her time teaching brats something as basic as a Boil-Cure Potion.

Orion deflates slightly and mumbles, “Lucretia is out on a date with Ignatius…”

Ignatius? Ah, the second son of the House of Prewett. Walburga gave a mental shrug. The Ravenclaw was their current Head Boy so she suppose Lucretia had decent enough tastes.

Walburga has half the mind to order Orion to leave when she stops and really looks at him.

What she sees is… nostalgic enough to make her pause.

Orion looks like she did before, back when she hadn't entered Hogwarts yet, when she hadn't developed the confidence and I-am-better-than-you-and-I-know-it attitude that she currently has. He looks like what Walburga did before- a child that had a reputation that wasn't his. Only, hers had been the result of her parents’ stupidity while his was crafted by Lucretia and their parents.

Marius and Dorea had helped her shake off that reputation. Dorea in particular; having been close to an enraged nesting dragon whenever she caught anyone bullying Walburga because of her situation. It had given Walburga the necessary time and help to develop her own capabilities till the point that she could hold her own and win.

Walburga sighs. She knows when she’s lost. Dorea would have helped Orion. So would Marius.

“What do you have problem with?”

She sighs again at Orion’s stunned face. She was going to regret this. She just knows it.

(Walburga doesn't, not that she ever admits it. Orion is… decent company once he got over his fear of her. Well, most of his fear.)

.

The fourth one happens in her seventh year.

It starts off dramatically, with her stumbling on Orion on the losing end of a duel between him and four Gryffindors.

He’s a Third Year. The Gryffindors are Seventh Years.

Orion’s panting, a brilliant bruise is plastered on his face and his wand arm is shaking terribly. The Gryffindors are surrounding him. Jeering at him. Calling him a pathetic wizard and toying with him.

Walburga sees red.

She steps in.

And she destroys them.

She drags a stunned Orion away from a pile of twitching limbs and ignores the moans with practiced ease. Just before they round the corner, she turns back and fires a silent Impedementa at them. Let those idiots float for a while; the eventual drop may just knock some sense into them.

Orion remains silent as she drags him to an abandoned classroom to check on him. He only protests slightly when she forces to him to sit, but a glare from her silences him and she performs a diagnostic spell on him.

Walburga can feel her blood roaring as diagnostic spell reveals the extent of his injuries.

“Six bruises. A fractured shoulder. Bruised ribs and organs. Magical exhaustion.” With each injury she snaps out, Orion wilts even further and Walburga has to control herself not to go over and slap some sense into the idiot. “Just what were you thinking? They are Seventh Years. You are a Third Year with, at best, acceptable Defence abilities.”

She’s pissed. Because really, what was The Idiot thinking?! He couldn’t even land a hit on her when they duel. If he couldn’t even do that when she’s going easy in a practice duel, how in Salazar’s name did he expect to win against four wizards who, while nowhere near Walburga’s own level, had four years of knowledge and practice on him and were more than willing to hurt him?

“Well?” She snaps, even as she fires a numbing spell on The Idiot to lessen the pain (Merlin knew The Idiot made stupid enough decisions when he was thinking clearly, she did not need to know what went on in his head when he was in pain.), “I'm waiting.”

He shifts guiltily, “They were insulting you.”

Walburga blinks. What? Why would he get worked up over that?

She must have said that out loud, because the next thing she knows, she’s pinned by a particularly intense look that looks really out of place on The Idiot’s face.

“They said that no decent wizard, not even a mudblood, would ever want to associate with- with a bastard-daughter after you graduated from Hogwarts. That you’d spent the rest of your life as sad, shallow, pathetic excuse of a witch and die decrepit fossil-”

The Idiot breaks off; face flushed and angry and Walburga can honestly say she still has no idea why he’d get upset over that. It’s not like it was anything she hadn't heard before.

She must have been really surprised because The Idiot reads her face like an open book, answering the question she never asks.

“They also said no one would ever willingly marry you.”

Walburga feels a brief, intense flare of the legendary Black Temper before she clamps it down mercilessly.

There is emotion, and within it, calmness. There is a storm, and within it, stillness. There is ferocity, and within it, control.

She breathes in deeply, letting her Occlumency training kick in and soothe the raging inferno until it becomes a pile of simmering, controlled embers.

“So? If I am to remain unmarried, I am still better than those fools could ever hope to become.” She says it with conviction, and she almost believes it. Let them talk. She didn't need to marry.

The Idiot clearly doesn't believe her, judging by the flat look that is sent her way.

He grumbles something and Walburga raises a delicate eyebrow.

“I’d marry you.” The Idiot mumbles out eventually and Walburga nearly trips over herself.

She throws a particularly strong Silencio and proceeds to drag The Idiot to the Hospital Wing, deliberately not acknowledging the warm feeling that’s not fluttering in her chest.

