It was close to midnight, but the East London streets were alight, glimmering with the glare of the street lamps. It was quiet save for the few drunken louts making their way home from a night out at the local pub.
Mr. Charles Ross was one such man: a twenty-five year old university graduate with far too much time on his hands than would be expected. He took the same road as he always did, attempting to steady himself by way of the brick wall. Each night was the same for him. Pints of beer; pretty women and reliving the 1966 football world cup for the millionth time with his mates. He couldn’t imagine a better way to spend his evenings.
He walked slowly and deliberately up the backhanded alleyways, happily humming away to ‘All You Need is Love’ by the Beatles.
He stopped short as he caught sight of a smoky mist hovering in the air at the end of the alley. It took him a moment to collect his thoughts, his mind too groggy with alcohol to be very clear headed.
“Smoke,” he muttered with no amount of alarm in his voice. He continued stumbling along, not too bothered. He felt as though a part of him was trying to tell him something, a nagging feeling tugged at his senses and he felt oddly inclined to stop walking.
But he didn’t.
Blinking, he continued forward, now dreaming of a warm cosy bed to fall into and a hot water bottle to cuddle. It might be August but hot water bottles were great at more than just keeping one warm. They were a source of comfort, a source of love. They could touch one like a woman never could, they could reach in and grab ones soul, holding it tight, delicately melting ones insecurities and ridding one of... well... of hangovers.
“Mmmm... water bottle...”
Charles stumbled quite violently and fell to the ground with a thump.
“Ooof, now how did that happen?” he wondered, rather amused. With a big smile on his face he put his hands out and made to push himself up.
The ground was soft, no not soft exactly but lumpy...
With slow deliberation Charles looked to the ground where he lay.
Two cold eyes looked straight back at him.
With a shock and a yell, Charles scrambled backwards, the alcohol leaving his veins with swift precision. His mind clearer he took in the full picture.
A man lay there completely still. His skin was white, his eyes wide yet glassy. He looked absolutely petrified.
Death had surely claimed him.
Charles began to yell. He yelled even more as he looked up to the sky and saw that the smoke he had seen earlier had grown clearer, more prominent. But yet it was not smoke at all. It was terrifying: a snake protruding from the image of a skull.
He continued to yell.
"Jettez ce sort! Encore. Encore."
Obeying the commands, eleven-year-old Sirius Black sliced his wand through the air meticulously. “Stupefy! Stupefy! Bombarda!” he cried, his feet automatically moving with accurate precision across the dusty courtyard.
The continuous curses hit their target every time, but although the live gargoyle shook slightly; it continued moving towards him, ignoring the damage of its crumbling arms.
Narrowing his eyes and making a split second decision, Sirius spun in a semi-circle on the spot and aimed. “Confingo!”
The figure before him burst into flame and the rubble dispersed itself around him. Sirius smiled slowly and with satisfaction, and then looked towards his tutor for his evaluation.
"Parfait!" Monsieur Chevalier clapped his hands. “Bravo, Master Sirius! Magnifique!”
Sirius smiled and stowed his wand away in his robes. His young face was hot and sweaty, his black hair clinging to the side of his face in clumps. Three hours of duelling was exhausting work.
“I was good, wasn’t I?” Sirius said, a massive grin lighting up his face.
“Good you are, Sirius, but excellence is what you must achieve,” Mrs. Black said. She strode towards him from where she had been watching in the shade of a palm tree, a stern expression on her face, her skin alight with scepticism. Her black hair was tightly pulled back into a bun, her tall and lean figure upright and formal. Aware that Sirius’ lesson was almost complete, she had only been observing him for the past five minutes.
“Mother, didn’t you see how I cursed him to smithereens? He didn‘t even touch me and we were at it for hours.”
“Your posture is sloppy. Back straight is the way to go. And your knees, they were quite obviously caving. You were getting tired, Sirius, and it was showing. Then there is the movement in your wrists – far too slow. In a real duel you would hardly last ten minutes.” She turned her attention to Monsieur Chevalier. “Monsieur, you are my son’s tutor, why have you not pointed out these failings in his performance before? I do not pay you to boost his ego. I pay you to teach him true form.”
