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Noble and Most Ancient by Says_Skills

Format: Short story collection
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 11,352
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, General, Romance
Characters: Regulus, Bellatrix, Narcissa, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 04/27/2008
Last Chapter: 07/26/2008
Last Updated: 07/26/2008

Summary:


banner by the fantastic Jessi_Rose!

The Black family traces back farther than the mind can comprehend, farther than any pureblood family can claim. So it would be impossible to tell their whole story. But a snippet of it can be captured.


Chapter 1: Phineas Black: The Bequest
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The following story is a collaboration by the members at SAYS featuring the Black family in a series of one-shot chapters. On behalf of the staff, we hope that you enjoy the hard work that each of the authors, betas and graphic artists put into this.


The Bequest by Horatio

Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. and all the characters in this piece belong to JK Rowling. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story is subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made or sought for this work.


Prologue: London, January 18, 1921

Phineas Black sat at his small untidy desk located in the back corner of his equally small and untidy one-bedroom flat. He re-read, for the third time, the letter in his hand. It had just been delivered to him by owl messenger. An event unusual enough in itself, since he could not recall the last time he had received anything by owl messenger. Certainly he was a wizard, a powerful one by some reckonings, but it had been many years since he had used his magic. It was not necessary in the muggle world where he had lived for the past twenty years. He still had his wand, but he rarely saw the need to use it, save for the few times he utilized his innate Animagus ability to become a raven when he wanted to get away for awhile by flying high over the city. Even then he only used his wand to ensure that he did not end up as a snack for some overeager predator.

The letter was on official letterhead from the highly respected and well-established wizard solicitors firm of Bentley, Snard & Crupett. He remembered that this firm had been the solicitors for the Black family for many years. His family, but then again, not his family for the same twenty year span that he had been living as a muggle. He had not had any communications from anyone connected with the Black family for that entire time period. Therefore, initially, he had been surprised when he had received this letter.

The letter informed him that his mother, Ursula Flint Black, was dead. She had died this weekend past and the letter writer, one Bernard T. Gravally Esq. (obviously one of the junior members of the firm) was requesting his presence at the memorial service, which was to be followed immediately thereafter with the formal reading of his mother’s Last Will and Testament.

Apparently, Phineas was mentioned in this document. He could not understand why, as his mother had stood by and done nothing when he was cast out of the Black family by his father, the great and noble Phineas Nigellus Black, the head of the Black family and, at that time, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School. The man to whom, to his ever-lasting shame and regret, Phineas owed his first name; although, to his few friends in the muggle world, he was simply known as Phin .

His mother had never contacted him since that day. Why then, he wondered, would she mention him in her will? It did not matter; he was not going to find out. He had no intention of attending the memorial service or the reading of the will. That part of his life was behind him and he had no wish to re-visit it.


Chapter One: January 22, 1921

“I is very sorry, sir, but the memorial service is restricted to family members only,” squeaked the tiny house elf who had opened the door of the private Wizarding funeral home.

“I am family,” was the succinct reply from the tall, gaunt, dark haired man standing on the steps by the door.

“Your name, sir?”

“Phineas Black”

The elf started back in surprise for he knew of only one man by that name and this man standing before him was definitely not that man.

“Phineas Black Junior,” the man added.

“I is not aware that Headmaster Black is having a son named after him,” the elf, who was charged with keeping out the public, continued in as defiant a tone as he could muster in the face of a wizard he had never seen before.

“He has done his best over the years to make sure that this fact is not widely known,” Phineas replied in a tone which revealed the dislike he held for the person he was claiming to be his father.

“I is sorry again, sir, but unless you is a known family member, I is forbidden to let you in.” The elf continued to stand his ground in the entrance.

“Look, I am here to pay my respects to my mother. I was not permitted to see her for the past twenty years of her life. I am going to see her now that she is gone forever.”

Just then another man came striding up behind Phineas, who was intent on making his way into the funeral home. As the man moved to go around the other two standing in the doorway, he glanced over at Phineas’ face and stopped short. Before he could think of anything else to say, he blurted out,

“What are you doing here?”

“Coming from you, Sirius that seems like a stupid question” was Phineas’ terse reply. “Is it not obvious? I have come to pay my last respects to mother.”

“She’s my mother. She stopped being yours a long time ago.”

“Only because you were too cowardly to resist our father’s ridiculous notions of what our family should represent.”

“How dare you stand there and talk like that about the man who gave you life!”

“My mother gave me life. My father has done nothing but try to take what little I had, back.”

“You didn’t feel that way while we were both growing up together under his roof in the lap of luxury.”

“I was young and stupid and, if I recall correctly, it was always you who enjoyed the luxury, I had to settle for whatever you deigned to leave behind, all because you were the oldest.”

“Are you going to start that again?” Sirius replied, clearly exasperated with what he felt was an old and tiresome subject.

“That’s because you never let me forget it,” Phineas declared. “I am your twin brother and, fortunately for me, not identical. And all for the sake of ten minutes lead time, our father always made it plain to me that you were the oldest, the heir to the family crest, the apple of his eye.”

“It would seem he was correct in his assessment of your worth, since it is clear that you have not maintained a lifestyle befitting a member of my family.” Sirius added with a sneer, while eyeing the threadbare and well worn dress robes Phineas was wearing.

“My clothing has not come at the cost of my conscience and my honor,” Phineas bitterly replied. “I am able to hold my head up high. I can’t say the same for you.”

“You’re lucky that father has already been here and gone. Otherwise he’d make sure you wouldn’t be standing anywhere near this place.”

“Why do you think I’m coming in now? After he left, I had to wait till the air was clear of his stench.”

With that, Phineas briskly elbowed his way past the house elf, leaving a clearly flustered and angry Sirius standing in the doorway.


Chapter Two:

Phineas could not understand why he was there, standing before his mother’s open coffin. He had had every intention of ignoring the summons to attend this service. He remembered that, at one time, he had loved this person very much, but now he had no feelings for the small, wizened aged figure lying in the coffin before him; all that was left of his mother, Ursula Flint Black. The years had apparently not been kind to her. He also remembered her as a woman of grace and dignity, but he had a hard time seeing where any of that grace or dignity remained. Just then he heard a commotion behind him and he turned in time to see a tall, elderly and distinguished looking man barge into the room.

“How dare you sully the memory of my wife with your presence?” the man shouted as he approached Phineas. “You have no right to be here. Be gone before I have you thrown out.”

“Hello father,” Phineas responded in a tone which clearly indicated that he had as little desire to be in this man’s presence as did the former to be in his. “I was summoned here by the family’s solicitors. I had every intention of ignoring the summons, but apparently there must be some magic involved which compelled my attendance.”

Before Phineas Nigellus Black Sr. could reply, another well-dressed and somber looking man stepped forward to interrupt.

