Disclaimer: Naturally I do not own JK Rowling’s
characters. <span style="mso-spacerun:
invented them and the wonderful world of Hogwarts. I am just happily visiting
her world for a while.
the wonderful gals at the SQ workshop, especially Tapestry; and Allemande at
the Werewolf Registry. Your help is
Notes: I have been wondering what
– or who – turned Sirius away from his parents and the darker side of
life. After all, raised in that sort of
household he ‘should’ have ended up something like Draco, spoilt and very
prejudiced. Yet he seems to have
rejected his family’s way of life and beliefs at an early age, certainly before
coming to Hogwarts. After all, a ‘true’
Black would have turned Remus in, once he discovered the werewolf secret.
Book 5 tells
us that Sirius inherited “a decent bit of gold” from his Uncle Alphard, who was
also struck off the family tree, so I decided to combine the two ideas. Great Uncle Alphard
(Sirius would refer to him casually as ‘Uncle’), was the eccentric younger
brother of Sirius’ grandfather, and had made an independent fortune in trade
with both wizard and muggle worlds.
The wallpaper was
a ghastly yellow-brown, ornately patterned in darker browns and greens. Sirius shuddered. That would have to go, as would the carpet.
He wasn’t quite sure what colour it had been originally, but the current dirty
grey-brown was certainly unappealing, to say the least. The place stank – ancient cooking smells
overlaid with a mixture of cat’s piss, strange potions and musty old
upholstery. Just as well there was more
than a month of holidays left: even with magic and James’ help, he suspected it
would take him some time to get the place clean and liveable.
The frowsy old
witch who’d shown him the flat had smiled toothily when he expressed an
interest in it, and positively blossomed when he turned on his considerable
boyish charm. Yes, they’d had a little
difficulty in selling it – it did need a good coat of paint and some work – the
last owners had been elderly and never got around to doing much - and yes, they
would be more than happy to let him rent the old shed and paved area at the end
of the run-down back garden. There was a
gate onto the back lane in the wall nearby; he could use that …
Sirius smiled to
himself: purchase of a Muggle motorbike was high on
his list of priorities, though he’d leave it at the Potters’ while he was at
school. And the flat itself was perfect
too, just what he wanted, at a very good price.
almost the entire top floor of a narrow, decrepit-looking building near the
though wizards had owned it for more than a hundred years, and despite
appearances it was perfectly solid. It certainly
wasn’t in what his parents would have considered the ‘right’ part of town, but
then Sirius had never been concerned with fashion, at least where houses were
concerned. The area’s population was a
mixture of Muggles and wizards, and as an added attraction there were dozens of
interesting little pubs and eating places nearby. Handy if you couldn’t be bothered cooking –
or were sick of boiled eggs and burnt toast.
He was none too sure about his cooking skills as yet.
He turned slowly,
letting his gaze wander around his new domain.
The door from the landing gave directly onto a single large room that
served as living and dining room; there was a dark brick fireplace in the main
wall, and the high sloping ceiling gave the room a sense of space. Three big dormer windows on the opposite wall
faced south-east, and light flooded in.
Well, it would - once he washed them and got rid of those putrid
curtains. To his left, a small hallway
led to a narrow but functional kitchen, a bathroom and a linen cupboard; at the
other end of the flat were two bedrooms, one a reasonable size, the other
barely more than a giant kennel.
Best of all, he
had a view. The kitchen and living area
looked out over the gardens and rooftops of nearby Muggle houses to the river,
with its tree-lined banks and a park on the far side. True, the bedrooms only had small windows
that looked over the back yard to other buildings, but he didn’t feel hemmed
in. He felt – free.
Free. Free of Grimmauld Place,
free of his family. Free to paint his
walls bright purple if he wanted, free to invite his friends, to spread his
stuff all over the place, to laugh and be happy, to live his own life. He adored the Potters, knew they loved him
and wanted him to stay there much longer.
Mrs Potter washed and mended his clothes, cooked his meals, scolded,
fussed and looked after him, just like she did with James. As though Sirius was another son.
But he wanted
somewhere he could call his own.
Sirius crossed to
the windows, wrenched one open and poked his head out. He found himself grinning like an idiot. Uncle Alphard’s will had come as a rude shock
to Sirius’ parents, and to his Uncle Rigel and Aunt Elektra, who clearly hoped
for suitable legacies for their own children.