“Madam, I assure you, Master Sirius’ form is quite exemplary.”
“Hardly.” Mrs. Black sniffed and pointed her nose in the air dismissively. “I expect the best tutoring and if you cannot be bothered –“
“Non! Non, Madam! I apologise if you feel his performance is lacking. We shall work on it.”
Sirius sighed. He was looking at the ground, watching the tiny ants scurry around his feet. Work, work, work, he barely had any time to enjoy the summer.
“And what of my youngest? How would you critique his duelling skills?”
“Ah, Regulus is doing a fine job. We were at it for more than an hour this morning.”
“Is that all? Well, I certainly don’t see how an hour can be of much benefit.”
“I mastered the body-bind curse, Mother!” Regulus called. Although he was one year younger than Sirius, he might as well have been his twin. He mirrored Sirius in almost every way. Both tall for their ages, they possessed the same prominent aristocratic features. They had the same grey eyes and the same messy mass of jet black hair that fell in that elegant way across their foreheads. He was seated on the ground beside the fountain, a book in his lap.
“Regulus! Get up off that filthy ground immediately! You will get awfully dirty!”
Regulus jumped up hastily, his book falling to the ground.
“Now, Sirius, have you done your reading on the Ancient Civilisations and Settlements of Primitive Sorcerers today?”
“Yes, I read it this morning.”
“Have you prepared a synopsis for it?”
“Not yet –“
“Well be sure you do. Monsieur Chevalier has set you this work for a reason.”
“I gave him a week to write up the report, Madam.”
“A week? For what absurd reason would you do that? A day would be more than enough.”
“A day?” Sirius gaped, his mouth slightly open.
“Be sure you have it prepared by tomorrow, Sirius.” Mrs. Black looked at him sternly.
“Yes Mother.” Sirius couldn’t believe it. The report would take him many hours to write. He’d probably be awake half the night writing about how wizards finally discovered they could produce light from the tips of their wands. It was an awfully dull book.
“And have you practiced your clarinet today?”
“I haven’t had time,” Sirius protested.
“Haven’t had time?” Mrs. Black looked at her son in disbelief. “Do you think Salazar Slytherin said he didn’t have time when he was founding Hogwarts School almost completely by himself; do you think my dear cousin Araminta Meliflua – god bless her soul – said she didn’t have time when she was campaigning to make Muggle-hunting legal –“
“Well, she lost though, didn’t she? Muggle-hunting isn’t legal –“
“That’s beside the point! Other than portraying a serious error in the way our legal system is run, the point is that you have just as much time as either of those great people had, and if you cannot learn to prioritise –“
“Mother, I can prioritise –“
“See that you do. You will give me a performance this evening before bed.”
“By the way, this just came for you this morning.” His mother handed him an envelope.
“My Hogwarts letter!” Sirius said excitedly, taking the letter from his mother. “I thought it was never going to get here!”
“It does seem to have taken a long time,” his mother said, frowning. “It must be that Muggle loving old fool, Albus Dumbledore. I deeply regret that you will have to be at school under such an incompetent headmaster.”
Sirius scanned his letter. “Yep, it’s just to be expected. September 1st, Kings Cross.”
“Andromeda’s letter has come this morning as well. I wonder where she is.”
Sirius shrugged. “We haven’t seen much of her these holidays. She just stays locked in her room all the time. What’s up with that?”
“I believe she is studying,” Monsieur Chevalier said. “You know she’s taking her NEWTs this year?”
“And to think she has to complete such an important school year under such an incompetent headmaster,” Mrs. Black said with a shake of her head. “Slytherin only knows what the Ministry must have been thinking to elect such a madman to take charge of our children. I must say, I do fear for our young ones, I do indeed. My dear old great-grandfather Phineas was an outstanding headmaster,” she looked down at Sirius. “However, I do not want your negative feelings towards Albus Dumbledore to get in the way of your studies. We have high hopes for you, of course.”