“He is correct, Headmaster Black. I requested his attendance for the formal reading of your wife’s Last Will and Testament. I am Mr. Bernard. Gravally and I am the representative of your solicitors, Bentley, Snard & Crupett.”

“What, possibly, could my wife’s Will have to say about this person?” queried Headmaster Black, with a dismissive wave of his hand in Phineas’ direction. “He is not a member of our family. He is nothing.”

“I am sorry, Headmaster Black,” Mr. Gravally indicated, “but your son’s presence was required by your wife’s will.”

“HE IS NOT MY SON!” shouted Headmaster Black, clearly agitated.

“If it makes you feel any better, I, too, was revolted by Mr. Gravally’s indication of my relationship to you,” Phineas added with a smirk on his face. “I want nothing to do with you or your family.”

“Then why don’t you leave?”

“I would but, apparently, the magic requires me to stay until after the will is read.”

“He is correct, Headmaster Black,” Mr. Gravally stated firmly. “It is rare magic, but not unheard of. It would seem that your wife wanted your son … I mean this gentle-wizard to be here when her will is read.”

“Well, read it then, so he can leave as soon as possible,” growled Headmaster Black.





Chapter Three:

The group was gathered around a large table in a spacious and formal back office located in the funeral home. Phineas had situated himself at the other side of the table, as far as he could be from the other members of the Black family. Aside from Headmaster Black and his brother, Sirius, he saw his younger brothers, Arcturus and Cygnus, together with his sister, Belvina. He had not seen any of them for many years and, as far as he was concerned, he would have been just as happy if this sighting had been postponed indefinitely.

So far, the reading had not mentioned him in any way and now it seemed as if the entire document had been read. Why, then, was he required to be here? It would seem that Headmaster Black shared Phineas’ puzzlement, for he gruffly addressed Mr. Gravally.

“The entire will has been read and it makes no mention of that man,” he said, frowning in Phineas’ direction. “It is time for him to leave.”

“I am sorry, Headmaster, but the entire will has not yet been read. There is still the matter of the codicil.”

“What codicil? There is nothing left on the document,” stated Headmaster Black gesturing at the formal will document laying face up on the table.

“Yes, sir, that is what we thought when we first reviewed the document, but upon closer inspection the codicil was revealed,” Mr. Gravally replied.

With that he uttered the words, “Revellum Legacum” and, in a neat and clean handwritten script, the following words appeared on the bottom portion of the will, apparently written long after the rest of the document was prepared.

I, Ursula Flint Black, add the following to my will:

During my lifetime, I have been magically compelled to avoid and ignore my son, Phineas Black Junior. This has been done against my wishes, by my husband, Phineas Nigellus Black, and I am now able to reveal that he has done this to me because I understand this document only takes effect after I die and my magical compulsion dies with me.

Phineas, I am so very sorry for what has been done to you. I never agreed with my husband’s choice to expel you from our family. I never wanted to ignore you all this time and I have never stopped loving you, even when I did not always agree with you. I was proud of your willingness to stand up to your father and come to the defense of your Aunt Isla. I was proud of your courage to stand up for your convictions regarding muggles and your belief in their rights. Unfortunately, my husband was not above using dark and ugly magic to achieve his desires and he subjected me to a charm which has compelled me to comply with his wishes to disown you.

I can never repay the debt of despair and regret this has caused you and me during my lifetime, but now that I am gone, I can do what I can to enable you to live more comfortably for the rest of your days, even if it is in a muggle world.

I, therefore, revoke all previous bequests and gifts contained in this will and declare that my son, Phineas Black Junior, is to receive my entire estate for whatever purpose he may wish to use it. Furthermore, given that I have always maintained my own separate assets in the Flint family vault at Gringotts, I bequeath the entire contents of such vault to my son, Phineas Black Junior.

I do this not because I love my other children any less than I love Phineas, but because he has been dealt a severe and unfair injustice and my other children have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the benefits of Black family membership during their lifetimes.

Again, I am sorry, Phineas. Always remember that you were loved.

June 12, 1904

Ursula Flint Black


Epilogue: December 16, 1921

Phineas stepped out of the Wizengamot Court of Probate where the codicil to his mother’s will had finally been upheld by the court. Apparently, it qualified as a legal holograph codicil (amendment to a will) since it was signed, dated and written entirely in his mother’s own handwriting. It had taken almost a year of court battles, but in the end, he had been entirely successful. His mother’s estate was now his and it was a sizable estate. He was grateful to his mother for having made it possible for him to live comfortably for the rest of his life, but upon further reflection, Phineas realized that the best part of her bequest was the discovery his mother had never really abandoned him. He had been loved, after all.

Phineas looked over and spied his father as he exited from the courtroom, obviously very upset with the outcome. Phineas stepped back into a secluded alcove and changed into his raven form. The next day, he was delighted to see the photograph of his father on the front page of The Daily Prophet , angrily cleaning off the bird droppings from the shoulders of his robes.

Chapter 2: Lycoris Black: Disillusioned
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chapter graphic by emz


Disillusioned by delta


A/N: Thanks to GubraithianFire for beta-ing and Emz for the chapter graphic!  Both of you guys are just wonderful and helped me out on a moment's notice.  Also, a huge thank you to everyone at SAYS for just . . . existing in general. =]


I.

For all that’s said about her name, she seems fragile, sitting there at the library desk.  The quiet scratching of her quill is rhythmic and steady, faltering only when she pauses to check her references.

They call her the Ugly Duckling because of her clumsiness and bland features.  They wonder how Lycoris was ever born a Black and whisper with concealed importance about quiet dealings in the middle of the night to exchange a squib for a mudblood.  Even her own flesh and blood – Arcturus – eagerly recounts how he remembers a sickly baby suddenly replaced by a healthy one.  It is a testament to her unpopularity that the stigma on her is so strong.  

But even as the rest of the school whispers about her behind shifty eyes and closed doors, I know that she could never be a mudblood.  Mudbloods aren’t brilliant at Charms and devastatingly excellent at Potions.  Mudbloods can’t rattle off the names of all of England’s modern Potion Masters one moment and easily recite the necessary steps to a territorial transfiguration in the next.  My mates don’t find my friendship with her odd.  I’m from a rather poor pureblood family – in grave danger of dying out – and they think I’m in it for the money, even if she’s already betrothed.  So far, I’ve never bothered to correct them.

I slide into the seat next to Lycoris and remove my barely-started Potions essay on the uses of unicorn hair from my green-colored bag.  A moment later, I’m hurriedly flipping through the index of my Potions book and frown when the only mention of anything resembling unicorn hair is ‘unicorn parts’ with close to a dozen page numbers listed after it.  Just as I begin to turn to the first listed page, her voice arrests me.  “Page 243,” she says quietly, but firmly.  “It’s in the second and third paragraphs.  I’d suggest reading Adam Tattum’s Rare Potion Ingredients for more information.”

