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Summary: After the war, the survivors try to find a way to cope with the losses they have incurred and move into a future they have yet to create. As they try to find ways to save themselves, they realize that perhaps the best way is to save each other.

This story will eventually be Harry Draco Slash. It will probably take a while to get there from here. This chapter is rated for general audiences.

Posted so far: 12 Chapters / 54,688 words.


Again and still: thanks to [ profile] ivyingardenfor all the help making this a better fic! She patiently helps me brainstorm (with some great ideas to throw into the cauldron), is fabulous with canon, has a knack for language, and keeps at me to "write write write!" In this chapter she went above and beyond, and role-played/ helped write the dialogue between Andromeda and Harry.

Also, thanks to [ profile] rosskpr, for beta work that is both meticulous and enthusiastic. She helped me catch several canon errors in addition to watching my grammar and asking plot flow questions, and her encouragement keeps me writing!

Any errors after the two of them have combed through the work are from the author not paying attention!


Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and the lovely world they live in all belong to JK Rowling. I play here.


As always, reviews and critiques keep the creativity flowing! Let me know what you think!

Accepting Black

May 5, 1998

The floo connection to the kitchen at Grimmauld place had never been closed. Part of that, Harry supposed, was the Fidelius charm. If the Floo Network Office didn’t know the floo existed, they could not shut it down. That, and Voldemort’s ministry probably wanted to catch someone trying to travel there by floo powder. They could not shut down what they could not find, but they did have a watch on the floo network, and would have been happy to trap the Trio if they had used the floo. Harry was just as glad it had never been closed; he did not think a request to open a floo connection to a building that was not currently in use would be high on their priorities, as busy as they were.

Entering Grimmauld Place through the floo evoked memories, most of which Harry would just as soon not deal with. Memories of Sirius, of Dumbledore leading Order meetings, of Mrs Weasley cooking for the whole bunch of them, of Snape spitting vitriol every time he saw Harry. He tottered for a moment, dizzy from the floo, then stepped aside for Mrs Tonks to come through, hoping that there was not some aspect of being a secret keeper that was unknown to him and would prevent her from getting through the wards.

She arrived successfully, to Harry’s relief.

“Oh, my. I have not seen this place for many years. It does look a little the worse for wear. People were living here?” she asked Harry with some disbelief.

“It was more a place to have meetings than a home. But yes, those who needed to live here did so. For some of us, it was too dangerous to live in more welcoming surroundings.” He could not quite repress the bitterness in his voice. He avoided having to see the gentle look on Mrs Tonks’ face when a small, ugly creature launched itself at Harry’s belly.

“Master! Master has come back! Kind Master has returned!”

Mrs Tonks gave an astonished look at the small being. “Kreacher? That is Kreacher? What did you do to him?”

“Me? Nothing!”

“He was absolutely devoted to my aunt, and-- not so much to those who did not follow her views. You must have done something.”

“Oh, that.” Harry looked down, slightly embarrassed. Dumbledore had been right: Kreacher’s behaviour was a result of how he was treated. He didn’t like to think of the end results of his – and Sirius’ – behaviour toward the house elf. “I gave him something that belonged to Regulus. It was important to him.”

Extricating himself from Kreacher’s grip with a careful pat on the house elf’s shoulder, Harry stepped off the wide hearthstone flooring and continued into the kitchen, more out of habit from all the time the kitchen table had been the centre of the Order’s activities than any expectation that what they sought would be there.

“Severus Snape…” Moody’s voice accompanied Albus Dumbledore’s ghostly image. Harry froze for a moment.

“Shi—ummm, blast. Sorry, I forgot about that.” Turning toward the spectre, he whispered “I did not kill you.” The phantom exploded. For a moment, Harry wondered what Snape would have felt when he came and ransacked the house. He could not have said the phrase, not truthfully. And to lie about it… given what Harry now knew, he wondered if Snape could have spoken that lie. It was all too complicated. Between Dumbledore and Snape, Harry had been helped, hurt, praised and belittled, but worst of all, he had been used. He couldn’t think about it right then, maybe never.
“Harry, where do you plan to live once the Hogwarts repair is completed?” Andromeda Tonks’ question woke him to his surroundings.

“I hadn’t thought that far out. All I could focus on was Voldemort.” Harry was pleased to see Mrs Tonks did not flinch.

“Would you live here? If it were cleaned and made liveable?”

“Kreacher cleaned up the place really well last time we were here. And he's a pretty decent cook,” Harry told her. “But I’m not sure I’m ready to live in Sirius’ house.” Everywhere he turned there was one more thing to consider, one more thing to take care of. Is this what being an adult was like? Suddenly, he missed his time at Hogwarts. He never got to finish. He wasn't ready to give up the only home he had ever known, especially after missing the entire last year. He wasn't ready to face all these decisions.

Kreacher hurried over. “Master? Kreacher is able to be making food for Master. Is Master needing lunch?”

“Not right now, Kreacher. I'm here looking for something, a piece of parchment or a scroll that Sirius would've spent time working on.”

“Oh! Kreacher sees Master Sirius, the bad boy who was never good to his mother, working, working many days on a parchment. Master Sirius wrote on many parchments. Kreacher sees him tearing and burning parchments and writing again, until Master Sirius had just one. And the bad Master Sirius used his wand on it.”

“That sounds like it.” Mrs Tonks commented.

‘Kreacher, do you know where he put it?”

The house elf wailed. “It is gone! Kreacher has failed Master Harry!” He looked as if he was about to start banging his head against the fireplace from which they had just emerged.

