Summary – Sirius has run away from home. Lucius decides a touch of blackmail is in order. Or several touches, really ...

Disclaimer – I don't own anything except the precise word order and my precious computer, whose name is Alabaster. All else belongs to J.K. Rowling and a few other fine people who publish and manufacture for that grand lady.

Rating – R. Or whatever.

Review – and tell me how you like the title. I don't.

Very Important Note –

See, I'm American, Californian in fact, I don't know if anywhere like this exists in London or any other major city in the U.K. I have, for this story, created a little pocket of the world where it's like the most squalid slums of East L.A., and I can't shake the feeling that it just might ... not ... exist. TheEngland we hear of, out here on the Western edge of creation, is all pubs and ravens and castles and the changing of the guard. You people do have street gangs and strip bars, right? Right? ... I took minor liberties, I believe, though I'm not even sure of that. So just ... well, pretend. Also ... at the end there is a description of the night sky which is horribly inaccurate given the time of year, but again, just pretend.

So, jumping right into the ... action ... so to speak ...


"So we're agreed then," whispered Sirius. "Not a word to my mother."

"Not a word," Lucius agreed. "Come here."

Sirius took a few halting steps toward him. "No," said Lucius quietly. "Come to me on your knees."

Sirius stopped entirely, biting down on his lip. Lucius smiled, knowing that Sirius would eventually obey. The sound of a passing truck going much too fast made the floor tremble. Sunlight slanted through the second-story window, at just such an angle that it was not blocked by the neighboring building. The slum tenement in which Sirius was staying was abandoned, condemned – a filthy place. Sirius slept on a mattress on the floor, and the tangle of elderly thrift-store sheets and blankets half-covered it. The blue fitted sheet was pulled off one corner, as though Sirius had slept restlessly. The bare boards were dirty, the plaster walls bare, and golden motes of dust danced in formation between Sirius, approaching sixteen, and Lucius, ten years older and knowing that he had the power in this encounter.

"Honestly," Lucius commented, "how can you live here? Why didn't you go to your filthy friends?"

Sirius tossed his head back proudly. "I am not a charity case," he answered. He was wearing a blue buttoned shirt, worn and faded jeans – once black, now greyish – and battered sneakers. His glossy jet-black hair, worn long and a little raggedly cut at the ends, was sleek and not at all untidy. His blue eyes – such a dark, deep blue – were tantalizing to Lucius. Usually so defiant, now they revealed indecision and helplessness.

"Surely you don't like living on the streets," Lucius said condescendingly.

"This isn't the streets until they demolish the building," Sirius replied.

Lucius arched an eyebrow. "But surely this isn't exactly secure and comfortable living."

"No." Sirius took a breath and let it out. "It's not. There are rats. I don't mind them usually, but when they come so close at night it's unpleasant. The leader of one of the local gangs had me beaten two nights after I got here, to establish his territory. It's hard to get hold of enough to eat. I steal what I have to. I nearly got myself killed offending the leader of the other local gang. He went after me with a knife. Want to see the cut?" He pushed up his sleeve and pointed to a long, deep scratch that was trying to fill itself in with new skin. "In the end I only got beaten up. Again." He pulled his sleeve back down, and looked up, his eyes afire with hatred. "But you know what? It's better than my mother's house."

"If it's so much better –" Lucius gestured invitingly toward the board floor. "Then you might as well do as I say and get it over with. If you aren't obedient, I will tell her exactly where you are."

Sirius folded his arms. "Who's to say they won't award custody of me to the Potters?"

"Because my late father was your godfather," Lucius answered smoothly, "and as his heir, I take on all his obligations. Including that of the office of next of kin to you. You'd go to me first. And as you've guessed, Sirius, the gender of my partners is not a moral issue for me." Sirius shuddered, rubbing his hands along his arms. "This, however, is probably a moot point. No one would believe you. It is still on the record that your family chose not to press charges for the murder of your father."

That got more reaction than anything else so far. "I did not kill him!" It came out as a shout, Sirius's blue eyes snapping sparks. But his arms were still crossed to close him off. A sign of insecurity, of fear. Lucius smiled. I'm going to make you cry, little cousin, he thought, taking definite pleasure in the idea. Yes, he would enjoy watching Sirius lose his self-possession so much. Sirius almost never cried. Sometimes his mother could beat the tears out of him, but otherwise he hadn't in years. Not when he was starved for a week as punishment for being Sorted into the wrong house and making the wrong friends. Not when he was dragged into the parlor and severely lectured and humiliated in front of his younger brother and the entire pantheon of aunts, uncles and cousins. Not when his father died.

