A/N: Many thanks to Smthnborrowediamblue and AshenMoon42 for beta reading this chapter! Show them some love! Stay safe. x
28 November 1979
"Blessed by the presence of Heir James Potter."
Tom's voice rang through the room the moment his feet landed on the ground. Shaking off the after-effects of Apparition, he moved to speak when the Undersecretary addressed him.
"How art thou? Please sit, this body is currently investigating an important matter."
In an attempt to reign his emotions, he forced himself not to look at the lone figure sitting at the dock and directed his ire at the direction of the center podium, the glare visible in his hazel eyes. "Why wasn't the House of Potter informed of this?"
Tom tilted his head and sent him a confused, innocent look that he swore could've fooled no one. "The Ministry did, my Lord. It is, however, plausible that Lord Potter and Lady Potter's untimely demise halted the passing of information."
The reaction of the Wizengamot members hit James like a tidal wave, and he struggled to stay afloat as the flurry of muttering and shouting threatened to engulf him.
"Lord Potter is truly dead! Merlin, help us!"
"Good riddance, he was the only black sheep in this court."
"The blood-traitor is dead!"
"I pity Dorea Black. She was saddled with that Potter boy until the end."
"The Alliance has fallen!"
His chest tightened as he struggled to breathe, feeling his pulse rise with every second. Black dots danced in his vision as he gasped for air, overwhelmed with the feeling of wanting to scream, cry, and accuse all of them of killing his parents; but one look at Sirius' forlorn face sitting in the third-tier forced him to keep all of it in.
Clasping his hands together to keep the tremors at bay, he cursed himself for ignoring Frank's warnings and barging in here without a plan. A nagging feeling pounded his head as his eyes swept the room, looking for possible allies as Tom continued his conversation with Minister Minchum. There was Diggory, hoping he could still rely on Augusta's family; Abbott, ever the reliable one sought; Bones—his mum was dear to their family as well; Crouch, who was a git but quite fair...
Not many, then.
But the feeling grew stronger and he knew he was missing someone important—
"Where...where's the Chief Warlock?" he asked hesitatingly.
Minchum regarded him with wide eyes before waving towards Tom's direction.
"The Minister ruled our Chief Warlock's participation in this session," Tom answered him as James continued to bore holes into the Minister's head, though the man refused to meet his stare. "Under the Principle of Conflict of Interest, of course. The Minister wisely appointed his Undersecretary to sort out this mess."
"Wisely?" James gritted out. "Stop this investigation now! There should be a ligator present for Lily Potter!"
"While Albus may insist that, it is certainly not warranted for...the Muggle-born to have a litigator."
"Why are you focusing on this?" James demanded, fully aware that he was losing all the composure he mustered not so long ago. Diplomacy was never his strongest suit.
("Oh James, you're going to regret this one day. You should take your lessons more seriously."
"But I'll always have you, Mum!")
He shook his head, acting as if that sole action could drive the memories away. Now was not the time to remember that he was an orphan. Not now...
Taking a deep breath, he continued, "Is it not suspicious that three prominent members of our society have suddenly perished? Have you considered the possibility of an enemy capable of bringing our society down? There are more urgent issues to focus on, Undersecretary Gaunt! Why are you focusing on a frivolous one?"
Tom merely raised an eyebrow. "Are you insinuating something, Lord Potter?"
Before the accusing words could leave his mouth, someone grabbed him by the elbow. It was Frank, who was still posing as an Auror in the Wizengamot session. "James—Merlin, please, don't do anything drastic. We'll fix this. No one will have our backs if something goes wrong."
James stepped away from Frank's grip, and took a handful of breaths. Everyone's gaze was on him now and they were watching him like he was some uncommon free elf.
Maybe he was in some way.
("Patience, son. It's one big chess board."
"Oh Lord Yaxley, you must be older than a tortoise! We must sacrifice you to achieve our goals!"
"Young man, I do not sound like that!")
Taking a deep breath, James gave Tom the most pretentious smile he could muster. "Of course not, Tom. I'm merely concerned with your priorities. They have always been," he paused and glanced at his curious audience, "rather questionable."
James tipped an invisible hat before Frank brought him to his seat—the Potter seat. The switch in him flicked and the wrongness of it all suffocated him to the point that the mask he put on crumpled. It wasn't right. He shouldn't be here. This was his father's seat. He should be with Sirius and the heirs at the third-tier. He should be laughing with Padfoot and talk how stupid they looked in their hideous plum robes.