“Yes, Mother. You’ve told me all this before.”
“Well, you be sure to remember it. Right, now, on to other things. This afternoon we are scheduled for a tour at Musee de Chef-d'œuvres Magiques. After that we shall be attending tea with Monsieur de Lavoisier.”
Sirius felt his stomach sink to the floor. He’d been looking forward to going hover boarding this afternoon and now he had to go and spend all afternoon looking at boring paintings and eating dinner with dull politicians.
“Do not forget that we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow so a good nights rest is vital. I need you up before, dawn, Master Sirius, Master Regulus,” Monsieur Chevalier reminded them.
The boys nodded.
“Sirius I want you cleaned up and showered,” Mrs. Black said. “You look terrible. Regulus, change your robes. And in future, conjure a chair to sit on before soiling your bottom. I thought you’d learnt the conjuring charm last month.”
“Yes Mother,” Regulus said sheepishly.
Mrs. Black strode back to the Chateau de Pureté. The chateau had been in the Black family for centuries and Sirius had spent every summer there since he was born. Far from being spent as a holiday home, summer in St. Tropez, France, was a training ground. Sirius and his brother had to continue their home-schooling in a different environment. Discipline was something their parents enforced quite strictly.
“Well, hurry up, boys!” Mrs. Black called from the entrance of the chateau. “What on earth are you standing around for?” She turned and disappeared from view.
Sirius looked at his brother and shrugged. Together the boys hurried inside the majestic chateau, walked past their fifteen-year-old cousin, Narcissa, playing on the piano and headed upstairs to Andromeda’s room.
They knocked on Andromeda’s door but did not receive an answer, so they pushed the door open and went inside.
They saw Andromeda’s slender form sitting at a desk on the far end of the room. Her head was bowed low and her long light brown hair fell to one side. She seemed so absorbed to the point that she didn’t realise that anyone was in her room until Sirius touched her shoulder.
She jumped as if she’d been electrocuted.
“Why so jumpy, Andy?” Regulus asked and leaned over to see what she was writing.
Andromeda tried to cover her parchment up with her arms.
“Are you really just studying?” Sirius asked. “We’ve barely seen you all summer.”
“Oh, well.” Andromeda looked very flustered. She hastily brushed her hair out of her eyes. “I’ve just been… it’s nothing.”
“We brought you your Hogwarts letter,” Sirius said. “They arrived this morning.”
“Oh, thanks.” Andromeda took the letter, her fingers twitching nervously. She looked at them questioningly. “Is there something you wanted?”
“What’s that?” Regulus asked, trying to reach around her and grab her parchment.
Andromeda slammed her hand down upon the desk, causing her ink pot to totter dangerously on the surface.
Regulus was shocked. He withdrew his hand and leaned into Sirius.
“Are you going to open that?” Sirius asked nodding at the Hogwarts letter still clutched in her hands. He was watching her suspiciously now.
Andromeda glanced at the envelope and tore it open allowing for a miniscule tiny object to fall into her lap.
“What’s that?” Regulus asked.
“It’s a Head Girl badge,” Sirius said excitedly. “Wow, Andy, you’re Head Girl.”
Andromeda smiled brightly as she picked the badge up and examined it. “I wasn’t sure whether or not to expect it.”
“Congratulations, Andromeda,” a voice sang out behind them. Narcissa walked into the room as if she owned it, her blonde curls bouncing about her rosy heart-shaped face. “Head girl, how marvellous. Father will be so proud.”
“Thank you, Cissy,” Andromeda said. “Thank you, all of you. If you don’t mind, however, I must be getting back to my studies –“
“But I have yet to tell you my wonderful news,” Narcissa said, a pout playing at the sides of her mouth.
“What news is that?”
“If you’d rather I left –“
Andromeda sighed. “Cissy, I’m sorry. What news do you have?”
“I’m a form prefect,” she said proudly.
“That’s wonderful, Cissy!” Andromeda said happily, jumping up to embrace her sister. “That’s everyone in our family. Father will be so proud.”