Mrs Black’s portrait in the entry hall hadn’t awakened yet, but if Kreacher kept up like this, it wouldn’t be long. Harry shuddered at the thought. “Shhhh, Kreacher, please don’t hurt yourself. Just tell me what happened.”

Kreacher turned from the wall. “Master Sirius put it away. Master Sirius was being clever; he hid it behind a board in the Master’s room. Kreacher saw him. Master Sirius cast a spell, and the parchment rolled itself up, and he put it behind the wooden wall.”

Sirius’ room had been wainscoted. “It isn’t still there?” At Kreacher’s vigorous shaking of the head, Harry prodded, “where is it now? Did someone take it?”

“Master Sirius made a spell, and the gaps between the boards went away. But when Master Sirius left here...” Kreacher lowered his head. “Master Harry should punish Kreacher for what Kreacher did that day. Master Harry cared about Master Sirius and ...”

“Kreacher, stop.” Harry’s voice shook. He did not want to remember that his house elf, now so loyal, had once betrayed Sirius in the worst way possible. If Harry let himself remember, he was not sure he could be kind to Kreacher, and it was obvious that Kreacher needed kindness. “Just continue with the story.”

“Master is kind. The night Master Sirius was leaving this house, a few hours after he was leaving, the board was disappearing and the parchment was appearing and the parchment was flying over to the desk in Master Sirius’ room. Kreacher saw! But Kreacher did not touch. The next day the parchment was gone.”

“Who all were in the house the next day?” Mrs Tonks asked. Kreacher didn't respond.

“Kreacher, please answer the question,” Harry prodded.

“The white haired wizard, the long nosed wizard--”

Snape was here that day?”

“Harry. We know Professor Dumbledore read it. It is reasonable to assume he was the one who found it, then. But now, we know he did not put it back.”

“So, to Hogwarts next?”

“Indeed.” She gave a firm nod.

* * *

After a quick face-only floo call to the Headmistress’ office, the two of them flooed through. Harry landed on the far side with only a bit of a wobble. Okay, a stagger, but he had been able to catch himself. If he travelled by floo several times a day, Harry wondered if eventually he’d be able to do it gracefully. Some witches and wizards seemed to do everything with grace and elegance. He remembered Lucius Malfoy’s cold grace. He could not imagine him ever stumbling out of a floo. Was it a pureblood thing, or was it practice? By the end of today, with all the floo travel he’d be doing, he would get perhaps a glimmer of an answer to that.

“So, Mr Potter, how can I help you?” McGonagall rose from behind her desk as they stepped into the office.

“We’re looking for Sirius’ will.”

“Whatever for? Harry, I assure you that the monies and properties that Sirius left you have been transferred to your name and vaults. What could you need from the will after all of this time?”

Andromeda Tonks drew herself up. “Minerva, I do not believe that is any of your business. The will should have been between Harry and Sirius Black, and whomever Sirius assigned as executor. But I will tell you that I am disappointed that Harry was never informed of his role and responsibilities as Head of the Black family.”


“You didn’t know?” Mrs Tonks asked.

“It hadn’t occurred to me that he was. Albus told me that Sirius left everything to Harry, but I assumed that it was just Sirius’ property that he left, and not the Black estate!”

“Sirius was the last, living Black who had not married into another family. Even though my aunt burnt him off the family tree, he carried Black blood, and she did not complete the ritual of banishment, else he never would have been able to return to Grimmauld Place.”

McGonagall cast a cautious look at Harry.

“Yes, I told her. Voldemort is dead, most of the Death Eaters are in hiding or captured, and I sincerely doubt that she would suddenly decide to aid them after they have killed her family.” Harry looked over to Mrs Tonks, slightly abashed at himself for talking to the Headmistress that way, and also worried that he might have awakened her grief. Even though she had been very practical about the funerals, and about helping him, he could not help but think she had to be in pain. He knew he was. It was only managing all the practical details that kept him from going to his room in Gryffindor Tower, closing the bed curtains around him, and bawling. He didn’t want to bring up someone else’s pain, especially after she had been so kind and helpful, and had told him things that he needed to know.

But Andromeda Tonks looked at him not in grief and pain, but with a glimmer of pride in her eyes, as if to affirm that that was exactly the kind of strength she wanted from the wizard who would soon be head of her family.

“So you understand the need. The Black family has been without its Head for almost two years. While it has declined in the recent past, I will not see the family I was born to die out due to negligence.”

“I do see. But what do you expect Harry to do? And, if you will pardon me for being blunt, how does it concern you?”

“It’s the funerals,” Harry put in. “It started with the funerals. When I went to see her about Tonks and Remus, we ended up talking about quite a bit more, and –”

“Harry, there is no need go into detail. Suffice it to say, Harry has chosen to accept his role, and we need to clarify what is necessary. To do that, we need the document.” Mrs Tonks put in.

“I’m not sure where it is. I know Albus took it, but don’t know what he did afterward.”

“I believe I can help there,” a familiar voice added, causing Harry to startle. He had forgotten about the portrait.

“Albus. Good to see you again,” Mrs Tonks said, greeting him warmly. “I expect you have been listening in. I wonder why you kept such important information from Harry.”

“At the time, there were other considerations. It would not have been safe for young Harry to do what was required, and as the Black family had no ... active members, there did not seem to be much urgency. And the other obligations would have put him at risk.”

“Albus Dumbledore! You know very well you had no right to interfere with a Family matter!”

