DISCLAIMER THE FIRST: It is by JKR's writing alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the grace of coffee that thoughts acquire speed, the back acquires strains, the strains become a warning. The warning is that I make no money from this. It is by JKR's writing alone I set my mind in motion.
PITHY STATEMENT RELATING TO THIS CHAPTER: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." Obi Wan Kenobi – Jedi Master, and General of the Grand Alliance Army – 57-0 BBY
Last Updated: 08-01-2014
CHAPTER FIVE – OF FATE AND FAMILY
Chapter Note: Just a reminder, I put the place, date headers into the story for a reason. This chapter starts a block of flashbacks. You won't be confused if you don't gloss over those headers.
GRIMMAULD PLACE, LONDON – JULY 4th – MORNING
"Nasty missy bez back, Kreacher sees. Probably to steal from the Ancient and Noble House of Black again," the old elf said from deep within the shadows of the entryway corridor.
Tonks couldn't help but roll her eyes, "Kreacher, when have I ever taken anything from here? You damn well know the only two items I've ever taken was two books and I asked you if I could borrow them before I took them! I then promptly brought them back right after my Auror exam."
The elf simply sniffed with disdain at this but said nothing.
Tonks glared at the elf, "You know this place is a mess, right? If you are so proud of House Black, then why can't you keep it in better shape? What do you think your precious Bellatrix would think if she were to walk through the door right now? I know for a fact Aunt Cissy would probably have a stroke."
This time the elf hissed before disappearing in a pop.
Tonks sighed. She didn't want to antagonize Kreacher but over the years of sneaking into Grimmauld Place Tonks had found hitting him below the belt seemed to work the best. As long as Tonks praised his efforts later, the old elf would be tolerable for awhile. It might just be the longer she was in the house, the more of her magic would prop up the faded magic.
As she climbed the stairs, she once again wondered how the townhouse had gotten so bad so quickly. Given the long lives of Magicals, the two decades since the house was lived in was but a blink considering this house had (in one form or another) been continuously lived in by at least one Black family member for a few centuries. The magic shouldn't have faded so quickly.
As always she tried not to look at the line of elf heads along the corridor as she made her way to the library. Dawlish had dumped this absolute shit of a case on her but she would get the last laugh. In going over the evidence, Tonks had wished she had access to a Muggle crime lab. Then she remembered a spell she'd seen in one of the books in the Black library a few years earlier. She was confident that after refreshing her memory of it, she could use it to crack the case. Then John "I'm So Very Important" Dawlish would find himself shown up by the squad's youngest auror! Game, set and match to House Black!
While her mum rarely spoke of it around her father, Andromeda was fiercely proud of being a Black and disowned or not, she had passed the family lore to her. People always underestimated her since her personality was very much the happy-go-lucky type of her father. They didn't realize the cackle the Sorting Hat had let out right before sorting her into Hufflepuff was because it approved of such a Slytherin plot to hide an ambitious snake among the house of loyal badgers.
Tonks would be a loyal daughter to House Black as her mother had taught her. It was this loyalty which made her question how badly her mother had been cast out given how easily (and stupidly) had broken into Grimmauld Place when she was ten. As an Auror, Tonks now knew how much she was very lucky to be alive.
This had led her to discover that while cast out, neither her mother nor Sirius were actually formally disowned. This gave her the wiggle room she had been using ever since to raid the Black library. Of course Grimmauld Place was only the London home of House Black. Tonks knew that the Black Manor could only be opened by the head of House Black. Who that was, exactly was in limbo given Sirius was in prison. Her parents had been working for a long time to try and clear this mystery up. Even having the family head fall to someone like Draco Malfoy was better than having the ancestral manor become locked away for all time.
