The Sugar Quill
Author: Olive Hornby (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Summertime Black and Blues  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: The characters and setting in this story are not mine; the story and interpretation are. Thanks go out to J.K. Rowling, for creating such a wonderful world and letting us play in it, and to my beta Yolanda for her suggestions.

The Summertime Black and Blues
By Olive Hornby


Sirius grinned cheerfully as he waved goodbye to Peter. James and Remus had already left King’s Cross Station; both sets of parents had been eagerly waiting for them when the Hogwarts Express pulled up. Peter had been one of the last students to be picked up. His harried mother had forgotten to meet him again, so they had sat together and talked until she finally showed up and dragged him away, leaving Sirius alone on the platform except for the guard. His smile faded the moment Peter was out of sight, and he chewed his lip pensively.

“Oi, there, have you got a way home?” asked the guard.

“Oh, yes,” Sirius said. “I’ll be fine, thanks.”

He crossed his fingers as he said it.

He knew that his parents would not come for him. They never had. Every year he had to make his way home without their help, and every year he dreaded it. It wasn’t that he was afraid of walking through Muggle London, or even that he was worried that Father would have put up another new ward without remembering to tell him--that had happened two years ago when he came back the summer after second year and Mother had alternated between screaming at Father and screaming at him for not having the sense to perform a ward-detection charm as she hexed his limbs back on between shouts. It wasn’t even that he dreaded being home again, though he did.

It was that he had to go with Regulus.

The little prat was nowhere to be seen, and Sirius heaved a weary sigh as he pulled himself to his feet. He yanked his robes off and stuffed them in his trunk; the plain pressed black trousers and tailored red jumper he wore beneath would allow him to blend in, but robes would stand out too much. He looked around the platform and, seeing that no one was nearby to watch him, muttered a shrinking curse that reduced his luggage to a palm-sized box that he easily tucked in his pocket. His use of magic--magic of questionable legality at that, as he didn’t know the normal spell for shrinking item, only the spell that Mother had taught him out of a very old, very foul-smelling book whose cover bore a disturbing resemblance to dried human flesh--wouldn’t be noticed here, in an area already filled with magic.

He tucked his wand away and casually stepped through the barrier to the Muggle side of the train station. Unlike Platform 9 3/4, the rest of the station was still quite busy, Muggles rushing about. Sirius ignored them and headed for the small, dingy men’s lavatory tucked away in the shadows of the station.

He slipped in quietly and looked around. A single homeless man slumped against the far urinal, but he was sleeping. Sirius disregarded him and bent to peer under the two stall doors.

A pair of familiar well-worn black shoes lay beyond the door on the left. They moved restlessly back and forth in the stall as the person wearing them paced back and forth in the small space.

Sirius snaked one hand under the door and grabbed one ankle that rose out of the familiar shoes, wrenching back with all of his weight. He heard a string of curses and a dull crash as the person collapsed onto the dirty floor. He smirked and stood up straight to pound on the door.

“Regulus!” he shouted. “Are you in there?”

There was a brief scuffling, then the door opened and Regulus glowered out at him with impotent fury, his wand raised straight at Sirius’s face.

“Now, now, Regulus, we’re on the Muggle side now,” Sirius pointed at the snoring man in the floor.

Regulus grated his teeth together so hard that Sirius was amazed that none of them popped out. Sirius sighed and cocked his head at his brother.

“Look,” he said, “I was just picking on you, all right?”

“You’re always picking on me,” Regulus hissed. “Can’t you just leave me alone?” Sirius felt a brief pang of guilt, but quickly squashed it. Regulus gave as good as he got, after all. It wasn’t Sirius’s fault that the smaller boy didn’t have friends who would stick up for him the way he himself did.

“Get over it,” he snapped. “Do you have your trunk?”

Regulus slowly lowered his wand and nodded. He, like Sirius, had already taken his robes off in preparation for the trip home.

“Then quit hiding in the loo and let’s go,” Sirius said impatiently. He stomped out the door, Regulus keeping some distance between them as he reluctantly followed.

