What if... the universe is filled with choices, and those choices change our destiny. Theories say that for every choice we make a new universe is created. In Canon, there is little mention of the Black family outside of the youngest generations. Quite a number of the older ones were still alive when Harry was born. So I take it one step further. We know that James' mother was related to the Blacks. What if James' mom had been heavily involved with her Black side of the family? What if, in turn, the eldest patriarch of the Black family was more concerned with preserving the family legacy? Here's what I think might have occurred.
James Potter sat in the long term care room at St. Mungos, watching his mother waste away slowly, but not painfully. The healers had done all they knew to do, but nobody, neither magical nor muggle, could quite figure out her illness. All they could do was prolong the inevitable and prevent her from being in too much pain.
His mother had been a proud and strong woman, well bred and well connected. He remembered all the miserable dinner parties, where he had been stuffed into dress robes and paraded around the estate with the other children. Those parties had ended, but his mother had still maintained contacts with almost all of her old Hogwarts friends. It still marveled James how many of the older women came to visit his mother on a regular basis. James would be worried, scared even, if it were not for two distinct facts: his mother was a pureblood, and thus no harm would come to her particularly. Also the Potter money was useful for something, and James made sure that his mother had a private suite and the ability to have a clean change of robes when the society ladies came to call. Extra wards and charms around her bed didn't hurt either.
James might not have wanted a single whit to do with any of them, finding them stuffy and bigoted, but his mother loved her old Hogwarts friends. They brought joy to her face as she whispered and gossiped about the ones that were still alive. Her body might be all but gone, but her mind was as good as ever.
James looked at his mother, who was dozing after another pain treatment. It had been a bittersweet time after graduating from Hogwarts. He graduated in May, with all his friends, and took the qualifying tests to start Auror training. After he passed the test he got married to his sweetheart, Lily. Two months after getting married, his father died. Then Lily's parents were in an accident, and now his mother was on death's door. He sighed and slumped into the chair slightly.
"Figures we'd find you here." A cold aristocratic voice rang in his ear. Lily was at the Order headquarters, trying to keep up with the latest information, and left James to his mother's bedside. The voice belonged to one of his mother's cousins.
James stood up and turned around. "Madames Black. How kind of you to stop by."
"Please, Helena was our best girl at Hogwarts, even if she was a Ravenclaw. " The elder of the pair sniffed.
"And she was a Black, by extension." The other nodded solemly.
James knew the whole story. His mother had been born Helena Celeste Burke, first cousins with the two witches who stood in front of him. Irma Crabbe Black and Cassiopeia Black.*
"Yes. You ladies see fit to remind me of this constantly."
Cassiopeia shrugged. The 68-year-old witch sat down in a conjured chair and called for her house elf.
"Mimmet!" The elf popped into existence, and bowed to her mistress.
"Tea for three." Cassiopeia commanded, and conjured a chair for her sister-in-law.
Irma sighed and sat down. "Rest my weary bones… So how have you been, James?"
James sighed. "I've been fair, as fair as one can be with a mother on her deathbed and a father not yet fully cool in the family plot."
Irma sighed sadly. "Too many of the old guard are dying off. These young ones have no respect for our traditions and values." Irma glared pointedly at James, who sighed again.
"Well, if you ladies will excuse me, I must be getting back to my wife."
Cassiopeia shook her head. "We need to talk to you, James Potter. We came to see dearest Lena, but we also have a mission."
James shook his head again. "No way. You know where I stand on this matter."
Irma laughed and put up several layers of silencing wards that would have made Moody proud. "Please, James. We are not young, we have no use for this 'Dark Lord' foolishness. It's bad enough my nephews are caught up in it."
James sighed. "And your children, and your grandchildren to boot."
