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    Disclaimer: Part of the summary is adapted from the opening lines of "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. The Potterverse belongs to J. K. Rowling, but Vivien and Grimm are my own creations.



    Prologue
    Christmas 1969

    It was one of those evenings in which he could be entirely alone and at peace with the world. Even the sounds from the city could not penetrate through the brick facade of his house, leaving the library, which faced the road, a quiet haven. Firelight flickered on the ceiling in a way that amused him. The lamp beside him gave off a warm golden light, just enough to read by without hurting the eyes. With all the time he spent in his pungent cellar laboratory, it was a wonder that he hadn’t yet gone blind. Minerva would, of course, tell him that one didn’t go blind by spending too much time in the dark, but it more kindly suffered his imagination to picture a world of complete darkness.

    His chair creaked when he leaned back into its leather folds. It was a comforting sound, a reminder of the many ancestors who had sat in that very chair, staring into the flames of that very fireplace, contemplating all the meanings of the world. His thoughts were so swept up in metaphysics that he neglected the open book upon his lap, its faded dog-eared pages fluttering each time he moved. He swirled the glass of wine balanced between his fingers, gazing at the deep scarlet liquid with some semblance of pride. How long had that dusty bottle been sitting on that rack, waiting to be drunk by a great connoisseur. Not that he believed himself as great at anything, but what other purpose was there for wine?

    He reached for the bottle, his hand curling around the cool glass. It was light when he picked it up to pour himself another drink. It wasn’t as though he had to go anywhere the next day, so there was no harm in finishing it off.

    The glass approached his lips, his taste buds straining to capture the rich flavour of French - or was it Italian?, grapes that had warmed in the Mediterranean sun, their leaves rustling in the seductive breezes flowing off the water. He closed his eyes, waiting to feel the smooth, velvet liquid flood his mouth and leak down his throat.

    With the introduction of an alien noise, the book went crashing to the ground, while the glass just missed being tossed with it. Fat droplets of the wine landed across the front of his dressing gown. Swear words emerged from his throat, disturbing his perfect silence yet again. It was a temptation to throw the glass across the room, adding yet another sound to the din.

    Another knock came from the front door, mirroring the sound that had come moments before.

    He swore. Rather loudly. They, or whoever was on the other side of his front door, probably heard him; he wanted them to.

    His eyes dropped to the stain upon his shirt, the now dog-eared book on the ground.

    “Bloody hell.”

    Fingers fumbling with the latches, he grumbled under his breath. By the time the door opened, a perfect scowl masked his face. He looked into the eyes of a woman at least a decade younger, her hair mussed and robes wrinkled.

    “Cousin Tiberius!” Her cry was pitiful, like the heroine of a bad Gothic novel. It did not help that he despised his first name; hearing it from such well-shaped lips did not improve his feelings.

    A cousin, but which one? Dark hair, blue eyes, high cheek bones, mother had been Spanish - or was she Italian? Something like that. Her father was his mother’s second cousin once removed, but that was a common enough relationship in their world. Her name? Sylvia... no... Fulvia... no, that was the other one. Diana, that was it.

    But why here on his doorstep? He looked beyond her. It was raining in the typical London style, which was not much different from the Scottish style, or the Kentish style, or the Cornish style. Rain was rain to him. It had done no good for Diana’s person, making her appear more like the Muggle idea of a witch than the high-born young witch he remembered from some years back. Her robes had been yellow then, a daring colour. Now she wore only black.

    “Come in,” he said, stepping back from the door. “Where is your cloak?”

    It was not until she had already entered that he noticed the child. So small and dog-like, it trailed in Diana’s shadow so closely that no light from the doorway had fallen upon its form.

    Tiberius Grimm froze in place. A child? He had been the last one of that sort to enter his family’s home. Since when had his cousin managed to have one? There was no question that she had been married to have it – their mother would have allowed for nothing else.

    Unless, that was the reason she was here, now, in his home, not her parents’ in Derbyshire.

    Just what he needed, a good bit of scandal to come walking in. Like he didn’t have enough already.

    “I would never bother you otherwise, cousin.” Her voice was softer now, echoing in the sound of the rain outside. “But matters have become too... too... troublesome.” She cast her eyes upon him, large blue orbs that plead her case far better than any lawyer.

    “What do you need?” The inevitable question. He waited for her answer, staring at the child, a girl, from the length of the hair.

    Diana took in a breath, grimacing into the hall mirror. “A place to stay temporarily. I cannot trust that I’ll be welcome at home now.”

    Grimm frowned. If she wasn’t welcome there, why should she be welcome here? What in Hades’ name had she managed to do? He didn’t like that family of relatives enough to want to get involved, but how would he get rid of her now that she was inside? What would Minerva do? Something practical, he thought.

    With a half-sigh, he turned to face the other end of the foyer. “Tweedy! We have guests!”

    The house-elf – his mother’s old servant – hobbled in with a bow, nearly tripping over the dress she’d made for herself. “Aye, master. The upper floor will do, rooms still good.”