They made their way out of the station and Sirius was dismayed to see that the sky was overcast. Heavy rainclouds loomed above and a light sprinkling of rain fell. He doubted that they would make it all the way to Grimmauld Place before it began to pour.

“We could just stay here until after it stops raining,” he suggested.

Regulus scowled. “I’m sure Mother would love that.”

“It’s the middle of the day,” Sirius pointed out. “She’s probably not even awake.” Mother never kept normal waking hours anymore. Her illness, as she called it, kept her prowling all night to pass out in the morning. Sometimes she didn’t remember anything she had said or done the previous night; not, Sirius thought, that she ever did anything worth remembering.

“Father will notice, though,” Regulus said.

“Why are you in such a hurry to get there?” Sirius demanded. Despite his protests though, Regulus had made no move to leave the station, but that only irritated Sirius further. His brother couldn’t seem to stand up to his parents or to him very effectively, trying to tread a line between them and avoid direct confrontation with either.

When he did have to pick his battles though, he always chose the lesser opponent: Sirius.

“I’m not!” Regulus snapped. “I just don’t want to give them an excuse.”

“As if they need one...”

“Why must you persist in antagonizing them?” Regulus said. He looked like he was about to say more, but seemed to think better of it and snapped his mouth shut.

Sirius let out a snort of mirthless laughter. “Persist in antagonizing... where did you learn to talk? Did you swallow a dictionary or do all Slytherins sound as stuffy as you?”

“Piss off,” Regulus hissed.

“That’s more like the Regulus I know,” Sirius said, rolling his eyes.

“You don’t know anything.”

“Shut up.”

With a final glance upward at the menacing sky, Sirius sighed and began walking the familiar path back to Grimmauld Place. The first time he had done this, he was equipped only with a dated Muggle map that Mother had conjured from God-knew-where, and he had been terrified that he would get lost and not make it to the station on time. He couldn’t make much sense of the map, but fortunately Regulus could, else he might still be wandering around central London. Regulus possessed considerably more logic than the average wizard, and apparently this translated well to deciphering old maps.

“I wish we could take the Knight’s Bus,” Regulus muttered just loudly enough for Sirius to hear.

“Well, we can’t,” Sirius said shortly, though inwardly he cringed. He recalled the summer of his second year again--not only had his father nearly killed him by changing the house wards without his knowledge, but he had also received a lifetime ban from the Knight’s Bus for an unfortunate incident involving the ill-thought storage of a bag of dungbombs and three packages of Filibuster’s Fireworks in the same box.

They probably could have gotten out of it if not for the explosive argument that Regulus immediately started.

He wasn’t sure who had been angrier: the driver, who had nearly lost control of the bus, or Regulus, who was covered with the remnants of the dungbombs. To be fair, Sirius was covered as well, and it wasn’t as if he had done it on purpose. Nonetheless, Regulus brought it up every time they had to walk to or from the station. Sirius wondered if there was anyone in the world who could hold a grudge quite like his brother.

Naturally, his mother had hexed him every which way he could imagine and then some when she found out. Regulus emerged unscathed, though he had been banned from the bus as well. Sirius was still fuming over that.

They walked in silence for a long time. Sirius amused himself by watching Muggle vehicles driving by and looking in shop windows. Regulus trailed behind him, just far enough to be out of his immediate reach.

A large, shiny black metal something caught his eye and he veered off toward the parked vehicles in front of the shops.

The vehicle that caught his attention was unlike the boxy cars that dominated Muggle roads. This was sleek and beautiful. It only had two wheels, not four like most of the vehicles Sirius had seen. He inspected it closely, running his hands over the seat before slinging his leg over it and grasping the handlebars in awe.

“Sirius...” he felt a tug at his elbow.

“Look at this, Regulus, isn’t it incredible?” he said.

“Sirius,” Regulus said, this time more urgently.

“What?” Sirius snapped, looking up at his brother, then following Regulus’s nervous gaze to the front of the vehicle.

A large, grizzled-looking older man wearing black leather glowered down at him.

“Sirius, is it?” the man boomed. “Just what do you think you’re doing with my bike?”

“I... I, ah...” Sirius hastily leaped back off of the vehicle and backed away from the man.

