Chapter 13: The starting line

I don't own 'Harry Potter'

In advance, I'll warn you that the sections aren't in chronological order. I'll tell you the order in the notes at the end.

It was rather astounding how life could come full circle without regretting even the slightest part.

The woman looked around the table at her companions and shook her head, wondering just how she'd gotten here considering the earlier course of her life. She sighed as she slipped into reminiscence; if that wasn't a sign she was getting older, she didn't know what was.

She'd despised her family growing up. Well, the larger part, certainly. Her own smaller family unit had been surprisingly informal during her childhood, all five of them enjoying their lives together and seeing their cousins whenever they visited her home.

Then her grandfather had Phineas died, and life had gone to shit.

Cedrella had only been eight when her grandfather passed away and his son took over the family. Sirius had always been a complete and utter twat, and being given control of the House of Black hadn't helped with his personality deficiencies in any way. Being the firstborn son of Phineas Nigellus Black had bred a very distinct superiority complex, especially in relation to his other four siblings. Merlin forbid her uncle ever cared about his brothers and sister.

Between having his brother Phineas be disinherited, having a 'useless' sister, and two brothers clearly behind him in the line of succession, Sirius had never been one for focusing on familial solidarity when his own security within their House was a preferable alternative. Despite the fact that he'd sired two sons by that point – with Arcturus already having had his first child – Sirius had been far more concerned with how the Blacks were perceived by others.

Image had been his primary concern, even if certain situations had made the arsehole rage at his inability to change things. He hadn't been able to do much when Lycoris had become a freelance Arithmancer, assisting various magicals with their copious numerical struggles with whatever projects they were embroiled in. Sirius' daughter having a career that deviated from the 'typical' path of marrying for political gain had infuriated the man, though considering she'd had Phineas' blessing, there wasn't much he'd been able to do.

To her, that is.

The stupid, hypocritical bastard had been content to leave his son Regulus to his own choices, but he'd certainly interfered with his younger brothers' children and their lives. Pollux had of course already been married disastrously early, though his siblings hadn't been nearly as secure. Dorea and Marius had been young children, but Cassiopeia had been ten and due to start Hogwarts the following year, so clearly she'd been ready for a betrothal. (Her cousin had been betrothed very early into her school career, but the creepy brat had vanished off the face of the earth just after they'd graduated. Funny, that.)

Her uncle Cygnus' family had been largely safe, just as much as Sirius' own, so things had been fairly calm for those particular Blacks. Some of her first cousins had already had their own children at the time that her grandfather died, hence it had been obvious that their family was secure in its continuation.

The problem was her family.

Cedrella's father, Arcturus Nigellus Black, had been Phineas' third son. He'd never expected to inherit the family, even after his brother Phineas had been disinherited. As such, the man had been able to avoid the weight of responsibility that Sirius had been subject to. He'd gone through life as an unusually quiet Black, more of a stereotypical Ravenclaw in terms of disposition before he'd eventually acquired a Mastery in History of Magic. Arcturus had been a researcher and scholar working throughout continental Europe when he had met his future wife.

Lysandra Yaxley had met Cedrella's father while doing similar research to him, and the witch and wizard had more or less immediately fallen in love, cliché as it sounded. Cedrella's mother had been twelve years younger than Arcturus, but had apparently been captivated by the quiet man. The House of Black – see: Sirius – had been more than happy for the pair to wed, mostly because it would give the Blacks yet another connection to a Sacred Twenty-Eight family. Lysandra had been the second daughter to Lord and Lady Yaxley, so her marrying the third son of the former Lord Black had been somewhat logical in society's collective consensus. And so goes the story of one of the few happy marriages of their venerated House.

Of course, things are never perfect.

Cedrella was the middle of three sisters. Three girls. Three daughters born to their parents. Their only children, yet ones that they'd truly loved and cared for as the girls grew. Arcturus and Lysandra had been gentle parents, loving in a way that had caused Cedrella to feel pity for her cousins. The five of them had lived in an isolated cottage on the coast of Kent, and Cedrella had loved her childhood. While it lasted, that is.

She hadn't noticed at first, hadn't realised the growing tensions in her family thanks to the abundance of daughters instead of preferred sons for a good few years to come. She still distinctly remembered Callidora coming home for Yule in her second year, pale and shocked to silence. Her sister had shut herself in her room, refusing to talk to anyone for days, and Cedrella hadn't known what was going on for days to come.

What she had known, was that her father could be terrifying.

After hours of cursing and screaming, the shoreline in front of their home had been reshaped and to this day still housed what looked to be a small lake, the edges of which had been smoking and sparking with chaotic magic. Her mother had had red-rimmed eyes, a furious set to her jaw as she'd barred anyone else – especially the Lord Black – from entering their home in any way.

Cedrella had busied herself with looking after Charis, trying to distract her younger sister from the tension within the house to no avail. Eventually, Callidora had let them into her bedroom and the three sisters had curled together on the oldest girl's bed, curled around each other tightly as if that would heal whatever ailment the girl suffered from.

Turns out, there's no real way to break a binding betrothal contract.

Both Cedrella's sister and her cousin Lucretia had been signed away for the sake of their uncle's political machinations, and Cedrella had realised in that moment that she'd been far too naïve in her understanding of their lives.

She was a Black, a daughter of The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, a young lady who would be expected to wed whomever it was that her Head of House decided on, whenever they decided. Cedrella had stupidly believed that her father was in charge of their family, and he had been, no doubt about it, but he hadn't been in charge of their Family. A critical distinction, she'd unfortunately realised.

Callidora would be marrying her classmate Harfang Longbottom upon their graduation, which the sisters had begrudgingly admitted was nowhere hear as bad as if could have been. The Longbottoms had always been a respected family, had centuries worth of noble history, and Callidora would be able to be much safer from Sirius' machinations than she would if she remained with the Blacks.

Lucretia had also dodged a killing blow by being betrothed to Ignatius Prewett. The girls had known by that point that their daring cousin was friends with the cheerful Gryffindor, so their marriage would likely be far from a disaster, even if they hadn't chosen it themselves.

That had been Cedrella's main issue with the entire situation. They hadn't had a choice. Their Lord had decided himself; Cedrella's family had simply had to do as told. Told, not asked.

She'd hated it.

She'd hated it even more when little Charis, her quiet and beloved younger sister, had faced the same situation at the age of thirteen, promised to a man that she'd never even met. A man who'd already graduated and gained employment at the Ministry, therefore the sisters had had no way of even getting to know him first. They'd all technically gone to school with Caspar Crouch, but none of them had been in his year or House. The quiet Ravenclaw hadn't been a Prefect or a Quidditch player, so none of them had had any idea on how he and Charis would get along after marrying.

