The Courtship of Alphard Black

A HariPo oneshot

by mew-tsubaki

Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. This pairing was discovered by me, so please gimme a little mention if you write them! Thanks! It is one of many of Mew and Mor's Weird Pairings, most of which you may find in the M&MWP forum. Check out and join the forum FUN! Read, review, and enjoy!

- ^-^3

It's 1978, and Orion can barely make out the contour of one of his feet moving ahead of the other. Firewhiskey permeates the air as he slams open the door to his younger son's room.

Orion slides his eyes over Regulus' face and looks away, because—even drunk—Orion still sees too much of himself in his youngest. Then his eyes catch the parchment under Regulus' arm. Orion steps forward and demands, "Who are you writing to?" Hmm, are his own words slurred? He can't tell anymore, not this far into the bottle. "It better not be the bastard."

Regulus realizes that Orion means his brother, the one who had shamed the family in so many ways and had finally shamed them one last time by recently running away. Regulus says, "No one," and Orion knows that tone all too well. After all, Orion really does see too much of himself in his youngest.

"You're lying." Orion walks in and picks up the letter. Regulus fidgets with his father there, but Orion doesn't admit that he doesn't have the focus to read every single word and line. But there comes a part that makes Orion sober up, even if only a little, and he puts the letter back on Regulus' desk. "Gideon is a strange name for a witch."

"It is," Regulus agrees.

Orion's mouth suddenly feels as dry as his liquor. "Don't get too attached—you're to have an arranged marriage, as you know."

Regulus nods, and this gives Orion pause. He studies his son briefly but carefully, and then he turns and leaves his room.

Orion knows that feeling all too well, the one hiding in Regulus' eyes. And now Orion is completely sober as he retires to his study and dwells on a feeling he thought he'd finally manage to bury at the bottom of his bottle…

- ^-^3

Orion had known of Alphard, but he hadn't known Alphard.

To Orion, Alphard Black was a distant enough cousin who could come to the family functions, pass through, and Orion wouldn't have noticed. There were few people really on Orion's radar. Alphard's sister, Walburga Black, most certainly was of noteworthy notice; Orion and Walburga were engaged to be married later this year, and they were still a topic of discussion in the family. It probably hadn't helped that both of them were marrying late—they were almost thirty.

But, at the time, those were the foremost thoughts in Orion's brain. Okay, perhaps that was a lie. Orion was actually thinking about the pressure he was getting from the elders of the family, that Cygnus was the youngest of himself, Walburga, and Alphard, and already young Cygnus was both married and with two daughters—three-year-old Bellatrix and one-year-old Andromeda…and Druella would probably become pregnant with their third child any day. Orion and Walburga basically should've been married sooner, had a family sooner, done everything sooner.

Walburga blamed most of that on Orion, for not having approached her sooner. But wooing her had taken Orion all of about five seconds, and then she was his. He just hadn't had the desire to make her his sooner… Orion was the mildly adventurous type, and while Walburga had been a little quest, after she'd settled in by his side Orion had found himself bored once more and in the search of a new adventure.

He just hadn't expected to find one when he went to pick up Walburga one night for a date.

"She'll be down soon," Alphard told his soon-to-be brother-in-law. His coppery eyes barely acknowledged him, which didn't surprise Orion. They had never had the chance to get to know each other; it was a quaint thought, considering there was only a year between them.

Orion nodded curtly. "Well, she won't be here much longer. We'll be living in the townhouse, you know."

"Yes. Grimmauld Place."

It was something of a miracle, this small exchange, but Orion didn't let it register as much. He busied himself with smoothing his robes and cuffs—Walburga was always on him about his appearance—as he waited for her.

He dawdled by the vestibule, realizing how quiet it sounded. He figured Walburga's parents were out, and Alphard seemed to be the only other person in the house, since the house-elves didn't count. When Alphard passed through again, after having visited the kitchen, Orion felt the itch to make some noise. "Do you have plans?"

Alphard gave him a look that Orion found irksome since he couldn't decipher it. "No," he finally answered.

"I see. Do you plan on staying here forever?"

Now Alphard glared at him. Though Orion realized a second too late that his tone and words could've mistakenly held contempt, he decided that was fine. Orion had been nagged forever over how slow he and Walburga had taken things. Alphard was the middle child; he, too, should've had his own pureblood family by now. "That's none of your concern," Alphard stated. His voice was a little heated, but it didn't drip with the venom that seemed to lace the voices of nearly all other Blacks.