“Of course, I knew I would be. I was just pleased to finally receive my badge. Of course it is a rather revolting thing to have to pin to my robes, but sacrifices must be made for intelligence, I suppose.” She patted her hair importantly. “I’d like to compose a letter to Bella,” she said and walked towards Andromeda’s desk. “May I borrow some parchment?”
“No!” Andromeda yelled perhaps too loudly and jumped in front of her sister. “I mean, my work... it’s all in order. I don’t want you to mess it up.”
Narcissa was taken aback. “Well, you don’t need to be quite so rude, Andy.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just –“
“Never mind, I completely understand.” Narcissa began walking towards the door, her nose stuck in the air. “Oh, by the way, Aunt Walburga wants everyone ready and downstairs shortly. We’re going to the Musee de Chef-d'œuvres Magiques.”
“Are we really?” Andromeda said with a sigh. “I suppose that means I’ll have to finish all of this later.” She waved her wand across her documents and followed her cousins out of the room.
Sirius and Regulus kept close to their mother and cousins as they followed the tour guide into the next room. It had almost gone an hour and a half since they had arrived at the Musee de Chef-d'œuvres Magiques, and Sirius was beginning to feel restless. As they stopped before another painting, this time depicting a wilting black tulip flowing in the wind, his mind wandered yet again from his favourite music group the Hobgoblins to the latest trick he had learnt on his hover board to the letter he’d received from his best friend, Evan, only that morning.
Evan Rosier had excitedly recited news of receiving his Hogwarts letter and had gone on to tell of all the enjoyable things he and his sister had been doing that summer at their home in Dorchester. Sirius felt slightly jealous by this as he was well aware that the Rosier’s didn’t have lessons over the summer the way he and Regulus did, but he was cheered greatly by the news that he would be seeing his best friend upon their return to England in a fortnight, as they still had their Ascension to attend.
The Ascension was a huge deal and he had been looking forward to it for months. It marked his growth as a wizard and as an Avenger, the organisation he belonged to that brought together young pure-blood wizards to escape the tyranny of the Ministry which promoted the mixing of blood.
He managed to survive the museum tour for the most part by entertaining his thoughts in this way, while his cousins and brother looked on to the artwork with sincere interest.
“But is it not prudent to suppose that the black tulip could be symbolic of the darkness dying and making way for new light and life? Rather than as you say, a means to depict the ‘so-called’ indoctrination of the wizard-race –“
Andromeda could always be counted upon to share her opinion of the masterpieces with everyone else, but this tactic was never well received. Sirius had once heard his father say that Andromeda was becoming far too outspoken these days and that it was unbecoming for a lady of her stature to voice such thoughts. So it was of no surprise when he heard his mother shush Andromeda sternly.
Sirius did not care much for art. He could perhaps name most of the greatest artists of the wizarding world and he could probably analyse just as many paintings if he were required to, but that was not at all because he liked art. On the contrary, the only reason he had so much knowledge was because it had been expounded upon him since he were a toddler and there were times when he honestly thought this was the reason why he might ever get headaches.
He looked up at the painting, more out of curiosity than anything else, and felt unusually captivated by the wax and the oil. The black tulip bore into him, mesmerising his eyes by its intricate detail and design. He felt drawn by its intensity and he found he could not look away. There was something incredible about it, as if its artist had truly been trying to relay a message, portray a meaning. Black, the colour was captivating. Black, its beauty stole upon him. The petals were wilting, dropping to the ground, dying. Sirius shivered as the tulip continued to shed its bodice. Black, the colour was all too familiar to Sirius.
“Sirius! Keep up will you!”
The spell was broken. Sirius looked away and saw his mother beckoning to him from further down the hall. It seemed they were moving on. He chanced one last glance at the painting. It was stationary, as still as a Muggle picture. He ran over to join the group.
“Reggie, come here quickly.”
Regulus walked over to where his brother stood beside a large museum artefact. Another hour had passed and they had been given the freedom to roam about the museum by themselves.
“Lie down over here and put your head in this hole,” Sirius said and tapped the artefact with his foot.
“So we can play a game.”