It'd been a disgusting time in Cedrella's life, being stuck at school and knowing that her life as she knew it was subject to a timer counting down towards the unknown. She'd been stressed from preparing for her OWLs, stressed from the knowledge that Callidora would be getting married after this school year, stressed from a barely teenaged Charis getting thrown at a grown man, stressed from waiting for the inevitable …

To this day, she was still surprised she hadn't suffered a mental breakdown.

Cedrella had come close to being sold off to Valerius Flint, despite the man being a whole sixteen years her senior. Not that she had any problems with age gaps in general, but only when both parties were mature adults who understood their situations and could make informed decisions themselves. Even if love wasn't present – like her parents – it would still be their choice. But of course, choice hadn't been a factor in her case, even if she'd only been sixteen.

Funnily enough, Sirius' sense of propriety had saved her arse from that disaster after the creep had been caught in bed with his fifteen-year-old niece. Her uncle's disgusted fury had resulted in him setting the contract alight and raging for a solid two hours on the revolting incident, much to Cedrella's internal delight. And relief, because Merlin, she had not wanted to wed a man who'd seen no issue with incest.

That incident had caused Lord Black to be much more cautious in his attempts with Cedrella's betrothal, and she'd been figuratively matched with many a wizard before her uncle decided that he would instead deign to choose a younger wizard that she would have to wait on until he grew to an appropriate age.

Of course, that was when she met Septimus.

The man who would eventually be her husband and the father of her children was a year older than her, and as the consummate Gryffindor he'd been, they'd never interacted beyond catching sight of one another in the castle halls. She'd never had the slightest indication that there was anything other than recognition in his blue eyes whenever he'd glanced her way, but she would eventually come to see this as one occasion in which she was grateful to be wrong.

The older boy had come across her one day in an abandoned classroom in the dungeons, furious tears pouring down her faces as she repeatedly hexed the same wall again and again with some of Cassiopeia's favourite – and deadly – spells.

Cedrella smiled to herself. She could still vividly remember how Septimus had looked at the damage of her spellwork with clear awe on his face, not even the slightest hint of fear or unease. That he'd immediately given her a handkerchief to clean her tears had upped her estimation of the redhead on the spot. There weren't many wizards who'd been so accepting of her magical prowess, let alone one who'd been a gentleman, too.

She'd definitely started to fall for him then and there.

Cedrella had ignored her mental warnings, the internal voice sounding like her mother whenever she'd worried about her daughters' wellbeing. She'd ignored any idea that things weren't going to end well as she'd embroiled herself more and more in Septimus' life. Even after he graduated, the young man had continuously kept in contact with her. Updating her on his new job, funny stories about the neverending antics of his younger brothers, whatever the cheerful idiot had been able to think of. He'd even gotten to know Caspar and written to Cedrella and her sisters so that they'd know more about Charis' future husband. She'd been so in love; giddy and happily ignoring the consequences.

Then she'd been sent a contract.

Unlike her sisters' betrothals, Sirius hadn't used a binding contract for Cedrella, simply for the fact that the arsehole didn't trust the other family enough to bind the Blacks to them in an irreversible manner. To this day, it wasn't shocking; the Blacks and Malfoys had never fully seen eye to eye, and a binding betrothal contract would have only ramped the animosity up to new heights.

Even more galling than the prospect of marrying a man who wasn't Septimus – they'd been in a relationship for nearly a year when she'd received that particular owl – was that her dictator of an uncle wanted to promise her to a mere child. Abraxas Malfoy was nine years her junior, and waiting for this marriage would mean that she would've been under Sirius' control for even more years to come, before being shipped off the House of Malfoy with no support.

Needless to say, Cedrella had disagreed. Massively.

Perhaps she'd merely snapped, perhaps it had been prolonged exposure to Septimus' Gryffindor tendencies, perhaps it had been having to stand there and watch Callidora be bound to a man that she wasn't in love with for the sake of politics, but Cedrella had decided then and there that the House of Black could go fuck themselves. Permanently.

She went off the deep end in terms of composure, proposing to Septimus and asking him to elope with her, but she'd felt free for the first time in close to a decade, hence why Cedrella hadn't been able to summon any empathy for her family. Why should she have cared about those who saw more worth in her uterus rather than her accomplishments?

Going back to her family's cottage after her final year had been the end of her life as a Black. She'd walked into the front room only to come face-to-face with her parents, each with a knowing smile on their faces. Not a single word had passed between the three, but Arcturus had hugged her tightly and kissed the crown of her head. Her mother's eyes had glinted with quiet pride, and Cedrella had known there and then that they wouldn't turn on her.

A day later, and her name had been Cedrella Weasley, and Cedrella Black had been disinherited.

Being kicked out of the family would have been far worse if it hadn't been for the fact that she'd still managed to see many of them on the sly. Her sisters, various sneaky cousins, not to mention her parents, they'd all kept in contact with her throughout the following decade and a half. Not losing her true family had been a balm on her soul, knowing that she could share the joys of her new family with those she'd grown up with.

Sirius dying had been a viciously joyful occasion for Cedrella, even if her cousin Acrturus hadn't been able to reinstate her standing in their House. That had never been the point. Being able to freely be family had been more than enough, and she'd repeatedly said so to her perpetually stressed cousin.

Of course, the idiot eventually managed to accomplish the very thing she told him not to worry about, though Cedrella had a sneaking suspicion that that had more to do with pissing off the memory of his dearly-departed father than helping her. Not that she was complaining; she'd hated Sirius as an uncle, and Arcturus had had to deal with the cretin as a parent. She still pitied him, even now.

She'd been restored as a Black, Marius had been brought back into the family fold, the Blacks were now marrying for love, and the family had never been closer than they were right now. It was almost as if everything was perfect beyond reproach.

Which was why being sat in a Family meeting with an oppressive atmosphere felt fantastic.

Interestingly, only a few of her kin looked as if they had no clue what was going on. Cedrella, her sisters and Lucretia were peering around at their fellow Blacks with curiosity shining from their silver eyes. She would have cracked a joke to break up the stifling silence if it weren't for the grave looks sported by Alphard and Arcturus. The former was as relaxed as one could get in their House, and Arcturus was rarely not sporting a half-smile at least when in the company of his family. Whatever this was, it was serious.

Arcturus uncrossed his arms and laid them on the table, though still maintaining that intimidating posture that reminded Cedrella of his father more than she was comfortable admitting. She scolded herself internally; her cousin was nothing like his sire.

"We have another Dark Lord to deal with."

Cedrella stilled in her seat, her breath catching as the memories of Grindelwald's attacks painted themselves across her mind. She'd been the same age as Arthur the first time she'd witnessed that particular carnage while on holiday. She couldn't let her family be at risk again.

