Toujours Pur


Story Summary:
Mrs Black watches the Quidditch from her private box and reflects on her disappointing sons, the importance of Black family values, and a certain Chaser for the Kenmare Kestrels ... [Written for the FictionAlley OTP challenge, set a few years after the end of the first war. Slightly revised from the version originally Niffled to take into account the names and dates on JKR's 'Black Family Tree' recently sold at auction.]


Toujours Pur

There are six Quidditch stadiums in the British Isles designated as 'League Venues'. They were constructed to order in suitably deserted locations, have been thoroughly enchanted with permanent Muggle-Repelling Charms, and can be magically expanded to seat as many as five thousand wizards and witches for big games. All matches between the thirteen teams in the British and Irish Quidditch League are played at one or another of them.

Naturally, private boxes are available for rent or purchase at all six. Naturally, these boxes are highly prized among the upper echelons of wizarding society as a mark of status. And naturally, the Black family have had their own box at each of the six ever since they were built. A Black does not care to sit among the common crowd.

Walburga Black sat alone in the Black box at the Highlands Stadium and watched spectators filter into the stands below, with a very private look of amusement on her face. There was no obvious reason for her to be here, other than to maintain the family presence. There was no particular necessity for her even to retain ownership of the boxes. Her personal knowledge of Quidditch was relatively limited. Her husband was dead. The younger generations who had enjoyed the sport no longer used them. Sometimes this was merely because they had married well, into good families who made their own arrangements in such matters. Sometimes it was because they, or their parents, had married badly and fallen from favour. Sometimes it was for less savoury reasons.

But Blacks were expected to own private boxes, so Walburga did not even consider disposing of them. She regarded herself as a true heir of the house of Black, as indeed she was through her father; although for the first twenty years of her life -- until she had married her second cousin Orion -- she had never actually lived in the old family home. But in her, all the traditions and attitudes of the Blacks found their full expression. At the wedding reception, her new husband's best man, his insufferable friend Rabastan (a name she had always disliked, despite it being traditional in his family) had joked loudly that Orion had found a wife who was even more of a Black than he was.

He had been a fool, but nonetheless he had been correct. And she could claim that there were sound Black reasons for showing her face in public despite her misfortunes. She had absolutely no intention of allowing people to feel sorry for her. She had shed her tears of anguish and humiliation in private, where no-one but her devoted house-elf could see her. A Black does not display weakness in front of plebeians, nor desire their sympathy. And it was good for her sanity to be out and about, doing things rather than brooding at home. She did not wish to hide away behind the door of Grimmauld Place, living in shame and fear like a common criminal. That way lay madness. That way was not the Black way.

So she maintained the Black family boxes at the six League Venues, and had begun to visit them, first occasionally and then regularly. She would have informed anyone who had the impertinence to ask that this was merely for the purpose of keeping up appearances, rather than from any great interest in the play.

Although she would not have informed them that the same did not necessarily apply to the players.

Today's contest pitted the Pride of Portree against the Kenmare Kestrels. Neither team were in any kind of contention for the League Cup -- a struggling eighth and a distant fourth in the table respectively -- but both were popular teams, with one or two star players, and a good crowd had gathered.

The Highlands were a long journey by Floo from London, but Walburga was too frail these days to risk Apparition over such a distance -- a fact that annoyed her greatly. So there really was no good reason for her to be here, even to keep up appearances, when she could have been at the Exmoor Ground or Fenland Park instead. Except that the Kestrels were playing here today, and she had an interest in the Kestrels.

Well, at any rate, an interest in their players.

Or rather (as she admitted to herself reluctantly) an interest in one of their players.

She held a pair of Omnioculars up to her eyes as the game began, and, regardless of where the Quaffle happened to be at any given moment, she followed the Kestrels' new young star Chaser as he sped about the pitch. She smiled wryly. One advantage of a private box was that it distanced her from the rest of the spectators, helping to conceal such facial expressions as years of good training and centuries of good breeding were unable to hide.

Walburga told herself that an ... appreciation such as this was merely an indulgence, such as may be allowed to the old. She ignored the nagging thought that she had ceased to watch games that did not feature the Kestrels. She overlooked the fact that she had carefully noted the dates of all their matches. She chose to regard the racing of her heart on the days of the games as merely the natural excitement caused by a sporting occasion.

Of course she realised, somewhere at the back of her mind, that she was being extraordinarily foolish. She warned herself that she was walking a fine line, that such immoderation could easily tip over the edge into obsession and even madness. She was, after all, an old woman. But even the old -- no, especially the old -- could appreciate the young. And there was much to appreciate in Michael Troy.