Orion smirked. "Actually, I beg to differ. You see, Alphard, I'll be marrying your older sister, making me the next patriarch after your father. Whatever you do will come to affect me." He shrugged. "If you hate the idea, then find yourself a wife. Then we'd at least be equals."

Alphard didn't deign that with a response, which figured. He was a year older than Orion, and Alphard had never gone out of his way to treat Orion with respect even when they'd been Housemates at school. Oh, how Slytherin House forges kinship!

The wizards were saved the trouble of further conversation when Walburga emerged at the top of the staircase. When she saw her brother, she scowled at him. "Alphard, leave us alone! Go hide in your room or something," she hissed.

He didn't need her to tell him twice. With one last look at Orion, eyes shining like rust, Alphard disappeared through a door and let them be.

"Good riddance," Walburga sniffed, wiping daintily at her nose. "Can't trust him… Even as a child, he was too damn quiet and weak."

Orion softly chuckled at his fiancée as they headed out, but he thought her remarks not quite on the mark. Alphard was rather quiet. But weak? Heavens, no.

Hadn't she looked into those eyes?

- ^-^3

Pollux and Arcturus—Walburga's and Orion's fathers, respectively—hemmed and hawed at the reflection of Orion in the mirror. "And we're supposed to pay good money for these robes," Arcturus sniped to Pollux.

The young Mademoiselle Malkin scoffed but kept her temper even. Supposedly this was the first time that her mother, the esteemed Madam Malkin, had let her handle customers on her own. Orion thought she was doing an okay job. But his father's comment wasn't exactly unwarranted.

"There," Mademoiselle Malkin said after pinning Orion's dress robes in a few more places. "A good steaming and a few stitches, and you'll be set."

Pollux looked him up and down. "I suppose Irma won't mind. Arcturus?"

Orion's father nodded. "Melania would agree," he replied, meaning that their wives would be okay with what had been accomplished today.

Orion was just happy that his part of this visit was over. He'd been pricked more times than he'd cared to admit, and with Cygnus having finished the school year months ago, Orion would now have the chance to watch his new brothers-in-law go through the same torture.

"What are you sneering for?" Cygnus hissed playfully. Truth be told, Cygnus had taken to him from the beginning, so at least Orion had a comrade who wasn't Walburga.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing you in your dashing attire," Orion teased.

"I'll Imperio you, you know," he said quietly.

Orion snickered. Too bad he'd missed out on the sibling rivalry, since Lucretia's marrying Ignatius Prewett at an early age had almost made Orion felt like an only child growing up. But at least Walburga's part of the family was now becoming his.

At the thought, he turned his head to Alphard, who slipped into a dressing cubicle. Orion eyed the hair that flew behind Alphard before the curtain claimed him, and Orion lifted his own black tresses. Hmm. It was a surprise Walburga hadn't bothered him about his hair before.

After Cygnus and Alphard emerged clad in dark silver robes for the wedding, the fathers finally seemed relieved. "Well, that's one thing that won't be a bother," Pollux stated of his sons.

"The collar's itchy, Father," Cygnus said.

"Don't worry about it," Pollux retorted. "It will be starched, and if you have any more qualms, there's always a spell to find."

The blonde lad didn't appear convinced, but his expression added to Orion's amusement. Orion then glanced at Alphard, expecting to find an equally annoyed countenance on the wizard's face.

Instead, Orion's mouth went dry. Alphard stood there, his listless gaze wandering over his own reflection. He looked like a black-and-white photograph—except for his eyes. His eyes made him stick out like a sore thumb.

Orion felt…jealous, he presumed. His own robes were nice, but he got the feeling that Alphard had more presence than him. And that bothered him. Sure, Alphard was a bit older, but Orion would be the next head of the family. He was supposed to be the important one, the one with the commanding presence.

But as Alphard loosely drew his hair back into a plait, Orion understood why Alphard carried such quiet presence. Because yet again, Orion found himself transfixed by those copper eyes.

- ^-^3

Maybe that's what really bothered Orion, Alphard's eyes. Traditionally, those of the house of Black had either black or fair or light-colored hair and gray or blue-gray eyes. Some in the family had muddy brown eyes and a few had black eyes. But in general it was easy to look at the person beside oneself at the dinner table and think, "This is my pure flesh and blood."

Alphard was different, though, and it buggered the hell out of Orion. Never before had anyone's eyes been so deep in hue yet so shining when in the light. Alphard's mother had muddy brown eyes, but she wasn't anything to look at, and his father was typical by pureblood means, as well.