Irma heaved a heavy sigh. "Fruit of my womb, betraying all that is sacred. I'm afraid for this generation. They follow too blindly the words of a mystery man. I swore to Cyg and Dru that marrying those two girls off to the likes of Malfoy and Lestrange just to spite the one who married a mu… muggleborn was foolhardy. Now look. Bellatrix is half crazy and Cissa can't even walk the streets like a proper Black. There were a half a dozen proper purebloods willing to marry Cissa alone. Nice sensible chaps like that Greengrass boy and that Davis boy."
Cassiopeia waived her hand over the tea tray, which had appeared while Irma was ranting. "Have a spot of tea. I promise none of it's tainted. No… this is family business boy, nothing to do with anything except your current predicament. "
James was startled. "My… current… predicament?"
Cassiopeia nodded. "Arcturus may be getting along in years, but he's being a proper Head of the House Black. He is mostly concerned that the younger ones don't seem too keen on continuing the family lineage proper. Between the generations of so many girls being born, and the boys who are born showing no sign of settling down, he's starting to reach further in the tree for… stability."
James sighed. He had met Arcturus on several occasions, mostly when he was young and his mother still went to official family functions. "Go on…"
"Arcturus wants Sirius re-instated. He fully understands why the boy ran away. I swear my daughter doesn't have the sense of a doxy, but the younger ones follow her piping. I worry for both Orion and some of the others. The weariness of it all..." Irma sniffed into her tea.
James was struck dumb. He thought that Sirius was being the odd man out, not that it was hard to see why, with half the Blacks his age likely getting the Dark Mark before the ink was dry on their Hogwarts diplomas. The ones who hadn't had either been disowned or married a Death Eater, if the reports were any truth.
"What does this have to do with me?"
Cassiopeia smiled. "Arcturus wants to meet with you at the Black family home in Scotland. Lucy and Ignatius will be there, as will Alphard and a few choice others."
James stiffened. Ignatius was Molly's uncle, and decidedly light. Alphard had given Sirius money to 'keep him going'. He still didn't trust it.
Irma nodded. "Don't you worry, and bring that pretty little wife of yours. Arcturus has his house warded so heavily that Merlin himself couldn't find it if he wanted to. Paranoid old man."
Cassiopeia laughed. "It's the Black family way. Walla's the same way, except she's just plain crazy."
Irma laughed. "That she is. Can't believe she's my own daughter." Irma sobered quickly. "I honestly don't know what's going to become of our family, James. Too many of us lapsed on having children… if we had known that 'this'" Irma waved her hands out to indicate Britain in general, " was going to happen, I'm sure that Cassi would have married that Swiss fellow who came calling the one time."
Cassi shook her head. She had her own secrets, and they would come out soon enough. "Just make sure the two of ye are there."
James nodded. He brokered no promise though. If it was truly family business, he only had to bring Lily. Dumbledore was busy enough, and no suspected Death Eaters would be there, if the ladies in front of him told the truth.
Three weeks later, his mother was still alive, thankfully, and James found himself sitting in the Scottish countryside in a house Sirius never mentioned his family owning. Sirius himself was at Remus' house, with it being close to the full moon and all. Lily sat beside him, in a pair of semi formal robes custom made for her. Even though she was not the biggest fan of green, these robes were a dark emerald green, embroidered with gold details. James similarly wore a dark, almost navy blue robe with silver embroidery, fine threadwork and other details he often overlooked for less expensive, more practical styles. His attention to detail was rewarded, since Lucretia and Ignatius had both arrived in similar robes, probably coming from the same robe shop. A girl, about 16, was sitting with in Slytherin colors: a green and black summer robe embroidered with tiny sliver snakes. She was rather striking, with dark hair, almost black, and stunning blue eyes. She was quietly reading a book, although every now and again she would look up and view those around her.
Cassiopeia was also there, sitting in a corner, sipping on a cup of tea James was sure was spiked with something. Next to Cassiopiea was a woman, who was likely in her forties, who all but screamed Black Family. She too was wearing green and black, except her robe was black and embellished with green designs that resembled crawling ivy. Next to her sat her exact copy, only around James' age and wearing powdery blue robes with silver trimmings.
