Notes: Spoilers for OotP be within. If you're okay with that, proceed. This fic is written in answer to the question, what happened to make Sirius run away from home at sixteen? Of course, this is the fanfic interpretation of it – Sirius probably ran away because Regulus broke his favorite Filibuster Firework or something. ;) Anyway, not so in this fic. Please mind the rating; it's there because Sirius is a teenager having an absolutely rotten summer. This includes some torture and some snogging, but nothing you can't find in a Harry Potter book (though of course those being tortured and snogged do differ).
Disclaimer: all herein belongs to JK Rowling. I am making no money; I am only having fun.
The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
House, Not Home
I've got a mental list of things I really, really hate doing. Some of the top things on this list include touching Bobotuber Pus for prolonged amounts of time, touching Snivellus for any amount of time, and going home for the summer. I really think going home for the summer tops the list. 'Going home' isn't really even an appropriate term for it, because it's never felt like home, not even when I was a little kid. It's always felt exactly like what it really is, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black; a house, not a home.
It's not really the house's fault. It's the people who live in the house. The people I've had the highest misfortune of being born to.
In order to get a really good idea of how awful they are, it's best to go back to my first year, at the Sorting Ceremony. I can remember perfectly slipping the hat onto my head, and a little voice next to my ear, murmuring, "Oh dear, a Black. I can hardly believe that; if you're Slytherin material, I'll eat myself. You're a courageous one, you are, and …" But it trailed off. Maybe there's things even hats need to keep to themselves. And then, without further warning, it screamed "GRYFFINDOR!" and something weird happened in my chest, like a giant cork popping, and I had felt a fierce rush of something exhilarating and terrifying – defiance. I'd never liked my family, really, and the whole lot were Slytherins. Now I was doing something different, and my family would be furious with me, and I didn't care.
But the Blacks did.
My mother screamed abuse, and my father was colder than ever and gave me stinging slaps, and my brother Regulus remained quiet and very, very, maddeningly smug. They're a horrible lot. I really think it's because of this that, every time my family showed their disapproval, my defiance grew, until I – I somehow needed to keep it up, so wonderful to be different from them that it was almost like a high, and so I wanted to be as different from them as possible.
James, Remus, and Peter are the ones who made that difference possible. My absolutely batty friends, who can turn into stags and wolves and rats, who don't mind having to share a room with a silly kid who can turn himself into a slobbering puppy, who don't care that I'm twice as crazy as the rest of them. I love that about them, that they can stand every mad thing I do, so of course I participate in every harebrained scheme James concocts, help Peter with homework even when I'm entirely sure Peter can easily do it himself, spend hours playing chess or discussing books with Remus.
This past year, my sixth at Hogwarts, that wonderful dizzying defiance exploded into something far, far out of my control, got Snape almost killed and all my friends in very serious trouble – but I can't let that matter, because I need to thrill in what's forbidden by my family.
And my damn family was what I had to look forward to, as the school year ended and we all prepared to take our leave from Hogwarts; packing our trunks and stuffing our various owls and cats into cages; looking for an extra quill or the sock that we'd been missing all year but had never been bothered to find.
So it was with a knot of dread in my stomach that I took a seat in one of the horseless carriages that would take us from the Hogwarts entrance hall to Hogsmeade Station. Of course, I reminded myself in an attempt at distraction, the carriages weren't really horseless, or at least Remus claimed that; he said they were really drawn by thestrals, and that none of us but him could see them, because he alone had seen death. I'm still not sure if Remus was joking or not.
And here was Remus now, and Peter next to him, both looking at me from the opposite seat inside our carriage. They both looked faintly concerned.
"Are you all right?" James tried from his spot next to me.
I turned to the window without answering. There wasn't any point, really; they'd know that I was lying if I said yes. We've pieced together each other's family histories, from bits dropped in casual conversation over the years, and so they all knew what a horrible lot of people I thought the Blacks were.
None of us spoke until we got on the train, and even then it was only James, who said "here" as he helped Peter with his luggage. Silence reigned again in our compartment, as around us on the train people ran and laughed and shouted, all of it sounding strangely muffled. I stared mutely out my window as the Hogwarts Express gave warning blasts from its whistle and then chugged to life, lumbering out of Hogsmeade and gaining speed, rushing through the Scottish mountain land that surrounded our castle school.