I look up for a moment to convey my gratitude only to find that her eyes had never left her beloved Arithmancy tables.  I manage a flustered thanks before turning to the proffered page.  Sure enough, the heading Unicorn Head Appendages stares out at me, and I hurriedly digest the provided information.  There really isn’t enough about unicorn hair to fill four inches, much less a foot, and I resign myself to searching for Tattum’s book.  

Sending Lycoris a quick look that she studiously ignores, I stand up and head over to the nearest shelves.  The library is full of people today so close to examinations, and I murmur a passing greeting when I see Kevin Carrow sitting with some of my other dorm-mates.  After I spot Travis Longbottom and Pollux Lestrange eyeing each other murderously from across a shared table, I vaguely wonder why nobody was sitting at Lycoris’s table with her before I arrived.  

The answer hits me abruptly as I finally locate the shelf containing authors Su-Tb and I quickly turn the corner to avoid the familiar well of anger that clenches my gut in sudden fury.  It’s not her fault that she’s not the epitome of gracefulness the way other Pureblood women are, that she can’t simper and sigh with the best of them.  Still – my brain reminds me, it seems that she’s good enough for the likes of Arano Malfoy, her betrothed.

As if called from my imagination, I spot Malfoy and his cronies bantering at a table at the end of the bookshelf.  My hands unconsciously clench into fists and I force myself to continue closer to the group as I work down the row in search of ‘Tattum.’  A thin, navy blue book with the aforementioned title catches my attention, and I slide it easily from its place on the shelf.

I know that Malfoy has caught sight of me by now – the boy is much too observant – and I also know that to walk away from him in the direction that I had come would be a tacit surrender.  Such are the ways of Purebloods.

My back snaps straight stiffly as I begin to move past him and his group of friends; I inwardly cringe at the harsh weight of Malfoy’s eyes and stubbornly raise mine to meet them.  I force myself to take one step and then another and then another.  My eyes drop to the floor.  I never was a bloody Gryffindor.

“Stalwart.”  My surname easily comes to his after three years of confrontation.

“Malfoy.”  I incline my head in mock greeting.

His eyes fall to the book I’m carrying.  “Rare Potion Ingredients?  Lycoris suggested that book to you, didn’t she?”  

I nod stiffly, unsurprised by Malfoy’s guess.  It’s common knowledge that without Lycoris’s help, there would have been no way that my grades would have risen from mediocrity.  

If anything, my muteness makes him angry.  His pretty face contorts, and his tone becomes bitingly sharp.  “Don’t hang around her, Stalwart.  She’s mine.”  

I breathe deeply to avoid the sudden anger in my stomach.  He always seems able of giving me indigestion, especially since we’re always talking about Lycoris.  A petulant retort falls from my lip before I can even consciously recognize what I’m saying.  

“She isn’t yours.”  The momentary, stunned look on his face warms me for an instant before I realize that I’ve just defied Malfoy, Arano Malfoy.  It seems that my survival instincts are pretty weak for a Slytherin.

To my surprise, Malfoy laughs callously at my words.  “She’s not much of a looker, is she?  Shouldn’t I take the opportunity to enjoy the . . . ah, sweeter fruits of womanhood before I’m married?”

Now, it’s my heart that clenches with anger and jealously.  That someone as horrible as Malfoy should marry someone like her is unbelievable.  And with marriage – my mind often drifts in this wayward direction – comes consummation, childbearing.  I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Suddenly, I feel Lycoris’s slight hand pressing down on my arm.  “Did you locate Rare Potion Ingredients yet?  You were gone for an awful long time and I really needed to use it.”  Her eyes are open and guileless and a smile dances across her face.

I struggle to answer her, but my mouth merely hangs limply like a fish.  Lycoris never ceases to amaze me with her acting.

She pivots as Malfoy clears his throat and her eyes widen even further as if she had just noticed him for the first time.  “Oh, Arano.  I didn’t realize Evan and you were talking.”  Her eyes flicker convincingly from his face to mine.  I look for the exit.

“Arano, please let your mother know that I enjoyed our tea over Easter thoroughly and ask her to forgive me for my tardiness in conveying my thanks.  With all of the current pressure on examinations, the thought merely slipped my mind.”

Malfoy returns to his previous swagger at Lycoris’s not-so-subtle change of topic.  “Of course,” he demurs.

She inclines her head gracefully before heading away with me in tow.  Even though I can feel Malfoy’s eyes burning into my back, I don’t dare to turn around – not even for a parting shot.  

-----

II.

I still don’t know how it happened.  

It’s December of 1922 and two weeks from Christmas Break, but I don’t feel much like celebrating.  I’m on the path between the Great Hall and Transfiguration and the rush of people is swelling around me.  Nobody that counts is coming to NEWT-level Transfiguration with me – all my mates opted out back in sixth year, what with the notoriously biased Gryffindor Head of House in charge – and even though I’ve snapped at my friends over the last months to shut it with their insinuations, I can’t help but feel even more introspective without Kevin’s rambling chatter or Oliver’s lewd comments.  

On some level, I’m disgusted that I should care so much that Lycoris and Malfoy are finally getting along – Shouldn’t I be glad for her?  I suspect that Malfoy has finally had a proper conversation with his parents about how he ought to treat his future bride-to-be and has shaped up somewhat like a proper Pureblood.  

But that was expected at least.  How Lycoris has acted was not.  

Now, all I ever see of her is her hanging on Malfoy’s arm or her catering to his every whim.  She’s turned into one of those simpering fools that I would never, in a million years, have pegged her to be.  

A scowl easily falls into place as I step into Transfiguration and slip into a seat near the back of the room, my eyes wandering across the room.  I catch sight of Lycoris and Malfoy sitting together at the far corner as they always do now.  He says something that elicits her quiet, tinkling laugh and she leans in with a smile, allowing Malfoy to kiss her on the cheek.  My scowl’s turned into a grimace without me noticing, and I turn away, revolted.

Damn Malfoy and his Pureblood charm.  Damn him to hell.  

Later, they’re sitting out by the lake, enjoying lunch together.  It’s against Hogwarts rules to be having picnics, but Malfoy’s got the whole Board wrapped around his little finger.  None of the teachers dare to do anything for fear Malfoy’s father would speak a few choice words to the wrong people.

I don’t know why I’m outside, leaning against an oak tree and pretending to read when I could be inside working on my Potions homework, which is a struggle for me without Lycoris’s help.  I don’t know why I subject myself to this self-torture.  But I just can’t help it – seeing her in his arms, seeing her talk and giggle and flirt with him as if he hadn’t mocked her for the last seven years, seeing . . . seeing . . .