Arcturus walked into the room, aided by an ancient looking walking stick that was pitch black, except for the green emeralds that danced about the design. Upon closer inspection, James realized that the stick was covered in snakes, and that the emeralds were eyes.
Jeez… these people do love their snakes… was James' only thought.
Arcturus looked around and smiled. "Good of you all to come. I am especially glad to see you here, James."
All eyes turned to James and he nodded, falling into familiar protocol for these types of family events.
"Now you all may ask why you have been called. You are all busy people, but you are the ones I trust with this task, who have not been disowned by the family." Arcturus continued.
Ah… that explains why Sirius isn't here. James thought to himself.
"Violetta, who is this you have brought with you?"
All heads turned, and James was curious about who, precisely, was Arcturus addressing. He quickly found out when the fourtyish woman spoke.
"This is my daughter, Cassiopeia Luna Fitzgerald. Her younger brother is still in school, and too young to matter anyway." Violetta spoke.
Ignatius spoke first. "But, pray tell, who are you?"
Cassiopeia, the elder one, spoke. "This is my daughter Violetta Fitzgerald. She's my only daughter, and I left her with her father's family in America to study at the Rothschild Institute of Magic."
Ignatius sniffed. "Convenient for you. Everybody assumed you were unmarried and childless."
Cassiopeia nodded. "That's what I intended, Ignatius. And for it I am glad. Look what a mess staying in Britain has done to the family! Speaking of which, who is that?"
"Our daughter, Ursula. Seventh Year at the Sagemoor Academy for Witches. She's on track to becoming a Barrister for the Ministry."
James tuned the resulting dithering out. It was all about how they masked their children from the 'official' Black Family Tree for this reason or that, wanting to protect this interest or that one. It was the same old story. It was common practice to try and protect children during times of political upheval, which Britain, at least the magical government, had been in since the 30s. Others might pretend to be ignorant, but a family like the Blacks would have been aware of Voldemort for ages. Especially since, if the reports were true, his Death Eaters had been active since the mid fifties, well within the time it would have taken for Cassiopeia to have found the time to marry and have her daughter. If he had to estimate, she was born sometime in the 40s, during the War.**
"Enough!" Arcturus used a sonorous charm to get his family's attention. "Whatever the circumstances… you are all here now. As I said, we must protect the Black name. It is too great to fall into disarray and fade into history." Heads nodded around James. He still didn't understand why he was here.
"So I will be instituting Patria Prosapia Imperium."
James blinked once, and then twice. Others began murmuring as well, and Arcturus raised his hand to silence them all.
"It is the only way that I can be sure nothing… ill.. will affect the family interests. My Solicitor will send out the terms in detail, but the basics will entail this: if you are married currently, you will remain married until at least three viable offspring are born. Viable, meaning non-squibs. If you are not married you will marry a pureblood within an acceptable time frame, and then birth three viable offspring within an acceptable time. If you and your spouse die before your children are 17, then your children will be raised by one of the families on the list, and no other."
James sputtered. "Do you mean you wish to take away my right to choose who will raise my children should something happen to Lily or myself?"
Arcturus simply looked back at James. "Within reason, Mr. Potter. There will be a provision, allowing that the family you choose is within good standing, and able to properly support and train your child. Deference shall be given to those who dwell in this room." Arcturus paused. "You can't honestly say that you want that filthy Muggle family of your wife's any say in how your wizard children will be raised?"
James was appalled, even if he did despise Lily's remaining family. However, Lily spoke up just then.
"My parents are dead, and Petunia will have nothing to do with the raising of any of my children, lest the gates of Hell themselves freeze over." Lily spoke coldly. James wondered what had transpired between his wife and that sister of hers to spawn so much venom in his dear Lily.
Arcturus nodded. "Smart girl you have there, James. So all of you will sign the agreement. It has been settled." Arcturus stood and left the room, leaving the others to discuss matters. James walked over to where Violetta and Cassiopeia II were seated.
"Madames Fitzgerald. It is a pleasure to meet you." James bowed solemnly.
