Several years passed before I had cause to
re-enter my father’s study. I was nine now and had just returned from my third
escape attempt that year. Well, when I say returned, I mean dragged by…you
know, actually I can’t remember. I always used to think it was Bella, but this
was during school term so therefore it couldn’t have been her. There is also
no chance that it was dear old Mum; she would never sully herself by traipsing
through Muggle London in search of her ungrateful son, perish the thought. No,
and it definitely wasn’t Father because I had to wait for an hour until he got
back from a business meeting. Well, whoever it was, they had a firm grip and
highly polished buckled boots that clicked on wooden floors. And a cane, I
definitely remember a cane.
You must not think that my running away was
because of any extremity of feeling, quite the contrary really. By the time I
was nine I had lost what little regard I had for my parents. My previous
desire to be contrary had resulted in the small acts of rebellion common in
young children (even more common for me); now, at least in my view, it was
all-out war, Sirius versus the Family. So far, the Family was winning.
After all, They had the advantage of
numbers, experience, magic, and tradition. I, on the other hand, had only my
innate wits, a considerable amount of anger, and the wary backing of
Andromeda. In other words, I was fighting a losing battle. But I had never
been one to give up - even when faced with insurmountable odds. I knew that
there was no way I could win while I lived under Their roof, but I would not
always be pinned down where They could reach me.
Hogwarts shone for me like a beacon of hope
at the end of a long, dark, miserable tunnel. This hope was fuelled by
Andromeda’s wonderful tales. Hogwarts became a symbol of everything that
number twelve, Grimmauld Place, was not: a place where every meal was a feast,
a place where people might laugh at my jokes, a place where I could actually
speak to Mudbloods - no - Muggleborns. It would be a place where I
could meet new friends, have fun, and make my dreams come true. I used to lie
on my bed and just imagine what it would be like, when in two years' time, I
boarded the Hogwarts Express to take my place at the premier school of magic in
the world. I would escape from my cousins, find a carriage full of people, and
join in the conversation. Of course I would impress everyone by being the
first Black to enter Gryffindor, and make huge amounts of friends of whom my
family would disapprove. I might also - possibly - excel in the classroom, but
only if I felt like it. Yes…it was an amazing vision.
It kept me going - the knowledge that every
day I survived brought me one day closer to this time. A time when I could
finally escape the sheer torment of living with a mad mother, a fanatical
father, and a bratty brother. Unfortunately, this remote prospect was
sometimes not enough. Hence my feeble attempts to run away, which inevitably
ended in humiliating capture and painful punishment. This didn’t deter me from
continuing to escape into the Muggle world, of course. I may have been very
talented for a nine-year-old, but I wasn’t too bright when it came to matters
of self-preservation and that strange semi-mythical thing called "patience".
It didn’t take much to send me scrambling
over the back garden-wall. The news of a family gathering or a particularly
dull lesson in the afternoon was normally enough. Strangely, it didn’t really
matter that I usually got only an hour of freedom at most. It was the
statement that counted; nothing said “I hate you and your beliefs” more clearly
than running away to Muggle London.
This latest escape was a particularly good
one, actually. Some Muggle kids were playing one of their strange games a
couple of streets away, and called me over when they noticed me sulking in the
shadows. At first, they mainly wanted to know why I was wearing a dress. I
explained that it wasn’t a dress, but a robe, at which point their leader began
to taunt me for wearing a poncy dress and having a poncy accent. I punched
him. Then we had a fight.
It is very
difficult to duel the Muggle way in wizards’ robes - I still think I would have
won if I had been wearing the cloth tubes - the trousers - that they wore. As
it was, he beat me soundly. He gave me a lovely black eye in the process, I
might add, as well as loosening one of my baby teeth. (The tooth came out
later that week and I buried it at the bottom of the garden. Due to the lovely
nature of my family, I was well aware that your tooth in someone else’s hands
could do a lot of damage). I fell down at the end and can remember thinking
that now the whole lot of them were going to descend upon me. However, the
leader abandoned me after only a few parting kicks. To my astonishment, a
slightly smaller boy - who seemed to be the second-in-command - pulled me up,
slapped me on the back, and invited me to play for his team. He told me I had
put up "a real corker of a fight."
That was my first
introduction to the peculiar game of foo-ball. I had no idea of the rules, but
as there didn’t appear to be any, that was all right. We raced up and down the
street whooping and hollering as a large mass of humanity. We were presumably
following the Quaffle-like ball but I only caught rare glimpses of it - so
tight was the scrum around the unlucky boy who held possession of it.
My robes got in the way at first, but then
I hitched them up using one of the other boys' “ties” (narrow cloths around the
neck, only Merlin knows why) and was just as able as any of them. I even
helped score a goal by punching the Keeper in the stomach at a crucial moment,
a deed for which I was given a resounding cheer by my teammates. The cheer was
accompanied by lots of friendly punches.
