Daphne turned to him and smiled, raising her eyes in unison.
"You know I love you more than everything, right?"
"You may have mentioned it sometimes." she replied cheekily, "I may need some convincing."
"Cheeky minx. I swear your animagus form will be a monkey. And an extremely cheeky one at that."
Daphne rolled her eyes, as the audience cheered for them. The finale event was about to begin any moment now. The audience glued to their seats, the professors anticipating the final duel, the bets placed among the students and Lee Jordan taking full advantage of the ambience as he commented about the oncoming match.
"And now, the final event we have all been waiting for. The finale of our dueling contest- between Ares James Black and Daphne Victoria Greengrass. And between you all and me," Lee winked conspiratorially, "the two champions for the tournament are a couple." A multitude of whispers and laughs ensured as Lee continued. "Let's just hope Ares Black finds enough Gryffindor courage within himself to defeat his girlfriend in the duel and encounter her wrath later if he did." Lee finished much to Daphne's amusement. Ares just rolled his eyes.
"Finalists, please take your places." Flitwick commanded as he stood in the middle. Daphne and Ares took their respective places. Daphne stared at her boyfriend. It was a given that Ares knew much more magic than even her parents did. It was not an assumption, but a calculated and confirmed fact. The fact that he still let her go overboard and control their relationship, it only told volumes about his character. Nevertheless, Daphne knew that she was no slouch either. She might not be able to win against him, but that would stop her from giving it her level best.
"Are you ready?"
Ares did not react but Daphne shook her head.
The grip on her wand tightened. This was not going to be one of those practice duels they often had between each other.
A blasting curse readied at her lips.
Sirius stepped back from reading the tome he was perusing from the library. The library of the Blacks was more extensive than imaginable and despite the fact that he had made periodic visits ever since he had started living in Black Manor. However, as good as spending time in the library seemed to him, it was time for something else.
Precisely said, it was time for some serious politicking. Or should that be Sirius? He mused with a grin, feeling the irony of the situation. He put the tome away, took a piece of vellum, and began scribing.
Dear member of the Black family,
The elf popped in instantly. "Yes, Master?"
"Do we have any elves taking care of old Grimmauld Place?"
Matty shook her head in denial. "No, Master. Only old Kreacher stayed there. The house looked haunted when Matty visited it." The elf shook his head violently, almost of trying to shake away the memories of the place.
"Well, that will not do. I need the place for business. If needed, call some elves from the other Black properties, and if you do not find any, buy some if you need. You have my authorization. I want you, with the help of the new elves, to renovate the entire townhouse, as befits the House of Black. Select neutral colors and remove the desecration," he paused, "I mean, decorations and gothic horrors that my mother liked so much."
Matty bowed with reverence before he whisked away. Sirius looked back at the vellum and began to write.
Dear member of the Black family,
As the lord of the 'Most Ancient and Noble House of Black', it is my utmost pleasure to announce the first family meeting since the time of the previous Lord Arcturus Sirius Black. As you carry Black blood in your veins, I invite you to attend the family meeting at the Black family townhouse. The meeting is to be held on October 26, only eight days from now. If you wish to decline, please burn this letter. Else, this letter will act as a portkey to journey you to the destination.
He cast a quick geminio charm over the vellum, which instantly multiplied in number. Where there was a single piece of vellum, now stood a complete stack of them, ready for dispatch. He picked up the first of the stack and wrote down the address.
"Andromeda Tonks and family."
"Sirius, I know you want to have the meeting but shouldn't you wait for Ares to come home?" Arcturus questioned. Sirius gave a brief nod. "Ares will be present in the meeting. And it will be held eight days from now."
"But I seem to remember you planning to visit the Ministry first and then-"
"As I said, the meeting will be held eight days from now. Everything else will need to squeeze in..." Sirius deadpanned, leaving no hole for argument. Which meant that Sirius would arrange the matters of the Ministry before meeting with the family.
Arcturus sighed to himself. Ever since the previous day when Sirius had talked with Regulus' spirit, a sudden change had come in him. For one, he had gotten much more solemn than before. The only moments, when he was back to his original self was when he was chatting with his son via the enchanted mirrors. Every single day, Arcturus could see more of himself in his grandson and every single time he felt a growing fear in his bones.
"I must say that I am surprised."
Sirius finished writing the name 'Narcissa Malfoy and family' and the piece of vellum and looked up at his grandfather's portrait—his expression one of curiosity. Arcturus continued. "When you rolled the resurrection stone, I could have sworn that James Potter's spirit would rise in this study. Imagine my surprise when Regulus manifested instead."
"If it were up to me, I would have brought James and Lily back to the living world forever, Grandfather. However, as unfortunate as it is, I will not- cannot call on James. That right belongs to Ares. I will not steal that right from him."