Desperate to distract himself, he let his gaze roam and flinched, like being drenched in ice-cold water, when it landed on the auburn-haired woman staring at him with wide pleading eyes.
Lily...his wife...the skin he had just traced yesterday were marred with cuts. Her hair-oh Merlin, the tips of her hair singed. He wanted to desperately close his eyes, to shield himself from what they have done to her. But as he stared at her sunken cheeks and pale colour, he kept his gaze at her.
This was his fault.
He would do anything...accept anything just to keep her alive.
Merlin, why didn't they come up with a better plan? Why in the name of Merlin did they come without a plan now?
"Court Scribe, please acknowledge Heir Potter's presence as an observer."
He felt Sirius and Frank's piercing stares at him and he clenched his fists, desperately trying to reign his temper. He looked helplessly at Lily, straight into her eyes, and continued to ignore her mouthed apologies.
James shook his head and mouthed, "It's not your fault."
He hated himself when more tears poured out of her emerald orbs.
"Let us resume our session," Gaunt said, pounding his gavel. "List of speakers indicates Lord Yaxley as the last speaker in this session. Please take the floor."
"Minister of Magic, Noble and Honourable Members of Wizengamot, Undersecretary, Department Heads," Yaxley began and James refused to look at the speaker, opting to keep his eyes on Lily.
"Stop blaming yourself," he mouthed to her. "Please."
"House Yaxley would like to thank everyone, especially Minister Minchum and Undersecretary Gaunt for immediately tackling this troubling issue we are currently facing..." Yaxley trailed off without a sign of continuing.
Multiple heads whipped towards the weathered wizard's direction and James thought that Yaxley should've left his position long ago. The aged Lord could no longer solve the current issues of the Wizarding World, as he was stuck in the old ways. Most of the Lords were, if James were to be frank.
"We have continuously surpassed everything and everyone. It truly amazes this Lord that we have progressed at a speed much faster than our neighbours. Like other Houses, the House of Yaxley witnessed events transpiring from the fortunate to the unfortunate...and like every proud House in this country, the House of Yaxley is saddened that its peers and people often forget how our land is blessed by the Magics of Merlin and Morgana Le Fay."
James carefully shook his head, fully intent on maintaining their eye contact, as the emerald eyes across him conveyed feelings of apologies and guilt.
It wasn't her fault.
It was his and his alone.
He should've known better.
"Yet we seem ungrateful for the Gifts, for we keep on sullying our blessed bloods. The threats we have are not dark lords, but something more tangible…we have wicked wizards and witches yearning to be included in our noble and honourable bloodlines that they do everything…with their small, weak, and filthy hands.
"What this body must do is save one of its kin. We must save the House of Potter from losing its unique Gift. We must save it from filth! House of Yaxley wants the infiltrator to be thrown in Azkaban!"
James tore his gaze from Lily's eyes to stare in disbelief at Yaxley. He wanted to laugh at the absurdness of the words pouring out of his filthy mouth. So he did. He was laughing like a maniac now, feeling everyone's uncomfortable stares on him.
"What the bloody hell are you talking about?" He was standing now, looking at Yaxley with an easy smile. "You're absolutely clueless, aren't you? I'm not surprised."
The bang of the gavel echoed in the room and it rang in James' ears, severing the thin thread holding his temper. "This is my fault! Punish me! Not her! She did absolutely nothing wrong!" James yelled against the Silencing Charm enacted in his area. Frustrated, he positioned himself to jump above the wooden barrier, but Frank held him back as his protests grew desperate. "She's innocent, you bastard!"
"Give her the Kiss!"
"Save House of Potter! Disgusting for the mudblood to use love potion on him! That's treason!"
"Let her rot in Azkaban!"
"No, no, no," James muttered, looking frantically at his surroundings. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Were they all mad? "Stop it!"
James tried to maneuver his way out of Frank's desperate grip and moved to fish out the wand inside his pockets.
"Your wand is with me, James," Frank pleaded with him. "Pull yourself together."
"Decorum!" Tom exclaimed using a Sonorus. James shrugged Frank's grip as he begrudgingly sat down, feeling betrayed by the second.
"Decorum in the court! We have exhausted our speakers list." Tom striked using his gavel and the charm around James popped like a bubble. "Are there any motions?"
