Arcturus Black, Earl of Grimmauld, stares at the family tapestry with a frown.
It's a beautiful piece of art; a deep green background with the family tree delineated by shining silver thread. There's a new name written there now: Harry James Potter.
The name glitters with a magical glow.
He feels the corresponding deep inner knowledge that there is a new presence in the family magic – a powerful presence, but one steeped with pain.
Not a baby.
Arcturus is certain of that.
There's too much power, too much pain for a baby.
Combined with the sudden appearance of the name on the tapestry and Arcturus is bewildered; none of it makes any sense.
The name hovers beneath James Potter but there's no line to suggest that James is the father. Besides Arcturus prides himself that he would have known if the Potter heir had been serious enough about a dalliance to get a woman with child. He has spies everywhere and he knows that the only woman Potter had chased with any meaning had been the Evans girl.
Maybe it's an accidental pregnancy – regardless of how carefully they guard magic there are still accidents which happen…but, no. If it was an accident there still should have been a line denoting parentage between Potter and the new arrival.
It's as though this Harry is related but at the same time, not.
Not to mention the feel of Harry is adult – young perhaps – but not a child.
Arcturus reaches out and traces the name carefully. "Who are you, Harry James Potter?"
There's a ping as a visitor crosses the ward and Arcturus straightens, breathing in sharply. He has half-expected the message he had sent to be ignored. He strides out of his study and quickly through the passageways to the hallway where his head elf is helping to divest his visitor of outerwear.
"Lord Gryffindor." Arcturus offers a small bow of his head as protocol dictates.
Charlus Potter barely returns the nod and stares at him with hard brown eyes. "I got your summons. If this is another attempt at a rapprochement…"
"It's not." Arcturus doesn't allow the annoyance and irritation he feels about the refusal by the Earl of Gryffindor to accept the attempt to bridge the gap between their two families the year before to appear on his face. The rapprochement is vital to removing the stain from their family magic caused by his father's treatment of Dorea. Maybe if he hadn't waited so long after his father's death to make the approach but…Melania, his late wife, had been adamant that the attempt had to follow her own death. Sometimes he hates prophecies. "May we offer you some refreshment?"
Charlus shakes his head and straightens the cuffs of his stiff black robe. "I'd like to get to business."
Arcturus simply nods. "Follow me." He leads the way back to his study and gestures towards the wall where the tapestry hangs. "You'll see the reason I called you here under your line."
Charlus throws him a suspicious look but he looks towards the tapestry, tracing the lines of the Black family down to where his own name is outlined next to his wife, Arcturus' cousin, Dorea. He hears the sharp intake of breath as Charlus reads the name beneath his son's.
"Harry James Potter." Charlus murmurs softly. He looks back towards Arcturus who has taken up a sentry position in front of his desk. "You feel him in your family magic?"
"Yes." Arcturus confirms. "I came to check the tapestry as soon as I felt him appear."
"When was that for you?" asks Charlus, turning to face him fully.
"The day before last." Arcturus admits. He'd sat on the name for more than a day before giving in and sending a message to Charlus.
Charlus nods. "He's in a great deal of pain."
"Can you pinpoint him?" asks Arcturus, more bluntly than he would have normally, but Charlus isn't one for Slytherin tactics and he can see the bluntness land well with his fellow Lord.
"Not well." Charlus admits. "He's here in the British Isles somewhere North but other than that?" He snorts. "His presence is obscured and there could be any number of reasons why." He sighs and closes his eye briefly before opening them again. "Perhaps some refreshments wouldn't go amiss."
Arcturus immediately calls for his elf and orders them both a glass of whiskey. He directs Charlus to take one of the easy chairs in front of the fireplace and he sits in the opposite one gracefully just as the elf arrives back with the drinks.
They raise their glasses in a silent toast and toss back the first gulp with matching grimaces of pleasure.
"We're going to have to work together to tackle this new arrival." Arcturus says quietly but with confidence. "I know my family magic will not accept any less and I doubt that yours will either."
"You're right." Charlus admits, his tone surprisingly even-tempered. "But that does not mean I can accept your rapprochement."