Well, Narcissa and Bellatrix anyway – Andromeda was persona non grata
in both the Black households. The family
had gathered like vultures to hear his will, and had that caused a
ruckus! The yelling and screaming, the
accusations, the insinuations, the trips to their own family solicitors …
But the old man
had been nobody’s fool. The will had been drawn up by Mr Reginald Hotspur
Rumble, and a cannier lawyer never put quill to parchment. Sirius twisted his head and looked up at the
crooked chimney, then back out over the river.
He breathed in the warm summer air, with the faint odour arising from
low tide and reedy flats on this side.
Two swans sailed majestically upstream.
How well he remembered the reading of the will last summer, exactly one
year and two weeks ago.
* * *
He’d arrived home for the summer holidays
after fifth year, enduring yet another diatribe from his mother about his
appalling record of detentions. The
abuse had flowed over him, round him, a cacophony of yelling and invective that
by now was little more than mere annoyance.
He’d retorted rudely and stormed off to his room, emerging much later
for dinner. They’d have preferred him to
stay up there sulking of course, and not have to look at him glowering across
the dinner table; but that would give them too much satisfaction, and besides,
he was hungry. So he’d sat there in
brooding silence, ignoring his parents’ conversation, and listening to his fool
of a brother talking about the wonderful study group they’d formed in
Slytherin. For Defence studies of
Sirius refrained from making the obvious
comment: they were undoubtedly studying the Dark Arts themselves, not merely
Defence. But of course his parents
wouldn’t see anything wrong with that at all.
After breakfast next morning he’d announced
he was going to visit Uncle Alphard. He
didn’t know why he’d had this sudden urge, but a little inner voice told him
that he needed to go now. His father tried to dissuade him, saying his
uncle was not very well, and perhaps the visit should wait a little. But Sirius had gone anyway. His uncle had been genuinely delighted to see
him, assuring Sirius that the visit would do him the world of good. Sirius had
been shocked at the old man’s appearance, grey-skinned, wrinkled and emaciated;
he wondered whether his father knew how ill Uncle Alphard really was.
The old boy had
never made any secret of his dislike for most members of his family, but he had
taken to Sirius from the time the two-year-old threw a tantrum and yelled at
his mother to “Go WAY!” when she’d tried to part Sirius from his uncle and a Muggle storybook.
Orion and Augusta Black had never approved of Sirius’ frequent visits,
but it was not sensible to antagonise the old man … not when he had a fortune
in Gringotts and no direct heirs.
Sirius had spent nearly the whole day
there in his uncle’s bedroom, talking about things – school, his friends, the
OWLs he’d taken this last term, Quidditch, girls, books, music, whatever –
sharing a simple lunch of soup and cheese and soft bread, reading a book when
his uncle dozed off at times. Mrs McRory
had popped in and out, bringing food and drink, glad of Sirius’ strength when
they helped his uncle to the bathroom.
Sirius had never seen anyone dying, but as they said good-bye just
before dinner, he’d known that this was the last time he’d see Uncle Alphard
alive. Neither could find the right
words, so they’d just hugged each other and smiled, knowing there was really
nothing more to say. Three days later,
the old man had died peacefully in his sleep.
The funeral had
been organised with a haste that bordered on disrespect, as Orion and Rigel
Black did not wish to make too much fuss of their unconventional relative. But their efforts had been in vain: word had
spread rapidly, and a surprising number of people turned up at the
funeral. Sirius had been secretly
delighted to notice his father surreptitiously despatch the odious Kreacher to obtain more food and drink for the wake
It was still a
proper affair of course, where family members mouthed routine platitudes and
glued their sorrowful smiles in place when greeting Uncle Alphard’s
friends. Sirius had met a number of
those over the years, and was touched by how many came forward with special
greetings and condolences for him.
Despite his own grief, he’d been amused to realise how that offended his
parents. Uncle Alphard would have
enjoyed this, he thought, catching a glimpse of his mother’s face as he
kissed old Mrs Blatchett from the bakery.
Seeing the family forced to be polite to so many unsuitable people. Including
ones who are muggle-born!
He’d had the
strangest sense of being two different people.