“He was just looking,” Regulus interjected.

“Yes, I was just looking,” Sirius said, faintly irritated that Regulus had spoken for him. “I’ve never seen one before. I was just curious, I didn’t mean any harm!”

“You’ve never seen one of these before?” the man asked, and Sirius’s heart sank. Surely this man would realize that there was something different about him. He wondered how closely he was skirting the International Statute for Wizarding Secrecy by simply talking to a Muggle, and he realized with amazement that he never had spoken to one before. He could only imagine his mother’s fury if she knew.

All the more reason to do it, he decided.

“No,” he said. Let the man make what he would of that.

Sirius cringed and he saw Regulus jump as the man suddenly boomed with laughter. “Well, I’m not surprised! This is a classic,” said the man. “Not many of these still on the road.”

“Oh... well, it’s very nice,” Sirius said, a bit thrown off and faintly disappointed that he wouldn’t be irritating his mother as much as he thought. “Where did you get it?”

“Bought it off a man in Islington,” the man replied. “Said he bought it years ago and never rode it. Never rode it! Been sitting in his garage for fifteen years, he said. Took me a while to get her working well, but as you can see, she’s a beaut now.”

“Oh yes,” Sirius said readily.

The man beamed, and another thought leaped into Sirius’s head. The words came tumbling out of his mouth before he even realized what he was saying. “Can you take me for a ride?”

“What are you doing?” Regulus was suddenly at his side hissing in his ear, and Sirius shoved him away with his elbow.

The man frowned, looking Sirius up and down. “Where are your parents?”

“I live with my brother,” Sirius said, gesturing at Regulus. That was true, if deliberately misleading.

At the man’s skeptical expression, he hastily added, “I’m of age.” That wasn’t so true, but he was pretty sure he could pass for being older than he was.

Regulus opened his mouth and Sirius stomped his foot as discreetly as possible.

The man looked Sirius up and down, and he squirmed under the scrutiny, trying to ignore both the odd gleam in the man’s eyes and the incessant tugging on his sleeve.

“I suppose I could take you for a roll around the square,” the man said slowly.

“No,” Regulus hissed in his ear.

“Brilliant!” Sirius said, grinning madly.

“We have to go,” Regulus said loudly. “Mum and Dad are waiting for us in the car.”

“What are you talking about?” Sirius turned on his brother. “Since when did you call them that? And they don’t even have a car, and certainly aren’t anywhere near here.”

“Sirius...” Regulus’s voice was suddenly laced with pleading desperation.

The man reached down and clamped Sirius’s shoulder tightly. “You do want a ride, don’t you, Sirius?”

Sirius looked up at the man, who was no longer smiling, but instead wearing a calculating, hungry look on his face, and he suddenly realized what he must look like to the man.

A young, fairly attractive boy in expensive clothes.

Walking the streets of London.

Alone with his brother and no parents anywhere near.

As the man tightened his grip on Sirius’s shoulder, Regulus’s urgency suddenly didn’t seem at all misplaced.

“Actually, he’s right,” Sirius said, trying futilely to pull away from the man. “Ah... Mum and Dad are probably looking for us, we should get going...”

“I don’t think so,” the man said.

Before Sirius even registered that his brother was moving, Regulus leaped forward and landed a solid kick square on the man’s kneecap. The man howled in pain and released Sirius. Sirius jerked backwards as Regulus grabbed his arm.

“Come on!” Regulus shouted.

Sirius didn’t need to be told twice. He dashed down the pavement, Regulus close at his heels, looking back to see the man shaking his fist and shouting curses and obscenities at them. He wove in and out of the pedestrians, nearly knocking several over. His heart pounded in his ears as his shoes slapped the ground, creating a frantic rhythm that he gasped for breath by.

He didn’t stop running until sharp pains stabbed in his sides and he finally doubled over, clutching his legs to remain upright and panting heavily.

“That was close,” he said between heaved breaths. No one answered, and he looked up.

Regulus wasn’t there.

Despite the blood still racing through his veins and the sweat running down his face, a chill crept through Sirius as he glanced around for his brother. The other boy, however, was nowhere in sight.