“He was underage, Andie. Who should I have consulted? Narcissa perhaps? Should I have checked with Bellatrix? They were the ones who had the right to make decisions at that point, and I was not going to let them, either of them, have that kind of leverage in Harry’s life.” Harry had rarely heard Dumbledore speak quite so vehemently, even when he was alive.

“You could have come to me.” Mrs Tonks spoke quietly.

“You will pardon my bluntness, Andie, but you were not exactly in a place to make decisions for the Black family, nor would the magics have allowed it, as Narcissa and Bellatrix were both alive, and Narcissa free. There was no overt suspicion on Narcissa Malfoy at that point. Her husband, yes, but Narcissa could have emerged blameless. And with Harry underage, she may well have ended up his guide. I could not take that chance.”

“It wasn’t your chance to take. You never did recognize the importance of family lines, Albus. Just because I supported you, Albus, does not mean I agree with all of your decisions. But that is two years in the past, and at the present, we have need of the will.”

“My boy, is this really what you want? Are you sure you don’t want to wait a bit before taking on such responsibility? I’m not sure you are fully aware of what this will involve.”

Harry gazed up into Dumbledore’s concerned eyes. “Then I’ll learn. It’s for Remus. And Tonks. And Teddy, my godson, who deserves to have all the advantages I can create for him.”

Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes started twinkling. Harry was not sure how paint on canvas could twinkle, but there it was.

“I understand, Harry my boy. I suspect even I underestimated your ability to love.”

Harry groaned. Somehow Dumbledore made it sound altogether too simple. It was not simple. But Harry supposed that Dumbledore was right that it was because he cared that he was doing this.

Dumbledore continued. “It is in the Headmaster’s—excuse me, the Headmistress’ library. There is a book by P Foote. It appears to be about various types of dogs.”

Harry looked up at the Headmaster in surprise. Somehow the fact that the book was so appropriate made Harry feel warm inside. Dumbledore had apparently put quite a bit of thought into it.

“If you hold the book in your hands, and say the phrase “It's a dog's life,” it will open as a box instead of a book. The will is inside.”

The will was still there.

I, Sirius Black, of the House of Black, do hereby bequeath all that I own, including monies, personal possessions, and all real estate, including unplottable and otherwise hidden properties, to Harry James Potter.

Harry Potter is the son of my heart and my mind. With this, I wish to state my intent, of heart and soul and magic, that the world should treat him as my son from this day forward. Should he wish to accept this, he may find the way home.

I give him all my love.

Sirius Orion Black

“Kreacher said it took him several days to write this.” Harry commented, wonderingly.

“He wrote the important things.”

Harry swallowed. Sirius had always made it clear that he loved Harry, from the first time they met. He said he thought of him as a son, but for him to actually offer to make it real was knowledge Harry would hold close to his heart.

“He wrote it as a scion of the house of Black,” Mrs Tonks commented, “which means, when he gives you all that he owns, he includes the Black heritage. So that is now confirmed. And he made it clear that he is magically claiming you as a son.”

“How could he do that? I mean, wouldn’t I have to be descended from the Black family?”

Dumbledore’s portrait interjected at that point. “Your father’s father married a Black, Harry. You and Sirius are second cousins through his mother, and third cousins through his father.”

“You and I are second cousins as well.” Mrs Tonks added.

It had never occurred to Harry that he had family other than the Dursleys, and they didn’t count. He had actual blood family, through his father. He sank onto the cushioned chair.

“Sirius didn’t say how to accept the Black Heritage.”

“He used the word home.”

“That wouldn’t have been Grimmauld Place.” Harry mused aloud. “He never thought of that place as home.”

“It was not the Black home. Orion and Walpurga lived there, but Arcturus, who was the last Head of the Black family, lived at the Black Estate. That is the centre of the family.”

“Mrs Black wasn’t the Head? Her portrait certainly acts as if she was.”

“No. While she was born a Black, and married one as well, it was Uncle Orion who was in the primary line. And his father outlived him.”

“So, we have to go to the Black Estate? Do you know where it is?”

“I do. But it is more than that. See this mark, right after the word home?”

Harry looked at the parchment. He hadn’t taken Ancient Runes, but he could recognize it as one. “Did Sirius take Ancient Runes? He didn’t seem the type.”

“He was very bright, without even trying. But he would not have had to take any classes to know this rune. Any Black would know what it is, and where it is. And this over here tells you what to do.” She pointed to a splotch of what looked like brown paint, flecking off the parchment.

McGonagall stared at it. “Sirius would never—“

“He would and he did,” Mrs Tonks replied shortly. “And you can keep your prejudices out of this discussion.”

The Black Estate

May 5, 1998

After a silent walk through the corridors of Hogwarts, including a couple of detours around debris and blocked passages, and across the grass and past the edge of the Apparition wards, Mrs Tonks took Harry by the shoulders, took a moment to get ready, and then Harry experienced the now familiar sensation feeling of being squeezed into a narrow tube. The next thing he knew, they were in an open field, bright with spring green. He took several deep breaths to try to quell the nausea, and after a few moments, turned in a slow circle to look around. The ground was mostly flat, with only the occasional hill. Over to the west was a wooded area, perhaps even a forest.

The fields appeared to stretch into the distance in the other three directions, and Harry wondered if they had arrived in the right place.

“Come here. We have to get through the wards first. She drew him over to stand on a circle of black soil surrounded by a low brick border. The weeds that grew everywhere else did not grow inside the circle. Taking a knife, she pricked a finger, and let her blood drip onto a stone on the other side of the circle from where they entered. Harry flashed back to Dumbledore, smearing his blood on the walls of the cavern where the fake Horcrux had been kept. He shuddered.