"Well, it looks like we've got a job on our hands, doesn't it?" she mused to herself.

"Yes, we do."

She looked up and caught Arcturus' eye, meeting his grim smile with one of her own.

So much for peace.

"Who do you think should be told, Lyra?"

The girl – or woman, if he was going off of mental maturity – lifted her head from her numerous notes and frowned, absentmindedly biting her lip as she considered his question. Which was a genuine enquiry; he was intrigued what his adopted granddaughter's perspective would be in this area.

"At the very least, I think pretty much everyone should be told that there's a Dark Lord roaming around now. It's callous to leave our family to their own devices when someone like this is really starting to get into his plans," she said with another frown. Arcturus noticed it was becoming a frequent expression on the young teenager. "Well," Lyra added with a grimace, "there's always Walburga and her husband. I have a feeling they might be the opposite problem."

Alphard snorted and leaned back in his chair. "Too right. My darling sister would likely be the first to sign up to serve such a brilliant man. It wouldn't surprise me if she tried to do the same for her son."

Lyra winced, the movement noticed by the two men in the study. Arcturus felt his stomach roil with disgust. "She didn't? Her own children?" Thank fuck that crazy bitch didn't get her claws into his son. Could her depravity sink no further?

"Sirius ended up running away before she could with him, but his brother wasn't so lucky. The younger one was a marked follower as soon as he graduated, though as I said, he did eventually turn on Riddle because he was a smart man. I don't think I could have finished things before without him," Lyra finished with a small smile. Arcturus was just glad this horrific future didn't feature all of his House as helpless lunatics.

"I still think it's bizarre that Aludra didn't exist before. And why won't you tell me the name of Sirius' brother?" Alphard whined with an exaggerated pout. The Lord Black tried not to snort. His nephew was an idiot.

Lyra rolled her eyes and huffed. "Dad, we've been over this. For one, there's no guarantee that it'll be the same exact child as last time. Orion and Marcus might end up with a daughter this time, or even another set of twins. Besides, I'm curious as to whether or not they'll end up using the same name if it's another boy. If they do, there's got to be something magical going on," she added with a wicked grin.

"You have a terrible personality, daughter dearest."

"I beg your pardon? That is so not true. And if I do, then whose fault is that, huh?"

"I think you'll find that …"

Arcturus tuned out the familiar routine of father and daughter bickering – yet again – and poured himself a cup of tea with a relieved smile. Ever since Lyra had relented and told them the truth of her reincarnation – or whatever her case would be categorised as – Arcturus had been concerned that the girl would emotionally separate herself from them. That she would believe herself to not be a true part of their House, that she would feel some distance was necessary.

Even more concerning had been the possibility of Alphard changing how he treated his daughter. The Lord Black himself hadn't been too concerned about his own reactions. Lyra had, by her own words, always had these memories, meaning that her actions throughout the past thirteen years had been directed by such memories. Every time she'd helped their family, whether that be through foiling the disastrous actions of her relatives or by subtly influencing others in their society, each action had been because of her past experiences. It wasn't as if Lyra had suddenly changed or anything, she was simply revealing knowledge that she'd previously kept private. Arcturus was simply treating it as Lyra having learned things through studying. Her mind being the home to vast quantities of information had no bearing on her personality.

Thankfully, Alphard was of the same mind. He hadn't changed how he interacted with Lyra at all, save for being more physically affectionate and more vocal with his verbal praise. Both things that the girl seemed to subconsciously crave if the way she curled into her father's side was any indication. Arcturus frowned heavily at the thought. No child should ever be treated the way that Harry had been.

The two men were in agreement that Harry was simply a part of the charming young girl that they called family. A large part, because Harry's complicated life definitely had an impact on how Lyra behaved, but not anything irrevocably defining. Lyra was Lyra, and Lyra was also Harry. They were one individual that had given their all for the sake of saving a society of lazy cowards, and were still willing to do the same now, all for ensuring the safety of their family and loved ones.

Arcturus was beyond proud of his granddaughter.

"So," he said firmly, interrupting the – admittedly entertaining – argument across the table, "have you considered who we should disclose the truth to?"

Lyra hummed to herself before looking him in the eye. "I don't think telling the truth is the be all and end all of the situation. If we're going to do something about Riddle as a family, then some of our House are going to have to told the full truth. But that isn't the entirety of things, either, because there are some that are going to want to focus on their individual families instead of putting themselves in danger."

"There are going to be those who could help, even with their families, but probably don't need to know everything that's going on," Alphard added as he wrote something on the page in front of him.

Arcturus leaned forward and surveyed the copy of the family tree. "Then the first step would be to decide who gets to learn everything, your memories and all of who this Tom Riddle is." He ignored the quiet growl from Alphard with a practised ease, even as he internally agreed with the sentiment. A grown man had no business staring at such a young girl in the manner he had. Alphard's old classmate was going to rue the day he'd incited the Blacks' ire.

"Granddad Pollux needs to know." Lyra shot them a rueful smile, the slightly guilty look making her look exactly like her physical age for once. He'd seen the expression on his own children more than enough to recognise. It was quite amusing to him.

Arcturus raised a brow at the girl, reining in the urge to smirk at the childish fidget. She was far too charming for her own good.

Lyra huffed and wrinkled her nose at his stare. "He's already been investigating some stuff for me. I asked him a while ago to see if he could dig up whatever he could on Hepzibah Smith and the Riddles' deaths," she explained, waving a casual hand towards a couple of files on the large table.

"Huh. I guess that's why Dad kept giving me those weird grins whenever you came up in conversation," Alphard added lightly, grinning at his imp of a daughter. The girl in question just smirked back at her father. What a brat.

The Lord Black snorted quietly. "I was going to suggest my cousin anyway; the idiot's far too inquisitive to leave by himself anyway. What he needs is a target, so we can just point him in the right direction and let him go."

"What is he, a postal owl?"

Arcturus ignored Lyra's sarcastic mutter – the image was quite hilarious though, he'd give her that – and carried on. "My sister and Cassiopeia are both without spouses or children, and work freelance, therefore are in good positions from which to conduct research on all disciplines of magic, depending on which we require."

"I think," Alphard began slowly, eyes roving over his daughter as if ascertaining her safety (once again), "that Orion and Dorea should know the truth. I know you don't want Orion involved in this mess," the other man immediately added, holding up a hand to stall Arcturus' complaints about telling his son the whole truth, "but he is Lyra's godfather. I definitely believe he should focus on his children, but he can still aid us in terms of politics. Strengthening House Black will also serve to shield us while we carry out other endeavours. And Dorea, aside from being Lyra's godmother, isn't someone who's going to appreciate being kept in the dark. Can you imagine what she'd do if she found out that we'd essentially lied to her?" Alphard asked him with a pointed look.