One Sirius had felt slightly numb and light-headed, as though he was moving
through some sort of weird dream. But
the other Sirius had wickedly enjoyed playing the part of dutiful elder son,
thinking how much his uncle would have appreciated the humour in the situation. He’d done it to perfection too, knowing he
looked handsome in his dark blue formal robes, greeting and introducing people,
smug in the knowledge that his parents would receive only compliments for his
impeccable behaviour and consideration for all the guests. Thirteen Outstanding OWLs yesterday,
he thought, and today I’m the image of upper class good breeding and
manners. Not that I wouldn’t have been
nice to Uncle’s friends anyway of course.
Maybe I’ll get through the week without another row …
Even better was
the look on Uncle Rigel’s face as Andromeda arrived with husband Ted and baby Nymphadora. Sirius
had had a sneaking suspicion that his uncle would not have told Andromeda at
all, so two nights ago he’d sent his own owl Tycho
with a note to her and Ted. Uncle Alphard would have wanted them there: he’d been so pleased
to see Andromeda happily married, and he’d been thrilled at her first child -
his great, great niece.
Now, two days
after the funeral, it was time for the reading of Uncle Alphard’s will. Sirius trailed dutifully behind his parents as
they marched upstairs into the offices of Solomon, Rumble and Foote, solicitors
and notaries. A sternly
efficient-looking witch greeted them at the front desk, summoning Mr Rumble’s
own elderly clerk to usher them into the darkly panelled meeting room with its
imposing table of carved walnut and matching high-backed chairs.
Uncle Rigel and
Aunt Elektra were already seated, Narcissa on their left, and Bellatrix and her
new fiancé Rodolphus Lestrange on their right.
Why the hell does HE have to be here? thought
Sirius. He’s not family yet. They only got engaged three months
ago. Have to watch the stupid
creep – could be dangerous, though he hasn’t got Bella’s brains.
perfunctory greetings, the ridiculous black feathered hat worn by his aunt
tottering awkwardly as she kissed Sirius’ parents. That’s right, just a discreet peck on the
cheek - it would not be ‘proper’ for her or dear Mother to show any
public affection, even if we are the only people in the room. Sirius did his best to ignore his cousins
and Rodolphus, who reciprocated, though they greeted Regulus, their fellow
Slytherin. Sirius took the indicated
seat beside his father, Regulus to his right, and allowed his eyes to wander
over the paintings on the opposite wall.
Two stern-looking wizards, presumably former partners in the firm, and a
gloomy seascape in which the ship was making very heavy weather near a rocky
coast. There were several moments of
polite silence, then the door opened again and Mr Rumble ushered three more
people into the room.
Ted. Sirius cheerfully ignored the
glare from his parents and rose to greet his cousin and her husband: the frigid
silence from the other family members was almost tangible. Uncle Alphard had
given Andromeda a generous sum on her marriage to Ted Tonks, to the private
fury of her parents. They’d concealed
their opinions from the old man of course – he still had a small fortune left. The newcomers took seats at the end of the table,
and Mr Rumble closed the door and moved to the other end, settling himself with
a large scroll, what appeared to be a letter of some sort, a sheet of parchment
and a sleek blue quill. The third
person, a plumpish grey-haired wizard in dark grey robes, took a seat beside
ladies and gentleman,” Rumble said in a surprisingly deep voice. “Please accept my sincere condolences on your
most tragic loss. May I introduce my
partner, Mr Ezekiel Solomon.” Solomon
inclined his head, but said nothing.
loss? Like bloody hell, thought Sirius. More
like good riddance. They didn’t care a damn for Uncle Alphard, just his
money. He kept his face carefully composed, ignoring the venomous glances
that Bellatrix shot in his direction. You
and that fiancé of yours –Dark Wizards both of you, or I’m the Harpies’ keeper. James and I have been keeping an eye on that
little Slytherin gang you started. And at least you’ve got your tits covered
today, though your robes couldn’t be much tighter. Darling Rudi’ll have a few problems if you drape
against him too much.
“Thank you, Mr
Rumble,” said Sirius’ father. “My
uncle’s death was rather unexpected. He
will be missed by all of us.”
“Of course, Mr
Black,” replied the solicitor in soothing tones. “Especially as he had no children of his
own. So you and your children – and
yours too, Mr Black,” nodding at Rigel, “were his nearest relatives.”
There were polite
murmurs of acknowledgment. Not that
they care, thought Sirius bitterly. They
only want to know who gets his money.
And how much there is. And they wish this stupid old boy would hurry up
and tell them.
