Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, nor do I claim that I do. No copyright infringement intended.

Thunder boomed loudly above my window, rattling the glass. Shoving away from my desk, I crossed my bedroom to the window, where I drew back the curtains. A brilliant flash of lightning forked across the pitch black sky, alighting the street outside for half a second. I stared out the glass, watched as the drops of water pounded angrily against it from the ominous black clouds above. Observing the storm, I felt as though it held a resemblance to the storm going on within me. I kicked at my bed post as I turned back to my desk. There was a creak from the direction of my door, and I turned abruptly towards it. My features twisted into an expression of disgust when I saw Kreacher standing in my doorway.

"Get out of my room, scum." I snarled. Kreacher just stared at me with returned hated burning in his beady black eyes. He bowed stiffly to me before taking a step back into the hallway.

"My Mistress wishes me to retrieve you for dinner." He said in his deep, bullfrog voice. I gave a curt nod but made no effort to move.

"I'll be there shortly."

Again, he bowed stiffly before leaving. Moments later I heard him retrieving Regulus and didn't fail to notice the softer, nearly loving tone he used when addressing Master Regulus. Sneering and rolling my eyes, I shoved the half-finished letter to James I'd been writing into my desk drawer before making my way downstairs. As I descended the stairs I held back the disgust I always felt when passing the mounted house-elf heads. I'd never understood my mother's twisted logic of having the heads of past house-elves stuffed to sit in our hallway. When I reached the landing of the stairs I noticed a cage that hadn't been there this morning. It held some kind of creature I couldn't immediately recognize, but I couldn't help feeling kinship with it. Both of us were stuck in a prison, he in a metal cage and I in this bloody house. My scowl deepened as I entered the kitchen and sat down across from Regulus.

"Took you long enough, boy." My father grumbled as I sat, but I ignored it. Instead I reached for the potatoes.

One more year in this hell and I'll be gone, I thought comfortingly. For a while there was no sound other than the storm outside and the chinking of silverware on porcelain.

"The Dark Lord gave me a special assignment today." Regulus announced proudly, breaking the silence. Both Mother and Father smiled at him in satisfaction, as though he'd just announced he found the cure of lycanthropy.

"What is it?" Mother asked, pride shining in her eyes.

"I can't tell you." Regulus said, but after her slight frown added, "but it's sure to involve ridding the world of mud-bloods and filthy Muggles."

Mother's smile returned at that and my stomach churned as I thought of Lily. As much as she annoyed me, I could never imagine Hogwarts without her. She was absolutely brilliant, and always made things interesting, to say the least.

"Yes, Regulus, we all know how honored you are to be counted among You-Know-Who's most loyal ranks." I said sarcastically. "But I'm trying to eat. Could you please keep your fat head deflated for two minutes while I finish?"

My brother scowled at me but didn't say anything. Mother, on the other hand had lots to say.

"Yes, because we all know of your achievements, Sirius. Being sorted into Gryffindor is such an honor, don't you think, dear? Of course that's nothing next to Slytherin, but it's fitting. Second best house for the second best son. It's such a shame, really. I've always thought Regulus should have been born first. Then we could have stopped such scum from staining our family tree. Don't you agree, Orion?" She'd addressed Father the whole time and hadn't once looked at me. Father, however, did glance my way before answering.

"Yes. I've always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter. Maybe if Regulus had been born first we would have had a daughter."

Hatred boiled in my blood as I gripped my fork violently, causing the knuckles of my right hand to go nearly white. I speared a piece of meat and shoved it in my mouth, chewing fiercely. Though I was used to this kind of treatment it never failed to anger me. And I was in a foul mood to begin with. Where did they get off talking about me as if I wasn't sitting in the room, right next to them?

"I think a sister would have been nice," Regulus reflected, looking thoughtfully up at the ceiling. After a moment he nodded and went back to his food, glancing up at me with a smug smirk on his face. I glared at him and tried to shovel the rest of my foot into my mouth.

"Did you hear that the Ministry's offering mud-bloods protection from the Dark Lord?" Mother asked conversationally. Father nodded as he sipped his mulled meade.

"It's an outrage!" He said, pounding a fist on the table. "Don't they understand the disgrace those poor excuses of witches and wizards bring to the true Wizarding world?"

I saw Regulus glance at me again, only this time I saw a malicious gleam in them. Instinctively I knew what was coming, but I didn't have time to stop him.