Arcturus kept still in his chair, but internally shuddered as he pictured the inevitable wrath of the opinionated woman. There might be over two decades between the two cousins, but Dorea was truly frightening when she wanted to be. Why Charlus Potter had taken one look at the carnage she left behind and immediately fallen in love was beyond him. The idiots deserved each other.

"Perhaps you're right," he conceded, deliberately ignoring the two smirks across the table. He'd get revenge on the duo later. "Is there anyone else that you think should be told the full truth?"

Lyra gnawed on her bottom lip, clearly conflicted. "I think … I don't really know if Riddle ever did anything in the muggle world before. Do you think Uncle Marius needs to know?"

"At the bare minimum, he needs to know there's a crazy twat running around with delusions about his own self-importance." Arcturus tried not to laugh at his nephew's sneer. He didn't think the younger man would want to know just how much he resembled his sister at the moment.

"I'm not sure if he necessarily needs to know everything, but I understand that you and he are very close, Lyra," he said, trying to think through the ramifications, especially in the context of Marius' own childhood. "I can guarantee that he won't say anything to anyone not already aware of the situation, so it's really up to you."

He wasn't lying, either. As much as Arcturus was going to direct their plans to kill this fool mocking their way of life, Lyra's memories were her own. She was smart enough to understand that divulging her secrets to those outside of their House was far too dangerous, so there was no need to lecture her on the subject. That being said, the House of Black was Lyra's family now. If she wished to get closer to certain individuals and tell them the truth, who was Arcturus to interfere? While he could certainly bind her in Vows and order her around, the mere notion of such control left a bad taste in his mouth. He wasn't a dictator. He wasn't his father.

Lyra flushed slightly. It would have been sweeter if it weren't for the fact that the expression was likely from being unaccustomed to being in control of her own person. If only Albus Dumbledore could be easily killed. (Well, accidents happen sometimes. He wouldn't be the first Hogwarts Professor to fall prey to wild magic in the ancient castle.)

The girl cleared her throat and lifted her head, chin raised confidently. Good girl. "I'll tell him. Aside from personal connections, I think he'll be incredibly helpful in our endeavours." She gestured at a particular point on the parchment in the centre of the table, and Arcturus smirked. Lyra had quite a gift when it came to persuasive arguments. A combination of logic, charm, and a minute edge of threat worked wonders in her speech. No wonder her fellow Slytherins were so wary of the young lady.

"I think that should be adequate for those with full disclosure," murmured Alphard, eyes roving over the family tree carefully. "Everyone else is going to need to know about Riddle's idiocy, of course, but odd instances of rebirth aren't quite necessary for the others."

Lyra lifted her head and blinked, a bemused look on her face. "Did you just call me odd?"

"Afraid so, Princess."

The girl blushed and scowled for a second before pausing, a wicked smirk appearing as she stared at her sire. "You know, it's nice to know that you're taking responsibility for my … eccentricities."

Alphard raised a brow. "Oh? How have you come to that conclusion?"

"Well, a person's character is determined through a combination of nature and nurture. Nature, as in their very blood, and nurture, concerning how somebody is raised and influenced by their surroundings." She shifted, her smirk widening into a grin with far too many teeth. "Considering that you're responsible for both in my case, any of my issues can be laid squarely at your feet.

"Thank you so much for taking the blame."

His nephew's gaping face reminded him of Pollux so much that Arcturus snorted and started chuckling quietly, thoroughly amused at the sight of a grown man at the cut-throat mercy of a dainty thirteen-year-old.

Arcturus casually ignored the argument that had erupted not three feet away and studied his notes. Now he had an idea of the players, it was time to start the game. Riddle was definitely going to regret angering them.

Time for a Family meeting.

"I'm sorry, Brother, could you repeat that?"

Arcturus shot her a flat look – rude twat; bastard hasn't changed – and shifted back in his chair.

"I said, reincarnation – or rebirth, whatever you want to call it – is definitely possible, and I have evidence of such, because Lyra has always remembered every little detail from her old life."

The room was silent in the wake of her brother's revelations – which were definitely not a joke; Arcturus wouldn't joke about something that could be disproved so easily – and Lycoris tried to process this new information.

Her little niece had the memories of an entire other life that didn't include herself as Lyra Black. Well, that's bizarre. Had she been a Black before, or from an entirely different House? Though she supposed it didn't really matter; the girl had been a Black from birth in this world, therefore any other experiences were merely superfluous.

She twitched in her seat at the sound of Cassiopeia suddenly cackling like a madwoman, though Lycoris couldn't quite prevent her own smirk, even with how deathly serious the conversation was. She had a feeling she knew exactly what was going through her best friend's mind. They'd been living together for far too many years for the older woman not to know what the younger was thinking.

"Merlin, that girl's brilliant! So many plans, so much intelligence hidden for years … My, our niece really is the perfect little snake, isn't she?"

Cassiopeia finished with a rather bloodthirsty smirk on her lips, clearly ignoring the snort coming from Alphard and Arcturus' long-suffering sigh at the head of the table. (Lycoris was intimately familiar with the sound from their childhood.)

She supposed it was rather brilliant. None of them had to ask for further explanation of the woman's words in this particular case; all Blacks had the same education, after all. Lyra having managed to slyly lead events to her own preferred outcome without ever letting on that she was doing so with an adult's memories was quite astounding, really. Although, she was rather curious as to who the young girl had been before. By the looks of it, she wasn't the only one.

Dorea and Orion looked to be shocked though accepting of the fact that their mutual godchild had once had another identity. Seeing as Lyra had a solid bond with the older two magicals, it wasn't as if they were unaware of who Lyra was as a person. It was clear to see for all of them that Alphard's daughter was Lyra now and always would be, regardless of previous lives.

Marius leaned forward with a small frown, no doubt picking up on the tension within Arcturus and Alphard as Lycoris had. It was disconcerting. Her brother was Lord Black, though infinitely more relaxed within a private setting such as this. Alphard even more so. The two of them seeming to be about a second away from a duel, as well as sharing loaded glances while some of the others were bemused by this revelation, was a worrying sight.

"Who was Lyra before, then? Was it someone we know?" Marius asked bluntly.

The second question gave her pause. It would be an odd thing to endure if Lyra turned out to be a reincarnated version of someone they already knew to be walking around. At the very least, Lycoris highly doubted that it would be an unlikeable individual to their family. Lyra most certainly wasn't acting when it came to her personable character, so it was likely that her innate behaviour was simply carried over from before. It appeared that her niece had simply always been a charming person.