“It’s just for recognition, Harry. Don’t let other people’s prejudices get in your way. My blood will work for the first part. I may not be Black in name at present, but I was born so, and am Black in blood. You need to say the next part: ‘Tojours Pur. Credo.’ Mean it, even if you have to redefine what it means to you,” she told him.

Harry remembered what the words meant. He was not sure if he wanted to claim belief in that saying. Redefine it. Always Pure. He had rid himself of the taint of Voldemort’s soul. That was a purity he could believe in. He said the words fervently.

The air shimmered as if it were much hotter than an early day in May, and suddenly, in the near distance, a house appeared out of the rippling haze.

Harry was not sure if the structure should be called a house, a mansion, or what, but whatever it was, it was dilapidated and overgrown with vines.

“Those were grape vines. England is a bit far north for the best grapes, but with just a touch of magical attention, they could produce passable wine. With a bit more magic, the wine made a good base for several potions. It was nothing the Blacks would serve, of course, but it had its uses.”

They made their way through the overgrown field, and then through the overgrown courtyard.

As they reached the porch, Mrs Tonks brushed her fingers down the left side of the door, and gestured to Harry to knock. He did, wondering why he was knocking on the door of an empty house, especially one that was supposed to be his, which still boggled his mind.

The door clicked, and Mrs Tonks reached with the still blood-tipped finger, and pushed open the door.

The air smelled stale, as if the windows had not been opened in years, which was probably the case. Sheets of cloth were draped over furniture, and everything was very still. Harry felt like an intruder.

“Guests would come in through here, or through the floo over there.” She gestured toward a huge, marble-lined stone fireplace. “Over that way is the dining room, and there was the men’s study.” She led him further in, and there was a parlour with faded lilac walls and green-hued tapestries and rug. There was also a huge stairway toward the middle of the room, a bit off to the left, which arched in a slow circle. “Upstairs is the master suite, guest rooms, and so on. There is another staircase in the back of the upstairs hall that leads downstairs again to one of the Black libraries, and another study.

Harry just looked around. The house was huge, but all he could think of was how much time it would take to clean. He wondered if they had house elves. Probably.

“When I was a little girl, my Great Uncle Arcturus was head of the Black family. He and Aunt Melania hosted the family gatherings. I was here for Bella’s Coming of Age. Of course, by the time Narcissa had hers, I had already been disowned.”

“What about yours?”

“That was the year they found out about Ted. It was not a pleasant year.”

“Oh.” Harry didn’t push. “So, what do I have to do here?”

“You accomplished the first test already. The House has accepted you as a member of the Black family. But to become Head, you will have to go deeper. The glyph Sirius drew tells us the next part. It symbolizes the core of the Black magics. Every member of the Black family is required to study it. We are brought to touch the glyph at birth, we begin studying its meanings at age seven, and learn of it within our own magics as soon as we are able to do so.

“You would not normally be asked to accept the Family until you had become familiar with the meanings of the glyph. As it is, the meanings will most likely flood you when you accept the family. But you will still need understanding. If you will allow it, I will undertake to guide you as you learn and understand what it is to be a Black.”

Harry thought of Sirius’ mother. Mrs Tonks had said she was insane. But so many people had said the Black family was irredeemably dark that he couldn’t believe it was just the one person. Mrs Tonks had been thrown out of the family, after all. Questions were tumbling over themselves in his mind, trying to get past his tongue. “I don’t know how to ask you this... Were you able to learn what I need to know before...”

“It is required to learn it before coming of age. I did indeed learn what you need.”

“And will it be something I can... tolerate? It won’t change me, will it? I mean, I loved Sirius, and you and Tonks are both good people, but you were all cast out. If the Black family is the type to disown you, do I even want to take in its magics?”

“I can’t make that decision for you. Of course it will change you. All magic changes you.” Mrs Tonks stopped. She ran a fingertip along the back of a sofa, shaking off the dust. Turning to look out the window, she spoke, choosing her words carefully.

“The family magics themselves are neutral, Harry. They are about protecting the family, about the focus and drive of the family members. The flavour that drive takes on is up to the individual, and tradition in the Black family has certainly been dark, but the core of Black is learning. It is why the Black libraries are the best you’ll find.” She looked back toward Harry. “I won’t pretend that the Black family is anything other than a dark family. There will be parts of the Black heritage that you will find repugnant, I am sure. There will be parts of the magic you take in that you will have to transform before you feel comfortable with it. But the Black family once valued learning for its own sake, dark or light.

“Once you are the head of the Black family, you will be able to influence the interpretation of the glyph and our family motto. As head of the family, you will choose our direction. I believe I can trust your direction.” Her eyes grew stern. “I will also trust you to learn what it is to be Black before you start trying to change it. That will mean keeping an open mind about things you may have been trained to reject. Minerva McGonagall is not the only Hogwarts professor with her prejudices.”

“Are you talking about dark magic?”

“I am talking about learning about something before you accept or reject it. As head of the family, I will trust you to do your best by our family. Although I was disowned, I never stopped being a Black. The core values are written into my soul. I would hope that before you change our course, you learn about what you are changing.”

Harry took that in. He never liked it when people judged him, whether it was based on his ability to talk to snakes, or the whole Boy Who Lived thing. But dark magic had robbed him of his family and his childhood.

“Okay,’ he said slowly. “I’ll think about it.” After a moment he continued, “what was Professor McGonagall upset about?”