"But the puzzle-"
"It has waited for so long. It can wait for another day."
That meant Ares was returning home very soon.
"At least with the help of James' spirit, you can figure out what he meant." Sirius simply nodded. Arcturus continued. "Any update on the old meddling coot?"
"No. He has been strangely unresponsive. I expected him to react after seeing the letter." Sirius sighed in disappointment. "Hence, my meeting with the family gets top priority."
"I hope it works."
"Me too, Grandfather. Me too."
The audience stood glued to their seats as they witnessed the most amazing duel in the entire tournament ever. Both Ares Black and Daphne Greengrass were leaving no stone unturned to best each other. One moment Daphne was firing severing hexes, the next moment a lightning fork would plash against her shields. One moment Ares was weaving through Daphne's spell chains, the other moment, he was trying to rip Daphne's wand off using an extended fire whip. It was full-on entertainment.
"Eboleo! Confringo! Concido! Concido!" Daphne sent the spells out in quick succession, which hit Ares's shield at full strength, producing a huge foray of sparks as spell and shield collided with each other. Ares raised his wand and conjured a miniature windstorm, trying to throw Daphne away but she instantly cemented her feet using a Duro charm on the floor.
"And what an ingenious idea to stabilize herself! Wonderful performance by Daphne Greengrass." Lee roared over from his box, as Ares smirked and drenched her with a powerful Aguamenti charm. The Duro spell had hindered her movement and she had to face the full force of Ares's water cannon. Narrowing her eyes, she cast her deadliest stare at him, the one that promised-'you will wish you were dead', at him.
Ares smirked. "Come now, Daph. We both know that you look hot when you are wet."
A couple of whispers and laughter filled the crowd, at least those who could hear it. Daphne rolled her eyes as she cancelled the Duro spell and jumped out of the way of one of his blasting curses. She rolled on the platform, and getting up, she cast a drying charm on herself instantly, much to Ares' disappointment. He cast a sad-smiley expression on his face as Daphne rolled her eyes.
"Duly noted, Ma'am."
Ares raised his wand. "Time to finish the game. Want to bet that I win in the next ten seconds?"
"You wish." Daphne teased back, knowing very well that had he wanted, he could just have defeated her in two seconds and be done with it. She raised her wand. "Ten seconds it is."
Ares mock bowed and sent another powerful banisher, but Daphne dodged out of the way. He took the opportunity and yelled..."Expecto Patronum!" A huge ethereal creature burst out of his wand. The creature had huge legs and looked like a horse with wings, except that it was quite skeletal and dazzling bright. It took the audience to figure out what it was that they were seeing.
A thestral Patronus.
A dazzling bright, powerful and solid, Thestral Patronus.
But that was not all. Ares whipped his wand in a zigzag fashion followed by some quirky movements as he muttered. "Partum speculo maxima!" Instantly five full-length mirrors materialized in front of Daphne, surrounding her on all sides, with the thestral roaring in. The reflections caused in the mirror became so bright that Daphne could not figure out the path of the main attack and held out a shield blindly. The thestral came and charged on her shield, shattering it and hurling her on the ground.
"AND ARES BLACK WINS THE DUELING TOURNAMENT!" Lee roared with an exclamation that reverberated among the audience.
The study, Malfoy manor.
"Yes, my dear?" Lucius turned towards his left as Narcissa Malfoy walked gracefully into the study. She walked briskly towards him and stood. "We have a problem."
Lucius closed the tome on blood magic that he was perusing through, and let out a sigh. "What is it?"
Narcissa handed the letter to him. He touched the letter...vellum... he noticed, and unfolded it. The contents of the letter left him shocked.
To Narcissa Malfoy and family,
Dear member of the Black family,
As the lord of the 'Most Ancient and Noble House of Black', it is my utmost pleasure to announce the first family meeting since the time of the previous Lord Arcturus Sirius Black. As you carry Black blood in your veins, I invite you to attend the family meeting at the Black family townhouse. The meeting is to be held on October 18, only eight days from now. If you wish to decline, please burn this letter. Else, this letter will act as a portkey to journey you to the destination.
Lucius slowly folded the letter back. "This is impossible. Draco should be the Black heir. You yourself mentioned that Sirius Black was disinherited from the family tree." He sent a glare at his wife.
"He was." Narcissa refuted. "Aunt Walburga disinherited him openly and blasted him off from the family tree." She stared back at him. "You know that Charlus Potter took him in as a son of House Potter. Besides, granduncle Arcturus never stated his heir openly. Uncle Orion was only the acting-Head of Black after Grand-uncle retired to the country estate."
"And where exactly is this country estate?" Lucius pressed.
"It is in..." Narcissa left off, "hold on a minute," she strained her forehead, trying to remember the address. "For some reason, I cannot remember where it is. But that is not-" her eyes widened. "Morgana! It is under the Fidelius."
