The Black Family in Seven Parts

VII. Death

Alphard felt old. So, so, so old. Like he might just go to sleep one day and not wake up. Alphard didn't think he'd mind it. Dying. He almost thought it would be a relief.

He wouldn't have to watch his siblings destroy their families. He wouldn't have to watch a Dark Lord destroy the world. He wouldn't have to feel himself wasting away.

He'd just be gone. Just like that. Alphard thought it would be easy. Wonderfully easy and simple and freeing.

But Alphard wasn't old. Alphard was only forty-nine.

He felt like he was forty-nine going on ten thousand. His healer said his body was also like forty-nine going on ten thousand.

Something about alcohol and drinking himself to death. Alphard hadn't really paid attention. He'd only gone to the healer because Walburga had nagged him to. It was always easier to just do as she said. The yelling didn't last as long then. He could escape her quicker and go back to his books.

Alphard loved his books. He felt alive when he read them. He felt young. It was much better than his wine for making him feel alive. But his wine was much better at making him not care. And Alphard didn't need to feel alive as much as he needed to not care.

He needed to not care that Walburga was spoiled and greedy. That Cygnus was jaded and hid in his work to avoid the world. That the world itself was falling to pieces. That he wasn't stopping it. That, actually, in a twisted way, he was helping to tear it apart. So Alphard drank. And if it was killing him… well, Alphard hadn't been afraid of death in a long time. How could he be? He'd already stopped living.

Alphard sighed.

He looked down blurrily at the book in front of him.

It wasn't a mystery or an adventure. It wasn't a history. It didn't tell him about people whose lives were more exciting that his. It talked about law. And writing wills.

The healer said he'd die within the next two years if he didn't stop drinking.

Alphard took a swig of cabernet from the bottle. He tried to focus his gaze. He tried to understand what he was reading. He fuzzily thought that it would be easier if he was sober. Probably because he wouldn't have been trying to read it then. He wouldn't be writing his will. He'd be ignoring the fact that he was dying. He'd be trying to pretend that everything was okay. Even though it wasn't. And hadn't been. Not for a long time.

Alphard swore under his breath. The words on the page were beginning to blur together again.

He shoved the book to the floor. He'd figure out how to do it properly later, he thought. For now, he'd just decide what to do.

When Alphard had been younger, after he'd decided to stay and before he'd decided to drink, he'd worked. Really hard. All the time. And he was good at it. He'd been considered one of the most promising business men in the wizarding world. He was one of the richest men in the world. He was in line to become the richest. Then he saw her again. She'd started to cry. Walburga tried to hex her. May have succeeded. He didn't know because Cygnus had pulled him from the room.

That was when he sold his business. He was the richest man in the world for two weeks. He began to drink. A lot. He wasn't the richest man in the world anymore. But he was close.

And he was dying.

Someone had to get that money and he… he…

Alphard pulled out a piece of parchment. He grabbed a quill and some ink.

With shaking hands, he wrote.

TO ANDROMEDA: for following your heart and for being brave. I leave you my blessing. My well wishes. All my possessions and money.

Alphard stopped. Andromeda had left already. She was married too. Last he'd heard she'd had a baby and a steady job. She had always been independent. She had always wanted to make her own way in the world. And she was. Alphard didn't want to get in the way of that. He crossed it out.

TO CYGNUS: all my possessions and money.

Except that Cygnus didn't need them. He was already rich. He already had everything he wanted. And the one thing he didn't have, Alphard couldn't give him. He crossed it out.

TO NARCISSA: my possessions and money. You've always

Alphard didn't know how to describe it. What Narcissa had. The thing that Alphard recognized. That made him sure she'd always land on top. Then, he had a hazy idea that maybe she didn't need what he could give her either.

He had sold his company to a Malfoy, a long time ago. Alphard vaguely remembered attending her wedding to a Malfoy. He was fairly certain that there was only one Malfoy family in Britain. So that meant that she already had a piece of him. He didn't need to give her more. He grabbed a new sheet of parchment.

TO WALBURGA: my possessions and money.

Alphard crossed it out almost as soon as he was done writing it. She'd never shared anything with him when they were younger. She hadn't grown up any since then so Alphard felt it was perfectly acceptable to act like a child and refuse to share anything with her now.

TO BELLATRIX: everything I have.

Alphard almost kept it. Bellatrix had always been a needy child. She had always wanted more. And more. And nothing had ever been enough for her. Maybe, Alphard thought, this would help.

But then he remembered the mark on her arm.

He realized that nothing would ever be enough for her. She would always destroy herself trying to get more.

Alphard crossed it out.

TO REGULUS: for your joy when you were younger. For the fun you used to have. For your enjoyment, I leave you everything.

Except that wasn't right either. Because Regulus had changed. Regulus had become dark-eyed and quiet. There was no more joy around Regulus. Only anger and passion and hate.

Alphard did not think Regulus would last much longer in this world. No one ever did. Not when they changed who they were. Not when everything they were was dark and they had no more light left inside of themselves. Alphard was living—or dying—proof of that.

He pulled out a new sheet of parchment.


Alphard stopped.

Sirius had run away. Sirius had gotten blasted off the tree. Last Christmas, Sirius had left, leaving Alphard to get drunk on his own. Walburga was still furious about it.

Alphard was the tiniest bit proud.

Out of his entire family, Sirius had always been his favorite. They had hidden from Walburga together. They had mocked Cygnus when he wasn't looking. They had gotten drunk to avoid hearing all the horrible things everyone was saying. They had been scorned together, endured people whispering nasty things about them. They had survived the nightmare together.

Sirius had been one of the bright points in Alphard's life.

And Sirius had found the courage to get out of the grave. Sirius had left. He was living. Alphard knew, because Sirius still sent him letters.

Not very often. Not like he had when he'd been trying to survive his first year at Hogwarts as the Gryffindor Black. Not like he had when he hadn't been able to breathe and wanted Alphard to teach him how. Not like he had before he'd gotten blasted off the tree. But Alphard still got letters from Sirius.

And, in all of them, Sirius had been living.

It was almost as good for escaping as his books.

This, Alphard thought muzzily, felt right. Leaving everything to Sirius felt right.

But Walburga would blast him off the tree for it.

He was positive she would.

TO SIRIUS: for living. For escaping. For being brave and strong and everything I wasn't. I leave you everything. My money, so you can focus on the important things in life. My house, so you can learn what's not a home. My belongings, so you can see what doesn't have value. My journal, so you can understand the damage that cowardice and lies cause.

Alphard put down his quill. He clutched the parchment tightly as he stumbled to his feet. He tripped over the law book he had thrown to the ground. He staggered to his owl. He attached the letter with fumbling fingers to the owl's foot. He sent it to his lawyer, who would, hopefully, know what to do with it.

It was done. He as good as blasted himself off the family tree. Alphard supposed he ought to feel sick or horrified or sad. But as he tottered back to his cabernet, he felt a strange sort of satisfaction.

Alphard was old. He was forty-nine going on ten thousand. But perhaps he wasn't dead yet.


A/N: There used to be a really whiny and desperate note here about reviews. I have deleted it because re-reading it, I felt very embarrassed for my past self. That said, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the fic!