So why did Alphard have to be so different?

Orion pulled a face as he knocked on the door to Walburga's family home. He really wished he could have his curiosities answered so he could get on with his life. But he shrugged, thinking that it was just as fine that he not try to make a mate of his fiancée's brother. Alphard had never shown him the same courtesy, so why bother now?

The point of Orion's annoyance answered the door. "Oh—I'll let Walburga know you're here," Alphard said without so much as a greeting.

"Why'd you answer the door?" the younger wizard asked. "That's the house-elf's job."

"I was walking by."

Orion saw one of the family house-elves standing barely three feet away and pointed. "That one was going to let me in."

Orion almost missed it, but he glimpsed a smirk toying with Alphard's lips. "Kreacher doesn't like being in the same room with me, so I doubt he would've let you in right away."

The other wizard gave him a quizzical look. "It shouldn't matter if your house-elf doesn't like you, he should—wait, why doesn't he like you?" Of course, upon saying it, his ears told him that was an obvious question…or was it?

"I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself," Alphard replied. "I don't need a house-elf."

Kreacher made a noise in the back of his throat before he turned and exited the room, leaving Orion with Alphard in the little lobby of the house. "All right, I can see why he doesn't like you very much," Orion commented.

Alphard shrugged. "I don't need anyone to like me very much. We all die alone regardless, don't we?"

And even though Alphard's words were terribly pessimistic and clichéd, Orion fought a little smirk of his own. Maybe it would be all right, actually…becoming mates with this fellow. After all, Orion felt he was beginning to do the one thing Alphard had just explicitly said he didn't need. Orion liked him. And there was no reason he shouldn't, odd-colored eyes and all.

- ^-^3

"I'm thinking we should get away for our honeymoon," Walburga said as they sipped carbonated beverages outside.

The England summer was being fair to them, so only minor refreshments were needed. Though Orion's recent, private musings were still in his mind, they were now stored in the back, away from everything else that was currently important. Like Walburga, and their wedding.

"You know, get away from the family for a bit," she continued. She hadn't even waited for Orion to say something before forging ahead. She tilted her head to the side as they watched the few clouds in the blue sky, and her hair brushed Orion's shoulder. "Sometimes being around others with the same surname… Agh, it gets tiresome."

Orion raised his eyebrows and looked at her, ever the observant one.

She shot him a look at his questioning gaze. "Don't get me wrong—I stand for everything our proud name does. But I can't stand being in the same room with every one of them every hour of the day."

"I can sympathize," he replied. But he only could by a little bit, since he hadn't grown up in as noisy a household as Walburga had. "Where do you want to honeymoon, then?" And even though she had insisted that they "get away," Orion rather hoped they didn't stray too far. Spending time with Walburga could be nice, but even married he doubted he could do too much of it. Walburga talked too much for Orion's tired ears.

"I don't know…" She heaved a sigh. "Why not one of the islands? Or see the Scandinavian coast? That's supposed to be lovely this time of year."

"Too sunny."

"'Too sunny'? How can anything be 'too sunny'?" She clucked her tongue at him. "Ah, I forgot. When you're not roaming to discover new things, you're hidden away, roaming in your books."

Orion pulled his arm from around her shoulders. "It's a bad habit I picked up. Being bored to death while council-hopping in Ministry departments is a lot better when I can get lost in something stimulating."

Walburga turned to him, her eyes alight with mischief and her pink lips parting like a seashell. "Funny that you should choose that word…" She rested her hand on his waist and slowly, furtively moved it south, secretly enough so that they wouldn't look like fools on the park bench in public.

Normally, he'd eventually…rise to the occasion. But it took a good, full minute before he even reacted to her touch on the outside of the cloth. At first, Orion thought that oh, Walburga was in heat yet again…but he was finally aroused by two thoughts: a) they might get caught in public and b) it was simply a touch. The latter caused him worry—did he need any touch now, any indiscriminate touch? Or had he finally gotten so used to Walburga's touch that now he needed something else?

Orion was sick of this. He asked too many questions of himself these days, with too few answers. Finding the mood ruined, Orion gently pushed her advances away and gave her an apologetic look. "Sorry, Walla… Perhaps another time."

Walburga did appear a tad affronted, but she stowed away her pout as they rose from the park bench and resumed the earlier conversation. "So…the Scandinavian coast it is."

"I'll be sure to study my Sunlight Shield Charms."

- ^-^3

He walked her home that evening and, though he bid her goodnight, Cygnus saw him and beckoned to him.