I had never been as happy as I was that
day, surrounded by Muggles of the lowest sort, engaged in a game I had no hope
of mastering, and covered in muck from the badly-kept street. My fifth-best
robes had been almost torn to shreds by the strange demands I was making of
Whoever it was who collected me appeared at
this point. I didn’t notice the new arrival until a cane landed with a dull
sort of finality on my shoulder, and my teammates disappeared with a swiftness
that rivalled the top speed of the latest Nimbus model on display in Diagon
Alley. The first part of my punishment was delivered with great attention to
detail, which I found wearying and rather painful, to say the least. Good
Merlin, that cane was heavy!
However, the bruises I received from the
cane were heaven compared to what awaited me back at Grimmauld Place.
As I have already said, I was dragged back
home, and by the ear as it happens. I am sure that my right ear is still
significantly bigger then my left ear. I was then dumped outside my father’s
office under the watchful eye of Kreacher, while my "walking
companion" entered the "inner" sanctum to report that my
re-capture had been a complete success. I immediately pressed my left ear to
the dark wood of the door (my right was rather too tender to be submitted to
such indignities). Kreacher muttered a bit but he shut up when I hissed a
quick command to be silent. At first, I couldn’t understand either of the
voices. However, as my hearing adjusted, I could make out the tail-end of
“…always been difficult,” my father sighed.
“But this?” the other voice replied.
“Running off to Muggle London on a regular basis? Never in all my life….” The
voice trailed away and there was silence for a while.
“You had better call him in,” my Father
said, breaking the silence. Hurriedly, I drew my ear away from the door and
leaned as casually as I could against the wall, wincing as a particularly sore
bruise made itself known. My nonchalance was not appreciated by my captor, and
I received another hard knock about the shoulders before being shown into the
Not surprisingly, the study hadn’t changed
a bit. The inkstand I could remember so vividly was in exactly the same place
as last time, although this time I hardly spared it a glance. At nine years of
age I was much too old to be fascinated by inkstands, even ones with sharp
teeth and glowing, red eyes.
To be honest, I expected him to shout, to
shake his finger at me, or to be - at the very least - slightly annoyed.
Instead, my father was freakishly calm. He asked me to describe exactly what I
had been doing on my little excursion, which I did, stumbling and stuttering
under his steel-like gaze. Then he told me to tell him exactly how I had
escaped, which was something Mother had somehow forgotten to do after my last
foray into the city. I lied of course, but eventually, under sterner
questioning, the truth came out. He noted the information down methodically on
a small sheet of parchment, as though my misdeeds were something on par with a
grocery list, not that my father had ever written a grocery list in his life….
After submitting my wrongdoings to
parchment, he calmly informed me that the back wall would be cursed to throw me
across the garden if I put one finger on it. I would now be obliged to spend
at least six hours of each day with my mother. And finally, if I missed one
more family event, he would increase that amount of time to twelve hours per
day, and he would tell Kreacher to wake me up every hour on the dot for a
My father may be an emotionless bigot with
the mindset of someone older than the Hogwarts founders, but he isn’t stupid,
at least not in the conventional sense. The punishments he had devised for me
were pretty much the only ones that were going to affect my behaviour.
Spending six hours a day with Mother was torture to the extreme, and I was
faced with the prospect of more if I deviated even once from the devised use of
my time. There are times when even I have to admire the dedication with which
my parents attempted to pound their ideals into my less-than-willing head, but
this was not one of them. This time, I was just furious.
Father then began his fiendish plot to
destroy every brain cell I possessed by sending me to talk to my mother.
Needless to say, the six hours I spent with her were reminiscent of one of the
deeper reaches of hell. I will skip over that...bit.
When I eventually collapsed into bed, with
muscles stiff, head pounding and bruises screaming, Regulus poked his tousled
head around the door. He ought to have been asleep hours ago, but he knew that
there was no chance of him being punished when I was in so much trouble.
“Mother thayth that you’re a "Black
Theep" and a "Dithgrace To Our Name",” he informed me in the
lisp that he put on to impress grown-ups with his sweetness.
“Oh, go off and bang your head against a
wall, Reg,” I replied wearily. “It might knock some sense into your thick
He was too used to my threats to disappear,
but he did drop the lisp. “She says that I should be disappointed to have you
as a brother.”
“And are you?” I continued trying to pull
off my shoes without bending any of my aching limbs.
“Not really,” he answered, to my surprise.
“But I think I’m smarter than you.”
“And why’s that?” I said, genuinely
interested for once. I even abandoned my futile shoe-removal technique to
stare at him.
“Well, you haven’t figured out how to make
them like you again, have you?” he said simply. Then, with a quick, “G’night
Sirius,” he was gone, leaving me with my thoughts and a huge number of painful