"When we last spoke of this, you stated you accepted my apology for the wrongs done to my cousin Dorea by my family and for the time I took to attempt the rapprochement." Arcturus points out. "Surely those are the greatest divides among us?"
"My heir believes your heir tried to kill his friend, a friend who is like a brother to him." Charlus shoots back.
"Your heir's disapproval of mine is based on misinformation." Arcturus points out. "I have my heir's word that it wasn't him who tried to kill the werewolf and I know through the family magic enough of what occurred to know his silence is driven by family honour."
Charlus sighs. "I know you believe him and I accept that your family magic may have given you more insight but…" he holds up a hand to prevent Arcturus from arguing, "I think we'll all agree that the younger generation are all vague when confronted with what actually went down between them, but the fact remains that until the actual truth is known, I have to support my heir just as you have to support yours."
"And so no rapprochement." Arcturus states, ruthlessly keeping his disappointment from his tone.
"Not yet, but…" Charlus raises his glass towards the tapestry, "the boys are going to have to come to terms with whatever did happen because this is more important. I suspect this is going to force the issue one way or another, Arcturus."
Arcturus leans back at the use of his first name. It's rare that Charlus uses his first name although they had gone to school together.
"In truth, I've missed your friendship." Charlus says gently. "If it hadn't been for you Dorea and I would not have found each other."
Arcturus dismisses that with a wave of his hand. "I have missed our friendship too, Charlus."
"I might wish the matter didn't need to be forced this way but…" Charlus sighs, "I can't deny I'm pleased that something is forcing the issue. You shouldn't pay for your father's bitter pettiness or my son's misconceptions and I hate that Dorea is caught in the middle. She was devastated to hear of Melania's death and she hated not being able to attend the funeral to pay her respects."
As always the mention of his late wife tightens Arcturus' chest and for a second he finds it difficult to breathe. It's only been a year since Melania had died and he grieves for her every day.
"If anyone can force things with James, it's her, and she wants this matter settled." Charlus says.
"Then we'll settle it." Arcturus says.
It feels like a promise as Charlus nods in agreement. Maybe the words to agree the rapprochement cannot be used right then and there but they will be used within days not weeks or years. Arcturus can live with that.
They sip their whiskey and their eyes are drawn back to the tapestry.
"Have you ever heard of such a thing happening before?" asks Charlus.
Arcturus shakes his head. "No." He looks over to Charlus pointedly. "You?"
"No." Charlus breathes out in a long-drawn sigh. "Do you have any theories?"
"He's too powerful for a child and his presence is too formed. It's as though he entered our world as an already grown adult." Arcturus summarises where his own thinking has landed succinctly.
"Yes." Charlus agrees with a sharp nod. "But a young adult. I feel that. He's younger than James."
Arcturus inclines his head. It's very likely Charlus can feel the presence within his family magic much clearer than Arcturus can since Charlus seems to be in the direct line in some way.
"He's definitely related to the Blacks as the family magic would not have recognised him otherwise but there is no direct lineage." Arcturus waves towards the tapestry. "What it means for him to hover beneath your heir on the tapestry…"
"He's definitely a Potter and while our families are interwoven everywhere," Charlus gestures at the tapestry himself, "my marriage to Dorea is the most direct link." He purses his lips. "I wonder…do you believe it's possible he time travelled from a future we haven't lived yet?"
It was certainly a theory only…
"If he has travelled in time then why isn't the lineage showing? There should be a line back to James at least."
"Maybe, although perhaps the magic cannot recognise his parents as they have yet to be born?" counters Charlus.
Arcturus concedes the concept with a sigh of his own. He sips his whiskey and mulls it over. "He's very powerful."
"Yes," Charlus says quietly, "very powerful. He may be the most powerful wizard in the Potter magic."
Arcturus raises an eyebrow at that because Charlus has never been someone given to hyperbole.
"You sense the same." Charlus challenges him gently.