“If I may be
permitted a personal comment, I must say that I too will miss him.” Mr Rumble bowed his head gravely. “As you may know, I have acted as Mr Alphard
Black’s advisor for more than twenty years, having assumed those
responsibilities on the death of my own father.”
“Ahem.” Sirius’ mother cleared her throat pointedly.
passed slowly over each family member, before he looked down and slowly, almost
ceremoniously, opened the parchment scroll.
“Mr Black was,
alas, aware that his condition was incurable,” he continued, “and over the last
year he took all necessary steps to put his affairs in order. “He did not wish to be a burden to his
family,” Sirius stifled a derisive snort, “and so perhaps he did not confide
the seriousness of his condition to you.”
There was another pause.
What the hell
does he mean – put his affairs in order? thought
Sirius. How difficult can it be to
leave his money to his nearest family?
Unless of course – and he felt a surge of wicked hope – unless of
course he’s given it all away! To St
Mungo’s or something! Maybe Mum and Dad
won’t get a single knut! Though – be
nice if his uncle had left him
something – not gold or anything, though he wouldn’t say no to a few extra
galleons – just –well, maybe just that picture of the dragons – and some of his
music – his parents would never want those things …
“It is true,”
said Uncle Rigel unctuously, “that he did not wish us to be worried
“Quite so, quite
so.” Rumble smiled politely. He looked around the table again. “I should at this point assure you that,
although his body was failing, Alphard Black’s mind was as sharp and clear as
it had ever been. There is absolutely no
question that he knew exactly what he was doing in organising his affairs, and
in making this, his last will and testament.”
So he HAS left
his money to St Mungos!
thought Sirius gleefully, picking up the nuance in language. Or to a dragon reservation, or a home for
elderly homeless Muggles!
He felt his
father stiffen slightly beside him.
Obviously the implication was not lost on Orion Black either. “Naturally.
And I would have expected to be – informed – if there was any question
that my uncle’s mind was unstable in any way.”
“Of course.” Rumble nodded again. “However, when reading a will, I always find
it is wise to assure relatives of their loved one’s state of mind where the
will is one that I have witnessed. It is
my practice not to witness any documents where I have doubts that a person
knows exactly what he or she is signing.
My assurance often avoids any – complications – at a later stage. Mr Solomon will confirm my assessment.”
“In my opinion,
Mr Alphard Black was indeed of sound mind and perfectly capable of making a
valid will.” Solomon’s voice was equally
What HAS the
old boy done? Sirius felt a sudden twinge of
apprehension intrude on the glee. The
family won’t be pleased if the dragons get it.
Not pleased at all - and they’ll probably feel I put him up to it in
some way - they know I was close to him …
“Thank you, Mr
Solomon.” Orion Black glanced briefly at
his wife, then his brother, before turning again to Rumble. “Perhaps, having had those assurances, we
Rumble gazed once
more at the Black family members, then flattened the parchment in front of him,
and began to read. His enunciation was
clear, precise and emotionless. Sirius
half closed his eyes, trying not to look at his detested cousins. A lot of boring legal stuff to sit
through, no doubt. Narcissa’s
looking a prim and proper little bitch – wonder what sort of charm she’s plastered
on that silver hair today? What the hell does Malfoy see in her? My broomstick has a better figure – it’s
probably more intelligent - and I bet it’s a better ride … He hastily stifled laughter, forcing his
thoughts away from Lucius Malfoy’s possible sex life.
“This is the last will and testament of
Alphard Tremain Black, of Little Croft, Tofton, Surrey.
I hereby appoint Reginald Hotspur Rumble and Ezekiel Jacob Solomon, both
Solicitors, as my executors and trustees.
Aha! So Dad
and Uncle Rigel won’t get their hands on the money as quickly as they’d
like. Lawyers take ages to do things.
All sorts of paperwork.
“… and trustees to pay all outstanding debts and testamentary expenses.
After such payments, I bequeath my estate as follows.
My personal possessions and the contents of my house “Little Croft” are
to be disposed of to the persons named, and in accordance with the instructions
I have left, in a memorandum dated 12 April 1975, which is annexed hereto and
paused. “This is the memorandum,” he said, holding up
a second piece of parchment. “I shall
read it at the conclusion of the will.”
My house, “Little Croft”, is to be sold, with the proceeds distributed
in the following manner –
(a) A two-thirds share is to be held
in trust for the children of my great niece Andromeda Tonks, to be divided in
equal portions between them when the youngest shall attain the age of seventeen
years. Should there be no such
children, this share becomes part of the residue of my estate.