"Oi, aren't you going to have a bachelor's evening?" He couldn't hide the excitement in his voice.

Orion hadn't even thought about it. "Actually…"

"Oh, go make another baby, you little bastard," Alphard said, appearing at the door and trying to shove Cygnus aside. "None of us need to deal with such a thing."

"Hey, I'm married and giving back to the family!"

"Yes, and you knocked up a girl three years your senior because you don't think," the elder brother hissed. Alphard flashed a heated gaze at Orion. "Don't even think of indulging his little fantasy, Orion."

There was some shock at Alphard actually calling Orion by name, by it was miniscule at most. Orion replied, "I hadn't even given it thought, honest."

"Good. The last thing we need is for you to do something shameless and send our sister on the rampage."

Orion's cheeks flushed, recalling a short speech he'd given Alphard only a few weeks ago about shaming the family. "Excuse you, but I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself."

Alphard said nothing, but he looked as though he suppressed a snort of derision.

That lit a fire in Orion, who faced Cygnus and said, "I think I will delight in a bachelor's evening."

The look on Alphard's face beat Cygnus' one of glee. He was not happy. Finally, Alphard narrowed his eyes and said, "Fine. But this one—"—indicating Cygnus—"—is too young, so bring your own mates. I'll owl you when it's a good time to meet and plan this."

Orion stared at him, careful not to let his mouth hang open in further shock. Well, perhaps there was no better way to bond with a bloke than to go see witches… Orion kept his thoughts to himself as he left the house for the night.

At home, Orion's parents were thankfully out for the evening. Orion retired to his room early, anyway, thinking back on the day. Maybe he really was getting too used to, too tired of Walburga… And maybe it really was a stupid idea to have a bachelor party. He honestly couldn't believe he'd agreed to it after Alphard's words…

And what now? Alphard had said they would have to meet in advance and plan it. Orion snorted to himself. Apparently, Alphard had forgotten that that kind of task was on the best man's shoulders…although without any brother or close friend, Orion knew he was stuck with Alphard as his best man. He would've preferred Cygnus…

- ^-^3

About a week later, Orion received a little missive whilst he was at home. He glanced at it, tucked the book he was reading in his jacket pocket, and threw on his cloak. He was out the door without a word to his parents.

Meeting Alphard at his house was the least inventive idea Orion could think of, and it made him hope that this really was the planning session and that anything possibly planned for him was not happening tonight… Good Merlin, his head hurt just thinking about it.

He knocked twice and the door opened. Obviously, it was not Kreacher. "You're as succinct on parchment as you are in person," Orion said as he stepped inside. He didn't bother with "hello" as Alphard, he had learned, wasn't that type of person.

Alphard pursed his lips. "I don't like wasting breath."

Orion felt his face flush with anger at the sentence. As if one really wasted breath on Orion…! "Has either of your siblings ever told you how insufferable you are?" he asked as they walked down a hallway and entered a large room.

Now Alphard smiled, and it could be called a smile, that thing on his thin lips. "Every day."

The reply and reaction lowered Orion's walls around the slightly older wizard, and he began to feel a little relaxed. He took in the room—comfy bed, nice desk and chair, beautiful artwork, and even a quaint view of Britain outside the window—and sat in the chair. "It's…"

"What? Strange?" Alphard narrowed his eyes again.

"No. It's nice. With the way Walla and Cygnus react to you, I would've thought…"

"Thought what?"

"Maybe you had Muggle posters or something in here."

"And how do you know I've not put a charm over them?" Alphard smirked, looking as though he was winning a battle in which Orion didn't think himself involved.

"From what I know of you, you couldn't be bothered." Orion risked a tiny grin, and eventually Alphard's smirk lightened into its previous smile.

Alphard pushed a pile of books on his bed to the side and sat down. "If you're so observant, then you know you shouldn't have this bachelor party." He raised his eyebrows. "Walburga will murder you if she finds out."

Orion groaned. "Don't remind me… I'm the one marrying her, remember?" He sighed and leaned back in the seat. "Actually…I don't want to admit it, but I agree with you. I don't think I should have it. I don't really want it, even."

"What, your mates back out?" Alphard went to the door and picked up a tray with tea and treacle tart that one of the house-elves had left. He sat the tray on his nightstand and didn't offer anything to Orion.

"No, they didn't," Orion said, exasperated. He got up and grabbed a drink for himself before continuing, "I…don't have a lot of mates." When Alphard said nothing, Orion added, "I had classmates, roommates, but no one I would call my friend out of class."

