Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine. This was a drabble challenge given to me by Chevira Lowe on Livejournal. The challenge: a pre-James and Lily death, Christmas fic, Sirius-centric, less than 1000 words.

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Sometimes Blood Still Matters

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James could count the number of times that Sirius had gotten drunk on firewhiskey on two hands. Despite his reputation as a partier, Sirius didn't consume hard liquor all that often, especially not Ogden's Firewhiskey. "That," Sirius had said, "is reserved for special occasions. Like when life is especially screwed."

Sirius had always been welcomed in the Potter estate, and drunk Sirius was no exception. So when he pounded on James's door near midnight on Christmas Eve, James let him in. Lily took one long look at Sirius, gaze lingering on the half-empty bottle clutched in his right hand, and then softly retreated to the master bedroom. Thank Merlin for a perceptive wife.

"Let me take your coat," James offered. Snowflakes sparkled on the jacket and in Sirius's dark hair. Sirius shook his head, dropping flakes onto the stone floor.

"Whereza party?" Sirius asked, squinting at the bright lights of the entryway. "There's always a party here Cris'mas Eve." It took a lot of alcohol to even get Sirius to start slurring his words.

"No party this year," James said. It was too dangerous, too tempting of a target for the Potters to host a party. "You want something to eat?"

"Nah." Sirius used the bottle to point at James. The red-gold drink sloshed loudly, dancing in the light. "Hav'a drink wi' me."

-

The clock in the dining room struck twelve as James took another swig from the bottle.

"Happy Cris'mas," Sirius said, reaching for the bottle. James nodded but didn't reply. Sirius would get to what was bothering him eventually. Last time Sirius had taken out the firewhiskey, it was around Midsummer, when they found what was left of Benjy Fenwick.

"His bir'day was las' week, yanno," Sirius said, punctuating the sentence with another long draft. "Pr'bly had a big party at'ta house. Mum an' Dad pr'bly let 'em have some sorta Dark orgy." He blinked resentfully at the now-empty bottle. "Never le' me have any orgy."

"The Light doesn't lend itself well to orgies."

"Wonder why." Sirius drug his gaze away from the bottle and focused on some phantasm hovering above the kitchen table. "Never thought he was mucha t'orgy type m'self. Little apron-stringed prat."

"Some guys are like that."

"He was their fav'rite," Sirius muttered. His right hand skittered across the table like a blind insect. "Only son worthy o' the name Black." The words were bitter for all their drunken amusement.

James watched Sirius's hand continue its meandering search across the table.

"Coulda kill'd 'im, yanno," Sirius continued. "We fought a lotta Death Eaters this las' coupla months." The hand slowed for an instant. "Knew Regulus was a prat, but di'nt think he was an idiot."

"Regulus?" James remembered then, the first time Sirius had gotten drunk on firewhiskey. Sirius's letter to Regulus post-disinheritance had been returned unopened and hexed.

Sometimes blood still mattered.

Sirius nodded, and his hand sped up again. "M' idiot of a brother wen' an joined Voldemor' back in Oct'ber. Tha's what D'mbldore said this mornin' in his lett'r." His hand was getting dangerously close to the empty firewhiskey bottle. "He thought I otta know why the prat got 'imself killed las' night."

Sirius twitched, and the bottle fell off the table. It broke into several large fragments and a scattering of invisible shards. Sirius winced at the noise, but otherwise didn't react.

"Thought he'd done somethin' impor'ant, for once. That maybe he'd tried standin' up 'gainst Mum an' Dad an' their blood mania. Bu' he jus' couldn' stomach the killin' anymore. Tried t' run away an' le' someone else pur'fy wiz'rd kind." Sirius laughed then, laughed so hard that tears started leaking down his cheeks. "He always hated takin' out the garbage."

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When Sirius fell asleep, James levitated him to the living room and set him on the sofa. James conjured a blanket and spread it carefully over his best friend. The light from the enchanted Christmas tree candles lit up the room in brightly colored patches. James watched his sleeping friend for several moments.

"Happy Christmas, Sirius," James said quietly. And because he knew that Sirius wasn't one for displays of sentimentality even while he was unconscious, James left the part about being Sirius's real brother unspoken and went back to bed.

-End-