AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've decided that, since I did Narcissa and Regulus, I might as well do the rest of the clan. In age order, I think.
I debated with myself whether or not to do Sirius, just because he's the only Black we really spend time with and get to know. But then I thought, this isn't really the Sirius we know.
This is Sirius Black before he gave it all up. The others take place in around the same period of time, at the height of the first war, but this one goes back farther, to when Voldemort was just really rising to power. I think he's about eleven in this, on the brink of his Hogwarts letter. This is the only one where I wont be using the first person. On reflection, it isn't even about Sirius, more about the family in general.
Summers at Grimmauld Place are the longest summers in the world. Regulus loves them—he loves the chance to tag along with Sirius, unhindered by tutors or homework, loves the way Grimmauld Place smells in the summer, the wood floors warm from sunlight spilling in windows.
But the only windows Sirius ever sees are the ones in the dining room, and he isn't allowed in there without Kreacher present, in case he tries to touch anything.
Sirius hates rules, and summer should be his favorite time of year—the time when tutors are dismissed, when homework is abolished, when he can shed the heavy black robes and try for lighter ones.
But robes are always black for him, and he hates it, and the rules that never let up.
His favorite time of summer is when Mother decides she's had enough and leaves the pot of floo powder out. As soon as he sees it, that early summer morning where the chill soaks through the floor with the promise of warmth later, his heart leaps and he shoves his breakfast down as fast as he can and drags Reggie to Black Manor.
He doesn't understand why they aren't allowed to live in the manor. After all, he is the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, his father the head of their family, and the manor is the place he escapes to in his mind when Grimmauld Place becomes boring. At the manor, there are hundreds of unused rooms with hidden treasures, secret passages and ancient stories where he and his family are the stars. And there's an outside, filled with formal gardens perfect for hide and seek and woods where strange creatures ready for capture live, and space to fly and be free. In the manor, if you close the door, no one can hear you laughing, and no one can scold you for lack of decorum.
That never works at Grimmauld Place. The rooms are small enough that noise echos out, and his mothers ears might as well be those of a bat.
He wishes his father had chosen to take residence in the manor, but Father gave it to Uncle Cygnus when Grandpapa Arcturus died when Sirius was four. He had begged at the time to move to the manor, where Arcturus had taken up residence, but Father had laughed and told Sirius it was better to stay where they were. In the thick of it all, in the center.
But Sirius wishes they could live out of the way of things and be allowed outside. That's what really bothers him about Grimmauld Place—except for a small courtyard in the center of the house, he's never allowed outside. It's too dangerous, and the door is always locked.
But the thing he really likes the most about the manor is that he gets to spend time with his cousins, even if they are girls, and play, even if they are all members of a Noble and Most Ancient house. When they play, Sirius feels the lessons in manners and decorum and politics float away until all he can feel is the sun on his face and the wind in his hair.
He loves his cousins, though he pretends not to in front of their parents. He looks sometimes, at his mother and father, and wonders what it was like for them. If Mother would visit Father in the summer, at the estate, and they would play like he played now. One day he sat down and just stared at each of his cousins and tried to imagine, what it would be like to marry one of them. Each time it made him grumpy and irritable to think about, and he had shoved Narcissa into a puddle of mud when he caught her playing house with Regulus. It would be weird, he thought, to marry one of them.
Bella was the leader of them all, and Sirius liked to think that he was her favorite. She certainly acted that way—whenever they played games with teams, she always put him up against her. Like an equal. She was a few years older, and when Sirius hung out with her, he felt older too.
Andy was a year older than him, and quiet. She would have liked living in Grimmauld Place—all she ever seemed to do was read, and she probably wouldn't mind not being able to run around. Andy would be the one who knew everything interesting about Grimmauld Place—if there was anything interesting about Grimmauld Place—and she would make up a thousand pretends about it. Andy would never be bored there. She even got along well with Father, who allowed her to sit in his study and read his books on Black Family History.
Cissy was the youngest, and to Sirius, a major pain sometimes. She looked a great deal like Aunt Druella, with Rosier blonde hair and long lashes, and she was soft spoken, the girlish one of the bunch. Andy and Bella could be tolerated, because they were almost as good as boys, but Cissy was the definition of girl. Druella had kept her hair long and she wore it in a number of different ways, all of which made her look like some sort of fairy or pixie dropped down among the rest of the cousins, even when they were at their grubbiest pretend. She also was closest to Reggie, other than Sirius, and Sirius hated it when people took the things that were his. Sirius spent half his time glowering at her and the other half protecting her from anyone outside the family and particularly scary creatures, like frogs or spiders. Pain she might be, but she was family.