If I hadn’t known that I had fallen for her before she had left me to cuddle up with Malfoy, I would have known it now – now that all I could do was hopelessly trail after her like a lost puppy and wonder at the ‘ifs’ instead of the ‘maybes.’

Ah, the difference that a year makes.

Even as my eyes flick across the page in a half-hearted attempt to absorb information on dragon scales and their use in Potions, I can’t help but wonder if she’s a lost cause, just as I’ve wondered every day this year.

I’ve looked, constantly, for some sign that Lycoris really doesn’t love him, that she’s just playing along like a good Pureblood witch should.  But every gesture, every faint blush of her cheeks, every look in her eyes betrays her true feelings.  I’ve known Lycoris for seven years and I know that even she can’t act that well.  Her cold, brilliant eyes would always give her act away – at least to me; but with Malfoy, she’s different.  Her eyes are open, wide, and translucent.  They’re expressive in ways I’ve never seen.  

A sigh escapes my lips.  Evan and Lycoris was never anything more than wishful thinking.  I should have known that a Stalwart would never be good enough for a Black.

-----

III.

The news is on everybody’s lips.  The wedding’s off . . . the wedding’s off . . . the wedding’s off . . .

I wander down the street to work at Gringotts and grimace when one witch next to me suggests that Malfoy broke it off because “there was no way he would bed a creature like her.”  I’m about to accost her when I come to my senses and continue on my way.  It’s been three years, but I’ve never gotten over her.  It’s disgusting.

My steps lead me to the backdoor of Gringotts where all of the workers enter.  I mutter a few spells to unseal the door and allow me passage before stepping right through the stone wall and into a large, cavernous room, at least four times the height of an adult human.  Huge, floating lights adorn the room, basking the place in a perpetual half-glow, and stone gargoyles adorn each support beam.  The sight of a typical day greets me – goblins putting the money away, Cursebreakers intently gathered around an object – Dark, no doubt – and others catching their morning coffee.  I sidle over to Montgomery and Avery, both of whom are part of my Transfiguration team.  Montgomery – the most senior of us three – already has a clipboard in hand.

“Hall 9.  We’re doing an expansion.”  I nod, sighing.  Building transfigurations are long and stressful.  I’m already looking forward to a hot, soothing shower when I get home.

Montgomery sets a hard pace, eager to start as he always is, and Avery and I struggle to keep up.  We’re panting by the time we get there and immediately break off into our familiar triangular positions, the necessary steps for this type of transfiguration already running through our heads.  As we begin, we’re synchronized, moving as one.  We’ve done this so many times that I swear we could do it in our sleep.

Suddenly, my wand slips from my hand, clattering to the floor mid-chant.  Montgomery sends me a mild look of concern – one of us gives out every once in a while when our full concentration isn’t on the spells, and I simply shrug my shoulders to suggest ignorance.  He nods simply – disbelief palpable in his worried glance.  But he turns away, quickly, to move back to the necessary positions for the beginning of the incantation.  He won’t press for information; he never does.  

I bend over to pick up my wand and straighten myself out, moving to my left to regain my starting position.  With my wand out, I nod to signal my readiness even as a haunting picture of dark hair and brown eyes fills my mind.

But by the third time my wand clatters to the floor and I pick it up listlessly, Montgomery’s angry, rage contorting his face.  “Get out, Stalwart.  Go drink your problems under today and come back tomorrow with a clear head.  You’re no use like that.”  I acquiesce silently, too disconnected to argue.  I turn, stumbling slightly as I make my way back to the anteroom.  Montgomery’s voice sounds behind me.  “Get a replacement on your way out.”  I don’t bother to answer and he doesn’t demand one.  I’ve never shirked my duty before, but then again, I’ve never failed three times in a row either.

As I walk under the high ceiling, I’m seized with the sudden desire to leave without getting a replacement.  I know Montgomery will understand – he didn’t do a single thing when his wife was deathly ill two months ago – but I’m too inundated with tradition to let go so easily.  

“Griptorch,” I say unsteadily, “Montgomery needs a replacement.”  I stalk off before the goblin has the chance to reply.  

The cold February air greets me as I key myself out of Gringotts.  I’ve half-decided to head home and read a book, but some rare fit of pique to follow Montgomery’s instructions about getting pissed-drunk strikes me.  

At the Hog’s Head, I’m glad for the relative silence of the place and warily stalk in, preternaturally aware of the fact that the only customers at this hour are drunks.  I wave over Aaron, the barkeep, for a firewhiskey and one of the pretty barmaids, Lucinda, brings it over.   I don’t give her any thanks.

Suddenly, the door opens, a rush of cold air and quiet tinkling, signaling a new arrival.  I turn around, half in curiosity and half out of habit, only to find Lycoris standing in front of me.  I must have sucked in my breath because she looks over suddenly, her long hair whipping around a fraction after her eyes.  The moment she catches my gaze, however, I duck down without a word.  I didn’t want to see her here.

But even so, I know why she’s here, drinking her thoughts away at the preferred Slytherin bar house.  

I can’t help watching as Lucinda brings Lycoris a glass of hardale without her even ordering and see Lycoris press a couple of coins into her hand.  The silent nature of the transaction instinctively tells me that she has been here many times already.  Perhaps, she’s not the intruder, but I am.

I close my eyes, suddenly overcome by the bitter taste of the firewhiskey sliding down my throat.  A moment later, my eyelids pop open, suddenly wary of how I must look to her.  On a weekday, before noon, at a bar – what must she think?  I peer down at my clothes, dirty and unattractive and entirely too large and wonder how I must look in her eyes.  Self-consciously, I straighten the hem of my robe and smooth out my collar.  I turn slightly to glance at her out of the corner of my eye and suddenly feel heady.  The proverbial butterflies are filling my stomach.

I don’t need a mother to tell me that this is a symptom of being around a person you love.

My hands fall flat on the table and shakily pick up the goblet of firewhiskey.  My throat burns as the firewhiskey slides heavily down my throat as I attempt to forget my pathetic devotion to a girl who never spared me a second glance once a better option came along.  I wonder what I ever was to her – a plaything?  a sycophant?  a . . . friend?

The last option sounds bitter and harsh even to my own ears.  It’s a mocking reminder of everything that I never had with her.  Perhaps, I once was her friend, but she was never mine.  

Her distinctive voice says something to Lucinda – what she says, I can’t pick out – but as the click-clack of her heels increases in volume, I’m positive I know where this is heading.  

She never was one for subtlety when she knew her prey was trapped.  

As her rich scent washes over me – so good, oh, so good, I’m momentarily paralyzed and I close my eyes in frustration.  The sound of a chair being moved back and a body being lowered down reaches my ears and I close my eyes even tighter.  

