Disclaimer: The great JK Rowling owns every character, spell, place – you name it, it’s hers. I, obviously, am just borrowing.
A/N: This was written as an outtake from From Ashes, but it can also stand as a separate one-shot. For those of you who have read Ashes, this fits in between chapters 3 and 4, taking place immediately after Remus’s trial.
Much thanks to my beta, Colon, for looking over this and for giving some excellent pointers! And my SQ beta, Birgit, for her wonderful work in refining and catching the discrepancies!
Barely ten minutes in Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, Sirius Black wished himself far away from home. Walburga Black had greeted her youngest son with an emotionless hug, and her eldest with a lecture.
‘When will you cease to be a disappointment to us, Sirius? Will you ever be done tarnishing the worthy name of Black? You’ve been sorted into Gryffindor, of all houses, and then you go and associate with blood traitors like that Potter boy. Why can’t you be like Regulus? Never causing trouble, always upholding the Black name –’
‘Regulus, the perfect son,’ sighed Sirius, rolling his eyes. He noted that his brother had already disappeared up the stairs – Regulus had probably scampered the moment Mum had launched into her lecture, bloody coward that he was. ‘Yes, I know. I’ve heard this a million times, Mum.’
‘It doesn’t seem to have any effect! You’re a disgrace! And I’ve heard things about you … not only couldn’t you get Sorted into Slytherin, you go around cursing and hexing members of the old families!’
‘Only the Dark ones,’ muttered Sirius under his breath.
‘Don’t mutter at me, Sirius. You’re a shame, a horrendous mistake of a Black, a blood traitor …’
He leant back against the door and let her go on, screaming until she was blue in the face. It was the same thing every time he came home; Sirius would step through the door, and his mother would launch into a tirade about him – his abysmal behaviour in school, his impudence in being sorted into Gryffindor (which had become much worse since third year, when Regulus had made Slytherin), and anything she could think of to reprimand him.
This time, however, he had done something to be ashamed of, albeit for reasons his parents would never understand. They were livid because he had owned up to his part in a recent prank, in order to save a werewolf – ‘a filthy half-blood – a half-breed even, hardly a human’ – from the silver bullet. Sirius felt guilt hang heavily in his heart because said werewolf was his friend … He had almost got Remus expelled – hell, he’d almost got Remus put down. If it hadn’t been for James, running in to pull Snape back when the slimy Slytherin had gone poking his nose in the wrong place – all right, that had been Sirius’s fault – oh, hell, James, too. He’d almost got his best mate killed.
James was right – he, Sirius Orion Black, was a prize idiot.
A long fifteen minutes later, his mother exhausted her list of derogatory phrases and Sirius was free to lug his trunk up to his room. He trudged through the gloomy hallways, noting that there was yet another house-elf head added to the eerie line adorning the staircase. Aunt Druella must have beheaded their family servant and donated it to the Grimmauld Place collection.
‘Young Master is back,’ said an oily voice at the top of the stairs. Sirius glared at the house-elf.
‘You couldn’t help me take this thing up, could you?’ he said angrily.
‘Kreacher must do as Young Master says.’ The house-elf came down the stairs and bowed so low that his snout-like nose touched the floor. ‘Even if Young Master is an ungrateful brat,’ he added in an undertone. With a crack, Kreacher and the trunk disappeared.
‘Too bad we couldn’t have beheaded him,’ muttered Sirius, glaring at the spot where Kreacher had just been. He had nothing against house-elves in particular – in fact, he rather liked those in the Hogwarts kitchens – but Kreacher was an extremely trying case. The obnoxious house-elf was completely devoted to his mother, and delighted in dropping snide remarks around Sirius, echoes of Mrs Black’s tirades against him.
‘Interesting escapade of yours, last week.’ A sly voice issued from the empty portrait frame in his room as Sirius entered.
‘Shut up, Phineas,’ growled Sirius. He flopped miserably onto his bed.
It was going to be a long holiday.
~ * ~
Sirius knew, when he was called into his father’s study, that a time-bomb was probably about to go off.
His mother had always been the one to screech and yell and bemoan his every misstep – she was the parent who sent the Howlers, who screamed the house down whenever Hogwarts sent owls home about his misbehaviour. His father, however, dropped silent missiles, quiet but deadly: writing lines with Aunt Lycoris’s quill, which scratched the words ‘I will uphold the Black family name’ into his skin; waiting upon old Aunt Cassiopeia, who had extended Vanishing Sickness and considered herself something of an invalid; tutoring Regulus, who was hopeless at Transfiguration, with Kreacher spying on them so that any attempt to mislead his brother would bring their mother down upon him.
Orion Black hadn’t said anything about the trial for three days now, which, Sirius was sure, was a bad sign. It meant that his father had taken more time to consider how to discipline him.
‘Sit,’ said his father sternly. Sirius obeyed nervously. What punishment had his father come up with this time?