They existed together, mostly, in the way that children do, forming their own sort of family with Bella and Sirius at the head, with Andromeda as consultant on all things historical and Narcissa and Regulus the loyal followers. Forts were built and defended, wars were won and lost, and summers came and went, but their bond remained.
Sirius thought it would stay that way forever.
The times being what they were, the play pretends of wars long past grew boring, and it wasn't long before Regulus thought up a wonderful pretend.
They were all sprawled out in the night nursery, which had been retired from use since Bella and Andy went to Hogwarts. Bella had draped herself over an armchair near a window and was putting on airs, as she often did, reading a book about Arithmancy so she would be prepared for her third year at Hogwarts. Andy, too, was reading, but it was a thick history of Caratacus Malefoi Black, who had formally aligned the two strongest houses in the wizarding world and helped put into place the current system of he history of magic. She was reading it aloud to Narcissa, who was playing cat's cradle and listening with half an ear. Sirius had taken his Hogwart's letter out of his pocket and was rereading it for the fifth time. Reggie was staring at the ceiling.
"I'm bored," Reggie moaned. Sirius groaned and looked at the list of his books again.
"So you've said, Reg. What are we supposed to do?"
"Well, we should do something. So I'm not bored."
Bella sniffed and deliberately turned a page. Andy took pity on him.
"Reggie, come here and listen, it's fascinating stuff."
"No it's not," Narcissa piped up from her spot on the floor. "It's boring me to tears. Besides, it's hot up here."
"Yeah," Reggie said. "Boiling."
"If you can't improve the quiet," Bella growled. Sirius nodded his head.
"I know! Why don't we play a pretend?" Narcissa exclaimed. "We could play the one where I'm the princess and Sirius has to rescue me—"
"No way. Last time you got mud all over my shirt and Mother made Kreacher lock me in my room for three hours. Not doing that again, no thank you."
"Well—what about we do this?" Andy brandished her book in the air. "It really is terrifically fascinating—"
"Nooooooo," Narcissa moaned. "I hate that book."
"I know!" Reggie said. His face shone with some sort of inner excitement. "We could play Mudbloods and Knights!"
That made everyone stop their irritable mood and consider.
Mudblood's and Knights was a simple game that they had played thousands of times. It was a game they played at every party, with every friend of the family. It was a game their own parents had played, and their parents before them, and it was one of the only games Mother tolerated Sirius and Regulus playing in the attics of Grimmauld Place.
The basic premise was that half the group were the wizarding knights—among them the famous woman knight, Lady Julia Black, also known as the Black Death—that had traveled the country in the Dark Ages avenging the deaths of witches and wizards everywhere. They killed all sorts of mudbloods, even setting some of them on fire in revenge for the wrongs done to their magical brethren. It wasn't a complicated game—the knights would ride up, demand the mudbloods pay, and then they would capture and torture the mudbloods. Simple enough that not much thought was required—but with the potential to become a whopping good battle. And it was fun on either side. It was fun to be the knights, of course, but there was also a surprising amount of joy in flopping around on the ground howling with the pain of a pretend Cruciatus.
Bella even looked up from her Arithmancy text. "That's not a bad idea. Good, Reggie."
Reggie's face was lit up like a Christmas tree. He was the youngest, and he almost never excelled in any way other than being the adorable youngest Black, or being the most loyal follower. He carried everything, whenever they went anywhere, and he was always the one to fetch Andy another book from the library or filling Bella's glass with more water. Sirius stuck up for him, sometimes, but other times Reggie was running up and down all the flights of stairs trying to find a particular item for Sirius. So to be praised by the leader of their little band had made his summer.
They all got up and shook off their irritation. There was the familiar part of splitting off sides—Bella as the Black Death, of course, and Sirius as the humpbacked old man in charge of the mudblood village. Reggie was a natural for the mudblood side, due to his ability to give the most unearthly shrieks and even being able to faint on command. The other member of the mudbloods was, surprisingly, Andy, who could make her limbs twitch like she was actually bewitched. She was also the only one who knew anything about what mudbloods were like back in the Dark Ages, so she automatically was put on that side, where she could yell things that sounded realistic.
As they trooped outside, where they first part of the battle was to occur, Narcissa, who had skipped ahead, ran into her father.
"Father!" She flung her arms about his waist, and Uncle Cygnus patted her on the head, as if she were a small dog, and regarded Bella with serious eyes.
"I'm going out, children. I expect you all to behave."
"Yes, Uncle Cygnus."
He took a closer look at the group and frowned. "What are you up to, then? Bellatrix?"
Bella pasted a simpering smile on her face. "Nothing, Father," she said. "We were just going outside for a bit of air. It's dreadfully hot upstairs."