Regulus lay down as he was told and Sirius walked over to a rope. “Okay, don’t move,” he instructed and he untied the rope. He pulled it back as far as he could and looked at his brother mischievously. Just as he was about to let go, Andromeda ran over to him frantically.
“Stop it!” she cried. “Sirius, what are you doing? Regulus, get up!” She grabbed Sirius and wrestled the rope out of his hands. She swatted him across the shoulder. “Have you gone mad?” she exclaimed.
“Have you gone mad?” Sirius shot back. “We were just playing –“
“Do you know what this is?”
“A gully-something or other,” Sirius said, clearly puzzled by his cousin’s reaction. “It’s a Muggle toy –“
“It’s not a toy, Sirius! It’s a guillotine. It cuts people’s heads off. Did you want to cut your brothers head off?” She waved her wand to retie the rope.
“It wouldn’t have hurt him,” Sirius argued. “It says right there –“ he pointed to a plaque to the side of it “– that Muggle’s attempted to use it on wizards but never succeeded because we’re too powerful –“
“The only reason it never worked, Sirius, is because the wizards blocked it with a spell. Now, was Regulus prepared to block it with a spell? I don’t think so – I doubt he even knows a spell powerful enough –“
“Slytherin’s serpent! It was a game!”
“You cannot play with people’s lives, Sirius, Muggle or Magical.”
“How do you know all this Muggle rubbish, anyway?”
Andromeda turned a slight shade of pink. “Look, I’m sorry I yelled, but next time please don’t touch things you don’t understand.” She turned and walked away.
Regulus looked at Sirius blankly. “Does this mean the game is over?”
The evening could not have come sooner for Sirius and his brother, when they went to tea at a small little Magical Cafe on the French Riviera. Andromeda and Narcissa were chatting with each other, discussing the history of some of the art they had just been to see. They sat down at the table and the wine bottle half filled their glasses.
Mr. Black was already seated there chatting with Monsieur Henri de Lavoisier, a great friend of his. As usual, he was smoking a fat cigar and gesticulating wildly with his hands. He was a very good looking man, tall and nicely built, with neatly tapered black hair just brushing his collar. It was easy to see the resemblance between himself and both his sons, who would most likely grow to look just like him.
“... I overheard the Minister the next morning, said he was uncertain and actually worried. But when he saw me it was all smiles and cups of tea. He thinks I’m daft, he does,” he said speaking in rapid French.
“What’s he worried about?” Sirius asked curiously.
“Don’t interrupt Sirius,” Mr. Black reprimanded. “It’s in the news too of course,” he continued, still addressing his friend. “Disappearances. Mostly just Muggle-borns, no one of any real importance, but I heard it said that the Minister is worried. He thinks something bad is coming.”
Monsieur de Lavoisier chuckled into his wine glass. “Ah, British politics, I do so love to hear your amusing stories, Orion.”
“I came up with a theory last night Father when I was reading the book set for me by Monsieur Chevalier,” Sirius said, attempting once again to join the adult conversation.
“Son, I’m in the middle of a conversation –“
“About Mudbloods, I know, and I have the solution to the problem.”
Mr. Black was curious despite himself and looked to Sirius questioningly.
“We should enslave them!”
Andromeda who was in the process of daintily sipping her wine started choking. Spluttering, she looked stricken. “Pardon?” she croaked.
Sirius smiled widely. “I have it all figured out. Instead of getting rid of them, why don’t we just make them our slaves? That way they would contribute to society and wouldn’t be so worthless anymore, so everybody would win.”
Monsieur Henri de Lavoisier started laughing but Mr. Black just looked baffled. “It’s not really that simple, son.”
“Why not? The Ministry think it’s wrong to try and purify the race, but like you said, Mudbloods don’t do much for our society, so if we put them to work for us we wouldn’t have to worry about excluding them anymore, because they would be helping us.”
Monsieur Henri de Lavoisier continued to laugh. “You can’t argue with logic like that, Orion.”
“It’s not supposed to be funny,” Sirius said.