Mr Black didn’t speak immediately. He shuffled a thin stack of parchment on his desk, considering them, before saying, ‘This is your worst transgression yet, Sirius.’
Sirius held his head up and stared his father in his eye. He agreed – but his father would never know how much … or why.
‘Your mother and I are severely disappointed in you. This is not the way for the pure-blood heir of an ancient, noble family to behave.’
Get to the point, thought Sirius. Dear old Mum’s already been through all this.
‘I have been wondering, Sirius, how this could have happened. I finally concluded that you may not be to blame.’
Sirius’s jaw dropped open in shock. He hurriedly snapped his mouth shut again, before his father noticed anything amiss, but he felt thrown for a loop. His father – Orion Black, who openly advocated pure-blood supremacy, who stood for everything that Sirius had now learned to despise – was deciding that he, Sirius, was not to be faulted for his actions? What next? Embracing Muggle-borns and half-bloods?
‘We have made a poor decision with regards to your education,’ his father continued, and Sirius’s amazement dissipated. ‘With the company and values you have been exposed to, it is no wonder that you, who have always been headstrong and rebellious, have succumbed to the teenage tendencies of disobedience. At Hogwarts, there have been few role models for you to emulate.
‘As a result, we have come to the undesirable state of today – with you consorting with and supporting Mudbloods, half-breeds and blood traitors. Clearly Hogwarts is not the school for you. I am appalled that there has been a werewolf among the students – in your dormitory, no less – all this while. I understand that you may have felt intimidated by threats from this creature –’
‘He’s not a creature.’ Sirius involuntarily balled his hands into fists. His father, however, didn’t seem to notice.
‘– but you truly have nothing to fear. The werewolf will eventually be put down, even if the other Governors do not agree today –’
‘No,’ said Sirius firmly. His father paused, narrowing his eyes at the interruption. ‘No,’ Sirius repeated. ‘He’s not going to be. It was my fault – mine.’
There was a long pause, during which Sirius met his father’s eyes bravely – Orion Black’s dark eyes bored into his, but he refused to back down or look away. Finally, his father leaned back and said, ‘As you see, Sirius, you have clearly been misled by the influence of the Mudbloods and blood traitors at your school – the biggest one being, of course, the Headmaster himself. However, it is not too late for a change.’ His father drummed his fingers on the pieces of parchment which he had been shuffling a moment ago. ‘It wasn’t easy to get you accepted in the middle of term time, so I hope you’ll appreciate the strings I’ve pulled to have this transfer approved.’
Transfer? ‘What –?’
There was a momentary pause, before the bombshell dropped.
‘You will be going to Durmstrang, starting next term.’
~ * ~
The house was completely silent; not even Kreacher was stirring. Sirius got out of bed and Summoned his trunk in a whisper, careful to let it land on the bed. Softly, he began to pack his belongings.
He couldn’t stay. Not in this godforsaken house, with his family – he didn’t want a family like them.
He had been sent to his room in disgrace, after an innocent question from Regulus – the little idiot – had ended in a shouting match between Sirius and his father, over their Christmas dinner. It was shocking that Orion Black had actually been so riled up; Sirius could count the number of occasions that his father had raised his voice on one hand: a cold, sarcastic tongue-lashing was his usual preference.
‘You have a duty to uphold the family name, and you are heading down the wrong path. Those Mudblood-lovers will continue to brainwash you, if nothing is done! To agree to bear witness in aid of a wretched Dark creature – worse still, a filthy half-blood creature such as that werewolf …You shame me, Sirius! That a son of mine should purport such views … where have we gone wrong in bringing you up?’
It shamed them that he had done his best to do what was right. Never mind that he had made a huge mistake, never mind that he had almost got two of his best friends killed or eliminated by the Ministry – no, his parents would probably have considered it a job well done if the prank had succeeded in disposing of James and Remus at one go.
The thought made Sirius sick to his stomach.
They were wrong. He’d told his father as much, which had escalated their heated argument to deafening tones.
‘You’ve been in trouble since you left for Hogwarts, Sirius; it’s clearly not the school for you! The decision is final!’
‘I won’t go!’
‘You’ll do as I say – as long as you are my son, you will heed my orders!’
‘What if I don’t want to be your son, then?’
Those were the words that had got him sent to his room without any dinner, along with a threat that he’d be disowned if he ever raised that preposterous idea again. The hunger punishment hardly had any effect on him any more. He felt so hollow throughout, that an empty stomach barely bothered him at all.
He couldn’t go to Durmstrang. He just couldn’t. It would mean leaving Hogwarts; leaving the only place that truly felt like home, the only place where he thought he belonged. He would never roam the castle at midnight, never raid the kitchens, never sneak out to Hogsmeade, never laugh with his friends in Gryffindor Tower …
That last thought made his stomach twist into a knot. If he were packed off to Durmstrang now, he’d never see James, Remus or Peter again. He’d never have the chance to atone for the horrible thing that he’d just done.