Nott raised his wand in the air. "Motion to move this body into votation by raising of wands."
"Motion is acknowledged. Are there any other motions?"
Diggory raised his wand this time. "Motion to have a fifteen-minute unmoderated caucus for the purpose of lobbying."
Many members raised their nose at the notion of wasting more time. James felt his insides stir. He clenched his hands as he willed himself to think. What to do, what to do...
Greengrass raised his wand. "Motion to have a ten-minute unmoderated caucus before moving into votation."
Right there, James knew that Greengrass' motion was the one that was going to be chosen. Once the votes were settled, he marched to the other end as he tried his best not to succumb into panic.
As soon as he reached his destination, he pleaded to Amos' grief stricken face, "Lord Diggory, please tell me there's hope."
Sirius Black turned his nose up at the bright plum colour of the Wizengamot robes. He thought of them hideous and unflattering as he observed them from where he was seated. He reckoned they look like aged pretentious peacocks flocking around in groups he had no interest to join.
"Talking about peacocks," Sirius muttered when he saw a long, blond-haired young man strutting in his direction.
The Malfoy heir, who sat a couple of rows away from him, wore black robes like himself. Lucius looked like a man on a mission, completely determined on elevating his personal ambitions. In order to avoid being stuck in a conversation with bloody Malfoy, he quickly proceeded down the steps to look for his father.
And so Sirius found himself standing in front of Orion, who donned his own set of those hideous plum robes. There was something troubling about the aura of his father...there was something unnatural about his face that made Sirius pause to ponder what it exactly was.
Ah, right: his father was smiling.
He didn't know that a person could be exhilarated at this hour, but apparently, Orion could be. His father must be happy because Sirius was finally admitting defeat to him.
Sirius fished out his wand and enacted a Concealment Charm around them. "You know what I'm here for, father. Do it," he commanded.
Orion merely smiled at him. It was that patronising smile he always gave when he wanted to indoctrinate Sirius. "What is it, my son? What shall I do for you?" he asked, his voice dripping with mock concern that sickened Sirius and added the final touch to his revolting act of 'caring father'.
Sirius bit his tongue and refused to answer. He knew his father. Like most of the Black men before him, Orion had a penchant for theatricals.
"I'm glad you finally showed up in Wizengamot. Ah, my son, finally taking his Lordship duties seriously."
Panic gripped his insides and Sirius couldn't take it any longer. Patience was never his strongest suit. He pointed his wand against Orion. "Stop playing, old man! You're the one who offered it!"
Orion twirled the wand in his hand and gave a dramatic sigh as he stared at the wall portrait positioned between them. Sirius glanced at the portrait and flinched at the knowing gaze of a young lady. She gave him a sympathising smile as she offered him a bouquet of striped-pink flowers―they were lilies, he was sure of it.
Despite himself, he smiled and glanced at the golden plaque of her frame. Elpis.
"Have I ever told you that you are too much like my father? Ah, Arcturus, he was good, but not good enough."
Sirius merely forced himself to glare in response, refusing to play the game his father wanted. He would never play…
"Do it," Orion drawled, looking uninterested at the occupants of the room. "Do an Unbreakable Vow that you will take the Lordship when I deem you to, and that you are never to interfere with my politics."
Without missing a beat, Sirius positioned his wand in front of his mouth and uttered his first Vow, "I, Sirius Orion Black, do solemnly swear on my magic that I am to take House of Black's Lordship when deemed to be, and that I, Sirius Orion Black, am never to interfere with Orion Acturus Black's politics."
"Do a vow that you're going to do it!" he demanded, shaking his head as he felt his magic tear down the charm he enacted.
"I don't want to waste my magic on that...filthy friend of yours."
Sirius snarled and pointed his wand at Orion's face once more. For Merlin's sake, he should've known to ask a Vow first!
"Hello, Heir Potter―oh, apologies, should I say Lord Potter? Lovely day, isn't it?
Sirius hastily looked at their direction, and took quick strides to reach them quickly.
"James, I need to talk to you," Sirius breathed out.
"This will save Lily's life, right?" James asked in return.
Sirius could easily spot the blooming hope in James' eyes. His eyes reminded him too much of that young witch in the portrait who wanted to give him lilies.
There was too much hope...too much faith that it was suffocating him. He could only nod in response.
"Thank you, brother."
"Don't...don't thank me yet," Sirius managed to say.
