Disclaimer: I do not own anything you recognize; JK Rowling does.
Ostensibly, Orion Black was playing cards at the Leaky Cauldron with his brother-in-law. In reality, the cards and even Cygnus, who was being unusually quiet and would normally have demanded Orion's full attention, were only on the surface of his mind.
Or at least the game was. Underneath it, he was trying desperately not to consider the history of the rather dog-eared cards in his hands. Only last week he had been playing a rather misnamed game of solitaire with them, since his eighteen-year-old son kept leaning over the coffee table and showing him why he hadn't lost. It wasn't a defining moment of his relationship with Regulus by any means, but it was recent, and now it was almost part of the cards. Which was why Orion was having such trouble not thinking about it.
He was so focused on concentrating on his hand and fiddling with his glasses that he didn't look up when he heard someone drag a chair back and sit down. It was only when a very familiar voice said quietly, "Deal me in," that he even thought it worth noting.
Orion jumped and looked up at his eldest son. He hadn't seen Sirius in years. After all, the boy had gone out of his way to avoid his parents since he'd run away at sixteen. But he was still there, sitting on the side of the table opposite where Regulus should have been, a grim smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Hi, Dad," he added, even more quietly.
Cygnus looked up disdainfully at his nephew. "Oh, look, if it isn't Sirius. . . . Well, I don't know how to end your name, really. You've made it clear enough you don't want our surname, after all."
Orion glared at him. "Cygnus, be nice."
Cygnus raised an eyebrow in a silent, Why should I? After all, Sirius had done everything to prove he wasn't part of the family: wound up in a different school house, moved out of the family home, gotten himself blown off the tapestry. . . .
But he couldn't take the family blood out of his veins. Regulus had never let anyone forget that. Orion raised an eyebrow of his own and repeated, "Cygnus, be nice."
"It's all right," Sirius answered. "Um. I thought I might find you here, Dad."
Orion turned his raised eyebrow on his son. Of course, Orion could be found playing cards in the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks or a handful of other pubs quite often, but that was under comparatively normal circumstances. Sirius might not have been part of the family circle anymore, but assuredly he read the obituaries. Everyone did these days. "Haven't you heard?" he asked.
Sirius's grim smile widened briefly and then disappeared altogether. "Oh, I heard all right. It was a friend of mine who found his body."
Orion couldn't think about Regulus's body, so instead he focused on another detail. "Alastor Moody's a friend of yours?"
"Well . . . we work together," Sirius answered. Then he shook his head. "Come on, Dad. Deal me in."
Before Cygnus could think of anything even more nasty to say, Orion dealt his son a hand of cards. Just for this afternoon, it was worth pretending he still had a son. That Sirius hadn't deserted and that Regulus hadn't— he'd promised himself he wasn't going to think about that.
A few hands of cards passed in relative silence, before Tom came around with a coffee pot and refilled Orion's mug. He thanked the old man absently and picked it up to stop himself fiddling with his spectacles. Out of the corner of his vision he saw Sirius's looking at him with narrowed eyes.
"Yes?" he asked softly.
"Well . . . didn't the healers tell you after the first heart attack to give up on coffee?" Sirius asked. The note of admonishment in his voice was more teasing than it was real, rather like Regulus's had been.
Orion put the mug down with a sigh, but with no intention of leaving it there. "The chief causes of a heart attack, kid, are stress, age, and heritage," he pointed out, ticking them off on his fingers as he said them. "Our family has a history of early deaths of one sort or another. I'm not getting any younger. And I stress over both of my sons whether Walburga wants me to or not, and after Regulus's death I'm only going to worry about the blood traitor more." As he ticked them back off, he pushed his fingers back down. "Any one of those alone trumps coffee, so if I'm going to have another one anyway, I'm not going to give it up."
Sirius started to roll his eyes but was brought up short by realization. "You worry about me?"
"Of course I do," Orion answered impatiently. "You're my kid, aren't you?"
"Even though," Cygnus observed dryly, "you've made it more than clear that you don't want to be." He fiddled with the cards in his hands, glowering at Sirius. Clearly he wasn't going to leave the past in the past, even for one afternoon.
Sirius bristled. Both of them could see his usual retort— why would he want to be part of such a narrowminded family— forming on his face.
Orion bit his lip, wondering how to divert a fight. Unfortunately, he needed Andromeda, or Alphard, or Regulus to do that for him; he was better at convincing people to pretend they never happened.
"Are you even coming to the funeral?" Cygnus added.
"No," Sirius answered softly. "I didn't think there should be a fistfight or a duel at a funeral."
Uneasily, Orion felt that Sirius might have a point. Andromeda could have held him back, but Bellatrix wasn't about to let her sister attend. Regulus would have managed to, but while he'd be there he wouldn't be in any condition to stop it.
Cygnus seemed at a loss for a nasty retort for that. "So why bring it up?"
Sirius stared at his uncle for a few long moments, then picked up the deck and dealt another hand. "So . . . when is the funeral, Dad?"
"Wednesday," Orion muttered, cringing in the part of him that knew he couldn't hope he was dreaming after Regulus was in the ground.
"Why do you want to know?" Cygnus demanded.
Sirius shrugged. "Just because I thought I shouldn't show up at the funeral doesn't mean I don't want to . . . to say good-bye. I thought I'd do something you would classify as stupid, like show up at his grave with a bottle of wine and someone we both knew and reminisce after I was good and drunk." He hesitated. "Not James, and Lily and Peter never really knew him. Remus, maybe. They seemed to like each other, sometimes."
In spite of himself, a smile tugged at one corner of Orion's mouth. Sirius wouldn't send his brother off in a conventional way, but he would send him. "You should be able to do that Wednesday night," he told him.
The boy— or he was a man now, wasn't he, a man who'd ducked out from under his parent's shelter long ago and certainly couldn't go back now— smiled slightly himself. "I wish . . . I dunno, I feel like I should have done something. Like I could have. . . ." He faded off. "Like I should never have left, for his sake."
"Survivor's guilt," said Orion. "Trust me, I feel the same way."
"As much as I hate to break up this party as the two of you start to reach an understanding," Cygnus remarked. "There's Wally right out the window. She's worse than me."
Orion shuddered involuntarily at the thought of the scene his wife might make. "You'd better go, Sirius."
Sirius nodded, set his cards back on the table, and got to his feet. "Well. . . ." He shrugged, apparently unable to think of anything else to say.
"Be careful, Sirius," Orion mumbled. "Keep yourself safe."
Sirius hesitated and nodded. "I'll try. You, too, Dad."
And with that, he walked away again, leaving Orion almost paradoxically more worried about his eldest son.
Author's Note: For some reason, I seem to have developed aslightly soft spot for Mr. Black, perhaps because his wife was a holy terror and he lost both of his sons, in one way or another, in their teens. Anyway, having him worrya little about Sirius seemed appropriate - after all, I imagine it would be difficult to forget your son was your son. So, opinions, anyone? You know you want to review! Cheers! --- Loki