His family would never understand his side of the story. They would never see things the way he did. Nor did they even want to. And that was what incensed him the most.
They didn’t really care about him, or his views; he was only ‘the Black heir’, expected to bend to the bigoted wishes of the clan. What he believed, what he wanted, didn’t matter to his parents at all. The only thing they were concerned about was their name and status – and if a son of theirs were to mar it … well, his father had said it, hadn’t he? If he, Sirius, wouldn’t toe the line, he could just get out.
Well, why didn’t he? He didn’t belong here, with a house of people – suddenly, he couldn’t think of them as family any longer – who were so fixated on ancestry and blood purity. It hadn’t taken long for Sirius to make up his mind.
He was going. He wasn’t going to stay a minute more than necessary, calling a pair of bigots who cared more about their pure-blood creed than their son his parents.
Sirius didn’t know exactly where he was going, but he’d figure that out later. The first, most crucial step was to leave.
‘Lumos,’ he whispered. By the pinprick of light from his wand, (Sirius dared not allow himself too bright a light) he scanned the room for any object he might have left behind.
‘What have we here?’
Sirius turned, with a scowl, to the portrait of his great-great grandfather. Phineas Black did not visit his frame in Sirius’s room often, but now he was eyeing Sirius disdainfully.
‘Nothing that concerns you,’ hissed Sirius. ‘Why don’t you get back to Dumbledore’s office?’
‘Impertinent as usual, young Sirius,’ sniffed Phineas. ‘Your parents always indulged you.’
‘Shut up,’ said Sirius fiercely.
‘Well,’ said Phineas, in the tone of a person settling into a conversation. ‘That’s nice of you. Where, may I ask, do you think you’re going?’
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ lied Sirius.
Phineas looked at the trunk, packed full with his belongings, and at the stripped room, and raised an eyebrow.
‘What’s it to you if I’m packing early for school?’
‘Oh, I see. That’s what you’re doing in the middle of the night.’
Forgetting to keep silent, Sirius slammed the trunk lid shut. ‘Will you stay out of my business?’
‘Why,’ lamented Phineas, ‘are young people so extremely hot-headed? Always full of emotions and in bad tempers. I’ll never pretend to understand them.’
‘No one’s asked you to. What are you doing here? Don’t you have better things to be doing besides spying on me?’
Phineas opened his mouth to answer, but a scuffling noise outside the door made Sirius stride to it and throw it open and aim a kick at the house-elf prowling outside.
‘Master Sirius,’ said Kreacher in a mock-reverent tone. He bowed so low that his snout-like nose was flat on the ground. ‘What can Kreacher do for Master?’
Cursing Phineas for arriving and ruining his plans, Sirius banged the door shut so loudly that the clang reverberated around the house. Unfortunately this had the effect of bringing his irate parents to the door within minutes.
Half an hour and a round of yelling later, Sirius found himself in a bare room, with his trunk magically locked away in his parents’ chambers.
‘Thanks a lot,’ he spat at Phineas’s now-empty portrait. Throwing himself on his bed, he tried to think.
Now, more than ever, he was determined to run away. Even without his possessions: he’d do without them. He had his wand; his parents would have had to bodily tear it from him if they wanted to lock that away.
A few hours later, Sirius opened the door to his room, fully prepared to walk out the front door with only his wand and never come back.
Regulus. His younger brother had been watching him. Stifling a growl, Sirius raised his wand; he’d Full Body-bind his brother if he had to.
‘The front door’s charmed. You can’t get out that way.’
Taken aback, Sirius stared at his brother.
‘Why don’t you just stay, Sirius?’
For a moment, Sirius could see himself and Regulus, eleven and nine years old respectively.
‘Can’t you stay, Sirius?’ asked Regulus. Sirius gave his brother a hug.
‘I’ll be back in no time, Reg. And I’ll tell you all about Hogwarts.’
He chased the image out of his mind. ‘No,’ he said shortly. And then, for some reason, ‘Thanks for the information.’
He was about to return to his room, when Regulus said, suddenly, ‘Where are you going to go?’
Sirius turned, and stared at his brother. He couldn’t make out Regulus’s face in the shadowy darkness of the hallway, but he could feel Regulus’s eyes boring into him.
Where would he go? His first thought was the Potters’ – James’s parents had always been wonderfully welcoming – but would James accept him, after his enormous transgression?
Shrugging, although he knew that Regulus probably couldn’t discern the action in the dark, Sirius left his brother in the hallway.
He retreated to his room, weighing his options. He didn’t know how long he had before Regulus ran and squealed – would he, though? He’d given Sirius that valuable tip-off about the front door …
There had to be another way out – even if he climbed out the window … the window! Sirius ran to it and peered out. It couldn’t be that hard to scale. At any rate, he was a Marauder. He could do this.
Sirius opened the window, and began to climb down.