The memories were flooding back, for reasons he didn't really know. The good ones and the bad ones. But mostly the bad ones. They passed in flashes: Bellatrix telling tales on him to his mother, Bellatrix and Snape teaming up and hexing them, him trying to protect Andromeda from Bellatrix and failing...
But the memories were promptly lost; the black-haired girl...no, not girl, insane Death Eater, and also, unfortunately, his cousin-threw a curse at him. He blocked it and fired one back. And it went on and on. She was crazy. He could see himself in her eyes, and it disturbed him.
But he blocked that too. He wasn't about to die at her hand.
"Enjoying yourself, dear cousin?" she yelled, as curses flew around them. Sirius hoped Harry had gotten to safety.
"Immensely!" he shot back, and the duel continued, even more fiercely than before. Shouting. Blocking. Dodging and yelling.
Bellatrix was laughing, too.
He could never say he liked it when his cousins were here.
On the one hand, the house was dull, and he appreciated having other people around besides his parents and brother. On the other hand, he didn't really like most of his girl cousins. Andromeda was alright, he liked her. Narcissa, the youngest, was a silly little girl who'd sobbed for hours after he'd turned her hair green for a joke. And Bellatrix, the oldest, hadn't actually done anything cruel to him or insulted him to his face, but even though she was probably alright he didn't trust her one little bit. And he got the feeling she didn't like him.
Anyway, it was a nice summer's day, and his mother was screaming at him for not having made the 'right sort of friends' (he'd recieved a letter from Peter that day that talked about his Muggle relatives) and Andromeda had looked at him sympathetically and suggested they go out.
So they did. And Bellatrix had come with them. He didn't know why. Maybe she got sick of staying up in her room reading. He tried not to mind too much; it was better than having Narcissa along.
Anyway, they wound up Muggle-watching. It was a bit of a silly thing really, but completely harmless. In fact, it was actually quite boring...all they did was sit on a park bench and watch the people in the park (and perhaps laugh at them from time to time) or lean over someone's garden fence and watch them arrange their flowers or mow their lawn, until the Muggle in question would notice them and yell, "Nosy kids! Get out!" and they'd all run away giggling.
As childish as it was, it was enough to keep them all amused for a good few hours. They wound up in another park, and sat down on a bench, rather tired out since one particular old man who they'd spied on had actually given chase. None of them talked for a while, untill Bellatrix said something thoughtfully.
"I wonder what that old Muggle would have done."
"If what?" Andomeda asked.
"If he'd known we were witches and wizards."
"Well, he couldn't really have done anything, I suppose," Sirius said.
"But it makes you wonder," Bellatrix said. "That's why my mother says they should teach stronger curses at school."
"Why?" Sirius asked.
"In case the Muggles do finally work it out," Bellatrix said, and Sirius had the feeling she'd only just stopped herself from adding 'you idiot.'
"Yes, but they won't, and cursing them won't help much, you know."
"Well, I think we should be prepared," Bellatrix said primly.
"If something does happen, there's always Memory Charms, you know."
"But we're wizards. We can do better than that. You know the book I was reading? It gave some of the details about what Muggles used to want to do to wizards and witches. What they actually did do occasionally."
There was a silence.
"Maybe we should go home now," Andomeda said.
"Good idea. I don't really like it here...there's too many Muggles around," Bellatrix said. She jumped off the bench.
Sirius much preferred to be outside, but he followed them back anyway.
Siriu's brain was a mess of thoughts now: KillBellatrixprotectHarryhe'dbetterbeallrightwhere'sRemus...
A curse barely missed him. Bellatrix laughed again.
He just barely dodged a curse. It left a stinging sensation across his side.
She wasn't going to beat him. She couldn't.
It was third year.
James and Remus and Peter weren't there. James was in detention for a solo prank on some fourth-year Slytherins, Remus was studying, and Peter was...actually, he didn't know where Peter was.
He'd gone looking for his brother. He hadn't seen him for a while. Well, they said hello when they passed each other in the corridor, but that was about it.
He felt...odd...about the fact that Regulus had been placed in Slytherin. He felt betrayed...in an odd sort of way...and strangely guilty as well. He had spent a long while trying to work it out in his head. True, Andromeda was in Slytherin, but she was the one and only exception to the 'all Slytherins are evil' rule. And Andromeda didn't like Slytherin either, as she herself had told him. Sirius personally thought that the Sorting Hat had put her in Slytherin just to be evil. Andromeda never asked to be transferred though, which mystified him. Maybe she was just too frightened too ask. That had to be the only explanation.