After a while I got sick of looking out at the dark greens and purples of forests and moors, and very, very tired of looking at my reflection in the windowpane, because my reflection looked almost disgustingly mopey. Instead I looked back around our compartment. Peter was sitting on the floor, shuffling his Exploding Snap deck repeatedly and shooting me furtive glances. James sat in the seat across from me, idly twirling his wand and doing his best to look as though he were observing not me but the scenery outside. Only Remus, in the corner nearest the compartment door, curled up and reading a book, looked as though he was honestly absorbed by what he was doing. I knew better anyway.
For some reason, I suddenly desperately wanted to hug them tightly and yell at them to leave in the same breath. I suppose that's friendship.
Instead I got down onto the floor with Peter, and had him deal out the deck, so that we were soon all playing Exploding Snap. The deck exploded in Remus's face, we all laughed like maniacs, and then everything was fine again, and none of my friends were looking worriedly at me.
James swept up the softly smoldering cards and began carefully stacking them atop each other, humming to himself.
"You're wasting your time," Remus commented, scrubbing soot from his face with the sleeve of his robe. "I only find comfort in the fact that very soon you'll be looking much the same way I do now."
Grinning, gently propping two cards together, James replied, "And I'll look absolutely lovely, too. Anyway, Moony, what are you doing this summer?"
Remus shrugged, taking a battered textbook from his trunk. "Not much. Helping Mum around the house, mostly. She's insistent on having me learn to drive, so if I ever take on a Muggle job I'll be able to get places." He grinned faintly. "Maybe if I insist I want to learn to drive a motorcycle she'll stop going on at me."
"A motorcycle?" James said, dropping a card in shock. The whole deck exploded in his face, and Peter smothered a giggle.
"I don't really want one," Remus said hastily.
"I do," I put in. "Do I ever. What I could do with a motorcycle …" I trailed off. I had a broom, but it had a Tracking Charm on it, expertly set in by my father, and try as I might I couldn't get it off. A motorcycle wouldn't have a tracking charm. I wouldn't even have to fly; I could drive it along the ground and still look fairly inconspicuous. But that didn't mean I wouldn't have it fly …
"Earth to Padfoot," Peter piped up, right by my ear. I jumped, and Peter stifled a smile. "What were you thinking about?" he asked.
"Motorcycles," I replied with a grin.
"I've created a monster," Remus commented. The Snap deck blew up again. James yelled indignantly and began threatening the deck; Peter shrieked and hid, not altogether in jest, behind my trunk; Remus, muttering what sounded suspiciously like swearwords under his breath, dusted ash off his battered book; and I just grinned around at them all.
This is how we always are. It's funny, really, how I ended up with Remus and Peter and James as best friends.
James has a lot of Muggle ancestry, but both of his parents are wizards, and had gone to school with my parents, so the name Black shouldn't have been especially pleasant to him. But when the Sorting Hat placed James in Gryffindor and he came over to the table I had joined moments before, he sat down next to me and whispered, "Absolutely excellent. A Gryffindor Black, eh? That'll give everyone a turn." Then he'd grinned at me, a delighted wicked grin, and I knew I'd somehow found the other half of my brain, a soul sibling as mad as I was.
Peter, on the other hand, lives with his Muggle mother, and he never heard of the Blacks. He was simply in the dorm with us, watching me and James fool around with Filibuster's Fireworks, and when we got one of the fireworks to go off, Peter laughed and clapped and cheered and asked us to do it again. So it was really only natural that Peter should be our friend too, encouraging us along, and in return we usually help him with homework or give him advice on how to stop Snivellus from teasing him.
I guess Remus is the real mystery; I mean, it's really a mystery why we're friends with him. There was the other mystery, of course, that we worked out in second year, about Remus being a werewolf. I think that's really what cinched our friendship, that when we found out about his lycanthropy we didn't reject him. But why we liked him well enough in the first place, I really don't know. He helped Peter with homework, so of course Peter was well disposed towards him. But whenever James and I did some dumb thing that could get us in trouble, with Peter cheering us on, Remus would stay sitting where he was, studiously reading some book or other, with a faint frown line on his forehead. He's loosened up a bit, of course, as long as whatever we're planning doesn't get us into serious trouble.
