Chapter One - Part 1/2
Arcturus squinted his eyes as the dawning light crept into the library, gleaming through his half-empty cognac bottle and onto the mahogany floors. The morning radiance revealed the myriad of bookshelves filled with several texts on Grindelwald along with the silver trim of the emerald carpets he was now pacing back and forth on.
Within the blink of an eye, the grandfather clock caught Arcturus' attention, which had struck seven as the last remaining members of the Black family began to file into the room one after another.
First, was his younger cousin Pollux, who looked similar to himself except his hair had remained black and his face did not appear as distressed and timeworn as his own. He carried an elegant ivory cane that flaunted a giant emerald on top that caught the eyes of even the wealthiest aristocrats of wizarding Europe. An enduring visage of cheer defined his features, never failing to reflect his pleasant disposition.
Then there was Walburga, his daughter in law, who always looked as though she had just whiffed a batch of rotten vegetables. The middle aged woman held her wand in hand as if a duel were likely to occur at any moment. The golden serpent she wore around her neck swung like a pendulum as she moved, managing to stand out amidst the sparkling diamonds she was drenched in.
Cassiopeia was next, his younger cousin by fourteen years, who strutted into the room wearing a ravishing gown with all the vivid colors he would expect on a peacock. She wore a dreamy expression exaggerated with heavy makeup that helped disguise her age. If Arcturus didn't know her, he might expect the woman to be on her way to the Weekly Witch's monthly fashion show.
The last to enter the room was Bellatrix, his grandniece.
She was a bizarre looking witch adorning a dazzling but gothic sort of outfit that contrasted her pale complexion. Yet, beauty was also captured in her peculiarity with the most enchanting pair of dark eyes he had ever seen. Her wild jet-black locks flowed past her bare delicate shoulders with unique grace. There was also a lively disposition about her that was reflected in the bright jewels she wore around her neck and the embellishment of the velvety red make up painted on her thick lips. Her dress fitted her vuluptous figure to perfection, though she was still far too intimadating for anyone to ever approach. For him, her superficial totality encapsulated that of a dark angel exuding power and lust.
Putting a cigar in his mouth, which lit automatically upon his first puff, Arcturus peeled his eyes away from Bellatrix and made his way to the front of the library. Behind the desk that overlooked the room was another wall painting of the Black family tree, which bared the same marks of burnt sheetrock and torn wallpaper as the one in his office. Pacing back and forth before it with a wooden cane supporting each step, he waited until everyone was seated - however far apart from each other - in the neatly arranged furniture before speaking.
"I have called this family meeting because there has been a rather . . . astonishing development. One that favors the fortunes of this family."
Pausing his speech, he allowed the commanding thumps of his cane and the lingering smoke before him to set the milieu of the upcoming conversation, continuing to pace back and forth in front of the family tree.
"I say this to each and every one of you. Do not think for a solitary second that I am reluctant in striking you from this family tree and all the comforts that accompany your relations to it. From this moment forward, I will eviscerate you from the very memory of this ancient family if you are to put a single toe out of line. Do I make myself clear?"
If it weren't for Arcturus' old age, he might have been able to hear the breath of a fairy in the resulting silence of his threat. Tossing a newspaper that announced the Potter's death onto his desk, he went on.
"Before I move any further, all of you will raise your right hand and agree to the following conditions. You are to make the Unbreakable Vow. If at any point you do not agree with the terms you may leave this room, and thereby forfeit your rights to Black family name."
Once more, silence followed the old man's command as they all raised their right hand with little hesitation. Everyone in the room was familiar with Arcturus' tone and no one -not even Bellatrix - was willing to cross him. After all, there was nothing in the family's history to suggest that the old man was to be distrusted.
Taking out his wand, Arcturus began the oath.
"Do all of you before me agree to protect the new heir to the Black family? He is of our blood. Do you also agree to never reveal his identity unless I have commanded otherwise? Yes or no?"
Yet again, another period of silence ensued in which the four remaining Blacks exchanged wide eyed glances of surprise, not a single one managing to keep a straight face.
Nevertheless, a resounding 'yes' followed, Bellatrix being the last one to agree.
However, her piercing eyes remained fixed on Arcturus as the beam of light that had wrapped around their hands vanished. Her upper lip twitched as a smile crept onto her face for the first time in days, a girlish anticipation drowning her recent sorrows as she broke the muteness.
"Well, who is it grandfather?!"
"Harry Potter," Arcturus responded in triumph, a crude smile of his own spreading across his face as he held his wand at the ready, hearing the gasps of his family.
Bellatrix's smile receded as if a thief had snatched a lollipop from a child's mouth. Her eyes widened and her lips became stiff as she started in a defiant whisper, realizing she had been tricked.
"But . . . the boy is dead . . . the boy is dead!"
Arcturus let out a dark chuckle.
"No Bellatrix, the boy is alive and well. Your lord merely left a small scar atop his forehead."
Often quick to respond on impulse, Bellatrix remained frozen at these words as Arcturus continued to the rest of the family.
"Walburga," he raised his hand in foresight, stopping the next objection before she could begin, "I already know. He's a -"
"A filthy half-blood, Arcturus! How could you?!"