"Mr. and Mrs. Potter. The pleasure is mine." Violetta smiled genuinely.
"Did you come all the way back over here for this meeting?"
Violetta shook her head. "No. We've been back for a while, getting ready for Cassi's wedding.
"Wedding?" James looked at the young woman.
Cassiopeia II sniffed. "I am getting married on the Winter Solstice of this year. I have an apprenticeship with a Potions Master in France, and I want to have the wedding bit done before I started."
James nodded. "Fascinating. Is he British then? How did you two meet? "
Cassiopeia smiled. "We met during an exchange program. He came over to visit Rothschild's brother institution, Burundy. There was a social and we hit it off right away. Turns out he is a distant cousin, his many times Great Grandfather was first cousins with Phineus Negelius Black."
With that, a second piece of the puzzle fit together. Cassiopeia Fitzgerald would be a Black in name, and was quite literally the future of the family, unless by some miracle Sirius was restored to good standing.
While James put the puzzle together in his mind, Lily talked to Cassiopeia. "So Rothschild is an all girls school?"
Cassiopeia II nodded. "All girls, from ages 8 to 18. The Americans start witches and wizards off with basic magic much younger than here in England. Makes more room to learn more magic. Rothschild also believes in teaching Latin. A Rothschild witch is most coveted among American wizards. Most of us end up marrying Burundy wizards anyway. They're the only ones we socialize with, anyway. "
Lily smiled. "What's the school like?" James shook his head. Lily, ever the scholar.
Both Cassiopeia II and Violetta smiled, as if remembering a wonderful dream. "School runs full year, with a three week vacation after every quarter. Rothschild is completely private, unlike Salem or the Sariol Schools. Only purebloods of good standing are accepted, unless a particular student shows 'exceptional promise and work ethic.' "
"The grading is much stricter than what I hear of Hogwarts. There are three cloisters: Everett, Maplethorpe and Sutton. I was a Sutton. Our colors were green and silver, and our house mascot was a jaguar. My mother was an Everett, with purple and silver as the colors, and the lynx as a mascot. Maplethorps were maroon and silver, with the panther as a mascot. It was truly a rewarding place to attend school."
Lily found herself wondering what her life would have been like, attending a school like Rothschild. James just smiled and asked the next question that formed in his head.
"So, all that fancy American education, and yet here you are, back in Britain."
Cassiopiea narrowed her eyes. "Why yes, Mr. Potter. I came back to Britain because it is my ancestral home. Orion is British through and through, although for certain reasons he attended Beauxbatons instead. Don't give me that look you know full well that Beauxbatons has been co-ed since the early 1700s. This is where Ori lives now, and he wants to remain on the Isles. I could leave tomorrow and have another prospective husband and a job within the week. However, the Potions Master I am to study under is one of the best in the world. Thrice winner of the International Potions Brewing Tournament, and creator of several potions currently in use by governments and hospitals around the world to counteract the ill effects of several nasty curses.
James was slightly surprised. This girl, who appeared to be everything he hated about the Black Family, was actually intelligent. He couldn't back down now, hough. "Do you think we've got it all wrong, then? With your pureblood only education, do you think ill of Hogwarts for accepting students despite heritage?"
"No, most certainly I do not, Mr. Potter. I just feel like because you Brits get such a late start, and have all the mudbloods to keep pace, you don't make the full use of your education."
James turned a dangerous shade of puce, but felt Lily's hand just barely touching his. He looked over and saw her face was calm, her voice surprisingly even. "Well, how do the other schools in America do it, then? They can't have uneducated wizards and witches mucking about, now can they?"
Cassiopeia II shook her head. "Certainly not. They go to a special school at the first permanent signs of accidental magic, to avoid the messy clean-up that occurs if they were to remain in the American public school system. After they turn eight they either qualify for Salem, the largest public wizarding school in America, or one of the many smaller private schools that accepts regardless of blood or economic status. And Rothschild has been known to accept non-purebloods. There was an Everett my year who was the daughter of a muggle senator and his wife."
