A Black Secret:

Deep below Grimmauld Place, in a basement, the existence of which was known only to few, Walburga Black stood at the edge of a grand array carved into the floor. Across from her, on the other side of the array, stood her father, Pollux. It was her seventeenth birthday, and while she had received a coming-of-age present earlier in the day, this was what really mattered. A tradition beholden to their family for centuries.

Her mother didn't know what they were doing. Irma was a Crabbe by birth, and so Pollux had never told her about this ceremony, and what would follow afterwards for as long as Walburga lived. It was a secret kept under lock and key.

Five candles sat at points around the edge of the array. Pollux gestured to each in turn, indicating a specific order. "Light the candles one at a time," he instructed her. While Walburga stood on the very edge of the array, Pollux stood further back. This was her ritual, that she would have to perform under her own power, and he would not lend his strength however unwittingly by standing too close.

Walburga stood straight-backed, blonde hair tucked into a neat bun at the back of her head. Not a single strand was loose, but she ran her fingers across the side of her head as though tucking a strand behind her ear anyway, just to make sure.

Once she was satisfied she shifted her grip on her wand, bringing her arm up with a practiced flourish. Following the order Pollux had pointed out to her, she lit each candle with a swish of her wand and a muttered incantation.

The black wax of the candles, once lit, gave off a faint scent, one Walburga couldn't place. She breathed it in deeply, but could only conclude it wasn't something she had smelt before.

Walburga tucked her wand back into her holster, under the long sleeve of her dress. Then, from a pocket, she retrieved the slightly crinkled scrap of parchment Pollux had given her when they first came down to the basement. Written on it in her father's elaborate handwriting was a lengthy verse in Latin. She hadn't had time to do more than quickly read over it once while her father set up the candles and ensured they wouldn't be disturbed by her mother.

She held the parchment carefully with trembling fingers. While if asked she would claim they were trembling with excitement, and with anticipation, there was a part of her deep down inside that knew she was just a little bit terrified.

Pollux tapped his cane on the floor, just once, a little impatience rising in him. Walburga took a deep breath and launched into the verse, calling out the words with the ease of one who had spent many long years studying the dead language.

If you don't even know the language of magic, her mother had always lectured, how can you even call yourself a pureblood?

As she reached the crescendo, the last sentence of the verse, the array before her began to glow faintly, a reddish light spilling over its edges. The atmosphere in the room grew suddenly tense, and for a second she struggled to breathe, but she pushed forward, because failure was not an option.

When the final word left her mouth an acrid wind swept through the basement. It snuffed out the candle flames, but the glow of the array remained. When Walburga opened her eyes, there was a man standing in the centre of the array. Pollux, across the room, was bowing low, and Walburga hurriedly followed his example, dipping into a curtsy and lowering her head.

"Pollux," the man said, "Is this your daughter?" His voice was deep and rich and held a strange duality. He sounded almost like two people speaking in unison, their voices overlapping.

"Yes, Dantalion, this is Walburga." Pollux straightened only once he had been addressed.

At the sound of her name, Walburga lifted her head. The man – Dantalion – had moved closer while she hadn't been looking. His eyes were black, not a sliver of white to be seen.

"Good afternoon, Miss Black," Dantalion greeted.

Walburga found herself at a loss. She hadn't known what to expect when her father invited her down to the basement, but this man was not what she had been imagining.

Pollux frowned at her when he decided she was taking too long to respond, and she hastily offered up a greeting of her own.

Dantalion laughed, reading the confusion in Walburga's stance.

"Peace, good lady." He patted her shoulder with a gloved hand, seeming thoroughly amused. "I still don't see what has you Blacks insisting on being so mysterious about this whole thing. Would it be so much of a hardship to tell the next generation a little something before sending them down here?"

Pollux bristled, deeply offended. "This is how it has always been, and it is how it will always be done."

"If you insist." Dantalion smirked. "Now, my dear, is where I do some explaining, as your father fails to see the point in telling you himself. My name is Dantalion, and I am a demon of the highest calibre; none of those bottom-feeding soul dealers who deign to call themselves demons could ever compare to me and my ilk."

Walburga startled, dark eyes wide in her mostly blank face. She was entirely out of her depths. Her father had never mentioned the word demon even in passing, not once, not even in reference to things entirely unrelated to this whole ordeal.

"I'm afraid that I don't quite understand what that has to do with me or my father," she admitted somewhat hesitantly.

"I have a mutually beneficial agreement with your family. You fulfil my requests, and occasionally I fulfil yours. There are many things that demons really ought not to get personally involved with, which is when it falls to a proxy to intervene on our behalf. Your family plays proxy on my behalf. This silly little thing is how I get to know the new generations, because your ancestors decided they had rather a flair for the dramatics." He chuckled, and gestured to the still-glowing array. "They made it do that. Summoning circles don't usually glow."

Pollux scoffed, and muttered something under his breath. Walburga was used to her father acting bitter, so she didn't pay it much attention, but Dantalion stared at him with those cold dark eyes for a long moment.

His demeanour changed suddenly, smile becoming stiff and obviously faked. Dantalion tipped the black hat on his head in Walburga's direction, before disappearing as suddenly as he arrived.

Walburga stared at the array until the glow faded entirely, processing. When she felt she could speak without sounding judgmental or confused, she turned back to her father.

"Why are we allied with a… demon?" Walburga hesitated over the term, unsure of what exactly it meant.

"We do what he asks of us, because if we don't, he'll kill us all."

Pollux didn't speak again. He ushered Walburga up out of the basement, locking it carefully behind him once they were gone.

Walburga was one of the last Blacks Dantalion ever met. Her oldest son, Sirius, was a traitor to the family name, and entirely unworthy of the knowledge. Her youngest fell in with Voldemort before he came of age, and despite being her favourite child Walburga knew she couldn't risk the knowledge of Dantalion's existence falling into the Dark Lord's hands, no matter what.

In the twenty-first century, things changed all over again.

A/N: This is more or less just a little bit of background regarding something I thought I would use in Apocalypse Daze. This posting used to be a general related stories post but since I won't be doing any more of them, and the first was pretty average, I figured I'd cut it back to simply this and be done with it. Less loose ends that way.