"What's Orion going to do?" Amos asked.
"Thirty seconds! Please return to your seats."
"Adoption," Sirius muttered, averting his gaze away from James' reaction. He knew he wasn't really fixing things. He wanted to avoid their disappointed and enraged expressions.
He flinched, feeling like a sharp knife had gone through his heart.
"Sirius, what did you promise him?"
"Would you like me to offer as well?" Amos asked. "I know they don't see my House that much since―"
"Amos, thank you for your offer," James cut him off quickly. "We can't afford to bring another House to our problems."
"It has become our problem! Augusta was entangled in their mess!"
"And that's my fault already, Lord Diggory. I will make sure to answer for some reparations."
"We should return to our seats," Sirius said before either man could formulate a response. He gave them nods and turned swiftly. "Let's hope everything goes as planned."
He took bigger steps, determined to not think of anything else―his parents, the wicked witch, his future with the House―but Lily's safety. He ignored the other Heirs and family members seated beside him as he tried to locate Orion's head. There he was, sitting like a patient patron of a theatre as the people around him rushed to locate their designated seats.
"Fuck, I wasn't able to have a final word with Orion," he mumbled as he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"We are now back in formal session." With his eyes closed, Gaunt's gavel felt like a thunderous clap in his being. "Before we proceed to votation, are there any other motions?"
Sirius bore holes on the back of Orion's head, willing his bastard of a father to take up the presented opportunity. He gripped the wooden bannister before him as he tried not to succumb into panic. "Black men have a penchant for the theatrics," he mumbled as he stared at James' standing figure, completely in agitation to his father's performance.
"Since there are no more―"
As graceful as ever, Orion thrusted his wand up in the air. Sirius almost cried in relief.
They have a chance to save Lily.
"Undersecretary Gaunt," Orion spoke when he was acknowledged, "Pardon my intrusions. I do have a possible solution that will...maximize the gains that we are to receive after this; if it is deemed admissible by fellow noble and honourable members, of course."
Sirius rolled his eyes at Orion's faux-humble tone. It was sickening to see these wizards and witches lap up his words like a thirsty cerberus.
"Please do so, Lord Black."
Orion stood up this time, slowly as if he owned all the time in the world. His power seemed tangible that it bundled all of them in his grip. No matter how many people claimed that Arcturus was a better man than his father was, Sirius had to admit that his father was in the works of becoming a master in this arena—a tirer les ficelles, as the Old Blacks used to spout with that Toujours Pur non-sense.
"Fellow noble and honourable members," Orion greeted everyone and gave solemn nods to him and James. "The House of Black is one of the oldest families in this blessed land. Reiterating Lord Yaxley's statement, this house is a witness of everything that has happened—events that continue to make us proud to be part of this noble land...and events that...brings sorrow whenever it is pondered upon."
"Sorrow?" Sirius scoffed.
"Now is not the time to further divide this nation," Orion continued after a beat. "House of Black believes that there may be another solution to this...tragedy. A solution that may save a bright witch...and result in a welcome addition to the House of Black."
Orion looked amused at the array of attention he was receiving. Gasps were heard across the tiers, while some looked out in confusion. "A Magical Adoption, if you must call it. The House of Black offers sanctuary to the brilliant Lily Evans Potter."
Sirius could taste the anticipation in the air now.
"A...Magical Adoption? Surely not–"
"It hasn't been done in centuries!"
"Oh Good Merlin, I know why you've kept me alive!"
"Imagine sharing pure blood with a mudblood..."
"Oh shush, House of Black needs another progeny! Perhaps the Heir and that girl can procreate."
Sirius tuned them out as he focused his attention on Gaunt. If this were any other day, he would have relished the Undersecretary's baffled look. But they needed him to speak, to acknowledge Orion's proposition.
The Minister moved closer to Gaunt and Sirius watched as the expressions on Gaunt's face were visible for once. There was annoyance, uncertainty, and now, a grimace.
"That is truly a...generous offer from the House of Black," Gaunt managed to say after Minchum stepped away and retreated to his seat. "As pointed out by the Minister, the court has no say in this matter, Lord Black, as it is a personal issue under the House of Black. You may enact it when you deem it so."
"Of course, Undersecretary Gaunt. I, for one, think that now would be a splendid time, don't you think so?"