Mrs Tonks lifted one of the cloth coverings that draped over a sofa and folded it. She cast a quick spell and the remaining dust disappeared from the sofa, and she sat, still holding the cloth, and gestured for Harry to do likewise.

“Sirius placed a drop of blood on his will. Family magics are private, Harry, but the will has what is necessary. The glyph gives one piece of information. The blood gives another.”

“So to become head of the Black Family, I have to…”

“Blood calls to blood, Harry. The Heartroom will make it clear by its configuration what you are supposed to do. But the blood on the will indicates that you will have to sacrifice some of your own. Enough for you to be recognized as carrying Black blood.”

Harry gulped, remembering the night Voldemort was brought back. The memory of being helpless, tied to a stone in the cemetery, threatened to overcome him. He took a deep breath. Why would Sirius do that to him? He knew what Harry had been through.

Mrs Tonks must have seen his face. “It is the way the Blacks have always done rituals of this import,” she said gently.

“How much blood?”

“That depends on what Sirius wanted for you and for the family. I expect the family magics will also have their say. I doubt Sirius would have wanted to burden you with six drops. Others amounts seem to apply. Nine or ten drops seem likely. Eight is possible.”

Harry stared at her.

“Did you never take Arithmancy?” Harry shook his head. “Did you ever study even the basic energy of numbers?”

“It wasn’t covered in any of my classes. Well, except for divination, but that never made much sense.”

“It should have been taught. It is one of the roots of magical theory, and has its influences everywhere: how many times you repeat a wand movement in an incantation, how many drops of something you add to a potion for a given effect. What is Hogwarts teaching these days?”

At least she didn’t blame him for not knowing, Harry thought. Hermione would know this. Harry grinned. She would have five books for him to read about it, if he asked. Which he might do, come to think of it.

“This is simplification, but it will give you a sense of it. One is unity and individuality, two is dualism, balance and partnership, three is communication, four is stability or creation, five is action and life, six is returning, reaction, responsibility, seven is thought and the powers of mind. Eight is sacrifice for the sake of power, as well as the paradox of change and constancy which you get in cycles; this also brings power. Nine is interconnection and transformation. Ten is rebirth. And of course nought is everything and nothing. The higher numbers create more complicated magics, but usually, simpler is better. The number of drops you sacrifice will influence the outcome, it will influence your role as the head of the family.”

Drops, Harry thought. He could deal with drops. “So how will I know…”

“One drop at a time. You’ll know.”

Harry hoped she knew what she was talking about. He felt woefully underprepared. He just wanted to make sure Remus had a memorial, and that it was with Tonks. They were married. It was right. How could it go from something so simple to something so overwhelming? Learning about a family history, and not even the Potter family history but another one, which he was somehow related to, and was supposed to take over, to some how lead. It didn’t make any sense. How could he be in charge of Andromeda Tonks? She was so self assured, and not in the cold way that some purebloods were, but like she knew exactly who she was.

“Does it really matter to you? I mean, this is the family that threw you out.”

“I'm a Black, Harry. On the tapestry or not, I belong.” She inhaled deeply.

“When I married Ted, I married into a Muggle family. I know what Muggles have to offer, their unique ways of looking at things. But I am a Witch. Ted’s family was delightful, but the fact remains they had no magical heritage. Harry, the feel of that magic uniting us during family ceremonies was one of the hardest things to give up when I chose Ted.”

She turned to face him, watching him intently. “I miss that, Harry. The comfort, the presence of the Noble and Ancient Magic. You can make it a proud House again, Harry, but first you need to know it.”

Harry looked down at his trainers. They looked shabby against the thick, deep green rug, even as dust-covered as the room was. The place, though dilapidated, was clearly once grand, part of a long tradition. And while Mrs Tonks had said he was related to the family, it didn’t feel real to him. Did that mean he really was related to Teddy? And to Sirius?

It felt like Mrs Tonks had higher expectations than just taking on the name of Head of the Black family and making a few decisions in that role so that Remus and Tonks could be remembered together, at the Black estate. Suddenly he felt like he had when he became aware of the expectations the wizarding world had of the “Boy Who Lived.” “I’m not trained in any of this. What if I make a mistake?”

Mrs Tonks looked at him with an expression he was not sure how to interpret. “No one expects perfection from you, Harry,” she said softly.

“Tell that to the Prophet.”

“Be that as it may, I don’t expect perfection. I just expect you to learn, and make your decisions with understanding. I trust your integrity for the rest.”

He doubted he would ever grow into these grand rooms. He was unsure whether he wanted to integrate the Family Black into his soul, after having just shed a dark soul. But for every Bellatrix in this family, there was a Sirius, or a Tonks. And he had said he would. Sirius had wanted him to do it. Mrs Tonks seemed to want this. It was for family.

Harry stood.“What do I do?”

“First we have to find the Heartroom.”

“Find it? Haven’t you been there before?”

“The way into the Heartroom changes.”

“Then how do we find it?”

“Come by the fireplace.” Mrs Tonks gestured to a spot on the floor. It didn’t look any different, but he moved to stand where she indicated. “Place your hand here, and think of your need to know the Black family. The room may not let me in. This is your task, as a candidate for Head of the family. Look for the glyph. Remember that acceptance goes both ways.”

Harry did as she directed, placing his hand on the smooth stone of the mantle. There was a slight bump where he placed his hand, and when he lifted his hand to look, he saw something that looked a little like the glyph on Sirius’ will, only incomplete. He gazed at it for a moment, and then replaced his hand. He thought of Sirius, of how much time he had missed, how many opportunities he had lost to get to know his godfather better. He thought of Tonks. He thought of a family he was related to, which he only knew from the outside.