"Sirius sent me to the hospital wing!" He blurted out, then grinned in success in the silence that followed around the table. Mother and Father both turned to look at me. I could see disgust in my mother's eyes, and disbelief in my father's. But it wasn't the kind of disbelief that wouldn't allow him to take Regulus' words as true; it was more of outrage that I, his son and a member of the Black family, could have done such a thing.

"I did not!" I protested vehemently. There was no point, though. They never would have believed me, Sirius the Disgrace, over perfect Regulus.

"Sirius Orion Black!" Mother said, standing in her fury. "How dare you do such a thing?"

"Maybe he deserved a good hexing!" I said, raising my eyebrows in a challenge as I met my mother's eyes.

"He only says that because I was cursing a mud-blood." Regulus said scornfully. "One he's in love with."

I sprang to my feet. "I do not! He's lying."

The anger and hatred that had ignited in my mother's eyes at Regulus' first statement tripled. She spluttered for a moment.

"No son of mine will be in love with a mud-blood!" She snarled. "Nor will he be so disloyal to his family as to hex his own brother!"

"I didn—!"

"Do not lie to me, boy!"

Mother stepped forward and before I knew what she was doing she'd stuck me across the face. My head was forced to the side with the impact of it. I moved my jaw in a circle to assure that it hadn't been broken before lifting my head to stare at my mother. I let my hatred flow through my veins, searing through me as I stared at the woman who had given birth to me. I let all of my anger pour, unrestrained, into my gray eyes.

"You want the truth?" I asked, my voice dangerously low. "You're all effing insane!"

"You dare—?" Pure and unchecked rage flashed through my mother's eyes.

"Crucio!" She shouted abruptly, and my entire body exploded in pain. I'd never known pain before that moment. I thought I had, but I hadn't. I dropped to the ground, my back arched as I screamed in agony. The intensity of my mother's rage was mimicked in her curse, filling me with blinding, unbearable pain. I don't know how much time passed, but the pain disappeared as suddenly as it'd started. I lay on our kitchen floor, gasping for breath as my head spun. Sweat beaded on my brow as I pushed myself to my feet. I stared defiantly at my mother.

"Is that supposed to prove that you're not insane?" I demanded. Mummy dearest shot another spell at me—probably another Cruciatus Curse—but this time I was prepared and blocked it with my own wand.

"I hate this bloody house! I hate my bloody life, and I damn well hate all of you!" I shouted. "I hate all of it! I hate all your pure-blood bullshit, your total disregard for anyone lower than you. You treat me like shit, and then expect me to follow your twisted ideals blindly? Well I don't' bloody think so!"

Father and Regulus were both standing now as well, only they stood off to the side. Did they not dare risk Mother's wrath for me? It didn't surprise me. Honestly I think I would have dropped dead in shock if they so much as gave me a sympathetic glance.

"How's that for honesty, Mummy Dear?"

Mother's nostrils flared as her wand hand twitched. I was too late this time, and the jinx hit me square in the chest. I expected once again the inexplicable pain. But instead I was thrown back, sailing through the air until my backside collided with the wall and I sank to the ground. My head throbbed and my chest ached where her jinx had struck me, but I forced myself to my feet. As dignified as I could I squared my shoulders and turned, marching out of the room. My rage pumped adrenaline through my body, which was basically the only thing keeping me from collapsing. I took the stairs two at a time and rushed into my bedroom once I reached my landing. The picture frames on my wall most likely would have fallen to the ground and shattered if they hadn't been kept there by Permanent Sticking Charms by the force I slammed my door with.

With my chest heaving in anger I dragged my school trunk out from under my bed. I waved my wand, muttering a charm, and things started to fly into it; my books, my clothes, things I would need for school. As I went around my room picking up the things I hadn't magically commanded into my trunk I heard a knock on my door. I ignored it, continuing on my task as another thunderous boom echoed through the skies outside. I saw, rather than heard, my bedroom door open. And who was standing in my doorway? Regulus.

"Sirius, I swear, I didn't mean—I didn't think she'd—"

I cut him off by grabbing a handful of his shirt in my left hand and putting my wand tip to his throat with my right. I was larger than my younger brother, and was able to lift him up off of the ground several inches.