As Grimmauld Place was more a 'working home' for when the Wizengamot was in session (or a possible home for those working in the Ministry) Tonks' presence wasn't a danger. Of course she was always careful to explain to Kreacher what she was doing and why. She was sure that the only reason he had allowed her to borrow the books she had was because of who her mother was. Kreacher seemed to have a soft spot (or at least a less flinty one) in his dark heart for the daughters of Cygnus Black. The last thing Tonks wanted was for the wards to see her as a thief.
Tonks stopped at the door to the library and looked at the portrait across the hall. If she didn't know better, one could almost think it was a Muggle painting. It was so still; so unlike the raving portrait of Walpurga Black downstairs. She shook her head and frowned. So much of Grimmauld Place was a mystery. It projected one thing but the histories told to her by her mother and found in the pages of the books in the library told another.
With a sigh, Tonks reminded herself that faster she was in and out, the better dealing with Kreacher would be. Yet just as she was opening the door, she heard a pop behind her. Before she could even turn her head, a spell hit her in the back and she fell into darkness.
Tonks almost groaned as she came too. It hadn't been that long ago when she was in training so certain tests were fresh in her mind. So much so that she'd barely woken up and already she knew she was tied to a chair and she needed to hide that she was awake.
Apparently she needed more practice as an aristocratic voice spoke from somewhere high up and to her left, "Ah, you are awake. You may go Kreacher."
"By youz command," Kreacher's voice said before a pop announced he'd left.
Tonks kept her head down and barely opened her eyes to do a quick scan. Escape and evasion class had always said the first moments waking up in a situation like this were critical. Unfortunately whoever held her prisoner seemed to know this as well.
"There is no need for you to be coy, Nymphadora. Within these walls, you cannot escape unless we decide to free you. However if you prove yourself a daughter of House Black, we shall release you."
Again the voice sounded like they were on a balcony. Curious Tonks fully opened her eyes and looked up and blinked in surprise. First off she was in a room she'd never seen before at Grimmauld Place (if that is indeed where she still was) and that the person talking to her was one of many portraits on the wall.
Looking around, Tonks realized all of them were famous Blacks. She recognized every nameplate she could see as important movers and shakers of her family. A quick glance around the room at the many artifacts and bookshelves made Tonks realize where she might be. There had long been rumors, her mother had often said, of a private den that only the Head of House Black could go. A room for secret meetings and such. Tonks couldn't help but think this is where she was now.
A stately looking woman wearing a fashion favored in the 14th century looked down at her and gestured at her bonds, "If you are willing to give your oath not to use your wand, we shall gladly release you. We have much to discuss. However to do this properly, we have to use…unusual methods which we cannot risk."
Tonks looked around the room at the dozen or so portraits. They all had the same haughty look the Blacks were so known for. She'd seen it often enough on her mother's face when she was dealing with people she didn't respect or when her mother was being punishing her for something. Yet Tonks didn't get a sense of anger from any of the body language…if that was the proper term considering they were all portraits.
"Why am I here?" Tonks asked. She needed more information!
A man in ornate armor which had been enameled black spoke up. His nameplate said Arcturus Julius Black. Tonks knew he was one of the most important of her ancestors given how he (along with the Potters and other families like the Longbottoms and Marchbanks) had fought the 1066 invaders to a bloody stalemate which was finally ended by the truce which led to the creation of the Wizengamot.
"You are here, Nymphadora, because events foretold long ago are finally unfolding. House Black has always used what tools which are at hand and right now one of those tools is you," Arcturus replied.
Tonks surprised herself by laughing even if she knew it was a stupid thing to do. "Excuse me? I'm a disgraced daughter of a witch thrown out of House Black. So I'm not sure why you think I'd help." As much as her previous thoughts of House loyalty, suddenly she found the shabby treatment of her mother, always a dutiful daughter even in disgrace, rankled her.
A witch laughed in response. Tonks couldn't see her nameplate but judging by her clothes she thought she might be Lyra Black, mother of Phineas Black, one time Headmaster of Hogwarts. "Things are not always as they seem, my dear Nymphadora. Yes you are a daughter to a disgraced daughter. But did Arcturus disown your mother? Did he disown your cousin Sirius?"
