Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it, not me.
Spoilers: Spoilers for Deathly Hallows.
Five Portraits of Walburga Black
i. Bedtime Stories
Walburga Black did not hear The Tales of Beedle the Bard before she slept. Nor The Founders' Tales. These things were considered too childish. Instead, her mother read to her from an ancient tome that emitted a faint smell of mildew and was bound with faded gold. It was only identified by two words: Toujours Pur.
She was asked to conjugate irregular French verbs and name who Sirius Black – the one who had crusaded vehemently against the inclusion of mudbloods on the Wizengamot - had married in the very same breath. Accordingly, she always gave her answer – in a pristine accent – and stated Melania McMillian with only a touch of disdain.
Her mother had looked on proudly, as if to say, You are right to think that it is a grand reward to marry a Black.
When she had tripped over one of the headstones in the garden, fat, childish tears had welled up in her eyes and she had run to her mother.
Walburga was reprimanded rather than comforted, a stinging slap against her cheek meant to give her a physical reminder that a Black doesn't cry. A Black can never cry. And after this incident, she felt the need to atone for her smallest of sins.
When asked, she had to decide if she disliked Godric Gryffindor or Great Uncle Phineas worse. They were both blood traitors, both had too much of an impact on the realm of wizarding for her tastes, and had few redeeming features.
In the end, with such vehemence that her father adored her zeal and then bought her a new pair of dress robes for, she announced that she quite hated them both.
Through all the tales of her childhood, she understood that being a Black was infinitely better than any nonsensical tale from a book. She understood that it was rife with preeminence and prepotency – something she never saw in the other children she glimpsed the rare times her father took her through the apothecary at Diagon Alley.
Blood, she understood intimately, even as a child.
What she could never understand was the look on Alphard's face when her parents glowed with familial pride at her every rebuke of blood traitors and grand plans for muggle relations.
Walburga could never understand why he looked so disappointed in her when he crawled on her lap with a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, begging for her to read to him and she, with zeal, put it down and instead asked him about all of the achievements of Phineas Nigellus Black.
Alphard was blood and yet a mystery to her.
ii. Darker than
"You ever wondered why your mum is…" James evidently failed to think of a way to describe Walburga Black and ended up lamely stating, "…the way she is, Padfoot?"
James couldn't see it, but something seemed to shift just behind Sirius' eyes. For a moment, he considered answering that he had no understanding of his mother whatsoever and never did.
"I reckon that it is because she never was anything but a Black."
Sirius' companion looked incredulous.
"She was born a Black, married a Black, and decided she was twice the Black everyone else in the family was…she probably decided she had to out Black everyone else, too."
This explanation was delivered in a very flat tone, Sirius never once meeting his eyes and staring fixedly out the window. He didn't understand why anyone who could have a chance to escape the Black family wouldn't.
James quickly changed the subject to the upcoming Quidditch game against Hufflepuff, but Sirius merely grunted back in monosyllabic responses until his friend was reduced to starting his Potions essay early.
Sirius remained on the window ledge, squinting at something off into the distance (that James could neither see nor understand) until very late into the night.
iii. Treachery in two parts
She finds in the morning that he has left.
It takes her four days to know that he has been found two days ago by the blood-traitor Potters. They are keeping him.
It takes her three hours after that to legally declare that she has only one son.
Eradicating him from her mind, however, is not as simple a task. For a month after, she thinks that he might return and declare he has seen the error of his ways.
But she would hex him thoroughly if Sirius were ever to do that. There is no pride in someone who comes groveling back or running away. A Black has pride if nothing else - even the good for nothings and squibs.
However, her rage at some weak part of her wanting this to occur, her anger at seeing Regulus sigh as he comes out of his landing and pauses at the door across from him, her wrath at seeing three places set with the Black silver when she is accustomed to four, consumes her.
Finally, she walks into the room where the tapestry that displays the entirety of her patrimony hangs and takes a long, hard look at her son's name, twining down from her own by a braided golden thread.
Brandishing her wand, she obliterates the square of fabric beyond repair.
She pretends that this act allows her to believe that he has never existed in the first place. That she only has one son and the oldest of two hasn't been reduced to an ashen blemish.
Her first thought upon seeing it is to draw the sleeve back over his forearm and deny that she has ever seen it. It must have been her imagination. A trick of the lighting. She would have to tell Kreacher to bring more candles.
But then she looks up into his eyes and finds that they are oh so very proud of the thing. So very brave. So very clever. And for a second she thinks she is looking at her oldest again. The son she no longer has. The son who had died in her womb. The one who was oh so very clever and proud of everything he did to spite her.
But this is her Regulus. Her Regulus with that mark on his arm.