"Don't you ever try to speak to me again." I shoved him into the hallway and slammed the door on him, turning and continuing to pack my remaining things. Once my broom was on top of everything else I closed my trunk and locked it. Then I crossed over to my closest and pulled out my leather jacket, shoving my arms through it forcefully over the t-shirt of a Muggle band I wore. I pulled James' letter out of my drawer and ripped it in half and then into quarters. I was never going to finish it. I was leaving. I was leaving this life, this house. I wasn't going to stay here and allow my mother use an Unforgivable Curse on me for something I didn't even do. My anger fueled me, made me not care that there was a storm raging outside. At last I was finished, so I crossed my room and yanked my window open. After levitating my trunk safely to the ground I crawled out backwards.

My fingers gripped the ledge of the window that was ever growing slicker from the rain. Taking a deep breath, I looked down and gauged the distance between my second story window and the ground. I judged it to be at least eight feet and hoped I would make it without any injury. Then, after taking in another calming breath, I let go. The impact jarred my entire body and my knees locked, which caused me to fall back on my arse. For a moment I just laid there, staring up at the rain illuminated by the light coming from my room. But then I gathered my strength and pushed myself to my feet. Picking up my trunk, I limped away from the house—and the life—I'd hated for so many years.

At first the thought that I was free—that I no longer had to live with those wretched people I was forced to call family—consumed me. I laughed and kicked at a puddle in the street. But as I wandered the streets of London at eight o'clock in the evening during a brutal storm, I realized that I wasn't truly free. I would have to find a job to support myself until I went back to school in two months. I couldn't use magic at all for at least another year, because I would be arrested for under-age magic. And I would have to find somewhere to live. To top that all off, my rage was slowly dissipating, being replaced with sheer exhaustion and a bruised, aching body. After what felt like an hour, I found shelter under a store awning and rested against the building.

Just as my eyes started to close of their own accord, there was a brilliant flash of light and a loud pop! directly in front of me. Forcing my eyes open, I saw a bright purple double-decker bus.

"What the hell?" I wondered to myself.

"Good evening, sir!" A man said, making me jump. When had he appeared at my side? I scrambled to my feet and turned to face the man. He looked to be only three or four years older than me; his hair was scruffy and his uniform a little worn, but other than that he wasn't too unpleasant-looking.

"Er—hello?" I said uncertainly.

"The Knight Bus offers you her service! Step aboard and she'll take you anywhere you'd like."

"Er….okay…." I said cautiously, reaching for my trunk. But it was already gone, being carried to the bus by the man.

"Where to, young man?"

That was a good question. That fact that it didn't bother me to be called 'young man' by someone barley four years my senior attested to my exhaustion. After a moments deliberation I leaned forward.

"Godric's Hollow," I said loudly in order to be heard above the booming thunder. The man nodded and said something I didn't hear to the driver. I couldn't seem to keep my eyes open, so I wasn't all that surprised when the man shook me awake.

"Godric's Hollow, sir!" He said cheerfully as he handed me back my trunk.

"Thanks," I said, still not sure what to make of him. It didn't surprise me to find it also raining in Godric's Hollow, either, though it was a much calmer rain then the storm in London had been. I didn't know how much time had passed, and it was hard to judge the time with the darkened canopy of clouds. By the look of the town, it was pretty late at night. There were only a few houses with lights still on in the windows. Slowly, I made my way down the lane. I had jammed my right knee or something during my drop from my window, so I limped down the muddy road as quickly as I could. It seemed like forever before I finally turned into the driveway of the Potter Mansion on the other side of town.

I was sopping wet and the bottom half of me was covered in mud by the time I reached their front door. I felt kind of bad for trailing all the mud onto the Potters' nice porch, but I knew they wouldn't mind. I hesitated a moment before reaching out and pounding on the door. What if they didn't want to take me in? I didn't want to be a burden to them, after all. But I needed a place to stay for a few days until I could find a job.

There was no answer, so I pounded again, longer this time. At long last I saw a light being turned on inside. A moment later the door swung inward to reveal a squinting James clad only in pajama bottoms.

"Sirius?" I said groggily after a moment. Once he realized it was me he seemed to wake up a little.

"Bloody hell, Padfoot. You're a mess!"

I grinned sheepishly. "You're best mate shows up on your door step and all you can say is 'you're a mess'?"

James shook his head. "Come in, come in." He said, ushering me inside. He took my trunk from me and sat it up against the wall in the foyer.

