A Tale Of Two Brothers
"Mr. Black, would you please accompany me into my office." Professor McGonagall's tight voice interrupted the cheerful atmosphere in the Gryffindor common room, cutting through the carefree laughter like a knife through hot butter.
It was a regular evening. Sirius Black sat cross-legged on one of the cushioned armchairs in front of the fireplace among his friends.
He looked up, his long, ebony bangs falling into his eyes. Professor McGonagall's face was tight, more than usual so, with her lips pressed to a pencil-thin line, but he thought he could see a tinge of sympathy in her expression as well. Although it was hard to tell, because his head of house usually had that very stern appearing pokerface on and kept her emotions well-guarded. But her bark was worse than her bite and she definitely had a soft spot for her Gryffindors, otherwise, Sirius and his friends would've found themselves expelled a few times already.
His smile faltered and his mind started to race. Had she seen him sneaking around or playing pranks on someone? Did she know about them being animagi? But then again, if she did, she would call them all into her office, not only him. So Sirius stood up and quickly looked around. The puzzled expressions of his friends mirrored his surprise. An uncomfortable silence settled over them as they watched him get to his feet and follow Professor McGonagall into her office.
Professor McGonagall closed the heavy door behind them and motioned to a chair in front of her desk.
"Please sit down, Sirius."
This was when Sirius grew anxious. Something had to be very wrong - she never called any of the students by their first names.
He obeyed wordlessly, the wooden chair creaking softly as he lowered himself onto it while Professor McGonagall took a seat at the opposite side of her desk.
She wrung her hands nervously.
"Sirius, I don't know how I shall tell you this, so I'll just be direct. I'm very sorry to inform you that your father passed away last night. He had a stroke. Any help came too late."
Sirius averted his eyes and studied the pile of ungraded papers next to him, noticed how they cast dark shadows onto McGonagall's desk in the dim, flickering light of the candles.
So his father had died. Sirius wasn't sure on how to feel about that. He hadn't seen his father for over two years, and even when he'd still lived with his parents their relationship had been cold and overshadowed by his parent's disappointment in him for being a Gryffindor and everything else they despised. Blood traitor.
His father was a man ruled by hate. Hate directed at him, at muggles, at everyone who wasn't a pureblood or dared to think outside the box.
Sirius hadn't felt anything after his mother's death two years earlier, she had died shortly after he'd left his parent's house and had found refuge with the Potters. And right now, he knew it probably wouldn't be much different with his father's death.
He bit his lip, risking a glance at Professor McGonagall, who was watching him with a sympathetic look in her green eyes.
Was she waiting for any kind of reaction on his side? Maybe he should acknowledge her words in some way, show compassion or some kind or fake sadness over his father's death. Wasn't a son supposed to grieve for his father? Orion Black hadn't been much of a father to him, he wasn't a patch on Mr. Potter. No, Sirius had another family. The Potters had taken him in, they had showed him what love, security and trust meant. His biological parents had never loved him.
And at some point, he had stopped hoping that they would change. He had stopped trying to love them and had begun to see them for what they really were.
"If I can help you with anything… you know my door is always open for you," Professor McGonagall offered in a gentle voice. Sirius nodded.
"Thank you, Professor. I appreciate that. But I'm fine, you know, my family and I, we aren't… we weren't…" He took a deep breath. "We weren't close in any way."
Silence reigned. Sirius thought about his father, telling him what a disappointment he was. You are a disgrace.
His father, telling him he'd rather have him dead than having a son in Gryffindor.
He thought about his father punishing him for it, locking him into his room for weeks, just for not meeting their expectations. For being how he was, wrong in their eyes. How Orion had slapped him across his face when he told his parents that he was friends with muggles and didn't think they were inferior to them. Leaving him with a dark bruise for days.
Sirius touched the left side of his face. No, he wasn't sad about his father's death. He didn't really care about it at all.
Then his thoughts wandered to his younger brother.
"What about Regulus?" Sirius asked.
Professor McGonagall sighed.
"This is something I wanted to talk to you about as well. You are the sole rightful heir, as the property and the title of being the Head of the House Black goes down the direct line, to the next male with the name of Black, as it is tradition in pure-blood families. Your parents… disowning you... cannot prevent that. That means that from now on, seeing that you are already legally an adult, you own your family's properties and money. It also means that you are, as the Head of the House Black, responsible for your younger brother."
Sirius still felt numb, but he knew one thing definitely. "I don't want the house nor the bloody name."
Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows at the language but decided to let it go.
"There is the possibility that you recline your position as Head of the House Black. You would have to give up your name and disown your family with the help of a blood curse." Professor McGonagall hesitated for a moment.