(b) The remaining one-third is
to be held in trust for my great nephew, Sirius Black, until he attains the age
of seventeen years. Should he not attain
that age, his portion is to be held in trust on the same basis as in clause
2(a) for the children of Andromeda Tonks.
What! thought Sirius, sitting up and becoming very alert. He’s left me one third of the sale of his
house? Hell … Mum and Dad won’t like
that! That’s got to be a fair bit of
gold! So who gets the rest of his money?
I leave the sum of three thousand galleons to Mrs Elspeth McRory, who
has been my kind companion and helper during my illness this last year.
I leave the remainder and residue of my estate absolutely to my great
nephew Sirius Black, upon his attaining the age of seventeen years.
Should the said Sirius Black not attain the age of seventeen years, the
remainder and residue of my estate is to be divided in equal shares between the
British Society for the Study of Magical Languages, the Muggle Relations
Institute, and the Werewolf Welfare Foundation.
Sirius felt his
stomach turn over; there was a strange tingling in his head. He knew he had heard properly, but
surely that couldn’t be right? Uncle
Alphard had left him all the rest of his money?
But … but what about the others?
Didn’t they get anything? What
about his parents – Regulus - Uncle Rigel – Narcissa and Bellatrix …?
He snapped back
to attention, finding Mr Rumble eyeing him gravely. Was there a – a hint of a twinkle – in
that gaze? He was aware of the collective
shock around the table, of the stiff posture of his father next to him, and he
edged his chair backwards very slightly as he straightened up to listen to
Rumble’s next words.
“There are of
course, the usual complex and technical clauses detailing the powers of the
trustees. These are in accordance with
usual legal procedures, and will enable us to administer the estate and invest
the money for the ultimate benefit of the beneficiaries.
“The will is
dated 15th April last and was executed here in this office,”
continued Rumble. “Our secretary, Miss
Cecily Herbert, and I were the witnesses.
Miss Herbert has been with the firm for more than thirty years, and was
well acquainted with Alphard Black.”
The silence was
absolute. Sirius felt an almost insane
urge to whoop with laughter, to leap up and hug Andromeda, to dance around the
room with Mr Rumble. Uncle Alphard
had cut them all off – he hadn’t left them anything! Not a single, solitary copper knut!
“And my uncle’s
personal possessions?” Rigel Black’s
face had gone pale with fury.
Rumble opened the next sheet of parchment.
“Alphard Black has left his best green china
dinner service and its china cabinet, together with the two long Persian
carpets in the front hallway, to Elspeth McRory. He has left his collection of Muggle tools
and machinery, and his Muggle motor car, to Ted Tonks. He has left the four Highland paintings in his study
to his neighbour, Alex Frazer.
“He has left his
piano and the large painting of dragons and other magical creatures to Sirius
The piano! And
the dragons! Sirius felt a wave of happiness. He’d practised for hours on that piano, and
his uncle had always encouraged him to learn the works of Muggle composers like
Bach. Composers whose notes were simply not permitted to sully the hallowed air
of Grimmauld Place. And he’d always loved the
painting – that huge, gloriously colourful work that had hung in the living
room for as long as Sirius could remember.
Dragons and griffins, sphinxes and hippogriffs, serpents and all manner
of other magical creatures. Uncle
Alphard had told him stories about those creatures when he was little, and
later listened while a young Sirius had assured him that one day, he too was
going to find a dragon or a hippogriff …
Abruptly he came
back to reality, listening to the steady voice of Reginald Rumble. “… rest of his
possessions, he has requested that Andromeda and Ted Tonks, and Sirius Black,
be allowed to choose whatever items they would like, and has then authorised
his trustees to sell or otherwise dispose of the remainder in such way as we
see fit. The only stipulation is that we
may not give or sell any items to Orion Black, Rigel Black, their wives or
their children, apart from Andromeda and Sirius.”
“And that is it?”
Orion Black’s voice would have cut through diamonds. “That is – the entire estate?”
“The will and the
instructions are exactly as I have read.”
“And we get
nothing?” Rigel Black stood up, towering
over the solicitor, eyes blazing.
“NOTHING at all?”