"I pushed him down the stairs," Sirius went on furiously. "He didn't even die then. It was later, in the hospital. He had a riding crop in his hand and I pushed him away from me! Not a court in the world could find me guilty of murder and you know all of that, Lucius!"

Lucius was absolutely unruffled. "Be that as it may. Let's see you crawl to my feet."

"No," whispered Sirius.

"That knife could have cut your throat," Lucius told him calmly. "If it had, no one would ever have known. If you disappear, no one will look closely enough to find you locked up in your mother's house. Or indeed, mine. So there may not be a chance to save yourself, if I tell your mother where to look. Or if I take you home with me right now. So. On your knees, Sirius."

The boy's hands were shaking. Lucius noted this with great pleasure. At last, Sirius slowly knelt. "Good boy," Lucius whispered. "Now come."

Sirius stayed still, his beautiful eyes half-lidded and on the floor, then quickly crawled to Lucius, where he huddled, miserable. Lucius dropped a hand on the younger boy's head, letting his fingers find a place in Sirius's hair. He'd wanted for a very long time to touch that hair, but had always restrained himself. Now there would be no restraint.

Lucius's lips curved upwards humorlessly. Some things one couldn't get from a wife, or a mistress, or from any self-respecting courtesan who was too well paid to humiliate herself. No need to be a gentleman with Sirius. Lucius thought he would demand several things he wouldn't even bother to ask Narcissa for.

"Show me you really want me to do you a favor," Lucius suggested in a whisper. "Lick my boots."

Sirius recoiled. Lucius laced his fingers through that lovely black hair and forced his young cousin's head down. "If you don't do exactly as I say," he informed Sirius softly, "I'll take you home and your mother will tell everyone that you are mentally unstable. We wanted to forgive you for murdering your father, but your violent nature can't be hidden any longer, and your friends are making matters worse. We can keep you home or put you in an institution. Preferably one that uses straitjackets. Ever been in one of those, Sirius? I visited an asylum once. The sheer helplessness sometimes drives the wearer even further into madness. You, though . . . you're a different case. Helplessness won't hurt you. You like it. Dignity seems to make your condition worse. You need to be helpless. You need to be humiliated."

"No," Sirius whispered, a soft, choked animal sound. He was terribly afraid. Lucius smiled again.

"Now," he said. "You need the humbling influence of learning to be helpless. Obedient. Submissive. You can learn it here and now, by doing as I say, or I can take you home and you can learn there. Make your choice quickly. I grow impatient." He twisted Sirius's hair viciously, then released it.

Sirius slowly bent to obey. He stayed still for a moment, bent almost to the floor, then ran his tongue over Lucius's right boot. His mouth filled with the taste of leather and degradation.

"More," Lucius said coldly. "You don't stop until I tell you."

Sirius stayed still, his eyes on the darker, damp streak in the leather, horrified with himself.

"You don't want to stop," Lucius said softly.

"Leave me alone," Sirius whispered.

"Do it or you're coming home with me," Lucius said, letting his voice rise a little. Sirius flinched – oh, so satisfying it was – and did as he was told.

Lucius was perfectly delighted.

"Stop now," he said after a few minutes, stepping back. "That's a very good boy." His voice was slightly strangled. He'd enjoyed watching the boy's humiliation a little more than was quite decent . . . "Good boy," he said again, and let something fall to the floor. "Pick that up."

Sirius looked up at him. The boy's face was pale. It made his blue eyes look larger. One graceful, long-fingered hand stole out toward the item on the dusty floorboards.

"No," said Lucius. "With your teeth."

Sirius shrank, shaking his head.

Time for a physical lesson, Lucius decided. Moving so that Sirius would not see, he brought one of his feet up and swept it into the boy's ribs. Sirius hit the floor, almost on his back, crying out in a way that made Lucius shudder with enjoyment. Lucius slammed a toe into the other side of Sirius's body, then placed one boot on his shoulder and forced him down on the floorboards. Stepping back, he slid the toe of his right foot into the boy's groin and pressed, delicately, only just hard enough that it brought pain instead of pleasure. Sirius turned his head away.

"Does that feel good?" Lucius asked agreeably.

"You bastard," Sirius said, his voice low, hoarse and full of a tight, controlled fury that made Lucius look down at him in mild surprise. Perhaps he saw something of the killer in those magnificent dark-blue eyes. Whatever he saw, it was something he wanted to punish.