The stone under his hand began to warm, and he could feel the bump writhing underneath his fingers. He imagined a hidden door opening, like a trick bookcase in a mystery story.

A tug behind his navel warned him, and suddenly he was in pitch darkness.

He jerked his wand from his robe pocket, berating himself for letting his guard down. Moody would have been disappointed. Just because Voldemort was dead, and most of his Death Eaters captured, didn’t mean they all were.

He couldn’t hear anything. He couldn’t see anything. He held himself very still and listened. The silence was absolute. No sound of breathing. His heart beat so quickly, he could feel his body shaking with its thrum.

“Mrs Tonks?” he whispered. No answer. Harry deliberately slowed his breathing back to something approximating normal.

“Lumos.” The darkness didn’t recede.

“LUMOS!” Nothing.

A tickling sensation pushed against his thoughts. ‘Protego!’ He thought the word automatically, falling back on habit. The sensation pushed deeper, making his hair itch. Or his skin. Or his brain. It felt like Legilimency, but bore as much similarity to Snape’s attacks as feathers did to bludgers.

“Acceptance goes both ways.” Mrs Tonks’ final words rang in his mind. He couldn’t think she had betrayed him. He wouldn’t think that of her. His stomach clenched in pain at the thought. Other people he had trusted had turned on him, but what did she have to gain? He was trying to get to the Black family Heartroom… and he ended up here. Perhaps he was where he was supposed to be.

Did he really expect the Black family ritual for accepting a new Head of the family to be tame? This was for Sirius, for Remus, for all the people he’d lost. This was to give back. He could do this for them.

Acceptance. He opened his mind.

Past thoughts and actions washed through him. His first memories of bewildered hurt, when the Dursleys had not cared for him as they had Dudley. The hurt was buried under years of bitterness toward them, but underlying that was a child’s insistence that ‘family shouldn’t be that way.’ He re-experienced the joy at discovering the wizarding world. Events throughout his time at Hogwarts, and how he felt about various people.

There was prodding at his feelings toward Sirius: complicated, guilt at his death, anger at the man for making the wrong decisions, joy in knowing him. The prodding moved on and evoked his feelings about Malfoy, not so complicated, fury at what he had done, letting Death Eaters into Hogwarts, the memory of him stomping on Harry’s face in the Hogwarts Express, amusement at the ferret incident. Yet... Malfoy had not been able to kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore had wanted to give him a chance. He remembered the fierce joy at beating Malfoy to the snitch, and the bitterness every time Snape had ignored Malfoy’s acts to sabotage Harry’s potions, taking points from Gryffindor. He remembered Malfoy’s face in the bathroom, crying. Perhaps Malfoy was more complicated than he thought.

Images of Narcissa Malfoy washed through his mind, one with her face twisted, as if she smelt something rotten, another with her begging for information on her son, repaying that information by lying to Voldemort.

He was drenched in his memories of the Weasleys, of his craving for family, tempered by his awareness that he was welcome, but not truly needed. He remembered the time spent at the Burrow, and how glad he was when Mrs Weasley gave him tasks just like she did Ron and Ginny. His mind flowed through images of weeding the garden, not just because it gave him something to do with his hands, while his mind went blank, but also because it was something he could do for the Weasleys, who had done so much for him. He felt his motivations being evaluated, perhaps judged.

When the few interactions he shared with Mrs Tonks flowed through his mind, he realized he didn’t know her well. He had asked her if she wanted to be part of the Black family again because it was the right thing to do. She had lost people. She had lost all of her family, just like he had. But he could give a family back to her. He hoped she valued it as he did.

He was amazed at her strength, that she was here with him, instead of lost in grief for her daughter. He wondered how many times she had feared for Tonks’ life, in her time as an Auror. How did she do it? In her position he’d be raging. He remembered how he had been when Sirius died. It still hurt, but he no longer needed to lash out at everyone for daring to have sympathy. He knew he should be feeling something about Remus, about Fred, about so many others, but it was as if his capacity to grieve had been numbed. There was just too much. He just had to keep moving. Remus needed a funeral, Tonks needed to be by his side, at least in memory. Teddy needed… What Teddy really needed, he would never have. He had lost his parents, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about that. But Harry could make sure that Teddy never lacked for a family that cared for him.

He hadn’t noticed as torches started glowing on the walls while he was caught in his memories. When the flow of images subsided, he found he had closed his eyes and opened them, wondering how he could have let himself close them in an unfamiliar place. The dim light revealed a small room. There was no door, no window.

He looked around the room. The entire room, the walls, the floor, was made of stone. On one side, a stone chair was carved into a pillar. On another, a shallow stone basin extended from the wall. The bottom of it was stained dark. Above that was the glyph from Sirius’ will.

He reached over to trace his fingers along the shape of the glyph, wondering what Mrs Tonks had meant about studying its meanings. After he did so, he realized how incredibly stupid it was to touch it. The percentage of things at 12 Grimmauld Place that had been booby trapped, cursed, or otherwise made dangerous had been rather high. He could not imagine who would want to live like that. But if Mrs Tonks was right, he was in the very core of the Black Family. It was either safer because of that, or infinitely more dangerous. When nothing seemed to happen to him, he reached out to touch it again. He could feel the curves of it, the edge where the carving came to a peak, the bumps and valleys. It was about the size of his hand, such that he could lay his hand over it and completely cover it, but just. It felt like stone, it looked like stone, but there was something about it that felt alive. Unless he was imagining it.