"It is dark magic, but it would be, in your circumstances, legal and manageable. Then you wouldn't be responsible for your brother or the house. You wouldn't belong to your family any longer. Not in name nor in blood."
Professor McGonagall's lips thinned as she continued.
"Your parents named Bellatrix Lestrange as temporal heiress should that be the case and your brother still underage by the time of their death. She would act as head of the house Black in Regulus' name until his coming of age. In their testament, they stated that they would prefer it if you rejected your position. I'd rather not repeat the actual words they used." Professor McGonagall's lips were a pencil thin line by that.
Sirius stifled a snort. He could guess it anyway. Blood traitor. A disgrace for the family and their noble name. An abomination in the eyes of his parents.
But then he thought about his brother. Could he stand for passing Regulus onto Bellatrix? The woman was crazy. Extremely dangerous maniac kind of crazy.
"Does Regulus know?"
"His head of house will inform him about your father's death, and as well about you being his guardian for now. I know it's not an easy position to be in at your age, and it's not an easy decision to make. You don't have to decide right know," Professor McGonagall said, her voice as gentle as Sirius had ever heard it.
"Thank you, Professor. I'd like to think about it for some time. Until when do I have to decide?" Sirius asked, locking eyes with Professor McGonagall.
"You don't have to feel pressured. Until the end of the year, the school will act in loco parentis. So you'll have at least two weeks time to think about it until the summer holidays."
Sirius nodded. Silence again.
"Can I help you with anything else, Sirius? You know, if you need an adult to talk to, do not hesitate to seek me out. And I'm sure your friends are here for you too."
"Thank you, Professor. And no, I don't think I have any other questions right now. I might come back to you. May I go now?" Sirius hoped he didn't appear impolite, but he longed to be with his friends right now. James and Remus would surely have some good advice for him.
"Of course." She got up and accompanied him to her office door, holding it open as he stepped back into the common room.
His friends still sat in the common room and as soon as they saw him they fell silent and looked at him, their faces like silent question marks. Sirius sat down in the armchair he'd sat in previously, and looked around.
"So… what's up?" James asked bluntly after Sirius didn't say anything.
"My father died," Sirius responded flatly.
"Oh Sirius, I'm so sorry." Lily got up from her place next to James and went over to Sirius, hugging him tightly.
Sirius hugged her back. "It's okay Lily, we weren't close," he said slowly. Although Lily was a friend, he had never told anyone except for James and the Potters the whole truth about his parents, and even Remus only knew parts of the abuse. His other friends just knew he hadn't gotten along with them.
James gave him a sympathetic smile.
"I'm now the head of the House Black, said Professor McGonagall," he grimaced. It was the least thing he wanted. He wanted nothing to do with his family at all. With its name. With the damned house.
"My deepest condolences," James remarked sarcastically, trying to lighten the mood.
Lily glared at him.
"Don't be so insensitive, James!" She scolded.
"And I'm the guardian of my brother because he's still underage. If I decline my position, Bellatrix will raise him," Sirius continued. "My parents would prefer it that way, they've said so in their testament."
His friends gasped. Everyone knew Bellatrix Lestrange. She was the epitome of the sadistic maniac death eater, and they knew as well as Sirius did that if he handed his brother over to Bellatrix, Regulus would become a death eater for sure. He might've become one anyway, Sirius thought as he remembered how his brother had always worshipped their family's traditions and the pure-blood ideology behind them.
"Does Regulus get along with Bellatrix? I mean, she's known to be pretty extreme," Remus asked carefully.
James snorted at that. Calling Bellatrix Lestrange 'pretty extreme' was the understatement of the century.
"I think so. He'll probably join You-Know-Who in a few years, Bellatrix will expect him to, for sure," Sirius responded bitterly. "I just need some time to think about it. Professor McGonagall said I have time until the holidays."
His friends nodded, encouraging him to take his time. Their conversation continued, mainly focused on the potions homework because nobody really knew what to say or to do about Sirius' dilemma. Peter felt so awkward and out of his depth that he went to bed soon afterwards. Sirius took that as a sign that he could excuse himself as well without appearing as if he avoided his friends. Suddenly he felt very tired and just wanted some peace of his mind, maybe sleeping would help.
The whole situation felt like a huge knot in his stomach. He was torn and didn't know what to do at all.
Regulus. He hadn't thought about him in a long time.
Disowning his family with a blood curse.
Dark magic. Even though he wanted nothing to do with his family's name at all, a blood curse sounded really sinister. And it would be just what his parents would have wanted. Sirius cutting himself off his family using dark magic. It would be like cruel irony.