"He is powerful." Arcturus allows. Very powerful, and although he may be loath to admit it to Charlus, he knows Harry James Potter is probably the most powerful wizard in the Black family. That's huge given his own heir is a magical powerhouse, and it's not as though the Blacks generally are lacking in magical power. The three sisters from Cygnus' line are all magically strong.
"He's hurting." Charlus murmurs. "I ache to sooth him but I cannot find him."
"You've tried scrying?" asks Arcturus.
"Dorea tried practically the moment he hit the magic." Charlus confirms. "It's how we know he's in the country." He finishes his whiskey and sets aside the glass. "The scrying couldn't pinpoint him."
"If he is a time traveller, it could be Time herself intervening to keep us away from him." Arcturus suggests. "After all there is a potential paradox of a future generation running into a direct ascendant."
Charlus snorts. "You mean that muggle scientific theory called the Grandfather paradox?"
"Well, if he has travelled back in time and you were to meet, it's entirely possible the timeline will be altered enough that his existence may never happen." Arcturus lectures briskly.
"Maybe." Charlus shakes his head. "I fear the reason may be more prosaic than that."
"Oh?" prompts Arcturus gently.
Charlus is the one to raise an eyebrow. "Don't tell me your spies haven't already informed you of the strange activity at Hogwarts yesterday."
Arcturus smiles slyly. "What have you heard?"
Charlus looks at him with unhidden exasperation. "Albus called for a lockdown due to some unexpected visitors."
"Your wife's best friend tell you that?" Arcturus teases.
"Actually I met up for drinks with Tiberius in Hogsmeade yesterday night and overheard Hagrid." Charlus says dryly. "Minerva takes her vows to the school seriously."
Arcturus doesn't admit anything about his own source although he suspects Charlus knows who it is since it's hardly a secret that Sirius works at Hogwarts. "All I know for certain is that two young people arrived at Hogwarts injured somehow from being in the forest and in need of help. They were admitted to the infirmary and nothing else."
"Which is as much as Hagrid babbled all over the pub." Charlus confirms. "It's a strange coincidence, yes? That we sense this young man at the same time as two strangers appear at Hogwarts."
Arcturus raises his eyebrow again. "Neither you nor I subscribe to a belief in coincidences."
Charlus smiles. "Well said. So if the story is true and the young man is this Harry James Potter…"
"Then he's under Hogwarts' wards which may explain why the family magic cannot fully make sense of him." Arcturus concludes.
"It also explains why we couldn't pinpoint his location if he was in the forest." Charlus says. "The ambient magic there interferes with scrying."
Arcturus frowns. "If he's at Hogwarts…"
"Then he's under Albus' dominion." Charlus interjects unhappily. "I know."
Arcturus's eyes narrow on Charlus.
"Don't give me the stare, Arcturus," Charlus says tersely, "you're hardly the only one to notice how much power the man has accrued since his fight with Grindelwald." He sighs. "It was sheer good luck the majority of the Wizengamot felt that he couldn't keep his Chief Warlock status and work at Hogwarts."
"If you know he has his own agenda…"
"He hasn't done anything yet." Charlus points out. "All any of us have regardless of our spies and informants is a lot of conjecture and theory. He's been a good Headmaster and he is a hero of the wizarding world whose opinion carries weight. He has a lot of influence." He grimaces. "Thanks to his friendship with the Croaker boy, James even considers him a mentor."
Arcturus frowns. "You haven't intervened?"
Charlus shakes his head. "James is a good man and he'll work Dumbledore out eventually, especially with Alastor's training honing his sense of paranoia. Besides, to go against Dumbledore right now would be foolish and reveal too much." His eyes snag Arcturus' pointedly. "You feel the same or you'll have moved on him already."
Arcturus can hardly argue with that. "He'll try and keep these visitors to himself if they have time travelled."
"Until Minerva pulls him up on the family magic aspect." Charlus states dryly. "She's loyal to Hogwarts, not to Albus personally thankfully, and I doubt there is any way he can keep their presence from her as his Deputy. I expect that we'll be informed within the next day or so once Albus has reconciled himself to acknowledging he needs to inform us."