"Silence!" Arcturus bellowed as he brandished his wand towards her, employing a useful silencing spell.
"Now," he began in a more collected manner as he glanced over at Bellatrix, who looked ready to curse him at any moment, "allow me to quell your concerns. This mudblood you speak of, Lily Potter, defied the dark lord three times. Three . . . times," he repeated himself.
"Her rare talents are well documented, yet you tell me she was a mudblood? You claim...a mudblood was capable of fighting off the dark lord? Are you positive of this?"
As Bellatrix and Walburga shared a look of uncertainty with each other, Arcturus knew his strategy was beginning to work - just as Abraxas suggested it would. Pollux wore a skeptical expression as well.
"Perhaps Dumbledore had a hand in her birth if she possessed such talents, concealing her from the dark lord . . . perhaps Grindelwald."
The old man was aware that he was speaking utter nonsense at this point, but he was also aware that pureblood bigotry led to all sorts of nonsensical rationalizations and delusions.
"She bore a son that sent the dark lord to his grave as an infant," he continued. "So let us not dwell on the child's blood status. Instead, let us think of the power he is likely to command and the family that will possess such power, shall we?"
Bellatrix still had her hand on her wand, unnerved and ready to strike. However, Walburga was peering down at the floor as she began to run her tongue over her lips, her face contorted into a thoughtful expression. Pollux had nodded his head at every word as if he had helped prepare the speech Arcturus was now giving. Cassiopeia, on the other hand, looked as though she hadn't heard anything - her eyes glossed over and lost in space, matching her blank face.
"Are there any other concerns here? The boy will grow up a pureblood, our family will possess a capable and true heir, and the Black family name will live on," Arcturus reveled in his last statement.
"Well," Cassiopeia spoke up in her girlish tone, her long fake eyelashes dancing as her eyes blinked in rapid succession, "the boy is only one year old, Arcturus. How can you expect the family name to be continued? He cannot reproduce."
Arcturus, who had not managed to have a discussion with Cassiopeia in nearly a year though she lived in the same house, returned her blank stare with one of his own.
'The old girl has finally gone mad,' he thought to himself before replying.
"Yes . . . well, we will do our best to resolve those concerns, Cassiopeia. Are there any other concerns, somebody else perhaps?"
Pollux stood up and allowed a thump of his cane to call attention to himself. As usual, he wore polished leather brown loafers in business attire along with a small english top hat, commanding a certain amount of respect for his accomplishments in the private sector.
"Surely you do not think that the dark lord is dead, Arcturus? No body . . . no evidence of his death. Perhaps he is weak, perhaps it will take years, but he will return. What then? You have just put us all in grave danger! Have you no plan?"
Relishing in the same fervor that his cousin just spoke with, Arcturus stole a menacing glare at Bellatrix before responding.
"Do not accuse me of naivety, Pollux! I appreciate the complexity the issue as much as anyone in this room. There is, of course, a plan. I have spoken with the Malfoys, as well as a number of other families that followed the dark lord, and they have all come forward with similar concerns. Many wished to defect upon seeing the lengths at which the dark lord was willing to go to achieve power, but they were frightened for their family's lives. Their resignation would have been akin to a death sentence."
Bellatrix had heard enough.
"And they would have deserved to die! I would have killed the traitors myself!"
"O shutup!" Arcturus spat. "Your unwavering loyalty to that sadist was an infatuation with a man! A monster! Not a cause! You disgrace the family -"
Bellatrix fell to the floor, bound in ropes as her intended curse went flying in another direction, singeing one of the many texts upon the nearest bookshelf.
"Thank you, Pollux."
Pollux bowed his head in respect, gesturing for Arcturus to continue with his plan as he stood over his granddaughter, who was shrieking like a madwoman.
Letting out a heavy sigh as he shook his head and tilted it to the ground, Arcturus lifted his silencing spell from Walburga while placing one on Bellatrix.
"As I was saying," he plowed on, "there were many families that had wished to defect, yet were unable to do so. Now that the dark lord is gone, it is possible for families such as ours, the Malfoys, and a few others to provide additional incentives for the pureblood families of England to band together and prevent him from regathering his followers. His presence once united us all, I think the fear of his return could do so again. Remember, Pollux, the reason the dark lord was able to persuade so many to join his cause is because families like ours failed to lead them. That will not happen again."
Pollux and Walburga glanced at each other from the corner of their eyes, their lips tightened and their faces stern as nuns.
"Is that all?" Walburga spoke up. "A united front led by the wealthiest families? Offering ministry positions, lucrative employment, whatever else you mean by 'incentives' . . . It may not be enough to conquer the fear the dark lord instilled in these families."
"That fear was instilled by the sheer number of followers he had at his disposal, not his power alone," Arcturus replied. "At any rate, that was not the only course of action I had in mind."
"Well your first plan is by no means full proof, Arcturus," Pollux chastised, "your next had better be something good. So go on . . . What is it?"
Arcturus removed his spectacles for effect, smothering his cigar and looking at each individual in the room with hardened eyes.
"Gellert Grindelwald . . . Abraxas and I have formed a plan to set him free."