"So Sirius Black now lives in Black estate, wherever the blasted place is."
Narcissa nodded slowly. "You think that something else is involved in this-" she pointed at the letter, "and the rumor that he is the new Lord Black?"
"I am afraid." Lucius sighed.
"In that case, we are in a lot of problems. You married into the Black family. By oath and magic, no Malfoy can act against the Lord of Black and the legal heir. If Sirius has truly taken lordship-"
"You said he was disinherited-" Lucius snarled.
"I told you what I knew!" Narcissa retorted in an uncharacteristically cold voice. Her calm demeanor did nothing to hide her annoyance, which was vividly visible in her dark eyes, which had turned to slits. She took a deep breath and calmed herself down, looking up at him. "We will need to visit this Lord Black, find if it is really Sirius, and decide what to do."
Lucius grit his teeth. "I did not work all these years to create a name for myself, only to place it that Gryffindorish twat of a cousin of yours."
"You forget that the Black family has primacy over the Malfoy name. Unless of course, you wish to return back the assets you have received from my family with due interest, though I suppose you will only have the Malfoy name to your freehold."
Lucius steered towards her and gave her a cold, hard stare. "I did not expect my wife to turn on me the moment a new Lord Black enters the scenario."
"And I did not expect my husband to whine bitterly like a teenager over things beyond his control." She retorted back. Her expressions soothed down a little. "Let us just go and see what happens in the meeting, then we will decide what is to be done."
The aftermath of the dueling contest had been a relaxing break, which frankly, was something Ares needed very much; given the way his life was in turmoil, ever since he had stepped into Hogwarts. It was amazing that it had just been roughly a month or something, and already so much had happened. The classes were going fine, with Ares looking forward to DADA (Alastor Moody was proving himself to be one spectacular teacher, at least better than McGill had been in his opinion) and transfiguration (despite his previous meeting with Mcgonagall having turned a little frosty). Flitwick was a good teacher, but Charms had never really held his attention that well. It was a good thing that he carried the Potter family grimoire and the Slytherin family grimoire with him. Since his Pad was still being squeamish about him learning the Black family magic (something he intended to talk about on their next meeting face-to-face), he was limited to studying the Potter and Slytherin grimoires. It was not as if he was complaining too strongly about it, the two grimoires were very, very extensive and dealt with completely different varieties of magical arts. While the Potters dealt exclusively in battle-magic, the Slytherin grimoire detailed in the more intricate and shadowy realms of magic, like blood magic for one. That, and with his self-training and preparation for the successive stages of the ritual he was undertaking, it made for a hectic schedule.
Daphne had initially complained about him vanishing off at random intervals and importantly, keeping her out of his plans. She had always been a little headstrong and over-protective about her best friend since the beginning, and considering how Ares had grown up away from the madhouse known as Wizarding Britain, she considered it her duty to protect her boyfriend from the claws of the political madness that dominated British society. Given how things had gotten on a roll ever since he had put step on British soil, her fears and her behavior were quite justified.
Then, he had introduced her to the Chamber of Secrets and given her the task of figuring out information about his Slytherin family magic. Daphne had taken to it like fish to water. Hardly a day passed when the raven-haired beauty had not dedicated at least a couple of hours researching on the project and studying the information from Salazar Slytherin's own research. If he had his way, Daphne would be the Lady Slytherin (Daphne Victoria Slytherin had a nice ring to it). While he would not have minded her to be Lady Black, but that was not a surety, at least if Ares had his way. He had tried numerous times to convince his pad to get on with his own personal life, fall in love with someone and marry. Sirius Black had proved to be excessively stubborn in that regard.
He strolled along the empty corridors of the Hogwarts grounds when his pocket mirror began to vibrate powerfully. He looked all around, cast a powerful privacy ward around him and lifted the mirror out of his pocket.
The mirror lit up and his father's face was distinctly visible on the surface of the mirror.
"Anything troubling you?"
"Nope. What gave it away?"
"Your eyes." Padfoot returned.
Ares rolled his eyes. "That technique is too old, Pad. Anything new?"
Padfoot grinned. "Actually yes, I need you to get back at Black Manor for the next three days. I am sending you an official note, but since you are already a Lord, you should not face any problem getting permission for leave on House Business. The route is the same as always—portkey to the grounds. I will be expecting you tomorrow morning."
"But Pad, what's the matter-?"
"Lots. I will explain when you return." He paused. "You might even like some of it." He gave a marauder-ish grin, the very same that raised the hairs on Ares's neck.
"Very well." Ares exclaimed with a raised eyebrow.
"Mischief managed." Padfoot exclaimed as the mirror went normal once again.
The next day...