That sounds like Dumbledore. He won't want to inform them but he will and he'll do it as though they'll owe him a great favour for what is nothing more than his magical duty.
"The trick will be keeping Albus from interfering even once he's informed us." Charlus murmurs.
Arcturus doesn't bother to agree out loud because he knows Charlus already knows Arcturus thinks the same.
"Have you spoken with James about the new presence in your magic?" asks Arcturus briskly, changing the subject.
"He's aware but he was about to head out on a mission." Charlus sighs. "He was concerned by the pain he can feel."
Arcturus figures they're all worried about the level of pain they can feel. Harry's presence vibrates with a soul-deep hurt.
Charlus' brown eyes snag Arcturus'. "Have you spoken with Sirius?"
"Briefly." Arcturus acknowledges. "He had a similar concern."
He doesn't share that Sirius is half-convinced that Harry's magic is in chaos. Sirius' sensitivity to chaotic magic is something they don't talk about. Anger surges within him again. Walburga and Orion are long dead but the memory of finding them whipping a four years old Sirius while the young boy protected his baby sister from harm is still as vibrant as the day it had happened.
"Perhaps it's not time travel." Arcturus says tersely. "There is a Witch's spell which can mask a child from the family magic." It was how Walburga had managed to hide Sirius' mistreatment from Arcturus for the first four years of his life.
Charlus frowns. "Perhaps, but it doesn't explain why the lineage is absent." He points to the tapestry again.
"True." Arcturus concedes.
"Well, whatever the circumstances of Harry's arrival here or his past, we'll look after him now." Charlus states.
Arcturus nods. "Agreed."
Charlus gets up from his chair and Arcturus rises to stand with him. They walk out to the hallway together in comfortable silence. Charlus pulls on his outerwear and offers a nod of farewell to Arcturus.
"Give my regards to Dorrie." Arcturus says quietly.
Charlus smiles and nods again.
A second later Arcturus stands alone in the hallway.
There's a sound on the staircase and he looks up to see Regina making her way down. His young grand-daughter is dressed in what has become the uniform of youth; jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Her black hair is tied back into a loose ponytail and she's far from the composed and icy image of Lady Regina Black which she wears in public.
"Gramps." Regina hugs him without hesitation.
Arcturus huffs a breath but he hugs her back. He's never been able to say no to her – and neither has her brother. If it hadn't been for Melania, Regina might well have turned into just another high society spoiled princess.
"Was that really Lord Gryffindor?" asks Regina as she eases back.
"No wonder Siri said he felt a disturbance in the Force." Regina teases, looping her arm through his as they make their way to his study.
"Your brother said no such thing." Arcturus chides her gently.
"That's because he's a stick in the mud." Regina grumbles but there's too much affection in her tone for Arcturus to take the complaint seriously. Regina adores Sirius as much as he adores her. He knows Sirius takes Regina to the muggle cinema whenever she wants to go.
"Did Lord Gryffindor know anything about the new Potter?" asks Regina as they enter the study.
"He has a theory." Arcturus confirms.
Regina pulls away to examine the tapestry again. "Harry James Potter." She murmurs and her fingers trace gently over the thread. "Who are you?"
"That is the question." Arcturus says as he settles into the worn leather chair behind his desk.
Regina sighs. "Sirius told me about Hogwarts. Do you think the young man is this Harry Potter wizard?"
"I think it's likely." Arcturus says.
Regina stiffens and pales; her eyes turn glassy and Arcturus is up and out of his seat before he consciously decides to do so.
He hates the gift she's been given; the Sight she has to See; the gift of her ancestor Morgana Le Fay, the Lady of Black Lake. Melania had passed the guardianship of the Lake to Regina on her death.
He stops within a hand's breadth of her. He knows not to disturb her in the midst of a vision, had already learned that years before with Melania, but it's so difficult.
Regina blinks once, twice, and sways on her feet.
Arcturus is there to steady her. He calls for an elf and some hot chocolate as he chivvies her towards the seats he and Charlus had occupied.
Regina sighs at his fussing but accepts the drink he presses upon her. He sits finally in the opposite chair while she regains her composure.