He was a fine young man, of a kind that she had always found pleasing. Athletic, good-looking, hugely talented in what he did. It was evident, from the grace and agility with which he moved through the air, that in him the wizarding race had produced one of its finest specimens. Although her knowledge of the Celtic wizarding families was sketchy, clearly he was not of her social class. That was of no importance. Elites are commonly fascinated by the skills of great artists and sportsmen, and allow them to mix in their circles in a way that the mere upwardly mobile can never hope to achieve.

That thought reminded her that she must send an owl to Tempera to arrange a final sitting. He was considered to be the finest magical artist of his generation, a man whose services were sought all over Europe. Naturally she had chosen him to paint the portrait of her that would be fixed in the hallway of her town house. A Black demands only the best. Although exceptions may be made in the case of Quidditch teams if they have good reason for doing so.

As Walburga watched Troy effortlessly put away another goal; her emotion was something she did not quite allow herself to recognise, something that was almost fervour. At times like this, she did not think of herself as an old woman. In her mind, she was still a girl of sixteen, when young men such as this had been dreamed about in Hogwarts dormitories with as much passion as any modern-day flibbertigibbet could find within herself. It amused Walburga that the young imagined themselves to have invented sexual attraction -- as no doubt it had, in its turn, amused her forebears when her own generation had imagined the same thing.

She had always been aware of the dangers, of course. One of her classmates at school, a girl from a growingly wealthy but risibly overambitious family, had caused a scandal by running away with her father's secretary. The man had not even been a pure-blood. Her family had never lived it down, had never been taken seriously again with such a son-in-law. Their mistake had been to employ such a striking and ambitious young man in a position where he would have access to their impressionable daughter. But then, they had been nouveau riche, not old blood at all; either they knew no better, or could do no better.

She smiled coldly. The problem would never have arisen with the Blacks. They knew better than to have such people in their service. They knew better than to have people in their service. Blacks have servants who obey them. Blacks do not have human servants.

But they do have human interests. She followed Troy's path with her eyes as he did yet another lap of honour around the stadium, to the roars of the Kestrels supporters.

Toujours pur -- that was the official Black family motto. Always pure. She approved of this wholeheartedly. Blacks did not accept half-bloods into their line, still less Mudbloods. No Black who had done such a thing could any longer be considered part of the family. The mere act was a declaration that they had abandoned their birthright along with their decency. She did not even approve of such people as suitable material for a dalliance or a seduction, although she knew that some members of the family had always been prepared to tolerate this. Mostly it was the male Blacks, of course; although in modern times, even some female Blacks had indulged themselves. Not that Walburga had any objections to such things between purebloods -- it was almost expected of youth -- but she recognised the dangers of such indulgence. She had always been disgusted by the attentions of men of tainted blood; the thought of being attracted to such a man revolted her. For a Black, purity of blood was purity of heart.

Toujours pur. Always pure. The official family motto. The unofficial family motto, however, was that what a Black chose to think in the privacy of their own mind was nobody else's business. So Walburga was quite willing to forgive herself for some very impure thoughts. It was a luxury of the old, for whom the time for acting upon them is past. She had never been revolted by men of pure blood. Even so, the tingle she felt when looking at Michael Troy was ... unsettling. A weakness, a feeling long thought discarded. She knew that it was unwise, even in her own mind, to picture the shape of the body hidden under his robes, or to imagine how it would to feel to run her fingers over his skin, tracing the muscles and being gently tickled by the hairs. An old woman's fantasy, and a danger to sanity, that she could allow herself but not allow to go too far. She was very glad that no-one could see her. Although a Black is expected to be able to hide their thoughts from others.

She remembered with harsh amusement that Orion had gone through a similar phase a few years before. He had 'fancied' (horrible, common word) Melanie Woollerton, the glamorous Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies, and had travelled the country pretending to be interested in the fortunes of her team. Walburga had not cared in the least. This sort of imprudence was to be expected of the weaker sex. Let the man have his fantasies. There was no chance at all that he would be able to act on them. And he was still a Black; at least he had made an effort to keep his foolish fixation to himself. It hadn't hoodwinked Walburga, but she knew him too well. It had remained hidden from outsiders. A Black is expected to be able to keep what they are thinking to themselves.

She was reminded that sometimes this was easier said than done when her musings were interrupted by loud girlish squeals from the edge of the box: "Ooh look! Mrs Black fancies Troy! Mrs Black fancies Troy!"