Ignoring the pain in his sides, Sirius backtracked his path, desperately searching the busy pavement for a glimpse of a dark-haired, sour-faced boy. His sense of dread increased with each step.

Some of the passersby gave him dirty looks as he bustled through them, apparently recognizing him as the boy who nearly bowled many of them over mere moments ago. He pushed them aside, ignoring their muttered protests.

A sudden flash of lightning startled him, and a loud crack of thunder followed almost immediately. Sirius felt light raindrops land on his face and looked up.

The sky was almost black. The people rushing about on the pavement began to take cover, either hurrying into the shops or to their cars. Sirius stopped and stood in the middle of the pavement.

The rain began to pour.

Sirius stood alone now, drenched and shivering. There was no one else outside now, only anonymous faces pressed at shop windows waiting for the rain to slow.

There was still no sign of Regulus.

Sirius trudged back toward where he had last seen his brother. Dozens of images were flooding his mind unbidden. Regulus being dragged away by the man with the motorcycle. Regulus trying to shout Sirius’s name while his mouth was covered by a large, rough hand. Regulus lying unconscious--or worse--abandoned on the side of some isolated road. He sniffled, running the back of his sleeve across his nose as his tears blended with the rain.

An answering sniffle caught his attention.

He whirled toward the source of the sound, and there was Regulus, sitting in the shadows between two large garbage cans under an overhang. He wasn’t wet--apparently he had ducked under the scant shelter before the rain started. He was huddled with his arms wrapped around his knees. Sirius could see that one of his trouser legs was torn, his bloody knee poking through. Despite Regulus’s injury, relief flooded through Sirius to see his brother safe.

Regulus looked up at him, and he was surprised to see tear-stains running down his brother’s normally stoic face.

“I fell,” Regulus whispered.

“You--” Sirius growled.

He crouched down to look Regulus in the face, searching the other boy’s face. He felt ridiculous for having been so close to panicking just moments earlier, but Regulus didn’t seem to have intended to frighten him. If anything, he looked as scared as Sirius had felt only moments ago.

“Well, don’t just sit there sniveling like a baby,” Sirius said, glad that the rain masked his own tears. “Let’s go home.”

Regulus slowly got to his feet.

“Come on,” Sirius insisted.

Regulus reluctantly limped out from under the overhang, and within moments he was soaked as thoroughly as Sirius. They walked closer together this time, side-by-side. Neither spoke.

Sirius shot surreptitious glances at Regulus as they walked. The other boy’s face was stony and tense, his lips curled downward and his eyebrows scrunched together.

They walked for nearly an hour in silence. The rain slowed but didn’t stop, and Regulus’s face remained dark.

Tired of his brother’s sullenness, Sirius sighed loudly. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Regulus looked up at him sharply. “What do you think is wrong?”

“I don’t know! If I knew I wouldn’t have asked!”

Regulus looked straight ahead and pressed his mouth in a thin line.

“Come on,” Sirius said, hoping he sounded playful rather than pathetic as he poked his brother’s ribs.

“Don’t touch me!” Regulus snapped.

“Would you stop being such a prat for a few minutes--”

“That’s rich coming from you! You treat me like something on the bottom of your shoe all year then suddenly you want to talk to me when we go home,” Regulus groused bitterly.

“You’re better than nothing,” Sirius said.

“Thanks ever so much.”

“It’s not like you go out of your way to be nice,” Sirius snarled.

“No point,” Regulus said loftily.

“And why not?” Sirius demanded.

Regulus muttered something unintelligible, and Sirius rolled his eyes.

“Fine,” Sirius said. “I’m sure it’s nothing important anyway if it’s coming from you.”

“I said,” Regulus snapped, “that since your friends are so much important than I am, there isn’t any point. It’s always ‘James this’ or ‘James that’...”

Sirius stopped in his tracks and grabbed Regulus’s elbow, yanking his brother around to face him.

“Just what is that supposed to mean?” he said.

“Exactly what it sounded like,” Regulus shot back, trying in vain to pull away from Sirius. “I’m just a target for you when they’re around.”