Tonks nodded at this, "So there was a reason my mother or Sirius weren't formally thrown out of the family. I knew it!"
The portrait laughed again, "Ah good, your thoughts are already going down the right path. I myself 'disowned' my youngest daughter Isla in much the same way as your mother was. As I said, things are not as they seem and the reasons so many Blacks were cast aside is a dangerous secret. If you take an oath not to use your wand, you can learn the answer to many things few Blacks are privileged to."
Tonks looked around at all the portraits. Again she was struck by how none of her ancestor's faces showed much in the way of emotion (they were mostly Slytherins after all) but again she didn't feel any sense of menace. "I will give my oath. Yet I'll need to use my wand. It seems we're sort of at an impasse if you want me to take an oath not to use my wand when I have to use my wand to take the oath."
This caused a few of the portraits to chuckle. Arcturus seemed pleased as he said, "Very good, Nymphadora. Being aware of a paradox is a sign of a well ordered mind. It is obvious that your mother has raised you well. Of course your father was a Ravenclaw and a lawyer as well."
Tonks eyebrows went up in shock as her hair went from pink to a shade of blue she had unsuccessfully tried to avoid when she was baffled. "How do you know that?"
"Before we can tell you that, we shall need an oath from you, Nymphadora," Arcturus chided.
Tonks looked around again before making her decision, "Very well. You have my word of honor that I shall only use my wand to make the binding oath."
"Excellent!" Arcturus said and with a wave, her bonds fell away. How this was possible, Tonks had no clue. She'd never heard of portraits ever having anything like this level of control. It had to be tied to the house. As Tonks got up and stretched out the kinks, she realized this might be why the house seemed to have been losing its magic. It hadn't, just had the energy moved to this room for something more important.
She took out her wand, "What do you want me to swear?"
"We need you to swear you shall not use magic in this room unless you feel you life is in danger. Also that you shall tell no one of what you have seen without our permission." Now that she was standing, Tonks could see the witch was indeed Lyra Black.
Tonks thought that over, "Okay, that sounds fair." She made the oath and felt the magic tingle around her body.
"Take a seat Nymphadora. This will be startling to you but rest assured no harm will come to you. It will also answer how we know so much," Arcturus said. He made another wave of his hand and an ornate chair appeared before the one Tonks sat back down into.
A scraping noise to her left made her turn and she couldn't help put gasp. A portion of the wall was sliding back to reveal a man. He was dressed in clothing Tonks guessed was about a century out of date. After the door finally stopped, the man's eyes opened up and Tonks had to gasp again.
They were lifeless eyes. Tonks couldn't help but think of the Muggle expression of the lights being on but no one being home. The man slowly made his way to the chair and sat down facing her. Her senses were screaming to her that this man was some sort of abomination but couldn't tell her how.
Tonks looked up to Arcturus, "Is this some sort of Inferi?"
A few of the portraits chuckled while Arcturus actually smiled, "Not exactly but probably a closer to the answer than you might think. The body is that of Caleb Atlas Black who, sadly, ran afoul of a Dementor back in 1704."
Tonks hissed and couldn't help but pull back against her seat, "He was kissed? How is he still alive? And for Merlin's sake why?"
"He has been kept alive by a simple stasis spell. Since he was kissed, Caleb is taken out of stasis only periodically. Luckily I was nearby when it happened and brought my nephew here so it could be prepared before the normal deterioration could set in," said a portrait to her right. "While his soul is gone, a simple sustainment potion keeps the body healthy. Eventually it will die but careful use may delay this for another century or more."
Tonks continued to stare at her ancestor who stared back with a blank look which so devoid of emotion it was like the face had lost the ability to move. "And the why?"