I always was a bloody coward.

“Stop hiding, Evan.”  Her quiet voice reaches my ears and I’m momentarily surprised that it hasn’t changed a bit since Hogwarts.

My eyes open, as if of their own accord and her face, imprinted so heavily in my memory, stares back out at me.  Her eyes are remarkably listless for a face that I have known for so long and I swallow, remembering why she is here.  “I’m sorry about Malfoy,” I say softly.  “He always was a right prat.”

She flinches at my last word, and I scowl, remembering all those times before seventh year when we would take turns criticizing Malfoy after a particularly nasty incident.  ‘Prat’ didn’t even begin to cover the words that passed through our mouths then.

“It wasn’t Arano’s fault,” she says slowly, as if she’s still trying to convince herself.  “My father and his father got into a dispute at the Ministry over Arano’s . . . infidelity” – her voice wavers – “and well, . . .”  Her hands move through the air in an attempt to quantify her current situation.

We lapse into silence, neither of us willing to budge in the issue at hand.  My glass of firewhiskey is empty before I know it and I’m slightly disappointed that I don’t feel inebriated yet.  Scooting my chair back a few inches, I move to rise from my seat to leave, internally debating over how to make my exit.  I’m surprised when the sudden scraping noise of my seat makes Lycoris look up; her eyes had been glued to her hardale previously.  

Her vacant eyes watch me rising.  “Will I see you again?” she says hesitantly, reaching out to place her hand on my arm.  

I want to leave, just leave and have the hope of another chance confrontation fuel my work, but my frustration has festered for so long.  “What exactly do you want from me, Lycoris?”

I’m surprised to see her eyes fall to the ground and the pressure on my arm let up.  A blush permeates her icily pale cheeks.  “I was thinking that . . . that since we were such good friends at school that maybe . . . maybe we could try again to be friends . . . and . . . and . . .”

I’m not fooled for an instant by her stuttering tone, although I wish I could be.  “You want my friendship?”  My voice is incredulous and grating.  After all this time and now you speak?

“I was thinking that maybe – maybe we could be something more.”  She raises her eyes to meet mine, and I turn away disgusted.  Her eyes, cold and empty as they are, don’t reflect the hope a relationship needs.

“I don’t want to be just another ends to a means, Lycoris.  I’m not stupid.”  There is a pleading undertone to my words.

“I never – I wouldn’t –”  Her voice falters and her gaze drops to the ground.  “I never meant to hurt you, Evan.  You have to believe that.”

“Don’t kid yourself, Lycoris.  I was never anything to you after Malfoy came along.”  His name is still acrid on my tongue.  “You gave me up for Malfoy.  Malfoy!  The boy we hated for so many years.”

“I’m sorry.”  It sounds as if she is willing me to believe in her innocence.

“Sorry’s not good enough.”  Years of hate and turmoil swell once again to the surface.  “And every time I say his name you cringe, Lycoris.  Do you think I don’t notice it?  Do you think I don’t know that you still love him?”  My voice drops to a whisper.

I’ve voiced my deepest fear, a truth too terrible for me to believe.  I stare at her, willing her to refute my last inquiry, willing her to tell me that all those loving gazes were nothing but the best acting of her career.  But even as I watch – unavoidably hopeful – I notice her gaze on the ground and the way she’s turned slightly as if to prevent me from discovering the truth.  I see the way her hands clench and unclench slowly and then hurriedly brush a few, nonexistent pieces of lint from her cloak.  

The ticking from the clock is unerringly distinct.

Slowly, she turns again to face me and I can see the mask slide into place and her fingers cautiously unclench for the last time.  I can see a lie written all over her face.

I can’t bear to have her lie to me and use me again.  Five years ago, she broke my heart.  If I let her speak today, she will break my will and my soul.  

Propelled into action, I grab my coat and yank my arm from her grasp, hastening towards the door.  I turn around only slightly as I’m closing the door to see a mixture of disappointment and shock linger on her beautiful face.

I’m running from Temptation herself.

Chapter 3: Cedrella Black: The One-minute Waltz
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The One-minute Waltz by GubraithianFire


Cedrella Black was famed not for her wand (though she was quite a talented young witch) nor her for beauty (which was quite commendable, as most men would attest), but rather for her obstinacy. Never in three years of searching did she forge an intimate connection with any man who approached her. She had rejected Adam Rosier for his lack of emotion and Eric Crouch for his lack of teeth; of all worthy pureblood gentlemen in England at the time, the closest who came to Cedrella’s heart was Ambrose Finch, who regretfully had been shot to death by a Muggle cutpurse before saying “I love you” to his beloved. Whether or not Cedrella herself would have acknowledged his proclamation is a quandary that shall never be solved.

The problem with the young lady – practically a princess by anyone’s standards – was that she had been fed on a diet of barren, forbidding tales of marriage and love; the former was only ever extolled as a way of binding families; the latter only ever ended in tragedy. Her sisters Callidora and Charis dutifully swallowed these sad stories, never supposing, like Cedrella had, that love could possibly be happy.

“Happy?” repeated Lysandra Black incredulously, staring down at her middle daughter, here aged seven years. “Can one be happy and in love at the same time? Of course not!”

“Love?” cut in Cedrella’s father, Arcturus Black. “Child, love has ceased to exist for us. Don’t bother your pretty head about it.” He patted his daughter’s messy crown of gilt plaits gently before ambling outside to enjoy his cigar (which was outlawed in the house, for Callidora had a terrible aversion to smoke).

“But Father!” called Cedrella, trotting after him as he reached the courtyard of the countryside manor. “If… if love has ceased to exist for us, who does fall in love?”

“Only the very lucky,” said Arcturus enigmatically. “Run along, Cedrella.”

Since that day, now thirteen years ago, Cedrella Black secretly ached for a love filled with happiness. She never understood why she couldn’t be one of the lucky few to experience this sacred emotion. She was quite lucky as is – rich, beautiful, and pureblooded. Surely this was enough for a happy love? Cedrella hoped so, but her reality was crashing down around her at an alarming rate. She never loved any of her suitors, and it was widely speculated that not even Ambrose Finch had won her affections.

Lysandra was getting anxious on her daughter’s behalf. While Cedrella seemed content to wait for the man destined to be her beloved, her mother was not. The longer she waited, the longer the betrothal of eighteen-year-old Charis would have to be postponed. Callidora, now married to Harfang Longbottom, had gone through the time-honored tradition of marrying the “highest bidder” so to speak. Charis would do the same, when and if the time would ever come. Lysandra could not understand her middle daughter’s motives; she fancied she was only judging men by their mostly unflattering photographs, not by their temperaments, and this was a wrong just waiting to be righted.