He sat in the stone chair. It was surprisingly comfortable, shaped to him, but not in such a way that he’d fall asleep. If he sat against it, his back remained erect, and his eyes naturally turned toward the glyph. The room seemed smaller than it had when he first saw it. He could see the inside of the basin. The light above the glyph and basin flared higher, and he could see the flecks of brown that had accumulated in the bottom, and the brown stain that rose about a quarter of the way up the shallow bowl.

It became real to him why McGonagall had been so upset. He shivered as his mind flashed back to the cemetery after the last task of the Triwizard Tournament. The last time his blood had been used in a ritual, it had not turned out well for him. Or for Cedric. Blood magic was dark magic. The memory of that night pulsed in his mind, the high thin sound of Voldemort’s voice, Cedric dropping in a flash of green light, the rough stone of the gravemarker they had bound him to scraping against his back as Wormtail sliced his arm open. That was blood magic.

Remus’ memorial could be somewhere else, Harry thought frantically. Tonks had never liked the Black Mausoleum—Mrs Tonks had confirmed it. Only… Andromeda Tonks had been cast out. She was alive, and deserved her heritage. Teddy deserved to know all of his past. Sirius would not choose anything that would harm him.

He took his wand, held his left hand over the basin, struggling to keep it from shaking. He took a deep breath, and another, until his wand was still as well. Carefully casting a cutting charm against the palm of his hand, he squeezed a few drops into the basin. He counted them: one, two, three...

When he reached nine, the glyph flared, and Harry felt as if he had been struck by lightning.

He could feel a current running through him, connected to the glyph, connecting outwards. Each time the current completed a link to something, there was a responding current, a sense of satisfaction, of wholeness. Parts of him were reaching, reaching, looking for an answer that never came. His veins, his nerves, all burned with an aliveness he had never experienced before.

Spots flashed in his vision, to be replaced by an image. It looked a little like the tapestry of the Black family tree, only there were no names, just flashes of light, patterns of energy. There were holes in the fabric, and he could see tendrils of energy reaching into the holes, writhing, searching. Crude stitching had been sewn around the holes, blocking some of the tendrils, but others got through.

It hurt. It felt as if he was draining away into the holes. He pulled back, and the pain diminished, but there was still the yearning to complete the fabric.

Knowledge, images flashed by too fast to comprehend. He felt surrounded by people, some familiar, some who felt as if they should be. He felt anchored, connected to a past so old it was as if he was rooted in living stone.

And suddenly, something changed, like a lock shot home, like catching a snitch. It felt like when he had successfully cast a fully formed Patronus the first time, when all the elements came together. A final burst of magic shot through him like electricity, and then it was over. Harry reeled. He realized he had come to his feet when the magic coursed through him, but his legs would no longer support him, and he collapsed back into the stone chair. The room was fully lit, and where there had been plain stone walls, Harry could see lines of energy forming patterns on the stone. As he rested, they dimmed, darkened.

What had happened to Andromeda? Mrs Tonks, he corrected himself, although an echo inside him called her cousin. Andromeda Black Tonks. She was part of his family. It finally felt real. With that thought, one of the rips inside him began to knit itself back together, and he felt just a little more complete.

* * *

The room suddenly got brighter, as a door that had not been there swung open. The light hurt his eyes. Andr—Mrs Tonks’ silhouette, glowing around the edges from the light behind her, resolved into her face and form as she entered the dimly lit room.

“How do you feel, Harry?”

After all that had happened, he expected to feel awful. He took stock. He didn’t hurt. Not physically, at least. “Fine. Only—full. Top-heavy. He stood up, and wobbled a moment, before the sense of being connected re-established. He belonged here. He could feel—he reached out across the connections, feeling the land around him, and sparks—he sat down again.

“Careful. Give yourself time to adjust.”

“I feel—larger. Or smaller. Like I’m part of something.”

Mrs Tonks’ face took on a wistful expression for just a moment, so quick he might have missed it.

“That’s what you were talking about, isn’t it? It’s the Black magical heritage.”

She nodded. “I think that’s all for today. Give yourself time.”

“But, the estate. The funeral.”

She joined Harry in the room. “I can take care of all of that, Harry. Your Remus Lupin will be remembered. Nymphadora will get what she needs to come home.” Harry’s eyes were on hers when she spoke. He saw it then. A moment of desolation. She had lost her daughter. She was doing all of this, planning funerals, helping Harry. He didn’t know how she kept going. But she took a deep breath and patted him on the shoulder.

She smiled, gently. “It will all work out. It will be easier for me, however, if you accept me back into the family now, and delegate me to work on your behalf, for what needs to be done.”

“What do—” Even as he began to form the words, he knew. He felt the hole where Andromeda Black should be. It was already mostly repaired. He reached through it. He could feel her, almost see her in flickering lights. “I need…”

“One drop each.” She took the same knife that she had used before, and nicked her palm, allowing one drop into the basin. The flickers that he recognized as Andromeda Black became clearer. He reached. She cleaned the knife and handed it to him. A small cut, a single drop, and with a flash, the hole in his mind was smooth cloth. She was part of the fabric.

Harry realized he had closed his eyes, and reopened them. The expression on Andromeda Black Tonks’ face was something he would remember for a long time.