There was a thrum of magic in the room. Tonks almost yelped in surprise when Caleb took a gasping breath and those lifeless eyes seem to spark. Indeed the face suddenly became animated with a gamut of expression playing on it for a few moments.
"The why is it allows us to become House Black."
Tonks gaped at this. The voice seemed to be a collection of voices molded into one. She looked up and saw all the portraits and gone still. She looked back at Caleb to see it smiling at her and even raised a quirky eye-brow at her.
"In this body, we are House Black. All of us. Every portrait save a few like mad Walpurga downstairs come together. All of memories are pooled. Everything we knew when we were painted and everything we have seen since. All is available to us. In this body, we can think, we can feel, and we can plan." Caleb said.
Tonks shut her mouth. It wouldn't do to continuing gaping like an idiot. "What should I call you? Caleb doesn't seem right."
"You can simply call us Black." This was said after with a laugh that sent chills down her spine.
"Well this is amazing! I can see why you wanted my oath. Merlin! If any of the other Houses knew of this, well they'd, they'd…I'm not sure what they'd do but I'm sure they would freak out," Tonks said as the implications started to hit her. There were a lot of portraits of famous Blacks throughout Magical Britain. Many of them in very important offices in the Ministry, in homes of those who had married into the family and even in Dumbledore's office at Hogwarts.
It was an article of faith that portraits could not relate what they had seen given how most public portraits were spelled in such a way as a loyalty oath when first hung. Yet House Black had found a way around that spell. Tonks figured that by combining all the impressions into one cut the individual memories off from whatever loyalty spell might be associated with the portrait where the memory came from. It was brilliant and explained why House Black always seemed to know what was going on.
Tonks frowned at this as a thought struck her.
"You're wondering how House Black has been brought so low when we obviously have our ears everywhere, yes?" Black asked with a smirk. "Again you do your parents credit with how quickly you come to the heart of matters."
Tonks simply nodded at this.
"The answer is simple. Prophecy. House Black bows to no one but Fate is something we will not fight against. Long ago, a prophecy was made which spoke of the fall of the House Black. This fall would be brutal but it would not be the end. Like a dark phoenix, from the ashes our House would be reborn in a way we could not imagine." Black said as another wave of his (its? His and hers?) hand made a glass filled with wine appear on the nearby table.
Black drank it deeply and sighed, "Not to digress but you cannot imagine being an image of a living being, seeing life going by and not being able to taste it. Certainly the power represented in this body is considerable but oh for just the feeling of breathing, of drinking fine wine again and being alive, if only for a few hours is the most wondrous thing of all. No one ever seems to realize how much a portrait lives in hell. Not alive yet aware enough to know what it is missing."
Tonks frowned at this. She had never thought of it that way. She was reminded of a book she had read awhile ago. In it a young girl had been made into a vampire and after many decades, she hated her body would forever be that of a little girl even as her mind matured. Forever trapped in a girl's body while never knowing what it would feel like to be an adult.
Tonks shook her head of the thought before leaning forward, "Okay so there is a prophecy and given how so few of us Blacks our left, I take it we're pretty much at the bottom. So now what?"
Black's face fell into a smirk she'd see often enough in pictures of Sirius when he was at Hogwarts. "Now we need you to shepherd the Chosen One, the one foretold to bring about the return of fortune not only to our House but that of another house. A house seemingly the opposite of House Black in every way."
Tonks tried to suppress the shudder at hearing the odd blending of so many voices. It was downright disturbing. "So who is this Chose One? Please tell me he's not that brat of my Aunt Cissy."
Black laughed, "Close Nymphadora. You are at least in the right age group but the wrong house. No, all our hopes are represented in you and the wizard you must guide to his destiny. And that wizard's name is Harry, son of James, last heir to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Potter."
Tonks leaned back into her chair as a look of astonishment crossed her face, "Well bugger me sideways!"