“It’s not my fault you started a fight with James your first week at school...”

“You started the fight a long time ago...”

“Don’t start! Don’t start! I don’t want to hear any more lies!”

“I’m not lying!” Regulus’s voice rose and cracked. If Sirius didn’t know any better, he would have thought that Regulus was about to cry again... but no. Regulus was a manipulative snake, and had lost his trust years ago with his outrageous lies.

If he was angling for an apology then he was in for a long wait.

“All you are is a liar,” Sirius said flatly, dropping his brother’s arm and turning away from him.

“At least I’m not a coward,” Regulus said so softly that for a moment Sirius wasn’t sure he’d heard it. He jerked around to face his brother again.

“I am not a coward,” he hissed.

“You run around with your little gang of Gryffindors, hexing anyone you want to just because you can,” Regulus said in a soft, deathly tone. “Even today you ran away and didn’t even think about me, even though I was the one trying to stop you from doing something stupid.”

“I didn’t know you fell!”

“You didn’t care!” Regulus scoffed, and Sirius told himself that the hurt in his brother’s rising voice was just as false as everything else Regulus did. “You abandoned me, like you always do--”

Something inside Sirius snapped.

Before he realized that he was even moving, he balled his fist and slammed it into Regulus’s face. Regulus crumpled to the ground, clutching his nose.

Sirius staggered backwards, shocked by what he had just done. Surely he had not allowed Regulus to get under his skin that quickly... surely he hadn’t just smashed his brother’s nose with so little provocation...

Regulus looked up at him, angry tears shining in his eyes. He hastily clambered to his feet. Still clutching his nose--Sirius could see a steady stream of blood flowing from under his hand--he ran unsteadily down the pavement away from Sirius, clearly favoring his injured leg.

Sirius trembled with an explosive mix of emotions as he watched Regulus go. Anger, mostly--at both himself and Regulus. But sadness also.

He and Regulus had been best friends once.

Sirius slammed his palm into one of the brick store fronts, a howl of frustration blasting unbidden from his lungs. The first coherent thought he had was that he wished Regulus could keep his sorry, lying mouth shut.

The second thought was that his parents were going to kill him.

He looked down the pavement, but Regulus was no longer anywhere in sight. Sirius’s heart sank. Grimmauld Place was only a few streets down; Regulus could be there already. Sirius could imagine it already: Regulus would tell Mother what had happened and she would be in a state of rage for weeks to come. Regulus was the one she expected to carry on the family traditions--she’d given up any hope of Sirius doing so. She didn’t take kindly to threats to her precious little Regulus.

He couldn’t go home.

Mother would curse him into next year. And Father... though Father had never been as partial to Regulus as Mother was but he would definitely disapprove of Sirius lashing out as he had. He wasn’t sure what Father would do, but he was sure it wouldn’t be pleasant. He leaned against the wall, his stomach tense and churning with apprehension.

He could go to James’s house. The Potters liked him; they would be glad to take him in until Mother cooled down.

The Potters lived halfway across the country.

Sirius banged his head on the wall and began walking back in the direction he had come, feverishly running through his options in his mind. There was no way he could get to the Potters--he was permanently banned from using the Knight Bus, and after his experience with the man with the motorcycle he certainly didn’t want to risk bumming rides from any anonymous Muggles. Walking could take weeks, and he wasn’t even entirely sure how to get there from London by foot. He could go to Diagon Alley and Floo to the Potters’ house, but the Leaky Cauldron was well toward the center of London, twice as far as he’d had to walk already. He wasn’t entirely sure how to get there by foot either, and it was already getting dark. Remus’s family lived even further away than James’s, and Peter lived in a tiny flat barely big enough for him and his mother, let alone any guests.

The rain was slowing, and Muggles were beginning to leave the shelter of the shops. Rather than battle the stream of people, Sirius detoured into a small dark alley. The stench of rotting garbage assaulted his nostrils and he wrinkled his nose as he sat down heavily on an overturned box.

Propping his elbows on his knees, he held his chin in his hands and watched the Muggles moving about. A woman stopped outside the alleyway, two dark-haired little boys in tow. The boys had to be similar in age, but neither could be older than five. While the woman wrestled with some bags she had dropped, the two boys giggled and played with something that Sirius couldn’t see.

