Disclaimer: It is with all the sadness in my heart that I admit that I own nothing you see here. It all belongs to the lovely J.K. Rowling.
Acknowledgements: I'd like to thank reader who made me go digging back into my files and finish this. I hope you enjoy it!
"Stand up straighter Sirius," Walburga Black snapped at her eldest son. Sirius immediately complied and stood straight as a board.
Sirius and Regulus both tried to stand completely still as their mother surveyed them, deciding whether they were ready to be shown to the public yet. It was rather hard for a seven and nine year old to stand so still for such a length of time (it had already been almost a minute!) But the Black boys had been trained to do this since birth.
Sirius kept straight as his mother surveyed his clean gray dress robes. His black hair was neatly combed and recently trimmed (despite Sirius' own protests that he preferred it long.) When his mother tapped his chin he immediately held it higher.
Regulus was doing his best to emulate his brother. They looked nearly identical he too wore gray dress robes, though they were not nearly as posh as Sirius', and they both had the same haircut and style. His back had the tiniest of slouches, unseen to an unpracticed eye, but Mrs. Black quickly caught onto the imperfection and rapped her youngest son smartly on the back.
Walburga gave each of the boys a final appraising look before nodding curtly to herself, "One misstep and you shall both be locked in your rooms until I feel you have learned your lesson." She threatened coolly.
"Yes mother," The boys replied quickly.
Walburga spun towards the living room without a word and walked in, the Black brothers gave each other a quick look before following her. Today was a very important day. The boys' aunt Druella was throwing a party and all the most notable people would be in attendance. It was key that Sirius and Regulus behave well in order to show how the Blacks were continuing in their unwavering, pure-blooded, excellence.
Waiting in the living room was the boys' father. Orion stood tall with the same cold distant look he always had on his face when his children were around. "Ready?"
When his wife nodded curtly he pulled out a pinch of floo powder from a box on the mantle and climbed into the fire. Walburga followed quickly and then the two boys were left alone.
"Ready?" Sirius asked his younger brother after his mother had vanished.
Regulus wrinkled his nose, "no, this will be boring Sirius!"
"It does get better as you get older." Sirius said cheerfully, "they don't look down on you quite as much."
"Well I am not older yet am I?"
"Just stay away from Bella and the night will be fine." Sirius advised as he grabbed his own pinch of powder, "We'd best go before mother notices we haven't arrived yet."
Sirius spun through the chimneys, his attempt of a good landing was abysmal and he landed flat on the hearth. Looking up he saw several disapproving glares from around the room directed at him. He stood up quickly brushing off the ash.
Regulus followed him straight into the floor and Sirius helped his brother up. "Nice landing." Sirius whispered into Regulus' ear as he brushed the boy off.
Regulus glared, "like you did any better."
Sirius smirked in response and the boys headed into the thick of the party.
The Black Mansion had been done up quite extravagantly for the party. The walls were draped with black silk and all the crystal chandeliers glittered brightly. House elves stood underneath large platters, covered in food, which they carried around the room, to tempt the guests.
All the wizards and witches at the party wore their most stunning dress robes. All in a poorly concealed attempt to outdo one another. They all also had the same look of smug superiority about them, in their stance, facial expression, and way of speaking.
Sirius and Regulus were about half way through the crowd before they were swept up by their mother.
Walburga was chatting with their Aunt Druella and her friend Carina Malfoy. "Here they are," She said as she summoned her children into their group.
"My they have gotten bigger have they not?" Carina said as she inspected the boys.
Druella inspected her nephews critically, "Have you found anyone for them yet?" She asked Walburga.
"No," She sighed in return, "It seems as though everyone has already been promised."
"Shame," Carina said, "you would think more people would be interested, in the eldest at least. The heir to the Black family and all, even the younger one at least carries the name."
"I would offer one of mine, but I've already given Narcissa to Carina's son." Druella said wistfully, "And Bellatrix and Andromeda are for the Lestrange boys."
"I think Nott has a daughter he's been trying to give off," Carina said thoughtfully, "He asked for Lucius but I had to decline."
Sirius and Regulus stood rather awkwardly as their mother talked about their impending betrothal. They had absolutely no say in the matter of course, well a little more than the girl maybe, but not much.
"Mother?" Sirius asked quietly. All the woman gasped and Walburga looked at Sirius in fury.