“Girls!” called the domineering Lysandra, summoning forth Cedrella and Charis from their midmorning slumber. They grumbled belligerently as they trudged downstairs, Cedrella privately wishing the June morning could be spent entirely in sleep.

“Morning, Mother,” yawned the sisters.

“Still asleep?” Their mother clicked her tongue reprovingly. “Ladies ought not still be sleeping at eleven. But I shall forget that – I have great news for you, Cedrella.” She smiled a wide, toothy smile, quite proud of herself. “We have decided to hold a Midsummer’s Night Ball this year.”

There was silence before Charis indulged herself in unladylike squeals of delight. “Every worthy pureblood boy, all here on such a magical night!” she sighed dreamily. “How romantic, Mother!”

Cedrella swore to herself. She knew this was yet another way to force her into socializing with her suitors. All the same, the romantic in her squealed excitedly, too. Maybe she would find love on Midsummer’s Night.


Septimus Weasley was famed not for his wand (which had only barely brought his owner six N.E.W.T.S.) nor for his beauty (though his admirers would call him ‘ruggedly handsome’ if anything) but for his obstinacy. He hadn’t really searched for women he might have the chance of marrying, since the one woman he really did want to marry was, in a word, untouchable. Callidora Longbottom. Inexplicably at the headstrong age of sixteen he had developed an unhealthy obsession with the older woman. Obsession, indeed: he had attempted to write poetry about her midnight black tresses and her alluringly mystic gray eyes, and about how no woman on the face of the earth could inspire such dangerous emotion in him, but he invariably failed. Septimus had never been a man of many words; he was a man of action.

But when matters turned to Callidora, he could never find the courage to face her. He could never sweep her off her feet, as fairy tales always dictated him to do. There was no way Callidora Longbottom would ever fall in love with him, and he knew most of these reasons. Firstly, she was married, and while he knew oftentimes marriages amongst people like the Blacks were arranged to suit the parents and not the couple. Yet he also knew she couldn’t possibly love Harfang Longbottom, and thus had a diminutive chance. Secondly, there was the slightly bigger problem involving their families’ bickering over the decades about Muggles and their contemporaries. The schism had long been in effect, and Callidora and Septimus were on opposing sides.

And there also was the problem that Callidora Longbottom pretended to not know Septimus Weasley existed.

“Sep,” said Algernon Greengrass, a close friend of Septimus’, “did you hear about the Black’s Midsummer ball?”

“No,” said Septimus curtly. “How did you hear of it?”

“I was invited,” said Algernon. “We’re always invited to these things.”

Septimus snorted, “And I suppose you want to go see Charis again?”

“Not as badly as you want to see Callidora, I don’t think,” smirked Algernon. He was one of the few people who knew of Septimus’ obsession and the only one who didn’t mock it. “I actually think I could sneak you in, if you don’t mind going as Beatrice’s date.”

Septimus raised his head cautiously, unable to believe what his ears were telling him. “I… I could go to the Black family ball? And… and Callidora Longbottom would be there?”

“Oh, yes. As Beatrice’s date, of course, since they won’t let you in otherwise, and even then it will be quite grudgingly that you’re let in their manse, but I rather think they won’t mind so much.”

“And why wouldn’t they mind so much?” asked Septimus quickly, unwilling to give the Black family any more reason to resent him, when and if they acknowledged his presence.

“Because the entire ball is a ruse for Cedrella,” explained Algernon patiently, grinning at his friend’s look of confusion. “Cedrella – oh, come on, Sep, you remember her. The blonde one, the one every eligible bachelor is trying to get his hands on.”

“Except you, ‘cos you’re so devoted to Charis.”

“Cedrella is the older sister, though. She has higher status in the family, you see,” Algernon continued. “She’ll get a higher stake in her father’s will and all that. Callidora’s already married, of course, but Cedrella is the next up, and,” he added as an afterthought, “she’s considered the most beautiful and charming of all three sisters.”

Septimus rolled his eyes incredulously. There was no woman who could hold a candle to his Callidora! He didn’t say this, unwilling to make a fool of himself in front of Algernon (who, though he never said anything aloud, Septimus was quite sure was greatly amused by his love for the married sister), and instead graciously agreed to go as his rather unattractive sister Beatrice’s date. It was worth having to dance with Beatrice (whose feet were two of the left variety) if he could see Callidora again.


Cedrella was already exhausted by the time 21 June came around, the date of the ball. Over the past three weeks she had watched the house-elves slave over the arrangements of the furniture, over the food selections, over every trivial detail her mother decided to put into the ball. But that wasn’t what made her feel so tired. It was the infinitesimal details applied to Cedrella herself. The hair, the makeup, the clothes, the shoes… she ordinarily delighted in these necessary preparations, going on day-long shopping sprees with friends and friends who would pretend to be friends. But there was something wrong with going through all this trouble tonight.

Cedrella knew perfectly well this ball was a ruse for her to choose someone – anyone – from the worthy guests. But she also knew privately this was for her to fall in love with someone. And she also knew she couldn’t love any of the men who would come tonight and dance and converse with her, pretending to know what exactly she liked in a man when she herself wasn’t completely sure what it was she wanted. She just wanted to fall in love and not have an unhappily ever after. She wanted to fall in love; of course she didn’t really expect to fall in love, but still she subconsciously wanted it. But it felt wrong to dress up and put on the mask she needed to fit in. Love was about loving someone no matter what they wore or whether or not their skin was flawless or whether or not their robes matched the color of their eyes… if she was to fall in love tonight, there ought be no need for masks and nice clothes. This was love. Moreover, it would be happy love.

However, when Cedrella glided downstairs to the ballroom, any onlooker (and there were many, for the guests had by now arrived for the ball and were milling about, waiting for the guest of honor) could not have been able to tell what she was truly wishing for. Her pearl-white robes, her gilt hair swept into a loose, elegant bun, and the glittering diamond jewelry her mother had unearthed from the Yaxley Gringotts vault all gave her a fairy-tale presence. Her beauty, so long commended by every man in the ballroom, suddenly made her seem unreal to the point that the men were rather intimidated by her.

“Well, well, well,” smiled Arcturus Black benevolently, offering his arm to his daughter to lead her to the middle of the floor. “You look gorgeous, child.”

“Thank you, Father,” whispered Cedrella demurely, politely blocking out all the stares concentrated on her. She had never been graceful under pressure, but had learned to make it look like she was.

Charis, in deep violet, and Callidora, wearing cheery cerulean, were already mingling with the other families and their sons, and as soon as she could, Cedrella pulled away from her father to do as her sisters were. But unlike her sisters, who were wrangled into conversation after conversation, she seemed to be unable to be tethered to one group at any one time.