"We're going to play Mudbloods and Knights!" Reggie yelled joyfully.
Bella glared at him for a moment. Not that there was anything that Cygnus Black would disapprove of them playing Mudbloods and Knights. But half the fun of any childhood game is keeping it secret.
Cygnus gave a distracted nod. "Oh? I do wish I could join in on that sort of thing—but then, very soon I suppose we all will. Well, have fun, then, and try not to get too dirty—your mother—" his lip curled at the thought, "—will be back for dinner. And I believe Orion and Walburga and Alphard will be coming as well."
He nodded again. "Well. If anything happens, Pippy's cleaning the sub-basement. Goodbye."
They watched him go down the hallway, then made their way outside.
The weather was nice—warm enough for them to shuck their robes, but not so warm that the trousers that Sirius and Regulus wore and the stockings on the girls became uncomfortable. There was a slight wind, and the group found their way to a familiar clearing rather quickly. Reggie, always the slave, started to collect stray branches and handfuls of leaves to make a mudblood village. Bella tossed herself gracefully at the foot of a tree, landing with ease and leaning against it, staring at the sky.
"Maybe we shouldn't play Mudbloods and Knights," she mused. Reggie stopped hauling a large tree limb, his face crushed. Sirius looked at Bella curiously.
"Why not? We've come all this way. Besides, it'll be fun, we haven't played this in ages."
Bella nodded. "Yes. But—I know! Maybe we could just—update it."
Everyone stared at her. It wasn't that they didn't know what was happening in the outside world. But it all very removed from them, and they knew, of course, as it had always worked out in the past, that Blacks would be on the winning side. Sirius cocked his head.
"How d'you mean?"
"Well, instead of me being the Lady Death, I could be—" here Bella smiled her small, sly smile, "I could be, the Bella, the Black Death."
"Like that's a big difference," I whispered to Andy, who covered her mouth so Bella wouldn't see her smile.
"And Sirius, you can be Dumbledore."
"The Headmaster?" That made Sirius a little uneasy. "But he's not a mudblood, is he?"
"You can be a blood traitor Dumbledore, then. That's worse."
Sirius nodded, still feeling unsure. What if, on his first day of school, the headmaster looked at him and saw what they'd been up to? He'd be in trouble already. But then, looking at the challenge in Bella's eyes, he reconsidered. "All right. Who's Andy?"
Bella tapped her chin. "You can be that bat, McGonnagal," she said, aiming it at Andy. Andy bit her lip.
"I don't know—that seems so mean, Bella."
"Of course it is, that's the point."
"No, I mean—I don't want to hurt Professor McGonnagal. She's interesting and I like her. Besides, she hasn't taken any way at all, you just hate her because she caught you passing notes with Rabastan about Rodolphus in class."
Bella scowled, and Sirius felt out of the loop. He had no idea who Rabastan or Rodolphus were. Bella had moved on and left him behind. He wasn't so big, after all.
Bella exhaled angrily. "Fine, then, just be a stupid mudblood. Or is that mean too?"
Andy shrugged and accepted her part. Bella turned her gaze on Reggie, then.
"Hmm…I know! You can be a real mudblood!"
Reggie looked bewildered. "I don't want to be a real mudblood. I like magic!"
"In the game, stupid. You can be a mudblood from school."
Andy looked uneasy. "Bella—"
"Shut up," Bella said. "I'm not asking it of you." She focused back in on Reggie. "Well? Up for it?"
Reggie nodded tentatively. "Who am I, then?"
Bella's mouth twisted into a wicked little grin. "You're a stupid, ugly mudblood by the name of Ted Tonks."
Andy gasped. "Bella—"
Bella whirled on her. "What do you care? He was bothering you all year long, wasn't he? Sending you notes and stuff, trying to taint you, or dilute your blood. He's a scourge and a mudblood twit! He deserves it!" She pointed at Reggie. "You're Tonks, okay?"
Reggie nodded. "Okay."
Narcissa pouted. "Who do I get to be?"
Bella looked at her for a second. "You get to be yourself. You and me are the untainted—knights. You can be Lady Narcissa."
Narcissa's pout deepened. "Everyone else gets a character. I want a character!"
"Well, you don't get one, okay?" Bella snapped. Narcissa's chin started to wobble, and Bella sighed. "Fine. You can be—Minister for Magic."
She wrinkled her nose. "But the minister's a man."
Bella huffed. "Well, he got killed by renegades, so now you're minister."
Narcissa brightened. "Okay."
They got into our usual positions. Sirius was standing in the makeshift mudblood village, wearing Andy's glasses and stroking his chin like he had a beard. Andy, a little blind, stumbled around sullenly, while Reggie was pretending to play a yollo, some sort of muggle ball attatched to a string.
