Can't Choose Your Family.

Written for Round 1 of Fire The Canon's October Fanfiction Tournament and the Herbology part of ladyoftheknightley's School Subjects Competition

Word Count of story - 2143

Sirius gritted his teeth as his mother continued to shriek at him. This was not how he had envisaged the first day of his Christmas holidays. In fact he hadn't even intended on coming home at all, Hogwarts would have been much more preferable to the 'Noble and Most Ancient House of Black' even with his friends going home for the holidays. However his parents had had other ideas and ordered him to come home with Regulus for Christmas, unfortunately.

And now here he was, barely through the front door and already his mother was screaming at him while his father glowered in the background, throwing in additional comments. Not that this was a rare occurrence, far from it in fact. Barely a day went by when Walburga Black wasn't screaming at someone and, when he wasn't at school, more often than not it was Sirius.

He fought back a scowl and shifted from one leg to the other restlessly. Most parents, after being apart from a child for a few months, would just be so happy to see them again that that would push everything else from their minds, but not Sirius' parents, and they'd been going on for so long now that he couldn't actually remember what it was they were angry about.

Oh wait yes he could, it was the prank that he and the Marauders had pulled at the beginning of the month. It wasn't even that bad compared to some of their pranks. All they did was charm some of the Slytherins, so that every time somebody said their name they roared like a lion. Obviously Regulus, who was one of those charmed, had reported back to their parents about it. The slimy little snake was probably stood right outside the door loving every minute of this.

They had cast the charm early one morning as a group of Slytherins were heading down to breakfast and as the Marauders didn't have a countercharm and none of the professors could figure out how to break it everyone just had to wait for it to wear off naturally. It lasted all morning, although the roars became progressively more pathetic sounding as the time passed.

Although they'd been put in detention it was clear that McGonagall was impressed with their work and also with the Gryffindor spirit that was on show that morning in their Gryffindor – Slytherin Transfiguration Class. They couldn't be sure but it had almost felt like she'd gone out of her way to call on those that had been charmed.

Sirius smirked at the memory, almost forgetting where he was at that moment. But he was quickly reminded again.

"Do you think this is funny?" Orion boomed, stepping forward. "When are you going to grow up? The connections you make now will be with you for the rest of your life and yet instead of getting in with the proper people you're running around playing pranks on them with Mudbloods and blood traitors."

"Don't call them that-"

Sirius was interrupted as his mother gave a shrill, manic laugh.

"Why not? That's what they are. We know all about your friendship with the Potter boy and that family are some of the biggest blood traitors around. Always bleating along with Dumbledore about protecting the 'poor muggles' and the good that comes from letting Mudbloods marry into the old families." Her face twisted in disgust and her voice got louder and louder. "Traitors and scum the lot of them. We should be purging the world of their dirty blood not encouraging them to water down our esteemed, ancient families. And that's who you chose to befriend? At least Regulus has made better choices."

Sirius let out a bitter laugh and said, "Of course, perfect Regulus who can do no wrong."

"Don't you take that tone. Regulus brings honour to this family whereas you're just a disgrace to the name Black," she replied.

Sirius didn't know what came over him but he wasn't that young boy who had sat solemnly in this very room and listened to the tales of his ancestors, accepting unquestioningly the pure blood propaganda that his family spouted anymore. His years at Hogwarts and all the different people he had met and friends he had made had all shown him that he couldn't follow the path that was expected by his family.

"Good. The Black family is a disgrace, the whole lot of you with your pure-blood obsession make me sick. You can rant and rave about people like Dumbledore and the Potters all you want but they're far better people than you'll ever be. None of you are even fit to lick the dust off their boots."

His father gave a strangled roar and lunged for him but Walburga was faster. Wand aimed squarely at her firstborn she cried, "Crucio."

Sirius had never felt pain like this before. It was as if every single nerve ending was on fire. A scream wrenched itself from his throat as he fell to his knees. And then it was over. Gasping for breath he looked up at his parents. His father was regarding him coldly while his mother, still pointing her wand at him, was almost physically vibrating with rage, a mad, feverish look in her eyes.

"How dare you speak of this family like that!" she shrieked. "How dare you! After everything we have done for you, everything we have given you, you will show us respect and if you don't watch your tongue your first experience of the Cruciatus Curse will not be your last now apologise."

Adrenaline rushed through Sirius, masking the remnants of pain from the curse, and he stood up, straight and strong, hands balled into fists at his side. There was no going back to how things used to be now. Not after what his mother had just done.


Walburga's face went the colour of sour milk.

"I beg your-"

"I'm done," interrupted Sirius in a sharp voice that seemed to ring out throughout the room. "I'm done. We're not a family. You don't even know the meaning of the word. Family don't curse each other for having different opinions, or speaking the truth and I won't stay here another moment longer."

The room was deathly silent. Nobody moved and nobody spoke. And then, painfully slowly, Walburga's wand arm moved up. But she wasn't aiming at Sirius; she was aiming at the great tapestry of the Black family tree on the wall.