"What you need to know is that her identity isn't the only thing changed from her past life," explained Alphard with a blank face, his collected tone catching everyone's attention. "Lyra was also in a different time period altogether, born nearly two decades from now, to be exact." Her nephew shifted in his chair and gazed down at the table, seemingly at nothing.

"Lyra was born as Harry James Potter in the year nineteen-eighty, as Fleamont Potter's grandson."

While nearly everyone was silently stunned at this news, even Cassiopeia quiet and contemplating in her seat – though 'scheming' was likely a more apt term for her manipulative cousin – Lycoris noticed Pollux freeze where he was, his mind clearly whirring with something serious that he'd better share with the rest of them. Pollux was never a subdued individual, meaning whatever had altered that regularity was far from palatable.

"Arcturus." Pollux's low yet carrying voice silenced them all, watching as the two cousins looked one another in the eye. "Does this have anything to do with why Lyra asked me to research several murders for her?"

Lycoris felt her stomach drop. She didn't know why, or what would happen from here on out, but what she did know was that her conniving niece wouldn't go digging into things that dangerous without a very good reason. Lyra was fiercely protective of her family, especially her younger cousins, and wouldn't do anything to invite trouble to her loved ones if she could. Lycoris and Cassi had metaphorically beaten that knowledge into her from as soon as she could talk. Seeing as Lyra had apparently had an adult's mind at the time, all they'd done was reinforce those ideals and refine her methods. (She had a feeling that life as a Potter wouldn't have prepared Lyra for the Blacks' preferred subtleties.)

As such, Lycoris was loathe to open her mouth and invite knowledge of something that would no doubt alter their lives massively, but she had to know. If she could help her family in any way, then she bloody well would. (Which definitely didn't have anything to do with any deeply hidden Gryffindor tendencies. The Sorting Hat was full of nonsense, end of discussion.)


She didn't need to ask more. The siblings had always been close enough to communicate with barely a word. Her brother was already aware of what she was asking.

Stormy silver eyes met her own. "If things play out the same way as the history from Lyra's original life, our country is going to become embroiled in a civil war on the level of what Grindelwald did, however it will only occur in our country. By the time two decades have gone by from now, we'll be stuck dealing with a Dark Lord who looked up to the aforementioned German imbecile as an icon and who'll murder thousands of witches, wizards and creatures as he see fits. As for the murders you mentioned," he said to Pollux, "that was Lyra's attempt to see if this was the same universe with the same Dark Lord. As it turns out, things are the same."

Silence. Nothing. No talking, no movement, no sign of life at all. They were all united in their mutual horror, thoughts racing internally as they contemplated what unspeakable horrors would befall their world if they didn't do anything to prevent them. Which they would, because if there was one thing the House of Black was, it was proactive. They couldn't afford to be reactive in a case such as this; there were far too many opportunities for failure otherwise.

Lycoris pushed aside her instinctive uncertainty and turned to Arcturus. "Do we know who this Dark Lord is?"

"Tom Riddle," Alphard sneered, his expression twisting with disgusted familiarity. "He was in my year at school. One of Slughorn's most prized. I shouldn't be surprised how he went, not with how entirely apathetic he was. The only emotion he ever related to was greed," her nephew muttered.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Now she understood why they were all here. Every single person here was personally close to Lyra, could be easily trusted to not divulge her secrets to any other. Not that their other kin would do such a thing, but she knew as they all did that secrets didn't remain so if too many were aware of the truth.

Dorea was the only Black in the room to have married outside their family, yet as Lyra's godmother, it would be foolish to not bring her into the fold. These revelations would need to be dealt with accordingly, and Dorea was far too competent not to be utilised. Not to mention that she likely would have discovered the truth on her own and proceeded to show her displeasure on the matter. Nobody wanted to have to deal with that.

Lycoris could understand why the others hadn't been brought in. She could even agree with the decision. What she wanted to know was what would happen from here on out. A sentiment evidently shared by the others sat at the table, if their calculating frowns were anything to go by.

"Father." Orion's narrowed eyes made Lycoris smile slightly. Her nephew had come a long way from his childhood. "What do you want to happen from here on out? You wouldn't have called us all here unless you had a distinct plan to stop this imbecile."

Ignoring Alphard's disparaging snort – though the sentiment was agreed with – Arcturus reclined in his chair and surveyed them all. "Lyra has been conducting research on the subject for well over a year already, which she has graciously turned over for us to study ourselves," he said, nodding at the organised piles in front of him. "However, she knew from the start that it would be difficult to learn all that was needed herself, both because of her age and her lack of familiarity with Riddle at this point in time.

"I've decided to break down specific areas that we need to delve into further, which I would like your assistance with." He paused in order to watch everyone nod in agreement. She hadn't doubted for a moment that anyone would decline to help, but it was still a relief to see everyone on the same page. "For now, I'll give you what Lyra's uncovered for your specific topic, then I would like you to get on with it as soon as possible. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I do not want to deal with a Dark Lord reaping havoc in our society."

Lycoris scoffed under her breath. Only an idiot ever thought a Dark Lord was a good idea. Regardless of whatever sentiments and policies they advocated, history proved again and again that such individuals inevitably succumbed to the temptation of black magic and spun out of control. Their morals would always be left to the wayside in their journey for revolution.

Change was difficult for any society, especially for one like theirs. They might live on a small island on a vast planet, but their magical society had spanned over millennia, traditions wrought into every aspect of their lives. Yes, not all of these traditions were things that Lycoris agreed to or even submitted to herself, but she recognised them and their origins, nonetheless.

It was idiocy at its finest to not expect any form of resistance when advocating for change. What people neglected to recognise was that it was possible to effect change, it just had to be done slowly and carefully in order to fully work. Starting from the inside and shifting policies in minute increments, subtly creating alliances and persuading someone to your side, creating bills with irrefutable evidence that an idea would benefit all … These movements were how to revolutionise a society, not going around and murdering everyone who disagreed even the slightest with your perspective. That only served to make politicians more resistant.

Perhaps Hogwarts needed to invest in a class on critical thinking. It could only do good at this point.

"So, what do you want us to research?"

Lycoris looked up at Dorea's question. The younger woman had a point. She had her own ideas as to how things could progress, but she was intrigued what her older brother would come up with. Arcturus wasn't an idiot in any sense of the word; as a former Curse-Breaker, his blood would otherwise be decorating a remote tomb somewhere if his intelligence had ever been in question.

"Firstly, I should mention that this goes beyond being a Dark Lord," Arcturus said tiredly, a look of pure revulsion on his lightly lined face. He looked her in the eye and grimaced, faintly apologetic for some bewildering reason. She thought her current anxiety could be forgiven.

"If Lyra's thoughts are correct, then Riddle is in possession of five Horcruxes."