The look in his eyes turns into one of confusion as he sees that his mother's face does not reflect the pureblooded pride he has expected and dreamed of. In that moment, Regulus sees a look that he had only ever seen in the last days before Sirius left – all taunt white lines and throbbing veins. He began to roll up his sleeve and cover it up again.
"No!" she whispers with deathly softness. And he knows from all of the arguments with Sirius over the years that for her to scream and shriek is infinitely better than the quiet, the softness, and the silence.
In one fluid motion, Walburga seizes his arm and, painfully, pushes the sleeve of his robe up farther. Before Regulus can even react, she has her wand out and is pressing it to the skull and its leering snake.
Pain laces up his entire arm.
She is trying to burn it off.
"No son of mine!" She says with deathly intensity.
"He wants the supremacy of pure-bloods over all!" Regulus bellows wildly, trying to wrench his hand out of his mother's grip.
"You are my only son!" She finally shrieks as if it makes it true, shattering the silence and leveling the wand at the Dark Mark again, "My last! My last!"
It remains fixed, immutable, even though the skin around it is raw and bleeding.
After that night they do not speak of it again, but everything has changed. Orion Black never speaks approvingly of the Dark Lord at the dinner table again, Walburga has desperately been trying to find a pureblooded witch who is adequate for her son, and Regulus never rolls up his sleeves again in the confines of Grimmauld Place. Nor does he ever tell his mother where it is he is going at night.
He even makes Kreacher promise not to tell her. Ever.
Regulus has been gone for days without contacting her.
Not a single owl post and he has never been gone for so long without notice.
And she worries because the night before he had come to find her, whilst she was in her dressing gown, and he had given her a kiss good night. Just like both of her sons had done when they were much younger.
At the time she felt it had felt like good-bye. And she has not seen him since.
Once she had stooped to inquiring with Kreacher as to his whereabouts. He had told her he did not know. He told her, Mistress, I do not know where Master Regulus is.
But she also knows that this is a lie.
She had seen the elf later with a bloodied ear and knew that it was not his decision to know or not and whatever her youngest son's secret, there was no way to know. In the end he had been as secretive as the oldest. In the end he is gone and both her sons are the same.
These things from Regulus, she knew, meant good-bye. A gentle and subtle good-bye that was fitting for a Black. It had dignity in it.
But no comfort.
Orion now walks along the corridors like one kissed by a Dementor, pausing in the corridor between his son's rooms, making a murmuring sound, and leaving. Kreacher and his mutterings have now withdrawn into his cupboard after her original inquiry.
So she, Walburga Black, sits in her palatial chair in the middle of the parlor and watches the serpent tailed clock tick away silver minutes.
Two sons gone. A husk of a husband. And a noble and ancient house.
She takes what comfort she can from the last, fading into the wood and timbers, feeling the creaking of Orion's pacing steps upon the floorboards, the dust quietly settling on the mantel, the silver, the furniture, the pictures of her boys…
Walburga and the House of Black wait together.
v. Calling through the halls
There are ghosts that haunt 12 Grimmauld Place that no one ever recognizes.
She watches them move just behind the curtains, and sometimes Kreacher opens them for her and she can stare out into the dusty silence and rot of her familial home and see the invisible ghosts stir up the dust.
It is silence and Kreacher, who disappears more and more and who she knows will eventually die altogether, with no one to give him his honor and place him upon the wall. As he has often wished.
She remembers Phineas calling through the halls, awaiting an answer from her son. Her oldest. The one who left first. The one who had come back. From disgrace.
Waiting and waiting. In her frame straining, very quiet for once, to hear him roar in fury, calling for Sirius Black through the halls.
For a moment she freezes as Phineas mumbles, "Dead. The last. Dead" and his voice goes still. She brushes this off as impossible.
They can't both be gone. One of them must be alive, even if it is the blood-traitor.
She waits because she is not quite sure how much time has passed, and only realizes when she has seen a year's worth of dust accumulate that her son has not been here.
She waits longer and everything before her grows thick and white and much, much darker. Kreacher has gone somewhere and she cannot ask him what has become of them.
"Dead. The last. Dead." She remembers again. Still doubtful, but she is more certain it is true now. But she does not want to accept.
Sometimes she sees a whole flurry of grime through the strained light of the windows. But, as time immemorial rolls on, the dust settles over everything, making the front hall look like a land crusted over with volcanic ash.
"Dead. The last. Dead."
And she is ready to accept.
When she is quite sure that no one is there, she shrieks.
It is not a cry of rage, but one full to the brim with pain that no tears can express.
Because Walburga knows that a Black doesn't cry. A Black can never cry.
A/N: I am infinitely interested by the Blacks…and really, I just wanted to make Walburga into more than one-dimensional evil screaming thing. She's the product of rather intense socialization that effects every member of their family. Anyways, the scene with Regulus and the Dark Mark came into my head and needed to be written.