Maybe the Sorting Hat had decided to be cruel and unreasonable to Regulus as well. He had been convinced his brother was going to get into Gryffindor. Or maybe Ravenclaw. Or even Hufflepuff, although his mother would have practically disowned him over that-heaven knew she'd come close enough to disowning Sirius when he became a Gryffindor.
It all hardly seemed fair, to be honest.
He turned down another corridor. The library was ahead of him. Maybe he was in there.
He walked inside. What he saw was not what he expected.
There was a crowd of people in one corner. Bellatrix was in the centre, sitting on a table higher than the others. She was speaking to them, talking quickly but clearly.
"They laugh at our names. They mock our traditions. They have the nerve to come here in the first place when their ancestors hated us."
"Hear, hear," someone said.
Oh god. One of those revolting anti-muggleborn meeting-things. He'd seen Lucius Malfoy doing the same thing just the other day.
Sirius scanned the crowd. Mostly Slytherins. No Gryffindors, he was relieved to note. Severus Snape was among the crowd, he noticed with distaste. He hadn't seen Bellatrix anywhere near the greasy git, but it was possible they at least knew each other, after all...
He didn't want to listen, it was hate-filled stuff. He'd been right to never quite trust Bellatrix then. He found a table and picked up a book and pretended to read it. Then he had another thought, and glanced at the crowd again. He couldn't see his brother anywhere in there. Well, that was one good thing.
What annoyed him even more, he realised as he pretended to read, was that no-one else was doing anything about all this. The librarians were able to hear, but they were going about their business as if nothing was going on. Other people were concentrating on their work and pretending not to hear. Sirius felt a flash of shame for ignoring it like this. What sort of Gryffindor was he? What sort of person was he, not standing up to them? He put the book down and stood up. He'd tell Bellatrix exactly what he thought of all this stupidity, right here and now...
But even as he started walking, Bellatrix finished speaking. The crowd clapped, talking excitedly. Then they started to leave, many of them congratulating Bellatrix as they did. Then she was left there on her own, sorting out the notes she'd been reading from.
He marched up to her.
"What the hell was that about?"
"Were you listening?" she asked casually. "I think it's high time someone took a stand."
"A stand against what?" he spluttered. "Muggleborns aren't any worse than us. Look at Lily Evans, she's a lot better at Charms than James is..."
Bellatrix's eyes were cold, and she reached for her wand.
"Evidently getting sorted into Gryffindor did slow your brain after all, dear cousin," she said icily. "I won't let you destroy all the things I'm working for, understand?"
He tried very hard indeed to keep his temper. Cursing her into next week would just get him into trouble, although it'd make him feel a lot better.
"For God's sake, Bellatrix," he snapped. "You're supposed to be the smart one. This is just bloody stupid!"
"In the future, I think you may believe differently," she said, in a sweet voice that chilled him. Then she gathered up her notes and ran away. He stared after her.
"Stupid, stupid bitch..."
He returned to his chair. He supposed he oughtn't to have been so suprised. His mother...also a complete bitch, he thought-believed that Muggles were little better than animals, and that Muggleborns and half-bloods should be shot. Still, Andromeda was sensible and nice, so he'd hoped that maybe Bellatrix, since she was her sister, might at least avoid these awful groups of Muggle-haters that had sprung up.
Not be the bloody leader of one...
He should have known better.
He looked up suddenly. Andromeda had come to sit next to him, and he hadn't noticed.
"I take it you heard my dear sister's speech," she said dryily.
"More than I wanted to," Sirius muttered.
"Look, I don't like being related to her either," Andromeda said with a sigh. "Ted's friends keep asking me when I'm going to 'follow in my dear sister's footsteps'. It's so..."
"Unfair?" Sirius volunteered.
"You could say that," she muttered. "It's just...argh. I heard what you said to her," she went on. "About her supposed to be the smart one. And you're right, but my parents have a different idea of 'smart'. And so do yours. I bet she'll be showered with gifts when she gets home," she added bitterly.
Sirius nodded. He on the other hand, would probably get screamed at or even beaten when Bellatrix told her aunt that Sirius disagreed with them.