Alphard chewed his food and swallowed. He looked thoughtful. "What about that bloke…Rosier, or something."

Orion stared at him. "I'm surprised you even knew I spent time with him."

"Well, it's hard to miss anything in a tiny common room. But I saw you two from time to time. He's not your friend?"

The younger wizard shook his head. "I haven't even heard from him since school." He knocked back the rest of his drink and turned the question on Alphard. "What about you? I don't ever recall you fraternizing with any one person."

"I am my best company," he answered without missing a beat. He patted his books after Orion gave him an unconvinced look. "Fine. I prefer the companionship of written words. Happy?"

"You look all right for the bookish type," Orion stated. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but Alphard's copper eyes were softer then. They weren't the harsh metal of a weapon meant to attack or defend. They were the molten liquid of…of a tincture meant to comfort or heal; Orion internally scolded himself for the ridiculous comparisons. Alphard didn't need them—and what point was there to a molten tincture? It defeated the purpose.

Alphard was rightly smug. "Well, we Blacks do look like royalty, don't we?"

Orion almost said something about their blood being royal for its purity…but instead, he smiled and said, "Some of us more than others." Because maybe that was it. Maybe Alphard looked like royalty, looked as though he was supposed to be the next one to lead the clan.

The older wizard switched subjects and searched through the pile of books beside him. "Speaking of royalty… If that impression in your pocket is any hint, I take it that you always need a good read. Have you read this?" He passed a thin book with tiny print to Orion. "It's a prince lecturing on how best to manage one's people. I think it can be applied to country or family."

"For the next head of the family."

"Eh." Alphard shrugged. "It's just a book."

Right. And Orion was just not going to have a bachelor party. "I'd rather spend an evening reading," he said.

"Well…" Alphard was hesitant for a moment. "If you exhaust your personal library, then send me a note. I'll let you exhaust mine, as well."

Orion politely suppressed his chuckle. "What library?" he queried, gesturing to the bed.

Alphard stood and opened a door. Orion had thought it was a closet, but now he saw that it was a somewhat smaller room with stacks upon stacks of tomes. As Orion gaped in awe, Alphard crossed his arms and pursed his lips once more. "But no spine-breaking, understand? I take care of myself and my things. And you'll be dead before you get to the aisle if you break the spines."

Something told Orion that wasn't true. But he let Alphard think he'd induced some fear in him anyway.

- ^-^3

At first, Walburga was a bit puzzled, seeing Orion more often than not. Cygnus said nothing, but Orion figured the teen was busy fooling around with his young wife or playing with his daughters and didn't feel the need to bother questioning the new friendship budding.

And that's what it was, a new friendship. Once upon a time, Orion had been acquaintances with one roommate from school. Once upon a time, Alphard had preferred to crack open a book than to speak with a fellow wizard. But now these two weren't going to be only brothers-in-law; they were making the effort to find common ground. And that common ground was good.

"Another two," Orion said one time as he and Alphard entered the elder's room.

"You recall where they go?"

"Of course." Orion ducked into the library without permission and replaced the books on the shelf, exactly where and as he'd found them. He returned to the room and saw Alphard slipping on a different shirt. His cheeks suddenly aflame, Orion ducked back into the library and called out. "What should I read next, then?"

"Whatever you want," Alphard said, suddenly at the doorway.

He scared Orion, but Orion luckily didn't jump. He grabbed some random book and held it between them like a barrier. "Uh, what about this one?"

Alphard glanced briefly at the cover. "Orion, you've already read that one."

Orion looked, too, and felt embarrassed. Alphard was, of course, right. He grabbed another one with an appealing title and casually commented on Alphard's attire. "Going out somewhere?"

"A dinner," Alphard said. "Supposedly my parents and myself, but no doubt they're going to bring marriage into the conversation. I just hope they didn't bring the witch along this time."

Orion didn't know what to think as they returned to Alphard's room and Orion sat in a favored spot of his, at the desk. "So…they've done that before, huh?"

Alphard reclined on his bed. "Just once. But it was a pain. I didn't embarrass myself or the family by coming right out and saying plainly that I objected to any kind of engagement, but she understood from how we conversed that I had no intention of marrying her. Her little fit ended the dinner."

He didn't know why, but Orion felt an amount of relief after hearing the anecdote. Perhaps it was better that Alphard remain a hermit, of sorts, anyway; marriage might change his tastes or interests, and Orion did not want to lose the one friend he had. "Well, whatever they do," he said, "bring home a new book or two." He laughed. "I've almost read everything in here, you know."