"What are you doing here?" He asked. "It's twelve o'clock at night."

"I'm sorry," I said. "But I didn't know where else to go. My mum and I….we had an….argument."

"And she kicked you out?" He asked with a scowl. "In this weather?"

I shook my head, causing rain drops to assault James. "I left."

"You ran away?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, I guess I did. I couldn't take it anymore, James."

He nodded. "Well, stay right here while I get you some dry clothes and a towel."

I nodded at James's retreating form as he went back upstairs. Two minutes later he came back down with a large, fluffy towel, a shirt, and a pair of pajama pants in his hands. Wordlessly he handed them to me and pointed down the hall to the bathroom.

"Thanks," I said before going to change. When I was once again in dry clothes—and boxers—I felt more tired than ever before.

"You can sleep in the guest bedroom for now." James said as I followed him upstairs. I felt like the living dead, my body barely heeding my mind's commands to put one foot in front of the other.

"You have some explaining to do in the morning, mate."

I just nodded as I closed the door behind me and dropped onto the soft bed. The next day, I cracked my eyes open only to be nearly blinded by the bright light coming in through the window. Groaning, I turned onto my side. As I did every muscle in my body seemed to scream at me. Knowing I couldn't sleep like this I got up and padded downstairs. As I stepped into the kitchen I was assaulted by a blur of green and brown. Next thing I knew, I was in Mrs. Potter's arms as she hugged me tightly.

"Don't suffocate him, Mum," James said good naturedly, joining us in the doorway. Mrs. Potter laughed and stepped back, frowning as her eyes swept over me. I grimaced, knowing I had an ugly bruise on my face from my mother's hand the night before. She sniffed and turned away without a word, hurrying down the hall.

James grinned at me. "Welcome home, mate."

I stared at him blankly a moment. "James, I just need a place to stay a few days. I think that hardly qualifies as—"

He silenced me with a sweep of his hand and a shake of his head. "No, Sirius. You're staying here until we graduate. We've already decided."

Just then Mrs. Potter returned, holding some kind of ointment and a bottle of potion in her hands.

"Come over here, dear." She said, gesturing to the table. James stepped out of my way, accompanying me to the dining room table. I sat down, James sitting on my left. Mrs. Potter scooped some unpleasant smelling, pukish yellow-colored ointment out of the container and moved to put it on my cheek. I dodged out of the way.

"There's no way you're putting that on my face," I protested. Mrs. Potter's expression softened.

"You can't go around with that nasty bruise on your face, Sirius. Now stop being squeamish!"

Making a face, I sat still and allowed James's mother to put the Bruise Balm on my cheek. Once she was done she stood up and took the bottle with her.

"What happened?" James asked and I turned to face him. I avoided his gaze a moment and then sighed.

"I told you, we had an argument."

He gave me a look and I sighed again, deeper this time. He knew me too well. I stared down at the table, picking at a small scratch in the wood.

"We were eating dinner," I said quietly. "And Regulus made up some damn story about me hexing him and sending him to the hospital wing. He said that I was in love with a Muggle-born student he'd been cursing, and of course they believed him over me."

I moved my gaze to the wall and crossed my arms over my chest despite my sore muscles.

"I…she used the Cruciatus Curse on me, and that was the last straw. I won't take her abuse anymore." I said with determination, jutting my chin out in defiance. Glancing over, I saw sympathy shining in James's eyes but he said nothing and I was grateful for that. I started when Mrs. Potter sat down a glass chalice in front of me, filled with a purple liquid. At least this smelt much more pleasant than the Bruise Balm.

"Drink this, dear, it'll make you feel better." I turned my gaze to her and was startled to see tears in her gentle brown eyes. She gave me a watery smile before stepping away and wiping her eyes. I reached for the cup and put it to my lips. The liquid was sickly sweet, but it was warm sliding down my throat and it immediately made my muscles ache less.

James clapped a hand on my shoulder and smiled at me.

"Welcome home, Sirius." He repeated. This time I nodded, lifting the chalice to him before putting my head back and draining the remaining potion. When I put the glass back on the table, I had a grin on my lips as well. My heart soared as the reality sunk in. I was free; completely and undeniably free! I would never have to endure my mother's abuse or my father's indifference. Instead I would spend my summers with James and his parents, who obviously already accepted me as a second son. I smiled. Maybe life wasn't so bad after all.