His head started to hurt, and he just wanted to forget everything for a while.
Maybe tomorrow he would be able to see things more clearly.
The next day Sirius had lunch with his friends, sitting at their usual spot at the Gryffindor table. As he picked at his food he caught himself now and then looking over to the Slytherin table, searching for his brother. He hadn't seen him during breakfast either. He noticed that both James and Remus cast him worried glances but decided to leave him alone. They knew it wasn't an easy decision for Sirius, and the responsibility for his brother weighed heavy on his shoulders.
Finally, Sirius, James, and Remus were already getting up from their seats and were about to head to class, Sirius spotted his brother entering the great hall accompanied by some of his Slytherin friends. He paused and watched Regulus going over to the Slytherin table, sitting down at the far end with his back to Sirius. Sirius bit his lip, not being sure about what to do. He and his brother hadn't talked since he'd left his parents' house to go and live with the Potters when he'd been 15. Regulus had only been 12 then. Each time they had met each other in the hallways afterward they had ignored each other.
He realized that he knew nothing about his brother. They were like strangers.
For a few long moments he stood there, petrified, not sure what to think, what to do, staring at the back of his little brother. As James, who'd wordlessly stood next to him, pointed out the time, he followed his friends to class. They had potions, and he told himself that didn't want to be late for class. Although in reality, he cared little for potions, or any class for that matter.
Seeing Regulus made things even more difficult. He seemed even more like a stranger now. What should he even say? He knew he'd have to speak to him at some point. It was necessary somehow. Otherwise, how should he be able to come to a decision?
In the evening, Sirius was more determined. This time, he would take his brother to the side and talk to him. It shouldn't be so difficult, Regulus was his brother after all. Even so he felt those knots forming in his stomach again as he sat at the Gryffindor table to eat dinner. He ended up barely taking a bite and instead keeping his eyes open for his brother.
Regulus entered the great hall, again accompanied by his friends. Many of them were older than Regulus, one of them was Avery, of whom Sirius strongly suspected that he was a Death Eater. He'd love to rip his sleeves up and expose the ugly mark You-Know-Who branded his followers with in front of everyone. He didn't want his brother associating with those people. Sirius glared at him as he and the other Slytherins walked over to their table, sat down and started eating.
Sirius realized suddenly that he really didn't want his brother to hang around with those people. He was immensely bothered by it. He didn't want Regulus to become a Death Eater.
Sirius observed his brother. Regulus had grown since he'd seen him the last time. When had that been? Sirius didn't remember it. Maybe he'd caught a glimpse of him somewhere in the corridors, at some time. But he'd not really seen him.
His brother appeared taller to him. Even though he was smaller than Sirius had been at his age, for a fourteen-year-old, Regulus was tall and handsome. Sirius noticed that a few Slytherin girls gazed into his brother's direction from time to time. He watched them blush when they met Regulus' eyes, and turn away quickly. A small smile stole itself on his face at that.
When Sirius thought about it, he recognized a lot of similarities between himself and his brother. Regulus' grey eyes were his, his black hair as well. But Regulus still looked very child-like, being much more slender than Sirius who'd started to fill out and build some muscle mass during the last few years, and Regulus' facial features were softer as well. Regulus looked still so young, he still reminded Sirius very strongly of the child he'd once been, the little brother he'd loved.
Sirius' eyes narrowed as he saw that Avery talking to Regulus, his brother responding with a laugh a moment later.
James noticed his best friend glowering at the Slytherin table.
"You alright, Siri?" He asked softly.
"Yes, sure. I'm just… I don't know why it bothers me all of a sudden, that he hangs around with those guys," Sirius admitted.
"He's your younger brother. It's just natural that you feel protective."
"I know, but it didn't bother me that much before. I actually never noticed him. Never thought about him. I've ignored him completely during the last two years." Sirius' voice sounded pained somehow. It was like he had let his brother die with his family. Had thrown his brother into the same cauldron with their parents and simply erased him from his mind.
He watched his brother getting up again after he'd finished his dinner. Sirius stood up as well and hurried over to the Great Hall's entrance. He caught his brother just as Regulus turned to walk towards the dungeons with his friends.
"Regulus!" Sirius called. The name felt strange on his lips.
Regulus turned around. He stared at Sirius with a mixture of surprise and defensiveness in his eyes.
Sirius noticed that his brother had dark bags under his eyes. Regulus had been close with their parents, they had been proud of him and Regulus had wanted to make them proud. Had they loved Regulus? Had they been able to love at all? Sirius doubted it. But he was sure that Regulus had loved their parents.