“I repeat, Mr
Black, the will and the instructions are as I have read. Miss Herbert has made copies for each of you,
in case you wish to study them.” He
pointed his wand at the door; a bell sounded distantly, and within seconds Miss
Herbert appeared and handed him a pile of parchments. A further flick of his wand sent copies
fluttering to each person sitting at the table.
“You cannot do
this!” Augusta Black’s voice almost
screeched with anger as she got to her feet.
“This is outrageous! You have no
right to do this!”
“Mrs Black, I
must point out that I have had nothing to do with this matter other than in a
purely professional capacity. I merely
drew up the will on my client’s very precise instructions, and saw that it was
properly executed. Alas, I am afraid
that Alphard Black himself is somewhat beyond questioning.”
voice rose to a shriek as she swung round to face Sirius, her hand raised. “You filthy little … you sneaky … you
despicable … You knew about this,
you’ve just been sucking up to him, you miserable, traitorous, scum of a …”
“Madam, I must
ask you to refrain from such language.”
Rumble’s voice was low, but its authority carried easily over her
vituperation, and the angry murmurings of Rigel and his family. “Mr Black also assured me that neither
Andromeda nor Sirius knew anything at all about the provisions of this
will. You have no reason to abuse your
“SON? You call that creature a son? That deceitful …”
“Augusta.” Orion gripped her arm firmly. “That will achieve nothing. I suggest we take the copies of the will and
consult our own solicitor.” He turned to Rumble. “I assure you that you have not heard the
last of this. Come Augusta, come
wondering for one horrible second if his mother would hex him as she passed on
her way out. But instead she allowed her
husband to take her arm, and usher her from the room. Regulus cast a slightly
triumphant look at his older brother which Sirius had no difficulty
interpreting – you’ll get it now, Sirius, you just wait! – before
following them like a devoted terrier.
Across the table, Rigel and Elektra seemed to be having difficulty
deciding whether to curse Sirius, Andromeda or the two solicitors sitting
calmly at the head of the table.
Narcissa and Bellatrix were both pale-faced, eying Sirius with absolute
loathing as he sank back into his chair.
His mind was whirling.
Rumble. You will hear from me.” Rigel Black rose too, escorting his family
from the room without another word.
Sirius had the distinct impression that the door had been charmed not to
Andromeda and Ted
had not uttered a word, nor moved from their seats. The Blacks had simply swept past as though
they did not exist, and Sirius knew that the family venom would be saved for
his own head. So what’s new, he
thought bitterly. At least I’m
supposed to be going to James’ place tomorrow. Though I might have to make a
run for it.
Sirius?” Rumble was smiling at him. “Mrs Tonks, Mr Tonks? May I suggest a cup of tea? I am sure you have many questions.”
As if reading his
mind, Miss Herbert appeared, wafting an enormous silver tray with a teapot,
cups and all the trimmings. A plate of
chocolate biscuits, some sponge cake, even some delicate sandwiches.
The atmosphere lightened perceptibly as
refreshments were distributed. Sirius
swallowed his tea and munched his way through several sandwiches, saying
nothing but listening to Andromeda and Ted answering questions from Rumble and
Solomon about ten-month old Nympadora.
Yes, she was indeed a bright child, and more than a handful now she was
crawling at top speed and trying to walk.
After his initial shock and surprise at the
reading, Sirius now felt rather – well, confused was perhaps the wrong word –
it was more uncertain. He knew his uncle
had loathed most of the family, but leaving the whole estate to him and
Andromeda’s children … he’d certainly never expected that. Not
that the family will ever believe me, he thought. They’ll
think I put him up to it, that I only ever went over there because I wanted to
make sure he left me some money. There’ll
be hell when I get home - Mum’ll be off her brain – they’re probably off with
Uncle Rigel and Aunt Elektra already, working out how to get around it...