Orion knew his laugh had been false, but Alphard's gentle chuckle was genuine, and Orion felt warm in the pit of his stomach. "I'll see what I can do." He gripped Orion's shoulder and then glanced at his timepiece on his wrist. "Oh, hell. Mother and Father wanted me to meet them for lunch, too, so if that's a sign, then they're probably going to groom me for tonight's dinner. I do hate their commands…"

The two wizards went downstairs, and with Walburga out with friends, Cygnus with little Bellatrix in the backyard, and the house-elves doing their tasks elsewhere, Orion risked facing Alphard. "You don't have to listen to them." He couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth.

Judging by his widening eyes, neither could Alphard. He was slower in putting on his cloak as he stared Orion in the eye. "Do you even know what you're saying? That'd be the immediate end of the family."

Orion frowned. "Not necessarily. Just…don't get married. It'll—" He paused, and he now thought this was why he'd be resistant to Walburga lately. His impending nuptials were getting to be too much to bear. "It'll change you," he said, jaw clenched.

Alphard looked worried about him for a fraction of a second, but then he patted Orion on the arm and ushered him outside. "Tell me this after you've been married to my sister for a year, Orion."

Orion opened his mouth, closed it, and shot Alphard a look.

"Besides," Alphard added as they reached the end of the walkway leading to the house, "weren't you the one who'd said he'd only see me as his equal once I had a wife of my own?" He looked at Orion, and he appeared a bit pained as he waved and Disapparated. Perhaps he understood that he'd taken Orion's words and spat them back at him.

- ^-^3

Walburga panted as her back hit the wall. She barely had the chance to moan as Orion nipped at her white neck. "Oh, dear go…" She swallowed her words as Orion claimed her mouth.

Everywhere, his hands wandered—up her skirt, down her shirt, beneath her brassiere, through her hair, up and down her arms, up and down her thighs, on either side of her thighs—and every time his fingertips brushed her skin in just the right way, Walburga would release this little gasp that sounded as though the wind had been pulled out of her.

She was enjoying his passion and she even tried to return it. But Walburga never got far. All she managed to do was expose his chest and loosen his belt before Orion pinned her wrists to the wall with his hands and kissed and suckled her neck again and again.

Orion had to give the passion. He had to take it out of him. He didn't want it in him. He was full of it and wanted to expunge it without taking any back into him. So he couldn't let Walburga release any of it back. He had to give it all to her.

It wasn't sex and it wasn't as though they hadn't had sex before, but Orion found himself too—too ready to explode at the moment.

And then, just as quickly as it had come, the moment was over. Walburga cried out as though in pain when Orion took his lips away from hers, but she had to catch her breath anyway. Twenty minutes straight of unwarranted, unbound passion had been exhausting. When she did catch her breath, she gingerly touched his arm and leaned her face against his back. "That…was better…than anything."

Orion didn't think so. He didn't feel that way.

He stood and fixed his clothes as Walburga rearranged herself. "Are you staying for dinner? I mean, Alphard's here, but he'll stay in his room and leave the two of us alone if I threaten him. And Cyg's with Druella and my parents…"

Orion stared at his feet on the floor. "I'm…not really hungry." And he knew all that she'd just told him. He knew that the only other person in the house was Alphard. Alphard, who had avoided yet another engagement and yet this time hadn't seemed too happy about it. Alphard, who hadn't brought back any new books and this time didn't want to let Orion into his room just so that they might reread old favorites in one another's presence. Because there was no point in rereading old favorites in the other's presence, heavens no! And so instead of risking another curious look from Walburga for the millionth time as Orion stood at Alphard's door and had a silent argument with him, Orion had given all of his passion—anger and…well, something else he couldn't quite name—to Walburga.

And that was how it was. Walburga could have his passion…but not him. At least, not tonight. A part of Orion told him that it would've been wrong, trying to give her all of him tonight, tonight when Orion's mind was in the next room, pleasantly asleep with a book on his lap, being a funny, attractive sight for Alphard to watch…

"Shit," Orion cursed under his breath.

"Did you say something?" Walburga asked.

He picked his head up and looked into her eyes—and he knew that everything felt wrong. Because there might be confusion in her gray eyes from time to time, but there would never be any curiosity over him or concern for him in her copper eyes… He caught up with his train of thought; Walburga didn't have copper eyes.

"Orion?" she asked.