"Regulus… Can we talk for a moment?" Sirius looked at Reg's friends who'd stopped dead in their tracks as well and were now looking at Sirius with disdainful expressions.
"What do you want, Sirius?" Regulus' voice was like cold iron.
"Just talk to you. Please?" Sirius felt his heart beating faster and adrenaline shooting into his veins. He was nervous. Those were the first words he'd exchanged with his brother in years.
Regulus hesitated for a moment, looked at his friends, but then nodded silently.
"I'll be down in a minute. Don't wait for me," he said to his friends. They nodded and turned, walking along the hallway in the direction of the dungeons, but not without giving Sirius one last haughty look.
The corners of Sirius' mouth quirked up slightly at his brother's response and he cast him the ghost of a smile. Regulus' face remained tight, his mouth a thin line. Sirius motioned for Regulus to follow him a few steps, and he went to stand next to an arcade on the side of the hallway, where they could talk without being disturbed.
"So, what is it?" Regulus' voice and face were the ultimate expression of annoyance.
"I guess Professor Slughorn has talked to you?" Sirius decided to start the conversation carefully.
Regulus gave a single short nod.
"I'm sorry, Reg. I just wanted you to know that… if you need something, I'll be there." Sirius unconsciously used the nickname he'd used to call Regulus when they'd still been children, long before Sirius had gone to Hogwarts as a first-year.
Regulus flinched at the familiar name, his eyes gaining a hard shimmer all of a sudden.
"As if I would go to you. Traitor," Regulus hissed.
Sirius looked away, a giant lump building in his throat. They had been close once.
"You don't have to… I just…" Sirius bit his lip nervously. This was awkward. He wasn't used to be in lack of words. He decided to change the topic.
"So… what did Professor Slughorn say concerning who you're going to live with now? I mean, you're fourteen…" Sirius asked tentatively.
"He didn't say anything. I'll go live with Bellatrix," Regulus responded quickly, his voice harsh and dismissive. "Is that it? I've got stuff to do, you know."
Sirius nodded. Regulus turned on the spot and strode down the corridor at a great speed, not sparing his older brother another glance. Sirius sighed. He hadn't expected anything else than Regulus hating him but suddenly he found himself longing for a relationship with his brother. Deeply hidden in his heart, he'd had the hope that them talking to each other could solve something. He'd thought that maybe, after their parent's death, they might find a connection to each other again. How naïve he had been, Sirius berated himself. Their talk had simply reminded him of how much Regulus hated him.
Still, he felt responsible.
It was strange. Sirius wished he could just pass the responsibility to whoever wanted it, was it Bellatrix or someone else. But then again, in his heart, he realized after a few days of deep thinking that couldn't bring himself to do that. He still loved his brother, somehow. Sure, he didn't like him, particularly. It was bizarre that his hated father's death had drawn him nearer towards his remaining family, his brother that is, even though he'd thought he'd put that behind him.
Even though Regulus ignored Sirius like he had before, Sirius found himself caring. The holidays neared, and he had just a few days left to come to a decision.
Three days before the holidays, he met with James at The Hog's Head in Hogsmeade. There was a hustle and bustle on the streets because it was a Hogsmeade weekend for Hogwarts' students, the last one this year, and the students enjoyed their last Hogsmeade weekend trip before the holidays to the fullest. Sirius and James had a glass of butterbeer when Sirius finally confided in his best friend.
"I don't know what to do, James. I think I'm going crazy!" Sirius moaned, hiding his face in his hands. "I just don't know…" He mumbled.
James straightened up, taking his friends hands down and forcing him to show his face. "You're not going crazy, Siri. Whatever you chose to do, I think you just have to be alright with it from the bottom of your heart. Everything else we can work out," he firmly assured his friend.
"I know. But I'm so confused! The last years I barely spent a second thought on my brother. It's like I completely forgot about him. And now he's all I can think about. I don't even know him, how am I supposed to build a relationship with him? There's so much that separates us - he hates me. He doesn't even want me in his life."
Sirius ran his fingers through his long, black hair. "What would you do if you were me, James?"
James regarded his friend pensively. "How would you feel if you chose to give Bellatrix everything?"
"I don't know… relieved, I guess, because I won't have to care about anything anymore."
"Really? Wouldn't you care about your brother?" James pressed the subject.
"Yes, I would. That's why it's so difficult!" Sirius groaned, picked up his butterbeer mug and took a sip.