When Algernon and Septimus finally met up, a good hour into the gathering, they had each seen Cedrella several times that night, never staying with the same people for more than a minute or so. But of course this wasn’t Septimus’ biggest concern: it was Callidora.

“Really, mate, go talk to her,” said Algernon bracingly. “Can’t be that bad, can it?”

“You have no idea,” said Septimus darkly, giving the crowd a disgruntled glare. “Even Beatrice left me. They can’t stand me, Algie. Adam Rosier practically tried to duel me for even coming here!” He shook his head forlornly. “I’ll never be able to face Callidora like this. She’ll have me thrown out, I just know it.”

Algernon gruffly pushed an overfilled glass of elf-made wine into his friend’s hand. “Drink it,” he commanded, watching him resignedly take a long draught of the ruddy wine. “It’ll give you strength.”

“I don’t need strength!” roared Septimus in an uproariously loud voice, attracting rather unwanted attention to the friends. “I’m Septimus Weasley! I need no fake strength!” Septimus Weasley also was a man of many contradictions, for with a wild look in his eye he downed not only his glass but also an entire bottle (though where he found it, Algernon would never know). “I need no bloody wine to help me!” he asserted rather drunkenly. Rather amused and more than slightly confused, Algernon watched his decidedly copper-haired companion waddle off, conjuring a bottle of not wine but firewhiskey and wolfing that down, too.


Cedrella, at this point in her not-very-romantic Midsummer’s Night Ball, would not have said no to some firewhiskey to liven up the gathering. In fact, had she been offered some spirits, she would have downed a bottle as well. She was bored easily, and certainly was not having the least bit of fun or the least bit of romance tonight. Soon after thinking this rather dismal thought, the dancing at long last begun. And while usually the waltz was a very relaxing dance that she enjoyed very much, now it seemed almost oppressively boring. There was a certain stance one had to have while dancing, and once one mastered this stance they needn’t worry about it and could converse lightly with their partner. But there were few conversationalists in the crowd, and there was not one man of the conversationalists who could call forth any desire to exchange words with the surreal, detached Cedrella. So each waltz lasted about thirty seconds before another man tried to charm the secret romantic. When, however, a strange, very drunk redhead elbowed his way past Caspar Crouch to dance with her, she was utterly befuddled.

He swore animatedly for ten of his allotted thirty seconds, Cedrella blinking confusedly at him. “Well,” said the stranger, at last using acceptable vernacular, “you certainly aren’t Callie, are you?”

“Callie?” repeated Cedrella. “Who’s – oh, Callidora? Of course I’m not her. I’m Cedrella.”

“Oh? Brilliant,” said the stranger, who was keeping a very tight hold on her waist. “Knew Algie had to be lying. This stuff, it doesn’t help at all.”

“Stuff?”

“Wine. And firewhiskey. It never works,” said the stranger, drawing her closer. “See, I thought you were Callie. She’s gorgeous and breathtaking and all that… but you are. What’s your name again?”

“My name is Cedrella,” she said again, trying to figure out how exactly she could recoil politely away from him. His breath smelled of strong spirits and all the while he stared her straight in her rich hazel eyes. But she had the odd feeling he wasn’t leering crudely at her, either; he seemed better than that.

“Cedrella!” he exclaimed, allowing the name to luxuriate on his tongue. “You’re beautiful, Miss Cedrella. You really are. More so than your sister, actually.”

“Why, thank you?” She was getting frightened, but not of the way he continually pulled her body to his in a brazen way no one else had attempted. She was frightened of the constricting of her heart, of her inability to look into his soul as he did hers.

“You’re welcome. You’re beautiful. But you’re bored,” he observed, seeing more truth than anyone else in his decidedly drunken state. “I am too. Hence the firewhiskey.”

“Oh. Have you tried our wine? It’s elf made.”

“Yeah, I tried it. Too weak, I say, you can’t beat firewhiskey. Better go all the way than meet ‘em in the middle, eh?”

“An interesting philosophy.”

“You don’t think so. You’re disgusted by me.”

Cedrella narrowed her eyes. “Disgusted by you, sir? I assure you, I feel nothing like that. I don’t make judgments about strangers,” she smiled benevolently, unable still to meet his gaze, noting how he refused to lift his eyes from hers. She snuck a peak as they whirled gently around in time to the otherworldly music. His eyes were a bright, cheerful blue, and they seemed so much more vivid than anything she had seen all night.

“You’re a hypocrite, too. There isn’t a soul on this earth, wizard or Muggle, who doesn’t make judgments, especially about drunken strangers. I’ve gathered my assumptions about you, Cedrella.”

“And what may I ask have you seen about me?”

He grinned devilishly, cupping her cheek in his calloused hand. “I can see you really, really, really want to try firewhiskey, that’s what I see.” He winked, her heart skipping quite a few beats, as he released her face to conjure a bottle of the fiery stuff. “Care for a drink?” he asked, miraculously flipping open the bottle.

Cedrella eyed the drink cautiously. She had only ever tried firewhiskey once, at a particularly raucous graduation party years ago. She was quite sure several bad things came of that one drunken night, including but not limited to the photographs of questionable nature she had burned the morning after sobering up. The stranger grinned now, but not at her eyes for once but her feet, and she remembered suddenly that all this time they were still dancing the waltz. This one had lasted much, much longer than the others – an entire minute, she reckoned.

“Not now,” she said slowly, suddenly very conscious of the eyes following her and her partner as they whirled in time to the delicate music. “No, I really can’t drink anything of that sort tonight. Not tonight.”

“Well, then,” said the stranger graciously, bowing as the music finally ended – the closest she had come all night to completing a full waltz. “I’ll meet you on the terrace.”

And with that he elbowed his way to the hall, undoubtedly to the terrace that didn’t exist. Cedrella smiled to herself in the brief moment that left her alone for the first time all night. There might have been no terrace at the manse, but she would find him, this delightful stranger, this man she genuinely liked, this man she… loved?

It took another six thirty second waltzes for her to remember that he had never told her his name.

Chapter 4: Pollux Black: Ink and Tears
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Ink and Tears by lilybean84

Dearest Cassiopia,

My sister, I'm sorry I haven't been to see you for so long; I'm not as spry as I used to be and I fear that the sand has run out on me. I hope I haven't shocked you, for one in our family to apologize you must know there is something wrong, we Blacks don't apologize easily nor do we admit defeat. This letter, I fear, is written with a heavy heart and I beg you to read all of it. The distance between us is my fault and I feel that I've run out of time to make excuses. I've let you carry a burden for far too long that should have been mine.

The past is buried in grief and as much as I'd like to leave it so it is time to dig it up.

From the readers view it looked as if the writer had paused and thought for a moment. As the pen stood silent a small drop of ink had splashed onto the page above the word 'time' as if it was dotting the " I ". A cruel sign that despite the pain created while putting the words down, it had to be done.