If Sirius tasted the anticipation a while ago, he could feel it now like a rough fleece cocooning his body. Hell, even he wanted to see how it was done. Orion had done his best to withhold any information about the Old Magics, even from his Heir.
With a pop, Kreacher appeared, looking worse after Walburga's demise. It was hard not to pity the house-elf. "Yes, Master?"
"Fetch the necessary items for the ritual. The Wizengamot will be waiting."
Sirius knew there was an underlying threat: 'Make it fast or there will be consequences'. In no more than a few seconds later, Kreacher returned with a bowl and a dagger made of inky, black stones said to be made of Gifts from the oldest of the Blacks.
Before his passing, Arcturus had mentioned the reason why magical adoptions were almost never done—adopted wizards and witches were not only adopted by blood, but through magic as well. In a handful of times, the magic rejected the ritual resulting in the killing of the adopted; at times, even the adoptee as well.
The Blacks had only one successful adoption...which happened over five centuries ago.
Sirius prayed to Merlin and Morgana that another one would happen today.
Orion walked down the aisle and stood beside Lily, whose eyes were glued to James' figure. Sirius reckoned they were doing that weird couple thing again, until Lily broke the connection and closed her eyes.
And when she opened them, she stared straight into Sirius' eyes and he choked at the gratitude painted in her gaze.
"No...no," Sirius muttered in disbelief as she gave him a small smile.
He wanted to ask her how she could smile at this time, why on earth she would thank him, but he couldn't bring himself to speak. Terror bubbled up in his chest as soon as the weight of his decision amplified the sinking feeling he had in his stomach.
Five centuries ago.
Lily might die.
Lily might die today.
"I might kill you!" Sirius wanted to scream at her. He wanted to scream at all of them, for pushing him into making this decision.
"The House of Black would like to thank everyone for allowing the ritual to transpire on this sacred ground. Before we start the ritual, I would like to proclaim my son, Sirius Orion Black as the official Heir of House of Black."
"Bastard," Sirius mumbled numbly to himself, barely aware of the mutterings and applause surrounding him, as James' outbursts rang in his ear. "Someday...someday I'm going to beat you."
"In behalf of my son, I would like to thank this noble and honourable body for the warm response," Orion said and gave a nod in his direction. Sirius tried his best to casually reciprocate it when all he wanted to do was to retaliate in response.
But they made a promise to Mum.
He had to be good...like his dad.
"Let us begin."
As if back in Orion and Arcturus' study, Sirius watched like a child not wanting to be punished. Orion tapped the bowl with the tip of his wand, and Sirius tried to read Orion's lips that muttered a line that was impossible to discern. A swirling haze of glittery onyx and silver erupted from the bowl, reaching out to the wand hovering above it. The haze ushered to the wand to dig further inside it, as if tempting the summoner to dwell deeper in the Magic, but Orion held onto it until he could stand still.
Sirius shivered at the intensity of Magic oozing out of the bowl. It felt dark, ominous, and so extremely powerful that he felt that maybe...maybe Lily would be able to take their family Magic.
Oh Merlin, she might die.
"No," Sirius declared, looking desperate as if he was trying to convince someone, or himself. "She is a powerful witch. The magic will accept her."
"She has to accept it as well," a woman mumbled beside him, sounding as fearful but more confident than he was.
Sirius could only stare helplessly at James' distressed form.
"I, Orion Arcturus Black, Lord of the House of Black, calls upon the Magic of the House of Black to share its Gifts as we welcome Lily Evans Potter under its Magic."
The air felt heavy and Sirius struggled to breathe, panting as he tried to quell his erratic heartbeat. He watched as Orion sliced open the palm of his hand without an inch of emotion on his face, and let the blood drip from his skin until it filled the bowl. The haze grew bigger, wilder and darker until it engulfed their figures.
Sirius bit his tongue until the seconds turned into minutes and he couldn't temper his waning patience anymore. Despite lacking visuals, he knew they were still in the middle of the courtroom. He knew the Magic was still there. He could still barely breathe.
The sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach grew and he stared at James' desperate gaze towards him. Sirius shook his head, feeling lost as well in the narrative.
Suddenly, the air felt lighter and the figures behind the haze grew visible.
"The ritual is over."
A beat passed, numerous confused glances were exchanged, before the first pair of applause was heard in the room. Soon, smatterings of applause echoed in the room, and every clap intensified Sirius' nerves about the entire scenario.
"What have I done?"