.

The fifth time is when she’s twenty.

Uncle Arcturus had asked her to tutor The Idiot in Defence for his NEWTs after he barely scraped an E for his OWLs. Walburga agreed with minimal grumbling. It wasn't as if she hadn't already been doing that.

The Idiot had better appreciate her help though; she’s in the middle of her Potions Mastery and almost done with her Defence Mastery. Actually, The Idiot had better blast the exam records, or she’d be pissed.

She told him that on their first ‘lesson’. Suffice to say, The Idiot had been sufficiently motivated.

That had been some months ago.

Now, with Uncle Arcturus pulling several strings that allowed her to return to Hogwarts to tutor The Idiot every weekend, The Idiot’s Defence has all but skyrocketed.

He even holds her old position of best duellist. She almost gave him a proud smile when he told her that. Almost.

Instead she nods and fires a silent Blasting Curse at him. Within minutes, they've all but thrown themselves into their duel.

Spells carve deep grooves in the castle walls, the furniture is mostly all shattered halfway through the duel and both participants have near hysterical grins on their faces as various jets of light not stopped by their shields slip pass their persons by mere inches.

It ends with The Idiot hitting her with a combined Water and Lightning Charm that shocks her into stumbling slightly. Before she can catch herself properly, she’s hit by a Stunner and blacks out.

When she awakes, it’s to The Idiot panicking over her.

She slaps him. And then she congratulates him for his first win.

Orion (because Walburga decides that he can’t be too much of an idiot if he managed to beat her. What would that say about her?) grins and looks like he’s about to hug her. Thankfully – for him – he doesn't. Instead, he goes to a corner and starts fixing up the furniture they destroyed.

Walburga had the passing thought that Orion had become rather handsome in the past few years, and that he has a rather beautiful smile.

She shuts down that string of thought. She did not think that Orion, the bloody wimp whose ass she’s been kicking for the past five years, was attractive in any sense at all.

He did have a nice ass though.

Walburga nearly shrieks. No. Just no. She did not just think that.

.

The sixth one occurs when she’s twenty six.

She’s still unmarried and is completely alright with that. She’s not bothered that her youngest brother Cygnus is already married and expecting his first child. She’s not bothered by the guilty looks her parents and grandparents send her when they think she’d not paying attention. She’s not bothered by the barbs other ladies throw at her every time she is invited to socialize with them.

She’s a Potion and Defence Mistress. She holds the record for the highest female NEWTs record in the century. She’s a regular consultant in the Arithmancy Society across all of Europe. She’s accomplished. She’s content.

So when she opens the door to find Orion kneeling on a knee presenting her with a ring with the largest diamond she’s ever seen surrounded by finely crafted emeralds, she stares. When he asks her to marry him, on her own front lawn for Merlin’s sake (and she can see the tell-tale signs that he’s bloody terrified doing it), she pointedly tells him that he’s an idiot, because ‘Merlin, have you no tact? At least take me out for a date first, Idiot.’

She then slams the door in his face and leans on it, trying to control the grin that’s threatening to split her face in half and the tears forming in her eyes.

Half a minute later, there’s a knock on her door and when she opens it, the ring is gone and Orion is standing with a sheepish smile on his face.

He asks her out for a date. She agrees. They leave.

When they come back, giggling and blushing like a pair of teenage lovebirds, their fathers announce that the two of them are betrothed to each other.

And the second time Orion proposes to her that day, she accepts. She even lets him steal a kiss.

.

The last memory that she’d never forget, well, it was more of two similar ones.

The first time she held her children.

“Sleep child,” she coos at the bundle in her arms. Memories of Sirius, Aquila and Regulus overlap, and she feels her heart swell each time she reminiscent about them.

In her mind, her children sleep, still unburdened by life, by the expectations, the judgements of others. Walburga wishes that she could keep them safe and sheltered from them. That they would never have to face what she did.

And Walburga decides then that they will. They’d learn anything and everything that could protect them. They’d have every opportunity they’d want – they’d need – to master their magic. That way, they’d be able to stay safe in a world that would gladly extinguish any stars that shone brightly. That way, they’d always have the House to protect them.

Walburga is an arrogant, narcissistic, scornful elitist. She isn’t delusional to deny parts of her character, especially the parts that she wore proudly, and as a shield for her heart. Because at her core, she’s still that little girl who found out that life was filled with lies, with pain. But it was also filled with hope and love.

That little girl was a mother now.

She’d be the mother her own ‘mothers’ weren’t. Walburga Black née Black was a Black by birth and marriage. She’s proud, powerful and capable. She’s the Lady of the House of Black. And she’s going to do anything and everything to prepare her babies for the world they’d inherit. And damn anyone that stood in her way.