“I’m afraid your solution would not be received well by the Ministry, Sirius,” his father said with a note of humour in his voice. “They are too blind to see the truth of the situation. Magical blood is in grave peril and I only hope the disease of our race can be cured before it is too late.”
“It will be,” Narcissa said. “I received a letter from Bella just today. She is confident that the uprising will prove most successful for the preservation of our people. Her letter was full of promise to be sure. There is a powerful leader of our people as you are aware and Bella wrote of how she has met him and conversed with him. She sounded positively in awe. There is certainly hope.”
“I have heard of this King of the Pure-Bloods,” Monsieur Henri de Lavoisier said. “You British are lucky to receive such a saviour. I only hope our own people can survive the poison being fed to us by the state.”
“Oh, The Dark Lord is not only bent on freeing the British, but he intends to extend his influence to the whole world eventually,” Narcissa said. “Bella is quite passionate in her letters and lets me know all the gossip.”
“What a great man,” Mrs. Black said. “I am so proud of Bellatrix for extending her hand to such a noble cause. Sirius, perhaps one day you might do the same.”
“Definitely, I want to help eradicate this world of all the mixed-blood scum,” he stated bluntly.
“Me too!” Regulus joined in. “I’m going to as well.”
Andromeda stood up at that moment. She looked rather pale. “May I be excused?”
“Andromeda, are you ill?” Mrs. Black said, concerned.
“I – yes – I need to lie down. I beg your pardon.” She left the table and headed back along the Rivera towards the chateau.
“It’s Sirius’ Ascension in a fortnight,” Mr. Black told his friend proudly.
Sirius smiled brightly. “That should be great. I just know I’m going to be given the Corporal Avenger award.”
“A true Black-hearted soldier,” Mr. Black thumped his son on the back enthusiastically.
“You’ve trained your boy well, Orion,” Monsieur de Lavoisier said. “He’s going to set the world on fire, that one: a fine Heir.”
“That he is,” Mr. Black said in agreement. “That he is.”
A/N: Hi everyone! *waves with utmost glee* I'm so, so glad to finally get this up. Thanks if you made it to the end of the first chapter. I've been working on this story for close to two years but my first draft was so bad i've given an extensive revision and editing makeover to the poor thing. But yeah, first chappie I have now decided is good enough for distribution. *blushes* Well, I certainly hope it is!
I want to thank loads of people for the help i've received on this, but specifically I must thank my friends and mostly my dad who has had to spend hours listening to me discuss intricate plot details and twists, despite never having actually read the masterpieces of Harry Potter himself. His knowledge of history and warfare and experience of going to a public boarding school in the 1970s is invaluable. Thanks dad! Then I need to thank Mistress of the HPFF forums for helping me out on creating a French setting for my first few chappies. And of course all you other HPFFs who hang around the forums offering your great help to those in need. You all rock. *hugs*
Okay, next I must ask you to forgive my lack of knowledge with regards to the French language and customs. If anyone knows better than me - and many of you will - feel free to correct me on anything that is inaccurate. In fact, I must insist that you call me out on it immediately. *grins* Particularly the French phrases - I used an online translater. Bad, bad, bad. I KNOW! *ashamed* (A huge thank you to ElissandrAnne of the HPFF forums for recently correctly me on the French! I appreciate it!)
Next I must unfortunately and very unhappily confess that I am not Jo Rowling the Mistress of Magic, although I might sometimes pretend that I am. It pains me to have to disappoint you in such a way, but I feel that honesty really is the best policy in such situations. *wipes a tear from the cheek*
Right, well, i'm over it now so on to other things. Reviews. Lovely, lovely, lovely reviews. See, i'm a writer. Well, okay so i've never seen any of my work in print but I will argue to the death that I am a writer. And I like people to like my work. Well, who wouldn't. But I also like people to give helpful feedback on my work too. Writers thrive on it. It's a kind of life source, should we say. The blood of literature. I would greatly appreciate hearing from you my fellow fanfictioners who have so honoured me by opening this page today. Please leave comments, suggestions, feedback. *big smile*
Hugs and kisses, Lily xxx
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