THE LEAKY CAULDRON, LONDON – AUGUST 1st 1998 – EVENING
The room erupted in the clatter of chairs and general conversation after Professor McGonagall stated they were done for the evening. They would meet again in week to venture out into Diagon Alley to get their supplies as well as hit up Gringotts.
Of course Harry had already heard that Justin had hit Lilith up to take him to Gringotts after dinner. Seems the young banker's son wanted to get a jump on how the goblins did business. Unlike human banks, Gringotts didn't have 'banker hours' and thus was open 24 hours a day.
Lilith's brother had come in about fifteen minutes before the end of the presentation. It was obvious who he was just from his looks. Hermione had been interested to hear from Lilith talk about how Magicals tended to look a lot more like their kin than Muggles. Lilith's interest in Magical biology and how it might look relative to science was obvious to everyone listening. Given how everyone was commenting how he looked almost exactly like his dad, Harry could definitely see this effect play out in how much Shaddrach and Lilith were obviously siblings.
Harry was surprised when the man made a bee line for him with an easy smile even if he had a bit of an abashed air about him. Being a Muggleborn, Harry wouldn't think he'd be all star-truck by his notoriety. So he decided to wait and see what was up before rushing to judgement.
"Shaddrach Moon," the wizard said as he offered his hand.
"Harry Potter, as I'm sure you know," Harry replied.
"Oh yes and I'm sorry to say I'm sort of here on business. Doing a favor for a favor if you will," Shaddrach said a bit sheepishly.
"What did you do?" Lilith said as she came up beside her brother.
"I didn't do anything. Just doing a favor for Mr. Creswell," Shaddrach said with the annoyed tone older sibling's use on their younger ones throughout time.
"Creswell? He's one of the lawyers you're interning with, right?" Lilith asked.
Shaddrach nodded and turned back to Harry as he pulled a business card out of his robe pocket. "Again, sorry about this but Mr. Creswell asked me to give you his card. He's a really good guy even if he is a lawyer. He wanted you to have his contact info so you wouldn't just immediately jump to Mr. Tonks."
Harry blinked at this, "Okay Shaddrach...wow that's a bit of a mouthful. Do you have an acceptable nickname or should I just call you Shady since you seem to be going into law?"
Both Lilith and Lisa (who had been waiting next to Harry) laughed at this. Shaddrach looked pained but still was smiling, "Well Shady is better than what my twerp of sister calls me. Most people call me Shad."
"When they're not calling you the Shark," Lilith said with a grin.
Her brother laughed, "Not my fault most purebloods only think they have a good poker face."
"Alright Shad the Shark, why is Mr. Creswell interested in me? I mean I've been told I'm famous and all that but what's in it for him?" Harry asked. "And what's this about Mr. Tonks? I just learned I'm sort of related to him but that's about it."
Shaddrach nodded, "Yes I guess he sort of is through his wife. The reason Mr. Creswell wanted to get a foot in the door is the law firm which House Potter traditionally used was wiped out in the war. Right now the properties and businesses are being managed by the goblins. While they do a good job, by contract they are limited to what they can do. Anyway, while Mr. Tonks is also a lawyer, he mostly is involved with personal and criminal law. My boss is hoping you'll give the law offices of Kettleridge, Creswell and Dippet a chance to take up your family business."
Harry looked at the card he'd been given. It actually looked rather normal for a magical business. Shaddrach must have guessed his thoughts, "They also do a lot of work with Muggle business and agencies who either know about the Magical world or interact with them without realizing it. So yeah, their card isn't as flashy as some. There are some ambulance chaser types whose cards are really obnoxious."
Harry put the card in his wallet, "Okay Shad, I'll keep it in mind. I'm sure I'll have a better idea of what I'll need after I talk with the goblins."
Shaddrach grimaced, "Yeah have fun with that."
Harry laughed, "Oh I don't know. I sort of like the goblin we had today. They seem to not want to take shit from people. I'm cool with that."