"Then go. You won't last five minutes on your own but all the while I still breathe you're not welcome in this house anymore."

There was a sound like cannon fire and smoke bellowed from her wand. When it cleared Sirius could see that where his name used to appear there was now a round hole, the edges charred and still smoking.

His mother started screaming at him, ordering him out of her house and hurling abuse at him so. Turning swiftly on his heel Sirius left the room, almost colliding with Regulus, who had indeed been stood outside listening. Her screaming seemed to follow him all the way out into the street.

In a daze he summoned the Knight Bus and, after a moments panic, gave them the Potters address. He wasn't aware of much during the journey and before he knew it he was standing before their front door in Godric's Hollow in the pouring rain, warm golden light shining enticingly from the windows. Judging from how wet he was he had clearly been standing there for a while.

He raised a hand and knocked on the door and with a strange sense of detachment noticed that it was shaking. In fact he was shaking all over. Clearly the adrenaline had worn off because he was aching all over and bone tired too.

The door opened.

"Sirius?" said Mr Potter, clearly surprised to find Sirius on his doorstep. "What are you – Come in, you're soaked. Here let me take your trunk."

"Did you say Sirius?" James called from inside the house before appearing in one of the doorways with Mrs Potter.

With the eyes of all three Potters on him Sirius suddenly wondered if it wouldn't have been better to just head back to Hogwarts and not think about what had just happened until the summer holidays. Then again Regulus would be crowing to all his snake friends as soon as he returned so his own friends needed to hear about it from him first.

"I've left home," Sirius said hesitantly. "I couldn't stay there anymore. This was the first place I thought of to come."

"Quite right too dear, you know we've always got a room for you here," said Mrs Potter. Clearly seeing that he was barely able to remain on his feet she hustled him upstairs to a hot bath. Questions could wait until later.

As he ate Sirius couldn't help comparing his own parents with James'. They were asking James all about how the school term had been, genuinely wanting to know about the little details, like Quidditch and a particular Transfiguration project that James had found fascinating, things that his own parents would never bother to ask about. When James accidentally mentioned the prank against the Slytherins Mr and Mrs Potter chuckled away as they probed him for details.

He put his knife and fork down on his empty plate.

"Do you want anything else to eat Sirius?"

He groaned. "I don't think I'll be able to eat another bite for days. Thanks Mrs P, that was great."

He was feeling much better after a bath and food although he was still sore and achy, and desperately didn't want to talk about what had happened however Mr Potter had other ideas.

"You don't have to talk to us if you don't want to but we were wondering what happened today? For instance is this permanent or will you be going back when things have calmed down, in the summer perhaps? We could have a word with your parents if you like."

With a hollow laugh Sirius said, "Oh no this is permanent. I've been blasted off our family tree tapestry. That's an honour only given to those who really fail at being a Black."

"Well then," said Mrs Potter briskly, although her voice was thick with emotion. "Of course you'll be staying with us for Christmas

Growing serious she seemed to consider her next words very carefully. "Please just answer me one question. Did they hurt you at all?"

Sirius' reply came straight away. "I'm fine."

Whether she or Mr Potter noticed the evasive nature of his answer Sirius didn't know because after a moment she nodded and stood up. "We should be heading to bed. Now I know it's the first night of the holidays but try not to stay up too late boys."

She gave Sirius' shoulder a gentle squeeze as she went past followed by her husband, who also bid the boys goodnight.

James waited until he heard their footsteps reach the top of the staircase and head for their room and then called softly, "Blinky."

Their house elf appeared.

"What can Blinky be doing for Master James?"

Watching Sirius closely he replied, "Could you get me a pain potion please?"

Sirius' gaze shot to James as Blinky disappeared and then reappeared moments later with a vial. At James' nod Blinky handed it to Sirius, patted his knee and was gone again.

"They might have bought that answer," said James. "But I don't. What happened?"

Sirius downed the potion in one, grateful for the relief it gave but then hesitated. He didn't want to talk about what had happened and James would never be able to understand, his parents doted on him. But then again James wasn't going to stop until he found out and it would be a relief to tell somebody.

Staring intently down at the vial in his hands Sirius said quietly. "My own mother cast the Cruciatus Curse on me."

James' eyes widened in his shock and his mouth opened and closed repeatedly as if he was about to speak but couldn't find the words but then, as if picking up on Sirius' emotions he forced himself to calm down.

"That sucks."

Sirius looked up in surprise and then chuckled, the first real laugh to pass his lips since leaving King's Cross. "Yeah."

The table in front of them had a chess board on and James pulled it towards them and made the first move, silently indicating that Sirius should make a move. Glad that James wasn't pressuring him for details Sirius relaxed and they began to play in comfortable silence which was only broken about half way through the game when James said softly, without looking up, "I'm glad you're here."

"Me too," Sirius replied.