He drew his foot back and kicked, in the thigh, just away from the most tender area, not hard but hard enough to hurt. He flipped Sirius over, onto his stomach, and heard the quiet curse as the blow made him bite his tongue. "Now, pick it up in your mouth," said Lucius, his foot finding its place again, just enough force behind it to show he meant what he said.

Sirius did as he was told.

"Turn on your knees and face me," said Lucius, and when Sirius obeyed immediately, he knew he'd broken the boy. Not enough, though. Not broken enough yet.

Lucius bent down and took the collar he'd made Sirius pick up. "See this?" he said. "What is it, Siri?" He knew his younger cousin hated the nickname. "What is it?" he repeated when Sirius was silent.

"Collar," Sirius said unwillingly.

"Exactly," Lucius purred. "And what is a collar for?"

"Trout," said Sirius.

Lucius was startled into a laugh by this. Sirius had a knack for getting asked questions he didn't want to answer, and he managed them always in the same way. Lucius had never heard him use the same answer twice.

He set his fingers under Sirius's chin, made him look up. "What is a collar for, Sirius?"

"Cheese sandwiches."

His fingers clamped down. "What's it for?"

Sirius sucked in his breath so sharply it might have almost been a whimper. "For animals," he said, his voice, just perhaps, holding the touch of a quaver?

"What kind of animals?"

"For . . . dogs."

"Not so specific," said Lucius.

Sirius thought desperately. His face was held up by Lucius's fingers below his chin, so his eyes met Lucius's. The blue was slightly wetter – the beginning of tears?

"For pets?" he guessed.

"Good boy." Sirius sighed a little, in relief. Oh, yes. He was broken.

And that disturbed Lucius somehow. This was the boy who had given his parents such trouble? He thought. Why would the child be more submissive for Lucius? No, he realized, that wasn't the question. At bottom, the question was, what precisely had Tyana Black done to him? What had she done finally, that drove her boy onto the streets to escape her tyranny? What abuses had worn him down so far?

"Say it again," Lucius prompted.

"A collar is . . . for pets."

Lucius ran a thumb over Sirius's lips. "And this one is for you," he said.

Sirius closed his eyes.

"Open them," Lucius said gently. "You're learning to be submissive, remember? Now, if this collar is for you, what does that make you?"

"A ... a pet."

"You can do better than that."

"Your pet."

"Exactly," said Lucius, smiling, pleased. "My pet. So. Put it on."

Sirius shook his head, pulling back, and Lucius jerked him near, pulled the boy down virtually into his lap, and took hold of his ear. "On. Now."

When Sirius did not move, Lucius twisted his ear until Sirius pushed at his hands. "Stop . . . " he said softly. "I'll do it."

Sirius straightened and clasped the collar around his neck. His eyes remained on the floor. It was black leather, a brass clasp.

"You can make it tighter than that," Lucius chided him.

Sirius whispered, "it's already tight."

"Not as tight as I want it," said Lucius. "And what I want, you want. Pull it tight."

"You do it," said Sirius.

Lucius looked at him dangerously. "Excuse me," he said. "I believe you just said, 'You do it.' Now of course, what you meant was, 'Please, Master, I'd like you to put my collar on me.' I suppose you are smart enough to repeat that properly."

"No," said Sirius, and scrambled backwards. He ripped the collar off and threw it at Lucius. Scrabbling to his feet, he made a mad dash for the door.

He might have known it wouldn't last long. Since childhood Sirius had known that his cousins were bigger than he was, stronger than he was, that they had the power. Not only was it hard to upset that status quo, Sirius had yet to get the last of his growth and was still quite a bit smaller than Lucius was. And Lucius always had been as quick as a snake.

Sirius fell face-down onto the floor. Lucius had caught his ankle. Sirius pushed himself up from where he lay sprawling, but Lucius was already on top of him, twisting his arm hard, trying to get back in control. Sirius waited and when Lucius's hand came close enough, sank his teeth into it. Lucius let go of his arms and then there was a pain both sharp and dull at once, in his temple, and neon zinnias bloomed and died against his eyelids. When Sirius could see again, his arm was up behind his back.

"Say what I told you to say," said Lucius in his ear, "or I take you home right now, where we can find you a muzzle, and keep you properly chained."

Sirius looked out the window. The sun was just beginning to cast its resplendent dying fire over the rooftops of this filthy street. He knew if he didn't do as he was told, Lucius would see to it that Sirius was locked away where he'd never see a sunset again.

"What am I supposed to say?" he asked in a low, meek voice.

"You know exactly what to say," said Lucius, breath tickling his ear.

