Anyway, back to chapter seventeen, it's Teddy's birthday, and he's gotten several presents, the best two of which come from his grandmother. The first is a chain to keep his father's wedding ring on; the second is her book on Black family history, which is dedicated to him. He's just leaned over to show the latter to Ruthless.
(I'm leaving Chandi as Chandi for now; when I find a new name, I'll start using it.)
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Ruthless was amused with the book for a few minutes, mainly looking at old pictures and claiming that she saw a family resemblance between them and Teddy. The only one Teddy could see it with was Phineas Nigellus's older brother, a Metamorphmagus who'd died in childhood. She had homework to do before the Quidditch game, though, and lost interest quickly. Teddy didn't mind. He stayed in the Great Hall, absently feeding another few owls that dropped off birthday presents which he left unopened. He'd only meant to glance at a few chapter titles, see the pictures, maybe find out about whatever Granny was doing on page 517. Instead, after skimming several parts, he found himself lost in the story. Even the acknowledgments seemed interesting to him--Granny had thanked people he expected, like Uncle Harry, who'd given her access to the family tree, and Angelina Creevey, who'd helped her at Flourish and Blotts, and Kreacher (who she simply described as "indispensable"), but she'd also thanked her sister, Narcissa Malfoy and Narcissa's son Draco, who she said had given her access to Malfoy family papers with information she'd never even thought to wonder about, and, of course, "Mad Auntie Bugga, who taught me in the most vivid terms possible that all of those burned out spaces were real people with real lives, who were also part of the House of Black."
Teddy marveled at this, then turned to the first chapter.
The first definitively identifiable member of the Black family rose from the mists of history in the ninth century. He was a foundling child, a shapeshifter, feared by the Muggles around him and hunted through the streets of Anglo-Saxon London. As a child, he was called Banan the Black, for his long, jet black hair. A contemporary Muggle account describes him:
The changeling child was striking of face, with eyes like a stormy sea and the sharp features of the fair folk stamped upon him, but he need not appear this way. He might appear as an old man, or a stripling youth, or anyone with whom you might speak easily and later regret it. He could be dark or fair-skinned, tall or short. Nearly anyone might have been Banan, but all knew his true face, for he always returned to it. And why not? It was a handsome, dangerous face...
Nothing is known of Banan's origins with any certainty. Was he the son of highborn wizards, as he would later claim? Or was the founder of the Black family born to Muggles, cast out to the elements when they saw his shape begin to shift and feared him as a demon child? Wherever he came from, the first time he appears in history, he is the target of a mob hunt in London, running, finally cornered. He enters wizarding history with a spectacular display of wandless magic, casting a wall of fire around himself, between himself and his pursuers. Wilona of the Weald, a witch in the court of King Alfred, found him there and took him back to court, where she had him as an apprentice for the remainder of her days, and it was her child, Mayda the Magnificent, who became Banan's wife, and the earliest matriarch of the House of Black. (Rumors that Banan was in fact Wilona's child--possibly by the king--and therefore inadvertently married his own half-sister, did not appear on the record until nearly two centuries later, and seem to have originated among those who thought Banan's descendants had grown too powerful.)
It is almost certainly Wilona who gave Banan the idea that he was descended from highborn wizards, which would later have such tragic consequences, but in the context of giving comfort to a traumatized and lonely child, perhaps she can be excused...
Teddy chewed on his lip and turned the page, imagining Banan, a lonely Metamorphmagus on his own in the violent world of Viking invasions and tribal wars, left to die, then feared as a demon when he didn't. He pictured Wilona as kindly Molly Weasley, Mayda as Aunt Ginny. For all he knew, they had looked like that. The rest of the chapter talked about Banan's rise in Alfred's court. He had a talent for reading the stars, learned from centaurs, and he and Mayda were the first to give their children the names of stars and constellations. According to Granny, the reasoning had largely been forgotten over the years, or shunted aside along with its implied connections to such undesirable roots as centaurs. He'd certainly been fond of the story Wilona had made up for him, about being of high magical blood, but in his lifetime, it never seemed to have got beyond a story he happened to believe about himself without much evidence, no more harmful than Dad's imaginary play that his father was the King of Greenland. It wasn't until the Norman invasion--chapter three--that the family had adopted the Toujours Purs motto, and all of the disturbing nonsense that went along with it.
Granny had written:
The Normans brought new wizards to the island with them, among them a group of loosely related wizards who called themselves the Order of the Dragon--but who the Norman soldiers called the Order of the Evil Faith--the mal foi.