"You do not speak unless spoken to young man!"
Sirius cringed but held his ground, "My apologies mother. But might I and Regulus go off and see some more of the party?"
Walburga wrinkled her nose disdainfully, "if you must."
"Thank you mother," Sirius said, after politely bowing to each of the woman he and Regulus scampered off.
"The manners on that one are atrocious." Carina said as the boys headed off, "No wonder no one wants him."
"What is wrong with you Sirius?" Regulus hissed as the boys started weaving through the crowd again, "Do you want to get in trouble?"
"I got us out of there didn't I?" Sirius replied nonchalantly. "Besides it isn't as though I actually did anything wrong, I asked a question."
"I don't understand you at all." Regulus sighed. His brother was so odd sometimes, speaking out of turn? What would be next?
"Andy!" Sirius said joyfully as they found their cousin. Andromeda was standing on the edge of the party looking rather nervous.
"Hello," She said, giving them a strained smile. "How are you?"
"Fine." Sirius replied scrutinizing Andromeda as he did so, "How are you?"
"Fine," Andromeda replied, just a bit too quickly for Sirius' liking.
"No you aren't." Sirius said quietly, easily spotting his cousin's distress, "what is it?"
Andromeda looking very worried biting her lip uncertainly, "Come with me." She said finally and turned towards the staircase.
She led the boys through the upper level of the house, not pausing until she reached her own room. She ushered the younger boys in and sat down on her bed. Andromeda's room was simple. Her walls were painted a dull pink and had only a few pictures adorning them, most of which were photographs of the three Black sisters. Her bed was grand, with a canopy that fell to the floor in graceful folds. There was a sparse amount of other furniture, just a bookcase and an armoire.
"So what is it?" Sirius asked as he gracefully sat onto the floor, Regulus stood awkwardly for a moment before joining his brother.
All semblance of the pure-blood façade faded from Sirius as soon as he hit the ground. His posture was slouched and his eyes were cheerful and bright. Andromeda lost her stiffness but remained somewhat distant. Regulus hovered uncertainly between relaxed and proper.
Andromeda sighed and laid her head on her palm, "I've done something bad."
"What?" both boys asked curiously.
"I- I've," Andromeda breathed in deeply to calm herself, "I've fallen in love."
"Oh." Sirius said, all tension falling from him, "Well that's good isn't it. You're supposed to fall in love with Rabastan."
"But I haven't fallen for him." Andromeda said sorrowfully.
Both boys immediately understood the gravity of the situation. Falling for someone whom you weren't promised to could be very bad for a pure-blood, "who is it?" Regulus asked.
"Ted Tonks," Andromeda sighed.
"Tonks?" Sirius said calculatingly, "I haven't heard of a Tonks before."
"You wouldn't have." Andromeda said sighing deeply, she put her face into her hands and mumbled, "He's muggleborn."
The boys gasped in shock, "But you can't!" Regulus exclaimed.
"Yeah," Sirius agreed, "You can't fall for a mudblood! You are supposed to be with Rabastan!"
"I know!" Andromeda wailed, "And I tried. I really, really, did. Rabastan and I courted and everything but he's- he's horrid." Andromeda winced at the thought, "He and Rodolphus do the most terrible things. And I can't stand to be around them.
"And he treats me awfully. He doesn't care about what I think, or my preference. He just does whatever he wants and expects me to follow like a perfect little servile pure-blood." She spat out in disgust, "I hate him."
"But then there's Ted," she said, smiling with pure joy, "he really listens to me you know? And he genuinely cares about my feelings and what I want to do. He doesn't push me into doing anything."
Andromeda smiled blissfully thinking of her boyfriend. Sirius and Regulus looked at each other nervously. "Andy," Sirius said, snapping his cousin out her dream land, "That's really great and all but, it doesn't change the fact he's a mudblood. You're better than he is-"
"No I'm not!" Andromeda said furiously, "And don't call him that filthy word! Pure-bloods aren't any better than anyone else. We're all human beings; there is no proof that your blood has any sort of effect on anything."
Both boys just stared at her blankly. Andromeda sighed trying to think of a good way to explain it. "Why do you think pure-bloods are better?"
"Mother says so." Regulus replied easily, "It isn't like mother would just lie to us."