... I begin again: forgive the ink, my hands are not as they used to be. They shake on their own and despite my temper they refuse to listen. My temper, the very reason I have been silent for so long. I've made a habit of being right, I made sure that I never made tracks that I couldn't defend or cover. I fought hard for our family and overlooked its flaws despite the warning signs. The few times I let my temper loose on you it was regretted instantly. Although I was too proud to admit and even now I still find that pride interfering with my decisions, I want you to know I never meant any of the things I said when we were kids.

Cassiopia, when you were born I promised myself that I'd protect you. I know all brothers make that promise and yet I was determined to do it better than any brother. The same for Dorea of course, but you were so different. When you were younger the smile on your face was so perfect, it was something that kept the days light and despite the harsh Black traditions you never frowned. The day I saw it fade I had hoped it would return but it has yet to come back. Do you remember that day? It wasn't your fault, you were only ten.

This is where I know it will get hard for you but please, I beg you please, keep reading no matter what you think or feel. I know I've spent time pausing over this and yes, I have felt tears. Please, forgive me for not taking this burden off your shoulders. I didn't do my job as your brother and it has haunted me throughout my life. It wasn't your fault Marius was disowned, I know you've always blamed yourself, but stop! it was my words that caused the problem.

You were ten, I was thirteen, Marius was twelve and little Dorea was only five. People had been suspicious of Marius for a while, you probably didn't hear it as much as I did, but they were beginning to notice that his wand was useless. Mother and Father didn't want to believe it, they kept trying to hide the fact that his powers hadn't arrived. I was told by them to do my best to cover for him at school, I was to make sure that he wasn't hassled.

I did my best for a while but then things got really hard. My attentions were torn between Marius and a girl I liked. Marius was such a handful and I had to constantly be by his side. I had to stop the kid's hexes and make it look as if it had been him. I had to help him in class secretly just so his teachers wouldn't notice. I was growing jealous of his attention, I was angry that I was his 'servant' and so I began to see how far I could push things. I began spending time away from him, I grew arrogant and that's when he got caught.

You must think horrible thoughts of me at the moment. I know I did, but being so young I justified it. I told myself that it was his fault. I said he should have been thankful that I had bothered for so long since it was inevitable he'd be caught. He cried: he cried for so long and I called him a baby. I wish now that I had said otherwise. He was my brother and I thought of only myself. I didn't know that Mother and Father would disown him. He was their son, how naive I was. Obviously I hadn't known the extent of the Black pride.

You know what happened after that. I remember holding you in front of the fire place as we listened to our parents arguing. Mother was screaming at Father for not taking care of you before it had been spread outside our house. Marius hid behind a chair across from us, his face whiter than a ghost's. Their screaming woke up Dorea, she came downstairs crying. She ran to Marius like she always did when things were bad. He kissed her hair and held her tight, tighter than I was holding you. It was then that Mother and Father grew quiet and we all heard the singed wall as it burned his name.

Please, dry your tears. I know they're fighting to come out or already have. You've spent years forgetting and then I come to dig it up. I'm sorry but I know this is something that needs to be done. I know you blame yourself since he was caught trying to protect you. Nothing you said that night changed the situation. Mother and Father had already made up their minds. When they dragged Marius away from Dorea they weren't taking him out to talk, they had the people ready to take him away. Your words were those of a dedicated sibling and it was something I should have defended you for.

"Mama, take me instead ... TAKE ME! ...Please take me..." you screamed and cried even after they slammed the door. I know you thought I hadn't but I heard you curse magic. I heard your whispers long after that. You cursed the fact you couldn't give him some of what you had, if only to save him the feeling of being abandoned. It wasn't fair for a girl your age to feel that much grief. Mother and Father never spoke of Marius again, we were all told to forget he ever existed. How many nights did you sit by your window, looking for him, unable to forget there were four, not three?
I know my words bring little comfort for the past years but I blame myself for allowing you to go through this alone. You never were the same and I hate myself for being silent. In my adolescent mind I thought we'd all get over it and forget but it's become impossible. The Black family has cursed us all to feel loss, we lost our brother and in my own family I've lost a son. We're all told to forget, to stand behind our 'name' but at the edge of my life I find a name is hollow and empty. Being a Black hasn't saved me from pain nor has it spared me regret.

Before my son Alphard died he came to see me. We had to meet away from the home since my wife wouldn't have allowed me to speak to him. He apologized for causing problems and told me about his life; he was happy and content. I felt awful that he had come to apologize when all he had done was support his nephew. He had a kind heart and we had turned against him. That sparked the fire that pushed me away from what I had so strongly defended. I looked at him, touched his hand and apologized for letting him feel the same loss that had torn my heart apart when I watched Marius leave. His family had abandoned him, his parents had shunned him and I cried because I had been like our parents. The parents we cursed for taking our brother I couldn't curse anymore for I was their shadow.

I always thought that through my children I could bring pride to the Black name and change their 'superior' nature. I wanted to strengthen our bonds and instead I brought about the destruction of the Black family. My grandchildren are the last, they're torn between You-Know-Who and the fight for good, the Black name rests on Sirus and Regulus. If they die then what I lost so much for is dissolved. You were wise to never have children; you saved yourself and them so much pain because of our family.

Cassiopia, I don't have much time left. I can feel my hand weakening, the quill feels heavier with every moment that passes. No one knew but years ago I went on a quest. As selfish as it was I left to put my mind at peace. I needed to know that Marius had been alright without us and... I found him. I found him! Oh, my heart leaps into my throat as I write those words again. It was quite the moment and all by accident. I wandered the muggle streets and it was he who found me. I was afraid of what he'd say so we stared at each other silently, as if we were both looking at ghosts. Then he spoke my name and I nodded, at least I think I nodded. It's hard to remember, but before I could say anything he hugged me. For a moment I worried what people might think, two grown men embracing in the middle of a busy street. Believe me when I say I felt ashamed for thinking that not a second after I had. I hugged him back with as much energy as I could muster. He was my lost brother, I had every right to hug him.

I know you'll want to see him, to hear his stories and meet your nieces. At the same time as this is mailed a letter to him with your address is being sent as well. I know he'll write to you and you'll have time to close those wounds that have left you destroyed and barren. I've never said it before but I love you and I miss you. I wish we had never been born into the family that we had but that's a foolish wish. Fate has placed us here and we have played our parts. Please, enjoy the last few years of your life guilt free. Smile brightly for all the years it was hidden. I love your smile, let it show.

Your Brother, Pollux Black

On the parchment dried tear drops mingled with the splashes of ink. The reader touched them with worn fingers, kissed the spots and slowly smiled goodbye.


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