Lily nodded. "That makes sense. I suppose. Well, we must be going. We have not yet spoken to Ursula, and we also have things to do and matters to tend to. James?"
James simply nodded too angry to speak. They made it over to Ignatius and Lucretia, who was talking to Cassiopeia I. They made the same idle chatter, finding out about Ursula. They then left, knowing that Ignatius was itching to speak with Violetta and her daughter before the hour grew late. They said their farewells and went back to the apparition point to make the jumps back home.
The pair were soon back in their home in Gordric's Hollow. James practically exploded, while Lily started preparations for a proper dinner.
"How could you let that… insignificant little snit speak to you like that! The nerve of her! And Arcturus! He practically said your family would not be worthy of being associated with somebody with Black blood in their veins!" James wished to smash something mightily, and was at a loss at what it should be.
"James." Lily spoke quietly
"And Cassiopeia! That woman has been coming to see MY MOTHER on her deathbed, and can't even be bothered to tell my mother that she's been married and has children! Grandchildren!"
"JAMES!" Lily's wand was out and James felt simultaneously stunned and unable to speak. He wondered where she picked that little trick up from.
"I will unfreeze you, but you will remain quiet until I have finished talking, understood?"
James nodded, feeling much like a chastised child being caught out of bounds after curfew.
James almost wanted to make a joke about not being Sirius, but felt it was not the time. He found his way over to an overstuffed chair his aunt had given the couple as a wedding present and sat down.
"Two things first. I was not offended, because I am still angry at what Petunia told me when I went to visit my parent's grave yesterday. Secondly, I was adopted."
James was startled. "Adopted? ADOPTED?"
Lily sighed. "Yes, adopted. As a baby, I was adopted, before I started in with the accidental magic bit. Petunia told me that she remembered very little, only that Mother came home one day with a baby. She told me that there were documents in the paperwork that Mother and Father had left, and two boxes of it were for me. We had quite the row, right out there above my parent's graves…" Lily sobbed. The wounds of losing her parents were still fresh.
Lily regained her composure after a minute and continued. "So I have these boxes… and I haven't but looked through a bit of it all. The important papers were right on top. It's what I did while you were on patrol last night." Lily took a small box out of her robe pocket and put it on the floor. She un-shrunk it and took out two faded envelopes, handing them to James.
One was Lily's Muggle birth certificate, listing her parents as Rose Connor Evans and Frederick Alan Evans. The second was a magical birth certificate, listing her mother's name as Susannah Fells, and her father's name as Henry Fulton. The stamp on the corner, which James had on his own certificate, shocked him to the core.
Blood Status: Pure
He barely saw the chicken scratch next to it indicating known purity of six generations. He gaped. He didn't understand. He looked up into Lily's face and saw unshed tears.
"According to the letter my birth mother wrote and left in the folder, she was only fourteen when I was born, and Henry was a married man visiting America on business. He told my mother that he would raise me here in Britain, since his wife could not conceive. She was to write him as soon as I was sent to the hospital in London and he would pick me up from there. She was not a willing participant in the 'relationship', still being a student at Rothschild at the time. Concealment charm to hide pregnancy only work when you're pregnant. It would have been impossible to hide me once I was born. I was sent to London when I was old enough to travel with the wet-nurse and left at St. Mungos. From there Henry was supposed 'adopt' me as his own, owing my looks to happy circumstance or maybe an adoption ritual. The adoption folder picks up from there, saying that a baby came in with a haggard looking man, who simply left the baby at the front desk with a note indicating my birth date and first name."
James sagged into the chair. He was stunned. Floored.
"I want to sign those papers, James."
James looked back up at his wife… his dear sweet Lily. "Papers?"
"I don't want my children left to the same mysterious fate I was left to, without any ties to my other family. I feel as though a large hole has been formed in my heart. A whole family I don't know anything about! What would life have been like as a pureblood in America?"