He sighed wistfully. He and Regulus had been like that once. He shuffled his feet among some loose trash as he thought about his brother. Regulus was, in some ways, the only family he had. His parents were either cold and distant or explosive and frightening depending on the circumstances, and though he had interacted with his three cousins a lot when he was younger, they had grown apart. He couldn’t think of a single thing he had in common with any of the three older girls. He didn’t have much in common with Regulus either anymore, except that they were both trapped in that house with their omnipresent, stifling father and half-mad mother. Even if Regulus didn’t have the guts to stand up to them, Sirius surmised, he still couldn’t be happy there. Could he?

Sirius pressed his lips together and clenched his teeth. Regulus was the favorite. He got all the praise, insincere and inconsistent as it was coming from their parents. He got all the attention and all the lavish gifts. It wasn’t like he had much to complain about. Sirius had taken second place for quite some time.

He buried his face in his hands and didn’t even notice the boys approaching until they were nearly on top of him.

Something brushed past his leg and he jerked his head up sharply. The two boys were standing right in front of him, looking just as surprised as he felt; apparently they hadn’t seen him in the shadows. A small red ball rested against the wall next to Sirius.

Sirius reached over and retrieved the ball, then held it out to the closer boy. The boy hesitantly reached for it.

A terrified shriek came from the pavement beyond the alley, and Sirius and the little boys both jumped. The woman dashed into the alley and placed herself bodily between Sirius and the two boys, waving for them to stay behind her. He looked up at her in confusion.

“Stay away from them!” she yelled, her voice quavering.

“I was just handing them their ball,” Sirius said earnestly, holding the ball forward as he rose to his feet.

The woman bit her lip and reached backward, somehow managing to scoop both children into her arms as she herded them backwards out of the alley. She looked truly terrified, and Sirius sat back down slowly, trying to appear unthreatening. He flicked the ball away so that it rolled into the woman’s abandoned shopping bags and stopped. The woman seemed a bit supplicated by his retreat, but still eyed him warily as she hastily gathered her bags. The two boys clutched her skirt uncertainly.

“Is there a problem?” a deep voice said. Sirius craned his neck to see a man in a black uniform approaching the still-flustered woman. She pointed down the alley at Sirius and said something to the man that Sirius couldn’t hear, then hurried away with two little boys.

The man stepped into the alley and frowned at Sirius, looking him up and down. “Are you homeless or just a runaway?” he said.

Sirius blinked. “Neither.”

“Then why are you sitting alone in a filthy dark alley, soaked to the bone?” the man asked him, folding his arms over his chest.

“I... I got caught in the rain is all,” he stammered. He definitely didn’t want to mention that the reason he was wandering around alone was that he’d gotten in a fight with his brother. If, as he suspected, this man was the Muggle equivalent of an Auror, he didn’t want to give him any reason to get him in trouble with Muggle authorities. He could almost hear his mother’s stream of curses already. “I had a long way to walk home from school, so I sat down. I didn’t mean to scare that lady, honestly.”

“You live far from here?” the man asked.

“No, just a few streets down,” Sirius said.

The man nodded. “All right. Come with me, I’ll give you a ride home.”

Sirius reluctantly followed the uniformed man out of the alley. The man got into a black and white car with a bar of horizontal lights across the top. He opened the other door for Sirius, but Sirius hesitated.

“Come on, now,” the man said gently. “You’re not in any trouble.”

Sirius bit his lip and climbed into the vehicle. There was no Regulus nearby to get him out of it this time.

He directed the man to Grimmauld Place, and to his relief they went straight there. Sirius had never ridden in a Muggle vehicle before, and he marveled at how the car rode smoothly over the road without magic. He watched the man’s motions on the controls with great interest, earning him a curious raised eyebrow from the man.

When they stopped in front of 12 Grimmauld Place, Sirius clambered out of the car. To his surprise, the man turned the vehicle off and got out as well.