Sirius did, of course. "Master," he said, "please put my collar on me."

He felt Lucius's hand at his throat, and then the leather was yanked agonizingly tight. Sirius choked. "I can't breathe," he whispered through his coughing. "Lucius, I can't breathe!"

"You'll breathe just fine," said Lucius. Sirius heard a clicking sound, below his left ear, and knew by the tug that Lucius had fastened a leash onto the collar. "Now open your shirt."

Sirius looked up at Lucius, then dropped his eyes and began to go to work on the buttons. His fingers were trembling. It gave him difficulty.

Lucius watched his new pet's skin emerge. He wasn't wearing an undershirt under the loose buttoned shirt. How oddly ... stimulating.

"Stop," said Lucius as Sirius began to remove his shirt. "If you want to take your clothes off, I think you should ask my permission."

"I don't want to," said Sirius in a rather small voice.

Lucius drew on the leash. "Yes. You do."

"Can't we just get this over with?" Sirius asked, desperation rattling in his voice.

"You'll have to do better than that," said Lucius. "You'll have to specifically ask me to let you take them off. You'll have to beg me."

Sirius lowered his head, his hair falling down in a silken curtain around his face. When he looked up again, a single tear had beaded and run a straight course toward his chin. He didn't seem ashamed of it. Larger things to be ashamed of now, maybe.

Clearly he knew what to say. "Lucius," he whispered. "Let me take my clothes off. I'm begging you. Please let me strip for you. Let me have all my clothes off for you." He took a deep, shuddery breath. "Let me be naked. Please let me be completely naked."

And once Sirius was sufficiently humiliated – which took a while – Lucius was only too happy to oblige.

Sirius shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket. It was sunset again, the death of sunset. This time last night Lucius had just been crawling on top of him to have his sadistic pleasure with the younger boy. Tonight Sirius walked home, or rather not home, tired, still in pain.

And he thought, this has happened to others before me. Maybe every sunset since the dawn of time ... however many sunsets this has been ... some fifteen-year-old boy or girl has been doing what I had to do last night. It made him feel less alone, but it also made him sad.

And maybe, he thought, every one of them has kept it close, kept it within, something to be shared only with the mirror when no one else is there. He knew that he would never tell anyone. Not anyone, ever. Not the Potters, not social services, not Remus or Peter. Never. Not for reasons of shame but for pragmatic ones.

As Lucius dressed to leave him, Sirius had lain quiet, eyes closed, quite thoroughly exhausted. There were bruises on his body from Lucius's fingers. His back and thighs were marked by Lucius's belt, his ribs and stomach and groin by Lucius's boots. The various pains, warm and cold, shallow and deep, were all distinct and yet they seemed to contribute to a general ache. The hurt was unique, far worse than any beating, the hurt meant that every inch of his body had been touched and used and owned. He lay in the streak of light cast through the window by the single streetlight, where he'd deliberately positioned the mattress to discourage the rats, his ears registering the small noises of Lucius dressing. Surely, he'd thought, it was nearly midnight.

Then one noise, unfamiliar, though he'd heard it before, disturbed him. He opened his eyes. Lucius was just slipping a Muggle camera into the pocket of his robes, a sight so incongruous that for a moment, he hadn't understood well enough to be horrified.

Then he realized what had just happened, and he sat up despite the soreness, his swollen lips parting as though to protest before he realized it was probably smarter to shut up.

"Don't worry," said Lucius, smiling a little, his hand dropping to settle in Sirius's hair. He seemed fascinated by that hair. "I won't let anyone else see this. Not unless I have to."

Sirius looked up at him, not understanding.

"Sirius," Lucius had said, a patronizing smile actually reaching his eyes, "my dear little Sirius, if you tell any of your filthy friends they'll want you to go to the authorities, to Wizarding Social Services. The Ministry won't believe you and your insanity will be splashed all over the Daily Prophet, but the Potters are still fairly well thought of, and Mrs. Karenina Vabka Potter is the daughter of one of the most influential families in the entire Soviet Union. For political reasons, if they insist, it will all be brought to trial. But if it is, Sirius – " Lucius smiled more cruelly. "Then the photograph I just took will be Exhibit A. I'll see to that."

Sirius moved away. "I won't tell," he said quietly.

He hadn't sounded humbled, though, he'd sounded as though he were regathering his dignity. Like his pronouncement had been a choice, not a word of submission. Lucius decided to fix this.

His hand went back to the crown of Sirius's head, then slid down to his face, caressing the young boy gently. "Thank me," Lucius commanded, stroking Sirius's cheek.