"It doesn't matter, Lils. Any child of mine will NOT be living with those bigoted bastards. I'd sooner send them to live with Andi Tonks. Sirius will be around… Alice and Frank will be around… Reums will be around… Heck, Peter makes a better choice than them."
"And what if they're not? We're in a dangerous organization… at any moment that door could burst open and Death Eaters could start pouring in. You've already got a target on your head for refusing their offer once. And they still think I'm a muggleborn… no amount of accurate information will dissuade them. And even if they DO find out who I am, that does not make me safe. You lot are Aurors! Whose to say that some random raid, Death Eaters aside, won't be the death of you?"
James was standing, although for the life of him he didn't remember doing it. "No! We can find somebody, ANYBODY to take our children in if the worst happens. Do you realize that the Paternis is unbreakable, superceding all other laws? It's older than Hogwarts! Back during the time of witch trials it was established to keep pureblood families together. Not even our wills would be able to stand against it! I am not handing that kind of power over to THAT family!"
Lily stood her ground. "And I say we don't have a choice! Sure, we can send our children to live with Alice and Frank, or any of the others you mentioned, but what if the choice isn't up to rational minds? Whose to say somebody takes the time to even read our wills! What if something so catastrophic happens and 'they' actually take over like Dumbledore thinks they are attempting? Our wills will be nothing more than a piece of paper to them! At least with the Paternis there is powerful magic that would prevent any misdeeds from going uncovered for too long."
James opened his mouth, and then closed it. Damn Lily and her intelligence. If the worst did happen, the Paternis would prevent anybody who is not on the list from keeping his children for any length of time. The magics binding the Paternis to the intendeds was strong and powerful. It was also ancient. Nobody he knew was capable of recreating, or tampering with magic that old. It was stronger than even an Unbreakable Oath, since instead of just binding one witch or wizard to another, it bound entire families in a bond only breakable upon death.
"Fine. We'll sign the paperwork. We can leave a will with the guardians with instructions. Merlin, I pray that nothing happens to us."
Lily nodded. "It will be fine, James. Arcturus didn't say anything about having to leave control of our estates to the intendeds, and perhaps this show of good will might keep the others from turning to Voldemort."
James sighed. "Maybe. So we sign it. Who do we choose?"
Lily was quick on that one. "Cassiopeia II and her future husband Ori. Neither of them seem inclined to become Death Eaters anytime soon, and you will note that all of the ones we suspect of being Death Eaters were conspicuously absent from the meeting."
James nodded slowly, running his hands absentmindedly through his hair. "Yeah, and Cassi practically ranted against the man. What does she know that we don't?"
"A lot. She's a Black. She's older than Voldemort. She's not likely to go following every random man claiming to… whatever Voldemort uses to get followers these days."
James had to agree. "Yeah, and the Blacks have enough properties that if the worst does happen, our children will be safe. And Violetta still has family in the States. That's got to count for something."
Lily smiled softly. "So we sign?"
James nodded. "We sign."
*Yeah, so I'm not crazy, but here's how my interpretation of this works. According to my source, Charlus was not James' father. This means Charlus had a brother. He would have been old enough to marry the daughter of Belvina Black and Herbert Burke. Making James' mother a "Black" through her mother, and still closely enough related to them for my plot.
** A timeline for the confused: Cassiopeia I was born in 1915, left England for America in 1937, married and had Violetta. Since there was a war, Violetta remained in America and married, giving birth to Cassiopeia II. Because of continued political unrest in England and reverse persecution of purebloods, the younger generations remained in America whereas Cassiopeia I returned shortly after her husband's death in the early 1970s.
A/N Just an intro to what I hope is a rewarding 'what if' story. Although I do notice something strange about the Black Family Tree that I'm using to keep me honest about the generations. If the dates are correct, Irma and Pollux Black had Walburga when Pollux was thirteen. THIRTEEN! The chart I'm looking at states that Pollux was born in 1912, and Walburga, his daughter and Sirius' mother, was born in 1925. I think it might be wrong. Tell me in comments!