Orion grabbed his cloak and pecked her cheek. "I should probably get home, Walla."

She frowned. "Yes, well, you just wait… Only a little more than a month, and 'home' will mean something completely different. You'll be coming home to me."

He looked at her, thinking that never before had he felt so uncomfortable at the thought.

- ^-^3

By now, Orion understood he'd landed himself in a right mess. Engaged to one sibling, lusting after another…and they weren't even both witches! Orion hadn't heard of any Black with such peculiar tastes, and he hoped he'd be the last. Sweet Salazar, the shame he'd bring to the family if anyone knew…

He couldn't read anymore during work, for fear that he'd get bored and be tempted to visit Alphard again. And he couldn't risk that. Alphard was sharp, and the first thing out of his mouth would be to ask Orion what was the matter.

So Orion stewed and he threw himself into his work and he did things as Walburga asked and he even joined Cygnus on occasion to look after his daughters. Orion listened to his parents and nodded numbly when things were asked of him. Orion avoided Muggle bookshops when he was out on the streets and he didn't even look at the bookstores when he visited Diagon Alley.

But the miracle and bane of being engaged to Walburga? Eventually Orion would have to go to the family home again.

And in one particular instance, Orion did find himself going there, taking his time going up the walk. He hoped that neither family would be too bothered if he decided to push the wedding date back. It was now a month away and he wasn't sure he'd have the will to deal with it—no, not right now.

"You're ridiculous," a voice told him.

Orion, spooked by the only person who could ever manage to spook him, turned and paled. There Alphard was, a bag over his shoulder and an early autumn breeze tossing his jet locks in his face. Orion summoned some bravado and retorted, "At least I don't look like a mess."

Alphard quirked an eyebrow, as if to say, "That's the best you can do?" He shook his head at Orion and ended up leading the way up to the door and into the house. "So what brings you here?"

The younger wizard thought his tongue was frozen in his mouth. "Where's Walburga?"

"Didn't you hear?" Alphard let him in, and the older placed the bag on the floor before shedding his cloak. He then went upstairs and Orion followed him mechanically, as though nothing had changed between them. "Druella's pregnant—again."

Orion was stunned by the news. "…really?"

Alphard nodded and he laughed. "My family went over to the Rosier family home. Walburga is likely comforting Druella while our parents tear him a new one. She only had Andromeda last year, you know. It's dangerous for a woman to get pregnant again so soon."

"I suppose so…" Orion didn't have much to say about the situation one way or another. It wasn't that he meant to be heartless—things had to be tough for Druella, married to the young, hormone-driven Cygnus—but Orion's mind was elsewhere. It had flown off to reside in a particular line of thought upon seeing Alphard.

"You can wait for Walburga downstairs, you know," Alphard said, his voice a bit rough.

Orion frowned. "I…" He took a breath and stared at the floor.

"You what?"

"I want to call off the wedding." When his own words reached his ears, Orion spluttered, "I meant push back the date! I—I have cold feet."

Alphard eyed him curiously, and his fingers paused where they had been tracing the cover of one of his books left on his nightstand. "To be frank, I don't think you'll have the option now… You two have waited long enough, and with this latest ruckus from Cygnus… I can't imagine our parents would allow that at all." But even as he offered this logic, Alphard still watched Orion very carefully.

Orion had figured that one day those copper eyes would be the ruin of him. He just hadn't figured today was that day, because as Alphard's eyes skimmed every inch of his face, understanding something that Orion wasn't entirely sure he understood himself, Orion became annoyed and rather angry. How was it that Alphard could be this way, could be his cool, calm, calculating self—and yet manage to unnerve Orion at the same time?

The elder wizard approached Orion very delicately. He parted his lips to say something, but he held his words.

"You're…you're infuriating," Orion breathed, but the heat had gone from him. He felt shaky, as though his nerves were bunched up too tightly, and it made him shiver. The whole time, Alphard's copper's eyes were locked on his gray ones.

"Not insufferable today?" Alphard lowly asked. There was that adorable smirk toying with his lips again.

Orion closed his eyes and tried to think straight. Think, think, think—marriage, wedding, Walburga, Cygnus' screw-ups, married life, children, children, family, honor, shame, Blacks, gray, black, gray, black, gray, gray, copper, copper, copper—but it was so horribly futile. When he opened his eyes, Alphard's face was four, five inches away. And that distance was far too much for Orion to bear.