Pollux swore loudly and Cassi started hissing furiously at their Lord's words, but Lycoris barely noticed them, let alone what other reactions were playing out around her. Those words had changed everything. Horcruxes. Five Horcruxes. Merlin, can this pain in the arse get any worse?

She felt sick at the thought of such an aberration of magic, a stain on everything their world stood for. Her stomach felt like a ball of lead had dropped there and made itself a home, roiling around and destroying any sense of calm that she possessed. The cold she could feel was nothing compared to how dirty she felt. Even the word itself was pure filth, anathema to Magic and their way of life.

That some piece of shit had dared to defile the laws of magic like that was bad enough, but to do so five times was vile. If it wouldn't ruin things, she would walk up to him right this instant and rip him apart from pelvis to throat. Perhaps a little exploration of his innards would help her discover if he'd even had a soul to begin with …


The slight warning tone in her brother's voice made her huff, crossing her arms in annoyance. Her magic might have been crackling in a dangerous manner, but it wasn't as if she was going to lose control or anything. She was a Black, after all.

Arcturus kept his gaze on her for a few more moments before he turned to the rest. "In light of this information, we're going to need to research Horcruxes as much as possible. Lyra never learned much about them except a scant few ways to destroy them before. Apparently, as Harry she'd point blank refused to delve into the knowledge when given the opportunity to later on."

Thank Merlin for small mercies. Her little niece might be a vindictive little shit when the opportunity presented itself, but she kept to her morals. She looked at the stacks on the table and snorted softly. Unlike some.

"This is going to be a difficult topic, so I believe it best if I study it myself, in conjunction with Coris and Cassi."

Lycoris turned to Cassi, smirking at the wicked glee in her friend's eyes. Not at the topic itself, of course, but at the chance for some well deserved retribution, no doubt. Besides, it was a good team. A former Curse-Breaker, an Arithmancer, and a Spell-Crafter. Their group was almost overqualified for something like this, though this would definitely be one topic where Lycoris would always err on the side of caution. She was confident in her magical abilities, but dealing with such disgusting objects warranted a touch of heightened vigilance.

"Tracking magic, possibly figuring out how to track these disgusting things, would also be a good thing to focus on. Pollux, I'd like you and Alphard to get on with that." Arcturus slid over a small stack to his cousin with a grim face, returning the silent nod from the younger man.

Pollux started skimming the words silently, absentmindedly passing over several sheets to his son when he was done. Lycoris watched them with a twinge of anger. Pollux and Alphard were supposed to be the light-hearted ones in their family, not acquiring harsh lines thanks to some piece of shit who had no respect for their world. This tosser really needs to die.

At least they were well suited for such research. Pollux was especially sensitive to magic, always had been. He could quite easily sense wards and spots where magic was highly concentrated. It had made youthful adventures of the not-so-legal variety much easier for the git. And Alphard had forever been tracking things down in his childhood home thanks to Irma being a bitch of the highest order. His mother hadn't liked his personality, so had decided to hide anything that could make him happy. What a lovely woman. What a shame she's dead. Either way, Alphard had long since honed these particular skills, hence they'd likely make an efficient team in this endeavour.

"Dorea, I'd like you to trace Riddle's movements as a Dark Lord. Not him as a person, simply as a figure," her brother explained. "I want to know what his major movements are and where they are. He's likely gone abroad somewhat, and I know you have friends on the continent.

"Furthermore, I want you to see if you could get some detailed information on the House of Gaunt as a whole. His mother was a Gaunt, and I'm wondering if his ancestry could give us some advantage in some way."

Such a prestigious lineage; he must be so proud. Lycoris couldn't help but wrinkle her nose. Being descended from the Gaunts meant that Riddle was extraordinarily likely to be a descendent of Salazar Slytherin, but that meant nothing, as far as she was concerned. Coming from a family that deliberately fucked their own siblings in order to keep their blood 'pure' was revolting. Some might think the Blacks were obsessed with blood purity, but the Gaunts had long since taken things to new – and disturbing – levels.

Regardless of the subject matter, Dorea would be perfect for digging up whatever information she wanted to get her hands on. She might be a Healer, someone seen as a paragon of good to others, but she was a consummate Slytherin in every way that mattered. Lyra might be Lycoris and Cassi's current disciple when it came to finding others' weakness and using them for you own benefit, but Dorea had been their original student. Now she thought about, it was no wonder that Dorea got along with Lyra as her godmother. They were kindred spirits, really.

She refocussed as Arcturus turned to Orion. "I'm not going to ask you to get into all of this in depth. I'm well aware that you want to prioritise your children, and I'm not going to disparage that. What I would like you to do is more of what you'd ordinarily be doing as preparation for taking over as Lord Black in the future. Gain as many allies as possible so that our House will be better protected."

"Don't you want me to do anything else?" Orion asked with a heavy frown. "I might have children, but surely I could do some more than what I'm already doing?"

Alphard leaned forward, his posture something that used to send his mother into angry tirades. "It's not just allies, Ori. We know that Riddle's going to use his old friends to make a group of followers like Grindelwald did. If you can make connections with their families as well, you can probably find out all sorts that'll go a long way to helping us kill the moron."

Orion nodded slowly, mind obviously racing as he took the offered parchment. He peered down at the list in front of him and frowned, the small crease between his brows a clear indication of what he thought of whoever was written down. Lycoris had no doubt that those names clearly denoted some spectacularly stupid individuals; who else would think that mass murder was going to solve anything?

"His muggle life is also going to help us figure out more of Riddle's personality, and his likely future actions. Marius, I'd like you to investigate Riddle's muggle life." Arcturus handed over some notes to their Squib cousin. "When I tell the others about a new Dark Lord, I'll be getting Cedrella to join you. I don't doubt that the two of you will be well suited to the task."

It made sense, she thought. Both were lawyers, even if Marius worked exclusively in the muggle world. Cedrella sometimes helped out on muggle cases too, so the two of them would create quite the effective investigative team. And Cedrella's magic would go a long way to assisting when muggle procedures wouldn't grant them access to everything they needed.

"The only thing left would be a broad study into soul magics as a whole. I'll ask Lucretia to look into that when I meet her tomorrow." Arcturus heaved a sigh before up and gazing at each of them in turn. "That should be everything before we can deal with the problem for good."

There was silence in the wake of her brother's proclamation and Lycoris resisted the urge to sigh herself. What a ridiculous situation they'd found themselves in. Not that she was going to blame Lyra or anything. It wasn't the poor girl's fault that some imbecile had decided to ruin the world for some rather nonsensical ideals. Lycoris was rather grateful that Lyra had opened her mouth at all, truthfully. She didn't want to think about what her young niece might have done if she'd kept silent. Lyra always liked to shoulder everything herself, but this was far too widespread to do so. They all had to band together if they were to get anything done.