Sirius dropped his eyes to the floor, half-closing them, something he had always done when he wanted to be anywhere else than where he was. He didn't seem to understand that the gesture only made him more attractive to Lucius. "Thank you," Sirius said.

"Thank me properly," said Lucius, and considered threatening, but decided not to, as a test for how well he had broken his victim.

Sirius had performed admirably. "Thank you for raping me, master," he'd whispered. "I wanted it."

Lucius, it seemed, had considered this adequate and he Disapparated.

Pushing the memories away, as he knew he was going to be doing for some time, Sirius found a coin in his pocket and pulled it out to look at it. Well, definitely not enough for dinner. He'd have to steal something if he wanted to eat tonight. He decided it wasn't worth the effort. He wasn't all that hungry.

Stopping outside the building where he slept, Sirius opened the sketchbook under his arm and flipped through what he'd drawn that day while he sat under a tree in the park. Nothing of great interest. A few children on a set of swings, a pretty teenager who'd climbed a tree. A woman who'd been sitting on a bench with tears on her face, looking at a picture. A little boy and a little girl who had kissed under the slide. A hill of ants.

He closed the sketchbook, replaced it under his arm, and climbed the filthy front steps to the inside, past an old man with a cigarette who blew out smoke and looked at Sirius with round and soulless eyes. Sirius smelled a smoke that was richer than nicotine as he passed through the doors.

On the third floor, where he no longer noticed the smells of cheap wine and smoke and cheaper perfume, he opened the door of his own room. Closing the door behind him – the hinges squalled like a dying cat – he moved a chair under the doorknob and examined everything. No one had come in to disturb his possessions.

Sirius looked around, and realized that he didn't want to stay here. He would go back out for a while. He placed his sketchbook in the rusty metal footlocker on top of his other pencils and the shoplifted pastel chalks, turned the key and dropped it back in the pocket of his jeans.

Sirius wished for an appropriately dramatic gesture that would put it all behind him, like burning the mattress where Lucius had taken him, which still smelled faintly of his older cousin's aftershave. But getting another mattress would be an unnecessary hassle. If he found another set of sheets, maybe, he would replace those. So far he'd had to settle for a three-hour-long shower in the ice-cold water that came through the pipes in the tenement, bearing with it the occasional flake of rust.

Sirius took the chair from under the doorknob and went back down the stairs. The old man had gone from the stoop, taking his richly scented smoke with him.

Sirius walked up the street. The stars were beginning to twinkle. By habit, Sirius's eyes found his own star, familiar as his name. He followed the pattern of the Plow from its leading edge to where Polaris was, though it was totally invisible from here. Sirius knew the night sky intimately; stargazing was a family pastime.

And Sirius felt it unpleasant, not for the first time, that he still held onto this family pastime, but familiar pride, the same pride that had kept him from the Potters or from the home of his favorite uncle, currently in Alexandria; that pride stirred up. And why the hell shouldn't he look at the stars? It was something that he loved, something that he knew, and why did his family have to taint everything anyway?

And it wasn't as though he could ever escape the noble house of Black in any case. His brother and cousins were at school with him, everyone knew who he was, his heritage was written in his face.

Sirius's eyes continued to drift over the heavens. He identified all the stars he could see, and some he couldn't. The familiar Plow first. The spoon from which he'd sipped the only stories his mother ever told him. Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megres, Mizar and barely-visible Alcor, and the other one, with the longer name he could never remember, next to Megres. At the very end was Alkaid, his favorite for no specific reason. And by tracing the lines that all the stars pointed to one another, he found other shapes. Old friends. The proud Cassiopeia. Castor and Pollux, never alone. Orion the searcher, as they called him in the wizarding world, Hercules the strong. Sirius brighter than any other star in heaven.

And how strong am I? Sirius silently questioned the sky. He opened himself, admitted to himself and to the great sky that he didn't know and that he did know that what had happened to him, last night and all his life, had destroyed people of great strength. How bright is my star, the one that can't be seen, as old wizarding books traditionally refer to the human soul? How strong am I? I don't know, but maybe somewhere out there amidst those beautiful little lights we know almost nothing about, maybe there's an answer to everything somewhere ...

And the answer was there. Either there or in him.

He was strong enough to survive.

I am strong enough to live through this. And to suffer and to put aside the suffering and to thrive, but first ... to survive.

Sirius turned and went back to the condemned tenement. He would sleep tonight, would sleep well in the faint smell of aftershave which he would ignore and sleep as the stars turned calmly around, and then he would go to stay with James. He would go home.