"Idiots...her and the lot of them," Andromeda muttered. "Bellatrix knows perfectly that Muggleborns aren't in the least bit responsible for what happened in the past. How much intelligence does it take to work that out? She can do better then that. It's infuriating. She's just wasting all her brains on hate," With a sigh, she laid her head on the table.
"It's bloody stupid," Sirius agreed. "We ought to do something to stop them, you know. Me and my friends. And you. And Regulus, if I ever find out where he's got to. If they decide to have any more meetings, we can be on hand with the Dungbombs."
Andromeda laughed. "I like that idea."
But there weren't any Dungbombs here, just lethal, vicious curses that could kill you in an instant. And Andromeda wasn't here. No-one else was here, just him and her, and they had a score to settle.
Her eyes shone. She had grey eyes, grey like his and Regulus's.
Curse after curse after curse. This duel could go on forever.
He didn't know what he thought about that.
It was the last day of fourth year, and lessons were over. Sirius, James, Remus and Peter had gone to sit by the lake. none of them were really doing much. Peter was asleep, James was trying to Transfigure a small daisy into a whole bunch of flowers (so he could give them to Lily), Sirius was helping him, and Remus was trying to play a tune with a blade of grass. They were so caught up in their various activities that they didn't notice when Bellatrix Black came their way. After a few minutes, they noticed her standing there with an expression of disgust on her face.
"Yes?" James asked.
She ignored him and spoke to Sirius. "Keep good company, don't you?"
"A traitor and two halfbloods. And I've seen that red-haired piece of filth and her friends talking to you as well. Does she think-"
James spung to his feet. "Shut up," he hissed. "Lily's a hundred times the witch you'll ever be-"
With a laugh, Bellatrix cursed him off his feet. He flew through the air and landed next to Peter, who woke up instantly.
"I am not a 'her'" Bellatrix said smoothly. "I have a name...a name far better than yours. I'm a Black. A true Black, unlike some people."
All four of them had started to advance on her now.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she said sweetly.
"Expelliarmus!" Sirius yelled. But Bellatrix dodged it. She always had fast reflexes.
"Petrificus Totalus!" she yelled, pointing her wand at Peter. And then, "Furnunculus!" She pointed her wand at Remus, who reeled back with boils all over him. Then James. "Scourgify!" And James fell back too, spluttering as soap poured from his mouth. Sirius was the only one left standing.
"Well, honestly, I would've thought they'd do better than that," Bellatrix said airily, gestering to the fallen boys. "And you can do better than that too, Sirius-you can choose your friends more carefully."
And she ran away from him again. Sirius chased her, yelling every hex and curse he could think of, she wasn't going to get away with this-but he lost her. She vanished. He hoped he'd hit her at least a couple of times, though. Dispirited, he returned to his friends, who had all mostly sorted themslevs out by now. James was wiping his mouth on his sleeve.
"That-that foul little-how dare she say that about Lily!" he raged. "And what she did to us just now, I say we ought to-"
"I tried to hex her. She got away," Sirius said, and then added venomously "But she won't next time, alright?"
James nodded fiercely, than he said, "Listen, you lot...this has gotten way out of hand. I say we start fighting back."
"Good idea," Peter said.
"Well, we are in a sense," Remus said. "We've already sabotaged most of those 'meetings' of theirs, and as soon as we find out how to get into the Slytherin common room..."
"I mean properly fighting back. Not just sabotage," James said. "Not just hexing them back, hexing them back worse. And not necessarily waiting for them to attack first."
Sirius nodded; it didn't sound at all like a bad idea to him. Remus looked rather uncomfortable.
"I'm not sure. Doesn't that make us as bad-"
"I think it's a good idea," Peter injected. "We're in a war, after all, aren't we?"
The others all nodded.
And they still were, and many of them had been all their lives.
Curse after curse after curse. Sirius blocked most of them. A few made his arm bleed and bruise. Bellatrix howled with laughter.
This had to end soon.
He was out of school, and out of his parent's house forever. He was free. And James and Lily were married, and they were expecting a child, and he was to be godfather to it.
He was happy.
Of course, you couldn't be too happy about anything nowadays, he'd come to realise, although he'd tried. It was still the war, after all. Only last week, he'd been at James and Lily's house, trying to comfort Lily who'd just heard news of her parent's deaths. It had been awful.