"Why does she say that?"
"Because it's true." Sirius replied easily.
"She thinks it's true." Andromeda corrected, "Everyone has to come up with their own opinions. Have you ever met a muggle born? Or even a muggle?"
Regulus shook his head, Sirius nodded slowly, "Once when I was little. Mother wouldn't let me play with her though."
"Did she seem evil and disgusting?" Andromeda asked.
Sirius paused, "well, no. But that was before I knew better. Before mother explained how everything worked."
"But how can someone seem nice and then suddenly seem evil? Had your mother not told you those things you would have been friends with the girl and never thought badly of her."
Sirius stared at Andromeda, his brain whirring in high gear. It was too much to think about. He couldn't just rethink everything he'd ever been taught in a few seconds, "I don't know. Maybe you're right."
Andromeda lit up immediately, "what do you think Reg?"
"I-" Regulus struggled internally. He sort of believed Andy, but at the same time, he couldn't not believe his mother. It was all very confusing, "I have to agree with mother. She wouldn't lie to me. And everyone here thinks the same thing. They can't all be wrong."
"I suppose that's the best I'll get for now." Andromeda sighed.
"Who else have you told?" Sirius asked, "About Ted I mean?"
Andromeda sighed deeply, blowing a strand of stray hair from her face, "No one. What am I supposed to say?"
Both boys were quiet, "the truth?" Regulus suggested, "I'm sure they'll overlook your mistake once you've married Rabastan."
"But I'm not going to marry Rabastan!" Andromeda said heatedly, "I've just told you I hate him!"
"But you have to marry him." Regulus said blankly, "You've been promised." Once a person has been promised there is no going back. They can't just change their mind willy-nilly and leave their betrothed, the mere thought was ridiculous.
"I never promised anyone anything." Andromeda said resolutely, "father was the one who promised me off."
Sirius stared blankly at his cousin, "well… what do you plan to do? Uncle Cygnus won't just let you change your betrothed, especially not to a mudblood-" Andromeda coughed loudly and look pointedly at Sirius, "fine, to a 'muggleborn.' What do you propose you do? Run away?" Sirius snickered at the thought but Andromeda lit up.
"I could do that couldn't I?" She said thoughtfully, "I mean they can't force me to do anything if I'm not here…"
Sirius looked absolutely stricken "What? No. No I was joking; you can't honestly think you'd survive if you ran off!"
"And why not?" Andromeda asked, "I'm a fully qualified witch, I got nine NEWTs surely I'll find a way to look after myself. And I'll go with Ted, I won't even have to be alone."
Sirius looked to his younger brother in desperation, it was clear Andromeda had gone mad, she couldn't just up and leave the family! "Andromeda," Regulus said, his voice steady, "You just have to think of all the things that would happen if you left-"
"I have," Andromeda said confidently, "I've just thought it through. There is no other way. Thank you for the idea Sirius, it should work perfectly."
"But I was kidding," Sirius moaned.
"My mind's made up, I'll just have to send a letter to Ted. And maybe extract a bit of money…" She trailed off mentally calculating her options. After a moment of thought she snapped up and looked deeply at her young cousins, "You can't tell a soul you know, especially not my mother or father. This is between the three of us. If anyone asks you never had anything to do with this."
"Think about this!"
"No I'm serious." Andromeda said gravely, "besides when I do leave it'll be better if no one knew that you two had anything to do with this. Do you promise me?"
Both boys reluctantly nodded their heads, "we promise."
"Good," Andromeda said with a grin. "We really ought to get back to the party, mother will be missing us soon."
"Doubtful she even remembers we are here." Sirius said as he stood up, he flattened a few wrinkles out of his robes and held out his hand to his brother.
Regulus accepted the assistance and stood up himself, "Make sure you're certain before you leave Andy." He begged.
"And please, remember to say goodbye." Sirius added looking straight into his cousins eyes.
As the two crystal, gray gazes met Andromeda nodded gravely once more, "I will."
AN: I love this story. It was great fun to write. I've actually been slowly writing for moths, I kept getting stuck. But I;m glad I never gave up. My favorite part was when the mothers were talking about how to give away their children. And of course their shocked reactions at Sirius speaking out of turn, the horror! Thank you all for reading. And I would very much like to if you would take the time to leave a review!