Shaddrach shrugged, "True but dealing with their snide comments can get a bit tiresome even when they like you."
Lilith nudged her brother, "My stomach is inching its way across my intestines. My appendix is in imminent danger! Feed me now!"
Harry chuckled at this, "Is Shad coming tonight?"
Lilith shook her head, "As much as I'm sure the Shadster would like to do a little clubbing, he's a busy boy and has to get up early."
"Too bloody early. I might as well be on a Quidditch team!" Shaddrach said with a scowl.
Harry turned to Lisa to find Hermione had finished packing up her books and was listening in, "So we're still a go to meet up tonight? At nine?"
Both girls nodded. "I'm taking her over to my dad's apartment to hang out after we eat. Do you want to meet us there or just meet at the club?" Hermione asked.
Harry thought about it for a second, "You don't mind me inviting Paul?"
Both Lisa and Hermione looked a bit unsure but Lilith just chuckled, "Oh don't be such society girls. Harry will protect us from the scary boy. He is armed you know."
"I'll have you know my knife is longer than his," Paul said quietly from behind Harry.
"Paul, Paul, Paul. I think it's a bit early in our relationship to be comparing sizes," Harry quipped. "Besides it's not the length of the blade but how you wield it."
All the girls groaned at this even as Shaddrach laughed.
Harry noticed Tonks had finished talking to Shacklebolt and looking his way. The older Auror was already walking out the door with Dean Thomas. While Harry was disappointed Dean wasn't joining them, he understood completely about waiting to learn more about a relative the boy never knew he had.
"Hey guys, I've got to go; Tonks looks like she's getting antsy. I'll meet you at your Dad's place. Figure we might end up there on the fifteenth for the next orientation so might as well see where it is," Harry said.
"You're a lucky bastard having a date with Tonks," Shaddrach said. "A lot of us had a crush on her before she graduated."
Harry made a face, "She's my cousin. Besides it's not a date; I want to learn more about my relatives I didn't know I had."
Shaddrach just wiggled his eyebrows, "From a pureblood point of view, you're not that related. Hell from a normal point of view you're not that related. Besides I'd jump to be a kissing cousin with her even if she was my first cousin!"
Lilith whacked her brother's arm, "You pervert. Come on Shadster, let's go eat!"
Harry turn back to Lisa, Hermione and Paul, "See you guys later."
The group broke up with everyone saying their good-byes. Harry strolled over to where the young auror was waiting for him. With a bit of a smirk, Harry asked, "Nymphadora Tonks I presume?" Harry had to admit he saw where Shaddrach was coming from. His cousin was very easy on the eyes.
As expected she scowled, "You just had to go there didn't you? So much for Hufflepuff loyalty. My old Head of House just threw me under the Knight Bus!"
Before Harry could try to speak, Tonks suddenly grinned, "Okay that's your freebie. Don't make a habit of it, Harry!"
Harry grinned back. It was nice that he'd finally met a relative who he could stand, "Wouldn't think of it. As Professor Sprout warned, I'm not sure I want to find out what an honors student in Transfiguration can do."
Tonks beamed with pride, "Words to live by! Let's go grab us up some dinner. We have a lot to talk about."
Chapter Six Preview: Harry and Tonks have a chat even as we continue the flashbacks to find out what is going on before he heads out to go clubbing.
A/N: As mentioned at the beginning, be sure to look at the dates of the headers. This will help you identify when there is a flashback.
The Forever Girl: The book Tonks was thinking about was Interview with a Vampire with the vampire girl in question being Claudia, Kirsten Dunst big breaking-out role. While I didn't think Tom Cruise made a good Lestat in the way of looks, I think both he and Brad Pitt pulled off the semi-homoerotic vibe present in the book. If anything, I think Tom Cruise was good for the Lestat from IwaV and not the "actual" Lestat we see in The Vampire Lestat. He certainly had the callous cruelty thing down pat.