*   *   *

As Harry followed Andromeda Tonks out of the Black mansion, she pointed out the huge old mausoleum.  Harry distantly nodded his agreement that Tonks would not want to be interred there.  It was difficult to pay attention to her words, or her hand as she gracefully indicated each feature of the estate that they passed.  The vines cried to be pruned, and the garden wanted to be weeded, and there was an echo in the back of his mind droning on with flickers of parchment filled with numbers.  The wards were weak in spots, and he found himself turning toward one of the weakened spots.  Just a little of his magic, just link to the ward and send a little of his magic to shore up--

“Harry?  Harry!”  Andromeda Tonks called from further away than she should be.  How’d she get way over there?   “I should have realized.  Harry, come here.”  Her voice was soft and calm, as if she were calling a skittish kitten.  She reached for him.  It was okay, she was part of him, so it was okay.  He let her take his hand and pull him toward a corner of the house, where the black crest had been carved in bas relief.  “Harry, I want you to look at the crest.”  It was a pretty crest.  It was his.  He felt a sudden burst of warmth shining through him.  He turned to smile at Andromeda.  “No, Harry, keep your eyes on the crest.  Feel how strong it is.  Feel how old it is, how deep it reaches into the past.” 

She was right.  It was strong.  The Black family was old. 

“Now, Harry, I want you to remember your parents.  What are their names?”

“James and Lily Potter.” 

“Can you picture them?” 

Their images, as he had seen them in the Mirror of Erised, as he had seen them as they walked with him into the forest, became clearer in his mind.  And suddenly, he was alone in his mind.  He was Harry Potter.  He looked at Mrs Tonks, aghast.

“I’d forgotten about that.  I deeply apologize, Harry.”

“What was that?”

“When you connect to the Black family magics, the needs of the family can become overwhelming.  If your will isn’t strong enough, you can start to live for the needs of the family, instead of your own desires.  Each of us had to establish our own will at some point while we were growing up.  Before that point, our magic is not mature enough to connect with the family magics that strongly, but as our magic strengthens, so does our will.  It usually happens toward the end of our time at Hogwarts that we establish ourselves as adults.  That is why the age of adulthood in the magical world is at seventeen.  That is when we have enough will to choose our own way, and not abide by either the will of another individual or another family.” 

“I can think of several people that did not have the will to stand up for what was important.  People who didn’t stand up to Voldemort, for example.”

“Were any of them Blacks?”

Harry thought.  Sirius went against his own family to side with the light.  Regulus resisted Voldemort even after being marked.  Bella... Bella was just crazy, but she never wavered in that insanity.

“We learn to develop our own strength of mind early, as the Black family magic is one of the strongest of all of the families.”

“What would you have done if my will had not been strong enough?”

Andromeda’s sudden trill of laughter completely surprised Harry.  “Harry, think of what you’ve done.  Think of who you’ve fought.  Do you think I had any reason to doubt your will?  You were merely taken off guard.  It’s been so long since I had to fight the will of the family, I did not think to warn you.  I will endeavour to do better by you.”

Harry gave a lopsided grin in answer.

“We need to see the new mausoleum before we leave, if you are ready.  Are you back in your head?”

Harry nodded.  It almost sounded like he would need Occlumency just to keep his own mind.  “Will this happen every time I come here?”

“No.  As Head of the Family, you will always know what the family and the estate needs, but once you get used to it, and learn how to differentiate it from your own will and desire, it will merely be additional information for you to use.  The Family should take your direction, not the other way around.”

“Oh.”  Harry wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that any better.  Family was about belonging, not controlling. 

Andromeda must have seen the look on his face, because she added, “How that manifests will be based on your beliefs, Harry.  I would not have asked to rejoin the family if I didn’t trust you.  I knew what it meant, even if you did not.”

Harry was not sure he wanted such trust.  He did not think he had earned it, and unearned trust led to expectations that he would betray unaware.  But Andromeda Tonks did not remind him of the readers of the Daily Prophet.  Her trust came from her own strength.  He would... accept it. For now. 

“So, there is the small Mausoleum.  It was built by my Great Aunt Callidora, who married a Longbottom.  When he died, her children were already out of the house, and she became estranged from her son. She decided to come back to the estate to live.  But having lived at the Longbottoms, she could not bear the thought of the old Mausoleum, so here we are. 

The building was beautiful.  It was carved with vines on the outside.  It was a bit overgrown, but once there had been a garden surrounding it.  The flowers had all gone wild, and the new spring growth came through a mat of dead leaves and old stems.  But that could be fixed. 

The inside was beautiful, full of sun and colour.  “I think Tonks would be happy here.  I hope Remus...”

“I got to know Remus quite well over the past year.  He would go where Nymphadora is.”

Harry remembered the fight they had had, the last time he had seen Remus at Grimmauld Place.  He wished...

“Remus fought to do what was right for Nymphadora, even when it wasn’t what she wanted or needed.  At the end, he was by her side.  I can’t imagine that he would not find a way to continue to be so.”

Harry nodded. 

“So, if you agree, I will act in your stead, arranging the funeral and arranging for the Mausoleum to be put to rights?”

“Mrs Tonks, I couldn’t ask you to do—“

“Which is why I am offering.  It needs to be done.  We have both seen the death of our loved ones.  I have done this before, out of necessity.  I can do it again.”

Harry nodded. 

“I’ll owl you with any questions or requests.  Tomorrow or the next day.  Wait—is there something special you want on Remus’ memorial plaque?”  Harry thought about it, but felt too overwhelmed to come up with anything.  He promised to think about it that night, and send her the information the next morning.

She nodded.  “In the meantime, Harry, go and rest your mind.”

When they got outside of the wards, she Apparated them both back to Hogsmeade. 


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Chapter 1 (If you've not read the story yet, start Here...)

On to Chapter 12


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July 2012

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