Bella and Narcissa threw themselves out of the bushes at that point. Bella had her real wand out, while Narcissa has a pine tree branch. Andy saw them and screamed.
There wasn't a lot of talk, in the pretend—normally Bella just yelled 'Die, monsters!' and they fell to the ground dead. Sometimes Sirius made a speech about how he was glad he had killed the wizards, which was good for another round of torture, and then he would pretend to cry and blubber for mercy, and then he would die. This time was different.
Bella was speaking calmly, not screaming like she normally did in these games, and there was a wide, frightening smile on her face. "You're undermining out world with your filthy politics."
"You're a traitor!" Narcissa yelled gleefully. Behind me, I heard Andy make a small noise.
Bella raised her wand in the air. "For the Cause!"
Narcissa echoed her on that. "For the Cause and the Ministry!" She pretended to zap Sirius, who let out a little cry then fell, out for the count and able to join on the side of the Knights.
Bella ignored Andy and instead went for Reggie. "You, Mudblood—what is your name?"
"Reg—Ted Tonks! I'm Tonks."
"You're polluting our school with your filthy blood, aren't you?"
Reg looked confused, but nodded his head slowly. "I…am?"
Bella looked at him with mock anger on her face and pointed a dramaic finger. "Die, scum!"
That was Reggie's cue to fall to the ground, and he threw himself into his torture with a fervor the rest of them had never seen. His whole body thrashed to and fro, his head banged against the ground, and an awful, thin sounding cry came from his lips. His fingers grabbed at the air, and it took everyone a minute to realise he really was pretending—for a moment, they all thought that someone had slipped and actually cast the spell. He screamed suddenly, a burst from him that must have scraped his throat raw, and then threw himself back into the twitching.
"Tell me how you don't belong in our world!" Bella yelled over him, and Reggie stopped screaming and started to chant, his fit slowing down.
"I don't belong in your world, I don't belong in your world!"
He just kept yelling it, thrashing his arms and legs every so often, and then Bella did something none of them expected.
She wheeled around and, with a muttered phrase, angrily aimed her wand at something. A burst of bright green light shot out of it and hit Reggie, who quite suddenly wasn't Reggie. His face had morphed, with his nose longer and his hair curlier. He still had Reggie's hair and eyes, but his features were completely dissimiliar. Reggie stopped screaming for a second, then started again, louder and bloodcurdling, and his limbs started to twitch more too.
Andy, behind Reggie, burst into tears, her eyes fixed on his face. She fell to the ground and scooped him into her arms, still crying, and Reggie stopped twitching and screaming and looked at Andromeda.
"Andy? What's wrong? Did you get stung by something?"
She shook her head and pulled him tighter, and he let her. That was Reggie's other position in the Black hierarchy. He was the little teddy bear, the one the girls clung to when they needed a life sized object of comfort. He never really minded.
Sirius looked at the scene uncomfortably. Cissy looked confused, and slipped next to Sirius. Sirius put his arm around her. Despite the summer air, he felt cold all of a sudden.
Bella stared at Andy for a moment, at her tears. Tehn she knelt down so she was on Andy's eye level.
"He's not of our world, Andy. He never will be."
Andy just kept crying, cuddling Reggie close. Bella looked at her and nodded, satisfied and saddened at the same time. She walked out of the forest.
Dinner that night was more subdued than usual. Cissy, Reggie, and Sirius knew that something important had happened. Some line had been crossed, some boundary broken, something had snapped, but none of them knew quite what. Andy knew exactly what, and even though she was only twelve, she knew that somewhere in her future, something had just become inevitable. Bella, too, knew what, but she thought she had saved something. She had perservered. So, while Reggie and Sirius and Narcissa quietly ate their stew and drank their pumpkin juice, Bella did the Black equivalent to chatting at the dinner table—she interjected some of her own thoughts when the men were talking about politics. It was nigh on unforgivable, but Uncle Cygnus allowed it and Father didn't seem to care. Aunt Druella glared, like Bella was being improper, but Aunt Walburga had a dry smile on her lips.
Andy didn't say one word. She ate nothing, and when the rest of the cousins were readying themselves to listen to the Wizarding Wireless, she slipped into her room and went to sleep.
When Regulus and Sirius went home that evening, Reggie looked up at Sirius, confused. "Why was Andy so upset, Sirius? It's just a game."
"I suppose it must be because she's growing up," Sirius said slowly. And the two made their way up the stairs and into their separate rooms.
Before they went to sleep, Sirius thought about what growing up seemed to cost. Then he rolled over and fussed with his pillow. No matter what came ahead, he was a Black—he would perservere.
Still, sleep was a long time coming in Grimmauld Place that night.