Abruptly he got up, taking a chocolate
biscuit and pacing restlessly around the room, eyeing the pictures and the
carved walnut sideboard with its matching bookcases. Nice
lines, he mused, not like some of
that hideous old stuff at home with all the trolls’ heads and snakes and
everything. This is nice and sort of
elegant. Like some of that stuff Uncle
Alphard has – had rather … Hell, I’m
probably wealthy – wonder how much it all is – but I can’t do anything with it
for another year – won’t be seventeen ‘til next March. And I didn’t put him up to it – we never ever
mentioned money – we talked about other things – I could always talk to him -
about all sorts of things I’d never ask my parents …
He found his eyes misting over suddenly,
and swallowed a lump in his throat. I’m going to miss him. He was a funny old bugger, but I loved
him. Gave me my first piano lessons, and
he paid for my lessons from Professor Lieder when Mum and Dad told me they
weren’t going to pay for any more of that Muggle music nonsense. I’m glad I went to see him the minute I got
home from school – no-one told me he was so ill – funny how I just got that
feeling I needed to go see him -
It was still hard to believe his uncle
was dead. He’d always been a bright spot
in Sirius’ life, the only adult family member in whom he’d had any
confidence. And now here he was in the
offices of Solomon, Rumble and Foote, slowly coming to the realisation that his
uncle had thumbed his nose at the Black family and had the last laugh. He’d encouraged Sirius’ independence of mind
from an early age. Now he had given him
the means to be truly independent at the first available opportunity.
He became aware that the conversation behind
him had stopped. He turned, and found
them all watching him.
“Sirius?” said Andromeda gently. He nodded and resumed his seat, helping
himself to the final piece of cake.
“Sorry, Doda – just thinking.” Doda
– hell, his mind must be wandering - he hadn’t called her that in years. It had been his pet name for her when he was
little, unable to pronounce Andromeda.
“I imagine you have much to think about,
Master Black,” said Rumble. “And I must
offer my warmest congratulations – that is, if my information about your OWLs
results is accurate?”
OWLs results. God, he’d forgotten all about those. Thirteen Outstanding OWLs - his uncle would
have been pleased. He’d told Sirius he’d
do extremely well – if he applied himself occasionally. And he had applied himself, only
sometimes it looked as though he and James weren’t really working, because they
had excelled with apparent ease at the practical side of things; they’d never
had any difficulty with the advanced charms, potions or transfiguration
He accepted the congratulations and
handshakes with some embarrassment. How the hell did they know about his
results? They’d only come out the day
before the funeral. At least it
had silenced his parents for a few hours – he’d outdone his cousins by a
mile. Even if the subjects did include
After that, a strange silence fell over
the group. Sirius eyed Rumble and
Solomon, hoping they would speak, but it was Ted Tonks who opened the
“Can they set it aside? The will, I mean.” Typical Ted, blunt and to the point. As you’d expect from the son of a Newcastle
Rumble crossed his hands in front of him
and leant back, a strangely satisfied little smile on his face. “They can try. But they will not get very far. There are absolutely no grounds on which they
“Aren’t there special laws about
that? You know, allowing people to
challenge wills? My old Dad had a Muggle
friend who said they could do that sort of thing. Horrible mess in his family -
the friend’s brother ran off and left his wife and three kids. Then dropped dead one night and they found
he’d left all his money to his mistress.”
“There are some laws to that effect in
the wizarding world as well.” This time
it was Solomon who spoke. “But they are
“How limited?” Andromeda frowned.
“The only people who can challenge
someone’s will are that person’s wife, husband or – er, other partner. Or their children. Parents may challenge a will only if they
were dependent on the deceased at the time of death. Say for example, a person’s elderly mother
had been living with them and depended on them for a home and care. If the child died, the mother could challenge
the will if it cut her off without any proper support.”
Sirius digested this and glanced at
Andromeda. “But that doesn’t apply here,
does it?” he said. “I mean, Dad and
Uncle Rigel are only Uncle Alphard’s nephews, not his children. He didn’t have any children. Didn’t even marry. And his parents died long before any of us
“Precisely.” Rumble nodded approvingly. “And one could hardly say that Orion or Rigel
Black were financially dependent on him. As I said, only partners, parents or children
can challenge a will, not even brothers or sisters – so nephews and nieces are
too distant for that.”
“Which means, so are great nephews and
great nieces.” Sirius exchanged a
satisfied glance with Andromeda. But Ted
was not so convinced.
“They’ll still try something. What if they say he was insane or
something? Don’t you have to be –
whatever they call it – ‘normal’ to make a will? What if they make out he was mad? What would happen to the money then?”
“He was eccentric, not mad,” Sirius winked
at Ted. “Very eccentric, but never
“You are quite right, Master Sirius,”
said Rumble. “It is exactly what I said
earlier – your great uncle knew perfectly well what he was doing when he gave
me the instructions for the will. He was
most precise about it, and took great care to check the final document. My clerk took the notes – we have them on
file. I assure you that he would give
evidence that I asked many questions about the instructions, and that Alphard
Black was exceptionally clear and considered in his answers.