But first year … why we liked Remus. I don't know. At least for me, I think it's because he's not like me at all, the way James is, or really encouraging of the things about me that scare even me a little, like Peter, but because Remus is really different, and its refreshing. A little exhilarating, too. Like there's some part of me that's there when I'm around Remus that doesn't turn up when I'm around James or Peter, and it makes me get very strange ideas. It also makes me do stupid things, like telling Snape how to get into the Whomping Willow; defiance on my family, sure, but also because I was being overprotective of Remus, didn't want Snivellus prying into his business; or maybe it was because, doing something that stupid, I wasn't only showing myself and my family, I was trying to show off for Remus. Not that it wasn't an absolutely idiotic way to show off, and certainly didn't impress Remus, but afterwards when I apologized for almost getting Remus in terrible trouble, and Remus gave me a tired grin and murmured that it was all right, it suddenly seemed a thousand times worth it, that I'd done something so stupid. As though I'd only done it to get Remus to smile at me like that. Almost like … I don't know. I can never quite put my finger on it.
Whatever it is, all four of us have had the great good fortune to get along really smashingly. And here we were, in our own compartment on the train, playing Snap and joking around. It's times like this, doing stupid fun things with my very best friends, when I get the chance to really love my life.
So by the time we got to Kings Cross Station, as Peter and Remus unloaded our luggage, and James drew me aside, looking solemn, I didn't really mind too much. "Look," James whispered, "this summer … if you need to, come to my place."
I snorted. "Would I ever like to."
"Then come," James said, quietly and urgently. "If your family's so horrible, tell them you're going to spend the summer with your friends for once."
"It isn't that simple," I told him.
James shrugged. "Then make it that simple." He grabbed my shoulder as I started to turn away. "I mean it, Sirius. If you need, you can always come to my house."
"Yeah." I gave him a half-hearted smile. "I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Prongs."
He sighed. "Anytime."
Okay, so maybe it wasn't with the lightest of hearts that I got off the train, smiling goodbye to James, ruffling Peter's hair, momentarily clasping Remus's hand, and turning away from them, dragging my luggage behind me, looking around the platform without really wanting to find her –
I spotted my mother.
She was looking as odd as usual – her black hair was falling out of its bun, and her clothes were draped around her in a really hideous way that reminds me of some illustrations of witches I saw in Macbeth, a book belonging to Remus. But it's her face that does it, thin, with wide wild eyes, and a bit of spittle at the corner of her mouth, as though there to remind her she was going to be screaming again soon.
Spotting me, she sort of swooped over and grabbed my wrist in an iron grip. I bit my lip against the pressure, and tasted blood.
"Come," she snapped, and tapped my luggage sharply with her wand. This is something she does every year, perhaps to ensure I'll really come with her, by turning my luggage into a Portkey that will take us back to Grimmauld Place. With my wrist still in her grip, she reached down and slammed both our hands against the trunk. As my stomach jolted and I felt the Portkey beginning to pull me inexorably forward, I glanced one last time across the platform and met Remus's eyes, filled with something suspiciously like compassion, before the scene dissolved into a rushing blur.
We jolted to a stop in the front hallway, and my legs collapsed. Furious with myself, I started to scramble to my feet. Before I could raise myself off the floor, I was knocked back to the ground, my head ringing. Stunned, I blinked up at my mother.
"You," she whispered in the terrible voice she uses just before she goes off into a rage. "I saw you. At the platform. You were with … some of them."
"What?" I said as evenly and insolently as I could. "You mean other students?"
"No," she said, voice trembling with suppressed rage.
Come on, I suddenly thought. Come on. Break. Scream at me. Do it.
"You," my mother hissed again, "are a disgrace! The company you keep –" and she was screaming now, spit flying from her mouth as she towered over me – "Mudbloods – Muggle-lovers – abominations of wizard-kind – filthy half-breeds, dirty little fools, disgusting mindless creatures of shadow and moonlight –"
"What?" I gasped before recalling myself.
She stopped, and stared terrifyingly down at me. And then she smiled, a slow, cold, cruel smile. "A Mudblood, a half-breed, and a werewolf, Sirius," she said, soft, deadly. "That is the company you keep."
My stomach had turned to ice. She knew. She knew about Remus.
Not that I was about to show her I was terrified half-senseless.
"Yeah," I said, willing my voice not to tremble. "That's exactly the company I keep. And they're far cleaner than the lot you –" I ended in a choked cry as my mother slapped me.
"One of these days," she whispered venomously, "you'll be going exactly the same way as your fool cousin Andromeda."
"Andromeda?" I repeated stupidly, feeling suddenly numb. Andromeda was my favorite cousin, especially when compared with her sisters. Bellatrix was in her twenties and recently married to an utterly disgusting man by the name of Rodolphus Lestrange; Narcissa was in my year at school, and I'd heard her boasting to her friends that it was likely she'd soon be engaged to Lucius Malfoy, a Slytherin boy who had graduated three years before.