"What did you See?" he asks her gently.
"Too much," says Regina softly and she shakes her head, "not enough." Her fingers tremble against the ceramic mug she holds.
Arcturus stays quiet. He wishes he could help her more but the visions are hers to bear. He'd also learned that with Melania. He'd hated it then and he hates it now.
The fire crackles and pops.
"War is coming." Regina says finally. "Blood will be spilled and lives will be lost." She shivers despite the warmth of the fire. "The wolf is at the door; the snake is in the forest. But the Grim protects the innocent; the lion defends the pride." She blinks again.
Arcturus rubs his chin thoughtfully, the prickle of his beard against his fingers comforting. It's not news to him. The signs of unrest in their society have been growing steadily stronger for a long while. It's the reason he's kept watch; the reason why he's so keen to ensure the rapprochement happens.
"I saw a young wizard standing between the dark and the light." Regina continues. "The sword of Gryffindor in one hand, a wand in the other. He's to be our protector; our shield." She looks up suddenly catching his gaze. "Harry James Potter."
"You saw Harry James Potter." Arcturus states, keeping the wonder and the shock out of his voice.
"He looks so much like James." Regina says shakily. "Hair as wild but his face…his nose, his chin…they're all Potter." She sighs. "But his eyes are green. They remind me of someone but I can't think who."
"What else did you see?" asks Arcturus, pushing her gently.
Regina sips her chocolate before she replies. "A witch from Guinevere's maternal line stands beside him, shoulder to shoulder." She smiles. "We're going to be good friends."
It's not a guess but a statement of fact, of knowledge.
Arcturus rubs his chin again. "Is there anything more?"
Regina shakes her head, regret flickering across her pale features. "Nothing of use."
Arcturus reaches out and takes hold of her hand. He lets the family magic swirl around them, soothing them both.
A harsh ringtone breaks the silence and startles them both. They aim a shared glare at the telephone on his desk.
"Sirius." They both say together because the family magic will have informed his heir as soon as Regina was overtaken by her vision.
Regina is quicker than Arcturus. She's sliding her hand out of his, dropping her drink on the nearby coffee table and skipping over to answer the call before Arcturus can move.
"Siri!" Regina's voice is warm with love and affection. "I'm fine. It was just a vision."
Arcturus resumes his previous seat as Regina perches on his desk and talks with her brother. She tells him everything she's already told Arcturus but she lets slip more details – the name of the witch being Hermione, the fact that Harry Potter has a lightning bolt scar on his forehead, and that Avalon still sleeps.
Arcturus tunes her out as she moves on to describing her day with her friends, the latest fashion trends and something to do with a movie she wants to see.
"I ran into Bellatrix in the Alley."
That arrests Arcturus' attention because the eldest of Cygnus' brood is dangerous. Bellatrix is a powerful witch, ambitious. She's already seen two husbands to the grave. Her third husband is a Baltic Duke and Bellatrix has lived abroad for the past two years on their estate. He had hoped she'd stay abroad.
"No, she was fine. Mean but fine." Regina rolls her eyes expressively at something Sirius says. "Like she's going to do anything to me; she's far too scared of you and Gramps."
Arcturus can only huff approvingly. Bellatrix had tried to bully her young cousin once when they were children and had felt the wrath of Regina's brother descend on her full force. She'd tried again as a teenager using magic and that time Sirius had put her in the hospital. Arcturus had given her warning then too. It had been the last time she'd tried anything with Regina.
"No, I don't like that she's back either but Cissy was with her and she said that Bellatrix was spending the holidays with her since she's pregnant."
"Yes, I know," Regina's face scrunches up, "Malfoy spawn."
Arcturus throws her a warning look because while the child may be Malfoy's heir, the boy will also carry Black blood.
Regina laughs and then hands the phone over to Arcturus. "He wants to speak to you."
She bounds around the desk, kisses his cheek and hurries away, snatching her drink as she passes on her way out of the door.
The sound of his beloved grandson and heir has Arcturus smiling. "Sirius."