It was the whole House of Black against their enemies. There would never be any divide.


She looked up at Alphard's voice, opening her mouth to question the man before something appeared on the table. The older woman's gaze pierced into the heirloom in front of her, silver eyes studying ever inch of the thing that would no doubt change their perceptions even more than they already had.

Rough stone carefully crafted into the rounded shape required, a circular inscription of assorted runes going around the edges, the mystifying depths drawing her in via her innate curiosity …

The Pensieve was a warning all by itself.

Alphard cleared his throat. "Lyra said that it would be best for all of you to witness her life before, including the memories of how she learned about Riddle. They're … not nice, in any sense of the word. She's also asked that nobody go rushing off to kill anyone that may be alive at the current time." His blank face turned to each of them in turn so that they all understood the seriousness of the situation. Lycoris wasn't happy to see that expression. "Lyra's life as Harry was awful, but I'd like to ask that you don't treat her any differently than before. That part of her life's over now, though you will see just why she's so independent now."

With that, Alphard stood up and left the room. Arcturus followed with a quiet "I'll see you all later", leaving the rest of the room's occupants to stare at the stone bowl with trepidation evident in their silver eyes.

Lycoris stood up and walked around the table, stopping next to Pensieve to stare down into the swirling memories of her precocious little niece. If Lyra had the courage to give up these incredibly personal moments from her previous life, then they could all find the courage to dive into them to help her.

"Well, there's no going back from here, is there?" she murmured.

A hand landed on her shoulder and squeezed lightly. She turned around to see a look of grim empathy gracing Pollux's face. They nodded at each other before reaching for the Pensieve, pulling it closer so everyone else could crowd around the bowl together.

She took a deep breath and peered at her kin. They all gave her a brief nod before reaching forward as one.

Her hand touched the surface and she fell.

Merlin, I hope this isn't as bad as I'm imagining.

Lyra sighed and flopped down onto her bed, heedless of the sheets of parchment that went flying through the air.

This is complete and utter bollocks.

Tom bloody Riddle was out there somewhere doing who only knows what, yet here she was acting like a studious little schoolgirl. She should be doing something to help, not focussing on a bunch of classes that she knew like the back of her hand. She felt useless.

Lyra groaned and rolled over on her back, ignoring the crinkling sound of her summer homework from underneath her. A simple charm would fix that easily enough. The teenager – and she still couldn't believe that she was thirteen again; things went quickly when she didn't pay enough attention – could admit, at least to herself, that she was wary of how her older relatives were going to react to the revelations of her past life.

Two days ago, Granddad Arcturus had told those who were being told the full truth, and yesterday he'd let the others in the family know that there was a crazy twat running around as a Dark Lord. Lyra had a feeling that being told that there was a dumbass messing with the very laws of magic was going to light a fire under everyone's arses.

Not that she could blame the likely reactions. Tom was a fucking idiot, end of. While she could admit that a part of her still felt bad for his childhood self, that ship had sailed too along ago to do anything about it. He'd had plenty of opportunities to turn away from his moral deviations, yet he'd clung to his murderous ways with a childlike glee. And for what? Respect from a bunch of bigoted arseholes? Power thanks to destroying the sanctity of Magic? Wariness from potential allies because his pride was as flimsy as tissue paper? He was an idiot.

No wonder the prat never went to Ravenclaw.

She shook off her thoughts before she worked her way up to a fury that would only be solved through a vicious duel. Not that she wasn't familiar with the feeling; Gin had always delighted in winding Harry up until the couple descended into explosive fights that would leave various rooms of their home in desperate need of renovation. (Kreacher had moaned about it enough, but Lyra had seen him grin enough to know he'd quite enjoyed it. It turned out that a Kreacher without insanity was something of an interior designer, and he had good taste. Harry's home had always looked brilliant.)

Lyra pulled herself up into a sitting position and grabbed the letter next to her. She peered down at it again and scowled for something like the fiftieth time that day.

"… unprecedented stress on a child such as yourself … would be best to remain within a young girl's limits … perhaps after graduation …"

The letter was signed by Headmaster Dippet, but Lyra wasn't an idiot. This had Dumbledore written all over it. The piece of shit that was her current Defence Professor simply didn't like her, all because she was a Black. Well, she conceded to herself, it might have also been because she reminded him of a young Tom Riddle. Not that that was any reason to be such a discriminatory bastard.

All she'd wanted to do was take more classes than was common, and to possibly take some OWLs earlier than was normal. Hermione might have been the only one from their class to do so in her old life, but it certainly wasn't a rare occurrence. It wasn't common, but it did happen, hence why the Ministry had several rules and regulations in place for a situation wherein a student's timetable was overloaded.

Dippet didn't have much of a problem with her – Lyra's obvious closeness with her Gryffindor cousins had gone a long way to ensuring she didn't look like a prejudiced bitch – but he did have a problem, that being holding Dumbledore's 'advice' to a ridiculously high standard.

If the Deputy didn't want her taking any extra classes, then she wouldn't be.

Unless … Lyra swung her legs off the bed and strode to her desk, rifling through various school-related correspondence. Need to write back to Nicholas … Bloody hell, Patricia, give me a break … Where is – ah, here we are. Lyra studied the letter in her hand before a lazy smirk painted itself across her face, her eyes glinting with wicked glee.

Good old Slughorn.

Horace Slughorn was a consummate Slytherin in how he was ambitious, cunning in the ways he created connections, and maintained them to make himself look better. However, he did help all students regardless of blood purity, House, or political faction. It was one of the few things that Lyra respected him for. The rotund man also did all he could to help students that wanted to advance, and seeing as Slytherin was unfairly judged by a great number of other people in the castle, the Potions Master often went to great lengths to assist the snakes with their school ambitions.

Another benefit was how Riddle wasn't a well-known problem at this point in time. Slughorn didn't currently have any reason to fear for his life, didn't worry that he'd done something monumentally stupid that would throw their world into disarray. Which, he had done something idiotic, but Lyra knew full well that Tom would have simply gotten the information elsewhere even if Slughorn hadn't spilled his guts. Her professor wasn't really to blame for Tom Riddle's psychological disorders and resulting behaviours.

Anyway, if there was one man that could help her with taking extra classes, it was Slughorn. Of course, she could simply ask Granddad Arcturus to waltz into the school and terrify the Headmaster into submission, but that was a little too obvious for Lyra's liking. She was quite enjoying the Slytherin methods of subtlety in this life.

To be fair, Lyra knew that she could probably go the Ministry right now and take enough OWLs to graduate and leave school, but doing something that would let anyone other than her family know about her previous life would likely end in her abduction and subsequent death at the hands of The Department of Mysteries. Harry had worked with the crazy fuckers enough as an Auror to know that you did not draw their attention if you could help it.