She turned sharply, startled. Three very young children -- no more than four or five years old by the look of them -- had somehow managed to climb the wall between her box and its neighbour and were hanging on to the edge, laughing at her. Her first furious instinct was to call over their parents and demand that they keep their brats under control -- but a quick glance showed her that they had allowed their children to play in the box with only a house-elf to look after them. She was almost sure they were the daughters of the Parkinsons and the Patils -- good people, good breeding, but (as many were in this day and age) far too indulgent with their offspring.

Her second, more measured response was to glare at them, which she did, silencing them with a single look. They climbed down from the wall of the box, abashed, and she smiled grimly to herself. Then, as the realisation of what they had said hit her, she sat back, breathing heavily, her heart racing from the sudden shock. The children were surely too young to know the meaning of what they had said. But they were old enough to recognise the signs by analogy, whether they understood what they had seen or not. It had been a close call. She did not want rumours spread about her, especially if they were true.

Walburga had never read any of the absurdly named Muggle 'fairy tales'; but if she had, she might have recognised that at that moment she looked exactly how the witches in such stories were supposed to look -- an aged woman with yellowing skin and clawed hands, with an expression that said only too clearly that her sole use for children was as something to put into her cauldron.

She scowled. She had no use for her own children, after all. Both of her sons had been a severe disappointment. After several years, she no longer thought about them continually. But they were never far from her thoughts, even in expeditions to Quidditch matches.

Her younger son had once seemed entirely satisfactory. He had learned the Black family ways, had followed the Black family traditions, and behaved as a Black should behave. When the Dark Lord had begun his campaign to cleanse wizarding society of impure influences, her son, in common with all the other worthwhile members of the family, had openly supported him. She had been proud of him. She had wished that his brother could have made her proud of him also.

But then Regulus had joined the bombastically named Death Eaters, and entered into the service of the Dark Lord. A Black does not accept servitude. Even worse, he had grown afraid of what was required of him and tried to back out of his commitment. A Black does not show fear. A Black does not back out of his commitments.

The crowd began to yell furiously as the rival Seekers raced for the Snitch, but Walburga listened with only half an ear. She stared at the play through her Omnioculars, but suddenly found it hard to focus.

Her elder son had always seemed entirely unsatisfactory. He had always refused to learn the Black family ways, had scorned the Black family traditions, and had behaved as a Black should never behave. He, and the few other members of the family who seemed determined to bring shame upon themselves, had openly opposed the Dark Lord, consorting with his blood-traitor and Mudblood friends against him.

Sirius had always despised her, and felt nothing but contempt for his father. She had constantly tried to make him see reason. She had repeatedly brought expected standards of conduct to his notice. Blacks do not give up on the heir of the house for mere bad behaviour. But when he had finally turned his back on the family by running away ... she would no longer consider him her son. She had contemptuously overruled her husband's weak suggestions that the boy be given a last chance. He had shamed his very flesh and blood. A Black does not run away.

And then, in the aftermath of that dreadful Halloween, the reports said that her son had in fact been a secret supporter of the Dark Lord, and had betrayed those ridiculous friends to him. She supposed that this news should have made her feel warmer towards him. But Walburga Black had suffered her son's ignorant behaviour for too long to believe that his change of heart was genuine. No, the worthless child had probably been coerced, or cursed, or bribed into doing what he had done.

And whatever his reasons had been, he had failed, and been captured, and taken to jail. A Black should not fail in the task he has set himself. But if by some cruel chance he does so, he goes down fighting. A Black does not allow himself to be quietly led away like a common criminal.

She told herself firmly that her only reason for interest in Troy was that she thought of him as the son she would always have wanted. She knew, however, that this was untrue. She knew that attraction takes no account of age.

She looked up, startled, at the activity breaking out around her. Clearly the Snitch had been caught while she was lost in her reverie. It had been a disappointingly short game. The players were down at ground level now, shaking hands. She saw, with a thrill of vicarious pleasure, that the Kestrels had won.

She stood up, took a last look at the pitch, and slowly made her way down towards the fireplaces underneath the stadium. There was no need for haste. She certainly did not intend to be caught up in the crowds leaving the game. And she knew she was frail, far more frail than her age warranted. She put it down to her hard life. She walked slowly down the stairs leading from her box, nodding graciously to other spectators that she recognised as members of pureblood families, and ignoring the rest. By the time she reached the base of the stand, the crowds had thinned out to such an extent that hardly anyone was left except the stadium staff. Hence it took a moment for the couple wearing Muggle clothing waiting outside the players' changing rooms to register with her.