The lush green grass of Black Manor suddenly swayed with a sudden wind, as Ares Black arrived on to the grounds using his permanent portkey. Sirius had converted his Black heir ring into a permanent one-way portkey—not that he needed it. Creating Portkeys was something he could do even in sleep, after all the rigorous training Madame Flamel had subjected him to, the beginning of which had been focused on transportation. Still, his oaths to his tutor kept him away from informing his father about his true skills, not that he was complaining. It was kind of a rebellious move on his part, given how his Pad had kept him away from learning family magic.
"Master Black is home!" Matty shrieked with excitement. The old elf ran towards him and hugged his legs tightly. Ares chuckled and hugged the little elf back.
"Come, come, young Master Black. Your Pad is waiting for you."
Wizard and elf walked into the huge sprawling compound of Black manor. They crossed the main courtyard and crossed the main corridor. It was here where his father had fought his old friend turned traitor Remus Lupin off, all those years ago. They crossed the main drawing room and climbed up the stairs right towards his father's study.
He knocked the door twice, and no sooner had he opened it, he found his father yell out 'HARRY' as he stood up and strode towards him, hugging him hard. Ares chuckled and hugged him back. Sirius kissed his forehead and beamed at him. "All is good?"
"Pad, we just spoke last night."
Sirius just rolled his eyes. "When you become a father, you will understand it." He realized his son's smirk and quickly added, "Not that I am looking ahead for that. Merlin knows that you and Daphne need to grow up more before thinking of babies. Besides, I am too young to become a grandfather any time sooner." He continued, intentionally ignoring the red tinge on his son's cheeks.
"Hello Ares." A deep, rich voice called out. Ares swerved to his right in surprise as he figured the direction of origin of the voice. His eyes rested on the portrait of his great-grandfather on the Black side.
Arcturus Sirius Black. Sirius' godfather. The previous Lord Black.
"Lord...lord Black." Ares tried, unsure how to address the portrait of the previous lord. Arcturus sniffed and continued, "Nonsense, all those mannerisms are for lower beings. You will call me your great-grandpa, Ares."
He cast a quick glance at his Pad who nodded. "Great-grandpa."
Arcturus nodded with a smile.
"I thought your portrait was a mundane one."
"It wasn't. Just deactivated with a certain passcode, which your father unwittingly uttered, bringing me back, in motion and kicking. I have watched you all these years, you growing up with your father, you scramming into the dungeons to practice family magic because your over-protective father wouldn't let you..." Ares cast a quick glance at his father in alarm, an elation rushing through him as his father just rolled his eyes.
"You practicing the intricate and esoteric arts taught to you by Madame Flamel, while your foolish father thought that his prodigal son was simply practicing warding on his own. I have watched you grow, Ares, just was never able to speak up to you. You will make a very formidable Lord Black someday."
Ares blushed with the praise. "I have often told Pad that he should-"
"Marry? That is a lost cause, son. You are the future Lord Black, despite having two more titles to boot. It is your destiny, deal with it." He spoke in a no-nonsense tone. "It took me some serious hammering into your father's brain, but finally the fool has decided that it is time his heir learns the magic that runs in his veins formally."
"You mean-" Ares looked up, surprised.
"Yeah, about that-" Sirius tried to complain, but one look from Arcturus and he stopped in his tracks. "It is important, Sirius. In ways in which you do not understand. The boy does not have anyone left of his blood for him except you. It is imperative that the existing Lord Black prepares his heir in the ancient arts of the Black family magic."
"Very well." Sirius resigned, knowing a lost fight when he saw one. The look on Ares's face just made his defeat suddenly worth it. Wasn't it all that mattered, that Ares would be happy? If learning the Black magic made him happy, then who was Sirius to stop him?
Arcturus beamed at his great-grandson. "In the coming week, you shall learn what it means to be Lord Black and be the keeper of the ancient arte known as the Black family magic."
Ares grinned and looked towards his father. "Is this why you brought me home from Hogwarts?" His eyes narrowed as something clicked. "But you could always teach me the family magic during the holidays? Why the urgency?" he paused, as his mind tried to figure it all out. He turned towards Arcturus' portrait. "What is it that you are not telling me?"
"There is something more. Many things. However, before we tell you about it, it is necessary that your education in the family magic take a priority. That and some more factors caused this impromptu meeting. We will explain it to you in due time." Sirius explained.
Ares just nodded briskly, his mind busy thinking about what his father said. Whatever it was, one thing was certain. The oncoming week was going to be very, very interesting. Daphne was in for a surprise when she met him next.
### Finally a new chapter. I know this is quite short but I wanted to finish off the final duel and write off certain minor stuff. the next chapter brings much more excitement as Ares finally begins his education in the Black family magic. For the record, 2000 favorites and 3000 followers? I am so, so, so much flattered. Love you all for being such a fantastic audience for my stories. Enough on that, as always, please review...