So, yeah. Maybe I could be happier, he supposed. When Voldemort's gone...that's the day I'll really be happy.
He glanced around his small flat. He'd be selling it soon. James was insisting he come to stay with him and Lily, they were starting to get worried with people dropping dead every day. They'd also asked Peter, but he seemed to have thrown all his energy into protecting his parents, and they'd asked Remus, but he'd turned the offer down. For no real reason that Sirius could see. Being a werewolf wouldn't matter, the area around Godric's Hollow had plenty of safe places to transform in, from what James had told him. Hmmmm.
There was a knock at the door.
Brilliant. Who on earth could that be at this time of night? Maybe it was...someone he didn't want to see.
"Who is it?" he yelled, not standing near the door.
It was Bellatrix's voice. Well, he certainly wasn't about to open the door for her.
"I don't know how you found out where I lived, but I suggest you go away."
"Please," she said, pleading in a sickly voice. "I'm family."
"I am! Please, just listen!"
Well, she did sound different, but she'd always been an excellent actress. "Alright then, you can talk. But I've got my wand pointed at the door." He hadn't. Where'd he put it, anyway?
Bellatrix began speaking. "Sirius...your brother is dead."
He'd found his wand and picked it up. Now he dropped it.
He thought of a million things at once. Many were swear words. And also the thought 'You're lying.'
Except he was certain she wasn't.
"What are you...what the...who killed him?" he finally managed to say. And why on earth did he care? His brother wasn't family anymore, they'd said almost exactly those words to each other when Regulus ran off to join the Death Eaters...he'd never wanted to think about him ever again...
"He tried to get out, you see," Bellatrix said. "He was weak."
Sirius actually felt a small flash of pride in his younger brother, but it was soon gone when he remembered all the things the Death Eaters had done to his friends. Regulus could have been involved in killing the Evanses for all he knew.
"And you came to tell me this out of the kindness of your heart, did you?"
"Listen," she pleaded. "This is important. The Dark Lord-"
"Yes, your dear Voldemort..."
"Look, he wants the Black family on his side, understand? And you're the only one left. He says that if you stay where you are, among the Mudbloods, then he'll kill me. Do you really want me dead?"
"I'm not your family anymore. I never really was. Why don't you lot understand that?"
"You're a powerful wizard...think of what you could do with even more power. And you are family...whether you like it or not."
He opened his mouth to argue.
"Andromeda joined us." she added.
"She chose her family-she was willing to save her sister. Blood is thicker than water...you know that."
"Go away," he muttered, still reeling from the shock. "I'm not going to join you, I hate you all. If you don't leave now I'm going to curse you."
"You're a Black, whether you like it or not. And Blacks don't mix with Mudbloods and half-bloods and Muggle-lovers. They'll lose their soul - what makes them them - if they do. You know that. Have you lost yours already?"
"You're mad. I'm not coming with you. You really think..."
"Traitors and Mudbloods...they'll all betray you, you know. You're a Black. You can do better than that."
"I'm not betraying my friends to you. Go away." He said it as coldly as possible.
She went. She hadn't killed him or cursed the building apart...that was something, he supposed. But he heard her laughing insanely as she ran down the stairs.
She was almost certainly involved in killing the Evanses, he realised. Maybe it was her who killed Regulus too...
Cursing her, he contacted Andromeda straight away. She hadn't joined them...she didn't have any idea what was going on.
Bellatrix was going to pay for this.
He couldn't let her beat him...he couldn't let evil win...
Even though it had. That was why almost everyone he cared about was dead. That was why James and Lily hadn't lived to see their son grow up. That was why Harry had almost been destroyed so many times and would never be normal, no matter how much Sirius wished it. That was why Remus had spent so many years of his life utterly alone. That was why Regulus had betrayed him, and Peter had betrayed them all.
But he'd decided he'd rather die or lose his soul than betray them. He'd never decided he was better than them, like Bellatrix had decided she and the others were better than everyone else in the world.
He remembered everything she'd ever done to him. She followed pure evil. She was evil. She'd killed his friends, she'd taken his brother, she'd murdered countless innocent people. She was everything he hated.
"Come on!" he roared, in a voice full of anger and sarcasm and bitterness and despair. "You can do better than that!"
And then there was nothing.