As Lyra jotted down some notes so she could send a letter to the Head of Slytherin, she heard footsteps coming from downstairs. The teenager paused and carefully laid down her quill, slowly drawing her wand as she stood up. Wards or not, you never knew who could potentially end up in your house if they tried enough.

She crept out of her bedroom and down the hallway, back to the wall the entire way. Lyra was grateful for her silenced slippers as she slowly stepped down the wide, open staircase. The sounds were coming from the kitchen now, and Lyra silently took a deep breath to calm herself.

There were two voices coming from the kitchen, both vaguely familiar to the girl. She knew it was incredibly likely that they were two members of her family, but after living such an insane life as Harry had, Lyra was never in the mood for not exercising caution. She'd rather her relatives think her to be a paranoid bastard than end up six feet under.

(She'd always had her priorities straight, no matter what her batshit ex-wife had said.)

"Lyra? Are you there?"

Definitely paranoid. Lyra closed her eyes and resisted the urge to facepalm, her shoulders instantly losing their tension as she recognised the female voice. The angry muttering of the man – complete with very specific curses to that particular individual – gave away his identity, too. Lyra felt like laughing hysterically at how panicked she could get, so much so that she failed to identify her own relatives.

She shook her head and slipped her wand back into the holster on her arm. A small smile appeared on Lyra's face as she walked towards the door and pushed it open, making her way into the warm kitchen. It was bizarre that less than a week ago she'd revealed so many earth-shattering secrets, information that had the capability to send history down an entirely unprecedented course into an unknown future. Yet just last night, she and her father had spent hours together making spaghetti from scratch, stomachs aching from laughing at their disastrous attempts. This room had seen so many things over the past thirteen years.

And now her godparents were here, smiling ever so gently at her.

"Lyra." A single word was all that was said before Dorea was gathering her in her arms, pulling her in close to her chest. It was nothing like Molly's affectionate attempts to suffocate Harry, or when Narcissa had begun to gently encircle her arms around her son's friend, but it was amazing all the same.

She could feel a slight lump in her throat as the older witch pressed a kiss to the top of her head. After her father and adoptive grandfather, Lyra's godparents were the ones she'd been most worried about in terms of them accepting her. Seeing them, feeling their love for her, it was clear that she'd been worried for nothing. Perhaps after all the crappy luck that Harry had had in terms of family, the universe was giving her a break in that regard. She didn't know if that was true, or if there was another magical reason, but Lyra felt far too blessed to question it.

Having a family had always been her dream, past life or present.

A broader hand was on her shoulder, its presence drawing her attention from the warm embrace. She turned around and looked up at Uncle Orion, returning his smile with ease. Even with the faintly troubled look in his eyes, he didn't look too traumatised. As far as she was concerned, it would have been monumentally cruel to donate her memory of Sirius dying for him to view. It might have been a different version of his son, but it still would have been a memory of his son being killed by his own cousin.

No parent needed to see their own child die.

Orion repeated Dorea's movements, drawing her into his body and holding her tightly. She buried herself into her godfather's chest and inhaled deeply, relaxing at the familiar scent of musky cologne. It was a relief to be able to knock down the walls between them without any distance rising from the rubble. She'd never wanted to be in a position where she lied to her loved ones, even if it was necessary. Though not everyone was now aware of the truth, Lyra felt like she could breathe a little easier. (She'd always tried to handle everything herself, hadn't she? Gin would kill her if she could.)

Lyra pulled back and peered up at both of her godparents. "What are you doing here?"

Orion snorted. "Alphards's stuck in a meeting with a ridiculously pretentious customer, so he won't be able to come home for lunch. The girls are with my mother, and everyone else is arguing in the manor's library." The man met her eyes and smirked. "The three of us are only safe ones right now."

She grinned and giggled slightly. Her imagination was more than adequate as a picture for what was possibly occurring in their library at the current time. Their family had always been a bunch of insanity-riddled prats.

Dorea raised a brow as if she could read Lyra's mind, and the girl shot her a cheeky grin in response. The woman didn't comment, but the eye roll was more than enough for Lyra to understand her godmother's sentiment. It was rather entertaining, truth be told.

"In any case, the elves have been preparing some food for the garden, so let's go out, shall we?"

Lyra was a soul that wasn't far off a century old, she'd been the subject of a dodgy prophecy that had ruined her life, and she'd fought in a war and killed a Dark Lord at the age of seventeen. She'd been an Auror, the youngest ever Director of The Department of Magical Law Enforcement, a father and a husband. Her life had gone through so many ups and down over the years, and now she was a daughter, a precious child that was doted on by her family, an intelligent girl to be respected.

She was far too old to be feeling childish emotions, but the pained part of her mind that she usually buried was something that still craved affection and care. In this moment, she wasn't a weary reborn soul, she was thirteen-year-old Lyra Ophelia Black, and she was on cloud nine thanks to the acceptance of her family.

Lyra looked up at the two adults and beamed widely.

The party of three made their way to the garden where they spent a couple of hours eating amazing food, laughing about the antics of their relatives, and scheming on how to get Lyra what she wanted for school. There was no mention of Tom Riddle, the upcoming war, or anything even remotely serious.

If this wasn't proof that there was something to look forward to after Tom was taken care of, she didn't know what was.

Lyra laughed at the affronted look on Uncle Orion's face as Aunt Dorea mocked his inability to brew a decent sobering potion, remembering the usual effects of the man's drunken state. She smiled to herself, soaking in the happy atmosphere.

The House of Black was going to get through this. She knew it.

A/N: Hello again!

This. Bloody. Chapter. Sorry it took a while, this lockdown is doing a number on my mental health, I swear to god. Am I the only one not having a productive lockdown? I literally have no motivation right now. I did watch a few good crime documentaries on Netflix, though. They totally distracted me from writing. My bad.

As for the section order I mentioned at the start, it's 2,3,1,4. Hope that helps :)

I hope you guys understand why I've brought in these specific people and for what reasons. I think this fic really gives me an opportunity to get into so many characters that weren't expanded on in canon. And if anyone asks me what'll happen with Tom, I actually already have the end of this plot written out. My original plan for this fic would have had Lyra already in her NEWTs, but I eventually decided to change things and go a bit slower. So yeah, I have an end point, it's just getting there. That's not an end for the fic, just this plot. Tom is NOT the focal point, or 'main villain' or anything. This is a family fic, not an action one.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter (after all these months). Once I got into the hang of writing, I really lost myself in it. Hence why it's a lot longer than I was planning lol.

Btw, if anyone's seen 'Don't F**k With Cats' on Netflix and can recommend me something similar, I would legit love you forever.

See ya next time!