“It’s right here,” Sirius waved vaguely at the house. The man shouldn’t be able to see 12 Grimmauld Place; Father had warded it against Muggles. He could see it of course, and he looked up to see a black curtain fluttering in one of the windows. He scowled. That had to be Regulus, probably going to report to their parents that Sirius was outside with a Muggle Auror, or whatever they were called. “I don’t need you to walk me there, it’s fine...”

The man frowned at him. “I’d like to make sure you get to your parents, just the same,” he said.

Sirius’s heart sank. The man apparently thought he didn’t want to go home. While that certainly wasn’t untrue, he wasn’t really a runaway, and there was no way the man could escort him to the house--

“Is this it?” the man asked. He was standing right in front of the door to 12 Grimmauld Place. Sirius gaped for a moment, then nodded mutely.

The man knocked on the door. Sirius stepped up next to him, preparing himself for the dressing-down he was sure to get. He prayed that Kreacher, the family house-elf, didn’t answer the door.

The door opened just a crack, and Sirius’s mother peered out through bloodshot eyes. She glanced at the Muggle in disbelief, then at Sirius. He tried not to visibly cringe as her expression went from shock to cold fury.

“Good day, ma’am,” the man said. “Is this your son?”

“Yes...” she said softly. Sirius could hear the unspoken ‘unfortunately’ her voice seemed to hold.

“He was lurking in an alley. It’s not safe for a young boy to be out on the streets alone,” the man warned.

“Of course not,” Mother growled, her eyes boring into Sirius as he wilted under her gaze. “Thank you,” she said stiffly, stumbling over the words slightly.

“Glad to assist,” the man said with a nod. “Good day, then.”

The man walked back to his car as Mother beckoned him inside with a single finger. He shuffled inside, casting one last backwards glance away from the house. He doubted he would be seeing anything outside of it until school started again.

Mother shut the door behind them and leaned against it for a moment before turning around to face him. Her eyes were wide with rage, and the left one was twitching slightly--a very bad sign. Sirius hunched his shoulders and stared at the floor.

“What were you thinking?” Mother hissed viciously.

Sirius shrugged.

She swooped down on him and grabbed his ear. He could smell whiskey on her breath as she growled, “You brought a Muggle here! You deliberately dropped the wards on this house and brought a Muggle to the House of Black!”

Sirius snapped his head up in surprise. “But I didn’t drop the--”

“Lies! How dare you befoul the house of your fathers? How dare you tell lies to your own mother?”

“But--”

“Poor Regulus tripped down some stairs and broke his nose! Where were you? You are supposed to stay with him!” she snarled, pulling his ear harshly.

Sirius blinked away tears she yanked his ear, and it took him a moment to process what she had just said.

Regulus tripped down stairs?

Apparently his brother hadn’t told on him after all.

His mother screeched in fury. He caught a quick movement out of the corner of his eye, but before he had a chance to dodge, her free fist collided with his other ear. He gasped in pain and stumbled, dragging her with him. Just as suddenly as she had attacked him, she released him, stumbling backwards then sliding down the wall to the floor.

“Get out of my sight!” she snapped, struggling with her voluminous dress as she staggered to her feet.

Sirius gladly obliged. He turned and ran down the hall and up the stairs to his room. He paused in front of his door and instead knocked softly on the door opposite his.

The door opened, and Regulus peered around it, regarding Sirius with caution. His nose wasn’t bleeding anymore, and there was no sign that it ever had been. “What do you want?” the other boy demanded.

“I--,” Sirius began. A simple apology seemed inadequate, so he quickly shifted gears. “Did you take the wards down?”

A curt nod was his only response.

“Why?”

“To let you in obviously,” Regulus said impatiently. “That Muggle wasn’t going to let you just take off.”

Sirius nodded, though he was a bit surprised that Regulus had realized that.

“Well... um... thanks,” Sirius mumbled.

Regulus scowled at him.

Sirius sighed. “Regulus, I didn’t mean to--”

Regulus slammed the door in his face.

Sirius stood there for a moment, uncertain whether he should be angry or hurt. Then he heard his mother’s voice screaming for him not to slam doors and he quickly darted into his room, locking the door behind him.

//
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