Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the House of Black. I am not JK Rowling. Therefore, I'm just a harmless fan fic writer begging you not to sue.
Mum believed what she preached with such a ferocity that it scared me. She really, honestly believed that being pureblood made you better than anyone else, and that being a Black made you better than most purebloods (which, come to think of it, might explain why she married her second cousin when I can only remember them actually demonstrating their affection in front of me once).
Dad took a slightly more scientific approach. I don't think he believed the Blacks were the royalty of the wizarding world; we were just, as far as he was concerned, another element in the pureblood gene pool. The fact that he believed the pureblood gene pool superior to the Muggle one is, possibly, what made his philosophy more frustrating than Mum's. Mum's philosophy I could yell at for being an unfounded piece of rubbish. Since Dad's was a little more moderate, and he had our longer lives and magical powers to cite as evidence, I couldn't yell at it without it calmly explaining itself back.
Not that I didn't try.
Dad told me the first time I told him he was wrong at ten, and again every time after that up until I ran away, that if I could back my opinion up with evidence, I stood a chance of convincing him. The problem was he refused to see the numbers, because he was afraid to see that I was right.
I should have known he wouldn't see the numbers. After all, he'd shown me that back when I was six, when an argument with everyone else in the house left me in the parlor talking to him. I'd fought with Mum over the state of my robes (how was I supposed to climb trees without getting dirty, I wanted to know), with Kreacher about the state of my bedroom (I wouldn't let him clean it), and with Regulus about one of the petty little things five- and six-year-old brothers fight over constantly.
Dad studied pureblood family lines, and while he preferred trying to ferret out the Hogwart's Founders', occasionally he'd study ours, or the Flint's, or the Malfoy's. That day, he was muttering and making notes about the family tapestry.
"Why don't you just move that thing to your study?" I asked by way of starting a conversation.
"Your mother'd have a fit," Dad answered. He was looking at the top of it, the ancient part he was always more interested in. Dad spent most of his time seven hundred years ago; it gave him an excuse not to deal with the trouble with today.
Because I was six, I couldn't see that high without climbing onto the back of a chair, and I was in enough trouble with Mum right then. So I started picking at one of the gold marriage lines at the bottom— Phineas Nigellus's, as it happened, and I noticed that there were a couple holes, one where a son should be and another where a sibling should be. "Doxies've been at this thing," I remarked.
Dad looked down to where I pointed, traces of exasperation on his face. "Sirius, why don't you go play with Regulus or something?"
"I'm not talking to him right now," I answered sullenly. "Do you want me to go tell Kreacher to get the Doxycide?"
"No," Dad answered. He sighed. "Those aren't Doxy-bites; your mother or grandmother did that."
"Why? Mum loves this thing."
"Yes, but. . . ." he sighed and knelt down beside me. "All right, let's see if I can remember. That"— he pointed to the hole beside Phineas's name— "was Isla Black; your great-great-grandmother blew her off when she married a Muggle named Bob Hutchins."
"Why'd she do that?"
"Well, I'd like to think she fell in love—" Dad started, but I interrupted.
"No, I mean why'd she blow her off?"
"Because she . . . broke the rules. Wizards aren't supposed to marry Muggles, and she wanted to make it clear Isla wasn't part of the family anymore."
Dad sighed. "Traditionally, when a woman marries she becomes part of her husband's family, but because we don't recognize Muggle Houses I guess Ursula didn't think she belonged anywhere. . . . That one's Phineas's son, same name," he added, pointing to the hole below Phineas Nigellus. "He was on a Ministry council and vetoed one too many anti-Muggle bills; perhaps that one was a bit harsh. That's your great-uncle Marius; he was a squib. . . ." Dad glowered at that burn for a moment, frowning slightly, and shook his head.
I reached up and fingered the hole that used to be Isla. There was only a slight depression, but somehow it was one of the saddest things I'd ever seen. "Dad?" I asked.
Dad had started to straighten back up, but he looked down again, and this time he was really getting irritated. "What, Sirius?"
"How many kids do people usually have?"
"Erm . . . two-point-three, I think, is the average," Dad answered, clearly puzzled. "Safer to just say two."
I nodded. "And Phineas is my great-great-grandad . . . that's you, Grandfather, his dad, and Phineas . . . so four generations. . . ."
"Five, I suppose," Dad told me. "You count, too."
"All right. So, if Isla had two kids, and her two kids had two kids. . . . that's. . . ." Being six, multiplication wasn't familiar territory, so it took a few minutes. "Thirty people, Dad. Thirty people with Black blood that she said didn't count."
Dad sighed. "Sirius. . . ." He faded off and fiddled with his glasses, which he did an awful lot when he was nervous. Then he stood up, picked up his quill, and seemed to push the thought out of his mind. "That's just theoretical."
I sort of forgot about that conversation for five years, and then I went to school, ended up in Gryffindor, and realized that my father could have been a decent man, except he refused to do the math.
Maybe he was afraid to do it, to see that everything he'd been tought to believe in was wrong. Dad liked things reliable; it was why he preferred history to current events.
Dad was why, twelve years after that afternoon in the parlor, when Regulus finally managed to get it through my thick head that he'd joined Voldemort, all I could think about was how good he'd always been with numbers. The 'O' he'd gotten on his Arithmancy OWL just before I'd run away. I didn't think he was like Mum; I thought he was like Dad— not blind, just in blinders he refused to take off. So the first words out of my mouth were, "Oh, come on, Reggie, why are you refusing to even count . . . ?"
Author's Note: I just had to get that scene out of my head. . . . And for some reason, I have a soft spot for Orion Black, even if this doesn't show it. I did sort of imagine him as a man the world was moving to fast for, so he clung to the older ideas Sirius realized were outdated as soon as Muggles stopped burning wizards. So . . . review? Cheers! — Loki