“Your great uncle also, may I say,
anticipated some such attempt by your respective parents. He left me with certain instructions, and
made all necessary arrangements in case there was a challenge.” Sirius had the impression that Rumble was
quietly amused by the situation.
“What arrangements? You mean, he expected them to challenge the will?” Andromeda looked surprised. But Sirius wasn’t: Uncle Alphard knew his
family all too well.
“He discussed the possibility, yes.” Solomon again. “Certain instructions were given, and a sum
of money set aside with our firm to cover such an eventuality.”
Sirius had picked up his copy of the
will, and was studying the clauses. He
was no lawyer, but he’d worked his way through more than a few obscure
textbooks. Something niggled at him …
“Everything in here seems to depend on us
getting to the age of seventeen. I mean, if I read this right, Andromeda’s
children have to be seventeen before they can get anything – and you can only give
out all the money once the youngest is seventeen. So, Nymphadora won’t get her money when she is that age – if Andromeda and Ted
have more kids, you only give out all the money when the last of them are
“Quite correct again, Master Sirius,”
said Rumble. “That is, of course, the
legal age for wizards. And if none of
them reach the age of seventeen, the money goes to you.”
“But I’ve also got to be seventeen. What
happens if I don’t make it?” Sirius sat
back, the prospect of an early mortality a little disturbing.
“I know Quidditch is a dangerous sport,
young man, but I hear that fatalities are rare.”
“I’m not talking about Quidditch. I’m talking about other – accidents.”
“Sirius!” exclaimed Andromeda. “You surely don’t mean …?”
“I am quite sure that Master Sirius is
not in any immediate physical danger from his family,” said Rumble firmly. “The clause is a mere formality.” Yeah,
but you don’t know my parents, thought Sirius. If they
could arrange for me to fall down a flight of steps, or have a nasty convenient
accident, I’m sure I wouldn’t put it past them – not after today, any
rate. Though I guess it would depend who
got the money afterwards.
“Well, whatever. But what happens if I do die before
“Your share of the estate would go to the
charities and causes listed by your great uncle,” replied Rumble, his lips
twitching slightly. “Organisations he thought worthy, but as I understand it,
not the sort that would be approved by your parents.”
Muggles - Mermish
and Gobbledegook and all that stuff - and werewolves? thought
Sirius, and he found himself grinning again.
That would be even worse than him
inheriting. “On the other hand, if I
remain alive, there is a chance I could take pity on my brother or cousins and
decide to make them some gifts, is that it?”
“The extent of your generosity after you
inherit is, of course, a matter for your discretion.”
“But if I did, that wouldn’t really be
following his wishes, would it. I mean
– if he’d wanted them to get anything, he would have left it to them. Right?”
“I would say it was reasonable to assume
that his wishes were those expressed in the will and the letter. I saw him only a week before his death, you
know – and he said he had no intention of changing anything.” He paused, glancing from Sirius back to
Andromeda and Ted. “I realise it is very
soon after your uncle’s death, but perhaps you might all like to suggest a time
for inspecting the contents of the house, and the personal possessions? I need to register the will and details of
death with the Ministry, which will take a few days. After that, I am sure
matters can be concluded fairly swiftly, as I already have full details of his
assets. You will have a very decent
nest-egg, Master Black, as will your cousins when they grow up. Mr Solomon and I will be pleased to provide
you with advice or assistance at any time.
On any matters.”
Sirius sat back, folded his arms and
studied his uncle’s solicitor. His solicitor now, it appeared. Yes, there was a definite twinkle in those
shrewd eyes, and he suddenly knew that he and Rumble would get along just
fine. The will was watertight; his
parents couldn’t do a single damned thing about it, no matter how much they
yelled and punished him; and once he got to seventeen, he’d be able to leave
home. Oh, James was going to LOVE
this! The world was suddenly wonderful,
Further author’s note: I have NOT forgotten “A
Most Unusual Student”, and have been slowly working on making a few changes to
various chapters as the result of OotP. Luckily, there are relatively few changes
needed. I will post those chapters over
the next month or so, and try to put an * in the title so readers know they
have been updated. But at the same time
I was revising these, I felt I had to get to know the 16 y.o.
Sirius. The boy who ran away from home
and his dreadful family must have grown up quickly after fifth year and that OotP scene in the Pensieve.