"So… You'll care about your brother either way now, I guess. But you know, Sirius, you'll only be able to influence your brother's life if you take guardianship over him. He'll be forced to talk to you that way. Otherwise, wouldn't it be as if you gave up on him? I mean the blood curse… I'm not sure that's the right thing to do. It's pretty extreme, and a final decision," James said. He didn't want to pressure Sirius into anything, but he had the strong feeling that Sirius would regret it if he rejected his responsibility now.
Before Sirius was able to respond they heard a loud explosion and shortly after that voices shrieking fearfully from the outside. A stream of students entered the Hog's Head, their expressions frightened and panicky. Sirius and James exchanged a single look, then got up and pulled their wands out. What had happened? They pushed their ways through the crowd and stepped out of the door, their wands ready and prepared.
A bit farther down the street, they spotted hooded and masked people casting spells around wildly. Sirius recognized Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Madam Rosmerta and a few other wizards who were trying to bring the students to safety and, at the same time, fought back bravely against the attackers who were currently attacking mainly Zonko's Joke Shop and Honeyduke's Sweetshop. Ambrosius Flume was hit with a Stunning Spell and Sirius saw him drop to the ground like a lifeless puppet. His wife ran towards him and cast a Protego against the following spells, protecting her helpless husband, and with the help of Professor Flitwick they managed to fight the attackers off as long as it took for others to carry the unconscious man into safety.
"Death Eaters!" James whispered agitatedly. Sirius nodded. Then, he spotted a few younger students cowering on the ground, hiding behind the corner of a house a not far down the street, and didn't hesitate, he just ran quickly into their direction, keeping his attention high and on full alarm mode. He cowered down next to the students, checking them for injuries. A girl was crying silently, another girl was breathing hard, nearly hyperventilating, and a wide-eyed boy next to them was cowering down with his arms tightly wrapped around him.
Sirius put his hands on the girl's shoulders.
"Calm down. We'll get you out of here." A second later, James appeared behind him, carefully looking around, wand out and ready.
Sirius lifted the children up and led them to the corner of the house, carefully looking left and right. The Hog's Head wasn't far away, and the street clear of death eaters.
"Lead the way to the Hog's Head, James!" He shouted. Then he instructed the children to follow James, taking the rear himself. They were almost there when two hooded figures appeared directly behind him. One of them cast a stunning spell at Sirius. Sirius blocked it deftly, creating a protective barrier between the children and the attackers.
"Run!" He shouted, and watched out of the corner of his eyes how James got the children out of harm's way and into the Hog's Head.
Then the other attacker did something strange. He grabbed his companion by the arm, preventing him to cast any further spells, and whispered something into his ear. They both turned around and hurried away. The second attacker cast a last glance towards Sirius through his mask, and Sirius thought he saw something familiar in the way he moved, how he turned his head one last time to glance at Sirius and then disappeared round the corner.
Sirius stood glued to the spot, staring after the attackers. His mind started racing. He knew the second person. He'd felt it.
From behind him, James tugged at his sleeve and dragged him back to the Hog's Head and to safety. Sirius' mind was still occupied with the strange feeling of recognition.
"I saw him," Sirius said suddenly, his face turning pale.
James cast him a puzzled look. "Saw who?"
"My brother," Sirius whispered, not trusting his voice. It had been Regulus. He just knew it. He stared at James, suddenly finding himself trembling.
He couldn't have it. His baby brother. Reg. Out there with the Death Eaters.
Memories flashed through his mind. Not the recent ones Sirius had of his brother, with Regulus casting him dark, disgusted glares, but old ones, from the times when they'd been still young and played hide and seek together in their parents' house. He thought of the times Regulus had come into Sirius' room in the middle of the night, the soft padding of his bare feet on the floor, firmly clutching his pillow in his hand, tears streaming down his chubby cheeks. Regulus had only ever sought out Sirius' comfort after a nightmare, never their parents'.
He'd invited his little brother into his bed, encircled his small form with his arms, Reg huddling up against him, hiding his face in Sirius' t-shirt. Protecting his baby brother from the darkness. Regulus had always been afraid of the dark.
"Don't cry, Reggie. I'm here. It was just a dream."
"But I'm so afraid! What if there are monsters in the darkness?"
"Then I'll protect you. You're safe with me, okay?"
A trusting nod against his chest.
In this second, he knew that he would do anything to save his brother. He had promised Reg that he would protect him, it was what big brothers did. He would save his brother, whether Regulus liked it or not.
He wouldn't let the darkness get him.
A/N: This is AU. I changed a few minor things, for example that Sirius' parents died earlier and Regulus is half a year to a year younger than he is in canon (born 1962 here instead of 1961). Just in case you wonder.
This story will definitely contain mentions of abuse, violence (poss. torture) and corporal punishment. NO SLASH