She looked on, tight-lipped. She knew that sometimes Muggles who were aware of the wizarding world were allowed to visit magical areas such as Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. Clearly there must be ways to circumvent the charms on this stadium, also, to allow favoured Muggles the opportunity to visit. She deduced that they must be the parents of one of the players, waiting for him or her to emerge. Walburga did not approve. This was a magical area. It was no place for a Muggle.

And then her carefully constructed house of cards came tumbling down and vanished in a puff of smoke.

In her self-indulgent flights of fancy, her pleasant daydreams, the very immodest thoughts she had allowed herself ... she had overlooked (or refused even to consider) the possibility of the scenario that now unfolded before her. Walburga's mind reeled as the door to the changing rooms opened and Michael Troy emerged, embracing the Muggle couple and accepting their congratulations in a manner that was clearly filial.

She stumbled towards the fireplaces, numb with shock, a feeling of shame growing underneath the numbness. She did not remember saying the words '12 Grimmauld Place, London'. She paid no attention to the solicitousness of her house-elf as he rushed to greet her arrival. She staggered upstairs to her bedroom and cast a Colloportus spell on the door. She needed to take time to deal with what had just occurred.

It was not the fact that she now recognised with hindsight that she had allowed herself to become obsessed with Michael Troy that shocked her. She had been aware of that possibility and indulged it regardless. No, what shocked and disgusted Walburga Black was the crushing realisation that, in her age and loneliness, she had allowed herself to become obsessed with a Muggle-born -- not even a man of partial wizarding blood -- without ever stopping to consider what kind of man he might be. In the old days -- or rather, in the young days -- she would never have been such a bad judge of character.

Walburga Black could feel her already tenuous grip on sanity slipping, but did not know how to alter it. Ashamed and mortified, she knew in her heart of hearts that she could not face attending another Quidditch match. She could have coped with people guessing why she was following the Kestrels. She had already acknowledged to herself the possibility that they might understand, and accepted it. It was not a disgrace in itself. It might be considered an understandable and even customary development. And they could never know for sure. Blacks do not confirm rumours about themselves unless they wish to.

But she could not cope with the idea that people would think her a dirty old woman, obsessed with a Mudblood. When even children had seen it and jeered at her, it was clear that her ability to hide her feelings had faded without her realising. She could handle people disapproving of her actions. A Black does not care about the disapproval of lesser people. But she could not handle -- could not bear the humiliation of -- people pitying her, regarding her as the weak and foolish old woman that she had undoubtedly been. It was a fundamental principle of being a Black.

A Black does not display weakness in front of plebeians, nor desire their sympathy.

Walburga made her way downstairs to where Kreacher was waiting for her, anxious to serve her in any way he could. At this moment, she deeply appreciated his loyalty, even though she knew that as a house-elf he was incapable of displaying anything else. It soothed her soul. She informed him that she would be remaining in the house for the foreseeable future, not travelling anywhere for a while. He clapped his hands in joy.

Somewhere at the back of her mind, she made a decision -- an unconscious decision, but a definite one. It could not be a conscious decision, because it went against some of her Black principles, even as it was based firmly in others. But nevertheless it was made.

She would never leave Grimmauld Place again.


Author's notes:

This story came about as part of the FictionAlley "What's Your OTP" 2005 Valentine's Day Challenge - basically, you got two random characters and a random connector to make a sentence, and had to write a story which incorporated that sentence. Much to my surprise, the sentence "Mrs Black fancies Troy" turned out to generate enough small plot bunnies for this three and a half thousand word one-shot - although to be honest, ones that wouldn't have occurred to me without the challenge. :)

This version has the new canon names for Sirius' parents from the Black Family Tree (the original called them Persephone and Rigel). I'd correctly guessed that they were cousins, but some other details such as their relative ages were inaccurate, and those have also been adjusted for.

Author notes: As mentioned, this story came about as part of the FictionAlley "What's Your OTP" 2005 Valentine's Day Challenge - basically, you got two random characters and a random connector to make a sentence, and had to write a story which incorporated that sentence. Much to my surprise, the sentence "Mrs Black fancies Troy" turned out to generate enough small plot bunnies for this three and a half thousand word one-shot - although to be honest, ones that wouldn't have occurred to me without the challenge. :)

This version has the new canon names for Sirius' parents from the Black Family Tree (the original called them Persephone and Rigel). I'd correctly guessed that they were cousins, but some other details such as their relative ages were inaccurate, and those have also been adjusted for.