But he did not lunge for Alphard. If there was one thing Orion could do, it was keep himself in check…but his defenses were surely crumbling, because he unclenched one fist and raised his hand. He paused, unsure, but Alphard didn't move, so he brushed away the straight black hair that caressed Alphard's cheek. Alphard's eyes flashed, and his cheek grew very warm, and both actions relieved some of Orion's tension enough that he could muster a smile.

It was not bad being mates with this man. But…Orion thought it would not be bad being more than mates with Alphard, too.

"Orion," Alphard said hoarsely. He lost his voice, though, and stood frozen.

It was a trigger, the way Alphard said his name and only his name. Orion thumbed Alphard's cheekbone—funny how he hadn't realized Alphard's subtle androgyny before—and, with his other hand, pulled Alphard closer to him.

The copper-eyed man knew what was going to happen, and so he turned his face at the last second, making Orion kiss his cheek quite lovingly. "Don't be stupid," Alphard hissed.

Orion groaned and drew Alphard's attention back to him. "Oh, come on, Alphard. I finally put a name to what I've been feeling, and what you must've sensed is between us, and you cop out."

But Alphard's face was all business for once, with no hint of his teasing personality. "Orion Black, you know better."

"Alphard Black, I beg to differ." Orion dropped his hand from Alphard's face and placed it behind the other wizard's back, too, so that Alphard was trapped by him. "I won't be happy, considering the future laid out for me. And I refuse to be happy even if you tell me so."

Alphard shook his head. He tried finding a place for his hands, but eventually he rested them on the wall behind Orion—perhaps touching Orion would make him weak? (Orion could only hope so.) "You idiot… Consider the family, consider everything, consider—our…our friendship."

Orion's eyes hardened. "I'm not throwing away our friendship. If I had, you wouldn't be here right now."

"This…" Alphard clenched his jaw. "You were supposed to see me as an equal after we both had wives, remember?"

They both sighed, and Orion shook his head. "I'm sorry for saying such stupid things. I don't want you forced into anything, and I don't want to go through with my own vows."

"Pushing back the date, my foot."

"Alphard…I only need one thing."

He gave him an unimpressed stare. "If you say that the only thing you need is me, I'm revoking your wizard card. Because real wizards don't say such pansy-arsed things."

Orion chuckled, liking that some of the true Alphard was returning in this moment. "Then how do I win you, the one I know is my true other half?" He raised an eyebrow, and it took a lot of strength not to laugh at the red rising in Alphard's cheeks.

"Well, for starters…," Alphard growled, knowing that he wouldn't be able to talk Orion out of his feelings. "Don't snog on the first date. That's childish."

Orion, stunned, gaped at him, and Alphard broke free and began pacing around the room.

"And for the second date, it better not be a repeat of the first. And the third is still a little early for the first kiss." Alphard picked up a book, looking at it, the walls, the desk—anywhere but at Orion.

"Are you saying—"

Alphard turned to him, that characteristic higher-than-thou expression on his face. "That I'll be your dirty little secret? Yes. But I'm a gentleman. You must court me first."

Finally, Orion laughed. Hadn't he actually been courting the lovely Alphard all this time? It didn't matter that Orion would still be forced to marry Walburga; as far as he was concerned, he was only securing a lifetime left to court the true love of his life.

- ^-^3

In 1978, in Orion's study, the Black family patriarch sits looking at his hands in his lap, the hands that are wrapped around the neck of an almost empty bottle of firewhiskey.

It was nothing.

It was a memory, a past triggered by a letter.

It was a forgotten flight-of-fancy.

The reverie would be burned away once he left the room; it would be drowned once he finished his firewhiskey.

- ^-^3

8D I love them. Ilovethem, Ilovethem, Ilovethem. I have a direct sequel for this planned, called "The Courtship of Orion Black," as well as a ton more Oriolphards planned. Because I love them. They are excellent and epic and now most certainly one of my all-time fav slash pairings. -w- I can't stop babbling, so I'll try here. So! This ending is a bit happy, followed by Orion's focus in the future…so what happened in little more than thirty years? Well, the thirty years will be explored in "TCoOB." ;]

Note: Some of the dialogue in the opening scene is taken from my twin's fic, "we will be the last ones standing," which is the 1st Regulus/Gideon fic, making that along with Orion/Alphard another M&MWP, so we'd appreciate a nod if you use them, too. And I had permission to use that scene of Morghen's! The ending was what I wrote on the bottom of my 1st fanart for Oriolphard… -w-

Thanks for reading, and please review! Look for "The Courtship of Orion Black" soon!

-mew-tsubaki 83