Here she paused with a lengthy footnote--Teddy guessed at the urging of her sister--pointing out that very few families still fit their names. Were Potters meant to understand fine clay? Grangers to till the land? Teddy thought this sounded a bit desperate, especially given that there was no one in the wizarding world who didn't know exactly which side of the war Lucius Malfoy had been on, but he supposed if she wanted their help, she had to at least make an attempt.
With the new Order, the leaders of the old were faced with a brutal choice--go along, or get out of the way. The Blacks, it hardly needs to be said, have never been particularly fond of getting out of the way. It was at this point that notions of blood purity, championed nearly a century before by Salazar Slytherin and seized upon by several of the more prominent families, became central to Black family thinking. The struggle for control of wizarding Britain was brutal and dark, with families from all of the factions striving for dominance. The Blacks leave no record of this era, and the Malfoys mention only in passing that the wife of one Cepheus Black disappeared. Given the fate of other "disappeared" witches and wizards of the time, it is perhaps not overreaching to assume that she met with foul play. We know that within five years of her disappearance, the Black children had fully integrated with the newcomers, and what may have been desultory play--imagining one's ancestors--had become fanatic dogma.
Any number of scenarios might account for this. Perhaps Cepheus was persuaded by his new friends, and his wife's fate came at his hands because she disagreed. Perhaps the loss of her unhinged him. Or perhaps she was an object lesson of what would happen to his family if he didn't get them more fully in line--your children had best learn this and mean it, or they, too, will disappear. While it is tempting to accept this last, to sympathize with a parent in an impossible situation, it behooves the reader to remember that Cepheus chose his side before his wife disappeared, and that other great families--including the Weasleys, the Prewetts, the Potters, the Lockharts, and the Lovegoods, among others--must have been faced with similar choices, and did not choose to fill their children's minds with poison. There were options. They weren't chosen, and the path to a dark and tortured future was laid down.
Teddy looked up, surprised, somehow, to find himself in the comfort of the Great Hall with his breakfast dishes cooling around him. Chandi Patil, dressed in her Quidditch robes, grinned at him. "Happy birthday. Want to celebrate by watching us pound the tar out of Ravenclaw?"
"Sure. Let me put my things upstairs."
"Well, hurry, you'll miss the beginning."
"Good luck," Teddy said, and gathered up the unopened presents. He ran up to Gryffindor Tower and dropped them in his room, but kept the book with him. With his luck, it would be a three day game and he'd never finish if he didn't bring it along. Besides, he'd only dip into it between plays.
So he sat in the back of the stands, ostensibly with Ruthless, his nose buried in his grandmother's book. She couldn't possibly have done all of the research this year and written it; he supposed she'd actually been indulging this interest for a long time. She'd found the threads of madness that appeared in the family, and grudgingly put her sister Bellatrix among the mad (though neither she nor Teddy believed this excused her in any way). To Teddy's great personal interest, she also had a chapter devoted to Shapechangers--Metamorphmagi (of whom she'd found fourteen over the years), Animagi (six confirmed, many more suspected, including old Banan, who the Muggles believed could spy on them as an owl), and a handful of suspected shapeshifting creatures like Veela and Selkies. He guessed she'd done this particular research for Mum a long time ago. Through it all, she told the story of the family's chosen image, but threaded it through with the rebels, the exiled, the burned away. In an era when Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald were discussing "The Greater Good," Phineas Nigellus's second son, who was named for him, was writing articles and haranguing the Wizengamot about Muggle rights. As Voldemort gained power, Alphard Black doted on his rebellious niece and nephew, setting Sirius up with gold right under Mad Auntie's nose. And of course, as Walburga Black had campaigned to have all werewolves destroyed, her son Sirius had befriended Dad and risked everything to ease the burden of the curse. Of herself, she wrote, I am not a villain, but neither have I been a hero. I left for love, and stayed safe while others fought.
Teddy barely noticed the cheering around him, and didn't pay attention until Ruthless dragged him to his feet to give an ovation for the win. He felt vaguely guilty, but then, he had never especially been interested in Quidditch, and this was not the only book he'd ever found himself enthralled with.
Nor was he the only one. Noble and Most Ancient arrived in book stores that Monday, and was an immediate sensation. A fully filled in version of the family tree, which pulled out of the book and expanded, caused a stir as people tried to find where on their lines they were descended from Banan and related to one another. This game swept the school, and Teddy found himself with several eighth and ninth cousins he'd never suspected.
The Daily Prophet reviewed it well.
The inaugural issue of The Weekly Charmer tore it apart.