    Diana smiled primly at Grimm, moving to follow the house-elf without a glance back at the little girl chasing after her. At the bottom of the stairs, the girl looked back at him, dark eyes filled with raw hope, the kind that comes only with great desperation. Grimm was reminded of why he disliked purebloods so much. Like bloody royalty, can’t care less for the children they bring up between incest and madness.

    At that moment, Tiberius Grimm made a decision.

    ~ * * * ~

    “An idiot? Is that what you think of me now?”

    Minerva McGonagall, Professor of Transfiguration, reached for her cup of tea. “I always did. This is just another of your idiotic acts.”

    He slouched in his chair, knowing full well it infuriated her. “It has its pros and cons.”

    “It certainly gives me an excuse not to visit as often. She’s impossible!” The tea splashed a drop onto her furious hand. “It’s too obvious that the two of you are related.”

    “What?” His own cup nearly split onto the wine-stained rug. “I don’t see it at all.”

    Her sudden smile warmed him. “You never do.”

    It was time for an explanation, he supposed. “It wasn’t because of her that I let her stay here.” He shifted in his chair.

    “Why then?” She met his eyes over her teacup. “Not simply to fill the house with life?” Her sarcasm was more caustic than usual, was it jest or true frustration? Neither would be out of character.

    He opened his mouth to reply.

    “Oh, don’t tell me, Tiberius. I can see it on your face,” her voice leaping in to interrupt. “As the single remaining male wizard in your family, you feel a patriarchal responsibility towards your cousins, no matter how unprincipled they are.”

    Grimm closed his mouth. Was there a sense in responding to that?

    Minerva set down her cup. “If she hadn’t been in need of you, do you think she would have looked twice at you, as a half-blood, however glorified a one?”

    Glorified. He wanted to take the word as a compliment. Perhaps he should ask her to stay the night.

    “No, she would not. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the child I’m interested in.”

    Her right eyebrow rose higher than he had ever seen it go before; her eagle eyes glared into his face, suspicious and distrusting. Grimm observed her one hand clench the chair arm. Why the tension? Why was she bothered by his statement?

    “The child? But why? Is she–”

    “Neglected?” He leaned towards her. “Her mother couldn’t care less about her.”

    She was watching him closely now. It was like she had heard something in his voice, a certain strain that alerted her to the seriousness of his desire to help this girl.

    “Is there anything special about her, I was going to ask.” She did not look him directly in the eye.

    Grimm sat back in his chair and took another sip of tea. “No. More normal than normal, from what I’ve seen this past week.”

    After a moment, Minerva said, “You feel sorry for her.”

    He had been studying the wine-stain under her chair. Cursed stuff wouldn’t come out – he’d had to rearrange the whole room around it. Mother’s favourite rug, too. Turning in her grave with fury.

    “In some sort of way, I suppose.” He paused. “Would you like to stay for dinner?”

    Her reply was a disapproving frown.

    “What would teach her that couldn’t wait until Hogwarts?”

    Grimm sighed. Another failed attempt. “When I said she was neglected....”

    “She knows nothing of magic?”

    Crossing his arms, Grimm said, “No more than she has observed day-to-day. Her mother is a useless twit who thinks of nothing but her personal appearance.”

    For once, Minerva did not chastise him. “I will help you.” She smoothed a crease on her robes.

    He looked up from reverie, blinking wide eyes. “What?”

    “The child isn’t a Muggleborn, for Merlin’s sake, Tiberius. She must know these things before she goes to Hogwarts.” She paused, looking over at him. “She has no real parents, from what you’ve said, so we must make some substitution.”

    “We?”

    Rolling her eyes, Minerva rose from the chair and glared at him. “You are an idiot, Tiberius. Though, perhaps, for different reasons than I thought earlier.”

    Grimm hurriedly stood up. “Will you stay then?”

    “It seems that I must. You can’t be trusted to do this on your own.” She had turned away, perhaps knowing of the flush that would be appearing on his face momentarily.

    The flush rose up his cheeks. “Not trusted? Minerva–”

    Her smile was sudden, but not unwelcome. She was halfway towards laughter.

    Closing his eyes, Grimm knew he’d been caught out again.

    ~ * * * ~

    From the doorway, the girl in question watched their actions and listened to their words, wondering at the first and feeling somewhat pleased at the latter. Learning about magic, it’s what she’d always wanted to do, but mother never said yes and never seemed to notice that she was almost nine years old. Nine whole years of living with a mother she couldn’t love and a father she couldn’t remember.

    But what would happen now that this strange cousin and his lady-friend wanted to teach her things? He had mentioned once being a teacher. What sort of things would she learn? How to do spells? How to kill spiders? She hated spiders. How to cure a cough? Her mother coughed a lot. The man here worked a lot with funny potions in the cellar, maybe he had one for her mother.

    “Is that her, Tiberius?”

    The eyes of the adults were turned towards her, little silly Vivien. She was named after a sorceress, she’d read it in a book. She had trapped a great wizard in a tree, or a cave, no one knew for sure. It would be fun to learn magic and be able to do such things, wouldn’t it?

    Vivien stepped forward to meet them, or was it to meet her fate?

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