My aunt and uncle had tried very hard to make their children good upstanding Blacks; in other words, horrid gits. They managed rather too well with Bellatrix … I remember being six years old, zooming around the downstairs hall on my broomstick … It annoyed dear Bella, and she burned my broom to ashes before I could get off, so I came out of that episode bruised and singed. Andromeda was my aunt and uncle's next child, and it seems they expected for Bella's influence to rub off on Andromeda, but she was Sorted into Ravenclaw, made the Quidditch team, won Ravenclaw's cup for three years running, and whispered to me, just before she left Hogwarts, that she had more than half a mind to elope with Theodore Tonks, a Muggle-born Ravenclaw in her year. So my aunt and uncle's third child, their dear Narcissa, was put under constant influence by Bellatrix and pampered by her parents; she's turned out all right, I suppose, just your typical self-centered Slytherin girl.
But something had happened to Andromeda?
"Yes," my mother snapped. "She's a blood traitor, Sirius, an abomination to our ancient house. Here." She reached down and jerked me off the floor, further bruising my wrist. "Let me show you what happens to blood traitors."
"Sure, Mum," I whispered caustically. My mother clenched her hand tighter around my wrist, and I bit through my lip again.
I was dragged down the hall and into the drawing room, a really awful gloomy room covered with giant tapestries. My heart sank as my mother led me the length of the room, towards one immense tapestry covering most of a wall; a very old tapestry, faded, but with brightly glinting gold thread … my mother insisted the house-elves always clean this particular tapestry, so that the writing would always shine out – The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Toujours Pur. I don't know one bit of French, bar that one phrase, the Black family motto – always pure, always pure. Pure my little Padfoot tail.
We were in front of the tapestry. My mother pushed me to my knees, so that I was level with the middle-bottom of the family tree, and right in front of my eyes I could see my parents' names, with vertical gold lines leading down from them to my name and Regulus's. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I glanced to the right, along the golden threat connecting my mother's name with my uncle's, and down another vertical thread, where the names Bellatrix, Andromeda, and Narcissa were embroidered.
"Er …" I said, and glanced up at my mother. Immediately I wished I had not. She had an awful gleam in her eye as she stared at my favorite cousin's name. In the back of my mind I recalled a hot summer day three years previous, sitting on my bed with Andromeda sprawled out on the floor, staring boredly up at my ceiling. My mother's mad, I remembered telling her flatly, by way of conversation to pass our bored hours together. Yes, she had replied dreamily. Terribly mad. Comes from all that pureblood mania. Too much interbreeding, Siri. It's bound to happen. She had noticed my alarmed look and grinned. Don't worry, it only happens every few generations. You should be perfectly safe. Safe from myself, I supposed. But never safe from my mother.
My mother was still eyeing Andromeda's name with a predatory gaze that reminded me uncomfortably of Moony, in those first minutes when he still didn't remember myself and Wormtail and Prongs to be his friends.
"Do you know," my mother said now, "what Andromeda has done?"
"Graduated Hogwarts, I expect," I said. "Gotten a job."
My mother turned her mad eyes on me. "Gotten a job?" she repeated, and then she laughed, a long laugh with no mirth that made the back of my neck prickle. "You stupid boy, she got herself married."
My stomach sank further. She'd gotten married.
"A filthy Mudblood," my mother spat.
She'd married Ted Tonks. She'd actually gone ahead and done it. "Good for her," I said loudly before I could think better of it.
My mother was still smiling. "Blood traitors," she informed me, "are no longer fit for the name of Black." She pulled her wand from her robes almost casually, pointed it at the flowing golden letters on the tapestry, and muttered, "Incendio."
A jet of light – a rushing sound – a faint crackle and the smell of burning cloth – there was suddenly nothing but a small round charred hole where Andromeda's name had been.
I blinked at my mother. "What did you do?"
She gave me another one of those skin-crawling smiles. "Improved upon the tapestry, dear." She leaned closer, and clenched my wrist again in a vice-like grip. "Remember that. Never become a disgrace to the name of Black." She straightened, pulling me to my feet. "Come on now. Let's tell your father you're home."
"Right," I muttered through clenched teeth.
My mother swept through the hallway with me in tow, and dragged me up the stairs, past the shriveled heads of failed house-elves, past the door to my own room, past the door to Regulus', and on to the end of the upstairs landing, and my father's study. My mother knocked sharply on the oak door, tightening her grip on my wrist further.
Bruised wrist, stinging cheek, bitten-through lip, choking fury – oh yes, I had definitely returned to the House of Black.